Author: sarka (Previously known as Miss Pince)
Rating: R (for language mostly)
Pairing: Draco Malfoy/Harry Potter – mentions of Ginny/Dean and Neville/Luna.
Prompt or Summary: ficlette said: I will infinitely love anyone who can pull off a good Slytherin!Harry/Gryffindor!Draco. Honestly. Kinks include: possessiveness, jealousy, ties, and secrecy.
Word Count: 12,800 words. Yeah, I know. *blushes*
A/N: The Bunny That Ate My Brain. ficlette, I didn’t get most of your kinks, but I hope you like this anyway. I moved one more character between houses, in order to get my idea to work. I owe a debt of gratitude to hildigunnur for sticking with me throughout, making suggestions and correcting my grammar. Also, thanks to salixbabylon for the miraculous beta.
After five years at Hogwarts, Draco Malfoy still happened, on occasion, to run up against some of his old ingrained house prejudices. While most of them had been either dismantled or discarded by now, some of them had turned out to be based in fact – even if he generally liked to take them with a grain of salt.
One of the things his father had taught him, back when Draco was still the Malfoy heir extraordinaire and the successor to the Dark Lord’s Second Lieutenant post, was that power did not matter as much as one might think. Disabused of his previous preconceptions, Draco figured that this was probably due to Lucius being a fairly weak wizard as wizards go, though an excellent scholar and an exemplary politician. Still, in the Dark Circles, it had been an accepted belief that among the four Hogwarts houses, the Gryffindors ranked the highest in power, followed by the Slytherins who tended to make up for what they lacked with smarts.
It was a truth fairly universally acknowledged, though, that when it came to sheer unbridled power, there was no match in their year for Hermione Granger. Who was currently rendering the Boy Who Refused to be Bumped Off to more or less jelly on the floor of the Room of Requirement – without speaking a word. He’d have to figure out something else to teach her soon. Preferably before she finished what the Dark Lord had started... Draco let himself wistfully dream of a World Without Harry Potter for a few seconds before remembering that he was a Gryffindor, a supposed defender of weaklings – even if the weakling in question had defied Voldemort five times and broken Draco’s nose the previous year.
“Granger! If Potter hasn’t gotten it by now, he isn’t going to!”
Granger lowered her wand, unabashed and eyed Potter critically.
“You’ve got to focus, Harry” she announced, as if that wasn’t evident. Her sparring partner was on the floor, sputtering from the after effects of a tickling curse, and replied to her commentary on his performance by glowering at her. Draco couldn’t really blame him. Before he got the chance to say anything, though – about focus or anything else – Granger’s eyes widened in alarm.
“DUCK!” she shouted, and Draco dropped to the floor without second thought. As he went down, he felt something brush by his head, and Granger jumped an impressive metre and a half to the side in order to avoid it, too. There was a loud, angry quacking sound and quite a few thumping noises at the door.
“Nev, mate. How did you do that?” Ron said in a slightly-awed whisper. Draco looked up at the duck that was trying to find a way out of the room, and then back at Neville who was standing there, open-mouthed and blushing. How did he get himself into these situations?
Draco didn’t return to his ruminations about power until the next meeting of the DA when a curse Potter had cast at Granger bounced off her shield charm and hit the large cabinet in the corner, reducing it to splinters the size of matchsticks.
Absently wondering what that curse had been and deciding he didn’t feel like knowing, he’d fixed the cabinet with a flick of his wand, only to have to do it again minutes later, when a stray Reductor curse from Neville hit it and smashed it again.
If he had to line up the most powerful people in his class, he had to admit that the list was populated by Gryffindors and Slytherins – but the power balance was tipped unusually considering what had been said to be the norm. Potter and Granger were the two most powerful people in the year, to start with. Then there were the Gryffindors – there were some who would be surprised to find Neville near the top of Draco’s list, but the sheer size of Nev’s frequent fuck-ups told Draco that Nev had some growing into his own skin to do. At least he was getting better at managing his power – though his aim was still shit, he thought tiredly, after picking himself up off the floor for the sixth time in an hour. Ron had power, obviously, though Draco suspected Ron had yet to find that they lay elsewhere than in brute strength. And then Luna and Draco himself. That meant two Slytherins, three Gryffindors and a Ravenclaw, with the two Slytherins undeniably at the top of the list. And Granger was smart, too – which was probably how she’d managed to survive in her house at all. A Muggle-born in Slytherin; it’d been the first surprise in a memorable Sorting Ceremony which had left a Malfoy in Gryffindor and The Boy Who Lived in Slytherin, and changed Draco’s life somewhat... dramatically.
“Potter,” he said tiredly once people had started leaving, “Which part of this are you just not getting? Have you figured that out?”
At the beginning of the DA meeting he’d given Granger a stack of books about magical warding, hoping to keep her researching for quite some time. She was too good at silent incantations to keep her practicing them and he hadn’t got anything planned yet after silent incantations, because a lot of people were having trouble with them. Potter he’d paired with Zabini who should have been no match for him but seemed to be getting the hang of the unspoken incantation a lot faster than The Boy Who Lived. Which brought him back to his original problem since a week ago; trying to get Scatterbrained Potter to focus his energies without having to resort to speaking.
“I know, I know, focus your mind, blah, blah. Act a little less like Snape, would you Malfoy? I’d hate to have to throw you against a wall.” There was a short silence while Potter reconsidered his words. “Wait, no. I’d love to. You were saying?”
“Look, Potter, I don’t know what history you’ve got with Professor Snape or what on earth possessed you to Protego his arse halfway across the classroom last week but obviously he had the long and the short of it. You can’t focus your mind. Any particular reason he knows that? Any particular reason you can’t?”
Potter glared at him.
“Mind your own business, Malfoy.”
“Suit yourself. Just trying to do my bit to save the world. Never mind me.” He turned on his heel and stalked to the door. His bad mood lasted until he’d climbed through the portrait hole into Gryffindor common room.
