Chapter Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Chapter Summary: Draco's essay is read out, and he spends quality time with Morag, as well as finally cornering Queenie. One Sunday, things take an interesting turn. Draco isn't sure whether he should smirk or frown. Features the Hogwarts library, Crabbe and Goyle thinking on their feet, green wand sparks, and a flustered Harry Potter.
Beta: cornmouse, evilsource, goneril, oddnari
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Chapter 10 - Draco's Detour
I suppose it's safe to say that I'm in my sixth year, and I'm in Slytherin. I prefer solitude to rambunctious company, and one of my best friends is a girl. I spend my free time in the Slytherin common room most often, you're not likely to see me wandering around the school.
I'm good at Potions and I enjoy the lessons immensely. However, the subject that truly intrigues me is Defence Against the Dark Arts. I quite look forward to the Defence Association meetings, because I'm given to understand that we'd be given a chance to learn about Dark spells and how they are performed. I don't believe we can effectively defend against spells that we only understand in theory, so I think it's important to know the Dark spells in addition to knowing their counter-spells.
Usage of Dark spells lies with one's conscience, after all -- their knowledge is not in itself sufficient to brand a person a Dark wizard. It's like Potions in a way -- even the most fumbling of wizards can brew a poison through merely being incompetent, but we don't label them as Dark Arts practitioners. Even poisons have their use in everyday life. I suppose one would say I place utility above ethics, though I don't agree. I think ethics are just as important, but I believe each person answers to himself, and shouldn't be judged by some myopic standard set by society hundreds of years ago.
The music from that time period, however, does tickle my fancy. I'm especially fond of chamber music but I'll listen to anything that has a piano accompaniment. I quite fancy the idea of playing the flute, though I'm far too impatient to learn. Unlike my less discerning housemates, who turn up in droves to Weird Sisters concerts, I fancy The Cunning Minds. Their melodies are to die for, and their song lyrics are metaphorical, not unintelligible -- the unintelligible thing is just a rumour started by people without any appreciation of words transcending language.
To conclude, I'll simply do what most people are doing and speak of my favourite colour. I have several colours that I like to wear and look at, but I tend to prefer black. Not for any reason other than it's practical and it goes with everything.
Gryffindor and Hufflepuff had guessed Theodore Nott, Ravenclaw had guessed Sheridan Roper. Draco smiled, feeling vindicated. So far, his essay was the only one in his year that no one had guessed. He watched with glee as his name appeared. There weren't any gasps of surprise, unfortunately, but one couldn't have everything.
He turned to Blaise and cocked an eyebrow at him. Blaise gave him a lopsided grin, his glance darting towards his hands then to the Hufflepuff table. Draco rolled his eyes. After Draco had witnessed the flying practice almost two weeks ago, he had waited for Blaise in the common room then acted like nothing was wrong between them. They didn't talk about Smith or where Blaise went on Sunday mornings.
Nott's essay was read out last. Even if Draco hadn't been keeping count, he'd have known from the first few sentences. Honestly, could he carry on about his father any more? Draco snorted and looked over at where Nott was sitting, not looking at anyone. Predictably, Gryffindor and Hufflepuff had had no idea what they were doing: they had thought Nott was Draco. Draco smirked once again as Ravenclaw guessed Nott's essay correctly -- he was officially the only sixth-year whose essay had gone unguessed.
To think that those sods had had a whole month to figure out who was who, before the guesses had been collected on Hallowe'en! They couldn't guess the one sixth-year Slytherin who was the centre of attention much more often than the rest. It was the last day of essay readings, and the winning house would be announced. Slytherin had got three hundred points so far, so they already had more points than the house which had guessed the most correctly.
He glanced at the Ravenclaw table and winked at Morag, who smiled. They'd met several times since the Hufflepuff party, and tonight after dinner would be no different. At the staff table, Dumbledore rose to his feet, clapping his hands together three times to get attention. The students fell silent.
