Harry Potter was doing his best not to panic. He looked around him at the crowded train station, and told himself that he was smart enough to figure this out. He hadn't survived eleven years with the Dursley's by panicking at the slightest hiccup. He had to figure something out; and soon, he realised, glancing up at the large clocks all around him.
Hagrid must have forgotten to tell him what to do, like tapping the brick in Diagon Alley. He strode towards the barrier between platforms nine and ten again, and considered his options. He could ask a guard, but he figured he'd likely seem mental and be escorted off the property. He could miss the train, and hope someone at school noticed, but then, he had no idea where he would go in the meantime. Hedwig hooted softly in her cage, and Harry turned toward her. Which meant he noticed three people striding toward him, wearing long black robes.
Robes. He listened hard.
"I don't see why we had to come this way, through all the filthy muggles. We could have flooed there and been in Hogsmeade in a snap," a tall blond man, wearing a very familiar sneer, was walking quickly toward Harry and speaking very loudly.
"Lucius, dear," said the rail thin woman at his side. She was quite starkly beautiful, with hair so blond it was almost white, and a face that was both crystalline and bold. She sighed wearily. "Do shut up. Draco was hardly going to miss his first train ride with his peers. Think of the opportunities he'd miss, the connections."
"I suppose," the man responded, looking down at a very familiar looking boy who hung onto his mother's arm cautiously.
Harry startled. He realised a few things quite quickly and all at once; one, that this was clearly the boy he had unpleasantly met in the robe shop just a few days earlier. Two, those people he was walking with were clearly his family, and they were clearly as unpleasant as the boy himself. And three, that he was quickly going to have to get over himself and ask them for help, or else he'd have to resign himself to getting back to Little Whinging. He shuddered,then strode forward carefully, trying to square his shoulders and move quickly but without causing alarm.
"Er…sorry to…interrupt. Only, I'm not sure…"
The tall man looked down his nose at Harry, and he was immediately transported back to Madam Malkin's a few days before. Clearly, there was a familial reason for the pale boy's sneer. Oddly, though, the boy looked at Harry and broke into a hesitant smile. Clearly, he remembered their interaction slightly differently than Harry did.
"I remember you. Where is your giant friend?"
Harry wanted to hear malice behind the boy's words, but it seemed to be missing, and he really did need help.
"He...he had to get back to Hogwarts, and now I don't know exactly how I'm supposed to get on the train. I'm Harry, by the way. Harry Potter."
The entire family before him did a very muted, dignified, but very clear, double-take. It was like all three of them simultaneously realised that they were going to have to help this messy, shaggy haired boy.
"Goodness, I didn't realise when I met you before."
"Met him before," the tall man sneered. "Draco, dear boy, you were remiss in not introducing yourself once before, let's correct this now."
There was such a chill in the tone of this man's voice that Harry nearly physically shuddered. He questioned his reaction to the pale boy from before; it was nothing compared to this man, who was most certainly his father, and he felt a tiny pulse of sympathy. After all, he knew what it was like to be related to slightly crappy people. The boy straightened perceptibly, and stuck out his hand.
"Apologies, Mr. Potter. I am Draco Malfoy," he said, as though this should mean something significant to Harry. "These are my parents, Lucius and Narcissa. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance."
"Um, good to meet you."
"You may of course join us, Mr. Potter, as we go to the train. Simply watch, my husband will go first," said Narcissa Malfoy, smiling in a way that might have once been warm, but that now appeared limp and not quite real. Plastic.
Harry nodded lightly, and Mr. Malfoy lifted one eyebrow at him, before swishing his robes around him and striding forcefully at the barrier. Harry watched with shocked confusion, but all the blond hair and swishing robes of the man in front of him instantly disappeared behind the boundary.
"Draco, you next. Mr. Potter shall follow you. Take your trolley," Mrs. Lucius said calmly.
Draco strode forward into the barrier too, and disappeared.
"Now you, Mr.-"
"It's Harry," he interrupted. "Er, thanks."
