Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Summary: Wherein Draco gives a little and takes a little, Blaise throws a wrench in the works, there is a dream and some coltsfoot, books turn out to be mostly useless, and Harry doesn't find what he's looking for until the crazy ex-Auror shouts.
Note: The chapter title is from Sword Blades and Poppy Seed by Amy Lowell.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Chapter 3 - Either Dreams or Swords
It was surprising how little there was to do at Hogwarts with no classes to attend.
The Welcoming Feast had been on Tuesday. By Friday morning, everyone had already caught up on over-the-summer gossip, Pansy had had two tantrums, Zabini's new kitten had repeatedly mutilated every tapestry inside the common room, and Draco no longer needed to cast Imperturbable Charms on his possessions.
He achieved this quite simply by pretending like the trip to Hogwarts and the heated exchange during the Welcoming Feast had never happened. Draco had no intention of forgetting any of it, but he could afford to appear magnanimous. Besides, he needed to have people around him if he was going to avoid Potter. If he was perfectly honest with himself, he just didn't like the idea of turning into a loner like Nott. However, such honesty was for Hufflepuffs.
Draco intentionally dodged Pansy's broad hints about their past relationship. Instead, he focused all his attention on Daphne. This was, of course, the root cause of Pansy's tantrums, though seemingly they had to do with spilled ink and a torn set of dress robes. Draco wasn't unpleasant to her, just carefully polite. They had broken up early during their sixth year's second term, when Pansy had had enough of Draco's unexplained absences. At any rate, he had to punish someone for the unconscionable treatment he'd received prior to the Order of Merlin ceremony. Nott and Zabini were too valuable right now, too important in keeping Potter at arm's length. So Pansy had to take the fall. Not that Draco minded watching her squirm.
On Thursday after dinner, Draco noticed Potter staring at him again. Two years ago, that sort of behaviour would've earned Potter a sneer. This time, however, Draco had no idea what to do. He'd never had a friend in another house before--
Potter was not Draco's friend. An acquaintance he no longer hated, perhaps, but not a friend. Friends spent time together and Draco had no intention of spending any time with Potter if he could help it.
He gave Potter a casual wave and turned away, but out of the corner of his eye he saw that Potter had risen and was very obviously making his way across the Great Hall towards the Slytherin table.
"Urquhart and Harper are supposed to duel behind the greenhouses right now," Zabini was saying to Nott.
Nott shrugged. "So what?"
Draco brightened. "Are you going?" he asked, willing Zabini to say yes.
Zabini gave Draco a bemused look. "Going to pull the prefect card, are you?"
Scoffing, Draco got up from the bench and stole a glance at Potter, who seemed to have got held up by a gaggle of fifth-year Ravenclaws. Good. "Of course not. It's not like it's a school year. It's been a while since I've watched a duel."
"You haven't been to one since you became a prefect," said Pansy. "You shouldn't start, if you're caught--"
"Please, Pansy," Draco said. "Hasn't your mother taught you anything? You don't interrupt men when they're speaking to each other."
Pansy crossed her arms and glared at him. "You don't mean that."
"So, are you going?" Draco asked again, ignoring her. Zabini nodded and pretended not to notice Pansy's death stare, which was now aimed at both of them.
"Good," said Draco. "Then you won't mind if I join you."
"You shouldn't, Draco--" Pansy called again, but Draco was already walking away. He needed to get out of there before Potter escaped from Ravenclaw captivity.
"Are you seriously done with Pansy?" Zabini asked when they got out into the courtyard. It was still light outside, but shadows were gathering quickly. A sweet, summery scent suffused the air, and it suddenly hit Draco -- this was his last autumn at Hogwarts. So many memories, most of them no longer important. Would that it were possible to choose what you remembered and what you did not.
He forced himself to focus on the present. "I reckon, yeah," he said to Zabini. "She didn't exactly stand by me after the... misunderstanding. That's not the sort of woman I need."
Zabini's white teeth flashed briefly. "You won't mind if I have a go, then?"
Draco gave him a sidelong glance. Something very deep within him gave a jealous twinge and he realised with horror that it wasn't because of Pansy. Imagining Zabini with Pansy made Draco want to take Pansy's place. Un-fucking-acceptable.
"Go ahead," he said quickly. "She doesn't know how to mind her teeth, though."
Zabini sniggered. "That's easily remedied. Besides, I'm not going to ask for her hand in marriage. Just have a bit of fun."
"Whatever you do, don't let her find that out," said Draco, smirking.
They turned the corner of greenhouse three and saw a group of younger Slytherin boys standing in a circle underneath a protruding section of roof.
"Shite," muttered one of the boys and quickly stuck his hands in his pockets.
"Don't worry, boys," Draco said. "We're not here to break it up."
