Title: Those Who Can't Do
Rating: R (for language)
A/N: Giftfic for stealmyhorses who who gave me the prompt "One of the boys tutoring the other" as well as "cauldron" and "shyness".
"Well, if this is truly what you want, Mr Malfoy, I have to say that I approve." Headmistress McGonagall was sitting straight in her chair, arms flat on the desk in front of her and a warm smile on her face.
Draco simply sat across the desk in shock. He had come to her with his suggestion expecting to be laughed out of her office. Instead, here he was, slack-jawed and unable to believe he just heard the words 'I approve' in regards to anything he had to say.
Coming back to Hogwarts to finish his education after the war had been the only sensible option to Draco. If he were to have any hope of a life after the things he had done, he needed to be out there, showing people he wasn't the arrogant bastard he had been. That he wasn't the arrogant bastard he only ever thought he was supposed to be. Now he could just be Draco.
"No need to look so shocked, Mr Malfoy," McGonagall continued when Draco did not reply.
"But I am," said Draco, still looking slightly dazed.
McGonagall chuckled lightly at that.
"I'm all for second chances, Mr Malfoy, and what you have expressed to me here today tells me that not only do you deserve one, but that you truly want one. And that makes a world of difference."
Still somewhat amazed, Draco could barely think. He had not prepared for this outcome; he'd been so sure of rejection. As adamant as he had been that he should try, that he should not shirk away from this opportunity, he had never actually thought it would happen.
"Thank you," he finally managed. "Thank you so much."
As he stood up to leave, planning on heading back to the Slytherin dormitory to re-think the remainder of his entire life, McGonagall spoke again.
"There is one condition, however."
'Of course,' thought Draco, 'there would have to be a catch.'
"Yes, Headmistress?" he said as he slowly lowered himself back into his seat.
"During this, your last year as a student here at Hogwarts, it would be advisable to discern your commitment to, and suitability for, this prospect."
Draco couldn't be surprised; she needed to know he was serious, that he wasn't just using this as a means to an end. He wasn't a fool. He knew that as an ex-Death Eater his options in life were highly limited, and he would take this chance that McGonagall had given him with whatever defection it came with.
"I will therefore be asking you to tutor a student throughout this year, until the final exams."
'Tutoring?' thought Draco. 'Who'd want to be tutored by me?'
This self-doubt must have shown on his face, because McGonagall continued.
"I already have a student in mind who could greatly use your help and who will no doubt be grateful for it."
Draco was sceptical, but didn't see that he had any other choice. He simply nodded in acceptance and posed one question.
"Who is it that I shall be tutoring?"
Harry was running late. It was only his second day into his last year at Hogwarts and he was already running late. This did not bode well for the rest of the year.
Sighing, he finally pulled on his shoes, not bothering to tie them up, grabbed his bag and left the Gryffindor dormitory at a run.
He supposed his tardiness could be blamed on how terrified he was about where he was headed. He was so reluctant to go he had dragged his feet all morning. He had intentionally allowed himself to oversleep, had then taken far too long in the shower and he'd even gone as far as to go to breakfast in his slippers and without his book bag.
It could not be avoided, though. After everything Harry had been through the previous year, he was more determined than ever to graduate from Hogwarts and become an Auror. He needed to play an active role in keeping the Wizarding world safe. From Voldemort wannabes to petty criminals, Harry felt he needed to help.
To achieve his goal of becoming an Auror, of course, he was required to obtain a NEWT qualification in Potions. Harry was embarrassed to have to admit it, but he was completely, horrendously, dreadfully awful at Potions. 'Are there any even stronger words for 'really'?' he wondered.
All these factors found Harry here, rushing through the corridors towards to library for his first meeting with his new Potions tutor. Harry was beyond nervous. He had had only two Potions teachers in the past; one that had despised him and one that had idolised him. Not exactly a level base to head from. Add onto that the fact that his tutor was a fellow student and Harry just didn't know what to expect.
He had initially wanted Hermione's help, but she was far too busy taking as many classes as she was allowed to, and therefore barely had time to do her own studies, let alone help with Harry's. Thankfully, McGonagall had stepped in and, true to her word of assisting Harry to make sure he achieved the required results to become an Auror, had offered him the chance to be tutored in Potions.
Thinking this was probably the most sensible course of action he had ever taken in regards to his studies, Harry entered the library in search on his tutor. It was still early, with most of the school attending their first lessons, so the library was almost empty. It was empty, in fact, except for one table towards the back. As Harry approached he recognised the person sat at the table in front of a collection of Potions books and slowly began shaking his head. He could not believe this. Were the fates that cruel?
