"...you know how to fix it?"
"Possibly," Borgin replied, almost nonchalantly. "I'll need to see it, though. Why don't you bring it into the shop?"
"I can't," Malfoy said. "It's got to stay put. I just need you to tell me how to do it."
Harry finally got his chance to pursue Malfoy when Mrs Weasley and Ginny became distracted in Fred and George's shop. Mrs Weasley had been enamoured by the Pygmy Puffs and Ginny was busy defending her relationship with Dean Thomas against the twins. Malfoy had been outside, carrying four books. Heavy ones, by the looks of them. Rearranging them in his arms, he skulked off down the street.
It was so odd to see the Slytherin by himself. And carrying his own things, too. Why doesn't he have Crabbe and Goyle with him to carry them? He shouldn't be alone. Harry found himself feeling both suspicious - and worried. He cajoled Ron and Hermione to take cover beneath his invisibility cloak and pursue Malfoy alongside him down the street and into Knockturn Alley. As the Slytherin entered Borgin and Burkes, they took cover beneath an outside window and listened in with one of the Extendable Ears that Ron had purchased from his brothers' shop.
"Well, without seeing it, I must say it will be a very difficult job, perhaps impossible. I couldn't guarantee anything."
"No?" Malfoy said, and Harry could tell just by his tone that he was sneering. Lips pulled thin. Scowling. He always pulled that ugly face when he was angry. "Perhaps this will make you more confident."
He moved towards Borgin and was blocked from view by the cabinet. Harry, Ron and Hermione shuffled sideways to try and keep him in sight, but all they could see was Borgin, looking very frightened.
"Tell anyone," Malfoy went on, "and there will be retribution. You know Fenrir Greyback? He's a family friend, he'll be dropping in from time to time to make sure you're giving the problem your full attention."
"There will be no need for -"
"I'll decide that," he cut in. "Well, I'd best be off. And don't forget to keep that one safe. I'll need it."
"Perhaps you'd like to take it now? Or would you like a bag for your books? They look very weighty."
"No, of course I wouldn't, you stupid little man. How would I look carrying that down the street? Or carrying a bag out of Knockturn Alley? Someone would notice. Just don't sell it and don't mention I was here to anyone. That clear?"
Borgin bowed as low as the one Harry had once seen him give Lucius Malfoy. "Of course...sir."
"I'm serious. Not a word to anyone. Not one. That includes my mother, do you understand?"
The little man bowed again. "Naturally, naturally."
Malfoy left the shop, making the shop's little bell tingle. He moved to the side of the door, reshuffled the books in his arms, took out his wand with his left hand, and tapped the top book whilst muttering a spell. Harry tried to hear what spell he was casting, but Ron had already put the Extendable Ears back into his pocket by then. Malfoy inspected the book for a moment, sighed and then walked off towards Diagon Alley.
"That bloody git," Ron muttered beneath the cloak, after a moment of silence. "And he was so nice to mum, too. Saying that Caroline would do right by us. Utter bollocks."
"I don't think we know the whole of it, Ron," Hermione whispered. "But I do wonder, what spell did he cast? Those books are from Flourish and Blotts. Brand new, I reckon, by their covers. Horrible that he'd ruin them."
"That's what you're worried about - him defacing a few books?" Harry spluttered.
After a rant about magically vandalizing books, Hermione had entered the shop to try and gain information about the item Malfoy didn't want sold, but Borgin had cottoned onto her quickly and shouted at her to leave. Harry hoped Malfoy wasn't involved in anything nefarious; he didn't want to imagine the man turning out like his father.
"Maybe he's broke his Hand of Glory?" Ron said vaguely days later, as he attempted to straighten his broomstick's bent tail wings. They were sitting on his floor, not waiting to speak downstairs where anyone could overhear them. "Remember that weird, shrivelled-up arm Malfoy had?"
Harry frowned. "But what about when he said, 'don't forget to keep that one safe.' It sounds like there are two objects. Borgin has one, and Malfoy wants it kept safe."
