"Concentrate!" Snape shouted, as Draco's legs once again gave way beneath him, another Jelly-Legs Jinx hitting him square in the chest and leaving him with legs of rubber. Draco counted slowly to ten as he gritted his teeth and slowly rose to his feet, squinting at the dark-haired wizard standing the other side of the ballroom, resting nonchalantly against the black grand piano.
Draco lifted his wand to mutter a spell but the older wizard was faster, flicking his wrist casually, sending the blonde hair boy reeling back, his shoulder slamming painfully into the wall.
"You have to block." Snape sounded bored and that made Draco even more annoyed.
"This...this is pointless," Draco shouted, scrambling to his knees and sending a Stinging Jinx towards Snape. The wizard blocked it easily, not even blinking as he sent one in return and Draco face began to swell. Snape quickly muttered the counter curse and Draco flopped against the wall in annoyance.
"Enough!" Draco shrieked, trying to ignore the disapproving mutterings from the Malfoy ancestors framed and hung on the walls of the ballroom. "Why am I doing this? it's...useless."
"It's only useless because you aren't trying." Snape drooled, adjusting the sleeves of his robes casually. "Your mother seems to think you will benefit. Now, attack!" Draco huffed, staring at his wand gripped in his fingers. Lessons had been going on for a good proportion of the holiday and they had not been going well.
Everything was so distracting. Pansy taking up all of his free time with trying to smash him and Daphne together was distracting, trying to pretend that he was fine was distracting and trying not to think about one particular muggle-born was beyond distracting, it was infuriating (mainly because it didn't work). He told himself that it was because of all these things that none of the hexes he aimed at the wizard came even remotely close to hitting their mark.
At first, Pansy's idea had worked, spending time with Greengrass had actually somewhat lessened the thoughts of Granger. Slowly though, she'd crept back in and he'd begun to compare things that Daphne said and did with the bushy-haired Gryffindor. It didn't come as much of a shock that Greengrass didn't even compare. Of course, he realised how pitiful and pathetic it was comparing Greengrass to Granger, but Daphne didn't infuriate him like Granger did, she didn't have him laughing one minute then screaming and shouting the next. In fact, the blonde girl didn't make him feel much of anything. Granger, on the other hand, seemed to have a habit of making him feel every detestable emotion at once, even when she wasn't around.
Draco pushed himself off the wall, lifting his wand and pointing it at Snape.
"Petrificus Totalus." The curse flew toward Snape at an alarming speed, but the wizard sent it straight back without so much as blinking. Quickly, Draco dodged it and tried again. The curse once again flew towards him, catching his hip and sending him to the floor, his limbs held in place and rigid. He fumed silently as Snape took an exaggerated amount of time crossing the room and muttering the counter curse.
"Victories are short lived when you don't pay attention." Snape sneered, admiring his fingernails in the most pompous and annoying way.
"This is going nowhere." Draco sighed from the floor, refusing to get to his feet just yet and continue with the embarrassment.
"As I have said before, it's going nowhere because you aren't trying." Snape pointed out making Draco's shoulders tense. He was tired of trying, tired of putting in so much effort to impress a girl that he didn't like and learning things he didn't really care about.
"I am trying." He whined, clambering to his feet and crossing his arms in annoyance. He cast a quick glance around the room at all his ancestors. They had stopped their muttering but were still gazing at him disapproval, clearly not impressed with his magical prowess.
"At least you managed to block something and your reflexes are no longer..woeful," Severus said slowly and Draco felt himself flush with shame. "Now, the Patronus charm." Snape continued, placing his wand in his robe pocket, walking back across the room to make himself comfortable on the piano stool.
"What about it." Draco shrugged, hoping to stall. Snape gave him a withering look before gesturing for the blonde to begin.
The Patronus charm was his least favourite spell to cast, mainly because it had never worked, much to Snape's infuriation. Draco had gone through every happy thought he could think of, calling them to mind and sinking himself into the feeling, but the most he'd managed were a few pitiful blue sparks out the end of his wand.
