Chapter Rating: R
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Chapter Summary: Draco's plan to bring the sixth-years into a more tightly-knit group seems to be working. He gets called out of his DADA class by Snape and receives some seriously bad news. Harry Potter seems intent on turning up in unexpected places, and Draco has to scowl and remind the Slytherins what their house is all about. Features the bewildering behaviour of girls, a lecture on blood magic, an unwanted caretaker, cold dungeon walls, an unscheduled Slytherin house meeting, and some unexpected boy-kissing.
Beta: cornmouse, evilsource, goneril, oddnari
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Chapter 11 - Thicker Than Water
Draco had skipped dinner on Sunday. He hadn't looked at the Gryffindor table during meals on Monday, either. Potter did have the decency to leave him alone during the DA meeting that night. Despite himself, Draco kept watching Potter for signs of -- well, anything, really -- but there was no acknowledgement of what had happened in the forest. Potter seemed to avoid looking at him, in fact.
In the evening after the DA meeting, Draco was sitting in the common room, pretending to work on his Arithmancy project while studying Nott from the corner of his eye. He was talking to Queenie in a low voice, and she kept nodding. Draco wondered what they were talking about. The distraction caused him to make an error in a table he'd been charting and he cursed under his breath.
Half an hour later, Nott left just as Pansy and Millicent walked in from the girls' dormitory hallway. Millicent was cradling a stack of what looked like library books. Draco motioned Pansy over with a significant look in Millicent's direction. Pansy grinned, nodded, and told the other girl to wait. Walking over to the sofa and pushing a stack of parchment aside, she sat down beside him and gave him an expectant look.
"I need you to do something for me," he said in an undertone.
"What's the big secret?" she said, matching his tone.
"No big secret. I need you to start being nicer to Queenie."
Pansy gaped at him. "Oh, this is why you're talking to me now, when she's right there?"
Draco gave her an indulgent smile. Pansy couldn't start raising her loud objections right in front of Queenie; she wouldn't want to put Draco in an awkward position. Her eyes narrowed.
"I don't have time to talk right now, we're meeting Morag and Padma in Greenhouse Three to go over our herbology unit," she garbled, then caught herself. "You'd better have a very, very good explanation ready when I return."
Still smiling, Draco patted her leg. "I assure you, I have an excellent explanation."
Pansy gave him a half-amused, half-annoyed glance. "We'll see. I'm not agreeing, mind."
"Good girl," he murmured, and watched her go.
Millicent cast a suspicious glance at him over her shoulder as they left the common room. No one else had noticed the exchange. Draco inhaled deeply and picked his project notes back up, dragging his quill across his chin and smiling a little at the light tickle. He would never understand girls. Draco and Queenie had known each other since they were small, and Pansy had immediately considered her a threat, back when she had set her sights on him as future boyfriend material. Even though she now knew very well that he was most certainly not boyfriend material, her animosity towards Queenie had not abated.
Yet Pansy was more than happy to learn that Morag and Draco had been friends of old and were rekindling their old friendship -- why didn't she hate Morag? Both girls were pretty in their own way and both came from old pure-blood wizarding families; Morag was decidedly less friendly, in general, than Queenie. Draco shook his head -- it was useless. He'd repeatedly promised himself he'd not try to delve into the unfathomable depths of the female mind. Now wasn't the time to start.
On Wednesday morning, the Slytherins sat at their desks in the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, some staring at the teacher with their eyes glazed over, others slumped back in their chairs with their chins touching their chests. Many of them stayed up late the previous evening, talking about a recent Muggle killing outside Sheffield. Draco was in a kind of stupor as he listened to Professor Eaton deliver a lecture on blood magic and its uses in the Dark Arts. It wasn't that Eaton's lessons were uninteresting, not at all. It was just that Draco had studied all this on his own time and now he was interminably bored. Instead of listening to the lecture, he focused on the professor himself.
Rumour had it that the former Ravenclaw had only accepted the teaching post at Hogwarts because he believed there was some Dark magic affecting the position and he had wanted to investigate it himself. Professor Eaton looked just like a teacher should, in Draco's opinion. He wore crisp, always impeccably arranged robes of dark colours and his hair was close-cropped. He had long, sinewy fingers and a habit of tapping the frame of his oval spectacles nervously with them.
