Part 3 - Riddle Me This
How far apart are we supposed to stand
Before we're too uncomfortable to breathe?
John Voorhees Riddle Me This
Draco sat in an armchair next to the fire in the Slytherin common room and stared at the now folded and creased sheet of parchment on his lap. He wasn't sure who was responsible for this one, and he didn't really care. A couple of days before, there had been a stack of sheets outside the Transfiguration classroom, and almost everyone took one. What was written on it was a list of riddles. (You heard me before, Yet you hear me again. Then I die, 'Til you call me again. What am I?) There was nothing particularly miraculous about this exercise; when you wrote the correct answer beside the riddle, it made a rather satisfying pop sound. When the sheets had first appeared, the Transfiguration classroom had sounded like a pan of popping corn; everyone was scrawling down the most obvious answers. Even Goyle got the first couple (Late afternoons I often bathe. I'll soak in water piping hot. My essence goes through my transparent clothes. Used up am I; I've gone to pot. What am I?) Draco was fairly certain that some of the Ravenclaws had gotten about halfway through the list before class started, and then forgot about them. By dinner time, only a handful of students were still clutching at their popping parchments, shoving them into the faces of others, reciting the riddles aloud. (Only one color, but not one size, Stuck at the bottom, yet easily flies. Present in sun, but not in rain, Doing no harm, and feeling no pain. What is it?) There was some random popping during dinner, followed by laughter, but after that the parchments fell quiet. Perhaps there just wasn't enough gain. Perhaps it was just too silly. (Until I am measured, I am not known. Yet how you miss me, When I have flown. What am I?)
Draco looked around. Crabbe was asleep on the chesterfield; Millicent, sitting on the floor in front of the coffee table doing her Divination homework, was still avoiding his eyes. Baddock and Pritchard were giggling over some photographs in the corner (more from Sexy Witch of the Week, no doubt), and Pansy, sitting sideways in the armchair opposite him, legs draped over the arm, her back to the fire, was whispering, touching her wand to her fingernails, turning them glossy red, pink, black, purple, long and then short again.
"Are you still playing with that? How boring." She sighed, and dropped her wand on the table, upsetting Millicent's bowl of scrying water.
Draco ignored her. Dies half its life, lives the rest. Dances without music, breathes without breath. What is it? Dies half its life. Dies half its life. Everythingi dies half its life. Draco sighed. He was certain that he was the only person left at Hogwarts determined to finish the parchment. There were forty riddles on it; he was almost finished. He was just a handful short now. He pulled his quill out of his pocket and wrote 'tree' nex t to the riddle. The parchment popped, and Pansy started, pushed her hair out of her face, and then shot him a 'damn you!' look. He smirked at her, and looked down at his parchment again. When I am filled I can point the way. When I am empty, nothing moves me. I have two skins - One without and one within. What am I? He tucked his quill between his teeth and stood, walking from one end of the room to another. No one, of course, considered nicking his chair. As he was pacing his third lap,(I have two skins, I have two skins) Goyle stumbled in from the stairwell to the dorms above. He scanned the room, noted Millicent, scribbling so hard into her notebook that it the page would transfer fully onto the page below. The motion of her arm was causing her scrying water to lap against the edge of the bowl, a slow trickle making its way to the redwood surface of the coffee table.
"Uh " he stammered, collapsing onto his knees beside her and sitting back on his heels. "Millicent, can you give me a hand with this?" He held a scroll, raggedy on the edge, in his hands.
Millicent looked up. She turned toward Draco for a moment, shot him a nasty look, and then looked back at Goyle, smiled, and purred, "Sure Greg. What's the problem?" Watching Goyle's thick hands, and Millicent's smaller ones, tracing over the words he had scrawled on the scroll, it struck him. He pulled the quill from his mouth and pressed the parchment down against his thigh, scrawling 'glove' beside the riddle. Pop. Goyle looked up.
"Is he still working on that thing?" He asked quietly.
"Yes, the boring, annoying bastard." Millicent hissed. "Now," she said loudly and over-sweetly, "I think we need to fix up your tenses, Greg. Professor Binns is particular about that sort of thing."
