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there’s a bluebird in my heart (that wants to get out)

Chapter Text

Cruci-

Sectumsempra!” Harry shouted, watching then the jagged, awkward flick of his wand blossom on Draco’s skin. Draco fell back on the tile with a splash.

“No-“ Harry reached out, trudged through the rows of toilets, and fell on his knees at Draco’s side. “No.” He clutched at Draco’s skin, trying desperately to put it back together, but it made other gashes spread wider and he couldn’t hold all the blood in. Draco’s hands kept circling his stomach, darting between open wounds, and trembling harder each time he found one. Myrtle’s howls echoed off the walls, but Harry’s ears were ringing too loud to hear her. He gripped Draco’s face and watched him go pale. A huge gash across his nose… he looked so afraid. Harry told him a million times how sorry he was.

Snape threw Harry back. He felt so faint that he struggled to keep himself up. The blood in the water danced up Draco’s body, back into his face and chest, while Snape hummed incantations. Draco stopped trembling, but his breathing did not yet steady. Tears rolled out of his eyes, but the look on his face was only shock.

“Come,” Snape ushered Draco, pulling him to his feet, “You need to get to the hospital ward. If we can give you ditanny now we may be able to stop the scarring.” He turned to Harry, “And you. Wait here for me.”

Moaning Myrtle basked in a cistern and wailed at Harry, “Why did you do that to him!”

“I didn’t mean to,” Harry told her.

Snape gave Harry a light sentence, all things considered; detention to the end of the year for mortally wounding a classmate seemed inappropriately cushy, but Harry would be the last to argue. When Snape pressed him to see his textbooks, Harry realized quickly that he needed to hide his Potions book, lest he get accused of cheating and need to retake Advanced Potions during his 7th year. So Harry did the perfectly natural thing: he stole a new(ish) copy from Ron and ran to the seventh floor to beg the Room of Requirement to let him in. Three rounds of pacing did the trick, and Harry was so relieved that he had to stifle shouting.

The inside was magnificent and markedly different from its last iteration, with enormous ceilings, and towers of lost treasures and junk. Harry wondered how many students left hidden things here, staring as he passed a tea kettle the height of a house, though normal in width. Weapons, long-dried up potions, and thousands upon thousands of books lay askew among the piles, no thought given to location, as if everyone who dropped by gave their item a toss and shut the door forever.

For all the work, Snape didn’t believe his substituted book, going so far as to call Harry a liar, but still rested on the rather lofty punishment of Saturday detentions until end of term. Harry said a silent goodbye to the last Quidditch match of the year, not wanting to grant Snape the satisfaction of fighting it or otherwise irk him into granting something worse.

The dittany did not help Draco’s scarring much. Harry froze when he saw Draco again, a great scar from his nose and up one cheek. For once, detention was a true punishment. Apart from the horribly boring job of transcribing files for Filch, it was all Harry could do but picture the scene over and over. The slashes in Draco’s shirt, the blood, the terrible seizures… Pansy Parkinson and half of Slytherin house followed Harry up and down the corridors, shouting expletives and mocking him. Draco seemed to entertain it at first, but must have tired of it quickly, because Harry overheard a gigantic argument between him and Pansy, and then she only glared at Harry in passing.

Draco often left dinner early, if he showed up at all, and tonight would be no exception. Harry watched him as he rose from his seat, leaving behind a full plate and his inquiring girlfriend. Harry could watch him on the Marauder’s Map, but only for so long. He would go into the Room of Requirement every time, his little footsteps disappearing somewhere on the seventh floor.

“I’ll see you in the common room,” Harry told Ron and Hermione, leaping up from the bench.

“Harry, wait!” Hermione called after him, but Harry didn’t stop. He was sure her lecture would bide for him until later.

Despite being long-legged, Draco was silent when he walked, and Harry was suddenly keenly aware of his own awkward, loud gait. Draco led them in a winding path through corridor after corridor. Harry would hover around corners and niches, trying his best to evade notice, nearly losing Draco’s trail in the process. Crabbe and Goyle wouldn’t be far behind them to guard the door in one polyjuice form or another. Draco led Harry off the carpeted stair onto the seventh floor landing and twisted around as soon Harry’s heavy steps started on the bare stone.

“Come to finish me off, Potter?” Draco produced his wand from within his sleeve and pointed it straight at Harry.

Harry was overwhelmed with the urge to reach for his own wand, but threw his hands up instead. “No,” was all he could muster.

Malfoy was a prickly bastard, cold and repugnant like his father. Harry hated him. But his scar, the long, silvery one that ran up his cheek… that made Harry wince.

Draco watched Harry. His feet were shifting about, but his wand hand did not budge or falter. He was falling apart, a total wreck, and Harry could only recognize it because he’d felt the same.

“I’m sorry,” Harry muttered. Malfoy didn’t apologize when he stomped Harry’s face and left him petrified on the train to ride back to London. But there was no trace left of Harry’s broken nose. Draco would wear the scars Harry gave him forever, and that was another feeling that Harry knew. “I’m sorry,” Harry said louder. “I didn’t know what the spell did. I wouldn’t’ve—“ he stuttered, “I just— was… uh, I’m sorry.”

Draco lowered his wand and raised it again. “Is this a trick?”

“No, it’s not,” Harry urged.

“How’d you not know what the spell did?”

“I only read it in a textbook.”

“No description? No note, ‘hey, this one is fatal’? Right, good one, Potter.” Malfoy pocketed his wand, but kept it tight in his grip. He turned and kept walking.

“Long story,” Harry called, “But I’m not lying.”

“Yeah, likely. Just took your chances on a random spell. Will it be a shoe shining charm or a deadly curse? Got lucky, didn’t you.”

“I didn’t- I wasn’t thinking. It only said it was ‘for enemies’.”

Malfoy did not answer him, and disappeared at the end of the hall.

Stupid git, Harry thought.

Throughout the year, Malfoy shifted from the person Harry recognized to someone meek and vacant. He no longer seemed to take pleasure in terrorizing first years or abusing his prefect privileges. He was also far less willing to argue with Harry, which Harry had noticed above all. The year before, the bastard took leagues with Umbridge just to spite Harry, but now there was fear in him. Like a stray dog, he didn’t bite until backed into a corner. Like that day in the bathroom.

Harry tried to fit the pieces together. Draco was crying that day; he was white-knuckle gripping the basin, and… sobbing. What for? Harry knew about this mission from Voldemort, whatever it was. Draco seemed eager to do it yet… it was eating him.

“Harry, you ought to leave it be,” said Hermione, employing her usual officious tone. “With no way into the room, it’s fruitless for you to try and understand what he’s doing, and you’ve wasted enough time already. I can’t begin to understand why you are less interested in the Horcruxes-” Hermione whispered this word with a stern look, “than Malfoy’s stupid plan, which you’ve said yourself he is bound to fail anyway. I mean look at him, Harry, he looks one foot in the grave already.” Hermione shivered.

Ron reluctantly agreed, then added, “But I would love to see what the twat is up to,” earning a glare from Hermione and a snicker from Harry.

Harry followed Draco when he fled the dining hall the next day. He took the shifting stairs on the opposite side of the castle, preparing to ambush Draco from the other end of the hall. But when he came around it, two fists took him by the shirt and slammed him against the bricks. He groaned. Draco was always thin, and lately he was waifish, but he still winded Harry. Draco reached down to draw his wand, and Harry took the opportunity to overtake him. Harry grabbed both of Draco’s wrists, forcing him to drop his wand. When it hit the ground, it made a weak, sad noise like a twig. He yanked to spin them around and shoved Draco into the stone wall with a heave.

“Crabbe and Goyle will be round any minute,” Draco said with a smirk. He did not fight Harry’s grip or try to lurch away.

