I don't own Harry Potter. I have, however, spent an inordinate amount of time reading Veela!Draco fics. Consider this story my Anti-Veela. I know it's long, but I think you'll find it worth it to make it to the end-I certainly hope so, at least!
It began, like most horrible things do, on Monday.
Not that Neville could have predicted, then, how things were going to end up. It was a rather sunny day, and the first lesson of the day was Herbology, and he didn't once run into Snape.
But when, on his way to Charms, Neville felt his D.A. coin burn in his pocket, he began to panic. The D.A. hadn't met in months-not since that nightmarish trip to the Ministry. Something, he knew, had to be seriously wrong. And when he saw them in Charms, Ron and Hermione did look appropriately terrified.
Harry, at least, was calm. "Tonight," he said. "After dinner. Come prepared for battle."
So of course Neville heard nothing at all of Flitwick's lecture. He couldn't understand why they were waiting at all, if it really was as urgent as all that. His mind drifted again to that night in the Ministry-Hermione falling stricken on the floor, his parents' murderer taunting him as his nose spurted blood-
It wasn't something he could forget.
That evening, when the rest of the school was in the Great Hall enjoying roast and potatoes and pudding and all sorts of other lovely things, Neville made his way to the Room of Requirement. The room was kind enough to provide a small assortment of biscuits and bread, but Neville couldn't bring himself to eat. He raced through a list of spells in his mind, trying to calm himself.
Ginny Weasley burst through the door. "The coin?" she asked grimly. He nodded.
Over the course of the next few minutes, people continued to trickle in, looking terrified but prepared for battle. Well, Ernie Macmillan looked as if he were seriously considering wetting himself, but everyone mostly understood. The Patil twins were speaking to each other in quiet undertones, looking grim. Luna seemed to have wandered in more or less by accident.
By the time Harry, Ron, and Hermione arrived, Neville was on the brink of cursing the bread basket, just so he'd have something to do. The crowd hushed immediately and waited for their leader's command.
"What's wrong?" Neville asked, as evenly as possible.
Harry looked at him solemnly. "Dark forces have invaded our very school," he proclaimed. "There may yet be time to stop a great evil."
Hermione rolled her eyes. Ron looked a bit embarrassed.
"Don't worry, Neville," Hermione said, patting him on the back. "It's not as bad as all that."
Harry glared at them. "These two don't believe me," he explained. "Can I count on you, Neville?"
Neville shot a bewildered glance towards Ron. "Of course," he promised. "I'll help you however I can."
"You're going to regret that," Ron muttered darkly.
"I think he'd regret it a bit more if he stood aside while evil creatures took over his school!" Harry retorted.
"That's probably true," Hermione placated. "Only Ron and I are pretty sure that's not actually happening."
"Would somebody tell me what's going on?" Neville pleaded.
"Of course," Harry said simply. "Draco Malfoy is a Veela."
Silence reigned in the Room of Requirement.
Neville blinked, bewildered.
There was a lot to take in.
"So," he said. "You think Draco Malfoy is a Veela because...why, exactly?"
Harry nodded. "He is trying to seduce me for some evil, unknown purpose. Probably he is using his pink lips in anticipation of turning me over to Voldemort, or worse, making me one of his minions. That's the only possible reason for this insanity."
"Help," Ron said weakly. "Neville, you have to help us."
"He keeps looking at me," Harry said dreamily. "And we always seem to be in the same place. I know he's doing it on purpose. He wants me to give in to his dastardly ways. I am strong, but I don't know how long I can hold out for."
"Harry," Hermione said rationally. "He's always around because you are stalking him. With that map."
Harry brushed this off and bit off the end of one of the bread rolls that the room had conveniently provided for Neville. "Details, details," he said. "The reason I'm interested in Malfoy in the slightest is because of his magical Veela pull. So I'm really just following him because he's making me. See?"
Neville did not see. Not at all.
But it was Harry Potter, after all, and Neville remembered all the horrible business when no one had believed him about You-Know-Who after Cedric died. Maybe there was something to it. It would be quite frustrating to have your two best friends groaning at your ideas all day.
"What tipped you off to him being a-er-a Veela?" Neville asked.
Harry sighed. "It was in Potions," he said. "He was bending down to put batwings in the cauldron, and then he was stirring it, and-there was definitely something inhuman in his hips, Neville. Something sinister."
Ron's ears were bright red. "I think there might be a simpler explanation for this," he muttered.
Hermione had apparently accepted that Harry was not about to be swayed by this line of reasoning. "Even if he is a Veela," she said rationally, "that's really not a reason to attack him. What about Hagrid? He's half-giant."
"Hagrid is not trying to seduce me," Harry said. Which was true, but rather beside the point.
There were a few, awkward moments of silence. Ron munched on one of the biscuits. Hermione examined a rather dull looking book on the shelf. Harry looked entirely too satisfied with himself for his own good.
"I'm sure you can see that my evidence is flawless," Harry said. "That's why I have convened this meeting."
Ginny seemed on the verge of tears. "Don't worry, Harry," she managed to choke out. "We won't let that awful boy lay a finger on you. Not a finger."
Ron also seemed to be on the verge of tears. "My own sister, Hermione. My own sister."
Fortunately, Hermione was made of rather sterner stuff. "I really didn't want to have to do this," she said loudly, as she turned to face the rest of the DA. "But he simply won't see sense. Could you all please inform him he's gone bonkers, so we can take him back to the tower and put him to bed?"
Silence. Then, "Take a seat, Granger!"
"If Harry says that rat's out to get him, I believe him!"
Hermione and Ron stared at each other, wide-eyed, and slowly backed out the door.
