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Harry was busy staring out the window when someone came into his compartment and sat down opposite of him. The flash of white-blond from the corner of his eye was all he needed to identify him.
Harry withheld a sigh. He'd been hoping to avoid the confrontation until tomorrow.
"What do you want Malfoy?" he demanded. His was wand ready, though not yet visible, at his side.
"Please, Potter," Malfoy sneered. "The world doesn't revolve solely around you. The other compartments are full."
Harry was going to make a snarky comment about Malfoy's incarcerated father, but the other boy pulling out his transfiguration book made him pause. Really, that was it? No threatening to get back at him for putting his father in jail and bringing shame to his family?
"Shouldn't you be terrorizing first years or something?" Like hanging out with his goon squad.
"The prefect meeting finished, and the younger years have been assigned to their duties." Malfoy made a show of looking around the compartment. "Where's your fanclub anyway?"
Harry shrugged, not knowing or really caring. He was tired and had picked one of the back compartments in the hopes that he'd be left alone. This summer had been utterly brutal. Following the death of Sirius, Dumbledore decided that Harry needed proper training. His three weeks at the Dursley's consisted of madly trying to complete the readings from the massive tomes the headmaster sent every few days along with quizzes to make sure he was learning what he read.
Then he'd been brought back to Hogwarts where he could perform magic under the school's heavy wards and not worry about the ministry. Moody was his instructor.
The man might have been a brilliant auror, but no one could ever mistake him for kind. Moody trained him without any regard for Harry's physical, emotional or magical limitations. Drilling him in auror level magic, expecting him to perfect spells in nearly impossible time frames and his punishments for failure were… harsh. Harry believed the man truly wanted to break him.
Kept on guard at all times to avoid traps the man set up around the school, and taxed by time to complete Moody's assignments as well as the theory work the headmaster insisted he know, Harry never slept more than a few hours and only made it through with the case load of pepper ups he'd ordered from the apothecary.
Harry had never been so relieved that the school year was starting up. Finally, he'd though. A full nights sleep, no more booby traps, no more checking to see if his food was poisoned (he'd never made that mistake again after ten hours in agony while Moody took him to task). Yesterday he'd nearly cried when the headmaster had called him in to tell him that he'd be taking the train with the other students… and that he'd continue working with Moody throughout the school year.
Harry was so tired… he'd been dragged into training this morning before the sun rose. He glanced at Malfoy, who looked like he was actually studying. He shouldn't. It was stupid. Moody would literally kill him if he found out.
If he found out.
Putting a discreet, but powerful ward up around him to wake him if anyone entered the compartment or even if magic was about to be cast. And another mild shield, just in case. Harry laid down on the bench and closed his eyes.
Draco watched Potter bundle his cloak up as a pillow and lay down.
"What are you doing?"
"Sleeping," Potter didn't even open his eyes. "Unless you're dying for my conversational skills."
"Why would I want to talk to you Pothead?"
"Exactly my point."
Draco gaped at the other boy, especially as his breathing slowed and evened out. Potter was sleeping! Sleeping! Draco didn't really know if he should be outraged, insulted or amused. Never before would he have dreamed that Potter would find it safe to sleep in his presence, especially not after getting his father sent to prison.
Not that Draco minded that last bit. Yes, it was a black mark on the Malfoy family name that wouldn't be forgotten, but Draco would prefer that to his father's increasingly volatile company. Now with his father behind bars – again – Draco's mother enlisted the use of several old laws that gave Draco full access to the Malfoy accounts and the official lordship when he turns seventeen in February. Most importantly, it gave Draco full control of the wards. All summer they'd had ward masters working to destroy any possible hole that would let any unwanted persons into the manor. There was no way he would allow his mother to be touched by the insanity of her sister or the Dark Lord's other followers. Not that he'd ever let Potter know that.
Still it wouldn't do for the other boy to think that Draco was harmless.
Deliberately fingering his wand, he thought of a prank or hex, but even as the words began to form on his lips, Potter creaked an eye open and tensed. Ah… not so trusting then. Satisfied, Draco sat back, not caring that the other boy settled back down as well.
Instead of going back to his transfiguration text, Draco observed the other boy over its' pages. His nemesis still hadn't grown much, judging by Potter's small form curled up on the bench Draco bet, somewhat gleefully, that the other boy wouldn't even reach his chin. Potter was skinny, somebody poetic might call him slender, but that suggested soft. There really wasn't anything soft about Potter anymore. He was all angles, with dark bags under his eyes and hollows in his cheeks. Even his arms were thin with hard wiry muscles.