“Not afraid of those wankers.” Harry watched as the door to the Room of Requirement settled into the wall. He had no plan now, since Draco had caught him so soon. He needed a way to force Draco into the room with him. He supposed he could start by asking. “Show me what you’re using it for.”

Draco laughed in Harry’s face. Harry pulled him closer just to slam him into the wall again. They were close to the same height, but Harry felt so much bigger than him. Draco was pallid, ghastly even. Harry cursed any feeling that looked like sympathy and gripped Draco’s shirt tighter, wrinkling the perfect press.

“Knew your apology was shit, Potter,” Draco puffed.

“It wasn’t.”

“Convincing.”

“What are you hiding, Malfoy?”

Typically Draco was quick to use his wand, or shove any bloke on his broom, but he would always run from a true physical fight. Harry thought of the day Hermione decked him square in the face. Harry was used to getting knocked around- though not anymore since he towered over squat Dudley- and right now he was grateful for it. Draco let Harry hold him there, looking quite smug. Like he supposed Harry wouldn’t hurt him again, not worse than, well.

“Looks good, doesn’t it,” Draco said, noting Harry’s preoccupation with his scar, “Pansy likes it, tells me I look so tough.” He did a rather good impression of her.

“Brilliant, mate. That’s wicked.” Harry chided, relishing in Malfoy’s souring face, looking like he could taste the sarcasm.

Crabbe and Goyle’s voices sounded down the hall, and Draco laughed in Harry’s face.

Harry cursed and hit Draco square in the stomach with his shoulder, tackling him kicking and screaming into the Room of Requirement. Crabbe and Goyle ran after them, poly-juiced into the form of two fourth year girls, but they missed the shrinking door by a long-shot.

Harry dropped Draco on his ass. “Git,” Draco spat at him, “What’s your plan anyway?”

“Figuring out what you’re up to.”

“Clever. It’d take you maybe, dunno, a thousand years to rifle through all of this. And you’re counting on me staying.”

Harry tried to hold back a smile. It was curious, and incredibly fortunate, that the Room of Requirement was the very same as when Harry needed it to hide his book, yet it had formed for Draco. Harry tried to push away the bit of pride that reared up when he realized his instinct about Draco hiding something was shockingly correct.

Draco stood and headed for the door, but Harry shoved him back.

“You’re one of them,” said Harry. Draco glared at him. “Show me.”

“Didn’t know you swung that way, Potter, but if you say so,” Draco sniggered, making a joke of unbuttoning his pants.

Harry grabbed his wrist. He tried to remember which one it was, mind reeling back to the graveyard and picturing Wormtail exposing his own mark for Voldemort, so that he could call forth the rest of the followers, Lucius Malfoy among them. Harry shoved up Draco’s sleeve. The sight of it filled him with a horrible dread that he didn’t expect. It didn’t look like it should belong to him, this boy he’d known for six years, this schoolyard bully he met getting fitted for his robes first year. Back then he spouted about half-bloods and pure when Harry didn’t know what the ugly words meant.

Harry stared at the mark and Draco let him. A snake curled forth from the mouth of a skull. The ink was so black it looked fake, and much more-so against Draco’s pale skin.

“For enemies,” Draco muttered.

Harry looked him in the eyes. He looked for something in him… some hellbent psychosis like Bellatrix Lestrange or Barty Crouch Jr... or lifeless avarice like Lucius. But Draco had none of the sort, at least not anymore. Then again, Harry heard that fear might be a greater catalyst for loyalty, and Draco had certainly shown he was afraid. He didn’t show it now, though, if he was. He just put on a sneer and after a time he yanked his wrist away.

“Still regret it?” said Draco, fussing with his cuff, realigning it properly on his wrist.

“Regret what?” Harry asked, but he knew what he meant. He needed to buy time. He didn’t know what to say.

“Cutting me up, you idiot.”

“Yeah, I still do.”

“Why?” Draco flashed red. “WHY? I tried to use the Cruciatus Curse on you!”

Harry flinched and remembered the feeling; like knives all over his body. But not by Draco’s hand. “It’s not so bad, really,” Harry grimaced, but it only made Draco more angry.

“I’d do it again,” he said, closing in on Harry with peculiar darkness in his eyes.

Harry thought again of Bellatrix, of chasing her through the Ministry after she killed Sirius. She taunted him. He cast the Cruciatus Curse at her in a blind rage, but it only knocked her back. Harry couldn’t find it in himself to truly torture someone, not even so angry, not even her.

“I bet you couldn’t bear it,” Harry spat at him.

Draco turned his nose up at Harry in the way he always did. “Try me, Potter.”

“Where’s your wand, Malfoy?”

Draco said nothing.

“So,” Harry folded his arms stubbornly, “I’ll just hang here and you can get on and do whatever you usually do in here, yeah? Deal?”

“Sod off, idiot.”

“Fine, I don’t need you to stay to find it.” Harry stepped aside from the door. “Go.”

Draco eyed him and did not budge. Harry could almost hear Draco contemplating to himself: it’s too easy, it’s a trick. Harry nodded him on and tried with all of his might to stifle a grin.

Draco walked to the door, and stopped with his fingers on the handle. “Touch me again and I’ll kill you,” he said before slipping through the exit.

Chapter Text

Pansy twisted Draco’s rings in circles on his fingers. She ran her hand over his sleeve, playing at the mark below. He wouldn’t let her see it.

“Do something for me,” Draco told her and she nodded eagerly, “If Potter leaves without Weasley or Granger, follow him. Stop him if you have to.”

“I will.” She said, tucking into his shoulder.

Draco waited until Harry was distracted, then extracted from Pansy’s grip and crept out into the corridors. He made Crabbe and Goyle come with him, much to their dismay. They complained about missing dessert the entire walk.

“Quit whining, you dim shits. This is more important.”

Draco closed the door to the Room of Requirement and followed his memorized path through the piles of junk and curios. He smiled, began to laugh- he could hear the bird he’d sent through the vanishing cabinet. It was alive! He pressed his forehead to the door of the cabinet and sighed. He’d done something worth noticing. He opened the door and offered the little bird his finger. It perched on him, chirped, and preened it’s wing. He thought of his mother and wondered if she knew yet. If only for a moment, Draco could breathe.

To his right, a solitary hand emerged, and with it, a wand. Draco’s eyes widened. Before he could fight it Harry had him choked, the point of his wand at Draco’s throat. The bird flew away into the cavernous ceiling.

“What‘s it for?” Harry asked. His breath fanned down Draco’s neck.

“Fuck you.”

“What’s it for, Malfoy?” Harry growled in his ear and twisted the tip of his wand into Draco’s windpipe.

“Fuck. You. Cunt.”

“Nothing then? Just a normal cabinet? Wouldn’t mind if I changed it up a bit, then, yeah?” Harry lifted his wand to the armoire and shouted, “Confringo!

Draco cried out as the vanishing cabinet burst into flames.

Harry let Draco go, and he fell to the floor, stomach churning about. How could he explain this? His eyes filled with tears. He shot up, wand in hand, and yelled “Crucio!

Harry shot back like a rag-doll. He landed square on the crooked, wooden leg of an upturned loveseat. He cried out in pain, gripped his back, and gradually stood up.

Draco stared at him, feeling equal parts shock and shame. Harry came in and ruined everything, as he always did. Draco was too weak for even this.

“I told you,” Harry clenched his teeth and stifled a laugh.

Draco reached up to cast it again, but Harry, even bent over and whinging, disarmed Draco, sending his wand flying. Draco felt the tears rolling down his cheeks. He wanted to die.

“I couldn’t either,” Harry said. “I tried…. Your aunt. I couldn’t do it.”