Harry glared the place where they had been standing. Everyone else stared at him in awe. He appeared even more heroic to them now, betrayed as he had been by his two closest confidants. Even Neville was shocked. He'd never expected such a thing from Ron and Hermione. Then again, he'd never really expected Malfoy to be a non-human bent on the destruction-slash-seduction of the saviour of the wizarding world. So there was that.
Eventually, Harry seemed to compose himself. He sighed heavily and ran a hand through his hair before looking up at his assembled followers. He appeared to them suddenly to be old, very old, and wise.
"I have a list of curses that are meant to be effective on Veela," he informed them. "Now we need to strategize on how to capture this creature."
Neville was ready for anything.
Ron and Hermione were considerably less enthusiastic.
Panic began to set in as soon as the door closed behind them. Ron slid down the side of the wall and stared at his shoes, catatonic. "Oh Merlin, Hermione. Oh Merlin. Merlin's balls."
Hermione bit nervously at her nails and did a strange, anguished dance. "Um. Library? No. Oh God. Ron. Um. This is quite bad."
Voldemort they could have handled. Odd plots involving convicts and werewolves? Right up their alley. Even Draco Malfoy would have been fine, if it had just been another one of several He-Insulted-My-Dead-Mother-He-Must-Die incidents that normally occurred at alarming rate. Actually, now Hermione thought on it, that had been happening less and less recently. Which made sense, as Harry was too busy staring at Draco-bloody-Malfoy's arse to want to break his nose.
"We could tell Malfoy?" Hermione suggested timidly. "He could keep away from Harry for awhile. And from Neville, and Ginny...and, well, half the school. Quite frankly."
Ron, still sagging limp against the wall, let out a strangled laugh. "Oh, hi, Malfoy. We're Harry's best friends, here to inform you that he has gone absolutely bonkers and has set the school on you. No thank you." Finally, he looked up, and a glimmer of hope seemed to be in his eyes. "Frankly I don't see why we don't just let them kill the rotter. Better than he deserves, that's for sure."
Hermione looked pained. "Ron-Ron, if they get him, I don't think they're going to kill him." She widened her eyes significantly.
Ron understood, if his new, slightly greenish complexion was anything to judge by.
"Right then," he said bravely. Hermione helped him to his feet. "Harry'll go ballistic when we get him out of whatever love potion he's under."
Hermione nodded, and decided that it was hardly the best moment to mention that love potions were almost certainly not at the root of their friend's strange behavior. Unless one counted hormones as a love potion.
"Well, until this all gets worked out," she said diplomatically, "it's probably best if we keep Harry from embarrassing himself in front of his enemies. Since he's already done so rather spectacularly with his friends."
"Off to the dungeons, I expect, then?" Ron said grimly.
Hermione nodded, and took off at a run.
They'd been spending rather a lot of time stalking around the doors of the dungeons, lately-mostly trying to pry Harry away from them, of course. He'd been hatching his crackpot theories over the past few weeks, and had been staring at Malfoy through suspicious, squinty eyes, trying to amass enough evidence to convince the world that Draco Malfoy was not entirely human. He'd kept startlingly good records, too, which Hermione had found yesterday and shown to Ron.
10 September. Malfoy's eyes far too clear and shining. Unnatural.
13 September. Lips do not appear to possess human qualities. Pink, round. Quite sugary looking. Like candy.
14 September. He really ought not to lick his lips so often. Perhaps I should tell him this? But no. Foul rat. I suspect a plot.
18 September. School robes fit him differently. I wonder what his body looks like to cause this issue.
19 September. Maybe a lean, lightly muscled, inhuman demon.
And so on. It was really quite upsetting to see the mental deterioration of her friend scrawled out on so many inches of parchment.
In any case, it was convenient, now, that they'd been spending so much time lurking around the dungeons that they knew several shortcuts. They hadn't planned it much beyond that, but it didn't take long until a First Year skipped by and more or less shouted the password. Ron blinked, surprised. "Guess they don't figure out the cunning bit till they're a bit older. Fer-de-Lance."
Once inside, they found not Malfoy, but Parkinson, Nott, Zabini, all looking extremely indignant.
Pansy screamed. "Help! Intruders! Foul-smelling intruders!"
Nott and Zabini crossed their arms and attempted to look threatening, but as Hermione and Ron had faced down a horde of Death Eaters not six months prior, it was mostly ineffective.
"We're here for Malfoy," Hermione informed them. "Is he here?"
The three Slytherins stared at her, stone-faced.
Ron rolled his eyes. "Right, then, no help there."
But that wasn't entirely true, for within seconds, Malfoy himself appeared, wrapped in a towel and dripping wet. "I heard you scream, Pansy," he panted. "Came as quick as I could-I would have been here sooner but I had shampoo in my hair, and then of course I had to condition..." He trailed off, finally noticing the Gryffindors-Ron looked visibly nauseous. "What do you want?" demanded Malfoy. "This is our Common Room."
"Has Harry seen you like this?" Ron asked weakly. "It's important."
Malfoy stared at him for a few moments, then seemed to decide to ignore him.
"You need to come with us, Malfoy," Hermione said urgently. "You're in grave danger."
Malfoy raised an eyebrow and clutched his towel a little tighter. "Danger?" he said, in a strangely high voice. "Never much liked danger."
"Yes," Hermione said sympathetically. "Well, unfortunately, there's very likely an angry mob hunting the castles for you as we speak."
Draco somehow managed to turn even paler than he normally was, and fell wordlessly into a leather chair.
"Keep those legs together!" barked Ron. "God, Malfoy."
Zabini looked intrigued, and Hermione was forced to hope that it was at the prospect of an angry mob, rather than because of what Ron had just said.
