Chapter Rating: R
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Chapter Summary: The fallout from Nott's treachery isn't quite what Draco or any of the Slytherins expected it to be. Draco goes a bit too far and Potter snaps, but nothing lasts forever. Features a game of Gossip, glowering, a standoff, boys kissing, another anonymous note, a discussion of sub-text, a hysterical Pansy, and some truly horrible news.
Beta: cornmouse, evilsource, goneril, oddnari
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Chapter 15 - It Shines Not Forever
Draco was angry with himself. He felt relieved that Potter hadn't died. There were many things Draco had previously felt when Potter had survived brushes with death. Relief had certainly never been on that list. Draco told himself that he was relieved because he still owed Potter a wizard's debt. Draco hadn't acted in order to save Potter on the Quidditch pitch; he'd acted to save Smith. Had Potter died, Draco would have had to live the rest of his life knowing that he owed it to Potter. Obviously, it was natural to feel relief that he wouldn't be forced to remain forever in the speccy git's debt.
Potter hadn't been in Potions on Monday but he had turned up for Care of Magical Creatures on Tuesday, looking pale. The Gryffindors immediately surrounded him, patting him on the back and asking if he was okay. It was disgusting to watch. Potter kept nodding and grinning, but his gaze often strayed to where the Slytherins were standing.
Potter was very lucky not to have died. He'd been about 20 feet in the air when Nott's Stunner had hit him. Had he been conscious, wild magic would likely have saved him by making him bounce. However, a Stunned wizard falling from such a height was no better off than a Muggle. Draco loudly suggested that they all start calling Potter The Boy Who Would Not Die. To his astonishment, Potter had laughed along with the Slytherins.
The Slytherins had expected to receive considerable backlash for the fact that Nott had been the one behind the Snitches and the photographs. To their surprise, people from other houses seemed almost sympathetic. A group of fifth-year Hufflepuffs had rescued Malcolm Baddock from Filch's ire after the Slytherin Chaser had dragged some spring mud in with him.
Draco figured that all this had more to do with the fact that Slytherin had suffered in both cases rather than with any genuine inclination to forgive. Draco had had fun telling Rita Skeeter all the details behind Sunday's events. Nott may have fled, but he wouldn't get very far in the wizarding world with everyone knowing what he'd done.
On the following Saturday, Blaise and Draco were discussing Rita's article as they dropped off their library books in their dormitory. A house elf materialised suddenly in front of Blaise's bedside table.
"Mr. Draco Malfoy, Mr. Blaise Zabini, your presence is requested in ten minutes in classroom eleven on the first floor, please!" it squeaked, then Disapparated.
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Well, at least we're going together this time. Maybe luck will be with me and I'll get to watch Potter dance with Vincent."
Blaise chortled as he headed out the door. Pansy, Queenie, and Millicent were coming out of the girls' hallway.
"Party invitation?" Pansy asked, grinning.
Draco nodded. "Let's go then."
Vincent and Gregory gave everyone dejected looks.
"Don't worry, boys, we'll bring you some nosh," Draco said, winking. Vincent rolled his eyes.
They left the common room and made their way through the dungeon hallways and up the stairs to the first floor in silence. Classroom eleven looked much like dungeon five had done when Draco had gone to his first Hufflepuff party last term, complete with unsteady-looking table and floating candles instead of wall torches. There was a wizard's wireless on a desk near the window and it was playing Faith Tonality by The Cunning Minds. Liam was standing near the desk, talking to Trista and the Hufflepuff prefects. Hannah Abbott, who had been throwing more and more longing gazes at Draco at meals, hid behind Macmillan when she saw Pansy.
Zacharias Smith walked in a moment later, deep in conversation with Susan Bones and Justin Finch-Fletchley. He brightened when he saw Blaise, but didn't walk over. Morag led the Ravenclaws inside not a moment later. She smiled at the Slytherins and walked towards them with Mandy Brocklehurst in tow. After making a beeline for the snack table, Boot joined them, as did his friends Corner and Goldstein. They were soon discussing Nott's whereabouts. Though only a week had passed with no sightings, Nott's actions and escape were quickly becoming legendary at Hogwarts.
