‘So, what’s next?’ Draco surveyed his newest minions happily as they reached the hallway and the gargoyle slid into place behind them. Harry didn’t bother to answer, yanking his arm free from the Mudbloods vice like grip and storming down the hallway. He was good at storming, but given the amount of practise he'd had it was pretty inevitable. Only Snape could storm better. At least windows weren’t spontaneously shattering as he walked past, as rumour had it they were want to do when in the presence of his bad moods. God only knew how many times they’d had to reglaze the Great Hall thanks to a misplaced comment. On a particularly good day all you had to do was mention anything remotely dog related and you were picking shards and splinters from your robes for at least a week.
‘We are going back to the Tower, Malfoy. You do what you like,’ the future bearer of his children, so help them, replied brusquely, turning on her heel and making after the retreating figure, her strides long as her shoes clicked on the stones. She seemed to have forgotten to let go of the Weasel though, as he found himself dragged reluctantly along the corridor. Draco beamed gleefully at him, looking shocked when he made a rather rude gesture with his free hand.
‘I think I will,’ his smile morphed easily into his familiar smirk as he sauntered along lazily behind her, his long legs easily keeping pace as he gazed curiously and with evident, unwavering interest at every suit of armour and portrait they passed as though seeing them for the first time. It served as a good reminder of his existence, placed him as the centre of everyone’s attention even when they were pretending to ignore him, and had the added benefit of being incredibly annoying after a couple of minutes.
‘What are you doing?’ The Weasel spat as Draco oohed excessively at yet another suit, identical to the one before it and no doubt the one after.
‘Whatever I like,’ Draco replied simply.
‘Little far from the dungeons, aren’t you.’ The Mudblood still hadn’t stopped walking, and Weasley was forced to twist uncomfortably to see him.
‘Possibly, but hardly surprising since I’ve been dying to get a decent look at your Tower,’ he peered up between the staircases towering above him, the noise of stone moving against stone echoing loudly around them. ‘With all this walking you’d have thought Longbottom would have lost some weight by now.’
‘You’re not coming up,’ the Weasel remarked flatly, hands balled into fists.
‘Of course I am,’ Draco stepped past him easily, patting him sympathetically on the head with complete disregard to the innumerable diseases he was no doubt tempting with his action, before wiping his hand on his trousers.
‘That desperate for another cursing?’
‘That desperate to see the World plunged into eternal darkness?’ Smugness was quickly becoming his newest favourite expression. ‘I thought not.’ His grin grew as Ron growled in the back of his throat. ‘Now, if you could just run along to the kitchens and fetch me a snack; merely the thought of all these heroics is rather draining.’ Years of useless, good for nothing House Elves had at least had the benefit of having perfected his dismissive wave. It was an insult of epic proportions all by itself.
‘Leave him Ron,’ the Mudblood sighed tiredly. ‘If he wants to come up then let him.’ She glared at the victoriously smirking Draco. Somehow victory wasn’t quite as satisfying when it was handed to him on a silver plate though. Not that most things in his life weren’t handed to him in such a fashion, but victory, he had always held firmly, was best served on the cooling corpses of his defeated foe, preferably with their still warm blood as a fine accompaniment.
‘You’re defending him?’
‘No, but Professor Dumbledore did say we should try to get along.’
‘Dumbledore has his head up his arse,’ Ron muttered, stomping with less grace than his lanky self usually achieved up the nearest staircase. ‘Especially if he thinks Draco Malfoy is capable of saving anything except his own selfish backside.’ He took offence at that, since he was revoltingly capable of saving any number of things. It wasn’t his fault if small furry creatures, other people’s reputations and money came at the latter end of the list.
‘Not out here,’ Granger whispered in the sort of way that whisperers everywhere have created to ensure the noise travels the longest possibly distance, as though whispering was a sin all by itself, thereby anyone forced to do it should do so loudly. ‘Anyone could be listening, and we were told to keep it a secret.’
‘Don’t see why,’ he of the many freckles continued sullenly. ‘I’ve never heard such a complete load of tripe before. Dumbledore’s got it wrong.’ And it only took him seven years to realise that was possible. Since the incident with the sixth Dark Arts Professor in a row Draco was beginning to wonder if the Headmaster were purposely obliviating everyone of all his mistakes.
‘Aw, is the ickle Weasel upset. Did you want to save the World yourself?’ he crooned in his most melodic tone, laughing to himself as they approached the portrait. Both the Gryffindors looked at him meaningfully. ‘You can say your stupid little password,’ he commanded regally with a wave of his hand.
‘With you listening, so you can walk in whenever you like? We only just had it changed since last time.’ So now they developed the art of being discreet. Well, discreet for a Gryffindor.