"I would love to know what exactly it is that you're waiting for." Draco rolled his eyes.
"I'm getting ready." Draco snapped. Snape rolled his eyes.
"Remember, it must be something happy - the happiest." Draco vaguely wondered what thoughts made Snape happy, he imagined it was berating someone student or another, reducing the poor sucker to tears.
"I know this, I've tried everything I can think of."
"One happy memory, that's all." Snape sounded tired.
"I know, I know. I've been through them all."
"The memory it has - has to be...special." Draco blinked at the dark-haired wizard sure he'd heard reverence in his usual monotone drawl.
There were memories that stood out in clear blinding happiness and every time he thought of them he struggled to push them to the dark corners of his mind. Every time they popped into existence he could feel the slight tingle of old magic against his skin and the sweet smell of strawberries. They were all Granger. Merlin, every single, disgustingly enjoyable one of them was riddled with the Gryffindor and he'd refused point blank to use them to cast any sort of spell.
Now he found himself faced with the possibility that they might be the only way, nothing else worked. He started sifting through them comforting himself with the idea that he wouldn't have to use a big memory. Something small and insignificant.
Ice cream, the smell of strawberries and her laughter; the giddy happiness he'd felt when she'd smiled at him from across the table. Their first real conversation, he was sure that it wouldn't be that much of a big deal to use the memory, it couldn't hurt.
Breathing out slowly he lost himself in the memory, smiling slightly at her explanation of spew. He lifted his wand.
Bright light burst into the ballroom, painting every surface blue as a shape began to form with it. It flew towards the ceiling before gliding down to land in front of him. It was a dragon, a horntail to be exact or at least it was supposed to be. The creature before him didn't exactly look like any horntail he had seen before. For starters, it was much smaller than a Horntail was supposed to be. Draco guessed that this was possibly due to the spell, he'd never read anything about the animals being to scale, but then again he hadn't read much on the Patronus Charm anyway.
The rest of it though he couldn't quite get his head around. The face, the scales, the spikes all the way down to the tip of its long tale all screamed dragon, but its legs were small and stunted, covered in what looked like fur and looked almost comical when attached to the, significantly out of proportion, scaly body.
"Is that - is it supposed to look like that?" Draco muttered, eyes following his Patronus as it floated around him.
"No," Snape commented, frowning slightly. He had risen from his seat when the spell was cast and was slowly inspecting the creature as it lavished Draco with attention. The dark-haired wizard's eyes narrowed then seemed to widen in alarm.
Draco had to admit he understood the Professor's confusion, upon further inspection the dragons face was not as fierce as Draco had first assumed. Its snout seemed somewhat shorter and its wide eyes seemed, for lack of a better word, cute. Horntails were not supposed to be cute and they absolutely were supposed to be in proportion. He considered that he'd probably cast it wrong and that Snape would admonish him for his idiocy. Instead the wizard asked him a question.
"The memory?" Draco spluttered for a moment unsure how to answer that question, he knew he couldn't divulge the truth not to Snape, or to anyone. Pansy knowing some of his innermost thoughts was more than enough people. The dragon slowly disappeared, blue light fading from the room as Draco began to panic, he needed to think of something quick but nothing he came up with seemed even remotely believable.
"The first time I used magic." He muttered, knowing instantly that Snape had not believed him. The dark-haired wizard nodded once and removed his wand from the pocket of his robes.
Draco looked at it, then back up at Snape, confused. Their lessons had always ended after he'd tried the Patronus lasting for, at most, two hours. Now though it seemed that Snape wished to continue. Draco couldn't understand the dread that curled in his gut.
"Well, now we know you're able to cast the Patronus, your training can move forward." Draco gulped. "Your mother has expressed her wishes that you learn Occlumency."
It took Draco a while to process what Snape had said and what exactly that meant for him. As soon as understanding dawned on him, he began to panic.
"What?" He shouted, not entirely meaning to. Snape didn't flinch, seeming to remain unconcerned with the Slytherins obvious displeasure at learning such a thing.
