Chapter Rating: PG
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Chapter Summary: Draco convinces Blaise to help him with Potter on Saturday. The Slytherins spend a fun and educational afternoon in Hogsmeade, and Draco learns a few new things. Some of these give him reasons to smirk. Others don't. Featuring thoughtless purchases, heavenly eclairs, and a creepy Hog's Head.
Beta: cornmouse, evilsource, goneril, oddnari
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Chapter 6 - Hogsmeade
September seemed to fly past. Everyone got enormous amounts of homework in all their classes and Draco was already having trouble keeping his head above water. Slytherin Quidditch practice every evening contributed to the heavy workload, and his teammates were quietly grumbling. He was pleased, however, because Blaise was certainly improving, as was Malcolm. Draco didn't see much of Potter, other than in the classes they had together.
Before their next Care of Magical Creatures class, Potter had looked like he was going to talk to Draco, but Draco just looked at him coolly, allowing himself a slight smile. Potter flushed as Granger tugged on his robes to signal the half-breed's arrival. After the class, Draco had nodded slightly in Potter's direction and walked off with his friends, not looking back. On the whole, the two of them seemed to be in the middle of an uneasy truce, and by the fourth week of classes, tongues were wagging about the "sudden change" in Draco Malfoy. Pansy had told him most people speculated that Draco was afraid of Potter because of something his father had told him. Draco had merely snorted. As if he'd be afraid of Potter in any circumstances.
Draco and Blaise had not talked about their relationship, or lack thereof, since before the Quidditch tryouts. That suited Draco just fine, except for the issue of the time conflict between his meeting with his father and his meeting with Potter. On the last Sunday of September, less than a week before the Hogsmeade weekend, Blaise and Draco spent a few hours flying on the Quidditch pitch. Pansy was busy putting the finishing touches on the essay collection bin for the Slytherin house unity project. Vincent and Gregory were busy pigging out in the Great Hall along with Millicent, so Draco and Blaise went by themselves.
Draco circled around the stadium lazily, letting the light afternoon breeze wash over his face, enjoying a moment of freedom before they had to get back to their homework. The castle grounds looked breathtaking from above -- the lake was awash with ever so slight ripples, making the surface appear ridged. From above, it looked like so much cracked glass dumped into a pit, sunlight dancing on it. Every so often, the giant squid would reach out a tentacle or two, causing breaks in the pattern. The lawns were still green but the leaves on the trees were turning yellow and red already, and the smell in the air was certainly reminiscent of autumn - sweet and woodsy. Draco took in the pastiche of greens, yellows, reds, and browns -- if there was one thing to be said for going to Hogwarts, it was the scenery. He had to admit that not even the splendour of the Malfoy Manor gardens could compare to this.
Draco wondered how his mother was doing, and whether Father had contacted her yet. There had been nothing in her usual missives about Father -- just the usual platitudes about shopping, visiting friends and relatives, and the occasional mention of Aurors coming to call at strange hours. It amazed Draco, how blithe his mother could be -- he knew she wasn't just an ordinary rich housewife, but she was absolutely masterful at keeping up appearances.
He was distracted for a moment and nearly crashed into one of the goal hoops. Righting himself, he looked around to see if Blaise had seen his blunder, but the other boy was busy zigzagging among the goal hoops on the opposite side of the pitch. Draco gazed eastwards and watched as the half-giant left his hut and trudged off towards the Forbidden Forest, carrying a huge sack on his back. The disgusting slobbering creature named Fang bounded all around him, barking so loudly that Draco could hear the echoes on the wind.
Seeing the half-giant reminded him that he still hadn't talked to Blaise about asking Potter to meet them. They must have been out flying for two hours by now, Draco thought. He let out a shrill whistle and a moment later, a very windswept Blaise braked in the air near him. Draco grinned.
"Time to head back, I think," he said, steering his broom downwards. Blaise followed in his wake and soon they dismounted and shouldered their brooms.
"That was fun," Blaise said.
"I told you so," Draco quipped. Blaise rolled his eyes, swaying deliberately and bumping into him, as though trying to knock him sideways. Draco steadied himself, laughing. He didn't enjoy this kind of roughhousing, but his talk with Blaise was more important than making a point to mention his displeasure.
"Listen, I need to talk to you about something," he said, stopping just before they ascended the rough stone steps hewn into the cliffs surrounding the castle.
Blaise put his broom down and leaned on it, peering intently at Draco. "I'm listening."
"You know that next weekend is Hogsmeade weekend," Draco said.
"Yeah, we're still going together, right?"
"Of course. There's just one thing," Draco said, and told Blaise that he had to meet someone who had news of his father. As he spoke, Blaise was nodding slowly.
"Just be careful, Draco--" he began earnestly.
"See, that's not all," Draco interrupted.
