Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, nor are they free agents. They are enslaved in totality to J.K. Rowling, Scholastic Books, Bloomsbury Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Brothers, Inc. More's the pity. No copyright infringement is intended.
Disclaimer 2: The science in this story is fictional. Any resemblance to real science is purely coincidental.
The Gods Themselves
Draco Malfoy crossed the Hogwarts lawn and breathed deeply. He liked being here. He liked home, as well, but living with his father was like shuttling quickly down a straight line, like flying through a tunnel. Here the world opened up. There were so many different things going on, and he ruled over many of them. He ruled over people. Here, he ruled his own destiny.
Then he saw Potter, and his good mood faltered. The Great Harry Potter screwed up everything. Draco would own this school if it wasn't for him. Instead Potter shone the brightest. He deformed the space around him until the whole world gravitated to him. And the infuriating thing was that he didn't even know it. Draco was beaten out by this: this gangly boy wandering across the lawn with his perpetually befuddled look.
Draco glared at him, angry that Harry had spoiled his day, angry that Harry existed. Harry happened to glace up and catch his gaze. He looked startled and then angry. He said something to the mudblood and the Weasley. They glared at him in unison. Draco sneered and turned away.
He trudged along the lawn. The world didn't feel open any more. Harry took up all the space. Even without looking he could feel Harry behind him, warping the world, taking it away from him.
That night his dreams began.
He was alone in a sea of white. Every direction was entirely white. He was standing on a surface of perfect blankness. Then he saw an immense object descend from the sky. It was a giant silver triangle with a huge black tower on top that reached far out of his sight. It fell from the sky and landed on its tip, balancing perfectly. Draco stared at it in wonder. Then it began to move.
With a sound like a deep, roaring whisper, the tip dragged along the ground, leaving in its wake a black river. It arced away into the distance, and then back. It looped and scratched, and everywhere it left a stream of black that seemed to shine against the endless white.
It was a pen, he realized with a start, and suddenly he knew that he was seeing the creation of the world. This pen was drawing the world, writing the world, and he was witnessing it. He stared in wonder as the pen roamed far and near. He gasped as it rushed by him. It arced around and came by him again.
When it passed again he realized it was circling him. Then he saw it was spiraling in on him, surrounding him with black. He watched until he realized that it was not going to stop. He jumped out of the center, backing away. He tripped and fell back, his hands slapping the wet ink. The pen finished with a flourish and left him.
Then he began to sink.
The blackness had become a pit of thick, gooey substance. He scrambled for the edge, but only sank faster. The blackness was insistent, indifferent. It sucked him under and he could do nothing. He gasped for air as it climbed up his face.
He woke gasping in raspy breaths.
Draco chatted with his friends as they walked to arithmancy. "I hate this class," muttered Goyle. But Draco only smiled. His father had shown him some shortcuts over the break and he couldn't wait to spring it on Professor Hayson.
He waited through most of the class until he found the perfect moment. As Hayson was going slowly through a difficult problem, Draco lazily raised his hand.
"Yes, Mr. Malfoy?"
"Why are you bothering to do all this work when you can just use the Tresgar transformations?" he asked with calm patience, not betraying any of his pleasure and excitement.
"Oh--well, we'll get to the Tresgar transformations later in the year--"
"If the Tresgar transformations always work then why are you bothering with all this?" He kept his voice lightly curious. It was the way his father spoke to an underling who had made an especially stupid mistake.
"Oh. Uh, well, the Tresgar transformations don't always... yes, Miss Granger?"
Hermione's hand had shot up and now she stood by her desk. "The Tresgar transformations are only valid when the carlet is a positive integer," she said. She did nothing to hide her excitement and pleasure.
"Yes," said Hayson. "Although that will be the case for almost any practical purpose you might use," he added hastily, looking at Draco. "Still, you should learn the complete theory at least once."
"Excuse me," said Hermione, still standing. "But aren't we going to be learning differentiation? The carlet is almost never a positive integer in those cases." She couldn't help but glance at Draco, and her smile was smug and cruel.
"Um. Well, yes," he said. "But you will only use that if you go into pure research. I mean the practical purposes for ordinary people." He nodded at Draco at this last, because he had been trying hard to take Draco's side. Some of the class might have interpreted it that way but Hayson, realizing what he had said, blanched and stammered. He dropped the whole thing in midsentence and returned to the problem on the board.
Everyone noticed. Slytherins looked at Draco in distress. Gryffindors were grinning. Hermione had her hands clamped over her mouth, barely containing her laughter. A teacher had just called Draco Malfoy an ordinary person, someone who didn't need all this education. A mudblood could give every answer and might go into magical research, but such learning was wasted on the likes of Draco Malfoy.
He seethed. He tried to bring it under control, to appear untouchable. But he failed. Every time Hermione glanced at him she had to slap her hand over her mouth, contorting with silent laughter. He burned with anger and humiliation. He hated her.
He dreamed it again. The sea of white, the merciless pen. This time when it circled him, he tried to run. But the rivers of black were flowing and they dragged him down the spiral. The pen made a vortex, whipping him around, sucking him under. It finished and left him. He watched it go as he struggled, until the black covered his eyes and there was nothing.
Draco wandered on a flagstone balcony next to a class building. It had rained all morning but now the sun was out. He stopped in front of a large puddle and stared down at it, struck by how dark the stone was under water. He stared down at his reflection and felt dizzy. It seemed he could feel that huge pen sweeping circles around him. He blinked and swayed.
