Stand By Me
"Things will happen in your life that you can't stop, but that's no reason to shut out the world. There's a purpose for the good and the bad." - Crazy Pete Now and Then
It was the summer I turned ten when I first met him. I didn't realize at the time that that first meeting with him would change my life forever. I was a wealthy, spoiled snob, too, but I didn't realize that either. It's funny how much our lives can change in a few precious instances. Some say it was luck that I ever even met my best friend. I say it was fate.
The day I met him began as a dreadfully mediocre July morning. It didn't seem like a particularly different beginning than any other summer day before, but that was soon to change. Mother, as usual, was out at brunch with her lady friends, and my father was in his study. My mother was a Pureblood social elite, which was an important role to fit into. She reminded me how a truly classy citizen of the Wizarding orld was to act several times a week.
It was in my blood to upkeep the Malfoy family name, she said, and I wasn't going to screw it up for a careless affair or a silly daydream. The few times she caught me playing out my own made up scenarios, she ordered me to stop all my nonsense at once and, for the love of Merlin, couldn't I do something constructive and quiet like a good, little boy? I would immediately simmer down and do some other activity that wouldn't offend her to pieces like read a book or do a puzzle. It wouldn't last long, though, and I would eventually revert back to playing games. Mother would become even angrier than before when this happened and put me in time out or punish me. I was a lonely child, and my forced lifestyle made me bitter and distant. I wanted to play games like any normal child, but I was never allowed.
Father was similar in opinion, if a bit colder. He punished me harshly with a spanking or a curse if I didn't behave the way he wanted me to. I was improper and a burden, in his opinion, and that just wouldn't do. I was always on my best behavior when I was around my father. He was very strict. I blamed his mannerisms and attitude on the war; he didn't know any other way to get me to behave.
My parents loved me, I knew, but we were never sentimental. Rarely was I told I love you, and I wasn't given much affection. I grew uncomfortable with any form of intimate contact with other human beings. I rarely, if ever, saw my parents hug or kiss. That's just the way they were.
I was never allowed pets or friends. Pets were dirty, and other children made too much noise and filth.
I only had acquaintances. I met a few children when their parents invited my family over for social gatherings and parties, but never was I allowed to invite them home to the manor. I was never invited over to play with them either.
I resented my parents, but I rebelled in my own ways. I talked back to them, but the only place that got me was a sore rear end and no dinner. I eventually learned to accept my fate as a prisoner in my own home, but that didn't stop me from occasionally acting out. Those times were few and far between, though, by the time I was ten.
So, as usual, on that July morning, I was sitting on a loveseat in one of the porches surrounding my house with a book in boredom, trying not to do anything that my mother or father would classify as frivolous or wasteful. My eyes skimmed the pages unseeingly and uncomprehendingly. I couldn't help but think reading this idiotic book was wasteful in itself. I sighed, wishing it was a Saturday. I pulled my feet up from the floor and sat on them, leaning my head against the arm rest. If my father were to find me in my current position, I'd be in trouble, but I didn't care. I looked up with a heavy sigh from my book and stared out the screened in window at our extensive grounds.
I was allowed to fly my broomstick and explore the grounds on Saturdays. My parents said I was only allowed out to do it because it let out my pent-up anxiety for the week. I snorted softly as I watched a gray bird fly through the air and perch itself upon a tree. My Saturday outings did nothing of the sort. If anything, they made me long to escape the house even more than before. Even at age ten I knew I needed to get out more than I already did.
I watched the bird chirp and fly a bit more, wishing I were him, before I heard footsteps quickly approaching the door leading to the porch, and I hastily dropped my scrunched up feet out from under me smoothly and sat up properly, pretending once more to be interested in the exceedingly dull book.
"Draco," my father said as he entered the room, his very being commanding my full attention. He was a rather formidable man even without knowing what he was capable of accomplishing.
"Yes, father?" I asked, making sure to keep my tone polite and neutral. It wouldn't due for father to be disapproving of me so early in the day.
