Although I swear it to myself alone

September came before Vincent had really begun to enjoy summer, but he didn't mind. It turned out to be loads of work, being the man of the house, not being able to spend all his days flying about on his broom and avoiding his father and struggling through the long, weekly letters that Draco insisted on sending every summer. He had to Do Things and Meet People and Accompany His Mother. It was hardly the summer of freedom he'd imagined when he'd heard the news about his father's arrest.

Still, it was better than most.

Draco was bloody miserable about it, of course; he said so every time he owled. But Vincent was secretly glad of the whole affair. Being a Death Eater seemed like loads of work as well, and you had to be sneaky to avoid Azkaban and Vincent knew he was anything but sneaky. Things were fine how they were, the way he figured it, and it would be better to enjoy the comforts he had instead of making himself miserable for the few he didn't.

There was probably something he was missing, about how important the whole thing was, seeing how Draco and his father were loads smarter than him and they thought the Death Eaters were grand. But Vincent really couldn't be arsed to bother about the whole thing anymore, not without his father about to strong-arm him into the deal.

"Go or you'll miss the train," his mother told him blandly, and so Vincent went, on his own to Diagon Alley and then on into London to catch the Express. He'd never gone on his own before. He stopped and filled his pockets with sweets on the way, just because he was able.

Draco and Gregory would meet him on the train, like always, and Vincent hoped he wouldn't have to pretend that his summer had been anything other than it was. He wasn't very good at pretending. He wasn't all that good at much, really, but he'd got three OWLs and that was more than his mum or his dad had managed when they'd been at Hogwarts, so that was something.

He'd told his mum about Millicent Bulstrode, when she'd asked him about the Slytherin girls, because to her meeting the right girl was the point of attending Hogwarts. And she'd told him that he should offer to marry her as soon as he could because neither one of them could expect to do much better. She was probably right, he wasn't like Draco who was smart and handsome and thought he was the boss of him.

He didn't think his mum knew that Millicent was a half-blood, though. He didn't think she would like her so much then. He didn't want to marry Millicent anyway, she was too big and soft and mean, too much like him.

Greg and Draco weren't in their usual compartment, and they always claimed the same one, ever since first year when he and Gregory were already big enough to scare off the others. Which meant that Vincent must be early; he'd thought the platform was more deserted than usual, but he wasn't paying much attention because for once no one was making him. He didn't mind so much -- he could take the best seat, the one Draco always claimed, and do nothing for a little while. Nothing was good.

"Oi, Ron!"

The door slid open abruptly and Potter's head poked in. Well, not just his head -- with Potter, Vincent remembered, that could sometimes happen -- but the still-attached rest of him remained in the corridor.

"Not Ron," he grunted.

"Yes, I can see that," said Potter. His head lingered about, for no good reason that Vincent could see. Then his body came through the door as well. "All alone? Where's your ickle blond master, then? Too afraid to return to Hogwarts?"

"Haven't got a master," said Vincent sharply. Sometimes he thought Draco was right about that Potter boy. But sometimes he didn't.

Potter looked at him different after that, Vincent could see it in the way he moved his head. He could read people better than he could read books, which still wasn't saying a lot. "Not yet, anyhow," Potter said finally.

"Not yet, not ever," said Vincent. It occurred to him that he was maybe saying more than he ought, then it occurred to him that there was no "ought" anymore, for him, there was just his life.

"Is that so," said Potter. He stood straight and leaned against the door. He really was quite fit; Draco had spent the summer complaining about that, too, but Vincent didn't mind. Harry'd got his father locked away where he couldn't bully people anymore; he had every right to look fit, even in hideous school robes.

Vincent had spent a lot of time over hols thinking about Harry Potter. Seemed to him that Harry was just the bloke to make sure he could keep on living his life just the way he was already. Sure Potter hated Slytherins, but then most people did and Vincent got on all right in spite of that. And Harry wasn't anything at all like Millicent Bulstrode.

"I've got the wrong compartment. I'll just go find my friends, then," said Potter. Vincent just nodded at him, and Harry just nodded back. And that was something, when he thought about it.

The door slid shut again; the last thing Vincent saw before it did was Potter's shapely arse. It was still quite clearly early -- no younger students racing up and down the train and getting into mischief. It wasn't nearly late enough for Draco to make an Entrance, and Greg was just always slow.

Time enough, then, for Vincent to stuff his hand in his trousers and toss one off before anyone else arrived.

Bloody Potter, he thought, because he'd hardly heard him called anything else. It was almost a pet name. He thought about Draco constantly calling Potter by a pet name and grinned. This year was going to be different in loads of ways, but not that different.

Not for Draco, anyhow. Vincent, however, was his own story. At last.

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