Blaise wants his stuff back.
Sleeping in the dungeons, it would be expected that I'd have gotten used to waking up freezing cold, especially since said dungeon is partially submerged beneath the Black Lake. Don't get me wrong because I am used to it, just... something feels off this morning. I convulse in a fit of shivers just as I do nearly every morning, my body struggling to reawaken and warm numb nerves. The chill is bone-deep today. I pull my knees up to my chest in an effort to centre my body heat, and reach for my blanket. It's not much of anything, closer to a sheet than a duvet, but it is a line of defence between me and the cold.
Only one problem: my blanket is not there. I grope blindly for it, my fingers finding no fabric, but plenty of slate floor. My pillow is even missing. I don't find this situation too strange, it is Slytherin after all. Where other the houses might share and compromise, we Slytherins have no scruples stealing what we want. At least the guys do. I'm sure the girls are more comfortable sharing and doubling their blankets with one another than us guys are. Females sleeping together are the like, the picture of sexy innocence. Men sleeping together screams GAY. Chances were, either Malfoy or Nott stole my things from me and thought it was funny. Either way my efforts to sleep any longer were done. I sit up. Doing so causes my head to spin and a knot in my neck to pull. I wait for the dizziness to pass before opening my eyes.
At least I think I eyes are open. Everything around me is pitch black. I lift my hands to my face to press on my eyes, just to make sure that they're working-- I never know around here-- and get rewarded with bright spots of colour dancing in my vision. My eyes are working, the lights just aren't. My next decision, to find my wand and cast a Light Charm, also proves fruitless. By this time I have passed submissively amused into plain pissed.
"Malfoy, Nott," I growl aggressively. "You assholes need to give me my shit back."
"Please. I'd give it back if I had it." Malfoy's drawl fills the darkness a silent moment later.
"Where's Nott then?" I stand and begin pacing the room, feeling for a form to kick awake. It is a lot of kicking later that my foot finally collides with a body, only a hand seizes my leg before I can retract it.
"Zabini. You and I are the only ones here. So if you kick me again and I decide to kill you with my bare hands, no one will stop me." His tone is low and muted. A person who knew Draco Malfoy less than I did might believe that he really meant his threat, and on some level he might have. But I do know him well. He isn't so much pissed with me as he is pissed with this situation. Malfoys do not like to be controlled; they like to be in control. If they are not in control, or are not in the know, they are lost. Draco Malfoy right now, is lost. I lower myself to sit beside him.
"You know something." I wasn't asking him, but he answers anyway.
"You don't like it." Malfoy snorts.
"You won't either." There is actually a hint of amusement in his voice. I consider that. I don't like things the way they are now anyway. We are the Dark Lord's prisoners at Hogwarts for crying out loud. The homiest place on earth transformed into Azkaban. I don't know if my mother is alive. My girlfriend was killed in last year's Phoenix Games and I am not entirely certain that I will graduate from this place alive--
"In a sense," that amusement still taints Malfoy's voice. I am not sure if it is because he really finds the unintentional pun funny or because he is just seconds from cracking like an egg.
"We are two of the contestants for the Games."
"You're intelligent," reflexively I reach out and punch Malfoy in the side, completely forgetting his earlier threat. It's a full-on physical brawl before I know what's happened. Malfoy and I are pretty evenly matched fortunately, but his days on the Quidditch pitch has left him with more endurance than what I have. I take several kicks to the stomach before he has enough and we are both still.
"You feel better now?" I groan.
"Loads," he pants.
"Good. Next time I'll be the one kicking your arse." Malfoy scoffs. "No, seriously. I let you win."
He laughs this time. "You wish." A moment later he sighs. "Merlin, we're going to die."
"If you think that then yeah, we will." I retort.
"Since when did you become an optimist?"
"Since when did a Malfoy give up?" Malfoy scoffs at me again.
"Since my father."
"I didn't tell you, did I?" I remain silent, not sure if I should answer; Malfoy's tone is that strange halfway-mental one I have learned to take with caution. Malfoy might be on the verge of either revealing a secret or kicking my ass again. "My father quit his life. Took a poison and ended it on purpose." It's rare to think of a wizard committing suicide. My mother claimed that her third second husband-- my father-- had hung himself when I was three, but I know better. She poisoned her other four husbands, why wouldn't she have poisoned him? I heard that it was a miserable sort of death, poisoning, so I don't understand why Lucius Malfoy would have put himself through that voluntarily.
"I'm sorry man," I say out of lack of words. "But you know, you did always say that you didn't think your father was as 'Malfoy' as he claimed to be. Your grandfather Tidus liked you better, wanted you to be the head of the family."
"Sure. I would have done the same things Father did." I shake my head, forgetting Malfoy can't see.
"You are not your father," I tell him firmly. "We both know that." This is an argument we have all the time, whether or not Draco is more like Lucius or Tidus. I don't think he is like either man, but he will not listen to that point; Malfoys are too damn stubborn.
