Hello my lovely people.
I know it's been a while since I've updated, but I just found I couldn't write or add to this story. It's not that I'm giving up or letting it go – It's the fact someone in my immediate family passed away recently from a battle with cancer. It's hard to write about something that's hurting your family.
But it's almost finished, and I keep by my promises; I'm not going to abandon my story. I'm going to try to get it done by the end of this year.
Thanks, as always to the people writing reviews and PM'ing me. It was you that made me complete this chapter.
44 - It's probably not what you're thinking
Getting ready for the day had never felt so strenuous; rolling out of bed required more energy than necessary, finding his tie was an effort he didn't have...even pulling on his socks took a considerable amount of time. Harry's stomach felt both nauseous and empty, which was a feat in itself. He wouldn't say he was afraid, merely the anxiety he usually shoved down beneath the surface to worry about another day had forcefully dragged itself into view, mocking at the ready.
Dreading going to school after Petunia had shaved his head seemed like a little worry. Facing Voldemort in the forest; piece of cake. Having the inevitable conversation about the bruises with Ron? He wanted to curl back into the sheets and pretend he didn't exist.
"You're panicking over nothing." Draco reminded Harry, throwing one of his shoes at him roughly so it whacked him over the back of his head. "I doubt he gave it a second thought after you left the library."
Oh, Harry wanted to believe him. But then he also had vivid memories of Ron, Hermione and himself investigating any little curiosity throughout their schooling lives. They had overcome the seven obstacles protecting the Philosopher's Stone when they were eleven, for god's sake.
"He's going to believe the giant squid has some kinky magical abilities; we were quite convincing."
Fred and George used to poke the squid from the safety of the grass; they never turned up to the common room covered in suspicious bruises. Well, they did, but that because it was Fred and George. Skiving Snackbox Inventors. Wrong example.
"The bruise isn't there to remind him. You're fine."
He certainly didn't seem fine; his stomach was twisting, and his hands were sweating. The eerie green glow of the lake seemed dimmed this morning, and no one was maintaining their usual standard of chatter. It was still and quiet, the…
Oh god. He was experiencing the calm before the storm.
Harry groaned, slipping on his shoes with a sense of dread. Surely his classes could be missed? He was ahead on all the theory work anyway! It wasn't as if skipping would negatively affect his grades.
"Harry, look at me." He felt no better after meeting calm grey eyes; his stomach was twisting around painfully. "I promise you that it'll be alright. He won't even mention it."
"You wanna bet on that?" Harry asked, heaving himself to his feet with a sigh. The answering silence was very reassuring. "Come on. Let's get it over with."
"You don't have to act like you're going to your doom." Draco's pretence at the triviality of the situation certainly took effort; he even snickered at the prospect as he led the way up the stairs. "I never knew you were this vain; not everyone spends their idle time theorizing about your behaviour."
"You're clearly not a Gryffindor." Harry remarked, irritation shoving the worry aside. Why was the blonde finding this funny? Their quiet days alone were at an end. "And like you can talk; I'm all you bloody think about."
"Your point?" Draco smirked, "It's fairly obvious you only think about yourself, too, hypocrite."
"Excuse me?" Harry spluttered, whacking the gits arm as they reached the common room. "You're the narcissist one here. You can't pass a reflection without ogling at yourself."
"Again with the hypocrisy; you gawk at me relentlessly."
Harry huffed exasperatedly, following through the entrance after the prat. He did not gawk. Draco was the one that had to fix his hair every time they passed a mirror.
Draco halted to a stop just outside the entrance, unapologetic despite Harry running into his shoulder. Christ, he was flitting through the theatrics today. A little warning before the exaggerated halt would have been appreciated.
Harry had pushed passed the motionless Draco, and stilled accordingly.
Oh. Not theatrics; in fact, his reaction seemed perfectly sound.
Ron was leaning on the opposite wall, waiting patiently with a clenched jaw. His arms were curled around his chest as if he was either sulking, or in a defencing stance. Knowing Ron, and worse, Draco's responses, both attitudes were probably needed.
Harry's feet made a half turn, deciding to return to his bed before his head had considered the thought. The only obstacle was Draco's hand, which snapped up to grab his forearm halfway through the shift.
"Hmm. Well, I was bound to be wrong at least once." Draco drawled, shaking his head as if mystified. He didn't seem as perturbed as Harry expected him to be after that hit to his omnipotent ego. "Didn't expect it to come so soon. I was thinking in my hundreds, after my brain had been addled and confused." Harry tore his stare away from the tired redhead, to the blonde besides him. He seemed genuinely troubled. "I can't trust my decisions anymore; they're not sound."
"You hypocritical prat." Harry didn't mean to roll his eyes, but this really was a moment that required derision. He ignored his suddenly dry mouth. "Seconds ago you were telling me I was vain. Seconds."
He was unabashed. "I'm a Malfoy; it's expected." His tone turned significantly cooler as he turned to face Ron. "So, are we doing this here, or are you joining us for breakfast? We don't have the time for drama."
Ron just shrugged, a rare display of indifference for a Gryffindor; they were known for letting their emotions control their actions and words. Indifference was an unfamiliar concept. "I just wanted to follow you to breakfast."
"You're loitering around the Slytherin dungeon for a chance of minor stalking?" Draco didn't sound nearly as amused as his smirk was suggesting. "Fine. Stalk away."
He started off without a second glance at Ron, his hand tightening on Harry's forearm to ensure he followed instead of escaping. He could feel the noose tightening around his throat as Ron's footsteps echoed behind them. The dungeon had never seemed so menacing.
"So, I got a letter from my mother the other day." Harry was barely paying attention. He hummed a noise to show he was listening, but he didn't think he was quite capable of words at the moment. Ron was strolling quietly besides them, face clouded and eyes staring into nothing. The accusation was coming. The storm he had been avoiding. "She wants to know if you'll be visiting over the holidays, you know, after we graduate. I told her you'd be there, so she can get father on his best behaviour."
"Just a heads up. Thought you should be prepared for the scrutiny and thorough arse-tearing."
"And that's only mother. I don't want to consider what father's got planned, even checked by-"
"What?" Something clicked in Harry's head; he forced his eyes to return to Draco, taking in the hint of a smirk on the blonde prat's face. The dread was returning. "What did you just say?"
"Just telling you our plans for after graduation." His tone was too aloof to be trusted. "I've got a lot of fun scheduled." If he made it to graduation.
"No, you mentioned your dad."
Even his sigh was too fake. Too…innocent. "I have a father, not a dad."
"Why'd you mention him?"
"Yes, you did."
"Hmm…don't recall that. Are you sure you were paying attention?"
Harry found himself sighing through his returning smile. Of course this little banter was happening because his narcissist little ferret thought the appropriate amount of attention on him was waning.
"Yes. You mentioned your father having a plan."
"So I did." He didn't elaborate, however. "What do you know; you were listening." He was wearing a grin instead of his normal smirk. "So, what do you think?"
And Harry just couldn't let that grin down; he seemed so bloody excited that now he didn't want to admit he hadn't being paying a single word any attention. He had only heard the prat mention his father because he had something akin to a jump reflex when he was mentioned; that sort of thing happened when you were almost caught by the man half nude hiding under his son's bed.
"Uh, sure? Sounds like a good plan."
"Excellent." Oh, good god. The leer returned with a vengeance. What had he agreed to? "I'll let her know."
Harry stared back dumbfounded. Her? He thought they were talking about Lucius. Unless there were secrets in the Malfoy family that he didn't want to imagine, lest the current Malfoy head somehow found out, he was certain the pronoun used to describe Lucius should definitely be 'him'.
"You seem confused." Draco grinned. He was thoroughly enjoying this, even more so that Harry's stubbornness refused him to admit that he wasn't paying attention.
"No, it's a good plan." Harry reconfirmed, knowing he was sealing his fate to whatever torment Draco was concocting. Well, to be fair nothing the Ferret planned was anything except for thoughtful. Harry trusted him, despites his grins and leers trying to convince him otherwise. He knew the git was cheeriest when he was mocking.
He missed half a step when Ron sighed from behind him, reality swooping its ugly head back into view. He had forgotten that his friend was with them, and, after a quick glance at Draco, that had been his plan. He tried to cover it, but his eyes had flashed from entertained to icy for less than a moment.
There was still a storm hovering above them, waiting to break.
6. Witness the calm before the storm
Surprisingly enough, Ron didn't mutter a word when they reached the Great Hall. He stopped suddenly, mouth opening and shutting as he struggled to find the words; for once, it seemed like blurting out the first thing in his head wasn't going to cut it.
Draco didn't wait for him to get his bearings. With an arm hooked around Harry's, he pulled him into the hall without a glance at the redhead. And though it seemed like Ron had half a mind to follow them, the unfriendly stares of the Slytherin cohort persuaded him to trudge back to Gryffindor.
Though he couldn't talk, he could certainly stare. And no glaring could influence him otherwise. The Slytherins tried.
It was a relief when Harry was dragged from the hall to head towards Transfiguration early. And by the time the rest of the class had joined them, his sourness had spread. Most of the room was quiet, and stifled; they felt the fight growing in the air, and wanted to avoid it at all cost.
McGonagall seemed oblivious when she entered the room, perhaps the only one in a good mood if the small smile she wore indicated anything. It didn't even drop when she made eye contact with the Slytherin side of the room; high spirits indeed.
"I hope everyone managed to complete their homework assignment." She started off with, dumping her papers on her desk. "We'll be practising something quite interesting today, I think, which ties off your hard work nicely." She seemed quite excited at the prospect.
Harry sighed to himself, resigning himself to another dull class. He was quite sick of sitting along the sidelines and watching everyone else flourish their magic about. He didn't like to be jealous, but he couldn't help but feel the bite of envy whenever a wand was flaunted in class. A simple summoning charm sent waves of resentment twisting in his stomach, which was exactly what happened when McGonagall summoned his essay to the front.
