Chapter Seven: The Dream Waking
Now it was some time after midnight. And Draco still couldn't sleep. Possibly it was the heat, he thought, and got up to have a cold shower.
Ten minutes later he was feeling more invigorated that sleepy. Maybe it was all the things he had on his mind...
Maybe a mental inventory would help. He sat down on his bed against the headrest, his knees tucked up against his chest.
Item the first: The Snapes were going home tomorrow.
Item the second: He wasn't going with them. He would be staying in this hot place with ghastly Gryffindors and not one Slytherin.
Item the third: If there had been any Slytherins here they would probably have reported him to his father already.
Item the fourth: Lucius Malfoy. His father was probably going to kill him if — no, when — he caught him.
Item the fifth... "Item the fifth" was a disturbing one, albeit in a perversely humorous manner. Draco Malfoy missed the Muggle world. He missed Munich and he wanted to do normal Muggle things like going backpacking around Europe, and getting a mortgage, whatever that was. Well, maybe not the mortgage bit, but certainly the backpacking sounded good. He wanted to travel and meet girls — not necessarily in that order. Certainly at the top of the list was meeting girls.
Item the sixth: Draco had no idea of who he really was. Last night Harry Potter had dragged him out of a near-fatal bout of sleepwalking and accused him of being not only suicidal, but of having a third eyelid.
Up on Astronomy Tower.
Bugger it, Draco thought, more pragmatically than philosophically. I'm going up there again.
He had probably tripped off enough wards to wake most of the castle, but hey, if it was good enough for Potter to go wandering around after hours, then what could they do to Draco?
Boot him out of Hogwarts?
They'd be doing him a kindness. Once Snape was gone who would stop Lucius Malfoy from waltzing in and collecting his errant heir? Dumbledore? Dumbledore the great Gryffindor-lover would hold the door open for Lucius and wish him a speedy journey home with his Slytherin son.
At the bottom of the stairs from Slytherin Tower, Draco paused. There seemed to be light coming out from under the nearest door of the Great Hall. Who could be in there at this hour?
He crept over and leaned up against the ancient oak door.
Music. Softly played, and a waltz. Greatly daring, Draco pushed the door open a crack.
Inside, the Great Hall was lit by the soft lights of the Aurora Borealis. It streamed in great, lambent sheets of red and blue and green through the vastness of the room. Under its majesty the flagstones were coaxed into warming to a soft grey-green that flickered and shifted with its own shadows. All the tables and chairs had been moved aside and were lined up against the walls much as they had been in the Yule Ball over a year ago. There was space for hundreds of people to dance.
There were only two.
There, in the centre of the Hall, danced Snape and Helen.
They were wearing formal dress robes: Snape's were black, of course, even if it was a black that held iridescent echoes of the magical lights of the aurora, but Helen's robes rippled with shimmering brown-greens and were off-set by touches of red at wrist and throat and waist.
They danced slowly, perfectly attuned to the music and each other. When they turned, Draco saw that Helen's eyes were half-closed and she had a dreamy look on her face. Snape's expression seldom showed pleasure, but there were echoes of that intensely joyous look he had worn last night when he and Helen had discovered they were going to be parents.
Feeling like a voyeur intruding upon their private happiness, Draco eased the door shut with the barest click.
When he set off up Astronomy Tower he was much more careful about not setting off the wards.
Had the stairs always been this steep? he wondered as he stopped to catch his breath. Or this many? Maybe living in the Muggle world really did make you soft. The fresh breeze greeted him like an old friend as he stepped out onto the parapet. He held his arms wide, slowly turning with his eyes shut, absorbing the ecstasy of the night. Yes. This was what he had been missing, but it was edged somehow as if he were the piece of a jigsaw puzzle that didn't quite fit in.
Draco shrugged out of his robes. Underneath he was wearing grey silk pyjamas that fluttered gently around the ankles, promising stronger, cooler breezes if he could only get a bit higher. The battlements were higher than his head — they looked promising.
