Saturday, July 8, 2006

Harry Potter and the Prince of Nightmares

Chapter Two: Realization

"We were so worried when we didn't see you on the train," Hermione exclaimed as she engulfed Harry in a bear hug. "We thought your horrible uncle wouldn't let you leave or something."

"Ha, as if they want me there," Harry replied caustically from the fluffy red chair in the Gryffindor common room.

"You should have come to the Burrow," Ron said. "Even if it was just for the week before school."

"Actually," Harry confessed. "I couldn't go because I've been at Hogwarts for the past week."

Ever the sharp one, Hermione asked, "Did Dumbledore ask you to come?"

Harry nodded grimly, not really wanting to think about the deal he had agreed to, but finding that he needed to think about it. Hell, he didn't even know what Nightmares were!

"What for?" Ron prodded.

Harry shrugged. He figured he could put off thinking about the whole Prince of Nightmare business until they had settled into their classes, at least.

"Oooh," Hermione cooed, in a voice scarily like when other girls stumbled upon a good-looking specimen of the male species, except Hermione only used this voice when she had a revelation. She looked around the common room and made sure it was empty except for the three of them. All the other Gryffindors were still busy unpacking.

Hermione whispered, "Is it Order business?"

Harry shifted uncomfortably in the usually comfortable chair. Even if Dumbledore hadn't specifically instructed Harry to keep the alliance a secret, Harry wasn’t about to announce it to the world. Besides, Harry wasn't sure how they would react.

"Well?" Hermione prompted.

At that moment, though, Seamus came down to the common room with Lavender.

"I'll see you in the library after the feast," Hermione said quickly, giving both Ron and Harry significant looks, which the boys knew would bring even more trouble if avoided.

Harry didn't think that Seamus noticed their sudden silence, but just for good measure, he said, "I hear Professor Snape is teaching DADA this year."

"Professor Snape?" Hermione asked, scandalized.

"That's good," Ron muttered.

Hermione glared at Ron. "What's good about that?"

"Well, that means it's the last year we'll have to endure having him around. The DADA position is cursed."

"That's true," Harry agreed wholeheartedly, despite his doubts of Professor Snape. Nobody could honestly blame Harry for his distrust of the Head of Slytherin after all the years of Snape's obvious prejudice against Harry.

"Yes, but won't Professor Snape get... tempted by the Dark Arts?" Hermione asked logically. She knew many things, but she never quite learned the things not to say around Ron. When both boys shrugged, she added, almost petulantly, "Besides, he was a good Potions Professor."


Harry and Ron winced as they heard Lavender squeal right next to them. They could only marvel that somehow, even though Neville sat right across from Lavender, Neville seemed able to completely ignore her eardrum-shattering squeal.

To the other side of Ron, Hermione 'hmm'-ed disinterestedly before taking a bite of the absolutely delicious turkey with gravy and going back to reading Dark Lords and Their Rises.

Lavender, though, took this as an invitation to continue. "Just look at him," she gushed. She put her fork down to start gesturing with her hands. "The hair, the eyes, the face, the build..." She sighed dreamily, much to the horrors of the boys around her. "He's perfect."

Across from Harry, Ginny rolled her eyes. "You say this every year."

"Uh-uh," Parvati managed with a mouthful of the turkey. It had looked too delicious for her to avoid, and she figured she could always diet later.

Parvati swallowed the turkey quickly and started gesticulating with Lavender. "Before, he was good-looking," Parvati explained. "But now, he's good-looking."

"Right," Hermione muttered between bites of mashed potatoes and reading her book.

Down the table, somebody was telling a newly sorted first year girl, "He's very good looking, but he is an absolute git. Besides, he's engaged to the Parkinson pug."

"There," Ginny agreed whole-heartedly.

Lavender finished her bite of turkey. "Yes, but he might still get first on Hogwarts' eligible bachelor."

"He's engaged," Ginny repeated what the other Gryffindor said.

Lavender pursed her lips. "It's only a rumor."

"It doesn't matter," Parvati waved it off. "I doubt anybody would want to marry that pug."

Lavender nodded, her newly permed brown curls bobbing enthusiastically. "As long as he's not married, he's eligible."

