Draco dropped down in one of the chairs near the fireplace in the Slytherin common room. Pansy and Blaise seated themselves across from him, watching him with worried eyes. Draco sneered at them. He knew they probably had good cause to be worried, but he didn't want them to question him. Unfortunately, luck was not on Draco's side. It hadn't been for quite some time, if he was truthful.
"Draco, what's going on?" Pansy asked, her voice soft so they wouldn't be overheard.
"Yeah, mate, you were acting like an Inferius on the train, and it didn't much improve during the Welcoming Feast," Blaise took over from Pansy. "Want to tell us what's going on?"
"No," Draco answered, short and clipped.
He had no desire to tell his friends that everything his mother and he had done to get his father out of Azkaban, whether it was legal or not, hadn't worked. They were out of options. Draco's chest constricted every time he thought about his father suffering in that horrible place. He wanted his father back, plain and simple, but it just wasn't possible. He stood and walked to his dorm, not even listening to what his friends were saying.
In his dorm, Draco sat down on his bed with his head in his hands. He was glad Blaise hadn't followed him in, for he didn't want, nor need, the company. His misery was interrupted by the hooting of an owl. Looking up, he was startled to see Potter's snowy white owl sitting on the back of a chair, watching him.
"What do you want, you ruddy bird?" he asked, his tone unpleasant.
In response, the owl stuck out her leg, revealing a letter attached to it. Apprehensively, Draco took it.
After reading it, he was very surprised, and that might even be an understatement. Potter wanted to meet him at midnight in the trophy room for a business proposal. Well, he had nothing to lose, so why not? He scribbled a fast affirmative on the back of the parchment and sent it off with Potter's owl, all the while wondering what Potter could possibly want from him.
That night saw Draco sneaking out of the Slytherin common room at half past eleven. He had a fleeting thought that he was getting rather good at this whole sneaking out business, but soon suppressed it. He didn't need any distractions right now.
Arriving at the trophy room, he saw that Potter hadn't showed up yet. A look at his watch, which pointed to 'you're early', told him that Potter wasn't late, as he had immediately assumed, but he was merely early. Draco paced for a bit, his mind going into overdrive about what Potter might want and why in the hell he even agreed to come. His mind drew a blank on both counts. Before he could work himself into a frenzy about that, however, Potter appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Draco sneered at him, secretly wishing he knew how Potter did that.
"Alright, Potter, start talking."
Potter laughed at that.
"Why Malfoy, are we a little impatient?" he asked, with an amused tone.
Draco decided not to answer that, instead just glaring at Potter. It seemed to work, because the amusement disappeared and Potter became businesslike.
"I've got a deal for you Malfoy: I need you to brew me a potion."
Draco lifted an eyebrow. Potter wasn't serious was he? But he appeared to be.
"Now, why would I do that, and why would you even ask me? Can't Granger do it for you?" he asked, not even unpleasant, so thrown was Draco about the odd request.
"I'm asking you, because I know you can do it. I don't want anybody to know and I know you will not tell anyone, or the deal's off. As for why you would do it, well, you're going to get this," Potter held up a letter, sealed with a crest Draco couldn't quite make out in the spare light their wands produced.
Draco sneered. A letter, Potter wanted him to brew a potion in exchange for a letter. The boy had to be raving mad if he expected Draco to actually fall for that. He said as much to Potter. Potter just laughed, but this time it was a bitter and cold laugh that gave Draco the creeps. Not that he would ever admit it, of course.
"No, I'm not mad. I think you would do just about anything for this letter. It's written by me, signed in blood, unforgable. It tells the story of how Lucius Malfoy has been my personal spy, passing me information and how he was trying to help me in the Ministry of Magic. It also contains a request to let him free, passing it off as some technicality. That's the deal, Malfoy, my potion in trade for your father's freedom."
Draco's mouth had fallen open during Potter's explanation. Potter was willing to get his father released if he brewed him a potion. It had to be some potion for Potter to be willing to do that as opposed to asking Granger. He didn't really have a choice; he wanted his father out. How Potter had known about that weak spot was a question to ponder some other time.
"Fine, let's see the recipe."
Potter put the letter away and took a scroll of parchment out of his pocket. Draco accepted it and read through it. Once again, Potter managed to surprise him.
"A de-aging potion? Why would you want a de-aging potion?"
Potter's face closed off, no emotions visible at all. Frankly, it scared Draco, having never seen Potter look so dead before.
"None of your business, Malfoy. Are you going to make it or not?" Potter said, clipped, short and businesslike.
Malfoy looked from Potter to the recipe and back to Potter again. What harm could it do? A de-aging potion wasn't really dangerous, wasn't forbidden by the Ministry. Nobody would be able to do something to him if they found out. Besides, it wasn't if he really cared what Potter was going to do with it. For all he cared, Potter could feed it to the Dark Lord.
