Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me, it belongs to J.K. Rowling, I don't make money out of this, and all characters in this fanfic are of legal age.
Warnings: Slash, homosexuality, EWE, AU, ignores DH
A/N: Thank you for the reviews! ;A; Here we go with Chapter 21. :)
BASIC RECAP: Morgan is actually Amycus Carrow, and they chase him. Carrow hits Neville unconscious and steals his wand and disappears into the Forbidden Forest. Aurors look for him in the Forbidden Forest, and patrol Hogwarts just in case he returns. Inside Hogwarts, classes are suspended for the day and no one is allowed out of the castle at all times. Draco asks Harry not to leave the Great Hall without him. Blaise and Neville have a moment in the Hospital Wing.
This chapter is unbeta-ed, so I apologize for the horrible mistakes you see here. :( Other than that, please enjoy! :D
Neville fell asleep shortly after that, because despite his efforts to stay awake (Blaise Zabini was actually talking to him! He didn't want to be asleep for that!), the throbbing in his head won over.
"I'll come by later," Blaise had said just to get him to sleep, thinking that it probably wouldn't matter to Neville if he came by again at all but desperately hoping that it would.
This was why he had been surprised when Neville looked thoughtful and pondered about it for a moment. Then, Neville's shoulders had dropped and he smiled gratefully as he burrowed back under the covers.
"I'd appreciate that," he had murmured, cheeks burning and it was with effort that he hadn't pulled the blanket over his head to cover his face because that would have been stupid and embarrassing and sappy and Blaise would probably be disgusted by that.
And so Blaise had left with a rapidly beating heart and mind-numbing happiness because this was actually happening, really, really happening, and his unrequited love may not be so unrequited after all.
Maybe he wasn't meant to live a life full of fake relationships that only existed out of concern for public images. Maybe he wasn't meant to end up like his mother who probably doesn't remember what love means anymore.
Maybe… maybe he did have a shot at this love thing.
An hour before Neville fell asleep again, in the Great Hall, Headmistress McGonagall had just finished her speech. As soon as she did so, Hermione turned to Harry and, teary-eyed, rushed out her words. "We're so sorry, Harry!"
"Yeah, sorry, mate," Ron said, pale-faced and apologetic. "He was just too fast."
"It's alright," Harry said, shaking his head and giving them a small smile. "He's been a wanted criminal on the loose for the past decade. He's supposed to be fast, I guess."
"The rat," Ron muttered vehemently.
By then, students were starting to leave the Great Hall, although a good number stayed to gossip and talk some more about what was going on in the castle. Thankfully, the students nearest the Golden Trio had already left so they had no problems talking.
"We were right, after all, about Morgan," Hermione said, biting on her lower lip nervously. She looked absolutely miserable. "I'm so sorry. I can't believe I suggested taking Draco to him. You were right. I should have thought of the consequences –"
"It's alright, Hermione," Harry intervened quickly, putting his hand on top of hers comfortingly. Hermione shut up, but didn't look less miserable. Harry tried for the best smile he could muster given the situation. "You're 'Mione. We know you've thought of the consequences. Besides, none of us knew who Morgan really is, so it's hardly your fault."
"I know, I know, I'm just…" Hermione heaved out a great sigh. "So frustrated that he slipped right through our fingers!"
"The Aurors will get him," Ron said, sounding as if he was trying to convince himself as well. "I mean, we have Aurors searching the Forest, both on land and on air. And if that doesn't work, then, well, I'm pretty sure that he's not going to survive long in the Forest with all those weird stuff in there," he said firmly, before looking at Harry for someone to confirm what he just said. "Right?"
He looked as if he desperately wanted Harry to say yes, everything was going to be alright and they just had to let others do the work for them for a change, and Aurors were professionals after all, and what chance did Carrow have surviving the Forest anyway?
As long as Carrow wasn't in the castle, then he couldn't possibly harm any of them.
After all, Hogwarts is the safest place there is.
Swallowing the lump in his throat, Harry nodded. "Right."
Hermione smiled at both of them gratefully, but the smile didn't quite reach her eyes. "What happened anyway, Harry? You just disappeared after you left the room!"
"Uhm, yeah, sorry about that," Harry mumbled, shifting awkwardly, but he knew Ron and Hermione were already used to his temper by now. "Safety room again. We ended up in the Chamber of Secrets."
