Chapter 15

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Digging For Gold In A Deep, Dark Hole

Two boys walked into the shop, one with unruly black hair, the other with yellow-blond hair that stuck straight up in a startling defiance of normalcy. He watched with detached curiosity as they approached, trying not to seem like he was listening to what they were saying. The black-haired one stepped up onto the stool beside him.

He readied himself. “Hello, Hogwarts too?” he asked, using the tone of voice for greeting strangers clearly below one’s own stature.

“There are two Hogwarts?” said the spiky-haired boy loudly – far louder than was proper for speaking inside. The boy continued talking, oblivious to his lack of manners. “Professor McGonagall never mentioned that – I guess I’m going to Hogwarts One, then.”

Did he purposefully misconstrue my words?

The black-haired boy responded with a smile. “I think he meant also, not the number two.”

You think so? He shook his head, clearing his thoughts. What comes next, I said hello, now… “My father’s next door buying my books and mother’s up the street looking at wands.” He was using his effortlessly superior voice, now. “Then I’m going to drag them off to look at racing brooms. I don’t see why-”

“Oh, you mean the Nimbus 2000?” asked the spiky-haired boy, interrupting him.

Was he brought up in the woods?

The boy went on to say how one of the Hogwarts professors has explained to him about flying brooms. Ah, muggleborn. That explains it. Being brought up in the woods would have been better. “So you’re a muggleborn, then,” he said, putting on his best grimace. Then he turned to the other boy, sticking out his chin. “What about you?” If he’s also muggleborn I’m going to have to get out of this place this instant.

“I grew up with muggles, but my parents were wizards, if that’s what you mean,” said the boy tentatively.

That’s the strangest thing I’ve ever heard. Father would be disgusted to hear of such a thing. What would he have me say?“Well why’d you do a stupid thing like living with muggles if you have wizarding parents?” he asked the boy.

The boy’s face hardened. “My parents are dead.”

Whoops. Sorry. No, I can’t show that I made a mistake. No emotion; it’s not my tragedy. “Oh, sorry,” he said instead, hoping he didn’t look nearly as sorry as he felt.

“You don’t sound very sorry,” said the spiky-haired muggleborn. He raised an eyebrow like he thought it meant something.

You’re not supposed to call me out on in, don’t you know anything? And what’s with his accent – it’s American by the sound of it. I’d better go in that direction, don’t want to have him questioning me, I’m supposed to be the one asking questions. “What’s an American doing here anyway, aren’t there any wizarding schools in your country that’ll accept a muggleborn?” Should I have said mudblood there? But he doesn’t even know what that means, does he, if he’s only just got his letter. I wish I’d paid more attention to Father’s lessons.

“I have absolutely no idea, but there seems to be at least one in Britain, so here I am.”

That makes sense. What now? I haven’t been showing enough derision, have I – I can’t let him think muggleborns are equal. He gave a snort of contempt. It seemed appropriate. “I hope they don’t sort any muggleborns into Slytherin – that’s where I’m hoping to go, and all the Malfoys were there when they were in Hogwarts, so it’s bound to happen. What are your surnames?” There. Established the hierarchy, mentioned my family, and asked their names. That’s everything, Father. Now to see where this black-haired boy stands.

“Sir Calvin,” the spiky-haired boy said quickly with a blank expression.

What? Is he making a joke? Or making fun of me?

The messy-haired boy smiled again and answered patiently, explaining what a surname was.

Why doesn’t he get angry with him? He doesn’t have to pretend to be nice, the boy’s a muggleborn, and this one’s apparently wizard-born. Doesn’t everyone know what that means?

“Mine’s Potter,” the boy said, turning to him.

Potter? He’s probably Harry Potter, right? Father told me what to do if I were to meet the Boy Who Lived. But…this boy seems too nice. If I demand his friendship like that, as an ultimatum, he’ll surely reject it – he seems to be friendly with the other boy, and I doubt he’ll drop it so suddenly, even if the boy’s a muggleborn. He seems not to know any better.

“What about you, then?” he asked the spiky-haired one, who had somehow become fast friends with the most famous person in the wizarding world.

The boy gave a slight shrug. “Oh, I’m too much of an individual to have a family name.”

Um, what? “What’s that supposed to mean? Everyone has a family name!” Your family name is the most important thing in determining where you stand on the pyramid of influence, how can he be making jokes about it? Does he not respect his family? I thought I was the only one.

“So you said you’re probably going to Slytherin?” asked the boy, brushing past his righteous indignation. “Professor McGonagall mentioned that I’d for sure end up in Gryffindor. How many houses are there?”

It doesn’t seem like he’s trying to be rude, but he can’t actually be this…what’s the word? Ah, who cares. Do I answer him? It would showcase my education from home, so that would shine a favorable light on my family.

“Four in total. Slytherin, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, and Hufflepuff. I think I’d leave if I were in Hufflepuff, don’t you?” That line doesn’t really make much sense here, Father, why did I have to include it? The two boys didn’t seem to understand. That’s right, if he really is Harry Potter he wouldn’t know anything about the wizarding world. Father says that’s one of the stupidest decisions Dumbledore ever made. So I guess it’s not Potter’s fault.

“Sounds like a brand of marshmallow. What’s the difference between all the houses, anyways?” asked ‘Sir Calvin.’