The sound of shouts and laughter snapped him back. He walked to the edge of the balcony, deliberately stomping through the puddle. Potter was out on the lawn, trying to teach that Weasley something about Quidditch.
Weasley was a disaster. It was beneath Potter to even try. It was excruciating to watch. Yet they were howling and laughing as if this were the greatest thing imaginable and not an exercise in futility. Harry laughed so hard at one point that he fell off his broom, dropping at least six feet to the ground. He seemed unhurt, rolling helplessly and clutching his sides. Weasley was doubled over, pointing at him, unable to even make a sound.
Draco was suddenly aware of how the sun glinted off Harry's glasses, how it turned Weasley's hair into an even more improbable color. He was aware of his own pale form, watching silently from the shadow of the building. He had a sudden compulsion to run out into the light. He wanted to rip off his rich, velvet robes and run naked around the field. He wanted to be made of sunlight, as they were; he wanted nothing black to ever touch him again.
Of course that was all insane. His face twisted as he got these feelings under control. He didn't want to be anything like those two shrieking fools. If The Great Harry Potter wanted to debase himself like that, that was his problem. His stomach twisted at the image of himself in sunlight: his pale skin frying, his hair freakishly translucent. He was striking against black, against shadow. He belonged here.
He turned and walked away. He did not notice how he stepped carefully around the puddle.
He was standing by the edge of the black pit. His feet were in up to the ankles, but it wasn't pulling him under. He was looking for something. He should get away but he couldn't leave without it. He plunged his hands into the fluid, but he couldn't find it. He stared at the slick black surface, but the only thing he could see was his own reflection.
His foot slipped and he plunged head first into the blackness. There was one breathless instant of fear as he saw the surface rushing at him, and then he was under.
He woke up choking. It was several seconds before he could breathe.
Draco was nervous walking into potions class, though of course he didn't show it. Snape was on leave for a while and they had a substitute. Chester Brown. He was from one of the good families and, by all appearances, a good man.
"I don't know much about him," his father had said. "You should sound him out. He could be a great asset. Keep an eye on him for me."
Draco took his seat and surveyed the room. The Gryffindors were acting like it was a party, he noticed with irritation. Then Brown came in and began the class.
He was hard to pin down. He moved with a graceful, aristocratic ease. He was dignified. He tolerated no nonsense in his classroom, even taking 10 points away from Gryffindor for their Snape-free behavior. Still, he also deducted 5 points from Slytherin for a snide comment from Crabbe and he awarded 5 to Gryffindor because of that accursed mudblood. He didn't seem to have favorites.
Strangely, he seemed quite kind and gentle without showing any weakness. When he asked Longbottom a quesiton and he stammered and then froze, Brown calmed him down and helped him sort it out, all without sounding patronizing. Ordinarily this would not seem like promising behavior, but for some reason Draco liked him. He didn't seem weak and simpering like most people who tried to be "nice."
As he left the class he tried to compose a message to his father, but he really didn't have anything to say. He didn't know enough yet. As he was walking he happened to overhear Potter & Co.
"Potions might actually be tolerable this year," said Weasley.
"Yes, I like him. He seems like a good teacher," said Granger.
"But it's only until Snape comes back," said Potter, sounding dejected. "No one knows when that will be."
"Well, here's hoping that Snape falls off the edge of the world," said Weasley, and they all laughed.
Draco walked away.
He was standing by the edge of the black pit. There was something he had to find, but he didn't dare. Helplessly he watched the surface, hoping that whatever it was would spontaneously appear. He considered stepping forward and searching with his hands, but he was afraid. He just stared. He stared until his eyes hurt, until there was nothing in the world but one spot of blackness. He felt himself swaying, pitching forward.
A hand steadied him. He looked and there was his father, smiling down at him. He felt an intense flood of relief. His father was here. Everything would be fine. He realized that his father was talking but he couldn't hear the words. Still, Lucius was looking down at him with such pride and pleasure. Lucius finished speaking and beamed down at his son. Draco knew all was right in the world.
His father slipped a hand down his back and shoved him in.
Draco was sluggish in potions class. He hadn't managed to go back to sleep the night before. He forgot about observing Brown, he forgot about listening to the potions lesson. He snapped, "Don't bother me!" when Goyle asked him a question. The last straw was when Granger stood and gave a speech instead of an answer, going on much longer than necessary just to show off. "Just sit down, mudblood," he muttered.
She stopped in midsentence, her face burning. He hadn't known she could hear. Brown apparantly heard, as well.
"Five points from Slytherin," he said mildly. "I expect never to hear that word in my classroom again." He turned back. "Please continue, Miss Granger."
Not promising at all, Draco thought, his head down. His father would hear all about this.
When the class was over, Brown said, "Mr. Malfoy, please remain." Draco walked slowly to the front of the room while the others left. He saw Weasley say something to Potter and they both glanced back and laughed. Now he had to sit through some long-winded lecture aobut how great mudbloods were. He sat heavily in a chair in the front row.
Brown sat down as well, and smiled at him. "Are you feeling all right?" he asked.
Draco was thrown. "What?"
"You seem very tired. I wondered if anything was wrong."
"No," said Draco. "I'm just not sleeping well."
"All right. Although even that can become serious. You young people always forget to take care of yourselves." He considered Draco for a moment. "I do not wish to hear that word from your mouth again."
Draco looked away, glaring at the wall.
"It is an obscene word. Do you say other swear words in your classrooms?" Draco glanced back, thinking about this. "You would probably never swear in a formal setting, yet you use that word. It is vulgar. It is beneath you, and I for one do not wish to hear it." He stood. "You are dimissed. If you're sure that you're all right?"