Eaton's mannerisms and posture reminded Draco of his Arithmancy tutor, Mr. Carver. The chief difference was that Carver must have been approximately Merlin's age before he'd died in the summer. Draco tried to suppress a yawn as the professor made the three chief uses for unicorn blood appear on the blackboard. The door opened suddenly, and Professor Snape walked in, eyes glittering as he took in the classroom and the teacher. The silence that greeted his arrival made his clipped tone sound almost threatening.
"Excuse me, Professor, but may I borrow Mr. Malfoy?"
"Certainly, Severus," Eaton said in a neutral tone. Draco could see his hand twitching, as though he wanted to tap his spectacles but didn't dare to in Snape's presence.
"You'd best bring your things, Mr. Malfoy," Snape said, turning to him.
Draco's insides froze. What was going on? He shoved his notes and book pell-mell into his schoolbag and rose to his feet, casting a surreptitious glance at Blaise. Blaise's eyes were round with curiosity and there was just a touch of fear in his face. Draco didn't look at anyone else as he hurried to follow Snape, who was already leaving.
They walked down the corridor leading into the Entrance Hall, then descended the stairs to the Slytherin dungeon. Snape walked briskly, not pausing to check if Draco was keeping up -- there was no need. Draco's insides twisted with suspicion, guilt, and bewilderment; he didn't have the slightest idea why he'd been called out of class, but he hoped it didn't have anything to do with the Forbidden Forest.
They reached Snape's office and walked in. Snape sat down behind his desk and motioned him to a chair.
"Sit down, Draco. I'm afraid I have some bad news," he said. Frowning, he placed his elbows on the desk and steepled his fingers.
Draco put his schoolbag down beside the chair carefully and did as he was told. A bile-yellow something flopped over in a jar behind Snape, and Draco's heart gave a startled wobble. He stared at Snape, not knowing what to say.
"What--" he rasped, and coughed to clear his throat. "What's the news, sir?" His stomach gave a tiny, uncomfortable lurch.
"The Headmaster has asked me to inform you that your mother is missing."
Draco's stomach clenched. "Missing?" he repeated, blinking.
Snape nodded. "The Aurors assigned for her... protection went to check on her this morning, and found her gone." The way he'd said protection had sounded almost like an obscenity.
Draco continued blinking. Mother was missing, she must have gone off to meet Father, but what if it wasn't that, what if someone had kidnapped her? What if the Aurors had killed her and were trying to cover it up? He told himself to get a grip. Aurors didn't kill people on the sly, they were perfectly entitled to kill people legally. Besides, his mother was much more resourceful than to let herself be killed in her own home. Surely, she must have gone to be with Father -- they must have been working on a plan using the two-way mirror Father had sent. That had to be it.
He opened his mouth then promptly closed it. He didn't know what to say. What did one say to something like that?
"I know this must come as a shock to you," Snape said in a dull voice.
Draco nodded. "Do you know anything about it, sir?"
Snape gave him an odd look. "I am no wiser than the authorities, Draco."
"This isn't going to be in the Daily Prophet, is it? Sir?"
"It might be, if they decide to proclaim her a fugitive," Snape said with a guarded expression.
Draco rubbed his forehead with his fingers. "So this means..."
"The Ministry has decided that Headmaster Dumbledore will be your caretaker until one or both of your parents are found or until you reach legal age."
Draco's head snapped up and he stared at his Head of House with incredulity. "What? They can't do that, I have family--"
Snape held up a hand. "I assure you, Draco, I'm no more pleased about this than you are. However, the Office of Magical Law Enforcement feels that you should not be allowed to leave Hogwarts. They seem to think that you may be in danger of being kidnapped, you see."
Draco rose in his chair slightly, feeling his face grow hot. This never would have happened if Cornelius Fudge had been Minister. He'd have to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas for sure, but he'd be turning seventeen in March. "But who would--"
"Please, Draco. Don't make things any more difficult than they already are. You must understand, should something happen to you while you're with your relatives, your parents are going to be blamed."
