“Better be GRYFFINDOR!”
Harry stared as Malfoy, the rude blond boy he’d met on the train, squirmed off the stool and handed the Sorting Hat to a stunned-looking Professor McGonagall. Then he ran over to the Gryffindor table in silence. No one was clapping for him. In fact, half the professors at the High Table looked like Aunt Petunia had the time that Dudley had broken her most expensive window with a ball and blamed it on Harry.
Malfoy sat down at the Gryffindor table and hunched his shoulders. Everyone else moved away from him.
And that made Harry indignant. Was Hogwarts going to be just like Privet Drive, with everyone always despising someone? Harry was the culprit for everything with the Dursleys, and sometimes he hated the “normal” kids who stayed away from him as much as he did Dudley and Piers and all the other people who snickered at him. What would happen if here he was the Dudley or the Piers, and Malfoy was the Harry? That wouldn’t be right.
So Harry started clapping loudly, and ignored it when all the people stared at him. At least it kept them from staring because of his scar. And if he ignored all the muttering when his name was called and he walked up to the stool and people realized who had clapped, then he could even pretend most of them thought he was strange for reasons other than his name.
“Oh, yes,” the Hat chuckled into his mind. “Cunning, ambition, kindness, loyalty, or all those in embryo…not a bad mind, though not much in the way of book smarts…but no need to ask where you’ll go, boy, not with that bravery.” It opened its brim, probably to shout the name of his House.
“Why was Malfoy Sorted into Gryffindor?” Harry asked quickly.
The Hat was silent for a moment, then said, “I should not reveal even this much to you, but you did something kind for him. It had to do with fear, and conquering fear. Ask him about it; he might tell you.”
And then it yelled, “GRYFFINDOR!” and Harry ran over to his new table and made a point of sitting next to Malfoy and holding out his hand. Malfoy looked around with hunted eyes, as if he thought the benches would report him for doing something so nice, and then shook Harry’s hand.
“Why were you Sorted here?” Harry asked under his breath, as the Sorting went on and the bushy-haired girl, Granger, lectured Neville Longbottom about his toad.
Malfoy looked down his nose at him. “I don’t have to tell you that,” he said. But then he looked over his shoulder again, and Harry remembered what the Hat had said about fear.
“What are you so afraid of?”
“My father,” Malfoy whispered. “He’ll know already that I haven’t been Sorted into Slytherin, and he’ll be angry about it.”
Harry blinked. “How could he know already?”
Malfoy looked gloomy. “He just will.”
Harry hesitated, then made a decision. He patted Malfoy’s shoulder. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll protect you.”
Malfoy looked at him as if he was insane, and later, when Harry knew more about Lucius Malfoy, he understood why. But for the moment, he offered Harry a tiny, tentative smile.
Then the food appeared on the table, and Malfoy shrieked at the suddenness of it and dove under the bench. Harry looked doubtfully at the Sorting Hat, or the spot where the Sorting Hat had been. Is it really sure it made the right decision?
“Ah,” said Voldemort suddenly, and his eyes in the back of Quirrell’s head blazed like fire as he stared over Harry’s shoulder. “But I see you have brought a friend.”
Harry turned around, starting to say that was impossible; there was only one potion that would have allowed someone to go on, and he’d drunk it all. But there was Draco leaning against the wall, his eyes wide and his breath coming so fast that Harry was surprised he hadn’t fainted already.
“Young Malfoy,” Voldemort crooned, taking a step forwards so that he was facing away from Harry. But Quirrell’s eyes glared at Harry from the other direction, so he had to stand still, even though he longed to move and help Draco. “I am astonished to learn of your House. Does your father know of your changed loyalties? Shall I contact him, and tell him—”
Draco made a noise like Fluffy choking and hurled something at Voldemort. Voldemort staggered back with a cry, and Quirrell’s hands came up and clawed at his white face. Harry stared. Clinging to Voldemort for dear life, to keep from being flung somewhere else, was Trevor, Neville’s toad.
