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Little Lion Boy

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His father had given him very explicit instructions before he got on the train. He was to make friends with Harry Potter, no matter what. After his initial failed attempt, and considering Potter’s family history and the company he’s keeping, it’s clear that he can only end up in one house.

The hat is barely settled on his head, and Draco’s thinking, GRYFFINDOR GRYFFINDOR GRYFFINDOR

You don’t have to shout, the hat mutters, Now what would you do in Gryffindor? You’re a Slytherin, boy, from your cunning mind to your ambitious heart. There’s nowhere else for you.

Gryffindor! he thinks, stubborn, because his father told him to do something, and he’s going to do it. Shedding a snake skin to lumber under a lion fur comes with its own advantages, surely.

And what will you do if young Mr. Potter doesn’t end up in Gryffindor? it asks, What will you tell your father then?

None of your business, he thinks. I’m a Malfoy and a Slytherin asking to be sent to the lion’s den, surely that means I have enough courage to qualify?

There’s a long pause, far too long, and then, I suppose it does, right before it shouts, “GRYFFINDOR!”

McGonagall’s eyes are huge behind her glasses, and Draco has to give the hat an impatient shake before she startles and takes it from him.

Pansy is glaring at him something awful, and he blows her a kiss as he walks to the Gryffindor table. Blaise at least looks amused. He hesitates when he gets to the end because there’s not exactly a lot of friendly faces staring at him, and the formerly open spaces have seemingly all closed up in the time it’s taken from him to walk over. For the first time, it occurs to him that this might have been a mistake.

“I, uh,” Longbottom says, face red as he scoots down on the bench. “Y-you can um, sit next to me. If – if you like.”

His automatic response is to sneer, but it freezes on his face.

He’s in enemy territory, masquerading as one of them. He needs friends otherwise this isn’t going to work, needs to act like one of them or they’ll never buy it, needs to act chivalrous, whatever that means. It probably means not sneering at people who are trying to help him, regardless of them being near-squibs from families that hate his.

He smooths his face out. “Thank you, Neville,” he says courteously as he takes the offered seat.

“Oh! Er, uh, you’re, um, y-you’re welcome, D-Draco,” he says, smiling nervously.

Draco returns it. They’re going to have to work on that stutter, and his speech patterns in general. Having a friend that’s an embarrassment isn’t going to do him any good, after all.  

A moment later, Harry is sorted into Gryffindor, and ends up seated across from him, glaring. It’s not even a very good glare. Clearly he hasn’t had enough practice, or possibly a good enough teacher.

“It looks like we’re going to be roommates, Harry,” he says pleasantly. “Isn’t that nice?”

Hm, okay, that glare is pretty good, actually. One of the Weasley twins sounds like he’s having some sort of fit from the effort it’s taking not to laugh, so maybe this won’t be so bad after all.

~

He ends up taking the bed between Neville and the wall, and this is another moment where he questions the wisdom of his choices. “Did Gryffindor hate his students?” he asks mournfully as he unpacks his trunk.

Neville smiles, because he actually understands the joke, while Ron bristles and everyone else just looks confused. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Draco has a catty answer on the back of his tongue but ends up biting it back instead. He can’t be like his father now, in this moment, sneering and domineering and forcing respect out of everyone he meets. He has to be his mother, blending and changing and cajoling her surroundings until they suit her. “The Slytherin dorms are two people to a room, and if there’s an odd number then someone gets their own,” he says. He was planning on sharing his room with Blaise. Either Vincent or Gregory would have been good too, but of course they wanted to room with each other. Theo was kind of intense, and possibly wanted to kill him, so they were all fine with letting him have his own room.

Blaise and Theo will get on fine though, even if Blaise ends up having a lot less fun without Draco as a roommate. Although it’ll be quieter.

Which brings him to his second point. “How am I supposed to get any studying done here?” he asks mournfully. “You lot don’t seem the studious type.”

Is he really going to have to study in the library, where everyone can see him? No, that simply won’t do. He’ll have to find someplace else. It’s a big castle, surely there’s an unused room somewhere.

Dean says, “Now you sound like my mother,” and Seamus cracks a grin too.

Ron and Harry are glaring at him. “Studying?” Ron repeats in disgust. “Why would you want to do that?”

Is this a trick question? “Because we’re at a school? To learn?”

“Merlin,” Ron mutters, shaking his head as he crawls into his bed and takes out a pack of exploding snap before even bothering to unpack, a game which everyone else quickly joins. How does he expect to get ready in the morning with all his things packed away? Unless he plans to get up early, but something tells Draco that he’s just not the type.

Whatever. Befriending Harry Potter is second to his primary goal, which is graduating the top of their year. After he finishes his clothes, he goes on his books, but the amount he brought is just far too many to fit on the small shelves the Gryffindor’s get. He would have had a whole bookshelf to himself in the Slytherin dorms.

“Here,” Neville whispers and points to his own empty shelf. “Y-you can, uh, put them there. I-if you want.”

“Thanks,” he says. He’s getting tired of saying it already but puts the rest of his books on Neville’s shelf anyway.

They’re still playing when he finishes, and no one invites him to play with them, and he can’t risk Neville doing it. He draws the curtains around his bed and pretends to go to sleep, listening to them laugh and play and get to know each other just a couple feet away, and thinks about how he could be hanging out with his own friends right now, but instead he’s here, listening to all the fun he’s not having.

The first spell he’s going to learn here is the silencing charm.

~

Draco wakes up before all the other boys the next morning and gets ready silently, doing his best not to wake everyone up. He hopes this is just because they stayed up late the night before, but he’s not counting on it, and he mourns the loss of Blaise as his roommate. They’re both early risers, so they would have woken at the same time and gotten ready while chatting and made their beds with the same impertinent flicks of their wands. They were planning on it, were looking forward to it, and now, well.

That’s most of the reason he’s being so considerate as to not wake any of his dormmates. He doesn’t exactly want an audience this morning.

Draco puts on his red and gold tie, smooths his hand over the lion crest across his chest, hoists his book bag over his shoulder, and goes down to the great hall.

The Gryffindor and Ravenclaw tables are basically empty this early in the morning, but there are a fair amount of Slytherins, and the Hufflepuff table is nearly full. He detours from his own table to go to the Slytherin one, stopping awkwardly in front of the first years. “Hey.”

Blaise is frowning and Pansy looks like she wants to rip his head off with her bare hands. Her being here is a bad sign, because she’s not an early riser, which means she’s here specifically to yell at him. Greg and Vinny wouldn’t get out bed early for love or money so he’ll have to wait to hear whatever opinions they have about his house.

Daphne, his least favorite chess opponent but currently the best person in the world, leans around them to grin at him. “Get a bit lost last night, didn’t you Draco?”

“Something like that,” he says. “Look, I can explain.”

