A/N: What I would do without you, Rotschopf and Dystopic, I cannot imagine. I love you both dearly.
A/N II: It's getting harder and
harder to write this. You must forgive me, readers.
30. Meeting of the Masterminds
It was a bright Wednesday morning, and it was clear to everyone who happened to look out of the castle's gothic windows that it was also a chilly one. The autumn, no matter how long it had lasted, was finally gone. The grass was covert with diamond frost, and the lake was frozen over with a delicate layer of sparkling ice. Harry Potter watched all this in quietude, leaning lazily against the rocky frame of one imposing Gryffindor Tower window. He wondered if this would be the last winter he ever saw.
"You'll find out soon," he heard a low, hoarse voice telling him from the couch behind him. "But if you're going down, you better make sure Voldemort goes with you."
"Are you a mind-reader now, Draco?" Harry smiled, without taking his eyes away from the slowly forming icicles that hung rigidly from the castle's eaves.
"No, I just know that look in your eyes."
"I was my back on you."
"I could see them through the reflection."
Draco gave a small smile at the raven-haired boy and snuggled deeper into the cushions. He had spent the night in the Gryffindor common room, his ottoman comfortably located close to the fireplace. Harry had decided to escort him here instead of the Slytherin dorms, mainly because Draco had been too exhausted to walk properly, and the Gryffindor Tower had been closer to the prefects' bathroom than the dungeons.
"I thought I'd never see the day I slept in Gryffindor." Draco made a disgusted face, trying to lighten up the atmosphere. It was still very early, and the silence was almost suffocating.
"That's probably because people usually sleep at night." Harry slowly turned around and went to sit next to the Slytherin. "How are you feeling?"
"Oh, I'm just fine." Draco
stretched out his sore limbs, hiding his grimace from Harry. "What time is
Harry looked at the grandfather clock that stood in one corner of the room. "Not yet six."
Draco moaned, and buried his head in Harry's lap. "I guess I have to go," he sighed. "Before your friends wake up and find me here."
Harry smoothed the blond hair, thinking of how much the colour resembled the frost outside. "No," he whispered, a warm gleam blazing in his eyes. "Iwant you to stay."
Draco was quiet for a moment, thinking. Then he glanced up at Harry's face. "You sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure," Harry said, and trailed a finger along Draco's lower lip. "Hermione is always the first one to wake up anyways. And she already knows about us."
"I'm sure everyone knows by now," Draco grumbled, and leaned into Harry's touch.
"Does that bother you?" Harry sounded a little bit uneasy.
Draco grinned and shook his head.
"I'm sorry I didn't take you into my own bed last night." Harry looked sad. "But I really don't know how Ron would've reacted. You know his temper and his animosity towards you."
"It's okay." Draco took Harry's hand and kissed the knuckles. "I wouldn't have wanted to sleep in the same room with Weasley anyways. And besides, you wereright here with me. That's what matters."
Harry blushed. "Don't be so mushy, I prefer you being rude."
Draco grinned wickedly. "What, can't I tell my Ickle Hawwykins how much I love him?"
"Draco!" Harry moaned, and glared at the Slytherin.
"Hey boys," came a tentative greeting from the staircase to the girls' dorms. "Can I come in?"
"Of course you can, Granger, this is your bloody common room," Draco drawled, recognising her voice immediately. "Awful décor, though."
Hermione crossed the room and carefully leaned against the backrest of Draco's chaise-longue. She looked down at the Slytherin with her brown, calculating eyes that were now also filled with some sort of worry. "Malfoy. How are you feeling?"
Draco met her eyes. "Do you seriously want to know?"
"I feel like shit," Draco admitted.
"Good," she replied, her mouth twisting into a slight grin. They stared at each other challengingly for a few moments, until Draco turned his eyes away, smiling.
Harry cleared his throat. "So, Mione... How did the meeting go yesterday evening? You know, with Ron and, ah, Blaise?"
"I think the tense atmosphere could have killed us all if we would've stayed one minute longer in each other's company." She sighed. "But they managed to tell me everything."
"And... What do you think? About everything and all?"
"I only wish you would have come to me sooner. Sounds like everything is still wide open. Or, rather, unorganised."
"Why do you say that?" Harry frowned. "I thought we had some pretty good ideas."
"Good ideas without any knowledge how to use them! Heaven knows you really need my help," Hermione murmured, and let out a long breath. "Harry... There's no head no tail in your plans!"
Draco watched the Gryffindor girl calculatingly. "If that's the case, then, maybe you have some new and better ideas, bookworm?"
"Don't call me a bookworm, Malfoy," Hermione bristled.
"Why? That's what you are. And I thank you to notice I didn't call you Mudblood, at least. And that's what you are, too."
"I'm positively thrilled at the notorious development of your vocabulary, thank you, Malfoy."
"Shut it, both of you." Harry laughed. "You know you don't hate each other, so quit pretending. We have serious matters to talk about."
"Serious matters? This early in the morning?" asked a sleepy voice behind their backs. Harry and Hermione turned around, and Harry grinned; it was Blaise Zabini, escorted by a very drowsy-looking Ronald Weasley.
"So, I wasn't the only Slytherin sleeping in Gryffindor last night," Draco lazily drawled, mirth dancing in his eyes as he regarded Blaise.
Blaise's eyes widened when she realised that Draco was there, too, lying in the shadows of the sofa. "Shit." She winced. "I'm so dead."