"Malfoy?" he cried.
"Good morning, Potter," said Draco without looking up from the book his was reading. "If you want to take a seat we can get started."
"You're my Potions tutor?"
Draco finally looked up at Potter and tried not to smirk, it wouldn't be good to annoy him so early into this arrangement.
"Yes," replied Draco simply.
Without saying anything else Potter sat down opposite Draco and folded his arms defensively.
"I understand this might seem like an awkward situation to find ourselves in," Draco explained as he closed his book and added it to the piles in front of him. "But there's not really much we can do about that. You need help with Potions, I am that help. I have no intention of doing anything other than getting you to pass your Potions NEWT."
Potter frowned and looked rather skeptical. Draco wondered, regardless of his own intentions, how this was all going to play out. If Potter decided to use this as an opportunity to berate and humiliate Draco, which he easily could, then Draco would find it difficult to maintain his diplomatic approach.
Slowly, Potter nodded. "Okay."
'Oh yes,' thought Draco, 'Potter isn't the kind to kick people while they're down. He's far too good to use this situation as a way to aggravate me.' He mentally rolled his eyes, taking great effort to make sure it was only mentally.
"Right then," Draco began, "first of all we'll have to-"
"One question, Malfoy," interrupted Potter.
Draco paused and raised an eyebrow quizzically at Potter, waiting for the question.
"I know why I'm here, but why are you doing this?"
The one question Draco hadn't wanted to answer. He sighed and pulled one of the many books towards him, flipping through the pages, trying to buy time. Potter didn't press him for his answer, he simply sat quietly and Draco could see him in looking at him, waiting, out of the corner of his eye.
"Look," said Draco calmly as he folded his arms across the text he had been pretending to read and raised his head to look at Potter. "I want to be here about as much as you do, okay? I really wasn't thrilled about this when Headmistress McGonagall informed me I'd be tutoring you, but really, it could have been a lot worse."
"What could have been worse?" Potter looked confused, a look Draco was sure he'd be seeing a lot of during study sessions with Potter. "Is this some kind of punishment? You've been forced to tutor me because you did something stupid?"
"Hmm, I can't say you're wrong." Draco thought Potter was almost entirely spot on in his assumptions, though no doubt he wasn't quite grasping the exact 'something stupid' Draco was doing this as repentance for. Draco, however, had no intention of spelling it out for Potter.
"We've barely been back at school 2 days and already you've earned a whole year of punishment?" Potter shook his head. "I don't even want to imagine what you did."
Having nothing to say to that, Draco remained silent. Draco didn't have to imagine what he'd done to deserve this, he could remember it all. He pushed the war and his part in it to the back of his mind, and instead thought about his future. If he could just get through this year, if he could just get along with Potter long enough to help him scrape a Potions NEWT, then he would actually have a future.
"As I was saying," Draco brought himself back to the present. "we'll have to start with the theory. If you can understand a potion on paper, then you'll be much better prepared when you actually start to brew."
Draco explained his approach to the subject of Potions and how these study sessions would work and was actually surprised to see Potter grab a quill, ink and parchment from his bag and start to take notes.
A week and several study sessions later, Harry had to admit that Malfoy was actually a good tutor. He was still shocked at just how professional Malfoy was being about the whole thing. He took Harry through the basics of potion making theory, starting with basic ingredients, their magical properties and how they interact with each other. He kept things simple enough for Harry to understand, but never once showed an ounce of condescension. At first Harry had wondered how that was even possible, but soon gave up and just found himself being grateful for it.
Harry started to actually enjoy the subject of Potions for the first time in his life. Enjoying it, and even more surprisingly, being interested in it. He had started to read a lot on the subject, asking Malfoy questions whenever he came across something he didn't understand. Malfoy gave him patient and straightforward explanations that would clear up any queries in minutes.
When Harry stopped to think about it, he had to wonder how the hell Snape and Slughorn had ever been allowed to teach. There was just no comparison.
The start of their second week of study found Harry and Malfoy once again sat in the library surrounded by Potion text books and discussing the merits of using graphorn over bicorn. Well, Malfoy was discussing the merits of using graphorn over bicorn while Harry listened, and wondered if he should be taking notes.
As soon as Malfoy slipped into talking about which shops sold the best graphorn and how extortionate the prices were, Harry gave up on the note taking idea and began staring into space, wondering if Potion theory would ever end.
"Are you even listening, Potter?"
"I was," Harry said as he re-focused is gaze on Malfoy. "But I don't think I'll be given a shopping list and a budget for my Potions exam."
"Point." Malfoy smirked at Harry and shrugged a shoulder.
