It was loud.
"...almost there Harry. Did you see that man with the-"
Sound hammered in on him from all sides. Sporadically lights flashed in the corner of his eyes. The arena was enormous.
Harry often thought before that things were enormous. Hogwarts. Hagrid. Uncle Vernon. No. This here was the literal interpretation of the definition. Wizards and Witches from all over the world packed together in celebration of Quidditch. A magical sport played on broomsticks.
"Quit leaning over so far Ronald!"
Titling his head Harry peered up the staircases. He tried to spot the end of it. He couldn't though they had to be close to the Minster's box at any rate.
Harry shuffled to the side, closed his eyes, relished in being this high in the air. With the wind slicing through every so often, the thundering vibrations beneath his feet ... he could almost pretend he was back at Hogwarts. Preparing for a game of his own.
He wouldn't be able to fly again until school started in September. Not properly. Not at break neck speed with fear itching along his spine that this might be the time he didn't get there first. That this might be the time he didn't turn quick enough and slammed into the columns. His heart beat a little faster just imagining it.
Harry lived for competition.
"...official beater's sticks. I wonder if they hit any harder than the ones at school-"
It was almost time for the start of the Quidditch World Cup.
When Ron first suggested bringing Harry along the smaller boy said yes straight away. Any excuse to spend as little time with his relatives as possible. Surprisingly the large crowds weren't so bad. Spending the day among the numerous unlikely shaped tents, the painted faces and the Quidditch crazy fans had rubbed off on him. It was actually sort of fun.
If nothing else he might learn some new maneuvers to try out in his own games.
A broad shouldered red head stopped just in front of Harry and leaned over the railing to look down. Harry peered over to look as well. It was rather a far cry from the ground. Probably for the best he wasn't afraid of heights.
"Blimey dad how far up do you think we are?" Ron asked.
"Let's put it this way, if it rains you will be the first to know." The raven haired teen stepped closer to the railing to see Lucius Malfoy and his son Draco on the level just below them. Both Slytherins far more well dressed than anyone needed to be at a Quidditch game. All in black of course.
The last time Harry and the Malfoy Lord were in the same place the Gryffindor accused him of attempted murder. Not one of his cleverest moments looking back. Now they were discussing the weather. It was sort of absurd.
Even sociopaths had to make small talk from time to time Harry supposed.
The littler Malfoy caught his eye and grinned. "Father and I are in the Minister's box, by personal invitation of Cornelius Fudge himself!" Draco said, excited. It wasn't the first time the blonde had bragged to him. Excitement however was usually reserved for earning Gryffindors detention with Snape. Seeing the other teen excited at something, well normal, was a little surreal.
Hoping to insert some goodwill, his life would really be much easier without Draco throwing things in his cauldron to blow it up, Harry smiled back. He was prevented from responding when to his alarm Lucius lifted his cane and struck his son in the stomach. Hard.
"Don't boast Draco." Drawled Lucius.
Harry wasn't sure what made him do it. He and Draco didn't have the best of relationships. Midnight duels. Aerial competition. Attempts to have feathered friends beheaded. He had no reason to want to interfere. In fact he could continue up the stairs, catch up with the Weasleys and ignore it. No one would blame him.
Something, though, something in him stirred in protest at the fading grin slipping from Draco's face. At the shoulder's stiffening, the silver eyes firmly on his feet rather than up at his father. There was something so reminiscent of himself and Uncle Vernon that his blood boiled of its own accord. Something so obscene about the normally proud boy shutting down, utterly subservient before his father.
It was wrong.
Harry called out, daring to cut off whatever it was Lucius was about to say. Something venomous from the looks of it. "I dare say it's your lucky day Draco. You'll get to enjoy the pleasure of my marvelous company as I'll be sitting there as well." Harry flashed a cheeky grin.
Draco returned his smile tentatively. Harry winced. He would be suspicious as well if the situation were reversed and Draco tried to rescue him from Uncle Vernon's wrath. He nearly choked at the thought. Now that would be something worth seeing.
The blonde considered him for a moment, taking a small step away from his father as he did so. "That scar of yours finally do something useful then?" He taunted. Draco shifted slightly when his father turned around to watched them.
An aborted flinch.
Harry was exceedingly aware in that moment that he had his wand stuck in his shoe, hidden under his jeans. Aware with a startling, fierce certainty that he would do something if Lucius tried to hit his son again.
"Hardly. I'm here by personal invitation of the Weasleys themselves." Harry said, affecting Draco's posh accent.
Lucius seemed as if he had enough, reaching out a hand to take Draco by the shoulder. The smaller blonde hunched just a bit, bracing himself if subtly. It was enough for Harry to know the touch would be rough rather than gentle. Hero complex activated. Harry put his hands on the railing, pulled himself up and leaped over. The next level wasn't far. He landed on his feet easily enough. Straightening Harry tried his best to appear nonchalant. Both blondes were staring at him openly.
Or as open as Syltherins ever were at any rate.
Harry glanced over Draco's expensive black tunic and matching slacks. Brand new shiny shoes. He looked up and raised an eyebrow. "Don't tell me you're camping? In that. Aren't you afraid of scuffing those pretty shoes? Do Malfoy's even know how to camp?"
Draco bristled. "What exactly is that supposed to mean? I'll have you know we have the latest tent model-"
"I believe you."
"-no doubt far better than your charity case's excuse for a tent I can guarantee you that. I have gone with my family on many occasions that required 'camping'. I can even put up the tent myself and start a fire." Harry half expected the blonde to stuck his tongue out out on him. He did not of course.
Harry raised his hands. "I'm not trying to offend you," He reassured, nodding toward the stairs and stepping that way. Draco fell in beside him without sparing a glance to his father. Harry approved.
"I think you and I have very different concepts of camping. Mind, the Weasleys are just as lost. Did you know muggles use tents about eight feet in diameter with no indoor plumbing? In fact they have to put their food in these boxes with ice to make it last and sometimes animals eat it. Then they have to hunt their own food. They eve take these poles with strings and go fishing in creeks or lakes. They'll put the fish on a stick and cook it over the fire and eat it."
"Liar." Draco accused.
Harry felt his smile widening. "It's true. Sometimes they do it with less than that. It's recreational for them. Let me repeat that, they go out in the woods with pretty much nothing for fun."
"Are you telling me that you went cam-"
"Oh no." Harry corrected. "I wouldn't go camping with my relatives if somebody paid me." He really wouldn't. That would be the perfect opportunity for Uncle Vernon to have a hunting 'accident' and hide his body. No thank you.
Draco paused. "Well, we can at least agree on our assessment of it then. It sounds dreadful-" The conversation continued as they made their way up the stairs. Cheers and Cheers and laughter filtering in with loud bursts every so often. Lights flashing already though the game hadn't started yet. Harry spared a glance over his shoulder to meet the sharp eyes of Lucius Malfoy. They stared one another down.
Upon reaching the Minister's box Harry made a decision. He took a seat with Draco, walking by the Weasleys. He positioned himself between father and son. Draco continued speaking, rattling on with over-expressive hand movements about this or that player. His face of course was more reserved in its expression. Slytherins.
The blonde seemed oblivious to the seating arrangement beyond the fact Harry had chosen to sit with him over Ron. His father however took notice. Harry fancied he could feel the man's eyes digging into the side of his head.
Three men stood near the balcony, one of them the Minister . Harry knew him, having seen the man in his second year and actually met him in his third. Another man with a beard stood nearby. Draco informed him it was the Bulgarian Minister. The third a retired Quidditch player. The blonde gleefully informed him that the Bulgarian Minister did in fact speak English and was teasing their own.
Were they gossiping? How odd. Draco was acting far more like a regular teenager, you know the sort with souls, than Harry had thought possible for him. Who knew the boy could talk for more then five minutes without insulting somebody?
Or at least without insulting Harry.
It was the blonde's unconscious move to ease his discomfort, rubbing his stomach, that reminded Harry how he came to be sat there. Determined Harry threw himself into the conversation, prolonging the inevitable. The truth was there wasn't much else Harry could think of to do. Unless he managed to be in the same room as the two Malfoys from now on there wasn't much he could do. Harry could not be there to observe their interactions, to step in if the need arose.
After a while Ron shot him an incredulous look from the front row. Harry shrugged. He would think of something to tell the red head later. Some explanation. Now he just needed to explain it to himself. He could, of course, still get up and move to sit with Ron and Hermione for the game. Draco wouldn't be surprised if he did. Everyone would let it go. It'd be over. Instead he found himself trading banter with a Slytherin as the teams' various mascots made a show and the game began. He didn't know why he cared. Why he bothered.
All Harry really did know was that he didn't want to see Draco look that way again.
It was mad.
Krum caught the snitch though his team lost, and the crowd was in an uproar. Cheers and boos shoved in on him from all directions. Hell, he couldn't hear himself think. He shared a look with Draco who also had his hands over his ears. It was the blinding smile on the Slytherin that caught Harry off guard and before he knew it he was returning one of his own. It occurred to him Draco was perfectly capable of being a decent bloke. It might not fit the definition of earth shattering for most people but in Harry's world, it certainly was. Even for someone who didn't live in a world where the impossible was totally possible, it was always a strange moment when your perceptions of life and the people around turn out to be completely different. You never realize just how blind you are until you start seeing the world from an alternative perspective.
Both teams were going to come up to the minster's box or at least that's what he thought Draco was mouthing at him. He couldn't hear a damn thing through the crowd.
In the midst of the post-game chaos, Harry reflected on his choice making skills. Ron was going to have a fit of course. Still, seeing Ron act the fool for the Veela made it a bit worth it. Harry himself was saved from acting like a moron in front of most of the wizarding world by Draco Malfoy. Never though he'd have ever thought those particular set of words. The blonde only put a hand on his arm and murmured into his ear -looking far too amused- think for yourself Harry don't let the pretty harpies do it for you. Do really want to jump off the balcony and kill yourself like Weasley's trying so hard to do?
Ron really had been trying to do that. How killing yourself was impressive he didn't know.
Veela were dangerous!
The blonde -non-veela!- next to him was just as Quidditch obsessed as anyone on a school team was expected to be, the surprise was how knowledgeable he was about the other players. He knew the names of their moves and tricks just as much as he knew the seeker moves and tricks. This was surprising to Harry who was used to people being biased toward their own position or the one they'd like to play if they were on a team or had any talent for the sport. Draco seemed to find each position equally interesting and worth his attention. Harry was pretty sure it was one of those Slytherin traits that made him so and his motives for it probably weren't honourable. Still, it made for interesting conversations during the game.
Someone squeezed his shoulder. Harry turned to see Draco motioning toward the stairs. The teams were arriving. Harry's jaw about hit the floor when Viktor Krum winked at Draco as they passed by. As soon as the minister managed to quiet the stadium a bit to give out the trophy and make some sort of speech Harry shifted in his seat to look at Draco. "Do you know him?" Harry demanded.
"Maybe I'm just cute and blonde." Draco deadpanned.
Harry scowled. "Fine don't introduce me to your friends."
Draco raised his chin smugly and -to Harry's shock- grabbed him by the wrist, towing him toward the Bulgarian team. None of the players seemed to be paying the minister much attention so Harry figured it wouldn't be too rude if they went up to them. Or he would use the excuse that Malfoys were a bad influence. It wasn't as if anyone could really argue against him.
"Viktor!" Draco called, waving a hand.
The tall, dark haired seeker looked over his shoulder. His uniform was dark in places damp from sweat, there were bruises and a stain Harry thought might be blood. His hair was a mess, his skin flushed from exertion. The severe expression on his face softened. He whispered something to another player and moved in their direction, pushing through the large amount of people amassing in the minster's box. "Draco! Well, what did you think? I knew we should have practiced the-" He cut off with a glance to Harry. "You brought a friend?" He asked slowly.
Harry frowned, flicking his gaze to Draco.
"This is Harry Potter. Potter this is Viktor Krum." Draco introduced as if nothing were the matter.
Krum relaxed marginally. "Did you like the game, Harry Potter?"
A tad starstruck Harry stumbled over his words, "I, yes of course. I mean I've never been to a World Cup before. It was amazing. I wasn't sure I would like sitting and watching as much as I like flying."
"He's a fantastic seeker himself Viktor. Harry has been on the house team since his first year." Said Draco.
Harry frowned. "I'm not that-"
Draco's hand clamped down on his wrist. "In fact, the only time he's lost a game was when dementors rushed the field last year."