The Gryffindors arrived late, with Potter and Weasley in the lead. Darla Nesbett did the obligatory welcome speech, complete with the phrase 'Hufflepuff Hullabaloo,' which in Draco's opinion would never stop being funny. Darla invited them to have some snacks and drinks, announcing that Liam would start the evening's game shortly.
The tension that had been there during the first party he'd attended in October seemed to have almost disappeared. People from all four houses were talking together -- mostly swapping gossip about those housemates who weren't there. The Witching Hour was on the wireless; the music, conversation, and occasional clink of bottles made Draco remember many a birthday party at Malfoy manor. Pansy and Queenie were discussing the latest Gladrags offerings with Morag and Mandy as Millicent stood by wearing a disapproving look.
The only people who weren't participating in anything were Potter and Weasley. They stood off to the side with bottles of Butterbeer in their hands, talking in voices so low, Draco couldn't pick out the subject matter no matter how hard he strained to listen.
Seamus Finnigan started an impromptu game of Gossip with six other people -- they all stood in a circle taking turns to whisper into each other's ears. Whispered words had a tendency to take on a life of their own, as it happened.
"Bulging!" Parvati Patil called out, and Maurelle Rivers started giggling beside her.
"I said 'Budgie!'" she said, and everyone laughed. Draco had to work hard to pretend he hadn't been listening.
Liam called everyone's attention then and the conversation and giggles died down.
"All right, it's good to see that you lot are having fun already. I think you'll find tonight's game just as fun, if not more," he said with a sly smirk.
There was a fiendish gleam in Liam's eyes that was mildly unsettling. He drew a small canvas bag out of his pocket and tossed it into the air, then caught it as it fell. Trista Morgan came up behind him and waved her wand, causing twenty chairs to appear in the centre of the classroom.
"If you'll all take your seats, we can get started," Liam said.
The Weird Sisters were playing a cover of Celestina Warbeck's You Stole My Cauldron But You Can't Have My Heart as people took their seats. Liam waved his wand at the wireless and turned down the volume, then addressed the room.
"Tonight's game is called Darling If You Love Me."
Draco sniggered at the sound of the name, as did several other people. Liam grinned and continued.
"There are exactly twenty marbles in this bag, eighteen white and two black. I'm going to pass the bag around the room and each of you will take out a marble without looking. Once you've got your marble, you'll show it to the room. The first person to pull a black marble will lead the round. The second person with a black marble is the target."
"The target?" Blaise asked.
"That's the fun part," Liam said, his grin widening. "The lead walks over to the target, sits on their lap, and says 'Darling, if you love me, won't you please smile?'"
Pansy, Queenie, and Morag tittered.
"And to what end are we doing this?" Draco asked, feeling like his eyebrows had reached an impossible height.
"To make the target smile, of course," Liam said. "The lead can do whatever they want -- pull faces, tickle, play with their hair, whisper in their ear, just generally act loving. The target has to say 'Darling, I love you, but I just can't smile tonight.' without laughing or even cracking a smile. If they say the phrase without a hitch, they win the round and the marbles are passed around again." He brandished the bag of marbles as though to emphasise, then continued. "If the target so much as smiles, they are out of the game and they take their marble with them. The game continues until two people are left -- they must repeat the procedure again until one of them cracks a smile, whereupon they are out of the game. The last witch or wizard standing is the winner."
"What do we get out of it, though?" Blaise wanted to know.
"A lot of laughter, I expect," Liam replied.
Blaise looked dubious. Draco rolled his eyes. Liam evidently took their silence as consent, since really only Slytherins could have been expected to raise a stink over no tangible reward for winning. The Head Boy handed the bag to Draco, who took out a marble. Black.
"Excellent, so you're the lead, Draco," Liam said.
Draco smirked and passed the bag to Blaise, who pulled out a white marble. The marbles made their way quickly around the circle. They reached Potter and he took out a black one. The laughter that followed was positively deafening. Even Draco joined in; the only person who didn't seem amused was Potter. Upon seeing the expression on his fearless leader's face, Weasley stopped laughing too.
