Chapter One: Potter Rescue and Tending Society (PRATS)
The lantern sat in the centre of the circle, casting sinister shadows on the stone walls and individual features. Lit from beneath, faces became skeletal, darkness filling in hollows of the cheeks and eyes, making them seem like spectres gathered for a ghoul hunt. Nine students sat in the small, windowless room located behind a tapestry in the Hufflepuff wing of Hogwarts castle, their expressions serious.
"Harry's insomnia has been sending him walking the castle halls during the night again." Neville Longbottom spoke quietly, but his deep, rumbling voice carried firmness and authority. In the low light, the seventeen-year-old looked like a werebeast. A mountain of a young man, with large paw-like hands and fingers, his scruffy beard and the shaggy brunet locks framing his face made his blue eyes stand out vividly. "The nightmares have been really awful recently. His scar is hurting him almost all the time, though you wouldn't know it since he never complains."
"You-Know-Who's been busy lately," Blaise Zabini said. "In his latest letter, Dad said that there was a raid on a small Muggle town called Tipton. When the Aurors showed up, the Death Eaters ambushed and slaughtered over half of them."
"Your father mentioned nothing specific about any plans in store for Harry, though?"
Pansy Parkinson spoke up. "I've heard nothing either, and I talked with my mother yesterday."
"I also found out nothing from my parents." Seated across from Pansy, Draco Malfoy shifted on the uncomfortable stone floor. Beside him, Blaise changed positions, as well, sitting on his heels. The two Ravenclaws, Mandy Brocklehurst and Orla Quirke, and Laura Madley from Hufflepuff, grouped together on the other side of Blaise, had used their bunched robes as cushions.
Neville looked across the circle at Laura and Orla. "Any progress with your project?"
"Andy Bole from Slytherin and Megan Jones from Hufflepuff." Laura rested her chin on her upraised knee. "Both are firmly on our side."
"That brings the total number of Seventh Years to eighty-six," Orla said. "Nobody wants to fight, but they will because they want the Death Eater attacks to stop as much as we do."
"Don't worry. Harry will be out there soon, a fully schooled wizard ready to give You-Know-Who's-No-Longer-Going-To-Be-Around a right good kicking," Colin Creevey declared, punching his fist in the air. His brother, Dennis, seated on Draco’s left, mimicked the motion.
"Don't count your boomslang skins before they're shed," Pansy warned. "Potter won't be fighting anyone if we don't keep him safe."
"We'll be ready to protect Harry," Colin said confidently.
"Just like the PRATS we are," Blaise added with a grin.
Orla shook her head. "That was only funny the first thousand times, Zabini."
"Says all of us."
"I think it's funny," Dennis piped up.
"You've been sniffing developer again, haven't you?" Colin teased.
Draco stretched his legs in front of him and crossed his ankles, as the Potter Rescue and Tending Society (a loathed name chosen by the Weasley Twins) dissolved into a gossip session. The seventeen-year-old knew the conversation would include some seriousness again or he wouldn’t waste his time sitting on the hard floor. Protecting Potter might be a high priority, but he still had other things to do.
"Hey, Creevey Two-," Blaise turned to Dennis with a cheeky smile, "-how's Potter's social life looking?"
"Dismal," Dennis replied with mock severity. "His calendar's been dreadfully empty all term."
"Willamina tried to hook up with him, but Harry turned her down fast," Colin said. "It's like he's not interested in trying to date anymore."
"Or maybe he's found that special someone that makes his heart go pitter-pat," Dennis said.
"Only she laughed in Potter’s face." Blaise put a hand to his forehead in fake distress. "And now, our tragic hero walks the halls at midnight, pining for the love he cannot have." He sighed overdramatically. "Woe is he."
“I think it’s more that Willamina looks like a bludger hit her repeatedly in the face,” Draco muttered.
Neville addressed Mandy across the circle. "Do you think we can adjust the tracking spell on Harry? With his wandering, I'd like to be able to find him faster than we can now."
"I'm sure it’s possible," Mandy replied.
Colin shifted on the floor. “At the last DA meeting, Harry and Zach Smith were up in each others’ faces, arguing about something,” he said to Dennis and Blaise.
“That’s not unusual,” Dennis said.
“But what is unusual is that Harry also takes a very long shower after every meeting they fight at.” Colin flashed a sly grin.
“You think he’s a poof?” Blaise said.