That was actually funny. Hufflepuffs rather are like marshmallows, according to Father – simple and bland. Now, to answer the question. Father’s answer won’t really give them much information, but he said it was the truth…here it goes…

“Well, Slytherin’s the best, obviously, then there’s Ravenclaw, where all the book nerds go, then Gryffindor, for the stu-” Wait, I don’t want to insult insult him personally, he said he was probably going to be in Gryffindor. Though Gryffindor’s are stupid, this boy seems to be harmless. Plus, if I want to end up with some connection to Potter, I’d better not insult his friends. “For all the rash people, and Hufflepuff for the nobodies.” Rash is okay, right? He does seem extremely rash, he won’t take it badly, will he?

Potter furrowed his brow. “Doesn’t really seem like a valid sorting system to me,” he said. “I mean, what if you’ve got a rash book nerd? Or a rash nobody? And what does ‘best’ mean? Is there an objective best, or do the teachers decide?”

Heh, I thought the same things when Father explained it to me. I can’t tell them that, though. I have to ‘reaffirm my superiority’ as Father would say, inserting it in every exchange, so they can’t forget. How to do that here? Their ignorance, I guess.

He rolled his eyes, as if thoroughly annoyed at having to explain it. “Nobody decides, the sorting hat sorts everybody into their rightful house.” This is weird. Why can’t I just tell them like a normal person? One of them’s even wizard-born – he’s the Boy Who Lived for Merlin’s sake! Father says the most important thing to accomplish during my time at Hogwarts is making connections, but wouldn’t that be easier if I acted nicer towards people?

“How does it know which house is their rightful house?” asked the Potter boy.

The spiky-haired one shrugged. He seemed to do that a lot. “Magic,” he replied.

He’s caught on pretty quickly. This calls for a patronizing nod of agreement. “Exactly.”

“All right, you’re done here,” said the witch who was working on his robes, stepping back.

Thank goodness, this is nerve-wracking, keeping up this act. How does father expect me to do it the entire year? How does he do it all the time?

But all he said was, “Well, I’ll see you two at Hogwarts, I suppose.” He stepped off the stool and stretched. Staying in the same position for so long made his back stiff.

“Not if we see you first,” answered the spiky-haired boy right away, taking his place on the stool.

“I’m…not really sure it works that way.” This boy is strange. But…different. Not necessarily a bad strange? I’m not sure. “What’s your name, anyway?”

“Calvin,” the strange boy replied. “It’s like Sir Calvin, but without the Sir.”

He talks so freely, like he doesn’t even think about the words he uses. Like he doesn’t worry about how to say anything. How does he do that? Oh, now I have to tell him my full name.

“My name’s Draco, Draco Malfoy.”

Calvin’s face did a funny twist of sadness. “Nooo,” he said, as if watching his favorite broom being tossed in the fireplace as a punishment for embarrassing the family name at a dinner party. “You have to say your last name first! It’s ‘The name’s Malfoy. Draco Malfoy.’ Much more impressive that way.”

It does sound better, actually, but why is he telling me that? Okay, I should leave now, father’s probably waiting. How do I say goodbye? I have to let him know how weird I find him, otherwise he’ll think this is normal for me, which it isn’t. But I don’t want to be to insulting. Should I try to make it funny?

“…Right. Anyways, I have to go take care of my sanity, or at least what’s left of it after this conversation.” Was that good? He doesn’t look insulted. Would he try to hide it if he was? No, it was fine. Now I leave before I over think myself into a coma. “Be seeing you, Calvin, Potter.” He nodded at them each, gaze resting for a moment on the messy-haired boy. He is most likely the Boy Who Lived. A lot…quieter, than I’d thought he would be. Doesn’t seem too aware of his fame, either. It could be an act. In fact, that’s exactly the thing to do if you’re the most famous person in the wizarding world. Pretend to be humble, and quiet, even shy, until the time is right. He’s good, I’ll give him that. When he gets to Hogwarts I bet he’ll drop the act here and there, when he needs to get his way.

He walked out of the shop, blinking in the bright sunlight.

“Draco, dear, there you are!” His mother hurried up to him, long blond hair spilling down her back. “I’m going to go meet up with a friend; your father’s still picking up your books, so go in and help him out, will you? Mr. Ollivander said he has some wands that you should try out, so head over there afterwards.” She bent down to plant a kiss on top of his head.

“Not here, mother!” he complained, pulling away. Still, he smiled as she pulled him back and succeeded in kissing his forehead. She never had agreed with father’s views on what was acceptable in public and what was not.

“I’ll see you in an hour or two, be good,” she smiled warmly at him, her blue eyes sparkling.

“I will, mother,” he mumbled. She straightened up and hurried away. She was always hurrying – not that she was in a rush, but simply because she didn’t see any reason to move any slower. His mother was the one who had actually raised him, no matter the amount of time he’d spent in his father’s lessons. She’d been the one to comfort him when father’s impatience with his failures had brought him to tears. The one to praise him when his father scolded, to tuck him back into bed after an impromptu midnight lesson with father.

He watched her walk happily away, then turned to the bookstore at his left. Time for some quality father-son time.

The head of House Malfoy was standing imperiously by the counter as the clerk counted out change. He turned as his son approached. “Something is on your mind,” he stated.

Always straight to the point with you, isn’t it. And after all those lessons, I still can’t hide my bloody emotions from you. But yes, there is something on my mind.

