NOTE: This story has undergone a very vast renovation - I've improved the punctuation, the structure, the characterisation, and the length and compactness of the individual chapters as well. Feel free to let me know what you think of the new stuff, and if you have any inquiries, just come and ask.
As always, enjoy & review.
"Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes... they win." ~ Stephen King
Harry was conflagrant. Rage was pounding through his veins like fire and it forced the breath through his lungs ten times faster than normal; blood thumped in his brain, almost blinding him. He could practically see the blood vessels in his eyes as they watered with the intensity of the sheer emotion running through his system.
He brought his fist up, the movement mechanical, as though there was something in the core of his mind inhabiting his body, moving it against his will; it was as though he was possessed. Just as it was about to lay into the face of his opponent, his eyes caught the gaze of icy blue ones. It made him stop dead in his tracks; breathing heavy, heart thundering against his ribs, the beat a low, powerful mantra.
Fear was plastered over the pale face below him, mingling darkly with shock and pain and an anger that mirrored his own, a quiet one; a blaze lingering beneath the surface, skilfully controlled and mastered by its beholder. A bright crimson line of blood dripped from the corner of his adversary's mouth where he'd already smacked his fist into his face a couple of times.
He became aware. As the red faded slowly to dark flickers of acerbity at the corners of his vision and the heat cauterized his skin, everything became too clear, too defined. The guilt was setting in, infecting his already deranged psyche as his eyes travelled over the chiselled, pale profile that was so close to his.
"Potter," his breath fanned unevenly across Harry's heated skin and for a split second, his eyes fluttered closed "Potter, get off me," he croaked, with no real venom behind the words.
Harry remembered then that he was straddling Malfoy, one leg on either side of his hips and right arm pinning him down. He didn't want this, he didn't need this; after everything, he just couldn't understand why he had this thing inside him, why he was losing control. Well, he did understand, he just hated it. He hated a lot of things. Too many things. And it was destroying him. He dropped off of Malfoy sideways, stunned at his own acrimony; he hadn't lost constraint like that in a long time.
"Potter..." a cold, but not evil voice cut through his eardrums resembling shards of ice, breaking through the fog around him and causing a faint ringing, drilling through his brain. He looked sideways, eyes still wide, body still pulsing with adrenaline as his parasympathetic nervous system tried to return his functions to normal. Malfoy was hunched over, hugging his ribs with one arm, the other bringing up a hand to wipe the blood from the corner of his mouth and nose.
"I – I," Harry broke, tongue numb, a metallic taste flooding his senses "I-" he struggled again, his hands limp on the floor beside him, mouth open and gaping slightly as tears began pouring down his face without his say so.
Draco wanted – no, needed to leave. But for some reason, he could not bring himself to, and yet words were failing him, his brain was immobilized; completely stunned by the force of his enemies sudden outburst. He had been in the same boat before, he knew that no one should touch Potter or go anywhere near him; men on the edge of slipping from sanity via rage should not be approached or talked to. He also knew that Potter was probably dying inside. Guilt would be the main cause, but also fear. Draco could see that this kind of thing had probably happened to Potter before.
If Draco had known how bad Potter's psyche was, he would never have retorted. Draco was still a git, but he had no desire to make even more people hate him, nor did he have any real motivation to hurt Potter anymore either.
"Potter – we – we need to move. I – I think you punctured something," he said, coughing slightly with the effort to talk.
"I – fuck!" Potter's reply was vague and full of anguish, a retch through a dry throat released by a body that was betraying his conscious mind. Then, suddenly, Potter hunched over, scraping his hands over his scalp, through his jet black hair, back shaking with silent sobs.
"Potter seriously, I'm going to leave-"
"GO THEN! FUCK OFF!" he yelled, his voice cracked and echoing around the grounds like thunder "leave like everyone else does"
"Potter, you need to get up," he growled back, beginning to get frustrated "if you don't move your ass and get me up to the hospital wing, I'll call Weasley and Granger," Malfoy said again. Harry's head snapped up.
"Fine, move," he cracked, standing up quickly and grabbing Malfoy viciously by the elbow, pulling him back up towards the castle, their bodies close, as Potter tried to half-assedly conceal the violence that had gone on between them. People were watching them as Potter marched him through the corridors. He protested against the hold, hissing curse words at his previous arch nemesis. But no one intervened. Everyone, even the new kids in school, knew well not to interrupt a fight between Potter and Malfoy; it was suicide.
