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 17: Truce
Hermione wasn't talking to him after he'd told her to butt out, and Ron still couldn't look at him without growling since he'd walked in on him and Ginny together, so it wasn't too difficult to slip away from the common room the next evening when seven came. Caught up as he was in his secretive mission, it was only when he actually reached the Room of Requirement that it occurred to him to feel awkward. He'd said he'd spend an hour here with Malfoy, but now he wondered what he was going to spend that hour doing! They were far from friends, so it wasn't like they could sit and spend the time talking amiably. They weren't even civil acquaintances, so a comfortable silence was out of the question. Hexing each other seemed both a more likely and more enjoyable pastime, but he didn't think it was very conductive to his plan.
Steeling himself, he opened the door to the Room and reluctantly stepped inside. Casting a glance about him, he was unimpressed to realise the decor had been changed to Slytherin colours. There were dark wooden floorboards under his feet, but across the room, in front of the marble fireplace which glowed with life, was a luxurious green rug. Malfoy's silver dragon was curled up on it as if the creature was no more than the average pet dog. Its master sat nearby, occupying one of several dark green leather chairs that had been arranged around the fire.
He glanced up when Harry entered, his face back to the customary cool mask of disdain. One fine blond eyebrow rose slowly while the rest of him remained poised and tense. "You're late, Potter," he murmured lowly, and even then barely moved his lips. Already Harry wanted to slap him, but at least he was reassured that the other boy felt just as awkward and unsure as he did.
He nodded in greeting, hesitantly making his way over to the chairs. No sooner had he approached, one of the stern, high-backed chairs gave a quiver and transformed itself into a sprawling, squishy red armchair, a perfect copy of those that littered the Gryffindor common room. Harry couldn't help but flash a grin as he saw the look of wide eyed indignity on Malfoy's face, and it put him somewhat at ease to know he was irritating the other as he flopped down gracelessly onto the soft cushions.
"So," he said conversationally, "how're things?"
The Slytherin's grey eyes narrowed in warning. "Don't act like you're enjoying this."
Harry shrugged, having thought about this most of last night. "I figure since we're stuck in this situation, we might as well make the best of it."
"There is no 'best of it'. Don't kid yourself."
"There isn't if you're going to be like that. Look. This could clearly be hell for both of us. We have no reason whatsoever to get along, and we know exactly how to push each other's buttons. But we're stuck together, if what you've said is true. Don't you think it might be a good idea for us to at least try and behave?"
The blonde continued to look unmoved. In fact, he still hadn't moved so much as a muscle since Harry had arrived, frozen in place with his legs crossed and his fingers linked and his chin lifted proudly, until Harry had to wonder if keeping himself in check really required such tight self-control on the other's part. Eventually, Malfoy gave a delicate sneer. "Fraternizing with the enemy, Potter? I'm shocked."
"I'm not 'fraternizing'. I'm being practical. Do you want to subject yourself to arguing and fighting every time we see each other? Which, thanks to you, is now a lot more often than either of us would like..."
"So what are you saying?"
"I'm saying we be civil until we figure out how to break this bloody spell that's on us. Besides," he added slyly, "it'll only be a temporary truce. After this you can have at me, Malfoy."
Grey eyes studied him carefully, the Slytherin's pointed face angled slightly to one side. "Temporary," he repeated cautiously, as if testing the word.
Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes and instead leaned forward to extend his hand in offering. "Truce?"
To his surprise, Malfoy's eyes widened dramatically and his previously motionless fingers suddenly clenched into fists in his lap. His head whipped around to pin the Gryffindor with a direct glare. "Don't be a fool, Potter!" His gaze flicked scornfully over the outstretched hand that still hovered between them. "Haven't you listened to anything I've told you?"
Harry flushed as he immediately recalled the other's emphatic warning never to touch him, and decided he really would have to keep that in mind. "Oh. Sorry. But do we have a deal?"
The blonde shifted uncomfortably in his seat, still looking mildly alarmed that the Gryffindor had wanted to shake his hand. "Fine. Deal," he snapped at last, finally breaking his unnatural stillness to lean down and reach behind his chair, pulling out a stack of five leather bound books. He promptly tossed two of them to Harry, who scrambled to catch them in surprise. "Here. I got these from the Library. Not like we can be seen there together, so I thought here and now is as good a chance as any to research magical bonds. This is everything I could find on them."
Harry examined the books curiously, although he began to frown as he realised something. "Malfoy, these are –"
"To do with Dark magic, yes I know. I got a couple of them from the Restricted Section. Oh don't look at me like that. What did you expect? This is a spell from the Dark Lord, Potter."
The Gryffindor snorted but conceded the point. In silence he flipped open the first book and started reading. Almost instantly, he realised that the vast majority of the information within was doomed to go straight over his head, and spent a moment wishing he could just set Hermione on the case, who would undoubtedly relish investigating into something so obscure. But with a sigh, he reminded himself that such a thing was impossible, and managed to gather his concentration enough to soldier on.