“Ferret!” Ron hollered from his favourite chair next to the fireplace. Draco made his way over, observing as he went that unless Neville were to exhibit some brilliance on the chessboard between the two boys, he’d lose in about three moves.
“Nev. Bishop to D4, if I were you,” he said dryly, earning himself a glare from Ron. “Weasel.” He nodded, and Ron quirked his mouth at him.
“What kept you? DA’s been over for half an hour, hasn’t it?” Ron said distractedly as Neville took Draco’s advice, leaving Ron’s manoeuvres in tatters. Draco threw himself into an empty chair, letting his book bag plop unceremoniously to the floor.
“Oh, just cleanup,” he said, “and a short but extremely rude conversation with The Potter.”
“Pot, meet kettle,” Neville murmured softly, frowning as Ron finally made a move to salvage his offensive on the chessboard.
“Hey, I’m not rude. I’m snarky. There’s a difference!” Draco said in an offended tone, knowing perfectly well that nobody would listen to him. He deserved the barb, anyway. Didn’t mean he had to take it silently, though.
As predicted, Ron just snorted and kept his eyes fixed on Neville in one of his more patented ‘make-Neville-uneasy-and-lose-his-nerve’
The Potter-in-the-DA situation just kept getting progressively worse. Not only did Potter not seem to be catching on but Draco was also running out of people to pair him with. It got to the point where he seriously considered Neville, before deciding to let Mr. Macmillan continue to cream him in their matches. After all, Potter might be more predisposed towards listening to reason once he’d spent an evening suffering from various curses he couldn’t deflect.
It had nothing to do with the enjoyment of watching The Dunderhead Who Wouldn’t Be Done In suffer. Nothing whatsoever.
Draco’s scheme went almost perfectly according to plan. He just hadn’t counted on the sheer annoyance Potter seemed to manage to generate throughout the school and therefore he was thwarted in his plan not to enjoy himself.
Perhaps he should have stopped Ernie’s housemates (and pretty much everybody else, come to think of it) suggesting all those spells but watching them take increasingly entertaining effects was hilarious.
In any case, once he realized the amount of cheer in the room, he abandoned his previous lesson plans and banded together those who were new and those who had not mastered Patronuses the year before. This turned out to be a good move on several fronts – first of all, as people were already in high spirits, the mindset behind the charm was easier to achieve, and second, as he watched Susan Bones produce her first fully-fledged Patronus – a galloping unicorn – he realized that Potter could do this. Without problem, even.
And this was a bit of magic that required amazing concentration. Often in the face of adversity.
Which had to mean that Scatterbrained Potter did have some force of brainpower behind that scar after all. He was just having trouble with silent incantations. But why? It made no sense.
He was amused to see that once people started filing out of the Room of Requirement, he wasn’t the only one to approach Potter. Granger was descending on him like a ton of bricks, obviously giving him a piece of her mind regarding his performance. They stopped whispering when they noticed Draco, and two heads swivelled towards him with a near-identical expression of polite disinterest.
He wondered if Granger had got Potter to practice that face in front of a mirror.
“Potter. Mind having a chat?”
Potter whispered something in response to Granger, who gave him a frown and scuttled off to join Zabini, who was lounging in the doorway waiting for them. Draco noticed she took his arm before they headed out.
“What do you want, Malfoy?” Potter mumbled. Despicable habit, mumbling.
“Sorry, I didn’t hear what you said?” He replied politely, turning away to tuck away some pillows they’d been using.
Potter shot him one of his deeply vexed looks.
“What did you want to talk to me about?” he intoned carefully.
Draco turned around to look at him critically. Surely the idiot must...
“I think you know.”
Potter looked affronted.
“How would I know what goes on in your head, Malfoy?”
Draco decided to annoy him even more and shot him a smirk.
“Oh, yes, I forgot. No social skills,” he ticked off on his fingers, “no intuition, no focus for brainpower, if there is any...”
Potter appeared to be grinding his teeth. ‘I shouldn’t rile him up so’ Draco thought, but he couldn’t help it – if Potterbaiting were an Olympic sport, he’d be competing for England.
“Just. Say. What. You. Wanted,” Potter ground out through his clenched jaw. He was looking annoyed and not wearing one of his practiced expressions, either. Draco had managed to scratch his public persona! He allowed himself a mental congratulatory pat on the back before dropping the ball on the banter.
“I just wanted to tell you that you are not going anywhere with silent incantations. I can’t really let people keep crushing you in matches, as much as I and most of the rest of them enjoy watching it, and unless you figure out what the problem is and share it with someone who can help you – like me, for instance, or Granger – it’s pointless to keep you trying, and I can’t spare you duelling partners anyway. You’re moving on to secrecy next meeting. Deal.”
Draco turned his back on the now sputtering Potter, and pretended to be straightening out the Sneakoscope table, before turning on his heel towards him again and saying half-absently, “You haven’t figured out what the problem is yet, have you?”
“I can’t concentrate. You said it yourself.”
Once Potter was gone, Draco leant against a wall and whispered in reply, “No way, moron. And you know it yourself.”
The mystery of what was ailing the Boy who Lived became a popular topic of discussion in the Gryffindor common room over the next couple of days. Ron theorized that it had to be a curse of Dark Origin, which made no sense to anyone except him and Neville, who viciously agreed and reasoned that the curse might have come from Snape. Draco, who had spent five years in Potions dodging debris from Neville’s cauldron, could sort of understand where he was coming from, though he rather liked the Potions master himself.
Luna made a reasoned argument that The Potter had been subject to the attack of a Wrackspurt, which apparently was an invisible creature that left one feeling disoriented. Draco wondered if any good could come of pointing out that one wouldn’t find a listing for a Wrackspurt in any self-respecting magizoological index and decided that it was much more fun to theorize with Luna regarding possible attacks on other people. They had a list of twenty-three potentials before Luna had to go back to her own common room before curfew, and added sixteen by passing notes in their shared History of Magic class after breakfast the next day. Perhaps not surprisingly, Neville was at the top of the list.