Ginny finally conceded to her curiosity and turned around to look at the Slytherin table. "Fine, he's better looking than last year, but I'd still go Gryffindor."

Parvati screwed her face up in concentration. After a few moments, she finally said, "I don't know... I just might vote for Malfoy as the most eligible. He has that air to him, you know."

"Air of an arrogant prat, you mean," Hermione added.

Harry and Ron both looked at the girls, completely baffled, and the food forgotten. Finally, Harry asked tentatively, "You vote?"

"Of course," Parvati answered in a matter-of-fact voice before staring across the Great Hall again.

"And Malfoy just might be number one this time," Lavender added. She patted Harry's shoulder consolingly. "But you've been number one for the past three years, and he's only been number two."

Harry nearly choked on his pumpkin juice. "Me?" Ron pounded on Harry's back enthusiastically, making it even more difficult for Harry to catch his breath.

"Of course." This time, it was Hermione who answered. "Harry and Malfoy are both from old families, wealthy, rich, and powerful, but Harry has a much better personality and he's probably slightly more powerful." Hermione paused to eye Harry and Malfoy in consideration, making Harry squirm. "I'm probably still going to vote for Harry."

Ron turned his wide, brown eyes to look at Hermione in shock. He whispered, "You vote?"

"Of course." She smiled at Ron. "I'd vote for you if you did your homework."

Ron turned to his dinner and buried his red head in his hands. He decided that he was never going to understand girls.

Snape barely managed to stifle his gasp of surprise when he stepped into the outer room of his suite to find Lucius Malfoy standing there. The Nightmare had some frightening skills and apparating into Hogwarts without using his wand was one of them. Snape could only be grateful that Lucius Malfoy hadn't had any reason to dislike Snape.

"What do you want?" Snape asked, his annoyance clear.

"Good evening, Severus," Lucius replied instead. "I hope your classes are going well."

Snape snorted as he put the papers he was holding onto his desk and moved to sit in his favorite chair. Any visit from Lucius was bound to be tiring, if not long. "Even you wouldn't so blatantly ignore Dumbledore's authority unless it was something grave."

"Very well then... May I sit down?" When Snape didn't answer, Lucius looked around and sat down in Snape's favorite chair.

Snape turned and sat in the other chair in the room. "What do you want?"

Lucius hesitated. "For you to watch over Draco."

Snape let a long-suffering sigh escape. "You ask this every year. Have I ever said no?"

"Will you do it, then?" Lucius persisted.

"Yes, I will do it." Snape rolled his shoulders back into the chair, only to run them into the carved wooden back of the chair. Damn, he missed his big, comfy chair.

"And Potter, too," Lucius added.

Snape stilled. "Harry Potter?"

Lucius looked at Snape drolly. "Do you know any other Potter—who's alive?"

"But... Harry Potter?"

Lucius nodded sharply. "Potter must be kept safe. He's to be Draco's mate."

Snape searched for some trace of flippancy or something to indicate he was joking in Lucius steel eyes, but only found gravity there. "You're forcing Draco to mate with Potter?"

Lucius shook his head, so his blond hair swayed like curtains in front of the sharp features of his aristocratic face. "No, he chose Potter. Out of Potter, Dumbledore, and Riddle."

"Nice choices," Snape muttered. Then, louder, "I would ask, but I don't think I'd ever understand your Nightmare politics. All I can say is, I don't understand how you can make him go through this after what you chose."

Lucius turned his gaze to Snape's messy desk. "You know I love you."

"And I love you, but not in that way." Snape rolled his eyes. "We've had this conversation before."

But Lucius ignored Snape. "I know I should've chosen you, but politics..."

"That I would never understand." Snape sighed again. "Besides, I've never loved you in that way, so it's probably for the best that you didn't choose me. Still... Narcissa? She—"

"Don't," Lucius cut Snape off quietly, but firmly. "Don't talk about her. I have to protect her because she is my mate, and I won't fight that instinct. Don't you understand, Severus? Narcissa is my mate now. For the rest of my life, I'll think of her and dream of her and lust over her and hate her. That is my lot in life."

Snape chose to remain silent.

