Honestly, Harry probably should have seen something like this coming.
Or, maybe not. Whatever. It wasn’t any stranger than anything else that had ever happened to him.
Harry hit the wall of the corridor shoulder first and hissed out a surprised breath as Pansy Parkinson put her hands on her hips. She was scowling at him like she hadn’t just thrown the Hero of the Wizarding World into a small dark corner with no concern for his personal safety, which Harry felt was just the tiniest bit rude.
“Pansy?” Harry asked, more than just a little surprised.
“Potter,” she countered, folding her arms over her chest.
For a moment, they stood there looking at each other. Harry rubbed his shoulder, which did kind of hurt, and Pansy stood there scowling. Harry guessed she was trying to be as intimidating as possible, which was sort of adorable considering she was a full head shorter than he was.
“Can I help you?” Harry finally asked, feeling like he was missing something. After all, it wasn’t often that Pansy Parkinson deigned to speak to any Gryffindor, let alone one she’d very loudly and clearly hated for years.
“No. Yes. Ugh. I guess.”
“Thank you, Pansy, that was very helpful.”
“Would you shut up, Potter? I’m thinking.”
“Well, don’t let me stop you.”
A mildly uncomfortable silence fell. Harry could just hear the students chattering away in the Great Hall, and his stomach gurgled unhappily. He thought longingly of the pastries and wondered if the other students were enjoying them.
He glanced at Pansy. Pansy was still examining him.
She’d cut her hair, Harry noticed suddenly. It was sharper, angled over her face. He opened his mouth to tell her it looked nice and then closed it again. He didn’t really want to get punched, and he figured that’d probably be the only outcome of Harry saying anything about Pansy’s hair.
Actually, you know what? Only live once, and all that. Or twice, if you’re Harry Potter. Which he was. Not that he’s bragging.
“I like your haircut.”
Pansy blinked twice in quick succession. “My ha— Oh my god, how are you real?”
That was not entirely the answer Harry’d been expecting. “Uh, what?”
“Fine, I’ve made up my mind.”
Pansy stepped forward into Harry’s personal space bubble and poked him in the chest.
“Listen up, Potter, ‘cause I’m only going to say this once.” Pansy took a deep breath. “I need your help with something.”
“I actually gathered as much, thanks.”
“It has to do with Draco.”
Now that, that was where Harry should have just turned around and sprinted for the Gryffindor common room, dinner be damned.
“Malfoy?” he asked, stupidly, and Pansy rolled her eyes.
“No, Draco Turner. Of course Draco Malfoy. How many Dracos do you think I know?”
“But Malfoy hates me.” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, however, Harry knew them to be a lie. Draco Malfoy may have hated him once – and yes, the feeling had been entirely mutual – but recently in this strange Eighth Year back at school after the war, Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter had come to a sort of awkward cease-fire.
Awkward because Harry hadn’t been within ten feet of Malfoy since they’d returned to finish their schooling, despite sharing nearly every class as well as all the mealtimes. In fact, if Harry had been a more suspicious individual, he’d almost say that Draco Malfoy had been avoiding him.
And well, it rankled, just a bit. After testifying on Draco and Narcissa’s behalf at their trial all those months ago, Harry had rather hoped that they might be able to start fresh. A half-remembered and unanswered handshake crept up in the back of his mind more often than not these days, and after all that fighting and bloodshed, schoolboy rivalries seemed more than a bit stupid.
Pansy shook her head. “He doesn’t hate you. He’s embarrassed.”
“Embarrassed? Why, because of the trial?”
Pansy snorted. “Among other things.”
Harry considered this statement for a moment before dismissing it as indecipherable. “Why do you need my help? He’s been avoiding me, hasn’t he? I don’t see what I can do. Or even what the problem is, honestly.”
Pansy drew herself up to her full height and regarded him. “He’s been skulking around by himself, doing the whole ‘former Death Eaters can’t have any friends or redemption arcs’ nonsense. Sitting by himself, eating in the library, staring bleakly into mirrors. It’s all rather sad.”
That did sound rather sad. Harry frowned, trying to remember the last time he’d seen Malfoy in the Great Hall for a meal.
“So what do you want me to do?”
Pansy smirked. “The boy needs a friend, Potter. He won’t talk to any of us Slytherins and we’re starting to get...”
Harry felt the situation rapidly slipping from his grasp and suspected he’d never really had hold of it to begin with. “You want me to be friends with Draco Malfoy because you think that will stop him from being... sad.”
“Bingo, give the boy a prize.”
“Pansy, that’s ridiculous. I am the last person Malfoy wants to see right now.”
For a split second, Pansy looked like she was biting back a laugh. Like something he’d said was ridiculously hilarious. “I think, Potter, you’ll find that’s not entirely accurate.”
Harry didn’t really know what to say to that. Did that mean Malfoy wanted to see him? That couldn’t be right.
Pansy rolled her shoulders and looked behind her at the doors to the Great Hall. “Now, that’s that, then. I’m going to get some pudding before it’s gone.”
Pansy had only taken a few steps towards the Great Hall before she stopped and turned back. “And Potter? If you fuck this up, I will string you up by the balls.”
Harry winced. Pansy smiled cheerily and skipped off into the Great Hall, leaving Harry standing there in the corridor. He hadn’t really agreed to do anything, had he? Or had Pansy taken his stunned silence as an agreement?
In any case, Harry was still fuzzy on what exactly his responsibilities were here. How in the name of Merlin’s bloody pants was he supposed to befriend someone who not only didn’t want to see or talk to him, but who also he’d once sliced open accidentally with a half-cocked spell and sent to the Hospital Wing covered in his own blood?
Harry winced internally at the memory. That… hadn’t been one of his prouder moments.
Come to think of it, maybe he did owe Draco an apology for a few things. For more than a few things. He didn’t really hate Malfoy – not anymore.
Maybe... he could just start with an apology?
With the sneaking suspicion that the day wasn’t going to end without getting jinxed, Harry headed into the Great Hall to catch the end of dinner and, apparently, figure out the best way to start a conversation with and also befriend Draco Malfoy.