“I cannot believe,” Pansy hisses, “that you’re abandoning us so you can cling to Harry Potter’s coattails.”

Well, it’s not like he would be friends with them if they were stupid. “Okay, one, I’m not abandoning you, Slytherins and Gryffindors have like all their classes together anyway and I promise I’ll still double check all your homework,” she looks slightly mollified at that, so at least some of her anger was related to her projected academic loss, “and two, if anyone’s riding on anyone’s coattails, it’s Harry on mine. You know he didn’t even know he was a wizard until a couple weeks ago? It’s like giving a baby a wand just to see what happens.” He may have closed his curtains, but he hadn’t gone asleep right away, and he was up more than long enough to overhear Harry talking to the others. 

“Dad was so mad when we did that to Lucas. Mum thought it was funny, though,” Pansy muses.

“It was funny,” he says, because it was. Lucus, barely a year old, had turned the whole east wing of the manor yellow, and hey, now his parents know for sure he isn’t a squib, so really they were doing them a favor. “Come on, you know what my dad told me to do. I’m just following orders.”

Blaise finally relents, shoulders drooping. “I’m sharing a room with Theodore for seven years! It was supposed to be us, Draco!”

Draco thinks back to the many conversations they’ve had about how Theodore is possibly a psychopath, and the five boys he’s forced to share a small space with, and says, “Blaise, believe me when I say, I think I envy you.”

Blaise tries to raise an eyebrow, trying to look as cool and aloof as his mum, but he doesn’t quite manage it, biting his bottom lip to stifle a laugh and failing.

Some of the uneasiness he’s been carrying around settles. He’s not doing this alone. Even if all of Gryffindor hates him forever, he still has his friends.

“OI, MALFOY!” He turns, wide eyed, and one of the Weasley twins is waving at him. He cups his hands around his mouth, even though the great hall isn’t nearly full or noisy enough to justify it. “YOU’RE AT THE WRONG TABLE!”

“You know,” Pansy says, “I think the consequences of your actions are punishment enough.”

He rolls his eyes and elbows her before throwing a quick smile at Blaise and Daphne and going over to the Gryffindor table.

His table.

~

Severus and McGonagall keep whispering at mealtimes and looking at him.

It’s very distracting.

He stays after the next potion class, waving Neville along when he tries to wait for him. He hesitates, clearly pulled between wanting to get as far away from Severus as quickly as possible and not wanting to leave Draco alone with him.

Sometimes Neville is so endearing it’s painful.

“It’ll be fine, I promise,” he says. Neville shoots him one more worried look then hurries out the door.

Draco shuts the door then turns to his godfather and crosses his arms. “Okay, what gives?”

Severus doesn’t pretend to misunderstand him. It’s one of the reasons Draco like him so much. He never acts like that Draco is less intelligent than he is. “Minerva is worried about you.”

“What? Does she think I’m going to curse one of her precious lion cubs in their sleep?” he demands.

“In case you haven’t noticed, you are one of her precious lion cubs, thanks to your father’s idiotic instructions.” His godfather hadn’t been pleased about Draco not being in his house. “She’s worried that you’re having trouble making friends.”

“I have plenty of friends,” he says, and he does. There are all his friends in Slytherin, and Susan Bones has latched onto him as a study partner. He’s known Lisa Turpin and Sue Li since he was a toddler, and they’re just as annoying and friendly as they’ve ever been. They’ve already talked about how they can break into the school’s broom closet to get some flying in before their first official lesson, which seems like a waste for anyone who’s not a muggleborn. Who doesn’t know how to ride a broom, honestly.

Severus is unmoved. “She’s worried that you’re having trouble making friend in your house.”

Ah.

“There’s Neville,” he says. “I think maybe the Weasley twins too, but they might just be acting friendly with me to piss Ron off.”

Lavender is nice too, but she’s nice like she’s keeping all her options open and may decide to be mean later and hasn’t yet made up her mind, so he’s a bit wary of her.

Severus only raises an eyebrow.

“It’s only been a couple of weeks,” he says. “I’ll figure it out. Stop staring at me in the great hall, it’s not helping.”

“You’re aware your housemates being close minded little brats is a judgement on them and not you, right?” he asks.

Draco smiles. He almost hugs him, but he knows Severus hates it. He endures it sometimes, as he considers it his duty as his godfather to hug him occasionally, but he’s never thrilled about it. “Hey, that’s my house you’re talking about. Watch it.”

Severus just rolls his eyes and sends him on his way.

Draco nearly walks right into Neville as he steps out of the potions classroom

“What are you still doing here?” he asks, looking around at the deserted hallway.

Neville shrugs, but gives him a once over, like he’s looking to see if he’s been maimed in the last couple minutes. “Er, n-nothing.”

“We’re going to be late for charms,” he says, hopelessly fond in spite of himself.

He may not have the quantity of friends he’d like, but the quality is rather excellent.

~

Draco hadn’t thought that his first friend in their year besides Neville would be Hermione Granger, of all people. He’d thought she was kind of embarrassing and way too high strung, personally.

But there was one positive thing about her that’s rather undeniable.

She’s brilliant.

He keeps bumping into her in the library, since he still hasn’t scoped out a good part of the castle to hide away and study in. Clearly he can’t do it in his dorm or the common room, since everyone is loud. There are plenty of Gryffindors who study in the common room and he doesn’t understand how they do it, he can barely hear himself think in there most days. Maybe he should ask Percy. Draco never sees him studying in there, so surely he’s found a better spot to do it in? But it’s also possible he doesn’t study at all and just absorbs his knowledge through osmosis, so maybe he wouldn’t have any advice to offer.

It’s a pity he can’t just spend a couple hours a day hiding away in the Slytherin common room. Well, he could, he’s known where it is for years and it’s not like his godfather is going to care if he’s there, even if his tie is red and gold. But he can’t do that, because if people just think he’s a Slytherin in Gryffindor, then they’ll treat him like a Slytherin, and this whole thing is pointless.

Which means he spends a lot of time in the library with Hermione Granger.

It’s fine, they’re doing a great job at ignoring each other, up until a shadow falls over his reading light and he looks up to see her scowling at him. “Are you almost done with that? I need it.”

She’s pointing at the book he’s reading, which is an advanced tome on the healing properties of various magical insects. “You don’t.”

There’s no way this can be relevant to anything she’s reading. It’s barely relevant to him, they just have a potion with acromantula hair coming up, and he knows Severus is going to grill him with as many too complicated, ridiculous questions as he can think of. Just because Draco’s his godson doesn’t mean he takes any less joy from taking points from Gryffindor, and he expects Draco to know the answer, unlike everyone else who he’s mostly just harassing. An unfortunate side effect of receiving potion lectures as bedtime stories since before he could speak.

“I do,” she insists. “This recipe for a vanishing potion doesn’t make any sense, and I think it might if I read that. Can you just give it to me when you’re done?”

