The Dragon Herald

Author's Note: This is a crossover between Harry Potter and the Heralds of Valdemar. The story starts in the summer before Harry's seventh year at Hogwarts, and about eleven years after the mage storms in Valdemar (though I might be a year or two off on that part.)

Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters and ideas belong to J. K. Rowling, while all Valdemar characters and ideas belong to Mercedes Lackey. I own neither.

This story has been reposted without all those pesky Evil Quotes of Doom, in accordance with ffnet's new law.

Chapter 5 – Lies

For all their insistence that he attend their classes, the Heralds seemed rather intent on keeping Draco out of them. He'd just decided to try to find his way to his first class when a page had shown up at his door, with a request that he go to meet with the mages from this world. Draco had figured that showing off his magical skills would be more entertaining than being lectured about the geography of the Lake Evendim region, whatever that was, so he'd gone ahead and followed the page.

After far too many twists and turns for Draco's liking, they emerged at the Companions' Field. "Just go across to the other end, sir," the page said, bowing slightly. "Mi'lords and mi'ladies are waiting for you there." Bobbing up and down again, the page hurried back inside.

As Draco began making his way across the Field, Orelia came trotting up. :Adjusting well, dearest: she asked.

Draco rolled his eyes. "What do you think?"

Had she been human, Orelia surely would have smirked. :I think that as long as you can manage sarcastic comments, you're doing just fine. I don't intend to worry about you unless you start spouting some blather about kindness making the world go round.:

"You've got that right, at least," Draco said, frowning slightly. He shook his head, trying to clear it. "So where are we going, exactly?"

:Oh, the other end of the Field: Orelia said lightly. :A lovely place, really. I'm sure you'll quite like it.:

"Yeah?" Draco rubbed absently at his temples. "It isn't far off, is it? I mean, it's not like this Field can be all that big, right?"

:You'd be surprised, Chosen: Orelia replied. As Draco's shoulders began visibly tensing, she gave him a concerned look. :Are you feeling all right, Draco? If you aren't, I'm sure this can wait a day or two. Some people react badly to Gates, though I would have expected you to respond earlier.:

"It's not that Gate thing," Draco said, rubbing a hand across his forehead. "It's just this really weird feeling, like a pressure across my head. I wish it would stop."

:Hmm.: Orelia gave Draco a piercing look. :Well, lean on me, darling, and I'll see if I can't help you a bit.:

Though dubious about what exactly she would be able to do, Draco draped one arm over Orelia's back so that he could press against her as he walked. Even if she couldn't help with the pressure, and the buzzing that was beginning to echo in his ears, the physical contact was comforting.

As they walked for several minutes, with no end of the Field in sight, Draco started to wonder whether he ought to be insulted that the Heralds were making him go so far away from the Collegium to demonstrate his magic. Were they just assuming that he wouldn't be able to control his power? Or did they think he'd decide to express his unhappiness at being stuck here in the traditional Malfoy manner of blowing to pieces anything that got in his path?

It wasn't that Draco objected to practicing magic at a distance from his new living area, of course. Actually, he thought it was a rather sensible idea, something that he probably would have suggested himself, had he been consulted. On the off-chance that one of the Heralds should do something stupid to interfere with one of his spells, the results would be much less catastrophic in an area with fewer people and objects. It was that, in his experience, the average heroic type was not especially concerned with what was sensible. Any actions they took that appeared to be rational were generally flukes.

:So cynical: Orelia said, amused. :Do you enjoy thinking the worst of everyone:

"It saves time later on," Draco said, shrugging. He moved his head experimentally. "Hey, my head doesn't hurt anymore!"

:I told you I'd help: Orelia said smugly. :There isn't much a Companion can't do.:

"Really?" Draco filed that knowledge away for later consideration. "I don't suppose you can get me to wherever we're going any faster?"

