Draco’s footsteps faded just as Harry’s eyes snapped open. He pushed off the covers and swung his legs out of the bed, glad that he had left his robes on. Harry slipped on his shoes, grabbed his invisibility cloak and went after Draco. It seemed to be as he predicted: Draco simply couldn’t wait to try out his new wand, presumably on some nice Dark Magic.
Harry caught up with Draco, moving as silently as he could under the cloak. Draco rounded a corner, glancing once over his shoulder, and Harry realized they were heading for outside. Draco pushed open the heavy door and slipped out of the castle.
Shooting forward, Harry barely managed to get through before it swung closed. If this were Hogwarts, he didn’t imagine it would be so easy to get outside. For as strict and regimented as Durmstrang was, Harry still found it surprising how little they worried about their students’ activities. Maybe such experimentation was encouraged.
Draco trudged through the snow that still lay thick on the ground despite the fact that it was nearing the end of March. Harry followed, hoping that his footprints would remain invisible in the dark. They approached the woods and Harry felt a tingle of unease knot in his stomach. He could only imagine the disapproval that Snape would express if he knew Harry had followed Draco into the forest, alone, at night, and under the invisibility cloak.
“Lumos,” Draco muttered, now safely behind the cover of the trees. He pulled a sheet of parchment from his robes and read over it. First, he banished the snow from the small clearing in which they stood. Then, lowering his wand to illuminate the ground, Draco walked around, searching for something.
Several minutes passed and Harry rubbed his arms for warmth. The cloak wasn’t exactly heavy and he hadn’t thought to bring gloves. At last, Draco came to a halt over a small depression in the ground.
“Augamenti,” he said quietly, filling it with clean, clear water.
Draco lifted the paper and his glowing wand again. He muttered something to himself but Harry didn’t hear. He spun suddenly, again lowering his wand to the ground. He must have spied something behind Harry for he headed straight for him. Harry’s heart sped up and he stepped back without thinking, leg brushing against a fern.
Both he and Draco froze. Draco’s eyes narrowed at the spot and Harry glanced around in panic. With a very slow, extremely careful movement, he stepped to the side, out of Draco’s way. After another tense moment, Draco dismissed whatever he thought he saw and moved forward, bending to pick a nightshade blossom. Harry knew them to be deadly.
At this realization, Harry was faced with another dilemma. If Draco was about to perform some type of harmful Dark Magic spell, would he stop it? Harry couldn’t let someone get hurt just as surely as he couldn’t believe that Draco would want to hurt anyone. But did Harry really know Draco at all these days? Harry felt a pit of guilt in his stomach; guilt at doubting, suspecting, his friend.
While Harry was attempting, without success, to sort out his quandary, Draco was moving around the small clearing, gathering other herbs, mosses and stones. He placed them all into the small pool of water, then glanced at the paper again. He dipped his hand into the water and closed his eyes, touching his wet hand to each of them.
Harry was beginning to get seriously concerned. Should he do something? But what if it wasn’t anything bad that Draco was doing? Draco touched his wand tip to the water and opened his mouth for an incantation. Harry stepped forward, ready to intervene on instinct alone when there was a sudden loud crash off to their right.
Draco’s head snapped up and he shoved the paper back in his pocket. Keeping his wand high, Draco crept forward slowly, each step hesitant.
“Help...” a weak voice croaked.
Draco rushed forward now, wand lighting the way. As he got closer, a crumpled form was revealed, barely recognizable as a very disheveled Mr. Crouch. Harry almost leaped forward to help but reminded himself that he was yet invisible. Draco bent down, bundling up his cloak to support Crouch’s head.
“Weatherby? Is that you?”
“No, I’m-” Draco tried to reply.
“Weatherby, I need...to talk to Dumbledore,” Crouch said with a lucid look coming across his half crazed face. “Bertha Jorkins... dead, she’s.... Dumbledore.... my fault, all of it...”
