Title: Some Kind of Miracle (4/?)
Author: Annie (_pinkchocolate)
Warnings: Everything up to ch 14 disregards DH
Disclaimer: I just take JK Rowling's world and make it slashy.
Summary: Draco was determined to live the last nine months of his life with no regrets. But when a series of unfortunate events exposes a list of his innermost wishes, ambitions, and desires to Harry Potter’s eyes, he might find that facing his imminent death is not so easy after all.
Word Count: 4106
Notes: Beta'd by the lovely Emily, Christine, and Sharon.
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The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.
- M. Scott Peck
The Sorting Ceremony and start-of-year feast flew by in a blur. Harry couldn’t help marvelling over how everything seemed so normal, yet so different at the same time. All of the school’s distinguishing features remained unchanged, from the enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall to the Giant Squid’s waving tentacles protruding from the murky depths of the lake. Inside, the first years looked just as terrified as Harry had felt seven years ago, the food was as plentiful as ever, and the start-of-year notices still listed the Forbidden Forest and Fanged Frisbees (among four hundred and ninety-two other magical items) as strictly prohibited.
What bothered Harry was the lack of reference to the war that had raged just two weeks earlier. Not a word was said of the students and faculty that had died, save for a brief mention of McGonagall’s new role as headmistress. Even then, Dumbledore’s name was not brought up.
Harry spent a large portion of the evening glowering at McGonagall from where he sat at the Gryffindor table. He knew she meant to refrain from causing the younger students any unnecessary trauma, but it infuriated him that she was acting like the war had never happened at all, like the school year’s month-late start did not signify anything.
His heart ached with loneliness whenever he allowed his gaze to wander. There were empty spots everywhere, yet it seemed incomprehensible to him that the previous occupants of those seats were really gone for good. Sometimes he would even turn around, expecting to see Seamus wordlessly trying to transform water into rum a few seats down from him, only to be disappointed when he was greeted with the sight of Nearly-Headless Nick floating there instead. After all, ghosts didn’t die. They were the ones who remained, completely unaffected by the horrors of war.
Ron and Hermione tried many times to distract Harry from war-related thoughts. Harry had the feeling that Hermione had spent much of the train ride convincing Ron to forgive Harry for associating with Malfoy, because throughout supper, Ron’s behaviour could only be described as forcibly casual. This didn’t ease Harry’s agitation very much, and finally he had to turn to them and calmly say that he was fine, that he wished to be left alone, and that they would talk later in the common room.
Once, during the feast, Harry happened to glance towards the Slytherins. They were far fewer in number this year (probably because the lot of them are festering away in Azkaban, Harry noted with grim pleasure), but even so, it appeared that none of their collective arrogance had been lost. They still sat haughtily in their seats, identical expressions of malice on their pale faces. Harry supposed it was a Slytherin thing.
Unwittingly, his eyes sought out Malfoy. The other boy was sitting near the end of the long table, as straight and dignified as ever. Still, there was a slight, almost imperceptible slump to his shoulders, and it was this – and the fact that he looked so pitiable without Crabbe and Goyle flanking him – that almost made Harry feel sorry for Malfoy.
This unusual sympathy, however, only lasted for a split second. The sound of people getting out of their seats and preparing to leave snapped Harry out of his thoughts. The feast was over.
Harry made to stand up as well, but before he could, a swarm of first and second years surrounded him, demanding autographs and pictures. Harry, meanwhile, could only blink up at them, not entirely sure what was going on.
Luckily, Ginny came to his rescue. “Leave him alone!” she snapped, pushing her way through the crowd and grabbing Harry’s wrist. She tugged him out of his seat. “Come on, let’s go before more of them come.”
Harry and Ginny squeezed their way through the horde of students and dashed out of the Great Hall. Ron and Hermione were waiting for them outside the heavy oak doors.
“We thought Ginny would handle the little twerps the best,” said Ron with a sheepish grin.
“Ron!” Hermione reprimanded. “It’s not their fault. They’ve only heard embellished stories about Harry up until now; it’s no wonder they’re so excited to finally see him in person.”
“Yeah, well, there’s still something called ‘the right to privacy’.” He nudged Harry in the side. “Right, Harry?”
Harry blinked. He hadn’t been paying attention to Ron and Hermione’s conversation, but upon being brought into it, he said quickly, “Yeah, sure.”