Trevor closed his eyes and started vibrating. Large drops of some foul-smelling liquid oozed through his skin and onto Voldemort’s. Voldemort began to scream hopelessly, and then Quirrell caught fire and began to stagger wildly around the room. Trevor leaped to the floor with a croak and hopped away to safety behind the Mirror of Erised.
Harry ran to the doorway, grabbed Draco’s hand, and then cast a Tripping Jinx on Voldemort. He crashed to the floor, and the flames wrapped around him and consumed him. By then, Harry and Draco were safe in the same corner as Trevor was.
Dumbledore came in a few minutes later and examined the body gravely. When he stood up, his eyes had a brighter twinkle than ever. “Voldemort is gone and Quirrell is dead, my boy,” he said. “I greatly fear that we have not seen the last of our old enemy, but he has not managed to possess himself of the Philosopher’s Stone, and that is a great victory.”
“It was a victory for Draco,” Harry said, looking down at Draco, who by this time was unconscious in his arms. “And Trevor.”
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. “Indeed?” he said, and looked more thoughtful. “Well, I knew that my old friend Augusta Longbottom had an interest in unusual amphibians. I had not thought she would go so far as buying a genuine Acidic Toad for her grandson. Their secretions are of great value in combating evil; they literally burn it to death.”
Between Dumbledore and Harry, they got Draco to the hospital wing and Trevor back to Neville. Draco never did give any satisfactory account of how he’d managed to follow Harry, Ron, and Hermione, or get through the final protection into the room with the Mirror of Erised in it. He just said that he had a nightmare about a pair of scissors, woke up to get Harry to hug him, and saw all of them leaving through the common room door. He’d grabbed Trevor to give himself a friend and come after them, and never stopped moving because he was “too scared to stop.”
Dumbledore hemmed and hawed and seemed to think there was something more to it, but he merely twinkled when Harry asked him.
There were times, Harry thought, as he backed away from the giant basilisk swaying above him and heard Tom Riddle’s laughter, when he could really do without inconvenient cave-ins that separated him from his friends.
He already had one fang through his arm. He was tired, and hurting, and probably dying from the poison, and he just wanted help.
A loud trill broke out from above him, and Harry looked up in surprise. Fawkes, Dumbledore’s phoenix, was swooping straight for him, and he held something in his claws. He dropped the thing at Harry’s feet and then swooped away, circling around the basilisk’s head. A moment later, the basilisk screamed in Parseltongue. Harry hoped Fawkes was putting the nasty thing’s eyes out.
He picked up the object Fawkes had dropped. The Sorting Hat? That’s the sort of help I get? He shook the Hat as hard as he could, hoping against hope that something else would come out of it.
Out fell a sword, glittering all over with jewels and a really sharp edge that Harry just managed to miss slicing himself with. And out fell Draco a moment later, who curled up in Harry’s lap, cowering, and hid his face against his leg.
“What? Draco—” Harry wanted to yell at him to run out of the Chamber and stop being an idiot, he didn’t belong in the middle of danger like this, but he was still stupefied with the poison and the sheer surprise of seeing Draco there.
Suddenly the basilisk was bearing towards them, its mouth open. And its other fang was going to come right down on top of Draco if he didn’t watch out! Harry, acting on pure instinct, seized the sword and stabbed upwards desperately, hoping that he could at least cut the fang out of the snake’s mouth.
Instead, the sword went through the top of the mouth, and the snake emitted a long, pained shriek, the way it had when Fawkes first went after it. Then it dragged itself away, writhing all over the Chamber of Secrets. Harry hoped it was dying, the fucker.
I know something about dying. The burn in his arm was so bad, and his eyes were getting so heavy…
Then a warm weight settled on his shoulder, and Harry felt a rush of purity and strength as Fawkes cried on the wound. He took a deep breath and felt some of the pain recede. He plucked out the fang and tossed it aside, then looked in wonder at his healed arm.
