Disclaimer – It's not mine.
Fear Will Always Hold You Back
Chapter 1 – I'm Not My Father
'Come on, Harry!' Ron yelled loudly from the middle of the lake. It was the first weekend of school and swelteringly hot. Practically the whole school had stripped down to their bathing suits and dived in. Even Hermione had waded in up to her neck, shrieking every time someone splashed her already frizzy hair and made it worse.
Harry sat quietly, dressed in a pair of too big shorts and a t-shirt of a similar size. The shade of a willow tree stretched over him and covered the ledge he sat on a foot or so from the water. He didn't dare to go any closer.
Ron yelled to him again but Harry just waved him off, leaning back against the tree and closing his eyes. There was no way in the nine levels of hell he was going any closer to that water. Bad things always seemed to happen to him near water.
He could hear the laughing and shrieking of the students all around him but was wholly unprepared for a strong hand clasping his ankle and dragging him off the ledge and almost into the water. Sheer will alone had him grasping the willow overhead and kicking out mightily at whoever had his ankle.
He let out a chilling cry as he felt water around his left foot and kicked out even harder. 'NO!' He shrieked even as he landed a satisfying kick to his assailant's face.
Ron let out a yell of his own and released the grip he had on Harry's ankle, allowing the Boy-Who-Lived to scramble back onto his ledge and curl up next to the trunk of the willow tree, shaking alarmingly and gasping for breath.
'What the hell did you do that for?' Ron snapped, tentatively touching his rapidly fattening lip. The many students around them had stopped at Harry's scream.
Harry couldn't answer him, the panic that had gripped him had yet to let go. Instead he carefully pushed himself to his feet and, still trembling, walked back towards the entrance to the castle as fast as his shaking limbs would allow.
'You shouldn't have done that, Ron.' Hermione scolded the red head quietly. 'You know he is afraid of water.'
'Yeah, but I thought if I could just get him in here he'd see how nice it is. He can't be that afraid.' Ron countered. 'He showers every day and that's still water.'
Hermione just gave him that look that he knew meant she thought he was an idiot, before rolling her eyes and heading towards the edge where she'd left her towel.
'Well it is.' Ron called out lamely after her but go no answer in reply.
'Hermione's right, Ron.' Neville added his own thoughts. 'A pathological fear like Harry's can't be fixed by just throwing someone in the deep end, so to speak. He's had the password for the Prefects bath for almost three years now and yet he's only used it once.'
'Yeah, and he didn't even get in the bath that time. He had Myrtle get the clue for him.' Dean added.
'But the second task, he swum in the lake for that. I know he did. He rescued me.' Ron protested.
The other three Gryffindor boys exchanged glances. 'That wasn't Harry, Ron. That was me.' Seamus said softly, making sure no one was nearby.
Ron stared between the other three in shock. 'What! How?'
'Polyjuice.' Seamus told him. 'I found Harry that night up in the dorm having a full blown panic attack. He'd looked everywhere for you and Hermione but he couldn't find you. He'd spent hours trying to figure out how he was going to get to whatever had been taken without actually getting into the water and then, after he couldn't find you or Hermione, he realised that you two where what he had lost. It really shook him up.' Seamus explained, the expression on his face concerning Ron far more than his words had.
'I walked in on Seamus trying to calm him down and we realised that there was no way he was going to be able to do it. He just was having a full blown panic attack at the thought that if he didn't set foot in the water you both might die. In the end we came up with a plan.' Neville went on. 'I filched a calming draught and a dreamless sleep from the infirmary when Madame Pomfrey wasn't looking.'
'And I nicked a couple of vials of Polyjuice potion from Professor Snape's private stash he thinks no one knows anything about.' Dean cut in with a wicked grin, the other three boys sharing the amusement with grins of their own.
Seamus snorted and went on. 'I took the first one before I left the castle the next morning, after we'd dosed Harry up and left him sleeping soundly.'
'Finally.' Neville sighed with a hint of sarcasm.
'Finally.' Seamus agreed. 'And then I took the other just before I came up again, immediately after the Gillyweed wore off.'
Ron stared at his three friends in stunned silence. He thought he knew what went on in their dorm but obviously not. 'How come you never said anything?' He asked quietly, unable to hide the hurt on his face quick enough.
This question garnered another three way glance before Neville spoke. 'Because we swore to Harry that we would never tell. He thought you'd be disappointed in him. Upset that he couldn't overcome his fear to save you.'
Ron huffed loudly. 'I was never in danger. Dumbledore wouldn't have let anything happen to us.'