"Yes," said Draco. As he left he tried to compose the letter to his father, but he was confused. He would wait until later. He still didn't have this man sorted out.
He was in the pit. The pit had never been quite a circle but this time it was much longer than it was wide. He could see the edges. One wasn't far away. He lunged for it. He knew better than to struggle against the black fluid, but if he let himself fall forward he could catch the edge. His arms slammed down as his legs sank deeper. He struggled, trying to find something to grab.
His hands wrapped around something. Instead of whiteness he saw a stretch of tan with sparse grass. He snatched at the grass, wrapping a few blades around his hands and pulling. They came out in his hands. He saw with horror that they were hairs. The stretch of tan was an arm. He was looking down the length of someone's huge arm. And he was drowning inside the black mark of a Death Eater.
He looked the other way and knew what he would see. His father's face, peering down at him over a mountain of shoulder. He screamed for help, but his father looked at him with no recognition. He looked annoyed, as if at an insect, and he swatted his son. Draco saw the huge hand coming at him, blotting out the sky.
Draco dreaded going to sleep. He couldn't take another nightmare. He sat on his bed for a while before deciding not to sleep that night. He would go for a walk. There were a few ways to get out of the building and a few places to walk inside where you were unlikely to be caught. He usually didn't get into much trouble, anyway. Tonight he didn't even care.
He wandered the halls instead of going outside. He saw no one. He was disappointed that there were no teachers to dodge. He even would have welcomed being caught just to break the monotony. He vaguely wondered what would happen if Brown caught him.
Then he heard something up ahead. He quickly flattened himself into a doorway and peered out. There, breaking into a storage room, was Harry Potter.
And what was The Great Harry Potter doing breaking into rooms after hours? He slipped inside and carefully placed something in the doorjam. If the door shut there was no way of opening it from the other side. Harry would have to wait until it unlocked in the morning and then try to sneak out without being seen. Draco grinned and crept toward the door.
He held the door with his foot and removed the wooden block Harry had used. He wondered if he should just leave or if he should let Potter know who had done it. He could hear Potter clattering around and he was suddenly overcome with curiosity. Potter was always doing things. He was always getting into things that Draco knew nothing about. What was he doing in there?
Draco eased the door open. Harry didn't even notice. He leaned against the doorjam and drawled, "Well, what do we have here?"
Harry spun around, knocking over a stack of small boxes. He tried to catch the stack and sent them spraying everywhere. It was entirely satisfying and Draco was glad he had come in.
"Nothing," Harry said. He came towards the door. Draco noticed that he was keeping his right hand slightly behind his back.
"What were you stealing?" he asked. He grinned to see Harry's hand jerk a little further behind his back.
"Nothing. I was just looking for something but it wasn't here. Let me out."
"Fine," Draco said, opening the door further and making space for Harry. Harry cautiously edged by and Draco lunged for his hand. Harry jerked his arm away and Draco caught it again. They wrestled for a moment, and Harry backed away, wrenching his arm from Draco and pulling him off balance. Draco grabbed him again and they were still fighting when the door slammed and the room went dark.
They both froze. There was a moment of silence.
"Great," said Harry.
"Illuminato," said Draco. A dim light appeared. They glared at each other an then at the door.
"There has to be a way out," Harry said, walking to the door.
Draco knew there was not. There was nothing they could do until the morning, and even then they would have to use magic. He stood aside and watched Harry examine the door and throw spells at it. When he started pounding, Draco stopped him.
"Do you want someone to find us?" he hissed. "You can't do anything until morning. Then we at least have a chance of not being seen."
Harry stopped and walked to the other side of the small room. He started picking up the boxes.
"How did you even get in here?" But Harry didn't answer. "Fine," Draco said, and settled down on a large box. This would be better if they didn't speak. Harry finished and sat on the floor. He seemed lost in thought.
Draco couldn't take much of this. "What were you doing in here?" he asked, just to break the silence. He would rather be locked in with an angry Potter than one who just ignored him.
"None of your business," Harry snapped. Then, "Why do you have to ruin everything?"
I could ask the same of you. He almost said it, but then he realized that it wasn't the same at all. Harry ruined everything because Harry changed everything. He made the whole world different. Draco didn't have the slightest idea what Harry was hiding, what he was looking for, or what he was ultimately trying to do. But in the end it would probably affect Draco's life, or even the entire wizarding world. To Harry, he was an annoyance. It wasn't the same at all.
He felt a wave of powerless hatred. He felt claustrophobic. He couldn't take being in here one more second. He should not have gone out walking. He would rather be in an endless repeating nightmare than in this room. He was exhausted. He coudln't remember the last time he had slept peacefully.
"I'm going to sleep," he announced. Potter grunted something. He saw with a little embarrassment than Potter had already stretched out on the floor. He moved to the floor, arranging his robes, trying to get comfortable. This situation was intolerable. But he was so tired that he dropped right to sleep.
He was alone in a sea of white. Immediately he started to run. There was nothing to run from and nothing to run to, yet he ran as fast as he could. Then he saw the black pit ahead. He tried to turn around but his foot slipped and he skidded along the ground. His feet plunged into the pit.
It was a vortex, and a slash of a Death Eater scar, and a hungry mouth. It was all of these things. It was none of them. It was only a black pit, sucking him in because that was what it did. He clawed at the whiteness but slowly it drew in his legs, his chest, until it closed inevitably over his face and he sank. There was nothing but sinking.
And then someone caught him. Hands dragged him upward; someone was calling his name.