Parkinson looked skeptical. "Right," she said. "That's all well and good, but as we've always considered you to be-you know-the enemy-I'm afraid we're going to need a bit more to go on than that."
Hermione looked to Ron, took a deep breath, and began to lie for all she was worth.
Harry had taught the D.A. all the ways he knew to recognize the Veela intruder. There would probably be dozens of people swooning at his feet out of lust for his sheer beauty, for one. Wherever he went, according to Harry, he left a scent behind him that was musky, and yet somehow also sweet. His eyes would glitter like stars, and his lips were as soft as rose petals.
"How do you know that?" asked Ernie Macmillan, and Harry just blushed.
Then he showed them a picture of Malfoy-unnecessary, really, as most of them were in his year and knew exactly who he was talking about. But the younger students were eager to examine it closely, and memorize the face of the criminal trying to overthrow the Boy Who Lived.
"That's not how I pictured a Veela," Colin Creevey said doubtfully. "I always thought it would have darker hair. Maybe green eyes."
Ginny nodded in agreement. "Precisely."
Harry swatted away these concerns as one might swat a fly. "That's part of his treachery," he explained. "Because who would suspect that that smarmy git would be attractive too? It's really unfair."
"To be fair," said Padma Patil, as the photo of Malfoy insistently stuck out its tongue, "he's really not that attractive."
"A bit too pointy for me," agreed Lavender.
Harry was practically apoplectic. "Not attractive? He's a Veela. Everything he does is attractive. He manages to make eating soup look like something from a dirty movie."
Michael Corner looked suspicious. "Where did you get that photo, anyway?"
The answer probably would have involved a lot of yelling, but, perhaps fortunately, Harry seemed to be gone quite beyond words.
Neville rather agreed with Lavender and Padma, but felt it was wiser not to say so. Harry looked as if he might faint. He struggled for a few moments to calm himself, then spoke in an unnaturally steady voice.
"I've already told you," Harry said. "He is a Veela bent on seducing my secrets out of me and bringing about my downfall, and thus, that of the Wizarding World. I know it sounds implausible. Believe me, before this year I never would have suspected it myself. But I've been researching him for weeks now, and I can promise you, this is the real thing, a dark creature stalking our halls. And once he's got me, who knows who he'll go for?"
A collective shudder went around the room. Padma and Lavender looked especially appalled.
They were split into several teams, each of which was assigned a separate area of the castle. Harry laid out the ground rules in quite extensive detail.
"Veela poison is spread through saliva," he said darkly. "So if you see him kissing anyone pull him off. Especially if it's their lips." He thought a moment. "Or their neck." If this happened, they were to punch him. "But not too hard," Harry added. "Don't break his nose-Merlin, what a tragedy-a nose like that...actually, you know, just go ahead and stun him."
Neville was with Ginny and Luna, and their first assignment was to patrol the third floor. By this time it was late, and Neville rather suspected that Draco Malfoy would be safe in bed, if he had any sense at all, but Harry was quick to dismiss that.
"Veela are creatures of the night," he said. "I've run into him before...well. Just believe me."
Neville rather thought Harry was confusing Veela with vampires. Still, he consented to patrol the third floor with Ginny and Luna. They were instructed to use all the stealth and cunning they had, for though there was still an hour till curfew, their mission still depended on their ability to see Draco Malfoy before he spotted them.
Ginny sniffed the air gingerly. "I don't smell anything," she said doubtfully. "Harry said it would be so overwhelming we would hardly be able to think straight."
"Perhaps Harry's got him confused with a Flying Hunderswatch," suggested Luna, twirling her wand absently. Neville ducked to avoid the jet of sparks she inadvertently sent his way. "The two are often mistaken, particularly in Wales."
Neville found this unlikely. In any case, they weren't in Wales.
"Maybe we ought to just yell for him?" Ginny suggested.
"Draco!" Luna called happily. "Draco Malfoy! We are coming to catch you and send you away!"
Neville groaned, and wondered, not for the first time, why he had decided to befriend these girls.
Meanwhile, in a deserted classroom on that very same floor that Neville, Luna, and Ginny were so ineffectively searching, Draco Malfoy was quaking in his boots.
"Did you hear that?" he asked, clutching his towel a little closer. "They're after me! They're almost here!"
Ron and Hermione exchanged an exasperated look.
"Don't be a baby," said Ron. "It's just Luna. She's harmless."
Draco seemed to find that rather hard to swallow. "Harmless? Harmless? They are looked for me and they want to eat me!"
It had been remarkably easy to convince Draco Malfoy to come with them, but Hermione wondered if they hadn't gone rather too far. Anyone would be scared if they were told they were being pursued by knife-wielding, fire-breathing maniacs. And as far as she knew, Harry hadn't convinced the Bloody Baron or Filch to help in his search, though she wouldn't put it past him.
The cannibalism had been Ron's idea. When he'd mentioned it, Malfoy had been ready to go without so much as going back to his room to put on clothes.
Now, though, they were faced with the problem of what, precisely, to do with him. They couldn't well wait around indefinitely till Harry either gave up or found them-there were lessons to go to, after all. More to the point, neither of them particularly fancied being locked up with Malfoy for any amount of time.
At least by this point, Ron no longer had to fight a gag reflex at the sight of Draco in a bath towel.
"You lot are Gryffindors, aren't you?" Malfoy said, as if he might have somehow missed out on the finer points of their inter-house rivalry. "Why don't you go out there, slay the angry mob, and let me go to my Astronomy lesson?"
Of course, he didn't know that the angry mob in question was led by their best friend. This was a detail Ron and Hermione had felt perfectly justified in leaving out.
