Title: Some Kind of Miracle (8/?)
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: 7678
7 6 5 4 3 2 1 P
Yeah, I know it hurts
Yeah, I know you’re scared
Walking down the road that leads
Don’t you hang your head
Don’t you give up yet
When courage starts to disappear
I will be right here
- Clay Aiken, “I Will Carry You”
Later that week, Draco received an owl from the Ministry. They had written to remind him he was not to join the other seventh years on their Halloween trip to Hogsmeade.
“If you disregard this warning,” the letter concluded, “rest assured that the consequences will be severe.”
Upon finishing the letter, Draco shrugged to himself and shoved it into his pocket. What did he care if he was allowed to go to Hogsmeade or not? It wasn’t as if he had anything important to do there.
Although it would be nice to visit Honeydukes one last time, he thought wistfully as he played with the scrambled eggs that had somehow found their way to his plate. Visions of Peppermint Toads and Chocolate Frogs danced in his head at the very thought of the abounding sweet shop
“Draco?” said a tentative voice behind him, and the sugar mice waltzing about in Draco’s mind stumbled and disappeared.
Draco looked up to find Pansy Parkinson standing a short distance away, staring at the floor and nervously playing with her hair.
“Pansy,” he acknowledged blankly.
“Hi.” She lifted her gaze, smiled brightly at Draco. “Um, I just wanted to see how you were doing. We haven’t had the chance to talk yet.”
“Right.” Draco didn’t know what else to say, so he moved a little to the side, even though there was already enough room for her to sit down.
Pansy didn’t seem to notice that Draco had moved aside for her. “I’m sorry about… about what happened.”
“Right,” Draco said again. Deciding that it would be pointless to beat around the bush with small talk, he asked bluntly, “Why are you talking to me?”
She blushed. “You looked lonely sitting here by yourself.”
Draco couldn’t help smiling slightly. Perhaps there were perks to Pansy’s simple-mindedness.
“Also… well, everyone’s saying loads of nasty stuff about you,” she continued in a rush, “and I just wanted you to know that I don’t believe a word of it. I still want to be friends, if that’s okay.”
“Right,” Draco intoned for a third time.
“Great,” she said, beaming. “Bye, Draco.”
Draco watched her hurry back to her seat before turning his attention back to his plateful of food. Nothing looked very appetising. With a sigh, he stood up.
As his gaze swept the Great Hall, he was surprised to find Potter watching him. The moment their eyes met, Potter blinked and looked away.
Draco smirked. Potter was another simple-minded one, albeit not in the same sense as Pansy.
Draco recalled the last detention he and Potter had shared as he manoeuvred around hastily dropped bookbags. They hadn’t spoken very much, and when they parted ways, Draco had felt as though something important was coming to an end. He still couldn’t figure out what that something had been, and it annoyed him to no end.
It suddenly occurred to Draco that he still hadn’t sent his order for ingredients to the Apothecary. He had finished his research over the weekend and had been on his way to send his order on Sunday morning when he’d come across Potter and Weasley instead.
Draco’s insides squirmed as he began ascending the stairs to the Owlery. Even though he had carefully mapped out how he would obtain each ingredient, he still felt uneasy about many of the methods he’d settled on. He had no idea, for instance, where or how abundantly in the Forbidden Forest the rare Mist Lily grew. He didn’t fancy wandering in there without a specific goal in mind, but it was his only option.
Draco paused now on the steps to consider the odds stacked up against his completing the potion. They were daunting, but he knew he couldn’t give up yet. After all, once a Malfoy set his mind to something, the chances of him quitting halfway through were slim to none. As long as Draco had the items from the Apothecary, he could start brewing the potion and worry about the harder-to-obtain ingredients later.
Slightly reassured by this thought, Draco resumed his stride.
Halloween dawned cloudy and cold. The day was, most conveniently, a Saturday, which meant the seventh years had the entire day to spend at Hogsmeade.
Harry supposed he was looking forward to the trip, though not as much as he used to. It would be nice to see Madam Rosmerta and all the other smiling faces he was sure to find there, but he didn’t have much of a reason for going. Other than pleasing Ron and Hermione, that was.
“They just reopened Zonko’s yesterday,” Ron said to Harry as they dressed for the chilly weather that morning in their dormitory. “I s’pose it’s worth having a shufti inside, right?”
“Right,” Harry agreed, although he didn’t really care either way. It was painfully evident that Ron was trying to be perky and optimistic about going to Hogsmeade for Harry’s sake.
“Ready?” Ron asked after a few minutes.
Harry finished knotting his scarf and nodded. “Yeah.”
They went downstairs and joined up with Hermione, who was waiting for them at the foot of the steps.
“It’ll be nice to have a day to ourselves,” she said, as if trying to convince Harry that he had made the right choice in going on the trip. “I heard almost all the stores are back up and running. And Lupin told me that he and Tonks might be at the Three Broomsticks later, so maybe we can meet up with them.”
“Great,” Harry said, brightening up slightly at the mention of Lupin and Tonks. “Let’s go.”