Urquhart, a thickset sixth-year with watery blue eyes, gave him a suspicious look. "Break what up?"
"Weren't you and Harper supposed to duel?" asked Zabini, inching forwards.
"No," said the wiry, dark-haired Harper. He narrowed his eyes at Draco. "We use 'duelling' to mean something else."
"Because we don't want prefects showing up," piped up Vaisey, stepping out from behind a fifth-year Draco didn't recognise.
"I don't count as a prefect," Draco said, intrigued. "School hasn't really started yet, has it?"
Urquhart -- whom Draco still resented for having got the Quidditch captain's badge -- held up a dark wooden pipe. It was just beginning to spew tart, earthy smoke.
Draco rolled his eyes. "You're getting off your heads on coltsfoot? And calling it duelling to avoid prefects?"
"You do ignore duelling," said Harper sullenly.
"Filch doesn't. Neither do prefects from the other houses," Zabini said. "They don't make Slytherins like they used to, do they, Malfoy?"
Draco laughed. "No, I suppose not. Carry on, then," he said to the younger boys. "If you're not back in the dungeons on time, it's your problem."
He started to turn away, but Urquhart called his name. Draco turned back to him and raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"You can stay if you want," Urquhart said. "We didn't mean to be rude."
What a difference an Order of Merlin made. People were willing to share their marsh-grown coltsfoot with you. However, Draco had sworn off all mind-altering substances since that night. He shook his head. "No, thanks. But do invent a better code word."
"Geniuses," muttered Zabini as they started to walk back to the castle. "Why didn't you want to stay?"
Draco chewed on his bottom lip. "D'you remember when we tried coltsfoot in fourth year?"
They'd sneaked out behind the selfsame greenhouses during the Yule Ball, with Crabbe and Goyle keeping watch... It felt like a million years ago.
"Yeah, I remember," said Zabini and kicked a rock out of his path. "You left Pansy in the Great Hall and went off in search of the Great Icicle with Crabbe and Goyle."
"That's why I didn't want to stay."
They'd reached the courtyard in the meantime. Zabini pulled open the side door and flashed a guarded smile. "Afraid you'll go looking for the Great Icicle again?"
"More like the Great Dick," muttered Draco under his breath as he swept past Zabini.
"Didn't hear you," Zabini's voice echoed in the empty corridor.
Draco coughed. "I said 'yeah, or the Great Stick'. Considering it's not icicle season yet."
"It's stick season, then," said Zabini. "Good to know."
The slightly flirtatious tone of Zabini's voice was definitely a figment of Draco's imagination. It had to be.
Draco dreamt that he was behind greenhouse three, leaning back against the warm wall. The sharp smell of burning coltsfoot filled his nostrils. It was night time but early still; the silver moon hung low beyond the lake, the occasional cloud flitting across its surface.
A tall, cloaked figure stepped out of the shadows before Draco.
"Father?" called Draco. His voice was tinny, like a child's.
The man lowered his hood, but he was not Draco's father. It was the Dark Lord. His red eyes gleamed with malice.
"We meet again," he whispered, and Draco felt a chill seize him from within. He couldn't move or speak. A darker cloud obscured the moon and Draco was suddenly blind to everything but the Dark Lord's eyes.
"You remember that time you slept in the guest bedroom?" asked the Dark Lord in Potter's voice.
Draco barely found the strength to shake his head.
"Liar," whispered Potter -- for it was Potter now, not the Dark Lord anymore. His eyes glowed with an unnatural green light and a cruel smirk played across his lips.
Draco's fear spiked sharp and bright; he could move again. He ran, blindly, stumbling over a protruding tree root but not falling. Hogwarts stood before him, every window yellow-lit and welcoming.
"You can't run from this, Malfoy!" called Potter, his voice colder than the other side of the moon.
The light in the windows of Hogwarts turned to green and Draco sank to his knees in the damp grass, covering his ears with trembling hands.
"I don't want to remember," he whispered as the darkness advanced. "Please, make it stop."
The dream faded away and Draco opened his eyes, still shaking. The sheets beneath him were soaked with sweat and his legs had become tangled in the blanket. He lay motionlessly on his back and waited for his morning wood to subside before he sat up and pulled aside the curtains. The clock on his bedside cabinet showed nearly seven in the morning; breakfast would start in an hour.
The dream's effects were fading -- Draco couldn't quite recall the details any more, and only a vague sense of unease lingered as he showered and got dressed. Zabini stumbled out of bed just as Draco was tying his shoelaces.
"You're up early."
Draco shrugged without looking at him. "Made it an early night last night, didn't I?"
Zabini shuffled off to the bathroom without responding. He was never pleasant before his morning coffee. Neither was anyone else who called the dungeons home, come to think of it.
