Secondhand Slytherin by Pseudonymous Entity
Summary: Just before the yule ball Harry receives advice from an unlikely source which changes the night's course of events. "They're going to stare regardless you know."
Warnings: I laugh in the face of canon. Ambiguous undertones.
AN: A little something from the back of my mind. I have to post them every so often or they become distracting.
"In all affairs it is a healthy thing now and then
To hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted."
In a world of car-sized arachnids and werewolves, it was somewhat reassuring to discover that school dances were the bane of every adolescent's existence, magical or otherwise.
The students at Hogwarts received the news of a winter ball scheduled that year as well as one might expect. In the brief moment of horrified silence following the announcement of the Yule Ball, denial was prevalent.
Weeks later and the panic was palpable. Everyone an unwilling participant in a contest with unknown rules. A date must be secured, robes must be pressed, confidence must ooze, palms must not sweat and dancing - Merlin forbid you missed a dance step. Privately, Harry took an odd sort of delight in watching the chaos around him. It was only fitting the rest should be just as miserable and anxiety-ridden as he was. Not a life or death thing, the ball. There wouldn't be any dragons that he was aware of.
Still, it gave him fluttery swoops of delight to watch a nearby fifth year Ravenclaw approach a golden-haired witch -Slytherin he thought- with the slow determined walk of a man who has been sentenced to death and nobly walks himself to the gallows. Harry's cheeks heated up, his throat filled with repressed laughter, and he felt certain the muscles in his face would soon be exhausted from grinning so much.
It really wasn't nice. But then, Harry didn't feel much like being nice as of late.
If he wasn't required to attend -and open the damn thing- as one of the contestants, Harry would have bowed out of the entire ordeal. He had in vain attempted to do so, in the beginning. When his head of house made it clear a lack of date was no excuse Harry gave in and asked Parvati Patil, a fellow Gryffindor with long dark hair, to go with him.
The calm Harry managed to maintain throughout the chaos began to slowly erode come the day of the ball. The shaking hands and stress induced muttering, pacing and wide-eyed full blown panic seeped into Harry infecting him. He soon found himself staring into the mirror attached to his wardrobe and pondering the merits of running to the library to memorize a glamour or two. Harry wasn't exactly vain or anything but if he must be paraded about he may as well look good.
His hands reached down and straightened his bottle-green robes absently. There wasn't anything wrong with them that he could see. They looked nice enough. A good colour with a simple cut. No unnecessary frills. Harry grinned. Ron had been less than lucky in that department, with a much-outdated hand-me-down. His mother's instance that it was 'vintage' did nothing to make it any better.
Perhaps if Ron hadn't committed himself to being a wanker for the first part of the school year Harry may have had mercy and ordered him a set of plain black dress robes. As it was it suited Harry just fine to watch the other boy suffer.
He gave his appearance one last look over. Deciding it could be worse and it wasn't his fault he had to be there, Harry ran his fingers through his unruly inky black hair and messed it up with great abandon. There. With that act of rebellion, Harry turned on his heel and darted out the door. The stars down to the common room were strewn with shoes, ties, scarves and on one memorable occasion, an umbrella spelled to sing sonnets. He had absolutely no idea where the owner of said umbrella thought their night was going but could admit to being somewhat intrigued.
Not enough to stop and find the owner though.
His shoes hit the carpet of the common room and he ducked immediately. To shiny shoes went flying over this head. A sixth year on the other side of the stairs caught them and ran up the witches staircase, blonde ponytail flying behind her. Across the room, by the hearth, Fred and George fixed one another's robes. The pros of being identical meaning never needing to run for a mirror. Nearby Lee Jordan gave them very bad suggestions if the looks the twins were shooting him were any indication. Someone somewhere in the chaos was crying. He gave the room one sweep with eyes.
Harry put his hands in his pockets and made for the door, eyes on the ground. In situations like this, it was best to avoid eye contact or risk being pulled into someone else's drama. Harry had more than enough of his own thanks. The portrait swing open. Harry stepped out and felt his shoulders droop in relief. The change in volume was immediate.
He did see others on his way to the main staircase, but it seemed most people were either still fretting over their appearance -which at this point was a lost cause really- or off in hiding like Harry.