"Oh?" Krum's eyebrows raised. He gave Harry an appraising sweep. "You're a good build for it certainly."
It was such a surreal experience having Draco Malfoy singing his praises to Viktor Krum of all people. The Draco he though he knew would be too busy talking about himself to bother letting someone else get any attention. Of course, Krum and Draco seemed to already know one another so it was probably a safe bet that Krum already knew what Draco could do. When Draco sneaked a quick look over his shoulder and Harry followed his line of sight he realized what was going on. Lord Malfoy stood back near the stairwell, sharp eyes on his son. Draco was prolonging being alone with his father.
Harry growled internally. Well, that wouldn't do.
"...doing the training camp?"
The Gryffindor blinked. "What?"
Krum raised a brow. "Are you going to be at the training camp the day after tomorrow? I'll be there for a demonstration at the broom racing workshop the first day but I'll be around the rest of the camp as well. We should meet up. Draco will be there of course." Krum shoved his hands into his pockets, leaning slightly to one side and looking so much not like what Harry expected he lost his ability to think again. Am I doing what at the what?
Draco cut in. "He'll be there. This is his first camp actually." Not knowing what else to do Harry nodded along. He really didn't want to seem like an idiot in front of Krum. Or at least he wanted to prevent doing so as long as possible.
"Good." Krum boomed, "It's a good place to network and be seen. I received my team offer at the camp's end of camp showcase last year you know. It'll be good for you. Frankly, it's good to see Harry Potter taking an interest in such things. You're never at any social events. Some of us wondered if you existed at all." He smiled and turned to leave.
It took a minute to realize he was joking but by then Krum had gone.
"What did I just agree to?"
He turned to Draco. "What?"
"Well, I did just endorse Harry Potter's invitation to the training camp. I suppose I'll just have to keep an eye on you and make certain you don't embarrass me." Draco stretched his arms over his head and walked away nonchalant.
"Wait, wait, wait. What is the training camp? Where is it? Don't I need to actually be invited?"
Draco glanced at him over his shoulder. "Considering my family runs it I may be able to get you in." He looked incredibly amused.
Harry flushed. He didn't know anything about this kind of crap, he was raised by muggles!
"You'll floo out the day after tomorrow. I'll write down the address for you."
Harry found himself nodding along. Annoyed he shook his head. "How will I even do that? I'm supposed to be staying with the Weasleys for the rest of the summer." Not that he would have had an easier time of it at the Dursleys but at least then he could have said he was leaving to go to his friends and then hopped on the knight bus or something. The Weasleys would care a lot more about where he was going and with whom. How does one bring up willingly socializing with death eaters in polite conversation?
Draco paused, thinking. Behind him, Harry could see his father looking more and more impatient. Speaking before thinking, which was perhaps his greatest talent, he said. "Why don't I come over and we can figure out how we're going to coordinate this?"
The blonde stared for a moment. "You want to come to mine?"
"I...yeah?" Harry wondered which of them felt odder just then.
"Okay." Said Draco. "Let's go and convince your...friends...to let you...come over."
At least it was strange for both of them.
They approached the Weasleys with some trepidation. Harry hadn't thought his impromptu hero complex would bring him this far. Draco didn't seem to know if it was worth it to have to speak politely to gingers in order to have Harry over. Hiding a grin Harry leaned over as they came up to Mister Weasleys. "Poor isn't contagious Draco." He whispered.
Draco choked on air, then clapped a hand over his mouth appalled at his own behaviour. Harry laughed at him.
"Harry, did you enjoy the game?" Mister Weasley asked cheerfully. He looked between the two of them with a slight wrinkle in his brow but didn't bring up the unlikely pair. Harry was thankful for that.
"It was great sir," Harry assured him.
"Excellent, excellent. Well, we were just getting ready to head back to the tent."
Harry shifted on his feet. "About that, I was wondering if it would be alright if I go to a...friend's tent for a bit instead?" Both Ron and Draco turned to Harry sharply. Harry winced mentally. For some reason, he thought saying 'I'm going to my semi-rivals tent so his father doesn't beat him because I have a hero complex and can't help myself' would alarm Mister Weasley.
"Of course Harry, if that's what you want." Said Mister Weasley, kindly if a bit confused at the whole thing.
Draco stepped forward and appeared to be steeling himself for something horrible. "I would appreciate that sir. We're just going to discuss the logistics of getting Harry to the Summer Training Workshop. I know he's staying with you this summer so we wanted to, of course, keep you in the loop and coordinate transportation with you as well."
Mister Weasley brightened. "Harry! Ron didn't tell me you were invited to the workshop-"
"Ron didn't know." Ron pointed out, sour.
"-Charlie went his fifth year until he graduated and he always had such a good time. This is exciting. It's in two days isn't it?" Mister Weasley rambled along unaware of the hard stare his youngest son was shooting into the side of Harry's head. "I suppose you could stay the night. We can pick you up in the morning and retrieve your things from the burrow and you can floo back over if you want or wait until the next morning. Are there any others yet?" All of the Weasleys plus Hermione were listening intently at this point. They'd gathered, even more, memorablilia in his absence he noted.
"Viktor is coming over later tonight." Draco offered. "And he'll be there for all of the camp. He rather likes Harry I don't think he'll mind keeping an eye on him for you Mister Weasley."
Viktor Krum? Fred mouthed to George. Ron's face darkened.
Mister Weasley relaxed immensely at that. Glad Harry wouldn't be alone with death eaters maybe. "I'll still have to write to-"
"We, of course, wouldn't want it getting out that Harry is going to be attending. Reporters can be vicious, can't they?" Draco interrupted. He was speaking to Mister Weasley yet he and Ron appeared to be staring one another down.
"Of course, yes." Mister Weasley agreed, off balance.
Draco clapped his hands together, shifting his focus. "Excellent. We'll see you in the morning then. Good day Mister Weasley."
Draco bowed stiffly, turned and walked away. Not knowing what else to do Harry waved goodbye to a mixed amused and perplexed grouping of red heads and followed after him. "What was that about?" Harry asked when he judged they were far enough away the Weasleys wouldn't be able to hear them.
"He was going to tell Dumbledore." Draco supplied. "And Dumbledore would have said no so Mister Weasley would have said no. Obviously."
What. "Why would Dumbledore's opinion matter?"
Draco shrugged. "Don't worry your messy little head about it. Now let's go before my father gets too apoplectic."
They made their way back through the jungle of reporters, quidditch players and ministry officials to the area Lord Malfoy had claimed. The blonde quickened his steps, stopping before his father. "Viktor is coming by later, Harry is spending the night. I'll see you at the tent father." Draco spun and marched straight to the stairs.
Seeing the look on his father's face Harry couldn't blame him. Harry stepped forward when Lord Malfoy made to follow his son. They stood there in tense silence for a moment. Harry lifted his chin, turned and followed Draco. Slytherins were going to give him a damned heart attack, Harry thought to himself. They were too complicated.
Later -standing lost in the middle of what appeared to be a palace magicked inside of a tent- Harry wondered just what on earth he'd really done by getting involved.
And whether there was a map to help him find his way out of this mess.
Harry already knew wizarding tents were bigger on the inside than they appeared on the outside.
Somehow that didn't prepare him for the Malfoy's tent. He did expect it to be larger than the Weasleys simply because the tent belonged to the Malfoys. The picture in his head didn't include a miniature palace complete with a grand staircase and white peacocks in the lush lawn outside of it. They did not, apparently, give any damns when it came to keeping a low profile. Draco to his credit seemed to know exactly how over the top and unnecessary his family was being, and he owned that like a prince strolling through his kingdom. The blonde headed straight for the tent, Harry in tow -or being dragged along really- ignoring the various witches and wizards -both foreign and domestic- trying to get a glimpse of which family was in that particular tent. He ignored a few who called out to him, opening the door and going inside without a second look to any of them. Harry gave an awkward wave when some of the recognized him, put two and two together, and realized Harry Potter was walking into the Malfoy's tent.
He'd be hearing about this at school...he could tell.
Harry walked inside to be presented with a rather lovely parlour...and no sign of Draco. The silence within a deep contrast to the deafening cheers of the crowd outside. Determined, Harry started up the grand staircase in search of his new -what?- companion? Friendlyish acquaintance? He could iron out those details later. One wrong turn was all it took for Harry to become ridiculously lost. And it was ridiculous because who on earth needed a tent that was three stories? No one! It would be so much easier to be angry about it if the tent wasn't amazingly decorated. The walls were a pale stone with designs in a silvery colour sprawling over them, all of it light it enough not to be too much to look at it. Everything in neutral or pale tones, down to the plants that smelled amazing. There were fountains in all shapes and sizes all over the place as well. It had a surprisingly relaxing atmosphere and Harry just knew he'd have to make up something dreadful to say about it when he was being interrogated by Ron later or his life would never be peaceful again. Ron didn't want to here that the tent was awesome, he wanted to hear that it was obnoxious and filled with Dark Artefacts. To be fair, some of these things could be Dark and nice looking at the same time.
It isn't as if Harry would know one way or the other unless there were labels.
Half an hour into what he was stubbornly calling a stroll and not the aimless wanderings of a lost person, he came across two familiar voices. He realized then that while he'd been enjoying himself Draco had been left alone with his father. It was funny wasn't it Before today he would never have known that that was something to be worried about. A lot of things can change in just a few hours. Reaching the end of the hall Harry pressed himself against the wall -which he could now verify was cool enough to the touch to be relief from the heat of the outdoors without being chilling and my god did he feel like he was writing an article for the paper or something- carefully keeping in the shadow. Lord Malfoy stood before a wall covered with portraits of various dead family members, watching his son gravely. Draco stood a few feet away, close enough he was not admitting to fear but not far enough to be safe. Safe. A child shouldn't have to worry about being safe from his father, in Harry's opinion. As horrid a human being as his Uncle Vernon was, he knew the man would never consider touching his son, and he was genuinely one of the worst people Harry had ever met.
That coming from a boy hiding in a Death Eater's tent!
"I am only looking out for you Draco, which would be far easier if you would quit this stubbornness and allow me to do so. You shouldn't have been so blind. Can't you see what he is doing? I had thought you cleverer than that." Harry was almost impressed by the way Lucius managed to be so horrible while having a pleasant expression on his face. It gave him a sort of sickly feeling.
"I am second in my year, father." Draco pointed out, evenly. Slytherins were a bit amazing in their ability to keep their faces calm when they must be bursting with emotion on the inside. Harry knew just from growing up with the Dursleys exactly how hard it was to do. There was something so appalling about watching Draco doing the very same thing. Harry couldn't put a name to it, but something inside of him riled up at the sight of it.
"Yes," Lucius agreed, "Behind the mudlood three years in a row. Well done."
Draco's eyes dimmed. "Yes, father."
The entire conversation was...difficult to watch. Harry felt so very wrong standing there, watching it without Draco's knowledge. He would never want anyone watching him with his family. The entire scene conflicted with everything he thought he knew about his classmate's life. And Draco loves his father, he idolized him. Everyone who had ever met the blonde surely knew that. For him to be there, standing silently while Lucius said horrid thing after horrid thing... This was worse, perhaps, than his relationship wth his own family. Harry never loved them and knew they would never love him. But Draco loved his father and was doing everything he could to earn his father's love in return...and all the evidence said that he was failing.
A wandless hex knocked Draco back half a foot. It was only the knowledge that Draco would reject his attempts to help in this moment that kept Harry from intervening. Draco would never want anyone to see this.
The blonde didn't show if it hurt, he took the hit and stood back where he had been. Face stoic. Lucius rested his hands on the cane in front of him, studying his son almost indifferently. "He wants something from you, you know." He taunted.
"You don't know that." Draco shifted, just barely, on his feet. The hex had hurt then.
Evidently, Draco's father realized this as well. Amused, Lucius leaned closer to his son, a smile growing when Draco just barely refrained from shrinking away from him. "I do, I do know that. They always want something do they not? Everyone is playing the game, Draco. The Potter boy is no different than any of the others and your ridiculous sentiment is blinding you. Figure out what he wants and then get him out of here. You should never have allowed him to come."
Draco's pale fingers curled into fists at his side, though he kept them there. Not daring to bring attention to them. "...he didn't act like he wanted something Father. He seemed like he just wanted to talk with me."
