A/N: This fic will, for some reason I don't know (by brain is a circus), contain many pairings. They are: Pansy/Ron, Draco/Harry, Millicent/Luna, Lucius/Narcissa and some Snape/Hermione. As well as Ginny/Harry unrequited and Draco/Snape unrequited. Um yeah, that's about it.
Pleeeeease pretty please read and review!
Ta luv youse.
Chapter Four - Inexpensive, Striding Bull
Millicent Bulstrode knew the hearts of men.
In other words, she was an observer, as she was rarely observed herself. Untrained eyes were drawn to prettier, sexually attractive people and objects, and merely smoothed past her own thicker, meaner form. She could pick out anyone and immediately put them into their correct social category. Harry Potter: believes himself to be worthless, but is considered by most to be particularly worthy. Is biased against Slytherins and is quite unaware of his own bigotry. Unobservant and assuming. Self-pitying. Bad-tempered. Bad friend. Popular amoungst said friends regardless of his faults. Bisexual. Confused about said bisexuality.
Millicent hated bisexuals almost as much as she hated heterosexuals. Heterosexuals were predictable; they said horrible things about one's homosexuality, and that was fact, no matter how much they would deny it. There were two types of straight people: the ones that say they hate you to your face, and the ones that say they hate you behind your back. It was a simple and rather easy thing for a lesbian like Millicent to get used to. Even though Pansy Parkinson now made out to love Draco and say nearly everyday just how cool her gay best friend was, Pansy had once loathed Malfoy for his homosexuality. When she had first found out she had trashed their dormitory to pieces. She had screamed and wailed and cried and cursed Malfoy to Hell.
Pansy Parkinson: believes the man of her dreams will whisk her away and will live happily ever after in a nice cottage with a loving husband and two point five children. Pretends to love her life, even though she hates it. Cares little about anyone other than herself. Believes everyone loves her when the opposite is the case. Heterosexual. Is still in love with Draco Malfoy, but is desperately trying to remove, repress, destroy said love. Does not give up easily.
Millicent was observant, even at a young age. She had probably figured out Malfoy's sexuality even before he himself did. In Draco Millicent thought she might have a kin; even though Millicent hated men and Draco was a misogynistic prick, they were both gay, and sometimes that was enough. She warned him about the heterosexuals, and he listened and understood. But she had yet to properly warn him about bisexuals. Bisexuals were dangerous, because they said they loved you one minute, and told you they despised you the next. And they always left their homosexual lovers for the opposite sex. It was practically a given, but strangely enough not a lot of gay people took much knowledge of this unwritten clause. It had a lot to do with fear: if gays only sought out only gays, would their supply of sexual partners be limited?
Draco Malfoy: believes himself to be worthy, but is considered by most to be particularly unworthy. Is biased against Muggle-borns and is very aware of his own bigotry. Observant yet assuming. Arrogant. Bad-tempered. Good friend. Unpopular amoungst the masses regardless of his merits. Homosexual. Silently opposed to said homosexuality.
Daphne Greengrass: heterosexual and very stupid. It was breakfast in the Great Hall and Daphne was currently crying into Perdita's shoulder, wailing about how Michael Corner had just broken up with her and, in good teenaged girl angst, her life was over.
If a Slytherin girl was crying, it was now their lore that all the girls in her year and House should rush en masse to the nearest bathroom to soothe her woes. Daphne was sandwiched between Tracey, Sally-Ann and Perdita as they went to find a girls' loo.
"I'll see you at lunch," Pansy told Draco, "and then we'll talk about the you-know-what…" She looked up at Millicent. "C'mon, let's go."
Millicent paused with her fork halfway to her mouth and heaved a sigh. "Do I have to?"
"Yes, please. I think Daphne might need your frank advice."
Millicent rolled her eyes and the two of them quickly exited the Hall, following the other four girls ahead. They were climbing up a moving set of stairs.
Millicent picked her teeth as she got on. "So where are we going?"
