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Chapter 4

After dinner Draco sat at the best table in the common room, close to the fire, and wrote a letter. He pointedly ignored anyone who tried to sit with him, so that they soon got bored and got up again. Pansy sidled over at one point and tried to ooze into his lap, purring: 'Why won't you come and play with us, Draco?'

He glanced over at an open space near the stairs. The other Slytherins were playing 'Contortions'. Adapted from the Muggle game 'Twister', this version allowed the use of charms and spells, but you could only use them on yourself. Blaise Zabini had used a flexibility charm, and the position he was now arranged in looked quite grotesque. Draco made a face.

'Think I'll pass, thanks. I need to get this letter finished tonight.' Pansy huffed and stalked away. When it was her turn she made a great show of draping herself across Blaise to reach for a blue circle on the other side of him, but Draco didn't notice. He was reading over the letter he had written.

Hogwarts School

October 11th 1996

Dear Father,

I hope that you and Mother are well, and that the Crup puppies have stopped chewing the furniture. Have they recovered from the tail-docking incident yet?

Everything is fine here at school. I got the top mark in the Potions assignment on flavouring solutions. Granger's face was a picture when Professor Snape announced it was my solution that would be used in the desserts at the Halloween Feast.

Quidditch is better than ever. We beat Hufflepuff by three hundred and ten points in the first match of the season. I'm very much looking forward to the Gryffindor match next week. I'm more confident than ever that I can beat Potter. I think being completely hammered into the ground at Quidditch would be good for the smug git.

Quidditch aside, though, I think I have found a way to really find out what makes the great Harry Potter tick. If it works I'll be able to discover secrets about him that nobody knows, not even his best friends. If I'm right, I can get right inside his head and really make his life hell. Then he'll be sorry he ever turned down the offer of friendship of a Malfoy!

Draco paused, brushing his cheek with the end of his quill. He didn't want to state the nature of his plan; it was illegal after all. He had a feeling he would be forbidden to go through with it for fear of being found out and bringing dishonour on the family name. His father had once told him he should at least give the impression of pleasantness towards Potter, so to be on the safe side, he decided not to say any more and to delay sending the letter until after he had tried out the potion.

He glanced up and frowned at the sight of Pansy bending over backwards, a seventh year named Bruce Plunkett had managed to position himself between her legs.

'Hey Pans!' he called. 'I'm writing to my father, anything you want to say?'

'Tell him I think he's almost as gorgeous as his son, and any time he wants to....'

'Ok, ok, that will do,' he sighed, putting quill to paper once again.

Pansy sends her love.

Your devoted son,

Draco Malfoy

He folded the letter and tucked it into his Herbology textbook. Then he got up, climbed over a tangle of limbs on the floor (where the 'Contortions' game was rapidly deteriorating into an excuse for the boys to look up the girls' skirts), and climbed the stairs to his dorm. He drew the curtains around his bed and opened 'Moste Potente Potions' to the page containing instructions on how to use the Somnio Salvus potion. He discovered that all he had to do was wait until Potter was asleep (he'd have to guess that part, obviously), then drink a mouthful of the potion, close his eyes, and relax. He should experience a period of dizziness, then a feeling of flying. Then he just had to picture Potter's face as clearly as he could, and Potter's dream world would materialise around him. Easy enough! The important thing was to relax into the dizziness, and allow the spinning sensation to take over.

He changed for bed and set a personal alarm spell for four in the morning. Everyone would be asleep by then and hopefully Potter would be in the middle of a nightmare. He extinguished his bedside lamp with a flick of his wand and settled down to sleep.

Oddly enough, he dreamed about dragons.

Draco woke to the persistent soft beeping of the alarm spell, in the small hours of the morning. Groggy with sleep, he sat up and groped for his wand.

