Saturday, May 26, 2007

Harry Potter and the Prince of Nightmares

Chapter Ten – Dreaming Truths and True Dreams

Voldemort slammed his fist down on the arm of his throne in a rare show of temper. His eyes blazed red in his dark throne room and the stone walls echoed his sibilant voice ominously. "How dare you tell me that they have refused my alliance?"

Typhulus found himself trembling as he bowed in front of Voldemort. "They have not refused your generosity, My Lord," Typhulus tried appeasing his Dark Lord's anger. "They have merely refused to see the inevitability of it."

The Dark Lord stood up from where he was seated. His steps clicked loudly against stone floor. Typhulus could vaguely see the Dark Lord's black robe swirling in the dim interior of the room.

Finally, the Dark Lord stopped. "They want Harry Potter dead before they will join an alliance with me?" the Dark Lord asked rhetorically. "Then they will get a dead Harry Potter. It's not as if I hadn't planned on killing him anyways. I just wanted to attain the secret of immortality before the little project."

"My-My Lord," Typhulus stuttered, not sure of how to tell his Dark Lord that killing Harry Potter was not the best idea to encourage the vengeful Nightmares to cooperate with the Dark Lord. "Even the Nightmares do not have the secret to immortality. They die when their chosen mate dies."

"Just because you don't have the answer doesn't mean the rest of them don't," the Dark Lord hissed. "Besides, we'll have to overcome this little problem anyways, since I don't plan on dying. It is rather troublesome that four of my seven horcruxes have already been destroyed, though."

Harry found himself wandering through the empty hallways of Hogwarts as he dreamed. He knew he was dreaming, because not a single candle was lit and yet Harry knew exactly where he was: He was on his way to Draco's room.

As loud as his footsteps were, Harry thought that he really ought to have woken up. And even though he tried to wake up, he found himself walking closer and closer to Draco's room.

It was going to be another one of those dreams, Harry could tell.

Soon enough, Harry was in front of the door to Draco's room.

In these dreams, he somehow bypassed the Slytherin common room. If it would only be so easy in real life. Then, Harry would have no problem confronting Draco about these dreams in the first place. As it was, Harry hesitated between facing a legion of unfriendly Slytherins and being caught out after curfew.

There was never a word spoken between Harry and Draco. The door simply opened. Harry went in, as he always did. Draco was sitting on his bed, waiting.

If Harry was honest with himself, he would admit that he actually could enjoy these dreams, where there was no tomorrow, no yesterday. There were no enemies, no enmity. Where there were only Draco and Harry and there was Harry and Draco. With an understanding so complete between them that no words were ever spoken.

However, they were only dreams. Besides, Harry was sure that Draco was sending them to Harry, and Harry thought he would enjoy these dreams if they were private.

Besides, Harry found that sleeping with somebody in his dreams, while pleasant, quite exhausting. In this way, Harry had had little sleep in the past week and found himself nodding off in classes other than History of Magic. When he wasn't staring at Malfoy, that was.

So, Harry thought desperately of a way to, if not wake up, at least change the direction of the dream. Hurry it up a little. Make it end quicker. Or at least not so exhausting.

In his dream, Harry sat down next to Draco, and Draco draped himself on Harry's back. Draco's pale blond hair tickled Harry's neck a little and Draco's hands rubbed soothing patterns down Harry's back, under his shirt.

There were kisses in Harry's dreams. Draco planted butterfly kisses all the way down Harry's neck, and Draco's soft tongue traced the faint teeth marks on Harry's shoulder, leaving it a little chilled as Draco moved down Harry's back.

With a sigh, Harry leaned back, and both of them collapsed on Draco's soft bed, no doubt custom ordered from some exclusive furniture maker.

The silk sheets rustled softly as Draco turned both of them over, so that Harry lay on his stomach, with Draco's comforting weight on top of him. Somehow, the candles in Draco's room had gone out and their clothes had disappeared so Harry could feel Draco's warmth in sharp contrast with the cool night air in the Slytherin dungeons.

It was a dream, after all, and inexplicable things happened in dreams all the time.

Which reminded Harry quite jarringly that he was in a dream, which he shouldn't be dreaming, for various reasons, the most practical of which was he needed true rest.

But as experience had taught Harry, he couldn't wake himself up from his dreams.

Although, Harry thought desperately as he tried not to be pulled under the soothing patterns Draco was drawing on his chest, the delicate fingers skimming carefully over bare skin, touching but not quite touching spots Harry had never known were so sensitive...

Maybe an interruption would help. Some sort of interruption.

Like a third wheel to cool the scene.

Which reminded Harry abruptly that somebody had said something about a third person.


She had offered to be there if Harry ever needed a third person. This would be the perfect time, even if Harry was just thinking it his dream.

Harry tried to picture Lavender.

She was tall and thin, with straight brown hair—this week—and really long eyelashes—longer than even Draco's. Harry pictured her with red lipstick, a bit of blush, and a touch of eyeliner, since Harry had never seen her without any of those three. A Hogwarts school robe completed the picture.

A sudden weight fell onto the bed.

Harry looked over, and to his immense shock and relief, he saw Lavender there, just as he had pictured her. She smiled brilliantly at Harry, her white teeth shining unnaturally in the dark room.

Harry smiled back hesitantly.

Apparently, Draco—the Draco in the dream—noticed that Lavender was there, too. Suddenly, both Harry and Draco were fully dressed. Harry still lay on the bed, but Draco stood stiffly beside the bed.

When Harry looked over at Draco, he found cold silver eyes piercing through him. Then, Draco gave Lavender an even more glacial look, if it was possible.

Then, all went black as Harry fell into a dreamless sleep.

"What did you do with Lavender?" Hermione demanded at breakfast.

"What?" Harry asked, confused. For the first time in a long while, Harry felt actually refreshed in the morning. In fact, he couldn't remember any dreams from last night, nightmares or otherwise. "I didn't do anything with Lavender."

"Well," Hermione said doubtfully. "Don't look now, but she's got to have at least a pound of makeup on her—I'm not exaggerating—and she's been sneaking looks at you all breakfast."

Ron turned from his breakfast to join in the conversation. "So?" He asked, after turning around and looking at Lavender. "Lavender's always looking at Harry anyways. And I think you should worry more about a filthy Slytherin looking at you."

Automatically, Hermione looked across the table, and found Blaise's blue eyes on her. Seeing that he had her attention, Blaise blew her a flying kiss, making Hermione blush furiously. She looked away quickly. "I have no idea what Blaise thinks he's doing."

Ron looked between Hermione and Blaise suspiciously. "Are you sure you didn't do anything with him?"

"Nothing that would elicit this kind of reaction." Hermione paused. "We just had a walk on Saturday."

Ron's brown eyes widened. "You had a walk with him? You took your time away from studying and walked with him?"