Pansy frowned and looked around. "Hey guys - where are we?"
The girls at the top of the stairs stared down at her. "Um..." said Tracey.
"I think there might be a tot up here..." said Sally-Ann dubiously.
Millicent ran a hair through her short dark hair and leaned against the wobbling banister, exasperated. "There's one on the next level to the left."
"Oh good!" said Tracey.
"No body goes into it."
"Oh good - no wait, there's a catch, isn't there?"
"Always," said Millicent, smirking. The stairs stopped and she leisurely walked up them. "It's haunted."
Pansy made a loud, scoffing 'pfft' noise. "Whatever you reckon, Millie."
They all shuffled onto the landing. Daphne whimpered. "I don't want to go into anything haunted!"
"Well we're here," said Millicent with a shrug. She pushed the door to the bathroom open to reveal a long room with grimy stalls lined up to the left, and a circle of sinks and mirrors on the right. There was something hanging from the ceiling. She glanced at it briefly, thinking it only Moaning Myrtle, and waited for the onslaught of enraged whining.
The rest of the girls walked in hesitantly. "Looks dirty but," Pansy lifted her head and sniffed the air, "surprisingly clean." Her face still facing upwards, she suddenly screamed.
Everyone else looked up too. The girl hanging from the ceiling was in fact not Moaning Myrtle, but a live girl with long blonde hair and large blue eyes. She was swinging in a pouch of green sticky goo attached to the upper with long tendrils. Some had been stuck to her mouth as a gag. "Mmmff, mmmff mmm," she said.
They were all so shocked, Daphne had even paused in her crying.
Anger welled in Millicent suddenly, and she pointed her wand at the restrained girl. With all her magical strength she shouted, "Finite incantatem!"
With watery sucking sounds the goo unravelled itself from the girl and the ceiling, compressing and finally disappearing. The girl fell down with a giggle. Millicent, standing directly under, managed to catch the small girl around the waist. She staggered under the weight, but did not fall.
To Millicent, the next few seconds felt like many minutes passing in a slow curve around just the two of them.
The girl dangled in Millicent's arms, her hands on Millicent's shoulders. She smiled down at Millicent with liquid blue eyes, her long blonde hair loose and falling forward to create a fragrant veil, obscuring their view of the room. If the other girls were talking, Millicent could not hear it; instead a steady tinkling of a chime could by heard in her own mind, as she stared at the angel before her.
The girl lifted a hand and tweaked a strand of Millicent's hair at the nape of her neck. "Hello," said the girl, and her voice was like her eyes - serene, liquid and all-consuming.
Millicent put her down and stood back. The room came back into focus and none of the other occupants were paying attention.
Daphne had her expanded hair-care kit propped up on the sink against the mirror, and Tracey and Perdita were helping her choose a colour.
"I think you should go back to Slytherin Green," said Tracey.
"I was thinking maybe going back to Barbie Blonde," Daphne considered, "or maybe Ecstatic Orange."
"Perhaps you should be loyal," suggested Perdita, "and have Sparkling Silver with streaks of Slytherin Green...?"
"Whatever," said Daphne hastily, "I just want this stupid Ravenclaw Blue out!"
A couple of sinks down Pansy had her expanded make-up kit propped up in front of her. "You have such a beautiful chocolate complexion," she was saying to Sally-Ann, "so I suggest using the earthy-tones palate here. Use as much as you like."
"Thanks, Pan," the dark girl returned blandly. "You're putting it on pretty heavy there; let me guess, you've a got yourself new bloke, yeah?"
Pansy had finished with the foundation powder, and was now working her eyelids with the light pink shimmer stick. "Not just as yet, Sal, but I'll get him soon!"
Millicent grimaced and turned back to the girl, who was gone. "Hey - !" she exclaimed stupidly, looking around. "Wait I - I wanted to know your name… where are you?"
"Oh sorry...!" came a little voice from one of the closed toilet stalls. Millicent hurried over to it. "I was hanging there for hours, and I really needed to pee."
