Chapter 10 : Lion's Den
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Draco is staring at his reflection in the mirror. He never looked so bad in his life; covered in bruises and gashes, his skin deathly pale and his hair reaching past his shoulder, making him look uncannily like his father. Impatiently, he flicks his wand over his hair, cutting it just enough to stand his reflection.
But it doesn't help. The bags under his eyes make him look old and tired, and his eyes are red from lack of sleep. Draco had spent one night in the hospital wing and thankfully his lung healed quickly, but he did have two cracked ribs, a bruised spleen and various cuts on his face and chest. He sighs as he rubs the healing ointment Pompey gave him onto his neck and face. She had healed most of wounds herself, but he didn't want his face to scar like the time Snape had healed him. The gashes from the Sectumsempra curse left silver long lines across his chest.
He stiffly puts on his shirt, careful not to move more than necessary. His ribs should be completely healed soon, so there’s only minimal pain when he moves now. As he awkwardly swings his tie around his neck, wincing, he contemplates that maybe a couple of nights of pain are worth the trade-off. The room that McGonagall had assigned to him is far nicer than the dorm, with its own private bathroom and impressive furniture, even by his standards. But more than all of that, the privacy he feels here is incredible. His room is guarded by a stoned phoenix, which crumbles to ashes and exposes a door once prompted with the correct password. Only he and Slughorn have access to the password, which he had already changed about five times already.
Leaving his room, he changes the password once more for good measure, sniggering under his breath at the memory of Slughorn asking him to please keep a password for longer than five minutes.
“I’m sorry, sir, I’m incredibly indecisive.”
“That’s fine, my boy, but how do you expect someone of my age to keep up with you?”
He was heading down to meet Potter for Advance DADA, which he must admit is not the wisest idea in his current state and with everyone acting all dodgy around him, but Potter had insisted. Yesterday during lunch he had marched straight up to the Slytherin table and practically commanded Draco to go. Draco had agreed ungraciously, but it didn’t take much persuasion from Potter. He wasn’t doing well in that class, and he did miss dueling. He used to practice a lot with his father.
Upon arriving to the classroom that Potter had specified, Draco stops when he hears a hum of chatter coming from the other side of the door. From the sound of it, it seems at least a dozen people have shown up for this. This is a bad idea.
He begins to turn away, deciding it may be better to leave after all, but internally groans when he sees Potter and his friends talking amiably only several feet away. They stop when they see him, and Weasley barks, “what are you doing here?”
Good question. Draco doesn't actually know, he’s about to tell him he’d rather be elsewhere, but Potter breaks out into a stupid grin and says, “hey, you made it.” He looks relieved, even when Ginger walks off in a huff, too disturbed to confront his best mate. Weasley slams the door to the classroom loudly as he enters.
Draco uneasily looks to Potter, awkwardly putting his hands into his pockets. “I said I would.” He notices Granger giving Potter an odd look.
“Let’s head in then,” Potter says enthusiastically and walks up to the door. Without thinking, Draco swings the door open for him, knowing Potter may have a hard time finding the doorknob. Granger follows behind him, so he’s stuck holding the door open for her as she watches him with narrow eyes. Draco sighs impatiently and follows suit, already imagining how unpleasant this will be.
When he enters, his presence causes a ponderous silence to fall around him. Everyone stares at him and he scowls in return. Why is he here again? With disappointment he sees Potter walking directly to them, and he’s stuck looking all out of place by the door.
“Draco!” He turns his head to Luna’s voice and is overtly relieved to see her sitting by herself at the back of the room, her wand tucked behind her left ear.
Trying to not appear too desperate, he heads to the back and drops unceremoniously in the seat next to her, momentarily forgetting his wounds. “Ow, that was stupid,” he complains.
“You’re still hurt,” she observes. “Did you try tickling that feather under your chin?” She looks so earnest that Draco can’t even tease her.
“No, I forgot but I’ll try later.” He changes the subject quickly. “So why are you here? I’m sure you’re not behind in DADA.”
“Harry invited me,” she says as explanation.