Draco smirked, and kicked Harry on the floor. Then, he patted the free place next to him, looking suddenly very solemn. "Blaise, darling. Come here."
"Hey!" Harry protested, standing up and massaging his backside. "Why'd you do that?"
Draco grinned at his boyfriend, languidly pushing himself into a sitting position. "Women always first, Potter. Women always first. Blaise?"
The Slytherin girl timidly came closer and sat next to Draco. She was looking at her shoelaces, a gentle blush covering her cheekbones. "Are you mad?"
"Of course I am," Draco narrowed his eyes. "Why, you bloody slept with the Weasel."
Blaise's cheeks flushed a deeper shade of crimson, and she fidgeted with her fingers, clearly very nervous and embarrassed. "I... I didn't mean to."
"Aw, you stupid girl," Draco rolled his eyes and pulled Blaise into a hug. "I just hope you used protection."
"Of course we did," Blaise huffed, her voice muffled against Draco's chest. "Good," Draco patted the girl's back. "Then, there's no danger of getting more Weasleys in the world, and everything's just fine."
"Hey!" Ron protested.
Blaise and Draco ignored him outright.
"Oh, please, Draco, I'm so sorry! I don't want you to hate me!" Blaise sniffled. "I'm so sorry!"
"Calm down, baby, calm down." Draco kissed the girl's temple. He took a mental note that Blaise had started to become strangely emotional during the past few weeks. He also took a mental note that Ronald Weasley was turning a good dark shade of purple, watching their interaction. Ah... Jealousy. Draco's favourite torture device.
"Please don't hate me," Blaise still pleaded.
Draco sighed, and tightened his hug, intending to redouble Ron's annoyance. "Of course I don't hate you. After all, I myself am sleeping with the one personwho's even a bigger Gryffindork than what the Weasel."
"Hey! Stop calling me Weasel! And stop molesting my girlfriend!" Ron growled, balling his fists.
"And I'm not a dork!" Harry pouted, and aimed a sharp kick at Draco's shin.
Draco gave Harry his trademark smirk. "But of course not, love."
Harry crossed his arms and pouted even more. Blaise resolved into giggling, finally relaxing in Draco's arms. She glanced furtively at Ron, who was looking very pissed off. However, she didn't pull away from Draco. True, she liked Ron well enough, but Draco was still her best and most beloved friend.
Hermione had been quiet during the whole conversation, a pensive and somewhat steely expression on her face. Unbeknownst to her, Harry had noticed this and only hoped that it wasn't what he thought it was.
"What on earth are you wearing, Draco?" Blaise suddenly asked, touching Draco's sleeve with distaste, feeling the texture. "Explain yourself!"
"These are Potter's hand-me-downs, my love." Draco grinned. "He got them for me last night. You know, since my own robes were a little bit, ah, tattered."
"Gryffindor robes!" Blaise was horrified.
"Oh, the horror!" Hermione rolled her eyes, seemingly waking up to the conversation.
"Well, seeing as Harry's wearing my hand-me-downs, I don't see the problem," Draco said, amused. Everyone turned to look at Harry and the crest on his robes.
"It's a snake in Gryffindor colours!" Hermione gasped. "I never noticed before."
"Do you like it?" Draco simpered.
"This is so wrong." Hermione crossed her arms.
"I think it's kind of kinky," Ron admitted.
Hermione and Blaise gave him a weird look, and Harry burst out laughing.
"Uhh... Well..." Ron's ears turned pink, and he cleared his throat. "Er, maybe we should talk about something else... er... like that great secret mission of ours," he tried to change the subject. "When are we going to meet again, I mean, the whole lot of us?"
"I really don't think we should talk about it right here and now," Blaise looked around nervously. "Walls have ears. And we're in Gryffindor."
"What's wrong with being in Gryffindor?" Ron sulked. "At least we're not surrounded by a heard of Wanna-be-Death-Eaters, here."
"How do you know?" the bronze-haired girl retorted, and looked as smug as a real Slytherin always should. "How many Gryffin fledglings do you know, exactly, from the fifth year down? How can you tell what's going on in their heads? How do you know their families aren't supporting You-Know-Who? Because, let me tell you, lover boy, it's not only the Slytherins that are supporting the Dark Lord. Remember a fellow called Pettigrew, hmm?"
"You're right." Harry tapped his finger on his lips, thinking. "Maybe we should meet someplace else, later today? Like, the White Chamber?"
"The Hufflepuff Quidditch team has reserved it from dinner until ten in the evening, for a strategy session," Draco said. "Gods, how I hate Hufflepuffs, those useless numskulls..."
"I wonder what they need a strategy session for." Ron looked seriously thoughtful. "I'm sure they don't even understand what the word 'strategy' means."
Everyone in the room sniggered at her statement, even Hermione.
"But, we still need a new place for our meeting." Harry sighed. "The Key Hall?"
"I don't know." Blaise frowned. "We'll see. People are starting to come downstairs. It's not safe to talk about these things here anymore. Let's meet after lunch and decide then when and where to meet later."
"A good idea," Draco commented, standing up and grabbing Blaise's arm. "Let's get going. I don't want us to be seen here."
"Why?" Harry poked him. "Afraid of ruining your reputation?"
"Well, yeah." Draco looked at him haughtily. "After all, I am wearing your Gryffindor clothes."
