HAPPY (BELATED) BIRTHDAY TO MY AWESOME FRIEND KIM aka mykkila09 who has the brains of a Ravenclaw and the twisted creativity of a Slytherin. Kim, I SO SO SO sorry, it took me forever to post this. Time is not kind to me. Originally I planned for this to be a oneshot but then time got in the way and I needed to give you something, so tada. You're getting a 3-part story instead. Your story-WHICH I NEED TO CONTINUE ON-In A Single Moment Everything Can Change inspired me.
A Different Call
The shock wasn't a punch, hitting him square in the stomach, pelting his chest, knocking the wind out of him.
It wasn't like a hit of the Stupefy hex, the feeling of lightening surging through his body, electrifying every limb in him.
The shock was more like a crack. Like a tiny scratch at the corner of a solid surface, barely noticeable, still functioning. Until water leaked through, first a thin drizzle, then quickly growing into a full-blast gush, growing larger, pouring harder until he was completely submerged.
That was exactly how Harry felt. Like he was submerged in the deepest part of the ocean, his limbs heavy weight that pulled him down further. Falling deeper and deeper into the shock with each tear that ran down those pale white cheeks. Each tremor that shook through the thin frame like an unsteady house of cards. Each sob that hissed through his clenched mouth.
Malfoy…Draco Malfoy…the same boy who had been a constant pain in his arse since they came to Hogwarts first year, the source of Harry's annoyance and misery for the past five years, the player he knew-he just knew had to be part of Voldemort's plans was crying. Actually crying.
Up until that point, Harry had completely forgotten his purpose for coming into the old bathroom, spotting the boy's fear-stricken after his talk with Katie, racing after him. Up until now, he didn't even think Malfoy was capable of doing such a thing, having emotions to produce that kind of reaction. He always thought there was nothing in the git beside smirks, sneers, and snippy comments that made Harry want to punch him each time they were let out.
But there was no denying the tears. There was no denying the pain that rippled through each sob, each tremble. There was no denying the fact that Malfoy, despite being a git, despite his family ties to Voldemort, despite the possibility that he was part of it, was actually just a boy. A boy with too much on his shoulders, being crushed under the tremendous weight.
Just like him.
Harry couldn't for the life of him look away.
Malfoy looked up and Harry caught his eyes, immediately swallowed up by the pain and fear glinting in those gray eyes. Feelings that were too much, too great, and all too familiar to Harry.
Then a hex came flying his way. Harry barely managed to dodge it, feeling the dark fury behind the spell attacking the wall beside him. Another one coming in full, just as strong as the first.
Harry tumbled to the ground, winching at the fallen debris that missed his head by an inch, before answering back with a hex that hit the mirror Malfoy had stared into, Malfoy scrambling away.
Back and forth they went, trading hex for hex, blow for blow, dodging from the other's hits, using any surface in the bathroom as a shield. Anytime Harry had a moment to catch his breath, heart hammering in his chest, Malfoy blasted a hex. Anytime Malfoy was spotted, he'd attempt to take one step forward, then ended up jumping several feet back, ducking another blow.
What was that spell that Harry saw in the old Potions book? Sec..secptum…sect-something. Frustration bubbled in his chest.
Malfoy's next hit slammed against the full glass mirror besides Harry, causing pieces to scatter. A thick shard slashed against his right cheek, leak thick drips of blood.
Goddamn bastard. "Expelliarmus!"
Malfoy's wand was knocked out from his hand, flying across the room.
Malfoy might be without a wand but he was fueled plenty by his anger. He stormed over to Harry, murder in his eyes. Harry readied himself. He braced himself for the fury, for the swinging fists that were as rapid as his hexes.
He caught hold of Malfoy's flying fists and squeezed hard. Once the boy was distracted, hissing in pain, Harry charged, slamming him against the sink he was previously crying at. Malfoy turned into a wild animal, snarling and screaming, fighting every step of the way. Harry held tight until the end. Against the anger crashing against him like waves, against every kick Malfoy swung, against every spittle of spit that flung from his rants. Harry took it all in and held onto him tight, refusing to break.
Malfoy fought, using every drop of energy until he was spent, his screaming lowered to murmurs. He slumped forward, a boneless heap of limbs, his forehead crashing against Harry's chest, hot tears soaking through Harry's sweater.
Malfoy dissolved into tears again, crying twice as hard before, clutching onto Harry's sweater like it was the only thing saving him from drowning.
