So after establishing myself as the worst updater in the history of all mankind, here is chapter nine. I know it's been ages, but hey, sometimes your muse dies of malaria and you have to go buy a new one. I don't really remember what direction I was going with this, so I'll either have to dredge the depths of my memory or find a new direction. I also stopped working on this because it stopped being fun, and since writing fics is mainly for fun (since you can't really publish them), that ruined it for me. BUT! Lucky for all of you, I scraped some fun together and finished this chapter. I've also been trying to work more on my own stuff. I'm sure you'll all be pleased to know that those undertakings are flopping equally as well.

I would like to thank my beta, the one who sent an edited copy of the chapter back to me and whose screen name I am at a total loss for right now, so if they could please contact me I'll correct this and apologize profusely. I would also like to thank the people that still read this.

Disclaimer: I still don't own any of these people, with the exception of Corbin. Props to J.K. Rowling and who the hell ever else.

Chapter IX: Not the Same

You're not the same, you've changed

I don't need you anyway

You're not the person

That I believed in yesterday

- Bodyjar, "Not the Same"

Draco had finally let Harry (who was tired and still rather flustered) up to get dressed, though not without reluctance, and now the two of them and Ron were making the trek back to the castle.

Harry and Ron were carefully avoiding looking at one another, and Draco was trailing along a few feet behind them, still looking a bit put off about the interruption.

The three walked across the grounds in silence, and when they finally reached the entrance to the Great Hall, they were greeted with a cacophony of uncoordinated noise. There was a good amount of yelling, and professors and prefects were trying their best to get the mob of students attempting to push into the Hall back out of the way.

"Go back to your dorms!" Harry heard someone shout loudly. "There is nothing to see! Go back to your dorms!"

Things were in complete chaos. It was impossible to see what was actually going on, and Harry just shook his head. What in the world could be causing all this mess?

It was then that someone emerged from the entrance, pointed hat towering above the throng of students.

Everyone went quiet. It was Dumbledore.

"All of you," he called, eyes sweeping over the crowd, "will return to your respective common rooms. You will stay there until told to do otherwise. There will be no classes tomorrow."

A hushed whisper shot through the congregation, but no one moved to leave. Dumbledore wasn't pleased.

"Now!" he ordered.

The crowd thinned quickly then, people darting off this way and that. Everyone knew something big had happened; Dumbledore never yelled about anything.

Harry, Ron, and Draco were about to go as well, but they were stopped.

"You three," Dumbledore said, looking down at them. He sounded calmer now, but there was still an uncharacteristic sense of sternness and unease about him. "Into the Hall, please."

They said nothing, merely doing what was asked of them.

Once inside, the huge double doors were shut behind them with a muted thud, and Harry knew something was seriously wrong.

The tables had all been pushed back against the wall, leaving the Hall looking vast and empty, and a stiff sense of foreboding seemed to permeate the air. He shuddered. The Great Hall was usually such a happy place.

Dumbledore cleared his throat softly to get everyone's attention. "I'm sure you're wondering why I've called you here."

"Well no shit. I was in the middle of something," Harry heard Draco murmur irately.

Ron's cheeks pinked. Dumbledore didn't notice.

"Something truly… horrendous has happened just this evening," the headmaster said gravely, "and we need to hear all that you know."

Harry noticed then that they weren't the only ones in the room. McGonagall and Snape stood a few paces behind Dumbledore, McGonagall wringing her hands with a nervousness Harry had never seen before and Snape clenching his jaw, looking paler than was normal for him.

"If we have any reason whatsoever to believe that one of you is lying, the Veritaserum potion will be administered without hesitation," Snape said brusquely, eyeing Harry and Ron with mistrust.

"That, of course, applies to all of you," McGonagall chimed in, shooting a look at Snape before letting her cold gaze fall on Draco.

"To the topic at hand," Dumbledore said, quieting his fellow professors. "You are all acquainted with Ms. Pansy Parkinson, correct?"

Harry, Draco, and Ron all nodded.

Harry couldn't stand her.

Draco was disgusted by the way she hung all over him.

Ron thought she was bloody annoying and hated the way she treated Hermione.

"Shortly after sunset, her body was found inside the Forbidden Forest, drained of blood."