Draco crouched and leaped.
The stone was cool beneath his bare feet. He dug his toes into the cracks between the massive stones, clinging to the top of the wall as he regained breath and balance. His heart was thumping. He'd nearly jumped right over the edge!
He muttered an oath under his breath as he realised how close he'd just come to plummeting to his death, and rechecked his sleeve for his wand, patting it in reassurance when he found it. Not that he wanted to use it. Knowing Lucius, it was charmed to activate a location spell if Draco used it. But it was nice to know that it would be there in an emergency.
With thin moans, the breeze whipped around the battlements and combed Draco's hair away from his face, reminding him of Helen. It was reassuring. After one huge, jaw-cracking yawn he settled back against the night-cold stone that bled off the heat from his body, and half-closed his eyes. For a long time he just sat there, enjoying the cool solitude and the almost-feeling of belonging. The stars had moved several degrees towards morning before the inevitable happened, as it always did, and his curiosity stirred itself into life.
So what happened last night?
Let's see... it wasn't a dream, not unless Potter's suddenly started featuring in my dreams, and Wonderboy should be so lucky. It all felt so...
It had felt good. His body still hungered for the afterglow of those dreams, the sensory command he'd experienced, and the alien thoughts that had been his own.
Actually, Draco realised, that imagery was a tad disturbing. Had he been given some sort of hallucinogenic drug while at Durmstrang? He wouldn't put it past some of the more bizarre-minded of the students there. No student at Hogwarts would dare, of course, and he couldn't remember having the dreams before his fifth year. No, they'd started at Durmstrang after that first night he'd been banished outside into the snow for some misdemeanour he couldn't even remember now, it was so trifling. The important thing had been his discovery of the beauty of ice. That had been the trigger. His first dream had been about a snowfield at night with some colossal wind slicing over it. Over the year the dreams had grown in strength until last night's, which had been the most powerful he could remember. It had been wonderful, right up to the point when that thrice-damned —
"If you're going to jump don't you think you should have done so by now?"
— Potter had woken him up.
"Are you stalking me, Potter?"
A snort. "You wish."
Draco turned his head, his nostrils flaring almost instinctively. The breeze moved through the shadows and allowed him to make a fairly good guess...
"You're on the right of that pillar."
With a sigh, Potter took off his invisibility cloak. "That was pretty good. Mind telling me how you did that?"
Draco shrugged. Saying "I could smell you" sounded weird in the extreme, so he said, "Magic," instead, and hoped he sounded appropriately mysterious.
"Hmm. So it had nothing to do with any nictitating eyelids?"
Someone had been looking up long words. Draco bristled. "What is it with you? You're so great that suddenly everyone else isn't human?"
"You're going to tell me that a little Veela blood gives you a third eyelid? No? Then does it let you jump six feet? Veela blood is one thing, but did someone turn you into a frog while you were at Durmstrang and then botch turning you back?"
"What are you blathering on about now, Potty?"
"I'm saying, Malfoy, that normal people don't jump like you did earlier."
Draco narrowed his eyes. "Just how long have you been sitting there watching me, anyway?"
"As long as it took to see if you were going to do something weird," Potter said stoutly. "Weirder, I should say," he qualified to Draco's growing annoyance. "And then I got bored."
"And you've been sitting at the top of Hogwarts for hours now just doing nothing."
"With you watching me. Now who's the weirdo?"
"Stop being so bloody defensive for half a minute, Malfoy. Last night you nearly jumped off this tower —"
"Like hell I did!"
"... and when I saw your eyes they had this extra eyelid. I've been looking up part-Veelas in the library today and they don't have those. And the way you wilt every time the temperature goes up half a degree you'd think you were some kind of Norwegian Icerose. Not to mention the fact that every time you eat something it's made of ice."
Shifting uncomfortably, Draco said, "So I don't like the heat. Your point?"
