“Ladies and gentlemen…welcome! Welcome to the final of the four hundred and twenty-second Quidditch World Cup!”
Ludo Bagman’s voice boomed from the Top Box and Draco Malfoy forced himself not to cover his ears. In front of him, Fred and George Weasley threw a handful of wrapped toffees in the air like confetti. One flew directly at him, hitting him in the centre of his chest. Two full years as Slytherin’s seeker had honed his reflexes and he snatched the candy before it fell into his lap. He glanced at the colour-shifting wrapper in his palm then at the Twins.
Fred was looking at Draco over his shoulder, tugged the end of his freckled nose, and whispered something in George’s ear.
“And now, without further ado, let me introduce…the Bulgarian National Team Mascots!”
Veela, Draco knew, were the mascots of the Bulgarian team. His father had cast a deafening spell on him before they’d come to the game, preventing him from hearing music. It wouldn’t do for a Malfoy to slobber like a commoner when the Veela danced. A quick look around the Top Box showed nearly all the males – and one or two females – rising out of their seats and staring dazedly at the Veela. Even Harry Potter, who was sitting a row ahead and a half-dozen seats down between Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, was enraptured.
The fourteen-year-old snorted, earning a reproachful look from his father at the indelicate sound. Draco didn’t apologize, but looked down in recrimination. From the corner of his eye, he saw his father return to watching the mascots dance. Draco’s mother sat primly on the other side of him, ignoring him completely.
Draco hid his hands in his lap and rapidly unwrapped the toffee. He knew better than to eat anything the Twins gave him and allowed the candy to fall to the floor. Carefully, he smoothed out the wrapper, darted another glance at his parents, and read what was written on the candy paper.
Draco crumpled the wrapper and let it join the toffee on the floor. Angry yelling suddenly filled the stadium as the Veela stopped their performance. Ludo Bagman’s amplified voice shouted over the crowd.
“And now, kindly put your wands in the air…for the Irish National Team Mascots!”
A green-and-gold comet zoomed into the stadium and circled once before splitting into two smaller comets. The two comets streaked towards opposite goal posts and a rainbow arced suddenly across the field, connecting the two balls of light. Sounds of approval and amazement rose up from the crowd.
Draco crossed his eyes and looked in Harry’s direction, as the two balls of light rejoined in the centre of the field and merged to form a shimmering green shamrock. The shamrock rose into the sky and began soaring over the stands. Golden coins rained from the shamrock, seeming to disappear when they hit the golden glow of Harry’s outstretched hand.
Draco uncrossed his eyes and Harry no longer glowed. He wondered what the Twins had used to create such an effect and how long it lasted. He bet it would at least last the night, considering their oddly obsessive need to protect Harry at all times.
Not that Harry needed protecting any longer. The threat from Sirius Black had vanished, as Draco had learned from the Twins that Black was not responsible for Harry’s parents’ death. The explanation had included illustrations and re-enactments, including an annoyed Draco being transfigured into a grim, Black’s Animagus form, at the last of the year PRATS meeting. And what a horrid name the Twins had invented for the group: the Potter Rescue and Tending Society, or PRATS. It reminded Draco that he was a prat, himself, for associating with them.
Granted, Draco still didn’t want Harry dead, but he had done some thinking over the summer hols, as he lazed on his balcony at the Manor overlooking the grounds, reading magazines, gossiping with Pansy, or playing Exploding Snap with Vince and Greg. He no longer wanted to be part of PRATS, which the Twins planned to keep going, threat or not; it was tedious attending meetings and he could torment Harry anytime he wished, anyway. He’d inform Neville or the Twins when school began again.
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, kindly welcome – the Bulgarian National Quidditch Team!”
Draco stared as a crowd of hooded, silver-masked wizards moved in a laughing, jeering mass. Above their heads, held aloft by their wands, were four Muggles, the campsite manager and his family. They jerked as if on strings to the hoots and hollers below them. The smallest Muggle child was spun like a top high up in the air, which was actually pretty amusing. Tents were blasted out of the way or set on fire as the swarm of black-robed wizards cut a path through the campground.
“Death Eaters!” someone yelled, and Draco started. Death Eaters? But he thought there were no more Death Eaters, since You-Know-Who had disappeared, thanks to Scarhead. His father had told him so.
Screams and crying rose around him as more masked Death Eaters joined the group. Wizards and witches and any children in their way were hit with hexes and curses. People fled into the woods surrounding the camp as Ministry officials tried to get to the Muggles. It looked as though they were scared to perform any spell that might make the family fall. A few of the adult wizards and witches joined the Ministry, and the Death Eaters swelled in response.
Draco had the sudden urge to flee, and turned and ran from his tent, where he’d been standing in the door flap watching. He wasn’t quite sure where he was going. He dodged adults and children, fallen tents and burning embers. Robes held up so as not to trip, he leapt over a child no more than three convulsing on the trampled ground.