"You look good in them." Harry smiled lopsidedly.
"I'd look good even if I wore house elf rags," Draco informed. "But it's a matter of House pride."
"Sure." Harry gave him a gentle hug and kissed his temple. "Alright, let's go. I'm coming with you. I need to make sure you'll go and see Snape."
"I don't need you bloody baby-sitting me," Draco hissed, embarrassed.
"Yes, you do." Harry kissed the blonde again, and ushered them out of the common room.
"No, I don't!" Draco protested. "Actually, Potter, I want you to stay behind. You need to spend some time with your Gryffindor friends, too. You've been neglecting all of them. I'll be fine."
Harry narrowed his eyes. "Is there something you are not telling me? Why do you so suddenly want to get rid of me?"
"I don't! I just want you to catch up with your friends. That's all."
"You never cared about my friends before, why now?" Harry squeezed his upper arms a little too hard. Blaise saw the beginning argument, as well as she felt Draco's grip on her own arm tightening.
"Potter, it's because of me," she hastened to say. "I, er, want to have a word with Draco. Alone."
Harry glared at the Slytherin girl, clearly not believing her, but didn't say anything back. He took his hands away from Draco and shoved them into his pockets angrily.
"I'll make sure he goes to see Snape, I promise," Blaise added, looking miserable. "Don't worry, Harry."
"How can I not worry when my boyfriend's half dead, for Merlin's sake?" Harry spat.
"Oh, pull yourself together, Harry. Don't be such a whiner. We'll see at breakfast in half an hour." Draco tried to smile at Harry. "Okay?"
Harry was feeling insulted, but faked indifference. "Whatever. Just go."
When the Fat Lady's yawning portrait swung close behind their backs, Draco immediately started to walk towards the dungeons, as fast as he could without tripping or fainting with pain. By the time they reached the second floor, Blaise was nearly jogging beside him.
"What was that, Draco?" she panted, glaring at her friend. "Why didn't you want Harry to come with us?"
"Because I love him," Draco said, and kept on walking. "I know there's something wrong with me, and I don't need him to get worried."
"You mean..." Blaise paled.
They both turned to walk down the long stairs that led from the Entrance Hall into the dungeons.
"You're going to see Snape immediately, I hope?" Blaise timidly asked.
"Well do you want me to come with you?"
"No," Draco stopped abruptly, and looked at the Slytherin girl intensely, a strange fire burning in his icy eyes. "I want to see Snape alone. I want totalk to him in peace. I'm..." he trailed off. "Blaise, I'm hurting, alright? Damn lot. And I don't want Harry to know about it. I trust you won't tell him."
"Draco, you really should let him know," she whispered, eyes watering. "He deserves to know."
"He will know. But not yet." Blaise remained standing in the middle of the cold aisle long after Draco had disappeared in Snape's office. She shivered with fear, cold and sorrow. What was wrong with Draco? It had to be something very serious if he didn't want Harry to know. Blaise only hoped she would never have to support a grieving Harry at a grand Malfoy funeral.
"Ah, Mr. Malfoy, I was waiting for you already," Snape glanced up from his papers, and gestured towards the ottoman nearby the fire. "Sit down."
Draco obeyed, wincing slightly and shutting his eyes, when his left arm came in contact with the armrest.
"I am happy to notice you left Potter behind."
"D-didn't want him to worry," Draco gasped, and opened his eyes slowly. The room swam in his head, and he could not focus.
"I see you are in great pain," Snape stood up and strolled closer. He placed a hand over Draco's forehead. "Tell me how you feel."
"I... I feel dizzy. And feverish. And... My arm..." Draco clutched his left forearm in a panicky haste. "It hurts."
"How long has this been going on? Merlin, I never should have let Potter take you away." Snape rushed to his cabinet and took out some weird bottles and vials.
"No, no, I was alright last night, when we left with Harry. I... I was feeling a bit sore, but otherwise very well. No... This... this strange kind of pain started during last night. A few hours after... After..."
"Yes?" Snape's beetle-black eyes bore into the silvery grey ones.
"After I had mind-blowing sex with Harry and he squeezed my Dark Mark during my orgasm," Draco smirked, impishly.
"You could have put that into much more subtle words, Mr. Malfoy," Snape snapped, looking slightly yellowish. "You just like to rile me up, do you not?"
Draco smiled angelically. "Yes, but you would never deduct house points from me, would you?"
"Silence, you insolent brat!" Snape smiled a little, and opened a blue-coloured vial for Draco. "Now drink this, and show me your Dark Mark."
Draco obeyed, and gulped down the bitter liquid. Then he shoved up his left sleeve and let Snape access to his ugly new tattoo.
"There, try to do something about it, will you, sir?" he said, in a hoarse whisper. "I... I just want to lie down for a moment, and sleep away this ill feeling, if that's okay with you?"
Snape nodded, and Draco relaxed in the armchair. Vaguely, the blonde boy realised Snape was casting various spells on him. At one point, he even felt a sting of a needle, but was too tired to wonder what was going on. He just wanted to sleep... And never wake up.
Draco snapped his eyes open.
"Don't fall asleep. Stay with me. Here, drink this."
Again, something bitter, and this time also hot, was administered to him. Draco drank it all obediently, and wiped the corners of his mouth. Then his eyes felt heavy again, and he dozed off.