"I hate mornings," growled Nott from his bed.
Case in point, thought Draco, smirking. He, for one, was glad to be awake. If his dreams were going to be as bizarre as last night's... He didn't even remember what exactly had happened in it, just that he'd woken up paralysed by fear--
That was it!
If Draco could find a way to turn his unwanted memory into a fading dream, somehow... If he could do that, he could be rid of that night in June forever. A Pensieve was only good for forgetting details; when Draco had been at the Manor, he'd still remembered what had happened between him and Potter, just not in stark particulars. But if he could trick his mind into thinking that the memory had been a dream...
Draco never remembered his dreams.
Buoyed by his new idea, Draco finished breakfast early and practically raced up to the library, praying that it would be open despite the current situation at Hogwarts.
It was open. Pince sat behind her desk, stacking files from her left to her right, disapproval etched across her features. She fixed Draco with a glare. "What are you doing here?" The old bat probably didn't want anyone near her books.
"Please, Madam Pince, I need to do some research," Draco said in his smarmiest voice.
"For what? Classes haven't started yet."
Draco lowered his gaze. "I'd like to do some extra research on Memory Charms to prepare for the first Charms unit..."
Pince pressed her lips together for a moment. "Isn't your textbook enough?"
"I've already read it," Draco said. That much was true. He'd read all of his textbooks cover to cover whilst at the Manor. It had been an excuse to keep himself locked up in his father's study -- to make sure his mother didn't go anywhere near the Pensieve. "I've been thinking about joining the Obliviators after Hogwarts--"
"You can't take any books out of the library until classes start," Pince snapped.
"That's okay," said Draco quickly. God, the woman was vile. "I can just read here." It wasn't as though he was going to let any of his classmates find out he was interested in memory modification, anyway.
Pince frowned and gestured to her left. "Second aisle, two middle shelves."
"Thank you," Draco said, smiling as pleasantly as he could. "Oh, also, Madam Pince?"
"Would the books about Pensieves also be--?"
"What have Pensieves got to do with Charms?"
"Nothing, just a little extra reading for the future--"
"Same place; it's the Memory Section. And I want you over there." She pointed a gnarled finger at a study table directly across from her desk.
"Absolutely," Draco assured her, and hurried to the Memory Section. He walked slowly past the shelves, scanning the covers with deliberation, picking up anything that might hold information he needed.
How Brutus Bibble Got His Memory Back... Obliviate! A Study in Values... Why Muggle Minds Are Different... Memory and Morality... Deconstructing the Pensieve... The Memorable Book of Memories... Remember, Remember: Memory Improvement Techniques for the Forgetful... When Good Memory Charms Go Bad... Memory Modification for Pleasure and Profit... A Beginner's Guide to Pensieves...
Draco was carrying eight books now and his arms were beginning to feel the strain. Well, there was enough material to keep him busy for a while; he would just need to come back if he found nothing useful. He turned around, intending to head back to the study tables, when his gaze fell upon a book in the neighbouring section.
Prohibited Passion: Sexual Deviance Explained
Draco blinked and glanced at the surrounding books. Homoeroticism in Wizarding Literature... Queer Today, Disowned Tomorrow... What To Do If Your Only Child Is Gay...
He peeked over his shoulder at Pince. She didn't seem to be paying him any mind. Slowly, Draco plucked Prohibited Passion from the shelf and placed it on top of his pile of books so that the spine faced towards him. He felt his face burning at the thought of being discovered with a book like that... Well, he wasn't going to take it out of the library, was he? And he would put it right back after he was done, wouldn't he? No harm, no foul.
Draco carried the books to the study table that Pince had ordered him to use and sat down. He immediately pulled Prohibited Passion into his lap, just to make sure it was hidden if anyone else decided to show up at the library. Though with Granger dead, that wasn't much of a possibility.
Thinking of Granger pushed Draco's thoughts to the subject of Potter, and the book balanced on his knees began to feel twice as heavy. He quickly opened A Beginner's Guide to Pensieves to a random page in the middle and left it like that. Then he reached down and opened Prohibited Passion to the first page. He would just read a bit to see what it was about, then begin his real research.
What wizard doesn't live in terror of being ostracised? Our community is small and our numbers are dwindling every year; being a sexual deviant in today's world--
Draco frowned. Dwindling numbers? He checked the back cover of the book: published in 1643, reprinted in modern English three hundred years later. Fucking useless. He flipped a few pages forwards.
There are no magical or mundane means of curing sexual deviance. Heinrich Warsteiner writes, "it is a disease of the soul, and the only way to destroy it is to destroy the soul." The humble author behind this pseudonym -- who was born with the unfortunate condition and has successfully avoided notice -- begs to differ.
Draco's heart began to beat a little faster. Maybe this book wasn't totally useless.