Or something. Apparently.
As it turned out, the first step to befriending Draco Malfoy was actually finding Draco Malfoy. Malfoy was acting more like a ghost than the actual castle ghosts these days, slipping in and out of classrooms faster than Harry could grab hold of him.
He finally resorted to stopping Pansy on her way out of charms a few days later after only catching the barest hints of white blonde hair around corners or sneaking out of classrooms. If Harry didn’t know better, he’d suspect Draco of apparating around the castle. But no, turned out Malfoy was just really good at sneaking away when he didn’t want to be found.
“Pansy,” hissed Harry, grabbing her by the upper arm.
Pansy looked from his grip on her arm to his face with deliberate slowness, raising one perfectly arched eyebrow.
Harry looked down at his grip on her arm also and slowly released her, raising his hands in defense.
Pansy sighed and waved Blaise Zabini, who was watching with avid interest, to go on without her. They had a silent conversation consisting entirely of raised eyebrows and scowls before Blaise huffed an irritated breath, threw up his hands, and stalked off down the corridor.
“What is it, Potter? I’ve got transfiguration homework.”
“I can’t find Malfoy,” Harry whispered, looking both ways down the corridor. They were alone for the most part – the corridor had emptied rather quickly after Flitwick’s lesson had wrapped up.
Pansy raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean, you can’t find him? He’s in literally every one of your lessons, Potter. You sit across from him in the lesson we just had.”
“Right but,” Harry swept his hand dramatically to motion to the empty corridor. “Do you see him? He’s apparating. He has to be. No one is that sneaky.”
Pansy snorted. “No, he’s just good at running away from things he wants.”
“Nothing. Did you try the library during mealtimes?”
Harry opened his mouth, then closed it. No, he had not. Pansy sighed dramatically like he was an affront to her very state of being. “Go to the library instead of the Great Hall around dinner time. Bring food. He’s probably not eating.”
Harry nodded, hoisting his bag up on his shoulder. “Library, dinner, food. Got it.” He paused, considering Pansy. “You really care about him, huh?”
Pansy shrugged, trying to look like she didn’t care and failing pretty miserably at it. “He stuck by me through some really dumb teenage phases. I owe the guy.”
That didn’t sound like the whole story, but Pansy looked just a smidgen uncomfortable so Harry let it go.
“So library, dinner, food,” he reiterated, awkwardly trying to change the subject. “What does he like to eat?”
Pansy shrugged again. “Whatever. Just bring him something. He won’t care what it is, just that you’re bringing it.”
“No reason. Can I go?”
Harry squinted suspiciously at her before stepping aside. Pansy swept past him in a cloud of some kind of expensive perfume and Harry turned to watch her go, feeling strangely like he’d underestimated Pansy Parkinson back when all she was to him was Malfoy’s shrill and irritating friend.
A voice in his head that sounded suspiciously like Hermione was mumbling something about “telling him so” and “not all Slytherins, Harry” and “interHouse unity, Harry” but Harry tuned it out and squared his shoulders.
Library, during dinner. Bring food. Easy enough – he could do that.
So why did the thought of bringing Malfoy dinner in the library make his palms sweat and his heart race?
Maybe… he was getting sick?
Ah well. Probably nothing. Certainly nothing that would come back to impact his life dramatically at some later date.
Harry wondered if Malfoy liked pumpkin pasties.
The library was pretty deserted around dinner time, with most of the students packed into the Great Hall and not particularly worried about studying.
Harry stood in the doorway for a moment, holding a few warm dinner rolls wrapped in napkins and feeling suddenly unsure of himself. Was this whole thing just Pansy winding him up?
It was entirely possible. Harry walked into the library, wandering down a few rows of books. The dinner rolls felt heavy in his hands, like they weighed more and more with every step he took, and his school bag really was heavy, the strap cutting into his shoulder.
Harry rounded the corner past a bookshelf crammed full of bulging Care of Magical Creatures textbooks and there he was, tucked away in the back of the room by a big bay window.
Draco Malfoy had books spread out on the table in front of him and was scribbling away at a roll of parchment, sleeves rolled up to his elbows and ink smeared on his fingers.
There was a white bandage wrapped tightly around his left forearm. Harry pondered the bandage for a moment, brain sticking on the last time he’d seen that particular bit of skin laid bare, before he returned his attention to Malfoy’s face.
Malfoy had the tip of his tongue stuck between his teeth as he concentrated and as Harry stood there watching him, he slowly dipped his quill in the inkwell and scrawled a final word onto what looked like it might be the transfiguration essay Harry’d been dutifully Not Doing and tossed the quill onto the tabletop with a flourish.
Harry’d never noticed before but there was a current of grace that underlined every movement Malfoy made. He wondered vaguely if it had to do with the aristocratic upbringing. Malfoy chose that moment to look up from his essay directly at Harry, blink twice, and promptly lurch backwards in shock. He fell out of his chair to the floor with a thump and a decidedly ungraceful yelp.
“Malfoy?” Harry hurried forward, putting the dinner rolls on the table as Malfoy scrambled up, getting briefly tangled in his robes before jumping to his feet.
“Potter!” Malfoy bit down on whatever else he’d been about to say and looked frantically over Harry’s shoulder, almost like he was gauging the distance to the exit.
Harry surreptitiously slid so he was blocking the view to the door and looked down at Malfoy’s essay. “Is that transfiguration?”
Malfoy opened his mouth, then shut it again. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s a library. I’ve got that homework too,” Harry said promptly and, figuring there was nothing else for it, pulled out the chair opposite Malfoy’s and threw himself into it.
Malfoy gaped at him and Harry ignored him completely, pulling his transfiguration book out of his bag and rummaging around for a quill.
“This table’s taken, Potter,” Malfoy snapped, seeming to find his voice, and for a moment there was a flash of the old Draco Malfoy in his tone, haughty and tight and high. Harry didn’t bother to look up from where he was digging around in his bag.