His weight was so sudden, the two were sent to the ground, Harry's arse taking a hard hit. Malfoy scrambled to regain his grip. Harry was at a loss for a moment, unsure if he should call for help for Malfoy or shove the boy away and let him cry in private.
Half of him wanted to do the former. The other half of him, a selfish, evil part of him wanted to the latter, thinking it was well-deserved for all the crap Malfoy had done to him over the years. Instead to his great surprise, one of Harry's hands reached over to Malfoy's head, fingers raking through the white-blonde hair that was smoother than he thought. His hand other settled onto Malfoy's back, lying it there for a second before it pressing firmly, then snaking around his waist.
Maybe it was because the shock of seeing Malfoy cry was still too fresh for Harry, rendering him useless to do anything else. Maybe it was it because the fighting and ducking too much for him. Yet honestly?
Harry remembered the number of times he found himself in this position, too tired, too drained, and too alone. And the number of times he wished someone was there to help him out.
"I got you." The words slipped through his mouth, a quiet whisper through the loud sobbing.
"I got you." Again he said through the quiet crying.
"I got you." Again in the heavy silence.
Draco never remembered being so cold. There were winters that had been so horrendous and times the Slytherin dorms got extra chilly during the winters, but never cold during the summer. Never so cold that he constantly needed a blanket over him to keep decently warm, or at least to stop the freezing.
So cold. So tired. So hollow.
Ever since that day in the bathroom, Potter catching him crying, the two of them fighting, the fight ending with him sobbing in Potter's arms, Draco felt so hollow. As if hands reached into him and yanked out all emotions, thoughts, leaving him empty and raw.
He was hollow when he woke up the next morning, head nuzzled on Potter's knees, Potter stroking his hair and promising he'd keep him safe.
He was hollow when Bellatrix and her goons came through the closet he forget he fixed and wreaked havoc throughout the castle, consisting of Snape killing Dumbledore and Bellatrix setting fire to the giant's hut, her mad laughter still ringing in his ears.
He was hollow when the school gathered around the headmaster's crumpled body in a shared misery. A twinge of remorse broke through the shade of emptiness, though, when Potter sank to his knees in tears, then that twinge heating in anger when the Weaselette scooped him up in a hug.
He was hollow and cold as the Golden trio were up on the Astronomy, where the murder took place less than a week ago, plotting their next move.
"Dumbledore trusted me to take care of the Horocruxes," Potter said. "He risked his life for it, and I have to finish it."
Granger slid her hand into his. "We'll be there with you. Every step of the way."
Weasley nodded. Potter returned his nod with a slow one, and then stared at Draco as if he was waiting for something.
Unsure what to do, Draco inclined his head in a curt nod, which Potter accepted with a small faint smile, igniting sparks of warmth that flared up his spine, making his skin break into shivers and clutch tighter onto the blanket Potter draped onto his shoulders.
Which was how Draco found himself months later, close mid-July, sitting in the couch in the home of Potter's Muggle family with a thick blanket wrapped around his freezing, thin frame, watching the Du-the Dub-whatever they call themselves move around the house as they packed their things.
They were not all what Draco had in mind when he thought about Potter's home life. An oversized walrus with a thick, nasty mustache that matched his nastier personality who had been giving Draco the side-eye from the moment Potter came through the door with Draco trailing behind him. A younger version of the walrus who, unlike his father, kept his distance but occasionally watched them warily, as if he expected them to start flinging him with hexes. Then there was the woman, the sour-faced, nasal-speaking woman.
When he pictured Potter's life away from Hogwarts, he pictured him living in a grand manor with servants worshipping at his feet. He imagined him living with Weasleys, sharing a bunk-bed with the Weasel. Or with distant relatives, or even someone from the Order. Not a bunch of magic-hating Muggles.
What was even more shocking was the house. Granted, it was nice in a modern, basis way, but Potter's room was practically a closet. Barely enough room for anything more than the small bed that took up most of the space, a beaten-down dresser that was supposed to be his closet, and a slated ceiling that made the room feel much smaller.
Hardly anyone protested when Potter announced Draco would be coming back with him when the school ended abruptly. Well at least not as much as before when Potter brought him over to the Order the day after their fight, where rants and protests fired from nearly every direction that ceased fire when Draco, cold as he was, revealed vital information he knew they were hungry for. Information that guaranteed his safety and their reluctance acceptance. Although the weasel and Weaselette made their annoyance on the matter loud and clear when they departed at the train station.