Neville shrugged. 'That's not what the clue said, Ron. It said you would be lost forever and that scared Harry more than almost anything else.'
'Except his fear of water.' The other three boys said at once.
'Except his fear of water.' Neville nodded in agreement.
Harry staggered in the doors of the castle and looked in the direction of Gryffindor tower but shook his head. He didn't want to see or talk to anyone right now, and that would be the first place anyone would look for him.
Instead he turned and headed down into the cooler corridors of the dungeons, using the wall for support until he had no idea of where he was and could go no further. He sunk to the floor in a nearby alcove and curled into a ball in an effort to stop the tremors now racking his frame.
He hadn't had a panic attack this big since the second task of the Tri-Wizard tournament and it left him drained and spent. He barely noticed when someone stopped and knelt beside him and placed a soft, cool hand on his clammy forehead.
'You're burning up, Potter. Stay here, I'll get someone.'
'No.' Harry croaked out, seizing the thin pale wrist with shaking hands before the other boy could move away. 'I'm fine, please, just leave me alone.' He pleaded even as he kept a death grip on the wrist in his hand.
The other boy didn't move away but gently grasped Harry's hand with his free one, prying his wrist from its grasp and settling for letting the Gryffindor keep hold of his hand as he seemed to have no inclination of letting go in spite of his previously stated wish to be left alone. 'What happened?' He asked softly.
Harry shook his head and swallowed down another urge to retch.
'Potter.' The boy tried again. 'Harry.' He amended a moment later. 'There is clearly something wrong. You can't expect me just to sit here. You need help.'
Harry lifted his head from its position on his knees and stared at the other boy. 'I don't need anything, Malfoy.' He hissed. 'I just need for everyone to stop trying to help me. If they'd just left me alone to start with I wouldn't have this problem now.'
'So there is something wrong.' Malfoy countered and Harry groaned and dropped his head. 'It's either me, or I'm getting Professor Snape.' The Slytherin threatened.
'Like that's a threat, Malfoy.' Harry muttered, pulling his hand from Malfoy's and curling them together in front of him in an effort to stop them shaking. 'Go ahead. Snape couldn't give a damn what happened to me.'
'On the contrary, Mr Potter.' The silky baritone of the Slytherin Head of House floated down to him from nearby and Harry once again felt like retching. Could his day get any worse?
'I doubt it, but you never know.' Snape murmured and Harry realised he must have said the last comment out loud. 'Do you care to tell me why you're curled up on the floor of my dungeons looking as if you just went ten rounds with a Hippogriff, and lost?
'Not particularly.' Harry breathed, pushing himself into a sitting position and running his hand through his sweaty black hair.
He was still incredibly pale and the two Slytherins exchanged a pointed glance at his still shaking shoulders.
'All the same, I believe you should.' Snape said stiffly.
'Fabulous.' Harry muttered. 'Another person who thinks they know what's best for me.'
Snape sneered. 'Actually, Potter. I do not know what's best for you. You're an adult and can take care of yourself. But this is obviously bigger than you can handle and therefore, you will tell me what the problem seems to be.'
Harry grunted and pushed himself up from his position on the floor and staggered against the wall back the way he had come. 'Sod off.' He growled as he passed.
Snape's hand shot out and grasped his shoulder causing Harry to stumble. 'Detention, tonight, Potter. Eight o'clock. Do not be late.' He snapped.
Harry just glared at him and staggered back off in the direction of the Entrance Hall.
There were a few moments silence before Draco spoke. 'There is something seriously wrong with him, Severus.' He said quietly. 'If you'd been here when I found him. He was terrified. He told me to leave but he wouldn't let me go. It was like he was drowning and if he'd let go of me he'd have been lost.'
Snape stared at Harry's retreating back but didn't say anything.
The potions master spelled off the tap of the large sink and sat down behind his desk to wait; his mind going over the enlightening conversation he'd had with Hermione Granger less than an hour before.
He idly wondered if what she said was true. He could remember almost every detention the Boy-Who-Lived had ever spent with him, in spite of the rather large number, and not once could he ever remember him scrubbing cauldrons with a sink full of water. He normally left the tap running and the plug well out of reach, so perhaps she was telling the truth.
Draco walked in a moment later and placed his cauldron and ingredients on one of the desks down the front of the room. 'It's still alright if I brew the Restoring Draught here tonight isn't it?'
Snape raised an eyebrow and smirked at the seventeen year old. 'Oh, of course.' He drawled.
Draco sneered at him and set up his things, just starting to slice the dragon's liver when Harry walked in.