Hermione and Ginny exchanged worried looks. Without a word, Ginny grabbed Harry’s arm tightly and began pulling him along after her.
“Where are we going?” Harry gasped, scrambling after Ginny, his eyes watering from pain as her nails dug into his arm.
“The common room, Harry, where else? Honestly, you’d think years had passed since you were last here.”
“It feels like it’s been forever,” Harry grumbled as they climbed the stairs. “What about Ron and Hermione?”
“They’ll follow us up. They’re prefects, remember? They’ve got to stay downstairs and round up the younger students. Oh, and you can tell me what happened with Malfoy once we’re inside,” she added, giving Harry an extra hard tug.
Harry suddenly felt annoyed. Why did he have to tell Ginny what happened with Malfoy? It wasn’t as if it was her job to know everything that went on in his life.
Immediately after this thought crossed his mind, Harry was overcome by guilt. He was being ungrateful, of course. If he couldn’t talk to Ginny, Hermione, and Ron, who else did he have?
Malfoy, a small voice in the back of his mind offered. Malfoy’s just as alone as you are. Besides, he owes you – and he knows it.
Harry rolled his eyes. There was only one thing worse than talking to Malfoy about his problems, and that was knowing Malfoy would only listen because he was obligated to. Harry was desperate, and that made him very nervous.
“Ginny,” he said, panting as they hurried along an empty corridor, “are you sure the common room is this way?”
“Of course I’m sure,” Ginny replied, rolling her eyes at Harry over her shoulder. “I’m beginning to think you’re someone else in Harry’s body.”
“That might be it,” Harry muttered under his breath. Ginny, to his relief, did not hear him.
When they finally arrived at the Gryffindor common room, they were both out of breath. Harry collapsed against the wall across from the portrait of the Fat Lady, gasping.
Ginny smiled weakly as she tried to catch her breath as well. “Sorry… I just wanted to make sure you weren’t interrupted by members of your fan club again…”
“Well, we’re both going to have to get used to it… unless you want to follow me around to all of my classes, that is…”
Ginny wiped her brow and closed her eyes briefly. “I guess you’re right.”
“Anyway, let’s go in,” Harry said. The less time they spent idling around in the hall the better. All he wanted at the moment was to be alone, but he had a feeling that particular wish wouldn’t be granted any time soon.
As Ginny tried to recall the password Hermione had told her, Harry wondered what Malfoy was doing. I hope someone’s keeping guard in case he tries to escape, he thought with sudden panic. He still didn’t believe Malfoy wasn’t up to something, what with all the potion ingredients he had supposedly bought at Diagon Alley. And what was it he had been checking to make sure he had brought that morning at the train station? It was all very suspicious.
Harry blinked. Ginny had apparently remembered the password, because she was now kneeling in the portrait hole, looking expectantly at him.
As it turned out, the common room wasn’t the best place to find the peace and quiet Harry had been seeking. The moment Harry stepped inside, it erupted in quite the opposite.
“Merlin’s beard, it’s Harry!”
“Is it really Harry Potter?”
“Tell us the whole story, Harry!”
Harry, Harry, Harry. That was how it went. Resignedly plastering a meek smile onto his face, Harry began taking their quills and scraps of parchment.
As the time to retire to bed approached, the Gryffindors began slowly trickling out of the common room and up to their dormitories. By midnight, just three students remained, their hunched figures silhouetted by the dying fire.
“Ginny, are you sure?”
“I’m telling you, Hermione, it’s the truth. Here – have a look at this article.”
There was a soft rustling sound as Ginny extracted a newspaper clipping from her pocket and held it out. Hermione took it, skimmed it briefly, and handed it back.
“It says it was written by Rita Skeeter,” she said dubiously.
“That cow?” the third member of their party interjected indignantly.
“Shut it, Ron. I know she’s not the most reliable source, but –”
“Bollocks! I refuse to believe it. Don’t tell me you do, Hermione.”
“Well… it does sound like something Harry would do.”
This clearly was not the answer Ron had been looking for. “You mean after everything she said about Harry, you still believe this… this rubbish?”
“Ron, can you stop being a stubborn prat for just one minute?” Ginny snapped at her older brother. “Don’t you think it’s a little suspicious that Harry’s been lurking about Malfoy, that he offered to ride the train with him?”