‘Fine, I can’t hear a thing.’ He strolled a couple of metres away, humming loudly to himself for emphasis as the portrait swung open and Hermione pushed Ron unwillingly through the hole. Indicating for him to follow she stepped through herself, as Draco rolled his eyes at the sheer indignity of the entrance before drawing his wand. He would not be caught out twice.
The room didn’t seem quite as big since it was so late in the evening and pretty much every Gryffindor was crammed in. He caught himself from describing it as homely and settled on tacky and really rather decrepit. The sofas were practically falling apart with use, the mismatched chairs surrounding the tables looking completely out of place. No wonder all the Weasleys wound up here; it looked as though the family had had quite a heavy say in the decoration.
‘Ron, Hermione…you have to come quick,’ The Gryffindor he recognised as Seamus, mainly due to the horrendously thick accent, jumped down the stairs two at a time, hand grasping the banister at the end just in time to prevent his momentum from careening him into them. He was temporarily halted by Draco’s presence, sparing him a confused look that turned quickly into disapproval. He recovered from his shock quite magnificently though, grabbing Hermione’s wrist and dragging her towards the staircase in spite of her vocal protests. If it weren’t for the fact that he was a Gryffindork, Draco would have made some rather worrying observations about the bedroom antics of the occupants.
‘What could possibly be so urgent,’ Hermione managed to collect herself, although she failed to free her hand.
‘Harry’s locked himself in the closet and he won’t come out.’
‘Excuse me?’ Draco looked momentarily shocked, distracted from his examination of a half finished chess game and the debate as to which piece would be last noticed, but would cause the most disruption were it to miraculously disappear. ‘What did you just say?’ Seamus looked at him again as though he were a mere apparition.
‘Harry won’t come out the closet.’ Sheer morbid curiosity had Draco trailing up the unfamiliar staircase behind the pair, although Seamus had finally conceded that the Mudblood was at least capable of scaling a staircase without assistance. A door opened into the room where Neville was leaning against the wall and looking very much like he would like to start banging his head against it. Ginny was staring morosely at the cupboard from the edge of a nearby bed, long fingers twining endlessly in the frayed edges of her robe and looking far too concerned.
‘Will you at least tell me why you won’t come out?’ Longbottom was asking desperately, wincing at the muffled ‘no’ that emanated from behind the solidly closed door. ‘Thank Merlin,’ he whispered as Hermione found herself pushed forward by an anxious Seamus, although his horror returned several thousand times over when he spotted Draco gazing curiously round the room.
‘Not bad, I suppose,’ he conceded, his nose wrinkling in disgust as he took in the haphazard piles of unwashed clothes. He refrained from defumigating the room; although he had a feeling exorcism would be more appropriate for a place any Weasley had as so much as breathed in. Neville looked as though he were about to bolt underneath the bed, but there was very little satisfaction to be gained from reducing him to a pile of quivering, incoherent mush, since the mere act of living was rumoured to do it on a daily basis.
‘He won’t go away,’ Hermione said shortly, as if the words explained everything Malfoy ever to have existed, before rapping sharply on the sealed door. ‘Harry James Potter, you will come out of this closet right now!’ Her tone had Draco almost itching to find another closet, if only so he could come out of it and satisfy the voice. It echoed down into the pits of childhood and flipped all the switches demanding absolute obedience. At least she could demand like a true Malfoy.
‘There’s an eager and waiting young red head out here if you open the door like a good little boy hero,’ Draco offered helpfully, ignoring the Weaslette’s furious glower.
Well, that answered the eternal question as to the sexuality of the Boy-Who-Everyone-Frankly-Wondered-About, although there were some people who were going to find themselves considerably out of pocket at the news. He glanced around the growing occupants of the room for a suitable alternative.
‘Well, if you prefer the brooding, artistic type we can still cater,’ Dean opened his mouth to protest.
‘No!’ Definitely more vehement. Draco wondered whether the betting had included an asexual option at any point.
‘I don’t think that’s going to work,’ Ginny sneered, jostling the person next to her for space. ‘And it was such a good plan too.’ The room was becoming quite crowded now, as various members of the tower had followed the noise to find out what all the commotion was about.
‘What about Malfoy?’ a small voice squeaked from the back. Draco turned and surveyed the room for its owner, his gaze falling on a fluffy haired student grasping an oversized camera.
‘What about me?’
‘Well, can’t you just turn on the charm,’ Colin Creevey sounded petrified as Draco’s attention focused solely on him, vague recognition crossing his face as the small boy eeped pathetically in the knowledge that recognition from a Malfoy was never a good thing, especially not in the wake of the appearance of a number of rather indecent photos.