The breakfast time arrived, and Harry followed Ron's churning stomach to their seats in the Gryffindor table. He was still in a very foul mood, not understanding why Draco had so suddenly pushed him away. His boyfriend and Blaise had not yet come back from the dungeons, seeing as their seats between Pansy and Theodore were still vacated. A nasty feeling was dwelling in Harry's stomach, and he really didn't have the appetite to eat.
"So, how did the meeting go last night?" he whispered at Ron. He wanted to distract himself from his gloomy thoughts. "Blaise found you then, obviously."
Ron beamed. "Yeah, she found us, alright."
Harry glanced at Hermione, and noticed that she was resisting the urge to roll her eyes and say 'honestly'.
"Well?" Harry continued, amused by his friends reactions. "What happened last night?"
"Well, Ron got laid..." Hermione started, with a perverse grin.
"Hermione!" Harry covered his eyes. "Please, don't go there! Not now!" Ron looked like the epitome of ecstasy. "Why not, Harry? Was my first time."
"Oh." Harry looked dumbfounded for a second. "You mean, you and Hermione never, I mean, you two...?"
"No, Harry." Hermione chuckled, although a little bit icily. "We never made it that far."
"I bet you and Ginny have done it," Ron growled, suddenly very angry. "So what if we have?"
Hermione bristled. "It's none of your business."
"It is my business." Ron crossed his arms, blowing a lock of flaming red hair out of his eyes. "You're fucking my little sister."
"Don't be so vulgar!" Hermione snapped, looking as haughty as Malfoy usually did. "Vulgar? Me? You're the one being vulgar, Hermione! Or do you think it's normal to be a fucking dyke in the wizarding community?"
Hermione's eyes watered at the unexpected, bigoted comment. "At least I'm not a pathetic homophobe with an inferiority complex," she managed to say before bursting into tears.
Harry's temper flared. "Ron, may I remind you that you have insulted both me and Hermione here, and quite nastily at that."
"No. Be quiet." Harry's eyes have darkened to a poisonous green. Then he noticed that Draco and Blaise had entered the Hall at some point during Ron and Hermione's quarrel. "Just... Don't say a word," he added, distractedly, his eyes roaming over the pale Slytherin's form.
"Then how are you going to find out what happened last night?"
"I'll ask Blaise," Harry curtly replied, and stood up. "I'm sure she'll know how to not spoil other people's appetites at breakfast table. I'm off."
With these words, Harry marched away, and rounded the hall towards the Slytherin table. He knew that he was being watched very closely by the entire school, but he didn't care; after all, he was sure that, by now, the whole student body from the first year up had heard the rumours about him and Draco. Therefore, they were probably now only expecting some kind of sappy spectacle to gossip about later in the class. However, Harry wasn't going to give them that pleasure... not yet, when Draco had been acting like a real bitch towards him.
"Hey," he said directly to Blaise, when he slid down on the bench between her and Draco. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"
"Sure." The girl shrugged. "What about?"
"Oh, nothing, really," Harry simpered. "Just want to ignore Draco for a moment."
"Draco doesn't like to be ignored." Blaise winked at him.
"I know," Harry smirked. "That's why I'm doing it. He was being a git this morning."
"You're so cruel."
"That's why he loves me."
Blaise sighed. "Yeah. He does love you, doesn't he?"
Harry immediately sat up straighter. "What's wrong?"
"Harry..." Blaise started, but hold her tongue, because she had promised Draco not to tell.
"What is it?" Harry leaned in closer, and looked straight into Blaise's green eyes. "You can tell me."
Harry suddenly felt an arm slither around his waist, and firm fingers pinching his abs.
"Draco seems to want something," Blaise smiled, looking at Draco's arm around Harry.
"Well, then, I guess he just needs to wait until it's his turn." Harry tilted his head and grabbed Blaise's hand. "Tell me what's wrong."
"You... You really should talk to him, you know," Blaise stammered, trying to convey her worry to Harry with her eyes. "He went to see Snape, just like I promised he would. And... I think... You should ask him about it."
Alarmed by the expression in Blaise's eyes, Harry turned immediately to his boyfriend, who was now putting on a great show of the trademark Malfoy Sulking.
"You heartless bastard, you were ignoring me," Draco sniffed.
"You asked for it." Harry grinned. "Stupid git."
"You're so rude." The blonde looked at Harry snootily along the ridge of his aristocratic nose. "I don't know why I put up with you."
"And I don't know why I put up with you."
"Because I'm so sexy that your body can't help it?" Draco smirked.
Harry pulled the blond boy under his arm and ruffled his hair, which made Draco growl with annoyance. "You're so bloody vain, love. I am already horrified of witnessing the day when you find your first wrinkle."
Draco wriggled out of Harry's embrace and smoothed his locks back into place. "I'm sure you are."
Harry examined his Slytherin counterpart with a careful eye. "So... What did Snape say?"
"He said that I'm doing better," Draco said, a little bit too rapidly to Harry's taste. "No inner bleeding, any more. Guess his stupid potions helped, after all."
"He knows his job," Harry commented, however expecting Draco to say something more.
"Oh, and I almost forgot," Draco drawled on. "Fifty points from Gryffindor."
"What? Why?" Harry asked, dismayed.
"For not listening to his advice."
"The advice not to put your cock up my arse, or something like that," Draco leered.
Harry flushed deep crimson. "Shit!"
