QUEEN OF HEARTS
Author: Duke and Betty (aka cynicalpirate and scoradh)
Harry/OMRC, Ron/Hermione implied, a smidgen of Draco/Pansy -- or is it a
Warnings: As this is optional, we took the option of taking the
primrose path of cliché. Every one in the little black book -- we wanted a
red one, but there were none in stock. As for the great t00by sex: mention
is made of a) assisted masturbation and b) onanism.
Author's notes: Actually, we don't think we got all the clichés in
the book. Dammit. Blame the spoons. Alternatively, blame Jaxmarie, to whom
we are indebted for her stalwart beta'ing in the face of such odds. :) Much
Summary: Never in the guerrilla warfare against Voldemort was so much
owed by so many to just one person.
A spectre is haunting Harry -- the responsibility of his destiny. It looms
over his future and, more importantly, over the future of his friends. Harry
is determined to exorcise this spectre for the greater good, but on the way,
he enters into a few unholy alliances...
Game One: The Dark Joker
That was the summer Harry started biting his nails.
Some things in his past stood out like beacons in a murky sea. The times in
his childhood when he’d encountered wizards, without understanding who or
what they were. The day he found out he was a wizard; the first time he
visited Diagon Alley. The rush of eleven-year-old pride and certainty that
he’d felt on mounting a broom in a windy courtyard.
It turned out that the June he started biting his nails was to be a prosaic
addition to the illustrious list. It was something he could instantly
recall, while memories of classes and contrary teachers and firelight on a
bushy brown head and a bright red one faded with alacrity, until he could
barely place them in the chronological line-up of his life.
Neville -- Neville with whom Harry had so much in common, Neville who, but
for the grace of Harry, would have gone on to be the Boy Who Lived, although
possibly not the Boy Who Was Reckless and Rash and Made Bad Choices
and Cultivated Powerful Enemies -- also bit his nails. Down to the quick; it
made Harry’s stomach turn to look at them, the little white staples in
short, chubby fingers. Therefore, he didn’t look if he could help it.
Neville had once told Harry that he could remember the exact time he’d
started biting them. It had been after Neville's uncle had nearly drowned
him off Brighton Pier. Thereafter, whenever Neville felt fear that someone
wanted to hurt him -- which, considering the attitude of the entire House of
Slytherin, up to and including its Head, towards him, was pretty much all
the time -- he bit his nails. Harry had wondered what, if anything, would
cause him to take up this queer form of cannibalism and self-mutilation.
That had been in January, fifth year. Six months later, he found out.
Harry bit his nails. He started it in the car home from Platform Nine and
Three Quarters, flicking his right thumbnail under his left index finger
until it split across the top. Uncle Vernon’s new Toyota sped down the
motorway, the epitome of carbonated-fuel, greenhouse-gassing,
ozone-destroying technology. Harry sat in the back, slowly baking to a crisp
in the double-glazed-magnified heat. He lifted his hand -- palms sweaty --
to his mouth and, almost without thinking, bit off his nail.
That was the start of it, at least.
By the middle of June, Harry’s fingernails were ten ragged stumps. The sides
of his nails were hard and sore and sported long, raw-red hangnails which he
peeled, wincing and hating the pain but doing it anyway, because at least it
was a pain with a source, one that could be altered to remove and end the
pain if he so chose.
He didn’t choose.
Harry could safely say, without a shadow of a doubt, that those weeks after
Sirius’ death -- those weeks in which he had hours and hours to ponder just
how much he was to blame -- were the most hateful of his life. They beat
hands down other strong contenders, such as when he’d been reviled as the
so-called Heir of Slytherin, the time he’d believed Sirius had betrayed his
parents, the Great Coldness between he and Ron in fourth year and even his
Quidditch ban, which was presumably on going.
He had not expected any sympathy from his relations and was not surprised
when he received none. One day in early June, Uncle Vernon came blundering
into his room, bellowing something about, ‘Look here boy … lying about in
this useless manner … earn your keep!’
Harry surmised that Vernon wanted him to do the housework, as usual.
Listlessly, he got up and followed Vernon, and had the handle of the Hoover
placed in his hand.
It was one of the greatest discoveries he’d ever made; the noise of the
Hoover was so loud, amplified by the tiny halls and the clatter it made
against the skirting board -- and Harry made sure it clattered -- that it
drowned out his thoughts. Eight hours later, when Uncle Vernon returned from
work, Aunt Petunia from a social call and Dudley from a mate’s house party,
Harry was still vacuuming the same patch of carpet. Uncle Vernon’s enraged
bellows failed to penetrate Harry’s soothed consciousness. It was only when
he snatched the machine away from Harry that Harry even realised that he was
no longer alone.
From then on, Harry took out the Hoover as soon as he rose from bed each
morning. This was not the same time as when he awoke; it was often several
hours later. Each day he tested himself, to see how long he could last
before he needed the fix of the Hoover’s distracting sucking-ness. Like a
metaphor for the vacuum it actually was, the Hoover’s noise engulfed and
quietened his thoughts like a Class A drug; he became, in essence, a Hoover
He didn’t bother with nooks-and-crannies, under-the-beds or
behind-the-couches, in the manner of the pedantic Petunia. Instead, with a
reassuring sameness of pattern, he plugged the power cord into the wall and
flicked the switch, kicked the power button on the machine with his toe and
dragged it out to the fullest extent of the power cord. Then he started
Hoovering. Over and over, in a space about a foot and a half square, eyes
closed, making sure to bump each side of the skirting board at regular,
Soon after this, he discovered a less original addiction -- nicotine. Dudley
tended to spend very little time at home -- not that Harry could blame him
for that. It meant that on one stifling afternoon, when even the physical
exertion of vacuuming was too much, Dudley was not around to witness Harry
casting about for another distraction. Nor was he present when, driven by
desperation, Harry entered Dudley's room and saw the cigarettes on his
Thereafter, when the heat of the day grew greatest, Harry unplugged the
Hoover and chain-smoked instead, littering the floor of his bedroom with
cigarette butts. He stubbed them out on his friends' letters, until they
resembled nothing so much as ash held together by slivers of parchment.
Harry sent only the most cursory of replies to these missives; there was
nothing he could possibly say to encompass how he felt, and how he felt took
over the whole world.
Harry left Number Four, Privet Drive that September without any intention of
ever returning. Until the Dursleys changed their hall carpet, however, there
remained a bald patch. In its faded pinkness, it stood out like a beacon --
like an illustrious item in the roll call of life-changing events -- against
the deep maroon of the rest of the fabric. If Harry had thought of it that
way -- if it was not too painful to think of, and too incongruous a
marking-place -- it could, perhaps, have been seen as Sirius’ grave, where
for a time Harry paid obeisance.
Draco Malfoy was being pitied for the first time in his life.
Ever since the Prophet had run the Malfoys’ story in their ‘real-life
wizarding families’ special, he’d been inundated with owls delivering trite
messages of sympathy and offering comfort and advice for the future. Few of
them were from Slytherin families: they seemed to be distancing
themselves from wherever the press focused the most attention.
No, his most common new pen friends were old women such as Mrs Eileen Dodger
from Somerset and Healer Frances Mary from Yorkshire. They all seemed to
view him as the ‘innocent victim’ of the situation. Draco would have been
only too willing to play along, but total strangers cooing over his blurry
black-and-white photograph and penning him lengthy messages about how
utterly wretched and alone he must feel just pissed him off.
It made him feel like a charity case.
Under no circumstances whatsoever did any self-respecting Malfoy accept
In the beginning, Draco had found it hard to believe that every single roll
of parchment delivered to the manor contained words of empathy and good
wishes from the wizarding community. As an increasingly large number of
envelopes arrived on his dresser crumpled, with their wax seals smeared or
broken, it became apparent that Nadsy -- the chief house-elf now that Dobby
was gone -- was dutifully scanning the post and burning any correspondence
he thought his masters might find unsatisfactory reading.
This subtle approach didn’t work quite so well for Howlers that arrived
early in the morning, though. Before the parchment began to burn, a few
harsh shrieks of 'FASCIST PUREBLOODS! YOU-KNOW-WHO WILL FAIL!' would ring
out through the cavernous kitchen, accusations and insults bouncing off the
walls. These yells would gradually subside as the paper smouldered into ash.
Then, Nadsy, looking flustered and wearing a scorched apron, would scuttle
upstairs to the dining hall to serve breakfast, the acceptable mail laid
neatly on a silver tray.
Draco, the epitome of composure, would cut the crusts off his toast and
pretend he hadn’t heard anything, whilst his mother, predictably, would
excuse herself from the table and break into quiet sobs on her
less-than-dignified exit. Draco was usually immensely relieved when this
happened. He despised crying females and his mother was perpetually weeping
these days, moping around the house, her pale hair floating out of its
Narcissa had been described by the Prophet as an ‘egotistical,
flighty housewife, who did little to nothing to sustain her family’.
Privately, Draco thought it was probably the most accurate description of
his mother anyone had dared to pen. Prior to the scandal, Narcissa had done
nothing but spend his father’s money, host elegant dinner parties for her
select circle of friends and attend benefits. Now that Lucius’ secret was
out, invitations to fancy events had dried up and her equally self-absorbed
female companions suddenly became very interested in ‘family’ affairs and
wanted nothing to do with her.
The papers had absolved her of having any connection with Voldemort – Lucius
was painted as the ‘troubled husband, keeping his affiliation with the
Dark Side a secret from his wife and son’ – but Narcissa did not realise
or appreciate that this was a blessing. She instead mourned the disgraced
Malfoy name and the fact that Sylvia Parkinson, who was new money and of a
questionable bloodline, was snubbing her and encouraging their entire clique
to do the same.
Narcissa's grief was wholly centred on the fact that she had fallen from her
high status in society, due to the inconvenient little matter of having a
husband in Azkaban. Desperate to regain her reputation, she’d arranged a
follow-up interview with the Prophet, in which she’d emphatically
denounced Voldemort, the ‘inherent racism so many wizarding families feel
towards those with ‘impure’ blood’ and, worst of all, his father. Such
blatant betrayal enraged Draco beyond belief. He could hardly bear to sit in
the same room with her, although she had taken to doting on him, calling him
her ‘precious prince’ and frequently wailing that he was ‘all she had left’.
Draco did not receive any mail from his friends, however. He doubted either
Crabbe or Goyle would be capable of writing a letter that was legible and
devoid of grammar mistakes and in any case, both their fathers were also in
Azkaban. He had not received even one letter from Pansy, despite her fervent
promises in the Spring term that she would write to him every day of the
summer, without fail. Draco forced himself not to care.
Draco spent most of the holidays trying very hard not to think about one
person. He found that if he did, he tended either to crush whatever he was
holding at the time or shatter it into tiny pieces. Nearly everything wrong
with his life was bloody Potter’s fault. Potter had freed Dobby and now
Nadsy -- who always burnt the toast on one side and spent a ludicrous amount
of time dusting -- was in charge. Potter had beaten Draco at Quidditch and
humiliated him, destroying his credibility with his team-mates. Potter had
told everyone the truth about Draco's father and now he was a social leper,
his only ally being a grizzled witch from Somerset with bug eyes and a wart
on her forehead -- Eileen had enclosed a picture.
Yes, it was far better not to think about Potter, who was no doubt gloating
with the Mudblood and the Weasel about how the Malfoy family had been ripped
apart. Probably boasting that Voldemort would soon be defeated. Showing off
his stupid scar, adjusting his ridiculous glasses, and laughing with his
Laughter had not been a huge part of the Malfoy household. You showed
amusement by a small smile, or a smirk, or a curt nod of the head. Draco
could remember the last time his father had laughed. It had been in his
third year. Draco had summoned up the courage to ask Lucius whether or not
he’d been a Death Eater, or if he'd just been under the Imperius curse.
Lucius had bared his white teeth at Draco and laughed. It had been a
horrible laugh, loud and mocking, and it had made Draco feel about ten
centimetres tall. Eventually, Lucius had stopped laughing, and looked Draco
straight in the eyes.
‘What do you think, boy?’
Draco respected his father. He trusted that whatever Lucius had done, he had
done for the best and for the good of his family. For the good of the entire
wizarding community. Who wanted Muggles and half-bloods swanning
around the place as if they owned it, spreading diseases and polluting
bloodlines? Thirty percent of children born into mixed-blood families ended
up Squibs; nearly all of Lucius' books on genealogy confirmed this.
Even though the inmates of Azkaban weren’t allowed contact with the outside
world, Draco wrote to his father religiously every day. He tried to pry up a
floorboard to hide the unsent rolls of parchment under, but the manor floors
were sturdy and none of the boards were loose. He contented himself with
putting them in the empty metal chest beside his bed and placing nine
different Protection charms and hexes on the lock. He also threatened Nadsy
with a painful death involving disembowelment if he went anywhere near it.
Nadsy henceforth gave the box a wide berth whenever cleaning his room.
Mother was crying again today because Mrs. Zabini still hasn’t returned
her owl. It’s pathetic.
Nadsy The elf made her a cup of tea, and she
took it and patted it on the back to say thank-you. She’s going insane,
showing affection to a thing like that. She spent
72 Galleons on a bracelet yesterday. She said you would have wanted her to
I hate this. When you get out, I know you'll make everything go back to
The Dark Lord is gaining power, which means that you won’t have to stay in
that hole for much longer.
I can’t wait until you get out. I have to go back to school soon, so I won’t
be able to write, but I will be thinking of you.
Your son, Draco.
Draco reasoned that writing the letters wasn’t at all the same as having an
imaginary friend, as his father actually existed. Imaginary friends were for
losers like Longbottom, who actually didn’t have anyone to hang
around with. Draco had plenty of friends. They just weren’t the sort to
Draco never sympathised with his father in his letters, or mentioned that he
felt sorry for him, shut away in a cell like an animal. He never told Lucius
he missed him. This was for two very good reasons. Number one, their
father-son relationship wasn’t exactly one that let trivialities like
emotions get in the way, and number two:
Malfoys didn’t like to be pitied.
The owl was sitting in the middle of the kitchen table, amid the ruins of
breakfast. Either the owl had gone berserk, or Dudley had just left. Crusts
of toast formed a sun-shaped nimbus around bowls of soggy cereal dregs, two
empty Pop Tart boxes and enough crumbs to sustain a colony of ants for
It was somewhat satisfying for Harry to think that Dudley was less
housetrained than a common bird. Unfortunately, Harry was the one who had to
clean up the mess. ‘Unpaid slave’ didn’t even begin to cover it; unpaid
slaves would probably look down their noses at him and mutter something
along the lines of ‘there but for the grace of trade unions go I’.
With an expression that was curiously akin to that of Aunt Petunia’s when
she discovered unscheduled mould, the bird fluttered over to the countertop.
It raised a leg at Harry, who untied a letter bearing the Hogwarts crest.
His heart gave a dull thud when he realised that the letter contained his
The owl clicked her beak, and Harry -- preoccupied with staring at the
parchment -- gestured towards the table in a vague, fire-at-will gesture.
With the zeal of a missionary encountering primitive natives of the Congo or
deepest Slough, the owl set about demolishing the scraps in a sophistic,
anally retentive spiral fashion.
Harry pushed himself up on to the counter, banging his grubby trainers
against the pristine cupboard doors in passing. Although he was fairly
certain that he had done neither spectacularly badly nor astoundingly well,
he couldn’t help hoping, and fearing … Potions … Defence Against the Dark
Arts … If he didn’t get those exams, his half-crystallized dreams of
becoming an Auror would crumble like so much dry bread.
His hands trembling despite himself and the three hairs he’d discovered on
his chest only the day before, Harry pulled at the seal. His eyes scanned
the words without re-routing any messages to the swamp that was currently
masquerading as his brain. Then they began to sink in.
Astronomy -- Poor.
Harry snorted. He couldn’t feel too grieved over that, although he would
have thought, in the circumstances … but bureaucracy would not lean itself
towards leniency in such matters. He wondered if Hermione had fared the
same, and how much of a stink she would kick up over it.
Charms -- Exceeds Expectations.
Harry’s heart gave a little leap. Well, he’d been able to answer the all the
questions and the practical had been a breeze … he remembered Malfoy’s face
when he’d let his wineglass fall. That was a singularly pleasing memory.
Care of Magical Creatures -- Acceptable.
Not bad. Hagrid would be happy.
Herbology -- Acceptable.
Harry wondered if Neville had an Outstanding. He was the only one who seemed
to have a genuine appreciation for sticking his hands in manure.
Defence Against the Dark Arts -- Outstanding.
At that, Harry could not help himself. He gave a whoop of delight, earning
himself a stern look from the owl, who was now methodically investigating
the contents of the Pop Tart boxes. Harry had never realised owls were so
dextrous with their claws.
Divination -- Acceptable.
No thanks to Trelawney, that was for sure and certain.
History of Magic -- Poor.
Harry winced. Hermione’s copious notes, all wasted.
Potions -- Exceeds Expectations, Transfiguration -- Exceeds Expectations.
In spite of what had to be deemed excellent results -- results that, as per
their name, exceeded his expectations -- Harry felt his stomach plummet.
After everything -- all the vanished potions, the blatant bullying, the
favouritism, the torture that was Occlumency, the sheer, blinding, mutual
hatred -- he had done very well. And it still wasn’t enough.
Professor McGonagall’s voice rang in his head: Professor Snape absolutely
refuses to take students who get anything less than Outstanding in their
From zero to raging in under five seconds; even for Harry, that was a
record. He felt the parchment crumpling under his brutal fist and couldn’t
bring himself to care. Hermione, who didn’t want to be an Auror, definitely
had an Outstanding in Potions. Malfoy had one, most likely.
In a fit of temper, Harry threw his letter to the immaculate floor and
jumped up and down on it. After a bit, he was quite satisfied with the
defined trainer-sole prints all over the embossed parchment. He contemplated
them with detached appreciation, until the owl, fed up with clicking to get
his attention, flew over and landed plum on his head.
‘What are you doing?’ cried Harry, flailing. His quick two-step, performed
to remove his sudden avine acquisition, skidded on the parchment, revealing
two hitherto unnoticed sheets.
One seemed to be a standard issue letter, signed by Professor McGonagall,
requesting that he fill out the form pertaining to his subject choices so
that booklists could be forwarded as soon as possible. Harry flung it aside
in favour of the other; he was in no humour to be choosing subjects that
would be useless to him. He’d already failed, as far as he was concerned.
The second was far less formal in tone; more of a note, in fact. One that
made Harry’s eyes widen and his breath catch.
‘… It has come to my attention, Harry, that you wish to study to become
an Auror. In terms of what your future will inevitably hold, I believe that
this is a wise and good choice. I have conducted extensive talks with
Professor Snape and, after some reluctance on his part, he has agreed to
take you on for NEWT level Potions -- a necessary subject -- despite the
fact that you did not fulfil his usual Outstanding result requirements. I
trust that you will see how much of a boon this is from him to you and I
have no doubt in the world that you will make your best effort to repay our
trust in you …’
It was signed A. Dumbledore.
D. Malfoy, Ordinary Wizarding Level Results
Astronomy – Exceeds Expectations
Charms – Acceptable
Care of Magical Creatures – Poor
Defence Against the Dark Arts – Acceptable
Herbology – Exceeds Expectations
Arithmancy – Exceeds Expectations
History of Magic - Acceptable
Potions – Outstanding
Transfiguration – Outstanding
'But these are extremely adequate results!' Narcissa smiled at Draco
with pride. She looked down at the parchment again and frowned, brushing a
wisp of blonde hair out of her eyes. 'Why that reporter had the nerve
to imply that family issues were affecting your schoolwork, I don’t
'I got an ‘Acceptable’ in Defence,' stated Draco.
He hadn’t wanted to share his marks with his anyone. Unfortunately, he’d
been late to breakfast and Nadsy had mistakenly delivered the envelope to
Narcissa, who had ripped it open and started reading the enclosed aloud,
even though it was quite obviously addressed to Draco Malfoy. Draco
glared at the elf, who offered him a croissant by way of apology.
'Master has done very well,' mumbled Nadsy, fiddling with his apron strings.
'Master must be a very clever wizard indeed.'
'Yes, who cares about silly old Defence?' trilled Narcissa, tossing
the parchment to one side. The top hand corner landed in the butter dish and
Nadsy winced. 'You only got a ‘Poor’ in the subject taught by that
abomination with the hideous accent… and two ‘Outstanding’s!'
'Potter will have an ‘Outstanding’ in Defence,' Draco snarled. 'The
Mudblood will have one. Even Weasley might have managed to wangle an
‘Exceeds Expectations’. And I’m just … acceptable.' His fists were
clenching and unclenching underneath the dining table, as if he were using
them to pump up the rage he felt ballooning inside of him.
Nadsy squeaked nervously. Narcissa simply tutted and sipped her tea with a
maddeningly serene expression. 'Calm down, don’t be petulant. At
least you can still take it this year.'
'There must be some mistake,' protested Draco. He half-believed it, too.
Sure, he’d fumbled the counter-jinx and his theory on defensive spells was a
little rusty, but an ‘Acceptable’ just wasn’t something a Malfoy
would get. Lucius would have understood. His father would have been
appalled. Draco resolved to omit any mention of his marks in his next letter
to his father, then remembered that the letters would never be posted
'Honestly! I think you are blowing things wildly out of proportion,' scowled
Narcissa, slamming a red-nailed hand down on to the table. The glasses
rattled and apple juice slopped on to the table. Seeing Draco raise an
eyebrow at her erratic behaviour, she softened. 'Why can’t my little prince
just be happy? You’re sure to have done better than Vincent and
'That’s true, but hardly a compliment,' muttered Draco under his breath. He
sighed and addressed his mother aloud. 'I’m going up to my room.' He rose to
leave, accidentally on purpose treading on Nadsy’s toes. Instantly
Narcissa’s pale eyes welled up with crocodile tears.
'But Draco … you can’t just get up and go …'
'Why not?' asked Draco, removing his letter from the partially melted butter
and using his knife to scrape off the excess grease. Attached to the results
slip was a letter from Professor Snape, urging him to make his subject
choices as quickly as possible, so that he could receive his booklist.
Narcissa was blubbering on in the background.
'We never eat … we never sit down together … as a family …'
Draco threw the knife down on to the table with a clatter.
Nadsy watched it skid across the polished mahogany, goggle-eyed. Narcissa
paused mid-sentence, a single tear glistening on her cheek. They both stared
'This,' hissed Draco, stuffing the oily letter into his pocket, 'is not
a family.' He spun on his heel and stormed out of the room, banging the door
behind him. He paused at the doorway to listen to their reaction. It had
been one of his more impressive exits.
There was a stunned silence for a couple of seconds and then Draco heard an
odd whimpering sound. It became gradually louder and more insistent, until
suddenly there was a piercing wail, which echoed around the large room and
through the keyhole.
'Nobody loves me!'
'Mistress Malfoy must not cry – Mistress Malfoy must be happy …'
'But everyone hates me.'
'Mistress must think happy thoughts, please! Nadsy will take care of
Mistress Malfoy …'
Draco sighed loudly and started to make his sullen way up the staircase. He
couldn’t wait until school began again. It was rather difficult being the
only teenager within a three-mile radius – and it would probably get even
more difficult when those infamous adolescent hormones kicked in – now
that was something to look forward to.
And all the weeping and wailing was getting rather tiresome.
As Harry drifted around the mostly-empty house, dropping pages of The
Daily Prophet -- which he was still getting delivered -- behind him like
a deranged Hansel-wannabe, thoughts settled on his mind like a bad case of
dandruff. After a quiet while, he decided that everyone associated with him
was in imminent danger of destruction. It all came back to Voldemort, but
the fact remained that if it wasn’t for Harry and his thrice-damned
prophecy, his parents would never have died, Cedric would still be alive,
and Sirius would not only be living still, but a free man.
Harry came to the conclusion, as he smoked and bit his nails and ignored,
for the most part, the increasingly frenetic tones of the letters arriving
weekly from Hermione, Ron and Lupin, that it would be better for these
people if he distanced himself from them altogether. His heart contracted to
the point of implosion at the thought of being the cause of the death of any
of the Weasleys, or of Hermione, or of the last remaining true friend of his
father's. He knew that they would have gone to Hell and back for him, which
was precisely why he didn't want to send them there.
Not for a moment did he think that they would capitulate to this decision.
He knew them too well and felt, without any doubt, that their loyalty and
friendship were too strong to be so easily brushed aside. Instead, it would
simply have to be vanquished, with as much dedication, thoroughness and
indifference as he would one day try to remove Voldemort, or as Aunt Petunia
would buff African mahogany.
So when the thirty-first of July rolled around and letters and parcels began
trickling in, Harry hardened his heart and refused to let Hedwig even alight
before sending her off again. Back to his friends, bearing his unopened
cards and presents and messages of solidarity and love. Mustering up
strength from some unknown source, he managed to pen a curt missive to
Lupin, apprising him of the fact that he didn’t want any more letters, that
he felt presents were inappropriate in the face of Sirius’ death, that he
would be much obliged if Lupin would inform Ron and Hermione that he would
see them on the Hogwarts Express and not before, and -- oh, yes --
-- that he was fine.
Draco arrived at King’s Cross a full hour before the train was due to
arrive. His mother wasn’t there to accompany him; she had claimed she wasn’t
feeling up to traipsing around London that day. To make up for the indignity
of having to catch the train without someone to see him off, Nadsy had
thoughtfully packed his master a supposedly nourishing lunch of corned beef
sandwiches and orange juice. Draco had nearly died when he saw the plebeian
fare he was supposed to ingest, but due to his lack of breakfast, he was
soon resigned to eating the horrid things.
Sitting glumly on the platform’s only bench and tearing chunks of the soft
white bread off the sandwich with his teeth, Draco looked around him for a
distraction. The small platform was completely deserted so early in the
morning -- you could practically see the tumbleweed blowing across it. Draco
sighed to himself, then heard a soft pop coming from the wall he’d entered
by. A scraggly, unfamiliar young boy -- first-year, by the looks of him --
was standing awestruck by the red bricks. He was clutching a large
drawstring bag in his right hand and his trunk had a purple ribbon wrapped
around its middle, presumably to make it look more conspicuous. Mainly, it
just made it look stupid.
'Get away from there,' Draco called out tiredly, re-wrapping his half-eaten
sandwich and stowing it in his pocket. 'Unless you want your mum to trample
all over you when she comes through.'
'My mum’s not coming through,' the little boy answered, gazing at Draco with
respect. 'She’s too busy too see me off ‘cause she’s going to Russia for
work. She works at the Ministry.'
'Oh, really? Well, my father has connections at the Ministry too,' snapped
Draco without thinking. The little boy’s eyes widened. He was obviously
impressed. Draco winced, but he couldn’t very well backtrack and say; ‘Oh
sorry, I forgot. He doesn’t, any more. He’s actually a convicted felon and
in Azkaban at the mo’.
The little boy wheeled his trunk over to Draco and stuck a grubby hand
underneath Draco’s nose. Draco stared at it in obvious confusion and, after
realising that Draco clearly wasn’t the handshaking type, the little boy
scratched his thigh with the outstretched hand and then sat down next to him
on the narrow bench.
'Pleased to meet you. I’m Matthew.'
Draco looked down at the small boy on his left. Matthew was unusually short
and skinny for his age, with cropped brown hair and strikingly pink cheeks.
His feet barely touched the ground and he kept swinging his legs backwards
and forwards, kicking his scuffed trainers against Draco’s trunk, unabashed.
'What the hell do you think you’re doing?' spluttered Draco, pulling his
expensive case out of range of Matthew’s feet. Matthew shrugged.
'My mum said I was to find the first big student I saw and stick to him
like glue until the train came.'
Draco resisted the urge to say something exceedingly immature, like, 'I'll
stick you like glue' or 'I'm rubber and everything bounces off
me, nyah nyah!'.
'I don’t care what your mum said,' retorted Draco.
'You would care if you met my mum. She’s awful scary when I
don’t listen to her. But she’s nice and everything. She gave me Bertie
Bott's Every-Flavour Beans --' Matthew pulled a crinkly packet out of his
drawstring bag and waved it under Draco’s nose '-- so we can share those
later, if you want.'
Draco tried hard to keep his temper. He did not need this scrawny first-year
aggravating him on the very first day back. He also did not need Bertie
Bott's Every-Flavour Beans, although his growling stomach was telling him
'You know how you always listen to your mum?' Draco asked slowly and
clearly, so as to get his point across. Matthew nodded.
'’Cept sometimes I don’t -- like when she tells me to clean my room I just
shove everything under the --'
'Right, well, I always, always, always listen to my mum,' lied Draco,
not caring about Matthew’s ethics. 'And she said that I should never
speak to strangers. So you can’t sit with me. You have to go and wait for
some other first-years … you can stay over there.' Draco pointed at a green
dustbin several yards away. Matthew blinked.
'I’m not a stranger!'
'Yes, you are.' Draco sneered in a superior fashion. 'I only met you two
'But I’ve introduced myself and everything! I’m Matthew and you’re
'How on earth do you know my name?' asked Draco, astounded.
'It’s on your trunk.'
Draco looked down at his brown leather trunk and groaned audibly. Sure
enough, there was a tag that read, in silver lettering, D. Malfoy.
Nadsy must have added it. So thoughtful, that elf.
'So we’re not strangers after all,' announced Matthew, brightening. 'And if
you tell me your first name, we’ll be friends.'
Draco glared at Matthew. He didn’t appear to notice.
'So, are you called … Daniel?' Matthew enquired, swinging his legs higher
and higher. Draco stared purposefully into the distance, refusing to reply.
Matthew carried on regardless. 'Are you … David? Are you Derrick? Are you
Dickie? Are you Dippy? Are you Dopey? Are you … Diana?' Matthew
descended in to helpless giggles, chuckling at his own joke. Draco watched
him wryly, his mouth twitching despite himself.
'Make sure to tell the Sorting Hat not to put you in Slytherin,' warned
Draco. Matthew stopped laughing and hiccupped.
'Why?' he asked seriously. He lowered his voice and adopted a confidential
manner. 'Is it bad?'
'No, I’m just sure that if I had you in my House I’d end up strangling you
before the end of the week.'
There was a soft pop from the red brick wall. Draco tried to turn his head
to see who it was, but Matthew tugged at his collar insistently.
'I want to get into Ravenclaw, anyway, because I’m really smart. I can do
spells already. Kind of. Mum showed me, she held my hand while I did it and
we said the words together, but I did it really. So I’m going to Ravenclaw.
But we can still be friends and it’ll be terrific because I’ll know how to
do loads more spells and I’ll get even smarter.'
Draco nodded absently and turned to see the person that had just appeared
through the wall.
It was a dark-haired boy, a couple of inches taller than Draco but pulling a
trunk several sizes smaller than his. He was wearing cheap-looking Muggle
clothes: a baseball cap, slightly baggy jeans, a dark green jumper and
trainers that were in much the same condition as Matthew’s. His glasses were
familiar, as was his horrifically untidy hair and the small pink scar
on his forehead. Harry Potter looked Draco right in the eyes. Draco stared
back in defiance.
Matthew squeaked, thrilled at the tension, and Potter’s gaze dropped to
encompass the small boy sitting next to Draco on the bench. Potter smiled
without mirth and shook his head in disbelief, then pivoted on his heel and
disappeared through the barrier once more. Draco flushed with embarrassment
and scowled, furious at himself. But he couldn’t very well start duelling
with Potter on a train platform with Matthew watching, could he? And to
trade insults would have been setting a bad example. Draco was a Prefect,
'Nice to see you back again, Potter,' muttered Draco under his breath.
'Who’s that?' whispered Matthew in childish excitement. 'What’s his
'That’s the famous Harry Potter,' Draco sneered. He stared at the wall Harry
had disappeared through, hating him fervently. 'Git.'
'You know his first name?' questioned Matthew. 'Is he your friend?'
'No,' hissed Draco. 'Of course not! He’s a stupid, arrogant,
attention-seeking … Look, Matthew, friendships don’t work on the basis of
knowing someone’s first name.'
'Oh,' Matthew said quietly. 'Well … how do they work? Because I don’t
know anyone yet, and there’s going to be hundreds of kids at Hogwarts, and
'You’ll manage,' Draco interrupted. Matthew fell silent.
There was a few minutes’ awkward silence, in which Matthew got out his Beans
and began crunching them between his teeth. Just as he offered Draco some,
there was a soft pop and two blonde third-years emerged out of the wall,
chatting excitedly, their trunks banging against each other. A few seconds
later, their mother burst through the bricks, her blue handbag swinging
wildly. Matthew glanced over at the new arrivals, then tucked his legs
underneath him. A faint rumbling noise could be heard coming from the tunnel
– the Hogwarts Express was approaching.
'I’m glad I had you to wait with me for the train,' announced Matthew, his
mouth full of potato starch. 'That Harry Potter, he doesn’t seem very nice.
He’s not friendly at all.'
'I’m not friendly!' snapped Draco, indignant. 'As soon as the train
gets here, you’re on your own. I’m bagging a compartment and leaving you
behind. I quite frankly don’t care what you do after that.'
'Have to sit with this boy Harvey anyway, my mum knows his dad,' replied
Matthew, spraying crumbs. 'I’m just sayin’,' he swallowed noisily, 'just
saying that you’re probably a much nicer person than that Potter person.
'I wouldn’t bet on it,' snarled Draco, but Matthew wasn’t listening. The
Hogwarts Express had just pulled in, in a haze of noise and heat and steam.
Matthew jumped up and watched the scarlet beast pull in to the station, a
huge wondering grin on his face.
'Come on, come on!' Matthew squealed in excitement. He picked up his trunk
and looked at Draco with an expectant expression. 'What’re you waiting for?
The train’s here!' He started to drag his trunk towards the train, stumbling
in his eagerness.
Draco stood up stiffly. With studied nonchalance, he dusted himself off and
propped up his large trunk with some difficulty. A crowd of fourth-years
from Gryffindor all walked through the wall at almost the same time,
shouting to each other and trying to shush their owls, which had started
shrieking shrilly at the noise of the train. Matthew waved madly at him from
a compartment window and Draco pretended not to notice.
'Here we go,' Draco sighed in resignation. He picked up his trunk and began
to make his way into the Hogwarts Express.
Harry, from his vantage point behind a useful pillar, spotted Hermione and
Ron bidding their parents goodbye and walking towards the barrier to
Platform Nine and Three Quarters. They had their heads together and looked
very chummy, if worried, occasionally drawing apart to pull up Ron’s bockety
trolley. Ginny sauntered through a few minutes later.
Harry still didn’t move; he wasn’t going anywhere until he was certain that
Lupin and Mrs Weasley had left the building. He could see them in his
peripheral vision. It was obscured by his baseball cap, which was pulled
down low over his eyes and scar, and by the hand that was holding a Marlboro
up to his mouth.
Lupin had written once more after Harry's birthday, to express concern over
how Harry was making his way to the Hogwarts Express, but Harry assured him
in the briefest way possible that taking a taxi would do him just fine.
After all, Harry was almost certain the Order had been watching Number Four,
Privet Drive all summer and that someone with pink hair had trailed him to
King's Cross in another taxi.
At long last, with two minutes to go before the barrier closed, Mrs Weasley
and Lupin Disapparated. Harry was free to make a sprint for it, bolting
through like a doped-up racehorse. He skidded to a halt at the nearest
compartment door and heaved Hedwig’s cage through, followed by his trunk. He
jumped over it and shoved it all the way in as the train began to move.
Depositing both cage and trunk on to a luggage rack, Harry wandered off up
the aisle, pausing at a window to take a last drag out of his cigarette
before pitching it out the window. He’d filched three of Dudley’s ten-packs
before he left.
Harry supposed that his friends were in their Prefect’s carriage, which
suited him. The less chance of them getting him on his own, the better. He
would have to start implementing his plan of alienation straight away; there
was no sense in letting them think things were as normal, only to have Harry
turn on them further down the line. For their own safety, Harry needed
to stay away from them.
It was too much to hope that there would be an empty carriage, not judging
by the amount of squealing kids -- had he really been that small once? --
cluttering up the place, chasing each other around at about the level of
Harry’s ankles. Despite a summer diet consisting only of coffee, Pop Tarts
and the odd slice of toast, Harry had managed to have a growth spurt since
he’d last been on the train. He kept braining himself on the door frames.
Harry took to peering into compartments, executing complicated manoeuvres
with his head to keep the cap over his eyes and still, actually, see. For
the most part, they were filled to capacity with people he didn’t know. A
sense of unease began to grow in his stomach. Fair enough, his decision to
distance himself from his mates was a wise one -- at least in his own
opinion -- but it left him in something of a quandary. Where, exactly, did
people with no friends sit? Was there a carriage somewhere designated for
losers? If so, he couldn’t find it.
At the last carriage but one, Harry found Malfoy. He was struck by the
about-turn in their worn-by-tradition roles. Usually, it was Malfoy and his
bouncers who popped up by the carriage doors they were least wanted, not
Harry on his lonesome.
In fact, Malfoy was also quite alone. He’d had no Slytherins with him on the
platform either, when Harry had first arrived and Malfoy had precipitated
Harry’s hiding out on the Muggle platform. Harry wondered what had happened
to the kid. Malfoy had probably eaten him.
Harry didn’t open the door, or shout imprecations through it, or make faces
up against the window. All of these were tempting, if exceedingly immature
options, but they would have proved fruitless as an orange tree in
Greenland, because Malfoy was fast asleep. Instead, Harry felt about in his
jeans pocket for another cigarette -- a John Player this time. He had no
idea on what grounds Dudley bought his cigarettes. Harry could only assume
that Dudley was indulging in brand experimentation or was just blind.
Malfoy slept like someone had just delivered him a punch to the solar
plexus. He was all curled in on himself, his chin wedged between his
collarbones, his hair smudging itself over his forehead and the carriage
window. Even his hands were in fists, held in his lap. Harry decided not to
focus too much on Malfoy’s lap, though, for the sake of his own mental
A disapproving voice broke into his reveries, making him jump out of his
skin and about five metres in the air.
‘Potter, you aren’t allowed to smoke in here.’
Harry whipped around, blurting the first thing that had come into his head.
‘How did you know it was me?’
‘No one else can skulk like you, Harry,’ Susan Bones informed him. ‘Not to
mention you are still dressed in your elephantine Muggle clothes. Most
people with Muggle heritage don’t shop in circus outfitters, you understand,
no offence meant.’
‘Oh. Right.’ After a second’s thought, Harry added, with something less than
cutting sarcasm, ‘None taken.’
‘Good,’ said Susan briskly. ‘Are you going to get into a compartment? I’m
sure, you being Harry Potter, you could have a cancer stick out the window
in one, but there are kids in these corridors.’
‘Tell me about it,’ groaned Harry.
She came to join him at the door. ‘Look, there’s a seat in there.’
‘With Malfoy?’ Harry’s voice came out in a sort of strangled squeak. He
added, after a moment, ‘I’d rather be boiled alive in my own spit.’
‘You put across a decisive argument, there,’ said Susan. ‘Come on then,
mate, you can share our compartment. Hermione and Ron won’t be along for a
while, I imagine.’
Harry didn't think informing Susan of his ostracism plans would be the ideal
way to implement them, so he said nothing.
Instead, he trotted after Susan, who was striding along like the Colossus on
an Alpine hike. The girl had huge thighs. To use one of Uncle
Vernon’s more-off-colour-than-was-his-general-wont phrases, they looked like
those of a Polish miner’s daughter’s. Her arms were pretty much the same;
she was basically a brick with a head. Harry thought, in approval, that
she’d make a dashed good Beater.
The compartment she led him to contained Zacharias Smith, Justin
Finch-Fletchley and, for some reason, Luna Lovegood. Luna appeared to be
humming to herself and she was rocking back and forth slightly, but there
was a space by the window next to her, which Harry took without further ado.
He rummaged around in his pocket for his lighter -- which seemed to have
moved around in his jeans to somewhere under his arse by Geller-ian means.
Justin appeared to be pontificating, so Harry paused to listen.
‘You see, the reason this country is in such a shambles is that they started
letting in, you know, commoners, to high-ranking schools, you know? They
just aren’t the proper sort, you know. Living in a council house is, you
know, a punishment for what you did in you last life, you know? All they
care about is satellite dishes, you know.’
‘Shut up, Justin,’ said Susan. Undeterred, Justin continued to ramble on and
on for five thousand hours, his monologue interspersed with questions from
an irritated Smith, which Justin didn't answer.
Harry flicked at his lighter, but it refused to throw up a flame. He
restrained himself from chucking it out the window only by realising that he
had no idea how to localise a Fire Charm on to a fag-end. Luna gave a
braying laugh and Harry stared at her.
‘What’s her problem?’ he asked Susan, who kept taking very deep breaths.
‘I just have to burst into laughter at the pure unadulterated joy of being
alive,’ said Luna dreamily, and promptly fell asleep.
‘Arse,’ said Susan, ‘I don’t think I have any matches left. Hang it all,
Potter, here.’ She leaned over, not taking any notice of Smith’s howls of,
‘That was my knee’ and lit Harry’s cigarette with a tap of her wand.
‘Thanks.’ Harry inhaled with relief and a lovely familiar raw burning
‘Are you going to smoke that in here?’ Smith demanded in querulous tones.
‘Naw, he's going to look at it,’ said Susan. ‘Obviously this is why so much
time was spent on the design, because they aren’t meant to be used or
‘I don’t want to get passive smoke!’ complained Smith.
Harry just curled his lip at him and took a long drag, fixing his eyes on a
spot right between Smith’s hairy brows. He had hair growing on his top lip,
too, and creeping down his cheeks like blonde poison ivy. He was something
quite like a blonde gorilla with a constipated expression.
Susan rolled her eyes. ‘Don’t suppose you’ve a spare one, Harry old chap?
I’m hanging for a fag. I can pay you back once we get to school, I’ve a
stash in my trunk.’
‘Sure.’ Harry extracted a crumpled blue packet from the seat of his trousers
and passed her a slightly bent Player.
‘-- and since they’ve opened those, you know, label warehouses, you know,
every skanger is wearing Ralph shirts, you know, so that they almost look
like us --’
‘What is your problem?’ asked Harry, staring at Justin. To his
credit, Justin didn’t flinch, although he stumbled through a over-quota
number of ‘you knows’ before recovering his thread.
‘Justin's father is a Tory politician and Justin spent the summer being
indoctrinated by him. Now Justin has a problem with class distinctions,’
sighed Susan, picking up Luna bodily and depositing her beside Smith so that
she could sit beside Harry and smoke out the window.
‘What, he doesn’t think they should be done away with?’
‘To an extent,’ Susan hedged, scratching her blonde plait. ‘More the fact
that he resents that they exist at all. He believes everyone lower than the
aristocracy are aberrations on the face of mankind bred during, I think, the
mating of the Beast and the Whore, and that the Domesday Book is a roll-call
of the Redeemed.’
‘You’d want to watch him --’ Harry began, but Susan just smiled.