He pushed his trolley into the wall, bracing himself and trying not to run so he didn't look foolish. Something about these Malfoy people seemed to regal, so refined, that he felt large, and clumsy, and ridiculous in front of them. They only increased his sense of unease, and his mind kept replaying the conversation in the robe shop. They shouldn't let the other sort in…not brought up to know our ways. Malfoy may not know it, but he already hated Harry. He'd said so himself.
He was both shocked and not at all surprised when he came through the boundary, followed closely by Narcissa Malfoy, and found himself on a large, crowded platform, a giant steam engine puffing into the air in front of them. He felt himself take a sharp breath, largely against his will.
"Pretty cool, eh?" Draco said sheepishly.
"Yeah," Harry replied, guarding himself for the next uncomfortable conversation. Draco frowned at him. "Er, thanks."
Harry started to walk toward the train, looking through the windows and trying to find an empty compartment. The train was very busy. He felt, rather than saw, that Malfoy followed behind him. He heard Lucius call after his son, 'remember what I said, Draco.'
Draco did not reply.
Finally, Harry found a compartment with no other students in it, and hoisted his trunk into it, going back for Hedwig and finding Draco staring up at the empty compartment longingly
"Train's really full," he whispered.
Harry sighed, "it's fine."
Draco shrugged and dragged his own, very dignified trunk up the stairs behind Harry. He sat across from Harry silently, not looking at him. He didn't say a word as the train's whistle blew, as they started to move forward. Harry squirmed for a moment, trying not to open his mouth and get himself into trouble, but eventually, his anger got the better of him.
"You know, you were wrong. I don't think that there should be a type of person they let into Hogwarts."
"What. I-Potter, what-"
"In the robe shop. You said. I just thought you should know that I don't agree. I didn't grow up with…I grew up with, um, Muggles. And I had never heard about Hogwarts. And I didn't…grow up to know your 'ways'. And I don't know exactly what you meant, but people keep telling me I'm pretty famous, and your dad seemed pretty impressed to meet me, and I just thought you should know that I'm that sort of person that you didn't want to go to school with."
Draco stared at Harry, mouth hanging open, and said nothing. He said nothing for so long that Harry stopped looking at him, and turned instead to watch the beginnings of London pass him by swiftly in the window. He decided he would just sit here, in silence. He was sure that he didn't need this sort of friend. The one who made sort of mean, definitely callous comments to random strangers, and then didn't remember them.
Suddenly, Draco cleared his throat.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I…I didn't mean to…I'm just sorry. Mother says that I speak without thinking so often that I should just put my brain into storage."
"Well," Harry began. But he smiled suddenly. No one had ever apologised to him before. It was an odd feeling. He thought for a second. "Hey, what did your father mean, when he said remember what he said?"
Draco sighed so heavily, and so much older than he was, that Harry's head snapped back from the window to look at him. A dark expression had settled across Draco's face.
"My father," Draco sneered. "Believes it would be prudent if I were to remain cordial with you, in the interest of making the right kind of friends at Hogwarts."
There was so much contempt in his voice that Harry immediately snickered. Which seemed to confuse Draco slightly, who looked up, and smiled cautiously back at him. He clearly hadn't meant to be funny, but soon, they were both giggling slightly.
"I mean, I can be 'cordial' too, but I think it'd be better if we both started making some friends, don't you? I'm going to need all the help I can get. I didn't even know what Quidditch was!"
This made Draco laugh even more, and soon, they were both manically laughing until Harry couldn't breathe.
"The thought…" Draco choked out. "Of the Boy Who Lived…not knowing Quidditch…Oh my god, my sides hurt."
At that very moment, there was a gentle knock at the glass compartment door. A scraggly, red-headed boy poked his head inside. His nose was covered in what appeared to be soot, and the collar of his jumper was all off kilter.
"Mind if I sit here? Everywhere else is full?"
Draco sobered immediately, his sneer back on his face with lightening like speed. Harry looked at him oddly. It was very confusing, seeing these different masks of a person he barely knew. It was like Malfoy was very well trained to see through a very specific lens.
"Well, if you aren't a Weasley, I'll eat my robes," he scoffed.