"Oh?" A raised eyebrow.
"Yeah. I've, uh, arranged to meet Potter at two o'clock at The Three Broomsticks, as well."
"What?" Blaise's eyes looked like they were going to pop out of their sockets.
Draco shifted his weight and leaned against the rock wall behind him.
"What do you want with Potter?" Blaise's tone was accusing, and that was never a good sign.
"I just thought--" Draco began, but Blaise cut him off with a wave of his hand. Draco bristled.
"I can't believe you! I really can't! You jerk me around for weeks, and all the while you're with --" Blaise spluttered a little -- "Potter?" The other boy's voice was raised now, his eyes darkening.
"Blaise, it's not like that!" Draco snapped. "I'm not with him, nor do I have any desire to be."
"Yeah? Well, what's it like then?" Blaise spat furiously.
"I have some information about Potter, and I intend to use it against him," Draco replied, studying a jutting rock behind Blaise.
"And what information is that?"
"That," Draco said, his tone perfectly neutral, "would be telling." He looked up at Blaise, challenging him.
Blaise seemed to freeze to his spot on the ground. "So that's how we're going to play now, is it?"
"You started this, Zabini. If you don't trust me, why should I trust you?" Draco asked, raising both eyebrows and spreading his hands in a deliberate show of helplessness.
Blaise looked down at his shoes. The silence grew heavy between them and Draco was considering a dozen alternative approaches at the same time, but none were working out in his favour.
"Look, Blaise--" he started to say, but Blaise held up a hand. Draco was beginning to get very irritated with the interruptions.
"No, Draco, you're right." Blaise raised his head to look at Draco, sighing deeply. "If you want to go to Hogsmeade with Potter, that's f-fine. I'll just -- go with Pansy and the girls, or something."
"No, no, you berk," Draco said with a relieved laugh, forgetting his irritation from a moment ago. "We're still going together. I told Potter to meet us at the Three Broomsticks at two. Both of us."
Blaise cocked an eyebrow. "Draco Malfoy, a poster child for house unity at Hogwarts?"
"Something like that," Draco said with a sly grin. "However, learning about my father comes first, and I might be late. That's where you come in. I need you to entertain Potter while I make my way back from my meeting."
"Oh, the things I must subject myself to for the dubious honour of being your friend," Blaise lamented. "Fine, I'll occupy Potter on Saturday while you further nefarious plots for world domination."
Draco snorted, then grinned. "I won't forget this, Blaise," he said, hoisting his broom over his shoulder again. "Let's go."
They ascended the stairs to the castle in silence.
On the evening of the following Friday, Draco deposited the essay he'd written for the house unity project into the silver and green collection bin below the notice board in the Slytherin common room. He turned sharply towards a group of third-years sitting in a circle near the fireplace, passing around various objects and yelling out their names, followed by exclamations of "a what?" He walked over to them and coughed loudly. They shut up promptly and several looked up with guilty looks on their faces.
"Why are you making such a racket?" Draco demanded.
"Please, Draco, we were just playing," a tiny girl with pigtails piped up. "We learned the game at the Hufflepuff party last week."
Draco glared at her. He wasn't supposed to express disapproval of anything connected to the house unity projects. "You're making too much noise. Play quietly, some people are trying to do homework," he said imperiously.
"Sorry," the girl said, but there was a mischievous glint in her eye. The little devil knew he wasn't allowed to stop them, Draco realised, the corners of his mouth twitching. She would go far in Slytherin, this one. He gave her a brief nod and stalked off towards the boys' dormitories, determined to get some sleep.
The Hogsmeade Saturday dawned grey and drizzly, and Draco stopped in after breakfast to take his cloak off its peg on the wall, not wishing to catch a cold this early in the year. He was quite prone to colds and though wizards didn't suffer too badly from colds and flu -- not as much as Muggles did -- the illnesses were still rather a nuisance. He'd managed to catch a particularly stubborn strain in his first year, and it took three whole days before he felt better. He joined Blaise, Vincent, and Gregory in the entrance hall several minutes later and they took off towards the wizarding village, talking about Quidditch strategies.
They passed Liam Baddock along the way, who towered above a small group of third-year boys, looking surly. As the oldest prefect, Liam was responsible for taking the younger boys along with him, then taking them back to the castle. Draco wasn't looking forward to that particular chore in his seventh year. Further up the road, Laurel Iven, the seventh-year girl prefect, was scolding the little pigtailed girl from the night before as several other third-year girls looked on. Draco nodded at them as he passed, reflecting that Pansy would probably enjoy her chore even less come seventh year. Pansy and her friends were probably already at Gladrags right now, Draco thought, smirking.