‘Don’t worry. I warned him that if he joined up with You-Know-Who I’d break
his neck with my knees.’
‘I can believe it,’ said Harry. ‘Glad to see you’re doing your bit for the
‘Oh, I’m leaving!’ Smith stood up and stormed out. Two seconds later, the
door crashed open again and he stuck his head in to add, ‘I hope you enjoy
your lung cancer!’
‘Watch it, Smith, you’re wrecking your barnet,’ Harry warned him.
After a while, Luna -- still snoring faintly -- keeled over and ended up
face down in Justin’s lap. He didn’t notice a thing, immersed in droning on
about how, ‘The House of Commons is such a bunch of low-class yes-men, you
know, I’m sure they’re all shagging Major, you know.’
Harry looked out of the window, at the landscape speeding past. He wondered
when his life had become so complicated and unhappy. His mouth twisted into
a wry smile as he realised that it had always been like that.
When his friends finally managed to catch up with them -- his avoidance
techniques would not foil them forever -- Harry was going to succeed in
making his life even worse.
Harry lingered behind Susan as she marshalled her posse out of the train and
into the Thestral-drawn carriages. Justin was still talking. From
what Harry was desperately trying not to listen to, as he slowly lost the
will to live, it was something along the lines of ‘I don’t know what they
have against, you know, SUVs, just because, you know, they’re driving
‘Shut up, Justin,’ said Susan.
Harry spotted Hermione and Ron directing first-years hither and yon and
wished them the joy of it. The little boy with cheeks like apples, who had
been pallying up to Malfoy earlier, was at the tail end of the group,
looking as scared, lost, and bulled-up with bravado as the rest of them.
In the carriage, Harry lit up again, offering another to Susan. He wondered
if he was becoming an addict. From all accounts, though, he wasn’t going to
survive long enough to see the ill effects of it. He blew the smoke out the
window, watching for people he knew. Hermione and Ron, looking worried,
eventually climbed into a carriage.
The Entrance Hall was packed with people, who were all screaming welcomes at
each other. Harry pushed through them, wondering why exactly it was
necessary that people had to tell the news and give the weather at the same
time. He could have taken a shower in the spit that was flying in the few
metres between the main door and the door to the Great Hall.
People were flocking in, taking seats. Harry tucked his half-smoked fag
behind his ear and huddled down in a seat. He watched Seamus and Dean
passing him by, not recognising him, chatting loudly about Quidditch and
Seamus’ chances of making the team this year. The Gryffindor team was
completely decimated now. Harry had a permanent ban, of course, and even if
it were rescinded, they were down a Chaser. As it stood, the Gryffindor team
consisted of Ron, Ginny and the two wimpy replacement Beaters. Ron’s final
performance last year notwithstanding, that was not a cheerful prospect.
Harry heaved a great sigh and decided that it was not his problem. He didn’t
even have his broom; the last he’d heard of it, it was still locked in
His brooding was interrupted when the dreaded confrontation with Hermione
and Ron finally occurred. His slouch and cap might have fooled his
dorm-mates, but the eagle-eyed Hermione made her way over to him like a bat
out of hell, her robes flapping, looking crossed between furious and
anxious. Ron trailed her, running one hand nervously through his hair.
‘Harry!’ Hermione exclaimed, just to ensure that some native tribes
in the Amazon who might not have known his name now did and then some. She
plonked herself down beside him, while Ron waved away random third-years to
take a seat for himself on the other side of the table.
‘Where on earth have you been?’ she demanded, Ron nodding along but as yet
not graduating to full speech.
'At the Dursleys,' mumbled Harry.
'We were so worried, mate,' said Ron. 'You hardly ever answered our letters
'-- sent back our presents,' chimed in Hermione.
'And it was a really cool Cannons poster, too,' added Ron, but Hermione
glared at him.
Harry smiled half-heartedly. 'Thanks, but -- I'm sorry. I -- I can't really
talk right now.'
'Don't be silly,' said Hermione in a no-nonsense tone. 'We looked all over
for you on the train and on the platform -- you have to talk to us,
Harry. We're your friends.'
'Yeah,' said Harry, standing up. 'You are. You are my friends.' He looked at
them earnestly, his gaze switching from Hermione's determined expression to
Ron's puzzled one and back again.
He willed them to understand. Telling them that they were in danger because
of him was no use; they'd known that from the start. Harry would have to
make them desert him of their own accord, but he could think of no better
way of doing it than by walking away. Every time they approached.
'That's why I can't,' he finished. He knew it wasn't spectacularly coherent,
as explanations went, but when it came to gut-feelings definitions were
rendered obsolete. 'I'm sorry,' he said again, and almost ran to the far end
of the table.
Hermione stood up to follow him, but Harry saw Ron place a quelling hand on
her arm. Even from several feet away, Harry could see that his friend's face
was troubled, but Harry didn't think he was fooling himself in seeing a
glimmer of understanding there.
Harry stared down at his meagre helping of roast beef, not feeling in the
least hungry. He had ignored most of the lavish meal, as well as the
third-years who were sitting beside him. For once, his fame worked in his
favour; the younger students were too star-struck to talk to him, much less
demand reasons for his presence in their midst. For the sake of increased
anonymity, however, he'd replaced his baseball cap.
McGonagall left her seat at the teacher’s table, followed by Snape, looking
as stony-faced and pale as the White Cliffs of Dover. Professors Flitwick
and Sprout walked together away from the Head Table; Harry assumed that they
were going to reconnoitre with their Prefects, as were McGonagall and Snape.
He'd seen them do this at the end of every Welcoming Feast, although he
hadn't paid the ritual much attention.
McGonagall headed off down to the Gryffindor table. After poking his head
into what had once been Malfoy’s gang, Snape headed on to the end of the
table -- where Malfoy was sitting, alone -- with a bemused expression. Harry
craned his neck to follow his movement; Snape had his hand on Malfoy’s
shoulder and Malfoy was gazing up at him apprehensively, a forkful of
cauliflower cheese halfway to his mouth. Harry thought it was so, so
appropriate that Malfoy ate that; it tasted like processed turds and fitted
his persona exactly.
This far away Harry hadn’t a clue what was going on, but he followed the
exchange avidly. He almost lost his mind when someone tapped him, quite
forcefully, on his own shoulder. Harry looked around to find McGonagall
staring down at him.
In between surprised coughs, Harry managed, ‘Professor?’
‘With me, Potter,’ she said, as ever curt as a chainsaw to the neck.
Pausing only to wipe at his streaming eyes, Harry followed her out into the
Entrance Hall. Snape and Malfoy were already standing there, ensconced in
cosy conversation. They both shot Harry filthy looks when he walked though
the door, almost stumbling on the hem of his robes. Near the stairs,
Professor Flitwick and Cho Chang were conversing in low voices and Professor
Sprout was clapping Zacharias Smith on the shoulder. Harry squinted at them,
feeling a flash of precognition.
McGonagall pursed her lips. ‘Mr Potter, I called you out here to discuss the
matter of the Gryffindor Quidditch captaincy.’
She paused, while Harry felt his heart soar and then plummet as brute
reality came thumping back in concrete overshoes. ‘I have a lifelong
Quidditch ban,’ he reminded her glumly.
‘Yes, Professor, he does,’ Malfoy jumped in, ‘for assault and gross
misconduct on the pitch.’
‘That wasn’t assault, that was justice,’ snarled Harry. Malfoy tossed his
‘An unprovoked attack is not justice,’ he pointed out.
‘Unprovoked?’ Harry’s voice squeaked in outrage. ‘You little wanker, I’ll
show you unprovoked --’
‘Mr Potter!’ interrupted McGonagall. ‘If you could return your attention to
the matter at hand, I would be ever so grateful. All of Professor Umbridge’s
professional and educational edicts have been annulled, as of her
resignation from the post of Defence Against the Dark Arts Teacher --
including your ban.’
‘Really?’ Harry’s face lit up. ‘So I can play again? And -- and my Firebolt?
I’ll be able to fly my Firebolt?’
‘Yes, to all of the above,’ said McGonagall, her lips twitching at his
obvious delight. Malfoy was curling his mouth in disgust. ‘And not only
that, you will be flying as captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team.’
‘I -- what? Captain?’ Harry gulped. ‘Thank you, Professor!’ He grabbed her
hand and pumping it.
‘Now, I hope you live up to this honour,’ McGonagall said, eyeing him over
the top of her bifocals. ‘Most pertinently, in your relations with other
Harry got a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach at her words. He
turned, groaning, but Malfoy saved him the trouble by stepping in front of
him with a grin splitting his face.
He poked Harry in the chest.
‘We’ll play nice, won’t we, Potter?’ he sneered.
Draco sauntered back over to the Slytherin table, feeling immensely pleased
about what had just happened.
'Hey, losers!' Draco called out cheerfully. His former friends glanced
upwards at the salutation, but once they saw who it was, they turned their
attention back on to more interesting things, like napkins and cutlery. Ah,
so that was their game. They were blanking him.
'As I was saying,' continued Pansy, glaring over her shoulder at
Draco, 'the reason I didn’t buy the pearl necklace was --'
Draco slid into the bench space between Pansy and Heinrich Moon, casually
draping an arm around each of their backs. Heinrich recoiled instantly,
muttering something that sounded like ‘Mad poofter’. Blaise Zabini
giggled shrilly from the opposite side of the table and there was a dull
thwack as Pansy’s leather-booted toe connected with his kneecap. Blaise's
eyes widened and he choked out a mouthful of desiccated sprout and saliva.
The chewed green bundle flew through the air and landed in Goyle’s plate.
Goyle was too busy staring goggle-eyed at Draco’s audacious behaviour to
notice. No one bothered to tell him about it, either.
'Guess who’s just been made captain of the Slytherin team?' Draco
The entire table went unnaturally quiet. Everyone was straining to hear what
was going on; even the excitable first-years were eavesdropping as hard as
their tiny ears would allow. Pansy extricated herself from Draco’s grasp and
turned to gawp at him, her considerable mouth hanging wide open. It made her
look decidedly less attractive, Draco noticed.
Blaise scowled as the news sunk in and viciously jabbed the prongs of his
fork into a cherry tomato, making the juice spurt all over the table. A
great deal of it landed on Theodore Nott’s face, but he simply licked it off
and continued to stare at Draco. Crabbe was making the best of the situation
by taking the opportunity to snatch handfuls of food from Goyle’s plate. He
scooped up some sprout-and-potato mush and stuffed it in his already-bulging
cheeks, then tried to chew the huge mouthful as surreptitiously as possible.
'So,' said Pansy at last, 'Prefect and Quidditch captain, eh?'
'You’d better believe it,' replied Draco, cuffing Pansy on the cheek and
surveying the horrified faces of the sixth-years with amusement. Crabbe made
a noise like a wounded hippo as the stolen food squeezed its way down his
oesophagus. 'Of course, I won’t be abusing the privilege. At all.'
There was a stunned silence. Nott went pale. Blaise cleared his throat
awkwardly. Then Draco started to laugh, baring his teeth at the table and,
to his utmost relief, everyone else joined in, albeit a trifle nervously.
Goyle was wearing the stony expression of someone who had just wet himself
in terror, but was trying hard to hide it.
'Who are the other captains, then?' asked Millicent in her throaty voice.
Draco started in shock. Millicent rarely spoke, but it was always disturbing
to hear her deep man’s tenor husking out of a teenage girl’s body.
'Fucked if I know who the captain for Ravenclaw is,' Draco answered
carelessly, glancing over at the other three tables.
A few feet away, Cho Chang was whispering excitedly to her best friend
Marietta, tossing her shoulder-length black hair. Marietta was making a huge
production of gasping at every alternate sentence and was fanning herself
with her fingers, a habit it seemed she'd picked up during the holidays. Her
spots had cleared up quite well, although if you looked closely her skin
bore a faint purplish tinge. Not that Draco intended to do anything of the
Draco turned back to the table, grimacing. 'I have a horrible feeling that
Chang girl made it, though.'
'What about Hufflepuff?' asked Pansy, in a voice so dripping with sugar it
was surprising that her teeth hadn’t rotted out of her head. Draco was not
at all alarmed by Pansy’s sudden switch from snarky to saccharine: he had
spent long enough in her company to know exactly how her mind operated.
Draco turned to glance at the Hufflepuff table. They all looked as
mind-numbingly boring and lifeless as usual. Draco's eyes were drawn behind
them, to one taller boy sitting at the end of the bench on the next table,
carving shapes in to the table with a bread knife.
'Potter,' growled Draco. Everyone turned to look, with a huge clattering of
plates and rustling of robes. It was hideously unsubtle.
'Potter can’t be the Hufflepuff captain, he’s a Gryffindor,' objected
Crabbe, after a few seconds’ consideration. Pansy rolled her dark eyes.
'Thank you for that, Vincent.' She placed a sympathetic hand on
Draco’s arm. 'So. Potty’s been made the Gryffindor captain. Big surprise
'He’s such a fathead,' commented Heinrich sourly, beady eyes darting towards
Draco to see if he was gaining his approval. 'I’m surprised he can still fit
that Muggle hat on over his ridiculous hair.'
'I rather think it’s intended to hide the disfigurement on the forehead.' A
fifth-year called Vanessa Stonebridge nodded, sneering.
'Arse,' rumbled Millicent, startling them all. The entire sixth-year
division of the Slytherin table was staring at Potter now, identical
malicious expressions gracing each of their faces. Pansy snorted.
'What the hell do you think he’s doing with the little kids, anyway? Why
isn’t he hanging around with his own gang?'
'I think he’s spreading more lies about us,' announced Draco, trying to
create a sense of solidarity between them -- no mean feat, when the people
in question were Slytherins. 'All of us,' he elaborated. 'He’s such a
'We should do something about him,' declared Goyle, cracking his knuckles.
Draco felt a thrill of delight course through his veins, as it always did
when anyone suggested bodily harm towards Potter. But realistically, there
were teachers, ghosts and first-years everywhere. It would’ve been
practically impossible to break as many of Potter’s bones as Draco would
have liked without being caught.
'Like what?' asked Draco, sniffing. 'Dumbledore would have us all in
detention before you could say The Git Who Lived. No-one hurts Potty on his
'Throw a sprout at him,' suggested Pansy.
Draco stared at her. Pansy was certainly intelligent enough to be the
ringleader of her little clique and she didn’t do too badly in tests, but
her idea of ‘revenge’ and his take on the concept clearly differed greatly.
Then she added, a sly smirk on her face, 'Unless you’re chicken.'
Not bothering to answer this insinuation, Draco pulled his wand out of his
robes and levitated a sprout twelve centimetres into the air. Pansy smiled
like a snake. Draco hurriedly muttered the Banishing Charm under his breath
and the uneven green sphere zoomed purposefully towards Potter, hitting him
smack on the side of the head. Pansy chortled in delight and Potter looked
up, green eyes blazing. Draco pretended to be staring at the ceiling, which
was cloudy and dark. It looked like rain, he observed, avoiding making eye
contact with anyone.
'Quick, do another one! He’s looking away!' hissed Pansy, clapping her hands
together in sadistic excitement. Potter, demonstrating the self-restraint of
a nomadic monk, was ignoring them. Draco picked up a slightly bigger sprout
and aimed it at his glasses. This one missed its target, but even better,
hit Potter squarely on the nose. There was a guffaw of laughter from the
Slytherin boys, but Potter still did not react. A few of the people in his
vicinity were looking around for the source of the faint 'whizzing' noises,
but Draco didn't give a fig about them. Potter was the sole target
'Bloody git – what the hell does he think he’s doing, ignoring us?' scowled
Blaise. Draco felt a tiny surge of triumph inside him at the ‘us’. 'I’m
having a go – hand me a sprout, Draco.'
'Yeah, give me one too,' Heinrich joined in, glaring at Potter’s impassive
face. 'He thinks he’s so much better than us … let’s see how superior
he feels with a sprout jammed up his left nostril.'
Several rounds of sprouts were fired at Harry from the Slytherin table. Some
hit people in the tables in between. They looked around in puzzled
irritation, but as yet the projectiles were too small for anyone to realise
what they were or calculate where they were coming from. One person who was
stalwart in displaying no reaction was Potter.
'This is so dull. He’s never going to do anything,' whined
Pansy, turning around again. Several of the other Slytherins followed suit,
including Draco, who sighed in disappointment. 'Stupid, pigheaded wanker,
he’s never going to do anythi – DRACO!'
A thick wodge of extra-rare steak had just slammed into the side of Draco’s
head. Large dribbles of brown gravy oozed from it, the gloopy yellow fat
sliding off Draco’s cheek. It left a slug-trail of glistening slime on his
fair skin before plopping on to the floor, where it lay quivering like a
traumatised jellyfish. Draco swivelled around slowly, brown muck already
congealing in his white-blond hair, and saw Potter grinning broadly. Almost
everyone in the other three houses had paused eating to gawk. The teachers
were just beginning to notice something was amiss, and Professor Flitwick
was on the verge of clearing his throat, when …
Not bothering to use magic, Draco grabbed a bowl of trifle that had
materialised a few seconds earlier on the Slytherin table and hurled it at
Potter, wishing him extreme pain. Potter leaped out of the way just in time,
unfortunately, but the lumpy cream, jelly, and strawberries all ended up on
the head of the girl next to him. She was perfectly motionless for a full
five seconds, sitting quite calmly in a puddle of pinkish goo and looking
down at the chilled fruit in her lap. The entire Hall held its breath.
A tureen full of ice-cold pea soup was emptied over the Slytherin girls, who
all began wailing in fury.
Pansy Parkinson, though dripping with green slime and soaked through to her
underwear, was a force to be reckoned with. Draco had never seen a more
vicious use of custard in all his life.
Scraps of food began flying everywhere. Zacharias Smith leapt on to the
table and started flinging chocolate pudding in all directions like a crazed
war general. Ernie Macmillan grabbed some half-eaten drumsticks and tossed
them at Crabbe’s massive bulk, screaming expletives. Millicent emptied a
tankard of pumpkin juice down Marietta Edgecombe’s front and received a slap
in the face; Millicent punched Marietta in the jaw and sent her flying.
Blaise, in a fit of madness, chucked a salad bowl at the Gryffindor table.
In response to this assault on their sanctuary, Ginny Weasley let out an
inhuman bellow and hurled balled-up mashed potatoes into the melee.
The first-years went wild. Just having been initiated into the school and
having endured the nerve-wracking torture of the Sorting, they had a
ludicrous amount of pent-up tension still inside them, just yearning to be
set free. This energy would usually have been spent on a whole night of
incessant chattering and swapping of stories, but Draco had triggered them
off early. The results were disastrous.
They howled like monkeys. They dug their hands into the cheesecake and
lobbed it at the teachers. They bit members of rival houses on any part of
the skin that was still exposed, leaving their victims food-stained and
bruised. They painted their faces with gravy. They crawled on the floor,
spitting grapes at those who had had the decency to seek refuge under the
tables. Draco tried to see Potter in the midst of the custard-flying,
gravy-splattering Armageddon, but the shrieks and screams of the students
were disorientating in the extreme, and the unbelievable mess flying through
the air kept obscuring his vision. Eventually Draco spotted him, trying to
drag an over-excited -- wielding fish fingers and with unusually large
pupils -- Matthew off the back of the fat Hufflepuff girl. Matthew's face
was streaked with war paint, or mint sauce, and he looked as if he were
having the time of his life. Draco wished him well.
Draco picked up a ladle of stew, intending to heave it at Potter while he
was still occupied with extracting Matthew’s teeth from his forearm, when a
strong hand caught his wrist and forced it to his side.
'That,' Dumbledore said in a quiet voice, his blue eyes hard and cold, 'will
be quite enough, Mr. Malfoy.'
Just then, a teaspoon hit a first-year called Clodagh in the face. She burst
into anguished sobs, silencing everyone in the Hall. Growing shy from the
unwanted attention, she threw the bread roll she was holding into the air.
It executed a perfect forward somersault and then landed in McGonagall’s
teacup, spraying the lukewarm liquid all over the teacher's robes. Clodagh
'Yes,' Dumbledore said, loud enough for everyone to hear him. 'That will be
It was too much to hope that no one would receive a detention.
Harry rose before his dorm-mates, despite not having been able to sleep for
hours. He put it down to excess adrenaline, or the fact that his hair had
been wet. He couldn’t sleep properly when his hair was wet, it was an
enormous distraction. Being horizontal and wide-awake also had a domino
effect on the more southerly parts of his anatomy and doing that with
Malfoy at the back of his mind had been one of the more horrific experiences
of Harry’s life, even those featuring the embodiment of evil wizardry and
death and things.
Now his hair was even worse than usual because he looked like he’d been
quite recently electrocuted. It was not exactly a look doing the rounds on
the catwalk. Harry tamped it down with water, but this only gave him a sort
of corn-circle effect, with a flattened crown surrounded by spikes of hair
sticking out at right angles to his head. Harry admitted defeat.
Susan was sitting at the Hufflepuff table, eating raw eggs with a distracted
air and thumbing through the newspaper. Harry, after a cursory inspection on
entering, found the Gryffindor table entirely deserted. Harry breathed a
sigh of relief and made his way over, certain that he'd be able to finish
his breakfast before his -- old -- friends came in. Before he reached the
table, however, Susan hailed him.
‘Morning, old chap,’ she said, dribbling a bit of yolk.
Harry winced and managed a positive-sounding grunt. ‘'Lo,' he said. 'Any
sign of the new timetables?’
‘I should imagine yours is on your table, Potter,’ said Susan, grinning at
him with yellow teeth. Harry felt relief at the excuse to get away from her,
at least until she had wrapped up her repast -- and raw eggs! She was going
to be a formidable Beater! There was a pile of sixth-year timetables waiting
to be distributed on the Gryffindor table. Harry took one and checked it.
Defence Against the Dark Arts, he was happy to see, was his first lesson.
‘Hey, Bones,’ he said, ‘who’s the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher?
Don’t tell me they’ve given it to Snape at last.’
‘Not a pip of it,’ Susan assured him. ‘Dumbledore said she wouldn’t be
arriving until today, delayed or some such. Only fear that Snape will fill
in for her if she is late.’
‘Perish the thought.’ Harry shuddered.
‘With you on that one, my son,’ said Susan, downing a jugful of milk.
Harry successfully evaded his ‘old’ friends by careful skulking in the
Defence Against the Dark Arts corridor. He hared down the back of the
classroom when he arrived and flung his legs across the second chair under
the desk, as if daring anyone to sit there. In fact, he dared no one,
because the look on his face alone would have stopped traffic at twenty
Ron and Hermione, followed by a gaggle of Gryffindors, trooped in, looking
excited. Ron held the door open for Hermione as they came in and something
in Harry’s stomach twisted. He looked away and slumped down in his seat;
they took their customary seats at the front, whispering together. Hermione
looked around for Harry, but Harry refused to catch her eye, looking
straight out of the window instead. He was aware that Seamus and Dean were
also sending him odd looks, and he pretended he didn't notice.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ron talking in a low earnest tone.
Hermione's head was inclined towards him, her expression set. It brought to
mind the last time he'd seen them before the summer, after waving him off --
they had started talking together then, both wearing worried expressions. At
the time, Harry had felt nothing but deep gratitude at having such friends.
That had not changed, but Harry knew that he couldn't possibly risk putting
them in danger ever again.
It’s for the best, Harry chanted in his mind. For the best. This
way, they won’t get hurt because of me. For the best.
Harry wondered when he was going to stop feeling so bad about this.
Five minutes passed, and then ten. The time for class to begin came and
went, only interrupted by the arrival of Malfoy, with a small posse and a
calculating expression. At half-past nine, the class was settled and quiet,
aside from the low hum of confused, whispered conversation. Harry heard
Malfoy’s snickering laugh, looked up, and caught his eye. Malfoy ran his
finger across his throat and mouthed, ‘You’re dead, Potter.’ It was
something like a traditional morning greeting, for him.
All at once, a high-pitched voice that screamed ‘PINK!’ emanated from the
‘… because OH MY GOD, there was such a queue in the Floo Network to
Hogsmeade, which is when I, like, owled Alby. Then my broomstick's
Cushioning Charm deflated, so I was there ‘OH MY GOD, I’m going to be so, so
late’ but then my cousin -- Mike works at the Ministry -- well, he offered
to make a Portkey for me, but he forgot the charm and had to go home to look
it up, and OH MY GOD, it was such a disaster.’
The speaker came through the door of the classroom, still talking nine to
the dozen, accompanied by McGonagall.
‘So, eventually, I just decided to go back to the Floo Network and OH MY
GOD, it doesn’t open until eight, so I had to, like wait for ten years --
but here I am, at long last!’
‘Quite,’ McGonagall said dryly, and Harry knew she was one spark short of
exploding. He was the only one who noticed, though, because the class’
attention was diverted to the person who could only -- despite all visual
evidence to the contrary -- be their Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.
She was wearing bright pink robes with frilly things going on along the
hems, sequinned flip-flops and more copper bangles than Shiva.
‘OH MY GOD, is this my class?’ The teacher looked around at them as if they
were under glass, or more likely, items on a ten-Sickle sale rack. ‘OH MY
GOD, they are so young!’
‘This is because they are sixteen,’ McGonagall pointed out. Her gaze raked
over Harry and dragged across to Malfoy. ‘Although sometimes you seem to be
dealing with cantankerous six-year-olds. Mind you do not take away their
dummies too soon, Professor Lovebright.’
‘Thank you, Minnie!’ chirped Lovebright. Harry had to bite down on his lip
at the look on McGonagall’s face. She swept out without another word,
slamming the door behind her and sending another waft of air up Lovebright’s
rather short robes. Harry could see Malfoy craning his head to try and see
up it, the perv.
Lovebright perched on the desk and started swinging her legs. ‘So, students.
OH MY GOD, this is so funny! Me, a teacher!’ She went off in a gale of
silent giggles, legs going like pistons. Harry was not the only one eyeing
‘So, like, you guys have to call me Belinda,’ she said, hopping off
the desk and wandering over to the blackboard. ‘OH MY GOD! Chalk! …Being
called Professor Lovebright makes me feel ten thousand years old.’
‘How old are you then, Belinda?’ Malfoy schmoozed, and Harry wanted
to strangle him. Malfoy simultaneously chatted up the teacher and high-fived
Moon under the table.
Call-me-Belinda, to her credit, wasn’t falling for Malfoy’s lines. Despite
her dozy manner, within five minutes they all had copies out and were taking
notes on Time-Loop Curses, although Harry later found that fifty percent of
them consisted of the words ‘Oh’, ‘my’, ‘god’ and ‘like’.
On their way out, he heard Hermione whisper something to Ron, who sniggered.
He wondered what Hermione thought of Call-Me-Belinda; would she hate her
ditziness or commend what abilities she had?
‘No,’ Harry said, out loud and angrily, scaring away a group of first-years
who were gawping at his scar -- and a few older-years who were laughing at
He would just have to steel himself to not knowing these kinds of things. It
was the only way.
'Hey, um Draco, right?' asked Belinda, peering at the class register in
confusion. Draco looked up from his notes, smiling winningly.
'Yes, Belinda?' he purred, not bothering to drag his eyes up any higher than
'I was wondering if you would, like, see me after class? There’s just a
little something that we need to discuss.'
Draco frowned slightly. He could hear muttered whispers from the rest of the
class: they were all obviously trying to fathom what new trouble he’d gotten
himself into. Draco glanced behind him at Potter, who was beaming hugely,
almost as if Christmas had come early or he’d been offered extensive plastic
surgery to remove the scar on his forehead.
'Oh no, it’s nothing like that,' said Belinda, shaking her head for
emphasis. Potter groaned loudly from the back of the room. 'You’re not in
trouble, Draco. But can you imagine – me – being, like, a
DISCIPLINARIAN? Oh my God… I can punish you and stuff. My old teacher used
to spank me …' Every male in the room, Draco included, hurriedly readjusted
themselves, '… with a ruler. That’s illegal now, and it didn’t hurt anyway,
but I can give you detentions!'
'We don’t really mind things being illegal,' Heinrich Moon choked out, his
face purpling. 'We learnt the Unforgivable Curses in fourth year – not how
to do them, of course – but it was still really … educational.'
'Oh, trust me.' Belinda smiled at Heinrich from her perch on the
desk. Heinrich gulped. 'We won’t have to, like break the law to have fun.
I’ve got some really great stuff lined up this term. It’s going to be, like,
Draco smirked at his classmates and settled down obediently to finish taking
notes on the Time-Loop Curses. Belinda wanted to see him after class and he
wasn’t in trouble. There was only one other plausible possibility, when you
took into consideration the over-familiar attitude. Belinda was going to try
and seduce him.
The last few minutes of the lesson flew by. Draco didn’t pay much attention
to what was going on; his mind was full of delicious fantasies involving
Belinda and rulers and highly illegal activities. Everyone filed out of the
room, chatting and laughing. Draco watched them and practised looking smug.
Potter sloped by last of all, but Draco couldn’t muster up enough hatred to
do anything than stick his tongue out at him. Belinda seemed to have become
extremely hyper from the success of her first lesson and waved everyone off
personally, gold bangles jangling madly on her wrist. ‘OH MY GOD, I’m not,
like, giving you any homework, but I so expect you to read up on the curses
for next lesson’s practical, okay?’
When everyone had left, Belinda opened the door and peered around it,
checking for eavesdroppers. How sweet. Draco liked it better that way
anyway, he wasn't much of an exhibitionist.
'I’m just checking that no-one’s listening,' she murmured. 'I feel
everyone’s much more comfortable that way, don’t you?'
'Oh, absolutely.' Draco nodded in agreement, grinning from ear to ear. He
wondered briefly which persona to take on: submissive schoolboy or reckless
teenage rebel. It was up to Belinda to make the first move, he didn’t want
to seem desperate or anything. She was, after all, a teacher and therefore
old. Not old old, by any means, but still. Old.
'How’d the class go for you today?' asked Belinda. Draco blinked. Surely
this was not how illicit teacher-student affairs were sparked off. Then
again, maybe she was working her way up to the indecent proposal. Maybe it
was her first time with a younger boy – er -- man. Maybe she was nervous.
'Fine,' replied Draco, biting his lip. He looked at her frilly pink robes,
imagined what wonders lay beneath them and swallowed hard. 'I -- er -- like
'Because I know you’re not as strong in this subject as some of your
classmates,' Belinda continued matter-of-factly, completely ignoring the
compliment, 'and I’d like you to all be on the same level.'
'The same level?' squeaked Draco in shock. He stopped imagining what colour
underwear Belinda had on and looked up at her face, alarmed.
'Yeah – don’t worry, I could have you tutored by one of the students that
got high marks in their OWL,' Belinda reassured him, flipping through the
register. 'How about you and … erm … H. Potter … is that the Hermione girl?
No, sex male. OH MY GOD! I’m so stupid -- Harry Potter, of course! I
could set up study sessions to cover the areas in which you seem to be
deficient – assuming Harry’s not busy, he doesn’t seem to have any
commitments other than Quidditch …'
'No, not him - I don’t need a bloody tutor!' Draco exclaimed in indignation.
There was an awkward pause. 'I was just feeling a bit off on the exam day,
that’s all,' he explained.
'A bit off?' repeated Belinda, her eyes wide. 'Draco, you can’t feel a
bit off when the Dark forces are closing in, you’ve got to remain
'I know,' Draco answered, standing up to leave. 'It was just … some family
trouble. Did my head in a bit.'
'Say no more,' nodded Belinda. 'Family can always drag you down a bit …
look, if you need a bit of help, I’m always here and I can ask Harry if he’d
like to --'
'No, it’s fine. Really.'
Draco left the classroom feeling deflated in every sense of the word.
Belinda hadn’t wanted to seduce him. She hadn’t wanted to play kinky
dominatrix games on the desks -- Draco had privately decided that he was a
bit of a masochist. She hadn’t even wanted to indulge in witty banter and
flirtatious conversation, though exactly how flirty anyone’s conversation
could be when peppered with excessive use of the word ‘like’, Draco didn’t
No, all Belinda had wanted to do was insult Draco's intelligence by
suggesting that he needed to be tutored by that specky wanker. If Draco ever
needed any confirmation that the git had scored an Outstanding in his OWL,
there it was. Draco looked around hopefully to see if Potter was anywhere in
the vicinity, so Draco could throw his satchel at the back of Potter's
stupid head. However, there was no one around except Heinrich Moon, who’d
obviously been waiting for him in the corridor.
'Game,' grunted Heinrich, backing him up against a wall and pressing
something into his palm. Draco recoiled, suspect of any game that burly,
broad-shouldered, six-foot Heinrich might want to play.
'Card game,' elaborated Heinrich. 'High stakes, invitation only, just the
right sort of crowd, y’know? Says it all on the parchment.'
Draco glanced down at the crumpled piece of paper in his fist and grinned.
Wizarding poker was his strong point. He might be able to win a little more
respect in the clique if he played his cards right.
'Other houses not invited, then?'
'Trying to keep it mostly Slytherins,' replied Heinrich, scratching his
scalp distractedly through his straw-coloured hair. 'Some of the Claws have
pretty strong stuff, though. One of their fifth-years is definitely on
something, she’s always out of it. I invited a couple of them. None
of the Puffs are going to be there – I don’t care if they’re stoned up to
the bloody eyeballs, they’re positively moronic. When I asked around
our common room, seems everyone conveniently forgot to bring some of their
stash to share. We need to win something to tide us over until the next
Draco couldn’t think of a way to subtly find out if any Gryffindors were
going to be at the game, so he contented himself with smirking and nodding.
Heinrich turned to go, but Draco tugged at his sleeve, realising something.
Heinrich looked down at Draco, one eyebrow raised in irritation. Draco
noticed that Heinrich was looking a long way down and decided to turn on the
old Malfoy charm.
'I don’t have any stuff on me to bet with, that okay?' Draco didn’t want his
admission to the game to be withdrawn if he wasn’t able to deliver the
goods. That would be mortifying -- turning up with the posse and being
rejected at the door.
'Neither do I, mate.' Heinrich grinned conspiratorially. 'Just a few bags of
sugar I pinched from the kitchens an’ some random herbs from the Potions
cupboard. Lifelike as anything.'
'Heinrich – I’m not giving the Ravenclaws sugar to snort and weeds of
questionable origin,' Draco snapped in impatience. 'They might … die or
something. Or start drooling like Goyle did when he put hellebore into his
joint last term. Christ, couldn’t you think of something a little less
Heinrich’s expression turned sour and he stalked away again in barely veiled
disgust, muttering under his breath.
'Shouldn’t be too hard for you to get in, Malfoy -- just show them
all your gold and you’ll have VIP entry, for Merlin’s sake. If you’re too
much of a pussy to bring something, just do what you always do. Pay your way
What’s that supposed to mean? Draco thought angrily. He wanted to
shout after Heinrich’s retreating back and demand that the boy explain
himself, but thought better of it. Draco wasn’t in the mood for a pummelling
and black eyes were more of a hindrance than a help, especially when one was
trying to regain one’s status in a clique. Draco let it go, but mentally
scribbled Heinrich's name on the blacklist of people he was going to get
at the next available opportunity. Potter’s name was at the top of the list,
obviously, written in bold capitals and underlined twice.
Potter was always the first priority.
Descending into the frigid dampness of the Potions dungeon after a lazy
lunch hour spent basking in the warmth of the castle grounds was a real
shock to the system. In fact, it couldn’t have been more of a shock to the
system if they’d come straight in from the scorching September sun and dived
stark naked into a glass tank filled with ice-cubes, extremely aggravated
electric eels and appliances with a lot of frayed wiring.
The only real difference was that the eels waiting for the sixth years’
inspection had obviously stopped wriggling a long time ago – they were dried
and arranged neatly at the side of each desk with the other, equally
nasty-looking ingredients. Instead of malfunctioning toasters shocking them
into submission, there came a jolt of uneasy surprise when Snape did nothing
more menacing than to instruct them to ‘Please sit down’. Everyone shuffled
awkwardly towards a stool and Draco slid on to a seat near the front of the
class. Blaise Zabini loyally sat on his right, still mindful of his place on
the Quidditch team, but no one else wanted closer proximity to the teacher
than was absolutely necessary.
'I do hope,' sneered Snape, looking around at his small group of students,
most of whom were shivering uncontrollably and blowing steam on their hands
to keep them warm, 'that you all had pleasant holidays.'
Draco glanced over his shoulder at his classmates. None of them were nodding
or regaling the Professor with tales of their beach vacations in Majorca;
they merely sat there, stunned. It seemed there were only nine pupils in the
class, including him. Five other Slytherins and two wide-eyed Ravenclaws,
who were already eyeing the door nervously and wishing that they’d applied
for Care of Magical Creatures instead. No Hufflepuffs and only one
Gryffindor -- Granger. Draco grinned automatically, but couldn’t help
feeling that the class was going to prove a trifle dull if he didn’t have
anyone to make fun of. Perhaps one of the Claws might knock something over
in their mammoth effort not to make eye contact with any of the other
students, but considering that they’d both received ‘Outstanding’s in their
OWL, it was unlikely that they’d do anything too embarrassing.
'Are you cold, Mr Zabini?' Snape turned on Blaise, a sympathetic expression
on his face. Blaise's teeth were chattering noisily and the sound echoed
loudly in the stone room. It sounded as if three rats were tap-dancing in
hobnailed boots on Blaise's desk.
'A b-bit chilly.' Blaise nodded vigorously. Draco raised an eyebrow at him.
His lips were turning blue.
'Would you like me to do something about it?' inquired Snape. He peered
closely at Blaise and his lank hair flopped on to his shoulders. Blaise's
eyes widened in surprise and even Draco was taken aback. Snape wasn’t
considerate. The Snape Draco knew wouldn’t have cared if the entire class
were dying of hypothermia, as long as their potion was the correct shade of
'Nuh-uh … I’m fine,' Blaise choked out. Snape’s eyes glinted dangerously.
'You wouldn’t like me to do something about it?'
'No, Professor – I mean yes – if it’s not too much trouble --'
'Well, then. Could you tell me exactly what ingredients a Conflagration
Draught would comprise of?'
'A Conflagration Draught. It’s the brew described in the very first
textbook,' snapped Snape, his eyes blazing in fury. 'It has restorative
properties and is used in severely cold climates to make – but I expect
you’ve been far too busy to glance at your schoolwork during the break.'
Blaise blinked in confusion, but the professor had already swept over to the
Ravenclaws, who cowered at the sight of this enraged, greasy-haired man who
had a nose much larger than was strictly necessary. 'MacDougal! How long
would one need to distil a Simulacra Potion? Thought not. And you, Boot,
when simmering water-based potions, do we add ferns before or after
mosses? Didn’t read that part in the textbook my foot … you learnt that in
fourth year. Moon, what elementary brew would enable a witch or
wizard to easily mould a metal like iron? Forgotten, have we? Oh dear. Why
are you, the best potion-makers in your year, so utterly incompetent?'
Snape picked up an inkwell and hurled it at the heavy wooden door. Draco
watched it shatter numbly, black streaks trickling down the wall to form a
gloopy puddle on the floor. No one dared breathe, for fear it would
aggravate Snape further.
'Almost none of your marks would have been deemed good enough to
merit NEWT-level study had you tried any other year. The OWL scores were
exceptionally poor this time around and you dimwits were marked
up as a result. If I am to teach you --' Snape inhaled deeply through his
curved nostrils '-- then I had better see a significant increase in your
apparent intelligence during these first few weeks. I am not at all averse
to cutting students out of the class if they are not pulling their weight.
Produce a single potion that I do not consider up to my high standards and
you shall leave this class, never to return. Do you understand?'
The door to the dungeon opened a crack and a mop of messy black hair poked
its way through. Potter glared at the small company, nodded sullenly at
Snape, and then sloped towards the only available desk. Eight pairs of eyes
stared at Potter as he slumped into his chair and kicked his satchel
underneath the table carelessly.
'Potter,' hissed Snape, from behind gritted teeth. 'You are late.'
Potter checked his left wrist and stared at the watch for a couple of
seconds before grinning amiably in agreement.
'Yeah, I am.' He whistled softly, thrusting his hand back into his robes.
Snape’s eyes narrowed and he advanced on Potter. The rest of the class sat
there, terrified, whilst Draco watched with barely repressed glee.
'You have left disgusting black footprints on the floor of my dungeon,'
Snape whispered, his face centimetres from Potter’s. Draco glanced at the
floor. The git had stepped in the puddle of ink from the bottle Snape had
thrown at the door and a trail of sticky mauve splodges led from the desk to
the exit. Snape straightened up, visibly trying to control himself. 'I would
like you to take that rag,' he motioned towards a slime-covered cloth that
looked as if it had been drenched in mucus, lying in the corner of the room,
'and wipe them away.'
'No way,' Potter stated. 'That’s Filch’s job. I’m not doing it.'
'Potter, you will clean the floor and you will clean it at once.'
'Look, I won’t.'
'You will, or I will tell everyone exactly how you came to be in this
class,' said Snape, a look of triumph in his eyes. Potter snorted rudely and
folded his arms across his chest.
'Er, let me think – I came in from the grounds, and then I went over to the
main staircase, and then I climbed down staircases for about three miles
– this dungheap’s practically in the bowels of the earth -- and then
I went down the corridor --'
'No! No Potter, I will tell them exactly why it is that you are even
permitted to take this subject.' Snape smiled as Potter visibly paled.
Draco’s forehead creased with confusion. Was Snape actually blackmailing
Potter? Did someone else know something juicy about the git that had
passed over his head? Impossible, surely. Still, Potter was standing up,
picking the greasy cloth up between his forefinger and thumb and returning
to his spot. He cast a resentful look at Snape, threw the cloth to the floor
with loathing and proceeded to grind the grease into the floor with his toe.
'What?' Potter looked at Snape, his eyes blazing.
'Use your hands, please.' Potter looked from the slimy rag to Snape’s face,
then back again, as if he couldn’t decide which sight he found more
revolting. Snape smirked.
'You must be bloody joking.'
'Not at all, Potter. On your knees, if you please.'
Looking murderous and muttering curses under his breath, Potter squatted on
the floor, trying not to mess up his robes. He began to methodically scrub
at the ink stains with the rag, which stubbornly refused to fade. They
smudged instead, leaving a dark smear on the floor.
'The rest of you open your textbooks to page twelve,' ordered Snape,
surveying Harry’s back with distaste. 'You will take notes until I tell you
to stop. I hardly think you can be trusted with a practical your first
The class obediently opened their heavy textbooks to page twelve and began
scribbling notes on to parchment. Draco paused after writing the title, his
quill quivering in his right hand. Potter was scrubbing rhythmically next to
his desk. Draco kicked at Potter’s stomach and the dark-haired boy looked
up, scowling. He rolled his eyes when he saw Draco.
'Sod off, Malfoy,' snarled Potter, continuing to scrape at the ground with
the rag, albeit a little more enthusiastically than usual.
