Harry wonders when he'll be done falling into other people's memories. He had thought there were no more elephantine secrets being kept from him, but as he is sitting on Sirius' old bed in Grimmauld Place – because he has nowhere else to go, really – he wonders whether secrets are ever truly revealed.
The funerals are over; Remus and Tonks were the worst. Teddy was right there in his arms, giggling at the pretty flowers on the trees that threw everyone in an early-morning shadow, changing his hair color from Harry's deep black to the pale pink and white of the blossoms falling around the gathered in a mockery of raindrops that should have accompanied the somber occasion.
Next to him stood Andromeda, straight backed, chin tipped high, silent tears falling down her cheeks as her remaining sister stood next to her. Harry wondered where Draco Malfoy was, and whether or not it was a good thing he wasn't with his aunt and mother.
He remembers the casket being lowered in the cemetery, Remus and Tonks being buried six feet under, nothing but skin and bones and rotting muscles encased in wood under dirt and cement and headstones. Remembers how, just as the dirt was thrown over them with a dull thu-thunk, one of the blossoms landed on Teddy's soft face and he let out a high-pitched giggle only babies can make during such a sombre moment, and Harry smiled at his godson amidst disapproving glares and frowns.
Harry comes back to himself, comes back to this moment. Sees the the black box five inches deep, seven wide, ten long. with a keyhole waiting patiently for him and the steel gray key he has in his hands. He stalls, unready to see what Remus has left for him, what he couldn't tell him when alive.
Instead, he pulls out the envelope that holds the key. The one Andromeda gave him after the funeral along with this box. He opens the creased parchment, and reads that familiar handwriting that wrote corrections on his third year essays.
I want to avoid the cliches, but if you are reading this, then I am clearly dead. It was expected, really. I'm not worried for Teddy. He'll be loved by you and Andromeda and Dora, I know. He'll be okay. Hopefully, he will know I love him.
You have figured out, I am sure, what the key is for. Before Sirius died, he and I started a...project of sorts, in case neither of survived. A project I have finished. The box will explain itself. It is unfair how little we knew each other, and I hope this will give you a story. For yourself and for Teddy. Both of you deserve to know.
Forgive me, I didn't have the courage to tell you earlier. I can only hope you do not judge me too harshly.
Harry's own courage falters at the promise of another hidden story, more memories almost forgotten. Of more men who didn't deserve to loose their lives because of a battle fought over their childhoods, stripping them of their innocence and lives and loves.
Then, just like he has for the last two weeks, Harry pushes the key back in the envelope along with the creased parchment, pushes the box under his – Sirius' – bed and leaves the room for his day in the park with Teddy.
Harry looks at it again for the fifth time since he's got it. It is August now, and he will be going to Hogwarts for his eighth year even though he's the Boy Who Lived Twice and doesn't need N.E.W.T.'s and could probably join the Aurors tomorrow if he wanted to.
But Hermione just sniffed her nose and turned away in disdain, silently ordering Harry and Ron to come to Hogwarts with her. And he agrees because Ron agrees, and he's never been anywhere without them, and he isn't about to start now.
He still hasn't opened the box. It's a ritual now, to come to his room, read the letter, hold the key over the keyhole, stare at the box and never open it.
Ron and Hermione don't know about it, and Andromeda never speaks about it. Harry still has Snape's memories, and more memories slightly terrify him. He wants to put everything behind him. But he owes it to Remus and Sirius, and Teddy even to look in the box.
It isn't until the morning after his birthday that he actually does it.
And his worst fear is sitting there in that black five inch deep box, taunting him. Vials, miniature , corked and right fucking there.
With trembling hands, he pulls out the one in the far right. There is a date on it.
July 15, 1976.
He puts it back and pulls out the next one.
November 8, 1981.
He pulls the out, one by one, places them in chronological order just for something to do other than actually see them.
The first one is labeled mid-June 1976 and the last one is the date of Teddy's birth. There is one though, that isn't dated. It just says 'The very last.' Harry ponders over it for a moment and then puts it back in the box.
He puts them all back in the box in the same chronological order. There are more memories than should be able to fit in a box this size, but it is obvious Remus used the same Charm Hermione used on her purse during those months of traipsing through forests.
He will be going to Hogwarts in less than two weeks, and he knows he will take the box with him because he doesn't have a pensieve. He postpones it until he gets to Hogwarts and can use Dumbledore's old pensieve.
Harry leans back contentedly against the familiar bench in the train compartment. Ron and Hermione are sitting across from him, the former resting his head in the latter's lap, Head Girl and Boy badges gleaming on their chests. Ginny and Neville are next to him, chatting about the upcoming first Quidditch match since the war. It's Holyhead Harpies versus Kenmare Kestrals. Ginny's favorite team versus Neville's.
Harry wants to join in, but he's never had a chance to follow Quidditch what with being busy taking down Voldemort and everything. He thinks he might like to start now.
He watches Ginny out of the corner of his eyes. She didn't want to get back together with him. Something about too soon and too young and not being what he needed. But they are still friends, and Ron's okay with it, and maybe when the sadness and shock wears off, he will be too.
Luna, as usual, is doing her thing on the floor right underneath the compartment window with the latest edition of the Quibbler. People from the DA come by every once in a while and greet them, but otherwise it is quiet.
Then, suddenly, the door is thrown open bringing in a flash of green and black and blonde, and the door is closed again with people shouting on the other side, blinds pulled over the little window in the door. Harry watches dumbstruck as Malfoy catches his breath, wand clutched tightly in his hands, eyes shut even tighter.
When he does open them, it is to find five shocked Gryffindors and one calmly observing Ravenclaw. He bows his head in defeated, the other people pounding on the door, and curses.
Ron speaks first. “What the bloody blazes is going on here?”
The answer comes from outside.
“Come out, come out, Malfoy! Not so big and mighty now, are you?”
“Can't hide from us forever, fag!”
Just like that, Harry understands. Has seen that terrified expression before. Hell, he was in the same position Malfoy is in now before coming to the Wizarding world. Except, for him it would have been Dudley and his gang on the other side.
Without pausing, Harry pulls his Invisibility Cloak and tosses it to Malfoy, jerks his head to motion Malfoy to stand behind him. Luna shifts a little to the left to give an invisible Malfoy place to stand by the window.
Once Harry is sure he is fully covered, he slides open the door, wand in hand, wearing his sternest expression. He's been told by Hermione and a few others that he strikes an intimidating figure despite being not the tallest or the stockiest. It's your aura , Hermione had said.
“What is going on here?”
There are three boys; one tall and lanky, one short and stout, and the last of stocky build that reminds him of a young Dudley. The three boys stumble back, their sneers and glares morphing into some semblance of the same smile he has gotten used to over the last few months. Harry only glares back at them.
The tall one steps forward first. He stands too close to Harry, hoping to intimidate, and looks down his nose with a sneer. Ron is immediately behind him, as are Hermione, Ginny, and Neville.
“You might want to leave now,” Ron growls. He and the tall boy are almost the same height.
He seems to be weighing his options. Five against three; they haven't got a chance.
He backs off, looks back at his friends, then back at Harry with what could pass as a smile. “We were looking for Malfoy. Just wanted to teach him a lesson.”
This time, Harry takes a menacing step forward, making the other three back away. “Yeah? Well, you might want to leave him alone or you'll find I'm rather fond of teaching people lessons as well.”
The stocky boy snarls, drawing his wand, and the other two follow. Harry Disarms them almost lazily. The wands soar into his waiting hand. He has to refrain from rolling his eyes, but Ron does it for him.
“You don't attack Harry Potter, mate,” he says, looks at Hermione and adds, “That's twenty points from Ravenclaw. Each.”
Their leader grumbles, eying his wand in Harry's hand. Harry grins. “I think you should collect these from the Headmistress.” With that, he slides the compartment door shut.
Ginny flops back into her seat, twirling her wand between her fingers. “And here I thought we'd have a quiet year.”
Malfoy shimmers our of hiding, the Cloak dangling limply in his hands. He shuffles his feet awkwardly, not meeting anyone's eye. “Thank you,” he mutters, stalks quickly to the door. Malfoy has already stepped out before he realises he holds Harry's Cloak. Malfoy stretches his arm out as if to hand it back.
Harry shakes his head. “Keep it. 'Til you're back at the castle.”
If Malfoy is surprised, he doesn't show it. “Right.” He nods, looks around the compartment once more and leaves.
Hermione is looking at him oddly, as is Ginny. Ron and Neville are discussing what just happened.
Suddenly, Luna says, “That was very sweet of you, Harry,” and Draco Malfoy is all Harry can think of the rest of the train ride.
Harry stands in an empty classroom on the third floor. The pensieve McGonagall let him borrow is sitting in front of him on a desk. The first memory, the one labeled mid-June 1976 is already in the basin, swirling, shimmering, calling out to him.
He really doesn't want to do this. Especially not tonight when he just came back to Hogwarts, but the pensieve is here and he's run out of excuses.
Gathering all of his fabled courage, Harry touches the surface with the tip of his finger.
The setting is familiar. He turns around, and yes, there are the Marauders by the beech tree. Snape is dangling by his ankle, and Harry wonders why Remus gave him this memory when he knew how Harry had felt even back then. But something...something is different. Lily isn't here. He looks for that flash of red. He sees her, storming back up to the castle.
The crowd is laughing. Harry feels sick to his stomach just like he did the first two times he saw this particular incident.
“That's enough, James.” Remus's voice is low, and Harry wouldn't have been able to hear him were he not standing so close.
Harry knows James threatened to remove Snape's underwear again. He can see Snape doesn't even care about being humiliated anymore. Snape is hovering mid-air, trying to see where Lily went.
“Aw c'mon, Moony,” Sirius whines, looking at Remus with a look reminiscent of a kicked puppy. “It's only Snivellus.”
Remus raises one eyebrow at his friend, shuts his book with a snap, and strides up to the castle in Lily's wake.
Sirius curses and follows Remus, even James looks a little repentant. He looks between his best friend and best enemy. Deciding Snape isn't worth it, he mutters the counter-curse. Snape lands unceremoniously on the ground.
“Come on, Wormtail.” Wormtail jumps eagerly and follows James back to the castle.
This is the first time Harry has seen how the incident ended. It seemed Snape was dropped like worthless trash as quickly as he was picked up as a worthy puppet.
Harry whips around in shock. “Malfoy?”
“Erm.” Malfoy shuffles his weight from one foot to another, staring at a crouched Snape. Just then, the memory is over, and Harry and Malfoy leave the stone basin.