"It is time to announce the winner in the first house unity contest," he said, beaming at everyone. "It is with great pleasure that I award Ravenclaw house 250 points for guessing correctly the most times."
Cheers erupted from the Ravenclaws. Dumbledore waved them to be silent.
"I hope the exercise has taught all of you something new about your schoolmates. Slytherin, after all, received 350 points -- that means there is one person in each year about whom their classmates know nothing at all."
Draco gave everyone around him a look of extreme smugness. Pansy giggled into her sleeve.
"You know we would have all got you right, how many screaming rows did you and Blaise have about The Cunning Minds?" she whispered.
He wrinkled his nose at her. Dumbledore announced the end of the contest and people started to get up from the benches, chattering. Draco rose as well, told Blaise and Pansy he'd see them later, and headed for the library. He passed Hannah Abbott, who was looking at him with something like awe written all over her simple face. He gave her a reserved stare, and she blushed.
Draco pushed past a group of third-years from various houses, who were nattering about the Quidditch scandal. He wondered how long it would take until that topic of conversation would finally be exhausted. No one still knew who had released the second Snitch at the Slytherin versus Gryffindor match, and the incident was still making headlines in wizarding newspapers. Rita Skeeter had failed to gain access to Hogwarts and instead had written a scathing piece about an alleged romance McGonagall had had with an American singing sorcerer back when she was in her early twenties.
Meanwhile, Wright and Sons were busy developing a new Snitch model; supposedly, the new Snitches would refuse to fly if another Snitch was anywhere within the bounds of a pitch. Quidditch game spectators worldwide were being subjected to Snitch-detecting spells at every match while everyone waited for prototype testing to complete. Draco scowled as he waited for a staircase to deposit him on the fourth floor. Why hadn't Snitch manufacturers thought of this earlier, before Draco had to suffer as a result of their negligence?
The Slytherins had tried to figure out a way to shed light on whomever had released the second Snitch, but so far they couldn't find a way to do it without getting themselves expelled. Draco stalked down the hallway leading to the library, feeling bile rise up inside him at the thought. Nearly two weeks had passed since that game, yet the thought of it still filled him with loathing. He pushed the library doors open and walked to a table near the back of the reading area.
Morag arrived five minutes later, giving him a quick smile before retrieving a book that Madam Pince had been holding for her. She sat down across from him, placing her schoolbag on the table.
"Very impressive work," she said in her deep, throaty voice. "I had been sure I would guess your essay."
Draco smiled at her indulgently. "I aim to awe."
Morag snorted. "Please. You knew I'd be reading, I didn't expect you to make it easy."
"You expected right. Speaking of essays, this is still bothering me -- why did you lot say Tracey for Queenie's, er, Daphne's essay?"
"I thought it would have been obvious. You heard Tracey's essay, didn't you?"
Draco shook his head. "I wasn't paying attention."
Morag raised her eyebrows. "Well, she talked about having had a crush on Ernie Macmillan when they were ten."
Draco gaped at her. "Tracey knows Macmillan?"
"Apparently. Since uh, Daphne is seeing Ernie we thought she was a shoo-in."
Draco smirked. Tracey had done it on purpose, of course. She'd always been boy-crazy and so didn't have any qualms talking about her crushes to all and sundry. Daphne was seeing Macmillan; everyone knew that. He made a mental note to tell Tracey that the Ravenclaws, at least, had fallen for it. Ravenclaw intelligence was no match for Slytherin cunning.
"So you marked Tracey's essay as Daphne, and thus were forced to mark Daphne as Tracey?"
Morag looked down. "Don't tell the others I told you," she said with a demure smile.
They whiled the evening away chatting quietly about all the things they hadn't talked about for two years. The last thing Draco thought would happen this year was that he'd make a new friend, and from an old friend no less.
Draco was having considerable trouble getting Queenie alone, so on Friday he told Vincent and Gregory to head Nott off until he'd had a chance to speak to the girl.