“He was doing McGonagall a favour! I don’t care what you two say… I’m not going to believe Skeeter’s crap until Harry confirms it himself.”
This declaration was followed by the sound of a pair of feet stomping across the common room and over to the stairs. As the echo of Ron’s footsteps ascending the stone steps faded into silence, Hermione sighed.
“Do you mind if I ask Harry about this tomorrow morning? I’m sure he has reasons for not telling you –”
“Oh, yeah, no doubt.”
“– but if I can get him to explain the whole story to me, I think it’d be safe for you to reveal that you know.”
“He must think he’s protecting me, the righteous idiot,” Ginny snorted. “I suppose you’re right, though. Thanks, Hermione.”
“No, thanks for letting me know. I’m just afraid Ron won’t accept it so easily…”
Ginny laughed. “Harry will deal with him.” She stood up, wearily rubbing her eyes as she did so. “Night, Hermione.”
“Good night, Ginny.”
Harry crept down the pitch-dark halls of Hogwarts, using the light emanating from his wand as a guide and his Invisibility Cloak as a cover. Even though he had traipsed down the path from the Gryffindor common room to the library many times in the past, he still felt a thrill of trepidation crawl up his spine as he hurried down a narrow corridor lined with suits of armour. Being alone in the castle at night was never a good idea, no matter how well one knew the passageways. What if he got lost? Would anyone come looking for him?
Of course they would, he reassured himself. They’d probably bring the entire Hit Wizard squad here to help them search, too.
As Harry turned into a wide passageway, he inwardly cursed himself for not bringing the Marauder’s Map. Then again, it wasn’t as though he’d had time to look for it – Ron had nearly caught him as he was sneaking out of the dormitory under his cloak.
Harry hesitated when he arrived at the library a few minutes later. He had no idea why he was here, really. All he wanted was a place to be alone and think, and the library was the first place that had jumped into his mind. He eyed the closed door, but to his relief, when he tried the door handle, it turned easily.
Harry stepped inside and shut the heavy door behind him. He looked around. The inside of the library was dimly lit by the pale moonlight filtering in through several large skylights. Hoping Madam Pince had retired to her bedchamber, Harry removed his cloak and extinguished his wand.
Harry moved stealthily towards the rows of bookshelves, wand tucked into his pocket and Invisibility Cloak clutched in his hands. He didn’t know where he was going, but he let his feet carry him to the back of the library where rows of pouffes separated the Main Section from the Restricted Section. He sat down on one of these pouffes and looked around. The shadows cast by the bookshelves seemed to stretch on forever, casting much of Harry’s surroundings in darkness. He swallowed and averted his eyes. Suddenly, he felt confined. At the moment, he needed to go somewhere open – outside, maybe; the lake, or perhaps even the Forbidden Forest…
The latter option sounded strangely inviting. Harry stood, grabbed his cloak and began to walk back towards the main doors. As he passed through the Charms Section, he heard a rustling noise and froze. It had come from the quiet study area of the library. Harry stood still for several minutes, trying to breathe as softly as possible. Who could possibly be in the library in the middle of the night?
A wild thought flashed through his head. What if it was the ghost of a student – Ernie Macmillan, perhaps? Could Ernie have chosen to leave an imprint of himself behind in the castle because he hadn’t got the chance to memorise all of Hogwarts: A History before he died?
“Ernie?” he whispered, his voice shaking as he moved towards where he suspected the sound had come from.
There was silence. Then, incredulously, a cold voice asked, “Did you just mistake me for a Hufflepuff?”
Harry’s mouth fell open as he stepped out from behind the bookshelves and into the quiet study area. Draco Malfoy was sitting at a low table in a pool of moonlight, glaring at Harry in a highly affronted manner.
“Keep your voice down,” Malfoy said, looking around furtively. He put down the book he had been holding. “Why the hell are you here, Potter?”
Harry shook his head, still trying to recover from the shock of coming across Malfoy at midnight – in the library, of all places. “I could ask you the same question.”
“Don’t sit down here!” Malfoy said as Harry approached him.
But Harry had already seated himself across from Malfoy. “Weren’t you forbidden to leave your dorm at night?”
Malfoy’s pale face and hair seemed to glow in the half-darkness. “It’s not any of your concern where I go at night.” The panic in his voice had vanished as suddenly it had appeared.
