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Take Two

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Draco Malfoy is a proud Slytherin.

 

As far back as records are kept, every Malfoy worth his surname has been in Hogwarts’ greatest House.

 

Slytherins (the decent ones at least – Draco isn’t referring to Crabbe and Goyle, here) are smart. And not merely book-smart, like Ravenclaw and that Gryffindor pest – no.  Slytherins are… street-smart. World-smart. They see how the world works, and they work with it to their advantage. They’re cunning, and they’re observant, and they’re successful. They’re stealthy, and they’re resourceful, and they’re ambitious. 

 

And – possibly most importantly – they can recognise a golden opportunity when it’s presented to them.

 

Which means that – the day after Harry bloody Potter’s name was spat out of the Goblet (because of course Harry bloody Potter would somehow elbow his way into the Tournament; like he doesn’t already have enough fame and glory for a half-blood who hasn’t even had a decent growth spurt yet) – when Draco notices that Weasley is storming around like some kind of red-headed storm cloud, Potter is snapping at everyone in reach, and both of them are only bothering to look in each other’s direction in order to glare fiercely, Draco doesn’t merely see it as an opportunity to make Potter’s life miserable.

 

No. No, this? This is an opportunity for so much more.

 

There’s no sense in making rash moves, Draco thinks to himself – he’s a Slytherin, and Slytherins plan things, unlike those bullheaded idiots in Gryffindor, thank you very much – so instead he withdraws a tad and resolves to merely observe until he can see the best route forwards.

 

It doesn’t take him long to work out what all the fuss is about.

 

Weasley, according to the gossip Draco’s been able to gather, doesn’t believe Potter’s claims that he didn’t put his name into the Goblet (and that’s a surprise, because obviously Potter did manage to circumnavigate the system somehow, but Draco hadn’t expected Weasley to actually be smart enough to realise that) and is now furious that Potter:-

 

   a: didn’t bother telling his supposed best friend what he’d done, and:

 

   b: didn’t bother sharing his rule-breaking techniques with Weasley in order to give him a shot at the title too (not that the Goblet would have picked Weasley, of course – even if there’d been no other entrants but Weasley, Draco suspects that the Goblet would have just sat there silently, spitting out exactly nothing until everyone gave up waiting).

 

Meanwhile, Potter is apparently furious about Weasley’s refusal to believe his innocence (Potter – innocent! Ha, a laughable concept), and as a result, the two aren’t speaking.

 

And actually – from what Draco’s been able to gather, there are few-to-none who actually believe Potter’s ludicrous claims, even in the boy-hero’s own House.

 

Draco sees a glimmer of a plan.

 

He’s not forgotten that day --- over three years ago though it may have been. He had perhaps taken too stringent a line that evening, when he’d made disparaging comments about the red-headed pauper who, in hindsight, had obviously already insinuated himself within Potter’s circle on the train ride.

 

“I think I can tell the wrong sort for myself, thanks,” Potter had said, and it was only then that Draco had realised that Weasley had already weaselled his way in, and that Draco had missed out on the chance to be Potter’s only friend.

 

Had Draco been more experienced in the art of manipulation and had he registered earlier the apparent importance of Weasley, he would have offered Potter his friendship without any slights directed towards the red-head. Better to share Potter with a Weasley than to lose him to a Weasley.

 

Besides. If he’d done it that way, Draco could then have worked to nudge the lower-class boy out of the equation entirely. It would only have taken a few months to achieve, once his own friendship with Potter was secure. But alas, Draco had been overeager. Inobservant.

 

Rookie mistakes.

 

He’s learnt since then.

 

Whether Potter put his name in the Goblet or not is immaterial, at this point. Potter is upset that Weasley doesn’t believe his claims of innocence. That no one but Granger believes his claims of innocence, if the gossip mill is to be believed.

 

Therefore, the best way to nudge open the door that has been barred these last three years? Is to believe those claims of innocence.

 

Right then.

 

Draco leaves dinner early and lounges in a hallway that he knows Potter has to traverse in order to get up to his Common Room. He’s only waiting ten minutes before the Boy Who Lived rounds the corner, alone, and pulls up sharply when he catches sight of the Slytherin.

 

“Your usual trio is down by a pauper and a mudblood,” Draco says, and then belatedly realises that insulting Granger might not actually be the best way to get into Potter’s good graces. He’s actually still talking to that one, after all. Oh well. To be too friendly too early would do nothing but set Potter’s warning bells ringing.

 

“Shove off, Malfoy,” Potter replies, starting to walk forwards again.

 

“I just wanted to see if the rumours were true,” Draco says casually as Potter makes to walk around him. “I must say, I am surprised. I knew Weasley was thick, but this is a new standard even for him.”

 

That gets Potter’s attention, and the dark-haired boy draws to a halt opposite Draco, his green eyes one-part-surprised and one-part-suspicious behind his glasses. Honestly. Has the boy never heard of sight-corrective spells? For the saviour of the wizarding world he is painfully muggle at times.