"We're in dear need of paying Severus Snape a visit, wouldn't you agree?" father asked. I knew it was a rhetorical question and waited out the pause. "Get your shoes. I'm going to give you a tour of Hogwarts before I conduct my business with your godfather. You must know your way around the castle properly before you attend the school yourself a year from now."
"Yes, father." I stood up and headed towards my room immediately to get myself ready for the trip. Secretly, I was thrilled at the prospect of getting out of the manor. It was rare for me to venture outside these four walls.
When I returned to my father, I tried to hide my excitement, but I could tell some of it shone through my façade as he glared at me lightly.
We would be taking a Portkey, as we always did when visiting Severus. My father believed the Floo was too dirty and for blood traitors like the Weasleys, and Apparition wasn't possible when going to Hogwarts unless we wanted to Apparate to Hogsmeade and walk, but Merlin knew my father would never would bring himself to do something as degrading as walking half a mile to Hogwarts.
I grabbed hold of the Portkey and was whisked away roughly by a tugging on my navel. Just when I thought the feeling would never end, we landed, I a bit roughly yet still on my feet. It wouldn't do for a Malfoy to fall over, after all.
"This way, Draco," my father said as I looked around the stony hall. It wasn't often I came to Hogwarts to visit Severus, as he normally came to the manor, but when I did I took in as many details as possible. I didn't want to forget anything about the wondrous castle.
I hurried to keep up with my father's long strides as he showed me around the castle. The only places I had seen before were the dungeons and Entrance Hall.
We were on the fourth floor when a thought struck me. "Are you sure we're allowed to just wander around the corridors?" I immediately regretted my words, not knowing if my father would take them as impertinence.
To my surprise, he just looked down at me and gave a little smirk. He didn't answer, but I was relieved he wasn't angry at me. I assumed we never actually had received permission to be wandering the Hogwarts' halls, but so help me if that was going to stop him from doing what he wanted. He was a very influential, powerful man, my father.
We continued exploring Hogwarts for the next few minutes until my father cast a time-checking charm and briskly turned around, his dark robes billowing out behind him impressively.
"It's time for us to head down to Severus's quarters," he said. He did not wait to see if I was following him.
We arrived in the dungeons quickly enough, I trying to discreetly look at all the moving portraits that covered the walls; there weren't very many paintings in the dungeons and only dark, intimidating ones in the manor.
We entered through a large wooden door. Severus was waiting for us at the door when we arrived, his trademark sneer in place.
"Hello, Lucius… Draco," he said. He looked mildly disturbed by my presence. He glared at my father reproachfully – he was one of the few people that could do that and get away with it: I had no idea why. "It seems to me I only recall requesting one Malfoy's presence today."
My father did not react to Severus. He just turned to look down where I was standing as straight and poised as I could possibly manage and ordered, "Draco, go take a walk. Don't leave the dungeons. I'll come for you later."
"But, father –" I whined instantly, wanting to know what Severus wanted to discuss. I didn't want to be left out.
I was silenced by the stern look my father sent my way. "Draco, you will do as I say without question. Is that clear?" His voice was deadly.
I was in trouble, I knew, and I cast my eyes downward. Malfoys never hung their heads.
"I said, is that clear?"
I nodded. "Yes, sir."
"Good. Now run along."
I exited the room, disappointed, and not before sending one last curious glance back at Severus and my father. I wondered what they could possibly be discussing that would not be allowed for my ears as well.
It wouldn't do for me to stress myself out over them, though. It was probably just some boring, adult conversation that would provide no interest to me whatsoever.
I tried to convince myself of that before running down the corridor as fast as I could, desperate to be far away from the two men as physically possible. I was furious. I was never allowed to do anything. I ran up a flight of stairs, now realizing I was no longer in the dungeons. I didn't care, though. I just wanted to make my father angry. He was always telling me what to do, and, though I was desperate to please him, sometimes I couldn't stand the man.
In my haste to get away, I didn't realize I had become completely and utterly lost. I wiped my eyes, which had become wet with unshed tears of ten-year-old fury and hurt. And, despite my earlier tour, I was in a wing of the castle I had never been in before.