'I only wanted to tell you that you missed a spot,' Draco whispered, nudging
his inkwell so that the black liquid slopped over the side and splashed on
the floor. Potter watched the stain darken and spread in silent fury, then
shook his head and began to clean with increased vigour.
' And I told you to sod off, Malfoy, before I do something I’ll
'Like what?' Draco sneered, glancing upwards at Snape, who was apparently
absorbed in some paperwork.
'Like having to touch you. Like having to repeatedly pound my fists into
your ugly mug until your nose swells even bigger than Snape's.'
Having successfully managed to eradicate one ink splodge, Potter moved on to
the next of his footprints, which, unfortunately for him, was even closer to
Draco than the other one. Potter gritted his teeth and knelt down by Draco’s
'Merlin, I can smell you from here,' Draco breathed, his grey eyes on the
textbook, but his parchment as blank as Harry’s expression. 'Didn’t manage
to take a shower before class, did we? What did Snape mean when he said he’d
tell us exactly how you came to be here?'
'No idea,' muttered Potter, scraping at the floor. 'You a closet
philosopher, then? How did any of us ‘come to be here’?'
'Well, if you want the bloody birds and the bees,' hissed Draco, abandoning
his quill, 'your stupid father knocked up some Muggle slut and nine months
later, you happened.'
Potter stopped scrubbing abruptly.
'What about that thing your parents did, Malfoy?' Potter asked.
'Quite a novel way of keeping money in the family – only shagging your
relatives. I suppose you can blame all your deficiencies on the
'My parents aren’t related, you idiot,' Draco snapped. It was even the
truth. They weren’t. Not closely, anyway. You’d have a job proving it.
'What, isn’t Daddy part of the family anymore?' Potter asked innocently. His
voice grew louder. 'Not now he’s in Azkaban? Oh, I wonder what that must
feel like, your family utterly rejecting you, being locked up against your
will … must really suck, right, Malfoy? That must really suck.'
'If you’re whining about Dog-boy,' Draco retorted hotly, 'then I really
don’t see what I had to do with that, but --'
'Don’t you go and visit DADDY on Sundays?' Potter almost shouted. 'How does
he like slumming it with the rest of the Death Eater scum?'
'Potter, what exactly do you think you are doing?' Snape demanded from the
front of the classroom.
Draco stood up, fists clenched. How dare that four-eyed retard insult
his family like that?
'Draco, sit down,' Snape instructed, rising from his chair. 'Potter,
come here right this instant. Draco, sit.'
'Don’t you talk shit about my father,' Draco warned, his voice trembling. He
towered above Potter, who stood up to match his height, smiling nastily.
More than match it. He was about two inches taller than Draco and he made
this fact painfully clear.
'Keep your fat mouth shut then, shortarse,' Potter grinned, wiping his wet
hands on the front of Draco’s robes.
Draco punched Potter in the face. To his surprise, Potter didn't duck out of
the way, or catch his fist in his hand and pummel Draco in the stomach by
way of retaliation. Potter merely stood there, eyes wide, as Draco’s
knuckles slammed into his face with a satisfying squish.
His hand didn’t even hurt after he’d done it. Much. Except for the index
finger, which was throbbing a bit.
And a crunch would’ve been nice. The sound of cartilage snapping. At
such close range, he should’ve been able to give the bastard a broken nose.
In the days that followed the punching incident, his fellow Slytherins began
to treat Draco with something almost bordering on respect. Somehow -- he
didn’t know how, but somehow -- everyone seemed to have gotten the
idea that he was a snivelling, whiny mummy’s boy who lacked the balls to do
anything of any real merit. It was unbelievable, Draco reflected later, how
easily vicious, untrue and hurtful rumours spread. At least he'd proved them
wrong by showing that he was willing to get his hands dirty if the need
'Never would’ve expected it of you,' Daphne Greengrass had commented, when
she came up to congratulate him after class. That seemed to sum up the
general feeling; however, this time, there was no doubt that Draco had
done all the things he was being credited for. There’d been eyewitnesses
this time, people to testify that the bruising was indeed caused by Draco’s
fist connecting with Potter's face.
Creevey, the budding photographer in third year, had secretly taken a shot
of what he termed the ‘battle wounds’ minutes after Snape had banished Harry
to the hospital wing. Draco had cornered Creevey in the hallways as soon as
he’d heard about it and, using both Crabbe and Goyle’s persuasive skills,
he’d managed to make the boy hand over the negatives. Draco planned to
develop the picture and tack it up over his bed. To use for blackmail later
on. Or something.
Draco also met Matthew again, in a rather startling and unexpected fashion.
Draco had been walking down the corridor, minding his own business, when a
miniature whirlwind had hurtled around the corner and slammed directly into
his abdomen. Draco had been quite literally floored by this unforeseen
attack to his ribs and Matthew had to help hoist him up, blinking furiously
in his excitement. Whether the school had done anything for Matthew’s
apparent good health was debatable – he still looked like an advert for
blusher, with rosy cheeks any little girl’s doll would have coveted.
'Draco!' The tiny boy squealed loudly, once Draco was no longer horizontal.
'Matthew, I’d really rather not,' Draco scowled, looking at the spiky brown
head beneath him. 'What are you doing, you little twit, running around like
'Running away from Peeves,' Matthew said matter-of-factly. 'But listen, I
wanted to tell you – I’ve only been here a few days and I’ve already got --'
he counted carefully on his fingers '-- five best friends!'
'Yay,' Draco muttered without enthusiasm, rubbing his knee.
'Harvey is my best best friend,' Matthew elaborated, 'and then Danny
and Olivier are joint second – only you mustn’t tell anyone but I like
Olivier a bit more because he gave me his Mad Muggle comic –
and Edwin’s my fourth, but that’s only fair ‘cause he’s in Hufflepuff so I
only see him in Potions and Magical Creatures and stuff.'
'You forgot the fifth best friend,' Draco pointed out, lamenting the youth
of today’s woeful numerical skills. Matthew rolled his eyes, as if Draco
were trying to be funny.
'That’s you, silly,' he said dismissively, while Draco sternly told himself
not to be flattered just because an eleven year-old boy considered him a
mate. 'Anyway, I heard you beat up Harry Potter in Potions. Gave him a
shiner and everything.'
'Er, yeah I did,' Draco replied, not wanting to negatively influence his new
best friend in any way. Advocating violence wasn’t very Prefect-y and since
Matthew clearly considered him a role model, he didn’t want to lead him down
the wrong path.
Despite Draco’s lacklustre reply, Matthew’s mouth dropped open so far that
his chin practically brushed his chest. 'That’s so COOL.'
'Well, yeah. Not really. Yeah. He deserved it.'
'I had a fight in Potions with Eddie. I just poked him, though,
‘cause I like him really. Professor Snape gave us extra homework because of
'Homework?' Draco repeated, wistfully remembering the meagre amount that
first-years were required to do.
'On Conflagration Draughts. It was easy peasy. I’ll show you.' Matthew
rifled in his bag and pulled out a slightly crumpled sheet of yellow
parchment. Draco scanned it, quickly noting that it was much, much, much
more detailed than the essay he’d been writing on the same topic.
Considering his mother’s Ministryjob, it was unlikely that Matthew was
related to Granger in any way, but it was still unbelievable. Little swot.
'You know, I could go over that for you,' Draco offered casually. 'If you
give it to me, I could – er -- show you any adjustments or corrections you
need to make and give it back to you by Monday.'
Matthew was fawningly grateful. 'You would do that for me?'
'Sure, why not?' Draco replied, trying to sound off-hand, as if he were the
kind of lame hero who did good, selfless deeds on a daily basis. 'It’s no
problem.' Draco reflected that he could get all his homework done much more
efficiently if the teachers set all the firsties the same assignments.
'You know, Harvey and Danny and I got drunk the other night.' Matthew
volunteered. Draco raised a disapproving eyebrow at this surprisingly
'Bad for you,' he warned, knowing he sounded like every other sanctimonious
'grown-up' he’d ever encountered. But, in his defence, Matthew wasn’t a
rotten apple -- judging from his cheeks alone -- and was obviously a good
kid. Draco didn’t want him turning into one of those hardcore,
smarter-than-thou, dealer Ravenclaws you saw strutting around the castle.
'Not properly,' Matthew giggled shrilly and Draco winced, praying that
Matthew’s voice would break early, for his sake. 'One of the older girls had
a can of beer in the common room and she only drank half of it and then when
she wasn’t looking Danny stole it because she’s mean and she called us
‘snot-nosed little brats’ when we were just having fun quietly. We hate her.
And then we had to get rid of the evidence so we shared it, ‘cept it tasted
horrible so we added sugar and water from the tap. And then we were
drunk,and it was funny.'
'Where’d you get sugar from?' Draco asked suspiciously.
Matthew shrugged his round shoulders in bewilderment. 'Just had
sugar. With me.'
Draco, about to protest, suddenly recalled the days when, at any time, in
one’s pockets one could find all manner of condiments, string and grey
fluff. Draco didn’t like nostalgia. Also, it was highly unlikely that a
Ravenclaw would be stupid enough to chug half a beer and leave the can lying
around in full view of everyone. It had probably been a fizzy drink gone
flat, or something. Still, he wasn’t going to rain on Matthew’s alcoholism
parade, as the first-year was so obviously proud of himself. Draco stood
awkwardly in the corridor, trying to think of something else to say, when a
familiar phantom floated round the corner, looking for mischief.
'Why, it’s Cheeky Matthew!' Peeves exclaimed in delight, swooshing closer.
'Bless his cotton socks, he’s all embarrassed – blushing! Cheeky little
'Do you have any particular purpose here?' Draco asked imperiously, while
Matthew cowered behind his back. Peeves saluted him, then somersaulted and
blew a raspberry.
'Perfect Prefect Malfoy, I presume? Oh, you’ve been naughty too – brawling
with wee Potty, aye? Don’t worry, You-Know-Who’ll finish the job soon
'Shut up, you stupid poltergeist,' Draco snapped, edgy.
Peeves' round, transparent face turned ugly. 'You’ve all forgotten, you lot.
Not that you knew in the first place. But you can’t pretend it’s hunky and
dory, can’t stick your hands over your ears and say it’s not happening,
because –whoops! – you’ll make a mistake, and – whoops!' Peeves con torted
his features and made a grotesque face, his tongue slobbering over his chin
and his round eyes rolled back into his head. Then he spun around furiously
and vanished through a wall.
'He’s cracked,' Matthew announced tremulously. 'I don’t like it when people
talk about stuff like that. What's his problem?'
'Go to class, Matthew,' Draco answered and with that he stomped off in the
direction of the Slytherin quarters, even though he had a Study session
scheduled next. Taunting Potter could wait. There was more important stuff
I know it's been a while since I last wrote. I'm sorry about that. I wanted
to tell you that I'
Draco sat cross-legged on a jade-green cushion and tried to compose another
letter to his father. But it was pointless. He didn’t want to keep his dad
posted on his mundane day-to-day activities. 'I have a new best friend,
Matthew. He’s not even turned twelve yet and he’s more of an intellectual
equal than Crabbe or Goyle'. Or, even worse, 'I punched Harry Potter
in the face on Monday. How’re the plans to kill him going?'
What Draco wanted was answers to his questions. For example, what the
bloody hell was going on? Did the Death Eaters in Azkaban discuss over
biscuits and weak tea what their next move was going to be? Were they
starving to death – he wouldn’t put it past Fudge, although the imbecile was
being voted out of office – and unable to communicate? Did they talk to the
Dark Lord? Just how strong was the Dark Lord? And what should Draco call the
Dark Lord, anyway? Was he about to be recruited, was he suddenly going to be
snatched away by Portkey and made to pledge allegiance to the dark side?
No-one mentioned the growing -- or was it growing? -- threat outside
the school, nobody discussed death or war. Those with named Death Eater
parents and no Quidditch Captaincy or connections were studiously ignored,
shunned and forced to band together. It was so easy to sink into the
comfortable trap of normality, to deny that anything was going on. But if
they did, like Peeves said, something would happen –whoops!- and they’d all
Draco abandoned the parchment and considered starting on some homework, but
thought better of it. If he was about to become a Death Eater, what help
would a Conflagration Draught be, exactly? Surely the most important thing
was to work on his poker game. He put down his quill and pulled open his
chest-of-drawers to search for his novelty Wicked Wizards card pack.
If the war to end all wars was just around the corner, Draco planned to be
stoned and rich for as much of it as possible.
Harry stood underneath the faucet, scalding water stinging his body and
covering him in red blotches. It made him look like he'd been mauled by a
He’d been in the shower for at least half an hour. Malfoy’s comment had got
to him -- not the one about his mother, although Malfoy was going to pay,
and pay big, for that -- but the one about showering. Harry would be damned
if he gave that git any further excuse to taunt him.
He sluiced his wet hair back from his face; little dribbles of water ran
down the back of his neck, making him shiver. If he could be bothered, he’d
look up a localised Drying Charm so that he’d never have to suffer wet hair
again. However, trying to Desertify his hair could suck all the water out of
his brain and that wasn’t something he was exactly panting to experience.
Harry looked down at the towel he’d tied, sarong-style, around his waist and
sighed. He had an erection, again. It was getting to the level of
The stupidest things could trigger it off, too. Grass. A passage about
tigers in his Potions textbook. Call-Me-Belinda’s low-cut top, although that
wasn’t exactly stupid so much as unbearably clichéd. People’s shoes, that
was another one, which was starting to worry Harry rather. Perhaps it was
the Victorian in him rising to the surface -- along with other things -- but
catching glimpses of ankles underneath robes had made his breath catch more
times than he cared to count since he’d returned to school.
The worst thing was, boys’ ankles were as interesting to it as girls’.
Likewise, it was no use telling it that someone like Heinrich Moon not
fanciable, that he was, in fact, the scariest son of primates to ever crack
his knuckles all the way down the corridors of Hogwarts. Logic just didn’t
seem to come into it. Such as in Potions, when Harry had been treated to a
ringside view of dozens of feet.
Harry’s hands curled into fists as he thought about Potions. Bloody Malfoy
‘Oh, no you don’t,’ exclaimed Harry, only thankful that he was, as
yet, alone in the dormitory. ‘I didn’t mean it like that -!’
But it was too late. Hurriedly, Harry scrambled on to his bed and pulled the
curtains closed. Since third year, it had been an unwritten rule among his
classmates that the showers were not to be used for any other purposes than
self-cleansing, because of the yuck-factor of having to wash where someone
had lately pulled themselves off -- not to mention that it negated rather
the hygiene factor inherent in bathing. The other reason, that they never,
ever mentioned, was the possibility of needing to wank because of having
had a shower with other boys. Communal showers could be the pits,
although they did provide for good fun at times, such as when they played
the Soap Quidditch leagues.
However, beds were private domains and drawn curtains were as good as a Do
Not Disturb sign. Although it had taken Neville a few months -- after he’d
discovered he had a penis, somewhere at the end of fifth year -- to learn to
bite his lip, on the whole it was a set-up that worked well.
Harry snatched his glasses off his flushed face. At least some of that could
be blamed on his boiling-hot shower; so he chose to believe. He hissed out
through his teeth, casting his mind about wildly for a better subject matter
than that of Malfoy’s face as he stared down Belinda’s top. Seamus’ stash of
Muggle porn was somewhere in the room, but Harry was too close and it would
take too long, and it was either Belinda or Malfoy, Malfoy or Belinda,
Malfoy Belinda Malfoy Belinda Malfoy --
‘Oh no,’ Harry gasped, collapsing forward on to the very bed he’d been
trying to bury himself into seconds earlier. ‘No, no, no.’ He lay motionless
for a few moments, as the true horror of his situation hit him.
‘I just wanked off to Malfoy,’ he told himself. ‘I nearly said his name when
It was probably the one thing you could unjustly accuse Malfoy of doing,
considering his Anyone But Potter preferences. Harry’s were rather more
complicated, consisting as they did of Anyone But Malfoy, Ron, Justin
Finch-Fletchley and Hermione -- and that was just the short-list.
‘Again,’ he remembered, and groaned weakly.
Harry looked up from where he was seated, slumped over a desk in the Great
Hall. To accommodate all the students in a detention setting -- punishment
for the food-fight debacle -- Dumbledore had Transfigured the house tables
into desks. Purple ones. With gilt edgings, and claw feet, and matching,
purple-silk-upholstered, balloon-backed chairs. Harry didn’t think
Dumbledore quite got the meaning of detention. He had even offered to
send round trays of cocoa and marshmallows. His ‘I was only joking, dear
students’ had also rang rather hollow and Harry had seen McGonagall’s elbow
hovering near Dumbledore’s back as he said it.
Susan, two desks down and one row across from him, had twisted around in her
seat and was hailing him. Harry raised his eyebrows at her.
‘Think quick!’ she whispered and tossed something at him. With a natural
fear for his life from a missile of Susan’s -- who had the arm muscles of an
Olympic weightlifter -- Harry reached up his hands and caught it between
Susan grinned at him and turned back to whatever it was she was doing. With
momentary interest, Harry leaned forward and squinted at her parchment. It
looked like a list. He caught the words ‘I must not kill Justin’ before she
settled back into her seat and obscured it with her considerable bulk.
The thing she’d thrown him turned out to be a piece of parchment wrapped
around a small, plastic-covered bundle. Harry tore off the parchment and
glanced at it. It was a missive from Dumbledore -- why and how Susan had
come to have it, Harry couldn’t begin to fathom -- informing him that his
Firebolt had been returned to his dormitory.
For the first time all day, Harry smiled properly. He couldn’t wait to get
his hands on his beloved broom once more. For a few moments, he sunk into a
pleasant and for once un-sexual fantasy, about flying with the wind in his
hair, one hand outstretched for the Snitch.
After an interval of grinning soppily with his eyes closed, Harry felt moved
to investigate the package. His eyes widened as he realised what it was. Why
on earth was Susan giving him her stash, though? He glanced back at her, and
found her looking at him expectantly.
‘After,’ she mouthed, and turned back to her scribbling.
Harry noticed Snape coming up the row and shoved the little packet in his
pocket. Harry had nothing else with him, not even a quill. Most of the other
Gryffindors had books; nearly all the Ravenclaws had three books apiece. The
Hufflepuffs were writing each other notes; Harry had had to pass several
back and forth, which, if he’d had anything better to do, would have annoyed
him to Malfoy-esque proportions. Snape had set all the Slytherins lines to
do, or something like that; the only one near to Harry was Heinrich and he
was rolling the parchment into balls and eating it.
‘Potter,’ Snape acknowledged him.
‘Professor,’ Harry returned, rolling his eyes.
‘What are you doing, Potter?’ Snape’s eyes glinted in the candlelight.
‘Nothing, Professor,’ said Harry, unable to stop his lip curling.
‘Mind you keep it that way, then, Potter,’ Snape ordered him.
‘Will do, Professor,’ Harry promised, fluttering his eyelashes. This seemed
to highly disconcert Snape and he strode on his way without another word.
The hour dragged interminably. Things only started to liven up when Malfoy
had the bright idea of making a peashooter out of a Transfigured piece of
parchment. His aim was far from spectacular, as a lot of people around Harry
came under fire also, but enough spit-wet balls slid down the inside of
Harry’s t-shirt to make him fume his way through the detention.
When Dumbledore finally called for bedtime, Harry shook himself off and
strode over to where Malfoy was lounging in his chair, grinning like a cat
who’d just taken out extensive shares in a lucrative cream company that was
on the up and up.
Harry didn’t bother to say anything. Actions spoke louder than words, after
all. As Malfoy watched in terrified consternation, Harry reached out with
his fist full of collected spit balls, and rubbed the wet parchment into
Malfoy’s hair. Evidently too stunned to react or prevent him, Malfoy sat
still as stone as Harry stood back to admire his handiwork and flicked a few
strands of Malfoy’s hair so that they stood up in an even crazier manner.
‘What’s the story?’ Harry demanded, once he caught up with Susan.
‘You’ll see now,’ Susan said. ‘What ho, Kevin!’
‘Wotcher, Bones,’ said Kevin Entwhistle, and this close Harry could see that
his eyes were rimmed with red and as watery-looking as a rabbit’s with
myxamytosis.. He didn’t look like his hair had been washed this side of
Harry’s birthday; either that, or he’d been getting hair-care tips from
‘I inspected the merchandise,’ Susan announced. ‘It’s passable, but I’ll
need double that by next week. So, any news of when you’ll be getting more,
Kevin tapped the side of his nose with a nicotine-stained finger. ‘I heard
tell from a little bird that the Slytherins are having one of their
get-togethers at the weekend. I have more of that on me, but I’ll need it to
bet with if you want more. Otherwise, that’ll be it until the first
‘Fine,’ said Susan, handing him a couple of Galleons. ‘Let me know, okay?’
‘You could always try gate-crashing,’ suggested Kevin, throwing Harry a
speculative glance. ‘With him with you, they’d probably wouldn’t stop you.’
‘No, you’re right. They’d just kill us outright.’
‘What are you talking about?’ asked Harry.
‘The Slytherin's wizarding poker ring,’ said Kevin, as if it were obvious,
which it wasn’t, or common knowledge, which it most certainly was not. ‘Very
‘Is Malfoy going to be there?’ Harry wondered.
‘Is Snape a git?’ said Kevin, and guffawed loudly at his own quip. Harry
just stared at him, and he coughed and added, ‘Of course. Most of the
betting money comes from the gold he lays down to get in.’
‘Ah. Typical. I take it Gryffindors are barred?’
‘Yeah, but like I say, after what you did to Malfoy the end of last term,
you’d get in easy. Trust me.’ Kevin scratched the back of his head,
dislodging a shower of white flakes. Harry felt less inclined to trust Kevin
than he would a menopausal basilisk, but at the same time, he looked like he
knew what he was talking about.
‘Any of your people going?’ Harry turned to Susan.
‘Doubt it,’ she replied. ‘There’s a reason we got into Hufflepuff. And the
Slytherins hate us even more than they do Gryffindors.’
‘Good.’ Harry smiled. ‘We’ll both see you there, Entwhistle. Now, if you’ll
excuse me, I have to see a trunk about a broom.’
Game Two: Wild Card
Stuffing a piece of toast wholesale into his mouth, Harry hitched his
Firebolt tighter under his armpit and sprinted for the Quidditch pitch. He
had half-an-hour before class began, but his books were all still in the
dormitory and he had yet to change out of Dudley’s cast-offs into his robes.
Pausing at the entrance to the pitch to swallow and breathe, Harry hooked a
leg over his broom and let his hands rest lightly on the handle. A thrill
went through him as he fixed his grip and nosed the broom upwards, kicking
off with his foot and immediately catching an air vent that sent him
shooting twenty feet in the air. He let out a whoop of pure delight.
Of course, he was late to his first class.
There was no time to brush his hair, or shower, or sort out his books, which
left him carrying enough textbooks for five classes. He suspected his robes
were done up incorrectly. No time to even check what class he had. Working
on a vague memory of reading the listed classroom, Harry opened the door to
NEWT-level History of Magic and immediately shut it again.
Feverishly, he yanked his timetable out of his bag and scanned it. He was
sure he had never signed up for History of Magic. He ran his finger down the
columns. There it was. History of Magic/study period. Well, that had to be
him, he supposed.
Harry tried the door once more, got his head through and saw Malfoy. He had
to retreat again after that traumatic sight.
He took a deep breath and flattened his hair. His hand came away slightly
sticky, which wasn’t surprising, considering the high-altitude wind in which
it had been buffeted. Opening the door again to a sea of faces that looked
pathetically grateful at the third interruption, he slipped inside,
wondering where he was supposed to sit.
‘Ah, Mr Parker,’ intoned Binns. ‘History of Magic or study class?’
‘Oh, study class, of course,’ Harry said, before realising his eager tone
could be construed as offensive to, for example, someone teaching History of
‘Very well. As you and Mr Murphy are the only students studying, you can sit
together,’ Binns instructed, and Harry bobbed his head like a pigeon,
wondering who the hell Mr Murphy was. ‘Well? Get on with you, boy! I have a
class to bore.’
Harry gaped at him, wondering if he’d heard correctly, but Binns had turned
back to the blackboard. It was covered in extensive notes executed in a
miniscule, cramped hand. The class sighed collectively.
It was quite a large class, too, Harry discovered. He supposed it was easy
-- no practicals or anything -- if amazingly stultifying. He glanced around,
trying to spot someone with, for example, a Transfiguration textbook instead
of a History one, and who could conceivably be called Murphy.
However, as he made his way to the back of the classroom, no one fit the
criteria. Harry, with a sinking feeling, spotted Malfoy, sitting alone and
with a Defence textbook open in front of him.
‘Oh, you have got to be kidding me,’ he groaned.
‘Please take your seat, Mr Parker, and cease disturbing my class!’ Binns
chirped from the front of the room.
‘Oh, fuck no,’ Malfoy breathed, eyeing Harry with equal horror.
Seeing no alternative, Harry slammed his bag on to the desk beside Malfoy
and threw himself into the chair next to Malfoy’s.
‘Ew, Potter, get your elbow out of my space,’ Malfoy sniffed.
‘Shut your gob, or I’ll put more than my elbow into your space,’ Harry
‘Oh, yeah? I’d like to see you try.’ Malfoy smirked. ‘After all, you’re the
one around here who had his eye blacked.’
‘You think I couldn’t have stopped you if I wanted to?’
‘Come off it, Potter. You so did not just let me hit you.’
‘Oh, really? Maybe I get off on pain. Now shut up, Malfoy, your voice makes
me want to vomit.’
‘Fuck you.’ Malfoy’s eyes were blazing with suppressed rage.
‘Don't even offer,’ snapped Harry.
‘I wouldn’t touch you if you were the last person on earth,’ Malfoy snarled.
‘Makes you wonder why you punched me, then,’ said Harry. He raked his
fingers through his hair and glanced in Malfoy’s direction. Two spots of
brilliant colour glowed in the centre of his cheeks, like an old woman’s
rouge. It made quite a startling contrast to the anaemic paleness of the
rest of his complexion.
‘By the way,’ Harry added, ‘for the record, what you said about my mother --
watch your stupid skinny back, because I’m going to get you for it.’
‘Ooh, I’m scared,’ Malfoy snapped.
‘Good,’ said Harry. ‘It’s something wimps are.’
‘I’m not a wimp!’ retorted Malfoy.
‘Tell that to someone who cares.’ Harry yawned. ‘Actually, I might not kill
you, just wipe your arse on the Quidditch pitch.’
‘You wish, Potter.’
‘Ever heard that history repeats itself? Pretty true, I reckon, in that you
keep losing to me. Long may it continue.’
‘I hate you,’ Malfoy hissed.
‘Wow, I’d never have guessed,’ said Harry, pretending to look hurt.
Malfoy turned back to his book, feigning deafness, but Harry heard him
‘That’s true,’ Harry agreed. Telling the truth was enormous fun -- at least
when it was too shocking to be believed. ‘Do you want to know what I
think about, Malfoy?’ He tilted his chair closer to Malfoy’s, so that
their shoulders were touching and Harry’s hand was clenching on top of
Malfoy’s spare quill. Malfoy shuddered away. ‘Do you?'
‘Fuck off, Potter!’ Malfoy said, again, his voice sounding distinctly
shrill. He looked like he was about to have an aneurysm.
Leaving his desk-mate shivering in anger and disgust, Harry turned his
attention to his homework. Snape had set them a long essay on Conflagration
Draughts, which, if he was lucky and wasn’t distracted by, say, killing
Malfoy, Harry should be able to get a good start on.
Once shocked into silence, Malfoy was tolerable to sit beside. His breathing
made Harry want to kick him in the throat, but it was nothing Harry couldn’t
handle. Once Malfoy had got his second wind, now, that would
undoubtedly be nasty.
Binns’ droning voice hurt Harry’s head after a while and, once he had five
inches written, he took a break. Malfoy was staring at his Defence book,
looking confused. A tiny crease had appeared between his eyebrows and he was
twirling his quill in his long, skinny fingers.
Great. Harry groaned mentally. Quills were now added to the list of
inexplicable things that gave Harry an erection.
To distract himself, Harry glanced at Malfoy’s parchment. He raised his
‘You’ve got that wrong,’ he said. ‘Time-Loop charms are classified as
debilitating, not life-threatening and you need to be three feet away, not
two, for that question.’
‘Did I ask you?’ Malfoy demanded.
‘Why are you even in that class?’ said Harry, feeling himself begin to
sneer. ‘The whole point of it is defending yourself against the Dark Arts --
and dark wizards. I would have thought that you’d be on the
offensive, not the defensive.’
‘Harry Potter, thinking? How singularly extraordinary,’ retorted Malfoy. ‘I
don’t need your help, thank you not at all.’
‘Why, what is it that you do need -- aside from a good thrashing?’ Harry
asked. He let his lips curl in a shark-like grin.
‘Potter, lay off or I’ll --’
‘What? Set your minions on me? As you so aptly put it, ‘ooh, I’m scared’.’
Harry tilted back his chair and stared out the window at the slate-grey sky,
on which large storm clouds were gathering. They looked like Malfoy’s eyes.
Harry winced. He seriously could not believe he was now getting turned on by
clouds. Pretty soon, he was going to have to go to the bathroom and
deal with certain situations that were liable to arise.
He managed to last until the end of class, though. As he stuffed his
numerous books and ten inches of Potions essay into his bag, he noticed that
Malfoy’s parchment had two crossed-out, corrected answers.
Harry rolled his eyes.
Something was digging into Harry's side. He shifted in his chair by the
common room fire, feeling annoyed. All the effort of sneaking down after
hours to finish his homework, so as to avoid those he was trying to protect,
was rendered useless if he was going to be so distracted. Harry fished down
the side of the chair and withdrew a thin black tube. Curiously, he uncapped
it, and snorted. It was a pencil that someone had abandoned. An odd pencil,
too, with crumbly lead -- and since when did pencils come with lids?
He rotated the tube in his fingers and discovered the answer to the mystery
in the gold gilt lettering along the side. It read Mrs Skower’s Best of
Black Waterproof Eyeliner. Harry knew what eyeliner was; he’d often
heard Hermione denigrate the amount Parvati Patil and Pansy Parkinson wore.
Or perhaps that was the other thing -- mascara? Harry poked himself by
accident and gained a black line on his hand for his troubles.
An idea grew in his mind as he looked at the dark streak. He slipped in to
the deserted bathroom and took off his glasses. He laid them on the sink and
leaned closer to the mirror to find his reflection again. Almost without
thinking about it, he pulled down the eyelid of his eye and ran the pencil
over it. It went on smoothly, which Harry hadn’t expected. As he came to the
corner of his eye, his hand slipped and the tip of the pencil went into his
eyeball. Harry promptly dropped it and managed not to yowl in pain.
When his eye stopped watering, he returned to his reflection. He now had one
normal eye and one red-veined one. He put his glasses back on, and studied
the effect more closely.
For some reason, his left eye looked … bigger. The uneven black line along
the bottom of it seemed to give greater separation between his eye and his
eyelashes, and his eyes looked very green as a result.
Harry decided he rather liked it.
Pansy grinned, a cigarette lolling out of her open mouth. She bent down low
over Draco’s chair so her cleavage brushed his back, and wrapped her pale
arms around his neck possessively. They looked like the pale, quivering
tendrils of a jellyfish, Draco reflected. One he didn't fancy getting stung
'I want to be on Draco’s team.'
Heinrich grunted in barely concealed irritation, nursing his pint. Draco
disentangled himself from Pansy with reluctance. All the Slytherin girls
were watching them from the sofa in the corner of the old basement room,
nudging each other and whispering in hushed voices. They looked as if they
might be discussing baby names or something equally disturbing. Draco looked
hopefully at the only female not discussing his and Pansy’s relationship.
Millicent stared back with a face as set as concrete.
'Poker isn’t a team game, Pansy.'
'I know that.' Pansy pouted, brushing her long hair behind her ears
and draping her arms around Draco again. It was like trying to grapple with
an extremely persistent octopus. 'I just meant we’ll share whatever
you win. We will, won’t we?'
'I might not win anything,' Draco murmured. Pansy laughed and blinked her
stubby eyelashes at him in what she clearly hoped was an alluring manner.
Draco resisted the urge to ask her if she had cataracts.
'Of course you will, silly,' Pansy purred.
Either Crabbe or Goyle opened the door again and it swung open, the doorknob
hitting the stone wall with a clang. There was the ominous sound of
hob-nailed boots marching briskly down the stairs and then Mark Smythe and
Bernard Something-or-other appeared; two seventh-year Ravenclaws wearing
matching ankle-length dragon-hide coats and smug expressions.
'Ugh,' one of them said loudly, surveying the surroundings with distaste. It
was Smythe. He looked hard at everyone in the room who looked as if they
possessed an ounce of testosterone and therefore might be a potential
threat. Some of the more surly Slytherin boys tried to outstare him, but
failed. Millicent, however, returned his gaze unblinkingly with a stony
stare of her own.
With the quiet arrogance of someone who clearly considered himself better
than everyone in the room, Smythe motioned to Blaise to get him a chair.
Blaise, to Draco’s astonishment, sullenly stood up and proffered his stool
to Smythe. Smythe hesitated for a second, then, in a manner that suggested
he was doing everyone present a huge favour, took the stool and sat
down on it. Something-or-other pulled a large package out of his coat pocket
and gave it to Heinrich to add to the pot.
'Hey, gorgeous,' Smythe leered, staring at Draco. Draco felt something
contract in the pit of his stomach. Smythe was good-looking in a dangerous
sort of way; he had a shadow of rough stubble all over his jaw and his eyes
glinted evilly. Draco hadn’t thought Smythe was the type to be a poofter,
but he’d just called Draco gorgeous in front of all these people.
Draco licked his lips nervously, unsure of how to react.
'Hey yourself,' Pansy replied coyly, her chin still resting on Draco’s
shoulder. Draco felt his skin flush scarlet. He told himself he ought to be
relieved, but he just felt embarrassed and highly idiotic.
'Your boyfriend drag you down here for the game, did he?' Smythe asked. 'Hey
– why’s he gone all red?'
'We’re not boyfriend and girlfriend,' Pansy answered, standing up and
preening. Draco turned his head to look at her in astonishment. 'Well, we’re
not!' Pansy hissed self-consciously. A titter went up from where the gaggle
of girls were sitting cross-legged on the couch.
'Are we ever going to start?' Draco snarled at Heinrich. Smythe glanced at
the door, distracted.
'Yeah, Heinrich old boy, as attractive as the company is …' He looked
pointedly at Pansy, who let out a high-pitched giggle. ‘My associate and I
can’t tarry forever.'
'We need at least five,' Heinrich answered Draco, gripping his tankard.
'Jenkins isn’t playing, he’s just here with Smythe. Entwhistle from our year
said he might turn up for a bit.'
'I’m not waiting here for little kids who might or might not turn up,'
Smythe announced. 'Look now, it’s you,' he indicated Blaise with a gruff nod
of the head, 'yes, you there and Malfoy, Heinrich and me … can either
of the two outside play poker?' Smythe asked, referring to Crabbe and Goyle
stationed at the door.
'They can barely read, let alone play cards,' Draco snapped. He was
beginning to get a headache from the incessant talk going on behind him.
'Figures,' Smythe huffed. 'None of you lot have got a single spark of
intelligence, otherwise you’d have sorted this out properly … bloody
'I’ll play!' Pansy trilled eagerly, desperate for any attention. Smythe
glared at her, running a hand through his dark brown curls.
'You -- have you ever played poker before?'
'No, but I’m sure I’ll pick it up as I go along --'
'Shut the fuck up,' Smythe interrupted, shaking his head emphatically. Pansy
looked scandalised. 'Sit down before you hurt yourself. And please don’t go
anywhere remotely near the cards.'
Pansy slunk into a corner with two of the most loyal members of her clique,
looking daggers at Smythe and whispering furiously. If he noticed the sudden
animosity, he didn’t seem to care. Everyone fell quiet for a while, during
which Pansy made hurt noises and Smythe glared at Heinrich, Blaise and Draco
as if it was their fault that Entwhistle hadn’t turned up yet. Bernard
shuffled over to the table to pour himself a drink.
Suddenly there was the muffled noise of an angry conversation going on
outside the door. It sounded like someone was trying to get in, but Crabbe
and Goyle were having none of it. They’d been inordinately excited about
having the power to turn people away, but so far, everyone who’d wanted to
get in had been given instant permission.
'Come on boys, I’m sure there’s better things you could be doing with your
time,' a soothing female voice crooned.
'No other houses allowed,' Crabbe boomed. 'That’s the rule.'
'Well, there should be a rule against having a mug as ugly as yours, but you
don’t see me enforcing it, do you?' This voice was male and cocky, nothing
like Entwhistle’s whiny drawl.
There was a pause, and then the company heard Crabbe speak again, sounding
more than a little bemused.
'No Gryffs or Puffs, they said. It’s against the rules.'
'We’ve got stuff for the pot, would you just --'
'No Gryffs or Puffs. Against the rules.'
'Fucking Merlin,' Smythe muttered resentfully. 'If he’s got shit to put in
the pot …'
'Just let him in,' Draco ordered Heinrich imperiously. 'Entwhistle’s late.
Just let whoever it is in.'
Heinrich scowled, but quickly drained the last of his Firewhisky and yelled
up the stairs.
'Oi! Vincent! Let them in!' There was a pause, and a muttered conversation
could be heard from above them. Eventually, Goyle shouted something back
'Are you sure?'
Heinrich rolled his eyes and the rest of the Slytherins snickered.
'Yes, I’m sure! Let him and the girl in, all right!'
'But he’s --'
'I don’t care if he’s the fucking Minister for Magic!' Heinrich bellowed,
standing up. The chattering students quieted, impressed. 'Just let him the
fuck in and then lock the door, so we can FUCKING START!'
There was the sound of the door being unlocked and then the footsteps of two
people coming down the stairs slowly, trying to see their way in the dim
light. Smythe gave Draco a wolfish grin.
'What’ve you got for us?' Smythe called up to the newcomers.
'Some pot,' someone shouted back down. The loud sound echoed off the walls
of the basement, distorting the voice. Draco thought it sounded familiar,
but he couldn’t place it. Smythe grinned.
'Some pot for the pot,' he muttered. 'Anything else?'
'Just a pocketful of gold,' the new boy said, ducking to avoid the overhang
in the low ceiling. He grinned at them all, a paper bag clutched in one
hand, his wand in the other. His eyes were ringed with black and his dark
hair was as crazy as ever, making him look like a wide-eyed sprite in dusty
robes. The chubby girl from Hufflepuff stood behind him like a watchful
bodyguard, arms crossed over her mammoth chest. She glared defensively at
Heinrich, who cringed. The room was deathly silent. You could have heard a
pin drop. You could have heard several pins drop.
'Come on guys,' said Potter. 'Let’s play.'
Harry surveyed his surroundings with undisguised interest, running his
tongue along his lower lip. Entwhistle had been happy enough to give
directions to the secret den, one that Harry recognised from the Marauder’s
Map as being a disused laundry room. The walls were still lined with long,
deep shelves, but instead of towels they housed flickering oil lamps and
several items of negligible legality; for instance, at least three of the
objects were hookahs, and well-used ones at that.
The room’s occupants were all staring at him and he could tell that Susan,
for all her placid confidence in her bull-like stature, was nervous of
intruding on the snake’s territory.
He broke the silence. ‘Come on, guys. Let’s play.’ He let a suitable
interval pass, and added archly, ‘Or are you afraid?’
‘Why on earth would we be afraid of you?’ one of the boys at the table
demanded. Harry didn’t recognise him; he was wearing a long coat instead of
robes and three weeks’ worth of stubble.
‘I’d ask Malfoy that,’ said Harry, dropping on to a stool and throwing a
glance to his arch-nemesis, who was looking red in the face. Harry stared at
him, thinking that, with his pale face and flushed cheeks, he resembled
nothing so much as a constipated china doll. Harry wondered if he’d get a
chance to slip in that particular analogy at some point in the game. ‘He’s
the best qualified, after all.’
‘Potter,’ Malfoy ground out at last. ‘What in seven hells are you doing
Harry ignored him, speaking instead to the coated boy. 'Hey, what’s your
‘Smythe,’ the gorgeous one said, sounding affronted.
‘Oh.’ Harry pondered this, waving Susan to a seat beside him, next to
Heinrich. ‘Anything to Zacharias?’
‘In Hufflepuff? I should bloody well think not,’ Smythe retorted, his
be-ringed hands clenching into fists. ‘I spell mine with a y. And an e.’
Harry rolled his eyes, opened the bag and withdrew Entwhistle's package,
which he tossed into an ornate silver bowl -- inscribed with snakes and rude
Latin passages -- sitting in the centre of the table. A couple of packets of
cigarettes -- Marlboros -- were laying about and Harry drew out one and lit
it with Dudley’s lighter. Smythe was gaping at him.
‘They’re mine!’ he managed.
‘Fine,’ Harry said, in a bored tone. He flipped the boy a Galleon, which he
caught instantly. Harry pursed his lips in approval. Quick reflexes, that
one had. ‘Is a hundred okay for starters? I don’t have any more on me.’
‘A hundred what?’ Zabini wanted to know.
‘Galleons,’ said Harry impatiently. ‘For the betting. Entwhistle said you
use gold, yes?’
‘Yes,’ said Zabini, his eyes shifting between Harry and Malfoy. Harry
followed his gaze; Malfoy was looking utterly murderous, but as that was,
for him, a common expression in Harry’s presence, Harry couldn’t see that it
was anything unusual.
‘How much’d you bring?’ Heinrich asked Malfoy, sounding amused.
‘Fifty,’ muttered Malfoy. 'I -- fifty.' He stared at Harry in pure loathing.
It made Harry feel alive.
'I’ll deal,' Heinrich growled. He picked up the cards, cut them, and then
went into a whole elaborate routine of spinning and flicking and tossing
the cards up into the air. Draco stared at Heinrich's blurring fingers in
amazement. Even though he’d been playing poker since he was a first-year, he
still only knew one way to shuffle a pack: pick up a thick wodge of cards.
Shove it between another wodge of cards, so that the cards in the first
wodge are evenly dispersed. Repeat.
'You’re doing that wrong,' the Hufflepuff girl told Heinrich suddenly,
pointing. Heinrich ignored her and continued to twist his wrist in a jerky
fashion, so that the cards from one of two piles jumped over on to the other
stack, executing the kind of back flips a gold-medallist gymnast would have
been envious of. Suddenly, a card whizzed vertically in the air and then
flopped unimpressively into Draco’s drained glass. The edges curled and
turned brown in the damp puddle of Firewhisky and the Hufflepuff girl
grinned with satisfaction. 'Told you so.'
'Look, what the hell do you know about cards?' queried Heinrich, stung. He
glanced at Blaise, who was trying to fish the soggy card out of the cracked
glass with his still-lit cigarette. The alcohol in the glass ignited and an
orange flame shot between his knuckles. Blaise squealed and threw the
smouldering card on to the wooden table, nursing his scalded fingers. The
girl picked it up gingerly between her forefinger and thumb and examined it.