Harry interjected, "Of course you can sit here, can't he, Draco?"
He gave Draco a pointed glare. Who glared right back, but nodded at the boy, who immediately settled down beside Harry.
"Ron Weasley," he said, sticking his hand out toward Draco, who shook it, a bit reluctantly, introducing himself. Ron turned to Harry. Harry shook his hand enthusiastically, trying to make up for Draco's continued rudeness. If they were going to be friends, which was Harry's plan, he was going to have to get less…snarky. For some reason, Harry knew that this strange, pointy, pale kid needed a solid friend. Much like he did himself. Maybe that was it. He sensed a shared need to just feel safe and necessary.
"Harry Potter," he said, a little belatedly.
"Blimey! Are you really?"
"Sorry. You must here that a lot. I…scar?"
"Um, yes?" Harry said, lifting his bangs
"Witty. Scar," Draco laughed, mimicking Ron. Ron looked at him, glared for a second, but then burst out laughing. Try as he might to continue to look lofty and mighty, distant and cold, Harry watched as Draco bit back a smile, and then a laugh, small at first and building slowly. Since he and Harry had just been laughing, it didn't take long before all three of them were laughing again. Crazy, eleven year old laughing, where nothing made any sense and nothing was truly that funny. They laughed for five minutes, ten. Every time they would stop, something would happen that would make them laugh again.
The lady arrived with the trolley of wizarding, and Harry discovered the wonders of chocolate frogs, every flavoured beans, pumpkin juice. He and Draco both had gold, they shared readily with Ron, surprising him slightly (and Harry too, Draco didn't seem the gold sharing type, really). Draco and Ron had a ridiculous, ten minute back and forth about the merits of all the different houses, the balance of which was that Gryffindor and Slytherin were both THE BEST, and the other two houses had their merits but weren't exactly as amazing as Gryffindor/Slytherin. Harry came out of the conversation confused and a tiny bit baffled, but not really caring either way which house he ended up in, since he felt like the entire conversation was completely biased anyway. Draco had given them both a lecture about the different types of wizarding families, which had made Ron start laughing again.
"What?" Draco had cried, seeming genuinely annoyed again.
"You should hear yourself, Malfoy. Honestly. 'Some families are better than others'. As though you're Salazar himself. Lay off. There's only one question anyone need to ask."
"What's that," Draco said, not hiding his anger at all.
"Are you a Cannons fan?"
"I...well, I mean…"
"Good man. Harry, what's your team?"
"He doesn't know Quidditch," Draco said, his smirk back. He looked at Ron, and they were both off again, and even though Harry knew they were technically laughing at him, hours of laughter, sugar, and general, overwhelming happiness -all new things to Harry -meant that it was only a second before he had joined them again.
Harry was clutching his stomach and rolling around on the seat when there was another knock at the compartment door.
"Have you boys seen a toad? I've lost him! Trev-wait, what is so funny."
"No-No idea," Ron gasped between breathes.
There were now two people standing at the door; a round-faced boy looking worried, and an angry looking girl with bushy hair and a stern expression.
"Who are all of you then?" She said, questioning and judging in equal measure.
"Pleasure. Hermione Granger. And this is Neville…er…"
"Longbottom," the round faced boy supplied, still frantically searching the corridor before running off.
"You three should change, you know. I expect we'll be arriving soon," Hermione said primly before flouncing off after Neville, calling 'Trevor' down the corridor.
"Well," Draco said, one eye quirked ridiculously. "She seems a real treat."
An hour later, in robes and finally sobered by sheer awe at the grand castle and grounds before him, Harry was sitting beside Draco in a boat that seemed to be pulling itself over a great, black lake. He was staring around, mouth stupidly hanging open despite the cold, confounded and overwhelmed.
"Merlin," Draco said, eyeing him. "You're going to be a lot of work, aren't you?"
Ron sniggered behind them, "It's okay, mate. We'll get you sorted, won't we Malfoy?"
"I suppose so," Draco drawled in what was already a familiar way. "Though I suspect it will be difficult, with you two in Gryffindor, and me in proud Slytherin."