He couldn't help it; he couldn't stop his feelings, and he couldn't join in the class.
Sighing, Harry pulled out his tattered textbook, flicking to a random page. Why did he bother coming to class anymore? He was ahead of everyone. He should have stayed in bed.
"…This is unacceptable." Harry almost jumped at the sudden iciness in his professor's tone; she held the assignments in one hand, frowning down at them. "Four? Four completed assignments…and only one the intended length." Wow.
Harry glanced around the room, taking in the guilty shuffles and the proud indifference. One guess which house portrayed each emotion. Why hadn't…anyone completed it? They had had weeks.
"Mister Weasley, where is your homework?" Harry frowned as Ron shrugged half-heartedly. He knew exactly where that essay was; it had been ripped up yesterday during their game of Wizard or Mudblood. "Mister Longbottom? Miss Granger, I'm surprised you couldn't reach the required length. And not a single assignment from the Slytherin side of the room. Miss Parkinson? Mister Nott? Mister Malfoy?" The class was silent as no one answered her.
Blaise leant towards Theo, trying to whisper inconspicuously. "Why didn't I get a mention?"
"Mister Finnigan and Mister Thomas; writing larger does not constitute a good essay. Do any of you care that this is your last year? Has it dawned on any of you? Mister Potter is the only one here that did the required work!" Harry half expected a declaration of '-and he can't even do the spells!'.
McGonagall seethed as silence met her. Her good mood had been vanquished immediately. She tsked at them all, dropping the poor assignments on her pile of papers, before gathering them up in her arms again. Without another word, she simply left the room.
The class sat there in stunned disbelief; their professor had dismissed them to the extent of deciding the lesson was impractical.
Harry couldn't help the complacent snort, hastily shoving his book back in his bag as eyes swivelled around to stare at him. And try as he did, he couldn't squish his smirk back into submission, either. The class didn't know why he was happy; they would think it was because he was the only one that completed the work, not the selfish contentment of their practise being withdrawn.
"Well, we have an hour. What do you want to do?" He was perfectly fine with Draco's intense stare; it wasn't as if he could read his mind. "Want to go down to the lake?" He was out of his chair and grabbing Draco's bag before anyone else had wrapped their minds around what had just happened. Hermione seemed to be in a state of shock. "Come on, now we only have fifty nine minutes."
Draco's stare didn't diminish as he followed Harry from the classroom. It was nothing on the gaze that followed them. He wasn't naive enough to overlook that both discerned he was running away. Again.
"And what are you plotting in the corner?"
Harry paused for a moment, as if he was considering whether or not to answer. Eventually, he shrugged, scribbling another word down on the parchment. "No plotting involved. Just homework."
It was as if he was unaware that Draco had a talent for recognising Harry's lies. That, or he disregarded it. Draco wasn't sure which was worse. "Homework?" He drawled, approaching the armchair slowly. "Even though we weren't assigned any?"
"Different type of assignment." It wasn't lost on Draco that Harry's hand had drifted to cover the majority of the page. "It'll probably bore you."
"You underestimate me." Draco smirked, pointedly throwing a glance at the parchment. "I've read the bibliography of Merlin; not the most interesting wizard, it turned out."
"He collected leaves." Harry's lips were twitching, but his hand still hadn't relocated. "There was an entire chapter dedicated to his leaf accumulating abilities."
"It was." Draco had wanted to gauge his eyes out as punishment for wasting the afternoon. "So nothing bores in comparison, least of all homework."
Still, the hand didn't move.
Harry's lips were pressed together, his eyes cautious. "I don't want to make you mad." He finally admitted, biting on his lip. "And I think this'll make you mad."
Draco blinked, cocking his head to the side. Now his curiosity had been piqued. "Have you risked your life in any way?"
"Then I won't be angry." He promised, glancing at the unmoving hand for another subtle hint. "Just interested."
"Want to place a bet on that?"
"Naturally. This will be seventeen points to me."
He thought the huff was a little immature, and the eye roll was certainly juvenile. Please; he knew Harry was keeping score just the same. However his brilliant ability to persuade won out; Harry continued writing, thus allowing Draco to read the parchment, granted it was upside-down and his hand drifted across it at seemingly erratic directions made reading a tad difficult.
Ron, invisibility cloak and Firebolt. Hermione, Black library books. George, Marauders Map.
Draco forced his expression to remain interested. He didn't want to lose the bet, and he could also see Harry glancing at him from the corner of his eye. He wasn't about to disappoint Harry. Also, he truly wasn't angry. This list made him quite sad.
Mr Weasley, anything muggle. Mrs Weasley, photo album. Weasley family, Potter fortune. Teddy, Grimmuld Place.
He was dividing up his possessions.
Draco forced a smirk to flitter back across his face, despite feeling quite ill rather suddenly. "So, what do I get?" He scanned the page, noticing the lack of the Malfoy name on the list.
Harry blinked, surprised at the reaction. He shrugged a little awkwardly, scratching at his head. "I don't know." His voice was unsure, wary at the conversation they were having. He had probably expected a fight to break out. "What…do you want?"
Well, he turned that around rather quickly, didn't he?
Draco cocked his head to the side, stretching across the armchair until his posture seemed casual. Inside, all his limbs and organs felt taunt with tension. "Hmm. I don't know what's up for grabs." He glanced at the list again, a little chuffed that his response had stilled Harry's hand. "Have anything of value?"
Green eyes narrowed. "No." He replied curtly, dotting an 'I' rather viciously. "I don't."
"No spare invisibility cloak, or magical map, or expensive broom, or rare book from a Dark Arts library?" Draco queried, smirking as Harry's knuckles tightened around his quill. "No invaluable memories, maybe a second photo album? First snitch? No?"
It was evident that Harry was biting his lip to avoid snapping out a snide remark. His eyes practically gleamed with resentment.
"Nothing like that? Well, I guess I'll have dibs on your glasses, then."
"You're such a bloody-! Wait, what?" Draco watched fairly amused as the anger melted away, quickly replaced with wariness. His eyes were still narrowed, as if he expected the joke to be explained. He wasn't an exceptionally trusting wizard, was he? "My glasses?" He asked doubtfully, raising his own eyebrows.
"You heard me." Draco nodded, slumping back in his chair. "I want your ugly glasses."
"You want these?" Harry pulled them off his face, as if trying to see the appeal. "They cost less than twenty pounds. They've been broken more times than I can count."
"I know; I've broken them." Draco drawled, watching with a morbid type of fascination as Harry refused to believe him. "You going to write it down?" Thankfully he didn't call him out on understanding 'pounds'. Did muggles use weight for currency?
Harry shoved the round spectacles back on his face, shaking his head. "You're ridiculous."
"That's not usually a quality associated with me."
"I don't understand the joke." He added, turning back to the parchment. He jotted down the note with noticeable scepticism, sighing as if dissatisfied with Draco's choice. "You want me to stumble around in heaven or something? Have to squint up in the clouds?"
"Come now," Draco drawled in return, "You don't believe in the afterlife, and neither do I."
He didn't even get a response to that, just a discontented grunt. And he had assumed Draco would be the mad one in this conversation. If anything, Draco was content. He was quite happy with the way it had turned out, actually.
He stretched one more time before grabbing his bag and forcing himself to stand. It was almost time to meet Hermione and her band of inept misfits in the library for their research night. Harry was clearly fuming, because he didn't even glance at Draco as he went to leave. Well, that wouldn't do.
So Draco leant over him, sliding his arms around his shoulders and resting his chin atop of Harry's head, forcing him to stop his heated scribbles. He didn't get a response now, either. Instead he was subjected to nothing more than an irritated sigh.
"You know," Draco whispered, smirking as Harry tensed beneath him, "all because you don't see the value doesn't mean it's not there." That ought to cheer him up. And, from the red face and the twitching lips, it had.
Draco pulled away from the embarrassed Gryffindor, unable to force his grin into submission despite the extravagant smirk Pansy was throwing his way. He just rolled his eyes and jerked his head for her to follow him. Nothing could hinder his mood, not even Harry thinking it was time to write his will.
The night got better from there on out. It was all Draco could do to keep his smirk from becoming a broad grin during the research session, and apparently everyone was aware of this fact. The Gryffindors were positively fuming the entire time, and Pansy often broke out in sniggers.
Granger had multiplied her minions, probably under the illusion that it gave her a levelled playing field. Please. There was no equivalency here. Even with her half a dozen followers.
Trainee Kelly certainly made sure of that with her letter. It instructed them to disregard most of the research they had collected thus far, and focus on the magical core and the possibility of ridding magic. Which was…oh, right. Draco's idea from the start.
Granger had complied, but with a pursed lip and plenty of muttering under her breath. It was absolutely wonderful. Draco couldn't remember being cheerier; maybe this would be the happy memory he used when expulsing dementors.
Even better than Grangers squashed pride was the fuming presence of the Weaslette. She sat beside Granger with a scowl smeared across her unpleasant face, grimacing every time she caught Draco smirking at her. And, since he had yet to look away, it was a common occurrence.
Because seriously…this was the research team she had round together? Longbottom, Weaslette, and Loony Lovegood? He may as well have invited Goyle for all the brainpower these morons had between them.
"I've already read that one." Draco drawled towards Weaslette as she snatched up her first book. "It's useless." There. He was being polite.
"Maybe you missed something." She snapped back, slamming the book open before her. She really had some anger issues that needed working out.
Draco just shrugged and exchanged a discreet smirk with Pansy. She was overjoyed to be invited; not cynicism, for once. Though she eyed Lovegood as if a rabid dog, a chance to irritate Granger was considered an opportunity not to be missed.
"Just do as you want." Pansy muttered, raising her eyebrows at exaggerated glare thrown her way. "After all, Harry has all the time in the world."
It really was a sight to behold. Weaslette's face turned a bright shade of scarlet as she clenched her jaw. Longbottom had to make some sort of gesture before she slammed the book shut again, shoving it to the floor before snatching up another book. Temper, Temper.
