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A Change of Chemistry

Chapter Text

Harry groaned as yet another attempt to brew a simple Confusing Concoction failed before his eyes.

“You truly are atrocious at Potions, do you know that?” The cutting drawl from his “tutor” grated on his already frayed nerves. Honestly, what on earth was McGonagall thinking when she’d paired them together for Muggle Studies and Potions? He didn’t give a flying fuck about Potions, as she well knew, and Malfoy was almost certain to make muggle studies even more unbearable! But, the witch’s stern glare had wiped any hope of wriggling out of the arrangement before he could even open his mouth to protest. So, here he was, suffering through each microsecond of another two-hour session under the bastard’s snooty glare, with another four hours to go that week. Honestly, he’d defeated Voldemort for Merlin’s sake, why was he being punished?!

“Funny, I was convinced that you were atrocious at teaching!” He spat back, vanishing the potion before Malfoy got the chance to scoop some out and wave it in front of his face, pointing out every imperfection. Again. 

Frankly, Harry had hoped that during their Eighth Year, Malfoy could have let their differences lie. He wasn’t expecting them to be friends or anything, but after everything they’d both been through in the last few years, he’d at least hoped the slimy git could have at least been civil with him. But if anything the twat had been worse than ever! Every time they saw each other the Slytherin went out of his way to let him know just how much he hated him. The very first day of school, Harry had ended up sprawled on the floor thanks to Malfoy tripping him up. If it hadn’t been for the professor appearing at that moment, Harry was sure that the arsehole would have stomped on his hand too, for good measure. 

From then on, things had only gotten worse; Malfoy had hexed him countless times, charmed the entrance to the dorms to announce Arise for ‘Our Lord and Saviour, Scarhead,’ every time Harry walked in, and generally tried to humiliate him at every turn. Especially if that meant volunteering him for tasks in classes. It got very old, extremely fast. How Harry hadn’t murdered the prick yet, he didn’t know. It was quickly becoming a more impressive feat than killing Voldemort.

“The best teacher in the world wouldn’t be able to help you, Scarhead,” the sarcastic drawl brought him back to the present. “You’re just a helpless case. Anyone would think you were studying for the award for the worst potioneer in the wizarding world. At least Longbottom knows how to prepare ingredients correctly! And he’s the-”

“Leave Neville alone or I swear I will turn your precious hair bright red and gold,” Harry growled, wand pointed at the bastard’s head. Malfoy glared but shut up all the same. Harry almost wished he hadn’t; he was dying for a chance to hex the git.

“How have you got this far in Potions, Potter? Do you even know the basic theory and approaches?” Of course, the blessed silence couldn’t last for long.

“Do you even know how to shut your mouth?” He fired back, seriously considering socking the arsehole then and there. The tightening of Malfoy’s jaw told him the feeling was mutual. 

Surprisingly, Malfoy took in a deep breath as if to calm himself.

“Look, if we must go back and revise the absolute basics- and I suggest you do- then, as your tutor ,” he spat, “then I think we should. But believe me, Potter, it would have been much easier if you’d just admitted that you’d forgotten everything in the first place, instead of wasting both of our time, with you trying to muddle through with that inflated ego of yours!” 

MY EGO?” He exploded, once again thankful for the fact that there was no one else was in the room. “You think that my ego is the problem here?! You think that I’m trying to protect some shred of dignity or something by making myself look less intelligent than a fucking troll?! I have no idea what I’m supposed to know and what I don’t! I didn’t know there were basics to forget! The only experience I have with this shit is whatever Snape taught us!” Malfoy flinched at the name; a flicker of satisfaction registered in Harry’s stomach.

“And I’m sorry if sometimes I was too busy trying not to die to take detailed notes! Or did you miss the part where a raving lunatic tried to kill me and take over the world every year?! ” 

“Of course I didn’t, Potter!”

“Well then what do you expect from me?!”

“I expect you to employ your brain for three consecutive seconds and brew a decent fucking potion!”

“I’M TRYING!” Harry roared, slamming his fists on the table. He didn’t miss the flicker of shock that ran across the pointy git’s features. 

“Why do you think I’m here, Malfoy? For a lark?! Do you really think I couldn’t think of anything better to do with my time than sit in a room with you for two hours, sweating my bollocks off, making a complete tit of myself?!” He paused, waiting for a response. A frown was settling on the prick’s face. 

“Just because I’m bad at something doesn’t mean I’m not trying! You might have been taught to mix ingredients since you were able to stick your hand up your father’s nose, but I wasn’t! The only thing I ever did that even resembled Potions before Hogwarts was Chemistry, and-”

“What the fuck is chemistry, Potter?!” Malfoy interrupted, spitting the word as if it was an assault on his petty sensibilities. 

“A muggle thing, Malfoy, don’t worry your little pure-blood head over it,” Harry snapped back. “You’ll only think it’s stupid and add it to your list of reasons why muggles should be abolished.” If possible Malfoy paled, which was incredible considering he was almost translucent anyway, but Harry was too incensed to care.

“Either stop being such a condescending bastard and actually fucking teach me instead of gloating over me when I inevitably fuck up, or I’m done.”

Silence reigned as Harry panted slightly from the rant, hands falling to his side from where they’d been gesticulating wildly throughout. Sharp, grey eyes bored into his, an indecipherable concoction of emotions swirling within. The muscle jumping in Malfoy’s jaw gave away his calm appearance. Still no-one spoke.

Just as Harry was about to storm to McGonagall’s office and swear to kill Malfoy if he was forced to spend another moment alone with him, Malfoy’s cold, bitter, cutting drawl broke the silence.

“I might be condescending, Potter, but you’re a willfully ignorant, heartless bastard. Fuck you.”

Before Harry could even open his mouth, Malfoy was gone. All Harry could do was stare at the ripple of Malfoy’s robes, completely bewildered.

Chapter Text

Harry didn’t catch sight of Malfoy again all day. Despite the fact that they were meant to have Transfiguration together, the git didn’t show up. Then he hadn’t turned up for dinner. And then he wasn’t in his usual corner in the common room in the evening. And it was driving Harry nuts. 

No matter what he did, how much he tried to focus on his friend’s conversations, he couldn’t stop replaying the scene in his mind; the argument, the way Malfoy had stormed off, and the way his face had turned almost ashen at Harry’s words. It just made no sense! He hadn’t even been trying to be mean! Everything he’d said was true! Malfoy was being a condescending jerk, he did suck at teaching and go out of his way to rub Harry’s mistakes in his face, and he was spoiled! All Harry had done was point it out! 

But still, the look on Malfoy’s face haunted him. Something about it just felt… wrong. Almost like he’d actually been hurt. 

“What’s the big deal?” Ron had asked, when he’d told Hermione and Ron about the incident over dinner. “It’s just the ferret mate, he’s always a knob! How many times has he hurt you this term alone? He deserves to be taken down a peg or two!”

Yet with every passing hour, anger and frustration twisted sickeningly in Harry’s stomach into doubt, worry, and even worse, guilt. He just couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d really offended Malfoy this time; this wasn’t just two enemies pissing each other off. This was a true, hard blow. 

Was it the mention of Lucius? The man had ended up in Azkaban over the summer following the trials, causing the Malfoy family much grief. Was that the reason Malfoy had stormed off? Did he miss his dad? Maybe… But surely if that was true Harry would have been thrown up against the wall faster than he could have said Quidditch! 

Or maybe it was Snape. Someone had said that the old professor had been Malfoy’s godfather. Maybe Malfoy’s dramatic exit was a delayed reaction to mentioning him? But other than flinching at the sound of his name, Malfoy had seemed fine. That couldn’t be it.

 The longer he sat there, mulling the conversation over, the more annoyed he got. But he needed to know what he’d done. Around him the common room was emptying, students retiring to bed one by one, but Harry couldn’t drag himself away from the fire, the taunts and insults from their argument still circling in his mind, desperate to figure out what he’d said. Nothing explained why Malfoy looked like he’d just been slapped! It was infuriating! He was just about to go for a walk under the invisibility cloak to try and calm down and clear his head when the door to the common room opened again. 

Out of habit, Harry’s eyes dragged themselves half-heartedly to the entrance, half expecting to hear the blasted announcement that always followed him in now, as he chased another dead-end thought as to what could have offended Malfoy. A flash of white-blond hair caught his eye, however, setting his senses on high alert.

Malfoy.

For a moment both of them paused, staring at the other, Harry barely daring to breathe, until suddenly Malfoy made to walk straight past, directly to the dorms. In a second, Harry was on his feet.

“Malfoy wait!” The man didn’t even hesitate.

“Malfoy talk to me!”

“About what, Potter? We hate each other, remember? Fighting is what we do, not talking.” Malfoy’s voice was monotonous, bored, as he continued to walk away.

“Then why aren’t you fighting back? Since when do you just walk away?” he was still moving, almost at the stairs. “What are you, scared, Malfoy?” 

It worked. Immediately sharp, grey eyes rounded on him, advancing menacingly.

“Of you, Potter? Don’t make me laugh. Why don’t you just leave me the fuck alone, alright? You wanted to end our lessons, you’ve got it. They’re over.” He made a move to walk away again, and Harry grabbed him without thinking.

“Why? Because I called you a condescending bastard? That’s just pathetic. You’re such a drama queen!” 

“Get over yourself, Potter,” Malfoy scoffed, ripping his arm out of Harry’s grip a little more roughly than necessary. “Of course, one little insult from the Chosen One must send me crying into my pillow at night, cowering from your presence in the hope I might escape more feeble attempts to humiliate me. Please.” 

“Well, it certainly looked like it when you stormed off! What the fuck else am I meant to think, Malfoy? You called me a heartless bastard for pity’s sake!”

“Not about that you imbecile! Honestly, you really are as thick as a troll!” He made to move away again.

“What? Then why am I- Malfoy?!”

But he wasn’t listening. Once again his back was turned, long strides carrying him closer to the dorms with every second. The last shred of guilt left in Harry’s stomach turned to ash as fury burned through him. WHY couldn’t the git just be reasonable and have a fucking conversation for once in his arrogant life?! 

“If you’re going to get in a huff and end our lessons because of me, at least tell me what I did Malfoy, you can’t just run away like a coward and expect me to not ask questions!” he yelled after him. 

Malfoy paused at the top of the stairs.

“What did you call me?” His voice was deadly quiet, sharp and sour. 

Now you’ve done it, Potter. But he couldn’t stop himself.

“A coward, Malfoy. You’re running away from your problems just like you always do, expecting that to fix it. Well guess what you prick? That doesn’t solve anything!”

The air trembled for a second as Malfoy stood, perfectly still, at the top of the stairs, eyes boring down into Harry’s. Harry glared right back.

“Don’t ever think that you know me,” Malfoy hissed venomously. “You have no idea who I am, or why I make the choices I do in my life, Potter. Fuck you.”

With a flick of his robes that Snape himself would have been proud of, Malfoy disappeared into the dorms, the echo of the door slamming behind him, ringing through the air. Still rage crawled through Harry’s very veins. 

“UGH!” he yelled to the empty room, hands raking through his hair as adrenaline forced him to move, pacing around the common room. 