"Yes, Malfoy is up to something. I think - I think Malfoy wants revenge, for his father being put in Azkaban. Don't you think he'd want that?"
"Harry, listen to yourself." Hermione had been rereading her Fit to Return to Hogwarts letter, but she put it down in favour of scowling at him. "What could Malfoy really do to get revenge? Revenge could even lead to his own expulsion, would he really want to risk that?"
"That's my point! I don't know," Harry said, frustrated. "But I think we should take it seriously. Lucius Malfoy was a Death Eater, and his son -"
He stopped. The answer was so clear, it struck him speechless. He stared at Ron's beaten broomstick, not wanting to divulge his thoughts.
"Harry?" Hermione asked, leaning in. "Harry, what's wrong?"
"He's a Death Eater," he replied slowly. "He's replaced his father as a Death Eater."
There was a moment of silence before Ron burst out laughing. "Malfoy? He's only sixteen, mate. You think You-Know-Who would let him join?"
Hermione bit her lip. "It does seem unlikely. What makes you think -"
"At St. Mungo's. Malfoy was visiting my godfather. He'd just left his room, and I grabbed his arm and asked him how Sirius was. He reacted like I'd just killed his family owl. He - he did something to the door. Broke it...accidentally, I think. With magic. And back in Twilfit and Tattings, he wouldn't let Caroline touch his arm. His left arm. Damn it, he's been branded with the Dark Mark."
Hermione titled her head, looking unconvinced. "He could've just been uncomfortable, Harry. We did effectively send his father to prison."
"Yeah," Ron agreed, now cleaning his broomstick's handle, "I don't think we're his favourite people right now."
"What about when he was in Borgin and Burkes? He showed Borgin something. And after that, Borgin started taking Malfoy seriously, didn't he. That was it. Malfoy showed him that he had the Dark Mark."
Hermione huffed. "He could've shown Borgin anything, Harry. It was fishy, but You-Know-Who wouldn't trust a mission to someone as young as Draco Malfoy. Given his lack of experience in the Dark Arts, it'd be nigh on impossible for Malfoy to succeed at anything that would truly help You-Know-Who's cause."
Absolutely convinced he was right, and now annoyed, Harry grabbed his Quidditch robes and left the room. Ron joined him later outside to play Quidditch, wherein both of them simply took turns at shooting a quaffle through some hoops. And the subject wasn't brought up again, although it stayed with Harry.
It plagued his every thought, until, about a week after that conversation, he was back at King's Cross station, dreading the train ride back to Hogwarts. He'd put on a shirt and his warmest jumper, and had extra thick socks on. Hermione had told him that the Hogwarts Express had warming charms placed on it's carriages, but once they arrived in Scotland and would leave the train to ride the Thestral-driven carriages, he would definitely start to feel the cold.
"Hurry up, Harry!" Ron shouted, already boarding the train.
Harry looked back at Mr Weasley. He had just told Ron's father about his suspicions about Malfoy, but Mr Weasley hadn't believed him. "Now, Harry," Mr Weasley said, "I know you think the Ministry missed something at Malfoy Manor, or that Draco Malfoy must be up to something, but don't go thinking to extremes. And you have enough to concern yourself with, being a vampire now. How about you try focusing on yourself?"
"But, Mr Weasley -"
"Perhaps Draco is up to something, perhaps. But it shouldn't be your concern. You're sixteen, Harry," Mr Weasley reminded. "And you're welcome to stay with us during the holidays. It's already been confirmed with Dumbledore. You just make sure to look after yourself. Now go, go on."
The whistle blew. Harry scampered through one of the many doors onto the Hogwarts Express, and hung by the window as he listened to Mrs Weasley shout, "Be good and stay safe!"
"Fancy trying to find a compartment?" he asked Hermione, Ron and Ginny.
Ron rubbed his neck. "Err, sorry, mate. 'Mione and I have to go to the prefects' carriage. But we'll ride with you when we get to the thestrals, okay?"
