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Chapter 14: With This Cauldron I Shall Destroy The World
Snape looked even more annoyed than his usual, cheery self ever normally managed. He was probably suffering from the same anomaly Draco had noticed upon checking his timetable that morning and realising that he had another Potions lesson. He said another, since he vaguely recalled having all ready attended his weekly allotment of the subject earlier in the week. But then again if it hadn’t been Potions it would no doubt have been a Defence lesson. Potions and Defence were beginning to feel like the only two things he ever learnt anymore. Oh, Transfiguration popped up once in a blue moon, but Arithmancy had fallen from his schedule completely. He wasn’t surprised really since the lesson was so boring it was barely worth mentioning. You couldn’t blow up cauldrons; you couldn’t start duels with Gryffindors; you couldn’t even have a meaningful romantic moment. Arithmancy was a lesson in which people actually learnt, so he could completely understand why no one would want to mention it when he could be sat in another Potions lesson instead.
It wasn’t like he even needed to do well at school either. Everyone knew that the job of Malfoy heir involved less in the way of qualifications than it did in the way of, for example, the ability to silence an opponent with a well placed glare. Despite this though no Malfoy would ever willingly bear the embarrassment of anything less than brilliance when it came to learning, and this new schedule was seriously impeding the chances of Draco ever achieving this. Except in Potions and Defence, that is, since he had probably gained the status of Potions Master around the fourth year, and could possibly fulfil the requirements of World Defender against the masses of Evil in both title and ability now, with extra credit in ‘Why Hufflepuffs Make Excellent Cannon Fodder.’
He had been paired with Potter. Or, to be more accurate, he had paired himself with Potter and them spent a good ten minutes contemplating hiding under the desk out of sheer mortification over what he had done. Pomfrey had promised him all unfortunate side effects would have vanished by now, but they were still clinging hopefully to his sanity. The mediwitch had suggested this was due to his complete and utter avoidance of the issue, and that if he would just embrace it, it would go away that much quicker.
Unfortunately, given the distinct lack of what he would consider eligible males in his year, Draco was left with no alternative but to focus his attention upon one Harry Potter. He had kicked and screamed at the suggestion, but given the only other alternative was Goyle, he had been forced to admit that, yes, in comparison the scarred twit did have innumerable redeeming qualities. The least of which being the fact that the Golden Boy spent so much of his time in a depression-induced haze he barely noticed the extra attention he was receiving. That, or he tolerated it because he possibly thought Draco was trying to charm him to death.
‘Why, in the name of all that is decent and humane, are you using that monstrosity of a book,’ Draco looked aghast and disgusted as Harry plonked it on the desk between them, shying away when Harry nudged it towards him in response before lighting a fire under his cauldron.
‘Take a look.’
‘I am not touching it,’ Draco sounded horrified. ‘It’s old, it’s dirty and it’s clearly second hand.’ Harry didn’t seem bothered.
‘S’not that old,’ he mumbled, opening a nearby jar and carefully extracting the contents, which made their way into the slowly warming mixture. ‘Only about twenty years or so.’
‘And you expect to learn anything from it.’
‘It’s full of hints and stuff. Makes brewing easier.’ That piqued Draco’s interest, as he glanced at the pages, scanning the scrawled writing that littered the margins and noticing the familiarity it bore to a certain script Potter must have seen in abundance, correcting his mistakes and general existence at the end of every potions essay he never handed in. He plucked a bottle from Harry’s hands before it too could meet the contents of their project, placing it carefully out of reach of the Boy-Who-Simply-Could-Not-Be-Quite-That-Accident-Prone.
‘What’s that?’ he pointed to three scrawled initials, careful not to actually touch the page at all.
‘It’s the last owners signature,’ Harry replied. ‘It’s all over the thing. Stands for Half Blood Prince,’ Draco’s brow furrowed as he glanced towards the front of the room, rolling his eyes at the obviousness before carefully sliding the book slightly to the side and out of sight of a certain Professor.
‘Do you know who it is?’
‘Not a clue.’
‘Oh, well,’ Draco said sympathetically, knocking a glass of dried petals to the floor and looking meaningfully at Harry as if to dare him to suggest it had been anything but an accident. ‘I see he’s very good at potions. I can completely understand why you’re stumped as to who it might be. Look, he scribbled an unknown spell in the border. Why don’t you try it out? On me, if you like.’