Draco clenched his hands in his lap.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Dennis said. “We know what his Quidditch record is like with girls.”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean he’s gay.” Colin nudged his brother’s shoulder. “You haven’t kissed a girl, yet, and you’re not bent.”Pansy half-turned towards Neville, seated beside her. "Other than the normal attempted hexing and pushing Potter down the steps, it's been relatively quiet this year, which means things are bound to get sticky soon."
“We’re as prepared as we can be,” Neville said. “I’ll suggest to Harry to call more DA meetings, though.”
"Anything of note in the Daily Prophet?” Orla asked Laura.
"Nothing, really." Laura unrolled the newspaper she’d brought with her. "That horrible Umbridge woman was promoted at the Ministry to Chief Cataloguer.”
“Is it very wrong of me to wish she’d gotten eaten by something in the Forbidden Forest, instead of finding her way out?” Orla said.
“If so, it’s forgivable.” Laura glanced at Draco. “Some people are probably glad she escaped.”
“And some people need to shut their gob before I hex it closed,” Draco stated with a glare.
“My order to Weasley Wizarding Wheezes went out last week,” Colin said, joining in Neville, Mandy, and Pansy’s conversation. “I should get an owl tomorrow from Fred and George. Maybe they’ll have information for us from the Order.”
“I’ll owl Pen-Li at the Auror Department and see if she’s heard anything new,” Orla put in.
“Ask about Tipton, as well,” Neville told her. He looked around the circle. “Is there anything else we need to discuss, because I have a Herbology exam to revise for?” When he received no response, he ended the meeting. “Okay. Unless there’s an emergency, I’ll activate the medallion as soon as we have news of something or for our next monthly meeting.”
The group said their goodnights and the meeting broke. Draco didn't move as the others crept out of their hiding spot, being careful to keep quiet so as not to be seen by Filch or other students. Pansy stayed behind.
"All right, Draco, what's wrong?" Pansy asked bluntly, once they were alone. "You're very quiet tonight."
Draco glowered at the sleeping portrait of Monsieur Couloir Garde on the wall before pinching the bridge of his nose. “PRATS meetings give me a headache.”
“That’s nothing new. Try again.”
The trouble with having the same closest friend since he was four was that Pansy could read him too well. Lying to her would be futile and she’d curse him for trying. He tried anyway. “I’m concerned about what the walking camera said. We’re leaving school soon. How is Potter going to survive without anyone watching his back?"
"You're usually watching a bit lower than that, Draco," Pansy said. “And I don’t appreciate your pitiful attempt at avoiding the answer.”
Draco looked at her. She had grown into a formidable seventeen-year-old, as tough as nails, like the pug dog she resembled, but she still liked feminine things. Her dark hair was cut in a stylish bob, her makeup subtle, and her robes were neatly pressed, even this late in the evening. She also had her wand pointed at him. He slumped and confessed, “Potter may be interested in Zach Smith.”
Exasperation lined her features. “You are such a whinging Nancy boy.”
Draco straightened his shoulders and glared. “You’re the one who wanted to know.”
“I didn’t know Harry was gay,” Pansy said.
“He’s not,” Draco said. “But if he is, he can only be gay with me.”
Pansy looked at him as if he were a clingy First Year. “Then, ask him out already.”
“Right. Brilliant idea, Pans. Why didn’t I think of it myself?”
“Stop being a child,” Pansy said disdainfully. “It’s the end of Seventh Form. What do you have to lose?”
“My pride. My dignity. My reputation.”
“You don’t have any of those things now.”
Draco scowled. “I vehemently dislike you.”
“Mutual, pet,” Pansy said. “But that doesn’t excuse your cowardice.”
“I can’t, Pansy,” Draco said. “I can’t do that to my father. I can’t tarnish the family name.”
Pansy became serious. “You shouldn’t be ashamed of who you are, Draco.”
“I’m not. I’m a Malfoy.”
“A Malfoy who is also part of a secret society protecting Potter.”
“That’s bad enough as it is.”
Pansy heaved a sigh. “Draco, if you don’t do something, I’ll hex certain parts of your anatomy that don’t get any use anyway.”
Draco glowered before caving. “Potter would have to make the first move. I want a guarantee he fancies me, as well. I won’t have him spreading word around Hogwarts that I’m a bender.”
“Good.” Pansy rose gracefully and then hauled him brutishly to his feet. She was as tall as Draco and easily looked him in the eyes. “You’re going to have to tell your father sometime. If not Potter, you’ll want a relationship with someone else.”