Hermione grasped his arm briefly before releasing it and walking away, Ron following her close behind.
"And I need to see Dean. I think the twins may have written to him about me," Ginny said, wincing. "I'm sorry, Harry." She took off quickly to walk by and look in each of the compartments, no doubt searching for her boyfriend.
Harry realised then, in all the years he'd been at Hogwarts, that he'd pretty much only hung around with Ron and Hermione. The two had received prefect letters alongside their O.W.L results, in spite of Hermione being an elf. Harry didn't think he would receive the same courtesy; with his new abilities and extra needs, and the danger level he presented as a vampire, he doubted they would let him take part in anything. Quidditch. The Duelling Club. The list went on.
Eventually, he found Neville and Luna and settled with them into a compartment. It was all right, although nothing like the banter he had with Ron.
"...You should hear my gran talk about you. She'd give anything to have you as a grandson," Neville said, and he grinned. "But she did buy me a new wand. Says I'm finally living up to be like my father."
"How are your parents, Neville?" Harry asked, before he could think twice and stop himself from asking. "I mean, they were cursed by Bellatrix, right? Sirius is still in St Mungo's now, too. He isn't...he's had two strokes so far, is all."
"Oh. My parents are okay. My mum is doing better than dad. I don't think Sirius will be in St Mungo's much longer, Harry. I think he'll be all right. I mean, my parents...they were hit by six Cruciatus curses at once. Your godfather only got two. And it was only for a short while, yeah."
Harry nodded and let Neville get back to searching for his toad. Both Harry and Remus had managed to step in and stop the incident from causing Sirius further pain, except that Bellatrix had been one of the casters. And she was brilliant; she'd been using that curse for years. What's more, she had wanted to cause Sirius Black deep, actual pain.
An hour later, Ron and Hermione entered their compartment. Harry was glad when they told him that Malfoy had been in the prefect carriage, oddly quiet and writing notes but still in attendance. And how he didn't bully any first years once they'd left. That reassured him. He still believed that Malfoy carried the Dark Mark, though, he was certain there.
No sooner did Ron and Hermione return, then did a note come for both Harry and Neville, inviting them to a luncheon with Potions Master Slughorn. Harry attended - but he hadn't liked it. Zabini gave him and Ginny - who was also in attendance - sour looks, Belby had almost choked on a piece of pheasant and was narrowly saved by Slughorn, and McLaggen, well, the boy just wouldn't stop talking when Harry and Neville weren't speaking themselves.
When it was over, Zabini had shoved Harry into the carriage wall in order to get away as quickly as possible. Ginny, who had exited through the compartment door after, saw, and she said, "Bloody rotten, he is. I've see him; he acts prouder than Malfoy most days. I'll see you later, anyway, Harry. Don't let that jerk bother you."
She had walked off to return to her compartment with Dean and his friends. Harry, realising that he needed to follow them if he wanted to get back to his own compartment, went on behind them. That was, until he remembered that Zabini was in fact Malfoy's friend. Even if Zabini was proud, he still hung around Malfoy enough. And they were sure to be hanging out in the same carriage or compartment together.
Harry turned back to Neville and Luna behind him, said, "I'll see you two later," and then he pulled on his Invisibility Cloak and shot off after Zabini as quickly as he could without giving himself away.
Zabini was already sliding the carriage door shut when Harry stuck his foot out to prevent him from closing it fully. Harry bit his own lip, absorbing the pain, as Zabini continued to slam the door into his foot until he finally looked away and said, "Damn it, someone should fix the doors on this train!"
Harry seized the door handle. He shoved the door back, causing Zabini to stumble and fall into Crabbe's lap, crumpling the comic that Crabbe had evidently been reading. In all the tumbling around, Harry darted into the compartment, leapt onto an empty seat, and climbed up to hide in the luggage rack above. He saw Parkinson rise from her seat to help Zabini regain his standing. The two then returned to their seats, Parkinson sliding neatly beside Malfoy. Zabini opposite them.
