Chapter Rating: PG
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Chapter Summary: Wherein arguing with Gryffindors is futile, cats steal all the attention, Narcissa Malfoy knows what she wants, Millicent changes the subject, even the library isn't safe, and Harry is a loose cannon.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Chapter 5 - The Future Comes One Day at a Time
"Well, that's settled, then!" said Slughorn, rubbing his hands together. "The rest of you may group up as you wish, since the sixth-year Gryffindors already have full dormitories."
No, it bloody well is not settled, you fat old fox, thought Draco, fuming, but he knew the battle was lost. What in the world had possessed Longbottom to pick him? Could Potter have put him up to it? Surely Potter wouldn't have been so dumb...
Except he totally would have been and you know it.
Draco pretended to focus his attention on the others as they formed their groups. Macmillan, Smith, Hopkins, Entwhistle and Cornfoot stood off to one side, leaving Nott and Zabini with Finch-Fletchley, Boot and Corner. The girls from Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw stuck together; Pansy and Tracey ended up having to share with three sixth-year Slytherin girls, none of whose names Draco remembered offhand. He expected that would change once Pansy schooled them to follow her around and laugh at her insipid jokes.
In the end, there were twelve full dormitories, which meant that two remained empty. Draco's heartbeat quickened; maybe not all was lost. "Professor Slughorn?"
"Yes, Mr Malfoy?"
"What about the empty dormitories, then? There are two, aren't there?"
"One has been converted for my use," said Slughorn.
"Why?" asked Finnigan, frowning. "They never said anything--"
Slughorn spread his arms wide. "The Headmistress feels that if the students are separated by age group, adult supervision is necessary to prevent shenanigans."
"Shenanigans," muttered Finnigan. "She just doesn't want any parties." Behind him, Zacharias Smith made a disgusted face, as though offended by the idea of partying with Gryffindors. Draco was inclined to agree.
"Well, what about the other dormitory?" asked Nott.
"It's on the girls' side," said Slughorn with a mischievous wink.
I don't care, Draco wanted to say. I'd rather be there than with Potter...
"Boys aren't allowed there," supplied Ginny. "We'll find a use for it, don't worry."
"That's the spirit!" said Slughorn and patted his belly. "Well, now that we're all sorted out, why don't you all get settled in? I need to make my report to the Headmistress in twenty minutes."
He bustled out of the common room, leaving behind an uncomfortable silence.
"Longbottom," said Draco, "since you were so eager to be my roommate, would you show me the dormitory?"
Longbottom, who appeared to have given up on the window, shrugged. "Let's go, then."
As the two of them headed off towards the boys' half of the tower, Draco heard Lavender Brown whispering to Hannah Abbott: "We didn't want Millicent to leave all her friends behind. And well, we just don't like Pansy or Tracey."
Draco chuckled inwardly. That explained the choice of Daphne. If those two kept it up, living here would prove at least somewhat entertaining.
He followed Longbottom up a steep staircase and into a well-lit, circular room with five four-poster beds. Draco saw his trunk at the foot of the bed to his immediate left.
"That used to be Ron's," said Longbottom, his expression morose.
"I gathered," muttered Draco. He walked closer and crouched down next to the trunk, opening the lid. After making sure his things had remained untouched, he straightened up and turned to face Longbottom. For all his faults, Neville Longbottom was an uncomplicated sort of creature; Draco decided that a direct approach would work best. "Why did you pick me?" he asked.
Longbottom regarded him thoughtfully for a moment. "Well, if I could, I would have picked Luna, you know. But I had to pick a boy from my year, and you're the only one I really know."
What? "In case you've forgotten, our acquaintance in the past has consisted mostly of my hexing you--"
"Better the devil you know," said Longbottom with a phlegmatic shrug.
"Couldn't you have picked -- I dunno -- one of the Hufflepuffs?"
Longbottom gave Draco a look that adults usually reserved for small children. "None of them were in the war with me."
"I wasn't in the war with you, Longbottom, I was--"
"You were there. They weren't." Longbottom's jaw was set stubbornly.
Draco sighed. Arguing with Gryffindors was futile; he'd learned as much during the war.
After unpacking his things as quickly as possible, Draco spent the rest of the afternoon in the common room with the other Slytherins. They huddled around one of the tables earlier occupied by the Gryffindors, shared their impressions of their new living quarters, and generally pretended to act as though nothing had changed.
Suppertime was approaching rapidly. Just as Draco was about to suggest that they head down to the Great Hall -- surely it would take ages to get there from all the way up -- there was a loud hissing noise and a yowl followed by high-pitched giggles. Startled, Draco turned around and saw Lavender and Parvati having fits on one of the sofas. Both girls were pointing to the fireplace.
