Chapter 1: Chapter One
Harry looked sceptically from an eager Hermione, holding hands with Ron, to a smirking Pansy Parkinson, who was leaning against Blaise Zabini.
“A game of Truth or Dare with the eighth years,” he said slowly, hoping that he had misheard. Unfortunately, from the way Parkinson’s eyes flashed, it seemed as though he hadn’t.
“That’s right,” she purred. “McGonagall put me and Granger in charge of improving inter-House relations, and what better way than to start with the eighth years?”
“With a game of Truth or Dare,” he repeated, raising an eyebrow. He caught Ron’s eye, but his friend just shrugged goodnaturedly, jerking his head in Hermione’s direction. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, he mouthed. Harry turned back to Parkinson. She was still focused on him, head tipped back against Zabini’s chest, eyes narrowed, a smirk stretched across her flattened face.
“What, is the Saviour of the Wizarding World afraid of a little game?” Parkinson’s smirk widened even more, if such a thing were possible. Harry had the fleeting feeling that she was a cat — and he was a canary about to be breakfast.
“No,” he said finally, albeit reluctantly.
“Good!” She stood up straight, clapping her hands together. “Then we’re on for tonight. I’ve already placed the notice on the eighth years’ bulletin board, so we’ll see you then.” She turned on her heel, taking Zabini’s hand in hers as she walked away.
“So McGonagall approved it?” Harry said in surprise, before he could stop himself.
Parkinson stopped and turned around. Her smirk was definitely wider than it had been before.
“What McGonagall doesn’t know won’t hurt her, Potter.”
Harry couldn’t quell the feeling of dread in his chest as he mounted the stairs to the eighth years’ tower. It was nearing curfew, so the castle was quiet and dark. Flames from the mounted torches flickered against the stone walls. The eighth years had a common room and dorms to themselves, both to encourage them to move past House divisions after the war, and because the castle didn’t have room for the seventh and eighth years to live together. Instead, the castle sported a new tower for them. Its entrance was guarded by none other than Sir Cadogan, the blustering knight with a fat pony and a sword far too large for him to wield. None of the Gryffindors were too happy about it, but the Hufflepuffs found him amusing, the Ravenclaws enjoyed his convoluted passwords, and the Slytherins enjoyed egging him on to fight them.
As Harry approached the entrance, Sir Cadogan peered out of the gloom.
“Halt, who goes there? Show yourself, you lily-livered knave!”
“Carpe diem,” Harry said tiredly. The portrait swung open and Harry stepped into the common room, relieved when it closed behind him and Sir Cadogan’s voice was no longer audible.
The common room fireplace was already roaring. A beautiful crystal chandelier full of candles hung over the middle of the room, where most of the eighth years were already settled, sitting in a loose circle. It seemed as though they were already getting used to intermingling, although there was still unspoken tension and awkwardness in the air. The Patil twins sat with Neville, Ernie, and Justin. Hannah Abbott, Susan Bones, and Leanne Chen were holding hands, while Daphne Greengrass was chatting with a few Ravenclaws.
Predictably so, the Gryffindors and Slytherins were having the most difficulty mingling with each other. Parkinson was sprawled in Zabini’s lap, holding a bottle of firewhisky. Theodore Nott sat on one side of them, while Draco Malfoy sat on the other. There was a wide space between them and the Gryffindors, where Hermione’s head rested on Ron’s shoulder and Dean and Seamus were sitting close enough that their knees brushed.
Parkinson looked up as Harry approached.
“Oh, good, you’re here,” she said lazily. “That means we can start.”
Harry looked awkwardly around the circle, but besides the gap between Malfoy and Hermione and Ron, there was nowhere else to sit. He came around and sat down in the space. Malfoy shifted away ever so slightly, and Harry clenched his jaw.
Parkinson stood up and brandished the bottle of firewhisky. “Welcome, everyone! I’m glad you all decided to show up.” Her eyes lingered a little too long on Harry before she continued. “Before we begin, I’m going to pass around the firewhisky, and everyone needs to take at least one sip from it. I’ll start.” She tipped her head back and took a quick swig out of the bottle before passing it to Zabini. As the bottle moved around the circle, Padma narrowed her eyes at Parkinson.
