Ahem. Anyway. I'm getting progressively more annoyed at this whole finding-a beta-to-replace-Emily thing. Sigh. Hopefully she'll be back soon... I'm quite hopeless without her help. Thank goodness for Christine :P
Title: Some Kind of Miracle (ch 9)
Author: Annie (_pinkchocolate)
Pairings: HP/DM, HP/GW
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to JK Rowling. Well... almost everything.
Summary: Draco is 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: 8,786
Notes: Thanks to Christine for her beta services! Sorry for the delay... I'm currently in the process of finding a temporary beta to replace Emily while she's busy. Also, this chapter does NOT contain DH spoilers (they won't start until chapter 14).
8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 P
Over your head
Trying not to drown
Reaching for a breath
Before it drags you down
Caught in between
All the pain you feel
You lost control
You’re letting go
But I never will
- Nick Lachey, “Run To Me”
The days grew colder. Whenever they had free time, Harry, Ron, and Ginny went out to the deserted Quidditch field and played. Sometimes Dean would join them, but for the most part, everyone was too busy recovering from the damage the war had dealt to occupy themselves with something as trivial as Quidditch. For Harry, however, flying was his way of soothing the nightmares that wracked his sleep and the throbbing emptiness he couldn’t ignore, no matter how much he tried to convince himself that he was making it up.
Sometimes, he found himself searching the field below, wondering if Malfoy was secretly watching him. This annoyed him, both because he knew that the chances were highly unlikely and because it distracted him to the point where he was flying into goalposts and balls. Once, he even nearly collided with Ron while his eyes were busy scouring the empty stands.
To Harry’s relief, however, Ron hadn’t questioned him about the incident. Indeed, it seemed that Ron and Hermione (who, true to her word, hadn’t told Ron the truth about Malfoy’s trial, even though Ron’s vehement denials of Harry’s participation every time another student brought up the subject were making it increasingly harder for Harry to reconcile his guilt over the matter) weren’t really questioning him about his life very much at all, most likely on the assumption that he would come around and tell them on his own time. They continued to act cheerful around him, but Harry knew that some of it was just pretence: in sleep, Ron frequently muttered the names of his murdered siblings in haunted tones; and more than once Harry had caught tears welling up in Hermione’s eyes while she hid her face behind a book.
Even though it pained Harry to see his friends trying so hard to keep him in the dark about their true feelings, he couldn’t do anything about it. He felt better, like he was nearly back to his old self, and he tried his best to project that in public now, but he still found it difficult to be around others. He rarely saw Malfoy, except at meals, and even then, he only had time to note that Malfoy was looking decidedly healthier before he had to hurry off to classes. Sometimes he visited Lupin, but those visits were usually short and unsatisfying. His only source of comfort came from the rare moments he had to spend with Ginny. Otherwise, he continued to yearn secretly for something to fill in the void inside of him, something he wasn’t even sure he would ever find.
The first snow of the season arrived on the twentieth of November. Harry and Hermione were walking back to the common room from their last class of the day, Defence Against the Dark Arts, when someone in the hallway exclaimed, “Blimey, look outside!”
Every head in the corridor turned to the windows. Thick snowflakes were drifting down from the sky, blurring the view of the lake and turning everything greyish-white.
“Ooh, it’s beautiful!” Hermione exclaimed, running over to the window to get a better look. “Look, Harry, there must be at least ten centimetres already!”
Harry couldn't help laughing at Hermione's excitement. “I didn’t even notice it’d started snowing. C’mon, Hermione, let’s go… It’s going to take me all night to finish McGonagall’s essay…”
They resumed their path. As they began ascending the staircases, Hermione said wistfully, “It’s a shame we’ve got so much to do now that we’re N.E.W.T. students. I mean, it would be nice to go outside and play around in the snow right now like we did as children.”
“I never did that,” Harry responded, shrugging his shoulders. “When Dudley went out to build snowmen or have snowball fights with the neighbours, I had to stay inside and clean.”
“That’s awful,” said Hermione indignantly, wrinkling her nose. “I’m so glad you don’t need to go back to that place anymore. Have you thought about what you’re going to do once you get out of school?”
“Become an Auror, I guess. I don’t know. I’m working on getting over the past before I move onto the future.” Harry stared at the pair of shoes climbing the stairs in front of him. They flashed a brilliant shade of gold every time the student took a step, he observed, finding this small detail infinitely more fascinating than the conversation he was engaged in.
“Oh, of course,” said Hermione, her tone carefully controlled.
They were silent for the remainder of the journey to the common room.
Later that evening found Harry and Ron in their dormitory. They had gone up early, promising Hermione that they would finish their homework before going to sleep, but had instead wound up eating Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans as they reminisced about their past years at Hogwarts.
“Feels like it’s been forever, huh?” Ron mused, referring to the time he and Harry had entered the Chamber of Secrets to rescue Ginny. He picked up a red and white spotted bean, popped it into his mouth, and chewed thoughtfully.
Harry nodded. “Yeah.” He hesitated, not wanting to ruin the pleasant mood, but couldn’t resist adding, “Say, Ron, do you really hate Malfoy?”
Instantly seizing the opportunity to vocally assault Malfoy, Ron replied vehemently, “Of course! He killed my mum and dad! Merlin, you have no idea how good it felt to find him and bring him to the Dementors. The look on his face… you should’ve seen it, Harry!”