What the fuck was the bastard’s problem? Why was it that literally everything he did made Harry want to kill him? And what the fuck had he done?! The git didn’t even have the decency to talk to him about it! All he’d wanted to do was ask for Merlin’s sake! But no, Mr. Haughty had to ignore him and then flounce through the common room, firing more insults his way as he did so! Holy Mother of God the man was unbelievable! Ron was right, why on earth did Harry care about hurting him, if that was even what he’d done?! He fucking deserved it! Absolute wanker!

Suddenly the heat from the fire was overwhelming, and the walls too close together. Fury scorched through him with every heartbeat, hands repeatedly clenching and unclenching by his sides, as rage scrabbled in his chest, vying for a chance to explode. A vase on the other side of the room wobbled slightly, as his untamed emotions leaked into the air around them. He had to go. He had to get some space before he actually broke something. Damn, why did that bastard get to him so badly?! 

Quickly summoning his invisibility cloak, he barely threw it over himself before stalking out of the common room, slamming the stupid thing behind him as it made another comment about his presence, and headed straight for the grounds. 

Chapter Text

“Please, for the love of God, stop!”

Harry jolted out of his daydream as a book was slammed onto the table next to him. Several of his classmates jumped with him, and Flitwick almost fell off his tower of books in surprise. Hermione was unpacking her bag for Charms with far more force than needed.

“What?” he asked pointedly, scowl once again creasing his brow. It was a common look for him these days, and he didn’t see it changing anytime soon. It was about a week since that night in the common room with Malfoy, and things had just gotten worse. Malfoy had been true to his word, no longer attending their private lessons. The very next morning after the fight, Harry had dragged himself to their classroom as scheduled, bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived after his eventful night, only to find the prick was nowhere to be found. Even though he’d technically told Harry the sessions were over, Harry had still been pissed off, cursing the evil git all the way back to the dorms where he’d flopped back into bed, trying to catch up on sleep. Quitting was just a coward’s way out.

But that wasn’t all. Malfoy hadn’t just quit, no. He’d decided to avoid Harry at all costs. The prick was avoiding him. And not just avoiding looking at him, or staying away from him in the halls. Malfoy was refusing to even set foot in the same room Harry was in. Whenever Harry walked into the Great Hall, Malfoy walked out. Whenever Malfoy caught sight of Harry in the corridors, he turned on his heel and stalked off in the other direction. If Harry walked into the common room, Malfoy left. He’d even flown into the Forbidden Forest just to get away from Harry when they happened to go flying at the same time after lessons one day! The only time Harry saw the prat now was when they shared classes, but even then Malfoy sat as far away from him as possible, face impassive, eyes always adamantly staring anywhere but at him, surrounded by his Slytherin cronies. It was ridiculous, petty, stupid, and suited Malfoy perfectly. And it was pissing him off.

Hermione sighed.

“Harry,” Hermione began as she took her seat next to him. Her signature lecturing tone grated on his already bad temper. Oh yay.

“You’ve been glaring at Malfoy for days,” she emphasised. “There’s a permanent cloud above your head, you snap at us every chance you get, and you’re so annoyed that the most basic of your spells are harsh and too powerful! You almost broke your glasses entirely yesterday when you cleaned them!”

“I didn’t-!”

“And you set the potion on fire the other day! Even by your standards, that’s bad!” Harry fumed silently as Hermione interrupted his indignant protests. “You’re eighteen, Harry. I’ve had enough. We’ve had enough,” she caught Ron’s eye, who had just arrived on Harry’s other side, urging him to back her up. Harry silently cursed their relationship, hoping Ron wouldn’t just side with Hermione to stay in Hermione’s good books. He didn’t usually, but there was a first time for everything.

“You’ve been obsessed with Malfoy since you were 11, and you know it,” she shook her head dismissively as he opened his mouth to object again. “You finally have a year you could just enjoy, and you’re sat here with smoke coming out of your ears all because a stupid boy is ignoring you! It needs to stop!” He looked desperately to Ron for help, but one look at his best friend’s face told him it was no use.

“You’ve got to admit mate, the idiot can’t do anything right,” Ron said carefully, as if worried his words were going to set him off. Harry had to admit there was a good chance of it.

“If Malfoy pays you attention you hate it, if he ignores you, you hate it. He is always on your mind. And you have been miserable lately. I know haven’t really been happy since coming back because of the war and everything, which we totally get. All of us are still struggling with that,” he grimaced slightly, “But you were never this upset. Maybe Hermione’s right. Maybe it’s time to try and forget about him, let him lead his pathetic life and you just enjoy yours,” Ron shrugged as a new wave of frustration swept through Harry.

“How can I forget about him when he won’t stay in the same bloody room as me?! He’s not exactly making it easy to ignore him when he stomps off as soon as he catches a glimpse of me!” he snapped, temper flaring as both his friends seemed to deflate. “Honestly, what’s so horrific about me that means Malfoy suddenly can’t even eat in the same room?! It’s not like he’s had a problem for the last seven years! He’s deliberately trying to piss me off! I know he is!”

“Well, clearly it’s working, and it’s making us miserable,” Hermione chimed in again. “So you need to either try and think about something else so as you don’t let it get to you, or you need to sort it out between you. It’s our final year, Harry, I want to enjoy it without almost dying because you and Malfoy blow something up when trying to kill each other.”

“How can I sort it out when he won’t stay in the same room as me?!” He practically yelled, ignoring the looks from his classmates. Malfoy was probably in the room too, by now, but he didn’t care anymore. He was already annoyed enough without his friend’s saying stupid things too.

“I don’t know, Harry, but you need to try and think of something or I may have to bind you together and lock you in a classroom just to get some peace!”

“You think that I don’t want pea-?!”

“Settle down everyone, please,” Flitwick squeaked from his podium, interrupting his retort. The urge to bang his head on the table and yell in frustration surged through him as Hermione pointedly turned her attention to the front of the class. Ron clapped him on the shoulder, offering him a sympathetic half-smile.

How could Hermione think that he was enjoying this?! How could she think that he wanted to be annoyed all the time?! Did she think he just loved fighting? Was that how he’d managed to survive seven years of death threats from Voldemort? He got off on the danger?! Of course he wanted to sort it out, he’d tried doing that in the first place, but Malfoy was too prissy to even have a conversation with him! And now the idiot couldn’t spend more than five seconds in a room with him! How was he going to fix things if he couldn’t talk to him? He’d considered sending a note, but Malfoy was sure to burn it as soon as he knew who it was from! And unless he wanted to sneak into the library under his invisibility cloak, trap Malfoy in a corner, and hope he talked without squawking like a chicken for Madam Pince, he didn’t see any options! Even talking to him at night again wasn’t going to work; the prat was constantly surrounded by Slytherin’s wherever he went now, clearly worried Harry would try and approach him again!

But as the lesson continued, and he gradually calmed down, the annoying voice of reason wormed its way through his mind, reminding him that Hermione, as much as he hated it, was right. As Flitwick set them to work trying to perform a complicated expansion charm, which Hermione could already do with her eyes closed, he muttered an apology to his friends.

“Sorry I’ve been so obsessed ,” he said in inverted commas, making it clear that he still didn’t agree with Hermione’s opinion. “I’ll try to be less annoying.”

Immediately frizzy hair whacked him in the face as Hermione hugged him; he couldn’t help the small smile that tugged at his lips at his friend’s easy forgiveness.

“Good,” she approved, “I know it won’t be easy for you. Just like this charm, now!” she immediately set to work, explaining how to perform the charm as he and Ron exchanged another knowing look, rueful smiles on their faces. Though, of course, there was a fond sparkle in Ron’s as he watched his girlfriend babble passionately.

Together, under the careful scrutiny of Hermione, they both managed to expand sections of the box slightly, though not before Ron shrunk it and Harry almost made the thing collapse entirely, much to Seamus and Dean’s entertainment. Harry almost set Seamus’ box on fire just to get the idiot to shut up.

For the first time in a while, Harry found himself almost enjoying himself, talking with his friends, making plans for the weekend, even playing an informal quidditch game to help the Quidditch team train. But still, whenever he stopped, whenever there was a lull in the conversation, or whenever he turned the light out to fall asleep, his mind turned back to the snooty git.

Nothing had changed. Malfoy was still avoiding him like the plague, nowhere to be seen any other time than lessons. Even then the prick sat so far away from Harry that it was amazing if he managed to catch a glimpse of the git’s white-blond hair.

A few times Harry had caught himself staring at Malfoy’s dot on the Marauder’s Map, uncertain as to when he’d dug it out or how long he’d been holding it, watching Malfoy sleep, pace around the grounds, or walk with friends back to the common room late at night. He even caught him taking an extremely odd route from the kitchens to Ancient Runes once when he was alone, probably to avoid Harry, just in case he was around. But even once he’d realised what he was doing, he couldn’t immediately put the map down. He just needed to find a way to talk to the idiot. But how?!

It wasn’t until a few weeks later, when Seamus and Dean took over the common room, forcing everyone to celebrate their newfound zest for life with a huge party, that he got his chance.

Chapter Text

“Who’s ready for a par-tay?!”

“Everyone needs a drink! Come and get one! Yes, even you Abbott!”

“Nuh-uh-uh, I see you trying to sneak off Parkinson! Get your arse back here, this party is for everyone – that’s an order, not an invitation!”

Harry chuckled as Seamus and Dean shoved drinks at people, jumped in their path to block them from escaping, and span them into the ever-growing crowd, groans and protests only serving to spur their enthusiasm on.

Since the beginning of term his old dorm mates, who had officially become a couple after the end of the war, had been trying to organise a night to celebrate their newfound freedom and zest for life, and finally, they’d managed it. Judging by the mostly happy buzz in the room, most people seemed to be excited, chatting animatedly with each other whilst eagerly taking in the decorations. But, as Harry caught sight of Parkinson’s expression, it was obvious that not everyone was pleased with this turn of events.

“Thank Merlin looks can’t kill,” Ron muttered, passing Harry another drink, nodding in the direction of the Slytherin. Harry chuckled, eyes automatically drawn to the sulking blond beside her; in the middle of the commotion, he’d missed Malfoy’s entrance, but judging by the deep scowl on his face, he too was less than amused at his quiet common room being turned into a rowdy bar. The fact that the git was annoyed at something other than his ‘stupid scarred head’ was very refreshing. Much like his Butterbeer.

Within thirty minutes of the party starting, thanks to Dean and Seamus’ relentless encouragement, Harry had downed three shots, a whole pint, and was halfway through his second Fire Whiskey before the activities even began. Thus, when the duo started encouraging people together for the first party game, he was already decidedly happy.

Slowly but surely, a circle formed, a mixture of anticipation and dread rippling through the room. Seamus’ penchant for explosions was well known, and with it came a healthy level of distrust. Especially where alcohol was involved. Whatever the Irishman and his boyfriend had planned, it was bound to be either extremely entertaining, or horrendous, and only time would tell which. Still, as more people made their way towards the circle, even the glowering Slytherin’s, alcohol-fuelled excitement bubbled gently in Harry’s stomach, quickly infused with satisfaction as Harry managed to plonk himself down directly opposite Malfoy. It was the closest he’d been to the git in weeks, and no matter how many pointed glares the prick sent his way, it was worth it. Besides, it wasn’t Harry’s fault that there was a space opposite him, now, was it?