“I like the window. Table’s big enough for two, isn’t it?”
Damn it, where the hell was his quill?
“Besides.” Harry gave up his search as fruitless and sat back in the chair, looking up at Malfoy. Malfoy looked like he was standing on the balls of his feet, poised to run. Harry pointed at the dinner rolls. “I brought food. Didn’t see you at dinner.”
Malfoy looked at the rolls for a long moment.
Harry watched him watch the rolls for a beat, then nudged Malfoy’s empty chair backwards away from the table with his foot. Malfoy looked at the chair, then up at Harry. Harry raised an eyebrow and nodded at the chair.
After a very long pause, Malfoy sat gingerly on the edge of the chair.
Harry leaned forward and plucked a roll off the table. “Here.” He plunked the roll down on Malfoy’s half of the table. “That’s for you.”
“Also, you haven’t got a spare quill, have you? Seem to have forgotten mine.”
“A... spare quill?”
Malfoy stared at the roll. He was strangely silent, his ears a weird shade of pink, probably from sitting in the puddle of late afternoon sunlight dripping its way into the library from the bay window.
Harry realized, suddenly and a little guiltily, that Malfoy looked… well, uncomfortable. Harry was guessing uncomfortable, at least. That really wasn’t what he wanted. He didn’t want to force Malfoy into being his friend. Guy’d kind of been through a lot.
“Or I can… go back to the Tower and study. And get my quill.”
Harry awkwardly shoved himself back from the table and stood up. Malfoy’s head jerked up as Harry grabbed his bag.
“Wait— er, I mean, shut up, Potter, you’re already here. Just sit down.”
Harry paused, bag slung over his shoulder. “You sure? I can go. I get that I’m probably not the person you really wanna spend your off-time with.”
Malfoy gritted his teeth and looked away. Harry’s chair scooted backwards on its own and Harry looked back at Malfoy just in time to see him shoving his wand back into his pocket.
Harry grinned and sat down.
After a moment, Malfoy shoved a sleek black quill across the table.
“You can share my ink,” he muttered. “I’ve only got the one pot.”
“Thanks.” Harry took the quill and pulled his parchment towards him. This was good, right? Easy. Just two friends, studying together.
Except these particular friends weren’t actually friends (yet). More like two acquaintances, suffering under a cloud of strained silence punctuated by quill scratches.
Except that didn’t quite roll off the tongue quite as well, so friends it was.
Except Harry was pretty sure he was the only one writing.
He chanced a glance up at Malfoy and caught the other boy staring at him.
“I... didn’t say anything.”
Malfoy pressed his lips together so hard they turned as pale as his hair and snatched up one of the dinner rolls.
Harry considered this a minor victory and went back to his essay. He’d only written a few words before Malfoy spoke again.
Harry glanced up. Malfoy was scowling at the tabletop and it took Harry a long beat to realize that Malfoy was trying to make conversation.
Maybe Pansy was right – maybe Malfoy really was desperately lonely. Harry thought he understood a bit what that was like.
“Yeah. Pretty nice, right? Much better than the rain last week.”
The weather. That was a pretty neutral conversation topic.
Malfoy nodded jerkily and picked up his quill. They went back to their essays in silence.
They worked on their homework in a quiet punctuated only by the scritch-scratching of quills and the occasional cough. After a moment, Harry actually began to get some of his work done. There was always something about working on homework together with another person that made him feel more productive.
He went to dip Malfoy’s borrowed quill into the ink and the tip of his quill knocked against Malfoy’s as he also went for the ink pot.
Harry snorted. “En garde.” He made his quill play-fight with Malfoy’s for a moment, batting it out of the way before dipping the tip into the ink.
Malfoy spluttered. “It’s my ink, Potter! Don’t— did you just— how old are you?”
Harry snickered, bending his head to his essay so Malfoy couldn’t see him laughing. He chanced a glance upwards and was delighted to see Malfoy looking flabbergasted.
“Flobberworm got your tongue, Malfoy?” he teased, sitting back in his chair. “Don’t be upset that I’m better at quill fights.”
“You’re a child,” Malfoy hissed, but he didn’t look angry. Some of the tension in his shoulders had eased and Harry was pleased to see that the dinner rolls he’d brought were now nothing but crumbs.
He shrugged and bent back to his essay. He’d written all of a word and a half when something spattered across his parchment.
Black ink drops splotched his essay, blurring into the words and splashing onto the back of his hand.
Harry stared at the black dots, dumbfounded.
“Hey!” He looked up just in time to see Malfoy going about his work with almost too much focus and couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face. “Oh, really.”
Malfoy glanced up at him as Harry was jabbing the tip of his quill into the inkpot and whipping it upwards, sending little droplets of ink splattering across the table top before Malfoy could dodge them.
Ink dotted Malfoy’s face and for a moment, Draco Malfoy blinked owlishly at him, grey eyes wide underneath the fringe of pale blonde hair.
Then he grinned, but this wasn’t a grin Harry’d ever seen on Malfoy’s face before. This one was bright and cunning and it spelled danger with every curve and dimple.
Harry’s stomach gave a sudden but not unpleasant dip as Malfoy grabbed the inkpot and stuck his long pale fingers directly into it.
Harry barely had time to duck out of the way before Malfoy flicked globs of ink at him. He laughed as it went whizzing by his ear, prepared to tease Malfoy for missing when another glob of ink hit him in the cheek, dribbling down into his mouth.
“Oh, gross,” he moaned, scrubbing at his face, and Malfoy laughed.
Harry looked up, startled.
Try as he might, he didn’t think he’d ever heard Malfoy laugh like that before.
Malfoy blinked at him uncertainly, fingers dripping black ink onto the table top and Harry smiled. It was soft, he felt it on his face, far too soft for this new fragile friendship but to hell with it. He wanted to wipe that uncertain look off Malfoy’s face. He wanted the bright grin and the laughter back.
“You should smile like that more,” he said before he could think better of it.