"You've got a deal, Potter."
"Good. Let me know when the potion is finished. We'll do the exchange then."
Potter walked towards the door, but just before he exited he turned around.
"Oh, Malfoy, not a word to anyone, you understand me?"
Draco nodded and Potter disappeared through the door. Draco stayed for a few minutes, just staring at the parchment in his hands. Had he done the right thing? A fleeting memory of his father in an Azkaban cell convinced him he had indeed done the right thing. Putting the parchment away, he began to make his way back to Slytherin territory.
When Draco came back to his dorm, Blaise was waiting for him. Draco cursed softly; he didn't need this right now. Unfortunately, he knew his friend would not be satisfied without at least some answers.
"Where were you?" Blaise asked, more blunt than normal.
Draco sighed and sat down next to Blaise on his bed.
"Would you believe me if I told you I was just going for a walk, because I couldn't sleep?"
Blaise grinned and shook his head.
"Nope, sorry mate. If you'd been unable to sleep you'd have just taken a sleeping potion from your own stores. You've got to come up with something better."
Draco grinned too, but secretly thought it was a good thing Blaise didn't know that he couldn't take any sleeping potion for at least another week to avoid an overdose.
"I had to meet up with someone, and no, I can't tell you who or why. It was just some business that I needed to take care of."
Blaise looked at him, his brown eyes searching for the truth in Draco's own grey ones. Draco was hard pressed not to let out a sigh of relief when Blaise seemed to accept it as the truth. Draco stood and readied himself for bed, hoping to catch at least a few hours of sleep before the first day of school.
"Hey Drake," Blaise's voice sounded softly through the dorm, "was this business the reason you've been acting so weird today?"
Draco grinned in the dark, glad that Blaise had just handed him an out for the questions he just knew Pansy was going to ask the next day.
"Yeah," he answered just as softly.
For Blaise it was enough and he went to sleep. Draco didn't have that luxury, lying awake most of the night, thinking about Potter and his proposition, thinking about his father and thinking about how to brew the potion without anyone finding out.
A week later Draco was sitting in the Great Hall, eagerly awaiting the morning post. He hoped his mother would come through for him, so he could start the three week brewing process. His mind flashed back to the day after his meeting with Potter. He'd been going over the recipe and noticed he needed two ingredients he didn't have. That posed a problem, as he couldn't ask just anybody for it, because they would want to know why he'd need them. And the first time he would be allowed out of the castle was too far away, he couldn't leave his father in Azkaban for so long. So, he'd written to his mother, telling her that he had a plan to get his father out, but that he needed two ingredients. He also told her he couldn't tell her anything more. Today would be the day he would see if his mother trusted him enough to do as he asked without having any information at all.
A fluttering of wings announced the arrival of the mail. Draco looked up, searching for one of the Malfoy eagle owls that would bring his weekly sweet-package. There it was, making its way towards him. As soon as it landed, Draco untied the package. The owl squeaked a bit in annoyance at being treated so roughly, but Draco really didn't care. He opened the package with trembling hands. Sifting through the sweets, he saw a small, nondescript brown package lodged between two boxes of Bertie Botts Beans. He breathed out heavily, glad his mother had come through for him. Closing the packet, he put it in his bag.
"Anything interesting in there?" Pansy asked.
Draco looked at her with suspicion. Had she noticed anything? Had he given something away? He decided to play dumb.
"Sorry Pans, no chocolates this time."
Pansy pouted while Blaise laughed, and several of the braver Slytherins in the vicinity snickered. It was well known throughout the whole of Slytherin House that Pansy always confiscated all of the chocolates Draco got from his mother. Draco grinned, happy his secret was safe.
When he walked out of the Great Hall, his eyes rested briefly on Potter. He seemed to be acting normal, but something was off. Draco couldn't really put his finger on it, but he knew it was something. Shrugging it away, he concentrated on Pansy ranting about the impossible course schedule they'd gotten.
Draco stared into the cauldron that contained his father's freedom. Three weeks of brewing, three weeks of sneaking around and getting up in the middle of the night to be in time for the next step, three weeks of praying nothing would go wrong and of secrets from his friends. Three weeks, and now it was finished. The color was right, so was the consistency. It smelled right, too. As far as Draco could tell, the potion was perfect. Ladling the potion in a vial he had charmed to be unbreakable, Draco let a small smile form on his face. Tonight it ended; tomorrow his father would be in the process of getting freed. With a wave of his wand, Draco cleaned the cauldron of any remnants of potion. No need to leave traces after all. After a small detour to the owlery to send a letter to Potter requesting a meeting tonight because the product was finished, he went to dinner.