As the four of them crossed the train tracks and passed the Hogsmeade Station building, Draco noticed Potter, Granger, Weasley, and Longbottom ahead of them. Longbottom was spreading his arms out while saying something in a high-pitched voice, and the rest of the Gryffindors were laughing. Since when did Longbottom have anything funny to say? The things he did were usually very amusing, mind, but Draco hadn't marked Longbottom as a storyteller or a jester. He shrugged and turned to Blaise.
"So, where to?"
Blaise mirrored his shrug and shook his head. "Dunno. Honeydukes?"
"Good idea. Let's go before the third-years raid it like locusts," Draco said.
Vincent and Gregory nodded approvingly and the four of them went straight towards the sweet shop. Draco bought Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans for the Slytherin common room -- it was his turn, he remembered from last year. He hoped Pansy would remember to buy a large box as well, otherwise they might run out before the next Hogsmeade weekend. For himself, he picked up several slabs of different kinds of chocolate as well as a large box of pink coconut ice squares. He didn't bother with the brand-name sweets, they were so common. The only exceptions were the Beans and whatever his mother sent him along with her homemade sweets.
After the four of them left Honeydukes, Vincent and Gregory ambled off towards Zonko's -- they were able to spend hours in that place, but Draco had grown out of it. He and Blaise decided to go see Pansy at Gladrags and sure enough, there she was. Surrounded by her posse, she was pawing her way through dress robes of all styles and colours. She made them watch her try on about fifteen different styles before rolling her eyes dramatically and taking the lot to the front counter. Draco swiftly followed her and took the bundle from her.
"Excuse me, but I think that's my prerogative," he said huskily, bending down to kiss her cheek. He could swear that the saleswitch at the counter turned a little green as he paid for the robes. Pansy beamed at her friends, who looked extremely put out by Draco's display of gallantry and were obviously very jealous of Pansy. Millicent looked particularly sulky. Draco winked at her.
"You're so good to me, my darling," Pansy cooed, circling her arms around Draco's neck and rising slightly to give him a kiss. Draco's eyes cut to Blaise, who looked slightly queasy.
They filed out of Gladrags to the sound of Pansy's chattering and stood in front of the shop. The village of Hogsmeade was virtually crawling with Hogwarts students now. Gryffindors and Ravenclaws bustled in and out of stores, Slytherins strolled up and down High Street, Hufflepuffs loitered in front of shop displays, pointing at various items and talking excitedly. The heavy grey clouds that had covered the sky in the morning had dissipated and the sky was a beautiful shade of blue, the shade of blue only seen in Scotland. Draco squinted against the bright glare of the sun.
"Let's go to Madam Puddifoot's!" Pansy cried. "I read an advertisement in the Daily Prophet about a new sort of eclair she's selling, I do so want to try them!"
Blaise made a gagging gesture -- everyone knew that Madam Puddifoot's was the love shack of Hogsmeade. Draco was inclined to agree with him on the gagging, but he didn't think it would hurt his image (or Blaise's) if they showed up there with a harem of girls. He noticed Tracey Davis gazing wistfully at Blaise and that cinched it.
"Let's go, pet," he said, wrapping an arm around Pansy's shoulders. "It'll be my treat," he called with a wink at Blaise.
"Play along, will you? We could use some rumours about heterosexual debauchery," he added under his breath. Blaise snickered.
The eight of them walked past Scrivenshaft's, turned left and followed a narrow side-street to the tea shop. The interior of the shop smelled strongly of cinnamon. It was hot and stuffy, and Draco removed his cloak, draping it over the back of a chair. He pulled Pansy's chair out for her, smiling sweetly and gazing at her lovingly. Blaise and Draco then brought four more chairs and they all piled around the tiny table.
Draco threw his arm across the back of Pansy's chair and looked around curiously. He'd only been there once before, and that was when Pansy had insisted he take her there for Valentine's Day in their fourth year -- there'd been garish cherubs throwing confetti at the patrons then. No cherubs were visible this time; gaudy paintings of teapots and fruit bowls covered the walls. The curtains on the windows resembled the frilly dress robes of Ron Weasley, except these were shocking pink.
"Those eclairs better be worth it, Parks," he murmured into her ear. "I haven't seen this much kitsch since the last time you dragged me in here."
Pansy giggled. "Hush, Draco. Granted, it's not Florean Fortescue's, but The Three Broomsticks doesn't have the kind of puddings I like."
Madam Puddifoot, a stout witch with shiny black hair, came up to their table, smiling.
"What'll it be, dears?" she inquired in a hearty voice that suited her entire being perfectly. They ordered tea and coffee and a plateful of the new coconut-vanilla eclairs. As they waited, they began making conversation across the table and soon, Blaise and Millicent were engrossed in Quidditch talk.
"That was a foul, that was," Blaise was arguing, making a slashing motion in the air with the side of his hand for emphasis.