"Who comes up with these games, anyway?" Potter asked with a petulant look.
"This one was -- Hannah's idea," Macmillan wheezed.
Hannah Abbott went very red but she, too, was smiling. "We wrote them on slips of parchment and they're pulled randomly out of a hat," she said, shooting Draco a quick look.
"Well, I think it's a bit stupid," Potter said.
"Don't be a spoilsport, Potter," Draco snapped. "It's a game. I'll just be pretending you're Pansy, anyway."
Pansy and several other girls giggled. Potter glared at him. Draco got up from his chair and walked over to him, conscious of the silence that fell around them. He grabbed the back of Potter's chair and straddled him. The scuffling sound his foot made on the floor sounded like a distant explosion. He leant close to the other boy's ear. What would Potter do if Draco were to lick it? Weasley was too close, though, he might see it.
"Darling, if you love me, won't you please smile?" Draco said in a deliberately breathy voice, struck by the improbability of the situation -- the odds of Draco ever saying something like this to Potter were slim to none.
Several girls Draco couldn't see were giggling hysterically. He drew back to look at Potter's face, but his expression was sullen. He was staring fixedly into space, his legs tense. He didn't even look like he was fighting back a smile. Draco felt torn between feeling smug that he had such a paralysing effect on Potter and feeling peevish that he probably wouldn't win the round.
"Darling, I love you, but I just can't smile tonight," Potter croaked, looking distressed. A flush was spreading across his face, making his eyes seem brighter in the dim light of the classroom.
Honestly, could he be any more obvious? Draco didn't understand how the rest of the school hadn't pegged him for a flaming homosexual by now -- any warm-blooded straight male would have found the situation uncomfortably amusing. Only a closeted gay boy or a raging homophobe would react the way Potter did.
"Good show, Potter," he murmured in the same breathy voice he'd used earlier, then got up from Potter's lap and stalked over to Pansy, giving her a kiss on the cheek. "He doesn't really love me, you needn't worry, pet," he said loudly. Everyone except Potter and Weasley laughed. Draco smirked and sat back down in his chair.
"That was something," Blaise whispered to him. "I hope I pull a black one with you."
"You would lose," Draco whispered back, glancing at Potter. The Gryffindor was staring at the two of them, his lips a straight line. Draco would have given his left arm to know what he was thinking.
Draco couldn't help laughing like a hyena when Millicent boomed the "darling if you love me" line at him, so he was out of the running fairly early. The last two standing were Terry Boot and Susan Bones. Susan won, to much applause and giggles. Liam broke the party up after that. The sixth-years filed out of the classroom in mixed groups, talking all the way to the entrance hall.
Draco sidled up to Morag as they walked along the corridor. "Keeping busy?"
"That's one way to put it. Your girlfriend is quite the team leader," Morag replied.
"I think you mean slave driver," Draco said, dropping his voice. "I'm glad I'm not in any groups with her, she'd drive me barmy."
"Oh no you don't, Draco," Pansy called, turning around and beaming at Morag. "I will not have you spreading dissent."
"That's all he ever does though," Weasley said as he and Potter passed them.
"You're just jealous that you didn't get to sit on Potter's lap, aren't you, Weasley?" Pansy said with a snide glare.
Weasley's face turned red as if on cue. He stopped, as did Potter. Draco walked up behind Pansy and put an arm around her shoulders.
"You started this, Weasel King. Be a man for once, admit you shouldn't pick fights you can't win," he spat. "Isn't it your Mudblood friend who keeps harping the loudest about house unity? Some example you're setting, picking on Slytherin girls in the hallways."
"Girls? He was talking about you, Ferret-face," Potter said through his teeth.
"But he was talking to my girl, Scarhead," Draco mocked. There was a group of people gathered around them now.
"You know what? All three of you are being ridiculous," Susan Bones said, stepping between them.
Draco had no intention of antagonising the Minister's niece. "You're right, of course. Come on, Pansy. Morag, I'll talk to you tomorrow."
Draco enjoyed the moment of silence that greeted their departure, then planted a fleeting kiss on top of Pansy's head as they walked.
