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13 November 2004 @ 12:41 pm
Don't fear perfection...you'll never bloody reach it  

Oh. My. Gods. (I mean, random fluctuations in the time-space continuum.) I just spent the last hour typing out my mother's reference page for one of her assignments. If I see the words 'Co-ordinated Care Trials' or 'Managed Care' ONE MORE TIME, I will scream blue (and green and yellow and orange and purple) murder. How can she stand doing stuff this boring ALL THE TIME? Oh, am I glad I didn't apply for medicine after all...imagine, right now, I could be doing something that's twice as stultifyingly mind-numbing. All I have is to finish my essay on the Fauves...make up some crap about the colours in their paintings and I'm done, baby. Oh, and then I have to go find a way to turn genies into mixed media for one of my projects. (I HATE the way they push abstraction on us...but that's a rant for another day...)

In other news, I now have six reviews, and the fic is up properly on Ficalley, multiple question marks and all. I'll post all of Snakes and Ladders today, and tomorrow Chapter Three of A City. (It's strange TYPING this...like, talking to invisible people, or indeed to nobody...like, if nobody ever read this, WHO AM I TALKING TO? Oh, man, too much philosophy for me...>.<  [also I much like that little symbol! So fun!].)

 

Striding along the corridors, Draco paused by a window to blow on his chilled fingers. The cloisters had changed little since their medieval construction, when window glass had not been a popular ornamental feature. Even the warming charms on the floor did little more than prevent unwary strollers from dropping dead of frostbite during the winter months.

Shouts from below drew Draco to peer out onto the green quad. He smirked; a first-year flying lesson. It should be good for entertainment value, at least. He hoped someone fell off.

He leaned against the window frame - arrow slit, in truth - resting his files against his hip. The flying instructor, a middle-aged American witch called Myra Longhorn, who hailed from the Salem Institute, was striding along between the lines of grounded brooms and quivering children. The wind whipped her words away from Draco, but he could guess at their content. Most Hogwarts homilies were staples.

He remembered, with a peculiar twisting in his stomach, his primary Hogwarts flying lesson. When Potter had made a fool of him and started a long-running tradition, when he’d seen Potter’s superb flying skills and for the first time in his life, Draco had wanted something he couldn’t have.

Still didn’t have.

Shaking his head in an effort to clear it, Draco cast his sharp eyes to the end of the line, where he’s spotted a familiar tousled black head. Potter’s broom was already in his hand, a moment before everyone else’s. No Longbottom or Weasley graced this class, and Draco got to see something he hadn’t seen before; that is, twenty students bestriding their brooms and attempting to hover for five minutes without any untoward genius, either in flying or trouble-making, to disrupt it.

Of course, this was beyond the skills of many, and Myra darted around, correcting grips and trying to instil some backbone. Draco had eyes for no one but Potter’s son. He was on tenterhooks to see if Potter’s renowned proficiency on a broom had been translated onto the next generation.

Wystan appeared to be an indifferent flier, however. Myra had no call to mark or aid him, but neither was there to be any fireworks with a Rememberall or anything of that nature. Wystan performed all that was asked for deftly, but without enthusiasm. Regardless, it was evident he knew exactly what he was doing. With the trained eye of an expert, Draco decided he had potential, but nothing that was out of the ordinary. He hadn’t the build for a Seeker, either; probably, if he could transfer the skills of reasoning and logic that Draco admired in his Potions work onto the pitch, he’d make a noteworthy Keeper, traditionally the strategists of Quidditch teams.

Not for this Potter the magnificent glory and terrible responsibility of winning the game. Wystan, Draco resolved, was truly made to be a power behind the throne, as opposed to a rather ineffectual figurehead.

Leaving them to it, as Myra dashed forward to prevent a head-on collision between two broom-riders - one of whom, he did not fail to remark with distaste, had her eyes clenched shut in abject fear - Draco continued on his way, still shivering slightly, but not entirely with the cold.

~

Under Snape’s supervision, Draco had an expertly brewed Wolfsbane Potion to his credit and the wherewithal to concoct it on his own by the first full moon of the school term. At midnight, Draco rose from his desk at a discreet tapping on his door. He opened it a crack, and a small shape brushed past him. Quickly shutting and bolting the door behind him, Draco turned to see Wystan divesting himself of a silvery garment that puddled like quicksilver around his feet.

‘An Invisibility Cloak!’ Draco said, unable to quench the desire in his voice. ‘I knew Potter must have had one, the jammy bastard.’