'I know enough not to shuffle the Inventory card along with the rest
of the pack,' she announced primly, displaying the sooty rectangle to the
rest of the company. Draco craned his neck to take a look at it. Sure
enough, it read: Serpentine Playing Cards®. This limited-edition pack
'For fuck’s sake,' Smythe complained, glancing meaningfully at Bernard, who
was still standing silently in the corner. 'Don’t tell me you haven’t even
taken out the Jokers. This is ridiculous.'
'Of course I took out the bloody Jokers!' Heinrich hissed, turning
pink. He glared out at them all from behind his straw-coloured fringe, but
avoided making eye contact with the Puff, who was looking decidedly smug.
'Either way, I think you’ve done enough shuffling,' the girl said,
masterfully taking the cards from Heinrich and palming them. Heinrich’s
blush rapidly darkened from Humiliation-Pink to Indignity-Violet and the
Slytherin girls tittered meanly. Draco glanced at the girls and saw Pansy
fuming because another female had taken centre stage.
'Maybe Susan should deal,' suggested Potter, looking Draco straight in the
eyes. Draco made a hideous face and scowled.
'Maybe you should shut your mouth, Potty.' He glanced at ‘Susan’, who
was watching him placidly with soft, cowlike eyes. 'Who said the Puff was
'Course she’s playing,' Harry said sharply, sitting up straighter. 'She’s
sitting at the table, isn’t she?'
'Yeah, she’s sitting at the table, all right,' sneered Draco. 'She’s so big,
she could almost be the table.'
Pansy let out a hooting, derisive laugh and Harry’s face went hard.
'I’d be a bit more careful about criticising other people’s physical
characteristics if I were you, Malfoy,' he murmured dangerously. 'Especially
when you’re so lacking in certain areas.' He stared pointedly through
the table at Draco’s crotch.
'Lacking my arse,' Draco exploded, rising from his seat. 'I bet
you’ve never even seen one as --'
'Small? Green? Deformed?' Potter offered helpfully, standing up as well.
'I’m sure I have, I watch the Discovery Channel, you see. It’s where I
learnt about in-breeding. Mammals which breed your way often have bad
temperaments, are pathetically weak and have absolutely tiny --’
'Look, boys,' announced Smythe, placing a warm hand on each of their
forearms, 'I’m sure they’re both huge. Enormous, even. You’re walking
tripods, both of you. But Susan’s just dealt, and I’d really
appreciate it if you … yes, that’s it. Sit down. Good. Good boy.'
He ruffled Potter’s mop of black hair affectionately and made as if to pat
Draco on the shoulder, but thought better of it.
'I’m going to win, Potter.' Draco gritted out, not knowing what a ‘Discovery
Channel’ was and not really caring. At that moment he wanted nothing more
than to reach out across the table and strangle Potter to death while at the
same time kicking him systematically in the groin. 'I’m going to make you
and your stupid Puff girlfriend sorry you ever tried messing with us.'
The Slytherins muttered their approval. Potter gazed apprehensively at the
sea of unfriendly faces surrounding him and Draco grinned. Potter was just
beginning to realise how utterly unwelcome he was. A Slytherin carrying a
quill was more likely to want to stab him to death with it than ask for an
Smythe rolled his eyes, grabbed the overly shuffled pack of cards and began
to deal. Nobody ventured to gainsay his right to. As he did so, he demanded,
‘So who’s the banker in this poxy game?’
‘I am,’ said Draco immediately. There was no point in giving someone else
the chance to usurp his clique by showing even a second’s uncertainty.
‘Well, you planning to get out the chips at all tonight?’ Smythe finished
dealing. Blaise ended up with the jack, and inexpertly began to shuffle and
deal a card to each player.
Draco scowled and fished in his pocket, retrieving the velvet bag of magical
chips. He poured them into the pot, and after an interval of clattering,
they flew out to each player. Draco was mightily annoyed to see that Potter
had the most blue chips of anyone, followed by Susan. They must have some
good quality stuff in there.
‘Pansy,’ ordered Draco, ‘come over here and mind the stuff.’
‘Okay, darling.’ Pansy simpered at him and shot daggers at Smythe. It was
obvious that she was punishing Smythe for his impudence. Draco found himself
wearied by her games.
‘What are the limits?’ Potter asked, his kohled eyes narrowed to slits.
Draco shifted uncomfortably under his smouldering gaze.
‘Answer him, Heinrich,’ Draco instructed, curling his lip at Potter. What
was with his eyes, anyway?
‘Minimum bet, ten whites, maximum bet …’ Heinrich paused, shooting the Puff
a challenging look. ‘Whatever you dare.’
‘We playing tigers and dogs?’ Smythe drawled, blowing his cigarette smoke in
Draco’s face. Draco was hard pressed not to wince.
‘Why not?’ Draco agreed. ‘Unless our … visitors … can’t handle it.’
Potter was still staring at him, Draco realised, as he turned back to
him to smile spitefully. Potter just laughed, which Draco took for a denial
of his claim.
'Opening with a twenty red bet,' Heinrich grunted, eyeing his hand. He
nudged Susan in the ribs and she started in shock. Draco was surprised she
could feel the poke through the blubber. 'Your turn now.'
'Harry is not,' Susan retorted, placing her cards face down on the table.
'My boyfriend,' she clarified, looking at Heinrich’s confused expression.
Draco’s heart gave an inexplicable leap of triumph and he quickly assumed an
expression of extreme nonchalance. Couldn’t care less, he sing-songed
silently. Susan narrowed her big brown eyes at him. 'I call the bet. Twenty
'Thirty reds,' Potter stated. His gaze hadn’t moved from Draco’s face.
'Thirty,' Blaise mumbled, looking miserable. Smythe glanced at Bernard, who
gave a slight nod of his head.
'Thirty,' Draco managed numbly, after checking his hand.
'Thirty,' Blaise mumbled, looking miserable. Smythe glanced imperceptibly at
Bernard, who gave a slight nod of his head.
Draco tried to stay cool and relaxed, tried not to tense any of his muscles,
tried not to jump up and down and grind the cards into Potter’s ugly mug. It
took a mammoth effort.
It’s hard not to crack a smile when you know you must’ve won.
‘One pair,’ Blaise mumbled. He looked thoroughly miserable. Draco rolled his
grey eyes in exasperation. It wasn’t as if Zabini was remotely bloody likely
to win anyway, he was simply there to make up the numbers. Despite the
irresistible urge to really give Blaise something to sulk about,
Draco didn’t voice this opinion out loud. Better not to make a scene.
'One pair,' said Draco with a sigh, avoiding Potter's mocking gaze.
Smythe put his cards down too, an equally sour expression on his face, which
was otherwise half shrouded in darkness.
‘Three of a kind,’ he stated icily.
Heinrich snorted loudly and unnecessarily and threw his cards on to the
table. Another three of a kind. Draco felt an uneasy twinge in the pit of
his stomach. Potter was grinning lopsidedly, in a way that suggested he’d
been spending the last couple of minutes maintaining a carefully neutral
expression. This wasn’t what Draco had hoped for, when it had become
apparent that Potter and the Puff weren’t leaving any time soon. He’d hoped
that Potter would lose round after round after round, preferably to him, so
he could smirk and deliver a few scathing put-downs and then at the end of
the night they’d slink back to their common rooms, tails between their legs.
‘Well, gentlemen,’ Potter drawled, emphasising the first syllable of
the word as if it were some kind of hilarious pun, ‘it appears I have a Full
House. That beats what Malfoy had, which was – let’s see now – nothing,
it beats a pair – come on, don’t look so glum, there’s always Exploding Snap
– and it definitely beats a Three of a Kind, so …’
‘Four,’ the Susan girl interrupted. Potter paused and shot her a look.
‘Four,’ she said again, placing her cards down on the table calmly. Four
nines and the six of spades. ‘Of a kind, you dolts. So I win, yes?’
The chips lying in the centre of the table levitated and flew straight into
her outstretched arms. Smythe looked faintly impressed, Blaise furrowed his
brows until he was more wrinkle than boy and Heinrich gaped in unflattering
shock. Potter swallowed hard, having been dealt a blow by the loss of his
‘Right, anyway, well done,’ he sighed magnanimously. ‘You can sell that and
buy yourself something pretty from Madam Malkins.’ Draco blanched - he
didn’t find he thought of seeing those thighs squeezed into pink
frilly dress robes a particularly attractive prospect. Judging from the
Susan girl’s expression, she didn’t either. ‘Or you could always, you know,
get high,’ Potter finished lamely.
‘Betting interval?’ Smythe grunted. ‘I’m not taking anything off,
little girl, as much as you may want me to. It’s fucking freezing.’
‘Fine then, underwear,’ the Susan girl replied briskly. She looked at
Heinrich coldly. ‘What are you wearing?’
‘What? You can’t --’
‘Oh come on, this isn’t even hard,’ the Susan girl tutted. Heinrich
turned purple, and made a face that suggested he was sucking on an unripe
‘Boxers,’ he managed eventually.
‘I don’t know!’
Susan gave a long-suffering sigh. ‘Check, then!’
‘Green, ones from Gladrags,’ he growled, once he was composed enough to
‘Not that hard, really, is it?’ The Hufflepuff turned her steely gaze on
Draco. ‘And you?’
‘Boxers.’ When she didn’t reply, Draco elaborated. ‘Silk ones. Look, I’m not
going to provide you with more fodder for your twisted fantasies, you sick
Potter bristled at this, but the Puff merely shrugged and turned to Smythe,
who smiled coldly at her.
‘They’re … black.’ Half the room -- including Pansy, although she tried to
pretend she wasn’t listening -- leaned forwards, waiting in anticipation for
him to expand on this. But before he had a chance, Blaise interrupted with
his own banal revelation.
‘Mine are boxers too.’
‘Lilac ones, with his name embroidered on the back!’ A mean voice called out
from the crowd. Millicent wolf-whistled. Everyone sniggered cruelly and
Blaise turned first green and then scarlet, muttering foul curses that would
probably have injured a lot of people had a wand been in his hand.
‘Harry?’ the Susan girl asked loudly, above the jeers and catcalls. The room
fell silent instantly. Potter grinned, revelling in the attention from his
‘Not wearing any.’
‘Fuck off,’ Draco retorted in disbelief. Potter’s black-rimmed eyes widened
‘Would you like me to prove it, Malfoy?
‘Yeah, right -- no,’ Draco sneered, unable to think of a suitably cutting
The girl called Susan shook her head in a tired manner and began to deal the
cards again, leaning low over the table to pick them all up. ‘Harry, we all
believe you, now get your hands away from your buttons.’
Potter complied, raising his eyebrows challengingly at Draco, who made a
disgusted face. Smythe looked ever so slightly put out.
‘What about you, then?’ Pansy screeched in a scandalised tone,
exhibiting all the natural decorum of a warthog. ‘You can’t leave yourself
out! What the hell are you wearing under that circus tent?’
Pansy’s posse stared at Susan maliciously. The boys at the table looked at
her. Even Jenkins, immobile in the corner, turned his head ever so slightly
to peek. Draco looked out of curiosity, though he doubted Pansy’s sudden
interest in the girl’s underwear had anything to do with fairness of game
rules or equality of the sexes.
‘Not that it’s any of your business, but red flowery lace,’ Susan
answered. ‘Can we get on? Thirty blues, I think.’
‘Thirty,’ said Heinrich, after a beat. His face was a uniform pink.
Pansy was looking more like a pug than ever. One that was in dire need of a
‘Thirty,' said Smythe.
Blaise muttered angrily, ‘I fold.’
‘You haven’t got enough chips, you mean,’ Smythe corrected him, fingering
Blaise’s meagre heap of red and blue discs with distaste. ‘What the hell
d’you think you’re doing here when you didn’t even bring --’
‘Thirty,’ Potter said, looking as if he wanted to bet his entire pile. Draco
glared at him.
‘Oi, Malfoy. Wake up,’ Smythe said rudely, startling Draco out of his
‘Thirty blues,’ he blurted out, without even looking at his cards. Cursing
inwardly, he picked them up and checked them. He surveyed the table, trying
to look normal, or even vaguely upset. The fat Hufflepuff girl sighed deeply
as she laid out her cards.
‘One pair,’ she exhaled.
‘Nothing,’ Heinrich admitted grudgingly. He crooked his finger on the inside
rim of his left ear and flicked out a piece of wax. Smythe looked suitably
revolted before talking.
Potter laughed out loud, for some mysterious reason, and looked directly at
Draco, placing his hand on the table. ‘Say hello to a straight flush.’
‘Hello,’ Draco replied coolly, not dropping his gaze. ‘Now, you say
hi to my straight flush. King, Queen, Jack, Ten of Hearts, Nine of
‘No way,’ objected Potter. He threw a creased card in Draco’s face. It
bounced off his nose. ‘That’s the Nine of Hearts. My flush: Nine of
Hearts, Eight of Hearts, seven, six, five.’
Draco looked down at the cards in front of him. There were, indeed, two
identical Nine of Hearts. He turned them over. Both had the pack’s green
serpentine design printed on the back. He looked at Potter, who was seething
with fury, again and shrugged.
‘So? My flush beats yours anyway, Potty.’
‘What the fuck?’ Smythe shouted very loudly. ‘If there are duplicate
cards, then someone’s been fucking cheating. And if someone’s fucking
cheating, I want my fucking chips back right now.’
‘Look, mate --’ Heinrich began, in a reasonable voice.
‘Right fucking now,’ repeated Smythe. There was an ominous popping
noise from the shadows in the corner. Draco was slightly disturbed, until he
realised that it was the other Ravenclaw, Jenkins, cracking his knuckles. By
the time the full implications of this had registered, he was significantly
‘Malfoy’s been cheating, the slimy git,’ Potter accused him, standing up.
Smythe stood up too, knocking a shot glass on to the floor. Clear liquid
pooled around the base of the chair.
‘Bugger off, Potter,’ retorted Draco, rising. Pansy broke through her group
of friends and stood behind him supportively, holding a stubby cigarette and
stroking his head with her free hand. Draco appreciated the sentiment, he
really did, but he didn’t fancy being fondled like a newborn hamster.
Shaking himself free, he glared at Potter. ‘If anyone’s cheating, it’s you
and your stupid fat girlfriend.’
‘I want my fucking chips back,’ Smythe growled, addressing Draco directly.
Heinrich, who had been busy observing the fascinating things that were going
on in his lap, tried again. ‘Look, mate --’
‘Heinrich, I’m not your fucking mate.’
‘You slimy cheater,’ Potter hissed, his fists clenching.
Draco’s pale cheeks burned. He was gaining a particular sensitivity towards
the word ‘slimy’.
‘You’re just a poor loser,’ he sneered. ‘There aren’t any brooms in poker;
you can’t win all the time.’
‘At least I don’t buy myself into every game,’ Potter spat, his eyes
blazing with green fire. ‘Spending all of darling Daddy’s money – Voldemort
give him a good salary, does he?’
There was a sharp intake from breath from the crowd at the mention of the
name. Draco almost felt the cool air whooshing past, being sucked in by
numerous pairs of lungs. Tracey Davis swooned dramatically and fainted into
Blaise's arms. Draco shook in anger.
‘Your fucking mother,’ he said slowly and deliberately, ‘sucks cock in
Oddly enough, Potter didn’t jump on him immediately. He stood perfectly
still for a few seconds, whilst the whole room watched in terrified
anticipation. Jenkins started backing towards the wall and making emphatic
gestures to Smythe behind his back. The Hufflepuff girl clutched at her
robes. Potter’s eyes bored into Draco’s skull; Draco stared back in
defiance, matching the chilly stare with one of his own. It only lasted
about three seconds, but it seemed to take an eternity.
Potter let out an inhuman roar, overturned the table -- scattering cards,
chips, drinks and an extremely heavy metal ashtray in all directions -- and
leapt on Draco, knocking him to the floor.
It was a whirlwind mesh of noise and heat and fists. Pansy, who had fled to
the safety of the stairwell, was currently screaming blue murder, as were
the rest of the Slytherin girls -- those who weren’t in floods of tears or
unconscious. Blaise throwing alcohol on them in a futile attempt to get them
to break apart, Heinrich was yelling ‘Calm down’ in an increasingly
desperate voice as the other boys placed bets on who was most likely to win,
and someone -- Smythe, surprisingly -- was having an exceedingly hard time
trying to prise Potter off him. Draco wasn’t so much fighting with Potter as
grappling with about twenty-six flailing limbs all at once and trying to
minimise the amount of grievous bodily harm the boy was obviously intent on
Potter was staring wildly into his face, his eyeliner smudged slightly
because of the tankard of Firewhisky Blaise had chucked on them. This made
his eyes look even more terrifyingly intense and slightly insane. Potter was
spouting innumerable incoherencies through gritted teeth, none of which
Draco could understand – if he didn’t know any better, he’d have thought he
was slagging him off in Parseltongue.
‘Calm down,’ Draco said helplessly, echoing Heinrich. This was Potter
angrier than he’d ever seen him. ‘For Christ's sake, calm down.’
‘Let go of me!’ Harry shouted at whoever was trying to hold him back.
Whoever it was refused to listen and Harry was twisting out of their grip at
the same time as his flailing fists screwed themselves into Malfoy’s hair to
repeatedly wallop his head against the floor. Harry's knee jerked up between
Malfoy’s legs right into his crown jewels. On the other, sane-by-comparison
side of the red-hot haze of rage, Harry noted in satisfaction the anguished
wince on Malfoy’s face as that particular hit registered.
Malfoy’s hands were scratching his face but he didn’t seem to be trying to
actually fight Harry so much as get away from him. The person behind
Harry had a strong hold on his upper arms, so they were getting dragged
along as Harry pounded Malfoy’s head into the floor. Harry wasn’t stupid
enough to try and punch Malfoy’s face; he’d probably break his own hand and
his only objective was to cause Malfoy much excruciating pain, not himself.
Malfoy was mouthing something; Harry, thinking it was more slander against
his mother, evaded the grip on his arms to throw himself flat on top of
Malfoy, his knee slamming painfully against the floor but succeeding in
scoring another strike against Malfoy’s weakest area.
Harry’s hands were still tangled in Malfoy’s hair; he gave them a vindictive
tug as he leaned in to whisper, ‘What did you say, you bastard?’
Malfoy didn’t even seem to be hearing him. This close -- with Harry’s own
mouth practically squashed against Malfoy’s ear -- Harry perceived that he
was whimpering, ‘Calm down, calm down, calm down.’
Harry made a face and pounded Malfoy’s head against the flagstones again.
Malfoy'd started this -- he’d started it long, long ago -- what call did he
have to be begging quarter now?
Stopping to think was his undoing. Someone -- the same or a different person
who’d had a grip on Harry before, Harry was in no position to judge --
wrenched his arms behind his back. Taken unawares, Harry left it too late to
resist; instead he let loose a howl of pain. The person yanked him to his
feet, still holding his arms in a death-lock behind him, so that his back
was arched almost to right angles. He kicked out at Malfoy, huddled in a
moaning ball on the floor, as he was dragged away.
‘Potter, what the fuck?’ a low, smoky voice, incandescent with anger, hissed
in his ear. Trembling with rage and adrenaline rush, Harry nonetheless felt
a new shiver begin, this one deeper and starting from the pit of his spine.
Harry became absolutely still and turned his head to take in the person
who’d intervened. It was none other than Smythe, who was holding Harry’s
hands against his own stomach in one hand and had his other arm crossed
tightly against Harry’s body. Harry could feel Smythe’s stubble rasp against
his cheek as he fought to catch his breath.
‘I said, what the hell did you think you were playing at?’ said
Smythe. Harry shrugged.
‘He insulted my mother,’ Harry pointed out.
‘And we’re on his turf! We’re surrounded by Slytherins!’ Smythe shook his
head. ‘Fucking Gryffindors. Not a teaspoon of logic between them. If I let
you go, will you promise to let Malfoy be?’
‘I will -- for now,’ Harry said grudgingly.
‘Good,’ said Smythe, and dropped his hands. Harry felt suddenly cold and he
rubbed at the goose pimples that had sprung up along his arms. Smythe
regarded him from under his eyebrows.
‘I’d go now,’ he added, ‘before the snakes realise what exactly you’ve done
and gang up on you.’
‘Where’s Susan?’ Harry asked, turning his gaze back on Malfoy. Pansy had
descended upon him, squawking, as soon as Harry had been pulled away, but
Malfoy had pushed her to the side. He was now on his hands and knees,
coughing up blood.
‘Just go!’ Smythe instructed. ‘I’ll cover you.’
Harry made a confused face at him. He didn’t know why Smythe was moved all
of a sudden to watch Harry’s back; he couldn’t say with certainty that he’d
even seen the boy before in his life.
Something sparked in the depths of Smythe’s eyes and Harry felt his stomach
drop away. Smythe raised a hand and ruffled Harry’s hair again, and smiled
when Harry jerked back from him.
Susan was waiting behind a statue in the corridor; she grabbed his hand and
pulled him all the way to an empty classroom at a sprint. Harry, who’d been
freezing and was now puffed, sank on to a chair and massaged a stitch in his
side. He raised his eyebrows at Susan, who was looking uncommonly pink.
‘Sorry, Harry,’ she said, her eyes sparkling, ‘you provided the best
distraction ever, but they were bound to notice as soon as you stopped
grappling with Malfoy.’
Harry meant to say, ‘Notice what?’, but somewhere on the route to his mouth
the words got changed to, ‘What do you mean, grappling? I was
Susan made a face at him. ‘He wasn’t exactly rolling with the punches, was
he? At one stage you looked like you were going to kiss him.’
‘Kiss him?’ Harry jumped to his feet, a dramatic move somewhat marred
by the fact that his sore knee gave way and turned it into a sad little
lurch. ‘I wasn’t kissing him! Are you insane?’
‘I don’t know. You tell me,’ Susan said, holding up a packet of something
suspiciously familiar and waving it in Harry’s face. In his utter shock,
Harry forgot all her earlier, completely incorrect assertions.
‘You stole the pot?’ he gasped.
‘You better believe it,’ said Susan, looking smug. ‘And --’ she delved into
her pockets and dropped a handful of gold on to Harry’s lap ‘-- I don’t know
how much that is, but it’s all I could grab. I would’ve got more, but
Heinrich was watching.’
‘Is he the one who threw a drink at me?’ asked Harry.
‘No, I think that was Zabini,’ said Susan.
‘Oh,’ said Harry, sinking back against the chair. ‘Are all poker games this
eventful?’ he added as an afterthought.
‘No,’ said Susan. ‘Usually when someone cheats they just get kicked out of
the game, and have to put their knickers on their head or something. But you
and Malfoy together confound expectation.’
‘That wasn’t a compliment, was it?’
‘Merely an observation,’ Susan said. She bit her lip. ‘And Smythe?’
Harry’s body gave an involuntary, pleasant shudder at the name. He closed
his eyes, trying to recall the feel of his body against Harry’s.
‘What about him?’ he remembered to ask, at length.
‘Oh, nothing,’ Susan said, hiding a smile. ‘Nothing at all.’
Harry checked his watch. Five-thirty-three. No one in Gryffindor should be
up at this unholy hour.
He slipped into the bathroom and closed the door firmly behind him before
stripping off his robes, which were stained with dirt, Firewhiskey and
something that could have been blood. In which case it was Malfoy’s blood
and thus the robes were forever contaminated and would require defumigation,
if not exorcism, before they could be worn again.
It was the most amazing feeling of relief to finally shower. The little hot
darts relaxed muscles that Harry had never realised he was tensing.
Inspecting his battle wounds, he discovered that had bruises on his arms
from Smythe’s hands and grazes all over his neck from Malfoy’s nails. Some
of them were quite deep and stung when the water hit them.
As he massaged shampoo into his hair, which had almost solidified, Harry
wondered what Smythe's motivations had been in breaking up the fight. These
thoughts so distracted him that a soapy stream of water got into his eye
without his noticing.
Harry rubbed the shampoo out of his eye and his hand came away black. He
scowled at it. This makeup thing was a lot more effort than the air
headedness of its principal female devotees would suggest.
With a sigh, Harry went to fetch a towel and his glasses before he broke the
cardinal rule of the boys’ dorms and just made it to his bed.
It was too stupid that shampoo had to be added to the list.
‘Harry! Harry, you awake?’
‘Mmhp,’ replied Harry, opening his sleepy eyes into a faceful of
The curtains were wrenched open, flooding his vision with bright light. He
‘Harry,’ Ron said, then his eyes widened. ‘Harry, what did you do to
‘What?’ Harry said, putting a hand to his face. However, Ron’s gaze was
‘Did you get into some kind of a brawl -- with a cat?’ Ron wanted to
‘Er, not as such,’ said Harry. It was too early and he was too tired and
mentally weak to come up with something suitably cutting to drive Ron away.
He pushed past him and pulled a jumper and socks out of his trunk.
‘You didn’t forget, did you?’ Ron asked.
‘Forget what?’ said Harry, through the jumper, which he was preoccupied with
pulling over his head.
‘Quidditch tryouts!’ Ron said. ‘The notice was posted last week. Seamus is
going for Beater …’
His voice trailed off. Harry pulled the jumper down, leaving his hair haloed
with static. ‘That’s good,’ he said. ‘Ginny going for Chaser?’
Ron nodded. ‘So - I’ll see you on the pitch?’
‘Of course,’ said Harry. Feeling this was far too friendly for his plans, he
ignored Ron’s tentative smile. Ron made a vague gesture, before nodding and
heading down the stairs.
Harry waited a suitable interval before taking the stairs down two at a
time, bounding across the common room and scanning the notice board. It said
‘Quidditch tryouts: 12 midday’. Harry breathed a sigh of relief.
Then he glanced at his watch and bit back a scream. ‘Damn!’ he whispered.
It read 11:45.
There was no time for Quidditch robes, no time for forward planning, no time
for breakfast. Harry tore down to the pitch, almost tripping over his
jeans three times, and made it to the broom sheds just as the team was
‘He’ll be here any minute,’ Ron was promising. ‘He was just going over some
strategies in the dorms.’
Harry’s heart swelled with some inexplicable feeling that made him feel achy
and full. Choosing not to analyse it, he yanked his hair somewhat flat and
pulled up his jeans.
‘And -- there he is,’ Ron said, his face lighting up with relief.
‘Right,’ said Harry, pretending a brisk efficiency he was far from feeling.
‘So we’re trying out for a two new Chasers and some reserves, right?’
‘And a Beater,’ said Ron in an undertone. ‘Jack Sloper quit.’
‘What a shame,’ said Harry, not quite softly enough. The other Beater shot
him a nasty look.
‘Why aren’t you in robes?’ Ginny inquired. She looked very businesslike,
with her hair pulled back tightly and her broom held on its end.
‘I’m not going to be flying,’ improvised Harry. ‘I -- er -- want you to
split into two teams and play each other. I’ll be analysing you from the
‘How will we hear you?’ Andrew Kirke asked, sounding sceptical.
‘With the Sonorus Charm, of course,’ Ron said impatiently, as if it were
obvious. Harry avoided meeting Ron’s eye, finding he needed to swallow
several times to get rid of something sticking in his throat.
Harry had a feeling that it was his conscience.
‘Right,’ Harry said, looking around. ‘You, Ginny, Kirke, you, Seamus and
you; and you, you, you, Ron and Katie, make two teams. Ron and Katie, sort
out those going for Chaser and those for Beater. I’ll be up there. Okay?’
‘Got it, Harry,’ Katie said, smiling rather too knowingly at his rumpled
appearance. Harry blushed; she probably thought -- it was better, he decided
not to speculate what she thought.
‘Hang on a sec, Katie,’ said Harry, remembering a long-ago first Quidditch
game and a roaring lion. ‘Could you Charm some sparkling numbers on to their
backs so I can tell them apart?’
‘Sure,’ Katie said, drawing her wand out of the inside of her robes.
‘Cheers,’ said Harry, before loping up the stands to the highest seat.
While those on the pitch were sorting out their teams, Harry, struck by
inspiration, used a Summoning Charm to fetch his Omnioculars from the dorms.
They nearly brained him when they arrived, soaring through the air at a rate
of knots; Harry grabbed them before they made impact.
‘Sonorus,’ he said, pointing his wand at his throat and jamming the
Omnioculars against his glasses.
The two teams rose into the air, the numbers flashing and sparkling in the
cold winter sun. Harry soon lived to regret venturing outside in nothing but
jeans, a too-small jumper and trainers, but he had no time to dwell on his
impending frostbite. He was on his feet within minutes, yelling at random
people much as he remembered Wood and Angelina doing; even though it was a
trial the flyers were playing as hard as if they were in a match.
‘No, number four!’ Harry hollered. ‘Defend, defend! Just because you’re not
a Keeper doesn’t mean you can let the Quaffle past you while you sit back
and watch! Defend!’
‘Pushing them a bit hard, aren’t you, Potter?’ an amused voice observed.
Harry started in shock and dropped his Omnioculars. When he leaned down to
pick them up and press his throbbing foot, his jumper slipped off his
shoulder, blasting his chest with frigid air.
It was Smythe, leaning against the backboard with an insouciant expression
and his arms folded. A half-smile was playing about his mouth.
‘W-- what do you mean?’ Harry asked, still half-distracted by pain. He
lowered his voice carefully so as not to deafen Smythe.
‘Only that I’ve been watching for over an hour and you were already started
when I arrived. You don’t think it’s time to give them a break, perhaps?’
Harry, flustered, checked his watch and realised he’d never noticed the time
passing. Clearing his throat, he yelled, ‘Okay, that’s enough! Back to the
pitch, I’ll meet you there!’
Now that he inspected faces and not form, Harry could see that they did in
fact seem a small bit tired; even the team members looked like they’d been
put through the wringer. Harry felt a little guilty, but at least he was
sure of their abilities and nearly certain of who had made the cut.
‘Quietus,’ said Harry, poking himself in the throat with his wand. He
turned clumsily to face Smythe again and nearly tripped over the bench.
‘You came to watch?’ he asked.
‘Me and the rest of the world,’ Smythe said, pointing. Harry glanced around
the stands; at the bottom of the one he was in, Susan sat with a couple of
other Hufflepuffs. Zacharias had a notebook into which he was scribbling,
the plume of his quill wobbling like mad. Harry could see Justin’s mouth
moving and fancied he could almost make out the shapes of the words ‘you
Susan grinned at him and waved before running her finger across her throat
and pretending to die. Harry raised his arm to her, stifling a snigger.
‘Malfoy’s not here, is he?’ Harry asked Smythe anxiously. He didn’t think he
could bear it if Malfoy was going to come swaggering up to him critiquing
his prowess as captain, or worse, if he came to steal his techniques like
‘No; none of the Slytherins turned up -- except for him,’ said Smythe,
waving his hand at a lone figure in the stands opposite. Harry squinted
through his Omnioculars; it turned out to be Heinrich, who was watching the
proceedings with a thoughtful scowl.
‘Are you on the Ravenclaw team?’ Harry asked, thinking he’d finally divined
the reason for Smythe’s presence -- that he was there to scope out the
‘Sport? Moi? Je ne pense pas, mon petit mignon,’ Smythe said, his
mouth widening into an almost impertinently sensuous smile.
‘So you don’t, then?’ Harry attempted to clarify.
‘No, Potter, I don’t,’ Smythe said, stepping away from him in a whirl of
robes. ‘And I rather think your team is waiting for you.’
‘Oh, yeah,’ Harry said, feeling absurdly disappointed. He watched Smythe
take the spectator’s route out of the stands until he was out of sight
before heading down to the pitch.
Ron caught Harry in the Great Hall, where he was tucking into a belated
breakfast of shepherd’s pie. Trapped betwixt a mouthful of pumpkin juice and
a fork piled with mashed potato, Harry had no choice but to wait and
masticate as Ron slid into the seat opposite him.
Ron began without preamble. ‘If you’re avoiding us because you’re gay, you
don’t have to.’
Harry choked for a good five minutes. When he recovered enough to speak, it
was with streaming eyes and an uncomfortably flushed face. ‘What gave you
that bloody idea?’
Ron shrugged, his ears slowly turning red. ‘Always suspected,’ he mumbled.
‘And Hermione said …’
‘Ron, I’m the only one of the two of us to have had a girlfriend and you’re
accusing me of being gay?’ Harry abandoned his fork; his appetite had
gone the same way as the dinosaurs.
Ron made a face. ‘So you aren’t, then?’
‘Um,’ Harry said. ‘Um?’ There didn't seem to be room in his brain for an
emphatic denial, he found. Or for any surprise at that fact.
Ron’s face cleared. ‘You don’t need to avoid us because of that!’
‘I’m not avoiding you because of my preferences -- which are my own
business, anyway,’ said Harry, with what he thought was laudable patience.
‘I have other reasons.’
‘And they are?’ Ron demanded.
‘I can’t tell you!’
‘Oh, jeez,’ Ron groaned, covering his face with his hand. ‘This is the snake
thing all over again, isn’t it?’
Harry started, thinking for a moment he was talking about Malfoy and the
other Slytherins, before recalling Nagini. A cold wave of sweat broke over
his skin at that and he rubbed his arms through his jumper.
‘Sort of,’ he said, reluctant to encourage Ron in his new acuity.
‘Harry,’ Ron said, sounding pained, ‘after all this time, and everything
we’ve been through, you still can’t trust us?’
‘I do trust you!’ Harry cried. ‘It’s exactly because of that that I have to
--’ He stopped speaking, fearing to give away too much.
Ron eyed him, wearing a speculative expression. ‘Are you angry with us?’
Harry shook his head mutely, wrapping his arms around his body.
‘Do you not want to be friends with us anymore?’
‘Why, Harry? Did we do something?’
Harry shook his head.
Ron sat back with a heavy sigh. ‘So you’re not worried that we’ll hate you
because you like boys, you’re not angry with us and we didn’t do anything to
upset you -- so you don’t want to be friends why, precisely?’
‘Trust me -- if there was any other way, I’d take it.’ Harry’s voice shook
with sincerity. Ron peered into his face.
‘I believe you,’ Ron said. ‘Hermione’s all for tying you up and forcing you
to tell us, like last time, but seeing as she thinks it’s -- ehm -- sexual
--’ his face went an interesting shade of puce ‘-- she doesn’t want to push
too soon either. Is it going to take long, this thing you’re working
Harry thought about how soon Voldemort was likely to make his next move. It
wasn’t likely to be a protracted plan. ‘No,’ he replied in a tone that he
valiantly attempted to prevent from sounding ghastly.
‘And you’ll come back when you’re done, won’t you?’ Ron asked. ‘Because we
‘I would like nothing better,’ Harry said, with absolute honesty. ‘But until
‘-- you want to back off.’ Ron clucked his tongue. ‘I can’t even begin to
understand, Harry mate, but if that’s what you want …’ He hesitated, before
reaching over and quickly patting Harry’s hand. ‘I’ll do it.’
‘Ron,’ Harry said, but he couldn’t get past that word. He was terrified that
his eyes were getting wet.
‘Yeah, well,’ Ron said, attempting a grin. ‘You’re a huge prat, but we like
you anyway.’ He paused. ‘Before I go -- the rumours about Susan --?’
‘Not true!’ Harry exclaimed. ‘She’s a --’ dealer ‘-- someone I know,
‘Well, I didn’t really think so,’ Ron said. ‘After all, don’t you like black
hair on gi-- bo-- people?’
‘Blondes,’ Harry said without thinking. Ron frowned.
‘Well -- whatever. At least I know now, for all the people who keep asking
‘Before you go -- you and Hermione?’ Harry asked swiftly.
Ron blushed. ‘Er. No. No, not -- yet.’
Harry smiled. For a moment it felt like everything was back to normal -- but
Harry knew that normal was only a byword for putting Ron and everyone else
in danger, so he let it fade back into a scowl. Ron pressed his lips
together, but he no longer looked so confused or angry.
‘Good luck,’ he said softly, walking away.
Harry set down his quill with a sigh and just prevented himself from rubbing
his scratchy eyes. It took too long to get the eyeliner straight to think of
carelessly rubbing it off just because it felt like microscopic hedgehogs
were holding a disco on his eyeballs. He decided that if he did any more
studying for the Defence test his brain would explode with sheer
overloading. At this stage, he felt if there was anything he didn’t know
about Time-Loop and all other clock-related curses, then it wasn’t worth
knowing -- or at least, it just wouldn’t fit into his brain.
It was half-past eight and he supposed he should leave the library before he
got caught for breaking curfew. He would have come back with his
Invisibility Cloak were it not for the fact that the words on the page were
starting to dance tangos in front of his eyes and he really didn’t think he
should be encouraging them in that sort of deviant behaviour.
Gathering up the books he’d taken from the shelves and stuffing them into
his bag, Harry yawned and stood up to leave. He was half-way to the door
when he realised he’s left his quill sitting on the desk he’d been using.
With a groan, he turned to retrieve it.
And walked straight into something warm and tall that smelled unfairly good.
Harry stumbled backwards, catching his hip on a shelf and looked up into
Smythe’s face, on which raised eyebrows featured predominately.
‘I never realised you were so clumsy, Potter,’ said Smythe. ‘You don’t
demonstrate this level of unco-ordination in the air.’
‘Huh -- what?’ said Harry, his brain feeling fuzzy and slightly behind
current events. Smythe narrowed his eyes.
‘Have you been indulging in some of the Puffs’ stock?’ he asked. ‘Not a good
idea during the week, I find.’
‘What? No, I was studying.’ Harry swung his bag upwards, narrowly avoiding
whacking Smythe in the groin with it. ‘Studying,’ Harry repeated, feeling a
need to justify his castrating dance.
‘I believe you,’ Smythe assured him. ‘What for?’
‘Defence Against the Dark Arts. Test. We have a test. Tomorrow.’ Harry,
looking up into Smythe’s eyes -- which were blue but slightly bloodshot --
found he couldn’t articulate sentences longer than four words. No wonder
Smythe had thought he was high. Now all Harry needed to do was figure out
why he was acting like this -- he was tired, but not that bloody
‘You got an Outstanding in your OWL.’ It wasn’t a question; Smythe spoke in
the tones of one who knew.
‘Yeah. I did. How’d you know?’ Harry cleared his throat, wondering if that
would help with the verbal constipation. It didn’t, but he sounded like an
old man with bronchitis, which was of course the exact image Harry hoped to
present to cool, attractive seventh-years.
Smythe shrugged, managing to look enigmatic with no apparent effort. ‘Well
done,’ he said. ‘Outstandings are rare, even for Ravenclaws.’
‘Did you get one?’ asked Harry, wondering if the conversation had any point
at all, other than to make Harry sound like an idiot.
‘Yes,’ Smythe said. ‘I’m not taking it for NEWTs, though.’ His cool blue
gaze raked over Harry, slowly and with excruciating indolence. Harry felt
himself growing hot underneath Smythe’s speculative expression and felt an
immense urge to wriggle. Away, preferably.
‘You aren’t?’ Harry remembered to say, ten years later. ‘I -- you never came
to -- no.’ He stopped, aware that the DA had been a secret organisation and
Smythe, never having been there, would not know about it.
‘Your little vigilante group?’ Smythe sounded amused. ‘No, open rebellion is
not my style.’
‘How did you know about the DA?’
‘Malfoy, of course,’ Smythe said, inspecting his nails. ‘He boasted about
having sprung you -- and the rest of the outlaws, although I doubt they were
of much interest to him -- at the next poker game.’
Harry remembered how Malfoy had tripped him up that day, and the light of
manic revenge in his eyes. ‘I’m not surprised,’ he said bitterly.
Smythe raised his eyebrows. ‘You shouldn’t be. No one else there was.’
Harry frowned. ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘Only what it means,’ Smythe said. ‘Are you going back to Gryffindor Tower?
I’ll walk with you.’
‘Oh -- okay,’ Harry said, hugging his bag of books to himself. Smythe’s eyes
were like lasers, dispassionately stripping away everything in their path.
He made Harry feel naked. It wasn’t that Harry didn’t like it, although he
probably shouldn’t, it was just that he’d never felt more at a loss of how
to react, even when faced with a ten-foot long snake or the Dark Lord. Or
Smythe walked a little ahead of Harry, his robes billowing about him in a
manner not unlike Snape’s, although Smythe was taller than Snape, his
shoulders were broader and his ankles were absolutely amazing. All
details Harry noticed in the name of comparison, of course.
‘Do you find Malfoy attractive?’ asked Smythe. Harry felt like he had three
feet all of a sudden and almost tripped.
‘What?’ he spluttered. ‘Are we talking about the same Malfoy here? He’s a
raging git! I hate him!’
Smythe stopped so abruptly that Harry walked into his back. He was getting
far too acquainted with being squashed up against this boy.
‘You didn’t answer the question,’ Smythe said, turning so that Harry was
effectively pinioned between him and the wall, his bag the only barrier
between them. Smythe’s face was so close to Harry’s he would only have to
turn his head up to meet his mouth, and Harry did not just think that
‘What was the question again?’ Harry said, swallowing.
Smythe didn’t answer. His hand crept up between them to push Harry’s bag
away. His face was really very close; Harry could feel his skin tightening
as Smythe’s warm breath touched it. He seemed to have a crazy effect on
Harry’s lungs as well, because they had suddenly become so small that Harry
could only breathe in short pants.
‘You shouldn’t get mixed up with that kid,’ whispered Smythe. His hand had
advanced as far as Harry’s chest now and was creeping inexorably downwards,
where other things were reaching up towards it. ‘He’s crazy.’
‘I know,’ said Harry, ‘he's always been crazy.’ He followed Smythe’s hand
with his eyes, wishing his breath wasn’t coming quite so fast. He thought he
might pass out. Of all things, hyperventilation was not the sort of reaction
he hoped for when he was -- what? Being seduced? Groped? Smythe’s face was
so close now Harry had to half-close his eyes so they wouldn’t cross in the
effort of focusing.
‘But then again,’ Smythe said, his lips forming the words directly in front
of Harry’s mouth, so that his mouth just grazed Harry’s as he spoke them,
‘so are you.’
At that point, Harry handed over control of his body to his back brain.
Making a terrible sort of desperate sound in the back of his throat, he
arched his neck, so that Smythe’s mouth and his came into sudden and total
And Smythe was still talking, his mouth retreating the merest of
distances to press the words on to Harry’s lips. Harry thought he might be
saying, ‘Fucking crazy,’ but it was hard to tell, especially when Smythe’s
tongue joined in the conversation, swiping across Harry’s lower lip at the
exact moment his thigh slid between Harry’s legs. Harry’s hips jerked into
Smythe’s at the contact and, to his shame, he whimpered.
Smythe broke away and Harry let his head fall against the cool stone wall,
‘As an experiment, that worked quite well,’ Smythe remarked. Harry noted
that Smythe's leg was still between his, and that Smythe's body was pressed
close to Harry’s, and that Harry was not the only one who had --
‘Experiment?’ Harry said sharply, as the words registered.
