Chapter Rating: R
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Chapter Summary: As Draco struggles to come to terms with the news of his father's death, he temporarily forgets everything else. This turns out to be not so great when an unexpected visitor turns up in the Great Hall one Sunday afternoon. Has the war finally come to Hogwarts? Will it ever? Features Unbreakable potion bottles, exercises in forgetting, oversized green knickers, out-of-place music, and a rare thunderstorm.
Beta: cornmouse, evilsource, goneril, oddnari
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Chapter 16 - Mors Mortis
Draco turned his head to one side and saw Vincenzo, the toy snake from Christmas, who was blinking at him.
Christmas. The letter from his father. Father.
Draco shut his eyes tightly. It was around five in the morning. He had woken up twenty minutes ago and had been sitting on the edge of his bed since then, staring into space. He'd lain awake for hours the night before, gazing at the ceiling, not blinking.
He didn't remember falling asleep. He didn't remember who had pulled shut the hangings around his bed as he pulled them open. He felt unhinged, separated from reality -- on the one hand, there was Hogwarts and business as usual. On the other hand, there was a newspaper page that had destroyed Draco's family. He opened his eyes and sighed. For once he was glad that Vincent snored; the sound helped Draco focus on his surroundings.
Vincenzo blinked again, then slithered off the box on which he had been curled up. Draco's gaze fell onto the box -- the ornate potion bottles, Pansy's Christmas present. Why did everything have to remind him of the last time he'd had news of his father, before...
He picked up the box and hurled it against the wall opposite, expecting to hear glass shattering, but all the box did was smack against the wall with a dull thud. Of course; the bottles inside must be Unbreakable; he shouldn't have expected any less from Pansy.
"Draco?" came a sleepy voice from somewhere behind him, and Draco jumped.
"Go back to sleep, Blaise," he said in a hollow voice.
He heard the sound of bed hangings being shoved aside. Blaise shuffled over to his bed and sat down, curling one leg under himself. He looked a mess, Draco noted with a strange detachment. Normally he would tease Blaise about the state of his hair but that was in a distant past that existed now only in memory. Draco looked down at his hands, which were folded in his lap.
"Have you heard from your mum?" Blaise asked.
Draco shook his head. Blaise didn't know that Mother had run away from the Aurors. Draco's mouth twitched involuntarily as he thought about telling Blaise just what kind of situation he was in currently. He swallowed and looked at Blaise, frowning. "Maybe there's been some mistake," he said dully.
Blaise peered at him. "A mistake?"
"Yeah. Maybe it wasn't dad. Maybe it was someone else."
The corners of Blaise's mouth turned down. "I'm sorry," he said.
"Don't be. I'm serious. Maybe it was just someone else," Draco said, desperation creeping into his voice. There was a stinging behind his eyes and the lump in his throat had returned. "I don't know. Polyjuice Potion. It could have been, couldn't it?"
"Yeah," Blaise said. "Possible."
"Think about it," Draco said, heart leaping in his chest. "Maybe Father wants everyone to think he's" -- he gulped -- "dead."
"Your mum would know, wouldn't she?" Blaise asked, not looking at him.
"Yeah," Draco said. "I'll send her an owl." He'd do no such thing, of course. He couldn't risk having someone intercept the owl. He frowned. Why hadn't Mother contacted him, anyway? The accident had happened on Saturday evening, and it was Monday morning already. Maybe there would be an owl from her at breakfast.
Blaise was frowning. "Do you want to go to the Owlery now?" he asked. "It's still early, no one will see us."
"No," Draco said. "I'll wait and see if there's any post at breakfast."
He got up and walked over to pick up the box he'd thrown earlier. It had a slight dent in the side from the impact, but was otherwise unharmed. Draco put it back down on his bedside table. He'd have a letter from Mother later, he was sure. Father couldn't be dead, he just couldn't be. Their family was on the winning side in the war. Winners didn't die.
The stinging behind Draco's eyes was more insistent now and he cast about for a distraction, anything to stop from seeing the words "dead on arrival" in his mind's eye again. He grabbed Blaise's hair and pulled, leaning down for a kiss. He didn't mind that the other boy tasted sour from sleep; the jolt of pleasure was almost enough to keep his inner turmoil at bay. Blaise broke the kiss and frowned up at him.
"This isn't a good idea," he said in a low voice, his breathing unsteady.
"Why not?" Draco demanded, feeling his face flush.
"Because," Blaise said, looking away, "I don't want to use you."
"Shut up," Draco growled, pushing him down on the bed. "You'll use me when I tell you to."
Twenty minutes of being able to forget was better than none.
Draco kept his head down throughout breakfast to avoid the stares. There had been no letter.
Blaise, Pansy, Vincent, and Gregory surrounded him everywhere he went, glowering at anyone who so much as glanced in Draco's direction. The Slytherin table had been especially quiet that morning. The Daily Prophet had held no new information. Draco sat through his morning classes -- Defence Against the Dark Arts and History of Magic -- in a kind of stupor, trying to focus on everything but the sympathetic looks and whispers.