"Was not, Blaise, it's not my bloody fault you can't keep your eyes on the Quaffle," Millicent shot back, eyes glittering malevolently.
Draco gave Tracey a sympathetic look -- she didn't look too happy with Blaise's choice of a conversation partner. Seeing Draco's eyes on her, she blushed ever so slightly, but sat up straighter. Their drinks and eclairs arrived, and for a while they were busy expressing their appreciation for the pudding with enthusiastic Mmms and much lip-smacking. The eclairs were truly excellent, Draco had to admit. The cream filling had just the right amount of flavouring and it didn't make the puffs soggy. He would have liked to take some back with him, but he didn't think they'd travel well.
Draco cast a glance at a ceramic clock in the shape of a teapot -- it was nearly twenty minutes to one o'clock already. He needed to hurry if he didn't want to be late for his meeting. He rose from his chair, putting several Galleons on the table.
"Well, ladies, lovely as your company is, I'm afraid I'll have to leave you to Blaise -- I have a delivery waiting for me at the Post Office and it cannot wait any longer. I'll see you back in the common room," he said, putting his cloak back on. He'd startled Blaise out of his conversation with Millicent, and the Italian boy was gazing at him pensively.
"Careful at the Post Office, Draco," he said. "I heard those owls they keep there can be quite frisky."
"Oh, I know. I'll make sure I don't upset any esteemed members of the owl species," Draco replied, bending over to kiss Pansy. "See you," he breathed, gave Blaise a significant look, and strode towards the door. Feeling magnanimous, he winked at a Ravenclaw fourth-year who was gawking at him as he passed her table.
Draco was glad to get out into the autumn air again -- Madam Puddifoot's was certainly not conducive to being cool or calm. He had been sweating profusely despite having removed his cloak, and his mind protested at all the garish decorations. Whoever decorated that place must have taken lessons from Dolores Umbridge. Draco hurried back out onto High Street and wove his way into another narrow street that led to the Hog's Head.
He wrinkled his nose distastefully at the sign above the inn door, casting a surreptitious glance around him to see if anyone was around to see him enter. The small side street was deserted, however, save for a mangy-looking little dog that was rooting around for scraps in a nearby rubbish bin. Draco took a deep breath and pushed open the heavy wooden door. His nose was immediately assaulted by a rancid smell that reminded him vaguely of his uncle's farm in Devon. He looked around, but the bar seemed deserted, save for a burly bearded wizard in a tattered green cloak.
Draco exhaled, glad that he had got there before his father. He walked up to the bar, nodding to the barman in greeting. The grey-bearded old man looked up at Draco, surveying him with narrowed eyes. Draco was suddenly sure he'd met the barman before, but he couldn't place him.
"What do you want, then?" the barman asked in a wheezing voice.
"A Butterbeer, if you please," Draco answered haughtily.
The barman shuffled to the back of the small enclosure behind the bar stand and pulled a bottle from a cracked brown box. Slamming it down in front of Draco, he turned back to the Daily Prophet, which was spread out on a small table behind the bar. Draco picked up the bottle with two fingers, his lip curling at how dusty it was. He put several Sickles down on the counter and extracted his handkerchief from his pocket, making an elaborate display of wiping the bottle. When done, he found a table near the wall from where he could still watch the entrance and sat down. There was no clock in sight and Draco was beginning to worry -- he knew it was past one o'clock already, and it wasn't like his father to be late.
When his Butterbeer was finished, Draco's insides were twisted with worry and a horrible suspicion -- what if it wasn't his father who had sent the message? What if it was someone playing a prank on him, knowing that Draco would show up as instructed? What if there were teachers -- or worse, Aurors -- waiting outside when he came out, ready to question him about the whereabouts of Lucius Malfoy? Draco cursed himself mentally; how could he have been so stupid? Still, it had been Dad's handwriting on the note. Draco suddenly remembered Pansy telling him about the Slytherin essays being bewitched to look like someone else's handwriting and his heart sank.
Father was right -- Draco lacked foresight. He had once again rushed into doing things without thinking, and he didn't want to think about the consequences now. Just as he rose to leave, the door creaked open and a squat, hairy wizard walked in -- he was so fat that he appeared to be rolling along the floor, rather than walking. The newcomer looked around and made straight for Draco. He threw a white square of parchment on the table and proceeded to the bar without looking back. Ordering something that looked poisonous, the short wizard clambered up onto a barstool and started talking to the barman.
Draco picked up the parchment the unexpected visitor had dropped and unfolded it, his breathing shallow.
Behind the inn, right now.
