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Puzzling Panic

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When Harry and Ron entered the eight year dorm they shared with Theodore Nott, they didn’t just find him. Draco Malfoy was there too, crouched in front of Theo, who was seated on the floor swaying back and forth and trembling all over. It was quite obvious he was having a panic attack.

“Don’t focus on anything else Theo, just my voice and your breathing. It’s alright, you’re not going to die. When this is over we’ll make a plan to fix this mess, but for now push those thoughts away. Breathe in and out, there’s enough air for it. It and out again, in and out.”

Harry exchanged a puzzled look with Ron. Malfoy had been quiet and reserved this year, going out of his way not to bother anyone with his presence. They barely saw him, and this was the first time they heard him talk this much.

But it wasn’t just that he was talking a lot, it was the tone he used that puzzled Harry. It was low, calming, and for lack of a better word also loving. Harry had never heard the blonde talk like that before, and judging by his confused face neither had Ron.

Malfoy shifted and pulled Theo onto his lap, massaging calming circles on Theo’s back as he did so. “I’m here Theo, and I’m not going anywhere, ever. Now you just need to breathe, and I’ll take care of everything else. Just breathe in and out, in and out. We will find a place for all of us, but first you have to breathe, alright?”

Malfoy continued his stream of what appeared to be nonsense, while Harry beckoned Ron to go with him to the hallway. The scene in front of them wasn’t one that needed witnesses.

“That’s so weird, seeing the ferret act human.” Ron shook his head as he eyed their closed dorm door. “I didn’t know he could do that.”

“Me neither.” Harry sighed. He couldn’t help but think that the way Malfoy handled Theo’s panic attack was much better than Ron’s awkward pats on his back. Not that he wasn’t grateful for that, but the soft murmurs of Malfoy seemed… More calming, somehow. Even though Malfoy was still his ex-arch nemesis.

Though really these days Malfoy wasn’t anything of Harry’s anymore. He was just a student. A quiet student who had pulled a lot of shit in the past, but who had apologised profoundly for it, and now he was more one of them than he’d ever been before.

The only extra  attention he ever got was when some younger years thought it was fun to use him as target practice. Not that that happened very often these days, because the eight years had taken to silently blocking all the hexes and curses. The war was over now, and Malfoy might have been a pain in the butt before, but even for him Hogwarts had to be a safe space.

“I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t try and talk to Theo about what happened. He’s not comfortable with it.” Harry was snapped out of his thoughts by Malfoy, who had exited their dorm. “And if he gets a panic attack again I would be really grateful if you told me. I’m just down the hallway, last door on the left. I know I have acted like a complete arse to you two over the last years, but this isn’t about me, it’s about Theo. Would you tell me?”

“Of course.” Ron nodded solomy right away, and Harry had to admire him for it. The feud between Harry and Malfoy was just about the two of them, but between Ron and Malfoy it was also about family. It had to be a lot harder for Ron to forgive Malfoy or act civil to him when you took that into consideration.

Harry just awkwardly stood there as Malfoy walked away. He had no idea how to act around the Slytherin now that they weren’t fighting anymore. Eventually he tried to shrug off the uneasy fibe and headed towards the showers in the prefect’s bathroom with Ron. Theo probably wanted to be left alone now, or at the very least he wouldn’t want to be with them. Right now their dorm mate needed his friends.

He needed Malfoy.


 

It was late at night a couple weeks later, when Harry thought about his encounter with Malfoy again. The hands of the clock in his dorm ticketed away, each passing second announced louder than the one before, until all Harry could hear was the bloody thing slowly reaching for the third hour of the night.

It helped, usually, to even out his breathing after a nightmare by counting the seconds passing by. Each second brought him further away from the war and from his nightmare, and closer to the end of his panic attack.

Tonight, however, the clock wasn’t enough. The only thing it did was hurt his ears by ticking harder and yet somehow also slower each time a second passed. When the ticking started to sound like the explosions he’d heard in battle, Harry fled the dorm.

