Title: Some Kind of Miracle (ch 12)
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: 8,442
Notes: Thanks to Christine and Vana (who sends chapters back faster than I would have thought humanly possible) for beta'ing!
11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 P
We were strangers
Starting out on a journey
What we’d have to go through
Now here we are
I’m suddenly standing
At the beginning with you
- Richard Marx and Donna Lewis, “At the Beginning”
Before Harry knew it, the nineteenth of December had arrived and he was waving good-bye to Ron, Hermione, and Ginny as they prepared to clamber onto the carriages that would take them to the train station. He had told Hermione and Ginny about his plans to accompany Malfoy to Azkaban, adding that he would join them at headquarters once Malfoy was back at Hogwarts, but had allowed Ron to stay blissfully oblivious of the situation.
Harry watched until the carriages were out of sight before turning around and heading back inside. Due the numerous casualties during the war, more students than usual were staying behind for the holidays, so Harry wasn’t surprised to find the Entrance Hall bustling with activity.
As Harry shut the front doors behind him, responding to the eager “Hi Harry!”s and “How’s it going, Harry?”s that greeted him with unenthusiastic nods, he caught sight of a head of all-too-familiar blond hair bobbing at the other end of the hall. Relieved for an excuse to escape Eleanor Branstone’s attempts to engage him in a conversation about the history of mistletoe, Harry politely said good-bye and hurried to catch up with Malfoy.
“Hi,” said Harry, meeting Malfoy, who had been heading in his direction, halfway down the hall. He fell into stride with the other boy as he began descending the stone steps leading to the dungeons.
Malfoy glanced at Harry. “Hello,” he said stiffly. “I suppose it won’t be any use telling you to go away?”
“Am I really that predictable?” Harry replied, laughing. “Where are you headed?”
“You’re already doing homework?” Harry asked dubiously.
Malfoy gave Harry a weird look. “No, Potter, I’m going to work on my potion – Felix Felicis.”
“Oh,” said Harry, feeling stupid. Of course it was the potion. Tentatively, he asked, “Can I come?”
“I suspect it wouldn’t make a difference even if I said no,” said Malfoy, sounding vaguely amused. Was it just Harry’s imagination, or did Malfoy seem pleased that Harry had asked?
“What’s in there?” Harry asked, pointing at the bulky bag Malfoy had slung over one shoulder, as they headed down the empty, torch-lit hallway to one of the unused Potions classrooms.
“This and that,” said Malfoy evasively, shrugging his shoulders as he pushed open the door on his left and peered inside. “Hmm. This will have to do.”
He slipped inside and, with a flick of his wand, lit the circular room. Harry followed him, shutting the door behind him as he went.
“I’ve never been in here,” he remarked out loud, gazing around the barren dungeon. There were no desks or chairs on the smooth stone floor; just a few dusty cauldrons pushed against the far wall.
“They only use these classrooms in the case of emergencies,” said Malfoy, walking over to the centre of the room and carefully putting his bag down. He wordlessly summoned one of the cauldrons over to rest at his feet, examined it critically, and cleaned it with a quick Scouring Charm.
“Emergencies?” Harry repeated apprehensively, watching as Malfoy began taking jars and bundles out of his knapsack and arranging them on the floor a metre or so away from the cauldron.
Instead of answering Harry, Malfoy said irritably, “If you’re going to stay, you might as well do something useful. Light the fire under the cauldron, will you?”
Harry frowned at Malfoy’s bossy tone. “Prat,” he grumbled, heading over to Malfoy. Crouching down, he pointed his wand under the cauldron and said, “Incendio!”
A small, magical fire burst into life, hovering a centimetre above the ground, its flames licking at the underside of the pewter cauldron. Harry straightened up and took a few steps back.
By this time, Malfoy had finished unloading his ingredients. He was now muttering to himself under his breath as he picked up the items he had laid out one by one, scrutinised them, and put them back down.
“What’re you doing?” Harry asked after a few minutes.
“Shh!” Malfoy said crossly, waving a hand over his shoulder at Harry.
Harry obediently shut up. He couldn’t help admiring the other boy’s concentration and focus. When it came to Potions, Harry’s attention span was shorter than Professor Flitwick.
After a long time, Malfoy stood up, brushed off his robes, and walked over to the cauldron. He inspected it and then said, “Right. Another ten minutes or so, and things should be ready to go.”
“Why ten minutes?” Harry asked, aware that nearly everything he had said to Malfoy since they had joined had been questions. It made him feel rather incompetent, but he couldn’t help it – he was curious.
Malfoy gave Harry another one of his “are you stupid?” looks. He transfigured a spider crawling near his left foot into a spindly-legged stool and sat down on it before answering, “The base ingredient of Felix Felicis is Boomslang skin, which means it must be added first. However, it can only be added between noon and midnight, hence the ten minutes.”
Harry resisted to the urge to laugh. “Why’s that?”
“Don’t ask me, Potter, I don’t make up the rules,” Malfoy replied impatiently. He stared broodingly into the miniature fire Harry had lit. “I’ve got all the ingredients but one right now. Luckily, I don’t have to add it until the rest of the potion’s been brewed, so I still have a few weeks left to look for it. But…”
“But?” Harry prompted.
“But I don’t know if I’ll be able to find it.”
“What is it?”
“The Mist Lily.”
“The Mist Lily?” Harry repeated dumbly. “Never heard of it.”
