Saturday, May 26, 2007

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."