Lucius trained his gaze on Snape again. "Promise you'll watch over Potter, too."

Snape closed his eyes. It wasn't as if he wouldn't protect the Golden boy. After all, he still owed James Potter a debt. "I'll watch over him." Before Lucius could say anything, he added, "And I'll try to guide them, but I can't promise anything else, Lucius. The rest will be up to them."

Lucius simply nodded before he disappeared.

There wasn't even a 'pop' as he disapparated.

Snape thought, Ugh, Nightmares.

"So, you've managed to avoid us for an entire week," Hermione cornered Harry just as he was about to leave the library for the Gryffindor common room.

Harry fidgeted uncomfortably and glanced between Hermione and Ron. He had hoped that the Potions assignment due on Monday would have had Hermione frantic with research, but no such luck. Finally he decided to say, "What are you talking about? I've talked with you at every meal and in the common room everyday."

"Oh, don't try to play stupid," Hermione said impatiently. "You know what I mean."

Just to be clear, Ron added, "The maybe-Order business."

Instead of replying, Harry accused in a whisper, "There are people here."

"No, there aren't," Hermione answered shortly.

"Sure there are." Harry craned his neck to look at the rest of the tables in the library. Incredibly, they were all empty. Startled, he asked, "What'd you do?"

Hermione shrugged. "It's Saturday. The library's empty. You can tell us what happened."

Harry looked to Ron for help, but Ron shrugged, too, and stayed silent.

"Well," Harry stalled, not quite wanting to give in yet.

When both of his friends stayed silent, Harry shifted in his seat, but he couldn't think of any more excuses to keep the whole Nightmare business to himself. Besides, it wasn't that Harry didn't want to tell his friends, it was just that he wasn't quite sure what to tell them. Harry hadn't quite figured out what happened either.

"It's like this," Harry began hesitantly.

Ron nodded enthusiastically, and Hermione's gaze sharpened to attention.

"You know how Voldemort has the dementors and the vampires helping him?"

Hermione nodded this time.

Under his breath, Ron muttered something like, "Nasty creatures."

"And..." Harry thought of how he would continue. He really wasn't a people person and his first years at the Dudley's hadn't encouraged positive and open communication either. "Well, this other group of non-humans came to Dumbledore recently. They were willing to ally themselves with the Order."

Hermione thought very quickly and asked, "What do they want from you?"

Ron had a puzzled expression on his freckled face. "Why would they want anything from Harry?"

"Of course they want something from Harry," Hermione explained as if it was rudimentary Charms. "Headmaster Dumbledore asked Harry to be here for the decision. If they didn't want something from Harry, why would Dumbledore ask him to be here?" Impatiently, Hermione looked at Harry again. "And...? What did they want from you?"

"Well... They want me."

"What?" Ron asked, his expression blank from incomprehension.

"Do explain," Hermione asked more calmly.

Harry answered in a rush, though. "The Prince of Nightmares wants to mate with me."

"But Nightmares are extinct," Hermione refuted Harry's claim. Then, she turned thoughtful again. "Of course, they could hide if they wanted to. Physically, they're just like really pale humans."

Harry shrugged. "Dumbledore believed that he was the Prince of Nightmares. I don't actually know who he is, because he doesn't want me to know."

"Blimey," Ron muttered, although Harry thought Ron might have said, "Kinky." Louder, Ron exclaimed, "The prince of an extinct species wants to mate with you."

Hermione shushed him quickly. Even if the tables were empty, Madame Pince still guarded the library and was liable to interrupt their conversation at anytime. Luckily, Madame Pince didn't seem to notice them, though.

Then, Hermione narrowed her eyes angrily. "You mean, Dumbledore is asking you to whore?"

Harry winced. He hadn't quite thought of it that way, but he supposed that it was true. But what did Hermione expect him to do? Hold onto his virginity and let thousands of innocent people die? Besides, weren't guys' first times not supposed to be a big deal?

"Can you research the Nightmares for me?" pleaded Harry instead, ignoring what Hermione had said. Just because he was a stubborn and foolhardy Gryffindor didn't mean he was completely daft. He could at least try to figure out what to expect after he agreed to mate with one of those Nightmares.