“Considering the sheltered world you hail from, I’m not surprised,” Malfoy retorted. At Harry’s glare, he explained, “It’s one of the rarest plants in the world. It only grows in a select few areas in the wild, which is why only the most difficult potions require it. According to my research, the Forbidden Forest is one of those areas.”
“What’s the matter then?”
“Are you mad? Willingly going into the Forbidden Forest… That’s suicide, Potter.”
“It’s not as bad as everyone says it is,” said Harry, with just a slight hint of exasperation. “I’ve been in there loads of times. I mean, I suppose the centaurs have become a bit hostile, and I’m pretty sure Grawp is still living there… Lupin also said something about werewolves…”
Harry broke off upon noticing that Malfoy had paled. He smirked. “Don’t tell me you’re scared of a few werewolves, Malfoy.”
“Any person in their right mind would be,” Malfoy snapped defensively. He shook his head a little, as if to clear it of thoughts of centaurs and werewolves. “I tried, Potter. I woke up early to go search – you can only find the Mist Lily in the early morning, when the morning mist is still in the air – but there weren’t any traces of it. It must grow deeper in the forest.”
“Then you’ll just have to go in deeper,” said Harry matter-of-factly. “And I reckon ten minutes have passed, so you should get on with it.”
Malfoy rummaged around in one of his pockets and drew out a curious silver pocket watch and a folded sheet of parchment. He stared at the pocket watch intently for a few moments and then put it away. Tossing the parchment to Harry, he said carelessly, “Read that. It’s got the instructions for brewing this potion; familiarise yourself with them.”
Harry caught the square of folded parchment and unfolded it. He blinked at the endless rows of tiny, cramped writing that filled the sheet from top to bottom, left to right. “How the hell am I supposed to decipher this?” he blurted out.
“You figure it out,” Malfoy said unconcernedly. He had whipped out a set of brass scales and was carefully measuring out a small mound of what looked suspiciously like ground, dried-out Doxy droppings.
“I thought you said you had to add Boomslang skin first,” Harry pointed out.
“This is Boomslang skin, you great idiot.”
“Really?” said Harry doubtfully. “The Boomslang skin Hermione nicked from Snape’s stores didn’t look anything like that. It was sort of green, and it had –”
“The Mudblood stole from Snape’s private stores?” Malfoy interrupted, suddenly forgetting about the Boomslang skin he was measuring.
Harry ground his teeth together. “Don’t call her that,” he said angrily. “Her name’s Hermione.”
“Whatever. How did she manage to do it? Snape kept his potion supplies carefully guarded.” Malfoy looked more curious than anything else, and Harry breathed a sigh of relief. As long as Malfoy didn’t tell one of the staff members and ruin Hermione’s reputation, it couldn’t hurt to tell him about the Polyjuice Potion…
“Well, remember that time someone threw a firecracker into Goyle’s Swelling Solution in second year?”
“That was you, wasn’t it?”
Harry gaped at Malfoy. “How’d you know?”
“Snape told me everything,” said Malfoy smugly.
“I knew he suspected me, the git,” Harry muttered darkly. “Anyway, yeah, that was me. While Snape was busy restoring order, Hermione managed to sneak off and invade his private stores.”
Malfoy looked almost impressed. “And why, pray tell, would she need Boomslang skin so desperately? No second-year potions require a rare ingredient like that.”
“Well, see, it’s a complicated story,” said Harry, sitting down on the floor next to Malfoy. “How can I say it…”
“Just say it already,” said Malfoy, his tone annoyed.
“We brewed Polyjuice Potion, drank it to turn into Crabbe and Goyle, snuck into your common room, and tried to wheedle information about the Chamber of Secrets out of you.” Harry bit back a grin at the sight of Malfoy’s dumbfounded expression. “Do close your mouth, Malfoy; that gawk isn’t very becoming.”
“I can’t believe you,” said Malfoy, shaking his head. “You – you infiltrated my common room? And talked to me as – wait, which one were you?”
“Goyle. But don’t worry, you didn’t say anything too revealing,” said Harry casually. Malfoy’s mouth was still hanging slightly open, so without thinking, Harry placed a finger under his chin and closed it for him.
Malfoy turned red and swatted at Harry’s hand. “Don’t touch me,” he said tetchily.
“You’re not angry, are you? About the Polyjuice Potion thing,” said Harry worriedly.
“No, Potter, I’m actually pleasantly surprised to find that you do have a cunning, Slytherin side to you after all,” said Malfoy, grinning wickedly. “Maybe you’re not so bad after all.”
Normally Harry would have been offended by such an insult to his integrity and honour, but Malfoy made it sound almost like a compliment. So he simply smiled and said, “You might be lucky enough to find that you have a bit of Gryffindor in you someday, Malfoy.”
“I should hope not,” said Malfoy disdainfully. “Now get to work learning the potion, or you’ll never be of any help.”
With that, Malfoy returned to measuring Boomslang skin. Grudgingly, Harry spread out the instructions Malfoy had written down and, squinting his eyes to make out the illegible print, began reading.
Draco had trouble falling asleep that night. He could hear the drunken shouts and cheers of his housemates coming from the common room, which was only a few doors down from the one-man dormitory McGonagall had arranged for him, but they weren’t the reason for his insomnia.
The truth was, he was afraid to fall asleep, because he knew that when he woke up, he would be one day closer to receiving the Dementor’s Kiss. Besides, he had enjoyed his day with Harry too much to let go of it just yet. Thus, he decided that the only way to deal with his worries, at least for the moment, was to escape the confines of his dormitory and the Slytherin common room, and take a walk around the castle.
