Sakuri: I'm afraid to say I'm a bit stuck in writing 'Standing', all of two chapters in. Tuts. Sorry to those who're reading it. I'll try and go back when I get some inspiration.
Anyway, I prefer writing fanfics set in Hogwarts. I think that's what was missing from 'Standing'. So here's another try xD
As with 'Secrets', I hav no idea where this story is going beyond the first couple of chapters at this moment in time. Here's hoping you guys like it just as much anyway.
Also, I realised the premise of this fanfiction is somewhat cliché (the whole 'bond' thing between Harry and Draco) but bear with me here. I think I've still got a few original twists to throw in here and there...
Rating: T (for now)
Summary: Beginning with yet another futile attempt at improving inter-House relations at Hogwarts, Harry soon finds himself the victim of a miscast and mysterious curse which results in him being inexorably bonded to Draco Malfoy, who in turn is on the fast track to becoming the junior Death Eater Harry always knew him to be... HPDM slash.
Disclaimer: I own nothing and no one
Chapter 1: The Game
Christmas was just around the corner and Hogwarts castle was done up to the rafters with so many decorations that Harry could only reason that this must be what it was like to live inside a Christmas tree. It was his sixth Christmas at the wizarding school, so he really should have been used to it by now, and yet never failed to be amazed by the layout. There was tinsel everywhere, in the most inconvenient of places. At the breakfast table, Harry would reach for his buttered toast, only to have to sit and pick sparkly strands from the bread before he could safely consume it. With vague annoyance, he'd spent several nights unwinding red and gold ropes of the stuff from the posts of his bed, only to wake and find them back in place. He assumed the house elves were doggedly maintaining the decorative cheer. He had no doubt that Dobby was personally responsible for burying him in the constant shower of glitter and baubles that seemed to be following him around the school.
The corridors were festooned with wreathes of holly and ivy and yet more tinsel. Students spent a good deal of time either frantically avoiding or hopefully aiming for the sprigs of mistletoe which hovered above doorways. Peeves had taken a particular interest in them this year, and more than once had been seen zooming up and down halls clutching a bunch of the white berries, in hot pursuit of the more timid individuals who were unfortunate enough to cross his path.
In the Great Hall, eight massive fir trees had been dragged inside by Hagrid, and one stood at each end of each House Table. It had to be said that the house elves had an excellent eye for decoration. Every tree was draped in ornaments and golden filigree that dazzled the eye. Harry had never seen anything close to these trees in a muggle household, and suspected that more than a little magic had been used to weave the glamour surrounding them.
Currently, he sat gazing absently at one of them as he stirred his cornflakes distractedly. His eyes focused and unfocused, so that the lights dancing about the massive fir blurred pleasantly in his vision.
His reverie was unceremoniously interrupted when Hermione elbowed him sharply. His elbow slipped across the table top, almost depositing his chin into the bowl of soggy cereal in front of him. "Wha–?"
"Ssh!" she snapped irritably, as if his sudden spasmodic movement was entirely his own doing. "The Headmaster's about to give his speech."
Harry considered this a completely unreasonable explanation for her abuse. Rubbing his arm where her pointy elbow had jabbed him, he reluctantly turned his attention towards the Staff Table in time to see Dumbledore slowly rising to his feet.
The Headmaster clapped his hands twice, and instantly commanded the attention of the room. He smiled good naturedly as his students stopped their chatter to listen.
"It would seem the season of goodwill is upon us," he began with a smile, the trademark blue twinkle in place above his half-moon spectacles. "And with it comes the New Year." He paused to look at each of the House Tables in turn. "And in the name of both goodwill and a new beginning, I have a proposition for those of you who will be remaining with us over the Christmas holidays."
Harry glanced past Hermione to where Ron sat, who raised a wary eyebrow. While Hermione was joining her parents for the next two weeks, they were both staying at Hogwarts, and they'd learned well enough to have a healthy respect for Dumbledore's 'propositions' by now.
"This year, we're going to try something new. I must confess, I'm about to embark us on yet another attempt at improving inter-House relations."
