Pansy looked up from her copy of Witch Weekly at the fourteen-year-old who’d burst into the Fourth Year girls’ dorm room. “Draco, you’re not allowed in here.”
Draco ignored her admonishment, leaned against the closed door, and said in a panicky voice, “You have to help me.”
Pansy set aside her magazine, uncrossed her legs, and straightened her robes. Her bare feet peeked out from beneath the hem. She was the only one currently in the dorm room, seated regally on her bed. Silver cord tied back the green privacy curtains around each of the tall bedposts. “What’s wrong?”
“Bulstrode is trying to kill me!”
“Why does Millie want to kill you?”
“I might have accidentally called her a bull-nosed, hack-faced cow.” Draco tried to look contrite and failed miserably.
“She ate my last chocolate biscuit from home.” He pushed off the door and wandered around the dormitory. He poked through the other girls’ things on the bedside tables.
“Draco, you really need to watch your tongue before it gets cut off,” Pansy said, picking up her magazine and moving it to the bedside table.
Draco shrugged. He picked up a silver ring, slid it on his finger, and held up his hand. The square-cut red stone was a fake jewel; he could see his reflection in its surface. “Pansy, has anyone asked you to the Yule Ball yet?”
“No,” Pansy said, “but the announcement was only made this morning. I expect I’ll be asked after dinner.””How about if I ask you now?”
Draco removed the ring and tossed it on the bedside table. He glanced over his shoulder. “Will you go with me to the Yule Ball?”
“Me?” Pansy eyed him warily. “You don’t… fancy me, do you?”
He made a face. “Mordred, no.”
Pansy folded her arms, her stare becoming icy. “Exactly why is that such a horrifying thought?”
“Fancying you would be like fancying my mum,” Draco said with a shudder.
“Then, why are you asking me to the ball?” Pansy said. “I know Tracey Davis and Charmaine Cornerstone would both say yes to you.”
“I don’t want to go with them.” Draco turned back to the bedside table. A Wizard Style magazine caught his eye and he thumbed through it. It was an issue he already had read, but Yule was nearing and he could use new casual robes.
“There must be someone beside me you can ask,” she said.
“Are you telling me no?” he said, his fingers crumpling the edge of a page.
Pansy made a frustrated sound. “Why do you want to go with me?”
“You’re my friend.”
“Draco.” Her voice carried a warning.
Draco smoothed the crumpled edge. The young dark-haired model in the picture smiled at him. “I can’t ask who I want to go with.”
He licked his lips, his mouth dry. He suddenly felt as though he’d fallen off his broom. “I- he wouldn’t accept if I asked.”
Draco winced, his shoulders tensing. He’d never admitted it out loud, because once he’d said it, it would become truth. “I- I’m- I-”
“Draco, look at me.”
Draco clenched his jaw and faced her with a dark stare, promising vile retribution if she said something cruel. “Go on, then, tell me how sickened you are that I’m gay, so I can hex you to look like Granger.”
But Pansy met his gaze steadily. “I’ll forgive you this time because Millie ate your last biscuit, but don’t use that tone with me again.”
Draco’s chin tilted higher. “I will if I want to.”
“Your maturity astounds me sometimes.” Pansy shook her head in vexation. “Draco, it’s all right. It’s actually not that surprising.”“Oh.” Draco’s shoulders slumped and he dropped his chin, though he didn’t apologize. “You’re not disgusted, then?”
“Only over the fact that you think I’d be disgusted.”
“Really?” Draco looked at her from beneath his lashes. She glared in return.
A corner of his mouth turned up, and he crossed the room and flopped uncouthly onto her bed. He lay on his back, his feet still on the floor, and stared at the green canopy overhead. “Does this mean you’ll go with me, then?”
“Why don’t you ask this boy you like?” Pansy nudged him with her foot. “Who is it, anyway?”
“Victor Krum, and I told you, he’d never accept,” Draco said. “Besides, I’ve got Potter duty, seeing as the ball is on Christmas and that’s my assigned holiday. I don’t have to make excuses if I’m there with you.”