Malfoy turned scarlet and his mouth did a funny little twitch, like he was trying to frown and smile at the same time.
Harry winced. Madame Pince stood behind them, scowling, hands on her hips.
“Look at the state of this! Clean it up right now and get out of my library. Clearly you’re done studying for the evening.”
Harry met Malfoy’s eyes and the two boys shared a brief conspiratorial look.
Malfoy pulled his wand out of his bag and waved it over the table. “Scourgify.”
The ink splatters vanished from the table and Pince watched them gather up their belongings and head out of the library.
They made it all the way into the corridor before Harry dissolved into laughter. “I can’t believe you got us kicked out of the library.”
“I got us kicked out?” Malfoy demanded, hoisting his bag up on his shoulder. “You’re the one who burst in and disturbed my peace.”
“Hey, you globbed the first ink glob.”
“Glob is not a verb, Potter, Merlin’s beard.”
“Is too. I just used it.”
Malfoy rolled his eyes so hard Harry was mildly surprised he didn’t pull a muscle. Then he glanced at Harry and a funny look crossed his face.
“Potter. You’ve got… uh...” Malfoy motioned at his own face vaguely.
Harry raised an eyebrow. “A face?”
“Looks that the Daily Prophet calls ‘devilishly handsome in a saved-the-world kind of way’?”
“It’s like you’re trying to be dense.”
Harry snickered and Malfoy hoisted his bag up on his shoulder again, fingers curled around the strap, and stopped walking. Harry stopped too, confused, and was wholly unprepared for Malfoy to step forward into his space and cup his cheek gently with one hand.
Harry’s breath caught. The twisting flutters in his stomach returned in full force.
“Uh...” he began, weakly, but Malfoy ignored him. Dimly, Harry noticed the tips of Malfoy’s ears were bright pink. Had his eyes always been that particular shade of grey? He’d never noticed.
“You’ve got… ink,” Malfoy said, voice a bit strangled, and swiped his thumb across Harry’s cheek.
Harry’s stomach did a backflip and a sudden thought crystallized in his brain that maybe Pansy Parkinson had seen something that he’d missed.
“Um,” he said again, and Malfoy jerked backwards. It was only then that Harry realized they’d been swaying unconsciously towards each other.
“I’ve got-- I’m going to bed,” Malfoy snapped, already taking several steps backwards away from Harry. “Alone! You can’t come!”
Harry blinked. “I-- was I invited?”
Malfoy spluttered out a half-choked noise before turning and fleeing up the corridor. He was walking so quickly it could almost be considered running and Harry watched him go, he couldn’t help but feel like something huge had just happened.
He stood there in the corridor, face on fire, the ghost-touch of Malfoy’s hand lingering on his cheek, and forced himself to consider whether or not he’d truly begun going insane. It was bound to happen sooner or later, right?
Either that, or he found Draco Malfoy, with his long fingers and his smirk and his pale hair, to be wildly attractive and quite possibly had for some time.
“Could be both,” Harry muttered to himself, before shoving his hands in his pockets and turning back up the corridor. “Bloody hell.”
Harry was still mulling over these possibilities when transfiguration rolled around again the following morning. So far, after a night and a breakfast of considering it, he was pretty sure he found Malfoy attractive.
But then, who wouldn’t? You didn’t have to look twice to see beauty in Draco Malfoy.
He shook his head sharply, trying to clear it, but it was no use. Every time his mind drifted, it was to afternoon sunshine and an unfamiliar laugh.
Figuring there was nothing else for it, Harry paced back and forth in front of the entrance to the dungeons where he knew the Slytherins had to pass by, waiting until he spotted Pansy Parkinson heading up the stairs.
“Pansy!” he hissed, leaping out from where he’d been skulking.
“Merlin’s bloody arse!” Pansy yelped, hand flying to her chest. “What the hell, Potter, are you trying to give me a heart attack?”
“Sorry!” Harry looked around before grabbing her arm and tugging her off to the side. “Just-- how did you know?”
Pansy stared at him like he’d grown an extra set of ears. “Excuse me?”
“How did you know that I… er, that Malfoy was…”
“Spit it out, Potter, I’ve got places to be.”
Harry lowered his voice. “How did you know I fancied Malfoy?”
Pansy stared at him, apparently at a loss for words. Then she tipped her head back and groaned theatrically.
“Oh, my god, I knew I’d regret this. I do not have time for this.”
“Seriously, Pansy. I didn’t even know.”
“Well, you’re an idiot.” Pansy sighed, reaching up and pinching the bridge of her nose. “Explain to me, Potter, how such an oblivious fool managed to stop He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named twice. Please. I actually have to know. Was all that stuff you did just a total accident?”
Harry opened his mouth, then shut it again. “Well. Some of it was kind of on purpose. But, well, most of it...”
“Stop. I changed my mind. I don’t want to know how close to certain doom we all came. It’s going to stress me out and my skin doesn’t need that.” Pansy let her hand drop back to her side. “I’m going to tell you something, Potter, but you didn’t hear it from me, alright?”
Harry nodded, waiting.
Pansy put both hands on Harry’s shoulders, looking him directly in the eye and Harry was struck again by how much shorter than him she was. She was like a pixie, only Harry was pretty sure that she was not going to be flattered by the comparison, so he kept his mouth shut.
“Draco Malfoy is avoiding you because he fancies you. And he has since we were like, eleven.”
Harry blinked. “Nuh-uh.”
Pansy rolled her eyes. “Uh, yeah-huh. Now maybe instead of coming to find me to talk about your suddenly realized feelings, you could go find him, snog the living daylights out of him, and I can stop coming back to the common room every night and having to listen to him mope about, whining about how you’ll never even look at him twice because you probably hate him, blah blah blah Dark Mark, et cetera.”
Harry held up a single pointer finger. “There’s a lot in that last sentence of yours that I’d like to discuss in detail.”
“Not with me, you’re not.” Pansy gave him a little shove backwards, more of a gentle urging than anything with any real malice behind it. “Now. Go track him down so that I can stop listening to my best friend be utterly pathetic every night.”