 

“What do you mean?” Potter asks, sounding suspicious and a little bit like he doesn’t know whether he should be jumping to Weasley’s defence or not. Honestly. The boy is too loyal by half.

 

“Well, he believes you put your name in the Goblet, doesn’t he?” Draco asks offhandedly, pushing off the wall and dusting his clothes down, giving every appearance of being more interested in the state of his robes than what he’s currently saying. “Do you think maybe he’s got the same number of braincells that his family has galleons? That might explain him. You could give him two braincells per-galleon, and he’d still barely have any, so maybe it is that.”

 

“Wait, you – what?” Potter says, his eyes wide under that ridiculous mop of a disaster that the boy dares to call hair. “So you mean you… believe me?”

 

“That you didn’t put your name in the goblet?” Draco asks, glancing up from straightening his robes, and he shrugs, as though it were obvious. “Of course. Why on earth anyone would actually want to participate in this forsaken Tournament, I have no idea. It’s like people forget that Champions regularly died trying to make it through this in the old days.”

 

Potter pales a little. Hee. Excellent.

 

“And besides,” Draco goes on, sounding casual and dismissive, like none of this is any more interesting than the Charms homework set for them last week. “The whole point of competing and winning is to win glory and honour for yourself, isn’t it? As much as it pains me to say this, I hardly think that the boy who defeated the Dark Lord needs any assistance in the glory and honour department, do you?”

 

Potter’s looking at him with narrowed eyes, like he suspects that Draco’s up to something (oh, he is) but hasn’t worked out just what yet. Draco, having said his part, shrugs dismissively and makes to stride past Potter and out of the corridor, but the other boy steps into Draco’s path and blocks his way. Draco raises an eyebrow at him.

 

“What if I did do it?” Potter asks, belligerent all of a sudden. “What if I decided that if I’m going to be famous – going to have all the glory and honour, and all that – that I want it to be on my terms, for something I actually remember doing? What about that?”

 

Draco levels an unimpressed expression at the other boy.

 

“You, The-Boy-Who-Hates-His-Fame, wants to earn more? I think you’re mistaking me for your dim weasel friend.”

 

Potter blinks at him like he doesn’t know what to make of… any of this.

 

“If you could move,” Draco prompts, when it doesn’t look like Potter’s going to be continuing on his path any time soon, and he’s still standing in front of Draco and blocking him in the corridor.

 

“Why are you here?” Potter asks, suddenly suspicious all over again.

 

Draco raises a cool eyebrow.

 

“We’ve already covered this,” he says, and then continues. “Because I’d heard that the weasel had accused you of lying about the Goblet, and I had to see for myself. I must say, I had thought that the rumours would turn out to be false. And yet, Weasley continues to surprise. Now, if you don’t mind, I actually do have somewhere to be.”

 

Potter peers at him in baffled suspicion-tinged-confusion for a couple of seconds more, and Draco tugs decisively on his robes a final time before shouldering past him and setting off down the hall, without so much as a sideways glance at Potter as he goes.

 

He can feel the other boy’s eyes on him the whole way down the corridor.

 

Well, he thinks to himself. That went rather well.

 

 

Stage two is a bit trickier, but nothing Draco can’t handle. He can’t just come right out and say it, after all; not without prompting, not with their history.

 

Draco subtly drops a couple of hints in the common room that night (not outright hints – just half an offhand comment made to one person, but said in the hearing of another, and another partial comment dropped elsewhere while someone else is listening in), and – by the next morning, most of Slytherin is walking around with badges that say “Go Diggory!” sometimes, and flash “Boo, Potter!” at other times.

 

Hm. Not quite how Draco would have done it, but good enough.

 

Good enough indeed, because – while the badges spread throughout practically the entirety Slytherin and Hufflepuff by the end of breakfast, and around most of Ravenclaw by lunch (and Draco even sees a few Gryffindors wearing them, which is just too wonderful for words), Draco’s “Go Digory!/Boo, Potter” badge is conspicuous by its absence.

 

Crabbe and Goyle – ever ones to jump on a bandwagon – are wearing a badge apiece, and Draco allows it until an opportune moment.

 

“What are those?” he demands in tones of longest suffering, just as they’re walking along the corridor after Charms. If Draco’s timed this right (and he has), then Potter and his classmates will be coming up the south corridor from Transfiguration which joins the one Draco and his lackeys are traversing like the bottom stroke of a T. Draco, walking along the horizontal stroke of the T, should be within earshot of them all, even if none of them can see each other yet.

 

“They’re the…” Crabbe starts, sounding confused. Poor chap.

 

“Diggory badges?” Goyle says, filling in the silence and sounding just as confused as Crabbe.

 

Draco heaves a sigh.

 

“Take them off,” he says, sounding annoyed. “It’s bad enough that we’ve got a Hufflepuff representing the school without you two going around with badges supporting him.”

 

They’re just about passing the entrance to the South corridor now. Draco can hear the quiet mutterings and clomping footsteps of the approaching Gryffindors, and knows they’ll be able to hear him.

 

“But,” Goyle starts, “the other half of the badge says Boo Potter?”