In front of the fireplace, Millicent's cat Herbert and a fat ginger cat with a squashed face were having a staring contest. Two tails thumped rhythmically against the hearthrug.
"You can take him, Herbert," called Millicent.
Herbert paid her no mind, continuing to stare at the other cat.
"Ouch," hissed Zabini. "She bit me! Lolita! Come back here, you silly--"
But the kitten was already bounding towards the older cats, who didn't seem to notice her until she rubbed her head against the ginger cat's side, causing him to look away from Herbert.
"That's so cute!" squealed Lavender. "Crookshanks, the kitty likes you!"
Crookshanks must've been the orange cat's name. Lolita sat down next to him and started to purr. Herbert looked uncertain.
"Whose cat is that?" asked Millicent.
"Hermione's," said Parvati. Her smile faded instantly. "I mean he was Hermione's. He's Harry's now."
"I thought Potter had an owl," said Smith from the opposite end of Lavender and Parvati's sofa, lowering his book into his lap.
Parvati gave him a disdainful look. "He does. Crookshanks came as Ginny's pet."
Smith muttered something that sounded suspiciously like "playing favourites", earning glares from several Gryffindors.
In the meantime, the cats seemed to have decided that the humans' arguing was quite enough. The three of them were now curled up next to each other on the hearthrug, and Lolita's purring was louder than ever.
"Aww, aren't you the cutest?" gushed Lavender at Lolita. "Whose is he?"
"She's mine," said Zabini. "Her name is Lolita."
"Aren't you the pwettiest ickle kitten with the pwettiest ickle name?" cooed Lavender at Lolita. She hadn't even bothered to look up at Zabini, who looked put out.
Draco snorted and elbowed him slightly in the ribs. "Women prefer your cat. You must be losing your touch."
Pansy and Daphne tittered as if on cue. Draco ignored them both. As much as he didn't want to admit it to himself, he'd been getting more antsy and irritable by the second ever since Potter and Ginny had disappeared up the stairs to the boys' dormitories. It was bothering him so much that he couldn't even be arsed to flirt with Daphne.
The cats may have called a truce, but things were going to go terribly wrong sooner or later.
The answer hit Draco in the middle of supper. Hadn't McGonagall said that the seventh-years were technically free to leave the school grounds whenever they wanted? Nothing was stopping him from taking off until at least tomorrow morning. Of course. That would delay having to sleep in the same room as Potter for at least one night. He could get used to the idea and maybe work out a plan to spend as little time in that dormitory as possible.
As soon as the plates were cleared away, he told the other Slytherins that he'd see them tomorrow and hurried out of the castle. Once he was beyond the gates, he Apparated home.
The manor's foyer was dark; the thick curtains on the windows kept out the last rays of the evening sun. Draco took a step forwards and immediately walked into something -- probably that damned statue that his mother had inherited and refused to part with.
"Who's there?" called his mother's voice from upstairs. "Finny, I thought I told you to--"
"It's me, Mother," shouted Draco. "I thought I'd come by and say thanks for all your work with the Board of Governors." He felt the past week's tension lifting off his shoulders as he sidestepped the statue and headed for the stairs. He was home.
The overhead chandelier sparked to life. Narcissa Malfoy stood at the top of the staircase, a dark blue shawl draped across her shoulders. She was smiling. "I didn't expect you'd remember your mother so soon," she said. "They're not feeding you at that school. It's been less than a week and you're already thinner than I remembered."
"They're feeding us fine," said Draco and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. "I even had supper before I came."
"Are you sure? I could get Finny to--"
"I'm sure," said Draco. "But tea would be nice."
"Mistress called? Finny was polishing the... good evening, Master Draco. Master Draco is looking well. Finny is glad to see Master Draco back from the big school. Finny--"
"Less talk, more work," snapped Narcissa. "We'll have tea in the upstairs drawing room."
"Yes, Mistress." The house-elf disappeared.
Twenty minutes later, Draco had caught his mother up on everything that had been happening at Hogwarts.
"You're in the same dormitory as the Potter and Longbottom boys?"
Draco rolled his eyes. "Don't remind me."
"Well, I ran into Augusta Longbottom just last week," said Narcissa, and set her cup down. "She's very unwell, poor dear. She's leaving everything to her grandson."
"How is that news? He's the only heir, isn't he?" Draco put his teacup down as well and leant back in the armchair.