"What makes you think-"
"Oh please, he has Gryffindor written all over him."
"Yeah, you kind of do, mate," Ron said, clapping him on the shoulder.
Harry didn't know what he had written all over him, but he was glad for the semi-darkness. He was pretty sure he was beet red. He'd only left the Dursley's a few days ago, and here he was, already being mocked and called 'mate' in a casual, unsurprised way. He didn't care how his magical life unfolded from here on in; so far, he loved every part of it. He could die, here, if it were necessary.
Of course, they didn't die, and forty minutes later, sitting at a long table with Ron, and also the girl and boy from the train, a banner of gold and red hanging over head, with more food than he had ever seen, Harry had had to reset his boundary for 'best he'd ever felt'. Draco had smirked at him knowingly when he'd ended up in Slytherin, and had clapped loudly when the hat announced that Harry would be a Gryffindor. Harry was pretty sure at least half of the clapping was self-congratulatory, for having correctly predicted the sorting, but he couldn't bring himself to care as he smiled over at his new friend.
As the feast wound down, and Draco listened in slight, embarrassed awe as Dumbledore welcome them all, he looked around at the people before him at his new house table, feeling an odd mix of emotion. He had been imagining this day for ages. Years spent thinking of how his first day as a Slytherin (for there was never a chance of ending up in another house). He anticipated meeting people right away, becoming fast friends. He'd never had friends before. Not really. He had cousins, and he met other children at his mother's clubs, but that wasn't the same. He'd had private tutors since he was five, had never had classmates or playdates. He wasn't like other children, and he felt very shaken by his afternoon spent with Harry and Ron, who mocked him and his pretentiousness, while at the same time making him feel included and a part of the joke. It had unsettled him, and now he was suddenly nervous about the prospect of having to go through his days without having these first contacts.
The thought wearied him. He knew what Hogwarts was like from his Father; allegiences formed quickly. There was no way they would all become actual friends now that they were in different houses, houses that hated each other based on tradition alone. Draco sighed. He was going to have to go to bed, exhausted as he was, and try and make Slytherin friends tomorrow. He followed his new Prefect into the entrance way like all the other first years, and started off after them toward the dungeon dorms.
"Hey, Draco!" he heard called over the general din of the corridor. "Draco, up here!"
He followed the voice with his head, and waved back at a waving Harry, standing on the stairway with Ron.
"Meet us here tomorrow after breakfast? We have charms together!"
Draco tried to suppress his relieved grin as he called back, "Sure!"
Running to catch up to his housemates again, he breathed out a sigh. It seemed that he may be okay, even if he was going to have to teach Potter literally everything about the magical world.
Their combined lessons were always more fun than when he had classes with the Slytherins alone. Although Draco was starting to find people he could at least stand to be around in his own house, he was not a trusting person, and it took a while for him to open up and stop sneering at people. He found it easier around the Gryffindors, who weren't cunning enough to always be working an angle, who spoke their minds and were upfront. He and Granger got into regular, friendly battles about the details of History of Magic, much to Ron's dismay. He was easily the best at potions, and he did his best to help Harry when he could without getting caught by Snape, whose immediate dislike of Harry was a source of constant glee for Draco. Mostly because it was so out of the ordinary for the Potter charm to fail that he found it hilarious. It didn't hurt that he was already in with Snape, the familial connection finally working to his favour.
Most Hufflepuffs were tolerable, for the most part. Far more tolerable than Ravenclaws, who he found annoyingly boastful during Transfiguration.
He tried to be happy for Harry when he ended up on the Quidditch team, but mostly he was jealous. After all, he never would have flown at all if Draco hadn't dared him into a game of chase after Neville had fallen off his broom. Still, there was the benefit of being able to cheer for everyone at games, which made it easier while he sat with the Slytherins. Although, truthfully, they all knew better by now than to make fun of Draco's friendship with the Gryffindor Golden Trio. First of all, no one really wanted to piss Harry Potter off, even if he was proving to be slightly less impressive than the rumours had all said. More importantly though, Draco had nearly attacked his only real Slytherin friend, Pansy Parkinson, when she had muttered something about Hermione being a mudblood. Draco had laughed himself silly about his anger later that day; it was ridiculous that he had gotten so mad about a word that, just a few months earlier, was a regular part of his own vocabulary. Still. He was a Slytherin, and a Malfoy. He took care of his own. Hermione Granger included.