“You like Victor Krum?” Pansy wrinkled her pug nose. “He looks like a vulture.”
“He’s famous, and have you seen him ride a broom?”
“Depends on what sort of broom you mean.”
“It must be hard for you to play Quidditch, with all those broomsticks
and balls flying at you.”
Draco rolled onto his side, cheeks reddened, grabbed her foot, and
tickled the sole. “Tease me, will
Pansy laughed loud and clear, kicking against him.
He released her briefly, only long enough to shoot up and loom over her,
and attack her sides. “Draco!” she exclaimed in between laughs.
Pansy wasn’t completely defenceless, however. She hooked her leg and arm around him and rolled suddenly.
She was larger than him – something he hated – and she easily flipped
their positions. She rose up,
straddling his legs, her hair in disarray and breathing heavily.
A pink flush of laughter coloured her face, and she cracked her knuckles.
“Pansy, pet—,” Draco began, not above begging when he saw her evil
smile. He didn’t see the door
opening. “You are the most
beautiful girl in the world. I
worship the ground you walk on. But
Millicent Bulstrode stood in the open doorway, gaping at them.
Draco looked at Millie, looked at the way he and Pansy were situated,
and scrambled to sit up. “Bulstrode,
this isn’t what you’re thinking.”
“Oh my, wait ‘til I tell the others,” Millie said, leaving with a lumbering bounce.
“Bulstrode!” Draco called, but she had already gone. He fell back on the bed with an unhappy exhalation. “Brilliant. Just brilliant.”
“What are you moaning about?” Pansy poked him in the ribs. “You don’t care what the others say, but now no one is going to ask me to the ball because they think we’re together.”
A slow smile crossed Draco’s lips. “I guess you’ll have to go with me, then.”
Pansy scowled and poked him again, hard.
“Ow!” Draco rubbed his side and pouted at her. “Come on. It’ll be fun.”
She climbed off his lap, onto the bed beside him. “What if I wanted to go with someone else?”
“Who would ask you?” Draco covered his head and cringed, Pansy’s wand suddenly millimetres from his nose. “Well, it’s not like droves are charming open your door.”
The next thing Draco knew, he was large, yellow, and moulting on Pansy’s bed. He glared at her with his beady red eyes. She smiled wickedly. “Canary transfiguration hex. The Twins are using it with their Canary Creams. I think it works marvellously.”
Draco opened his mouth to retort, but all that came out was: “Cheep! Cheep cheep!”
Pansy tumbled back on the bed, laughing like a nutter. Draco continued moulting until all the yellow feathers had fallen off, leaving him human again. He scratched his neck and glared spitefully at her. “My uniform is stretched out of shape, now.”
“Oh, don’t get your feathers ruffled,” Pansy said and fell into a fit of giggles again.
Draco scowled, stood, and went over to a mirror to assess the damage. Bits of feathers stuck to his hair and his robe. He drew his wand, cast a cleaning spell on himself, and fixed his hair. “Are you going to the Yule Ball with me or not?”
“Fine. Yes, I’ll go.” Pansy leaned against the headboard and straightened her robes. “If only to keep you out of trouble.”
“I told you I have Potter duty.”
Pansy looked pointedly at his reflection in the mirror. “Since when has that stopped you?”
“I have to entertain myself somehow.” Draco turned and leaned against the dressing table. “I had thought the Death Eaters would keep me busy this year.”
“With what, running away?” Pansy smiled sweetly at his glower. “You’re right, though, it has been horribly uneventful. I only joined your PRATS group to look after you while you look after Potter, but now I’m questioning why I bothered.”
“I know. I would’ve quit at the beginning of term if it hadn’t been for the Death Eaters at the World Cup,” Draco said. Even the memory of that night made his chest seize. “I can’t chance it now, though. What if they come when I’m not looking and kill Potter?”
She gave him a sly look. “I wonder: is it really Krum or Quidditch seekers that you fancy?”
Draco gasped. “Take that back.”
“Do you dream about Potter, Draco?” Pansy teased. “Do you find those glasses and always rumpled hair sexy?”