"I can't believe you didn't tell me before now." She muttered, jabbing her quill into some ink quite ferociously. "You've been studying with them, but not me."
"It wasn't my place." Granger remarked with a sigh. "It was Harry's choice."
"So he told you not to tell me."
"He hasn't mentioned a word to anyone." Longbottom cut in, likewise sighing. It seemed this fight was a common occurrence. "I found out accidently, and Hermione figured it out."
"He told us." Draco threw in helpfully as Weaslette's glare swivelled to face him. "And we weren't even friends at the time."
"Blackmail?" The redhead snarled, "Coercion?" Aww. She thought she was being smart.
"No, actually." Draco drawled, returning to his own book. He flipped the page dismissively. Why was he even talking to these people? "He invited me in to sit through one of his treatments. Seemed kind of lonely at the time, so I went in." Ah, that was why. Because she now looked as though she had swallowed an entire lemon. Let's see if he could further the damage. "I recall you and Weasley screaming at him a few moments earlier, something about fraternizing with the enemy." Granger had the decency to seem ashamed, at the least. "But I already knew something was amiss before all that. I use my eyes, you see."
Scowling, they all returned to their books. Besides Lovegood, who was smiling up at the ceiling and humming to herself.
Draco glanced back at Pansy, smirking as she mouthed 'so…blackmail'. She knew him too well.
"So, what was Harry plotting in the corner that had you grinning like a madman?" Pansy asked, snickering at the jerky movements of Weaslette's hand as she scrawled across her parchment. Draco would bet that not a single word was comprehendible.
"No plotting at all." He was well aware that they were all listening to their conversation. "He was divvying up his possessions so there isn't a squabble at the funeral." He didn't glance up from the page, despite the stillness that had overwhelmed the table. Four sets of eyes glared at him.
"Well, you seemed pretty ecstatic." Trust Pansy to not even blink at the topic. "He leaving you something good?"
"Do you mind?" Granger's voice was ice.
"What's your problem?" Draco sneered, not bothering to throw her a glance. Her opinions didn't matter. "You're getting the Black library."
"He's our friend, and you're being cruel."
"I'm investigating possible cases that could potentially rid him of his magic, and save his life. If I'm cruel in the meantime…I don't think Harry gives two shits."
"Mm-hmm." The fact she didn't get a worded response seemed to anger her further. She grit her teeth, and turned back to her book.
There was a tense silence across the table, with everyone glaring at one another in a soundless warning. Draco pretended he didn't see the desperate act of the Gryffindors, and kept reading his selected book. He was betting on Pansy not allowing the silence to settle…
"So, what're you getting?" She sung, kicking her feet up onto the table and knocking Weaslette's book to the floor. Oh, he was so glad he had decided to bring Pansy.
The insults from the Gryffindors were quite amusing.
Even more so when Lovegood decided that she was going to practise getting rid invisible objects, just to see if it was possible. She decided the Wrackspurts fluttering around in everyone's heads were perfect specimens.
Harry blinked at the map, frowning to himself. There were several reasons for his frown; one being that Draco, Pansy, Hermione, Neville, Luna and Ginny were locked in a room together for an extended period of time. It couldn't bode well, for anyone. Another being Ginny was backing away from an approaching Luna; he couldn't even begin to understand why. The act seemed quite threatening, but Luna was possibly the nicest person he had ever met. She would never do anything intentional to hurt one of her friends. What was even more worrying was Pansy was standing just behind Luna…almost as if egging her on. It was all quite bizarre.
Harry continued on his way, making sure Flitwick wasn't on a collision course with his. He checked up on the rule breakers every night, if just to see how they were going. And Harry didn't want to be there.
If he couldn't convince them to stop, it was no business of his. They were the ones wasting their time.
He rounded the next bend, strolling through the dark as if he had a right. He had originally forced himself from the comfort of his bed, even though it was going to be another sleepless night, to collect Draco. He was even going to brave the fiery Ginny.
Somehow, his destination had been diverted. He was heading up instead.
There was something he had put off long enough.
He ended up pausing though, glancing around the empty corridors. He had just thought he had heard something, like a howl. He doubted there were many other students prowling around the corridors at this time, and none that would declare their positions to the professors by wailing like idiots. No, he was imagining…
There it was again, a definite noise. It brought goose-bumps to his skin, and dread to his stomach.
He knew what that sound was.
His eyes fell on the bathroom door across the corridor, and his feet were moving before he could decide if it was wise or not.
He approached the door cautiously, only too aware of the consequences he faced the last time he had entered a bathroom that held a sobbing student. He really should just leave. It was none of his business; if someone was upset, who was he to interfere and possibly make them feel worse? No, he should leave.
The cry transformed into an excruciating howl.
Harry winced, pushing at the door. He had heard the wails of grief in the aftermath of the war, and they still haunted him. The sounds misery could pull from a person were horrifying, and no one should have to deal with it alone.
Swallowing nervously, Harry searched the mirrors for the student.
Goyle was hunched up on the floor, leaning against one of the stalls. His hands were curled around his head, and his forehead was pressed against his knees. He was pulling at his hair so tightly that his knuckles had turned white.
He sobbed, and Harry watched transfixed from the doorway.
What the hell should he do?
This was the boy that had cursed him, and tried to make his life hell. This boy had acted rabid, and snarled at him with each encounter. He had threatened his friends, and distanced himself.
And now the loneliness had won.
Harry let the door swing shut, swearing to himself. What should he do?
He didn't really want to comfort the large boy, and any attempt would result in a broken nose in the least. But he couldn't just leave him there.
Biting his lip, Harry spun around and headed back the way he came, searching in his bag as he went. He pulled out the map, gave it a quick glance, and ran towards the moving staircase.
"Professor!" He must have seemed anxious, because he wasn't scolded for the time. "Uh, Goyle's…I think he needs help. He's really upset."
It was awkward leading Flitwick back towards the bathroom, walking slowly so the smaller Professor could keep up. It was all Harry to do to keep from running; to the bathroom, or as far away from this situation as possible. The latter seemed the smartest option.
But the cries; it was practically howling. It was as if the grief had built up and festered away until he had burst. And Harry felt sorry for him… because who could he turn to? Goyle had been isolated all year, and it wasn't as if he could go to his friends for support. The friends he had once trusted had beaten him up until he was indistinguishable, and replaced him with Harry.
Goyle was grieving alone.
It was worse when Harry had been told to wait outside the bathroom; he could hear the faint sobs between quiet hushes. How had everyone missed just how miserable Goyle had been? Or had the others noticed, and just not cared?
It took a fair few minutes before the door opened again. Harry scrambled back to his feet, awkwardly standing outside the bathroom. The sight of the massive Goyle being supported by the tiny Flitwick may have been comical in any other situation, but Goyles' feet jerked to a stop as he caught sight of Harry.
He scowled weakly, and jerked his eyes away. His glare was made much less prominent by the red eyes, and tracks on his cheeks.
"You can go back to bed now, Harry." Flitwick smiled, though it was strained. He led Goyle away without another word, his little hands patting the large boy's arm.
Harry had the horrifying feeling he had just witnessed Goyle's last night at Hogwarts.
Miserably, he turned around and continued climbing the stairs. He climbed right to the seventh floor, clenching his teeth and trying to ignore the horrible sensation twisting around his stomach. He knocked on the painting softly, resting his head against the frame.
It only took a few moments until it was opened, a young Gryffindor poking his head out curiously. He blinked at the sight of Harry, but pushed the door open anyway, allowing him to enter.
Harry sighed as he climbed through the portrait, swallowing as he caught sight of nostalgic red.
The common room was empty, a book opened on one couch the possible reason the second year was awake.
He couldn't help but smile at the ridiculous amounts of red. Despite what the Slytherins said, he thought it was homey. You couldn't possibly be sad with his much brightness.
Harry headed over to his armchair by the fire, sinking into it with a sigh of appreciation. He had missed this chair, and the memories it held. He had had many conversations with Sirius here, and scribbled in the stupid dream diary entries with Ron. He had had many a happy Christmas day curled around his very fire.
Ron stumbled down a few minutes later, yawning and in his pyjamas. The second year must have woken him. He didn't comment on Harry still being in his robes, or his intense staring at the fire. He dropped into the chair besides him silently, and stared with him.
It was the fact he didn't pressure Harry for answers that heaved the words from his lips.
"I didn't want you to find out." He eventually muttered, staring at the flames instead of his friend. "I didn't want to hurt you."
"…I don't think I wanted to see." Ron replied quietly, an answer Harry would have expected from Draco rather than the redhead besides him. "But I think I knew."
Harry grit his teeth, fumbling for words. He didn't know how to do this. "You had just lost Fred." He ended up mumbling, still staring at the fire. "I didn't want to make it worse. I…that's why I wasn't there. I'm sorry…I'm so sorry I wasn't there-"
"I didn't realise I missed it until after my treatment-"
"Christ, Harry!" Harry snapped his mouth shut, finally turning to glance at Ron. His face was clenched into an unhappy frown, but he didn't look as if he was about to punch Harry in the jaw. He was struggling for words as much as Harry was. "It's…you couldn't help it. Shit situation all around." He shrugged, shaking his head. "But…why didn't you tell me? I could have been there for you; I should have!"
The fire drew his attention again; it hurt less to look into the flames, then to see the unhappiness in Ron's gaze. He was already grieving.
He ended up shrugging. "There was no right time, and then I decided it would lessen the hurt. No, seriously Ron," He added at the disbelieving scoff. "When's the right time to tell everyone? Hey mate, I know you're grieving for your brother; let me utterly destroy you with this fun bit of news? And you know what Hermione is like; she'd go straight to the library. I didn't want her wasting her…"
"The Slytherins have done a right number on you, mate." Ron cut him off, the smallest of smiles appearing across his face. "World doesn't revolve around you."
It forced a strangled laugh from Harry, who finally forced his gaze from the fire. He shrugged yet again, throat restricting. "Some divine being up there's certainly having fun ruining it. This was supposed to be the easy year."