“Well, he wasn’t really the one who actually killed them,” said Harry delicately. He cleared his throat. “Anyway, maybe we should rethink our judgment of his character. He could’ve… I dunno, repented while he was waiting with the Dementors or something.”
“It’s enough that he was there with the ones who did,” Ron growled, ignoring the latter part of Harry’s response. “He’s a Death Eater, through and through.”
“Yeah, probably,” Harry said softly. He fell back onto his mattress, recognising that it was time to leave off the argument before he accidentally let something slip. “In any case, I’m going to sleep.”
“G’night, Harry,” said Ron. Instead of getting into bed as well, though, he stood up and headed for the door of the dormitory.
“Where are you going?” Harry asked, surprised.
Ron ruffled the back of his hair, looking embarrassed. “Gonna go say good night to Hermione.”
“Oh, right.” Harry turned over onto his side. “Well, g’night.”
Harry waited until Ron had shut the door behind him to get out of bed and plod over to the window. He had always enjoyed sitting on the ledge and looking out over the Forbidden Forest on nights when he couldn’t sleep. Before he could do just that, however, he noticed something strange: someone was lying in the snow on the grounds below.
What the hell? Harry thought, completely baffled. He pressed his face against the cold window and squinted, trying to get a clearer view of the person. What kind of nutter would –
At that moment, the clouds parted, allowing moonlight to spill onto the snow-covered grounds and illuminate the subject of Harry’s attention. Harry’s mouth fell open. It was Malfoy.
“Fuck,” he swore under his breath. He opened the window and stuck his head out into the frosty night air. “Malfoy!” he yelled at the top of his lungs. Malfoy didn’t move.
In a fit of panic, Harry ran over to his trunk and hastily pulled out his robes and cloak, thinking frantically, He can’t be dead! Not yet, at least! But if he’s not, what’s he doing lying in the snow like that?
Harry dressed in record time, grabbed his wand from his bed, and sprinted out the door. Once downstairs, he didn’t even bother to check the common room to see if Ron and Hermione were still there before rushing out the portrait hole.
By the time Harry threw open the double oak front doors and stepped outside, it had begun to snow again. The snowfall was much lighter than it had been earlier that day; more of a light dusting of white glitter drifting down to the ground than actual snow.
Harry stumbled through the thick layer of snow covering the grass to where he had seen Malfoy. When he got there, he was both relieved and scared to find that Malfoy was still there, looking exactly like he had when Harry noticed him from the Gryffindor tower.
“You better be alive,” Harry hissed, dropping down to his knees beside Malfoy. The other boy’s eyes were closed, and his skin had a faint, bluish-white tint to it. Harry’s heart leapt into his throat.
When Harry shook him, however, Malfoy’s eyes immediately flew open. He saw Harry, blinked twice, and then sat up so abruptly that his head nearly collided with Harry’s.
“What are you doing, Potter?”
It felt like hours before Potter finally answered Draco’s question.
“I could ask the same thing of you, Malfoy!”
Draco scowled – or, rather, he would have, had his lips not been so numbed by the cold that they were incapable of obeying the neural messages sent by his brain. Thus, he settled for saying huffily, “And here I was, trying to avoid you for your good as well as mine. What does it look like I was doing?”
“Trying to freeze to death?” Potter suggested. He looked furious. “I didn’t know you wanted to die this badly!”
“I’m not trying to die, you arse!” Draco shook his head, feeling droplets of melting snow slide down his back as he did so. “Merlin, Potter, why are you so morbid? If you must know, I was trying to make a snow angel.”
“A – a what?” Potter spluttered.
“A snow angel,” Draco enunciated. He sucked first his bottom lip and then his top lip between his teeth, trying to warm them up. “Don’t you know what snow angels are?”
Potter glared at him suspiciously. “I’ve heard them mentioned a few times before, but no one’s ever exactly told me how to make one.”
Draco would have laughed, but he really was too cold to do anything except make a small noise of disbelief. Harry Potter, the world’s bloody saviour, doesn’t know how to make a snow angel? he thought to himself incredulously.
Out loud, he said snidely, “Well, well, what do you know… The boy wonder doesn’t know everything!”
“I never said I did,” said Potter waspishly. He stood up. “So are you going to tell me? Or should I just go back to my warm, cosy dormitory and leave you out here?”
“I’d prefer it if you left me alone,” said Draco, shrugging nonchalantly. He settled back onto the snow, trying not to wince at the coldness.
Potter, however, jerked him back up. “What’s wrong with you?! You’ll get hypothermia or something!”
“I said, step back. If you want to know what a snow angel is, that is.”
The suspicious gleam in Potter’s eyes returned, but he obliged. Draco carefully lay down on the snow, spread his arms and legs, and moved them back and forth in flapping motions. Then, with as much dignity as one can muster after having just lain in the snow and made a snow angel in front of one’s worst enemy, he stood up, brushed the snow off his robes, and gestured at the sloppy imprint of an angel he had left behind.
“That’s a snow angel, you sheltered idiot.”
Potter gaped at Draco. “That – that doesn’t look anything like an angel!”
Draco folded his stiff arms and glared at Potter. “Why don’t you make a better one then?”
Uncertainty flashed across Potter’s features before his eyes narrowed. “Fine,” he said, accepting the challenge.
Draco watched while Potter fell back onto the snow and clumsily followed Draco’s earlier arm and leg movements. When he stood up, however, Draco let out a snort of laughter.
“Ours look nothing alike, Potter,” he said haughtily. “If mine’s unsightly, yours is positively atrocious.”
