Chapter Four: The Dream
He must have been dressed in his night-clothes and put to bed at some stage of the evening. Or maybe he was still on the couch dreaming.
Whatever had happened, Draco felt like he was almost awake. He had had this dream before at Durmstrang, but never so strongly. It was a good dream, one that left him tired the next day but relieved at the same time, as if he had taken care of something during the night that needed to be done. It was a similar ticklish feeling to the one he got when that little voice at the back of his mind stirred and suggested something.
In the dream the night took on little bluish sparkles that limned edges and corners. Draco slipped into his robes and drifted through the door of his room into the main quarters.
The door out of Snape's quarters was warded, but it was a standard Slytherin ward that Draco knew. During the holidays Snape could afford to be lax.
This wasn't the first time Draco had been out in Hogwarts corridors after curfew. There was, as always, the danger of encountering a prowling Mrs Norris, or Peeves the poltergeist out on an ectoplasmic bender.
The little voice at the back of Draco's mind was wide awake now, and it sensed all these potential hindrances before they could become part of the dream. Draco glided through the corridors like a ghost.
Not even the ghosts noticed him.
Down from Slytherin Tower and then up again, up, up, up to the Astronomy Tower. The highest point in Hogwarts. During term-time this tower was a favourite place for romantic liaisons — or just good-old fashioned snog-fests. Given that Snape was probably the youngest member of the faculty, not to mention married, Draco couldn't see anyone complaining about being interrupted in their lust-a-thon. And if they did Draco could just tell them that this was his dream, and they should get the hell out of it. That had worked in the past at Durmstrang. And as nobody had mentioned anything the next day it was proof that these nocturnal excursions were mere vivid dreams.
All those stairs were hard work and only half-way up he'd come out in a light sweat, but at the top of the tower was his reward: that cold breeze Draco had been craving.
He drank it in like nectar.
The top of the wall up here wasn't low, but Draco was agile. He climbed up onto a ledge.
The night was pitch-black, it being only just after the new moon, but spread out below him was the Dark Forest. Draco never had found out where it ended. If he looked hard over at the lake he could see the waters rippling as the Giant Squid trawled for water cooled by the breeze. His eyes weren't focussing properly... there was a trick to it. What was it? Ah yes. A special way of blinking. A membrane moved from the inner corners of his eyes and back again, lubricating his eyeballs in some liquid that enhanced the starlight.
Up here only a few bats searching for moths ventured; most of the owls were home with their owners. There was a flash of white as a Snowy owl swooped after a mouse — after another blink Draco could see the mouse way, way down on the ground, and he felt a visceral thrill as the owl thrust forth talons and made her kill.
Smell was sharper, too. Chemicals wafting on moist night breezes took on new strengths. He flared his nostrils and the night almost overwhelmed him with sensation. He was becoming drunk on it. From far away was the scent of centaurs. Closer was the sweet musk of a unicorn stallion foraging on the edge of the forest. A stray eddy brought him the slightly sour musk of a carnivore — a hippogriff, by the backnote that hung in his throat. The memory it raised was even sourer... hadn't he scented this hippogriff before? <Slashing-talons-slicing-down-his-arm> Draco rolled back his upper lip and flexed his fingers like a cat's claws. That little voice said that another large carnivore was a challenge: one that Draco should meet some night.
Draco spread his arms wide, his robes falling back leaving his forearms bare. The wind stroked through the fine, blond hairs there. On the undersides of his arms it felt like silk. In that moment he felt as is he could leap from the tower and glide down and across the wide expanse that glittered beneath him. The wind would catch him and lift him up to the stars should he wish it.
Should I jump?
No, not tonight. Dreams take time to mature, said that voice. For tonight just feel the wind. Feel it sing through my fingers. Feel it caress my face. Feel its ebb and flow and know how it —
Then some rude bastard grabbed his robes and yanked him backwards.
Draco swore as he fell. He didn't have his wand with him (Idiot!) and had a brief vision of himself cracking his skull open on the flagstones. It would sound like a pot plant being dropped, it would... He'd heard that sound at Durmstrang the week before he'd left.