“Guys, gals and non-binary pals, thank you for attending our shin-dig tonight!” Seamus called, effectively calling everyone to order. Malfoy’s gaze begrudgingly turned to the other Gryffindor. “We’ve got lots of fun things lined up for you tonight, so prepare yourselves for one of the best nights in Hogwarts’ history! Tonight, we’re kicking off with an oldie but a goodie! Truth or Dare!” Harry’s stomach tightened slightly despite the alcohol in his system, another chorus of excited murmurs punctuated by resigned moans through the crowd. As Dean and Seamus cackled, clearly enjoying themselves too much, Malfoy’s jaw clenched, the slightest flicker of annoyance and… something else ghosting over his face.

“Now now!” Dean admonished, quietening the crowd once more, “This is bound to be hilarious fun for all, so let’s have less of the moaning thank you! Though I should tell you that all of you have consumed drinks spiked with Veritaserum just to-” an indignant roar drowned Dean out, Harry’s voice among the fray. Sure, a few drops of an illegal potion were all well and good when the worst skeleton in your closet was that you were scared of a relative. When you’d defeated a megalomaniac who had literally killed you, you had a few more things to hide.

“You bastards!” Ron called.

“-You can’t do that!”

“-You should have told us!”

“Where did you even get it?!”

“Well that would be telling, wouldn’t it?!” Seamus grinned, gesturing for silence once more. “So, it would be wise to bear in mind that if you try and fight the potion, you will forfeit on top of spilling all your dirty little secrets!” he winked at Neville who flipped him off.

“The rules are simple; we’ll pick someone first, then whoever they choose gets to choose the next victim. If anyone chooses to forfeit, you have to down two shots of Fire Whiskey. You can only choose the same person once everyone’s been asked. You cannot choose not to play. There are no limits to dares. And above all, you must have fun!” 

With a final flourish, Seamus retreated and Dean stepped up to cast a charm to randomly select the first victim, blissfully ignorant of the violent somersaults Harry’s stomach was performing. All the fuzzy happiness that had surrounded him not five minutes had evaporated entirely, a horrid sense of unease replacing it.

What the fuck was he supposed to choose when someone picked him? With Veritaserum running around in his system, if he chose truth he could be forced to answer any number of horrible questions about the war, or worse. And sure, he could try and forfeit, but he didn’t really want to give people a reason to go delving into his business all over again, questioning why he didn’t answer. The only other option was a dare, but he didn’t know if he should trust his classmates; Dean had forced Neville into a closet with Hannah Abbott a few weeks ago, after all, and he didn’t quite fancy a similar, or even a worse fate. The only small comfort he had was that, judging by the rapid tapping of one of Malfoy’s long fingers against his glass, Harry wasn’t the only one who was nervous.

Still, as Dean called Padma’s name, there was no time to dwell on their newfound similarity; the game had begun.

With bated breath he watched as Padma was dared to go find Professor McGonagall, and ask whether she wore tartan knickers, immediately confirming his suspicions that choosing ‘dare’ wasn’t exactly a safe option either; if that was the standard for Padma, he was loathe to think what people would dare Harry Potter, Saviour of the Wizarding World to do. And he didn’t quite fancy being scolded by the headmistress just yet.

Still, Padma dutifully obeyed, returning with very pink cheeks and a short rebuttal from the older witch, though no details as to her undergarments, much to everyone’s disappointment.

“So, who are you going to pick, Padma?” Seamus asked, immediately sending another painful jolt to Harry’s gut. Fuck, he so wasn’t ready, what if she picked him? He still had no idea what he would choose! The urge to run away and disgrace his Gryffindor name had never been stronger.

“Justin. Truth or dare?” Harry sighed, relief rushing through him as the Ravenclaw fixed her eyes on the Hufflepuff, sparing him for another round. Fuck he was so screwed.

As Justin gushed about crushing on one of the weird sisters, Harry found himself laughing along with the rest of his year, enjoying watching the flush spreading across Justin’s cheeks, unable to tame his mouth no matter how hard he tried (which obviously earned him two shots of Fire Whiskey, much to the room’s delight). But every time a dare finished, or someone finished spilling their guts, the familiar sensation of unease crept over him. Every time someone’s eyes rested on him, debating who to call on next, Harry’s stomach flipped violently, grip tightening on his Butterbeer. It should have reassured him that, for the most part, the group seemed to be interested in who was crushing on who rather than uncovering people’s darkest secrets, but still he couldn’t shake the sense of dread. People hadn’t often been considerate when asking him questions before; he just couldn’t see how alcohol would help with that. He was still laughing at Parvati’s awful rendition of Celestia Warbeck’s newest song when she fixed him with her dark stare. Immediately the laughter died in his throat, all the hairs on the back of his neck standing up.

“Truth or Dare?” she asked him, smirking. 

Fuck, fuck fuck.

“Er…” everyone’s gaze rested heavily on him as he swallowed, a hint of grey catching his eye as Malfoy lifted his head nonchalantly, regarding him with such a perfectly bored expression it had to be practiced. Still, as he debated his options, time ticked on, pressuring him into an answer he wasn’t ready to give.

“Truth,” he finally blurted, the urge to immediately yell ‘ No! Dare!’ surging over him at the excited smiles on a few people’s faces. Parvati licked her lips smugly.

“Ever done any experimenting with the other sex?” She grinned as several people around the room oohed, leaning forward to hear the answer. Immediately, a wave of relief washed over him, a laugh bubbling in his throat as he thanked the gods.

“No, I haven’t,” he chuckled as a few people made noises of disappointment. “I’ve barely had the time to have a girlfriend, let alone experiment with anything else!” Malfoy turned his attention back to his lap.

“Fair point, Harry,” Dean said before Harry could follow his thoughts about what Malfoy watching him had meant. “Who do you choose?”

“Er,” the only people left were Malfoy or Ernie Macmillan, and Malfoy would never forgive him if he picked on him. “Ernie. Truth or dare?”

“Dare,” the Hufflepuff grinned obnoxiously. Harry couldn’t help but return it.

“Cluck and strut like a chicken for a minute in the middle of the circle,” he said without missing a beat. It was an easy dare, but it earned Harry a chorus of cheers as Ernie dragged himself up to make a complete fool of himself. 

“Bastard,” Ernie shot at him before squatting down and sticking his arms on his hips. Not a second later, a shrill squawk hit the air, quickly accompanied by jolty, odd movements that sent everyone into fits of laughter. Just as he was approaching Hannah to cluck in her face, Seamus called time, prompting a chorus of disappointed complaints.

“That’s all you’re getting!” Ernie yelled as Dean called out for more, excitement still bubbling around the room. “Malfoy, it’s your turn! Truth or dare?”

Immediately Harry’s gaze snapped to the Slytherin, watching his every move despite the fact that no one else really seemed to care, still giggling amongst themselves. Malfoy clenched his jaw.

“Truth.” Ernie chewed his lip for a second; Harry barely dared to breathe.

“Have you done any experimenting with members of the same sex?” Harry blinked, shooting the Hufflepuff a disapproving look.

What kind of question is that? Of course he hasn’t! He’s a pure-

“Yes.”

What?! Harry’s eyes darted back to Malfoy, searching his features. A stoic, unreadable face met him; no hint of regret, shame, pride, or embarrassment even flickered in his eyes. Still Harry stared.

Malfoy? The strait-laced pure-blood had experimented with men? Knowingly? Willingly?! Why? How?! WHEN?! It just didn’t make sense! It went against everything that Harry knew about him! But as Dean’s voice rang out again, signalling the end of the game, Harry was forced to shake himself, and close his mouth. It had been hanging open since Malfoy’s admission.

“Well now, we thought that game was so much fun, we’d move on to the next one! We think you’ll like this one! It’s time for… Seven Minutes in Heaven!” Seamus crowed triumphantly, as Harry winced.

“Come on! We’ve just made tits of ourselves!” Ernie complained, though others were eagerly eyed up who they could snog. Seamus merely laughed and put the bottle in the middle of the circle.

“Ah, stop your complaining you wusses! As I’m sure you’re aware, whoever the bottle lands on must go into a cupboard for seven minutes and have their brains snogged out. If you refuse to snog, which we’ll know because of the Veritaserum,” he winked; Harry wanted to hex the guy, “You’ll have to do a forfeit we collectively agree on. Once again, participation is non-optional! Okay, all clear? Here we go!”

As the bottle immediately began spinning, Harry sighed, a fresh surge of anxiety spiralling through him. Gradually, the bottle slowed, the circle seeming to shrink as people inched forward, little by little; all the while, Harry entertained himself wondering if he could get away with killing the couple in their sleep. Still, the worst of it had to be over, now, right? If he’d survived Truth or Dare, he could manage this. It was just kissing. He could do that… Mostly. He thought.

A gasp from around him shook him back into the room, eyes flying automatically to the bottle in the middle of the circle. It had stopped spinning. Harry’s stomach dropped.

It was pointing at him.

And Malfoy.

Chapter Text

“I forfeit.”

It was immediate, quiet, and certain, easily audible in the hushed room. With just those two, simple words, the tiny flicker of excitement that had been unfurling in Harry’s stomach, ignited by the prospect of actually managing to spend time alone with Malfoy, was immediately extinguished. 

‘Of course the dick won’t play the game properly, ’ Harry thought bitterly, taking another swig of his drink. ‘ Fucking pointy-nosed coward.’ 

But, to his surprise, Harry wasn’t the only one disappointed by Malfoy’s answer. All around him his classmates erupted into protests. 

“You can’t just forfeit-!”

“-We’ve all had to do things this evening that we don’t like, Malfoy, loosen up for once, you twat!”

“-What a surprise, you stupid ferret! Wouldn’t know the meaning of the word fun if it whacked you in the face!”

“-You’re just scared Potter will make you weak in the knees! A good snog is what you two need, it’s obvious!”

As Harry tried to identify the prat who made the last comment in order to send a hex their way, more jeers of agreement ran through the crowd, and Dean and Seamus exchanged a very suspicious, knowing look. But before he could tell them all to fuck off, Dean finally motioned for the crowd to settle down.

“I’m afraid they’re right, Malfoy!” he smiled, an evil glint in his eye. “Participation is non-optional, just like everything else has been tonight! So, even if you don’t kiss, you have to do your seven minutes. Then, and only then, can you complete your forfeit!”

Harry’s eyes snapped back to Malfoy, excitement and satisfaction blooming in his chest and fluttering in his stomach. The Slytherin looked as though the words had physically slapped him. His jaw had dropped open, incredulous rage was colouring his cheeks, and his mouth was working like a codfish struggling for air. Harry didn’t even try to keep the satisfied smirk off his face, revelling in the wolf-whistles coming from his classmates.

“But-but you can’t!” Malfoy managed eventually, sounding just as much a spoiled child as he was seven years ago. “You-you-! You can’t force us to go in there!”

“You mean, we can’t force you to stay in a room when you don’t want too?” Seamus asked with a glint in his eye. “You mean, like we did when you wanted to not stay for the party? Like we’ve made you do stuff you didn’t want to all night?” 

Malfoy’s eyes flashed angrily. 

“What are you gonna do? Run tell on us?” The Irishman laughed, “C’mon Malfoy, seven minutes, then a forfeit, if you do manage to keep your hands off each other of course, then we’ll let you escape. Maybe you two can work out some of that simmering sexual tension and do the rest of us a favour!”

‘Oh for fuck’s sake…’

“There’s no sexual tension!” Harry yelled, shooting Seamus a murderous glare. Unfortunately, Seamus didn’t care in the slightest, merely poking his tongue out at him as the rest of his so-called-friends just laughed. 