“I'm sorry,” Malfoy continues. “I – I just wanted to return your Cloak, and...thank you. Again.” He holds the shimmering fabric in his outstretched hand, glancing uneasily at the pensieve. “I'm sorry about...I just didn't know where – the Locator Spell led me to this room...” The blonde trails off, looking anywhere but Harry.
Harry takes the Cloak from him, embarrassed at what Malfoy saw his young father do in the memory. “Charming man, my dad, wasn't he?”
Malfoy's gray eyes lock onto his. “I'm not one to give authority on charming fathers.”
Harry tilts his head to one side. “No. I don't suppose you are. I guess that gives you perspective on why Snape hated me.”
“I thought he loved your mother,” Malfoy blurts out. He looks mortified at having said such a thing. Even in the dim light he can see Malfoy flushing red. Harry doesn't ever remember a time his schoolboy rival looked embarrassed. It's a bit endearing. “Sorry.”
Did he just think of Malfoy as... endearing ? Definitely not.
Harry tries for a small smile. “That too.” And awkward silence follows, which Harry breaks by adding, “I'd like it if you didn't tell anyone what you saw here. Even Ron and Hermione don't know about...this.” He waves a hand at the pensieve. “Snape didn't want anyone knowing.”
“He'd haunt me if I tried, Potter.”
That he would , Harry wants to say and grin. But it sounds too casual, too... friendly to say to someone with whom he has had such an antagonistic relationship. Instead he siphons the memory back into it's appropriate vial, and replaces it in the box as he tries to think of something normal to say to Malfoy.
“I sometimes wish he'd – ” Harry turns around to look at Malfoy, but the room is empty. He frowns, suddenly feeling bereft. “– told me.”
Harry returns every night to the same room after Dean, Ron, Seamus, and Neville are deeply snoring, hidden pensieve in tow. He watches the memories, and slowly, piece by piece the story comes together.
He understands what Remus wanted his to know. Wonders how he never saw it before.
If Ron and Hermione suspect, they don't say anything. Nor do any of the teachers, although he takes care to be covered by his father's old Cloak. The Marauder's Map helps too. Harry tells himself he isn't staring at Draco Malfoy's little black dot hoping he will come find Harry again. He tells himself he doesn't care that Draco Malfoy doesn't look at him anymore. He tells himself he's okay with going through the school year with no Voldemort, no mysterious adventure, no pale blonde sneering face putting him on edge.
He honestly doesn't get how he didn't notice the signs the second Sirius ran after Remus after that horrible day by the lake. At the time he assumed it was just a friend worried about stepping too far. But it was so much, always so much more.
It isn't until the sixth memory that he realises what it was.
“Where were you?” Sirius's face is livid. He stands in the center of the very same dormitory Harry left not ten minutes ago. His stance is defensive, hands crossed across his bare chest, eyes flashing with something Harry never saw in the haunted gray eyes when they looked at him.
Pettigrew yelps quietly, vanishing behind his curtained bed. His father, who, until Remus came in was bent over his trunk for his pajamas, turns around glancing warily between his best friends. He doesn't hide. He does hold his wand loosely in his palm. Harry cannot help but notice it is similar to Harry's own fighting stance.
Remus' pleased grin slides off his face the moment he sees Sirius. He strides over to his bed, removing his outer robes in the process with a muttered, “None of your business.”
Sirius doesn't seem to agree. “None of my business? We looked everywhere for you! Every fucking where! You were supposed to be at the party after. You promised.”
“Like you've never skived off a party before, Padfoot,” Remus says irritably, unbuttoning his shirt and letting it fall to the ground.
Harry would be embarrassed, except for his blatant curiosity.
That is when Harry sees. Sees the bright bite mark on his old professor's collarbone in the hazy candlelight. If Harry were naïve, he would assume it is just a bite from the last full moon. But he's not, and neither is Sirius. Sees Sirius' eyes drawn to it. Lock onto it. Sees his godfather open and close his mouth several times at Remus' scarred back. But mostly, he just sees that defeated slump of his shoulders and realises what the curious burning in his gaze is.
Sirius leaves the room, the door resounding behind him with a loud slam.
Later in bed, Harry thinks about the look Sirius had on his face all those years ago in this very room. He's seen it many times before; on Ron's face when Viktor Krum is around Hermione; On Hermione's face when Lavender Brown is just around the corner; on his own face when Dean and Ginny were pressed together in that disused corridor those many months ago.
Jealousy, he muses, is quite obvious when one knows the signs. And Sirius' face had been coated in it.
He knows the memories are meant to answer some questions, but they only serve to bring more to the forefront of his mind.
Did Sirius ever tell Remus his true feelings? Were they...in a relationship at some point? If yes, then when, and what about Tonks and Teddy? And why, if they were, did they never tell Harry?
Some part of Harry tells him this is the part Remus mentioned in his letter. About not being courageous enough to say what needed to be said when he was alive. Maybe Remus left an answer for that too. Maybe it is all there in those small vials in the black box. Hidden. Secret.
Maybe he just needs to see more memories.
The next morning is quite normal, he thinks. The owls have delivered his missive from Andromeda saying she will bring Teddy to Hogsmeade this weekend so he can see his godson. It is an arrangement Harry worked out with the Headmistress before coming to school. Teddy will be allowed to spend some weekends in Hogsmeade to give Andromeda a little break, sometimes she only leave him with Harry just for a day. All of the returning 'eighth years' are allowed to leave on the weekends.
Ron and Hermione are, as usual, bickering about some trivial thing or another. Ginny is chatting animatedly with one of her friends about the upcoming tryouts which Harry has already set the date for. Neville is on his other side, talking to one of the rare plants he has for this year: A Runic Lotus, which holds little to no significance to Harry.
All in all quite a normal Thursday morning. Until Harry sees Pansy Parkinson carding her fingers through soft blonde hair.
Harry's forkful of scrambled eggs freezes on their way to his mouth. That peculiar sensation of a monster trying to escape to tear that pug-like face apart, the absolute raging, blood-pumping anger shoots through him, catching him off guard. The gesture is simple enough, and Parkinson probably touches Malfoy in a dozen different ways every day, but he cannot move for a long time, so stunned he is at the emotions running through him.
The last time Harry can remember coming close to feeling like this is when he saw Ginny pressed up against the wall by Dean. And yet...yet this seems more. More intense. More burning than before.
“Harry, are you alright?” Hermione's voice seems to float over a great chasm. “Harry?”
Just then, silver gray eyes meet his own. All the blood rushes up to his face, embarrassed at having been caught staring at his old archenemy. Harry swallows thickly. “Yeah. Fine.” He knows Hermione won't be satisfied at that, so he adds, “Just anxious about the upcoming Quidditch season.”
Ron claps him on the back good-naturedly, and says with uncharacteristic confidence, “Don't worry, mate. The Cup is ours without a doubt.”
Ginny jumps in at that moment, affirming Ron's statement. Harry lets the Quidditch talk surround him, covertly glancing at the green and silver clad table occasionally. Or maybe a bit more as he can swear he feels the weighty gaze of silvery eyes on his neck every time he looks away.
Halloween falls on a Saturday this year. Instead of following up on some inscrutable mystery, Harry decides to pay homage to the Marauders; to the three men who loved, cared, fathered, mentored him in their own way as much as they could.
When Harry tells Ron and Hermione about what he wants to do, their reactions are predictable. Ron whoops and agrees, spouting ideas of his own. Hermione bites her lip uncertainly for a few moments before seeing the look of desperation on Harry's face, smiles understandingly and agrees.
Sneaking into the Headmistress' office is ridiculously easy. Especially with Hermione asking McGonagall some series of inane Head Girl questions, and Ron standing guard by the gargoyle. Harry managed to buy a pair of mirrors similar to the one Sirius and his father had, and so far they've proven to be dead useful. Ron will let Harry know if McGonagall is on her way.
It feels good sneaking around again. Dodging ghosts, Peeves, Filch, and teachers under the Invisibility Cloak, Map tucked under his arm. He's missed this – this sense of adventure. The adrenaline rush just before trying to make a stealthy escape from the Gryffindor Common Room so no one else will notice. The knowledge that if he gets caught this time, it will be for himself...because of something he is doing for happy reasons.
Not for a Stone, or a large snake, or discovering old lies, or Dark Lords. Just him.
Invisible, he pushes the door of the office open. The portraits of Headmasters and Headmistress of past are dozing peacefully. Or pretending, more likely. And really, that familiar drawl really shouldn't have surprised him.
When has the man ever let him get away with anything?
“Potter,” the sibilant hiss echoes in the empty office.
A curse escapes Harry's lips before he remembers Snape – his portrait – can't actually see him. By now, his only option is to remove the Cloak and perform the Oath without the cover of invisibility.
“'Lo Professor,” Harry says smoothly. For God's sake, the man is dead. He can't possibly put Harry in detention or dock points. Harry has nothing to worry about.
Some of the other portraits are peering through their eyelids now.
Snape – his portrait, Harry has to remind himself – sneers. “What are you doing in here, Potter? Without the Headmistress' permission?”
“Just being the arrogant, strutting prat you always accused me of being, Professor,” Harry replies, searching for the four portraits he is looking for. “Following my father's footsteps and all that.” He smiles absently in Dumbledore's portrait's direction as the old man chuckles along with several other old men and women.
There they were. Grinning triumphantly, Harry walks over to the four perfectly square portraits placed in a perfect square themselves.
“The Headmistress will find out about whatever you're planning on, Potter,” the oil painted ex-Potions Master growls.
Harry turns away from his contemplation of the four portraits to look back at Snape. “No, I don't think she will, you see. The smartest witch of our age is rather brilliant for something other than copying Potions essays off of.” With that taunt, Harry turns back to the oldest of Hogwarts' portraits. One of them is empty, just as Hermione had told him it would be.
Regardless, he only needs the frame, not the occupant. Although it would have helped to have all four occupants present. The remaining three are still asleep – feigned or not he isn't sure. He taps the bottom right hand corner of each frame, ensuring that its occupants are roused. They look disgruntled at having their sleep disturbed. Harry shoots an apologetic look at each of them before sinking into a kneel.
“Lady Rowena, Mistress Helga, Sir Godric, and...” His eyes linger on the frame of the absent Master Salazar. “Master Salazar,” he adds nonetheless, knowing that wherever the Founder is, he will hear Harry. The three present blink at him.
Rowena Ravenclaw gives him a beautiful, knowing smile smile. Helga Hufflepuff's eyes twinkle much brighter than even those of one Albus Dumbledore. Godric Gryffindor looks at him with an easy, mischievous grin that reminds him of Fred and George.
