Chapter XIII / Teetering on the Edge
Harry stood in the dungeon corridor with the handful of his classmates who had also chosen to get here early and stared at the closed classroom room with trepidation. This class would be the first time he had seen Snape since their first Occlumency lesson two weeks ago, and also his first test as to whether he had made any progress at all in learning to block him out.
Sanguini had been true to his promise; every night for the rest of the holiday, when they both decided that it was about time for Harry to fall asleep, he had guided Harry through letting go of his emotions and clearing his mind. The first few days had been difficult and more than one of them had ended in Sanguini simply talking Harry to sleep rather than with any significant progress on Harry's part. After a week, however, Harry had found himself slipping into sleep without realizing he'd done it until he'd woken hours later, and generally far sooner than usual, without the whirl of his thoughts to keep him awake. He still didn't feel that he was actually ceasing to think about anything, because Sanguini had been telling him to focus his thoughts on his breathing so he was still thinking about something, but Sanguini had seemed pleased with his progress at least.
And he supposed it was true that he had slept more deeply and been more refreshed in the morning during the last week than he had in longer than he could remember. And while he had actually had a couple nightmares about the graveyard for the first time since the summer, he thought he probably should have expected it after Snape had pulled that memory back to the surface.
He was still having dreams about the corridor to the Department of Mysteries. Sanguini reassured him that those dreams would cease eventually, once he had progressed further with his training, but secretly, Harry no longer wanted them to stop. He wanted to know what could be in there that Voldemort was so interested in, and he wanted to be there when they were finally able to open the door.
Either way, Sanguini assured him that he thought Harry was making progress, even if Harry was sceptical. This class, however, would be the first real test, a taste of what might be to come that evening.
And that had been why he had chosen to leave Ron and Hermione to bicker among themselves and come to wait here outside the classroom. He needed a moment of peace and quiet to gather himself before this lesson, which he would never have gotten if he had stayed with them. Either they would be bickering too much, or there would be the various D.A. members who had been coming up to him all morning to ask when he thought the next lesson might be.
His eyes were closed for a moment, and that was all it took for someone step up beside him and grab his sleeve. He knew even before a voice hissed at him to follow that it was Malfoy and he allowed himself to be dragged by his sleeve back up the corridor a bit to a small alcove, far enough away from the other students to keep from being overheard.
"I thought we might meet in the classroom tonight, Potter," Malfoy said, without so much as a hello or polite question of how his holiday had been. "We can go back to working on Potions later in the week, or next week."
Harry found himself smiling a bit in spite of himself. It was actually a bit refreshing to speak with Malfoy again, as someone who knew his secrets but didn't care about his well being. And he just assumed that Harry would know what he was talking about and hadn't changed his mind about their meetings over the last few weeks, and that too was a nice change.
It was too bad he was going to have to disappoint him.
"We can't do anything tonight," Harry said, leaning back against the wall of the alcove.
Malfoy stared at him like he'd been slapped in the face, and then quickly recovered and demanded, "Why not?"
Harry sighed and gave him an apologetic look. "Because I have to take Remedial Potions. With Snape."
No, Harry amended to himself, now Malfoy looked like he'd just been slapped. And after a moment, a faintly hurt look started to appear in his eyes that made Harry feel a bit uncomfortable, and then an angry one that he was much more familiar with.
"I thought we had a deal, Potter," Malfoy said in a low voice.
"We still have a deal," Harry said, glancing up and down the corridor to make sure no one would be listening in. "And you'd better stick to it, because he won't really be teaching me Potions, so you're still the only tutor I've got. I can't tell you any more than that," he added as Malfoy opened his mouth to wonder about this. "I shouldn't have even told you that much, but seeing as you are catching me up on Potions and I don't want you thinking I won't need it anymore..."
The bell rang. Harry moved to leave and join the queue forming outside the classroom door, but Malfoy caught his sleeve again.
"Tomorrow night, then," he said with a frown.
Harry nodded and tugged on his sleeve, to get it free and to get Malfoy to follow him back to the queue.
Ron and Hermione were waiting for him. Hermione raised her eyebrows at Malfoy and Ron fixed him with a furious glare. Malfoy ignored both of them as he walked past them to join his own friends. Harry decided to imitate him, offering only the briefest answers to his friends' questions and ignoring the glances he was getting from most of the other students as they started filing into the classroom. Ron and Hermione already knew he had a truce with Malfoy, and no one else really needed to know. They could come to their own conclusions, as they did with anything else he did, and it wouldn't make much difference to him.
Snape walked in as the class settled in their seats and the room fell silent as the door shut quietly behind him.
"Today you will begin brewing the Blood-Replenishing Potion," he said as he strode across the room to his desk. "While this potion does not always come up in your O.W.L.s, it is very like some that might, and you will be expected to show some understanding of what an unfamiliar potion might do from only the method and ingredients."
Harry couldn't help but glance across the room. Malfoy sent him a faint smirk and turned his attention back on Snape.
"This is a potion that must be completed in three parts," Snape continued, "to be finished in our lesson next Monday. It is also an extremely delicate potion, as many potions concerning the art of Healing tend to be. As such, you will be working in pairs"—he held up a piece of parchment and smirked before the class could get too excited—"which I will assign. Bulstrode and Brown..."
Predictably, Snape had paired the Gryffindors and Slytherins together, and quite a few of them seemed to be deliberately because of how explosive they could end up. Even more predictably, he had assigned Harry to work with Malfoy. While Harry was actually somewhat relieved by that, he did wonder if this whole thing might be Snape's way of apologizing to Malfoy for taking his student away. Then he decided that idea was ridiculous and he should just be thankful Snape had paired him with someone he knew he could work with.
Snape waved his wand to reveal the ingredients on the blackboard and set them to settle into their pairs and begin working. Harry bid goodbye and good luck to Ron and Hermione, threw his bag over his shoulder and made his way through the sudden commotion to where Malfoy was still sitting, dutifully copying down what was written on the board.
"Get the ingredients," Malfoy said without looking up. Harry dropped his bag by the empty chair next to him and rolled his eyes as he walked off to do as he was told. Maybe he would be able to work with Malfoy better than any of the other Slytherins, but he was still going to be infuriating to work with.
Malfoy waited until they were well along the path to completing this part of the potion before he chose to say anything to Harry other than instructions for how to prepare the ingredients. But when they had to let the solution stew for a few minutes, he finally turned away from their cauldron and looked at Harry.