Draco sniggered and resumed to his meal. "Serves you right. I could have been seriously hurt, you know."
Harry's words died in his mouth when he turned to examine Draco silently, raking his eyes over the slender body. Indeed, Harry realised that his boyfriend did not look as good as before; he was slightly shivering and his eyes had a sick, fervent gleam in them. Blaise's worried gaze started to make some sense, now. "Merlin... I hurt you, didn't I?"
"A little," Draco softly admitted. "But not like that. It's not what you think. It's... different."
"Different how? What are you talking about?"
"Not now," Draco hissed, glancing around and glaring at the other Slytherins. "Later."
The hours of the day went by quickly enough for everyone. Harry spent the whole day dwelling in his own thoughts, sick with worry for Draco, and sick with his own life in general. He was twice molested by Colin Creevey and his camera, thrice asked for an autograph, and four times somebody cornered him and asked him what he would do with the You-Know-Who -matter now that the Daily Prophet had declared that the beginning of the Second War was close. Harry counted the minutes that seemed to slither so slowly just to annoy him. He counted the seconds and waited, and waited. He waited for the time when the classes would end and he could be with Draco again.
Draco's day went by in pain. He had not told anyone but Snape about his problems, but he was beginning to feel that he really should tell Harry. During classes, he was happy he could sit down and just listen to the professors; but during the breaks he had to lean occasionally against the walls, or the offered arm of Blaise, because he was feeling so drained, so tired. He wished that he would be better soon enough; he wished that this strange kind of dizziness would flow away at least before next Saturday, when the whole future of the Wizarding World would be at stake, and no mistakes would be allowed.
But he new he could only wish.
Snape had been very clear with his words: Harry's magic had done something to him. Harry's powers had done something to his Dark Mark, changed it somehow.
And now, the ugly damn thing was slowly poisoning his regal Malfoy blood.
Finally, the shadows of the trees and flowers grew longer. It was six thirty in the evening, and that evening was cold. They were all gathered in the Key Hall; the round, roofless lounge deep inside the West Wing of Hogwarts. Everyone who was supposed to be there, was there: the majority of the sixth and seventh year Slytherins, Harry, Ron and Hermione. They had all received an invitation from Blaise Zabini after the lunch, and were ready to begin the important meeting.
They had settled down on the oriental cushions and foot stools that were scattered all across the hall. The winged keys were making loops in the air above their heads, and the arches, even higher above, were shimmering with silvery-black, ominous light. The sky reflected down from the open ceiling, flaming in bright orange with streaks of calming blue. The night was settling slowly over the school, and the darkening shadows were so very beautiful.
"So," Blaise started. "We're here to discuss next Saturday. The arrangements are still quite unclear, and I wish we can reach a decent, detailed plan this time."
Murmurs from the crowd told her that her wishes were shared by many others, as well.
"May I introduce our newest member, Hermione Granger," Blaise gestured towards the Gryffindor girl.
Some of the students lazily clapped their hands together, but most of them were just silent. Draco and Montague were sitting together, enjoying vanilla cigarettes and blowing ash-coloured smoke ringlets in the air.
"Alright..." Blaise cleared her throat. "Firstly, we have managed to acquire the list of the birthday party guests. Thank my mother for it; she was having a chat with Mrs. Malfoy two days ago. And, luckily it seems that Mr. Malfoy has decided to keep Hailie's party as a family event only. This means we shouldn't have to deal with too many Death Eaters."
"Alright, let's hear it," Montague said.
Blaise read the names that she had hastily scribbled down to a yellowish piece of parchment. "Rodolphus and Bellatrix Lestrange, Rabastan Lestrange. Nobody else, except the Malfoys, of course."
"You're mistaken," interfered Theodore Nott, from his seat next to Harry. "My father was invited yesterday afternoon. I got the word this morning. You must know that my father and Lucius are like best pals or something like that. And... It appears that I am invited, as well, in the process."
Everyone turned to look at the Slytherin boy, who had been pretty quiet about the plans before. He looked a little anxious, but still strangely calm about the turn of the events. The silence crawled on and on.
"So, tell us. Do we have to fight you, or are you going to turn your back on your father and fight with us?" Montague finally asked.
Theodore let out a breath. "I am going to fight for you. After all, this isn't about some stupid petite family quarrel. This is huge, like, watching Snape use shampoo for the first time. This is about defeating him. And I'm not going to miss that fight. It's going to be so cool."
"You're going to fight against your own father, if necessary?" Hermione asked, eyeing the boy sceptically.
"If I have to," he said. "After all, Draco's doing it. So why wouldn't I?"
"You Slytherins are so weird." Ron shook his head. "With us Gryffindors, family always comes first."
"Are you saying that if your father suddenly turned out to be a spy for Voldemort, you'd dance with joy and support him?" Draco mocked.
"My father would never turn out to be a Death Eater!" Ron growled, infuriated.
"How can you be so sure?" Theodore asked. "I know your brother Percival is."
"WHAT?" Ron roared, and jumped up from his seat. "You filthy LIAR!"
"Calm down, Ron," Harry advised. "Let's hear him out."
"My brother is NOT a Death Eater," Ron repeated, but sat back down, anyways. "Bloody Slytherins, always trying to intimidate me."