"That's a great idea," Ron said. "But as much as we love risking our skins for you, it's not happening. You'll have to miss your beloved Astronomy." He perked up considerably. "Most likely we'll have to skip Potions tomorrow, too."
"Oh, this is not on," Hermione moaned. "Missing class for Malfoy, I must be out of my mind."
Malfoy preened, looking delighted. "Well, I am extraordinarily handsome," he said. "And sod it, Granger. If Potions is the highlight of your day I feel sorry for you."
Ron looked delighted. "Even Malfoy hates Potions!" he crowed.
"I don't hate it," Malfoy said, as if Ron were being deliberately obtuse. "I just have rather better things to do. If it's Potions and being eaten alive or no Potions and a happy old age, I will choose the latter."
"I like that kind of healthy perspective," said Ron, who seemed to have entirely forgotten who he was talking to. "Some people don't agree."
Hermione looked thoughtful. "I think Harry would agree with Malfoy, as well," she said.
Ron sputtered. "Because Harry's not mad. Not because it's Malfoy. They don't need to agree on anything. They are enemies."
Malfoy nodded his agreement.
"I don't much fancy agree with you on anything, either," snapped Ron.
Malfoy sniffed and maintained a haughty silence.
The situation was rather awkward, and it was getting rather late. Wordlessly, Hermione moved to the door and locked it with a simple charm.
"I think Luna and her people have moved on," she said grimly. "I think it's time we begin to plan our next move."
As no one had much to offer, they simply stood in silence for a few moments before Malfoy spoke. "Where is Potter, anyway, now I think of it?"
Ron glared at him. "What do you care, Malfoy?"
Malfoy pinked. "I don't care!" he said defensively. "I was just wondering. I always thought the three of you shared a brain."
"Well, he's not here now," said Hermione.
"Pity," said Malfoy. "He's been around so much the past few weeks, I'd quite got used to him."
Ron and Hermione exchanged panic-stricken looks. Had Malfoy already realized what Harry was about? Though-if he had-wouldn't he have already made a point to make Harry's life miserable? Ron almost hoped he knew; then they could get rid of him and be done with it.
Malfoy seemed to interpret their silence somewhat differently. "It's not as though I like the bloody git," he insisted. "I'd just noticed him. Noticed him standing around. More than usual. You'd have to be blind not to, Merlin, he's got so tall lately he couldn't hide behind Hagrid." He paused, then added just as an afterthought, "Not that I find height a particularly attractive feature. And green eyes are repulsive. Oh, what are you staring at me for?" He seemed to realize he'd been speaking for a while, because he blushed and refused to meet Hermione's gaze.
She was staring at him. He sounded a bit like Harry had, when this had all started a few weeks back.
All the more reason to keep them apart-if there was any chance that they could-that Malfoy might-
Well, Ron wouldn't stand for it if Harry tried to bring Malfoy along in Hogsmeade, that was all.
But something Malfoy had said had given her an idea.
"Wait a moment," she said. "I think I know where we can go to hide."
Harry hadn't assigned himself a team. If he were the one to find Draco Malfoy, he wanted to handle the situation on his own.
Exactly what that would mean, he hadn't yet decided.
It was nice, though, that he had so many friends willing to look out for him. Veela weren't dangerous, in and of themselves-it was the way Malfoy was using his powers that made him a threat.
In short, Harry could not take his eyes off of Malfoy, and it was driving him mad.
He had already stared at Malfoy for so often and so long that he would have thought there would be nothing new too see. But that wasn't true, because every time he looked, he found another reason to stop and stare-pale eyelashes-the precise grey of his eyes-the pink of his tongue-the crease in his elbow, which was somehow ridiculously neat and perfect-
It was, in short, incredibly irritating.
Harry knew that these feelings weren't coming from him, and considering the amount of magical mischief which he had conquered over the last five years, a Veela seemed relatively harmless.
Relatively, but not completely. His Potions grade, though buoyed by the Half-Blood Prince, was already starting to falter due to the fact that he tended to contemplate Malfoy's lovely arse when he ought to have been contemplating slicing his boomslang skin.
It would have been unreasonable-irrational, even-for anyone to expect him to concentrate on defeating Voldemort when Malfoy was around. Furthermore, even Harry's willpower went only so far. If Malfoy were to lean in close, and whisper in Harry's ear, his soft hot breath in Harry's hair, his long fingers curling around Harry's shoulder, his lips just a bit closer than they needed to be-
Well, Harry knew he would tell Malfoy anything.
Not that he had thought about it.
So, Malfoy was a Veela, and he had to go, and Harry would miss him, but it was the right thing to do.
Ron and Hermione had slipped off a while ago, and Malfoy was nowhere to be found-of course the first place he'd checked had been Slytherin, the Common Room and the Sixth Year Dormitory. No Malfoy, and it had been tricky sneaking in and out in his invisibility cloak.
More to the point, Harry had been so distracted by the sight of Malfoy's bed, sheets sinfully rumpled, that he had barely managed to tear himself away.
He worried that Ron and Hermione might have alerted Malfoy to his plan. They didn't believe him, even after he had listed off all the evidence he'd found. Hermione never would believe anything about Malfoy, but Ron, he'd hoped, might be on his side.
Never mind, though. They might be able to hide for a while. But Harry had the invisibility cloak, and the knowledge of his rightness to guide him through the night.
Malfoy was being an utter prat. Ron would have cursed him, but Hermione had told him that Malfoy was acting the way he was out of fear, and that Ron ought to feel sorry for him.
Ron didn't feel sorry. He found it rather funny. But he managed to avoid using physical violence nonetheless.
