A/N: Written for the 'Anything You Wanna Write Competition', round two. Promtps are 'Harry' and 'malicious'. And this was written in between helping my mom prepare for Thanksgiving, so please excuse any problems.

Ah yes… Draco is definitely OOC in this. Be prepared.

Disclaimer:I own nothing but the white tablecloth I just spilled wine sauce on… oops?

)O(

The level of chatter at the Gryffindor table was practically legend – prefects, teachers, and headmasters alike had long since given up hope of having any measure of control over it. Something about that sea of red and gold and black seemed to give each student that extra burst of energy needed to raise the volume in their corner of the Great Hall, regardless of circumstances or mood or anything else.

It was a fact of life: Gryffindors at mealtime were loud and not many things were capable of singlehandedly quieting them all at once.

It would soon be discovered that Draco Malfoy's joining their table unannounced was one of those few and far between.

It was lunchtime when it happened; the Malfoy scion sauntered into the dining hall late and unaccompanied. Not so unusual for a sixth-year Slytherin – and the flickering of the torches as he entered went mostly unnoticed – but his very next action was, by its very definition, unusual.

And strange and unheard of and downright stupid.

Draco Malfoy slipped past the Slytherin and Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables, all such better options than the one he had evidently chosen, and showed no sort of emotion whatsoever while seating himself two places down from Harry Potter himself – the blond's expression was as calm as if he did such outlandish things daily.

And the Gryffindors' conversation sputtered and died.

Malfoy drew his legs up to his pointed chin – Harry noted how strangely small the Slytherin looked – and turned to face the group of sixth years. His face was smooth and pale, eyes huge, and hands fisted at his knees – aristocratic, every inch of him.

Only he still looked oh so young. And bright, like the sun and the moon and the stars.

That was the funny thing about Malfoy, Harry reflected, the way he was always so goddamn flawless. Pureblood composure, he supposed, though Ron was a far cry from that icy perfection –

Out loud, though, he snapped, "What d'you want, Malfoy," spitting the surname like a particularly foul curse. Beside him, Ron had tensed, Hermione had a hand pressed to her temple as she stared cautiously at the Slytherin, and the rest of the Gryffindors were watching with expressions of shock.

They were all ensconced in their own little alcove of privacy, it seemed – for beyond the table, chatter and laughter still reigned.

Malfoy gave no acknowledgement to the question, only leaning forward as if to impart some great secret. "Did you know," he said quietly, "that when I was younger my father used to play with me?"

Maybe it was the childish innocence of his tone, or the look in those grey eyes. Or the aura of something in the air.

But the Slytherin spoke and the Gryffindors listened.

"Yes," Malfoy continued, "you think he's dark. And evil. Only Father's a good man because he used to play with me – even when Mother didn't want to be near me! He used to make the animals dance, you see." And those pretty lips drew up into a broken sort of smile.

It was Dean Thomas who replied, "Erm – dance, Malfoy?"

The blond nodded eagerly and drew up the right sleeve of his robes, exposing smooth and unmarred flesh.

It made no sense, then, that the air had grown so very cold.

Malfoy jerked his chin toward that perfect-pale skin, wide eyes fixed on the students as he said, "See?" Empty eyes. "See the animals? Made them dance, my father did. He gave me pets and then he made them dance, just for me. He'd do anything to entertain me, you see – anything to make me happy. Anything to see me smile." And he smiled that twisted smile.

"No," Hermione said slowly, something like pity in her eyes – Harry noted that was it similar, so similar to the way she spoke of Sirius. "Malfoy, there's nothing there."

The windows iced over with blackening frost.

The Slytherin huffed, and – one hand tangled in that spider-woven hair – said, "Yes there is, you stupid mudblood. A lion, here, and a tiger and a bear."

Even as Ron's hand reached down towards his wand, Malfoy yanked up his left sleeve. The skin was clear and icy white; Harry slumped in his chair a bit as his 'Malfoy is a Death Eater' theory was completely disproved. Hermione allowed herself a momentary smirk.

"See," Malfoy insisted, jabbing one slender finger at his arm, "and there's my snake. This one is special because it's so new."

The boy was pointing at a spot just below the crook of his arm, and Harry stiffened. Memories of a two-year-old nightmare surged to the surface as he pictured the Dark Mark on the skin of Wormtail's inner arm. Coincidence, or – ?

"Malfoy." Ron's tenuous hold on patience had slipped. "Malfoy, either start making sense or admit that you're nuts and bugger off before I hex you."

The Slytherin did not respond, eyes glowing grey in the dim of the hall. He cocked his head. "I think I've got it figured out," he said softly, "why you lot can't see my pets. They're mine, see, and I try to keep them safe."