"What are we supposed to do?" Vincent asked, scratching the back of his head.
"I don't care, just make sure he does not come in here for the next ten minutes," Draco snapped, glancing over at Queenie, who was reading in one of the carved chairs by the fireplace.
Vincent and Gregory trudged out of the common room and Draco walked over to her and pulled up a second chair. She gave him a quizzical look, marking her page with a pale finger.
"Avoiding me, are you?"
Draco flashed her a winning smile. "Why?"
"Well, the essay... Ernie." Queenie glanced down at her book again, a faint blush spreading across her cheeks.
"So you did tip him off?"
Her head snapped up and she gave him a sharp look. "Of course not."
Draco narrowed his eyes. She had no reason to lie to him -- Slytherin had got the upper hand in the essay readings, after all. She also knew very well that Draco could easily manipulate Macmillan into telling him the truth. He studied her briefly. Queenie had certainly seemed a lot less high-strung lately; she no longer looked on the verge of tears all the time.
"How are things then?" he asked with a sly look.
She sighed. "What do you want, Draco?"
He pretended to look hurt. "To talk to you, of course."
"Why? You never talk to me unless you want something."
Draco leant against the back of his chair and fixed her with a cold glare. "Well it's a little difficult to talk when Nott glowers at anyone who dares come within two feet of you, Queenie."
Something strange flickered across her face but it was gone before Draco could pinpoint the look. She sighed. "Yeah, I guess."
"So? How have you been? Still want to be an Animagus?" She'd written about her dream of becoming an Animagus in her essay.
Queenie shook her head. "No, I figure if we don't get to pick what animal we turn into, it's not worth the bother. Imagine turning into a pig."
Draco gave a short laugh. "Listen, I want you to come to Hogsmeade with us next time," he said suddenly.
He'd been giving a lot of thought to Slytherin unity recently. The Slytherins couldn't afford to have a divided front any more; not when all the other houses were banding together so successfully behind Potter. As sixth-year prefect, it was his duty to make sure his own year stuck together. Queenie seemed like the weakest link.
"Draco, you know Pansy and I don't get along," Queenie said, pursing her lips as she gave him a suspicious glance.
Draco cocked his head to one side and smirked. "Don't worry about Pansy, I'll handle her. Just come with us."
She licked her lips and shifted in her chair. "All right," she said after a long pause. "But..."
"Oh, we won't keep you the whole time. After all, you're not the only one with friends in other houses." Draco rolled his eyes, and Queenie laughed.
They were interrupted by shouts coming from the doorway and Draco walked over to investigate. The door slid into the wall and he was greeted with the sight of Vincent and Gregory standing in front of the door with their arms crossed while Theodore Nott spouted obscenities at them. Draco called his boys off and Nott stalked inside, heading straight for the boys' dormitories.
He followed the weedy boy with narrowed eyes. Nott was still an enigma: he hadn't shown any interest in house activities, kept to himself most of the time, and didn't seem interested in upholding Slytherin pride. He'd have to do something about Nott. Just as soon as he dealt with Sheridan Roper.
Draco stood on the edge of the cliff overlooking the Quidditch stadium, the chilly autumn wind whipping his cloak and robes around his body. It had become a habit, watching Blaise, Potter, Smith, and Boot practise their flying every Sunday. It was the fourth time he had come here. Hufflepuff would be playing Ravenclaw next Saturday; Smith looked like he meant business as he swooped around the goalposts on the far end of the pitch. Potter motioned him over and Smith came careening through the air, robes puffing out behind him and giving him the appearance of a large insect. Potter said something and Smith laughed. Draco's chest tightened inexplicably, and he turned away.
When he looked back up, Blaise was attempting a complicated Keeper move -- the Starfish and Stick, which involved hanging off one's broom with one arm and one leg. Potter and Smith were circling below him, looking up. Draco watched with horror; how could they let Blaise do this? It was a move that even professional players rarely resorted to; he never allowed it as it was so dangerous. Blaise gave up and clambered back up on his broom with some difficulty; Smith soared up and clapped him on the shoulder, saying something that caused the Italian boy to grin.