His eyebrows push together. “What recipe are you looking at? It’s a straightforward potion.” It’s actually the same potion he’s reading this book for, but the brewing is hardly complicated. It’s a first year potion, after all.

Her scowl deepens. She stomps over to her bag, pulls out their potion book, then flips it open to a page she’s bookmarked and drops it front of him.

Merlin, she’s so dramatic.

It’s the beginning of beautiful friendship filled with arguing over every bit of academic minutia they come across and Neville trying and failing to keep the peace between them.

~

On one hand, Draco is excited about their first flying lesson, because flying is brilliant. On the other hand, their first lesson is sure to be incredibly boring, because it’s basic stuff like getting a broom to listen to you and not falling off. Still, flying is flying.

Both the Gryffindors and Slytherins are assembled on the field, and instead of talking to his friends in Slytherin, he finds himself in the unenviable position of having to reassure Hermione, who looks like they’re somewhere truly terrible, like history of magic, rather than a flying lesson. “It’s easy,” he tells her, “All you have to do is not fall off. Right, Neville?”

Neville jumps then looks down at his shoes. “O-oh. Um. I’ve never f-flown before.”

Draco’s not thrilled with his stutter. They’d been working on that. “Neville! Why not?”

He shrugs. “I’m clumsy. Gran said I’d c-crack my head open.”

Bloody hell. “Didn’t your uncle push you down the stairs to see if you were a squib and you just bounced down like you were made of rubber?”

“Yeah,” he answers, looking a little green at the memory.

“Then why would you crack your head open if you fell off your broom?” he demands. He’s aware that’s not exactly how it works, that possibly his wandless magic wouldn’t save him if he’d fallen on his head, but it’s the principal of the whole thing. He turns to the rest of the Gryffindors. “You’ve all flown, haven’t you? Not you, Harry, obviously.”

Harry looks offended at that for some reason, which, really, he was raised by muggles, why would he have flown before?

Ron, Dean, and Lavender nod, but Seamus and Parvati shake their head. Great.

“Well, don’t worry about it,” he says, turning back to Hermione. “I’ve been flying for years and it’s not that hard. You’ll be fine.”

“Indeed she will, Mister Malfoy,” Madame Hooch says from right behind him, and he only doesn’t jump due to his cousin Luna thinking it’s the funniest thing ever to hide behind things to try and scare him at family dinners. “Now, everyone stand next to a broom, put your dominant hand over it, and say Up! Be very firm!”

“UP!” says a chorus of voices. Every broom on the Slytherin side rises smoothly into their riders’ hands. His, Harry’s, and Ron’s do the same, but Dean, Seamus, Lavender, and Parvati have to say it a couple more times to get their brooms to float begrudgingly into their hands.

Neville’s just turns over sullenly and Hermione’s doesn’t react at all.

“You have to be firm,” he hisses. “The broom can tell if you’re scared, so you can’t let it know. If you could stop being scared, that’d be good too, but lying about it might be easier.”

“You should worry less about your classmates and more about yourself, Mister Malfoy,” Madam Hooch says, her eyes narrowed in disapproval. “You’re holding your broom with the wrong hand. Have you been doing that incorrectly for years as well?”

His face burns and he goes to switch hands, but Hermione says hotly, “He’s left handed! You said to summon it with your dominant hand, not your right hand. If you’d wanted him to summon it with his right hand, that’s what you should have said.” It’s easily the rudest Draco has ever seen her be to a professor. She scowls and puts her hand over her broom. “Up!”

It jumps promptly into her hand this time, probably afraid that if it didn’t, she might yell at it too.

“Yes, well,” Madame Hooch says, suddenly not looking at him, “very good, Miss Granger. Mister Longbottom, if you would.”

Neville swallows, pushes his shoulders back, and says, “Up!”

There’s a moment when nothing happens, and then the broom slowly rises into his hand.

Draco doesn’t cheer because that would be kind of lame of him, but he smiles when the other Gryffindors do.

Then they’re just hovering a couple feet off the ground which, boring, but he can kind of see the point of it when half of his house seems unsteady on their brooms. Except, of course, something goes wrong.

They’re only supposed to be a couple feet off the ground, but Neville keeps rising.

“Mr. Longbottom!” Madame Hooch shouts, “Stop that and get down here!”

Neville panics and grabs the front part of his broom, pushing down, which is of course is the worst thing he could have done. It sends him shooting upward way too quickly, and Draco rushes after him. He doesn’t think about it, he just goes, and he’s familiar enough with a broom that he can maneuver it thoughtlessly. He’s nearly caught up to Neville, already reaching out a hand to steady his friend’s broom, when Neville loses his balance and falls.

The one thing Draco had told him not to do!

He dives for him, but gravity is faster than he is, and Neville is screaming. Draco grabs the handle of his broom tightly in one hand and jumps off his own broom, reaching out to grab Neville’s hand. He feels Neville’s shoulder pop out when he catches him, but there’s not much he can do about it. He’s holding both his and Neville’s weight with just one hand, and it’s pretty much all he can do not to drop him as they gently float the last dozen or so feet to the ground.

It’s not until Neville is standing and Draco’s feet touch the ground that he can hear everything around him, that he hears his classmates shouting or notices Madame Hooch’s pale face as she looks Neville over, prodding delicately at his shoulder. “We’ll have to go to Madame Pomfrey for that dear, nothing for it, come along now.”

He should have caught him sooner.

Neville offers him a watery smile and says, “Better my shoulder than my head, Draco. Thanks.”

“Your gran may have had a point,” he says, rubbing the back of his neck. Actually, his shoulders are kind of sore too, but not enough for him to go to Pomfrey about it.

“Mister Malfoy,” Madam Hooch says, and great, he’s going to get a lecture about flying when he wasn’t supposed to, “thirty points to Gryffindor.”

He’s still blinking in confusion when she turns and shuffles Neville towards the castle.

Everyone is staring at him, and usually he loves being the center of attention, but not like this. Blaise throws something into the air and catches it again. “Longbottom dropped this. Fancy a game?”

Draco’s confused for a moment before he sees it’s a Remembrall, one of Neville’s gifts from his grandmother that seemed to cause him more grief than not. He grins. “Oh, yeah. Definitely.”

“That doesn’t belong to you!” Ron says crossly.

Draco rolls his eyes. “We’ll give it back. It’s not like he’s using it right now, is he?” And actually, if they manage to accidentally break it during the game, all the better. It’ll give Neville one less thing to worry over.

“We’re not supposed to fly without the instructor here to supervise,” Hermione says disapprovingly, because nothing gives her as much joy as ruining his fun.

He nods seriously. “That’s true, but consider this – Hooch isn’t here and it’ll be a great practical learning experience. Also, she never said that, you just know that because you read Hogwarts, A History, so it doesn’t count.”