But someone caught him before he could dash his brains out.
Green eyes, dorky glasses, stupid scar...
It was Potter, and he didn't manage to stop Draco from hitting the ground hard enough to wind himself. Draco woke to find himself gasping for breath. "What the fuck do you think you're playing at, Potter?" he snarled.
Potter, the great idiot, looked almost as angry as Draco felt. "What the fuck do you think you're playing at? I just saved your life, you great goiterous git."
"Like bollocks you did, Potty."
"No? So you weren't just about to throw yourself off the tallest tower in Hogwarts?"
"No, actually, I wasn't," Draco snapped out, managing to lever himself up onto his elbows. "So what — you think I'm suicidal?"
Potter pushed his glasses back up his nose — they'd been knocked sideways in the scuffle. "Well, yeah. Your parents hate you along with the rest of the wizarding world; you've got no money, and you can't throw around your family name anymore."
Draco kicked out at him. "Well, I'm still not a smarmy little Gryffindor who can't see the woods for the trees and thinks everything revolves around his personal gravitational field because he's just completed his life's work. In other words, I've still got things to do without a lot of stupid expectations weighing me down, while you have done your work and can be put out to pasture. The world doesn't need you anymore. If we're comparing relative suicidal tendencies here, by rights it should be me pulling you off ledges. Except I wouldn't."
Potter had gone a dangerous shade of red.
"Fuck you, Malfoy," he finally ground out. "If you're so deprived of basic human kindness that you can't recognise it when someone does you a favour, then you're a sadder human being than I thought. If you are a human being, of course, because I just saw you blink with a third eyelid. Just remember that if you do jump you'll be doing me a favour."
"Heaven forbid I should do you any favours."
"Keep that in mind next time you're feeling like topping yourself. Dickhead."
He pulled his invisibility cloak around him and disappeared.
Draco listened to Potter's feet stomping back down the stairs. He sat up and rubbed his elbows. There would be bruises there tomorrow. And around his throat where that idiot had jerked his robe tight around his neck.
But they were nothing compared to his racing thoughts.
It's not a dream. It's real. This... this whatever that is happening to me... it's real.
And then was the thought so icy it made him shiver: Was I really going to jump?
Am I suicidal? Am I crazy? Is there a part of me that wants to die?
For a moment he'd considered jumping from the parapet. It had seemed the most natural thing in the world. The thin night air would have held him, he'd been certain.
This dream, the one he'd enjoyed so much, wasn't a dream. It was real.
And it could kill him.
And what the hell was that "third eyelid" business? Draco tried to blink that special blink again, but the best he could achieve was going cross-eyed.
Draco, despite being sixteen and a capable wizard even without his wand, couldn't help a small meep! of fright.
Out of the shadows glided the tall figure of the Potions master.
"Sleepwalking, Mr Malfoy?"
Draco scrambled to his feet. "I... I only came up for some cool air, sir. I wasn't going to... I mean I'd never..."
Snape waved him quiet. "I realise that, Draco. I, too, occasionally find the need for quiet reflection far away from the hustle-bustle down in the rest of the castle. But I, however, normally try not to wake up everyone in the process."
Snape lifted one corner of his thin mouth in what could have been a smile. "Next time you decide to indulge in somnambulism, do us all a kindness and don't set off all the wards between Slytherin Tower and the Great Hall, hmm?"
"Oh, indeed. You can make your apologies tomorrow."
"Yes, sir. Sorry, sir. Um... is Potter..."
Snape's eyes narrowed disdainfully at the mention of the Gryffindor. "Headmaster Dumbledore has decided that as Potter's enemies are dead he is safe to wander Hogwarts at night should the inclination take him." By his icy tone it was clear how strongly Snape disapproved of this.
The breeze whispered through the crenellations of the parapet and tickled the fine hairs on the back of Draco's neck.
Come and play.