He opened his eyes and looked into Harry Potter's face.
Harry had lifted him with both hands and was shaking him roughly. His eyes were concerned and frightened. Draco could only stare at his face. Harry let go of him and backed away. He looked confused, embarrassed, and slightly suspicious.
"You were making strange noises. Then you started choking," he said almost defensively. Draco could still do nothing but look at him. A part of him was still in the dream. A part of him had never expected to see a human face ever again. Harry lost his suspicion and looked frightened again. He drifted back over and brushed Draco's arm with his hand. "Are you OK?"
Draco flinched away from the touch. "I'm fine," he said coldly, although his voice was rough as if he had really been choking. Or screaming.
The thought that other people could hear his nightmares filled him with horror. Had the others in his room noticed? The thought that he had shown such a sign of weakness was appalling. Had anyone heard? He was surrounded by heavy drapes in his bed. Harry hadn't said he was screaming, just making "weird noises." He wanted to ask what noises, but of course he couldn't do that. He wanted to know if he'd woken Harry up, or if he'd already been awake. But he couldn't think of a way to ask. Harry had retreated to the other side of the room and was looking unsettled and annoyed. Draco turned away and pretended to go back to sleep.
Had anyone heard? He tried to play over each morning and look for signs. No one had acted any differently. He was almost positive. Satisfied, he closed his eyes. As he drifted off, he tried to keep searching his memories but instead he kept seeing Harry's face. Harry's fear and concern for him. Harry had heard him and tried to wake him up. He was so naive. If anyone in Slytherin had heard him, they would have considered it none of their business. But Harry just barged into everything. It was funny, really.
But as he drifted off he lost all thought and saw only Harry's face. He could still feel Harry's hands on his shoulders, catching him, lifting him out of the darkness.
When he woke again, Potter was listening at the door. He sat up.
"I heard someone go by before, but I think it's clear now," said Harry. He raised his wand and whispered a spell. The door popped open an inch. Draco quickly got to his feet. They slipped out and closed the door. Now they were just two students in the hallway. It was over.
Harry sighed in relief and walked off toward Gryffindor. Draco watched him go, still half asleep. Harry just walked away. But he glanced back once, and his look wasn't suspicious but puzzled. When he saw Draco watching, he scuttled away.
Draco didn't have the dream for several nights. As he fell asleep he kept thinking about Harry's hands lifting him up and Harry's concerned face. It kept the dream away. He thought of it frequenlty during the day, as well. It was his talisman against the dreams and he did anything to keep it working. He wandered in a daze, ignoring both friend and foe. He was finally sleeping at night.
Then one day he saw Potter, Weasley, and Granger talking to Professor Brown. He felt a strange envy. He hid and spied on them for over twenty minutes. He couldn't even hear them, yet he couldn't bring himself to leave.
Afterward he berated himself. What was he doing? What if someone had seen him? Hiding in a corner, watching people like some friendless first year. What was he doing? He realized that he had never written to his father about Brown. He pushed that thought away--not only did he still have nothing good to report, but thinking about his father made him uncomfortable. It made him think of the dreams, and he didn't want to do that. And so what if he wished he were the one talking to Brown?
So what if he wished he were the one talking to Harry?
What were they talking about? What was Harry up to? He hadn't looked happy. What was going on?
That night as he was falling asleep, he tried to remember Harry's hands, Harry's eyes, but he couldn't.
He wasn't in a pit. That was the first thing he registered when he saw the white sky. There was no pit. There also was no pen, although there were some lines on the ground. At first he just stood there, relived that he wasn't in danger. But then he grew bored. Tentatively, he explored.
At first he went away from the lines, but there was only whiteness there. Then he followed along one line. When he got to a narrow point, he jumped over it. The lines grew denser toward one area. So, even though it seemed stupid, he headed toward that area. What else could he do?
He continued to jump over lines until he misjudged one and slammed down on the blackness. It held. There was a wet slap but that was all. After that he roamed freely. He still jumped over small lines and ran quickly across large ones, but he didn't feel endangered.
Then he stopped dead. The lines looped in an intricate pattern, and they converged on a circle ahead. Standing in that circle was Harry Potter.
Harry stared dull at the lines before him. The patter was actually quite beautiful. He didn't seem to care. After a long moment he started walking. He walked straight across a few lines. Then one gave way. His foot sank and he tripped, falling hard on the opposite side. After that he jumped the lines. When he couldn't jump, he fought his way through.
Somehow Draco could see it all. The lines grew more frequent and tangled, and Harry fought through it all. He always went in the same straight line, although there was no goal that Draco could see. And Draco was pretty sure he could see further than Harry. Up ahead the lines opened up, forming a path that went to a huge pit of black. Harry could never fight his way out of that.
Harry must have thought the same thing, because he marched straight up to it and stopped. He stared for a long time. Then he walked into the pit.
It didn't last long. He fought hard but eventually he went under. Draco felt a sharp pain. He remembered Harry pulling him out. He remembered all the times he had sank. He couldn't let this happen. He ran. He ran to save Harry.
He didn't get very far. A line snagged his foot and pulled him down. He leaned on the whiteness, struggling to get out. He couldn't. He rested, breathing hard. He slowly sank a few inches. He wasn't going to get back out.
Then he saw an incredible thing. A flailing Harry emerged from the other side of his pit. He collapsed on the ground, coughing and rubbing at his eyes. He made it through, Draco thought as he slipped another inch. He can do anything.