Granger had obviously had wind of Draco’s philosophizing by lunch, as she cornered him in the Entrance Hall when he was on his way back from Arithmancy class.
“Malfoy,” she said coldly, “what disgusting rumour-mongering scheme are you trying to pull?”
Draco lifted an eyebrow and waited. He could play Granger like a piano if he was patient. She had a mean right hook, though, so he liked to be cautious in his dealings with her. She was staring at him now, indignation writ large in her features, but after a few seconds it became plain that Draco was waiting for her to elaborate, and she started fidgeting.
“Harry’s got enough on his plate already. Doesn’t help to have rumours floating around that something’s wrong with him. Merlin knows what could happen if it reached the wrong ears. And he really just needs practice…” she floundered, realizing that she’d put her foot in it.
“Granger,” Draco said softly, “Neville is doing better with silent incantations than Potter. At least, when Neville focuses, something happens – though it may not exactly be the something he was aiming for.” He hesitated for a second. The duck was living the easy life on the lake, most of the students, especially the younger ones, going out of their way to bring her toast. It showed no signs of transparency or brittle bones – it was a permanent Conjuration. Neville wasn’t even taking N.E.W.T. level Transfiguration. Draco shook himself and got back to the point. “Potter just stands there and nothing happens. No matter who I pair him with, he gets beaten. Something is wrong, Granger, and it isn’t lack of focus.”
Granger glared at him.
“What do you know about that? I haven’t seen you go up against him.”
Draco lifted the other eyebrow and shrugged.
“Are you trying to insult me, Granger? Make out I’m too scared to duel with The Great Potter? In case you hadn’t noticed, I generally happen to be busy. No, Granger, the reason I know it’s not his focus is because Potter can do a Patronus. A corporeal Patronus, no less. Got a fast-track explanation for how he can pull that off and not manage so much as a wordless Lumos?”
Granger opened her mouth and then closed it again, opting for glaring at him with narrowed eyes. Oh dear, Draco thought to himself, she’s going to punch me now. She didn’t, however. She turned abruptly instead and marched away – in the direction of the library. Probably to research focus and concentration in magic. Maybe she’d come up with something. He hoped so – Potter would be quite useless in battle otherwise and if there was a student at Hogwarts who knew what he’d likely be up against, it was Draco.
There was a fairly standard and inevitable conclusion, if not resolution, to any Gryffindor-Slytherin rift. Draco considered it to his credit that at least, since the founding of the DA, most of these no longer led to extended downtime in the Infirmary for the warring parties, and even if it did, there were generally people around to minimize the damage, administer First Aid, and in extreme cases, give Madam Pomfrey the details of the curses used. Mostly this was due to the opportunity the DA gave them to work off steam. Also, Luna had an unerring tendency to point out to him how he might pair people so that grievances could be... well, not settled but perhaps evened.
It had been a close call this time, though. Potter had been ready to explode as soon as he set foot in the Room of Requirement, obviously having been hauled there by a furious Granger and an unwilling Zabini. Draco suspected that a full body bind and a Mobilicorpus must’ve come into play somewhere along the line, considering the dirty glares Potter kept shooting towards the pair. Granger glared right back, furious with a side of righteous indignation, while Zabini just ignored him.
On top of that, Ron was about as touchy as the average Skrewt after an atrocious Quidditch practice the night before and a screaming row with his sister that had been overheard by all the inhabitants of Gryffindor Tower and several curious Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs as well – if one were to be entirely honest, by pretty much anybody on that side of the castle.
In addition to two highly explosive, skilled teenage wizards, the general mood of the school just seemed rotten these days. Katie Bell was still in St. Mungo’s, suffering from an unknown magical malady. The rest of the school hadn’t hesitated in blaming the Slytherins and the Slytherins were sulking. Gryffindor, bereft of their star Chaser, was teeming with conspiracy theories and general malcontent. Hogwarts was feeling the pressure of war and it wasn’t dealing with it very well.
So an incident should have been predictable. Especially with Potter in a royally shitty mood and not watching his mouth at all.
It was Ron who exploded first and started firing off hexes. The rest of the DA simply dove for shelter and watched the duel unfold. The ending of it was also quite predictable – what with Ron’s penchant to act before thinking and Potter’s ability to rile his opponents up beyond all reason, plus the fact that Potter was simply the better duellist in this line up.
When Draco stepped in to save Ron’s skin – as much as it could be saved, having turned purple from a curse he hadn’t managed to block in time – he’d simply meant to break up the fight. He’d meant to break up the fight right up to the point where he found himself suspended upside-down from his left ankle. After that, all bets were pretty much off.
He won, of course. Hanging upside down doesn’t stop a guy from doing magic, even if it’s not exactly the most comfortable position. And since Draco could do silent incantations and Potter couldn’t, it was pretty much a done deal from the start. Even if The Boy Who Refused to be Bumped Off fought dirty.
“Fat load of good the two of you are, in a crisis,” he shot at Granger and Zabini when they were trying to revive their fallen friend. Granger looked vaguely guilty.
“It was a point that had to be made,” Zabini shrugged, “Better you than me.”
Potter gave a start as Draco addressed him. They’d been working in silence for ten minutes, trying to straighten up the Room of Requirement after the duel. Draco had decided to be fair and give Potter a chance to speak first; he didn’t have all night, though. Curfew was in forty-five minutes and Draco didn’t want to be caught out of bounds. Again. Potter, however, seemed to be determined to wait him out and hadn’t said a word since Draco had revived him.
“We’ve tried everything,” Granger had said. Then she’d shot Zabini a glare and corrected: “I’ve tried everything. And he doesn’t want to talk about it, or he’s busy, or there are random Quidditch practices I think he initiates for the sole purpose of avoiding me. I read everything I could lay my hands on about the metaphysics and sources of magic, the philosophy of magic, the causalities of magic... I’ve even read some Muggle psychology and philosophy.”