‘Inheritance is a wonderful thing,’ Wystan said solemnly, just as Draco winced at his inadvertent admission. He had never been able to keep control of his tongue either around Potter, or when talking about him, but it was still ill-advised to act so loosely around his son.

Wystan scooped up the Cloak and folded it neatly over a chair. He then seated himself with an expectant expression, looking up at Draco, very young all of a sudden.

‘Do you want to take the Potion in your room?’ Draco asked. Wystan shrugged.

‘I don’t mind. It takes about half-an-hour to work anyhow, so it doesn’t make a difference.’

‘Very well,’ Draco said, heading for the steaming cauldron he had set up on a tripod in one corner. He ladled three quarts into a mug emblazoned with the words ‘Romania 2009’, and handed it to Wystan, who shuddered before tossing it back in two careful gulps.

Draco watched him carefully. ‘Taste right?’

‘As horrible as ever,’ Wystan said, grinning weakly.

‘Would you like something to eat - to get rid of the taste?’

‘Dad always gave me chocolate,’ Wystan said, gazing up through his lashes almost challengingly.

‘I’ll see what I can rustle up,’ Draco said dryly. He had several Honeyduke’s Death By Chocolate truffles in his bedside locker; despite the reputation of Weasley’s Wizard Wheeze’s Caramel Sutra confectionary range, he refused on principle to buy it.

When he returned from his bedroom, he tossed the three he had left onto Wystan’s lap. The boy raised an eyebrow, as if surprised; Draco scowled. Bitter and sadistic he might be, but he was hardly going to deny a child some consolation for what he was shortly going to suffer.

Even Harry’s child.

As he gestured Wystan to follow him into the small chamber adjacent to his office, Draco mused that somehow, he had become estranged from the tenets of Lucius Malfoy and even Snape, who preached that the offspring of any enemy must pay for the sins of the father for time immemorial. Even with Weasleys, Draco detested them on their own, personal and unique merits rather than because they were children of the Weasel and the Mudblood. This might have had something to do with the fact that Draco couldn’t tell their children from Bill’s, or Charlie’s, or Fred’s or George’s or Ginny’s (Percy had yet to convince someone to reproduce with him). But still.

Some small part of Draco wondered if he were attempting to achieve with this boy what he had failed to achieve with another, older, lightening-scarred boy. He shied away from this train of thought - mainly because he still wasn’t clear on what exactly he had wanted from Harry, and it was useless sniffing after a trail gone cold so long.

The windowless room boasted a fireplace, a trundle bed, a desk, a bookshelf piled with issues Draco couldn’t fit in his own plethora of bookcases, and a few balloon-backed chairs.

‘I’m not sure what else you need in here,’ he said hesitantly, as Wystan stepped around him to plump down on the bed. ‘I mean, can you read…?’

‘I can. Not so good on the turning of pages, though. Not what paws were designed for.’

‘Oh. Pity,’ Draco said, temporarily at a loss.

‘I often watched television,’ Wystan offered, hopefully.

Draco regarded him blankly. ‘Television. And that is?’

‘Muggle thing,’ Wystan said, sighing ever so slightly. ‘For looking at moving pictures.’

‘Oh,’ Draco said again, hating to have his ignorance - even of Muggle trash - revealed. ‘Well, I’ll have a chat to Professor Snape and see what he says. I’m not promising anything - the wards scramble Muggle technology, apparently. You’ll have to live without it this time, anyway.’

‘Right,’ Wystan said, yawning.

‘Is there anything else I can do?’

‘Well…’ Wystan appeared reluctant to ask, and Draco made a Go-On gesture with his fingers. ‘You could read to me - after I change. Until I fall asleep.’

‘I can probably manage that,’ Draco said. ‘Any preferences?’

‘Nope. You choose.’ Wystan yawned again, and Draco gulped. His canines hadn’t been so sharp and glossy a few minutes ago. ‘Oh, it’s starting. Will you -’ his voice firmed. ‘I’ll have to take off my clothes, so will you wait outside?’

‘Very well,’ Draco acquiesced, wondering how on earth Wystan was going to let him know when it was over. Shrugging, he slid down the other side of the door until he was squatting on the floor. He held his limbs loosely, carefully thinking of nothing, as he had been used to do when Snape had trained him in Occlumency. A few minutes later, a scrabbling at the door and a low whine alerted him to Wystan’s calling.