"Let's make this clear once and for all, now." Theodore rolled his eyes. "Firstly, I am willing to fight my own father, just as Draco is willing to fight his. I only wish that we could spare his life. Send him to Azkaban, or something, if possible. Secondly, as to the question of Percival Weasley, I will not talk about it any more. It is not my place to make this kind of revelations, and I apologise for my rudeness. Thirdly, I would like to propose that we put that Polyjuice Potion into good use. I suggest that Harry takes it, turning into me. That way, he is sure to enter the building undetected."
Everyone was completely silent for a few moments, until Blaise's face turned into a wide grin. "Theodore, that is a wonderful idea!"
"That really is," Draco had to agree. "You're a regular guest, so they won't be suspecting anything."
Theodore nodded, satisfied with his own reasoning. "So, one question is solved. Now, we know how to get Harry in. But how do the rest of us can get into the Manor? I know it is heavily guarded."
"We need to get the ground plan of the Manor. Does anyone have it ready, or must we ask Draco to draw it?" Harry asked.
"I've got it here, already," Montague said, and reached into the chest pocket of his robes. "The ground floor, the first floor and most parts of the second."
"Where's the rest?" Draco furrowed his ash-grey brows.
"Um, we couldn't really find the actual drawings," Millicent explained. "We just memorised these floors, on the basis of our visits."
"Oh, for crying out loud, you're missing over half of it," Draco huffed, and conjured up a quill and a bottle of ink. "Here, let me finish it for you."
While Draco was drawing, he didn't notice that a pair of brown eyes was watching him carefully. Hermione, sitting across from him, had attached her eyes to the Malfoy sabre that was hanging from Draco's belt. "Let me see that sabre, Malfoy," she requested, eyes gleaming.
Draco gave her a dirty look and quickly held the weapon even closer to his hipbone. "No."
"Please. I'd like to examine it. I think... I think it might be useful for our mission."
"Draco, just give it to her, will you?" Harry rolled his eyes. "She won't break it."
"Not one single Mudbl... Muggleborn witch or wizard has ever laid hands on it." The blonde looked annoyed. "This is a valuable Malfoy family heirloom, and is to be treated with respect."
"Hermione won't make it any less worthy of your tainted family, Malfoy," Ron fumed.
"Calm down, both of you," Harry said, glaring at his lover and at his best friend. "Now, Draco my love, give the damned sabre to Hermione or bare the consequences of my wrath. We don't have time for these stupid games. Let her look at it. She'll tell us if it can be used as a portkey or not."
"I'm not afraid of you, Potter, and neither am I taking orders from you," Draco raised his chin defiantly.
"No?" Harry sneered. "Very well. No sex before Christmas."
"What? That's... that's plain barbaric!" Draco was outraged. "How dare you bleed me like this?"
"Easily, Malfoy." Harry leaned closer to his boyfriend. "Now... Give. The Sabre. To Hermione."
Draco seethed for a few quiet moments, glaring at Harry in a murderous way. Then he detached the weapon, very reluctantly, from his belt and tossed it at the self-important Gryffindor girl. "Be careful not to touch the blade, then, Granger. I don't want your dirty fingerprints on it."
Hermione caught the sword in a fluid movement from the air, and was surprised how heavy it felt in her hand. "You're a jerk, Malfoy. But for Harry's sake, I will be careful with it."
Draco lowered himself deeper in the cushions and resolved into constant brooding. The Slytherins were smiling behind their palms, amused by Harry's power over their once-so-icy leader.
"Draco, love, you need to finish this drawing." Harry handed the quill and the parchment sheet to Draco. "And stop sulking, for Merlin's sake. It won't get you anywhere, I'm quite unaffected by it."
Bristling and fuming, Draco leaned forwards and placed the unfinished map in front of him, on a legless table that was floating in the air, only inches above the ground. He muttered a few chosen obscenities and then started sketching again.
"Alright." Montague grinned. "Let's decide on the schedule, then. The actual party starts at eight in the evening, but the Malfoys expect Draco to be there already in the morning. Theodore, for what time was your father invited?"
"Six. As were the Lestranges, I guess. It's only because of the Dark Lord that the party starts at eight. He's... busy elsewhere until seven thirty, you see."
"Oh, right." Pansy remembered. "His every-Saturday visit to Scarletto."
"What's that?" Ron asked.
"A brothel in Knockturn Alley," Gregory Goyle informed.
"Don't envy the whores, exactly." Tracey Davis shuddered.
Everyone looked revolted.
"Euh. Let's change the subject," Hermione pleaded, and returned her attention to the sabre. She was now examining the hilt with great interest, which annoyed Draco to no end.
"So... We're expecting the Dark Lord at the Manor at eight. And before that, we should somehow get rid of the others," Pansy mused. "How many are they? Six?"
"Yeah," Theodore counted quickly in his head. "Six, if we're not counting Hailie, and us."
"How can we possibly beat six fully trained Death Eaters?" Crabbe asked.
"We're Slytherins, aren't we?" Millicent smirked.
"Well so are they!" Vincent protested.
"But they're not expecting a betrayal from their own family," Millicent retorted.
"That sounds nasty," Draco commented, still sketching. "It's not a betrayal. It's merely a restoration attempt on our family name."
Harry chuckled. "Yes, that sounds better, indeed."
"I say we use the house elves," Ron suddenly perked up. "Harry is friends with Dobby, the House Elf, who used to serve the Malfoys! Dobby's now working here atHogwarts, and I'm sure he would do anything to help us out if Harry only asked!"
