Draco and Ron readied for bed in the empty hospital ward. Draco, drowsy and full, took his time undressing; he had not eaten so much in months. Barely able to concentrate on the schoolwork Professor Snape had collected for him after escorting him upstairs from the Great Hall, Draco somehow managed to finish one assignment.
Weasley arrived shortly after ten with Professor McGonagall, holding a bag with toothbrushes and toothpaste, as well as some extra clothes for Draco.
"Here, I got these for you so you can brush your teeth tonight. I wasn't sure if you'd be coming back to the room or not." Weasley said, handing him the bag, the one he normally took with him to the shower. It had everything he needed.
"Boy's hurry and get ready for bed it's late. You have five minutes." Professor McGonagall said sharply.
Draco and Weasley, used to bathrooms with multiple sinks now had a few minutes to brush their teeth with just one sink.
Draco tried to stay patient and take turns with spitting out toothpaste, which worked for a microsecond. Just as Draco spit out his toothpaste, Weasley bent his head over the sink to rinse his mouth, a glob of Draco's toothpaste and spit landed in his hair.
"Malfoy!!! What the hell do you think you're doing?" Weasley yelled and rubbed the back of his hair, while shooting him a look of pure disgust.
"You're the one who got in the way." Draco defended his actions while trying not to laugh; he laughed anyway.
"This isn't funny, it's disgusting!" Weasley's face was turning red with anger.
Draco tried to suppress his grin and offered a quick solution, "There's a bathtub, just rinse out your hair."
"Why bother! You'll probably spit on me again! This is unbelievable." Weasley said, giving the bathtub another look.
Draco continued to brush his teeth and stayed far away from Weasley when he spat out his toothpaste, this time into the sink and not on Weasley's head.
He stood straight again, and prudently decided not to laugh, while he watched Weasley fall to his knees and ineptly stick his head under the bathtub's water faucet. It took Weasley two or three tries before he managed to wet the back of his hair, in the process wetting his pajamas.
A knock on the bathroom door proceeded Professor Snape opening the door. Draco lazily brushed his teeth and valiantly tried to suppress his urge to smile at Snape's startled expression. Weasley not noticing the intrusion continued to mutter, "Unbelievable, unbelievable," while rinsing the back of his hair. Water splattered everywhere including Weasley's pajamas.
Professor Snape silently closed the door with the strangest expression on his face.
Draco quickly finished brushing his teeth and left the bathroom. He pulled off his night robe and climbed into bed wearing his shorts, glad Weasley brought clean clothes for him. Weasley left the bathroom shortly thereafter, his red hair completely soaked. Professor McGonagall looked like she wanted to ask, but wisely chose to say nothing. She dimmed the lights until the room darkened; lighted candles cast shadows on the ancient stonewall.
Professor McGonagall waited until Weasley was in bed before she headed for the door, "Boys, Professor Snape will watch over you tonight, please behave, and Mr. Malfoy, please wake up early in the morning. Prefect White will be here early to escort you down to breakfast." She left the room taking one of the candles with her. Draco turned on his side, and listened to the sounds of Professor Snape preparing for bed. Too anxious to sleep, Draco lay awake; long after Professor Snape doused the candles and climbed into an empty bed next to the one Weasley chose.
Draco pulled the sheets up to his chin and attempted to clear his mind from all the events of the day. He rolled over on his back and looked out the window, watching the half-full moon settle higher in the sky. Moonbeams shone through the windowpane brightly on the cloudless night. The soft snores from Weasley somehow comforted him. He closed his eyes and counted backwards, however Voldemort's image continued to plague him and he shifted restlessly. Not sure how much time passed, Draco slid out of bed. The floor was icy beneath his feet.
He needed fresh air, Draco decided and walked to the window and opened it. The cold air felt good against his overly warmed skin; the scent of fresh grass and the coming winter relaxed him. The stars in the sky were brilliant and bright, almost eclipsed by the light of the moon.
The lake reflected the moon, and he could see the hills and forest. This tower had a great view he realized. He never cared for such things in the past, but tonight it helped soothe some of his restlessness.
A bed creaked and Draco spun, startled at the noise, then sighed, it was only Professor Snape coming towards him. The older man slept like him, with shorts only. His dark chest hair was thicker than he imagined it would be and without the concealing robes, Draco could see that his professor had a well-toned body, and he had seen many male bodies this summer.
Draco turned back towards the window, a blush creeping up his cheeks.
Snape's presence at his back, breathing softly, sent a warm flush through his body. Snape stepped around him and shared his spot at the window. "Couldn't sleep?"
"No." Draco answered softly, and touched the windowsill with his fingertips, the stone was rough and he pulled back and turned to face his instructor.
"Did I wake you?" Draco asked, now nervous at Snape's close proximity.
"No I couldn't sleep either, too many thoughts."
"Memories," Draco said. "I can't get them out of my head long enough to sleep."
"I have some potions that can help you sleep." Snape offered gently, rubbing his arms to warm up some. It was becoming chilly by the window.
The mere memory of where his dream this morning ended, made Draco hesitate at the offer. What if Dumbledore's potion failed? Weariness plagued his every waking moment, fear his constant companion. Life sucked.
"I'm scared," Draco admitted.
"That's understandable." Snape didn't say anything more, waiting for Draco's next move.
Draco let his eyes drop unable to meet Snape's gaze, and stared at Snape's bare collarbone. They stood close enough to whisper; neither wanted to wake Weasley. I wonder what his skin would taste like, Draco thought, watching Snape's pulse thrum through his neck artery. What am I thinking, he thought a moment later, horrified at where his thought had strayed.
His eyes flew to meet Snape's, hidden in deep pools of darkness. The moon-cast shadows made it impossible to read Snape's expression, which meant Snape might not be able to read his expression either. Relieved and worried at his weird thoughts, Draco focused on the problem at hand. Could he sleep without a potion to help? Probably not, he admitted. Would Snape think he was a coward for not wanting to sleep? Probably yes.
"I'll take a potion." Draco said before he could change his mind.
Snape nodded his head and went to the desk where he'd kept his potion bag, never having taken it back downstairs. He came back holding a small glass bottle in his hand. "This will put you to sleep instantly. I recommend waiting until you are in bed before taking the potion. Remember I will be here. If anything happens I will wake you immediately." Snape handed him the bottle and Draco took it with sweaty slippery hands.
With one last look at the moonlit school grounds and lake, Draco headed back to his bed. Snape closed the window and came to Draco's bedside. "Draco you need to take the potion sitting up. I will help settle your body once you are asleep. I don't want you hitting your head on the bed post." He explained gently to avoid alarming Draco.
Draco nodded and slid his legs under his sheets, fixed his pillow and took the top off the potion bottle. Scared but trusting Dumbledore's spell, he took the whole potion in one swallow.
Severus caught Draco before he fell sideways off the bed; he took the empty potion bottle out of Draco's lax fingers. Draco's limp head fell back over his arm. The soft silky hair made him shiver and he cursed, he'd forgotten how heavy Draco's inert body was. It took a few minutes of maneuvering but soon he had Draco comfortable as possible under the sheets.
He went back to his own bed, stared at the ceiling, and attempted to clear his mind for sleep. Earlier, Draco's tossing and turning kept him awake and now the chill from outside permeated his bones. Winter approach quickly this year, and Draco left the windows open too long. The faint noise of the Weasley boy snoring also bothered him. Draco's quick decision to take the potion he offered also worried him. There was something strange about the quiet talk between him and Draco, however the slight rise and fall of Draco's thin chest reassured him. His charge slept peacefully.
He turned on his side and hit his pillow, this bed not as comfortable as his own. His mind played over the memory of Draco's screams of agony and anger burned inside of him. Voldemort was free and harming people again.
Severus had not left Hogwarts since the end of the Tri-Wizard tournament, he wondered if he could actually return to spying on Voldemort, months had passed and the Dark Lord had not called for him since that first night. If he had joined Voldemort to spy on him, could he have saved Draco or in attempts to keep his cover, participated in his student's degradation? He steered his mind away from this thought, Lucius had a lot to answer for to let his only son become a prisoner of Voldemort's sick games.
Not that Voldemort's desire for exceptionally handsome, Draco surprised him. Once Draco stopped sneering all the time, the better qualities shined through.
Severus never looked upon his students as sexual creatures; however, this situation with Draco worried him. For the first time he had mental images of Draco with Voldemort. He saw Voldemort's parties back at the height of the Wizard's power. He had a clear idea of what Draco survived. The challenge is to keep Draco safe, while Draco recovered from this ordeal, without letting his personal feelings interfere.
Thoughts whirling in his mind, Snape watched the moon descend before sheer exhaustion forced him into sleep.
Draco woke with the sunlight streaming onto his face. He rubbed at his bleary eyes before he sat up. Weasley snored softly with half his sheets on the floor, his shirt and pants twisted; Draco had no clue how the other boy slept like that. He looked anything but comfortable.
It hit Draco, while brushing his teeth; his dreams last night were ordinary, in that there was no rape, torture, or Voldemort in them. He had no clue what was with the flying rabbits attacking people, but the parts where he dreamt about Harry and Hermione in danger, on a giant chessboard, felt real enough. Ron must really worry about his friends to dream of them.
He spit the toothpaste out of his mouth and looked at the mirror above the sink, his pale face stared back the dark circles under his eyes not as dark this morning. One night of decent sleep showed. Draco smiled for a brief moment, happy Dumbledore's spell actually worked. Recalling, Weasley's outrage last night amused him as well.
By the time, Draco left the bathroom, dressed and ready to face the day. Snape and Weasley were also dressed, though Weasley seriously needed to brush his hair. Draco stepped aside when Weasley brushed past him to use the bathroom. He barely noticed the bathroom door closing. His attention focused on Professor Snape who had stopped pacing as soon as Draco left the bathroom. Dressed in his robes Snape appeared taller and more imposing.
Snape's worried dark eyes searched his. Draco smiled and said; "It worked."
Snape's shoulders shifted and his worried frown faded, relaxing. Draco had not realized how tense Snape held himself until then.
"That is good news." Snape said grateful Dumbledore's temporary solution worked.
The door opened and Sandra came in, "Draco I have your books and supplies for your classes today. I have to get to class early so come on lets get breakfast." She did not give Draco time to respond before she grabbed his arm and dragged him out of the room.
The rest of the day passed quickly for Draco, it wasn't until dinner that he remembered his promise to talk with Snape at seven. He entered the dinning hall with Potter, Weasley, and Granger, which felt normal at this point. Granger attempted to explain the concept of transfiguring objects in motion to thick-witted Weasley.
Draco tuned them out and went to his seat at the Gryffindor table. Weasley's sister, Ginny already at the table blushed bright red when Potter sat across from her. A step up from giggling, which Draco had seen happen a time or two.
"Tonight I have to go to bed when Malfoy goes to bed..." Draco's attention snapped over to Weasley, who was talking to Potter.