:Of course: Orelia replied. :You could ride, if all this walking is really getting hard on you. But it honestly isn't much further. You should be able to see it soon.:

"I could see it now, and not know it," Draco pointed out. "What am I looking for?"

:You'll know: Orelia promised. :Look to your left, as we round these trees.:

Impatiently, Draco peered ahead as they turned. His eyebrows shot up as he finally saw their destination. A giant greenhouse was not what he would have chosen as the ideal place to perform magic. When spells went out of control, windows got broken. A building made of glass seemed to be asking for trouble.

:There are all kinds of spells strengthening the glass: Orelia assured him. :You needn't worry it will break. And the plants give it support, as well.:

Draco shook his head, eyeing the enormous plants that wove patterns over the glass walls. "It still looks pretty unsafe," he said dubiously.

:It isn't: Orelia told him. :It's served us well for more than ten years now, and it's stronger than ever.:

"Well, as long as I don't get stuck with the blame when it shatters," Draco said with a shrug. "What do I care where your wizards decide to play with spells?"

To Draco's mild surprise, Orelia followed him into the building. But then, this was the Companions' Field, wasn't it? Why shouldn't she be able to go into the buildings in the Field?

"Hello, Draco. I'm glad to see you made it in one piece."

Draco eyed the woman who had spoken as she approached him, and the group behind her. "You're the people who came to see me right when I got here."

"Quite right," the woman said briskly. "I'm Elspeth, and that's Darkwind. This," she indicated a man Draco hadn't met yet, "is Dirk, Talia's husband. The Companions are Dirk's Ahrodie and my Gwena. And I'm certain you remember Treyvan."

"Be a bit hard to forget him," Draco said, making sure there was a decent distance between the gryphon and himself. He'd had too many bad experiences in Care of Magical Creatures to want to take any risks, no matter how intelligent the creature appeared to be.

"Yes." Elspeth smiled briefly. "Well, Treyvan, Darkwind, and I are mages, and we'd like to take a look at your methods of spell casting, compared to ours. Dirk is an expert in Gifts, or mind magic, if you'd rather call them that, and when we're through he'll test you to see which ones you have."

"Though I shouldn't have to do too much testing," Dirk said with a grin. "At least, not for Mindspeech. You've been picking up quite a lot with that Gift already, from what Talia told me."

"I guess," Draco said noncommittally. He pulled out his wand. "So what kind of magic do you want to see?"

"Whatever you think would be a good demonstration of your power," Darkwind said. "To be honest, Draco, from the view of our magic you really shouldn't be able to cast spells at all. You don't have any of the Mage Gift. Why don't you show us what you're best at, and we'll go from there."

Draco shrugged. What he was best at would normally mean fairly Dark spells and so on, but somehow he got the idea that cursing these people wouldn't go over too well. They looked like a fairly formidable group, especially that gryphon. He thought for a moment, trying to come up with something a little closer to being of the light.

On the basis that Transfiguration was always impressive, Draco decided on a Vanishing Spell. He pointed his wand at a clay pot, which still had damp earth clinging to it from the plant that had presumably just been transplanted from it. "Evanesco!"

The pot disappeared – not that Draco had expected it to do anything else, of course. Vanishing Spells were from two years ago, after all. "So was that good enough, or do you need me to do something else?" he asked, looking over at the others. He frowned, seeing their expressions. He couldn't read the gryphon's face, but the three humans looked as though they'd been hit on the back of their heads with a board. "What?"

Instead of answering him, Elspeth stooped down to peer at the area where the pot had been. Frowning, she waved a hand through the empty air. "It is gone!" she said, stunned. "It didn't look like an illusion, but – but it doesn't make any sense!" She turned to Draco. "There's nothing left, not even dust! How did you destroy it so completely?"

"What are you babbling about?" Draco asked, bewildered. "I didn't destroy it; I Vanished it. It'll come back in a few days."

"On its own?" Darkwind asked. "How can it? Or do you mean you'll cast another spell then?"

