[a/n: Points at Title - mwahahaha!]
Harry Potter went to dinner with a sense of having cleared the air between himself and Hermione. Unfortunately, that was not the issue he was confronted with when he sat down to eat. No, it was Ron Weasley, looking - slightly bereft - without his friends. Harry thought crankily to himself, "Great, I have to fix that too." and then, with a nearly physical effort, thought, "I can tackle that when Lavender's dealt with. He'll listen then." Under his breath, he muttered to himself " i hope I don't need to invite Lavender along..."
Malfoy, of course, was pulling dinner off with a level of skill that Harry'd never mastered. Harry idly wondered how long it had taken Malfoy to learn inspired table manners, and to use them even when offered pizza* in the Great Hall. Harry wasn't sure that it was worth the time or effort, honestly. Harry Potter may eat like a uncultured heathen, but... Nobody really seemed to mind.**
Harry and Hermione went to the room of requirement, pacing back and forth three times, hoping that Malfoy hadn't gotten there, but just in case he'd done, I started thinking of logical traps. I finally asked the room of requirement to show me any hidden people, and if that failed, to produce a crystallic cube in the center of the room. It was nowhere near infallible, but it was proof against an initial, ill-thought salvoy, and that was really as good as I could have hoped for, with as little thought as I'd put into it.
Malfoy actually showed up precisely half a minute before he would have been "on time", which was nice, as I could stop worrying about him somehow jumping (or falling) out of the walls.
"Potter, Granger." Malfoy greeted, with a simple nod. And yet, even such a greeting meant something. Here, it just meant "we're here to get down to work"... at least that's what Harry Potter hoped it meant.
"Malfoy" they both greeted him in unison.
"You even speak together. Gryffindor - home of the brave and brainwashed." Malfoy said, smirking.
At this point, Harry Potter was giving Draco Malfoy the "you've got to be kidding me" look - because, of course, Malfoy just had to be antagonistic from the very start. Couldn't just let something like "we said hello" lie. Hermione had her hands on her hips, glaring at Draco Malfoy, and she looked like she was close to stamping right up to glare at his pointy chin.***
"I'd like to propose we leave the childish insults behind, and avoid discussing such unpleasantness except where it's necessary for the matter at hand." Malfoy said, and Harry did a doubletake - this was the Malfoy who had just insulted them and their house, right? "Before the end of the year, we may be crossing wands on the battlefield. Extending the courtesy of treating each other like worthy opponents is just common sense and maturity." This all would have sounded better, Harry reflected, if Malfoy hadn't just gotten done being a royal, spoiled git.
Hermione was even less likely to take this at face value than Harry - and Harry's new assumption for anything Slytherin was "there's more to it than you think." She had her hands on her hips, her foot tapping - until her questions boiled over, and she blurted out, "What kind of subject matter cares about me being Muggleborn?"
"Three entire branches of blood magic," Draco Malfoy drawled, "Plus a few esoteric bonding spells that rely on consanguinity, and, of course, wards present a singular problem for the Muggleborn." Draco Malfoy paused, "If anyone of my father's generation had sense, they'd hire the Creevey's as soon as possible - it's one thing to have a ward that only one person can enter - that's extremely failure prone, from accident or torture take your pick, but the Creeveys will both work as keys, and then you only need to have a decent defense - and, of course, the ability to whisk away the non-kidnapped party."
"You're talking about letting one of them get tortured!" Hermione gasped.
"Yes. Covering all bases." Malfoy said.
"You'd tell them before signing the contract? What they were getting into?" Harry Potter asked, less concerned with the morality of "setting someone up to potentially be tortured" and more concerned with "did they know about it?"
"Of course, and due compensation would be provided." Draco Malfoy said.
"How do you compensate someone for torture?!" Hermione yelped.
"Any number of ways, though the most popular are longlasting - giving someone a Title and Lands. You know, like Vincent Crabbe's line." Draco Malfoy said smoothly. Harry mentally filed away a bit of knowledge on how a near-squib had managed to accumulate power. j
"What kind of subject matter cares about you being an inbred hick?" Harry Potter asked challengingly.