“Father, is there any reason a sufficiently…odd, individual might pretend to be a muggleborn?” he asked, expression neutral.

His father almost sneered, but kept it to a twitch of his thin lips. Somehow, the meaning was exactly the same. “They would have to be odd enough to have a permanent room in St. Mungo’s to have made such a claim by their own will.” His pale grey eyes stared dispassionately down at his son, evoking the familiar emotions of anxiety and tension. “Did you meet a muggleborn?”

The son thought for a moment. Did you? he asked himself. Did you meet a filthy, stupid animal, unworthy of magic? Did you meet the bane of wizarding kind? Did you meet the creature that must be eradicated and expelled from the wizarding world? Did you meet a muggleborn?

“No,” Draco Malfoy finally answered. “Just a strange boy.”

“Now, remember, Draco,” his father told him, fingers gripping his shoulder like the claws of a dragon. “The Boy Who Lived. He is your main objective. Find him, introduce yourself to him, ingratiate yourself with him.” Then his father crouched down and met him at eye-level. Behind him and to either side, Crabbe and Goyle senior stood stoically, hands on their wands inside their robes. Draco met his father’s gaze. “But do not forget, you are of House Malfoy. He is not above you. Remind him of this. Make him a friend, but do not let him think you are on the same level, regardless of who he is. Because what is a friend-” He paused.

“-but a willing tool,” finished Draco obediently. “Yes, father, I know.” He wiped his hands along the sides of his pants, but the sweat was only spread around.

“Make your family proud, Draco,” his father told him, holding his eye.

“I will.”

He turned to his mother, who hugged him tightly. He felt wetness on his cheek as she her face against him. When he was released, he nodded to his father, then bid his trunk follow him and headed towards the pillar.

Make your family proud, Draco.’ As if the family is some collective being that feeds on my success. Well, it is, in a way. It’s never ‘make us proud,’ or even ‘make me proud.’ Always the family. The Malfoy name is a vault, and the contents are connections and favors and pride and a good image, and we all work towards filling it every day. Nothing I do is for me. Not for me, not for my parents, definitely not for anyone else, Merlin forbid. All for the family. The individuals that make up the family, apparently, are not allowed to have lives of their own.

We were born into the deep, dark pit of the Malfoy name, and our lives are spent digging, making it deeper and deeper, never looking up. So maybe there is gold in the pit. Maybe we dig because the gold takes work to uncover. But the more time we spend looking for gold, the deeper we dig, the less of a chance there is of ever climbing out.

He glanced to his left and right. At some point during his walk from outside the pillar to the Hogwarts Express, Vincent and Gregory had taken up positions at his side, slightly behind him. Crabbe and Goyle. Just like his father.

As if an eleven-year-old going to Hogwarts needs bodyguards. If father thought there was a chance of something happening to me, he most likely wouldn’t be sending me. And if there was, and he did, it wouldn’t be with only the protection of two other eleven-year-olds. Draco eyed his companions. No matter how large.

“You guys can walk next to me, you know. I hate it when people read over my shoulder, and this isn’t much different.” The two looked at each other, unsure if that was an order or not. “Walk next to me,” he sighed. They inched closer, but were still noticeably behind him.

They were probably instructed on how to ‘guard’ me, and won’t take my orders over their fathers’. I’ll have to get used to it.

They found an empty compartment and stored their luggage. Goyle went off to buy some drinks for them. Crabbe stood in the entrance to the compartment, facing the closed door.

“You can sit down, Crabbe,” Draco told the wide-set boy.

Crabbe turned his head a fraction. “Uh, Greg isn’t here, so I thought obstructing the sole entrance would be the optimal use of our depleted forces.”

Greg? I guess they use first names with each other. “Do you even know what that means?” questioned Draco, raising both eyebrows.

Crabbe turned to stare ahead. “Block the door.”

Huh. I suppose the fact that they didn’t take lessons from my father doesn’t mean they didn’t take lessons at all.

“There’s a window, too, though,” said Draco, rapping his knuckles against the glass.

“Oh,” replied Crabbe, looking at the window and frowning.

It would be too much for them to actually think before blindly following the first course of action that goes through their heads, I guess.

Draco sighed again. “Don’t worry about it, it’s too far up for anyone to get into anyway.” Crabbe didn’t look convinced, but he didn’t move from his spot in front of the door.

When Goyle returned they all sat down to drink, though Draco was forced to sit between them for ‘optimal protection.’ The train started to move soon after.

Draco watched the scenery fly past with increasing speed, and felt something within him lighten – both in terms of fleeing darkness and weight being cast off. He was, for pretty much the first time, out from under his father’s eyes. Sure, he’d have to owl his father with ‘updates’ to report on the goings-on at Hogwarts, but that wasn’t the same as being there in person, having to sit through another lecture on how he’d messed up, or how he had been perfect ‘but not perfect enough.’ Whatever that meant. ‘Everyone should strive for perfection, Draco. But the Malfoys are not everyone. A Malfoy must try for beyond perfection, so that perfection will surely be within his grasp.’ Blahdy blahdy blah, superiority, noble House, ancient, blahdy blah image, representing the Malfoy name, blahdy blahdy blah.

Oh look, a mountain. And what’s this? I can look at it without hearing anything about how it’s height and majesty are a metaphor for our family? This is certainly a first.