“What are you doing?” Harry asked, abandoning his earlier question. He looked around at the balls of scrunched-up parchment and scattered books lying on the table. “We haven’t even started classes yet, so you can’t be doing homework.”
“You’re a nosy little shit, Potter,” Malfoy said, opening his book again. “Piss off, I’m busy.”
Harry bristled. “In case you haven’t noticed, Malfoy, I –”
“You’ve reminded me enough times that you ‘saved my life’, thanks. But no matter how many times you say it, I don’t care.”
Harry smiled smugly. He knew Malfoy was intentionally leaving out a little detail. “You’re indebted to me now.”
Malfoy glanced up at Harry. The moonlight glinted off his narrowed eyes. “I am not,” he said coldly.
Mock-thoughtfully, Harry tapped his lower lip. “Are you sure? Because if I recall correctly, you now owe me a little thing called a life debt. The one Pettigrew owed me came in quite handy, you know, when he died so that I could kill Voldemort…”
“Shut – up,” Malfoy ground out, tight-lipped with anger. He slammed his book shut. The sound echoed in the still, musty air of the library. “I don’t owe you anything, Potter.”
Harry grinned. If only Ron were here – he would be positively gleeful to see Malfoy so flustered. But of course, Ron would be angrier that Harry had snuck out in the middle of the night to hang out with Malfoy in the library…
“So, Malfoy, you still haven’t told me what you’re doing in the library at midnight.”
To Harry’s surprise, Malfoy answered his question this time. “Working.”
“Working on what?”
Malfoy haughtily shook back the few wisps of blond hair that had fallen into his eyes and glared at Harry. “You called me Macmillan earlier,” he observed, smoothly evading Harry’s question.
Harry blinked. “I –” he said, faltering. He felt a twinge of indignation at the sound of Ernie’s name being uttered in such a condescending tone. Even though he hadn’t been very good friends with Ernie, he still felt that the former prefect deserved some respect.
“Isn’t he dead?” Malfoy pressed on, completely oblivious to (or, more likely, choosing to ignore) Harry’s discomfort.
“Yeah, he is,” Harry snapped, hating the finality of those words. “I just thought…”
Malfoy watched Harry carefully, his face inexpressive. When he spoke, it was almost as though he pitied Harry. “Macmillan wasn’t daft enough to choose to become a ghost.”
Harry inhaled sharply. “What do you mean?”
“Being caught in a state between living and dead isn’t a pleasant experience, Potter,” Malfoy said, rolling his eyes. “Hufflepuff or not, Macmillan would’ve known that.”
Malfoy was right, though Harry would never admit it out loud. He remembered what Nearly-Headless Nick had said in his fifth year after Sirius’s death: “I was afraid of death. I chose to remain behind. I sometimes wonder whether I oughtn’t have…”
Ernie wouldn’t have done that. On the contrary, Ernie would have eagerly embraced the opportunity to venture into an entirely new world… a new world where he could learn about the previously intangible mysteries of an existence beyond life… yes, Ernie would have liked that.
“Oh,” Harry said again, this time very plaintively.
“Get a grip,” Malfoy drawled, interrupting Harry’s thoughts. “If you came here to mourn over your deceased friends, I’d suggest you do it somewhere else.”
Harry said nothing. Several minutes passed in silence. While Malfoy read, Harry stared absently out the window overlooking the Forbidden Forest. Every once in a while a Thestral would soar out of the trees, a black streak against the blacker night, before diving back down into the protection of the forest. Each time this happened, Harry’s heart skipped a beat and his breath caught in his throat – not out of fear, but out of wonder, for he had come to see an ethereal beauty in the creatures over time.
“Have you ever seen a Thestral?” Harry finally asked, breaking the quiet. He looked inquisitively over at Malfoy, whose pale features were screwed up in concentration as he read.
“Yes,” Malfoy replied without lifting his eyes from his book.
“Father bred them for the Dark Lord’s use,” Malfoy said, carefully turning a thin page, as if the idea of a herd of winged, skeletal horses living in his backyard was not the least bit unsettling.
Harry grimaced at the thought. “That’s not what I meant. Well, I mean, yeah, it’s what I meant, but… how did you come to see them?”