They had Potions after lunch, and Draco had considered skiving off just to avoid Potter. Any sort of commiseration from Potter would break Draco, he knew it would -- it was a flight of wild speculation, really, but Draco guessed that if anyone knew the truth about Father, it was Potter. He was Dumbledore's favourite boy, after all, and Dumbledore knew everything. If Potter were to look at him with pity, Draco would have to stop clinging to the hope that there'd been some mistake.
To his immense relief, Potter offered no pity. When Draco looked at him as he passed, Potter simply met his gaze and held it for a moment, then looked away.
Snape lingered at Draco's desk at the beginning of the lesson. Draco looked up into his guarded black eyes and wished he hadn't. There was no pity in Snape's face, but neither was there any hope.
Draco was glad to focus on shredding his dittany leaves.
He made his way to the DA group meeting after dinner, vaguely aware that he was the only Slytherin in his group now that Nott was gone. He wondered if he should go back to the dungeon and get Blaise to come with him, but decided against it. He refused to look weak. They were learning how to resist Memory Charms, and Potter paired him with Lisa Turpin, a round-faced Ravenclaw girl. Draco kept his mind on his spellwork and refused to look at anyone. He was relieved when the meeting was over. As he turned to leave the classroom, Potter called his name.
Draco turned around and narrowed his eyes. Granger and Longbottom were standing off to the side, talking. Granger was doing a poor job of pretending she wasn't paying attention to Potter and Draco.
"What do you want, Potter?" he asked in a guarded tone.
Potter gave Granger a sharp look, and she pulled Longbottom out of the classroom, shutting the door behind them. Everyone else had already left.
"I just wanted to say I'm sorry to hear about your dad," Potter said.
Draco closed his eyes for a moment. The sinking feeling in his chest intensified, and he looked up at Potter, then crossed the distance between them, glaring. "Save your pity for someone who needs it, Potter," he muttered.
"It's not pity, Malfoy," Potter said. "I just know exactly what you must--"
"Shut up, Potter. Just shut up. You have no idea what it's like to lose... to lose--"
"Oh, really, Malfoy?" Potter's nostrils were flaring and his voice was rising. "Don't I, now? Maybe next time you decide to bring up my godfather--"
"Is that what this is about? You're still sore I mentioned your dead godfather? For your information, he was family," Draco said with a sneer. "A blood traitor, so all I can say is good riddance to bad rubbish--"
Potter punched him in the mouth. Draco felt salt and copper in his mouth as his lip began to bleed. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and looked up at Potter, whose fists were clenched at his sides, chest heaving, eyes narrowed to slits behind his glasses.
"You know, Potter," Draco murmured, "if only you'd had the good sense to snuff it sixteen years ago, none of this would be happening."
"Yeah," Potter said, his voice raspy. "you're right, Malfoy. But don't tell me you hold me responsible for your dad's choices. I didn't make him join Voldemort. You want someone to blame, blame him. You're-- you're pathetic."
"Pathetic, am I?" Draco snarled, reaching for his wand, but Potter grabbed his wrist. Draco tried to pull out of his grip, but Potter was too strong.
"Look, Malfoy," Potter said, the edge to his voice abating slightly. "I don't-- I don't want to have to fight you. Not you. Not anyone from school." His voice broke, and he looked almost plaintively at Draco.
"Spare me, Potter," Draco said in a carefully controlled tone. He struggled furiously to be unaffected by the lost look in Potter's eyes. How was it that he had to struggle even as his split lip smarted? Potter had done that. This wasn't supposed to be difficult. Potter wasn't supposed to look at him like that, and Draco's heart wasn't supposed to drop into his stomach at the sight. Potter's fingers around his wrist were hot even through the school robes. Draco tugged, and Potter let go, suddenly looking defiant.
"Fine, Malfoy. Do whatever you want. Go join Voldemort for all I care, it's what you always wanted, isn't it?"
With that, Potter stalked out of the classroom, leaving Draco alone with the lump that reappeared in his throat. He was suddenly tired. His lip was bleeding, his wrist still burned from where Potter had clutched it, and his control was almost gone. He wanted to run to his mother and hide his face in the folds of her robes, like he used to when he was little.
Snape came to the common room later that evening, to inform Draco officially of Lucius's death and offer condolences on behalf of the school. Draco listened to his impassive voice, nodded, and retreated to his dormitory immediately after. To hell with "boys don't cry".
Four days after the news of Lucius Malfoy's death, it was Draco's birthday. In the morning, he stood staring down at the small silver key he'd got from his father. It was as though Father must have known somehow that he wouldn't live to see his son's seventeenth birthday, Draco reflected. His shock had been replaced by bitter resentment, mostly directed towards his mother, of all people. Draco couldn't believe she hadn't tried to contact him for so long. The resentment alternated with icy fear -- maybe Mother was dead too. Draco tried not to think about that.