"Don't let him play you." Lucius straightened. He waved a hand like he was batting away a fly, as if his son's thoughts were no more important to him. Perhaps they weren't. "Do you really think Harry Potter wants to be friends with you? You're the young heir to a wealthy family with connections in the ministry. Real ones. Perhaps he wants information regarding the Tournament-"
"Potter has money and titles of his own, he doesn't need mine."
Lord Malfoy's cane was out and under Draco's chin. Harry froze though he wasn't even the one in danger. He knew from experience Lucius' wand was kept in the other end. "Do not...interrupt me. Less than a day and he's influenced you poorly. Usually, you're far better behaved." He moved, the cane lifting his son's chin in response so that he could look into his -now dull- silver eyes. Draco stiffened. "I'm not going to mark your face." Lucius chided. As if it weren't a perfectly valid response not to want Lucius Malfoy's wand anywhere near one's face. "Never the face. That's the only useful thing about you, isn't it? I'll get a good match out of you and maybe your sons will be more...impressive. I'll just have to live long enough to see one of them gets the title, won't I?"
"Father." Draco swallowed, looking almost desperate to be understood. " Father, please I-"
Lucius removed his cane abruptly. Draco fell forward in a response, unbalanced. "This discussion is over." Lord Malfoy turned around and walked three slow steps from his son. At the bottom to the stairs on the opposite end of the level Harry was on, Lucius paused. Without looking back he said, "If only we'd had another son. Alas."
Draco stood there, silent. Then Harry saw his classmate breakdown in a room alone. It wasn't loud and angry, as Harry might have been. The blonde merely sank to his knees, gathering his hair in his hands, and curled into himself crying quietly. It struck Harry that Draco must have learned to cry silently. He can't imagine Lucius Malfoy would have tolerated his son showing such weakness, least of all in a fashion that could be heard or noticed.
It hurt Harry's heart in a way that was utterly foreign to him. It hadn't occurred to him until this very moment how little he really cared for other people. How he did not bother to care. That specific feeling of guilt pierced him like an arrow passing through his body, yet leaving no sign on his skin. It was something internal that a plaster or stitches couldn't mend. He wasn't nearly as good a person as he'd always liked to think of himself. Was he? For is Harry was, if he truly cared about other people, it wouldn't have taken him four years to see something that -to him certainly of all people- ought to have seen straight-a-way. No. Harry had been too carried away with his own fears and insecurities and hopes for this new world that it had not once occurred to him that anyone else could ever feel as he had or live a life similar to his own. It was...quite the shock. Interactions with the blonde in the past flashed through his mind, and he saw every one of the in a new light. It was a problem Harry was going to fix starting right now.
He stepped back and followed after Lucius.
The walls and halls he walked through in his pursuit of Lord Malfoy were in such contrast to the man that Harry was certain someone else had to have designed it. The calming hues and scents didn't fit the man's hard, cruel nature. He ended up at a study of some sort. This was more like it, he thought. All dark wood shined and polished too much. Harry stopped at the door and knocked against the side of it flippantly. As if he expected him Lucius waved a hand for him to come in.
Harry entered slowly without bothering to glance around. The room wouldn't tell him anything about the occupant that he did not already know. "Evening sir." He said with a touch of irony in his voice.
"I do not pretend to know what you want with my son," Lucius stated, getting straight to the point. "I do ask that you get what you want and then stay out of it. He has more important things to focus his time on."
"Stay out of it," Harry repeated. "Well, now, it seems we're going to have to compromise a bit, sir. See, Draco happens to be my friend. I tend to check in on my friends to see how they're doing. What's going on in their lives." He held contact with Lucius' sharp eyes. "If there is anything I need to take care of."
"I'm trying to make him strong." Lord Malfoy hit his fist against his desk, losing his cool completely. Harry tended to have that effect on people. "The world that is coming will have expectations. I won't see my House in ruins because he can't bring himself to be who and what he needs to be, to do as his blood demands. You, you Potter must understand this. The Dark Lord is drawing nearer, there are signs everywhere. He will return, soon, and our House will once again be called into his service. You and I both know Draco is not who needs to be. It is perhaps my fault. I gave into his demands easily when he was young. I took too long to distance myself."
Harry felt...incredulous. "It is not your son's job or responsibility to clean up your mess Lucius. And it is your mess. Yours, my parent's, Ron's parents, Dumbledore's, The Ministry. All of you screwed it up for the rest of us. Do you want to know how you change the world? You must change people's minds! They have to give a damn. They need a reason to fight. Their damn perspective needs to be cracked open and swished around. If you don't do that then nothing is going to change, not for either side of this ridiculous fights. An argument I don't even understand. You can not expect him to be someone he is not."
Huh. Harry hadn't known he felt that strongly about it until that very minute.
"My son will do as I command-"
Harry took a dark pleasure in interrupting the man. "Have you met your son? If I pushed him off a bridge and told him to die he'd sprout wings just to spite me. He doesn't listen to anyone he only pretends to. Forcing him to make the mistakes you made will not end well, for any of us. Can't you see that? He can be a prick but he's not and will never be who you're trying to force him to be." He stood a little straighter now, filling up with an emotion he didn't understand that tended to come about where Draco was concerned lately. Or at least today. "You are right. He isn't who you need him to be...but he has friends that are more than willing to do what he will not...if he asks. To take care of his...problems. Keep that in mind." What the Hell was he saying? Oh, Lord, he was going to get himself killed defending someone he couldn't stand yesterday.
"Like you?" Lucius drawled. "Are you claiming to be my son's friend?"
"It really isn't any of your business what I am."
In hindsight, he should have seen it coming. Yet he didn't and the hex surprised him more than it should have. Then another. And another. He stood, though, through it. It wasn't that bad really. Sure it stung all over now and he was pretty sure he was bleeding but honestly after being held down by Dudley and his friends while being stomped on and kicked this wasn't hard to deal with. Dudley had done worse. Vernon had done worse on days where work didn't go well and he'd had a bit too much to drink. And in that world, he'd been shoved into a closet afterward to deal with the pain for days afterward. This, this was nothing.
He allowed one more spell to hit him.
"Careful," he drawled in his best imitation of Draco when he was being a right git at school, "We can't be causing our guests permanent or mortal damage." He leaned forward a little, as if imparting a secret, though he knew Lucius would already know this. "Magic doesn't like it. Technically speaking, as I am a guest of your heir, that does make me a guest of your House while I am here, Lucius."
The man cocked his head. He seemed...perplexed.
"Oh, I am full of surprises," Harry said in response to the unasked question.
He managed to leave under his own power, not that Lord Malfoy would have assisted him. Honestly, Harry would rather have crawled out than asked if it had come to that. He walked along the hall, fingers trailing on the blessedly cool walls. Was this a wise choice? Maybe not. He couldn't explain his actions, even to himself. It was as if snakes curled up inside of him in a venomous rage whenever he saw the two interacting and he didn't know how to keep them from striking out.
Harry entered the room he last saw Draco in. To his relief, Draco was sitting in a chair and no longer visibly upset. He really didn't have the strength to go back for another round of cursing with the Blonde Lord. Perhaps later.
Draco looked up from his book. Silver eyes took him in, flickering over him. Without a word Draco was at his side healing him. It was...surreal. He was sure using that word a lot today. It was nothing much really. He'd been hurt worse. Draco though lived in a world where such things could be healed easily and perhaps seeing him walking around like that bothered him. It shouldn't though. Harry said as much.
"You were hurt defending me." Said Draco, quietly. He was careful not to look at Harry while he spoke, focusing on healing him instead. "So I am going to heal you." Either Draco had done his own share of eavesdropping that evening or he knew Harry better than Harry did. He wasn't sure which was the better option. He watched, fascinated, as the Slytherin whirled his wand around and his skin knitted up and bruises faded in response. He tried desperately not to think of the reasons Draco would need to know how to do such things. So they sat on the floor beside one another without speaking.
When he finished Harry leaned against him, suddenly tired. "Huh, you're a half decent pillow."
"There are the painkillers kicking in," Said Draco. "You're losing what little you have of a filter on that mouth. And I'm no one's pillow." The blonde stood to Harry's distress. He really didn't feel like smacking into the ground now staring up at him. To his relief -and, frankly, surprise- a cushion replaced the Slytherin.
Draco sat in the chair he was in when Harry entered, picking up his forgotten book. "Victor won't be here for another hour or so. He'll have to sneak off from parties you know. I suppose it wouldn't be too offensive if you slept for a while until then. As a guest you're proving rather entertaining though Potter, I expect you to remedy that when you've woken."
He grinned into his cushion. "Whatever you say, Dray." He stifled a laugh when he heard Draco splutter. He would definitely be coming up with nicknames for him. Half a minute later as he was trying not to fall asleep just yet Draco started speaking again.
"Why did you do it?"
"Hmm?" Harry managed. His mind was starting to get fuzzy. Draco was rolling his eyes. Harry couldn't see it from this angle but he knew it just the same. Poor Slytherins dealing with ridiculous Gryffindors he taunted mentally. He'd wonder later why his inner voice sounded like Snape in that moment.
"Why did you act like an idiot." Draco clarified.
Without thinking, which was becoming a horrible habit for him at this point, Harry answered, "No one hurts my friends. Not even their parents."
"...when did we become friends Harry?" Said Gryffindor sighed, pulling an arm under him and lifting himself enough to see Draco. He sat there in his chair looking between his book and Harry. pretending he didn't care what Harry said maybe? Couldn't Slytherins be human at least some of the time? It was okay to care what other people thought of you, everyone did.
"A few hours ago, remember? I jumped from a balcony and insulted your outfit. It was epic."
Draco snorted in spite of himself. "That's one way to start a friendship I suppose." As opposed to condescendingly offering it after entering a compartment on a train uninvited? He didn't bring it up, though. Draco might not heal hi the next time he got his butt kicked and it was a handy skill to have in Harry's life. Admittedly he was perhaps less careful than he ought to be. Trolls. Basilisks. Dark Lords. Werewolves...
"I'm worth it." Harry reassured him. He set his head back down on the cushion.
The blonde turned back to his book. "We'll see." He sounded like he was smiling.
"Hey, Draco." Harry slurred out. He was going to fall asleep soon but he wanted to ask before he forgot.
Draco gave an exaggerated, long-suffering sigh, setting down his book. "Yes, Potter?"
"Who decorated your tent?"
Silver orbs blinked. "It's mine. Usually, we'd be in father's but his was...allocated elsewhere. Why do you ask?"
Harry yawned. "I like it." He closed his eyes and fell asleep.
"Did you know?"
The room was cool, not too cool, and smelled of lavender for some wonderful reason that went unasked and unexplained. The seats were leather and comfortable. The lemonade provided for them sweet without being too sweet. It was all crazy and hallucinatory when taken together and put into context. It was happening though. Like right now. This was the present.
Seated in the same sitting area he was healed by Draco freaking Malfoy in, across from Viktor freaking Krum, was not an experience Harry had ever bothered even fantasizing about let alone seriously considered happening at some point. He rolled his half gone glass in his hands, his fingers leaving designs in the glass that fogged against the heat of his skin. If Ron were here, he mused, tipping the glass experimentally one way that the other, the boy would be staring at the wizard muttering incoherent sentences. He was sure of it. For his part Harry did have the worry of looking like a complete idiot in front of the wizarding celebrity -forgetting entirely that he was the biggest celebrity in the wizarding world and tons of people were nervous to speak to him, not that he actually noticed because yes he was that socially inept- until Krum's unlikely personality stifled that fear entirely.
He was not as severe and aloof as his posters made him out to be. Really, it was really hard to be intimidated by someone, no matter their size, who gave lazy lopsided smiles and leaned on anything and everything if given the chance, as if he were moments from trying to take a nap then and there in whatever position he happened to be in. Like a cat, Harry mused. Content to sprawl wherever he liked and start conversations somewhere in the middle and take a scenic route along several different seemingly unconnected topics before circling back to the main point in a way that managed to be entertaining rather than exasperating. He was awesome.
There he said it. Thought it.
There they were, alone for the moment with Draco off doing whatever it was pureblood scions did when they got excited about something Harry had totally not been listening to, more entertained by watching the blonde than by listening, and began flailing their arms excitedly before dashing -in a controlled pureblood manner of course- from the room. He really had no idea what that was about but he was going to take the opportunity he was given.