Draco mulled on that for a moment. “Because she killed Sirius Black?”

“He was my godfather.”

Draco nodded. “What stopped you?”

“I don’t know. What’s stopping you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Must not want me to suffer that bad, then.”

Draco hesitated, “Why do you keep following me around, Potter? Don’t you have better things to do?”

“No, actually, this is just fine. I’m quite content foiling whatever shit plan you and your Death Eater buddies are concocting.”

“How many times have you followed me here?”

“A couple.”

Draco had no energy for it; no energy for being angry, to mock him, or to take revenge. He just wanted to hide. He spent weeks repairing the Vanishing Cabinet, and it was ashes and embers burning pathetically on the floor, mocking him. Now he would have to do it all alone; if Potter didn’t follow him there first and ruin that too. It was time enough to prove he was a man, to honor his father’s name, and preserve his loyalties, yet here he was, wandless and teary-eyed in front of none other than The Chosen One, The Boy Who Lived. Too weak to cast a curse on a boy he hated for years. Harry’s eyes on him made him want to scream. And he could, no one would hear but Harry. He had embarrassed himself enough, what was one more thing? His skin burned, his scars ached, his mark itched.

It appeared to Draco that Harry had softened his gaze. “Don’t want your pity,” Draco told him.

“You don’t have it.” Harry said. He had ridiculous hair. It looked like it rarely saw scissors, much less a brush. Draco smoothed over his own hair and fixed it back into place, the comfort of a familiar compulsion.

“Why are you so upset?” Harry asked, but he really was asking, not mocking.

“Shut up.”

“Really- I’d of thought you-“

“Shut up!”

“I would have thought you’d love being one of them. Glory, purity, being a twat, all that. Right up your alley. Suppose I am making it hard for you, though.”

Draco was trembling, but he concealed it well enough. He kneeled to get his wand and Harry did not stop him. He picked his wand up- and something else- and pointed it at Harry while he skirted around him to leave.

“What was the cabinet for?”

“Sod off, Potter.”

If Harry would just let him pass… he was still bent over and nursing his back. Draco broke into a jog and then a sprint for the door.

“I will figure it out, you know!”

“Good luck!” Draco called behind him, grinning like mad.

He wondered how long it would take Potter to realize… Draco stole the invisibility cloak.

Chapter Text

“Where have you been disappearing to, Harry?” Hermione asked, accusing. Harry sat with his back to the fire while Ron and Hermione sat unusually close on the rather large couch. It was fortunate for them that no other students liked to hang out in the common room for long after dinner.

Harry didn’t gratify her with a reply. She knew very well where Harry went, and often took it upon herself to dissuade him from devoting any more attention to it. Harry ignored her and kept on; it was an itch he needed to scratch. Draco’s sudden change in demeanor, this ‘mission’, the Room of Requirement… Harry needed answers. Try as he might, he couldn’t ignore it for long.

“Still? And nothing I presume? You’ve been going after him all year. Time to give a rest, Harry.”

“Well… there is something. It's a cabinet in the Room of Requirement. I’ve watched him the last week or so, he puts things in there, casts a spell, they disappear. The incantation is Harmonia Nectere Passus. But, lately, things have been coming back when he casts the spell again.”

Ron shook his head.

Hermione brushed some hair away from her face. ”I’m not sure I understand, Harry. But I’ll see what I can find about this incantation.”

Harry dropped his head back in exhaustion. Hermione twisted a lock of her hair and scowled at nothing, a tic that indicated she was engaged in thought.

“At Borgin and Burke’s, I asked that old arse--“ Hermione started, Ron seeming chuffed with her use of the word, “--what Draco was up to and he told me to leave, waved me away, seemed really angry. They must know about this cabinet. Are you sure it’s just some cabinet, Harry? Was there anything else in there that he was interested in?”

“Yeah, I’m sure, I mean, unless he knew I was following him and he was throwing me off. He seemed paranoid, looking over his shoulder every few seconds. But he was really upset when I destroyed it.”

“You what?!” Hermione broke into laughter. “Well, it doesn’t matter now, then!”

“What sort of things was he putting in the cabinet?” Ron asked.

Harry tried to remember. “An apple. And when it came back it had a bite taken from it.”

“Weird,” Ron rubbed his chin.

“And a bird. When it came back alive, he seemed happy.”

“So weird,” said Hermione.

She thumbed through a dreadful little book that Luna gave her called “Nupargons, Feather Sprites, and Other Common Nuisances” while Harry and Ron resumed the game of chess they’d started that morning. After a while, Ron started compulsively yawning, but resisted going to bed until Hermione was twitching after every single one.

“You’d better make good use of that cloak of yours and see what he does next,” Hermione told Harry as she stood up and stretched. “Come on, let’s get some sleep.”

Harry thought he would shit his pants. He didn’t have his cloak. But he couldn’t let Hermione and Ron know that. ”I think I’ll stay back for a minute,” said Harry.

“Goodnight!” Ron and Hermione called out as they took the stairs to their dorms.

“Night!” Harry stood and rushed to the door, then thought better of it. No cloak, this late at night…

He opened the portrait a crack and whispered “Accio cloak!”, his wand glowing in response.

“You what?” said the Fat Lady, “Who’s there?”

Harry figured he might have to wait a while, if the cloak would even be able to leave the Room of Requirement on its own.

Something hit him square in the head, a balled up blanket or--

He turned around to find Draco Malfoy standing right in the middle of the Gryffindor common room. Harry picked up his cloak, he and Draco staring dumbfounded at one another.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Harry whispered.

“Stealing your style,” Draco whispered back.

“Bastard.”

“Half-blood.”

Harry could have laughed, he felt it well up in his belly. Watching Draco cling to that hate was equal parts sad and empty. “Brat,” said Harry.

Suddenly, Draco charged at him and took Harry quite by surprise. They landed on the floor with a thud, sending Harry’s glasses flying. Harry gasped for air, his bruised back screaming at the impact. Draco straddled him and pointed a long finger at Harry, using his other hand to pin Harry by the neck. Harry tried to free his arms, but he was locked down. Draco came close to his face and whispered, “Stop ruining everything, Potter.”

“Did I strike a nerve? Stop following me around,” Harry laughed before Draco tightened his grip on Harry’s neck.

“You’re the one popping your stupid head up everywhere I look. Stalker.”

“Don’t be so shit at hiding then.”

Draco came close to his face. Harry could barely see him, but could feel his breath and smell the cologne he wore. Harry fumbled around for his glasses and put them on.

“What-- you going to kiss me, Malfoy?”

“In your dreams,” said Draco, shoving off of Harry and turning his mouth up in disgust.

Harry scooted backwards, growled out an ouch, and stood up very slowly, careful not to anger his aching back.

“Common room is shit,” Draco spat, looking around. He stared at the tapestries that circled the walls.

“Way better than the Slytherin one.”

“When have you seen the Slytherin common room?”

“Second year. Polyjuice potion.”

Draco shook his head, incredulous. “Why?”

“Wanted to see if you were the Heir of Slytherin.”

“But it was you.”

“Yeah, realized that later.”

“Why is it always you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re the youngest Seeker in years, you win the Triwizard Cup...” Harry tried to interrupt at that but Draco kept on. “You’re a parselmouth, you killed a basilisk with a sword, stole the Philosopher’s stone, you’re Captain of the quidditch team, everyone loves you,” Draco rolled his eyes.

“I wouldn’t say that last bit. Changes like the weather, really. Remember those “Potter Stinks” buttons everyone wore?”

Draco laughed. “I made them.”

“Git.”

“Yeah.”

Then there was a great pause, awkward as could be. Harry swallowed like molasses was pouring into his mouth.