She doesn’t seem convinced, but doesn’t continue arguing, so he’ll count that a win.

“Slytherins versus Gryffindors?” Theo proposes.

No, because he can already here all the snide comments he’ll get from his housemates about him being on the wrong team. And he wants to win, and all the Slytherins have way more flying experience than the Gryffindors. “Girls versus boys.”

“No way!” Pansy says. “That’s not fair. There are nine of you and six of us.”

“I’ll sit out,” Vinny volunteers instantly. He hates flying. “I’ll be referee.”

Hermione is clearly pissed that that hadn’t occurred to her.

“And I’ll play on the girls’ team,” Draco says. “Then it’ll be seven against seven. Okay?”

Pansy narrows her eyes, then says, “Okay, deal. Rules?”

Blaise tosses the Remembrall into the air again. “Let’s play catch. You can’t hold the Remembrall for more than five seconds and no spells while we’re in the air. Winner is whatever team has the Remembrall when Hooch gets back. Getting caught breaking the rules is an automatic loss.”

Hermione looks pleased at the last bit at least.

Hermione and Greg are hovering on the perimeter just in case it comes their way, but aren’t interest in chasing it, which is fine because the teams are still even. It quickly becomes clear that this is mostly a competition between him and Harry.

Draco’s the best at throwing it, but Harry’s scarily good at catching it, especially considering this is his first time a broom. Harry always catches it if anyone but Draco throws it, so the girls’ strategy just becomes getting it to Draco and then flying way wider than anyone else can throw. Obviously he feels bad that Neville got hurt, but this is way more fun than the typical first flying lesson, although unfortunately they’re all a little too good to drop the Remembrall and not have someone catch it, so that part of his plan doesn’t work out.

Vinny had been on the lookout for Madam Hooch, so he hadn’t noticed a tabby cat sitting on the sidelines.

Draco blames him when McGonagall makes Harry the youngest seeker in a century.

He’s only a little bit mollified when McGonagall says she would have offered Draco a chaser position if one had been open.

~

Ron made Hermione cry and the only thing that stop Draco from hexing his face off is Neville’s hands gripping his elbow, tugging him down the hall and away from them. “Sleep with one eye open tonight, Weasley,” he hisses, finally letting Neville drag him away.

Ron scoffs but Harry is frowning, so maybe he’ll knock some sense into Ron so Draco doesn’t have to.

It takes a while, but they track her down in the girls’ bathroom closest to the Slytherin dorms. He can hear her crying still, and actually, maybe he doesn’t care what Harry does about it, Ron’s face is going to have a standing appointment with his fist for making Hermione cry.

“It’s okay!” Neville calls out as they hover by the doorway. There’s no one around because everyone’s at the Hallow’s Eve feast, so Draco doesn’t actually have a problem with ducking into the girls’ bathroom to drag Hermione out, but Neville had said that wouldn’t help, and he is the resident expert on breakdowns. “Ron’s just a jerk, everyone knows that. Don’t listen to him.”

“What did he even say?” Draco asks.

Neville glances at the door then whispers, “He called Hermione an obnoxious know-it-all.”

Seriously?

“She is an obnoxious know-it-all!” he shouts, swatting Neville away when he tries to cover his mouth. “Are you joking? You hear that Hermione? You’re annoying and obnoxious and a huge pain, you’re a brown-nosing know-it-all who’s never happy unless you’re the smartest person in the room!”

“Merlin,” Neville groans, still trying to shove his hand over Draco’s mouth.

He dodges Neville’s frantic hands. “Do you hear me? Are you listening? You’re an obnoxious know-it-all, and that’s why I like you! If you were any less annoying, we wouldn’t be friends!”

Neville finally stops trying to smother him, at least. There’s a long pause, then Hermione says, watery but still loud enough for them to hear her. “Really?”

“Really,” he confirms. “I like that you’re rude and mean and you think people are dumb. I like your arrogance and your anger and how you’d rip McGonagall’s throat out if you thought it would get you higher in the class rankings. I like that you’re reading your way through the whole damn library and that you don’t need a dictionary to do it, and I like how much you care about dumb things like rules because someone has to, and it’s not going to be me!”

There’s a long moment of silence, and then Hermione’s in front of them, her eyes red and tear tracks on her cheeks, but she’s smiling again, and that’s all that really matters. Then the blood drains from her face and she grabs onto the front of both their robes, yanking them inside the girls’ bathroom, hissing, “There’s a troll behind you!”

“Okay, I know he’s awful to you, but that’s still not a very nice thing to call Professor Snape,” he says, but he doesn’t put much heat into it. Severus really is awful to her. He’s gotten a little better since she’s obviously became Draco’s friend, since he plays favorites and his godson is obviously one of his favorites, but not by much. Then there’s Neville, but he’s not sure how much of that Draco can really blame on Severus. Neville can turn the easiest and safest potion into a bubbling catastrophe ready to explode, all on accident, and when Severus is worried he just yells louder. Draco had elected to be Neville’s partner a little bit because Neville is his friend, and a lot because if he didn’t stop Neville from nearly blowing up his cauldron, Severus was going to have a stroke in the middle of class.

Hermione slaps his arm. “No, you idiot, a literal troll!”

He blinks at her then peeks out the door.

Merlin.

It’s actually a troll.

“It’s coming this way,” he says, too panicked for his voice to come out as anything besides completely monotone. “Like, straight for us.”

“What do we do?” Hermione demands.

He stares. “I don’t know! Why would I know that? I’ve never seen a troll before. Haven’t you read about them or something?”

“Well, yes,” she says, “I just don’t think it’s very useful. They’re very strong, resistant to magic, and love the taste of human flesh. They’re also attracted to bad smells.”

Neville covers his face with his hands. “We’re going to die. Then Gran is going to kill me.”

“She can’t kill you if you’re already dead,” Draco points out.

“Spoken like someone who’s never met Gran,” he says.

Hermione yanks them both into a stall as the lumbering gets closer. “Okay, but really, does no one have any good ideas?”

“I don’t exactly have a bad smell spell handy,” he says. “I do have some dungbombs, but they’re in my trunk, so not much use here.”

“Didn’t Quirrell fight a lot of theses?” Neville whispers. “Did he ever mention how?”

They’re silent for a moment, then Draco says, “Hypnoses, I think, but I don’t know how to hypnotize a troll.”

Then there’s a giant smelly troll smashing a club around and they’re too busy scrambling around the small bathroom trying not to die. They figure out pretty quickly that it’s at least really, really dumb. They scatter and two hide while one distracts it, then they switch, trying to keep in confused and swinging it’s club not at them long enough for someone to show up.

When Ron and Harry run inside, Draco realizes he should have been more specific. He was hoping more for a professor. Like his godfather or his head of house.

