Title: Some Kind of Miracle (ch 13)
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: 7,095
Notes: Thanks to Vana and Christine for beta'ing for me :)
12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 P
Over the next four days, Harry spent an alarming amount of time with Draco. A large part of the reason for this was the absence of his friends. Of course, the rest of the castle would have been more than willing to keep him company if he had let his loneliness be known, but he rather preferred being around Draco. Draco’s worst traits – cynicism, bitterness, and pride, to name a few – were actually oddly reassuring; when Harry was around Draco, the nightmares that would have pervaded his slumber later that night faded away into intangible wisps of nothingness.
They rarely spoke during the day, choosing to carefully avoid each other instead, but late at night, after the rest of the castle’s residents were snugly tucked away in their beds, Harry would sneak out of his common room, creep down countless flights of steps and corridors, and wait by the blank stretch of wall guarding the Slytherin common room until Draco appeared. The two of them would then exchange silent greetings, never once questioning what exactly they were doing or how it had turned into a regular sort of thing, and head off.
On the night following their visit to the kitchens, Harry and Draco had gone to the library again. The trip had been oddly reminiscent of Harry’s first night back at Hogwarts, when he had come across Draco composing the beginnings of his list, only this time, Draco had passed the time reading Hogwarts: A History, while Harry had watched him in comfortable silence.
It was something Harry had taken to doing, watching Draco. He had always been indifferently aware that Draco was considered quite attractive by most of their classmates during the pre-war days, but seeing the other boy’s haggard features at the trial had erased this formerly handsome image of Draco from Harry’s mind. That night in the library, however, it had occurred to Harry that returning to school had done miracles for Draco’s appearance. His hair was no longer oily and matted, but soft and glossy; his complexion no longer pallid and sickly, but smooth and healthy. Despite the deadened look that now seemed to be permanently fixed in his light grey eyes, he was once again haughtily beautiful, and even Harry hadn’t been able to stop himself from stealing more glances than necessary at his moonlit companion.
The next night – the night of the twenty-first – they had dropped by the Room of Requirement. Harry had been trying to think of good way to explain the room’s purpose to Draco when he had noticed, to his amazement, that the door had appeared and that Draco was nowhere to be seen. It had taken him several minutes of confusion to remember that Draco already knew about the mysteries of the Room of Requirements from his sixth-year escapades.
When he stepped inside, he had found that the room had turned into a spacious, somewhat bare parlour. The walls had been made of stone, and several sofas and seats, swathed in green and black silk, had sat on raised platforms around a large, glass coffee table. To the right had been a large, unused fireplace that had appeared to be there for decoration purposes only, and to the left had stood a stately chest of drawers, constructed from dark walnut.
“What is this place?” Harry had asked, looking around in awe.
“The sitting room in my family’s manor,” Draco had replied, a hint of smugness underlying his words.
They had spent the next few minutes talking about Draco’s potion, which was still brewing in the spare classroom down in the dungeons. Draco had informed Harry that he was nearly done with the base, which he’d have to leave to stew for two months. Harry had expressed his concerns regarding the secrecy of the potion, but Draco had waved them aside, assuring Harry that no one ever visited those classrooms and that his activities down there would remain undetected as long as Harry kept his mouth shut. At this point, he had shot Harry a challenging glare, and Harry had hastily promised that he would never breathe a word about the Felix Felicis to anyone.
The conversation had quickly drifted to the subject of Draco’s list, and Harry had been delighted to note that Draco was growing more open about this particular topic. He hadn’t a clue what had triggered the flip-flop in the other boy’s willingness to discuss his goals, but the change was certainly welcome. Draco had even answered Harry’s bemused question regarding the appearance of number five, “Hold a civil conversation with a member of each house”.
“I want to understand,” Draco had said, with a careless shrug of his shoulders. He had been lounging on one of the sofas at this point, while Harry sat awkwardly on one of the armchairs. “I don’t particularly care, you see, but I do want to learn more about the houses and the perspectives of the students in them, no matter how skewed they are.”
Harry had then asked why, and Draco had shot him an incredulous look.
“Wouldn’t you want to?” Draco had enquired, propping himself up on one elbow. “If you knew you were going to die in a week, wouldn’t you want to find out everything you could about the things you never bothered to investigate?”
Rather put off by Draco’s fervent response, Harry had dropped the subject.