He circled the camp and the Death Eaters. The Weasley tents loomed ahead of him, still standing unharmed. He saw Mrs. Weasley with her wand drawn and her plump face creased in a hard scowl outside of one of them. A redhead with glasses came fumbling out of the tent, trying to pin a Ministry badge to his lapel.
“Percy! Get into the woods with the others!”
Draco shifted gears and bolted for the trees. The Weasleys might be poor, but they weren’t stupid. Actually, they were stupid, especially Ron, but the woods were thick with fleeing wizarding families, so it seemed like the place to go.
But panic made wizards and witches push and shove in the darkness, the coloured lanterns that had lit the path to the stadium having been extinguished by the Death Eaters. Trees, roots, branches and brambles grabbed at them. Fearful shouts and crying children filled the cold night air.
Elbows jabbed Draco, people slammed against him, and he ricocheted off of unseen trees. He tripped and crashed unceremoniously into the dirt with an oof. Hands stinging, Draco pushed himself to his feet and shot off again.
He heard Ron Weasley yell in pain close by and he slowed. “What happened?” Hermione Granger’s voice asked in the darkness. “Ron, where are you? Oh this is stupid – lumos!”
The three were directly in front of him. Draco pulled up short, as the glowing tip of Hermione’s wand lit the area. Ron was sprawled on the ground at Hermione’s feet. Harry stood beside her, an anxious expression on his face.
“Tripped over a tree root,” Ron said angrily, getting to his feet.
“Well, with feet that size, hard not to,” Draco drawled from behind them. He leaned against a tree, arms crossed to hide his trembling hands.
“How would you like my foot up your tight, poncy arse?”
“Language, Weasley,” Draco said. “Hadn’t you better be hurrying along, now? You wouldn’t like her spotted, would you?” He nodded at Hermione at the same time a blast sounded from the campsite. A flash of green light momentarily lit the woods. Draco’s stomach dropped.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Hermione said.
“Granger, they’re after Muggles,” Draco said. “Do you want to be showing off your knickers in midair? Because if you do, hang around…they’re moving this way, and it would give us all a laugh.”
“Hermione’s a witch,” Harry pointed out.
“Have it your own way, Potter.” Draco grinned maliciously, hoping its fakeness wasn’t evident. He wasn’t feeling too malicious at the moment, not that he wouldn’t mind seeing Hermione get hers. “If you think they can’t spot a Mudblood, stay where you are.”
“You watch your mouth!” Ron shouted, fists bunching.
“Never mind, Ron.” Hermione grabbed Ron’s arm as he took a step towards Draco.
A loud bang came from the other side of the trees, followed instantly by several screams. Draco’s lips froze in his smile as panic seized him at the nearness of the attack. The Death Eaters were almost upon them. Why wasn’t he running? Now was not the time to worry about his pride.
“Scare easily, don’t they?” Draco said around the fear choking him, but at least it made his voice sound lazy and uncaring. “I suppose your father told you all to hide? What’s he up to – trying to rescue the Muggles?”“Where’re your parents?” Harry said angrily. “Out there wearing masks, are they?”
Draco stiffened. His parents were not Death Eaters. “Well, if they were, I wouldn’t be likely to tell you, would I, Potter?”
Hermione gave him a disgusted look. “Oh come on, let’s go and find the others.”
“Keep that big bushy head down, Granger,” Draco sneered.
“Come on,” Hermione repeated, and she pulled Ron and Harry up the path, away from Draco.
Draco slumped against the tree the moment they were out of sight. He shoved a shaky hand through his hair, making a mess of it. A piercing headache stabbed suddenly behind his eyes and he rubbed them hard with his thumb and forefinger. A red flash lit the woods to his left, accompanied by a scream, and he took off in the direction Harry, Ron, and Hermione had gone.
He caught up with them and could hear them talking as he trailed silently behind, out of sight. He couldn’t see them, either, but as long as they kept speaking he was reassured. They had to know the way out of danger, and also, the Twins had given Draco that candy. There were bound to be other PRATS members nearby, protecting Harry and, by default, anyone with him, including Draco if he stepped up his pace.
The path wound deeper into the woods. He passed a few French girls who asked him if he’d seen Madam Maxine, and he snapped that he had not, answering in French. A group of goblins passed a sack of gold between them, seemingly unconcerned of the Death Eaters heading towards them. He heard a few wizards arguing over whether to confront the Death Eaters or not, and Ludo Bagman’s voice.
But then suddenly everything was quiet. Draco’s footsteps faltered, sounding loud on the dirt path, as he strained to listen for Harry and the others. He halted and crossed his eyes, but there was no glow to be seen.
