* * *
Disclaimer: All characters and places featured in this story that relate to Harry Potter are the property of J.K. Rowling, various publishers, and Warner Brothers. No money is being made on this story and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. The only things about this story that I own are the storylines, places and characters that are not featured in the books.
Author's Note: This story takes place during Harry Potter's sixth year at Hogwarts. I will be trying to follow the Order of the Phoenixcanon as much as possible. I may however deviate from the canon occasionally if the story I am trying to tell would be better served by doing so. Even though this story takes place in Harry's sixth year, it is mostly AU because it was written before the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Now, I would also like to say that I'm an American, so while I will try to use some of the British terminology that I'm familiar with to make this story more real, there will likely be instances when the characters may sound a little more American then they would otherwise. For those of you who care about such things, I apologize in advance.
Feedback is very much appreciated. You may contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can contact me at JCVascardi on Yahoo Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger. For updates on my writing progress, check out my writing journal at: http://www.greatestjournal.com/users/jcvascardi/. Also, feel free to check out my website at http://jcv.5u.com/all/jcstories/.
* * *
* * *
It was the Saturday morning immediately following his birthday, that Nicolas Delaney had a very interesting conversation with his new friend, Harry. Nick had known since the train ride to Hogwarts that Harry had slept with Bill Weasley, but he didn't think much of it at the time. However, when he saw Bill for the first time, Nick realized immediately what the appeal for Harry had been. Nick usually didn't go for redheads, but in Bill's case, he was definitely willing to make an exception. Ever since the feast, Nick found himself thinking and fantasizing about his new professor.
So, when Harry came to him and told him about his encounter with him in the staff wing, Nick couldn't help feeling elated at the news. Not only did Bill have a thing for younger men with black hair, but Nick now knew that he couldn't get in trouble for dating a professor, since he was now seventeen, and of legal age in the wizarding world. After the conversation, Nick used some of the cunningness that had gotten him into Slytherin to figure out what Bill did with his free time.
He soon realized that Bill liked to go for a two-hour run around the grounds in the mornings, and it was then that he decided it would be a good idea to go for a run himself, and make sure that he "accidentally" ran into Bill. He hoped that Bill would then invite him to join him, and that perhaps it would go well enough that they could start running together every morning. Nick wasn't usually an early riser, and doing this would mean waking up at five in the morning, but if it brought him closer to Bill, he was more than willing to deal with it.
Donning a jogging suit, and a pair of running shoes that he'd bought on his trip to Muggle London before school started, Nick left the castle and ran down to the lake. From his spying earlier in the week, he'd found out that Bill usually spent about fifteen minutes stretching near the lake before starting his run. Not seeing any sign of his professor yet, he started doing some warm-up exercises to pass the time. Of course, he didn't have to wait all that long, because within about ten minutes, he caught sight of Bill heading in his direction.
"Good morning, Mr. Delaney," Bill said when he noticed Nick.
"Good morning, Professor," Nick said with a smile.
"What brings you out here so early in the morning?"
"Thought I'd do a little exercising," Nick said. "I meant to start sooner, but I wanted to settle in for a bit first."
Bill nodded and began to do his own warm-up exercises, and Nick wasn't sure if it was wishful thinking or what, but he could swear he'd caught his professor stealing occasional glances at him. Encouraged by the chance that Bill was checking him out, Nick decided that he might as well make sure that Bill had a good show and started to do some exercises which really showed off his muscles and various curves.
Bill noticed that Nick seemed to be showing off a bit, but he wasn't about to complain. He had, after all, been lusting over Nick since that first day he'd met him in Diagon Alley. The two of them continued to exercise in silence for several minutes before Bill decided to break it by asking, "I heard you recently celebrated a birthday. Are you enjoying being seventeen?"
"Oh, yeah," Nick said at once. "I'm glad to finally be seventeen; I've been looking forward to it for so long."
"I know the feeling. I remember that when I was almost seventeen, I was so excited about it that I couldn't contain myself. Mum was a little hurt. She thought I was happy that I'd be able to move out on my own soon, but that wasn't the case. She soon learned that wasn't the case when I stayed on at home for another year before I finally went off to Egypt for the first time."
"What's Egypt like? I always thought it might be an interesting place to visit, but my grandmother has never been into traveling that much. She travels when she has to, but she prefers to stay at home, so there are a number of places I'd like to see that I've never had the opportunity to."
"It's a very interesting place," Bill said. "Of course, its also hot, and getting sand in your shoes can be annoying, but all in all, I did enjoy it. Many people don't know this, but they still have a Pharaoh, you know."
