"Are you better now, lad?"
Draco glared up at the kind face of Madam Malkin, and then down at the butterbeer she was offering. He took it with a huff and gulped it down, but otherwise remained silent. Satisfied that no more unexplained temper tantrums were to follow, she left them to go back to work with a promise to fetch his parents for him when they came looking.
My parents. Draco laughed. Heavens, won't they have a fit when they hear about this.
From where they sat in the shop's back room, he was very conscious of Potter's wide eyes watching the bottle. It was… aggravating.
"And what are you looking at, Potter?"
The boy in question flinched as if he'd shouted. Alright, so perhaps he had been overreacting slightly, with all the screaming just now. Though to be fair, this was not something that happened every day.
"I-I-" Potter stammered in a small voice. "Muggles usually give kids cocoa to calm them down, not… alcohol…"
Draco blinked owlishly at him for a moment, looking from his drink to Potter, and back again. After a moment he realized, that the inexplicably young Harry Potter had no idea that he wasn't drinking actual ale. In fact, judging from his earlier expression of constant wonder, this was probably his very first jaunt into the wizarding world.
The newly young again heir laughed, bitterly and hysterically. "I'm reliving the day we first met!" The rest of the drink was chugged as if Potter had been correct. "Th-this is the worst dream ever!"
Because that was, of course, the only logical explanation. The day he'd had before falling blissfully into his wife's bosom was not, shall we say, delightful. Between seeing Scorpius off and Potter's little trip down memory lane, it'd been set up perfectly to have him mulling over his many mistakes. And of course, he'd been stupid enough to let his horrid past drag him down, all the way back to that day in Madam Malkin's… to this day.
It was no wonder he was dreaming about it; although to be honest he'd never had one this vivid before.
Draco caught Potter's delayed reaction to his outburst from the corner of his eye, somewhere between amused, baffled, and apologetic. He seemed to settle on the latter. "Oh, um… sorry?"
The Boy Who Lived pulled back a little at the sneer being sent his way; honestly, Draco had forgotten how utterly Longbottom-ish he had been at this age. That persistent shyness had been very aggravating, especially when paired with his obvious arrogance and hunger for fame. Draco had been almost grateful when Potter had finally dropped that façade and embraced his own legend. (Almost.)
Gray eyes softened as he looked closer.
Still, he couldn't help but feel like this, at least, wasn't the great fake humility Potter had always put on once he had begun living up to his hype.
(Draco knew it had been a mask, of course, because there wasn't a soul alive who could kill a basilisk, and be a Quidditch star, and defeat the Dark Lord several times over, all while staying modest. It helped Potter think he was better than him, Draco knew; that in addition to saving his life, the magnanimous Chosen One was also so very unassuming in comparison.)
The Potter in his dream hadn't done those things, though; and the way he held himself, as if his body was ready to curl inwards to defend itself from attack or notice, strung a terrible note in Draco's battered heart. Combine that with his rail-thin face, the big eyes made even more luminous by giant glasses, and the ratty hair and clothes that looked about to consume him… there was almost no resemblance to the casually confident Head Auror left.
"You saw it, didn't you?" Potter said perceptively, catching his obvious stare at the jagged red scar between his bangs. "That's how you know my name, that's… why you screamed, I guess?"
Draco blinked, and pulled back. The scar in the real world had faded almost to nothing; in comparison, this one seemed angry and half-healed.
"Yes, of course… why not?" He shrugged agreeably, taking another swig of butterbeer. Potter watched it disapprovingly, as if he were a lush clutching his firewhiskey; Merlin's beard, he only wished it was firewhiskey.
"I'm, um, I'm sorry, then. Really." Potter continued falteringly, but sincerely. "I knew people, er, look up to me because of it, I guess. But I didn't think…"
Big green eyes dropped to the floor, confused and dejected, as if he'd lost something important.
"I should've known some people might be scared of what I did."
The bottle's rim lowered slowly from Draco's parted lips, and he watched little Harry Potter just stare at the floor, sucking the warmth out of the room faster than any Dementor. It was a stance he'd seen before. There was a certain self-loathing written in every line of the body, and Draco remembered it like it was yesterday.
"It's all my fault, all my fault… I really am one of them now…"
Moaning Myrtle hovered concernedly over him where he sat, knees up to his chest under the bathroom sink, under the mirror he had just shattered in a fit of pique.
"One of who, Draco?" She said anxiously, begging him as always to finally open up and tell her what was killing him. "Whatever it is, I promise I can help. I promise, it wasn't your fault."
Oh, but it was. The plan- the stupid, stupid plan- had gone wrong, and now Katie Bell was in the hospital wing for at least six months. They said she'd almost died- that he'd almost killed her. Like how he was going to kill Dumbledore.