Slytherin lost spectacularly to Hufflepuff on Saturday; the Hufflepuff Seeker caught the Snitch before either team had scored any goals. Draco found that he didn't care. He felt detached from everything around him -- somewhere behind him was Hogwarts with its lessons, gossip, Quidditch, and parties. Ahead of him loomed an uncertain future without his father, a future that did not preclude war. Meanwhile, he and Potter had avoided each other since their row on Monday, and Draco was just fine with that.
The school had been buzzing with anticipation all week -- Seamus Finnigan had liked the idea of the Hufflepuff parties so much during first term, that he'd suggested they hold a St. Patrick's Day party for the whole school. Draco thought it was a ridiculous idea. St. Patrick was well known for driving the druids and witchcraft out of Ireland -- apparently, Finnigan's history knowledge was lacking. Draco told Liam so, but the Head Boy just smiled at him and told him to show up regardless. After lunch on Sunday, Draco and the other Slytherins made their way towards the Great Hall.
The four house tables had been moved, two to a wall, laden with snacks, fruit, and drinks. The teachers were going to supervise from the head table. Draco looked at Snape, whose head was angled slightly towards McGonagall. The deputy Headmistress was saying something Snape clearly didn't approve of. He looked up at Draco as though he felt that he was being watched. Draco almost kicked himself -- of course! Snape would know about Mother. Well, at least he'd get something out of attending this ridiculous event.
He walked towards the head table, barely listening to the chatter of the crowd and Liam's voice as he welcomed everyone to the first ever school-wide St. Patrick's Day party. Draco scoffed; St. Patrick's Day, of all things. It wasn't until tomorrow, anyway -- though he supposed it would have been difficult to organise a party when everyone had lessons to go to. He didn't see why he had to attend, but he would make the best of his time. They couldn't make him participate in whatever inane activities Finnigan and his mates had cooked up.
Snape and McGonagall were still deep in conversation when Draco reached them. He stood off to the side and watched the crowd. A wireless was playing from the opposite corner -- the sound was probably magically amplified, because it was as loud as a live concert. People were dancing in the middle of the Great Hall, passing around large sacks. Suddenly, the music stopped. People holding the sacks pulled various articles of green clothing from the bags and put them on.
Many of the people who lined the walls were laughing -- Finnigan had pulled a pair of exceptionally large green knickers from his bag; after some hesitation he pulled them on his head. This made him look like an overlarge frog and Draco couldn't help but snigger. After watching for a few minutes, he realised what the game entailed -- whoever ended up with the clothing sack when the music stopped had to put on something from the bag.
Draco noted with satisfaction that many Slytherins were not participating, choosing instead to point and laugh from the sidelines. Blaise was, unfortunately, dancing, as were Pansy and Queenie. Draco needed to get back there and prevent them from humiliating themselves any further. Green was a Slytherin colour, mind, but not nearly in such amounts. He glanced over at Snape and noticed that he was no longer talking to McGonagall. Snape, too, was studying the crowd -- with an expression of great distaste on his face.
"Could I have a word, Professor?" he asked, loudly, to make sure he was heard despite the music.
The Potions master looked up at him sharply, then nodded. McGonagall studied Draco, her spectacles low on her nose. He suddenly felt like a butterfly pinned to a board. Snape rose from his seat and Draco followed him to the antechamber just behind the head table. They walked in and Snape closed the door.
"You wanted a word, Draco?" he asked, folding his arms across his chest and squaring his shoulders.
Draco swallowed, sick dread filling his stomach all of a sudden. "Professor, I was wondering if you knew anything about-- about--"
Snape's expression was inscrutable. "Not any more than you do, I'm afraid."
"Is it true? Only I haven't heard from..." Draco trailed off and looked away.
"I know this must be a very difficult time for you, Draco," Snape said. "But you must understand that the circumstances surrounding Lucius's accident are very delicate. I commend you on your restraint in the past week. I can only hope you will continue to be patient."
Draco exhaled. Mother had to be all right; Snape wouldn't have told him to be patient if she weren't. "Thank you, sir," he said.
"Not at all," Snape said. "Now if--"
The noise was so loud that Draco yelped. The ground was trembling beneath his feet -- what was going on? Was it an earthquake? The next moment, Snape was gone with a swish of his robes. Draco followed him out the door. It felt and sounded like an earthquake, all right, at least what Draco imagined an earthquake to be like.
Draco walked over to the middle of the Great Hall and stood next to Morag. The music was still blaring but no one was dancing; people were glancing around fearfully. Many of them were wearing odd green garments over their school robes. Draco heard nervous laughter from a group of fifth-year girls. He couldn't tell which house they were from for all the green they were wearing.
"Professor... Dumbledore," came a raspy, gurgling shout from the doorway and Draco looked away from the girls.
Hagrid was leaning against the doorframe. Both his arms hung limply at his sides; Draco could tell they were broken. Half of Hagrid's face seemed to be missing behind a mass of blood and matted hair. There were dark stains all down his front, blood gushed from his nose.