 

“Exactly,” Draco says, in the tone of someone who’s just had his argument won for him. They’re passing the corridor. It’s the two gossipy girls in front, perfect. Potter will hear about this in no time. Draco gives no impression that he’s even aware of their presence, striding onward without a sideways glance.

 

“Are we… supporting Potter then?” Crabbe asks, baffled.

 

“Well we’re not supporting Diggory,” Draco sneers, and then they’re at the end of the corridor and turning left towards Transfiguration.

 

 

There’s a double potions class that afternoon, shared – as usual – with the red-and-gold hoard.

 

Potter slides into the seat next to Draco as soon as he arrives, which is a first.

 

“Why aren’t you wearing a ‘Go Diggory’ badge,” he demands, without pomp or ceremony.

 

Draco turns a raised eyebrow on him.

 

“Oh I’m sorry,” he says, not sounding sorry at all. “Did you want me to go around wearing a derogatory badge with your name on it?”

 

“Want, no,” Potter retorts. “But at this stage you’re practically the only one who’s not, which I find a tad suspicious.”

 

“Granger’s not wearing one either,” Draco points out.

 

“Hermione’s an exception to the general rule,” Potter replies. “She’s been my friend for years.”

 

“So has Weasley,” Draco points out, and he gets to see what Potter’s face does when the boy refuses to flinch.

 

“And your reasoning for not wearing one is…?” Potter says, refusing to be dissuaded.

 

Draco sighs long-sufferingly.

 

“Well it would be rather foolish of me to do so, considering that I disagree with what it says.”

 

“I’m sure you could charm the damn things to stick on just the Boo Potter version, if you’re that opposed to supporting Cedric,” Potter says snidely, because he doesn’t get it yet, apparently.

 

Draco rolls his eyes, and expertly pretends that he’s not aware of the fact that the whole classroom is listening in by now.

 

“I said I disagree with what it says, not with half of what it says.”

 

Potter glares narrowly at Draco for a moment, before his eyes flare wide in surprise.

 

“Wait,” he says, leaning back and regarding Draco with equal parts surprise and suspicion. “You’re trying to tell me – what, that you’re supporting me?”

 

“Of course I’m supporting you,” Draco says, affecting insult. “It’s the first Triwizard Tournament in years; I’m not going to support nobody. And if not you, my other options are internationals, or – ” he shudders “– a Hufflepuff. The Golden Boy of Gryffindor is a painful choice, I won’t lie, but you’re also the only logical choice, given the alternatives, personal history aside.”

 

Potter looks like he doesn’t know what to do with that.

 

Snape chooses that moment to sweep into the classroom, and Draco knows that he’s spotted and is surprised by the unusual seating arrangement in his front row only by the minute hitch in his usually smooth stride.

 

“You will be working in pairs today, and will be attempting to make a Wit-Sharpening Potion,” Snape announces in his standard no-nonsense manner, and casts a disdainful glance over the Gryffindor-dominated side of the room. Potter startles as he realises – apparently for the first time – that he not only is not on the Gryffindor side of the classroom, but is in fact sitting in the front row, surrounded on all sides by Slytherins.

 

Do try to succeed,” Snape says silkily to the Gryffindors. “The Fourth Year syllabus is hardly challenging, but I don’t doubt that will stop any of you from struggling. If you manage the Wit-Sharpening Potion today, you can use it throughout the year and perhaps prevent an explosion or other such… calamity.”

 

Longbottom’s gulp is audible in the silence of the room, and Draco isn’t the only Slytherin who snickers under his breath. Potter swivels to glare at him, and Draco shrugs an unrepentant shoulder at him.

 

Snape turns to flick his wand at the board, and the instructions appear up there in the Professors usual narrow scrawl. Potter makes to eel quietly out of his seat.

 

“Potter, exactly where do you think you’re going,” Snape says, inflectionless and without turning around.

 

“Oh, um…” Potter says, and Draco sees the moment Potter recognises the problem. There are no empty seats on the Gryffindor side of the room.

 

Weasley’s sitting next to Granger (and glaring viciously their way, while Granger casts worried expressions at Potter every few seconds), Longbottom and Bulstrode are paired, as usual (Draco’s never going to understand Millie’s patience for the Gryffindor twit, but then, the boy is marginally less disastrous than Crabbe and Goyle, so perhaps that’s the appeal); the air-headed girls are together; and the black boy and the Irish one are too, which rounds out the Gryffindor year level and leaves Potter thoroughly stranded with the Slytherins.

 

“Uh, nowhere, I guess,” Potter mumbles, sinking back into his seat. Weasley snickers into his hand loudly. Granger thumps him and glares, and the rest of the red-and-gold clad hoard shift uncomfortably in their seats and look everywhere but at Potter.

 

Draco, for his part, pays no outward heed to any of that, and simply sets out his cauldron.

 

“We’ll use my cauldron, if you don’t mind,” Draco says, setting his box of standard ingredients out in front of him and flicking a thumb across the blade of his favourite knife to check it’s sharpness. “I don’t doubt yours would do fine in a pinch, but mine is a Hestia, so I think we’ll go with that.”