“So I’d better borrow that cloak again, thank you,” Draco said, drawing it from the floor.

“Ah, better not,” Harry grabbed the other shoulder of the cloak.

“I’m not taking detention! You know how far I’ve got to walk?”

“Don’t get caught.”

“Oh right, well I’m not as versed at being a creep as you, Potter.”

“Due time you learned, then, yeah?” Harry grinned.

Draco bumped into Harry walking by him to the door.

“I can walk down with you,” Harry offered.

Draco stopped dead.

Harry shouldered on the cloak, but held open one side. “It’s quite roomy.”

Draco stared at Harry, arm held out and the other half of his body concealed by the cloak. Draco turned and barreled through the door, then thought better of that plan and quickly darted back in.

Harry laid the cloak around Draco’s shoulder and pulled the front seam together. Somehow, the two of them, tall as they were now, fit with room to spare.

“I’ll steal this thing again,” Draco whispered to him as they weaved down the stairs. “Could use one.” Draco’s arm would shoot out to grab the railings as the stairs shifted, and Harry laughed every time.

“Good luck,” Harry taunted. The next set of stairs abruptly began moving before Draco had both feet on them. He very ungracefully fell forward into Harry, then shoved him away when he got his footing again.

In the hall they found Mrs. Norris, who preceded her owner. She darted around Harry and Draco, followed closely by the glow of Filch’s lantern.

“What is it, Mrs. Norris?” he cooed at her. She meowed eagerly in response.

Harry and Draco both realized they needed to move to one side of the hall to avoid them, and each chose a different direction. They pulled apart and Draco cursed under his breath. Harry gripped Draco’s arm and ripped him to his side of the hall. They both flattened against the stones.

Filch and the cat sniffed around, but Harry and Draco gradually inched away, both of them holding their breath. Draco’s face twisted up and he nursed his arm where Harry had grabbed him.

Harry felt the urge to laugh, the kind that makes your belly ache if you suppress it. Can it be any more ridiculous?, he thought. He was escorting a Death Eater to the Slytherin common room beneath his invisibility cloak.

“Can’t imagine the shit you’ve got up to with this thing,” Draco glared at Harry.

“Wouldn’t want to know, either.”

The thought left a frown on Draco’s face.

They were in the lowest hall of the dungeons, and Harry scarcely remembered which part of the bare stretch was the entrance. Draco felt around in the cloak and pressed through the seam, but before leaving, he turned to look at Harry.

“You’re welcome,” Harry chaffed.

“Get bent, Potter.”

Harry drew the cloak in and watched as Draco approached the wall.

“Bubotuber,” Draco whispered, then shot a nasty glare at thin air after hearing Harry laugh. The stones shifted and the common room door revealed itself. Through it, Pansy Parkinson burst out and catapulted herself into Draco’s arms.

“I’ve been up waiting, where have you been? I was worried!” she cried.

Harry made his way back up to the common room.

Chapter Text

Harry met Hermione and Ron in the Great Hall during one of their study periods. Hermione launched a great, big book in front of him. She described her findings on the etymology of the incantation Draco used. Harry only half-listened, lost in thought.

“Harry, vanishing cabinets almost always come in pairs. I think he was trying to smuggle people into Hogwarts,” Hermione whispered.

“So that’s why he put the bird through. It was a test, to see if someone could survive. But who would Draco want to bring into Hogwarts?” wondered Harry.

“Oh, dunno, Death Eaters?” Ron squinted his eyes and threw a nasty look where Draco sat, who wasn’t present to see.

“We don’t know if he is a Death Eater,” said Hermione.

“Well, his father is! Glad they locked the grimy bugger up,” Ron argued.

“And so’s he,” said Harry.

“Harry, we don’t know that--”

“No, Hermione,” Harry cut her off, “I saw it… his mark.”

Both Ron and Hermione leaned in.

“How?” Hermione’s nose wrinkled. “When?”

“He showed me… A while ago.”

“And you didn’t tell us?”

“I didn’t think of it.”

“Blimey, Harry,” said Ron.

“One of the students at Hogwarts is a Death Eater. Really, Harry? That doesn’t warrant a conversation?” Hermione only realized she was talking quite loud when a student a table away turned to glare at her. “You have to tell Dumbledore.”

“I will,” said Harry.

Now,” she whispered, low and through gritted teeth. She was quite scary sometimes. Harry looked to Ron, who only offered a reluctant nod.

“Fine.” Harry gathered his books and stormed off, wondering if it mattered anymore if he’d already ruined Draco’s plan. He swore at himself. Why didn’t he want to turn him in? It didn’t seem real, just another way for Draco to mess with Harry, like he would wave his wand at the mark later and it would peel away. After all, Draco couldn’t use the Cruciatus Curse on Harry… though he tried to do it twice.

Harry walked out of the Great Hall to find Blaise Zabini and Draco on their way in. Blaise gave Draco a strange look, and Draco shot a finger up at him so as to say, give me a second. Blaise, without so much as a blink, strode through the archway into the Great Hall alone. Harry made his way down past the open courtyards, hearing Draco trod after him but not wanting anyone to get the chance to see them talking.

Draco caught up and then matched his stride, not saying anything for a minute. Harry looked at him out of the corner of his eye. Draco walked with his hands in his pockets, silver chain around his neck glaring in the sunlight. Harry looked away, reminded sharply of the incident with Katie Bell.

“Er,” Draco started, “Thanks. For, um-- the other night.”

“Sure thing,” Harry mumbled.

“Just, you know, don’t tell anyone.”

“Wasn’t planning on it,” Harry bit back.

“Well--“

“What? Have you told someone?”

Draco looked down at his shoes, and then hid his face from Harry rather quickly. “No.”

“Liar,” said Harry, but truthfully, he didn’t care if Draco had told anyone. It was a ridiculous story, and it was unlikely anyone would believe Draco anyhow.

Draco stopped walking, and Harry turned to look at him.

“What’s it to you?” asked Draco.

Harry snickered. “Nothing. You’re the one who told me not to tell anyone.”

“You don’t have to be such an arse about it,” Draco flushed.

Harry could hardly stand to hold in a laugh. “An arse! I’m an arse?”

Draco looked to be growing angrier by the second. In a huff, he turned around and began walking away.

“Should I keep it to myself that you’re a Death Eater too?” Harry yelled after him, liking that it brought Draco to a dead stop again. Draco’s shoulders rose and fell, heaving with his breath. Harry put his fingers over his wand.

After a moment of hesitation, Draco turned, charged at Harry, and took him by the collar. He was sneering, breathing hard, trembling. Harry let the grin melt off his mouth. He looked down, and found that Draco had pressed his wand just to the right of Harry’s navel.

“If you so much as think of telling anyone, I’ll give you another scar,” Draco growled.

“What’s it to you?” Harry mocked him. He didn’t plan to tell anyone, but it was perhaps the best chance he had at annoying Draco.

Draco tried to shove him but Harry overpowered him rather easily, pushing his hands away.

“Tell me what they’re making you do,” said Harry.

Draco looked dejected, but his eyes fluttered at the thought.

“They aren’t making me do anything.”

“Then what have you been up to?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“You were trying to sneak Death Eaters into the school. Why? To kill students?”

Draco’s eyes widened. ”How do you know that?”

“Was a good guess. You admit it, then? That you wanted to bring them in and endanger everyone here?”

“No! I--“

“Why should I believe you? Why shouldn’t I tell Dumbledore right now?”

“Please, Harry,” Draco pleaded, eyes welling up.

Harry was startled by the use of his name, but didn’t let it show. “Well, you said it yourself, they aren’t making you do it, right? You are willingly doing this, no Imperius curse to be found. Just a prat and his blood supremacist family following the orders of a coward.”