"Told you it would never work, Parks," he murmured, recalling a conversation they'd had about house unity at the beginning of the year.
Pansy leant her head against his upper arm and made no reply.
"Malfoy," someone said loudly from behind as they were almost at the dungeon stairs.
Draco looked around and saw Potter standing near the marble staircase. The other Gryffindors were headed upstairs, Weasley looking around at Potter every three steps. He looked like a lost puppy. Draco disentangled himself from Pansy and gave Blaise a pointed look. Blaise grinned in a manner far too lascivious for Draco's liking, and urged the girls to go on. Millicent cast a suspicious look around her shoulder but descended the stairs with the other Slytherins. When they were gone, Draco turned to Potter, who was now leaning against the railing, his face grim.
"What do you want, Potter?"
"Can we talk?"
"I just have to ask you a question. You don't have to look so afraid."
"Afraid? In your dreams, Potter. Follow me."
They hurried to the small chamber across from the Great Hall. Draco let Potter go in front of him, then cast a glance around to make sure Mrs. Norris wasn't anywhere in the vicinity. He pulled the door shut, moved a little to the left, and crossed his arms in front of his chest.
Potter shot him a baleful glare. "Are you gay?"
Draco grinned. Leave it to Potter to attack the Gordian knot with a sword. "I don't think it's my sexual orientation we ought to be debating, Potter."
Potter grabbed his robes and shoved him hard against the wall. Draco struggled against his grip, but Potter was stronger than him.
"What're you playing at, Malfoy?" Potter said in a growling voice, his eyes narrowed to slits.
"You're a prissy thing, aren't you, Potter? I bet you wank off to thoughts of Blaise and Smith shagging in the Quidditch changing rooms, don't you? How about Blaise giving it to me in the dungeon? Bet you'd love to see that, wouldn't you?" Draco whispered.
Potter's breathing was laborious. "So it's true then?" he managed.
The two of them were so close that Draco could smell chocolate and Butterbeer on his breath. Draco liked chocolate and Butterbeer, especially in combination. He wrested Potter's hand away from his neck, then snatched Potter's glasses off him and threw them aside. Potter took a startled step back, but Draco grabbed his robes and pulled him closer, pressing himself against Potter.
"How about I show you," he said.
He dragged his tongue across Potter's bottom lip, tasting the chocolate. Potter's sharp intake of breath sent a pleasant shiver through Draco. He put a hand on the back of the other boy's neck and found Potter's tongue with his. Potter made a small sound between a choke and sob, leant forward, and mashed his mouth against Draco's. Draco was pouring all his hatred into this kiss; it was violent and vicious. Potter was raping Draco's mouth with his tongue; Draco reciprocated by biting down on Potter's lower lip. Potter hissed and pressed against him even harder. It filled Draco with a kind of longing he hadn't experienced prior to this moment. If he'd wanted to humiliate Potter before, now he wanted to break him. He wanted to make Potter whisper his name every time he closed his eyes.
His right hand was fisted in Potter's hair, his left was pulling up the other boy's robe. Potter broke away, panting.
Draco ignored him, grabbing onto Potter's underpants with both hands and pulling them down, moving with his hands. His back scraped against the wall as he slid downwards and he hoped his robes wouldn't be ruined by this little adventure. He ran his hands lightly up Potter's thighs. His skin was warm and smooth, and Draco had to fight not to lick where he'd just touched. He continued moving up, pulling Potter's robes up as he went. He smirked against Potter's skin, then dragged his tongue experimentally up from Potter's navel to his chest.
"S-stop," Potter gasped, shivering. Draco straightened up and looked him in the eye.
"Don't tell me this isn't exactly what you wanted, Potter."
"But what about you and Pansy Parkinson?" There was an edge of panic in his voice that made Draco very happy.
Draco really wasn't interested in explaining the intricacies of Slytherin relationships to Potter. He was positively flabbergasted by Potter's ability to think about Draco's alleged loyalties with his pants around his ankles. He grabbed Potter's cock with sure fingers, chuckling at the hiss that followed.