Both of their eyes grew wide. Ron almost looked like a funny insect like that. "Bloody hell, the Patching Team's really making use of everything Hogwarts has to give. First the third floor corridor, then the Chamber of Secrets…"
"They got rid of the basilisk's skeleton though," Harry said, shrugging, figuring that it was an important thing to bring up since the basilisk played an important part in the war, what with Ron and Hermione using its fang to destroy horcruxes and all. "Anyway, when we reached the Chamber, I looked at the Map –"
"About time you did," Ron muttered, which Harry dutifully ignored but not without a wave of embarrassment.
"— y'know, just in case whoever trapped me was still around, and that was when I saw Amycus Carrow's name in the Greenhouse with Professor Sprout and other students, and Draco and I just ran after that, towards Myrtle's bathroom," Harry explained but Hermione wasn't listening anymore because she had on this very thoughtful look that was starting to look more and more strained by the second.
Harry didn't like it one bit. "…Hermione?"
"Harry," Hermione said, calmly, but her voice squeaked at the last syllable. She looked a bit pale. "Did you fall right outside the Transfiguration classroom?"
Harry nodded slowly. Apprehensively.
Ron had settled for looking back and forth at his friends, dumbfounded.
Hermione asked again. "How long do you think it took you to reach the Chamber and take out the Map?"
"Not very long," Harry said. "It was a slide, like the one leading to the Chambers of the stone. Well, Draco and I bickered a bit at first—" An understatement. "—but it shouldn't have taken five minutes."
Hermione swallowed heavily. "Do you think Carrow would have managed to go to the Greenhouse in less than five minutes?"
Both of the boys were starting to realize what this was about and were starting to sport similar looks of dread.
"You think someone else did it?" Harry asked bluntly.
"Carrow could've run, couldn't he?" Ron asked, voice shaking a bit. "It would be easy to get to the Greenhouse in less than five minutes with his speed."
"I don't know," Hermione said, looking dismayed and tired and dreadful all at once. "We've got to ask Professor Sprout!"
And they all leaped up from their seats and out the Great Hall, knowing without even talking where they were all headed to: the Headmistress' Office where McGonagall was sure to be having words with the teaching staff.
"Don't leave the Hall without me, Harry. Please."
That was what Draco had said earlier and what Harry seemed to have forgotten.
"Aren't you going to follow him?" Pansy hissed beside him.
Heart impossibly heavy, Draco shook his head. "No, he's got Granger and Weasley. I'm not worried for the time being. Now, what were you saying a while ago? Carrow has Longbottom's wand?"
When Pansy had first said it a few minutes ago, Draco had, of course, been shocked and utterly terrified at the implications that news brought, but the shock hadn't managed to settle properly in his system before he saw Harry leap from his seat at the Gryffindor Table and leave the Hall without so much as a look back towards Draco. Thus, the shock had stuck in Draco's throat before dropping heavily in Draco's stomach and making him heartsick instead.
Pansy nodded fervently in reply to his question and continued her story. "He punched Longbottom in the head, stole his wand, and tried to kill Blaise with the Killing Curse, the bloody bastard! Blaise fell to the ground but he only ducked, but we were so sure that he had been hit that we stopped running! By the time we realized that Blaise was alive, the fucking wanker was already gone!" She spat out the words like they were venom.
Then, she turned to Draco and her face transformed into something gentler, something more natural, and something more afraid.
"I really thought Blaise…" she trailed off, eyes going watery for a moment before she took a deep breath and held the tears back because Slytherins did not cry in public.
Draco reached out to hold her hand.
Pansy smiled a bit, and squeezed lightly as a sign of gratitude. She continued again, albeit more calmly. "You know how we never saw Morgan doing magic?" Draco raised an eyebrow, but she spoke again before he could even open his mouth. "Yeah, I know rumor spread that he was a squib and all, but we didn't really think about it, right? We never really noticed that he had no wand."
Draco nodded, catching on to her train of thought. "It makes sense because when Carrow was imprisoned in Azkaban, they should have taken his wand away. So alright, Carrow escaped, but couldn't get his wand. He's probably lived on potions ever since."
Then something clicked in his mind, the cogs in his brain started to turn, and he wished they would stop because he just realized something awful, and there were already so many awful things that he had realized today and he really didn't want to add to that anymore because it was too much.
It was too much to realize one more thing that made his throat go dry and his blood run cold again.
"Pans…" He clutched at Pansy's hand so tight that it hurt, both to relate to her the importance of what he was about to say next and to steady himself.