He looked sick. Whatever he'd been doing this summer hadn't done the boy any favours physically. Magically, that was a whole different story.
There had always been a bit of power to Potter, as much as he'd loathed to admit it. It had always been there, uncontained, tickling at his senses. But now that irritation had grown into a full aura that sent a delightful shiver down his spine. It was warm and inviting and made Draco want to purr. That aura had drawn him into this compartment even as he was walking past to join his friends. If Potter, exhausted enough to sleep in Draco's presence, felt like this now, what would it be like when the other boy was alert and rested?
"Where do you think Harry is?"
Draco could hear the shrill whine of that stupid mudblood Granger nearing their cabin and quickly cast a locking charm, swiftly followed by a notice-me-not spell. When he turned back he could see Potter was awake again, but before he could think of anything to say, the other boy's eyes closed again.
"I didn't do it for you," Draco snarled.
"I know," Potter sighed, nestling further into his pillow. "But Ron's loud and I want a nap. Thanks anyway."
Draco snorted. It was true, the weasel and mudblood were always so loud, all the time. He could understand why someone would want to avoid them. But Potter usually put up with them anyway. What had changed between the Golden Trio?
Draco pondered the question while skimming the first few chapters of his transfiguration text again. As the train neared Hogsmead, he closed his book and changed into his school robes.
"Potter get up," he went to poke the other boy when green eyes opened and he sat up. "Where almost there."
Potter eyed him warily before nodding and putting on his robes overtop of those muggle rags of his.
Draco made certain to get off the train first. Crabbe and Goyle had already commandeered a carriage and were waiting outside of it for him.
"Where were you, Draco?" Vincent asked, holding out a bag of liquorice wands.
"I was avoiding Pansy." She had been especially clingy now that he didn't have to wait for his father to die in order to inherit the Malfoy title and fortune.
"Harry!" the mudblood's shrill cry made Draco pause before entering the carriage and look back at the Griffindors. "Where were you? We looked all over for you!"
"Did you?" Potter asked, wincing visibly when that idiot Weasel pounded him on the back on greeting. "I was in the back. I guess I fell asleep."
Draco smirked and got into the carriage. There was something different about Potter this year. It would bear watching.
Harry just barely managed to make it through the sorting feast. He was tired, he was still sore from this morning's duel with Moody and Ron and Hermione were going on and on about their summers. Ron went to Romania and Hermione to France before going back to Grimmauld Place for a couple of weeks before school started. They apologized for not writing, but of course had been told not to.
"And we have professor Moody for a teacher." Hermione said, looking up at the head table. "What do you think He'll be like?"
"Well," Ron laughed. "At least we won't have to worry about him trying to kill Harry here."
Harry winced, not being able to appreciate the joke. Not after time and time again of being in the hospital wing from his 'practice' sessions with the man. Luckily, he wasn't expected to keep up his end of the conversation. His friends assumed he'd spent the summer at the Dursleys, an assumption he didn't correct. They were eager to share stories of their escapades. Too eager. Harry wanted to tell them to shut up. That he didn't want to hear how wonderful their summers had been while he'd been miserable. But he didn't. His only reprieve from their attempts to allow him to live vicariously through them was that Dumbledore had wanted to see him right after the feast, so he didn't have to go back to the tower with them.
"See you later guys." He waved, and made his way. The gargoyle let him through with a simple 'acid drops'.
"Harry," Dumbledore greeted, gesturing him to sit. "Lemon drop? Tea?"
"No thank-you," Harry declined politely. "May I ask why you wanted to see me, sir?"
"Yes, Harry." The headmaster smiled. "I know you had some difficulties last year with Professor Snape. But I'm afraid that your lessons will have to resume."
"Resume?" Harry couldn't believe it. "That man hates me, he didn't teach me anything all last year. He actually made me more susceptible to Voldemort and you're telling me that I have to get lessons with him again?"
"Harry," he chided. "Occlumency is a skill that you must learn and I'm afraid that I cannot be the one to teach you. Professor Snape is the only other option. But," he held up a hand to stifle further protests, "you will have a new method of instruction." He pulled out several thin volumes and handed them over. "Perhaps if you learn the different theories of occlumency, you will have a better grasp on it. Professor Snape is a natural occlumens and so he was instructing you in the same manner he was taught."