"Your mother wishes for you to become familiar with the ways of protecting your mind," Snape exclaimed slowly, a small smile curling on his lips. Draco shook his head in disbelief. There was no way his mother would want someone delving into his mind, even if it was to train to protect it.
"Now I will try to enter your mind and you will use whatever you deem necessary to stop me." Snape lifted his wand.
"Wait, wait, can't you-you can't be serious." Snape gave Draco a withering look and Draco gulped. He knew it wasn't the best tactic for stalling but it was all he had.
"And why is it you would believe I am anything but deathly serious?" The wizard drooled, his expression giving nothing away.
"I can't see why learning that would ever be useful." Draco shrugged, trying his best to look unphased. He knew all the reasons and ways it would be useful, especially with the Dark Lord making an appearance again, he just hoped by the time Snape had taken him through all the reasons it would be too late to carry on with the lesson. He wasn't holding out much hope.
Snape glanced quickly at Draco's ancestors, who were walking between frames and whispering conspiratorially to one another, before turning back to the blonde, his gaze seeming to search his soul.
"Do you know much about legilimency?" Snape asked slowly.
Draco shrugged, he knew bits and pieces but nothing concrete. He nearly choked when he thought of Granger, she would know everything. She'd push her bushy hair behind her ears and recite every fact she'd ever learnt about it. He nearly swore when his heart ached with a longing to see her again.
"Those who practice Legilimency are able to navigate other people's minds with ease, learning their thoughts, their feelings, memories the person would prefer to remain hidden." Snape seemed to look at him meaningfully at the last part and Draco gulped.
"Do you know of a famous practitioner of Legilimency?" Snape asked curiously. Draco once again gulped, he only knew of one and he did not want to say his name. He knew he couldn't let Snape into his head but he was aware that someone else might want to and they wouldn't ask permission.
"Do you know the wizard I am referring to?" Snape pressed again and Draco nodded slowly. He knew that Snape was being deliberately vague and he understood why. Malfoy Manor had become a dangerous place to say certain things, it wasn't something that was explicitly stated but Draco could feel it in the air.
"In order to protect yourself from people reading such thoughts, it is important to protect your mind. Your memories are a gateway to your fears and weaknesses. If the enemy knows such things they know how to get to you."
"The enemy?" Draco asked, blinking a couple of times in shock. A small flicker of hope blossomed in his gut at the thought of Snape calling the Dark Lord, the enemy. If the dark-haired wizard felt that way then he could confide in someone. The thought of not being alone had the same effect as a Jelly-Leg Jinx and his legs almost gave out from under him.
"Anyone that forces you to do things through manipulation of your mind, is your enemy." Draco wanted to point out that The Dark Lord had done that several times but thought better of it.
"I think I'll take my chances." Draco finally said, coming to the conclusion that it, assuming Snape was on the same side as him, was too much of a risk.
He dreaded to think what would happen to him if The Dark Lord did look into his mind, what would happen to Hermione. He'dd heard stories, terrible, terrible stories that had woke his screaming in the night, sweat soaking his skin as he struggled for breath. The night terrors had always been a problem when he was younger, back when his father had insisted on whispering about the greatest wizard that ever lived. Draco hadn't wanted to hear it, but his father had shook him till he'd stopped crying, spitting in his face that he needed to hear it in case the great wizard ever returned. He'd stopped crying after that and said and did everything that his father told him was correct. Now that he thought about it, his father had looked the way he did when he thought about his feelings for Hermione; petrified.
"That's not wise." Snape drawled, his eyes seeming to darken. Draco shrugged again, pushing his wand into his pocket, hoping it would signal the end of the lesson.
"It's not like I have anything to hide." The wizard stared at him for some time then he seemed to concede, stepping to one side with a slight nod of his head. Draco nodded back, hurrying for the door. He hadn't expected it to be so easy. He made himself a promise that he would trawl through the book of old magic Granger had given him and see if he could find anything relating to occlumency. He would teach himself.
"Draco." Draco paused, turning slightly. His eyes widened suddenly when the wizard spoke.