"Dammit, Malfoy – "

The room was so chilled that their breath formed a pale mist; Ginny shivered in the cold and Harry put a protective arm about her shoulders. "Malfoy," he began, but the Slytherin ignored him as completely as he had the others.

"I think," he murmured, eyes fixed on that shaking sea of red and gold, "that it's time to share my game." He made no move, but Harry closed his eyes as magic shivered through the air, stiff with electrical charge. The hair on his arms prickled and stood up straight.

He reopened his eyes at the sound of gasps.

Malfoy was still sitting in that childish position, all curled up with cobweb hair and big grey eyes. Only he wasn't that perfect, pretty boy anymore. The satiny skin was marred with a criss-cross of darkened red and jagged scars.

There was a moment of pure, frozen shock.

"Wha-what," Ginny stammered, and her eyes were dark with fear.

Draco's smile was larger now, an empty mockery on that marked-over face. "So," he whispered, because everybody was listening now, "you believe me, right? These are my pets. The lion – " he pointed towards a whitened scar shaped slightly like the great cat, "and the tiger and the bear." He tapped that thin finger on two more roughly-formed marks, burnt forever into his skin. "There are many more, of course, but these are my favourites – these and the snake." Funny how the blackness of his Dark Mark, proof of his servitude to the darkest wizard of all time, paled so much in comparison to the etching of horrors covering the Malfoy heir's skin.

Several students had gone various stages of green.

The torches were extinguished by a sudden gust of icy wind. Harry saw at a glance that the rest of the hall remained completely unaffected – the other three houses, the head table; they continued chatting amongst themselves as if nothing was amiss.

Maybe nothing was, as far as they could see.

"And," the boy continued, "and my daddy gave them all to me, one by one. 'Cept for the snake, of course – that one's a gift from an old family friend." That sickening smile had grown so very wide. "He liked to play with me, too, you know."

A seventh-year Gryffindor whose name Harry did not know took a breath. "Mal – Draco," she began, and her friend coiled a hand in long brown curls, "what do you mean by – play?" She shivered once.

"Oh," Malfoy said dismissively, "silly girl, I already explained that to you." He waved one hand and the fine bones jutted through that delicate skin; Malfoy's un-glamoured form was like a marionette, all fraying ropes and splintering limbs. He even had the uneven movements to match. "They make my animals dance, you see. My father loves me very much."

One hand waved and the air darkened further, temperature dropping as Malfoy's skin writhed and buckled beneath the onslaught of magic – this was no simple Crucio. It was so much worse. Rivulets of bright red blood ran down Malfoy's face from his eyes and his mouth, beading at his fingertips and staining that light hair a scarlet-sheened brown.

And all the while Malfoy remained unmoved, face impassive even as his body jerked in pain.

Yes, Harry thought numbly, Ginny's nails digging holes in the flesh of his arm, the animals were truly dancing.

"Stop!"

The girl's shriek seemed to break the spell under which Draco had them enthralled. The Slytherin stilled and melted back into the former, flawless version of himself, all gossamer hair and slender limbs and pretty eyes and perfect skin.

A beautiful doll with which his father loved to toy.

He leant forward, and his voice was smooth – coercive, almost – as he whispered with that wide-eyed innocence, "Don't you want to come and play?" There was no malice in the words.

And for a moment, Harry thought yes – he wanted to join that game, with the pretty little boys and the pets and the dancing and that beautiful aura of everlasting love –

Ginny's nails dug deeper and Harry's face changed, contorting in horror as he shouted, "No! I don't want to play your game!"

And the hall was warm once again, torches bursting back into life. The chatter of the rest of the wizards remained unbroken.

The Gryffindors were silent.

Draco sighed. "Very well, then," he said softly, one elegant hand resting upon that perfect, magicked-up cheek, "don't play. That's all right – I'm doing fine on my own, I suppose." He smirked, but it was vacant and dull. "But someday, Potter, you – all of you – will be playing with me. And I won't be lonely anymore."

The Slytherin stood, wand in his robe pocket where it had been the entire time. For a moment Harry saw – deep in those darkened eyes – a flash of the child, blank and new, that Draco Malfoy had always and never really been.

"See you in class, then," Draco murmured, hair brushing against that doll-like face. He turned, allowing them a fine view of the pretty curve of his nose, and sauntered away.

Back to the Slytherin table, where green-clad friends waited to meet their king with open arms.

Their leader, their dark prince, the china boy with the cracked smile and the empty, empty eyes.

The boy who made the animals dance.

)O(