Draco pushed the empty bottle of Butterbeer aside but didn't get up, thinking feverishly. How could he know that it was his father waiting out back and not some prankster? Draco knew an incantation that could help him, but he needed to be by himself when he performed it. He picked up the parchment and walked to the lavatory, which was behind a creaky swinging door. It was surprisingly clean, though straw covered the floor and the smell from the bar lingered here as well. The small room was empty, and Draco relaxed. Ostende scriptorem, he muttered, making a zigzagging motion with his wand as he pointed it at the note.
A puff of smoke rose from the surface of the parchment, growing larger and larger as it hung in front of Draco's face. A vague outline of a person bent over a parchment appeared in the smoke and Draco recognised his father's features in the face before the smoke dissipated. He pocketed the note and walked out, heading towards the door. His spellwork was lamentable -- the image was supposed to be sharp and crisp -- but at least he'd found out what he wanted. Draco made a mental note to practise the Scriptor charm, and never trust anonymous-looking notes again.
His heart raced as he made his way around the side of the inn hurriedly, fingering the wand in his pocket. He turned the corner and saw a cloaked and hooded figure standing near an iron decorative fence that partially obscured a series of rose bushes. The figure raised its head and Draco breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of his father's face. His heart leapt slightly -- his father hadn't changed at all. Of course, that was to be expected, with no more Dementors in Azkaban, Draco corrected himself.
"Father," Draco said deferentially, coming to a stop about a foot from the man and inclining his head slightly.
"Draco, my boy," Lucius Malfoy drawled, coming closer and embracing his son with one arm. His other arm hung by his side and looked rather useless, Draco noticed.
"What's wrong with your arm, Dad? Are you hurt?" Draco asked, concerned.
"Nothing a few days' rest won't fix, but I needed to see you," his father said, stepping away. "Are they treating you well at the school?"
"No worse or better than usual."
"Good, good. Have you been writing to your mother?"
"Good boy. Listen, I need you to send this to her. It's illegal for them to be checking the letters Pandora brings to the Manor from Hogwarts, but they're checking everything else and our fireplaces are being watched, even the one in the cellar. Just send it to her, she'll know what to do." With that, Lucius handed Draco a small, oval mirror with intricate carvings on the frame.
Draco took it -- he knew what it was, of course -- a two-way mirror. He used to have a pair when he was small, but he'd smashed one when he threw it after a house-elf who'd irritated him. He unfastened his cloak and put the mirror inside his robe pocket. His mind was racing with a million questions, but he wasn't sure where to start.
"Look, Draco, we don't have much time. You'll be missed shortly, I expect -- whom did you tell that you were meeting me?"
"No one, I just told Blaise that I was meeting someone who had news of you," Draco replied at once.
"That's my boy," Lucius said fondly. Draco flushed, pleased at the praise.
His father told him about his escape -- someone named Wormtail had created a distraction to draw off the Aurors guarding the prison while Aunt Bella freed the Death Eaters, finding their cells using a rota she stole from the guardroom. She was interrupted by the Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt who didn't follow the others after Wormtail for reasons unknown. Shacklebolt was now a captive of the Dark Lord's -- he was proving very resilient and they hadn't been able to crack him yet.
Draco gazed at his father in awe as he spoke -- he'd never be able to pull off half the things his father did. It all sounded terribly exciting and dangerous, and Draco didn't like dangerous situations. He recalled the conversations he overheard last month and told his father about Potter's concern for Shacklebolt. Lucius' eyes widened.
"You heard him say he was concerned about Shacklebolt?"
"No, no. I heard Weasley tell Potter that it wasn't his fault they'd sent Shacklebolt."
"That Potter boy is so very irritating," Lucius said with a hard look in his eyes. "This is very interesting information indeed, Draco, I'm glad you told me." He paced alongside the iron fence for a few moments.
"Make sure that you send any more information you glean about Potter to your mother. The Dark Lord is very displeased that the boy managed to escape from him once again."
"Do you know how he does it? Potter, I mean. He isn't much. I've dueled with him, and if it hadn't been for his ability to speak Parseltongue, I would have flattened him."
"Don't underestimate Harry Potter, son. What he lacks in skill he makes up for in sheer nerve, and he has friends in high places indeed."
Draco snorted, unable to help himself.
His father gave him an indulgent smile. "Not for long, of course," he added, "but all the same, don't give Potter any undue cause for concern. While I am confident that the Dark Lord's mission will be successful, there is a small possibility that it won't be." Lucius frowned. "In which case you, my son, will need to have a clean record."
"You don't want me to join you, Father?" Draco said, pretending to look put out and trying to prevent his sigh of relief.
"Oh heavens, no, Draco," his father said, not looking at him. "I wouldn't put you in danger any more than I would walk into the Ministry of Magic and surrender. Besides, you're underage and any magic you attempt outside of school is watched by the Ministry. You needn't worry, son. The Dark Lord will be in a position to seize power long before your education is completed, and he will make his move swiftly. You just keep out of trouble and continue fulfilling your prefect duties."