"I know you said I need to learn the theory first, but when am I going to actually start brewing some Potions?" Harry tried not to whine, but he wasn't sure he succeeded.
"Are you actually getting excited about Potions, Potter?" Malfoy actually smiled. "I never thought I'd see that."
"Shut up, I'm not excited, I'm just keen!"
"Even so, it's much more enthusiasm than I would ever have expected of you."
Harry just looked at Malfoy and raised his eyebrows expectantly.
"Soon," chuckled Malfoy, "soon."
Sulking, Harry looked back down at his book and didn't see the dark haired witch that sauntered in through the doors of the library. Only when she was stood at the table and she spoke did he look up and see her.
"Draco!" cried Pansy, throwing her arms around the blond, dislodging the book he had in his hands.
Harry was sure he didn't imagine the eye rolling Malfoy did at the spectacle.
"Hello Pansy," replied Malfoy as he peeled the girl off of him and deposited her in a seat.
Even though Harry did not keep abreast of the social activities of Hogwarts he thought he could read this encounter pretty well. Parkinson was obviously after Malfoy for more than just a friend; she had spent the last 8 years, if not more, fawning over Malfoy at every given opportunity. Malfoy, on the other hand, barely seemed to give her the time of day. Harry briefly wondered why Malfoy even bothered to speak to her, but figured it was probably due to some twisted Slytherin politics.
"You're always in the library these days, Draco. I hardly see you!" moaned Pansy, attempting to pout. Harry thought the look vaguely resembled a bloated fish.
"You know I'm tutoring this year, Pansy. Learning and books go hand in hand." Malfoy spoke slowly and some of the condescension that Harry had been so pleased had yet to be directed at him seeped out into his voice. "Hence being in the library."
"You're only tutoring him," she spat the word as she jerked her head in Harry's direction.
Harry caught Malfoy's eye as he glanced over and rolled his own eyes. He could have sworn he saw the corners of Malfoy's mouth twitch, as though he was fighting a smile.
"No matter how good you are, Draco, he'll always be shit at Potions," continued Pansy, smugly.
The ghost of a smile that had been playing on Malfoy's features disappeared and he looked stony at the girl as he spoke.
"I managed to make you competent in the subject, didn't I? So I think I'll easily manage to get Potter a passing grade."
Pansy's self-satisfied face fell and Harry let out a snort of laughter that he quickly turned into a cough as both Slytherins turned to stare at him.
"Whatever, Draco." Pansy stood from the table and swept her hair out of her face in an attempt at grace. "I hope you enjoy yourself trying to hammer some knowledge into that thick head of Potter's. Don't expect any more visits from me, though."
Malfoy had already returned his attention to his book and did not look up as he calmly replied.
"I think that would be best."
Harry couldn't help but gape as he watched Pansy stalk out of the library while Malfoy didn't even give her a parting glance.
They sat in silence for at least thirty seconds until Harry spoke.
"Did I really just see that?" he asked.
"I don't know, did you have your eyes open?"
Malfoy kept his eyes on his book, but Harry thought he saw that minuscule smile gracing his features again.
They continued studying again, this time about why Re'em blood should never be mixed with aconite without the addition of Sopophorous Beans. Something that Harry followed and understood perfectly, he was pleased to see.
While half of his mind continued to learn, the other half couldn't stop thinking about the encounter with Parkinson. Harry had been very shocked, but rather grateful, at Malfoy's odd defense of him and untroubled dismissal of his annoying house mate. Harry also had to wonder why. Why would Malfoy argue with Parkinson over Harry and his tutoring? If these circumstances were brought about by Malfoy getting himself into trouble, surely he would want to bitch and moan about it more than Parkinson?
All this just made Harry wonder if he'd been wrong in his assumption that the reason Malfoy was here tutoring him was a form of punishment. And if that was the case, then why was Malfoy here tutoring him?
Draco was surprised to discover that Potter was actually a competent student, who knew? He picked things up quickly, asked questions whenever he didn't understand something or when he wanted to know more, and what amazed Draco even more was the fact that Potter seemed to have taken a genuine liking to the subject of Potions. Instead of waiting for Draco's prompting and guidance, he was researching things on his own and asking Draco for advice.
It made Draco wonder how the hell Potter had done so abysmally in Potions in his previous years at Hogwarts.
As well as Potter's better than expected aptitude for Potions, Draco had to admire his enthusiasm to get into the lab and actually start brewing. Potter's patience as well, when he came to think about it. Draco had kept him waiting until he was sure Potter had grasped the basics of all the more common ingredients, how they worked together and, perhaps most importantly, how they could work in opposition to each other.