He takes a quick look around the room, recognizing most of the people there as Potter’s friends. “I see,” he says wearily. He seems to have walked right into the lion’s den. A few people are glancing back at him nervously, while others are not bothering to mask their displeasure at him being here. He can hear snippets of what they’re saying.
"Had it coming-"
"-Just like his father-"
"Why is he allowed -?"
"Trying to kill Harry-"
He bites down on his jaw to keep himself from saying something sarcastic or scathing. It’s what they’re expecting, afterall. Instead, he stares coldly at them until they look away.
“Draco, stop brooding, we have company.”
He turns to see Longbottom approaching them with a sheepish smile, and Draco consciously devoids his face of any emotion, even as a horrible knot forms in his stomach.
“Hi Luna, Malfoy. Didn’t fancy seeing you two here.” He sits beside Draco now, seeming unsure of how to act around him. Draco nods at him subtly and look towards the front of the class again. Sitting here, with Longbottom trying to make small talk, is absolute torture. Is Longbottom expecting Draco to duel with him? Because that isn’t going to bloody happen.
After long minutes of Luna and Longbottom talking, with Draco making a poor effort to engage in their conversation, Professor Evander finally arrives. “Oh, great turnout. Okay, please put away your books. These sessions will be strictly practical in nature, so there won't be any need for them.” Enthusiastic murmuring is heard, and he sneaks a look at Potter, who’s positively beaming. “Please pair up in twos. We’ll first review basic counters.”
He turns to look to Luna, but she’s already facing Longbottom with her wand ready. Feeling a stab of betrayal, he shoots a glare to the back of her head and is unsure of what to do now, but at the sound of someone clearing her throat, he closes his eyes before slowly facing her with dread.
“Ready?” Granger simply asks.
“I -” I need to go. I’m feeling sick. I can’t stand looking at your face. I want to slap you in the face. “Sure,” he says coldly, loathing this moment.
“Relax, I’ll go easy on you,” she says without humour.
He merely scowls as he draws his own wand out. “Ladies first.”
“If you insist. Stupefy.”
Draco blocks it easily enough. “Surely you can do better than that." He throws the curse back instantly, but Granger blocks it as well.
"Of course." He doesn’t recognize the next spell she uses, but he sees a flash of light in front of his eyes, which distracts him from blocking the forceful hex that pushes roughly against his chest. He should know better than to underestimate Granger.
"You cheated," he drawls, trying to hide the sharp stab of pain it caused in his chest.
"Says the Slytherin." She flicks her wand, but Draco is ready this time. He blocks what looks like a stinging hex in the nick of time, and throws the same hex back at her. Granger doesn't quite block it, instead chooses to dodge the spell.
Draco is momentarily distracted by the sound of commotion coming from another corner of the room. He's appalled to see Potter on his back, violently shaking as he struggles to breathe and Draco begins to unconsciously move towards him. He feels another push against his back from an unexpected spell, but this time it knocks him into a wall, making him visibly wince and clutch at his chest.
"Oh, I forgot you were hurt!"
Granger comes rushing towards him, but he holds up a hand in the air, his attention already elsewhere. "I'm fine."
He’s relieved to see Potter sitting up, with Evander crouched down next to him. Ernie Macmillan, who he was dueling with, is guiltily trying to explain himself, "he said to treat him like normal, so y'know, I did! I didn't think -"
"That right you didn't think, you fucking twat," Draco snaps angrily. "Or you would know there's no counter to aeris immersum.”
Every single person in the room turns to face him in shock. Even he can't believe his own outburst, and his scowl only intensifies as his face gets hot.
Evander, who helps Potter up, clears his throat tightly. "20 points from Slytherin for needlessly insulting another student. While Draco is correct in saying that there is no counter to that spell, this provides us with an excellent learning opportunity. When we aren't sure of which block to use, it is best to avoid the attack, as there may be no way to counter it. Okay, let’s switch partners. Harry please pair with Draco.”
Granger leaves without a word, but she glances back suspiciously at him, with a glint of something else in her expression. Draco briefly wonders why Evander would pair him with Potter, and suspects that he doesn’t trust the likes of Ernie Macmillan to duel properly. Still in a foul mood, he doesn't say anything when Potter, who is looking far less enthusiastic, approaches him.