Hermione shrugged, trying to be nonchalant. "I had most of my homework done already."

"You took time away from studying to go on a date with Blaise Zabini!" Ron exclaimed, throwing his hands up into the air before collapsing onto the table. He muttered, "What is this world coming to?"

"It was not a date," Hermione refuted. "It was a spur of the moment walk to the lake and back."

"You went to the lake?" Harry asked. Even Harry knew that a walk around the lake was the standard date on Hogwarts campus.

"What do you mean spur of the moment?" Ron questioned. "For you, maybe, but he probably planned it all along. Probably's been planning it for months, the sly, sneaking Slytherin."

Hermione rolled her eyes in exasperation. "You are just being paranoid. Besides, if I wanted to date somebody, I can. It's not like I'm seeing anybody."

"B-b-but..." Ron trailed off, not quite sure of what to say to that. There was just something not quite right about Hermione dating somebody. To Ron, there was Harry, the hero, and there were Hermione and Ron, Harry's friends. He had never even thought about Hermione dating somebody—Victor had just been a one-time thing—and it sat uncomfortably in his chest.

"What is important, though," Hermione continued. "Is why Lavender is still looking at you like that."

This time, Harry couldn't resist looking over at where Lavender sat. She was whispering something with Parvati, as usual. Girl stuff, they had said once when Harry had asked in second year. He hadn't bothered asking again.

When Lavender caught Harry looking at her, she flashed a brilliant smile at him.

"I told you I dreamed true," Harry heard Lavender say.

"Ooh," Parvati cooed, and then lowered her voice so that whatever she said next was unintelligible to Harry.

"Ugh," Hermione intoned in disgust. "Not some stupid divination thing again."

Unfortunately for Hermione, Hermione, Ron and Harry all caught Professor Trelawney's name distinctively in Lavender and Parvati's conversation.

Harry continued eating his breakfast. "I really didn't do anything with Lavender, see?"

Hermione looked at Harry suspiciously before finally nodding. "I suppose it's not really your fault if she dreamed some random girlish dream."

"But you did do something with Zabini," Ron said in an accusative tone. He wasn't going to drop it.

"Yeah, well?" Hermione asked. "Ron, you're one of my best friends, but you are not my boyfriend. Therefore, while I am glad you care about whom I decide to date, you have no authority to tell me whom to date. Or not date. Blaise happens to be a very nice person and a perfect gentleman."

Harry heard Ron mutter something under his breath. Something about money and position and purebloods.

"I didn't hear that," Hermione said loudly. "And I'm not sure I want to. At least Blaise can speak clearly and articulately to express himself."

Hermione decided to eat her breakfast stoically.

Ron sighed.

Harry asked half-heartedly, "Who wants to tryout for Quidditch team?"

It seemed as if the entire Gryffindor house showed up for Quidditch tryouts, even the first-years who obviously would not qualify and the girls who had never shown any interest in the sport before. Harry thought that there might even be a Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw in the mix.

The Boy-Who-Lived himself was the captain, after all.

Harry sighed as he eyed a couple of first year boys dubiously. He could hear them talking about being seekers, a position that Harry himself occupied and did not plan on giving up. At least he could tell them that.

For the Keeper and Beaters Harry needed, though, he would have to give everybody a fair tryout, even if Harry already knew that they were not qualified.

"Alright," Harry said through the cacophony, but nobody seemed to have heard. He took a deep breath. "Alright!" He shouted.

Instantly, the crowd quieted, as if waiting a show to begin. Harry looked over the crowd hesitantly before announcing, "The try outs for Beaters are first. If you want to try out to be a Beater, please line up here."

A minute passed as people shuffled around.

When there was finally a semblance of a queue in front of Harry, he decided he might as well go ahead. "I'm going to let out the bludgers," Harry explained as he gestured to the field. "And four of you will hit it at each other. I will decide who's best."

Harry looked back to see if people understood, only to see Lavender at the head of the line. "Lavender," he said. "I didn't know you're interested in Quidditch."

"Oh, of course," Lavender replied, surprising Harry. "I'd do anything to protect you, including keeping those evil, nasty bludgers away from you."

"Um... okay." Harry was at a lost as to how to respond.

It turned out, though, that just as Harry had assumed, Lavender was completely unqualified to as a Beater. Normally, high heels wouldn't matter on brooms, but one of Lavender's flamboyant red high-heels fell off during the try out, causing her to panic.

"Oh, the heel is going to break!" Lavender shrieked desperately as she watched her shoe fall, while the other three Gryffindors were still trying to heat the bludgers. Unfortunately, one of them hit Lavender straight in the face. Harry thought that Lavender probably broke her nose.

The next thing Harry knew, Lavender was sprawled rather awkwardly on the ground with her broom several feet away from her and the other three Gryffindors were descending too. Harry approached Lavender carefully. She lay unmoving, and didn't make any noise except a very faint groan.

"Um, Lavender?" Harry said. "I think you'd better go see Madame Pomfrey."

Lavender said something, but the lawn muffled it so that Harry couldn't understand it.

"I'll bring you to the infirmary, okay?" Harry offered. He actually felt rather guilty for not stopping Lavender earlier. Bludgers were rather nasty, and he had known that Lavender would not make the team. He really should have just told her so.

Looking around, Harry saw that everybody had formed a ring around Lavender. He told them, "We'll do tryouts another time."

Harry slung one of Lavender's arms awkwardly around his shoulder and together, they half hopped, half limped to the infirmary.

"Are you okay?" Harry asked.

Lavender seemed almost delirious, though. "Okay, okay," she muttered. "I'd do anything to keep you safe, Harry."

"Um, I'm actually quite safe at Hogwarts."

"Did you know Parvati and Padma are seers?" Lavender asked incongruously. Without waiting for Harry's answer, she continued, "Well, I'm a seer, too, because last night, I saw myself with you and Draco."

"Uh..." What did Lavender expect Harry to say? "I think it might've just been a dream."

"No, no," Lavender waved Harry's theory away. Or she would've, but her hand only moved minimally. "I felt it, that it was real. Besides, I didn't know that Draco had his own room—but I dreamed it. I asked around today, and it was true."

"Okay," Harry accepted, even though he still wasn't very convinced. He thought everybody knew that Draco had his own room. At least, all the Slytherins knew. But then, Slytherins were very good at keeping secrets.

"You know, Draco was looking very sexy on top of you when I dropped onto the bed," Lavender continued and tripped a little so that Harry staggered under her weight.

Harry thought the bludger must have hit Lavender pretty hard, or she wouldn't be saying things like this. Fortunately, they were almost at the infirmary. When Lavender healed, Harry could pretend that this conversation hadn't happened.

Still, the last part of what Lavender said triggered something in Harry's memory. Sure, Harry had dreams with Draco on top of him, but the part about somebody dropping onto the bed.