Draco sat back down and gave Snape a dejected look. "What could happen? They could kidnap me -- well, good! I'd want them to do that!" he said with fervour. "They'd have a right, they're my parents--"
Draco frowned. "Why does it have to be Dumbledore?" he demanded.
"He's assumed responsibility for you anyway, as soon as you started school in September."
Draco exhaled loudly and looked at Snape sideways. "They're using me as bait, aren't they? Trying to draw Mum and Dad to smuggle me out of school..."
"Don't be a fool, Draco. You give your parents too little credit," Snape said.
Draco sat back in the chair and studied the tops of his shoes. "Do you think she's gone to be with Father, sir?"
Snape's face was bland. He spoke very slowly, as though choosing his words more carefully than usual. "I think your mother knows what she's doing, Draco."
Draco looked up sharply, but the professor wore the same inscrutable look as before. Draco briefly considered breaking the armrests off his chair. He sighed.
"I don't have a choice, do I?"
Snape shook his head slightly. Draco looked back down at his feet, resisting the urge to stomp one of them hard on the ground. "And this information is--"
"Strictly confidential," Snape finished for him.
Draco didn't attend the Ravenclaw versus Hufflepuff Quidditch game on Saturday. He was still smarting over the double Snitch incident and didn't want to be reminded of it. He also had no desire to watch Blaise cheer for Hufflepuff. Vincent and Gregory went to the match -- Millicent was adamant about watching every single Quidditch game. The two of them stumbled off after her, wearing identical dejected looks and casting guilty glances at Draco. He waved them off, sighing. Millicent would take note of whatever new strategies the other teams would have -- there was nothing quite like delegating lesser tasks to his inferiors.
Tracey Davis had made Pansy promise to come to the match with her weeks ago; her England-sized crush on Blaise was getting ever stronger. Pansy, Draco, and even Blaise had tried various ways of discouraging it but there was no reasoning with Tracey when she was on the hunt. Draco had even suggested that Blaise cave in, but the other boy was horrified. Unlike Draco, who didn't particularly mind being with women, Blaise detested physical closeness of any kind if it involved a girl. Even Pansy never hugged him, knowing that he'd cringe.
Draco stared around the empty common room, reaching for the bowl of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans absentmindedly. His first Bean was cactus-flavoured and Draco spat it out. Deciding this wasn't a good omen for staying in the common room, he fetched his cloak and set out for a walk. He felt deeply discontented with everything in general, so much so that he was having trouble even defining how he was feeling. His parents were missing, his official caretaker was Headmaster bloody Dumbledore, he had to keep a low profile lest his house suffer the consequences, he owed Potter his life...
Potter. It all came down to Harry sodding Potter and his constant meddling in things that weren't his business. It was Potter's fault that Father was put into Azkaban, and so the fact that Narcissa Malfoy had gone missing could also be blamed on Potter. It really came down to that -- Harry Potter was a meddlesome, interfering prat who didn't understand what was good for him. Draco looked up and realised he'd turned the wrong way and had walked all the way to Snape's office instead of walking out into the Entrance Hall. He kicked a nearby wall gloomily as he turned on his heel to head the other way.
Just then, Snape's office door creaked open and Potter walked out. Draco froze and waited until the door closed. It didn't look like Potter had noticed him. He was walking away, obviously headed towards the Entrance Hall. What was Potter doing with Snape on a Saturday morning, during a Quidditch game, no less?
"I see you've already doing badly enough to need remedial Potions," he called, surprising even himself.
Potter stopped and turned around. His thin frame looked just on the verge of shaking.
"What's it to you, Malfoy?" he snapped, left hand clenching into a fist, the right reaching for his wand.
Draco whipped out his own wand and glared coldly, continuing to walk towards him with a deliberate swagger. "Just curious."
"Curiosity killed the Kneazle, Malfoy." Potter rolled his shoulders and assumed a battle stance, legs slightly apart and tensing.
"Did Blaise teach you to say that, Potter? There's no way you would have learned that from those Muggles who raised you."
Potter laughed, tilting his head back slightly. "Jealous, Malfoy? Are you jealous that your friend would rather spend time with me than you?"