The troll raises its club over its head and Harry and Ron are obviously too dumb to run and Draco’s going to watch his whole reason for joining Gryffindor get spattered into a human pancake right in front of him.

“Wingardium leviosa!”

The club slides out of the troll’s hands and Draco turns to look at Neville, who’s red and sweating and more scared than Draco’s ever seen him, but he’s holding the club aloft, out of the troll’s reach. Then he slashes his arm downward, and the club goes the same way, hitting the top of the troll’s thick skull with enough force that Draco hears something crack. He doesn’t think it was the club.

The troll goes tumbling to the ground and Draco has to scramble out of the way to avoid being crushed, but then it’s just the five of them standing around a troll with a pool of blood growing beneath its head.

“What are you two idiots doing here?” Draco asks scathingly as he presses his shoulder against Neville, who’s pale and shaking but standing, and that’s all that matters.

“What are we – we were looking for you! We heard there was a troll in the dungeon and-”

“And what?” Hermione snaps. “Remembered I was here but instead of doing something useful like, oh I don’t know, grabbing a professor and telling them, you decided to come down all on your own? Fat lot of good that did us!”

Harry puts his hand on Ron’s shoulder before he can open and his mouth and make everything worse, as he’s so good at doing. “We just – we wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Draco is so completely, incandescently mad that it’s a really good thing that McGonagall, Severus, and Quirrell choose that moment to arrive, because if they hadn’t Draco would have cast one of the jinxes his mother taught him that he’s definitely not supposed to know about yet.

Hermione lays out everything that happened, and predictably everyone’s pissed at Ron and Harry, which, like, what did they expect? If Neville hadn’t been so quick, not only would they have gotten themselves killed, but they would have gotten them killed too, since they were too busy being worried to grab someone competent to help them. He still winces at the amount of points McGonagall takes from Gryffindor because hey, that’s his house too.

McGonagall’s announced that she’s going to escort them back to the common room when Severus says, “Mister Malfoy, one moment if you please.”

Hermione and Neville are nervous, but Draco just shoos them away. He should probably tell them that Severus is his godfather if this keeps up, but he doesn’t want them to feel bad for disliking him or for them to think they can’t get mad at him around Draco.

He waits until they’re definitely alone before turning to Severus, opening his mouth to ask a question he never gets to voice. Severus grabs him and crushes him to his chest, holding him so tightly for a moment that it’s almost painful. Draco doesn’t even get the chance to return it before Severus pushes him away and looks him in the eye. “If something happens to you, your mother will kill me. You understand that, don’t you?”

“Nothing happened to me!” he protests. “I was just waiting for Hermione so we could go to the feast. How did a troll get into the dungeon anyway? It’s not like they can just walk through the front doors!”

“No,” Severus says, his concern falling away into something colder, but Draco knows it’s not directed at him. “It can’t.” Draco raises an eyebrow but Severus just shakes his head and squeezes Draco’s shoulder. “Come on, I’ll walk you back to your common room so I can be sure you won’t get into any more trouble on the way there. Have you started on the essay that’s due next week yet?”

“It’s due next week,” he points out, but actually he and Hermione has worked out the outline yesterday.

~

Dean and Seamus are carefully, pointedly not taking sides in the whole thing, and Harry probably would have been willing to let it all go if Draco had been, but he isn’t. They’d been stupid and their stupidity had nearly got everyone killed. So he and Neville are kind of fighting with Harry and Ron, and on one hand he’s never been further from his goal of becoming Harry Potter’s friend, but on the other hand he doesn’t care because Harry and Ron could have gotten his actual friends hurt, and he doesn’t care for that at all.

The girls are all on their side, because Neville singlehandedly taking out a troll has made him kind of notorious in a way he hates but Draco thinks is hilarious. He’s lived his whole life as kind of notorious, he’s the son of Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy. He spends a lot time trying to show Neville how to just smile and ignore people, which is a very important skill for a notorious sort of person. If Harry wasn’t being such a jerk, Draco would teach him too, but he is so he’s on his own.

Things definitely aren’t improved after Harry and Ron become convinced that Harry’s broom was cursed during a quidditch game, which Draco supposes is theoretically possible, but they think that his godfather did it, which definitely isn’t possible. Draco threatens to hex their skin off if they don’t keep their terrible ideas to themselves. Severus is unpleasant sometimes and kind of mean to a lot of people, but he’s Draco’s godfather, so if people want to hate him they have to do it based on one of his many personality flaws, not based on crap that he hasn’t even done.

The one good thing about all of this is that he’s more or less successfully intermixed his two main friend groups. Hermione and Neville aren’t exactly huge fans of all his Slytherin friends, but they can all hang out without getting into a fight that escalates past a dull roar, which he thinks is very responsible of them. Blaise and Neville are even proper friends, and he’s pretty sure Hermione and Daphne are well on their way. Pansy still doesn’t care for either of them, but she and Lavender Brown sit next to each other during every shared class and spend it whispering to each other and giggling, so Draco’s willing to call it all a win.

The year is coming to a close, and he’s no closer to being Harry Potter’s friend than when it started, which is a bit of a disappointment, but he hadn’t counted on Harry being so unlikable. He still has the next six years, after all, and he’s pretty sure he’ll find him and Ron a lot more tolerable after a summer apart, and maybe they’ll even manage to be friends next year.

He keeps on thinking that until Hermione is shaking him awake in the middle of the night, her eyes wide as she says, “Something’s wrong with Neville, come here. I don’t know if we should go to Pomfrey or not.”

Draco automatically looks to the bed next to his, but it’s empty, and so is Ron and Harry’s. His heart sinks. That can’t mean anything good.

He follows Hermione downstairs and find Neville stunned which is just – great, that’s what it is, just perfect. “Finite incantum!” he snaps, and he’s not actually that good at this spell, but the magic must sense how angry he is because it doesn’t argue him, undoing the stunning jinx with little fuss. Neville comes awake slowly, shaking his head and blinking until his face clears a little. “Neville, are you okay? What happened?”

His teeth are chattering, which isn’t a good sign. Just how long had he been laying down here before Hermione noticed him? What was Hermione doing up in the middle of the night anyway? “I – Ron and Harry woke me up when they were leaving, and they were talking about going to the third floor corridor, and then – then, uh,” he trails off, forehead creasing in confusion.

Draco wraps an arm around his shoulders, “Hey it’s okay, that’s enough.”

He has been stunned way too long. Nothing a competent medi-witch can’t fix, he thinks. He hopes.

“Take him to the hospital wing,” Draco orders Hermione.

She glares. “And what are you going to do?”

“I’m going to go to the third floor corridor and hex our precious housemates’ faces off and then drag them back here so McGonagall can kill them,” he says.

“Weren’t you the one that was mad at them for going off on their own instead of getting a professor?” Hermione protests.

Draco rolls his eyes. “Really, Hermione, come on. It’s not like there’s going to be a troll there. I’m just going to get them back.”