He opened the door again apprehensively, to find a sleek, brush-haired wolf gambolling before the fire. No - his eyes widened, in mild amusement, as he corrected himself - a wolf cub, a metallic grey, was currently chasing its own tail in front of him. As Draco pushed the door to, the cub looked up and bounced over to him, shoving its damp nose against his calf. Draco dropped to one knee, tentatively running a hand over the wiry head. He hadn’t much knowledge of animals, besides phoenixes, but Wystan seemed to like it so he must be doing something right.

When the cub began enthusiastically washing his hand with a wet, rough tongue, Draco hastily decided that was enough Homini Lupin Lupus bonding for one night. Getting to his feet, he wandered over to the bookshelves, scanning the potions textbooks and rat-eared political histories for something suitable for an eleven-year-old wolf.

His eyes alighted on an old copy of one of his favourite books, and he drew it out of the shelf, carefully, to avoid causing a literary avalanche. Wystan had settled himself in a half-moon curl on the rug, basking in the fire-warmth. Draco stepped over him as he let out a huge dog-sigh and let his tongue hang out, grinning up at Draco. Seating himself on a chair, Draco opened the book as Wystan lolled bonelessly, clearly ready to be sent off to the land of Nod.

Draco cleared his throat and began to read. ‘Hogwarts; A History. A three-hundred-and-forty-third reprint, with edits by Hermione Weasley…’

~

The day before the school broke up for the Christmas holidays, and everyone was literally incandescent with exuberance. Much of the tomfoolery was good-natured, but Draco ended up having to de-curse half-a-dozen students who’d got carried away practising the Merry Christmas Charm, an apparently harmless little spell that made the victim spout carols every time they opened their mouths. None of the little twerps had bothered to look up the counter-Charm, however. Also, there was a spate of tinsel-strangling, a rash of flashing red-noses and, to top them all, WWW had invented a new product - Heatless Flame Brandy, which was poured over an unsuspecting recipient at intervals of every three minutes or so and set alight. While he, yet again, had to admire their ingenuity in twisting simple spells like Flame-Freezing Charms into something far and away beyond their origins, Draco was quite wet, having used his wand as a douser so often that it was now spraying like a fountain, drenching everyone in sight, himself included.

As the day drew to a close, Draco looked forward with deep-rooted relief to his last task of that day, that of supervising the collecting point, just outside the grounds, that was arranged for students returning home for the holidays. Draco had decided not to visit Malfoy Manor, finding himself increasingly chary of the place as time went on. No, a half-empty castle, and the prospect of not having to leave his quarters for two weeks, was much the more inviting alternative.

After dinner, Draco paused only to change his robes and shrug on a heavy, wool-lined winter cloak before heading out on the grounds. Crisp hoar frost crunched beneath his boots as he strode down the driveway to the boar-topped main gates, drawing his cloak tightly around him and tugging his hood down around his ears. He had barely been there five minutes when a line of students, frolicking along behind Neville, made their way down to him.

‘Thank you, Professor Longbottom,’ Draco said coldly. His animosity towards Neville was long since dead, but he held him in no respect. Neville never appeared to care, but after all the good opinion of a grumpy ex-Death Eater probably wasn’t top on anyone’s wish list.

Neville was shivering slightly as he called out to the students to gather around in an orderly fashion, an instruction they blatantly ignored. Draco drew himself up straighter, glaring around at the hundred-odd scholars with a Look of Messy Death. They immediately fell silent, except for a few mutters and shifting of feet.

‘The Headmaster asked me to give you this,’ Neville said, holding out a silver hip-flask. ‘For the cold,’ he added, and almost winked. Draco marvelled again, wondering where Neville’s dread of Snape had disappeared to.

‘Thank you,’ he said stiffly. Neville inclined his head and trotted away up the drive.

Soon afterwards, parents started arriving, Apparating with a swish of cloaks or Portkeying. Those who Apparated generally took their children back into Hogsmeade, from where they Flooed out of the Three Broomsticks or Zonko’s. One or two arrived in horse-drawn carriages, bringing to mind Draco’s own Christmas memories. Only the very rich could afford to employ a method of transport that required so much magic and stealth to speed it up satisfactorily; the old Malfoy flying chariot was still in the stables somewhere, as far as Draco could remember.

The crowd quickly thinned as students left in dribs and drabs, Draco signing them out in the ledger he’d brought along with him. An hour later, Draco glanced around and thought everyone was gone.