Draco sniggered, looking at the Gryffindor with incredulity. "You really think he does, don't you? You're daft, Potter."
"Funny. Why don't you come flying with us on Sundays then?" Potter said with a smirk that was nothing if not triumphant.
Draco sniggered once again, stopping a foot away from Potter. "I choose not to, Potter," he said with an impassive glare.
Potter's smirk faded and his shoulders sagged a little. "You know?"
"Of course I know." Potter didn't need to know how Draco knew, after all.
They stared at each other, wands clutched in their hands. Potter's mouth was set in a thin line. Draco was bound not to attack first -- he owed Potter his life. His life. Cold fury flared up in his chest at the thought and he narrowed his eyes. He wanted to hurt Potter, hurt him so badly that he'd never so much as look at Draco cross-eyed again. He wanted to--
Draco realised he'd been staring at Potter's mouth. He licked his lips and looked him in the eyes. Potter's eyes were impossibly wide behind his ugly spectacles, and his breathing had become erratic. Draco licked his lips again, only deliberately more slowly this time, watching with fascination as Potter's gaze snapped to his mouth.
Oh, but this was fun. He didn't even have to do anything, just watch Potter struggle -- he could practically feel the conflict Potter was facing. The great and noble Gryffindor, reduced to staring at Draco helplessly because he couldn't possibly act on any sexual urges towards his enemy.
Draco cocked his head to one side. "You want to do it again, don't you?"
"Whuh?" Potter was looking into his eyes again. His gaze was unfocused and his lips had parted slightly. Draco's chest suddenly went tight. He took a step closer to Potter, who was still looking at him as though hypnotised.
"Admit it, Potter," he said, smirking.
Potter's eyes widened even more and Draco couldn't help but stare. Potter really did have beautiful eyes. Draco forced himself to look away, wincing. What was he doing? He wasn't supposed to be staring at Potter's eyes. This wasn't about Potter. It was about revenge. Draco once again had Potter exactly how he wanted him -- vulnerable.
He stepped even closer and pressed a palm flat against Potter's chest. Potter jumped a little -- his heart was hammering worse than Draco's was.
"You know you do," Draco whispered, leaning forward, his lips almost touching Potter's ear.
It had seemed like a good idea at the time, anyway.
Then he was being slammed against the wall, the shock of its chill offset by Potter's hands clutching his robes, his mouth on Draco's. The kiss was raw, angry, and wet; it sent an unexpected shock of warmth through him. Draco's fingers dug into the rough wall behind him as he struggled to keep control of himself despite the vexing pressure in his pants. He reached up to grab Potter's robes and shoved him away, breaking the kiss. Potter's hands were still fisted in the front of Draco's robes, his glasses were askew and he looked thoroughly bewildered. Both of them were breathing hard as they stared at each other--
"What's going on here?" came a familiar cold voice from behind Potter.
The Gryffindor quickly let go of Draco and took a step back.
Draco assumed a look of total innocence. "I was just walking to catch the tail end of the game, Professor, when Potter attacked me," he said.
"Fighting, Mr. Potter? Again? I think we'll make it twenty points from Gryffindor and detention on Monday."
Potter gave Draco a murderous stare and bowed his head, muttering.
"I'm sorry, I didn't catch that, Mr. Potter," Snape said with a malicious smile.
"Yes, Professor Snape, sir," Potter said, glaring at the Potions master.
Draco smirked. "May I go, Professor?"
"Yes, you may, Draco. Not so fast, Mr. Potter, I need to have a word with you in private."
Draco didn't look back as he walked away. It was going to be a very good day, after all.
Ravenclaw won the game on Saturday -- Cho Chang had caught the Snitch and Ravenclaw was officially in the lead for the Quidditch Cup. Draco was in a foul mood for most of the week, snapping at first-years and handing out punishments like they were broomstick advertisements. He and Pansy had another one of their screaming rows in the courtyard; she just didn't understand about Queenie. This time it was Draco who gave her the silent treatment for a day before she finally relented and agreed to do as she was told.