The Gryffindor looked at him and rolled his eyes. 'Detention, Malfoy? I find that hard to believe.' Draco didn't say a word but his eyes flicked over the other boy's face as if assessing if he was alright.
'Silence, Potter. Draco is completing some extra credit work, now get over here.' Snape voice was cold.
'Suck up.' Harry muttered knowing the blond could hear him.
'Did you say something, Potter?' Snape questioned.
'No, Professor.' Harry replied with as much innocence as he could muster.
The potions master's eyes narrowed as he stood but he didn't say anything, just gesturing to the full sink by the wall to his right and the pile of dirty cauldrons beside it. 'All yours, Potter. And I expect you to be quick about it.'
Harry took two steps towards the sink and stopped. It was full of water. 'Professor?' He questioned.
'What is it?' The potions master did not even look up from the paper he was grading.
'The sink, Sir. It's got water in it.'
Snape sneered again. 'Very good, Potter. Nice to know you're not as stupid as you look. Now get on with it.'
'But Professor.' Harry tried again. He didn't want to go near that sink. It was far bigger and deeper than any other he'd seen and he felt his hands begin to shake.
'What now?' Snape growled.
'T..the w..water.' Harry stammered. 'It will splash all over the floor when I put the cauldrons in.' He reached wildly for any reason to empty the sink.
'The sink has an anti-splash charm. Now do you have any further excuses or can we both get on with some serious work?' The older wizard glared at Harry before returning his eyes to the parchment in front of him.
Harry took several deep breaths before taking a single step forward. 'It's just a sink.' He breathed inaudibly, unaware of the eavesdropping charm the potions master had in place. 'You can do this. He's not here and Snape wouldn't ever do something like that.' He kept up his almost silent monologue until he was standing just in front of the sink. He could see the torch on the wall above the sink reflecting on the water but it still looked dark and uninviting and cold. He leant over the water and saw his own reflection, his mind instantly shoving a memory of himself, surrounded by water.
It was dirty and soapy and he struggled to pull his head out of I,t but he couldn't. He could see the black plug inches from his nose and flailed wildly with his arms as he struggled to free himself but he couldn't. It was in his nose and his eyes and his mouth and he was swallowing it.
'Potter!' The potions master's bark snapped him from the memory and he automatically brought his hands up to the edge of the sink to keep his legs from folding under him. 'Is there a problem?' Snape's voice again.
'No. Sir.' Harry said roughly, picking up a cauldron and letting it rest on the top of the water, where it promptly rolled over, filled with water and sank to the bottom with an ominous thunk. 'Oh god.' Harry whispered.
Suddenly an arm appeared next to him, causing him to almost jump a foot in the air, and lent into the sink, retrieving the caldron from the bottom and handing it to Harry. Harry looked at the dripping cauldron in his hand and back up to see Draco looking at him in concern. The Slytherin didn't say anything though, but washed the excess dragon liver off his knife and walked back towards his desk.
'Thanks.' Harry called softly after him but Draco didn't seem to hear.
He was more careful this time and didn't let the cauldron out of his hands as he gingerly put it in the edge of the sink and washed it hurriedly before placing it on the rack beside him.
He managed to wash three more before a throat cleared loudly behind him and he scuttled sideways with a yelp and turned scared eyes on the tall dark man standing behind him.
'Sorry, Professor. You startled me.' He stammered.
Snape raised an eyebrow. 'Clearly.' He drawled, ignoring the terrified expression on his face and instead gesturing to the pile of cauldrons. 'Keep going, Potter.' He demanded and Harry stepped hesitantly back to the sink again.
He could see the black robed figure out of the corner of his eye and it took all of his self control not to flee. He picked up another cauldron with shaking hands and struggled to wash it, all the while waiting…..
It was the most stressful experience Harry could remember in some time. After a poor and hurried scrubbing of the next cauldron, Snape's hand landed on his shoulder, in hindsight probably to tell him to do it again; but Harry's wrung out mind could barely comprehend anything by that point.
'No please!' He screamed
Both Snape and Draco watched in shock as Harry darted away from the sink and across the room, leaning against the wall as his breathing came in ragged gasps.
The two Slytherins exchanged a look before Draco, leaving his things, walked from the room. Snape waited a moment before taking a step in Harry's direction. The Gryffindor hesitated but a moment before he turned tail and ran, shooting through the door Draco had left open, and almost over the Slytherin himself who was waiting outside, and through the corridors of the school to the one place he knew he could be safe, closing and locking the door behind him.