Ron shrugged uncomfortably. "Hey, at least this Defence professor hasn't tried to do you in yet. Count your blessings; isn't this the first year?"
Harry smirked at that. "It's the small victories."
Ron sniggered softly, the laughter brief against the unhappiness suffocating the room. It lingered around their voices, betraying the poise in their tones. He swallowed the laughter as if he thought it wasn't allowed in the room. "Uh…you should know, then, that Hermione's in the library now."
"Along with Neville, Ginny, Luna, Pansy, and Draco." He had tried to keep his own tone easy, but the bitterness still managed to worm its way in. "I was actually on my way to drag Dra-"
"I don't want to know." Ron's face flushed with a bright red.
"Come on, you know he's not that bad."
"He's okay, I guess." Harry almost died from shock at the grudging admission. "He's a good chess player. And he forced you to spend time with me. But he's still a ferret."
"Yeah, he's a right git." Harry snickered. "I wouldn't call him a ferret though, not even mouthed. He can now lip-read it."
"How does that even happen?"
"Because he's a narcissist git." Harry could picture Draco sitting up in the library, ears tingling and eyes narrowing at the thought. He had a sixth sense to know when someone was talking about him. "He also took away my voice for a day, and that's all I called him."
"I don't want to know whatever kinky-"
Harry laughed, and the weight wearing his thin heart lifted.
"I can't believe you got a tattoo!" Harry chuckled as Ron gaped at his forearm; his expression was a mixture between disbelief and awe. "I mean…when? How?"
"We snuck out." Harry shrugged, grinning at the raised eyebrows he was subjected to at his answer. "Oi, like you can talk. We used to sneak into the bloody forbidden forest!"
Ron made a noise between a grunt and a snort. Harry didn't know if he was acknowledging their exploits, or denying their importance. "How doesn't anyone know about this? Why aren't there rumours?"
Harry shrugged, watching his dragon sleep on his forearm. It really was absolutely exquisite; with each exhale, a stream of inked smoke drifted up his arm. Every time he stared at the tattoo he found something new to wonder about. He would never regret this decision. "Probably because Ginny already told everyone I had a tattoo years ago. Remember? You had one too."
"Don't remind me." Ron grimaced at the memory.
"Besides, Slytherins are actually really good at keeping secrets. They've been…uh…quiet."
And the elephant they had been avoiding stomped back into the room.
Ron sighed, trying to force a sheepish smile on his face; it was a failed effort. Harry could just about follow his thoughts; the Weasley family would probably know sometime in the next couple of days, and he would receive a mixture of letters and cakes in the mail. He could picture Mrs Weasley storming through the front gates to force him into a hug.
"So…let's get the awful questions out of the way." He ended up saying, as if bracing himself. Harry just waited quietly, leaning back in his chair. He already knew what the first one would be.
Ron wasn't expecting that; it would have been comical that his eyes widened and his mouth gaped if he didn't seem so disturbed. Harry had already anticipated that he would know what it was; most of the purebloods did. It was as if it was whispered to them as children, something to be afraid of.
"But…that means your magic-"
His horrified expression didn't diminish. "Your magic…"
"Yes. We've established that."
"…fuck." Ron slumped in his chair, his hands reaching to rub at his eyes. Then he jumped up, face pale. "But…that means… It's already been months since-!"
Harry allowed himself a small smile, letting the numbness take place over his mind again. It was the only way he could deal with the next answer. "Yes, Ron." He'd passed his expected expiration date.
Ron just stared at him numbly; he didn't seem to know what to say. He also appeared bewildered about Harry's bluntness. Eventually he closed his mouth with a small shake of his head, and turned to the dormitory staircase.
"Where are you going?" Harry asked quietly, resigned to letting himself quietly out of the common room as Ron began his grieving process.
"There's only one way to deal with this shitty bloody news, and that's grog. Wait here, I'm getting Dean's stash."
Waking wasn't such a chore after the activities of the previous night, despite his alcohol engulfed brain throbbing against his skull. Harry's elation had lingered through the night to buzz around him, snatching up smiles without his notice.
Being summoned to McGonagall's office before breakfast didn't stifle his twitching lips.
And surprisingly enough, neither did the teary eyed Molly Weasley, as she snatched him into a hug the moment the door had swung open. Well, his estimations had been off.
Harry could only blink in shock at the choking hair, and the tight grasp. Her hands clung to his cloak with trembling fingers, remarkably portraying sturdiness, if anything. They trailed along his back with soothing gestures; it made Harry's lips twitch. He was certain those hands were measuring his bulk.
He brought his own arms up quickly, curling around her stout frame; a faint aroma of food clung to her hair, as if it was trying to pull Harry closer. It was certainly succeeding; Harry wouldn't be surprised if she pulled some cakes from her purse and force them into his willing hands.
She let go as quickly as she had grabbed him in lieu for giving him a solid whack on his arm. Seconds later, she had pulled him in for another tight hug.
George caught his eye near McGonagall's desk, shrugging with forged bewilderment at his mother's actions. There was an emptiness in his eyes, and an 'F' on his jumper, but he somehow managed a small grin back at Harry.
"What the hell is that?" Harry stopped short just as he reached the Slytherin table for lunch, grimacing at the torturous device Pansy had clutched possessively in her claws. Her expression sported a menacing grin as she held her new apparatus, her eyes a gleaming promise to put it to good use. He felt his stomach sink at the sight. "Why do you have it?"
"It was a present." She grinned, fingers tapping dangerously along the side of it. Harry dodged out of the way as it was pointed towards him, scowling at Pansy's excited laugh at his reaction. "What's the matter, Scarhead? Scared of little old me?"
"With that in your possession? Yes. Yes I am." He turned to the other two, arms gestured wide. "And why haven't you two stopped her?"
"Yes, Blaise." Theo snarled from beneath his arms; he had hidden his face, and was currently gripping his hair with white knuckles. He seemed the epitome of distressed. "Why does she have it?"
"You're overreacting!" Harry turned his incredulous gaze on Blaise, who was a mixture between exasperated and uncomfortable. Oh, he wouldn't-!
"Don't tell me you gave it to her." Harry couldn't help the moan as Theo whacked Blaise's arm, slumping onto the table himself. Sitting across from Pansy, especially today, meant he had to be vigilant. Fantastic. "Why? For the love of God…why?!"
"Because he's fantastic." Pansy volunteered, caressing the device with a smirk. "I said I was bored, and he conjured this from his trunk."
Harry groaned loudly, following Theo's exceptional advice by hiding his face with his hands. Gone were their days of peace and quiet. No, now they had this to watch out for. And knowing Pansy she would be hiding around every corner, sneaking into the boys' dormitory…waiting for a chance when their guard was low. When their reactions were seconds too slow…
"What the hell is that?" Harry's laugh was painful as Draco joined the table, repulsion evident in his voice. A glance through his fingertips saw that he couldn't hide his open horror, either. He sat next to Harry warily, as if he didn't want to provoke Pansy. "Don't you dare point that contraption at me."
"Of course not Sweetie." The innocence in her voice didn't fool anyone.
Harry turned back to Blaise, who was looking rather pleased with himself. Didn't he realise he wasn't exempt from Pansy's attention? The girl did what she wanted, and he had just given her a weapon! "Why? Why would you do this?" He asked, laughing as Draco's attention snapped across the table.
"You are responsible for this?"
"I don't see what the problem is!" Oh, poor naive Blaise. "It's just a-"
"Years we've kept her preoccupied with other things." Theo decided to pipe up, throwing a filthy glare at his housemate. "We've managed to avoid this situation."
Harry glanced at Pansy, who was beaming with the attention on her. She seemed quite content with the way this was turning out. Oh, she knew the power she suddenly had in her hands.
"For Merlin's sake!" Blaise shoved himself to his feet, arms held out with extravagant exasperation. Harry found himself smirking at the display, still hidden in his hands. "It's just a camera!"
A small click, and a flash of bright light.
They all froze, eyes collectively on the grinning Pansy. "One."
And it began.
Harry swore to himself as he jerked from the bed, fumbling to throw his clothes on and pack his bag at the same time. Those bastard Slytherins had let him sleep through breakfast! Sure, they had made a fair few comments the night previously about how tired he seemed, but he didn't expect them to act on it!
They would have had to sneak around with minute actions to not wake him, considering he woke with every shift besides him. He didn't know how Draco had managed to escape the bed without disturbing him; they usually slept in a tangle of limbs.
It would have been funny, picturing them tiptoeing around the room if he wasn't twenty minutes late for Transfiguration.
He shoved some parchment into his bag, searching manically for his Charms essay due in the next class. There! He hopped over to it, shoving his foot into a shoe on the way, putting his finger through it as he snatched it up…what the hell was that?
Harry blinked, grabbing the photo numbly.
It was a picture of a sleeping Harry and Draco; his head was on Draco's shoulder, the blondes face pressed into his untamed hair. They shifted in the photo, a sigh of contentment drifting from Draco's lips.
They were going to have to figure out a way to lock Pansy out of the boy's dormitory; last night had already demonstrated the Blaise the fruit of his mistake as the crazy girl casually strolled into the bathroom while he was showering, grin on her face and camera in tow.
Harry placed the photo back on the table, wary about the tightness in his chest. He grabbed up his bag instead, and bolted towards the classroom. He would be lucky to make the last twenty minutes.
His journey to the classroom was filled with many profanities about his wonderful Slytherin roommates, and cursing the distance of the dungeons in comparison to just about every class. Why did it have to be so bloody far?
Harry staggered around the doorway, apology flying from his lips before he caught breath. "I'm sorry I'm late..." It wasn't McGonagall's tight smile that brought his excuse to an abrupt end, or her raised eyebrows. It was the empty room.
He gaped at the empty desks and tried to ignore the sinking sensation of his stomach. He had thought he was simply running late; he hadn't imagined missing the class completely.