Malfoy was quietly seated right beside the window, and he was watching the countryside pass by outside. Harry wanted to the man to speak. As time passed by, he eventually had to bite his tongue, for fear of speaking. Parkinson and Zabini began arguing with one another over prior Zabini's clumsiness - and there Malfoy sat, seemingly unperturbed.
Come on, Malfoy, talk. You had a big enough mouth last year.
"So, what did Slughorn have to say, Blaise?" Parkinson asked.
"Just trying to make up with well-connected people. Not that he managed to find any."
Parkinson turned her attention over to Malfoy. "Are you...you sure you're okay, Draco?" she asked.
"I'm spiffing, Pansy. Absolutely spiffing." He hung back in his chair, and turned his head from the window to stare at Zabini. "All right. Out with it, then. Who else was there?"
"McLaggen from Gryffindor," Zabini said.
Malfoy snorted. "That's expected. His uncle is big in the Ministry."
"A boy called Belby, from Ravenclaw -"
"Dullard, he is," Parkinson muttered.
"And Longbottom, Potter and the Weasley girl. That was it," Zabini finished. He folded his arms. "Really wasn't great, to be honest. Slughorn just talked for the most part. On and on. Didn't shut up."
"How did the Weasley girl get an invite?" Parkinson asked, putting her elbows on the table, her chin in her hands. "A lot of boys like her. Even you think she's good-looking, Blaise; and we all know how hard you are to please."
"I've got more important things on my mind then women, Pansy. Like passing our N.E.W.Ts." He unfolded his arms, leaned forwards and tapped the table. "I wish I could say the same for you. Still seeing Daphne Greengrass, are we?"
Harry heard Goyle snicker in his seat beside Crabbe. The two were huddled together at the table opposite Malfoy's. Crabbe lowered his comic, glanced over and grimaced at Parkinson's outraged expression, and then lifted it again.
"I visited her over the summer. Her family aren't blood traitors, but they're certainly not against muggle things." She sniffed, her nose scrunching up like a pug's. "They had a television in their living room, can you believe it." Harry wondered idly if Daphne Greengrass wasn't sitting with them presently for that reason.
He also wondered why Malfoy hadn't said one word in the last five minutes. Maybe it was a poor decision to follow Zabini.
"You should be glad that your summer was nice, Pansy," Malfoy said, giving an opinion on something for the first time since Harry had entered the room. He said it so gloomily, without any anger in his tone, Harry found himself surprised. "Not all of us spent it with loved ones, televasions or not shouldn't matter."
Harry smiled a little. It was adorable to hear Malfoy attempt to pronounce a muggle word. But Malfoy wasn't trying to be funny, so he stopped smiling - and he was glad that somebody else cared enough to notice Malfoy's sour mood.
Zabini was wincing. He leaned back against his seat again, clearly unimpressed. "Okay. What's gotten into you, Draco? You have the look of a depressed rat."
"He stayed over the summer."
"You mean - Him?" Parkinson asked, catching onto the reference of You-Know-Who.
"He stayed for a month. It wasn't a pleasant experience. There was..." Malfoy broke off, and went back to looking out the window. "I don't think I'll survive the year."
"What do you mean, you might not survive the year?" she shrieked, and Harry shut his eyes. Merlin, she's loud! When he reopened them and looked down again, he saw that Crabbe had put his comic down onto his lap. Goyle looked worried; he had taken out his wand and was fiddling with it.
"You 'ave us here, Draco," Goyle said. It was the first time he'd spoken. "Nothing's gonna get us. Nothing'll get you. We'll stick together."
Malfoy chuckled grimly. "Thank you, Gregory. I appreciate it. But that could lead you all to getting hurt." He turned his gaze to Zabini. "You want an answer, Blaise? I suppose you'll find out soon enough when we get there. Doesn't matter if I tell you now." Malfoy put his elbow on the table and leaned forward. "I'm a veela."
Zabini looked intrigued then. "You! You're one of those half-bloods they let back into Hogwarts."