Potter didn't offer a word of explanation to his jaw-slacked uncle who noticed an extra person. Nor an explanation to the wife and miniature Walrus. Hardly said anything to Draco, other than gesturing him to follow up the stairs into the small bedroom.
For a second Draco was sure it was just a covering, waiting for Potter to take out his wand and transform the place into his real room. A room that wasn't a cell. Potter, though, just took Draco's suitcase and placed it on top of the dresser, then his beside it. Then pointed towards the bed while he transfixed two shirts into a pillow and a blanket, setting them on the floor.
"This isn't right!"
Pureblood mannerisms and vigorous etiquette classes kept Draco from jumping off the couch. Draco let out a stammering breath and watched Potter following his aunt into the living room. The woman was shaking her head so furiously, he was surprised it didn't fall off her head. It'd certainly be an improvement to her looks.
Usually he preferred staying in Potter's room, small and depressing as it was. Potter seemed too, which worked out just fine. Except for the times he had to "help" the Muggles with chores-cooking, cleaning, weeding. Draco couldn't stand being alone with himself and his thoughts that quickly grew to questions on Snape, the Dark Lord, and what was being done to his parents for his defiance. If they were even alive.
That was when Draco would wrap the blanket around himself and follow Potter out, staying close but keeping his distance.
"I told you for the hundredth time," Potter said, his patience waning. "Voldemort and his goons are after me, and will only use any means to get to me. Including torturing the information out of anyone's even meet me."
The woman scoffed, folding her arms across her chest.
"You don't get it, do you? You think this is a game or something?" he demanded. "You have no idea what the hell they're capable of. What he's capable of. And complaining about it isn't going to make helping anything."
"I know exactly what they're capable of, boy!" the woman snapped, nostrils flaring. "You didn't just lose a mother that night. I lose a sister."
Potter stared at her in complete shock for several, long heartbeats, until rage erupted his face, fuming and violent. "Don't make me laugh!"
This time Draco couldn't suppress his wince from the ferocious bark. The woman nearly stumbled back, clutching onto her chest.
"For years, you and your bastard of a husband have done nothing but mock, belittle, and damn my parents every chance you got. You called my mother every name in the damn book from fool to whore to freak. You made me think for years she and Dad were killed in a car crash, and then the second I find out the truth, what do you do? You scream that they deserved it. Gotten themselves blown up. So, no, you don't get to complain. You don't get to grieve. And you sure as hell don't get to act like you give a shite about your sister when you haven't for years."
The woman stepped back, mouth dropped, as if Potter slapped her against the fact. The shock only lasted for a second though, before she bounced back, anger seething in her eyes. "She chose to be a freak. She chose to marry your father, who was just as freaky as her. Whatever mess they landed ended with them getting blown and us stuck with you." Foam bubbled from her mouth, spit flying. "A worthless, useless orphan who gave us nothing but trouble from the day you were dropped at our doorstep-"
"You're a damn fool."
Potter and his aunt whirled over to him, surprise clearing through the anger. They were so wrapped up in their fighting, they had no idea he was there.
"I-I-I-" The woman-ah yes, Petunia. That was her name. Ill-fitting. "I beg your pardon."
"You're a damn fool," Draco repeated, speaking slowly but clearly so the message got across. "You want people to think you're a glamorous socialite with the perfect family, the perfect life, when in reality you're nothing more than a sad, pathetic little girl. Jealous of the sister who outshone you in every way," His eyes raked over her. "Clearly in looks and intellect. She was extraordinary while you were ordinary, and you hated her for it. You were jealous because of it. And you took your anger out on her son because having a reminder of that brilliance reminds you of your own insignificance. And belittling him is the only way you can feel better about yourself, which just goes to show just how pathetic you truly are."
Draco's eyes flickered over to Potter before they went back to his jaw-slacked aunt. "This worthless, useless orphan as you so poetically called him is the only thing standing between a slim chance of somehow winning a dangerous war versus eternal damnation from just not the wizarding world, but yours too. If you really think The Dark Lord will stop at just our world, then you're a bigger fool than I thought. You know, Potter didn't have to come back here. He may still be a minor, but there are other places he could have gone. Better places. Whenever he goes, the protection goes with him, meaning you and your family would be easy-picking. So as you think on that, I suggest you shut your mouth and get to packing."
The woman was so shocked, it took several tries for her to retrieve her jaw. She shot him a furious glare, then aimed one over at Potter, and left the room with a huff.
It wasn't until she was finally gone that Potter let out a staggering breath, releasing all the world's burdens that had been stacked onto his shoulders.