 

“A Hestia?” Potter asks after a moment, clearly baffled by the cordiality but apparently deciding to roll with it for now, probably due to the ever present threat of Snape.

 

Draco rolls his eyes.

 

“Hestia Culverton?” he prompts, and gets a blank look in return. “Famous Potions Master, developed the Fever-Reliever – among others, of course. Redesigned the style of cauldrons and revolutionised the potions industry?”

 

Potter still looks utterly blank. Draco heaves a sigh and reaches for the doc leaves, twists them up into a tube and starts slicing them into fine slivers, per the instructions.

 

“It’s not her who makes them today, of course – she died in 1792 – but she taught her son her everything she could before she went, and now, ten generations later, her eight-times-great granddaughter sells cauldrons designed using Hestia’s methods, and they’re still the leading standard today. They come with a pricetag to match, of course, but why make merely decent potions when you can afford the tools you need to make great potions?”

 

“…Right,” Potter says, giving Draco a weird look. “Um. Don’t we need other ingredients?”

 

“You’re welcome to go and fight the masses in the store cupboard if you wish,” Draco informs him loftily, gesturing with his knife to the – sure enough – packed storeroom. “But this potion starts off with all standard ingredients, all of which we have here already, so there’s no need to do battle for the things we won’t need until later. It’s not like Snape will run out of them.”

 

It’s always a fight and a jostle to reach anything in that blasted cupboard if there’s more than two people in there. Draco learned early on to wait it out, go in a few minutes later than everyone else and have the time and leisure to select what he needs without the threat of an elbow to the nose.

 

“…Right,” Potter says again, and reaches for his potions kit.

 

The lesson goes off without a hitch, and Draco and Potter manage to produce a well-functioning Wit-Sharpening Potion – of course they do; it was Draco who was working on it, after all, so he was right there to snap at Potter whenever he was cutting something incorrectly or about to add something too early or stir the potion in the wrong direction – and Snape gives their potion a pass with a curt nod to Draco and a “Perhaps you should work with Mr Malfoy more often, Mr Potter. It seems to have done wonders for your skill level,” to Potter.

 

Potter scowls a little at that (does the boy not recognise a phrase of approval when he hears one?) but says nothing as they begin to pack up their things.

 

Draco’s mind is running over his Charms essay for a final time when Potter shoulders his bag and says, “Well, thanks, I guess.”

 

Draco turns a questioning expression on him.

 

“For the support, I mean,” Potter clarifies, and Draco lets his expression wash over with cool understanding.

 

“Well,” he says, and lifts his own strap over his shoulder. “Just try not to die. It would be an awful embarrassment to the school.”

 

“Embarrassment to the school, yeah, that’s my main concern,” Potter mutters under his breath, but Draco’s already sweeping out of the classroom.

 

“Well that went rather well for you, didn’t it,” Blaise says much later, once they’re safely ensconced in the Charms classroom, surrounded by students who think that shouting the charm louder will have any effect on it’s success.

 

“Better than I expected, even,” Draco returns.

 

“Does your father know what you’re getting up to?” Blaise asks, sweeping his wand in a smooth motion and setting the kettle to singing.

 

“He’ll know when I decide to let him know,” Draco replies easily, and casts the charm to frost the kettle over.

 

“Well, I hope you know what you’re doing,” Blaise says, and gives the kettle a teacosy.

 

 

Draco makes… subtle inroads, over the next few weeks, getting gradually bolder and bolder.

 

It’s like trying to harness a spooked Alabraxan, he thinks to himself one day, as he carefully navigates the thin line between further endearing himself to Potter without making him suspicious. It’s little things. Things like not insulting him every time he sees him. Things like treating him with cool cordiality, instead of letting Crabbe and Goyle join in on the Potter-baiting that practically the rest of the school is indulging in. Again, they are conspicuous in their absence, and Potter is – fortunately – intelligent enough to gather that Crabbe and Goyle don’t do anything without it being Draco’s idea.

 

The first article about the Champions is published in the Prophet – by that vapid vulture Skeeter – and instead of being indignant and outraged that almost the whole spread is dedicated to Wonder-Boy while the other Champions barely get a mention, as he normally would be, Draco allows himself to be overheard (while he’s “unaware” that Potter is in earshot) casually insulting Skeeter’s talents in everything from her journalism skills to her abilities as a witch.

 

Draco doesn’t approach Potter again, but the Potions lessons turn out to be invaluable for improving interactions between the two of them. Snape either knows what Draco’s doing and approves, or he has his own inexplicable plans in motion, for after that first accidental Potions class spent as partners, Snape insists that they sit at the same table for every lesson thereafter.

 

He claims it’s because he needs one less dunderhead to keep an eagle eye on, and Draco is capable enough to manage acceptable potions when they’re paired, and to keep Potter from blowing anything up when they’re working individually. Draco could try to guess at Snape’s true motives behind having them sit together every lesson, but he wouldn’t guess correctly, and anyway, Draco doesn’t care terribly much since it’s assisting him in his own mission, so he lets it slide without comment.