"Oh, bloody hell," Harry cursed aloud as they arrived at the infirmary. Lavender had dreamed true, even if it wasn't about the future. Harry only just remembered his dream.

Madame Pomfrey was nowhere in sight. So, Harry took it upon himself to lay Lavender down so she could at least get some rest. And he could get some rest, too. As he put her down, though, somehow she didn't let go of him and they both tripped onto the bed, so that Harry found himself on top of Lavender.

"Um, Lavender?" Harry said as he tried to untangle himself unsuccessfully. Lavender seemed determined to hold onto the corner of Harry's collar. "Can you let go?"

There was no response from Lavender.

Suddenly, a cold voice said behind Harry, "Don't worry, Potter, it's all the same if I amputate her arm."

Draco could feel the cold anger that had been swirling just beneath his consciousness finally coming to a head.

No matter what had happened before, Potter had always been at the center of it. In first year, Draco had taken Longbottom's Rememberall, and Potter had chased him. Through the subsequent years, they sneered at each other, hurled insults at each other, and dueled with each other. But every time Draco had done something, Harry had responded.

Except for now.

Because of the bond, Draco had been plagued with dreams, hot, heavy, lusty dreams. Not only did Draco never dream before—Nightmares had no souls, little subconscious, and generally gathered dreams more than made them—these dreams always ended with an unsatisfied and rather frustrated Draco.

And while it was true that these dreams featured Harry Potter, the dark-haired, green-eyed hero of the wizarding world, Draco found it strangely disturbing that the real Harry Potter had no visible reaction to these nightly apparitions that plagued Draco.

Last night, though, a very strange occurrence took place in Draco's dream: Brown had appeared.

Throughout the day, today, Draco had pondered over the meaning of the girl who had designs on Draco's mate and could possibly—very unlikely, but still possibly—severe the bond that was forming between him and Potter.

Draco had decided to restrain himself from any action against the Gryffindor girl only because he had thought that even a Gryffindor shouldn't be blamed for something that had happened merely in a dream.

However, when Draco saw Harry walking with Brown down the hall, he had found himself in a rare state of shock. Still being understanding, though, Draco had waited, rather unnecessarily. In fact, he had almost decided to leave once he saw the pair of Gryffindors arrive at the infirmary.

Staying true to Slytherin values, though, Draco had decided to stay just in case something did not go as it should. Something didn't.

Draco found his mate and a girl engaging in foolish flirting—and perhaps beyond flirting—on a bed.

Harry was Draco's, Draco vowed. All of Harry.

If Harry was angry, he took it out on Draco. If Harry was upset, Draco would notice. If Harry laughed, it would be with Draco by his side. And if Harry decided he needed a little lusty entertainment, he should certainly go to Draco.

That Harry had decided to go to Brown...

It made something ugly in Draco raise its head.

"Actually, if it's all the same to you, I'd rather you don't," Harry said carefully, as if sensing that Draco felt more than usually antagonistic.

"It's not the same to me," Draco replied evenly. "I think I'd feel much better if I cut of her arm."

Harry had managed to unwind Lavender's arm from around his neck. He looked around, but Madame Pomfrey remained conspicuously absent. "Why don't we talk about this outside?" Harry asked.

"I think the conversation is just as well in here," Draco said. "Give me one reason why I shouldn't cut off her arm."

"Um..." Harry was at a loss as how to reply. All the obvious reasons—compassion, empathy, simple self-preservation from the wrath of Headmaster Dumbledore as well as Harry Potter—seemed not to apply for the Nightmare in front of him. Finally, Harry said, "You're supposed to be my ally, remember?"

At this, Draco snorted, and then laughed a strange, dry laugh. "Your ally, Potter, not your slave, and only for the war. Lavender contributes less than nothing to the war. Besides, even that is only after you have accepted the bond." Draco took a menacing step toward Harry. "Why haven't you accepted the bond yet?"

The bed was just behind Harry, but Harry told himself that he wouldn't have backed up anyways. He was a Gryffindor, and he wouldn't bow to Slytherin filth. Even if the Slytherin filth looked rather attractive and was rather powerful.

"I have accepted the bond," Harry replied evenly. "We have a bond. I can't break it. I accept it. What more do you want me to say?"

"It's not about saying anything." Draco shook his head slowly, so that his pale hair fluttered in front of his face. "It's about believing. What do you think magic is about, Harry? It's about believing." Draco paused to look at Harry and to make sure that Harry was still listening. "We killed God because we made sure nobody believed in him anymore."

Harry found himself fascinated by Draco. There was a certain... charisma that Harry had never before encountered in anyone else. It was if time slowed down for Draco. Harry could only point out, "But you believe in God."

"Ah." Draco smiled self-depreciatingly at this. "But we don't have souls, and so we don't have magic. Or rather, Lucifer already has all of our souls so it doesn't matter if we believe in God or not."

Harry had no reply to this. While Uncle Vernon and Aunt Veronica claimed to be Christians, Harry had never even seen a Bible in their house, even after all the cleaning he did. He knew little more than what Seamus had told him, which was very little.

"So God is the Christian God, then?" Harry asked.

Draco eyed Lavender suddenly, but decided that she could wait. "Of course there's a Christian God," Draco replied. "I imagine there's a god for every one that somebody believes in. God didn't make people; People made God."

"But you said something about Lucifer..."

"Yes, well, some people made God. Then, they gave him a son. They also made angels, and one of them was Lucifer and some of them were Nightmares. Things you make up in your mind can get out of control. So it is with things many different people make up." Draco paused before continuing. "Of course, if you don't believe in God, there is no God for you. But it's not about saying. It's about believing."

Harry found himself having a little trouble with this. God was God—Harry wasn't sure which God. People could choose to believe in him or people could choose not to, but shouldn't the god remain the same god?

Harry's relief at having distracted Draco was short-lived, though, when Draco said, "Magic is about believing. For example, if I believe I can cut off her arm, I can."

Harry looked behind him apprehensively, and Lavender had only one arm. Harry wasn't sure if it was a good sign that there was no blood. Harry could see the white bone and red fleshy stuff where Lavender's arm was truncated, making it somehow surreal.

He turned back to Draco, and was just about to somehow make Draco undo the amputation, when Draco waved his hand negligently in the air. "Or I could choose to make you believe that I have cut off her arm. Of course, if you believed it hard enough, you would've been the one to relieve her of her arm, not me."

Harry found Draco's smile rather unsettling and he thought he certainly wasn't in the mood to appreciate Draco's humor.

"Well, maybe not," Draco corrected himself. "It's difficult for you wizards and witches to do wandless magic, simply because your spirits are not as good at focusing. Still, if you believed hard enough..."

Draco sighed as if in regret. "Well, you didn't. And I hadn't made it real because I decided it wasn't worth the effort. You would just ask me to grow it back anyways."