“You didn’t have to do that,” he says begrudgingly. “- Expelliarmus.”
Draco blocks is without a thought. “Do what? - Stupefy.”
Block. “Defend me or whatever the hell that was. - Alarte Ascendare."
Block. “I wasn't defending you! - Incarcerous. I was pointing out how moronic he is.” In Draco’s frustration, he misses an incantation from Potter. The next moment, his tie comes undone and wraps tightly around his eyes, obscuring his vision. He tries to remove it, but Potter isn’t lifting the spell. “Potter -” he begins to say in annoyance, but he’s cut short when another spell skims past his ear, just missing his face. He abruptly stops moving, trying to listen to where Potter could be, but his ears are not in tune like his. He takes a couple of steps back, but this is a mistake. Potter figures out his location and casts the spell that roots his feet to the spot.
Draco has half a mind to start hexing blindly in all directions, but then he feels his feet unroot and the tie loosen from his face. Taking it off, he opens his eyes to see Potter smirking smugly. “I wasn’t ready,” he says dryly. “Round two?”
“If you’re sure that’s a good idea."
“You wish.” A ghost of a smile licks his lips and Potter casts a nonverbal hex at him, something Draco wasn’t expecting.
Draco doesn’t have a chance to block the red jet of light, so he dodges it just in time.
“Oh, so is that how you want to play?” he asks quietly, so that only Potter can hear. He begins to circle around him but Potter matches each of his steps. He silences his own feet and smirks. “How will you know where I am now?”
“There are other ways,” he flicks his wand with another nonverbal in mind, but Draco recognizes it as the Stunning curse and blocks it. “You would be horrified if I told you.”
"Indulge me. Expelliarmus."
Block. "Well, your voice for one. You can’t seem to shut up." Draco is about to object, but thinks better of it. Instead, he noiselessly walks around Potter, gleefully preparing to aim a nonverbal at his back.
"But even if you didn’t speak," Potter looks much too pleased with himself as he tilts his ear in Draco's general direction, "I can hear the rustle of your clothes. I can hear you breathing." He turns swiftly and shoots a tickling charm at Draco's arm.
Draco laughs in spite of himself, "how suggestive of you.” He’s not sure why he says that, but he’s pleased to see how flustered Potter becomes by the statement. “But I can silence all of that." Draco puts a silencing bubble around himself, sure now that Potter is stuck. Potter goes very still in his attempt to locate Draco, so Draco moves behind him, much closer than necessary. "Now what will you do?" he can't help but whisper close to his ear, enjoying himself far too much. He takes a quick step back as Potter turns to face him, his face flushed. Potter doesn't respond, instead he bites his lip in contemplation. Draco’s smirk deepens and he steps directly in front of him and aims his wand for one last nonverbal spell.
"Ah, there you are.” Somehow, Potter aims squarely at Draco’s face, his wand beginning to move to complete the incantation. Draco beats him to it and casts his own silent incantation. Potter, who of course could not see that coming, yelps when the ropes bind tightly around him, making him utterly defenseless and Draco laughs spitefully. "Alright. Alright, you win this round." He struggles feebly against the ropes. "How am I supposed to defend myself against nonverbals anyway?"
"I don’t know. Maybe you can’t. You're lucky most people can't do nonverbal. Where did you learn them?" He took him years to learn only a handful of nonverbal spells.
"It's sort of a long story. One I don't mind sharing if you untie me." He cheekily smiles at him, trying to hide the awkwardness he feels in his current predicament.
"But I'm savouring this moment." He grins when he pokes Potter in the chest with the tip of his wand.
"You enjoy seeing me tied up?" Potter asks innocently, tilting his face at him.
"Yes, amongst other things." At Potter's astonished expression, Draco continues quickly, "to which I mean maimed, defeated - That sort of thing!"
"Oh, could have fooled me." And the git is laughing! But it doesn't hide his blush, if anything his laughter is making the warmth on his skin run deeper, run lower onto his neck and under his shirt where Draco’s eyes can’t follow. Draco’s stomach flutters and he irritably removes the ropes, glowering at the idiot before him.