Krum -Viktor? Was he allowed to call him Viktor after knowing him for less than an hour altogether?- gave him a once over. His wide smile faded. "Did I or do I, and that depends on what we're talking about." Ah, there was the purebloodism coming through. Harry had started to wonder if it were broken. Of course he hadn't thought the seeker would have any purebloodisms at first, nor had he thought Draco Malfoy would insist on healing his wounds or that he would readily accept a glass of lemonade -and it was the best lemonade in the history of refreshing summer beverages- in the tent of a death eater and take a sip without worrying about being poisoned. It had been a Hell of a day.
"Draco. His father. Bullshit." Yeah, safe to say Harry was over his celebrity daze with the other boy.
The Bulgarian smiled somewhat involuntarily. One of Harry's many gifts he proudly praised to himself. "That is the word for it certainly." Krum's face hardened. "What has he done now?" The seeker's eyes strained as if he resisted the urge to look at the door and attempt to see through the walls of the tent so he could judge the blonde's wellbeing.
"Left him on the floor a complete wreck." Said, Harry. And wow he'd never heard his own voice sound like that.
Krum nodded. "How is he?"
"Oh swell." Said, Harry. "Turns out giving Lucius an alternative target does wonders." The seventeen-year-old winced, eyes glancing Harry over again, wondering -perhaps- how The-Boy-Who-Lived was -well- living. "I'm full of surprises," Harry answered the unasked question.
It wasn't lost on him he was echoing his earlier conversation with Lord Malfoy. This time at least he didn't fear for a Slytherin loophole to come flying at him out of left field and blast him into smithereens. They sat there quietly for a moment. Harry was happy to let the other boy adjust to this information. He needed him to realize you could stand up to Lord Malfoy and live through the experience, if in more pieces than you began with. Finally, Krum appeared to know what he thought about it all and what he wanted to say.
Harry blinked. "Why what and it depends on what you're asking." He mocked.
Krum's lips pulled upward. "Why have you moved to intervene on Draco's behalf? What is it you are benefiting from your involvement? He is...my friend. I don't wish for him to be a plaything in your battle with Lord Malfoy." Okay, now he was intimating again. Not as intimidating as if Harry hadn't had his arse handed to him by Lucius Malfoy like two hours ago but enough of a showing for Harry to know Krum was taking all of this seriously.
"I see." Harry murmured. He didn't speak pureblood so he really didn't know how to get his point across in that way but Krum seemed perfectly able to speak not pureblood so he figured just saying what he meant was a good start and he could always explain it again if the guy got caught up looking for stuff between the lines which yeah was more of a Slytherin thing but snakes were the ultimate purebloods so better safe than really confused and frustrated.
Really though, there should be a pureblood to non-pureblood dictionary out there somewhere for poor sods like him trying to cross the socialization barrier. "I told off Lucius Malfoy in his own office because I have a problem with the way he treats his son. Clear enough? Draco is my friend too."
The other seeker nodded at him. He drained his lemonade. "Good. Draco can use friends. Good ones. What are you going to do about Lucius? He'll be royally pissed off at you know."
"I'd like to convince him to treat Draco better if I can." That convincing may involve bribing or blackmail but it wasn't something he could honestly say he was against. Sounded like something to think back on fondly whenever he got the urge to cast a Patronus. Harry swished his own empty glass around, the remaining lemon wedges and crushed ice swirling about.
"And if you can't?"
Harry, not entirely certain he was joking, looked up and said, "Ever heard of the Borgias?"
Viktor Krum stared for a full moment, a wide grin curling across his face. "Lucius is a Roman name you know."
"When in Rome." Harry grinned as well and the two of them must have looked incredibly suspicious, because when Draco finally returned carrying garments for whatever reason and a refilled carafe of lemonade, he eyed the two of them and glanced about the room like he was looking for where they stashed the smuggled in firewhiskey. Or a body. The later ominously fitting. What could he say? Draco always had brought out Harry's more Slytherinish-Spiteful streak. Now it was simply redirected.
Damn this was some good lemonade.
Brush and thorns scratching at his arms Harry stumbled after Draco in the dark.
The blonde's grip was on his wrist like a vice. He seemed to know where he was going which was lucky for them both as Harry couldn't see worth crap and the mob of magicals around them screaming and yelling was incredibly disorienting. The urge to climb a tree just to put some distance between it and himself was real.
One moment Viktor is laughing at him while Draco plays pureblood dress up with him. The next Lord Malfoy is dragging him to a corner of the room to tell him some of the 'old crowd' has lost their minds and not to let Draco out of his sight, pressing a portkey into his hands to use 'when the time was right'. Harry found himself wishing he hadn't faked purebloodisms earlier because he didn't have a clue when the right time could possibly be.
"Dray we need to go-"
"Not yet Harry." The screams reached them not long after. Viktor left to find his own family promising to send an owl the next day to assure them of his safety. Then he was gone in the crowd of people. And there were so many people, pushing and squeezing and shouting on all sides. Harry had never had that amount of physical contact before in his life and the amount he had had was usually negative when paired with loud noises.
It all pressed in on him. It was nothing like the noise heading up to the top seats for the match. This was a cacophony of fear and anger and confusion. Pushing in at him, merging together into a mass of sound without distinction. People. So many people. Harry jostled about in the madness, those around them paying no mind to anything but their own emotions, their own survival. He was amongst so many people and still so invisible, and no one even looked at him. So many of them. He wanted to yell at them to give him some space. To stop touching him. To quiet down so he could hear his own thought but the words stuck in his throat and he was frozen in the fearful mob.
And then he was grounded. Someone had him, turning him, speaking to him. Harry couldn't respond just then. He wanted tot ell them he needed to leave. Something though, in his face, must have shown his inner freak out because Draco -it was Draco- took charge of the situation, securing a hold on Harry's wrist and pulling him through and around the crowd surprisingly well. Harry wasn't sure what they were doing or where they were going. The haziness about his mind slow to fade and never quite all the way gone. Draco stopped at tent after tent, running in to say something he needed a pureblood translation dictionary to understand after he'd translated it from freaking Latin.
Who spoke Latin? Who?!
Draco said it clearly and quickly, waiting long enough to see it registered with whomever he was speaking to -right now two witches their age he vaguely recognized from school- handing them some sort of stone from his pocket and then he was turning on his heel dragging Harry back out with him. He assumed he was warning them to leave because the one time he glanced back he saw the group disappearing soon afterward. Emergency portkeys? After the fifth tent, Harry realized they were moving so easily because the crowd was moving out of Draco's way. Scattering almost. Rearing back as far from him as they could. The Hell?
Harry wasn't given time to make sense of it. A group of people in front of them broke out into a fight. One of them, a wizard with a gray coat, turned and spotted them. No, spotted Draco. The blonde darted into the forest along the edge of the campground. Everyone else was headed there now anyway.
It wasn't quieter here. You would have thought it would be. The flashing darkness made it all even worse. You didn't know who was yelling or how close they were. You didn't know where you were or who was around you. Darkness waved in and around the trees casting shadows over nearly every surface with flashes of light from wands and spellwork and a pale light from the moon when you happened across a clearing.
He could smell something burning.
"Breathe Potter." Draco murmured, squeezing his wrist.
They took refuge tucked in the space between closely growing trees. Bathed in shadow they watched the madness around them. For all he seemed to know what he was doing it didn't escape Harry that Draco had yet to release his wrist, nor the stiffness of his posture. Draco was just as unnerved and frightened as Harry was. Maybe more so.
With good reason, Harry decided.
He knew now who they were rescuing. He understood why they were hiding. With the world going mad around them, from their hiding place, Harry had a front row seat to prejudices he wasn't aware of before that night. Or maybe he'd chosen to ignore them. Because anyone who was dark or thought to be or rumoured to be to have been involved in the war or anything remotely suspicious. They were blamed. They were attacked. Harry felt his mouth fall open at some point.
Wizards shouting that this or that person had been a death eater or their father was or that they knew they'd seen them in a suspicious shop in the alleys. That was what Lord Malfoy meant by the old crowd. His old crowd. Death Eaters had done something and now everyone was losing their minds in their fear. People were cursing first and asking questions later. He glanced left to see Draco's face, gray and smooth. Too smooth. He knew, if he wanted to, if he was that sort of person, he could step out and reveal them and Draco would be dragged off into the madness. Fourteen or not. He even considered it for a moment. Draco had been horrible to him. He didn't owe him anything, the past few hours of a ceasefire or not. He was the boy who lived. Lord Malfoy had admitted to being a death eater, to returning to his master's service when required in the future. He knew Lucius intended for Draco to join their ranks. Why not say something? Why not stop them before they reached that point?
Harry turned his wrist and grasped Draco's with his fingers, squeezing tightly. Harry wasn't that sort of person.
And neither was Draco. Rather than get himself to safety -which frankly is exactly what Harry had expected- he'd chosen to run through the crowd helping the children of other dark families. They'd seen him, the crowd. That was why everyone moved they'd been frightened of him. If the wrong people had seen them Draco would have gotten hurt. He imagined Lucius would be furious if he found out about it. He paused, then groaned. Merlin, he was gonna get hexed again. Wasn't he supposed to be playing bodyguard to the littler Malfoy? And honestly, when had he signed up for that anyway? Purebloods were psycho. His thoughts disrupted when Draco left their hiding place to lean against one of the trees where he could be plainly seen, folding his arms across his chest. Harry, still attached to the blonde, was dragged out as well.
"You better get the mudblood out of here." He drawled. Harry turned to see over his shoulder who Draco was talking to and froze.
There stood Ron and Hermione.
"Don't call her that." Ron snapped, ears tinting the telltale red warning of impending doom. "And you would know wouldn't you? Your daddy out there with his old friends?"
The blonde beside him clenched his fists.
Harry knew because his wrist unluckily happened to be in the grip of one. "If he were I certainly wouldn't tell you."
Behind them Hermione's eyebrow went up, brown eyes flashing between Harry and Draco's mutually held captive wrists. You knew you were going partially insane when you hoped your best female friend would come to the conclusion you were having some sort of torrid liaison with someone you disliked rather than come to the right conclusion that the two of you were frightened in the dark and holding on to one another out of the fear of being separated. Yeah, Harry thought he'd rather die than have anyone know that.
"Yes, yes well done. That's your good deed for the day." Harry interrupted before Ron could get started and mentally crossing his fingers it would distract Hermione. And Merlin were they really arguing right now? "Ron get Hermione out of here. Find the twins. I'll see you tomorrow." Harry turned back to Draco intent on chewing him out when he was whirled around by Ron.
"You're staying with Malfoy?" The redhead demanded.
Several heads turned at that. Draco looked like he wanted to curse. Harry did curse. "Are you out of your bloody mind?" Harry pulled away from Ron and shoved Draco unceremoniously back into the space between trees. "I'll see you tomorrow. Go."
With Hermione pulling on him to leave as well Ron finally relented. Harry stood where he was for a little while after they'd gone. The wizards who had turned seemed to have lost interest. He reckoned when they didn't catch sight of the signature blonde hair they decided it was a false alarm. He swallowed, heaving a heavy sigh. Ron was gonna make the rest of the summer at the Weasleys Hell he could already tell. He'd be sulking and angry with him for days at this rate.
Malfoys were a really lot of trouble.
Time passed. Harry and Draco hid in their spot until it grew quiet. Just as they were stumbling out of their hiding place green light flashed in the sky and the forest erupted in screams once more. An odd skull-like picture formed just above them in the air.
Draco opened his mouth, paused, then closed it. "Nothing good."
Both of them turned at the sound of laughter. A wizard with hair somewhere between brown and blonde, and a wide smile full of teeth stood there, staring up at the sky. Without thinking, Harry positioned himself in front of Draco. It was sort of automatic at this point. A snort alerted him Draco had noticed.
"I'm a bit more useful for dealing with dark wizards don't you think?" Draco asked.
The unknown wizard's gaze snapped to them at the sound of Draco's voice. Harry shot the blonde a glare over his shoulder. "Where have your Slytherin survival instincts gone and how can I get them back? Honestly."
More laughter. Harry glanced forward. The wizard was a bit closer to them now, honey coloured eyes looking between them. Amused. "You know you sort of," he started with a soft, rough voice, "remind me of-"
Flash of red. The wizard went down. Footsteps. Someone running that way. Harry and Draco scrambled backward into their hiding place, pushing themselves as far in as they could get. Harry tried to peer around a tree to see what was happening. Draco smacked the back of his head, muttering under his breath about Gryffindors. Without a by-your-leave, the blonde yanked Harry's glasses from his face.