Harry carefully finished cutting up the rest of his thistles before he returned the favour. While it was nice that Malfoy would finally be doing something, as tension had steadily been growing in the room the entire lesson and Harry had a feeling it was mostly because the other students were waiting for the inevitable explosion from their table, he thought he ought to also show Malfoy that he was taking this lesson seriously. And when he finally did look back at Malfoy, he thought he saw a hint of approval in his face.
"So what are you going to be doing with Professor Snape, if he's not teaching you Potions?" Malfoy asked, keeping his voice low enough that only Harry could hear him.
"I told you, I can't tell you that. You're not even supposed to know—"
"—he's not actually teaching you Potions, yes, so you said." Malfoy scowled at him, and then scowled back at Snape, who was currently in the back of the class with one eye on Crabbe and Dean's potion and one eye on them. "That's our excuse to meet publicly gone."
"He said you're smart enough to come up with another one," Harry said with a shrug. "I don't think he's too fussed, though, he didn't seem happy about you teaching me anyway."
Malfoy snorted softly. "All the same, he agreed to cover for us. He's been even less pleased with your marks, I'm sure." He gave a sigh like this whole thing was causing him some great agony and took a moment to look over their potion to make sure it was progressing as it should be. "He's right of course. I'll come up with some other excuse. Unless you've thought of one?"
Harry shrugged and tried not to smile. "Could be that now I'm helping you with Transfiguration."
Malfoy made a face. "I assure you, Potter, I have no need for any sort of help with Transfiguration and I'd rather no one thought I did. The thistles, please, it's nearly time to add them."
Malfoy said nothing else other than to direct Harry with the ingredients until class was nearly over. But once he had ladled their potion (which was nearly perfect, of course) into a flagon to mature over the next few days, Harry found Malfoy's attention back on his face again rather their his hands and how they handled the ingredients.
"The Hogsmeade trip's been posted, did you see it?" Malfoy asked after a long moment of silence.
Harry blinked at him. "No, I hadn't yet. When is it?"
"Next month. Valentine's Day." Malfoy wrinkled his nose very slightly to show what he thought of that. But then he leaned back in his seat a bit and asked, "I suppose that means I'm the first to ask if you had anything planned, then."
Harry thought it very unlikely anyone else would either, but that really only made him wonder why Malfoy was. "Yeah...you are. I wasn't really planning anything other than just going. If it's next month, there's still time for something to come up."
Malfoy shook his head a couple times, staring at him. "You didn't even hear what I said, did you?" But before Harry could even open his mouth to answer, he went on, "Well, good. I had a couple friends who wanted to meet us there, so would you mind spending some of it with me?"
Harry eyed him silently. He could understand the hidden meaning, but he doubted anyone trying to listen in (and he was sure someone was) would know what he meant.
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Harry murmured, wondering what his friends' obsession with trying to meet him in Hogsmeade was. "No one's seen us together yet, and there's been a good reason for that."
"I'm not asking you to stroll around the village with me, Potter," Malfoy said with a faint smirk. "There's places to meet where no one will see us."
Harry chose to start putting his books and papers away instead of answering immediately. It didn't give him a lot of time, but it was just enough for him to think it over. It was also just enough time for the bell to ring, although Malfoy remained patiently in his seat, waiting for an answer, even as the students around them started getting up to leave.
"Yeah, all right," Harry said finally, standing up and throwing his bag over his shoulder. "D'you want to meet up there or...?"
"I'll let you know," Malfoy said with an infuriating smirk. "I'll see you tomorrow, Potter." And with that, he turned his attention to putting his own things away and ignored Harry completely.
Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes or glare at him and turned to leave. He could trust Malfoy with delivering their potion to Snape's desk before he left, if only because he thought Malfoy might faint at the very idea of receiving no marks for a class.
He nearly ran into Ron, who had stopped by their table to wait for him. Harry almost winced at the look on Ron's face. He didn't think Ron would have overheard much of their conversation, but Ron had been so busy with other things that he hadn't noticed much of his new truce with Malfoy the way Hermione had, so he wouldn't have expected to hear any of it.
Ron opened his mouth to say something, glanced at Malfoy, and then shut it again with frustrated shake of his head. He only gestured for Harry to follow as he led the way out of the classroom and out into the corridor where Hermione was waiting for them so they could go up to lunch together.
"Are you really meeting Malfoy somewhere tomorrow?" Ron asked after several long moments of walking silently up the corridor.
"Yeah, I am," Harry said, raising his eyebrows. "So are you. Care of Magical Creatures."
Ron gave him a dark look; apparently he wasn't in the mood to appreciate Harry's wit. Hermione looked over at him but stayed silent. Well, she had already had her say on what she thought about his spending time with Malfoy, so maybe she thought it was Ron's turn.
"All right, fine, I'm meeting him because he's been giving me extra Potions lessons." Harry shrugged, using the motion to hike the strap of his bag a bit higher on his shoulder.
"Been giving...when've you been meeting him before now?" Ron asked, looking a bit horrified. And hurt. Harry fought back the guilt that threatened to rise up in his throat. Hermione could have told him if she'd cared to, and he'd made a point of trying to meet with Malfoy while Ron wasn't around anyway so he wouldn't be taking any time out of being with his best friend.
"It's been a couple months," Harry said as they stepped into the Entrance Hall. "Since I got suspended from Quidditch. We've been meeting while you were at practice."
Ron stared at him. Harry, who had gotten quite good at this sort of thing over the last few months, ignored it.
"Why didn't you say anything?" Ron demanded quietly.
Harry chanced a look over at him and felt a wash of relief. He looked considerably less angry about this than Harry had worried he might, and it looked like most of the anger was for being left out of the loop for so long. He did also look annoyingly worried, but Harry had expected that too.
"Because you hate him—for good reason, I know," he added hurriedly when Ron started looking offended, "and because I knew you'd be worried, and I've had enough of that in the past few months."
"Of course I'd be worried," Ron hissed as they stepped through the doors into the Great Hall. "His dad's a Death Eater!"
"And he's not," Harry said with a shrug. Yet, a little voice had to add on, but he shoved it away.
Ron just stared at him even more. Harry ignored it, again, as he slid into a seat at the Gryffindor table and set his bag under his chair.
"Look," Harry said as Ron sat next to him with his mouth open, ready to start ranting, "it's just extra Potions lessons. I need them, he offered, end of story. That's all it is. Ask Hermione; she's known about since before Christmas."
Ron gaped at him, and then rounded on Hermione as she settled into the seat across from them. Hermione gave Harry a cold look, but as he'd been hoping, she was quickly pulled into another round of bickering with Ron, during which they promptly forgot to be angry at him in the midst of being irritated with each other. Maybe it had been more of a Slytherin thing to do, to keep Ron from picking at him before he'd even started, but at least it let him eat his lunch in peace.