They must have looked like they'd just come back from battle. Draco's shirt was torn, Potter was sporting a black eye and, now Draco was paying attention, quite a severe limp. Their hair was messy, and blood was dripping from a cut above Harry's eyebrow.
"What the devil is going on here?" Madame Pomfrey asked loudly, just managing to catch Draco as Harry shoved his elbow forward with malice, anger still not drained from him.
"Nothing woman, just clean me up already; my chest is burning and I think I'm about to pass out," Draco snapped, shrugging her off him when he'd gotten his balance, watching with narrowed eyes and wary confusion as Potter clenched his jaw together, powerful muscles flexing through his torn shirt. Potter lifted his arms above his head, hands cradling the back of his skull while he paced back and forth through the isle between the hospital beds, breathing heavy and raspy, his lips pursed, eyes closely shut as though he was trying with all his might not to cry again.
"Draco, come," Poppy said curtly, eyebrows furrowed as she looked hard at Harry, taking Draco tenderly by the arms and softly guiding him to the nearest bed pan.
"Off, move boy; I haven't got all night," she busied firmly but, like everyone else in the school, Draco had learned not to take her snapping seriously. She liked everyone much better when they were healthy and well, and despite being annoyingly motherly beyond belief, she was a very kind, compassionate woman. Contrary to popular belief, Draco did know how to appreciate that kind of thing.
Draco shamelessly yanked his school shirt and tie over his head, trying not to look shocked with the angry bruises appearing over his grazed ribs. The third one down on the right side of his rib cage was sticking out at an odd angle and black and blue colouring was slowly gathering around it.
Shit, Potter had got him bad.
"Well get on with it then," Draco snapped, gesturing to his torso and Madame Pomfrey seemed to snap out of it, taking out her wand and muttering healing spells around the broken bone.
"Okay then, lay down and stop your whining. This'll hurt and I need to see if you've punctured anything," she instructed, her voice shaking slightly and he sighed deeply, wincing when it out strain on a dull ache in his lungs.
"Potter sit the fuck down before you make yourself pass out, I think I smashed your head against the floor when you were trying to suffocate me," Draco spat venomously, and Potter didn't even look at him, ignoring him and slamming his foot into a bedside table, making Madame Pomfrey jump.
"Potter if you don't calm yourself, I will be forced to call the headmistress; sit down," she demanded, her voice cold now but not void of worry for her student.
"Pomfrey that fucking hurts," Draco reminded her breathlessly, feeling the pressure building up around his diaphragm.
"Right, sorry. Very well Draco, try to relax, and if I so much as hear a peep out of you about 'ohh the pain' or 'I think I'm dying, my father will hear about this' then I will decapitate you personally," she huffed, rolling her sleeves up and concentrating hard as she muttered the spell. Draco felt a bone click back into place; it was terribly ironic that even after all these years, he'd wound up back in the hospital wing because of Harry Fucking Golden Boy Potter.
"Right, I'm off," Draco announced, standing up too fast and swaying slightly.
"You are kidding me?" Potter barked in outrage "I beat you to a pulp, and you're leaving after a couple of bones have been fixed?" he added, emerald eyes still sparkling with hate and anger.
"Yes you did beat me to a pulp Potter, and I don't intend on giving you the satisfaction of seeing me in pain. So I'm dealing with this in my own way, so go sort yourself out and keep your fucking mouth shut about this or you'll have more than that broken ankle to worry about. No brooding or wondering around like a suicidal twat, just don't talk about it again," Draco dismissed threateningly, breath fanning across Potter's face again. All the fear from earlier was gone; he knew that Potter had scared himself enough to get some kind of anger management help. That was, of course, if the sanctimonious wanker didn't get all depressed and continue sinking into his whole of denial.
"Unfortunately Mr Malfoy, Potter is right," Poppy said matter-of-factly, pressing a hand between his pectoral muscles, and another steadying hand on his back, guiding him back onto the bed "you are too injured to be going back to your dorms for the moment. Sleep for a few hours, and then if I think you are safe, you may leave"
"Malfoy, what the fuck? You look like you just went ten rounds with the whomping willow," Blaise's voice came from behind him as he neared the dungeons, limping on a sprained ankle and weakened hamstring.
"No, just Harry fricking Potter," he replied coldly, fists still clenched in anger.
He could empathise with his twat of an enemy but that didn't mean he wasn't fucking furious about being left in this state. His pride was more damaged than anything.
