Title: Some Kind of Miracle (ch 10)
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 Vana and Christine for the betas!
9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 P
Apology is a lovely perfume; it can transform the clumsiest moment into a gracious gift.
- Margaret Lee Runbeck
The sound of thousands of feet making their way to the Great Hall woke Draco up the next morning. The moment his eyes flickered open, he groaned and flipped over onto his stomach. He felt lightheaded and nauseous, like he had lost several gallons of blood – which, he realised, as memories of the night before began taking shape in his mind, was probably the case.
He barely had time to gather that he was in the Hospital Wing of Hogwarts before Madam Pomfrey came bustling over to his bedside with a tray bearing breakfast: a few slices of toast, jam, butter, and a glass of water.
Draco scrambled into a sitting position. “Why am I here?” he demanded, taking the tray and setting it aside, even though he was starving. Complete knowledge of the situation was more important than satisfying his empty stomach.
“You were attacked, Mr Malfoy,” the nurse said sternly. “Now lie down before you overexert yourself, and have yourself a bite of breakfast.”
“I’m not hungry.” Draco glared at Madam Pomfrey. “I’m leaving.”
“That is the last thing you’ll be doing, young man. You need rest and a dose of Blood-Replenishing Potion.”
Coldly, Draco replied, “That won’t be necessary. I’m perfectly fine.”
The moment these words left his mouth, a wave of dizziness struck. He doubled over and clutched at his head. Madam Pomfrey used this opportunity to take the tray she had brought over and place it on Draco’s lap.
“Unfortunately, your standards of ‘perfectly fine’ don’t measure up to mine,” she said snippily. “Now eat. The Blood-Replenishing Potion is mixed in with the water, so make sure to drink all of it.”
She strode away briskly, muttering about ungrateful students. Draco glowered at her retreating back, waiting until the door of her office had swung shut behind her to drop the tray of food on the floor beside his bed.
With a sigh, Draco fell back against his pillow and closed his eyes. Apart from the wooziness, he wasn’t suffering from any lingering after-effects of the curse. The perpetrator – whoever he was – hadn’t sought to seriously injure Draco, even though he very well could have. Draco knew this because he was more than well-acquainted with the curse at hand, thanks to his Aunt Bellatrix. He himself had been forced to use it to torture some useless Auror for the Weasleys’ whereabouts back during the war. It was Dark magic, which meant that the chances of Draco’s attacker not being a Slytherin were highly unlikely.
At the moment, however, what bothered Draco the most wasn’t the attack itself. It was the fact that Potter was the one who had found him and brought him to the infirmary. Of course, Draco had been unconscious at the time, but he vaguely remembered waking up once during the night to find Potter sitting next to him. It was then that Potter had revealed his role in rescuing Draco.
“Well, fuck,” Draco mumbled as the reality of the circumstances hit him. “Merlin knows another life debt is the last thing I need right now…”
Another wave of nausea, this one stronger than the last, swept over Draco. He sucked in a large gulp of air and bit his lip to keep from retching. When it passed, he rolled over onto his side and gazed blearily at the cup of watered down potion. Suddenly, it looked much more inviting than it had a few minutes ago.
With a mighty groan, Draco leaned over and took the glass. He stared morosely into it for a moment, wondering what his father would say about accepting drinks from enemies if he were there, before propping himself up on an elbow and downing the contents of the glass.
“Harry? Are you listening to me?”
“Yes,” Harry replied automatically, dropping his gaze from the ceiling to Ginny’s face. “You asked me how my day was.”
“I know,” Ginny replied. She looked amused. “Usually when someone asks you a question, you answer it.”
Harry shrugged. “It wasn’t anything special.”
“Well, where are you headed right now?” she asked as she and Harry walked past a group of Gryffindor girls in Ginny’s year. They waved at Ginny and giggled when Harry’s eyes absently swept over them.
Harry stopped in the middle of the hallway. “Ron and Hermione didn’t tell you?”
“Tell me what?” she asked curiously, stopping too.
Harry winced, recalling how Ron and Hermione had found out earlier that morning.
“Hey, Harry, did you do the Charms essay?” Ron asked, as he, Harry, and Hermione made their way across the courtyard. It was their free period, and they were enjoying a stroll out in the nippy morning air.
“Hmm?” said Harry. He was preoccupied with trying to figure out what had happened to Malfoy and wishing, for once, that Ron and Hermione would leave him alone so that he could go up to the Hospital Wing.
“Did you, Ron?” Hermione asked sharply.
Ron suddenly became very interested in a nearby flowering plant. “Say,” he said, changing the subject, as he fingered a snow-covered petal, “I heard Malfoy was attacked.”
Harry immediately snapped out of his thoughts and turned to face Ron. “What?” he demanded. “Who told you that?”
Ron shot Harry a curious look. “You haven’t heard? Everyone’s talking about it. I heard Nott and his gang snickering about how Malfoy deserved it on my way to breakfast.” He paused, looking thoughtful. “First time I’ve actually agreed with a Slytherin.”