"But that's kind of early. I was hoping we could look at the newest Quidditch Weekly magazine, after we finish our homework, that is." Potter stabbed a potato on his fork, popped it in his mouth, and barely finished chewing before he continued. "I know you've been looking forward to it all week Ron."
Draco shuddered and concentrated on finishing his own dinner. He felt a tap on his arm; Weasley's exaggerated pleading eyes didn't fool him, however he decided to listen to what the other boy had to say. Maybe he could gain something out of this situation; for once, he had the power.
"Um, Malfoy would you be willing to stay up later so me and Harry could look at the newest Quidditch Magazine? Please?"
Weasley laid it on rather thick with the please however Draco knew it pained Weasley to ask him nicely.
Draco did not answer right away; he needed to think this through, and enjoy this as long as possible. Draco knew Potter and Weasley barely had time to hang out anymore. He had them where he always wanted them, yet to deny them a few minutes of fun felt like a shallow victory. Petty, he knew.
He sighed loudly, "Fine I'm going to stay up late doing homework anyway. I don't mind waiting longer for you two to look at a dumb magazine; however, I do need an escort to Snape's workroom after dinner. I also need someone to escort me back our hall at eight." Draco paused, thinking of something that had bothered him for weeks now. "Also I'm tired of everyone calling me Malfoy, my name is Draco."
Anxious to distinguish himself from his fucked up family, Draco did not consider the consequences until he saw the reactions of his dinner companions.
Weasley's mouth dropped open, Potter gave him a rather unfriendly glare, and Granger stared at him as if he grew another head. Dean, Seamus, Neville, and the Weasley twins all stopped talking at once to stare at him. It made him nervous until they turned back to each other and continued their own conversations.
Granger was the first to speak after his surprising announcement. "I can come by at eight to get you from Snape's workroom, but I can't escort you at seven. I already have plans at that time." She looked at him a little longer before turning her attention back to the book next to her plate absorbed in researching for SPEW.
Weasley in a rare moment of kindness warned him away from joining the Elf Liberation movement a few weeks back. The movement had little success from what he gathered.
"Ah hell, me and Harry will escort you down to the dungeon. Merlin only knows why anyone would want to spend MORE time with Professor Snape. He gives me the creeps and he's always picking on us." Weasley complained and attacked his food with a new zeal. Potter glared at Weasley for a brief moment, before he went back to eating.
Draco poked at his food, and paid more attention to the conversations surrounding him and realized how much excitement the upcoming Halloween party generated.
"Draco, are you going the party?" Ginny Weasley asked him shyly, after waving her spoon in front of his face to get his attention.
"I'm not sure. I don't have a costume." He answered politely.
Ginny smiled and said. "Neither do Ron and I, and we are going. You don't have to wear a costume to go." as if that solved the problem.
"Oh yeah your family is poor." Draco said absently, not really adding much spite into his insult. He knew he used to have fun insulting others. Emotionally numb, his few joys muted, Draco barely bothered wasting the energy.
Ginny, not phased by Draco's comment, responded lightly. "On the bright side, I'm glad I'm a girl, otherwise I'd probably have to wear Ron's leftover clothes."
Draco grinned and said; "Um yeah you have a good point, your brother is a slob. I think you'd be wearing rags by now."
She smiled and went back to eating. Weasley of course heard everything and glared venomously at him. "You just have to rub our noses in it, don't you?"
"Ron!" Granger said insistently and gave Weasley a look, which somehow calmed Weasley down. The boy ate with an angry zest afterwards.
After dinner, Draco walked out the Great Hall followed by Weasley and Potter. About fifty other students crammed at the exit, slowed down the line to leave. Abruptly, someone kicked his feet while another pair of hands shoved him hard to the side, completely unprepared; Draco lost his balance and fell. Angry, Draco spotted Vincent and Gregory running down the hall laughing. They must have come up behind him while he wasn't paying attention.
Landing on the floor hurt, the peels of laughter hurt more. Draco stood and brushed off his robes. Students flowed around him; some Slytherins laughed and pointed. He ignored them and smoothed down his hair, and took stock of any injuries. Except for a scraped palm and aching knee, he was uninjured.
"Come on Malfoy, you're wasting our time." Potter complained and graced him with a look of extreme impatience, before turning back around and walking away, with Weasley at his side.
Draco glared at Potter's back, and limped to catch up. He lasted a minute before he gave up on reaching his "escorts." His knee burned like fire and Draco refused to walk another step like this. "My knee is hurt you imbeciles!" Draco yelled and stood on one leg, refusing to walk another step. Potter and Weasley had to come back for him.
"Here I'll get your side and you can lean on me. Professor Snape can fix your knee when we get you to him. You can't be that badly hurt, you didn't fall that hard." Potter said coming around Draco's side. Potter slid an arm around Draco's waist and let Draco drape his arm around his neck. To help take the weight off his injured knee.
They started their slow-paced walk towards the stairs, Weasley brought up the rear, complaining and saying, "What did I do to deserve this?"
Draco had a few answers he knew Weasley wouldn't like.
They reached Professor Snape's workroom a little after seven. Snape stopped pacing when they entered the room.
Before anyone could say anything Ron blurted, "Draco, hurt his knee when Goyle tripped him. I was too far away to help sir! I swear it's not my fault."
Snape glanced at Weasley with barely concealed disgust before saying, "Very well, Weasley, Potter, you two may leave."
Weasley wasted no time running out the room, with Potter in tow. Draco flexed his knee, and rubbed at it hoping the ache would go away.
"Is it that bad?" Snape asked, coming to his side.
Draco smiled grimly, "Not really, but I thought it would be funny to have Potter half carry me all the way down the steps."
Snape chuckled and patted him on his shoulder. "There is hope for you yet."
Snape walked to his worktable and Draco followed. Invading Snape's personal work area felt strange however, Snape motioned him closer. Draco stepped nearer and watched Snape work.
His professor said a word and tossed some herbs into the black cauldron sitting in the middle of the old oak table. The entire tabletop littered with papers, packets of herbs, and glass bottles containing other potions. Draco grabbed the stool next the table and sat down, watching Snape work.
The older man seemed to randomly select packets of herbs and empty the contents into the cauldron without measuring. As Draco watched, he came to realize his Professor really was a master of potions. The competent way he handled all the different tasks and saying the right words at the right times what they did in class was simple by comparison.
After Snape re-gathered the remaining packets of herbs, stacked them neatly, and finished cleaning the rest of his work area, Draco's asked, "Sir what potion were you making? It seemed rather complex."
"I made a sleeping potion, much like the one I gave you last night, except I've modified it so the user can wake up if he or she wishes to, in case of nightmares. The potion requires forty-eight hours before all the ingredients activate. It has a long shelf life. I've made enough to supply Madame Pomfrey and my own private stock for at least a year."
Snape did not say it, but Draco knew his professor created the potion to help him sleep, while giving him a way to wake as well.
Touched, Draco remained silent and watched Snape lay out new ingredients. "What are you making this time?" He asked curiously.
"This morning I went through my supplies of potions and discovered I had a disproportionate amount of sleeping potions and not enough waking potions. Therefore, I've decided to remedy the problem. It is less expensive to make the potions myself, for Hogwarts, than to order them from an independent Wizard or Witch. Now be silent and keep your hands to yourself." Draco drew his hands off the table and hid them under the table.
Snape started the potion, sometimes Snape would explain why one ingredient had to go in the cauldron first, and he shared tidbits of history on various sleeping potions. Draco sat bored at first, swinging his legs under the table, he watched Snape's face as the man worked. His eyes, sharp and intense, had made Snape's sallow face more attractive, in spite of the greasy hair surrounding it. Snape's voice also changed, instead of the usual sarcasm, Snape spoke to him in a mellow voice, and it calmed Draco. By the end of the hour, Draco found himself leaning over the table watching Snape make the potion with far more fascination than he had ever felt in class.
Knocking on the door distracted Draco. Granger peered inside and said, "Draco, I have work to do, are you ready to go?"
"Professor did you need help cleaning? I can help you." Draco offered sitting straighter on the stool.
Stirring a wooden spoon in the cauldron, swirling in the newest ingredient, Snape answered, "Go. I can clean this myself. I will see you the same time tomorrow night. Avoid mishaps in the hall. I want you here in one piece and on time."
Draco wasted no time leaving.
He spent the rest of the evening doing his homework from yesterday and today. The common room, full when he started two hours ago, was now nearly empty, except for a few other students reading or sitting at various tables' playing cards, or writing on parchments of paper. Draco stuck all his books in his bag and left the room.
Draco opened the door and walked to his desk, intending to drop of his books. Potter and Weasley were lying on their stomachs on Potter's bed, looking at a magazine together. Weasley hastily covered the mysterious magazine with Quidditch Weekly. Potter started to complain until he looked up and saw Draco in the room. His face turned pink before he sat up on the bed and grabbed both magazines and stuffed them under his pillow. Thomas and Longbottom, playing Wizard's Chess on Thomas's bed did not give him a single glance. Finnigan absent from the room must already be in the bathroom readying for bed.
"Don't stop on my account." Draco said dryly, and pulled his shower supplies out of his wardrobe. He met Finnigan on the way the showers.
"There is still hot water if you hurry." Finnigan said in passing.
Draco scowled at Finnigan's back, not sure, why Finnigan lied to him. Everyone knew the hot water never ran out at Hogwarts.
Ten minutes later, Draco re-entered the room and put his things away. "Ron, I'm ready for bed." Draco said lying down with his arms crossed behind his head.
Potter and Weasley grumbled some and so did Longbottom saying it was too early for bed, although it was already past eleven.
Half an hour later, all the lights went out, except one night light glowing next to Draco's bed. Thomas and Finnigan had their bed curtains closed, not able to sleep with the light on.
No moonlight came through the windows due to thick clouds. Tomorrow it would probably rain all day. Draco waited a long time after the lights had gone out wondering how long it took a person to fall asleep. Draco did not want to fall asleep before Ron. Anxiety did not make a comfortable bed companion, Draco decided as he tossed and turned.
In the dark, Draco had no way of telling how much time passed while he lay in bed unable to sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, memories from the summer would intrude. Especially, the night his father and Voldemort enslaved him with a spell. His mind shied away from remembering the intense pain too clearly.
Draco, still awake when the first splatters of rain hit the closed windows, also heard faint rumblings of thunder, and saw the lighting flashes illuminate their room. The soothing sound of rain lulled Draco into falling asleep.
It was four days until the costume ball, Draco realized the next evening while watching Professor Snape work on his newest experiment, a potion to counteract a disease called Malaria, not just cure the symptoms, but rid the person of the disease for good. Draco listened to Professor Snape speak and remembered as much as possible. His regard for Professor Snape's intelligence increased.
"Are you going the costume ball?" Professor Snape asked casually, while they waited for one of the ingredients to activate before adding the horntail root.
"I didn't plan on it," Draco said. Avoided mentioning how sick the thought of going made him feel.
He had been to enough parties this summer to acquire a lasting aversion. "I don't have a costume." A lame excuse but it was better than the alternative, the truth.