Millicent's anger swelled back to coil around her insides. "Who did that to you?" she demanded. They were talking through the dented wood of the toilet stall, and Millicent squashed her impatience to see the girl's face again.
"Oh, you know..." the girl said evasively, "they do it all the time."
Millicent was getting frustrated. "Who do?"
"My Housemates. Anyway, it doesn't matter," she added quickly, yet calmly, as if sensing Millicent's impending explosion. "I mean, the members of the old DA, they try to help out when they can, but they're not in my classes or dormitory."
The toilet flushed. The girl opened the door and looked up at Millicent smiling. Then she turned and headed for the sinks.
"Sally and I will see you lot later, then?" said Pansy to the room at large. "We have Herbology now. Good luck with that, Daph."
"Thanks, Pan!" said Daphne from where she was drenching her hair in a sink full of water. The two girls left.
Tracey put her hands on her hips and watched the blonde girl wash her hands in the next sink. "Hey, I know you! You're Loony Lovegood, you are."
The girl turned her unblinking eyes onto Tracey. "It's Luna Lovegood, actually."
"That's nice," said Tracey caustically, her attention back on Daphne. "Now Daph - are you sure you want Ecstatic Orange?"
"Why are we using hair-dye anyway," asked Perdita as she examined the label on the bottle of orange liquid. "I mean, one flick of my wand and your hair'll go orange."
"Firstly, I don't trust your charms; one flick of that wand and you'll singe my hair to bits, more like. Secondly, Madam Constantine's is the best; she has no roots for four whole months and the colours are top notch…"
Luna turned to Millicent. "Well, thank you for releasing me. Goodbye." She pivoted away.
"Wait!" said Millicent desperately, following her into the corridor. Students were running up and down it, rushing to their morning classes. Millicent had to shout a little over the noise. "Can I - um… well, my name's Millicent Bulstrode…"
Luna stood staring at her tranquilly. "I really have to go get my books for the next lesson, now."
"I know, I know," said Millicent hastily. Merlin, when did she turn into this blathering idiot? Millicent sounded about as eloquent as a Gryffindor with a mouth full of marshmallows, at this point. "It's just, I'd like to see you again, maybe." Oh good one, Millie, just shove more sweets in your mouth. "Perhaps we could go to the library sometime, or…" Urk, it's getting crowded in here! But a rather large part of Millicent did not care - she was falling in love with this girl.
Luna seemed to be thinking, her head tilted to one side. "There's a Hogsmeade weekend in two weeks, isn't there?"
"Um," breathed Millicent, "yes?"
"That's all. Goodbye, Millicent Bulstrode." And then she was turning away, and disappearing into the crowd like a starling into its erratic flock.
From the doors of the library, Pansy could see Ron Weasley and Harry Potter's heads bent over their work, at one of the far tables.
Pansy stopped and stared for a second. Draco jostled past her. "I'm going to check the catalogue," he said briskly. He was fuming, the poor bugger. "Chances are they're in the RS anyway. You might want to look there."
She walked after him. The Restricted Section was open to them because they were advanced level Defence Against the Dark Arts students.
As Draco went over the catalogue, Pansy wondered why Potter and Ronald were in the library at lunch time. About five minutes earlier, Pansy and Draco had grabbed a quick lunch and had hastily gotten over to the library to research the Anathema Draught. Draco was close to obsessed now; he suspected that Snape was brewing the Draught for Potter, and if that was the case, it meant that Draco's godfather was a traitor to the Dark Lord and Slytherin.
The catalogue was this large box cupboard full of little drawers, in a corner near the check-out desk. A small book worm stuck its head out of one of the drawers and in a little voice it squeaked, "Subject?"
"Anathema Draught," Draco told it. It gave a little squeak and several more worms poked their heads out other drawers. There was a high-pitched conversation between them, before they each dived back into their drawers, and the whole box began to shake.