So he did. Even though he had a fair bit of difficulty leaving the common room without being seen, he managed to make it out into the dungeons relatively unscathed. Once he was standing in the dark, narrow corridor, Draco shivered, feeling suddenly chilly. He had grabbed his cloak on the way out, but it did nothing to protect his naked torso from the drafty dungeon.
Grumbling under his breath, Draco lit his wand and made his way up to the ground floor. He stood in the Entrance Hall for a while and gazed solemnly at the double oak front doors, remembering the night he had woken up in the Hospital Wing with Harry’s face hovering over him. Harry had said he’d found Draco slumped up against those doors. Draco wondered what he had looked like then, his clothes covered in blood and still damp from being in the snow for so long. It couldn’t have been a very pleasant night for Harry.
Slowly, Draco plodded down the hall, the stone-flagged floor cold against his bare feet. With some effort, he pushed one of the doors open a crack.
The ethereal beauty of the scene that greeted Draco made his breath hitch in his throat. A smattering of stars glowed in the endless night sky, and the moon spilt its soft, pale glow over the grounds, causing the frost-covered grass to sparkle just as brilliantly as the stars above it. Captivated, Draco stepped outside, his toes curling as they met the frozen ground.
Draco jumped and spun around. Harry was standing behind him in his pyjamas, his own wand lit and pointed at Draco, an expression of curious confusion on his face.
“How long have you been there?” Draco half gasped, stepping back inside and closing the door behind him.
“Not long,” said Harry, moving closer to Draco. In a concerned tone, he added, “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“You didn’t,” Draco snapped impulsively. “I was distracted. What’re you doing down here, anyway?”
“I couldn’t sleep. I was going to go down to the kitchens and get something to eat. How about you?” Harry’s eyes scanned Draco up and down, lingering for a split second on his bare chest. “If you’re not careful, you’ll catch a cold, going outside like that.”
Draco flushed and nervously drew his cloak tighter around himself, not sure if he liked having Harry’s eyes on him. “I was just looking at the night sky.”
Harry seemed to realise where he had been looking, because he cleared his throat awkwardly and brought his eyes back up to Draco’s face. “From here? Why didn’t you go to the Astronomy Tower?”
“Too far,” said Draco quietly. In an effort to break the uncomfortable silence that ensued, he said helpfully, “Well, I’ll just be heading back down to the dungeons, then…”
Still holding his cloak around his shoulders with one hand, Draco began heading back to the stairway leading down to the dungeons. As he passed Harry, their wand hands brushed ever so slightly, and he heard Harry’s sharp intake of breath. Being far more skilled in the department of controlling his reflexes, Draco managed to keep up the pretence of being unaffected by the brief skin-to-skin contact, but he couldn’t help wondering if Harry’s heartbeat had suddenly tripled, too.
Draco stiffened at the sound of his given name, spoken just before he reached the stairs.
“You don’t need to… go back down there. Why don’t you come to the kitchens with me?” Harry’s voice was gentle and patient, and Draco, like a frightened puppy being coaxed out of a dark hole, found himself turning around, hopelessly drawn to the safety and protection Harry’s firm voice entailed.
“I suppose sleep could wait another hour or so,” said Draco carefully, the nearly imperceptible quaver in his voice betraying only the most minute hint of relief.
“I’m sure it won’t mind,” said Harry, his own relief at the prospect of having someone to join him plain. “Come on, I’ll show you how to get in.”
“I know how to get in,” said Draco indignantly, falling into stride beside Harry as Harry began plodding down to the other end of the Entrance Hall. “I wouldn’t have survived all these years in this miserable castle if I hadn’t been able to procure food when I needed it.”
“Why didn’t you just ask your mum and dad to send it to you?”
Draco slanted a surprised glance at Harry. The other boy sounded faintly bitter, though it was obvious that he was trying to hide it.
“I didn’t want to trouble them with something so trivial,” said Draco stiffly.
“Why? They gave you everything you wanted.”
“No they didn’t, Potter. They didn’t give me everything I wanted. Why do you care, anyway?”
Harry sighed, a whispered exhale that was nearly inaudible. “I… I was always jealous when I saw you receiving sweets from home.”
“That was first year,” Draco scoffed, barely managing to conceal his astonishment. Harry Potter, the Boy Who Had Everything, jealous of Draco Malfoy? It was absurd. And yet Draco felt none of the smugness or glee he once would have if he had known that he had something Harry Potter wanted. Instead, he almost felt sympathetic for Harry.
“I know. I’ve gotten over it by now. But I was younger then… All I could think about was how unlucky I was, getting stuck with a family that didn’t give two shits about me, while this arrogant blond arse across the hall had parents who loved him and lavished him with gifts.” Harry’s wand hand shook; he definitely sounded bitter now.
“Who are you calling an arrogant blond arse?” Draco demanded, effectively squashing the urge to do something stupid like console Harry. Honestly, Malfoy, how troubled can his childhood have been?
“You have to admit, you were pretty arrogant. And blond,” Harry smirked.
“You’re too kind.”
“Glad to see you’re finally acknowledging it.”
They descended a narrow stairway to the kitchens, the oddly comforting sound of Harry’ deep, steady breaths intermingling with Draco’s shallower ones filling Draco’s ears. After a while, they arrived at a painting of a bowl of fruit.
“Go on,” said Harry. “If you know how to get in, do it.”
Draco stared at Harry haughtily “Nice try, Potter, but for once I wasn’t lying when I said I knew.”