Draco sputtered. “I most certainly do not! I hate him.”
“I can see how much you hate him by all your trailing after and protecting him.”
“Hating him and not wanting him dead are two different things.”
“I know.” Pansy rose from the bed and walked over to her wardrobe. “So, the Yule Ball. Whatever shall we wear?”
The morning sun beamed past the foliage of the towering trees. The weather was warm already, despite the early hour. The fresh, clean air carried the scents of flowers and trees, making it a beautiful morning for a hike through the woods. They’d left after breakfast for Pičgens, along with spell-shrunk food, dishes, potions, parchment, quills and ink, and the map packed in the backpack. They’d also taken what coins they could find. The unconscious Death Eaters had been left tied up and moved into the shack. Pansy had told Draco that she’d also broken their wands and scattered the pieces in the woods.
Draco could feel Ron’s eyes boring into the back of his head and his hand brushed his wand handle often. He walked alone in the middle of the group, with Pansy, Neville, and Ron behind him and Harry and Hermione in the lead. Lack of sleep and paranoia over the Death Eaters, both the four they’d left behind and the possibilities of others, had Draco on edge. Harry also kept glancing over his shoulder, eyeing Draco oddly and making him uncomfortable, until he snapped finally.
“Stop ogling me, you poof.”
Harry started, as if surprised, and faced quickly forward again. He rubbed the back of his neck with his hand, shifted the backpack higher on his shoulder, and didn’t turn again.
Hermione used a point me spell to keep their course true. They emerged from the woods late morning into a field of wheat that stretched before them as far as the eye could see. The overhead sun was harsh without the leafy canopy blocking the intense rays. Sweat beaded on Draco’s forehead and dripped irritatingly down his face and his clothes stuck wetly to his back, as the woods disappeared in the distance behind him.
“Contegere sol,” Pansy cast a sunblock charm on everyone. Hermione twined her hair in a braid, earning a double look. She was pretty with her bushy hair pulled back from her face. Draco’s own hair had fallen limply, the spell-gel dissolving with his perspiration.
“I wonder if there’s a specific design to all this.” One wheat field blended into another, height variances and small stakes the only markers. Draco listened to Hermione and Harry as they continued walking. It was either that or listening to Neville and Pansy coo at each other and Ron wasn’t worthy of any attention. “We are in a book, not a box or a container. Maybe we’re taking part in a story.”
“You don’t think we’re in another real place, like France?” Harry said.
“I’ve been to France. I would’ve recognized the hunter’s map.” Hermione glanced at Dog, who streaked past her, barking up a storm. A flock of black birds took startled flight from the knee-high wheat a short distance away. Dog jumped in the air, snapping but not catching any of them.
“I suppose if we were transported somewhere real, we’d be able to Apparate.” Harry looked around. “It’s hard to believe this is all part of a book.”
“I wish Valise had given more detail about the Tome of Entrapment,” Hermione said. “The first thing we’ll do when we reach Pičgens is find a library or a book seller.”
“Do you really think a book within a book is going to tell us how to escape the book?” Harry paused. “That’s a lot of books.”
“The answers to everything can be found in a book, if you look hard enough.”
Harry glanced over his shoulder at Draco again, much to Draco’s annoyance. “Not everything.”
It was early evening when they came over a rise and saw Pičgens spread before them in a valley. Wizard-erected homes and shops, evidenced by their offbeat structure, lined the narrow, dusty streets. Many of the homes had penned animals and fenced food gardens. Shops and pubs were visible by their signs posted above the doorways, along with a local government building and a jail.
Hermione lowered the omnioculors they’d permanently borrowed from the deceased hunter. “There are people about, wearing wizarding robes.”
“So, we’re looking for the library or a bookshop?” Harry said, holding onto Dog’s collar so he wouldn’t roam ahead.
said. “Other victims of the Tome
of Entrapment had to have gone through the town before and kept records of such
activity. Perhaps they wrote a
travelogue or memoirs.”
“We could ask around, too,” Harry said.
“While we’re at it, let’s announce where we are to any other Death Eaters in the book,” Draco said sarcastically. “I’m sure they’ll appreciate the helpfulness.”