‘Maybe later.’ Draco watched Harry in stunned silence for a few moments as he bent down to fumble through his bag, frowning as he was forced to straighten up empty handed. Something was definitely amiss, something strange. Somehow Potter’s normally foolish nature seemed more planned than usual, although the only answer to that was equally implausible.
‘Have you been secretly studying Potions?’ It was a preposterous notion.
‘Why do you ask?’
‘Because in the last five minutes I have had to remove the dragon scales from your reach since we all know how badly they react with lizards blood.’ Very badly. Horribly badly. They would have been picking bits of Draco out of what little remained of the room for weeks. ‘Then there was the daisy pollen, which is known to melt the bottom of cauldrons and release a deadly vapour within seconds of contact with powdered unicorn horn. I hate to think what would have happened had I not confiscated those star flowers I saw hiding in your bag just before we started.’ He hated to think what might have happened to him. What would have happened to Potter would have been pretty damn amusing. Harry just looked at him as though he had grown an extra head though.
‘I think you may have messed things up a bit with Hermione, you know.’ Bloody hell. As statements went from Potter, that could almost have been classed as astute. It certainly classed as changing the subject.
‘Really, and what gave that away?’
‘She spent the better past of last night cursing your name and your family. I think she likes you.’
‘What?’ Draco had not planned on this. He didn’t want to be liked by a mudblood. Absolute and unwavering devotion to his gorgeous self he could have coped with. Hell, it would only have been natural. But actual liking? He could only hope Harry had managed to secretly slip something into the brew that addled his senses. Which reminded him. ‘Don’t avoid the issue Potter,’ Draco snapped. ‘I have absolutely no problem with your so called efforts to bid farewell to your oh so pesky existence. If you are that desperate just ask and I will be more than happy to oblige. If you could refrain from trying to take not only myself, but the rest of the class with you, I am sure Snape will at least be grateful. Do you not know the self-restraint he has had to acquire to keep the mortality limit of his class at nil?’ Draco had to admire that kind of control. ‘All that hard work will be wasted if you continue to try to add Acromantula venom to the mix! Draco all but smacked the vile out of Harry’s hand, wincing as the glass shattered against the stone floor.
‘Well that was good of you,’ Potter looked mildly put out as he stared at the shattered glass, scowling as Draco vanished the contents with a wave of his wand and fixed the shards before the Boy-Who-Was-Thankfully-Too-Distracted-To-Think could put them to use. Much as Draco hated to admit it, but his healing spells were woefully inadequate, and he would never forgive Potter if he pushed him into demonstrating such lacking in front of the entire class. Draco would rather have let him bleed to death.
‘Shut up,’ Draco huffed, staring at the cauldron between them. He had no idea what was in it now, and he was vaguely certain it bore little resemblance to what it was supposed to contain. He was peeved, he was irritable and he was about to fail his first ever Potions class. ‘Right,’ he declared forcefully, glaring at Potter again for good measure. ‘I have had enough of this. I’m bloody well giving you back.’
Harry let out a small chuckle. ‘Giving me back?’
‘Yes,’ Draco hissed menacingly. ‘I didn’t choose to be lumbered with all this emotional baggage you insist on dragging around with you.’ Harry opened his mouth to speak, but at the look in Draco’s eye he didn’t. ‘Granger’s your friend, so she should be the one constantly worrying about your mental health.’
Harry had the nerve to smile. ‘You’re worried?’
‘For my bloody life!’ Draco stalked away manfully, realising only a little late that he had just left Potter unattended with the cauldron. Muttering obscenities under his breath he reached the desk Hermione was bent over with some other annoying Gryffindor and coughed pointedly.
‘Yes, Malfoy?’ she said sweetly, and it was only years of tightening his perfected self control that stopped Draco from turning a mortifying shade of red. He had sung to the bloody woman, for Merlin’s sake. He had, in his younger years, taken an oath that an albino rabbit would be sacrificed on the very altar of Salazar Slytherin himself before he would even consider talking amenably to such a monstrosity, and he had declared an undying devotion for her in the form of melodramatic prose. It wasn’t sure he even trusted himself to speak now, lest his mind betray him so completely once again. So instead he just grabbed her arm and hauled her from her seat, the action being met with an indignant squawk he ignored whilst dragging her across the room.
‘Deal with him,’ Draco demanded, nodding to where Potter was perching with deceptive innocence on the stool.
‘How dare you,’ she was starting to get indignant. Well, more indignant.
‘Deal with him,’ Draco repeated, pointing an accusing finger across the table at Potter, ‘before I ram whatever that foul concoction is that he has created down his throat so he can die excruciatingly. Trust me, it would be my pleasure.’