“Ron!” Hermione said warningly. She sighed and turned to Harry. “I heard about it, too. Apparently a student found him in the Entrance Hall late last night, covered in blood. The professors are trying to find the culprit as we speak.”
Harry opened his mouth to reply, but was interrupted by a voice behind him.
“Potter, I need to speak to you.”
Harry spun around and gulped when he saw a bundled-up, serious-looking McGonagall standing behind him, a thick scarf wrapped around the lower half of her face. “Professor?” he asked, surprised to see her outside. His pulse quickened when he realised that she probably had news about Malfoy’s condition. “How’s Malfoy?”
“Mr Malfoy is doing much better, according to Poppy, and should be able to leave the infirmary in a day or two.” McGonagall’s eyes flicked over to Ron and Hermione, both of whom were standing behind Harry, trying their best not to look like they were eavesdropping. Upon being fixed with McGonagall’s stare, Hermione blushed and looked away quickly, but Ron stepped forward to stand next to Harry, an eager expression on his pale face.
“What d’you reckon happened, Professor?” he asked.
McGonagall frowned, but didn’t question Ron’s knowledge of the incident. Instead, she said sternly, “Mr Weasley, what happened last night is none of your concern.”
“Why can’t we know if Harry knows?” Ron whinged.
“Because the circumstances involve neither you nor Miss Granger in any way,” McGonagall snapped.
Hermione, who had moved over to join Harry and Ron, nudged Ron and hissed, “She’s right.”
“He could’ve snuck out of the common room,” Ron offered helpfully, apparently determined to stay in the know.
“He didn’t,” Harry snapped, almost instantly. Everyone turned to look at him in surprise. He stared down at his snow-dusted boots. “Well, he’s forbidden to leave the common room after ten, isn’t he?”
McGonagall nodded. “However, we haven’t undergone the necessary procedures to ensure that he follows this particular rule, so it is possible that –”
“No,” Harry said forcefully, “I’m sure that isn’t the case.” He cringed, realising that he was lying for Malfoy. I need to sort out my priorities… he thought.
McGonagall looked momentarily taken aback by Harry’s confident interjection. Harry was sure that she was pursing her lips behind her scarf. Finally, she said, “Very well. In any case, Potter, you’ll need to follow me up to my office now. And no, Mr Weasley, you can’t come.”
Harry shot his best apologetic look over his shoulder at his friends. “Tell us later,” Ron mouthed. Hermione simply stared at him with a confused expression on her face. Harry could almost see the cogs in her brain turning, trying to decipher how Harry had become so involved in the situation. Sighing, Harry followed McGonagall inside.
“Malfoy got attacked,” said Harry now, trying to sound nonchalant about it. The last thing he wanted was to explain everything all over again, like he had done for Ron and Hermione after he returned from his second question and answer session with the headmistress.
Ginny’s eyebrows skyrocketed. “Really? What happened?”
Harry shifted uncomfortably, remembering that he had yet to confront Ginny about his involvement in Malfoy’s trial. “It’s a long story. But speaking of Malfoy… I wanted to ask you something, Ginny.”
Without giving her the opportunity to answer, Harry grabbed Ginny’s sleeve and tugged her over to the side of the hallway, away from the steady stream of students heading to their common rooms. “Listen,” he said anxiously, “Hermione told me that you read about… um, about Malfoy’s trial.”
Ginny’s lips tightened. “Yes,” she said cautiously.
Harry ducked his head, overcome by guilt. “I’m sorry; I should’ve told you earlier where I went that morning. It’s just that there were so many other things on my mind… and…”
“And you didn’t want me to think you were betraying me by freeing one of the Death Eaters involved in my parents’ murder,” she finished bluntly.
Grimacing, Harry said desperately, “Ginny, if I had known it would make you and Ron so upset –”
Harry broke off mid-sentence, however, when he discovered, to his amazement, that Ginny was smiling.
“Don’t bother with the apologies, you dolt,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I’ll admit I wasn’t happy about it when I first found out, but the shock has worn off by now. I’m fine with it, really. I’m just glad you brought it up before I had to force it out of you.”
Relief swept over Harry. “You mean you’re not angry?” he asked hopefully.
Ginny shook her head. Looking away, she answered, “I don’t really blame Malfoy. I mean, I still hate him, I always will, for everything else… but it wasn’t him who held the wand and said the incantation, so how fair of me would it be if I said it was his fault that Dad and Mum are dead?”
Harry could have jumped for joy. “I’m unbelievably lucky to have you as a girlfriend, you know that?” he said, leaning down and kissing Ginny.
“No, but as long as you know it…” she said teasingly.
She slipped her hand into Harry’s and they started walking again, the topic of the trial Harry had dreaded bringing up for so long finally dealt with and forgotten, at least for the moment. As they continued down the hall, Ginny returned to their previous discussion.
“Harry, you can’t say something like ‘Malfoy got attacked’ and expect me to let you leave it at that,” she scolded. “At least tell me why you’re so interested.”
“Well, I sort of found him,” Harry mumbled.
Ginny’s eyes widened. “How? And when?”