"Yes, Pharaoh Khafra CXLVIII, the 148th, he's the Egyptian equivalent of Minister Scrimgeour, except that he isn't an elected official. When he dies, his son Prince Khufu LXIX, the 89th, will become Pharaoh."
"Have you ever met him? The Pharaoh I mean?" Nick asked as they finished their warm-up exercises and began running.
"Yes. Have you ever heard of Felix Felicis?"
"Yeah, it's the luck potion, isn't it?"
"Indeed it is. Well, when I was twenty-one, I took a dose of it one morning before heading out to the Valley of the Kings to work on breaking through the curses of a newly discovered tomb. The Muggles had long ago declared the tomb fully explored, but we knew better.
Muggle archaeologists are incapable of reaching the areas that curse-breakers like me work in, because the areas are hidden behind several layers of ancient and very complex magic. They don't realize it of course, but many of the tombs they thought had been looted and desecrated by tomb robbers were not entirely empty. In most cases, the majority of the Pharaohs' treasure and their mummies were placed behind so many layers of magic that the average tomb robber, the majority of which were Muggles, would have died long before reaching them.
"Anyway, that was probably the best day of my life, because after my team and I broke through the ancient curses, we came upon a room practically overflowing with golden artifacts. It was one of the largest finds we'd ever found, and the goblins were, of course, thrilled with my success. I also ended up meeting the Pharaoh because of it, because according to the agreement between the Egyptian wizarding government and Gringott's, all treasure is to be split equally. The Pharaoh was, of course, extremely interested in meeting the curse-breaker leading the team that had discovered a treasure valued at a little over fifty million galleons."
"Wow, if my math is right that's like £250,000,000."
"Yeah, it is," confirmed Bill after he did some quick calculating of his own. As a pureblood wizard, Bill's knowledge of Muggles was a bit obscure, but one thing that he did pick up while working at Gringott's was the exchange rate between British pounds and Wizard galleons; one galleon is equal to five pounds.
After that, Bill and Nick fell into a companionable silence as they continued their run. While it was true that Nick had never risen quite as early as Bill usually did for a run, he had done his fair share of running, so he had no problem keeping up with the older redhead; of course, that didn't stop him from falling behind occasionally, just to get a glimpse of Bill's backside. Careful to not let Bill notice, Nick couldn't help but grin when he realized that Bill seemed to be doing the same thing occasionally.
After finishing the run, they said their goodbyes and headed back to the castle. Of course, the next morning, the two of them were right back at the lake at the same time, warming up and then going for another run. Unbeknownst to each other, they were both immensely enjoying the extra time in each other's company, and were both wishing that something, anything, would happen that would bring them even closer.
* * *
"So how is your class going, Valen?"
"Very good, Albus," Valen answered. "At first there were a few problems, many of the students had never handled a sword, but they're learning."
"What is this I hear about you making young Mr. Cromwell your assistant professor?"
"Ah, yes, well, he has an ability that far outshines anyone in the class, because his grandfather taught him for five years before his death. So, since there are an odd number of students in class anyway, I figured the only way I could give him an appropriate challenge was to make myself his partner, and I then asked him to help me keep an eye on the other students and to give them a few pointers when he could."
Albus just nodded and sipped his tea before asking, "So, Valen, how do you know Mr. Cromwell?"
"Nothing gets past you, does it?"
"When you reach my age, there is very little that escapes your notice."
`If you only knew, Albus,' Valen thought as he simply nodded to the headmaster, and then said, "Well, I haven't told Ryan this yet, but, the fact of the matter is, I met him for the first time when he was two years old."
"Really, and how did that meeting come about?"
"Well, I was asked by an interested party to check on Ryan, and make sure that he was being well taken care of. I'm happy to say that I was able to give a glowing report, because William and Lucinda Cromwell did a very good job with him."
"I don't mean to pry, but what do you mean `an interested party'?"
"I'm referring to his father."
"His father is alive?"
"Yes, although for reasons I am unable to discuss at the present time, he has not been able to be a part of his son's life."
"And how exactly do you know Mr. Cromwell's father?"
"We've been friends since childhood," Valen answered. "He's also my brother-in-law; my elder sister's husband."
"Ah, I see, and do you intend to tell Mr. Cromwell this information?"
"No, I don't, at least not for the moment. My sister and his father have requested that I not tell him for the moment. They said they will decide when the time is right to tell him, and that until then, I'm not to tell him."
Albus nodded. "Well, Valen, if you'll excuse me, I have some paperwork to do."
"Of course, Headmaster," Valen said as he finished his tea and stood to leave.