There was a rather deadpan silence at that. In the past few months, rivalries between the Houses – particularly Slytherin and Gryffindor – had spiralled out of control, and Dumbledore had tried everything in his power to repair 'inter-House relations'. He'd shuffled classes so that, for many lessons, Gryffindors found themselves sharing with their most hated rivals. He'd moved the House Tables directly next to each other. He'd threatened to cancel Quidditch. And when that had failed spectacularly, he'd decided that training schedules for the upcoming matches would be synchronised – which had failed even more spectacularly. Harry still had bruises on his hip and shoulder from taking a tumble off his broom when he and Malfoy had gotten into a fist fight midair. Luckily, he'd managed to drag the scandalised Slytherin down with him, and the git had been in the Hospital Wing for half the day with a broken nose.
It went without saying that no one was best pleased to hear of another futile attempt to 'patch things up'. Even the professors had frozen in place, obviously not prepared for whatever Dumbledore was about to suggest and dreading it just as much as their students. Though they put on a brave face of supporting the Headmaster's philosophy of uniting the Houses, McGonagall, among others, had been overheard more than once stating that he was simply pitting Slytherin against Gryffindor to no gain.
"This year," Dumbledore continued, unperturbed by the nonplussed silence he was met with from all corners, "we are going to take advantage of this fabulous time of year and indulge in a muggle tradition which I hope will prove helpful."
A collective mutter rippled over the Hall at the word 'muggle'. To those like Harry and Hermione, it hardly mattered, but even Ron frowned in curiosity, and it was impossible not to hear the increasingly loud complaints of the Slytherins sat directly behind them. Malfoy's nasal whine rang out above the others. "Well, I hope he doesn't expect me to participate in anything cooked up by muggles and mudbloods..."
Next to Harry, Hermione stiffened at the insult. He touched her arm and cast a narrow eyed glare over his shoulder. The blonde caught his look and calmly raised an eyebrow while flipping him off.
Harry turned away, resolving to 'accidently' shove the git off his broom – again – the next time they were forced to fly together at practice.
Dumbledore waited patiently for the murmuring to cease. He tapped his fingers idly and looked towards the ceiling, which showed a festive scene of gently drifting snowflakes across a backdrop of deep blue clouds.
When all was quiet again, he pushed his spectacles further up his nose and swept the room with a glance. "I must assure you, everyone who plans on spending their holidays here will be participating." Though he spoke as calmly and pleasantly as ever, there was no mistaking the order he was issuing. "Now then. This will hardly be a trial. I think you'll find yourselves quite enjoying the festive spirit." He was practically beaming at this point – and anyone who knew Dumbledore knew that this was the time to start worrying.
"Tomorrow morning, each student still here will be asked to draw a slip of paper from the Sorting Hat. On this slip of paper you will find a name. It will be the name of another student from a different House. Now, you mustn't reveal the name you have drawn to anyone. Your mission this holiday will be to find the perfect present for that person. I believe the muggles call it 'Secret Santa'."
Harry shook his head. That was it? That was nothing! God, he'd been started to dread all sorts! Grinning, he looked down the table at Ron, who was looking equally relieved. The redhead leaned closer. "Don't worry mate. I'll still get you something even if I don't get your name."
"You won't get his name Ron," Hermione interrupted. "Didn't you listen? It'll be someone from another House. I suppose that's why he's using the Sorting Hat..."
"Ah well, shouldn't be too bad," Ron went on, reaching for a croissant and cramming it into his mouth. "I was expecting worse."
"Must you speak with your mouth full?" Hermione scolded, wrinkling her nose as she brushed croissant crumbs from her arm. "And for all you know, you could be paired up with a Slytherin."
"Hermione!" Harry broke in, incredulous. "Don't jinx it!"
"Oh, don't be so superstitious..."
They dissolved into the usual banter, and all too soon the idea of the Secret Santa game was but a vague notion of little concern...
Hermione and everyone else who was going home for the holidays left that evening. Harry and Ron saw her off as she got into one of the horseless carriages, obediently nodding as she issued the last of her warnings about their good behaviour while she was away. Honestly, the woman was suited to being the next McGonagall if ever a witch was.
Harry patted one of the Thestrals as the deathly black horses led the carriages past. A few other students cast him strange looks – understandably, considering to them it must look as if he was patting thin air – but he ignored them and began to meander back towards the castle alongside Ron.