Refusing to acknowledge whatever line of thought Potter was on, he takes a deliberate step back, increasing the space between them. “What was the last thing that gave away my position?” he asks, because that’s far more important than the way Potter’s eyes shine in his embarrassed amusement.
His grin stills and falters just a little and Draco notices the way his hands fidget with the sleeves of his shirt. “I’d rather not say.”
“Your obvious discomfort is intriguing. Come to think of it, you have this uncanny ability of knowing where I am.” He narrows his eyes suspiciously at Potter, watching the effect his words have on him. “Do you have a tracking spell on me or something?”
He’s relieved when Potter scoffs at that notion. “I’m not that desperate for your company, Malfoy.” The statement sounds like sarcasm, which he’s glad for.
“I dare you to tell me.”
Potter chuckles, shaking his head. “That’s not how Dares work. You have to win a Truth.”
“Okay, fine. Meet me at the Quidditch pitch tomorrow night, actually no -” Draco remembers he shouldn’t fly for at least a couple of days, “this Friday we’ll play for it. If I win, you’ll tell me your secret weapon.”
“What if I win? Can I ask you about that night at the Tower?”
He blinks at him in disbelief, but he should have realized Potter will never let that go, no matter how many times he tries to reassure him. And maybe it’s because he’s feeling far too confident in his own skills or because he secretly wants to tell Potter about it, but he agrees. “Fine. Deal.”
Harry smirks in cocky confidence. “Deal.” He stretches his hand out for Draco to shake, and Draco pauses for only a short moment before taking his hand firmly and shaking it. He briefly wonders why a handshake should make him smile like this, why it should matter at all.
Harry scrambles into the classroom as quietly as he can. He got carried away flying this morning and had to sprint to Potions, which already started. He didn’t even have time to shower and he’s still sticky from his exertion. His saving grace is that it’s a brewing day, so he isn’t interrupting Slughorn’s lecture.
“You’re late,” he hears a familiar, cool voice say as he slips into his chair casually, trying not to look guilty.
“I lost track of time - thought I could sneak a quick fly in.”
“Without me?” Malfoy mocks in disappointment.
“I managed.” But just barely, because part of the reason he’s late is because he had a hard time finding the back door. “Besides,” he adds cheekily, “I’m never late to anything anymore, after I saved the world and all.” He knows how much this sort of talk infuriates Draco, so naturally, he can't help it.
“According to the time, which you may be shocked to learn still applies to you, you’re late. I had to start the potion on my own, again.”
“Like that matters. You’re always whining I don’t do it right.”
Malfoy chokes on Harry’s audacity. “Malfoys do not whine!”
Harry snorts in amusement. “What other things do Malfoys not do?”
“They don’t ask stupid questions. They don’t run around all sweaty. They’re never late.”
Harry’s laughs but stops abruptly when Hermione briskly walks up to his desk. “Why are you late?” she asks in a disapproving tone.
“See, even Granger agrees with me!” Draco triumphantly says.
“That’s a first,” she mumbles. “Harry, I was looking for you because I found something else about the curse.”
“What?” Harry asks anxiously.
“Well… Maybe we should go somewhere more private?” she tries to ask discreetly.
“Granger, just spill. It’s not like I give a shit,” Draco exclaims, making Harry frown.
“Oh, really?” she says, turning her attention fully on him, “You don’t care? So how come you were the last person to check this out?” Harry jumps slightly when he hears the loud thump of a large textbook being dumped on his desk. “You’ve been hogging this for days, even after I recalled it!”
“I needed it for homework,” he says dully.
“Please! It’s not a coincidence that there’s a whole section on the Blinding Curse in here. You were doing your own research and you didn’t even bother telling Harry what you found.”
“He never asked,” Draco says shortly.
“Um. Hello? Harry is right here.” Harry feels a little irritated that they’re talking about him like this.
“It really would have helpful if you just came forward,” she says, ignoring Harry.
“Came - Came forward?” Draco repeats incredulously. “How would you expect that to happen exactly? ‘Hello! We despise each other, but here is some useless information that can’t help!’ In what world does that make sense?” he snaps.