"One of the Malfoy ancestors married a wizard-veela in France. This goes back a hundred years ago," he said. "I was the first one contacted by the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, apparently. I'm probably the most dangerous."
Veelas are dangerous? Harry had seen a group of veelas cheerleading at the Quidditch World Cup, but they hadn't seemed dangerous at all. What is a veela, anyway?
Parkinson whimpered. She raised out her hand. "Oh, Draco. Is that why you wouldn't let me stroke your hair?" She looked so upset, Harry even felt sorry for her.
"You - you can try," Malfoy murmured. "Just...slowly. No surprises." Harry watched her slowly graze the lower strands of his hair. When nothing happened, she began stroking his hair from the roots. Malfoy shuffled sideways towards her, giving her more room.
"Does that help?" Goyle asked. Crabbe had already gone back to his comic.
Malfoy closed his eyes. "A bit."
Zabini glanced out the window. "I think I can see Hogwarts." He rose from his seat. "Come on, Malfoy. I'll make sure no one surprises you this year."
Malfoy opened his eyes. "You can't promise that to me. I'll be living in the Half-Blood Tower, I'll probably bring about it's destruction. The Ministry, they were wrong to let me come back."
"Shush, Draco. Don't talk like that." Parkinson pushed one of his strands behind his ear. "You'll still see us during breaks and in classes. We'll figure it out."
Harry felt bad about intruding. Malfoy was a creature. He'd had Voldemort living in his home and he was clearly upset. And he reckoned that if Malfoy had known Harry was in the same carriage, Malfoy wouldn't have spoken. He would not have had that moment with his friends before reaching Hogwarts. But there was still a chance that Malfoy bore the Dark Mark. He had said so himself that Voldemort had stayed at the Manor over the summer.
Distracted, Harry didn't realise that the Slytherins were beginning to unload their belongings from the luggage rack. He didn't notice Goyle reaching up for his trunk. As the large man swung it down, the trunk hit Harry hard on the side of his head. He let out an involuntary gasp of pain and saw Malfoy look up at the rack, frowning.
Harry wasn't afraid, but he didn't like the idea of being discovered by a group of Slytherins. Not to mention, he didn't want Malfoy to find out he'd been listening in on their private conversation. Head throbbing and eyes watering, Harry waited as the Hogwarts Express slowed and finally lurched to a halt.
"Come on, Malfoy," Zabini said. "Goyle and Crabbe will make sure no one gets near us."
"Why's everyone 'ere set on making sure Malfoy isn't touched?" Crabbe sneered, rising to stand.
Parkinson punched him on the arm. "Shut up, Crabbe. There's a reason no one asks you to think. You can go if it's too much trouble waiting for Draco."
Crabbe looked over at Malfoy, then snorted. He cranked open the carriage door and left, barraging past a bunch of third year Slytherins. Parkinson scrunched up her nose again, but this time her face was also flushed red from anger.
"He'll find himself without any tutors this year, that's for sure," she said. "I'll make sure none of the girls help him pass his classes. Dumb boy."
Malfoy waved his left hand. "You go on. I'll catch up when it's less crowded. You shouldn't wait for me." He paused. "And I need to check something." He reached up and hauled down a black suitcase from the luggage rack. As he began to unbutton his suit jacket, Zabini and Crabbe left the carriage.
"You better make it to the thestrals, Malfoy, or I'm coming back and hauling you off this train," Parkinson threatened. "You deserve to be back at Hogwarts. Don't let Crabbe or anyone else make you feel differently."
"I'll make it to the thestrals, don't worry. I only need a moment, Pansy."
She nodded and left.
Harry watched as Malfoy sighed before moving to the carriage door and closing it. The blond man put down his suitcase and jacket. He then turned, took out his wand, calmly aimed it in Harry's direction, and said, "Petrificus Totalus!" Harry fell from the rack. He crashed and landed onto the floor on his back, head bursting with pain.