Snape nodded, and looked at his notes again. "Well a mask would work, wouldn't it? There are selling some at Hogsmeade. I can give you some money to go buy one. The ball isn't until Saturday."
"No really its okay, thanks though." Draco said hastily. He hadn't expected Snape to offer to help him out.
"You should go; you need to make friends again, with people your age."
"I'm sorry, but going to a stupid ball is not going to make friends for me, besides I don't like parties and I don't like dancing. I've been to enough parties to last me a lifetime."
"I see. Would this have anything to do with what happened this summer?" Snape asked gently.
Draco turned his face away from Snape, not able accept his sympathy. "Partly." He admitted.
"Almost everyone at Hogwarts will attend the ball, including the teachers. Nothing bad will happen to you. Not unless you pick a clumsy girl to dance with and she steps on your toes all evening."
Snape's dry humor broke his morose state. Draco sat up straighter, "Really teachers will be there the entire evening?"
"Dumbledore has asked all of us to attend. Last time we had a Halloween ball, someone spiked the punch with a goofy potion. Everyone who drank it acted like five-year-olds. This year, Dumbledore wants to avoid repeating the same mistake."
Draco reminded himself, this was Hogwarts, not Voldemort's mansion. The parties, the Hogwarts staff planned involved junk food, punch, and dancing, not naked boys and girls, whips, chains, and Unforgivable Curses. "It sounds like it might be fun," Draco said cautiously, doubting he would have any fun with all the bad memories rattling around in his brain.
"I will give you some money in case you decide you want to go in costume, though it's not necessary." Snape reached into his robe. He pulled out galleons and smaller coins before counting them.
Snape handed ten coins to Draco. "This should be enough."
"Thanks," Draco said, automatically pocketing the money.
They did not speak again until Potter showed up at the door, ready to take Draco back to Gryffindor Tower.
That evening, Draco debated on whether he should attend the ball. All the teachers were attending nothing could go wrong. Loneliness and bad memories made each day a trial, the constant snickering of his former housemates' hurt. If he could go in disguise maybe he could make new friends? Hundreds of students attended Hogwarts; surely, he could find a couple of people he never talked to before. Nothing ventured; nothing gained his mother liked to say.
Gathering his courage, Draco closed his books, and went to find Potter. It did not take him long; Potter was in their bedroom, grooming his Nimbus 2001, his tangled hair could definitely use a brush. Extreme winds and continuous rain made Quidditch practice miserable affair this afternoon.
"Potter, I need to go to Hogsmeade on Friday, will you go with me?" Draco asked, sitting down next to Potter on the bed.
Potter sighed obviously annoyed, and glared at him suspiciously; Draco leaned back on one elbow and schooled his expression into some form of innocence.
"Why do you want to go to Hogsmeade?" Potter asked not hiding his hostility.
"I need a costume for the Halloween Ball."
"I'm sure your face is sufficient to scare most of the first years, you should save your money." Potter kept on with his task.
Draco sat again, annoyed, it should not be this difficult to get an escort. "So are you going to take me or not?"
Potter set aside his broom and packed his cleaning kit, "I'll take you." He said standing and going to his dresser.
"I'll meet you here at five that should give us plenty of time to go and return in time for dinner. Remember I am only doing this because Dumbledore made me promise to treat you nicely. So if you do anything offensive, I'll never take you again and you'll just have to convince some other poor sod to take you."
Draco nodded his head. "That's fine with me; just make sure you are here on time. I have better things to do than wait for you to finish jerking off in the shower."
Potter scowled, "Just watch it Malfoy. I do not have to listen to your foul mouth. You're lucky Ron and I, are trying to be nice."
"Nice!" Draco quickly cut him off, "Nice, what are you talking about; you don't even look at me if you can help it? You are not being nice you are avoiding the issue. Hell, Mandrake roots are more pleasant than you and Weasley. Just come off your high horse and admit you hate me and Dumbledore will kick you out of Hogwarts if you say one wrong word to me."
"Shut up Malfoy, just because you're nasty to everyone doesn't mean I require blackmail to be decent to someone else. I said I would take you to Hogsmeade. What more do you want?" Potter closed his dresser with a loud bang, his actions violent with anger; he turned to face Draco his eyes blazing.
Draco stepped back from Harry's furious glare and thought what did he want, why was he provoking Potter? As suddenly as the anger entered him, it left. Depressed, Draco's shoulders slumped; a strand of hair slipped its tie and fell against his cheek. "Forget it." Draco mumbled through numb lips, he grabbed his books off the bed and made his way to the exit before he let any of his weakness show in front of Harry Potter.
He did not get far before a strong grip on his arm stopped him. "Why are you running away?" Potter demanded his eyes the same level as his own.
"I'm a fool, that's why." Draco said and yanked his arm free. Potter grabbed at his arm again to prevent him from leaving. Quidditch reflexes helped Potter dodge Draco's punch. Then to add insult to injury, Potter slapped him Draco to stumble backwards, half his face numb and stinging at the same time.
Then Potter tackled him. Draco hit the ground and Potter's weight pushed all the air from his lungs. Draco attempted to fight back but his long robes tangled with his legs, and pinned his arms. Out of shape and breath, Draco did not stand a chance, Potter stronger and heavier easily held him down. Panting, Draco gasped, "Get off me you turd."
In response, Potter slapped him again, lighter this time. Now Draco's other cheek stung. "Not until you tell me what's going on in your twisted head. Unlike you, I put our differences behind us."
"Ha!" Draco bit out, not believing Potter.
Potter gave him a measuring look and Draco turned his face to the side, humiliated angry tears gathering. Potter turned his attention to the doorway, and Draco took the opportunity to try to buck Potter off. It almost worked except Potter's balance, honed though years of Quidditch practice gave him an edge.
"Will you stop it?" Potter said annoyed with his struggles to free himself. "Just tell me what I want to know and I'll let you up."
Blowing the strand of hair off his face, Draco stopped struggling and looked at Harry. He had to admit Harry was handsome, dark hair, clear smooth skin, intense green eyes and that famous lighting bolt scar on his forehead. Draco banished the thought from his mind ashamed, before this summer he never thought of boys like girls. It also never occurred to him that sex with men could be pleasurable even in the worst circumstances.
Scowling, Draco looked back at Potter who was leaning rather close to him keeping his wrists pinned to the carpeted floor. "Well?" Potter said expectantly.
"I miss having friends." Draco said quietly turning his head to the side so he wouldn't have to see Potter laugh at him. "Professor Snape recommended I try talking to people at the Halloween ball..."
"Malfoy, you are something." Potter interrupted him, letting go of his wrists and sitting back on his heels, resting some of his weight on Draco's stomach now.
Draco stayed prone, waiting for Potter's laughter. Instead, the other boy sighed. "Malfoy, I hate to break it to you, but the only way you'll be able to convince anyone to dance with you is if you pay them. No one likes you because of all the stupid shit you did your first four years at Hogwarts. The people in your old house hate your guts. By some miracle, Dumbledore has taken your side; otherwise, I would have thrown you out the window headfirst the minute you entered my bedroom. You are the outsider and always will be. Someone like you will never change, you are just waiting for the opportunity to cause trouble, and I won't forget that, so just get over it. You won't ever have friends except maybe Professor Snape and that's because he's just as mean and nasty as you are."
"Harry! Get off Draco right this minute!" Weasley ordered from the doorway. He did not sound happy at all.
Draco's blood pounded in his head fury and pain; however, he didn't wait for Potter to recover from his surprise at Weasley's entrance. Draco pushed Potter off him and stood on unsteady legs. Humiliated, knowing Weasley heard everything Potter said to him. Draco ran out the room, pushing past Weasley.
Draco ran with no thought, just the blind need to escape the pain in his chest, he ran out of the common room and kept going until he reached the lower portion of the castle, the dungeons. It was late, past ten, and the empty hallways echoed his footsteps.
Draco knocked on Snape's workroom door, but no one answered. Dejected and nowhere to go, he walked deeper into the dungeons; the darkness fit him he decided. At the end of the hall stood another door cracked open. Draco always curious peeked inside; it looked like a bedroom.
His hand touched the door causing it to creak and he jumped back startled at how loud it sounded in the empty hall. "Come in, whoever is out there." Snape's strong voice commanded.
Knees shaking and feeling foolish, Draco debated on if he should obey Snape or run back to his room where Potter was...Potter's words flashed back in his head like a prophecy. Draco knew Potter was right he would never make friends at Hogwarts. Suddenly the door opened in front of him. Draco gasped and stepped back startled. He relaxed slightly when he realized it was only Snape, cast mostly in shadows; the fireplace lighted the bedroom.
"Draco what are you doing here? And where is your escort?" Snape asked tying his black dressing robe more securely at the waist.
Draco opened his mouth to explain, only to realize he did not know the answer. He just knew he couldn't stand being near Potter another minute, and Snape was here. "Cat got your tongue?" Snape said archly, and stood aside and swept one arm inwards, beckoning Draco to enter his bedroom.
Nervous, but with nowhere else to go, Draco entered the shadowy room and stood still, flinching when the heavy wooden door shut behind him.
"I just finished taking a bath, wait here while I got get some decent clothes on." Snape said walking towards the back of the room, where presumably a bath was located. Draco hadn't noticed his professor's wet hair until the man came back toweling it dry, a dry robe replacing the wet one he wore earlier.
"Here sit down," Snape said offering Draco a seat next him, near the fireplace. The armchairs looked soft and comfortable. "So what can I do for you?" Snape asked sitting down on one of the armchairs.
Draco sat across from Snape confused and sort of turned on. Snape's bare chest peeked out the top of the robe, and he wondered how Snape's chest hair would feel against his cheek. Blushing at his line of thought, Draco looked down at his fingers, which were clenching his robes into wrinkles. What was wrong with him? Why did Snape attract him so much? He still liked girls didn't he? Anguished, Draco looked at Snape, and realized his professor made him feel special, which he desperately needed right now. Draco stood and walked to Snape; leaned over and kissed the older man on his slightly parted mouth.
Severus sat stunned, as Draco pushed his robe down, revealing his naked chest, and lapped at his nipples. He barely noticed the added weight of Draco sitting on his legs. Sensations he hadn't felt in years coursed through his body. Draco's mouth used just the right pressure and bites to arouse him. With no warning, Draco covered his mouth and kissed him again.
One hand slid down his chest and came to a rest on his crotch. Draco's skilled fingers wrapped around his erection and startled Severus out of his daze. He jerked from Draco's deep kiss, gasping, out of breath, and attempted to stand. Draco's heavy weight thwarted his efforts, so he settled disentangling Draco's fingers without knocking him onto the floor.
Meanwhile, Draco's mouth bit his neck and licked him in every spot designed to drive a man wild. Someone trained him well. The cold thought wiped all arousal out of his system.
"Draco, get off me. Now." Severus ordered his voice firm and harsh. He grabbed Draco's wrist before those nimble fingers found their way under his pants.