"No, I mean it'll just come back," Draco said impatiently. "We don't learn how to call back Vanished things till seventh year."

"So you just sent it somewhere else?" Elspeth asked, her brow furrowing. "But there were no Gate energies."

"Therre werren't any enerrgiess," Treyvan said. "He did magic without leyliness, nodess, or even perssonal sstorress of enerrgy." He eyed Draco thoughtfully. "Arre you awarre that what you have jusst done ought to have been imposssible?"

"I got that from your reaction," Draco said. "I don't see why, though. Leylines and nodes aren't even real. They're just dumb ideas that a bunch of Muggles came up with while gawking at Stonehenge."

"On the contrary, they're quite real," Darkwind said. "They provide the power we use to perform magic. But like rivers powering a watermill, the spells based on that power follow a particular structure and obey its rules. For example, matter can be neither created nor destroyed. In light of that, how did you manage to destroy that pot?"

"I told you, it isn't destroyed!" Draco snapped. "It's somewhere else, that's all. Can't you do it?"

"Not the way you did," Elspeth said forthrightly. "I don't think any mage I've ever heard of could." She frowned thoughtfully. "Does all of your magic work that way?"

"None of it uses those nodes you keep going on about, if that's what you mean," Draco said. "So how do you do spells, if you don't have wands?" He frowned, a thought occurring to him. "Oh, God, you don't chant, do you? I've heard about cults that do that."

"We chant sometimes," Darkwind admitted. "Mostly it's just a manipulation of energies. Magic is really only another type of science, the way we work with it."

"Really?" Draco wrinkled his nose. "Science is so… inelegant. Not to mention undependable. I've heard it doesn't work properly around magic, anyway."

Elspeth and Darkwind exchanged glances. "We've never come across that problem," Elspeth said. "In fact, our spells depend on scientific rules. I can't see how yours flouted them."

"Does it matter?" Draco asked impatiently. "I know how to do these spells; that's what counts. I know a lot more than Vanishing, too. I can do normal Transfiguration, all manner of Charms, Potions if I have the ingredients, and lots of dueling spells."

"Transfiguration?" Darkwind asked, alarmed. "You mean shapeshifting?"

"That's the idea," Draco said. "I can't change my own shape, but I change other things around. We were going to start Transfiguring people this year."

"That's awful!" Elspeth said in horror.

"Yeah, it is," Draco agreed, recalling his only experience with human Transfiguration. "Pity we don't learn the permanent sort till the very end of the class, though. There are some people I wouldn't mind leaving with tokens of my affection."

"Is your training incomplete, then?" Darkwind asked, worried. "Because while I don't like the idea of having an untrained mage roaming Haven, I don't see how we can train you, since your magic is so different from ours."

Draco looked down. There it was – another reminder that he couldn't go home again. He shrugged, telling himself to dismiss it from his mind for now. "It doesn't matter. I know enough to get by. My parents taught me a lot before I left for school," he added, when the other mages continued to look doubtful.

"We'll have to test your control to make sure of that," Elspeth said firmly. "We might put you in one of the normal mage courses anyway, just to make sure you're trained. The principles can't be that different, no matter how odd your methods are."

"Oh, good, more classes," Draco said with mock-cheerfulness. "That's exactly what I wanted. However can I thank you?"

"You can stop with that sarcasm," Elspeth scolded, though the corners of her mouth quirked a bit. "Didn't anyone ever tell you that it's the lowest form of humor?"

Draco snorted. "The only people who say that are the ones who suffer from it a lot."

"A point," Darkwind said, grinning. "One that we can explore in greater detail later, if you wish. For now, there are still many things that I, at least, feel we need to discuss with Draco."

"Right." Elspeth nodded. "Let's get on with it, then."


"That was quite an impressive display of magic."

Draco looked over at Dirk. "It was meant to be," he said, shrugging. Elspeth, Darkwind, and Treyvan had left after finishing discussing Draco's magic, leaving him alone with the other Herald.