Potter had carefully avoided going anywhere near him during the DA meeting on Monday -- it had been a fringe benefit Draco hadn't expected. He'd thought Potter would have been raring to take his frustrations out on Draco by using him for hex practice. Instead, Potter had studiously ignored Draco then had gone off to detention with Snape, stalking past the Slytherins as they'd made their way to their common room. Draco had stood in the dungeon hallway and watched Potter's receding back. There had been dark circles under Potter's eyes and he'd looked even more emaciated than usual.
Wednesday morning before breakfast, Draco and Blaise were discussing their study group projects as they walked to breakfast. Vincent, Gregory, and Millicent were walking further ahead, arguing quietly about something. As they entered the Great Hall, Draco knew immediately that something was wrong. A horrible sucking feeling materialised in his stomach as he saw people huddled in groups, glancing over at them and whispering. Was it the Prophet they were huddling over? Was it something about his parents?
Draco looked at the Slytherin table and saw the same huddled groups there, too. He elbowed several third-years out of the way and glanced at the table in front of them.
It was a wizarding photograph of two boys -- a badly taken close-up of a dark-haired boy and a blond one, kissing passionately; the surroundings were too blurred to tell where it had been taken. Draco's heart stopped for a second as he picked it up from the table, heedless of the third-years muttering around him. It wasn't a picture of him and Potter. Relieved, Draco released the breath he'd been holding, but then his stomach clenched. The people in the photo were Blaise and Zacharias Smith. Scrawled across the bottom of the photograph in angry red ink were the words "Dirty homos."
Draco lowered the photograph as he looked over at Blaise. The Italian boy had gone very pale and he was looking somewhere in front of him, but Draco could tell he wasn't seeing anything. He glanced over at the Hufflepuff table, where Smith sat surrounded by his classmates -- some of them had their hands on his back. His head was bowed, his face buried in his hands. A hush fell on the Great Hall and heads were turning to stare curiously at the Slytherin table.
Draco cast a glance at Liam, who simply nodded. The situation concerned a student in Draco's year and thus Draco was in charge.
"You will pass these... things to me," he sneered at the nearest third-year. "All of them. If I see a single Slytherin with copies of these, they will be very sorry."
"Why, Draco?" a fifth-year boy, Roth, spoke in a carrying voice. "What do you care if we laugh at the queers? 'S no more than they deserve."
Draco whirled around on him. "You. Detention. Every day. Until Christmas. With Filch. Any questions?"
With every barked syllable, Roth's head seemed to duck further between his shoulderblades. There were several gasps from the Ravenclaw table -- Draco supposed he had been too loud, but at this point he didn't care. Ignoring the whispers that broke out, he looked at Blaise again, noticing that his eyes had darkened and narrowed. He put a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Go sit down, Blaise," he said quietly. The other boy just nodded and walked slowly to his usual seat. He slumped down on the bench and buried his face in his hands, much like Smith was doing at the Hufflepuff table.
In the meantime, the photographs had all been passed down to where he was standing, and Draco picked up the stack. He drew himself up to full height and cast a glance over the rest of his house.
"Anyone gossiping or giving Blaise any trouble will be dealing with me personally," he said, glancing to his left, where Nott, Queenie, and several fifth-years sat listening. Queenie looked very pale. Draco nodded at her.
"House meeting," -- he looked at Liam again and raised an eyebrow, earning a nod -- "tonight after DA, in the common room."
He looked around the table again. Liam gave him the thumbs-up, but most people were avoiding his gaze.
"Any questions?" he said again. No one had any.
Breakfast was eerily silent. Pansy was trying to coax Blaise into eating, but he refused. He kept staring in front of himself, clenching and unclenching his fists. Draco put a hand on his shoulder and Blaise flinched, looking away.
"Blaise," Draco said softly. "Look at me."
The other boy tilted his head slightly sideways and glanced at him, eyes dark and glittering dangerously.
Draco met his gaze steadily. "I won't let anyone..." His voice broke off as he searched for words. "No one will touch you. I promise."
Blaise nodded. His face was ashen, worry lurking around his eyes and mouth. Draco squeezed his shoulder. He didn't much feel like eating, either.