"Pansy and I have a unique relationship, Potter, and it happens to be none of your business," he said, punctuating his words with long, slow strokes.
Potter gasped and gripped his shoulder more tightly, burying his face in the curve of Draco's neck.
"Besides," Draco continued, whispering now, "it's a handjob, not a marriage contract."
He licked Potter's exposed neck and shuddered at the resulting groan.
Potter didn't scream Draco's name when he came, he just choked and bit down too hard on his shoulder. Draco rather liked it. He wiped his hand unceremoniously on Potter's robes. The other boy drew back, shaking slightly as he released him. Draco started to roll his eyes when Potter leaned in to kiss him again.
Twenty minutes later Draco left the chamber, smirking. As he entered the common room, he saw Blaise lounging on the sofa.
"That didn't take long," Blaise remarked with a pointed stare.
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Something on your mind, Blaise?"
"I hope this means you'll stop calling him Potter, you know. Some things just call for first-name basis," Blaise continued, undaunted.
"What are you talking about?" Draco asked, doing his very best to look bewildered.
Blaise frowned slightly. "What's going on with you and Potter, then?"
"Should something be going on with me and Potter?"
Blaise's frown deepened. "Well, he doesn't usually ask you for late-night talks that last half an hour."
"Oh, that. It was nothing really, yet another hare-brained idea of Potter's that he just couldn't wait to share." Draco pursed his lips. "Besides, it's, well, Potter, and I didn't know he was gay..." Draco trailed off without adding "before this year started."
Blaise regarded him with a mixture of suspicion and worry on his face. "I'm surprised, Draco. I mean, you'd have to be blind not to notice his hard-on for you."
"Blind or straight," Draco said with a smirk.
"So you noticed?"
"Of course I noticed, I'm neither blind nor straight. Doesn't mean I'm going to let him shag me."
Blaise got up from the sofa and walked over to him. "But you'll sit in his lap and whisper sweet nothings in his ear. You are such an infernal tease, Draco."
Draco looked up at him, eyebrow raised. "Want to make something of it?"
Blaise reached for his shoulders, but Draco sidestepped him. "Blaise, we're in the common room. And don't pretend like you didn't just let slip some rather interesting gossip."
"What's this about Potter and his hard-on? Did I miss the inter-house memo announcing that he was gay?"
Blaise cocked his head to one side. "Well, he hasn't said anything, but the way he reacts to you? Plus, I've seen him checking out Zacharias."
Draco grinned, deciding not to mention what he'd noticed at the Three Broomsticks last month. "You could use some competition," he said instead.
"Uh huh," Blaise said, stepping closer. "Harry can have Zacharias, you know. For a while."
"Stop it, Blaise," Draco said, then pushed him away and started walking towards the boys' hallway. "It's late. I'm going to sleep."
"Oh, to have your self-control," Blaise whined and followed him.
Draco was glad he was walking in front and could hide his smug smirk from Blaise.
Draco and Potter were back at the "uneasy truce" stage they'd briefly tangled with at the start of the year -- neither boy antagonised the other and there were some whispers. For his part, Draco made a point of spending all of his free time around Pansy. This, more than anything, made Blaise suspect that something was going on, but Draco would just laugh it off and poke fun at Blaise for being a Hufflepuff supporter.
During the DA group meeting on Monday, they were practising the counter-spell for the Heart-Liquefying Curse. Potter was walking around the room and making sure everyone's wand movements were just right. He stopped behind Draco, a little too close for comfort, and Draco lowered his wand arm, turning his head slightly so that Potter's breath was on his cheek.
"You're really wanton, you know that, right?" he muttered. A rather traitorous part of him wanted Potter to stand even closer.
"I want to talk to you, Malfoy," Potter said, lowering his voice as well.
Draco snorted. "Is that what we're going to call it?" He took a slight step backwards so that his back almost touched Potter's chest. He felt Potter stiffen as though affronted, but the quickened breathing was unmistakable.
"In the courtyard, after dinner on Thursday."
Draco thought about Rita Skeeter and shook his head. "Not the courtyard. On the pitch, and make it Wednesday. Pansy's got study group then."