The three of them joined up with Dean as they made their way out of the Gryffindor common room. Dean was looking somewhat gloomier than usual, most likely due to Seamus’ absence. The two of them had spent much of the previous year planning what they would do on this very trip.
The hallway outside the common room was filled with students. Seventh years heading for Hogsmeade chatted animatedly while their younger peers strolled about unhurriedly, enjoying their day off. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Dean joined up with a few Ravenclaw seventh years as they made their way down to the Entrance Hall.
While Hermione and Terry Boot debated the proper way to brew Ageing Potion and Ron and Dean discussed the National Quidditch Association’s plans to renovate the league, Harry’s attention wandered to his surroundings. They were walking down the narrow third floor hallway that connected the staircases leading to the Gryffindor Tower and the Entrance Hall. Harry noticed the statue of the one-eyed, humpbacked witch up ahead and smiled almost fondly. It had been a while since he last used it…
Just as he was about to look away, a flash of movement caught his eye. He did a double take. Was it just his imagination, or had he seen a wisp of pale blond hair disappear behind the statue?
His curiosity piqued, Harry halted in his tracks. “I’ll catch up with you guys later. I think I forgot something back in the dorm.”
“Okay,” Hermione said. She smiled briefly at Harry before returning to her and Terry’s discussion.
Harry waited until his friends were out of sight before turning to the statue. Before he could approach it, however, Draco Malfoy stepped out from behind it with a sigh of resignation. He held his wand in one hand and a folded sheet of parchment in the other.
“The stalking really needs to end, Potter.”
Harry’s eyebrows flew to his hairline in genuine surprise. “Fancy meeting you here of all places, Malfoy.”
“I’m banned from going on the Hogsmeade trip,” Malfoy said arily.
“Oh.” Harry wasn’t sure whether to smirk or feel sorry for Malfoy. “Um… okay.”
“Yes.” Malfoy pointed his wand in the direction Harry had been heading. “You can leave now.”
Harry ignored Malfoy. “What’s your being banned from Hogsmeade got to do with this statue?”
Now it was Malfoy’s turn to raise his eyebrows. “If you don’t know already, there’s no point explaining it to you.”
Realisation struck Harry, and a little “Oh!” escaped his lips. He felt rather stupid for not seeing it earlier. “You’re trying to figure out how to open the passageway to Honeydukes, aren’t you?”
“So it leads to Honeydukes?” Malfoy looked thoughtful. “Even better.”
“Well, you’re not going to find out on your own,” Harry said, turning to leave. Strangely enough, he wasn’t the least bit curious as to how Malfoy knew about the passageway. “Have fun puzzling over it, though.”
In spite of the voice in his head urging him to keep walking away, Harry turned around. “What?”
A pained expression settled on Malfoy’s face, making it look as if he’d swallowed a large amount of Skele-Gro. In an aggrieved tone, he said, “You know the password, don’t you?”
“Yeah.” Harry cocked his head, lips curving into a grin. “But my assistance won’t come without a price.”
“Since when? You were more than keen to help me just a few days ago!”
“With accomplishing the tasks on your list, not sneaking out of the school,” Harry pointed out. His grin widened. He was rather enjoying himself. “So what’ll it be? You already know what I want from you.”
“I refuse to be kind to Weasley,” Malfoy snapped, but there was a glimmer of uncertainty in the depths of his glare.
Harry shrugged. “Fine. See you later, Malfoy.”
He had barely taken two steps before Malfoy stopped him again.
“You promise it’ll go all the way to Honeydukes?”
Triumphant, Harry turned back around and nodded. “And you swear to leave off taunting Ron?”
Malfoy glowered like a sulky toddler being told he was forbidden from going near the cookie jar. “Yes.”
“And you’ll apologise for everything you’ve done?” Harry added quickly.
“That wasn’t part of the deal, Potter.”
“It’s either you agree to it or I don’t help you.”
“Do you mean it?”
Harry sighed. “Malfoy…”
“All right, I mean it! Just give me the sodding password, you twat!”
Harry knew Malfoy was lying – since when did Slytherins apologise for anything? – but he walked over to the one-eyed witch anyway, forgetting entirely that Ron and Hermione were waiting for him outside. Aggravating Malfoy was just too entertaining to pass up.
“Shift over,” he ordered, nudging Malfoy aside as he stepped behind the statue. It was a tight fit, and Malfoy was most unceremoniously thrust against the stone wall as Harry pulled his wand out to open the passageway.
“If you’re lying about this, I’ll kill you,” Malfoy threatened as he struggled to push Harry’s elbow out of his face.
“Considering Avada Kedavra is no longer on your list of usable spells, that might be a little difficult,” Harry shot back, deliberately stepping backwards so that the little space Malfoy had was further reduced. Then he frowned, remembering something else. “Aren’t they tracking your wand?”
Before replying, Malfoy placed two palms squarely on Harry’s back and forcibly shoved him away. “Yes,” he answered, sounding very disgruntled, “but I’ve already dealt with that particular impediment.”
“I got around the charm McGonagall placed on it.”