“No matter,” Tom Riddle said, stepping forwards, his voice bright with rage. “No matter! I shall only drain the life from Weasley and use my magic to defeat you! I shall—” And then he paused and stared at Draco, still shaking on Harry’s lap. “Hullo,” he said. “That’s Malfoy hair. What’s one of them doing here?”
Draco rose up off Harry’s lap as if he’d been stabbed, screaming. Harry clapped his hands over his ears, it was so loud. He knew there was “Malfoy” in there somewhere, and “my father,” and “hurt you,” but he couldn’t make out anything else.
Draco grabbed the basilisk fang he’d shoved aside and ran straight for Tom Riddle. Riddle laughed as Draco tried to stab him; of course he wasn’t really there, so the fang just passed through his body. But then Draco turned around, screaming mindlessly, and attacked the diary.
Tom Riddle started screaming, too, then, and ink rushed out of the diary. Harry watched in dumb amazement as he faded from sight, and Draco kept stabbing and stabbing the diary until hardly anything was left but a tattered mass of cover and scraps of paper.
He was quiet by the time Fawkes carried them all out of the Chamber again, his eyes shut and his hand clutching tightly at Harry’s. Harry looked at him and shook his head.
“Keep back,” Professor Snape was saying in a low voice as the snarling werewolf prowled towards them. “Lupin has not had his potion. He will be out of his right mind, able to kill you, and—”
Lupin showed them his fangs then, longer and more dangerous-looking even than basilisk fangs, Harry thought.
And Draco screamed.
The scream was the shrillest thing Harry had ever heard. It made his teeth ache and the bones of his skull vibrate. It rose quickly to a volume that had him clutching his ears and then went beyond that, into silence that told him he either couldn’t hear the pitch or had gone mercifully deaf.
Lupin threw back his head and began to howl, as if he wanted to compete with the scream. The next moment, he turned and fled, whimpering. Harry hoped he wasn’t going in the same direction Pettigrew had run; it would be rather awkward if they could never clear Sirius because a werewolf had eaten his alibi. But no, he was bounding in the direction of the Forbidden Forest, away from the school and all of them. Harry hoped he would find a deer to eat or something.
Snape was looking at Draco with an expression on his face that Harry couldn’t quite figure out as his voice descended into normal registers again. “Well done, Mr. Malfoy,” he said at last, when Draco had stopped screaming.
Draco’s eyes rolled back in his head and he fainted—in relief, Harry thought, casting a Lightening Charm and scooping him up. He’d got quite good at telling one kind of Draco’s faints from another.
Draco had come with them in the first place because he was convinced Buckbeak would escape from execution and go after him to finish the mauling he’d begun in the autumn. Somehow, he thought being close to Harry, even if Harry was going to visit Hagrid and Buckbeak, would keep him safe from the marauding hippogriff.
Harry kept glancing over his shoulder later, when he and Hermione used the Time-Turner to save Sirius. He knew Draco was still unconscious in the hospital wing, but it wouldn’t really have surprised him to see a small, determined, pointy blond figure lunging after him at this point.
“And in his glory,” Moody, or the man who must not be Moody, concluded, his eyes shining furiously, “the Dark Lord will rise again!”
Harry shrank against the back of his chair, his eyes locked on his enemy. He was shaking with fear and fury, images of Cedric’s face flashing before his eyes, and the ghosts of his parents, and Voldemort’s wand uplifted to kill him. He wanted to do something, but his emotions weighed him down so heavily that he couldn’t move his wand hand.
Something was moving, though. Moody’s Foe-Glass bore a single shadow, coming closer and closer with what looked like crazed determination. Harry struggled to break out of his shock, hoping he could make himself cast a spell, or that the shadow would get there before Moody decided to kill him.
Moody started to aim his wand. Harry tried to twitch his frozen muscles, but it seemed he couldn’t move, even to roll aside from the Killing Curse he thought Moody intended to use.