Draco put his other hand over his mouth. He leaned close to whisper, "I'm using your glasses so I can see in the reflection without getting caught." It was kind of amazing he managed to say that clearly while hardly moving his lips. Where was that dedication to remaining incognito about five minutes ago? Slytherins. Merlin save him from Slytherins.
Blind and unable to talk Harry huffed and leant back against the trees.
The unknown attacker of the fallen wizard whispered a spell Harry hadn't heard. Draco had. The blonde's entire body went still as stone. Both of the strange wizards went quiet. Had they gone?
Eventually, Draco pulled the glasses back in toward them, placing them back on Harry's face. Not a moment later and more flashes of red light lit up their part of the wood. Wizards he recognized as aurors ran by. Well shit. Harry pushed Draco back enough he could pull out the chain Lord Malfoy had given him, because as far as Harry was concerned the time was definitely right -and why the hell hadn't he remembered he had this half an hour ago?- because the last place Draco needed to be found was wherever the aurors were. He held one end out to Draco.
The moment they were both touching it he felt the now familiar tugging feeling at his center and the world spun around them only to come to a sudden stop. They fell in an ungainly pile and smacked against a hard marble floor. "Ow."
"Father is going to kill me." Draco moaned somewhere by Harry's left elbow.
"Don't worry," Said Harry, struggling to get untangled. "He'll probably kill me first."
It soon became clear that for once in his life fate had interfered on his behalf rather than against him. Lucius Malfoy had yet to return.
The man would never know that Harry had not brought his heir directly home nor that said heir had risked injury to warn other dark witches and wizards to flee. This was a blessing as much as it wasn't. Harry had to wonder just what the Lord was up to. He'd seemed less than impressed by his 'old crowds' actions. Had he hidden them away? Had he gone with them?
It was tempting, standing next to the son of the man, to ask for the answers to these questions. Anyone else probably would have without thinking much about it. Harry, however, was of the opinion Draco had gone through more than enough without being grilled for information on his abusive father.
Would he meet Lady Malfoy now? She had not been int he tent or least he had not seen her, and she had not been at the match either. Would she hex him if she saw the state her son was in and him standing there? Maybe she'd give him a chance to explain. His mind brought forth images of Molly Weasley if any of her children looked as banged up as Draco did -and admittedly Harry as well- right now. Perhaps he ought to allow Draco to walk a little ahead of him...just in case.
They walked together through the halls of the manor which was indeed a larger version of the tent Harry had been in previously. Unfortunately, Lucius Malfoy's touches could be seen everywhere. Dark wood panels along the floors and the walls are broken only by patterns of white marble stone. Everything was heavier and sharper here. Even the scent of the place was dull and melancholy. It held none of the relaxed atmosphere of Draco's tent for all it's nearly identical features. No fountains. No flowers.
The home in its entirety was closed off and...well...pretend. All of it, the expensive furniture and the way it was set up, was to be impressive. It was for show. A museum of Artifice.
They were coming down a narrower strip of the hall between two wings when they found her. Tall and fair, draped in blue and ivory silks, the witch stood to their left sipping strongly on some drink or other from a fancy glass. A wizard who was decidedly not Lord Malfoy stood near her. In twirls of fine skirts and a tinkling of the long ropes of necklaces about her neck, she faced them. Pale fingers ran up the furs of some poor animal adorning her shoulders, dull gray eyes glancing over her son with little weight to them. Dismissive.
"Where is my husband Draco?"
The complete lack of inflection to her words startled Harry. Where Lucius Malfoy -right bastard as he might be- was smooth and passionate, this woman's voice was low and nearly monotone but for the darker bits licking in at the sides. There was just something about the way she spoke that had Harry struggling to keep his breathing even and relax his posture. Even Gryffindors knew better than to let on that they were afraid if they were able.
"Mother." Draco greeted. "Father is attending to the 'needs' of former associates or so I have been lead to believe. I'm just retiring to my wing."
Harry was certain this woman couldn't care less.
"Yes, yes." She said, flicking her hand like swatting a fly. "And who have you brought with you..." Lady Malfoy's words trailed off. Dull gray eyes zeroed in on Harry's brighter green ones, moving slowly up to where his scar lay hidden behind his fringe. None of the quickness everyone else exhibited when doing so. The blonde witch's examination of him was glacial. Harry put everything he ever learned at the Dursleys into play and stood as still he could with his face as expressionless as he could manage. He knew that sort of look. He'd grown up getting that sort of look, and he would let her see no cracks in his armor. But damn if it wasn't entirely different getting it from her than it was getting it from Aunt Marge.
"Mother, this is Harry Potter." Draco dutifully fulfilled social niceties though it obviously wasn't needed.
Her eyes turned to Draco before Harry could figure out a proper greeting. She raised her glass mockingly. "Stowing away the wizarding savior in your father's house? Darling, this is the most interesting thing you've ever done." Narcissa turned up the glass and finished the liquid off. Dull eyes surveying the equally blonde teenager across from her. "Perhaps you should clean yourselves up. You look like you've been through a battle." Her lips curled up the smallest bit at the ends. No concern. No care. No interest.
It just made Harry burn.
As she turned back, dismissing her son, Harry found himself speaking. "Clearly, m'lady, if you find thisinteresting you've not been paying your son much attention." The implications -Lucius' treatment of him, his spot on the school team, his place as second in his year, his possible death at an angry mob- were numerous.
Narcissa's eyes flickered for the smallest moment then faded back to blank and dull. "Clearly." She gave him a slight nod, which Harry was certain bore nothing good for him in the future, and turned from them deliberately. Too classy to stomp or to shriek to show her displeasure -which Harry had to give her credit for- she merely approached the still unknown wizard, relieved him of his drink and finished it as well. The poster child of indifference she waved over her shoulder, opened the double doors behind her and entered the room without giving her son a second glance. It gave them a brief glimpse of a small ballroom with other witches and wizards inside. A party Harry supposed.
One Draco was not welcome at.
Harry stood beside Draco in the too cold corridor long after his mother left them there. Too cold in temperature and in feeling. This was the home Draco had grown up in? A father expecting too much of him and a mother expecting nothing. It was quite a feat in a place so full of stuff to feel so alone. For the home to feel so empty. What a horrible place to live.
Finding Draco's wing Harry was given a short tour. Stepping inside Draco's 'social room' the change was immediate. A slight floral scent met them along side calm tones in colour. It was wide and open with flowers and plants covering most surfaces. Large windows made up most of the wall space. Draco shut the doors to his part of the manor and waved his wand. Sealing them in or the world out Harry couldn't be sure. He settled on one of the giant floor cushions spread throughout the sitting area.
Draco retrieved books from a shelf near the door. Two he handed to Harry, the other he kept. He sat across from Harry and began reading his book. Shrugging Harry looked at the books he'd been given. One was thinner and from his quick skimming of it seemed to be a history of the summer training camp. The one beneath it an introduction to basic wizarding etiquette.
He felt his breath rush from him in a whoosh as tension he hadn't known he'd felt was lifted. Faking his way through one or two conversations with one person was fine. He hadn't realized how worried he was about making a fool of himself at this sporting summer camp thing he was going to. Determined Harry read them both carefully. He was pleasantly surprised at the information's presentation.
It was hardly the dry murmurings of professor Binn's history lessons.
Harry read about status and titles, greetings and invitations. Posture and handshakes and nods and smiles. All of it could mean something different to different people at different times. He resolutely refused to look over any of his previous behavior with students he knew were pureblood. He'd probably made a right fool of himself.
The training camp was interesting as well. A variety of competitive activities were held, the main events an obstacle course of some kind at the opening and a race at the end. There were workshops on broomcrafting, racing, quidditch and things he hadn't ever heard of. Harry soon found himself excited for the mysterious camp.
The Gryffindor glanced up in irritation sometime later in response to a bright light in his face. He dropped his scowl and blinked. The sun was rising. Had he been reading all night? Green eyes flickered over and yes Draco was awake and reading as well. Well didn't they make a lovely pair of wannabe Ravenclaws?
"Potter." Said Draco, eyes remaining on his book.
Harry suppressed a grin. "It's morning Draco."
"Don't be absurd." Draco looked up. "It isn't anywhere near..." Silver eyes widened fractionally. "Oh."
Five minutes later Harry was standing in Draco's bathroom. Or 'bathing room' as the blonde called it. Harry could see the distinction. The room was bloody well bigger than any bathroom had the right to be and he'd been inside of the prefect's bathroom before. There was no swimming pool sized bath. Rather there were mirrors and counters running the length of the room with pitchers of hot water and large bowls. There were things for scrubbing and softening, and smoothing and other things that were somehow not the same thing.
Draco chose a spot. From one of many cylinder objects on the counter, he removed a sachet, lifted it to his nose then placed it in the bowl. Curiosity had Harry copying him. The little cloth packets had herbs in them he discovered, with different scents. Draco then poured hot water from the pitcher into the bowl. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Harry thought he looked like he was meditating standing up.
Draco lifted his hand before him and moved it away from him in a shallow curve. "Eluo."
A soft breeze of something whirled around him, ruffling his hair and clothing. When it died down Draco opened his eyes. He was brighter it seemed. More energized. When he noticed Harry staring he raised a pale brow. "I'm not the matinée Potter."
Harry tilted his head. "What was that?"
Draco turned to face him. "My morning cleansing. Why, how does the great Harry Potter do it?"
"Your morning...cleansing," Harry repeated.
Draco's face morphed from taunting to disbelief to something unreadable. Draco reached out and pointed at the different cylinders. On the lid of each was a marking of some kind Harry could not read. He thought they might be runes or similar. "Tension. Intuition. Health. Perspective..." Draco named the off one by one. At the end, he picked up the one he'd used and brought out a sachet and handed it to him.
Not entirely sure what they were doing Harry set in in his bowl like he'd seen Draco do.
"It's Peppermint and Rosemary." Explained Draco. "For focus, clear thinking and energy. Add the water."
Harry did. Almost right away the scents swirled up to him. "Like that? Now what?"
"Take in a deep breath and close your eyes," Draco instructed. "You must gather up all of your emotions, positive or negative. Find each one you feel even if you only have the remnants of it. Acknowledge the emotion and its cause. Are you doing that?"
Listening to the blonde's voice Harry gave a nod, doing his best to visualize. He decided to think of his emotions as small balls like snitches with their title engraved on them. One at a time he caught them and put them into an imaginary basket. "Next?" He murmured when he was sure he'd done it.
"Now you let them go. Usually using a physical movement to coincide with your idea of letting something go helps with this part. The goal is to release yesterday so you have room for today. It will help to clear your mind, settle your emotions and clear out the sediment of magicks you use or encountered the day before. When you're ready, release it all."
Harry held up his hand like a fist in front of himself, in his mind imagining it holding tightly to the end of bag carrying all these things. Feeling ridiculous he moved it forward a bit and pretended to loosen enough for the 'bag' to opened and everything inside to fly away. "Eluo." The bag slowly emptied and then he felt it. Harry didn't have a word for 'it'. He didn't think there was a word. Something moved about him, warm and cool at once. It moved along his face and the skin of his arms and through his tangled curls. He was being filled with something and yet felt so open and full of space. A bit dazed Harry opened his eyes. The world more colourful than he'd every seen it.
Harry turned to Draco and asked in a quiet voice. "Was that my magic?"
"Okay." He swallowed, still reeling. "And we do it because?"
"It clears our minds and our magic. Most of us are instructed to do so as soon as we can sit still. It is considered healthy to do so. It will help you concentrate and your magic will perform better when it doesn't have pieces of other magic stuck to it."
"I don't suppose you have a book on stuff like this?"
Draco gave him a nod. "I suppose I might."
And that was that. Draco did not comment on what was apparently a large hole in Harry's magical education. Rather they went through the rest of the blonde's morning rituals. Harry learning helpful spells along the ways. Ones to clean his fingernails and ones to dry himself off after his bath without waiting to towel dry. The best thing from it was a bottle handed to him after squeezing some into h is hands. Without asking for permission Draco ran it through Harry's hair. To his disbelief, the Slytherin's long fingers weren't inescapably caught in tangles and before his eyes, his wild locks came together in a sleeker, more controlled fashion.
"Huh." Said, Harry.
They dressed and had breakfast in a small dining area in Draco's wing.
While he was eating it occurred to Harry that he knew several halfbloods and muggleborn who had been at the cup. He borrowed parchment from Draco and sent out polite inquiries on their health, feeling like the worst friend ever because he had not thought of them once during the danger and excitement of the previous night.
Eventually, they could put it off no longer.