He reached out and tickled the pear in the lower left hand corner. It giggled and squirmed in its spot, and then morphed into a golden door handle. Draco seized it and pulled the painting open. Light spilled out of the opening left behind, illuminating the small room Draco and Harry were standing in.
“Saviours of the world first,” said Draco mockingly, sweeping into a deep bow but keeping his eyes fixed on Harry’s face.
Harry looked like he wasn’t sure whether to hex Draco or laugh at his impertinence. Settling for the medium, an amused scowl, he pushed past Draco and stepped through the portrait hole.
Muttering “Nox,” Draco put out his light and followed Harry into the kitchen.
The instant the painting swung shut behind Draco, a delighted squeal shattered the silence. Draco barely had time to blink before what appeared to be a small bundle of mismatched hats and socks launched itself at Harry.
There was a heavy oomph as Harry and the bundle collided, and then Harry gasped out, “Dobby – mmph – it’s nice to see you, too, Dobby, but – I can’t breathe –”
“Dobby?” Draco repeated, frowning. The name sounded vaguely familiar.
At the sound of Draco’s voice, the house-elf latched onto Harry turned enormous, bulbous green eyes to Draco. A split second later, he gasped, dropped to his feet, and fell into a bow so low that his long nose grazed the floor.
“Master Malfoy,” he squeaked, a tremor in his voice. “Dobby is pleased to see you again, sir, very pleased indeed…”
Realisation dawned upon Draco. “You’re that worthless house-elf who tricked Father, aren’t you?” he accused. “The one who was always lazing about and leaving the house without permission?”
“Malfoy!” said Harry warningly over Dobby’s loud wail of despair. Awkwardly patting the top of the stack of knitted hats piled on the house-elf’s knobbly head, Harry asked politely, “Would you mind getting some food for us, Dobby?”
“What’s that little shit doing here?” Draco asked irritably, as Dobby hurried away, shooting frightened looks over his shoulder at Draco. “He made a fool out of my father!”
“Actually, no, that was me,” Harry corrected, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“That was – what do you mean that was you?”
“I’m the one who tricked your dad into giving Dobby a sock. Dobby was too scared to do it himself.”
Draco stared at Harry for a second, and then burst out in incredulous laughter. “No wonder why he wouldn’t tell me what happened to our house-elf,” he chuckled to himself, shaking his head. Silently, he added, Don’t worry, Father, I’ll get Potter back for that. Someday I’ll beat him for you.
“Someday”… as in, “someday in the next seven months”.
Immediately, Draco sobered up.
At that moment, Dobby returned to them with two other house-elves in his wake. Each of them carried a large platter laden with edible items. Draco eyed them, trying not to look too interested. He had skipped supper, and hadn’t realised just how hungry he was until now.
“This way, Harry Potter, Master Malfoy,” said Dobby enthusiastically. Still carrying his tray, which bore a silver teapot and two matching teacups, above his head, he led them over to a human-sized table and chairs. For a fleeting moment, Draco imagined himself back in the parlour of Malfoy Manor, sipping tea with his mother and discussing Quidditch tactics with his father. Then he blinked, and there was only Harry and a cluster of anxious house-elves.
“Malfoy, you coming?” Harry enquired, glancing over his shoulder at Draco, who realised, to his surprise, that he had stopped in his tracks, caught up in the vivid recollection of teatime with his parents.
Draco wordlessly walked over to Harry and sat down gingerly across from him. As Dobby began to direct the setting of the small table, Draco stared sullenly at his palms. His mother… in a few days, he’d finally be able to see her. He didn’t know when, exactly; McGonagall had told him that she would let him know as soon as all the formalities had been settled. But Draco was already beginning to feel a faint fluttering of distress in his stomach. What would he say to her? What could he say to her? Surely she knew by now that he was sentenced to receive the Dementor’s Kiss in seven months’ time, and that nothing, no amount of persuasion, could change that. Wouldn’t it be better, then, if he didn’t show up at all?
“You can eat, you know. The food’s not poisoned.”
Draco looked up at Harry. He had two chocolate biscuits in one hand and a glass of milk in the other. Draco resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Honestly, Potter, haven’t you at least got the dignity to eat properly? You look like a peasant.”
“Oh, I’m terribly sorry! I forgot to ask for a fork and knife to eat my biscuit with, didn’t I?” said Harry mockingly.
Dobby immediately jumped to attention. “If Harry Potter is needing a fork and knife, sir…” he said eagerly.
“No, no, Dobby I’ll be fine.” Harry raised his eyebrows at Draco. “This fellow over here could use a bit of humility though.”
Dobby looked utterly confused by Harry’s comment, as though he didn’t know whether Harry was joking or not. Draco merely glared at Harry and muttered, “You’re one to talk, Mr Resident Celebrity.”
They finished the food the house-elves had brought them in silence. Sooner than Draco perhaps would have liked, Harry was standing up and thanking Dobby and the other house-elves for their courtesy. Gloomily, Draco stood up as well, making sure to grab a few bath buns as he did so. Now that he no longer had the majority of the Slytherins under his command, food outside of mealtimes was hard to come by.
“Thanks again,” said Harry earnestly, as he and Draco made their way over to the exit with a hundred or so excited house-elves in tow. “Malfoy says thanks, too.”
“No I don’t,” said Draco briskly. He swung the portrait open and climbed out, dropping gracefully onto the floor on the other side. “You coming, Potter, or is thanking them six times still not enough for you?”
“Hold your Hippogriffs,” Harry replied crossly. He gestured Dobby over, and bent down to whisper something into the house-elf’s large, bat-like ear. Dobby’s already-large eyes grew comically wide, and he nodded rapidly.
