Chapter Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Chapter Summary: Wherein the limitations of healing charms are mentioned, everyone wants to try the new drink at the Three Broomsticks, Harry's about ready to climb the walls, Celestina Warbeck is a terrible songwriter, Draco attempts a foray into social psychology, and Ginny decides to take matters into her own hands.
Note: Thanks to Country-O-Matic for lyrics to Quicksand by Celestina Warbeck.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Chapter 26 - Useless as a Love Song
"And this is why some wizards are unable to cast healing charms of any sort. Some of you might remember, from your education in the history of magic, that St Mungo's was established during a time when--"
Draco tuned Flitwick out. He'd read all this in the book and did not understand why it was necessary to repeat it during the lesson instead of practising the charms they were talking about. Of course, Finnigan and Hannah Abbott just happened to be the sort who couldn't cast healing charms, but they were two out of thirteen. Surely Flitwick could set them some essays to make up for what they could not do in class.
Millicent leaned over and whispered, "Are you coming to Hogsmeade this Friday?"
"I might be," said Draco. "Why?"
"I heard Blaise tell Theodore that Lolita's father is introducing some new cocktail this weekend. Supposed to make you drunk when you're sitting down and sober when you aren't."
"I think I've heard of it before," said Draco. "It's from the Far East, but exports are banned for some stupid reason."
Millicent shrugged, and made a note in the margin of her textbook, as though following along with Flitwick. "I've also heard that he's trying to turn the Three Broomsticks into a world-class establishment."
"No, Lolita's dad, whatever his name is."
Draco snorted. "Good luck to him, that's all I can say. Who'd want to visit that backwater little village unless they're from Hogwarts?"
"Is something unclear, Mr Malfoy?" Flitwick's expression was of extreme disapproval. "This material is important for your NEWT examination, and I don't see how you will internalise it if you do not pay attention."
The bell went right at that moment, and Draco leapt out of his chair. "Sorry, professor," he said. "But I've already internalised it from the textbook." With that, he hightailed it out of the classroom, rather appalled at his own cheek. Potter was rubbing off on him, clearly.
"Well that was smooth talking," said Potter, catching up to him a few moments later. "I'm sure he'll give you lots of leeway when marking your NEWT."
"Why, did he seem upset?" Draco cast a nervous glance over his shoulders, but saw no wrathful little professor following them.
"Maybe a little red-faced," said Potter, and threw his arm around Draco's shoulders. "Don't worry," he added. "You have a leg up on all of us, seeing as you've actually read the book."
Draco threw Potter's arm off himself. "Would you stop doing that?"
Potter gave him a look. "It's just a friendly gesture. Like I told you yesterday."
Draco rolled his eyes. "And like I told you yesterday, others might not think it's so friendly, seeing as they know what you are."
Potter's eyes narrowed, but he didn't say anything. For the past two weeks, things had gone just as they had in those unmercifully short few months during which Draco and Potter had learned, grudgingly, to work together. Only back then, Draco had never caught Potter staring at him thoughtfully. Back then, Draco had never found himself staring at the loosely done-up collar on Potter's robes.
He took a deep breath and thought of the potion, upstairs. He had added the Costa Rican sand just yesterday, and now the potion was under his bed, steeping inside the Pensieve. In many ways, waiting for it would be even more difficult than brewing it. Even the timing was perfect: by mid-June, the potion would have steeped, and he would be transporting a Dreamcatcher, not a Pensieve filled with a finicky potion. It was as good as done, and the thought gave Draco confidence of a sort he had lacked before Christmas.
Sometimes he even thought about not using the Dreamcatcher at all, for reasons he could not explain to himself. Then he would catch a glimpse of Potter's collarbone looking sideways through his loose robe collar, or a view of Potter's lower back, when he wore Muggle jeans and stretched out on the common room floor with one of his textbooks...
Draco realised he'd unconsciously let Potter walk a few steps ahead of him and was now staring at Potter's backside. He hurried to catch up and cast about for a conversation topic to distract himself. Moments like this only reaffirmed his need to use the Dreamcatcher. He remembered too much, wanted too much, felt too much.
