Title: Dear Rival
Author: Bittersweet Revenge
Summary: Bored, Harry and Draco start a correspondence which brings them to spend time together and get to know each other, without forgetting they are rivals. But their feelings start growing to something more... Harry/Draco
Rating: PG-13, will maybe go up a little
Gender: future slash.
Disclaimer: -- I do not own the characters. They belong to the talented J.K.Rowling, along with everything else canonically stated in the Harry Potter series. I am not making money out of this and the only thing being spent is my time.
A/N: I often add parts to already posted chapters; one of the consequences of always wanting to improve my story, which means that many chapters are in their second (or even third), enhanced version. I hope you enjoy it! Oh, and this is a PRE HBP STORY.
Chapter 1: Boredom's Effect
All was calm in Little Whinging, and no sound could be heard on Privet Drive, save perhaps a couple of crickets playing their symphony around number twelve and the distant hum of cars rushing on the nearby highway. The sky wasn't exactly covered but the stars couldn't be seen. Only a beautiful crescent-shaped moon was shinning down on the little muggle town; not that anyone could see it of course, everyone was sleeping soundly in their beds, off to a world of their own making. Only one was not doing such a thing.
Harry woke up, if you could in deed say so in view of the fact that he had not had any decent sleep since the end of year feast at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which had occurred a little more than three weeks before. We could rather say he had just awaken from another one of those pensive states where we simply lose track of time, staring at nothing in particular and think about everything that is going on in our life. He had been coming in and out of that state for more than three weeks now, because the little rest he had was pursued by never-ending nightmares that left him contemplating all he had done wrong, everything that was happening... thinking, always thinking... It was not like The Boy Who Lived could just avoid it. He knew a rather large weight was on his shoulders but at that moment, he couldn't feel it.
It is to say, when the one who is supposed to stop the raging war between good and evil is sent off almost by force to his muggle relatives where he is not allowed to use magic and has no news from his friends or the outside world, the question of his importance is sharply put on hold.
And in relation to that, he was thinking of his friends and of the Order of the Phoenix, who had sent him here.
And he was angry.
They were repeating the same mistake they had made the previous summer, except that this year, it was relatively worse. They were obliged to correspond each three days but said nothing. Absolutely nothing. No news of the outside world, of the Dark Lord or even less of the Ministry of Magic. The letters started with 'Dear Harry', continued by telling him nothing was happening, and finished by ordering him to respond immediately or else a qualified team of Aurors would be sent to investigate. Sometimes the messages were written and signed by Ron or Hermione, other times by Remus or Tonks or even Mad-Eye Moody with his strange, almost coded writing. But the signature was the only major difference between each piece of parchment he received. At this point, he almost didn't even take the time to open the letters, knowing by instinct that they didn't say anything at all. Afraid the letters would be intercepted, afraid Harry would want to be part of what was being done... he did not know which idea to trust the most. It was as if they didn't care, as if they thought not knowing would make him happy and help him take some time off.
But he couldn't take time off to 'relax'! All that was happening, everything that they were trying to hide from him, it was part of his life. Heck, it was his life, he had to cope with it, he had to know what was going on. Didn't they know this by now? He couldn't relax at a time like this, just like Remus couldn't relax on a full moon. This was his life, his goal... the war.
He did remember that the first four letters were very long and packed with information about friends and the Weasley family... but since then, it had been consistent monotony. Just like when a young child promises to take care of a new pet, does so for the first week before abandoning it. The parents are too occupied to do it, so they always end up getting rid of the pet.
"What's the point of corresponding if Voldermort can't come here, anyways?" he grumbled in the dark, thinking of what Dumbledore had explained about his mother's blood protecting him through Petunia. " 'We're not allowed to tell you anything'," he added, taking a little sassy voice, imitating Hermione or Ron. "Who do they think they are, for Merlin's sake! I don't want to brag, I mean, there isn't anything to brag about but they aren't the ones who went through what I did."
Hedwig's eyes glowed in his direction questioningly as she stretched her wings, flapping them lightly as she made a few steps on the little wooden tablet in her unlocked birdcage.
"Yep, you're the only one left," Harry told her, receiving a hoot for answer.
Hedwig had been with him through thick and thin ever since they had met. She had not only been his first real present, but his first link to the Wizarding World, the first thing that had made him stand out as a wizard and not as a muggle. She had not changed since Hagrid had bought her and given her to the eleven year old boy and remained supporting and attentive as ever. It was true, she was starting to age and sometimes needed more time to rest, but the mail always reached its destination and she very rarely complained about the conveys. Harry smiled at her, watching her amber eyes disappear and reappear as she blinked lazily.
Sighing, he looked back at the ceiling, wondering how his friends were spending their time at the Burrow. In all probability having fun, even if they denied it. Through his eyes, nothing could be boring in the Wizarding World compared to the life he led at Privet Drive.