Draco considered getting his broomstick and joining them. Why shouldn't he? Blaise was his best friend, after all, or he could just fly by himself. That prospect didn't suit him, however. He whipped around and stalked away from the edge of the cliff. There was a twinge of something suspiciously like regret right above his stomach. He shook his head bitterly as he walked on. If Draco Malfoy showed up on the pitch, everyone but Blaise would leave, it was certain. He pressed his lips together in a scowl, narrowing his eyes.
He was on the edge of the Forbidden Forest now, right beside the half-breed's hut, which looked deserted. Draco felt a prickly, cold sensation at the base of his neck and he turned around abruptly. There was no one there -- the Quidditch pitch was no longer in view. The ground was bare save for a shiny stone about two feet away. He turned back around, trying to combat the sick, tugging feeling in his chest. A tinny, annoying voice came from somewhere in the back of his skull. You must realise how utterly absurd your life has become.
Despair washed over him, and he walked on blindly, ignoring everything around him as he thought of all the things he'd done in his life. For some reason he couldn't remember any of his successes, only failures -- Granger always beat him in classes, Potter always beat him at Quidditch, and Blaise had beaten him socially. He was gay, a disgrace to the Malfoy name and to his pureblood heritage. The path in front of him was thick with fallen pine-needles, and Draco kicked out at them, fighting back tears. The voice in his mind cackled. What's happened to "Slytherins don't cry," eh, boy?
"We don't," he muttered, dragging his sleeve across his eyes. Great, he was starting to talk to the voices in his head.
He took a left turn, then a right, then a series of lefts. The forest seemed to be getting thicker the further he walked, but it didn't matter, really -- he was sure he would never get out of the forest alive. There was absolutely no reason why he shouldn't simply collapse and weep bitterly -- no one would find him here, he was doomed to wander the forest as long as he lived. A different voice piped up in his head that sounded suspiciously like Snape. Aren't you being slightly over-dramatic?
Despite his state of mind, he couldn't shake the feeling that something was watching him from behind, something large, ominous, and altogether unpleasant. He heard a scraping sound behind him and stopped abruptly, but what did he care if some beast attacked him? It was all so futile and irrelevant. Still, a twinge of morbid curiosity remained. It didn't matter either way, so why not take a look at the source of his imminent demise?
With an effort, Draco turned around, searching the trees behind him for any sign of danger. His gaze slid down to the ground and he realised the reason for his desperation at once. He kicked himself mentally -- why, they'd covered these in Care of Magical Creatures when Professor Grubbly-Plank had taught them last year; he'd written extensive notes on recognising and spotting these creatures.
It was a Pogrebin -- a humanoid figure covered in thick grey hair; a faint musty, mildewy smell was coming from it, and Draco realised belatedly that he'd been smelling it for some time. It stood nearly a foot from the ground, its oversized bald head tilted upwards, sharp, needle-like teeth bared, murky brown eyes flashing with malice. Its hairy arms swung at its sides as it took a step towards Draco, emitting a low, guttural sound.
"Stupefy!" he shouted, whipping out his wand and pointing it at the wretched creature.
He wasn't aiming, and the jet of red light hit the ground at the Pogrebin's feet. It gave a loud squeak and jumped up, then ran quickly for the cover of a wild raspberry bush. A moment later, it was gone, and Draco was alone. The unbearable hopelessness was no longer clutching his chest, but he felt an edge of panic creeping up on him.
He pursed his lips and took a look around the large clearing. The rays of the afternoon sun seeped through the trees, illuminating the yellowing grass in streaks and patches. Squint as he might, he couldn't make out anything beyond the thick trunks other than more trees and the occasional bush. Great.