It wasn't until Harry stood and pressed on that Draco realized he was in up to his neck. He screamed for help but Harry didn't hear him. He tried to fight but he couldn't. The darkness swallowed him as Harry walked away.
Draco woke in a foul mood. He was impatient with everyone. When he saw Harry in potions class he felt a wild surge of anger. Harry Potter. Why did he even have to exist? Draco did his best to make sure that Harry had as bad a day as he was having. This earned him a detention from Brown, but was entirely worth it.
Brown insisted he remain after class. He sat next to Draco, studying him. He sighed. "What's wrong?" he asked.
Draco shrugged and looked at the floor. Ordinarily he would not give such a response to anyone, especially a mere professor. But he couldn't meet Brown's sad, knowing look, and he couldn't think of anything to say.
"You still look tired," Brown continued. "Are you still having trouble sleeping?" Draco did not reply. "Your attitude also leaves something to be desired." Draco showed no sign that he had heard.
"Well, you are mine for detention," said Brown. "Perhaps you are merely bored and unchallenged. This is what I would like you to do. I am working on a project with Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley, and Miss Granger. I would like you to assist them."
Draco turned to him in astonished alarm. After a speechless moment he said, "I do not normally associate with those people."
"Yes, I noticed," said Brown, and now he was amused. "Still, they could use your help and I think it would be good for you. You will meet them in the potions lab at four o'clock tomorrow. You are dismissed."
He stood and gathered his things without another word, although he was smiling slightly. Draco left, still too surprised to make sense of his conflicting emotions.
It was the same dream. The same blank white field. Draco searched for Harry, but there was no Harry. He ran when the pen came, but it did no good. He fought when the blackness took him, but there was no escape.
He woke gasping and choking, and miserably alone.
Draco showed up in the potions lab at four o'clock. No one was there. He flopped into a chair, but soon he was up and pacing around the room. He had been oddly looking forward to this, but now he was dreading their arrival. It appeared that Brown wasn't going to join them. It would just be him and all three of them. Granger would be there. He absolutely refused to make a mistake in front of her. This probably wouldn't be a problem as he was very good with potions, but the idea of dealing with her and Potter at the same time was exhausting.
The door opened and Harry entered. He was alone. Draco was relieved. Harry slung a pile of books onto the table and glared at Draco.
"I don't know why Brown is doing this. I don't like it any better than you, but I guess it's his choice." He fiddled with the books and then added, "Ron and Hermione are in the library. There's a lot of research we need to do."
Draco paused for a moment, unsure, then he plunged in. "What is it you're trying to do?" He approached the table.
Harry looked suspicious but resigned. "We're trying to make an invisibility ointment."
That didn't make sense. "You can't do that. People have been trying for years. It's not possible."
"I know. Hermione has been studying their research. She has an idea."
Harry sighed. He plainly didn't want to tell Draco anything. Suddenly Draco was intensely curious. This was it: the inner workings of the Harry Potter plans.
"Hermione thinks she can figure out the chemical structure that the ointment would have. Then we'll mix up the closest thing possible and Transfigure it on a molecular level."
Draco gaped at him. That was insane. It could never work. Could it? And people think Slytherins are ambitious.
"This is what we have so far," Harry continued. He pulled out some papers. "We really need to wait until Hermione is finished, but she has this much. We're not sure where to start with the potion part. I guess that's why Brown wanted you to help."
Draco looked down at a series of drawings. It all looked like lines and squiggles at first, but then his training came back to him. He took the papers from Harry and began to read Granger's notes. Slowly he deciphered it.
It was still insane. How did they manage to come up with this?
"We can probably figure out where to start from this," he said, still reading.
"Here's some notes on the structure of polyjuice," Harry said, handing him some more papers. Draco glanced through them.
"I doubt that's necessary," he said. "You should look into cosmetic ointments, like the ones that change the color of your skin."
Harry blinked. "Yes," he said, his face slowly brightening. He dug through one of the books.
Draco was pleased, but it dwindled when he could come up with nothing else. This wasn't going to work. "Why do you want this, anyway? I've heard rumors. Don't you already have a cloak?"
"It's not for me," Harry said. "If we can produce it easily don't you see how much it could help--" He cut off, looking at Draco. His face hardened and clenched. He closed the book and put it away without another word.
Draco watched, hanging on to the notes Harry had given him. Harry gathered everything else and wordlessly held his hand out for the papers. Draco didn't hand them over.
"Later," Harry said, his voice tight. "We'll do it later." He took the notes and stomped out of the room.
Draco skipped dinner and spent the rest of the night in the library. He researched cosmetic ointments. He researched Transfiguration. Transfiguration was already something that worked on a molecular level, but you usually didn't have to think of it that way. There were few cases where someone tried to create something they had never seen before.
He was frequently distracted by memories of the day and powerful emotions. He didn't try to sort them out. Sometimes he stared out the window at nothing. Someone sent an owl and he watched until it was gone from view.
Owl. He was supposed to send an owl to his father about Brown. Instead Brown had him helping Harry Potter in a project that would surely be used against the Death Eaters. Not very promising, indeed. And he would do it. He would ignore his father and ignore politics. He would solve this puzzle. He would do it all for the moment when Harry's face lit up in the potions lab. And for that moment when Harry pulled him from his dreams.
He turned back to the book on Transfiguration and read until his vision swam and he fell asleep at the table.
He was in the whiteness. A ring of black surrounded him, but there was room to stand. The pen was far in the distance.
Brown stood outside the ring. "I think this will be good for you," he said, and aimed his wand at Draco.