Harry watched as she headed off across the Entrance Hall towards the stairs. Something very warm was twisting around in the pit of his stomach and when he put his hand up to his face, he could feel his cheeks burning.
Draco Malfoy… fancied him?
A memory prodded at the back of his mind, a memory of Draco’s pale face, wide-eyed and clearly terrified, leaning over his.
“I… can’t be sure.”
Well, bloody hell. Harry looked around the empty Entrance Hall before heading for the stairs himself. He’d check the library, then maybe a few of the empty classrooms. Hopefully Hogwarts would help him out on this one – if Draco didn’t want to be found, Harry wasn’t likely to just stumble upon his hiding place.
Plus, he could be in his own common room. Although, with the way Pansy had pushed him at the stairs, Harry wasn’t betting on that one.
He took the stairs two at a time, lost in his own thoughts.
Harry was just sort of realizing his own feelings at this point but Pansy had made it sound like Draco’d been feeling this for a long time. Harry didn’t want to scare Draco off by suddenly coming on strong and over the top. But then, what was he supposed to do? The more Harry thought about it, the more he very much wanted to take Draco’s face in his and snog him breathless. He wanted to make Draco laugh again the way he had in the library the other day. He wanted to see that smile cross his face, instead of the semi-permanent scowl that seemed to be otherwise stuck there.
Harry stopped dead in the center of the corridor, a thought striking him with all the force of a stupefy.
“I’m going to woo him,” he said, the words as firm as anything Harry Potter had ever declared before.
“You’re going to what?” asked a painting of an elderly wizard to his left. Harry ignored the painting and strode off down the corridor again, this time with renewed purpose in his steps.
He needed a plan. What did Draco Malfoy like?
The list was tragically short, mostly because Harry was quickly realizing that while he knew quite a lot about Draco Malfoy his enemy, he didn’t know much about Draco Malfoy, his-sort-of-friend-and-maybe-more-soon-if-he-was-lucky.
Draco liked to fly. Harry was pretty sure about that one. Draco actually liked Quidditch, even if he had bullied his way onto the Slytherin team at first. Maybe Harry’d ask if he wanted to go flying together. If Harry could ever find him, that is.
He wandered the corridors for a while, peeking into random rooms, but there was nothing for it, so he trudged back to the Gryffindor common room, plans swirling in his brain.
Ron looked up from where he was sprawled on his back in front of the fire, long legs dangling off the end of the little couch.
“Harry! Finally, get over here. Explain to me again why we came back to finish school.”
“Because Hermione would have flat out murdered us both if we hadn’t?” Harry crossed the room and dropped into the squashy armchair nearest Ron’s couch. “And we didn’t survive an entire war to get murdered by your girlfriend?”
Ron grinned at him, his head lolling off the edge of the cushion so he was hanging upside down. “Fair.”
Harry nudged at Ron’s shoulder with the toe of his trainer. “Get back up there before you fall on your head.”
Ron groaned and hoisted himself back up onto the couch. “So where’ve you been? I didn’t see you at dinner.”
Harry considered his options. Option one was, of course, to lie. But lying to Ron had never really worked out in his favor before.
Option two, however, was to confess to Ron that he’d sort of started wanting to snog Draco Malfoy and while many things had certainly changed since they’d come back, Ron’s distaste for the entire Malfoy family wasn’t one of them.
“I was… talking to Pansy Parkinson,” Harry began delicately. Ron raised an eyebrow.
“Pansy Parkinson? Why?”
Harry chewed on his lip. Well, alright, he might as well just tell him. Ron would have to know eventually, right?
“So, here’s the thing...” he began, and the entire story spilled out. Pansy cornering him, his attempts to befriend Malfoy, the meeting in the library, the ink fight, and his latest conversation with Pansy.
When he’d finally wrapped it all up, Ron was gaping at him like he’d grown some sort of extra limb. Which, Harry surreptitiously checked, he hadn’t, much to his relief.
Then, to Harry’s utter amazement, Ron started to laugh.
“Bloody hell, Harry, I thought this was going to be something major.” He shook his head. “I owe Hermione ten Galleons.”
Harry stared at him. “You bet on me?”
Ron smirked. “Look, we may have been sort of wrapped up in our own thing, but I did pay attention to some of sixth year. And Harry, mate, I hate to be the one to break this to you, but you are not subtle.”
“You knew?”Harry hissed, leaning forward. “And you didn’t think to maybe, oh, I don’t know, tell me?”
“Hermione said you had to figure things out on your own, for ‘personal growth’. I wasn’t about to argue. How was I even supposed to bring that up with you anyway? ‘Oi, Harry, I know you’re all on about hating Draco Malfoy, but have you considered maybe shagging him instead?’”
Harry slumped backwards into his armchair with a groan, letting his chin tip forward onto his chest. “You’re the worst best friend ever.”
Ron rolled his eyes. “Alright, alright, calm down. Just go find Malfoy and snog his face off.” He made a face. “I can’t believe those words just came out of my mouth. Bloody hell. I may vomit.”
Harry scowled at him. “I’m having a crisis. Can you be maybe a little sympathetic?”
“No. I’ve had to deal with this knowledge for years now. It’s your turn to suffer.”
Harry groaned again, more theatrically this time, and Ron sighed.
“Come on, Harry, Malfoy’s been obsessed with you even longer than you’ve been with him. I’m positive that greasy git is pining away for your ‘heroic green eyes and hair darker than coal’ as we speak.”
Harry shot Ron a glare. “Don’t quote the Daily Prophet at me.”
Ron’s face split into a grin. “It’s just so funny, though.”
“Seriously, Harry, why are you even worried about this? Just go find Malfoy. It sounds like it was going great earlier.”
Harry shrugged. “I didn’t realize I… y’know. Earlier.”
“Wanted to snog him so hard even his gelled hair stands up on end?”
Harry managed to hold a scowl for approximately two seconds before he started to snicker. That set Ron off and before they knew it, they were laughing hysterically in front of the fireplace.