"Yes, I'm sure," Dirk said cheerfully. "We've had mages running around Haven for years now, and one of the first to come was one of the most flamboyant people I've ever met."

"Good for him," Draco snapped impatiently. "Weren't you supposed to be telling me about that other kind of magic?"

"I thought you could use a break, after all those spells," Dirk replied. "Still, if you think you're ready, we can certainly get on with it."

"Do so," Draco ordered.

"Right," Dirk said. "Well, Heralds have one or more of a group of Gifts. The mages call them mind magic, but the name doesn't matter. They're things like Mindspeaking, Empathy, Foresight, Fetching, and so on. Like I said before, your primary Gift seems to be receptive Mindspeech, though you'll probably have a few lesser Gifts, too."

"So what are they?" Draco asked curiously.

"Oh, we can't tell yet," Dirk said. "There's really no way to know till they start manifesting themselves. When they do, Orelia will let you know, and my Ahrodie will tell me. But that's for later. What we need to deal with now is that Mindspeech."

"What are you going to do?" Draco asked suspiciously. He didn't like the sound of anything inside his head being "dealt with."

"Train you in how to use it, and in the ethics of its use," Dirk said promptly. "There's a class on Mindspeech that you'll go into, once you get caught up with them. I'll be helping you there – I work with training Gifts a lot, and Mindspeech is one of the easier Gifts to deal with."

"Are we going to do that now?" Draco asked.

Dirk laughed. "Hardly. It'll take us a few weeks at least. All I'm going to do today is see how much you've been doing naturally. Most people with Mindspeech put up some kinds of instinctive shields, so that they don't go crazy from all the thoughts around them. Your training will take those shields down, and replace them with more effective ones, of course."

"So how are you going to test these shields?" Draco wanted to know. "You aren't going to stick anything in my head, are you? Because if you try I'll curse you before you can blink."

"Oh, it's nothing like that," Dirk assured him. "If you give me permission, I'll just probe your mind until a shield stops me."

"Why do you need my permission?" Draco asked, immediately wary. "Is it dangerous? It won't hurt, will it?"

"It shouldn't," Dirk replied. "But we don't probe a person's mind like this without their permission. It's just wrong – an invasion of their right to their own thoughts!"

Draco sniffed. "Typical moralistic logic," was his opinion. "What's the point of not using power, if you have it?"

"The point is that it's wrong," Dirk said, frowning. "You can't mean that you'd use your Gift to take advantage of people."

"Why shouldn't I?" Draco said, shrugging. "Anyone else would do the same if the tables were turned."

"Now that's not true!" Dirk said indignantly. "Heralds don't do things like that, and we aren't the only ones, either! People aren't that selfish."

"Oh, no?" Draco shook his head. "You're pretty old to have that kind of delusion. People will do whatever they have to in order to get what they want, even if it means walking all over someone else's dreams. Maybe even especially then."

Dirk stared at Draco in horrified disbelief, much like a British wizard might stare at some unfortunate soul who'd gotten Splinched. "Gods – they told me you were different, but I didn't think it could be this bad!"

Draco stepped back, suddenly feeling uncomfortable under the Herald's gaze. "Yeah, well, it's not like I didn't warn you when I got here. I never said I was cut out to be one of your heroes."

"That wasn't what I meant," Dirk said hastily. "It's just – it's sad. I'm sorry."

"Don't be," Draco said, shrugging. "I'm not."

"Aren't you?" Dirk asked quietly. He shook his head. "No, don't answer. Look, we aren't going to get anywhere with this. Do I have your permission to try a probe?"

Draco hesitated. On one hand, he had serious doubts about letting someone he'd known for less than an hour poke around inside his head. But on the other hand, he was fairly sure Orelia would have let him know if this was something he should worry about. And after all, Dirk was a Herald, and thus disgustingly honorable.

"I guess so," Draco said reluctantly. "What do I have to do?"