I can sizzle like bacon, I am made with an egg, I have plenty of backbone, but lack a good leg, I peel layers like onions, but still remain whole, I can be long, like a flagpole, yet fit in a hole.What am I? Draco folded the parchment and slipped it and the quill into his pocket. He wanted to walk, breathe, be alone for a while. These people, they made him feel small and enclosed. It wasn't that he didn't like them. He did, they were here friends. When he needed something, he knew they would do what they could. When his father threw elaborate Christmas parties, they always brought nice gifts. But he knew they would never really understand him. I am made with an egg. They were good allies, certainly, and even good associates, but they didn't really think the way he did. What they had in common was far, far outweighed by their differences, and there had been more than one occasion when Draco had wished he had been sorted into Ravenclaw just so that he might have someone to talk to.
Slytherins were a different breed. Unlike, say, the Hufflepuffs, who were all uniformly snuggly and faithful, ambition as a major characteristic allowed for a shockingly diverse population. Millicent, for instance, seemed to have as a prime ambition a marriage to a wealthy, powerful, and good looking fellow, one who would impress her parents, her neighbours, her older sister, and, of course, the press. Namely, Draco Malfoy. Crabbe and Goyle, on the other hand, aimed to be the most feared people in any room. Those people who you knew, given the chance, would smash your skull to bits. There is a certain power in fear after all, physical fear. Draco also knew that Crabbe has a serious longing to increase his family's fortunes. He wanted to have enough money to afford a trophy wife of his own, and Draco had seen him on more than one occaison eyeing some of those delicate little Ravenclaw girls. Draco would never understand Crabbe's penchant for tiny women, women whose waists he could encircle between his large and powerful hands, women whose arms would snap he if weren't careful with them. Draco found it bizarre. For many of the Slytherins, ambition meant creating a world for yourself where you could, in a moment, break anyone who's important to you. For Crabbe and Goyle, that meant a very literal break, one with the crunching sound effects and ooze of blood. Point made and written on her bones. There was a certain logic to it. I have plenty of backbone, but lack a good leg. Draco knew other ways to break people. They were in entirely different worlds, really. His closest friend, the one whom he expected understood him best, was Pansy, and this was mostly because she was the only person he could think of who wasn't afraid of him. There was, he considered, a level of intimacy in that. He pulled his robes off the back of his chair.
"Parkinson." He said. She looked up. "If anyone asks, I went up to bed early." She nodded, and yawned.
"Not a bad idea. I might join you." She smiled, and stuck out her tongue. He wondered how he could summarize Pansy's ambition. Or his own, for that matter. I peel layers like onions, but still remain whole. Some of them were less easy to categorize. They had ambitions that shifted with the day, with their moods, with their surroundings, their circumstances. They wanted everything. They wanted the best chairs, the best grades, the most adoring fans. They wanted to be entertained, to be respected, obeyed. They wanted to be right. They want to be noticed. They, too, wanted the ability to break people. Yes, Pansy certainly wanted to break Draco, and he knew it. He also knew that she couldn't do it, she didn't have the skills, the stamina, the power. Few people did anymore. But what he knew, what no one else could or should know, is that Draco greatly desired the company of someone he couldn't break, someone strong enough to take him on, someone who, when confronted with Draco's temper, his violence, his power to dismember syllable by syllable, would lay a hand against his throat, raise his chin and say, "Try me." But right now, in this space and time, Draco prime ambition was to finish this parchment of riddles.
As he walked out into the corridor and headed up the stairs toward the front hall, he pulled out the parchment. He read over the riddle again, and realized this was the most obvious of them all. Pulling out his quill, he scrawled 'snake' next to it. Pop.
There was a quiet little spot, a large window with a deep alcove on a landing along a back stair, where Draco would to open a window, breathe real air, look out over the night. This landing was nearly at the top of Hogwarts, in one of the taller towers. Once in a while Draco got it into his head that what he wanted, what he needed, was to perch up high, to look down on the place, to share a bird's eye view of the gardens, the Quidditch field, the lake, the fields, the rough edge of the Forbidden Forest snaking away into the night. He took a deep breath. Millicent's little antics in the common room were getting profoundly annoying. Had he known how childish she was going to be about this, he wouldn't have bothered with her. But he had been lonely, bone-chillingly so, and she had offered herself up so desperately. His judgment, clearly, had been impaired.