“Where’s...” Harry gasped, trying to drag enough air into his lungs to form a sentence, “where’s Her-Hermione’s Time Turner? I gotta go back-- gotta go back and tell First Year Harry some stuff.”
Ron reached up, trying to wipe away the tears welling in his eyes. “Oh, yeah, sure, don’t go back and tell him any of the Horcrux stuff – just grab that skinny git by the shoulders and shout ‘you want to snog Draco Malfoy’ into his face.”
Harry slid down in the armchair, reaching under his glasses and rubbing his eyes. His stomach hurt from laughing and in that moment, he was wildly grateful that Ron Weasley had sat down next to him on the Hogwarts Express all those years ago and offered him part of a mushed up sandwich.
Their laughter slowly faded and for a second they just lounged on the furniture, grinning stupidly at each other.
Then Ron’s grin changed into something a little softer. “Seriously, Harry. Get out of here and go finish this.”
Harry sighed and shoved himself up and out of the chair. “I can’t find him anywhere. I looked before I got here. I’ll… have to catch him before classes or something tomorrow.”
“There you go,” Ron said, standing up and shoving his homework into his bag. “Brilliant. Do that, then come find me and tell me all about how it went. I promise to only gag three times. Total.”
Harry shoved at his shoulder and together they headed for the stairs leading up to the dormitories.
But as Harry climbed into his bed that night, Ron’s snores already filling the room with a familiar rumbling snuffle, he couldn’t quite dredge up Ron’s confidence. Even if what Ron had been saying was true, about Draco being obsessed with him long before Harry’d stopped hating him with so much fervor, wasn’t it possible that he’d missed his chance? That Draco Malfoy had given up on him and just wanted to be left alone?
Harry yanked the blanket over his head and squeezed his eyes shut.
Even if that were true, that didn’t have to stop him from being friends with the guy, did it?
He thought again about the ink fight in the library and smiled to himself in the darkness, picturing the way Draco had laughed without a hint of condescension.
Oh, bloody hell. He had it bad.
He rolled over, burying himself as deep into his blankets and pillow as he could, and drifted into an uneasy sleep filled with dust motes drifting through golden sunlight and snatches of bright surprised laughter.
Harry managed to catch up with Malfoy after afternoon lessons the next day, falling into step beside him in the corridor. “Hey!” he said, only a little out of breath from running, and a lot out of breath from overthinking his greeting.
Malfoy’s fingers curled around the strap of his bag. “Potter.”
“How...” Harry had absolutely no idea how he’d planned on finishing that sentence. “How’d you like the lesson?”
Malfoy raised an eyebrow at him, clearly caught off guard. “It was… school.”
“It sure was,” Harry agreed, and wondered if it was too early in this whole thing to throw himself off the Astronomy Tower.
Malfoy smirked at him. “You’ve really got this conversation thing down cold, don’t you, Potter? No wonder you don’t do Daily Prophet interviews.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “I don’t do Daily Prophet interviews because I’ve had quite enough trauma for eighteen years already, thanks.” Then he paused. “Hang on. How do you know I don’t talk to them? Reading my articles, Malfoy?”
Malfoy turned abruptly scarlet. “Of course not,” he snapped. “Why would I waste my time reading garbage about you in that rag of a newspaper?”
Harry snickered and purposefully bumped their shoulders together as they walked. “Admit it. You’re hanging on their every word about me.”
“You are a pompous arse. I cannot believe that I--” Malfoy bit back his words so quickly he nearly choked. “I cannot believe,” he began again, staring straight ahead, his jaw clenched tight, “that you somehow managed to stop He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”
Harry fell quiet, watching the side of Malfoy’s face. It was a mask, an empty emotionless mask that Harry was starting to realize he hated.
“Malfoy,” he said, stopping in the middle of the corridor. “Are you busy right now?”
Malfoy stopped a few steps ahead of him and turned back, studying him suspiciously. “Why?”
Harry shrugged. His heartbeat ratcheted up a few notches and he thought back to Ron rolling his eyes at him in the Common Room and telling him to go for it. And then, strangely, he thought back to being fourteen years old and thinking that Cho Chang was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. “Want to go flying?”
The moment hung between them like spun glass and Harry was afraid that if he even breathed in Malfoy’s direction, it would shatter and Malfoy would vanish around the corner and he’d have lost his chance.
Malfoy stared at him, face completely blank, fingers curled around the strap of his bag so tightly that his knuckles were white. Then he bit his lower lip, sucked in a breath, and said, “Alright.”
“Brilliant!” Harry blurted. “I’ll uh, meet you out on the pitch? Fifteen minutes, then?”
“Alright,” Malfoy said again, and turned away without another word, striding off down the corridor towards the stairs.
Harry stared after him for a beat, maybe two, before he spun around, nearly tripping over the ragged toe of his trainer, and sprinted down the corridor in the opposite direction.
He made it out to the Quidditch pitch in record time, only barely having resisted the urge to chuck his broom out the window and fly there. As it was, Harry had taken the stairs two at a time and accidentally skidded straight through one of the ghosts, shouting a garbled apology over his shoulder as he’d stumbled down the stairs out onto the grounds.
The sun was starting to set, painting the rolling castle grounds with a deep fiery light, and Harry grinned up into the sky as the wind picked up and rustled through his hair.
An absolutely perfect afternoon to get some flying in. He mounted his broom and kicked off, flying in lazy loops around and around the pitch, letting his mind drift and his body take over. For a brilliantly crystal clear moment, Harry’s entire world fell away and the only thing he felt was the rush of air over his hands and face, the burn in his muscles and the drop in his gut as the world came rushing at him just before he pulled out of a dive. Up here he wasn’t Harry Potter: The Boy Who Lived (Twice), Hero of the Wizarding World and Savior of Millions. He wasn’t Harry Potter: Where Is He Now? and Harry Potter: The Unknown Story Behind the Boy Who Lived.