“I’d like to avoid that little talk as long as possible, thanks,” Draco said, insides twisting at the thought. “Are we done here, or do you want to share tender feelings some more?”
Pansy gave him a look and doused the lantern on their way out. “Nox.”
"You want to see skin? How's that!"
The words still rang in Draco’s ears, which burned in memory of that afternoon’s Transfiguration lesson. With a flick of a wrist, Harry Potter had transfigured Draco's robes into racy women's lingerie. The sheer pale material with puffy feathered edges had concealed nothing, but had matched the slippers on Draco's feet.
Laughter had echoed in the Transfiguration classroom. He remembered snatching his wand from the desk and quickly returned the favour.
He’d promptly wished he hadn't.
Seeing Harry barely covered in fitted scraps of leather had about killed Draco. He’d pressed against the edge of the desk, hiding his reaction. The feathers had done nothing to help.
Thankfully, McGonagall had transfigured back their uniforms before taking off fifty House points each and giving both boys detention for disrupting her class, using magic in class without permission, and public displays of near nudity. As the N.E.W.T.s were fast approaching, their detention was held in McGonagall's classroom and they were to sit silently together and revise for the tests under her supervision.
It was torture. His nerves were stretched taut. He kept fisting his hand in the material of his school robe, causing wrinkles. Having to sit right next to Harry in silence was driving Draco batty.
Potter smelled good.
Draco’s thoughts drifted back to earlier, to skin and leather. He should’ve looked ridiculous because Harry was short and wiry, but even with his messy black hair and owl-eyed glasses, the fire in his brilliant green eyes, the thin line of his mouth, and his powerful stance indicated that his deceptively delicate appearance hid an impressive strength. Draco would be having Master and slave fantasies for a while.
Harry hummed nearly inaudibly while doodling on his parchment. Draco clenched his jaw and shifted on his chair, his trousers tight beneath his school robe. He didn't know whether to sigh or smack Harry across the back of the head.
He wondered if Harry hummed when he kissed.
Detention was never going to end.
Draco sometimes he wished he hadn't met Harry. He could have anyone he wanted; he was that years' Slytherin centrefold, after all. He didn't like girls, though, and despite the rumors, that wasn't factual public knowledge.
But even though he thought about sex nearly twenty-four hours a day, it was Harry he wanted. It was frustrating and annoying, especially since the git didn’t want him in return. Then, there was the fact that Harry was a rule-breaking, impetuous idiot who went looking for danger to give it a handshake. He also insisted on being friends with that blasted Weasel, he more often than not ignored Neville, he always caught the snitch (unless he was unconscious or off the team), and he never combed his hair.
"All right, gentlemen. You may go," Professor McGonagall said finally.
Oh, thank Salazar.
Draco stood, happy that his school robe hid certain problems. "About time. Studying with you has actually made me dumber."
"How can you tell the difference?" Harry said, shoving his books in a satchel.
"Funny, Potter. Have you been taking lessons on how to be pithy?"
"If you two wouldn't mind taking your conversation elsewhere," McGonagall said pointedly.
"Sorry, Professor." Harry looked briefly at Draco, as if he had stepped in something foul, before heading out of the Transfiguration classroom.
Draco inhaled and exhaled slowly. The tension from sitting right beside Harry for hours drained away. Neville and the Creevey brothers would take over Potter-sitting for the weekend, leaving Draco free to regroup, get the revising done that he hadn't been able to do in detention, and plan for Monday's confrontation with Harry.
Congratulating himself on surviving another day without going mad, Draco finished gathering his things and left the classroom. He promptly walked into the Gryffindor Trio.
Draco pulled up short of bumping into Harry. Harry, Ron, and Hermione stood outside the classroom door, around the corner to the left, all still wearing their school uniforms of black robes over Muggle shirts and trousers, or skirt in Hermione's case. Draco scowled at the three, hiding his surprise. "You're blocking the hall."
"There's only the rest of hallway you can use," Harry said, gesturing to the otherwise empty hall.
"But I wish to walk this way," Draco stated haughtily.
Ron moved forward, using his ridiculous height to try to intimidate Draco. He crossed his arms and glowered. "You'll have to go through us then, Malfoy."
Ron Weasley was rather daunting, unless, of course, you were Draco Malfoy. The redhead towered over most of the students and professors at school, and with the amount of food he put away as well as playing Quidditch, he was quite bulky as well. One of Draco's favourite insults was to ask if Ron knew of his mum's affair with Hagrid. This usually caused Weasley's freckled face to turn purple and his eyes to bulge. It was an amusing sight.