Hermione turned to Ron impatiently. "Tell me what we are doing again."

"Shh..." Ron admonished. "We are spying on the Slytherins to see what evil designs they have."

"No, we're not," Hermione said, gesturing impatiently. "We are staring stupidly at an empty gray wall that leads to the Slytherin common room and we don't even have an invisible cloak to hide underneath."

"Well..." Hermione's logic was mostly infallible, Ron had learned from the past five and some years. "We can always claim that we want to speak to Malfoy or something."

"Right," Hermione answered sarcastically. "Because you are always willing to speak with Malfoy without violence involved. I think we're better off telling them we're seeing Blaise or something."

"That's a brilliant idea!" Ron surprised Hermione by saying. "That's exactly it. We're here to tell Blaise that he has to stay far, far away from you and that if he touches even a single hair on you, Harry and I will send him to the darkest pit in Hell where he won't ever see the sun ever again."

"Besides the various obvious illogical and redundant references in your sentence, can I say, 'not this again'?" Hermione rolled her eyes. "You really have no jurisdiction over this part of my life, and besides, you don't honestly expect me to be a spinster, do you? Even Harry has a mate."

Ron was saved from having to answer when Nott burst out from the Slytherin house.

Fortunately for the two Gryffindors, Nott didn't seem to notice them at all. Instead, he was muttering to himself as he stared angrily at the floor. "I can't believe Malfoy," they heard him mutter vaguely. "I'll show him. I'll show them all with my Lord. I'll show them when the dementors come flying, because of me. Then, I'll see what they have to say."

When Nott disappeared around the corner, Ron and Hermione left the Slytherin entrance by tacit consent.

Once they were back in the Gryffindor common room, Hermione burst out, "Nott is planning something."

"Of course," Ron answered. "He's a Slytherin. Being a Slytherin is synonymous with 'planning something.'"

"No, I mean, Nott is planning something on a grand scale. Voldemort is involved. So, apparently, is Malfoy."

"What?" Ron asked, alarmed. "You mean Nott is planning something with Malfoy for Voldemort?"

Hermione pursed her lips in thought. "I don't think so. I don't think that Malfoy can betray his mate like that. But Nott definitely mentioned Malfoy's name."

"Wait, wait, wait." Ron waved his hands frantically. "Who gave you the only book on Nightmares?"

"Blaise," Hermione answered slowly, not seeing Ron's point.

"Exactly." Ron continued triumphantly, "And Draco Malfoy is known to hang out with who the most?"


"So, if Draco wanted to plot something," Ron concluded. "And he wanted to throw you off track, he would give you a book with wrong information. Since it'd be suspicious if he handed it to you himself, he would have somebody else do the dirty work."

Hermione frowned thoughtfully, and finally shook his head. "I don't know. I can't see Blaise doing it. Besides, wouldn't Dumbledore have known if Malfoy wasn't telling the truth?"

"I always knew that Blaise was planning something," Ron said, more to himself than to Hermione. "And, well, Dumbledore... he hasn't been here much for the past three weeks. How would he know what Draco has planned? Draco could very well be a Nightmare, but we still don't really know what they are."

"But Nightmares and Nightmares is a famous book," Hermione protested. "I've read about it in several different other books."

"I'm not saying that it's not, but how do you know that the version you have is the actual book. It's not that difficult to make a book with false information and a false title."

"Fine, I suppose it's possible," Hermione relented reluctantly. "So, what do you think we should do?"

Ron answered without pausing, “What we've always done, of course. Watch over Harry."

Hermione added, "We should tell him."

"He might not believe us."

"But we should tell him anyways."


Harry Potter and the Prince of Nightmares

Chapter Nine – Dance

Theodore found himself in Professor Snape's office Friday before lunch. He shifted and looked around the room, not quite sure what he was waiting for. All Professor Snape had said was to come to this office. Honestly, Theodore couldn't remember doing anything incorrectly, and certainly, Professor Snape had never favored him the way Malfoy was favored.

At the thought of Malfoy, Theodore's lips curled. The younger Malfoy had been the golden boy—of the Slytherins, that was—since the first day of school. While Malfoy certainly came from an ancient bloodline, the Nott line was not incomparable. Malfoy was a prat besides, even if Theodore hated to agree with Gryffindors.

The senior Malfoy was worse. Theodore always saw him strutting around as if he owned the world, which he did, in a sense, but only because the Dark Lord gave it to the senior Malfoy. Now that Malfoy had it, he decided to leave the Dark Lord.

It wasn't senior Malfoy's disloyalty that Theodore held in contempt. Loyalty was a rather stupid concept. Rather, it was Malfoy's stupidity. After all, didn't Malfoy think that the Dark Lord could take back what he had given? Well, it was all the same to Theodore.

Actually, it was better. Because before Malfoy's rise, Theodore's father had been on the rise as the Dark Lord's second. Of course, that was impossible now because he father got himself rather unfortunately imprisoned in Azkaban. Still, Theodore was a Nott, and he knew enough to be able to gain the Dark Lord's favor, if not eventually become the Dark Lord's second.

He did, after all, have the special trinket he was waiting for an opportunity to present. As soon as he fixed it...

The door to the office opened. Thirty-seven seconds late, Theodore noticed. These teachers thought they could do anything they wanted.

As Theodore looked up, though, it wasn't to see the greasy black-haired professor. Instead, Malfoy, Lucius Malfoy, stood just inside the room, closing the door to the office deliberately. On Malfoy's face loomed a smile that Theodore didn't quite trust.

"Nott," Malfoy acknowledged. "Just the person I wanted to see."

Theodore held back a glare. Malfoy was stronger than Theodore, and Theodore wasn't a Gryffindor. One day, though, Theodore promised himself that he would show Malfoy who was the bigger man. Even if his wife had already agreed that Theodore was better.

"Malfoy," Theodore greeted in kind, treating Malfoy as an equal. "What a surprise. I was actually expecting Professor Snape."

"Oh, Severus." Malfoy took arranged himself comfortably on a seat. "He was kind to do me a favor and arrange this little meeting between us."

Dammit! Theodore thought, you'd think that Headmaster Dumbledore would be powerful enough to know who should be good enough to be a professor. Of course, Headmaster Dumbledore had never quite championed for the Slytherins the way he did for the Gryffindors.

"What do you want?" Theodore spat, and then realized his mistake.

Malfoy only chuckled. "Shouldn't the question be what do you want?"

Theodore felt cold sweat seeping down his back. Malfoy hadn't managed to take over his father's position for nothing. "I know what I want," Theodore finally answered.

"Okay," Malfoy accepted easily. Too easily. "Well, then, I'm here to teach you that you can't always have what you want. Or who you want."

There was a strange glint in Malfoy's silver eyes—a trace of madness—as he waved his hand airily.