"My point is that this summer it's actually quite cool. If this is hot for you, then I don't know how you survived other years. As a matter of fact I've seen you out playing Quidditch in higher temperatures than this. Badly, I might add," Potter taunted. "Are you going to blame your poor talent on it being too hot, or are you going to stick to the usual sad excuse of just being pathetically inbred?"
That was too much. Draco jumped for him, missing, but landing springily on his feet and fingertips. Potter swirled his cloak around him and disappeared.
Enraged, Draco reached down deep inside of himself and tugged at the faint tracery of dream-memory.
The night air swam around him, thick with scents and the lingering aura of heat. Snapping through his nerves were rivers of cold fire. At the back of his throat was the sense of the alien heat of his own blood thrumming through his arteries. He ignored it — it could wait. He had external enemies.
Yes. Draco blinked again to clarify his vision. There, faintly outlined by a misty glow of radiant heat that set his teeth on edge, was Potter. He lunged.
Potter swept the invisibility cloak off and used it to tangle Draco's feet.
Draco sprawled, cursing.
"Sorry," said Potter, stepping back judiciously and not sounding very sorry at all. "But I needed to make you angry."
"Just you breathing makes me angry," Draco snarled, rolling onto his feet and preparing to pounce on his antagonist.
"Shut up and think for a minute, Malfoy. What's your vision like?"
Draco paused, crouching on his haunches and panting. The heat sapped his energy and it was hard to think... But... "Good," he grudgingly admitted. "Better than good, in fact."
Potter squatted down in front of him, his eyes intent behind those ugly glasses. "Why?"
Draco stilled, thinking hard.
Then he realised his mistake and stopped thinking.
Ah — there it was. He blinked again.
The world swam for a second as something slithered over his vision and then cleared to become precise beyond imagining. The world was reborn. In the stone blocks molecules sparkled in crystalline lattices woven through with ancient magics.
The stars spoke in ancient runes of gravity and light.
Down below he could hear the roots of the trees murmuring as they pumped water skywards and stopped borer holes with sticky sap and, these being trees with their own magics, spells specific to lignin and cellulose that could never be spoken by a human tongue.
He licked his lips.
The air around Hogwarts crackled with wards. He could taste them, taste the different flavours of the witches and wizards who had set them. The wards smelt so good he was almost salivating. Some were faded shadows of magic-users long since dead, with echoes stretching back to the Founders — Draco was sure he could taste the unmistakable tang he had felt when the Sorting Hat had screamed "Slytherin!" all those years ago and still tasted every time he went into the Slytherin dormitory. Yes, there was Dumbledore's essence of lemon drops, McGonagall (he'd never suspected tartan could have a flavour, but there it was), Flitwick, Trelawney (that made him pause and wonder about the sanity of his new senses) and the crisp autumn of Snape, among so many others.
Far overhead a night-lark sang with a pure and animal joy of purpose.
In front of him crouched Harry Potter, boy wizard and so much more. The air around him sizzled with a suggestion of fire. Draco wondered if Potter even knew. If not, it probably wasn't Draco's business to tell — he may have been taken out of Slytherin but that didn't mean he hadn't kept a Slytherin's instinct to hoard information.
Then he raised his own hand and his eyes widened in wonder.
The skin was translucent, as if it had become part of the dream and was now fading away. Through it he could see, not muscle and bone and connective tissue as expected, but...
Slowly he turned his hands, one by one touching fingertip to fingertip, watching bluish shadows ripple in waves through them. Draco had no words for what he could see. Maybe there were no words.
"What is this?"
He hadn't realised he'd spoken aloud until Potter replied, "You mean you don't know?"
The spell, if that was what if was, broke. Draco scowled at Potter. "No," he snapped, and tried the blinking again. All he succeeded in doing was going cross-eyed. He glared ferociously at the other boy, who may have been laughing but seemed to be coughing now. He stood up and brushed himself off fastidiously, cat-like in his need to be clean and unrumpled.