The world dropped out from beneath Draco’s feet as the trees ahead of him lit up with a vast, green glittering light. The light rose rapidly above the treetops, but instead of a shamrock it formed a huge skull with a serpent protruding from its mouth like a tongue. It blazed against the night sky like a beacon – a beacon of death.
The woods erupted in screams, and Draco didn’t realize his voice had joined in until it cracked. “No!” The Dark Mark illuminated the woods, casting everything in a sickening green glow. Draco knew what the skull represented – Death Eaters conjured it whenever they had killed someone.
“Potter!” Draco tripped over his robes as he sprinted forward, and he went sprawling on the ground. He shoved himself to his feet and stumbled along the path. Fear and dread stabbed his gut like a razor-sharp blade.
“STUPEFY!” Ahead of him, blurry flashes of red light bounced off the trees, rebounding into the woods. Draco ducked as the spell-light whizzed overhead. He veered left, leaving the path.
“Stop! STOP! That’s my son!”
Draco skidded to a halt, crashing into a tree trunk. He grabbed the trunk and peered around it. A circle of wizards with Ministry badges stood in a clearing. In the centre were Ron, Hermione, and Harry, looking dirty and dishevelled but unhurt.
in the middle of Draco’s chest that felt much more powerful than relief.
He swallowed a hysterical laugh, his fingers digging into the bark of the
tree. His knees trembled and he
sunk silently to the ground, nails scratching thin gouges on the trunk.
He dropped his chin, squeezed his eyes shut, and listened to Harry’s
animated voice as he spoke to the wizards.
Draco’s body shook from forcing himself to hold still. He was smart enough not to attack. At most he’d get two of them before he was taken down, if he could get close at all. They undoubtedly had wards up for protection against both animals and spells. He couldn’t do this alone.
He didn’t go for help yet, however. He stayed in his hiding spot, under the cover of a poison berry bush. His pointed ears twitched with every sound, his senses on hyper-alert, as he listened to the older Death Eaters converse. He didn’t know if they were alone or if there were others.
He waited for as long as he thought was safe, but they didn’t say anything of importance, other than their names: Roderick, Charlton, Hopkins, and Wiltshire, none of which he knew. Eventually, he backed away quietly from his hiding spot, and when he was clear, took off running, stopping briefly at several points to mark the trail.
Pansy stood when Draco came running to the shack. He joined her on the porch, morphing quickly out of his Animagus form.
“Death Eaters,” he said, grabbing his shirt from the neat pile beside the porch chair. Jerkily, he shoved his arms into the sleeves. “Four of them, camped in the woods not too far from here.”
Pansy uttered an unladylike word. “My feelings exactly,” Draco said. He left his shirt unbuttoned, sat on the chair, and pulled on his socks and boots. “We need to act quickly, before the sun comes up for sure.”
“We should wake Neville.” Pansy’s forehead creased in worry.
“Longbottom isn’t rested enough—”
“It won’t matter if he’s dead,” Pansy interrupted. “Which is certain to happen if we don’t incapacitate the Death Eaters.”
“Between the two of us—”
Draco glared. “Stop interrupting.”
“Stop talking stupidly,” Pansy countered. “These are Death Eaters, not children playing nasty pranks. We’re not a couple of Gilderoy Lockharts with the training or experience to deal with them alone.”
“From the way you’re sounding, I should just bind Potter and give him over, since anything else is futile,” Draco said, rising.
“Of course not. Stop being a Hufflepuff and use your head. I know you’re afraid, Draco, but you need to think.”
Draco’s jaw tensed, and he said harshly, “I nearly lost him once already today. It’s not going to happen again.”
Pansy looked briefly surprised before her features softened. “That’s why we need to be rational.”
“I’m always rational,” Draco muttered.
“Except when it comes to Potter,” Pansy said.
Draco closed his eyes. He could see too easily a Dark Mark rising above the trees. “What do you suggest?”“That we wake everyone and inform them of the situation. They’ll never believe we aren’t in league with them otherwise,” Pansy said.
“And we want to keep it that way.”
“Not in this situation,” Pansy argued. “There are no Professors, or parents, or Ministry Aurors around to take care of them. It’s just us.”
Draco looked off in the direction of the Death Eaters camp in silent contemplation. “We may have to enact the contingency plan when we return to school,” he said. “Are you prepared to do that?”
Pansy smiled, though there was no humour in it. “I don’t particularly care for my parents anyway.”
Draco gave her a resolute look. “Nor I, mine.”Pansy nodded once, decisively. “Right, then.” She opened the door and went inside.
Draco followed her into the shack and immediately spotted Harry sitting at the table, with Dog sprawled sleeping at his feet. The lantern on the table cast a low light in the room. The others were sleeping in their clothes on transfigured beds, making the shack seem extremely cramped.