No, he didn't want to kill Dumbledore. Not anymore. He didn't want to hurt anyone anymore.
Myrtle's goofy face floated into view, her smile so encouraging and empathetic that even as loathsome as he felt, Draco couldn't help but return it a little. These days, all that kept him going was this ghostly pariah, and her oblivious compassion.
It was a sign of how desperate he was, when all it took to make him feel safe again was for somebody to offer him a hand up.
Draco grimaced. He knew what his psyche was trying to tell him now, and it was annoying as all get out.
"Y'know… sometimes, I really wish we could have been friends, Draco."
Potter started when the half-full bottle of butterbeer was shoved into his line of sight. His eyes followed the arm holding it up to Draco's stony face, jaw set as if for battle. The Chosen One's expression was pathetic; like he'd never been offered something sweet before. Hesitantly, he took it, holding its neck awkwardly as if he didn't quite know what to do with it.
"Listen here, Potter." Draco announced resignedly. "From now on, we're - heaven help me- from now on, we're friends, alright?"
Potter stared at him like he was mad. "Um, okay?"
"Okay." Draco repeated with a grave nod, and silence reigned. It may have been the most awkward moment of his life.
"Um, do I have to drink this, now?" Potter said at last. "I don't think kids are supposed to."
"It's not alcohol, Potter." Draco replied exasperatedly. "Just- just try it, alright?"
After a brief stare down, the other boy relented, screwing his eyes up and knocking it back like an actual drunkard. Draco was rewarded for his efforts with a smile, a great big toothy thing, lighting up the entire room.
"It's good!" He laughed, surprised.
And somehow, Draco couldn't help the small curve of his mouth either. He knew it was just a dream, he knew he was being stupid… but he'd never seen Potter smile before, not at this age, when he was still all innocence and eagerness. It reminded him of his son, back bent by the weight of a world that didn't care, smile burning through regardless, awash in the simple joys of a life that had little more. Pride stretched inside of Draco, the only kind of pride he had left.
"Yes." Draco heard himself murmur. "It's good."
This was by far the weirdest birthday of Harry Potter's life.
He'd come to expect very little from this date, to be honest. A coathanger here, a moldy old sock there; the Dursley's extravagant idea of presents didn't extend much past Dudley, really. That was fine with Harry; he didn't want computer games or dirt bikes or any of the things his aunt and uncle showered their son with. His idea of a good birthday was a quiet few hours under the shrubbery, dreaming of what his life would be like when he was old enough to escape.
He'd never imagined it to be so soon, and he'd certainly never imagined it to involve a giant biker wizard.
Harry grinned thinking about the groundskeeper. Hagrid was the first person who'd ever really treated him like a person; it was hard not to trust him from the get go. Draco Malfoy, on the other hand, did not endear himself like that. To be honest, Harry got a vibe somewhere between Dudley and his uncle from him, and he couldn't be sure he liked his new 'friend' in the slightest.
So he didn't entirely know why he agreed to leave the shop where Hagrid had told him to wait and go wandering with this rude boy, who seemed to know exactly where he was going. Maybe it was that peer pressure thing he'd always heard about, the one that made people join in on Dudley's annual 'Harry-hunting'. Or perhaps it was because for the absolutely first time in his life, somebody wanted to be his friend.
(Seemed quite insistent about it too.)
Harry frowned. He really hoped it wasn't because of his scar. Draco didn't seem to be in awe of it like Professor Quirrell and the rest at the Leaky Cauldron; though his initial fear was gone, thank God. But still, Harry couldn't deny the possibility of somebody getting close to him just because they thought he was special.
But I'm not special, no matter what Hagrid or those people said.Cracked lips twisted nervously. I'm just Harry.
"Here, Potter." The bored drawl, which was quickly becoming familiar, pulled him out of his thoughts quickly. Harry stared down at the ice cream sundae being offered to him, watching the chocolate chips wage literal war over the surface with vicious gummy bears.
"Er, do I wait til they're finished?" He wondered out loud, his curious voice almost lost in the noise of Fortescue's Ice Cream Emporium.
Draco scoffed. "Heavens, man, they're not real." He took a spoon and scooped up a battling squadron, who cursed in high-pitched voices as he eat them. Harry thought it was rather bleak, really; but who was he to turn down free ice cream?
"We have to go back soon." Harry said anxiously between bites. His new 'friend' had dragged him all over the place, showing him all the craziest shops and items, directing him with the dullest monotone Harry had ever heard. It was as if Draco was simply going through the motions. "Hagrid… I don't want to worry him."
"Oh, pish-posh, Potter." His companion sniffed dismissively, briefly turning away to stop the waitress and demand another Borderland Burst. "I'm meant to be your friend, and I can't do that with that oaf interloping."