On the night of the twenty-second, they had simply wandered about the slumbering castle, exploring its various unused rooms and passageways. Harry’s favourite of the places they had discovered was a narrow corridor on the third floor, which had been hidden behind a tapestry of Agnes the Acerbic. Its walls had been magically altered by a visibly fading charm to look like the open sea, and even though there had been several patches of bare stone where the magic was no longer functioning, Harry had found the effect breathtaking.
Draco, on the other hand, had reacted quite differently. He’d turned faintly green and looked away from the undulating waves, muttering something about how the hallway was a waste of usable space. Harry had rolled his eyes and said, “Just because you’re afraid of the water doesn’t give you the automatic right to be a killjoy.”
The fourth night, however, had been Harry’s favourite. He and Draco had visited the Hogwarts graveyard – a graveyard that, prior to that night, Harry had not known existed, but that, according to Draco, was an imperative feature of the castle.
“It was the four founders’ wishes that they be buried close to the school – before the falling out, of course,” Draco had explained, paraphrasing what he had learned from Hogwarts: A History.
“Why haven’t all the other headmasters and headmistresses been buried there then?” Harry had asked curiously.
Draco had pinned him with a haughty look. “Potter, not just anyone can be buried with the four most celebrated figures in wizarding history,” he had said snootily, as he pushed open the back doors and led Harry outside.
“Dumbledore deserved to be,” Harry had shot back, somewhat miffed that the last Headmaster had not been considered important enough to be put to rest with the four founders. After all, everyone had said that Dumbledore had done more for the school than any other past headmaster or headmistress.
But at that point, Draco had grown sullen and resigned. Harry had realised that the topic of Dumbledore was, perhaps, not the best one to bring up in Draco’s presence, considering all the troublesome situations that had arisen from Draco’s half-hearted, yearlong attempt to kill the older wizard. He himself had felt a brief but intense flare of animosity towards Draco as he remembered the other boy’s efforts, but had managed to repress it by reminding himself that that was all in the past and that the circumstances were different now. Besides, it hadn’t been Draco’s fault; he had been scared and Voldemort had coerced into doing it. Harry knew that, even if Draco refused to admit it.
So they had walked out into the night, shoulders hunched against the bitter wind and balls of flames in their cupped hands to cast a little warmth and illumination. Draco had proceeded to lead them into a part of the Forbidden Forest Harry had never known existed, but just as Harry had been about to ask what had changed Draco’s mind about the dangers of entering the forest, they had broken free of the trees and found themselves in a large, ethereal clearing.
The moment Harry stepped into that clearing had felt, in a word, dreamlike. It was as though he had left the living world and crossed over into an alternate plane of existence, one locked within the parameters imposed by a circle of dark trees. The howling wind had faded away into a gentle whisper and the listless clouds in the black sky had parted, letting the moon spill its ethereal luminescence onto the four distinguished marble headstones that stood proudly in the centre of the clearing.
With the frost-covered grass glittering beneath his feet, Harry had approached the headstones, transfixed. He had been reaching out to touch Gryffindor’s, which had, unsurprisingly, been engraved with a fierce-looking lion, when Draco had grabbed his forearm from behind and firmly pulled his hand away, breaking the spell of the moment.
“What?” Harry had demanded, annoyed by Draco’s interference.
Draco had shaken his head, his face expressionless in the pale light. “You can’t touch them,” he had said, tugging Harry away from the gravestone. “They’re protected by ancient magic.”
“Why’s that?” Harry had asked, stepping backwards.
“They thought thieves and Dark wizards would come here and try to extract some of the magic that was buried along with the founders, so they cast a number of strong protective spells to make sure that didn’t happen. Now people come here from all over the world to make wishes. Supposedly, the magic that lingers here can make those wishes come true.” Draco had paused here and looked over at the headstone marked with Slytherin’s name, his pupils dilating in a way that had made Harry’s insides twist nervously. In a thick, trembling voice that had been foreign to Harry, Draco had whispered, “Can you feel it? The power of the founders?”
Harry had shifted uneasily and said, “Malfoy, what’re you –?”
“Shut up and stand still, Potter,” Draco had interrupted, his hold on Harry’s arm tightening. “Close your eyes and give yourself up. Rein in your emotions and thoughts… you’ll sense it then.”
Harry had been about to point out that closing his eyes and giving himself up in the presence of a convicted Death Eater did not rank high on his list of intelligent things to do, when he had noticed the candour in Draco’s grey eyes. The stunning realisation that Draco was asking Harry to trust him had hit Harry at that precise moment, and before he’d had time to marvel at the absurdity of the unspoken request, his eyes had closed of their own volition.