Harry looked up at their entrance and met Draco’s gaze. His eyes drifted lower, colour rising visibly in his cheeks even in the dim. Draco’s face heated instantly and he yanked closed his shirt. He turned his back and buttoned up quickly.
“Potter, we have a problem,” Pansy stated, not beating around the bush. She wasn’t quiet, either, waking the others. “There are four Death Eaters camped nearby.”
“Death Eaters?” Hermione sounded instantly alert, sitting up abruptly, as did Ron and Neville. Her hair stuck out like a bristle brush.
Draco leaned back against the closed door, his shoulders tense despite his deceptively casual posture. He kept one ear cocked for the Death Eaters. The flush of remembered embarrassment faded rapidly in the face of fear. He caught Neville’s eye and nodded subtly at the unasked query of truth.
“You’re sure?” Harry said, fingers pressing hard against the tabletop.
“Draco,” Pansy prompted.
“I saw the dark mark on one of their arms,” Draco said.
“Probably after you showed them yours,” Ron said.
“You said there are four of them?” Hermione rose, tugged at her skirt and blouse, and walked over to the table, where a pile of items they’d planned to ‘borrow’ from the shack sat.
“So Draco said,” Pansy replied.
“What are we going to do?” Neville said.
“They’re here for Potter,” Draco said. His stomach churned at the thought.
“So we should just give Harry to them?” Ron said with a glare at Draco.
“So Harry—” The name felt odd on Draco’s tongue, even sneered. “—should stay here while the rest of us deal with them.”
Harry was already shaking his head negatively and Draco got angry. “Don’t be more stupid than usual, Potter,” he said. “Or I might as well save the Death Eaters the trouble and kill you myself.”
“What are we going to do with the Death Eaters?” Neville asked again loudly.
“We need to make a plan.” Hermione unrolled a map of the area they’d found and smoothed it on the tabletop. “Malfoy, how far away are they?”
“About a kilometre northwest,” Draco answered shortly.
“Are there any wards?”
“I didn’t ask,” he drawled, giving her a look at the stupidity of the question.
Hermione stared back, unaffected. “How did you find them?”
“In a forest this size, you’re saying you accidentally ran into four people who pose a threat specifically to us?”
Draco’s eyes narrowed. “Yes.”Hermione’s tone was one of innocent inquiry, despite her scepticism. “What were you doing in the forest?”
“None of your business.”
“Everything’s our business when our lives are in danger.”
“Learn to deal with the disappointment.”
“I insist on knowing—”
Harry interrupted her. “Hermione, it’s not important at the moment. The Death Eaters are our priority.”
“You trust that he isn’t in league with him?”
Draco exchanged a pointed look with Pansy. She shrugged ‘what can you do?’
“He’s one of the biggest prats I know,” Harry said, causing Draco’s gaze to snap to him at the wording. Harry didn’t glance at him, however, and his continuation didn’t indicate if it was a coincidence. “But why would he warn us if he was with them?”
“We are conveniently trapped,” Neville spoke up, augmenting Harry’s line of reasoning. “It’d be right simple to lead the Death Eaters to the door and that hasn’t happened.”
“It doesn’t matter what he’s done or not done.” Ron continued to give Draco a hostile look. “All Malfoys are Death Eaters.”
“There isn’t time for this childish prattle!” Pansy snapped suddenly. “There are four real Death Eaters camped practically on the doorstep and undoubtedly have orders to kill Potter and anyone with him, including Draco and me. I, for one, do not wish to die tonight, so may we please move on!”
Draco’s mouth curved in a smile, despite the situation. Pansy Parkinson was a force to be reckoned with, and Draco was glad she was his friend.
Hermione and Ron looked surprised, Harry appeared thoughtful, and Neville was smitten with Pansy’s outburst.
Hermione was first to speak. “We have two choices. The first is, we leave the Death Eaters alone and hope they don’t find us.”
“You left a glowing trail for them, Hermione,” Harry pointed out, not unkindly.
Hermione’s cheeks pinked. “Or secondly,” she continued. “We incapacitate them.”
“If we use the syrtis spell together, warding wouldn’t matter,” Pansy said calmly, as if she hadn’t just blown her top.
“But that would kill them,” Hermione said.
“Better them than us.”
“No,” Harry said firmly.
“It would be the safest thing to do,” Draco said, shoving his unslicked hair out of his face.
Harry stared unbendingly at him. “No. I’ve seen enough people die.”
Draco crossed his arms over his chest. “What’s your idea then?”
“We can’t do anything unless we get through their wards, if they have them,” Neville said.”Malfoy,” Hermione said, “did you know any of the Death Eaters?”
Draco’s expression darkened. “If you imply once more that I am somehow connected to them—”
“We know for a fact that your father is a Death Eater, whether you are or not,” Hermione spoke over him. “Have you or have you not seen these four camped in the woods in your father’s company or at any other time?”