Draco winced at the word family and Harry was struck with understanding. If Harry went to Dumbledore and ruined Draco’s plan, it was likely that the entire Malfoy family would be murdered.

The sky was clouded and gray, and in what seemed like no time it all, it opened up and began to pour. Draco was a sight then, crying and hair dampening, droplets of water running down his face onto his blazer.

Harry felt his heart turn over. No matter what Dumbledore did or said, there was no protecting each member of the Malfoy family from Voldemort. Harry thought of Lucius dropping Tom Riddle’s diary in Ginny’s cauldron her first year, bestowing a horrible poltergeist on a little girl. The world wouldn’t be less without him, but Harry couldn’t live with himself anyway. But what if it meant potentially saving dozens of Hogwarts students from death, whatever Draco’s mission was…

“I have Veritaserum, Malfoy. I’ll make you tell me.” Harry was bluffing, but the recipe was in his copy of Advanced Potion-Making.

“I’d sooner kill myself before letting you find out,” Draco yelled. The rain drenched through his hair, his shirt, it flew off his lips when he spoke. It was hard to tell if he was crying anymore.

Harry wiped back the hair sticking to his forehead and stared at Malfoy. His glasses were collecting droplets. “Give me a reason, Malfoy.”

“I won’t do it. If you keep it a secret, I won’t do what he’s asking me to do.”

“Then someone else will.”

“No. No one else. No one else can do it but me.”

Harry felt very much like he was meddling with bigger consequences than he could fathom. He realized that Malfoy was offering his life to protect his family. He stuck his hand out to shake on it, a trepidatious promise. Draco looked at his hand for a moment, reached out and gripped it, giving it a shake. Then he turned on his feet and tramped through the courtyard, muddying his dress shoes.

Chapter Text

Today was the final Quidditch match of the season, the championship between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw. Most of Gryffindor house wouldn’t speak to Harry for getting detention and probably costing them the win. The season scores were close, but if Gryffindor lost by more than two hundred points, Harry would be the first Captain in two centuries to place Gryffindor in at fourth. He cringed at the thought. Ginny would substitute for him as seeker against Cho Chang, which made him, more than anything, sorely regret missing the match.

Harry pulled the Marauder’s map from his robes. “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good,” he told it. Hundreds of little feet crowded the Quidditch pitch, rendering their names unreadable. Only a few lonely souls dared to linger in the castle during the most contentious match of the season: Filch, Harry, Snape, a student lingering in Hufflepuff common room, and Draco Malfoy. Harry jogged down the steps to Snape’s old office, coming closer to Draco’s footsteps which were pacing up and down the hallway adjacent. Harry tucked up by the corner and peaked around it.

Draco was frantic, a piece of parchment floating beside him and his eagle owl perched calmly on the rim of a brazier. “…Not sure if it’s safe,” he said, “No, scratch that.” He had a quill similar to Rita Skeeter, which wrote for him. “I’d like to see you, since my injury has taken a toll on me. It would comfort me greatly. Talk soon, Draco. Good.” The parchment flipped and folded, concealing itself in a black envelope and dropping into Draco’s hand. He offered it to his owl, who took it in her beak obediently and shoved up into flight, past Harry and up the stairs.

Harry tried to sneak past Draco to the hallway across the intersection, but Draco spotted him immediately. He had no snide comment for Harry, just a nasty, suspicious look. Harry cleared his throat and moved on to Snape’s office.

The work was as wearisome and trivial as one could expect. Snape only let Harry leave detention when three hours had passed, long after the match had ended. Harry rushed up the stairs, taking two or three steps in every stride, all the way up to the Fat Lady’s portrait where he had to lean on his knees and catch his breath. Once his ears stopped ringing, he heard the barely perceptible hum of… distant shouting? The Fat Lady giggled when her portrait swung forward to reveal the entirety of Gryffindor house standing in the common room. Several arms shot out to pull Harry inside.

“We won, Harry!” Ron shouted, waving the Quidditch Cup around, “We won! It was Ginny, she did amazing!” Ron’s excited explanation of the match was drowned out by the shouting and music. “…By then, we had closed in on a 150 point gap, and Katie nailed the Quaffle in just as Ginny caught the snitch! Harry, you should have seen it, it was wicked.”

“Wish I could’ve been there,” Harry said with a smile. Ron didn’t register Harry’s tone. He was relieved they won, but altogether gutted to have missed it.

“Hi, Harry,” Hermione appeared through the crowd, “Congratulations!”

“Yeah, thanks.”

“Where is Ginny?” Ron wondered, getting on his tip-toes to scan through the sea of heads.

Harry spotted Dean Thomas leaning close to the far wall, looking rather disgruntled.

Hermione giggled, “She’s gone for a walk with Luna.”

“What?” Ron scoffed, catching on to the implication, “No way!”

“You’re blind, Ronald, do you know that?” she teased.

Harry managed to slip away without issue, offering quick smiles and thank-yous to people who tried to talk to him. He walked past a couple, one he recognized to be Demelza Robins, kissing loudly on the stairs to the dormitories. Everyone was downstairs celebrating, so Harry took advantage of the time alone in his dorm. It was the middle of the afternoon, but he waved the curtains shut, kicked off his trainers and tucked into bed. He pulled his blanket over his head, whispered Lumos and spread open the map.

The castle was far more populated, and he spotted Ginny and Luna’s names together out in the fields by the Quidditch pitch. He scanned for Draco after some internal conflict over whether he should or not. After a good few minutes of searching, he found Draco with Pansy Parkinson and Theo Nott walking past the clock tower. He followed their names for an hour, give or take, watched as Theo Nott branched off to return to the Slytherin common rooms, then Draco and Pansy stood in the hall together for some fifteen minutes. Harry waited for him to do something bizarre, like head back to the Room of Requirement, or go off sneaking somewhere else, any reason to go sully his plans. Pansy was swept away by a Slytherin girl, and then Draco stood alone. Harry imagined the hall he was in, the one overlooking the lake. Draco faced the windows.

Harry scanned the map until just after dinner began, waiting until the common room mostly cleared to edge out of the dorm and make his way down to the Great Hall.

The Ravenclaw table was patchy, as most of the students seemed to linger back to avoid the raucous celebrations of the Gryffindor table. The Slytherins were characteristically cross. Ron went furiously red after seeing Ginny and Luna walk arm in arm, whispering to one another.

“My sister with… Looney Lovegood,” he whispered. “Huh.”

Hermione shook her head, smiling as Ginny sat beside them.

“Harry, what’s wrong?” Hermione nudged him with her elbow.

“Oh--“ Harry realized he had been frowning, “nothing.”

Ron gnawed on a chicken bone, slurping the fat off. Harry took a plateful of sweet potatoes, beans, pudding, and a cut of steak and kidney pie. He stared at the space between Ron and Ginny, where he could barely spot Draco’s white-blonde hair bobbing around two tables over. Ginny carried on about the match with Ron, and then added a bit about Luna’s commentating, which made Ron blush again.

Harry finished his plate without room for dessert or much energy to engage with his friends, much less listen to them describe at length the match that he missed. He rose from the table with a meek “see you later,” and Hermione tagged along.

“Are you upset about Ginny?” Hermione put her hand on Harry’s shoulder as they walked, ”I’m sorry, I thought--”

“No, not at all.”

“What is going on then? You seem miserable.”

“Just knackered from spending the morning with Snape,” Harry joked.

No, you’ve been like this for the last week, Harry.”

Harry hesitated. He knew very well Hermione’s position on the matter, so there was little use in rehashing his feelings about it. ”Just not feeling well.”