It was clear that if he had had room to argue, Potter would have. As it was, there was no denying the truth of Draco’s statement. Thus, as he gazed down at his shapeless snow angel, a sheepish smile spread across Potter’s face. “I suppose it is pretty hideous, huh?”
Draco’s eyes widened at the sight of Potter’s childish smile. He looked so… happy as he kicked at the loose snow to cover up his failed snow angel.
“Hey, Potter?” Draco found himself saying, much more softly than he had intended. Then again, it had been quite a while since he had seen someone look so happy in his presence. And he had been outside for so long that his brain was probably addled by the lack of warmth it was receiving.
“What?” Potter’s smile vanished the moment he met Draco’s eyes.
Draco stared down at the ground. “I guess haven’t really th-thanked you for… for helping me get to Hogsmeade yet.” He closed his eyes and tilted his head backwards, thinking, This is so wrong… I’m about to thank Harry Potter…
There was a long pause. Then, as though he were aware of the pain Draco’s next few words would cost him, Potter said quietly, “No big deal.”
Before Potter could speak up again, Draco abruptly said, “I’m going back inside.” He pulled his wand out and prepared to erase the snow angel, but was stopped when Potter grabbed his wrist.
“Hold it!” Potter exclaimed angrily. “I came out here to see if you were alive, so you can’t leave until you’ve answered all my questions.”
“I wasn’t aware that you had any more,” Draco said, arching an eyebrow. “Don’t you have anything better to do than ask questions? Every time I see you, you’re always asking me goddamned –”
“Well, I can’t help it! I don’t know anything about you.”
“So now you want to get to know me better? My, my, aren’t we creative with our pick-up lines?”
Potter turned red. “That’s not even funny, Malfoy. I just wanted to know why you suddenly decided to go out in the middle of the night and make a snow angel.”
Draco frowned. “If you don’t mind, Potter, I’m freezing, my lips are probably blue by now, and I think I might be losing my primary motor skills. In other words, I would appreciate it if you saved your questions for a warmer place and time.”
“Is it because of the list?”
“Why, yes, Potter, it does happen to be one of the things –”
“I didn’t see it on there last time. You added more?”
“I did, but it’s none –”
“Can I see?”
“Can you refrain from interrupting me for one sodding second?” Draco exclaimed. “Yes, it’s on my list; yes, it’s one of the recent additions; and no, you can’t see.”
Potter rolled his eyes. “I already saw it, so what’s the big deal?”
“The big deal,” Draco drawled, “is that my list is personal and you shouldn’t have seen it in the first place. Unfortunately, thanks to your astounding aptitude for sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong, you did. Don’t think that means I’m going to just let you in on my personal affairs, though.”
“I know, Potter. I owe you. Sod that. I’ve said it already, and I’ll say it again: I owe you my life, not my courtesy.”
Potter shook his head, causing tiny flakes of snow to shower off his black hair. “I was going to say that you shouldn’t get rid of the snow angel.”
Draco lowered his wand. “Why?”
“Well, now that I’ve looked at it a bit longer, it really isn’t so bad looking,” Potter replied archly.
“Then take it to the Yule Ball,” Draco sneered, secretly pleased nonetheless by Potter’s half-compliment. “It’s much more attractive than Patil.”
Potter laughed and scratched the back of his head, causing more snowflakes to fly off. Draco watched them flutter down to the ground amidst the other snowflakes falling from the sky.
“Seamus thought she was pretty,” Potter explained, “but I only took her because… well, because someone else took the girl I wanted to take.”
“Is that so?” Draco asked. He smirked. “Poor, pathetic Harry Potter… can’t even land himself the lass he wants…” He ducked to avoid the snow Potter threw at him. “Who was it?”
“I’m not telling you if you won’t tell me anything.”
“How shockingly childish of you.” Draco shoved his wand back into his pocket. “Fine, I won’t erase it. But either way, it’s going to be gone tomorrow morning after all this snow.”
Potter shrugged. “You never know. Miracles can happen.”
Witness a miracle.
Draco blinked. “Yeah, sure.”
“Anyway, come on. I’m going inside.”
“Well, that’s great for you, but I’m not. I’m going to stay here a while longer.”
Potter tilted his head to one side. “You just said you were cold and wanted to go back,” he pointed out.
“Yes, well, I changed my mind,” Draco replied smoothly. “You should understand; you’re an expert at it.”
Potter rolled his eyes. “Fine. But remember, I can see you from my dorm, so don’t try anything. Watch out for yourself, too. Especially since you’re not supposed to be out of your common room right now.”
Draco stared at Potter, speechless with astonishment. This was the first time Potter had ever actually trusted him alone. He had grown so accustomed to being followed around whenever possible that being allowed some space was almost unnerving.
Realising that Potter was waiting for him to give an answer, Draco said, with a false air of indifference, “See you, Potter.”
Potter nodded once, and left. Draco watched until he became a small dot against the snow-dotted night sky. Then he turned back to the snow angel he had made and crouched down next to it
“Ice,” he murmured to himself, tracing around the angel’s head with numb fingers. “I always wanted to be ice, to be cold and unfeeling and frozen. That’s why I decided to leave an imprint of myself in the snow.”
But, of course, Harry wasn’t there to hear the real answer to his earlier question. He was already gone.
When Harry returned to the dormitory, Ron and Dean had already gone to bed. Harry was relieved to find that he had somehow managed to pull the hangings around his bed before dashing out of the room, creating the illusion that he was still there sleeping.