“All right, then,” Hermione said. “Would they recognize you?”
“How do you mean?” Draco said suspiciously.
Harry spoke up. “You look a lot like your father, except you have your mum’s eyes and mouth.”
“Potter’s right, Draco does resemble Mr. Malfoy.” Pansy smirked slyly at Draco. “Though I never noticed he had his mother’s mouth.”
Slightly flustered, Draco cleared his throat and answered Hermione’s question. “I suppose they might recognize me as a Malfoy.”
“Then we can use you to remove the wards,” Hermione said.
“After that, how do we keep them from coming after us?” Ron asked. “Stupefy them?”
“That wears off in a few hours,” Neville said.
“There’s a bottle of sleeping draught on that shelf—,” Draco indicated with his chin, “—that’ll knock four humans out for at least a week.”
“So the plan should be that Draco approaches the Death Eaters and gets them to lower their wards, then we paralyse them by surprise and force the draught down their throats,” Pansy said.
“Longbottom, you stay here with Potter,” Draco said. “Granger, Weasley, Pansy and I will take care of this.”
“I’m not staying here,” Harry said.
“Don’t be a twat, Potter,” Draco said. “It’s you they want primarily. Staying here, if things go pear-shaped, gives you and Longbottom the chance to escape.”
“We’re not confronting them directly, except for you,” Harry said. “I think I can avoid capture hiding in the woods with everyone else.”
“You don’t have a brain cell in your head, do you?” Draco said exasperatedly. “It’s no wonder you get yourself nearly killed every year.”Harry scowled. Hermione interrupted any further argument. “Harry and Neville will be in the woods with us,” she said. She pulled out her wand and pointed at the map. “Imaginis. According to Malfoy, the Death Eaters are about here.” From her spell, a tiny, ghostly image of a campfire with four hooded figures around it appeared on the table, over the map.
Neville, Ron, and Pansy moved around the table with Harry and Hermione. Draco stayed leaning against the door. “They have a tent,” Draco told her.
“Come over here and show us,” Hermione said.
Draco pushed off the door and joined them around the table. He found the shack drawn in ink on the map and pointed to where the tent had been in correlation to where he’d been hiding in the bushes. “There.”
Ghostly trees and a tent sprang up around the Death Eaters. Hermione flicked her wand, creating five miniature figures resembling Harry, Ron, Neville, Pansy, and herself. She looked at Ron. “Ron?”
Ron studied the three-dimensional figures standing on the map. “We should position ourselves here and here, in correlation to the tent,” he said, pointing. The Hermione, Harry, and Ron figures walked to stand behind the trees on one side of the camp circle and Pansy and Neville moved at a right angle position from them. “That way, we don’t accidentally curse each other by crossfire.”
“What if we hit Malfoy?” Neville asked.
“We laugh and leave him to rot,” Ron suggested.
“We uncurse him afterwards,” Pansy stated with a glare at Ron.
“We’ll try not to hit him,” Hermione said. A miniature ghostly Draco appeared on the map, opposite the Neville and Pansy figures, and made a rude gesture.
“So the plan is: we’ll use the stupefy spell simultaneously at Malfoy’s signal.” Ron pointed to a Death Eater on the map. “Neville, you and Pansy aim for the Death Eater closest to Malfoy’s right, as that person might be out of our range. Harry, Hermione and I will take care of the other three.”
“What if there are more Death Eaters?” Neville said.
“We’ll improvise,” Harry said. The ghostly Harry on the table blew up the tent with his miniature wand.
“I’ll rub my nose as the signal,” Draco said. “Try not to bollocks this up.”
“Same with you.” Hermione’s eyes narrowed threateningly. “Or it won’t be an accident if you are cursed.”
Draco Malfoy was a manor born and bred pureblooded wizard and acting the part of a peacock came as natural to him as breathing.
(“You are a peacock, Draco,” Pansy said. “Stop preening and let’s go.”)
Wearing his cleaned school robe over his neatened Muggle uniform and with his hair spell-gelled back, Draco strode partially into the Death Eaters’ campsite circle, stopped where Hermione had said the shielding wards stood, and began whinging like a spoiled brat.
“There you are! I’ve been looking for you forever. Get me out of here.”
The four robed Death Eaters jumped up in surprise, wands drawn and pointed at Draco in a moment. They had not been sleeping, but rather lolling quietly in their chairs around the campfire. Neville had used a sniffer spell to follow the marked trail Draco had made, and the other five students were hidden in position beyond the nearest trees. Dog had been locked in the shack, in order for the stealth-relying plan to work.