“What now?” he had asked, his voice dropping to a whisper. He had felt utterly vulnerable and exposed, standing out there in the open with his eyes closed and only Draco Malfoy to guide him. It was something he usually hated, vulnerability, but somehow, whether it was because the magic Draco claimed charged the clearing had taken its toll on Harry or because Harry really did trust Draco (a thought even more perturbing than his defencelessness), he had managed to relax.
Draco had then led Harry through the process of consciously seizing control of his emotions and thoughts and temporarily storing them away. It had been unnervingly reminiscent of Harry’s Occlumency lessons with Snape, only Draco had instructed Harry with an unexpected level of patience that Snape had never shown.
In the end, Harry hadn’t been able to get it down. He had grown increasingly frustrated as, time and time again, worries about his schoolwork, telling Ron about the trial, and numerous other pressing concerns penetrated his concentration. It was so easy for Draco; he’d been compartmentalising his feelings all his life. But Harry had none of Draco’s careful control or practised precision, and eventually he’d been forced to give up all hope of experiencing the same kind of thrill Draco evidently received from standing in the clearing.
Just before they returned to the castle, Harry and Draco had each made a silent wish. At first, Harry had been reluctant to do it. What did the founders care about his trivial desires? Then he had remembered the Fountain of Magical Brethren in the Ministry and changed his mind. Perhaps such things really did work after all.
It had taken Harry a while to decide what to wish for. There were so many things he wanted, but all those were petty wishes. Finally, after much impatient prodding from Draco (who had reverted to his usual irritating self after making his wish), Harry had decided on an adequate wish.
I know that’s probably beyond your powers, he had thought desperately, as he and Draco had turned to leave, but if there’s any chance that you could help things along in the slightest, I know I wouldn’t be the only grateful one.
Draco awoke the morning of the twenty-fourth feeling unusually rested. He stretched luxuriously, causing his sheets to fall away, and hissed as cold air hit exposed skin. Bloody dungeons.
Yawning, he rolled over onto his side. As he did so, he noticed a piece of parchment lying on the bedside table. Pushing himself up into a half-sitting position, he picked up the said parchment and glanced at it.
Add runespoor blood before noon, it read.
Draco groaned and sat up straighter. It was the note he had written to himself the night before. Shivering, he swung his legs over the side of the bed, stood up, and stalked over to the door, grabbing his clothes and a towel from his trunk as he went.
He paused at the door, his hand hovering uncertainly over the door handle. Pressing his ear to the door, he listened for sounds of nearby movement. When he heard none, he tentatively opened the door a crack and glanced out into the narrow corridor.
His housemates were nowhere to be seen. Realising that they were probably still sleeping, Draco breathed a sigh of relief and set off down the hallway to the showers.
He showered quickly, not wanting to take too long in case any of the other boys woke up early and decided to take a shower as well. He’d brought his wand along (he rarely went anywhere without it anymore), but it was still too early for a duel, and he rather preferred being left alone in the morning.
In record time, he towelled himself dry, shrugged on his robes, and styled his hair. Just before he left the steamy shower room, he ventured a quick look into the mirror.
It was astonishing how much he had changed ever since returning to Hogwarts. Grudgingly, Draco had to admit that being at school had improved his health and appearance beyond recognition. There had been no time to eat full meals, bathe properly, or get a good night’s sleep during the war; hell, even sixth year had been bad, with his exhausting trips to the Room of Requirement and the threat of his mother’s death constantly hanging over his head. But it hadn’t occurred to Draco just how noticeable a toll his Death Eater responsibilities had taken on his body until the day of his trial, when he had glanced into a window pane at the Ministry and seen a gaunt, sickly boy jeering back at him.
He had always prided himself on his looks, so he had been appalled to find them so drastically altered by a year of neglect. But now, as he examined his reflection, Draco couldn’t help smiling tentatively. At least he could live the next few months with some dignity. Feeling slightly better, he ran a hand through his wet locks once more and left the showers.
Harry jumped slightly at the sound of Draco’s confused voice behind him. He twisted around and shot the other boy, – who was standing in the doorway of the unused Potions room, one hand on the doorframe and the other in his tousled, wet hair – a nervous grin. “Morning,” said Harry, before turning back to his work.
“What are you doing here?”
“Adding runespoor blood,” said Harry casually. As if to prove his point, he tipped a carefully measured vial of a black liquid into the cauldron set before him. There was a faint, prolonged hiss, and then silence.