Draco weighed the pros and cons of getting into it with the Gryffindor Trio right now. McGonagall would give detention, since she was certain to hear, considering they were directly outside her door. He’d been up since half-five that morning and it was the weekend and Draco really needed to get caught up on things he hadn't been doing, like study and sleep.
The decision was taken out of Draco's hands when a deep, rumbling voice said from behind him, "What's going on?"
Draco turned to the newcomer. Wearing a plain, dark brown robe, Neville clutched a large book to his chest. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand before tugging on the tip.
"None of your business, Longbottom," Draco sneered in answer. "Scurry on to the library, or wherever it was you were going."
Message received, meeting set.
Neville straightened his posture, going on the feigned offensive, gaze darting between his Housemates and Draco. Now, he would be the person to intimidate Draco, if Draco was one to succumb to intimidation. “I think you should be the one to leave, Malfoy.”
“You, think? I didn’t know you were able to do that,” Draco mocked.
“He’s smart enough not to go one against four,” Ron said. Harry stood beside him, arms folded over his chest.
“It takes all four of you to come up against one of me?” Draco said. “I’m flattered.”
“Any one of us could handle you alone, Malfoy," Hermione said.
Draco gave Hermione the once-over, a smirk on his face. "Is that an offer, Granger?"
Hermione's face turned red in anger. Shorter than Harry, barely coming up to Draco's chin, she would be pretty if she wasn’t a Mudblood, if one ignored her bushy mane of hair. But Draco wouldn't shag her even if he weren't gay, because the know-it-all would probably lecture him on what he was doing wrong.
Draco circled the Gryffindor Trio with a mocking laugh. Neville would have activated the medallion if it were an emergency, but he obviously wanted to speak with Draco, so getting into a fight wouldn't be prudent.
"Just you wait, Malfoy," Ron threatened, his voice carrying after Draco. "You'll get yours for that."
"I can hardly wait," Draco muttered sarcastically as he rounded the corner, heading for the Slytherin dorms.
The passage to the Slytherin House led Draco directly into a party in the Slytherin common room. Upper Form students gathered in small groups, talking animatedly. Conjured wizarding music played loudly, echoing off the stone walls of the dungeon. Some students danced, some were snogging, and others were terrorizing a mouse.
Dressed in a slimming hunter green robe with silver accents, Pansy detached herself from her friends and met Draco as he entered. "How was detention?" she asked.
"Torture," Draco answered succinctly. "Let me dump my gear and then we'll go for a walk."
Pansy raised a sculpted eyebrow in silent curiosity. "I'll wait here."
Draco wasn't gone but a minute. After making sure he had his wand, he and Pansy left the Slytherin dorm for the library.
"Longbottom approached me in the hall after detention, in front of Potter, Granger, and Weasley," Draco informed her, their long strides carrying them quickly to their destination. “He signalled a message he wanted to meet.”
"Really." Pansy's brow creased. "I wonder what for."
"He probably lost his comb in all that hair and needs help finding it,” Draco said. There hadn't been an emergency meeting with any member of PRATS since Sixth Year, when Colin had photographed Harry and a spectre appeared in the developed picture with him.
On Friday nights, the library was nearly empty. A few overly ambitious Ravenclaws sat together at a table near Madam Pince's office. The librarian herself could be seen sitting at her desk through the open door of her office, and she cast a cursory glance at Draco and Pansy as they entered.
Neville had secluded himself at a table far from the library entrance, Pince's office, and the table of Ravenclaws. Tall bookshelves surrounded the table on all sides, connecting at right angles at two of the four corners, offering privacy. Several books were piled on the table and Neville appeared to be doing revision, his quill scratching audibly against the scroll in the quiet of the library. He looked up when Draco and Pansy rounded the bookshelf, his features tense. He relaxed when he saw them, and the wand he'd been holding out of sight was tucked up his sleeve.
"Longbottom," Draco acknowledged. "What's the message?"
Neville stood, pulled a certain book from the middle of the pile, and set it on the table. Draco came to stand beside Neville, while Pansy stayed near the aisle where they entered the study area, keeping sentry, but still paying attention to the other two.
"I nicked this from Trey Bleckly," Neville told Draco, tapping the book. "Dennis overheard Bleckly talking about how he had to wait in the owlry because he was to receive something from his aunt to give to Harry. I went to the owlry to check it out. Sure enough, Bleckly was there and this book is what he got."