"Are you hungry?" he asked.
Draco shook his head. The few bites of the grilled cheese Potter made for him lunch still sat in his stomach.
"Okay," Potter made his way over to the staircase, his foot climbing onto the step, then climbing down as he pulled away from it to walk beside him the stairs, over to a small door.
Curious, Draco got himself out of the couch and joined him by the cupboard. To think, he thought the most pitiful thing he saw was Potter's room, but this one took top prize. Dust coated every inch, spider webs were laced by the corners. Stacked boxes were piled up in front of them. There was a mass of moth-eaten blankets pushed against the right, beside a shelf with several broken toys on top. The place was so small, cramped with useless things.
"What is this?"
"My room." Potter answered.
His…what?! Stunned, Draco looked over at him. Potter studied the room with its dusty layers, its' cramped space, the slanted ceiling.
"Well, my old room until I was twelve and it was highly advised to them that I'll need something better." He continued. "So after my first year at Hogwarts, my uncle finally gave me Dudley's old playroom."
The Chosen one actually lived in a cupboard…only to be updated to a tiny closet for a room.
Draco didn't know what to say. What could he say? He wasn't in the right mind state to make a comment, and even he was sensitive enough to know joking on a situation was out of the question.
He watched Potter that night as they were getting ready for bed, images dancing across his head. Images of Potter he created over the years: the overly-helpful Golden boy answering a call of distress just in time for a reporter to capture the moment, the prat who undermined him at every turn, the spoiled arse. Those images clashed tremendously with what he learned: the child who slept in a dusty cupboard with spiders and rotten relatives. That kid growing into a teen that took every stinging insult and answered back with his own. The prat he tried to hex into oblivion that let him cry on his shoulder, held him tight as he cried. The former prat giving up his bed to him, the former rival, and taking the floor.
The latter images tore through the images he used to have, splitting through them like a knife.
Draco realized with a pang that his father played a great part in creating those images. Snape too. They both said a number of things about Potter over the years, most of them negative. Then again Father said a lot of things.
I promise, he said that awful night Draco was summoned to the Dark Lord, using his father's office as his own quarters. You'll be fine. Trust me. As if he could be sense the fear booming from every step Draco made, every clench of his heart.
Why the hell did he ignore that fear? Where would he be if he had listened to it? Would Mother-
No. Draco shook his head, fisting the blanket. He couldn't go there. He wouldn't go there. Not unless he wanted to get sucked into the depressing spiral of what-ifs and maybes.
He stole another glance at Potter. He was attempting to fluff his pillow to make himself more comfortable. Potter could try all he wanted, but those floors were hard and freezing. Draco had the misfortune of swinging his feet over the bed one morning, foregoing his socks and slippers, and hissed when felt the ice-cold flare up his ankle.
"You don't have to do that, you know." Potter looked up at him, causing Draco's brain to short-circuit as he was blinded by those bright green eyes. Weeks living in close quarters and this was the first time Potter was looking directly at him.
Draco resisted the urge to clear his throat like a ninny just as hard as he tried to resist to blushing. Though that effort was a miserable fail, given the warmth he felt flooding his cheeks. "I mean," he clarified. "It's clear you're not getting any sleep down there. The cracks your back makes during your morning stretches are about as pleasant as watching Crabbe attempting to do yoga."
"Thank you for that unfortunate image that will forever scar me."
"Further reason why there's no point in torturing yourself when your bed has plenty of room."
Potter glanced at him like he was mental, the small bed, and then back at him again. "There's hardly any room-"
Frustration spiked in him. "Just get in here!"
He didn't know who was more shocked (or embarrassed) by the outburst: Potter or him. He looked away, counting down the seconds, his flush heating from the burning glare of Potter's eyes.
The boy left his pillow and blanket on the floor. Even with Draco pressed to the wall, them lying on their sides, there was hardly enough room to even move without bumping into each other.
Potter tried wiggling into the bed to avoid the edge and had his back pressed to Draco's, causing him gasp. From not just the contact but the warmth that blew through his body, through his cold limbs.
"Sorry." Potter murmured, inching away.
"No!" Draco cried, biting down the please that nearly dove off his tongue. "It's fine. I don't mind."
Potter looked at him skeptically but complied, pressing his back against Draco's.
It was the first time in over a year that Draco managed to sleep easier. Lighter.