"I still don't see why it has to be the half-breed oaf," Malfoy said. "What if he's drunk? I hear he often is. He might accidentally sit on us. We might die. What if there are skrewts in the house? Oh, Merlin. Turn back. I'll take the cannibals, thanks." He cast a wistful glance up to the Astronomy tower as they continued to walk; above, they could see by faintly glowing wand light the silhoutted figures of several students.
"You're off your rocker, Malfoy, we just barely managed to avoid being seen by Dean and Seamus. We're not going back in the castle. We'll be safe at Hagrid's for a while," said Ron. He looked as if he might quite like to shove Malfoy forward to back his point up, but the fact that Malfoy was wearing nothing above the waist and nothing but a towel below made him think better of it.
It was now becoming clear exactly how much of an impediment this was, in fact. Malfoy was pale enough that his skin flashed like a beacon in the corridors when they were trying to escape the castle, while Hermione and Ron were more camouflaged in their black cloaks. Then there was the fact that no one seemed quite willing to touch him-Hermione would have, but Ron turned an unnatural state of red whenever she did, and she rather worried he might choke to death.
Furthermore, both Gryffindors had concluded that, when stealth was the goal, a silver towel was the most impractical invention known to wizarding kind.
Malfoy seemed to be quite comfortable with his unclothed body. Seemingly oblivious to the fact that he had the least appreciative audience in the castle, he continued to stretch and flex his muscles as they walked.
Upon seeing this, Hermione felt that Harry was not quite as mad as they'd thought he was.
She didn't say this, though. She just turned slightly pink, and said, "No skrewts, Malfoy. Don't worry."
It had been Ron's idea to visit Hagrid. "Maybe Harry's not crazy," he said. "And Veela are magical creatures same as any other, aren't they? So if he is one, then Hagrid ought to know."
Hermione thought this was a rather desperate and somewhat pathetic gambit, but they needed a place to sleep, and she thought Hagrid wouldn't mind putting them up for the night.
It was around eleven o'clock when they reached the hut, Malfoy grumbling on the way. The lights were still on, so Hermione knocked. Malfoy began to tremble.
"Giants eat people," he said. "Did you ever think of that? You've led me from one group of cannibals to another. Why don't we go find Potter, you never did say where he was." He glared at them both as he spoke, as though daring them to find anything unusual in his mentioning Harry twice now.
"Shut up, Malfoy," Ron hissed. "For once in your life."
Hagrid answered the door quickly enough, and beamed down at Ron and Hermione.
It didn't take long for him to notice the boy beside them.
"Malfoy?" he said incredulously. "What're you two thinkin', bringin' him here?"
"Let us in, Hagrid," Hermione said urgently. "We need your help."
Colin and Dennis Creevey had made themselves at home in the Slytherin Common Room and were refusing to budge.
Colin was used to lying in wait and ambushing people to take pictures of them. It hadn't been too much of a stretch to hide near the entrance to Slytherin House, then dive through the open door the first second they got.
It was the fact that the Creevey boys looked so small and harmless that saved them.
The only ones still up when they snuck in were Malfoy's friends, who were waiting for their friend to return, all the while giving off the air of total disinterest. Crabbe and Goyle, who, for all their faults, were rather better friends, were already prowling the corridors looking for their long-lost friend.
When Dennis and Colin dove into the Common Room, the strongest reaction they posed was a raised eyebrow from Blaise.
"Oh, for Merlin's sake," said an exasperated Pansy. "Is all of Gryffindor House determined to invade?"
Colin puffed up his chest. "I'm here for the Monster of Slytherin," he said bravely.
Pansy laughed. "What are you, Second Years?"
Neither brother felt it prudent to correct her.
Blaise was politely incredulous. "What exactly does this monster look like?" he asked.
"It's very, very attractive," said Dennis. "And it loathes Harry Potter. We're to stun it and bring it to him."
"I suppose that could be either of us," said Pansy, who was more amused than anything by their miniature intruder. "So you'll have to pick the most attractive one."
Colin shook his head firmly. "No," he said. "This monster is blonde."
Almost in unison, Blaise and Pansy rolled their eyes. "That would be Draco," said Blaise. "Sorry, he's not in right now. He's off lurking about somewhere."
"Being monstrous, probably," said Dennis. "You know the monster?"
Pansy shrugged. "Of course. He's just a boy. Rather beastly, but mainly just to Potter and his friends. Say," she said, suddenly brightening. "You two wouldn't know how to play Exploding Snap, would you? We were just about to deal a hand, but it's better with four."
Colin and Dennis exchanged glances, then flopped unceremoniously onto a leather couch.
"I love explosions!" Dennis chirped happily.
Blaise blinked and stared pointedly at the Gryffindor badges both of them had pinned to their robes.
"Well," he said. "Gryffindors really are morons, aren't they?"
"Spit," Hagrid said tersely.
Malfoy glared at him, then spit into Hagrid's open palm. He seemed more enthusiastic about this test than he had about the preceding three. Privately, Hermione thought that they could hardly blame him, given that those tests had involved hopping on one foot and flapping his arms like a maniac.
"I can't fly," he'd snarled through gritted teeth.
"Flap harder," Ron had urged, looking as though he might collapse from the effort of not laughing.
Hagrid held the little glob of spittle up to his face, and examined it carefully. "Looks clear ter me," he said. "If he were a-yeh know-it'd be blue, see. Take a look fer yersevles."
Ron and Hermione backed up hastily. "That's alright, Hagrid," said Hermione. "We trust you."
Hagrid beamed at her, then looked worried. "I dunno what ter say," he said. "The on'y other test is that they're s'pposed ter have hollow bones, but I don't figure he'd let us check that one."