Draco wavered, then blinked to discover Snape's hooded gaze on him. The scrutiny was unnervingly intense; Snape seemed to be waiting for... something. A sign. An omen. A key to the future.
Whose future? Draco's?
The moment stretched and broke.
"Come," said Snape. "It's going to be a busy day tomorrow."
That busy day started early, down in the relative coolness of the Potions classroom.
"It's not Polyjuice Potion, is it?" said Harry Potter, doubtfully eyeing the smoking goblets, keeping a desk between him and Snape.
"No," Snape replied. "This is a variation of Morpholytic Familius. Polyjuice Potion lasts a mere hour... unless you muck up the potion and add a part of an animal instead of a human... say, a cat... in which case you end up in the infirmary for some time to your dismay and your teacher's amusement."
Draco wondered what that was about. Potter had gone bright red.
Snape continued. "This potion isn't taught at Hogwarts. It's not actually banned, as such, but it is regarded as one of the less savoury examples of the art."
He muttered a brief incantation. There was a small puff of yellow smoke, and condensation began to form on the goblets.
Draco shrugged as he caught Potter's eye. Potter hadn't said anything about last night, to everyone's relief. Draco didn't want Helen worrying, and if Snape had been bothered by what had happened, well, he hadn't said anything. Snape wasn't normally shy about expressing anger. Draco had been on the receiving end enough times to know that if Snape was pissed off then Draco would be the first to know about it.
Draco lifted the cup like a challenge, toasting Potter once, sardonically, before downing the contents in one swallow.
It was like ice, but not the way Draco craved.
Ice should be soothing, not this chilly twisting that crackled through veins and sinews. A colony of termites had taken up residence in his body and were busy reworking it to meet their own blueprints. Blinking through a mist of tears, he noticed that Potter was also doubled over, choking.
Tall as an oak, Snape watched them, the folds of his cloak drawn around him and his face showing only a mild, professional curiosity.
On the other hand, maybe this is his way of telling me I screwed up last night...
With a faint twang! that felt like his ears popping after a steep climb during Quidditch, only felt throughout his entire body, Draco's discomfort was gone.
He leaned on a desk, gasping.
"Hah," Potter said shortly, surprised and a little amused.
"Want to share the joke, Potter?"
"You look like a Weasley."
Horrified, Draco spelled a tabletop into a mirror. He stared into it with no small amount of dismay. His perfect skin was... "I've got freckles!"
"But you don't have red hair," Snape said silkily. "Perhaps Mr Potter would like to have a look at his own reflection?"
Draco looked up at his teacher. Then looked at Potter.
"What's so funny?" Glaring at Draco suspiciously, Potter looked down at his reflection. "Oh no! Malfoy, we look like brothers!"
"Worse," chortled Draco, wondering if Professor Snape had been making a joke or just trying to get some obscure message through. The former, he decided. "We're twins. We can write to Mrs Weasley and ask her to knit us jerseys — one with an aitch on it for you, and one with a dee for me!"
Assured that the potion would last until evening, Draco and Potter had parted company at the top of the stairs down to the Dungeons; Draco to look for Helen, and Potter to go and explain to anyone in the Great Hall that he was actually Harry Potter and there was a double running around who was actually Draco Malfoy.
Draco vowed to transfigure his Slytherin badge to a Gryffindor one at the earliest opportunity and tell people what he thought Harry Potter should have told them years ago... or what Draco Malfoy thought they needed to be told, which amounted to the same thing.
Smirking at the thought, he began the ascent to Slytherin Tower, only to be flattened by Peeves.
"Out of the way! Out of the way!" shouted the poltergeist gleefully. "VIP coming through — that'd be me, ex-blondie!"
Rattling suits of armour as he went, Peeves shot off down one of the corridors.
After dusting himself off, Draco looked up to see Helen running down the staircase. She stopped at Draco.
"Draco or Harry... have you seen a ghost with a bow-tie?" she panted.
"Peeves? What do you want him for?"
"We're playing hide-and-seek," she announced. "I'm It. Which way did he go?"