~

He’s an idiot. Hermione’s going to kill him, or worse, never let him live this down.

Why did he jump down the trap door to avoid the angry three headed dog? Why hadn’t he gone for the door he’d came in? Okay, it was because the trap door had been closer and it seemed the choice that would most likely end with him not being dog food.

Except now he’s waist deep in devil’s snare and really hopping he’s remembering Neville’s excited chattering about this plant accurately, because otherwise he’s not going to be capable of remembering anything for very long. “Lumos!”

Ow.

He rubs his side, looking up at the squirming nest of devil’s snare. Well, unfortunately, no other way to go but forward. Harry and Ron better be around here somewhere.

The next is a room full of enchanted keys, of all things, and well there’s a locked door and a broom, it’s not exactly hard to figure out what he’s supposed to do here, and really, what in Merlin’s name is going on? Is this some sort of obstacle course for the seventh years or something? Except if it is, it’s going to need some serious redesign. Draco is brilliant and determined to be the top of their class if he has to crawl over Hermione to do it, but he’s also a first year. If he can get past even one of these things, then it’s not going to be a match for the seventh years.

He finally catches up with Ron and Harry when he steps onto a huge chessboard and snaps, “What do you two think you’re doing?”

A piece moves off the board and Ron shouts, “Draco! What are you doing here?”

“What am I doing here? What are you doing here? You just left Neville stunned on the ground! You’re lucky Hermione found him when she did, you idiots. We’re going back right now!”

“We can’t,” Harry says, so grim and serious and adult sounding that Draco’s protest dies on his lips. “Draco, we can’t, Voldemort’s here, and he’s after the philosopher’s stone, and we have to stop him.”

“And you have to play now,” Ron adds, glancing across the chess board. “Congratulations, you’re the queen.”

He shakes his head. “This is insane! If Voldemort is really here – and he’s supposed to be dead, might I add – then what do you expect to do against them? Why, and I’m really getting sick of asking you this, didn’t you get a professor?”

“We tried,” Harry says quietly. “McGonagall didn’t believe us and Dumbledore’s gone. We didn’t have anyone else, and we can’t just let him win.”

He bites back the retort burning on his tongue. If they’d come to him, he could have gone to Severus, and his godfather would have listened to him. Even if didn’t believe him, he would have at least checked. But he and Harry aren’t friends, so there’s no reason for Harry to come to him with this, so no way Draco could have gotten his godfather to handle it.

“Fine,” he says. “Not that I’m saying I think Voldemort is really here either, because come on, look at the defenses they set up, they have not Voldemort level. But okay. I’ll play along. And then when we’re done with whatever all this is, we go back to the common room and you tell Neville that you’re sorry. Deal?”

Ron and Harry glance at each other then nod at the same time. “Deal.”

Bloody hell. This night has turned into such a mess.

He takes the place of the queen and follows Ron’s instructions, and seriously, can’t they see how wrong this is? Ron’s a fantastic chess player, Draco can’t deny that, but he’s not the best chess player, not by a long shot, not yet even though Draco’s pretty sure that he will be in the future. What kind of defense set up against Voldemort could be beaten by anything but the best? A first year should not be able to beat this chess game. A seventh year shouldn’t be able to beat it. It should take someone as shrewd and calculating as his own mother to get them through this game, but Ron is doing great, Ron’s winning, which should really tell them everything they need to know.

They win the game, but Ron doesn’t quite move fast enough from an enchanted chess piece’s downward swing, getting grazed by the side of the stone sword and falling to the ground with a groan.

As soon the king throws down his crown, he and Harry are running towards Ron. He’s not bleeding but he’s got a huge bump on the back of his head and his eyes are glazed over, and great, that’s two housemates with brain injuries tonight, that’s just perfect. “We have to get him to the hospital wing now.”

Harry’s terrified, his hands cradling Ron’s face, but he still shakes his head. “No. Not until we get the philosopher’s stone.”

Draco can’t believe this. “You really think Voldemort is down here, don’t you?”

“That’s what I’ve been saying!” he shouts, emerald eyes narrowed in anger. “Why would I lie about that?”

He just rubs his forehead and says, “Come on, help me prop him up against the wall. My aguamenti is pretty shoddy, but I should be able to get enough water to use the freezing charm, which I’m pretty good at.”

“What?” Harry asks, just staring at him.

Draco makes an improvised ice pack and gently eases it against the back of Ron’s head. “Well, if you really think you’re facing something as dangerous as Voldemort, you can’t go alone. So Ron’s just going to have to wait until we have this philosopher’s stone, although why there’d be one in Hogwarts at the end of this obstacle course I have no idea.”

“You’re coming with me?” Harry asks.

He’s getting a little tired of his incredulity. “Yes. Now let’s go. The sooner we finish this, whatever it is, the sooner we can get Ron to the hospital wing.” Which is where Hermione is already, he hopes, because he’s equally hopeful she’ll have told Madame Pomfrey where the three of them ran off to, so that someone will come after them. Hopefully his godfather, but at this point he’ll take pretty much any competent adult.

“You don’t have to do this,” Harry says even as he rushes after him. “You don’t even like me.”

Draco turns on his heel to glare at him. “Of course I like you! I’ve been trying really hard to like you all year, you just keep ruining it by being an idiot!”

“Oh,” Harry blinks. “Uh. Well. I like you too. Even if you’re kind of awful sometimes.”

I’m kind of – okay, you know what, we don’t have time to have this argument right now,” he decides. “Let’s go.”

The room contains an unconscious troll, and Draco makes an uncomfortable connection. “Harry, I don’t think it was Voldemort who came through here. I think it was Quirrell.”

“That would be a good thing, wouldn’t it?” Harry asks, frowning at him.

Draco shakes his head. “No, I don’t think so. I think the troll that got in during Hallow’s Eve – Quirrell should have been able to stop it, shouldn’t he? It’s what he’s famous for after all. Troll hunting. But he didn’t. He fainted, of all things.”

“Oh,” Harry says, eyes flickering to the next set of doors. “You really don’t have to come with me if you don’t want to.”

“That’s not what I was saying!” he shouts. “Stop telling me to go back, I’m a Gryffindor just like you, and I’m not leaving you alone, got it? We leave together or we don’t leave at all.”

Harry’s eyes widen then his whole face softens into a smile. “Okay. I got it.”

“Good,” he says shortly, and then strides through the doors.

The fire that jumps up on either side is really ominous. The riddle isn’t too hard to figure out, which is just one more thing that doesn’t make any sense. Draco loves Severus’s riddles and logic games, his godfather has been using them to entertain him since he was a kid, and Draco knows for a fact he’s not as clever as his godfather, and there’s no way he should be able to figure this riddle out, not if it’s meant for a fully trained adult and not for a kid. But he does, even when he rereads it a couple times to make sure he’s not going to accidentally poison them, he can’t see how the answer can be anything else.