"Potter? I knew someone was up there...why is it always you?" Malfoy didn't sneer at him, to Harry's surprise. No, he merely looked annoyed. "I heard someone moan when Goyle got his trunk down. You made that incident with Zabini happen, didn't you?" Harry couldn't move. If he could move, he would've nodded and owned up to it. Wasn't his proudest moment but it got him into the carriage unseen. "I know you're trailing me, I'm not thick. Borgin owled me to say a young girl with wild brown hair entered his shop straight after I'd left and started asking questions. Take it that was Granger?"
Harry couldn't answer him. He wanted to apologise, he wanted to tell Malfoy that Hermione had only gone in because Harry himself had been so set on spying and finding what Malfoy was up to. Hermione really had nothing to do with it.
Malfoy knelt down on the carriage floor. He unbuttoned his cuff. "Here. This is what you wanted, right?" He rolled up his left sleeve, revealing what Harry had long feared. Malfoy had the Dark Mark on his arm. But it wasn't black. It was dark red. And bloody. Blood. There's so much of it. Parts of the snake were bleeding, even the skull was a little. The snake head itself looked barely visible beneath all the blood now gathering there.
The upper bit of his arm looked purple and cut up, too. The cuts that had healed looked barely scabbed over. Harry couldn't bear it any more. How is he handling this? It looks so bad. He looked away from Malfoy's arm and back at his face. There's so much blood on his arm. His blood.
"Looks lovely, huh? It doesn't surprise me that even you won't look at it, scarhead, I can barely stand it. I - I wasn't exactly given a choice." Malfoy scoffed. "But I suppose you don't care about that. Come on, Potty. You've heard it all, now we can both leave. And you can finally stop spying on me."
Malfoy muttered the counter-spell to the body-binding curse, and Harry sat up. Unthinking, he leaned forwards into Malfoy, barely an inch from touching his chest. Or his arm. He wanted to see his arm again, see the blood again. He reached out for Malfoy's scarred arm.
In that moment, the windows cracked and burst. Glass flew. He could hear a luggage rack snapping. "DUCK, POTTER!" Malfoy shouted before grabbing Harry by the back of his neck, dragging them both face-down to the floor. Glass splattered around the carriage. Small pieces. Large pieces.
Harry moved his face sideways to plant his cheek against the floor and peer at Malfoy. He felt glass scratch his cheek and his neck. Probably other places, too. His jaw certainly hurt a lot. But it was worth the movement. Malfoy had gotten the worst of it; he'd grabbed Harry and pulled him down first, after all. There were dozens of cuts on Malfoy's face, marring his beautiful pale skin. Blood was in his hair. Beautiful skin? What? Harry didn't have time to think on his thoughts. He heard the sound of a creak, and then watched as the rack that had been above Crabbe and Goyle before gave way and tumbled down, crushing the seats and tables beneath it. Any forgotten luggage also fell with it.
Malfoy had shut his eyes. When he opened them, he didn't sneer at Harry. He just put his hands out and climbed to his feet. "You idiot, Potter," he said. "You don't surprise a recently turned veela. Don't touch me, don't even think about following me in future. Just don't -" He'd walked to the door and turned around to probably finish off his little rant, only he'd stopped mid-sentence. "You - You have fangs?"
Whatever composure Malfoy had left was gone. He continued to stare at Harry, lips parted in disbelief, before he grabbed his suitcase and left the carriage, forgetting to close the door behind him. Forgetting his jacket, too.
Harry clambered to his feet. Two of his front teeth felt sharper and longer than they should've been, reaching past his upper lip. He touched them with his fingertips. "Well, shit," he said, before he then reached down to grab his Invisibility Cloak. He needed to get off the train. He didn't want to end up back in London still on it. He'd think about his fangs after.
"Wotcher, Harry," came Tonks' voice, catching Harry off guard. "You all right there?"
He looked up. Tonks was standing in the carriage doorway, her spiky hair just as bubblegum-pink as always. "Oh, hello, Tonks. Best day of the year yet, my fangs just came in. Right in front of Draco Bloody Malfoy."