Chapter Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Chapter Summary: Wherein there is much to be said for friendship, Moody demands impeccable behaviour, Millicent is stern, Harry discovers a secret, and Draco finds a new hope.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Chapter 19 - Though It Is Folly
Draco didn't need to turn his head to see who had spoken. He knew that voice well enough.
"He fell," said Potter after a long, awkward pause. "I was helping him get up."
"I'm sure you were very helpful," said Millicent, for it was she who stood at the other edge of the clearing
Draco started laughing, quietly, hysterically, then stopped himself. "A valiant attempt, Potter, but Millicent is not stupid." He let go of Potter and tugged his robes down to cover himself with his clean hand. The other one, he tried to wipe off on the tree trunk, with dubious success. When he rubbed his fingers together, the skin felt... squeaky, as if he'd washed his hands for too long.
"If you get any of that on your clothes, make sure you use cold water to wash it off," said Millicent. "Hot water only makes it worse."
"I'm not going to ask how you know that," said Draco. He still could not quite look at her. "Besides, I wouldn't use water in the first place. I'd use magic."
"My mother hates it when I use magic to clean up my messes," said Millicent. "She says it's no way to build character."
"Maybe that's why everyone thinks I'm such an arsehole," said Draco. "My character was never built properly."
Beside him, Potter snorted, and Draco remembered his predicament. Flustered, he thrust his squeaky hand in his pocket, and found his wand. He could Obliviate both of them, right now, and erase the need to extend this extremely embarrassing situation any further. But he also knew he shouldn't -- he was no skilled Obliviator, and he might erase too much, leaving Millicent wondering why she was even here, and Potter wondering how it came to be nightfall already when he'd just had his lunch an hour ago. Draco had been lucky back in September, but he could not count on luck to save his hide.
If Moody -- who knew Potter and Millicent were here, Draco was sure -- questioned them and found their memories wiped, he would know where to place the blame. And there would be no N.E.W.Ts for Draco, no chance to help his father by rising through the Defence ranks.
Draco released his wand and took his hand out of his pocket. He stepped away from the tree and turned to Millicent. "You won't tell anyone, will you?"
She shrugged. "Who would I tell? What you do in your spare time is your business. Besides, we're friends. Are we not?"
"We are," said Draco, meaning it. In the back of his head, a voice very like his father's chanted that friends could be bought, that friendship was just a word, that trust was a folly only the weak could afford. He told it to shut the fuck up. "We'd better go back to the castle," he said, not sure whom he was addressing. This thing with Potter was making him feel like he was constantly walking the edge of a blade, never certain of what he should say or do.
They headed back to Hogwarts in silence. All the side doors would be locked by now -- a new measure McGonagall had instituted to discourage the seventh-years and some daring younger students from sneaking off to Hogsmeade -- so they made for the main entrance, where Moody waited by the stone steps.
"You'll never do that again," Moody told Draco by way of greeting. "How do you hope to become an Auror, boy? If you run every time you face a difficulty, you'll spend your whole life running--"
"A difficulty?" Draco was incredulous. "I can't fly."
"If you interrupt your instructors at the Compound, you'll spend the better part of your training scrubbing toilets."
"Sorry," muttered Draco sullenly. When Moody's frown didn't lessen, he added, "Sir," through gritted teeth.
"It's not that you can't fly," said Moody, seemingly appeased. "You're afraid to -- at least, you are afraid of flying the way you're used to. What you can do is learn to fly again, in a different way."
Draco stared at his broomstick, prone on the ground, and muttered a curse. He'd been here for an hour with no results. He'd taken Moody's advice, as far as it could be taken -- he was trying to mount from the right instead of the left, with the broom's tail facing the wind instead of away from it, but no matter what he did, the stupid piece of wood would not obey him. If he went so far as to mount the broom and raise it, as though intending to fly, he always began to feel short of breath -- not the choking horror he'd experienced during Auror training, but still bad.
"This is never going to work," he told the broomstick.
"Keep telling yourself that, and you'll make it true," said Millicent, who had been watching him from one of the benches. "Try it with your eyes closed again -- I swear I saw the broomstick move when you did that."
Draco shut his eyes with an exasperated sigh and held his hand out expectantly -- the wrong hand, on the wrong side, and the wind felt wrong at his back instead of in his face. Nothing happened. He opened his eyes again and let his arm fall to his side. It had been three weeks since he'd discovered he couldn't fly. The fourth-years defeated the fifth-years in last week's game, and though the seventh-years' next game was still months away, they could not play without a Seeker.
"I think you'll have to hold tryouts," he told Millicent as he gathered his broomstick up from the dead grass.
"Our next game isn't for another two months," objected Millicent. "You'll do it by then."
Draco straightened up and faced her. "And if I don't?"
She stared at him, then averted her eyes. "You will. But I'll hold tryouts for a reserve Seeker."
Hogwarts teams weren't supposed to have reserves, but Hooch had taken a liking to Millicent for some reason. Maybe she'd let her do it, if the other teams were allowed reserve Seekers, too. Draco nodded. "You might as well."
