Loose Snakes Loose Ends

Chapter 1

[a/n: this is at nearly the beginning of third year. Please review, this is my firstest story ever.]

As the ocean stretched endless before him, Harry inhaled the salty smell of the sea. His hands grasped the railing, the sailboat rocking in the choppy waves. Behind him, the sails snapped in the wind, the lashings cracking against the main. A splash of silver - was that a fish? All of a sudden, he smiled brightly, cheered by his first time on the vast expanse of water - a grand adventure! From here to eternity, to the great Oceanus himself cradling the world. Tossing his head in the breeze and leaning into it across the railing, he clung to the wooden rail, the waves rocking him back and forth. Freedom - this is what it feels like.

Clip Klop, Clip Klop. Harry's eyes opened blearily, staring out at a greengray moor. Where am I? He blinks once, and once again, the green gray blur turning into sedge and heather. At least I've got my glasses... To his right, Harry heard a sucking sound, his mind conjuring a mudmonster ready to consume him. Glancing over, he sees a horse's hoof, rising out of the muck. Above, a familiar, platinum head of hair. Malfoy. Harry stiffens, infused with adrenalin - he flings his hand out (Or he would have... except its tied up in front of him). His spastic jerk of his shoulder sends Harry's head and body falling from their perch. Held up by his hands and his bound legs, Harry's face falls into the horse's shoulder, his glasses jarring painfully against his nose. Why am I on a horse? Harry heaves himself upright again, missing the slight (and quite possibly misplaced) look of concern on Draco's face.

"Let me go!" Harry shouts brazenly, his fear outrunning his reason.

Malfoy looks at him with disdain. Really, Potter? Even I could have come up with better than that.

"I mean it, Let me go!" Harry says, getting more unnerved by the other boy's silence than by any insult he could have flung.

"Making demands, in your position?" Malfoy says with a trace of a smirk.

"If you don't, you'll be Sorry!" Harry says, pulling a card that he had long ago sworn he'd never say. Because, at home, it had never been true. Now... well, someone would say something about whatever hairbrained scheme Malfoy had come up with. At least he hoped they would. With that thought creeping up his spine, and Running out of threats to make, Harry deflates, bravado tumbling down towards resignation.

"Go where?" Malfoy drawls, his eyes looking meaningfully out at the vast expanse they were traversing, the moor cut by a winding ribbon of road, stretching towards the horizon.

"To Hogwarts!" Harry says, his mind too occupied with getting away to be paying terribly much attention to Malfoy's. Which, in hindsight, would prove to be a mistake.

"Oooookayyy..." Malfoy drawls, even slower than he usually talks. Clip, klop, the horses feet pound onward.

Harry notices belatedly that Malfoy's holding a gorse line to his horse. What is going on? Why is he doing this? "Well, Why aren't you untying me! You said you would!"

Malfoy smiles, and says, "I said nothing of the sort, merely said that I'd let you go to Hogwarts... eventually."

"Untie me you blithering arse!" Harry says, his mind abruptly stopping to do some much needed thinking.

"Why should I?" Malfoy smiles, showing a few too many teeth.

"Because you're kidnapping me!" Harry says, his voice full of conviction.

"I hadn't noticed." Malfoy says with a sarcastic twist.

Harry says hopefully, "I have to use the bathroom?"

"Oh, it can't be that bad... if it was, you'd have said that first." Malfoy says, matter of factly, and with a simple roll of his eyes. "I don't think you'd make it if you tried to escape, anyhow."

In the course of the past five sentences, Harry had generated enough unpleasant outcomes - including two fates worse than death that made his stomach churn, that he was honestly starting to worry. Malfoy wouldn't need cement shoes to lose him out here, after all.

"Are you possessed by Voldemort?" Harry asks, pinpointing the problem he was most worried about. Bad enough to be stuck here, tied up, with Malfoy - of all people. Out here, alone, with a powerful Dark Wizard bent on his death would be indeed a problem worth fleeing... even if Malfoy was right, and he wouldn't escape. At least he could die an honest death. He hoped.

Malfoy blinked, opened his mouth, shut it, and then opened it again, saying shortly, "No." Only his father's training was keeping a crease from his brow. He had expected Potter to think that he was going to kill him, to torture him, any number of creative ideas... But to bring up the Dark Lord...

"Did you make a bargain with Voldemort? Is he going to give you something to kill me?"

Now Malfoy allowed one of his eyebrows to quirk downward, both at Potter's increasingly... incoherent... ravings (at least he hoped they were incoherent. If they weren't, well... everyone expected Slytherins to slither away to safety, didn't they?), before shaking his head in negation.

"Did your father tell you to do this? Is he... going to kill me? Is he trying to bring Voldemort back again?"

"Honestly, Potter, where do you come up with these delusional fantasies. The Dark Lord is dead..." and Malfoy let his voice trail off a good bit longer than he had intended.

"Nobody told you what happened second year?" Potter said, his voice an odd mixture of longing and ... something else.

"You sound like you've got quite the story to tell. You've simply got to share." That last sentence Malfoy said with the exact intonation that either Lavender Brown or Pansy Parkinson would say if they were getting down to girltalk - with friends.

The precise impression sparked a genuine laugh out of Potter, earning a surprisingly genuine smile from Malfoy.

"Are you going to kill me?" Harry asks, in a quiet voice that reveals more than he means it to.

Draco's seagray eyes meet his, consideringly. After a long pause, Draco says, "no." Harry files that away for later contemplation. They had been schoolyard enemies, sure... but he took that seriously - unlike everything else Potter had said.

"Why?" Harry howls, his body straining at his restraints, and feeling them give just a little - not magic then.

"Why what? Surely you can manage a bit more specific than that." Malfoy responds.

"Why are you doing this to me?" It started out angry, but came out as more of a whine and a wail.

"Oh, that's easy, I need your help." Draco says it with a slight tilt of his head - somehow managing to look nonchalant at asking his oftimes adversary for a favor.

Potter starts to sputter, and Malfoy cuts him off, saying smoothly, "Details later. Explanations later. We've established that you shouldn't try running off, and now we've really got to move." Looking upward, Malfoy frowns at the seadark sky. "If we don't hurry, we'll be caught in the open when the storm falls." Clucking to his horse, he starts out at a bonebreaking trot, both of the boys making enough noise that talking was impractical.

The dog that was a man sniffed the air, nudged his nose to the ground. As a man, his thirst for vengeance had enabled him to escape from Azkaban. But as a dog, his need for pack drew him farther away from the evildoer. He had Harry's scent, mixed with horses... and heading away from Hogwarts. Find Harry first, his instincts urged, and he fairly flew down the trail towards Hogsmeade.