Well, mostly in peace. He still had those members of the D.A. who hadn't yet managed to catch him in the halls discreetly coming up to him to ask when the next meeting would be. Thankfully, most of them opted to wait until they were leaving the hall to go to their next class or until he was, so it didn't look too suspicious.
Still, he didn't enjoy telling them why it couldn't be that night while they were around all the other students in the school, where they could easily be overheard. He didn't really care if anyone knew Malfoy was giving him extra Potions lessons, other than it would seem a bit odd that they hadn't killed each other yet. Mentioning that Snape would be instead, however, only made it look like he was incredibly stupid.
As Zacharias Smith was happy to point out when he cornered Harry as they were leaving the Great Hall.
More uncomfortable, however, was then nearly running into Cho Chang, who had come after him, not to learn when the next meeting would be, but instead to solicit a date for the next Hogsmeade weekend.
Their conversation was brief and extremely awkward and made Harry wish that she had come to find him after breakfast so he wouldn't have had to turn her down. He would have much preferred spending the day with Cho than Malfoy and whoever he was planning to bring into Hogsmeade. He made sure to let her know that he didn't have plans for the whole day, but having to tell her he already had plans at all was painful enough.
Harry's discomfort and apprehension only increased as the day went on, but by the time six o'clock rolled around, his dread at spending the next hour or so with Snape attacking his mind had drowned out any minor discomforts.
Harry left dinner early so he could take his time walking down to Snape's office and focus on putting his emotions away as best he could while he went. Even with Sanguini helping him, however, he'd never felt like he'd made very much progress in that area, and it was very different trying to do this with someone he trusted and trying to do this while he felt like he was walking to his execution.
When he reached the door, he paused outside to take one more moment to settle his thoughts. He would have been slightly more confident, he thought, if Snape had actually looked at him once during Potions, but he seemed to have avoided Harry's gaze deliberately just to make him nervous. Then he took a deep breath, knocked, and entered.
The room beyond was shadowed and lined with shelves, each covered in glass jars containing bits of various plants and animals suspended in unpleasantly coloured potions. In one corner stood the cupboard from which Hermione had stolen a couple necessary ingredients in their second year, which Snape had then blamed on Harry.
Harry didn't spend a lot of time looking around, however, because his attention was caught by a glowing basin sitting on the desk. He recognized it at once as the Pensieve that usually sat in Dumbledore office, and he wondered what it could possibly be doing here instead.
"Shut the door behind you, Potter."
Harry started and did as he was told with a shaking hand. His attention had been so fixed on the Pensieve that he hadn't even noticed Snape standing in the shadows behind it.
As Harry walked over to the desk, Snape turned his own attention back to the Pensieve. His wand was already out, but he didn't yet point it at Harry; instead, he placed the tip against his temple and carefully drew it away again, and with it, a silvery strand of the airy substance within the Pensieve. He flicked his wand down once and the silver strand drifted gracefully down into the Pensieve, where it swirled into the already glowing contents. Then without a word of explanation, he carefully picked up the Pensieve and carried it over to a shelf out of their way.
"Take out your wand, Potter," he said as he walked back over to stand behind the desk.
Harry pulled his wand out of his pocket and took a couple steps back, trying to steel himself again. It was even more difficult now that he was in the same room as Snape.
"So," Snape said, raising his wand, "have you practiced?"
"Yes," Harry said, trying to look as confident as possible. He had practiced; the question now was whether it was going to be good enough.
Snape eyed him for a moment, but he didn't seem to find whatever it was he'd been looking for (probably evidence that Harry had slacked off, like he'd undoubtedly expected him too), because his expression remained blank. Then he said softly, "On the count of three then, Potter. One—two—three—Legilimens!"
He was laying in his dark cupboard, dreading school the next day when the other kids would laughed at him for what Aunt Petunia had done to his hair...He was five, watching as Dudley rode about on a shiny new bright red bicycle, his heart bursting with jealousy...Harry clenched his fist and concentrated...He was scrambling up a tree while a dog circled it beneath him, barking and growling and snapping it's teeth...he knew it would rip him to shreds if he fell...
Snape's wand flew across the room, taking with it the stream of images from his childhood. Harry dropped to his knees a moment later, panting and shaking but feeling a burst of triumph in his heart.
That had not been as good as they'd been hoping for—Sanguini wanted Snape to stay out completely—but it had been better than last time.
Snape silently crossed the room to retrieve his wand. By the time he was back behind his desk, Harry had managed to get back to his feet. He didn't dare smile, in case Snape thought he had not done well and it only irritated him, but he did calmly meet Snape's eyes when they passed over his face.
"Well, Potter, it seems this might not be a complete waste of my time after all," Snape said, looking grudgingly surprised and even a bit irritated that Harry had not done what he'd expected. Harry just barely suppressed another smile. He was not going to give Snape the pleasure of thinking he was right about Harry being lazy and arrogant. It would be more fun to anger him this way.
"I have been practicing, sir," Harry said with a very small shrug he couldn't quite stop. "I don't want him in my head any more than anyone else does." Or you, he added silently.
Snape very nearly sneered at him, and his voice was back to being cold and annoyed when he spoke. "Don't get too full of yourself yet, Potter. It was an improvement, but the Dark Lord would still be able to rip through your mind without effort. Now, prepare yourself. One—two—three—Legilimens!"
He watched as the horrid orange sweater Aunt Petunia had been trying to force him into grew smaller and smaller until it would have barely fit a hand puppet...Uncle Vernon was nailing the mail slot shut and gloating about how it would stop him from getting any more letters...He watched in awe as the words he had just written sank into the pages of the dairy and new ones rose in their place, in a hand far too neat to be his...A huge cauldron stood on the ground before him, his arm ached and dripped with blood, and even as he prayed nothing would happen a pale shape began to emerge from within...
A sharp pain shot through his knees. He opened his eyes to find himself on the floor again, and he was panting twice as hard as he had been the last time, as though he had just run the length of the castle without stopping once to catch his breath.
And beyond him, he could hear a slow but steady drip of liquid to the floor.
He cautiously raised his head. Snape was passing the tip of his wand over another deep gash in his arm, and behind him, one of the numerous glass jars had shattered. Most of what it contained was now on the floor or splattered on the wall or the other containers around it, but a small bit of the potion inside remained to quietly drip to the floor.
"A Blasting Curse, Potter," Snape said as Harry shakily got to his feet. "If you would refrain from casting that again, I might reconsider giving you a detention."