The main staircase, when he reached it, had only a low murmur of voices. A couple or two speaking on the stairs. No one he'd have to say hello to which was enough for him. He made his way to the bottom of the staircase and sat on the bottom step. Shiny shoes tapped on the stone floor absently, his right shoulder leaning against the bannister. Slowly the hall filled with more people. It was still a while yet before the ball even began and Harry couldn't even go sit at a table in the great hall and wait. As a champion, he had to enter dramatically after everyone else was seated.
Harry clicked his teeth and blew out a harsh breath that disrupted his bangs. He couldn't wait for this entire ordeal to done and over. What the heck was the point? So the schools could show off their students? Watching them try not to make a fool of themselves -or die which was apparently a likely option- wasn't enough for them?
While dying of boredom in ungainly heaps on that bottom step it slipped Harry's mind entirely that anyone would notice just how little effort he was putting into this. Or that they might care. Thus it came as a surprise when the footsteps he barely registered in the background noise of giggling adolescent twats came to a stop before the step he was perched on.
Harry pulled out of his thoughts quick enough to give himself mental whiplash. He looked up and blinked owlishly. "Draco?"
The blonde Slytherin stood there for no reason Harry could fathom. Dressed in blue high collared robes, Draco's grey eyes narrowed at Harry's person. It was hard not to be offended when Draco so obviously found Harry disappointing.
"Can I help you with something?" He snapped when the Slytherin seemed content to stare at him the rest of the night without explanation.
Draco lurched forward, grabbed Harry by the arm and pulled him to his feet. As he was manhandled down the hall and toward a darker, less populated corridor, Harry took the time to wonder if being so blatant about his boredom had been a temptation Fate couldn't resist. When his captor veered toward a washroom rather than a corner Harry couldn't decide if it was good luck or bad. He could be disposed of just as easily in a lavatory as a corner, he supposed. It probably made the clean up easier too, if things got messy.
Draco pushed Harry into the lavatory and shut the door behind them.
Harry's shoes slid in what he hoped was water. He grasped at the counter and steadied himself. Maybe faking sick wouldn't have been a bad idea. It was much cooler in the bathroom than normal. Harry wondered if someone thought ahead that sweaty dancers might appreciate it.
Draco spun him around, grey eyes already flickering around Harry, from top to bottom and back again. "Honestly, I don't know why I'm bothering," Draco announced. Neither did Harry. Of course, Harry still had no idea what was happening. His heart was banging against his chest pretty good though, so at least he was getting some adrenaline out this...whatever it was.
Draco swished his wand in the general direction of Harry's robes. Creases and wrinkles Harry hadn't noticed slowly smoothed out. Draco's other hand on Harry's shoulder turned the Gryffindor this way and that while he made certain to get every last blemish or imperfection. It said a lot that Harry was just bored enough to let this happen and see where one earth it was going.
Draco took a step back and held up his wand horizontally. First up high, then lower. Harry realised he was measuring...something. Draco tilted his head, stepping forward to move Harry around again like his own personal Gryffindor dress-up doll. The cool fabric along Harry's sleeve slimmed and came closer against his skin, and the lower length along his torso did the same. Surprisingly not as constricting as Harry thought it would be. As Draco spun Harry again he caught a glimpse in the mirror. The robes did look nicer, he could admit. Though he had honestly thought they were okay to begin with. He could see the difference now.
How many other people would have noticed those imperfections?
Cool fingertips flashed at the corners of his eyes, flitting along his sides or down at the hem of his robes. Smoothing, pulling, shortening, lengthening and so on. Quickly and fluidly, something Draco had done on numerous occasions. He was spun around once more to face his abductor. Grey eyes set on his hair in utter despair. Harry smirked.
"I may have done that on purpose." He admitted.
Draco scowled. "You could at least pretend to care Potter. It's not enough you're in a position others wanted desperately to be in, which you so clearly disdain, you also represent our school to the international community. Whether you like it or not. You could pretend that means something to you." Pale fingers tugged at Harry's mess of knots and tangles. "You're representing yourself as well. Is this really what you want the world to think of when they think of you?"
Harry sighed in exasperation. "I didn't ask for the attention did I?"
" And yet you have it," Draco responded. He released Harry's curls, tapping his wand against his palm thoughtfully. "Here's a wild idea. Just throwing it out there. Instead of whining about how unfair your life is and how unfair and inaccurate the topsy-turvey opinions of the world is, do something about it. Take charge of your life. Stop letting it happen to you and become an active participant."