An hour or so later, they were visited by the trolley lady and her trolly of endless food. Malfoy bought one or two sweets his father had never let him try. Crabbe bought two entire cakes. Goyle bought thirty bottles of a shimmering drink called Taebelo’s Taste-Testing Solution.

As Draco was chewing his way through a ridiculously, impossibly chewy orange disk, the compartment door rattled. Crabbe had locked it, of course. It rattled some more.

“You’ll have to knock,” Draco called. “Only civilized persons are allowed in.” He glanced at Goyle, who was slurping loudly. “Make that no more than one uncivilized persons at a time.”

“Or you could just open the door,” whined a nasal voice from outside.

Oh no. Draco swallowed and gestured for Crabbe to unlock it. When the large boy had done so, the door slid open. Draco managed a strained smile. “Hello, Pansy.”

“You didn’t tell me where you’d be sitting, how was I supposed to find you!” the blond girl complained, hands on her hips.

You weren’t. “My apologies, Ms. Parkinson. It must have slipped my mind.”

“Now I have to go tell everyone I found you, so wait right here,” she scolded. Then she pivoted and walked out, turning to the left.

Draco motion to Crabbe, who stuck his head out into the aisle. After a few moment, he looked at Draco and said, “Line of sight is no longer intact.”

“Right, get your trunk,” snapped Draco. “We’re moving compartments.”

They chose a compartment two cars away.

“Our compartment’s empty now, two cars up, second one on the left,” Draco told the four occupants.

“You just want to switch?” asked the tall girl on the left, closest to the door. She looked to be about fourth-year.


“Why?” asked her friend.

Draco looked at her innocently. “No reason, just a change of scenery.” The occupants shared a glance, but in the end agreed to switch, and pulled their things. It was clear that they thought this was a scheme of the heir of the House of Malfoy, and that they didn’t want to get caught obstructing it. “Oh, and if a first-year with a face like a used dinner plate and limp blond hair asks you any questions, tell her that Draco Malfoy was sucked inside a genie bottle that you then traded to someone for a Pumpkin Pasty.”

They settled their things up on the racks, then sat in silence. For a few minutes, anyway.

“Harry Potter wrestled with a dragon at Gringotts,” said Goyle, draining his twelfth drink. He licked his lips and peered into the bottle with one eye, as if looking for a secret well of extra drink at the bottom.

“What?” said Draco sceptically. “Who did you hear that from? And when?”

“Someone,” the solid boy replied, upturning the bottle over his open mouth and waiting for the last drops to fall. “At the platform.”

“How helpful,” said Draco, sarcasm baked into every syllable. “Did you happen to hear where he is on the train, or is that information too relevant?”

Goyle was busy tapping the back of the bottle in order to coax out the last drops, so Draco got up and told them they were going to find Harry Potter. After asking around, they found that they were not the only one’s searching for the Boy Who Lived. They were told that their best bet was to find ‘Stupendous Man,’ who was apparently at the back of the train.

Alright, here we go. Don’t think too much, Draco, just follow instructions. He’d decided that if his father thought the best way to ‘become friends’ with the Boy Who Lived was by acting a certain way, then that was the way he was going to act. He didn’t have much experience making friends, or even acquaintances, but his father did. He would trust his lessons for now. Think superior thoughts, Draco. You are a Malfoy. They are nothing. You are a Malfoy. They are nothing. They are pieces on a game board, and you will move them as you have been taught. It didn’t quite feel right, but again – he didn’t have much experience with these sorts of things.

Pretend you are only now certain that he is the Boy Who Lived. But it doesn’t matter. The Boy Who Lived is below you. Put him on the spot, put him off balance – mention the dragon-wrestling rumor. Crack his armor, break his mask, force him to reveal the true him. Then prove you are above the true him.

Draco took a deep breath, steeled himself, then slipped into his role as the haughty heir of House Malfoy. He slid back the compartment door.


Back in his compartment, Draco fumed. He wasn’t sure who he was angry at – himself? Father? Calvin? The spiky-haired boy had completely thrown him off his track; Draco simply couldn’t hold his act when talking to him. When he’d tried slipping back into character, to deliver a father-written line to the Weasley, Calvin had interrupted him again. And Draco hadn’t gotten angry. It was more confusing than aggravating, and even a little bit amusing. Mostly confusing, though.

And that girl – he hadn’t even found out who she was before he’d started treating her like an equal! Of course, almost no one was an equal to a Malfoy, but she might even have been a muggleborn for all he knew! No, not a muggleborn, she was far too composed and civilized. Still, she could have been from any number of pureblood or even non-pureblood families that ranked far, far lower than an Ancient House like the Malfoys. Likely she wasn’t a pureblood, otherwise he was sure he would have recognized her.

The Weasley was, well, a Weasley, but it’s not as if he annoyed Malfoy more than Calvin, who somehow managed to do it without being annoying himself.

The end result of it all was: he’d failed. No, that wasn’t right. He’d done everything he’d been instructed to do. What had failed were his tools. The lessons that had prepared him for this had failed. Father’s lessons. The lessons hadn’t been enough. Who knew it would be so difficult? People were strange, and they didn’t move like pieces on a gameboard. Sometimes they jumped backwards even though the rules dictated that only forward movement was allowed. Sometimes they ventured off the board, where rules did not hold. Sometimes they switched teams halfway through the game. It was completely baffling.