Hermione began to argue, but Harry walked off. “I’m fine, Hermione,” he called back to her. She threw her hands up, made a sour face, and returned to the Great Hall without him.

Harry thought of Remus, how badly he wanted to speak to him. He was the only friend of his father’s that remained. Harry made the long ascent to the owlery. The stairs up were wooden and sparse, allowing the user to look straight down at the shrinking castle grounds below. Harry was much more comfortable with heights with a broomstick between his legs. To some comfort, a Hufflepuff student tripped over the railing in Harry’s second year, and he was dropped delicately by half materialized wings that attached themselves to his robes (then dropped into a tree, after which he was abandoned by the wings and needed rescue by a teacher). That did little to soothe the stomach when students in the courtyards appeared as little more than tiny blobs of color. The sun was warm, but the wind was not forgiving.

Harry addressed the letter to Molly Weasley, knowing that she would deliver it safely to Remus without it being intercepted. He began the letter with small formalities, awkward and disjointed. “I’m struggling with what to do,” Harry wrote, “I wish Padfoot was here, so I could ask him for advice. Excited to see you all during the summer. Harry.” He folded up the envelope and licked it shut. Hedwig arrived through the window as if on cue, and Harry reached out to pet the top of her head. She extended her legs, threw out her wings, and lifted into Harry’s touch. She shut her small eyes and cooed.

Harry held out the letter, and she took it graciously into her beak. He watched as she flew once more out the window, gracefully through the sky, eventually over the mountains. He turned to make the heady descent down the rickety stair, startled to find that he was not alone.

Draco Malfoy stood clinging close to one side of the doorway, hair whipping around in the breeze.

“Who did you write to?” Draco asked.

“Mrs. Weasley.”

“Don’t lie, Potter.”

“I’m not lying,” Harry spat, shoving past Draco on his way out the doorway, making him yell out and cling harder to the wall.

Draco grabbed him by the arm, but was too preoccupied with keeping himself steady that he couldn’t firmly hold him. Harry ripped away. Draco looked down at the lake and then squeezed his eyes shut.

“Why did you come up here if you are so afraid of heights?” Harry taunted.

“I was trying to stop you from sending that letter.” Draco inched slowly into the owlery and, once safely inside, slid down the wall. Harry stared at the doorway, trying to decide if it was worth arguing, eventually coming to the conclusion that it very much was.

“Could say the same for you earlier,” said Harry.

Draco sat slouched, arms and legs lax. He looked exhausted and nauseated from being out on the stairs.

“I’m trying to warn my mum,” Draco whispered, Harry barely able to hear. The wind whistled outside and the owls hooted all around them.

“Warn her that what? That you’ve been found out?” Harry made his own stomach turn, for once feeling almost cruel for what he said.

Draco looked up at him with tired eyes, defeated. Harry held his breath as he went to sit next to him. He stared at his own fingers and twisted them around.

“I was writing to Lupin,” said Harry.

“The Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor? The… werewolf?”

Harry nodded.

“Why him?”

“Because he was friends with my father.”

“Oh.” Draco seemed content with his answer, not knowing that Lupin was a part of the very order that opposed him. Nonetheless, it still seemed to comfort him.

“Dunno how I’m gonna get down from here,” Draco laughed weakly. He could barely open his eyes.

“Fall off,” Harry said flatly. Then, they both began laughing. It warmed Harry’s cheeks.

“Here,” Harry stood, offering his hand to Draco. Draco looked at it for a long time, so long that Harry almost took it away. Then, with a shaky arm, he reached out and grabbed it. Harry had to pull him up with a great deal of force, and then steady him when he came to stand. “Oh-okay-yeah, let’s-- okay,” Harry stuttered.

“Sorry,” Draco mumbled. Harry slung Draco’s arm over his shoulders and brought him to the door, stopping when Draco looked woozily down and whined.

“This is the hardest part,” Harry told him. “Just don’t look.”

Draco dragged his feet, and Harry kept him close to the wall so he could brush it with his hand.

“Not worse than the shifting stairs, right?” asked Harry.

Draco gave him a light laugh. Soon, Harry heard voices approaching ahead; Romilda Vane and a younger Gryffindor girl. She gave Harry a strange look.

“Did you hex him, Harry?” she giggled with her companion.

Harry looked at Draco, who was giving Romilda the weakest glare of all time.

She brushed close to Harry as she walked by, her face just inches from Harry’s ear. “I’m sure he deserved it,” she whispered, and giggled again.

Draco made some fragmented comment under his breath about the Harry Potter fan club. Upon making it halfway down the winding stair, Harry told him, “Look, we’re a bit closer now.” Draco looked, seeming to gain some strength, and drew his arm back from Harry’s shoulder. He braced the wall with both hands.

“Thanks,” Draco mumbled awkwardly.

“Sure,” said Harry.

The plank beneath them creaked at Draco’s step, and his legs shook in response. Harry grabbed his forearm. The wind calmed at this altitude, and with every bit of their descent, Draco seemed to gain his strength back.

“Do me a favor,” Draco said, rather close to the end of the steps, “and stop helping me.”

“Why?” Harry’s throat pinched together.

“It just… complicates things.”

“Was I supposed to leave you up there?”

“Yeah, I would expect no less.”

“Stop needing help around me, then,” Harry taunted.

Draco cleared his throat, “Will do.”

Harry trotted ahead down the stairs, fleeing the awkward conversation. He had a keen desire to crawl into bed and sleep until tomorrow. He trekked through the courtyard, still muddy from the rain the day before. Draco ran up beside him. He had gained all the color back to his face, now that they were on firm ground. Harry gave him a strange look, and they walked together in silence. Draco would fall behind or speed ahead at the sight of other students, and bounce back next to Harry when they were alone. Harry didn’t have the desire to question him, if perhaps it scared him off. When they made it to the shifting stairs, Harry went beyond reasonable suspicion and couldn’t restrain it any longer.

“Surprised you’re braving these again,” Harry joked.

Draco pouted, hand firm on the railing, “I don’t use them often.”

“Where-- where are you going?” Harry asked.

“Just taking a walk.”

Harry stopped on the landing, “Why are you following me? Are you trying to see where I’m going?”

“Er-- yes,” said Draco, raking through his hair with one hand.

Harry was startled by the bold-faced admittance.

“Look,” Harry locked his hands on top of his head, “I haven’t told anyone and I don’t plan to, as long as you keep your promise.”

“I don’t know how to believe that.”

“What other choice do you have? Following me around til summer? We shook on it. Need an unbreakable vow too?”

“Would be nice,” Draco muttered.

Harry thought for a moment, “I could try to help, you know, if you told me.”

“I told you to stop helping me, Potter,” Draco brushed by, stomping up the stairs towards the seventh floor. Harry stomped up the other way to the common room.

Sunday was bleak and full of rain. Hermione and Harry spent the better part of the morning studying, Hermione humming happily at the thunder. Ron was upset that no one was interested in playing Quidditch with him due to the weather. At lunch, Draco and Harry spent a shameful amount of time glaring at one another, looking away as soon as the other one noticed. Draco was a no-show for dinner.

The first class Monday morning was always Defense Against the Dark Arts, a horrible foot to start the week off with, in Harry’s opinion. It was hard enough not to fall asleep to Snape’s monotonous droll, but coupled with the Slytherin students (emboldened by their Head of House and his nepotism), it was in the running for Harry’s least favorite class. As the students settled, Harry was poked in the head by a flying paper plane. It landed in front of him, and he opened it to reveal a crude drawing of himself. A girl with a blunt haircut and bangs walked onto the scene, turned into a panther, and attacked him. Little “X”s formed over cartoon Harry’s eyes, and the panther stood over his body, roaring triumphantly. Harry turned around to look at Draco, who turned then to look at Pansy, who stuck her tongue out at Harry. Harry winked back, knowing it would upset her.