“That sounds like a lot of reading, Granger,” he’d said, knowing that with Granger, the less he said, the more she’d end up telling him.
She smiled grimly.
“I think Madam Pince had to reorganize the library after I was gone. Anyway, it doesn’t matter; HE won’t participate, or explain or do anything which might help him. I think he wants to forget the matter even exists.”
“Avoidance is the refuge of the insecure,” he’d murmured.
“Exactly,” she’d replied. “Those bloody Occlumency lessons with bloody Snape came to nothing, Sirius got killed because of it and now Harry wants to pretend that the entire methodology of Intending Magic doesn’t exist!”
There was a short but profound silence as Granger considered her words and went rapidly from flushed to pale. Zabini looked at her, suddenly serious and alert.
“Oh, Merlin,” she whispered. “I shouldn’t have said that. He’s going to kill me when he finds out I told you.”
“First, Granger, unless I’m much mistaken, he might try to kill you but he won’t succeed unless you let him. Second, this explains a lot.”
“I keep thinking that if he maybe had some success at Occlumency, the rest of it would happen as a matter of course. But for that to happen, he’d have to work at it, and someone would have to work on it with him, someone who knows Occlumency or Legilimency or both. I can’t, I mean...”
“Why, Miss Granger. Am I to believe you’ve been practicing Dark Magic in secret? And here we were all thinking you weren’t a proper Slytherin.”
“It’s not like that. It was for a good cause!”
“The end justifies the means? How conniving of you!” Zabini was smirking at his girlfriend. It was obviously an argument they’d had before.
“Oh, come off it,” she said in frustration, “I do what I have to do. Anyway, I may have succeeded at Legilimency, but that doesn’t mean I can teach Harry Occlumency. And that’s what we need, but I don’t know about anyone who could teach him except Professor Snape and Headmaster Dumbledore.”
There was a short silence. Granger frowned.
“Dumbledore doesn’t think Harry needs the lessons anymore, which is bullshit. Do you know someone else who knows Occlumency?”
“My mother. My aunt Bellatrix. One of my uncles. A lot of people know the basics.”
Blaise spoke up for the first time. “Okay, let’s rephrase that question: do you know someone who knows Occlumency and is also on our side?”
Draco let the question hang in the air for a moment while he considered whether he should answer, and how, before deciding that the simplest way was probably the best.
“Yeah, I do.” There was a second of silence and Granger raised her eyebrows in inquiry. “Me.”
At that point, Zabini and Granger had nearly shot through the roof. It was perfect, if Granger was to be believed. Draco could give Potter lessons! And then they’d left him alone with the still-supine Potter so that he could announce the happy tidings. Bloody cowards – but then again, they were Slytherins.
Which left him here, with a mistrustful idiot who just happened to be the person everybody was relying on to save their world, about to tell him something that pretty much boiled down to: ”Sorry mate, but your idiot friends just ratted to me about the mental trauma that’s blocking your magic, and we’ve decided that you’re going to take Occlumency lessons with me to fix it, since I’m clearly your favourite person in Hogwarts. How about Sundays at eight?”
He didn’t really expect it to go down well. He wasn’t wrong.
“What’d he say?” Neville asked. The group was sitting around him, riveted to his story.
“Say?” Draco repeated. “He didn’t say very much. Shouted a great deal of things, but said very little.”
“But… are you teaching him Occlumency?” Ron asked.
“Yeah, I think I am. Unless he wigs out – but I don’t imagine Granger will let him. Not now, when she’s finally found someone to teach him.”
“And… when did you learn Occlumency?” Neville was looking interested.
“Nev. Seriously. Remember that the Ministry depends on the parents’ discretion to stop their children from doing Magic? How much discretion, exactly, do you think my parents possessed?”
Neville smiled faintly.
“What I really meant was; they trusted you long enough to teach you Occlumency?”
Draco decided not to answer that and shrugged instead, as if to say he couldn’t know what his parents were thinking. He did, of course; the whole idea of allowing him a taste of such powerful Dark Magic had to be in order to seduce him over to a side where he could cultivate the less… pleasant… aspects of his personality.
The others were still mulling this over when Luna sidled up to him, laid her head on his shoulder and said, “So, you’re definitely on our side now?”
Trust Luna to see through to the heart of the matter.
“Yeah. I suppose.”
“Good to know,” she said, and put an arm around his shoulders, too. He was grateful for that when Ron wheeled on him.
“What do you mean now? You’ve been on our side forever!”
“No Ron. I’ve been against the other side for a long time. Doesn’t mean I had to be on your side.”
“Draco” Ron said levelly. “Back in first year, you spent three hours playing the flute for a giant three-headed dog named Fluffy so that we could get the Philosopher’s Stone. Are you telling me you weren’t on our side?”
Ron cocked his head, thinking.
“Is this one of the ‘grey area’ things you keep trying to foist on me, Draco? Because in this case, anyone who’s against them is with us. Anyway, you’re not in denial anymore, so no use discussing it now. Tell me, this Occlumency thing. Have you ever used it on me? How come you didn’t tell us about it?”
Draco understood that Ron was trying to change the subject in order to not be an arsehole, but the subject he picked to discuss instead wasn’t much better. They still had an argument.
The word had been ground out from between clenched teeth and there was tension in every line of Potter’s body where he was sitting on a Gryffindor-red rug Draco had conjured for this purpose. It would have been very hard to concentrate with the cold seeping into your bones from the flagstone floor – and it would’ve been hard and uncomfortable.
Not that the rug seemed to doing much to alleviate that for Potter the Rotter.
“Mr. Potter. I believe I expressly told you to try to relax. It is only a two-syllable word; I trust your comprehension skills can deal with it?”
“Malfoy. What is the use of this? You’re just trying to make me look like a fool!”
He lifted an eyebrow.
“If you think I’m trying to make you look like a fool when I’ve just asked you to sit cross-legged on the floor, I wonder what you’re going to think when I ask you to stand on your head.”
Potter gaped. “You’re being serious. You’re being dead serious!”