Walk on them living, they don't even mumble. Walk on them dead, they mutter and grumble. What are they? At least his trysts with Ravenclaws, and the occasional Gryffindor, tended not to interfere with his day to day activities. He simply wouldn't stand for that. If there was anything he truly hated, it was having his private life interfere in his regular affairs. He didn't swear anyone to secrecy, but they generally knew better than to blab about what had gone between them. Even when he had them splayed out naked before him, his name on their lips, his fingers embedded in their flesh, pressed inside them, wrapped around them and grasping, tugging them gently (or not to gently) into and then out of his own private universe, they knew well enough not to scream so loudly. They knew enough to feel certain that their names were not etched into his skull anymore than the names of the ones who came before them, nor the ones who would inevitably come after them. They knew it sometimes without really noticing it, without thinking about it. He was too good for them, and this fact was mutually acknowledged. Millicent, however, was confused. She had forgotten. She had delusions of grandeur, she had, after all, a tremendous ambition.
Draco had overheard a weepy conversation between her and Pansy afterward. He had been walking past a half-closed door and hear the barely-stifled whimper.
"Well," he heard Pansy sigh. "You should have known better. You know how he is." Millicent simply snuffled wetly. "What were you thinking? Did you really thing you would catch him like that? Draco is not about to be caught, Mil, and you of all people know it."
"No buts. What are you, a Hufflepuff? For God's sake. Pull yourself together, we're going to be late for Potions. Be glad you got what you did from him, Pansy. There aren't that many girls in this place Draco is even willing to touch, you know." Draco noted the slight but still detectable emphasis on girls and snickered. Pansy knew more than she let on, clearly. They mutter and grumble. He scratched 'leaves' next to the riddle. Pop.
He was down to one. One last riddle. He had read it two days ago when he'd first laid hands on the parchment, and it boggled him no less now. It was one of the very first, as if it were one the easier ones. He puzzled over it. It was far too vague for his taste. There were some that were tricky, but this one was beyond him.
I am just two and two. I am hot. I am cold.
I am the parent of numbers that cannot be told.
I am a gift beyond measure, a matter of course.
I am given with pleasure, or taken by force.
What am I?
He was stumped. A digit, a sensation, something that spawns others. A gift, something tangible? Intangible. A matter of course? What on earth does that mean? Given with pleasure. Taken by force. A body? Is this sexual? Would McGonagall have looked so self-satisfied about us poring over these things if the last riddle was sexual in nature? I think not. He rubbed the quill along his eyebrows. I just don't know. He scratched the word 'innocence' next to the riddle. The ink glowed for a moment, and then disappeared. He sighed.
Pansy sighed. She was stuck in the rather uncomfortable position of sitting between Draco and Millicent. Again. When would this end? Millicent could be such an idiot at times. Big stupid lug of an idiot. This is what comes of having a relatively decent home life, perhaps. She actually things that physical affection means something. Pansy felt like her own mother, sitting Millicent down, explaining what sex is about, and how boys will take whatever they can get, however they can get it. Of all people. Couldn't she have had some fumblings in the front closet in the common room with Goyle, or something? Someone dull and slow who isn't sought after by most of the student body?
Draco looked exhausted. She wondered when he had come in last night. She knew that Millicent was getting up his nose, but it was that damn parchment that was keeping him up. He just would not let it go. Pansy was not surprised by this, to be honest. Draco was obsessive, he always had been. Once he gets a thought in his head about what he wants, there is no stopping him. He will steal, slash, pillage, cheat, scheme and plunder to get what he wants. Then, when he gets it, he will be profoundly disappointed and throw it away, of course. But that's neither here nor there.
What Pansy hesitated to mention to Millicent was that she was not the only one who had been confused by Draco's attentions. She was just the most obvious about her feelings. Pansy would never admit that she was in love with Draco. Never. Not on pain of death. She wasn't stupid, after all. She could just imagine his reaction to a profession like that. Actually, no, she couldn't, because she wouldn't imagine it. She would not even let herself think about it. She realized that at some point his father would get tired of Draco's dalliances on both sides for the gender boundary and insist that Draco marry a nice, respectable girl. She was also profoundly aware of the fact that so far she was the most likely candidate.
They had a strange relationship. Their desperate groping in empty classrooms after hours were in the fairly distant past now, and since she had never pressured him over it, he had treated her no differently before, during, and after their escapades had ended. She had never shown the slightest bit of distress over Draco's further romps, not even the morning after she had caught sight of Draco and Blaize Zabini in a rather compromising position behind the coat rack in the mudroom. She had been rewarded for her indifference to Draco's sexual activity by remaining within his inner circle, which she valued. But the truth was that it had torn her apart. Unlike Millicent, she knew better than to make a public display. She had wandered off to a disused room at a far end of the school, one coated with dust and surrounded by portraits who had never seen her before, shut the door, sat down, and burst into tears. She screamed, she wailed, she stamped her feet and threw things. She was in love with him, that was that. She felt as if their fates had been tied together when her umbilical cord was cut, and each time she discovered another dalliance it tugged on her, her stomach pulled out of alignment, reminding her. She couldn't explain this love business. It hadn't been intentional, and it had disarmed her. But there it was. And, like Millicent, she would take him any way she could.