"Surprisingly, only glamours care about how one was raised. It has to do with crafting a real illusion. It's hard to craft one if you don't know exactly how it should look/move/feel/sound."
"As to inbreeding? You'd be surprised. There's at least one strong line of blood magic that perverts itself into something poisonous if used on purebloods. It's banned by the ministry, obviously." Draco Malfoy said, bracing his back against the wall, "But of more interest to you is probably Wild Magic, one of a few disciplines of charms that seem to perform better for Mu-gggleborns." Draco Malfoy looked down at the floor for a moment, muttering, "Sorry, still working on that. Force of habit."
"What's Wild Magic?" Hermione asked, her voice soft as she generally used in the library.
"It's magic that doesn't fit a set formula. Generally considered very dangerous and not to be trifled with. Spells coerce magic into doing what it's commanded to do. Wild Magic - it does the opposite. It's the Wizard's Own Will against Magic itself." Draco Malfoy said.
Harry Potter fought to not stiffen. This sounded... a little more dangerous than Snape had made learning wandless magic sound (not that he'd honestly told Harry it was any different than normal spellcasting). Hermione was also fighting to not stiffen, and Harry could see the thousand thoughts running through her head.
"Alright," Hermione said, "I think we can set the petty, bloodborne insults aside."
"Good job, knowitall," Draco Malfoy drawled, "Now let's roll up our sleeves and get casting." Harry Potter mentally shook his head, No it didn't seem like Ma lfoy was going to be any less of a git.
Harry turned to his own sleeves, rolling them up until he heard a choking sound out of Hermione - his eyes leaped up to hers, and he followed them straight to... Malfoy's left forearm. It had a Dark Mark on it. Suddenly, everything that Malfoy had said earlier about fighting them seemed to ring home. Harry's eyes found Malfoy's, and eh was surprised at what he saw - a quiet sense of trust.
"Your arm!" Hermione finally stuttered out.
Draco Malfoy looked down, and pulled the Weasley's sticky dark mark off of his arm. "Sorry," he said, sounding blithe and completely unsorry. Fucking git.
Drawing his wand behind his back, Harry Potter looked at Malfoy and started advancing. Three steps. Four. "Finite Incantem." Harry intoned, and that smooth pallid skin faded, leaving behind the actual brand. Harry's eyes flicked up suspiciously to Malfoy's, who simply nodded slightly.
"Hermione. Wait." Harry Potter said, starting to pace. He didn't need her impetuously ... whatever she wanted to do.
"You gave us two sets of memories," Harry Potter said. "That's intentional, right?"
"Indeed." Draco Malfoy amiably agreed.
"You don't expect this revelation - no matter how expected - to have direct consequences." Harry thought out, his feet sending him back and forth across the room.
"Of course not. Even if you did report me, I think that Dumbledore... Dumbledore believes in salvation and all that rot. I think he already knows." Draco Malfoy said - and Harry saw Hermione deflate. Good, at least one disaster averted.
"I assume Professor Snape knows as well," Harry Potter said, and Draco Malfoy nodded, saying simply, "He is my head of house." Not to mention a spy twice over...
Harry hadn't flinched like Hermione had - this wasn't the first time he'd seen a Dark Mark, and he remained aware that just because you had one, didn't mean that... Shite, this meant that Malfoy's family was in danger, or could be in danger, or would be in danger.
Harry Potter, he said to himself, you don't have to fix everything.
He only wished he believed that.
*This is post Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There would have been whining for pizza. And don't tell me house elves don't know how to make it.
**Ha-rry! Yes, people do mind.
*** Hermione's shorter than Draco. Hence not glaring at his eyes.
[Second post of the day. Finally found a 1000word chapter again! Huzzah!
Thanking everyone, I'm above 100 reviews and 125 followers (and 10000 views this month).
I know I ask this every chapter, but will you write a review?
UpNext: finishing the training session.
Anyone noticed how much I've been ignoring the pile of detentions Potter's been racking up? Bad author, no biscuit.]