The book was an odd size, wider than standard wizarding books, but very light in weight. The cover was made of deep brown leather, cracked and worn in places, with three tarnished brass bindings wrapping over the spine. A raised, inverted triangle graced the centre and the title, Entrapment, was branded across the bottom of the cover.
“Do we know why Bleckly’s aunt would be sending something for Potter?” Pansy asked.
“I don’t know who his aunt is.” Draco bent closer to examine the cover. “I’ll ask around Slytherin tonight and find out.”
"The book’s got a ton of magic resonating from it." Neville pulled his wand from his sleeve. "Detectum." The book began to glow a solid blue in colour, indicating the presence of strong magic, more than a normal wizarding book. It faded after a few seconds.
Draco removed his own wand from his belt and cast a different spell on the book. "Revelo." It didn’t work at first, and he scowled. “Revelo.” Red letters scrolled across the cover and formed the words 'Tome of Entrapment.'
"Imagine that, the title matches its purpose," Pansy commented dryly.
"I wonder how it works," Neville said. "I haven't opened it yet."
"I wouldn't recommend it, then," Pansy said. "Not without casting the spell-muting charm first."
"Did anyone see you take this?" Draco asked Neville.
"Yes, Malfoy. I walked right into the Slytherin dorm on a Friday night and took the book out of Bleckly's hands with a smile and a thank you."
Draco felt a headache coming on. "Longbottom."
"I followed Bleckly back to the dorm, perched in his room, and waited until he joined the party in your common room to make off with it. Then, I ran into you in the hall," Neville said. He scratched his scruffy chin with the tip of his wand. "Have you noticed that rarely anyone ever bothers to look up?"
"Longbottom!" Draco said Neville's name like a curse. "What were you thinking? If anyone would’ve seen you, they’d have caught and dissected you like a mouse."
Neville levelled him with a look. "I was thinking that you were playing footsie with Harry in detention, Pansy and Blaise were who-knows-where, and I didn't want to chance Bleckly hiding the book where we couldn't find it or passing it to Harry."
"All right. Reluctantly, I admit that makes sense." Draco pointed his wand at Neville in emphasis. "But don’t do it again, or next time I’ll hand you to the other Slytherins myself."
Neville raised his hands in the air, his eyes widening with fake fear. "I'm s-s-so scared, Malfoy."
"Get away from him!"
Draco, Neville, and Pansy jumped, Pansy's wand immediately in her hand. At the opposite end of the table, Harry, Ron, and Hermione appeared from the other opening to the study area, that led from the back of the library. All three had their wands out and ready to use.
Draco wondered if the day would ever end.
"Beat it, Malfoy," Ron ordered. Neville backed towards the trio, wand pointed towards Draco.
"The library is open to all students, Weasley," Draco said. “It’s the only way you can afford to read texts for lessons.”
Ron’s ears grew red. Harry narrowed his eyes behind his glasses. "Get lost, Malfoy."
“Get stuffed, Potter,” Draco said. Pansy drew up beside him, wand at ready.
“We shouldn’t fight in the library. We don’t want the books to be damaged,” Hermione said, from next to Harry. “I’ll call Madam Pince over.”
“Hiding behind the librarian, how very brave. I'll just take this-," Draco picked up the Tome of Entrapment, "-and leave you to your saviors, Longbottom."
"Accio book!" Harry cast before Draco took a single step. The Tome of Entrapment was torn from Draco and flew towards Harry's outstretched hand.
Draco was alarmed. They didn't know what would happen if Harry touched the book. Neville had the same thought. He cried out, stumbling forward like he'd been pushed, and crashed into Harry. Harry fell against the table, knocking over a chair. Neville snatched the book from the air before landing heavily on his knees on the floor.
Hermione and Ron searched behind them, but of course saw no one. Draco met Neville's gaze briefly, in relief.
Pansy recovered first and snickered. "Neville can't even stand still without falling on his face."
"Thanks, Harry, for rescuing my library book," Neville mumbled, climbing to his feet. He set the book on top of the other library books on the table.
Draco took his cue. "As entertaining as this has been..." He saluted the Gryffindors with his wand, knowing that Neville would keep the book safe, and he and Pansy made their escape.
They were barely around the corner of the bookshelf when they heard, “I wonder why Malfoy wanted this book.”
"Hermione, no! Don't open that!"
Draco and Pansy exchanged panicked looks and darted
back around the corner, just as the study area exploded in a flash of brilliant