He looked at Pansy's frightened and confused eyes, and thought that they probably mirrored his own.
"If Carrow didn't have a wand all this time… then who have been activating the safety rooms?"
They didn't even wait for the gargoyle to fully step aside before they dashed up the staircase and bursting into the Headmistress' Office, much to the frightened shock of most of the participants in the room.
This would be funny on another day, having most of the teaching staff staring at you with their eyes bulging, but Harry did have the decency to feel guilty when he saw how all their wands were out in front of them, ready to attack had he been an enemy.
"I suppose I don't need to state the obvious – Mister Potter, Mister Weasley, and Miss Granger –" Each one of them winced as their name was called. "— by saying that this is a horribly bad time you've chosen to barge into my office like this," McGonagall scolded, visibly shaken as she returned her wand in her robes with a huff.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione all flushed pink.
"We're really sorry, Professor," Hermione rushed out, before looking around the room and correcting herself. "Professors."
Flitwick had nearly fallen off his stool and would have done so if Bridgewood hadn't caught his sleeve. The woman was pale-faced and trembling, and her glasses didn't even reach her eyes anymore as they were so down her long nose. Professor Sprout looked distraught most of all, at the thought of her wonderful assistant being a Death Eater in disguise. Hagrid had hidden his pink umbrella behind him and was now sniffling greatly, which Harry suspected he had been doing even before they had barged in.
The other professors had also taken back their wands, but did so with accusing looks towards the Trio.
It was Snape's sneer promising retribution that had Harry hanging his head though, and he almost didn't want to look at Remus for fear of seeing the disapproval there. But he chanced a look and was surprised because there was no disapproval in Remus' face – only curiosity.
"This is really important, Professor, we wouldn't have come here if it wasn't," Ron rushed out, arms flailing wildly and face as red as his hair as he tried to explain.
At this, McGonagall's demeanor softened. "Yes, I'm sure. Close the door, will you, Mister Weasley, and take a seat, all of you."
Everyone settled back in their seats, some of which were probably just transfigured out of other objects because they looked wonky. McGonagall sat behind her desk, and behind her, Harry saw the curious look of Dumbledore in his portrait as he listened in.
Weary and nerves on edge, McGonagall pushed a plate on her desk forward.
"Would anyone care for a biscuit?"
"We actually came here for Professor Sprout," Harry started, as everyone but Ron refused the biscuits.
Everyone was surprised. The woman in question started at her name, dabbed her eyes dry with a handkerchief and looked at Harry. "What is it, my dear boy?"
Harry didn't even bother with pretenses. He went straight for the kill. "Professor, was Morgan with you the whole time during your class?"
Professor Sprout nodded, obviously still distraught at the thought of her assistant. "Yes. You can ask my students. He helped me keep the Bouncing Bulbs from bouncing."
She obviously did not expect the stricken expressions that quickly took over Harry, Ron and Hermione's faces. The biscuit fell from Ron's hands as his face gradually lost color. Harry and Hermione looked at each other, warning bells sounding off in their heads.
Remus immediately stood up from his chair. "Harry, may I have a word with you?"
Harry snapped out of his shock, and nodded dumbly at Remus.
"If you'll excuse me from this meeting for a while, Headmistress…" Remus looked at McGonagall, who merely nodded, a knowing look in her eyes.
"Thank you, Professor Sprout," Hermione said, as the Golden Trio exited the room with Remus, leaving a palpable air of both confusion and trepidation behind them.
"Professor Sprout," McGonagall said loudly, and all eyes left the door to turn on her. She looked at Sprout from above her glasses kindly. "Would you care for a biscuit?"
"There's someone else, Remus!" Harry rushed out in a low hiss as soon as the door closed behind them. They walked halfway down the stairs before deciding to stop there, not too near the Headmistress' Office and not to near the corridor downstairs.
"What do you mean?" Remus asked, confused.
"Amycus Carrow isn't alone!" Harry said, face a ghostly white. "There's someone else in the castle working with him."
And Remus felt the blood drain from his face and his fingertips grow cold at the news started to sink in. "How… How do you…" He stared dumbly at the three students in front of him, before shaking his head and seeming to regain his composure. "Never mind. You can explain it later. Wait in my office, the three of you. Only Severus and Professor McGonagall know of your predicament, Harry, and we plan on keeping it that way. As soon as this meeting is over, we will meet you there."
The three of them nodded fervently, and Remus made a move to go back upstairs but then stopped himself. He thought for a moment, before looking at Harry. "And bring Draco along."