Theodore heard a crack and felt something hit his chest. Looking down, he saw that his robe had ripped and there was blood seeping through. He looked up at Malfoy with undisguised surprise. But that strange smile was still on Malfoy's face.

Unconsciously, Theodore took a step back. He glanced at the door, but it looked closed, and he doubted he had enough time to get out before Malfoy put a restraining spell on him.

There was another crack and Theodore winced as pain hit him again. This time, though, Theodore had anticipated the pain and it wasn't as bad. In fact, it was almost pleasant in its familiarity, the way father had always disciplined him.

"Normally," Theodore heard Malfoy say. "I find physical pain very crude. In this case, however, I have a limited amount of time and I did promise Snape to return you to him the way I found you."

Theodore wasn't sure how, but Malfoy seemed to be wielding an invisible whip. After several more slashes, Theodore barely felt them anymore, just a little ripple of tingling as the whip fell.

Theodore snorted contemptuously. "Even you can't heal me that fast."

A signature Malfoy smirk appeared on Malfoy's pale face. "But I can."

Apparently, Harry found out, Nightmares could plant dreams other than nightmares, and while he was grateful that Draco kept his promise—Harry hadn't even had any Voldemort-induced nightmares—he wasn't quite sure what to make of his new dreams.

During the past week, Harry had found himself more often than not falling asleep just to dream of pale flesh, flushed with excitement, silver eyes molten in passion, and light, golden hair, as soft as air.

There were sheets in Harry's new dreams, twisted and drenched in sweat. There were candles sometimes, flickering somewhere far away. Or there were the faint twinkles of stars. And sometimes, Harry found himself doing some things with Draco that Harry was sure couldn't be right, but he found himself enjoying it nonetheless.

Surely, Harry thought, Draco must have something to do with his new dreams—they weren't quite fearful enough to be nightmares—because Harry was sure that he could never even come up with these things by himself.

Not only did the dreams take over most of Harry's time asleep, Harry found that he couldn't concentrate during the day either.

Take now, for example. It was DADA class on Friday, the last class before the weekend began. Harry really ought to be concentrating on Professor Snape, since the Professor was bound to assign some nasty essay for the weekend.

Or at least, if Harry's mind decided to take a trip to another place, he should be thinking about the Hogsmeade trip next weekend. Or Quidditch tryouts he really needed to get started. Or the Halloween ball that was coming up.

Instead, all Harry found himself doing was staring at Draco's back, wondering if Draco's flaxen hair really felt as soft as it had in the dreams. It certainly looked just as pretty, like pixie dust sprinkled on golden silk.

Harry found himself admiring Draco's neck, too—where Draco's hair fell just past his ears, a pale, ivory column that stood just so. Unlike most sixteen year olds, Draco had no acne or spots and his neck was no exception. Just staring at Draco's neck from behind, Harry thought that Draco looked rather protect-able.

For the most part during the lesson, Draco stared idly ahead, at where Nott sat just in a row in front. From time to time, though, Draco turned his head to where Professor Snape was, and Harry could just make out the muscles and veins moving in Draco's neck. Then, Harry would remember all the wonderful things he did to Draco in the dreams... and all the wondering things Draco did to him in the dreams...

Surely, all teen-aged boys had dreams like this. Harry thought that this must be what Seamus was talking about two years ago. And what keeps a constant stream of muffling spells in the boys' dorm. Surely, even Draco couldn't make dreams out of nothing.

Still, Harry did not appreciate Draco making Harry's hormones manifest in these particular dreams.

Harry decided that he would have to talk with Draco. Lines would have to be drawn.

As soon as Harry figured out how to broach the subject.

Draco had thought he would enjoy Harry staring at him, after all those dreams he'd been plagued with, thanks to his Nightmare instincts.

Honestly, before mating with Harry, Draco had never thought about the Boy-Who-Lived in that way. Potter was a hero. Potter was a Gryffindor. Everybody loved Potter, and treated him like the celebrity he was.

Of course, Draco had had liaisons, mostly discreet, short term ones. A teen-aged boy had to enjoy himself somehow. Draco was just lucky that he was as good looking—and as well connected—as he was that he didn't have to depend on magazines.

Ever since he had placed the mating mark on Harry, though, Draco had found that there was something... different about Harry.

It wasn't just his black hair and pale skin; Blaise had that, too, although not quite the same messy bedroom looking black hair. It wasn't the brilliant green eyes, either, with the clearest expressions that Draco had ever seen. Although, Draco thought, any other pair of eyes compared to Harry's would not be green. And Draco had certainly seen—and felt—more comfortable bodies than Harry's rather bony one.

There was just something...

Draco decided that that something was definitely his Nightmare instincts. There was no other explanation.

However, his father didn't seem unreasonably attracted to his mother. And his mother was quite attractive. Draco decided to shove that discontinuous thought from his mind.

Speaking of his father... Draco looked ahead, to the back of Theodore Nott's sandy colored head. The Notts were an old line, and Nott, Senior was a prominent Death-Eater. Theodore himself was in Draco's year and as a weedy-looking boy, had no exceptional traits that Draco knew of.

So, the question would be: Why would Draco's father be interested in Nott at all?

When Draco had first walked into the room, he had been shocked to find the signature of his father's magic permeating the room. Identifying certain familiar strands of magic was an ability unique to Nightmares, since they pulled on each other's magic regularly.

Not finding his father in the classroom, Draco had tried to find the focus of the magic elsewhere. Draco had found Nott.

Draco wondered what father had done with Nott, and hoped that it didn't jeopardize the bond between Draco's parents. There were some things Draco didn't understand about being a Nightmare—he wasn't a bookworm and had yet to finish the second chapter of Nightmares and Nightmares, which he started about three years ago. But it seemed to Draco as if it would be a bad idea for Nightmare to have an affair, if Draco's own instincts rang true.

Of course, his parents could just be interested in spicing things up a little.

"Thank you for taking time away from the DADA essay to walk with me," Blaise said as he walked with Hermione.

It was Saturday. The sun was shining. The birds were chirping. And there was nary a cloud in sight. Blaise rather thought that if Hermione didn't enjoy the weather now, she'd have to wait until April, and that was a long ways away.

"That's no problem," Hermione replied. "I've already finished it."

Blaise stopped walking, and Hermione stopped beside him. He looked at Hermione carefully. "But Professor Snape only assigned it yesterday."

"Well, I like getting work done early." Hermione shrugged a little self-consciously. "It's not like I finished all my homework on Friday."

"Oh, pray tell." Blaise grinned wickedly. "What homework haven't you finished?"

"Umm..." Hermione paused to think as they sat down on the grass next to the lake. "Well, I still have two pages of Differences Between Wild Herbs and Weeds that I haven't finished reading yet."

"And?" Blaise prompted.

"Nothing. That's it."

Blaise mock groaned into his hands. "First of all, it's only two pages. Secondly, that's not due until next week."