Draco groaned and laid his head against the window, watching the sun sink lower in the sky.

Why does it have to take so much effort just to act how I’m supposed to? If it’s how I’m supposed to act, shouldn’t it be easier?

With those thoughts, he nodded off to the rumble of the train, cheek pressed against the smooth glass of the window. Crabbe was staring at the door, bored. Goyle was finishing off the last of the bottles of drink, and looking mournfully at the pile of empty ones that had collected at his feet. Half an hour passed.

A voice rang through the train, announcing that the train would arrive at Hogwarts in only five minutes. Draco struggled to blink the sleep out of his eyes, and looked at himself in the reflection of the window. He fixed his hair, then straightened his robes. He looked himself in the eye.

Why does it have to be so complicated? He’d dreamed about his questions. They’d written themselves out in the air all around him, then tied him up and left him helpless. All right, Draco. Just get through the Sorting and you can face this in the morning.

“Malfoy, Draco!” called Professor, McGonagall.

Draco set his shoulders and walked calmly up to the stool. I’m calm, I’m calm, I’m calm, I’m so calm, there’s never been anyone more calm than I am right now, I am as calm as a very calm thing being very calm. Yes, that’s a good one, Draco, you’re certainly at the top of your game today. Shut up, me. Hrgh.

He took a deep breath and put on the hat.

I need to be in Slytherin.’

Are you sure? I see more than a hint of-‘ The voice in his head cut off as his thoughts trampled its words.

Slytherin. It has to be Slytherin.’

You are lying to yourself, boy.’

That I need to be in Slytherin is no lie.’

You know what I mean.’

And you know I have to be in Slytherin.’

The hat seemed to sigh. ‘Very well. Watch yourself, Draco Malfoy – no one wants what’s best for you but you in-‘

“SLYTHERIN!” yelled the hat, and Draco felt some tension melt away. But it didn’t completely thaw, and the cold fist of apprehension still had a death grip on his insides.

That was the right choice, he told himself as he headed over to the Slytherin table. Whatever is happening, I can deal with it, now that I’m here. This is where I’m supposed to be. His earlier thoughts echoed in his head. No, this will be easier. This is how it has to happen, this is where I belong. He turned his head to catch sight of the Gryffindors, who now included Calvin and the bushy-haired girl he’d met on the train.

I have nothing in common with them. This is my place. Slytherin is my house. I just have to keep acting like it now.

The first week of classes went by slowly. Draco kept his head down, and didn’t invite attention, but that didn’t mean attention didn’t come his way. His father’s first letter had turned his thoughts into a tornado, and the icy fist of apprehension had turned into a veritable glacier of indecision. He avoided the Gryffindors as much as he could, but the thursday Potions session was a double-up with them. Draco wasn’t sure why he was avoiding Calvin, Potter, and the other two. But he was sure that he wanted to keep doing so.

He sat quietly through the class as Calvin, again and again, challenged Snape, losing more and more points for his house, and ultimately earning himself a detention.

Did he just sacrifice forty-five points and get himself detention on the first weekend at Hogwarts…to defend Potter? They’ve only known each other less than a week – I doubt they saw each other between Diagon Alley and Platform Nine-and-three-quarters. Can he really be worth that much? I mean, he is the Boy Who Lived, but it didn’t seem like Calvin would care all that much about that sort of thing

Draco tried to remember his father’s words. ‘If there is no apparent reason for someone to be doing something, there is obviously still a reason. You either do not know enough about the person or situation, or the person is purposefully hiding their motives. Often, it is both.’ Calvin seemed like a straightforward person, if rather strange. So it seemed like he knew all he needed to about him – unless he was hiding his true self, just like Potter. Either way, that pointed to the second option. So what’s his game?

The question followed Draco for an entire week, until his next encounter with its origins.

Pansy Parkinson – who had taken to following him around wherever he went, no matter what his objections – peeled herself away from him as soon as the by-now infamous, and the already-famous, Gryffindors stepped out onto the grass. Draco looked away, unwilling to witness the confrontation. Before long the girl walked back over to his side, face beet-red.

Way to go, Calvin. What am I saying? No, wait, am I allowed to dislike Pansy more than them?

Madam Hooch called for them all to line up by a broom, and chose one at the far end. When told to say ‘Up,’ his broom shook a bit before rising through the air to his palm. He wrapped his fingers around the smooth wood, frowning at the obvious disrepair of the broom.

They should take better care of their equipment.

“We are waiting for you, Mr. Calvin!”

Draco looked up, then down the row of brooms. Calvin was standing next to his broom, back hunched, both arms stretched towards the sky, fingers curled. The spiky-haired boy cleared his throat, then said, “Rise, my faithful servant, and carry me to the heavens! UP!”

Apparently he’d done something right, because the broom blurred through the space between it and his hand and kept on going, pulling Calvin up into the air.

What in the world does that, inherent magical ability? That proves he’s not a muggleborn, right? So he’s acting. He’s playing a game. The words felt…wrong, somehow, even as he thought them. He pushed the wrongness away for the moment and watched as Calvin’s broom suddenly dipped. He was yelling some nonsense throughout his flight.

Everyone scattered as the falling broom and its passenger neared the ground at tremendous speed. Everyone except a certain round-faced Gryffindor who was rooted to the spot, eyes wide in fear. Draco winced at the resulting collision.