Harry shrugged off his cloak and robes, letting them fall to a heap on the floor. It didn’t matter, really; he was going to put them on again the next morning anyway.
Just before he climbed back into bed, he glanced once more out the window. Malfoy was still there. This time, however, he was holding what looked like a small ball of fire in one hand and his wand in the other. As Harry watched, Malfoy used his wand to melt eyes, a nose, and a mouth onto the snow angel. He paused, as if considering his next move, before tapping the angel’s head lightly. Something spread out across the snow, staining it pale yellow, forming hair. Harry grinned and turned away.
What Harry didn’t realise then was that there was no halo to complete the picture. Instead, as Harry snuggled under his covers and closed his eyes, prepared but never quite ready for another night filled with evasive shadows and intangible terrors, Draco crouched outside in the snow and drew horns over the blond hair of his angel.
Harry had a different kind of nightmare that night.
He dreamt that he was standing at one end of a very long hallway. He looked around and saw that the grey marble walls were lined with suits of armour, each one different from the next. Curious, he approached one of them and reached out to touch it. Before his skin even made contact with the metal, however, the suit of armour lifted its sword and pointed it directly at Harry’s heart. At the same time, its visor flew up, revealing the person inside of it: Ginny.
“I’m sorry, Harry,” she said, pushing the tip of her sword against his chest, tearing the fabric of his shirt. She was crying, but she didn’t lower her sword.
Harry backed away. Blood was soaking into the front of his shirt, even though Ginny hadn’t broken his skin. Before he could escape, however, he felt the sharp blade of another sword press against the back of his neck.
“Don’t run away, Harry. There’s nowhere for you to go.” It was Ron’s voice. He sounded angry. “I know you did it. I thought we promised to never lie to each other.”
“We never made that promise!” Harry cried, but his voice sounded distorted and disconnected, like someone else was speaking while he silently mouthed words.
“Hermione said you lied…”
“I had to tell him, Harry!”
“Harry, Lily died because of you…”
“I’ve always said, Harry, that I made the mistake of loving you too much…”
“No!” Harry tried to yell, clamping his hands over his ears and shaking his head. He began to run blindly down the endless hallway, feeling swords lash out at him, ripping his clothes and piercing his flesh. It didn’t hurt, but he knew that if he stayed, he would bleed to death, so he kept on running.
It felt like forever before he reached the end of the corridor, but somehow he made it there. The suits of armour were suddenly gone, and all Harry could see was one word written in dark green across the white wall in front of him: choose.
“Choose what?” Harry screamed, relieved to hear that the echoes of his voice belonged to him. But they wouldn’t stop. His question reverberated in what was suddenly a small room with no windows and doors, growing louder and higher until it became nothing more than a series of ongoing, meaningless shrieks.
Harry fell to his knees, tears of agony and frustration pouring down his face. “Stop!” he shouted. “I can’t take it anymore… STOP!”
And then it did.
But then Harry heard something far more frightening than the fearful echoes of his voice. It was Voldemort, saying his name.
“Harry… Harry Potter…”
Harry looked up. He was back in the corridor, only this time there were torches instead of suits of armour. At the very end of the hallway were two figures: Voldemort and Malfoy. Voldemort was running his long, spidery fingers through Malfoy’s hair, and even from his distance, Harry could see that Malfoy, who was collapsed at Voldemort’s feet, was trembling.
“LET HIM GO!” Harry yelled. He ran towards them, but the hallway continued to lengthen. “It’s not his fault! He didn’t mean to do it! Take my soul instead… I have to save him; he still owes me a life debt…”
Why this was important to Voldemort Harry didn’t know, but at that moment, Voldemort’s pale hands became greyish-brown and scabbed. Draco began writhing in pain. The sound of his screams intermingled with the Dementor’s rattling breath filled Harry’s ears. He reached out desperately, and then…
And then he woke up.
He was sitting upright, beads of sweat clinging to his forehead, his hand outstretched in front of him just like it had been in the dream. The moment Harry became aware of this, he dropped his arm and fell back onto his pillow with a little groan.
Harry lay there in the dark for a while, waiting for the details of the nightmare to trickle away like they always did. But after a few minutes, he realised that something was not right: the vivid image of Malfoy lying on the floor, face contorted in pain, remained imprinted on his retinas. Burrowing himself in the covers, he brought a trembling hand up to his cheeks, and was not surprised to find that they were wet with tears.
What had that dream meant? It had been different from the rest in a way that Harry couldn’t quite describe to himself. Remembering the accusing tone in his friends’ voices, Harry had to bite down on the sheets balled up in his hand to silence the small sob that escaped.
“Harry, you okay?” said a sleepy voice out of the darkness.
Harry tensed up. “Yeah, Ron,” he said quietly, trying to keep his voice from shaking.
No matter how hard Harry tried, he couldn’t shake off the nightmare. It stuck out painfully in his mind, some parts more than others. He closed his eyes tightly, willing the sound of Malfoy’s screams to go away, when he suddenly became aware of a strange, ominous feeling.
It was like déjà vu. He had felt it before, but it took him a few minutes to place it. When he did, he jolted back upright.
Mr Weasley. He had felt the same kind of dread the night he dreamt that Mr Weasley had been attacked by a snake – him. Only this time he hadn’t hurt Malfoy; he had tried to save him; but that didn’t matter. Either way, Harry knew that something had happened to Malfoy.