"So, have you heard about the new concoction Lolita's dad is introducing?" he asked.
Potter gave him a blank stare. "Who's Lolita and why am I supposed to have heard anything about her dad?"
"Oh, right. I forgot you're a poof now and you clearly hadn't even noticed the hot new barmaid at the Three Broomsticks."
Potter scowled. "I'd noticed her. I just forgot her name. I haven't gone there much since last term."
"Of course. You're too busy saving the world again," said Draco, and leapt over a trick step. "Saving us all from the monstrous Eyelets infesting the school."
Potter's scowl deepened. "Why do you have to be such an arse about it? I told you I can't find anything else out without a visit to the Ministry, and if I showed up there during the school year--"
"--it would be a certain tip-off to whomever's behind the Eyelets, yes, I know. You've only told me eight million times."
"So why do you keep bringing it up?"
"Because he likes seeing you get upset, isn't it obvious? He's Malfoy."
Ginny Weasley had an uncanny knack for appearing out of nowhere, especially lately. Draco wondered if she was doing it on purpose.
"Thanks for reminding me," said Potter, and put his arm about Ginny's shoulders with a glance at Draco. A glance that said, see? Friendly gesture.
"Anyway," said Draco, unruffled, "Supposedly this new drink makes you drunk--"
"--while you're sitting down, and then sober as soon as you get to your feet," supplied Ginny. "I'm going to try it this weekend."
"You're not allowed in Hogsmeade," Draco pointed out. Miraculously, no one had ratted out Ginny's excursion to the village back when Potter had first broken up with her, but she couldn't be that lucky twice.
Ginny gave him a look. "I mean on Saturday, when everyone's allowed to go."
"The place will be crawling with teachers," said Draco.
"Didn't stop us from meeting in the Hog's Head back when we'd organised the DA," said Potter.
To Draco, that sounded like a fanciful recollection of a different world. Had he really once been a part of Umbridge's Inquisitorial Squad? Had he really once thought the Dark Lord all-powerful? Had he really once hated Potter with so much intensity? He remembered planning the Squad's raids so that they would encounter Potter and his gang, so that he could dock points for trivialities. There weren't even any points to deduct, now.
"Earth to Malfoy?"
He turned to Ginny. "What? I was just--"
"You're blocking the way."
Draco realised he was standing in front of the common room. "Right."
"So, is it working?"
Finnigan blinked a few times, raised his index finger into the air, and attempted to touch his nose with it. "Ouch," he complained, and began to rub his eye. "I'm not drunk, though. I've just got a minor hand-eye coordination problem."
"It's a good thing I didn't take you on as Chaser, then," said Millicent, and downed the light mauve liquid in her glass. Almost everyone else followed suit. Within a few minutes, the anticipatory silence at the seventh-years' two tables was replaced by drunken shouting and laughter.
"Aren't you going to have one, Draco?" asked Pansy, her eyes glazed.
"I'll stick to Gillywater, thanks," muttered Draco, and pulled his own drink closer. Pansy shrugged and whispered something to Daphne, who began to giggle. Seething, Draco turned to Potter, who sat next to him, staring off into the room's far corner and caressing the top of his Butterbeer bottle in a way that made Draco's throat constrict and his pants feel too tight. "Aren't you going to have one?" he asked.
"Huh? No. I do stupid things when drunk, remember?" And he gave Draco a meaningful look.
"Right," said Draco, uncomfortable. He hated it when Potter brought up the past, however indirectly.
At that moment, someone turned up the volume on the wizard's wireless. Celestina Warbeck's famous, if no longer particularly mellifluous, voice croaked:
He was drowning in the quicksand, but I loved him,
And I knew no girl would ever love him more.
I promised him I'd stay with him forever;
He said to me our love would never die,
But who'd have thought he'd run off with my best friend,
I watched him melt away and sobbed good-bye
"That's so heartfelt," said Daphne, her eyes misty. "I can just picture her sitting there, crying her eyes out."
Across from her, Millicent looked thoughtful. "I wonder what she means by quicksand."
"My mother says she wrote this song for her third husband," said Pansy. "The illicit potion abuser."
"No, it's clearly about her second husband," argued Daphne. "The gay one."