Finally, a drawer near the bottom slammed open and a little white card flew out. Draco caught it and read, "RS - SAL - 78. RS - CR - 79. RS - these are all Restricted Section, except for one down the bottom. I just want a summary, so I'll check that one out first. I'll meet you in the R Section."
Pansy put a hand on Draco's arm, distracted. "Wait a minute, I think I have a plan." She leaned forward, whispering. "If the potion is for Potter, he might have it, right?"
"Yes," said Draco. "But what are you going to do - just walk up to him and ask him?"
Pansy leaned back and gave him a slow, sexy smile. She rolled her shoulders and lifted her hands to her hair, undoing the band with one hand and smoothing the long golden strands with the other. Locks fell over her shoulders as she gave Draco a sultry pose. "That's exactly what I'm going to do," she whispered.
Draco shook his silver-blonde head and laughed, his grey eyes slitted in glee. "Okay, have fun!" He waved her off and walked away.
Pansy pouted her glossed lips and swaggered to the Gryffindors' table, hips swinging.
She took a deep breath and stood in front of them, across the table from where they were sitting. Potter blinked up her blearily.
"What d'you want, Parkinson?"
Ronald's head snapped up.
Pansy gave Potter a slow, condescending smile. "Hello Harold." She turned to the other and greeted, "Ronald."
The red-head stared at her, mouth hanging open.
"My name isn't 'Harold'," said Potter irritably, "it's Harry, just Harry. And he's Ron," he added, pointing with a jerk of his thumb.
Pansy slowly put her hands on the table in front of her, sliding forward. Ron's eyes fell to the open lapels of her blouse. "Okay Just Harry, Ron. I need your help."
"Forget it," said Potter, his focus back on his notebook.
Pansy's lips twisted in annoyance. "Ron…" she purred.
He blinked up at her. "Er, yeah?"
"It's just that, I'm doing an extra-curricular assignment for Potions, you see, and I'm getting Draco to help me but I know Hermione Granger is also doing extra-curricular study, and I was wondering if she still had that very particular book out. You know… the one that… she has…"
"You mean, Curse Breaking for Potion Lovers?"
Pansy beamed. "Yes, exactly what I was about to say!"
"Well," said Ron, voice cracking, "I have some copies here…" He began shuffling through his parchments before Potter interrupted.
"Why can't you just ask Hermione if you could borrow the book?" Potter snapped, glaring.
Pansy pressed her lips together and spoke through clenched teeth. "Because she'd say no. And in risk of sounding like a plebeian: duh, Potter, duh!"
"Then ask Snape," continued Potter unmoved, "he'd probably give you his own copy if he has one. If he doesn't, he'd probably make Hermione give up hers."
"Probably," she sniffed. "Have you found your notes yet, Ron?"
Ron looked up and gave her a sympathetic smile. "Any particular potion you were looking for?"
"Anathema Draught," Pansy answered promptly, straightening up. "Thank you."
He gave her the notes (about five pages of them) and she stole a blank piece of parchment, duplicated them with one spell, and copied the notes with another. The note-copying spell worked much like a Muggle photocopier - the copies only came out in black and white and often the text on the copies were crooked. But it was enough.
She grabbed her prize and sauntered to an empty table. A minute later Draco came back with a large book from the general potions section.
"Found it!" they said to each other, in unison. "Swapsies?" asked Pansy.
Draco nodded, and sat down next to her. He leafed through the pages Pansy had given him. "Honestly Pansy," he drawled disapprovingly, "please tell me you didn't copy these; they're all wonky!"