Gripped by the same sense of panic he had felt earlier that night when he saw Malfoy lying out in the snow, Harry leapt out of bed and shoved on his glasses. “Where are you?” he muttered frantically under his breath as he threw on his Invisibility Cloak, grabbed his wand from the bedside table, and dashed out the door. He shut the door quietly behind him, and then took off down the stairs.
Once he arrived in the hallway outside the portrait hole, Harry realised that didn’t know where to go. There was no corridor like the one in his dream at Hogwarts, at least none that he knew of. Voldemort was there, he remembered numbly. But… but Voldemort is dead, he can’t have taken Malfoy.
Suits of armour. Suits of armour. Where were there rows of suits of armour? Harry started running blindly, not having any idea where to look but knowing that he couldn’t just stand around doing nothing.
As he ran down hallway after hallway, Harry’s thoughts began battling each other.
I can’t; if she finds out Malfoy is gone, he’ll be sent to the Dementors, even if he’s saved.
You’re mad if you think you can do it alone! What’re you going to do, run to the –
“Entrance Hall!” Harry gasped out loud. That was it. How had he not thought of it earlier? It was the only hallway with marble walls in Hogwarts, and it had suits of armour along its walls. It wasn’t exactly the corridor in Harry’s nightmare, but it was all he had to go off of.
Harry raced down the stairs, praying that the echoes of his footsteps off the marble steps wouldn’t attract anyone. He skidded to a halt on the ground floor, gripped the railing of the stairs, and doubled over to catch his breath. For a minute, all he heard was the sound of his own ragged panting. Then, slowly, he looked up.
His blood ran cold.
The staircase Harry had descended was directly opposite the entrance. From where he stood, Harry had a clear view of the front doors – and Malfoy, who lay slumped against them like a blood-stained rag doll.
Just like in his dream, it felt like forever before Harry finally reached Malfoy and fell to his knees next to him. “Malfoy… Fuck, don’t you dare do this to me again, Malfoy!”
It was like a repeat of the incident in the snow earlier that night, except this time, there was no snow – only blood, Malfoy’s blood, spreading out into the cracks in the flagstone floor, staining the oak doors behind him. Blood everywhere…
…Blood, innocent blood, scarlet pools filling every little crevice, every little dip in the earth… Harry couldn’t breathe… was going to faint… Neville was dead…
Harry’s breath hitched in his throat as fear erupted inside of him, as angry and red as Malfoy’s blood on his hands. He ripped open the front of Malfoy’s shirt, which was stained crimson, and nearly vomited when he discovered the source of all the blood: the word “TRAITOR”, carved deeply into Malfoy’s pale chest.
“No,” Harry mumbled wildly to himself, “no, no, no!”
He frantically tried to remember the spell to close wounds. Snape… yes, Snape had muttered some strange incantation while tracing over the wounds Sectumsempra had inflicted on Malfoy, and that had worked…
Helplessly, Harry tried to mimic Snape’s hand motions with his wand, but nothing happened. He had never been very good at wordless magic, and not knowing which incantation he was supposed to use didn’t help.
Take him to the Hospital Wing, you idiot! the part of his mind that hadn’t yet succumbed to hysteria screamed. And while you’re at it, call Ron and Hermione down… they’ll want to know…
Fumbling with his wand, Harry prepared to send off a messenger Patronus to wake Ron and Hermione and tell them to meet him at the Hospital Wing as soon as possible. However, he stopped short of voicing the incantation. Was it really necessary? Wouldn’t the fact that Harry was with Malfoy in the middle of the night just rouse Ron’s temporarily subdued suspicions?
Shaking his head, Harry decided against calling for Ron and Hermione. Then, remembering that Malfoy’s condition was not improving while he deliberated over the pros and cons of alerting his friends, Harry suppressed thoughts of Ron and Hermione and returned his attention to the situation at hand.
Pointing his wand at Malfoy, he muttered “Tergeo!” and clumsily siphoned as much of the blood on Malfoy’s face off as he could. Someone else would have to clean the floor and the doors. All Harry cared about at the moment was Malfoy surviving, because the other boy’s breathing was suddenly frighteningly shallow and sporadic.
Harry took a deep breath and stood up. “Mobilicorpus!” he said. Malfoy’s body drifted into the air, his head lolling to one side, his limbs dangling heavily in the air.
“I can’t believe this,” Harry groaned quietly, as he began walking towards the stairs he had descended earlier with Malfoy’s limp body floating eerily before him. He was itching to break into a run, but didn’t want to risk jostling Malfoy – he had already lost too much blood.
As Harry walked, he tried to come up with explanations for Malfoy’s condition. He had obviously been attacked, but by whom? Harry let out his breath in a hiss of air. Could it have been a Slytherin? Harry had suspected that they were feeling hostile towards Malfoy, but would they really have gone so far as to physically injure him?
They’re Slytherins, he reminded himself grimly. What the hell do they care? Nothing’s going to stop them from getting what they want.
“You’re mad for being loyal to them,” Harry whispered, gazing at Malfoy’s ashen face. Biting his lip, he tentatively reached out and touched Malfoy’s cheek. It was cold. He had been in the snow all night, so that was no surprise. Still, Harry couldn’t help but grimace and withdraw his hand sharply.
It felt like eternity and a day before Harry finally arrived at the double oak doors of the Hospital Wing. His wand in one hand, Harry began pounding on the door with the other. “Madam Pomfrey!” he shouted. “I’ve got an injured student here!”