The introduction was difficult enough to understand. It talked about all the different types of magical bonds that could be created, and there were plenty, despite the fact that, as stressed by the book, it was a very imprecise brand of magic, and usually accidental. It touched upon the bond between soulmates – though it stressed that these were incredibly rare and hardly ever activated – and the similar bonds that could be manufactured between married couples. It touched upon life debts and even Unbreakable Vows. It talked about the bonds of magical creatures, sometimes with humans – like Dumbledore and Fawks, Harry realised vaguely – and sometimes with mates of their own species – like Veela or werewolves, the book explained. It talked about the difference between accidental bonds, natural ones, and deliberate ones, explaining that each type came with its own set of benefits and consequences.
And this was only the introduction.
By the time Harry had read all that, his head was spinning with the influx of information. Pausing a moment, he pushed his glasses up and rubbed his eyes, keeping his place in the book with one finger as he closed it over and glanced up. Only to find Malfoy looking back at him.
"What?" he demanded instantly, bracing himself for some sneering remark, sure that the Slytherin had already discarded the memory of their so called truce.
But the blonde only blinked, as if abruptly realising he'd been staring, and swiftly returned his attention to his own book. Harry frowned at him, wondering what he'd been thinking just then. He studied him curiously. Despite himself, Malfoy seemed to have relaxed somewhat in the half hour they'd been sitting together. Harry supposed it would be tiring not to, trying to keep up that unnerving stillness that the Slytherin had first exhibited. Now, he sat with one leg tucked up under him, leaning heavily on one of the armrests with his book held loosely in one hand. In the heat and stuffiness from the fire, he'd undone the top button of his collar and, seemingly without thinking, rolled up his sleeves to the elbow.
Harry's eyes fixed unwaveringly on the snake and skull tattoo that disfigured the pale and slender arm which was on display. He felt a prickle along the back of his neck as he looked at it and suddenly he was angry at Malfoy all over again, and had to force down the urge to start shouting. He swallowed once, twice, and with difficulty managed to steady his voice, though it was nothing but a whisper by the time he managed to speak.
"So when did you get that?"
The Slytherin glanced at him coolly, followed the line of his gaze, and suddenly slapped a hand over the Mark as he realised what Harry had been staring at. "Damn it, Potter! None of your business!" He wasted no time in yanking his sleeve back into place, colouring heavily as he did so. That struck the Gryffindor as slightly odd, since he'd expected gloating arrogance from the other now that he'd gotten over the shock of Harry actually knowing about the Mark. He certainly hadn't expected Malfoy to seem... ashamed.
"This little visit of yours doesn't actually require us talking to each other," the Slytherin responded snidely. "So I'd appreciate you shutting up."
"I would have thought you'd be bragging, Malfoy," he commented with false casualness. "You're finally just like your father. Mummy must be so proud."
Malfoy snarled. "Don't you talk about my parents, Potter! You don't know anything!"
Harry opened his mouth to retort that he knew Draco was now just as much of a snake as Lucius Malfoy, but then snapped it shut before the words could escape. He spent another moment seething, then with a sigh through gritted teeth allowed his anger to trickle out of him. So much for their truce. He didn't know why he was bothering to be angry, anyway. He'd expected no more than becoming a Death Eater from Malfoy, so why did he feel outraged just because those expectations had been met? He shouldn't. He should feel nothing but grim vindication.
Forcing the thoughts out of his head, he returned his attention to the book he was supposed to be researching from. He stared at it without really seeing, however, and after about five minutes it dawned on him that he hadn't absorbed one word he'd read. Resignedly, he flicked back to where he'd started and began again, trying to will his mind to focus. He hated research, but over and over he reminded himself that this was important. This was relevant. This was happening right now and he had to find a way to end it –!
"A few weeks ago."
He looked up at the Slytherin blankly, feeling lost. "Huh...?"
Malfoy rolled his eyes, then gripped his left arm over the concealed Dark Mark. "I only got it a few weeks ago. Not long."
"Oh." Harry didn't really know what to say after that, or why the blonde was freely offering the information. He shrugged, and asked the only question that seemed sensible to him: "Why?"
"Why'd you take it?"
Malfoy looked at him as if he was insane. "Why do you honestly think, Potter? My father told me that the... the Dark Lord had requested it. He came and got me, and the next thing I knew it was done, just like that."
"Your father did that to you?! Just... just handed you over?!"
"It's not a bad thing!" the Slytherin protested hotly, scowling. "It's what I wanted. What I've always wanted..."
