"I just do not think that you are fit to be Head of House," Severus said snappishly. "You stopped by to look at the puppies but didn't do anything about them?"
Sirius shrugged sheepishly. "The kids were having fun with them. I was just going to wait until Headmistress McGonagall got better so she could transfigure them back."
"And you couldn't?" Severus asked.
Sirius frowned. "They taught reversing transfigurations around the time we were learning to become animagi. I wasn't really paying attention."
Severus rubbed his forehead tiredly. "Have you any idea how much trouble this has caused me?"
"A lot, I'm guessing."
"You would be right," Severus replied. "Do try to keep a better eye on your house from now on."
"Will do, deputy," Sirius said cheerily.
Severus gave him a dark look. "Go. Harry should be calling me soon."
"Alright then," Sirius said, heading for the door. "See you later."
Severus merely grunted in return and dug the mirror out from in underneath the pile of papers that littered his desk. Papers that all needed attention, preferably tonight. He sighed and picked up the mirror as it began to glow.
"Hi," Harry said on the other end.
"Hello," Severus replied, the weariness filtering through in his voice.
"You seem tired," Harry noted. "Everything okay at Hogwarts?"
"Other than the mess of snakes, puppies and aggressively rude furniture, it is going quite well," he said, partially sarcastic.
"Uh oh. What happened?" Harry inquired, interested.
"A Gryffindor-Slytherin prank. You might want to ask one of your friends to fill you in, for if I have to repeat it, I may change my mind and take more points from Gryffindor."
"More?" Harry asked in surprise. "How many did you take?"
"Who started it?"
"Slytherin," Severus admitted reluctantly. "Though Gryffindor exacerbated the issue."
Harry voice was full of accusation when he asked, "Well, did you take points from Slytherin too?"
"Naturally. Fifty as well," Severus replied.
"Oh. Okay then."
"How are things at Durmstrang?" Severus asked. The question was obligatory.
Harry shrugged through the mirror. "Alright, I guess."
"Everything fixed up between you and your-"
"She's not my girlfriend."
"-friend who happens to be a girl?" Severus finished.
"Oh. Sorry. And yeah, it's fine now. I'll tell you about it later," Harry dismissed, seeming preoccupied. "I am a little worried about Draco, though."
"He's acting a little weird again. He's reading these huge antique books but won't let me see them or tell me what they're on," Harry said, frowning.
"Have a look when he's not around," Severus suggested.
"I don't feel right doing that," Harry admitted.
"I forgot, the righteous Gryffindors..."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Well I wouldn't want him poking around in my stuff either."
"Hm. Do you think it is anything dark?" Severus asked.
"I don't know," Harry replied. "I guess I'll just keep an eye out for now."
"Good idea," Severus said shortly. "I hate to dismiss you, but the work has really managed to pile up in two days of absence. If you don't mind..."
"'Course not. See you later," Harry said.
"Be safe," Severus intoned, as always.
"Yeah, yeah, 'constant vigilance' and all that. I got it."
Severus gave a light snort. "Who says that?"
Harry shrugged. "One of my professors. Bye."
The mirror returned to its normal reflective surface and Severus laid it on his desk. Now, the fun part. Paperwork.
For a few weeks, nothing seemed amiss, save Draco's odd preoccupancy with books. It was rare that he left his bag in his room and within it were usually several large volumes. The curiosity was killing Harry.
He had tried to glimpse their spines, their covers, a single page within, anything. Unfortunately, being that Draco had rather Slytherin tendencies, he was often subtly prevented from gaining any insight. That did not, however, stop Harry from wondering. Or asking.
"How's your book?" Harry asked brightly, sitting across from Draco in the library.
As if by a delayed reaction, Draco raised his head a few moments later. "What?"
"Is it good?"
Draco shrugged. "It's interesting."
"In what way?" Harry prompted.
"Every way," Draco replied curtly, knowing what he was after.
Harry conceded defeat. "I'll let you get back to it then."
"Thanks," Draco said dryly. He bent over the volume once more and Harry shared a look with Rhea who sat next to him at the library table. She gave a half shrug and slid over a roll of parchment.
"Do you mind checking over my Potion's essay?" she asked. "You are much better at it than I am."
Harry gave a small smile. "Good teacher, you know. Sure."
He unrolled it and began to read, distracted a little by the beautiful cursive in which it was written. Pretty, sure, but readable, not so much. He squinted at the page.
"What's that say?"
"Walbourg's Root," Rhea translated with a slight blush. "Sorry.""That's alright, you should see my friend Ron's writing. While they're both nearly illegible, at least yours is pretty," Harry said with a chuckle.
"Thanks," she replied, rolling her eyes.
Harry finished reading through, crossing out a few lines here and there. "The spearmint is a catalyst, not a binding agent. Mosses are usually binding agents, you can remember it that way."
"That is smart," Rhea replied, nodding. "Thanks."
"No problem," Harry said easily, stomach rumbling. "I'm hungry. You guys ready to go down to dinner?"
"Sure," Rhea replied.
They both looked at Draco who had not replied. "Draco? Ready to go?" Harry prompted.
"I'm still prepa- reading," he said, amending his words.
Harry's head twitched. "Preparing for what?"
Draco chewed on the inside of his lip. "Just something I've been meaning to do. No big deal, you guys go on without me."
"Are you sure?" Harry asked, looking at his friend in both concern and suspicion.