There was no answer. Harry yelled louder. Still no one came.
Just when he was about to give up and resign himself to the fact that Malfoy was going to bleed to death in the hallway outside the infirmary, Harry heard footsteps approaching him. He whipped around and said angrily, “About time!”
“Professor McGonagall?” Harry said faintly. He shook his head, ignoring the shocked expression on McGonagall’s lined face as she stared at Malfoy’s floating body. “I’m sorry, there’s no time to explain, Professor… Malfoy’s been attacked, and he needs Madam Pomfrey’s attention!”
“I can see that!” McGonagall exclaimed. Pushing Harry aside, she tried the door handle. It turned easily. McGonagall glanced over her shoulder and shot Harry a questioning look.
Harry felt the blood rush up to his cheeks. Of course; he should have known that the infirmary of all places wouldn’t be locked. “Sorry, wasn’t thinking,” he muttered – and it was the truth, because all he could focus on at that moment was the alarming amount of fresh blood from Malfoy’s wound that was seeping through his shirt.
McGonagall tutted, but didn’t reprimand Harry’s slow thinking. Instead, she pushed the door open and stepped inside. “Come along,” she said tersely.
Harry followed McGonagall into the dark ward, looking around nervously at the empty beds as she led him over to one near the back. She gestured for Harry to lay Malfoy down, before striding briskly over to Madam Pomfrey’s office and knocking twice.
“Poppy, you have a patient!” McGonagall called.
A few minutes later, the office door swung open and Madam Pomfrey emerged wearing a light blue nightgown and a matching nightcap. She blinked blearily at McGonagall. “What was that, Minerva?”
“The Malfoy boy was attacked.”
Madam Pomfrey immediately sprung to action. “Attacked, you say?” she asked, but she was already hurrying past McGonagall and over to a large cabinet, turning on the lights in the ward with a sweep of her wand as she moved.
McGonagall hurried to keep up with Madam Pomfrey. “Yes, Potter says he found him –” She broke off, frowning at Harry. “Where did you find him?”
“Against the front doors,” Harry said, suppressing the urge to tell Madam Pomfrey to hurry up and heal Malfoy already. She seemed to be taking an unnecessarily long time gathering items at the cabinet. “Please, Madam Pomfrey, you have to save him – his breathing doesn’t sound right, and he’s lost a lot of blood –”
“Calm yourself, Potter,” McGonagall interrupted sharply. She had arrived at Harry’s side. “Mr Malfoy will be fine in Poppy’s care. Now, I need you to tell me exactly what happened… Perhaps it would be easier if we went to my office to –”
“No!” Harry’s voice rose of its own volition. “I mean – can we talk here?”
Before McGonagall could answer, she was interrupted by Madam Pomfrey’s arrival. The head nurse pushed Harry away unceremoniously, squeezed around McGonagall, and immediately set to work on Malfoy’s wounds with her wand and several jars of different ointments and potions.
A wave of relief so powerful that he could have wept swept through Harry as he watched Madam Pomfrey close up the hideous words carved into Malfoy’s flesh. “Is he going to be all right?” he asked earnestly.
“Hold it, Potter,” said McGonagall, gripping Harry’s shoulder and leading him over to a nearby bed. She forced him to sit down on it. “Poppy will let you know about Malfoy’s condition in a moment. For now, explain what happened from the very top – lucidly, if you please.”
Harry ran a hand through his hair and sighed. It was like that night in fifth year all over again, only this time, he thankfully didn’t have to explain to anyone that their father lay dying somewhere in the wizarding world.
“I had a dream,” he said shortly. “It was nothing. Just another nightmare. But it was different from the other dreams I’ve been having, because… it was more real. Anyway, just before I woke up, I dreamt that I was in some corridor and that Malfoy was there with – with Voldemort, except then Voldemort became a Dementor, and I knew Malfoy was going to get the Dementor’s Kiss. I tried to reach him, but I couldn’t.”
McGonagall pursed her lips. “Go on.”
“I couldn’t shake off the feeling that something was wrong, and I thought that maybe…” Harry swallowed, glad that Ron wasn’t there. “Well, I figured it was like the night I dreamt that I attacked Mr Weasley. So I went downstairs to the Entrance Hall, and that’s where I found Malfoy. He was slumped up against the front doors and covered in blood… There was blood everywhere… And then I pulled his shirt back, and I saw the word. Traitor.”
“I see,” said McGonagall. She looked shaken. “Did you notice anything else out of the ordinary?”
Harry shook his head. “Professor,” he said slowly, “can I ask you a question?”
“Yes, Potter, you may.”
“Who d’you reckon did it?”
She shook her head, indicating that she didn’t know. “Considering our security, it is quite unlikely that an outside stranger managed to enter the castle at night. Even if one did somehow find one’s way into the school, breaking into the Slytherin common room is impossible unless the password is known.”
“Maybe he was… I dunno, ambushed by his housemates?”
“They’re not exactly all too pleased that he’s back at school.”
McGonagall frowned. “Potter, I would appreciate it if you would refrain from making unfounded judgments about your fellow students. We have no proof that any of them are behind Mr Malfoy’s attack.”
“But it’s a start!” Harry insisted. Frustrated, he pressed his palms against his eyes. “I just feel bad, that’s all.”
“Potter, this is not your fault. Whatever Mr Malfoy did to deserve –”
“That’s just it!” Harry exclaimed angrily. “What if he did nothing to deserve this? What if his housemates are just pissed off because he got off free? You saw that word on him, Professor! Who else other than some bitter student whose dad got tossed into Azkaban would cut that into him?”