‘Much as I am aware of my status as sex symbol and ultimate specimen of manhood and desirability,’ he said slowly with a smirk, ‘I was unaware such qualities were of any use when it comes to getting Golden Boys out of closets,’ Seamus sounded as though he was choking, earning himself a couple of hearty thumps on the back. Mutterings could be heard issuing from a pair of girls, one of whom Draco recognised as the less intelligent of a set of twins, and who was proving his point by wearing a skirt that could almost have passed for a belt. Given her state of attire he drew blanks at exactly how he could humiliate her further in vengeance for the giggled comment as to how he shouldn’t have to get Potter to come out so much as he should just join him. One day he would find a way to well and truly quash that rumour, and see that all those responsible for sharing it were aptly punished.
‘Surely you can just demand he open the door?’ The question quavered nervously in the air.
‘I can demand until the cows come home,’ Draco said loftily, distracted by the increased giggling from the girls now crowded around him.
‘But I thought…with the whole Veela thing,’ Colin’s sentence was cut off with a yelp as Draco’s glare turned murderous.
‘What,’ he said slowly and carefully, ‘Veela thing would this be?’
‘You know,’ Colin’s voice had risen several octaves, if that were at all possible. ‘Those descended from Veela have this charm thing. Makes people weak at the knees, desperate to do their bidding and so on.’
‘Veela descended?’ His voice was dangerously soft now as Colin sank further into the floor. Perhaps he thought that if he wished enough the Castle would be kind enough to temporarily relocate the trick stair.
‘Well, the hair…’ he managed to squeak, as though breathing was the only missing component in the situation required for him to spontaneously burst into flames.
‘Apparently I have become the only blonde in the school?’
‘I must admit, Malfoy,’ Granger was regarding him curiously as her eyes traversed his body with absolute scrutiny, and not in a good way. He did not want her attention only as some sort of exhibit. ‘The only other person I have ever seen with quite that colouring was Fleur.’
‘That Delacour monstrosity?’ Draco looked horrified. Were the prospect of remaining a ghost not so distasteful and downright plebeian he was sure generations of Malfoys would have hung around simply so they could haunt the annoying girl forevermore for the audacity and outright ludicrousness of the comment. ‘You are comparing the noble line of Malfoys to that of a half breed?’
‘Sure your father isn’t hiding anything?’ The Weasel said with a sneer.
‘The Malfoy line can be traced back through hundreds of generations of pureblooded Witches and Wizards!’ He was starting to exclaim, which was never a good sign. Many a Malfoy had fallen to excessive exclamation. ‘Its heritage can only be rivalled by that of the Black’s, which is fortunate since that is the very line of my mother!!’ Madness was approaching with every misuse of the mark. As long as he could rein it in before he hit five he was fairly sure he would be all right though. ‘To think of the blood of such an inhuman…creature being allowed to taint it is despicable.’
‘Oh,’ Colin muttered softly, gaining back the attention of the irate blonde and instantly regretting it.
‘Oh!!! Oh what?’
‘Nothing,’ Colin stammered.
‘If you don’t wish to find everything you drink for the next week doused with Veritaserum and all your innermost secrets revealed mercilessly to the entire school you will explain yourself this instant.’ Gryffindors walked a think line between bravery and stupidity. A Ravenclaw would have had the sense to spill everything before he’d even had the time to form a suitably ingenious threat.
‘And I do not have all day.’
‘We figured that was why you were staring at Hermione so much,’ the words were mumbled and almost indiscernible in the room. Not quite though.
‘He what!’ The Weasel roared.
‘You noticed!’ Draco shouted furiously.
‘It’s true!!’ Weasley looked ready to pass out, and Colin looked very much as though he would like to follow. Did he not have other, more pressing needs at hand Draco would have jumped at the opportunity to help. Befuddlement had left him horribly adrift though, as he struggled for the connection you no doubt had to be a Gryffindor to notice.
‘Why, in the name of all that is good, would my staring at Granger have to mean I am a Veela?’ He resisted the urge to follow the question with an obligatory Unforgivable to speed answers, but Gryffindors were so easily excitable and then he’d never know.
‘Well, if she was your mate then you’d have no choice, even if you didn’t like it,’ the second half of the sentence was added in a rush, although Draco had the uneasy feeling it was more for Grangers benefit than his own. No wonder the entire House was so thick. He wouldn’t be surprised it comments such as these had led to a ban on their use of library material until they proved themselves trustworthy and not apt to jump to rash conclusions. Rash conclusions that had landed in a spot a little too close to the actual truth to be comfortable, but were rash nonetheless.