"Well, I don't think it would be fair to rouse on you." While she seemed irritated on the outside, her eyes were twinkling with unchecked amusement. Harry's jaw shut warily. "While you may not be the most punctual, you are present."
Harry couldn't help gesturing at the room, bewildered that an entire class had disappeared. "I…all of them?"
"Seems like it."
"I'm as flummoxed as you. Take a seat." Harry couldn't hide his exasperation; he was the only one in attendance, and she planned on continuing the class schedule? Those utter bastards who hadn't told him of their little revolt…oh. She was reaching for the infamous biscuit tin.
Harry flopped into the closest desk, chest still heaving. He had run like a moron this morning. He had fled through the corridors as if his heels were on fire…for a non-existent lesson. That was energy he didn't have squandered.
He glanced around the room again, sighing under his breath. It was no coincidence. Wherever they were, they were together.
Slytherins and Gryffindors working together.
It didn't bode well for anyone.
McGonagall didn't seem perturbed. She placed the biscuit tin in front of Harry, and summoned a chair to her position. They sat with only the desk and a heavy silence between them.
Harry was going to murder those traitors. Why had they let him sleep in? Why hadn't they told him they were skipping the class? His hands itched to rip the Marauders Map from his bag and search for the deserters.
McGonagall noticed his nervousness, but thankfully misinterpreted the meaning. "You don't need to be worried; you barrelled in here like a troll was on your tail. It's obvious you are not a part of this current scheme." Though her words were intended to be soothing, Harry felt as if something was lodging in his throat. Why hadn't any of them involved him?
To avoid initiating this situation more than anything, Harry grabbed a handful of biscuits, and began nibbling on them. He wasn't hungry, he rarely was lately, but it was something to preoccupy his mouth. Unfortunately, McGonagall didn't have such reservations.
"How are you, Harry?" Such a tiny little sentence and yet nearly impossible to answer. How was he supposed to tell someone he respected that he was a mixture of numb, terrified, or miserable?
Harry found himself resigned to this discussion, and put on his best mask. He was learning from the best, after all. "I'm fine." Her expression was one of polite disbelief. "I mean, I'm coping fine."
"You've seemed happier of late." She remarked, smiling as Harry just shuffled uneasily in his chair. How was he supposed to reply to that? "I'm glad, despite your incessant need to break several school rules within a twenty four hour period."
"If it's any consolation, I don't have a set number in mind each day."
She took a biscuit herself, shaking her head. "It seems spending time in Slytherin has done you some good. Although I don't think I'll ever get used to you wearing their tie." She eyed it as if it was a personal insult, and she probably considered it one. Harry shrugged, though. He hadn't been allowed an opinion on it; it was kind of forced upon him.
"I didn't really get a choice in the matter; they got offended every time I tried to put my Gryffindor one back on. They acted as if I was committing treason or something. Sometimes it's just easier to go with it."
"If I could offer a diplomatic solution?" She waited for his wary nod before continuing. "Don't wear either tie."
"Er, but wouldn't that be breaking another school-"
"At this point, Harry, who's counting?" He politely didn't remind her that she had just noted his rule breaking tendencies minutes ago. Instead, because it seemed as if she was waiting for some reaction to her advice, he loosened the Slytherin tie around his throat, and slowly took it off. He tried to ignore the guilt that the action produced.
He nibbled on another biscuit, sighing inwardly. She didn't invite him to sit down to talk about his uniform.
"Madam Pomfrey informed me that you visited the other night." Here we go. McGonagall stared at him over her half-moon spectacles, using the gaze that had many students sweating at forgotten homework or petty jinxing fights. "The first visit in a long while." Still, technically, no question. Harry took another small bite from his biscuit, his expression one of casual interest. "Why haven't you been attending the hospital wing on a regular basis?"
Harry barely caught his snort, and from her steady gaze, she knew it. He had to take a few minutes to smooth his features and answer without sarcasm seeping into his response.
"I don't need to." He finally replied, ignoring how stupid it sounded to the both of them. "I have my potions from Mungo's. I just ran out of a bruise healing salve at that time." Only because Pucey Junior, Hogwarts black-market entrepreneur, couldn't keep up with Harry's requests. He was using the healing salves quicker than Pucey could stock them.
"You haven't had a…adverse reaction recently?"
Harry blinked, for once not worried about answering truthfully. "I have. Several."
"But you're not using Madam Pomfrey?"
Harry just stared at her, mystified. Of course he wasn't going to go to Pomfrey. She made him feel pathetic and weak. She made him feel sick. He would rather have his magic hurt him on a daily basis than have to withstand her pity. "She wasn't helping." He ended up saying, watching with satisfaction as she nodded minutely.
"She's not a Palliative Healer." The words were said tentatively, as if Harry was fragile. He found himself curling his arms over his chest, frowning. Neither was Draco, or the other Slytherins for that matter, and they didn't cringe at the sight of him. And, worse, he had the sneaky suspicion they still hadn't ventured into the conversation McGonagall sought. "It has been difficult for her to manage with this situation. She hasn't been coping."
"Neither was I." Harry replied quietly, averting his eyes as the unhappiness she had been withholding trickled back into her eyes. He shuffled uncomfortably in his seat, cursing the absent class for forcing this situation on him.
"Harry," Oh, no. Her voice was worse than her stare; Harry found himself staring at odd pieces of furniture around the room. "I…just wanted you to know, that every decision I've made this year, or tried to make, has been what I considered the best option at the time, for everyone involved."
He forced his eyes up to meet hers.
"I don't have a habit of making mistakes, but this year was riddled with them. I hope I didn't cause you too much unhappiness." Her lips were trembling slightly, as if they were being held still by pure willpower alone. She was genuinely upset. She regretted her choices, and it looked as if it was eating her up inside. At the moment she wasn't the powerful Headmistress that everyone admired and sometimes feared…she was an aging woman with an inconceivable amount remorse.
His grudge slipped through his fingers.
"As weird as this is going to sound," Harry tried to smile, but found he couldn't. "This has been one of my favourite years at Hogwarts."
Her incredulous laugh was worth it.
Harry left the room with a wavering mind frame.
On one hand, he had just recovered his injured relationship with his favourite Professor. She had explained in unrequired detail her thought process surrounding each decision, and he had quietly told her of his reasons for fighting against them. She had even agreed that her communication had been negligent this year. It was both astounding, and uncomfortable. But it had had its pleasant moments, too.
She had informed him that she was present the night he had been left on the doorstep of Privet Drive; he hadn't been aware of that.
And she listened when he explained about everything he had missed the summer he had been admitted into Mungo's; the funerals, rebuilding Hogwarts, summer at the Weasley's. It was nice to just talk and know that you're being listened to.
But now he had to consider the absent classmates, and his happiness was quickly fading into numbness. He had scanned the map quickly, unsurprised that they were all crowded together.
It was bound to happen soon enough.
Harry ambled unhurriedly down the staircase, sighing to himself the entire time. He could feel his anger bubbling under the surface again, but it was a distant thought. The detachment had control for this excursion.
He entered the Great Hall quietly, approaching the group of rebelling students huddled around the Gryffindor table. Books were sprawled along the surface, spare bits of parchment, a couple of half devoured sandwiches. Crumpled tissues.
Draco's gaze landed on him instantaneously, that bloody sixth sense that he had entered a room obviously still working like a charm. But he didn't sound the alarm; that was scary in itself. He wanted this to happen.
So be it.
"What are you all doing?" Harry asked quietly, watching as a hush fell over the eighth year cohort like a wave, and heads swivelled towards him. There were different expressions amongst his peers.
Determination in Ron's. Seamus wore sadness. Dean, guilt. So many emotions. Resolve, hopelessness, uncertainty. Ernie Macmillan looked overwhelmed, and Michael Corner sat stunned. Millicent Bulstrode and Daphne Greengrass wore identical expressions of boredom.
There was no enthusiasm in sight.
"You missed Transfiguration. And the way we're going, we're going to be late for Charms."
Harry waited as they all glanced at one another, trying to find someone courageous enough to give their little pack a voice. Draco had slowly raised to his feet as soon as Harry made himself known, but he didn't utter a word. It was concerning that his expression was blank, hidden away beneath his familiar mask.
It was Hermione that spoke, voice calm. She had had weeks to prepare for this confrontation. "We're not going to class, Harry." She replied softly.
"Because there are some things more important than lessons." Her voice broke a little at that. Her eyes were already watering; if it wasn't for Ron wrapping his hand around her shoulders, the tears swelling in her eyes would already be kissing her cheeks.
Harry glanced to his left, catching a sniffling Patil twin. His insides twisted painfully.
"I…appreciate the gesture," The detachment made it sound colder than he wanted. "But I would rather everyone just go to class. You're not going to pass your exams if you skip."
"Exams aren't important." Seamus pipped up, frowning as he turned his gaze on him instead. "Come on, Harry. Can't you see everyone's here to try to help you-"
"You'd all be helping me by attending Charms." Harry cut across him, fists clenching as the numbness wavered.
"We're not changing our minds." Neville met his glare head on. "There's no point-"
"No point?" Yeah, the impassiveness had fled. "What about this?" It was an effort not to bellow at them all; why didn't they understand? He would much rather they all attend class, a small semblance of normalcy in his chaotic life, than ignore him and spend their time researching these ridiculous notions.
"This is how we've decided to spend our time."
Harry shook his head, barely listening as they started throwing around their excuses and justifications. He couldn't believe this. This was what he had tried to avoid.
"We're going to help you! It's the bloody least we can do."
He stared at them all, deaf to their reasons. Guilt had driven them to do this, and a sense of obligation had them stay.
His eyes flicked up to meet Draco's, not caring that it was a silent plea to stop them. But the grey eyes just blinked back at him, unaccommodating. The Slytherin was going to allow this to happen because he didn't want to consider the inevitable outcome. Tch, and he had claimed Harry was in denial.