At dinner, Potter managed to nod to him, signaling he was going to come to the meeting. At least, Draco supposed that was what it meant. Frowning, Draco directed his thoughts elsewhere. If he wasn't a Malfoy, he would think he was nervous for tonight's meeting. But that was, of course, ridiculous; Malfoys were never nervous. He dug into his food with renewed vigor, trying to get those damned butterflies in his stomach to quit bugging him. He wasn't nervous!
That night, Draco was early again for the meeting. Only this time, he wasn't the only one. Potter was already there when he arrived. Clearly he wasn't the only one impatient to do the trading and be done with everything. For a moment Draco wondered what in Merlin's name Potter planned to do with the potion that was so important he didn't even care that Lucius got out of jail, but that thought was gone almost as fast as it came. In all honesty, Draco truly didn't care what Potter planned to do as long as it got his father out of Azkaban.
"Potter," he said, barely keeping his voice even.
Potter didn't say anything, just nodded his head. He looked Draco over impatiently.
"Do you have it?" he asked.
Draco reached into his cloak and pulled the vial of de-aging potion out of it. Potter eyed it with something that could only be described as hunger. He reached out to grab the bottle, but Draco took a step backwards.
"Where's the letter? I want to read it first, just to make sure you don't double-cross me."
Potter didn't fly off the handle like Draco had expected, but just pulled the letter out of his pocket. Before he handed it to Draco though, he locked the abandoned classroom they were in with powerful wards. Draco took the letter, broke the seal he still didn't recognize but looked vaguely familiar, and read through it carefully, searching for any loopholes that could be used to either deny his father freedom or return him back to Azkaban as soon as Potter was done with the potion. Nothing could be found. Draco had noticed it was signed with Potter's blood, something that was legal even though the subject that had signed wasn't able to say whether he signed it or not. That was why it was always used for last wills and by spies to make their reports. Once it was signed, it was legal and true, no way to contest it. Potter had indeed done it very thoroughly. Even if he would later claim it wasn't true, the document stating it was would still be legal.
"Very well, Potter," Draco said while putting the letter back in the envelope and sticking it into his breast pocket. "Here you go."
Potter took the potion from him. Draco wanted to leave, so he turned to the door when he realized it would still be sealed.
"Open the door, Potter, I'm finished here."
"No you're not Malfoy, first I'm going to check if this is indeed what I asked for, and if it is I'm going to reseal that letter."
Draco sighed. He didn't know how Potter was going to check the potion with his abysmal knowledge of that fine art, but Potter was indeed right in the fact that it would be better if the letter was resealed. After all, the Ministry didn't trust his family anymore and even though the signature was unforgable, they would surely make much more of a fuss if the letter was unsealed than if it wasn't.
Draco turned back around and looked in interest when Potter took a small piece of parchment out of his pocket. Draco nearly gasped as he recognized what it was, but Potter didn't notice his surprise. He was too focused on what he was doing. The small parchment in Potter's hands was worth a small fortune and Draco wondered where he got the money from. Potter always looked like a street urchin when not in his uniform, which wasn't often, so Draco figured his family didn't have a lot of money. But, however Potter had done it didn't matter, because he had. Draco was just glad he hadn't double-crossed Potter, because that slip of revealing parchment would tell Potter exactly what potion he had in his hands. It was so expensive, because it had to be configured to the exact potion for which it was intended to be tested. It would turn blue if it was the potion it was designed for, and if the potion was entirely correct; any brewing mistakes would be instantly detected. If it turned orange, the potion was not the potion you were testing for.
Even though Draco knew his potion was made with perfection, he was still relieved when the parchment turned blue. Potter grinned and held out his hand. Draco was confused for a moment, but then realized Potter wanted the letter. He gave it and watched as Potter sealed it again. For a moment Draco debated asking Potter about the crest. In the end, he decided not to do it. After all, he could just as easily find out himself. And Merlin knew what Potter would ask in exchange for the information. This whole evening, no scrap that, this whole month of dealing with Potter was like dealing with a Slytherin instead of a Gryffindor. And quite frankly, this new Potter freaked Draco out. Although, the letter was something the old Potter never would have written, not for anything.
He felt the wards on the door fall and turned around to thank Potter, however much it hurt him. But the words never crossed his lips as he saw Potter lift the vial to his lips and swallow the entire contents of the bottle. Draco could only watch with horror-filled eyes, knowing exactly what that dose would do, namely de-age one Harry Potter to five years of age. And indeed, Potter began to shrink and in the end, when it stopped, a small boy, looking much younger than five, stood in Potter's robes. Draco thought the boy probably looked so small, because the clothes were positively huge on him.
For a moment, Draco contemplated leaving, after all, Potter had brought this down on himself. He turned to the door, but a small sob made him pause. He looked back and saw mini-Potter looking at him with huge tears rolling down his cheeks. And Draco's only thought was: oh, crap.