Not unless they wanted a brigade of Weasleys or aurors at the door. Draco brought him to his floo room. Along the way the two of them skirted around Lady Malfoy who lounged on a couch with a drink her hand, dull eyes following their progress. She gave Harry the absolute chills and he was quite glad to put distance between them and her. In Draco's hand was an information packet he intended to give to Mister Weasley as reassurance. Harry didn't think the red haired man would change his mind like that but it made Draco feel better so he let it be. Privately Harry thought any excuse to keep Draco away from his horrid parents was good enough for him to let the blonde come along.
Harry called out the address and they stepped through together.
Harry stumbled from the floo.
In the seconds following as he tried to reorient himself two ginger splotches shot into the air. Wait, what? Shaking his head quickly to clear it, his vision focused enough for him to take another look around. There at a table stood the two eldest Weasley brothers. Apparently having risen from the table at his and Draco's arrival. Harry stood right where he was for a moment. He glanced around without seeing any other Weasleys. Beside him Draco stepped a bit closer and attempted to subtly keep from touching anything. He really needed to convince him that poor wasn't a contagious disease.
It smelled like cookies.
The room was just as cluttered and clean and homey as every other time he'd ever visited. There was a wooden table with a couple chairs on the far side of the room often covered with a chessboard for Ron or Percy- smaller square tables sprinkled about, a wooden chest and a low bookcase. A slight change in decoration, however, were the many plates of baked goods covering every available space. Mrs Weasley had been stress baking then.
Harry blinked, looking up at the two redheads. "They aren't back yet."
Charlie shook his head. He swallowed and let out a sigh, his shoulders sagging. Harry wondered if he'd been up all night. It looked like it. By him Bill slowly slid back into his seat, fingers running through his hair which was loose from its standard ponytail. "Had hoped you were them, to be honest. That they'd gone to the Diggory's or the Lovegood's and floo'd over."
"Mr Weasley hasn't sent an owl then?" That was Draco asking.
Charlie studied the blonde, perhaps only now noticing who Harry had brought with him. "No, my father hasn't sent anything since he departed for the cup."
Harry and Draco exchanged a glance. Would it be wrong to use the oppertunity that presented its self to their own advantage when the two redheads were clearly concerned for the rest of their family? One of whom was Harry's best mate? Then again...Harry was pretty certain they got out of the choas just fine and would return soon. He knew that Mr Weasley worked for the ministry after all, perhaps he had to give a statement of the things he saw? Screw it.
"So, he won't have told you what will be happening tomorrow?" Harry asked. He tried to subtly move so his collar loosened, it was warmer than normal in here. Perhaps from all the baking?
"And for the remainder of summer," Draco added with a purposely poorly hidden smile. It was there and gone in a flash, lasting only long enough for the two older wizards to zero in on it. Slytherins. Honestly. Apparently, the two of them being in good enough condition to try to weasel information gave the elder Weasley boys hope that their own siblings would have made it through in good health as well, even without an owl saying as much. No doubt just as Draco intended.
Charlie took his seat, the grin Harry associated him with spreading across his face. "Alright let's have it then."
Harry and Draco took the seats across from them at the roughly carved wooden table. Draco needed gentle encouragement to do so in the form of Harry grasping his wrist and pulling him down beside him. He ignored the annoyed huff that followed. "I'll be flooing back to Draco's tomorrow morning." Harry said. He shrugged a shoulder as if it were all decided. "I've been invited to this summer-"
"You got into the training camp?" Charlie burst. Damn did he look excited. "I've gone twice."
Harry nodded. "Yes. That's the idea anyway."
Bill put his chin in his hand, gradually appearing less stressed out. "Charlie will be there for the broom racing showcase, did you know? Any of your mates get in?"
"I'd forgotten Charlie was attending." Draco mused aloud. Charlie. Not Weasley. They'd met then? Harry looked between them. They weren't paying one another much attention other then as politeness required them to do from being a part of the same conversation. Charlie didn't correct him. So, was Draco letting Harry know that he knew Charlie...or was he reminding Charlie that they knew one another? Merlin help him, Slytherins were nothing but headaches! "And Harry will be seeing Viktor there, and myself of course."
"Viktor?" Bill asked, one eyebrow scrunching up.
Charlie's mouth fell open. "Viktor as in Krum. You know Viktor Krum? THE Viktor Krum?"
"I don't know if I'd say-"
Draco squeezed his wrist hard. "Yes, they took quite a liking to one another. I suspect it's a relief to them to be around another talented seeker their own age. I imagine it must get tiresome around the children at school who, really, do their best but simply can't catch up." Said Draco.
"Other than you of course," Harry added, amused.
The blonde puffed up a bit. "Of course."
"That's right," Said Charlie. "You're the youngest seeker in a century, yeah? You must be pretty good." The wide shouldered redhead leaned forward in his chair, surveying him as if he could tell just from his looks how good he might be. Then again, Krum had done something similar and commented on his 'build'. Harry knew that meant he was small and thin which suited a seeker, though Krum and Charlie both were much bigger than Harry. Still, they weren't huge. Wide shouldered, yes. Large hands, yes. They lacked the bulkiness wizards like Ron started gaining in their teens. And Crabbe and Goyle, but Harry was reluctant to group them together. Ah Hell he was still staring at Harry. Was he supposed to respond?
Harry flushed. "I suppose."
The sole Slytherin in the room rolled his silver eyes heavenward. "He only wins every game he plays unless there are soul sucking demons about. Nothing big really. Broke a Hogwarts record for fastest snitch catch as well. No big deal."
"Shut it." Harry groaned, burying his face in his hands.
"Well! We'll have to have a race then, yeah? You and me and your Viktor. Draco as well. It'll be fun."
Harry's head shot up. "You want to race me?" Harry had of course, as a Gryffindor, heard many tales of the great Charlie Weasley. Nearly every Weasley ever had been on the Gryffindor quidditch team and -according to general consensus- Charlie had been the best seeker the house had ever seen. Until Harry came along, that is.
"Oh yes," Charlie assured him, a wicked grin on his face. "I haven't had much time to fly recently, it'll be good to stretch my wings so to speak."
"Careful," Draco warned, a mocking lilt to his voice. "The wonder boy here has himself a Firebolt." The blonde had an arm outstretched, the other picking pretend lint from it as if he wasn't bragging about Harry and his talents and belongings and it wasn't at all an odd thing to be happening. He'd done that to Viktor the day before. Harry frowned to himself. Why would he do it though?
Bill sat up. "Where'd you score one of those? I didn't know they were available to the public yet? I knew they were going to be, everyone's seen them up at various shops. But, it's only ever been the display and there's never a price."
"He won't tell anyone." Draco groused.
Charlie smacked a large hand against the tabletop. "Well, we'll all be together then! For a week at least. I don't know if I'll stay for all of it but you will be there and Viktor is hanging around I think I just might. And Bill will be about, he's working on the wards and acting representative for the goblins while he's there."
"Why not a, you know, actual goblin?" Harry asked.
"It's easier," Explained Draco. The blonde turned in his seat to face Harry. "Generally, wizards are more responsive to other wizards even when that wizard is representing a non-wizard. So, sending a wizard along helps with networking and fostering alliances. Just as sending a witch or wizard in similar age range, with similar hobbies or background or of a similar alignment can make deals and negotiations easier within the wizarding world."
Harry blinked. "Okay then." Huzzah for spontaneous culture lessons.
Then Mrs Weasley ran passed them all in a swirl of skirts and red hair. "Hello boys, excuse me boys." They all stared at one another wide-eyed. How on earth did she not notice a Malfoy making himself at home in her house? They exchanged glances. Someone shouted and several voices began filtering in. As one they all scrambled to their feet.
"I should-" Draco began, stepping backward.
At the same time, Bill started, "We'll try-"
They both stopped. Charlie looked ar Harry and rolled his eyes. "We will try to get Harry permission to go. I'll be there for the first week so I can probably get you at least a week out of it. Make the most of it. In the mean time you," He nodded at Draco. "Should get going. We've heard enough from our brother to know he won't be pleased to see you here."
"That's a bit of an understatement." Muttered Harry, he shoved at Draco toward the floo.
Draco gave a dramatic sigh, resisting the push with the slightest of smiles. "I'm not the one attempting to get the other killed, Potter."
"You could have put on a hat or something." Harry pointed out.
"A hat? A hat?" Draco exclaimed. "Why not dye my hair while I'm at it!"
Bill rounded the table and motioned at Draco toward the floo. "Get out of here. You can argue about headgear later." Draco sniffed and approached the floo, tossed in the powder and whispered his address. He really didn't need to. No Weasley in his right mind would come to a death eater's home unannounced, let alone the home of Lucius Malfoy. He paused, thinking of Mrs Malfoy. He'd rather not chance accidentally coming upon her alone.
"Do you two always spontaneously bicker like that?" Charlie asked.
Draco shot them a look over his shoulder and stepped through the flames. "Not at all-"
"-sometimes we're much worse." Harry finished just as the blonde vanished and the rest of the Weasley clan began filling the room. Charlie and Bil exchanged amused, exasperated, smiles. Harry nearly felt sorry for them.
They really had no idea what they were getting themselves into.
The-boy-who-lived resigned himself to being suffocated by frizzy hair for several minutes. "Oh, Harry dear you're here? I didn't see you come in..." Yeah well, you missed the baby death eater in here as well. Maybe you should work on that.
Harry swallowed a sigh. Hermione was great. Mrs Weasley was amazing. Really. He just wished they'd learned the concept of personal space at some point in their lives. Harry turned his head to suck in a breath, glimpsing an amused pair of identical eyes. He appreciated the sentiment but honestly!
Finally, they backed off a bit. Not out of the belief the time for smothering him was over but to look him over for further excuses to resume their smothering. In this respect, Hermione Granger and Molly Weasley were very much alike. Harry almost groaned aloud if it wouldn't induce them into hysteria believing something was wrong.
"Glad to see you made it back as well dear," Mrs Weasley said finally, patting his cheek. Harry swallowed an annoyed sigh. A few days ago he'd have been worried about someone coming back from the Malfoys' intact as well. She meant the best, he knew.
"Yes, I'm alive and remain in possession of all of my limbs, as you can see, and am fairly certain I'm not an impostor in disguise."
Mrs Weasley gave him a cheery laugh, bustling her way to the kitchen.
"I never understand your jokes Harry dear."
Hermione was not so easily swayed. She walked around him, chattering about something, her eyes glued to him. What she was looking for he was never one hundred percent certain. Expecting to read the truth out of him as if it were written on his skin perhaps. Near her Ron stood by, eyes flickering to Harry while the rest of him engaged in conversation with his family. The lot of the reds heads assuring one another that they were all safe and sound and regaling them with their memories of the night before. Then they mentioned something that had Harry's head snapped to the right, ignoring Hermione's continued perusal of his well being.
"Dark Mark? What's that?"
"You-know-who's mark." Explained Charlie. He stood by the twins and Ron. Bill was off to the side whispering with Arthur. "You'd find it left over houses or buildings as a sort of...calling card., Letting you know that they had been there. Or sometimes even as a warning...that they were coming. It's a skull and a-"
"Snake." Harry finished. So that's what that thing he'd seen the sky had been. And why Draco had said it was nothing good. He frowned, oblivious to the surprised looks around him. But it had come later, what was it that made everyone lose their minds to begin with? Hermione reached up to examine his head -he had no idea why, to see if he were bruised or had been recently cursed maybe?- and he snapped. "Will you leave it be, witch? I'm fine."
Hermione pulled her hand back in surprise. Quickly enough her eyes narrowed and she turned her head away. "I was only concerned."
"Your concern is noted." Said Harry, dryly. He heard Bill snicker.
Shortly after they were all shooed to the kitchen for an early lunch after which they were encouraged to eat some of the many wonderful smelling baked goods Mrs Weasley had made in her family's absence. Harry accidentally overheard Mr and Mrs Weasley arguing in the foyer. Mrs Weasley seemed very upset that Arthur hadn't sent an owl home no matter how many times he explained he wasn't allowed to. Something about questioning and a wand-
"Harry," Ron called, causing the dark haired Gryffindor in question to jump. Harry wondered if pointing out he was trying to eavesdrop -after accidentally doing so of course- would get the other to be quieter or louder to spite him? No, Ron's ears were turning red. Darn.
"Yes, Ron?" He asked.