"Well, yeah," Finnigan put in. "The song starts with I met him at a gay bar in September."
"I didn't know you listened to Celestina bloody Warbeck," said Thomas, chuckling.
Finnigan's ears turned red. "My mam has all her albums."
Draco glanced at Potter, who wore an expression of utter incredulity that perfectly matched what Draco felt.
"I hate Celestina Warbeck," confessed Potter in an undertone. "Mrs Weasley always puts her on at Christmas."
"I think words ruin music," said Draco with a shrug. "Lyrics were invented because most people don't want to learn to play an instrument. So they pretend like their voice is one."
"But how are you supposed to sing along if there aren't any words?" Potter looked confused.
Draco raised an eyebrow. "You're not supposed to sing along. Music is for listening."
The song changed, and this time it was a Weird Sisters ballad, a recent hit with lyrics every bit as nonsensical as Celestina's, but with a contemporary beat. Draco shook his head after listening to the end of the refrain. "I love you like the stars love the sky? That makes no sense. Who thinks like that?"
"Dunno," said Potter. "But a lot of people must, since it's so popular."
Draco sighed. "Potter, Potter Potter. Do you really think people like what they can relate to?"
"What else would they like? And I wish you wouldn't call me Potter. We're friends now, right?"
"Whatever you say, Potter. Anyway, don't be naive. People will like anything that they think everyone expects them to like. Celestina is such a huge name that most people will say they like her just so they don't stand out."
Potter's eyes flashed. "That's not true -- I told you I hated her, just now."
"Oh yeah? So why did you lower your voice, then?"
"I didn't lower my voice," argued Potter, then frowned, clearly realising that Draco had him. "I hate Celestina Warbeck!" he exclaimed. "She makes no sense."
The discussion around them ceased for a moment as everyone -- especially the girls -- gave Potter strange looks. "Thanks for sharing," said Pansy frostily, and whispered something to Daphne, who -- once again -- giggled. Draco was overcome by an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu. He shook it off and folded his arms across his chest, fixing Potter with a look.
"Now you'll think twice before you say something like that in company, won't you?"
"No, I won't," said Potter. "I'll make a point of slagging her off, now, because I don't like her and I'm not afraid to say so."
"That's only because I pointed this out to you. Otherwise you would have gone on lowering your voice and pretending like you don't mind, really. Eventually you might even have found yourself liking her songs and finding meaning in them."
"Care to make a bet?"
Draco rolled his eyes. "I think my point's already been made, thank you."
"No, it hasn't--"
And they were off, surrounded by the drunken merriment of their classmates, arguing in low voices. Draco had forgotten this about Potter: he was not as stupid as he looked, and he actually listened. Arguing with his housemates usually resembled a stage where several different actors were delivering conflicting monologues. Arguing with either of his parents was simply not done. Arguing with Potter made Draco feel like he was involved in something, that what he said would have direct bearing on what Potter said next. He had liked that, during the war, and had sometimes deliberately argued about things he didn't even believe, like when he'd started insisting that Ollivander had been an Australian spy.
It was these arguments that had made Draco stop hating Potter, more so than their belonging to the same side. More so than his growing attraction, which he had denied until he was stupid enough to get drunk with Potter. Potter's thought process was simplistic, and he had no appreciation for subtle turns of phrase, but he made up for his lack of eloquence in a sort of inner fire, bright and infectious, that drew Draco in like the proverbial moth.
The seventh-years left the pub just before midnight. The proprietor's fabled drink really did work as advertised -- as soon as those who'd had it got to their feet, they no longer had trouble forming full sentences and their eyes were clear, their movements assured and steady.
Even though he'd barely exchanged words with any of them during the night, Draco still felt like he was with them, like he was a part of something. Potter had done that, made him forget that he was Draco Malfoy, that he was supposed to be aloof and disdainful, just like his father had taught him.
Draco kicked at a stone in the path that led around the castle and through the courtyard, and suddenly there was an arm round his shoulders. He had forgotten that Potter was walking with him.
"There, there," said Potter. "I might let you win next time."