Then he was gone, and Harry was suddenly consumed by another feeling of dread as he remembered what Draco had said, pleading in a rare show of vulnerability.
"Don't leave the Hall without me, Harry. Please."
"I'm a horrible person," Harry managed to let out in a helpless sort of realization, before he dashed down the stairs and headed back towards the Great Hall.
Ron and Hermione looked at each other, bewildered, before following as well.
Harry yanked open the doors to the Great Hall at the same time that Draco was just about reach for them on the other side.
The shock was evident on Draco's face, and if Harry weren't hell bent on apologizing to Draco for what a horrible, horrible person he was, he would have noticed Pansy looking confounded as well behind the blond.
"I'm so –" Harry started, but didn't get much further than that when Draco suddenly stepped forward and grabbed both of Harry's arms tightly.
"Harry, there's someone else!" Draco let out in a hiss, looking around to see if there were any students within hearing range. Satisfied with what he saw, he turned back to Harry and looked in bewildered green eyes. "Carrow's working with someone else."
Harry's brain was having a hard time catching up, because his goal of apologizing to Draco was abruptly cut short. He only managed to stare dumbly and let out an even dumber "We know."
It was Draco's turn to look bewildered. "You do?"
Harry nodded, still confused by all this, and was grateful when Hermione appeared behind him to talk to Draco and Pansy.
"Carrow was with Professor Sprout the whole time we were in Transfiguration, which means that someone else must have spelled the trap door open when you and Harry fell down towards the Chamber of Secrets."
"We found something else too," Draco said, letting go of Harry's arms and holding his hand instead, which made Harry blush and then feel guilty because this was such an inappropriate time to feel giddy. Draco continued, oblivious to Harry's mental ventures.
"You know how we never saw Morgan do any magic, and how we all thought he was a squib? Well, we thought that maybe when Carrow escaped Azkaban, he didn't manage to get his wand and was just living off potions ever since. That's why he stole Longbottom's wand, now that he was found out."
Harry gaped at him. "That means I've had someone else following me all this time?"
Draco looked at him. "Well, which is better? Amycus Carrow or this mysterious someone else? I don't know about you, but I actually prefer this mysterious someone else following you. Amycus Carrow is dangerous with a wand."
"Unless this someone else is actually Carrow's sister," Ron joked, but by the way all of their head's snapped to look at him with perplexed expressions, he quickly decided that it wasn't such a good idea. "Okay, not funny. Shutting up now."
Harry groaned, turning so that he can rest his forehead on Draco's shoulder, not caring if it would seem weird and awkward. He was just tired, both mentally and physically.
All these talk about using Draco to find out if Morgan is lying, falling towards the Chamber of Secrets, finding out that Morgan was actually Amycus Carrow, running up towards Myrtle's Bathroom, chasing Carrow out Hogwarts, upsetting Draco and finding out that Morgan wasn't alone, that there was still at least one (Maybe more, who knew?) more person inside Hogwarts who wanted to harm him…
"This day just gets better and better," Harry muttered, feeling a headache coming on.
Harry didn't think that with all that was happening, he could still be surprised, but Draco proved him wrong by suddenly wrapping his arms around Harry, snug and comfortable, and let Harry rest against him. The Gryffindor could feel the stares of his friends on them, but it just felt so nice being embraced like this, having someone else be your pillar for a while… let someone else hold you up. He sagged against Draco's body, returning the hug and burying his face in the blond's neck.
"Thanks," he murmured, so low that only Draco heard it and it pleased him when the arms around him tightened.
"Don't go off without me again, Harry," Draco said earnestly, his earlier insecurities rising again. He remembered Harry going out of the Hall without looking back at him, but that was alright, Draco could take that. After all, that was what Draco had been doing for seven years now, right? Watching Harry Potter go off with his friends and not think about Draco Malfoy at all.
Draco could take it. What Draco couldn't take though – what made him so scared that it almost hurt to admit it – was the thought of Harry going off in his own in some sort of self-sacrificing mission and not coming back.
For Harry's part, he could feel the guilt eating away at him again, as he remembered Draco's words:
"Don't leave the Hall without me, Harry. Please."
"I'm sorry," he said, pulling back to look into Draco's eyes. "I really am."
And Draco looked at how Harry's eyebrows furrowed in worry, how he bit on his lower lip in guilt, and how he glowed brightly gold.