Midway through turning to go back to the castle, Draco realised his mistake. He didn’t know how he had missed Wystan, swaddled in his black cloak and perched on his trunk, because he wasn’t exactly camouflaged. Draco put it down to his manner, which suggested to people that his personal space radius was several feet wide, and approached him. He was struck, for an instant, at his similitude to Harry. Huddling under his huge cloak, which had obviously been bought for him to grow into, his white face and shock of dark hair made an oddly fragile picture.

‘Who is meant to be collecting you, Wystan?’ he asked, as kindly as he could. Whoever it was, they were very late; the sun was sinking in the horizon, and darkness was gathering in with a rapidity singular to winter-bound northerly regions.

‘My father,’ Wystan said, carefully, through chattering teeth.

‘He does realise the time to be here was five o’clock, not half-past six?’

‘He knows,’ Wystan shrugged, his face bent. ‘I owled him. Twice. And he got the official letter.’

‘Right,’ Draco said, not bothering to say anything more. There was too much he could have said, and none of it appropriate or anything approaching gracious. ‘Are you cold?’

‘A little,’ Wystan ceded. He had gloves on, which was more than Draco had, but his head was bare. The tips of his ears, which peeped out under his mop of black curls, were bright red.

‘Shove up a little,’ Draco said, and Wystan obediently made room for Draco to seat himself on the brass-corniced trunk. Draco withdrew Snape’s flask from his pocket, wincing as his previously-muffled hands were whipped with icy-cold, and uncorked it. Taking a brief, invigorating swallow, and grimacing - he had never acquired any great liking for whiskey - he wiped the rim and passed it over to a wide-eyed Wystan.

‘Take one sip,’ Draco cautioned him. ‘I don’t want you passing out on me.’

‘I wouldn’t,’ Wystan protested, but his shudder at the taste convinced Draco he had no desire for more. Draco snickered softly as he tucked the little bottle away again, fingers brushing the serpent design carved on the front. Don’t be too sure. If blood is anything to go by you’ll be a two-pot screamer, just like your dear dad.

‘How are you finding Hogwarts?’ Draco asked awkwardly, after a few minutes silence. For all that he was a teacher, he was used to subduing children into terrified submission, not making small talk with them. Yet again, Potter’s fault. Who is surprised?

The brief contact he had with Wystan outside of Potions, during his transformations, generally consisted of one-sided conversations with which Draco was entirely comfortable - he liked talking to himself, as he rarely met anyone else worth talking to - and recitations from books. He had decided to introduce Wystan to one of his preferred wizard playwrights, Billy Shakespeare, and Wolf-Wystan was now a devotee of Hamlet, Julius Caesar and Macbeth. How much of it Wystan understood was debatable, but Draco cared little. Snape had informed him that even were it possible for televisions to be installed in Hogwarts, he would never permit such ‘mind-numbing, brainless idiocy’ to enter its walls. So that was that.

‘It’s okay,’ Wystan said truculently. ‘Cold.’

‘Where do you live?’ Draco asked, hoping it wasn’t too personal a question. Surely not.

‘Near Brighton,’ Wystan replied, and Draco rolled his eyes. Typical. Most bars per square yard in Britain, wasn’t it?

‘Well, your potion work is up to scratch,’ Draco said nonchalantly. Bloody perfect, I mean to say. ‘If you’re still keen, we can start your extra training as soon as school recommences.’

‘Really?’ Wystan said eagerly, and Draco was pacified to see the enthusiasm lighting up his face like a beacon. He nodded, and Wystan grinned. ‘Cool!’

‘It is that,’ Draco agreed, reluctantly pulling out his hand again to check the time. ‘Bloody hell, it’s seven o’clock! If he isn’t here in ten minutes we’re going back up to the castle -’

‘It’s okay, there he is!’ Wystan jumped up, pointing, and true enough, a figure had suddenly appeared ten yards away, almost invisible in the dusk, and was running towards them. Wystan started forward, but Harry was quicker. He dropped to his knees in the slushy snow and Wystan darted into his embrace, squashing his face onto Harry’s neck.

Draco looked on in distaste. What a typically dramatic, thoughtless, Gryffindorian gesture. The two Potters were talking now, Harry still gripping his son’s head almost fiercely, neither of them seemingly listening to a word the other was saying. When Harry finally stood up, Draco rolled his eyes. He was pure mud from the knees down, and Wystan was not much better. Muttering under his breath, Draco Vanished the dirt from Wystan’s robes, before he even had a chance to notice it was there. Harry did, however, and he followed the gesture back to its source, eyes narrowing along the way.