“Mr. Crouch?” Draco asked, shaking him gently as the man’s head lolled and he drifted off.
“Wha- Weatherby, that report, need it by Monday,” he insisted, eyes wide.
Draco looked freaked out, and for good reason. He glanced around, seeming unsure of what to do now. He seemed torn between getting Dumbledore and staying with the jabbering Crouch. Harry bit his lip, yearning to take off the cloak and offer to stay but he knew he couldn’t. Draco would never trust him again if he knew he had been followed. And so Harry had no choice but to wait and see what his friend would do.
Draco’s heart raced. He couldn’t leave Crouch, could he? The man would surely freeze if he left him alone and finding his way back here in the dark would be difficult. Draco pulled out his wand and warmed the section of the ground on which Crouch laid. Then, he fired off a messaging spell, sending an insubstantial arrow to alert Dumbledore. This way, it would be anonymous. He had no desire to explain to his headmaster what he had been doing in the forest at night.
“Mr. Crouch is hurt in the forest. Look for the tree with a light.”
The message whizzed away. Draco used a lantern spell and attached an orb of light to one of the branches. Then, figuring he had done all he could, Draco wanted to leave before anyone arrived. He really wanted to finish his spell but it seemed as if that was not the best idea at the moment. They would likely do a thorough search of the woods to figure out where Crouch had come from and he didn’t want the beginnings of his spell to be found.
Draco hurried back to his small pool of water, unaware that there was an invisible figure following him, watching what he was doing. Draco had read about the traces that Dark Magic, even just the beginnings of it, left on its surroundings. They were sure to find it if they did any sort of detection spell. He would have to purify the land, and quickly too, before anyone came for Crouch.
Reaching the pool, Draco banished its contents. Then, he evened out the ground, filling the depression in with extra dirt from the surrounding area. He used a spell that one of the Durmstrang boys had taught him and Harry to make snow with which to recover the dirt. Then he muttered a long string of words over and over, touching all around his pool with the tip of his wand. He kept them up, unbroken, and touched the wand to his eyes as well.
By the time he was finished, Draco was certain that at least fifteen minutes had passed. He heard the noisy steps of someone in the direction of Crouch. Hurrying now, Draco carefully retraced his steps in the other direction, hoping that he didn’t get lost on his way out of the woods. He extinguished the light on his wand and moved as silently as possible back towards the castle. Only after he cleared the woods did he realize that he had left his cloak behind.
Little did Draco know that wasn’t his only problem. When he sent that message, it had not occured to him that Dumbledore might not be alone when he received it.
Harry watched Draco disappear, heading back through the forest. Glancing back over his shoulder, Harry could hear someone over with Crouch. He assumed it was Dumbledore and he really wanted to go hear what was being said. On the other hand, Draco was heading back, heading back to their dorm. In order to appear as if nothing had happened, Harry had to be “asleep” in his bed when Draco returned. He couldn’t linger, but in fact, had to hurry to beat Draco there.
Harry took off at a light trot through the forest and up to the castle. He passed Draco along the way but he was too close behind for Harry to open the door and slip inside without him noticing. Harry waited, pressed against the wall, for Draco to come and open the door. When he did, Harry slipped inside, racing on silent feet to the dorm.
Luckily, he made it to the dorm room before Draco rounded the corner, meaning that he could slip inside unnoticed. He did so, hurrying to his bed and kicking off his shoes, still caked with snow. He balled up his invisibility cloak and tossed it at the foot of his bed, leaping in and pulling the covers up. Harry closed his eyes just as the door opened silently.
Harry heard the gentle steps that Draco took, careful not to wake Harry up. He moved around the room for a moment and Harry heard a drawer close quietly. The bed squeaked as Draco laid upon it.
Turned the other way, Harry opened his eyes again. Questions raced in his mind. What had he just seen? What had Draco almost done? Why was Crouch in the forest in such a state? Harry had thought he was sick. Finally, another question came up, one that made Harry pause. What would he tell Severus?