‘Yeah,’ said Smythe, swooping in suddenly to kiss a place just where Harry’s
jaw met his ear. It made him gasp in surprise, at the roughness of Smythe's
stubble and the softness of his lips on a part of Harry that he’d hitherto
considered unkissable. Smythe spoke against his neck; he seemed quite fond
of holding conversations with parts of Harry’s face. ‘You’re just a pretty
little boy-kisser, aren’t you, Potter?’
‘Uhn,’ was all Harry felt capable of producing. This was fair, in his
opinion, considering Smythe’s teeth were scraping slowly over his skin,
followed by his tongue.
‘Good to know,’ Smythe continued, removing his mouth from Harry’s neck.
Harry shivered as cold air moved against the damp patches on his neck.
‘Well, this is me.’
‘What?’ said Harry, his mouth dropping open as Smythe withdrew and brushed
off his robes with an air of decided concentration.
‘The statue,’ said Smythe, indicating a graceful likeness of Rowena
Ravenclaw in a rather racy toga with his thumb. ‘Ravenclaw Tower.’
‘You’re going?’ said Harry, and cursed himself three ways from Tuesday for
being such a needy loser.
‘See you around, Potter,’ said Smythe. He was definitely smirking. The dusky
light and Harry’s fog of arousal weren’t quite enough to camouflage that
dirty little fact.
At that moment Pansy Parkinson appeared around the corner, fingering her
Prefect badge and generally looking like she deserved a baton and an SS
patch. Smythe took one look at her and disappeared behind the statue;
craning his neck, Harry saw an opening appear before him. He silently bid
farewell to Smythe's ankles.
‘Potter!’ barked Pansy. ‘What are you doing out? It’s almost nine o’clock.’
‘Um,’ Harry said, rather distracted by the events that were very nearly
happening beneath his robes. ‘Co -- Going now.’
‘Was that Mark Smythe?’ she demanded. She looked rather put out, Harry
noticed, although with his state of mind he was in no way to judge whether
it was resentment or religious fervour he glimpsed on her face.
‘His name is Mark?’ Odd how it wasn’t at all important, when compared to how
amazing his mouth had felt on Harry’s --
Harry realised he’s just kissed a boy.
A member of the male species.
‘What did I do?’ Harry half-screamed, stuffing his fist into his mouth.
‘I don’t know,’ said Pansy, ‘although I could venture several disgusting
possibilities, but if you don’t get to your filthy little commoner’s
dormitory in five seconds you will be doing detention tomorrow.’
Harry grabbed his books and ran.
Smythe wasn’t anywhere near blonde.
Draco was highly annoyed. He lay back on his bed, rubbing the new silk
pyjama bottoms his mum had sent him through one of the family owls. They
itched terribly. Draco glared angrily at the jade green hangings of his
four-poster, rolled on to his bare stomach and tried to think. Right.
Potter had turned up at the poker game uninvited. Uninvited and wearing
eyeliner, a small voice at the back of Draco’s head reminded him
If Draco was completely honest with himself, he’d half-hoped Potter would
put in an appearance, to liven things up a bit. It wasn’t as if gatecrashing
was totally out of the question in the first place – Potter clearly had this
thing about open defiance and their paths had seemed to be running
alongside each other of late. Draco wondered vaguely if this was because he
was pursuing Potter, or vice-versa. Draco hoped it was vice-versa. Not
because he wanted that idiot within ten feet of him, but because he didn’t
want to be the one who was … oh, fuck.
Everyone was either dismissing the eyeliner as something to do with Potter’s
hormones or embracing the fact that The Boy Who Lived managed to make every
school year a national event, with or without any threats to his life.
Potter had been making some new changes, that was for certain. Potter was
rude and surly to teachers, he ignored his old mates, and he committed
social suicide by hanging out with a Puff girl – although since he had few
friends left to lose, this hardly mattered.
According to the many rumours floating around the school, You-Know-Who was
controlling Potter through the Imperius Curse. Also, the reason the Mudblood
and the Weasel weren’t speaking to him anymore was because of some dramatic
unrequited love triangle between the three. Potter was a drug addict because
he was trying to cope with the severe emotional stress he’d undergone in the
past five years. Susan Bones was feeding Potter drugs in return for
protection from You-Know-Who. Susan Bones was feeding Potter drugs in return
for sexual favours. Potter was gay.
Draco was no stranger to the last rumour; he’d tried to spread it himself,
in fourth year, but the timing had been wrong – everyone was talking about
the damn Triwizard Tournament and the champions and the tasks. Draco
personally couldn’t see why an oversize lizard that breathed fire was more
attention-grabbing than someone’s alleged homosexuality, but that was
Hogwarts for you: unpredictable. Around Christmas he’d tried to re-spread
more malicious hearsay, mentioning his ‘suspicions’ to Pansy one night in
the common room – without the ferocious female enthusiasm for gossip, all
rumours are stillborn - but the only thing that Parkinson and her clique
were interested in discussing was the theory that Granger had gone to the
Yule Ball in a wig.
'Draco,' grunted Crabbe from the dormitory, outside the green veil. Draco
scowled, and ground his head into his pillow in irritation.
There was a pause.
Draco couldn’t believe it. He scratched his itchy leg. 'How the buggering
hell should I know?'
'You said you were going upstairs … you said. I thought he might’ve come
'I said I was going upstairs to take a shower,' Draco hissed, shaking
his head in disbelief. Tiny droplets from his hair flew every which way,
leaving damp spots on the duvet.
'I know. I still thought he might’ve come.'
'I haven’t seen him.'
'Oh.' There were no sounds of movement from behind the curtain. Draco
'You can leave now, Crabbe.'
Draco heard the shuffling of feet go past his bed, then the door slam. He
sank down on to his pillows again, and thought about what Crabbe had just
said. Surely he didn’t think …
Ew. No way. Especially not with Goyle. Not only would it be a
bitterly cold day in hell when that happened, but pigs would have mastered
aeroplane travel, and Hagrid would complete a sentence without dropping a
Draco definitely wasn’t gay. He and Pansy had … they’d … they’d done some
things and that proved without a shadow of a doubt that Draco wasn’t gay,
because he’d liked it. Enjoyed it, even. He’d have enjoyed it a lot more if
Pansy hadn’t kept stopping to preen and if she hadn’t reapplied her make-up
immediately afterwards, but that couldn’t be helped. His relationship with
Potter was purely … everything a relationship wasn’t. The only reason he got
on Potter’s case was because he hated him. Malfoys manipulated people, that
was what they did.
Except Draco thought that, maybe, manipulative people didn’t usually obsess
over the people they tormented. The people he picked on were supposed to be
inconsequential, not the main focus of his life. You might bully them
because you were bored, but not because when you didn’t life seemed
unbearably dull and pointless. Draco knew that manipulative people were
supposed to always be in control. Being attacked in the middle of a poker
game and having your head bashed against the floor by a raving lunatic did
not really square with anyone’s definition of the words ‘in control’. And
having thoughts about the aforementioned attacker certainly didn’t
reflect ‘control’ in any sense. It bordered on the realm of lunacy, in fact.
Draco touched a purpling bruise on his shoulder gingerly. Ok, so Potter
had been trying to cause him irreparable damage when he’d done that, but
what Draco remembered was Potter’s hands on him, and his warm body over his,
and the nervous thrill of excitement he got when he saw Harry's angry face
just above his own ...
Draco shivered. If he was thinking things like this, then by all rights he
should be locked up in a ward in St. Mungo’s. Maybe the Healers should feed
the key to a Skrewt, just to be on the safe side.
The funny thing – no actually, it wasn’t funny, it was perverse - was
that Draco still loathed Potter’s guts. Nothing was really any different,
except for the fact that Draco had to shove his hands inside his robes and
head along to the nearest toilet cubicle whenever he was forced to spend a
prolonged amount of time in close proximity to Potter and that
happened at least twice daily. Twenty-three times a week, but who was
Draco wasn’t. It didn’t bear thinking about, let alone counting. Only, he
did think about Potter. Incessantly.
Even though the lout had somehow managed to get him aroused, he never
came hinking about Potter. He’d tried originally to make Potter turn him
off instead of on, but that hadn’t worked. Draco had made himself remember
all the extremely unattractive things about Potter: his hair, his hexes, how
he beat Draco at everything, the way he threw around words like the Dark
Lord's name and ‘Death Eater’ as if they didn’t mean anything … but it
always came back to Potter’s face, the gaze that cut through you like a
knife and made you feel utterly naked, even underneath heavy robes …
So Draco thought of Belinda instead. Belinda was soft and curvy and pretty.
She wasn’t angular and lean like Potter and she didn’t have the beginnings
of stubble on her cheeks. Belinda wore pastel frills and jewellery that
clanged and clattered wherever she went. She didn’t skulk around and glare
out at the world from behind messy black hair and she didn’t turn up
standing too close behind him when he least expected it, her breath hot on
his neck. Belinda smelt of perfume and aromatherapy oils, not stale
cigarette smoke and musty robes. Also, Belinda was a girl, which was why she
always won. Because Draco wasn’t gay, it was just a phase, an infatuation,
something that he’d look back on and laugh -- or, alternatively, shudder --
Draco pummelled a pillow, in the hopes that it’d make him feel better. It
didn’t. He considered projecting Potter’s face on to it, but then he threw
it through the curtain in exasperation. That would just be the same as
imagining Potter in bed with him.
It was about then that he noticed that all the hangings in the room were the
exact same shade of green as Potter’s irises. As was nearly every item of
clothing he owned, because he was a Slytherin, and nothing if not patriotic.
Potter was fucking everywhere.
‘Right, so I can imagine you’re wondering why I asked you two to stay after
class,’ Belinda began, scratching her bare arms absent-mindedly. Draco
shrugged in response.
‘Are we in trouble for something?’ Potter asked, in a voice that
managed to imply that if they were, it was certainly all Draco’s fault.
‘No, you’re not, Harry,’ Belinda reassured him. ‘It’s just … I’m,
like, concerned. The thing is, Draco, you got full marks in the last
Potter muttered just how unimpressed he was under his breath, perfectly
audible from the distance of two seats in front, which was where Draco was
sitting, but oddly enough inaudible from the desk three seats away, where
Belinda was perched. Draco wished that he could turn around and jinx Potter.
He would have, too, except Belinda was staring at him with the reproachful
look one usually reserved for children who tied tin cans to puppies’ tails.
‘Why am I in trouble for getting full marks?’ Draco asked.
‘Do you remember what topic the essay was set on?’ Belinda enquired, with an
‘If-You-Confess-Now-I-Won’t-Feed-You-To-The-Skrewts’ expression on her face.
‘The jinxes that Dark Spirits and Creatures are impervious to,’ Draco
answered, beginning to feel ill at ease. That essay had been courtesy of
Matthew Bloomsbury, first-year, Ravenclaw House. Matthew had been set a
concise essay on jinxes, to sum up the first-years’ rudimentary knowledge on
the subject and the little swot had scribbled five paragraphs on an
Advanced-Level topic. Draco had made Matthew cut it out of the final draft
-- six rolls of parchment was quite enough -- but not before copying it down
himself. Still, since Matthew hadn’t actually handed that section in, there
was no way Belinda could’ve found duplicates of his homework, was there?
‘That topic also made up, like, a quarter of the mid-term test,’ Belinda
informed Draco briskly, her eyes narrowed. ‘You failed that test, largely
due to your complete ignorance of that particular topic.’ Belinda
paused and licked her lips unhappily. ‘Can you explain this to me, Draco?’
‘I can explain,’ Harry interrupted from the back of the room,
sounding immensely bored. ‘Malfoy’s a stupid git and he cheated on the test.
What does any of this have to do with me?’
‘I’m coming to that bit,’ Belinda replied. She looked Draco in the eyes.
‘Draco, did you copy the work from in another student in the class?’
‘No,’ Draco replied, grateful to be able to tell the truth. Matthew wasn’t
in the class, he wasn’t even in their general age group. Harry snorted in
disbelief and Draco cringed inwardly.
‘I see,’ Belinda replied. The disappointment was written all over her face.
She’d obviously wanted Draco to burst into tears and reveal the whole truth,
so that she could pat him on the back, dry his tears, and lead him into the
way of truth and light. Whilst Draco wasn’t averse to patting or petting, he
didn’t fancy the idea of being made to understand the error of his ways and
coming out the other side a ‘reformed character’. Malfoy Manor was the
largest private estate for several counties. Whoever made up the expression
‘Cheaters never prosper’ was clearly talking out of their arse.
‘I see,’ Belinda repeated, meaning ‘I see that you’re not the boy I thought
you were and therefore you will never make anything of yourself in this life
or the next’. Draco wondered if Belinda believed in a ‘next’ life. Probably.
It was practically a given, when you counted up the number of bangles she
wore. ‘Nevertheless, your work is not as consistent as I would, like,
hope for it to be, so I’m supplying you with a tutor to get it up to
scratch. That’s why Harry’s here. He will --’
‘Professor,’ Harry interrupted, standing up noisily. ‘I don’t think that’s a
very good idea.’ Belinda’s face hardened slightly, and she stopped smiling.
Draco swivelled round in his seat to look at Potter, but he ignored him.
‘Why is that, Harry?’
‘Because.’ Potter gestured in Draco’s vague direction and made a
disgusted face. ‘I hate him.’
‘I hate him too,’ Draco mumbled, flushing pink. Potter looked unperturbed;
he merely tugged irritably at the collar of his robes and nodded at Belinda.
Belinda frowned. Her expression was more reminiscent of a disapproving
McGonagall than the happy-go-lucky grin her class were accustomed to.
‘You are acting,’ she said slowly, ‘like petulant children. Harry, your
dislike for Draco, however strong it may be, is of very little concern to
me. What I am concerned about is that all my pupils have a thorough
understanding of the subject. Harry, this is as much for your good as it is
Draco’s. You’re seriously lacking in extra-curriculars, you’re not really
giving anything back to the school community --’
‘I’m Quidditch Captain!’ Potter objected indignantly.
‘-- apart from Quidditch,’ Belinda finished. ‘Anyhow, I know all
about your little brawl with Draco in Potions and I personally think
that this will be good for both of you, emotionally, so that you can, like,
mature. You need to learn that not every little spat is solved with one’s
‘Yeah, sometimes a quick hex to the back of the head can be helpful too,’
Draco muttered under his breath.
‘Shut your face, Malfoy,’ Potter scowled, shoving his books into his bag.
‘You two are really unbelievable,’ Belinda commented with wry amusement.
‘You’re worse than the girls in my third-year class.’
‘Yeah, well. So?’ Draco replied rudely, then wished he hadn’t, as it sounded
too stupid for words. He caught sight of Potter standing directly behind him
and jumped about a foot into the air, banging his knee painfully against the
wood of the desk.
'You can have the tutoring sessions in your study period, which I believe
you share,’ Belinda murmured, strolling over to the teacher’s desk and
stuffing some crumpled sheets of paper into her brown satchel. It looked as
if she had sewn it herself -- blindfolded. ‘Or you can like, have them at
the end of the day, in the evenings, though that may interfere with your --’
‘Quidditch.’ Potter answered. His fists were clenched, and Draco moved
sideways slightly. Surely Potter wouldn’t punch him, not here, right in
front of Belinda.
‘There’s always weekends,’ Belinda said breezily, her hand on the doorknob.
‘By next lesson, I want you to have decided on the sessions and scheduled
them into your timetables. Ideally there should be about two hours a week,
but if you’re too busy --’
‘Which I will be,’ Potter scowled.
‘-- then occasionally one hour per week will have to suffice. Draco, I
expect you to show significant improvement and Harry, I expect you to help
him to the best of your ability. All right, boys?’
Belinda waltzed out of the room, leaving behind a musky scent of
aromatherapy oils. Potter glared at Draco, who looked at his feet in
consternation. There was a tense silence for a few seconds.
‘Study sessions, then?’ Draco asked coolly. Potter ran his fingers through
his tangled hair in frustrated annoyance.
‘No can do, you tosser. I need them to do Potions in.’ He made an impatient
noise deep in his throat and stared at the wall. ‘It’s not as if I want to
spend more time with you than I absolutely have to, but Snape always gives
us so much bloody homework -- greasy git --'
The door burst open suddenly. It was Smythe, the one who had pulled Potter
off Draco at the poker game. It didn’t look as if he’d shaved since that
night, but even the coarse brown stubble didn’t make him look wholly
undesirable. Unattractive. Something.
‘Potter, what the fuck?’ Smythe complained. ‘I’ve been waiting …’ His eyes
drifted over to Draco, and his eyebrows shot up in recognition. ‘Christ.
You’re not going to jump on him again, are you?’
‘Not this time.’ Potter grinned, his eyes lighting up at Smythe’s sudden
appearance. Draco glanced at both of them curiously. What the hell was going
on? ‘Look, give us a minute,’ Potter continued, scratching the back of his
neck with his dirty, bitten fingernails. ‘I’ll be out in just a sec.’
Smythe grinned amiably at Draco, who felt a cold shiver run down his spine.
His lips tensed in response.
‘Sure thing, I’ll leave you two alone.’ The door banged shut again. Draco
looked at Potter suspiciously, who had a small half-smile playing about his
‘So … are you and Smythe mates now, or what?’ Draco asked.
Potter paused, and dragged his teeth across his upper lip. ‘In -- in a
manner of speaking. Yeah.’
‘Oh,’ Draco managed, through gritted teeth. He was starting to get quite hot
underneath all his robes. ‘Anyway …’
‘I’m sorry, am I making you uncomfortable?’ Potter asked innocently. Draco
stared at him. Potter looked back, his face blank. Shit, it really was hot
in that classroom.
‘No – bloody hell – it’s just --' Draco either needed to get to the privacy
and blessed quiet of a toilet cubicle, fast, or sit down so that
Potter wouldn’t see --
‘Because I really shouldn’t make you uncomfortable,’ Potter continued
relentlessly, his eyes boring into Draco’s head. ‘I mean, the thought of him
and me as -- mates -- shouldn’t bother you at all, Malfoy.’
Draco looked at the door in desperation, and then remembered that Smythe was
on the other side – that wasn’t an extremely profitable escape route. He
shot a brief look at the treacherous bit of his anatomy and, to his horror,
Potter did too. His eyes widened until they didn’t so much resemble saucers
as honking great dinner plates.
Potter’s eyes travelled up and down Draco’s body, stopping at his face. He
gave Draco a Look, a Look Draco knew only too well because it was one he
gave people regularly. It was the barely-restrained glee of someone who has
just found out something that will work very well towards their advantage
and plans to exploit the information as soon as humanly possible. Draco sank
down into a chair, ignoring the ache between his legs. Potter sneered.
‘Fine, then,’ he said. ‘I think we should continue are discussion at a time
that’s more convenient for you, Malfoy. You’ve clearly got things to attend
to, so I won’t take up more of your time than I already have.’ Potter walked
out of the room, smirking. Before the door swung shut, Draco heard a snippet
of Smythe and Potter’s conversation.
‘Took your bloody time,’ Smythe said hoarsely. ‘What were you talking to
Malfoy about, anyway?’
‘What do you think we were talking about?’
‘Sex,’ Smythe replied briskly. ‘Have you had anything to eat yet?’
The door closed. Draco sank down into his empty chair and gazed around the
empty classroom. It didn’t really matter whether they’d been talking about
sex or not. Whichever way you looked at it, he was well and truly screwed.
Kissing Smythe, Harry reflected, was a bit like shoving your lips against a
ticking hand grenade. There was just no telling when he would go off.
Harry enjoyed it, almost too much. There was just something not quite right
about all of it. He didn’t even consider wanting to be courted, but
at the same time he occasionally thought that Smythe and he should, he
didn’t know, talk or something. Or at least, talk about something that
wasn’t one-sided, half-garbled articulations of desire, as Smythe’s hands
struck Harry quite dumb.
Smythe was a very tactile person. Of course, kisses were pretty tactile
things, but with Cho, it had just been mouth on mouth action. Not that Harry
hadn’t enjoyed that, although the novelty factor had naturally played a
starring role in the proceedings. But Smythe, now, he was a different
country. Cho had been Scotland, basically being pretty sodden; or Ireland,
at that. Smythe was more like America -- he got Harry in the right position
and threw everything he had at him.
After class that Tuesday, for example. Harry had, as usual, waited for
everyone else to leave the classroom before making his own way out, so as to
avoid bumping into people and having to make conversation. Preoccupied with
shoving his quills into his bag, he didn’t register Smythe’s presence until
his fingers slid around Harry’s wrist and shoved him around.
Harry got as far as the ‘Wh’ in ‘What the hell?’ before Smythe’s mouth
shamelessly stole the rest of the sentence, not to mention any lingering
shards of sense in Harry's head.
It was quite a lingering kiss. That is, when it ended Harry discovered it
had engaged the best part of an hour. Harry’s bag had been abandoned early
on and he could feel quills and book-edges crumpling under his feet as
Smythe’s moans thrummed in Harry’s mouth and Smythe’s hips canted his own
into the wall. Smythe's hands -- his hands were everywhere, gripping Harry’s
jaw as his tongue mercilessly ransacked Harry’s mouth, sliding down the
ultra-sensitive skin of his neck into the hollow of his throat, mapping the
length of Harry’s torso, tangling in his hair. His legs curled around
Harry’s, so that Harry would almost certainly have tripped if he had tried
to push Smythe away.
The only place his hands didn’t venture was where their bodies
pressed together most urgently. Harry presumed that this was because the
movement of his hips was doing the job of increasing the heat there
to scalding point quite efficiently.
Just when Harry kept having to break away to gasp, breathing Smythe’s air
having become too laborious, Smythe stepped away from him. Harry’s
jelly-legs wobbled and he sank against the wall for support.
‘Nice one,’ Smythe said, in a tone of approval, and walked off.
Harry stared after him, his lip curling incredulously. He’d -- and he was --
and Harry was, god damn it! And Smythe had just left!
It seemed to be a pattern. Which would have been fine by Harry, even if he
was harbouring practically permanent bruises on his collarbones and he got
stubble rash something awful and he was wanking so hard every night and at
choice times during the day too that it was starting to hurt. Only, every
time, Smythe upped the ante.
Every time he pulled Harry into a broom cupboard to snog in a darkness
punctuated only by breathless moans, he would push him on to boxes, buckets
and once what felt like a stack of cauldrons. Harry would be thrust betwixt
the wall and said seating fixture, Smythe using his full weight to keep
Harry where he wanted him and Smythe’s hands, when not teasing the rest of
Harry’s anatomy, would slide under the collar of his robes and down to his
At first it was just the most fleeting of caresses before his hands returned
to holding Harry’s jerking hips in position. Then it was a touch, twist and
pinch. Pretty soon Harry found his robes unceremoniously parting company
with his shoulders as soon as Smythe kicked the door closed. Smythe liked to
kiss Harry’s nipples nearly as much as he liked kissing Harry’s neck and
even as much as his mouth. Harry's nipples were permanently swollen
Every time Smythe shoved Harry up against a handy wall, door, alcove or
pillar, his hands would head south. Initially they lingered around his waist
as Harry arched his neck up and kissed and was kissed until his jaw ached
and almost locked. Then it was his hips. Then it was his arse. And there
they stayed … caressing. It was the only word for it.
At first Harry had squirmed away and Smythe let him. However, as soon as he
settled, his hands would sneak back. Seeing as the sensations engendered
were pleasurable, Harry let him. He still felt uncomfortable, though. Not to
mention that every, single, bloody time, Smythe left him hanging, literally.
Mostly, it was all Harry could do to make it to a nearby toilet, and
sometimes not even that.
Out of the blue, Smythe asked him, ‘Want to come to this place I know?’
Harry, who thought the question had been supposed to stop about four words
earlier, choked, which Smythe seemed to take as acquiescence. He smoothly
did up Harry’s robes again -- it was a broom cupboard afternoon -- and
tugged him upright.
‘But I --’ Harry gestured helplessly downwards. Even in the gloom, he could
see the gleam of Smythe’s teeth as he grinned. He slithered his arm around
Harry’s waist, pulling him close.
‘Yeah, I know,’ he said into Harry’s ear, lips kissing the vowels into his
skin. ‘It’s hot.’
Harry would have to agree there, but it didn’t absolve the fact that it was
also bloody frustrating, too. His mind distracted with what was going on
under his robes, he let Smythe lead him down corridors and up a spiral
stairs to a large statue. Smythe opened the door beside it, revealing a tiny
room with a dusty sofa sitting beneath a gummed-up window.
‘Sit down,’ Smythe tossed carelessly over his shoulder. With extreme care,
keeping his legs tightly pressed together, Harry gingerly seated himself.
Smythe sat down beside Harry. Well, it was almost on Harry, but Harry wasn’t
a Ravenclaw, to quibble over the terminology. Smythe's lips started
investigating the very interesting patch of skin under Harry’s earlobe,
while his hand wove around Harry’s, stroking the skin of his palms.
‘Um,’ Harry said, feeling his brain turn to mush as Smythe pressed his long,
lean body up against Harry’s side.
‘Are you hard, Harry?’ Smythe’s voice was almost mocking, but his knee was
now wedged under one of Harry’s own and it was severely impeding the
operation of Harry’s rational brain. Always assuming he had one.
‘Yeah,’ moaned Harry, wanting to add something like: ‘Isn’t it bloody
obvious?’, but not caring to stop Smythe dragging his teeth just under his
‘Do you want me to touch you, Harry?’
Smythe’s flat hand was delineating circles on Harry’s arched belly and his
mouth had descended to Harry’s collarbones -- boy, but was he obsessed with
those. Any minute, his teeth were going to force his robes open. Harry had
no doubt that this would be the case. He’d done it before.
‘Harry …’ The word was drawled. All contact was suddenly removed, except for
one of Smythe’s hands, which had insinuated itself between his legs. Harry
jerked upwards, almost biting clean through his lower lip.
‘Think about Malfoy.’
Harry screamed and came.
He wanted to demand what the hell that had been in aid of. He
wanted to shake Smythe and yell that he’d had quite enough of coming to
Malfoy’s name, thank you very much.
He wanted to know how he knew.
Smythe was rubbing himself against Harry now, purring in the back of his
throat and forcing Harry’s hand down between Harry’s hip and Smythe’s.
Almost unwillingly, Harry let him. It was worth it, perhaps, as Smythe
sighed, his lips wet and parted as the heat spread under Harry’s hand. It
just didn’t feel right.
Smythe was a prick-teaser, Harry decided angrily, as his hand strayed under
the table again and stroked Harry’s inner thigh, just below the
rapidly-becoming-more-pointed crucial point. All the while affecting utter
disregard of Harry’s flushed cheeks and sudden loss of appetite.
The Ravenclaws hadn’t paid much attention to the new addition to their
table. Harry could barely follow their conversations. The number of
syllables they used in single words would have done him for two or three
sentences. He was exceedingly bored and he had an erection, which was not a
He glanced around him, feeling tired. A glimpse of bangles at the Head Table
sent an unpleasant jolt through his stomach. Malfoy. Tutoring. Huge big pain
in the arse, and still not organised.
‘Gotta go,’ muttered Harry in Smythe’s general direction. Smythe was engaged
in a heated debate on chaos theory with the boy Harry recognised from the
poker night and didn’t acknowledge Harry's departure. At least, not
verbally. Harry made sure to detach Smythe's hand before he stood up.
Harry yawned, rubbing his mouth on his hand as he wandered over to the
Slytherin table. He was vaguely aware of their hostile glares, but he had
more pressing matters on his mind, and one of them was actually Malfoy.
‘Oi, you,’ Harry said, poking him in the back. After extricating himself
from his bread-and-butter pudding, into which he’d very nearly fallen
headfirst, Malfoy glared up at Harry, nostrils flaring.
‘What the hell do you want?’ he demanded, and Harry must have been really
tired, because looking at the spot on Malfoy’s cheek -- almost dead centre
in the pulsing red blush of anger -- was far more interesting than coming up
with a nasty reply.
‘Tutoring,’ he said wearily. ‘We have to organise times and stuff. When’s
your stupid Quidditch practice?’
‘Tuesdays and Thursdays,’ said Malfoy, after a pause in which he seemed to
be waiting for Harry to add something more.
‘Well, mine are Mondays and Fridays,’ said Harry, ‘which leaves Wednesday.
Or the weekend. And I’m so not --’
‘Wasting my weekend with you,’ Malfoy sneered, at almost the exact
same time as Harry. They stared at each other in mutual consternation for a
‘Wednesdays it is,’ said Harry, shrugging. ‘Six o’clock? In the Defence
‘Are we allowed in there?’ asked Malfoy. His tone could almost have been
mistaken for cordial had it not been for the sadistic manner in which he was
gripping his spoon.
‘Oh, I forgot, you pretend to follow rules,’ said Harry, rolling his eyes.
‘I’m sure Lovebright will allow us. And if not, we can refuse to do it. Now,
isn’t that a happy thought?’
‘No,’ said Malfoy, pondering. ‘That would be the memory of your funeral.’
Harry grit his teeth and leaned in closer. There was just something about
Malfoy that sent him over the edge. Where angels dared not tread and all
that. Smythe didn’t. Quite obviously. Because he didn’t hate Smythe’s
guts and didn’t want to beat him three ways from next Tuesday to shut him up
once and for all, did he?
‘Really?’ he hissed. ‘You think I’ll let you live after me?’
‘I think --’
But Harry didn’t wait for him to finish. ‘Six o’clock!’ he sang, without
‘You’re fucking hot when you’re angry,’ Smythe’s voice breathed as his hand
brushed against Harry’s lower back. Harry just didn’t feel like kissing now.
He wanted to hit something and get rid of this ridiculous hard-on, which had
only got worse during his conversation with Malfoy but had nothing, nothing
at all, to do with Malfoy himself.
‘Leave me alone,’ he muttered, hunching his shoulders, and strode away.
He’d abandoned his friends. His boyfriend, or whatever Smythe was, never
addressed two words to him that didn’t have anything to do with sex. It was
horrible to think that his only real conversational exchange of late had
been with a boy he despised.
Harry didn’t expect Malfoy to be on time. He was the sort who liked making
an entrance, first of all, and second of all he’d do anything to piss Harry
off, because that was the status quo, wasn’t it?
So Harry was quite surprised when, only a few minutes after he’d sat down at
his usual desk and got his books out, the door opened again to admit one
For a second there was a tense silence. Harry’s gaze locked into Malfoy’s.
Malfoy was nervous.
Funny thing being, Harry was too. The closest he could remember was the
feeling he’d had when he was in fifth year on seeing Cho -- and kissing her,
too-- which was odd, because really, the emotion was nothing like it. Harry
hated Malfoy, after all.
Harry cleared his throat. ‘Sit down, then,’ he said, and blushed when he
remembered Smythe saying the same thing to him. It was a massively bad
thought to have at that particular point in time.
Malfoy tossed his hair back and strolled to the desk beside Harry, slamming
his books down. ‘I just want to say,’ he announced, ‘that I could think of
at least ten things I’d rather do with my time right now, and at least one
involves electric eels.’
Despite himself, Harry snorted.
Malfoy stared at him for a moment, his face utterly blank, before it fell
into a scowl. Harry reflected that Malfoy always did that. His reactions
were always a split-second too late, as if he had to take time out to judge
the situation before deciding on which response he’d take to it. It was odd,
mainly because his responses were generally those calculated to cause the
most insult, aggravation or blanket annoyance on the other person’s part.
However, it seemed as if such behaviour did not come naturally to him --
that it was, in fact, all an act.
‘Well?’ Malfoy asked rudely. ‘Are you going to stop staring and start
teaching some time this decade?’ He sat down beside Harry, heaving a
lugubrious sigh and starting to flip his books open.
‘We have to draw up a timetable first,’ Harry pointed out, retrieving a
stray scrap of parchment as it flew past his nose. ‘So I need to know what
I’ll be tutoring you in.’
‘Defence, nimrod,’ Malfoy said, gesturing extravagantly at the cover of his
Gnawing at the inside of his cheek, Harry managed not to bludgeon Malfoy to
death with a blunt instrument and counted it a notable success. Instead, he
opened the book to the chapter page, sticking his finger at the titles as if
they were Malfoy’s eyes. ‘Jinxes. Counter Jinxes. Curses. Practical Defence.
Dark Creatures. Defensive Theory. Offensive versus Defensive --’
‘All right, all right,’ Malfoy interrupted. He stared at the page, a crease
appearing between his brows. ‘I remember doing dark creatures with the
werewolf -- haha, irony --’
‘His name is Professor Lupin,’ Harry said through gritted teeth.
‘-- and theory with Umbridge,’ Malfoy continued blithely.
Harry waited a few minutes. ‘Is that all?’ he asked, when Malfoy remained
‘Well, I probably remember some of the jinxes. And curses, of course,’
Harry stared at him incredulously. ‘You mean you need to be tutored in
practically the whole course?’
‘Does this present a problem to you, Potty?’ Malfoy suggested,
smirking. ‘Beyond your puny talents, is it?’ He sounded altogether too
For once Harry let the insult slide in favour of looking through Malfoy’s
notes, which sported expensive-looking silk covers. They were also extremely
scanty. On looking closer, Harry found that quite a lot of them consisted of
tabulated conversations between Malfoy and Crabbe, who was generally reputed
to be somewhat more intelligent than Goyle, although the difference was as
between amoebas and bacteria. Harry’s eyes widened. Slowly, he began to read
Potter has such a fat head.
he not here
What’s that got to do with his head?
you cant see it
It’s called using your imagination, Goyle.
don’t have one
Don’t I know it.
Do I what?
Goyle, shut up.
i not talking !
Potter isn’t here. But he HAS a FAT HEAD.
no, is same size as you
SHUT UP, GOYLE!!!
Harry paused. ‘Ah. Things become clear.’ He pursed his lips. ‘I have to
disagree with Goyle, though, I reckon your head’s a good five times
as big as mine.’
‘I -- didn’t think you’d look through them.’
‘Why bring them, then?’
Malfoy shrugged. Harry blinked, because the way his robes moved over his
shoulders just then had been --
‘They were in with my books.’
‘Right.’ Harry pulled at his lower lip with a hand. ‘This is a bit of a
bind, isn’t it? You don’t seem to have paid attention in this class for oh,
Malfoy scowled. ‘It’s not like we had a high calibre of teaching staff. And
now I have you, so they’ve officially reached rock bottom.’
Harry leaned forward. ‘You think I want to be here, do you?’ he asked
conversationally, as Malfoy’s eyes crossed in an effort not to meet Harry’s,
which were about an inch away. ‘You think I relish the thought of
spending time with you?'
He leaned in even closer, so that Malfoy’s vision now incorporated Harry’s
nose as well as his own. ‘Let me take this opportunity, then, to assure you
that I do not. In case it escaped your notice, and I’ll assume it did
because you’re basically a tit, this is all for your benefit. You
seem pretty well on to failing this class and that would give me no
end of pleasure. I am not going to go out of my way to help you, so
you put in the spadework or I’ll be out of that door before you can say
Harry paused. He could feel Malfoy’s angered rasps of breath striking his
chin. Harry wished everything he’d said had been true and not subjugated to
the overwhelming urge to punch Malfoy as hard as he could and kiss him
senseless straight after.
‘Got it?’ added Harry.
‘Yeah,’ Malfoy said, shoving him away, and it occurred to Harry to wonder
why he hadn’t done it before. ‘I got a faceful of your bad breath. Clean
your teeth, you disgusting animal.’
‘I’m warning you --’ Harry began.
‘I know, I know,’ Malfoy said, rolling his eyes. ‘I’ll keep a civil mouth if
you do, agreed? And everything said here is fodder for later mocking to
‘Sounds like a plan to me,’ Harry said. He rubbed his neck. Malfoy followed
the movement and made a disgusted face.
‘You have a love bite, Potter,’ he pronounced in the same tones as
someone else would say, ‘You have a festering wound from a
‘Is that what it is?’ Harry said, rubbing his fingers over Smythe’s
distinctive way of marking his territory. He added, almost to himself, ‘But
he didn’t bite me.’
‘He?’ Malfoy repeated, his voice rather high.
Harry shot him a sharp look. He remembered Malfoy’s reaction to Smythe the
day Belinda had kept them after class. Actually, he’d had a bloody hard time
trying to forget it, as Malfoy’s erection kept popping up in his mind at the
most inopportune moments. He’d had his suspicions that day, when it was
enough to gloat that Malfoy was getting aroused at the thought of two boys
copping off, but now he was certain.
Malfoy fancied Smythe.
Harry had to hide a smile. It was so ... something. He didn’t know what
it was, really. It wasn’t a happy thought -- in fact it made Harry feel a
bit sick, but that was to be expected, of course. It was his sort-of
boyfriend Malfoy was lusting for, after all.
The sickness had to come from the fact that Smythe obviously fancied Malfoy
too, if his constant references were anything to go by. That was just great.
‘What’s great?’ Malfoy asked suspiciously and Harry realised he must have
said the last bit aloud. ‘Love bites? Oh, can we stop discussing this?’
‘You brought it up,’ Harry reminded him, but he was too preoccupied to put
any force into his words. ‘So, Defence. How much do you know about --’ he
cast his eye over the chapters ‘-- jinxes?’
‘How fast to run away from them?’
‘Stop being smart. Seriously, how many can you do?’
Malfoy waved an irritable hand. ‘A dozen or so. The ones on last year’s
‘There were fifty on the syllabus last year,’ Harry was moved to
‘Only a dozen were tipped to come up in the exam.’
Harry tugged at his lip again. It was a far preferable alternative to
looking at Malfoy, or thinking about how interesting he smelled or how his
foot was right next to Harry’s. Far from calming, as mercy would suggest,
the butterflies in his belly had now commenced an energetic ballet routine.
Harry felt hot, but it was a different sort of heat than the one he got when
he was around Smythe, or when he saw ankles, or when he woke up. It was a
heat that gripped his lungs and made every breath an effort, almost as if he
were winded, a heat that ringed his cheeks with warmth and colour. He was
torn between wanting to leave and staying to enjoy it.
He shoved his chair back and strode over to one of the cupboards. Malfoy
regarded him in consternation. What Harry was looking for was behind the
very first door.
‘Pillows, Potter?’ Malfoy said, his eyebrows forming an ambition to become
his hairline. ‘Is this going to be a class on defending yourself at a
‘Shut up, Malfoy,’ Harry said tiredly. He dropped the pillows on the floor
behind him. ‘Stun me.’
‘Cast a Stunning Jinx. On me.’
‘Uh …’ Malfoy drew his wand, but left it hanging by his side. ‘… the
invocation …’ he mumbled. A tic went under his left eye.
A dozen -- a hundred -- things sprung to Harry’s mind as he realised Malfoy
didn’t know it. He could cut Malfoy -- Malfoy with his good marks, his
scholastic complacency - down to nothing. He could destroy him in the way
that slighting his sexuality, personality or familial connections couldn’t.
He could make him grovel. And he knew that Malfoy knew it too.
Which was why he couldn’t. That was the point, wasn’t it? -- when you knew
what you could do to hurt someone else, you couldn’t do it and live.
Something in you would have to die.
‘It’s "Stupefy",’ Harry said.
Malfoy’s face visored as he waited for Harry to say more. When he didn’t,
Malfoy gulped -- Harry could see the muscles moving in Malfoy's neck and
fervently wished he hadn’t.
‘How do you know I won’t --’
‘Just do it, for crying out loud,’ Harry said impatiently. ‘You know you’ll
get caught if you do anything. It’s up to you to judge the risk.’
Malfoy frowned, and raised his wand.
Harry took an involuntary step backwards.
This time Harry fell to his knees. ‘Again!’ he yelled, getting to his feet.
‘This time like you mean it!’
Malfoy’s face hardened. ‘STUPEFY!’
The next thing Harry heard him say was, ‘Don’t you dare die, Potter. Don’t
you dare or I’ll kill you, you bastard.’
His eyes closed, Harry internally smirked. He knew Malfoy wouldn’t
have the guts to do anything. Malfoy had had a chance to kill or at least
severely maim him, and he hadn’t.
It was a sort of good thought.
Suddenly Malfoy’s hands were slapping at his cheeks. ‘OW!’ Harry roared. He
sat up, knocking Malfoy backwards. He shook his head to clear it. ‘Did your
Stunner work, then?’
‘Um.’ Malfoy looked as if he desperately wanted to say yes. Harry wondered
why there was a dilemma there. ‘I don’t think so. You tripped on a pillow
and hit your head on the floor.’
‘Oh,’ Harry said, as his skull began to throb. ‘I was just about to
congratulate you on reviving me.’
Harry rubbed the back of his head, eyeballing his rival. Malfoy’s face was
devoid of sarcasm, although he appeared to be scowling. ‘You’re not kidding,
‘No, I made it all up just to get quality time with you,’ said Malfoy,
rolling his eyes. ‘Death threats, insults, incredibly mediocre
conversational skills, probably a bad kisser if people prefer snogging your
neck … who wouldn’t want that?’
‘You, obviously,’ Harry said with a scowl. He knuckled his eyes. They came
‘You appear to be haemorrhaging black blood,’ Malfoy remarked, in a tone of
‘No, just eyeliner,’ Harry yawned. ‘You know what it is.’
‘In-bred sleaze-ball,’ Harry countered.
‘At least I haven’t got dirty blood!’
‘Sterilized yours, have you, Malfoy? ‘Cause last I checked, yours is as
bloody full of germs as mine.’
‘Oh yeah? You can’t prove that.’
‘Watch me!’ Fired up with righteous indignation, Harry shoved his hand into
his pocket and came up trumps with Sirius’ repaired pocket knife. Biting his
lip, Harry sliced open the pad of his thumb with the sharpest blade. ‘Hand!’
he barked at Malfoy. Mesmerised by the welling drops of red, Malfoy obeyed
and shrieked when Harry sunk the knife into his skin. Harry grabbed his
wrist with his other hand, feeling the pulse jump under the skin, and
squashed his thumb against Malfoy’s for a few seconds.
Malfoy stared down at his bloody digit. Harry tucked the knife back into his
robes still wet with Malfoy’s blood.
‘There,’ Harry said in triumph. ‘Can you tell mine from yours?’ He got to
his feet. ‘Learn off the fifty jinxes for next week and you can try them
‘On who?’ said Malfoy, glancing up. His eyes were still glazed.
‘Me, of course,’ said Harry.
Harry bit the end off his quill and resumed scribbling. Writing under
bedclothes with only his wand for light was regrettably not something he was
wholly unfamiliar with. This time it was a Potions essay due the next day.
Snape was one of those delightful teachers who simply assumed that every
student in his class took only one subject, and that it was Potions -- and
then gave them more work than they could handle even if they were only doing
Potions. Harry had discovered early on that Snape hated it more if you
handed up nothing than if you handed up a poorly written essay -- not that
Harry was ever going to get good marks out of the man. Even Malfoy seemed to
be finding the going tough, although after two hours of throwing jinxes at
Harry his Defence had improved. Harry still had some of the bruises.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when a voice just outside his curtains went
‘Psst!’. His first, terrified thought was that Smythe had somehow figured
out the Gryffindor password and had come to ravish him in the night. This
was put to the lie when the voice added, ‘Hey, Harry!’ in an unmistakeably
Harry extricated himself from his blankets with difficulty and opened the
‘Can I come in?’