Draco's entire body froze; he pulled back, a startled widening of gray eyes betrayed his shock. Trembling fingers gradually loosened their hold on Severus' robe. Draco slid off his lap and backed away closer to the door. Ready to bolt at any moment, Severus thought, standing quickly. In case he had to catch Draco before the boy ran out of here in a panic.
The firelight allowed Severus to see the pure confusion and humiliation in Draco's eyes. "Why don't you want me?" Draco asked miserably, hugging his arms to his chest, his white-blond hair framed his lovely face. Draco never looked more tempting.
"Shouldn't the question be 'why do you want me'?" Severus asked gently, waiting for his body to calm down. "Draco I'm your teacher this is wrong, you know it's wrong."
"If it's so wrong then why do I feel so strongly that I want to be with you?" Draco asked his voice raising, challenging him with a look, his red lips inviting ravishment.
Severus ran a hand through his hair, and reminded himself of all the reasons why Professors did not sleep with their students.
He had to steer Draco from this path.
"Do you really want me to bend you over that bed and fuck you?" Severus asked honestly and watched closely for Draco's reaction.
Draco's eyes widened, scared, and his body froze as if petrified. "No." he whispered almost too quietly to hear.
"You came here upset about something. You wanted comforting and thought if you spread your legs for me, I would give you what you need? Is that it?" Severus grew angrier thinking of the damage Voldemort had done to Draco.
"It's not like that!" Draco said fiercely, "You make it sound dirty."
"It is dirty, Draco. You were offering your body to me, so I'd comfort you." Severus retied his robe and stood in front of the fireplace, one hand braced against the mantle.
Shaking, Draco sat on the plush armchair. "I'm sorry." His voice came out as a whisper. "I wasn't thinking." Spirit plunging into the blackest depths of despair Draco stared blankly ahead of him.
How could he have been so stupid to think that Snape would want his touch? Snape didn't like men; he didn't like men, did he? This summer Draco came so many times when other men fucked him, it had to mean something.
"Draco, don't blame yourself. Voldemort has had decades of practice in manipulating people. He's hurt you in ways that we still don't know about yet. He's confused you to the point where you don't know your boundaries anymore, or if you are interested in men or women."
Tears dripped down Draco's cheeks; Snape didn't hate him after all. He looked up when Snape turned to face him; the older man wiped the tears from his cheeks with both thumbs. Draco leaned into the gentle touch, closing his eyes. When he opened them again, Snape was kneeling in front of him, almost eye level. Draco sniffed back his tears.
"Why don't you tell me what was bothering you when you came downstairs tonight?" Severus requested softly.
Draco hesitated, surprised by the question, but what did have to lose by opening up and speaking to his mentor. "Well it started like this..." Draco spoke of the conversation he had with Potter, the fight, and the floodgates opened. All of Draco's negative thoughts, doubts, and fears, fueled in part by Potter's hurtful words, unleashed themselves.
Severus let Draco talk until the boy ran out of words. By the time Draco finished, past midnight, Severus felt Draco had made some progress.
Draco did not speak of the events, which transpired over the summer; however listening to him talk of his life at Hogwarts showed how much Draco had changed. For the better in some ways, Draco no longer a snobbish spoiled brat had his sense of self-worth completely knocked out of him, and it left him vulnerable.
Draco would lap up any kindness offered and if the person demanded more, Severus doubted Draco could stop himself from going along.
He dressed to escort Draco back to Gryffindor Tower. Severus did not relax until the Fat Lady closed behind Draco. His charge safely in his dorm, Severus walked back to his room. He wanted to help Draco regain his confidence; however, no solutions came to mind. As he lay in bed staring at the canopy above him, Severus admitted defeat for the night and fell asleep.
The next morning came early. Draco dragged himself out of bed and dressed for the day. He ignored Potter completely, still upset at what Potter said the evening before. Walking to breakfast gave him a headache; neither Weasley nor Potter spoke to each other. Granger glanced at him.
"What did I miss?" She asked cautiously, as they descended the stairs. The hostile atmosphere increased.
"I don't want to talk about it." Potter snapped. He pushed past Granger and walked fast. They would have to run to keep up.
"Don't bother Hermione. He'll get over it." Ron said.
Granger did not look satisfied with the answers but she nodded and continued down the stairs. Breakfast never seemed so far away, Draco thought as he followed Granger down the stairs.
At the bottom, he paused and waited for Weasley to catch up. The other boy cast him guilty glances ever since they woke up this morning. Draco knew Weasley wanted to talk with him, but Draco ignored Weasley's troubled eyes, unable to bear the memories from last night, just yet.
The rest of the day passed quickly, almost too quickly, Draco thought standing outside Snape's workroom at seven. He blushed remembering last night, would Snape look at him differently? Last night when they walked back to the Gryffindor Tower, he felt better. Now embarrassed, and shy, he stood outside the workroom door unable to enter.
"Well are you going to go in?" Hermione asked tapping her foot, holding a bag of books in her hands, impatient to leave the dungeons.
"Um sure, just thinking about something." He muttered and opened the door. Snape stood at his worktable, two cauldrons smoked and packets of ingredients lay out on the table in no discernable order.
Snape's black hair tied back today; this potion must react badly to human hair Draco thought walking further into the room. He set his backpack down on a desk and went up to the worktable.
"You're late." Snape commented dryly adding a dash of something green to the potion in cauldron one, every movement efficient.
"Only a few minutes," he protested.
"Nevertheless endeavor to arrive on time tomorrow night. Now hand me the sprig of parsley near your hand."
And that was it; they worked in companionable silence for the next two hours. Snape instructed Draco on each step he took in making this new potion. They finished cleaning off the table and bottling the new potions safely half past nine.
Draco sat on his stool and patiently waited for Weasley or Potter to arrive. The silence bothered him as it stretched out. After a moment of reflection, he admitted, running from Gryffindor Tower last night could have ended badly. Hogwarts has many hidden corridors and rooms. Bored, Draco swung his legs back and forth and almost fell off his stool.
Professor Snape, unhappy with the twenty-minute delay, paced. "Do you know who your escort is tonight?" Snape asked frowning at the door.
"Weasley or Potter, were supposed to come by..."
Before he finished, the door banged open, and Weasley stumbled in the room, his face redder than normal. "Sorry I'm late," he panted, leaned over, planted his hands on his thighs, and took deep breaths.
Draco's mouth dropped open. Weasley stood straight after a moment, sweat streamed down the sides of his cheeks. His eyes widened in fear at Snape's glare.
Snape spoke before Weasley had the chance to say more. "Next time you are late I will take House Points. One for every minute, you are late. You may go."
Draco jumped off the stool, grabbed his book bag, and followed Weasley out the workroom. He wanted to throttle Weasley; did the other boy know how to keep time?
They tromped up several flights of stairs before Weasley stopped suddenly. Draco bumped into him and had to grab the back of Weasley's school robe to keep from losing his balance on the steep stairwell. "Hey! Watch it." Draco said annoyed, he did not fancy sleeping in the hospital from breaking his bones falling down the stairs.
"Oh sorry." Weasley said turning to face him. "I need to talk to you."
"Can we do that someplace less threatening to my health?" Draco gestured at the narrow stairwell.
Weasley bit his lip, his eyes guarded. For the first time Draco, noticed Weasley had dark circles under his eyes. "Um this is the best place I could find. I just wanted to apologize for what Harry said yesterday. It wasn't right for him to say that to you, everyone in Gryffindor can tell you've changed."
Speechless, Draco stared at Weasley; he expected the verbal abuse to continue from yesterday. Of all the people to make amends with him, Ron Weasley would be the last person on his list. There had to be a catch somewhere in that apology. "Is someone making you apologize?" Draco demanded coldly, too afraid to accept any overturns of friendship at face value.
Ron's mouth dropped open in astonishment and then he got angry. "Draco, I realize you've been through a lot, but really! Sometimes people do try to do the right thing. It is too bad you are too thick to see it. I'm doing this on my own free will. You really are suspicious; soon you'll be like Mad-Eye Moody."
"Hey! I'm not nearly as bad as him." Draco protested indignant at the thought of someone comparing him to that one eyed freak.
"Look, forget about it okay. Do you still want to go to Hogsmeade on Friday? I told Harry I could take you instead, since he's still having a fit about you contaminating our room by your mere presence." Weasley snorted with humor at some private joke, Draco could only assume.
Draco paid attention to Weasley's eyes, and saw truth in them. Weasley made an effort it had to count for something. "Sure I don't mind going with you to Hogsmeade, you're better company than Potter anyway."
They quickly set up a meeting time at four on Friday and went back to their Tower.
In bed and halfway asleep, Draco realized he didn't need the sleep potion after all.
The next few days passed, and Draco looked forward to visiting Hogsmeade on Friday. He hadn't left Hogwarts since school started. Ron picked him up every night after his sessions with Snape, and they made short conversations not completely used to each other as non-enemies. However, he agreed to call Weasley by his given name Ron.
Friday afternoon arrived and Draco rushed to make his deadline with Ron. He re-counted the coins Snape gave him. He paced the bedroom, fed Starfire unhealthy OWL snacks, very bad for her, but Draco knew she loved them. About ten minutes after four, Ron arrived.
"Sorry I'm late."
"It's no problem." Draco used to Ron's chronic lateness, did not mind anymore.
"Ginny asked if she could come too and since she's my sister, I couldn't say no. She's waiting downstairs." Amused by Ron's plight, Draco smirked while the other boy ran to grab his own small collection of money. Draco waited by the door and followed Ron out the room.
Ginny and Granger stood together in the common room, both wearing warm cloaks. Granger spoke quickly, "Ron is it okay if I come with you? I need to get some ingredients for a potion I'm trying to brew..."
"Don't look at me," Draco said quickly when he saw Ron glance his way; privately he hoped Ron would tell the girls to go with each other.
"Hermione..." Ron wheedled softly, "Draco and I made plans days ago to go to Hogsmeade..."
"And I don't see why I can't go with you at least down the hill." She butted in sharply. Her eyes determined. Draco knew she was coming, whether Ron wanted her to or not.
"I don't mind if you come Hermione." Draco spoke sincerely, reminding himself to use her first name. He barely remembered to make his voice sound friendly as well.
"Hello Ginny." Draco said while they walked towards the common room exit.
"Hello Draco, are you getting a costume in town tonight?"
"Yeah I decided to go to the ball after all."
She smiled brightly and then blushed red. "I'm going too. I'm not sure how to dance yet, but Ron said he'd try to show me. But one time at home he tripped over his own feet while practicing in his room."
"Ginny!" Ron exclaimed his face heating up.
Draco laughed, and was surprised to hear Hermione and Ginny joining in.
Draco could not remember having this much fun in a long time, so the whole way to Hogsmeade told all the jokes he knew including some he created. Ron of course joined and then it was a contest of who could make the best jokes. Even Hermione had a few good ones.