“Yeah,” Draco said mildly, “and you’ll be dead serious too, with emphasis on the dead, if you don’t work out the kinks in your magic. There aren’t exactly volunteers bringing down your door trying to help you, so stop your grousing and get on with it.”
“What purpose does this serve?”
“Merlin’s beard, Potter. If you can’t focus inwards, how do you propose to focus outwards? Now shut the hell up and meditate.”
It took three Sunday night meetings in a disused classroom in the South Wing just to get Potter to sit still. Once that skill was obtained, Draco moved them on to some easy exercises. He’d heard there was a Muggle variant of the Dharana-practices that he’d been taught and he wondered if the majority of the Muggles thought, like the majority of the Wizards, that it was all quack.
Potter got better at it. Eventually. After a while. Mostly, he learned to relax. Which was comical because he kept winding Draco up to the point where he could hardly be a good teacher.
He complained as much as ever and asked regularly if this was really necessary, and wasn’t Draco supposed to be teaching him magic?
One night, he’d asked Draco if Draco had really learned all this before learning Occlumency. Draco answered that yes, of course he did, it just didn’t take him this bloody long.
And then one night, perhaps the fifth time after Potter finally started to get the hang of it, he stopped as he was leaving, looked over at Draco and said, “I don’t know if it’ll do anything for the magic, but this bloody stuff is doing wonders for my sanity.”
The next time they moved on to the Magical Theory of Occlumency.
They returned to Hogwarts after Christmas on a Sunday. Draco wondered if Potter would show up for their session and figured that it would be unlikely, since technically, it was still a holiday and he couldn’t imagine that Potter would jump at a chance to spend time studying if he could reasonably get out of it.
Still, better be there in case he showed. The atmosphere at The Burrow wasn’t the most nourishing for study but Draco hadn’t been entirely idle over the holiday. He’d had a few ideas and was hoping that Potter would be willing to try them out since they were almost ready to try a practical application.
Also, Draco stopped lying to himself, and had to admit that he didn’t mind the time spent in the unused classroom. Ron still acted like he was about to go into battle every Sunday night and was always at the portrait hole to see him off, but while Draco had appreciated the support at first, he found it funny by now.
When he popped his head into their classroom he was surprised to discover a dishevelled Potter sitting on the old teacher’s desk, swinging his legs. When he heard the door open he lifted his head and when he saw who it was, the corners of his mouth were tentatively lifted into a smile. Not one of the publicity ones, either, but a real one.
“Hi,” he said. “How was your holiday?”
Draco stepped in and closed the door behind him. “It was cosy. Yours?”
Potter shrugged. He was still smiling. Bizarre.
“It was alright. I was here. Hermione hung around. Well, she hung around the library, mostly. I read a book.”
Ah, a reason for the smiling. Potter thought he’d discovered something. Draco couldn’t help needling him, though. “Indeed. Perhaps you ought to take out a full-page advertisement in the Prophet to announce your achievement?”
Harry gave him a look.
“I think I found something, you moron. And the Prophet will never benefit from my patronage again. It’d have to be the Quibbler.”
"Well, it'd belong there, for sure," he said. "I hear they only report the fantastical."
“Are you ready?”
“Malfoy, just do it.”
There’s a little boy locked in a dank, tiny room. He’s watching out through a grille in the door as another little boy – though ‘little’ is perhaps not the adjective – opens a wagonload of presents. The little room is bare and empty of possessions.
The little boy is being chased by a dog, up a tree.
Potter is walking down a corridor, his heart thundering in his chest… there is a monster at the end, a monster that he has to fight without looking at it…
Potter sitting on a three-legged stool, Sorting Hat on his head, whispering, you’d do well in… Slytherin! And Potter is thinking, No, No, No!
Nothing. He was kneeling on the cold, hard floor of their little classroom, breathing hard. Potter was doubled over on his hands and knees and sounded like he was in pain.
“Potter?” Draco rasped, “Are you okay?”
Potter swiped a hand over his eyes, then looked up and nodded. Draco thought he was lying. Draco thought Potter probably hadn’t been okay for a long time.
But they got up off the floor, sat down and talked about it. There were some things Potter had to focus on, some things he was having trouble with.
“I’m afraid that from here on out,” Draco said, “we’ll have to keep doing this. We’ll do the meditation and focusing stuff, but you are just going to have to figure this out with exercise.”
“I’ll live,” he said. “I’ve rather made a career of it.”
They tried again.
There’s a little boy who’s been locked inside his room for a week now. There’s a hatch in the door, it opens and there’s a hand sliding through a bowl of cold soup.
The moonlight hits them and Lupin, their gentle third year Defence teacher morphs into a werewolf… a man at Potter’s side grins and disappears… no, he’s turned into a rat.
Sirius Black is falling, falling, falling through an archway… he doesn’t come back out on the other side.
There is banging on a door… he’s in a closet. A screeching voice shouts through a grille; “You’re late to start cooking breakfast!”
Dementors! Dementors in Little Whinging! He’s falling through the cold, cold mist and there’s cold, shrill laughter in his head… “Bow to death, Harry… It might even be painless…”
The fog in front of his eyes took some time clearing away. Potter was lying on the floor, half-on, half-off one of their practice rugs. He was breathing harshly, his chest heaving.
“I have happy memories, too,” he said softly, once he’d caught his breath.
“The spell isn’t made for that sort of thing. It’s meant for blackmail, to see if someone is lying, things like that. It’s hardwired to find memories that make you unhappy, things that you worry about.”
Potter nodded and got off the floor.
“Gee, Malfoy, if I’d known you knew all about unhappy family life I’d have cried on your shoulder years ago.” The sarcasm was heavy in Potter’s voice.
“Look, here, Potter, you can’t …”
“No, Malfoy, you can’t. What the hell do you pretend to know about this? I doubt your parents have ever said no to anything you’ve asked for.”
Draco knew the blood had drained from his face and he had to stop himself from reaching for his wand and hexing the living daylights out of the Imbecile Who Wouldn’t Expire.