'Lumos' he grunted, then squinted painfully against the sudden light. Gradually the curtained cocoon of his four poster bed came into focus. He reached for the potion flask on his bedside table, and poured a small amount into a beaker. He swirled the purple liquid and sniffed it. It smelled of almonds. He hoped that wasn't a bad sign, wasn't there a poison he'd read about somewhere that smelled of almonds? No, he was certain he'd brewed the potion correctly, and he was no dunce when it came to potions. He took a deep breath, raised the beaker, muttered 'Cheers, Potter', and knocked it back in one gulp. It tasted almost pleasant, like burnt marzipan, with a peppery aftertaste.

He lay back down and concentrated on the warm, tickly feeling the potion made in his stomach. Soon he began to feel slightly dizzy and closed his eyes. His mind was full of images of swirling fog and a chaos of colours and light. Remembering the instructions he'd read, he tried not to fight the dizziness, letting the sensation of spinning faster and faster overcome him. Abruptly the whirling chaos subsided, replaced by a sensation of weightlessness, of floating serenely through the mist.

Draco recognised this as the point where he had to guide himself to his target. He tried to create a picture in his mind of Harry. Bright green eyes, messy black hair, round wasn't working. This was frustrating. How often had he glared at Potter's ugly mug? And now he couldn't seem to picture him. He tried something else. He pictured Harry doing typically Harry-ish things. Playing Quidditch, with that annoyingly confident style that made it look so easy; sitting at the Gryffindor table having a good-natured but heated argument with Weasley; sitting in the Potions dungeon, absently chewing his quill while copying down ingredients.

That's better. Harry's face came clearly into focus, turning to scowl at him like he usually did in Potions. Draco held that image in his mind and let the flying sensation intensify. He was soaring now, faster and faster until...SLAM!

He found himself lying face down on what appeared to be grass. Slowly he got up, feeling rather disorientated. He raised his head, and found he was in the castle grounds, near the lake. It all looked normal, and very real. He had to remind himself that it was only a creation of Harry Potter's subconscious. Now all he needed to do was find Potter.

It didn't take long. He turned towards the forest, and saw a crowd of cloaked figures, all standing around a tall, gnarled looking tree which Draco was certain didn't exist in the real grounds. Something was going on under the tree, but he couldn't make it out. He moved closer, and was amazed to discover that if he willed it, he could move completely silently. He could also make a light breeze appear and ripple the grass at his feet. He amused himself for a moment by levitating a few inches off the ground without using his wand.

'Ha! I can do anything here!' he mused with delight, then realised that what he should be doing was observing the scene down by the forest. He sneaked closer, willing himself not to be seen. Up close it was obvious who these people were. He'd seen cloaks and masks like that before. He had never seen Death Eaters in action though, and watched in fascination as they chanted an eerie incantation.

One of them stepped into the centre of the circle and waved his wand at an overhanging bough of the tree. Something long and silvery appeared, dangling from the branch. He didn't have time to speculate on what it might be, because at that moment a thin, skeletal figure emerged from the mist, floating towards the lakeshore.

Draco had never seen the Dark Lord before, but there was no question that this was him. He crept closer, and stifled a gasp when he saw Voldemort's face. He didn't know what he had expected, but he had thought that he would at least look human, even if he technically wasn't any more.

The red, unblinking eyes gazed into the centre of the circle, and the slit nostrils flared. Draco wouldn't have been surprised to see a forked tongue flicker out. The creature began to speak, and Draco listened.

'At last. The great Harry Potter cowers at my feet, where he belongs'...

Draco frowned. Harry Potter? Where? He moved closer still, so he was barely a few feet away from the nearest Death Eater. Peering between the cloaked shapes he could see Harry sprawled on the ground as if he'd been dropped from a height. He appeared to be immobilised in some way - perhaps the chanting...? He was holding his wand, and was trying to say something, but seemed to be under a silencing spell, too.

Draco was so busy observing Harry's condition he hadn't listened to Voldemort's tirade, but turned his attention to the Dark Lord in time to hear him announce, 'You will pay for the years of anguish and agony. You will pay, and then, like your parents, you will die...'

