Ch. 11- "The Christmas Ball"
Notes: This fic will probably be kind of long... bear with me if there are lapses between chapters, as I do have a career that exhausts/frustrates me quite often. I have never written HP fanfiction before, either, so sorry if I do the characters OOC or something.. ok, scratch that, there will be OOCness. This IS a slash fic, after all. =p And I think this is my first non-anime fanfic, too... o_O scary...
Thanks to Mami-san for beta-ing the fic- goddess knows I'm too damn lazy to spellcheck my own junk. @_@
I got the title frum the song of the same name from "Fushigi Yuugi"- it's Soi's song, I believe.
Warning: This is a Draco/Harry SLASH fic. Don't like that, bugger off. -_- And for those of you who despise Draco, I understand.. ^.^; He IS quite the shithead... but I can't help but like this couple. Also, if you haven't read all 4 current HP books, this fic will most likely contain spoilers. You've been forwarned.
Lights bobbing in the night air announced the arrival of the search party as Harry and Draco emerged from the Forbidden Forest side-by-side. Professor Dumbledore, Snape, and McGonnagal led the way. The two boys exchanged a wary glance before going forward to meet their "welcome party".
"Are you insane?!" McGonnagal exploded the instant they were within hearing range, her steps quick and angry. "Going into the Forbidden Forest alone! You could have been killed!"
Snape's face was livid as he glared at Harry. "I should have known you were behind this," he snapped. "Don't even bother with any excuses this time, Potter. You're through."
Harry opened his mouth helplessly.
"He was going in after me," Draco interrupted firmly, flicking Snape a stubborn look. "To get me out."
Snape stared at him in angry silence.
Professor Dumbledore came to a halt before the bedraggled boys, tucking his hands in his wide sleeves and gazing down at them calmly but sternly. "Mr. Potter, Mr. Malfoy," he said quietly, "please come with me."
Harry nodded meekly and fell into step behind the headmaster, Draco on his heels. Snape kept his mouth shut with difficulty, while McGonnagal muttered furiously to herself, her face agitated. Harry knew it was her reaction to her worry over them, and tuned her out. Hopefully they would be able to clear this up.
The majority of the student body was crowded at the main entrance, whispering to each other and staring as the two previous enemies were marched by. Harry glimpsed Hermione's worried face in the crowd before he was whisked away.
They ascended to the headmaster's office in stony silence, and Harry instinctively scooted closer to Draco, shooting him a worried look. The Slytherin's face was a mask of cool indifference, but Harry knew he was nervous by the way he kept shifting his weight on the rising stairwell.
Fawkes cried out shrilly in greeting as the five wizards entered Professor Dumbledore's spacious office. "Please, have a seat," the old man invited quietly, moving to stand behind his desk. Harry was a little startled to see Ron fidgeting nervously in a chair before the desk, looking at him helplessly. Kyle was nowhere to be seen.
Snape opened his mouth, no doubt to begin his tirade, but Dumbledore was obviously not in the mood this night. He held up a hand to silence the other man, his eyes boring into the two ruffled boys taking their seats.
"Firenze brought Mr. Weasley and Mr. Urback in not ten minutes ago," he said gravely. "He was kind enough to tell us what little he knew. Mr. Weasley also gave us his version of the story. Now.." He sat down carefully, resting his hands on the top of his desk and gazing at his students keenly from behind his spectacles. "I would like to hear your version." He flicked a look at the two opposing House Professors. "With no interruptions."
Harry glanced at Draco for support.
Draco looked straight at the headmaster. "Kyle knocked me out and brought me into the Forest," he said simply. "Harry came after us to get me back."
Snape and McGonnagal stared at them.
"I see." Dumbledore looked expectantly at Harry.
"I.. think he worked for Voldemort," Harry blurted.
McGonnagal winced slightly at the blatant use of the name. Snape sneered in derision and Dumbledore didn't so much as blink.
"And why is that?" he asked calmly. "I think you had better tell us everything that happened. Be as accurate as you can."
Harry nodded, took a deep breath, and quickly filled him in on everything that had happened from when he had seen Draco standing at the edge of the Forest up til Firenze had taken Ron and Kyle back to the school. He tactfully left out the soft kiss and any other hints at the strange relationship between himself and the stone-faced boy.
McGonnagal arched her brows at her student's unconcious use of his prior rival's first name, and Snape scowled at him the whole time he was talking, obviously not believing a word of it. Both of them, however, kept their comments to themselves until the tale was finished.
"I see," Dumbledore said gravely before turning his wise eyes on Malfoy. "And is all of this true?"
"Yes," Draco said without hesitation, staring straight back. "I knew Kyle's father was a Death Eater- but I didn't know Kyle was in training to be one."
Harry had a nagging suspicion that was a lie, but kept his mouth shut.