“In the world where you want to help Harry!” She makes it sound like an accusation.
“Why you filthy -”
“Draco!” Harry tries to cut him off sharply.
“-plebeian.” He finishes his statement with a snarl.
Well that’s not what he expected, and from Hermione’s amused snort, she must think the same. But he realizes that Draco hasn’t used the M word in a long time. He’ll have to ask him about that later. Harry quickly cuts in before Hermione can retaliate, “Hermione, what did you find?”
“That you can see souls! That’s why you were able to see the unicorn, which is basically a pure soul in manifestation.” She says this with such rushed earnestness that Harry tries to decipher further meaning in her words, but frowns when he comes up short.
“Oh, but how … how does that help me?” he asks.
“Yeah, how does that help, Granger?” Draco repeats unnecessarily.
She sighs. “Not sure yet, but it’s a lead.”
“Thanks, Hermione,” he smiles at her, trying to look convincingly pleased.
“Yeah, thanks! Are you done now? We have work to do.” Harry is too preoccupied with Malfoy’s use of ‘we’ to properly glare at his dismissiveness.
“He’s all yours, Malfoy,” she says with amusement before walking away.
Draco lets out an impatient huff and Harry shifts in his seat awkwardly, not understanding what Hermione finds so amusing. “I guess we should finish this up… what can I help with?”
“Dice this,” Draco unceremoniously dumps what smells like roots in front of Harry, and then turns his attention back to the potion that’s beginning to boil.
The classroom is hot and thick from all the fumes. Harry still feels sticky with sweat from earlier, but the potion isn’t helping matters at all. So he takes off his robes, placing them carefully on his stool, before untucking his shirt and billowing it out in front of his chest. His hand reaches for the back of his neck and he realizes his hair is sticking to his skin.
“Oh, for fucks’ sake -” Draco snaps in exasperation as Harry begins to loosen his tie.
“What?” Harry asks him in mid motion. Silently, Draco performs a cooling charm over Harry, making him shiver. “Erm, thanks.”
“You were all sweaty!” Draco points out in irritation, as a way to explain his behaviour. Harry turns his face away to hide a self-conscious smile.
In silence they work, until Harry is nearly done dicing and blurts out, “why did you take that book out?”
“I wanted to know why you saw that unicorn.”
“And you didn’t think to mention it?” He asks him, offering the bowl of diced roots. Draco’s fingers accidentally brush against his hand and Harry almost drops the bowl in his surprise. Harry manages to grip the bowl securely and doesn't let it go.
“Don’t you remember, Potter? Your lot kept me away.” Draco tugs at the bowl again, but Harry still refuses to let go because he wants this touch, Draco’s cool fingers over his warm ones, to last a fraction of a moment longer. He senses Draco going still, and he knows he’s been caught. Harry holds in a breath, not daring to move.
Instead of pulling back, instead of ignoring or shaming him, Draco’s fingertips slowly begin to caress his knuckles. The deliberate touch tickles and soothes and causes his heart to jump up to his throat. Something within him starts to melt, and he lets out a soft sigh. “Call me Harry,” he says quietly, yet unexpectedly. “I mean -’ he swallows, suddenly aware of his clumsiness, “if - if you want.”
He’s disappointed when cool fingertips leave the back of his hand, but then Draco firmly presses the bowl into his hand before letting go. “Alright,” he hears him say in a low, amused drawl. “Harry, you did this wrong. Do it again.” Without further comment, Draco turns away from him in his stool, but Harry still feels his gaze on him.
His lips twitch as he turns to cut a new batch of roots, still unsure of how to do it right but not really caring if he gets it wrong.
The air is heavy with moist from yesterday’s rain, but now that he’s out of the dungeons he hardly minds. He had a good sleep and his chest feels perfectly back to normal. Also, today is Friday. Smiling to himself, Draco enters the Great Hall for breakfast and takes his usual seat beside Luna. He absently piles his plate with strawberry-jam covered toast, fluffy scramble eggs, and a few chips with tomatoes on the side. Oh, and a green apple, his favourite.