"What? I'll kill the bastard!" Blaise exclaimed and Draco managed to grip Blaise's arm before he went storming off on a manhunt, yanking him back around to face him.
"You go up to that hospital wing all guns blazing and Potter will actually kill you Blaise," Draco's voice was low and gravelly and tired "he's in a dark place, he needs to sort himself out; I know, believe me. I'm not sticking up for him, but I've been in that place before, so have you, and it isn't pretty. I'm not kidding, he's in full blown ripper mode; stage four," Draco reiterated, force and authority behind his words. Blaise's dark eyes widened and his eyebrows hit the top of his forehead.
"Stage four?" he said, concerned "we never even got that far. I mean, we were trained to be angry, but they always reigned us in before we lost control. Bella was stage five for fuck sake! Dray, you need to do something about this, before it happens again," Blaise sighed, posture dropping into a slightly defeated demeanour. He took Draco's arm nonchalantly and threw it over his shoulder, letting his friend put some of his weight on him so he could walk better as he helped him through the portrait hole.
Draco had a feeling it was going to be a very long week.
It had been a week since their fight, and although Draco was pretty damn sure Potter had not told anyone directly, half the school were whispering about it and pointing to Potter's black eye and Draco's limp.
Three days sub-sequential to the incident, they were both called to McGonagall's office and had both been assigned separate detentions for three weeks along with fifty points from each of their houses. It pissed Draco off to no end that he was eighteen and still being disciplined by a two hundred year old woman who had openly favoured the Gryffindors for most of his academic career. But as much as he hated to admit it, discipline was what he needed in his life right now; structure and a good mentor for a change. She demeaned to regret her years of outright prejudice against the Slytherins anyway, and had actually adopted him as somewhat of a pet project. He was negligent to it really, as long as he got to finish his education and would never have to come back to this place.
"You're zoning out again man, you look stoned all the time," Blaise pointed out, taking a swig of his pumpkin juice as Pansy leaned into the conversation.
"Potter looks worse, and he got off with a black eye," she said in a quiet voice "I heard Granger telling Weasley that Potter isn't eating or sleeping, and he keeps yelling at everyone. The other day, when you got called out of class to sign your father's inheritance papers, he had a huge argument with Snape. He stormed out and threw his stool. Snape was fucking furious," Pansy reported. Draco's brow furrowed as he swallowed the toast in his mouth and glanced sideways behind him, almost forgetting to hide his expression when he saw how dark Potter looked.
But it was none of his business. What Potter did and how he looked after himself had nothing to do with Draco.
"Dray, he's going to blow up at someone big time soon and it's more likely to be you than anyone else," Pansy told him, looking at Draco with her deep purple eyes. He dropped his gaze to the table transitorily before meeting hers once more, swearing briefly under his breath.
"Potter isn't my responsibility, I've got my own shit to deal with. My father just died, remember? And my Mother is a full time drunk. There's nothing I can do for Potter, and why would I even want to consider doing anything?" he insisted irritably. It reminded him of when he had been actually been in a similar state to Potter; indomitable, narcoleptic, emaciated, and angry. It was the lowest feeling in the world, never knowing when you were about to snap. It was worse than having to take the mark.
"I don't know, but you've got to do something because things are about to get very, very dangerous for you," she huffed, turning away from him as Blaise shrugged.
"Don't ask me," Blaise held his arms up in defence, shaking his head "Potter's a loose cannon; you can save your own skin, my part only comes in afterwards if you fail to deal with him and he hurts you, that's when he signs his own death sentence, and I become the executioner," Blaise grinned sadistically, and Draco couldn't help smirking slightly "I'll get a pretty axe and everything," he grinned. It was the Slytherin way - they let their friends deal with their problems in their own time but if anyone actually hurt them, the whole of Slytherin had a whole list of ways to creatively murder people in their sleep.
"Malfoy, wait a second," Potter's voice reached his ear drums abruptly, causing a phantom throb along his ribs. He just kept picturing him screaming at him, yelling with pure rage before his fist hit him in the face. Not that he was having nightmares about Potter attacking him or anything, not at all. It was just that the bastard had beat him up pretty bad and he was still aching when he'd been walking around for too long, or if he hadn't rested for more than ten hours.
He clenched his jaw to avoid losing his own cool, and to sidestep dissolving what was left of Potter's. He turned on his heel, his blue eyes cold, narrowed and distant, his body language defensive and powerful, despite the casual way that he stood with his hands in his pockets. He was not letting Potter get the better of him ever again.