‘Okay…’ With reluctance, Harry sat back and allowed Ron to clamber on to the
foot of the bed. ‘Oi, watch the ink bottle!’
‘This is what you do at night -- write essays?’ asked Ron, sounding amused.
‘Why, what do you do? Actually, don’t answer that.’ Harry coughed
uncomfortably. He hadn’t talked to Ron in weeks and was more affected than
he’d thought he would be to find that it was a difficult task. ‘What do you
‘A chat,’ said Ron, crossing his legs.
‘Oh?’ said Harry, dropping his parchment and quill on the floor. ‘What
‘A couple of things.’ Ron paused. ‘I wanted to commiserate you on having to
tutor Malfoy, for one.’
‘Oh, that.’ Harry wrinkled his nose. ‘Well, he’s as poisonous as ever and
really, really crap at Defence, but I haven’t killed him yet, have I?’
‘So Lovebright only picked you because you’re a good tutor?’ asked Ron.
‘Yeah,’ said Harry, surprised. ‘Why else would she?’
In the gloom he saw Ron shrug. ‘Why doesn’t she tutor him herself?’
‘I don’t know, Ron, I didn’t ask. Perhaps she doesn’t have time.’
‘Right, right.’ Ron nodded. ‘And -- that’s all you do, tutor him?’
‘No,’ said Harry, remembering some of the nastier jinxes he’d been on the
receiving end of with a wince. ‘I let him try out the spells on me.’
‘You what?’ Ron exploded. ‘Are you completely gone in the head?’
‘Look, Ron, how else is he going to learn? Lovebright will only come down on
us harder if I let him slack off. It’s going on my record too, so if
he fails again I’ll get a bad mark against my name.’
‘It’s not that.’ Ron sounded disgusted. ‘How can you trust him? Don’t you
remember all the times he’s ambushed you and tried to curse you until he
turned blue? You don’t think he’ll try that again first chance he gets?’
‘Well, he’s had plenty of chances, but he hasn’t done anything yet,’ Harry
pointed out. ‘I know he’s a noxious little bastard, Ron. I’ve told him so
numerous times! But I don’t curse him either and God knows I have
reason enough to. We have to not do that. There has to be some amnesty,
otherwise what’s the point of anything?’
‘I’m not convinced,’ said Ron, ‘I still reckon he’s just biding his time.’
‘I know he is!’ Harry ran an impatient hand through his hair. ‘I’m sure any
day soon he’ll just -- go for me. But it won’t be while I’m tutoring him. I
‘Well, I hope you’re right, for your sake,’ said Ron. He paused. ‘Hermione
sends her love.’
‘She knows about this?’
‘I said I was going to try and talk to you about this Malfoy thing.’ Ron
hesitated. ‘And … also … about the Mark thing.’
‘Mark?’ repeated Harry, drawing a blank. ‘Oh, you mean Smythe!’ Ron sent him
an odd look and Harry, flustered, felt himself begin to blush. ‘What about
‘Are you and he -- you know,’ said Ron, waving his hands about and seeming
to suggest that Harry and Smythe were participating in synchronised water
‘Um,’ said Harry, licking his lips. ‘I guess. He’s never said. But we are
--’ he rubbed his nose. ‘Messing about. Whatever.’
‘Ah,’ said Ron, sounding relieved but looking troubled. ‘But he’s got a
reputation for doing drugs and stuff.’
Harry nodded. ‘So do a lot of people in this school. Don’t worry,’ he added.
‘I’ve only done it once or twice.’
Ron snorted nervously. ‘Over the summer, actually, the twins and I tried it
out … I didn’t like it much.’
‘Nah,’ said Harry. ‘There’s better things to be doing.’
‘Like snogging?’ Ron suggested archly. Harry shoved him in the shoulder. ‘Go
on,’ Ron said, sounding intrigued. ‘What’s it like with another boy?’
‘Pretty much the same,’ said Harry, twisting his mouth. ‘A bit rougher. And
I get -- I mean, his stubble is a bit -- well, rough. But it’s good.’
‘That’s -- good,’ said Ron the glib. ‘I wouldn’t like to think he was
forcing you or anything.’
Harry recalled Smythe’s wandering hands, his determined teasing, and his
whispered promises of what he was going to do to Harry, in great detail,
very soon. Harry shivered. ‘No, no,’ he said, reassuring Ron as much as
himself. ‘It’s nothing like that.’
Game Three: Straight Flush
‘It’ll be fine,’ Katie encouraged Harry, patting him on the back. Harry
looked up at her, whey-faced. ‘Those Puffs are going down, I promise.’
‘I -- I think I’m going to be sick,’ moaned Harry.
‘Buck up, mate,’ Ron, who was passing, said. ‘I’ve never known you to be
this nervous before.’
‘I wasn’t captain before,’ Harry said, rubbing his head in anxiety.
All too soon, Madame Hooch called for them to come out on to the pitch. For
a moment, as everyone looked at him, Harry vacillated. Then he recalled that
he was supposed to lead the team on to the pitch. It was what the captain
had to do.
This certainty calmed him and he strode out on to the bright, chilly
sunlight. Behind him, the team fanned out in a V-shape.
The intensive, regular practices showed. His team moved like a well-oiled
machine. Four goals were scored by Gryffindor in the first five minutes and
before half-an-hour had gone by, Harry spotted the Snitch hovering over the
opposite goalposts. He tore after it with blind determination; Cedric’s
replacement didn’t stand a chance.
Then it was all over and Harry was sinking to the ground still holding the
Snitch, in a huddle of cheering team-mates. The crowd, who had barely had
time to settle, were streaming on to the pitch.
Just as Ron left off clapping him on the back in favour of receiving
Hermione’s approval for his goal-keeping, Harry felt himself grasped firmly
around the arm and spun around. He found himself looking straight into
Smythe’s smouldering eyes.
‘Good flying, caro,’ Smythe said, an enigmatic smile playing about
‘Er.’ Harry’s mind raced. ‘Thanks.’ Smythe surely wasn’t going to do
anything, was he? Not here. In front of all these people.
‘You have something …’ Smythe said, swiping his thumb against Harry’s cheek.
‘Your mascara ran.’
As Smythe strolled away without another word, as was his wont, Harry heard
Malfoy's faintly nasal drawl through the crowds. It was a pretty distinctive
voice, it had to be admitted, otherwise how would Harry have been able to
pick it out?
‘… seen better flying from a drunken mayfly.’
‘What was that, Malfoy?’ said Harry, pushing his way past two or three
people to where Malfoy was standing, flanked by Crabbe and Goyle.
Malfoy quirked his mouth. ‘Well, if it isn’t our resident fairy-boy,’ he
remarked to the world in general. 'Always wondered why you were so good with
broomsticks, Potter. Now I know.’
It was so utterly ridiculous that Harry had to laugh. It seemed to infuriate
Malfoy, which was all to the good. ‘Perhaps you should try it,’ suggested
Harry. ‘That way you could maybe, even, catch the Snitch.’
The crowd nearby, who’d been following the exchange with half an ear,
submitted a few approving snickers for endorsement. Malfoy lit up with rage
and Harry smiled.
‘You think you’re better at catching it?’ Malfoy spat.
‘Based on past evidence -- yeah,’ Harry said. ‘Why? Are you putting
up a challenge?’
Malfoy regarded him speculatively. Harry tried his best not to be affected
by it, but failed. Malfoy stepped closer to Harry, so that in the thrum of
the chattering, yelling crowd, his words were hardly audible.
‘You up for it, then, Potty?’ he mouthed. ‘You, me, some Beaters to keep
things interesting, midnight rules?’
Malfoy’s smile was slow and, when it came to its full extent, very wide. ‘In
other words -- no rules at all. After all, you like to break them, right?’
‘And you like to cheat.’ Harry pulled at his lower lip. ‘You’re on.’
‘Harry?’ Susan’s worried voice came in his ear. He half turned towards her.
‘… if it wasn’t for, you know, the social welfare payments there would be
less bloody, you know, crime among the working classes. Even though, you
know, maybe it’s best to let them, you know, kill themselves off …’
‘I call Susan for Beater,’ Harry announced to Malfoy.
‘Out-of-house players?’ Malfoy objected, but Harry waved a mocking finger in
front of his face.
‘Midnight rules, remember?’
‘Fine,’ Malfoy grated. He turned on his heel and stalked off.
‘What’s all this about?’ Susan whispered.
Harry turned shining eyes on her. ‘This is your chance to play Quidditch and
win, Suze. You’re up for it, right?’
‘Put like that,’ said Susan, ‘how can I refuse?’
Harry grinned and clapped her on the back. It was like patting a brick.
‘Oh, and Harry?’ Susan added speculatively. Harry turned to her. ‘Call me
Suze again and die. Understand?’
Harry ambled into Defence Against the Dark Arts a little early, having
awoken at six from a nightmare that had left him sweating and unable to
return to sleep. He could only recall fragments, but Smythe and red-hot
pokers seemed to have featured highly, as well as the old reliable of the
‘OH MY GOD, Harry, hi!’ Belinda gushed. ‘You are totally early.’
‘I know,’ said Harry, pushing his glasses up his nose to cover his
‘So I looked at your timetable,’ said Belinda, waving a parchment that Harry
recognised as his own in front of his face. ‘I think you have totally got
the right idea. I was, like, hoping you’d help Draco with his essays, too?’
‘Sure,’ said Harry, his heart sinking. He could just see himself having to
write Malfoy’s essays for him, due to the fatal combination of Malfoy’s
general Defence ignorance and his ‘I don’t give a crap’ attitude
towards the subject. ‘Um. I was wondering. Why you didn’t ask Hermione to
‘That’s Hermione Granger, right?’ Belinda clasped her hands to her chest,
setting her bangles a-jangling. ‘OH MY GOD, the girl is, like, a genius!’
‘Exactly,’ said Harry.
‘But she's perfect at everything,' said Belinda. 'Whereas you, Harry, are
bad at things sometimes, so you could understand where people are coming
from when they are bad at things.’ She beamed at him.
‘Oh.’ Harry digested this information. ‘But, also, I hate Malfoy. Utterly.
And so does he. Hate me, I mean, not himself. So surely someone who didn’t
hate him would be more suitable?’
‘I’m sure I have, like, been through this, Harry,’ Belinda said,
starting to frown. ‘This hatred thing you have going is not good. It’s not
good, Harry. OH MY GOD, do you realise the damage you’re doing to your karma
with all this bad feeling?’
‘Uh, no,’ Harry said, and rushed on when he saw Belinda’s disapproving
expression. ‘There’s a good reason for it. His father is a Death Eater and
he’s a flaming g -- he’s been enemies with me and my friends since the first
day of school.’
‘First of all, Draco is not a Death Eater,’ Belinda said. ‘Second of all,
everyone’s either a wet hen or a nasty sodding bastard when they’re young.
Give Draco some time to grow up and he may improve.’
Harry, rather flummoxed by her use of ‘bastard’ instead of ‘like’, merely
nodded and refrained from mentioning that the only thing that would improve
Malfoy was, possibly, a coffin, or failing that, a good kick up the arse. He
wasn’t adverse to delivering the latter, but he also doubted that would be
great for his karma. At least in Belinda’s opinion.
‘I was also, like, thinking about it,’ Belinda went on, ‘and you should sit
together in this class. OH MY GOD, Draco does nothing but chatter with his
friends. He has a very poor attention span when it comes to Defence,
although Sev assures me that he has perfect focus in, like, Potions.’
‘Sev?’ Harry repeated weakly, wondering if he’d stepped into an alternate
universe and not noticed.
‘Professor Snape, to you,’ said Belinda. ‘OH MY GOD, don’t you take Potions
too? Sev was talking about you.’
‘No, I don’t think he’s particularly religious,’ Belinda reflected. ‘In fact
I recall him saying once all religion is a prop for the weak and an excuse
to wreak gratuitous violence on other humans for the strong, by which I take
it he totally, like, has not discovered the Way of the Lotus. He said
everyone in his Advanced Potion class was a bloody fool, I think.’
‘Even Malfoy?’ said Harry in surprise.
‘OH MY GOD, I am being totally unprofessional!’ cried Belinda, smacking
herself on the forehead with her beringed hand. Harry stared at her. ‘Anyway,
Harry, I’ll tell Malfoy to go sit beside you when he comes in, unless you
want to sit up the front.’
‘Oh, no, the back is fine,’ Harry assured her.
‘Great! You two should get along comme une maison brûlant,’ said
Belinda, sending him a bright smile.
'I really need to learn German,’ Harry muttered to himself as he sank
into his chair and awaited Malfoy’s arrival.
He didn’t have long to stew. Within minutes the rest of the class began to
trickle in. Belinda took Malfoy aside and Harry watched his face turn the
shade of an indignant peony.
‘What did I do?’ Malfoy moaned as he sat down beside Harry. ‘Two classes
beside Potter! What did I do in my past life to deserve
Harry rolled his eyes. ‘Perhaps you were your grandfather and had your
father who had you,’ he suggested facetiously. ‘That’s enough of a crime for
Malfoy eyed him balefully. ‘My paternal grandfather died when I was six,’ he
‘So? Don’t let the bad logic put you off, Malfoy. It never did before.’
‘Of what are you talking, fool?’
‘Thinking you can beat me at Quidditch,’ Harry said. He gestured at Malfoy’s
thumb, where the healed cut had left a hairline red stripe, much like
Harry’s. ‘Your whole pureblood shit. If that’s not illogic I don’t know what
‘Ah, shut up, you queer,’ Malfoy snapped. Harry felt a peculiar dart in his
stomach at that, but he resolutely ignored it.
‘Do you speak German, Malfoy?’
‘God no. Terribly guttural language, that.’
‘Oh.’ Harry brooded for a moment. ‘Pity.’
‘You’re coming to Hogsmeade with me.’
Harry reflected that Smythe, in all the time Harry had known him, had never
been able to phrase a question so it came out sounding like anything other
than a statement of fact.
‘Sure, whatever,’ said Harry, trying to prevent a tidal wave of nerves from
engulfing him at the prospect. Going to Hogsmeade with someone made you
The day in question, Harry woke in the middle of the night. Checking Uncle
Vernon’s watch, he found that it was four am.
He had an inkling that he wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep, so he swung
his legs out into the nippy air and retrieved yet another Potions essay from
under his bed. Typical of Snape to set them an essay on a Hogsmeade weekend.
What had he said again?
‘I know some of you think Hogsmeade weekends are for gallivanting around,
holding hands and being, in general, reprehensibly decadent --’ Harry, whose
mind had summoned up the image of Smythe’s hands, had blushed and drawn
Snape’s eagle eye down upon him '-- you can just forget that. Your NEWTs are
only a year, nine months and twenty-five days away and you cannot afford to
waste a second. Not a single second!’
Everyone, but everyone, had turned to smirk at Harry when Snape turned his
back on them to retrieve marked essays -- even the Ravenclaws. Well,
everyone except Malfoy, who’d stared at Snape’s back as if the Secret of
Life had been dyed into his robes with hair-grease.
Still, Harry thought, with a sort of grim satisfaction, being awake at the
crack of dawn did at least mean he’d make some headway on the bloody essay.
At about six he headed into the bathroom to try and do something with his
hair. At seven he gave up in despair and opted instead for a ferocious sally
with his eyeliner. He looked, as Malfoy had said, like his eyes were
bleeding black gunk, but Harry thought if you couldn’t look well you may as
well look atrocious. The logic was far from impeccable, but he was too
nervous to care.
As eight, and then nine, rolled around, some of his dormmates entered the
bathroom, stretching and yawning. When they saw Harry, as one, they all
tried to curl in on themselves, as if The Big Gay was catching. It was only
when Ron came in that some semblance of normality resumed.
‘Harry,’ he acknowledged him. Everyone relaxed slightly at Harry’s brief nod
and the lack of any insatiable jumping of other boys, which, by accepting a
date with Smythe, he clearly had plans to do.
‘So -- you and Smythe are tch-tch, eh?’ said Seamus, winking and making a
horrendous sucking sound with his mouth.
‘Don’t be disgusting, Seamus,’ Dean said faintly, from behind a beard of
‘I think we should embrace alternative lifestyles,’ said Neville earnestly.
‘I need to piss,’ said Ron. ‘Excuse me.’
‘I think I’ll go now,’ said Harry, getting to his feet and smoothing down
‘Good luck, Harry,’ Seamus said, ‘you’ll need it.’
Harry thought he probably did, at that.
After half-an-hour of waiting, as everyone else tripped out past him, Harry
thought it was only fair to assume he was being stood up. Oddly enough, he
felt quite relieved. Whistling under his breath, he headed outside into the
wintery sunshine, shoving his hands in his pockets to keep them warm.
‘Hobo chic, is it?’
Harry rolled his eyes. Without turning around, he said, ‘What was that,
Malfoy brushed past him, knocking Harry’s shoulder with his own. The
paleness of his face matched the sky exactly -- it was sure to snow soon --
and Harry noticed that it only made his eyes look bigger and more -- well,
he’d nearly thought ‘stunning’, but ‘bigger’ was probably sufficient
description on Harry’s part.
‘Where’s your boyfriend, fairy-boy?’ Malfoy taunted, walking backwards to
keep Harry in view.
‘Right in that pothole behind you,’ said Harry, raising his eyebrows. Malfoy
twisted his head around in panic and nearly tripped over his own feet, which
Harry thought was a jolly good laugh. ‘Ha, made you look.’
‘Shut up, you bloody pillow-biter,’ Malfoy sneered, once he’d resettled his
‘What was that?’ said a new voice. Both Harry and Malfoy jumped in
shock and, at least on Harry’s part at least, mild apprehension.
‘Uh,’ replied Malfoy, his lips turning even paler. His eyes became slightly
glazed-looking, and Harry felt that strange sick little jerk in the pit of
his stomach again.
‘I looked for you in the Entrance Hall,’ Smythe accused Harry, who felt
absurdly guilty. He shrugged, feeling unable to frame the words for an
explanation. ‘Anyway, you’re here now, I guess.’
Smythe stepped closer to Harry, so that he was engulfed in Smythe’s spicy
aftershave. His hand curled around one of Harry’s wrists and the other
tilted his jaw up into a more convenient position. Harry, who was really
only half-dreading one of Smythe’s breath-robbing kisses, realised Malfoy
was still there when his voice cut across the frozen air.
‘Oh, get a room, you perverts.’
Harry felt himself abruptly dumped as Smythe turned his attention to Malfoy.
Smythe's blue eyes glittered with malice, as well as something that was
pretty close to what they showed when Harry was half-naked and whimpering
‘Perverts, is it?’ he breathed, advancing on Malfoy. Either from a false
sense of courage or from being rendered immobile in fear, Malfoy stood his
ground. He didn’t speak, which seemed to add fuel to Smythe’s -- not quite
anger, more -- baiting. ‘I asked you a question, pretty boy.’
Malfoy thrust his chin up in defiance. Harry, engrossed by the spectacle,
stepped closer for a better view. ‘I am not a pretty boy,’ he spat.
‘And you should keep your disgusting antics behind closed doors.’
‘Oh, really?’ Smythe sounded amused. He stepped even closer, pushing up
against Malfoy, who from pride or wounded dignity refused to move. He darted
his head sideways and licked the column of Malfoy’s throat. Malfoy shuddered
even as he exclaimed, ‘What the fuck d’you think you’re doing?’
‘Perverted things,’ said Smythe, running his hand across Malfoy’s chest.
Malfoy seemed powerless to stop him. It would have occurred to Harry to be
jealous if it weren’t for the fact that it was one of the hottest things
he’d ever seen. ‘Because you like it, Malfoy. You want it. You
just can’t admit it.’
‘… don’t want anything …’ Malfoy managed. Smythe’s hand darted between his
legs and Malfoy let out a stifled moan.
‘Oh, I disagree,’ whispered Smythe, smirking. ‘Look at Harry, Malfoy.’
Swallowing rapidly, Malfoy turned his glassy, almost anguished eyes on
Harry. Harry felt his chest inexplicably tighten. Smythe had started
nuzzling Malfoy’s neck, dusting it with the light, dry, hopelessly arousing
kisses that he usually inflicted on Harry just after he’d rubbed him off
through his robes. Much like he was doing to Malfoy now.
‘Keep looking, Malfoy,’ Smythe murmured, his hand still busy. He moved his
mouth to cover Malfoy’s, his other hand gripping him around his neck.
Despite the bitter cold of the day, Harry felt as if he were standing in
front of a burning bonfire. The odd thing was, though, as Smythe’s eyes
closed and he subjected Malfoy to the kiss Harry had privately dubbed the
Jaw-Breaker, Malfoy kept his eyes on Harry. It meant the angle of the kiss
was wrong and Harry could see both their tongues clearly. Harry’s fists
clenched and Malfoy’s gaze moved lower, to Harry’s obvious erection.
Harry was pretty certain that if Malfoy had possession of his mouth, he’d be
Abruptly Smythe broke the kiss and wiped his mouth on his hand. ‘Not bad,’
he allowed. ‘Harry’s better, but that’s only to be expected.’ He turned a
full-wattage smile on Malfoy, who looked as though he’d been smacked over
the head with a mallet. His lips were wet. Harry couldn’t stop looking at
them. ‘After all, he’s a pervert.’ Smythe yawned and wandered back
over to Harry.
Harry wasn’t prepared to be swept into a kiss, but Smythe, who exuded the
epitome of scrawny sexuality, was a lot stronger than he looked. Harry had
to work his mouth pretty quickly to keep up, but just as they were getting
into a tongue-meshing rhythm, Smythe pulled away to call, ‘Go away now,
Harry wanted to watch Malfoy leave, to see his expression, to wonder if it
was anything like his own had been on watching Malfoy being snogged to
within an inch of his life by Harry’s boyfriend.
‘What was that all about?’ Harry pulled himself together enough to demand,
after about five rather hot and breathless minutes.
‘What was what about?’ Smythe asked, smiling lushly.
‘Don’t give me that. You kissed Malfoy. In front of me!’ Harry
dragged his hands through his haystack hair. ‘Why are you even here if it’s
him you want to be with?’
Smythe sounded genuinely surprised. ‘I don’t want to be with him,’ he said,
as if Harry were hard of intelligence. ‘He just needed to be taught a
lesson, that’s all.’
‘Oh, really? A lesson? Right.’ Harry felt himself beginning to build up a
head of steam. ‘Why you, though? Why him? It doesn’t -- Arg!’ He ground to a
halt, because the next words in his head were: ‘It doesn’t look as if the
two of you need me around’ and it sounded unspeakably wimpy, not to mention
that Malfoy and Smythe were far better suited than Harry and Smythe.
Or Harry and Malfoy.
Not that that errant thought, wherever it hailed from, had any
bearing on the proceedings at all.
‘Why, Harry, are you jealous?’
Harry stared at Smythe, anger and confusion warring over his features.
Smythe clucked his tongue almost affectionately and pulled Harry to him,
touching his lips to Harry’s hair. Harry, although still offended, allowed
himself to be hugged. It didn’t happen often, even with Smythe.
‘You don’t need to worry,’ Smythe told his hair. ‘Malfoy’s all bone and no
bite. Whereas you …’ his voice dropped seductively to match his hand, which
had slipped just between the fastenings of Harry's robes.
‘Still going commando, eh?’ Smythe’s voice was definitely less smooth now.
‘God, you kill me, you know that?’
Harry groaned quietly as Smythe thrust his hips against Harry’s. This hug
was turning into a lot more than a simple embrace. As usual.
‘Come on,’ whispered Smythe. ‘Let’s go downtown, baby.’
Draco stared furiously at his ruined leather-bound notebook. Cows weren’t
good for much, apart from shoes and the occasional rib eye steak, but the
pale suede notebook had been extremely expensive, a gift from his father.
Draco had only gone and knocked a full inkwell over it with his elbow. A
black splodge of ink pooled in the valley of the two pages, dripping wetly
on to the cover. Draco mopped the mess up irritably with a roll of Crabbe’s
unfinished Remedial Charms essay, not bothering to use his wand. Which
reminded him. He had his own essays to be writing, one for Defence and yet
another for Potions. Snape couldn’t bear the thought of letting his NEWT
class slack off when another member of staff threatened to rival him in the
Blaise had blithely announced in a promising Potions lesson, during which
no-one had melted anything they shouldn’t have, that he had been set two
Arithmancy chapters, a Defence practice paper and a Transfiguration
evaluation to complete during the weekend. Upon hearing this, Snape had
promptly set them four rolls of parchment on the various uses of eye of
newt, to hand in the following Monday. This was far more sadistic than
necessary; they’d only covered newts’ eyes once in the syllabus, about three
times in their entire school careers and two of those times the eyeballs had
been used as a substitute for cuttlefish sperm, which was difficult for
Hagrid to procure.
Despite the overwhelming workload, Draco was not scribbling down the formula
for the new Potion they’d been making. It had been a brew that had a
distinctly spicy and foreign aroma which seeped into whatever clothes he was
wearing, his skin and his hair and which refused to leave until he’d
scrubbed himself down in the shower and bunged the robes in the laundry
basket so that the elves could deal with the stink. Draco was working on a
He wasn’t planning for the ordinary house matches; he’d done that already,
weeks in advance. Politeness and social etiquette – well, peer pressure –
had dictated that he choose the Keeper, two of the Chasers, and one of the
Beaters from his own year. He'd made Crabbe a Keeper, because he'd always
wanted to be one. Besides, everyone else who'd tried out had been hopeless.
A snotty fifth year called Alison Levitt was the third Chaser and the other
Beater was a snarling, irritable third-year called Robert Cronin who had
wild, staring eyes. Draco had picked him solely because he was still
brandishing a heavy wooden club -- he’d brought his own -- when Draco had
broken the news to the try-out hopefuls. It hadn’t necessarily been the
wrong choice – Robert hit Bludgers with such intense ferocity that it took
about ten seconds for them to, figuratively speaking, pick themselves up,
dust themselves off, wave away the pink elephants and start zooming towards
another player. Still, Robert had to work on his aim. A broken rib had been
the result of their first practice as a team.
No, Draco was working on which two players would be representing his team in
the midnight Quidditch match he’d challenged Potter to. He wasn’t sure
exactly what misguided thoughts had compelled him to challenge the boy to a
match, when Draco had lost to him every single time the two had competed. It
wasn’t as if he would have six other people to blame if the inevitable
happened and he lost – this was one-on-one. Well, three on three,
technically, but it was obvious to anyone with half a teaspoonful of grey
matter that it was solely Potter versus Draco. Only one of them could win
and he had a hunch about which horse most of the spectators would be betting
It was true what Potter had said, Draco did like to cheat, but there wasn’t
much one could feasibly do to stop Potter streaking ahead on his Firebolt
and capturing the Snitch. Draco could always hex him, but a curse’s ability
to hit its target when the target was moving at sixty kilometres per hour
was dubious and Seeking required skill and concentration, pure and simple.
Draco’s only way to ensure a victory was to use his cunning – according to
the Sorting Hat he had some locked away somewhere – and underhand
tactics to really give Potter a knock.
The way to get underneath Potter’s skin, Draco had learnt after six long
years, was to always go for the emotional attack. Potter didn’t get out of
control when Draco jabbed the back of his head repeatedly with a quill, but
if you so much as mentioned his dead mum, then he turned into The Boy Who
Was A Raving Lunatic. The last time Draco had quite literally played that
card, it had been at the poker game, which had ended in one too many painful
bruises and disappearing pot, which Heinrich was still furious about. It
wasn’t wise or in particularly good taste to bring up deceased parents
again, but for the game, Draco had to find someone who could not only fly
tolerably well, but affect Potter when he had to play against them –
affect Potter almost as much as Potter affected Draco.
Draco scowled at his stained notebook and Crabbe’s crumpled parchment. He
could ask Ron to fly for him, except he didn’t fancy getting punched in the
face. He could capture the Mudblood and tie her to one of the hoops as a
hostage – midnight rules, remember? Draco snickered to himself, then banged
his fist on the table in exasperation. Oh, it was hopeless. Potter,
astonishingly, didn’t have anyone that would be remotely willing to
challenge him. Even though he’d been acting like a complete arse for the
past couple of months, he was still liked by all his old friends. Potter
wouldn’t give a toss if anyone he hadn’t been close to turned up on
Draco’s team. It was stupid. Potter must have some enemies … a friend he had
stabbed in the back, someone he beat in a competition ... a spurned lover …
Draco skulked in the darkness of the shadows next to Rowena’s statue,
shifting his weight from one foot to the other in nervousness. To get Chang
to talk to him, he would have to be extremely persuasive. Without the aid of
two primitive-looking henchmen, who were usually quite adequate at
convincing people to do things they didn’t want to do, Draco was not at all
sure the conversation would be a success. He might even have to act
charming. Draco didn’t like to read as a child and consequently never saw
the princes’ expressions on the covers of storybooks, but even he could have
guessed that the heroes of the Brothers Grimm did not sneer.
The man in the Ravenclaw portrait, who had been amusing himself for the past
ten minutes by doing thrilling things with his abacus, sighed
heavily. He slid off the stool, at the same time swinging his portrait
sideways. A first-year girl poked her head through the entrance warily, as
if she thought someone might be lying in wait for her. She wrinkled her nose
as if scenting the air and then waited for a few seconds. Evidently deciding
it was safe, she was about to clamber through when Draco coughed quietly,
under his breath. The first-year turned her wide and horrified eyes on him,
shrieked like a cockatoo and disappeared.
Draco sighed. He supposed he did look slightly rapist-esque, lurking in the
darkness, but he had a perfectly good reason – he didn’t want to be accosted
by Smythe, who was exactly the type the first-year should give a wide
berth if she wanted to avoid sexual deviants. Draco squirmed, thinking about
his last encounter with Potter, who’d seemingly turned into a raving nancy.
He hadn’t even seemed to mind having Draco as an audience when him and
Smythe had been – well. Enjoying their nanciness together.
Draco had been scared shitless when Smythe had bent down and licked him –
yes, licked him, like some sort of animal – but despite Draco's best
efforts to regain control of his leg muscles so he could flee, the only
thing that was activated was the thing that he most wanted to lie dormant.
Even though the chilly wind had been dragging its icy fingers across the
damp patches on his neck, Draco had been burning up. His face had been on
fire – he touched his pale cheek unconsciously – and that was before
Smythe had kissed him. Draco had tried to fight it, he’d told himself that
he wasn’t turned on, although his body had been behaving as treacherously as
the Slytherins were reputed to be. He'd been fighting a battle that wasn’t
so much ‘losing’ as reminiscent of England’s performance at the last World
Cup, especially when Smythe started doing increasingly perverted things with
his fingers. Still, Draco had managed to retain some small shred of sanity.
Until Smythe had rasped ‘Look at Harry’.
Suddenly it hadn’t been Smythe Draco was kissing, it was Potter. Potter, who
was scum and a Gryffindor and male. Enormously. Draco had managed to drag
his eyes down low enough to witness for himself just how male Potter
was. To his great embarrassment, Draco hadn’t torn himself away and vomited
at that point, he’d snogged Smythe back. Hard. Draco hadn’t been thinking
about his earlier humiliation because it was Potter he was snogging.
Although, not really. Well, as good as. He’d probably tasted Potter
on Smythe’s lips …
Draco wiped his suddenly sweaty forehead with his sleeve and focused on the
nice, soothing mental image of Hagrid in bondage gear. To his relief, the
hot feeling and sudden tightness between his legs diminished. If he was
spotted by Chang, or anyone else for that matter, hiding in the shadows with
a hard-on, he’d be labelled a virtual sex offender and Smythe would need no
further clarification that he was, in fact, a pervert like Potter.
The little girl poked her head out of the hole again, but this time it was
soon accompanied by a familiar blushing-cheeked one. The girl pointed at
Draco and Matthew grinned in recognition.
'That’s ‘im. Wun of the big ‘uns, and ‘e was ‘iding behind the statue…' She
had a voice that was high-pitched and grating, and about as pleasing to the
ear as the sound of rusty nails being painstakingly dragged across a
'That’s Malfoy, Wendy. He’s friendly, not like the other big ones. He won’t
hurt you or anything.'
'Huh,' Wendy huffed, and added, 'Huh.' She had poker-straight blonde hair
tied in two severe bunches and freckles that were so dark it looked as if
she’d been sprinkled generously with cocoa powder. Matthew inhaled
gratefully, in the way that one does when one has noticed a way to end the
lull in a conversation.
'What’s that making a dent in your robes?' Matthew asked, looking downwards.
Wendy eyed the protrusion beadily, and Draco looked down at the tent by his
crotch, aghast. So much for his ‘I will not negatively influence the
children’ resolution. After a nanosecond’s horror, he remembered he wasn’t
aroused in the slightest, not after being scrutinised by Ovaltine-Face
Wendy. Also Draco was fairly sure that if he was, the bulge would be more
central, and less in the vicinity of his right hip.
'Oh,' he answered, smiling at Wendy in the hope that she wouldn’t start
speaking again. He pulled it out, where he’d tucked it into the waistband.
'It’s my wand.' Wendy tugged at Matthew’s ear viciously and began to whisper
perfectly audible slights against Draco into it.
'Chang!' cried Draco, seeing sleek shoulder-length hair swish past him. She
ignored this and Draco decided on a more familiar approach. After all,
Prince Charmings were suitably courteous, but they didn’t bother with
formalities like surnames.
'Cho,' he supplied feebly, sounding as if he were reading her name off a
register. Cho spun around so fast, Draco wondered that she didn’t get
whiplash. She was certainly holding her head at a funny angle. Draco
realised just in time that she was waiting impatiently for him to speak.
'Please could I talk to you for a second?' Draco asked hopefully. ‘Please’
constituted being charming, didn’t it?
'Well, I won’t go out with you,' Cho replied, after an impressive
millisecond’s hesitation. 'Not even to make Potter jealous.'
'Good,' Draco answered, bewildered. Why on earth would Cho think he
wanted to make Potter jealous? The silence yawned emptily for a few awkward
seconds, during which Cho began to preen. This unashamed narcissism reminded
Draco that Cho was of course a girl, just like Pansy, and therefore she had
only been doing what she spent the majority of her female time doing, which
was talking about herself. 'I don’t mean that I want you to go out with me.'
'Good,' replied Cho. She tossed her head like a disgruntled pony. 'Bye
then.' She began to flounce away, but Matthew, who had been watching the
exchange avidly, grabbed Wendy’s palm and blocked the hole. 'Out of the
way, squirt!' Cho flashed Matthew an annoyed look.
Wendy wrenched her hand free of Matthew’s and scuttled away out of sight,
but Matthew stayed where he was, although his knees knocked together a
'Why wouldn’t you want to date Draco?' he asked. He looked as if he
was blushing, but with him you could never be too sure. 'He’s really nice.'
Cho appeared to be as stunned by this statement as Draco was.
'Bloomsbury?' Cho asked helplessly. She looked Draco to Matthew in
consternation. 'Did you bewitch the kid or what?'
'No,' Matthew answered. 'But we’re friends.' Draco buried his head in his
'Please just go back to your common room, Matthew,' he gritted out through
his teeth. 'Just go now, OK?'
‘I’m helping,’ Matthew mouthed over Cho’s shoulder.
'Don’t help me, Matthew,' Draco pleaded. 'Please. Don’t help me.'
Matthew looked Cho up and down appraisingly, as if assessing whether it was
safe to leave Draco by himself with her, then, giving a half-hearted ‘You’re
on your own, mate’ shrug, he climbed through the portrait hole, quickly
followed by the portrait, which slammed over the entrance. Cho turned to
face Draco, looking bemused.
'I’ve noticed that you’re a really good flier,' Draco began, inspired.
Compliments always worked wonders with Pansy.
'Well. Yeah,' said Cho, looking pacified. 'It’s usually a basic requirement
for the Quidditch Captain. I’m Captain, by the way.'
'Really? Well done,' Draco congratulated, even though he’d known about it
ever since the feast on the first day. 'Well, there’s a kind of unauthorised
evening match taking place and I wondered if you would like to play.'
Cho, who had been nodding absent-mindedly during his speech, started to
shake her head vehemently. 'I’m sorry, Malfoy, but I don’t really have the
'Just the one match,' said Draco, doing his best not to grovel. 'It’s sort
of -- you know -- elite. It’s taking place late at night, the teachers don’t
'Elite?' asked Cho, her eyes glinting. Draco nodded, encouraged.
'Yeah,' he drawled, trying to sound bored and superior, instead of merely
desperate. 'It’s only the best players, very intense.'
'Well, I’ll think about it,' Cho said doubtfully, tossing her hair again.
She certainly had an equine complex. Draco wished he had brought some sugar
cubes to sway her. 'But I’m not sure --'
'Look,' said Draco, grasping at straws. 'It’s against Potter. How do you
feel about Potter now? He thinks he’s going to win, like he does at
everything else. Don’t you want to see him lose?'
It was like pressing a magic button.
'Harry!' Cho exclaimed, shading her eyes with her hand and fluttering her
eyelashes dramatically. 'Don’t talk to me about that boy. He asked me
to the Yule Ball, you know, then showed up with one of the twins, the
Patils, not the Weasleys – I never could tell them apart. The Patils, not
the Weasleys. Well, I never could tell them apart either. Then last
year, he – Harry -- follows me around for a term, like some kind of
stalker -- ask Marietta if you don’t believe me - and then takes
advantage of me when I’m vulnerable and emotionally in a bad place and
so I decide to use him as a shoulder to cry on, but he’s just not
interested. I mean he’s just not interested. Then he decides he likes
Granger better anyway, so he buggers off. And so I buggered off too, because
I wasn’t going to let that frizzy bitch get the better of me.'
Draco stared. He wondered how to press the magic button to turn Cho off.
'And then he blanks me again, while he tries to get Granger to notice him,
but of course she was working her magic on Weasley, so this year Harry comes
back and ignores them both, just to spite me and he ignores me too,
as if I don’t matter and I don’t count, and I’m holding the most
infinitesimal bit of importance in his mind currently, and he’s clearly
expecting me to talk to him first. As if! So when I don’t
talk to him, he flips out and starts wearing make-up and hanging out with
Mark, just because I used to like him in third year, but that’s water under
the bridge, but Harry! Don’t talk to me about him.'
'You can get him back,' Draco inserted quickly, whilst Cho was drawing
breath. 'Not like that, obviously, because you’re so much better off
without him, but you can get revenge for the way he treated you.'
'He treated me abysmally,' wailed Cho. 'Abysmally.'
'So you’ll do it?'
'Oh, all right,' snapped Cho. She extended her hand in a businesslike
manner. 'As long as you tell me when this thing is going to happen.
You’re Seeking, I presume?'
'Oh? Yes, I am.' Draco nodded. He looked at her outstretched hand and
wondered whether to clasp it or kiss it. He settled for shaking it and
half-kneeling as he did so. 'Seeking. Thank you, Cho.'
Cho looked gratified.
'Oh, I’m not doing it for you,' she assured him, walking over to the
portrait and reciting the quadratic formula. The portrait swung open,
exposing the hole. 'I’m not doing it for Harry, either. I am Quidditch
captain, after all. I’m going to analyse your flying styles and use the
information against you in the upcoming matches.'
'Fair enough.' Draco shrugged as Cho disappeared from view. On the night
he’d be trying so hard to catch the Snitch before Potter did that he doubted
he’d give anything away about his flying style. Anything he’d miss having,
that was. It was Potter who was always the professional when it came to
Quidditch. Potter would always maintain the correct diving position, come
hell or high water. Perhaps not hell, actually. Dementors weren’t exactly
Draco rubbed his hands together in glee. Now he had Cho Chang on his side.
Cho Chang, an egotistical, self-obsessed seventh-year. Cho Chang, Harry
Potter’s ex-girlfriend. Draco wondered if Smythe would be watching.
This match had the potential to be very interesting.
‘Beating!’ Cho echoed shrilly, as she shied away from the bat Draco was
trying to force on her.
He’d thought Cho would be more amenable to the idea of playing the position
if he dropped the bomb on her at the last minute. This, it turned out, had
been a very bad idea. She had gone berserk.
‘No-one said anything about effing Beating!’
Draco winced at the noise and tried to shush her, looking apprehensively at
the closed door. A girl’s screams could really carry in Hogwarts.
Robert was sitting underneath the cloak pegs, cradling his club in his hands
as if it was his firstborn child. Draco wouldn’t have been surprised if
Robert had made it himself, with his bare hands, it was so
knobbly and uneven. Even more so now, as metal spikes were protruding from
it at odd intervals.
‘Robert!’ exclaimed Draco, incredulous. Robert shuffled about and grinned
uneasily. He had been dressed in full Quidditch gear since break, despite
Draco’s not-so-subtle hints about confidentiality. Robert tenderly traced a
spike with his thumb.
‘Er,’ he asked hopefully. ‘Midnight rules?’
‘You expect me to wield an ugly wooden club whilst manoeuvring
a broomstick, and then to take a swing at whatever might decide to
hurl itself at your head, with little to no thought for my own safety?’
‘We-ell,’ Draco hedged. ‘That is kind of what Beating entails.’ He glanced
edgily at Robert. ‘You don’t hit anyone, mind – just the balls.
Right, Robert? You’re not going to whack anyone with the bat, are you?’
‘Oh, of course not,’ Robert replied innocently, with the same
affected surprise crooks put on when they say, ‘No, of course not,
officer, do you really think I’d try to bribe you?’ to the nice
‘You said that the match was elite,’ Cho groused. ‘And yet you want
me to fly alongside the original Dennis the Menace --’
Cho shook her head impatiently. ‘Never mind,’ she snapped. ‘The point is, I
can’t Beat. Not in this light, not when I’ve just done my nails … and I
don’t know how. I’ve always Seeked or Chased.’
‘It’s really easy,’ interrupted Robert. He gripped his bat in a restrained
excitement, his eyes wide and frenzied. ‘You – you don’t think you’ll have
the strength, when you see it hurtling towards you, then suddenly,
deep down, you tap into this wild anger, and everything gets faded
out in this wash of red, and you just let it out in this
fantastic burst and you feel the release as you swing and then you hear the
crack!’ He performed the mime equivalent of brutally beheading someone. Cho
stared and Robert wiped the foamy saliva from the sides of his mouth,
‘Lots of people use Beating as an outlet for their rage,’ Draco pointed out,
after a silence. ‘You’re a Tornados supporter, right? Julian Valiant says
that Beating’s way better than therapy. And cheaper.’
‘Are you suggesting I’m mental?’ Cho inquired. She jerked her shiny black
head at Robert. ‘Like him?’
‘No, no!’ Draco amended, flustered. ‘I just meant, if you want to let out
your rage towards Potter, here is a great, socially acceptable place to do
it. Chang, you’re the best flier I’ve seen, honest. Anyway, you wanted to
analyse Potter’s flying style for matches.’