“Ah, Harry Potter is most admirable and noble in his actions! Dobby is honoured to lend a helping hand, sir,” he enthused, gazing at Harry with misty eyes. “Now Harry Potter and Master Malfoy must be returning to their common rooms… The hour is growing late, sir…”
“For once I agree with the wretched thing,” Draco muttered, tapping his foot to show his impatience.
Harry waved Draco’s remark aside. “Thanks, Dobby, I appreciate it,” he said gratefully. “I’m sure he does, too. If you can, start after we go, okay? Oh, and if you find it, give it to me and not him. You can just leave it on my bed.”
And then he turned, lit his wand, and joined Draco on the other side of the painting, swinging the frame shut behind him.
“Who’s ‘he’?” Draco asked irritably, lighting his wand as well.
Harry shrugged. “No one.”
But Draco pressed on. “Go where?”
“Prick,” said Draco conversationally, as they ascended the stairs leading up to the Entrance Hall.
“There’s no need to lavish me with gratitude.”
“Why in the name of Merlin would I be doing that?”
“Wait and see,” said Harry enigmatically.
They approached the flight of steps leading down to the dungeons, and Draco stopped. “Bye, Potter,” he said, feeling rather disappointed that it was time for him to return to his common room. He’d actually enjoyed sneaking around the school with Harry.
“You want to go back already?” Harry asked, looking both surprised and hurt.
Draco blinked at him. “Where else would I go?”
Now Harry looked embarrassed. “Er… well, I thought maybe we could go outside or something. Or you could come up to the Gryffindor Tower with me; you can see the stars from there.”
Draco nearly fell over. “Potter, please tell me you’re not asking me on a date.”
“No!” Harry exclaimed immediately, his eyes enormous saucers of alarm. “I just… I’m sort of by myself in the dorm, and it’s a little off-putting. It’s the first time I’ve been separated from Ginny and Ron and Hermione for a while, and you don’t seem too keen on going back down to your housemates, so… y’know…”
He trailed off, probably realising that he was rambling. Pressing his palms against his forehead, he muttered, “God, what am I saying… Sorry, that was really weird, I didn’t mean –”
But Draco snickered. He rather liked this flustered, floundering Harry. It was a rare occasion, seeing everyone’s favourite Gryffindor so discomposed, and Draco found it oddly endearing – in a strictly “hey, look, Potter’s not perfect after all” way, of course.
“Sure,” said Draco nonchalantly. He quickly added, “Anyone is better than an intoxicated Theodore Nott, even you.”
“I’m flattered,” said Harry. But he looked relieved that Draco hadn’t run away screaming at his suggestion. “So, uh, where do you want to go?”
“Gryffindor Tower sounds nice.” Draco flashed Harry a winning smile. “That way I’ll know how to get in and navigate the lion’s den next time I decide to kidnap a few Gryffindors for my evil schemes.”
“Yeah, right,” Harry scoffed as he headed towards the main staircase with Draco at his side. He did, however, look slightly worried by Draco’s words.
“Good grief, Potter, I’m not really going to break into your common room,” said Draco exasperatedly, noticing Harry’s hesitance. “What the hell would I do with a kidnapped Gryffindor?”
“Hand him over to your housemates?”
“We already have house-elves, you know.”
Harry frowned at Draco’s cheeky response. “Why do you hate Gryffindors so much?”
Taken aback by the sudden shift in the light tone of their conversation, Draco shot back, “Why do you hate Slytherins so much?”
Harry stopped and stared at Draco for a very long time. His green eyes were wide, filled with something that was almost regret, but not quite. “We really don’t know very much about each other, do we?” he asked softly.
“What do you expect? We were too busy with our respective lives to give a fuck about each other’s.”
“Let’s do it right now, then.”
Draco eyed Harry warily. “Do what?”
Harry gestured at the marble staircase, the base of which they were presently standing at. “We can sit down right here and get to know each other.”
“You’re mad,” said Draco flatly, climbing the first two steps. He looked back. Harry was still standing at the foot of the stairs, staring at him expectantly. He sighed. “Right here?”
Harry grinned. “Yeah.”
“Someone might see us,” Draco pointed out, trying to picture the astonished expression on the face of a Hogwarts resident who happened across the sight of Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter sitting next to each other on the wide marble staircase, chatting amiably about their pasts. Now that was a tempting prospect.
“For some reason, the chances of someone else wandering the halls at three o’clock in the morning don’t seem very likely to me,” said Harry.
“True,” said Draco thoughtfully. Oh, fuck it all, just do it, Malfoy. “Very well, then,” he said, sitting down on the third step and leaning back against the railing. The coldness of the marble surface seeped through his flimsy pyjamas, and he grimaced.
“Hermione isn’t going to believe her ears when I tell her about this,” Harry laughed, sitting down on the first step, resting his elbow on the second, and leaning forward.
“You’re dead if you repeat a word of what I say to the Mudblood,” Draco threatened. He fingered his wand, trying to think of the best way to ensure that Harry didn’t tell his friends anything. A Memory Charm? No, he was almost sure that that was one of the spells McGonagall had nulled. Not to mention he’d feel guilty – yes, he thought, closing his eyes, guilty – if he erased Harry’s memories of the night and kept his own.
“Her name’s Hermione,” said Harry coldly. “It’d be nice if you had the decency not to use that word in front of me. She’s my friend, in case you haven’t noticed.”
“Whatever,” said Draco, finding it hard to believe that out of all the things he had said, the only phrase that truly seemed to get under Harry’s skin was “Mudblood”. “So how do you want to do this?”