"You don't need to do anything," Dirk assured him. "Just relax. I'll be doing all the work."

That suited Draco just fine. He looked around for a moment, but chose to remain standing, rather than try one of the strange-looking chairs carved from rock.

"Like I said, this shouldn't hurt," Dirk explained. "The easiest way for beginners to understand is to compare a mind probe to a mental hand reaching out for your hand. You'll feel the touch of my mind, but your own mental shields should prevent any kind of exchange of thoughts, unless one of us takes the connection deeper than I intend to. Are you ready?"

"I've been ready since before you started your speech," Draco informed him. "Stop telling me about it and just get it over with."

Dirk nodded, and a small frown of concentration creased his face. Draco studied the older man suspiciously, waiting for this mental touch he was supposed to experience. He didn't feel anything in particular yet. How long was it supposed to –

– pressure – pain – dark –

Draco gasped as something seized his mind, flooding it with a sense of otherness, of something, someone else, strange and powerful and awful. It hurt, oh God it hurt, it wasn't supposed to hurt –

– dark – deep all-consuming – pain – screaming –

Draco heard screaming, but only one of the voices was his own. The others were howling in a place where only he could hear, echoing in the dark within his head. The screams mingled with the pain, until there was nothing else left for him to feel –

– horror – agony – terror – darkness – pain pain PAIN –

– And then there was light. Cool blue light surrounded Draco, separating him from the darkness and the screaming, showing him the way to come back to himself again. The light wove a pattern against the dark, a shield to protect him always. Draco had always considered light to be too harsh, too blinding to be beautiful, but this light had a calm beauty that enchanted him. He opened his eyes.

Orelia was there, her head hovering above him. This gave Draco a moment of vertigo before he realized that he was now lying flat on his back. "What – " he started, but a fit of coughing cut him off. His throat was too raw for speech, and each cough was like sandpaper.

:Thank the gods: Orelia said, with indescribable relief. :Oh, Chosen, I swear I had no idea that was going to happen. I'm so sorry I didn't realize sooner. I should have known – I will know, next time.:

"You're awake! Good!" Dirk heaved a heavy sigh of relief. "Oh, good. I was afraid you might have gone into a coma. I think that's happened once or twice in this situation."

Draco stared at Orelia and Dirk in confusion, though he didn't risk talking again. What were they going on about? What situation?

Dirk must have seen the bewilderment on Draco's face, because he went on to explain. "You collapsed, Draco. You were overwhelmed by receiving thoughts. When I touched your mind, it triggered your abilities, and you couldn't handle it." He shook his head. "I doubt anyone could have."

Draco's eyes darted from Dirk to Orelia in confusion. He'd collapsed, he could have figured that out for himself – what he wasn't sure about was why it had happened. Hadn't he already been receiving thoughts?

"It looks like I made a mistake in how to test your abilities," Dirk said. "I'm sorry. It was just so unexpected. This situation doesn't come up very often." He took a moment to collect his thoughts. "Draco… you remember that I said I was searching for your natural shields? Well, as it turns out, you don't have any. My probe went far deeper than I ever intended, and it caused your powers to go out of control."

Draco rolled his eyes. Yes, he'd noticed that, too. He really hoped that Dirk wasn't the best teacher the Heralds had to offer, because if that were the case they'd be in some serious trouble. Maybe he didn't even want this Mindspeech trained, if it was going to hurt that way.

:Don't think about it that way, love: Orelia said hastily. :It wasn't Dirk's fault. If it was anyone's, it was mine. I've been in your head already – I should have realized you didn't have any shields.: She nuzzled his forehead sympathetically. :I know it hurts, darling, but a Healer is already on the way to help you.:

Draco nodded. Well, he should hope they'd sent for some kind of doctor! Besides his torn-up throat, he ached all over from when he'd hit the ground. He stifled a yawn. Why was he so exhausted all of a sudden?