Draco stopped sketching and turned to look at his boyfriend in utter shock. "You're friends with Dobby?"
Harry looked stupid. "Yeah."
"Harry is the one who set him free," Hermione proudly declared.
"You're friends with a house elf?" Draco asked again.
"Yeah." Harry smiled foolishly.
Draco was silent for many seconds, before he shook his head, leaned down and drew the last few missing lines to the ground plan of the Manor. Harry furrowed his brows and watched Draco examine his artistic achievement with an exaggerated amount of interest.
"Are you mad?" he asked.
"No, just trying to convince myself that I love you, no matter whom you're friends with," Draco replied absentmindedly. "And I'm doing a pretty good job, this far. I was just comparing which would have been worse, a house elf or a flobberworm. And I decided on flobberworm, because, you know, talking only to yourself isn't exactly a sign of good mental health."
"Ha ha." Harry stuck out his tongue.
"I'm cool as long as you don't bring a hippogriff home and tell me that it's a good therapist," Draco said, and handed the detailed ground plan to Blaise, ignoring Harry's glare. "Here, Blaise. I hope it's good enough."
Blaise took the map with a good-humoured bow, and magnified it with an Engorgement Charm, so that every one could see. She interrupted Harry's beginning tirade about the good qualities of a Hippogriff with a stern look. "Attention, everyone. Can everyone see the map, now? Good. Well, here are the kitchen doors. The kitchens are built in the manor's only subterranean area, right under the assembly hall. That area is quite safe for us, since neither the Malfoys nor the guests will ever visit the servants' parts of the house. I say we ordain our mission from there."
"That's all good, but let's not forget the wards," Montague reminded. "How do you think we get into the kitchens without getting fried?"
"Weasley's idea about the house elves wasn't that bad, actually," Draco mused. "They're able to cut down the wards, almost all of them, if they're ordered to do so by their masters."
"I bet Dobby still knows how to shatter the Manor's wards," Harry was excited. "I'm sure he'll do that for us, if I asked him nicely."
"Come on, Potter, he'd even suck Dumbledore's cock if you asked him," Ron huffed. "He adores you."
"Alright, that was a mental image I did not need to have," Draco shuddered. "Weasley, don't be disgusting."
Ron coughed, realising just what he had said.
Draco shrugged. "Well. If you can get Dobby to open the outer wards for you, then there are only the blood wards to slay down. They surround the foyer, the parlour, the library, the main bedrooms, and the living rooms. Oh, and also the assembly hall, and, of course the breakfast room."
Harry stared at him. "How large is that manor of yours, exactly?"
"I don't know," Draco frowned. "I have never counted the rooms."
Harry only continued staring.
"How do we slay down the blood wards, then?" Montague asked.
"I'll have to do it myself," Draco said. "Only a Malfoy can remove them. And I'm sure that my parents would be rather unwilling to do so, even if I asked them."
"Then, will your parents notice if you take them down?" Ron inquired. "Will that kind of action elicit some kind of, er, noise? Or a pressure wave, or something?"
"Weasley, seriously, you've been spending too much time with Muggleborn people. Don't you have wards on your own house? Ah... Sorry, stupid question. Well, then... Wards are nothing but pure, personalised magic. And in case you hadn't noticed, magic is abstract. It won't elicit any kind of 'noises', nor explode into your face."
Ron blushed with embarrassment and anger, but swallowed a nasty retort.
"I'll have to excuse myself from the party and somehow perform the reversing spells in another room," Draco continued. "It takes at least fifteen minutes to get all the wards down."
"Fifteen minutes... That's a long time to be absent, without a good reason," Pansy pointed out. "Especially when we're dealing with your dad, who's outright paranoid as it is. You'll need a good excuse."
"I'll figure something out," Harry promised. "If I'll be attending the party as Theodore, I think I might ask you to, well, show me something in your room, for example."
"Potter, you are not shagging him while being me," Theodore snarled.
"I wasn't going to!" Harry protested, blushing.
"I wouldn't have let him to," Draco coughed.
"Yeah, right." Theodore still didn't look assured. "Just watch what you're doing, Potter, I have a reputation to keep up."
"And how would shagging me ruin your reputation, I just ask?" Draco bristled.
"Er..." Theodore looked thoughtful. "Good point."
Harry smirked. "Don't worry, Nott. I'll be good."
"I don't like that smile of yours." Theodore glared.
"Shut up, both of you," Blaise admonished. "It's time to move on with our plans. There are still plenty of things to consider. For example, how do we get rid of the Death Eaters after Draco has cut the wards down? Any ideas?"
"The house elves could slip a Dreamless Sleep potion to their tea cups," Ron suggested.
"You're awfully into house-elves tonight, Weasley," Draco sneered.
"At least I'm not into you," Ron retorted.
"Point taken..." Draco waved his hand. "But anyway, the house-elf idea won't work."
"Why not?" Harry asked.
"Because the house-elves won't be serving the tea." Draco sniffed. "My mother will be doing it. She likes to attend her own guests."
Everyone spent a few moments in silence, probably thinking how Narcissa Malfoy would want to do anything like that by herself, until Draco finally spoke up again. "But Harry... If you'd carry an extra Polyjuice flask with you, you could as well transform into my mother... and then you could serve the tea."
"Transform into your mother?" Harry looked at Draco as if he'd grown mad. "And what if Lucius tries to kiss me? Huh? Nope, no way. Over my dead body."