Ron looked momentarily hopeful, but Malfoy had already drawn his wand. "I will scream," he said. "I will scream, and then I will curse you, and you will be very, very sorry."
Ron sighed deeply, the sigh of one whose dreams have been dangled before his very eyes and then snatched away. "Right," he said. He seemed to muster himself. "Well, Hagrid, mind if we have a kip here? Bit dodgy trying to get back to school this late, you know."
Hagrid looked flustered. "Him, too?"
Hermione was ashamed. "Yes. Sorry! But him too."
Hagrid struggled with himself momentarily. "Well-I s'ppose so," he said gruffly. "I'll jus' go 'n get yeh some blankets."
The instant he was gone, Malfoy exploded. "I am not sleeping on the floor in the home of a half-breed," he said, clearly infuriated. "This is ridiculous!"
"Shut up about Hagrid," Ron hissed. "And keep your bloody voice down, what's wrong with you?"
"This is the safest place for you to be," said Hermione with an air of authority. "We'll recamp tomorrow morning, but until then, just be grateful that we found someone willing to put up with you."
Surprisingly, that seemed to work, although Malfoy continued to glower at both of them.
His attitude changed somewhat when he saw the blankets Hagrid had brought for them. There were three massive quilts, four or five times the size of a normal one, and as thick as a mattress. Then there was a bundle of woolly blankets, which looked like something Hagrid had knitted himself. Though they looked quite cozy, the yarn he'd used was an unappealling mixture of grey, green, and brown; it looked like ratty, mossy fur.
"This oughta keep yeh warm," Hagrid said, as he tossed the blankets to the ground at their feet. It was clear that he hated the idea of Malfoy staying in his home, and was none too pleased with Ron and Hermione for bringing him there. "I'll jus' be off ter bed, then," he said. "Early lesson tomorrow. Course, none o' yeh takin' my class, wouldn't know..."
He headed off in the direction of the back room. Ron and Hermione turned to each other, stricken. "I knew we shouldn't have brought him here," Hermione moaned. "He hates us."
Ron seemed less worried about that possibility. "Ah, he may be mad for a day or so," he said bracingly. "But he took us, didn't he? Malfoy and all. True friend, that Hagrid. Anyway, Hermione it was your idea-bloody good one, too, I'd take these blankets over a stone floor any day."
Malfoy glowered and flopped into the pile of blankets. "I really appreciate you two talking about me as if I weren't here," he groused. "It's a lovely feeling, actually."
Hermione glared at him so viciously that he shut up immediately. But not for long.
"Actually," said Malfoy, in what he clearly considered to be a dignified voice. "I was going to thank you."
Ron and Hermione stared at him as if he had just eaten a frog and announced a desire to adopt small, helpless muggle orphans.
It certainly looked like he was going through a struggle of similar proportions.
"It isn't something anyone would do," he said. "Sleeping on a floor to protect their rival. I'd say I'd do the same for you, but it wouldn't be terribly becoming to ruin my apology with lies. So...thank you."
Ron looked appalled. "Malfoy, what are you doing, being nice?"
Malfoy sniffed. "I do have manners, you know," he said. "We weren't all raised in a pigsty."
Ron looked very puzzled. He momentarily debated punching Malfoy square in the nose, remembered how long Harry had rhapsodized over that same nose just the previous Wednesday, and thought better of it. Instead he laughed.
Hermione would have worried that her other best friend was falling prey to the same sickness that had taken Harry-but Malfoy was funny. From the way he was grinning, it was even on purpose.
He sank down a little further into the blankets, and pulled them up around his shoulders.
Ron seemed worried. "You know we're going to be needing some of those, too," he said. "You don't need to touch all of them."
Malfoy responded by pulling the blankets up over his head. "Maybe I can just hide in here forever," he said. "No one will want to eat me if I'm covered in filth and wrapped in fur."
Hermione clapped both of her hands to her mouth and stared at Malfoy.
"There isn't a spider on me, is there? Oh Merlin, don't answer."
Hermione's shock slowly faded to a grin. "Not yet," she said. "But it might be better if there were."
Ron, who seemed to have warmed to Malfoy since his apology, clapped him on the shoulder. "Looks like Hermione has a plan," he said. "Soon enough, we'll all be rid of each other."
Curfew had been over an hour ago, but back at the castle, the halls were still filled with wily, determined Veela catchers.
Neville, Luna, and Ginny were among them. Neville was somewhat exhausted by their company.
"Maybe once I catch Malfoy, Harry will finally realize we're meant for each other," Ginny said wistfully. "Although I have moved on, of course."
"Of course," Luna said sympathetically. "But have you ever considered that Harry might be a Blibbering Bubberton? They're known to be especially susceptible to Veela. And if he were Ginny, I really wouldn't want you to date him. He would destroy your hair."
Ginny shuddered at the thought, and tossed her hair back as if to remind herself she still had it.
There was a footstep from around the corner. Neville flung his arm in front of the two girls and pressed them tight alongside a wall. "Shh!" he said urgently. "I heard someone-could be Filch."
"I would be proud to get a detention for Harry," said Ginny fiercely. "After all he's been through, it's the least I could do."
"Shall we go meet him?" asked Luna. "Filch has had a very interesting life, you know."
But the footsteps came nearer, then rounded the corner. It wasn't Filch. In fact, as they came closer, Neville was able to see that it was Ron and Hermione. Between them was someone who seemed to be covered in fur and dirt, with unkempt hair and furious looking eyes.
"The Monster!" said Luna happily. "You found it!"
Neville squinted. He didn't know how Luna had identified him so easily in the poor lighting, but it did seem that the creature walking between Ron and Hermione was Draco Malfoy.