‘And not once did you think that perhaps I was studying her, looking for a weakness beyond her obvious and numerable deficiencies to find the best way to destroy her so I could remove her and her filthy kind from my presence?’ He was surrounded by an increasing number of glares informing him that that comment had been a mistake, and heaven help if he wasn’t going to miss voicing his every thought aloud once he finally discovered exactly how one went about stopping.
‘Well, at first,’ Colin was fiddling with his camera. Half of the occupants of the room seemed to be fiddling with something innocuous whilst simultaneously fighting for the best view. ‘But then my brother noticed you stopped calling her a Mudblood.’
‘Granger, you’re a Mudblood.’ There, that was one problem easily fixed, even if it did exacerbate several others.
‘And you kissed her.’
‘Her hand,’ Draco corrected quickly and emphatically.
‘And Dean said you were acting really oddly around her in Potions.’
‘You knew about this!’ Outrage was so happily contagious in overcrowded areas as the Weasel turned on his roommate. Dean backed away as much as was possibly in the crowded room and held his hands up to defend himself. An industrious fifth year had transfigured some popcorn.
‘I didn’t know anything,’ Gryffindors were far too forgiving as Ron backed down without even silencing his roommate as punishment for the rest of the week. ‘I just mentioned to him that Malfoy was being less of a prat.’
‘I am not a prat.’
‘Evil, bigoted, arrogant Slytherin,’ Dean corrected as Draco smiled in agreement.
‘As long as we have established my distinct lack of pratness.’
‘And apparent Veelaness,’ Ron commented, raising an eyebrow at Draco’s furious response.
‘I am not,’ he hissed in a low tone that normally resulted in a late night for the schools mediwitch. ‘A Veela.’
‘Faerie?’ Oh how he longed to wipe the smirk from the Weasels face.
‘Elf.’ Apparently the game of ‘lets guess Malfoys secretly shameful inheritance’ was catching.
‘Zephyr?’ The library ban should be reinitiated.
‘Do you see any wings?’
‘Werewolf!’ an overexcited second year offered.
‘That is just ridiculous.’
‘Future Heir of the Dark Lord who has been forcibly filled with the Dark magic of several powerful, dangerous creatures.’
‘Excuse me? Why would the Dark Lord need an heir? Last I looked he had ‘immortal’ stamped quite happily across his existence.’
‘Not even a Vampire?’
‘I’m standing in the bloody sunlight,’ Draco exclaimed with annoyance, his hand sweeping around to take in the late evening glare streaming from the high windows. Colin just about managed to nod in reply. Taking a deep breath he calmed himself, noticing with some annoyance that the entire room was still focused on him. Things could not get any worse.
But on the bright side, things couldn’t get any worse. And if he couldn’t find a way to exploit such a situation for his own benefit then he may as well make himself at home.
Since it wasn’t as if he could sink much lower, unless the laws of Physics reasserted themselves to create a special, one time only layer of existence just for him, it figured now was as good a time as any, significantly better than any other perhaps. Draco brushed past the still staring, abnormally rude twits that constituted the House and stalked across the room, painfully aware of the quieting voices and the hush that was surrounding him as he approached the Mudblood.
Taking another deep breath he readied himself. There was no time like the present, or so he kept telling himself, and he doubted his humiliation could get much worse, or that the floor would open up and swallow him into Hell. ‘Granger,’ he said stiffly as she crossed her arms and watched him expectantly. He paused for a moment and tried to ease the stiffening in his back. ‘Hermione.’ A small gasp echoed round the room as though they had never heard her name before. He was rapidly recalculating his previous assumption that things couldn’t get any worse, and coming up with the conclusion that a better time would no doubt have involved something less of an audience. ‘I do believe there is a Hogsmeade weekend planned shortly.’ He could still save it; there was any number of possible endings to that sentence. Would she care to ensure she remained in the Tower so he could enjoy the day without tainting it? Would she be so good as to wander aimlessly past a group of disguised Death Eaters? ‘Would you do me the honour of allowing me to escort you?’ Not the ideal response, but a Malfoy did not back down. He clenched his teeth and tried to force a smile. He could live this down, or at the very least curse anyone who dared make a comment. Granger was just looking at him though, cold mistrust easily readable in her expression. It couldn’t take anyone this long to say no, he reasoned as the smallest flicker of impatience gnawed away at his last remaining threads of dignity.
And then the Weasel tackled him, sending them both crashing to the floor.
AUTHORS NOTE: This chapter was inspired by the Potterpuff creation 'In The Closet'. If you haven't yet visited the Puffs, then what are you waiting for?