“There’s not!” he insisted.

“Sure sure, Harry, whatever you say!” Dean appeased with a not too subtle wink at the rest of the room. For a second, Harry found himself wondering whether dying was actually worth this or not...

“Now, off to your seven minutes guys, come on! We have other lovers to make tonight!” he looked expectantly between them.

Harry took in the sight of Malfoy again, heart rate spiking at the prospect of actually getting to talk to him. He couldn’t wait to ask whether he’d managed to dislodge the stick from his ass yet. Ass , not arse , because the Americanism would annoy him more. But of course, he had to wait; the bastard was too busy protesting again.

“But! No, that’s just- I won’t! I refuse!”

As grumbles and whispers began around the room, a few people obviously scheming to shove Malfoy into the cupboard any way they could, Harry sighed, resigning himself to doing the honourable Gryffindor thing of helping move things along. He wasn’t scheming like a Slytherin at all! He was just following common sense, which dictated that he should play the card that never failed to get Malfoy to do exactly what he wanted!

“What’s the matter, scared Malfoy?”

Just as before, grey eyes immediately snapped to his. As Malfoy’s icy, venomous glare sent tingles of excitement through his stomach, Harry couldn’t help but smirk; the idiot was almost too predictable sometimes.

“You wish, Scarhead.”

With a final toss of his head, Malfoy was up, spinning on his heel and striding angrily towards the already opened cupboard with the crowd cheering and whooping as he went.

“Go snog each other’s brains out!” Dean called, his counterpart running to secure the cupboard door behind them. At any other point he would have loved to have hexed his dorm-mate immediately. But right then, walking into a cupboard where he would be locked in, alone, with Malfoy, for a guaranteed seven minutes, Harry just couldn’t find it in him to care. He was far too excited.

“Enjoy yourselves you two!” Seamus grinned evilly. “And remember, you have to kiss each other , not kill!”

“Fuck off Finnegan!” Malfoy spat. But Seamus didn’t care. With a final cackle, darkness enveloped them, and the sound of multiple magical locks springing into action rang out in the small cupboard.

For the first few seconds, Harry just took deep breaths, trying to settle the excitement in his stomach as his eyes adjusted to the gloom. More whoops, muffled but audible, sounded in the distance; clearly the eighth years were enjoying themselves at their expense. Not that he really minded, of course.

For the first time in weeks he didn’t have to try and ignore the nagging urge to think about Malfoy. Instead, Malfoy was here! And he hadn’t even had to resort to knocking him unconscious, dragging him to a secure location, and waiting for him to wake up, either! This was the closest he’d been to the almighty prick in ages, and this was it. His chance to find out what had gone on, why Malfoy was so determined to avoid him, and what he could do to stop the twat being such a… Well, twat, really. If he could just figure out how to get the git to talk…

“If you come anywhere near me, Potter, I swear I will hex you into oblivion.”

Harry almost laughed at the sudden interruption of his thoughts; as if he’d want to kiss Malfoy anyway!

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist, Malfoy, believe me, the idea of you kissing me is just as repellent to me as it is to you. Though, I should point out, this cupboard is small, so technically I have to be near you…” he grinned to himself at the stony silence, picturing Malfoy’s outraged face as the Slytherin’s outline slowly distinguished itself from the darkness.

“Think that’s funny do you, Potter? Spare me the agony of listening to your pathetic attempts at wit.”

“Only if you spare me the excruciating pain of listening to talk out of your ass!”

Irritation and pure exhilaration flooded through him like an old friend as Malfoy fell silent, the air vibrating with unspoken insults. As the Slytherin let out a long-suffering sigh and muttered something unintelligible in his signature acerbic tone, Harry leapt at his chance to keep the conversation going. 

“Ah, still incapable of actually talking to me I see.”

Though of course, tact wasn’t exactly his strong point…

The outline of Malfoy’s head snapped back towards Harry, malicious gaze burning his skin even through the gloom.

Helpful, Harry, very helpful…

“Still a self-entitled pillock I see!”

All thoughts of trying to steer the conversation back to something that vaguely symbolised civility drowned as outrage flooded through him.

“I’m self-entitled?! You’re the spoiled git who ran to daddy every time the wind blew his hair in the wrong direction!”

Malfoy sucked in a short, sudden breath.

“I did no such thing!” the Slytherin practically squawked, prompting a shower of dust from above them with his violent protest. Harry merely scoffed.

“Oh sure, Mr. My-father-will-hear-about-my-chicken-being-dry! You could barely go a week in first year without cursing someone in the name of your father! You even fire-called him once to complain that the book Flitwick was using was too dusty and it was affecting your robes!”

“That’s-! I-! That’s not relevant right now, Potter!” he stammered as Harry crossed his arms in triumph. Even if Malfoy couldn’t see him properly, he was going to celebrate his victory! 

“But right now, all that matters is waiting until this hell is over, so just Piss. Off. Potter!” 

“Well, not that I don’t just love helping you or anything, but, if you hadn’t noticed, I’m locked in a cupboard with you, so, unless you find a secret exit, you’ll have to wait for six minutes.”

For the first time since entering the cupboard, Harry really wished it was better lit; watching Malfoy’s outraged expression as Harry smirked in his face was a joy he’d truly missed over the past few weeks. Fortunately, listening to him practically explode with frustration was almost as good.

“UGH! Why must you be so insufferable, Potter?!”

“You’re the one that’s a stuck-up prick, Malfoy!” he shot back. “Honestly, if you’d have just talked to me in the first place, we wouldn’t be in this mess!”

“Oh yes, because my refusing to answer a question that was fundamentally none of your business meant that we were randomly victimised by a childish game and locked in a cupboard together.”

“You know what I mean! Why couldn’t you just tell me what I’d done to upset you, rather than throwing a massive tantrum for once?!”

“Because… it’s none of your business!” The Slytherin paused, sounding far too triumphant when he managed to blurt the words out.

“It is my business when I’m the one who upset you! Why couldn’t you just tell me?!”

“Be-cause… I- Ugh,” the Slytherin grunted. Harry frowned, waiting for him to spit it out. Why was he suddenly struggling to talk? They were running against the clock here, they couldn’t afford to waste seconds when they were finally communicating! 

“Because I didn’t want too!”

“I know that you idiot! But why didn’t you want to tell me?!”

“Because-you-didn’t-notice-I’d-tried-to-change-and Ididn’twanttoadmitthatNO!”

Harry’s mouth dropped open as the sound of Malfoy punching the back of the cupboard reverberated around them. For a moment, he stared at the dark, tense silhouette that was Malfoy, the air practically vibrating, as his mind began spinning. 

What on earth had made Malfoy say that?! He hadn’t noticed he’d tried to change?! How had he tried to change? He’d been a colossal dickhead all year! Was Malfoy actually upset that Harry hadn’t commented on the fact that he’d been a bigger asshole than ever? And why the heck had he admitted it if he didn’t want to? 

But before he could focus on what it meant, annoyance surged through him again. How dare Malfoy make this out to be his fault? How was he suddenly supposed to notice that Malfoy was a nicer person when he tripped him up every chance he got? 

“What do you mean you ‘tried to change’?” he spat, “I haven’t seen anything remotely different about you, only that you’re more intent on making my life hell! Is that what you wanted me to notice? That you’ve changed for the worse?! That you’ve outdone yourself in the world record for being a prick?!”

Malfoy let out a groan of annoyance, pacing around the small cupboard. 

“This is exactly why I didn’t want to tell you, you just wouldn’t understand!”

“Well, I might have a chance if you actually, I don’t know, talked to me?! It’s not like I haven’t tried to get you too! You’re the one who decided to disappear every time you so much as heard me coming!”

“Oh, yes, that’s what I meant, Potter, how could I be so stupid and forget that this is my fault?!”

“Oh, WAKE UP, MALFOY! How can I take any blame when you refuse to TELL ME WHAT I DID?! Stop trying to avoid everything! Why are you making this harder than it has to be?!”

“Because I WANT TOO, Potter! Just leave me alone! I don’t want to talk about it! I just want to wait for our time to be up, so for once in your miserably heroic life, would you kindly just stuff a sock in it?!”

“NO!” Harry yelled, “Because you know what? It’s tough that you don’t want to talk about it. I deserve to know why the fuck you’re blaming me for all your problems! Why the fuck is this my fault that you were a prick to me? Why the fuck is it my fault that because you were a prick, I didn’t notice that you apparently, miraculously, tried to be a little less of a horrible person?! HOW, oh great Malfoy heir, is this my fault?!”

“BECAUSE YOU SAVED ME!”

Harry stopped dead as Malfoy exploded. 

“Because… I saved you?!” he repeated slowly, disbelief thick in his voice. Malfoy merely sighed.

“Just leave it, Potter.”

“Oh no, Malfoy, we’re talking about this,” he said. “I’m a dick, I’m an inexcusable piece of shit that deserves to be miserable, because I saved you?! What the FUCK?! Are you that incapable of putting the words ‘Thank’ and ‘You’ together?! Is it so painful to utter them in the same sentence, that you have to have a personal vendetta against the people who do nice things for you?!”

“Just fuck off, Potter,” Malfoy spat.

“Once again, Malfoy. NO. What the fuck is wrong with you?! How is me saving you a bad thing? Did you want to die in that fire? Because I’m fairly certain I remember you clinging onto me for dear life!”

“You don’t know what it was like after you won, Potter,” Malfoy spat, squaring up to him slightly.

“Oh, I’m sure it was difficult,” he retorted back, nose to nose with him. “I’m sure it was hell. So difficult for you without the chill of Riddle’s breath in your home anymore. You’re welcome, by the way! It’s not like I was on the run for a year from a megalomaniac who I actually had to die for, or like I watched countless friends die. No, I’m sure that I wouldn’t understand how hard your life was at all, Malfoy.”

“You know what, Potter? FUCK YOU! I know that your life was hell, but that doesn’t mean that mine wasn’t either!” 

“Oh, please enlighten me,” he spat bitterly, “Tell me how you struggled, how awful it was for you, how your daddy lost his way and cried when he was sentenced to prison! As if he didn’t fucking deserve to rot!”

For a second Malfoy stopped, flinching as if struck, the widening of his eyes visible even in the dim light. But Harry couldn’t find it in him to care. The bastard was just taking him round in circles, and he was done now. He deserved to know what was going on in the fucked up prick’s mind.

When Malfoy spoke again, his voice was quiet, dangerous, and tense.

“Remind me, oh lord and saviour, have you been trying to corner me for the past month just to insult me to the point where I would quite happily never talk to you again for a reason? Or do you actually believe that this is how you get people to open up?”

Harry just scoffed.

“According to you, it’s none of my fucking business anyway and you’d never tell me, so I don’t really see the point of holding back!”

“Why do you even bother asking then?!” Malfoy exclaimed.

“Because apparently I’m supposed to know shit about you without you telling me, and when I don’t, you act like I’ve personally stabbed you in the back!” 

“I-” Malfoy began, but as soon as he started, he stopped, Harry’s words tearing a massive hole in his argument. Harry had a point, and he knew it. He gestured in triumph. 

“That doesn’t mean you’re excused from being vile,” he muttered.

“Oh, like you are to me?” Harry shot back. Malfoy just sighed, as if suddenly exhausted.

“What do you want, Potter? Do you want me to apologise? I’m sorry, alright? For everything. Happy now? Can you just leave me alone now?”