"Oh, no. She was planning to leave the estate to her son--"
"Well, he's alive. I think she was hoping that they might cure him."
Draco rolled his eyes again. "Mother, if I'm ever at St. Mungo's unable to so much as feed myself, please tell me you won't deprive my children of their inheritance."
Narcissa gave him a shrewd look. "From what I'm hearing, you're not exactly on a path to becoming a family man."
Draco froze. "What are you talking about?"
"What's going on with you and Pansy? Rose Parkinson was just here yesterday, and she says you two have broken up."
Pansy and her big, fat mouth. "Pansy isn't the only girl at Hogwarts, Mother. Besides, maybe I don't want to get married as soon as I'm done school."
"I'm glad to hear that."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Really."
"Really. It's like your father always says -- you should take a younger wife."
With an amused snort, Draco reached for his teacup. "Yeah, maybe I'll haunt the second years' dormitories late at night."
Narcissa laughed. "Oh, don't be so uncouth. You know what I mean. But speaking of your father..."
Draco put the teacup back down and raised his eyes to meet hers. "Yes?"
"I've tried to convince Gawain Robards to review his sentence length."
Draco tensed. She'd said "tried", and that couldn't mean anything good. Trying implied failing. "And?"
Narcissa sighed. "He says he's very sympathetic, but--"
"--Father's crimes were too many and too heinous to even consider a reprieve," Draco finished for her. "Why am I not surprised?"
"Well, there is something..." She trailed off and lowered her gaze.
"Do you know Alastor Moody?"
"He's our Defence Against the Dark Arts professor, but--"
"And he's also running Auror training of some sort this year."
Oh, right. That. "What does that have to do with Father?"
His mother's blue eyes were cool. "Gawain Robards won't be head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement forever."
Something niggled at Draco, but he couldn't be sure. "What are you getting at?"
"Well, the way things stand now, your father is in prison for the rest of his days. Short of staging a daring breakout, there is nothing we can do to help him."
Draco frowned. "Did Robards tell you that?"
"Not in so many words. But Robards will move up or retire, and there will be a replacement."
"You are still such a boy!" said Narcissa with a sigh. "Right now, Lucius has no chance of ever getting out. But if his son were to become Department head..."
Oh. "You want me to become an Auror?"
Narcissa nodded. "It's the only way you could get into the department, isn't it?"
"I suppose." Draco couldn't help but feel resentful. Hadn't he proven himself enough? Hadn't he done everything he could for his family? But his mother was right. If Draco ever wanted to see his father again, he would have to work for it. "It's a good thing I came by. Sign-ups for that Auror thing are on Monday; I wasn't going to do it."
"You're a good boy," said Narcissa. "Your father would be proud."
No, my father would've got someone else to do it for him. Unfortunately, I don't have anyone else.
The next morning, Draco dreaded going back to Hogwarts. How was he supposed to explain the Auror thing to everyone else? He couldn't let on that he was doing it for his father. If that got out, he'd never have a chance. Never mind that he only had a vague idea of how Magical Law Enforcement worked.
Draco sneaked into the Great Hall just as breakfast was starting.
"Where were you last night?" Pansy demanded as soon as Draco sat down at the seventh years' table.
"I went home," said Draco. "Not that it's any of your business."
He immediately bit his tongue, realising that Potter was sitting across from him and wearing a look of utter confusion as he glanced from Draco to Pansy and back.
"You ran home to Mummy already? Don't tell me you're that scared of Longbottom," drawled Zabini. "The Gryffindor dormitories aren't all bad, you know."
"Oh, do shut up," muttered Draco as he buttered his toast. "Mother needed to talk to me in person," he said, doing his best to sound mysterious and important. "And besides, why shouldn't we take full advantage of our new privileges?"
"Because if McGonagall finds out, you'll be in detention for the next six months," said Pansy.
Draco put the butter knife down and glared at her. "Really? Who's going to tell her I wasn't here? Or, even, who can prove it?"
"Potter could prove it," said Millicent. "He was in the common room all night."
"Were you really, Harry?" asked Longbottom. "I didn't know."
Potter mumbled something to his coffee mug.
"Sorry, what did you say?" Longbottom seemed utterly unaware that Potter was slowly turning red. Or possibly blue; Draco couldn't tell in this light.
"I fell asleep on the sofa," said Potter. He was a terrible liar, Draco decided.
"You owe me a Galleon," declared Thomas, turning to Finnigan.
Finnigan scowled. "I'll give it to you upstairs."
"What was that all about?" asked Smith. Draco hadn't even realised he'd been here; he'd assumed that it had been Macmillan hiding behind the Sunday Prophet.