“Last night,” Harry explained. He let go of Ginny’s hand and put an arm around her waist instead. “I had a dream, and it led me to Malfoy.”
“Like the dream you had about Dad?”
“Yeah,” Harry said quietly. It wasn’t really the truth, though. After thinking about it the whole day, he had concluded that the two were nothing alike. For none thing, he had seen things through Voldemort’s point of view when he dreamt about Mr Weasley’s attack, but Voldemort was dead now. For another, the previous night’s dream hadn’t actually shown him what was actually happening; it had only given him the vague feeling that Malfoy was not all right.
He and Ginny continued on in silence. Harry could tell that she wanted to ask him more about Malfoy, but didn’t want to upset him. He began to regret bringing it up. She shouldn’t have to bother with something I don’t even need to bother with, he thought guiltily.
Ginny walked with Harry over to the Hospital Wing. When they reached the double doors, she turned around. “See you later, Harry,” she said, waving.
“You don’t want to see him?” Harry asked, surprised that she hadn’t asked to.
She shook her head. “I’d prefer to keep the amount of contact between me and Malfoy down to a minimum,” she said carefully, and then left.
Harry watched her walk away, relieved that she hadn’t asked him why he didn’t feel the same way. In a way, that was what he liked about Ginny. She never asked unnecessary or awkward questions, and she rarely interfered with the aspects of Harry’s life that didn’t concern her. Their friendship always came first, which made for a lack of awkward romantic gestures like flowers and love letters and dates. Harry wasn’t complaining, either; he had never really understood (or wanted to understand, for that matter) the female obsession with those kinds of things.
Harry now turned to the door of the infirmary and collected himself. “You’re not to blame, Harry,” he muttered under his breath, repeating the words Hermione had said to him multiple times over the course of the day. “It’s because of you that he’s alive. And remember, he’s still Malfoy. He’s no different today than he was six years ago. ”
Except for the part where he became a Death Eater – a Death Eater who was cursed and left to bleed to death by housemates who used to worship him.
But that was just a minor detail.
Raising a hand, Harry prepared to knock on the door. Before he could, however, it swung open, leaving Harry standing face-to-face with Madam Pomfrey.
“Mr Potter,” she acknowledged stiffly. “Come to see Mr Malfoy, have you?”
“Yeah,” Harry mumbled, ducking his head and keeping his eyes trained on an interesting lightning-bolt-shaped crack in the ground. “Can I?”
“Very well. He’s resting at the moment, so kindly refrain from disturbing him.” She stepped aside to let Harry in, and then slipped past him into the hallway outside.
“You’re leaving?” Harry asked, taken aback. As far as he knew, Madam Pomfrey never left the Hospital Wing, except during feasts.
She nodded once. “The headmistress and I have a few brief matters to discuss.”
And with that she walked away, leaving Harry and Malfoy alone in the ward.
Draco wasn’t really sleeping. He had been pretending to be asleep, biding his time while waiting for the nurse to leave so that he could escape. It had been the perfect ploy, and everything was working out as planned – that is, until Potter showed up.
Draco was searching for his wand when someone behind him cleared his throat. He jumped and spun around to look at the source of the sudden sound.
Potter was sitting on one of the beds, watching Draco with a confused expression. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“What are you doing?” Draco demanded. He sat back down on his bed, his heart still pounding from the scare Potter had given him. “I thought visitors weren’t allowed.”
“I’m an exception,” Potter replied, shrugging his shoulders casually.
“You always are,” Draco muttered absently, resuming his search. He checked under his pillow. No wand. Where did she hide it? he wondered angrily.
“Hey, shouldn’t you be resting?”
Draco glared at Potter. “Shouldn’t you be somewhere else?”
Potter stared at him patiently.
Draco sighed. Huffily, he said, “If you must know, I’m going.”
There was a short moment of silence, and then Potter said hesitantly, “Where exactly to?”
Draco opened his mouth to reply, but shut it upon realising that he didn’t know the answer. He couldn’t go back to the Slytherin common room; not yet, at least.
Potter seemed to understand this, because an infuriatingly knowing smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. He watched as Draco pulled out all of the drawers in the bedside table next to him and checked them. When Draco slammed them shut in frustration, having found nothing, Potter asked curiously, “D’you remember who did it?”
“No.” Draco slid off the edge of the bed and walked over to the potion cabinet. He tried the door, but it was locked. “Potter, where’s my bloody wand?”
Potter gave him an odd look from across the ward. “Hell if I know,” he responded. He waited until Draco returned to try again. “D’you remember anything at all?”
“I remember being outside in the snow. And then waking up in the middle of the night and seeing you there.” Draco smirked at Potter’s evident embarrassment. “It was very sweet of you to sit at my bedside and hold my hand, Potter.”
“I didn’t hold your hand,” he snapped, blushing even more furiously. “Umm… so you don’t remember anything I said?”
“Just the part where you told me that you found me.” Draco paused. “How did you find me, anyway?”
“I had a dream, and you were… in it. And when I woke up, I had the feeling that something was wrong, so I ran down to the Entrance Hall.”