It was embarrassing how Draco could easily forgive him.
(He reckoned this was probably going to be his downfall one day.)
"I know," he said softly, and that was when all the girly squeals broke loose.
They hadn't noticed that they had been acquiring quite an audience ever since their embrace – an audience who stood by with bated breath but couldn't keep quiet anymore and was now jumping around in joy at the very public display of affection between the two boys.
"I wanted to warn you," Ron told Harry. He was a bit green in the face. "But 'Mione and Pansy held me back and covered my mouth," he grumbled out, not too happy at being teamed up against.
"We should probably go," Harry muttered, his face flushed, and they left the crowd in favor of going to Remus' office.
Draco delighted in the fact that Harry didn't let go of his hand.
"Remus told us to wait here," Harry said, when they reached Remus' office. Pansy had run off to look for Blaise, so only four of them were left to sit on whatever chair or surface was available and to just generally meddle in Remus' things.
"He specifically asked for you though," Harry told Draco, confused but suspicious.
"Huh," Draco said. He looked thoughtful for a moment, before shrugging nonchalantly. "I wonder why."
But he already knew why.
It was almost an hour before Remus, Snape and McGonagall arrived, and when they did, they didn't look cheery.
"It went bad?" Harry asked as soon as the door closed.
"It went just fine, actually," Remus replied with an assuring smile.
"Forgive us if we don't look rather peachy, but considering all that has happened in a span of mere three hours, I for one am not looking forward to another bout of what seems to be bad news," Snape deadpanned.
"Don't listen to him, Harry, he's thrilled to be here," Remus quipped, and they all cracked a smile (except Snape, who glowered) at his effort to lighten the atmosphere.
McGonagall then stepped forward. "Let's get this done with quickly then," she said, looking at Harry. "Professor Lupin says that you have something tell us, Mister Potter."
The students all took their seat, but the professors remained standing. Snape leaned against the wall beside the door, and Remus found his spot against his bookshelf. McGonagall stood in the middle of the room, in front of the students.
Harry nodded, and they all took turns explaining what they found out about Harry and Draco fell to the Chamber of Secrets, how Morgan couldn't possibly be the one who activated the safety room because he was with Professor Sprout the whole time and because he didn't have a wand, and how this all lead to –
"Another one," McGonagall muttered grimly, the distraught expression back on her face. "Another one inside Hogwarts right at this very moment."
"Or several," Snape reminded her, his lips a thin line.
McGonagall shook her head in disbelief. "We can't possibly interrogate the whole school population."
"Actually, that's why I requested for Draco to be here," Remus said, looking at the boy in question. He smiled when Draco nodded knowingly.
"I'll do it," Draco said simply, and that was when everyone else in the room finally realized what Remus was planning.
It was the same thing that Hermione had suggested earlier in the Transfiguration classroom. Use Draco's newfound ability to determine if a person is lying. Hermione chanced a look at Harry, worried for his reaction.
True enough, Harry looked dumbstruck. "What? No –"
Draco quickly took hold of his hand. "I'll only have to make conversation with them, Harry."
Harry glowered at him. "No."
"I don't feel very comfortable putting a student in harm's way, Remus," McGonagall said, frowning but her thoughtful look said that she was considering Remus' suggestion. Harry almost cheered at having someone on his side in this issue.
Remus nodded in understanding. "We can do it in public places. In the Great Hall, for instance. We'll all be there if something goes amiss."
That actually made sense, but Harry still wasn't buying it. "Professor Snape!" he exclaimed, almost pleading as he looked at his Potions professor.
Snape, who had been looking thoughtfully at his godson for the past minute, said dryly: "I don't doubt Draco's abilities. I believe he can take care of himself."
Draco preened at how his godfather glowed gold at that and he grinned smugly. Snape, realizing what Draco was thinking, looked at him pointedly, but he couldn't deny that what he said was true. He had worked with Draco after all. They had both been spies for the Order. If Draco could do that, then this is easy.
"How do you plan on going about it?" McGonagall asked, and Harry realized that she was already agreeing. "We can't have Draco suddenly walk up to people. That would arouse suspicion."
"We can start with the teaching staff," Remus said, catching the Headmistress' eye. "After Morgan, we can't be too sure anymore. Other than the Great Hall, Draco can talk to his professors during his classes. I believe that if the perpetrator has been careful not to detect suspicion until now, then they will not harm Draco in any way." Then, he paused and looked at Harry. "At least, not until they've gotten what they want from Harry."