Draco sat down on a tree stump near the edge of the clearing and thought about what he could do. He knew the Four-Point Spell but that wouldn't do him much good. He didn't know where anything was in the forest and he had no idea where he was in relation to the castle. He let out a frustrated sigh, squinting at his wand as he tried to remember spells he might be able to use.
He couldn't be bothered to levitate himself above the trees to see where the castle was. He could only hover at a height of about four feet without risking an ignominious fall. He tapped his wand against the edge of his hand, frowning. A faint spark emerged from the tip, hovered uncertainly in the air for a bit, then faded.
Draco thought back to the detention he'd had to do with Potter, Granger, and Longbottom in their first year and smirked. How Longbottom had panicked when Draco had grabbed him from behind! He must have jumped two feet in the air, and had immediately sent up sparks. Yes, it really looked like the only solution -- to send up sparks and hope someone from the castle saw them.
He raised his wand and released a shower of bright green sparks. They rose as a fountain would -- languidly and gracefully, not like those Muggle fireworks he saw from the roof of Malfoy Manor sometimes. Muggle things were so crude in design and execution. Draco had spent considerable time perfecting his sparks to be just the right combination of emerald and jade hues. He watched the spark cloud dissolve with a pensive look. If someone would notice, how long would it take for them to find him? He lamented not having bound the Pogrebin to present the reason for his being in the Forbidden Forest. He hoped he could get away with just the explanation.
Draco pocketed his wand and got up from the tree stump he'd been sitting on, rolling his shoulders. A loud crash came from somewhere ahead, and he looked up, startled. He'd just sent the sparks up; maybe he hadn't got so far from the castle, after all. He started walking towards the source of the noise when another loud crunch came from much closer. It sounded like something was tearing through the trees ahead, and whatever it was, it couldn't possibly be good news.
The ground shook slightly, and he backed away a step, heart hammering in his chest. The trees in front of him parted with loud crunching sounds and a massive, hulking figure stepped out into the clearing, only a few feet away from him. Draco instinctively pulled out his wand, but he knew it was no good. It was a giant, and their kind repelled magic very well. It must have been thirty feet tall, though Draco was too afraid to tell for sure. He kept backing away, hoping the creature wouldn't notice him, but it did.
It took another step towards him, causing the ground to shake violently as the enormous foot made contact. Draco stumbled and fell backwards, wand flying out of his hand and rolling away. The giant's large, ugly face was turned towards him, greenish-brown eyes staring stupidly. The creature bared its yellow teeth and let out a low roar, causing the ground to vibrate. It started reaching out towards Draco with a huge dirty hand, and he just lay there, unable to move. His wand was just a few feet away, useless.
Another crash came from Draco's left, and a robed figure came bursting out of the trees, crying "no, Grawp, no!" Draco knew that voice.
The giant stopped reaching for Draco and blinked stupidly at the newcomer.
"Harry," it said, and Draco almost fainted. The creature knew Potter's name.
"No, Grawp!" Potter shouted.
Draco scrambled to his feet and backed up into the trees, finding a trunk to lean on. He was shaking all over -- the creature had a name, and Potter knew it. Potter could somehow control the giant, and Draco was done for. The giant, however, was ignoring Potter's frantically waving arms and was staring at Draco with a decidedly fiendish gleam in its eye.
"Boy," it opined.
Draco clamped his mouth shut with both hands. He was shaking so badly his teeth were chattering, and the stench coming from the creature made him want to vomit.
Potter raised his wand and sent up a blazing shower of scarlet sparks at the giant's head. The creature blinked several times and tried to grab at the flickering air. Potter sent another volley of sparks to the other end of the clearing, and the giant followed, looking mesmerised. A fusillade of more sparks erupted from Potter's wand, directed above the trees. The creature rammed through the trees, looking like a bizarrely enormous child chasing a butterfly.
Draco was still staring after the creature when he felt something warm collide with him. "Move," Potter muttered and tugged on his arm.
