Competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field. Opposition. Antagonism. Jealousy.
Characters: Draco Malfoy. Harry Potter.
Warnings: Moral Ambiguity. Obsession. Alchemy. Violence. Manipulation. Criminal behavior. Bribery. Hidden genius. Torture. Secrets. Changes in perception. Exploitation. The Greater Good. Dark Creatures. Blood Rituals. Blackmail. Underground magical culture. Alternative classes. Spellcrafting. Unforeseen consequences.
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Masquerade! Paper faces on parade - Masquerade!
Hide your face so the world will never find you
Masquerade! Every face a different shade - Masquerade!
Look there's another mask behind you...but who can name the face...?
Masquerade! Burning glances, turning heads -Masquerade!
Masquerade! Stop and stare at the sea of smiles around you - Masquerade!
Seething shadows breathing lies, you can fool any friend who ever knew you
He practiced the appropriate facial responses and used them artfully against the ones he learned them from. He could get a rise out of anyone. Make them upset or fearful. When you allow someone to affect how you feel you are giving them power over you. He held this power over them, his peers. Only sometimes...Potter. When they dueled, verbally or magically, the red gleam peering through emerald eyes. The tilt of the mouth. Potter understood. He played the game. They were both pretending.
Never let them close. Never let them know.
Draco watched in feigned disinterest the crimson clad object of his thoughts wander into the potions classroom. The Gryffindor pulled back his chair, tossed his bag underneath it carelessly and sprawled in his seat in a graceful way only wild animals could obtain. Granger leaned in to tell him something and Potter raised a hand to cut her off. She huffed, plopped down in the chair beside him and crossed her arms.
All that was missing was- "Harry I wasn't finished!" The ginger.
Everyone in the class turned to stare at the outburst. Draco covered his mouth with his hand, turned to the side and coughed delicately. A subtle show of amusement. It was one of those days. People liked to say that he and Potter were bad when it came to fighting, but honestly, Potter and Weasley were far worse. Maybe because it was personal? Potter never took anything Draco said personally and easily gave as good as he got without whining about the outcome later on. When Potter and Weasely fought though, the whole school moved out of the way to avoid getting hit and, of course, to watch. It may have just been the novelty of seeing inner house politics out in the open, everyone knew most of Gryffindor listened to Harry unless Weasley opened his mouth, and then only because there were so many Weasleys and the youngest male was seemingly Potter's closest friend. Lately the youngest male Weasley was finding himself more often out of Potter's favour and it was causing a rift in the house. This change came about toward the end of last year. Before that, in second year, no one knew what to make of Potter, let alone the Gryffindors, who were disturbingly quick to turn on the boy when he didn't have a viable defense for his actions concerning his snake speaking ability.
Watch them. Mimic their anger, their laughter, their feelings.
Circe knows why it should matter. If he could speak with kittens none of them would have minded, and they certainly wouldn't have shunned him for it, even though that would have been a true magical abnormality and an obvious sign of a Feral whom standard light affiliated magic users, politically light anyway, favoured about as well as they favoured Werewolves or Centaurs. As in, not at all. Obviously a Feral, even if it was a feline-feral that only spoke to kittens, is an agent of evil here to do evil things. Perhaps manipulating the poor innocent kittens to do his bidding in his evil cat army? Such was the mind of the average Gryffindor.
Reflect. Never let them in.
He thoroughly enjoyed watching Potter and the Weasel when they weren't getting on. The tall hot-headed boy would say something undoubtedly stupid, tact was not one of his skills, and Potter would send him spinning into the wall. Magically of course, the Weasel was huge. The only other time Potter had that look in his eyes, the only other time his power rang out like that was when he was fighting Draco himself. The Slytherin was addicted to the feeling. That immediate sense of a worthy opponent, of danger and darkness and all the things Potter pretended not to be. Draco knew the truth. He could see it.
The flash of red coming through the usually emerald green eyes hidden behind hideous spectacles. The tightening of his jaw and the mostly hidden smirk whenever he and Draco got in a confrontation. The desire to hurt Draco, to duel, to curse. The face of a boy longing for the moments he could be himself. And Draco went out of his way to antagonize him, to get him to the point his true self broke the golden boy mask and the real spirit within came out to play.
Granger fixed them both with a glare. "This is insane. You need to make up already. Do you want me to recite a list of reasons why? Because I will."
"First off, you don't even know what it is I'm mad at him about." Said Potter in a bland voice, "Secondly I'd rather you didn't, that is why I ignored you the first time."
Unfortunately Snape arrived and ordered the lot of them to their proper seats. Draco's lips tugged downward just a bit. He gave a silent sigh. Potter would probably forgive the menace before Draco got to see them pummel each other. Pity.