Draco dragged Potter down to the dungeons to find an empty classroom, almost a month after the tutoring had begun, having eventually decided he had kept him out of the Potions laboratory long enough.
"Finally!" Potter couldn't hide his relief and exasperation at being allowed near a cauldron at last.
"You know I'm only bringing you down here to show you the ingredients cupboard, don't you?" Draco teased.
"You-" Potter looked shocked and his face seemed to pale and blush at the same time.
"To show you the ingredients you've been reading about!" Draco berated. "Pervert."
All the same, Draco knew he was grinning as he turned away from Potter and into the classroom.
"Really! I'm still not allowed to brew?"
"No, no, I was joking about the ingredients cupboard. Just not in the way your dirty mind thought I was." Draco had to force himself to suppress his smile as he turned back to face Potter. "You're brewing."
Potter almost whooped with joy, but just as suddenly his face fell and he began chewing his bottom lip. Draco thought he looked rather... shy. Which didn't make any sense.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
Potter shook his head. "Nothing."
"I thought you were excited about actually brewing a potion?"
"I was- I mean, I am." Potter's hand began rubbing absentmindedly at the back of his neck. "It's just... I guess I'm a little nervous."
"You're nervous-" Draco didn't understand.
Wincing a little, Potter nodded.
"-about brewing a potion? After a month of learning how to brew a successful potion? With me here to make sure you don't fuck it up?"
Potter looked apologetic and shrugged.
"I think it's being down here, in the dungeons. It makes me think of Snape. I feel a bit jumpy, like he's going to swagger in and pick up where we left off, telling me how useless I am and..." he trailed off.
Draco assessed him through narrowed eyes. Potter and Snape had never gotten on, but Potter's story just didn't ring true. Snape was dead, and Draco knew Potter didn't hate him anymore, not after it came to light just what Snape had been doing throughout the war. So why was Potter so nervous? And why the hell did he feel he had to lie about it?
Deciding not to go digging into things Potter obviously didn't want him to know, Draco dropped it.
"There's no need to be nervous, Potter. As I said, I'm not about to let you screw up and waste our time, ingredients and possibly clothing."
Draco was amused at how easy it was to wind Potter up, or perhaps at the discovery of just how innocent Potter turned out not to be.
"I've spent years in Potions lessons with you. I know how efficiently you can blow up a potion." Draco smirked at the indignant look on Potter's face. "In fact, where are the aprons?"
They spent the next two hours brewing a relatively simple, at least for NEWT standard, extra strong Calming Draught. Draco chose it for the irony, considering how nervous Potter had been. He even seemed to have trouble uncorking flasks.
Other than a few shaky-hand-induced spillages the brewing went fine. The longer they were at it, the more relaxed Potter seemed to become. Eventually they left the potion on the boil while they waited for it to turn light pink before they could bottle it.
During this time they chatted idly about other potions Harry could expect to brew, as well as the tons more research he would need to do before he'd be ready to brew the more advanced NEWT potions. They also passed into subjects unrelated to Potions, but still safely school-related such as Quidditch, the upcoming Halloween feast, as well as the awkwardness of being an eighth year in a school which usually only held seven different year groups.
At some point on his way back to the Slytherin dormitories, after the successful brewing and subsequent cleaning and tidying, Draco found himself grudgingly admitting to himself that he was actually enjoying the time he spent tutoring Potter. Overall he decided this was a good thing, considering what this whole adventure was leading towards, but he still felt a little bemused by the fact he was spending hours with Potter every week and they weren't even trading insults or hexes.
'Oh well,' thought Draco as he eventually lay back on his bed, 'at least it's better than Potter torturing me like I had feared.'
After two months of Potions tutoring Harry was feeling rather pleased with himself. For the first time ever he felt confident standing in front of a cauldron, and didn't get nauseous at the sight of a potion recipe.
Harry knew this new found confidence was because of Malfoy. God knows how or why, but Malfoy was an excellent tutor and they worked together excellently. It had unnerved Harry immensely at first, particularly during that first brewing session. He had found himself questioning whether he would actually be able to put all the theory he had learnt into practice. He had also discovered, with dumbfound wonder, that he didn't want to bugger it up and disappoint Malfoy.
Malfoy had really got Harry wondering about some things. He wasn't the annoying git he'd been in their previous school years anymore. Harry wondered about what had changed Malfoy, but he knew, undoubtedly, that it was the war. Conversation between the pair was easy and had moved somewhere passed the simple work related tutor-student area and into something that blurrily resembled friendship. Even so, the war was never discussed. Personally, Harry felt there would be too much to say and found himself uncomfortable at the idea of actually speaking those things out loud. He presumed Malfoy felt something similar, and neither of them would approach the subject.
