Disclaimer: Characters from the Harry Potter Universe belong to JK Rowling and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.
Author's Notes: Many thanks to my fantastic beta bewarethesmirk.
Corridors and Confrontations
Harry didn't see them coming.
Trying to balance five thickly bound textbooks, as well as carry his broom and bag, Harry cursed himself for volunteering to pick up Hermione's library books on his way back from Quidditch practice. He was exhausted and hungry, the hastily eaten plate of chips hours before nothing but a distant memory. Maybe Hermione was right and the N.E.W.T. year was no time to juggle the Captaincy of the House Team and schoolwork.
Too tired to even follow that train of thought, he stumbled along the corridor, attention focused on keeping the books steady and very little else.
He looked up a fraction of a second too late to stop from crashing into the figure standing directly in his path. Books and broom went flying, his bag falling in his haste to grab the books, sending quills and scrolls cascading across the floor.
Apologising profusely he bent to gather his belongings together, reaching to pick up a quill that had settled at the side of a very expensive pair of polished shoes.
His hand stilled, and with a knot forming in the pit of his stomach, Harry looked up into the amused grey eyes of Draco Malfoy.
"Getting a bit clumsy aren't we, Potter?" he drawled.
Harry refused to be baited; instead he began collecting the fallen objects, refusing to allow Malfoy the satisfaction of starting a fight.
"I asked you a question, Potter," Malfoy spoke again. "Are you going to have the courtesy to respond, or do I have to deduct points for insolence?"
Mentally sighing, Harry straightened. "Not tonight, Malfoy," he said tiredly. "I'm really not in the mood for an argument."
"Ten points from Gryffindor."
Harry looked at him, stunned. "What the hell for?"
"Disrespect?" Harry said incredulously. "I didn't do anything."
"Ten more points for arguing with my decision." Malfoy was openly smiling now and Harry bit back the words he was so tempted to say. Instead, he shifted the weight of his belongings in his arms, and waited silently for Malfoy's next move.
"Nothing to say, Potter?"
Harry sighed. "Just get on with it, Malfoy - whatever it is you're planning - and let me get back to the common room. Some of us have got work to do."
"Really?" Malfoy said snidely. "I thought Granger did all your work for you? Don't tell me this is yours-" Malfoy's hand shot out and grabbed a roll of parchment from Harry's pile. Harry automatically reached out to snatch it back, and everything crashed to the floor again.
Malfoy sniggered and Harry felt his simmering temper flare. He kicked the fallen books to the side and took a step towards the amused prefect, hand reaching into his pocket for his wand.
A titter of laughter off to his right made Harry realise they had an audience, and he gripped his wand tightly, but hid it in the folds of his robes. He turned to regard Malfoy's little clique of giggling Slytherins with narrowed eyes. The usual suspects were there: Crabbe, Pansy Parkinson, Zabini, Nott and – wait a minute – where was Goyle?
A thick arm circled around Harry's throat and he was suddenly gasping for air, hands scrabbling to loosen the hold; his wand fell to the floor and skittered to a stop at Malfoy's feet. The blond boy picked it up carefully, long, slim fingers caressing the wood almost reverently. "Beautiful," he said softly. Not even looking up from his inspection of Ollivander's craftsmanship, he raised his voice, "Not so tight Goyle, we don't want to kill him."
Instantly the grip loosened and Harry coughed as air flowed into his lungs again. "Malfoy," he wheezed. "Give – me – back – my – wand."
Malfoy raised his eyes to consider Harry, who although able to breathe, was still pinned by Goyle's ape-like grip. "Not quite yet," he said slowly. "I'd like to have a little chat first, somewhere not quite so…public." This said as a chattering crowd of first years appeared around the end of the corridor. "Goyle, take him into that classroom. Now," he snapped.
With a sudden realisation things were spiralling out of control, Harry opened his mouth to yell to the approaching students, only to have Goyle's free hand smother the sound. He struggled to get free, Quidditch-toned muscles straining, but his feet barely touched the ground as Goyle effortlessly carried him into the empty classroom.
The other Slytherins rapidly gathered together all of Harry's fallen belongings and followed behind, leaving no trace of the confrontation in the corridor. The first years gave them no more than the usual fearful glance as they skittered past.
In the classroom, Harry was dumped unceremoniously onto the floor amidst the clutter of desks. Untangling himself from his robes, he was visibly trembling with rage as he got to his feet, the desks in his immediate vicinity shuddering a little. With difficulty, he forced himself to calm down, very aware he was outnumbered and unarmed and knowing full well that every time he let his temper get the better of him, he invariably ended up making things a lot worse.
Zabini sneered as he deliberately shouldered past Harry to sit on one of the desks, his legs dangling. The other Slytherins similarly draped themselves on seats, only Malfoy remained standing. Harry glared at him.
"What the hell do you want, Malfoy?" he snarled.