Harry clenched his fists in anger and tried not to wince as his scar began prickling unpleasantly. Snape was the one who had said he could use whatever spell came to mind to defend himself!
"That," Snape said dryly, "was not an improvement. You allowed me to get in too far. Did I find some particularly unpleasant memories, for you to lose your concentration like that?"
Snape was looking a bit paler than usual himself, so Harry thought he knew well enough how unpleasant a few of those memories had been. Harry couldn't say why the memory of writing in Tom Riddle's diary had unnerved him so much, but he knew that was when his concentration had begun to slip.
"You must not allow yourself to be carried away by the emotions of the moment," Snape said quietly. "View each memory as though it belonged to somebody else, distance yourself from them. You will only ever be chained by your past, vulnerable to any who might use those memories as weapons against you, until you do."
Harry nodded stiffly, not trusting himself to say anything to that. It was easy enough for Snape to say something like that—he wasn't the one who was having his mind attacked over and over and having memories of Voldemort pop up constantly.
His scar seared again and he reached up without thinking to rub at it. It would be just his luck for Voldemort to start throwing a fit right now.
Snape hesitated at this movement from Harry, but only for long enough to get his own emotions under control. He said quietly, "Take a moment to clear your mind, and we will try again."
Harry took in a deep breath and closed his eyes. He knew it was stupid to get so riled up when he had something he desperately needed to protect...but thinking about that only made him angry at himself and worried about what could happen and did nothing to assuage his anger at Snape and irritation at Voldemort.
Snape didn't count down this time. He attacked without letting Harry know it was coming, probably as a demonstration that Harry had to be ready at any time, because his enemies wouldn't bother to warn him. It only would have ticked Harry off more, if he'd had the time to feel angry before he was buried beneath a barrage of memories.
He flinched as the cupboard door slammed shut behind him and the locks clicked into place; he shouldn't have spoken to Aunt Petunia that way, he knew, and now he was going to pay for it...Aunt Marge's fingers were beginning to swell up like small balloons right before his eyes, followed by the rest of her, while Harry only felt satisfied that she was getting what she deserved...The alleyway became dark and cold around them and suddenly Dudley's fist was in his face and he was on the ground scrabbling desperately for his wand...he had to save them both, even if Dudley was an enraging moron...Malfoy raised his arm and they pointed their wands in unison at the huge three-headed dog trying to plough through the trees to get at them—
The memory faded and Harry found himself blinking at the floor again. His scar was prickling more than ever and he rubbed at it again as he stood up.
Snape lay unconscious on the ground behind the desk. Harry swallowed heavily as he stepped around the desk to get a clearer line of aim. He must have been so caught up in that last memory that he had thrown a Stunning Spell without realizing it.
"Rennervate," he murmured, then he hurriedly took a few steps back as Snape's eyes fluttered open. "I'm sorry. Sir. I didn't mean—"
"Silence," Snape hissed through clenched teeth, and Harry shut his mouth at once.
Snape pushed himself to his feet and fixed Harry with a burning gaze that Harry found it impossible to look away from. Even if he hadn't meant to cast a Stunner, the look in those eyes said he was still going to pay dearly for it.
"You are not trying hard enough," Snape hissed, his voice softer than ever and infinitely more terrifying that way. "You allow yourself to be controlled by your emotions again and again and in doing lose control of yourself. Clear your mind! Control your anger! Legilimens!"
He stood helpless while Lucius Malfoy escorted Dumbledore out of Hagrid's hut, followed by Fudge and Hagrid himself...Fudge had come to take Hagrid to Azkaban because he could do little else to stop the attacks...His scar seared white hot, slicing right through the top of his head...Maniacal laughter was ringing in his ears...he was happier than he had been in years...jubilant, ecstatic, triumphant...a wonderful thing had happened...
Harry's eyes flew open, but the insane laughter continued on. He was on his back, and he'd lost his wand somewhere along the way to the floor, and Snape was standing over him with a face white as bone.
He realized abruptly that the laughter was coming out of his own mouth and it immediately died away. An eerie silence fell upon the classroom, as Snape continued to stare at him and Harry struggled to roll over and sit up.
"What has happened?" Snape asked as Harry managed to pull himself into a sitting position.
It was his tone of voice that made Harry look up, no matter how badly his head hurt or how ill he felt. It was quiet and urgent, without a hint of the anger Harry had expected after taking another foray into Voldemort's mind. He had never quite appreciated the fact that Snape was a double agent and a valuable member of the Order until now, but looking up at him, he suddenly felt as though this was someone he could actually trust if he needed to.
He wasn't quite sure what exactly made him feel that way, but it was what allowed him to speak.
"I dunno..." Harry murmured, shaking his head to see if that would get rid to the pain and nausea faster. "He's happy...really happy..."
Snape looked as though he was just barely constraining himself from saying something biting and sarcastic. Instead, he said nothing at all but waited patiently for Harry to continue.
Harry closed his eyes and allowed the words to come to him, as they had every other time he had experienced Voldemort's emotions so strikingly. "Something good's happened...Something he's been hoping for..." He shook his head again and looked back up at Snape as the last impression rose in his throat. "Something that's got nothing to do with me, for once."
Snape's white face turned the unpleasant shade of curdled milk. He shut his eyes for the briefest of moments and gracefully got to his feet again. Without bothering to offer to help Harry up from the floor, he walked back to the desk and set down his wand.
"That will be all for tonight, Potter," Snape said quietly, and his voice lacked any of it's earlier hostility. "You will return here at the same time on Wednesday, and we will continue our work then."
Harry shakily got to his feet but didn't move to leave just yet. Snape was a Death Eater...could he know what had happened to make Voldemort so happy...?
"Do you know what's happened? Sir?" Harry asked cautiously. He was treading on dangerous ground, overstaying his welcome like this, but if Snape knew something...
"I expect you will find out tomorrow," Snape said, and indeed, his tone had become icy again. "You are dismissed, Potter."
Harry spent one more long moment staring at him, wishing for a fleeting second that he was a Legilimens himself so he could simply pry the answer out of Snape's mind, but he didn't dare stay there any longer. He was already figuring out how he was going to tell Ron and Hermione about this by the time he'd reached the door and walked out.
"Well, there you are, Harry," Hermione said quietly as she laid the Daily Prophet out in front of the three of them. "That's why he was so happy last night."
Splashed across the front page of the paper were the sneering pictures of nine wizards and a witch, each with a small inscription underneath telling their name and what they had been imprisoned for. Over all of this was a bold headline which read:
MASS BREAKOUT FROM AZKABAN
MINISTRY FEARS BLACK IS "RALLYING POINT"
FOR OLD DEATH EATERS
Harry hissed under his breath and began to read. Of course their fool of a Minister would be blaming this whole thing on Sirius; it wasn't as if he hadn't been told quite clearly last year that Voldemort had returned and the dementors would soon be listening to another master than the Ministry. Harry was only surprised that it had taken Voldemort this long to release his loyal servants.