"Mm," Dumbledore murmured thoughtfully, looking over their heads at nothing, steepling his long fingers together.
Snape's face was dark as he turned to his employer. "If this is true," he growled, "then that boy cannot be allowed to stay at this school. He endangered the lives of three students."
Harry stared at him.
"You should have come straight to us when Mr. Urback abducted Malfoy," McGonnagal said to Harry sternly. "You could have been killed- getting involved in a Wizard's Duel with a practitioner of the Dark Arts."
"I thought he would kill him if I didn't follow him," Harry protested. "By the time I got help, that snake could have eaten Draco." He shuddered at the thought. "It wouldn't listen when I talked in parseltongue, and Kyle had no control over it."
"Please don't punish Harry for this," Ron burst out, speaking for the first time, his face strained. "He was just trying to help Malfoy."
"I'm not going to punish Mr. Potter," Dumbledore informed him quite calmly, and the three boys exchanged a quick, hopeful look. "There IS some punishment in order for one student, however."
Malfoy straightened, his jaw tightening, but Dumbledore looked past him at Snape, his face stern. "As you said, Mr. Urback risked the lives of his fellow students. Not only that, but he blatantly admitted to his allegiance to Voldemort." He sighed sadly. "Though I wish it were not true for one so young."
Snape nodded curtly, his lips a thin line. "He is to be expelled, then?"
"Yes." Dumbledore shook his head slowly, a look of regret on his face. "Notify his parents and tell Mr. Urback to pack his bags tonight. He will be leaving early tomorrow morning. Until then, I want him to remain confined."
Snape nodded and turned sharply, leaving the room in long strides.
"As for the rest of you..." Dumbledore peered at the three boys before him over his spectacles. "I believe you all have a Ball to attend. We will discuss more of this later. Professor McGonnagal, please tend to the rest of the students."
"Yes, sir." The Transfiguration teacher turned to the boys. "Come along."
Ron, Harry, and Draco hastily rose and followed her to the door.
Harry paused, turning back to the aged wizard seated behind the desk. Professor Dumbledore was stroking Fawke's back gently, with the hint of a kind smile on his face as he regarded the teenager. "Loyalty and love for your friends is the strongest ally you will ever have, Harry. Remember that. It was these weapons that helped you tonight."
Harry nodded soberly. "Yes, Professor."
"Now run along to the dance. You wouldn't want to keep Ginny waiting." There was a twinkle in his eye as he said this, and Harry could have sworn that the old man sent the briefest of glances towards Draco.
Harry turned and hurried after his friends, wondering just how much the old man suspected was going on behind the scenes.
Both boys stopped to stare at the pretty girl that came running towards them in the halls.
"Hermione?" Ron squeaked.
"Are you all right?" Hermione gasped, stopping before them and leaning over to catch her breath, her freshly-curled hair tumbling over her shoulders to wrap her face in a curtain. She was dressed in plain but nice-fitting dress robes, accenting her woman's shape in just the right way for the first time to the two dumbfounded boys.
Hermione had grown to be quite a pretty young woman- especially when "all dolled up".
Harry finally found his voice, grateful that they had left Draco behind earlier to get to his own House. "We're fine, Hermione. We'll tell you all about it in a minute." Hermione nodded, straightening. "You look nice," Harry added. She smiled at him charmingly.
Harry unobtrusively elbowed his best friend in the ribs.
"Uh-" Ron gave a start and blinked, snapping his mouth closed. "Yeah. You look good, Hermione."
She sent him a sideways glance, arching her brows at him, though the hint of a helpless smile played on her tainted lips. "Thanks," she said graciously. Ron smiled back almost shyly, and just like that things were all right again.
Harry grinned and stepped in beside Hermione, walking back to the Gryffindor hall with his two friends to get ready for the Ball.
"Ron, I hope you're going to take a quick shower," Hermione said delicately as they walked.
"You stink, dear."
"Well you do. So does Harry."
"Hermione," Ron groaned, "you sound like my mother."
Hermione just laughed gaily and took both boys' arms in hers, leaning her head affectionately on Ron's shoulder as they walked.
There were quite a few heads that turned when the two couples entered the Great Hall at last. No one was exactly sure what had happened in the Forbidden Forest, but as their appearance proved that they were not to be expelled, the majority of the student body turned back to what they were doing after a moment, no doubt intending to question the two boys thoroughly later.
Harry felt a little nervous as he led a happily flushed Ginny into the Hall, carefully avoiding looking at anyone. Hermione and Ron walked beside him, looking like the perfect couple, and Harry felt happy for them. He smiled encouragingly at Ron, who smiled tremulously back, something strange flickering in his eyes before he looked away.