The lesson of the day was on non-verbal hex deflection, and Snape allowed each student to pick a partner to practice with. Ron, who normally chose Harry to partner with him for everything, turned around and looked instead at Hermione.

“Ron!” Harry whispered.

“What?” Ron looked at him stupidly, then his face fell into a frown. “Sorry, mate.” He gave Harry a look that said I’ll make it up to you and stood up to line along the wall with Hermione.

Harry looked to Parvati Patil, who sat just behind them, but she was already making eye contact with Lavender Brown. Harry groaned. Someone slapped a hand on Harry’s shoulder.

“Come on, Potter,” Draco said.

Harry couldn’t conceal his eye roll.

Once everyone was lined up along the walls, Snape floated every desk to the end of the classroom with a brisk wave of his wand.

“Students to the right side of the classroom,” Snape pointed at Harry’s side, “will begin casting the hex, while students to the left will attempt to non-verbally deflect it. When I ring the bell, you will switch.” The ‘hex‘ would merely change the color of the victim’s robes, so that the consequences weren’t so dire.

Students on the left side went alight with color-changing fabric. Draco, however, successfully deflected each and every hex. At the end of the short period, Draco and Hermione were the only ones along the wall wearing black.

“Shut up,” Theo Nott grumbled. Blaise was bent over laughing at his robes, which had gone a very fashionable shade of fuchsia.

It was Harry’s turn to deflect the hex, and with only minor strain, he was able to aptly maintain the blackness of his robes. By the end, Ron was sporting a putrid yellow-green. Pansy, who stood next to Draco, was giving Harry a rotten look the entire exercise, and was therefore unable to properly aim her hexes or deflect them. Harry found himself deflecting more than a few from her wand.

“Many of you today have shown your ineptitude with simple non-verbal spells, even with very little time left until your N.E.W.T.S. I expect those of you that value your position here at Hogwarts, and have any hope of extending your training following your seventh year, will practice this outside of class,” said Snape. Without warning, he returned the desks to their proper places, forcing several students, Neville chief among them, to leap backwards or else be mauled by a hefty piece of furniture flying at high speed.

Snape took to adjusting the structure of the blackboard, the usual queue for dismissal.

“Wh-what about our robes?” Theo griped, looking down.

“They will return to normal in a few hours,” said Snape, eliciting a fair amount of protest among the students, to which he granted no reaction.

As soon as they were in the hall, Ron took his robes off and slung them over his shoulder.

“Looks like something your mum would make you wear,” Harry told him, chuckling.

“We can practice later,” Hermione offered Ron, which did a bit to charm off the vexed look he was giving Harry.

Pansy strode by with a smug look on her face and two Slytherin girls in tow. “Did you like your note, Potty?” She shouted.

“Loved it. Didn’t know you felt that way about me,” said Harry dramatically, placing his hand over his heart.

Pansy’s smile melted into irritation and she stormed away.

Hermione tugged on Harry’s arm, so he tossed Pansy’s note to her.

“Touching,” Hermione said flatly.

Ron, looking on, said, “That’s violent. She’s a piece of work.”

“What’s got her in a mood?” Hermione flicked the note into the air and silently set it aflame. It quickly melted to ash and dissipated.

“No idea,” said Harry.

Hermione split off from Harry and Ron to go to Ancient Runes, a subject which Harry gathered to be horribly boring and never bothered to pursue. It also consumed a majority of Hermione’s studying, particularly before exams, so Harry was doubly grateful to avoid it.

Normally, Harry and Ron might wait in the Great Hall for Hermione to join them for lunch, but Harry received a tap on the shoulder, and Draco Malfoy asking to talk. Draco looked at Ron, then said, alone.

“Whatever you wanna say, Mouthy, you can say here,” said Ron, glowering at Draco.

Draco acted as if Ron hadn’t spoken to him, which bothered Ron greatly even if it was an objective improvement from blatant harassment.

Harry told Ron he would catch up with him again before Ron could protest, which he certainly would have tried.

“I keep telling Pansy to stop,” Draco mumbled when they were alone. Harry followed him, unsure if Draco had a destination in mind as they trailed up different sets of stairs.

“It was funny,” Harry dismissed it, “I don’t care.” Draco didn’t respond, so Harry spit out something that made him nervous. “She stole that idea. You did the same thing last year.”

“Mine was probably better,” Draco smirked.

“Dunno, hers was pretty clever. She might have shown you up at your own game,” said Harry.

“Guess I’ll start writing you more threatening notes in class then,” Draco said.

“Is that what you wanted to tell me?”

Draco entirely ignored Harry, and combed through his hair with his hands, something he did a lot, usually accompanied by a clearing of the throat, or a shifty gaze. Walking on this side, Harry could see no trace of Draco’s scar.

“Well,” Harry muttered, “I’d better go catch up with Ron,” he pointed behind, back down the stairs.

“Why don’t we, erm- we could hang out.”

Harry’s mouth fell open, and he felt around for words but found none.

“Just easier for me to keep an eye on you, you know,” Draco murmured, “Make sure you’re not ratting me out.”

“Right,” said Harry, heart thumping about in his chest.

Chapter Text

The seventh floor was the uppermost floor of the castle, and it contained very little compared to the floors below it. It was usually empty save a spare student or herd of them going to the astronomy tower at night. Draco had spent much of his sixth year on this floor, though, since it was in these halls that the Room of Requirement would show itself. He’d wanted to ask Harry for a long time: “How did you find out about the Room of Requirement?”

“Oh,” Harry looked surprised, as if Draco interrupted a thought, “A friend of mine told me about it.”

“Vague,” said Draco, “It was Granger, wasn't it.”

Harry peaked up at the ceiling, lips pressed together like he was trying to conceal a smile. “No, it wasn’t, but,” Harry laughed, “You do know him.”

Draco didn’t like not being in on the joke.

“Big ears,” Harry said, “About, eh, yay-high,” he held his hand out to the height of a toddler, “Often wearing a, well— it’s quite like a sack.” Harry snorted, obviously pleased with himself.

“Dobby,” said Draco, incredulous. “Dad was furious when you set him free, thought he would never shut up about it.” Draco felt a sharp pain in his belly at the thought of his father, which he shoved away.

“Yeah. He works here in the kitchens, now.”

“I heard that,” Draco never bothered to find out if it were true.

They were approaching the small, familiar, stretch of stone when Harry and Draco both realized the door had been opened. They exchanged a wide-eyed look before they crept up. An armful of empty sherry bottles littered the floor. Professor Trelawney came from within the Room of Requirement, stoppered the door with her foot and gathered the remaining bottles.

“Professor?” called Harry, stepping forward.

Professor Trelawney was startled, dropping her bottles to the floor with a crash. She slammed the door shut and plastered in front of it as it slowly disappeared back into stone. She gave Harry an odd enough look, but squinted her great bug eyes at Draco, who was not far behind. She looked between both of them with a seemingly growing horror.

“Curious pair, you two make,” Professor Trelawney said, gazing down the bridge of her nose through gigantic glasses. The beads hanging from her shawls twitched and trembled about, creating about her person a constant clatter.

“What were you doing in the Room of Requirement?” Harry asked, sounding much more pragmatic, mature even, than Trelawney, who was mumbling incomprehensibly. The contrast and the wrongness of it made Draco laugh.

“I didn’t know— that students knew—” her face twisted up.

“Most don’t,” Harry replied, “Are you alright, Professor?”

