A huge white owl winged into the Great Hall at breakfast. Draco watched it land gracefully in front of him, and extend its leg. With care and compassion, he removed the letter, spelling it large again, and beginning to read.
Keep your feet about you, and your wits. said the first line.
It continued in the same line - a longwinded story about a fox stealing and leaping, running and hiding. It had been a favorite of his as a child, though he hadn't thought of it in several years.
Pursing his lips, Draco Malfoy thought about what his mother was really saying.
One of the more dramatic bits was the fox sneaking into the dark henhouse, scared stiff. His hunger twisting his belly motivated him more, though, with him gently nudging sleeping chickens aside so he could eat their eggs.
With a firm nod, Draco Malfoy stood from the table, pocketing a simple knob of bread for later.
In the morning light, Harry played with Snape's sphere (was it a marble? a gobstone? Harry didn't know). It sparkled in the sun, with a swirl in the center of red and gold - otherwise it was clear. It was a strange gift - but Snape was strange, and Harry was dead certain there was some sort of explanation.
Harry could see the possibilities unfolding in front of him -
Was it a magical item?
A focus for his magic?
Something from his mum?
The start of a collection?
oddly enough, that last thought did not make Harry put it away.
He wasn't entirely sure he trusted Snape, in general.
But, if he knew one thing about Snape, it was that Snape wouldn't create a situation where Harry would blow his hand off, accidentally.*
Draco Malfoy paced the dungeons, knowing the noontime sun beat down mercilessly outside - the cruel, unchanging gold of a cold winter shining out from a cerulean sky. Tempting and teasing with warmth and nutrition that would leave you frozen solid if you dared reach for it. Every so often, he would find a promising door, and open it up. Mostly they were just old classrooms, although there were a few that still reeked of ancient Gryffindorian** potion experiments.
Finally, Draco found a room he liked - it was bare, and simple - with only a Persian carpet on the floor. He entered, closed the wooden door firmly, and then sat in the middle of the rug.
With the quiet of a child that's learned the hard way, Draco Malfoy started to cry. A tear, a second, - a torrent, with Draco sitting there clutching his knees and rocking himself for comfort.
It didn't end there.
He started howling, an ululation of despair thrown up to the sky from the depths of the Hogwarts dungeons.
There were explosions.
Eventually, Draco Malfoy stood, expressionless again.
The only sign was the carpet - slightly smoking, turned acid green in several places, and with a conspicuous depression where Draco had sat the longest.
It had been hours.
Draco Malfoy left without lighting his wand, using his hands to feel and his mind to map out the dungeons.
In Hogwarts, it was easy to understand a hallway. The trick was to master all the hallways. For now, Draco would start with the dungeons.
*Snape really is a safety first kind of guy. It's why he's still alive, after all.
**Gryffindors really are the only House who make illicit potions labs. Potions is a very dangerous discipline. In short, everyone else Knows Better.
[a/n: Anyone got any thoughts about that sphere from Snape?
Draco finally found time to let down his mask, and emote. It was not pretty. Although Draco understands he's expressionless again, that doesn't mean his eyes aren't red from tears.
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