“Do you always need to do things a specific way?” Harry’s mood seemed to have taken a nosedive after Draco’s offhand remark. “Can’t we just talk like normal people?”
“No,” said Draco plainly. “We’re not normal people. You’re the Boy Who Lived, and I’m a Death Eater. Moreover, ‘just talking’ is what friends do. We’re not friends.”
Harry sighed. “Everything’s so simple for you.”
“Everything’s simple for me?!” Draco burst out, offended by Harry’s remark, which he took as an insult. “Everything’s simple for you! You can be a suicidal pillock one minute and a perfectly normal seventeen-year-old adolescent the next, and everyone will go along with it. I don’t think you’ve got the slightest idea just how lucky you are that your life is so black and bloody white.”
“Oh, shut it, Malfoy,” said Harry, covering a yawn with his palm. “Don’t you ever get tired of ranting at me? I just meant to say that you’re still happily living under the impression that nothing has changed between us, when a lot of things have.”
“How do you mean?” Draco demanded.
Harry looked away; for the second time that night, he appeared to be discomposed. Draco waited for the “we may not like each other, but we’re not enemies either” speech, but it never came. Instead, Harry simply shook his head and muttered, “Forget it. You wouldn’t understand.”
Draco bristled. What did Harry know about what Draco could and couldn’t understand? Rather than pursue the subject, however, Draco merely said tightly, “Fine.”
The two sat in awkward silence for a few minutes. Something in the atmosphere between them had changed, had tensed and thickened, and Draco was acutely aware of it. Then, with his eyes still downcast, Harry said, “If you want, we could make it into a game of some sort.”
“A game?” Draco repeated dubiously. “We’re a little old for that, don’t you think, Potter?”
“You said you wanted to do this a certain way, and I’m offering,” said Harry, a little irritably. “How about this: I ask you a question, you answer it; you ask me a question, I answer it; and so forth. We can take turns – one question at a time.”
“Fine,” said Draco again, desperate to get on with it. He had a feeling his arse would be permanently frozen to the marble step he was sitting on if they stayed there too long.
“Great,” said Harry, and his cheered tone dissolved a little bit of Draco’s grumpiness. Draco, too, couldn’t help feeling decidedly more positive about this game; if things went well, he might be able to squeeze the truth about the battle with the Dark Lord out of the other boy.
“Answer my earlier question,” said Draco, initiating the game. “Why do you hate Slytherins?”
Harry bit his lip. When he spoke, his voice was carefully controlled. “I don’t hate Slytherins. I hate certain Slytherins. I hated – still hate – Voldemort for all the discord he spread. I hated Snape because of the way he treated my friends and because I thought he was a traitor, but that changed after I found out that he wasn’t. And then I hated… you.”
Draco was surprised, and then annoyed, by the flicker of hurt that flashed through him at Harry’s confession. He’d always known that Harry hated him as much as he hated Harry; why did it bother him now?
“Oh, don’t look so miserable, Potter,” Draco sneered, noticing the worried look on Harry’s face, “I already knew you did. You had reasons for hating the Dark Lord and Snape… what was your reason for hating me?”
“It’s my turn,” said Harry, ignoring Draco’s probing. At Draco’s indignant expression, he said firmly, “One question per turn.”
Draco gritted his teeth. “Well, it should be obvious why I hate Gryffindors. They’re not –”
Harry held up a hand, stopping Draco mid-answer. “That’s not my question anymore. I’ve decided that I’d rather go for a bit of personal background about you, not your biases.”
Draco squirmed in his spot, uneasiness instinctively settling in his stomach at the prospect of answering involved questions about his personal life. No worries… I can always lie if it’s something I don’t want to answer… he reminded himself, trying to relax and maintain a mask of cool collectedness.
There was a pause, during which Harry gazed at Draco expectantly, as if waiting for him to say something. Draco remained defiantly silent. Shrugging, Harry asked, “What’s your favourite breakfast food?”
Draco’s shoulders sagged with relief. “That’s it?”
“Unless you wanted me to ask something more personal?” Harry queried calmly. There was an intense, searching look in his eyes that Draco didn’t like.
“Why do you care?”
“Well, if I’m going to be stuck with you over break, I might as well find out what you like to eat,” said Harry defensively.
“I haven’t got one.”
Harry looked as though he had never heard anything more shocking. “You haven’t?”
Draco shrugged in a noncommittal manner. “I just eat whatever’s edible.”
“But you hardly touch your food at breakfast! On the rare occasion that you even come up, that is…”
Draco eyed Harry. “Don’t tell me you’ve been watching me eat.”
Harry shook his head a little too quickly. “No, I’ve just… noticed,” he stammered.
“Well, if you must know, the Hogwarts food isn’t up to my standards,” Draco lied, a haughty tone creeping into his voice. This wasn’t true; it was moreso the company at the breakfast table that he didn’t like, which was why he frequently had the house-elf who cleaned his dormitory bring him food from the kitchens.
“You weren’t complaining half an hour ago,” Harry grumbled. “Is that why you’re always so thin? You never eat?”
“I eat, thank you very much. And I’m not thin, though I appreciate your concern over my body weight.”
“I’m just making sure you don’t starve yourself to death,” Harry replied guardedly.
Instantly, the resident voice in Draco’s head began gleefully crowing, Potter cares! He actually cares! Deciding that, just this once, it would be acceptable for him to spare Harry the snide remark on the tip of his tongue, Draco switched the topic and said solemnly, “Next question. Who would you rather date – Weasley or Granger?”