“You’re – what?” Draco asked sharply. He crossed the distance between him and Harry in five steps and stared into the cauldron. “Who told you to do that?”
“You did,” said Harry matter-of-factly. He stood up, dusted his robes off, and peered into the cauldron as well. “Remember? You said that if I got here before you, I should do it, since you can’t risk missing the allotted time slot.”
Harry glanced over at Draco. Smugly, he prompted, “So I did it right?”
Draco frowned. “Yes,” he said, as if flabbergasted by the fact that Harry had managed to do something related to Potions correctly.
“Thought so,” said Harry, chuckling. “Now come on, let’s go.”
Cryptically, Harry replied, “I thought of a way… well, you’ll see soon enough.” He was already halfway out the door when he paused, looked back, and quirked an eyebrow at Draco, who had not yet moved. “You coming?”
For a moment, Draco looked like he was on the verge of declining Harry’s offer. Then Harry gave him a hard look, and he sighed. “Fine,” he said. “This better be worth my while, Potter. I have other things I could be doing.”
“Like what?” Harry questioned amusedly, as he led Draco out of the room and down the hallway that led to the Slytherin common room.
“Like… other things,” Draco spluttered. “Things that wouldn’t waste my time.”
Harry nudged Draco’s arm with his elbow. “This won’t be a waste of your time,” he promised. “If it works, you’ll be thanking me later.”
“Apparently I’ll be doing that a lot,” Draco muttered.
Shaking his head, Harry let himself laugh a little more. It felt good to be so at ease around Draco. He stopped laughing when he reached the bare patch of stone that marked the Slytherin common room. “Say the password,” he commanded, stepping aside.
“If you think I’m just going to say the password while you’re standing here…” Draco began to say irritably. He trailed off, however, when the sound of muffled voices and footsteps from inside floated through the wall. “Shit, someone’s coming,” he swore.
Harry grinned. “Even better.”
Ignoring Draco’s incredulous stare, he grabbed the other boy’s arm, tugged him to the side, and threw his Invisibility Cloak, which he had tucked into the back pocket of his trousers, over the two of them.
“What the hell are you doing?” Draco hissed, squirming out of Harry’s grip, but letting the Invisibility Cloak stay draped over him.
Holding one finger to his lips to signal silence, Harry explained in a hurried whisper, “I had this idea yesterday. If we see and hear Nott or one of his friends talking about how he – y’know, cursed you, we’ll store it as a memory, and we can use that memory as evidence later to prove that he was the one who did it. All we’d have to do is put it in a Pensieve and show McGonagall.”
Draco gave Harry a blank stare. “And how exactly do you propose we get him to talk about it, Potter?”
Harry faltered. “Er…” he said intelligently.
With a snort, Draco shook his head. “Thought so.”
“Let me think, will you?” Harry groused.
He fell into a sullen silence. The footsteps had stopped; whoever had been about to leave the Slytherin common room must have either paused along the way or gone back to the dorms. Harry kept his ears open for any more sounds from behind the wall as he mulled over Draco’s question. How would he do it? He certainly couldn’t mention it himself if he was going to be hiding under the Invisibility Cloak with Draco. Getting another student to do it was a possibility, but there was no one around, and besides, Harry didn’t really trust any of the students who had stayed behind for break with his and Draco’s suspicions about Nott.
Glancing around absently, his eyes fell on a familiar silvery-white figure, floating near the other end of the corridor. A grin broke out on his face. Of course.
Figuring it was safe to raise his voice, Harry threw off the cloak and called down the hallway, “Nick!”
The ghost of Nearly Headless Nick turned towards the sound of his name being called. In a matter of seconds, he was at Harry’s side and adjusting his ruff.
“Good morning, Harry!” he said cheerfully, tipping his plumed hat at Harry. “What can I do for you?”
Harry shot a sideways glance at Draco, who had shrunk away from the silvery, transparent entity Harry had called over. Chuckling, he explained the situation to Nick.
“I see,” said Nick, a frown creasing his silvery features. “And what is it that you would like me to do?”
“If you could just ask them about the attack” – Draco started rubbing at his chest with two fingers absently; Harry noticed this motion out of the corner of his eye and frowned – “without being too conspicuous about it, that would be great.”
If Nearly Headless Nick found this request strange, he did not show it. “I would be delighted to help,” he said, beaming.