Draco had decided that, since these Death Eaters didn’t run in the same social circle as the Malfoys, or else he’d know them, it would be better to act like an irritating fop. The Malfoy name was linked with power, riches, and calculating snobbery, but being commanding in this situation wouldn’t be prudent. These Death Eaters were more likely to fall under his control if they thought that they had the power over someone of a higher class, rather than being ordered around by an almost eighteen-year-old.
“Lucius?” Hopkins said. “Lucius Malfoy, is that you?”
Draco was taken aback. They did know his father.
“I don’t believe it,” Hopkins said with a chuckle, lowering his wand. “Lucius Malfoy. How did you get stuck in here?”
Wiltshire and Charlton lowered their wands. Roderick continued to appear suspicious, though name recognition was obvious in his eyes.
Wiltshire squinted at Draco. “Did you take a de-aging potion?”
Draco faltered. He couldn’t pretend to be his father because he knew nothing about these people and he needed them to take down the wards Hermione had detected. “I- I’m not Lucius, I’m Draco. Draco Malfoy, Lucius’s son.”
“His son?” Wiltshire goggled. “Lucius doesn’t have a son.”
Draco tilted his chin in offence. “He does, too, and that’s me.”
“How old are you?” Hopkins asked.
“Eighteen, do you believe it?” Charlton said. “We’ve been in here longer than eighteen years.”
“How did you find us?” Roderick said, sounding suspicious still.
“You’re not well hidden,” Draco drawled, falling back into his story. He could still work the plan. “Besides, I knew you had to be here. I assume the book is for Potter and simply entrapping him wouldn’t be enough. He manages to wiggle out of trouble too easily. Not even I can crush him.”
Charlton, Wiltshire, and Hopkins exchanged confused looks. “Who’s Potter?” Hopkins said. “Last I knew this book belonged to Archibald Dewey.”
“Who’s Potter?” Draco was stunned. Everyone knew who Harry Potter was, which was why he was such a right pain in the arse. “Harry Potter? The Boy Who Lived? Has a scar on his head from defeating You-Know-Who?”
“Did you say he defeated the Dark Lord?” Wiltshire said.
“Ah…” Draco floundered. He really needed to start thinking before he spoke. “It was only the once. But he came back!”
“The Dark Lord came back,” Hopkins said slowly.
“Yes! That’s why I thought the book was for Potter, as part of the Dark Lord’s plan for him.” Of course, Draco had been wrong. “But the Dark Lord’s alive and, um, kicking. He’s ridding the world of Muggle and Mudblood filth as we speak.”
Hopkins, Charlton, and Wiltshire exchanged looks again, which was starting to get creepy. Roderick took a step towards Draco. Draco took a step back in self-preservation, even though the wards still stood between them. Why had he listened to Granger’s plan?
“So, how’d you wind up in the book?” Wiltshire said.
“Bleckly,” Draco said, sticking to the lie he’d created and hoped it didn’t bite him in the arse. “He was touting his importance and opened the book, getting us caught in here.”
“Where is this Mr. Bleckly?” Roderick said, taking another step.
Draco back-stepped again. “At the shack we found not too far away.”
“Show us,” Roderick prompted, and Draco felt the oily slide of evil in his voice. If Bleckly were really here and if Draco was actually not playing a part, they might both be dead before the sun rose - and maybe not until after a bit of sport.
“Oh, yes, of course.” Draco fluttered his hands, not entirely suavely. “Follow me.”
“Charlton, the wards,” Roderick said.Charlton nodded and raised his wand. Finally. Draco palmed the wand in his sleeve. “Finite contectum. Finite deprendimpetus.”
Roderick moved towards Draco immediately after the faint flare of the wards disassembling faded between them. Draco knew Roderick’s intention wasn’t to give him a hug. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand.
“STUPEFY!” Five shouts echoed in the night, one layered on top of the other, and beams of red spell-light shot from the trees. The Death Eaters hadn’t a chance. They spun towards the woods and were felled before they could further react.
Draco stepped forward quickly, shaking hands checking the four to make certain they were unconscious. “All right.”
The other students emerged from the woods. Harry made a beeline for the tent and checked inside without hesitation, or common sense. Neville caught Draco eye, lifted his wand, and circled it once. Draco nodded imperceptibly and joined Pansy in making a perimeter around the campsite, facing the trees in case there were more Death Eaters out there. Hermione and Ron moved directly to the downed Death Eaters with the sleeping potion in hand.
“I can’t believe it actually worked without problems,” Ron commented. “That never happens.”
Without problems? Draco begged to differ and as soon as his nerves calmed, he’d tell Ron off.
“It was a surprise attack with an elementary spell,” Hermione said. Harry wandered over to them, the tent apparently clear. “If it didn’t work, we shouldn’t be Seventh Years. Malfoy had the difficult task. Harry, tilt his head.”
“Do you reckon that these fellows are the only Death Eaters in the book?” Harry asked.
“I don’t know,” Hermione sounded concerned. “We should remain extra careful, in case they weren’t.”