After dinner one day Harry could be found on his way to the library to meet Malfoy for another evening of Potions study, and he mentally shrugged off the fact that he seemed to be looking forward to it. Harry smiled to himself as he randomly recalled the Halloween feast a few nights ago. He and Malfoy had just about given the whole school lock-jaw, the way everyone's mouths had fallen open when the pair had exchanged friendly words.
Lost in his thoughts, Harry almost passed by the open door of the classroom without giving it any notice at all, but the sound of Malfoy's voice had caused him to pause and retrace his last few steps. He stood by the door, out of sight, and his brow creased when he heard McGonagall speak.
"I'm glad to see it's going so well, Mr Malfoy."
"Thank you, Headmistress, I'm glad you think so."
What on Earth were Malfoy and McGonagall talking about? Harry felt a little bad for eavesdropping on their conversation, but attempted to justify it to himself by recognising the fact that they had left the door open and failed to use any silencing charms.
"I have to admit, considering the short amount of time you've been tutoring, you're doing far better than I expected."
"You assumed I'd be a terrible educator?" Malfoy sounded like he was faking his shock at McGonagall's statement.
"Of course not," McGonagall soothed, "I simply thought, what with the history between the two of you, things might take a little more time to settle."
"Is that why you asked me to tutor him? As a test? If I can put up with Potter I can put up with anyone?" Malfoy seemed to be getting more irate.
As Harry continued to listen he had to wonder what the hell was going on. He'd started to suspect that Malfoy's tutoring him was not the punishment he had alluded to, but what the hell kind of test would it be? And for what?
"This is not a test, Mr Malfoy, simply an attempt to compound the reasons for a decision I have already made. As for it being Mr Potter, he truly needed, and more significantly, wanted the help."
Malfoy heaved a deep breath and slowly exhaled in a huff before he spoke again.
"Well I must be an amazing teacher, because Potter is actually doing very well."
Out in the corridor Harry smiled and rolled his eyes affectionately at the back-handed compliment.
"Whatever the case, I must say how nice it is to finally see the two of you getting along. And speaking of getting along, I should let you get going."
Harry realised too late that Malfoy had actually been standing only just inside the classroom the entire time. Harry had no time to move before Malfoy took a step backwards and appeared in the corridor beside Harry as he spoke.
"Thank you again, Headmistress-"
He may have had more to say, but cut himself off abruptly when he caught sight of Harry.
Malfoy quickly turned back towards McGonagall, who was still inside the classroom, and smiled and nodded to her. He then turned fully in Harry's direction and walked briskly by without acknowledgement, headed for the library.
Cursing himself for being so nosy and for getting caught, Harry hurried along after Malfoy and managed to halt his progress a few paces from the library doors.
"I'm sorry," said Harry earnestly. "I didn't mean to listen, I just-"
"You're just a nosy bastard?" Malfoy really was irate now.
"No- well, kinda- but no!" Harry stumbled to explain. "I was just walking past and I heard you talking..."
Before Harry could even attempt to justify himself further Malfoy jumped in.
"How much did you hear?"
"Enough to believe this isn't some kind of punishment for you," Harry stated as he looked Malfoy firmly in the eye. "Why are you doing this, Malfoy?"
They stood looking at each other for long seconds. Harry, grateful as he was for Malfoy's tutelage, had to wonder if he'd ever find out Malfoy's motives.
Eventually Malfoy broke eye contact with Harry and moved around him into the library.
"Come on, Potter, you still have a lot to learn."
'Isn't that the truth,' thought Harry as he followed the blond.
It had been a few days since Potter had overheard Draco talking to Headmistress McGonagall and nothing more had been said about it. Draco had briefly wondered if he should tell Potter the real reason he was tutoring him, but decided that if Potter was going to keep schtum about why he was so damn nervous brewing that potion, then Draco wouldn't inform him why he's tutoring.
It was early on a Saturday morning when the subject was eventually broached again, by Potter, of course. They were sat at a table in the library that was drenched in the bright winter sun from the high windows, researching a more challenging potion. Draco knew he had been more subdued since their recent confrontation, and he also knew that Potter had noticed.
Over the course of about half an hour Draco spotted Potter sparing him furtive glances. A couple of times Potter actually opened his mouth as though he was about to speak, but seemed to change his mind and frown to himself instead.