"No, it was Potter," Pansy lied easily. "Okay, found the page." She cleared her throat, and read the passage. "'The Anathema Draught is widely known as a preventive against mild curses ranging from Level One Death's Countdown to Level Three Darkness. However, medical facilities keep it in stock, as it allegedly cures fatal curses, wherein the fatal curse was not in fact fatal as it should have been. In other words, it cures people whom have survived fatal curse attacks, by banishing, or exorcising the curse still in the system. However, the symptoms of fatal curses (ranging in the Eighth Level) are not alleviated completely by the Anathema Draught, but it can work to sooth the chronic symptoms over time. 'This does not include the scarring of high level curses, as they will continue to be permanent, but the Draught does tend to help with physical pain, nightmares, hallucinations, itching, internal haemorrhaging, myocardial infarction, blindness and infection. Brewed with fire eucalypt will allow for the soothing of chills, and with the inclusion of Nile's Eye can prevent the curse from becoming a mental channel for outside forces. Other substitutes can be made to suit the symptoms of the infected.
'This does not include the scarring of high level curses, as they will continue to be permanent, but the Draught does tend to help with physical pain, nightmares, hallucinations, itching, internal haemorrhaging, myocardial infarction, blindness and infection. Brewed with fire eucalypt will allow for the soothing of chills, and with the inclusion of Nile's Eye can prevent the curse from becoming a mental channel for outside forces. Other substitutes can be made to suit the symptoms of the infected.'"
Draco looked up from the notes. "Does it say anything about curse tattoos?"
Pansy scanned a bit. "No, I don't think so."
Draco flipped through his pages again. "This potion is long, difficult and expensive. Just look at the amount of substitution alone!" He leaned closer to Pansy and flipped to the second page. "Look: Eight pints of holy water... no wait, this bit... substituting six flakes of red gurnard with seven werewolf hairs on the full moon will give the potion a preventive against night terrors; however, as a side-effect, the drinker will become prone to self-mutilation. Or this: adding two and a half tablets of zinc with lambs' ears will give the potion the added effect of an aphrodisiac."
Pansy snorted. "Add zinc to anything and it becomes an aphrodisiac."
Draco smirked. "True. But what about the substitution of fenny snake with Nile's Eye? I mean, it's obvious..." Draco trailed off as he scrutinised the rest.
Pansy put a hand on his shoulder. "Draco, what's on your mind?"
Draco snapped his head up, and the look in his now bright silver eyes made Pansy gasp and recoil, slightly. "It's obvious," he hissed, "that Snape and Granger are working on this potion for Potter. I mean think about it; it's a potion to alleviate the symptoms for a person scarred from a fatal curse. Remember those episodes he had in fourth year? I bet he still gets them, sometimes. And that means Snape is helping Potter!"
Pansy cautiously looked around Draco to see if Potter and Ron, or anyone else, had heard them talking. The coast seemed clear. She looked at Draco seriously. "I was actually thinking," she said slowly, "that perhaps Snape is brewing this for himself. I mean, we both know that the Dark Mark hurts him; we saw him practically bend double in class just yesterday!"
Draco almost snarled at her. "But that's almost worse! It makes him a traitor, as if he doesn't want the Dark Mark."
She shook her head. "But the Anathema Draught can't get rid of scars, and probably not tattoos either. Which means he just wants the pain of it to end, but still wear the tattoo."
"Yes," said Draco, nodding, "to spy for Dumbledore!"
"Oh Draco..." Pansy sighed.
"Pansy, look at me." But she would not, so he roughly grabbed her chin and whipped her head around. Pansy was afraid of him; his eyes were bright, the pupils starting to slit, and his canine teeth were lengthening. His almost-claws dug into her skin. "You have to understand," he hissed, "that the Dark Lord always causes his followers pain for a reason. It is imperative that a good servant of the Dark Lord endure this pain; it makes you strong, and in it the Dark Lord's torture is honour. In this Snape is weak, and a traitor to his master."
Pansy was shaking. She whispered, "Are you going to follow the Dark Lord, Draco?"
Draco's smile was slow and sinister. "Of course." He tilted his head, curious. "Did you ever think I wouldn't?"
She pulled in a shaky breath and blinked away her tears. "Anything to destroy Potter, right?" Her question was barely audible next to the panicked beating of her heart.
Draco smile seemed to drip away like melting ice. "This isn't about him."