Madam Hooch ran over to the two boys; Calvin was getting to his feet, but didn’t look like he could keep his balance for more than a few seconds. Neville, on the other hand, was lying on the grass and moaning in pain. The strict flying instructor instructed the rest of them to stay put on the ground while she took the two injured students to the Hospital Wing, threatening expulsion if disobeyed.

Something on the ground by his feet flashed, reflecting the sunlight. Draco crouched down and wrapped his hand around it – it was a small, round ball of glass, with swirling white mist contained within it.

“Oh, that’s Neville’s,” a voice said.

Draco glanced up. It was Potter, looking at him from across the grass, hand held out expectantly.

Should I just give it back? Can I do that? Neville’s a Longbottom, they’re purebloods – his grandmother’s even on the Wizengamot. Sure, she usually opposes my father on almost all votes, but I shouldn’t have undue prejudice against another pureblood, right? Well, except the Weasleys, according to father, but I think that’s just because he has a personal vendetta against the Weasleys’ father. What would the other Slytherins say? They shouldn’t have too much of a problem with it, right? They look to me anyway, so if I say it needed to be done, they’ll accept that.

“Can you toss it here? I’ll give it back to him when I see him,” said Potter.

I guess there’s no harm in-

“Ha! Why in the world would Draco listen to you, Gryffindork?” whined Pansy Parkinson, face scrunched up in some crude perversion of laughter.

No. No, you idiot. No, now you’ve made this a confrontation. Now you’ve made it me against Potter. This was nothing, and now you’ve made it so that I can’t give it to him without looking like I’m giving in to him. Why couldn’t you have stayed quiet, Pansy? Why couldn’t you have stayed quiet in the first place, Potter? Just wait to see what happens to the thing – what’s it matter to you, anyway, it’s not yours, and Longbottom’s hardly your best friend. Currying favor with the purebloods in Gryffindor or something?

Draco looked around slowly. There’s no way I can give it back now. Damn you, Parkinson. And you, Potter. He grit his teeth and turned back to the Boy Who Lived. “I can’t do that, Potter.” Now what, I’m supposed to be getting friendly with Potter, not making him my enemy. How the hell did Parkinson get into Slytherin with so little tact? Okay, calm down, Draco. How can you get the ball back to Potter? You can’t fight him and lose, that’s not an option. Fighting and winning wouldn’t do much to help your actual cause either, not that you’ve been trying for that since you got here, though. It’ll have to be indirect – I’ll have Crabbe or Goyle- but no, he could never beat them in a fight. There’s a chance…no, I can’t risk that. They can, though.

He beckoned Goyle over. “Take this,” he whispered. “Fly up and chuck it at the wall, but make it look like it could go over.” The large boy nodded and climbed smoothly onto his broom.

I guess they can be useful. This is all I can give you, Potter. Take it or leave it. A failure would be Goyle’s, not mine. Don’t make me regret this, Potter.

Goyle loosed the glass orb from high in the sky, then began to quickly descend. Draco glanced to his right – it seemed the Boy Who Lived had made a decision.

The surprise Draco felt as Potter shot off after the ball was tempered by the sudden knowledge that Goyle had thrown it too hard – it was going to go over the wall. Then it looked as if the orb entered a gust of strong wind. It began to drop steeply. Draco looked over at Goyle.

“Topspin,” said Goyle simply.

Draco watched as Potter dove like a falcon, snatching the glass orb out of the air and leveling out just in time to avoid injury-inducing impact. He tumbled off the broom, and Draco let out a breath he hadn’t even been aware he was holding. Nice one, Potter. Wait, so Potter’s definitely putting on airs – he’s clearly experienced at flying. So he is acting. Probably. Maybe. He could be. Argh, this is ridiculous, I should just ask him.

Just then a sharp, stern voice yelled loudly from Draco’s left.

“HARRY POTTER!” Professor McGonagall stalked out across the grass “Come with me this instant!”

The student in question froze, then shakily made his way to Professor McGonagall. As Potter neared Draco, his mind buzzed like a disturbed beehive. What do I do, should I say something? He’s probably going to get expelled now. It’s my fault. My plan was overly complicated, it shouldn’t have involved flying at all, it was too risky, what was I thinking?! I shouldn’t-

And then the Boy Who Lived was stepping past him, and without barely thinking about it or even looking up at him, Draco breathed, “I’m sorry.”

He wasn’t sure Potter had heard him. He wasn’t sure it mattered.

Should I not be guilty? Should I be more guilty than I am? Draco mechanically spooned porridge into his mouth. As he was chewing, he snuck a glance at the Gryffindor table. He’s still here though, why is he still here – is he not being expelled, or are they just waiting until the weekend? Maybe Professor McGonagall had a fit of mercy and decided not to expel one of her own Gryffindors.

He doesn’t look sad, he’d be sad if he was getting expelled, right? Maybe he’s sad and he’s just acting like it’s all okay, to keep up appearances. No, his friends aren’t sad either, and they can’t all be acting. Can they? What if they’re all acting? The girl, Granger, she’s getting top marks so far, she must be smart enough to hold up an act, and Calvin’s probably acting too, unless he isn’t. Weasley, though, he’s definitely not acting. He can’t be. Man, why am I so unsure of everything?