Already couples had started dancing; the younger students looking nervous and shy and the older couples pressed close together. Hermione looked around at them all before turning to regard her date in the dress robes Harry had pressed the Weasley twins to buy him two years ago. The hem had been taken from the bottom and sleeves to allow for his height this year, but it still looked nice on him.
Ron caught her hopeful look and cleared his throat nervously, glancing around uneasily. "Uh.. wanna dance?"
"Just don't step on my feet," she teased, but lightened the blow by taking his hand in her own and leading him to the dance floor.
"That's so sweet," Ginny murmured, smiling after her brother. "He really does like Hermione. The guys tease him about it at home." She fidgeted shyly with the sleeves of her robes.
Harry wasn't really paying attention, skimming the crowd with his eyes, searching for a familiar head of gold.
He finally spotted the Slytherin at the snack table, talking in a low voice with another Slytherin as he, too, raked the crowd with a searching look. Cho was walking towards him with a cup of punch.
Harry swallowed. She looked really nice in her lavender robes, her dark hair pulled up in an inticrite twist. She stopped beside Draco and he turned to talk with her. She smiled at him, talking animatedly, and Harry felt the tiniest surge of jealousy- though even he was not sure who it was directed towards.
He caught Ginny fidgeting out of the corner of his eye, looking uncomfortable and a little forlorn, and instantly felt guilty. He offered her his arm, trying not to look or sound as nervous as he felt. "Would you like to dance?"
Her face lit up as she beamed up at him. "Yes," she said quickly, taking his arm.
Hermione's dance lessons had paid off, after all. Harry didn't trod on Ginny's robes or feet once as they did a simple waltz. He was beginning to get the hang of it and actually start to enjoy himself when there was a tap on his shoulder. He turned his head, half expecting to find Ron, and was startled when he was confronted with none other than Draco Malfoy.
He looked sharp in his tailored robes, and the gel had been used sparingly on his hair, allowing his bangs to drift hapharzardly into his eyes, framing his pale face. He looked dangerously handsome, his face set in an emotionless mask as he gazed steadily at Harry before turning his pale blue eyes on Ginny. "Mind if I cut in?" he asked in suave gentleman fashion.
Ginny flushed, looking surprised and unsure. Harry released her and stepped back, feeling a frown tug at his mouth as he glanced around for Cho. She was dancing with a seventh year student, laughing as he joked with her. This was his chance, he realized. If Draco was going to dance with Ginny, then he could dance with Cho. Was that why Draco had stepped in? Was he really that thoughtful?
"Y-yes," Ginny said, flustered.
Draco's lips curved in a self-satisfied smile. "Thank you."
And he extended his hand to Harry, still grinning that infuriatingly mocking grin. "Well?"
Harry stared at him, completely taken by surprise. Ginny's eyes widened to twice their normal size.
"Wha.." Harry sent a frantic glance to Ginny, then back to Draco. "Me?" he squeaked.
Draco ignored his protests and seized him by the wrist. "I'll bring him back in one piece," he promised Ginny with a smirk before dragging Harry a little bit away from the flabbergasted girl.
"D-Draco," Harry hissed, his face burning impossibly red. "What are you doing??"
Draco faced him calmly, taking Harry's hand deftly in his own and wrapping his arm around the other boy's waist. People nearby were starting to stare as they noticed the odd couple, and whispers started. Harry, humiliated, tried to draw back.
"I thought you didn't care what people think," Draco murmured, lowering his head so that his lips brushed against Harry's forehead as he spoke.
Harry's cheeks were flaming as he stammered an excuse.
Draco blithely ignored him, and began to dance. Harry had no choice but to move with him.
Draco moved gracefully and with a calm expression on his face, as if dancing with another boy were the most natural thing in the world. Harry's heart was thundering, and his face felt like it was going to catch fire any second; so did his waist, for that matter, with Draco's arm wound so intimately around it. He could feel the stares of the other students boring into him, and as they took a turn he caught a glimpse of Ron and Hermione staring at him from the crowd. Hermione had a startled look on her face that melted into a rueful grin. But it was Ron's face that shook Harry to the core. He was watching them dance with a dead look in his eyes, his mouth a tight white line. Then Draco was turning again, and he lost sight of them.
Harry took a deep breath to calm himself and chanced a glance up at his dance partner. Draco offered a wry grin. "You want to stop?" he asked tauntingly.
Harry felt a flash of defiance go through him, and jutted his chin rebelliously. "They would have found out sooner or later," he declared, and boldly moved a little closer. Draco's lips turned in a small secret smile, his eyes dancing with mischief.
"So Potter grows a backbone," he jeered quietly.
"Will you quit calling me Potter?" Harry made a face at the taller boy. "Or should I start calling you Malfoy again?"
Draco blinked dumbly at him before giving a harsh laugh, taking another turn around the room. "Habit," he said airily.
Harry hit him with the hand resting on Draco's shoulder. "Well break the habit, damn it!"