Pay attention. What are they doing? Why are they doing it?
"...will no doubt be a shock to the system. I do not care if you are sick, suffering a brain injury or imprisoned, you will finish the assignment and be prepared for your presentation on time. No exceptions. No, none Mr Weasley, there are many of you I am sure your parents can replace you with a brother if the need arises. Deliberate misinterpretation of the project instructions will result in a zero, loss of points, detention as well a significantly soul searing reduction to your final score at the end of the year. If you do not wish to repeat this miserable year you will take me seriously. If I have to endure an extra year of your presence, you will wish you'd thrown yourself off of the Astronomy tower rather than screw this up." Dark eyes pinned the class.
Snape turned and flicked his wand at the board, writing spiraled across it. "Clear? On the board you can see a list of suggested topics to research in your initial search for a suitable potion to do your presentation on. Do not choose any of them. They are the easy way out and I am forced to present them by the Headmaster, who believes I push you beyond your capabilities. If you are in fact, the age of fourteen or greater and can not yet think for yourself it is my opinion you have more important problems than this assignment. Thus my rule to disregard the list, stands. Those of you interested in pursuing in career dealing with potions or alchemy will do well to pay attention, as there will be, as required, a small invited assembly to witness your presentations." The murmuring which broke out halfway through his speech stopped when he turned around. "Allow me to remind you that the non-lethal requirement of this project is non-negotiable, and I have a highly developed ability to sense poisons in my drink as well as discover the one who put it there and return your gesture accordingly. I do not wish to speak so highly of myself, it is generally rude, however I assure I will not be caught doing so. You will have access to only the ingredients you are able to procure on your own, this does not mean sneaking into my private stores or the school stores shared by the potions classroom, the healing night class or the medi-wing. Anyone caught will..."
The day brightened considerably several minutes of not-quite-subtle threatening verbiage later, when Snape declared it was a partnered project. In a feeble attempt to thwart what they knew was coming everyone reached out and grabbed hold of their preferred choice for partner. Draco of course did not participate in the tradition of useless optimistic actions, and did not like physical contact. He merely nodded at Zabini over Nott's head, who was trying desperately to get his attention, Zabini nodded back in agreement. The Nott heir pouted. Draco ignored that as well.
Their stoic professor gave them one minute of hopeful breath holding before dashing it to pieces with a vicious half-smile. "I have already assigned partners for you. As I call you move to sit with your partner, you will be sitting with each other for the next three weeks. Enjoy."
While those around him scowled and groaned and moaned about injustice Draco turned to his right and locked eyes with Potter, who was already looking in his direction. Draco raised a brow, Potter returned the gesture flippantly. Draco crossed his arms and put his feet on the table. Potter copied him. They glared at one another, neither yielding, until Pansy Parkinson unceremoniously dumped Potter out of his chair so she could sit beside Granger.
They didn't bother listening to Snape or waiting for confirmation. Whenever they were assigned pairs in any class that Slytherin and Gryffindor held together the professor would always put Draco and Potter together. It was some unwritten rule of cruel and unusual punishment. The chair next to him was pushed back. Draco glanced to the side and grinned at the newly arrived Gryffindor. "Welcome Potter. Have a seat." He said that magnanimously, as was deserving. Anyone should be thrilled to partner with him in potions, it was his best subject.
Potter sat down and glared at Draco as if it was his fault. Apparently he didn't see the opportunity for the blessing it was.
"I would have won that one." He grumbled then, tracing a scratch on the desk.
Draco pulled down his feet. "The world will never know." He set to copying down the instructions on the board verbatim. You had to know the exact wording if you wanted to expose and utilize any loopholes. After all, Severus was first and foremost Slytherin...
"The potentially devastating yet non-lethal, legal potions in use today-" Potter read aloud. "-explain your choice and be prepared to defend it."
"Any ideas in that thick head of yours?" He asked, half-listening, eagle feather quill moving along the parchment in practiced perfection.
Potter rested his cheek against his hand and shook his head. "I've sworn to Hermione I won't quarrel with you today."
Draco eyed the other boy through his lashes. "That's...unlikely."
"I'm aware. She's loyal to the idea it can happen so who am I to destroy her unrealistic dreams? Additionally, that insult sucked."
It had. "Its been four years. Embarrass yourself a bit more if you want better insults."
The raven haired boy looked at him with mock sincerity. "I'll get right on that." When he continued staring at him Draco leaned away slightly, not out of genuine fear Potter might try to end him, but because Potter giving anything that amount of his attention seemed to leave the object of his attention worse for the wear after word. Being burnt to ash or stabbed with a sword or nearly eaten by a werewolf...
"Yes?" He drawled.
"How do you do that?"
Don't ask. Don't. "Do what?"