And then Harry remembered just what they were all here for. What they were all talking about.
"Let me do it," Harry said, the words out of his lips before he had even thought them through. "Let me drink whatever Draco did and I'll do it, because they're after me, right, and they'll have to reveal more if I'm the one they're talking to –"
Draco kissed him. And that shut him up.
Actually, that shut everyone up.
Maybe not Snape, because Snape did this choking sound and promptly about-faced and hit his forehead on the wall.
As if nothing out of the blue happened, Draco pulled away and looked at his professors calmly. (One cannot deny the upturn of the edges of his lips though.) "Forgive him. I'll make him see sense later."
Remus shook his head in amusement, shoulders shaking with mirth.
McGonagall was pink in the face.
"I'm gonna have to get used to this, aren't I?" Ron mumbled mournfully at his girlfriend, who merely chuckled and patted his knee as comfort.
Harry looked sulky at how he had been played.
"Actually, Draco, what Harry said makes sense," Remus said, and Draco blinked at him in disbelief as if there was no way what Harry said could make sense. (Harry sulked further.) Remus continued. "No, we are not making you drink what Draco drank, Harry, but we can make you converse with the staff with Draco nearby. That way, Draco will still be able to see if they're lying."
Snape waved his hand impatiently. "Yes, but I doubt that Potter can carry a conversation with tact."
Harry glared at him, but Remus merely smiled at Snape. "You'd be surprised, Severus." He turned back to Harry. "But Harry, what you have to remember is that this isn't your fault and that this isn't all about you."
McGonagall nodded. "I appreciate your volunteerism, Mister Potter, but you are still my student and my responsibility, and I would appreciate it more if you steer yourself out of harm's way." Harry flushed guiltily. McGonagall looked satisfied with herself and continued. "Unfortunately, our circumstances require you otherwise. I am still not comfortable with this, Remus, but I trust that all will make safety their number one priority."
Harry felt warm at the thought that Professor McGonagall really cared for them, even if she didn't show it.
"Why don't we just make them drink Veritaserum?" Ron piped up, confused.
"To make them drink that means that we have to tell them we're doing an investigation. If it spreads that we're interrogating people, then whoever the perpetrator is may have time to do precautionary measures to ensure that they won't be found out," Hermione explained. She beamed when Remus smiled at her proudly.
"I doubt that Carrow will be back any time soon," Snape said, distaste clear in the curling of his lips as he said the name. "He'll be taking his time to form a plan now that he has a wand."
Remus nodded. "It would be nice if we narrowed down the list of suspects soon though, because we don't know what the person inside the castle is capable of."
Just then, a thought formed in Ron's head. "What I want to know is how Carrow escaped Azkaban without it being in the Prophet!"
"I've already sent an owl to the Ministry," McGonagall said. "And if Alecto Carrow is gone as well."
All of them weren't surprised and merely stayed quiet, grim thoughts running through their head. Everyone knew that the Carrows always worked together. The question now was: did Alecto manage to escape with her brother?
"Remember this, the four of you," McGonagall spoke again, looking at her students seriously. "If anything happens, anything at all, do not hesitate to talk to us. I will have no acts of heroism under my watch," she said firmly, her tone leaving no room for argument.
None of the students nodded though. They knew in their hearts that they couldn't promise such a thing.
If McGonagall noticed, she didn't let on. "Well, I believe this is enough for the day," she sighed, hand coming up to massage her temples in a rare show of weakness. "It's not even lunch yet," she muttered.
"Actually, it already is," Remus said, looking relieved at how well their meeting went and at the fact that it was now already ending. "Why don't we all eat first and worry later?"
"How do you plan on going about this?" Ron asked in a low whisper when they were all already seated at the Gryffindor table. (He didn't even complain at why Draco was sitting with them – again! – because he knew his obligatory complaints would fall on deaf ears. Still, it was hard not to complain when girls from all directions were ogling at them, probably because of the earlier scene of Harry and Draco hugging. Ew.)
Hermione leaned in closer so that she could lower her voice as well. "Like what Remus said, start with teaching staff," she said, eyes raking over the teachers at the front of the Hall.
Their usual merriment was quite subdued because of what had happened earlier concerning the escape of Carrow, but one can see that they were trying their best to lighten the mood if their forced conversations were anything to go by.
Most of the students were as noisy as ever, however, since Headmistress McGonagall had emphasized on the safety of being inside Hogwarts' walls. Besides, what could go wrong with a team of Aurors patrolling the castle and the Forbidden Forest?