“Potter. Until I was eleven, my parents loved me. And then they didn’t. In case you didn’t notice, I sort of declared my colours last year when you broke my bloody nose and I went and got Snape for you anyway. So don’t you dare call me a spoiled brat when I lost every chance I ever had to stay with my family so that you could go on a rescue mission. Don’t you dare.” He turned on his heel and stalked out of the room, leaving a still-gasping Potter behind.
Ron was understanding when he came back to Gryffindor Tower. Then again, when it came to Potter, Ron always was.
“I just told him he ought to have spoken with someone about this. He shouldn’t have to stay there, he’s being mistreated.”
Draco sighed heavily.
Neville nodded as they continued to walk up and down the corridor in front of the Room of Requirement.
“If he’s being mistreated, of course not. Nobody deserves that.”
Draco looked sideways at Neville, and thought of all the times the other boy had come to him, heartbroken about something the Great Potter had said – unkindnesses, jibes or just plain thoughtlessness.
“You’re a better man than I, Nev. I’ve got no qualms about letting Potter stay with his rotten relatives if he’s not complaining.”
“That’s just the thing, though,” Neville said, brow furrowed. “I mean, it’s Potter. You’d think he’d be shouting it from the rooftops.”
“True.” The door to the Room shimmered into existence and they went through to the now-familiar setting of their practice rooms.
Potter sidled nearly sideways into the DA meeting half an hour late and wouldn’t meet Draco’s eyes. Good, he thought. He should be ashamed of himself.
Granger was sending both of them looks that spoke of annoyance and exasperation, however, and by the end of the meeting both of them clearly had the same idea; better to settle up on their own terms than get browbeaten into it by Granger, who was likely to force them to kiss and make up. Literally.
Not that you’d mind that so awfully, said a small voice inside his head. Whoah, what the bloody hell? Where did that come from? It was new and unsettling and very, very bad. Draco took a deep breath and tried to focus on what Potter was saying.
“Malfoy… I… erh…” Potter said, as he approached. Eloquent as ever.
“Same time this Sunday?” Draco said simply. Potter nodded, grateful at not having to apologize in front of half the school.
Draco had turned away to tidy up their workspace when Potter spoke. “Malfoy … Thanks.” He turned around, but Potter was already heading out of the room, arm in arm with Granger.
The scenes from Potter’s Muggle family life were still upsetting, but Draco tried his damnedest not to mention them. Or any of the others.
This was a complication that he had not foreseen. When Bellatrix had been teaching him – and he had an inkling that if Potter ever managed to reverse the process a large part of what he’d see was Draco’s own Occlumency education – he had known what she managed to see, but he’d not thought about what she’d felt about his memories. She used them to make fun of him, obviously … “Ickle Draco, being bullied by all the big bad Gryffindors,” she’d cackled. “How cute!” She had loved getting into his head. He knew she’d seen how he and Ron argued before they settled their differences, how he’d befriended Neville after a particularly nasty argument with a bunch of Slytherins, how that impostor Crouch had turned him into a ferret in his fourth year… All scenes of humiliation and she’d found them hilarious.
Draco just hadn’t realized that his own reactions to another’s worst memories were pretty much guaranteed to be different.
After nearly eight weeks of Occlumency, Draco had seen a repertoire of worst memories that made it understandable that Potter had learned the Patronus Charm as soon as he’d found someone willing to teach him.
He’d heard James and Lily Potter die more times than he could count. He’d seen how Potter had battled the Dark Lord at the tender age of eleven, and witnessed the crumpled body of Ginny Weasley in the Chamber of Secrets. He’d seen Cedric Diggory die his lonely death in a remote graveyard, and seen his ghost beg Harry to return his body to his parents. He’d watched Granger crumple to the ground in the Ministry of Magic battle he never made it to himself, watched Sirius Black fall through the Veil and seen Potter write the words I shall not tell lies a million times over in his own blood.
Potter might be an arsehole but perhaps he had good reason, and Draco found himself granting grudging respect to the man.
He also found himself noticing other things about Potter, things he preferred not to dwell on too much. The little traitorous voice in the back of his head had been a busy bee in the past few weeks, cataloguing every rare real smile along with idiotic notions like Potter’s eyelashes being unusually long.
They worked hard, trying to break the apparent blockade in Potter’s magic. Sometimes Potter demanded that Draco use Legilimency on him more than six times in an evening, even if he was panting and sweating at the end. Draco, who hardly thought Potter could be enjoying the memories any more than he was, tried to refuse but eventually he always caved.
“Don’t be such a bloody Gryffindor,” Potter had said on more than one occasion. “End justifies the means. Do it.”
And Draco always did.
They were seeing very little progress, if any at all. They’d discussed a million theories of how to block the spell, how to barricade your thoughts to protect them from invasion. Potter had revealed that he could easily resist the Imperius curse, and they’d cast numerous Patronuses trying to figure out the mindset required for the charm.
Draco found Potter to be an interesting spell partner. He wasn’t smart but he wasn’t stupid, either, and he was inventive and willing to try almost anything. No idea was too far-fetched not to give it a shot. Draco thought Potter would probably have been a great Gryffindor – he actually marvelled that he hadn’t been. Still, he could see the reasoning; Potter was desperate to prove himself – and not prove himself to just anyone, but to the whole world – as worthy. And he wanted revenge; he wanted the Dark Lord brought down, more than anything. So much that he was willing to go to any lengths to achieve the goal.
He was even willing to be Imperio’ed and have Legilimency used on him in quick succession.
The idea had been Granger’s, who had theorized that maybe if Draco could just show Potter what to do… but while it had been an interesting experiment, it hadn’t worked. Draco had tried to get into Potter’s mind via the Imperius to show him how to fight off his own Legilimency and it had just been too complicated. Instead, Draco had been treated to a detailed memory of the attack on Arthur Weasley last year, which Harry explained after, was the time when everybody realized his mind was open to Voldemort.