"Don't be daft." Draco narrowed his eyes. "My father never liked public displays of affection. Besides, even if he did, there wouldn't be a chance for him to molest you. You see, I'm talking about that sordid prophecy I received. Now, I don't know how accurate it was, but at least it showed pretty well that both my parents are going down. And when they're down... that's when we need to act."
"You mean..." Harry sucked his lower lip. "When your father has stabbed your mother, and when I have killed your father, I will transform into your mother, and poison the tea, and serve Bellatrix and her cronies that said tea, and look-- oh, dandy, we're so damn good, aren't we?"
"This is getting good." Montague grinned, and lightened another cigarette. "I don't like this at all," Ron muttered, and asked for a cigarette, too.
"This is too crazy. This will never work."
"This is too crazy--" Blaise shot him a glare. "--and that's exactly why it will work."
"Well how do you expect us all to leave the school without Dumbledore noticing?" Ron shot back.
"Oh, we can leave that to Snape." Draco shrugged. "He'll arrange it all."
"What?" Blaise looked utterly shocked and surprised. "You have told Snape?"
Draco lazily nodded towards Harry, who was still mulling over the plan in his head. "Potter did."
"But... but why?" Blaise asked, her eyes blazing with anxiety; she was very upset. "He's a Death Eater! He will alert the Dark Lord!"
"He won't." Harry shrugged. "He's not a Death Eater. Not really."
Blaise looked even more distressed. "He's not a Death Eater? Then what is he? Member of the Order? Please, I've seen his Dark Mark."
"When? And where?" Ron demanded. Blaise blushed.
"You've seen Snape naked?" he yelled.
"No, you dolt, of course not!" She groaned. "He doesn't need to take his pants off to show me his left forearm."
"Why would he want to show you his forearm?" Harry wondered.
"Er." Blaise coughed. "I happened to see him without his shirt, actually."
"WHAT?" Ron shouted, a stab of jealousy surging through him.
"It's not my fault," she protested. "He was in the potions lab, and I was helping him with the Wolfsbane potion. I had detention, you know. And when he went to get the last ingredients from the cabinet, something poisonous fell over his robes and he had to rip them off."
"Aaaah! You've seen Snape in his underwear!" Ron covered his eyes. "Aaaah!"
"Snape gives detention to Slytherins?" Harry was dumbfounded. "I never knew."
"Wolfsbane?" Hermione mused. "I just wonder..."
"Ah, so that's why the belladonna was missing from the cabinet." Theodore grinned. "And here I thought Vincent smoked it all."
"I didn't? I thought I did..." Vincent looked confused. "Oh, fuck, Raistlin knows what I have been smoking instead..."
Blaise screamed with frustration. "Oh, shut up, all of you! No, I did NOT see Snape in his underwear! He wore black trousers under his robes, for Merlin's sake, and a short-sleeved shirt! And yes, he did give me detention; after all I had tried to cast something as nasty as a hair-washing spell on him earlier that day. And Theodore, I'm so sorry, but yeah it was the belladonna. How did you manage to poison Terry Boot without it?"
"Bubotuber pus." Theodore smirked.
"Hmm. I would have liked to see Snape in his underwear," Tracey Davis mused.
"No you wouldn't," Harry hastened to say. "He's probably never washed them."
"How do you know?" Draco looked at him sharply. "Saw it in Snape's pensieve once." Harry sniggered.
"You've really been in Snape's pensieve?" Pansy shrieked. "I think my respect for you just jumped up to a new level."
"Actually, it's Dumbledore's pensieve, but Snape was just borrowing it..." Hermione pointed out.
"Let's get back to business!" Blaise shouted, and slammed her fist on the floating table. "Quiet, all of you! Now, I don't understand why you saw it necessary to tell Snape about our plans, Harry."
"It was sort of an accident." Harry shrugged. "And besides, I don't think it was a bad idea, at all. Instead of spoiling our plans, he might actually be able to help us. He's a pretty wise man, even if I say so."
"Pretty wise man?" Ron choked.
"No, not pretty, you dwarf!" Harry groaned.
"But you said that--"
"I do not think that Snape is pretty!"
"Well, sorry if I got it wrong." Ron scrunched up his nose. "Seeing as there has been an inexplicably wide number of gay people recently around."
"Well do you think I should have used another term, like, say, 'significantly perspicacious', then, hmm?" Harry mocked.
"That's even more gay," Draco pointed out, examining his nails.
Harry gave him a scathing glare.
Blaise sighed. "Alright. I hope you're right in trusting Snape with this," she said to Harry. "Otherwise, we'll burn and badly."
"Don't worry." Draco smiled a faint, tired smile. "Snape's safe."
Blaise gave him a meaningful, worried look, but Draco shook his head. They would be discussing Draco's condition later that evening, but not right now. Blaise took the hint, and continued the meeting as if nothing was wrong with her best friend. With Pansy, Millicent, Theodore and others, she started to tie up any possible lose ends in their plan. There were so many things to be taken into consideration, and so little time, but with the help of her clever fellow Slytherins and Hermione, she somehow managed to make a sensible plan.
"Now, we only have one problem left." Blaise finally leaned back in her seat, taking a deep breath. "How do we kill the Dark Lord."
"Don't worry, Zabini." Hermione's clear voice cut the air. "I know how to do it."