"Fine. Just... leave your thugs behind."
"We'll see about that, Potter."
Someone called Potter's name and he walked off. Draco went back to practicing his counter-spell, smirking.
On Wednesday at dinner, a few straggler owls were delivering the evening edition of the Daily Prophet -- mostly to the teachers. One of the owls flew right over Draco and a piece of parchment fluttered into his lap. Draco cast a quick glance around, but no one seemed to have noticed -- not even Blaise, who was gesturing at Millicent with a chicken leg as he extolled the virtues of Italian food.
Draco unrolled the parchment, balancing it on his knees.
Do not leave the dungeon on March 16th, no matter what happens.
Draco turned the note around, but there was nothing else on it. March 16th was next Sunday. Why shouldn't Draco leave the dungeon? He put down his fork and pushed his plate away. He was really getting quite sick of the anonymous notes and letters signed with initials. Muttering an excuse to the others, he hurried out of the Great Hall and into the dungeon.
Once in his dormitory, Draco put his schoolbag down on the floor and took out his wand.
"Ostende scriptorem," he said, zigzagging his wand above the parchment.
Draco's stomach gave a wobble as he watched her form fade from the air -- bent over an illusory parchment, hair framing her face. She looked just like she did when he would dream about her. Aside from the relief he felt from seeing his mother alive and well, worry gnawed at his insides. What was going on? Why was his mother writing to him to tell him to stay in the dungeons next Sunday? He shook his head. Voices sounded from the common room -- dinner must be over. He had to go and meet Potter.
Draco grabbed his broomstick and walked out of the dormitory, then made his way towards the Quidditch pitch. Winter frost and patches of snow still made up most of the landscape, but the air seemed somehow fresher. Draco had always wondered if changes on the calendar made people perceive the weather differently. It was March, after all, and that meant spring. The school year was drawing to a close, and so few of Draco's plans had come to fruition that year.
It was no different from any other year, really, Draco mused as he cut across the lawn towards the stairs that led to the pitch. The frosted grass crunched and shattered under his feet. Draco stopped for a moment to pull the hood of his cloak over his head. His fingers felt like they were frozen around his broomstick. Why had he suggested the Quidditch pitch, anyway? It was all Potter's fault.
It was growing dark already. As he descended the stone stairs to the Quidditch pitch, Draco squinted, trying to see if Potter was there or not. He couldn't see anyone, though, not even as he finished his descent and paused at the foot of the stairs. Was this Potter's idea of a joke? Draco tugged his hood further down.
"Over here, Malfoy," came a calm voice from behind him.
He turned around and saw Potter leaning against the rock wall beside his Firebolt. Draco walked over and propped his own broomstick against the cliff. He squared his shoulders and faced Potter, arranging his face into a carefully controlled scowl.
"So what's this about?"
Potter's eyes snapped up and glittered. When he spoke, his voice sounded carefully controlled. "You and me. Quidditch. Mind games. Sex."
Draco grinned rather freely, from disbelief more than anything else. "Did you practise that line, Potter?"
"What if I did?" Potter replied, matching Draco's grin with one of his own.
"Give it a few years, Potter, and you might be able to convince a Hufflepuff."
Potter's grin faded. "I don't have a few years, Malfoy."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Come again?"
"You heard me. Here's the thing, Malfoy. Your dad's master wants to kill me, and he'll probably succeed, though I'm damned if I won't try to stop him." Potter pushed his glasses slightly up his nose. "So I figured while I'm on borrowed time, I might as well make the most of it."
Draco blinked at him. "You're propositioning me."
Potter looked shocked. "I didn't even get to that part yet."
"I'm good at sub-text."
It was Potter's turn to blink. "Sub-text?"
"Reading between the lines, you nitwit."
Potter detached himself from the wall and stepped closer. "So is the fact that you haven't tried to hex me yet sub-text for 'yes'?"
"On whether you can live with fucking someone who hates you." The crude word stung Draco's ears but it fit.
Potter flinched. "Do you?"
"Of course I do. Don't you feel the same?"
"Er, hate's a bit strong. I reserve that for, you know, Snape. Voldemort."