Her eyes spun about, arms outstretched, trembling, then her neck snapped to gaze at them. Harry stumbled back into Draco, who gripped tight on Harry’s arm. Professor Trelawney began groaning. “Three green, too blue, one who seeks to kill another, one who seeks to kill them all. Each harbored in home or in heart,” she rasped,A betrayal will save the one who must die, and neither will live when the mother lies.” She spoke in hushed, rolling tongues for a few moments after, then quieted.

Draco’s breath rolled out slow and stuttered. Harry was so close that Draco could hear him swallow.

Trelawney coughed, looked around stupidly. apparently unaware of the harsh static between them. She returned to Harry with a shifty smile. “Alright, dear boy?”

“Er—yeah—thanks, Professor,” Harry managed to say before turning around and pushing Draco backwards down the hall.

Harry led Draco up to an windowed alcove which overlooked the mountains. Both of them lifted up to sit on the ledge, Draco cross-legged, Harry with one leg dangling down. They shared a dubious laughter, seeming to mirror one another, from moment to moment regarding what the other was doing and acting in kind.

“What the fuck?” Draco whispered, emphasis on each syllable.

“She’s done that before,” Harry said, “But it’s still horrifying every time.” He threw about the flop of hair that covered his forehead, eyes crinkling shut as he laughed. They seemed to share a poor estimation of Trelawney, but it didn't do much to deny Draco's goosebumps.

“Must be too drunk to put on a better performance than that.”

Harry widened his eyes at Draco, lighting a little pit in Draco’s stomach aflame. “What, Malfoy? You’re telling me that you aren’t a believer in—,” Harry threw his hands up in the air and pulled them apart, framing his words, “The Sight.”

Draco stifled a giggle, choosing to laugh coolly instead, trying not to mind Harry’s reaction… and hating himself for even caring. Draco felt like he had stepped in on the wrong moment; that Harry had forgotten himself, thinking instead he was talking to Granger or the Weasel. That at any moment Harry would look at Draco, realize who he was, and shove him away with a glare. Draco glanced out the window. The fog over the peaks glimmered in the high noon sun, and tiny bits of cloud occasionally spat out owls which flew to and from the owlery.

Harry was staring out at the grounds beneath and to the North, where Hogsmeade lay tucked against the side of the mountain. A serious look came over him, his dark brows pulled together, fingers picking absentmindedly at the skin around his nail beds.

“She’s just making it up,” Draco told him, “Don’t think into it.” He was resting on the idea that Harry was pondering Trelawney’s speech instead of something else altogether.

“Yeah,” Harry nodded, dropping his chewed up hands, “You’re right.” A little wave of (admittedly smug) relief came over Draco, feeling glad Harry didn’t spit back that he was thinking of how much he despised Snape or loved Ginny Weasley’s arse.

Harry must have noticed that Draco was looking at his hands because he shoved them into his robes.

“You know, Trelawney was the one who made the prophecy about me,” said Harry.

“I didn’t know that.” It would be silly if it weren’t so tragic. It didn’t make sense, who would believe the poor wretch? And to imagine what it caused... Draco peaked at Harry’s scar through tufts of hair and rolled out a shiver that started in his shoulders.

There were long gaps in their conversation, but Harry didn’t look too disturbed by them, if he noticed at all. The pauses made Draco’s neck stiff, made his mouth go dry. He worried there was some expectation on him to perform, since he was the one who asked Harry to hang out.

“Did you see Ron’s face when you asked to talk alone?” Harry let his head fall back and laughed.

“He’d shit his hand-me-down trousers if he knew you didn’t pitch me off the owlery soon as you had the chance,” said Draco, feeling a flush creep up his cheeks.

Harry smirked and leaned back against the archway. His eyes landed on Draco and studied him, and didn’t part even when Draco stared back. Draco noticed his own terrible posture and took quickly to correcting it, lifting his chin, straightening his back, looking less nervous and more proud. Harry appeared to see through it, the corners of his mouth pulling up, eyes narrowing.

“I‘ve got to— I’ll be right back,” Draco mumbled. He dropped off the ledge, too sharply aware of each movement so that it felt unnatural to move any way at all.

Draco cringed at his own footfalls as he walked down the corridor, careful not to let them be too loud and clumsy. He turned his head to look at Harry in the niche, who was already peaking out at Draco, foot swinging against the wall. Harry snorted and his head disappeared again behind the arch.

The lavatory door swung open on its own accord to allow him in. Much like the second floor girl’s bathroom, it was enormous and all but abandoned (though not because of a screeching ghost, in this case). It was eerie to be in; every little sound echoing off the stone, ill-maintained pipes dripping and groaning. Draco steadied on a porcelain basin and stared at himself in the mirror. His face was pale, tired looking, his eyes grey and as unfamiliar as a stranger’s. He was getting skinny, he realized, looking at the way his shirt hung off him much looser than it did months prior. He always told Pansy to come off it when she bothered him to eat. He looked closely at the gigantic scar that ran just under his eye, and decided then that he didn’t want to look at himself anymore.

Draco still scrubbed his hands with scalding water despite the fact that he didn’t use the restroom. He first realized that his birthday was fast approaching when May came to a close, and once more on the first of June, but managed to quickly forget again. Pansy met him in the common room this morning with a card folded like a dragon and a packet of sugar quills, and only then did he remember it was his birthday today. Draco was seventeen.

He straightened his vest and his tie beneath it, careful not to meet his own eyes in the mirror. His hands looked weird, not so much like his own anymore, a bit longer and leaner, veins popping through the skin.

Harry was leaned up against the wall whistling when Draco pushed open the lavatory door.

“We’d better head to lunch,” Harry said.

“That was a quick period,” Draco mumbled, coughing to distract from the wistful tone he detected in his own voice.

“Time flies,” said Harry, bits of mirth breaking through, “when you’re having fun.”

“Shut up, Potter,” Draco smiled.

“I really liked the part when our drunk Divination teacher ambushed us with a doomsday prophecy about death and despair,” said Harry, a falsely serious look on his face.

“Brilliant,” Draco nodded.

Harry stopped in their niche again and gathered up his books.

“I’m surprised I wasn’t bombarded with packages this morning,” Draco mused, watching the owls soar just past the windows and over the roof as they walked. His mother often loaded up his eagle owl with sweets and elaborate gifts. The previous year it had taken two trips.

“Why this morning?”

“Well—“ Draco double-checked the date in his head, June 5th. “It’s my birthday.”

“No way!” said Harry. “Happy birthday, mate,” he put his hand on Draco’s shoulder.

Draco only nodded in response, the mate bit threatening to make him smirk. Harry’s hand lingered, warm. Draco wanted to pitch himself off the owlery, come to think of it, now that a bit of a whirling had taken up in his stomach.

“Any plans for tonight?” asked Harry, “Getting rowdy with the boys, ‘ey?”

Draco rolled his eyes and glared at Harry. “I’m wondering. Does it take effort for you to be such a hopeless git? Or does it come naturally to you?”

Harry cackled, “Naturally, of course!”

“Quite impressive. You know, I don’t have plans, actually. Say we Apparate out to Diagon Alley and get drunk at Leaky? Oh—“ Draco feigned realization, smacking his hand to his forehead, “Right, forgot, you’ve still got the trace on you. Real shame.”

“Oh, come off it, Malfoy,” Harry was rolling his eyes now, “I’m only two months behind. Besides, wouldn't want to embarrass you, probably get sloshed off a sip of Firewhiskey.”

There was comfort in this teasing, Draco thought. It was the sole interaction among many which anticipated nothing from Draco at all. They raced down the stairs, students beginning to shuffle out of classrooms.

“Meet me tonight, after dinner, yeah?” Harry asked, looking earnestly at Draco, who could only compose himself enough to nod back. Harry jogged ahead and disappeared into the mass of moving students down the hall.