Which is why, as annoyed as he was getting with their conversations being constantly centred on the frigging trap door, he was trying to be supportive. That hadn't exactly been the best night of his life (although, in the back of his mind, he kept thinking that maybe it was), and he knew for sure that if it had been a group of Slytherins, they would have dropped it by now and moved on to more interesting endeavours. But the Gryffindors were obsessed, and despite himself, he was now a little excited to figure out what was going on in the Castle.
Then of course, he'd followed Hermione through the corridors as she was bawling, clearly upset from something the stupid boys had said again. His protective nature was going to kill him, hanging out with these three; that had been the night they'd ended up fighting the fucking troll.
Through it all, his brain kept helplessly shouting, "Just waituntil I tell my father about this!"
Of course, he wasn't going to tell Lucius Malfoy anything. He couldn't imagine how that conversation went, exactly. Yes, Father. I have been having fun at school, going on ridiculous adventures, breaking fifty school rules, all while hanging out with my half-blood and muggle-born, Gryffindor friends! It's been wonderful, father dearest. Fat chance. He was already busy making up story after story about what he'd actually been doing, and it was still three days until break. The feast was that night, and he was excited to sit with his friends at their table, the house rules predictably slack at the holidays.
He hated that he was leaving during Christmas. His brain was helpfully reminding him how different home was from Hogwarts; despite being nearly the same size, the mausoleum-like manor contained none of the warmth, none of the floating candles or built up fires, and definitely no piles of sweets helpfully placed at every table. He was losing sleep worrying about how badly it was going to go.
When he collapsed at the library table beside Neville that afternoon, wearily throwing down his bag and sighing dramatically. Ron rolled his eyes.
"What's wrong with you?" he said warily.
"I have to go home, Ron. HOME! Not all of us are excited by that prospect, you know."
"Always the drama with you. Honestly. Besides. Change of plans. I'm staying here."
"Yes," said Hermione. "And you are going to help Harry. Not just be distracting."
"Help him do what?" Draco said, interested all of a sudden.
Harry looked around, then whispered conspiratorially, "Hagrid let something slip about the third floor corridor. A name."
Draco sat up, "Wait! You told Neville!"
"Hey!" Neville said, protesting by hitting Draco in the arm.
"Well, I just can't believe you told Longbottom before you told me," Draco huffed.
"He was in the common room when we got back! We hadn't seen you until now," Harry apologised. This was a constant apology between he and Draco. Try as they might to keep him included, the reality was that Draco wasn't always there right when they found things out, and the common room was the easiest place to hide things from teachers and other prying ears. "Anyway, listen. We need to figure out what this means. Nicolas Flamel!"
"Yes," said Hermoine, whispering fiercely. "We think that whatever the dog is guarding has something to do with him. Trouble is, I have no idea who it is, and I can't find anything about him anywhere! I know the name seems familiar, so the boys are going to spend the holidays looking."
"Well, as thrilling as that sounds, I'm pretty sure that Hagrid was just talking about the Philosopher's stone guy."
"What?!" all four Gryffindors shouted at once.
Draco shook his head.
"Honestly. What would you do without me. Nicolas Flamel. Rather famous, gloriously old…he has the Philosopher's stone and Elixir of life? Although, no one actually believes that. He's just famous for being really old, so the rumours fly."
"How do you know that?!" Ron cried.
Draco quirked an eyebrow at him, "I grew up in a magical household in which I actually paid attention. I mean, Hermione here has an excuse, and Harry obviously. But you two…Honestly."
Hermione and Draco laughed, and Hermione muttered, "Thank God for Draco."
Draco smiled at her. Hogwarts was definitely his favourite place. He could survive break, secure in the knowledge that soon enough, he'd be back here.