They look at him patiently. Harry stays low in his bow and continues, “The great Founders of Hogwarts, I, Harry James Potter, do so swear the Pupil's Oath to serve and to protect and defend the walls of Hogwarts from any and all enemies from here until the end of my days with the humble request of gaining help from the castle on the night of Samhain to restore laughter, peace, unity, and prosperity to Hogwarts' halls once more. To unite wisdom,” he bows to Rowena, “and kindness,” a bow to Helga, “and chivalry,” another to Godric, “and sharp wit,” an acknowledging nod to the absent Salazar Slytherin, “to stand together as they were once meant to stand.”
From under his eyelashes, he looks hopefully at the three founders. This is the important part, Hermione told him. The wait until the Founders accept your Oath, decide whether you are worthy of the founders' blessing to restore Hogwarts.
The entire office is buzzing with quiet anticipation as the three founders glance at each other whilst silently communicating. The weight of hundreds of past Heads stare into his neck. It won't matter that Salazar Slytherin is not here to give his approval. Hermione told him he hasn't been seen in a single Hogwarts portrait since his departure almost a millennium ago.
Just when Harry is convinced McGonagall is about to ascend the steps to the office, the three founders look at him as one. Rowena is the one to speak on their behalf.
“Rise, Harry James Potter of the House of Sir Godric Gryffindor. You have shown to embody virtues of all four Houses and for this we accept your Oath. On the night of Samhain, the castle will follow your wishes as long as no harm comes to its sacred halls.”
“You have my blessing,” Helga and Godric say simultaneously.
“Shit, shit, shit.” Harry runs through down the stairs, through the fake tapestry, up a secret wall passage all in the name of trying to make it to the Entrance Hall in time. Having the castle respond to him is very useful today. He woke up late, having stayed up until the early hours this morning to finalize the plans for their prank later today. But right now, he needs to be on his way to Hogsmeade to meet Teddy and Andromeda.
He stumbles out onto the other side of the wall and knocks into someone, taking both of them down to the hard stone floor. “Sorry,” he mumbles against the shoulder of whoever is underneath him, and gets up.
“You better be, you stupid imbec – Potter.” Harry grins at the obnoxiously familiar tone of voice. Malfoy hasn't sounded this annoyed with him since the fire in the Room of Requirement, and it makes something jolt in Harry.
“Sorry, Malfoy. Running late, you know how it is.” He holds out a hand for Malfoy to take, who predictably ignores it and scowls.
“Of course,” he spits, stands up on his own and glares some more. His hair is ruffled from their fall, and he has scruff around his jaw – like he never got time shave it this morning. It looks...
Harry tears his gaze away from Malfoy's jaw, blinks. “Um. Are you, you know, coming to Hogsmeade?”
“No. I have – no, I cannot.” Malfoy hitches his bag over his shoulders and moves to push past Harry. “Good day, Potter.”
Harry doesn't know why he does what he does next, but before he knows it, his hand is reaching out to hold Malfoy by his left forearm. “You should come,” he says quietly. There's no one in the hallway, but something about this moment seems fragile, like if he speaks too loudly, it will break. “Teddy will be there.”
Malfoy stares at him, his jaw flexing as if he's refraining from saying something scathing, and wrenches his arm away. Harry watches him stalk down the corridor, head bent and back straight. His stomach sinks in disappointment he hadn't known he would feel.
It's just Malfoy, he tells himself as he makes the rest of the way to meet Ron and Hermione.
Just Malfoy. Right.
Harry is vibrating with some here-to-fore unknown energy when they trek back up to the castle. He glances at Ron and grins. It's going to be a good night. A great one even. Although, technically , Ron and Hermione can't take part in it, what with being Head boy and girl.
They wait until McGonagall makes her speech and the food has appeared on the tables.
It is Christmas in Sirius' memory. Christmas of their seventh year presumably by the way his parents were snogging in a darkened corner of the Gryffindor common room. Harry averts his eyes, because as much as he thirsts for any knowledge of his parents, no child should ever have to see something like that. The little party, consisting only of a few awake seventh and sixth years, is far from in full swing. A few of the younger students are dozing on various pieces of furniture.
He can always tell whether it's Remus' or Sirius' memory by who is staring at whom at the start. Sirius always seems to be locked onto Remus in every single memory Harry has seen so far. Remus, on the other hand, stares at James and Lily – not because he wants either one, but because he just wants what they have together . It makes Harry realise just how lonely his professor truly was in life.
“You could just tell him, you know,” says a girl Harry recognizes as Marlene Mckinnon from Moody's photograph and other memories.
Sirius snorts unattractively, spilling his Firewhiskey spiked Butterbeer everywhere. He turns to Marlene, eyelids drunkenly heavy.“And while I'm at it, I'll just jump off the Astronomy Tower, shall I?
“Don't be stupid. Remus isn't – ”
“I'm not what?” Remus has somehow traveled the distance of the common room without attracting either Sirius' or Marlene's attention. “How much have you had to drink, Padfoot?” He sighs when Sirius just shrugs and waves his hands around. An action that makes his tilt and bump into Remus, who sighs once again, puts down his drink and reaches around Sirius for a firmer grip. “I'll take this lush upstairs, Mar. See you later, yeah?”
“Bye, Remus.” Marlene smirks at Sirius. “Make sure to tuck him in with his favorite teddy bear and everything.” Sirius, despite his drunkenness, manages to give Marlene the two finger salute.
“And a Happy New Year to you, bitch.” Harry is amazed at Sirius' ability to form full sentences. He follows them upstairs, although something tells him he would probably be happier down here. But it's Sirius' memory, and Harry has to go where the memory leads.
“I don't have a teddy bear,” Sirius is muttering into the crook of Remus' neck.
“I know, Padfoot,” Remus says, sounding thoroughly amused.
“You smell nice. You always smell nice.”
“I like you so much Remus. A lot. I like you loads and loads. More than I like James.”
Harry gapes, aghast at the level of obliviousness Remus seems to surround himself when it comes to any romantic overtures. Up in the dormitory, he lays – well, pushes – Sirius onto his bed and does, in fact tuck him in, blanket pushed all the way up to Sirius' chin, but there is no teddy bear. “Night, Sirius.”
The torches are all put out, but Harry can still see reasonably well from the faint moonlight coming in through the window. He watches as Sirius latches onto Remus' wrist and tugs until Remus is sitting on his bed, a befuddled expression on his face. “Sirius, what – ”
“Remus,” Sirus says, shoving his blankets off him, and leans up against the head board. “Remus, I – oh, fuck it.” He leans forward and – Harry tries not to laugh because he knows it isn't meant to be funny, and that Sirius is just drunk and trying to kiss Remus, but mostly it just looks like Sirius decided his face needed to be pressed against Remus' eye.
“Padfoot!” Remus jumps back, not that Harry can blame him. He does admit that he could have been gentler about it, if Sirius' hurt expression is anything to go by.
“Right,” Sirius mumbles, burrowing himself under the very same blankets he pushed off not thirty seconds ago. “Of course you don't want – Right. Sorry, Moony, I'll just – we can pretend this never happened.”
Which isn't really fair on Remus, Harry thinks, because as far as his old professor is concerned, he just had his eye licked. Remus' thinking is in line with Harry's own, because he hits the bulge that is Sirius.
“Sirius, come out from under there. I didn't mean to, Sirius, I swear. I was just... caught off guard, all right? Sirius, if you could just cease being childish for three seconds in your life so we can actually talk about this, I would greatly appreciate it. Now, Sirius. Thank you.”
Sirius peeks from the edge of the duvet, blinks at Remus. And Harry can just hear his pout when he says, “You didn't like it.”
“You licked my eye,” Remus tells him, eyes wide and incredulous. “I don't fancy getting my eye licked.”
Another sigh from Remus. “What exactly were you trying to do, Sirius?”
“Marlene said so,” Sirius says, voice muffled. “Also, I like you. A lot.”
“You said,” Remus says, eyes contemplative. “You could have just said something before when you weren't drunk nine ways to Sunday. What did you think I was going to do?” An incomprehensible gargle from his godfather is the only answer. Remus obviously understands it, because the next moment, he is leaning down to Sirius' level and kissing him, a simple peck on the lips. “We'll talk more tomorrow. Sleep now.”
“G'nigh, Moony,” Sirius says, sounds chuffed with himself.
Remus stands, runs his hand through Sirus' mop of black hair. “Good night.”
The memory dissolves around him, and Harry leaves with a small smile on his face. It may not have been the most important memory he's seen, but it's one of the best. He siphons the memory back into the vial.
“That was some prank you pulled yesterday.”
Harry jumps, wand already at the ready. He's almost ready to hex the other person when he sees who it is. “Christ, Malfoy, don't sneak up on people like that.” Then, “What are you doing here anyway?”
“I... came to apologize,” Malfoy says, eyes skittering away from Harry to the pensieve. “I was rude yesterday.”
Somehow, Harry finds it difficult to believe he's come to apologize. Malfoy never does, and certainly not to Harry, who he doesn't give two shits about.
“Oh, um. That's... fine. Andromeda asked after you last time,” he lies. “So I thought I would just ask.”
“Sure. Well, I'm off. Later, Potter.” Malfoy turns, already walking to the ajar door.
Harry panics, unwilling to stop talking to Malfoy, hastily shoves the bottled memory in his pocket and runs after him. “I'll come with you.”
Malfoy looks at him skeptically. “I'm going to the dungeons, Potter. The opposite direction of Gryffindor Tower.”
Harry kicks himself mentally, and thinks fast, something he's always been good at. “I need to go to the kitchens. Didn't eat dinner.” That at least is the truth. He hasn't eaten since lunch.
Whatever.” Malfoy leaves the door open for him, and Harry follows, grinning all the way.
It's awkward, of course, because it's bloody Malfoy he's walking with and they're not cursing at each other. Harry's reaction to awkwardness is fidgeting: he clucks his tongue against the roof of his head; whistles tunelessly; plays with the sleeve of his school shirt. He's tapping the wall with his wand every so often when Malfoy reaches over and slams Harry's wrist to the wall, effectively pinning his wand tip. It burns where Malfoy's touching him and his stomach swoops to his knees.
“For the love of Salazar, Potter, stop that. It's fucking annoying.” Malfoy lets go, steps back and motions for Harry to walk in front of him. “By all means, walk ahead. I'll give you a three minutes head start and we can avoid the whole ordeal.”
He's not sure what Malfoy's talking about until he sees that tic in Malfoy's jaw. The one where he's trying to hold back from saying something harsh. And when, Harry asks himself, had he started noticing Malfoy's queues?