Draco blanched at the name, but rolled his eyes. Potter couldn't even admit he hated him. Gryffindors, always associating sex with ridiculous fluffy bunnies and feelings. "Fine, you dislike me, then. Wish I would turn into a ferret permanently and get eaten by giant spiders."
"I want you, Malfoy." Potter stepped even closer to him and pushed Draco's hood off in a too-familiar way that made Draco want to run away. "What's it gonna be?"
"We can work something out," Draco murmured, wondering when he'd run out of breath.
The kiss was no less angry, but it was less violent than last time.
"Where did you get this scar?"
"Compliments of your friendly neighbourhood Hippogriff."
"I like it."
If someone had told Draco in September that he'd be having clandestine meetings with Potter later in the year, Draco would have laughed them out of school. That, more than the sheer "What The Hell" factor of the meetings, made Draco approach them with humour rather than any serious reflection on what he was doing and what would happen if they were to get caught. At any rate, Nott wasn't around to take any snapshots. Nothing changed during lessons and study groups; Draco did not go out of his way to be unpleasant to Potter but he didn't hold back whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Preston Iven had accidentally flung a bit of dragondung at Pansy's Xenodragon plant during a Friday Herbology lesson. The plant swelled up and turned a sickly yellow; its vines became limp and oozed disgusting pus. Months of her group's work were ruined, and Pansy was in a right snit all day. She couldn't berate him herself as he was the older prefect's brother; Pansy was reduced to waiting for Laurel to discipline him. Technically, Pansy was well within her rights to give him lines or detention, but family boundaries just weren't crossed.
Pansy was never good at not getting her way, and broke down as they left the Great Hall after dinner. She started to cry, clutching Draco's sleeve for support.
"The poor thing's moping around in its pot now, just flopping about if someone comes near it!" she sobbed. "How many times did I tell those sods to be careful! It's going to take months for it to get better! It's lucky the little prat came straight to me after it happened, or it could have died!"
"Shhh, Parks, it wasn't your fault, you're not going to lose marks because of Preston," Draco said in a calming tone, putting his arms around her.
Pansy just cried harder. "You don't understand! It's not about the marks! I care about that plant, we've spent so much time tending it!"
Draco hugged her close and she buried her face in his robe, sniffing loudly and hiccoughing. Draco looked around helplessly and saw Weasley, Potter, and Granger staring at them from the doors to the Great Hall.
He kicked himself mentally for letting Pansy have her breakdown before they reached the dungeon, then scowled at the three of them. Granger looked disgusted, Weasley looked sheepish, and Potter was glaring at Pansy.
Draco smirked and brought a hand up to stroke Pansy's hair gently. "Come on, pet, let's get you to the common room," he said loudly enough for the Gryffindors to hear. Pansy gave a feeble sniff and went along, clinging to him. It wasn't that she was emotionally unstable; she just enjoyed the attention, so she never held back when her nerves gave out. It worked out well for both of them.
"So you're not sleeping with her?"
"I've told you, Potter, my relationship with Pansy is none of your concern. After all, I don't ask you about Weasley's sister."
"Ginny? What about her?"
"Did you think I didn't see you with her when we had the Quidditch tryouts?"
"That was nothing, though, we just--"
"Whatever you say, Potty."
"You're really annoying."
"And you talk too much."
Two weeks after Nott's escape, Draco was walking to dinner, flanked by Vincent and Gregory. Blaise had gone off to meet Smith in the library earlier that afternoon and the girls had gone to the greenhouse to look after the sick Xenodragon plant. Draco had left the common room later than usual and he expected that the others would already be in the Great Hall. As Draco walked through the double doors, the first thing he heard was Pansy's voice.
"Draco! They caught Theodore!" she cried, waving at him frantically. Draco quickened his pace and rushed over to the Slytherin table. He snatched the evening edition of the Daily Prophet out of Pansy's hands. Pansy pointed to an article at the bottom of the first page and Draco scanned it quickly.