“We’ll be cautious,” Hermione said. “There isn’t much else we can do. Wandering around hoping we find the end isn’t going to work. Tomorrow’s Monday already and we’re going to miss lessons, if we don’t learn how to escape.”
Harry and Ron exchanged looks. “We’ve done all right wandering so far,” Harry said.
“Yeah, we should keep it up for a week or two,” Ron said. “At least until after McGonagall’s exam.”
“She might pass us if we miss it, due to extenuating circumstances and all,” Harry added.
Hermione frowned sternly. “We’ve missed whole days of studying for N.E.W.T.s already and you two need every second you can find.”
She pinned Neville with a look suddenly. “You, too, Neville. I’m sure you’re as distressed as I am about lost revision time.”
“Me?” Neville looked at Ron and Harry and then nodded emphatically. “Oh, yes, yes. I feel very bad.”
Pansy’s expression clearly indicated annoyance. “Shall we stop dithering and go already?”
Neville offered his arm to Pansy. “My lady, may I escort you?”
Pansy looked startled briefly before her features smoothed and she curtseyed slightly. “You may,” she said formally, hooking her fingers under his elbow. Her cheeks held a soft glow in the waning light, as they headed down the hill.
Draco smiled genuinely at his two friends’ backs, with a bittersweet pang in his heart.
“Go on, Malfoy,” Ron said.
Draco’s smile vanished instantly and he bestowed a hateful glare on Ron, but not before he saw Harry watching him with the oddest expression, almost surprise. Draco ignored one daft pillock to address the other. “What’s wrong, Weasley? Afraid to go first?”
“I’m not afraid,” Ron said defensively. “Besides, Neville and Pansy went first.”
“That’s because they know they won’t be turned away for looking like street rubbish.” Draco started down the hill, finishing over his shoulder. “If you’re lucky, perhaps the townsfolk might put you up in one of their animal pens.”
The six received barely passing glances as they made their way through Pičgens towards the centre of the town, searching for a library or bookshop. Draco wondered if the townspeople were very used to strangers appearing and thought nothing of it. Or perhaps the town was made up of people who’d been trapped in the book and the appearance of more victims was commonplace. Either way, it didn’t bode well for their chances of escape.
Clapboard and stone houses lined the narrow, dirt streets in neat rows. Private homes gave way to shops and businesses. Clean windows sparkled in the slowly setting sun, displaying shop wares. Doors were propped open invitingly, voices and smells drifting outdoors. Signs jutted from the outer wall above doorways: Abel’s Apocathary, Quality Quills and Inks, Slyson’s Solicitors.
Boreman’s Books was on the corner of a dusty intersection, down the street from a large fountain shaped like a brolly. The sun spilled in through the large picture window, dust motes dancing in the golden light. Parallel rows of shelves stretched throughout the shop, filled with books of all shapes and sizes. Shiny plaques indicated the book sections divided by interest. A few people in robes walked up and down the aisles, browsing through the selections.
“This is the only book seller in town, and there is no library,” Hermione said, after speaking briefly with the shopkeeper. They stood near the front of the shop by the window. Dog pressed his nose against the glass outside, leaving wet smears.
“What are we looking for, exactly?” Harry asked.
“We’re looking for titles that refer to being trapped, or being a stranger in a new world, or about the history of the area,” Hermione said. “Perhaps we can find more detailed maps, too, that point to a way out. Or maybe art books that depict persons vanishing or climbing out of something and we can gain clues from it.”
“So really, we have to look at pretty much everything.” Ron looked at Harry. “I think revising for the N.E.W.T.s would’ve been easier.”
“I suppose we should split up,” Hermione said. “If you think you’ve found something, hold onto the book and I’ll go through all of them before the shop closes.”
With that, she made a beeline for one of the rows of books. Neville glanced at Pansy and Draco, circled his finger once, and strode towards the back of the shop. Pansy tugged at the front of her robe. Draco nodded subtly and Pansy headed along the front aisle to the last row and disappeared down it.