“Oh, oh!” he exclaims. “You think I don't want to – not at all. I love the company. Well, not love love,” he stammers as Malfoy raises a fine, pale eyebrow. “But I don't mind walking with you, really.” He puts on his most reassuring face, the kind that makes old ladies coo at him and young girls giggle. Malfoy is neither, so he isn't sure how well it will work on him.
Quite well, as it turns out. “Then stop fidgeting,” Malfoy said and begins walking once more.
“So...”Harry says, because it's easier to talk than walk in stifling silence. “How about them Kestrals?”
Malfoy's lips twitch at the obvious small talk. “I prefer the Falmouth Falcons.”
“Potter,” Malfoy interrupts him. He watches Malfoy lick his lips nervously and Harry's heart leaps. They're almost at the fork that leads to the kitchens on one end and the dungeons on the other. “Next time Te – my cousin is in town, I would very much – that is, I would appreciate it if you –”
“Yes,” Harry breathes before Malfoy can change his mind. The idea of spending an entire day in Hogsmeade with Malfoy, even with Teddy there, is too tempting a prospect to pass up.
“Okay.” Malfoy backs away, eyes still fixed on Harry. “Thanks, Potter.”
Monday dawns wet and dull, but their first class is Defense Against the Dark Arts, so Harry isn't too worried about not paying attention in class. They're working on curses Harry had perfected years ago and mostly it's just Harry trying not to doze as the new professor drones on and on.
Today isn't much different. Today they're working on bloody Patronus Charms. Harry's just about ready to bang his head on the desk hard enough to pass out, but Hermione's knowing glare puts that plan to rest.
“Partner up,” Professor Abacus tells them, eyes severe and unrelenting.
Ron and Hermione have already partnered up, he notices, and instead casts a glance around the room for Neville or Dean. His eyes land on neither, rather on Malfoy who is busy staring into his book so intensely. No one else has bothered to approach him, so Harry picks up his bag and weaves through the maze of classmates and parks himself in front of Malfoy.
“'Lo. Would you like to partner up? Great!” He ignores everyone's curious glances, takes his seat, and meets Malfoy's stunned expression with a wide smile.
“What are you doing?” Malfoy hisses.
“You can't cast a Patronus,” he says cheerfully. He doesn't want Malfoy thinking he's patronizing him so he adds, “And I've worked with almost everyone in this room. Except Zabini. Although I don't think he likes me much.”
“What makes you think I like you, Potter?”
“Well, for one, I'm still talking to you.” He grins and flicks his pointer finger up to make a point. “For another, I'm generally very likable. It's just taken you seven years to notice.”
Malfoy looks like he wants to say something to that, but Abacus is asking the class to settle down and begins explaining the theory behind a Patronus Charm that very nearly puts Harry right off. Only discreet note passing between Ron and himself keeps him awake. It's half way through class when Malfoy nudges him in the ribs very hard. He has a pinched look on his face that Harry wants to ask about, even though he'll never get a straight answer.
They've gotten to the practical part of the lesson.
They push all desks to the side of the room and position themselves an appropriate distance apart. Everyone is really quiet, and it takes Malfoy smirking at him to realise they're all looking at him .
“Ah...” Harry stands there with his wand at the ready, possibly looking a bit touched, and looks at Hermione. She always knows what to do or say in these situations. It isn't her who comes to his rescue this time, however.
“Go on,” Malfoy mutters softly. He's leaning against the wall, hands crossed over his chest. He looks very sharp, all long lines and angular cheekbones. “They're all waiting for you to show off.”
Harry gulps, glances away and nods to no one in particular. The patronus is very easy to cast for him now, especially if there aren't any Dementors around. Soon enough, his stag is galloping through the class, around Ron and Hermione, and over the desks.
“Wonderful, Mr. Potter,” Abacus intones unenthusiastically. Their newest Defense professor isn't very fond of him, Harry has come to realise. Not that this bothers him, more than used to professors despising him for no known reason.
The class goes back to working with their partners. Harry turns to Malfoy and motions for him to take his stance.
Malfoy does not. Harry frowns, asks him what's wrong.
“Not everyone is born with your innate talent at complicated magic.” Malfoy sneers at him.
“It isn't talent,” Harry says, and tells him what Remus told him all those years ago. Malfoy doesn't look very impressed at the end of it.
“Not everyone has that special memory, Potter.”
“Yes, they do,” Harry protests fiercely. “You do. You just have to dig deep enough. Your patronus will only ever be as strong as the memory you use to create it.”
Malfoy still refuses to even try, claiming lack of any such memory in his past. He looks so convinced that it makes Harry wonder how much practice it took to ingrain that lie so deeply within him.
Their past hasn't always been the happiest place, Harry knows better than anyone. The past few years tend to eclipse and predominate everything that occurred before it, but he's never lost faith in his past. Despite Voldemort and the Dursleys and the endless death, Harry has those few happy moments.
By the time the bell rings and Abacus dismisses the class, Harry has a new goal.
Get Draco Malfoy to believe in his own memories.
Later, after class, when they're ensconced in the Gryffindor common room, Hermione says to him, “You seemed awfully friendly with Malfoy today.”
“Did not,” Harry says even though it is a blatant lie.
“You did a little, mate,” Ron, the traitor, agrees.
Harry glares at them both. “Can't a man mend fences with an old classmate without being prodded about it?”
“Not when the man is you and the classmate is Malfoy.” Ron grins cheerfully. “Nothing wrong with making new friends and uniting the houses and all that...but Malfoy?”
“We're not friends,” Harry retorts, because they're not. The word seems inadequate, not quite right, it doesn't quite cover whatever it is they are.
“I'm sure,” Hermione says, sounding very unconvinced. And then suddenly decides to segue into a completely different, yet just as dreaded a topic. “I think you should take a date to Hogsmeade weekend next time.”
Harry splutters, glances around to check no one else heard her. “I don't –”
“Ginny and you aren't going to get back together,” Hermione says, staring at Ginny over by the fireplace with one of her other friends. “You might as well date other people. She already is, actually.”
“What? Who?” Ron demands, but Harry and Hermione ignore him.
“I'm not going to see other people just because Ginny is,” Harry hisses. He stares down at his essay on applications of human transfiguration.
He's known Ginny was dating for a while now, and he doesn't – he doesn't mind as such because Ginny and he were over a long time ago. He does however mind the pitying looks people throw at him whenever they see Ginny with someone who isn't Harry. He has moved on, but the rest of Hogwarts apparently has not.
“Susan Bones has a friend who would love to –”
“I am not going out with Susan Bones' friend, Hermione.”
Hermione purses her lips, but thankfully doesn't say anything more on the subject.
It's three weeks before they all get time to visit Hogsmeade again.
He's waiting for Malfoy in Three Broomsticks when Hermione comes in through the door with Ron and someone else Harry's vaguely sure he's seen around Gryffindor tower. In spite of having known her for seven years, Harry doesn't know why he expected Hermione give up so easily.
Andromeda will be here any minute now, and she's very particular about who's allowed to spend time around her grandson. Rightfully so. Harry told her days in advance about Malfoy being here today.
“Hermione, Ron, and er...”
“Harry! This Amanda Skyes, you know Amanda, don't you?”
No. “Right. Of course.” Harry shakes Amanda's hand and groans inwardly when she blushes. He knows exactly who, or what, Amanda is. He glares at her when Amanda looks away, promising severe retribution. Ron just looks uneasy with the whole situation, so Harry isn't going to hold this against him.
She's gorgeous, really, with her dark hair and blue eyes, but there's... there's just something missing.
They have barely sat down before Hermione bolts upright once again and announces she's going to get drinks for them all and drags Ron off with her, leaving Harry alone with Amanda Skyes. It's obvious what this is and while he doesn't really want her to get the wrong impression, he really doesn't want to be the one to tell her he's not really interested in her – or dating girls Hermione forces on him.
Hopefully, he tells himself, she'll take the hint and leave before Malfoy gets here. He really, truly doesn't want her here and have to explain why she's here when he explicitly told Malfoy it would just be Teddy, him, and Harry. (And maybe Ron and Hermione, but he's sure he can convince them to leave when the time comes).
Obviously, just when he's about to tell her to leave as politely as possible, Malfoy arrives, all cold eyes and hard angles and mocking smile.
“How adorable,” he drawls.
Harry feels his neck heat at Malfoy's tone, and he has to curb the instinct to immediately retort in the same manner. He licks his suddenly dry lips and self-consciously runs a hand through his hair. Next to Malfoy in his perfectly pressed trousers and shirt and vest, Harry looks perfectly slovenly in just his jeans and an old ratty jumper. He worries at the hem and tries to smile, although it probably looks more like a grimace. “Malfoy. Hi.” Glances back at Amanda, who is staring at them blankly. “We were just – ah.”
“I hope I'm not interrupting.” Malfoy looks bored with the whole conversation, and Harry stomach sinks because that isn't how Malfoy looks at him when it's just the two of them, even if they are in class. Not anymore, at least. Cold terror grips him as he realises Malfoy might leave, decide he doesn't care to spend time with Har – Teddy – after all.
“No!” Harry exclaims a little too loudly. A few people from nearby tables glance at him. “Not at all. Amanda was just –”
“Leaving. I was just leaving, Malfoy,” Amanda tells him, her face set in an amused expression, though Harry is hard pressed to understand just what is so funny about any of this. “See you later, Harry.” She leaves with a pat to the back of Harry's palm and curt nod at Malfoy.
Malfoy wastes no time in sitting in the recently vacated seat. “I didn't mean to cut your date short,” he says without looking all that sorry.
Harry doesn't particularly care, because he's still here. And – and Harry needs to get himself checked because if Malfoy's presence is making his feel warm inside then he's clearly unhinged. “She wasn't. My date, that is. It was just Hermione being...Hermione.” He looks away, trying to dispel the awkwardness that seems to have blanketed them. “I'm glad you could make it. Teddy will be really excited to finally meet the person Narcissa is always talking about.”
Malfoy smiles a half-smile that makes Harry's stomach lodge itself somewhere near his throat. He's abruptly hit with the thought that this is what was missing in Amanda Skyes, and he gulps because the implications of wanting Malfoy like be might want another girl are too frightening.
The word gay flashes across his minds eye. He internally cringes.
“Where's Amanda?” Hermione lays two mugs of butterbeer in front of them. She looks utterly unfazed at Malfoy being in Amanda's place, instead, she's smiling in a way that makes Harry slightly worried for himself. “Hello, Malfoy. Teddy will be very excited.”
“So I've been informed,” Malfoy says, smile gone. He looks as typically Malfoy as ever.
Harry takes a large sip of the butterbeer to better occupy his attention, and the too-hot drink nearly burns his tongue.