He couldn't help but wonder how Fred and George were doing with the Weasleys Wizard Wheezes. Ron had sent him a pamphlet about it with the first letter he had received. The brochure had also been sent to a great part of the Hogwarts students, promoting the close opening of their first joke shop in Diagon Alley. He had also heard that Fred had bought a flat near the Ministry and was now living there with Angelina, who was studying not in one department but in two: the Department of Magical Games and Sports, where many said she would have a bright future in the British and Irish League Headquarters, and in the Department of International Magical Cooperation, where she was an assistant in the Magical Office of Law. It had reassured Molly that Fred was dating a sensed witch who could get him out of trouble, morally and financially, if his shop did not work out.
George, on the other hand, still lived with his parents and had taken Percy's old room while Bill and Charlie slept in the bedroom the twins had lived in most of their life. They had said that they wanted to be there if something happened... because of Voldemort... Especially since their father had been attacked.
Harry's eyes drifted to his table where various things were displayed, including an old copy of the Daily Prophet with the title 'Mayhem at Azkaban' in big letters, masked wizards roaming through the moving picture beneath it.
The captured Death Eaters had escaped the magical prison with ridiculous ease barely a week after their imprisonment. Lucius Malfoy had disappeared bringing his family with him and was hiding in America, according to the Daily Prophet. All the other Death Eaters were also nowhere to be found, all being in hiding. Voldemort was staying quiet, doubtlessly waiting for the best moment to show up. It was all he knew. No word from Dumbledore, from the Order's activities, from the Weasleys - who were supposed to invite him to the Burrow - or anything to do with magic.
"I want to get out of here!" he half whispered, half yelled, to no one in particular.
Hedwig hooted again and a shriek was heard down the hallway, most probably made by uncle Vernon. Harry frowned and rolled his eyes, hearing his uncle yell something to do with making his owl shut up. Harry rose from his bed and walked to Hedwig's cage, having his glasses already on his nose.
"I think it would be better for you to go," Harry whispered to his pet once he was less than a feet away from her. "Just go... fly around or something."
Hedwig nibbled the tip of his fingers and jumped on the windowsill, from where she flew off into the night sky after a few flaps of her wings. Harry didn't move from his place for quite a while, looking at her fly away until she was a simple grey dot in the horizon, vaguely imagining himself getting away from this place like she was doing at that moment. He wondered what it would be like to disappear, to not be recognized when he walked down a street.
His cheeks reddened. He did not want to assume that he was always recognized or that he should be, but he'd like people not knowing, to look at him and see him for who he was: a boy becoming a man too soon, stuck with no family, with feelings everyone else experienced...
Closing half of the window, he caught his dishevelled reflection in the tarnished glass. God, he looked like he had spent the last three weeks in Azkaban, not in a muggle home. Thin as ever yet definitely taller than before, not so tanned skin, the same black hair and his eyes, green, almost exasperatingly so.
He turned his head sideways, trying to look at himself from a different angle. There was something else. Something that was not there the previous year and that he could not put a finger on. It was something to do with his jawbone, or maybe just his appearance... whatever it was, it made him look somewhat handsome, more mature, more... more than he was before. He knew it didn't necessarily come from his father, having seen him in his picture album, but it wasn't from his mother either. It was something he had developed himself, without really noticing. Just like the way he walked, wrinkled his nose when something he did not like was happening or tried to hide everything he felt about his position in the Wizarding World.
He snorted, walking away from the window.
His mind was Azkaban, not this place. Fortunately, the corruption his mind had been affected by could not be seen anywhere else than his treacherous eyes. The slightly unhealthy look that gave away that he had grown too fast had morphed into something a bit more stylish, another thing he couldn't quite place or put into words.
He walked back to his bed and sat on it, leaning against the wall. His eyes grazed his picture album on his bedside table. It was opened on one of the last pages. He was with his parents, Sirius and Remus, at the beach, the summer before he became an orphan. Remus was stuck under an imposing sun umbrella, a very wet Sirius was trying to bring him towards the water, his father was building a sandcastle with his young son and his mother was watching them, vainly trying to make him wear a little white hat.
How he would love to spend one summer like that, with no worries whatsoever. He wondered what Sirius did during the summer, before he had been sent to Azkaban. Did Remus actually take a summer break? If he did, where could he possibly go? He sighed and looked back at the opposite wall, staring at it for a very long time.
Seeing that, as always, sleep wouldn't come, he pulled out a quill and a piece of parchment from his trunk, took his transfiguration book and leaned on its cover to write. There was something in writing to someone that intrigued him, something baffling and personal. He liked the feeling.
He softly passed his fingers on the parchment, wondering to whom he would send it.
Surely not Ron or Hermione, they didn't deserve to be written to with the kind of response they always gave. And he was so angry after his two friends, he did not have anything to tell them.
Hagrid maybe? No, he was occupied with the giants and his undercover work for Dumbledore. Dobby? He didn't even know if the house elf could read. Dumbledore was not the kind of person he wanted to talk to, and Sirius was gone. That last thought made him cringe. Lupin was too occupied with the Order of the Phoenix and none of the other members of the Order would take time to talk. And he was sick of their encouragements and all their other bullshit.
"Who..." he murmured, eyes drifting to the window again.