Harry's sort-of warming opinion of the boy frosted over instantly.
"He's not an oaf." He said flatly. "He's my friend, and a wizard, a-and the groundskeeper at Hogwarts!" His voice ascended quavering steps with every word. "Don't call him that!"
To his intense annoyance, Draco just rolled his eyes.
"Trust a dream like this to be so true to life."
Harry glared, stewing. That was another thing that bugged him; Draco kept saying things like that, things that didn't make much sense at all. In his heart, Harry was beginning to get a little scared. Was he so desperate for a friend that he'd gone off with a brewing madman? In his mouth, however, the angry words just kept coming.
"Why do you keep talking about dreaming?" He said loudly. "You do know this is real life, don't you?"
Draco watched him with an odd look in his eyes; like he was fighting sympathy, and failing, and resenting that very much. After a long moment of chewing his angry gummy bears thoughtfully, he leaned himself across the table with an open look.
"I'm sorry I insulted Hagrid." Draco said.
"I… you are?" Harry said stupidly. His lunch-mate had been reminding him so strongly of Dudley up until now, he hadn't actually considered he knew what an apology was.
Draco nodded. "I know he's your first exposure to our world; it's only proper you would want to defend him."
Harry froze up, panic plain on his face. He'd never said anything about being raised by Muggles. "How do you know-?"
"Magic. Well, that and your clothes." Draco said, gesturing to Dudley's holdovers; they still had to go back to Madam Malkin's for robe fittings after Draco was done unenthusiastically making him have fun.
Harry blinked, aware he was looking at the other boy in something like awe. (Draco seemed to like that.)
"Anyway… I get it, Potter. It's just that Hagrid doesn't like my family very much, that's all. But it's fine." He concluded, and his tone made it clear the subject was closed.
Harry stared at his pumpkin juice for a moment. (He still couldn't believe they served it, much less that it was so good.) He didn't know why Hagrid wouldn't like anybody, he seemed to be the most generous person in the world. Then again, he wondered what kind of family would raise somebody as clearly unhinged as Draco Malfoy.
Maybe they were like the Dursley's? Maybe that was why he was so weird, and why he was trying to force this friendship thing so hard. Did he maybe see something in him, magically, that made him think they were the same? (Harry didn't even know wizards could just know stuff about you like that, especially someone his age… he felt even more behind than the rest of Hogwarts now.)
Honestly, leaving the shop was looking more and more like a terrible idea.
Harry lifted his eyes up to Draco and gathered his courage, the kind that let him yell at Vernon Dursley for his letters and fist fight Dudley to try to listen at the door as his uncle read them aloud. The kind he was only just now discovering.
"This is weird." He said bluntly, crossing his thin arms against his baggy football jersey. "And I'm leaving. I need to go apologize to Hagrid for leaving him behind."
For the longest moment, Draco just held his stare, something funny in his eyes, before sighing and getting to his feet. He almost looked dejected there, for a flash, but he seemed to squash that feeling the same way Aunt Petunia got rid of the guilt she sometimes wore when she looked at him.
"I guess you're right, Potter… as always." He said bitterly, shoving his hands in his pockets and looking away at something Harry couldn't see. It was a weird posture for a kid, and it made him look very old and very tired. "Guess I'm rubbish at being friends with you, even in my head."
Harry shifted awkwardly. Nothing he said made sense, but the poorly hidden self-deprecation made the Boy Who Lived thrum with an odd guilt. It was as if Draco'd been pinning his hopes for… something… on this, and now he'd failed.
Harry wasn't sure he liked Draco very much, but he couldn't help sympathizing with him on some strange level. He wished the other boy wasn't so off-putting. Maybe then they actually could have been friends.
"Very well, then!" The other boy clapped his hands theatrically. "Back to the fashionable corner of my mind for you, then; if I wake up early enough, perhaps I can convince the wife to give parenthood another go while our boy is away! A daughter, perhaps…?"
Draco waltzed purposefully towards the exit, clearly oblivious to the bombshells he'd just dropped.
Harry traded bewildered looks with the staff and fellow costumers of Fortescue's. After a moment, he spoke to the shop at large in a politely curious tone.
"Are most eleven year olds married with children in the wizarding world?"
You could hear a pin drop.
"Come along then, Potter!"
A/N: Oh wow, it's certainly been a while, hasn't it? In my defense, NaNoWriMo nearly made me resort to flinging random ninja attacks at Malfoy. Y'know, because I was out of ideas. It's been over a year since I failed hilariously at actually writing this fic, and I certainly didn't intend for it to get as dead as it has. RL had its own plans though. :( Anywho, I'm looking to get back in the swing of things with a least a few more chapters over the next few months, see where this takes us.
Hope you're all still interested~!