`Hmm, I probably shouldn't have told him anything. He'd have my head on a platter if he knew I told anyone. Oh well, its easily fixed.'
Valen headed for the door as Albus bent low over his desk and started writing something. Valen quickly scanned the room to make sure none of the portraits were watching him before he pointed his wand at Albus and whispered, "<i>Obliviate!</i>"
After Valen left, Albus looked up towards the doors to his office and muttered, "Hmm, interesting, very interesting indeed," before he went back to his paperwork.
* * *
Harry was sitting alone on the edge of the lake, lost in his thoughts. Over the past several days, he'd been watching Draco, and he would have had to be blind not to see the change in him. Draco still insulted him every now and then, but something about the look in Draco's eyes when he did it, told him that it was more in jest than anything else. In fact, in the last few days, Harry saw a side of Draco that at one time, he would have bet all the galleons in Gringott's that it didn't exist.
Just last night, Harry had a chat with Ryan, who informed him that he was dating Justin Finch-Fletchley now, and that Draco had caught them snogging in a broom cupboard on the third floor the previous night. Harry was frankly surprised that the news wasn't all over the school now, and that Draco didn't take any points or attempt to get Ryan and Justin in trouble. Harry knew that Justin was a prefect now, so he knew that Draco couldn't take points from him, but that doesn't mean he couldn't take points from Ryan. They were family, yes, but Harry never would have believed that fact alone would stop Draco from getting anyone in trouble.
It had really gotten Harry thinking more and more about putting his rivalry with Draco to rest. He knew that Ron would be furious with him, but he could only hope that once he knew about the prophecy, he'd understand why Harry didn't want to have to worry about Draco this year. Harry was so lost in his thoughts, that he hadn't noticed anyone approaching until someone said, "Hello, Potter."
Looking up, Harry saw Draco standing there and nodded before saying, "Hello, Malfoy."
"It's getting rather close to curfew, you know."
"Looking to get me into trouble, Malfoy?"
"No, Potter, just a friendly reminder."
"A friendly reminder? Since when have we ever been friendly?"
"I'll admit we haven't been in the past," Draco drawled. "However, I think that's been changing. In case you haven't noticed, my insults don't really have the same bite as they used to."
"Yes, I did notice," said Harry. "Something in your tone seems softer and less venom-laced; and then there's the look in your eyes."
"I don't know, but I noticed a slight twinkle in your eyes the last couple of times you insulted me, almost as if you were having fun doing it, but didn't really mean what you were saying."
"Malfoy Code of Conduct, rule #238, states that a Malfoy always means what they say," Draco recited with a grin on his face.
"There's that twinkle again," Harry said.
Draco just smiled as he sat down beside Harry and said, "Okay, I admit, I've always thought that most of the rules that my sire has drilled into my brain since I was born, were totally stupid. I just never said anything because..."
At this point, Draco blanched, his skin becoming even whiter then usual, if that were possible, and before Harry realized what he was doing, he reached over and patted Draco's knee. "Its okay, Draco. You're safe at Hogwarts; he won't get onto the grounds, not with all the extra security measures this year."
Draco cocked his head and looked at Harry for a moment before he said, "You know; that's the second time you've called me `Draco'."
"Well, it <i>is</i> your name, isn't it?"
"Yes, I'm just so used to you calling me Malfoy, it seems strange."
"I'm going to be honest with you, Draco. I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, and I've come to realize that I have enough on my plate this year without worrying about what you're going to do next, so I was wondering if we could perhaps call a truce?"
"Yes, a truce. Perhaps even be friends with time, of course, that's assuming you can refrain from insulting my friends."
"I can handle that. If the truth be told, I never took particular pleasure from insulting them, well, maybe the Weas... well, Weasley. It probably would be easier just to stop though, because, if I heard correctly, most of my material won't really work anymore."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, the thing I've always made fun of Weasley for the most, is that his family is so poor. If I heard correctly, that's no longer the case."
"Yes, that's true," said Harry. "My godfather, Sirius Black, included the entire Weasley family in his will; left Ron a million galleons."
"Sirius Black was your godfather?"
"Yes, he was."
"Damn, that must have hurt, considering how he, well, you know."
"Betrayed my parents, you mean?" Harry asked as Draco just nodded.
"That's just it though, he didn't betray my parents."
"It's true that when my parents learned they were marked for death by Voldemort," Draco flinched at Harry's mention of the name, "that they went into hiding under the Fidelius Charm. It's also true that Sirius was to be their Secret Keeper, but at the last minute, they changed their minds and made one of my dad's other friends, Peter Pettigrew, their secret keeper."
"Isn't he the one that Sirius went to Azkaban for killing?"