“Calm down, Potter,” McGonagall chastised, her eyes flashing sternly. “It is not your responsibility to play detective right now. You are ordered to return to your common room and forget about this incident. Rest assured that I will deal with it.”
“I found him!” Harry shouted.
“Mr Potter, keep your voice down!”
Harry ground his teeth together. “Sorry, Madam Pomfrey.”
“There is nothing you can do for him right now,” said McGonagall.
She tried to take Harry’s arm, but he twisted away from her. There was no way he was going to leave Malfoy. It was his fault that Malfoy was injured in the first place; he should have forced Malfoy to go back inside, instead of letting him stay outside.
“Professor,” said Harry, as calmly as he could, “can I please just stay here with him tonight?”
McGonagall pursed her lips. Harry could tell she was debating whether Harry was stable enough at the moment to be making decisions. “This is Poppy’s ward, so I will leave that up to her to decide,” she finally said, giving Harry an appraising sort of look.
Harry heaved a sigh of relief. “Thank you,” he said gratefully.
McGonagall stepped up to Madam Pomfrey and began muttering with her in low tones. A few minutes later, she walked over to Harry and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“I have convinced Poppy to agree to let you stay for the night,” she said, the ghost of a smile flitting across her lips.
Harry couldn’t help grinning too. McGonagall really was full of surprises. “Thanks, Professor,” he said again.
A short while later McGonagall left. On her way out, she whispered something to Madam Pomfrey. The nurse glanced over at Harry and nodded.
Harry scrambled to his feet. “Yes?”
Madam Pomfrey began gathering the ointments she had brought over to Malfoy’s bed as she spoke to Harry. “As you know, I have a very strict policy against students and other visitors disturbing my patients. However, Minerva has requested that I allow you to stay on this one occasion, so I have no choice but to oblige. Keep in mind, though, that I will not hesitate to remove you from Mr Malfoy’s side if you disregard any of the following rules.
“While you are here, you must remain quiet and allow Mr Malfoy to rest. Do not touch or disturb him in any other manner. The wounds on his chest contained high levels of dark magic, and no amount of intervention on my part can repair what has already been damaged. Therefore, he will be in and out of delirium tonight. If he screams out or shows any other signs of pain during sleep, do nothing. I have done my best to ensure a dreamless slumber, but I can’t say that my methods will be fully effective.”
Harry gulped. “So it’s just tonight?”
She sighed wearily. “Yes.”
“It sounds terrible.”
“It is,” she snapped. Her eyes, however, softened. “If it appears that his pain is becoming unbearable, wake me up.”
Harry nodded. “Madam Pomfrey?”
She stopped half-way to the storage cabinet. “Yes, Mr Potter?”
“What… exactly is this curse supposed to do?”
“As far as I’ve surmised, its purpose is to force the recipient to relive all of his or her deepest regrets.” Her lips curled back in disgust. “Most likely, the perpetrator’s intent was to make Mr Malfoy recount his supposedly traitorous behaviour and any other unpleasant memories he has tried to suppress over the years.”
“Isn’t that what a Dementor does?”
Madam Pomfrey shook her head, keeping her back to Harry. “The two are different. But you’re correct in the sense that they’re both meant to steal sanity and the will to live away from the victim.”
Harry bowed his head, feeling pity for Malfoy rise inside of him. “Okay. Good night, Madam Pomfrey. Thanks for letting me stay.”
Madam Pomfrey sniffed, but said nothing. Once she was done putting away the jars she had brought out, she shut the door of the cabinet, dimmed the lights the same way she had turned them on, and retired to her office.
Now that Harry was alone with Malfoy, he didn’t know what to do. Uncertainly, he reached out to touch Malfoy, wondering if he was still as cold as he had been when Harry first found him. Then Harry remembered that Madam Pomfrey had warned him against touching Malfoy, and promptly brought his hand back to his lap.
“You’re an idiot,” Harry murmured, taking in Malfoy’s lifeless appearance. “I told you to watch out for yourself. What did you do, fall asleep in the snow? You’re almost lucky someone dragged you inside and did this to you, because you probably would’ve frozen to death otherwise.”
The moment these words left Harry’s mouth, however, he was overcome by guilt. What was he saying? Malfoy was anything but lucky. Perhaps this was why he’d been so angry at Harry for sending him back to Hogwarts. He must have known that the other students would have received him with dislike and mistrust. The ones who had been on Harry’s side hated him for working for Voldemort, and the ones who had been on his side hated him for being allowed another year to live while the rest of their allies suffered for their crimes. The many times he and Harry had been seen together probably hadn’t helped his reputation amongst his housemates very much, either.
It really is my fault, Harry realised. I should’ve just left him alone like he wanted me to.
Harry chewed on his bottom lip as he gazed down at Malfoy. Then, grimacing, he said quietly, “I… I’m sorry.”
Malfoy didn’t stir. Harry’s apology had fallen on deaf ears, and he was almost grateful for it. He wouldn’t have heard the end of it if Malfoy had known he had apologised.
Deciding it was safe to keep talking to Malfoy, Harry continued. “You know, it’s weird how I don’t hate you. I mean, you finally showed your true colours. You’re a Death Eater, the worst of the worst. Or at least… you were. I don’t really know what you are right now. But that doesn’t matter, because you’ve still proved yourself to be everything I fought against. I should probably hate you even more than I used to right now, shouldn’t I?