Draco was not going to open up discussion on this subject. If Potter wanted to torture himself by wondering what Draco's reasons for tutoring were, then it was his problem. When the question finally came, Draco had to kick himself for believing Potter would ever let it be. He was a stubborn bloody Gryffindor, after all.
"Why won't you tell me why you're tutoring me, Malfoy?"
Draco sighed. "Why do you want to know so badly?"
"I didn't, at first."
"You did," Draco corrected. "You asked me straight out at the start of our first meeting 'Why are you doing this, Malfoy?' You then jumped to your own conclusions, which I admit I did nothing to dissuade you from."
"Fine, okay," Potter admitted, "I want to know. I just didn't want to know this badly at first."
Draco folded his arms across his chest protectively and waited for Potter to continue.
"After hearing what I did the other day," Potter said, visibly cringing at himself. "I can only think that you aren't being forced to tutor me. You're doing this for a reason, a good reason, I'd wager. And you're doing it because you chose to."
"Once again, I can't say you're wrong." Never was Draco so grateful for having learnt cunning Slytherin tactics for avoiding giving too much away.
"That's what you said last time." Potter was frowning again, looking confused and thoughtful. Draco idly wondered how long it would take Potter to get a headache from over using his brain.
"Yes," conceded Draco.
"So you're choosing to tutor me, for a good reason, but you also believe this is some kind of punishment?"
Potter seemed to be thinking out loud. Draco remained silent and glanced around the library. He knew it would be impossible to teach Potter anything while he still had this on his mind.
"Which means- are you trying to punish yourself, Malfoy? Do you think you deserve to have to tutor me?" Potter scratched his chin and narrowed his eyes. "Hang on; I think I just insulted myself."
Draco couldn't help but laugh. Dammit if the bloody Gryffindor wasn't cute.
Knowing he'd have to give Potter something if they were ever going to get back to studying, Draco chose his words carefully.
"Initially, yes, I viewed tutoring you as a penance." He paused, thinking how much he should reveal. "However, having spent time studying and interacting socially with you, I have grudgingly accepted the fact that you aren't a total tosser."
Potter sniggered into his hands as Draco continued.
"So I can't really call this retribution when I-" he faulted, "when I don't hate doing it."
Lowering his hands, Potter looked up at Draco seriously.
"No one is trying to punish you, you know. No one else is demanding redress from you." Potter lifted one of his hands from the table, only to ball it into a fist and put it in his lap. "You need to forgive yourself, Malfoy."
Draco blinked a few times before letting his eyes fall shut.
"I know," he replied.
Neither of them said it, but they both knew they were discussing the war. They sat in silence for a few minutes before they mutely returned to their books.
It was not long later that a familiar red-head bound into the library and plonked himself down next to Potter.
"Studying again, Harry?" Weasley whined. "You're as bad as 'Mione. I barely see either of you these days."
"We share a dorm, Ron, so that's a bit of an exaggeration."
"Still, haven't you got the hang of this crap by now? You don't need to spend all your time in the library with Malfoy."
Draco hated being spoken about as if he wasn't in the room. He opened his mouth, some scathing remark on the tip of his tongue, but a warning glare from Potter had him closing it abruptly.
"It's not as simple as 'getting the hang' of Potions. There are a lot of facts to learn, you can't just wing it. And Potions isn't crap, I'm actually really enjoying it."
"I refuse to believe I just heard that." Weasley's voice was getting louder as his temper rose. "You cannot enjoy Potions. You can not seriously be willingly spending so much time studying this bollocks with him!" He pointed straight at Draco's face.
The angry growl in Draco's throat could not be heard over Potter's heated response.
"I don't need you to believe it, Ron. I like Potions. A lot. I'm actually pretty good at it now I've got a competent tutor." He stood up and looked down at Weasley before his friend could interrupt. "Yes, I'm talking about Malfoy. He's a bloody good teacher, all right? And he's the reason I'm going to pass my Potions NEWT!" He slowly sat back down and with a quick look at Draco added, almost as an afterthought, "He's also not a total tosser."
Draco gaped at Potter is disbelief and was vaguely aware of Weasley doing the same. Potter was the epitome of calm as he simply returned to his book. Eventually Weasley huffed, mumbled something unintelligible that may have included the words 'nutter' and 'mental', and left the library.
Eventually Potter looked up at Draco, who was still staring at him in shock. Potter smiled innocently as he asked a question.
"So when can I brew this potion?"
It wasn't until the following Saturday that Draco finally escorted Harry back down to the empty classroom in the dungeons. This was Harry's first attempt at the Incontinencia Potion, which was very complicated NEWT potion that required a lot of concentration. Draco told Harry he may need to make several stabs at brewing the potion to do it satisfactorily, so it was best they have the whole day free to brew.