Harry thought the hassle that went into preparing the Yule Ball was a nightmare. Mrs. Weasley, though, was giving everyone a run for their money with the way she was throwing everything, all her energy and time, into this wedding for Bill and Fleur. It was the first wedding for her first son, so everything from the decorations to the food and even the front lawn had to be perfect too. It was also the first bit of light-heartedness they had in days since the summer started and hell broke loose.
Harry understood why she was being intense with the planning. He only wished she was being less-
"What on earth are you doing? Put that down right now!"
Intense. Much less intense, a wish he knew everyone shared.
While he was placing his breakfast plate into the sink, Harry looked out into the window where he watched Mrs. Weasley chased a snickering Fred around the backyard.
"Zip me up?"
Harry tore his eyes away from the chase scene over to a back. A pale back that was smooth, free of marks, with dark red hair spilling over one shoulder.
"Zip me up." Ginny repeated.
Harry swallowed down and moved over to her, grabbing hold of her zipper and pulling it up. Months ago Harry would have been beside himself, dizzy from the sight of her bare back, the touch of her soft skin, and the close presence. And yet…
The second the zipper was pulled up, Ginny whirled over to him. They both agreed it was best that they ended things-well Harry thought it was the best and Ginny agreed. It was clear the feelings were still there, though, shining in her eyes. For Harry, it was…it was…
They were only a breath away from a kiss when George called out, drawing their attention back to them.
"Don't mind me, younglings," he joked, bandages wrapped around his head. "Just enjoying my coffee."
Ginny scowled at him. "You can't do that somewhere else?"
"And miss the free show? I think not."
Mood completely ruined, Ginny shot him a sheepish smile, her brother a scowl, and went out to find Hermione. Harry shared her annoyance over Fred's unwanted appearance, but he couldn't say he was entirely mad about the missed kiss, which puzzled him.
He tried to reason that it was for the best, that rekindling a relationship would make things harder with his mission. That he was still mourning the losses if Hedwig and Moody. Yet something in him, a small voice, insisted it was more than that.
"Are you trying to fix that tie or merely attempting to do some sort of fiber mache?"
It took a few blinks and seconds for his mind to roll back to reality. The aftermath sun heating the back of his neck through the bedroom window. Draco leaning against the door, dressed in all black from shirt to his shiny shoes, watching him. The red tie in Harry's hands that was being mashed into a sad bow.
A thin eyebrow shot up. "So the Chosen One can battle against Death Eaters, Dementors, break every rule there is in the schoo'sl handbook, and yet can't do a tie?"
Months ago Harry would have bristled at the nickname that was one of the many he hated, responded to the taunt with his own and a punch at that. Now? He couldn't contain the relief that unfurled in his chest like a ribbon. Up until the time that they left Privet Drive, Malfoy had been a shell, reminding Harry too much of how he was fifth year, especially during the times after Sirius's death. Any signs of the prat Harry knew slowly returning back, he was relieved to see.
Harry sucked his teeth at him and returned back to his task, getting this stupid tie in order.
"Oh, dear Merlin, this is too sad. I'm weeping."
Before Harry knew it, he was turned away from the mirror, Malfoy was right in front of him, and Harry's hands were smacked away from the tie and replaced by Malfoy's.
"This is how you do it, Potter. I suggest you watch closely."
Harry was actually giving Malfoy free range to his neck, using an item that a lifetime ago would have been considered the perfect choice for manslaughter. He couldn't help laughing at the irony, earning a wary smile from Malfoy.
Silence fell between them. Harry's eyes drifted down to his hands. It was daunting how pale those hands were. Not in a sickly way, like his own complexion that had been worse for wear these past few weeks. In a different way. Porcelain-like. Big with tall, slim fingers, the type of hands that were perfect for piano-playing. And-
An image popped into his head of those hands untying the bow, unhooking his vest, unbuttoning the shirt until finally they reached bare skin.
Harry broke into a shudder, warmth clawing through him. He looked up at him, those gray eyes hooded but smoldering, as if Malfoy had read his thoughts. More than that, possibly shared them.
"There you go." Malfoy murmured.
It took a minute for Harry to remember the tie, which was now perfect. And still had Malfoy's hands attached to it.
"Um, thanks." Harry's voice was low as a whisper.
That night hell broke loose, turning the perfect wedding and all of Mrs. Weasely's into pandemonium. The guests screaming as they ran in every direction, Aurors and Death Eaters trading hexes and blows, and the four of them barely managing to escape. Hermione clutching onto her purse, shoes long gone. Ron stumbling on his long limbs. Harry leading the way, Draco following close behind, with their hands tightly clasped together.