“We always wondered how you knew about that. We had crazy theories. Neville was talking about telepathy and Luna’s involved improbable creatures, obviously …” Draco trailed off. They were lying, breathless, on the floor of their classroom.
“Lovegood is insane. Not dangerously insane, interestingly insane, but still insane,” Potter panted. They’d had a pretty hard time disentangling the spells this time, and eventually they’d been reduced to bodily force – shoving themselves out of it, so to speak.
“Nah, Luna’s not insane. She’s very smart and it makes her different and she doesn’t mind. Makes it hard for her to talk to us normally, but if you listen she usually makes a lot of sense. She’s probably the smartest person in the school,” Draco said.
“I’ve a hard time believing that she’s smarter than Hermione,” Potter sighed. He seemed to be burrowing into the rug he was lying on, trying to get comfortable.
“Different smart, I think. Granger is smart because she has a memory like a Pensieve and she’s got enough power to use all that information. Luna doesn’t need so much information… She’s really good at figuring things out, seeing the context. Bigger picture. That sort of thing.”
They lay in silence for a while and Draco managed to become acutely aware of the rise and fall of Potter’s chest as the other boy’s breathing evened out.
“I could fall asleep here, I’m so winded,” Potter said after a while. Draco hummed something in response.
“That memory. I’m surprised it hasn’t come up sooner. Voldemort having a gateway into my head is obviously sort of bad, on the bad-memory-scale.” He could hear Potter turning his head to look at him.
“Have you been trying to suppress it?”
“Well, I prefer not to remember that someone has access to my thoughts. And back then I thought Voldemort was possessing me, which was probably the scariest thing I could imagine at the time.”
“Possessing you? Nah. Not his style.” Draco smirked as he heard Harry prop himself up onto an elbow.
“And you know all about his style?” It was possibly the first time he’d been asked that question in a curious, non-accusatory way, and he let his smile become genuine.
“Well, I am rather intimately acquainted with his main advisor,” Draco murmured grinning.
Potter rolled his eyes.
“Oh yeah, your father, of course.”
“My father? My father is a military man and an excellent politician. He’s never had any head for secrecy or subtlety. No, Potter, I was referring to my mother.” Potter’s eyes widened and he let himself fall back onto the rug, staring at the ceiling.
“Wow,” he breathed. “So she’s not just pretty?”
“Nope, Potter. Not just pretty.”
They lay in companionable silence for a while, even if neither of them could pretend to still be winded from their earlier duel. Then Potter raised himself up onto his elbow again and stared at Draco.
“You know, Malfoy, I don’t think I’ve ever told anybody about the way I saw Mr. Weasley get attacked and didn’t have them freak out on me. Everybody used to get that look in their eyes that meant they thought I was possessed and destructive and would turn into an evil genius type as soon as they turned their backs.”
Draco considered this for a moment before hoisting himself up onto an elbow to face Potter.
“Can’t see where they’re coming from, personally. You’re never going to be an evil genius. You’re not smart enough.” He gave half a shrug and lay back down onto the floor.
Potter stared at him for a few seconds, eyes wide and incredulous, before collapsing into a heap onto his rug, snickering madly, his giggles soon evolving into laughter.
“Oh, good,” he guffawed, out of breath. “I have the Draco Malfoy Seal Of Approval: ‘May be Evil but definitely not Evil Genius.’” And then he broke out into fresh peals of laughter, so infectious that Draco couldn’t help laughing along until they were both shouting with mirth.
Once they caught their breaths, Harry pulled himself to his feet, offering a hand up to Draco.
“How about you hit me once more and then we call it a night. Get Hermione to help with the Legilimens and Imperio next Sunday … The theory is not bad, but I think you doing both at once doesn’t work.”
Draco took his hand. Harry’s skin was cool from lying on the flagstone floor, and his hands were roughened from Quidditch. Draco held on a heartbeat longer than he had to, before pulling away, fighting not to blush.
“Yeah, okay, sounds like a plan. You ready?”
Except this time it was different. At first his head was filled with the usual memories that were not his own, but then the rush of them slowed to a trickle … and then suddenly there was …
Bellatrix, laughing her high insane laughter, goading him about getting turned into a ferret by a teacher.
Red, red eyes, skin as pale as ivory, nostrils that were slits, those eyes fixed on him. “Ah, Lucius, why don’t you introduce me to the Malfoy heir?”
Sorting Hat, sliding down onto his head… the roaring of the crowd when it shouted ‘Gryffindor,’ the disbelieving faces of the people he’d never again call his friends.
Neville, staring at him, tears standing in his eyes; an impossibly young boy who’d offered friendship where none other had, and been cruelly rebuked.
And then an owl, carrying a letter of heavy vellum… loosening it from her leg, turning it over, seeing the Malfoy seal imprinted into a stain of black wax.
He was on his knees, panting, his chest hurt, his hands were skinned where he’d stopped his fall to the floor… there was a strange whirl of emotions there, too; sadness, loss, anger and gut-wrenching guilt.
Draco pushed it away and got himself under control before daring to look up at Harry, who was looking shocked and surprised and not a little pleased with himself.
“It worked,” he said, wonder in his voice.
“Yeah, it did. Now all you’ve got to do is get it consistent. Then we can start teaching you properly how to turn it into a skill. Won’t do to tear out someone else’s memories unless you mean to.”
“Yeah. Yeah. Can we try again?”
They didn’t dare stop, not now, when they were finally seeing progress. They stayed on, shooting curses until long after curfew, until Harry managed to consistently throw Draco off three out of four times.
“What’s in that letter?”
They were sitting in the kitchens, having snuck down there after their customary Sunday practice meeting, during which Harry had resisted nearly all attempts to break into his mind and thrown off the ones he didn’t block straight away faster and faster. The progress, now that they’d overcome the initial problem, was rapid.
“The one that shows up every single time I see your memories. Black owl, thick parchment letter, black seal.” Draco had spent a lot of time in the past weeks inside Harry Potter’s head and could easily tell that his disinterest was almost entirely feigned; he was very, very curious about that letter.