'Now do you believe me that something is wrong?' Draco sneered as he walked back into the potions classroom after the Boy-Who-Lived's abrupt departure.
'I believe you, Draco.' Snape said quietly, returning to his desk and raising an eyebrow. 'I just don't know why you care.'
Draco began putting away his ingredients and cleaning his things. 'Because who else will? You? The Headmaster? His little friends? The Weasel was the reason you found Harry curled up on the dungeon floor this afternoon in the first place, if you remember.' The seventeen year old said snidely.
Snape raised another eyebrow. 'Feeling sorry for the Boy Wonder, Draco? What would your father say?'
Draco lifted his head and glared at his Head of House. 'I most certainly do not feel sorry for him and I don't give a damn what my father says. He was stupid enough to have landed himself in Azkaban, or have you forgotten. There's not much he could say at the moment that would mean much to me, even if he has managed to buy his way out yet again.'
Snape studied the young man in front of him, unsure of how to take what he'd just said. It had so many different ways to be taken that Snape didn't know where to begin. He thought his father stupid? Did that mean he was still intent on the path his father had set out for him? Would the Dark Lord just use another Malfoy in the stead of the first? Was this attempt to befriend the Boy-Who-Lived simply a ruse to bring about his downfall? So many questions and Snape decided he needed answers, and fast.
He flicked his wand at the still open door and closed it. 'So what do you feel for him, Draco?' He said eventually.
The blond placed the jar of ingredients he was packing back down on the table and sighed heavily, glancing up at the potions master before looking away. 'I think…I….' He whispered softly, trailing off as if unable to complete the sentence.
Snape moved from behind his desk and to the teenager's side, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder. 'Draco, what is it?' He asked calmly.
The boy looked up again, his grey eyes bright with an emotion Snape couldn't quite define. 'I think…I think I love him.' Draco whispered nervously.
The potions master was floored. Whatever he'd expected to come out of the young man's mouth, that had not been it. 'I beg your pardon.' He questioned hesitantly.
Draco's eyes hardened. 'I know you heard me, Severus, and I hate repeating myself but I will so that you know I meant what I said. I think I love him…in fact, I'm fairly sure of it.'
Snape opened and closed his mouth several times, pinching the bridge of his nose, before actually finding the strength to speak. 'Have you completely lost your mind?' He snapped.
'No.' Draco retorted. 'In fact, for probably the first time since I was five years old, I have one. Of my own that is. You may be my godfather, Severus, but if you speak a word of this to anyone, I will never ever speak to you again.'
His piece said, Draco grabbed his half packed cauldron, sweeping the last of the ingredients into it with a single motion causing Snape to wince, before he swept from the room in a manner remarkably like the man who was still staring after him in stunned silence.
Harry spent the next day avoiding all of his friends like the plague. He'd slip into class at the bell and was back out the door the moment the bell rang.
Hermione finally cornered him in the library shortly after the final bell. 'Harry, please, just listen to me.' She pleaded and Harry sighed and sank down into a nearby chair. He knew it would be a long conversation. With her, they always were.
'Ron's been trying to speak with you all day, Harry. He's really, really sorry. He knows it was wrong to frighten you like that.'
'I wasn't frightened.' Harry bit out testily.
Hermione backtracked quickly. 'Sorry, I meant startle. He shouldn't have startled you like that.' The other seventh year Gryffindors had gotten very good at speaking around Harry's little oddities and it was unlike her to slip like that. 'Anyway, he'd really like to apologise.'
Harry raised an eyebrow. 'Then why isn't he here?'
Hermione rolled her eyes. 'Because Sprout kept him behind again for not completing his homework. You'd think he'd learn really. We have NEWTs this year.' She muttered in a very familiar way that Harry couldn't help but smile. The familiarity was the only thing he found comforting these days.
'Tell him I'll see him at dinner.' He promised and Hermione beamed at him, jumping off the chair and hugging him tightly, ignoring the flinch he gave.
'Bye Harry.' She called as she skipped gaily back out of the library in search of the third part of the trio.
Draco watched Harry closely over the next few weeks, saying hello when he was by himself but not if Ron and Hermione were there. The Boy-Who-Lived at first seemed troubled by this new, nicer, Malfoy but after a couple of weeks he gave in and started returning the greetings Draco gave out.
Their first real conversation came one night when, quite by accident, they ran into each other wandering the halls in the middle of the night. Or rather Harry ran into Draco, as he wasn't watching where he was going and, as he was under his father's invisibility cloak, Draco couldn't see him.
'Oof.' Harry gasped out as he fell to the ground, losing the bottom half of his cloak as it flew up and revealed his lower body.