“Too bad they’ve all been given the potion, so we can’t wake them up and ask,” Ron said.
“Unless you Gryffindors have a hidden nasty streak – which I might be impressed by-,” Pansy said, “-I doubt you’d get any further information from them without torture.”
“Or veritaserum,” Neville added.
“Well, it doesn’t matter anyway. Let’s return to the shack,” Hermione said. “Mobilicorpus.”
Ron, Harry, and Neville each cast the same spell on the other Death Eaters. Pansy doused the campfire, making the night seem extra dark suddenly. Draco took the lead, erasing the pale blue spell light slashes on the trees they’d made on the way to the campsite, to mark their path. Hermione didn’t want to leave a trail again, with the glowing footprints. Pansy covered the rear, her wand lit with an extra bright lumos spell to light their way.
Once at the shack, it was decided to leave the Death Eaters tied up on the porch and ward themselves inside. Pansy also took their wands.
“I’ll stand watch out here,” Draco said. Neville hovered in the open doorway, lantern light spilling out from behind him. Ron and Harry stood on the porch beside the aligned unconscious Death Eaters.
“No way, Malfoy,” Ron said. “I don’t trust you out here with the Death Eaters.”
“Bloody hell!” Draco lost his temper completely. “I am not a Death Eater, I am not going to be a Death Eater, and if you keep rabbiting on about it, I’m going to show you that the Death Eaters have nothing on me.”
Ron was too obstinate to be fazed. Hermione climbed the steps and grabbed his arm. “Let’s not argue about this again. If Malfoy wants to stay outside, fine. We can ward him out just as easily as the Death Eaters.”
She ushered Ron and Neville inside, even as Ron protested. “But what if…”
Harry looked at Draco a moment, his expression pensive, before he nodded once and went inside.
“Potter becomes stranger every day,” Pansy said, from beside Draco. She glanced at him. “Do you want me to sit out here with you after that rousing little speech?”
Draco shook his head, teeth grinding. “No. At least one of us should get some sleep, and you already know it wouldn’t be me.”
“All right,” she said. “I’ll see you in the morning, then.” She lightly touched his elbow, then climbed the steps and went inside, shutting the door behind her.Draco released a slow breath of tension, scowled at the unconscious four on the porch, and cast an extra stupefy spell on them. Then, taking Pansy’s chair, he sat down with his wand in hand, and kept watch over the dark forest, the Death Eaters, and his classmates until dawn.
Neville emerged from the shack at dawn’s first light. He nodded blearily at Draco, glanced at the four Death Eaters, and headed down the steps and around the side of the shack.
Draco rose, pocketed his wand, and headed inside the shack. The light crept in through the parted curtains of the window. He stepped quietly around the others, spread out on transfigured beds in the small room. The map of the area was spread across the surface of the table along with the other scavenged items they were taking with them, including bottles of labelled potions as well as a hunk of chocolate.
Draco uncorked and drank an entire measure of vigilanter potion and felt the familiar zing coarse through his veins. A murmured concealing spell hid the dark circles under his eyes from not sleeping, although the tired lines creasing his brow were not so easily erased.
Breaking off a piece of chocolate, Draco nibbled at the restorative sweet as he studied the map, glancing at the door every few moments. A strand of white-blonde hair had escaped the spell-gel and hung over his eyes as he bent closer to read the printing. The map was hand-drawn and non-magical, most likely by the deceased hunter since the shack was indicated on the map as ‘home.’ North was marked, and Draco was able to estimate the direction they’d come from through the woods since being caught in the book.
The unnamed forest, indicated by triangular trees, made up a majority of the map. Bordering the woods to the north and west were fields. In both directions, there were villages marked on the map. Further west at the edge of the map was a canyon and to the north were mountains. There was also no indication what lay to the north, east, and south of the areas mapped.
They were closer to the village in the west, so that’s where they should set off to after breakfast. Speaking to other people – that is, if there were other people in the village – might speed their quest to find a way out of the book. Other wizards and witches caught inside Tome of Entrapment had to have attempted an escape, and the group could learn what not to bother trying. If there were any ‘natives’ to the world within the book, they might be informative, as well.
Draco felt eyes on him as he attempted to calculate distances, stiffened, and looked over his shoulder. Harry Potter was awake and watching him, propped on an elbow with his glasses in place. He looked quickly away, when Draco caught him.
Draco glanced past him at the door again. Apprehension wrinkled a line between his brows.
Movement drew his gaze to Harry again. Harry had gotten up and was stretching his arms towards the ceiling. His unbuttoned shirt gaped. He lowered his arms, scratched his navel with one hand and covered a yawn with the other. His fake indifference was marred by the flush highlighting his cheeks.
Quickly, Draco turned back to the map.