When they arrived at Hogsmeade, the girls split off to do their shopping together while they walked to a costume shop. "So why did the three witches cross the road?" Ron asked.
Draco wondered if this punch line would be any better than the last one. Ron's jokes were so bad they were actually funny.
"I don't know."
"To get to the other side." Ron said simply and started laughing.
"What! That's not a joke!" Draco protested laughing in spite of himself.
Draco felt alive for the first time in months. They arrived at the costume shop and entered. The dark wooden walls softly lit by candlelight created a cozy atmosphere. On one wall hung a row of different types of masks, feathered, ivory seashell masks, clown masks, and some he could only guess.
"Hey wow they do have a lot here. I'm going to get a mask too this year. It just doesn't seem right to not have something to dress up in." Ron came up along side him sharing his appreciation of the wide selection available.
Draco moved down the row, looking for the right mask. Ron did the same, going the opposite direction. He saw a black and silver-feathered mask about a foot from the floor; the silver amongst black caught his attention immediately. Draco carefully picked it off the hook.
Ron bit his bottom lip trying to decide between a ghoul, and a blue pixie mask. Masks designed to hide the entire face hung one row up. Tempted Draco browsed the selection, holding the silver-feathered mask carefully. He reached the end of the row without seeing anything as nice as the mask he already chose.
Draco went to the mirror in the corner and tried on his selection; the elegant feathers had silver shooting out in starburst patterns, impossible to tell if the feathers were real or dyed. Sighing Draco took of the mask and looked for the price tag.
"Hey which do you like better?" Ron's muffled voice asked him.
Draco turned around and burst out laughing. The pixie mask was just too much. "Please tell me you aren't planning on buying that."
Ron took it off smiling, "Well I gave it some thought, about half a second actually, but I think I like the other one better."
Though they had picked out their favorite, they continued to try on different masks and making fun of each other. Finally, they both agreed that they were hungry and should get back to Hogwarts.
The hideous ghoul mask, Ron picked, sat next to his on the counter, however, Ron doled out the right amount of coins without complaint. Draco's black and silver mask took all the money Snape gave him.
Draco leaned against the counter waiting for the shop owner to wrap their purchases. The doorbell chimed and he looked up and froze. His good mood wiped away by the sight of Vincent and Gregory entering, Pansy followed close behind with some other girls from Slytherin. All chattering and giggling, however once they saw him they abruptly stopped speaking. Their expressions hardened into hate and disgust. Ron, searching through a set of wizard cards, looked up to see why the noise stopped. He sucked in his breath and straightened, his body tensing with anticipation of a confrontation.
Draco took a deep breath and forced himself to remain calm, leaning against the counter, he'd be damned before he let this bunch of losers know they scared him, however, he prudently slipped his hand to his belt and gripped his wand, and prayed they'd remember they were in public.
Pansy, the first to break the awkward silence said, "Come on there is no one here worth our notice." She sniffed as she walked past Draco, leading her entourage of friends. They followed her attitude and ignored Draco and Ron.
"Whore." Vincent spat walking past him with Gregory at his heels. Gregory sneered at him with contempt and a small glint of lust in his dull brown eyes.
The shop owner returned carrying their purchases, smiling warmly, not noticing how the tension shot up in her brief absence. Ron and him took their new masks and hurried out the shop into the cool evening dusk. Draco saw the stars.
"Come on!" Ron said grabbing his arm and propelling him forward, onto the road leading back to Hogwarts. It wasn't until Hogsmeade was out of sight that they slowed down to catch their breaths.
"Man I thought we were goners when they showed up," Ron said, his eyes wide and confused.
"Me too." Draco admitted and rubbed his arm across his sweaty forehead. "I thought at the very least they'd try hexing us."
Ron looked him straight in the eyes, and said fiercely, "Crabbe is an idiot and probably descended from trolls. I wouldn't worry about anything he has to say."
Draco nodded, swallowing his hurt pride at Vincent Crabbe's cruel words, all the more cruel by the hint of truth in them, "I think his mom's side of the family is descended from harpies. It would explain the sheer ugliness..." Draco stated, already pushing the incident to the back of his mind.
They walked for a while trying to find better insults for describing Draco's former Slytherin friends, trying to recapture their earlier mood. Before they reached the school grounds, Ron stopped suddenly and Draco paused next to him, the wind wiped their cloaks around them, and only the torches lighting the road illuminated their way forward.
"Draco, I just wanted you to know that I don't hate you anymore." Ron spoke calmly but with surprisingly sincerity.
Ron started walking again, leaving Draco to stare at his retreating figure with a dumfounded expression on his face.
Saturday morning Dean, Seamus, and Longbottom woke first, and early. Draco heard them and managed to ignore their noise for about twenty minutes, however once they started slamming doors, opening their trunks, and speaking louder, Draco woke. He groaned and buried his face in his pillow, already forgetting Ron's strange dreams. Hating the Halloween Ball, Draco reluctantly climbed out of bed and stumbled through his morning routine with sleep-blurred eyes. Ron and Potter resembled zombies as they prepared for the day.
After breakfast, Granger volunteered Draco and about ten other Gryffindors to help with the decorations in the Great Hall. The house elves had set up the heavier stuff, but the students allowed to add their own personal touches, took this advantage to show off. He spent a few hours hanging black and orange banners and obeying Granger's orders to move the orange banner more the right or left.
Other houses had their own decorations. He didn't find out until later that there was a contest for which house decorated their side of the Great Hall the best. No wonder Granger sounded like an army officer, giving out orders. Draco had to admire her calm efficiency and her perfectionism.
Afternoon brought relief; he managed to slip away from Granger's notice right after lunch. He latched himself to Ron's arm and demanded the other boy take him away from the Great Hall right now.
Ron dragged him to their room; they grabbed their brooms, and went outside to fly. Draco wanted to feel the sun on his cheeks and feel the wind running through his hair. He wanted to feel alive, in a way only flying ever could. Students from all houses stood on the Quidditch Pitch. They started an impromptu Quidditch game.
Everyone looked at Draco curiously but no one said anything with Ron by his side, eventually they decided to play Gryffindors and Hufflepuff against Ravenclaws and Slytherins.
Draco felt the familiar excitement fill his stomach as his feet lifted off the ground; he hadn't ridden since last school year. The game started and Draco knew immediately no one playing had the talent or skill to play Quidditch.
Some hung onto their brooms for dear life, while others would drop the Quaffle, and almost everyone squeaked and dodged their head out of the way of the hurtling Bludgers. It was like no Quidditch game Draco had ever played in, and he had fun. He was the best player and Seeker. Potter helped Granger in the ballroom and missed the game.
Draco floated above the field searching for the Golden Snitch, his counterpart Seeker, a Ravenclaw girl stayed on the opposite side.
The game not as rough as the House matches, gave Draco time to adjust to riding his broom again. The scores remained even for some time and both sides tired from playing in less than an hour. The sluggish Bludgers presented no threat. Then as he thought everyone would quit playing, in the lower corner of the field he saw the Snitch! Thrilled he angled his broom and shot off after the Snitch, dodging around players, focused on one thing only. Ron came up on his side and batted a Bludger away with a strong swing.
He didn't know her name but the Ravenclaw girl was surprisingly fast, her eyes followed the Snitch almost as soon as he started flying after it.
Draco could hear people screaming down below, cheering them on. The Snitch dropped down about a foot from the ground and Draco continued to follow, quickly gaining a lead on the fast golden ball.
A Bludger swerved at him and Draco dodged, keeping an eye on his target. A girlish scream distracted him; he turned and saw the Ravenclaw Seeker fall six feet, landing hard on the ground. Draco looked long enough to see her sit, one hand rubbing her head. Luckily, he didn't lose sight of the Snitch. He chased it, urging his broom to move faster, but the fluttery Snitch flew just out of his reach. Draco stretched and grabbed the Snitch with one sure grip and promptly lost his balance. He managed to keep on hand on the handle and that's all that saved him from falling over twenty feet to the ground.
Swearing, he wrapped his arm over the broom handle and concentrated on lowering the broom, there was no way to get back on it, with one hand full with the Golden Snitch. He let himself fall the last three feet.
Ron was the first to reach him, "Draco!! We won!" He screamed with joy, as though they'd just won the Quidditch World Cup. Draco smiled happy that he'd finally won something even if it wasn't a real game.
A few other Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs came up and congratulated him, some actually seemed sincere. Draco didn't say much but he stayed by Ron's side as the other boy talked with some of his friends.
A tentative tap on his arm caught Draco's attention, he turned around and faced the, he now realized, pretty Ravenclaw girl from the other team, "Hi, I'm Cassandra, you probably don't know me since I'm in with the forth years but I just wanted to let you know that you were very impressive up there." She smiled her blue eyes shinning with life and happiness; her long blonde hair blew gently across her face with each push of wind. Draco felt like someone punched him in the stomach. She wasn't pretty she was gorgeous. She walked off with a small wave before Draco had a chance to gather his wits and reply.
Ron slapped him on the shoulder and laughed, "Come on Draco, close your mouth, you might catch a fly. Maybe tonight you can find her again." Blushing, Draco quickly closed his mouth.
Shaking his head ruefully, Draco smiled remembering that she came to him first and introduced herself and she liked his flying skills. He joined Ron's group and listened to them talk game strategy; they replayed the game using the ground as their matchboard. The others accepted him and didn't say anything when he sat down to get more comfortable.
The rest of the afternoon passed quickly, and soon it was time to go inside, take showers, and prepare for dinner. The Halloween Ball followed dinner. Draco and Ron talked about Quidditch non-stop on the way to their room. Luckily, Ron was an avid Quidditch fan.
Potter, already in the room, when they showed up, didn't say anything about their cold chapped cheeks or the lively glint in their eyes. Ron broke the silence. "Harry, we won! I know it wasn't a real game, but we won when Draco caught the Golden Snitch. You should have been there. It was fantastic!"
Draco didn't have the heart to tell Ron; if Potter were there, Draco would not have had a chance to play Seeker.
"I've heard about the game from everyone it seems like. For a spur of the moment game, it drew a lot of attention. I wish I could have seen it but I was helping Hermione. If she ever needs a job, I'm sure the military would take her. I think they may need drill sergeants." Potter pretended to sound happy for Ron, but when his eyes met Draco's, he frowned unhappily before looking away.
"Well right now I'm looking forward to dinner. Harry have I shown you my mask yet?" Ron asked going to his trunk and pulling out the mask he bought yesterday.
Draco flexed his shoulder blades, slightly aching from the activity this afternoon, his damp shirt stuck to his skin. Ignoring, Ron and Potter, Draco gathered his shower supplies and left the room.
He returned to an empty room twenty minutes later. Slowly, Draco prepared for the evening; he retrieved his mask and black-silver lined cloak from his trunk and laid them on his bed.
His one formal evening suit, from the Christmas Ball last year, hung in the wardrobe. It no longer fit properly, however Draco found a nifty spell to help him. Draco tapped his wand against his pants, hanging in the closet and enlarged them.