"Get the children--" Hagrid croaked, blood bubbling from his mouth. He toppled over sideways and lay quite still.
"HAGRID! NO!" came a shout from Draco's left.
He was almost knocked off his feet as Potter sprinted past him, a ridiculous green cloak trailing behind him, a green pirate's hat on his head.
"GET BACK, HARRY!" Dumbledore's voice boomed. Draco whirled around to look at him. The Headmaster had risen, his face grim.
CRASH. The shaking was getting stronger now, Draco thought he saw the very walls wobble.
There was another loud crash and several people screamed. Draco turned back around and felt his face drain of colour.
Most of the double doors were gone, as was a large chunk of the wall above them.
The giant from the Forbidden Forest stood where the doors had been. Potter stood frozen in front of it.
The screaming started after a moment of stunned silence -- people were running towards the back of the Great Hall, tripping over each other and the abandoned sacks of clothes.
"Harry. Grawp kill Harry," the giant boomed over the screams and the music, which was still playing. The giant's voice sounded serene, like it was speaking in his sleep. The creature started to reach out for Potter, who seemed rooted to his spot. The creature's enormous fingers closed around Potter's shoulders and Draco heard a cracking noise.
As Potter's feet were lifted off the ground, Draco remembered.
He whipped out his wand and sent a volley of sparks in the direction of the giant's head. The monster's great eyes widened.
"Shiny," it said, and dropped Potter. He fell to the ground not far from Hagrid and didn't move.
There was a flash like lightning, and the giant froze. Draco turned around. Dumbledore and Snape both had their wands out and were pointing them at the creature. Most of the students were huddled behind the head table. The teachers were on their feet. Everyone's faces wore identical expressions of disbelief and horror. The wireless blared harshly against the sudden silence. Some part of Draco's mind registered that it was his favourite song.
Watch my abating faith
It's a tonality,
Yeah, faith tonality.
Faith. Draco stared at the unmoving giant. He suddenly remembered his mother's note. Draco wasn't supposed to have been here today. He was supposed to have stayed in the dungeons. He'd forgotten all about the letter; his father's death had been the foremost thing on his mind. He became vaguely aware of adults rushing past him. Someone was sobbing.
"Draco!" -- hiccough -- "Blaise! Somebody!" -- gasp -- "Please!"
The shout jolted Draco out of his stupor. "Pansy?" he blurted, looking around wildly.
He saw her on the ground beside -- oh God.
Draco rushed over to Pansy and knelt beside her. Her face was red and shining with tears. She threw her arms around Draco's neck and buried her face in his robes, shaking. Vincent, Gregory, and Millicent stood over them, wearing identical looks of horror. Tracey was crying into Millicent's robes while Sheridan Roper clutched Vincent's shoulder for support.
Queenie was pinned beneath a huge chunk of wall. Her glassy eyes stared up at Draco with her usual unassuming gaze; her mouth was open in a soft "O" of surprise. Draco didn't need to be a Mediwizard to know she was dead. One of her hands stuck out at an odd angle, fingers curled around some nonexistent object. Draco closed his hands around her fingers helplessly. They were still warm and pliant. Draco suddenly felt very small.
Where was Blaise? Draco looked around and saw him limping towards them. He was very pale, wincing with every step.
"Took a chunk out of my leg, I reckon -- QUEENIE!"
Draco looked over to where most of the teachers were huddled around Potter and Hagrid. Bitter resentment flooded through him and he thought his face might break from his deep scowl.
"Yeah, that's right! Save your precious perfect Potter! Who cares if a Slytherin's dead?" he yelled, shaking with rage.
The music finally stopped.
"It is always the innocent who are the first to suffer," a deep melodious voice said from behind him.
Draco turned around and saw the centaur Firenze, who taught Divination to the younger students. The centaur looked sadly down at Queenie's body, then swished his tail and walked out of the Great Hall, his head bowed.
Snape hurried over to them. He was followed closely by McGonagall, whose lips were trembling.
"Clear off, all of you. Back to the dungeon, now," Snape barked.
"Daphne, Daphne!" came an anguished cry from behind them.
Ernie Macmillan was rushing up with several other people. They stopped several feet away from the Slytherins. Macmillan stared at Queenie for a moment. His Adam's apple bobbed up and down furiously and he turned away, covering his eyes with a hand.
"Dead, she's dead, and there was nothing, nothing, nothing--" Pansy sobbed, tugging on Draco's robes.
Draco squeezed her shoulder tightly. "Come on, Parks, shhh, there now, come on, you can't do anything..."
"She didn't do anything! Why?" Pansy wailed, then choked on a sob.
Draco stood up and pulled her up forcibly. She immediately went limp. Draco sighed and lifted her off the floor with some difficulty. She put her arms around his neck and continued sobbing. Draco looked around at the other Slytherins and jerked his head towards the door.
"You heard Professor Snape. Let's go," he said, and set off.
Potter and Hagrid were no longer there. The giant was still towering where it had arrived, unmoving, and Draco had to duck around it to get through the doors. He was frozen with fear and didn't think he breathed until he was beyond the doors.