“No!” Harry said emphatically. “I want to know how the fuck saving you was a bad thing! What else was I supposed to do?!”

But Malfoy just stood, stock still, staring wearily at him through the gloom. 

“Oh come ON!” Harry pushed. “What have you got to lose? I’ll leave you alone after!”

Malfoy sighed.

“It’s embarrassing. And personal.” He admitted quietly. Defeatedly. Harry frowned.

“That’s fine by me, I’m sure I can take it.”

“You can’t tell anyone - not that anyone would care...”

“Okay, I won’t, just, what was wrong with me saving you?!”

Malfoy paused, worrying his lip between his teeth, eyes resting on him. He took so long to answer, Harry almost screamed at him, impatience and anger coursing through him. Finally, however, as Malfoy gave another sigh, he began.

“After you won, after he died, my father should have been happy. He should have been pleased to have escaped alive, even if he was going to spend the rest of his life in prison. But he wasn’t. All he could talk about was how it was stupid that I needed to be saved by you - in the Room of Requirement. That I should have turned you in when you were at the Manor. That I was a disgrace. And he let the other Death Eater’s take their anger out on me.”

Harry paused, waiting for Malfoy to continue.

“They couldn’t meet up in the Manor, they were on the run, and we were all supposed to be on House Arrest until the trials, but Death Eaters have their ways, their connections, and the people they pay off. Every week or so, a random household object in my grip would turn into a Portkey, taking me to them before I could drop it.” 

“They… They’d punish me. Saying that I was the reason they’d lost, that I was in the wrong, and that I was the one who wrote their sentences. That I deserved my sentence too. And then they’d Crucio me. Or just hit me. Or make me run as they hunted me with spells.”

Harry frowned, anger ebbing away as he realised that Malfoy wasn’t lying. That he really had been tortured. Right under the Ministry’s nose. Worse. He’d been tortured and people in the Ministry probably knew about it, but just didn’t care. His stomach turned violently.

“All I could think of, every time I ran away, every time I had to heal my scars and cuts, or take baths twice a day just to deal with the pain was… If you’d let me die in that fire, I wouldn’t have to go through this.”

“I hated that this was my life. I wanted to just… Not have to fight, every second of my life. I wanted to know that my future was safe. I wanted to be able to take back everything I ever did, change who I was, which side I fought for, be braver, be… more like you…” he practically whispered, physically shaking himself slightly before continuing. “But I wasn’t. I was just the same coward, being punished for every mistake I’d ever made. If you’d have just left me there…”

“Malfoy-” but the Slytherin flinched, shaking his head slightly. 

“I know it’s not fair to hate you for that. I know that you didn’t save me knowing that was going to happen, but I needed to be able to hate someone other than myself. Do you have any idea what it’s like to hate yourself with every fibre of your being?”

Harry paused, taking in Malfoy’s slumped shoulders, the slight desperate edge in his eyes, the pain in his voice.

“No, I don’t.”

Malfoy nodded, letting out yet another sigh.

“Of course,” he continued, “After the trials, the torture stopped. They didn’t get to escape out of Azkaban, so I was safe. But the damage was done. And though you managed to spare me at the trials, the Wizengamot didn’t spare my father. On the day of my trial, he told me that he blamed me for his sentence. He was going to Azkaban but they gave him rights to sort his estates first. He disowned me and made sure I couldn’t go home. Turned mother against me. I had absolutely nowhere to go, no one to turn to, and I ended up on the streets until someone managed to get Pansy, who thankfully let me stay until we came back to Hogwarts. It’s the only reason I’m here. I couldn’t see my mother, couldn’t live anywhere, couldn’t survive on my own. I needed to come back to school just to have food and somewhere to sleep.”

“But, school is where you are,” Malfoy said bitterly. “Everywhere I looked people were congratulating you, telling you how much better you’d made their life, how much you’d helped them, when my life got exponentially worse when you defeated him. And I couldn’t help but hate you more. Every time I saw you it reminded me of the days where they’d terrorise me. Every time I heard your voice I’d hear my father, disowning me, calling me useless. So I took it out on you.”

“I really did try to be better to other people, though,” he met Harry’s eyes again. Harry frowned slightly.

“How?”

“First of all,” he began, “I need to say, that I hope you know that just because I fought on that side of the war, it was never because I hated all muggles and thought they should die. I used to, I know that. But then I met him , and immediately it was obvious he was stark raving mad. The fact that my father ever idolised him makes me sick. I fought for him because of my family, because I was scared, because I didn’t want to die. Not because I thought he was actually right.”

“I know, Malfoy. That’s why I testified for you. And I wouldn’t necessarily call what you did ‘fighting’. More, doing the bare minimum to convince him of your allegiance.”

Malfoy grimaced.

“I just needed to make sure you didn’t think I was… Like them.” He took a deep breath, eyes pointedly staring anywhere but at him as he rushed to continue, before Harry could say anything else. 

“When you won, I knew I could actually learn, actually be less of a bigoted prick for once, and I tried to prove that I could be different. So I took up Muggle studies, despite not having done it since second year, which is why McGonagall paired us together. I requested to do Muggle Studies and she would only let me do it if I had a tutor. And who better than the saviour, raised in a muggle household, entirely unaware he was even a Wizard? I didn’t know she was going to pair us together, but it just made so much sense when I saw you in the room, ready to teach me.”

“Anyway, I started trying to think about whether all the beliefs I had were actually true or just… Prejudiced. I spent ages doing research, and writing essays, and even started sticking up for muggle-borns and telling others to shut up when they made horrible comments but… No-one took me seriously.”

“I expected that. I am just a Death Eater. But, I expected… I just thought… That you would know me better. That’s why it hurt so much when you said that I shouldn’t worry my little pure-blood head over what the fuck Chemistry was. That I would only think it was stupid and add it to my reasons as to why muggles should be abolished… You completely missed the fact that I was… On your side, for once...”

Harry frowned, everything clicking into place as memories swirled in his mind.

“That’s why you avoided me for months?”

Malfoy nodded. 

“I genuinely did try and change. And I knew that other people wouldn’t pay any attention. I knew that they’d think I was just trying to trick people into trusting me, worming my way back into society. It’s not like I expected people to trust me, or care about me, or even notice that I was doing anything at all. I know I’m a Death Eater. But…” 

“But what?” 

Malfoy sighed again.

“I just hoped you’d see it and…”

“Know it was genuine.” Malofy nodded. “Because we stalk each other and piss each other off every year,” Harry said. 

“Exactly. You’re the one who has always been there. Every year we send insults flying at each other, rile each other up, and generally making life more exciting. No matter what you were doing, we always paid more attention to each other. I mean, you stalked me for an entire bloody year and knew more about me than all my friends put together during sixth year!” he exclaimed before sighing again. “I just… I thought that if there was one person who’d actually notice… Who would realise that I was different, or even just trying to be different…”

“It would be me...” Harry finished for him. 

“Yes…” he admitted quietly. “But, when you didn’t see it, because I was trying to piss you off too, it was easier to hate you for saving me than it was to blame myself. I already hate myself quite enough for now,” he muttered, bitterly. “So I avoided you.” 

“And acted like a complete prick.”

Malfoy let out a soft snort.

“And acted like a complete prick,” he murmured, sliding down the wall. 

For a moment Harry waited, letting the information settle in his mind, watching his arch-enemy, the youngest Death Eater in years, fold in on himself. Broken. Defeated. Exhausted. 

It all made sense. It was fucked up, inexcusable, and ridiculous. But it all made sense. And finally, he felt like he understood.

“Well…” Harry started, sliding down opposite him. “That does make sense. Somehow… And, for the record, I’m sorry that the Death Eater’s were such pricks.” Malfoy merely nodded.

“Sorry I was such a dick.”

Harry chuckled slightly.

“Well, it’s not like I’m not used to it, is it?” That got a half-smile out of the Slytherin.

Once again silence stretched between them, Harry watching every breath Malfoy took as the Slytherin stared bleakly into the distance. 

As the silence reigned, it grew heavier, weighing down on him, pressuring him to speak, to help somehow, to make this better, or right, or… Something. Anything to take the devastated look off of Malfoy’s face...

“Malfoy I -”

“TIME’S UP LOVEBIRDS!”

Just as he went to lean forward towards Malfoy, the door was thrown open, slamming against the wall as light flooded the cupboard. Both jumping a mile, they squinted at the sudden brightness, the unmistakable figure of Dean hovered excitedly in the door. Harry groaned. Why couldn’t he ever finish a conversation with the git properly? Still, as their eyes adjusted, they both looked to the Gryffindor, who was pouting at the sight of them.

“You really didn’t kiss?” he asked. When they both shook their heads, Dean gave a heavy sigh.

“Dammit Harry, you just cost me 10 Galleons! We gave you an extra 15 minutes for Merlin’s sake! You owe me!”

“15 MINUTES?! We could have died, Dean, you wanker! If you think I’m paying you that, you’ve clearly got brain damage from your boyfriend’s explosions!” he quipped, recovering himself easily as he heaved himself off the floor to step out of the cupboard into clean, non-musty air. Malfoy quickly followed, making sure there was copious distance between him and them, like he’d catch a disease exclusive to Gryffindor’s or something. But for once, Harry didn’t mind. 

“Hey! You leave Seamus alone!” Dean whacked him on the arm as Harry sniggered. “He’s just too brilliant for you to understand!” As Harry spluttered incredulously, Malfoy silent and depressed beside him, Dean spurred the conversation on. 

“Anyway! Now you two have to forfeit! I wonder what everyone will vote for you two to do!”

With an uncharacteristic, but much appreciated, shared look of horror and dread, Malfoy and Harry were urged back to the main group, forcing him to leave all thoughts of their time in the cupboard behind.

For now.

Chapter Text

By the time that Harry finally had the chance to properly think about his seven minutes in heaven with Malfoy, it was much, much later. 

The party had raged all night; first, he and Malfoy had been forced to sing love songs to each other as their forfeit; Harry was given a song of magical origin, which he’d never heard of, and was unfortunately graphic, and Malfoy was forced to sing ‘You Sexy Thing’ by a band called Hot Chocolate. And it was torture. 

Every time they paused, or stuttered, or tried to mumble some particularly embarrassing lyrics (honestly, who puts something like ‘ I want to slide down your pole, baby make me breathless, I’m under your control ’ in a song?!), or weren't ‘passionate enough’, Seamus, the utter bastard , would restart the song, yelling at them to sing it with conviction, really ‘give it some welly’ until everyone could just ‘feel the love in the room’! Unfortunately, the wanker had had the good sense to confiscate both his and Malfoy’s wands before the forfeit started, because otherwise, Harry was certain their hosts would not have been left standing... 

But, after many dramatic dance moves, much beckoning to each other, and some utterly attrocious high-notes, they were finally deemed worthy to be released from their torture. Their classmates, of course, loved it, clutching their stomachs and rolling around on the floor throughout, as Malfoy and he blushed darker than the Gryffindor curtains. Even Ron looked like he was practically going to pass out with glee, unable to draw breath for a full minute because he was laughing so hard he could no longer produce any sound. The man was lucky Harry loved him… And that he was scared of his girlfriend…

Eventually, when the laughter had died down for the final time, no new giggles from Parkinson (the fucking bitch) or Finch Fletchley (he really should have let that snake bite him back in second year) sounded to set everyone off again, and the heat on Harry’s cheeks had cooled a few degrees, they finally moved onto playing a few more rounds of Seven Minutes. 