Draco could sense the presence of something wrong within his head, something unwanted and altogether not him. He tried desperately to fight against it, to block its access to his thoughts, but the presence seemed to slip past them unhindered. Memories flickered before his eyes as Snape rifled through them; learning to dance with his mother, the first time he met Potter, his father shaking him and making him cry but then rushing to comfort him when a storm had terrified him. Then, to Draco's horror, the memories of Granger began to circulate; the way she infuriated him, how she made him constantly catch his breath, her smile, her laughter, her fury and anger. All of it was laid out in his mind and Snape seemed to be looking at each of them in turn.
The memories suddenly paused lingering on the last time he'd seen her, lips pressed together, the warmth of her close…
"NOOOOO!" Draco felt the presence wrenched from his mind and his knees buckled beneath him as the memory stopped. To his horror, his cheeks were wet with tears. He sucked in several shaky breaths, staring at the marble floor, not daring to look at the wizard standing behind him.
Suddenly, Snape brushed past him, opening the door and stepping out of it. He turned once to Draco.
"Come with me." He began walking down the long stretch of corridor, his robes fluttering behind him.
Draco thought seriously about staying exactly where he was and pretending that nothing was out of the ordinary, but he knew Snape would not let it go. With his heart beating furiously in his chest, Draco heaved himself upright on his wobbly legs and followed his Professor down the hall, his head lowered in shame.
Panic bubbled in his stomach making him feel slightly sick. He'd always known that Snape was one of the most hated teachers, especially amongst those that weren't Slytherin, but that was a fact he'd always sort of revelled in. Now though he felt the fear within him, knowing exactly how all those students had felt.
Snape stopped and Draco stumbled to a standstill behind him. His mother and father, he knew, were off galavanting with some pureblood family or another, putting in their appearances where it mattered. Draco had at one point been somewhat glad of the lessons as they excused him from such social niceties that made his skin crawl. Now though, he wished he was right alongside them, smiling at all the right people and saying all the right things.
Snape pushed the door to the small sitting room open forcefully and stepped inside. Draco dithered beneath the stone arch, unsure whether he wanted to enter an even smaller enclosed space with his angry Professor. Snape looked at him with dark eyes.
"We don't have time for you to admire the decor." He said sarcastically, allowing himself a small smirk. Draco scowled, stepping into the room and turning quickly as Snape shut the door and locked it.
It was the smallest room in the house, fitted with a small squat desk, and ageing armchair and books that dated back to an era that Draco didn't care to think about. By the side of the armchair sat his Father's drinks cabinet in the shape of the earth, when it was opened a projection of the night sky painted the ceiling. The decor was pretty bog standard when compared with the rest of the household, which Narcissa Malfoy had taken pains to make her own. Draco knew why Snape had picked this room however, there weren't many people that were privy to such information but, the room, upon being built, had been imbued with magic. It meant that any conversation that took place inside it remained unheard. Draco gulped.
Snape stood, framed in a small halo of light created by the small torch flickering near his head. The silence felt oppressive and Draco spoke simply to try and dispel the atmosphere.
"How - " Draco gulped, "- how much did you see?" His clasped and unclasped his hands, wringing them together every so often.
"Enough." Snape spoke, his voice sounding so loud in the small room. Draco winced.
Snape turned, his dark eyes holding an unfathomable expression. Draco shifted his feet uncomfortably looking away from the Professor and staring at the dusty books: he frowned when they reminded him of a certain dusty bookstore and what had almost happened there with a certain book-loving Gryffindor.
"There's - there's nothing there now, we…" Draco cleared his throat. "She and I are no longer in contact." Snape was quiet for some time, once again making Draco feel uncomfortable.
"You and Granger attend the same school, I hardly think you will have no contact," Snape said coolly. He said down in the armchair with a sigh and looked at Draco sternly.
"You will tell me everything." Draco's eyes widened, his mouth opening and closing in shock.
"Everything," Snape repeated sternly, leaning back and steepling his fingers. "Leave out no details."