‘Malfoy,’ he greeted him, teeth clenched.

Draco sniffed haughtily and didn’t bother to address him. It was not required. If he opened his mouth now, he’d probably haul Harry over the coals for daring to basically abandon someone as precious as Wystan, for leaving him hanging for over two hours, and Wystan was looking up adoringly at his father in a way that made Draco feel irritatingly melancholy. And envious. Damn every Potter to the deepest pit of hell.

Instead, Draco pulled out the ledger and muttered as he wrote, so Harry could hear him, ‘Wystan Potter, collected by Harry Potter…seven oh five pm.’ He didn’t say anything more, but his silence implied a thousand brutal recriminations that he was sure Harry could hear as clear as day.

Twisting to Wystan’s trunk, Draco tapped it and muttered ‘Wingardium Leviosa.’ It hovered slightly, and at a flick of Draco’s wand shivered through the air to come to rest on nothing in front of its owner. Wystan grinned, and Draco noticed dispassionately that his teeth overlapped in the exact same way as Harry’s.

Harry bent down to say something quietly to Wystan, who flicked a piercing gaze onto Draco before nodding and starting to walk down the Hogsmeade road. Draco crossed his arms, trying to pretend that little look hadn’t greatly shaken him.

‘I’ll thank you, Malfoy, not to be giving my eleven-year-old spirits,’ Harry said, evenly, but under his glasses his cheeks sported two dark bands of colour.

‘And I’ll thank you not to show up two hours late for collecting him!’ Draco retorted, trying and failing to keep his temper under control. ‘And he’s not your eleven-year-old. He’s his own person, one that would probably be a four-foot frozen statue by now if it weren’t for my spirits!’

Harry’s eyes were flashing dangerously, and suddenly he looked nothing like Wystan at all. All Potters were dangerous; Harry was reckless. Draco wouldn’t put it past him to right-hook him like they were in a pub brawl, or Body-Bind him and leave him to freeze to death in the snow. Consequences! Merlin curse him, does he ever think beyond five minutes into the future?

‘Do not think,’ Harry was saying, breathing heavily, ‘do not ever think that he’s yours, simply because he’s a Slytherin. He’s my son. Mine!’

‘Well, jeez, Potter,’ Draco drawled, his mentality regressing to that of a teenager. ‘I had, like, guessed that for myself, you know.’

A twitch went under Potter’s eye, but he reined himself in, although not without a visible effort. Draco raised an eyebrow, slightly intrigued. It seemed a decade and some had learnt him a little self-control. Miracles do happen. Just not that often…

Harry spun on the balls of his feet and strode after his son, who was kicking through piles of snow with childish glee as his trunk followed obediently. Wystan said something to his father as Draco watched, not quite sure why he was, his arms crossed defensively. Harry shook his head mutinously.

Draco paused for a moment, then called after them. His well-modulated voice carried easily across the distance. ‘Have a nice holiday, Wystan!’

Wystan’s teeth flashed in the dark as he turned to wave energetically. Only when his straining eyes could no longer pick out their shapes in the distance did Draco make his way back to the castle.

~

Snape was an imminently more reasonable man than Dumbledore, in Draco’s opinion; he did not force his teachers to attend the Christmas feast. Oh, not that Dumbledore had ever forced anyone to do anything, the wily old fox; simply hinted and encouraged and nodded and twinkled until he got his own way through sheer infuriating bloody-mindedness. Snape had said he would attend, under duress, as was expected of him, but that he would not require any other teachers to subject themselves to the culinary equivalent of self-flagellation if they didn’t want to themselves.

Draco sat back with a sigh, replete. He had pre-ordered his Christmas dinner from the house-elves, as ever ready and willing to serve; Granger’s Minority Liberation Party hadn’t even made a dent on their stickling of tradition, although she had managed to pass some Employment Equality Bills that Draco could see would be of great use to Wystan in the future.

With some claret to hand, Draco turned his attention to his neglected pile of post. He preferred to get all his end-of-term marking out of the way before Christmas; he could be called many things but a procrastinator was not one of them. Mail was never high on his list of priorities, as most of it was inter-castle memos containing information he usually received from the horse’s mouth before he ever bothered to read it.

Christmas cards from all the staff, despite the fact that he had never sent one in return during the whole of his career - except to Snape. A bill from Wurt’s Apothecary. A couple of circulars from the likes of WWW and Zonko’s, which Draco tossed into the fire without inspecting. Another Christmas card, from outside the castle.