Unlike the start of their turn, everyone else seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves, eagerly springing up whenever they were selected, not even bothering to look back. Though, no-one seemed to enjoy themselves quite so much as Zabini and Lavender. As the bottle slowly ground to a stop, resting on them, matching sly grins lit their faces. Dean barely had the chance to lock the door before the first piece of clothing was removed. When the couple finally emerged from the cupboard (which, mind you, was only after people threatened to drag them out), they still took their time putting themselves back together, adjusting clothes and belts at their leisure, revelling in the chorus of wolf-whistles. 

After that particular spin the bottle success, Dean and Seamus called the game to an end. No one was going to top that. So instead the dance floor was officially opened for business. And once again, participation wasn’t optional.

Harry tried to stay on the sidelines, he tried to just shuffle his feet and make it look like he was joining in, whilst avoiding both embarrassing himself and scarring everyone else for life, but it was no use. Within minutes Seamus had grabbed him, throwing him into the middle of the crowd that quickly formed a ring around him (one that he later not so affectionately named the ring of death), forcing him to dance battle against his classmates. 

It was not fun. Especially when Parkinson slutdropped far too near to him for his comfort. Though the look on Malfoy’s face was quite amusing, Harry had to say.

Thankfully, after much flailing and pleading for freedom, people eventually lost interest in his dancing prowess (or utter lack thereof), and turned to their own groups of friends to dance the night away, finally allowing him to escape to the safety of his friends. After that, he’d chatted with Ron and Hermione, laughing about silly things like Ron’s latest attempt to use a muggle telephone in Muggle Studies, and Hermione’s complete failure of a first attempt to cook a Sunday dinner the other weekend, catching up for the first time in what felt like ages. 

It wasn’t that they hadn’t been there, they still saw each other every day, but with Harry’s focus being on Malfoy, and Hermione’s focus on her studies, as usual, they hadn’t really relaxed in ages, just sat and talked, followed the conversation wherever it took them. Until then, Harry hadn’t realised how much he’d missed it...

As the night wore on, and conversation lapsed into happy companionship, relaxed from the alcohol and lack of talk about N. E. W. T.s, Harry found himself sitting back and people watching. His gaze had drifted from person to person catching subtle glances, happy smiles, mand faces in the throes of raucous laughter. He’d watched as more couples met on the dancefloor, Ron and Hermione included, swaying and smooching, holding each other close. He’d smiled as Neville and Hannah had slowly danced closer and closer until they were practically attached to each other, and chuckled to himself as Zabini and Lavender slipped out together. He’d even done a double-take as he caught Parkinson staring at Hermione’s bum (not that he wanted to remember that particular detail!). No-one had looked this happy in a long time, and as he steadily sipped on a seemingly endless supply of Butterbeer, he did genuinely enjoy himself. 

Still, he couldn’t help looking for a certain blond. 

Between each pulsing beat of the bass, a voice had niggled quietly in his mind, throwing memories from earlier at him; the torture, the hurt in Malfoy’s voice, and the utter defeat that screamed in every exhausted breath the man took. 

He hadn’t stayed long after the dancing began, disappearing out of the common room somewhere. Harry had debated leaving the party to go and get the map, the all too familiar urge to track Malfoy down, follow him, and try and talk to him seeming to get stronger with each minute he was out of his sight. He needed to continue their conversation from earlier. To figure out how he felt about it all. To just… think and see the Slytherin for what he was.  But even Harry, for all his impulsivity, knew it wasn’t a good idea. They’d never had a pleasant history, full of rash words and flying insults, and this wasn’t just any conversation they’d had. It was… Delicate. Devastating. He couldn’t afford to fuck this up. Besides, every time he so much as looked at the staircase to the dorms, someone appeared at his table, talking to him, distracting him, keeping him there.

So he waited. He enjoyed the music, watched his friends smile and laugh, carefree for once, and just enjoyed the free drinks, watched as Malfoy slipped back in just before midnight, and just waited, counting down until he could properly process their conversation. 

Finally, many, many hours later, it was here. 

All was dark in the dorm; everyone had finished stumbling drunkenly to their beds, (but only after singing out of tune choruses of the love songs once more), and now, with the moon high in the sky, snores were hitting the air around him. 

As soon as he could, he clambered over to the windowsill, his usual perch, settling under the moon’s glow to think and finally come to terms with everything Malfoy had said. Almost immediately, as his dorm-mates slipped further into slumber, the uneasy feeling from the cupboard returned, sinking deep into his stomach, curling uncomfortably through him. 

Malfoy had… Well. Malfoy had been through hell.

He’d been a complete tosser the entire year, pushed away the one person likely to help him, to know him, reinforced everyone’s idea that he was a spoiled prat who deserved every spell cast at his back… And been through absolute hell without anyone knowing.

He’d been tortured. Actually tortured. Disowned. Thrown out. Hated by his entire family. All because Harry had won the war. He’d known that the Death Eater’s weren’t exactly going to be happy that he’d won; he had just put them out of a job and sentenced them to either death or Azkaban, after all. But to actively hunt someone, take all their frustration out on them by torturing them, and try to convince them that they deserved it just made Harry’s blood boil.

But what made it worse was that no-one had been there for him. No-one had even known . Instead he’d suffered in silence, sleeping on the streets, entirely alone, drowning in self-hatred until Parkinson managed to find him and school started again. And even then, he’d only come back because he absolutely had to. It wasn’t like Hogwarts was a particularly safe option for him; once a place of safety, the school had now turned into something akin to a prison, full of people who would hate him on sight, try and hex him, and make his life a living hell, purely because of the Mark on his arm. As Malfoy had said himself, he was a Death Eater; no one cared about him...

And now, after weeks of raging at the wanker, dreaming about pulling the truth out of him, imagining the sense of satisfaction when he finally knew what the prick’s problem was… Regret, hurt, horror, and an overwhelming need to just do something to help, to support the prat, flooded through him instead. The more Harry thought about it, the harder it was to remember the last time he’d seen Malfoy smile, or seem even vaguely happy. He’d just been so… Depressed lately… Playing with his food without really seeing it, shaking his head when Parkinson asked him to sit with her, retiring to bed hours before dinner, and walking just that little bit oddly, his jaw just slightly too tense. The signs had all been there. He was just too much of a dickhead for Harry to look close enough...

He knew that it wasn’t his fault that he’d missed it, and Malfoy still technically deserved it if Harry was pissed; he’d been a complete bastard after all. But no matter how hard he tried to be annoyed, tried to resent the git, he couldn’t. Not when he knew exactly what it was like to be hated by everyone around you. To have to deal with their shit. Every. Single. Day. To not be able to retaliate at all, for fear of worse consequences, or just because it wasn’t worth it. To have to bottle all the anger, the hurt, and grief, no matter how much it hurt. How much it raged. 

And how sometimes, self-control just wasn’t enough.

Ron and Hermione learned very quickly that during September, or immediately after spending time with his aunt and uncle, Harry lost his temper a lot quicker. Every time something annoyed him, no matter how trivial, he’d snap. Yell. Bite his friend’s heads off. And generally be a dick. But he couldn’t help it. After weeks of keeping his mouth shut, he just couldn’t anymore. 

Fortunately it never lasted too long; school would start and distract him, he’d go flying again and feel truly happy for the first time in months, and Hermione and Ron always understood, giving him space if he needed it, or hugging him after an outburst. But Malfoy hadn’t been so lucky. He hadn’t enjoyed a single thing all year, hadn’t mounted a broom, enjoyed his work, or had anyone to help remind him that he wasn’t a piece of shit. Sure, he was friends with Parkinson, who was clearly worried about him and a great friend to those she cared about, but Harry could count on one hand the times he’d actually seen them together long enough to be having a proper conversation, to help heal the wounds of his summer. Malfoy never let Parkinson get close enough to help properly. Harry wondered how much she even knew...

No. No matter how much the snooty git had pissed him off, no matter how pathetic, ridiculous, and infuriating the prat had been, Harry couldn’t find it in him to be mad. Instead, an almost overwhelming drive to help, to protect, to just do something to make the bastard’s life a little more bearable thumped in his chest. Malfoy was a prick, but he didn’t deserve to be the sad shadow of himself he currently was.

But Malfoy wouldn’t exactly like it if Harry Potter, Saviour of the Wizarding World swooped in to help him, heroic colours blazing. No, he’d prefer something much more subtle. Genuine. Personal. After he stopped second-guessing the reason someone was being kind to him of course…

As the moon crept across the sky, Harry wracked his brains, ardently trying to come up with a workable idea of how to help Malfoy, how to make his life just that little bit better. He couldn’t change the world’s view of him, but he could at least show him that he understood. Noticed him. Cared, even. But idea after idea was analysed, considered, and thrown out, each one too stupid, too dumb, too saviour-ish, or too cringey. It seemed practically impossible!

As the first peaks of sunlight began to taint the sky, Harry huffed, resting his head against the window in defeat. 

‘Why does he have to be such a prissy git? Helping someone shouldn’t be this difficult, surely!’ 

Once more, Harry’s mind turned back to the cupboard, to their conversation, the insults, the discussion, the explanation… Suddenly, just as he was about to give up and crawl into bed for a few hours sleep before breakfast, it hit him. 

Chemistry. That was it!

In a flash he was up, running to the Owlery, quill, parchment, and money in hand, scribbling out a note as fast as he could in the fresh morning air. Picking the most alert owl he could find (though the tawny still looked very unimpressed to be sent on an errand so early) he sent the note off, excitement thrumming through him as he watched the bird shrink to a speck on the horizon.

As he fell gratefully into bed, Harry couldn’t help but smile, unable to wait for the chance to put his plan into action. Despite the fact he only got three hours sleep before Dean’s terrible singing dragged him back to the land of the living, Harry felt he’d never slept better in his life.

Chapter Text

It took almost two weeks; two weeks of planning. Of waiting. Of hoping. Of constantly fighting with his infamous, idiotic Gryffindor tendency to just rush in, act before thinking, and royally fuck everything up. 

And it was hell.

Things had mostly returned to normal after their 23 minutes in heaven; Malfoy had stopped avoiding him at every turn, and had instead resumed his annoying existence, muttering quips not quite under his breath in lessons, spelling random things to jump into action when Harry happened to walk past them, and regaling his posse with tales of his excellence, wit, and chivalry. The other Slytherins no longer flanked him from every angle, but doted on him as they had before the war, and if Harry entered a room, at least two sets of eyes would watch him like a hawk, just waiting for him to trip up, at which point a loud chorus of shrieks and guffaws would erupt around him. The only difference was that Malfoy never even glanced in his direction.

Ever since being forced to sing horrid love songs to each other, Malfoy had managed to completely avoid eye contact with him. There were no glances where they caught the other looking, no shared, uncomfortable expressions where they both knew they were thinking about that night, not even a lingering heat on the back of Harry's neck as he walked through the common room. No. Malfoy was acting like Harry was invisible. 

And obviously, Harry hated it. 

He'd always struggled when Malfoy ignored him, always knew it meant he was up to something, and this time was no different. But somehow, this time it was almost worse. This time, Malfoy wasn’t ignoring him because he was hiding a plan of some sort, but because he was hiding himself. 