During breakfast, Liam spoke with the teachers, then told Draco that they were leaving it up to the students to sort out the situation. They'd been warned that should they find the perpetrators, no action was to be taken; they would be disciplined by the staff. Draco just nodded.
Feet scuffled against the floor, schoolbags were hoisted on shoulders as another day of classes began. The sixth-year Slytherins had double Defence Against the Dark Arts next. Draco sat with Blaise, who wanted to wait for everyone to leave before he set off. Finally, the Great Hall had almost emptied and the two of them set off towards the first-floor classroom.
"Blaise!" called a voice from behind them. Blaise stiffened. Draco turned around. It was Potter, hitching up his bookbag as he hurried towards them. He carefully sidestepped Draco and walked over to Blaise.
"What do you want, Harry?" Blaise asked in a neutral tone.
Potter recoiled slightly, but the determined look in his eyes didn't waver. "I want to help you find out who did this."
"Do not meddle in the affairs of Slytherins, Potter," Draco sneered. "We don't need your help."
"Sorry, mate," said Blaise, "but Draco's right. This is for us to deal with."
Potter licked his lips and glanced from Draco to Blaise. "Colin Creevey knows a lot about cameras. He said he can trace the pictures to a source."
In the meantime, Granger and Weasley had caught up with Potter.
"Hi, Blaise," said Granger. Weasley echoed the greeting, glaring suspiciously at Draco.
"Hermione, Ron," Blaise said with a curt nod. He turned to Draco. "Well?"
"Why are you telling us this, Potter?" Draco asked.
Potter made a noise like grinding his teeth. Draco thought he knew what the matter was -- Potter wanted to talk to his nice new friend Blaise, and the evil git Malfoy wasn't letting him. Too bad Potter had forgotten that Blaise was a Slytherin, and that's where he had made his real friends. The Gryffindor took a deep breath and he turned to Draco, who met his gaze steadily.
"He'd need Blaise to be present for some parts of the... er... "
"It's part revealing spells and part Muggle technology," Granger piped up. Draco scowled at her. So did Potter.
"Only he can't do the Muggle part until after Christmas, he doesn't have all the equipment with him," Granger continued in a bossy tone.
Draco rolled his eyes. He didn't have time for Granger's antics, and Potter's presence was making him feel queasy. "Fine. Do your best. But leave it to me to deal with them."
Potter, Granger, and Weasley all goggled at him.
Draco narrowed his eyes. "You heard me. I'm going to deal with the bastards myself."
He put an arm around Blaise's shoulders and steered him from the Great Hall.
Draco sat in the common room in the evening, waiting for the meeting to start. Blaise was slouching on the sofa, leafing through Transfiguration Today. He seemed completely calm, but Draco could see the tightness just behind his bland expression, the vein pulsing near his left temple, the rigidity of his movements. Blaise was in serious trouble and he knew it -- Slytherin house was only a part of his problems at the moment.
The wizarding world as a whole was fairly tolerant of homosexuality; it wasn't considered a big deal in most circles -- most wizards simply preferred not to know about such things. Not so with pure-blood families. Old wizarding clans which valued blood valued the ability to breed -- unwilingness to produce offspring was considered despicable. After all, the wizarding bloodlines had to continue; it was the crux of the rift between pure-bloods, Muggle-borns, and, to a lesser extent, half-bloods.
A homosexual pure-blood wizard or witch was considered worse than a blood traitor. Gays were forcibly married, disowned, cast out of communities, and otherwise repressed among the pure-blood lines. The necessity of bearing more pure-blood children grew more and more important with each generation. Tolerance of homosexuality was at an all-time low among pure-bloods. Draco's own charade with Pansy was simply delaying the inevitable. He wasn't repulsed by women like Blaise was, but he just wasn't interested in them sexually.
He'd always figured that he'd be able to produce a Malfoy heir one way or another, however, he was far from keen on having his family find out that he was queer. His father would probably disown him and his mother wouldn't survive the shame. As an only child, Draco felt particularly pressured -- Blaise had two older brothers who were both married, but he wouldn't have an easy time of it when his parents found out about Smith. They would find out, too -- there was no way to keep the gossip from spreading.