Before either of us can say any more, light floods the chamber, and a dark, shadowy shape stands in the door way. The light, for all that it is fairly dull, stings my eyes and I have to blink while I sit up to keep the dizziness at bay.
"You two have been busy," I wish I didn't know that voice, but I do. The Carrows sister. I can't see her face, but I just know that smile is in place, that full-toothed, wide-eyed tribute to insanity that was her grin. It preceded most punishments in the castle, so I'm not surprised that it will precede this one. Her shadowy form comes closer and she pulls me from my place on the floor only to throw me back down in the light. She lifts Malfoy in a similar manner, only he keeps his balance enough to remain upright. He helps me back up where I stay this time. Shutting the door, Carrows continues, "Too bad we don't want any of that until the arena." So quickly that I don't catch it, Carrows has her wand out and pointed while Malfoy writhes on the floor grimacing. He groans in agony once before it's done and her wand is trained on me. I flinch reflexively. She laughs and a coolness numbs my face and ribs, then warms them. It doesn't hurt, not painfully at least.
"There, all better," she tells me. There is a new tone in her voice, one of... something. Almost like Madame Pomfrey when she had healed someone to her satisfaction and was dismissing them finally. Dear Hecate, I miss that woman, and all of her fussiness. I am not certain that our new healer even sat her N.E.W.T.s.
Without another word, Carrows turns on her heel and stalks down the corridor. I help Malfoy to his feet and we hurry to catch up. She does not speak to us and that is fine by me. I probably would never admit to it, but she scares me. I am not entirely convinced that she did heal me, but maybe put me in so much pain that my brain is preventing me from processing it. We are led into a large open room with a high ceilings and a set of double doors on each wall, one of which Carrows had just brought us through. Along the walls, large areas are blocked off, a haggard-looking adult sitting at the tables enclosed in each section. In the centre of the room stands a group of kids, some of them my and Malfoy's age, some of them younger. The rest of our competition, I suppose, when I look at the faces: Bulstrode, the Wayne twins, Lovegood, Stevenson, Finch-Fletchley, Brown, Creevey, and Granger. The others are either too young for me to pay attention to, or too anonymous to stand out in my memory. At Carrows' indication, Malfoy and I move to join our classmates while she disappears behind the opposite door.
"I'm surprised they picked you Granger, instead of Potter," sneers Malfoy not two seconds later.
Granger doesn't miss a beat, "I'm surprised that your father approved of you being a sacrifice, Malfoy." It's a low blow, but since the fate of Lucius Malfoy is not exactly common knowledge amongst the students, it's an understandable retort. Malfoy does not reply
Aside from a muted conversation between the Wayne twins, we are all silent until Carrows returns with a group of four. They do not look like Hogwarts students and they do not support any of the House colors. There is a surly look on one of the guys' faces, the tall, darker one, and the girl with him does not look any more pleasant. They wear brown sweat pants and hooded sweaters, his unzipped to reveal the black tee-shirt underneath. The other pair looks outright petrified, and wear sweats of a pale lavender colour.
One of the twins, the only ones apparently unaffected by any of this, calls out to Carrows, "Who are they?"
Carrows smiles that twisted grin again. "Oh, they're just something new this year. You have some friends from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. You didn't think the Dark Lord would restrain himself to just one side of the continent, did you?" I look back to the group Carrows has just brought in. Thinking about it, the expressions on the frightened pair do match that of the Delacour girl just before every Tri-Wizard Tournament Task, and none of the Durmstrang lot had ever appeared particularly friendly.
"So there aren't any Muggles this year? Do we get our wands from the beginning then?"
"No, hon, we're keeping the Muggles. Only the Final Six will have their wands returned to them."
"Then what are we doing here?" a thin airy voice poses the question. The only person in the entire school who speaks like that is Loony Lovegood. "Are you going to send us into the arena now?" Loony does not speak with any aggression, strange enough (then again, it is perhaps normally for her), only pure curiosity.
"Now where would be the fun in that?" the voice of the Headmaster, Carrows' twin brother, answers the question. He comes in through one of the side doors, the right one from where his sister had brought in the foreigners. Behind him trail four more kids wearing white sweatpants and tee-shirts. All of us Hogwarts kids are still wearing our standard-issued pyjamas, sorted, of course, by House colors. "You lot have to train first. Otherwise you'd fumble about and kill yourselves before anyone else had the chance." It's his turn to grin at us, condescendingly this time. Then his sister cuts in.
"You will spend the next ten days here in this facility, training. You will learn weapons, healing, and various survivor skills. Then when you go into the arena, you will make the third Phoenix Games an even greater entertainment than its predecessors." She grins again and I wonder if she has any other settings than "disturbingly and frighteningly insane" or "sadistic."
"Yes, my dear, you are very correct." I like to forget the fact that the Carrows siblings seem to behave incestuously. He caresses her arm more intimately than any brother legally or ethically should.
"Right. So you lot need to get dressed," she nods to us, "and we will begin your training."