Potter searched for the words. "Look perfect all the time."
Draco's eyebrows shot up. "Is this the part where you tell me you're secretly in love with me? Because the potions classroom is a tad unromantic." He bit his cheek to keep from grinning at the flush blooming on potter's tanned face. It was just too easy.
"That isn't what I meant!" The Gryffindor protested.
"Alright." Draco said, having mercy, "What did you mean?"
The smaller boy gestured at him. "You're always so clean. Your fingernails are clean and trim, never stained with ink, and your clothes are clean and creased and I don't think I've ever even seen your tie undone." In direct contradiction Draco had never seen Potter's tie anything but loose over his shirt with the top buttons undone and the sleeves sleeves rolled up. Merlin knew where his vest had gone. He hadn't seen it since first year maybe.
Connect the dots.
He leaned forward and motioned for Potter to come closer. "I'm pure at heart. It repels the dirt."
"I take offense to that." Said Draco. "First I'm perfect and now you're making derisive noises in my direction. What am I supposed to think with all of these mixed signals?" In front of them a Gryffindor with long dark hair tied back in a ponytail giggled, glancing back at them then facing forward where she continued giggling.
Potter's quill tore his parchment, eyes wide. He shot Draco a glare. "Are you always this loathsome and annoying Draco?"
"No, sometimes I'm asleep."
Potter gave him a small smile. "Let's be fair, I bet you manage to be annoying even then."
"But not loathsome?" He inquired.
"I'm sure you give it your best effort."
He felt his lips pull upward. "Alas, sleep-wickedness is beyond my current capabilities."
"But potions brewing isn't. As such I elect myself for theoretical research and you for the actual brewing process. It's best to play to our strengths!" Potter clapped his hands once as if that settled things then promptly leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes.
Draco turned in his seat. "Using compliments to get yourself out of something? How un-Gryffindor."
"I won't tell if you won't." Potter said, opening one eye.
"Ah, but I have no desire to do all of the brewing myself therefore-" he raised his hand. Potter tackled him before Snape could see it, hand planted over Draco's mouth. They hit the floor and scrambled to pin the other, Draco still trying to wave his hand and get the professors attention. The Gryffindor octopus made this difficult by somehow being everywhere at once. Draco lifted the smaller boy, who gave a very unmanly squeal he would be teasing him about later, and tossed him to the side, knocking a chair over. Several students looked over at the sound of the crash, seeing it was him and Potter they smirked and went back to their work. His peers' concern was heart warming. Truly. Managing to pin the boy beneath him he punched Potter in the stomach, and sat up grinning in triumph when the smaller boy released him.
He ran his fingers through his hair and straightened his robes, folding his legs under him to survey the damage to their work station. "Are you going to do your share of the work?" he asked.
Potter, still trying to catch his breath, flipped him off.
"I'm going to take that as a yes."
The Gryffindor sat up, panting and rubbing at his stomach. "That hurt."
"You tackled me to the floor."
"You're the Slytherin. Why do I always end up feeling guilty?" Potter asked aloud. H stood and began fixing their workstation. Draco cleared his throat and held out his hand expectantly. Potter scoffed but helped him to his feet. He always did.
"I don't know how you can be so stubborn."
Draco tapped his notes, which had managed to remain exactly where he left them, to make another copy and then he handed it to Potter. He meant it when he said they were doing it together so the raven haired menace better read them. "It's a superpower. I was bitten by a radioactive mule." He deadpanned.
Silence. Draco debated not asking but his curiosity was a vital flaw in his genetic makeup. With a resigned sigh he asked, "What now?"
"That's a muggle reference." Said Potter, the-boy-who-lived-to-state-the-obvious.
"I do read you know." Draco paused, "You'd think Granger would stuff a bit of literature down your throat once in a while out of know-it-all ever-loving-book-worm principle."
"If you say so."
Draco felt something nudge his shoulder. "Stop." It happened again followed by a whine. "Stop touching me Nott, you're not stealing my topic."
Another nudge. Potter's hand snaked out and caught Nott about the wrist. Draco watched him turned in his seat to stare down the spiky haired Slytherin sitting there. "Seriously." Said Potter, "Stop touching him." Nott swallowed uncomfortably. Potter held on to the arm for another minute then released it with a small, polite smile. "Thank you."
"Noble." Said Draco.
Potter turned narrowed eyes on him, red glinting through the green. "Don't start."
"So, you don't want anyone else touching me? Because you just tackled me to the ground, you remember that don't you?"
"A regular knight in shining-" The bell rang.
Everyone began to leave. He reached for his quill when a small tanned hand on his jumper stopped him. "The next time I see you outside of class I'm throwing something at you."
Draco gave Potter a mocking bow and smiled. "I'd expect nothing less."