Draco sent Harry to the ingredients cupboard for the needed supplies while he set up the cauldron. He contemplated the aprons, but decided he'd risk it.
When Harry returned with his arms full of the necessary items, he let go and allowed them all to clatter across the desk.
"Be careful with the Jobberknoll stomach, it shouldn't be shook about!" cried Draco.
"I know," Harry replied smugly. "That's why I put it in my pocket."
He drew out a vile containing the liquidized Jobbernoll stomach and placed it carefully on the desk next to the rest of the ingredients.
"I was in the library all week doing this research with you, you know. And I can read and retain information."
"Well that's good to know," said Draco as he sat himself on a stool at the desk. "I could never be sure."
The rapport between the two young men was so easy now that when Harry flipped Draco the finger, Draco simply laughed and pointed to the lovage to indicate that Harry should get started on his potion.
The correct preparation of the ingredients was vital for the potion, as well as particularly fiddly, so Harry remained silent while he worked. As Draco wasn't assisting, he simply watched Harry and allowed his mind to wander.
It settled on pondering about last week's encounter with Weasley and the conversation between Draco and Harry that preceded it. Draco couldn't pretend that he disliked Harry in the slightest anymore. No, the fact was he now liked the stupid git. Quite a lot actually, but he didn't examine that fact too closely. Not only had Harry told him, in not so many words, that he didn't harbor any ill-will towards Draco in regards to anything that had happened during the war, he had also told Draco that he should forgive himself. An easier thing to say than to do, but knowing Harry Potter, of all people, thought he should let the past go and move on with his life had certainly helped Draco begin to accept himself and the things he had done.
These thoughts made Draco reconsider his decision not to tell Harry the reason he was tutoring him. It was obvious Harry would think it a positive thing, and possibly even be happy for Draco, especially if most of what he had said to Weasley was true.
Then of course there was the fit Harry had practically thrown at his best friend, on Draco's behalf. That still made his mind boggle if he thought about it too much, so he didn't. Shaking his head to clear it from the bizarre memory, he could help but smile about the look on Weasley face when Harry had told him Draco wasn't a total tosser.
"What are you smiling about?" Harry asked as he finally lit a fire under his cauldron, ready to begin the brewing.
"Nothing," replied Draco. "Just thinking."
"Does it hurt?" Harry asked seriously.
"Oh, ha ha. Shut up."
Harry grinned as picked up his chopping board to deposit the first ingredients into the cauldron. As he stared into the empty cauldron his grin suddenly turned into a frown. He put the chopping board back down again and turned to Draco.
"Will this potion make someone piss them self?"
"Fucking hell, Potter, you have no concept of subtlety," Draco choked as he laughed at Harry's question.
"Because I asked a direct question involving the word 'piss'?" Harry seemed to want to ask a lot of questions today.
"No," Draco said after he had calmed himself down. "Just because the term incontinent comes from the Latin word incontinencia, does not mean a potion named Incontinencia makes the drinker incontinent."
Draco was chuckling again, but Harry still didn't get it.
"So why is the potion called Incontinencia?"
"What kind of potion are you brewing, Potter?" Draco finally turned the tables and asked Harry a question of his own.
"An inhibitions lowering potion," replied Harry, still frowning.
"And incontinencia," sighed Draco, "literally translates as 'lack of restraint'. Is this ringing any bells, yet?"
"Ooooh," breathed Harry. "Yeah, I guess that does make sense."
As Draco smiled and rolled his eyes, Harry finally stopped frowning and went back to his potion. Scraping the ingredients off the chopping board and into the cauldron at last, Harry figured that regardless of how good he could become at Potions, he was never going to fully understand the Latin that had become part of his everyday vocabulary.
In contrast, Harry thought he was coming to understand Draco a lot more than he thought possible. Since their brief conversation regarding Draco's motivation to tutor him, and the subsequent references to the war, their tentative friendship had come into focus and Harry found himself much more at ease around the Slytherin. He felt no need to watch what he was saying for fear Draco might take offense. He was now confident Draco could not only make a lot of jokes, but he could take them as well.
When the last of the ingredients went in, Harry began slowly stirring the potion. As he stirred he glanced up at Draco, who was leaning on the desk with his chin resting on his palm, chewing his lower lip; he looked deep in thought. Harry had caught himself glancing at the blond quite a few times as they studied recently. In this case Harry's definition of 'glancing' was rather general, 'avidly gazing' would have been a more accurate description. Though Harry wasn't ready to admit that, yet.