"These two had a bet going," said Zabini with an impassive look. "Thomas said Potter was just moping around in the common room. Finnigan said Potter was off in the Forbidden Forest, teaching his girlfriend to ride centaurs."
Millicent made a choking sound; tea sprayed from her nose, splattering Smith's newspaper.
"You, my lady, have a very dirty mind," chortled Nott.
Millicent only laughed harder in a most unladylike fashion. Draco was suddenly struck by the realisation that although everyone else around the table was smiling, he wasn't amused by the innuendo at all. This was bad.
Potter rolled his eyes. "Very witty, you lot. Sorry to disappoint, but I did spend the night in the common room. With the cats."
"Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived With Cats," quipped Finnigan.
Daphne giggled. Even Draco couldn't suppress a grin; he suddenly had a terribly vivid mental image of Potter in a rocking chair with three caterwauling black cats sitting on his head.
Then he saw Potter staring at him and his amusement faded. There was a dangerous, hungry look in Potter's eyes: the same look that had been filling Draco's nightmares. In his head, he could hear Potter's cold voice calling, "you can't run from this" until Draco's blood was on fire and he gave up, because he couldn't run any more.
But I can and I will, thought Draco, turning his attention back to his toast, which suddenly looked less than appetising.
The library seemed increasingly like a sanctuary to Draco. He was sure that Potter wouldn't follow him here.
Unfortunately, Potter appeared to have different ideas on where he would or would not follow people. Draco was forced to face this lamentable truth as he came face to face with Potter in the Memory Section.
"W-w-what are you doing here?"
"Waiting for you," said Potter. "I heard you tell Daphne you were going to the library."
"But how did you know I'd be here?" Draco's heartbeat was so loud, he was sure even Pince could hear it at her desk.
Potter looked sheepish. "I saw you here on Friday." He ran his finger along the spine of The Memorable Book of Memories.
Draco blinked. "Come again?"
"I was just walking around and I noticed you, so I, uh."
"You're barking," said Draco. "There was no one in the library on Friday but Pince. And me."
"I was in my Invisibility Cloak."
"You were walking around in your Invisibility Cloak." Draco's voice was flat.
"You would be, too, if everyone stared at you everywhere you went."
He certainly sounded sincere, but Draco couldn't help but wonder if Potter had rehearsed that particular line. "I still think you're barking."
They stared at each other; with every passing second, Draco felt more and more like a very small animal sitting in front of a very large and unpleasant predator. Damn it all, Potter was not supposed to make him feel this way. If anything, it should have been the other way around.
"Why are you researching memory?" asked Potter, breaking the tense silence. He was still stroking the book's spine, and Draco was becoming rapidly distracted.
"I'm considering becoming an Obliviator," he said quickly, and forced himself to look away. He was so glad he'd thought of the Obliviator story for Pince's benefit.
"I didn't realise you needed to work for a living."
Draco glanced back up. "I don't. But I'm not planning to spend my life sitting on my arse and doing nothing." That was actually true now, he realised. Before last night's conversation with his mother, he had been planning to sit on his arse and do nothing aside from forging social connections just like his father had done.
Potter cast a glance at the shelf opposite, and Draco's blood ran cold. Had Potter seen Draco with that one book on Friday? Was he just toying with Draco, asking questions about memory research, when really--
Get a grip. This is Potter. He's not that subtle.
"So I guess you aren't going to do Moody's Auror training, then," mumbled Potter. He was staring at Homoeroticism in Wizarding Literature.
"I might," said Draco after a pause. "I haven't decided yet. I've been using the free time to evaluate my options." He was babbling, but it was better than letting himself be distracted by the way Potter's tongue kept rolling over his lower lip.
"Yeah, I might, too," said Potter.
Draco breathed a little easier. "You might?" he asked. " I'd have thought you would be all over this marvellous opportunity to make a career in fighting the Dark Arts."
Potter's eyes flashed as he looked up. "I've had enough of fighting the bloody Dark Arts for a lifetime, Malfoy." With that, Potter took off, leaving Draco to stare after him with a mixture of relief and loss.
Potter was a loose cannon, he realised. There was no predicting what he would do or say at any moment. One day he might just snap and tell someone about that night in June... or worse, do something stupid like trying to touch Draco. The most horrible thing about it was that deep down, Draco wanted nothing else but that. If Potter were to cross that line, Draco would probably let him.
His entire Hogwarts career had been spent simultaneously loathing Potter and fearing him a little, but never before had Potter had any power over him. He needed to do something about that memory, and he needed to do it fast.