"You should try to sleep, if you can," Dirk advised, seeing the yawn. "You used up most of your energy in that burst of mindmagic. Orelia and I will get you back to your room after the Healer takes a look at you. She'll probably leave some sort of tea for you to drink when you wake up, to help with your throat."

Draco nodded slightly, though he didn't want to go to sleep. He wanted to know more about why he'd collapsed… but he was so tired. He closed his eyes, figuring that just a few seconds couldn't hurt... and he was asleep almost immediately.


Waking up was not a pleasant experience for Draco. He'd still ached, even though he was in his bed at the Collegium rather than on the grass of the greenhouse, and his throat was still terribly sore. The tea and balm the Healer had left for him, along with food to help him rebuild his strength, had helped a little, but like all Muggle medicines, they needed to work over time. Draco really wished that he'd spent a little more time learning useful spells like Healing Charms and less time learning illegal curses.

Looking out his window, Draco figured it had to be around early evening. He'd slept through the entire day. Well, that was nice, since it put off his classes for one more day, but it also meant that he was fairly bored now that he was awake.

Well, it wasn't too late for a short walk. Draco decided to try looking around the Collegium on his own, since he had no intention of going right back to sleep. The library seemed like as good a destination as any, so he picked the direction he thought he remembered Lyra and Jemmie saying it was and headed off.

Fairly quickly, Draco realized that this was probably not, in fact, the way to the library. He supposed that was what he got for only listening to directions, rather than insisting that his guides actually show him the way to get there. After a few extra twists when he tried to retrace his path, Draco had to admit that he was pretty thoroughly lost.

"Orelia?" Draco asked, feeling a little strange talking to thin air, but still certain that she'd be able to hear him. "How do I get to the library from here?"

:Umm.: Orelia considered it for a moment. :I think you want to turn around, then take your third left. But I'm not sure.:

It turned out that by "I'm not sure," Orelia had meant that she had no more idea than Draco had. :I'm sorry, Chosen: she said sheepishly. :I'm afraid directions have never been my strong point.:

"And you didn't think to mention this before you sent me wandering all over?" Draco asked, sighing. "Great. So we're both lost."

:Well, I don't really go inside the Collegium very often: Orelia said defensively. :Anyway, I'm sure if you keep going, you'll hit somewhere that one of us recognizes eventually.:

Draco rolled his eyes, but he didn't really see any other choice. The whole Collegium was built like a bloody maze. It was enough to make him wonder if someone had actually been intelligent enough to design the place defensively. The bewildering corridors would certainly be as difficult for an invading army as they were for him.

"Heyla, Draco."

Draco spun around, startled at the unfamiliar voice. A young man stood there with a cheerful smile. "Do I know you?" Draco demanded suspiciously.

"No, but I know you," the young man – a Trainee, by his uniform – replied. "You're the only Trainee I don't recognize who fits the description of the newest addition to our ranks. It's nice to meet you, Draco. I'm Kris."

"Kris," Draco repeated, frowning. There was something familiar about the young man – something in his face. Maybe it was the pair of sharp hazel eyes under the mass of wavy blond hair, or the knowing twist to the smile… whatever it was, Draco couldn't place it. He gave himself a mental shake. This was not the time to go staring at strange boys. He might give an impression of himself that he would later regret. "So what do you want?" he asked, before Kris could wonder if he'd been staring.

"Do I have to want something?" Kris asked with a shrug. "I was just passing through, and I recognized you as the new Trainee. I figured you might want directions or something."

"Why would you think that?" Draco asked, curling his lip in a defensive sneer.

"Because you're right by the administrative sector of the Palace," Kris informed him, grinning. "New Trainees don't come here unless they're lost. Nice try with the snootiness, though. Lyra said you had the sneering down pat."

Draco's eyes narrowed. So Kris had heard about him from Lyra? He could just guess what the princess had had to say about him. "You've talked with her about me?" he asked, keeping his voice neutral until he could ascertain just what rumors the girl was spreading about him.