He'd spent the previous summer at the Burrow. At the time, he'd almost resented staying there. After all, hadn't he been meant to stay with Sirius that summer? Even now, it still felt horribly cruel that his godfather had been snatched away from him just as everything had been starting to look up. During the summer it had been even worse... He'd had moments, dark moments, when he'd lashed out at Ron and his brothers, and even Mrs Weasley, whose affection and genuine remorse only made him feel his loss more keenly. More than once he'd considered leaving the Burrow, thinking anything had to be better than the sense of suffocation and bitterness to be found there. He'd known he'd hit bottom when he'd thought about willingly returning to the Dursleys...
It had to have been hell living with him in those weeks. Ron clearly hadn't known how to act around him, and Harry hadn't really blamed him when his friend had taken to avoiding him when he was in his worse moods.
In fact, the only person who had persisted in talking to him on a regular basis was Ginny. At first, when he'd made it perfectly clear he didn't want company or conversation, she'd taken it in stride, and simply sat in silence with him. Sometimes she'd stayed for hours; hours and hours Harry spent trying to ignore her, waiting for her to leave, expecting her to grow impatient or offended. She never did. She'd brought books and read quietly while he brooded.
Eventually, she'd started to talk to him. Well. More like talk at him, since he'd never been in the mood to return idle chitchat. She'd tell him about the book she was reading, or the Quidditch match she'd just played against the twins, or how unfair Molly could be, or the new gadget Arthur had brought home. He'd let her chatter wash over him, almost surprised to find it didn't grate on his nerves, and that he'd become quite used to her presence. Some days he didn't take in a word she said, but rather enjoyed having her voice in the background. The day she surprised a laugh from him was the day he noticed her. Really noticed her.
She'd brought him out of himself again. She made him want to stop grieving, and instead listen to the next silly, trivial story she had for him as if it was of the utmost importance. For a while, this had made him feel even guiltier, but she'd dispelled that notion as well.
Ron had been so relieved to see his friend returning to normal that he even permitted the obvious Something that had developed between Harry and his younger sister. He'd made it clear from the start that he didn't want to know the details – but in all honesty, there were no details. Not then, anyway. It had been more of an... understanding they'd had.
In the following months, with the return to Hogwarts, Harry had felt what remained of the wound left by Sirius's loss heal over. He still missed his godfather, but it was no longer a debilitating grief or sense of guilt, as it had been. And he'd known who was largely responsible for helping him. He just hadn't known what to do about it.
It had been Hermione who'd given him a shove in the right direction, as always. She'd said it was exasperating watching two people dance and dither around each other. He'd looked between her and Ron and agreed whole heartedly.
He asked Ginny to go out with him the same week.
Harry snapped out of his wandering thoughts to turn and look at Ron. "Sorry, what?"
"I was asking who you think you're gonna get for this Secret thing tomorrow."
"Oh. I don't know. Does it matter? If it's a girl I'll get them jewellery. Quidditch stuff if it's a guy."
The redhead cast him a sulky glare. "Easy for some. Merlin knows what I'm gonna be able to afford... Extra bloody present on top of everything else..."
Harry kept quiet, knowing it to be a foolish move to offer Ron a loan of money. He'd tried that before, in all innocence, and only succeeded in severely insulting his friend's pride.
They reached the entrance to the school then, and spent a moment stamping the snow from their boots and brushing it from their shoulders and hair. The warmth of artificial Heating Charms flooded over them, a relief after the winter chill outside. Harry couldn't wait to get back to the common room and lounge in front of a roaring fire, maybe play chess with Ron.
"Baubles," Ron said to the portrait of the Fat Lady when they reached the entrance. Drinking a glass of cherry wine, she swung forward merrily for them and they hurried past.
No sooner had Harry set foot into the room beyond, a happy cry of, "Harry!" caught his attention, and he was abruptly presented with an armful of Ginny. He blinked in surprise as she waved something in front of his eyes before raising it above their heads. "Look, it's mistletoe," she announced, before kissing him soundly on the mouth.
There was a collective mocking, "Whoooooo!" from the Gryffindors watching, and a rather gruff, "Bloody hell, mate, keep it private, yeah?" from Ron, who edged around the pair with a disgruntled scowl.