"Well, of it isn't our resident Chuck Norris," Draco sighed blandly "go and yell at someone who actually cares about what you have to say Potter, I'm not interested"
Throughout Potter's whole life, the world had treated the boy differently to others, as though he was a charity case, stepping on glass around him, trying not to smash his entire exterior for fear of what was within. But Draco knew that he could match Potter for speed, strength and agility. That was if he kept his own and didn't let it get out of hand like it had the previous week. That had been terrifying, and he had no problem admitting it. Well, he wasn't going to say it out loud or anything, but it was the truth.
He watched as Potter opened his mouth to retort, but words seemed to catch in his throat. It was really quite amusing to watch him floundering, trying not to erupt and snap someone's neck in half. Eventually, Potter managed to hold it together, and with a deep breath, he swallowed tightly, his fists clenching. A vein pulsed in his forehead next to the impressive lightning shaped scar. Draco cursed himself for a moment inwardly. No, it was not impressive, it was annoying and ridiculous and he didn't know why people worshipped the damn thing so much.
"I just wanted to... thank you. I hate you, but I... I was very, very out of line to react the way I did. I'm sorry, and... thank you for keeping quiet and not pressing charges," he grumbled, gritting his teeth between words to try and get them out coherently. Draco glanced sideways and then looked behind them to make sure no one was listening before he walked straight up to Potter, reaching out and squeezing his shoulder hard enough to hurt. Potter winced but made no move to shove him off.
"Now look here Bruce Banner, I don't need your thanks or your apologies. I gave as good as I got; granted, I still can't walk properly, but I did not keep my mouth shut for your benefit, trust me. This would ruin my Mother if she had to deal with the press it would create, and I'd lose half my inheritance trying to claim in a court case. So don't be grateful, because if it had been this time two years ago, I'd have you buried six feet under in a plot in my back yard by now and everyone would think you'd died in a tragic, mysterious accident. Not that I give a shit, but I plan on keeping my life as on track as I can this time around, so sort out your anger management issues Potter or you're going to hurt someone you love.
I did, and I'll never forgive myself for that, because I spent a year denying what was right in front of me," he said, barely a proper voice. Somewhere between speaking and a whisper. He was surprised that Potter didn't need to try to keep it together. Draco had just insulted him at least twice, and he wasn't even flinching.
"Don't talk to me, don't touch me or my friends, Potter. Sort yourself out because you are dangerous, and you're going somewhere bad and dark and fucked up, and you know it," Draco ended for good measure before turning on his heel again and storming off down the corridor, quite worked up himself from the confrontation. He would be refraining from breaking his own knuckles punching walls for the rest of the day. Damn Potter and his pissshit ability to wind Draco up so much.
"Harry – uh – are you – are you okay?" Hermione finally managed to get out breathlessly, body tense. She edged backwards on the sofa away from him slightly when he adjusted himself.
He looked at her with a confused expression for a moment before he caught her eyes and realised that she was scared of him. Hermione, his Hermione. His sister, the one who he loved more than anyone else on the planet... she was frightened that he was going to hurt her just because she'd asked him if he was okay. Slowly, he reached forward and gently took her hand in his, her eyes were still conflicted and tired, but her defensive body language had relaxed slightly and she was looking at him properly.
"Are you... are you scared of me?" he asked, his face shocked as tears filled his eyes without him noticing or being able to stop them.
"No!" she exclaimed, shaking her head fast, eyes full of anguish. He knew she was lying, he knew every single expression on her face "never! Harry, I don't – look, you – you have a problem and – I'm not frightened of you, I'm frightened for you. I don't want you to wind up doing something stupid. Your life hasn't exactly been tame has it?"
In that moment, he hated himself more than he had ever hated himself in his whole life.
"May I have your attention please?" McGonagall's voice echoed through the hall and although people still looked at each other, the entire room went quiet immediately. It was only when people saw the worried look on her face and the shaking of her hands as she spoke – strong as ever but clearly rocked by something – that everyone really paid attention.
"You may or may not have noticed that this week there have been several behavioural instances regarding Harry Potter. Although I am unable to divulge to you the full details of what has occurred in the last twenty four hours, I feel it my duty to inform you that Mr Potter will be off for three weeks due to an injury he sustained last night."
Draco frowned, eyes widening, lips parting a tiny crack as he swallowed, drawing in a slow breath as he sort of guessed what had happened. His fingers snuck up the sleeve of his cloak of their own accord, brushing lightly over the neat line of consecutive self-inflicted scars along his wrist. Draco had warned him.