"Yes, he was, but Sirius didn't kill him. Peter's an unregistered Animagus. Do you remember Ron's pet rat?"
"Well, that was Peter," Harry said. "He lived with the Weasleys for twelve years in his Animagus form. Ron had absolutely no idea that it wasn't a rat until our third year. Hermione's cat, Crookshanks, took an avid interest in Scabbers, but it wasn't because he was a cat and Scabbers was a rat. Crookshanks is part kneazle, and could detect that there was more then what met the eye about Scabbers, aka Peter."
"So, it was Peter that betrayed your parents?"
"Yes, it was Peter, and Sirius spent twelve years in Azkaban for something he didn't do. He died fighting Death Eaters at the Ministry last year. In fact, he was dueling with your Aunt Bellatrix when he fell through the veil, and she just laughed."
"I never much cared for my Aunt Bella to be honest," Draco said after a moment. "Growing up, I always wondered how she was my mother's sister. I mean, I could see the family resemblance, because before she was sent to Azkaban, she was a great beauty like my mother. Of course, unlike my mother, it was only her physical appearance that was beautiful."
The two boys sat in silence for several minutes before Draco stood up and said, "Well, it's getting late, so I suppose we should get back to the castle. I'll escort you back to the entrance to Gryffindor tower so you don't get in trouble, since it is after curfew now."
Harry stood up, looked at Draco for several minutes, and then nodded as they walked back to the castle in silence. When they reached the front doors, Harry said, "Draco, wait."
"Before we go in there's something I want to do," Harry said as he held out his hand to Draco.
Draco looked at the hand for a moment and then looked up at Harry before saying, "I don't understand."
"I'm offering you my hand, Draco."
"Yes, my hand in friendship," Harry clarified.
"Oh, okay," said Draco. "For a moment there, I thought you meant something else."
Harry wasn't sure what else Draco could have read into the gesture or his comments, but then he didn't have time to question it because Draco took his hand and shook it.
"Friends then, Draco?"
"Yes, Harry, friends."
The two smiled at each other, both feeling extremely happy at that moment. The happiness was short-lived, however, since someone had seen the exchange.
"Get away from him, Malfoy!"
"Its okay, Harry, you're safe now. Whatever charm the bloody ferret put on you to make him think your friends, I'm sure Hermione can remove it."
"You think I put Potter under a spell?"
"Of course you did, you bloody ferret. Harry can't possibly be in his right mind, because he would never willingly offer his friendship to the likes of you."
"You're wrong, Ron," Harry said. "I'm not under a spell, and I did just offer my friendship to Draco."
"What did you call him?"
"I called him Draco."
"I'm perfectly aware of what his surname is, Ron."
"Don't tell me that you've actually fallen for his act! I know he's been acting all nice and such for the last week or so, but it's all an act, Harry. Surely, you can see that. Malfoy is evil to the core, and he'd surely kill you if given the chance, just to please his master."
"You are so lucky that you're a prefect, Weasley. If you weren't, I'd be taking points from Gryffindor right now."
"Shut up, Malfoy, nobody was talking to you."
"Oh, excuse me for not just standing here silently while you talk about me like I'm not even here."
"Enough!" Harry shouted. "Ron, for the last time, I am not under a spell. Draco is not a Death Eater, and he wouldn't kill me. I have willingly offered my friendship to him, and if you don't like that, it's just too bad."
Ron just looked at Harry for a few seconds before storming into the castle. Draco and Harry stood there on the steps for several minutes, before Draco said; "I can't believe you just defended me from Weasley."
"He was being a jerk," Harry said. "He'll come around eventually, I think. We've had our share of fights over the years, which prompted him not to talk to me, but he always comes around with time."
"I don't know if he will this time," Draco said. "As far as he's concerned, you've just made friends with the enemy."
"Well, if he doesn't, then he wasn't a true friend to begin with. True friends don't dictate who their friends can and cannot be friends with. Anyway, I'm getting tired, so I think I'm going to head up for bed. Thanks for the offer to escort me up to the tower, but I can make it okay on my own. It's really way too far out of your way."
"I don't mind."
"Its okay, Draco; I'll see you in the morning."
"Okay, Harry, have a good night."
"You too, Draco."
* * *
To be continued...
* * *
Just a quick note on the currency conversion, I used the converter on the HP Lexicon to convert Wizard money to British pounds. My beta told me I got it wrong and pointed me towards the HP money converter on CNN.com, but unfortunately, their converter uses the wrong rate. Here's the link for the discussion of money on the Lexicon, which explains everything: http://www.hp-lexicon.org/wizworld/money.html.