Malfoy leant back against the closed classroom door, arms folded. "That's an interesting question. What do I want? Hmm. You know, I've always kind of fancied one of those Muggle music players - the silver, shiny ones." The other Slytherins laughed and Harry's jaw clenched.
"That's not what I meant."
"I know." Malfoy smirked. "Would you rather I said I wanted world domination, and all the Muggles as my servants, feeding me grapes and polishing my brooms?"
"It wouldn't surprise me," Harry snapped back, ignoring the inane tittering from the Slytherin groupies.
Malfoy idly twirled Harry's wand in his fingers. "Or how about I just want all the Mudbloods dead?" He raised cool grey eyes to meet Harry's, all traces of humour gone. "Along with all their snivelling supporters, and half-blood scum like you."
The furniture rattled and Harry, muscles coiled in tension, looked ready to throw himself on the impassive blond.
Both Crabbe and Goyle, with a swiftness belying their bulk, rose from their seats to form a protective barrier between him and Malfoy. Harry sneered, "You're nothing but a common bully, Malfoy. Can't do anything without your little gang to back you up. You're just a bloody coward."
Malfoy's eyes narrowed and he stared at Harry thoughtfully before he spoke. "You know, you're right."
Harry blinked in surprise; this wasn't the response he'd expected.
Malfoy continued. "I think it's time we dispensed with the school-ground taunting, don't you think?" He turned to the Slytherins. "Everybody leave."
No one moved, they all just gawped disbelievingly at him, Harry included.
"Are you deaf?" Malfoy used a dangerously low tone that Harry had never heard before, a voice that commanded obedience. "Don't make me repeat myself."
Reluctantly, the Slytherins obeyed and Malfoy moved from the door to let them all leave. Zabini paused, as though about to say something, but the stony look on Malfoy's face forbade comment, and with a small nod, he left with the others, closing the door softly behind him.
He was alone with just Malfoy, but for some reason Harry didn't feel comforted. The atmosphere felt a lot more oppressive and he shifted nervously under the Slytherin's steady gaze.
Malfoy's features were completely unreadable, the characteristic sneer conspicuously absent. Silence stretched on and Harry waited - something about Malfoy's stance made him hesitant to speak. His anger slowly leached away as the evening's events overtook him and exhaustion stole over his body; he surreptitiously cast an eye around for a convenient chair he could slide into and wait for Malfoy to make his point.
Malfoy suddenly straightened, and as he pulled out his own wand and threw a locking spell at the door, he advanced towards Harry.
Startled, Harry backed away, not realising how close he'd been to the wall until he smacked into it.
Malfoy stopped a few feet away from him.
"Do you know what I really want?" he said conversationally.
Thrown by Malfoy's abrupt approach, Harry could only shake his head.
"I want to see Voldemort on his knees." Malfoy didn't even flinch when he spoke the Dark Lord's name, and Harry's eyes widened.
Malfoy appeared not to hear, his gaze intently focused on Harry's face. "He doesn't know the meaning of honour…or respect. He cast aside his family name the first chance he got, doesn't that tell you something?"
"Yeah I know, his real name's Tom Riddle. I met him," Harry blurted out. What the hell – why on earth had he said that?
Malfoy looked vaguely amused. "Yes, Potter, I was aware of that." Surprise must have registered on Harry's face because he added, "We don't all have to rely on Dumbledore's whims to get information. It is possible to gain knowledge for yourself without waiting for it to be spoon-fed to you. There for example." Malfoy pointed his wand at Harry's books lying piled on one of the desks.
"You sound like Hermione," Harry said without thinking.
Surprisingly, Malfoy was unfazed. "There is a reason she's the smartest witch in the school. You should listen to her."
"Sorry?" Harry said incredulously. "Did I just hear Draco Malfoy compliment a Muggle? Are you feeling alright? Or is it me…maybe I'm having a funny turn...I thought I was feeling a bit-"
"Shut up, Potter, before I have to hex you," Malfoy said sharply but with no venom behind the words. "You need to take this seriously."
"Take what seriously?" Harry said with an exasperated sigh. "I still don't have a clue what you want with me."
"I want you to stop pissing around and pay attention to what's happening. There's a war on – in case you hadn't noticed – and somewhere out there," Malfoy snapped, jabbing his wand in the direction of the window, "Voldemort is planning on how to kill you and take over the bloody country."
Harry's face flushed. "You think I don't know that?" he spat. "You don't know the half of what I've gone through the past few years. What we've gone through," he corrected himself. "I'm not as ignorant as you seem to think I am."
"Really?" The sneer was back. "So, how come you're standing here, with me – the evil son of Lucius Malfoy, Voldemort's right hand man – without a wand and not one of your little Gryffindor friends to help you out?" Malfoy tucked Harry's wand into his pocket and raised his own. "You know I could kill you right now, Harry, and there's not a damn thing you could do to stop me."