Draco felt his body crumple and melt. His vision shifted oddly. He didn't have control of his limbs. It wasn't painful, but it was horrifying. When it ended, his body felt strange. He couldn't move it properly. He was the wrong shape.
Harry appeared beside Brown. He looked displeased and suspicious. "I don't like it any better than you," he said. He aimed his own wand.
Draco changed again. The feeling was just as strange as before, and at the end he felt even more alien.
His father appeared, enraged. He pushed Brown and Harry to the ground. He looked at Draco and the rage was replaced by utter disgust. He took out his wand and changed Draco again.
"No," cried Brown. Before Draco was done with his father's change, Brown changed him again. His father responded immediatly. Then the three of them fought, their wands Transfiguring Draco one after another. There was no time when he had control of his body, and the melting became more violent each time. His visual point of view slid lower and lower to the ground, until he was lying flat. They stopped.
He tried to move. He couldn't feel anything. He had no limbs. By sheer will he managed to convulse, and it felt like a ripple. He felt it spread him further along the ground.
He looked up at them. They looked puzzled and grim. Then he saw the pen. It came close. It lifted into the air and came down on top of him. He felt it pierce through, yet without pain. He had no skin, no nerves. He was nearly liquid.
Then the pen began to write. This was no roaring whisper of pen on paper. The metal tip screamed across the ground, smearing Draco into lines. He felt himself stretch, dissolve, and lose consciousness.
He didn't wake up gasping. He didn't wake up choking. He had slept deeply after that dream, catching up on the sleep that the nightmares had stolen.
He did, however, wake up screaming.
He had woken, registered that he was awake, alive, and intact, and then opened his eyes to see the bright white page of the book he had been reading. He bolted upright and screamed before he could stop himself. It did not go unnoticed. The five people in the library that morning turned to look at him. He felt humiliated. He sneered and stared them down until no one dared even look at that part of the room. He strode out without bothering to put away his books.
In potions class Draco ignored Harry and joked with his friends. He tried to pretend that everything was the way it always had been before. But Crabbe's obsequiousness and Goyle's stupidity got on his nerves. They had always been useful and fun, but they really weren't very interesting.
After class Brown asked Harry and Draco to stay. "How are things going?" he asked.
Draco arched his eyes at Harry, whom he felt should be the one to answer. Harry met his gaze for a long moment, not even responding to the mockery in it. "Things are fine," he said slowly. "We can meet again this afternoon."
"Excellent," said Brown. "I'm glad it's working out." He beamed at them and left the classroom.
"So now things are fine?" Draco asked sarcastically.
Harry looked uncertain. "You stayed up all night reading about Transfiguration. Why?"
Draco was momentarily surprised. Then he realized that the story must be all over the school, down to the books he had been reading. He felt himself blush and looked away. He forced an expression of indifference. "Boredom. It's better than detention." Then, almost against his will, he looked back at Harry. "I want to," he said flatly.
It was apparently good enough.
"You have too much crow eye in there."
"I do not. Just give me the bat wanno."
"Whatever. Just give it to me."
They had been meeting every day for a week. They fought constantly, yet it was somehow comfortable and they seemed to be making progress. They had been working for far too long that day and it was time to stop, but Harry wanted to try one last thing. He was obviously tired as he had measured several ingredients incorrectly.
"It's not going to work," said Draco.
"I don't care! Just let me try it!"
"You have too much crow eye."
"Just give me the bat gunno!"
"Whatever! It's shit! Just give me the bat shit!" Harry yelled, waving his arms. His hair actually seemed to stick up more from his exasperation.
Draco stared with wide eyes and then he started to laugh. Harry tried to resist but then he laughed, too, and then they were both howling. They laughed in that way of two people who had worked too long and were letting off a lot of tension. When one stopped, the other would keep it going. Draco's sides hurt. He could barely breathe. This was infrequent for him, this uncontrolled laughter with no malice in it. It was the kind of laughter he had seen between Harry and Ron. The kind made of sunlight.
Suddenly Draco began to sob. He stifled it quickly. He felt light-headed and nauseous. Harry didn't notice. He choked down his own laughter with a few snorts and giggles escaping.
"I think we're done for the day," he said. Draco tried to smile.
"You can go. I'll clean up."
"Are you sure?" Harry looked delighted. Draco nodded.
After Harry left, Draco went and locked the door to the lab. He sat in the chair farthest from the door. Then he stood, paced a bit, and went to a closet. He closed himself into the closet. It wasn't enough. He dug around, moving boxes from the back corner and piling them in front of the door. He wedged himself into the corner. He pulled a lab coat over his head.
Then he put his face in his hands, and cried.
It wasn't working. Hermione had completed her research (although Draco noted that she and Ron still found excuses to stay away) and they had the basic structure, but the ingredients refused to work they way they were supposed to. They could not figure it out.
"We could leave it like that and correct it in transfiguration," Draco suggested. Harry shook his head.
"No, it's too much. It would never work." Draco had to agree, but he was alarmed at Harry's mood. He had been ranting at the potion for hours, but now he looked resigned. Harry was going to give up.
They couldn't give up. Draco didn't know what would happen if he no longer had this project to work on. He didn't want to know. He hadn't had the nightmare since he started working with Harry. Desperately, he cast in his mind for any bit of information that could help. He came up with a barely remembered nutrition lecture from Herbology.
"Doesn't the raspberry leaf have a lot of calcium in it?"
Harry looked bewildered. "So?"
"Doesn't that mess up reactions with magnesium?"