The entrance hall was in ruins. There were chunks of wall and huge wooden splinters everywhere. A bitter wind from outside stirred up clouds of dust. Draco told Vincent and Gregory to clear a path towards the dungeon with their wands. There was already a path leading to the Hufflepuff common room and another towards the marble staircase, but it looked like the sixth-years were the first Slytherins to get out of the Great Hall.
"D-Draco," Blaise whispered suddenly, tugging on the back of his robe.
Draco turned his head to look, blowing Pansy's hair away from his face.
"Look," Blaise whispered, pointing to the floor near where the doors used to be.
Draco squinted and saw a ground beetle crawling towards them, two of its legs dragging behind it. Rita Skeeter.
"Get her," he told Blaise.
Blaise wrinkled his nose. "Ew."
"She was a Slytherin once," Draco muttered, glancing at the others. Vincent and Gregory were almost done clearing the path. Sheridan, Tracey, and Millicent were huddled together, talking in hushed voices.
Blaise sighed and crouched with some difficulty, holding his hand out to the beetle. Its antennae wriggled a bit as it hesitated. It finally crawled into Blaise's outstretched palm. Blaise straightened up just as Vincent called out that they were done. They descended the stairs in silence.
Once in the common room, Draco deposited Pansy on the sofa. His arms were sore from carrying her, and he stretched them out gingerly. Pansy sat on the sofa like a rag doll, her head bowed, hiccoughing occasionally. Tracey sat down beside her and they embraced, crying with renewed energy. Millicent ordered Vincent and Gregory to bring tea things from the kitchen.
"Make sure you bring enough for everybody, the others'll start arriving soon," she called after them as they filed out.
Draco said he had to go change his robes and gave Blaise a meaningful glance. They went into their dormitory, where Blaise deposited Rita on Vincent's bed. She immediately transformed. She looked pale and her hair was matted with blood in spots.
"Both -- ankles," she croaked. "Need -- healing."
Draco and Blaise exchanged glances.
"We can make a Healing Potion," Blaise said. He gestured to his injured leg with a rueful grin. "I could use some, too, and I hate having to spend time in the hospital wing."
"I'm guessing you don't want to be taken to the hospital wing?" Draco asked, turning to Rita.
She shook her head. "A potion's fine." She looked up at them. "Thank you."
Draco's voice was grim. "We already lost one Slytherin today," he said. "Never again."
Rita's eyes widened. "Someone died?"
"A girl in our year," Blaise said. His voice broke and he turned away. He crouched down on the floor beside his bed, wincing, and popped his trunk open, then started to get his Potions kit out. "Oh, bollocks. I haven't got any barnacle seeds, those were from Snape's private store."
"I nicked some," Draco said. "Figured they'd come in handy. I hope you've got dragon's blood, because I haven't."
"That I have," Blaise said.
Draco walked to his bed and opened his own trunk. Rita conjured up a work table, as neither of the boys knew how to do that. They decided that Blaise would make the potion while Draco went out to be with the others; Draco was the prefect and he'd be expected to be on hand. Along with the barnacle seeds, Draco pulled out a large slab of Honeydukes' chocolate from his trunk and gave it to Blaise and Rita, to counter the digestion-enhancing effects of the seeds.
He locked the dormitory door and walked out into the common room. Vincent and Gregory were back; they made a group of house-elves bring in several tea trays. Other Slytherins were arriving in small groups. Many of the younger students were crying. There would be many nightmare-induced screams in the weeks to come. After having some tea, Pansy was able to pull herself together enough to act the prefect for the younger students. Liam and Laurel took a head count. The only people missing were Blaise and Queenie. Draco made up a story about a giant being Blaise's Boggart.
"He just needs some time alone, he'll be out as soon as he's pulled himself together," he told Liam, who nodded. Boggarts were understandable, after all.
"Liam, do you think this has something to do with Theodore Nott?" Malcolm Baddock asked.
Liam shook his head. "Nott is in St. Mungo's. No, the giant had to have come from the Dark Lord."
Draco felt his face burn and looked down at his feet. He'd avoided thinking about it, but now there was no way out. He knew exactly where the giant had come from. It was partially his fault that Queenie was dead. He'd been the one to tell Mother about the giant in the forest. Clearly, the information had made it to the Dark Lord. Draco knew now where the dreamy quality of the giant's voice had come from: the Imperius Curse. Only someone as powerful as the Dark Lord could have made the curse work on a giant.
"But why is the Dark Lord attacking Hogwarts?" Preston Iven asked, his voice fearful.
Laurel patted her brother's hair. "It's Harry Potter," she said with a sour expression. "I heard the giant say it wanted to kill Harry. The Dark Lord wants him dead for some reason."
"Probably revenge," Brice Owen said, setting his teacup down on the table.
"Speaking of which, Draco, whatever possessed you to save Harry Potter?" Liam asked in a clipped tone.