With a heaving chest and trembling hands he made his way through the hallway until he’d reached the last door on the left. Then he sank to the ground, motionless apart from the tremble in his fingers. He didn’t dare knock. It was ludicrously late, he’d barely exchanged a word with Malfoy all year and he just…

He didn’t know what it was. All he wanted to do was to knock on the door, and hear that calming voice again, but the one thing he was incapable of doing at that moment was knock. So he just sat there, shaking, trying to push the tornado of thoughts and flashbacks and fear out of his mind all by himself.

Or at least, that was the case until the door opened on his own to reveal a mob of messy blonde hair and a purple bathrobe. A flash of confusion came over Draco Malfoy’s face at the sight of Harry Potter sitting in front of his door, but it was gone within a second and replaced by quiet concern. Quickly, he kneeled down in front of Harry and grabbed his hands.

“Shh, it’s okay Harry. You’re okay. Just breathe now, in and out, in and out.” Hearing Malfoy’s voice felt like a weight was lifted off Harry’s chest, and though the tornado didn’t stop, it did start to slow down. “Just listen to my voice, and focus on your breathing. Ignore everything else. Just listen, and focus. You’re doing such a great job. Breathe in, and breathe out. That’s right.”

Then, the thing Harry had secretly hoped for somewhere in the back of his mind, actually happened. Malfoy sat down on the floor in front of him and guided him into his lap. “It’s okay. I’ve got you. It’s okay. Just breathe Harry. In and out, deep breaths, that’s right.” Harry slowly felt the storm in his head diminish, making him feel somewhat normal again. “You’re okay, I promise. I’ve got you.”

You have got me. Harry thought as his breathing evened out, and he rested his head against Malfoy’s chest. It felt weird, sitting there, but in a nice, new and miraculous way. Being there, pulled flush against Malfoy’s chest, he finally felt like maybe he really would be okay. That he might have nights without nightmares in the future. That he had a future.

“Thank you.” He whispered, his voice hoarse from tears he hadn’t even realised he’d cried.

“Don’t mention it.” Malfoy replied, as his hands rubbed circles on Harry’s back. “And next time you can knock. I don’t mind. You’re never bothering me, just so you know.”

Harry closed his eyes, and pressed his face into the crook of Malfoy’s neck. The scent there calmed him further, and it just felt so nice being closer to the man. “Thank you.”

“Thank you too.” Malfoy pulled him a little closer, and Harry thought he could hear a faint smile in his words. “It means a lot to me that you’d come here. I never thought you would.”

“Neither did I.” Reluctantly Harry put some distance between him and Malfoy so he could look the Slytherin in the eye. He seemed somewhat nervous, and Harry didn’t blame him. It must be weird to barely talk to someone you’ve been feuding with since forever, and then suddenly have them cry on your shoulder. “But I’m glad I did. It’s time to move on from our past and get a fresh start. We both made it this far because and despite of each other.”

Harry kept his eyes fixed on Malfoy and knew he was thinking about the same things. That time in the bathroom in sixth year. The manor during the war. The burning Room of Requirement during the battle of Hogwarts. Malfoy tossing Harry his wand. Harry speaking at Malfoy’s trial. Malfoy holding Harry until his panic attack was over.

“I would like that.” Malfoy whispered, and Harry didn’t know how it had happened but suddenly Malfoy’s lips were barely an inch away from his own. The grey eyes looked sincere, and if Harry hadn’t know it before then this would have been the moment for him to realise that Malfoy really had changed. That he wasn’t the same kid he’d fought with anymore, or the same young adult who had tried to harm him and others out of pure despair.

“Then it’s a deal.” And Harry’s idea to offer Malfoy his hand went out of the window when he shot one more glance at his delicious looking full lips. He crashed their mouths together and put his fingers through Malfoy’s terribly messy bedhead. As he did so the last bit of his panic vanished, and got replaced by butterflies.

It might be rushed, they might not work out, and maybe Harry would curse himself for doing this in the morning, but right in that moment he couldn’t care less. All he cared about was Malfoy’s body against his, and his breathing speeding up again for all the right reasons.

For the first time in his life, Harry thought that his panic attack may have led to something good.