"I'll kill you, Monster!" cried Ginny Weasley, holding her wand aloft. "How dare you attack Harry Potter!"
Ron rolled his eyes. "Knock it off, Ginny," he said. "Have you ever seen a Veela this ugly?"
Malfoy looked highly affronted. "Veela? You never told me you thought I was a Veela! You said Hagrid was testing me for the early stages of Dragon Pox!"
Hermione squirmed uncomfortably. "We never thought you were a Veela," she said, meaning Ron and herself. "It was Harry."
Draco huffed, and clutched Hagrid's hideous blanket closer. But Neville noticed that he had started smiling a little when Ron said Harry's name, and hadn't let up yet.
He really was a mess. For all that he had just showered when Ron and Hermione had picked him up, not styling his hair had caused it to stick nearly straight up. Walking naked around the grounds was also inadvisable, apparently, because his feet were coated in dirt, and he had a thick layer of it all the way up to his knees. Between this, and the furry blanket he had clutched around his body, he really did look like a monster.
"But after Harry sees you like this, he'll know for sure you aren't a Veela, and call everybody off," said Ron brightly. "And we can all go to bed happily."
Ginny blinked suspiciously. "I think he must be a Veela, Ron," she said. "Otherwise Harry wouldn't be acting so strangely."
Hermione winced in sympathy. Ginny wasn't going to be the only one disappointed by the night's outcome-Hermione couldn't say she was particularly thrilled about what she expected to happen, either.
"Have any of you seen Harry?" asked Hermione. "We want to make sure he gets a good look at Malfoy before he goes to bed."
Neville shrugged. "Last I heard he was on the sixth floor helping Dean and Seamus put up wanted posters. You could start there."
Without another word, Ron and Hermione darted off to the stairs, with Malfoy, struggling a little in his blanket, trotting behind them.
Up on the sixth floor, the three found no shortage of DA members. Harry didn't seem to be among them, but Dean, Seamus, Lavender, and Parvati were all happily plastering the walls with hand-painted flyers.
"Good, aren't they?" asked Parvati. "Dean did them."
That was obvious from the quality of the art. The painting was highly realistic, extremely attractive, and looked nothing like Draco Malfoy normally did; even less did it look like the messy boy who was among them now. It did, however, look like the boy Harry had described, with gossamer hair and silky pink lips.
Malfoy studied one of them thoughtfully.
"You could almost imagine that we hadn't gone to the same school for the past five years," he said.
Parvati snatched it away and glowered. "Well, considering that you're out to sell Harry to Voldemort, according to him, forgive me if I don't take your opinion too seriously."
Seamus looked thoughtful. "I guess we've captured him then, haven't we? What were we supposed to do with him, again?"
"Not eat me!" Draco squealed, ducking behind Ron for protection.
"Er...no, I don't think so..." Seamus agreed.
Hermione grabbed Malfoy by the wrist and began to drag him down another corridor, away from the other Gryffindors. "Don't worry!" she called behind her. "We've got the situation under control!"
Ron gave a rueful shrug, and followed along behind them.
Malfoy was shaking. "Near miss," he said conversationally.
"These things happen," said Hermione.
Harry wasn't far from this odd trio, though they little knew it as they patrolled the sixth floor searching for him. In fact, he was just on the other side of a tapestry, listening to their footsteps grow closer.
It was well past midnight, and Harry should have been tired. But his heart was pounding in his throat, and his hands were shaking.
This-after weeks of planning-this was it. He was finally going to confront Malfoy. He was going to march up to him and he would-well, he didn't know. He would sort out the details when he got closer. Close enough to see Malfoy's eyelashes, to taste his breath, to feel his skin-
Breathing heavily, Harry hurled himself out of his hiding place, directly into the path of his approaching friends, and Draco Malfoy.
Hermione looked surprised to see him. Ron looked delighted. "Look, Harry!" he said. "We have him! And he's hideous! No Veela would ever look like that."
Harry blinked. He wasn't quite sure what Ron was talking about. As far as he could tell, Malfoy looked just as handsome as ever. But he looked cold, and somewhat scared, and Harry's initial instinct was to protect him.
"Did someone hurt you, Malfoy?" he asked in a low, urgent voice.
Malfoy blinked. "My understanding was that you were planning to. But...er, that could have been a mistake." He glared at Ron and Hermione. "I really hope this was not a mistake, because if it was, I have been forced into looking ridiculous under false pretenses."
"I would never hurt you," Harry breathed.
"Oh, God," said Hermione. "I knew he'd get like this if we got them too close."
"I didn't," said Ron, who was a faint shade of green. "I mostly believed him when he said he wanted to take Malfoy down." Hermione privately agreed that Harry would very much like to take Malfoy down, though perhaps not in the way Ron hoped. "Anyway," Ron persisted doggedly, "he's hideous! Surely Harry can see that."
Harry stepped closer to Malfoy. His pupils, from what Hermione could see, were large.
"I don't think you're hideous," Harry murmured.
"I might be sick," said Ron.
Even Malfoy looked taken-aback. "Of course I'm not hideous," he said. "But you have to agree I'm not looking my best."
Harry nodded. He looked rather dazed, and continued to stumble towards Malfoy. "If you say so," he said softly. Malfoy caught Harry's hand as it fell into then increasingly narrow gap between them, and stared at it with a sort of befuddled awe.
"Is he always like this?" he demanded.
Ron was too near tears to answer. Hermione gave a hopeless shrug. "Well, I've never seen him quite this bad. But then I've never seen you two quite so close together. He claims he thinks you want to kill him...but, er, I have a hard time buying that."
Malfoy looked Harry in the eye for the first time that night, and Harry nearly stopped breathing.
"This is quite flattering," Malfoy said.