"That doesn't mean you're allowed to stop trying," said Millicent, her face stern.
"Why does it matter to you?" asked Draco, rounding on her, suddenly angry -- with her or with himself, he couldn't say.
"I like winning," said Millicent. "And there's no one better in our year. The only one who ever beat you was Harry, and he's given up Quidditch." She rose heavily from the bench. "Plus, you've been snapping everyone's heads off lately, and I don't think it's because you need to get laid."
Draco flushed. If there was anything he did not lack, it was sex. Since the incident in the Forbidden Forest, Potter would turn up in the unlikeliest places, seemingly intent on draining Draco dry before they ever left school. Things had not gone beyond clumsy groping and the occasional blow job -- with Draco as the recipient, of course; he refused to do that no matter what -- but he feared they might. What he feared the most was that he might let them. He shook his head forcefully, bringing his thoughts back to here and now.
"I'll keep trying," he said to Millicent. "But I don't think it's going to work."
"No," she said, shaking her head in turn. "Do keep trying, and start thinking that it's going to work."
"And the pigs and I shall fly together," muttered Draco, watching as she stalked away.
He shouldered his broomstick and walked after her, making no effort to catch up. He scarcely had time to himself lately, what with homework piling up around his ears, Hogsmeade visits, Auror training, his futile flying practice, and Potter. Draco shut his eyes tightly for a few moments. He was the sort of person who needed solitude on a regular basis, he'd come to realise. He needed to sit or walk by himself every once in a while, just to think.
Hogwarts seemed especially over-populated this year, what with the double helping of first-years, and the common room was no refuge, not with people from all houses crammed into one living space. There were no more of them together than there had been in the entire house of Slytherin, but nonetheless, the South Tower felt crowded. Yet little remained of the almost-enmity, the heavy tension that had been there at the beginning. Slytherins went to Hogsmeade with Hufflepuffs, Gryffindors studied together with Ravenclaws. Draco had always known that it would eventually come to that -- the house distinctions were not supposed to exist after students left Hogwarts, after all -- but if this was how the adult world was supposed to be like, Draco wished he could go back to first year again.
As he neared the castle, his thoughts were interrupted by a most curious sight. Potter's disembodied head floated across the courtyard, and then vanished.
"I saw you," called Draco, thinking that Potter meant to surprise him in one of the dark corners on the way to the common room.
He hadn't even taken two steps forward when he felt Potter seize his arms and drag him off towards the space between one of the arches and a statue of Frances the Fair. "Quiet," hissed Potter in his ear. "You weren't supposed to be here."
Potter's hand closed over Draco's mouth. "Watch," he said, and forced his head slightly to the right. "And don't move." Just as quickly, the hand was gone.
Draco saw nothing at first, but then he noticed the air turn... thin... next to the arch opposite. A vertical line of light appeared there, and then a gloved hand reached for the arch, as though blindly. The hand pressed up against the stone, and part of the arch slid aside, revealing a small niche. The hand took something out of the niche and disappeared into the thinner air with the bright light. Seconds later, it returned, placed something in the niche, and sealed it again. Then it was gone, light and all.
Draco exhaled slowly. He suddenly became aware of something hard pressing up against his arse. "You're a dog, Potter," he said resignedly. "More on the point, what the hell was that?" Potter fidgeted against him, and Draco stepped away, irritated. He turned around. "Take that bloody thing off."
The cloak slid off, and Potter stuffed it into his pocket carelessly. "That," he said, adjusting the front of his jeans, "was someone retrieving an Eyelet device and installing a new one."
Draco gaped at him. "An Eyelet? Here? Are you certain?"
Potter nodded, his face grim. "I have been for weeks. I just couldn't be certain they were active. Now I know."
"But it would have seen me," said Draco. "With you."
Potter shook his head. "No. It was full. That was why it got replaced. It's been full since this morning. They've just been waiting until the castle doors were closed. Filch locked this one right behind me. You saw my head because he very nearly took my cloak off with the door."
"They? Who's they?"
"Your guess is as good as mine," said Potter.
"That day, with the tapestry," Draco said, remembering suddenly. "You were looking for one of those, weren't you?"
"Yeah," said Potter, frowning. "What did you think I was doing?"
That you were trying to avoid me, no more. He couldn't very well say that, could he? "I thought it was another sign of your famous insanity," he said instead.
Potter stared at him. "I see." Draco couldn't decide if Potter looked ready to strangle him or kiss him. Then he realised they were standing in full view of an Eyelet, which, if Potter told it true, was happily recording everything they were doing.
"Let's get out of here," he said, jerking his head to where the Eyelet was, hoping Potter would catch his meaning.
Potter seemed to catch the wrong meaning, though, because he grinned at Draco just as he always did right before stuffing him into a shower cubicle or a broom cupboard. Exasperated, Draco hurried to the stone walkway that led around the castle towards the main doors. He didn't check if Potter followed; of course he did.
"How many have you found?" asked Draco.
"I'll show you when we get to the dormitory," came the curt reply.
But Finnigan and Thomas were in the dormitory, sitting cross-legged on Thomas's bed and playing some Muggle card game that wasn't allowed in the common room. Probably because it involved money. Hogwarts officials frowned upon gambling.