A silence swept over the room.

Harry studied Dumbledore's grave face. He couldn't believe it. Pansy Parkinson was dead? Sure, he'd never really liked her at all, but that didn't mean she needed to die. This would make the second student to die at Hogwarts…

"You think I did it," Draco said suddenly. He narrowed his eyes at the three professors. "You think I killed her."

"Now Mr. Malfoy," Dumbledore began calmly, "that's not what I said. We merely wish to know if any of you have any information about this. It is very important that you tell us anything you believe might be helpful." He looked at each of the boys in turn.

The quiet in the hall was strained. Everyone knew this was a very delicate situation. A student had been killed, and the culprit was still free. That meant everyone on the grounds was in possible danger.

Harry looked down at the grass-stained toes of his shoes. He had a pretty good idea about who the killer was, but he was hesitant to say anything. What if it got Draco in trouble? What if it got Draco hurt again? He glanced over at the blonde vampire.

Draco had the exact same thoughts running through his head, and as he locked eyes with Harry he forced a thought into the other boy's head: Don't tell.

There was no doubt in his mind that Corbin had done it, and he had the feeling his sire was trying to set him up. Why go after Pansy, of all people?

He didn't want anyone finding out. Corbin would… touch him again. He knew it. A punishment for betraying him.

No, he had to keep silent.

"Nothing?" Dumbledore inquired. Draco imagined he heard a bit of disappointment in the Headmaster's voice.

"It was him!" Ron blurted out without warning. He was pointing at Draco.

The Slytherin was enraged.

"You lying bastard!" Draco shouted. It seemed for a moment he might attack the redhead, but he remained still, glaring hatefully.

"Ron, what are you talking about?" Harry demanded.

"I saw him coming from the direction of the Forest on my way to the Quidditch pitch earlier," Ron went on, "and I heard him yesterday telling Pansy to meet him there this evening before practice!"

"That's a lie!" Draco exclaimed, his hands curling into fists. "I can't believe this!"

"Boys," Dumbledore called loudly.

But Ron wasn't finished yet.

"He drinks from Harry all the time too, when he's not supposed to be 'donating' or whatever!"

McGonagall looked extremely upset by this news. Snape appeared as though he was trying very hard not to step forward and strangle Ron.

"Ron, that's not true!" Harry argued, but one of his hands had moved up to cover the fresh bite marks on his neck.

"Boys!" Dumbledore said again. They fell silent. "We can solve this easily. Severus, give Mr. Weasley the Veritaserum."

Snape took a small vial from the inside of his cloak and moved toward Ron. "Gladly."

"Wait," Harry said nervously. All eyes turned to him. "I mean… uh… is that really necessary?"

"What are you doing, Potter?" Draco hissed.

Harry didn't look at him. He was afraid that, if Ron was given the potion, he'd say something about what had happened in that shower stall. That was not something Harry wanted getting out.

Draco caught the Gryffindor's thoughts. That little prat was going to get him into trouble just to keep his pride intact? Potter was his alibi, while he was loathe to admit it, and having Weasley spill his Veritaserum-soaked guts to the assembled professors might be a boon. It would clear his name, at any rate. Otherwise, his defense was without a solid foundation and he was left flinging empty protests against Weasley's accusations (which were, admittedly, empty themselves). Potter's need to keep his reputation free of Malfoy smudges could get Draco sent off to… well, Azkaban, for all he knew! But the more he thought about it, the more he realized he really didn't want word of that after-practice tryst spreading around school either.

Besides, his father would never allow him to be sent to Azkaban.


"Regardless," McGonagall broke in, disrupting Draco's thoughts, "of whether or not Malfoy is responsible for this loss, if he is indeed drinking from Potter at unscheduled times, something must be done."

Harry fidgeted as McGonagall moved toward him, raising her hand and gesturing impatiently to his neck.

"Let's see then, Potter."

Harry glanced off to the side with the guilty expression of a boy trying to hide a scrape or bruise acquired while playing someplace his mother had expressly warned him away from.

McGonagall gave Harry a piercing look. "Move your hand, Potter."