"Maybe you should ask someone."
Draco sneered — old habits die hard. "And who should I ask, pray tell?" He immediately wished he hadn't said that. It sounded as if he didn't have anyone to turn to for help. Draco didn't mind so much that it was true, but it hurt that he'd become so weak as to admit it. Merlin help him, he'd be joining a mutual support group next. When he found himself crying into group hugs there'd be nothing else for it but to point his own wand at his head and mutter a quick Avada kedavra....
Potter either had the stupidity not to notice or the tact not to point that out, because he said, "Talk to Snape. Or Professor Lupin."
Draco stiffened his spine. "If you think I'm talking to a werewo-"
"If you think you're over your pompous self enough to talk to someone who knows a hell of a lot more about the Dark Arts than you do, then yes, talk to a werewolf. You could always talk to your father, of course; I expect he knows exactly what's going on. But seeing as how you're not terminally stupid — and I'm being optimistic here — then Professor Snape would be better to talk to than your father. He always tends to know more than he lets on."
Draco was tempted to hex Potter into next week for being such a big-headed egoist as to tell him how to run his life. Calling Draco "pompous" was definitely a pot/kettle situation. But Potter was the Golden Boy, and Draco knew that antagonising Dumbledore right now wouldn't be smart. The Headmaster would favour one of his Gryffindors over an ex-Slytherin any day.
"Professor Snape is leaving tomorrow."
"So talk to him before he goes. You should at least tell him what we did today — yesterday," Potter corrected himself. "He might want to know."
"Might want to know what, Mr Potter?" came a silken voice from out of the shadows.
Draco had occasionally wondered what it would be like to die of a heart attack. Now, after Snape had stepped out of the shadows like some sort of vampire, he knew. First you go cold, then you go hot, then you go cold again and clutch at your chest because you think your heart is about to leap out your throat like a salmon going up a waterfall.
He was having a great deal of difficulty regaining his composure, too. Being dragged through Hogwarts by an infuriated Snape tended to do that to one.
He and Potter were currently in Snape's office facing Snape over the large desk.
The situation was not novel.
What was a new experience was the depth of rage Snape was currently directing towards his erstwhile favourite pupil. Draco could feel the waves of fury radiating out from the Professor like a living thing. A vein throbbing in Snape's temple made Draco worry that the man was going to have an aneurysm. "It was meant for the best, sir," he tried to explain.
Muttering something about paving stones and the path to Hell, Snape was far from being mollified by this show of good-will. "I hardly see how advertising your presence to two Death Eater families is 'for the best'." His voice was at its softest and most deadly. This was the first time Draco had had it used against him. It was not an experience he was going to treasure, he just knew it. "Or," Snape began again, "did you in some inconceivable fit of naivety suppose that they don't know smarter people like, say, Lucius Malfoy, who is capable of adding two and two and coming up with five?" His voice rose a notch. "And did it never occur to either of you that, as you were seen in company of a woman unknown to the wizarding community and I was in London on the same day and — and this, apparently, is well known — have become recently married to a woman unknown to the wizarding community, you might be traced back to me and my wife?
"And," Snape continued, his voice now so low that either Draco had began to shake or the Hogwarts foundations had, "don't you think that certain Dark wizards who have ministry officials in their pockets might just know how to track me?" He stood, looming over the trembling boys. "I can take care of myself. I am used to the reckless stupidity of students — certain Gryffindors in particular — putting my life in danger. But what I will not countenance —" and here he took a deep breath and leaned on the table so that he was eye to eye with Draco and Potter "— is cretins like yourselves putting my wife in danger. My pregnant wife, may I add."
This, Draco realised, was what was making the whole scene so scary. Snape was frightened. It was the root of his anger. Had he, Draco, really endangered a pregnant woman?