The redhead shifted his weight on his feet. "Are you going to tell me what's going on? First I turn around and you're gone. Next thing I know you're chumming it up with Malfoy and his father. And now you're invited to the training camp -thanks for telling me about that mate- and that's all my family will talk about. And you spent the night with Malfoy and Viktor Krum and you stayed with him instead of coming with me and Hermione. You should have come with us it would have been safer than sneaking about in the dark with death eater spawn. You know his father was out there with them Harry. And now you're here and you look like that."
Harry blinked. "Look like what?" He resisted the urge to look down at himself. He was pretty certain he'd managed not to ruin the clothes Draco leant him. Merlin new what sarcastic remarks the blonde would come up with if Harry managed to ruin them so quickly.
Ron scowled. "I don't know. Like a pureblood or something."
"Ron you are a pureblood."
"Well yeah," Ron rolled his eyes. "But I'm not one of those kind." And then Harry entered the twilight zone of Ron referencing pureblood customs.
"One of what kind?"
"You know...all posh and stuck up and stuff."
"How do you dress stuck up?" Harry asked, partially grinning.
Ron flushed. "Shut it, Harry, you know what I mean. You've got expensive clothes on and your hair is all...fancy. One night with Malfoy and you're looking like just as much a prat as he is."
What a load of bollocks. Ron was jealous Harry got to meet his idol Viktor Krum and annoyed he spent time with Malfoy instead of him. But, yes, let's pretend we're afraid for Harry's potential corruption at the hands of the evil Slytherins. That's totally it. "Thanks for the warning." Said, Harry. "When I start calling Hermione foul names and making you sick up slugs we'll know my transformation is complete."
"That's not what I mean mate," Ron backtracked. He wiped his forehead with the back of his hand, the thrust both hands into his pockets. "I just. I just want to understand."
Harry nodded slowly, thinking carefully. How to ease this with out lying out right? He wouldn't be able to tell Ron what was going on. What he'd seen. What he knew now. Harry wasn't certain Ron would believe it was anything other than some sort of dark trap of some kind. Which was ridiculous. Still, he didn't like the idea of betraying Draco's confidence like that either. Ron was that last person Draco would want to know. After Harry himself, and that was out of their hands.
"I was issued an invitation. I accepted. Malfoy was getting me up to date on everything I need to know. His family runs it, you know? It's sort of his responsibility."
Sort of. Kind of.
Ron relaxed marginally. "I suppose."
Harry bumped his shoulder against Ron. "Enough dramatics, lets fly!"
"Did someone say fly?"
"Wait for me I'll get my broomstick."
"I wanna play too!"
Ah yes, the way to any Weasley's heart. Quidditch. Works like a charm.
"I was only thinking is all."
How early was it? The sun wasn't up!
"About yesterday. Or the day before now, isn't it? The thing is, I don't know if I believe you. About what you said. That it was just Malfoy attending to his responsibilities and all of that rot. He's never been responsible before now. Of course with his father involved, I could see him making a better go at it..." Ron continued to muse aloud. Harry continued to pretend to be asleep. It didn't appear Ron was buying it.
"But why wouldn't you come with us. In the forest I mean. I've been thinking about it. Looking at it in my mind." Here Harry heard the sound of Ron's bed as the redhead sat up in it. To look in Harry's general direction Harry supposed, though he wouldn't find Harry looking back.
"You didn't do it. Try to calm me down, mate. Usually, you're right there telling me why Malfoy isn't worth it. You'd have dragged me back and we would have left and you would make some comment about how he acted or what he said. But you didn't. You didn't seem much focused on me or Hermione at all, except to get rid of us. I can tell you know. I'm not stupid. You wanted me to leave because I was getting him riled up. You were trying to calm him down, trying to keep him out of trouble."
Ron paused. "Since when do we care what happens to Malfoy, mate?"
Harry flipped over, scowling briefly at the ceiling before shutting his eyes tightly, smothering the pillow over his face and sighing. "What does it even matter?" His voice came out muffled but he was certain Ron could hear him. "An opportunity presented its self, I acted. Here we are." True, actually, if very misleading.
"But why stay with him?" Came Ron's voice. "Why not come with us?"
Harry mulled over the different things he might say. What piece of information could he toss Ron's way to appease him without giving away anything he shouldn't know? Something he probably wouldn't bring up, of course. That he wouldn't think too much on. Harry pulled the pillow off his face though he continued not to look at Ron. He knew his facial expression tended to give too much away and Ron wasn't nearly as thick as he seemed most of the time. "His father asked me to get him home safely. When everything happened."
Silence. Then, "So Lucius Malfoy asked you to babysit his kid while he ran around playing Death Eater? Just wait until I-"
"No!" Harry sat up, making eye contact with Ron for the first time. "You won't say anything to anyone. Not even Hermione." The wizard could take the location of the Chamber of Secrets to his grave but one piece of information about Draco Malfoy and he was ready to call the bloody papers.
Ron frowned. "But-"
"Let it alone Ron," Harry warned. "I don't see why it matters to you so much. I'm here with you, aren't I? I chose to spend my summer with you."
"And tomorrow you'll be with them." Ron pointed out.
Harry growled lowly. This was ridiculous. "I'm going to go downstairs for a bit. A walk maybe."
He could feel Ron watching him from the other side of the room. Ignoring that Harry shoved his feet into his trainers and stood up. He needed to leave before Ron got any more information out of him. Of course as Far as Harry was concerned Ron wasn't his keeper and really wasn't any of his business why Harry was hanging around Draco. If their positions were reversed Harry would wonder if Ron had been bewitched or blackmailed. He had a hard time imagining himself ever being so nosy. At least not so blatantly. He turned and picked up the two books Draco let him borrow from the little drawer in the bedside table. Might as well get some more pureblood education in if he was going to be up anyway.
As it was he wouldn't get any more sleep tonight if he stayed in the same room as Ron.
He left Ron grumbling under his breath in favour of the far more quiet atmosphere downstairs. It wasn't the sort of quiet one would hear on Privet Drive. There was the soft creaking of the magically held together structure, the pitter-patter of the feline he often heard about and had yet to see. The sound of magical objects doing their duty, like the family clock on the wall keeping careful watch of the family members wellbeing. Harry stopped and blinked. Several people weren't in their beds. It didn't have Harry on it, he wasn't a Weasley, it did tell him that Arthur was in his shop, Percy was between work and home, and Bill and Charlie were-
The door to his right opened just as the three eldest Weasley boys' hands on the clock pointed to home. They all four stood there appraising one another. Percy rearranged the collection of books and parchment in his arms, averting his eyes. Bill found the washcloth wiping down the counters very interesting. The last Weasley smiled unrepentantly. The Twins took after Charlie a great deal Harry decided.
"Morning." Said, Harry. He turned and sat at the table, placing his own books on it to read.
With exchanging glances he could not see but suspected, the other wizards found seats at the table themselves. Percy bringing out his books and parchment to rifle through, Bill placing a suspicious assortment of vials in a case on the table, Charlie leaning back in his seat with his hands in his pockets. Smiling still. And so they all attended to their own business while managing to mind their own as well. No one asked Percy why he was at the ministry hours after he got off work. No one asked what sort of people Bill was doing business with or what was in his vials. No one asked Charlie what his Cheshire grin was about. None of them asked Harry why he was out of bed at three in the morning reading books on wizarding etiquette.
It was a fine arrangement.
The books were just as interesting as Harry remembered. Not the dry conglomeration of overly complicated phrasing he'd expected. Wouldn't Hermione be impressed he knew the word Conglomeration? He smiled briefly to himself. Still, some of it he wasn't certain he understood. He debated breaking the silence for several minutes.
Finally, "Percy? Would you mind if I borrowed parchment?" Harry was rather pleased with himself for remembering to using some of the things he was learning. He sounded very polite indeed.
Percy turned his head enough to see Harry out of the corner of his eye. The others stilled but did not look at them or otherwise give any other indication they were paying attention. Eavesdropping politely Harry guessed. Purebloodisms were popping up everywhere lately. Percy's eye glanced down at his book then back toward Harry.
"I can't say I would mind it." There! Harry crowed internally. That was purebloodism too. It wasn't a yes or a no, because Harry hadn't asked for parchment, he'd only asked if Percy would mind if he did. Harry blinked. A week ago he wouldn't have caught that.
Percy's lips turned upward just the slightest bit at the edges. He was amused, Harry realized. The most studious of the Weasley clan reached out a long-fingered hand to the right and picked up a small pile of parchment which he brought to his left and sat on the table. He tapped it once to indicate Harry was to take it and went back to whatever it was he was doing.
Perhaps Harry wouldn't be as hopeless at this as he sometimes thought. It was daunting when he thought about it too much. After all, everyone he would be meeting at the camp would have more likely than not grown up knowing these sort of things. Implementing them. Harry was crash coursing the morning of his entry into that world. Still, he'd always managed to pass his classes with this technique so it stood to reason he would retain enough to get by. He'd gotten by rather well just bluffing the other day as well. Combining the two should help him through if all else failed.
"Trouble?" Harry looked up.
Across from him, Bill used a tiny dropper to place a minute amount of unknown liquid from one of his vials onto a short, narrow bit of parchment Harry recognized as a test strip. Used to find or confirm certain properties within the potion or elixir. He'd never used one. Bill's hands seemed to move on autopilot.
"It's just that you've started cursing at the parchment. Wasn't sure you realized or whether it was a cry for help."
Harry felt his cheeks burn. "I...might not reject an offer of help."
Charlie openly entered himself in their conversation. "May we help?"
Harry mirrored the dragon trainers grin. "Why thank you for offering. How kind." He could swear he heard Percy let out a quick, startled laugh. Charlie leaned forward to see what Harry was writing, and Bill lifted his eyes from his bottles and vials. His hands kept on the work all on their own. A useful skill really.
"I'm on the bit about." Harry paused. "I'm reading about wizarding etiquette." There. Context. Context was good. "I'm on a bit about 'personas'. Isn't that acting though?"
Charlie tilted his head. "I'd say no, I think. You're not really acting."
Percy let out a long suffering sigh. They turned to look at him, to see the wizard carefully stacking his things. He slid over closer to Harry. "Persona is Latin in origin, it does reference masks, the sort actors used to and sometimes still do wear -physically- and the ones they wear metaphorically. Acting." Charlie shrugged, not the least bit offended at the correction. "However what the book most likely references is persona as in the aspect of someone's character that is presented to or perceived by others."
"How is that different?"
Bill answered this time. "One isn't real, while the other puts more attention on or away from specific pieces of truth. It's real, just not as real as others might assume. Through no fault of your own."
Harry was skeptical. "It sounds the same to me."
Charlie nodded at Percy. "Go for it Perce."
Percy rose from his seat and turn to sit on the table, facing toward Harry at an angle. He was still able to turn to the others but his focus was obviously Harry. The Boy Who Lived felt like he was in class suddenly.
"There are many pieces to the world and the culture of magic, and a great deal of them dealing with the British Wizarding and Magical world alone. There is one piece of it that is meant to cover everyone, regardless of your blood or your economics or your reputation. We've all got this cloak to use as we see fit. A sort of added protection to use as a shield. It is up to the individual how good they become at wielding it."
Harry pulled forward some of his notes. "I didn't see-"
Percy took them and placed them under a clean sheet of parchment. "Write down what you're learning now. It doesn't matter if you missed some things before, or didn't understand them. You're learning it now."
Huh. Feeling oddly pleased Harry started writing on the clean sheet. "How does one wield a shield?" He quipped.
"The greatest defense of one's self is one that can also strike out against the ones attacking." That was Bill. "The Goblins favour that aspect of magical customs."
"I can't imagine why." Harry drawled. Bill laughed.
Percy tapped once on Harry's notes to redirect his attention. "The number one rule in the magical world, any magical world; No one should ever know you. Not for certain. Not beyond all doubt." He paused. This pause felt like it was done on purpose. To let the information sink in maybe. "Except for whomever you choose to share your life with or other extenuating circumstances. This concerns the more likely instances you'll find yourself in. No hypotheticals if you please."
Harry nodded. "So, no one should be able to one-hundred-percent identify who you are as a person." He frowned. It still sounded...dishonest.
"Not to say you should lie to or deceive anyone," Remarked Bill. Casually.
"Unless you intend to." Added Charlie.
