"What's he doing?" Draco asked, tipping his chin out toward Harry.
Hermione wrapped her cloak tighter around her, looking out at Harry from under the protection of the castle walls. "I don't know."
Ron scowled at him. "Go away, Malfoy. No one wants you here."
Draco calmly finished eating his Chocolate Frog and started out into the rain.
"Malfoy," Ron shouted after him, "what are you doing?"
Hermione put a restraining hand on his arm. "Let him get wet if he wants."
"What are you doing, Potter?" Draco asked when he reached Harry.
"Do you know what they say about me?" If Harry'd been crying, the rain hid it. "They say I'm Merlin returned to live forward again and usher in a new reign of Arthur." He turned his face back up to the sky and yelled, "I'm not Merlin! I'm not special! I'm just Harry!"
Draco calmly crossed his arms over his chest. "That's right," he said sharply enough to make Harry listen to him. "You aren't special, and you're acting like a right git."
Harry gaped at him.
"Do you really think they'd let anyone but the great Harry Potter get away with this?" Draco asked, arm sweeping out to encompass them, the rain, the grounds.
"Either you are or you're not," Draco snapped.
"I'm not special," Harry said, sounding tired, unconvinced.
"That's right," Draco said unsympathetically. He grabbed Harry's arm. "Come on. Get out of the rain."
Harry let himself be pulled to the walls, past Ron and Hermione into the castle proper.
Dumbledore looked unhappy when he called me into his office, but he said that the Ministry had decided that it was for the best. And so I found myself on the train to London one Friday evening. No one bothered to tell me what was going on. They just shipped me off on the train with the assurance that someone from the Ministry would be there to meet me.
That someone, some wizard whose name I barely remember, didn't show up until the next morning. He knocked on the door of my room at the Leaky Cauldron before I was even awake and hurried me through breakfast. He fussed over my dress robes until another Ministry member showed up with a car.
They still hadn't told me where we were going.
We drove through London and stopped at a gate that led to a castle or palace of some sort. They didn't tell me where we were, and I didn't ask questions. They probably weren't Death Eaters, and since I had to be there anyway, it didn't seem to matter where, exactly, there was.
We went in to the palace, and a servant, a butler, I suppose, showed us in. He left the Ministry people there and insisted that I continue on alone. Again, there didn't seem to be any point in resisting. The butler, or whatever he was, knocked lightly on a door somewhere down a maze of hallways.
"Come," a voice called.
The butler opened the door and bowed, then gestured me in. "Mr. Potter, Your Highness."
I recognized him, of course. I'm not that far removed from the Muggle world.
"Ah, good. Thank you. That will be all."
The butler bowed and left again.
"Harry Potter." He held one hand out to me. "So good to meet you."
"Your Highness," I said, taking his hand. The title tasted strange on my tongue.
"Wills, please." He gestured at the cozy arrangement of couches and chairs around a coffee table already set with a tea tray. "Do have a seat. Would you care for a cup of tea?"
He poured, the silence broken only by his polite requests about cream and sugar. He spoke again when we were both comfortably ensconced on facing couches with warm cups of tea in our hands. Such a comforting, English ritual, tea.
"I'm sure you're wondering why you're here," he began. "My," he paused, searching for the right word, "advisors," he decided on, "tell me that you're quite famous. In fact, they tell me that there are rumors, whispers in the wizarding community." He paused to sip his tea. "The people, it seems, believe that you are Merlin, returned to usher in a new age of Arthur."
I knew people talked about me--how could they not? I was the boy who lived--but this was one rumor I hadn't heard. I studied the boy--yes, a boy he was, two years younger than me--across from me. Merlin. I was starting to see why I was there.
"I'm not Merlin."
He looked at me over the rim of his teacup. "Perhaps Merlin had black hair and fetching green eyes. Perhaps he did not. Either way, it hardly matters. What matters is that they believe it." He put down his cup and stated things plainly. "I will be the next King of England, Harry." His eyes never left mine, but something in his voice told me he wasn't speaking only to me. "With your support, I could be the next Arthur."
I wasn't sure what I was supposed to say. He'd been brought up to play political power games and make alliances. I'd been brought up to defeat the greatest dark wizard anyone has ever known. They were different worlds. I settled for merely sipping my tea.
"Well," he said. "You don't have to decide just now. But do think about it, and let me know when you have an answer. I'll have someone show you out."
And that is how I met the future King of England.
"So this is where you go to school." A tall, blond boy in Muggle clothing swung away from the wall and fell into step with Potter.
Draco watched Potter stop in his tracks and listened in on the conversations around him.
"What are you doing here?" Potter asked.
"Cor. It's Wills," someone breathed.
"Who?" a second voice asked.
"I came to see the school," the boy--Wills, apparently--said, waving his hand at the hallway. "This will be part of my country."