Harry scoffed. “None of your rubbish spells can interfere with her magic, Malfoy.”
“Why don’t you worry about opening this damned statue before Christmas arrives and leave the problem of concealing my whereabouts to me, Potter? Because as much as I love being pinned to the wall like this, breathing is also nice…”
Realising that Malfoy was right and that space constraints made continuing their argument more impractical than productive, Harry clenched his teeth and quickly tapped the statue, saying, “Dissendium!”
The witch’s hump slid away, revealing a hole wide enough to admit one person. Harry placed his hands on either side of the opening, nimbly lifted himself up, and allowed his body to fall freely down the tunnel. He landed rather suddenly on damp earth. Wincing, he got to his feet and dusted off his bottom.
“You can come down now,” he called up to Malfoy. His voice echoed eerily as it travelled up the length of the tunnel.
There was a soft thump as Malfoy slid down the passageway and gracefully landed on his feet. He brushed the dirt off his sleeves and looked around.
“My God, it’s disgusting down here.” Malfoy wordlessly lit his wand, momentarily blinding Harry. “Then again, one can’t really expect anything better from a passageway you commonly travel…”
“You could try for a bit of consideration,” Harry said, taking in Malfoy’s uncharacteristically tousled appearance with some satisfaction.
“Me?” By the light of Malfoy’s wand, Harry could see he wore a very indignant and insulted expression. “I was the one who had every possible personal space boundary crossed, and yet I’m the one who wasn’t considerate enough?”
“You’re never considerate enough. And I meant that it’s not your place to complain about a little discomfort when I’m the one wasting my time helping you get to Hogsmeade.”
“Whatever,” Malfoy muttered. “If I suffer any lasting damage from being slammed against that wall, the first thing I’ll do is file suit against you.”
“I’m shaking in my boots,” Harry replied. “For some reason, though, I don’t reckon going to court against me will work out so nicely for you.”
Malfoy frowned. “Can we get going?”
“Actually,” Harry said casually, “there’s no ‘we’ involved in this. I was planning to send you down the tunnel by yourself.”
Malfoy’s eyes widened in alarm. “What? You can’t leave me down here, Potter!”
Arching an eyebrow, Harry said coolly, “Scared, Malfoy?”
“Not a chance,” Malfoy snapped. The blush that coloured his pale cheeks suggested otherwise. Nevertheless, he squared his shoulders and said levelly, “Fine. Don’t come. I’d prefer you didn’t, anyway.”
“Brilliant. It works out for both of us, then.” When Malfoy didn’t respond, Harry added pointedly, “Feel free to get going any time in the next decade or two.”
Harry watched until the bobbing glow of Malfoy’s wand disappeared down the pitch-black recesses of the tunnel. Then, lighting his own wand, he set off after the other boy. He couldn’t have Malfoy getting lost and eventually wasting away underground.
After all, if Malfoy was going to die, Harry wanted to be there every step of the way.
Draco wasn’t stupid. He knew, as he turned an earthy corner into Merlin-knew-where, that Potter had been following him for the past twenty minutes.
At first he’d been tempted to reveal that he was perfectly aware of Potter’s stubborn presence. Then, as the unfamiliar darkness all around him grew more and more oppressive, he had realised that he needed Potter there more than Potter needed to be there, because he had absolutely no idea how to get to his destination.
In other words, as much as he hated to admit it, Draco was as good as dead if Potter left him on his own.
As Draco wandered around blindly with the weight of this distressing thought on his shoulders, he began mentally replaying the last half-hour, starting with Potter’s discovery of his attempts to uncover the secret passageway to Hogsmeade. Draco had known it was there, because Snape had revealed the location to him after he discovered Potter climbing out of the witch’s hump in Draco’s third year. He had not, however, told Draco how the secret passageway worked, and thus Draco had been on the verge of giving up hope that he would ever get to Hogsmeade and buy the potion ingredients he needed there when Potter showed up and offered to help.
But why? Why had Potter aided Draco in sneaking out of school when he was more determined than anyone else to keep Draco from escaping the castle’s confines?
Draco suspected Potter had something up his sleeve, but he didn’t strain himself trying to figure out what; Potter’s logic was a strange and dangerous thing. Draco was, however, sure of one thing: he had no intention of keeping his promise to refrain from insulting Weasley. As a Malfoy, he was bound by honour to his word – just not when it came to Harry Potter. Malfoys never made deals with Gryffindors, and even when they did, they most certainly did not follow through with them.
Draco sighed inaudibly as he imagined how pleased those words would have made his father if he’d been alive to hear them. “Very good, Draco,” he would’ve said with an approving nod, and Draco would have glowed with pride, because all he’d ever really wanted was to live up to his father’s high standards. Unfortunately, he’d never got the chance to prove himself, what with the sudden termination of Lucius’ life and the equally abrupt outbreak of the second war.
For a long time, the only sounds Draco heard were the silent padding of his trainers on the moist dirt and the eerie dripping of water coming from somewhere further down the passageway. He wondered how much time had elapsed since he’d started off down the tunnel and why Potter wasn’t speaking up. Wasn’t he the least bit concerned about getting back to Weasley and Granger before they grew suspicious of his whereabouts?