Draco laughed again, louder, obviously amused. "You're cute when you're mad," he teased, and Harry flushed again.
"Shut up," he muttered.
Harry rolled his eyes and closed his eyes to block out the sight of the other students, letting himself gradually relax, allowing the music to carry him with it. It felt so different but so right to be in the Slytherin's arms.. as sappy as it sounded, even to himself. He gave a quiet sigh and leaned forward to lay his forehead against the other boy's shoulder, face almost burrowed in the taller boy's neck. He felt Draco give a little involuntary shiver at the close contact and allowed a triumphant smirk to touch his lips.
Draco's hand on his waist slid up in a near-carress of his back. Draco turned his head slightly so that his breath fell on Harry's ear, and it took all Harry had not to shudder at the sensation. He flushed in embarrassment at the naughty thoughts that cropped up in his head at the intimate contact, and was grateful that he couldn't see everybody watching them.
"Wot in th' blue blazes is goin' on??" Hagrid demanded in astonishment, gaping at the dancing couple.
Professor McGonnagal looked a little resigned and pale. "Oh, dear," she sighed. "This is going to cause some complications."
"Oh pish tosh," little Professor Flitwick tutted, munching on a tart. "There's no harm in it, really."
"Except that one is the son of a suspected Death Eater and the other is growing to be one of the best, most lion-hearted wizards Hogwarts has seen in years," McGonnagal said a bit sharply.
Professor Viggersnout, the new DADA teacher, blew calmly on his coffee to cool it, watching the boys from beneath sagging eyebrows with sharp old eyes. "Was bound to happen sooner or later, from what I've heard," he grunted.
McGonnagal gaped at him. "You must be joking."
Snape was positively black with rage. "How dare he," he sputtered. "What right does Potter think he has disgracing Malfoy in front of the whole school? The little freak."
McGonnagal leapt instantly to her student's defense. "It was Malfoy that initiated the dance, Severus, not Potter," she pointed out.
Snape glared daggers at her. "Those two are a walking disaster together," he said with barely-concealed fury. "How do those blockheads expect to keep this up? Lucius Malfoy would have a conniption if he found out about this. And if he IS a Death Eater, he could use his son to get to Potter for Voldemort."
McGonnagal and Hagrid flinched at the forbidden name. "That is true," she relented reluctantly, casting the couple a worried look. "We don't know what Malfoy's true intentions are."
"Could his father have set him up for it?" Viggersnout muttered, sipping at his coffee.
Snape's face was hard. "Malfoy wouldn't listen to his father if he DID tell him," he said shortly. "There's an uneasy relationship between them at home."
McGonnagal shook her head in despair, and the other teachers exchanged glances. They were not as blind and ignorant as their students believed. More than one of them had seen Draco's bruises before, and they all knew of Lucius's black temper. "Do you think we should intervene?" she asked delicately.
Professor Dumbledore approached then, holding a saucer with a half-eaten slice of cake on it. "Don't be old-fashioned," he said, digging at the cake with a fork as he stopped beside Hagrid. "If their feelings for each other are genuine, let them be. Hagrid, you must try this cake. Dobby made it."
"But Albus," McGonnagal protested helplessly, "it could put Potter- or the both of them -at great risk."
"It's jus' cake, Professor," Hagrid said.
Snape rolled his eyes, teeth clenched. Viggersnout looked amused.
The aging headmaster turned his head to regard the dancing boys calmly. "I think that they know the risks they're taking," he said quietly. "Otherwise they would not have ventured as far as they have. Draco and Harry are not stupid."
"I'll give them props," Hagrid grunted, taking the fork of cake Dumbledore offered. "It takes a lot of guts to do what they're doin' now-- showin' the whole school how they feel abou' each other."
Dumbledore's wrinkled face creased in a smile, his beard bobbing as he chewed on his dessert. "They're going to need a lot of guts in the days ahead of them," he agreed. "Their relationship won't be so easily accepted by the rest of the students."
Snape scowled, looking reluctantly towards the couple. "Potter," he said at last, gruffly, "will take care of him."
The others stared at him, some in surprise, others in polite confusion.
But Dumbledore just smiled and nodded sagely. "They'll look after each other."
Author's Notes: OK, I lied. -_-;; There's an epilogue. I really thought this was going to be the last chapter, but things still need to be wrapped up and this ch. was getting pretty lengthy.. ^.^;; sorry. Epilogue comin' up soon!
Oh, and... the epilogue could be anywhere from R to NC-17..not sure yet. Do you think it should be? If it's NC-17 I'll most likely just put the epi. up on my site and leave a link here. What do you think? Should they go all the way? *snerk* Or just make it R? ^_^ I have different endings in mind for both.
Let me know~ See ya!
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Chapter 12 + Epilogue