Hermione shrugged a little.

"Wait, wait," Blaise said. "Don't tell me you finished evil Professor Vector's homework already."

"Okay," Hermione agreed. "I won't tell you that I already finished it."

"So, did you?"

Hermione looked at Blaise for a moment. "I'm not telling you."

"But don't you think she's evil?" Blaise asked. "She assigned three charts for five days."

"Seven days," Hermione corrected.

Blaise looked at Hermione balefully. "Weekends do not count toward days to do homework."

"I don't see why not." After a pause, Hermione added, "Besides, Professor Vector isn't evil. The only evil professor I know of is Professor Snape."

"Nah," Blaise disagreed. "Professor Snape is really quite understanding."

"To his compatriots in the Slytherin house, maybe," Hermione allowed. "But to the rest of us..."

At this, Blaise laughed aloud. "Well, it's not as if he's the only biased head of house. Professor McGonagall quite favors Potter."

Hermione reflected on this and sighed. "I suppose."

"Seriously, though," Blaise said, his tone suddenly grave. "Slytherins aren't all evil."

"Of course not," Hermione agreed. "All evil are Slytherins." She took a careful look at Blaise's expression, which seemed oddly pensive, for such a sunny day. And for somebody who claimed not to do homework on weekends. "Can you honestly say that you are not planning something?"

Blaise raised his hands up in a sign of defeat. "Alas, you've found me out, Hermione. I've fallen in love with you."

As expected, Hermione laughed at Blaise's antic. Still, Blaise found that it hadn't been as difficult to say as it should have been. Usually, lies still felt odd and stuck in his throat when he said it—which was why he resorted to carefully truth-telling most of the time. Perhaps, he was finally getting past that stage.

"I mean," Blaise continued. "Maybe Salazar Slytherin had a not-so-pure motive."

"That's one way to put it," Hermione muttered.

Blaise turned the full force of his blue eyes on Hermione. "But think about it, what kind of eleven-year-olds' most distinctive trait is cunning? Children don't learn to be cunning unless it's all around them. Unless they need to use it. These are children who grew up knowing that if they asked for something, they probably wouldn't get it. So they find another way to get what they want."

"Maybe." Hermione's tone made her doubt clear, though. "But that still doesn't make it right."

"But neither is leaving a child all alone all the time. Or not giving him food. Or making him go through 'education' and 'discipline' that really aren't legal."

"No... But don't you think these children should have learned that what their parents do aren't right?"

Blaise smiled a little at Hermione's innocence, where a world was truly black and white. "How do they learn? The world they're in is the world they learn about. And then even when they do go to school, they are placed with other children from the same kind of families. What can they learn, but that the world works this way?"

"I see what you mean." Hermione looked at the lake in front of her. The giant squid hadn't made an appearance yet. "They really shouldn't separate the houses the way they do."

At this, Blaise shook his head regretfully. "Not all of us can be saved, you know. Slytherins can't become heroes like Harry Potter."

"Of course they can," Hermione ascertained forcefully, startling Blaise. "Harry Potter became Harry Potter."

Blaise laughed. "Of course. But he's also a Gryffindor."

Hermione sighed and pursed her lips, debating whether or not to tell Blaise. Finally, she said, "Well, the sorting hat almost put Harry in Slytherin."

"But it didn't."

"Only because Harry asked for it." After a pause, Hermione added, "He didn't want to be in the same house as the murderer of his parents."

A bird flew past, above Blaise and Hermione's heads, as Blaise fell silent. They got up to walk their way back to the castle. There was a companionable silence as Hermione took her time to enjoy nature, and Blaise thought about what Hermione said.

Finally, at the entrance to the Gryffindor house, Blaise took both of Hermione's hands and said, "Thank you."

Hermione smiled back at him. "Like I said, not a problem."

Blaise didn't hold on as Hermione pulled her hands away from his. "Thank you anyways."

"It's been over thirty days," said Typhulus as he started his request. "And the chosen mate of the prince has yet to accept the bond."

"Yes, it's been over thirty days," Lucius agreed. "It's been thirty-one days. Today."

"And it is unlikely that the chosen mate will accept the bond despite the contract," Typhulus continued calmly, as if reciting a memorized speech, about which Lucius had a rather strong suspicion. "In which case, Harry Potter would have willfully killed the prince."

Typhulus swept his hands outward, so that the long white sleeves of his High Councilor robe waved dramatically. The golden embroidery glittered under the multitude of candlelight in the High Councilor Chamber.

"Therefore," Typhulus's voice rang out more confidently. "I propose that in order to avenge our prince, let us form an alliance against his murderer: Harry Potter."

After a momentary silence, Cray stepped forward. "Our prince is not dead yet, and let us not consign him to death by killing his mate. Then, we would be his murderers."

"Also," Saybran pointed out. "Let us not forget that there is yet another fifty-nine days until the process of choosing substitute Prince would begin, according to l'ancienne loi. Or that although Harry Potter had not yet accepted the bond, neither has he rejected it."

"Yes," Typhulus agreed reluctantly. "But there is only another thirty days until the contract the chosen mate signed comes into affect. It is almost as binding as an Unbreakable Vow. And we all know what happens when an Unbreakable Vow is broken."

Lucius stepped forward. "It is not quite as binding as an Unbreakable Vow, though."

"In either case," Typhulus said, ignoring Lucius. "I suggest we have an alternative plan."

"Of course," Lucius agreed. "An alternative plan is always a good idea, to be put into action after the primary plan fails. Although, I doubt that our prophesized prince would fail to live up to expectations."

"Prophecies only tell the probable future," Typhulus said. "Besides, the idea of 'redemption' is so vague that who knows what he is supposed to bring? Perhaps our prince is meant to bring us all to the next world and face Lucifer."

"Don't be blasphemous," Saybran rebutted sharply.

"Blasphemous?" Typhulus laughed incredulously. "Head High Councilor, have you forgotten that we killed God?"

"Of course I have not," Saybran snapped. "But I think you, High Councilor Typhulus, might have forgotten that our prince is our idol."

"So," Typhulus pushed impatiently. "How do the High Councilors agree regarding an alliance with Voldemort?"

Lucius stepped forward, but Saybran interrupted Lucius by saying, "I think we can agree to consider the possibility, if Harry Potter does not accept the bond in thirty days." Saybran took his responsibility to maintain order within the High Council in the prince's absence very seriously.

"If Harry Potter does not accept the bond in thirty days," Saybran continued. "We will first select a new Prince, who will decide whether or not to form this alliance." He turned to Typhulus. "I hope that you are content that the possible selection of a substitute Prince would be thirty days sooner."

When no High Councilor offered any objections, Typhulus bowed his head. "Very well, then, as the High Council agrees."


Harry Potter and the Prince of Nightmares

Chapter Eight – Presents and Presents

"Argm-rawam-raiken-darwarnasha," Ron grumbled through a mouthful of food.