Draco frowned. Up until that moment, he hadn’t really given much thought to the strangeness of Potter’s sudden estrangement from his friends. He had seen Weasley and Granger hovering anxiously around Potter like two overprotective parents unable to accept being cast aside by their adolescent son, but hadn’t bothered to pause and consider how odd it was that Potter was trying to distance himself in the first place. Draco would have thought that with the end of the war, Potter wouldn’t have waited a millisecond to leap back into the arms of his loved ones like the disgustingly dependent fool he was.
Draco’s mind flashed back to the train ride to Hogwarts, and then to the night of their unheralded meeting in the library. That disconcerting emptiness in Potter’s eyes… and the sudden emotional breakdown he’d had when Draco had mentioned his failure to live up to his title… What exactly had happened to Potter? He was confused; there was no doubt about it. It was as though he didn’t know what to do with himself, and thus had to resort to acting like a wretched man who had lost his world when really, he hadn’t.
Draco didn’t buy this act. Save for one or two moments, he had seen no solid evidence of real pain in Potter’s behaviour. Indeed, Potter was the same person he’d always been – except for the part where he seemed to be convinced he was traumatised beyond repair.
It annoyed Draco, really, that Potter was selfish enough to think he was so tortured that he had the right to act like a sulky four-year-old. The only way to determine the cause of Potter’s emotional confusion, Draco realised, was to find out what had happened the night Voldemort was defeated – the only detail of the war that remained to be cleared up. Draco made a mental note to wheedle the whole story out of Potter one day.
For the moment, though, he had to concentrate on getting those ingredients. And in order to do that, he needed Potter’s help.
“Potter,” he said, stopping and turning around. His voice echoed off the walls of the tunnel eerily. “I know you’re there, so you can stop skulking about in the shadows.”
There was a long pause, and then Draco heard Potter say, most unhelpfully, “You’re going the wrong way.”
“You could’ve told me that fifteen minutes ago!”
“But that would’ve taken away the fun of watching you wander around without a clue.” Potter’s voice was drawing nearer. “In any case, who says I’m willing to lead you to Honeydukes?”
“We made a deal, Potter, and you said –”
“That I’d give you the password, not take you where you want to go.” Potter walked into Draco’s wandlight, his own wand lit and pointed at the ground. His eyes darted from Draco’s outraged expression to his muddy robes, but he commented on neither.
Draco shook his head. He should have known. It was just like Potter to pull something like that.
“Fine,” Draco said in a hard voice, turning away.
There was another pause, and for one terrifying moment, Draco thought Potter was serious about leaving him to find his way to Honeydukes on his own. Then, softly, Potter asked, “How does it feel?”
“How does what feel?” Draco snapped. “How does it feel to want to curse every bone in your body and leave you writhing in pain, but not be able to because that’d leave me alone in a dark underground tunnel without an idea of my whereabouts? It feels fantastic, Potter. Just fantastic.”
“No, Malfoy.” Potter moved closer, keeping his gaze fixed on Draco’s face. “How does it feel to be helpless?”
Helpless. The word resounded in Draco’s head, leaving an imprint of itself in every corner of his mind. Draco inhaled sharply, fighting the rising panic in his chest. Helpless. But he wasn’t… he couldn’t…
An eccentric smile twisted the corners of Potter’s lips. “The Weasleys must’ve felt the same just before they died, huh? The terror on their faces just before Bellatrix finished them off must’ve looked something like the terror on yours right now, don’t you think?”
“There’s something wrong with you, Potter. I swear, you’re –”
“I’m what, Malfoy?”
Potter narrowed his eyes. “No, I’m not. I’m trying to make you understand. You may not have played a direct part in the murder, but it tortures me every day, knowing that Ron’s mum and dad are dead. Every day, you hear? They were the only remotely parent-like figures I had left, and because of your lot, they were taken away from me. From me, and from Ron and Ginny and the rest of their family. The rest of their living family. How do you think that fucking feels?”
Spurred on by Potter’s fury, Draco took a step forward, his own anger blotting out everything in his field of vision except for those hateful green eyes. “In case you haven’t noticed, my father is dead and my mother is in Azkaban! The rest of the Slytherins are going through hell, and – surprise, surprise – half the students in this school don’t have families either! Do you see any of them whining and blaming everyone else for all the shit they’re going through? No, you don’t! So tell me, Potter, why are you the only one allowed to suffer?”
By the time Malfoy finished his rant, he was panting, fists clenched so tightly that his knuckles were nearly translucent. Harry, on the other hand, was so astonished that his anger began ebbing away. He opened his mouth to tell Malfoy to calm down, but it seemed Malfoy wasn’t done yet, because he spoke up again before Harry could get a word out.
“You really want to believe you’re miserable, don’t you?” Malfoy snarled. He made a noise of disgust, deep in his throat. “You mope around and push everyone away, claiming no one can help you and all that other bullshit, but in the end, you’re every bit the attention whore the Ministry made you out to be before the war, because you’re not miserable! You’re not depressed! You’re lying to your fucking self!”