He took them off the hanger and put them on; Draco needed a belt and had to fold the legs under and use pins to keep them from falling to the ground, hoping he'd grow into the trousers later. His shirt needed similar adjustments after his enlargement spell. The dress shoes fit tightly. Draco refused to wear his regular shoes, just because Ron and Potter did not dress for the occasion didn't mean he should not.
The clock chimed, reminding him it was time to go. He grabbed his cloak, with a tap of his wand; it fell to his feet instead of mid-calf. He held the feathered mask to his face, said the spell that would hold it on for the next hours. He stared at his reflection in the mirror; the mask matched his cloak perfectly. His gray eyes looked as though they were part of the design of the mask.
There was no hiding his odd whitish blond hair. He sometimes wished his hair looked ordinary. Too many men this summer found his head of hair fascinating. With the mask covering his face, it was easier to look at his reflection. In the silver plated mirror, the door behind him opened, and Ron and Potter entered the room. Both cleaned and dressed, they wore Muggle clothing under their robes.
"We were waiting in the Common Room with Hermione, but then I realized I forgot my mask." Ron explained going to his trunk, the mask lay right on top. "Are you almost done?"
Draco gave his appearance one last look over; he could not see the alterations he made to his trousers. The mask was firmly in place.
Ron teased Potter about not wearing a costume as they made their way to the dinning hall. Granger and Ginny walked ahead of them the feathers of their masks swaying with their movements.
Dinner was a loud and colorful affair, the din of noise made it hard for Draco to hear what Ginny and Hermione were saying to him. The feathers of their masks caught his attention every time they turned and the colors shifted. The butterfly designs of their masks were remarkable, and probably cost more than what he paid.
Draco looked up at the head of the dinning hall, Professor Snape picked at his food frowning, looking out of place next to the decked out professors on his left and right. Few people arrived out of costume, Potter one such person had everyone asking him why the dumb git wasn't wearing a costume? After all, the boy had money. Jostled a hundred times during dinner annoyed Draco to no end.
They left the Great Hall for twenty minutes while the house elves cleared the tables and finished setting up the room for the dance. Draco stayed close to Ron, Ginny, Granger, and Potter. The crowd made him nervous. Ron placed his hand on Draco's arm and his anxiety dimmed to a lower level. Hundreds of conversations going on at once made it difficult to speak. The excitement levels increased, by the time the doors opened Draco was amazed to realize he was also excited to enter. The room should look much different with the lights lowered; Dumbledore had cast a spell on the room during dinner so no one could see the finished product until the Ball started.
Everyone entering the Great Hall gasped with awe, everyone except Hermione, she smiled with smug satisfaction. The band was already playing a lively number. With a surprising lack of self-consciousness, couples were already on the dance floor moving to the music. Draco felt himself relaxing behind his mask; the room was dark, with orange pumpkins floating in the air with grotesque smiles glowing with soft candlelight. Cobwebs streamed from all corners of the room, dark corners held tables holding bowls of punch and candied snacks.
With all the students crowded against the wall and dancing in the middle of the dance floor, Draco felt anonymous for the first time since coming to Hogwarts. It was just dark enough for no one to recognize him but enough light so he wouldn't be nervous about Voldemort attacking him. Feeling the music thrumming through his blood, Draco tapped his foot against the floor; he stayed with Ron, Ginny, Granger, and Potter when they went to get drinks.
Draco watched the dance floor like a hawk wanting to go out there but not sure how to make his feet move in the right direction.
Ginny smiling behind her mask, her eyes bright, she turned to him. "Draco would you dance with me?" she asked happily confident he'd say yes.
He grabbed her hand and pulled her out to the dance floor to forget everything.
Draco didn't see Ron's mouth drop open in protest, or hear Granger's soft laugh at Potter's dumbfounded expression.
Draco didn't know how long he danced with Ginny. Definitely long, enough for another boy swirl Ginny away. Draco found another partner quickly enough, they danced for minutes, Draco spun her around and golden curls fanned out behind her. It hit him then whom he was dancing with; no one else had hair that long or golden. He almost stumbled in shock, but quickly regained his balance in time to swing his partner out of another couple's way.
Cassandra, quick and graceful kept up with him as they danced another before a friend of hers came up and swept her away. Sweating and thirsty, Draco made his way to one of the tables with the punch. He looked around for Hermione or Ron, but didn't see either one. Shrugging off the anxiety, he quickly filled a cup and drank, then had another cup; the juice, sweet and sugary, filled him with more energy.
Relaxed for the first time in forever, he wandered around the ballroom enjoying the music, the dancing, and the strange costumes adorning some of his fellow classmates. Twenty minutes later, Draco walked towards the exit, too hot from the press of dancing bodies in the Great Hall. The gardens lighted with lanterns showed how many people had spilled outside. The veranda and steep stairs heading down to the gardens were crowded with people talking and laughing. Tables set up outside with snacks and drinks were as crowded as the ones inside. Music spilled out the open doors.
Professor Snape stood next to the stone railing talking with Dumbledore. Not wanting Snape to see him; he ducked out the way and nimbly wove his way through the clumps of people and down the stairs. In the garden, Draco saw Ron, the boy's red hair easily distinguished him, as well as his ghoul mask, and not many students chose scary masks.
Draco walked to his new friend. "Ron what are you doing down here?"
"I'm looking for my sister. She's disappeared. I wouldn't care, but I promised my mum that I'd watch out for her. Have you seen her?"
"No, I was looking for everyone else. You're the first one I found."
Ron nodded, "I'm going into the gardens to search."
Draco looked out into the dark garden. "She went out there?"
"I don't know? I've already looked everywhere else for her." Ron shrugged his shoulders.
"I have nothing better to do," Draco admitted also thinking it was a lot cooler outside than inside the Great Hall. His clothes stuck to him badly.
They walked into the darker gardens, following a grass path. Draco knew the garden was a small maze, but at night in the dark, the garden grew much larger. The taller hedges made looking over them impossible. They followed the path by moonlight. Draco heard giggling on the other side of the hedges but had no way of telling who was there.
"Are we lost?" Ron asked, "I mean I could have sworn we've been down this way before."
Draco feeling the same thing, answered, "We just need to keep taking rights and we'll get out. Of course we aren't lost." Draco confidently started walking.
Ron followed silently, their footsteps barely heard on the soft pelt of grass.
Ten minutes later, wondering down another dead end, they heard a muffled shriek come through the hedge, it sounded like a girl.
"Ron follow me!" Draco yelled and ran towards the sounds of struggle. Panting for air, heart racing, Draco sped up. Bursting into a clearing at a full speed, Draco slammed into someone and knocked the person down.
Draco fell on top and avoided injury, though winded. He looked up and saw a circle of black robed students with monster masks covering their identities. In the middle of the circle stood Ginny Weasley, she sobbed half-naked in her white body slip. Noticing all this with a glance Draco jumped to his feet, pulled out his wand, and waved it at the group of boys.
"What do you guys think you are doing!" Draco hollered, genuinely appalled at the sight in front of him.
"Ginny!" Ron shouted and reached for his wand.
Ginny sobbed too hard to answer. Draco wondered briefly if she was hurt or relieved to see her brother.
"Let go of her." Draco ordered coldly, pointing his wand at the tallest of the boys holding Ron's sister.
"But we were just having some fun." One of the boys said and the rest laughed.
"Well she isn't," Draco said.
A strange calm settled over him as he analyzed the situation. Six of the black robed boys, taller and thicker on the shoulders, had to be seventh or six year students. Most likely, from Slytherin unless a Professor arrived soon the odds of winning this fight were slim.
"Let go of her and we won't tell any of the professors about this incident." Draco compromised not sure of his and Ron's chances of beating the other boys.
Ron stripped off his mask and yelled, "That's my sister you bastards, let her go or I'll beat you up."
Cringing inside Draco didn't have long to wait for the group to laugh. "Fine we'll let her go if; Draco takes her place in our game."
Shit, they recognized him!
"I don't think so," Ron said surprising him. "This game has gone far enough. Just let her go before a professor comes and you all get in trouble."
One of the boys stepped towards him his wand outstretched in his hand and said, "By the time help arrives it'll be too late. Give us Draco and you can have the girl. We were instructed to remind Malfoy of his place."
Shivering, Draco's mind went blank as soon as he needed to recall attack spells he learned over the years. Only one spell came to mind. Showing bravado he didn't feel, Draco said, "You're not going to get me so just forget about it."
Then before he could question why he wasn't already running away, he swished his wand at the speaker of the group and yelled, "Stupefy!"
His first target blasted backwards, and Draco swished his wand already aiming at another boy. He used the same spell. Ginny dropped to the ground, her white slip about all he could see in the dark. Next to him, Ron yelled out some hexes and spells.
It evened the odds but not enough. Before Draco had time to call out Stupefy again, someone shoved their shoulder into his stomach and knocked him down. His head hit the ground hard; all the wind whooshed out of him. He heard an indigent yell when they caught Ron.
"Draco, fight!" Ron shouted. Still under Ron's command, Draco started punching and kicking the body on top of his. Black spots danced in his vision but the command would not let him stop struggling.
The boy on top of him, cursed just before a fist clipped Draco on the jaw; which paralyzed him briefly while his brain analyzed the pain signals. Dizzy, the boy on top seized his wrists and forced them to the ground near Draco's head. Someone else's hands grabbed ankles, holding him immobile. He panicked, bucking and twisting; he let out one sharp cry before a hand clamped over his mouth. "Merlin," the boy above him said, gripping Draco's wrists tighter.
Rough hands lifted his robe and anonymous fingers unclasped his belt. Draco continued twisting his body; and shifting his legs against the hands holding his ankles. None of it helped, there were two many hands holding him down.
"Let go of him!" Ron yelled. Draco saw Ron on his knees next to Ginny her eyes shinny with tears. It seemed like more students arrived during the fight, enough to hold him, Ron, and Ginny captive.
Biting the palm over his mouth earned him another slap. The weight on his chest increased. Rough hands pulled down his trousers and underwear, which caught at his ankles, until someone pulled off his shoes and threw them aside. Humiliated that Ron and Ginny could see him this way, Draco raised his legs to hide himself, but someone's hands wrenched his thighs apart and settled between them. Still struggling, Draco endeavored to think of something, anything that would stop what was happening.
"Where is that mark supposed to be? This is annoying, he won't stop fighting." The boy said switching hands to cover his mouth.
Draco tried to calm himself, which was hard when he could barely breathe.
"Can he still breathe, we don't want to kill him just have some fun?"
"I can't fuck him with you on top of his chest."
"Does he have enough air?"
"If he stopped fighting he'd have enough air." An amused voice said from near his head, he turned and saw scuffed shoes.
"I can't get off his chest until he stops fighting or do you want him to scream for help?"
"The mark should be on his arm."
"Ah I found it."
A warm hand pressed over the mark and a voice said the keyword, but they couldn't have known that someone had already activated it. Unless Ron ordered him to please obey their captors he would keep fighting, however if he played along, maybe they'd let him go?