Draco nodded. Well, that was certainly a burden lifted -- he'd gone to the meeting half-expecting to be given the Dark Mark.
"Tell me, Draco, how is Pansy?" his father asked suddenly.
Draco smiled in the way he always smiled at Pansy when he knew people were looking. "She's just great," he said, beaming.
"Don't get too involved, son," Lucius said. "There are many other girls out there. Pansy's a good match, but not the best -- you are heir to my name and fortune, and you're still very young."
Draco made no reply, just tipped his head slightly. Pansy was as good a cover as any, but he wasn't about to let his father know he had no inclination to procreate. He might change his mind one day, after all. His thoughts wandered to Pansy, the Slytherin house unity project, and he suddenly remembered Nott.
"Father, did Theodore Nott's father escape with you?" he asked.
"Yes, yes, he did. He was hurt again, unfortunately -- they hadn't given him time to recover from the injuries he'd sustained in the Department of Mysteries before carting him off to Azkaban," Lucius said with an unpleasant sneer. "The brutality of the Ministry is unthinkable."
Draco made a mental note to speak with Theodore and assuage his distress. He felt so relieved that his father was all right that he was willing to forgive Nott his earlier transgression.
"On that note, I must go, Draco," his father said softly. Draco nodded wordlessly, trying to ignore the pang in his chest.
"When will I see you again?" he asked.
Lucius shook his head. "I don't know. It's dangerous for me to be here and I just wanted to make sure you were all right and they were treating you well." He made a vague gesture in the general direction of the school. "I'll try to be in touch, but I don't want to draw suspicion to you. If you want to ask your mother about me, refer to your uncle Duncan."
They embraced again, and Lucius Disapparated with a barely audible popping sound. Draco recalled the essay he'd just written last week -- the more skilled one was at the charm, the quieter the sound one made when Apparating or Disapparating. Draco made his way back to the street around the inn, feeling a mixture of relief and sadness. He was pleased to see his father, and wished desperately to be back at Malfoy Manor with both his parents. A Lethifold take Potter for making things so complicated for him! He suddenly stopped, remembering the meeting he'd arranged with Potter at The Three Broomsticks. There wasn't a clock in sight, unfortunately, and Draco hurried along, knowing he was very late, hoping that Blaise had been able to keep Potter from leaving.
Draco walked as quickly as he could along High Street, passing students of all ages and houses -- the Hogsmeade weekend was in full swing now, with even the late sleepers out and about. He spotted Vincent and Gregory inside Zonko's and wondered what on earth they found so appealing about the place. No one in Slytherin was daft enough to fall for the tricks that place sold, Draco thought with disdain. He marched past Honeydukes as a screaming bunch of third-years emerged from the doors. Draco patted himself on the back mentally for having the good sense to make his purchases early.
When he finally arrived at the Three Broomsticks some twenty minutes later, the place was packed. He had to look around for a good minute before he spotted Blaise, who sat with his head propped up on his hand, blowing bubbles in his drink with a thin straw. The green drink fizzed dangerously, threatening to spill over the top, but Blaise withdrew the straw with his mouth. He noticed Draco and grinned, waving. Blaise looked quite ridiculous -- smiling with the straw between his teeth -- and Draco suppressed a grin, feeling put out that Potter was nowhere in sight. He wove his way through the crowd towards the table. Sitting down across from Blaise, he looked around for Rosmerta and waved to her, smiling slightly. She waved back and nodded, indicating that she'd be along. Draco turned to Blaise.
"How did it go?" Blaise asked, an anxious look on his face.
"Everything's fine," Draco responded noncommittally. "Did Potter not show up?"
Blaise frowned. "Yeah, he showed up, but he had to leave."
"You talked to him then?"
"No, we sat here staring at each other the whole time," Blaise said irritably. "Of course I talked to him, you told me to keep him here as long as I could."
"Why, Blaise, your charm must be fading if you couldn't keep Potter for longer than -- er, how late am I?"
"An hour and a half," Blaise said, cocking an eyebrow.
Draco gaped at him. "No, that can't be. I wasn't -- I didn't take that long."
"Yes, you did. Potter left about ten minutes ago, said he had Quidditch practice in an hour."
Draco swore loudly, and a cheerful voice behind him said "Dear me, such language from a Malfoy!"
Draco whirled around, ready to lambast whoever it was but stopped as he saw Rosmerta, who was trying not to laugh. "What would you like, dear?" she asked with a kind smile.
"Nettle wine with just a tiny drop of blackberry rum, please," Draco said contritely, giving her a sly wink. She blushed and swatted him lightly with her notebook. "Heartbreaker, that's what you are," she complained with a giggle and walked off towards the bar, bumping into a fifth-year Ravenclaw and apologising as she went. Draco turned back to Blaise.