“I’M NOT DONE, POTTER!”
“WELL, I AM!”
The silence that ensued rang in Harry’s ears, somehow louder than the shouting that had just filled the dark tunnel. Harry dug the heel of his palm into his forehead, willing his headache to go away. He hadn’t expected Malfoy to retaliate so strongly. He wasn’t angry, though. Malfoy’s words hadn’t offended or incensed him at all. On the contrary, he felt a sort of grim acknowledgment, as though hearing Malfoy say what Ginny and Ron and Hermione had been saying all along was what he had needed to accept it as truth.
Maybe I just felt the need to make something more out of the war, Harry suddenly realised. All of this… maybe it’s just because I can’t accept that it’s all over and everyone’s happy… maybe I really am just trying to generate misery out of nothing so that no one will forget what happened.
He drew in a tremulous breath, and was instantly overcome by a powerful wave of hot shame. Instinctively, he turned away from Malfoy, mortified.
He was a moron. The lowest kind, too. He had made Ron, Hermione, and Ginny worry about him every second of the last few weeks, when all he’d been doing was blaming the rest of the world for his discontent. So what if solid shadows of Death Eaters and darkness still lurked at the edges of his dreams at night, and he woke up some mornings feeling like he’d just received the Dementor’s Kiss? So what if he couldn’t bring himself to forget the agony that had torn his soul into a million shards of pain the night he destroyed Voldemort, and could still clearly picture Mr and Mrs Weasley’s blood-stained, lifeless bodies lying in the mud every time their names were brought up? Malfoy was right: Harry wasn’t the only one tormented by those memories, and yet he was the only one letting them stop him from moving on. Perhaps he really was weak, after all.
Malfoy’s made a living out of locating people’s weak spots. He knows exactly what to say when it comes to hurting you, Harry.
Hermione’s words, as clear and logical as ever, made their way into Harry consciousness. Of course she was right; she was always right. Harry was perfectly aware that Malfoy was trying to provoke him. But at the same time, he also knew there was a grain – no, more like a boulder – of truth in Malfoy’s accusations. How could he not have seen it earlier? He’d wanted the war to mean something, but he had been hypocritical, had tried to be the one thing he hated the most: the centre of attention. Incredibly enough, now that Malfoy, with his wonderfully frank bitterness, had made all of that so undeniably clear, Harry almost felt giddy with relief.
“Do you finally get it, Potter?”
Harry didn’t say anything. He did note, however, that there was no sneer, no hint of smugness in Malfoy’s voice for once. He sounded serious, as though he truly wanted to help Harry understand. Taken aback, Harry stored this small detail in the back of his mind for later contemplation before taking a deep breath and turning to face Malfoy.
Don’t lose your composure, Harry; don’t let him think he’s won, he urged himself, as he raised his eyes to meet Malfoy’s. The words Snape had spat at him during those hateful Occlumency lessons in fifth year came back to him in a rush. Clear your mind, Potter… Empty yourself of emotion…
“Why do you defend the Slytherins when they won’t stand behind you?”
Malfoy blinked. As if on instinct, his hand came up to grip his left forearm tightly. He opened his mouth, but closed it promptly and seemed to deliberate for a moment before finally answering. “Because they’re my housemates. I swore loyalty to them when I sat down at their table for the first time.”
“I don’t believe that,” Harry replied immediately. He slouched against the muddy wall of the tunnel, not caring that his robes were already in a state that would have given Aunt Petunia cause to commit suicide. “I don’t believe you’d do something like that. If you were a real Slytherin, you’d put your own needs before theirs.”
“Don’t you dare think for one second that you understand what it’s like to be a Slytherin!”
“I know far more than you think I do,” Harry snapped. He closed his eyes briefly, remembering the words the Sorting Hat had whispered into his ear during the Sorting Ceremony so many years ago, and then shook his head. He couldn’t tell Malfoy about that. Not even Ron and Hermione knew. “I just… never mind. Let’s go. I’ll take you to Hogsmeade.”
Malfoy, however, didn’t move. “Give me reason to trust you.”
Harry nearly choked on his disbelief. How could one person possibly be so obstinate? “Do you have any other alternatives?”
Malfoy met Harry’s gaze defiantly. “I’d rather die down here than be fooled by you again, Potter.”
There it was again – the unnerving fear. It was even more evident in Malfoy’s cool grey irises now than it had been at Diagon Alley. Perhaps, Harry thought, this was because each passing day brought Malfoy closer to the date of his death. The moment this thought arose, he felt a flicker of guilt lick at his conscience. He quickly smothered it.
“You’re an idiot if you reckon you can get to Hogsmeade by yourself.”
Malfoy dug his trainers into the moist earth like a stubborn puppy. “Go back to your friends. I don’t need you. I don’t need anyone.”
“No,” Harry said. “I’m not going to let you stay down here. You could die or, even worse, find your way out and escape.”
“Did you not hear what I said?”