Malfoy finally looked up at Harry, disbelief in his eyes. “Are you serious, Potter? I would’ve thought you of all people would remember what that giant oaf taught us in fifth year.”
“It’s ‘Hagrid’,” Harry snapped. The wound in his heart smarted; Hagrid had been another casualty of the war – the giant raids, to be specific. “And I know how people come to see Thestrals; I just wasn’t aware that you’d seen someone… someone…”
His voice trailed off as he remembered that Malfoy had witnessed Bellatrix’s murder and, obviously, countless others during the war. He berated himself for forgetting something so significant. Then again, it was hard to imagine Malfoy the Brutal Death Eater while sitting in the library with Malfoy the Helpless Teenage Fugitive.
“You’re pathetic, you know,” Malfoy said conversationally, placing his hands on either side of his open book and staring Harry in the eye. “You’re so scared of death that you can’t even talk about it. Do your fans know that?”
Harry’s blood boiled with fury. Malfoy had misinterpreted his words, as always. “If the alternative to fearing it is being so callous towards it that murdering becomes easy, I’d rather be afraid.”
Malfoy laughed. “It’s not the only alternative. You could learn to accept it as a stage of life. Honestly, Potter, I never would’ve taken you to be someone who simplifies the world. Frankly, I expected more out of the Chosen One.”
“I don’t have any more to give,” Harry said in a strangled voice, only vaguely aware that he was losing control over his emotions. “If you expected more, you’re better off finding it in someone else.”
To say the least, Draco was taken aback by Potter’s emotional breakdown. He had tried to provoke Potter, yes, but he hadn’t expected Potter to crumble this easily. Derisively, he said, “Do you think I care?”
Anguish swirled in Potter’s eyes, but he seemed to have regained a hold of himself. “No, Malfoy, I don’t, and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t.”
Draco arched an eyebrow. “I can’t say I believe that. It looks to me like you want someone to whom you can run crying and pour out all the details of your oh-so-tragic existence. Which, might I add, is not so very tragic at all, considering you’ve still got your friends, girlfriend, and freedom – oh, and not to mention the entire fucking world at your feet.”
“Well, you’re not that someone,” Potter growled, “so you can breathe a sigh of relief.”
Draco smirked. Watching Potter struggle was very amusing. Nevertheless, he had come to the library with a purpose, so he returned to flipping through his book without further comment.
A short while later, he was interrupted by Potter again.
“What’re you planning?”
Draco sighed. “For the last time, I’m not planning anything worthy of the Chosen One’s attention. No one is going to be killed, tortured, possessed, or hurt in any way, shape or form.”
“But you are planning something,” Potter pointed out shrewdly.
Draco ground his teeth together. He’d had enough of Potter’s vacillating temper and incessant prying. Standing up, he gathered the books he had spread out around him. With a wave of his wand, he cleared the table top of crumpled, used parchment.
“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not in the mood for small talk,” he said coldly as he turned to leave. “It’s been a pleasure, Potter, but it’s about time I took my leave.”
With that, Draco walked away.
Harry was unfazed by Malfoy’s abrupt parting. His hands had been itching to grab one of those discarded pieces of parchment ever since he joined Malfoy, but he hadn’t wanted to give Malfoy the satisfaction. Instead, he waited until he heard the distant sound of the door opening and closing, then bent and disappeared under the table. He reappeared moments later, triumphantly clutching a wadded up ball of parchment he had seen earlier by the table leg. Smoothing out the creases, he read the neat, cramped handwriting:
- Read Hogwarts: A History
- Be invisible
But the rest of the last line had been crossed out so completely that Harry couldn’t even begin to guess what it had read. Puzzled, he sat back and stared contemplatively at the words Malfoy had written. What did they mean? Could Malfoy be planning to cause trouble while invisible? But, in that case, what did Hogwarts: A History have to do with anything?
The more Harry pored over the list, the more he realised there really wasn’t anything dangerous about it. Even so, Harry was suspicious. He knew all too well that Malfoy was capable of concealing his true intentions from others.
Determining to keep a close eye on Malfoy in the future, Harry pushed his chair back and stood up. Over an hour had passed since he’d found Malfoy; he would have to return to the common room before someone discovered his absence. Using his wand, Harry Vanished the other bits of used parchment Malfoy had failed to dispose of and left the library, deep in thought.