Surrounded by masked faces and disembodied voices disturbed Draco. He fought against the spell as well as the hands holding him down. Nothing worked, Ron told him to fight back and until told otherwise, he'd continue to follow Ron's commands. Shit, why wouldn't Ron say something?
"Did it work?"
"I don't know he's still struggling." Hands tightened on his ankles hurting him, he cried out against the hand over mouth.
"Give him an order." The ringleader ordered.
"Stop fighting." Draco wished he could follow the order, his arm muscles hurt from the strain. Draco looked at Ron and pleaded with his eyes. Ron's grim faced nodded his head, instantly Draco's body went limp. He interpreted the signal to mean play along.
"Hey it worked!"
Draco wished he could recognize the voices so in case he survived this he would know who to report, however, all the voices sounded the same muffled by their masks.
"Hurry, before someone really does come along." The boy holding Ginny ordered.
The boy climbed off his chest, and Draco took a deep shuddering breath.
"It'll be easier to fuck him if he was on his knees." The masked boy holding his ankles remarked loosening his fingers. Draco fought against the impulse to cover his nakedness.
"Turn on your stomach."
Playing along Draco rolled over; his numb arms tingled as his blood rushed to his fingertips; he gasped from the pain. Ron struggled against the boy holding him.
Draco dragged in deep breaths trying to prepare to run when the opportunity presented itself. "On your knees," The one in command ordered.
"I never thought to see Malfoy so submissive." The group laughed at the remark.
Gritting his teeth, anger over riding panic, Draco slowly knelt on his knees; no one stood close watch over him, falsely thinking they had him firmly in their grasp.
A warm hand settled on his buttocks, he flinched. "Wait should we have him take off the rest of his cloths, I don't want his robes getting in the way. Also get rid of the mask on his head it looks stupid"
"I didn't know you would be so picky. Hey slut, take off your robe and mask."
Draco's robe fell back in place, covering him again, when he knelt straighter. Draco judged the distance to the opening in the hedge where he could lose himself in the maze; however, he could not afford to lose his robe. His white undershirt would give him away for sure.
Shaking, he removed his mask first. He set it aside careful with the feathers. Then he moved his fingers to his neck to unbutton the robe. He shifted his knees until he was no longer kneeling on any part of his robe, when he made his move he could not afford to trip over his school robes.
Draco watched Ron out of the corner of his eye; abruptly Ron went limp and slipped his mouth free of the hand covering it. "Run and get help!" He called out quickly before the hand quickly covered his mouth again.
Draco sprang forward using the ground to boost off, his legs shaky, but with Ron's command to get help, his body overrode the exhaustion and he sprinted for all he was worth towards exit.
"Shit he's getting away!"
Footfalls behind him spurned him on and he picked his legs up higher and ran, he got the exit and made a sharp right, hoping he wasn't going to hit a dead end, if he did his escape would be very short lived.
"Stupefy!" Someone yelled and Draco twisted to the side hoping he'd dodge the spell.
He almost fell but somehow managed not too. He made another right at the next intersection then a left, he hoped if he made enough turns he'd run into someone friendly or at least lose the assholes chasing him.
Draco didn't know how long he ran; he knew it was past his normal endurance. Without Ron's spell to keep him running, Draco would have stopped minutes ago. His heart pounded painfully in his chest but he no longer heard any signs of pursuit. Draco rounded the next corner and ran into a tall dark figure. He bounced off and started to fall; until strong hands grabbed his arms and held him upright.
He screamed and began to struggle, hitting and kicking. He couldn't go back to that clearing; he'd barely escaped rape. He couldn't go through that ever again. Sobbing for air, he weakly punched the figure holding him. A sharp slap knocked him off his feet, too weak to stand anymore.
"Draco! Calm down!"
At the sound of the oh-so familiar and safe voice of Professor Snape, Draco cried for the first time since this ordeal began. He had never been so relieved to see a teacher in his life. He suddenly remembered Ginny and Ron stuck in the clearing. "Prof.. Prof..." he stuttered from trying to speak too quickly. "Ron, Ginny they need help! We were attacked!" He yelled scrambling to his feet again.
Snape pulled out his wand. "Where are they?"
Draco blanched realizing he had no idea; he had taken so many turns. "I don't know. I just ran and kept going until I lost them..."
"Don't worry. I can do a locating spell." Snape pulled out his wand and said a spell a glowing light appeared in midair and started darting away.
"Come along, the light will lead us to them." Snape ran after the light and for a while, Draco kept up until exhaustion caught him and pulled him down. Ron's spell was all that kept him going earlier despite his body's safeguards.
He saw Snape turn right and he followed at a distance. "Professor!" he called out realizing he could not keep up anymore.
Professor Snape stopped and returned to him. "Are you all right?" The man's concern was surprising.
Draco leaned back against the hedge panting to catch his breath. "I can't," another deep breath, "keep up with your pace." He admitted.
Snape nodded, "There is a spell which will decrease your weight if you'll allow me to use it?"
"Do it." Draco said pushing away from the hedge.
A minute later, Draco ran with Professor Snape 100 pounds lighter. Draco began to recognize parts of the maze he and Ron saw earlier. They came to the clearing, and Snape entered first. Draco followed close behind, his hand felt naked without his wand.
Two people, Ron and Ginny, sat in the clearing, tied back-to-back and gagged. They were trying to undo the knots in the ties when Ginny looked up and saw them.
Draco immediately rushed to their side to help with the knots.
"Draco stand back, there is a simple unknotting spell I can use. It's much quicker than bloodying your fingers." Snape said.
Nodding, he left Ron and Ginny to find his wand and trousers. The trousers, he found easily, along with his trampled and broken mask. The wand took more searching; he found the roughed up patch of grass where they held him down. From there he expanded his search, the wand took longer to find, hidden in the shadow of a tall hedge.
Distantly, Draco listened to Ginny crying and incoherent try to explain what happened to Professor Snape. "I got lost in the maze, and I ran into some boys who said they'd help me find a way out the maze. It was fun at first but when we came to this clearing they said some awfully mean things about my family." She started crying again, Ron hugged her, and grim faced Snape handed her a cloth to blow her nose.
Sniffling back her tears, she continued. "I tried to leave but one of them grabbed my wand, and another boy held my arm so I couldn't run. I won't repeat what they said but it wasn't nice. They pulled my robe off, and my dress, saying they wanted some fun tonight. I fought but there were too many of them. That is when Ron and Draco came to my rescue."
Some rescue, he thought and picked Ginny's robe off the ground, he handed it to her.
"What happened then?"
She put the robe on over her white slip, "They said if Draco took my place they'd let me go. Of course they were probably lying."
"Leave the speculation to me, Miss Weasley. I need facts." Snape said.
She nodded, "Sorry. Draco and Ron tried to help, but they were outnumbered..." She continued the story finishing with, "then they came back, tied Ron and me together and left, saying they'll get Draco later."
Draco walked away and came to a stop were his trampled mask lay in tatters on the grass. Ron came up to him, "Are you all right?" There were tears in the other boy's voice.
"I'm fine." There were tears in his as well.
Ron pulled him into a hug and at first Draco tensed at the contact, but too tired to fight anymore, he gave in. His hands clutched Ron's robes desperately, and he buried his face against Ron's shoulder, crying silent tears. Realizing at that moment Ron was slightly taller. A tentative hand patted his back and Ron's voice soft with compassion made soothing noises. "You're okay, you're okay."
"Draco, are you all right?" Ginny asked sounding close to tears. Draco looked up, to figure out where she was, and pulled her into the hug. She started crying against Ron's chest and the very thought of the picture they must make, caused Draco to start giggling. When Ron snorted and giggled, Draco laughed and held on tight to Ron, hysterical with relief.
"I'm okay," Ginny said shyly pulling back, "You two smell too much to stand next to for long."
Chuckling Draco pulled back from Ron and wiped his sleeve across his eyes, Ron did the same.
Draco glanced towards Snape, who stood looking at them with the strangest expression, until he noticed Draco staring at him. Then his face went carefully blank.
"Draco, come on lets leave." Ron said poking his arm, distracting Draco.
"Yes, of course. Lead the way."
A hand came down on his shoulder; "I'll lead the way if you don't mind. Need I remind you, that you were lost in the first place? Snape's condescending voice relieved Draco's worry. Snape would treat him the same as always.
Ron's mouth gapped open like a startled fish, but he and Ginny stepped aside to let Snape pass in front. A short time later, they followed Snape out of the maze. The party was already winding down by the time they returned. "You three come with me. I'm taking you to Headmaster's office."
Students stared at them as they walked by. Ginny and Draco's robes grass stained and torn, attracted attention, as well as their lack of masks.
"Ron! Ginny! Where were you?" Harry exclaimed pushing through some people to reach their side. "Hermione and I have been looking for you."
"I can't talk about it here." Ron said, "Where is Hermione?"
"She went to look for you in our tower." Harry paused finally noticing their disheveled appearance and Snape. He shut up.
"Mr. Potter your presence is not required at Headmaster Dumbledore's office. Unless you want more points taken from Gryffindor, you'd better go away. Now."
Harry opened his mouth and closed it abruptly probably figuring out that complaining was not going to change a thing. "Ron, I'll go tell Hermione that you're okay." He gave them all one long lingering look before turning and hurrying away. Probably afraid if he didn't leave fast enough Professor Snape would find any excuse to take points away from Gryffindor.
Ron walked next to his sister all the way to Dumbledore's office. Safe, sudden exhaustion caught up with Draco; his legs trembled with effort on every stairway they climbed.
Draco having visited Dumbledore's office a few times since he started school at Hogwarts was not surprised when Professor Snape sourly said, "sugar apple," a stairway appeared. Weary, Draco trudged after Ron and Ginny, letting Professor Snape follow last.
Dumbledore's office was much like he remembered, cluttered, pictures of former Hogwarts Headmasters snoozing on the wall, and a red phoenix perched on a stand preening it's wings.
Professor Snape paced, while they stood fidgeting and waiting for Dumbledore.
"Does he know we are here?" Ron impatiently tapped his foot.
"Of course." Snape didn't elaborate.
They waited for what felt like another thirty minutes but was probably only ten, before the door opened behind them and Dumbledore entered with Professor McGonagall.
"So these are the three that were attacked." Dumbledore said stepping closer to them, inspecting them behind his spectacles.
"Did any of you recognize the boys responsible for your attack?" Dumbledore asked.
"No." Ginny answered and then demanded, "How did you know about the attack?"
Dumbledore walked to his desk and leaned back against it, giving them all another one of those searching looks. "I heard about you three coming out of the gardens disheveled with Professor Snape. I was in the ballroom and by the time I left rumors of an attack on Mr. Malfoy, Miss Weasley, and you, Mr. Weasley had started to spread."