"None of them seem very suspicious though," Ron said, looking at the professors as well.
Professor Trelawney was in deep conversation with herself, arms flailing as she explained why the mist in her crystal ball was shaped like knickers. In all actuality, she was talking to Hagrid, but the giant was still staring at his plate, hiccoughing at random intervals as he remembered Morgan and their eating contests and poor Neville and his lost wand.
Snape and Remus were also in Deep Conversation at the far side of the table, as well as McGonagall and Flitwick, and both conversations didn't seem very joyful. Sprout was still sniffling into her handkerchief with Bridgewood beside her, cheeks red and looking like she didn't want to be there very much. The other professors were simply talking to each other as they slowly ate their lunch.
"I want to check the Map," Harry said suddenly, frowning. "See if they're all who they're supposed to be."
Ron shook his head incredulously, scooping up a hefty portion of mashed potatoes and putting it on his plate. "You can't do it here though."
"Bathroom," Draco offered. "I'll come with you."
Harry flashed him a grateful smile, and then turned to his friends. "It'll only take us a minute."
"You better not do anything else," Ron muttered, to which Harry flushed a bright red.
"I'm not making any promises," Draco told him, batting his eyelashes and smiling sweetly.
Ron made gagging noises.
Hermione rolled her eyes, huffing exasperatedly. "Honestly! Boys! What are you, first years?"
Harry had to stifle a chuckle. The load on his shoulders didn't seem as heavy now as it did that morning, and he was thankful for his friends.
"Come on, Harry," Draco said next to him, and then Harry felt fingers intertwine with his and squeeze comfortingly.
Ignoring the restrained squeals sounding all around them, Harry squeezed back.
"Stop fidgeting, Blaise," Pansy muttered for what was probably the sixth time already. She rolled her eyes and sighed exasperatedly. "Honestly, with all your fretting about, you're making me nervous!"
"I can't help it!" Blaise said, grumbling as he shoved food in his mouth. "I keep wondering if Ne – Longbottom's awake already."
Pansy resisted the urge to roll her eyes again, but let the grin find its way to her lips. "You might as well start calling him by his first name since you're probably gonna be snogging each other by next week," she said nonchalantly.
She blinked her eyes in mock innocence when Blaise started to choke.
"Visit him after," Pansy continued, ignoring how Blaise was coughing like a dying man in an effort to dislodge the food stuck in his throat. "Stay at his bedside and hold his hand until he wakes up. I'll explain things to Draco.," she said earnestly, and barely had time to duck when a fork was thrown her way.
"Hey!" She glared. "I'm giving out suggestions here!"
"Well, stop –" Blaise coughed out, grabbing his goblet and letting the pumpkin juice do its magic. He still had tears in his eyes and he coughed once more to clear his throat. "Honestly, Pans, you are one adorable little bugger –" His voice was thick with sarcasm. "But seriously? Stay at his bedside and hold his hand? How Hufflepuff can you get?"
Pansy stared at him pointedly. "Hufflepuff or not, we both know you want to."
The flush on Blaise's face was evident even against his dark skin. Or maybe that was just because he had just almost choked to death, but they both knew better.
"And besides," Pansy rolled her eyes, waving her hand about in a regal manner. "Longbottom's a fucking Gryffindor. How did you expect to go about wooing him? Shove him against a wall and grope him?" Blaise groaned pathetically at the mental image that brought and buried his head in his hands. Pansy ignored him. "That only works with Slytherins, Blaise. Sometimes with Ravenclaws. And he's neither. I say you go with my plan, no matter how much it makes you barf."
She peered at Blaise, who had raised his head to glare daggers at her. "Which it probably doesn't, because I know you want that too."
She looked satisfied with herself.
And Blaise tried to intensify his glare, because whether he wanted it or not (which he did), he really didn't need Pansy to say it loud because thinking it was embarrassing enough.
"If this was any other person, you probably won't bother," Pansy mused, more to herself this time. Or maybe she was just ignoring Blaise's glare. "You'd send them a stunning bouquet from Italy as a get-well gift, but I don't think you'd care enough to even think about visiting them in the Hospital Wing."
She smiled knowingly at her friend. "That's why you're so out of it because you actually want to visit him in the Hospital Wing."