“What did you spike it with?”
Parkinson smiled. “Relax, Patil, it’s just a bit of Veritaserum to loosen people’s tongues,” she said smoothly. “Gotta make sure people are telling the truth, hmm?”
There was a bout of coughing as Ernie took too large of a swig and smoke poured out of his ears. Justin laughed and took the bottle from him gently. Padma still looked suspicious, her eyes trained on Parkinson as she accepted the bottle from Justin and took a sip. Harry didn’t blame her; he wasn’t feeling much like spilling all of his secrets tonight. Just another reason why he was wishing that he’d skipped it to go up to the Astronomy Tower or the Owlery for the evening.
The other Gryffindors looked much more relaxed than Harry felt. Dean’s fingers lingered against Seamus’s as he passed him the bottle, and Ron smiled at Hermione before taking a swig. Hermione took her gulp with more ease than Harry was expecting. Next thing he knew, the bottle was in his hands. It was large and nearly empty, made of smooth black glass. A thin stream of smoke wafted from the opening of the bottleneck. Here goes nothing, he thought. He closed his eyes and took a swig from the bottle, resisting the urge to cough as the liquid burned his throat. He had a feeling he was going to seriously regret this in the morning.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
When the burning in his throat subsided, Harry turned to hand the bottle to Malfoy. The Slytherin was much more subdued now that the war was over. It made sense — Malfoy's father was in Azkaban, and his mother was on temporary house arrest. The only reason that he had avoided the same fate as his parents was because he was underage when he took the Dark Mark, and because of a letter of Dumbledore's, discovered posthumously, explaining how he had been manipulated by Voldemort. Even so, Malfoy was required to return to Hogwarts to finish his education, and after Hogwarts, he was sentenced to community service. If Harry had been in his shoes, he would've tried to fly under the radar, too. Still, there was something unnerving about seeing Malfoy so reserved. Call him absolutely batty, but he almost missed their heated arguments and snappish remarks, no matter how much of a prat Malfoy was. Anything was better than seeing this bland, distantly polite, quiet version of Malfoy sitting next to him.
Malfoy took the bottle of firewhisky, avoiding eye contact. He was nearly as gaunt as he had been during their sixth year, Harry noticed. The flickering light and shadows probably weren't helping. He looked as though a good wind would blow him over. Then, as he tipped his head back to take a swig, he made eye contact with Harry. His eyes, normally a cold grey, were like liquid mercury in the firelight. Harry looked away as Parkinson took the bottle from Malfoy.
"Excellent." She held up the bottle and swirled the dregs round the bottom before downing what was left. "Now we can begin."
She placed the bottle in the middle of the circle, bending down to position it.
"I thought this was a game of Truth or Dare, not Spin the Bottle," Malfoy said roughly. It was the first time he had spoken all night, at least since Harry had gotten there.
Parkinson smirked at him. "Relax, Draco, this is how we're going to pick who goes first. Unless you want it to become a game of Spin the Bottle?"
There were a couple of chuckles and low whoops in response. Malfoy glared at her. It was the harshest look Harry had ever seen him give a fellow Slytherin.
"Okay, here's how it's going to go." Parkinson leaned back on her haunches, her eyes floating round the circle. "I'm going to spin the bottle to see who goes first. That person gets to pick next, and so on. No back and forth between two people, and try to pick someone who hasn't gone yet so everyone gets a shot. Got it?"
Murmurs of assent rippled throughout the students. Parkinson gave the bottle a flick of her wrist. Then she sat back, reclaiming her spot in Zabini's lap. The empty bottle spun unevenly across the rug, before coming to a stop on Seamus.
"Alright, mate," Dean said approvingly, slapping him on the back. "You go first."
"Dean," said Seamus in response, suddenly looking serious. "Truth or dare?"
Dean tipped his head. In the darkness, Harry couldn't make out the expression on his face.
"Truth," Dean said quietly.
"Do you want to kiss me?"