It was like watching something catch fire. No, it was like watching all the lights in Hogwarts come on at once. No, it was like when the sun came out from behind a cloud across a hill, slowly spreading light and chasing shadows.
"The ginger is attaching to the raspberry leaf and not the newt," he began.
"Because of the similarity of the compound," said Draco.
"So the newt isn't attaching at all." Harry looked electric. "What can we use instead of raspberry leaf?"
"We need something that will interact with the crow eye."
"And it has to be the same consistency or thinner."
They paused, thinking. The air seemed to crackle with it. "Hyacinthe pollen?" ventured Draco.
"Yes! No! The iron would mess it up--"
"--But lilac pollen would work!"
They beamed at each other with pure pleasure. Harry ran off to find lilac pollen. Draco sat in a daze, reliving the moment over and over. He had never solved a puzzle with someone before. He had never thought with someone, their mind sparking off each other until they came to the conclusion together. It was amazing. Like the laughter, yet so much better. This was something he could do. He finally belonged here, in this room with Harry.
"I've got it!" Harry yelled as he ran back in. They mixed it again, and it worked. Or it worked as well as it was going to. They had created an amorphous blob. But it was the right amorphous blob and they stared at it with pride.
"Now we need to do the Transfiguration," said Harry. But they sat for a moment, enjoying the victory before telling the others.
Working magic with another person is not exactly intimate. It is, perhaps, no more intimate than solving a puzzle with someone. But it is more prone to disruption.
Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Draco tried to work a Transfiguration spell together. It simply did not work. The animosity poured off Draco and Hermione. When they finally achieved control at the same time, Ron threw it off. By the end it could not work because Draco was constantly wishing he could try this alone with Harry.
Hermione was the first to say it. "This is not going to work." She traded a look with Ron, then Harry. All three looked at Draco.
He understood. His face hardened into a haughty sneer, and he left the room.
Harry found him later. "It didn't work," he said.
"Really?" Draco drawled. "Not enough goodness and cooperation even with me gone?"
Harry was annoyed. "No, I mean it didn't work," he said. We could work together but the spell didn't work."
"Oh," said Draco. Then this was the end. Was he here to say goodbye? Why was he here? He looked embarrassed. Maybe he was going to apologize. Draco suddenly didn't want him to. Harry was going to leave him. Now he had to go back to the nightmares and the emptiness, and he didn't want Harry having some token moment to make himself feel better. They had kicked him out. They just had to live with it.
"Do you want to try it?" Harry finally asked.
"You want to try again?" Draco asked. Harry nodded. "I think that obviously didn't work."
"Just us," Harry said, and Draco's heart lurched.
"I could do that," he said.
But it didn't work. He had been so sure that this was the moment. Harry left his friends and came to him, and the two of them would do what they could not. It would prove who belonged where. He was sure that he and Harry were working well together. But it didn't work.
"Maybe you mixed it wrong," said Draco. Harry glared. "It is possible."
Reluctantly Harry agreed. They started from the beginning and tried it again, and then once more at Harry's request. Draco had no hope that it would work. After the third he waited to see if Harry was willing to try a fourth. He was not. Harry gathered their materials and said, "Let's go tell Brown."
Draco felt a rising panic as he trailed behind Harry. When they had thrown him out, he had accepted it. But when Harry came for him he had been so sure that everything was going to work out. This couldn't be the end. He tried to imagine some other way of spending time with Harry. He couldn't. They had to keep working.
Brown listened to their explanation pensively. "I think we just don't have enough power," Harry concluded. He hadn't told Draco about that theory. Draco tried to figure out how they could get more power.
Brown considered this. "It might work if you used your house wands," he said. "Would that be possible?"
"What?" asked Harry, stunned.
Each house had a wand displayed in a common room. They were supposedly the wands of the original four. They were magically mounted to the wall. Gryffindors tended to view the wand either as a noble symbol of their house or as an immovable piece of furniture. The idea of ripping it down and using it was clearly appalling to Harry.
Draco was disappointed. "That won't work," he said. "We can't weild them."
"How do you even know?" asked Harry, who was still a little thrown by the idea.
"Someone in Slytherin manages to get it down once or twice a year. It never works. I've tried it myself." He was irritated with the look Harry gave him, and doubly irritated that a part of him cringed beneath the disapproval. What was wrong with trying the house wand?
"You can weild them," said Brown, interrupting their silent exchange. "Anyone from house Slytherin can use that wand. I'm surprised no one figured it out. I can show you fairly easily."
"Really?" Draco asked. This was astonishing. "How?"
Brown paused, then shook his head. "I'd have to show you."
"I don't know about this," said Harry.
"Oh, what is your problem now," moaned Draco. He could not take any more ups and downs to this day. The project could continue and as a bonus Draco could be the only Slytherin to successfully weild the house wand. Now Harry wanted to stop it for no reason.
"Someone will see," snapped Harry. "I can't explain if the wand is gone."
"Put an illusion in its place. How often does anyone really look at it?"
Harry looked away, conceding this point. "I don't even know if I can get it down," he muttered.
"I can tell you. It's easy," Draco said. "For you," he added.
"Harry, you don't have to do this if it makes you uncomfortable. We can think of something else," said Brown.
That was apparantly the final push. "I'll do it," Harry said, glaring at Draco.
At dinner Draco couldn't even pretend to listen to his friends at the Slytherin table. They had agreed to get the wands that night and meet Brown in his office. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were arguing. Draco watched them intently. Everything hinged on this. They were trying to talk him out of it. If they did, he would drift away from Draco and that would be the end.