Harry stared. "What?"
"Or even, now bare with me, win."
"Win," Harry repeated.
Draco rolled his eyes. "The tournament you're in. The one you hardly deign to even show up for let alone put forth effort? Yeah. That. You could try to win. At the ball tonight will be important figures in magical society from all over the wizarding world. They have been and will be following the tournament closely. These are the people that run our world, Potter. That do stuff like fund Dragon sanctuaries, spell crafting, antidotes to disease like Lycanthropy, and even write laws and regulations for the treatment of the mudbloods you like so much. You have a chance to effect change and you...you just..."
Draco trailed off, frustration colouring his voice. It seemed he couldn't even look at Harry in that moment because he turned his head sharply and stared at the wall to his right. They stood there in the mostly silent lavatory, Harry staring at Draco, Draco staring at the wall, and one of the faucets leaking every so often. Drip. Drip. Drip.
Draco curled his fingers around his wand tightly. "You're wasting it." He said, finally.
Grey eyes glanced at him.
Harry wasn't given the chance to formulate a response, which was just as well. Harry hadn't a clue what he was supposed to say to that. Draco straightened up and looked him over once more. A sharp poke to the middle of his back had Harry straightening his own spine in annoyance.
"Isn't there anyone you can emulate?" Draco demanded. He looked comically close to crossing his arms and stomping his foot. That was probably bred out of him at an early age, Harry knew. "Someone other than your Gryffindor friends you can mimic a bit? You must have some idea of what a put together and confident person, the sort who would get on well in this situation, might look like."
Harry was about to say he didn't really get the chance to dabble with the upper class while he was locked in his room or covered in soil from his aunt's garden, when he closed his mouth with a click. Because there was someone he could think of. In fact, he knew exactly who would thrive at a function like this.
Harry turned away from Draco and looked at the mirror, trying to focus on the memory he had in mind. Trying to remember every detail. His shoulders slumped. He couldn't do his. He'd never pull it off and it would only get him more attention he didn't want.
"So what?" Draco asked.
Harry jumped. Had he said that last bit out loud?
The Slytherin moved beside him, looking into the mirror as well. The watched one another's reflections. One tall and fair. The other shorter, darker.
"We can't control them. Other people's opinions. Not entirely." Said Draco, quietly. "They're gonna think what they want to think about you no matter the evidence to the contrary. But you can try to affect what most people think. You can fashion yourself to suit yourself and own the self you present to the world while keeping the real you separate." He gave Harry a wry smile. "They're going to stare regardless you know. Why not give them a show?"
Why exactly he was letting a Slytherin talk him into anything at all he wasn't sure. But that rebellious bit of Harry. The part that laughed at other people when he shouldn't. The part that still remembered how mean everyone was in second year. That part of him couldn't resist the opportunity that was presented to him. The perspective he hadn't considered before now.
We even look something alike.
Harry studied his reflection, placing the image of another right over the top. Comparing. He hadn't seen it so much back then. Now that he was older he could see that Tom had been right. Thick brows, hollow cheeks, wide mouth. Different eye colour of course. Harry tried to stand as he had, back not perfectly straight but also not slouching. Shoulders back and relaxed. Assured. That's what Tom had been. Certain. Absently, he shifted his weight and tilted his chin down a bit.
"I don't suppose you know any hair-"
The words were scarcely out of his mouth before Draco was reaching into his robes and pulling out a small jar. His fingers loosened the lid and he started dolloping a small helping of whatever it was into Harry's hair without a by your leave. Harry snorted. Trust Draco to have hair product on him in case of emergencies.
He ran it through all of Harry's curls. Detangling and smoothing. From Harry's bangs to the crown of his head, o the back and the down by his ears and the base of his neck. Here he paused for a moment to examine Harry, perhaps trying to divine whether he'd gotten all of Harry's crows nest. When he finished he washed his hands and put away the jar. Harry looked at his hair in the mirror again. Still not quite. The Gryffindor reached up and parted it at the side, wrapping his fingers around various pieces of curl until it looked just like he remembered. He looked himself over critically.
Harry pulled out his wand, crossed his free arm across his middle, bent his other arm at the elbow and brought that hand up to chin height. His fingers twirled his wand. Harry stared at himself. It really was uncanny. A little unnerving. And yet...
Harry glanced to the side to see what Draco thought. Not that he cared.