"I'm just a third wheel anyway," Draco said dismissively, using that as an excuse to make them go away.
"No you're not," Harry and Rhea said at the same time.
"See? You're talking in sync. I definitely am." Draco looked at them. "Well, go on."
"Alright," Harry said reluctantly. "Let's go then."
He and Rhea walked down to dinner but Harry couldn't relax. He wondered when Draco would attempt whatever it was that he was planning. Maybe he'd get a chance to follow him, to check it out. Harry supposed that he would just have to wait and see.
As it happened, Harry had to wait a little over a week before he got any hint of a chance at all. It was a Friday evening and another insufferable Dark Arts class. Not that Professor Durus wasn't a good teacher, he was, it was just that Harry had a difficult time taking in information that day. It had been a rigorous week, class-wise, and he was more than ready for it to be over.
Pay attention, he told himself. This could save your life someday.
"Now, on to the next topic," Durus stated. "Curses. Three-tiered. Can anyone explain what that means?"
Draco's hand was the first in the air. Harry blinked, wondering if he was Hermione in disguise under all that blonde hair.
"Mr. Malfoy," Durus said, calling on him. "Care to explain?"
"Three-tiered curses act on three different levels. They can be of two classes, the physical or the linear. Physical means they affect three different areas of the body simultaneously, for example, mind, skin and limbs. Linear are generally time related, like a delayed reaction. You get hit, feel an immediate effect, then another kicks in minutes, hours, weeks, even months later. A third one follows after an indeterminate amount of time," Draco rattled off.
The entire class blinked at him. Draco was generally the quiet one who sat, absorbed. He answered questions now and again but never like that. Harry, for one, was in shock. Where had that come from?"Quite accurate, Mr. Malfoy," Professor Durus said, impressed. "Yes, Mr. Hiddeston?"
"So does that mean that you can get hit by one, a physical one, and hallucinate, grow an extra arm and turn purple all at once?" he asked, inciting a round of snickers from those around him.
Professor Durus took him seriously. "If someone cared to invent a spell to do such a thing, then yes."
"How do you invent a spell?" Draco blurted.
"We are getting off topic," Durus said. "Now, back to curses."
As Durus continued the lesson, Harry lost interest quickly, turning to study Draco rather than taking notes. He was even more worried now than he had been before. Those books had to be about Dark Magic. How else would he have known all that? It seemed as if his knowledge was pretty thorough too, not just the cursory information that one would pick up from skimming the upcoming chapters in the book.
At the end of class, Draco hung back. He waved at Harry to go on and he only did so reluctantly. At the door, Harry paused, looking back at Draco speaking with Professor Durus. He had his wand out and Durus was examining it. It was very odd, Harry thought. Before Draco had the chance to turn around and catch him, Harry was out of the door.
Two days later, Draco received a package. It was long and thin and wrapped in brown packaging paper with the tell-tale Ollivander's logo stamped on it. Harry watched from across the dorm room, trying to seem discreet. He lifted the Daily Prophet that Snape had forwarded a few weeks ago containing a few snippets of information about the tournament and hid behind it. He eyed Draco over the top as he opened the box and withdrew a gleaming, handsome ebony wand. His face lit up as he examined it.
"Wingardium Leviosa," he whispered, flicking at a book on the table. He glanced quickly over at Harry who lowered his gaze to the newspaper just in time. The book rose perfectly, Harry saw out of the corner of his eye. It seemed that Draco's new wand was a good fit.
After a few more minutes, Draco set the wand aside and headed for the shower being that it was actually rather late. Harry put down his newspaper and took out his Dark Arts book. He flipped to the index, scanning it for anything about wands. Harry's finger traced the column of words until it fell upon "Wandlore", page three hundred twenty five.
Some wands are better than others for use in the Dark Magiks. Dragon Heartstring is generally considered the best, though many Dark Wizards prefer Phoenix Feather if it can be procured. Harry frowned, heart giving a little jolt. Surely it meant nothing. Not everybody with a Phoenix feather wand had to be a dark wizard, right? Some cores are also entirely unsuitable for the Dark Arts. This is primarily Unicorn tail hair, though kneazle fur can also produce unpredictable curses and hexes in particular.
Harry's mouth twisted, trying to think back. That day in Ollivander's... He couldn't remember that far back. What he could check, however, was the new wand. Harry closed his book with a snap and hurried over, ignoring the small voice in the back of his head telling him not to look. He opened the box and flipped over the tag inside with Ollivander's logo on it.
Sixteen inches, ebony, Dragon Heartstring core. The water in the shower shut off. Harry hurriedly jammed the lid back on the box. He trotted back over to his bed, picking up his Dark Arts book and assuming the position he had been in before. In a few minutes, Draco came out, ready for bed.
Harry sat quietly for a few moments, then decided to bring up the subject of the wand. "Is that an Ollivander's box?"
"Yeah," Draco replied, sounding guarded.
"Did your wand break?" Harry asked.
"I lost it. Goodnight."
Harry frowned. "Goodnight."
Draco hadn't lost his wand. Harry had seen him with it in Transfiguration, just before they went to the Owlery and he got that package. Draco was lying, but why? Harry made it his mission to find out. Harry heard Draco roll over, seeming restless. Perhaps tonight would be the night he would discover what Draco was hiding. Harry sunk into his covers and closed his eyes. But he didn't sleep.