"Well, then, it's good that you have double divination today, and every Wednesday following," Hermione replied. Years of listening to Ron talk while eating—and trying to stop him from doing it with no result—had given Hermione the unique skill of understanding what Ron said even when he was eating.

"As for me," Hermione continued smugly. "I have Arithmancy and Magical Theory on Wednesday mornings, which happen to be my favorite subjects."

"Ugh." Ron made a face of disgust. This time, even Harry could understand what Ron meant, despite the food in his mouth, and Harry agreed wholeheartedly that not only could he not see the point of Arithmancy, Professor Vector had no personality to speak of.

"Well," Hermione said as she waved her fork in the air. "You boys would not understand the beauty that is Arithmancy. But you really should know something about Magical Theory."

"I do," Harry said. "Know something."

At this, Hermione rolled her eyes. "Yes, the rudimentary stuff. And what I told you two nights ago. But it's actually quite fascinating. In fact, I do wish Malfoy would take it, since Professor Ansly discusses why mix-bloods or muggleborns are generally healthier and more powerful than purebloods." As an afterthought, Hermione added, "Of course, she also teaches Muggle Studies."

Ron swallowed his food, but he hadn't chewed it quite thoroughly enough, and his throat hurt. "That's probably why Malfoy doesn't take Magical Theory."

"Well, technically, Draco isn't a pureblood either," Harry pointed out. At his friends' incredulous looks, he added, "He's half-wizard, half-Nightmare."

A big smile stretched across Ron's face. "You're right! Blimey, Malfoy is a half-blood. The prince of Slytherins is a half-blood!"

"Actually," Hermione injected, her tone deflating Ron's happy bubble. "Purebloods consider any lineage with magic to be pureblood. Basically, all magical creatures are better than muggleborns."

"But... But..." Harry tried to find a fault in Hermione's logic.

"In any case," Hermione continued blithely. "Nightmares can only mate with wizards and witches, so if you counted it that way, Malfoy is less than one percent of a percent Nightmare. Obviously, though, he carries all the Nightmare traits, one hundred percent of them."

"Yeah," Ron agreed enthusiastically. "Especially the one where they don't have souls."

"He does. It's just under-developed. And you really shouldn't hold that against him," Hermione admonished. "He was born that way."

Ron's brown eyes widened. "Are you campaigning for Malfoy?"

Instead of answering Ron, Hermione began cutting her eggs stoically.

"Hermione!" Ron didn't get a chance to say anything else, though, as owls started sweeping into the Great Hall. With a thud, a letter and a box landed on the Gryffindor table.

Hermione picked up the box in front of her. It had been tied elaborately with gold ribbons. There was a little rose artfully placed within the ribbons. It, too, was gilded in gold. Finally, there was a card on top. 'Hermione,' it read simply.

Ron leaned over to look at Hermione's present. "Who is it from?" He asked suspiciously.

"I have no idea." Hermione shrugged a little as she pulled the card out from the envelop. "'Hermione,'" she read aloud, but read no more. Instead, she skimmed the rest of it.

"Well?" Ron prompted when she didn't say anymore.

Hermione finished her reading and sent Ron a glare. "It's private."

"What do you mean it's private?" Ron practically shouted. When Hermione didn't reply, Ron reached over and grabbed the letter from Hermione's unsuspecting hands.

"Give it back!" Hermione yelled.

"No," Ron answered firmly. Hermione jumped to try to get her letter back, but Ron was much taller than she was when he stood up. He held the paper high above him and ignored Hermione's attempts.

"'Hermione,'" Ron read. "'I thought of you last night as I put the book back onto the book shelf.' What book? 'Truly, you are the most wonderful person I have ever had the privilege to meet. So, I have sent you a rose and a box of chocolate—I hope you don't think I'm being too forward—' Who the hell is this? '—to thank you for our wonderful meetings. Honestly, though, you are sweeter than chocolate and more beautiful than roses, and I doubt anything in the world can compare to you. Sincerely, Blaise Zabini.'" Ron made a face of disgust. "Blaise Zabini?"

Hermione opted to remain silent. She wished she could control her blushing though.

"Honestly," Ron continued. "Who writes this kind of mushy drivel? Can he be any more fake?"

"Well," Parvati spoke up from across the table. "I thought it was rather romantic. And these are Godiva chocolates, too."

"Romantic?" Ron continued, scandalized. "There is clearly a plot here. A very nefarious plot. There is no way that Zabini would actually fall for Hermione."

"Accio letter," Hermione said, finally having gotten out her wand. She glared murderously at Ron. "I'm glad that you finally used 'nefarious' correctly," Hermione spat. "And just what do you mean that 'there is no way' he would like me. Are you implying something?"

"Hell yes!" Ron said. "Zabini is a Slytherin. He wouldn't tell you that you are beautiful and wonderful and sweet unless he had a reason to."

Ever the romantic, Parvati added hopefully, "Maybe he was just being honest."

"Well, then," Ron huffed. "He wouldn't have said those things."

At this, Hermione slapped Ron, the sound ringing out loudly through out the Great Hall. When the whole of the Great Hall quieted to listen to the dissension between the Gryffindor trio, though, Hermione turned calmly to Harry, as if nothing had happened. "Why don't you open your letter?" Hermione suggested.

Harry gulped. He didn't know whom the letter was from, but he really hoped that it would not share the same fate as Hermione's letter.

Unfortunately for him, Harry saw as he turned the letter over, that it was a howler. He groaned silently, but decided that since everybody was likely to hear the howler anyways, there was no point in waiting. Carefully, he opened his letter.

"Harry," the letter said evenly but loudly. The voice sounded familiar to Harry, a smooth tenor that intoned his name just so. "You're mine forever just as I am yours. Mine to love and mine to protect. I won't share you with anyone else."

With that, the letter burst into flames. Harry looked around hesitantly to see that most of the girls had a strange glazed look about them.

Finally, Parvati spoke up, "Who knew Malfoy was so romantic?"

"Malfoy?" Harry repeated in a strangled voice. But of course, who else would claim him like that, without a thought to his own embarrassment. And if Harry thought about it, Malfoy's voice would sound like this if he actually spoke something civil. This was so much worse than even the Valentine's card he had received in second year.

"Well," Lavender said. "That makes it quite clear that you are involved. If you ever want a third person, though, don't hesitate to ask me."

"Third person?" Harry asked, confused.

Lavender smiled, in what she hoped was a sexy way. It had looked good when she had practiced it in front of a mirror. "Just for fun, you know?"

"Um..." Harry stalled. He wasn't quite sure what Lavender meant. "I'll ask Draco."

"Okay." Lavender agreed but didn't let Harry off the hook. Her smile turned mischievous. "If he says no, we can always just keep him tied up or something."