"Alright! Alright!" Blaise exclaimed, standing up from his seat abruptly. He rubbed a hand down his face with an exasperated sigh, and ignored Pansy's smug expression. "Bloody hell. You really know me so well?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
Pansy smiled at him sweetly. "Enough to know that you wear boxers, not briefs."
Blaise shook his head, but one cannot mistake the slight upturn of the edges of his lips. "You freak me out, Pansy. Stop freaking me out." And he was gone, walking towards the doors to the Great Hall to visit Neville and finally give himself peace of mind.
"I love you too, honeybunch!" Pansy yelled at him, ignoring the weird looks she received from her fellow Slytherins.
Then she congratulated herself on a job well done.
"They're all there," Harry breathed out disbelievingly as he stared at the Map in his hands. The names of the professors were all there. Nothing was amiss. Then, Harry laughed bitterly. "Right, of course it wouldn't be that easy."
Draco grabbed his wrists abruptly. "Look at me, Harry," he said, and green eyes met his.
They were in the boys' bathroom, locked inside a cubicle just in case someone else came in and saw the Map.
"Stop turning back into that Auror mode of yours," Draco muttered, leaning forward to rest his forehead against Harry's.
Harry's face contorted into one of confusion, and it was funny to see that up close. "Auror mode?"
"You know, like how you were back in Grimmauld Place when all you did was fret and worry and yell at people," Draco teased, but then Harry flushed at that, and so Draco added, "I'm kidding."
Harry's shoulders relaxed, but he still looked at Draco disbelievingly like he was sure that Draco had not been kidding at all.
Draco had to chuckle and pull him closer into a proper embrace now, even though this was such an inappropriate time to be doing so. Maybe it was because Draco wasn't really thinking straight and he was feeling light again and Hufflepuff-y and all that stuff, very much like the same way that he always did whenever he was allowed to be this close to Harry Potter. (because he finally was! After all this time…)
"I am horribly infatuated with you, Harry, but I also absolutely abhor your 'Auror mode'," Draco said good-naturedly. He felt satisfied with himself when Harry started to hug him back.
"I thought you were supposed to love everything about me?" Harry muttered, and it was muffled because he had spoken it against Draco's robes.
Draco smirked. "Okay, you caught me lying. Your Auror mode is indeed very hot –" He paused, just so that it could sink in and embarrass Harry again. "— but I much prefer that you stay just… Harry."
Harry didn't speak then, just hugged him tighter, and a long moment of silence passed between them that quickly turned awkward for Draco, because hadn't he just spewed embarrassing things from his royal mouth?
"I hope you realize just how much of my dignity I sacrificed just to tell you horrible Hufflepuff things that I otherwise would never even think about, and in fact, I might just wash my mouth with soap later because of said Hufflepuff things, and so I hope you're feeling grateful right about now –"
And Harry kissed him and it was sweet and short and made Draco's heart race.
Then he realized that Harry's shoulders were shaking, and he was actually… laughing?
Draco pulled back, an indignant expression on his face. "I have half a mind to hex you right now, Potter," he hissed out, red in the face.
Harry pulled him back in, still chuckling. "No, no, I just thought –" He paused just to get his breath back, but only exploded in snickers again.
Draco raised an eyebrow and waited patiently.
Harry let out one last chortle, before he took a deep breath and started speaking, looking at Draco with a brilliant smile. "I was just thinking what would happen If you had told me all this while we were still at Grimmauld Place."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "You would have punched me," he said dryly, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. Then, he looked thoughtful and added, "Not that you could have."
Harry laughed a little, and then shook his head as he remembered being hyperconscious of Draco in Grimmauld Place, and it wasn't because he didn't trust him (because he did, since Draco had been risking neck and limb spying for them.).
"Or," he said, hoping that his gratitude and all his love for the person in front of him showed in his eyes. He smiled softly. "I might have kissed you."
And it was amazing how Draco's face transformed after that, from disbelief to a hesitant realization when he realized that Harry wasn't joking, and finally, to something that looked like he was about to cry.
Harry pulled him in his arms, and quietly thanked Merlin at how lucky he was to be the one to witness this side of Draco Malfoy.
"I'll stop going into Auror mode," he said softly, running a hand through Draco's blond hair and smiling when Draco hugged him tighter.
Then, Harry pulled back, looked into Draco's eyes, and leaned in to kiss him.
A/N: It's a bit short, forgive me. :( ~*ACTION*~ in the next chapter, and probably more Neville and Blaise. :'D Tell me what you think about this chapter? :) Thank you again!