Draco looked up, thinking fast. What was he supposed to say? Why, Liam, to repay a wizard's debt, of course? He frowned. "I simply thought that a Slytherin saving Dumbledore's favourite boy would help improve our image in front of the whole school. Don't you think so?"
Liam looked taken aback for a moment, then smirked. "I think I have a reasonable guess who's going to be Head Boy next year. Good job, Draco."
Draco exhaled. Pansy was looking at him with narrowed eyes. She cocked an eyebrow, mouthing a "what?" at him.
"I'll tell you later," Draco muttered so only she could hear. There was no way he was telling her or anyone about the wizard's debt, of course. He'd rather pretend to be lovesick over Potter than admit his part in Queenie's death.
"Please, Draco, how did you know the spell to stop the giant?" Melanie Atwood, a third-year, asked.
"I just distracted it," Draco replied. "I figured they're all dumb enough to be easily distracted by something sparkly."
"Wow," the girl said, tugging on one of her pigtails. "That's quick thinking."
"Thanks," Draco said. He wanted to smile at her but found that he couldn't.
The Slytherins continued discussing what had happened. The subject of Queenie's death did not come up. Blaise came out to the common room twenty minutes later, no longer limping. He sat down beside Draco and elbowed him in the ribs discreetly, nodding towards the exit. Draco announced that he was going to go ask Professor Snape about dinner. The two boys were astonished to find the Entrance Hall back to normal -- there was no sign of the destruction the giant had wreaked. Even the doors to the Great Hall were back in place.
Blaise and Draco hurried out into the courtyard. Blaise took beetle-Rita out of his pocket and let her go. She began to crawl very quickly in the general direction of Hogsmeade. The two boys stood in the windy courtyard for some time. Draco was worn out physically and emotionally -- it seemed like everything kept happening to him. Father's death, now Queenie, the giant, Potter... Draco shook his head.
He could see thick, swirling storm clouds on the horizon. Occasionally, a lightning bolt would split the sky in two. Every distant thunderclap reminded Draco of the giant. Draco shivered with the wind and tugged on Blaise's sleeve.
"Let's go. We still need to see Snape."
They reached Snape's office and Draco knocked -- three sharp, one soft. There was no reply. Draco looked at Blaise, who raised an eyebrow.
"Hospital wing," they said together and headed back towards the entrance hall.
Madam Pomfrey looked cross when they entered the hospital wing. "Harry is fine, boys, he needs rest. He's had too many visitors already. Run along now."
"We're not here for Potter," Draco said, ignoring the pang he felt at hearing that Potter was all right. "We're looking for Professor Snape."
Pomfrey's eyes darkened. "There is an emergency meeting being held in the staff lounge, and you'd better not disturb them."
"Well, we've been sent by the Head Boy to ask about dinner," Draco said.
"Dinner will be held as usual; your head of house will come to talk to you before. Oh, dear, you are Slytherins, aren't you?"
"Right," Blaise said, stealing a glance at the beds. Three of them had curtains drawn around them. "She's..."
Tears filled the matron's eyes. "I'm sorry, dears. There was nothing I could do for her or Hagrid."
Queenie's parents had come for her body during lunch on Monday. The sixth-year Slytherins left the Great Hall and stood in a huddle outside the castle's front door, watching as they took Queenie away. The stretcher was covered with a white sheet. Draco stared after them long after they were gone. The other Slytherins went back inside, but Draco told them he'd catch up with them later. He saw Ernie Macmillan standing off to the side with a grim expression on his face. Draco nodded to him and Macmillan returned the gesture.
"He will pay," Macmillan said.
Draco almost laughed. The poor sod thought he could take on the Dark Lord? "Someone will pay, that's for sure," he said.
"By the way," Macmillan said in a confidential tone, "you're supposed to head the DA meeting tonight."
"I'm supposed to-- why?"
"Harry, er," -- Macmillan looked uncomfortable for a moment -- "he hasn't taken Hagrid's death well."
Draco raised an eyebrow. Potter hadn't been in Potions, but Draco had thought he was still in the hospital wing. "He's not in the hospital wing?"
Macmillan shook his head. "He's put an Imperturbable Charm around his bed and refuses to talk to anyone."
Draco sneered half-heartedly. Trust Potter to milk the occasion for all it was worth. "All right," he said, "thanks for the warning."
With that, he went back inside. He wondered if it was wrong that he felt overwhelming guilt for Queenie's death, but nothing whatsoever for Hagrid's.
No one knew what had happened to the giant. Some said it was placed into a special warded area in the Forbidden Forest. Others said that trained giant handlers had taken it back to the mountains from whence it came. Draco didn't think Dumbledore would allow the giant back among its mates so it could cause more damage. Snape had told the Slytherins last night that the creature was Hagrid's half-brother. The great oaf had somehow found him and brought him home.
Every time he thought about the creature, there was an uncomfortable gnawing feeling in his chest. If only he hadn't written to Mother about it. He felt sick when he thought that his mother had given the information to the Dark Lord. He was beginning to seriously doubt whether the Dark Lord was as fearsome as people claimed he was.