 

Draco refrains from anything that could be construed as friendly – if he is sure of anything, it’s that Potter must be the first one to make a friendly overture; anything else would be viewed with outright suspicion – but he maintains a cordial and even occasionally helpful manner with the other boy, which does wonders for Draco’s overall plan.

 

“Use the other side of the knife,” Draco says one day, when Potter’s bean pod skids out from under his knife and across the table for the third time.

 

“Um. Why?” Potter asks, making no move to flip the knife over. Draco sighs heavily, and crushes a beanpod neatly beneath his own knife with no dramas.

 

“Because one side of the knife has a slight curve to it,” he explains longsufferingly, as Potter eyes Draco’s pile of neatly crushed beans with envy. “That’s why the beans keep slipping out. The other side is flat. Use that, and the beans won’t skid anywhere.”

 

Potter looks dubious, but he flips the knife over as instructed and tries a bean. It crushes without incident.

 

“Huh,” Potter says, sounding surprised. “Thanks.”

 

Draco grins mentally, but restrains himself to a grunt of acknowledgement out loud.

 

Weasley tries to start a fight with him one day, and it works out splendidly in Draco’s favour. It happens in the courtyard by the west wall of the castle, and Weasley is all uncreative, unoriginal insults that all have a distinctly jealous and possessive flavour to them, which Draco thinks is somewhat rich, considering that a, Draco’s hardly the reason Weasley and Potter’s friendship is in the toilet, and b, the most Draco has managed to achieve with Potter so far is a mutual nod of cordial acknowledgement in the halls and an occasional thanks in Potions.

 

It goes on for some time, and Draco simply leans against a wall and watches in patient amusement as Weasley works himself into a proper huff while Granger watches on from the sidelines and frets, until finally Weasley gets to the crux of the matter and shouts something about how they all know Draco doesn’t really believe Potter didn’t put his name in the goblet anyway, so he can stop pretending that he does. The courtyard is has a smattering of people from various Houses and years, all of whom are watching the interaction intently.

 

Draco stares at him for a moment, allowing incredulous understanding to blossom across his face.

 

“Dear Merlin,” he says, in the tone of someone who’s just had a Great Truth revealed to them.

 

“…What?” Weasley asks, when Draco doesn’t continue, and Draco lets himself smile gleefully.

 

“You actually do believe he did it, don’t you?” he asks, wondrous, then goes on before Weasley has a chance to say anything. “And here I thought you were just having a tantrum because you were jealous that the Boy Who Lived is getting yet another chance at greatness while you’re stuck in the mediocre shadows – an understandable thing to be jealous of, really, what with your prospects for glory and fame – but that’s not it at all, is it? You actually think he put his name in the Goblet.”

 

“Of course he did,” Ron scoffs, and Granger throws an exasperated expression at the ginger. “That thing’s way too smart to be fooled by someone putting in the wrong name; it had to be Harry. I dunno how he got past the age line, sure, but I know he did.”

 

“Huh,” Draco muses thoughtfully, voice ringing clear through the courtyard. “And here was I, thinking you actually knew him well.”

 

He leaves the courtyard before Weasley can respond, his parting comment still echoing on the flagstones around them, and its only as he’s leaving that Draco catches a flash of black hair retreating in the opposite direction ahead of the masses that are sure to shortly follow, and Draco grins to himself. Couldn’t have set it up better himself.

 

 

After the altercation with Weasley, Draco doesn’t see Potter at all until the Potions lesson the next day, where there’s finally a breakthrough.

 

“Ron’s a git,” Potter fumes, throwing himself into his seat at Draco’s table, and Draco blinks at him.

 

“Well,” he says after a long moment. “Yes. He is.”

 

Potter snorts.

 

“This is, however, rather a new realisation for you,” Draco goes on after a moment, leadingly, and Potter sighs gustily and flops against the back of his chair, slouching horribly.

 

“Yeah, well,” he says, and runs a frustrated hand through his already disastrously messy hair. “I guess he’s just being even more gittish than usual today.”

 

Draco raises an eyebrow.

 

“More gittish than he has been these last weeks?” he asks, tone somewhat pointed, and Potter snorts again.

 

“Impressive achievement, huh,” Potter says, and then sucks in a bracing breath and leans forward to reach his bag, pulling his box of standard ingredients out and slapping them on the table. “Anyway, whatever, let’s just – pretend Ron doesn’t exist for now. What are we making today?”

 

Internally, Draco is celebrating. This is progress. This is significant progress. Potter is not only complaining to Draco about his (ex?) best friend, but he’s actively seeking a conversation beyond that, too.

 

“A standard follicle-strengthening potion,” Draco replies, popping the lid on his own supplies box and reaching for the crushed chicken eggshells. “Which you would know if you had bothered to read the syllabus.”

 

When Draco looks up, Potter’s lips are twisted in an amused, jesting smile.