His scar prickled unpleasantly and with it came a bubbling feeling of amusement. Harry squeezed his eyes shut and shoved both the unfamiliar feeling and the pain away.
"He's blaming Sirius?" Ron whispered incredulously once he'd finished reading.
"Well, he can hardly pin it on who's really to blame, can't he?" Hermione said, though she looked no less disgusted by it. "Not when he's spent a good six months telling everyone Harry and Dumbledore are liars and just trying to stir up trouble."
Hermione tore open the paper and began to read the report inside. Harry, who had not been quite done with looking over the front of it, carefully tugged the outer layer free of her grasp and laid it back out on top of his breakfast.
He only recognized a handful of the names and even fewer of the faces of the wizards scowling up at him from their pictures. He spent a longer moment looking over the picture of Augustus Rookwood than the rest; his was a name he recognized from the memories he had seen in Dumbledore's Pensieve the previous year. He had been an Unspeakable and had given Voldemort information from within the most secret Department in the Ministry, until Voldemort had fallen and Karkaroff had traded his name for his own freedom.
But his eyes were inevitably drawn to the picture of the witch and another name he recognized with a burst of hatred. Bellatrix Lestrange glared up at him through heavy lids and a disdainful smiled played across her lips, and while Azkaban had taken most of her beauty, Harry could still easily recognize the witch who had sat in the courtroom chair like a throne and proudly declared that she would be rewarded for her loyalty when the Dark Lord had returned.
Harry could not help but think that it was very likely she would be, along with the rest of them, and he quickly sought something else to dwell on before he thought too much about how.
He looked around the Great Hall, but most of the other students were chattering as happily as they usually did, about homework or Quidditch or the latest gossip. One or two faces here and there were as white as was sure his own had been as he'd read the article, but overall, there were very few of the other students who took the paper every day like Hermione.
His eyes sought Malfoy automatically, and he wasn't surprised to find the blond staring right back at him with a grim expression on his face. Even if he hadn't been one of the few to get the Daily Prophet, Harry thought he would have known about this. Bellatrix Lestrange was his aunt, after all, and his father would surely have known about this anyway, being a Death Eater.
Harry wasn't sure what, exactly, he was looking for, but he must have made some sort of expression, because after a moment Malfoy gave him a faintly exasperated smile and shook his head before turning back to his own breakfast as if nothing had happened at all.
The staff table was a different story. Nearly every face there looked white or grim or both. Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall had their heads together and were deep in conversation, while Professor Sprout was reading the front page of the paper over and over again as porridge dripped from her spoon into her lap. The only exceptions to this rule were Umbridge and Snape—Umbridge was shovelling her food down with a deep scowl, and every now and then she glared briefly toward Dumbledore and McGonagall, while Snape had his eyes fixed on Harry and an utterly blank look on his face.
Snape did not immediately look away when Harry stopped to stare at him. He only stared back for a long moment, and then with a very slight incline of his head, he turned away to politely listen in on Dumbledore and McGonagall's hushed conversation.
Harry allowed himself to get swept back into discussion about Broderick Bode's untimely demise after that. He wasn't sure what to make of Snape anymore, particularly after his briefly journey into Voldemort's mind right in front of him last night. He decided he could worry about it later, maybe even when he had his next Occlumency lesson.
Harry reached up automatically and snatched the small object before it had a chance to nail him in the forehead. Then he glared at Malfoy as he closed the classroom door. He didn't exactly appreciate having things thrown at him, especially when he was just entering a room.
Malfoy only smiled serenely back at him from where he was leaning casually against a desk and gestured at the thing now in Harry's hand. "Open it. I've been dying to know what it is."
Harry blinked at him and finally looked down at the object in his hand. It looked like it might be a small box inside the dark cloth wrapped around it and held in place with a dark green ribbon. If Malfoy hadn't said what he had, Harry might have, for one fleeting moment, thought it might actually be from him (but why would Malfoy want to give him a present anyway?), but then he remembered the last time he'd received a present wrapped in black cloth and a smile touched his lips.
"Where did you get this?" Harry asked, walking over to one of the desks to set his bag down.
"Christopher," Malfoy said, with a slight raise of his eyebrows that said he thought Harry should have thought of that on his own. "He said a friend gave it to him to give to me so I could give it to you. And I don't appreciate being treated like an owl, Potter, so open it before I'm forced to do it for you."
Harry rolled his eyes, but he was plenty curious himself to see what Sanguini had given him, so he undid the ribbon and unwrapped the cloth without another word. His eyes narrowed slightly at the velvety box that was left in his hand—there was really only one thing that could be in a box like this—and he lifted the lid to find exactly what he'd expected. Nestled inside was a silver ring engraved with so many runes that they formed a sort of elegant but shapeless pattern that would be impossible to read, and set with a plain black stone cut in the shape of a triangle. It was a handsome object, more like a signet ring that what he'd expected, but Harry still wasn't quite sure what to make of it.
"A friend, is it," Malfoy said, grinning at him.
"Come off it," Harry muttered. But he didn't sneer back at Malfoy for long; he'd just noticed that there was a piece of parchment folded up and stuffed into the lid, where it would just barely be able to fit while the box was closed. He carefully fished it out and unfolded it on the desk.
I would have liked to give this to you in person, but as that was quite impossible, I shall have to hope it comes to you in due time.
This ring will allow me to Apparate to wherever you might be at any time, excepting within the confines of an area protected by the Fidelius Charm. This includes Hogwarts; in truth, it works more like a Portkey than Apparition, so it will be able to bring me through the wards. It will grow warm if I choose to appear by your side using that connection, so you will know I've arrived.
If you are ever in danger, please use it to call on me. It activates the same way as everything else I have given you.
Harry carefully pried the ring out of it's box and turned it over in his fingers. He supposed that could be what the runes were for—ensuring Sanguini could Apparate anywhere he wanted—although he had never taken Ancient Runes or been interested in it and it was really only because of occasional glances at Hermione's homework that he knew they were runes at all.
He wondered if there wasn't something unspoken in the letter as well. If Harry was ever in danger, or if he changed his mind about staying at Hogwarts...
Or maybe it was purely because of his desire to see Harry remain safe, which was what had possessed him to make that offer in the first place. Sanguini had not brought up his offer again since Harry had angrily turned him down, so Harry thought that maybe there was nothing else to this after all.