Father, your lessons have done the opposite of what they were supposed to – instead of enabling me, they’ve crippled me. I can’t rely on them for this, I need to go with my own thoughts. I should talk to them. But no, if Potter’s getting expelled that won’t work, just talking…

His view of the Boy Who Lived was blocked by the Weasley twins for a moment. A second later, he could practically see the ripple of rumor spread from where they stood, like a stone dropped in a still pond.

He told them he’s getting expelled. Other people just heard it. It’s for sure now. Stupid, stupid, stupid, why did you have to make him fly to get it back!? Could you have been any more stupid?

The whispers caught and spread, making their way across the Great Hall. Draco heard snippets from far-off conversations. Phrases like “-can’t believe it-” and “-unheard off-” echoed around him.

I’ve done it. I’ve gotten the Boy Who Lived expelled on the second week of term.

Then the full rumor reached him.

He turned his his seat, catching a glimpse of Potter eating breakfast. He wasn’t acting. I…I didn’t get him expelled. I actually did him a favor. I didn’t get him expelled. He realized something else. I can talk to him now, I can explain and then- no, he wouldn’t believe me, what reason does he have to think I wouldn’t be lying? It’ll look like I’m only telling him because of how it ended up. Then who…

Draco was lucky; when the Gryffindors stood to leave, Calvin was still eating. Unfortunately, it seemed the Granger girl was being nice and waiting for him to finish. Draco didn’t bother slipping into an act – he just stood up and walked over to the Gryffindor table, mentally crossing his fingers.

“I’d-” He stopped. Calvin was looking at him exactly the same way he’d looked at him the first two times they’d met. Why aren’t you angry, I just almost got your friend expelled. “I’d like to talk with you.” Just say yes and I can set the time and then get back to my table before they start wondering why it’s taking so long for me to insult you.

“Calvin, you’ll be late for Potions,” said the Granger girl. Draco kept looking at Calvin, waiting for him to answer.

He is angry, isn’t he, he was just hiding it. He’s been acting the whole time, just-

“Why me?” Calvin finally said.

Draco swallowed anxiously. Just say no or yes already! “I don’t think the others would really be open to conversation after…”

“After you stole Neville’s Remembrall and tried getting Harry expelled?” Granger was looking at him, clearly annoyed.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Granger!” he said sharply, glaring at the bushy-haired girl.

She turned back to her friend. “Calvin…”

Go away and let him make his own decision.

Calvin waved a hand lazily. “I’ll be fine – plus, I wonder what Snape will do when I walk into class late with his favorite Slytherin. I’ve gained too many points this week anyways.”

He’s what? Nevermind, this is taking way too long, I have to wrap it up. Where to meet? The trophy room isn’t patrolled by Filch at night, meeting there should be fine. “No,” said Draco, shaking his head. “I don’t mean right now. Meet me tonight, in the trophy room. Eleven o’clock, got it? Only you.” He’s not playing me, is he? Is he really him, or is he acting?

Calvin nodded. Draco hurried back to the Slytherin table.

This better have some positive effect on…on something.

“What were you doing over there, Draco?” whined Pansy, leaning over the table towards him as he sat down. “You took an awfully long time,” she pouted.

Ich. Why can’t she find a hobby other than Follow-the-Malfoy. “Potter didn’t get expelled,” he said to the girl, making sure to pitch his voice so that the rest of the people around him could hear if they wanted to. Father’s lessons do come in handy, though, in these situation. When working with other Slytherins, at least. “So I challenged his friend to a wizard’s duel, to show what happens when you mess with a Malfoy. A warning, of sorts. Tonight, eleven-fifteen, in the trophy room. We’ll see how he handles a real fight.” He gave his combination sneer/dark grin.

As he walked to Potions, his thoughts ran restless circles around his mind. I can’t believe them, believing me – challenging him to a duel? Two first-years in their second week of school, in a wizard’s duel? Right. This is just as idiotic, though. I really shouldn’t be doing it. What if Calvin’s acting? He’ll give me away as soon as he can. No, I said I’d trust my own brain over father’s lessons for this. I can do this.

This was a terrible idea. He’s going to talk afterwards, tell everyone. Father will hear about it, he always does. He’ll disown me. I’ll be put out on the streets. No, that’s silly, that could never happen. But something else could. Why did I think I should do this!?

He paced along a hall a few minutes away from the trophy room, his overly large cloak trailing around his feet. At least it made him unrecognizable.

I can’t go ahead with this. He’s probably waiting in the trophy room with the rest of his Gryffindor friends – his friends! They would never let him just meet me here, not after yesterday. And Granger heard too, that was careless of me. There’s no way she’ll just keep quiet! They’re all there waiting for me, maybe even with a teacher – no, if they told a teacher, they wouldn’t also come themselves. All they had to do was tip off a teacher – they could have done it anonymously, even. So there’s a teacher in the trophy room, and they know I’m supposed to show up at eleven o’clock.

Draco stopped pacing. I’m going back to my room. Nothing can happen then. Catastrophe averted. If I don’t leave an opening, nothing-

No. That’s father talking. Calvin said he’d meet me here alone. I decided to go through with this, and I will go through with this. I can run at the first sign of trouble, and without anyone catching me, I can’t be incriminated if I can’t be recognized.

Draco pulled up his hood and headed to the trophy room.