"Professor Snape, would you care to explain what happened?" Dumbledore
Professor Snape stopped pacing and stood still, hands behind his back, chest thrust out stiffly. "I was patrolling the gardens, making sure no one behaved inappropriately. Mr. Malfoy ran into me. He claimed a group of students had attacked him, and Weasley and his sister required assistance. I cast a locator spell and found the two tied together but otherwise unharmed."
"I see." Dumbledore said before turning his attention back to them. Dumbledore's gaze felt like it drilled right into his skull and Draco scowled and averted his eyes.
"Mr. Malfoy, would you care to share your perspective on what happened tonight?"
Deciding it was too much trouble to avoid answering Draco started his story with Ron looking for his sister and offering to help. He didn't hide anything, including how the boys forced him to the ground. He paused to collect himself, realizing only as his eyes burned with unshed tears, how the memory alone terrified and shamed him. He kept his eyes averted and finished.
Ginny and Ron confirmed his story. When they finished, the room was silent except for the snoring paintings on the walls. "And so none of you recognized the boys who attacked you?"
"No." All three of them answered at once exasperated at this point.
"They could have been anyone, tall and male is not enough description to narrow down the list of suspects." Professor Snape said tiredly.
"Mr. Malfoy, unfortunately Professor Snape is correct. There is no way to find out who attacked you this evening unless we get more details or you recognize someone's voice. All I can do tonight is fix your injuries and commend you for your fast thinking and heroism for trying to rescue Miss Weasley. You two acted bravely and kept your wits. I'm awarding Gryffindor thirty points."
"Do I have to walk to the hospital wing?" Draco completely ignored the rest of Dumbledore's speech.
Ron barked a short laugh before he covered his mouth, staring wide-eyed at Dumbledore. "Sorry," he mumbled blushing bright red.
"No need to apologize, this evening was no doubt stressful. No Mr. Malfoy there is no need for you to walk all the way the hospital wing, if none of you is injured you can all go back to Gryffindor Tower for the rest of the evening."
"I only have some cuts and bruises." Ginny said shyly.
"Same here," Ron said quickly.
"I think my bruises have bruises but I'm fine." Draco answered last.
"In that case you three are free to go, Professor McGonagall would you be willing to escort your charges back to their dorm? I need to speak with Professor Snape."
Draco almost forgot Professor McGonagall was in the room with them, however, once Dumbledore gave them leave to go she did not waste time. She herded them out the room, and escorted them to Gryffindor Tower, her step hurried. Draco had trouble keeping up; his legs hurt badly.
At the entrance of the painting, Professor McGonagall reminded them to stay in their tower the rest of the night. She patted them each on the shoulder and wished them good night. Then with a preoccupied frown and a flurry of robes, the older woman walked away.
In silence, they entered the tower. The crowded common room made Draco nervous, especially when everyone turned to stare at them. Hermione and Harry ran to Ron and Ginny and pulled them towards the fireplace. Left alone in front of so many stares, Draco quickly mumbled some sort of excuse and limped to his room, unable to face anyone. How far have the rumors spread?
Gathering his shower supplies, Draco left the room for the community bath. He desperately needed to take a long shower.
This isn't fair, why does this shit keep happening to me? He thought later, angrily soaping himself, wishing his memories were as easy to wash away as dirt and grass. His head and legs itched, Draco doubted they debugged the gardens, why encourage students to roll around on the grass? He bitterly scratched his leg for the fifth or sixth time.
Finished, he leaned his head against the wall and let the hot water beat against his sore shoulders and back. Most of his earlier shock wore off and he realized he felt okay. No one raped him and the bastards made idiots of themselves. Draco grimly smiled; glad for the first time Ron activated the spell on his arm.
Sighing, he turned the water off and dried himself. He knew once he returned to the room the Inquisition would start. Dean, Longbottom, and Seamus were bound to ask questions, unless Ron or Ginny answered the questions already.
Draco wrapped a towel around his waist, stepped out of the stall, and came face to face with Ron. Letting out a startled cry he jumped back and slipped on the wet floor. "Shit!"
Draco had a moment to think, damn I'm going to fall, before Ron's hands let go of whatever he was carrying and grabbed for him. Too late, the momentum, Draco's weight, and the slippery floor pulled them both to the ground. Ron landed on top of him, their bare chests smashed together. Ron smelled sweaty, had dirt on his cheeks, grass bits in his hair, and the most startled blue eyes.
Freezing automatically cataloging possible injuries, Draco stared into Ron's concerned eyes, none of the previous years of hatred between them showing. Ron immediately pushed off him digging his knees into Draco's thighs and in the process squishing his stomach. "Ouch be careful you twit!" Draco demanded as Ron's knee almost crushed his balls. All of a sudden, Ron's clumsiness was no laughing matter.
"Just calm down," Draco said with a wince. Ron hit just about every bruise on his body.
"Calm I can do calm," Ron muttered and stopped moving until he could figure out why he was having a difficult time separating from Draco.
"Are you okay?"
"I was until you almost took away my ability to have children." Draco warily tried to inch back from the knee that was just too close for comfort.
He almost laughed at Ron's rapidly reddening face but didn't want to take the risk. "I'm so sorry." Ron blushed even brighter.
"Here I think my belt is caught on your towel," Ron mumbled looking down at the reason why his first few attempts to stand up proved fruitless.
Draco stayed still, and hoped Ron didn't collapse on top of him or that no one would walk in to see them together on the floor. It would not look good. Then as if by imagining the worst could make it happen, Harry Potter entered, holding a towel and shower supplies. His eyes widened and he blushed almost as red as Ron's hair.
"Ron! Draco! What are you doing on the floor?" He sputtered, and backed away. "What if a first year saw you like this?" Harry did not take long to recover from his initial shock.
"Harry, it's not how it looks," Ron said fumbling between their bodies to free his belt buckle; his fingers slippery with sweat and trembling with nerves, could not take the task slowly.
Blushing as well, Draco glared at the obnoxious boy standing in front of the door holding it open for anyone to see them. "Will you shut the damned door before someone sees us passing by?"
Draco realized if he did not help Ron, they might be stuck here all night. The simplest solution to lose the towel was simply out of the question.
"Here move your hands I'll try to figure this out." Draco said reaching between his body and Ron's, his fingers collided with Ron's, he barely heard the faint catch in Ron's voice and Draco stilled his hands, realizing the faint hardness next to his thigh was not a bottle of shampoo as he'd originally thought.
Ron looked close to tears as he fumbled more desperately at the buckle, too embarrassed with Harry standing right over him to think clearly.
Compassion, an emotion he thought his father had driven out of him a long time ago, surfaced.
"Harry, can you please go and get me another towel." Draco asked in his 'mom will you give me more money' voice.
Draco gave a silent thanks to whatever gods may exist for Harry taking the first opportunity to leave the room. He'd bought a few minutes before Harry would return.
Ron let out a big sigh of relief when the door closed behind Harry. "Here let me do this, you just concentrate on giving me room to work. I don't know how you managed to get us stuck together; it's something I imagine only a Weasley could pull off." Draco talked while he worked, feeling along the catch of the buckle with his fingers until he found the spot where his towel threads were punctured and caught in the buckle. In less than a minute, he had them unstuck and Ron sat back on his heels still kneeling over him. Draco pushed himself up on his elbows, the tiled floor painfully hard against his elbows.
"Your chest," Ron said in a low voice filled with some unidentifiable emotion.
Draco shrugged, already used to the mess of scars on his body, and said, "Yeah well the ones on my back are worse, so I guess I should be lucky we don't have swimming at Hogwarts."
Ron stood carefully on the slippery tiles. Draco climbed his feet ignoring the hand Ron offered. "I'm fine! Those guys out in the maze hurt me more than a fall in the bathroom."
"I came in here to thank you for what you did." Ron blurted his eyes wide. "I'm sorry for making you fall down I didn't mean to startle you, it's just you spent so long in the shower I was starting to worry."
"No need to thank me, it was my fault they kidnapped your sister, if it wasn't for me none of this would have happened."
"Not true, the guys in Slytherin don't need much of an excuse to pick on someone. This year it was Ginny, I think you were just the icing on the cake."
Ron's earnestness made Draco smile; his cynicism didn't let him believe in fairy tales. Voldemort already had spies in Hogwarts, possibly even in Gryffindor.
"You're right." Draco agreed not wanting to argue.
They didn't speak for a moment; Ron's face returned to its normal color before he turned his attention back to Draco. Draco almost stepped back at the determined glint in Ron's eyes. "I'm sorry about my attraction to you. I'll try not to touch you again. I know how uncomfortable that must have been for you."
Ron bowed his head, letting his red hair fall over his eyes. Draco, surprised by Ron's honesty did not know what to say. Reaching with his hand, Draco gripped Ron's shoulder, "Hey look at me." Draco waited until Ron looked into his eyes before continuing. "I'm not sure what just happened now, but I thought you should know I don't think there is any reason to apologize. I'm not sure if you are attracted to all guys or not, and it's not my business, but don't beat yourself up over one erection."
Ron laughed softly, "Friends?"
"I've had worse." Draco grinned and offered his hand.
"Hey is that a compliment?" Ron smiled and grabbed Draco's wrist. Draco tightened his hand around Ron's wrist, sealing their bargain.
"Could be, I think you better enjoy while it lasts, I think it's the concussion talking."
The door swished open again and Harry entered with some clean towels.
"Hey thanks," Draco said grabbing one and entering a shower stall. He and Ron may have agreed to be friends but it did not mean he should smell like the other boy's day old sweat.
They spent the rest of the evening in the common room, Draco read in his books, honing his dark expression anytime someone came near him with what looked like a question on their lips about the attack in the gardens.
Harry and Ron played Wizard's Chess; they were nicer about turning away awkward questions. Hermione read a book next to him on the other sofa, Ginny played chess with some girl from her own grade level. It seemed like a regular evening, except for some new bruises added to his growing collection.
Draco wanted to concentrate on the book but his mind continued to replay the events in the garden maze. Not quite able to believe he escaped with only a few uncomfortable touches and new bruises. Strangely, he felt better this evening, he'd finally outsmarted someone who intended to use his body. However, he also remembered the frustration when his went blank at the first sign of confrontation.
He looked down at the page he read five times now, and slammed the book shut. Draco wanted to speak with Professor Snape, but he could not leave Gryffindor Tower without attracting unwanted attention. It was close to midnight and almost everyone had returned from the dance, a few stragglers entered every so often, most seventh years.
Draco stood and paced, his earlier exhaustion mostly gone. He stood in front of the fire for a few minutes enjoying the warmth and the dancing flames. "I'm going to bed," Draco announced and left the room. Ron nodded his head.
A few curious people looked at him before returning to their own discussions or play. Twenty minutes later, lying in bed waiting for Ron to show, and listening to his other roommates snore, Potter and Ron finally entered, arguing in low tones, over him. They stopped speaking when they saw him watching.
The rustling movements as they readied themselves for bed were familiar now, after sharing a room for over a month. By the time, they fell asleep; clouds drifted in and covered the moon. Infrequent flashes of lighting illuminated the walls, followed a few seconds later by distant rumbles of thunder.