He’d been forced to reveal his secrets in that cupboard that night, to let Harry know what he’d really gone through, what his weaknesses were, how vulnerable he was, how defeated he really felt, and how much he completely hated his life. None of which he’d ever wanted to do. He’d spent months avoiding Harry, in fact, so that he physically wouldn’t have to!

But finally he’d given in, laid aside his defences, and basically bared his soul to Harry, who still wasn’t entirely sure why, if he was honest. But really, that detail didn’t matter. What did matter was clearly, Malfoy now regretted being so candid, and wished his archnemesis didn’t know such things about him. But of course, now it was too late. Harry knew everything, and there was nothing Malfoy could do about it. Except run from the truth of course, and pretend to be perfectly fine, enjoying every second of his life to the full by making Harry’s life utter hell. And that was exactly what he was doing. And it was driving Harry mad, though not for the same reasons anymore. 

Sure, being tripped up every few days was annoying as hell, but mostly Harry hated not being able to help. Hated being able to see past the Slytherin’s pretence without being able to do anything about it. Every nonchalant turn of Malfoy's head away from Harry's direction, every relaxed gaze he gave the professor's, every shred of attention he paid to his friends obviously boring stories rather than stalking Harry like he knew he wanted to, sent bolts of determination through Harry. They renewed his resolve to be better, mend fences with Malfoy, give him a little more genuine enjoyment in his life, and to just try and really see him for who he was, rather than the enemy he'd once had.

But for that to happen, Harry had to do things right. He had to plan and to stick to a script, in order to stop another infamous Potter-Malfoy bust-up. So for once, instead of rushing in, Harry drew on every ounce of self-control he’d ever developed. He bided his time, watching and waiting for everything he needed to fall into place, all the while desperately trying to quash the desire to just call Malfoy out every time a suit of armour randomly stepped out in front of him, scaring him shitless. Which was far more often than he cared to remember...

It was difficult. More difficult, somehow, than spending a year on the run, living on scraps and sleeping on sodden floors at times. He couldn’t count how many times he’d had to hold his breath to stop himself exploding in a corridor after another dungbomb had been thrown (with fairly decent aim) at his head! But somehow, miraculously, almost two weeks later, he realised that he'd actually managed it! He’d actually organised everything and arranged a meeting with Malfoy! His order had arrived a few days after the party, he'd schemed as to how to get Malfoy to agree to spend time in a room with him on his own again, had given up on being clever after concluding he would most likely end up hexed or insulted and had just owled the prat a note deciding he could pester him if necessary, and then spent several days doing just that, sending increasingly snarky notes backward and forward with the prick, until Malfoy finally agreed to meet, just to get Harry off his case. But now, finally, the day was here. Malfoy just had to show up, and stay long enough for him to explain. 

Harry just hoped it was enough.

Now, sat in the same classroom they'd used for their potion lessons, arguments, and insults, he wasn't so sure it was. His leg bounced under the table uncontrollably, as every second ticked painfully by, and for the 6th time in a minute, Harry sighed, resisting the urge to pace around the room. Why had he decided to get here 10 minutes early? And why hadn’t he realised that Malfoy would most likely wait until he was either exactly on time, or late, just to inconvenience him?!

Rolling his eyes and adjusting in his chair, Harry cast yet another Tempus, trying and failing to stop jigging in his seat. For the briefest of seconds, 13:59 blinked back at him, before it disappeared, replacing itself not a moment later with the numbers 14:00. Two o’clock exactly. 

Immediately, the door opened, flooding the room with the sound of babbling students as a bolt of adrenaline hurtled through Harry, sending him scrambling to sit in a more acceptable position. Turning hastily towards the door, his eyes fell on Malfoy who was standing just inside the open door, shoulders tense, jaw set, eyes flickering towards him, just for the briefest of seconds, for the first time in two weeks. A brief moment passed between them, neither daring to breathe, before Malfoy appeared to deem Harry worthy of his presence, just for a minute or so, and he finally closed the door behind him. 

Just as suddenly as it started, the noise stopped, and silence, deafening and oppressing, descended, magnifying each sound of Malfoy’s heels on the stone floor. But as Malfoy stopped a few feet from the desk, silent and stoic, eyes carefully guarded as he met Harry’s gaze, Harry couldn’t help the small smile that tugged at the corners of his mouth.

“You came,” he blurted out. 

“Of course I came, Potter,” Malfoy drawled in his signature cold, cutting tone, sneer just as cutting as it had been in First Year. “You were quite insistent and I thought this best to avoid what would most certainly be an insufferable outburst from you in front of all of my friends if I decided not to keep our meeting. Now, if you could stop pointing out the obvious like a blithering idiot, I have another appointment with a rather comfortable chair in front of the fire to be getting to.” Cold eyes glared at him for a moment before he added in a clipped, pointed tone, “What do you want?”

Once more, excitement and annoyance thrummed through Harry, a million retorts and sarcastic replies springing to mind. But he had a plan. He’d spent ages going over this, perfecting it, determined to get it right so that he and Malfoy could stop trying to piss each other off, and start actually getting on. He just needed the willpower to resist telling Malfoy what a prick he was and follow it…

Taking a deep breath, and without breaking eye contact, Harry reached beside him for the box he knew was waiting there, carefully placing it on the table between him and Malfoy, before relaxing back into his chair, letting the Slytherin make the next move. The slightest frown creased Malfoy’s brow as he looked at the box.

“What’s this, Potter?” Malfoy spat scathingly, clearly wanting to poke at the box as if it’s very existence offended him, though Harry could clearly see the glimmer of curiosity in his eyes as he tried and failed to decipher what was written on the parcel. Harry bit back a smile.

“A truce offering, Malfoy,” the Slytherin’s eyes snapped suspiciously to Harry’s once more.

“We both fucked up, and I’m sorry. I know you are too, and I want to change things. We’ve done enough fighting in the war, I really can’t be arsed to fight with you anymore, and this seemed like a good place to start.” Taking another deep breath, Harry stood, moving the box so that Malfoy would be able to see it better.

“You asked me what Chemistry was, so I thought I’d show you, and have some fun at the same time. In here are 101 Chemistry Experiments for Kids, which muggle parents use to get their children interested in Science. I thought we could do some of them together, if you wanted to, of course…” 

He trailed off as Malfoy’s eyes flicked between him and the box, analysing each of the pictures, the contents list, and Harry’s face for any trace of ridicule, waiting for Malfoy to either yell in his face, or accept the offering. But Malfoy remained motionless, a war of emotions plain on his face as he debated his options, desires and impulses fighting for dominance. 

“Come on,” a voice in Harry’s mind whispered as silence continued to stretch between them. Butterflies wormed their way into Harry’s stomach, fluttering ever quicker, twisting and diving rapidly in the most sickening sensation he could imagine. “Just give in,” he thought to himself. “Don’t be a twit! Don’t say that this was a mistake! You know you want to! Don’t be an idiot, please Malfoy?” 

But still the Slytherin debated, rooted to the spot, causing doubt, uncertainty, and defeat to join the butterflies uncomfortably. Honestly Harry was amazed there was room in his stomach for it all. 

He was just debating grabbing the parcel, making excuses and dismissing the whole thing when pale fingers reached for the box, carefully lifting it off the table. Eyes snapping back to the Slytherin, Harry waited, barely breathing.

“You want to do this? With me?” Malfoy asked, after staring intensely at the box for another minute. “You want to… Make… Explosions? And… mess? And smelly, gooey... slime? To, what? Apologise?” Finally, grey eyes met Harry’s, disbelief clear in them. Harry swallowed, heart pounding.

“Er… Yeah, I s’pose…” he mumbled awkwardly, wondering why he’d ever thought this was a good idea. “It… Might not be the best idea but-”

“No!” Malfoy jolted forward before catching himself.

“I mean-” he faltered, blinking like a deer caught in the headlights, as hope curled through Harry’s stomach. “Um, it wouldn’t be unacceptable to… I suppose it might be educational- Uh…”

Slowly, a grin spread across Harry’s face, relief, excitement, and happiness flooding through him, much like the blush colouring Malfoy’s cheeks.

“Great,” he grinned, actually grinned at Malfoy, interrupting him as more futile stammers jumped from the Slytherin’s lips. “What do you want to do first?”

For the briefest of seconds, Malfoy met his eyes, a brilliant mix of happiness, hope, and something that looked suspiciously like gratitude blatantly shining through them, before quickly dropping his attention back to the box in his hands, pausing for a second, and setting to work on opening it. 

“I can’t believe it worked!” Harry thought as Malfoy tried and failed to hide his eagerness, tearing off the sellotape and beginning to empty the box. “He’s staying because he wants too!” 

But as more and more things appeared, each varying wildly in size and colour, and satisfaction and giddy happiness rushed through him, Harry couldn’t find it in him to just watch or stay calm anymore. He’d done it! He’d managed to keep his temper and not piss off Mr. Prissy, and now they were going to spend time learning what Chemistry was! Finally he could relax and just follow his instincts. And right then, his instincts were telling him to pitch in and help organise the items on the table; there were experiments to be conducted!

*

“So then you just add this?” Malfoy said, holding up a mixture of baking soda and water and frowning sceptically at the makeshift volcano they’d just made. 

Somehow, three hours had passed since Malfoy had begun pulling ingredients for experiments out of the box. They’d made play-dough, which the prick had charmed to make rude faces at Harry, leading to Harry pelting it at the git’s head. Then they made some milk art, which was you were supposed to put food colouring on top of milk, and then swirl it around to make patterns. Perhaps unsurprisingly, as soon as Harry had selected his colour, Malfoy had vehemently opposed his choice, calling it ‘gaudy’ and ‘disgusting’ and launching into a tirade of reasons as to why Harry had no colour or fashion sense at all. For a while, Harry had tried to argue, but he soon realised that it was too much effort, and instead resorted to levitating the plate of milk to above Malfoy’s perfectly arranged hair. Of course, the prat was so busy ranting at Harry that he barely noticed until Harry cleared his throat loudly, and stared obviously at the plate floating directly above his head, at which point Harry suddenly wound up with a lapful of the git, who was shrieking just as shrilly as Parkinson did whenever he told a joke, and threatening to pummel him if he didn’t put it down immediately. Harry almost dropped the plate from laughing so hard. 

After they’d finally managed to draw something resembling a pattern, and wondered at how two fluids could stay so separate, they’d finally moved onto something else, resulting in the quickly whipped together (with the help of some magic) the paper mache volcano that was now sitting in front of them, and were just about to make it explode. They hoped.

“Apparently,” Harry checked the instructions, wondering if it would really work himself. “Though apparently we should be prepared for mess…”

“Nothing a Scourgify can’t fix, though, right?”

“Definitely,” Harry nodded, not nearly as sure as he sounded, but far too excited to see the result to care. “Wanna add it?” 

As Malfoy took another, skeptical look at the volcano, Harry smiled to himself. Somehow, the entire afternoon had been really enjoyable! As usual insults and barbs had been thrown at by each of them, especially during the setting up of experiments - ‘ Really, Potter? Whatever would I do without you? How would I have ever guessed that the blue substance in my hand was actually food colouring? It’s not like there’s a label on- OH WAIT!’, ‘Well, you can’t blame me for being surprised at you being able to read past your snooty nose, Malfoy!’ - but for once, Harry found himself smiling, wanting to laugh even, suppressing sniggers anyway he could. Judging by the evil glints in Malfoy’s eyes, and extremely undignified snorts from the Slytherin that slipped out every now and then, he wasn’t the only one. If the afternoon wasn’t so enjoyable, it would have been extremely unnerving...