He had no desire to see Sanguini get hurt in his place, but he had to admit, the idea that the vampire could now appear at his side almost anywhere filled him with a sense of security that he had rarely had the chance to feel in the past. He hadn't even considered calling on Sanguini while he was at Hogwarts; for one thing, he had no need when he had other ways to talk to the man, but also, he didn't want to risk hurting him if he couldn't Apparate through the wards. He had no idea if vampire Apparition was different enough from wizard Apparition, like house elf magic was, for it to actually work. But with this, he wouldn't need to worry.
Harry smiled and briefly clenched the ring in his fist before tucking it away again. He wouldn't be able to wear it on his finger without attracting attention, but he might be able to salvage a chain from the numerous vials in his trunk upstairs to he could hang it from his neck.
"That's quite a gift," Malfoy murmured suddenly from right next to him and Harry nearly jumped out of his skin. He had been so lost in thought that he hadn't noticed Malfoy walk over to read the brief letter himself. "So is that who you've been talking to, this Sanguini?"
Harry opened his mouth to say that it was none of his business, and then abruptly shut it again when Malfoy gave him a look that he usually only got when Harry was forgetting something obvious. Then he remembered that part of the deal he had agreed to, the part that had given him the most anxiety, was that he tell Malfoy how he'd become so interested in helping the vampires in the first place and which of them he'd been talking to.
Well, he supposed now was as good a time as any to keep that part of the bargain. Malfoy had been so kind as to ask just the right question for him to segue into it.
"Yeah, that's him," Harry said, tucking the ring in its box into one of his pockets. "He's the one I met first, who's been the reason for all of this. We've been writing each other all year. I could tell you about him, if you want, that was part of the deal, wasn't it?"
Malfoy smirked and walked over to one of the desk to sit down—straddling the chair backwards, Harry was amused to see. "Good to see you haven't forgotten. I'd like to hear about him, Potter. And then I can tell you what I've been doing."
Harry couldn't help bit feel a stir of curiosity, but he had offered first so he would just have to wait. He sat down in his own chair and stared down at the letter for a moment to decide where he wanted to start and what exactly he should say about certain things, such as his dreams or where he'd been living for half the summer. But it only took a moment, and then he nodded and began to speak.
He started at the beginning, when Sanguini had first appeared in his room and relieved him of his nightmares. He stumbled a bit as he mentioned that he'd been having nightmares about Cedric, but Malfoy said nothing and while he didn't look sympathetic, he didn't really seem surprised. The surprise came when Harry mentioned who had sent Sanguini to him in the first place.
"Diggory started this?" he said, his eyebrows nearly disappearing into his hair.
"Now you see why I get so angry when anyone insults him?" Harry said, and Malfoy said nothing, although Harry was sure he knew exactly the incident he was referring to.
He went on to tell about freeing Lorcan from Ministry control and how that had led to his constant stream of visitors, including the Arkwrights, though he made a point to mention that he hadn't actually spoken directly to any of them since then. He casually avoided mentioning that he had asked Sanguini to get him information on Voldemort, since Malfoy was still the son of a Death Eater, and besides, he could probably connect the dots well enough on his own. He glossed over the memories he had seen of Cedric, saying only that Cedric and Sanguini had been friends for a long time and he had been planning to go into the Ministry to help the vampires—which got a bit of a look from Malfoy, as he connected a few more dots, that he ignored.
And then on, as Sanguini gave him the tools to communicate without drawing attention, as he was relocated to a friend's house after the dementor incident, as he went on to use those tools he'd been given to talk to and coordinate with Sanguini all year. It was surprisingly easy to talk to Malfoy about all this once he'd started, even as he carefully chose what was too much information to give him and what wasn't (anything about the Order and his visions was definitely too much; Malfoy would just have to learn about all that from someone else). And it took less time to describe everything from July to their conversation before Christmas than he'd thought it would.
It was nice having someone in whom he could confide, someone who was in a similar position as he was, even if he did still have to be careful about what he said.
"By the way," Harry said as he got to his conversation with Sanguini over the mirror, which then reminded him of the one he had later with Lupin, which he wasn't going to say any more about than this short statement, "one of my friends noticed I was talking to someone with the mirror, so I told him it was you. We've supposedly been chatting all Christmas break, and it was your idea."
Malfoy looked a bit surprised and even a bit uncomfortable for some reason. "Any reason you picked me instead of one of your friends?"
Harry eyed him for a moment, but he didn't seem to be angry, so he shrugged and said, "The mirror's a pureblood heirloom. And I was with the friends I'd want to talk to with one already."
Malfoy nodded and crossed his arms, looking a bit thoughtful. "Well, it's not the worst excuse you could have used. At least you've told me so now I can back you up if I have to."
Harry nearly rolled his eyes again. "Yeah, funnily enough, I thought of that. Can I go on? I'm not done just yet."
Malfoy nodded and gestured dramatically for him to continue. It was a gesture that might have pissed Harry off months ago, but now he found he could appreciate Malfoy's humour a bit more.
Harry hesitated before he went on to decide just how much of their conversation he wanted to tell him about, but in the end he decided on nearly all of it, suggestion to Turn him and all. He didn't think it would hurt for Malfoy to know that Sanguini cared for him enough to make that suggestion nor that he had turned it down—in fact, that would probably only make him look better in Malfoy's eyes. And it wouldn't hurt to have a second opinion on whether it had been the right decision. Not that he thought it wasn't, and he still felt he would make the same one if asked again, but it was always good to have another perspective.
Malfoy, however, seemed far more interested in just about everything else he had said. "An alias isn't a bad idea..."
Harry shrugged awkwardly. He still wasn't thrilled by the idea, even if he could see why it was a good one. "Yeah, even though I've got no idea what it should be."
"Figuring that out should be easy enough, now we're back at school," Malfoy said with an absent wave of his hand. "There's bound to be ideas in the library." He hesitated, trying to look as though what he was about to say was causing him some deep pain to actually admit, but he wasn't quite able to keep the excitement out of his eyes. "I could help you, if you want. I've got more free time than you."
Harry eyed him sceptically, but he couldn't deny that it might be easier to find something he liked if he had help, nor that it was true Malfoy now had considerably more time to look than he did. "Yeah, all right. I think...I want a name that'll mean something, not just a random name from the Middle Ages. So we'll have to figure all that out too, while we're looking."
Malfoy sneered at him, but it was far less hostile than usual. "Well of course it should mean something. You'll want to make a statement with it. Don't worry, about it, Potter, my family is legendary for being excellent with names. You couldn't have a better person helping you with this."