Kris saw through his pretense. "Don't like that, do you?" he asked. "Well, I can't say I blame you. Having the whole Collegium talking about you isn't fun. Don't worry, though – she didn't talk to too many people."

"Yeah, I'll bet," Draco muttered.

Kris shrugged again. "Suit yourself," he said. "So where are you heading?"

"The library," Draco said reluctantly. He didn't like having to get directions, but it was better than wandering around the Collegium all night. "How do I get there?"

"It'll stick better if I walk with you," Kris told him. "Come on, follow me." He headed off down the corridor. "So how are you liking the Collegium?"

"It's disgusting," Draco said irritably. "Everyone is so nice and cheerful and kind I think I may be sick before the week is out." He frowned. "Except Kerowyn. She was bearable. You should have more people like her around."

Kris laughed. "You like Kerowyn, but you don't like Lyra and Jemmie? For most people it's the other way around. I think Lyra was a little hurt that you didn't love her on sight."

Draco rolled his eyes. "What do I care what she thinks?"

"No, I think it's a good thing," Kris assured him. "I'll bet she was pretty condescending to you, right? Gods, I hate it when she acts that way. It makes me want to slap her."

"You seem to know her pretty well," Draco said, frowning.

"Well, yeah," Kris said, blinking. "She's my twin sister. You didn't know?"

And suddenly Kris's features snapped into focus. Hair and eye color aside, his face and build were extremely similar to Lyra's. He resembled Elspeth as well, though to a lesser extent.

"No," Draco said faintly. "No, I didn't know that. So royalty here just wanders around where any assassin or kidnapper could get at them?"

"Not quite," Kris said. "I mean, we're in a Collegium full of Heralds and Trainees. Even if someone could get this far in, the moment he attacked, my Corwyn would send an alarm to all the other Companions, who'd tell their Chosen. I'd have help in a matter of moments."

Draco nodded with grudging approval. "And you can hold attackers off till then?"

"That's what we all learn in weapons training, with Kerowyn and Albereich," Kris said.

"Yeah?" Draco tried to pretend he wasn't interested in that style of fighting. "So you spend a lot of time fighting, then? I suppose it's hard to learn?"

"Definitely," Kris agreed. "But if it saves my life, it'll be worth every bruise and ache." He grinned. "Looking forward to weapons training, huh? I guess you've never fought before."

"Not that way," Draco had to admit. "I've been in wizard duels, though," he added quickly.

"Wizard duels? That's right, Elspeth was going on about you being some strange kind of mage," Kris said, frowning. "You've survived duels? You must be really good, then. Most mages our age avoid duels."

"And they practice on pillows, do they?" Draco scoffed. "That never works properly. I'm not stupid; I've never been in a duel to the death. The only teenager I know with that particular brand of recklessness is Saint Potter."

"I'm guessing you aren't a fan of this Potter, then?" Kris said wryly, noting Draco's heavy sarcasm.

"Hardly," Draco said, his bitterness about Harry Potter taking over. "The Heralds here may be bad, but they've got nothing on Perfect Potter. He's the ultimate hero – force over skill, instinct over logic, reflex over thought. Everyone adores him, and no one sees that all he has is luck, pure dumb luck that lets him survive at the expense of the people around him. But one day they'll see – his luck will run out, and he'll finally die, and it'll bloody well serve him right. No one's that perfect. No one can be, not even him."

"I didn't mean to touch a nerve," Kris said, startled by Draco's outburst. "You must really hate this person."

"Yeah," Draco said quietly. If there had been one constant in his life since starting Hogwarts, it was his hatred of Harry Potter. It was strangely unsettling to realize that he was now in a land where Potter's fame had yet to spread. He was here… yet Harry wasn't. "Yeah, I hate him, all right."

"Well, you don't need to worry about him anymore," Kris reminded him. "After all, it's not like you're ever going to see him again."