Nott had somehow managed to make it to Diagon Alley -- probably broke into one of the Hogsmeade homes and used their fireplace. He'd been staying at the Leaky Cauldron under an assumed name until today. A pub patron spotted him at breakfast, recognised his face from the pictures the Prophet had printed last week, and immediately alerted the Hit Wizards. What Nott had done to Potter, Blaise, Smith, and Boot had been a serious crime. He was facing serious assault and attempted murder charges. He'd turned seventeen in October and was thus a fully-grown wizard.
The article said that Nott was half-mad when a Hit Wizard apprehended him. On account of the boy's mental state, he was being kept in a St. Mungo's ward until law enforcement officials could figure out if he was fit to stand trial. Draco hoped he'd be locked up there for life. Without Dementors, Azkaban was too good for Nott; his daddy would probably break him out anyway. As Draco started to hand the paper back to Pansy, he noticed his surname in the centerpiece article.
MISSING AUROR TURNS UP
Readers of the Daily Prophet will recall that Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt has been missing since 3rd September, the day of the mass breakout from Azkaban by a number of convicted Death Eaters. Late last night, Shacklebolt knocked on the door of Victoria Archer's Cardiff home. Archer says he looked very much like a ghost, but was very polite as he introduced himself and requested use of her fireplace to get to the Ministry of Magic.
"I gave him some Floo powder and he left," says Archer, 29. "Minutes later, I heard the sounds of Apparition outside my window and looked out. Four wizards were running off in the direction of the motorway just behind my home. That was the last I saw of them."
Shacklebolt is currently in St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, undergoing treatment for prolonged exposure to the Imperius Curse and various magically induced burns, says Healer Worley, 36. A Ministry spokesperson has informed the Daily Prophet that the Auror had been held in captivity by the Dark Lord's Death Eaters. He had been tortured for information about his supposed involvement in a mythical secret society, the Order of the Phoenix.
Shacklebolt was being taken to a different location by escaped convict and confirmed Death Eater, Lucius Malfoy. A confidential source tells the Daily Prophet that Malfoy had most likely miscalculated his Apparition point and ended up in the path of an oncoming lorry, the impact of which killed him instantly. He must have been the one to have put Shacklebolt under the Imperius Curse, because the Auror, who had Apparated several feet away from the motorway, was freed from the curse immediately.
Lucius Malfoy's body, recovered by the wizards whom Archer had seen running behind her home, was taken to St. Mungo's Hospital. He was pronounced dead on arrival. Attempts to contact Malfoy's wife Narcissa at their Wiltshire manor have so far been fruitless...
Draco's felt the blood drain from his face as he stared at the paragraph about his father's death. His hand was shaking so badly that he wasn't even reading anymore, just staring stupidly at the wretched paper.
Dead on arrival. Dead on arrival. Deadonarrivaldeadonarrivaldeadonarrival.
He looked up at Pansy, who had turned away and was talking to Blaise. Draco tried to swallow the lump in his throat. His chest felt hollow. Horror gnawed at his stomach. He felt his knees buckle and grabbed the table for support, upending Pansy's goblet of juice. She turned around, worry replacing fury on her face as she took one look at Draco.
"Draco? Oh my goodness, Draco, what's wrong?"
Draco saw her lips moving, but her voice was coming from somewhere far away. Surely he would never be able to blink again.
Pansy snatched the Daily Prophet out of his hands and Draco sank down onto the bench. Blaise stood up and started reading the article over Pansy's shoulder. They both finished reading at the same time and looked at Draco with identical expressions of fear and pity.
Bile rose up in Draco's throat and he swallowed. "I'll just -- go -- bed," he croaked, and stood up again.
"I'll come with you," Blaise said and put an arm around his shoulders, steering him gently towards the doors. Draco stumbled along, heedless of the mindless chatter all around him. His mind was blank, except for the memory of an October afternoon in Hogsmeade.
Draco Malfoy's diary, March 9, 1997
1. I know that the game where people whisper into each other's ears is called Chinese Whispers. My renaming it to Gossip is a bit of artistic license, to set apart the "wizard" version of the game from the Muggle version.
2. The Xenodragon plant was first mentioned in chapter 10. Its description and properties are taken from One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi, compiled by ProfStark.