“Hey, Dog, you hungry?” Harry asked the bloodhound sprawled out on the floor near the sink. He crossed to the small kitchen and began rattling around in the icebox.
The others woke up as Harry started breakfast. The lanterns were lit and the beds transfigured into chairs. They took turns going outside. Draco went out again, too, for a morning respite and to check around. He cast petrificus on the four unconscious Death Eaters just to be on the safe side.
Inside, the morning took on a decidedly normal feel, despite the six not usually being together outside of classes. Clothing was spell-cleaned and pressed. Hermione lectured on the psychological comforts of wearing their own clothes rather than transfiguring new ones. Pansy conjured a mirror and groomed. Ron joked with Harry and eyed Draco warily from time to time. Neville moved the chairs around the table.
“You missed the discussion last night, but we’re heading for Piègens after breakfast,” Hermione informed Draco, as she cleaned off the table. She pointed to the village in the west on the map before rolling it up. “I estimate we can reach the town by nightfall.”
“Food’s up,” Harry announced by the wood stove.
“Aren’t you too short for a house elf?” Neville joked as Harry heaped eggs, sausage, ham, and toast on several plates. A cupboard above the sink was open, revealing more dishes and drink glasses.
Harry grinned lopsidedly. “Ha-ha. Not all of us can be part-giant.”
“I think you’re the perfect size, Harry.” Ron took an empty plate and balanced in on Harry’s head. “For a tray table.”
“I dare you to try that on Hermione,” Harry said.
“Are you kidding?” Ron shuddered. “I’d rather face You-Know-Who than an angry Hermione.”
Hermione levelled him with a look. “Good answer, Ron.”
“Will someone pour the pumpkin juice?” Harry passed Ron another plateful of food. Ron held several plates at once with ease.
“I will,” Neville volunteered.
Draco took a seat beside Pansy. He looked over his shoulder at the closed door.
“Oi, careful Neville.” Ron danced around Neville, who’d stepped in his path, still balancing the plates. “I don’t want to dump this food on your head. Even the crappiest meals beat going hungry.”
“Ron,” Harry began amusedly, “I think you just insulted me.”
Ron made an apologetic face. “Uh, sorry, Harry. I’m sure the food is great.”
“Why don’t you let us taste it and we’ll find out if it’s any good,” Pansy suggested dryly from her spot at the table.
“Did someone set out the silverware?” Neville said, lifting a bucket from on top of the icebox and taking a fork out.
“I’ve done it, Neville,” Hermione said, taking the chair two seats over from Pansy.
Ron brought five full plates to the table as Harry dished the last of the food for himself. Neville retrieved the pumpkin juice from the icebox and six glasses. Draco would’ve wondered why a hunter in a shack in the middle of nowhere would have so many place settings, but he really didn’t care.
At the table, Neville poured juice for everyone, sitting down between Pansy and Hermione after he finished. Ron had taken the chair on the other side of Hermione, leaving Harry to sit in the open spot between him and Draco.
The table was small, the chairs were very close together, and Harry seemed to be practically sitting in Draco’s lap. Harry’s expression wasn’t one of pleasure at being in such close contact with Draco. Draco nudged his chair closer to Pansy, creating space out of non-existence with a sneer at Harry, before glancing over his shoulder at the door again.
Dog poked his nose between Harry and Draco, tongue lolling, before he moved to stick his head between Neville and Pansy. Conversation was overlapping and relatively friendly as they ate. It was like a scene from one of Draco’s nightmares.
“Harry, this is really good.”
“Are you going to eat that, Hermione?”
“Is there any more pumpkin juice?”
“Do you think we should take Dog with us when we go?”
“Who’s cleaning the dishes when we’re done?”
“Dog, naff off.”
“I don’t see why not.”
“We should raid
the food stock before heading out.”
“Don’t look at me. I cooked.”
“Here, Ron, you can have it.”
“I suggest we also check for a cache of money. If we’re going to a town, we might need it.”
“I’ll do them, if someone helps.”
“Drat, I got egg on my sleeve.”
“This is really, really good, Harry.”
Draco started suddenly. “Potter…?”
Harry moved his hand off Draco’s thigh and mumbled embarrassingly, “Thought you were the dog.”
Draco returned to his food, unable to ignore the tingle of his leg. Dog poked his head between him and Harry again before disappearing under the cramped table.
“Pass the pumpkin juice, please.”
“Use a napkin, not your sleeve!”
“Ow. That was my foot.”
“Stop slobbering on me.”
“Do we get chocolate for dessert?”
“Oi, I’m stuffed.”
“I saw that, Neville.”
“We’ll take several of the potions, too. I saw an anti-venom serum, so we’ll have to be on the lookout for snakes and other poisonous creatures.”
“That’s not the dog, either.”
“Hey, Harry, did I mention this was really good food?”