Before he could think, Draco pointed down the corridor. Then he remembered himself and gave himself a mental kick. "Wait..."
"No time!" shouted Helen, her voice Dopplering behind her as she sped off in pursuit of the poltergeist. "Sev wants to go in an hour, and I promised Peeves we'd play this morning!"
Helen shouldn't be playing with Peeves. He'd end up hurting her, or luring her over a balcony and then...
A cold hand settled on his shoulder. Draco turned to see the Bloody Baron. The grim Slytherin ghost gave Draco a solemn look of reassurance before floating off after Helen.
Whew. The Baron was the only one who could control Peeves. Snape must have set him to watch over his wife. As Draco watched, the Baron fluttered into invisibility, but Draco was in no doubt that the ghost would be watching over Helen Snape.
If Peeves set one incorporeal toe out of line he'd lose it.
From somewhere far away down the maze of hallways came a crash, followed by a whoop of triumph from Helen. "Found you!"
Well, he'd seen Helen. What to do now? Draco decided to wander into the Great Hall and see if there was anything light to eat.
He paused by the side door, listening.
Potter was in there with that murderer Sirius Black, who was ranting about something. The werewolf's voice could be heard, too. Draco peeped around the door. Yes, Black and Lupin. Sprout was there, talking to Flitwick, and Vector was tucking into a plate of kippers.
"Um, Sirius..." Potter was saying, looking slightly mutinous, although that could have been the new face.
Black's pugnacious voice rose. "...Ghastly woman. Last night I thought I'd never be able to eat again, and I've eaten rats. Her and that slimy git deserve each other."
"Sirius..." the werewolf admonished softly as Potter's face darkened around the new freckles.
"No, hear me out, Moony. She thinks that just because Harry liked her when she was a parrot she can get away with behaving appallingly now that she's human. If she is human. Nothing human could be that fond of Snape."
Draco's eyes narrowed.
Potter slammed his cup down onto the table and stood up. "She's brave and she's kind. And you're forgetting that the reason she's a human now is because you had Snape put into a position where he would've died. Protecting me, I might add; protecting me from the creatures you allowed to find me when you barrelled down to New Zealand. Professor Snape would have been killed. He was certainly tortured." Potter's voice cracked as if he were genuinely upset. That would have been new from Boy Wonder — he'd never cared about Snape's welfare before. "Because of me. I owe Helen, true, but that's not why I like her. I like her because she's honest and she cares about people. So what if she loves Professor Snape? That's her choice and it's between them. But don't you start hassling her just because you're jealous that Snape's finally managed to get what you've never had — a loving wife."
Black spluttered. "Jealous!"
Potter kicked back his stool and strode out of the Hall. As he passed Draco he snarled, "Heard enough?"
Draco shrugged, having thought he'd been out of sight. All his plans for transfiguring badges were forgotten in this rare fellow-feeling with Potter. He had a new plan, anyway. One that made him cringe inside a little, admittedly, as it involved the unthinkable — being polite to Potter for a whole day — but a plan that was probably worth going through. A brilliant plan... if it worked, of course. And for that he needed to get Potter on-side.
"I guess," Draco replied calmly. "Actually, I was going to propose a truce for today."
Potter spun around. "Say what?"
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Well, as Helen wants to take us into London and Professor Snape is ready to have us locked in our rooms at the slightest provocation," which was overdoing it, but hey, a little hyperbole never went amiss, "I thought we should be on our best behaviour."
"Meaning?" asked Potter, narrowing his eyes suspiciously.
"Meaning exactly that," said Draco, not wanting to tell Potter that now that Helen was pregnant Snape would cut out their hearts with a spoon if they upset his wife. If Helen wanted them to know she'd tell them. It wasn't Draco's news to spill.
"So what's in it for you?"
"Does anything have to be in it for me? Can't I just be pleasant for Mrs Snape's benefit?"
"Well then you'll just have to accept that I'm trying to protect her. And Professor Snape." And any future Snapelings...
"And how is your being nice going to effect that?"
"Well, for that I need your help..."
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