Harry accepted the books, feeling drained. There was no point arguing, he knew. If he'd known this skill before, Sirius wouldn't have died and he wouldn't have nearly gotten his friends killed. "When will I start?"
"October." The headmaster smiled over this quick capsulation. "The times will be discussed between you and Professor Snape. Your first lesson with Alastor Moody, however is at six on Wednesday."
"Your class schedule for the year."
Harry looked it over and gaped. "Sir, there must be some mistake, I'm not taking Runes."
"You did very well this summer," Dumbledore pointed out.
"Those were basic rune texts."
"Nonsense, Harry. What you studied were summaries of the first three years of Runes. You may be a little behind in history, but the exam I had you write last week confirmed your ability to take the class. Professor Sinastra agrees with me. It's very important that you learn these things Harry."
Harry closed his eyes. "And the Healing? I didn't even know it was offered."
"Another very important class, Mme Pomphrey only takes a few students per year. You should be proud that she took you on."
"But sir," Harry sighed. "I have a full class load already, how am I going to fit in all these classes, as well as the time to study them, along with my tutoring sessions with Moody and Professor Snape and quidditch?" Then he quickly said it before Dumbledore could say what Harry knew he was thinking. "I'm not giving up quiditch."
"I wouldn't ask you to." Dumbledore held out his hand for the schedule and looked at it again. "I'm afraid these are very important that you take these classes… but perhaps Herbology?"
"Creatures?" he offered instead. As much as he loved Hagrid, he always looked at Harry to volunteer to approach wild and angry creatures.
"I'm afraid that class has many benefits." Dumbledore said. "It covers a wide variety of beings that you might come into contact with and you'll learn how to deal with them. Plants, though dangerous, are not on the same level."
"Fine." Harry closed his eyes as he said the words. He liked Herbology. Even if he wasn't a genius like Neville, he was good at Herbology. He liked digging in the dirt, weeding, transplanting. It was soothing. Plants were soothing and now he was going to have to give it up.
The headmaster made the adjustments and handed back the schedule. "There now, I'm certain you'll find time for everything. If you are having trouble, don't hesitate to come and see me, my boy."
"Thank-you sir," Harry said dully, getting up.
"It's really important that you do well in these classes. They are the groundwork for things you will need to know later on."
Harry glanced at the large stack of books in his arms. There were so many. "Yes, sir. I'll try to not let you down."
Ron and Hermione were waiting for him in the common room.
"What did Dumbledore want?" Ron asked.
"He gave me my class schedule." Harry held up the paper and it was quickly snatched out of his hands by Hermione. "He wants me to take different classes. You know to learn, for later."
"Runes?" Hermione frowned. "But you haven't taken Runes."
"Dumbledore gave me some books to study this summer," Harry shrugged. Ron gave him a look of condolence for having to work during the holidays and Harry had to smile a bit. "I did well enough on the written test Sinastra gave me, that she's letting me take the class."
"But you're not just in Runes, Harry." Hermione pointed out. "You're in the advanced NEWTs class."
"I didn't know there was a difference."
Ron had gone over to peek at the schedule over Hermione's shoulder. "You're taking Healing?"
"Healing?" Hermione repeated, scanning the page again. "I didn't know they offered healing."
"Sure they do." Ron murmured, "Charlie took it."
"Madame Pomfrey offers it to some students." Harry didn't know much about it. "I thought you'd be taking it when I heard about it."
"When did you hear about it?" she demanded.
"Just now, when I got my schedule."
"oh." Pacified Harry hadn't been keeping it from her, Hermione's brow furrowed a bit. "I wonder if I talk to Madame Pomfrey…"
"I'm sure she'll take you on," Harry yawned.
"You're taking a load of classes, mate." Ron said, "You trying to turn into a Hermione on us?"
"Professor Dumbledore says I need to." Harry was grateful that they seemed to accept that. "But I'm going to have to study really hard if I'm going to pass Runes."
"I'll help." Hermione volunteered. "It would probably be best if you go over my old notes, just in case."
Harry tuned her out as she started rattling off her plans to get him caught up. A few minutes later, Ron managed to extricate him from her grasp to help lug the semi-conscious teen upstairs.
"Go to sleep, mate." Ron laughed and gave him a bit of a push so that Harry landed on his bed. "You'll need it for tomorrow."