'Harry?' Draco's voice held a note of incredulity as Harry pulled the cloak all the way off him.
'What? Oh, sorry.' Harry muttered tiredly, rubbing his face and accidentally messing up his hair even more.
'It's okay. Are you alright?'
'Hmm, what?'Harry seemed completely out of it and it worried Draco that he would walk around the castle at night in such a state. He reached out and grasped Harry's arm to steady him.
'Harry, have you taken anything? A potion or anything?' The Slytherin asked.
Harry blinked a few times. 'Huh?'
'A potion, Harry. Have you taken a potion?' Draco's voice was slightly higher this time and he stepped closer to the Gryffindor, easily seeing the glazed green eyes.
'Hmm, yeah. I took a Dreamless Sleep. But that was hours ago. They don't really work very well though, not when Riddle's playing anyway. Although, come to think of it, they don't work all that well when he's not playing either.' Harry admitted, sounding distantly concerned but unable to focus on anything of value at that moment.
Draco's eyes widened in concern of his own and he grasped Harry's arm, tugging him back in the direction of Gryffindor Tower. 'Come on. It isn't safe for you to be wandering around. Not like this anyway. You only went to bed four hours ago. No matter how you are woken up the potion will stay in your system for at least eight. You need to stay in Gryffindor Tower when you take a potion.'
'Why do you care, Malfoy.' Harry asked, stubbornly refusing to move in spite of Draco insistent tugging on his arm.
Draco stared at Harry for a moment before dropping his arm. 'I'm not my father, Harry.' He said quietly.
Harry returned the stare with a glazed one of his own. 'I suppose not.' He said finally.
'Come on.' Draco took his arm again and headed back towards Gryffindor tower.
'And what would you two be doing out of bed and roaming the corridors at this time of night?'
Draco sighed as his godfather's voice once again floated down the corridor. 'I'm doing my turn on rounds, Professor.' Draco explained, the Head Boy badge glinting on his chest.
'And Mr Potter, I don't suppose you have an excuse?'
Harry looked up at the potions master and blinked again. 'Hmm what?'
The man looked almost taken aback until Draco spoke. 'He's drugged, Severus.' He told him. 'He's taken a Dreamless Sleep four hours ago and I just found him wandering the corridor stoned out of his head.'
The potions master raised a curious eyebrow. 'He shouldn't have even been up if he only took it four hours ago.'
Draco shrugged and put an arm around Harry's waist as the other boy sagged slightly. 'He said they don't work very well when Riddle's playing or something? I have no idea what he means so he must be more drugged than I thought.'
'He's finished.' Harry said suddenly, closing his eyes and leaning his head on Draco's shoulder, seemingly completely unaware of where he was and with whom.
Snape's eyes widened and automatically flicked to the reddened scar on the boy's forehead. 'Take him back to Gryffindor Tower, Draco and make sure he stays there. The password is Flutterwing.' He said sternly.
'Yes, Sir.' The young Slytherin replied as he watched Snape turn on his heel and stalk off towards the headmaster's office.
'Come on, Harry.' Draco sighed but Harry had all but fallen asleep standing up. Draco couldn't help but study the other boy's face in the light of the wall sconce, sighing again. 'I wish I knew why.' He whispered, taking out his wand and casting a lightening spell before picking Harry up in his arms and trekking up towards the entrance to Gryffindor tower.
He gave the fat lady the password who had looked to be about to protest when she spied the Head Boy badge and realised it was Harry that he held tightly in his arms. She opened the portrait and he stepped through, grimacing at the cheerful red and gold that covered the room.
'No wonder you need glasses, Harry. This would send anyone blind.' He muttered.
'Hmm?' Harry's sleepy question startled him out of his inspection and he made an abortive movement to kiss the messy black hair beneath his chin but stopped himself in time.
'It's alright. Go back to sleep.' He said softly and Harry sighed and did just that.
Draco headed towards the boy's dorms and climbed the stairs until he found the seventh years dormitory. He stepped inside the door and was assaulted by the snores of Ron and Neville almost knocking him over.
'No wonder you can't sleep!' The Slytherin muttered, heading toward the only empty bed and setting the Boy-Who-Lived down in the middle before covering him up with the blankets.
He stared in silence for several minutes before reluctantly letting Harry's hand go and turning to leave, but not before gently tracing the soft skin on Harry's cheek. 'Good night, Harry.' He whispered.
Harry sighed and shifted but didn't answer and so Draco left, not noticing that the snores of one Gryffindor had quieted quite considerably.