Up here, he was just Harry – a boy in thick glasses who tripped over his words and sometimes his feet, and who scribbled out mistakes on essays and spilled marmalade on his shirt during breakfast. Up here, he was just a boy who loved to fly.
Harry made another large loop around the end of the pitch and when he turned back towards the castle he spotted a figure down on the grass, pale face tipped upwards towards him.
Malfoy was holding onto his broom, watching him do laps, and Harry did a lazy turn towards him, sinking until he was hovering just above him. He leaned forwards on his broom, grinning down at him.
Malfoy licked his lips, something crossing his face so quickly Harry didn’t have time to decipher the expression.
“Well?” Harry said. The wind picked up, rustling its way across the pitch, kicking leaves up along the grass. “Come on, then.”
“Bloody hell,” Malfoy mumbled, so quietly Harry almost missed it, before he kicked his leg over his broom with ease born of practice and kicked off into the sky. He hovered in front of Harry for a moment, studying a point over Harry’s left shoulder. Then he reached into his robes and pulled out something small and round, flapping weakly against his hand.
Harry raised an eyebrow. “Is that a Snitch?”
Malfoy shrugged. “Asked for it for my birthday three years ago,” he admitted, releasing it and letting it fly about a foot away before making a grab for it. “Thought I’d--”
He stopped, biting down so hard on his lip that Harry was concerned he’d draw blood.
“Thought you’d what?”
“Thought I’d practice a bit,” Malfoy ground out and Harry raised both eyebrows this time.
He wondered what Malfoy would say if he knew Harry’d spent hours playing the same game of catch, letting the Snitch dance away before snatching it back. That that little thing connected them.
“Looks like it’s worked,” Harry said finally, watching Malfoy stare down at the Snitch in his hand. “Catching it like that’s bloody tough.”
Malfoy shot him a scowl. “Don’t patronize me, Potter.”
“I’m not, you git. I’m serious.” Harry pulled up on his broom a bit, putting a little distance between them. “Want to race for it?”
Malfoy looked at him, then at the Snitch in his hand, then back at Harry. A tiny grin crept onto his face and Harry felt his stomach clench in a way that had nothing to do with the height or the wind.
“If you think you can keep up with me, Potter,” Malfoy said airily, then opened his hand. The Snitch took off, fluttering a bit away, and they watched it pick up speed, zipping off into the distance.
“Go!” Harry called and shot off towards the other end of the pitch, making as if he’d seen exactly where the Snitch had gone. There had been a time when that would have worked – but Malfoy caught on immediately and instead pointed his broom upwards, climbing through the sky and Harry pulled up, cursing under his breath.
It could have been twenty minutes or it could have been twenty seconds – Harry scanned the pitch, as familiar with the goalposts and the green of the grass as he was with his own face in the mirror, looking for the telltale flash of glinting light off gold that would tell him where the Snitch was when suddenly Malfoy dove sharply from somewhere just to his left.
A split second too late, Harry spotted what Malfoy had seen – the Snitch, hovering lazily near the bottom of one of the left hand goalposts.
Harry took off after him but knew instinctively he wasn’t going to beat him. They skimmed along the grass at breakneck speed, half a broom length apart, wind biting at their skin, and Harry watched as Malfoy leaned out over his broom, fingers outstretched, and snatched up the Snitch.
His eyes followed the line of Malfoy’s arm, up his shoulder and neck, to his face, where--
“Harry, look out!”
Harry snapped his eyes back front just in time to plow headlong into the goalpost. His broom handle held, but he flipped spectacularly over the top of it and landed hard on the ground, gasping for air. His hand flew to his face, checking his glasses, and he swore viciously with what little wind hadn’t been knocked out of him because for fuck’s sake he’d broken his damn glasses again.
Malfoy skidded to a halt on the grass near him, scrambling off his broom. “Are you dead?” he demanded. Harry sat up, wincing, and Malfoy dropped down onto the grass beside him, heaving a sigh of relief.
“Potter, I swear, if you had crashed your broom and killed yourself flying alone with me and I’d had to go find bloody McGonagall and tell her, “uh, yes, excuse me, Professor, but Potter’s gone and died. No, I swear it wasn’t me, the former Death Eater who did it, but the Boy Hero himself. Yes, crashed his broom right into the goalpost, that’s right.”, you’d had better hope you didn’t come back as a castle ghost because I would have had to find a way to bloody murder you.”
Harry gaped at him, mouth half open. Malfoy shot him a scowl, color high in his cheeks, the Snitch still clutched in his fist. “What are you staring at?” he snapped.
A wide grin spread over Harry’s face and he started to laugh. His broken glasses slid down his nose, and he took them off, reaching up and rubbing his eyes. “That might be the most words you’ve ever said to me at one time,” he said, squinting down at the blob in his hand that he knew to be his glasses.
He squinted up at Malfoy then, a blur of blonde hair and pale skin and black robes against the orange sky. “Mind repairing these? Never did quite get the hang of that one. And I can’t really see so I might just end up jinxing us both or something.”
A soft breath, then a rustle. “You’re an idiot, Potter,” Malfoy said and Harry really really wished he could see at that moment because Malfoy’s voice had sounded… almost fond.
There was a tinkling of glass stitching itself back together and Harry grinned in what he was pretty sure was still Malfoy’s direction. “Cheers, Malfoy,” he said, shoving his glasses back on his face. The world cleared and sharpened and Harry sighed, letting his shoulders slump. “That was a nice catch,” he offered, tapping the side of Malfoy’s knee with his foot.
Malfoy looked down at the Snitch in his hand. “Why the hell did you not pull up when you saw the goalpost?” he asked and Harry cleared his throat.
“I, uh, didn’t see it?”
“Didn’t see it?” Malfoy spluttered. “Where the hell were you looking?”
“At you,” Harry said without thinking. The words hung between them, heavy and solid, and Harry tore his eyes away to stare down at the grass, feeling suddenly awkward. Merlin, but he’d never really been good at this, had he?