“I heard it, loud and clear. I’d be an even bigger idiot than you, though, if I listened to someone who thinks I owe him for saving his life.”
Malfoy stared at Harry for a long moment. Then, in an uncharacteristically small voice: “You’re seriously willing to take me there?”
Harry frowned. “Well… yeah. I brought you down here, so why not bring you back up?”
“I just had a go at you.”
“Well, you were telling –” Harry stopped. He had nearly said “the truth”. Luckily, he caught himself in time. “Your insults don’t really mean anything to me.”
Malfoy shot him a “don’t kid yourself, Potter” glare. “You can still turn me in to McGonagall for leaving the grounds, you know.”
“And land myself in detention for being the one who made it possible? Sorry, but I rather prefer the option of getting you to Hogsmeade and back to the castle before McGonagall finds out you’re gone.”
“Then why not tell them you caught me trying to escape? They’d probably give you some rubbish award for special services to the school or something…”
“Because unlike you, Malfoy, I don’t lie solely for the purpose of benefiting myself,” Harry said impatiently. Malfoy’s unhelpful attitude was beginning to irritate him. Didn’t he care at all that Harry had put aside everything to help him?
The corners of Malfoy’s mouth turned down in confusion. “You had no reason to help me, then.”
“Yeah I did. I got what I wanted, didn’t I? You’re going to apologise to Ron.”
Malfoy looked torn between laughter and incredulity. “You’re an idiot, Potter.”
“Probably,” Harry said softly, picking up on the implied meaning behind Malfoy’s statement. He was still too mortified over the realisation he’d had following Malfoy’s earlier tirade to muster up the energy to argue. “I’ll let you decide for yourself what you want to do, though. For now, I just want to get out of here.”
Malfoy lowered his head, and for one split second, the shadows cast by the mixed light of his and Harry’s wands softened his features and made him appear almost vulnerable. Then he looked back up at Harry, destroying the strange lighting effect, and all the rage that had brought life to his grey eyes earlier while he was ranting and raving at Harry was gone. It was like he had given up hope and resigned himself to the fact that he had no choice but to be saved by Harry.
“Lead the way,” he said dully.
Harry and Malfoy made it safely to Honeydukes, despite Harry’s incomplete memory of the labyrinth of underground passages. Even though Harry hadn’t brought his Invisibility Cloak, he managed to sneak Malfoy through the cellar, up into the sweetshop, and out the door onto the busy streets.
“Merlin, I don’t even want to know how filthy I am right now,” Malfoy muttered after taking one look at Harry’s grime-covered robes in bright daylight and promptly looking away in disgust.
Harry raised his eyebrows as he took in Malfoy’s dirty, rumpled appearance. “Well, it’s not any worse than you looked at the trial, if that makes you feel any better.”
“No, Potter, it doesn’t,” Malfoy snapped. He gazed around at his surroundings like a child visiting an amusement park for the first time, and a small, barely noticeable smile ghosted across his lips. “This place hasn’t changed at all.”
“Yeah,” Harry said, slightly taken aback by the almost-smile. He would have commented on it, but at that moment, it occurred to him that Ron and Hermione still didn’t know where he was.
Running a hand through his mud-streaked hair, Harry furiously and silently debated between following Malfoy to make sure he didn’t do anything dangerous and leaving Malfoy to find Ron and Hermione and apologise. Just as he was beginning to regret making the decision to sneak Malfoy into Hogsmeade, an idea so obvious that he nearly laughed out loud hit him.
Harry pulled out his wand, pointed it at the ground, and sent a messenger Patronus to Ron and Hermione. Tell them I’m fine and that they should go on without me… Something came up and I’ve got to deal with it, but I’ll meet them back at the castle after the trip, he silently told it as he watched it streak down the street, a flash of silver in the afternoon sun.
“What was that?”
Harry started at the sound of Malfoy’s voice. “What?”
“Don’t play dumb with me, Potter.” Malfoy looked very annoyed now. “Was that a Patronus?”
“Um…” Harry frantically grappled to think of a believable lie. Was he allowed to explain what it was? The war was over, so there really wasn’t any need for secrecy anymore, but it wouldn’t feel right if he revealed the purpose of the messenger Patronuses to Malfoy. “It’s…”
“No need to get your knickers in a twist over it,” Malfoy sneered. “I’m not stupid. We used them, too.”
“Did you?” Harry asked, mildly surprised that the two sides had had something in common.
Malfoy didn’t reply to Harry’s question. He had already begun walking away.
“Where d’you think you’re going?” Harry demanded, running to catch up with Malfoy. Along the way, he accidentally bumped into a young witch whose eyes immediately darted up to stare at his scar the moment she realised who he was.
“Dagworth’s,” Malfoy replied once Harry had apologised profusely to the witch and hurried over to him. He was referring to the only Potions store in Hogsmeade.
“Are you stupid, Potter? Why do you think?”
“I meant, why do you so desperately need to go to this shop? Why not the apothecary at Diagon Alley?”