Harry's hand slid away, and the hall filled with a tense silence as the two identical little wounds were exposed, still a vibrant red against Harry's skin.

McGonagall looked positively livid, but Draco was quick to defend himself.

"I missed a session," he said hurriedly. "I was desperate, and he said it was fine."

"He attacked Harry!" Ron argued, pointing an accusatory finger. "He attacked Harry after practice!"

Draco scowled deeply at Ron. "You lying sack of—"

"Gentlemen!" called Dumbledore loudly. His patience was obviously stretched very thin. He looked squarely at Harry and said, "Harry, why don't you tell us all what occurred?"

Harry gave his friend a strange look and then met Dumbledore's gaze. "Malfoy's telling the truth. I… let him do it. He needed it."

Okay, so he wasn't being completely honest, but it wasn't an outright lie. It wasn't as though he'd really tried to get Malfoy off of him. He simply couldn't understand why Ron was trying so diligently to get Malfoy into trouble.

"You see there?" Snape said icily. "He allowed for it, and he's perfectly all right."

"That's extremely dangerous, both of you!" McGonagall shouted. "Letting him drink from you without a chaperone nearby. Honestly, Potter, he could've killed you!"

Both Snape and Draco opened their mouths to protest, but Dumbledore cut them off.

"While that was an unwise decision on both parts and such an event should not be repeated," he began, "we have somewhat more pressing matters at hand, seeing how young Harry here is unharmed."

A heavy solemnity settled over those present and Dumbledore looked at them in turn, focusing finally on the three boys.

"Have you told me everything you know? Any little detail may prove helpful. If we do not find out who did this, we will have to close down the school for the safety of everyone here."

Another look passed between Harry and Draco, but neither spoke up.

"I'm telling you," Ron blurted angrily, breaking the silence, "he did it! I—"

"That is enough, Mr. Weasley, thank you," Dumbledore interrupted wearily. "You and Mr. Potter may leave. Mr. Malfoy, kindly remain with me. And I ask that the three of you keep all of this to yourselves."

Harry took a long, measured look at Draco, but it was broken as Ron grabbed his arm and began to drag him toward the doors with an "Of course, Professor."

As soon as they were outside, Harry tore his arm from Ron's grasp.

"What the hell are you doing?" he demanded sharply.

"Harry, he's done something to you!" Ron said plaintively. "Why are you defending him?"

"Because he didn't kill anyone! Because you're lying! He could get sent to Azkaban for something like that!"

"Well, all the better for us, then," Ron said nastily. "Harry, Draco bloody Malfoy was just on top of you in a shower stall! Something needs to be done."

Harry didn't have a response for that. Something was happening; he knew that. If Ron hadn't walked in when he had…

Malfoy frightened Harry. It was a truth Harry had to accept. He felt like a toy. The Boy Who Lived, hero of the wizarding world, reduced to a blood doll for Draco Malfoy.

He glared at Ron hotly. "Nothing's going on, all right? He—caught me off guard. That's all."

"He's fucking with your mind, Harry, and you know it! You've got to get away from him."

"This isn't your business," Harry said defensively.

Ron looked almost hurt. "Not my business? Harry, you're my best friend. If some utter prick decides he's going to screw around with you, it IS my business!"

Harry was too heated at this point to back down. He knew Ron was only concerned for his well-being, and even though he definitely went about showing it the wrong way, he was only looking out for Harry. Unfortunately, his boiling anger was stomping gleefully all over his reason.

Harry thought about saying, "I know, Ron. You're right, and I'm sorry, but Malfoy still didn't kill anyone. Let's go back inside and explain, and then we can talk about this."

Stomp, stomp, stomp.

What left his lips was this: "You know, maybe Malfoy was right! Maybe you are jealous!"

All Ron could do for several moments was stare at Harry in astonished silence. Then he narrowed his eyes at the other boy in disappointed anger and clenched his fists tight by his sides to avoid throwing a punch.

"Unbelievable. Forget it, forget the whole thing. You just go off with Malfoy and be his little Potter puppet, then, and don't bother talking to me again. I hope he fucking drains you."

Ron turned and stalked away across the grass in a quiet rage, and Harry's heart suddenly sank down into his trainers. He knew he would regret those words for a long, long time.