There were a couple of audible murmurs and low whoops, and then Dean took Seamus's face in his hands and kissed him with so much vigor that the whoops turned into wolf-whistles and cheers. As much as it made Harry feel awkward, it was about damn time. Everyone knew that they had been dancing around each other for almost as long as Ron and Hermione. For all their bravery, Gryffindors were notoriously bad at relationships.
Parkinson cleared her throat. "Hey! I need you guys to stop snogging, at least for the moment, yeah? It's your turn, Dean."
Seamus and Dean broke apart, breathing heavily. They grinned at each other, clasping hands tightly and sitting so close that it looked as though they had no concept of personal space.
"Uh, yes, right," said Dean, looking dazed but deliriously happy. He turned his head, resting it on Seamus's shoulder so he could look across the circle. "Uh, Padma. Truth or dare?"
Neville, Ernie, Justin, and Parvati laughed and gave Padma amused looks. She sat back, her long black plait glistening in the firelight. "Truth."
"Have you ever swapped places with Parvati and gotten away with it?"
Everyone started laughing. Padma and Parvati grinned at each other.
"Yeah," Padma admitted. "I took one for the team and did detention with Snape once. And, uh...we actually swapped places during the Yule Ball to see if Harry or Ron would notice. They didn't."
The circle roared with laughter, while Harry and Ron sheepishly muttered their apologies.
Padma waved it away, laughing. Then she turned, a defiant look on her face.
"Parkinson. Truth or dare?"
Parkinson's eyes sparkled with glee. "Hmm, let's go with truth," she drawled, twisting the thin gold ring on her pinky finger.
"What is your actual motive behind setting up this game?"
Parkinson smirked broadly.
"I've been truthful about it all along," she said smoothly. "My motive is as stands: improving inter-House relations." She dragged out the last word, letting it hang longer in the air than necessary.
Padma didn't look satisfied, but it was clear that she was telling the truth. Parkinson clapped her hands together, looking delighted. "Alright, that means I go next! Draco," she said sweetly, leaning in his direction. "Truth or dare?"
Malfoy eyed her disdainfully. The harsh look on his face hadn't waned.
"Dare," he drawled, after what felt like ten years.
The grin that Parkinson gave him sent a shiver down Harry's spin. He'd never seen a look so predatory and satisfied. It wasn't even directed at him, and yet the feeling of being a canary cornered by a cat came back in full force.
Parkinson leaned her head back, eyes trained on Malfoy and a smirk playing at her lips.
"I dare you to steal the ingredients for Veritaserum from Slughorn's office...with Potter."
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
Murmurs and oooohs rippled round the circle. Meanwhile, Malfoy narrowed his eyes at Parkinson.
"That's it? That's your dare?" A disbelieving grin spread across his face, and to Harry's amazement, he threw back his head and laughed. "I was expecting more from you, Parkinson. Everyone's stolen potion ingredients before. And from Slughorn? What a joke."
"Why am I involved in this?" Harry interjected.
Parkinson didn't take her eyes off of Malfoy, nor did the smirk leave her face. In fact, it grew larger. "Not so fast," she drawled. "I said you have to work with Potter to steal the ingredients."
"I didn't miss that part," he said coldly.
"Yes, that's what 'with Potter' means," Malfoy snapped.
"Why me?" Harry asked again, but nobody was listening. Everyone had their eyes on the drama unfolding between the two Slytherins.
Parkinson tipped her head to the side. "So you'll do it?"
Malfoy snorted. "Of course I will. I'm not a wuss. Besides," he added, narrowing his eyes at her again, "don't have much of a choice, do I? That's how Truth or Dare works."
"Smart boy," Parkinson drawled. She dug in her robes pocket and pulled out a small scroll of parchment, holding it out to him. "These are the ingredients you need to steal."
Malfoy stood up and snatched the parchment from her.
"Come on, Potter," he said stiffly, tucking the scroll in his robes pocket.
Harry scrambled to his feet, feeling slightly dazed. "I don't have a say in this, do I?"
"Not at all," said Parkinson cheerfully.