The Slytherin had a single pale brow raised. It wasn't one of the 'why are you so thick' brows. So that was probably a good sign. Draco pulled Harry back away from the still dripping sink and then proceeded to circle around him. His muted footsteps the only sound outside the leaky faucet in their mostly abandoned bathroom, fingertips trailing along the top of Harry's shoulders. It smelled like mint, Harry noted. Had it always smelled of mint in here? He couldn't remember.
"You know," Draco mused. "You might not be half bad at this." He took a single step forward. Long fingers reached out and fixed a wayward curl. "It'll do well for tonight. Very satisfactory."
Draco turned, walking out. Harry was staring for a moment before he stumbled forward and followed after him. They walked back down the corridor toward the main entrance hall, loud murmurings of excited voices growing with every step. Enough time passed for most people to be meeting up with their friends or dates. A group of Hufflepuffs darted past them, laughing. None of them paid Harry or Draco any mind.
They reached the crowd. Harry paused just feet away at the same time Draco did. Did he thank him? It wasn't exactly done for Harry's benefit. More out of misplaced frustration and jealousy really. Still, he probably should. Right?
Harry turned to thank Draco only to find the Slytherin much closer than expected.
Draco ignored Harry's discomfort, choosing to pull the glasses from his face. Harry made a noise of objection. He actually needed those. It's not like they were for looks. Draco flicked Harry's forehead in response. "Be patient prat," Draco ordered. He proceeded to lean closer much to Harry's alarm. Then there was a bright blue light in Harry's eyes and e was blinking rapidly. The hand Draco was waving in front of his face slowly came into focus. Harry looked around experimentally. He could see!
Cool fingers tilted Harry's head from their position on his chin. He hadn't even noticed Draco doing that. He jumped when Draco pulled Harry's robe to the side, placing his glasses into his inside pocket. Draco straightened Harry's robes, smoothed down the shoulders and arms and gave him one final look over. With a nod, the blonde left Harry standing there without another word, blue robes billowing behind him. Harry snorted. Slytherins.
Always so dramatic.
He pulled his eyes away to survey the entrance hall. Spying long dark hair he walked forward. "Parvati?"
The Gryffindor witch turned around, red and gold robes swaying. Her smile faded and her eyes widened. "Harry? You look...you look great. I..." She trailed off, blinking. Off to the side, the rest of the students were already entering the great hall.
Harry offered Parvati his arm and lead her over to other champions and their dates. While his head of house gave a last-minute speech to the champions Harry went over a mental checklist. Relaxed shoulders, straight but not stiff posture. Breathe. He didn't know how well he could fake this, in all honesty. Looking the part was different from playing it. Still, Draco had a decent point. Maybe Harry was looking a gift horse in the mouth. Maybe playing the social game a bit could give him a little more control over his life. It wasn't as if he could have any less.
The doors swung open and the Champions started forward. He could do this. All he had to do was play the part. Ask himself, what would Tom Riddle do? That really wasn't something he'd ever thought he'd need to think about. Setting a Basilisk on the ball was obviously out. Harry turned automatically, taking Parvati's hands in his. The music started.
One-two-three. Twirl. One-two-three. Step back. One-two-three...
Later, after dinner was eaten and the music began again for everyone, Harry found himself standing politely with various groups of the adults. He allowed Parvati to show him off a bit and introduce him. Her father was the ambassador to India which Harry hadn't known, and she knew quite a few people there. In the beginning, Harry was sure to watch the others in the group for cues. When to bow and when to offer a handshake, titles and that sort of thing. As long as he didn't say much and stayed polite it went fine. It didn't take long for him to relax and feel more comfortable. It was sort of thrilling, actually. Playing a part no one knew you were playing. It gave you a thrill right down in your middle.
At one point Harry caught a glimpse of white-blonde hair. He shot Draco a grin when he noticed he was watching Harry's progress around the room. "...and this is Minister Fudge."
Harry turned back. Parvati had lea him to a new group. He zeroed in on Fudge in his bowler hat straight away. Harry gave a short bow and a small smile. "We've met. Hello, again Minister."
Fudge returned his smile, pleased. "Yes, yes much better circumstances isn't it? You've grown a lot since last I saw you. Fine work you're doing in the tournament so far, my boy. That dragon business? Well done indeed."
Harry shrugged his shoulders in a self-deprecating way. "Just a bit of flying, sir."