"You'd better never let Pansy see you carry on like that," Blaise said, stirring his drink absentmindedly. "She'll be more furious than she was after the Hannah Abbott incident."
Draco waved him off. "Pansy hates The Three Broomsticks, remember? Doesn't want to mingle with the commoners or something like that. Anyway, back to Potter. What did you talk about?"
"You, of course," Blaise flashed him a toothy grin. "We went over all your relatives and just started in on your parents when Potter had to leave."
Draco glared at him. "Seriously, Blaise. What was he like?"
"What I want to know is what kept you so long. Then I might tell you about my time with Potter. Might." Blaise leaned back in his chair, lifting his glass and sloshing the contents.
"The man I was meeting was late, and we had much to talk about," Draco replied. He must have looked emotional for a moment because Blaise leaned forward again, dark eyes boring into Draco's.
"Is everything fine, Draco? Or are you just putting up a brave front? If so, it doesn't become you."
"I'll have you know I'm not putting up a front of any sort, and yes, everything is just fine. I had many questions and I must have lost track of time," Draco replied, growing more irritated. He didn't want to talk about his father; that information was his and nobody else's. He intended to keep it that way. "I can't give you any details, Blaise -- we might be overheard and I don't trust anyone when it comes to the well-being of my family," he finished.
Blaise looked cross for a moment, then shook his head. "Good old Draco. I believe the news you have is good, if only because you're almost back to your old self. You haven't been the same since your father was taken."
Draco looked at him coolly and started to respond, but Rosmerta was back with his wine. Draco accepted the glass gratefully and sipped, enjoying the flavour. Rosmerta knew just how to prepare this drink the way he liked it. Draco pressed the tip of his tongue to his palate to ease the slight stinging of the blackberry rum. He looked back at Blaise.
"I don't know what you mean by 'back to my old self' but I am quite happy that my father is once again free. Perhaps not under the circumstances that he deserves, but free nonetheless."
"Are you still going after Potter?"
"Oh, certainly. Potter will pay for what he did to my father," Draco said and noticed with alarm that Blaise looked troubled. "What is it, Zabini? Don't tell me that you've caught the Potter fever."
"I just think he's got enough to be dealing with, without anyone else trying to make his life difficult for him," Blaise said with a guarded look.
"What? What are you talking about?"
"Don't you remember? You told me Sirius Black was his godfather."
"Yeah, so? What's my blood traitor cousin got to do with it?"
"Your cousin is dead, Draco, in case you forgot the Daily Prophet article that exonerated him," Blaise said, staring at his glass.
"Yeah, Aunt Bella sorted him out, so what?" Draco said impatiently. What was Blaise on about?
"Sirius Black and Potter had been close, and Potter's still grieving," came the reply. Blaise was avoiding Draco's eyes, and Draco got angry.
"Do you think I give a Kneazle's behind about what Potter's feeling?" Draco laughed airily. "It's his own fault, anyway."
"Ouch, Draco," Blaise said, taking a sip from his drink. "That's pretty cruel."
Draco raised an eyebrow, as if to say "So?" Blaise sighed.
"Whatever it is you're planning, I want no part in it. I know you hate Potter, but he's always been decent to me."
"Did he cry on your shoulder or something? What's he said to you to make you this reticent?" Draco demanded, feeling his face grow hot. He couldn't believe Blaise was taking Potter's side.
"He didn't say anything to me. We talked about Quidditch and girls, as a matter of fact. But he looks... haunted. Like he's not all there." Blaise trailed off, staring at a potted plant in the corner. "Besides, this shouldn't come as a shock to you. I've always refused to take part in your childish pranks," he added.
"Childish, are they? I recall you laughed just as hard at Potter's face when he saw the Potter Stinks badges I made in fourth year. You wore one, too," Draco insisted, jabbing a finger in Blaise's direction. The other boy shrugged.
"That was then. I'm not taking sides, Draco. I'm just not going to join in your obsessive crusade to bring Potter down. I think he's been beaten enough over the years." Blaise stared hard at him for a moment. "I would try to dissuade you from doing whatever you're planning, but I know it's no use."
"You're right, it's not. Potter has transgressed against my family, and there's nothing you or anyone can say to prevent my revenge," Draco said with satisfaction.
Blaise half-shrugged and gulped down the remainder of his drink, smacking his lips. "Suit yourself."
Draco bristled, drinking the last of his nettle wine as well, forgetting to enjoy it. He hadn't expected Blaise to support him, but he certainly hadn't expected this cool hostility, either. "Fine, I will. Shall we head back?"
"Yeah," Blaise said, not looking at him. Draco hated this tension. Blaise still hadn't talked to him about his disappearances, which were continuing and alarming in their regularity. Draco's insides froze with horrible suspicion.