“How astonishingly convenient! Not only is the hero kind and noble, he’s a Seer too! I expect you’ll be putting that one on your resume.”
“I’m not a Seer, you arse. I guess you could call it intuition.” Potter grimaced in a way that suggested he wouldn’t have minded a change of topic.
Draco, however, was curious. “You mean you can see things that you haven’t seen?”
“It’s not like some magical ability or anything. It’s… I dunno what it is.”
“Huh,” said Draco contemplatively. “Well, as much as I’m enjoying our chat, Potter –”
Draco stared at Potter incredulously. He actually sounded like he was posing the question seriously. “Are you sure they kept the right person in the Hospital Wing last night?” Draco asked.
Potter laughed emptily. “I was here, too. The whole night.”
“The whole night?” Draco repeated slowly.
Draco sat back down heavily on his bed. Bewildered, he asked, “Why?”
Potter leaned back on his elbows, his green eyes studying the blank white ceiling above him. “I told you last night, Malfoy. You said you remembered that part.”
“What, that you felt responsible?”
The ensuing silence confirmed Draco’s guess.
“Why?” Draco tried again. “I know you want to be the one to kill me, but taking credit for someone else’s work is rather low, don’t you think?”
“Don’t say that,” Potter said in a low voice. He had a pained expression on his face that bothered Draco very much.
“I would have thought that such petty insults wouldn’t be –”
“I don’t mean that,” Potter interrupted angrily. “I meant that you have no right to judge me. You don’t know what I want.”
“You’ve wanted me dead ever since you laid eyes on me,” Draco said coldly, without skipping a beat. “There’s no reason for you to change your mind now and suddenly decide you’d rather be best mates. I gave you that chance already, Potter, and you turned it down.”
“It’s not about being friends, Malfoy,” Potter replied, closing his eyes slightly, as if the idea of being friends with Draco was both amusing and disturbing at the same time. “It’s about all of the things that have happened to us since the war. The trial. The detentions. The list. The trip to Hogsmeade. Last night. This.”
“This?” Draco scoffed, his fingers moving to grip the sheets under him tightly despite his careless tone. “So what if we’ve had more than the average number of encounters in the past few months? Nothing has changed between us.”
“Maybe not for you, but it has for me.” Potter looked strangely upset, like he had something he wanted to say, but couldn’t quite find the right way to phrase it. He sat up a little straighter and glanced over at Draco. “Last night I sat by your bed and talked to you. I said a lot of things that… But then again, you probably don’t care.”
“Well, now I do,” Draco snapped.
“It wasn’t anything special. I thought that by talking I’d be able to bring you out of your dreams, but it didn’t work once you fell back asleep.” Potter took a deep breath. “It’s just that while I was talking to you, I realised that… that maybe I don’t really want you to die. That maybe it’s not too late for you to convince them that you’ve changed.”
Draco narrowed his eyes as Potter’s words sunk in. So that was the reason for Potter’s involvement in his life. An unexpected burst of rage at this realisation drove him to yell his next words.
“So you think that by sticking around, you’ll be able to convert me into a saint?” Draco didn’t know whether he was more enraged or confused by this. It didn’t really matter, though, because all he wanted at that moment was to hear the truth, and nothing but the truth, from Potter for once. “What d’you reckon you’ll achieve by always being there to save me? Tell me, Potter. Why are you doing this?”
Potter looked gobsmacked by Draco’s outburst. He clearly hadn’t been expecting such a dramatic reaction. As always, though, he recovered quickly enough to retort, “Have you ever thought that maybe I wanted to help you, Malfoy? Maybe I felt bad! Maybe I thought that I could at least make your last few months a little better, maybe even a little longer, since I was the one who gave them back to you! Have you ever once considered the possibility that I’m not trying to make your life hell?”
“No, I haven’t, because you’ve always made my life hell!” said Draco furiously. “My life has been hell since the day you were born, so don’t even think for a second that it isn’t because of you that –”
“THEN TELL ME WHAT I DID WRONG, AND I’LL FUCKING FIX IT FOR YOU IF THAT’S WHAT YOU WANT!”
Draco turned away. “I want you to leave me alone, Potter. I want you to walk away and go live your life the way it was meant to be lived.”
“Well, you chose a fine time to tell me that!” Potter exclaimed, throwing his hands up in frustration. “Sorry, Malfoy, but forgetting about you is no longer an option!”
“And why’s that?” Draco sneered. “Afraid you won’t have anyone to bitch to, anyone to play with when you get bored of being the wizarding world’s golden boy? I’m not your goddamned toy, Potter! Do you think I exist for the sole purpose of providing you with a nice little project to work on while you avoid your responsibilities to your friends and followers? ‘Poor, deranged Draco Malfoy… Wouldn’t it be a splendid idea to fix him and make him one of us?’ Well, I have news for you, Potter. You can’t mend my life, and I will never be one of you!”
There was a ringing silence. Then, slowly, quietly, Potter said, “Turn around and face me, Malfoy.”