"Fine." Harry cutting across their explanations brought an abrupt silence back to the hall. His eyes didn't leave Draco's. "You want to know about it? Ask me. You don't have to sneak behind my back."
It was more of an admission than he would have preferred to give; he couldn't deny he was sick now. Gone was his optimism that his disease would stay restricted information. The school would know by lunchtime, the wizarding world by tomorrow's breakfast.
"You know we're not here to search for symptoms or facts." It was Hermione's soft voice that made him give in.
A feral sound escaped his throat, tearing its way free as he tore his gaze away from Draco's calming stare. His arms flew up in a wide gesture as a snarl croaked its way to the surface. "I'm dying!"
Most of the cohort couldn't meet his stare at that; they hid their eyes, staring at the table or the ceiling instead. Only a few still faced him, and they wore a grim determination now that he had finally admitted it. He would have to go further.
"There's no point in this research, because I'm not going to survive the year! There's not going to be a miraculous save or cure at the right or last fucking moment! I'm going to die, and there's nothing you lot can do to stop it!"
Their determination hadn't faltered.
"You're throwing your grades away for no reason! I'm sure you'll look back on this time fondly, when you have no qualifications, a shitty N.E.W.T. mark, and a job you hate because you couldn't get the scores!" He ran a hand through his messy hair, frowning as no one moved. Why weren't they moving?
"We're trying to secure you a future-!" Hermione started, jolting to her feet angrily. She had the most of the books scattered around her, thick tomes that looked painful to read. Her eyes were red.
"I don't have one!" Harry shouted back, exasperated. "This is it!"
"What else are we supposed to do?" She yelled back, "We're grasping at straws! We know we are! But what choice do we have? Sit back and watch as you die?"
And Harry couldn't answer her. Because yes, that is exactly what he wanted them to do. Sit back and pretend everything was fine. Live in obliviousness.
He glanced back at Draco, a silent appeal for help.
Hermione didn't need an answer. She stumbled from the table, sniffling as she barrelled into him. She sobbed softly onto his shoulder, her arms curling around his back. They stilled for a moment, measuring his bulk, before tightening and squeezing him almost painfully.
He shouldn't have admitted it.
He brought his own arms up to hug her back, still unable to answer her question. Instead he buried his own face in her hair, glancing out of the corner of his eye to watch the others. Some of the girls were sobbing, the boys looked between a mixture of uncomfortable and upset.
They were already grieving.
Harry shut his eyes, unable to face them.
This is what he had wanted to avoid.
And, worse, it hadn't escaped his notice that Draco had already re-joined the other Slytherins, pulling yet another tome towards himself. His stubbornness wasn't going to soften the blow come the end of the year.
"I didn't want them to know." Harry sighed as he slumped onto Draco's bed, kicking his shoes hap-hazardously across the room. One flung onto Theo's bedside table, knocking a book to the ground. "You knew I didn't want…that."
That was the only way to encapsulate the peculiarity of the day. The majority of the eighth graders didn't attend a single class that day. Not a single one. They read their ridiculous books and parchments, made notes, pulled them from sight come lunch, and then resumed until dinnertime. The house-elves even routinely brought up sandwiches. Ginny and Luna had joined them for the afternoon.
It was as awful as Harry expected it to be.
The pitying glances, the empty words of comfort. The façade that everything was going to be alright.
He couldn't make Hermione understand why he called it a 'diagnostic'. It was what a trainee called it to try to explain what they were doing during his first session, and the name had stuck. They were determining how his magic was mutilating him each time. His experience wasn't going to change with terminology.
And then the offers came. Would he like them to sit with him for his next session? What could they do to help him? Did he want company on Tuesday?
It was that that had him stumble from the hall. He couldn't deal with it. If they wanted to waste their time they could do it without hurting him. He could feel the bewildered stares following him as he made his escape, but he didn't care. He didn't have the time for tact.
"It was taking too long." Draco replied evenly, taking off his robe and tie without so much of a glance in Harry's direction. He was unapologetic. "I had too many cases to go over."
"Cases?" Harry frowned, watching as Draco propped up a pillow and pulled another book over to his lap. He wasn't going to stop reading. "Where are you getting…oh." Draco spared him a quick glance, judging his reaction. "You've dragged Healer Harris into this, haven't you?"
"She came willingly." Draco drawled, turning back to his book. Harry couldn't squish the irritation down, at being disregarded. "And the others are just added eyes. I doubt they're going to find anything, but they're useful for cutting down the unusable information."
"And what about my opinions?" Harry asked, crossing his arms angrily. "Or do my wants just not matter?"
"Of course you matter; you're not affianced to a dictator. It just so happens that your opinions are wrong in this regard." Draco muttered, turning the page. It was either he didn't understand that Harry felt betrayed by the activities of the day, or he didn't care.
Harry slumped onto his pillow, scowl across his face. He didn't care about the tantrum vibe he was giving. He just felt so…worthless. It was as if he was just a hindrance. "Great. This again."
"This?" Draco's voice was laced with feigned confusion, but his eyes still didn't leave his book. "What 'this' are you-?"
"The bloody fiancé joke. Does it matter that I'm sick of that too?"
Draco's eyes finally left his book, opting to focus on him instead. Harry would usually be mildly worried that he had provoked that concentrated stare, but at the moment he couldn't care less. He shouldn't have to compete with a book for courtesy of Draco's attention; he didn't have the time.
"There's nothing I can do about that." Draco eventually drawled, "Do you remember that rather strange article about us at the beginning of the year?"
"Everyone with half a brain knows that it was rubbish."
"About a tenth of the wizarding population, then. That still leaves a rather large amount of idealistic simpletons. Tell me, Harry," Why did it feel as if he was going to regret this conversation? "Are you a simpleton?"
"We." Harry gestured between them both, making sure to speak slowly so the great git would listen. "Are. Not. Engaged." Why was he smirking? Did he think this was funny? "I doubt we're even dating. In fact, I'd go as far to say that you're just my stalker."
"Are you suggesting this is nothing more than a Stockholm and Lima situation?" Harry had no idea what he was talking about. What did a Swedish city have to do with them? "Oh, my thick little Scarhead." Harry frowned warily as the book was snapped shut and dropped to the bedside table, forgotten. The fact that Draco was revelling in this conversation was a good cause for caution. "I wonder what type of stalker that makes me? An intimacy seeker? Predatory? I assume it started as simply resentful stalking."
"You seem to know an awful lot about this. Should I be worried?"
"Course not; I've captivated you." Draco snorted, eyes trailing down Harry's form to rest at his hands. His lips twitched. "And as your pursuer, I find it odd that you, the pursued, keep bringing up the topic of engagement."
"Me?" Harry spluttered, "I'm not the one that sprouts this nonsense."
Draco tutted as he rolled off the bed, smirk spreading across his face. He crossed to his trunk, settling on his hunches as he rummaged through it. It was as if an alarm had gone off, setting Harry on alert. He could feel himself tensing. He was under no delusion that the pretentious git had his trunk in perfect order, so the searching was just an exaggerated act. And with the present topic of conversation, nothing he could retrieve would bode well for either of them.
"We're not engaged, he sighs, as he swoons over the bed." Draco mocked, grinning as he snapped the trunk lid shut. He stalked back to the bed, jumping back into his previous position almost playfully. "No one believes our relationship, so I must validate it by a public display of snogging."
"I took a vow of silence to prove my love."
"You're such a-!"
"I've already planned a winter wedding."
"That's you." Harry immediately regretted his decision to poke Draco in the chest as a hand snatched up to meet his. He tried to jerk it back, done with this joke, but Draco's grip was iron. His eyes were glinting mischievously. "You're the one with your heart stuck on winter!"
"And yet you still believe I'm jesting?" Harry grit his teeth as another jerk of his hand failed to free himself. "Am I one to jest?"
"Let go of my hand." Harry tried instead, something akin to a growl sneaking out as Draco laughed.
"But I need it." The git was still smirking. "As your stalker, I need to claim you somehow."
"You see that rather pretentious tattoo poking its head out from under my sleeve? Do you see that dragon?"
Draco ignored him, procuring a small velvet pouch in his other hand. Harry couldn't believe what he was seeing; this was not happening.
So while Draco was fumbling with his single free hand to open the pouch, Harry flung himself backwards. He managed to jerk himself free, but the momentum had him toppling over the side of the bed moments later.
It was hard not to feel like a complete dolt as he sprawled on the icy stone floor of the dormitory, especially since a grinning Draco popped his head over the side of the bed.
"That was a magnificent fall. I'm going to pensieve it so I can watch it time and time again." Harry didn't doubt he would. "Such an unwarranted reaction." It was infuriating how much Draco seemed to be enjoying this conversation.
That had Harry scoffing, shoving himself up into a sitting position. It brought them nose to nose. "I actually think that it was the perfect reaction considering you've pulled out a jewellery bag while we were talking about our lack of engagement."
"Utterly unjustified response." Draco repeated, conjuring the little pouch with a flourish of his hand. It was amazing how such an insignificant inanimate object could cause such uneasiness. Harry actually recoiled as it was tossed his way; he only caught it because of his seeker reflexes. "It's probably not what you're thinking."
Ah. That was somewhat comforting.
Harry glanced at the pouch before searching Draco's face for any kind of deception. But, oddly enough, his face was calm for once. Not an ounce of haughtiness or dishonesty in sight. A little smile played on his lips, and there was a new emotion in his eyes. Harry couldn't place it, and it was that which made him yank the bag open. This was the kind Draco only Harry got to see, and he was damned if he was going to pull the sarcastic git back into action.
Another suspicious glance at the blonde, and Harry tipped the bag onto his hand.
A ring fell onto his palm.
"You bastard." Harry found himself yelling, clenching his fists and cringing as the ring dug into his palm. "It's exactly what I was thinking!"
Draco was grinning again, unapologetic as he shrugged. "Probably. There was always the chance."
"What am I supposed to do with this?" Harry spluttered, holding up the bloody thing. It was a simple black band, with green gems curling around it. It reminded Harry of a snake.