"I didn't lose," said Draco peevishly. "It's not my fault you don't know the first thing about wizarding society--"
"Shut up, Malfoy." Potter's voice was low, too low, too intimate, and Draco realised he'd forgotten to throw the arm off. He did so now, but Potter didn't shrug it off this time. He seized Draco's sleeve and forced him around so they stood face to face.
"It doesn't fucking matter how much we pretend to be friends," said Potter. "I'll still want you."
Draco frowned. "Pretend to be friends? How nice. Here I thought I was making an effort worthy of a Gryffindor. It seems that I needn't have bothered."
"I didn't mean it like that. I meant that we're-- we could be... more than just friends."
"What? Potter, now you're just being ridiculous. How many times have I got to explain it to you that I didn't ask for this, I didn't want to want you, didn't want to be with you, and I still don't want it! Any of it!" He stepped away, freeing himself from Potter's grasp.
"You sound like a Celestina Warbeck song," said Potter, his eyes stormy.
"I do not."
"No, you're right. You don't just sound like her. It's like you are a Celestina Warbeck song, Draco. You want to be friends but you won't use my given name. You say you don't want anything to do with me -- in that way, but I'm not fucking blind, you know, I see you looking at me. Everyone else might not realise what's going on, but I know what you look like when you--"
"Enough," said Draco through his teeth. He was very nearly shaking, but he told himself it was the cold. "We had an agreement, Potter. I thought you were a man of your word."
"I thought the same about you," said Potter, and walked inside without looking back.
"What's that supposed to mean?" called Draco, but Potter did not come back. "When did I not keep my word?" he asked the wind. The wind made no answer, and Draco realised he had just sounded, in his head, like a Celestina Warbeck song. Or at least a Weird Sisters ballad.
"You're a selfish prig who doesn't care about anyone but himself."
Draco looked up slowly and found Ginny standing over him, very warlike with her arms crossed and her eyes narrowed.
Draco squinted at her. "And this is news?" He had found an abandoned classroom to study in, confident that no one would find him there, but clearly Potter's magical map was not off-limits to one Ginny Weasley. "Am I supposed to be ashamed of myself now, is that how it works?"
She took a deep breath and let her arms drop. "Harry's in love with you."
"No, he isn't," said Draco, trying to dampen the surge of panic that rose up in him at her words. None of what they'd done had ever been about love.
"Yes, he is," she said, crossing her arms again. "He'll never admit it, of course--"
"--because it's not true," Draco said quickly.
"It is. I've known Harry since I was ten years old, Malfoy. He was in love with me once, remember?"
"Whatever," said Draco. "So what? Why are you sticking your nose where it doesn't belong?" In the weeks since their conversation in the courtyard, he and Potter had gone back to the same uneasy peace that had prevailed in the first days of Draco's defection: they did not speak unless it was absolutely necessary, but there was no overt animosity. More than once, Draco had caught himself wishing things were different, but NEWTs were consuming everyone's attention, so much so that there had been barely a muttering when the Quidditch Cup had gone to the fourth-years.
"He told me about your little plan, that's why," Ginny said. "And let me just say--"
"I will not let you say anything," snapped Draco. "First of all, it's not up to Potter to go around telling people what I will or will not do, and second of all--"
"It's destroying him," Ginny pressed on. "Can you honestly tell me that it means nothing to you?"
Draco scowled. "Potter's unhealthy fixations are none of my concern. But here's a thought: I'll share my secret for forgetting with him, before we leave school. He can't be destroyed if he doesn't remember. What more, he could just forget Granger and your brother that way, as I'd wager that their loss is destroying him even more."
"It's a coward's way out," said Ginny, and pressed her lips together.
"Fine, I'm a coward, then. Now, if you're quite through with pestering me, I have eighty more pages to read before tomorrow's mock Charms NEWT."
"I thought better of you, Malfoy. I thought you had learned something in the war."
Draco grimaced. "Always happy to disappoint."
"You really don't care about him, do you? You never did, did you?"
"I-- this is not about Potter. I'm not doing this because I hate him. If I didn't go through with it, I'd be doing it for him, and that's not caring; it's self-sacrifice."
"Why not do it for you?"
"Because that's not what I want to be."