Harry’s ears perked up. The sound of footsteps was once again nearing him from the other side of the wall. “Okay, I think they’re coming,” he said, pulling the cloak back over the both of them. “You okay?” he muttered out of the side of his mouth to Draco, who had stopped touching his scar through his shirt.
“Yes, why wouldn’t I be?” Draco asked irritably. He didn’t seem to have noticed his own reaction to Harry’s brief mention of the attack.
“Never mind,” Harry said quickly. “Stay quiet, will you?”
Draco stilled beside him. As silence fell between the two of them, Harry’s heightened senses began picking up Draco’s every breath, every movement. It was intensely distracting, being within such close vicinity to the other boy. After a few seconds, Harry found himself wishing he could just tell Draco to stop breathing, because every time he exhaled, he sent a puff of warm air ghosting past Harry’s very sensitive ear, and it sent tingles that weren’t altogether unpleasant dancing across his skin.
The list, Harry suddenly remembered, as the seconds dragged on. Now Malfoy can cross off number one. He’s invisible.
Before he could point this out to Draco, Harry was distracted by the stone door concealed in the wall sliding open with a loud grinding noise and the subsequent emergence of a small group of Slytherins. The girl in the front – Harry didn’t recognise her, but she looked like a second or third year – seemed to be leading the pack. As she turned right (bringing her face a mere foot away from Harry’s), Nick appeared out of the opposite wall.
Two of the girls in the group screamed; the one in the lead jumped slightly, but recovered quickly. “Aren’t you the Gryffindor ghost? The one who never got his head properly chopped off?” she asked haughtily, smoothing down her skirt.
Nearly Headless Nick looked rather miffed by this description, but he nodded. “I certainly am,” he said, somewhat stiffly.
The boy next to the girl – Harry recognised him as Thomas Lowe, a third year who had once been caught cheating on a Charms exam – laughed loudly. “Only a Gryffindor would screw up his own execution,” he said scathingly.
Harry didn’t notice that his fists had clenched at his sides until he felt the nudge of Draco’s elbow in his side. He looked over, and Draco shook his head, his expression unreadable. Harry slowly exhaled and relaxed his fingers, grateful that Draco at least wasn’t amused by his housemates’ snark.
“Actually,” Nearly Headless Nick said, raising his voice to be heard above the malicious laughter that Thomas Lowe’s comment had prompted, “I was just passing by in hopes that the Baron would know something about what happened to that Malfoy boy. But I see that he’s not here, so I’ll come back another –”
“We know what happened,” the leader said smugly. Draco exhaled sharply next to Harry’s ear, and Harry shivered at the sensation. He knew what was going through Draco’s head. He, too, had assumed that the Slytherins would be more reluctant to open up to a member of the Gryffindor house. But these students were young and most likely too immature to realise that spilling such valuable information could be a potentially bad idea.
“And what’s that?” Nearly Headless Nick asked, oh so casually. He subtly winked in Harry’s direction.
“Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? That Draco Malfoy is a traitor, and he got what he deserved. Teddy made sure of that.”
Now it was Draco’s turn to tense up beside Harry. Worried, Harry lightly touched the other boy’s arm in a silent effort to soothe him. Draco’s muscles, however, remained taut under Harry’s fingers, and he continued to clench his jaw as he stared past Harry and at his housemates.
“Theodore Nott, of course. He’s absolutely brilliant. He came up with this idea – with the wand, you know, and he poisoned the cuts, too, which I never would’ve thought of – and then he got Malfoy when he was coming in from the grounds late at –”
The girl stopped there, for the wall behind her was sliding open again, and this time Theodore Nott was the one emerging from the Slytherin common room.
He noticed his housemates first. “What’re you doing skulking around here, Augusta?” he snapped, turning his attention to the girl who had just been talking about him.
“Teddy!” she said, her pale, pudgy face flushing. “We were just talking about what you did to Malfoy.” She drew out Draco’s name as if it were something vile. Harry barely suppressed an eye roll.
“I told you not to talk about it publicly,” he said furiously, scowling unattractively. It was then that he noticed Nearly Headless Nick floating a metre away. His beady eyes narrowed. “Get out of here, this is Slytherin territory,” he snarled.
Nearly Headless Nick bowed, making sure to keep one semi-transparent hand on his head to prevent it from swinging off. “My apologies. I’ll be heading off now…”
And then he floated back through the wall he had materialised out of.
No sooner had Nearly Headless Nick disappeared than Nott rounded on Augusta. “Did you tell that ghost anything?” he growled.