Draco frowned as he turned over the rather grubby white envelope. His few connections were mainly business-related, as dead men didn’t make for great correspondents and he’d made few new friends outside the now-decimated Death Eater circle. His stomach jumped when he took in a familiar rounded script adorning the front of the card.

As Draco drew it out gently, dusting his fingers with spangles and glitter, a slip of paper fluttered into his lap. Picking it up, he read, and rolled his eyes:

I don’t know what you’ve done to make him like you, and I won’t rule out Dark Magic or something worse. All I know is he thinks you’re right up there with Krum and Dumbledore on a hero-worship pedestal. Telling him the truth would be like killing Santa Claus, but if you hurt him, Malfoy, I swear to god you will die slowly over several hours.

H. Potter.

‘Harry Potter, ladies and gentlemen,’ Draco said to himself, ‘the world’s only living brain donor.’

He put the note aside and turned his attention to the evidently home-made card. Draco quirked an eyebrow as he realised Wystan must have had Harry’s help to charm the obese snowman to wave it’s twiggy arms, as he was underage. How sweet. He opened it.

Dear Professor Malfoy, it read.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I’m really happy because the full moon didn’t fall on Christmas, like last year, which was manky. I think I got a new broom because I peeked through the wrapping when Dad wasn’t noticing. Remus has promised me my own Potion’s Starter Kit after some hinting. I must go, the two of them are decorating the tree but they’re yelling an awful lot, I think its fallen on them. Don’t eat too much turkey!

From, Wystan Potter (your student)

Trying not to read too much into his actions, Draco carefully placed the card on the bare mantlepiece, where the snowman waved forlornly at the bare expanse. Rolling his eyes at being blackmailed by some cotton wool, Draco waved his wand and a string of twinkling lights - green, of course - suddenly trailed across it, interspersed with holly sprigs. The dozen or so cards from the other teachers jumped up to join it. Draco shook his head and poured himself some more wine.

He meant to throw Harry’s ridiculous little missive in the fire, so it surprised him as much as anything when he carefully folded it away into his pocket.

~

‘Move that alembic away from the Bunsen flame!’ Draco said sharply. ‘It’s flammable, remember?’

‘Yes sir,’ Wystan said breathlessly, darting forward to snatch up the flask and deposit it a safe distance away.

‘Grind up those lacewings and measure out twelve and a half cubits,’ Draco said distantly. Wystan was quite a good assistant, but with a potion such as this precision was all. Draco’s concentration was pure and intent, and he had no energy to spare to mollycoddle the boy. Fortunately, aside from a few beginners’ mistakes in technique, he rarely needed it. This time next year he would be fixing this potion on his lonesome.

Half-an-hour later, the blue-green potion was simmering slightly. Draco heaved a satisfied sigh, and dusted off his hands. ‘That’s it for now. It has to stew for three hours. I’ll take it off the heat so we can continue from here next time.’

‘Thanks, Professor,’ Wystan said, smirking up at him with a face smeared with soot from taming one particularly boisterous and excessively dirty cauldron. ‘How am I going?’

‘Fine - for an amateur,’ Draco said shortly, and Wystan’s face fell. Draco relented slightly, but he continued frowning. ‘Wystan, you must remember that the only measure you have is against yourself. You do not need other people telling you that you are good, bad or indifferent to make it so.’

‘So if I said I was a Potion’s Master that would make it true?’ Wystan asked sceptically.

‘Of course not. You know you are not a master. You also know you have potential. Just please refrain from forcing me to spell it out for you every time! Trust me, were you as bad as you like to make out, I wouldn’t have let you in here in the first place, much less allowed you to continue coming. Think about the evidence as opposed to what people tell you.’ Draco paused, rubbing his forehead in mild frustration. ‘You are a Slytherin, for Merlin’s sake!’

Wystan’s self-doubts seemed to evaporate with those words, for he straightened and a dark gleam came into his eyes - not green, this time; closer to black. ‘A Slytherin,’ he repeated.

‘Yes,’ Draco said, tossing his head arrogantly. ‘I’ll let you in on a little secret, Potter - that fact is all the confidence you need.’

‘Because I’m a pureblood?’ Wystan said, almost angrily.

‘Are you?’ Draco raised an eyebrow. ‘Did you even listen to the Sorting Hat? The Weasleys are purebloods, and they didn’t gain admission to Slytherin. This House is not for the dregs, Potter; it is for diamonds only.’

Wystan pursed his lips. ‘I like the Weasleys.’