‘I could do that from the stands,’ Cho objected, although she looked
mollified by Draco’s compliment – well, lie. Cho could fly tolerably
well, but her midair turns were all over the place. ‘There will be
people in the stands, I take it?’
‘Probably.’ Draco shrugged, unconcerned. ‘It is meant to be a secret from
the establishment, so don’t get your hopes up or anything.'
‘All right, if you shut up, I’ll do it,’ Cho conceded, kicking the wall of
the changing room experimentally. ‘As long as you do me a favour.’
‘What?’ Draco smirked.
‘Break that little habit of losing you have once and for all,’ said Cho. ‘I
know Harry’s got a Firebolt, but you --’
‘Oh no he hasn’t,’ Draco interrupted, trying to ignore the dig. He’d been
looking forward to revealing this little stroke of genius. ‘Midnight rules,
‘You stole Harry’s broom? Wouldn’t he have noticed already?’
‘No,’ Draco answered, trying his utmost not to add ‘you tool’. ‘We worked
out beforehand a set of guidelines – we each get to choose a deciding factor
that will work to our advantage. Before we start, I’m going to tell him that
the Seekers have to swap brooms. Easy.’
‘Bullshit,’ said Cho. ‘Potter will never let you so much as touch his
precious Firebolt, let alone ride it. He’s such a pretentious little --’
Much as Draco appreciated chatting with someone who shared his vehement
antagonism towards Potter, it was beginning to irritate him. Was Potter
all she could think about?
‘If he doesn’t, he’ll forfeit the whole match.’ Draco grinned, baring his
small, pointed teeth. He really was quite proud of himself for thinking of
it. The Hat had been right, he did have cunning. Sly like a fox. ‘We decided
on it all earlier. Quite civilly, too.’
‘You really are a little bastard,’ Cho said approvingly, lacing up her
boots. ‘Don’t you think, though, that he’s blatantly going to think up a
requirement for you that’s completely --’
Justin Finch-Fletchley stuck his head round the door and recited his message
with all the enthusiasm of one who has been forced at wand point to perform
‘You have to, you know, come out now, the others are all waiting on the, you
know, pitch,’ he mumbled resentfully, before disappearing. Robert charged
outside after him in glee, waving his bat in the air.
‘I guess we’ll find out soon,’ Draco answered, his stomach churning in what
it seemed was an effort to turn its salad-based contents into butter. It was
a familiar sensation, the one he felt whenever playing against Potter, but
it didn’t feel any the less disconcerting because of that. Cho stood up
resolutely and put her hand on the doorknob. She was exactly Draco’s height.
Odd. And Draco was noticing this why? He lurched towards the exit,
wondering if Cho would go back on her decision to be Beater if he threw up
in her hair.
Outside it was cold, much colder than it had been during the day, but
Draco’s desire to be sick on Cho’s head did not diminish. Damp leaves
squished beneath their feet and the icy mud sucked wetly at the soles of
their boots. Justin Finch-Fletchley and Zacharias Smith walked a good twelve
feet in front of Draco’s team, muttering angrily to each other.
‘Why’d you bring me here, you pillock, it’s not as if I don’t have anything
better to do of a Friday night --’
‘You don’t! I tried to discourage Susan, because, see, the hoi polloi, you
know, the masses, see the four Quidditch balls as, you know, phallic
Draco couldn’t quite see the dynamics that made that friendship work, but he
supposed that they were simply too complex for an outsider to understand
their subtleties. It was hardly a long walk. The bickering duo turned
abruptly and made their way up into one of the stands, leaving Draco, who
was --hyperventilating-- breathing heavily, to lead his paltry team
on to the pitch in silence.
The pitch had been illuminated by flaming torches that hung in the stands
and were suspended in the air. Several of the spectators also bore
Omniculars that had been enchanted to make beams of light shine from the
lenses. They trained these spotlights on Draco, Cho and Robert as they
walked on. Draco glared up at them, trying to see who was gathered. There
were about thirty people, all scattered in the two ‘neutral’ Hufflepuff and
Ravenclaw stands. Crabbe and Goyle were seated on the stairs, intent on
causing the most inconvenience to everyone. Zacharias Smith seemed unwilling
to squeeze past them. Weasley, Granger and three other Gryffindor boys were
huddled warily in the back row. They had obviously turned up uninvited.
Draco didn’t know if Potter’s former best mates were a couple yet, but the
Mudblood was clearly too worried to be bothered with any amorous advances
Weasley might make. She looked almost as terrified as Draco felt.
Marietta Edgecombe was there, giving the Gryffindor pack dirty looks. Robert
seemed to have amassed about twelve of his equally philistine friends, who
all roared wordlessly when he came into view. There were other small groups
of students, huddled together for warmth, but the instantly recognisable
Smythe was nowhere to be seen.
Standing in the centre of the pitch, ahead of Draco, Cho and Robert, were
three dark silhouettes. The tallest, in the middle, was obviously Potter.
Draco knew at once, from his stance, the way he held his broom … everything.
There was a much larger silhouette to Potter’s right, which, upon closer
scrutiny, proved to be the Susan girl. The huge Beater’s bat looked as
weightless as a matchstick in her muscled arms. Both Robert and Cho cast her
dismissive glances. The person standing on Potter’s left was cloaked in
Potter’s expression as Draco and his team-mates stalked up to him was
unfathomable, but as they got closer it became apparent that he had gone
above and beyond the call of duty with his awesome eye make-up. His irises
were ringed with circles of smoky black eyeliner that completely covered his
lids, making him look smouldering and dangerous. His skin was also a
shade paler, but Draco didn’t dare to hope that it was due to nerves, the
like of which he was currently experiencing.
‘You look like a racoon, fairy-boy,’ said Draco.
‘Call it war paint.’ Potter shrugged, his face gleaming in the torchlight.
His gaze travelled far enough for his vision to encompass Draco’s team in
its entirety. Then Potter did a double-take on the person on his right,
astounding in itself because she wasn’t the one growling and snarling under
‘Cho?’ rasped Potter, his face twisted in confusion.
‘Harry,’ Cho acknowledged haughtily, gripping the handle of her Arrow in a
‘I hate to break up this little reunion --’ Draco smirked, relieved that all
was going more or less to plan ‘-- but I’ll be needing you to let go of that
Potter, who was staring at Cho in utter amazement, as if she were dressed in
a long flowing gown and top hat instead of the slightly more conventional
Quidditch robes, tore his eyes away with difficulty.
‘What are you talking about, Malfoy?’
Draco motioned towards the Firebolt. ‘Midnight rules.’
Potter laughed in a derisive manner. ‘That’s utter crap, Malfoy. It’s not
even bloody Quidditch if one of the players doesn’t have a broom.’
‘Oh, I fully intend to give you a broom,’ Draco assured him, smiling. The
crowd was silent, straining to hear. A few seemed to have trailed long,
flesh-coloured things on to the pitch. ‘We swap.’
Potter’s face hardened. ‘No.’
‘Oh, come on.’ Draco grinned nastily. ‘It’s only a Nimbus, but I’m sure you
‘You can’t have it,’ protested Potter. ‘It was given to me by --’ He stopped
himself and inhaled deeply, not looking at Malfoy but at his boots in the
muddy grass. ‘Sorry. No.’
‘Then you forfeit,’ said Draco in triumph. ‘That’s what we decided.’
Robert made an indignant noise like a whine in the back of his throat.
Potter looked at his Firebolt, which he was now holding in a death grip. If
it had been a rooster’s neck he was grasping, he would either have been
arrested by the RSPCA or been awarded a prize for Most Efficient Farmboy.
Potter swallowed several times. Then he took the broom in both hands and
extended it to the Draco, who snatched it off him.
Draco turned the Firebolt over and over in his hands, enjoying the feel of
the streamlined, aerodynamic wood. It had obviously been well looked after.
It was clean and polished, in near mint condition – apart from the groove
where Potter’s hands had grasped the stick tightly during all those years of
practices, matches, flying. Draco fingered the curve of the dents.
‘If you get the smallest scratch,’ warned Potter, his voice wavering, ‘If
you dare screw up, crash, and bang her up in any way – I’ll castrate
you, I swear.'
'I’ll take good care of her, don’t worry,' promised Draco. He even meant it.
Potter blinked, looking almost as bewildered as he had when he’d clocked
Cho, then took Draco’s Nimbus from the blond boy’s clammy fingers.
‘Right,’ he said, dragging the back of his gloved hand across his eyes, so
that the eyeliner smudged artistically across a cheekbone. ‘My turn.’
Harry’s stomach was churning as he held Malfoy’s Nimbus lightly between his
fingers. There were a good few dents and scratches along the surface, which
Harry surmised were the result of the temper tantrums Malfoy threw when he
Still, it could have been worse. Harry had flown Nimbuses before and beat
Malfoy on them.
Not when he’s flying a Firebolt, you haven’t, a nasty little
voice at the back of his mind piped up. Harry banished it. There was no room
to entertain the sort of doubt that came from the niggling suspicion that it
had been dumb luck and a superior broom that had accounted for all his wins
against the boy now standing opposite him, lavishing covetous smiles on the
broom in his arms. Malfoy hadn’t been chosen as the youngest Seeker
in a century; Harry had.
Just hold on to that thought.
‘Right,’ he said. ‘My turn.’ He scratched at an itch under his eye before
turning to the last member of his team, who had been standing back in the
shadows, holding the cage. ‘Smythe, you’re on.’
He thought he heard Malfoy gasp when Smythe came out into the
Omniocular-sourced flashlights, but that was only to be expected given that
Smythe had practically assaulted him the last time they had met. Harry still
hadn’t quite forgiven Smythe for it and that was one of the main reasons he
on the pitch with Harry right now, as aside from the basic rudiments of
flight Smythe had very little knowledge of Quidditch. However, Harry was
banking on his reflexes, deceiving strength and the psychological effect
he’d have on Malfoy to back him up in the game.
‘What is that?’ Cho demanded, fear and disgust warring in her voice.
Harry, who had knelt down in the mud to unfasten the locks, looked up at his
opponents and smiled widely. ‘Cats,’ he said.
‘You what?’ Malfoy said, sounding rather high-pitched.
‘Kitty-cats, felines --’ Harry paused for effect, shooting a look at Cho ‘--
pussies.’ To the accompaniment of indignant yowls, Harry reached inside the
cage and withdrew a small grey cat. It turned insane yellow eyes on Harry
and made a spirited attempt to claw all the skin off his hand. Wincing as
little bubbles of blood oozed from the cuts, he stood up quickly and thrust
the cat at the boy with the spikey bludgeon.
He indulged in a blank look for all of five seconds, after which interval
the cat dug its claws into his arm and proceeded to hang upside down from
‘There had better be a very good reason for this, Potter.’ Malfoy’s
voice was dangerous, but then so were the alley cats.
‘Oh, there is,’ said Harry, unable to suppress the pure glee in his voice.
‘Cats are traditionally the familiars of witches -- well, in Muggle
literature, at least. They ride on the witches’ brooms --’
‘No!’ Malfoy howled, but it was too late. Harry had another cat -- a
tortoiseshell tabby that sported long ragged fur, a squashed Persian face
and molten insanity, dripping from every unsheathed claw -- by the scruff of
its neck and was advancing on Cho.
‘Uh, I really don’t like animals --’ she began, apprehension leaking from
her voice like a noxious gas.
‘I shouldn’t worry about that,’ said Harry comfortingly. ‘They don’t
like humans.’ He pushed the cat at Cho’s chest. She didn’t raise her hands
to pick it up, but it didn’t matter because the cat curled its paws into the
front of her robes and hung on like Grim Death With PMS.
‘Now, Smythe here helped me with the spell,’ explained Harry. ‘They aren’t
going to run away from you, which would be their natural instinct. However,
they still may try to jump off your brooms or something. You forfeit the
game if one of the cats hit the ground before you do, and you’re not allowed
to kill them.’ He hadn’t intended to add the last disclaimer, but the other
boy on Malfoy’s team had finally collared his cat and was sharing a mutually
murderous stare with it.
‘Do I not get a cat?’ asked Malfoy, seeming as if he hoped that Harry had
forgotten him. He also seemed torn between that happy thought and the far
less happy one that Harry had something worse in store for him, in which
case he’d certainly take the cat.
‘Oh, you do,’ Harry assured him. ‘We’ve got someone really special
for you.’ He crouched down again and clicked his tongue. ‘Here,
Crookshanks. Come to Harry.’
‘HARRY POTTER!’ a thunderous voice suddenly came from the stands. ‘WHAT ARE
YOU DOING WITH MY PET?’
Harry stood up, Crookshanks cradled in his arms. He dithered for a moment,
then cupped a hand around his mouth and called, ‘Don’t worry, Hermione,
he’ll be fine.’
‘HE’D BETTER BE. MALFOY, YOU SCUM, HURT MY CAT AND DIE. SLOWLY. OVER SEVERAL
Harry turned an evil grin on Malfoy, running his fingers through the thick
fur on Crookshanks’ head. Crookshanks turned a luminous, intelligent gaze on
Malfoy, who gulped.
‘Do you catch that, Malfoy?’ he asked. ‘If you hurt her cat, Hermione will
kill you. Slowly. Over several days. And don’t think she won’t, either.
Gryffindors are quite protective of their familiars.’
‘I heard, Potter,’ snapped Malfoy, looking distinctly green. ‘Give me the
Harry stepped forward and held Crookshanks out for him to take. This cat
demanded more care than the other two and not just because Harry had stolen
him from his best friend for the night. Crookshanks started up a low,
rumbling purr that Harry knew from experience could go on for hours with no
respite. At night, before a roaring fire and half-asleep in a comfy
armchair, that purr could be relaxing. On a dark pitch, with nerves twanging
and flying against your greatest rival, Harry thought the noise would be
akin to that of fingernails across a blackboard.
‘Good boy,’ he said under his breath. Malfoy, whose arms were momentarily
tangled with Harry’s, looked up, startled.
‘What did you say?’ he spat.
‘I was talking to the cat,’ Harry said haughtily. He dropped
his voice. ‘Part Kneazle, you know. They can spot untrustworthy people.’ He
let that sink in before adding, ‘I’m not quite sure what they do to them
when they find them, but I am very interested in finding out.’
‘Christ,’ groaned Malfoy. Harry beamed and withdrew. Not a flicker of his
eyes showed that his heart had started to race at Malfoy’s proximity. Good
thing Harry wouldn’t be that close to Malfoy again, it would have put him
off his game.
Harry looked around. Susan was by his side, staid and chewing gum with loud
smacking sounds. ‘All right?’ he said under his breath.
‘I don’t know,’ said Susan. A typical Susan answer. Harry smiled in what he
hoped was a reassuring manner.
‘Just don’t let the snakes put you off,’ he said, nodding towards the
stands. He could spot some of Malfoy’s classmates; Zabini, with his arms
crossed and a pout on his face, the goons and Heinrich, who was looking
fixedly at the goalposts.
‘Oh dear,’ said Susan.
Justin took that moment to scream: ‘Be, you know, careful, my, you know,
‘Oh dear,’ Susan repeated, going scarlet. ‘I don’t know him.’
‘Know who?’ Harry grinned and twisted his head to Smythe.
Smythe quirked an eyebrow. Harry felt something plummet out of the bottom of
his stomach. Come to think of it, that probably was his stomach.
‘If we win,’ breathed Smythe, ‘do I get a special reward for participating?’
‘Yeah,’ Harry said shortly. ‘My eternal gratitude.’ He turned to face his
adversaries. Cho’s cat was sitting calmly on her head, while below it Cho
was having hysterics by degrees. The other boy’s cat was swinging from the
back of his robes while he vainly tried to clip it with his bat.
Crookshanks was curled around Malfoy’s neck. Harry raised his eyebrows and
the cat fixed him with its steady stare. The fact that Malfoy looked
terrified was little consolation; Harry had hoped Crookshanks would have
gone into spitting mode, at least. Still, the fact that Malfoy’s Beaters
were both incapacitated was a feather in Harry’s cap.
‘Where’s the game-starter?’ he asked. There was to be no referee; midnight
rules, after all. Anything went.
‘I am here,’ Luna’s dreamy voice informed him. ‘Except that I may be a
butterfly dreaming that I am a human and that I am here …’
‘Right, right,’ said Harry. He swung his leg over Malfoy’s broom. As one,
everyone else on the pitch did the same. Luna was holding the box with the
Snitch and the unchained Bludgers inside; an ominous rattling emanated from
‘Ready, steady,’ Luna said. The six players tensed for flight. ‘Hot cross
buns, on your marks, teddy bears, oranges and lemons --’
‘What the hell?’ Malfoy complained.
‘GO!’ Luna screeched, opening the box with a brilliant smile.
Harry was already in the air as Malfoy scrambled to catch up, but he could
see that would take very little. As soon as Malfoy took off, his
silhouette blurred with speed. Harry could only watch in awe and slight
nausea, wondering if that was how Harry looked all of the time --
sort of spread out against the air.
Around him, there was chaos. The Bludgers occupied the greatest amount of
attention but the cats were coming in a close second. The boy spent half of
his time trying to hit his own back and the other half whacking Bludgers so
hard they dented and hung in the air for seconds at a time, stunned.
Cho was screaming her head off and waving her bat wildly; by complete
chance, quite a few of her wild swings brought it into contact with a ball
and no one was more surprised than she was when this happened. Susan was
flying up and down the pitch, methodically hitting a Bludger and following
it to hit it again.
Harry experimented with a few loop-the-loops and Wronski Feints during the
first three-quarters of an hour; it was hard work. He had to urge the broom
on, every muscle straining. He’d forgotten about having to do this. He’d
become too used to a broom that responded to every whim before he’d even
Smythe didn’t appear to be doing anything except wincing and falling flat on
his broom every time a ball came within spitting distance. However, as Harry
watched and kept one eye peeled for the Snitch, he sat up and fixed his gaze
‘Hey, Draco!’ he yelled. The blur hesitated for a second and Malfoy paused
in the air, utter exhilaration painted across his features. Crookshanks was
wrapped around the bristles of the broom, all his fur on end.
‘What?’ Malfoy said uncertainly and Harry applauded his choice of players.
Even Cho wouldn’t have distracted Harry from his search to that
extent. As he scanned the sky for the Snitch, he could almost hear Smythe
‘Nothing,’ sighed Smythe. Harry spared a glance for him and almost choked
when he saw Smythe innocently sucking his little finger, his head tilted and
his tongue clearly visible to everyone. Including Malfoy, who was looking
Then Harry saw it. The Snitch, dazzling his eyes, tantalisingly
within his grasp. Every neuron fired, sending electric sparks out through
Harry’s hair, to the edges of his fingers. He kicked the broom forward,
almost sliding backwards as his hands sought for a worn grip that wasn’t
there -- Malfoy did, after all, still hold his broom incorrectly.
The word rebounded around the stadium but Harry paid it no attention. He was
straining forward, hanging on to the broom with his knees and luck.
Then Malfoy was beside him, the ends of the Firebolt almost frazzling from
the speed. His elbow jostled Harry’s. Harry shoved back, feeling the
connection with flesh, which forced a soft ‘Oomph!’ from his foe.
Harry realised that Malfoy was close, very close indeed. They weren’t just
flying neck and neck, they were flying knee and knee, side and side, arm and
arm, almost -- too near for Harry’s thudding heart and his suddenly
somersaulting stomach -- cheek and cheek.
‘Bugger,’ Malfoy said again, stretching his hand out. Harry could see it
wavering in the air ahead, just the merest of measurements ahead of Harry’s
own. The Snitch still dangled there insouciantly, for once not darting off
at the approach of Seekers but instead taunting them.
Harry attempted to knock Malfoy’s hand out of the way, as he had done so
many times before, but it didn’t work. There was too much power in the broom
Malfoy was riding and not enough in his own, and he really wished he
hadn’t thought the words ‘Malfoy’ and ‘riding’ in the same sentence --
In a last-ditch effort, ignoring the raucous screams all around him --
interspersed with the occasional feline shriek -- Harry pushed himself off
his broom almost entirely and lunged, pinning one wing between his fingers,
at the exact same moment as Malfoy’s fist curled around the tiny
Then Harry was falling, dragged off his broom by the momentum of the dive
and the only thing between him and oblivion was a tiny metal wing,
fluttering madly and already starting to tear away --
Crookshanks bellowed. It wasn’t the sort of noise that should have come from
anything smaller than an elephant. In the split second before he passed out,
Harry saw the cat scrabbling up Malfoy’s neck, which with the rest of his
torso was hanging down below the level of the broom due to Harry’s weight.
Malfoy’s eyes widened even more as claws sunk into the skin of his neck.
Everything went black.
Harry had always been crap at Divination. However, he was aware of a sudden
and very pressing flash of prescience: if he opened his eyes right now, he
was going to be in an immense amount of pain.
His eyelids fluttered on an instinctive impulse. They wanted to open when
Harry was awake, which he was.
The pain settled on him like a warm blanket. Although to make the analogy
more truthful, it settled on him like a blanket of nails.
Harry gurgled. He wanted to say something suitable for the occasion, like ‘I
bequeath all my worldly goods to Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger’, but his
vocal chords seemed to have gone on sudden and total strike.
He became aware that he seemed to be in a muddy depression and, also, that
he was not alone. Harry weakly raised an arm to bat the cat away. ‘Geroff,
Crookshanks,’ he groaned. At least, that’s what he meant to say -- it came
out as ‘Goff, ookank.’
‘Ever articulate, I see,’ came the most unwelcome voice Harry could ever
‘Wha -- ‘foy?’
‘Yes. I think I’ve broken my leg. Cheers, Potter.’
Harry blinked rapidly, dislodging a beetle. ‘Wha'? Dead?’
‘No, I only wish I was.’
Harry spent several crowded minutes figuring out what exactly had happened.
He had fallen, obviously. He didn’t think he was dead, unless he’d gone to
some ring of Hell wherein the punishment meted out was of the muddy and
crushing genre. Malfoy was there, under him to some extent, but his voice
had come from the side. With an extreme effort, he turned his head, saw
Malfoy’s face and screamed.
Malfoy’s mouth drooped even more. ‘Why, deafen as well as maim me, Potter.
I’m sure I won’t need my eardrums in the intensive therapy I’ll need
after being trapped under you.’
‘Yes, you fell on top of me.’
‘Oh God,’ Harry moaned. He went to bury his face in his arms, only to find
that one of them was underneath Malfoy. In fact -- in other
circumstances, their relative positions could be regarded as suggestive in
‘Where is everyone?’
‘My team-mates are fighting cats,’ said Malfoy. He was breathing shallowly
and Harry could tell it was an effort for him to talk. ‘The Puff went for
help, for us, and made everyone else scatter. She said not to move us in
case our spines were broken.’
Even through his pain, Malfoy blushed. ‘Not sure. I think he went with --
with the Puff.’ He clenched his teeth and blew out through his nostrils.
‘Could you not move your leg again?’
‘Because it is right on top of my broken one.’
‘Right.’ Harry said. He thought for a moment. ‘Sorry.’
Harry eyeballed Crookshanks, who was curled up between their bodies now and
who had started to purr. He shoved his hand under the cat’s belly in an
effort to push him off, but instead managed to tangle his fingers with
Malfoy grit his teeth. A second later, Harry felt pressure on the hand that
was underneath his body. He realised it was still holding the Snitch’s wing.
The fact that Malfoy had managed to move it too had to mean …
‘A draw?’ Harry breathed. ‘All this for a draw?’
‘I hate you so much, Potter,’ whimpered Malfoy.
‘Shut up,’ said Harry, closing his eyes and dragging his teeth over his
lower lip in frustration.
‘Stop … doing that,’ Malfoy said. His voice sounded laboured. Harry’s eyes
‘With your bloody lip!’ Malfoy wailed. The fingers of the hand that were now
effectively squashed under Crookshanks’ considerable bulk twitched against
Harry’s. An imp of mischief came into Harry’s brain. He felt winded and
severely bruised, but that was no deterrent to a chance to torment
Malfoy. The fact that Malfoy was injured and unable to escape only made it
Harry refused to pause and consider why he enjoyed winding Malfoy up
so. It was enough that it was fun.
‘What, this?’ he said, parting his lips slightly and running his tongue
‘No, not that either!’ Malfoy sounded frantic now.
‘You seem a little -- uptight, Malfoy,’ said Harry, grinning. With
his body meshed against Malfoy’s the way it was, Harry could feel exactly
how uptight Malfoy was.
Malfoy squeezed his eyes shut and made an incoherent whining noise. ‘I saw
you got a bit distracted by Smythe too,’ Harry continued inexorably. ‘You’re
easily distracted, aren’t you, Malfoy? Odd how it’s always boys …’
Malfoy’s lips drew up over his teeth in a primeval snarl. ‘Fuck you,’ he
'I'm taken,' said Harry.
‘By Smythe?’ Malfoy snorted.
‘No need,’ said Malfoy. Harry was surprised by how smug he sounded. ‘He’s
‘What is that supposed to mean?’ demanded Harry, his fingernails scraping a
warning across Malfoy’s knuckles.
Malfoy laughed. It was not an amused or pleasant sound. Harry felt a cold
sweat appear on his forehead.
‘Surely you know he’s playing you? Oh, wait, I forget -- the Great
Harry Potter is too fucking thick to see beyond the end of his nose.’
‘Explain yourself or you will find my wand shoved in a part of your anatomy
that you will not find comfortable,’ warned Harry.
‘Huh, I’m sure you’ve experience in these matters,’ said Malfoy. His eyes
were open again and glittering with malice. ‘But Smythe is a slut.
He’d go for anyone he thought he’d a chance of shagging. Let me tell you,
Pansy was quite upset when she found that out.’
Harry opened his mouth to retort, but too much of what Malfoy had said rang
true for him to formulate a suitably cutting response.
‘You’ve been done,’ said Malfoy. The contentment in his voice was like
sandpaper to a raw wound.
Harry, scowling, tensed his leg and Malfoy’s cackle turned into a gasp of
‘I don’t know what you’re acting so high and mighty about,’ said Harry,
‘Smythe almost destroyed you the other day and you have a hard-on
‘So do you.’
Harry realised it was true. ‘This is a disaster,’ he said dismally.
‘We really need to do something about that before people come to dig us
‘What do you suggest?’ snapped Harry. ‘A little mutual wanking? You want me
to give you a blow-job with the cat sitting on your head?’
‘Actually, Potter, I was thinking more along the lines of concentrating on
cold baths, chocolate cake, that sort of thing,’ said Malfoy. His tone was
‘Oh.’ Harry subsided and did as he was bid.
A few minutes of blessed silence later, Harry heard muted voices.
‘We’ve come to get you out of here.’
‘I think Malfoy’s broken his leg.’
‘I have,’ Malfoy’s indignant voice cut in.
‘It’s okay.’ Susan’s voice was hushed. ‘We’re going to get you inside and
cleaned up, then Malfoy will fall down some stairs and we’ll bring him to
the hospital wing.’
‘I’m going to be pushed down some stairs?’ Malfoy complained. ‘Haven’t I
‘God, and you called me thick,’ said Harry. ‘That’s what they’ll tell
Pomfrey, you pillock.’
Malfoy didn’t deign to reply, so Harry looked up to see who ‘we’ consisted
of. There was Ron, looking concerned, with Heinrich. Heinrich was looking at
Susan, whose hair had come loose and was spiking out over her shoulders,
with a face like a stunned fish.
Harry leaned on Ron’s shoulder as Heinrich and Susan made an armchair for
Malfoy. He sat into it with much griping and protests about catching
something Hufflepuffian. He still had the Snitch, minus one wing, in his
Harry wordlessly held up the other wing as they marched into the darkness.
Ron shook his head.
‘Come on,’ he said, his voice brooking no arguments. ‘Hermione said she’d
patch you up. And then,’ his voice became ominous, ‘we’re going to have a
‘Hand,’ commanded Hermione. Harry held it out. Hermione ran the tip of her
wand along the scratches, muttering something under her breath. The wand-tip
glowed white and the cuts closed in on themselves.
‘Cheers,’ said Harry warily. To all intents and purposes, he was trapped on
his bed, with Hermione cross-legged next to him, trussed up in a blue
dressing gown and Ron leaning against one of the bedposts.
‘Now,’ began Ron, ‘I reckon this has gone on long enough.’
‘Look, I told you, there are reasons why I can’t hang around with you
in public any more,’ Harry protested.
‘It’s not that,’ said Hermione. ‘Well, perhaps a little, but for now we’ll
respect your decision.’ She shared a significant glance with Ron, who moved
to sit beside her.
‘No, it’s about your -- relationship -- with Mark,’ said Ron. Harry reminded
himself, again, that Mark was actually Smythe’s name. ‘We’re worried about
‘He slept with Lavender not two months ago,’ said Hermione bluntly. ‘She was
devastated afterwards because he dumped her like that.’ She snapped
her fingers to emphasise her point. ‘From what I gather, he does that a lot.
Boys and girls, he doesn’t seem to mind.’
Ron opened his mouth to speak and perhaps offer even more evidence of
Smythe’s dastardly ways, but Harry beat him to it. ‘I know,’ he said.
Ron’s mouth fell closed in surprise. Hermione frowned, looking exceedingly
disapproving. ‘And yet you still go out with him, knowing that?’
‘No,’ Harry hastened to add. ‘I just found out recently. Tonight, in fact.’
He pursed his lips. ‘Malfoy took great pleasure in informing me of it.’
‘Malfoy?’ Ron’s eyes bugged. ‘He warned you off Smythe?’
‘Not so much warned as --’ Harry struggled to find the right words ‘--
gloated. He basically said Smythe was going to make a fool of me just like
he has lots of other people. Like Pansy.’
‘Pansy? Isn’t she Malfoy’s girlfriend?’ Ron looked astonished.
‘Is she?’ Harry didn’t like the way his stomach clenched at Ron’s words.
Perhaps he was getting indigestion or something.
Hermione’s eyes were brimming with concern. She leaned forward to capture
Harry’s hand -- the hand that had so recently been trapped under Malfoy’s
warm body -- in her own. ‘You are going to stop seeing him now, aren’t you?’
‘I don’t know,’ Harry said thoughtfully. Hermione’s face dropped. ‘Oh, I
will stop going out with him. I just might -- get some revenge first,
‘Why? What did he do wrong?’ Ron was puce with embarrassment.
Harry flushed in his turn. ‘He did snog Malfoy in front of me.’
‘He did what?’ Ron exploded.
Harry nodded. ‘Oh, yeah. He’s always going on about Malfoy -- probably
fancies him too. Trying to make me jealous, I think.’
Hermione and Ron exchanged another look. ‘That’s worrying,’ Hermione said
‘Why? You just said he’d go for anything that moves. Malfoy is no
‘No -- it’s just. Well.’ Harry had never heard Hermione so stuck for words
before. He raised his eyebrows. ‘Look, Lavender said he used to do the same
thing to her! Tease her about Seamus,’ she finished, sounding almost angry.
‘So he uses the same tactics on everyone. What’s the big deal?’
‘The big deal, Harry, is that everyone knows Lavender was sweet on Seamus
for ages,’ said Ron. ‘Smythe sparks people off the people they -- fancy.’
‘Yes, but I don’t fancy Malfoy!’ spat Harry, while his stomach
fizzled at the unnerving thought.
Ron and Hermione exchanged yet another look. Harry felt himself growing
angry at this sudden closeness between the pair.
‘If you don’t,’ Hermione said carefully, her expression that of someone
combing a field for landmines but with the terrible feeling one is just
under their foot, ‘then why are you blushing?’
Draco lay despondently on the hard mattress of the hospital bed. He didn’t
even have a bloody screen to seclude himself from the commoners. Not that
there were any riffraff around at the moment, but when the screaming
first-years made an appearance – and they always did -- he’d have to endure
looking at them as well as seeing them, which could prove painful. Even
though being a Prefect had its perks, as he was now an authority figure and
to be feared, the children were emboldened when they were in large groups.
Just last week, one of them had had the audacity to ask him what Prefects
After being dropped off at the hospital wing by Bones and Heinrich, who
mumbled something vague about a staircase changing at just the wrong time
and then buggered off, Draco had been forced to drink a Dreamless Sleep
potion and, unsurprisingly, fallen into almost immediate dreamless sleep.
Now it was morning and his leg was itching like mad, but since Madame
Pomfrey had trussed him up in what looked like highly sophisticated bondage
gear, he couldn’t move without what felt like samurai daggers shooting up
his leg from the knee. Some kind soul had thoughtfully placed his wand on a
table not two metres away, but when he’d tried to grasp for it, he’d
overbalanced and wrenched his leg out of position. It had been an immense
effort not to black out from the pain.
'Just lie there,' Pomfrey ordered as she put him right, whilst fluffing his
pillow in a maternal way. It felt a bit odd. 'If you don’t move an inch,
then you’ll only have to spend two days in here, at the most. I want to make
sure you don't have a concussion.'
'Two days?' Draco had squawked in indignation. 'When Potter had to
re-grow his sodding bones, he was only here a night.'
'Harry Potter had to re-grow his bones?' Pomfrey asked quizzically, screwing
up her lined face in an effort to remember.
'Yes,' Draco replied impatiently. 'Our second year, November, Slytherin
versus Gryffindor match, a rogue Bludger broke his arm and Lockhart de-boned
it.' Draco paused, licking his dry lips, and then added, 'Git', a little
unsure as to whether he was referring to Potter or Lockhart.
'I’m not sure I remember,' Pomfrey had apologised, smiling blandly and
patting Draco firmly on his -- broken! -- leg. 'But you see, Mr. Malfoy,
that Potter boy has been to see me an awful lot.'
'Tell me about it,' Draco had ground out from between clenched teeth.
Pomfrey smiled again, a little less politely, and then had bustled away on
the pretence of going to check the bedpans in the next ward.
Draco didn’t like hospitals or any variations thereof. Despite his
conventionally ‘sickly’ appearance, he rarely got ill. When, a few years
back, Narcissa developed a liking for prescription medication and had needed
to fabricate excuses to go to see a Healer, she complained that he stayed
healthy out of pure spite, which was more or less true. In fact, his last
visit to the school hospital wing had been in third year – Christ, that was
ages ago – and he’d stayed for a grand total of fifteen minutes. It
had actually taken less than five minutes to patch him up – the rest of the
time was spent persuading Pomfrey to give him a sling as well. It hadn’t
been showing off, exactly. He might’ve actually needed the sling, in
case unforeseen after-effects began to take their toll on him.
Everything in the communal ward was polished and scrubbed to within an inch
of its life. Draco wriggled uncomfortably as the harsh fibres of the bed
scratched at his back. Clearly it didn’t matter how cheap Pomfrey was when
buying supplies -- as long as the blanket was clean, it was good
enough for invalids. It gave off a funny smell too, the faintly antiseptic
aroma of the detergents and healing potions. Draco’s neck tingled ominously
and he hoped that the bed wasn’t going to give him a rash. He had enough
spots to deal with as it was, he didn’t need the back of his neck erupting
In an attempt to distract himself from his prickling neck and the dull
throbs of his leg, Draco propped himself up on one wobbly elbow and gazed
out the window, which was smeared with dust. They’d doused the entire room
with enough soap to rinse the grease out of Snape’s hair completely, but
they’d left the windows untouched. Typical. Draco wiped the glass away with
one finger and resumed his staring session, until a couple of moving figures
caught his eye.
Astonishingly, two students appeared to have decided to brave the bitter,
sub-zero climate of the grounds, and were having, of all things, what looked
like a picnic next to the lake. It seemed that they didn’t mind braving the
frostbite and slow death through hypothermia that came with the territory.
Draco peered closer at the couple, then choked on his spit. One of the
would-be Artic explorers was Smythe. He was wearing a red and off yellow --
it was meant to pass for gold -- scarf, that he’d undoubtedly borrowed from
Potter. Draco looked more closely at the second figure on the blanket. It
couldn’t be Potter, not unless he was bunking; only seventh-years were
allowed grounds privileges in the middle of the day.
Smythe was sitting underneath the cedar tree with a slightly chubby – and
very pretty, in a milkmaid-y sort of way – girl, who had dark auburn hair
that reached down to her considerable chest. Draco couldn’t for the life of
him remember what house she was in, or what her name was. Perhaps she was
that sort of girl; she was wearing a beige cardigan over her robes, after
all. There was a substantial amount of books lying in the grass beside them,
as well as a silver flask. Draco guessed that they were probably revising
for NEWTs or simply reading. Ravenclaws tended to do that, read of
their own volition. The girl with the auburn hair was talking animatedly and
Smythe was shaking his head and smiling in that enigmatic way of his and the
scene wouldn’t have looked incongruous at all if it weren’t for the fact
that Smythe’s hand was up her robes.
Draco blinked. Closer inspection confirmed that he wasn’t just seeing things
-- Smythe’s right hand was clasping a hardback copy of
Transfiguration in Modern Society and his left was currently
massaging the cardigan girl’s inner thigh. Cardigan Girl was doing a
fantastic job of appearing unperturbed, but as Smythe’s persistent hand rose
ever higher, her mouth opened and closed several times, like a goldfish.
Draco watched in consternation, his panting breath fogging the windowpane.
The girl waved one of the hands that wasn’t clutching the blanket in a
death-grip towards the castle and said something, probably about unwanted
spectators. Smythe grinned, leaned over to either whisper or put his tongue
in her ear – and knowing Smythe, it was probably both – then withdrew his
hand and started leafing through his book casually, as if nothing had
happened. Red-cheeked, the girl did the same. Draco relaxed and sank back
down on to his pillow. He wondered if Potter knew.
It was Potter’s own bloody fault, getting mixed up with a character like
Smythe. Smythe was clearly trouble and as mad as a hatter. Even though Draco
had some doubts about Potter’s sanity, especially recently, at least
the boy didn’t turn up out of the blue and lick your fucking neck. Or
snog you in the middle of the road, when you were minding your own business,
not antagonising anybody … Draco shivered. At that moment, the door to the
ward swung open, revealing someone he hadn’t thought about for a
surprisingly long time.
'Draco!' Pansy simpered, rushing to his side. 'Are you feeling all right?
Does it hurt terribly?' As she neared him, a noxious mix of chemicals wafted
up Draco’s nostrils.
'What’s that smell?' he choked.
'My scent,' Pansy beamed down at him. Her dark bob bounced as she talked.
'It smells of bluebells, right?'
'Right,' Draco agreed, breathing through his mouth. He glanced at the large
clock hanging on the stone wall. It was nearly ten o’clock. 'Hey, are you
cutting class just to see me?' Draco's lungs and nasal passages were on fire
due to Pansy’s new perfume, but he was touched nevertheless.
'Well, it was Charms.' Pansy made a disgusted face, and Draco recalled just
how much Pansy detested Charms. Probably because she didn’t have any. 'Also,
I haven’t had the chance to speak to you for positively ages, you’ve
been so busy with Quidditch.'
'Mmm,' Draco said. Not only had he been busy with Quidditch, he’d been
actively ignoring her for the past couple of weeks. Six years of their
hey-I’m-not-doing-anything-at-the-moment-let’s-fool-around relationship was
beginning to make him think that life was less stressful when he wasn’t
playing suitor to Pansy’s Queen Bee. The silence dragged on for a few
seconds and Pansy perched on the side of the bed. Draco stared at the
ceiling and coughed.
'Would you like to hear about what Daphne told me yesterday?' Pansy blurted
out suddenly. Draco smiled, grateful to have something to fill the silence.
Pansy beamed at him, relieved, and started to talk about how Daphne was a
‘cross-eyed slag’ and wasn’t it hilarious that she could never wear purple
again? Draco had just settled comfortably into a nice, familiar rhythm of
nodding and mumbling at regular intervals and Pansy’s voice was beginning to
become a soothing hum in the background, when the door opened again.
'Er. Hi there,' Potter said to Pansy, who stopped mid-prattle and eyed him
warily. Draco glanced upwards. Potter was still wearing the remnants of eye
make-up from the Quidditch match and it didn’t look as if he had had a
particularly restful night’s sleep. Or a shower. Pansy didn’t reply to the
greeting and merely glared. Potter turned to Draco, who tried to look as
dignified as possible, even though his leg sticking out was at a
disturbingly large angle to his body.
'What are you doing here, Potter?' asked Draco, acid dripping from his
'Don’t you have somewhere else to be?' Pansy cut in, placing a protective
hand on Draco’s leg. Draco tried, unsuccessfully, not to wince. Potter
looked quizzically at Pansy, who raised one of her over-plucked eyebrows in
'Parkinson, don’t your Charms set have a test right now? I heard
Flitwick say it to Binns.'
'So don’t you need to be there?'
'I was just leaving, actually.' Pansy scowled, blushing in embarrassment.
She turned to plant a cool kiss on Draco’s forehead, then flounced out of
the room imperiously, nose in the air. Since her head was tilted upwards,
she banged her shin on a bedpost as she left, but she reached the door in
one piece, limping, and banged it shut. All in all, it was a pretty
impressive exit. Potter turned to Draco again in tired amusement, doing that
thing with his lip again. Draco refrained from commenting.
'Look, Malfoy, I just wanted to see how you were. Since I’m partially
responsible for the whole leg thing.'
'Well done for being so fucking noble,' Draco muttered. 'It was your fault
entirely, you tosser. You fell on me -- and dragged me off my broom.'
'My broom,' corrected Potter.
'Whatever.' Draco scowled. 'Too bad it wasn’t a windy night; the Whomping
Willow could have demolished it once I was done.'
'You snapped a couple of twigs, actually,' Potter pointed out, looking
irritable. Then again, that was his usual expression, except for when he
started dragging his teeth across his bottom lip … and he’d just started
doing it again, right now …
'Screw you, I’m not paying to repair it.'
'I wouldn’t dream of asking,' retorted Potter. 'Wouldn’t want you to spend
all of what’s left of Daddy’s money.'
'Make me,' Potter taunted. Draco laughed sourly and pointed at his bad leg
in mock regret.
'Oh Potter, if only your minions knew that you bullied people who couldn’t
'Minions?' Potter repeated slowly. 'I don’t have minions. I have friends,
Malfoy. It’s an unusual concept for you to grasp, I know.'
'You have friends? You mean the Puff? Or Granger and Weasley?' Draco
sneered. He glanced at the window behind him pointedly. Potter’s eyebrows
furrowed, but he didn’t follow Draco’s gaze. 'And you have a boyfriend too,
'Look, I came to see how you were, and you’re clearly still a snivelling
bastard, so everything must be peachy.' Potter scowled, turning to
leave. He almost had his hand on the doorknob, before Draco called out to
'Did you miss me, Potter?'
'What?' Potter had whipped round, yanking his had away from the metal
doorknob as if it had scalded him.
'You skipped a class to come and check up on me,' Draco pointed out.
'I skipped our study period,' spat Potter, advancing on the bed.
'You could’ve come at break,' replied Draco, raising his eyebrows smugly.