Before he could object, Draco heard a pair of shoes land on the tiled floor of the ward and felt a pair of hands seize his shoulders and roughly twist him around so that he was looking straight into a pair of seething green eyes. His breath caught in his throat when he saw the pain submerged in the depths of those eyes. It hurt so much just to see it that Draco forgot where Potter’s pain ended and his began.
For the first time in his life, Draco wanted to break down and cry in front of Harry Potter.
But Potter stopped Draco by saying, “Look, I’m sorry for offending you. I didn’t mean what I said to come out the way it did. I just wanted you to know that I’m not helping because I want to make myself feel better. I’m doing it for you.”
“All in the noble spirit of Gryffindor!” Draco spat out, disgusted. “Just like you did me a favour by prolonging my –”
“I’m sorry,” Potter interrupted. He winced, refusing to meet Draco’s astonished gaze. “I realised last night what you meant when you said that I made things worse for you by intervening in the trial. I never once thought that things would turn out like this.”
Draco sighed inaudibly. “Maybe you should think before you act next time.”
There was another pause, during which Draco stared at Potter and Potter stared back. No words were exchanged, but they somehow managed to hold an entire conversation in that single stare.
After a moment, Draco gave an almost imperceptible nod. “Okay,” he said quietly.
Potter cocked his head. “You don’t mind being seen with me?”
“The question is, do you want to be seen with me? It could tarnish your shining image.”
“What shining image?” Potter grumbled. Then he smiled, and Draco realised they were still standing uncomfortably close.
Draco drew away quickly, feeling suddenly flustered, and frantically scoured his mind for a suitable change of topic. “Someone who was on my side attacked me. The curse is something we used during the war.”
“Yeah, I figured,” said Potter. He sat down on Draco’s vacated bed. “I’d really like to find out who did it.”
“It was Theodore Nott,” said Draco plainly. “I know it was. He’s had it in for me ever since the first day back.”
“If you’re right, I’m turning him in to McGonagall,” said Potter darkly.
“No you’re not,” Draco admonished sharply. “She won’t believe you without proof.”
Potter bit his lip. “Then I’ll have to find it. You can help me. You want him to be caught too, don’t you?”
“No, I want revenge.”
Potter rolled his eyes. “Figured as much.”
“You would, too,” Draco muttered. Then, turning away from Potter, he carefully unbuttoned his shirt and gazed down at his bare chest. It still bore a faint outline of the word “TRAITOR”. Draco supposed it would never completely fade away, and in a way, he didn’t really mind. It was true, after all.
“If it’s any consolation, I don’t think you’re a traitor,” Potter offered, reading Draco’s mind.
“It’s not, and I am,” Draco replied simply. He traced the “T” with his index finger, wondering how Nott had managed to do it, while wishing he could remember what had happened. He didn’t want to admit it to Potter, but he was scared – scared to go back to class, scared to face his condescending classmates and teachers, scared that something like the previous night’s assault could happen again.
“You all right, Malfoy?” Potter asked him quietly.
Draco didn’t say anything. Instead, he buttoned up his shirt, turned around, and sat down on the other side of the bed so that his and Potter’s backs were facing each other. Bowing his head, he said, “You can see the rest of my list. I finished it today.”
“You don’t – have to show me.”
“I know. Which is why you’d better accept the offer before I withdraw it.”
Potter laughed. “Right. Hand it over, then.”
Draco reached into the pocket of his trousers and pulled it out. He regarded it briefly, and then held it over his shoulder without looking. He felt Potter’s hand grasp the other end and take it.
Well, this is the end, he thought morosely. Once Potter sees the rest of that list, he’ll know my deepest, darkest secrets.
And with that, Draco bid a silent farewell to his comfortable world of solitude. From that moment on, it would have to make room for Potter.
Harry felt strangely intrusive as he carefully unfolded Malfoy’s list. Last time he had done it for the sole purpose of getting under Malfoy’s skin, but this time Malfoy was willingly letting him see it – and for some reason, that made all the difference in the world.
“Well, here I go,” he said lamely, once he had spread the parchment out on his lap. Malfoy didn’t say anything. Taking this as a sign that he could continue, Harry began reading.
1. Be invisible.
2. Climb a tree all the way to the top.
3. Ride a Thestral.
4. Get drunk.
5. Hold a civil conversation with a member of each house.
7. Read Hogwarts: A History.
8. Sleep under the stars.
9. Brew Felix Felicis.
10. Conquer my worst fear.
11. Spend a night in the Shrieking Shack.
12. Visit Mother in Azkaban.
13. Save someone’s life.
14. Skip classes for one day with no excuse.
15. Learn to swim.
17. Watch a sunset and the next morning’s sunrise.
18. Get my ears pierced.
19. Open presents by a Christmas tree.
20. Avenge Father’s death.
21. Be a Secret Keeper.
22. Fall in love.
23. Be loved in return.
24. Beat Harry Potter.
25. Witness a miracle.
Harry stared at the list in stunned silence. He reread it numbly, his lips moving silently to mouth the words written on the page. Finally, he said slowly, “This is… different.”