I sniffed pitifully and leaned against the wall, hoping vindictively that my father would never find me and then feel horribly guilty and get in trouble with my mother for losing me.
"I hate them, I hate them, I hate them," I chanted angrily under my breath, pushing the heels of my palms against my eyes as though I could really block out the world. I released my eyes and began to tug on my golden tresses with frustration. I muffled a growl.
At the time, even I realized I was acting childishly, but I couldn't bring myself to care much. I was ten, I argued, and I earned the rights to act like this every once in a while after my stellar behavior at the manor all summer.
A sudden crashing from the hallway adjacent to the one I currently resided in caught my attention. It sounded like metal. I quickly ran down the corridor to investigate, previous anger forgotten briefly in place of newfound curiosity.
I halted as soon as I saw the scene before me. At first, I didn't know what to make of the mess, but, on further assessment, I realized that one of the knights that line the hall was lying in scattered pieces across the stone floor.
I picked up the head of the knight and looked at it for a moment. I was about to set it back down, not really wanting to get caught by anyone holding a helmet of one of the knights, especially one that was scattered across the ground in little pieces, when I heard a small sniffle coming from a nook in the side of the hallway.
I paused, silent and clutching the knight helmet tightly to my chest fearfully as I stared at the entrance I heard the sniff. Another sniff made itself known, and I cautiously took a step towards the noise. My foot crashed against a breastplate irritably, and I held my breath. My heart was beating rather fast, and I suddenly berated myself. What was I doing just standing there – approaching the thing? This was Hogwarts, and who knew what kinds of creatures could be lurking in shadowed corners and doorways? I turned around, fully intent on making a run for it, but a shout halted me, scaring me half to death.
"Wait!" I sucked in a breath sharply and squeezed my eyes shut, waiting for the impact. A whimper left my mouth involuntarily.
But it never came.
Instead, something even more surprising did; a soft caress. I jumped and turned around, holding the helmet ever more tightly as though it could protect me from whatever harm lay ahead of me.
Like a boy. A small boy. A boy with black hair and goofy glasses. A harmless boy. For, before me stood a small, nervous boy who couldn't have been older than I was. He was shaking, his mouth hanging open in words that didn't emerge. He was scruffy and skinny, but he was wearing wizard robes like I was.
I would have found the situation funny if it happened to someone else. As it was, I was ridiculously embarrassed, and, in order to protect myself from further humility, I immediately became defensive.
"And who might you be?" This was how I talked to Crabbe and Goyle to show I was their superior. Why should this boy be addressed any differently?
His mouth opened and closed silently. He looked scared.
I harrumphed. "Well, can't you talk?" The little boy flinched, and his eyes filled up with tears. An uncomfortable weight immediately settled in my stomach which I tried to ignore.
The boy had done a one-eighty and would have flown down the corridor had I not grabbed his petite wrist just in time. He was shaking, and I grew desperate.
"Look, I'm sorry, okay?" I had never had to apologize to anyone except my parents before, and it took a stab at my pride to apologize to this small boy.
His quivering didn't stop, and I sighed. "No, really." My voice was softer and gentler than before. "Sorry."
He seemed less tense, and his shaking became less violent now that I had lowered the harshness of my tone. I felt it safe to finally let go of him.
"What's your name?" I asked.
He didn't answer me, instead choosing to stare at the mess that lay around us hopelessly. He didn't seem like a very verbose bloke, so, like my parents trained me to do, I began talking. I was never to let an acquaintance get bored in my presence.
"We should probably go somewhere else," I began. "I don't want to be found with this knight and get blamed for it, do you?" The thought of actually getting blamed for something I didn't do did not sit well with me.
The boy hesitantly looked up from the pieces. I smiled at him encouragingly, trying, for once in my life, to make someone else feel comfortable. I normally only smiled on Saturdays when I flew my broom, but I supposed I some change in my schedule every once in a while wouldn't hurt.
The boy tentatively and shyly smiled back then shook his head. I took that to mean he wanted to get out of there, so I grasped his hand in mine, pulling him down the corridor.