Harry woke bleary eyed the next morning, thinking sleepily that he would have to keep the midnight strolls to a minimum if he was to stay awake in class. He got up with a vague groan and stretched, noticing that Draco was still asleep. Harry glanced at the time. If he slept much longer they would be late. Looking at Draco now, Harry had a thought. He wondered whether or not Draco would tell him about what he had seen the night before. Under any other circumstances, Harry would have thought he could count on it but now... And how would he explain the fact that he was out wandering in the forest so late at night? It would be an interesting test, that was for certain,
“Draco, wake up,” Harry said, gently prodding his roommate in the back.
Draco rolled over with a small noise. “What time is it?”
“A quarter ‘til seven,” Harry said. “You ought to get ready.”
“Yeah,” Draco agreed, yawning widely.
“You seem tired. Couldn’t sleep?” Harry asked innocently.
“Something like that,” Draco muttered, standing up and trudging to the bathroom. He paused as he passed Harry’s bed. “Why’s there a puddle of water on the floor there?”
Harry leaned across his bed to glimpse his shoes sitting in a puddle of what he assumed was melted snow. “That stupid water cannon thing that the twins gave me for Christmas must have acted up again,” Harry covered quickly, making things up on the spot. “Back at home it went on a rampage, soaked my whole room.”
“That’d be annoying,” Draco commented before turning and continuing on his way.
Harry watched him go, wondering if things between them would every be the same as before they had come to Durmstrang. He hadn’t given up hope yet.
“I feel like it’s my fault,” Harry told Severus that evening. Draco hadn’t said a word about what he had seen, despite Harry giving him various opportunities to do so.
“How could it possibly be?” Severus replied skeptically.
“I brought Draco here. I should’ve come alone and this would have never happened.”
“If you had gone alone, I fear for the things that would have happened instead,” Severus stated dryly. “Are you sure it was Dark Magic he was doing?”
“No,” Harry replied. “But he did have to cleanse the area afterward.”
“It is likely then. It is good that he did not get to finish it.”
“If... If this happens again, should I stop him?” Harry asked hesitantly.
“First of all, I do not like the idea of you roaming the woods at night under your invisibility cloak,” Severus said sternly, just as Harry thought he would. “If you were to slip and fall, perhaps, and be knocked out, hat then? No one would ever find you under that cloak. So I suggest that it not happen again.”
“Well I couldn’t exactly go in plain sight, could I?”
“You could have not gone at all. It is not exactly your business.” Harry began to protest but Severus held up a hand. “All I am saying is to be careful. Now, should this happen again despite my wishes, stopping him may depend on the circumstances. I do not think you would want Mr. Malfoy as an enemy, especially if he is becoming learned in the Dark Arts. On the other hand, you would not want him to become someone that you would no longer wish to be friends with, a transformation that is common to Dark Arts practitioners.”
“So... what then?” Harry asked, trying to make sense of that.
“Go with your instinct.”
“Right,” Harry muttered. That was probably what he would’ve done anyway. “And about Crouch? What do you think was going on there?”
“I am not entirely certain. I know few facts and the ones I have are disconnected. If I should be able to piece them together, be assured that I will let you know,” Severus stated.
“Thanks,” Harry replied. “Have you talked to Dumbledore? I wonder what Mr. Crouch told him...”
“Headmistress McGonagall and I have a meeting of sorts scheduled for this Friday,” Severus told him. “In the meantime, I suggest you put it from your mind and focus on your studies.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Alright. I do have a lot of homework at the moment.”
“And I have much to check,” Severus replied in kind. “I will talk to you tomorrow, Harry. Be safe.”
“Safe is my middle name,” Harry replied flippantly.
“Then you are a walking oxymoron. Goodnight.”
With a light chuckle, Harry set down the mirror. He couldn’t shake the feeling that something deep was going on. Whatever it was, he was bound to be a part of it, being a magnet for trouble and all. Somehow, that was a less than comforting thought for Harry.