“Ready?” Malfoy asked, shaking Harry from his thoughts to find the blond with baking soda in hand, and a touch of apprehension in his eyes.

“Why the hesitation Malfoy, scared?” Harry grinned. Malfoy scoffed, disgusted.

“Obviously that’s you, Potter! And you must be touched in the head to believe that I could be scared of such a stupid little thing as this!”

Before Harry could do more than yell in indignation, Malfoy threw all the baking soda into the volcano, sticking his nose up in the air to prove his nonchalance. But almost immediately a fervent hissing noise met their ears, and once again, blond hair flew dangerously close to Harry’s face as Malfoy jumped back from the table. Sniggering once more, Harry took a step back as well, catching sight of violently bubbling red ‘lava’ beginning to spurt from the volcano. As they watched, the momentum continued to grow, some spurts jumping almost a metre high towards the ceiling, whilst others flooded over the paper mache ridges, onto the table, and off the sides. 

“Whoa!” Malfoy exclaimed, as some of the solution made a beeline for Harry’s shoes. He could have sworn he heard Malfoy make a snide comment about them being ruined anyway, but was too busy trying to find a place that was safe to stand to reply. It was rapidly becoming a difficult task indeed; stream after stream of lava flowed from the volcano, almost impossibly fast, drenching the table, splattering the floor, and following both Malfoy and Harry into a corner. 

“How much baking soda did you put in?!” Harry exclaimed. Malfoy flushed indignantly.

“Only as much as the instructions stated, Potter! Unlike you, I can actually read! Remember, I never ruin potions, I’m sure I can handle a simple instruction set as this! You were the one who said we could do this inside, which the instructions expressly warned against! Why did I ever trust you?!”

“Well, that was your mistake, Malfoy! I’ve never done this before, I was just guessing! Still, no point crying about it now! Quick, go left!” Harry yelled back, shoving Malfoy to dodge another spray of lava. He only laughed harder when the Slytherin shot him an outraged look. 

“What?! What do you mean you guessed?! How did you-? Why did you?! POTTER!” The blond spluttered. Harry just laughed.

“Lighten up, Malfoy, you’re loving it, don’t lie!” He grinned, watching Malfoy’s face contort once again into stupid, dumbfounded expressions at Harry’s utter gall to accuse him of having fun. 

“I haven’t the slightest idea as to what you’re on about,” he retorted haughtily, though a smile was tugging at the corners of his mouth. Before he could utterly disgrace himself, though, Malfoy turned his attention back to the sea of lava, leaving Harry to grin at the slightly dishevelled idiot beside him, silently congratulating himself on having managed to pull this off.

For a while, all they could do was watch, the lava still growing, spreading to every corner, and setting at a surprisingly fast rate. But eventually, thankfully, the torrential flood slowed, then stopped, and the lava finally stopped advancing. Just out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw a soft smile illuminate Malfoy’s face.

“Merlin’s beard…” Malfoy breathed as the final bubbles popped. “That was amazing!”

Harry nodded, matching the Slytherin’s smile. 

“Careful, Malfoy. People might actually think that you’re capable of feeling something other than annoyance when you’re with me,” he quipped, grinning at Malfoy’s nonplussed expression. 

“I think they’d be more surprised to find out that you can actually fit your gigantic head into such a small space!” Malfoy sniped, before fishing out his wand and turning his attention to cleaning up the mess. 

“Oh piss off, Malfoy,” he threw back, moving to help all the same.

“Nice insult there, Potter,” Malfoy smirked, spelling away a particularly resistant clump of baking soda. “Couldn’t find anything better?”

“What makes you think you’re worth my best insults, Mr. Priss?” Harry frowned at his shoe which had a bright red splotch on it, though he had no idea where from; he’d been careful...

“Ugh, why must you call me that?!” Malfoy rounded on him.

“Why do you insist on living up to the name?” he replied easily, smiling innocently. 

“I do not!”

“You do too, and you know it!”

“Honestly Potter, you’re so infuriating!”

“Oh, and you’re a walk in the park, are you?”

Obviously!”

“AS IF!” Harry roared, incredulous laughter bubbling out. 

“You’re delusional, Potter,” Malfoy stated, voice not quite as level as it should be as he turned back to the task at hand, a funny little snort escaping him practically as soon as his back was turned. 

“Oh sure, Malfoy,” he scoffed, turning to the lava once more, “I’m definitely the delusional one, and the one that’s touched in the head!”

With another few sniggers, comfortable silence resumed, punctuated only by muttered spells and the sound of lava disappearing. After five minutes of concentrated work, finally they found themselves able to stand in front of the table once more, staring silently in awe at the now quiet volcano. Until Harry’s stomach rumbled of course, making Malfoy scoff at him once more.

“Honestly, Potter!” he said acerbically. 

“It’s not my fault!” Harry exclaimed. “It’s gone five! It’s dinner time! I’m allowed to be hungry!”

But Malfoy just rolled his eyes and shook his head, tutting under his breath. Harry sighed at the prat.

“We can keep going if you want?” he offered. Malfoy paused, suddenly seeming less energetic. As Malfoy considered Harry’s words, Harry watched the spark in Malfoy’s eyes dim, his shoulders drop slightly, his small smile erase itself completely, replaced by a blank, resigned expression.

“No. We should stop,” he said, tone flatter, emptier, and yet heavy all at once. “I have homework to do.” 

As Harry watched, Malfoy moved mechanically across the room, picking up his bag, collecting his things, all the while putting all his defences back in place, blocking Harry out once more. Each action, each step, was like a punch straight to Harry’s chest, knocking the wind out of him, erasing all the fun from the past three and a half hours. 

“But,” he blurted before he could stop himself, “We can always do more later, if you want?” From behind reserved eyes, Malfoy blinked at him once more, somehow managing to cross a million miles in ten steps. 

“We still have those slots on our timetables? This could be classed as Muggle Studies, so we could meet up and try some other experiments… I mean, unless you’d rather not?”

For a second Malfoy just stared blankly at him, as if the words hadn’t managed to sink in yet, still travelling to their destination, until suddenly, the tiniest spark of hope flickered in Malfoy’s eyes.

“Uh…” he began before clearing his throat and straightening slightly, “I think that would be acceptable, Potter,” he nodded. “Though quite how I’m going to cope with your company for much longer I don’t know.” He added. The teasing tone in his voice sent bubbles of happiness zooming in Harry’s chest.

“Believe me, Malfoy, the feeling is definitely mutual!”

Sharing another small smile, Harry too started gathering his things, mind wandering to food as his stomach growled again, and the hum of students making their way to the Great Hall increased outside. Somewhat too soon, Harry found himself standing awkwardly in the middle of the room, Malfoy fiddling with his bag in the corner, neither willing to break the silence first. Taking in Malfoy’s distant gaze, Harry sighed, knowing the Slytherin would happily stand there all night if he let him.

“Well, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually enjoyed this, Malfoy.” 

The blond blinked in his direction, face carefully blank as he paused. 

“Me too,” he finally murmured quietly, as if admitting a dark secret. “Apparently you’re not entirely horrid, somehow, Potter.”

“Oh thanks!” Harry scoffed, “And you’re not quite as poncy as I thought you were!” Ever so slightly, Malfoy recoiled in mock offence.

“How dare you?! I’m insulted, Potter!” 

For once, Harry didn’t even bother trying to hide his amusement, laughing openly. The Slytherin’s lips stretched, just a little, into a smile, his grey eyes dancing, losing their hollowness for just a moment. But all too soon, the laughter died, the gloom returned to Malfoy’s face, and the horrid weight in Harry’s chest returned. 

“Look, Malfoy-” he started.

“Shush, Potter.” Malfoy interrupted, quietly. Harry frowned.

“What? You don’t even know what I was going to say!”

“I don’t need to know what you were going to say, I just know that it will ruin it,” the blond muttered sharply. 

“What do you mean?! I just wanted to say tha-”

“No! Don’t!” The Slytherin stepped back, visibly shutting Harry out. His frown deepened. Malfoy sighed.

“I know that tone, Potter,” he stated wearily, staring vaguely off into the distance. “That’s your serious tone. Your Saviour tone. That’s the tone you’ll use to talk about the cupboard, the war, life, and how shit it all is. About how you want to save me or some other equally awful bullshit. I just,” he sighed, raking a hand through his hair. “I don’t want that.” Grey eyes turned back to meet his, almost pleading.

“We had a… A nice afternoon, ignoring all of that, and it just… It will just ruin it to bring all that shit up. I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to forget it. Pretend it didn’t happen. Just pretend we’re just doing Muggle Studies, or Potions, or whatever. I just don’t want all that stuff to be real again.”

For a moment Harry paused, drowning in the desperation in Malfoy’s eyes, debating what to say, before simply nodding. Almost immediately Malfoy’s shoulders relaxed, he let out a sigh of apparent relief, and he adjusted his bag, clearly ready to leave.

“Just-” he caught Malfoy’s arm as the Slytherin went to walk away. “Just, come and find me or something if you need to, okay? Or, I don’t know, trip me up more than usual, I don’t know, you’ll find other ways to get my attention, and we can have extra lessons or something. You just… You don’t have to do this alone anymore, Draco,” the boy flinched at the use of his first name, but Harry didn’t care. It wasn’t right for anyone to struggle on their own. Malfoy deserved to know this. “Okay?”

A moment of silence passed as Malfoy regarded him, processing everything he’d just said, but Harry stared right back at him, jaw set, defiant.

“Sappy fucking Gryffindor’s,” Malfoy muttered eventually, shaking his arm free of Harry’s grip finally. But Harry knew he’d seen a flash of gratitude in those eyes. That was all he could ask for. Well, that and food...

“Well, I’m starving,” he said, stepping back to give Malfoy some room and resume normality. “But at least you know what Chemistry is now.” 

“And confirmed once and for all how atrocious your taste in colour is,” Malfoy murmured. 

“Oh fuck off, you snake.” Malfoy merely rolled his eyes in response, looking for all the world like he was so bored he could drop dead at any second. 

“Never; you’d miss my taunts!” Malfoy pulled the door open.

“That I would…” Harry found himself thinking. Not that he was about to say that out loud, of course!

“So, Tuesday?” Harry asked as they closed the door behind them, the volcano now carefully shrunk and placed in Malfoy’s bag. As they began walking to the Great Hall, Malfoy watched him briefly out of the corner of his eye. 

“Tuesday,” he nodded, the barest hint of a smile in his voice. 

“Good. Try not to kill me with too many suits of armour before then?” he asked, only half-joking. Malfoy, of course, merely smirked.

“I can’t make any promises, Potter!”

Glaring and giving the prick the finger, Harry caught one more glimmer of happiness in the Slytherin’s eyes before he turned off towards his house’s table, leaving Harry to wander over to join his own friends, moments from the last few hours swirling merrily in his mind. 

And though over the next few days they barely made eye contact, or more imaginative things pounced upon him, scaring him in front of everyone, and though they acted like nothing had changed at all, somewhere Harry knew that somehow, everything was incredibly different. Happier. Better. Not perfect or fixed by any means. But better. And he just couldn’t wait to see where his and Malfoy’s lessons would take them.