Percy glanced at them over his shoulder. "Quite. Generally one chooses two or perhaps three aspects of their personality, those that others tend to expect from or associate with them, to play up a bit. You emphasize those, make them more noticeable and expected, so that others are less noticed or expected." He waited for Harry to finished writing that. "Always true aspects of yourself. It's always the truth, just not all of it. How these aspects are presented and to what degree will change depending on where you are, what you are doing, why you are doing it, and whom you are with...or whom will see you doing it."
Harry mulled this over. "Alright, so I'm not lying. I'm just not revealing everything. Like Draco does."
Approving nods all around. "I imagine Draco is verygood at it." Said Charlie. Because he is a Malfoy, Harry finished inside his head.
"You ought to be good at it as well." Said Percy.
Harry looked up. "Why?"
Percy looked back at him quietly. "I've witnessed you doing so myself, if accidentally. or naturally perhaps. You pick and choose the moments where you are more or less open, the moments where you do or don't smile. Most of the time, when you are on your own, you seem quiet. You're sarcastic even, if you're caught off guard or if your mouth starts going before you catch up with it. Then other people come around and you're more rambunctious like Ron."
"But still very polite. Very aware of where everyone is. How their moods are." Added Bill. His blue eyes studied Harry. "I noticed it when you came through the floo with Malfoy."
Charlie nodded. "I agree. You are not the same with our younger brothers as you are with Draco."
"See? Not so hard. I bet you could be just as good as Malfoy. You share the same blood, so it stands to reason."
Harry's head shot to Percy. "What do you mean we 'share the same blood'?"
Percy frowned and his elder brothers frowned with him. The silence that followed was far less comforting than it had been earlier this morning. He knew this sort of silence. When the adults weren't certain how much he know or ought to know. He hated that sort of silence. Percy broke it.
"No one has mentioned it?"
In the morning hours where the sun is seriously considering dawning Harry Potter received a very quick, very awkward rundown on wizarding bloodlines and their implications.
The main thing sticking with Harry afterward was the information he was technically related to many wizarding families, the Weasleys included, but the connection was only significant enough to matter when it came to those of the Black bloodline. Namely, Bellatrix, Andromeda, Tonks, Sirius, Narcissa and...Draco. The next bit that stuck with him was the sort of agreements Harry was still applicable for as far as close family members go within the wizarding world, such as into business should he and Draco ever fancy to do something of that sort. Rather, if Draco ever decided he'd like to have a job other than head of a rich family. To be fair Harry had a bit of money as well but he was already used to working and hardly remembered it was there half the time.
There may have been a part where Percy decided -for whatever mad reason- to mention that cousins as far apart as Harry and Draco could marry. Harry couldn't speak for average magical fourteen-year-olds, as for fourteen-year-old Harry Potter? He had no desire to speak about marriage prospects. With anyone. Ever.
Merlin no. Just no.
The conversation turned to other things. All three elder Weasley brothers would be at the camp during various parts of it. Bill and Percy for work related reasons. Charlie because he wanted to be. Harry was ecstatic. He'd have more than Draco and Viktor to rely on during the camp. He could very easily come up with an excuse to talk to any of the brothers and get help with an interaction or information he needed to know. Not that Draco couldn't be a decent tutor when the mood struck him, the morning cleansing, for instance, Harry simply didn't want Draco -and his family by association- to realize just how out of his depth Harry was.
The three of them had come to the conclusion Harry knew a bit more about their world and customs than they'd thought.
This was partially true. And partially really, really not.
When you grew up with people like the Dursley's you learned at a very young age to never let on when you didn't know something, especially if they could and would use it to their advantage over you. You pretended you were in the loop and then you took the shoelace express to the nearest library or bookstore and looked it up. Harry employed this general idea when it came to his classes. Fake his way along with the bits he did remember and his understanding of whatever the subject happened to be, then he reread Neville's notes -Hermione never shared hers- and take down some of his own and reread that. Then walk into the class and pass the test.
He was not a shining example of scholarly excellence.
"And this one?" Charlie held up a flash card.
"Scion. Notoriously neutral family. A bit irresponsible."
"This?" He held up a different one.
"Unofficially named the heir." Said, Harry. "His father was not married to his mother and has borne a younger son to his rightful wife."
"Good." Charlie put it on the bottom of the pile and tapped them against the rough wooden table to get them all lined up once more.
It was Percy who came up with the idea. After decided Harry had a brain worth wasting his time on. Percy's words, not Harry's. Each note card had the name of a different magical person Harry might meet or hear about at the camp. The point of the game to remember the person's status within their specific family. Useful things to know if Harry wanted to avoid starting blood feuds or getting challenged to a duel. Yes. Duels for honour were still a thing in the wizarding world. Huzzah.
Perhaps if he looked at it all like a giant tabletop gaming convention where the players were really, really committed to staying in character he would be less likely to psyche himself out. The truth was, he was honestly surprised he'd managed to get this far without starting a blood feud or something. Or at least, he didn't think he had. The person wouldn't be talking to him if he had, obviously.
He hoped he hadn't.
The sun was legitimately starting to peak through the not entirely clean window and it was decided they all best get ready for the day before the rest of the house woke up and they found themselves battling for time in the washroom. When it was time for Harry's turn he brought with him some dried peppermint and rosemary from his potions kit. Ron was asleep when he entered his room to search out the herbs but nearly awoke when Harry hit his head against the side table. Harry needed to freshen up his sneaking skills.
In the slight cool of the Weasley's bathroom Harry carefully placed the herbs into a worn bowl and filled it with hot water. The bowl was placed on the counter with a small creak. The counter bowed in a bit but had yet to collapse. The power of magic.
He took a deep breath and went about the cleansing. It worked just as well if not perhaps better than it had the day before with Draco. He felt...refreshed. Clean. It wasn't a hygiene sort of clean feeling, it was more like you'd been walking through life carrying a bunch of nameless goop attached to you weighing down anxiety and pressure and resentment, and things like that, and suddenly all the goop was gone and you felt so much lighter and brighter for it. Harry frowned at himself in the mirror for a moment. Had he really felt like that all of the time? Maybe it was one of those things were you didn't know you felt so bad because feeling bad was your normal and you didn't have something not as bad to compare it to to know better.
He certainly knew the difference now.
The stairs murmured load groans as he descended to the living room area. Weaving through the jumble of oddly matched yet homey furniture Harry reached the dining room. Almost immediately the Weasley brothers stopped talking. Harry stood there a moment, feeling uncomfortable. "What did I do?"
"If you're going to be seen around Draco much you don't want to show up wearing something you've worn the day before." Said Charlie.
Well damn. Harry glanced down at the outfit Draco lent him. Seriously? "Then what the heck am I supposed to wear? Blue Jeans?"
The three brothers looked at one another. Eventually, it was just Bill and Percy looking one another over with flicks toward Harry. Bill raised a hand and pointed at Percy. "Slacks and shirt."
Percy tilted his head. "Jacket and shoes?"
They both turned and walked in opposite directions. Harry blinked after them. What even?
Charlie smiled widely and motioned for Harry to hold out his arms from his sides. "This won't take long but you'll want to be ready for it."
"Ready for wha- holy crap!" Harry's clothes disappeared and new ones reappeared with a jolt. Harry flung out a hand and held tight to the wall to keep from falling. So much for being ready for it, he grumbled to himself. Scowling, Harry stood up straight and examined himself. Dark gray trousers stuffed into blueish black dragon-hide boots. Dark gray shirt with long sleeves rolled up to meet a blueish black short-sleeved jacket also of dragon-hide that fell to his knees. They weren't as obviously fancy as Draco's clothes had been, but even Harry could see they were very nice. He squinted and tilted his head. He thought he caught the outline of some kind of writing in a lighter silvery-gray along the seams of the shirt. He bent down a bit. Yeah, the trousers had it too. Huh.
Bill and Percy apparated into the dining room.
"So, what are the words for?" Harry asked. He held out the bottom of his shirt a bit to emphasize what he meant.
Bill opened his mouth and was interrupted by the sound of feet creaking on the stairs. What time was it anyway? Surely not time for breakfast just yet. The four wizards stilled and turned to see who had discovered them. Identical blue eyes darted between them.
"Plotting world domination this early in the morning?" Fred quipped.
George put a hand to his chest. "And without inviting us? I'm hurt."
Harry raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms. "And where are you off to?"
Fred and George glanced at one another. "You see, the thing is..." A bag of something gurgled suspiciously in Fred's arms. The faint smell of burnt wood was only slightly less alarming.
Taking pity on his younger siblings Bill made a show of yawning. He leant against the side of the table. "I don't know about you three but I am far too tired to take notice of anything just now. Not burglars. Not fires..."
"...People sneaking out." Charlie continued. "Nope, too tired myself, matter of fact."
The twins shot them mischievous smiles and darted out the door before anyone could change their minds.
"The rest of the lot is going to have an interesting morning," said Percy.
Charlie stretched his arms over his head. Harry heard a low popping noise. "Best we get going while we can."
Without waiting for the rest of the household to show up they made their way to the floo. It didn't seem to be necessary for Harry to point out that three unexpected visitors with red hair sliding out of the fire would be less than enthusiastically greeted by the Malfoys. Bill floo'd to Gringotts. Percy to the Ministry. It was only Charlie coming with Harry, and he'd already been to the camp himself when he was younger. Harry still wasn't one-hundred percent certain that they wouldn't get cursed at, but he'd already been magically beaten up by Lord Malfoy once. What was another time? As long as Mrs Malfoy wasn't around Harry would be fine with whatever may happen.
As they stepped in Harry swore he saw Ginny Weasley sneaking out of the house with a broomstick...
The floo room looked the same as it had when Harry left it. All muted marble and dark wood, severe and hard. Yuck.
His cousin -he had a cousin who wasn't a fat lump of wasted space!- sat on a settee with a book in his lap. Harry was beginning to learn that Draco and books were never far from one another. According to the carafe of lemonade on the side table, the same held true for sweet lemon drinks. White-blonde hair slid back from the lightest shade of eyes he'd ever seen in person. A perfect mix of Lucius and Narcissa. Without the crazy or the ruthlessness.
Harry swept his gaze over his cousin, searching out any signs of new injuries. Any indication that something had happened in the time they were apart. It was unncanny, the similarity, really. Nice looking homes with nice looking people. You would never guess from the outside looking in...
A pale brow rose only the tiniest bit.
"Harry. Charlie." Draco greeted.
Harry was amused to know now that greeting Harry first indicated he was the one who had Draco's attention or held more importance to him. Acknowledging Charlie afterworld by his first name to indicate they knew one another and because it polite etiquette required it. Harry also thought Draco rather liked Charlie. He must if he allowed the other to continue to call him by his name when they were no longer connected through the camp. Unless there was some other mysterious pureblood reason behind it.
Draco closed his book and set it aside, rising to stand in one fluid motion., He approached Harry, pulling a small jar from within a pocket. Long fingers spun the lid, releasing a small Harry vaguely recognized. Then he was attacked. Or, okay, perhaps it was his hair. And maybe it wasn't violent. Still, hair wasn't that bad all on its own, was it? Wait, did he brush it today? He couldn't remember.
"Better." Said Draco.
Charlie grinned. "Are we going straight there?"
"Yes, I've no other plans for Harry this morning. Father is already gone attending to his business." Said Draco.
He lifted his left hand and waved it out. "This way." The semi-formal yet relaxed etiquette calmed Harry's nerves. This wasn't so bad. Perhaps he really wouldn't make a fool of himself today.
They came to a long hallway of nearly floor length, large portraits. Each in a thick frosty blue frame showed a different location. Harry recognized one of a small shop in the lower alleys of Diagon and another somewhere in Hogsmeade. Draco lead them to one on the right halfway down the hallway. It was a painting of wide field with rows of tents and what looked like market stalls. Between each row flowed a sea of witches and wizards. Off to either side parts of the field had some sort of event going on. Harry couldn't tell what they were.
Draco opened the frame. "Go on."
Harry blinked several times. The portrait opened to the exact scene from the picture. As if you were standing in that spot and painted it and then built a window in the exact same spot. He walked through quickly, careful not to stumble over the bottom of the portrait. The sounds of crowds of magic folk flooded his ears. He smelt a sweets cart nearby. Tents lined the sides of his vision and between them were wizards and witches mostly around his age. Stalls with books, broomsticks, what he thought might be Quidditch gear, and things he'd never seen before went straight down the middle. Further back he could see much larger tents. Just to his left was a bulletin board with people crowded around it. A map maybe? Or a schedule. Overhead a group of wizards shot by on brooms. He could hear cheering from somewhere in the background.
Magic was awesome.