Draco had to content himself with Potter's whispered promise of "tomorrow". He did not like the sense of anticipation that laced through him at that; it seemed that only his mind was interested in what Potter had unearthed. The rest of him was more interested in Potter's physical proximity.
It was Saturday, and uncommonly warm for early December, so the castle was nearly empty save for the few studious souls who never left the library. Draco's dormitory was also empty, except for him and Potter, kneeling on the floor next to Potter's trunk. Potter fished out a scrap of parchment from the mess within, and laid it on the floor.
"I solemnly swear that I'm up to no good," he said, and tapped the parchment.
Draco bit back a scornful comment as he watched the parchment unfold rapidly, suddenly crisscrossed with lines and letters and numbers. "What on earth--"
"It's a map of Hogwarts," said Potter. "Look."
Draco did; he focussed on one of the rectangles and saw a dot moving inside its walls. Above the rectangle, it said, "Owlery", and the dot was labelled "Luna Lovegood". "She's probably still looking for her Munchkins or whatever," murmured Draco, and then did a double take. "You can tell where everyone is, can't you?" He stared over at Potter, who nodded.
"This was how you knew I was in the library." That wasn't a question. The idea of Potter spying on him using that map was... strange. It was annoying, but also oddly gratifying, whatever the fuck that was supposed to mean.
"The library?" Potter looked blank.
"When school started. You said you were wandering around in your Invisibility Cloak and happened to see me--"
"Oh, that. Yeah." Potter looked sheepish. "I didn't know if I could trust you with this, then."
"And now you do? What's changed since then? That I let you at me?"
Potter put a hand on the back of Draco's head, leaning in as if to kiss him. "Is that how you think about it?"
Draco couldn't think of anything to say -- that was how he thought of it, no more, but Potter was a strange creature; he'd probably feel insulted. Before he could formulate a response, Potter did kiss him, lightly at first, just his lips on Draco's, and then he reached down into Draco's lap and licked his lower lip, forcing his way into Draco's mouth. Draco's blood began to rush south, but Potter pulled away. "I suppose that's all right, as long as you like it."
Draco just stared at him, wondering if it made him even gayer that he wanted Potter to stop talking and go back to the kissing.
Instead, Potter prodded the map with his wand again. The moving dots representing people vanished, and several dozen red dots sprang up in their place, as still as the rest of the map. "I haven't yet figured out how to make it show both the people and the Eyelets," said Potter. "But there they are."
Draco stared at them all, interspersed through the castle, leaving virtually no area unobserved. The only places with no Eyelets were dormitories and bathrooms. Draco frowned. "Why are there none in dormitories?"
"And bathrooms," agreed Potter. "Because I think this is the Ministry's doing. And if they were caught installing Eyelets in places that are supposed to be private, there'd be an uproar."
Draco frowned. "The Ministry?" Moody's words echoed in his head then, unbidden. You do realise that the Ministry has a much larger presence at Hogwarts now than it did in Dumbledore's time, don't you?
If this didn't qualify as a much larger presence, Draco wasn't sure what would. "But even with the ones in place, they're violating law."
"What law is that?" asked Potter. For a moment, Draco thought he was being wilfully obnoxious by pretending not to know, then he remembered Potter's upbringing.
"Indoor or outdoor surveillance is prohibited without consent from the property owner," said Draco. "Not to mention it breaks a number of privacy decrees." He didn't add that his father had been instrumental in getting a few of those decrees through the Wizengamot.
"Who owns Hogwarts?" asked Potter, frowning.
"Good question," said Draco. "But I don't think it's the Ministry of Magic." He studied the map, and it suddenly struck him that he and Potter had never... done things in view of an Eyelet. He remembered every encounter as if each had happened yesterday, but not once had they run the risk of being seen. "How do you know you've got them all?" he asked, suddenly panicking.
"I'm certain of it," said Potter. "I didn't run around the castle mapping them, you know. I found one, and told the map to find the others for me."
"What if the map lies?" Draco eyed it. It didn't have the feel of dark magic, though.
"The map doesn't lie."
"I suppose if it did, there'd be pictures to go with the stories," said Draco gloomily.
Eyelets did nothing but take photographs of their designated areas at three-second intervals. Viewed in succession, such series of photographs produced a full-colour, three-dimensional account of everything the Eyelet had seen. Like a Pensieve memory, though without sound or bias.
"Mischief managed," said Potter, and the map folded back into itself, turning into a bit of parchment again.
"I would think you were up to less mischief than whoever's responsible for the Eyelets," observed Draco.
"There'll be mischief enough when I find out who it is," said Potter coolly, and suddenly Draco felt like the war had never ended. In his head, Moody intoned, one word from him and the Ministry'll come crumbling down like the house of cards that it is.
Chaos; Potter brought chaos with him wherever he went. But maybe the trick was to be on Potter's side. After all, if the Ministry were brought down, one Lucius Malfoy might even receive a pardon in the ensuing confusion. Draco smiled at Potter then, realising that he had a lot more power than he'd thought possible.