He didn't particularly like to be reminded of all this, either. Draco looked over at Blaise again, who had a pained expression on his face as he stared at his magazine. His eyes weren't moving. Draco cast a glance around the common room, doing a quick round-up. It looked like everyone was there. He raised an eyebrow at Liam, who nodded. Draco cleared his throat, and the chatter died down almost instantly.
"I'm not going to lecture you on what you should think," he began. "I just think we could all do with a refresher on just what being in this house is about, because I think some of us may have forgotten." That got people's attention.
"It's none of anyone's business what you think in private," Draco said slowly, narrowing his eyes at Roth, who looked away.
"You can think that the Dark Lord's servants are called Breast Eaters for all I care." There was some tittering at this, and Liam gave him a mildly disapproving glance, motioning towards the younger students. Draco ignored him and went on.
"You will not, however, sully Slytherin honour. We stick together and we always protect our own, no matter what." He took a look around the room, satisfied.
"This is not about blood ties. This is about your Slytherin family. Not all of us are pure-bloods."
He motioned to Millicent. "Do you ever see me treating her differently because she's a half-blood? No. She's one of us, and even if that stupid Hat put a Mudblood into the house, they would still be considered one of us."
Draco rolled his shoulders slightly. "If any of you buy into Dumbledore's "house unity" blather, know this. Slytherin invented unity. We personify it. Unity starts with our house and it ends with our house."
He paused again and cleared his throat. "Slytherin house is about tradition and a united front even when the rest of the world is against us is what we are best at. If you dare break that tradition, you do not deserve to be in this house."
He glanced over at Blaise, who was looking at him with deep, intense emotion behind his dark eyes. Draco inhaled. "Now, then. The pictures in the Great Hall this morning were an attack against one of our own. When one of us is attacked, we strike back as one."
He took a look around the room again. "We're going to find out who did this. The other houses have pledged to help, but you know it has to be us who finds out. The other person involved," -- he sneered -- "is a Hufflepuff, and we know they're useless. They're probably already busy planning a party to celebrate the capture of the culprit."
Several people laughed. Draco smirked.
"So where do we start?" Liam spoke up, and everyone turned to look at him.
Draco pursed his lips. "What I'm thinking is, whoever's left those pictures is the same person behind the second Snitch at our match against Gryffindor."
"How do you know?" Queenie asked sharply.
"I don't know for sure, but what are the chances?" Draco reasoned.
A third-year girl put up her hand and Draco nodded at her. "Well, it must be someone from Ravenclaw, then, mustn't it? Ravenclaw hasn't suffered, and they're certainly clever..."
"Possibly, but there's no way to tell," Sheridan Roper spoke up from his chair in the corner. "I think both stunts have Gryffindor written all over them. All audacity, all the time."
"I disagree," said the fifth-year prefect, Brice Owen. "I think it was a Hufflepuff. Hold on, hear me out. It probably took them all of five years to come up with the plan, granted, but in neither case was Hufflepuff hurt. I just saw Smith in the library with his sixth-year buddies, so he's hardly an outcast."
Draco glanced over at Blaise, who averted his eyes.
"Well, what about Slytherin?" said Quinn Franco, a burly fifth-year. His remark set off a chain reaction of whispers. When these died down, he continued. "I mean, think about it. The two Snitches were a month ago, and we're still no closer to figuring out who did that. That takes cunning and stealth."
"But it makes no sense!" Pansy objected. "Slytherins don't betray their housemates."
Liam spoke up. "Will you lot stop gibbering for a second? We need to think this through rationally."
"Hold on," Draco said, bending down and reaching into his schoolbag. He pulled out several of the pictures from the stack he'd collected at breakfast and smoothed one out on his knees. "Ostende scriptorem," he muttered, zigzagging his wand above the paper.
Everyone watched with bated breath as a cloud of smoke rose from the photograph, revealing a vague, wispy shape that was neither here nor there. Draco put his wand away, sighing. He hadn't had time to practise the charm since the Hogsmeade weekend, and they'd finished that unit in Charms.