“So, Malfoy,” Ron begins first, and Harry could kiss him for being the first one to dispel the awkward silence. “First match against Gryffindor next week. Think you're ready?” Or maybe not, because there is little else other than Qudditch that will make him and Malfoy want to kill each other.
Malfoy takes the implied jibe good-naturedly enough with a smirk and tilt of his head. “As ready as we ever are against Gryffindor. Our Chasers will just have to be quicker than the Keeper.
Ron's about to defend himself, but Harry steers him clear of such notions with a well placed kick to his shin. It does little to deter Ron however, because the next moment he says, “Ah, well, our Seeker's still better,” and Harry covers his face with his hands and groans, because there is no way Malfoy will let that slide.
It is a day of firsts apparently. “Maybe you're right,” Malfoy says, and Harry cricks his neck in his haste to make sure he didn't mishear. “We'll just have to see, won't we, Weasley?” he adds, voice teeming with challenge.
“Oh, look, Teddy's here!” Harry exclaims unnecessarily loudly, determined to cut Ron off.
Hermione gives him a knowing look Harry cannot the even begin to fathom. The conversation veers into more neutral territory once Andromeda's joined them, because he isn't the center of her attention, and he can continue his new found favorite pass time of watching Malfoy. It really isn't as creepy as it sounds, Harry tells himself.
Later that night in the common room, Ron and Ginny are arguing over the tactics for Quidditch. They're the last ones left down here and Ron's shouting at Ginny, but he's not really serious about it because he hasn't bothered to lift his head from Hermione's lap. Hermione's doing the sensible thing and ignoring both of them just like Harry and Ginny's resting her feet in Harry's lap. It's almost like old times, except Harry doesn't feel that same thrill run through him at the slightest touch of Ginny anymore and he's perfectly fine with that.
“Oh please,” Harry hears Ron say, and he looks up from his copy of Quidditch Weekly. “Just because Harry's gone and gotten himself a crush on Malfoy doesn't mean we're not going to slaughter them.”
Harry splutters, trying and failing to make a single intelligible noise. “I have not –” He stops when all three of them stare at him with incredulous expressions. “I'm just...”
He doesn't know how to proceed with his feeble protestations. His new found fondness for Malfoy might seem sudden to anyone on the outside, but somehow over the last few years things changed. He changed, as did Malfoy, and their mutual hatred evolved into something a lot less antagonistic. There is no anger anymore, no enmity; just this deep burning sense of mutual respect based on losses endured that will quite possibly make Malfoy come after him with a meat cleaver if he ever finds out.
He settles for a firm, “I hate you all,” and snaps his book shut.
“No, Harry.” Ginny holds him by his wrist, face split in a wide grin, because she's really evil. “We're only teasing.”
“Yeah, Harry,” Ron joins in. “Besides, Malfoy's certainly pretty enough to have a crush on. But really, Harry, a Slytherin? It couldn't have been Derek Shaw from Ravenclaw? He's blonde.”
Harry glares and only just resists throwing a jinx at his best friend. “I hate you very much,” he informs them again and storms out of Gryffindor tower to hide away in his special classroom.
The universe hates him very much, because he runs into Malfoy on his way there. “What are you doing here?” he blurts without meaning to. They're far away from the dungeons, and Harry can think of no conceivable reason Malfoy would be lurking in this part of the castle.
“Prefect rounds, Potter.”
“Right.” Harry fidgets, only just realizing what time it is and that he isn't allowed out of the dorm at this hour. “Um. I was just.” He points aimlessly behind Malfoy. Ginny's laughter still rings in his ears, the way she playfully said crush.
“Relax, Potter. I haven't taken points before.”
Right, he thinks, because Malfoy's seen him out of bed multiple times this year. Harry looks at him, and he isn't sure why he says it now, but the words are out of his mouth before he can rethink. “Do you want to learn the Patronus Charm?”
Malfoy stares at him like he thinks Harry has lost his marbles. Which he probably has if his great plan of convincing himself and his friends that he most certainly does not have a crush on Malfoy is to spend more time with Malfoy.
The offer is out there though, so he just shrugs. “I've been told I'm a decent teacher.”
There's a single breathless moment in which Harry is afraid Malfoy's going to sneer at him and walk off.
“You'll need it for NEWTS,” he cajoles.
“Sure.” Malfoy nods.
And that's how they end up in the Room of Requirement six months after almost dying in it.
“So.” He looks at the fake Dementor model the Room of Requirement gave them. He looks between Malfoy and it and goes through the whole spiel about happy memories all over again, ignoring Malfoy's glare.
“I know this, Potter.”
“You don't.” Harry glances at him sharply. “You don't because you don't believe in it. You don't believe you have a happy memory, and unless you believe in your memories you aren't going to find that memory and you aren't going to conjure a patronus.”
Malfoy doesn't look convinced. He stands in one corner of the room, back to a wall. His eyes are darting all over the room like he half expects ghostly flames to lick up his spine.
He should have realised. This is a place of victory for Harry, but for Malfoy...he lost a friend in here that day.
“Look,” he says abruptly, surprising himself. “Forget Hogwarts. Forget the castle and the last seven years here and just forget...everything. Go back to before when it was just you and your mum and your dad. When you were a kid and you'd wake up early Christmas morning and see that enormous pile of presents underneath an even bigger tree. I bet it was a giant tree, and all those presents were just for you. A new broom maybe or the latest potion kit or whatever it was you wanted. Or it wasn't Christmas. It was summer maybe, and your dad had a few days off from the Ministry, and he took you on a family vacation somewhere exotic. With lots of peacocks.”
That gets him a ghost of a smile. Harry's chest expands with some unnamed emotion. He doesn't care what it is as long as Malfoy keeps smiling like that.
“There...is one,” Malfoy says. He pushes away from the wall, shakes out his tense shoulders. Harry's heart skips a beat as he follows the motion.
Crush, Ginny's laughing voice whispers in his mind.
He swats at the air beside his ear, ignoring Malfoy's questioning glance. “That's great! Think about it as hard as you can, all right? Focus on that.”
Harry mentally mimes the incantation with Malfoy.
They don't really get anywhere that night. Malfoy is too uncertain in his ability and he stutters as Harry did at first over every moment. Harry hasn't got chocolate on him, hadn't thought to carry it like Remus seemed to. He does, however, insist they go down to the kitchens after their little session so Malfoy can have hot cocoa and Harry can shovel more treacle tart.
They make it a bi-weekly thing somehow, without ever having discussed it. Malfoy isn't always amenable to Harry's instructions, because he wouldn't be Malfoy is he were, but mostly, he does as Harrys says, face impassive and calm when performing a spell. There's a certain elegance to his stance when he does any kind of magic, Harry's discovered. Most people look silly when they pose with their wands; Malfoy looks...sexy. Harry's mouth dries at the word, and though he doesn't let it show, he is aware of Malfoy's bemused stare. He does manage a slight misty shield between himself and the wooden dummy during their third lesson. Harry can tell he's ridiculously proud of himself even if doesn't look it. Everything about him is controlled in that tight, leashed up manner Harry's come to realise as modesty. A modest Malfoy mightn't have seemed possible three years ago, but he is and Harry doesn't t think anyone can blame him when he pats Malfoy on a back, fingers lingering slightly, unwilling to let go.
“That was brilliant, Malfoy.” Harry shoves a hand in his pocket and pulls out a Honeyduke's bar. “I remembered this time. That one is actually – was – Remus' favorite. ” He hadn't meant to say it, but the random fact is out in the open and Harry doesn't know how to take it back so he just twiddles his wand between his fingers.
“Thanks, Potter.” Harry can tell Malfoy is itching to ask him about the pensieve and the memories.
He cuts to the chase, saving them both a great deal of awkwardness. “They were in love. Sirius and Remus, I mean, when they were in school. I don't know what happened or why they never told me before, but they were and all I have are their memories. Like they're some museum pieces to store away for ages to come.” Like I don't have enough of those already, he doesn't say .
Harry doesn't realise how bitter he is until that moment. He suddenly feels a flare of irrational annoyance at Malfoy. He doesn't want to be bitter against the two men who were the best father figures he had, and he certainly doesn't want to spill his thoughts to a boy who wanted him dead only seven months ago.
Malfoy reaches out an arm and for a terrifyingly hopeful moment Harry thinks he's going to hold Harry's hand. He doesn't. His arm falls back down halfway between them. Harry gulps down the ball of disappointment and wonders when he became so pathetic about Malfoy of all people.
He moves toward the door, smiling mildly at Malfoy on his way out. “You ready for the match tomorrow, Malfoy?”
“You bet your ass, Potter,” comes the teasing reply.
Harry trudges to the lockers with the same thrum of excitement that has permeated him since his first Quidditch game all those years ago. It's a mixed fluttery feeling of anticipation and confidence. He doesn't think he's been nervous since that first game with Oliver Wood telling him he'd be fine as long as he didn't throw up.
The confidence isn't new, but the anticipation is mostly because they're playing Slytherin and Slytherin is always a wild card. Especially with Malfoy captaining. He exchanges grins with Ron and Ginny in the locker rooms.
“This is it,” he tells his team. There is not a single person left from the team Harry first joined as a tiny little first year. It's a different team, albeit a good one. It doesn't change the pang of nostalgia when he remembers Oliver Wood standing here giving them his pep talk during Harry's third year. This is my last chance, he'd said, to play against the Slytherins and beat the bastards. This is it, he had started out.
Harry and Malfoy might not have have the enmity Oliver and Flint had, but it doesn't make Harry less willing to beat Slytherin.
“So help me God,” Harry said, staring down at his team, “if Malfoy walks off that pitch with a smug smirk stretched across his stupid ferret face.” Ron, Ginny, and Dean grin at him knowingly, but the other three, the ones who hadn't witnessed not-Moody's spectacular Transfiguration of Malfoy just stared at him stupidly. “Let's win this!”
They cheer with him, raucous and high-spirited as they tumble onto the pitch.
Below them, Hooch squints at them, yellow eyes flashing in the dreary November cold. “I want a nice, clean game. From all of you.” Harry ignores the way her glare lingers on himself and Malfoy.
Harry grins, lazy and confident because he has so got this . “You. Wish.”
The whistle blows, and they're off.
It's a close match. Ron's doing his best, but the Slytherin Chasers are a forceful unit. That isn't to say Ginny, Dean, and Anabel Watkins are sloppy by any means. They stand at 70-60 to Gryffindor, but it's still too close and ultimately it is up to Harry and Malfoy to decided the outcome of this match.