 

“Follicle-strengthening, huh?” he says, the amused twist of his lips threatening to grow into an outright amused grin. “Right up your alley, then – you won’t need to buy any until next month, at least, if we get this right.”

 

A Draco who wasn’t trying to win the friendship of Potter would be offended by that statement, almost-true as it may be, and would spit some kind of return insult about how even if Potter were dunked in a vat of the stuff, it still wouldn’t do anything for his hair.

 

But that is not this Draco.

 

“Please,” he sniffs dismissively, turning his nose up. “As if I’d be caught dead using such a run-of-the mill product. My hair potions are imported from France.”

 

Potter’s lips fall out of their amused twist as they drop open with momentary surprise instead, and he stares in something that might be shock for a long second, and then all of a sudden, the boy is laughing.

 

Proper, actual laughing, with his eyes closed and his face creased in sheer mirth as he cracks up. Draco’s own lips want to curl at the edges in delight, and he allows them to, since it will only help the situation for Potter to know Draco is amused as well.

 

The entire class is staring – Slytherins and Gryffindors alike – and Draco ignores them all as he runs a hand confidently over his hair, ensuring that not a strand is out of place.

 

“And besides,” he continues, when Potter’s laughter subsides enough that he’ll be able to hear Draco easily. “Anyone who takes any kind of care in their daily appearance knows that hair potions are at their best effectiveness if applied daily. Even if I did use this particular product, I’d need to brew more within the week, not the month.”

 

There’s that split second of shocked surprise from Potter again, as though he can’t believe his ears, that Draco is making fun of himself, and then he loses it completely again.

 

Draco allows his own lips to curl fully into an amused smile, and that’s how Snape finds them a moment later when he strides into the room – Potter with one hand wrapped around his stomach as he giggles helplessly, and Draco smiling an entertained smile.

 

The Professor’s step falters in surprise for a moment, and then he recovers himself enough to scowl down at them. Potter hurriedly attempts to stifle his mirth, trying valiantly to plaster a serious, studious expression on his face instead. Draco wants to roll his eyes at him.

 

“If I had known that pairing you with Potter would have you slipping down to his lax standard, I would have rethought this arrangement,” Snape says silkily, and Draco smiles beatifically up at him.

 

“Not at all, Professor,” he assures respectfully. “Potter and I were merely discussing the potion we’ll be brewing in today’s lesson. We’ve decided that he can have the entirety of what we brew today. He is clearly in far more dire need for haircare products than I am, and though Beenid’s Follicle Feast is hardly going have the tensile strength required to tame his ridiculous jungle, it’s at least a start.”

 

Potter cracks up helplessly again.

 

Snape stares at the pair of them for a moment longer, and then snaps, “See that your new-found revelry does not impact on your attention to detail,” and swivels around, heading for his desk and swishing his wand at the board as he goes.

 

“Of course, Sir,” Draco says agreeably.

 

At the end of the lesson, Draco hands the vial of (perfectly brewed, obviously) Follicle Feast to Potter and says imperiously, “Once a day, first thing in the morning. Don’t know how much good it will do, but it certainly can’t hurt,” and Potter huffs a laugh and is still chuckling as he makes his way out the door, vial held securely in his hand.

 

 

Having been paying increased attention to Potter as he has been these last weeks, Draco is not unaware of the mood that hangs around the dark-haired boy like a cloud.

 

The general hostility of the rest of the school has not let up, nor have the articles from Skeeter, and all the while the days trundle by, bringing the date of the First Task ever closer, and Potter’s mood has been getting grimmer and grimmer as time has gone on – snapping at Granger with increased regularity, and withdrawing from most of his other housemates entirely. It’s possible that Potter’s unfettered laughter in Potions was so free because he hasn’t laughed at all in weeks.

 

Draco’s been waiting for an opportunity to come up, however, so he latches onto it as soon as it does. The day after the Potions incident – a Saturday, happily – Draco heads up to the Gryffindor corridor immediately after breakfast, broomstick in hand and Quidditch robes flapping behind him.

 

It’s a bold move, certainly, but Draco feels the odds are in his favour. Quite aside from the fact that Potter’s social circle has dwindled down to merely Granger (who, as mentioned, he’s short of temper with anyway), usually by this time of the year all four Houses have had their Quidditch tryouts and are thoroughly immersed in training the new team for their first matches of the season.

 

Draco is going stir-crazy, locked up in this blasted castle, and he doesn’t even have the new-found enmity of the whole school on him.

 

Draco strides into the corridor as though it’s his own, and the two First (Second?) Years who had been walking down it in the opposite direction stumble to a stop at the sight of him.

 

“Ah, good,” Draco says. He would have been annoyed if he’d had to wait in the corridor for someone to emerge. “Go and fetch Potter for me.”

 

He doesn’t phrase it as a request, and he certainly doesn’t add please (Malfoy’s say please only to those who are of a higher social standing than them, and even then the word is used sparingly), and the two nameless-Gryffindors squeak and spin around, hurrying back up the corridor to – presumably – fetch Potter.