Harry shook his head and looked away, his skin crawling slightly. Distantly, he was aware of the surreal nature of the conversation, calmly discussing their places on opposite sides of the war, but it didn't seem real to him. Here in the Room of Requirement they had a truce. It didn't matter that they still despised each other, it didn't matter that when this was over they'd betray the other in a heartbeat, it didn't even matter that their agreement was void anywhere outside the Room.
"Why are you telling me all this?" he asked at last, for lack of a better question.
Malfoy lifted one shoulder and waved a dismissive hand. "You said yourself that you're going to tell everyone anyway, once we've figured this out. Why bother hiding it?"
Harry experienced an odd realisation then, as he suddenly understood something about the Slytherin. He knew exactly why Malfoy was answering his questions, perhaps better than the other boy did himself. The Dark Mark had been a secret, a burden that couldn't be shared, couldn't be mentioned or admitted. Harry knew far too well the terrible pressure of keeping secrets. Regardless of how Malfoy felt about the Mark itself, keeping it hidden had taxed him, and now he was simply taking advantage of the fact that someone else – anyone else – knew about it.
The Gryffindor recoiled from the sense of empathy.
That, he thought, had been far too intimate an understanding of the enemy. He would have to keep in mind that he was doing this only to get what he wanted from Malfoy, not to understand him. He wondered bitterly if such insight was a symptom of the bond.
Seeking the distance of the academic approach, he tapped his finger against the pages in his lap. "So what sort of thing should I be looking for in here?"
The Slytherin blinked, obviously thrown by the abrupt change of topic. Caught off guard, he floundered for a moment. "How should I know?!"
"What?! I'm not an expert on this!" He continued to scowl for a moment, then let the expression ease into consideration. "I suppose... I suppose we try to figure out what type of bond it is first. After that we can look into breaking it."
Harry grunted in acknowledgement. "So what 'type' is it?"
"Merlin, Potter, if it was as simple as that I'd have done this myself by now! The only things I can tell you about it are that, for one, it's obviously designed to keep us in close proximity. When we spend too long out of the presence of the other, it has the power to... to punish us, I guess... by making us sick. For whatever reason, it seems to affect me worse than you."
The Gryffindor nodded as he absorbed all this, then looked up with a frown as he remembered something the other had said. "And how did this 'bond' lead to you knowing... those things... about me? That you mentioned on the roof, I mean..."
The blonde flashed him a malicious grin, obviously unable to repress the reaction. "What? You mean finding out that you want to shag Smith?"
Harry's eyes flew wide. "I do not –!"
Malfoy cut him off with an infuriating flick of his fingers. "Oh not anymore. Don't worry, I already figured that out. But you did." His grey eyes glittered, their expression unreadable. "See, that's the other thing about the bond. It shares things. It obviously shares magic, hence my newfound ability to speak to dragons. But it shares... emotions as well. Thoughts, sometimes."
"It... it does what?" A chill had come over the Gryffindor and he sat rigid in his comfortable red armchair. Malfoy knew what he was thinking....? Knew what he was... feeling?!
"Relax, Potter. It's not that accurate. Not like Legilimency. I can just about catch glimpses. Impressions, if you will. Enough to realise you're not quite as straight-laced as most people think... forgive the pun." He looked delighted with himself by the time he'd finished talking, sitting back in his chair with a wide smile.
"I wish you'd stop implying I'm gay."
"I'm not implying anything, Potter. I'm stating fact."
Harry decided not to dignify this with a response. Pointedly, he waved aside the tangent they'd found themselves on. "Alright, then why is it only one way? You know what I'm thinking and stuff, but I've never had anything like that from you."
"Yes you have. You came running to the roof that night when... when I was afraid."
Green eyes blinked slowly. "That was really you? I mean... You really felt like that?"
Colour suddenly stung the blonde's cheeks and he looked away. "Just see if you can find mention of symptoms like those in one of these books. The sooner we identify the spell, the sooner we end it."
Harry agreed, and without further protest went back to reading. His mind still whirled, but with force of will he managed to concentrate. Opposite him, the Slytherin pored over his own book, absorbing the words at a frantic rate, much faster than Harry.
It occurred to neither of them to check the time, and consequently neither realised that they had sat and talked well beyond the requisite hour.
When Harry finally did rouse himself and notice that he'd actually missed dinner, he took the books Malfoy had given him and left in high dudgeon. Standing in the hall outside the Room of Requirement, he paused a moment, trying to figure out what it was that seemed to be missing. Scowling, it occurred to him that, despite spending an inordinate amount of time in the Slytherin's presence, he had not gotten so much as one solid insult out of his system.
"Ponce," he muttered to himself, shaking his head scornfully, before setting off to see if he could convince Dobby to feed him.
Behind him, still sitting in his high-backed green leather chair, Draco stared straight ahead and drummed his fingers in contemplation.
"Wanker," he finally said with a decisive air, and began gathering up his things.