Laurel Iven walked over to him and took one of the pictures. "Ostende scriptorem!" she cried. Another puff of smoke revealed a clear, sharp image of someone wearing a balaclava. Several people gasped. Draco narrowed his eyes.
"What spell is that?" a third-year wanted to know.
"You'll learn it later," Laurel said, smiling. "It draws upon the traces of magic left by a wizard or witch on a piece of parchment they wrote on. It displays an image of the writer as they looked when they were writing."
"And this particular writer must be in sixth year or older, then," Draco mused, half to himself. When he realised everyone was listening, he clarified. "The Scriptor charm is taught in sixth year. They had to have known it, otherwise they wouldn't have concealed their face, would they?"
"Well, that narrows the circle already, doesn't it?" Sheridan Roper said importantly, pushing his glasses up on his nose.
Speculation ran rampant for the next hour as people suggested sensible things like a team of people from the three other houses working together. Some insisted on wild-eyed theories of Dumbledore and the Dark Lord being behind the whole mess. The reason that had necessitated the meeting was forgotten as Slytherins discussed possibile perpetrators.
After the meeting broke up, Liam walked over to Draco and clapped him on the shoulder. "I'm proud of you. You'll make a great Head Boy, Draco."
Draco nodded in acknowledgement. They made small talk for a few minutes, then Liam walked off to sit with Laurel and the other seventh-years. The prefects put the first-years to bed and by half past ten, the common room was empty except for Blaise, Draco, Tracey, and Pansy.
They sat in silence for a while. Tracey spoke up first. "Blaise, you should have told me. I wouldn't have... you know."
Blaise raised an eyebrow. "Not something that's just brought up over dinner, is it?"
Tracey coloured. "Sorry," she mumbled and ran off towards the girls' dormitories. Pansy rolled her eyes exasperatedly and hurried after her.
Left alone, Draco and Blaise fell silent. There was no need to say anything -- Draco had been speaking to Blaise just as much as he was speaking to the rest of them during the meeting. He knew Blaise well enough to know that he appreciated what Draco had done for him. Although since their fall-out over Smith they'd been slightly colder with one another, now both knew that things would go back to the way they used to be.
Finally, Draco rose. "Well, better get to bed, it's only Wednesday, after all," he said stiffly. Blaise gave him an unreadable look. Draco walked over to him and extended a hand. "C'mon."
Blaise accepted his hand and got up. They walked into the boys' hallway and Draco pulled the curtain tightly shut behind him. Their dormitory was dark and relatively quiet, if one didn't count the snores that punctuated the silence, alternately emanating from Vincent's and Gregory's beds. Draco changed into his pyjamas and hung up his robes. When he turned around from the wardrobe, he jumped a little. Blaise was standing behind him, wearing his pyjama trousers but no top. He pulled Draco close and kissed him fiercely.
Draco had forgotten how comfortable he and Blaise used to be, how well they knew each other's bodies. Slick heat pooled in his lower abdomen and then he was kissing Blaise, running his hands down the other boy's bare back. He moaned softly as Blaise grabbed his arse and thrust his hips forward. Moments later, they were on Draco's bed, curtains pulled shut around them, pulling off their pyjamas and kissing, holding on to each other with a fervour reminiscent of chance wartime encounters.
Blaise needed this, and it was the best he could give him. He threw his head back with a barely suppressed moan as Blaise licked a hot trail from earlobe to breastbone. It was the best Blaise could give Draco, too. Draco teased Blaise's left nipple with his tongue. It was too bad that they didn't see eye to eye on the exclusivity angle. As Blaise took him into his mouth, Draco bit down on his forearm to keep from crying out. It was really too bad that whenever Draco closed his eyes, he kept seeing green with flecks of gold and the leaf-green pattern of a many-pronged star. Draco writhed as Blaise thrust into him, not sure whether he was in pain or in heaven. It was really too damn bad that there was something so bloody touching about dark undereye circles, messy black hair, and a fierce heart.
Draco Malfoy's diary, December 4
I have gone certifiably barking. I hope that tomorrow I'm going to wake up and it will all have been a bad dream. I am not thinking about Harry sodding Potter in that way. No. This has got to be a terrible dream. I'm going to go and cry now.