 

Draco follows at a leisurely pace – keeping a pointedly respectful distance as one of the girls casts a suspicious look over her shoulder and whispers the password to the pink-dressed monstrosity who apparently acts as the Gryffindor Common Room’s doorman – and when the two girls vanish inside the hastily opened-and-closed portrait, Draco leans back against the wall and props his broom up next to him.

 

It takes a few minutes, but eventually the portrait cracks open again, and Potter sticks his head out, looking braced for…. something. Hm. Perhaps the other Houses have been making House-calls to cast insults at him; Draco can’t think why else he’d be peering out of his Common Room braced as though expecting an attack. How irritatingly unoriginal of the other Houses. Draco hopes Slytherin wasn’t one of them.

 

Potter catches sight of Draco almost immediately, and looks surprised to find him leaning against the wall in his flying robes with his broom propped up beside him.

 

“Go get your broom, Potter, and change into something you’re comfortable flying in,” Draco says, imperious as usual.

 

Potter blinks, looking slightly baffled. Well at least he’s no longer looking braced.

 

“Um, what?” he says, and Draco rolls his eyes and pushes away from the wall.  

 

“We’re going flying,” he says. “You’ve been moping around this school for weeks like some kind of Kiss-row inmate, and frankly, the depression show is boring me. Also, I’m going out of my mind with restlessness – I haven’t not flown for so long since before I learnt to fly, I need to get out of this castle. So unless you want to borrow one of the school brooms and wear your weird muggle clothes up there, I’d recommend rabbiting back into your little red-and-gold warren and fetching your broom and some different clothes, because you and I are going flying.”

 

“Uh…” Potter says, blinking, like he has no idea what to do with this situation, but then something shifts in his eyes and the corner of his lips turn up just the slightest amount. “Ok, sure,” he says, and without further ado turns around and vanishes back behind that hideous pink-and-lacy excuse for a portrait.

 

It only takes him a few minutes, and then he’s clambering back out into the corridor, broomstick in hand and Quidditch robes on but unlaced.

 

Draco sets off down the corridor without further ado.

 

“I haven’t booked the pitch,” he says, striding along and swinging his broom up to settle it on his shoulder. Potter follows suit, swinging his Firebolt up onto his shoulder securely. “But I figured if there are people on there, we can bully them off. Between my name and your fame, we shouldn’t have any trouble.”

 

“Uh – ” Potter says, sounding disapproving, and Draco rolls his eyes.

 

“It’s a joke Potter, do they not have those in your tower? If there are people on the pitch, we’ll use the lake instead. I quite like practicing new moves over the lake, actually. The threat of falling into the Giant Squid’s open maw adds a certain thrill to the whole thing, I find.”

 

Potter huffs a chuckle, like he’s not entirely sure he’s meant to laugh at that or not. Draco sighs internally. Looks like the conversation will be up to him until he can get Potter to warm up a little.

 

“I honestly can’t believe they expect us to last a year in this place without Quidditch to break the monotony,” he says as they walk along, brooms over their shoulders. “I don’t understand why we couldn’t have both. There are a grand total of three Tasks over the course of this ridiculous Tournament, and a mere six Quidditch matches in a year. I’m sure they could have found a way to make a measly nine events fit into the school year. Besides,” he continues, nose in the air. “It would have been generous of us Brits to show our… esteemed visitors what quality Quidditch looks like.”

 

Draco’s tone makes it clear that he thinks esteemed visitors is a generous term, and Potter glances sideways at him.

 

“You do realise that Victor Krum is one of our esteemed visitors,” he says, one dark eyebrow raised.

 

Draco scoffs, scathing.

 

“Please don’t tell me you’re a fan,” he says.

 

Potter shrugs. “I wouldn’t say I’m a fan. But no one can deny that he’s a damn good flyer. And besides – don’t stand there scoffing at me like you wouldn’t ask him for an autograph if given half a chance.”

 

Draco sniffs derisively, nose in the air as he refuses to admit that that’s true. 

 

“We’ve gotten away from the point,” he says instead, magnanimously moving on, and Potter tries to smother a snort of amusement. “The point is, I don’t understand how they thought we wouldn’t all lose our minds, trapped in this draughty old castle without regular breaks for Quidditch practice.”

 

“Not everyone plays Quidditch,” Potter points out.

 

“I don’t know how they survive,” Draco sniffs. “Without Quidditch practice, I’m going to be out there every weekend, starting today. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long in the first place.”

 

He does know, of course. He’s been waiting for a chance to drag Potter along with him. Their interests may not cross over in many areas, but they have Quidditch in common, at least, and Draco plans to milk that for all it’s worth.

 

They say nothing for a moment, and the only sound is the echo of their footsteps on the flagstones.

 

“You know,” Potter muses after a few seconds. “I’ve never actually gone flying just for the fun of it. It’s always been either team practices or actual games.”

 

Draco is so honestly startled that his stride falters.

 

“Really?” he asks, genuinely shocked. “Why on earth not? Don’t you enjoy it?”