"Really," Harry said, trying not to laugh. Of all the ridiculous things a family could be famous for...
Malfoy sneered again, but this one was softened by the fact that he seemed to be trying awfully hard not to smile. And then it was quickly replaced by a more serious expression that Harry was quickly growing used to seeing on his face, one that he was sure was the real Malfoy under all the posturing, which he probably only allowed his closest friends to see.
"The wand is more of a concern," he said, frowning thoughtfully at the floor. "You're sure you need another one? What's wrong with that one?"
"I told you, I can't go calling myself a different name while I'm waving around the same wand," Harry said. It was a weak excuse, but the connection between his wand and Voldemort's was one of those things that Malfoy had no reason to know about.
"I hardly think enough people will know what it looks like to be concerned about it," Malfoy said imperiously.
"Yeah, but the ones that do are the ones we especially don't want to know about all this," Harry retorted, thinking about Dumbledore and Voldemort. His friends could probably recognize his wand too, along with half the D.A., but he was much less concerned about them.
Malfoy hummed and looked infuriatingly condescending, but he didn't disagree. He only looked thoughtful in his stupidly condescending way for a moment before he finally nodded.
"It would be easier if you just waited until summer, you know," Malfoy said, leaning forward in his chair so his chin was resting on his crossed arms.
"I might need it before then," Harry said, though he didn't disagree. He didn't think going to Ollivander's would be a good idea, since Ollivander and Dumbledore had been in communication at least once, but it would be easiest to wait until he was already in Diagon Alley and not expected to be at school to try to sneak off and look elsewhere. There could very well be a wand shop in Knockturn Alley, stupid as it probably would be to wander down there again, and he was sure Sanguini would have an idea of where else to look.
However, past experience told him he would probably have a run in with Voldemort before his next trip to Diagon Alley, assuming the Order let him buy his own school things at all. It would probably be best if he got a new wand before that happened.
"Sanguini said he'd think about how to do that, though, so you don't need to worry about it," Harry said, although he marvelled a bit that he actually felt the need to say it. Who could have guessed that he would ever be pre-emptively turning down help from Malfoy? "Unless you've got any ideas? I doubt he'd turn them down."
"I might," Malfoy said, looking a bit thoughtful again. But that was all he said, and he only smiled when Harry asked him to elaborate.
"Anyway, Potter, your friend's got a point," Malfoy said suddenly, his eyes glinting a bit. "They probably would listen to you better if you weren't a wizard. The goblins especially, but I'm sure you've heard enough from Binns to guess that."
"It's only all he ever goes on about," Harry said with a bit of a grin. Then he sighed and leaned back in his seat, toying with the letter still in his hands. That wasn't exactly what he'd been expecting to hear from Malfoy. "So, you think I should've taken him up on it?"
Malfoy snorted and eyed him incredulously. "All I said was he has a point about magical creature-wizard relations. That doesn't mean you need to sink to their level. I like you better as a wizard, thanks."
Harry glared at him. "There's no levels, Malfoy. They're people like us."
"All the same, you're better off as a wizard, Potter." Malfoy shook his head, looking faintly disgusted. "And anyway, you'd be stuck like that forever," he said, gesturing at Harry. "A scrawny, bespectacled, fifteen-year-old git 'til the end of time, doomed to repeat fifth year over and over. Just what the world needs."
"It's so nice knowing you care about the world, Malfoy," Harry said with a thin smile, and with a muttered charm, Malfoy's chair tipped sidewise and dumped him onto the floor.
Malfoy stared at him with a look so started Harry started laughing. He kept on laughing even as Malfoy flicked his own wand and his chair tumbled over too.
However, what he'd said reminded Harry of something he been wondering since the end of term, and especially now that they were sitting here making plans for the future. He hadn't really been conscious of his wondering, but now that he'd voiced something similar aloud, he was suddenly burning with curiosity.
"Why are you helping me, anyway?" Harry asked as he stood up and brushed the dust from his robes.
Malfoy had just finished tipping his chair back onto his feet and he paused before straddling it again. "I thought we went over this months ago, Potter."
"Not the Potions lessons or keeping your mouth shut about the vampires," Harry said, shaking his head. He righted his chair and sat down, pinning Malfoy with a scrutinizing look. "You looked thrilled when I gave you that note before Christmas. And now you're offering to help me find an alias, and don't tell me you're not excited about it. I thought you'd want to follow in your father's footsteps, but you're helping me. Why?"
Malfoy stared back at him with a gaze Harry would have found uncomfortable if he wasn't already used to being on the receiving end of intense gazes from Malfoy. It was his silence Harry found more unnerving. It stretched on until Harry was sure he was not actually going to get an answer to his question.
And then Malfoy crossed his arms on the back of his chair and leaned back so he was nearly leaning against the desk behind him, and he said, "I still might. Follow my father, I mean. I'm not here with you because I've decided not to."
"You know we're on opposite sides of this war, right?" Harry said, eying him sceptically. "I'm still fighting Voldemort. You're going to have to pick a side eventually."
"You're not really with Dumbledore anymore, though," Malfoy said with a secret smile Harry was really beginning to hate. "Don't worry, Potter, if it the time comes to pick sides, I won't choose you over my family."
Harry didn't miss the inclusion of the word 'if' instead of 'when' and it just made him stare even more. He couldn't imagine why Malfoy might think it was an 'if'; of course he was going to have to pick sides eventually if he was going to be loyal to his family and therefore Voldemort. Harry might not agree entirely with Dumbledore anymore, and he already thought his allies wouldn't fight for him either, but he had a hard time imagining ever working with Voldemort instead.
Even if working with one of the two sides would make everything much easier, and Voldemort's would probably be more sympathetic toward his cause.
Harry shook his head and scowled at Malfoy. That wasn't a thought he really needed to have again.
"It's hard to explain," Malfoy said after a moment. "I don't really agree with everything you want to do. And I'd ditch you for my family in a heartbeat." He paused and frowned thoughtfully at the distant wall. "There's a few reasons, I guess. I've been thinking about what that centaur told us. That we're both essential—that I'm essential to whatever happens in the future. And that you haven't told any of your friends about all this, just me. Unless that's changed?"
Harry wordlessly shook his head and waited for him to go on.
Malfoy closed his eyes and took a deep breath, steeling himself for whatever he was about to say. Harry thought maybe he should revise his idea that Malfoy was a complete coward. He didn't have a lot of courage, but it seemed he could summon some up when he really felt he needed to.