"I would love to," Hermione answered, and looking sincere. Harry beamed. His face fell when she continued, though. "But I doubt I'll find anything. All information on Nightmares are banned by the Ministry."

"Fudge," Harry accused vindictively.

"Actually, it's not Fudge." Hermione surprised both Ron and Harry by saying. "The law was established over eighty years ago. I doubt even Fudge knows what Nightmares are. I only stumbled on a mention of Nightmares when I was reading 101 Odd and Obscure Behests of Our Ministry. The book was actually quite interesting. Did you know that pixies can't wear their shirts inside out? It's because—"

"So," Harry cut Hermione off hastily. It wasn't that he wasn't curious about pixie dressing habits—he wasn't, though, just to clarify, even if this law did sound interesting—rather, Harry thought the habits of Nightmares rather more interesting. "What do you know about Nightmares?"

A blush started on Hermione's cheeks. "Not much..."

"I know!" Ron exclaimed suddenly, startling both Harry and Hermione. "Malfoy is a Nightmare. He is an absolute nightmare!"

"Ron..." Hermione wasn't sure of how to correct Ron without hurting his feelings. Malfoy would be the last person who would want to mate with Harry, even if Malfoy was pale and magically talented, and someone who—if he did want to mate with Harry—wouldn't want Harry to know his identity before Harry agreed and...

Hermione focused her gaze on Ron's face. "You are absolutely right! It's Malfoy!"

"Malfoy?" Harry half whispered, half choked before covering his horrified green eyes with his hands.

Before Hermione could say anything else, though, the three of them were startled to hear clapping next to them. They looked over, only to find one Draco Malfoy smirking nonchalantly at them. "I'm surprised that Gryffindork didn't figure it out before the Weasel."

For one long moment, Ron could only stare at Malfoy, his brown eyes quickly becoming as horrified as Harry's. His whisper carried clearly to the other three pairs of ears. "It is you?"

"I know," Draco agreed uncharacteristically easily. "It's unbelievable that you actually came up with an original thought of your own. After all, your family has always been too poor to give you anything but hand-me-downs."

"You... ferret!" Ron spat with pure disgust, his face turning red quickly.

Draco remarked, "So I see the originality was just a fluke after all."

Hermione barely managed to hold Ron back as he lunged for Malfoy. Honestly, she didn't understand why Ron still let Malfoy's insults get to him. It had been five years, for Heaven's sake! It wasn't like Malfoy came up with new insults or anything.

Malfoy hardly spared Ron a disdainful look before pulling Harry aside. Unprepared for Malfoy's strength—Malfoy was only a couple of inches taller and very lean looking—Harry staggered a little before finding his balance.

"Tonight," Malfoy said before Harry could ask what in bloody hell Malfoy thought he was doing. "Midnight. Slytherin Common Room. Password's 'not about sleeping.'"

Before Harry's brain even processed the abrupt change of topic—and Malfoy's demeanor—Malfoy turned to leave, his black robes swirling behind him, reminding Harry quite eerily of Professor Snape.

"Not about sleeping," Harry muttered under his breath as he made his way down to the Slytherin dungeons under the protection of his invisibility cloak. He would've asked Hermione for help figuring out the password, but he hadn't wanted to listen to Hermione's inevitable lecture on how there should be boundaries of how much Harry should give up for the war.

Yes, he was only a sixteen-year-old boy. No, he hadn't had a good childhood. Still, Harry considered himself lucky. Not only was he the only one to survive the killing curse, his parents had loved him enough to give up their lives for him. So his aunt and uncle weren't the nicest people, but he had all—okay, most, since Snape was a professor, too—of the professors looking out for him and great friends. The Weasleys practically adopted him.

Half of the Weasleys were in the Order anyways, and certainly, many other people whom his loved and respected were in the Order. If they were willing to risk their lives—and Sirius already gave his—for the cause, why shouldn't Harry give such a little thing as sleeping with someone?

Besides, there was only five minutes left before midnight. Even Hermione couldn't work out the Slytherin password that quickly.

Harry sighed. Even though he had managed to talk himself into going through with the deal, he was still trepidatious. It was Malfoy, after all.