Harry spins aimlessly through the air searching for the ever-elusive Snitch. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Malfoy rise higher for a bird's eye view of the pitch. He mostly ignores what Malfoy is doing because it isn't likely to help him catch the damned Snitch anytime soon. (Also, Ginny caught him staring at Malfoy earlier and cackled loudly, Quaffle safely tucked under her arm).
There are few fakes on both their parts, but after playing each other for seven years they've gotten good at not falling for the other's tricks.
Harry and Malfoy see the glinting Snitch at the same time. Harry wastes no time in chasing after it full speed, urging his broomstick to go faster – faster . He's going the fastest he can, so of course that's when the Snitch changes angle and makes a straight 90 degrees toward the grass.
Behind him, Malfoy curses loudly and follows Harry into a steep dive. They're neck and neck. Harry glances at Malfoy out of the corner of his eye and charges forward even more quickly. The crowd has finally noticed that the two Seekers are on the chase, but Harry has perfected the art of drowning out their cheers by this point to let it bother him. The blood rushes to his head as they continue to hurdle straight down, and then, because the Snitch is being a right bastard today, changes direction yet again just two feet off the ground. Harry pulls out at the last second. Malfoy does not. He lurches sideways and topples onto Harry, sending them both sprawling on the damp grass.
Harry groans, partially in annoyance because he almost had the bloody Snitch, but mostly because Malfoy is on him . Straddling his hips, with his face only inches from Harry's, and the only thing keeping him up are his elbows digging into the grass on either side of Harry's head. Harry gulps loud enough that he's sure Malfoy can hear him. He takes a moment to be glad he is already on the ground because he isn't sure he can stand with Malfoy so close, pressed up against him like this. And Malfoy is – he's just staring, like he's not quite certain how he got here, leaning over Harry.
It would be so easy, he knows, to just lean up and press his lips against Malfoy's. They're right there, barely four inches away; all he would have to do is reach up to curl his fingers around Malfoy's neck and bring their lips together, just four inches of difference. But it's those four inches of distance that's keeping Harry sane. Four inches that are the defining line between what Harry wants and what he has with Malfoy right now. Four inches that could potentially ruin whatever tentative friendship they've created. He wants it so very badly. He wonders what Malfoy would do if he did it. Punch him, maybe, and pull away with a sneer and disgusted ' Potter .' And then Pansy Parkinson would come running to her Draco and glare at Harry and Ron and Hermione would just stare at him in that pitying, disappointed way they had, and so...
So when Harry leans up, his heart thudding frantically, he watches as Malfoy's pale eyes widen in a stricken manner and he reaches a hand out and pulls it back down between them, the Golden Snitch fluttering in his fingers.
He looks at Malfoy, smiles. “Got you.”
It's late and Gryffindor Tower is well into the celebration by the time Harry comes up from the Great Hall. He spots a crate full of Butterbeer and Firewhiskey and makes a beeline for it. The match was grueling, and he needs something to unwind him. He joins Ron, Hermione, and Neville by the fireplace; they're passing a large bottle of Firewhiskey between the three of them, giggling about something, the bottle more than half empty.
“You lot seem cheerful.”
“We wesh just –” Neville breaks off into more uncontrollable giggles, a fact which is not helped by Ron nudging him repeatedly in his armpit. Hermione just smiles serenely.
“Um.” Harry pries the bottle from Ron's death grip. “I think you've had enough, honestly. No – Ron! Let. Go.” He hides it behind his back and Ron is too drunk to realise that all he would have to do is reach around Harry to repossess it.
“Thah wash some ga – hiuh – me, Harreh,” Neville hiccups into the arm rest of his seat. “When you – wif the diving and the...the swoosh, and Malfoy and you. And you just caught it, din'chya, Harreh? Jus... just caught it.” He says something more, but it is lost in the thick fabric.
“Thanks, Neville.” He looks questioningly at Hermione. Usually, she's a strong proponent of responsible drinking.
“Oh, please,” she says when she notices his look. She isn't as drunk as the other two, but Harry can tell she isn't exactly sober. “I can have fun, too.”
Harry shakes his head, deciding to leave them be, but he does take the Firewhiskey and leaves behind his bottle of tame Butterbeer behind for them to enjoy.
At the other side of the room, Ginny is busy snogging somebody Harry doesn't recognize. He salutes her when she does catch his eye though, and he takes it as a mark of truly moving on when his heart doesn't flip at the thought of her with someone else anymore. He cannot help but grin when she breaks away from the poor bloke, pats him on his head and walks over to Harry, a little unsteady, but not nearly drunk enough to regret her actions tomorrow.
“Gin.” He nods back at the dazed looking kid. “Having fun?”
“Lots. Nice catch today. It was close. Very...close, you and Malfoy, I mean. He almost got a leg over you, didn't he?” Harry feels heat crawl up his neck at her suggestive tone. He hums noncommittally when she continues to stare at him. “And that arse of his –”
“Ginny!” Harry glares at her, glancing around furtively to see if anyone heard her. But they're all too busy with themselves to care about either of them.
Ginny grins lecherously at him. “Tell you what. We play a little game, and if you win, I will never tease you about Malfoy ever again.”
“And if I loose?”
“Then you never get to tell me to shut up about you and Malfoy.”
He doesn't bother pointing out that there is no him and Malfoy. She's unlikely to care. “Okay,” he agrees, and then regrets not asking the rules beforehand when she points somewhere to his left and says, “I dare you to...kiss Andrew Montgomery. Here. In the common room.”
Harry feels his jaw drop to the floor. His stomach knots apprehensively. “No.”
“Fine.” Ginny, the evil she-devil, raises one of her delicate shoulders in a shrug. “Then I win.”
And he cannot have that, and she she knows that because Harry's pride won't allow her to win without him even trying to beat her. But...
Andrew Montgomery is in Ginny's year, and the only reason Harry even knows who he is is because he tried out as Seeker in Harry's fifth year when Umbridge expelled him from the team. He remembers Andrew as being a nervous, wispy little boy who had stood there jumping from one foot to the other as he waited for Angelina to call his name. Harry remembers sneering mentally, knowing he would never get chosen for the team. That boy is not the same as the one Ginny just dared him to kiss. Gone are the frantic jitters and unsteady feet and slight frame. This Andrew is tall, broad shouldered, and his eyes no longer jump from person to person as if they're too afraid to settle. He's attractive in that far off way Harry thinks Ron is attractive: fact, but not something Harry's willing to dwell on. When he sees Andrew though, all he can think is how his hair is too dark and eyes not light enough and how he smiles broadly, unreservedly instead of smirk – Right.
He knows why Ginny is doing this, and he mentally promises severe consequences for her. He's been called many things, however, and a coward is not one of them. So, Harry stumbles forward with some trepidation, too aware of the fifty or so students surrounding him, some staring, some completely uncaring of what he's doing. He doesn't want to do this, but if his limited experience has taught him anything, it is that he isn't entirely unappealing and that he's a pretty good kisser if he does say so himself. Besides, he's Harry Potter. The worst that can happen is Andrew will throw a punch. He hopes, at any rate.
He's standing right behind Andrew when one of his friends pokes in the ribs, alerting him to Harry's presence. Harry honestly forgets that he's meant to be the savior of the damn Wizarding world, but the way Andrew and his friends are staring at him reminds him, and its reassuring because at least he won't have to hobble to Hermione for help on uncomfortable hexes.
“Hey, Andrew.” He smiles slightly, because if he's going to kiss the bloke, it's only polite to smile first.
“Hey... Harry.” He glances anxiously between the girl who poked him and Harry. “What's up?”
Now people in the near vicinity are staring. Harry sighs inwardly, deciding to just get it over with. Andrew is a couple inches taller than him, but it isn't too difficult so he just mutters, “I'm really sorry about this,” and pulls him in by the collar, plants one on him. And...huh. Kissing a boy isn't really that different, other than the lack of girl smell and long hair that gets in the way and no tits.
He's aware of the pin drop silence that has taken over the room. Every single person is staring at him, including Andrew who mostly just looks bemused, like he isn't sure what the hell just happened.
You and me both, mate , Harry doesn't say out loud.
“I hate you,” he mutters to a smug Ginny on his way to the dormitory where he proceeds to hide out for the rest of the night with his hijacked bottle of Firewhiskey.
Hogwarts is the worst gossip-mill imaginable, so naturally by the time Harry comes down for breakfast the next day, the whole castle knows of how Harry Potter kissed a random boy from Ginny Weasley's year last night. Ginny herself is calmly buttering her toast, a knowing smirk on her face.
For the ten-thousandth time that morning, Harry hisses his hatred at Ginny. She merely hums contentedly and asks Ron to pass the marmalade, and Ron, because he's evil too, grins at Harry and passes it to her.
“Hey, Malfoy!” For the second time in as many days, Harry's jaw drops because of Ginny and her evil mind. Malfoy is only just entering the Great Hall so there is a slim possibility that he hasn't heard of Harry's spontaneous kissing. Bizarrely, what Ginny asks next is nothing Harry expected. “Do you want scones? Only, I noticed your table doesn't have any.”
He kicks Ginny under the table. Unsurprisingly, she does not respond to his near physical abuse of her shins. He stews and plans a slow and painful death for her in the time it takes Malfoy to walk closer to their table, although he's beginning to think death might be too kind for her.
“No, thanks, Weasley,” Malfoy says with a look of deep distrust. Harry can't exactly blame him; he'd be wary if Pansy Parkinson or Blaise Zabini suddenly began offering him scones from the Slytherin table.
Just then, because the universe hates him, Andrew bloody Montgomery gets up from his seat a few paces down and walked toward Harry. “Hey,” he says, smiling. He's smiling at Harry .
Harry gapes, because what. What the ever loving fuck? Andrew Montgomery is not supposed to smile at him. Andrew Montgomery is supposed to punch him in the face and call him a faggot. Or something. Basically, Andrew Montgomery fails because if a bloke had walked up and kissed Harry, well – he'd probably be in the Hospital Wing now. “Um. Hello, Andrew.”
As if that isn't weird enough, he blushes a sudden red and opens his mouth to say something. Harry has the sudden horrifying sensation that Andrew didn't actually mind Harry snogging him against his will last night. Harry wants the floor of the Great Hall to swallow him up right the fuck now.
“Malfoy!” He speaks over Andrew's next words, panicking because he doesn't want Andrew to do something stupid like ask Harry out on a date. Harry may or may not be a ginormous prick. “Didn't you promise you'd help me with my potion today?”
Malfoy blinks. “I did?” He probably notices Harry's desperate glance because he speaks loudly, “I did.”
“Brilliant. Let's do that now,” he says, and then hightails it out of there, dragging Malfoy behind him. He can feel Ginny and Ron's sniggers following him, with a disappointed Hermione consoling a very confused Andrew.