With that, Voldemort slowly raised his wand. Harry appeared to get up, but Draco soon realised that Voldemort controlled every movement. Eventually Harry was in a standing position, but floating three feet above the ground. He was still trying to utter a spell, but his mouth moved soundlessly. Suddenly Draco realised what the silvery object dangling from the tree was. It was a rope, or rather, a noose.

With a flick of his wand, the Death Eater who conjured it slipped the noose over Harry's head and it began to tighten around his neck. Harry closed his eyes and waved his wand ineffectually with one hand, while clutching at the rope around his neck with the other. He was still frantically trying to speak.

Voldemort murmured 'Prepare to understand the meaning of suffering...Crepitus!' He waved his wand with a sudden flourish as though he were brandishing an invisible whip. The effect was much the same. A sickening crack echoed among the trees and Harry jerked violently. Draco winced. He noticed that Harry's left leg now hung in an unnatural looking fashion. The sight made him feel a little queasy and he gulped. Uneasily, he glanced at Voldemort to see what he would do next. He raised his wand and another crack resonated through Draco's skull.

Again and again, Voldemort performed his bone-cracking curse. When Draco finally brought himself to look, Harry resembled a limp rag-doll; clothes ripped and bloodstained, arms and legs bent at awkward angles. His broken fingers had finally dropped the wand, but his pale, bruised face was still trying to speak.

Voldemort paused and stepped closer to Harry, looking up into the half-lidded green eyes. Draco found himself quivering with dread, how Harry could stare back into that gaze was beyond him.

'Enough sport!' announced Voldemort 'Farewell, Harry Potter. Give my regards to your parents.' He stepped away. Harry closed his eyes.

'Finite incantatem!' said Voldemort, casually flicking his wand at Harry's mangled body. The levitating spell dissolved and Harry's limp form dropped helplessly. The silver rope jerked tight...and Draco found himself hurled through the swirling chaos once more, his consciousness returning to his body with a force that convulsed every muscle.

His head swam. His stomach churned. He forced his legs to work and staggered to the bathroom where he retched helplessly. Panting and sweating, he collapsed against the wall. Probably a response to the disorientation following an out-of-body experience, he told himself. Or maybe I did make the potion wrong, and I've poisoned myself.

It was a while before he could bring his mind to think over the sickening scene he had witnessed. He didn't sleep again that night.

Harry woke with a gasp, clawing at his throat and struggling for breath. It took him a moment to realise that the hangman's noose was really only his school tie. He'd been so tired when he came up to bed he'd fallen asleep in his clothes. He stuck his head out of his curtains and checked the clock. Nearly five o'clock. Judging by the soft snores and sleepy mumbling coming from Dean's bed, he hadn't woken his housemates this time.

He changed into his pyjamas and crawled back into bed. He didn't think he'd go back to sleep, but he may as well be warm and comfortable for a few more hours.

His mind was unable to keep from drifting back over the dream, as it always did. In essentials, it was the same as ever, with some slightly different dialogue on Voldemort's part, and of course a new and thrilling way to die. But there had been a moment at the end when something had been different.

When Voldemort had levitated him he could see over the heads of the Death Eaters. He only got a brief glimpse but he thought he saw someone a short distance away, watching events without taking part. The figure had looked horrified, staring at Voldemort, and then at Harry as though in disbelief. If Harry didn't know better, he could have sworn it was...but no, that couldn't be right. Why would his nightmare suddenly change and incorporate Draco Malfoy? True, he was not exactly top of Harry's Christmas card list but he was hardly the stuff of nightmares, either. Compared with Voldemort he was like a slightly naughty puppy next to a rabid Rottweiler.

Ah well, it was probably of no significance. Harry was not a believer in the interpretation of dreams and even if he were, a dream about Draco Malfoy standing back and watching him die would hardly tell him anything he didn't already know.

He gulped down a glass of water and snuggled down in his blankets. Somehow the dream hadn't disturbed him as much as usual. It had been frightening, and very realistic, but he hadn't felt so terribly...alone. Soon he was quite relaxed, and managed to snooze lightly until he was roused by Seamus and his early-morning shower time singsong.

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