"A bit of flying he says." Another wizard repeated, amused.
Harry allowed the conversation to continue around him, his date singing his praises, Harry modestly confirming, and he adults praising him in turn for being so humble. The sort of thing he might see at one of his Uncle Vernon's business parties when he was young, peeking out from his cupboard. Or even, when he felt especially daring and Dudley could be counted on to keep silent out of shared curiosity, from the top of the stairs. Harry tilted his head, banishing that memory away. He smelled mint.
A glass of punch waved its self in front of his face. Harry glanced up. The group had grown and rearranged its self, leaving him just a bit farther out from it. He looked up at the owner of the cup to see grey eyes. Blinking, Harry took the cup. He glanced back over a Parvati but she seemed just fine with whomever the witch was she was gossiping with.
"You know," Said Harry. "There's a fine line between support and stalking. I hope you plan to stay on the right side of it or else I'll have to question your intentions."
Draco took a healthy sip from his punch, amused. "But your right is my left, and doesn't that leave the right and wrong of it up to perspective?"
Harry rolled his eyes and took a sip of his own tasted good, Harry decided. He swished the glass, wondering what was in it.
"I haven't done anything to it," Draco said. Harry flushed, he hadn't meant to stare into his cup that long. "Can't say the same for the twins, however." Harry turned to look where Draco indicated. On the far side of the room, the Weasley twins seemed to have momentarily taken over serving the punch. Nothing good would come of that he was sure.
He felt hands on his shoulder. He snapped his attention forward. Draco smoothed the fabric down his arms and straightened his outer robe, grey eyes looking him over. Who knew he was such a perfectionist?
"Have a good night Potter." Draco murmured finally, raising his punch in a mocking toast. Off he went, to do his own rounds of the social scene Harry assumed.
A hand on his arm had him turning to see Parvati. "Is that for me?" She asked. Harry looked down at the punch in his hand. He'd only had a few drinks of it. With a small smile, he offered it to her. He was pulled back into the group and the conversation continued. Parvati had been a fantastic bit of luck, really. She did a lot of the socializing for him. He found himself lead over to a food table, cleverly on the opposite side of the student's punch and cakes table. He peered at brightly coloured wrapped something on a platter beside some tea cakes.
"Those are Viridian chocolates," Parvati informed him, helpfully. "They have different ingredient combinations and act like a shot of potion. In only lasts a moment though. Like this one here is white chocolate, lavender and lemon. It's light and calming. See? Would you like one?"
Harry shrugged. Parvati smiled at him and leaned forward to look the chocolates over. "Let's see. There are lemon and raspberry filled, that one has lavender as you know and the raspberry has peppercorn. This one is caramel and butter rum with cinnamon. That one is dark chocolate and faerie wine, it'll make you laugh a bit too much if you're not careful. This is a standard Mint-"
Harry looked up. "I like mint."
Parvati handed him a chocolate wrapped in shiny blue paper, then picked up one of her own. Harry folded back the paper on his own chocolate and popped it into his mouth. A coolness rushed through him, and a sense of comfortable calm. It was divine. They stayed there for a little while longer, tasting all the different treats laid out.
A low bell tolled. Not enough to interrupt or startle anyone, but just loud enough to be heard.
"Oh, it's ten-thirty." Said Parvati. "I think it's best we wind down now and consider heading back before too long. I don't think I've had quite enough of the Weasley's punch to stay out until midnight."
Harry nodded. "Nor I."
Parvati frowned suddenly. Harry looked over his shoulder to see what she was looking at. Her twin, Harry didn't know her name, was sat on a chair in pretty purple robes looking quite put out. Beside her Ron slouched in his frilly red robes, arm crossed. Yikes. Harry turned back to Parvati and offered his arm.
"Shall we embark on a rescue mission?"
She gave him a grin and they made their way through the dancers. He never managed to discover what had Ron so set on ignoring his date, Parvati's sister latched onto them the moment she saw them. Looping her arm into her sister's, the three of them left the hall with the small crowd of students who decided to get to sleep at a reasonable time. Ascending the stairs where just hours earlier Harry had been accosted by a Slytherin, Harry decided that the ball hadn't been so bad. He reached into his robe pocket, pulled out a chocolate wrapped in shining blue paper and popped it into his mouth.
At least it wasn't boring.
Thoughts, Questions, Theories, and Limericks always welcomed