She looked frightened. “Yes, but just a bit – I only said one or two sentences to him, Teddy, really, I didn’t mean to –”
But Augusta’s protests were cut off by a resounding smack – Nott had slapped her across the face. She cried out in pain and pressed both hands to her cheek, which was quickly turning a harsh, angry shade of red.
Harry managed to suppress a gasp, but only in the nick of time. He barely noticed that he was biting his lower lip so hard that it was bleeding as he took in the scene, and before he could compose himself, he was turning away, grabbing Draco’s wrist in one hand and the cloak in the other, and tugging Draco along after him as he ran down the hallway, all attempts to remain quiet forgotten.
They rounded the corner, dashed down the next corridor, and didn’t stop until they were back on the first floor. At some point, Harry had tugged the Invisibility Cloak off and stuffed it into his pocket. Panting, he now checked his pocket to make sure it was still there.
Draco was silent as they both fought to catch their breaths. After a few minutes, he said quietly, “They’re always like that.”
Harry shook his head, unable to meet Draco’s eyes. “It’s sick,” he said hoarsely. “Nott is… that was wrong.”
“She asked for it,” Draco said tonelessly.
“She’s twelve years old, Malfoy!”
“But she spoke without thinking. She betrayed Nott.”
“Don’t tell me you’re still sticking up for that bastard!”
“I’m not sticking up for him, get that through your thick head! I’m telling you why he did it, since you obviously don’t have the brain capacity to view a situation from any perspective other than yours!”
“I don’t care why he did what he did! Hitting a girl who did nothing wrong but talk too much is low,” Harry snarled. “If you disagree – if you honestly think there’s nothing wrong with that – you can get the fuck out of my sight right now.” He waited for a few seconds, and nodded triumphantly when Draco, despite the ugly scowl on his face, stayed rooted to his spot. “That’s what I thought.”
Draco folded his arms and looked away, his jaw tight. “It’s not a question of morals, Potter. Nott needed to do that. D’you reckon she’d ever learn not to go blabbing to people she can’t trust if he let her off? And for God’s sake,” he added exasperatedly, noticing the vehement look on Harry’s face, “it was just a slap! He didn’t even draw blood!”
“There are better ways to teach someone a lesson,” Harry argued through gritted teeth.
“Yeah? Why don’t you go share them with Nott, then?” Draco sneered. “Let me guess – sit her down and tell her, kindly and firmly, that she should think before she opens her mouth next time. I’m sure he’d be delighted to take your suggestions into consideration.”
“I’m not joking, Malfoy.”
“Neither am I. This isn’t your business, Potter. Let the Slytherins do as Slytherins do. Go play with your virtuous little Gryffindor friends if you don’t like it.”
Harry sighed, acknowledging the logic behind Draco’s words. “It’s just not right,” he grumbled.
“Nothing is right anymore,” Draco snapped. “If the world was still in order, I wouldn’t be here talking to you.”
“Where would you be?” Harry asked quietly, stepping onto the third floor landing. Draco had begun to head towards McGonagall’s office while they had been talking, and Harry had unconsciously followed him.
“Helping Aunt Bella come up with ways to kill off your lot,” he ground out, “or… or even trying to find you unsuspecting in the hallway and hex you.”
Harry glanced at Draco doubtfully, as he always did whenever Draco mentioned his doings as a Death Eater, but said nothing.
“Ready?” Draco asked. He and Harry had reached McGonagall’s office, and were standing just outside her door.
Harry shrugged. He looked peeved. With a twinge of exasperation, Draco realised it was because of what they had witnessed outside the Slytherin common room. Honestly, the git was so soft that it was a wonder he’d made it through the war, much less destroyed one of the greatest wizards of all time.
“Stop sulking,” Draco commanded, his tone clipped.
Harry’s jaw tightened noticeably, but he ignored the order and pushed past Draco to knock on McGonagall’s door.
The door swung open of its own accord. McGonagall was seated behind her desk, frowning at a long, unfurled scroll of parchment. She glanced up briefly when Harry and Draco stepped into the office.
“I’m afraid it will have to wait, boys; I’m busy at the moment. Have a seat.” She gestured at the hard-backed wooden chairs that had replaced the tartan sofa across the desk from her, and returned her attention to the document in her hands without a further word.
Draco sat down stiffly, but Harry remained standing. “Please, Professor, it’s really important,” he said earnestly.
McGonagall sniffed. “Mr Potter, I really am not –”
“It’s about what happened to Malfoy. We know Nott did it.”