Malfoy rolled his eyes. “It’s a good thing you had Snape’s old book last year, because you wouldn’t have survived the first day of Potions without it. Anyone with half a brain knows the Diagon Alley apothecary specialises in creature-based ingredients, whereas this one sells only herbal and plant-based ingredients.”
“Well, sorry I don’t have a Potions encyclopaedia stored in my head,” Harry said crossly. “And I’d really appreciate it if you were a little more civil, Malfoy, considering I’ve ditched Ron and Hermione to –”
“You made that choice on your own. I neither asked nor want you to follow me around all day.”
“Yeah, well, I can’t leave you here alone. You’ll have a lot of explaining to do if you get caught.”
Malfoy finally stopped in his tracks. “You really are something, Potter. You convince the Wizengamot to give me my freedom back, and then impede on it yourself by refusing to let me out of your sight and interfering with my business. On top of that, you deliberately sneak me into Hogsmeade, but the moment we arrive here, you blame me for taking up your precious time with your dear friends – even though you’re the one who made the decision to give it up.”
Harry flushed, again struck by the truth of Malfoy’s words. “Well, I’m not the only one,” he shot back. “You claim you hate me, but you didn’t give me away when you saw me in the clearing that night. You still haven’t told me why you didn’t, by the way.”
Malfoy gave him an odd look. “You never asked.”
Blinking, Harry realised that Malfoy was right – again. He had been so caught up in the fact that Malfoy had done it that he hadn’t bothered to wonder why. “Erm… so why –”
He stopped mid-sentence when he noticed that Malfoy had disappeared. He was all set to panic when he saw that the door he had just passed was swinging closed. On it hung a scratched sign that read “Dagworth’s Apothecary”.
“Of course,” Harry muttered to himself, slipping past the door just before it swung shut.
Harry had never been inside this particular shop (it was located near the back of Hogsmeade, an area he rarely visited), so he was surprised to find it wasn’t at all like the musty, cramped Apothecary in Diagon Alley. In fact, it looked more like one of the Hogwarts greenhouses than anything else.
Intrigued, Harry began walking around the store, examining the magical and non-magical plants growing seemingly everywhere. He saw what looked curiously like a pink balloon covered in soft fuzz and reached out to touch it. Before his fingers could make contact, however, someone’s hand grabbed his wrist and yanked it away.
It was Malfoy. “Don’t touch that!” he said furiously, releasing Harry’s wrist when Harry looked at him in surprise.
“What is it?”
“It’s a Fallopod. The fuzz that covers it – it looks soft, but if you touch it, it’ll burrow into your skin and poison you.”
“Oh,” Harry said faintly, taking a few steps away from the plant. He could have let me touch it, but he didn’t. “Um… thanks. I guess this means you’ve saved someone from the edge of death now, huh?”
“Don’t be daft,” Malfoy snapped. “The poison isn’t fatal; it just causes severe pain. Not that you wouldn’t deserve it,” he added in an undertone.
“They should keep warnings around these things,” Harry said grouchily, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Well, thanks anyway, Malfoy.”
“Don’t count on it happening again, Potter.” Malfoy was already walking away to go look for more ingredients. “I only did it because I’d rather not be troubled with the task of carrying your twitching body back to Hogwarts.”
“Yeah, that’s it,” Harry muttered under his breath. He turned away from the Fallopod and resumed his exploration of the shop, this time making sure to keep a good distance from plants he didn’t know.
After a while, Malfoy returned to Harry. He carred a small cardboard box and looked very pleased with himself. “Can we go?”
Harry blinked, surprised that Malfoy had even bothered to ask him. “Yeah, sure.”
They left the shop. Had Harry been paying attention, he would have noticed that his step was noticeably lighter than it had been for a long time. As it was, he was only vaguely conscious of the feeling that a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders, and even less aware that it was due to Malfoy’s earlier accusations.
“What did you buy?” Harry asked as they made their way back to Honeydukes.
“None of your business.”
How did I know he was going to say that? Harry thought, barely suppressing an eye roll.
“Harry – Harry Potter?”
Harry stopped in his tracks upon being addressed. “Eh?” he said, turning his head in the direction of the voice.
A tall witch with flyaway brown hair and spangled robes stood in the doorway of the Hog’s Head. She eagerly extended a hand. “Ninette Lawley. I’m from a small magazine publication. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr Potter!”
“Er… hi,” Harry said, somewhat taken aback. He shook Lawley’s hand, shooting a quick glance at Malfoy as he did so. The other boy looked very irritated at the interruption.
“If you would, Mr Potter, I’ve got a few questions I’d like to ask you…”
“You’re a reporter?” Harry asked, alarmed. His experience with Rita Skeeter had taught him to always be on his guard around reporters. “Sorry, but I can’t –”
“Oh, nonsense!” Lawley gushed, grabbing Harry’s arm and attempting to tug him inside the pub with one hand while rummaging in her pockets for a notepad and a quill with the other. “It’ll only take a quick minute, so if you would be so kind as to –”
“Sod off, you ugly cow. He’s with me, and we’re leaving.”