“Your grasp of the obvious is overwhelming.” Despite his sarcastic remark, though, Malfoy sounded more vulnerable than he had ever sounded in Harry’s presence.
“You really wrote this?”
“No, I nicked it from a Dementor while I was waiting in my lovely cell in Azkaban,” Malfoy retorted. “Of course I wrote it, Potter.”
“But it’s so…”
“Unlike me? Yes, I’m quite aware. Hence, it’s a list of things I haven’t yet done.”
Turning so that he was facing Malfoy’s back, Harry asked, “Why did you let me see it?”
Malfoy twisted around slightly, just enough for Harry to see his profile as he spoke. “Well, if you’re going to help me…”
“Yeah,” Harry said softly. He hesitated, and then handed the list back to Malfoy. Malfoy reached over his shoulder to take it, causing his fingers to brush against Harry’s in a way that made Harry jerk his hand back and avert his eyes.
Malfoy stood up abruptly and shoved the list back into his pocket. “Potter, I need my wand,” he said coolly.
“I don’t know where it is,” said Harry, taken aback by the abrupt change in the tone of their conversation. “Pomfrey’s probably got it in her office or something.”
Malfoy eyed the closed office door. “Is it locked?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Harry replied irritably, “I’ve never tried to break into it.” He stood up as well. “I’ll take it that’s my cue to leave, then.”
“Mmm,” said Malfoy absently, approaching Madam Pomfrey’s office without glancing in Harry’s direction.
Harry felt a flicker of annoyance, but then it went away, and he walked over to the exit. He stopped there, cleared his throat, and said, “Bye, Malfoy.”
“Wait, Potter, can I use your –”
Harry smirked and shut the door to Malfoy’s question. “No, you can’t use my wand to unlock it,” he whispered.
Harry was in a rather good mood Monday morning at breakfast, and Ron was the first one to notice.
“So what’s the occasion, Harry?” he asked, reaching over the textbook Hermione had open on the table in front of her to snatch a roll.
“How do you mean?” Harry asked mildly. He took a roll as well and began buttering it.
“You’re grinning,” Ron pointed out.
Harry bit into his roll and chewed placidly. “Yeah, I suppose I am.”
“It’s because we’re going to celebrate my birthday tomorrow,” Ginny piped from across the table.
“Your birthday is tomorrow?”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “No, Harry, it’s in August. You know that.”
Harry laughed sheepishly. “Sorry. I’m not very good with dates.”
“He takes after Ron,” Hermione observed without looking up from her textbook.
“Surprise, surprise,” Ginny grumbled. She grabbed Harry’s roll, took a bite, and put it back on his plate. “Anyway, you wouldn’t believe the number of girls who have come up to me and asked me for your autograph, Harry.”
“Really?” Harry asked distractedly. His eyes were fixed on the Slytherin table at the other end of the hall. Malfoy hadn’t shown up, and Harry couldn’t help wondering if he was all right.
“Mmhmm. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re plotting to steal you for themselves behind my back.”
“Like that’s going to happen,” said Harry, tearing his gaze away from Malfoy’s empty seat to kiss the top of Ginny’s head. “You can tell them that I’m not interested in anyone but Ginny Weasley.”
Ron cleared his throat pointedly. Ignoring him, Ginny kissed Harry on the cheek. “I’ve got to run up to the library and check something for Transfiguration before classes start,” she said, standing up.
She waved good-bye to Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and then walked away.
“We met with Lupin the other day,” said Ron casually, once Ginny was gone and Harry had resumed his breakfast.
Harry blinked in surprise. “Really? What for?”
“Updates on what’s going on with the Order. He wanted you to come along too, but you were with…” Ron trailed off, an expression of uncertainty on his face, but Harry knew whose name Ron had been about to utter.
“Oh, what’re they doing?” Harry asked, skilfully steering the conversation back to its original subject. He hadn’t heard anything about the Order’s clean-up efforts since the night he, Ron, and Hermione had been reunited at the Leaky Cauldron.
“Well, they’re presently working on restoring St. Mungo’s. It’s a mess, and the Healers are going to need the facilities to heal some of the more severe injuries,” Hermione explained. She carefully closed her book and put it back into her book bag. “They’re also trying to locate the werewolves’ hideout. Apparently Fenrir’s got his followers and most of the remaining Death Eaters hidden somewhere Unplottable.”
Harry nodded, glancing once more over Ron’s shoulder at the Slytherin table as he lowered his head and returned to his breakfast. Malfoy still hadn’t shown up. Harry quashed the knot of worry in his stomach and reminded himself that even he didn’t go to breakfast everyday. Considering his recent injury, it was more likely that Malfoy was trying to get as much rest as possible before classes began.
Soon, Ron and Hermione were standing up and getting ready to head to the greenhouses for Herbology. Just before they left, Ron clapped Harry on the shoulder and said, “See you at Charms?”
“Yeah, see you,” said Harry. “You too, Hermione.”
Harry waited until most of the Great Hall had cleared out to leave. He had a free period, so he didn’t have to worry about getting to class on time. What he did have to worry about, however, was coming up with ways to pass the hour and a half he had ahead of him.