Sexual deviance may well be a disease of the soul, but fortunately we are all in control of our souls. Whilst it is indeed impossible to remove unnatural urges completely, it is quite possible to suppress them so much that they only bother us in our darkest dreams. The most essential step is to eliminate all contact with members of the same sex...
Draco closed the book in disgust and glanced at the author's name on the cover: Augustus Fibble. Eliminating contact with all other males may have been reasonable in dear old Fibble's time, but it wasn't practical in Draco's. He made a mental note to take a closer look at that section of the library later -- surely not all of those books would be useless -- and turned to the books on memory.
Eight hours later, he knew more than he ever wanted to know about Memory Charms and making Pensieves. He'd found out that there was no way a wizard could Obliviate himself on purpose, and the only way to be Obliviated without lasting mental damage was by telling the Obliviator what memory needed to be removed. Draco was glad he could at least shut down that line of reasoning. Unfortunately, he was no closer to figuring out how to turn a memory into a dream. Maybe he'd looked in the wrong place. Dreams were the province of Divination... maybe he needed to check out some books on dreams...
"It's nearly dinner time," called Pince. "Get going."
Sighing, Draco got up, gathered up the books and carried them back to their shelves. He lingered next to the section with the books on deviancy. How could he come back here and look at them without anyone seeing?
"What's the matter, boy?"
Fucking vulture-faced old hag. "Nothing, Madam Pince, just got done arranging the books as I found them!" he called, and hurried towards the exit. He would need to be pleasant to her if he wanted to get any research done this year.
Draco's mind was a mess of complicated incantations and memory theory as he made his way downstairs. He almost didn't notice that the Entrance Hall was filled with students, and would have probably broken his head on the Great Hall doors -- why were they closed? -- if someone hadn't grabbed his robes. "Malfoy!"
"What?" Draco snapped, looking up and seeing Ginny Weasley's face inches from his. She was pretty, very pretty. But Draco's eyes were already searching the immediate vicinity for another face.
"The Great Hall is closed," Ginny said, and gestured at the locked doors.
"Where's Potter?" asked Draco, and immediately cursed at himself. He'd spent so much time with those damned books, he'd forgotten all about caution and propriety and keeping his mouth shut. This was why it didn't pay to be a loner: you went a bit mental.
"I have no idea," said Ginny, releasing Draco's robes. "I was about to ask you that."
"Why would I know where he is?"
Ginny bit her bottom lip, and Draco was gripped by a momentary panic. Does she know?
"I just thought you might've seen him. He went looking for you earlier this afternoon," Ginny said with a slight frown. "He hasn't come back to the common room since."
"Oh." Potter, you stupid, stupid berk, what are you doing? "Well, I haven't seen him. I was in the library all day."
Draco assumed a puzzled expression. "I don't have to remind you that we are here to learn, do I?"
Ginny shrugged. "Never thought you were the type to do extra reading."
"I'm just full of surprises," muttered Draco, and turned to look for his classmates. He saw Zabini and Nott loitering next to the dungeon entrance, talking to--
"Potter," breathed Draco.
Ginny's red mane of hair snapped around. "Where?"
"Talking to Nott and Zabini, over there." Draco pointed. As Ginny began to walk in the boys' direction, he followed. If he couldn't avoid talking to Potter, he could at least make sure Potter's girlfriend supervised.
"There you are," said Ginny as they neared the dungeon entrance. "I was worried." She gave Nott and Zabini a suspicious look, and held her hand out to Potter, who took it obediently. Nott sniggered into his palm, but only Draco seemed to notice.
"You were looking for me?" Draco asked.
"Yeah," said Potter, looking straight at him. Draco felt unease settle like a stone in the pit of his belly. Something about his dream last night, but what?
"Well, you've found me," said Draco and folded his arms across his chest. "What was it that you wanted?"
He stole a glance at Zabini, who was studying Potter with great interest. Fuck. Between last night's strange conversation and Potter's face--
"ATTENTION STUDENTS!" bawled Moody's magically amplified voice. "THE GREAT HALL DOORS WILL OPEN NOW. YOU ARE TO PROCEED IN SINGLE FILE AND STAY CLOSE TO THE WALLS."
"The walls?" That was Millicent; she must've arrived whilst Draco had been busy looking at Potter.
Draco gave an exaggerated shrug. "It might be part of the famed Auror training," he suggested. "Moody's mental enough to interrupt dinner for it, and besides--"
He didn't have time to finish his sentence. The Great Hall doors swung open and everyone was caught up in the mad rush inside. Draco could practically feel the curiosity in every voice around him and see the question marks above everyone's heads.
Once he'd reached the Great Hall entrance, Draco froze for a moment.
The house tables were gone.