"You haven't been seeing Potter all these times, have you, Blaise?"
Blaise's eyes shot up to Draco's face. He looked absolutely incredulous. "You think that I have to be buggering Potter to be human to him? Come off it, Draco. Besides, he's straight."
"So who have you been seeing then?" Draco entreated, trying desperately to suppress a smirk at Blaise's ignorance of Potter's sexual proclivities.
"Why must you labour under the delusion that I'm seeing someone? Are you jealous, Draco?"
"Jealous? Why would I be jealous? I'm only curious," Draco shot back, and watched Blaise's hopeful expression crumble with no small amount of satisfaction.
"Curiosity killed the Kneazle, they say," Blaise said blithely, recovering.
He waved at someone behind Draco's back and Rosmerta came over a moment later. They paid for their drinks. Draco got up abruptly, causing his chair to scrape the floor loudly. The crowd had thinned somewhat and he strode towards the exit with relative ease, not looking back to see if Blaise was following. Draco was incensed at losing control like that; he scolded himself mentally for being too free with his emotions. He had been off guard because he was so happy about his father, but that wasn't an excuse. He walked out onto the street, stepping around several younger Hufflepuffs sprawled out near the sidewalk. He wanted to kick one of them just to see what they'd do, but abstained.
Blaise caught up with him several moments later and they made their way back to the castle in relative silence. When they reached the Slytherin common room, Blaise said he needed to go to the library and asked if Draco wanted to join him. Draco declined -- he wanted to lie down and have a nap before he resumed doing his homework. Blaise grinned at him and left. Draco stared after him, contemplating the idea of following him to see if he really went to the library -- Blaise hadn't taken any of his school things with him -- then decided he didn't want to bother. Vincent and Gregory were nowhere to be found and Pansy was probably still in Hogsmeade. Draco walked into the boys' dormitory and shut the door tightly behind himself.
Draco Malfoy's Diary, October 5th
Father is all right! I want to run up to those smug Gryffindor prats and tell them about it, but of course, can't. I am worried about his arm, though -- he was wincing as I hugged him goodbye. I wonder how he hurt it. He does look confident in whatever's going on with the Dark Lord and his plans. That's certainly reassuring, and no small part of that is the fact that I won't have to join the ranks of the Dark Lord's elite hit squad. I wonder what he was getting at, with his comments about Pansy. I dread the day he finds out that the best match for me is not someone who's capable of producing offspring, Malfoy or otherwise.
At any rate, I shall take Father's advice and keep my nose clean. No need to step out of line -- not like I'd have time to, with all the homework that's been dumped on us, and with the house unity project. That reminds me, I need to ask Pansy for more details about the Slytherin project. I think she's supposed to be speaking at the House meeting tomorrow evening -- unless it's Liam's turn. No, I spoke last week, it must be Pansy's turn.
Blaise worries me more and more every day. He's been as irritable as you please, and he got downright cross with me when we were on the subject of Potter. What is it with Potter and his ability to corrupt people's minds into pitying his worthless existence? I admit I was slightly looking forward to meeting him today, but I'm certainly glad I didn't, under the circumstances. Ugh, I just said I looked forward to seeing Harry bleeding Potter. I must not be sleeping enough.
1. Ostende scriptorem -- Ostendare: Latin, to reveal; scriptor: Latin, writer. The Scriptor charm draws upon the traces of magic left by a wizard or witch on a piece of parchment they wrote on and displays a very brief flash of the wizard or witch as they looked when they were writing the letter. The more skill the caster has, the sharper the image. Eternal thanks to entangledbank and jdm314 at latin for their advice and guidance.
2. If you read the second last chapter of OotP, Draco does, indeed, call his father Dad, when emotional. Yet another fanon cliche squashed. Thank you, Jo Rowling, for making him a little more human.
3. Why is it illegal for the Aurors to check the Hogwarts letters? Because there is a law protecting child/parent correspondence. Lucius knows about it, hence his plan to send the two-way mirror with Draco. The law is something I made up; there is nothing to contradict the existence of such a law in canon. It was passed after Umbridge's indignities with students' mail in Harry's fifth year.
4. At the risk of being obvious, Lucius means "bringer of light" whereas Duncan means "dark warrior". Anglicised form of the Gaelic name Donnchadh, derived from Gaelic donn "brown" and cath "warrior".
5. Lethifold -- A magical creature that resembles a half-inch-thick black cloak which moves along the ground at night. It attacks sleeping humans, smothers them, then digests them. Usually only found in the tropics. (Source: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.)
6. According to the HPL, Sirius is considered Draco's cousin through his relation (first cousins) to Narcissa. I've gone with the HPL's interpretation.