 

Draco had thought that was one of the things he knew about the Boy Who Lived without a shadow of doubt. He’s stupidly reckless and never thinks anything through – as Gryffindor as they come, in summary – he’s stupidly lucky, he’s rubbish at Potions, he’s the Headmaster’s Pet, and he adores Quidditch. All known facts about Harry Bloody Potter.

 

“No – I do,” Potter assures, and that mollifies Draco a little. Draco hates being wrong. “I just… I guess it just never occurred to me as an option, that’s all.”

 

Draco slants a baffled look at him.

 

“You’re quite weird,” he says flatly. “You know that, right?”

 

Harry snorts in amusement and shoves halfheartedly at Draco, which – ooh, progress. Friendly shoving is a definite step in the right direction.

 

They make their way down to the Pitch, getting startled looks from whichever people they happen to pass in the corridors on the way down, and when they finally arrive, it’s to find that they have no competition; the Pitch is completely empty.

 

“So what shall we do?” Draco asks, taking his broom down from his shoulder and straightening his robes in readiness. “I’d suggest racing, but someone has an unfair advantage in that field.”

 

Potter grins, looking more comfortable than Draco’s seen him in weeks, now that he’s on the Pitch.

 

“Well, actually – there are some things I’ve been dying to try,” he says, and then starts talking about the World Cup, and some of the manoeuvres he’d seen there. Draco enthusiastically joins in, because there had been some spectacular moves that game, and actually, yes, attempting to master them themselves sounds quite fun.

 

Which is how Draco finds himself spinning through the air, exhilaration in his veins and heart in his throat as he and Potter vie to be the first to master one technique or another.

 

Potter’s good on a broom – Draco can easily concede that. Their rivalry hasn’t ebbed a bit, even in the face of their newfound… well, Draco wouldn’t go quite so far as to say friendship yet, it’s still too early for that, but their… lack of enmity, at least, and they gradually move away from trying to perfect certain moves to simply trying to one-up each other, tossing friendly-yet-biting insults that are instantly volleyed back with an extra dose of sass at each other as they do, until they eventually find themselves hurtling towards the ground, back to back, spinning around each other in a tight spiral as they get closer and closer to the hard, grassy plane of the Pitch, neither one willing to be the first to pull up, both wanting to be the one to win the challenge.

 

But Potter is a lunatic, and eventually – with mere metres to spare – Draco folds and yanks the handle of his broom until he’s safely out of the spiral of death, and he turns to see Potter pulling out of the death-defying dive with so little time to spare that the boy’s toes actually graze the grass as he pulls up and out, flying up to join Draco.

 

Potter’s laughing wildly as he approaches, eyes bright and hair a whirlwind, and Draco is gaping at him incredulously.

 

“You’re a lunatic,” Draco gasps, and Potter lets loose a delighted, exhilarated peal of laughter, and does a loop on his broom just because he can, apparently, and because he has excess lunacy to spare.

 

“I haven’t had this much fun on a broom in years,” Potter grins.

 

The boy is windblown and tousled, beaming happily at Draco from under his absurd hair, and Draco finds that his own face is grinning cheerfully back at the other boy without any conscious input or effort from his brain. Huh. Convenient. It’s merely the rush of being in the air and the adrenaline flooding his system, obviously, but the effortless grin will do nothing but assist in his plans to convince Potter that he means this – that his attempts at building a friendship between them truly are genuine – so Draco’s not concerned.

 

“Let’s go to the Lake,” Draco says abruptly, partly because it’s been ages since he’s flown over the Lake, but also because he would like to not die, and he’s starting to fear that flying with Potter may mean death-by-reckless-flying.

 

“I thought you said the Lake adds – what was it? Adds a certain thrill to the whole thing. Is losing a game of Chicken to me not thrilling enough for you?” Potter’s grin is bright and teasing, and Draco isn’t even offended at the mention of him losing the game.

 

“Thrilling, absolutely,” Draco says, rising in the air and drifting in the direction of the Lake. “But staring death in the face as it rushes for me in the form of a grassy knoll isn’t something I’m quite accustomed to. The Lake at least has a semi-soft landing if one of us miscalculates.”

 

“But what about the threat of falling into the Giant Squid’s great maw, or whatever it was you said?” Potter heckles, rising in Draco’s wake and following along.

 

“I have a chance of fighting the Squid off,” Draco sniffs, and gestures balefully to the ground. “I have less chance of escaping death if I were to drive myself into the hard ground at an uncountable speed.”

 

“And here I thought you were a good flyer,” Potter grins, and Draco can take a lot, but he can’t take insults to his flying (caution is not indicative of a lack of talent, thank you very much), so he says, “Ten Galleons says my skills get me to the Lake before you,” and shoots off without another word, streaking towards the brightly sparkling lake as fast as he’s able.

 

Potter yells in outrage behind him, and gives chase.

 

(Draco wins, but the grouchily-relinquished ten galleons aren’t nearly as much of a reward as the way Potter swears that next week, when they do this again, it’ll be Draco eating Potter’s dust, and Draco grins to himself, because Operation Befriend Potter is properly under way.)