"Prince William," the first voice said, and it clicked. Prince William. And someone had told Potter too much and that the people think of him as Merlin.
"Have you considered my offer?" William asked Potter.
That must mean His Royal Highness thought he was going to be Arthur. Well, they'd just see about that.
"I don't believe we've been introduced," Draco said, smoothly moving to Harry's side. "Draco Malfoy."
"William," the Prince answered. His eyes coolly assessed Draco. "My advisors didn't mention you."
Draco gave William his best superior smile. "And Harry didn't mention you," he lied glibly. He took Harry's arm. "We'll be late for class." He swept them away from William and down the hall.
"The heir to the throne," he said to Harry when they were out of earshot. "He wants to be Arthur, and he wants you to help him."
"Yes," Harry said, sounding strangled, and then he bolted and disappeared into one of the washrooms.
Draco bemusedly followed him in and heard the sound of retching coming from one of the stalls. He ran water over a towel and had it ready when Harry came out.
Harry silently accepted it and leaned heavily on the sink while he wiped his face.
"What was his offer?"
Harry paled even farther. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Did he offer to share his power?"
Harry laughed, a sound like broken glass. He held up one hand and a flame danced in his palm. He closed his fist around it. When he opened his hand again, the flame was gone as if it had never been. "I don't need his power."
"Oh, no," Draco sneered. "Not the famous Harry Potter."
"Sod off, Malfoy," Potter said, or tried to say, rather, as he dissolved into coughing on the last word.
Draco's sneer became a scowl. "What's wrong with you?"
"I don't--" Harry took a step back and gripped the edge of the sink. "I don't--"
"Potter, you're white as a ghost." Draco stepped forward and took Harry's arm.
"I don't feel very good," Harry said.
"That's obvious," Draco muttered. "Let's get you to Pomfrey." The halls were empty and they managed to get to the Hospital Wing without anyone seeing them. Harry clung to Draco's arm so tightly that Pomfrey insisted on curing his bruises.
"Tsk," she said when they first came in. "What's wrong with you?"
"I don't feel well," Harry told her.
"He threw up earlier," Draco reported.
"We'll have you fixed right up in just a moment." Pomfrey looked sternly at Harry. "You were in the rain just last week, weren't you?" She didn't wait for an answer. "No wonder you're ill." She bustled around and came up with a potion and a bar of chocolate for Harry, and a sip of another potion and a small square of chocolate for Draco's bruises.
"Now, Potter, you be sure to rest this afternoon. No Quidditch and none of that mischief-making today! You'll only make yourself sick again." Madam Pomfrey waved at them. "Go on, get out of my Hospital Wing. And I don't want to see you back here anytime soon," she admonished sternly.
"Come on," Draco said once they were in the hallway, and he steered Harry toward a staircase.
"We have class," Harry protested.
"You heard Pomfrey. You're supposed to rest." Draco directed Harry up the stairs.
"I don't think this is what she meant." Despite his words, Harry followed Draco's lead to the Pink Lady guarding Gryffindor.
"Well?" Draco demanded when they were in the common room.
"Take me up the stairs to your dorm," Draco said patiently.
Harry led the way up another set of stairs and into his dormitory. Draco surveyed the room.
"Do you have any chocolate?"
"I think so." Harry rummaged through his trunk and pulled out a chocolate bar. "Yes, yes, I do."
Draco took it from him and broke off a small piece for himself before giving the remainder of the bar back to Harry. "Eat that."
Harry bit into the chocolate and sat down on his bed where he watched Draco prowl around the room.
"Don't you have anything to read in this place?"
Harry gestured at the assortment of items on his nightstand. "There might be a book in there."
Draco, upon rifling through Harry's things, came up with only an old copy of the Daily Prophet and Harry's copy of The Standard Book of Spells.
"I've been looking for that," Harry said, plucking the latter out of Draco's hands.
Draco pushed at Harry's shoulders. "Lie down, Potter. You're supposed to be resting."
"When did you turn into my nanny?" Harry muttered, but he lay back on the bed.
Draco idly flipped through the old copy of the Daily Prophet, but the news was horribly out of date and he'd already read most of the features. He pulled his feet up under himself and looked down at Harry.
"If you don't need his power," he asked, "what was his offer?"
"He wants me to help him become the next Arthur."
"Yes," Draco said patiently, "I understand that. What did he offer you in return?"
Harry shrugged as best he could while lying down. "He said I could help him become Arthur. He said," Harry said with half a chuckle, "that I had 'fetching green eyes.'"
"That arrogant prat," Draco said, and was completely mystified when Harry started to laugh.
"Oh, Malfoy," Harry said when he stopped, "thank you. I feel much better now." He broke the remainder of his chocolate bar in half and gave one of the pieces to Draco.