McGonagall’s gaze sharpened behind her square spectacles. “I warned you already that I will not tolerate false accusations against your fellow students.”
“They’re not false! We have evidence!”
Sighing irritably, McGonagall put the parchment down on her desk. “Yes?”
Harry finally crossed the room and seated himself next to Draco. He looked very nervous now that he had McGonagall’s full attention. Draco glowered at the edge of McGonagall’s desk as Harry began describing the means by which they had prompted the truth out of Augusta.
“…so you see, he confirmed it before our very eyes and ears.”
For a very long moment, McGonagall remained silent, her stern face unreadable. Then she said, very slowly, “He physically assaulted Miss Grant, you say?”
Draco snorted in disbelief. “I don’t think that’s your primary concern right now!” he said loudly. “The injuries I suffered were far worse than Augusta’s, if I recall correctly.”
“Silence, Mr Malfoy,” said McGonagall sharply, before turning back to Harry. “I imagine you have solid proof that will convince me that what you’ve told me is more than just malicious lies designed to get back at a common rival.” Draco could swear her eyes flicked over to him as she said the last few words.
“A memory, Professor,” said Harry eagerly. “We thought maybe we could show you the memory of what happened in a Pensieve.”
McGonagall gave Harry a hard look, and Draco wondered vaguely if perhaps they were making a bigger deal out of the whole thing than was necessary. Sure, he wanted to make Nott suffer as painfully as possible, but maybe going at it by asking for McGonagall’s help – the responsible and legal way to do it – wasn’t the best idea.
Draco was just about to tap Harry on the shoulder and let him know that he’d settle for an Unforgiveable Curse or two when, with another incensed sigh, McGonagall pointed her wand at one of the many closets in the circular office. The doors flew open, revealing a low shelf, upon which sat a Pensieve.
Draco examined it from afar. The square-shaped basin was narrow in girth but tall, made of some kind of burgundy stone that Draco did not recognise. Its edges and engravings were clean and sharp, giving off the impression of infrequent use. This Pensieve looked nothing like the one his father had kept in his study; with a sense of smug satisfaction, Draco noted that Lucius’ had been far more impressive-looking than the headmistress’.
“Have you ever done this, Potter?” McGonagall asked sharply, as she retrieved the basin and set it down on her desk. It was far more formidable up close.
“Er… done what?”
“Extracted a memory.”
Harry looked surprised. “Well, I figured that you just… y’know, take your wand and…” He gestured vaguely at his temple, and flushed when his response was received with a blank stare.
Draco made a noise of mixed disbelief and amusement. “Oh, budge aside, Potter,” he said, stepping in and saving Harry from his embarrassment, “I’ll do it.”
He pressed the tip of his wand lightly to his temple, just below his hairline, and concentrated on forcing the memory of the earlier incident into it. Once he was sure he had the memory secured, he carefully pulled his wand away and shook the silvery thread clinging to its end into the Pensieve.
Immediately, the liquid inside the Pensieve began to swirl, and a miniature image of the hallway just outside the Slytherin common room floated into view. Lips pursed and forehead creased, McGonagall leaned over the basin to watch the scene play out.
As Draco waited, he couldn’t help sneaking a look in Harry’s direction. To his surprise, Harry’s eyes were already on him, studying him intently. In the brief moment of mutual realisation that followed, both boys blushed furiously – Draco knew, because as he watched the pink tinge in Harry’s cheeks bloom with unabashed fascination, he felt a similar upwards rush of blood colour his own cheeks. He quickly averted his gaze, too mortified at having been caught sneaking glimpses to let the knowledge that Harry had been staring first fully sink in.
So flustered was Draco that it took him a full four seconds to realise that the undeniably endearing sight of the famous Harry Potter blushing like a virgin milkmaid had sent a second rush of blood in the opposite direction. When Draco finally recognised the tightening in his groin for what it was, he nearly put his head down in his arms for shame. Frantically, he scrambled to cover his lap with his robes, all the while expecting a hideous crimson and gold float to appear out of nowhere and Potter to leap onto it and announce to the entire world that he had dragged Draco Malfoy into realms of attraction that Draco wasn’t ready – would never be ready – to deal with.
Confused and ashamed by the sudden storm of foreign feelings raging through him, Draco barely noticed when McGonagall straightened up, her face pinched and white with fury, and announced that Nott and any accomplices would be expelled immediately the next day; nor did he hear her say that she had something she needed to talk to the both of them about. Only when Harry nudged him in the side did he remember that he was still in headmistress’ office.