Harry turned puce. “WHAT?!” he positively shrieked.
Clamping a hand over Harry’s mouth, Draco hissed, “Shut your mouth, Potter, unless you want the entire castle to come running down here!”
Pushing Draco’s hand away, Harry said in a lower voice, “Are you off your trolley? I wouldn’t date either of them!”
“Okay then,” said Draco, slightly pleased by this answer, “which one of them do you prefer?” At Harry’s wide-eyed look, Draco said impatiently, “On a platonic level, you twit.”
To Draco’s dismay, this amendment only made things worse. Harry turned an accusing glare up at Draco and said coldly, “I’d never choose between them, so you can give up trying to make me right now, Malfoy.”
Draco held up his hands hastily. “Fine, whatever, Potter. I was just curious. There’s no need to overexert yourself.”
But Draco could tell that his innocent question had thrown Harry back into his earlier unpleasant mood and that he was now going to pay for not realising that Gryffindors probably didn’t do duplicitous things like choose between their two best friends until it was too late.
Sure enough, Harry’s next question confirmed Draco’s trepidation. “Why didn’t you give me away when you saw me the night I killed Bellatrix?”
Draco cringed. He had been waiting for this question, had been unconsciously preparing a suitable response to it ever since Harry had asked him at Hogsmeade. He’d managed to escape the enquiry then, but now…
“I knew you were there,” Draco began in a hushed voice, lowering his eyes and keeping them trained on his hands, which were now clasped in his lap, “before you let go of the Invisibility Cloak you had with you. My aunt had me maintaining the Revealing Shield she’d put around us; she knew your lot liked to use those cloaks to sneak around. She told me to keep a look out while we stopped to finish the Weasleys off. They were getting to be burdensome, and the Dark Lord had said, before we left, to get rid of anyone who detained us.”
Save for a slight twitch of his jaw, Harry remained still, giving no indication that this part of Draco’s speech had affected him.
“We’d hardly been there for five minutes when I saw you approaching. I was about to notify Aunt Bellatrix of your approach, but then I noticed that you were alone. I’ll admit I was curious as to what you were doing out on open ground without backup, so I decided to remain silent for the time being.”
At this point Draco faltered as random details of the scene came flooding back to him, so clear and vivid that they were nearly tangible. Draco could almost smell the battle raging on the other side of the forest, could almost taste the other Death Eaters’ anticipation pulsing through the thick, sweat-laden air like sluggish electric shocks. He raised his eyes and found that the startling green pair that met his belonged not to the Harry Potter he had just been sitting with a minute ago, but the Harry Potter he had locked gazes with the night before the war ended.
“And then you…” Draco’s voice shook ever so slightly, and he blinked, trying to clear his vision of the spectral battlefield he had somehow managed to conjure up around himself. “And then you dropped your Invisibility Cloak, and we looked straight at one another. At that moment, I knew that we were all done for if we gave you reason to attack. Just the look in your eyes… I can’t even describe it, Potter. Let’s just say that I’ve seen some pretty awful things, but nothing could compare to the fury in your eyes that night. For the first time in my life, I understood why you were the only one who could defeat the Dark Lord.
“I knew from experience that you were incapable of channelling and controlling your magic properly when you let your emotions run amok, which was why I couldn’t let the rest of them know you were there. I thought if I just let you alone… but then Aunt Bellatrix…”
Draco’s exhale of breath made a hissing sound as it travelled through his clenched teeth. “So that’s the story, Potter,” he said bitterly. Having said his part, he felt strangely empty. It was as though the secret of his motives for saving Harry Potter from the wrath of a score of Death Eaters had been the only thing sustaining him for the past few months, and now that he had admitted it, he had lost a rather significant part of himself.
“So you really did just do it purely out of interest for yourself?” Harry asked, after a brief pause.
“Well, I certainly didn’t do it for you.”
Harry stared at Draco for one very long moment, and then burst out laughing. His laughter echoed up and down the empty marble staircase and was received by several muffled protests from the paintings hanging from the four walls that stretched upwards to the towers.
“Malfoy, you’re such a self-centred Slytherin,” said Harry, shaking his head once his laughter had subsided. “Here I was, thinking you had some hugely significant reason for saving my life, when the real reason was that you were scared for your own.”
“I’m not a coward,” Draco snapped unnecessarily.
“No, I didn’t say that,” Harry agreed. He pushed himself up two steps and plunked himself down next to Draco. In a much lower voice, he remarked, “That’s the first time I’ve heard you talk about the war.”
“So it is,” said Draco, his tone equally subdued, albeit not as soft as Harry’s. He shivered, enjoying the way the subtle heat radiating from Harry’s body seemed to bring warmth to the otherwise cold stairwell.
“Is that why you haven’t been –” Harry broke off there and frowned, as if contemplating whether he ought to say what he had in mind. Then he cleared his throat and amended, “Anyway, d’you want to keep going with the game?”
Draco rolled his eyes and said truthfully, “No. In case you haven’t noticed, Potter, I’m freezing.” He held out his stiff fingers as proof.
Harry grabbed one of Draco’s hands, an innocent gesture which nevertheless made Draco’s pulse quicken dangerously. “I can conjure up a ball of flames for you, if you want,” Harry offered, raising his wand with his other hand and pressing its tip into Draco’s palm.
“N-no,” Draco stammered, resisting the instinctual urge to curl his fingers around Harry’s. “I’d rather keep all my digits intact, thank you very much.”