Ron took the backpack from Harry, shouldered it, and looked at Draco. “Who’s going to watch him?”
“I don’t need a keeper, especially one that’s as terrible as you are in blocking goals,” Draco said.
“Go ahead, Ron, I’ll do it,” Harry said. Draco bristled.
“You sure, Harry?” Ron said. Harry nodded. “All right, then.” Ron took a final glare at Draco and walked away.
“Would you like to petrify me, to make sure I don’t move?” Draco said, after Ron was gone. “Or perhaps you’d rather have me on a leash?”
“Just avoid Ron,” Harry said in response, turned on his heel, and wandered down one of the aisles.Draco gaped after him.
Outside, Dog sniffed and snuffled the ground as he paced back and forth in front of Boreman’s. Draco hadn’t moved from his spot by the door, other than to turn and watch out the picture window. He could see a reflection of the interior of the shop behind him. His stomach growled, reminding him that they hadn’t eaten yet. He rubbed his aching eyes with his thumb and forefinger. He should’ve nicked another vigilanter potion from the backpack at lunch.
Returning his gaze to the outside, Draco watched wizards and witches pass by the shop. Tension lined his shoulders and kept his hand on his wand handle. Anyone of them could be Death Eaters, trapped in the book like he and the others. They had gotten lucky before, having surprised and disarmed the four they’d left at the shack. Pansy had been right: they weren’t trained Aurors, only Seventh Year students. It would take just one Death Eater with the knowledge of who Harry was and the power to back up his wand, and Harry would be no more.
“Why aren’t you
looking at books?”
Draco turned quickly, surprised, wand drawn. Harry stood directly behind him. His tall form had blocked Harry’s shorter one in the reflection. “Make some noise when you sneak up on someone.”
Harry’s mouth quirked. “I think making noise defeats the purpose of sneaking.”
“Don’t do it again.” Draco returned to looking out the window, tucking his wand in his belt. “Next time, I won’t hesitate to throw a curse, even if it’s you. Especially if it’s you.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“Why are you so dumb? Perhaps it’s the company you keep.”
“No—,” irritation already threaded Harry’s tone, “—why aren’t you looking at books?”
“I’d think it’d be obvious, Potter. Someone ought to watch for Death Eaters and I don’t trust you lot to guard my back.”
Harry moved up beside him and peered out the window. “Do you think there are more in the book?”
Draco clamped his hand over his left forearm, where the dark mark would be if he had one. “My Death Eater detector doesn’t seem to be working.”
Harry glanced at Draco’s arm and up at his face. “I know that you don’t have a mark on you anywhere, Malfoy.” His eyes widened behind his glasses, realizing what he said, and he turned and walked away quickly.
Draco coloured at the reminder and tried to focus outside the window. All he could see was the reflection of his embarrassed face.
Time passed slowly. The sun settled below the horizon and the lanterns were lit in the shop. Draco moved outside after the shopkeeper’s thirtieth dirty look, even though Draco had told the man that he was awaiting his friends.
Leaning against the grey stone building beside the door, taking his hands in and out of his pockets and shifting his weight repeatedly, Draco watched passersby under half-lidded eyes, feeling the lack of sleep catching up with him. Dog lay across his feet, taking a nap and making Draco jealous. Draco was going to have to do something to wake up. There had better be another vigilanter potion in the backpack. If not, one of the pubs would have javair, he was sure, to give him a jolt.
Across the way, he saw the robe seller closing shop for the night. The others emerged from the bookshop shortly thereafter, shooed out by the shopkeeper. Hermione carried a paper-wrapped parcel in her arms.
“It’s about time you lot appeared,” Draco said irritably. He saw that Ron still had the backpack and wasn’t about to ask or go near him to get a vigilanter potion.
Ron spotted Draco and narrowed his eyes. “There you are. What are you doing out here?”
“Potter let me outside so I wouldn’t soil the carpet like a bad pet.” Draco straightened, shoving Dog off his feet.
“Don’t worry about it, Ron,” Harry said, putting his hand on Ron’s forearm. “I knew where he was.”
Pansy inclined her head, a tiny frown marring the area between her brows. “Everything all right?”