"Well, there is a strange phenomenon wherein you wear it." Draco smirked from the safety of the bed. "I don't know the muggle custom, so you may have to follow mine."
Harry was floundering. He didn't know what to say or do in this situation. This crazy fucking situation which he wouldn't have imagined in a million years. Draco Malfoy, currently lounging on his bed with a smirk glued to his ferrety face, had literally thrown a ring at Harry.
"You can't be serious." Was all Harry could utter; his mind, on the other hand, had plenty to say about the matter. It was being very articulate whilst searching for exit points. Its main vocabulary surrounded a plethora of curses. "I mean…"
"Serious about what exactly?" It was a surprise he could speak through the grin. "I just gave you a gift."
"A bloody ring!" It was all Harry could do to keep the panic at bay. "While we were talking about fucking marriage!"
"Hey, you're the one that brought it up, target of my stalking tendencies."
It was as if Draco was waiting for Harry to react a certain way, or say a particular phrase. He knew exactly what the blonde wanted, but…
Harry tore his eyes from Draco's in lieu of staring at his own skinny limbs. He was losing significant amounts of weight, he couldn't use magic anymore…and what was the last thing? Oh, right. He was likely to be dead by the end of the school year!
He couldn't help the sigh, but he was surprised when he didn't regret the disappointment that flooded through his body. It made his limbs feel heavy and tired.
The shocked anger fled as weariness took its usual place at the frontier of Harry's emotions.
He managed a small smile, somehow. "Come on, Draco." Said blonde's expression didn't alter except for a single eyebrow rising. "I'm not…" Another sigh managed to tear its way out in exasperation as Draco still wasn't coming forth with any helpful words. So Harry managed a tired gesture at himself, and the skinny limbs and the loose pyjamas. "I'm…I mean, what's the point?"
"In being happy?" Draco finally offered, causing Harry to glower. This quizzical bullshit was getting old.
"I don't have…" Time. Long to live. Health. "I mean, I'm…" Sick. Dying. Going to utterly shatter your icy heart.
"You're Harry Potter." While Draco's expression was set on carefully neutral, his tone was as stubborn and definitive as always. He spoke as if that single sentence should have wiped any ill attitudes from the discussion. "You're mine. Now put on the damn ring."
"I haven't said yes."
"I didn't ask." Draco smirked, still lounging easily across the bed. He could have been speaking about the breakfast menu for all his reactions.
Harry opened his fist to stare at the small piece of jewellery. He had never worn jewellery before. The Dursley's hadn't provided Harry with clothes his size; they certainly weren't about to buy him something extravagant like a ring, or a necklace. The time-turner was probably the only time he had worn anything of accessory variety, and that had been a shared usage situation.
"I think you should wear it." Harry muttered instead, ignoring the loud scoff from the bed.
"Defeats the purpose."
"What purpose?" Despite the nerves and apprehension twisting around in his stomach, Harry actually managed a smirk of his own. "A purity ring?" Draco's expression of pure horror was worth every fretting thought jumbling up inside his head at his next action.
Harry slipped the ring onto his finger, on his right hand, and held it up to show Draco.
"I gave it my best shot." He declared, waving his hand around to show the band twirling against his finger. While it was a handsome ring, it was also a few sizes too large. If he wore it he was bound to lose it.
Harry tried not to understand why slithers of disappointment were summoned to mind at the sight.
"I'll get you a chain." Draco countered immediately. "I can't get it resized; it was my grandfathers. I don't think anybody has been able to wear it since the old coot died; his hands must have been gigantic."
Harry didn't pull it off immediately. He couldn't, not with that grin.
Extraordinarily, with the sight of Draco lounging across the bed with his arms dangling over the side and a grin stretched across his cheeks, Harry incredulously found his own lips twitching upwards.
He leant back on one arm, sighing through his widening smile. This ridiculousness was-
A flash of white light illuminated the room.
In less than the second it took Harry to glance over, Pansy had already bolted through the dormitory door, cloak whipping behind her. Camera, he was sure, clutched against her chest.
"You were wrong, by the way. Again." Harry rolled his eyes as he threw on the horrible hospital robes, shaking his head at Draco's drawl. He was never right, according to the Slytherin.
"What about his time?" He tried to imitate Draco's drawl, but from the incredulous snort he received as a response, he must have failed epically. He deliberately ignored the group of Healers that bustled about the room; if he focused on Draco, it didn't seem so bad.
"You said Theo and Pansy have been dancing around one another, and I called you deluded. I was right."
"Not Theo, Blaise."
"You never said Blaise." Draco smirked, slumping onto the bed with an air of restlessness. He didn't seem to care about his whereabouts. "Though I would never have guessed about those two, either."
"I called it ages ago!" Harry declared, huffing at the shake of a head he got in response. The blonde even tutted.
"Then you should have said."
"I bloody did!"
Harry made a noise akin to a growl, throwing himself dramatically on the pile of pillows on the bed. It made the Slytherin snigger, but he didn't make a remark about Harry's childishness.
"This is the one thing I've been right about all year." Harry shook his head incredulously, "And you're not even giving me this."
"It was obvious." Draco continued as if Harry hadn't spoken, eyes glinting in the dull light of the room. "I mean, he gave her a bloody camera. The smitten fool. I don't know how you didn't notice."
Harry didn't think it deserved an answer; the git was going to continue to tease him despite what he said. Instead, he relaxed into the pillows and studied the prat. Mirth played in his eyes, and a grin stretched against his lips. He hadn't stopped grinning in days, despite the fact the storm had finally broken.
They had ventured up to breakfast three days ago to find a silent hall. Every eye was focussed on him; they studied his thin frame, his wary eyes, and his limp hair. They speculated, with a copy of the Prophet clutched in every hand. The questions began, the shouts.
Harry had turned to his seat in silence; the denial never left his lips.
The tears began, the sobbing. As if they personally knew him and his struggles; as if his pain was a reflection on them.
Hundreds of owls flocked into the hall, covering the Slytherin table with envelopes of various sizes. Harry couldn't have eaten even if he had an appetite; the owls flocked over him, dropping dozens of letters on his plate or sticking out their legs in a frenzied bunch.
He had tried to free the owls, but there was simply too many. It was overwhelming. Draco had dragged him from the hall quite quickly.
The next day was the same.
The day after, Draco had led him directly into the kitchens instead.
Harry, surprisingly, didn't find himself angry at whoever told the Prophet. He knew it was the fault of someone in his grade, but he didn't think it was intentional. Probably someone writing home to vent, and a family member decided to cash in on this information. It didn't have to be true for the papers to print the story, it was a happy happenstance.
And despite it all, Harry often found Draco grinning to himself when he thought no one was watching. Harry had no doubt that it was because of the bloody ring that dangled on a chain around his throat.
"So how are my boys today?" Trainee Kelly smirked as she entered the room, eyes lingering on Draco as the grin transformed into a scowl. It made Harry snort in amusement; of course the blonde git would find offence in that simply sentence.
"We're fine." Harry spoke before Draco could, effectively halting the derision ready on his lips. "Just tired. It's been a big week."
"Yeah, I read the article." She picked up his chart, scanning it with a small frown. "Guess someone from Slytherin decided they were being too dependable." It was said matter-of-factly, as if she had seen them eventually deciding there wasn't a point in protecting Harry's secret.
Harry couldn't help but bristle, glancing at Draco in affront. But he didn't seem perturbed that she was insulting his house. He just shrugged at the glance.
"Actually," Harry didn't know why he was suddenly so irritated. "It wasn't the Slytherins. They wouldn't do that."
She seemed surprised that he had defended them, but continued easily. "You don't know what they would do. Remember, I was a Slytherin for seven years. I know how they act."
"They must have changed somewhat from when you were at school, then."
She grinned at that, taking in his crossed arms and the small frown playing on his forehead. "Relax, kiddo. I wasn't trying to offend your friends. What good will antagonising do when I need to convince you to do something for me?"
Harry shrugged, glancing at Draco again. His scowl had slipped from his face too; instead he was staring at Kelly with something akin to wariness. He shook his head minutely, thinking Harry wouldn't notice.
Harry turned back to Kelly, frowning as he caught her fleeting look at the blonde, too. Suspicion curled up in his chest; what was going on?
"What do you need me to do?" Harry asked, curling his hands tighter across his chest. He pretended he didn't feel Draco stilling besides him.
Trainee Kelly continued on as if their actions weren't guarded. She was actually smiling.
"There's someone here that I'd like you to meet. He's an American Healer who specializes in research for rare wizarding illnesses, and he'd like to talk to you about the potential to-"
"No." Harry watched numbly at the exchanging of glances between Draco and Trainee Kelly. They both seemed a little thrown by his words; they hadn't expected this.
"Harry, he's come all the way from Boston to speak with you today; he's going to wait until after your session to try to explain to you-"
"No." He didn't feel sorry for cutting her words short. "I don't want to meet him."
"…You don't know what I'm about to tell you." Trainee Kelly didn't seem perturbed with his abruptness. She was definitely faring better than Draco; he had turned ridged. Harry opted for staring directly at his Healers, instead of the disbelief in Draco's gaze. "Can I have a reason why you don't want to meet one of, if not the, best researchers of the greater wizarding world? He only wants to talk to you, Harry."
It was just as shocking to Harry when a bitter laugh escaped his lips; he didn't expect anger to come into this conversation. He had thought guilt would be the main influence. "Maybe because I'm dying, and I've had enough?" He found himself snapping, and not caring that her eyebrows had shot into her hair. "I'm not spending any more time in this bloody hospital than I absolutely have to, and I have a feeling this talk will result in me dying in this hospital. So thanks, but no."
"I should have known it was never going to be easy with you." Draco finally sighed, rubbing his eyes with his hands in an oddly vulnerable display of exasperation. Harry found himself curling his arms around his chest at the sight; a little comfort to brace for the next fight. "Why don't you want to talk with this guy?"