Harry blinked. "You wouldn't dare. The protection wards-"
"-are only alarms for Dark Arts spells. You'd be dead before anyone even realised it had happened," Malfoy interrupted. "Sometimes I wonder how you managed to survive five minutes in this world."
Harry glared at him, growing fear fuelling his anger again. "Well I'm sorry for disappointing you."
"Apology accepted," Malfoy replied.
"I was being sarcastic," Harry bit out.
Harry was breathing heavily now, his hands clenching and unclenching at his sides.
Malfoy took another step and Harry felt the wall press against his back as Malfoy's wand touched his throat.
"Do you really think I wouldn't kill you, Harry? Are you so sure you know me – know what I'm capable of? Are you?" Malfoy was so close now that Harry could feel the warm air of his words ghosting across his face; see the tiny flecks of blue in amidst the grey of his eyes; see faint laughter lines marring the otherwise smooth skin of his face. Malfoy laughs?
"Malfoy…you don't have to do this," he said uneasily.
Malfoy quirked an eyebrow. "I'm not aware I'm doing anything, other than demonstrating to you how completely and utterly clueless you are. You need help," he said, shaking his head to forestall Harry's argument. "Inside help," he clarified.
"I'm offering you an opportunity here, Harry, a chance to survive the war that's coming. Not many people get a second chance from me, but I'm giving you one." He paused. "Everyone thinks it's just Voldemort and Dumbledore, with you stuck in the middle like some pathetic little pawn. But we both know there's a lot more to it than that."
"Why?" Harry asked quietly. "Why do you want to help me? What's in it for you?"
"Everyone has to pick a side; it's naïve to think you don't have to. Given the options I find myself leaning more towards a world free of psychopathic megalomaniacs. But if you turn down my offer of friendship again, I might be forced to reconsider my choices," he said.
Harry stared into the frighteningly sane eyes watching him and felt a cold knot of fear forming in the pit of his stomach. It occurred to him at that moment they had seriously misjudged Draco Malfoy, a smoothly orchestrated piece of misdirection that Harry suspected was entirely deliberate on Malfoy's part. But whether the façade was only for their benefit, or Malfoy was trying to conceal himself from someone closer to home, Harry couldn't be sure.
"Scared, Potter?" Malfoy said softly, the tip of his wand pressing into the soft skin of Harry's throat.
The wand vibrated a little in Malfoy's grasp as Harry swallowed.
A thunderous cacophony of fists hammering on wood broke the tension and Malfoy stepped away, tucking his wand into his robe and smoothing the material down. He tilted his head to listen to the raised voices leaching through the closed classroom door, and then turned back to Harry, an amused smile playing at his lips.
"Looks like you've been saved again, Potter. The Boy-Who-Lived lives to blunder through another day."
Harry just stared at him, white-faced and silent.
"Give my offer some thought, Harry," Malfoy said, tossing Harry his wand back. Harry caught it automatically and lowered his hand, letting the wand dangle limply from his fingers.
Malfoy gave him the benefit of one more trademarked smirk and then strode towards the door, skirting smoothly past Argus Filch and Professor McGonagall as the door crashed open and they tumbled inside.
"Good evening, Professor," he said politely, and was gone before she could even respond. Infuriated she turned her steely gaze on Harry, but her expression softened somewhat upon seeing his dazed countenance. Filch was muttering angrily about detentions and dungeons, and she turned back to him. "Thank you for your help, Argus, but I believe I can handle it from here."
Grumbling, he nodded, and she waited until he had gone before turning back to the ashen-faced Harry. "Now Mister Potter, would you kindly like to explain what has been going on?"
Awareness seemed to return to Harry, he blinked once, twice, and then seemed to shake himself out of his stupor. Tucking his wand hastily in his pocket, he started to gather his belongings together again. "We were just talking, Professor…er…sorry…I've got to go… I've got lots of homework to do."
"You and Mister Malfoy were just talking?" she said disbelievingly, but could see no obvious signs of fighting apart from a few scattered desks and chairs. "Can I ask what about?"
Harry looked uncomfortable, but he met her gaze and said firmly, "No, Professor, I'm sorry, you can't."
Professor McGonagall failed to hide her shock at Harry's response, and her tone became crisp. "Very well. I think you'll find it's well past curfew, and although I could legitimately deduct house points, I shall let it pass this time. But be warned, Mister Potter, that I will not be so lenient in the future, so I urge you to be very careful."
Harry was very aware she wasn't just referring to the points and he nodded gratefully. "I will Professor, thank you."
"Good night, Mister Potter."
"Good night, Professor," Harry replied, and carrying the books and parchments in his arms, he left the room.
Professor McGonagall frowned as she looked around her, she had a very strong feeling that something significant had happened in the room that evening. Perhaps she would mention it to Albus over tea.
Making that mental note she walked to the door of the room, and turned. "Nox," she said sharply, and the room was plunged into darkness.