Then the door burst open, and Draco, framed in it, aimed his wand triumphantly at Moody and yelled an incantation that sounded like complete gibberish to Harry.
A beam of yellow light shot away from his wand and struck Moody, who shrank and twisted. A shrill squeaking noise emerged from his throat. Harry stared in dazed wonder as Draco Transfigured Moody into a rat, the same way Moody had Transfigured him into a ferret earlier that year when he was arguing with Ron over whether Harry actually had put his name in the Goblet of Fire.
The rat hit the ground, cowered for a moment, and then scrambled towards the door. Harry aimed his wand frantically. He’d already had one rat escape on him last year, and he was damned if he was going to happen again.
But Draco got there first, conjuring a cage and clapping it down over the rat neat as you please. Moody, or whoever he really was, stood on his hind legs and scrabbled at the glass, squeaking.
“There,” Draco said. “That ought to teach you some respect for the name of Malfoy.” He sniffed and looked up, and only then seemed to take in Harry’s presence in the room. He blinked. “Oh,” he said. “Did I save your life again? I seem to do that once every year, and we were on schedule for it.”
Harry nodded. “Thanks,” he said, his throat still dry.
Draco kicked the cage. The rat flipped over on its back and glared up at him, but even Draco didn’t appear to be afraid of a creature so much smaller than he was, as long as it was properly trapped. “Take that,” he said.
Harry shook his head and set himself to explain matters when Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Snape came bursting in, especially since Draco seemed on the verge of fainting when Snape gave him a harsh look. But he had to hide a smile behind his hand.
Draco was his own special kind of hero.
“Aaah! Aaaah! Aaaaah!”
Harry wished Draco would stop screaming like that. It made it harder for Harry to concentrate on spells to protect him, especially since they were halfway across the big room in the Ministry from each other at the moment and Death Eater curses were still flying all around him.
And besides, he’d just seen Sirius fall through the veil. The haunted expression on his face would fill Harry’s nightmares for the rest of his life.
He blinked furiously, forcing both tears and the memory away, and then stiffened as Bellatrix Lestrange came up to him. She was flipping her wand over and over in her hands, smiling.
“Did poor baby lose his father figure?” she crooned. “The widdle baby boy. Does he want another chance at the mean evil witch?”
Enraged, not even thinking about what he was doing, Harry tried to cast the Cruciatus Curse. Bellatrix caught her breath and jerked as though she’d been shocked, but laughed in the next minute and aimed her wand at him.
“You need real hatred to cast Unforgivables, baby,” she said. “Let me show you how it’s done—”
Then she made a weird croaking noise and crumpled to the floor. Harry blinked. Standing behind her was Draco, a hand over his face so that only one eye showed and his wand jabbing in the air.
“I used a Stabbing Jinx on her,” he said fretfully. “My father always told me to get someone in the back if you could. Is she dead? Is she dead? Is she dead?” His words were getting shriller towards the end, and as his hands dropped from his face, Harry saw his eyes roll back into his head, as they usually did when he was about to collapse.
Harry sprinted over to him, clasped his hands, and breathed on his eyelids. They fluttered. A moment later, Draco was looking up at him in bewilderment. Harry flushed, realizing how close they stood, and cleared his throat as he took a step back.
“I think she’s out for right now,” he said, glancing at Bellatrix and seeing the enormous pool of blood beneath her body. He cast a Body-Bind at her just in case and then turned back to Draco. “Did you realize your father was here?” He was astonished that Draco was still on his feet with Lucius in the same room.
“He was here,” Draco said. “But I fell down and played dead when I saw him, and he turned pale and ran away. I think he was trying to contemplate what he’d do if he killed his own heir.”
Harry shook his head. He was biting his lip to conceal a smile. He didn’t think Draco would understand if he saw Harry smiling.
“What?” Draco insisted. He seemed to have noticed the smile anyway.