“You’re having a good day,” Luna says in her dreamy voice. “I can tell because you’re eating.”
He smiles gratefully at her before piling his fork with some eggs and notices that she's nearly done her meal. “Do you always sit at the Slytherin table, even when I’m not here?”
“Sure, the Slytherins are nice.”
He’s arches an eyebrow at that, surprised because he knows for a fact that the Slytherins aren’t very kind to her, but he knows firsthand that some Ravenclaws are douchebags. He glances at their table, and scowls to see Greenberg there with his mates, laughing as if they didn’t beat him nearly to death mere days ago. Actually, Greenberg hadn’t bothered him much since the incident.
Unconsciously, his eyes travel to the Gryffindor table, and he frowns to notice that Po-Harry isn’t there. Granger and Weasley are though, and they’re sitting on either side of Ginny Weasley, who’s wiping her eyes angrily with her sleeve. Granger is trying to comfort her, absently braiding her hair as she whispers to her in a low, levelled voice. Her brother looks angry, his arms crossed as he shoots expectant looks towards the Great Hall doors.
“Hey, Luna, what’s the deal with Weasley?”
Luna looks up from the latest Quibbler edition, which is upside down, and follows his line of sight. “Oh, it’s very sad. Harry and Ginny broke up last week,” she says this regretfully, giving Weaslette a sympathetic look.
He frowns in confusion, taking a bite out of his apple and munching slowly. Why didn’t Harry say anything the last few times they spoke? Just yesterday they had Potions together. Maybe he doesn't trust Draco with those sort of details. Inexplicably, Draco finds himself rather annoyed. Isn’t that the sort of thing that should come up? Draco is always humiliating himself, spilling his deepest secrets, and Potter couldn’t be bothered to update him on something as simple as his love life.
His thoughts are distracted by the arrival of the post. It doesn't surprise him that there’s nothing for him. The only posts he receives now are from his Mother, and lately she’s been quiet. He takes another bite out of his apple, contemplating Potter’s love life and why he cares, but something in the air hums with tension and makes him sit up a little straighter. He becomes acutely aware of this change and looks around himself. Many people seem to be looking at him expectedly, as if waiting for him to react. They’re whispering to each other, not bothering to hide their stares. His stomach drops when he notices all of them are holding the latest copy of the Daily Prophet.
“Hey, I just want to check something,” he says absently, not bothering to wait for her response. With a sense of dread, he unties her paper and opens it quickly. His heart stops when he reads the large text on the cover page: Lucius Malfoy found dead.
What? His eyes scan the article in confusion. This can’t be right. He catches phrases like “death by homicide”, “several victims are being questioned”, but shakes his head because he doesn't understand. This doesn’t make any sense.
“Draco?” From the corner of his eye he sees Luna turn to him.
He’s finding it difficult to read the words in front of him, and with a sense of detachment he realizes it’s because his hands are shaking. But that hardly matters because the few words he manages to digest make no sense.
He senses Luna leaning in towards him, reading over his shoulder. “Oh, Draco…” she says softly, trying to tug the paper away from him. “Come with me, we’ll talk outside.” The shock and sympathy in her voice makes him angry. He snatches the paper from her grasp, trying to focus on the words, trying to understand.
In the back of his mind he notices unimportant things: the steady chatter around him growing louder, the sound of quick and urgent footsteps approaching him, Luna trying to talk to him. When he hears someone laugh he snaps his gaze to him because it’s a sound that doesn't belong right now. He sees Greenberg with his own copy of the Daily Prophet, his amusement showing through his white teeth. Everyone is now looking at him. They look confused because he looks so disbelieving. It’s impossible! He wants to scream at them all. He would have known!
“Mr. Malfoy, please come see me in my office.” McGonnell says behind him.
He shakes his head sharply and his limbs begin to move on their own accord. Before he knows what’s happening, Draco drops the paper on his fresh plate of food, and turns his back on Luna and the Headmistress. He absently can hear his name being called out as he runs out of the Great Hall, the cruel, nosy faces of everyone swimming in front of his vision as he passes by them.
Only one thing is clear from his hurried footsteps: This can’t be real. This can’t be real.
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