McGonagall didn’t seem to notice Draco’s strange behaviour. Looking straight at Harry, she announced, “I’ve just now received clearance from the Ministry for you and Mr Malfoy to take an extended leave of absence.”
This finally snapped Draco out of his daze. “What?” he asked dumbly. It had been so long since Harry had offered to accompany him to Azkaban that he had all but given up hope of ever seeing his mother.
“When?” Harry demanded from beside Draco.
Draco quickly calculated the days in his head. “Isn’t tomorrow –” he began to say, but Harry beat him to it.
“But Professor, tomorrow’s Christmas!”
“Yes, Potter, I’m aware, but the Ministry has –”
“I promised my friends I’d spend it with them.” The assertion was made stubbornly, and it carried with it an air of finality.
A surge of fierce, unexpected jealousy burned through Draco, and he had to grit his teeth to keep from blurting out the words that had tumbled onto the tip of his tongue – that he had thought that he, Draco, had been more important to Harry than another Christmas with his wretched little Gryffindor friends.
McGonagall’s eyes flashed. “In that case, you will have to tell Mr Malfoy, and not me, that you are backing out of your promise to him.”
“Can’t – can’t you ask them to move it back a few days?” Harry’s voice was pleading. “Please?”
“Your name can only get you so many favours, Potter,” McGonagall scolded, but there was the faintest note of sympathy in her voice. “I’m sorry, but they’re standing firm on the time and date.”
There was a sharp intake of breath. Then Draco felt, rather than saw (for he was back to staring at the edge of McGonagall’s desk as if breaking eye contact would result in his immediate death), Harry turn to look at him.
“Don’t call me that,” said Draco coldly, every muscle in his jaw twitching from the effort of restraining a snarl. “Go ahead. Go back to your –” he remembered in time that he was still in McGonagall’s presence, “friends. I don’t care. It makes no difference to me.”
“Fine, Malfoy.” Harry sounded hurt by Draco’s less-than-warm response. Good, Draco thought savagely. “But I was going to say that we should go and get our things ready if we’re leaving first thing in the morning.”
The arrangements were made quickly. Draco and Harry would meet in McGonagall’s office at nine the next morning, where they would take a Portkey to the wizard prison. They were free to spend the day without any Ministry guards around, as long as they returned to the school, by means of another Portkey, at noon.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Harry asked, as the two of them left McGonagall’s office and stepped onto the spiralling staircase.
“Nothing,” Draco replied, his quavering voice betraying him. Oh no, here it comes. Potter’s going to confront me now. “Look, Potter,” he said weakly, figuring he might as well get a word in first, “that meant nothing. I didn’t mean – I can’t – I’m just not –”
“Um, Malfoy, what the hell?” Harry enquired politely. He laid a hand on Draco’s arm; Draco recoiled so strongly that he bumped into the railing of the moving staircase.
“Don’t,” he said sharply. He didn’t have a clue when things had changed, but suddenly Harry’s touch was like the lick of a flame against his skin, and it terrified him in a strange, unidentifiable way. Not that whatever he and Harry had wasn’t strange and unidentifiable already, but this was different… this was physical, this was tangible, this was there enough to serve as evidence that Draco’s desperation had twisted his and Harry’s cautious partnership into something deeper and more dangerous.
Harry stepped off the staircase, turned to face Draco, and folded his arms, effectively blocking the exit. “Look, Malfoy,” he said angrily, “I’m giving up a lot to do this for you. Hell, I’ve given up more of my life than I ever should for your selfish arse all year. The least you could do right now is tell me why you’re so bloody jittery all of a sudden.”
Draco sighed as he moved onto the landing and reluctantly met Harry’s eyes. Normally his own temper would proudly rise to the challenge of battling with Harry’s, but all he felt at the moment was confusion so thick and heavy that he couldn’t even rouse a few sparks of indignation. “Forget it,” he muttered.
“Then at least show some courtesy, because telling McGonagall that I take back what I said is still an option,” Harry snapped, before turning on his heel and walking out of the opening that had appeared in the stone wall.
Draco’s own haughty words came back to him. “I owe you my life, not my courtesy.” He opened his mouth to spit them out, but they crumbled to ashes on his tongue.
Wincing, Draco silently followed Harry out into the hallway, weighed down by the knowledge that – Merlin help him – Harry had finally fractured his self-control.