“Why are you running away from Montgomery?”
“I am not running away from Andrew,” Harry informs him lightly when they are a safe distance from the Great Hall. He let's go of Malfoy's wrist quickly when the latter stares pointedly. Malfoy mimes dusting his robes and Harry rolls his eyes, because really. Why does he even like the man?
“All right. Why are you 'not running' from Montgomery?” Malfoy asks again, walking purposefully to the kitchens.
“Hey, Potter!” One of the assholes Harry confiscated wands from at the beginning of the year is shouting at him. “Heard you fucked Montgomery last night. Be careful, Malfoy, you never know when he might plant one on you.” They wander off, guffawing to themselves.
Harry couldn't care less about them, because beside him, Malfoy is frozen in his spot, staring at Harry with a blank expression. Harry looks anywhere but him – can't look at Malfoy, too afraid of what he might see there. The silence seems to stretch forever between them, terrible and loud. He can hear his own heart beating in his ear and the blood rushes to his face, heating his neck.
“Is that true?” Malfoy says softly, so softly that if Harry hadn't been paying attention he would have missed Malfoy speaking entirely.
“No! I mean, not exactly. Just. Sort of, yes. But, no.”
Malfoy quirks an eyebrow as if you say pick one .
Harry takes the deep breath. “Yes, I kissed Andrew Montgomery last night. No, we didn't fuck.”
The words hang in between them for an eternity. Harry waits for Malfoy say something, anything about what has just been revealed, to give the words meaning because he read somewhere once that words don't really mean anything until someone acknowledges them. Eventually, Malfoy does.
He says, “Why?”
“Because.” Harry licks his lips, throat suddenly hoarse and dry. Malfoy's eyes track the motion. “Ginny dared me.”
“Is that it?”
No , he wants to say. No, I wanted to know what it would be like to kiss you and I didn't have to do the dare but I did because I thought he'd be like you, but he isn't because you –“ Yeah.”
He can't help but think this as a missed opportunity when Malfoy nods and turns away from Harry and complains about not having had a bite of those scones.
That evening, because Rita Skeeter is a vicious cunt, the headline reads HARRY POTTER: GAY OR SLUT? flashes all over the front page of the Evening Prophet with a picture of Harry and Andrew to go along with it and everything.
He escapes to his classroom that night.
It is, thankfully, after Remus and Sirius have finished...ahem, but they are still tangled up with each other under the sheets, which is – ugh . There are somethings he just doesn't need to see. Ever.
Harry has never craved the advice of Sirius or Remus more than now. He is morbidly curious when Sirius pulls Remus in a deep kiss that seems to leave them both breathless. Harry glances away as soon as they part, feeling guilty for watching even though he knows neither would have minded.
They're alone in the dormitory, and Harry thinks it might be the same one he shares with Ron and the others. The thought makes him a little ill. He doesn't know why he's here, watching these day in and day out, substituting them for real human interaction, but something about watching Remus and Sirius, and even his parents on a few occasions reminds him what he fought for, reminds him that it wasn't in vain. He thinks it's a bit like watching telly; sitting in front of a box and getting lost in another person's life to escape his own. If Dumbledore were here, he would probably caution Harry against coming here, spending times with memories of dead people. But he isn't, and Harry is young enough to tell himself he knows what is best for him.
They aren't saying anything to each other, and Harry is beginning to think this was a mistakenly added memory when Sirius sighs harshly. “Move in with me after we leave Hogwarts.”
He sees Remus freeze under the covers and when he speaks his voice is low and cold. “No.”
“I will not be your charity case, Sirius.”
“It won't be charity. You'll pitch in when you can. It won't be much anyway. My uncle's giving me his flat. Look. James and Lily are moving in, and Wormtail's got his mother to take care of. I don't want to be all alone by myself in London. Just promise me you'll think about it?”
“Oi!” Harry jumps at the sudden yell from outside the room. “Are you two sods decent?”
“Of course,” Sirius lies. The memory fades with James stumbling into the room and screeching loudly as Remus and Sirius laugh.
He leaves the room feeling lighter than he had been when he entered. Ron and Hermione are the only ones in the common room now, waiting for him. There's an owl perched on the windowsill behind them. It's the new Weasley owl.
A hollow feeling settles in his stomach as he realises Mrs. Weasley must have seen Rita Skeeter's latest attempt at slandering Harry. “Um. Is that –”
“Yep,” Ron says with the air of someone who doesn't envy Harry's position. “We waited for you to open it.”
Harry groans and reaches for the missive. He dreads reading what Mrs. Weasley has to say. He opens it and reads through it once, twice, three times, disbelieving of what he's reading.
“Well?” Ron asks when Harry doesn't say anything for the longest time. He doesn't stop him when Ron snatches the letter out of Harry's hands. Hermione reads over his shoulder.
“Oh.” Harry knows what Ron's ohing at. “It isn't Mum.” Of course Ron recognized Charlie's handwriting immediately.
“Well,” Hermione says after a long moment. “That was awfully nice of him. And look, Mrs. Weasley added saying she agrees!”
Harry closes his eyes because that hardly makes it better.
Harry , the letter reads.
Clearly, I'm not the one you're expecting to hear from right now, so I'll get straight to the point, shall I?
I saw the Prophet this morning. I just wanted to say that if you ever want to... talk to someone who's had some experience with the other side, for lack of a better term, then I'm always here. Ron considers you his brother, which makes you my brother too. It doesn't matter who you like and Hogwarts can be stupidly harsh about trivial things like this, but don't let anyone convince you it does.
If you ever have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.
Charlie's right. It doesn't matter to us one whit and don't you pay any mind to what that cow Rita Skeeter says.
You'll always be family even if you and Ginny don't work out.
Harry cringes as Hermione places the letter in his lap. The embarrassment isn't because Charlie Owled him offering to share his gay experiences with other men, but at the utter relief Harry feels at Mrs. Weasley's words. He worried about not being a part of Ron's family time to time because Ginny and he didn't work out, but he's never acknowledged those moments of weakness. He had been stupid to think it would change anything with the Weasleys and it's good to know that for certain.
“Hey!” Ron says, because he is Harry's best friend and will always be amazing. “Now you and Charlie can be gay together. He always complained none of us were!”
Harry bursts out laughing. He laughs and laughs like he hasn't in weeks and months and Ron and Hermione join in until they're all rolling on the floor of the common room, unsure as to what they're all laughing at.
The first time Harry smoked a cigarette, he had been sixteen. It had been given to him by Dudley's friend Polkiss. Harry hated Polkiss, but he had taken the cigarette and it had been disgusting. So he's never understood why people clamber to get their hands on the little roll of tobacco.
He doesn't think anyone can blame him really when he spots Malfoy out on the Astronomy with a cigarette held delicately between him thumb and forefinger and just stares. It's late, past dinner, and the only reason Harry's out here at this hour is because...well, he saw Malfoy's dot alone and thought he'd come see if Malfoy wouldn't mind the company. Malfoy hasn't seen him yet, which is lucky because Harry notices he isn't alone anymore. Pansy Parkinson is with him. She isn't smoking, but she is twirling an unlit cigarette between her fingers.
Somewhere in the far off recesses of his mind, Harry knows it is wrong and creepy to be following Malfoy around like this again, and that he's regressing to his sixth year habits. He cannot really bring himself to care though, and he gathers his Invisibility Cloak tightly around him, making sure neither of the Slytherins can see him.
“Did you see the Prophet yesterday?” Parkinson asks Malfoy, voice hoarse from the chilled air.
He sees Malfoy stiffen in his heavy winter cloak. “Was it filled with more of Potter's alleged whoring?” he says, sounding annoyed.
Maybe he doesn't like that Harry is in the papers again, or he thinks that Harry's seeking undeserved attention. It wouldn't be the first time Malfoy's thought so.
Pansy laughs, high-pitched and grating. “Oh Draco, darling, don't pretend around me. You know it doesn't work.”
“I have no idea what you're talking about.” Malfoy takes a long drag off the butt and winces. “This is disgusting. Wherever did you get it from anyway?” It's a subject evading tactic Harry has used many times to not recognize it for what it is.
“Blaise,” she answers cheerily and tosses her unused cigarette off the side of the tower. “Well. That's enough for one night, don't you think? Let's go get some hot cocoa from the kitchens. I know how it sends you right off. Or is that only when you're with Potter?”
Harry follows them down the steep steps, hoping to catch what Malfoy says about him. But either it's a bait Malfoy doesn't rise to or he just doesn't want to talk about Harry, because he isn't mentioned again and Harry looses interest when they begin talking about a summer home somewhere along the south coast of France.
He wanders the halls of Hogwarts for a long time after Malfoy's and Parkinson's voices have faded into the distance. He imagines not being here again this time next year. Of never having another Hogwarts feast, of not having to dodge Filch and Mrs. Norris, and not sneaking around McGonagall's back when there's a mystery to solve. To be fair, he hadn't expected to be here this time last year either, so that's progress of a sort. There will be no more Inter-House Quidditch games to look forward to and no more frantic chases for the stupid golden ball, wanting to get to it before Malfoy just one more time. No more Malfoy, period.
Not unless you do something about it , a sagacious voice that sounds uncomfortably like Ginny whispers in his mind.
But Harry's never been particularly brave in matters like these. Cho had been the one to point out the Mistletoe in the Room of Requirement that night years ago, she had been the one to take that extra leap to get closer to Harry. And Ginny. Well, Harry had mostly been along for the ride where Ginny was concerned. She'd led him by the hand and told him what she wanted and it had been brilliant. None of his experiences with either of them help Harry in this case though.
For one thing, Malfoy isn't a girl. For another, he is everything Ginny and Cho aren't. No, that isn't quite right. They are all fit, smart, gorgeous people with had an affinity for Seeking and Quidditch and they all get under Harry's skin one way or another, but none as much as Malfoy, and... Really, there aren't a lot of dissimilarities between Ginny, Cho, and Malfoy, now that he thinks about. That possibly explains a bit.
Still, just because Harry's a stupid fool who feels jittery and nervous every time Malfoy steps too close, or talks, or smiles or, hell, just looks at Harry, doesn't mean Malfoy feels the same. He's seen Malfoy's confused glances when Harry looses trail of what he's saying just because the sun seems to hit Malfoy just right. He knows that Malfoy would probably – not laugh, because he's not the same boy he was three years ago – but he'd certainly turn Harry down, tell him he was flattered or something and never speak to Harry again. And what little friendship they've built will be destroyed.