Harry took off his invisibility cloak at the entrance of the Slytherin common room and stared at the gray stone wall in front of him, just as blank as he remembered it being second year. Only, this time, he had no idea what the password was.

Correction: he had one hint. The password was not about sleep.

"Something..." Harry muttered again. "...not about sleep."

He closed his eyes and concentrated on trying to find one thing out of dozens that weren't about sleep. A great creaking noise startled Harry and made open his eyes. The stone wall had opened, and Harry could barely see the common room inside.

"Oh." Harry hesitated before stepping into what he considered 'enemy territory.' Then, he spat, "Malfoy." Trust Malfoy to tell Harry the password without actually telling him the password.

The wall swung shut as soon as all of Harry was inside the Slytherin common room, even before Harry had both feet on the carpet. Just as Harry remembered from second year, the Slytherin common room was still dark and dank under the lake, but decorated opulently in green and silver.

This time, though, only a dying fire from the fireplace lit the empty room. As Harry scanned the room again, he noticed somebody sitting in a chair in a corner, the shadows almost completely concealing him. Only the pale hair gave the person away, as it flickered from the light from the fire.

Harry wondered what he should say to Malfoy. He searched for something not contemptuous or vain or down putting or scathing to say, and failed spectacularly.

However, Malfoy spoke first, "So it seems like we are going to join in an alliance anyways Potter, despite first year."

Harry tried his hardest to ignore the patent Malfoy sneer obvious in Malfoy's voice, but it seemed even nastier than usual. Harry spat, "I am not offering you friendship."

Malfoy pushed himself easily out of the chair, languid as a cat, and stepped menacingly toward Harry. Somehow, Malfoy managed to reach Harry at the other end of the common room in two easy strides. He looked down at Harry contemptuously from his advantage of two or three inches. "You're just going to be my lover."

Harry refused to back down. Even if he had to dance to Malfoy's tune, he didn't have to lose his dignity. He was doing what he was doing for the sake of the Order. For the sake of the world.

Harry grimaced at that thought. He never wanted to be somebody special. His fondest dream had always been to live in an ordinary house as an ordinary child with ordinary parents. True, he was grateful for his friends at Hogwarts, but he'd always thought his first time would be with somebody he liked—like Cho—even if it wasn't somebody he loved.

Malfoy saw Harry's grimace and narrowed his cold silver eyes at him.

In response, Harry said vindictively, "I'm doing this for the war. I would never love you."

Harry watched Malfoy's eyes widen and nostrils flare gratifyingly before he regained his famed Malfoy expressionless-ness. "That's even better." Malfoy's tone indicated that he couldn't have cared less whether Harry liked him or not. "I've always wanted a fuck-toy."

Harry clenched his jaws and managed refrain from commenting. He supposed his first time could be worse. He could be raped...

Instead, he asked stoically, "Here?"

Draco glared at Harry for not having responded the way he had expected Harry to respond. He had waited for this moment, when he would have something to hold over the glorious Gryffindor hero's head. And now his goading seemed completely useless. Draco refrained from sniffing disdainfully—he was a man, and men didn't sniff, disdainfully or not—but truly, the Potty had a serious hero complex.

Well, it wasn't as if Draco chose to mate with Harry out of several choices. Harry would probably be horrible to him even after they mate, but now was the only time that Draco could get his jibes in. After they were mated—and Draco had been avoiding this thought—Draco would love Potter.

Draco felt panic and defeat creeping in on him. His life would end up even worse than his father's.

But he was prophesized as the next Prince. Draco held back a snort. Who cared about prophecies in this day and age? But he might as well get the mating over with. Supposedly, all the fear and dislike and trepidation disappears after mating. It was true, judging by his father. Only bitterness remained.

Draco gritted his teeth. "My room, of course," he answered flatly. Two could play at this game of nonchalance.

Draco turned to lead Harry to his room before he saw how Harry responded to his own nonchalance. He missed the sudden angry blaze in Harry's emerald eyes, and he was too far away when Harry vowed under his breath, "It's just this one time, and only because I have to."

Even so, Harry followed Draco down to his private rooms. Like royalty, Harry thought, Malfoy gets his own room. Oh wait, he was a prince.