“Yes,” Draco said shortly. “You better have found something.”
“We did,” Hermione chirped. “I’ll need more time to read through them thoroughly, but I think we’re in luck.”
“We’re staying in Pičgens tonight, then?”
“That would be a good idea,” Pansy said with suspicious quickness. “It’s late and we’ve been walking all day.”
“The Somnolent Dragon received two wands in Flying Rats and Pičgens and is in our price range.” Harry sifted through the small pouch of money they’d nicked from the deceased hunter’s shack. “We’ll have plenty left over for meals, too.”
Hermione and Ron grinned at each other and Harry. “Do you know where the inn is?” she asked.
“Yeah, I sketched a map using that inking spell you taught me.” Harry pushed up his shirtsleeve, revealing crosshatch lines, arrows, and shaky printing on his forearm.
“Harry,” Hermione drew out his name with a playful scolding. “You could’ve asked for parchment.”
“It’s also a good thing no one asked about the other town,” Ron said.
“Oh, I have that one, too.” Harry pushed up his other sleeve with a sheepish grin, exposing a second map.
Hermione sighed. Ron squinted at the maps on Harry’s arms. “Your drawing stinks, mate.”
“Next time, you can be the mapmaker,” Harry said without ire. He snapped his fingers and started up the street, with Dog chasing after him.
The Somnolent Dragon was a few blocks away from the bookshop. The sign puffed smoke through its nostrils as they passed beneath it, the wooden dragon’s eyes moving with a dream beneath closed eyelids.
The outside of the inn was unremarkable and the inside even more so. A narrow staircase led upstairs inside the doorway on the right. The main area was an open pub room, with craggy tables and chairs scattered on the scuffed wood floor. A large stone hearth took up an entire wall, flames crackling brightly in the fireplace, but giving off no heat due to the weather. A kitchen area could be seen through open door in the back, next to a long, wood bar stained with pale water rings and darker splotches of unidentifiable substances. Liquor bottles and casks filled the wall. An aproned witch with flyaway grey hair stood drying a glass behind the bar when they entered.
“We’ll see about a room,” Harry said. He and Ron crossed the pub to the witch bartender, leaving the other four at the door.
Six other patrons were in the pub area, seated three, two, and one alone, all wearing robes and tired faces. They shot a passing glance at the newcomers, but went back to their drinks and conversation almost immediately.
A few moments later Harry and Ron returned. “Madam Stein will give us one room and a meal for three galleons, or two rooms and no food.”
“We shared a single room last night,” Hermione said, looking at Neville, Pansy, and Draco. “I think we can manage it again.”
“All right,” Harry said, starting back across the room.
“Find out if the meal is dinner or breakfast,” Hermione said after him. Harry waved in acknowledgement.
“This place needs to be aired inside out,” Draco said disgustedly.
“It’ll do for the night,” Pansy said. “I’m sure if we open a window, we’ll be fine.”
Harry returned. “We’re on the third floor, on the right. Dinner is the meal, and we can eat it here or bring it up with us.”
“We can decide after we see the room,” Hermione said.
Draco stepped around Hermione and started upstairs two at a time, wanting to check out the room for traps. He heard Neville say, “I’m going to find the toilet,” and wagered Neville would use the time to look around, noting the exits and possible escape routes.
Draco pushed open the door on the right, on the third floor, and flicked his wand. “Detectum.” The small room had no glow of magical resonance, just residual traces from cleaning and from the hanging lantern, which flicked to life as he walked through the doorway. A large bed took up nearly all the floor space, covered with a blindingly coloured duvet. A wardrobe stood beside the doorway and a single window was directly across from the door. No other furnishings could fit in the room. Boring taupe wallpaper curled near the ceiling and along the base.
Draco turned up his nose, and then visually checked beneath the bed and in the wardrobe, as he heard the others in the hall. Throwing open the shuttered window, he leaned out and looked around. It was a sharp drop to the street below, where Dog sat by the front door. He could see relatively clearly up and down the street because of the full moon. The buildings across from the inn had lights behind the shuttered and curtained windows, but he didn’t see anything suspicious.