Harry was pleased to feel Malfoy's pulse quicken-maybe he was as nervous as Harry was, or felt some fraction of what Harry felt.
"In fact, I could get used to this," Malfoy mused. "You seem so devoted, Potter."
Malfoy hesitated, turned round and glared at Ron and Hermione as if he wished they would drop over dead, leaned in, and kissed Harry on the mouth.
Harry stood rigidly, just for a moment, before melting forward and returning the kiss with everything he had; considering the tension and desire that had been building in him for the past few weeks, this was rather a lot.
Ron covered his eyes. "Tell me when it's over, Hermione," he said bravely.
Hermione watched the kiss awkwardly for a moment or two, but it didn't show signs of stopping any time soon, and she began to feel as if she were intruding on something rather private. This feeling only increased when she saw Harry attempt to slip his hand around Malfoy's blanket.
She was just on the point of grabbing Ron and leaving when Neville, Luna, and Ginny rounded the corner, wands raised and ready for action.
Ginny let out a shrill scream. "Harry said the poison is spread through saliva-Harry, no!"
Hermione grabbed her around the waist and pulled her firmly back. Ginny struggled for a few minutes, then began weeping.
"But he'll die," she said.
Ron had recovered enough by this point to give her a bracing thump on the back. "Don't worry," he said. "Oy! You!" he shouted, for by this time, Luna had wandered over to the pair, and was waving her wand about their heads; it was casting a faint pink glow over everything, and making it far too apparent that Malfoy's hands were curled into Harry's hair.
"I'm just casting a Shiness Charm," she said calmly.
No one bothered to ask what that was, but Ron pulled her wand away and scowled. It wouldn't do to let some girl charm your best mate while he was snogging someone, even if that someone was Draco Malfoy, and it was utterly disgusting and hopeless and...
And some things were better off not contemplated.
Neville stood off in the corner whistling, apparently trying to give Malfoy and Harry the impression he hadn't noticed what was going on. Hermione didn't think it especially mattered, but it did remind her that it would be good to give the boys some privacy.
"Come on," she said. "Let's all head to bed."
And-except for Malfoy and Harry-they did.
To Harry, it seemed like the kiss lasted ages. It was everything he had dreamed of, and everything he had been afraid to want. It restored Malfoy's humanity. It took away the Veela like softness and smoothness Harry had imagined, and made him a boy with goosebumps and scars and hard panes. Harry felt Malfoy's hand on the small of his back, pulling him in tighter, and felt his knees shake like jelly beneath him. He brought up a hand to stroke Malfoy's cheek, and felt himself trembling so much that he could barely move.
Malfoy's lips were not as soft as he had imagined him, but they still felt perfect, moving clumsily against his own, sucking softly at Harry's lips. Harry felt warmer than he ever had been-hot, even-and wanted, more than anything, to get closer to Malfoy, to tear down all the barriers between them-
Malfoy pulled away, and blinked up at him through dazed looking eyes. It took him a moment to recover enough to speak.
"This is-very strange," he said. "And unexpected. But pleasant, and I'd like to continue-but Potter, I really do feel filthy, and I have to change my clothes if nothing else. Come back to the Slytherin Common Room with me and wait for me to put something on, and we can. Er, talk. Or not."
Normally Harry would have objected to Malfoy's imperial manner, or the way he seemed to assume Harry would agree with whatever he said. But Harry did agree with him, and was quite willing to follow Malfoy if it meant more snogging.
Getting back to the dungeons took a few minutes, because walking beside Malfoy was rather distracting. Harry kept stumbling, and when he fell, well, Malfoy had to help him up. With his lips. And lay on top of him for a bit, just for good measure.
In any case, it was good they got that in, because once they opened the door to the Slytherin Common Room, both of them were struck dead with disbelief.
"Colin? Dennis?" asked Harry.
"Pansy? Blaise?" asked Malfoy, just as dumbfounded.
"Draco!" said Blaise.
"Potter!" cried Pansy.
"It's the Slytherin Monster!" shouted Dennis, and both of the Creevey brothers hurled themselves at Malfoy and succeeded him in knocking him to the ground. Luckily, having temporarily lost their wands at Gobstones, they weren't able to inflict much damage.
Harry stared around in disbelief. He was rather annoyed at having his tryst interrupted.
"Look, Draco!" called Pansy. "These are our Gryffindors! They adore us! The bigger one's agreed to take photos of me."
"Get off him, boys," Blaise said good-naturedly. "You can all get to know each other later."
Dennis and Colin let up trying to pin Malfoy for a moment, and glanced up at Harry for permission.
"Let him up, I suppose," Harry said. "Er, I might have been a bit mistaken about the Veela thing."
Malfoy jumped to his feet, looking outraged at the world in general. Dennis and Colin had already retaken their seats, and were looking all too comfortable.
"They're really funny," said Blaise confidentially. "Look how titchy and little they are."
Malfoy and Potter just stared.
"Well," said Malfoy, with an air of someone trying to reclaim his dignity. "If you all are busy here-which it very much appears you are-then Potter and I will just head up to the dorms."
"Be sure to use a silencing charm," Blaise suggested. "Theo's already asleep."
Draco nodded. "Coming, Potter?"
Harry suddenly felt shy. But he nodded, and gave Draco his hand, and allowed himself to be led down the stairs to the boy's dorm.
It wasn't even two in the morning, after all. They had all the time in the world.
Thanks for reading! I certainly hope you enjoyed it, and if you did, I'd love it if you'd review and let you know. Reviews will be paid for in cookies; let me know what flavor you want, and they will ship in approximately 67,038 days. They will taste like Harry Potter. Bet no one else has promised you that!