He found Calvin inside, alone. Supposedly. He could be acting… Draco was so nervous he wasn’t even paying attention to what either of them were saying, until Calvin started singing loudly.

“Shut up!” Is he actually that stupid? He can’t be signalling someone like that, right? That’s not a signal. “No one followed you here, right?” Of course he wouldn’t tell me, if he was just acting! And if he’s not but someone did follow him, he wouldn’t know.

Calvin snorted. “They would have had a pretty hard time of it. Why are you hissing, anyways?”

“I’m not hissing!” Draco replied, simultaneously realizing that he was hissing. “Oh. That. Sorry.” Any second now, someone going to come down the hallway, a teacher, the other Gryffindors…I shouldn’t be doing this, this is dangerous.

“What’s this all about, anyways?” asked Calvin. “And why’d you do that stealing-the-Remembrall-thing yesterday?”

No, I have chance to talk to him, I can explain myself here. “I didn’t have a choice.”

“Uh, yes, I’m pretty sure you did.”

He’s stalling, isn’t he, just waiting for someone. “You don’t understand.”

“I would if you explained it to me.”

Draco shut his eyes, leaning back until the hard stone wall greeted his shoulders. I need to leave. Now. No, Draco, just tell him! Fine. Fine. Just say it. How to explain it all, though? “The things I said in Madam Malkins…those were things I was supposed to say.”

“Supposed to say?”

Stop interrupting me! “Just listen!” He’s definitely stalling. No, wait, he could just let me talk if that were the case. “They were things I was told to say. Like reading off a script.”

“Why does someone tell you-”

What is wrong with him! “Shut up! Shut up for a second and let me talk!” he hissed. He felt his hands clench into fists. One more time, and I’m leaving, this is ridiculous and he’s probably just stalling.

“You’re hissing again,” said Calvin matter-of-factly.

I can’t do this! “Agh! This isn’t even worth it!” Draco exclaimed, turning. “Forget all of this, I’m going to bed.” Great, good, get out of here, Draco, go back to your room, this really isn’t worth it since he’s probably acting anyway.

His retreat was stopped when Calvin stepped out in front of him. “No, wait! Don’t go, really, I just…I have a hard time not talking over people. I’m working on it, but it’s still a problem.”

He sounds so…but no, he could easily be acting. This here is definitely him trying to stall me. Draco kept walking. Right?

“Keep talking and I promise I’ll listen. I won’t interrupt you and I’ll listen to everything you say.”

That’s exactly what he would tell me if he were just waiting for someone to come, and needed to stall me. That’s exactly the type of thing he would say. He’s stalling, I’m sure of it. So why am I not leaving?

“Draco, please.” A voice should not have been able to sound so earnest.

He’s a good actor. A really good actor. He’s acting. He’s…just acting.

“I’m sorry.” He could here Calvin’s voice crack, just a little.

I…no, I can’t. What if he’s acting? I…

He slowly turned to the other boy. He can’t be this good of an actor. It’s real. It has to be. Right?

Draco began to talk. He began by telling Calvin who he was, who he had to be. He continued by telling him why, and then what that meant practically. Throughout it all, though, his only thoughts were, This is it, he’s going to call out and Professor McGonagall will come around the corner. Right now, someone’s going to come. He’s still stalling. He’s waiting for something. For someone. This was a horrible idea. If father finds out, I’m done, over, forever. Why am I still talking, I need to stop talking.

But…I trust him. Is that was this feeling is? When he said ‘I’m sorry’ with that voice, and I felt something change. Is that trust? Can you fake trust? Yes, of course you can act a certain way to get someone to trust you, father does it all the time. Is Calvin faking it? Is he acting? Is he stalling, waiting-

Footsteps sounded, echoing from far off, yet far closer than was safe.

Someone’s coming. He tricked me. He was stalling. He was acting!

He whirled on Calvin, fear and anger warring for control over his face. “You.”

The spiky-haired boy was showing him a bewildered expression. “Um, should we be running, or what?”

I knew it, he was acting! “Of course you wanted me to stay and talk, to buy time for someone to come and find the Heir of House Malfoy out of bed after hours.”

“Draco, I have no ide-”

Shut up!” How can he do this? Why would he act all that? But he did, and he played the game and he tried to trap me! How dare he! “I was talking to you, I was telling you things. Things I have never told anyone!How could he!? I actually talked to him. I told him to come alone, and he said he would! He lied, of course he did! “You worthless sack of filth, I was going to trust you!” Draco’s voice was raw from whispering loudly, and held-back tears, and ice-cold fear. He shoved Calvin away from him. I was going to trust you! he screamed in his own head.

Pulling up his hood again, he started jogging away.

I need to- to get out of here. I can’t go back the same way. I trusted him! He was acting! He was faking it all!

“Wait, Draco!” Calvin yelled after him. Not a chance. I trusted you! “Draco, I didn’t tell anyone about the meeting!” The only other person I ever trusted was my mother, and I was going to trust you! You were acting!

Draco’s vision blurred. I’m going to black out. What did he do to me, I didn’t see- He realized tears were storming down his face. He mashed the sleeve of his robe against his eyes.

I was going to trust him…

He really was just acting. Just lying. His eyes kept blurring, all the way back to his dormitory. Father was right. He stumbled into bed, stormy face pressed against his pillow. He was right about everything. And sleep came. He was right.

Next Chapter >

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