To set a giant on a school? During a party, no less? It was sick, sure, and twisted, certainly, but not particularly fear-inducing. Draco felt nauseated when he thought about it. The Dark Lord must have known about the St. Patrick's Day party somehow; the plan for it was hardly secret. Draco couldn't believe that his mother went along with it, couldn't believe she would endanger children. Sure, she'd written to him, but what about Queenie? The more he thought about it, the sicker it made him feel.
The DA meeting was subdued. Granger looked sullen; Macmillan's eyes were red, and Longbottom kept staring at Draco with huge, wonder-filled eyes. It irritated Draco to no end. Both Granger and Longbottom stayed behind after the meeting wrapped up.
"That was a decent thing you did for Harry, Malfoy," Granger said. "Thank you."
"Yeah, thanks, Malfoy," Longbottom chimed in. "You were very brave," he added.
Draco sneered. "Just doing my bit of hero-worship. Don't worry, I'm not going to try to be his friend."
"Why did you do it, though?" Granger asked.
Draco raised an eyebrow. "You don't know?"
"He won't talk to anyone," Longbottom said with a frown.
"Well, I suggest you ask him when he's feeling social again. Excuse me."
Draco left the classroom, shaking his head. He would never understand Gryffindors. Potter hadn't bragged about having saved Draco in the Forbidden Forest? Thunder rang outside and Draco flinched. For a split second, he thought the giant had come back, but then he heard the telltale patter of rain against the window of the classroom he was passing. The thunderstorm they'd seen yesterday had made it over to Hogwarts after all.
Draco loved thunderstorms, always had since he was small. He used to love sitting on his swing in the courtyard at the Manor, watching for lightning as the rain soaked him. He still loved thunder, especially the kind that reverberated in his chest. Yes. It had been too long since Draco had allowed himself to enjoy a thunderstorm. They were much more rare in Scotland than in England, and that decided it. When he reached the Slytherin dungeon, he grabbed his cloak and umbrella and headed outside.
The rain wasn't torrential yet and the umbrella helped keep most of it away -- as much as Draco liked summer rain, he wasn't about to get drenched in this weather. The bitter air stung his cheeks and he angled the umbrella to push against the wind. He pulled his hood up and set off towards the Quidditch pitch. He'd sit in the stands and watch the storm from there.
Draco made his way across the lawn, recalling a similar walk he'd taken just under two weeks ago. The grass had been frosted then; now it was squishing under his feet, as though reminding him that things had changed forever since his last walk. A loud howl split the air and Draco jumped, turning around in the direction of the sound. That beastly creature Fang was sitting outside Hagrid's hut, wailing. Someone was leaning against the door. It was Potter. Draco's heart leapt into his throat irksomely. Since when was he more interested in Potter than in a good thunderstorm?
However, he'd already changed direction and was walking towards the hut, cursing himself mentally. Potter's head was thrown back against the door, his eyes closed. He gave the impression of a music aficionado listening to a particularly well-delivered overture. Too bad the overture in question was a howling dog.
"Oh, shut up," Draco snapped at Fang, who paid him no heed.
Potter's eyes flew open. "What the hell do you want, Malfoy?"
"I want you to take this beastly creature away so I can watch my thunderstorm in peace, that's what," Draco said in a crotchety tone.
Unexpectedly, Potter laughed. "Always out for yourself, huh, Malfoy?" he said with a sneer that rivaled Millicent's. "Just can't leave things alone, can you? Who the hell asked you to interfere yesterday, huh?"
Draco blinked at him. "If you thought I was going to be happy with owing you my life, you were wrong," he said.
"You're such an idiot, Malfoy. No, really, you're impossible. I wasn't going to hold it over your head. I especially wouldn't have held it over your head if I was dead."
"That's precisely it, Potter. I was facing the prospect of living a life that belonged to you by all accounts, and that just was not on. Your friend, the giant, decided to gift me with a chance to repay my debt, and now we're square. If that creature were to show up again right now, I wouldn't move a muscle, except to run away. Just making sure we're on the same page, you understand. I didn't do it for you, I did it for me. So I don't give a damn if you approve or not."
Potter scowled. "Are you finished?"
"Fine, then, sod off."
Draco's eyebrows shot up. "I'll have less of the cheek, Potter. I'm still a school prefect."
"And I still fucked you, school prefect," Potter said, leering. "So why don't you sod off anyway?"
Draco scowled. "So self-righteous, aren't you, Potter? Think the world revolves around you, don't you? Did you know that your dead mate's half-brother killed Queenie?"
"Who the hell is Queenie?"
Potter's smirk disappeared. "Daphne died? How?"
"Crushed by a chunk of wall that the giant tore out of the Great Hall entrance. They took her away this afternoon, but I see you've been too busy feeling sorry for yourself to notice anyone else."
"I'm sorry," Potter said. "I didn't know."
"No surprises there."