Potter in his ineffable stupidity, spoke up first. "Sir — wait until you hear what —"
"Silence!" Snape roared. Next to Draco, Potter quivered back into a miserable silence. Draco realised that he and Potter were a couple of inches away from huddling together against the wrath of Snape. Normally that would be untenable, but right now any comfort was good comfort.
"Sir, it was my fault," Draco said quietly, stunning himself with the admission.
Snape seemed stunned, too. That might have been why he said in a faint voice, "Continue, Mr Malfoy."
Draco took a deep breath. This was his one shot at convincing Professor Snape that his intentions were the best. Typical, he thought sourly. I have the purest of motivations and get it in the neck. There's a moral in there somewhere... or there would be if I believed in such superstitions as morals. Aloud, he said, "There are rumours that you betrayed Voldemort. Any Death Eater, even those who didn't lose family or are about to lose money over the Ministry enquiries, are going to be out for your blood." And various parts of your anatomy. "I know what they're like as well as you do — remember I was brought up in that environment with that revenge ethos fed to me before I was on solid food," he added quickly, making sure he kept eye contact with Snape. Not that that was easy — those jet eyes were spitting hot black sparks. "If I was still part of a Death Eater family I'd have killed you myself. Suspicion is as good as fact as far as they're concerned, and if you were a double agent then you must have made people suspicious. Lu- my father told me that after Voldemort's first fall quite a few people thought you'd played on your ambiguity too much. Lu- Father was one of those who voted against having you taken out all those years ago. I don't know what hold you had on him, but he wanted you kept alive. Now... I don't know. But I do know that with Voldemort gone he's the major player, and I honestly don't think you've got the same hold on him that you used to." Snape didn't blink, so neither did Draco. "I overheard someone say that Lucius was participating in the enquiries, so that told me he hadn't died along with his master. When I heard that, I knew that you were in trouble. I also know that you don't know quite how vindictive he can be..."
"I may have some idea," Snape murmured, but he motioned for Draco to continue.
"So I decided that, Death Eater politics being what it is, a little counter-information would be useful. If I could keep enough people guessing on your motives... maybe even hoping that you would be instrumental in Voldemort's recovery, then Lucius would be voted down on any plans to have you assassinated."
There was a long pause.
Then: "And didn't you think me capable of creating my own screen of lies?"
His expression was unreadable. Draco answered stolidly, "Sir, I had an opportunity you didn't. Maybe someone would suspect Deacon of being Draco, but a Deacon with a twin brother Bob? That'll confuse them, and when they get confused without a clear target they withdraw. Especially when the only target available to them — you — has just been described as the potential source of Lord Voldemort's resurrection." Draco paused, wetting his dry lips as he realised by Snape's flash of irritation that calling Voldemort "Lord" had been a mistake in rhetoric. "They know that if there's anyone who can bring him back from the dead, it's you, Professor."
The silence creaked with the attempts of two boys to breathe silently.
"Are you trying," Snape asked softly, "to appeal to my professional vanity, Mr Malfoy?"
The smile was as brief as it was unexpected. Draco wondered if he'd imagined it. He decided silence was currently his best option, and took it.
Snape sat back and steepled his long, yellowed fingers before him. With the candles either side of the desk casting dense shadows where Snape's eyes were, Draco could believe Potter's crazy tale of Snape being descended from some monstrous daughter of Death.
"Get out. Both of you."
By some unspoken commonality of feeling (fear of Snape), Draco and Potter walked shoulder-to-shoulder up the stairs in silence. They separated where the sleeping staircases split Hogwarts' paths to the separate towers. "Malfoy," Potter called when they were at the first turn of their respective staircases.
"What?" Draco was tired. He was also feeling very, very ashamed at how he'd put Snape and Helen in danger.
"I just wanted to say... I still think that it was a good plan."
Draco mulled this over for a few heartbeats. He nodded. "Thanks."
He must have been extremely tired.
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