Draco stumbled after the Gryffindor in a near-daze, barely able to tear his eyes away from where the giant had stood. A moment later, they burst through a thicket onto a narrow path. A sharp branch whipped across Draco's cheek and he felt warm liquid trickle down his face. Reaching up, he touched his cheek and quickly drew his hand away -- it stung, and there was blood on his fingers. Draco opened his mouth to speak, but Potter lifted a finger to his lips.
"Quiet," he whispered. "He might still hear you."
"What the hell is that thing doing in the forest?" Draco whispered back.
Potter ignored him, looking in the direction from which they'd come, his eyes narrowed slightly. An ear-splitting, earth-shattering roar came from behind him, and Draco jumped. Thundering footsteps let them know that the giant was walking away.
"Stay here, I need to get my broom," Potter ordered and headed back through the bushes from which they'd emerged.
"So you can leave me here? I don't think so, Potter," Draco said, his tone waspish. His heart was still doing the mambo and his knees were wobbly.
He followed Potter into the bushes, holding his hands in front of his face to avoid more scratches. They were back in the clearing where Draco had sat minutes ago, but Potter didn't pause; he hurried through the trees on the left and disappeared from view. Wand. His wand was still on the ground where he'd dropped it, and Draco picked it up, examining it for signs of damage. His mind worked feverishly. He'd got over his terror -- he wasn't a Slytherin because he liked green; Slytherins were nothing if not adaptable. This was the perfect opportunity -- he had Potter exactly where he wanted him: alone, no witnesses.
He hadn't seriously entertained plans of murdering Potter -- he was more than aware that he'd be punished most severely. Draco wouldn't do anything that broke the law if he wasn't sure he could get away with it -- not even if it involved Potter. He did hate Potter badly enough to want to hurt him, and in recent weeks, he had fantasised about various situations in which he killed Potter and got off. Most of them played themselves out outside Hogwarts, however -- there was no way anyone could hurt Potter under Dumbledore's nose.
He could easily kill Potter now and no one would ever be the wiser. He'd hide his wand so they wouldn't be able to use Priori Incantatem. He could use Potter's wand until he was able to get a new one. It wouldn't take long, and he'd be rid of Potter's wand before they even found the body. There was just one huge, gaping problem with that plan. Draco owed Potter his life, which hadn't been the case until a few short moments ago. If Potter hadn't shown up when he did, if he hadn't known how to head off that abominable creature, Draco would have been giant food. He couldn't kill Potter now: he didn't want to find out what happened to wizards who messed with magic as ancient and potent as a life debt.
Potter reemerged with his Firebolt held at his side. Draco glared at him, and he raised an eyebrow.
"You're welcome, Malfoy," he said in an airy tone. Draco sneered. Potter ignored him, and continued. "Can you find your way out?"
"Yeah, that's why I sent up sparks, because I wanted to let everyone know I could find my way out of this Merlin-forsaken place."
Potter laughed. "You got lost?"
"I did not get lost. I fell under a Pogrebin's spell." Draco drew himself up to full height and gave Potter a challenging look.
Potter's eyes narrowed. "Wow, a real Pogrebin? Is it anything like they describe in books?"
"I didn't get a chance to examine it under a magnifying glass, Potter, it scarpered after I sent a Stunner at it."
"Yeah, you would try to Stun it, wouldn't you?" Potter looked disgusted.
"It's what you're supposed to do to them, you nitwit." Draco studied him for a moment. "At least it was only a beast, not a person," he added, barely above a whisper. "Like the people at a certain Ministry department, for example."
Potter coloured and shot him a look full of loathing. "What do you mean by that?" he ground out, his knuckles going white around the Firebolt.
Draco smirked. "You figure it out, unless you're as thick as you look."
Potter let out a loud sigh, closing his eyes for a moment. "Whatever, Malfoy. I'm leaving. If you want to get out of here, follow me." With that, he took off down a path to Draco's left.