"I'm Draco Malfoy, by the way," I began. "Father brought me here to give me a tour of Hogwarts, which is so much more interesting than what I normally do at the manor. But then he had to go meet with my godfather, and they kicked me out of the room because they had some important grownup business to do. It's not fair, you know. I never get to do anything fun or interesting. I mean, for the past week, I swear all I've done is eat, sleep, read, and go to the bathroom. I'm an aristocrat! I shouldn't be treated like I am – but, you know what? I am. No friends, no pets, no fun. You know what, I don't care anymore! We should be friends! I don't care what father thinks. I don't care what mother wants. What d'you say? Do you want to be friends?"
I supposed my rant was a little overwhelming for the poor boy, but I couldn't help it. Even if all this boy could say was Wait! I wanted a friend. I was only ever in contact with other Pureblood children, and, admittedly, they were no more interesting than the book I was reading earlier today.
I looked expectantly over at the boy who looked confused and a little more than overwhelmed at my outburst. At the same time, though, it appeared he was trying to hold back laughter. We stopped walking, and I released his hand.
We were quiet for a few tense moments, and I almost began talking again just to fill the silence, but the boy finally began to speak, and I halted my words, eager to hear what the boy had to say.
"I'm Harry." His voice was hoarse and wispy like he hadn't talked in a long time. He coughed after he spoke, but then he offered a tiny smile, and it made me happier than I had been in a long while.
I returned the smile and offered a hand. "Friends, then?"
To my surprise, he grinned, nodded, pushed away my arm, and gave me a hug.
I was so surprised, I almost didn't return the hug. I barely got the chance to, anyways, since I heard a distant yelling of, "Harry!"
As though he had been burned, Harry released me, avoiding my eyes and looking down at his feet.
A stern-looking old woman with a tight bun in her hair emerged from around the corner.
"Harry, where have you been?" she asked. "I was worried sick – you know not to run off like that, and – oh…" She seemed to finally notice me. "Hello, Mr…?"
"Malfoy," I offered, my tone reverting back to its aristocratic arrogance now that it wasn't just Harry and me. The lady looked surprised for a brief moment, then stern.
"I'm Professor McGonagall. Where is your guardian, Mr. Malfoy?" She walked up next to Harry and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder.
"In the dungeons with Professor Snape, ma'am," I answered. "I don't know how to get back to them." And I didn't really care, either.
Her formidable face frowned lightly, creating wrinkles that made her appear older than before. "Well, I will just have to escort you back down to them, Mr. Malfoy. You should not have left the area. You are not a Hogwarts student. You could get lost! Well, then, come along." Briskly, she prompted Harry forward with a light push. I didn't correct her and tell her I was actually lost. Very lost. But I was doing okay with Harry there. I resented her for breaking up our conversation so quickly. My first friend, and he was being taken away from me before we even could really be friends.
I followed her obediently, if forlornly, since it seemed I didn't have much of a choice.
Harry escaped from her hold somehow and lagged back to walk next to me. I saw McGonagall turn around, surprised at Harry's sudden disappearance from her grasp. She looked away from the two of us, but it looked as if she was contemplating something. It seemed Harry wanted to grab my hand like I did his earlier, but now that there was an adult around, I wasn't sure I felt comfortable enough to do so. McGonagall seemed strict like my father, and lord knew my father wouldn't approve of any form of hand-holding.
I inadvertently shook my head, glancing briefly down at our nearing hands. Harry frowned a little bit, and I felt kind of guilty, but I brushed it off.
I tried to make up for my coldness by smiling at him. I could tell he appreciated the effort as he smiled back.
McGonagall tried to strike up a conversation with me. I could now tell her stern shell was just a cover for what she was trying to hide; she really was a kind, old woman. "So, Mr. Malfoy, how has your summer been? Have you done anything fun?"
I involuntarily grimaced. "It was satisfactory, ma'am," I said, parroting what my father always said when asked how his day or week had been. "I've been reading a lot," I added, trying to please the professor. I knew adults didn't like it too much when you didn't answer their questions right.