I suppose I could get started on that Potions project, he thought reluctantly. Up until then, he had let Hermione do all the research, but he knew he’d have to get involved eventually. Then again, he knew as much about the history of the Wolfsbane Potion as Ron knew about his involvement in Malfoy’s trial, so he was probably doing Hermione a favour by leaving the project up to her.
“Well, this is productive,” Harry muttered, as he ascended the stairs to the first floor without a destination in mind. “Maybe I should’ve taken Herbology after all…”
Harry had walked aimlessly around the first floor for an hour or so and was nearly at the top of the stairs leading to the second floor when he came upon two girls walking in the opposite direction. As he moved aside to let them pass, he caught a snippet of their whispered conversation.
“…never came back, did he?”
“Nope. Word is that he slept somewhere else in the school because he was too scared to face Nott, Harper, and the rest of them.”
“Who’s surprised? We all knew he was a coward.”
“Well, they’ll be waiting for him outside the common room this period, since he’s bound to go back to get his things. He’ll get what he deserves.”
“Shall we go watch?”
“Yeah, come on…”
Harry froze, his grip on the railing tightening. Nott and Harper were both Slytherins, and from the sound of those two girls’ conversation, they had it out for another Slytherin. Was it possible… could that Slytherin be…?
Even though he knew it was none of his business, Harry found himself turning around and hurrying back down the stairs after the girls. The Slytherins were usually nothing but talk, but Harry knew they could be dangerous when they were given reason to follow through with their threats – and, judging from the condition Malfoy had been in after the attack, Harry had no doubt that Malfoy had given them plenty reason to be serious.
More like I gave them plenty reason to be serious, Harry thought grimly, as he ran down the Entrance Hall to the stairs leading down to the dungeons, and now I’m paying for it by having to rescue Malfoy every two seconds.
It turned out, however, that Harry didn’t need to rescue Malfoy after all. Just before he reached the stairs, he saw Malfoy at the other end of the hall, heading for the same flight of stairs.
“Malfoy!” Harry called, sliding to a stop.
Malfoy gave Harry an odd look. He looked somewhat paler than usual, but otherwise the same as he had before the assault. “What do you want, Potter?” he said, stopping in front of Harry.
“You can’t go downstairs to the common room.” Harry realised how stupid he sounded, and hastened to add, “I heard some girls talking about how Nott and his lot are waiting for you down there.”
Malfoy’s expression was unreadable. For a while, he stared at Harry blankly. Then he laughed and said, “What do you really want?”
“Don’t be a prat, Malfoy,” Harry snapped. “You know perfectly well that I’m telling the truth.”
“Why do you care, then?”
“Because every time you get into trouble, I always wind up with the responsibility of getting you out of it! As enjoyable as it is, I’d rather not go through the process of scraping your hexed and beaten body off the floor and bringing you up to the Hospital Wing again.”
Malfoy made a disgusted face. “Thanks for the imagery, Potter.”
“Well, if you don’t want it to be reality, stay away from them,” Harry snapped.
“As much as I would love to, I need –”
“Bullshit.” Harry moved over slightly so that he was blocking the entrance to the stairs. “You don’t need anything. In fact, I heard you didn’t go down there the entire weekend because you were too scared to.”
Malfoy flushed pink. “Of course I went down there,” he said indignantly. “How do you think I got my robes and my bag?”
“Doesn’t matter. You went when no one was around to see you, which proves you were scared.”
“That’s a fairly hasty conclusion, Potter. I wouldn’t be so quick to judge someone else based on a few mere assumptions.” Malfoy arched an eyebrow. “Now get out of my way, or I’m going to be late for class.”
As if to prove Malfoy’s words, the bell signalling the end of the current period rang.
“Dammit,” he swore. He glared at Harry, as if Harry was to blame for all his misfortunes. “Now I don’t have my Potions things.”
“You still have your textbook,” said Harry, pointing at the corner of Advanced Potion-Making sticking out of Malfoy’s bookbag. “And if you need anything else, I’ll give it to you. We’re in the same class, remember?”
“How could I forget?” Malfoy retorted.
But as Malfoy grudgingly gestured for Harry to lead the way, Harry couldn’t help noticing the muscles in his jaw slacken with relief. Harry smiled to himself. Malfoy really was getting worse at hiding these kinds of things.
When they arrived at the Potions dungeon, most of the class was already seated. Slughorn was, as always, late. Harry walked in and sat down next to Hermione. He noticed, out of the corner of his eye, that Malfoy waited a good minute or so before entering the classroom as well.
Always the strategist, he thought, shaking his head slightly.
“How has your day been so far, Harry?” Hermione asked him conversationally, as she pulled out her notes from the day before and spread them out in front of her. “Did you go see Malfoy?”
“Er… why d’you ask?” said Harry nervously. Was it really getting to the point where his meetings, for lack of a better word, with Malfoy were considered, for lack of a better word, normal?
Hermione gave him a curious look. “I just thought that you’d want to check up on him and see if he was all right after the attack.”