Just when he was starting to think that no one was worth writing to and that he was about to crumple the parchment into a ball and throw it against the wall, he though of one particular person who wouldn't send him his encouragements, support and hope. Someone who didn't sugar-coat everything he said, someone who was going through the exact opposite of what he was living at that moment.
How had it started? Harry remembered entering madam Malkin's robe shop in Diagon Alley and seeing the blond boy for the first time, on a pedestal, letting himself be measured by the owner of the shop. Harry sniggered at the thought. Since the very beginning, the Slytherin had thought himself on a podium. It is to say... he had not been arrogant or mean during this first meeting. Yes, he had spoken disparagingly of Hagrid, but he had simply been affirming what he had heard of him... comments that were maybe even true, even though Harry had been put off considerably by that simple remark about his half-giant friend.
What had happened next? Ah, Malfoy had spoken about witches and wizards born in muggle families, expressing his resentment about their acceptance at Hogwarts. Harry had been annoyed by that speech, remembering that he could never object or say what he thought of the matter because Malfoy kept talking and talking...
Aboard the Hogwarts Express, Draco had realized who he was and had introduced himself. Soon after came the comment about the Weasley family and Harry's rejection of Malfoy's friendship. It all went downhill from there.
It was strange for him to realize that he was the one to openly declare himself Malfoy's enemy and not vice-versa.
The simple thought of writing to him made the Boy Who Lived laugh loudly. He shoved his transfiguration manual to his left, watched it bounce once, the springs of the mattress squeaking loudly, forcing the book off the bed and onto ground with a deep thump that echoed lightly in the room for less than a second.
Not only in his room, but it the whole house, in the whole street, in the whole neighbourhood. He couldn't hear the crickets anymore. The silence spread everywhere, into his heart and into his mind.
Everyone had contributed to its prominence. They, the wizards and the muggles around him. All his life, there was the alternation of silence and unwanted clamours. Harry Potter, the Great Harry Potter. The best seeker, the conqueror of evil with no flaws or imperfections. And then there was silence and ignorance. No one acknowledged what he wanted or how he felt. All they saw was the Great Harry Potter. No one saw the boy whose parents had been murdered, the one that had lived through a terrible childhood, the boy whom no one told he was a wizard until eleven years after his birth... The one who lives with pain, who has lost so many people dear to his heart. No one saw him for himself. Everything was sugar-coated or hidden from critical view.
His friends weren't listening to him. They were just watching him, like a relic on a mantelpiece. He could scream out all he wanted, no one would truly give a damn. They only saw Harry Potter. They loved him for who he was and didn't care about anything else.
He frowned. Now that he thought about it, why wouldn't he write to Draco Malfoy?
He hated him of course, because he was a Slytherin, because of the way he treated him, because of what he said, because of the way he was... but it would be an enticing experience... After all, Draco Malfoy did not see him exactly like others did. Draco Malfoy hated him.
Harry started imagining how the blond young man would react when receiving a letter from him and couldn't help laughing again. He bent down on the side of his bed and grabbed his transfiguration guidebook.
"I have nothing to lose," Harry muttered to himself as a last reason, dipping his quill in his inkbottle. But how would he start the letter? What would he write? Somehow, he didn't even need to think of it. The words almost appeared by themselves.
I don't expect you to ever respond to this letter, but since interesting correspondents are rare these days, I dared to give it a shot. I hear you are in America, as the Daily Prophet seems to say, though I doubt that is true. The Daily Prophet is, anyhow, seen inferior to the Quibbler through my eyes, as I'm sure you have seen what they have written during the year. They didn't have anything better to do than invent lies concerning myself, which was quite annoying. You must have found it entertaining, I'm sure.
As you know, I'm forced to live with my detestable muggle relatives for the summer time. You must be having a much better time than I.
Oh, well. Receiving mail, even from the son of a Death Eater, is bound to be more compelling than what I'm going through, so write back, even if it's to insult me. Even a Howler would be appreciated.
He knew he would perhaps not be waiting impatiently for a response. Draco was still a Malfoy, and a particularly wicked one at that, but what he would write, if he ever did, was bound to be more remarkable than what Ron and Hermione repeated over and over. And this correspondence might be interesting if it indeed happened. Who knows? Maybe they were actually going to have a reasonably normal exchange of letters.
But there was still the issue of Draco really replying. Maybe he would just be his annoying self and not answer back for the simple reason that he knew the Griffindor would like him to do so. But then again, Harry had just given him the opportunity of sending him a Howler. Maybe he would take it, maybe he'd keep it simple and just write down insults on a parchment and mail it like that, telling him to leave him alone. There were so many possibilities.
He sighed, rose from his bed making it crack in the process, placed the neat parchment in an envelope, wrote the Slytherin's name on it and placed it near Hedwig's cage, by the window. He sat back on his bed and stared at the letter for a long while, until he dosed off into a light slumber, from which he woke up thanks to his aunt banging on his door the next morning. Once he was ready to go downstairs, he noticed that the letter was gone.
There was no turning back.
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