"I want to be important," Malfoy said finally, with a bit of a self-depreciating smile. "It sounds stupid just saying like that but...I really want to do something that will change the world. I want to be in the middle of everything, and I want my decisions to matter. I want my name to come up in History of Magic, and I want it to be because I was on the winning side and I helped us get there. I don't need to lead any armies," he said, waving his hand a bit. "Better to let the Gryffindors handle that. But generals aren't the only ones who get their names in history books."
He smiled suddenly, a smile without sarcasm that actually made him look like a decent person for once, and he fixed Harry with an intense gaze. "You're going to change the world, Potter. And I get to be right in the middle of it. That's why."
Harry shook his head, because that was all he could do after a declaration like that. It wasn't really something he understood, wanting to be in the spotlight. That was one of Ron's dreams too sometimes, and he didn't understand it with him either. He was pretty much always the centre of conversation, whether it was because he'd done something spectacularly stupid or heroic, or just because he was who he was, and he generally hated it. He thought he was finally getting used to it—and he knew that his revolution would draw even more attention to him, so he would need to get used to it—but that didn't mean it didn't get old after a while.
But he could believe that Malfoy was in this for the attention. That was usually his motivation—that or trying to best Harry at something or get him into trouble, which generally got him attention anyway. Harry thought that might have even been his motivation when he'd tried to become Harry's friend back in first year; Ron had often grumbled about being the best friend of Harry Potter, but he did end up in the middle of things more often than any of their dorm-mates, by virtue of always being at Harry's side.
"So even though you don't agree with me, you'll help me anyway because at least you'll get attention that way?" Harry gave him a cheeky grin. "You know, you could have done that before I decided to do all this. We've been fighting Voldemort for years."
Malfoy wrinkled his nose a bit. "I agree even less with Dumbledore and his merry band of blood traitors. And I won't be helping you fight the Dark Lord. That's not all this is about, or you wouldn't be calling it a revolution."
"Yeah, but that'll be some of it," Harry said.
Malfoy smiled again and said quietly, "You should take a second look at what the Dark Lord's really offering, Potter."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "It doesn't really matter as long as he wants me dead, does it?"
"Oh yes, I suppose that would put a damper on any sort of relationship," Malfoy said. He shrugged and sighed dramatically. "I guess I'll just have to help you with everything that doesn't have to do with him, then."
"And if you do follow your father, and choose Voldemort's side on everything else, and he orders you to attack me? I can't change the world if I'm dead or kidnapped."
Malfoy frowned at him, apparently not liking the logic Harry was bringing into his dream. "That's awfully far off in the future to bother worrying about."
"You're going to have to worry about it sometime," Harry said, crossing his arms. He wasn't sure this was going to work if Malfoy was ready to ship him off to Voldemort the first time he was asked.
Malfoy let out a long, suffering sigh and stared up at the ceiling. "I'd at least look the other way while you escaped out the door I accidentally left unlocked. Or my aim could be off that day. I suppose."
Harry was really starting to hate that Malfoy could make him want to laugh without really trying. They'd been enemies for years now, it didn't feel right to laugh at his stupid humour. "Oh yeah, that's all very reassuring. Thanks, Malfoy. I can definitely count on you."
Malfoy just smirked. But he quickly turned serious again, and thoughtful. "If it ever comes to that, I'll figure something out. You'll be helping part of my family with all this, so I can't just abandon you completely."
Harry couldn't help a small smile from coming to his face. It was actually almost endearing how much Malfoy cared for his family, now matter who they were. It was probably the only genuinely likable thing about him, and in the end, he could respect Malfoy's desire to stick with his family, even if his family had made some bad decisions.
"Right. So, we'll still be having lessons here once a week, yeah?" Harry said after a moment.
Malfoy looked taken off guard by this sudden change in subject, but he recovered quickly and gave Harry a haughty look. "Of course, Potter. You'll be needing the extra magic lessons even more now. I thought we might even start meeting more often than that—"
"I can't," Harry said, and he did find himself regretting it. "I have to meet with Snape twice a week, probably, and you've got Quidditch practice, and I've got...other things. Maybe once in a while, but we can't bet on meeting twice every week."
"What other things?" Malfoy asked suspiciously.
Harry sighed and actually felt awful for bringing this up when he and Malfoy had been getting along so well—and then he told himself to stop being stupid because it really was none of Malfoy's business—but he couldn't use needing the homework time as an excuse because they generally did homework during most of these meetings anyway. "It's one of those things I really can't tell you about."
"You've got a lot of those," Malfoy said with a frown.
Harry shrugged. "Hazard of being me. You still know more than most people."
He said it in the hopes that it might appease Malfoy for now—and because it was true, but that was less important—and while Malfoy gave him a look like he knew exactly what he was doing, he let himself be appeased.
"Since we can't meet on Mondays anymore, maybe...Saturdays? We'll be able to use more of the day that way. And you'll have an extra day to revise your Potions homework," he added with a smirk.
"Saturdays are fine," Harry said, giving him a dirty look. "When you don't have Quidditch practice and I don't need them for something else."
"We can work around that," Malfoy said with an absent gesture. He checked his watch with a slight frown. "We've still got some time before curfew if you want to get started on that essay for Professor Snape. We can start your other lessons Saturday."
Harry shook his head, out of disbelief that he hadn't seen that coming than because he actually disagreed. "Yeah, all right."
His books and papers were halfway out of his bag when he remembered that there was something else he'd been meaning to bring up once they wouldn't be over heard. He carefully laid his things out on his desk and said casually, "Hey, you wouldn't happen to know what's in the Department of Mysteries, would you?"
Malfoy paused in his journey to sit at the desk next to him and gave him a funny look. "What could have possibly made you ask that?"
Harry shrugged. "I just wondered. I didn't grow up in the magical world, remember, I don't know a lot of this stuff."
Malfoy stared at him and didn't stop staring even as he dragged a desk close and sat down. "The only people who know what's in the Department of Mysteries, Potter, are the Unspeakables and anyone they've told, which, you might imagine, isn't an awful lot of people. I doubt even the Minister knows everything that happens in there. There's rumours about what might be in there, of course, but no one knows for sure."
Harry tried not to be disappointed—after all, he'd never really thought Malfoy would know—but he was so desperately curious that it was hard not to be. If only the door in his dreams would open, then maybe he'd get some answers.
"Yeah, that's what I thought." Harry carefully avoided look at Malfoy and drew out a blank piece of parchment, moving on before Malfoy could ask him anymore about it. "So, the properties of ingredients commonly used in medical potions..."
It was only when he reached the Fat Lady's portrait later that night that he realized that Malfoy had never actually gone into what he'd been doing during the break. Harry scowled to himself and vowed to ask on Saturday instead.