Seeking a distraction, Harry leaned forwards and kissed Draco solidly on the lips. He felt a twinge in his scar as he did so, and the brief sense of another person trying to push into his mind, the way he had when Snape practiced Legilimency on him, but the next moment the presence recoiled and fled. Harry didn’t know why. He felt pretty damn fantastic, and surely anyone worth his salt would have stayed around to share the feeling.
But far better than that odd sensation was the feeling of Draco curling an arm around his neck and responding to the kiss whole-heartedly, rather than fainting with shock. It seemed there were some things that didn’t scare him.
“Potter! One of your freak friends is here to see you!”
Harry rubbed sleep out of his eyes and sat up in bed, frowning. He had no idea how someone would know where he was at the Dursleys’—unless it was the Weasleys, maybe? They’d rescued him the summer before second year, after all.
But when he made his way out of his bedroom and down the stairs, it was Draco who flung himself into Harry’s arms, babbling.
“Harry, he wants me to become a Death Eater, and my mother is trying to get Snape to make a vow, and Aunt Bellatrix survived after all and is out of Azkaban again, and I need protection, and and and—”
Harry sighed, caught Draco as he fainted, and dragged him up the stairs to his bedroom, ignoring the disbelieving eyes of his aunt and uncle. Once he had Draco laid out on the bed, he got a glass of water and sprinkled it on his face. Draco sat up, pale and tragic. Harry stifled the urge to tell him he looked like a Muggle romance novel heroine in the books Aunt Petunia read and made him start over from the beginning.
It seemed that Lucius had fled the country, and in an attempt to make Draco pay for his father’s disappointing reaction, Voldemort was trying to turn Draco into a Death Eater and force him to kill Dumbledore. Narcissa had some sort of mad plan to go to Snape and have him swear an Unbreakable Vow, so he would kill Dumbledore instead if Draco wouldn’t do it. She’d been prevented by Draco’s crying and Bellatrix’s sudden appearance at the house. Draco had run away, terrified that his aunt would remember he’d been the one who used the Stabbing Jinx on her.
When he was sure he had the story right, Harry firmly grabbed Draco’s hands and held him still. “I’m going to write to Dumbledore,” he said. Luckily, Hedwig was here tonight—she’d come in from hunting earlier—and Harry had learned how to pick the locks on her cage. “Then he can come and offer you protection.”
Draco’s face turned grey. “Just me? What about you?” He grabbed Harry and held him tight.
“I’m safe behind the blood wards,” Harry started to reassure him.
“But I found you!” Draco yelled. “And I didn’t even know where you live! I just wished to go there, and my magic brought me here.” He clutched at Harry, his fingers digging into his shoulders in a way that Harry knew from experience wasn’t going to loosen any time soon. “You can’t let me go with Dumbledore alone. What if he forgets about me and leaves me somewhere Bellatrix can kill me?” He whimpered softly. “Or what if Professor Snape is angry about the Unbreakable Vow and tries to kill me?”
Harry came up with all sorts of helpful words so Draco wouldn’t feel afraid to leave him alone, but Draco simply fainted on him, and then cried, and then pouted, which was the worst and most unfair of all, until Harry agreed to leave the house with him when Dumbledore came.
Dumbledore just raised his eyebrows when he arrived and heard Draco’s story. “Of course I will offer you protection,” he said, when Draco’s words had stumbled to a stop. “And I feel I must thank you boys, indeed. I was about to embark on something that could have proven most foolish, trying to destroy a cursed artifact without proper precautions. Then Hedwig arrived, and naturally I had other things to think about.”
Draco, exhausted and seemingly happy now that Dumbledore was there, had fallen asleep by the time they were ready to leave. Harry stroked his hair back from his forehead as Dumbledore cast a Lightening Charm and picked him up.
“Sir?” he asked, as they went down the stairs towards the front door. “Do you know how Draco found the house and got through the blood wards?”