Harry rapped Draco’s palm smartly with his wand and scowled. “I’m not that bad at magic, Malfoy,” he said petulantly, releasing Draco’s hand and tucking his wand back into his pocket.
“Oh? I reckon that rat you were supposed to be turning orange for our Charms O.W.L. would beg to differ,” Draco shot back, immensely relieved that all physical contact between him and Harry had ceased for the moment.
“Says the bloke who couldn’t even swish and flick his way through a simple Levitation Charm,” Harry retorted.
“I was distracted!”
“By what? My arrival?”
As a matter of fact, yes, was Draco’s silent reply. But he merely shook his head and said, “You’ve heard what you wanted to hear. Is it my turn now?”
Harry eyed Draco apprehensively. He was certainly right. Harry had heard all he had wanted to hear. Draco had confessed the reasons behind his decision to let Harry run free the night the Weasleys were killed, so it was only fair that he, Harry, return the favour by telling Draco something he desperately wanted to know.
“All right, then,” said Harry. He braced himself. There was no doubt that, having answered Harry’s question, Draco would retaliate with something even bigger. It had always been that way between the two of them: one of them would step up their game, and the other would do the same, only better. Neither would settle for a truce or a draw; everything was a never-ending competition. Whether they were friends or enemies, Draco and Harry would always be rivals.
But Draco didn’t seem like he was asking his next question as a form of revenge. He sounded genuinely curious when he enquired, “What happened the night you defeated the Dark Lord?”
Harry’s jaw dropped. “What?”
“You know what I mean. How did you do it?”
Harry swallowed. “I can’t tell you that. I haven’t – not even my friends know. I haven’t told anyone. You wouldn’t understand.”
It was the wrong thing to say. Draco’s jaw tightened in anger; he leaned towards Harry, eyes flashing silver, mouth curled back in a bitter snarl. “Wouldn’t understand? Wouldn’t understand? I served the Dark Lord, Potter. I bled for him; I tortured for him; I killed for him. I know what it’s like to be lying on the ground, begging for his mercy, wishing I could just walk away and leave it all behind, but knowing that forsaking my position isn’t an option because I need to stay and bear it – for others and for myself. You reckon your pathetic Gryffindor friends would understand better than I do what that feels like?”
Harry averted his eyes. Draco’s face was so close to his, so close that if he so much as lifted his chin a fraction of a centimetre, their mouths would meet. “Malfoy – it’s not that…” he breathed, his lips barely forming the words.
Draco pulled back abruptly. “I think I’m ready to go to bed,” he said, his voice revealing nothing.
“Yeah, me too,” said Harry, a wave of dizzying relief crashing over him as his senses came rushing back. “Come on, I’ll walk you back.”
For once, Draco didn’t object to being patronised by Harry. He pushed himself to his feet, and as he straightened up, his cloak fell open, revealing flashes of taut muscle moving fluidly beneath pale skin. Harry found his eyes drawn to Draco’s bare chest and to the word “TRAITOR” written there in white, rope-like scars. The sight sent a shiver that was simultaneously pleasant and unpleasant down Harry’s spine, and he quickly looked away, thinking furiously, I’m going to kill you for what you did, Nott.
It was a short walk back to the dungeons. They stopped when they arrived at the bare stretch of stone wall that marked the Slytherin common room.
Harry didn’t leave immediately. He still had one more pressing thing he wanted to ask. Hoping he wouldn’t anger Draco, he asked, “Are you afraid of what’s going to happen?”
Draco glanced over his shoulder at Harry. “You haven’t answered my question yet, Potter,” he said evenly. “When you do, I’ll answer yours. Good night.”
Harry sighed and walked away. That’s fair, I suppose, he thought, slightly disgruntled despite having expected the brush-off.
Once he was back in his empty dormitory, Harry kicked off his shoes, collapsed onto his bed, and burrowed deep beneath his covers. He was instantly enveloped in warmth; once again, the house-elves had thoughtfully placed a bed warmer between his blankets.
Harry draped an arm over his forehead and sighed. Was it true, what Draco had told him? Had Draco really saved Harry’s life to save his own? If that was the real reason, then it made sense that Draco had failed to mention that Harry’s interference at the trial had most likely negated the life debt he owed Draco from that night. Not even Draco, for all his cunning, manipulative Slytherin tendencies, would hold Harry to anything if he really had let Harry go only to save himself and the other Death Eaters – at least, Harry didn’t think so.
Even so, Harry now began to feel the first inklings of something entirely foreign to him: a sense of debt to Draco. Draco had saved his life that night, after all, and he simply couldn’t see the life debt Draco owed him as being enough to cancel the one he now realised he probably owed Draco. Indeed, Harry was certain that he had actually done Draco worse by forcing him to return to Hogwarts and live amongst people who loathed him. It was this fact, above anything else, which strengthened Harry’s guilty feelings.
Harry sighed again. It was all really quite confusing, especially since his knowledge of life debts was so severely limited. Everything he knew about them came from the brief discussion he’d had with Dumbledore in third year. He would have to ask Hermione for more information once he returned to headquarters.
Now, however, Harry was too tired to linger any longer over the subject. As a pleasant state of drowsiness fell over him, he wondered fuzzily if the Slytherin beds were as snug and toasty as his. He imagined their dormitories were far less cosy than his, what with them being located down in the cold, drafty dungeons, and felt a flutter of sympathy for Draco.
Someday I’ll have to invite him to sleep up here… was the last coherent thought that crossed Harry’s mind before he drifted off to a sleep that was, for the first time in several weeks, free of troubling dreams.