“Oh, lovely,” Pansy said sarcastically upon entering the room. Draco perched on the windowsill, wand held low as he began weaving a shield spell over the opening. It was too hot to consider keeping the window closed.
“It’s rather… quaint.” Hermione entered the room behind Pansy. Shoulder to shoulder, she and Pansy took up the extent of the floor space between the bed and the wall.
“Cosy,” Ron agreed. “This makes the shack seem like a palace.”
“I bet it looks just like home for you, Weasley,” Draco said, finished with his ward.
“No fighting,” Hermione said, with an unforgiving look at Draco. “Unless you want to sleep outside again, Malfoy.”
“Yes, mum,” Draco said nastily and turned back to the window.
“Ignore him,” Harry instructed, as Ron hung the backpack on the bedpost. “Let’s go downstairs and eat.”
Hermione set down her parcel, and she and Ron went with Harry. Neville’s voice carried through the open door. “Where are we going?”
“Okay. I’ll come, too.”
“We’re leaving Malfoy alone again?”
Pansy shut the room door and faced Draco. “To bed with you.”
“What?” Draco said with a frown. “I’m not tired.”
“The last time you slept was in History of Magic on Friday morning.” Pansy pointed at the bed. “Get in there and sleep.”
“Draco—,” she said in the same tone of voice. “Neville and I both rested last night and can keep watch just fine on our own.”
“I won’t be able to sleep, you know that.” Draco waved his hand at the open window. “Not with the threat of more Death Eaters out there.”
“What will you do if there are Death Eaters? Snore at them?” Pansy crossed the room and got right up in his space. “You’re asleep on your feet. On top of that, the concealing charm faded and you look awful.”
“I’ll quaff a vigilanter potion and re-cast the charm.”
“I’ll stupefy you.”
Draco narrowed his eyes. “You wouldn’t dare.”
Pansy’s wand was in her hand in a flash. “Wingardium leviosa!”
“Pansy!” Draco floated up and over the bed. He aimed his wand at her. “Rictisempra!”
She squealed in a very girly manner and began laughing at the tickling charm. Her wand hand jerked back and forth. So did Draco.
“Ah! Stop!” Flying spastically in the air was not something he enjoyed without a broom between his legs. His head smacked against the wall before he was hanging upside down, knees bumping against the ceiling. “Pansy!”
“End your spell!” Pansy gasped.
“You end yours!”
“Together.” Pansy counted between laughs. “One… two… three!”
Neither of them did anything.
“You didn’t do it!”
“Neither did you.” Pansy laughed even more, clutching her stomach, and Draco bounced up and down, body thumping the ceiling, as she rocked.
“Ow! Ow! Stop it, woman! Not the face!” Draco waved his wand every which way, finally getting it pointed at her. “Finite incantatem!”
Pansy stopped laughing and cast immediately, “Finite!”
Draco realized suddenly that the spell holding him airborne had ended and he was still in the air. “Uh-oh.”
He fell headfirst with a squawk onto the bed. The mattress wasn’t very soft. “Agh!” he cried out, his neck twisting funny as his body crashed roughly. Pain shot up and down his spine and spots danced behind his tightly closed eyes. He tried to move and regretted it. “Bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger!”
“Don’t move,” Pansy said, her voice steely. “Inresolutus.”
Draco’s entire body stilled, but didn’t freeze as in a petrificus hex. Even his eyelids remained shut.
“Valetudeffectricus.” Pansy hummed and clucked her tongue, like Madam Pomfrey. “Nothing permanent. You just pulled your splinius capitis. I’m going to relax the muscles of your whole body, so you won’t be able to move.”
He couldn’t move now, and couldn’t speak to remind her so.
“Laxamentumcorpus.” Draco felt as though he was melting into the bed. The pain eased. “Reficere.”His body still felt limp as a noodle, but more solid. He cracked open his eyes and saw Pansy leaning over him, concern creasing her features. “You’re very good at that,” he said.