“Oh, yeah, of course. I mean, no. We sort of just… ran into each other.”
“You seem to be doing a lot of that lately,” said Hermione lightly. “By the way, Harry, have you thought about how you want to present our project on the Wolfsbane Potion?”
“Um… sure,” Harry lied. Hermione nodded expectantly, signalling for him to go on. “Well, I thought that maybe we could start by –”
But at that moment, Harry was interrupted by a large round of catcalls and cheers from the other side of the room, followed by Theodore Nott’s jeering voice saying, “So where were you last night, Malfoy?”
Harry looked up in time to see Malfoy shoot Nott a disdainful look that did not completely mask his trepidation. “Don’t tell me you stayed up all night waiting for me, Nott,” he replied, feigning mock concern.
Harry couldn’t help it – he smirked. Nott, however, didn’t seem to find the remark so amusing. His crow-like face twisted into an unsightly scowl, and he spat, “You didn’t come back to the common room, you coward.”
“No, I didn’t.” Draco reached into his bag and pulled out his copy of Advanced Potion-Making with a convincing air of calmness, but Harry could see that his hands were shaking. “I was too busy getting the lovely present you left me” – he gestured at his chest – “patched up to waste time in the common room.”
“Oh, we heard all about it. Seems you and Potter had a cosy night together in the Hospital Wing.”
Malfoy winced noticeably, and Harry instinctively looked away. Hermione looked very worried, but she appeared to be at a loss for ways to safely break up the exchange.
“You’d better not have done anything to Harry, you filthy traitor!”
Harry twisted around in his seat. One of the Gryffindors, a thin-faced girl named Victoria Stimpson, had spoken up. Though Harry had always gotten along with her well enough, he now felt a sudden rush of anger towards her and made a mental note to refuse her an autograph if she ever asked for one.
“Poor, helpless Malfoy… had to be rescued by the mighty Harry Potter…” another voice from the Slytherin side of the room sneered.
Harry clenched his fists under the table, unable to bring himself to look at Malfoy. Hermione seemed to notice Harry’s tenseness, because she whispered anxiously, “Harry, you mustn’t do anything!”
That’s right, Harry, the ever-persistent voice in the back of his mind agreed. Think of all the times Malfoy was the one doing the bullying… It’s about time he got a taste of his own medicine…
“What, you’re not going to give us details, Malfoy? Bet you enjoyed –”
“Why don’t you shut up, Nott?” Before Harry could consider the consequences of interfering, he was spitting out the words that had been hovering on the tip of his tongue. “Just because you don’t have a chance of spending the night with me doesn’t mean you need to take it out on other people.”
A few of the people sitting behind Harry snickered, and Hermione hissed something unintelligible, but the rest of the dungeon fell silent at once. All eyes were now on Harry.
“What did you just say, Potter?” said Nott slowly.
“I said, it looks to me like you’re the real coward here,” Harry shot back coldly.
Nott pushed his chair back so roughly that it fell over and stood up. “And how exactly would the courageous Harry Potter know so much about cowardice?” he snarled over the head of one of his friends, ignoring said friend’s efforts to get him to sit back down.
Instead of getting to his feet as well, Harry turned his face towards the front of the classroom, stared fixedly at a jar of dead beetles sitting on Slughorn’s desk, and said evenly, “Considering the number of cowards I fought during the war, I’d say I know enough to call them as I see them.”
“Why, you –”
The classroom door banged open before Nott could finish his insult. “Good morning, class!” Slughorn exclaimed cheerfully as he sauntered inside. “Mr Nott, why don’t you seat yourself?”
“Yes, sir,” Nott mumbled. He scrambled to pick up his chair, but not before shooting Harry a venomous glare. Harry returned it unflinchingly.
“Well then,” Slughorn said cheerfully, placing his palms on his desk and leaning forward, “today we will continue our work on medical magic. If anyone would like to give us a brief introduction to the Mandrake Draught…”
Harry barely noticed when Hermione raised her hand and began to explain, with a level of excitement unrivalled by anyone else in the classroom, the properties of the Mandrake Draught. He had closed his ears to the lesson at hand, and was busy watching Malfoy for signs of acknowledgment.
It seemed, however, that Malfoy was determined to avoid Harry’s eye. For the remaining three hours of the double period, he worked diligently on his Mandrake Draught and never once glanced in Harry’s direction. Even when Harry had the shredded salamander skin he needed, he pointedly walked around the table and asked Hermione (in tones that would have been considered polite, had he not added “Mudblood” to the end of his request) to pass it over.
By the time Slughorn announced that it was time to pack up, Harry was seething over the predictable injustice of Malfoy’s behaviour. He had just saved Malfoy’s arse from the resident bullies, and yet Malfoy didn’t even have the decency to be grateful.
Don’t think you’re going to get off this easily, Malfoy, Harry thought darkly as he angrily packed up his ginger roots. I’ll get a sincere “thank you” out of you, even if it’s the last thing I do.
A/N: Pay attention to the ending... it'll be important later on ;)