"Lavender!" Hermione admonished. "I'm still trying to eat breakfast."

"Well," Lavender grumbled. "You have your Blaise Zabini."

Ron cut in hastily, not much inclined to hear more about Blaise Zabini. "I'm trying to eat, too."

At this, Lavender wasn't quite sure what to say. As Lavender fell silent, Hermione shot Lavender a smug smirk. Lavender narrowed her eyes back at Hermione.

"Well," Ron said finally. "I'm still single."

At this, Ginny looked up from where she sat beside Neville. "Well, I'm sure that if you were that desperate, Pansy Parkinson is still available."

"Ugh." Ron's face wrinkled in disgust. "I think I'd rather stay single, thank you very much."

Ginny tried to hide her laughter, but Ron heard it anyways. Ron groaned. Little sisters shouldn't be laughing at their big brothers because their big brothers were single. But of course, little sisters weren't supposed to have boyfriends either, and God knew that Ginny had had plenty of those.

Across the Great Hall, Draco and Blaise sat beside each other, eating breakfast with their fellow Slytherins.

Blaise shot Draco a glare. "You just had to one up on me, didn't you?"

"Of course," Draco drawled. "You might be a Slytherin, but I'm the Prince of Slytherins."

Blaise snorted at this. "That is such a self-made title."

"Besides," Draco continued as if Blaise didn't say anything. "It's the perfect opportunity to let everybody know that Harry is taken."

"As if the Gryffindor Gazette didn't do that already." Blaise paused, and then his tone became serious. "You didn't see the way Brown was eyeing your mate, did you?"

"Of course I did," Draco replied. "But I can take care of her easily enough. She'd be even easier than Fitch-Fletchley. Not only does she have no lineage to speak of, she doesn't have money either. Being a whore really suits her, actually."

"Too bad she can't hear your flattering observations."

"Too bad," Draco repeated airily. "Of course, I can always send her a couple of nightmares."

At this, Blaise Zabini pretended to shudder. "Oh, save me," he mocked. "For I cannot sleep without nightmares or even close my eyes without remembering them."

Draco glanced sideways at Blaise, who only smiled back innocently. "Do you really want me to show you what I mean?"

"No, it's okay. I believe you," Blaise replied hastily. "I still remember quite well that nightmare you decided to give me when I was five, about giant bananas jumping out of trees to attack me. And then when I was eight, you sent a really morbid one just after you read Seventeen Trickiest Hexes to Un-hex, and decided that since you were forbidden to try them in real life, you'd try them on me in a nightmare. And then when I was eleven..." He paused, noticing Draco's amused expression. "Do I really need to tell you all this?"

"Of course not," Draco said. "But it makes me happy to know that you still remember all those nightmares."

"Bastard," Blaise said.

"Not really, since my parents were bonded." Draco looked evenly at Blaise. "That's more than I can say for your parents, though."

"Well, my mother managed to convince my father by the time I was born."

"Yes," Draco said. "Your mother has always been very good at... convincing people."

"Not my fault she was a dark temptress," Blaise rejoined. "Or that she passed that trait down to me."

Draco took one look at Blaise's satisfied expression. "You're forgetting that she's also very good at Dark Arts, which she didn't pass down to you."

"Well, I'm a late bloomer."

"Of course," Draco allowed regally.

Blaise looked at Draco suspiciously. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"I'm simply agreeing with you." Draco decided to pour himself a cup of coffee. "You said that you are a late bloomer, not me."

As usual, Blaise ended up with nothing to say, because he had said that he was a late-bloomer. One of these days, though, Blaise vowed, he was going to win Draco in an argument. Today, he satisfied himself by saying, "I hate you."

Draco smiled beatifically, completely unperturbed. "No, you don't. You're just jealous that you're not me."

"What do you want this time?" Snape asked Lucius irritably, upon finding Lucius in his suite. Again. "I just saw you two nights ago. You didn't even have a High Councilor meeting to rant about."

"Of course not, High Councilor meetings are every Sunday," Lucius agreed.

Snape sighed, and decided that he might as well give up now. He slumped down in the chair he usually reserved for students. Except, apparently, when Lucius called on him. Really, didn't a hard working teacher deserve some rest? Or maybe a spy? A guardian? Surely, one of those occupations...

"If I didn't know any better," Snape grumbled. "I'd say we were having an affair."

At this, Lucius smirked. "Unfortunately for me, I remain monogamous. And unfortunately for you, I'm not Remus Lupin."

Snape shot up in his seat. He knew he should remain stoic, but he felt his face blanching anyways. No matter how much Snape trusted Lucius with his life, they were both Slytherins, and so Snape wouldn't trust Lucius with his secret.

"Wh-What are you talking about?" Snape pretended not to know.

At this, Lucius's gray eyes sparkled with amusement. "You think you can hide that from me even though I have to heal all of your wounds? It's quite cute, actually."

"It's been a long time," Snape remarked wistfully and sighed. "Almost twenty years. You'd think I'd forget by now."

Lucius laughed. "You don't really expect to fool me with that, do you? You still think of him every time you go to sleep."

"Fine!" If Lucius didn't know any better, he would have said that Severus was sulking. "You know my deep, dark secret. What do you want in exchange?"

"Your 'deep, dark secret'?" Lucius repeated, raising one pale eyebrow. "I'm sure that is not even close to it, although I do know that it has something to do with that werewolf. In any case, I came because I forgot to ask you something last time. Theodore Nott is in your house, isn't he?"

"Nott?" Snape frowned, not understanding why Lucius would ask for Nott. "Of course. Not only is he pureblood, he's from a Death-Eater family. Why?"

"Well," Lucius drawled. "Can you possibly arrange a meeting between him and me?"

Snape looked at Lucius's face carefully. As usual, though, Lucius's face remained a cold mask devoid of emotion. "What do you want?"

"Oh," Lucius answered easily. "I just want to give him a little present."

Snape's eyes narrowed. "What kind of present."

Lucius grinned, but his face somehow remained emotionless. Vaguely, Snape thought he saw Lucius's teeth glisten, but it must have been a trick of the candlelight. Lucius answered, "It's a surprise."

"Don't harm him, okay?" Snape asked. "I'm still head of his house."

"Oh, of course," Lucius answered easily. "I'll give him back just the way I found him. Like I said, I just want to give him a little gift."

Snape sighed. "Fine, when do you want the meeting?"

"Whenever is convenient for you." Lucius spread his hands in a generous gesture. "Within the next seventy-two hours."

"I'll contact you by fire call, then," Snape bit out.

Lucius stood up from Snape's favorite chair. "Very much obliged," Lucius said, and Snape snorted. Then, Lucius disappeared from Snape's suite, leaving Snape all alone again.

Ah, Snape thought, peace and quiet.


Ah... Life

Midterms/finals suck.

And I wish that the HPDM FQF is still alive.