“There’s only enough for one,” Harry says.

Draco rolls his eyes. “Do you think Professor Snape came down and refilled the vial between whoever is ahead of us and now? It’s automatically replenishing, I’m guessing. You go first, and I’ll follow. If I’m wrong, I’ll go back and help Ron, but I don’t think I am.”

It’s obvious that Harry is afraid, but he just gives one sharp nod before downing the potion and stepping forward through the flames.

It takes several long, agonizing minutes for the potion bottle to refill itself, but as soon as it does Draco’s knocking it back and following Harry through the wall of flames.

“Uh,” he says.

Quirrell is trying to strangle Harry but he’s also possibly on fire and there’s a face jutting out of the back of Quirrell’s head.

It seriously been like five minutes.

He takes a page out of Neville’s book and shouts, “Wingardium leviosa!” He jerks his wand away from Harry and Quirrell goes flying, hitting the wall and then falling to the ground. He’s still smoking. There’s screaming still, which is kind of awful because his whole face is ash, and his body’s sitting up in jerky, unnatural movements.

“Harry!” He rushes for him and grabs him under his arms, hauling him upright. “We have to go! Now!”

“Take this,” Harry says, and Draco feels him slip something into his front pocket. “Don’t let him have it. Go, I’ll distract him!”

Draco is going to strangle him. “I’m not going anywhere without you!” He grabs Harry’s hands and runs, except there’s nowhere to run to, which isn’t that just fantastic? Now they’re standing in front of this weird ornate mirror, but when he glances at it he doesn’t see his reflection. He sees the only thing he wants right now.

He sees the hospital wing, Neville laid out in bed with Hermione and Madame Pomfrey on either side of him, except they’re not looking at Neville, they’re looking right at him, their faces pale with horror.

It gives him an idea.

“Close your eyes and trust me,” Draco orders. Thankfully Harry doesn’t question him, and Draco really hopes this works otherwise he’ll probably just end up knocking him out. He shoves Harry into the mirror, but he doesn’t hit it, instead going through it and popping out the other side in the hospital wing. Whatever is left of Quirrell is shambling towards him, and he should follow Harry though, but instead he meets Madam Pomfrey’s eyes and says, “We left Ron a couple rooms back, he needs help!”

Pomfrey doesn’t ask for any more information, doesn’t hesitate, instead she reaches out for him and Draco shoves his hand through the mirror, just enough to grab her wrist and pull her though.

“Behind me, Mister Malfoy,” she says briskly.

She doesn’t have to tell him twice. She’s the scariest person at this school. If she can’t handle the terrifying thing using Quirrell’s body, then no one can.

“Pomfrey,” rasps a voice that’s definitely not coming from the ashy remains of Quirrell’s face. “So confident, to face me again.”

She shudders, but doesn’t flinch, and raises her wand. “You shouldn’t have attacked my children,” she says fiercely. “Incendio!”

The rest of Quirrell’s body burns.

A screaming shadow comes racing towards them and she cuts her wand down in front them. “Disperget!”

The shadow breaks apart, passing over them harmlessly.

“Where’s Mister Weasley?” Pomfrey asks sharply. “That’s only temporary. We want to be gone by the time he reforms.”

“Uh,” his throat is dry and he has to swallow twice before he can continue, “this way.”

They walk back through the potions room and the one with the unconscious troll and find Ron more awake than Draco had left him, still holding the icepack to his head. His face creases in alarm as soon as he sees them. “Is Harry–”

“He’s fine,” Draco says immediately. “Right now we’re more worried about you.”

“Quite right, Mister Malfoy,” Pomfrey says.

Ron slumps back in relief and actually smiles at him, the first real smile Draco’s ever gotten from him. It’s kind of brilliant, actually. “Good.”

~

Even though Draco insists he’s fine, she still makes him sit and wait to be checked over, which sucks because she makes Hermione go back to the dorm, and Draco would really, really like to go with her. Pomfrey had the philosopher’s stone, no one had been permanently hurt, and he wants to go to bed. Harry and Ron, after the application of several healing charms, are fed some dreamless sleep so the rest of the healing can do it’s work in peace.

“Well, it looks like you managed to get through this ridiculousness mostly unscathed,” she says, wordlessly healing all his scrapes and bruises with quick, efficient flicks of his wand.

“Does this mean I can go back to my dorm now?” he prods. All he really wants to do is sleep for a week, or at least until the start of the end of year feast, but he’d rather do it in his own bed.

She sighs, but runs another diagnostic spell over him and says begrudgingly, “I suppose, if that’s what you really want.”

He’s already pushing himself to his feet when the door to the hospital wing slams open and Severus hurries inside. “Poppy, have you seen,” he catches sight of Draco and freezes before snapping, “Are you hurt?”

He doesn’t hide behind Pomfrey, but only because he’s pretty sure she wouldn’t protect him. “No! I’m fine!”

“I’d just released Mister Malfoy to go back to his dorm if you’d like to accompany him,” Pomfrey says dryly, looking at Severus with the same looks that’s a mix of indulgent and unimpressed that she gives the students.

“Yes,” Severus says stiffly and then glares at him until he walks over to his side. “Thank you, Madame Pomfrey.”

Draco thinks it’s pretty unfair that she stood in between him and Voldemort without flinching but she’s perfectly willing to let his godfather murder him.

As soon as the hospital wing door close behind them, Draco says, “Look, I really didn’t know about all that stuff, or the philosopher’s stone or whatever. I thought the third floor corridor was forbidden like the forbidden section of the library, full of stuff we’re not supposed to use or look at, but not anything inherently dangerous. I would have gone to you if I’d known it was going to be all,” he waves his hand, struggling to find the words, and settles on, “ridiculous.”

“Draco,” Severus sighs, and he sounds exhausted, more tired than he’s ever heard him. He steps closer and he’s expecting a slap upside the head or possibly for him to grab him by the shoulders to try and shake some sense into him. He’s not expecting Severus to bend down and pull him to his chest, holding him until Draco hugs him back, throwing his arms around his godfather’s neck and pressing his forehead into his shoulder. “You scared me.”

“Sorry,” he says, biting his lip to keep from crying, because what’s the point of crying now? It’s all over and everyone’s fine, there’s nothing worth crying about. “I really didn’t mean it.”

Severus lets him go but keeps a hand on his shoulder. “I know. Just – don’t do it again.”

“I’m not planning on it,” he says instead of saying that he won’t, because he gets the idea that if he starts hanging around Harry this kind of thing is just going to keep happening to him. “You know, this is two hugs in one year, that’s kind of a lot for you. Are you doing okay?”

“Brat,” he says, but it comes out fond, and they resume their work towards Gryffindor tower.

Draco almost lets the silence last, but he has too many unanswered questions. “Can I ask you something?”