Dumbledore had been walking along quickly, but now he stopped and tuned towards Harry with a mysterious slow smile.
“Ah, Harry,” he said, “love works in mysterious ways. And so does fear.”
And he swept down the staircase, chuckling to himself, before Harry could ask anything else. Harry rolled his eyes and followed, Draco snoring softly into the side of his neck.
“At last I have you, Harry Potter.”
Harry lay on the ground, aching all over and panting with pain. Somehow, he had thought things would be simple when it had got this far. He, Ron, Hermione, and Draco had destroyed all the Horcruxes, and then Harry himself had died and come back to get rid of the Horcrux in him. Harry had borrowed Draco’s wand, after defeating him in a mock duel, so that things wouldn’t be ruined by his and Voldemort’s wand being brothers. And Dumbledore had secured the Elder Wand carefully far away so that Voldemort couldn’t get hold of it.
But try as he might, Harry still didn’t have enough hatred in him to cast an Unforgivable. And now Voldemort had used some spell that sounded like Sectumsempra and was prowling closer to him, his eyes alight, as Harry’s blood drained out of his body.
“So it ends,” Voldemort whispered, his face flecked with blood from the spell that had made Nagini explode all over him. “I do hope that you take word of my victory to the afterlife, Potter.” He reared back, his wand held high. Harry’s eyes fixed on it in aching dread.
Harry’s heart lifted; he would have known the sound of that terrified shriek anywhere. With what felt like the last of his strength, he turned his head.
Draco was charging straight at Voldemort with Harry’s wand out. But he wasn’t casting any curse. Instead, he just squeezed his eyes shut and ran as hard as he could, his scream ringing out proudly for all to hear.
Voldemort stood and stared at him, watching him come. When Draco got close enough, he started to move his own wand in a lazy gesture. Harry lunged at him, mind filled with images of Draco falling apart in a bloody mess, too, and managed to grab Voldemort’s ankle.
His tug pulled Voldemort off-balance as he cast the spell, so that it slammed into the ground next to Draco and made it squirm and smoke. Harry couldn’t do much more, as he collapsed in the next instant.
It wasn’t much. But it was enough.
Draco slammed into Voldemort, and Harry’s wand punched straight into his throat and out the other side. For a moment, Voldemort’s eyes crossed, as though he were trying to look down at the wand embedded in his neck. Then his fingers opened, he gave a single wailing cry, and Harry had to roll to the side to prevent Voldemort’s body from falling on him.
Draco stood there, mouth agape, as Voldemort dissolved into ashes and sand, looking as if he didn’t quite believe what he’d done. Then, a cheer went up from the people arranged in a circle around them, Draco’s eyes rolled back in his head, and he fainted. Harry reached out to catch him, but his strength was fading.
Later, he knew that Snape had come up to him, grumbling under his breath the whole time, and healed him so that he had some blood left in his body. He and Draco were carried to the hospital wing on the shoulders of the rejoicing crowd, and Rita Skeeter tried unsuccessfully to get an interview with Draco, who fainted again when he woke up and saw her glasses looming over him.
But that was later. Harry only knew that, when he opened his eyes at last and cautiously tested his limbs, it was night, they were alone in the hospital wing, and Draco was awake and looking at him expectantly.
“You know what I want to do?” Harry asked, his voice hoarse and raw but determined. “I want to shag.”
And Draco—Draco who made Harry look at his exams and report the marks to him because he was so nervous, Draco who refused to fly higher than six feet off the ground, Draco who had murdered a Dark Lord with Harry’s own wand—smiled at him and said, “Drag yourself out of that bed and into this one, and we’ll see about letting you into me.”
Harry was still weak with blood loss and pain, but never before had a distance seemed so short.
Later, safely back in his own bed, replete, languid, and with the covers demurely dragged across him, Harry watched in curiosity as Dumbledore opened the door to the hospital wing. He gave the snoring Draco a smiling glance, then walked up to Harry’s bed and conjured a chair next to it.