"Uhm, sorry," Harry muttered, rather taken aback. Ginny grinned at her brother's discomfort, pecked Harry again, before pulling away to rejoin the group of girls she'd been with before his entrance.
Awkwardly clearing his throat – no matter how hard he tried, he still wasn't good with public displays of affection – Harry shuffled after Ron, who'd had the same idea about relaxing in front of the fire. The redhead glared at him half-heartedly when he too sat down.
"What have I told you about not wanting to see your tongue down my sister's –"
"There was no tongue!" Harry interrupted, not wanting this conversation to go much further.
"Hn," Ron grunted, rolling his eyes sullenly.
Harry shook his head. He was used to that attitude. He didn't think Ron really meant it, if he was honest. The redhead had been far worse when Ginny had been dating other people...
He yawned suddenly, and decided a game of chess was too much effort. He was going to bed.
After he'd removed the mounds of tinsel from his bed, of course...
The Great Hall seemed sparsely populated the next morning. At the Gryffindor table, there was only Harry, the two Weasleys, Lavender, Parvatti and a few members of the younger years. At the Hufflepuff table, Harry only recognised Hannah Abott and Ernie Macmillan, though there was a smattering of younger students and one or two Seventh Years. Of the Ravenclaws, he knew only Terry Boot and Luna Lovegood. He didn't bother to check the Slytherin table.
It seemed Dumbledore was eager to start the game he'd thought up. Harry had barely sat down when McGonagall stepped down from the Staff Table, Sorting Hat in hand. She cleared her throat impatiently. "Can the First Years form an orderly line and come choose a name from the Hat." She didn't sound as if she exactly relished her job at that moment. Most of the professors were looking bored or sceptical, in fact. Snape looked positively incensed with the whole performance.
Harry watched with mild interest as the small group of eleven year olds shuffled into place, shyly took theirs slips of paper and hurried back to their seats. The process was repeated with Second Years and so on, until it was almost their turn. He smiled at Ginny as she returned to her seat next to him. "Who'd you get?"
She unfolded the little scrap of paper beneath the table and showed him. On it was written the name, Luna Lovegood.
"Now, Sixth Years, if you please."
Harry and Ron rose to their feet, the redhead still yawning. They traipsed to the front of the Hall behind Lavender and Parvatti, and waited in line as the students ahead of them took their bits of paper.
Harry shifted from foot to foot impatiently. He was hungry, and wanted to get this over with so he could return to breakfast.
It came to Ron's turn. The boy thrust his hand into the Hat and retrieved a name, turning away without looking at it.
"Your turn, Mr Potter."
Sighing, Harry took his own scrap of paper. Curious, he opened it as he began to walk back towards the Gryffindor Table.
He turned back automatically. "Professor, there must be a mistake."
McGonagall cast him an impatient glance. "The Sorting Hat doesn't make mistakes, Mr Potter. It's rather the point of the game to be made to think about someone we wouldn't usually think about."
"Sit down, Mr Potter. There are others waiting in line."
Reluctantly, Harry made his way back to his seat. His protest had attracted a few raised eyebrows, and as soon as he sat down Ron and Ginny turned on him.
"What was that?"
"Who'd you get?"
Wordlessly, Harry unfolded the slip of paper in his lap. The pair read it and blanched. Written in cursive script was the name, Draco Malfoy.
Ron groaned. "That's bloody ridiculous," he growled angrily. "You can't be expected to... to..."
"Buy presents for that snake!" Ginny finished in a hiss, just as outraged.
Harry shook his head. "You're right. This is stupid." And with that, he screwed up the paper into a ball, tossed it into the air and murmured a quick, "Incendio!" It disappeared with a brief spark.
"Won't Dumbledore know you're not doing it?" Ginny asked, chewing her lip.
He shrugged. "It's all supposed to be secret, right? Who's going to know it was me who didn't get the git anything?"
Ron clapped him on the shoulder. "Damn right," he said through a mouthful of bacon.
Sighing, Harry glanced up as Malfoy received his own slip of paper from the Hat. The Slytherin didn't bother to open it. Harry watched him crumple the paper as he walked back to his seat, dropping it into a glass of pumpkin juice belonging to an oblivious Hufflepuff.
"Besides," he muttered, "looks like I'm not the only one who's not playing."