She stared into his eyes. "It's always about him, Draco."
Her eyes flicked away from his face and over his shoulder, to see that Potter was staring at them from his table with hurt, angry green eyes.
Severus Snape only ever endured the young in meticulous circumstances, and only when youth portrayed their intellectual gifts. Draco, in particular, had been a very smart boy; although now his behaviour was matched along with the flaws of adulthood: stubborn, ambitious, and unreceptive to offered help.
But when Draco was a young boy aged eleven, he would come to Severus's quarters every night for company. In his unbroken voice he had declared his House mates as imbeciles, that only 'Godfather Severus' could understand his superior intellect. Severus had thought it almost adorable at the time. He would drape his little body over Severus's back as they lay on his bed, and Draco would read the Latin books over Severus's shoulder silently.
Consequently to growing up, Draco came to Severus's private quarters less and less over the years. However, he did come sometimes to sit on his almost-brother-father's bed and read, ask questions, and debate, when either had the energy. Severus, in his own quiet mind, had come to think of the Malfoy heir as his own son. His throat would always constrict at the thought that his Draco would eventually grown into Lucius Malfoy's clone. Subtly, Severus had the thought that perhaps he could shape Draco himself, into something of his own creation. Into a man of open thought and positive progress.
For a while he truly thought he might be able to do just that. Draco had seemed to act relaxed with Severus alone. Draco only ever gave Severus his full attention, at least until the end of fourth year, when he came out of an argument with Pansy Parkinson shaken, but all the better for it. Now Draco confided in her, rather than Severus, but there were other circumstances leading up to Draco's decision to switch confidants.
Indeed, Draco's fourth year was possibly the worst for the Slytherins. It pushed them towards decision and evaluation.
But it was Severus's worst, by far.
Now, as he stood in his personal workroom, carefully stirring the boiling Anathema Draught clockwise, he thought back.
One image that would never leave was the 'Potter Stinks' badge sitting on the table in his bedroom. Severus had focused on it almost the whole time, over Draco's blonde head. Draco himself had Severus pressed up against the door. He was wearing only a vest and trousers, Severus remembered. His fingers scrapped convulsively at Severus's shirt, and strands of silver hair seemed to be tangled with the small buttons. Severus's own fingernails had been clawing at the wood of the door.
Draco had lifted his head and looked at his godfather with grey eyes glistening with tears. "I'm sorry," he whispered, "I think I love you."
Severus only groaned in denial and concentrated on that stupid badge.
Back to reality. Severus stopped stirring and looked to the side. At the adjacent bench, Hermione was stirring her own half of the Anathema Draught, her back turned to him. As if sensing his stare, she turned her head and gave him a wary smile.
"Almost time to put in the Nile's Eye, I should think," he murmured.
Hermione's smile (and he only called her 'Hermione' in his head) became stronger and she nodded. She reached over the bench to pick up the bottle of wet sand. As she did so, her blouse stretched up to reveal the soft skin of her lower back.
Severus closed his eyes.
Where was he? Oh yes. Draco had leaned up and kissed Severus's bobbing adam's apple. "I want to kissed you again," Draco had said.
I'm sorry, I think I love you.
Severus Snape hated the Sorting Hat. It had a tendency to put perfectly smart girls in Gryffindor. Lily Evans had been just that - a Ravenclaw in Gryffindor's clothing.
I want to kiss you again.
Hermione poured the sand into her cauldron; it passed over the brim of the bottle with a soft hiss.
I'm sorry, I think I love you.
'Potter Stinks' burned into his mind. And somewhere there was a clue, and he was not picking it up. But where? It ate at his gut like a parasite, dripped at the tip of his tongue like poison.
Hermione turned around and beamed at him. Severus did not like men, and he certainly did not like young boys.
Young, intelligent, almost-Ravenclaw girls, however?
Absolutely sacred and not to be touched. Severus gritted his teeth and looked away once more.
To Be Continued