'Unless, of course, being a Gryffindor, you just felt you had
to be the bigger person and come as soon as possible.'
'You know, you’re right.' Potter smiled nastily. 'I came here, just like
Pansy, to fluff your pillow and kiss you better and hear you bitch on about
how much your stupid leg hurts.' Potter strode over to the bed and punched
the pillow beside Draco's head. Draco squirmed and tried to push Potter away
without dislocating his kneecap. Potter still managed to yank Draco's head
up by pulling his fringe, knock his chin against Draco's temple -- Draco
thought Potter's lips might have brushed Draco's hair, but he
couldn't be sure -- and retreat unscathed.
'You’re really sick,' Draco huffed. 'Fucking fairy-boy perverted freak.'
'I’ll take that as a compliment.' Potter grinned. 'How long are you going to
be in here, anyway?'
'You care -- why?' asked Draco, rubbing at his damp forehead with the back
of his hand.
'You have Defence tutoring, dickhead.'
'I’ll miss it, then,' Draco said distractedly, now wiping the back of his
hand on the sheets. 'Sorry.'
'In case it escaped your notice, you are crap,' replied Potter, leaning
against the adjacent wall. 'You can’t really afford to miss a class before
'I can afford to do whatever I fucking want,' Draco snarled. A little too
loudly; Pomfrey hurried in through a side-door, looking harassed. Her
eyebrows fused to her hairline once she saw Potter.
'Oh! Mr Potter, you shouldn’t be in here,' she scolded, wiping her hands on
the front of her robes. 'We were just talking about you,' she added,
motioning towards Draco.
'Really?' Potter asked intrigued. He looked at Draco. 'About what in
'Your stupid boyfriend,' Draco muttered under his breath. 'He’s outside
trying to score with some girl.'
Potter looked disbelieving and unconcerned for a whole two seconds, then
strolled with calculated slowness over to the window. Draco looked at his
toes primly, and waggled them to see if it would hurt much.
'Well?' he asked, after a moment’s breathless anticipation.
'They’re reading, you tit,' Potter said in disgust, turning away.
'And Smythe -- not exactly the type to recite sonnets.'
'More the type to shove his dirty mitts up her skirt,' muttered Draco. 'Too
bad – he’s moved on to greener pastures after turning you into a flaming
poof. Whatever will you do?'
'What did you just say?' Potter hissed.
Just then, the screaming first-years made an entrance. First was a squat
girl with pigtails, yelling fit to bust, followed two others, who were
clinging to each other and wailing. They also had pigtails, but rather than
wearing them on their heads, as was customary, they seemed to have stuffed
them into their pockets. What little hair was left on their heads was
falling out and on to their shoulders at an alarming rate. Their school
robes looked as if they’d been trimmed with the fur of some exotic and
endangered animal, which, Draco conceded, with his hands over his ears, was
not a bad look. The first girl was still bellowing as loud as she could.
Ernie Macmillan stood in the doorframe, a crazed look of helplessness in his
'My dear Madame Pomfrey,' he shouted, above the girl’s yells. 'Could you
please – assist –'
One of the balding girls let go of her equally moulted friend, and punched
the foghorn-voiced girl in the mouth. This quelled the yells, but the other
girl, whose hairline had done eighty years’ worth of receding, curled up
into the foetal position and commenced shrieking.
'Mr Potter!' Pomfrey trilled pleasantly, making her way to the trio with the
air of one who had handled much worse situations and not resorted to
violence or suffered a nervous breakdown. 'Shoo now, Mr Malfoy needs his
rest!' Potter looked unwilling to leave, despite the banshee-like wails of
the first-year. He looked rather more willing to punch Draco’s lights out.
'My dear – Pomfrey –' Ernie managed, panting. He had given up trying to
shush the girls, and was now attempting to muffle the noise with a pillow.
It wasn’t working particularly well.
'Mr Macmillan, she’ll suffocate!' Pomfrey admonished sharply, forcing the
squirming girls on to separate beds. 'Mr Potter, kindly leave. Now.'
Draco placed his palms face-down on the duvet and pushed himself up into a
sitting position, very carefully. With painstaking slowness, Draco shifted
his bad leg sideways until it was sticking out over the side of the bed at a
right angle to his body. That being successfully accomplished, he swung his
other leg round to meet it. He bent his knees with the caution usually
reserved for the use of those who smell distinctly of roast beef and still
decide to pursue a career in magizoology and then placed his bare feet on
the cold tile of the floor. The sensation of having red-hot skewers stuck
into his leg below the knee was pleasantly absent. Either Madame Pomfrey had
spooned liberal amounts of Novocain in the pumpkin juice she’d handed him
earlier that evening, or his broken bone was fixed.
Easing himself off the side of the bed, Draco began to toddle awkwardly
around the dark room. The days were getting shorter and the few lanterns on
the walls did little to improve the general gloom, but he could at least see
where he was putting his feet. His joints still felt a bit stiff and
reluctant to move, as if they needed oiling, but the injury was definitely
healed. Draco padded to the opposite wall and back, grinning to himself.
The sound of approaching footsteps just outside, however, sent him hobbling
hurriedly back to his bed. When Pomfrey had removed his leg bindings, she’d
promised to slip something much stronger than Novocain into his pumpkin
juice if he attempted to exercise his bones before morning. Draco scrambled
underneath the covers just as Potter poked his head around the door.
'Oh,' Draco panted, breathing heavily. 'It’s you.'
Potter entered the room, clad in his school robes with his battered brown
satchel slung over his back. He removed some familiar looking textbooks from
his satchel and a crumpled piece of parchment with instructions scrawled on
it in ink. He then dropped them unceremoniously at the foot of the bed.
'Here you go. Homework.'
'Goody, Potions!' exclaimed Draco in an excited voice. 'I’m touched, Potter.
You shouldn’t have.'
'I wanted to,' Potter began, and coughed unexpectedly. 'I wanted to make
sure you didn’t think you could copy off me when you came back to lessons.
Somehow, I don’t expect you to try and cheat off Parkinson, seeing as she
cheats herself. But you love her anyway, don’t you? Makes it easier, I’d
imagine, dating your intellectual equal.'
'Pansy’s a nightmare,' retorted Draco. 'She came and read to me earlier.'
Potter looked as if he were about to comment on how uncharacteristically
selfless this was. 'From her diary.'
'You’re not tied up anymore,' Potter remarked, hiding something that might
have been a smile. 'Can you walk around yet?'
In occasions when Draco wasn’t concentrating fully, when he was, for
example, staring at someone’s mouth and the way their lips curved
slightly upward when they were amused, his own mouth sometimes moved faster
than his brain, with no real time for communication between the two.
'No,' it replied, startling his brain into a numbed silence. 'Still hurts
Rather than countering this statement with a derisive comment, Potter bit
his bottom lip, which became flushed with colour. Draco wondered briefly at
the squeamishness of someone who himself was incredibly accident-prone, but
soon realised what was going on. It was the infamous Gryffindor Guilt
affecting Potter, so textbook that it deserved its own chapter in
Hogwarts: a History. The idiot clearly still felt responsible -- which
he was -- for breaking Draco’s leg and was even now stressing over
it. That was why he’d come to visit him twice in one day and why he’d
brought him his homework, although that was a hidden apology Draco could
have done without.
'You’re just milking it for attention,' Potter ventured, sounding uncertain.
'Attention?' Draco sneered. 'I haven’t received any grapes or bouquets yet,
for your information. Pansy’s the only one who came to see me – although I
have been getting a lot of unwanted attention from you.'
'You’re trying to tell me that after spending the whole day with Pomfrey,
you’re still in too much pain to lift your lazy arse out of bed?'
'Yeah,' Draco agreed, intent on guilt-tripping Potter for all he was worth.
'I can’t move at all. It’s probably more serious than she thought. I may
have to be transferred to a real hospital.'
Potter did not seem to hear this. He was strolling closer to Draco, looking
suspiciously pleased about something. He dipped a hand into the dark folds
of his robes and withdrew it a few seconds later, bearing his wand.
'I guess that puts you at my mercy, then.' Potter grinned, baring his teeth.
'What’re you doing?' Draco demanded, trying not to let the nervousness show
in his voice. Potter loomed over him, his eyes shining brightly in the
'Nothing,' he replied innocently, then waved his wand. 'Petrificus Armus!'
Draco felt the muscles in his arms tense and snap to his sides rigidly. He
tried to move them in terrified frustration, but couldn’t. They were frozen
in position. Potter hadn’t bothered binding his legs, though, seeing as he
was rendered immobile by his fictitious pain. If he wanted to, he could
stretch his foot out and give Potter a good kick in the …
'I’m just going to ask you a few questions.' Potter smiled, plonking himself
down on the dresser. Draco knew that smile; he’d used it himself. It could
mean any number of things, but ‘Don’t worry, I’m not going to do anything
bad to you’ definitely wasn’t one of them.
'Won’t answer any stupid questions,' said Draco, with all the eloquence of a
pouting five year-old. Potter raised his eyebrows. 'And if you dare touch me
I’ll scream for Pomfrey.'
'Question One, Malfoy. Why are you so full of crap?'
'Fuck off,' Draco snarled in response.
'Make me,' Potter taunted. Draco said nothing, but the tendons in his neck
tightened. 'I thought so,' Potter said, his voice soft, and then resumed a
businesslike demeanour. 'Question Two, what spell would you use to slow down
Draco, who had been expecting something more along the lines of ‘You have
a fat head, don’t you?’, spluttered. 'I’m sorry?'
'It’s called deceleration. Retardation. Slowing down a potential
attacker,' Potter informed him. 'We practised this jinx not a bloody week
'It’s the Intra … Impa … look, I don’t care.'
'You will care when you fail your NEWT,' said Potter through gritted teeth.
'And I’ll care next term when Belinda gets on my case about why
you’re still crap at Defence, so I’m going to make you care. It's the
'Good luck with making me care,' Draco huffed. 'All I care about is …'
'Is getting you and your disgusting stink as far away from me as possible!'
'Question Three,' Potter interrupted, ignoring the insult. He paused and
some indecipherable flicker of emotion passed over his face. 'You liked it
when Smythe kissed you, didn’t you.' It came out as a statement, not a
question. Draco found it hard to believe that it was ever intended as such.
There was a pause.
'You liked it even more,' Draco countered, feeling a cold thrill of
satisfaction as he saw the dark blush creeping up Potter’s cheeks. He licked
his lips, which tasted as dry as two rustling sheets of parchment. 'You’re
sick, you know that?'
'I’m sick, am I?' Potter asked, lowering his head so that he was staring
Draco in the eyes. Draco gazed back at him.
'If you got turned on by your boyfriend practically raping me in the
middle of the road, then yeah, you pretty much are.'
'What about you?' Potter hissed. His face was about two centimetres away
from Draco’s own. Draco assumed this was some kind of Gryffindor
intimidation technique, which, much as he hated to admit it, was working
perfectly. Although this might be largely due to the fact that his arms were
currently pinioned to his sides. 'You have a girlfriend and yet boys
turn you on.'
'No, they don’t,' whispered Draco, but he doubted that Potter actually heard
or even registered the fact that he’d said something, because all of a
sudden Potter had closed the two centimetre gap that lay between them.
The first thing Draco noticed about the change in position was Potter's
hand. It was a little sweat-dampened. The reason Draco knew this was because
Potter had dug his fingers into the crook of Draco's jaw, pressing on the
bone almost to the point of pain. However, before Draco could fully register
this and protest accordingly, Potter's mouth was tickling his, his lips
barely touching Draco's but leaving fiery trails in their wake all the same.
Draco wished more than ever that he had the ability to move his arms, so
that he could take hold of Potter’s hands, or shove him away, or pull his
hair, or something. Draco's heart was thudding violently, so fast
that he was sure his whole chest was vibrating with the ferocity of it.
Draco had been halfway through his ‘don’t’ when Potter moved, so his mouth
was still hanging half open. Potter discovered this early on in the
proceedings and used it to his advantage, flicking his tongue across Draco's
exposed lower lip. Draco tensed, with the definite intention of jerking his
head away from Potter's teasing mouth. However, somewhere along the neural
pathways the message got re-routed and Draco found that, far from turning
away, he was arching up towards Potter, opening his mouth more and
even tilting his head, which helped when Potter slid his tongue past Draco's
lips to meet his tongue --
The best thing to have done would be to pull his head away so he
could do something less horrifying, like vomiting into Potter’s lap. But
Draco's mouth was doing that thing again, where it ran ahead without
beforehand discussing the sanity of its decisions with his brain. Draco was
kissing Potter back.
Draco couldn’t move his shoulders to lean into the kiss and there was a dull
ache at the back of his neck. Potter’s glasses were digging uncomfortably
into the bridge of his nose, but for some reason Draco was kissing
Harry Potter back. Hard.
Potter withdrew, and stared at Draco for a few seconds, wearing a dazed
expression. Then he wiped his mouth on his sleeve, rubbing his tongue
against the fabric.
'Eugh,' Draco mumbled. He could taste Potter’s saliva in his mouth. He tried
to orchestrate a sentence that consisted of more than one syllable and
failing miserably. He tried again. 'Absolutely disgusting.' Potter laughed
weakly and picked up a box of tissues from where they had fallen to the
'Think you might need these for later on?'
'Absolutely disgusting,' Draco repeated, spitting out the words. 'Get the
hell away from me, would you?'
'I thought you’d never ask,' said Potter, standing up and re-adjusting his
satchel. He turned and was halfway to the door before Draco remembered
'Wait!' called Draco, making Potter spin on his heel. 'Could you possibly
lift the jinx, now that you’re done molesting me?'
'Right, you’ll need your hands free,' Potter smirked, waving his wand and
releasing Draco’s arms. They relaxed and hung limply at his sides. 'Sleep
tight.' He was gone before Draco could return the obligatory ‘Fuck you’.
Draco sat in bed, staring at the ceiling. His arms weren’t frozen to his
sides, but he still felt numb. If he thought for a second about what Potter
had just done, about what he had just done, he might start screaming.
Draco lifted his hand and rubbed his mouth clean with the back of his hand.
He pulled one of the tissues out of its box and scraped at his mouth with
it. Then he picked up the tissue box and hurled it across the room.
It didn’t help.
Christmas. It was almost Christmas.
Harry realised this with a queasy jolt, when he woke up one morning to find
the windowpanes frosted with icicles in the shape of humorous vegetables.
Harry hadn’t given much thought to how he would spend his first Christmas
without Sirius. Even though he’d only known of Sirius for three years, it
seemed much longer. It looked to be an impossible task to surmount the
twisting in his gut when he divined just how alone he would be during this
His best friends, true to their promise, did not try to force contact on
him. Every so often Ron would send him a nod down the Gryffindor table, or
Hermione would pause by his desk and smile before hurrying to join Ron.
However, he hadn’t talked to them or had a proper conversation since
their revelations regarding Smythe had come out two months before. Most
people thought they had fallen out; Harry devoutly hoped that this news had
filtered back to Voldemort.
Susan seemed to be conducting some kind of illicit affair with Heinrich
Moon. That was, if discovering the two of them snogging in a broom cupboard
comprised an affair. Harry would like to have called it a momentary
aberration of sense, but then again Susan’s last boyfriend had been Justin
Finch-Fletchley. She was now Beater for the Hufflepuffs.
As for Smythe, it had been a toss-up between Harry retaining his dignity and
walking away from Smythe without a fight, or confronting him in the most
humiliating way possible. As the latter option bore the risk of
mortification for Harry as well, he’d gone for the former. It might even
have been the more courageous one; it was certainly the nobler. Harry didn’t
really care. His method had been to blank Smythe; to walk away when he
It was clear that Hermione’s, Ron’s and even -- loath as Harry was to admit
it -- Malfoy’s estimations of Smythe's character had been correct. For about
a week Harry was the recipient of numerous wounded looks and
elegantly-worded notes protesting Smythe’s innocence. He had ceased pursuing
Harry after ten days and last Harry heard, he had shacked up with at least
three other people in the meantime. With people who didn’t make a fuss about
infidelity and were prepared to do the dirty with him, Harry imagined.
Harry still intended to wreck his revenge on Smythe somehow, but as time
went on it seemed ever more petty and childish to do so. His scar had
started hurting again and every time it did, there was a report in the
Prophet concerning another disappearance or unexplained attack on
Harry paused at the door to the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom.
Inside, he knew, was festooned with fairies -- Belinda had a considerable
personal collection -- and mistletoe. Belinda seemed to think it was amusing
when people bumped into each other underneath it and either fumbled their
lips against each other’s cheeks or dashed away squawking. Harry couldn’t
quell the thought that she was perhaps an indoctrinate of pop sociology or,
failing that, a very cruel person.
There was only a few days to go before they broke up for Christmas; the
register of students staying at Hogwarts for the holidays had been passed
around the day before. It seemed evenly split; some people yearned for the
safety of their family homes, others preferred the certainty of Dumbledore’s
The register had gone to Hermione and Ron before Harry. There had been a
G.P. marked beside their names. Harry had put down Hogwarts. He didn’t think
he could face returning to Grimmauld Place; not ever, maybe, but certainly
not with the memory of Sirius tunelessly singing carols permeating every
brick of the building.
Malfoy was standing in the centre of the room, flicking his wand at the
bouquets of mistletoe that drooped from every conceivable crevice. As Harry
watched, one of them burst into flame. A second later Malfoy let out a hiss
of irritation as flakes of ash settled on his hair and shoulders.
‘And people say I don’t think things through,’ remarked Harry, striding over
to the nearest bunch of threatening white-berried stalks and pointing his
wand at it. He thought for a moment and then muttered one of the more basic
Transfiguration spells. For some reason he ended up with a conch shell, but
at least it was better than mistletoe.
‘Because shells are so much more efficient than burning things, of
course,' said Malfoy.
‘At least you’ve mastered the Incendus.’ Harry dropped his books on to a
nearby desk and looked about for somewhere convenient to dispose of the
‘Give me that.’ Malfoy snatched it out of his hand and held it to his ear.
‘I can’t hear the sea!’
‘Why would you?’ Harry was impatient. ‘It used to be a shrub, for
crying out loud!’
‘I don’t think mistletoe grows --’ Malfoy began, but Harry cut him off
before Harry's large ignorance of the complexities of Herbology could be
‘Anyway.’ Harry glared at Malfoy for good measure. ‘I think we should
practice some more jinxes tonight, but when you go home you need to find
someone to practise on, your wristwork is abysmal --’
Malfoy had started smirking. ‘I’m sure there’s a reason why your
wristwork is so impeccable, eh, Potter? You missing Smythe terribly?’
At the start, Harry had exploded when Malfoy taunted him about his failed
relationship. Of course it had only encouraged Malfoy to continue in the
same vein -- and a very long vein it was too -- and by the time Harry became
conscious that he never should have supplied Malfoy with such a fruitful
opening, the damage was done.
‘Yeah,' sighed Harry. There was nothing to be gained in teasing Malfoy these
days; that botched kiss had made things incredibly awkward between them. Not
only did they harbour mutual loathing for one another, but also Harry had
liked kissing him far more than he cared to admit. He presumed Malfoy had
merely thought it was vile -- but it was a kiss. The most intimate
thing people could do, even more so than sex because that was only a need; a
bodily function. However, no one had to kiss.
Coming to terms with fancying Malfoy -- a little bit, only, mind --
made things distressing and boring and nerve-wracking, most of all because
Harry knew there wasn’t going to be a repeat performance of that interlude
in the hospital wing -- and a good thing too.
Malfoy seemed to hesitate even longer before shooting out retorts, but maybe
that was just Harry’s imagination.
‘Your Body Bind leaves a lot to be desired,' said Harry, 'and you need to
aim when you cast a Stunner, I keep telling you, it’s no use hitting
walls and grass ninety percent of the time --’
‘I’m not going home for Christmas,’ said Malfoy unexpectedly. ‘So I expect
I’ll have to keep practising on you.’ His eyes shone with what Harry
took to be undisguised malice.
‘Oh, is that so? How d’you know I’m not going home for Christmas?’
Malfoy shrugged. ‘I checked the register.’
‘Oh.’ Harry gave this due consideration. ‘Why aren’t you going home?’
‘None of your business.’
Harry rolled his eyes and pushed his sleeves up. He shot Malfoy a suspicious
look, but Malfoy was concentrating on incinerating another bunch of
mistletoe, a small frown line between his brows.
‘I told my mother that I need to study,' added Malfoy.
Harry yawned. ‘That’ll be almost true, anyway. If you count giving me
bruises in more places that I can find as ‘study’.’
‘Now that’s what I call kinky.’
A voice detached itself from the shadows as Harry and Malfoy whirled around
in shock. Smythe approached them. For some reason, he was chewing on his
‘Harry?’ His voice was uncertain. ‘May I talk to you?’
‘You already are,’ Harry pointed out. Malfoy sniggered and Smythe turned
narrowed, bloodshot eyes on him.
‘Well, if it isn’t the pretty boy. Moved in on my turf yet, have you?’
Malfoy looked revolted. Harry’s heart flip-flopped. ‘I am not your turf,
Smythe. I am not your anything. What do you want to talk about?’
Smythe’s gaze slid from Harry to Malfoy and back again. Half his mouth
quirked upwards, although his long hair obfuscated the expression in his
‘I just wanted to give you a Christmas present,’ he said, pulling a slim
white box out of his pocket. ‘It was meant to be for sharing, but --’
There was a question in his voice.
‘Perhaps you should give it to someone you can share with,’ suggested Harry,
his voice steely.
‘Right.’ There was a sigh in Smythe’s voice. ‘I thought you were worth one
‘I am?’ Harry was surprised, too surprised to even notice Malfoy spluttering
in the background.
‘Of course.’ Smythe stepped forward and touched his thumb to the corner of
Harry thought, through the muzzy fog that was masquerading as his brain,
that Malfoy might be having an asthma attack.
‘Cheers,’ managed Harry. Before he could do anything to prevent it, Smythe’s
mouth had captured his own and he was kissing Harry with fevered urgency.
‘Smythe --’ he began, when Smythe at last broke away. Smythe, panting
lightly, pointed upwards. Harry looked and saw a large glistening bunch of
mistletoe right above his head.
Harry was pretty sure it hadn’t been there before.
Smythe placed the box on the desk beside Harry’s books. ‘Remember, to
deactivate it you just have to want to,’ he said and slipped out of the
‘Are you going to open that?’ Malfoy’s voice carried heavy overtones of
accusation, but Harry wasn’t quite sure why.
‘Of course,’ he said. ‘Otherwise what is the term ‘recklessly foolhardy’
He shuffled the lid off and looked inside. What looked like a
greeting-card-factory’s-worth of glitter was nestling on an oyster-silk
‘Do you know what this is?’ he asked, holding it out so that there was a
desk between Malfoy and him.
‘Nope.’ Malfoy peered closer, inhaled some and promptly sneezed.
They were engulfed in all-embracing darkness.
‘Okay, Malfoy, stop messing about now.’
‘Me? You’re the idiotic Gryffindor in this equation, remember?’
‘Okay, let’s be sensible about this. Do you have your wand?’
‘Me too. So let’s cast a light spell and see where we are.’
‘I am not doing anything you tell me to do.’
Harry felt the short fraying tether on his patience slipping from his sweaty
grasp. ‘Fine. I’ll do a light spell and you can do whatever you like and it
may or may not include a light spell, all right? You git.’
He hadn’t said the last part quietly enough because Malfoy informed him, ‘If
it weren’t so dark I’d punch you.’
Harry ignored him. ‘Lumos!’ Nothing happened; his wand remained cold
in his palm. He shook it and tried again. ‘Lumos!’ A blaze of light
failed to materialise.
‘Great. We’re having some kind of magical power failure,' groaned Harry.
'Can wands suddenly stop working?’
‘Of course. When the wizard is dead.’
‘Do you think we’re dead?’
‘God, I hope not. Stuck with you for all eternity? Hell would have nothing
Harry sighed gustily and became aware that they weren’t in total darkness,
after all. A few points of light shimmered near the ceiling. It had to be a
ceiling, because Harry could feel floorboards under his palms and they
weren’t a popular feature in the great outdoors.
‘What did Smythe say? To stop this we just have to want to? Come on, then.’
‘You think I haven’t wanted to leave since we got here, Potter, you great
Harry looked down at his wand. It wouldn’t take much of an effort to stab
Malfoy to death with it and of course, there was the added benefit of not
having to develop enough darkness in his soul to cast a Killing Curse.
‘Not if I get you first,’ said Malfoy. Harry looked up in surprise.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Stabbing me to death with your wand. Not if I get you first.’
‘I wasn’t -- how did you know?’
‘Call it intuition.’ There was a rustle of robes as Malfoy got to his feet.
Harry shivered, deciding that a few of Malfoy’s burning mistletoe bunches
wouldn’t go astray right about now.
‘We’re still in Hogwarts.’
‘How do you know?’ Harry got up and felt his way across the walls to where
Malfoy appeared to be craning his neck upwards.
‘I can see a little bit of the sky and the constellations are the same.’
‘Well, that’s a relief. I suppose we should try looking for a door.’
‘If we had a broomstick we could just fly up to the window,’ mused Malfoy.
‘Yeah -- but we don’t.’
Harry could feel Malfoy’s withering glare burning through him, even in the
tiny illumination that the dots of light far above provided. ‘Why did you
kiss me? In the hospital?’
Harry was stunned by the question. ‘I suppose -- I suppose it seemed like a
good idea at the time.’
‘I recall I haven’t got you back for that,’ said Malfoy. He was closer now;
Harry could feel his breath against his neck. His hand reached up and
grabbed Harry’s collar, pulling his face down. The action made his robes
slide down his left arm, but Harry didn’t have time to notice the loss
because Malfoy’s fingers replaced it, playing a concerto against Harry’s
exposed collarbone. Harry was about to protest that Malfoy would break
Harry’s neck with all this yanking when his mouth brushed inexpertly against
Harry’s own and Harry forgot about everything else entirely.
Malfoy kissed as if it was revenge -- which for him, it probably was. His
teeth dragged at Harry’s lower lip and his hands were almost pinching the
skin of Harry’s neck, digging into the hollows as if he were trying to get a
hold of Harry’s very bones. Harry wasn’t about to stand for that; he shoved
with all his strength and Malfoy overbalanced. They went down in a tangle of
limbs and a sequence of affronted ‘Ow!’s.
‘What’d you go and do that for?’ complained Malfoy. His hands pulled at the
cloth that had somehow become intimately acquainted with his face. Harry
couldn’t tell where his legs began and Malfoy's ended, but he did know that
his legs liked this state of affairs very much indeed.
‘Shut up,’ Harry said, clambering over Malfoy’s body and grabbing the hand
that was still brushing the hair out his eyes. Malfoy's pulse jumped under
his fingers and his skin was roasting hot. Harry liked it and he
wanted to taste it, so he did, tracing patterns on Malfoy’s skinny
wrist with his tongue.
‘Right, so, you’ve proved Smythe correct but would you care to employ your
talents elsewhere?’ Malfoy’s voice was petulant, but he hadn’t attempted to
shift Harry’s weight off his chest and his other hand was convulsing on
Harry’s knee. ‘My mouth would be favourite.’
Harry abandoned Malfoy’s wrist, giving it one last lick that made Malfoy
bite down on a sigh. Harry wriggled so that they were laying chest to chest,
ignoring the jolts of sensation that this induced, and laid his cheek
‘You’re heavy,’ complained Malfoy. Harry pressed down harder and
Malfoy shut up, lifting his damp wrist to his mouth to bite down on it.
‘Are we quits yet?’ asked Harry, propping himself up on his elbows and
lifting his face a few inches from Malfoy’s.
Malfoy’s lips were wet and he kept licking them; at last, Harry could see
why that habit could be so disconcerting. Not waiting for Malfoy to reply,
he dragged his mouth along Malfoy’s cheekbone, licking the folded skin just
beside his eye.
‘This is us, Potter.’ Malfoy’s whisper was malevolent. ‘We’ll never
be quits. Never.’
'Good.' The word ended in a moan, which Harry realised had come from him. He
rubbed his cheek against Malfoy's, indulging himself in the feeling of skin
on skin. That was, until Malfoy grabbed the front of his robes and pulled
him down into a savage kiss, jabbing the same cheek that had been caressing
his own with his pointed nose. When he pushed open Harry's lips with his
tongue, Harry was so surprised he let Malfoy roll on top of him.
Malfoy was clumsy and had no technique to speak of and Harry didn't ever
want him to stop.
After a while, they both forgot where they were. For a few precious seconds,
they forgot who they were, too.
Draco leaned against the desk, holding the rustling pages of the Prophet
tightly before him. The huge jet-black letters swam before his eyes,
performed the backstroke, then assembled back into perfect formation and
glared out at him with all the heartlessness of bold type. They even seemed
to be quivering in malevolence; it was only when Draco concentrated on this
troubling fact that he realized it was due to his hands. They were shaking
like mad. He folded the paper in two neatly, then four. He slid it precisely
into his leather bag and sat down on his hands to stop them trembling. Draco
gripped the worn, stable wood of the desk tightly. Splinters dug into the
soft skin beneath his nails.
That Hufflepuff boy he’d just walked past on his way to the Defence
classroom had given him a funny look, he was sure of it. It had been in the
second corridor, where Peeves, perverse botanist that he was, had somehow
managed to fashion all the holly and ivy into obscene shapes. The boy had
rounded a corner, stopped in his tracks, and looked at Draco in a funny way
before continuing, a little more briskly. Draco wondered what would have
happened if that boy had been Matthew. What would his face have looked like
-- shocked, disbelieving, horrified -- hate-filled?
The headline echoed hollowly through Draco’s mind. ‘The universe is
having me on,’ Draco thought. ‘This is an extremely misguided joke,
this is a prank of marvellous proportions … Somebody, somewhere, is taking
the mickey out of me.’
Draco licked his lips in agitation. It was slightly more comforting to think
this was all at his expense. Though he didn’t particularly appreciate the
brand of humour, Draco smiled to himself. Then he tried laughing. The laugh
sounded so alien and strange, as if it belonged to some psychologically
defunct, non-human creature, that he soon stopped. His smile probably looked
off as well. It felt like a superhuman effort to tug at the muscles in his
cheeks and hold them in place to help it maintain its shape.
Potter pushed open the door, exactly two minutes late. He hadn’t bothered to
brush his dark hair. He yawned amiably and nodded at Draco when he saw him
sitting on the desk. He clearly didn’t know. Yet. Draco wondered if Potter
would even have turned up if he’d known about it.
'Wands out,' Potter announced, in the middle of his second extravagant yawn.
Draco drew his wand dumbly, as Potter kicked the door shut and turned to
face him. 'Christ, I love saying that – makes me almost sound like an
Draco didn’t say anything. He merely smiled. It was all rather funny,
really. Potter was such a distraction, with his stupid jokes and his messy
hair and his perpetually annoying presence. He might even have been able to
distract Draco from urgent thoughts of the Prophet article, but
unfortunately, the news in the Prophet was to do with him. Everything
in Draco’s life had to do with Harry Potter. It was rather funny, really.
'Why are you smiling in that weird way?' Potter asked, frowning slightly, as
he strode over to the store cupboard to find some pillows. Draco would
usually have delivered some cutting remark about basic hygiene or the
importance of hairbrushes by this time, but he was uncharacteristically
silent. 'And why aren’t you talking? Not that I’m complaining, you
'I don’t know,' Draco replied, grinning lopsidedly. He was suddenly struck
by an inexorable thought. In one quick movement, he raised his wand and
pointed it at Potter, who was carrying a large pile of blue and yellow
Potter’s mouth opened slightly, he swayed, letting the garish pillows fall
unceremoniously and then keeled over, cracking his head sickeningly on the
stone floor. He lay there in a crumpled heap, not moving. Draco’s fixed
smile twitched out of place. He realised that he was still sitting on his
left hand, to stop it trembling. Draco slid off the desk went to stand over
Potter. His hands hung limply at his sides. It would be so easy just to…
Draco’s mouth twitched again; he crouched and lowered his wand over Potter’s
Potter gasped instantly, making Draco jump backwards in undignified alarm,
then choked on his air and rolled over, groaning curses loudly, on to one of
the pillows which had not impeded his fall in any way whatsoever. Draco
waited patiently as Potter used his elbows to lever himself up to a sitting
position and then stared at him incredulously.
'I mastered the art of Stunning,' Draco said. Potter snorted from his seat
on the floor.
'Gee,' he said irritably, using a word Draco had never heard anyone speak
aloud before– and with good reason, he now decided, as it made you sound
like a twat – 'why the hell didn’t you just tell me that, instead of
'I don’t know,' Draco answered. He shook his head, realising something was
obscuring his vision. It turned out to be a lock of his own white-blond
hair. He was due for another haircut soon. Draco grinned to himself,
although this arbitrary fact was hardly amusing.
'You don’t know,' Potter muttered, standing up, and feeling the back of his
head gingerly. “I’m glad you’re in a good mood, at least.” He pressed a sore
spot at the back of his head, wincing, and withdrew his fingers.
'So. What are we doing today?' Draco asked after a pause, tucking stray hair
behind his ear. He didn’t think he could handle this, having Potter instruct
him on jinxes and hexes and proper wand work and how to defend himself
against the forces of evil. Potter glanced at the back of his hand, which
had a smudged note written over the knuckles.
'I think Belinda said we were to move slightly ahead of the syllabus,'
Potter replied. 'So now we should focus mainly on -'
'I don’t want to do the syllabus,' Draco interrupted, stepping closer to
Potter, invading his personal space, but not touching him, never quite
touching him. Potter exhaled heavily, sighing.
'Malfoy, piss off. You’re supposed to use this time to be learning.'
'So teach me,' Draco suggested innocently, sliding his hands around Potter’s
waist and pressing his mouth awkwardly to Potter's, desperate for some sort
of release. It was fine for the first couple of seconds; Draco did
manage to lose himself briefly. Potter was making half-hearted attempts to
extricate Draco’s hands from his sides, even though he was kissing Draco
However, the headline was projected on the back of Draco's eyelids, lasering
out into the soothing blackness, and he couldn’t bloody ignore it. He
couldn't concentrate on the sensation of Potter’s warm hands clasping his
narrow wrists, not quite shoving them away, or that of Potter’s chapped lips
bruising his own. Draco opened his eyes involuntarily, saw the awkward
up-closeness of it all, and wrenched his mouth free, panting.
'Leave me alone,' Draco muttered, pulling away. The room spun. 'What the
hell am I doing here?'
'Supposedly having a lesson,' Potter retorted. 'And what do you mean, I
should leave you alone?'
'Fucking crazy,' Draco murmured, at a loss as to whom he was referring. He
grabbed his bag from the desk where he’d left it. 'I need to leave. I have a
'You have a D in Defence, that’s what you have.' Potter scowled, put out.
'Can we resume the lesson as normal now? First you try to attack me, then
you try and shag me --'
'No,' Draco said. 'Look –'
The door opened again.
Harry turned in annoyance. It was far from unusual to have Malfoy in a strop
and acting with about as much mystery as one generally got from a moody git,
but all the same, a distraction was the last thing Harry needed. Malfoy
would use the opportunity to slip away before things could be resolved and
that would mean other, more pleasant occupations would have to be postponed.
Professor McGonagall was standing in the doorway, looking as angry as Harry
had ever seen her. However, her glare was directed towards Malfoy, who --
Harry noted in amazement -- looked pale and apprehensive.
McGonagall was holding a crumpled page of newsprint in her hand.
‘Harry,’ she said, her voice sounding constricted, ‘come with me. The
headmaster sent me to find you.’
‘What do you mean?’ said Harry. ‘We only just got here! We haven’t even
started on any -- lessons.’
McGonagall's eyes widened. ‘You are still tutoring Mr Malfoy, after what has
Harry blushed. What had happened was quite the incentive to keep ‘tutoring’
Malfoy, but Harry didn’t care to share that fact with McGonagall, of all
people. ‘Well, yes,' he muttered, 'I am.'
‘Potter, you should go,’ said Malfoy. His voice sounded strained and as if
it were coming from a great distance away. When Harry jerked his head around
to Malfoy, his eyes face a distant look.
‘NO!’ Harry burst out, stumbling across to Malfoy. He reached out, but
Malfoy stepped back, shoving something into Harry’s chest as he did so.
It was another newspaper.
Harry stared at Malfoy in complete incomprehension, but Malfoy ignored him.
Grabbing up his books, he darted for the door. Harry made to follow him, but
found his way blocked by McGonagall.
When she spoke, her voice was kind. ‘I think you should read that, Harry.’
Harry scrabbled to unfold the paper. He blinked once or twice at the huge
headline, some part of his brain refusing to take it in.
‘DEATH EATERS ATTACK MUGGLE TOWN OF LITTLE WHINGING: ENTIRE AREA
Harry raced through the rest of the article, his heart jumping so feverishly
he wondered if there was a skipping rope inside his chest. Random phrases
popped out of the text and lodged in his brain, burrowing into the darkest
… escaped convicts …
… many thousands of Muggles dead …
… victims subjected to Cruciatus …
… Potter’s relations, the Dursley family, decapitated …
… Lucius Malfoy …
‘I’m going to be sick,’ said Harry. He proceeded to do so, all over
McGonagall's shoes. Her face was not exactly delighted as she Vanished the
vomit, but her hands were gentle as they helped Harry into a chair and
gripped his shoulder for support.
‘I’m very sorry, Harry,’ said McGonagall.
‘So am I,’ said Harry, and he did mean it, in more ways than he could ever
Voldemort was ruthless, but Harry would never have guessed that he would
target people whom Harry despised. No one was safe, Harry realised; neither
his greatest friends nor his greatest enemies.
Not even his lovers.
Harry, at the beginning of the year, hadn’t factored the last group into his
equations, simply because he never visualised having any. Despite Smythe’s
philandering ways, he hadn’t deserved to be put in the danger he was now in.
As for Malfoy, Harry couldn’t even begin to express his feelings in
that particular case.
McGonagall walked Harry back to Gryffindor Tower without speaking. Harry was
grateful for that; there was nothing she could have said that would make
Harry feel better and much that would have made Harry feel indescribably
He’d hated the Dursleys and now they were dead. The fact that he wasn’t
glad; that he was, in fact, horrified and sick and on the verge of tears;
that confused him. The guilt was over-whelming, a physical presence that
was almost tangible.
‘I will check on you tomorrow,’ said McGonagall, at last, when they were
standing outside the Fat Lady’s portrait. 'I believe Professor Dumbledore
wishes to speak with you now.'
‘Okay,’ said Harry. He rubbed his hands on his arms, trying not to think
about the horrible hollow feeling in his stomach, and most of all not about
Harry said, 'Fitzweezer,' and climbed through the portrait hole. He was
startled to hear his name being called when he got into the common room,
because everyone in his year had gone home for Christmas, and that
voice sounded remarkably like --
‘Oh, Harry,’ said Hermione, running over to him and engulfing in him in a
mammoth hug. Harry spat out a mouthful of her hair and looked over her
shoulder. Ron was just behind her, looking uncomfortable. Seamus, Dean and
Neville were rising from their seats on the sofa and Lavender and Parvati
were in the process of dismantling a subdued game of cards.
‘What -- what are all of you doing here?’ Harry was bewildered.
Hermione didn’t elucidate, only buried her face in Harry’s neck. Ron stared
at his feet and the others looked everywhere but at Harry.
‘I owled your friends to return once the news came to my attention, shortly
after dawn this morning,’ said Dumbledore, emerging from the shadows under
one of the staircases. ‘I felt, in the light of this recent tragedy, that
you would need their help and support.’
He advanced on Harry; Hermione seemed to take her cue from that, for she
retreated to the shelter of Ron’s arm around her shoulders. By the time
Dumbledore came to stand before Harry, both Hermione and Ron were perched on
the arm of the sofa.
‘I am sure that you are both shocked and conflicted by these atrocities,’
said Dumbledore. Harry nodded in mute acquiescence. ‘It is natural to feel
like this on hearing of the death of someone you disliked acutely. Such was
the case for Professor Snape, on learning of the murder of your parents.’
Harry started; he had not considered it like that. He wished he hadn’t
now; he had no desire to have anything more in common with Snape than he
‘This is why I believed it desirable to recall your classmates from their
celebrations,’ continued Dumbledore. Something steely crept into his
expression. ‘I am well aware that these past few months have been … troubled
ones for you. However, when it comes down to it, you need people around you
whom you can trust; those whose, shall we say, associations,
have never been in doubt?’
Harry stared at Dumbledore, whose voice dropped even lower.
‘I think, Harry, that Mr Malfoy has had sufficient tutelage in Defence
Against the Dark Arts. Do you not agree?’
Harry felt something inside of him twist and break, a little. He swallowed
and looked up into Dumbledore’s hooded, inscrutable eyes.
‘Yes, sir,’ agreed Harry.
‘It is nice to have you back, Harry,’ sighed Hermione. It was the third or
fourth time she’d said it since the night of the Dursleys’ murders. Harry
was grateful that his friends still liked him after the ostracism and
general bad behaviour he’d subjected them to, but the repetition was
starting to grate on his nerves.
‘It’s nice to be back,’ said Harry, but without much real conviction. Ron
sent him a sharp look, but Harry feigned a deep interest in the buckle of
his satchel, which had worked loose.
It was the second Defence Against the Dark Arts class of the new term.
Hermione was all in a tizzy as Belinda was returning the results of an exam
she had set on the first class back. It had been a test of everything they’d
learned since September. Hermione had had colour-coded notes, as usual,
which put Harry off. He preferred studying by the avoidance method --
avoiding it until it was impossible to continue doing so. All the same, he
thought he’d done all right -- but if he didn’t it wasn’t going to be a
massive calamity, as it would be for Hermione.
Harry was still sitting next to Malfoy in this class; there was no way of
escaping it. Belinda was one of those teachers who expected students to keep
to the same seating plan. As she had a high tolerance for chatting in class,
it was going to be doubly difficult to sit beside Malfoy and not talk to him
Not remember the way his mouth felt.
Not think about the sound he made when Harry pressed him up against a desk
to kiss him breathless.
Not consider that his father had murdered the last family Harry had left; a
murder so brutal, the details had gained a Ministry seal of secrecy for
fifty years, as they were considered too disturbing to be released to the
Not want him anyway.
Not live with the knowledge of what that made Harry and how it could never
be, anyway … and how that hurt. A senseless, useless grief that had nothing
to do with death.
‘Well done, Harry,’ chirped Belinda, placing Harry’s marked paper on his
desk. It was adorned with a large, circular O inscribed in sparkly pink ink.
Harry summoned up a smile for her. It proved an amazingly difficult task,
equivalent to climbing Mount Everest nude and using a chocolate pickaxe.
Belinda's bright voice saying, ‘You too, Draco,’ caught Harry’s attention
and, before he could stop himself, his eyes had flickered over to Malfoy’s
paper. For a second, Malfoy made as if to cover it with a hand, but slowly
-- trembling slightly -- he drew it back, very obviously so that Harry could
Overall Mark: O.