Draco huffed impatiently. ‘And I do not. Wasted potential is always irritating. That is not what we were discussing, however. Each House has it’s own agenda and its own pride. Slytherin just…has higher standards than the rest. Just by being here you beat every Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Gryffindor in your year.’

‘I’m sure they could say the same thing,’ Wystan said dryly. Draco laughed; the noise broke the vague tension that had been building.

‘Possibly. But a Slytherin would know which one of you is right.’

‘Me, of course,’ Wystan said immediately.

Draco smiled, a feral smile and painfully proud. ‘Do you know what your name means?’ he asked.

‘No. Why? What’s yours mean?’

‘Dragon, of course,’ Draco said, rolling his eyes before realising it was quite possible, and proper, that Wystan might not know his given name. ‘Anyway,’ he went on hastily, ‘Wystan means battle-stone. For once, your father got something right.’

‘You don’t like him very much, do you?’ Wystan asked curiously, over his shoulder as he washed his hands. His tone was too carefully neutral to make it anything less than a loaded question.

Draco struggled to find words. If you hurt him, Malfoy…

‘Not…no, not particularly,’ he said at last. ‘But the feeling is mutual.’

‘And immutable?’ Wystan suggested. ‘Is it because you were a Death Eater?’

The casual inquiry nearly felled him. Draco looked down and realised his hands were white-knuckled, gripping his desk. Many people - mostly Harry’s cronies and their offspring - knew about his past, but it was by no means common knowledge. And Harry had as much as said he wasn’t going to tell his son. So how did he find out?

‘Don’t worry,’ Wystan said, smiling slightly. ‘I don’t hate you for it. I know the Headmaster was one too. It doesn’t make you a bad person.’

‘It doesn’t?’ Draco gasped out. ‘Hell, do you even know what the Death Eaters were, boy?’

Wystan narrowed his eyes, but his voice was calm. ‘They were Voldemort’s supporters. And before you ask, I know who he was too.’ He cleared his throat. ‘I once heard Remus say you were a double-crosser. A spy. Is that true?’

‘Is there anything you don’t know about me? Out of curiosity?’

‘Yeah.’ Wystan shrugged. ‘I don’t know why you and my father hate each other so much. That’s why I asked.’

‘Hate’s a very strong word,’ Draco said weakly, and found to his inordinate surprise that he was telling the truth. A school-boy rivalry was not strong enough to be called hate. Not strong enough to use to cast the Killing Curse. As they had both discovered. ‘I - dislike him -’ envy him ‘- and we’ve never seen eye to eye -’ the understatement of the century ‘- but all this was a very long time ago. Ancient history.’

‘It didn’t seem so ancient when he picked me up last term,’ Wystan said stubbornly. ‘Dad was like a thundercloud for hours, and he nearly bit my head off when I said your name. He wouldn’t even listen when I tried to tell him about learning Wolfsbane. He only calmed down after Remus bawled him out.’

A sudden realisation hit Draco, leaving his mouth inexplicably dry. When he spoke, his voice was hoarse. ‘Are Remus and your father - I mean - does Remus live with you?’

‘Yeah,’ Wystan said, and saw Draco’s face. For some reason, he grinned at its thunderstruck expression. ‘Oh, don’t worry. They aren’t lovers. Remus is straight. They were both friends with someone called Sirius Black, and they both still miss him even though he died years ago, so they’re sort of like brothers.’

‘Oh,’ Draco said, wishing he knew why he felt relieved. Wystan’s mischievous expression winked up at him. ‘Hey, what do you mean? I’m not worried! Who said anything about worrying?’

‘When you’re in a hole, stop digging,’ Wystan murmured, and Draco glared daggers at him. Outwitted by an eleven-year-old. Sorrow, shame.

‘Remus is more like a mum, really,’ Wystan was musing. ‘He told me about the birds and the bees and stuff. He helped with the whole werewolf thing, which was great. And he told me about my mother. I was a one-night stand, you see. He thought I deserved to know, but Dad nearly kicked him out over it.’

Draco winced. ‘That was harsh.’

‘Dad can be a little hasty at times.’

‘I meant about telling you.’

‘Why?’ Wystan’s tone would have made glaciers envious. ‘Don’t you think I’m old enough to know it? Slytherin enough?’

Draco gulped, realising he’d backed himself into a wall. ‘Of course not…look, I just don’t imagine it’s such a nice thing to hear.’