One baffling moment later, Harry felt Malfoy’s hand grab a handful of his robes and pull him away from the reporter. He stumbled backwards, nearly tripping over the hem of his robes before he regained his balance.
“Now wait here just a second,” Lawly protested, craning her neck to catch a glimpse of the person who’d just rudely cut her off, “who are you and what –?”
“No one!” Harry interrupted. “He’s no one! He’s a – er – classmate. At Hogwarts. Very brilliant student, top of the class…” Harry stepped to the side, effectively blocking Malfoy from view – for he had just realised that if Malfoy was recognised on the streets of Hogsmeade, he’d have worse things than annoying reporters badgering him with war-related questions to deal with.
“Shut up, Malfoy,” Harry hissed out of the corner of his mouth. He babbled a quick apology to Ninette Lawley, seized Malfoy’s sleeve, and took off down the street, dodging students and shoppers and everyone else in his way. Ignoring Malfoy’s angry protests, Harry ran until they reached Honeydukes. Even then, he didn’t pause to catch his breath until they had found a way down into the cellar and back into the secret passageway.
Malfoy blew up the moment they were alone. “What the hell was that all about, Potter? You would’ve had to be blind to miss the sight of us running down the street! Are you mad?”
“No – but you – are,” Harry choked out between gasps for air. “You’re lucky that reporter – didn’t recognise you –”
All the blood instantly drained from Malfoy’s face. “Fuck,” he swore. “Fuck. She can’t have –”
“Finally got it, have you? You can bet your last Galleon she would’ve if you’d stuck around and rambled a bit more!”
Malfoy looked quite shaken by this revelation, as if finally realising how much he had just risked by mindlessly ploughing ahead with his plan. “It would’ve been all over the news,” he said hollowly. “The Ministry would’ve taken me back to Azkaban without a moment’s hesitation.”
Harry winced at the tremble in Malfoy’s voice, unable to bring himself to retort with a sarcastic comment about Malfoy’s grasp of the obvious. Until that moment, it hadn’t occurred to him that Malfoy might actually be grateful for his second chance at life.
Malfoy glared accusingly at Harry. “You should’ve lent me your cloak!”
So much for feeling sorry for Malfoy. “Don’t try to lay the blame on me,” Harry snapped. “I was roped into this; you’re the one who should’ve considered the repercussions of your actions beforehand.”
If looks could kill, Harry would have dropped dead at that very moment, because the venom in Malfoy’s glare was unmistakable. Harry, however, was accustomed to receiving such looks; he managed to overcome his initial discomfort at being pinned with such an unpleasant look and simply shook his head.
“Forget it,” he said. With a flick of his wrist and a muttered “Lumos!”, he lit his wand. “You were bloody lucky, Malfoy. Remember that next time you decide to risk everything for some potion.” He paused before adding, “And if you ever even consider pulling something like this again, you damn well better leave me out of it.”
As Harry set off down the dark tunnel, he could have sworn he heard Malfoy sigh behind him, “Easier said than done.”
“Harry, are you absolutely positive you’re feeling okay?”
No, not really, Harry thought, wincing inwardly. “Don’t worry, I’m fine. Sorry I couldn’t come, though. I hope you didn’t wait too long for me.”
“We figured something came up,” Ron said with a shrug. He grinned at Harry. “Something always does.”
“Yeah, tell me about it,” said Harry, chuckling weakly. He paused, remembering Malfoy’s words, and then blurted out, “I’m sorry.”
Ron paused in the process of taking the Honeydukes sweets he had bought out of the pockets of his robe. “What for?”
Harry looked at the floor. “For being so difficult. I realised today… not everything that’s happened to me is so horrible. I’ve been purposely making myself miserable.”
“Oh, Harry, that’s not true!” Hermione exclaimed, but she looked considerably cheered by Harry’s apology. “You have been through loads of terrible things, things we can’t even begin to imagine. It’s all right for you to suffer; you have the right to. We just don’t want you to hurt any more than you already do.”
Ron nodded emphatically. “But it’s good that you’ve realised it. I mean… we’re all hurting right now. George, Bill, Ginny, even Percy... they really miss Mum and Dad, and of course Fred and Charlie too.” He sighed and picked at the wrapping around a Chocolate Frog. “We’re trying to forget and move on, though. Everyone is.”
But not everyone fought Voldemort! a small voice in Harry’s head protested. Harry squashed it. “Thanks.”
“Should we head down to the Great Hall, then? The Halloween Feast is about to start.” Hermione directed a knowing smile at Harry. “Ginny should be there by now.”
“Great,” Harry said, feeling slightly cheered by the prospect of seeing Ginny. “Let’s go, then.”
With lightened hearts, the three friends departed the Gryffindor common room and headed for their last Halloween Feast at Hogwarts.
A/N: Harry's whole "No one! He's no one!" response to the reporter was modelled off of the immortal words of Captain Jack Sparrow: "No one. He's no one. Distant cousin of my Aunt's nephew twice removed. Lovely singing voice. Eunuch." Yes, I confess… I'm an enormous Pirates fan.