Ginny scoffed. "It's what you are, Malfoy, like it or not. You might get rid of your memories of Harry, but you will always be unhappy, and you will die a bitter man who's always denied his true nature."
"Did you rehearse that or was that a fortune-telling trance? I didn't know you were a Seer. Very impressive, I must say, but save the bullshit for somebody who cares, Ginny. It's not my true nature. It's just a phase, and I'm just helping time along."
"You're stupid if you think that. I could take off my clothes right now and you'd not be moved, am I right?"
Draco leaned back in his chair. "Yes, but I'm just not very fond of freckles."
Ginny snorted softly. "How about Pansy, then?"
"I don't like her personality," said Draco lamely.
"She has an ugly birth-mark on her left tit."
Ginny sighed. "You're denying yourself happiness, Malfoy. If that isn't self-sacrifice, I don't know what is."
"Happiness? Potter and I could never be happy. We don't even like each other, and it's not as though we have anything in common."
"I'd say you have as many things in common with him as I do. He even told me that once, during the war. 'It's like spending time with you, only he's a bloke, and much more rude.' I suppose I should have realised some things, back then."
If only you could have realised those things then, and put a stop to them somehow, thought Draco. Out loud, he said, "So go on, win him back. If you care about him so much--"
"He would never be happy with me. Just like you'd never be happy with Pansy or Daphne or Parvati or anyone."
"And it comes back to this: Potter and I could never be happy, either. I don't even understand why you're here trying to make me feel responsible for Potter's bloody happiness. I'm not the last man on earth, for God's sake. There will be others."
"He's in love with you."
"Well, I'm not in love with him. You can tell him that."
Ginny's eyes turned sad. "Tell him yourself."
Ginny didn't speak to Draco again. The rest of spring passed in a haze of mock examinations, constant revision, and barely any time to enjoy the constantly improving weather. Moody even cancelled the Auror lessons in mid-April, saying that they'd covered everything that didn't require a security clearance, and if they didn't pass their NEWTs, they wouldn't be admitted into the formal Auror training anyway.
Draco and Potter maintained their distance. Draco was as polite as he could be, which was more than anyone could have asked for, really. For his part, Potter took great pains to make certain they were never alone together. They were alone together often enough in Draco's dreams, which began to border on disturbing by the time June rolled around. By the last week of NEWTs, Draco was ready to howl with frustration; his dreams were filled with such perversion that he needed new sheets every evening. Sometimes he thought he would come if Potter merely touched his face.
However, without Potter's constant initiative, Draco was able to weather this, throughout NEWT weeks, throughout the agonising week before the Hogwarts Express took them home. He only had to think of the Dreamcatcher underneath his bed, and he would instantly grow calmer. It was too bad that he couldn't use this Dreamcatcher to forget his dreams.
Draco was tempted to get rid of all his memories as soon as the device was ready, but he was afraid that he'd neglect to forget something important, which would later cause everything to unravel. No, he would take his time with this. It would be perfect; he would erase all traces of his lust for Potter -- and even if anything were left, afterwards, he would be able to suppress that like he had suppressed initial attraction to every boy he encountered since he'd turned twelve. They were just minor aberrations, easy to ignore.
When the time came, Draco carried the cloth-draped Dreamcatcher to the train, cradling it to his chest. He would not let it out of his sight until he got back to Malfoy Manor.
As he strode towards his mother on Platform Nine and Three Quarters, he could not resist a glance back at Potter, who stood near a column with his thumbs hooked in the belt loops of his jeans, staring straight at Draco. Ginny stood behind him, but she glared at something on the floor.
For a wild moment, Draco imagined what this would have been like in a love song. He saw himself dropping the Dreamcatcher as a joyous swell of the orchestra accompanying the sound of its shattering. He saw himself walking to Potter, slowly, to the sound of a lone violin, a sound that climbed higher and higher as Draco extended his hands. Its pitch was deafening as their hands joined, and then the piano accompaniment kicked in as Draco and Potter kissed each other for the whole world to see.
But his life was not a Celestina Warbeck song.
Draco let his mother lead him from the platform, away from the train, away from Hogwarts for the last time in his life. Away from Potter.