So Draco watched. He didn't even look away when they glanced at him, though he kept his face expressionless. Harry seemed to be caving in, though at one point he winced at something Ron said and shot Draco an apologetic look. He clung to that look. After a while he couldn't bear to watch anymore and he left the hall altogether. As he walked out he snuck one more glance at Harry. He was watching Draco leave. He gave a slight nod.
Draco barely noticed the walk back to his room. Harry was going to do it.
Draco took down his house wand with no problem. He got to Brown's office with no problem, though for the first time he was terrified of being caught.
"Ah, Mr. Malfoy," Brown said. "Please have a seat."
Draco flopped into a chair. "Harry will probably be a while," he said, smirking.
"I don't think he should have too much trouble," said Brown. "He seems very accomplished. Extraordinary, even."
"He certainly is that."
Brown smiled. "You like him, don't you? Does that surprise you?"
Draco shugged and looked away. But Brown kept watching him. Draco started to feel self-conscious. He studied the wall with affected nonchalance.
Brown suddenly smiled. In an instant his wand was out and he had paralyzed Draco. He could move nothing but his eyes, which shot to Brown in surprise. Brown looked delighted. "Perfect!" he said. He stood up to study Draco from another angle. "Absolutely perfect." He returned to his chair and smiled warmly. "Mr. Malfoy, I can't even begin to tell you how amusing you have been." He seemed about to say something else, but there was a knock on the door.
"Come in," said Brown. Harry, Ron, and Hermione entered. "Wonderful! Did you manage it?" They nodded, and Harry brought out the wand. "And you didn't have any trouble?"
"No, it was fine," said Harry, though Ron and Hermione exchanged sardonic glances.
Brown stood. "May I see it?" Harry handed it over. "Ah, yes." He studied the wand, then smiled at them. "Children, I must thank you. This was the very thing I needed." He pulled out his own wand and pointed it at them. "Step over there, please."
They just stared at him. "What?" asked Ron.
"Over there." Brown gestured with his wand. "Go into that room."
They were still confused. They looked at Draco for help and saw him sprawled lazily on the couch, insolent and silent, a slight smirk on his face.
Ron's face went through several stages of rage before he managed to speak. "I knew it!" he howled.
Harry stared, and Draco stared back. See me, he pleaded with his eyes.
"What do you want the wands for?" asked Hermione.
"Dear girl, do you have any idea how much power is trapped in this wand?"
"So you can use them."
"No. Not intact, at least. But that doesn't matter for my purpose."
Anger was slowly growing on Harry's face. "You're going to let him destroy the Slytherin wand?" he asked Draco.
"I don't need the Slytherin wand," said Brown. "I never have."
"Ah," said Hermione, looking grimly satisfied. Harry slowly realized what this implied.
"But the real prize is you, Harry," Brown continued. "With the power I am about to achieve, nothing will stop me. And presenting you will gain me unimaginable favors." He smiled at the thought of it.
Harry turned to Draco. See me, Draco pleaded. I'm in here. I've always been in here. You can stop this. I'm drowning. You can lift me out. He felt tears in his eyes as he silently begged Harry to look at him, to see beyond the surface of him.
"I knew it," groaned Ron.
Harry studied Draco for a long moment. Then he spoke.
"So did I," he said.
Draco looked away. He couldn't bear the look on Harry's face.
"Children," Brown said with a note of warning. He gestured again toward the room. They slowly walked to it and went inside. Brown locked them in and turned to Draco.
He leaned in close. Somehow is eyes were still gentle. "Your father is finished," he said softly. "When He returns there will be new leadership. It will be a whole new world. But you, I think, will not see it." He straightened. "Any last words?" he asked and waved his wand.
Draco could move. He lunged to his feet and whipped out his wand, but before he could speak Brown struck him across the face. He staggered and Brown punched him again, driving him back. Draco tripped and cracked his head against the wall. He slumped to the floor.
Brown stood over him. There was a crash from behind the door and an odd ripping noise. Brown startled badly. "Now what," he muttered, striding away.
The tears rolled down Draco's face. The look on Harry's face had been terrible. Complete hatred, and yet beneath that, hurt. Harry had intended to give him a chance. But it had all been for nothing. His legs felt oddly heavy, as if they were buried in sand, or thick liquid. It had all been for nothing. The numbness was seeping up his chest and he was alone, used, discarded. It would always be like this. Didn't he know that by now? Brown had used him to get to Harry. Now Brown had left him, Harry had left him, the gods themselves had thrown him away. The world deformed around Harry, and then the world followed after him. No one would notice Draco Malfoy drowning in his wake.
He couldn't move his head. He felt an odd surging, like being tossed on a wave, and then his eyes rolled up and everything, everything, everything was black.
It was seven hours before Snape found him.
Once again hands lifted him, once again someone called to him. But this time he didn't care. He came reluctantly back to consciousness. His head throbbed.
"Are you all right? Can you speak?" Snape asked.
"Brown," he managed. Snape nodded.
"They called me back to help deal with him. Dumbledore caught him, along with our three infamous students. They're all fine. Brown is in custody. It was only an hour ago that I realized you were missing. Were you involved? What happened?"
"Harry," he began, and his voice cracked with pain. But what could he say? Harry didn't see me? Harry didn't save me? Harry took it all away and the whole world left me to die? He slumped back.
Snape's mouth thinned to a hard line. He muttered something that Draco couldn't hear. Then he said, "Can you walk?" He helped Draco up. "Let's get back to Slytherin."
Draco swayed, lost in a wave of dizziness. "What?" he asked.
"We're going home."
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