"I just told you-"
"Why don't you want to-?"
"Why don't you-"
"Because there's no point!" Harry shouted, finally making Draco drop his hands and his question. He just stared blankly back. "I've accepted my situation-"
"No, you haven't." He didn't even raise his voice, the prick. "We haven't even told you what he's here for, and you're digging in your heels. My first year suspicions that you thrive on attention are turning out to be surprisingly accurate." He didn't have to yell to get his message across.
"Allow me to guess." Harry snarled back, ignoring the wide-eyed stares he was getting from the rest of the Healers, Kelly included. Apparently they hadn't been privy to Harry losing his temper before. "Those little study sessions have paid off; you've found some miraculous cure, pulled from thin air at just the right moment. Halle-fucking-lujah!" His sarcasm had corporal form. "This researcher is here to explain my new rounds of agony."
"Not a cure. An idea."
"An idea that involves me spending more time in this bloody ward."
"An idea that could get you out of this ward."
Draco didn't raise to his bait; he smiled softly, without amusement. His eyes were ice. "We're going to free you of magic."
Harry's mouth shut with a snap. His anger fled like the coward it always was, replaced again by the familiar numbness. He…he couldn't believe what he had just heard.
But Draco's face was one of absolute seriousness.
Harry forced his eyes to scan the room, taking in the determination in Kelly's eyes, and the absolute horror that frequented the other Healers. They seemed repulsed by the very statement, and cast their eyes away when Harry's met theirs. They couldn't bear to look at him.
They were serious. They were fucking serious.
He turned back to Draco.
"Free…" God, that word was disgusting in this context. "…me of my magic?" Surely, surely, this was just to grab his attention. He knew what magic had meant for Harry. He knew.
Draco was noticeably seething under the surface. He shrugged, as if he didn't care how Harry was failing to wrap his head around his ridiculous idea. "It's not as if you're using it."
Harry's anger snapped, and with it, his magic.
It shattered the lights with a blinding flash before throwing itself back at Harry. It collided, unrelenting as bones crunched and organs crushed under its excessive weight.
Harry crumpled in on himself, unaware of the lights flicking on in the room, and unable to force his screams into submission.
Draco paused his reading of the dreadful Witch Weekly magazine, the only reading material the hospital had on offer, eyes flitting to stare at Harry. He thought he had moved, but it must have been his imagination. He was as immobile as he had been all night, face a deathly pale and tubes attached to every visible limb.
He despised the use of the muggle devices; needles poked out from Harry's thin arms, and tubes were shoved down his throat, into his nose. It seemed unbearably invasive. One machine beeped every few seconds, a dull noise that apparently mimicked his heart beating. These machines were disgusting.
But without the use of spells, this was the best the Healers could do. They had shoved countless potions down his throat, uncaring as he spluttered and choked. They had a job to do, and his pain was secondary to his health, ironically. Then they had wheeled in these machines, and watched transfixed as one Healer attached them all; at least Draco wasn't he only one that felt uncomfortable with the excessive muggle apparatuses that suddenly overwhelmed the room.
Confirming that Harry wasn't waking, Draco turned back to his magazine, staring at the ridiculous articles with contempt. Surely witches didn't read this nonsense? One page stated the irrationality that surrounded current body image trends, and the next a recipe for a cake that seemed to be made purely from chocolate and icing. Then it dove into celebrity rumours. Ah, of course. A paragraph wondering what the how Wizarding Savour was doing at his schooling, and speculation over his job applications for the next year. It must be the previous addition; surely the next would be purely dedicated to their dying saviour.
Draco tossed it aside, unable to read anymore. He couldn't lie to himself, either. This was his fault.
Harry was lying there comatose because he had to make a snide remark. Malfoy prowess functioning as per usual.
Of course Harry had been angry and defensive. This was his magic. He had previously stated that it gave him his life; it had made him happy in a miserable childhood. Draco shouldn't have expected this to be an easy conversation; it was in Harry's reflexes to fight.
He had been naive to imagine that Harry valued his life above his magic.
And it hurt to acknowledge it.
Another movement to his left.
Draco glanced over, unable to keep the relief at bay as bleary eyes fluttered open. Thank Merlin.
It took several minutes before Harry could keep his eyes open; they kept drifting closed for seconds at a time, as if they were immensely heavy. His drowsiness and confusion were palpable, as he tried to move and instead a coughing fit materialized. The beeping machine next to his bed increased its pace, startling him even more.
"Stop panicking; you're fine." Harry's eyes searched the room, landing on him with difficulty. It was strange that Draco could distinguish the unnecessary amount of guilt in just one glance.
He dragged his chair into view, so Harry didn't have to strain to get a look at him. He was struggling enough as it was.
But that didn't mean Draco had to go easy on him.
He waited until the eyes stopped being quite so bleary, and focussed on him. How eyes could portray so much emotion was beyond him; he was tired, upset, confused, humiliated. It wasn't going to change Draco's mind about this conversation; he was unable to reply with the tubes down his throat, so this was the perfect chance to manipulate the situation.
"Your magic reacted to you being angry, as if you were a child unable to control your emotions." Harry blinked; he had obviously thought this conversation would come later, when he was on more equal footing. "It's going to kill you. You worship something that's killing you."
The green eyes closed, as if that would make Draco reconsider this tactic. No, he was far too selfish for that.
"You liken your sessions here to torture. I've heard you describe it akin to the cruciatus curse. And you would rather go through months of this useless agony, rather than letting the thing causing you this torment, to go? You would rather be tortured every week, and live in dread waiting for the next reaction, than be… what? You, again?"
Harry's chest was rising and falling quite quickly at the moment; Draco suspected that if he forced the fool to open his eyes, they would be watery.
"No, it's not good enough. You're going to listen to the American tomorrow morning, because magic doesn't make a wizard, Harry. You're not going to be any less of a person; it's not going to diminish you. I don't spend time with you because I love your magic, you Gryffindor prat." And here was the clincher. "You're going to listen to him because I'm asking you to. If you don't want to do it for you, do it for me, Harry. You value your magic over your life? Fine. But think about where I fit in there."
Draco stopped, reaching over to wipe away the single droplet that managed to escape closed eyes. He had him.
"If you even imagine yourself feeling unwell, come straight back." Harry didn't think that required a response, especially when Trainee Kelly turned to Draco as soon as the words had left her mouth. "Owl me if anything happens."
"Of course." Harry glanced at Draco at his careful tone. He hadn't made a comment the entire day. Instead, he threw weighted stares at Harry whenever someone had said something he agreed with, or thought Harry should take on board. Most of his day had been spent listening sullenly to the American, a Healer Yates, explain what he wanted to do. He had several ideas. Concepts. Nothing concrete. But he wanted Harry to be his guinea pig regardless.
It sounded painful, and exhausting.
And under Draco's steady gaze, he had agreed to try.
"For what it's worth, I think you're doing the right thing." Trainee Kelly was speaking to him again, but he barely acknowledged her. He was absolutely drained; after Yates' speech they had confirmed he was adequately healed, and dove straight into his usual session. He was supposed to return to Hogwarts, and spend the day dodging questions and pitying stares. And now they wanted to add on experimental treatments?
The exhaustion was going to kill him before his disease got the chance.
"Not many people get this chance. It took quite some convincing to get Healer Brown on board." Yippee-fucking-do. "It'll also help ratify the stigma that surrounds Succorben-"
"Can we just leave, already?" Harry sighed, rubbing his head as if it would ease the aching behind his skull. "I'm pretty tired." He felt rather than saw Draco's stare.
Kelly didn't seem perturbed. "Of course. I'll see you next Tuesday."
Harry curled his arms into a cross, and followed Draco through the open floo. Would it still transport him if he had no magic? Or did it not work on muggles? Or squibs? What would he be classified as? Certainly not a wizard.
Harry stumbled into McGonagall's office, snatching his hand away from Draco's as he tried to steady him. He knew the action must have stung, but he was too sullen to care. His magic. They were going to take his magic.
He exited the room without a word, listening to the steady footsteps of Draco falling in behind him. He knew those little study sessions couldn't possibly bring about anything good. All of his friends' brainpower clustered together…and this was their solution?
No. Surely there was some other way. And if there wasn't, maybe the best option would be to just accept the situation for what it was. Horrible, but unavoidable.
The very thought made him sick to his stomach.
Harry sighed to himself, and started climbing the staircase. He could feel Draco's confusion behind him, but the Slytherin didn't voice his curiosity at their destination. Fortunately, because he wasn't invited.
He needed to get away; just five minutes to himself, where he didn't have to be strong, or care about his helplessness. He just wanted five minutes to scream and shout and cry if the fancy took him. Because it already felt as if he was grieving.
Harry climbed in silence until he reached the seventh floor, and continued the familiar route. It wasn't as nostalgic as he had assumed it would be; the last time he had been in the room had been disturbing enough to cancel out any fond memories of sneaking down here under Umbridge's toadlike nose.
He walked past the wall three times, his thoughts jumbled. He didn't particularly care what room appeared for him; he just needed somewhere he could be alone.
A small door emerged before him, barely large enough for an adult to squeeze into.
Harry had no problem, falling onto the single mattress squashed inside before reaching out to pull the door shut behind him. The single light-globe flickered to life, revealing the few knight knickknacks on a makeshift shelf. It was even complete with the small spiders dangling from the slanted roof.
He couldn't sit upright easily anymore, so Harry flopped down on his back instead and let his mind wander, pretending he didn't care that Draco was, in all probability, waiting on the other side of the door on the off chance that Harry needed him.
He lasted a little more than five minutes before he relented and shoved the door ajar.
Draco climbed onto the mattress immediately, ignoring the cramped space in lieu of giving Harry a once over. When he was sated that he wasn't having an existential crisis or emotional breakdown, he simply shifted so he was lying down beside him.
His thumb came up to trace lines over Harry's palm. It was the softness of his touch that allowed the sobs to break free.