“You’re really not all that bad, though. Even though you’ve said and done some pretty cruel things, especially to Ron and the other Weasleys, you’re still a human being. You’re not like Voldemort. You still feel and all that shit, only you try to hide your feelings, while the rest of us express them without second thought. But I’m not stupid. I see through your act. No matter how much you brag about it, I know you hated being a Death Eater. It scared you, didn’t it? I even felt sorry for you once – that night in the Astronomy Tower, when you could’ve killed Dumbledore but didn’t. I saw you lower your wand, which makes me wonder… Would you have accepted Dumbledore’s offer and let the Order protect you if Snape hadn’t burst in then? If you had, things could’ve been different. We might’ve even eventually become friends.
“Then again, I’m not really thinking straight these days, so I could be wrong. But at the risk of sounding conceited, I’ve always been a pretty decent judge of character. I mean, I thought you were a spoiled, arrogant, heartless prick the moment I first saw you in Madam Malkin’s, and I wasn’t wrong. You turned out to be all of that and more. And yet I still don’t hate you. Funny how these things work out, huh?”
Harry sighed. He felt like a moron, talking to a comatose Draco Malfoy. Then again, that was probably the easiest way to communicate with Malfoy – when he was incapable of responding.
He stood up. All that talking had made him thirsty, and he needed a drink of water. He had barely taken a few steps away from the bed, however, when Malfoy let out a blood-curdling shriek.
Draco was dreaming, and he wanted to wake up, but he couldn’t.
In his dream he was falling. No, drifting – tumbling gently towards a ground that wasn’t there. Ordinarily he wouldn’t have been very scared; the sensation was anything but terrifying. But this particular dream wasn’t ordinary, and Draco knew it. Because as he fell, he slid in and out of memories, fragments of his past that he didn’t want unearthed, all of them so real, so tangible, that Draco knew he was actually reliving and not just remembering them. And all the while, he knew that the ground he was plummeting towards and couldn’t see was actually hell, and that if he ever reached it, he’d be lost forever.
So he struggled. He struggled to slow down the speed of his descent and screamed because prolonging the inevitable fall meant being punished by his father for sneaking into his study at night and losing the snitch to Harry Potter for the fourth time in a row and receiving the Dark Mark from the Dark Lord and killing and crying and everything he wished had never happened… all over again.
Draco frantically clawed at the air around him. It was then that he noticed that he was bleeding. He looked down and saw, through the hazy image of a nameless Muggle he had tortured to the brink of insanity, the word “TRAITOR” written across his chest. Terror streaked through him, and last few shreds of reason he had left vanished.
He shrieked meaningless words, and shut his eyes and mind against faceless bodies lying in blood-streaked mud and Gryffindor banners flashing crimson and gold in the Great Hall. But he couldn’t close his heart; he never had been able to; so fear and guilt and pride and loathing leaked into his veins, staining the blood that poured from the seven letters carved into his flesh black.
And then, just as Draco was beginning to wonder if the flames of hell were preferable to the agony of his past, he felt the ghost of a hand brush across his arm.
Before he knew it, someone was murmuring to him, a soft, low voice that was at once both familiar and unfamiliar. It seemed to materialise out of thin air and twist itself into a fine, glowing thread before Draco’s eyes. Suddenly, Draco knew: As long as that thread was there, he would not be lost. His sanity was hanging by that thin, barely perceptible thread. He wanted to touch it with a desperation that burned hotter than the inferno below him and brighter than the darkness around him, so he fought through shadows and blood and the thick, heavy feeling of shame to reach it.
The moment his fingers made contact with the shining thread of light, Draco’s eyes flew open.
The first thing he saw was Potter’s face looming over him. Thinking, Shit, maybe I really did land in hell after all, he closed his eyes again to shut out the sight.
“Er – Malfoy?”
Draco’s eyes flew open; he jerked away fearfully when he saw Potter’s hand moving towards him out of his peripheral vision. “Don’t touch me,” he rasped. “I’m not going!”
“Going? You’ve been tossing around and screaming bloody murder for the past hour; I don’t think you’re fit to be going anywhere.”
Draco moaned. He felt like he’d just been hit by a train and then run over a few times for good measure. His chest burned, and confusing images and thoughts swam before his eyes. “You did this to me, didn’t you?” he breathed.
“Shut up, Malfoy. You’d have bled to death by now if it weren’t for me.”
“Yeah, fucking Potter, always the hero,” Draco mumbled. The soothing voice that had brought him to the surface was nowhere to be found; he felt himself beginning to slip back into delirium.
“Wait, don’t go. You’re going to start having nightmares again.”
Draco shifted. He was on a strange bed with stiff, white sheets. “Where am I?” he groaned into the pillow.
“The Hospital Wing, you dolt. Where else would you be?”
“Why are you here, then?”
There was silence. Draco lifted one eyelid with great difficulty and saw that Potter was staring at his hands in embarrassment. “I felt bad. I found you, so I thought I’d stay with you. Madam Pomfrey said you’d be fine tomorrow,” he said.
“Well, that’s just grand!” Draco could feel the pull of his nightmares dragging him back in. He clutched at the bed, but his efforts to resist were futile. “Yeah… just wake me up if I start screaming or something…”
“Malfoy, don’t –”
But it was too late. Draco had already succumbed to the power of the curse, and this time, not even Harry’s voice could reach him.