"You're a reader?" McGonagall asked, interested. I wanted to contradict her and tell her that no, I actually despised reading, but I restrained myself. I probably would have liked it a bit more had I not been doing it every second I was awake since I was five. "Have you read any good books as of late? It's so rare to find young people these days that really appreciate the art of literature."
Now I really didn't want to contradict her. It would bring her off her high horse, for sure.
"Not lately, ma'am," I said.
"Hm." McGonagall's face was neutral when she looked over at me. It was clear our conversation was over.
"Do you live here, Harry?" I asked the boy who was standing mere inches away from me. "Do you live here at the castle?"
He looked up at McGonagall as though asking for her permission to answer. She smiled affectionately down at the boy. Harry, taking that as some sort of answer from the professor, turned back to me and brightly nodded his head.
"Really? That sounds wonderful! Is it fun? What do you do here all day?" I asked. Life at Hogwarts seemed so much more interesting than the manor. I had a feeling Harry didn't have to read books all day, at least.
Harry looked at me with a pained, conflicted expression. He didn't answer me.
McGonagall spoke over her shoulder. "Harry doesn't speak, Mr. Malfoy. He's mute."
"What? No he's not!" Of course, Harry might have been shy and quiet, but he wasn't mute. That was just cruel.
"I assure you, Mr. Malfoy, Harry has not said one single word the entire time he's been in my presence. And that has been for nine years," McGonagall told me in an almost amused tone.
"No, you don't understand! He told me his name! He said 'wait'!" I wailed at the professor, my previous Pureblood act now ruined and forgotten.
McGonagall raised a skeptical eyebrow at me before shifting her hawk-like gaze towards Harry, who was determinedly staring at his dark shoes. "Is this true, Harry? Did you speak?" McGonagall didn't sound as though she was convinced that he had spoken.
"I'm not lying," I insisted. McGonagall ignored me completely.
Harry let out a sigh before looking first at my insistent face then at McGonagall's curious one. He began to shake his head, but it started to form into a nod. He looked down sheepishly.
McGonagall's face took the form of something akin to a stunned Hippogriff, while mine glowed triumphantly.
"Are you sure?" the professor asked. Her voice sounded a few octaves too high.
Harry nodded again, not looking up from the ground.
"Of course he's sure!" I said.
"Oh my!" McGonagall said. She rushed over to Harry and embraced him tightly. It was an amusing scene, and I smirked at Harry as he looked over McGonagall's shoulder at me, looking slightly panicked. I heard some sniffs coming from McGonagall, and my smirk grew. I chuckled to myself softly.
"As touchingly sentimental as this scene is, we really must be going, Draco." I spun around to face the cold exterior of my father. He seemed calm to everyone else, but I had known his anger for years, and I could tell it was flickering in and out of him like a serpent. And all of it was aimed at me. I gulped audibly. I feared what would happen when I got home – I had disobeyed a direct order and ventured out of the dungeons. I now deeply regretted giving into my anger and running away.
McGonagall stood up straight, dabbing at her eyes lightly.
"Come, Draco," my father ordered. I sent a longing glance towards Harry. "Now!" I regretfully, if hurriedly, followed my father. Despite my reluctance to leave Harry without knowing whether or not we would see each other again, I didn't want to anger my father further.
He took out the Portkey, and he was getting ready to activate it when I suddenly felt a tugging at my sleeve. I compliantly subjected to the ministrations only to find myself in a warm, soft hug. Forgetting that my father was standing there, I returned the hug fiercely.
"I'll send you a letter with my owl," Harry whispered in my ear. I doubt anyone else had any idea words were being exchanged. I nodded against his neck. My first friend.
"Draco!" my father snapped. I hastily jumped away from Harry, sending my friend an apologetic look. He looked worried, glancing at my father then back at me. I ignored my father's cold glare. I knew I would pay dearly for showing such affection towards Harry when I got home.
"See you," I mouthed to him as my father and I touched the Portkey.
Just before I was whisked away, a scraggly old man ran by, a cat on his heels. "I'll kill that bloody poltergeist! Knocking knights over like it's some bloody game—"
A/N: EDIT 12/24/09