Harry's eyes drifted to Ron and Hermione, silently pleading for help. To his chagrin, Hermione almost looked amused at his predicament, while Ron looked...annoyed? Harry couldn't read their emotions well in the firelight, and honestly, the signals he was picking up weren't making sense. He pushed it out of his mind, deciding he would deal with that later. He had a bigger problem to attend to currently. A quick glance round the rest of the circle confirmed that nobody was going to help him. Harry had the vague idea that involving someone else in another person's dare was against the rules of the game, but to be fair, he'd never had a group of friends large enough to play such a game before. It was perfectly plausible that this was a normal part of the game, which made him wish all the more that he had skipped it to go to the Astronomy Tower or the Owlery. He would've been alone, and probably lonely, but he wouldn't have been here.
At least Malfoy wasn't dared to kiss me, Harry found himself thinking, remembering Malfoy's earlier comment about playing Spin the Bottle. Stealing potion ingredients is much preferred to what the dare could've been.
Harry sighed and stood up. It looked as though this is what he was stuck with. If Malfoy was having his own doubts about agreeing to join the game, he wasn't showing them. Not that his body language was relaxed or at ease, but he'd been that way before the game began, so it wasn't anything new. Malfoy strode across the circle, leaving Harry to scurry after him.
"Good luck," Parkinson called after them as they climbed out of the portrait hole. "We look forward to hearing about it when you get back!"
"I'm sure you do," Malfoy growled as he slammed the portrait shut behind them.
"Oi, there! Watch it!"
Harry and Malfoy turned round to see Sir Cadogan sprawled on the painted grass, having been knocked off his pony by the force of Malfoy slamming his portrait. His helmet had slipped over his head, and his sword was stuck, blade-down, in the ground. The knight struggled to his feet.
"Who goes there?" he shouted, his over-large helmet still covering his eyes. "Be you students out past curfew or intruders in the castle, show yourselves, you rouges, and prepare to duel!"
"Oh, shut up," Malfoy said irritably, poking the knight in the stomach.
Sir Cadogan stumbled backward and fell on his arse, still struggling to rearrange his armor so that he could see them. "Lily-livered cowards! Knaves, braggarts, dogs! Attacking when your opponent is down, I'll show you a lesson!"
But Malfoy wasn't waiting around for Sir Cadogan to reorient himself. He was already striding away from the eighth years' dorm. Harry trailed reluctantly after him. Part of him wanted to let Malfoy steal the ingredients himself and wait for him in the corridor instead. But as he dragged his feet after Malfoy, letting him get farther and farther away, a sharp tug in his abdomen yanked him forward. He heard Malfoy swear up ahead, louder than was a good idea after curfew.
"Potter! Stop that this instant or I swear to Merlin I will hex you into oblivion!"
Harry jogged after Malfoy and found him leaning against the stone wall in the stairwell, clutching his side and breathing rather heavily.
"What in the bloody hell was that?" Malfoy snapped, glaring at Harry from under the fringe of white-blond hair that fell over his forehead. "Did you hex me?!"
"What are you talking about?"
"Don't play dumb with me, Potter, I know what you did!"
Harry shook his head, utterly bewildered. "I didn't do anything. In fact, I was going to let you leave me behind, but then I was yanked forward."
A look of comprehension slowly dawned on Malfoy's face, and he looked pissed.
"Oh, I am going to murder Parkinson," he said, gritting his teeth. "I was yanked backwards so forcefully I almost fell over, and you were yanked forward? That can't be a coincidence. Merlin, I'm going to hex her until even her own mother can't recognise her!"
He turned away and began to back stomp up the stairs, muttering to himself, "'I said you have to work together, Draco, do you know what that means?' Merlin's saggy left nut, I hate her with every fibre of my being."
"What do you mean?" Harry called after him, still utterly bewildered. "What did she do? Where are you going?"
"Are you really that dense, Potter? I can't believe —"
Malfoy stopped in his tracks, looking as though he was straining against an invisible wall. "Oh, sod everything! You have got to be kidding me. I did not sign up for this!"
He turned back round with one of the angriest looks on his face that Harry had ever seen.
"Parkinson jinxed us, so now we're stuck together until we finish this blasted dare. Merlin, I hate everything!"