Gritting his teeth, he hurried after Potter, imagining all manner of unpleasant things happening to the Gryffindor prat. Why did it have to be him who showed up? Draco would have preferred to owe a life debt to that bumbling oaf Hagrid rather than this insufferable tosser.
"You seem to know your way around here," he commented acidly, "considering that students aren't allowed in the Forest."
Potter turned his head slightly to look back at Draco. "Why, nice to meet you, Mr. Pot. I'm Mr. Cauldron."
"I told you, it was a Pogrebin," Draco huffed, turning up his nose and nearly stumbling over a log on the ground.
Potter sniggered and turned away.
"You didn't answer my question, Potter," Draco pointed out.
Potter didn't turn around. "What question?"
But Draco noticed something that caused him to stop dead in his tracks. "I say, look over there!" he demanded, and Potter whirled around. Draco pointed at a pathway through the trees. Something large gleamed at the end of it, obscured by a thick undergrowth.
"Uh, you don't want to go there, that's where Aragog lives," Potter said in a shaky sort of voice that was entirely out of character.
Potter slapped his forehead, looking shame-faced. "Um, one of Hagrid's pets."
Something was very familiar about the name. Draco looked over at Potter, who backed away a step and resumed walking. Draco followed him, casting one last glance at whatever was at the end of the branching path. Aragog, Aragog... Weasley. Draco had just yesterday reread his diary entries from earlier in the school year.
"So why's Weasley scared of Aragog, Potter?" he ventured.
Potter stopped walking abruptly and turned around. "What makes you think he is?"
Draco hadn't been expecting Potter to stop and almost ran into him. He stopped inches from the other boy; he could smell the wind and sweat and Quidditch. Involuntarily, he took a step back -- Potter was much too close, and he wasn't supposed to look or smell like another person. He was Potter.
Scowling, Draco gave him a sideways glance. "That's for me to know."
Potter muttered something that sounded insulting and set off down the path again. Draco followed, keeping a longer distance between them -- he didn't want a repeat of what had just happened.
They were approaching a clearing with a large log across the middle of it. Several black-feathered arrows stuck out of the dark, mossy bark. Potter cast a glance around and hurried across, ducking slightly. Sunlight filtered down from the canopy above, causing light spots to flicker on the ground. A red squirrel hopped out of the log and scampered away into the trees.
They hustled along dry, beaten paths for another ten minutes when Draco realised the air smelled different -- there was a faint waft of water lilies and reeds in the air. They must be getting close to the lake. He breathed a sigh of relief. His mind reeled with what he'd seen and heard, and he was just beginning to realise the extent of his luck -- he could have been squished by that giant, he might have encountered this Aragog thing, he could have died...
Potter froze without warning again and this time Draco couldn't stop in time -- he slammed into Potter, nearly causing them both to topple to the ground. Draco grabbed onto Potter's robes to steady himself, trying not to think about the heat that radiated from the other boy -- he wouldn't have thought the skinny prat could be so warm. He released Potter and leant against a nearby tree, rubbing his right leg: the tail end of Potter's Firebolt had jabbed him hard in the thigh. A sharp ache shot down Draco's leg and he gave a hiss, causing Potter to turn around and glare at him.
"Quiet!" he said, looking as though he were straining to listen for something.
Massaging his leg gently, Draco grimaced and let go of Potter's robe. "Are you trying to get me to wrestle you to the ground? If so, you're going about it the wrong way, Potter," he whispered into the other boy's ear, watching in fascination as tiny, barely-there bumps of gooseflesh appeared on the back of his neck.
Potter drew in a breath and turned around to face Draco, Firebolt still in hand. They had never stood this close to each other -- they'd been closer several times but that usually involved catching the Snitch, or Potter demonstrating his skills in Muggle dueling. Draco forced a smirk, staring at the bridge of Potter's nose to pretend like he was looking into his eyes. He felt a strange urge to get rid of Potter's ugly glasses so he could see if his eyes were really that green.