‘What on earth have you two been doing?’ Draco winced at the way she referred to the two of them.
‘It wasn’t me. Were I not here the whole classroom would have exploded, been consumed by toxic vapours and then seen what little remained coated in a rather vicious flesh eating substance.’ Hermione looked doubtful, and Draco could hardly blame her. Even Longbottom had never reached such dizzying heights of incompetence. ‘Potter has been on rare form.’
‘Oh Harry,’ Granger shook her head sadly.
‘I suspect he’s been studying too,’ Draco added with a condemning nod of disapproval.
‘Really?’ Granger looked incomprehensibly happy about the prospect.
‘Don’t get your hopes up,’ Draco sneered. ‘Whilst I have no doubt that Potter here could tell you exactly which ingredient would react most violently with, say, Ashwinder Eggs…’
‘…Wormwood for explosive properties, but for real silent and deadly Dried Nettles…’ Harry interrupted absently as Draco gestured expressively at the comment, his entire body screaming ‘I told you so.’.
‘I doubt he could correctly recall those require to form to base of a basic healing salve though,’ he continued to drive the point home.
‘Beetle Eyes, Asphodel and Unicorn Hair,’ Harry finished as he picked up a stirring wand and started moving the slowly gelatinising contents of the cauldron. Granger looked ready to burst a vein with excitement and was almost bouncing up and down in her need to praise the Boy-Draco-Had-Suspected-Couldn’t-Even-Read.
‘Since when did you become such a Potions Expert,’ Draco sulked over the irritating babblings of the mudblood.
‘Since he started listening to me,’ Granger corrected, although her obvious pride at having taught Potter to do something as complicated as open a book marred the scathing tone she had obviously been reaching for.
‘Oh really,’ Draco scoffed. ‘The day Potter studies of his own free will is the day he grows a few inches, develops an adoring fan base of squealing girls and gets offered the Defence Against the Dark Arts position, since obviously as a mere student he outshines any and all other potential applicants.’ Actually, Potter did seem to be standing slightly taller than Draco recalled. And there had been that entourage of giggling third years trailing after him on his way to Quidditch practise the other day, to which Draco had most definitely not been in attendance to watch (and he forcibly replaced the word ogle here) Potter so much as to steal valuable game plans. ‘You didn’t?’
‘Didn’t what?’ Harry looked confused.
‘Get offered the DADA job?’
‘Of course not, I am only a student.’ Draco recognised that tone of voice. It was the same tone his father adopted when declaring his most recent attempt to knock Dumbledore from the position of Headmaster was merely the action of a ‘concerned parent.’ Of course Potter knew everything about defence though. And it wasn’t as if stranger things didn’t happen. Hell, the whole year so far had been pretty strange even by Hogwarts standards. Besides, pretty much every applicant had tried to kill the Golden Boy in the last several years, which meant that Potter had that requirement of the position all ready nailed.
‘I hate you.’ It seemed all there was left to say really, as the Boy-Who-Had-Conveniently-Lost-All-His-Flaws-Overnight stopped stirring, leaning forwards to examine what could now only be described as sludge sitting menacingly at the bottom of the cauldron, before sitting back down and starting to stir again, slowly.
Slowly, Draco noticed, and in the wrong bloody direction.
Granger, it appeared, had noticed too, as she leapt forward with a yelp at the same moment Draco moved to wrench the stirring wand from the idiots grasp and, if necessary, drown in him the concoction by way of a valuable lesson. Neither managed to do either though, as both stepped forwards at the same time to liquid bubbled ominously, gave a tiny belch, and promptly exploded.
It smelt worse than it looked, Draco realised miserably. Especially since he seemed to have taken the brunt of the spraying liquid. Granger had gotten herself liberally coated too, a fact which lightened Draco’s dismal mood no end. Potter was miraculously unharmed, and looking rather peeved for it as Draco closed his eyes and waited for whatever painful death the Boy-He-Was-Really-Beginning-To-Wish-Didn’t-Live had derived for himself.
Well, so far his skin hadn’t melted off, his blood hadn’t started to boil and he wasn’t struggling to breath. There was a funny sort of sensation growing in the back of his mind, but he could think of worse ways to die beyond death by mildly pleasant tingle. Snape was approaching too, so perhaps he would still get he wish to see Potter dead.
‘Who did this?’ Snape asked, looking directly at Harry, who cowered quite impressively, obviously not the hero he was made out to be.