“Listen, Malfoy...” he began, feeling familiar nervous butterflies start to beat their wings against his ribs. “D’you think we could start over? Wipe the whole slate clean and just…”
“Be friends?” Malfoy asked quietly. Harry looked up at him to find Malfoy sitting with his knees drawn up against his chest, chin resting on top of them, studying his shoes like they were the most fascinating thing in the entire universe.
“Yeah.” Harry scooted forward a bit on the grass and went up on his knees, sitting so he was facing Malfoy, and stuck out his hand. “Hello there. I’m Harry Potter. I’m mostly rubbish at talking to people, and before I knew I could do magic, I accidentally turned my teacher’s wig blue. Nice to meet you.”
Malfoy stared at his hand, then stared up at Harry’s face for several long seconds. Harry didn’t flinch, didn’t look away from Malfoy, didn’t move his hand. Finally, Malfoy reached out and took it, slotting their palms together.
“Hi,” he said quietly. “I’m Draco Malfoy. I... pretend to hate History of Magic even though I think it’s interesting. Nice to meet you.”
Harry grinned, squeezing his hand once before dropping it. “Brilliant.”
A strange silence fell – not entirely uncomfortable, but certainly not familiar. Then Malfoy looked up at him. “Wait. Turned a wig blue?”
Harry laughed. “I wasn’t eleven yet and I grew up in a place that wasn’t exactly tolerant of magic. I had no idea why I was even in trouble.”
Malfoy snickered. “Trust you to get yourself into something like that before you’d even gotten to school. Tell me, Potter, have you ever had any good luck at all?”
Harry sat back on his heels, grinning. “You tell me. I ended up here, didn’t I? Alive too, which to be honest, I don’t think anyone was expecting.” Malfoy’s grin faltered and faded. Harry frowned, confused. “What?”
“I have to apologize,” Malfoy said stiffly. All traces of the easy conversation had disappeared in an instant, and Harry shook his head, cutting him off before Malfoy could get any further down that road.
“Malfoy--” he stopped, rethinking his words. “Draco.”
Malfoy’s eyes widened slightly at Harry’s use of his first name, but Harry plowed on anyway.
“Draco, listen. When I said start over, I meant it, yeah? Sixth year was bad for everyone. I nearly killed you.”
The memory of Draco lying sprawled in the water on that lavatory floor, choking as his own blood bubbled up into his throat, made Harry feel like throwing up. He swallowed hard and went on. “I’m not blameless here, not by a long shot. You saved my life back there in the Manor. As far as I’m concerned, we’re even.”
Malfoy was quiet for a long moment, and Harry could see the pride warring with the self-hatred in Malfoy’s face. “Alright,” he said finally, but Harry could tell that Malfoy didn’t quite believe it.
Harry reached out and grabbed his hand again, giving it a squeeze, and Malfoy looked up at him, startled. “I’m serious.”
“Alright, Potter, bloody hell, I believe you.” But Malfoy was smiling now, an awkward tiny smile as he tugged his hand away. “Merlin, how do Weasley and Granger put up with you?”
Harry smirked. “Well, there’s a few editorial pieces in the Prophet that hypothesize I’m brainwashing them with an entire bloody cauldron’s worth of potions, so...”
Malfoy rolled his eyes. “Then it’s clear they know nothing about you, because you couldn’t brew a potion to save your life.”
“Oi, that’s the Boy Who Lived you’re insulting there,” Harry joked. “Just because you’re right doesn’t mean you should go on and say it.” He tugged up a handful of grass and tossed it at Malfoy. Malfoy spluttered, shrinking backwards, and kicked at Harry’s ankle. Harry kicked back and pretty soon they were scuffling like children on the lawn.
Malfoy was laughing, that same bright laugh from that night in the library, and Harry’s brain snagged on the way the sun lit Malfoy’s hair like white-gold, the way he laughed with his whole body, the curve of his throat when he threw his head backwards.
Harry wanted to kiss him. He wanted to crawl forward there on the sweet-smelling grass and lean up and snog Draco Malfoy in full view of anyone looking out of the castle windows. He wanted Draco Malfoy to smile at him with the same wide unabashed expression that Harry could feel burning in his own chest.
But… but it didn’t feel right. Not now, sprawled on the Quidditch pitch as the sun set the world on fire around them. Repairing a relationship took time. He could wait. They’d started over, after all – they had seven years of friendship to catch up on and all the time in the world to experience it.
So instead of catching Malfoy’s laughter with a kiss, Harry dusted off the knees of his trousers and stood up, holding out his hand.
“Think we missed dinner. Want to go see if we can sweet-talk the House Elves in the kitchens for an extra bite?”
Malfoy looked up at him before he reached up and took his hand again, allowing Harry to tug him to his feet. They stood there for a moment, hands clasped together, and Harry wondered if he was imagining Malfoy’s grip tighten on his, just for an instant, before Malfoy dropped his hand and turned away, grabbing his broom.
Harry was gathering up his own broom, inspecting the handle for damage from his crash with the goalpost, when Malfoy cleared his throat.
“Hey, Potter… uh, Harry.”
Harry’s head snapped up. Malfoy wasn’t looking at him, staring instead at his broom. “Want to… meet up tomorrow after lessons? Maybe do some more flying? Or we could go to Hogsmeade or… something.”
Harry’s heart jumped against his ribs. “Yeah! Sounds, uh, sounds brilliant.”
“Good. Yes. Um. Good.”
They stood there for a long stretched second, each frantically staring somewhere off in the distance in completely separate directions. Then Malfoy cleared his throat. “Uh, you said something about conning some House Elves into pastries?”
“Well, we’d just go in and ask nicely, but otherwise, yes.”
“Great.” Malfoy slung his broom up over his shoulder and strode off towards the castle. He paused a few feet from Harry and turned around, putting his free hand on his hip. “Are you coming or are you just going to stand there?”
Harry grabbed his broom and jogged the few feet separating them until they were shoulder to shoulder and together, they left the setting sun behind them and headed back into the castle.