“I’d have to be, after patching you up over the years.” Pansy pushed his hair from his brow. “If you’d just admit you’re a coward when it comes to animals, they wouldn’t have a chance to claw or bite you.”
“I’ll scream like Celestina Warbeck next time something tries to eat me,” Draco joked with a tired sigh. He was really relaxed. “You can rescue me then.”
“Sleep, you daft nit,” Pansy said affectionately, tracing her finger down his cheek. She straightened and turned to leave. “We’ll wake you if—Potter. Hello.”
Draco rolled his head and looked past Pansy. Harry stood in the doorway, two plates of food in his hands. The door stood open, apparently silent on its hinges. Draco wondered how long he’d been there and how embarrassed Draco should be.
“Hello.” Harry lifted the plates slightly. “I didn’t know if you two were coming down, and Madam Stein was closing the kitchen.”
“Oh. Thank you, Potter.” Pansy walked over and took a plate from him. “I’ll eat downstairs. Draco’s going to catch some sleep.”
“I’ll leave this here, then.” Harry slipped past her and set the plate on an empty shelf in the wardrobe.
Pansy winked at Draco from the doorway and disappeared. Draco would either kiss her or kill her when he saw her again.
“What did you bring me?” Draco drawled, though more because his tongue felt just as relaxed as the rest of him. “Poisoned snails and puppy dog tails?”
“Just beef of some type and vegetables.” Harry stood at the end of the bed, looking at Draco. “Nothing special.”
“Pish. I’m not hungry anyway.” Draco’s eyelids closed in a blink.
The blink must’ve lasted longer than it should’ve taken, because Harry was staring at him from beside the bed, rather than at the foot of it, when he opened his eyes. “Potter?”
“Are you ill?” Harry said.
“Ickle Harry concerned about me?” Draco said sarcastically.
“If you’re sick, the others might get sick, too,” Harry said.
Draco closed his eyes again. “I’m fine, Potter. Pansy plays rough, is all.”
Draco heard no response from Harry. He opened his eyes and saw the tail end of a rather dark expression before it was wiped away. “You’re together, then?”
“What are you on about?” Draco pushed against the mattress, struggling to sit up. He wasn’t going to fight with Harry while laying flat on his back.
Harry grabbed his arm and hauled him upright rather roughly. “Is Pansy your girlfriend? I… uh, won’t have you two hurting Neville.”
“Longbottom begs to be hurt simply by being Longbottom.” Draco’s head swam. Did Pansy’s spell relax his brain, too? “Why Pansy likes him… well, there’s no accounting for a woman’s taste.”“You didn’t answer my question.”
“Ten points from Slytherin, then.” Draco swung his legs over the edge of the bed. “Stop blithering in my ear and go and bother your friends.”
Harry glowered, grabbed the book parcel from the end of the bed, and swept from the room. The door closed silently behind him.
Draco sagged a moment in exhaustion, shook his head hard, and then pushed to his feet. He wobbled but refused to collapse like a rag doll. He saw the backpack on the bedpost and went for it and the vigilanter potion that had to be inside.There wasn’t one.
“Bloody, buggery, bollocking hell.” Draco knocked the backpack onto the floor, watching dispassionately as its contents spilled out. Rope lay on the ground like a dead snake. Vials of colourful liquid rolled under the bed and the miniature plates and glasses tinkled on the hard floor. The tiny quills lifted and danced in the air as Draco stomped past, going towards the window to keep watch. He didn’t need a potion to stay awa—
His foot landed directly on a standard-size inkbottle and shot out from under him. His arms windmilled, but Vince wasn’t around to keep him from falling. He landed on his back on the floor with a hard thud and an oof, the breath was knocked out of him. The ceiling spun and he closed his eyes before he became dizzy.
“This is stupid,” he muttered. Pansy was right, again, which was very annoying and he’d have to curse her for it, but if he didn’t get some sleep, he’d be no good to anyone and he’d probably end up having his curse backfire and leave him bald.
Draco opened his eyes, sat up, and crawled over and into bed. The duvet may have been violently ugly, but the mattress was soft and the pillows even softer.
He didn’t open his eyes again until morning.