"It is not overly serious," McGonagall continued, blatantly lying "measures are being taken to ensure that this type of incident will not occur again. But as I am sure you are all aware, Mr Potter has not had an easy year and is most tired and in need of extreme recuperation. I ask you not to worry or gossip or do anything out of the ordinary, for Mr Potter is getting better even now as we speak and will be closely monitored over the course of the following weeks.
What I do also ask of you, is that you have respect for Harry's situation and support him as you would your brothers, as here at Hogwarts, although divided by house and colour, we are somewhat of a growing family. He will be ready for visitors in a couple of days, and I'm sure, as ever, he will be most pleased to see his friends. A lot of the time, they are all we has left in this world. That will be all," McGonagall finished, taking in a discreet, calming breath and raising her wrinkled, beautiful head high to smile ever so slightly at her school.
Malfoy was too busy thinking to notice that Pansy was whispering animatedly to her fellow Slytherins, or that Goyle and Crabbe were both snickering at a joke Blaise had made about Potter.
He wondered if his guess was right. He wondered if the anger was leading Potter down the road Draco had tried to tell him about. Draco attempted to convince himself that it didn't matter, that he didn't give a shit because Potter wasn't anything to him apart from a lingering bitterness in the pit of his gut.
But it didn't work. Harry Potter was a human being. And no human being deserved to go through this.
Draco caught the Granger girl's arm and pulled her away from the group of students exiting their Transfiguration classroom and moved her with surprising softness against the wall so he could talk to her without anyone hearing them.
"What's going on?" he demanded and through red rimmed eyes and tired skin, Granger frowned. It was hardly a rare occurrence, but it struck home a little when he saw how fragile and delicate she looked. Whatever Potter had done, it was obviously worse than McGonagall was letting on.
"Why do you care Malfoy? You hate him, you hate me. Just leave us alone," she said, her eyes narrowed, lips moving barely enough for him to hear properly. She was angry, but not at him. Probably at the world, at Weasley. Who knew? It was Granger, she was one of the most complicated people he had ever met.
"Because I had a fucking bash up with him last week, mudbl-" he stopped himself before he could say it out of habit, reminding himself that he was not that person anymore "whatever he's done, I want to know that I'm not in the frame," he hissed, pulling her further away seeing as she wasn't bothering to lower her voice or anything.
She let out a bitter laugh, glaring at him.
"Well don't worry Malfoy, your precious reputation is in no danger of becoming any more mangled than it already is," she spat venomously, making to walk. He caught hold of her elbow again however, slamming her back against the wall. She winced and hissed a few choice swear words at him, trying to shrug out of his hold.
"What did he do?" he asked, not really knowing why he cared. He didn't. Not really. But he'd always had stupid levels of curiosity, so much so that his mother frequently told him that if it weren't for his father's teachings, he might have been the first Malfoy to end up as a Ravenclaw. Also, he had a slight taste for getting himself into situations he couldn't help pursuing.
"Harry smashed up the boys dormitory last night and slashed his wrists"
He'd always hated Granger. Her self-righteous, know-it-all attitude had always pissed him off; but also, on the most part, he'd hated her for her intelligence. It allowed her to lace her words together in just the right concoction to create a sting on your conscience that would have you obsessing over a single situation for days. She could be a poisonous little bitch when she wanted to, it was actually a surprising contrast, considering her compassion and annoying ability to love everything that breathed... well, maybe not him. But he'd never cared much about how she felt about him, he hated her back with equal enthusiasm.
It had long been a musing of his that maybe that was what drew him to his own breakdown - all the hate he had, had simply consumed him. But he didn't often dwell too long on it; the memories of the night when he himself had lost control were too much for him to handle and he would never truly recover from seeing someone else's' blood on his hands.
"He finally saw sense then," he couldn't help the words slipping from his lips and before they had even fully dissolved into the air, a hand collided sharply with his face, whipping his neck to the left, leaving a tingling, electric patch of skin across his cheekbone. He didn't know why he had said that. He brought a hand up to his face, and when he pulled his fingers away, there was a dotting of his own blood on the tips of his pale fingers.
"You're an evil bastard Draco Malfoy," she hissed, throat bobbing, eyes sparkling with malevolence and hatred "and one of these days your cruelty is going to catch up with you," she coiled, hair standing on end, freckled face red with rage, eyes narrowed harshly and full of tears.
For the first time – well, second time – he felt guilty for making Hermione Granger cry.