As Harry's stirring of the potion sped and he continued to 'glance' at Draco, he once again started to wonder about the reasons for Draco's tutoring. He'd all but admitted he was torturing himself about his part in the war and had initially viewed tutoring Harry was an attempt at retribution, but he had clearly admitted that it wasn't turning out to be, because he wasn't hating it. So what was keeping Draco in his tutoring position? Harry wanted to believe it was because Draco actually liked Harry now, and did think that was true, but he could also tell Draco was holding something back.
After a while of both boys being lost in their own thoughts, they both seemed to come to some kind of conclusion simultaneously. Draco's face was set and unreadable as he stood up and faced Harry, while Harry finally abandoned the wooden spoon in his cauldron to focus his complete attention on Draco.
They spoke over each other.
"Potter, I do want to tell you-"
"Malfoy, I'm sorry to ask again-"
They both stopped and laughed at themselves.
"Sorry, you first," said Draco.
"No, no, you wanted to tell me something?" Harry urged.
"Well, yes," Draco began. "I want to tell you the full and unabridged reason I'm tutoring you this year."
Harry smiled and nodded for Draco to continue as his forgotten potion slowly bubbled away on the desk.
"Regardless of your own opinions, a lot of people hold my past against me. I can't blame them, and I can't change that. I have, however, spent long hours considering how this fact will affect my future."
He fidgeted on the spot, not regretting his decision to open up to Harry, but suddenly finding himself caring a lot about what he would think.
"I came to the conclusion that I had no future. No one will want to associate with me, no one will want to do business with me and no one will want to employ me. The only sign of hope I had was the fact that I was accepted by into Hogwarts to repeat my final year."
Looking up at Harry, Draco saw only patience and respect in his eyes, so he continued.
"This led me to believe I may have something of an ally in Headmistress McGonagall. At the start of the year I approached her with a suggestion. I told her I was aware that, as of next year, there would be a new, rather inexperienced, Potions Professor. I asked if she felt the new Professor would benefit from the aid of a teacher's assistant."
"You asked her for a job!" Harry was grinning.
"Crass, but essentially correct. She thought it was a good idea and accepted. This," Draco indicated between himself and Harry. "is some kind of trial run to make sure I can do the job, and that I'll actually enjoy it."
Draco shrugged as he finished. He looked away from Harry and his eyes settled on the Incontinencia potion. He vaguely wondered how long it had been left to boil.
"I think that's brilliant!" exclaimed Harry. He felt like giving Draco a hug, but didn't have the nerve.
A blush rose on Draco cheeks as they stood smiling at each other awkwardly.
All of a sudden there was a loud popping sound, followed by a slurp and a bang. Before either of them had time to realise the potion was exploding, it was too late. Instead they found themselves covered from head to foot in heavy, pale-green potion goo.
"Fuck!" shouted Draco. "It shouldn't be this thick, how many times did you stir it?"
Draco was really regretting his decision to forgo the apron. He brought his hands up to wipe the potion off his face, but simply ended up spreading it around and getting it up his nose.
"I- er- urgh-" Harry tried to speak, but ended up choking on the potion as it found its way into his mouth.
Conjuring himself a glass of water, Harry drank and tried again.
"I'm not sure, I kind of lost count. And I guess I was thinking about something, and I wasn't really paying attention. Shit. I'm sorry, Malfoy. I know this potion needed a lot of concentration. I fucked it up, I'm sorry. But we still have all day, right? I'll just do it again, and I promise I'll pay attention this time. I won't get distracted, I swear."
Neither boy was really listening as Harry rambled his explanations and apologies. Draco found himself transfixed by Harry's mouth, watching his lips form words and instantly feeling the uncontrollable urge to crash his own lips against them. At the same time, Harry was aware he must be talking absolute rubbish and that he should probably shut up. Immediately he felt the unbridled need to occupy his mouth by kissing Malfoy, instead.
Still drenched in potion goo they reached for each other at the same time and eagerly pressed their lips together. Harry's hands found their way around Draco's waist and Draco's hands held Harry's shoulders as their mouths moved to accommodate each other.
As they continued to kiss, Draco had to wonder why it had taken them so long to do this as, covered in extra-strong Incontinencia potion or not, it was wonderful. He quickly decided he want to kiss Harry a lot more in future.
Harry moved his tongue to join Draco's and it suddenly became clear to him exactly why he had spent so long staring at his tutor. Draco was gorgeous, and he wished he'd started kissing him sooner!
Eventually the need for air forced them to part, panting slightly.
"Well I'd have to say your potion was a success," said Draco.
"I completely agree," Harry replied.
They smiled at each other and then, unable to resist, they began kissing again.