Millicent was getting a little better. At least she wasn't flouncing quite as much. Draco was oblivious, but studiously so. He was staring absently across the room, drinking his juice, nibbling at a piece of toast. He put the glass down sharply, spilling a bit of juice on the table. He held still a moment, thinking, and then pulled out that damn parchment again. He scribbled something, and Pansy waited for the pop. No pop. Draco sighed.
"Stuck?" She asked. He twisted his lips a bit, and then nodded. "Let's see." Draco allowed her to tug his hand over so she could see what was written on the parchment. She was keenly aware of his skin, cool and warm at the same time, soft like a girl's. He smelled like something gentle, something clean and buttery and spicy and cool. She felt something tug at her stomach again.
" I am just two and two. I am hot. I am cold. I am the parent of numbers that cannot be told.I am a gift beyond measure, a matter of course. I am given with pleasure, or taken by force. What am I? Hmm. Well." Riddles weren't really Pansy's forte at the best of times. "Could it be love?"
"Hmm." Draco drew out his quill and wrote love beside it. The link glowed a little, and then disappeared.
"I take it that's a bad sign."
"Yes. It means it's the wrong answer. It would have"
"Popped. Right. Hmmm. Well, let's see what else. Did you try " Pansy was at a loss. She had no idea, and she didn't really want to make room in her brain to bother with trying. She was already bored. "I don't know." She picked up her juice.
Draco sighed and tucked the parchment back in his pocket. Pansy was still thinking about the way Draco smelled as they walked into double potions with the Gryffindors. Strangely, Potter was sitting by himself; his little friends were congregated at a different table, nattering as they always did. Potter was huddled over something in front of him, deep in concentration. His hand darted out and he wrote something quickly.
Suddenly the room was showered in light; a minor fireworks display. Pop pop pop BANG! Bright blues and reds and pinks and greens swirled around Potter's head. He was grinning like a madman. Draco had turned as well, staring at the little show of lights around Potter. Pansy shook her head. Aiming to get more attention, Potter? Lord. His red-headed sidekick came running up behind him.
"Harry! You did it, did you? Figured it out? What was it?"
Potter laughed. "It was so obvious, I can't believe I didn't see it sooner. It was 'kiss', Ron. Kiss!"
Pansy shook her head, about to make a nasty crack to Draco about attention-hogging Potter and his little red pet, but as she turned to look at him, he had a rather odd look on his face. It was shock, almost panic. It was as though he had never seen Potter before. As if he had just realized what that scar on his forehead meant, as if he had, until this moment, never really realized who he was. As if he had just seen him, all of a sudden, and it hit him like a slap in the face. He looked pale.
"Draco? Are you alright?" She put a hand on his shoulder, but he didn't seem to notice. He dragged his eyes away from Potter with great reluctance, and looked down at his own parchment. "Kiss." He said. He shook his head. "I can't believe it."
"What, that he got it? You know that nasty mudblood girl probably helped him. It was a stupid riddle anyway."
Draco looked at her sharply. "It's not that, it's Oh, forget it." He shoved the parchment back in his pocket and buried his face in his hands for a moment. Pansy still had her hand on his shoulder. Something was dreadfully wrong. She looked over at Potter again. He looked gleeful. His friends were clapping him on the back. "That's some persistence, Harry!" they were saying. Draco was sinking lower into his seat. When he looked up again, Pansy felt her stomach tug sharply. The look on his face made her feel so jealous, and she couldn't explain it. She twirled her hair and sighed.
"God, Im bored," she said.
You heard me before, Yet you hear me again. Then I die, 'Til you call me again. What am I? An echo!
Late afternoons I often bathe. I'll soak in water piping hot. My essence goes through my transparent clothes. Used up am I; I've gone to pot. What am I? A teabag!
Only one colour, but not one size, Stuck at the bottom, yet easily flies. Present in sun, but not in rain, Doing no harm, and feeling no pain. What is it? A shadow!
Until I am measured, I am not known. Yet how you miss me, When I have flown. What am I? Time!
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