“Always,” he says, squeezing his shoulder.

“What was all this about? Those challenges were too easy. They didn’t keep us out, never mind Voldemort. What was the point?”

Severus is quiet for a long moment, but when Draco looks up, he seems contemplative rather than upset. “Tell me about the challenges.”

He does, quickly outlining what the were and how they got past them.

By the time he’s done, Severus isn’t contemplative anymore. He’s furious. “Those weren’t the challenges we set up. Fluffy was as intended, you all got lucky with that one, but the devil’s snare was meant to go straight for the throat. Whoever landed through shouldn’t have had the time or the air to cast a lumos charm. It wasn’t meant to suffocate, it was meant to snap the intruder’s neck. The was no broom in the key room. The only way to get they key was to know the very specific incantation required to summon the correct key, or manage to fight off all the wrong keys that would by busy attacking the intruder, and they’re sharp, Draco, they’re only keys on one side. They’re knives on the other. While Mister Weasley is very gifted, Professor McGonagall is a grandmaster chess player, and she designed that board. You’re right, he never should have won. And I didn’t leave any sort of juvenile riddle to go with my potions. If whoever was there didn’t already know the correct bottle, they would have had to figure out the antidote based on smell alone.”

That gives him more questions than he answers. “But – why would someone make the challengers easier? What’s the point?”

Severus doesn’t say anything for a long moment, then, “Are you and Mister Potter friends now?”

Draco wrinkles his nose and then shrugs. “I think so? We’re friendlier, at least. As long as he and Ron apologize to Neville. Why?”

“Because I think he’s going to need you by his side,” he says. “He doesn’t know to question things. You do.”

For some reason the way Severus says that makes a shiver go down his spine and he walks half a step closer. “Does that mean you’re not going to answer my question?”

“No, I’m not,” he says, as they stand in front of the entrance to the Gryffindor common room. “But you should keep questioning things anyway.”

“I’m good at that,” he says, but interrupts himself midway with a yawn.

Severus smiles and pushes him towards the portrait. “Go to bed. I’ll write your parents to them know you’re all right.”

“Thanks,” he says, mangling it around another yawn. He gratefully walks to his dorm, ignoring the sun that’s just beginning to peak over the horizon.  

He’s asleep the moment his head hits the pillow.

~

Harry and Ron do apologize to Neville the next day, who graciously accepts, and Hermione huffs at them and starts berating them for not researching everything more thoroughly, which thankfully they seem to understand means she forgives them too.

Draco thinks they might all actually be friends now. Seamus and Dean just seem relieved the interhouse fighting is over.

His Slytherin friends mob him the second they see him, demanding details about everything that happened last night, and he laughs and promises to tell them everything on the train ride home, but if he doesn’t get back over to his table then the feast won’t start.

He sits in between Hermione and Neville with Ron and Harry across from them, and it feels good. It feels right.

When Dumbledore starts awarding ridiculous, inflated points Draco just rolls his eyes. It’s nice he doesn’t want Gryffindor to feel so bad about being so badly behind everyone else, but as the numbers keep getting higher, everyone shifts uncomfortably in their seats. Surely he’s not –

Draco sees red, and not just because all the green and silver banners have turned to red and gold. Some of the Gryffindors are happy but most just seem confused, the Ravenclaws are all looking down at their table, the Hufflepuffs are pissed, and the Slytherins – the Slytherins are devastated. Dumbledore starts clapping and everyone else follows suit, but very few people actually seem pleased about it.

“This isn’t fair!” Draco hisses, louder than he’d intended.

Ron frowns and then says, “You know what, Draco? You’re right.” He gets up out of his seat and hurries down the table. He taps the twins on the shoulder then goes over to Percy.

Fred and George glance at each other then follow their younger brother. The four brothers have a quick, whispered conversation and then Percy stands up, clears his throat, and says, “Headmaster Dumbledore, there are a few more last minute points to be tallied.”

His voice easily cuts across the hall and everyone falls silent. He has to be using a sonorous to do that.

“Is that so, Mister Weasley?” Dumbledore asks, not sounding quite as warm as he had before.

“Yes,” Percy says, raising his chin. He turns to McGonagall, hesitates and then looks at Severus, before shaking his head and directing his attention to the space between them. “Professor Sprout. While their intentions were good, three students did go out after curfew. Being out after curfew is typically a fifteen point deduction.”

Draco knew that Percy was smart, but this is past smart and into brilliant. Sprout is the head of Hufflepuff. She can’t let this whole farce stand. Or if she does, she’s not worthy of her house.

Sprout stares at Percy for a long, tense moment, then glances over at Dumbledore who’s looking at her over his half moon glasses. Her mouth flattens into a frown and then she turns back to Percy and says, “That’s absolutely correct, Mister Weasley. Forty five points from Gryffindor.”

It’s not enough.

Fred stands next to Percy and says cheerfully, “Me and George are the ones that broke into your greenhouse and stole the dried mandrake root.”

“You-!” Her eyes narrow. “Forty points from Gryffindor. And you’ll be spending the first quarter of next year in detention growing me fresh mandrakes.”

“And we’re the ones that let go of that dungbomb in the corridor outside of your class,” George says, equally cheerful. “Sorry about all those fubberworms and daisies dying. We really didn’t know that would happen.”

“Twenty points from Gryffindor,” Sprout continues. “And you can add harvesting flubberworms with Hagrid to your detention roster.”

Draco doesn’t start cheering, but it’s a near thing.

Slytherin is in the lead again.

“Well,” Sprout says, “it seems we redecorated a bit preemptively.” She takes her wand from her sleeve and waves it across the hall, the banners turning back into silver and green. “It seems as if Slytherin has won the house cup.”

The cheering from the whole hall is deafening.

He takes back every uncomplimentary thing he’s said about the Weasleys. It turns out that they’re wonderful, actually.

~

The Hogwarts Express is cutting through the countryside and Draco is seated in a compartment with his favorite people, Pansy, Blaise, Daphne, Neville and Hermione all pressed together. He’s just started telling everyone about the mess with the forbidden third floor corridor when there’s a knock against their compartment door before it slides open. “Room for four more?” Ron asks cheerfully. He’s standing there Harry and the twins, all of them smiling at them.

“We literally don’t,” he says, but he knows that he’s smiling too.

The twins scoff and George pulls out his wand. “Look kids, I’m going to teach you the wonderful art of expansion charms. There’s more than enough room for all of us.”

George ends up being sort of right, but even with Hermione and Blaise elbowing him from either side, Draco can’t bring himself to mind.

This year may have had its bumps, but well, it looks like he’d made the right choice after all.

It turns out being a Gryffindor isn’t all bad.

Except next year he really needs to focus on finding a quiet place to study. Of the many not-bad things about being a Gryffindor, the loud common room isn’t among them.