“Well, sir?” Harry asked softly.
“Voldemort is well and truly gone this time.” Harry had never seen Dumbledore smile like that, in a way that lit up his whole face. “I’ve checked for myself, and we’ve asked a few Ministry experts in Dark magic to check. Without the Horcruxes, he has no way to return.”
Harry exhaled hard in relief, and spent a moment toying with the edge of the blanket, thinking of all he had to do. He had to thank Narcissa Malfoy, who had successfully played the role of a devoted follower to Voldemort even though she supported her son dating Harry, and lied that Harry was dead when he returned to life in the Forest. He had to find Ron and Hermione, and push them to kiss each other if it hadn’t happened already; he was sick of their endless bickering. He had to—
“Sir,” he said suddenly, sitting up. “There’s one thing I don’t understand.”
Dumbledore’s eyes were twinkling so brightly that Harry could have lit the room by them. “Yes, Harry?”
“The way that Draco followed me in first year,” Harry said. “And came to me the summer before sixth year. And then the way he stabbed Voldemort through the throat. How did all of that happen? I know you said it had something to do with love and fear, but I still don’t know what you mean.”
“Were you aware of the reason that Draco so feared his father?” Dumbledore asked gently.
“Well,” Harry said hesitantly, “I thought he was abused at first.” He still remembered the day he had asked Draco that question. Draco had gone into a cold sweat and gibbered for two hours. Eventually, though, he’d managed to tell Harry that that was at the thought of being abused by Lucius, and not because it had actually happened. “Then I just figured he was scared of his father, like he was of everything else.”
“In truth, it was because he had powerful accidental magic from the time he was an infant,” Dumbledore said. “Not even acquiring a wand brought it under control. Lucius was disgusted that his son acted so undignified—that he was strong but had no finesse. That magic is what gave Draco what he wanted, during the times when he most wanted it. It may even have been responsible for his being in the Sorting Hat during your second year, and screaming powerfully enough to defeat a werewolf in your third. I haven’t made a proper study of the matter, you understand.” He gazed thoughtfully over at Draco’s bed.
Harry started to shift over to put his body between Draco and Dumbledore, and then remembered that the Headmaster wasn’t really a danger and wouldn’t experiment on Draco without his permission. He cleared his throat a little sheepishly. “But why love and fear, then?”
“He has a very great love for you, Harry,” Dumbledore said gently. “From first year onwards, you have always been his protector. As for fear…” By now, the twinkle made Harry have to look away in case he got blinded by it. “He feared losing you more than anything else. That is what drove him.”
Harry shook his head. “It’s a wonder he ever got Sorted into Gryffindor. I’m glad he was,” he added hastily, thinking Dumbledore might misunderstand. “But I don’t see why.”
Dumbledore chuckled. “I overheard his Sorting, Harry. He was mumbling rather loudly, and I, well, I eavesdropped as I always do on the most ‘interesting’ Sortings. The Hat told him he should go to Slytherin. Draco believed they would tear him apart in that House, and he feared the same from the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs if they decided that he was not smart or loyal enough. The Hat chose Gryffindor because Draco was too afraid to go anywhere else.”
Harry tried to muffle his snort, but it was impossible.
Dumbledore stood up, then. “You deserve a little private celebration of your own, my boy,” he said. “Congratulations.” He held out his hand, and Harry shook it. Then Dumbledore left the hospital wing, humming under his breath.
Harry waited a moment, but Draco didn’t wake up. He must have been honestly tired. Harry moved back to his bed and traced a hand over Draco’s eyelids, shut for once in sleep instead of because he was out cold.
“My own brave coward,” he whispered. “My own fearful lover. I never understood the real reason you feared your father, but—”
And the next moment Draco was under the bed again, taking most of the blankets with him, apparently responding to a mention of Lucius even in his sleep.
Harry scooted under the bed with him, kissed him on the forehead, and rolled his eyes.