‘But I needed to hear it,’ Wystan said. ‘So I wouldn’t be expecting her to - I don’t know, come back and be a mum. Dad’s all for lying to make people feel better, but I think it’s only storing up pain for the future. ‘

Draco blinked, because he actually agreed with Wystan. The boy sometimes seemed to show the wisdom of the ages. At others, he was a silly little boy, but Draco didn’t expect anything more of anyone his age. That Wystan could sometimes overcome his immaturity only deserved kudos but then, any child of Harry Potter’s was never going to be normal. In fact, considering his background, he was amazingly well-adjusted.

Except for one thing…

‘Wystan, have you made any friends in your year yet?’ Draco asked sternly.

‘Nope,’ Wystan said casually, not seemingly remotely bothered by the admission.

‘That’s - that’s bad,’ Draco said lamely.

‘Why?’ Wystan asked, sounding genuinely curious. ‘You got on okay without them.’

‘What do you mean? I had friends!’ Draco retorted.

‘Did you?’ Wystan asked archly. ‘Weren’t they more like bodyguards? Who were they again…Grabbe and Coyle?’

‘Crabbe and Goyle,’ Draco corrected automatically, and realised his mistake a second too late. Wystan was grinning again, and suddenly inherited yet another characteristic of his father’s - that smug expression that made Draco want to punch him. ‘Who have you been talking to?’

‘Remus, of course. He was your teacher once, wasn’t he? Of course, Dad would know heaps more, but I’m not suicidal.’

‘So I was a self-contained kid,’ Draco said defensively. ‘That doesn’t make it right for you. Besides, I make a bloody awful role-model.’

‘You’re not too bad,’ Wystan said thoughtfully. ‘A bit like Dad, in ways - really prickly, but completely soft underneath.’

Draco turned scarlet and incoherent with rage. ‘I don’t know what’s worse about what you just said - that you made these ridiculous assumptions, out of the air it seems, about my character - of which you know nothing! - or that you compared me to Harry Potter!’

‘I’d definitely say the latter,’ Wystan said shrewdly, tapping his chin. Draco wondered when he would pick up that hair-ruffling trick of Harry’s. Never, hopefully, for the sake of Draco’s sanity.

‘Oh dear, would you look at the time?’ Draco said quickly. ‘Better get you off to bed.’

He bundled Wystan out of the door, grinning all the way. When it closed behind him, Draco leaned against it with a defeated sigh and shut his eyes. Was Wystan making a couple of educated guesses, or did he truly think - Draco face-palmed swiftly, firmly cutting off that thought, and decided his date with his alcohol cabinet was long overdue.

 
 
Current Mood: ditzyditzy
Current Music: 'Chiquita,' ABBA
 
 
 
Caitcoralia13 on November 13th, 2004 06:03 pm (UTC)
You're talking to me , of course! : ) But I know the feeling.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on November 14th, 2004 09:01 am (UTC)
Yes, thank god! I was thinking afterwards that it'd be just typical if no one did reply, that I'd brought some kind of karma down on myself...*facepalm*
Caitcoralia13 on November 13th, 2004 07:47 pm (UTC)
This is totally amazing. You take characters places I never took them (or, to be honest, ever wanted them to go), but I accept it because your writing is so good and interesting! But when did Harry turn into an ass?

By the way, YOU MUST SEE THIS: http://www.eskimolabs.com/hp/
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on November 14th, 2004 09:03 am (UTC)
It's often a thing - I mean, I read Arundhati Roy's 'God of Small Things,' which is the most amazing book EVER, and accepted all the ...wierd... stuff (I won't say, because you should read it and I don't want to spoil it) because her writing was so hypnotic. Not that I think I'm particularly good - although I flatter myself that my grammar is better than a Suethor's xD.

Trying to remember...well, tell me what exactly I said to make him an ass and I can tell you why!
Caitcoralia13 on November 14th, 2004 10:44 am (UTC)
Well, I guess he's not such an ass when we find out he doesn't drink. Yeah, he's cool. But why was he 2 hours late? But I am relieved to see that Wystan loves him so much. In the first chapter, I'd got the impression that they didn't have a very good relationship. HARRY RULES!
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on November 14th, 2004 12:33 pm (UTC)
...

This is why I need a *beta*. Plot holes like this just crop up everywhere. Ah, well, it didn't seem important when I read over it, I guess. Held up at work - that was the sole reason my parents were ever late collecting me. Thinking: a Quidditch practice ran over. Heh. Plots happen to other people I planned for that to happen.