“So that’s how it’s going to be? Your memories are off limits but mine are fair game for discussion?”
Harry blushed and mumbled something indistinct.
“Sorry, didn’t catch that. What was it you said?”
“I said I’m just curious is all, Draco. Thought it might be a … dunno. Death Eater summons or something. Obviously a bad memory.” Harry shrugged, as if trying to disguise his embarrassment.
Draco snorted. “Harry, Death Eater summons, had I received them, would not have been a bad memory or the subject of worry and conflict. I’d have burned them, end of story. I don’t have any doubts about where my loyalties lie, not anymore.”
There was an uncomfortable silence between them following that statement, before Harry broke it.
“Sorry,” Harry sighed. “None of my business. Sorry. Didn’t mean to pry.” He looked everywhere but at Draco, obviously at loss.
Draco sighed. “It was an official letter of disavowal from my family, disinheriting me. It arrived while you were still in the Hospital Wing, last summer.” He shivered. “As memories go, that was a pretty bleak afternoon.”
Harry turned to him, shocked.
“You’ve been … ? Oh. I never knew.”
“Not many do.”
There was a short silence before Draco’s Gryffindor impulses won out over his sense.
“So. Why do you stay with the Muggles? There’s not a Wizarding household in Britain that wouldn’t take you in.”
Harry suddenly became very interested in the laces of his shoes, so interested that he directed his next words toward them, although Draco knew they were the answer to his question.
“You’ve… heard my mother die often enough, I suppose. But… not here.”
They were in the library and Draco was staring at Harry across the desk they were sitting at with what he knew must be dawning horror on his face.
They’d been sitting there for what seemed like ever, and Harry had told him a lot of things that Draco felt pretty sure he was very privileged to know. The way Lily Potter had died and the protection inherent in her blood. A description of a scene in a graveyard, which he’d seen more than once, but with all the details and context added. An explanation of why Harry probably hadn’t died. And at last, a mystery; a word that even Granger hadn’t successfully looked up yet, something that promised to provide answers to a riddle that most people dared not ask.
“Wow,” Draco breathed softly. Harry, intent on his story, had hardly noticed his audience, and now he looked up and shrugged somewhat helplessly. “I… don’t know what to say. That’s quite… the story you’ve got there, Harry. When they depict you as the tragic hero, I had no idea you were quite so… well, tragic.”
Harry snorted, looking back down at the table.
“Fat load of good it does me.” He glanced up, and Draco saw his eyes were red-rimmed. Harry swiped a hand irritably over his eyes, sighing heavily. “Sorry. It’s… I’m only learning this myself.”
“Yeah,” Draco breathed. “Harry?” Harry looked up. “Thanks. For telling me.”
Harry smiled, a strange half-smile that did not suit him at all.
“You’d seen most of it already.”
“Maybe. Listen, Harry. I don’t know what use it may be, but … I’ve heard that word before. Eavesdropping. On my parents. I remember thinking that whatever it was it had them scared silly. I’m sure that if we got into the Malfoy library there’d be something.” Harry looked at him, now definitely alight with interest. “We just need to figure out a way to get that memory from Slughorn, don’t we? And go from there?”
Their conversation in the library changed everything. Well, perhaps not quite everything, but some days that was what it felt like. Suddenly there was the basis for an understanding which seemed to lead to all sorts of previously impossible things. Such as exchanged glances during lessons between him and Harry, especially in Defence, where the latter rolled his eyes so hard at their esteemed teacher that Draco feared they would fall out of their sockets.
He received a note in Potions that said; “Don’t crush the lacewings too fine!” and another in Transfiguration which told him that Granger had found only one reference to Horcruxes in the entire Hogwarts library.
The new traitorous little voice at the back of his head was having a field day; Harry was suddenly smiling at him quite a lot and sending him notes and looking happier than he used to be, which, the little traitorous voice couldn’t help but note, was a really good look on him.
Ron looked at him strangely when he lost himself in contemplation over chess but didn’t say anything. Neville was positively smirking, these days, which Draco found both hilarious and kind of bizarre. Luna gave him a smile and told him that he was about as transparent as a Veiled-Skinned Terant, which Draco could only presume was a very transparent creature without actually knowing what the hell she was talking about. Both she and Neville deflected any questions about their jovial mood, and Draco had started to suspect that he was somehow the reason for their hilarity.
They’d started practicing more detailed versions of Legilimency and Occlumency now that Harry had figured out the basic principles and was managing to throw off nearly every attack. They were experimenting with how Harry could keep the charm at bay without forcing both of them into Draco’s mind and Granger had discovered a book about creating false memories in the library and was knee-deep in research which was turning out to be really interesting. In essence, though, Draco was still casting Legilimens, and Harry was still fighting him off, using more refined methods.
Which was how they came to this point.
Draco watched Harry flee – there was no other word for it – slamming the door to their classroom behind him so hard that it shivered in the frame. As soon as he was gone Draco let himself slide down the wall at his back, sighing as he crouched on the floor.
A lot of things suddenly made sense.
It had to have been a dream, though a realistic one. It must’ve been recent, because Draco had never seen those images before. Now, however, they wouldn’t leave him; it was as if they had been burned onto the backs of his eyelids.
And he had to admit to himself that he wouldn’t have minded seeing more. Which explained Neville and Luna’s matching grins, at least. He had to give them credit; on this score, they’d been way ahead of him.
In turn, he’d been way ahead of Harry on his road to discovery. Which posed a problem. Draco drew himself up the wall, clinging to it, weighing his options.
He could stay here, hoping that Harry would come back to talk it out, but the chances of that were slim. He could go to Gryffindor Tower, sulk, and hope that he could corner Harry in the morning, or at the very least at the next DA meeting. Or he could go and search for Harry and have it out now.
He sighed, pushed himself away from the wall with both hands and stalked towards the door. He really didn’t have any options. At least not any good ones.
House Colours, Part Two