"You know what, Malfoy? I--"
"No, you know what, Potter? Your mate deserved what he got. He brought that creature to our forest. Because of him, an innocent girl is dead. I'm guessing Hagrid must have been a Gryffindor before he got expelled, because only a Gryffindor could be that blinkered by emotion."
With a snarl, Potter lunged at Draco. They tumbled to the ground. Draco's grip slackened in surprise and the wind tore the umbrella out of his hand. The rain lashed at his face. Potter straddled him and drew back his fist. Draco shut his eyes with a preemptive wince. He couldn't fight like the Muggles did, and his wand was useless to him in his pocket. All he could hope for was that Potter wouldn't kill him. Fang stopped howling.
The punch never came, though. Instead, Draco felt Potter's hot mouth on his neck, licking the raindrops off, making him shiver. Potter rocked against him as he lapped at his neck. Draco felt himself grow hard. He opened his eyes at the same time as Potter lifted his head to look at Draco. His glasses were misted over and his hair was plastered to his forehead. Draco reached up and took the glasses off.
Lightning danced across the sky, illuminating Potter's face with an eerie glow. Draco could see that foul scar just under Potter's fringe, in stark contrast with his pale skin. Thunder rang out and Fang began to howl again. The rain around them was coming down in earnest now; Draco glanced at the castle but he couldn't see it behind the wall of water.
"Why is it," Potter said with a detached air, "that I let you get to me, Malfoy?"
Draco coughed. "Dunno. Maybe because I'm right and you don't want to admit it."
Potter leaned down above him, using his elbows for leverage. "You're right? About what?"
"Everything, really. I'm quite good at being right. Can we fuck now?"
Potter's breath hitched, but he shook his head. "No. You're really not impressed by the Boy Who Lived thing, are you, Malfoy?"
"Not in the least," Draco confirmed.
"And you're not just jealous."
"Jealous of what, Potter? Look, I'm all wet, and it's cold. Either beat me to a pulp or let's shag, either way. I'm not interested in your existential angst."
Potter snorted. "You remind me of one of your ancestors, you know that?"
"I didn't know you went to the trouble of researching my ancestors. How romantic. Excuse me while I swoon."
Draco squirmed. "Do you think we could move this someplace drier?"
Potter lowered his mouth to Draco's. "No way," he whispered. "I like you wet."
A raindrop glistened on his lower lip and Draco licked it.
Potter's breath was warm against his skin. "Malfoy," he whispered.
Draco shivered. There was something positively dirty about the way Potter said his surname.
"I want you. Now," Potter mumbled and sucked on Draco's earlobe.
"Keep talking, Potter," Draco gasped, arching his back, "and I might consider it."
In the end, they settled on locking Fang back up, going back to the castle and finding a broom cupboard. It was much too cold outside.
Draco Malfoy's diary, March 17th
That was nothing. Really, it was nothing, it didn't mean a thing. It's just sex. Potter is not clever or witty and I am not interested in talking to him. I hate Potter. He's a natural at blow jobs but I hate him. Hate hate hate. Hate.
In other news, I think the world is literally about to spin off its axis. My father is dead and I have no idea what to do. I find myself missing him, even though I didn't really miss him that much when he was on the run. I suppose there is truth to the statement that you never know what you've got until it's gone. Still no word from Mother. I guess I should look for the positive in this; maybe she simply thinks I'm really well-adjusted.
Queenie is dead. I'm suddenly remembering all these little moments from our childhood friendship, and then all I see is her face as she lay under that rock. Poor Pansy, though. She's absolutely guilt-ridden about the way she had treated Queenie for the better part of our six years here. I'm not too worried about her, though, Pansy is much better at coping with tragedy than I am. Of course I'll never actually tell her this, but she was really very stoic when her brother died in that explosion three years ago.
There's just this empty feeling deep in my gut. Nothing really feels good, except, perhaps, the completely meaningless sex with Potter, but that's woefully unfulfilling spiritually. Not that I've spent any time thinking about Potter in the context of spiritual fulfillment or anything. One thing that keeps bothering me -- I thought Snape was a Death Eater. Father had always hinted at it and I've heard rumours about people who happened to see his Dark Mark. However, Snape looked just as lost and shocked as the rest of them yesterday. Why didn't the Dark Lord tell him there was going to be a giant coming to Hogwarts and won't Snape please stay out of harm's way? I thought the Dark Lord valued his Death Eaters.
1. Mors mortis -- Latin, death.
2. The UK experiences between 200 and 300 earthquakes every year, of which only one in ten are felt.
3. Yes, the Guide to Hagrid-speak I did was precipitated by my need to write the "Get the children" line by Hagrid. I'd promised pen_and_umbra last month that I would put together a guide and I couldn't write that line without having the guide. XP
4. Lyrics are from "Faith Tonality" by The Cunning Minds. I made up the band name, the song title, and the lyrics. :P
5. I'd mentioned in Chapter 1 that barnacle seeds emit fumes that make digestion speed up, which means it can be hazardous to work with them on an empty stomach.