"What exactly did you mean by that?"
Draco tried to look innocent, but mental images of what could happen in this situation kept replaying themselves in his head. Horrified, he felt a blush rising and tried to think of anything but boys standing this close to him -- this was Potter, after all.
"You're the one who danced with Vincent, you tell me," he said in an undignified croak.
Draco took a step backwards, but Potter grabbed the front of his robe with his Firebolt-free hand and pulled him close. They were nose to nose now, and Potter's eyes were flashing behind those awful glasses. Maybe he shouldn't have said that. They were alone in the forest, and Potter would probably get away with Transfiguring him into something unnatural.
"There are some lines you shouldn't cross, Malfoy," he said in an uneven tone. Then Potter kissed him.
Draco made a noise of surprise and stumbled backwards, shoving Potter away from him. He landed on his rear end, another jolt of pain shot down his leg from his bruised thigh. He wiped his mouth with his robe sleeve, feeling bits of earth on his lips.
"Potter, what do you think you're doing?" he spat.
Potter was looking grimly down at him. "If I hear one more thing about my sexual orientation, I'm going to tell everyone about the first boy I ever kissed. I'll volunteer to drink Veritaserum, too."
"Bastard," Draco pointed out, trying to rise and wincing.
Potter smirked and held out his arm. Draco grabbed onto it and pulled himself to his feet, glaring. He let go of Potter's arm and brushed his hair out of his face. Potter shouldered his Firebolt and set off through the trees without looking back. Draco stared after him until he was no longer visible. He raised a hand to his lips and pressed the tips of his fingers against them, thinking. The first boy Potter had ever kissed?
Draco Malfoy's diary, November 24th
I've written to Mother about the giant in the forest. Someone needs to alert the Ministry about what some people at this school are up to. I absolutely don't understand what that old fool Dumbledore is thinking. If Potter knows about the giant, Dumbledore must know about it, too -- what if it escapes? Potter even knows its name; I wouldn't be surprised if he named it himself. Do these imbeciles even possess any brains to speak of? A giant! Quite possibly the deadliest possible thing to keep in there. If it ever gets out of that forest... I shudder to even think! If it weren't for blind luck, I could have been killed.
Am beginning to think that Potter has been put on this world for the sole purpose of annoying me. I cannot begin to express how infuriated I am after the forest incident. It's a terrible thing to owe someone. What if I arranged for Vincent and Gregory to murder Potter? I could then show up to save him, my debt would be repaid, and I could go back to hating him in peace. Well, that wouldn't work, of course, but it was amusing to think about it. I do so hate him, still, but I cannot simply dispose of him now, though I don't see why I should not continue to make his life unpleasant.
Speaking of unpleasant things, Potter actually had the audacity to kiss me. Harry Potter kissed me. I don't understand it. Ostensibly, he's going to use that kiss to ensure I never defame him, though I think he was bluffing. He's not that devious. Veritaserum, indeed. I think I am unwell, I'd better sleep.
I really hope he doesn't think he's going to get away with this.
1. I did weird band name research here: http://www.brainwashed.com/bandnames/
2. Wright and Sons is a fictitious company I made up. Bowman Wright of Godric's Hollow invented the Golden Snitch in the 14th century.
3. The Starfish and Stick move is from Quidditch Through the Ages.
4. Pogrebin -- Native to Russia. It resembles a grey rock with a small hairy body and it hides by crouching down and pretending to be nothing but a harmless stone. It will follow people around, infusing them with a sense of hopelessness until the person collapses, at which point the Pogrebin attempts to devour them. (Source: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them). My reasoning for using a Pogrebin in Scotland is that the Scottish climate is not that different from the Russian climate, and the Forbidden Forest holds many strange creatures, even Acromantula (who are native to Borneo and are normally never found elsewhere), so a Pogrebin or two wouldn't be too much of a stretch to imagine there.