‘It was an accident,’ Granger offered. Covered in disgusting black goo and she was still trying to be noble, although with the stuff dripping disgustingly from her hair she wasn’t quite managing the associated defiant stance.
‘It was bloody stupidity,’ Draco butted in, ‘and my head hurts.’ Okay, so it was an exaggeration. It wasn’t like it was pounding unbearably. In fact he was growing somewhat fond of the tickling feeling. But if it got Potter into trouble then it was worth mentioning. It was worth it just for the look of loathing Snape directed at him; a look that should have left nothing but a smouldering pair of boots in punishment for his daring to harm a hair on Draco’s aristocratic and perfectly shaped head.
A charm did nothing to relieve it though, as Snape raised his eyebrows questioningly and Draco shook his head. Damn it all if he wasn’t getting a real bloody headache now. Granger was good enough to submit quietly to the same battery of charms as Draco as Snape gave them both a provisional check over. He felt a sinking feeling when the spells stopped though and no further instruction were forthcoming.
Snape was looking at the tip of his wand in disbelief. His gaze then traversed Draco, moved onto Granger, and then inexorably drifted back to him again. There was something decidedly unsettling in his expression too. Perhaps Draco had been wrong. Perhaps he was about to die. Perhaps he was all ready dead and his body had just yet to catch on.
‘Well, Mr. Malfoy,’ Draco forced himself to look completely unbothered by the events. ‘It would appear you have somehow managed to become bonded.’ He heard Granger gasp behind him.
‘That’s impossible sir.’ And it was. Bonding required vows and willingness. Hell, bonding required the participants to know they were being bonded. It most absolutely did not happen by accident. People didn’t trip and find their wand aimed miraculously at some passing witch just to then spout out the long and complicated incantation in convenient annoyance. It most certainly did not happen through potions accidents.
‘Apparently it is not,’ Snape smirked. Draco looked hopeful.
‘Is it a marriage bond?’ That would certainly solve a lot of problems. Draco inwardly praised himself for keeping his cool and remaining sensible about the whole thing.
‘It’s not…?’ Granger looked ready to pass out.
‘No, Miss. Granger. It is not one of those bonds either.’
‘What did you do to it?’ Draco suddenly asked, turning on Potter, who looked just as shocked as everyone else. ‘What else did you add?’ His newfound calm was drifting away, but that didn’t matter since Malfoy’s has never been very good at it anyway. They were good at revenge, they certainly excelled when it came to terrorising and, as Draco was beginning to discover, they had a knack for knowing the worst possible scenario of any situation. Most llikely because they were often trying to ensure it happened, but still, at this precise moment he would really rather have been ignorant to the long list of possible side effects. The tingle was growing, and heaven help him if he found Granger reading his thoughts there would be Hell to pay. He liked his thoughts just where they were, tucked away and secret.
‘Can you break it?’ Granger was asking. It gave Draco at least a little relief, since he doubted she could be both reading his thoughts and continue demanding so rudely at the same time. Nevertheless he tried to focus on dancing green penguins. Yes, that would teach her for peeking around in his head. He coaxed his inner Hufflepuff into humming something tuneless and annoying too.
‘Possibly, if we can establish what created it in the first place.’ Snape looked curious, as Draco came to terms with the fact that ‘Potter’s complete an utter incompetence’ wasn’t a detailed enough answer. At least, he thought with uncharacteristic optimism, it wasn’t one of those bonds. He couldn’t imagine having to live for a minute with one of those attaching him to a mudblood.
Actually yes, he could imagine it unfortunately, and it was a disturbing thought for all that there was the possibility it wasn’t even private. Argh….Snape in a tutu, Snape in a tutu. Actually, no! Not Snape in a tutu! He cast a furtive sidelong glance at Hermione, who seemed completely unfazed by his swirling thoughts. Perhaps she wasn’t actually privy to them after all. Draco sighed in relief, then proceeded to beat his inner Hufflepuff into submission to get it to stop humming that infernal tune all ready, before sinking onto a nearby stool.
‘Kill me,’ he managed to groan, head in his hands as he reconsidered the sentiment. ‘Actually, no. Kill Potter.’ He shot a murderous look in the sheepish looking Gryffindors direction. ‘Yes, kill Potter. String him up and make sure he suffers.’
‘Perhaps later,’ Snape offered humourlessly.
Well one thing was certain. The next time Potter found himself facing Death, Draco would offer to swing the bloody scythe.