With that saddening thought in mind, Harry makes his way back to the dormitory, early dawn sunlight lighting his path there. The Fat Lady grumbles at being woken so early and grouses at Harry for being out all night. It isn't his smartest decision considering he has a day full of classes ahead of him.
He must look like crap because when he sees Ron in their room, he double takes and gapes. Dean, always the first one up, comes out of the bathroom just as Harry stumbles tiredly onto his bed.
“What the hell happened to you?”
“Mgrhmph,” Harry mumbles into his sheets. Let them make what they will of that.
“Right,” Ron says, abandons the warmth of his own bed and totters over to Harry to flop down next to him. He draws the bed curtains around them and casts a quick Muffliato. “Do I need to get Hermione in here?”
“No,” Harry answers quickly. The last thing he wants is Hermione taking one look at him and knowing what he was up to last night.
Not that there was anything to be ashamed, except for the stalking. Hermione might disapprove of the stalking. Maybe. Very likely. Quite possibly strongly disapprove.
And Harry strongly disapproves of being on the receiving end of her strongly disapproving looks.
“Harry,” Ron sighs out gustily. He has a long-suffering look about him that makes him look freakishly like Mr. Weasley.
“Malfoy smokes Muggle cigarettes,” Harry mutters into the crook of his elbow, low enough that only Ron can understand what he is saying.
“Ah,” Ron says knowingly. “Back to stalking him, are we?”
“No,” Harry lies.
“You could just, you know, ask him out. As normal people are wont to do,” Ron suggests in a tone that implies he doesn't believe Harry is normal.
“Great conversation, that. Hey Malfoy, so, funny thing. I know we've hated each other for oh, almost eight years now, but want to grab a drink in Hogsmeade and maybe snog a bit?”
“That's the spirit.” Ron pats him on his back.
“You're shite at giving advice,” Harry snarks.
“And that is why we keep Hermione about.”
He gives Ron the two finger salute.
“I don't want to be gay for Malfoy,” he says, eyes falling shut, his lack of sleep catching up with him.
“Pretty sure no one would care, mate.”
“Malfoy's at least twenty percent poofter himself. Have you seen that hair?”
Harry glares weakly with just one eye and doesn't blame Ron when he remains unimpressed. “Get some rest. I'll tell Hermione and the others you're out with a cold or something.”
He mumbles his thanks, but it mostly comes out as incoherent sounds so he lets it be. Outside the sanctity of his four poster bed, Harry hears Neville ask Ron if Harry's okay. He falls asleep before hears Ron's answer.
Harry likes to think Ron at least managed to hold up the lie of a cold for five minutes against Hermione. He wasn't nearly so weak until he started dating her, anyhow, but it's more likely Hermione raised a single, incredulous eyebrow and Ron spilled the beans on Harry's nighttime stroll.
He doesn't really care because he's disappointed her in every way imaginable in the past eight years. What's one more?
When she looks at him askance at dinner that night, Harry just shrugs and goes back to eating his pasta and covertly watching out for Malfoy.
“He isn't here.”
Harry stares, bemused as to why Pansy Parkinson has decided to sit at the Gryffindor table.“Uh,” he says stupidly and tries again. Let it never be said that Harry can't play innocent like the best of them. “Um, who isn't here?” he asks her, eyes wide and lips parted just enough to make him look as gormless as Goyle.
Ron, always one to ask the important questions, blurts, “What the hell are you doing here?”
Hermione looks as unruffled as ever. Harry and Ron decided long ago that she came from a far off galaxy where nothing ever stumps anyone.
Parkinson ignores Ron and fixes Harry with an icy look. “Don't try that with me, Potter. You know exactly who I'm talking about.”
“Haven't the foggiest,” Harry insists and shoves his mouth full of bread roll.
“Whatever,” she says after a long moment of watching him chew noisily. “You just better not hurt him or I swear...” She trails off with a vaguely threatening look about her and leaves the Gryffindor table as quickly as she came, leaving a very confused Harry in his wake. She is about ten paces away when she turns back around and adds, “He's in your special little room, by the way.”
Harry gapes after her, thoroughly befuddled by what just happened. It takes a minute for him to realise she has just given him her blessing to...do something with Malfoy. And that thought conjures a whole manner of things he isn't even sure he can manage between two men, but he knows he's damn well going to try.
“I think,” Hermione speaks for the first time since Harry came down for dinner, “that means you're supposed to go to your special room.”
And Harry could ask her how she knows about his special room with Malfoy, and how the hell she knows anything about the time he spends with the man, but he stopped Hermione's omniscience a long time ago. Trying to figure her out now would just be detrimental.
He races up the stairs, shoving people out of the way.
Having Parkinson's blessings opened some sort of dam in him that makes him feel stupid and crazy and maybe just a little bit like he's flying through the air, straight toward the grass with no hope of swerving in time. He pauses outside the Room of Requirement to catch his breath and thinks that of course this was always where they were going to end up.
“You're late,” says Malfoy, as Harry closes the heavy door behind him. “I think I got a blurry shape, but I'm not sure – why are you so red? And what the hell did you do to your hair? It's looks even more of a rat's nest than usual.”
“I saw a memory the other day,” he starts without preamble, grinning at Malfoy's disdainful look at Harry's hair. “It was dated a couple days before my parents died. It was the one where Sirius and Remus had a falling out because they both thought the other one was the spy. They both wanted to believe the worst of each other, but they just couldn't. Not really. It reminded me of you.”
He isn't sure why he starts off with that. He doesn't think bringing up old, bitter memories is the way to go, but Harry feels like he did when he had taken Felix Felicis. Every word he says feels right, no matter how stupid his brain is telling him they sound.
“Of...me.” It isn't a question, just a confused statement of fact.
Malfoy's brows are furrowed in a way that makes Harry want to trace the lines. Maybe on a lazy weekend morning when neither he nor Malfoy have anywhere to be. Weeks – hell, hours ago – that thought might have felt senseless wistfulness. Now, however, it feels like a promise
“Yeah.” Harry chuckles and steps closer to the practice dummy. He feels giddy with excitement. “Actually, it reminded me of us back in sixth year. Of that night on the Astronomy Tower. The thing is, that night on the Astronomy Tower, I don't think you would have done it. Even if Snape hadn't come in. Even if he hadn't saved you from yourself, you wouldn't have done it.”
“Because I'm a coward, is that it?” Malfoy sneers, and Harry pauses. He's ashamed to realize how much sadness and anger Malfoy hides behind his sneers. How much he uses words like Harry uses his father's old Cloak. He's even more ashamed he never saw it before.
“Hardly.” And now he does look at Malfoy. He looks at the tight coil of his shoulder, how he looks ready to flee at the slightest provocation. “Because at the end of it all, Dumbledore saw something worth saving in you, and that was enough for me. That was enough to turn back and take your hand when it felt like the world was burning around us.”
“I don't – ”
Harry rolls his eyes. “God. For someone so clever Malfoy, you can be incredibly thick.”
And he pulls Malfoy flush against him, cursing the fact that he's just a few inches shorter. It doesn't stop him from curling his fingers around Malfoy's neck and pulling him down to kiss him. It's a bit of a weird angle, considering Harry has never had to kiss someone taller than him before – and no , Montgomery doesn't count because he is nothing like Malfoy. Malfoy and his slender waist pressed against Harry, his shoulders frozen stiff under Harry's palms. Malfoy and his startled grey eyes that make Harry peel away even though he never wants to leave Malfoy's proximity again.
For a moment, Harry thinks he misunderstood Parkinson, because Malfoy is just staring at him like he wants to punch Harry. Or something.
Turns out, it's 'or something' because Malfoy makes this weird keening noise and the back of his throat and says, “Why'd you stop? For fuck's sake, don't ever stop,” and presses his lips against Harry's desperately.
“Mmm. Never,” Harry promises between wonderful, wet, sloppy kisses that seem to go on forever and not long enough.
If, in the years to come, anyone ever bothers to ask Harry when he fell in love with Draco Malfoy, he won't know what to say. Maybe is was a slow progression, he'll say. Maybe it happened over night. Maybe he never meant for it to happen or maybe he always knew it would. It doesn't matter what he tells other people, because he knows that exact moment. And that moment isn't now.
It isn't last week when Malfoy was helping Harry with potions. It isn't three years from now when they'll finally decide to get married. It isn't when they have their first fight over their first baby or when they were seventeen and Malfoy had told his aunt it wasn't Harry. It isn't any of those moments that people think might define a relationship.
It must have happened though, somewhere along the way, because Harry cannot imagine another day without this sense of completion.
“Harry? Are you up here, love?”
Harry smiles to himself at the term of endearment. He doesn't think he will ever get tired of hearing Draco call him Harry, either. He hears the soft pad of Draco's footsteps coming up the stairs into the attic.
“Yeah. Just a second.” Harry puts the memory back in it's vial and places it carefully in the box.
Draco looks at him from the strap door in the floor. “Was that the last one?”
“Yep.” Harry closes the lid and seals it. “The very last.”
There have been so many of them; some heartbreaking ones, some happy ones. Harry's favorite is the one of Teddy's birth. His second favorite one is of an older Sirius and Remus in Grimmauld place. Sirius is telling Remus to be happy with Tonks. He's seen that one enough times to remember Sirius' words from memory.
Be happy now, mate, while you still have the chance. Our time is gone. This is your chance to do something for yourself.
“You took your time,” Draco says. His voice is closer, and Harry knows he's inside the room. Harry smiles when Draco wraps his arms around Harry's middle.
He did take his time. Almost two years to go through all of it. He irrationally feared what lay in the last one memory, and he was maybe just a little bit afraid of letting go of Remus and Sirius for what felt like the third time.
He needn't have worried though, he should have trusted Remus.
“Hmm,” he hums contentedly, happy to be surrounded by Draco's warmth. His chest still feels light and fluttery from the memory he's just seen.
“What was it about?” Draco whispers.
“A new life,” says Harry. He places a few charms on the black box so that no one can get to its contents and rights on it in blazing silver writing: For Teddy.
He turns in Draco's arms. “Come on. I promised Teddy I'd teach him how to fly.”
Draco kisses him lightly on his lips and mutters, “You are going to be in so much trouble when Andromeda finds out, Potter.”
Harry grins back impishly. “She hasn't yet. Let's go!” He shoves at Draco to go down the trap door first. He doesn't want to be late to pick up his godson.
He climbs down the ladder until only his head is eye level with the floor. He glances at the black box and smiles. “Thanks Remus.”
He closes and locks the trapdoor. The click it makes sounds like the beginning of a new life.
Somewhere, decades in the past, three young men and one woman are crouched behind a row of filthy smelling rubbish bins, hiding from Death Eaters and they're having the time of their life.