Harry stared at Slughorn in disbelief, "Malfoy? Why not Hermione? I can't -"
"That is my decision, Harry. If you want to stay in Potions, Draco Malfoy will be your tutor." Slughorn stood in front of Harry, his hands resting on his rotund belly. "Miss Granger is, as you well know, working on an Independent Study project. Mr. Malfoy needs to fulfill his hours for the Ministry probation. I must say I am disappointed in your attitude-"
"Right. Fine." Harry grabbed his book bag and made for the door. The rest of the class had already left the classroom. As he made his way quickly down the corridor he resisted the urge to kick the walls. More than ever, he was regretting the decision to come back Hogwarts as an eighth year. What he had hoped would be a chance to just kick back and enjoy himself with his friends instead was a nightmare. He hardly ever saw Ron and Hermione, they were too wrapped up in lust or love or whatever and the younger students followed him around like he was Merlin. The professors even seemed to expect far more from him than he wanted to achieve.
When Harry had failed to reproduce his stellar Potions work that he had done sixth year, Slughorn had been surprised. After a week and a half of scorched cauldrons and bungled potions Harry had been forced to confess that he why he had done so well previously. Slughorn had stared at Harry for several minutes, drumming his fat fingers on his desk until he had declared that the only way he could let Harry stay in the class was with a tutor. And it seems that the only tutor available was Malfoy. Harry shook his head in disbelief. He didn't want to ask any favors of Malfoy.
It wasn't as though he didn't think that Malfoy should be back in school. He had even testified at his trial, assuring that Malfoy didn't get sent to Azkaban for being a stupid git. Harry shifted the strap of his book bag on his shoulder, staring down the hall towards the corridor that he knew led to the Slytherin common room. He had successfully avoided Malfoy during the first two weeks of school and he would just as soon keep it that way. Malfoy made everything more complicated.
Harry headed slowly up the staircase, contemplating his options. He could drop Potions. There was no chance he was going to go on to auror training. He'd already decided that so he didn't need the class. Dropping the class would mean another talk with McGonagall however, she had already taken him aside twice, checking to make sure that he was "adjusting" to being back at Hogwarts. He'd felt like yelling at her that no, he wasn't, that he didn't know what the hell he was doing at the school. The only reason he'd return was because Hermione and Ron had wanted to come back, and he didn't have anywhere else to go.
The Great Hall was already packed when he slumped into the spot next to Ron. "What did he say?" Ron mumbled through his mouthful of corned beef sandwich.
"Ron, that's disgusting." Hermione looked over at them sourly, "Is he going to make you drop the class? I told you that no good would come from-"
"Still, Hermione? Can't you just drop it about that damn book? It was two years ago!" Harry shook his, "He said I had to have a tutor in order to keep taking the class."
"Well, that is great! Who is your tutor?"
"Malfoy." Harry pointed with his head towards the Slytherin table where the handful of returning eighth year students were sitting, slightly apart from the younger students. His white-blond hair still stood out even though Malfoy had it cut short now.
"Malfoy?" Ron shouted with a burst of laughter. Heads turned to look at them and Harry glared at Ron.
"Why don't you shout it a little louder?"
"Sorry, mate. Why Malfoy?"
"Hell if I know." Harry grumbled as he reached for a roast beef sandwich, "Think he is trying to punish me or Malfoy?"
"Probably both." Ron said, "Guess you aren't a member of the Slug club anymore-"
"Don't be silly. Slughorn is the head of the Slytherin House. I imagine he is trying to help Malfoy." Hermione shrugged, "You see how he is being treated in the corridors. Maybe he thinks that if Malfoy helps Harry then it might give him a little protection."
Harry nodded and stole another look at the Slytherin table. Malfoy was already finished eating and was heading out of the hall. He did that a lot, Harry realized. Leaving before the meals were over so that he wouldn't be in the corridors when everyone else came flooding out of the Great Hall. Malfoy used to stride through the corridors with his sidekicks flanking him. Now he was more like a shadow that slipped by when no one was looking.
"Have you talked to Malfoy yet?" Hermione asked, "Is he going to do it?"
Harry shook his head, "Nope, haven't asked him. That will be a treat in itself, he'll probably laugh in my face."
"Git can't say no? Can he?" Ron asked, when Harry gave an incredulous laugh, "I mean he is here on probation after all."
"Slughorn did say something about him needing to tutor to get his Ministry hours in."
"Go ask him, Harry," Hermione urged, "You are already behind the entire class, the sooner he starts tutoring you the better."
Harry grimaced and then nodded, "Fine. I'll go find him."
"How do you know where he is?"
Harry grinned and pulled out the Marauder's Map from his book bag, "Told you this would still come in handy." He picked up his book bag and headed out of the Great Hall. As he did so he realized that Malfoy and he had one more thing in common. Harry had taken to avoiding the corridors when they were full, but for the opposite reason. Whereas Malfoy was hexed as he walked through them, Harry was attacked by first years with eager faces and pieces of paper wanting autographs.
Harry found him in the southern courtyard, tucked into an alcove out of the wind. He had his text book open and didn't look up as Harry approached.
"Malfoy," to his irritation, Malfoy ignored him and just flipped the page in his book. "I need to talk to you."
"Go away, Potter." The git didn't even bother to look his way as he made a notation in his book.
Harry gritted his teeth and tried again, "I need your help."
At that Malfoy did look at Harry. "You need my help? I find that very difficult to believe. What do you need? Me to carry your Order of Merlin medal on fluffy purple pillow? Or perhaps you need me to walk by your side carrying quill and paper so that you can sign your autographs without slowing down. Or would you prefer me to carry a trumpet and play Here Comes the Saviour every time you enter a room?"
Harry laughed despite himself, "Sure. All that, and you can throw your cloak down in front of me if there is a mud puddle so my dainty feet don't get dirty."
"Think again, Potter. I rather like this cloak." Malfoy tapped his book, "I am studying. What do you want?"
"I, erm, well, Slughorn says to stay in Potions I need to get a tutor."
Malfoy shook his head in disbelief, "I am amazed he is letting you even stay. You are slowing down the entire class. We should be already on sleeping draughts and instead we are still doing bloody pick me up potions. If you were anyone else you would never have been allowed in the class. This is our NEWT year, Potter. For those of us who are not the Boy Who Was Too Stupid To Die we need to actually need to prepare for them"
Harry's cheeks flamed bright red, "Fine. Then you won't object when I tell you he says that you are my tutor."
"Good one, Potter. Like I would even consider it." Draco slid his book into his book bag and stood up, "That is a fool's task if I ever heard one. I pity the poor git who is going to have to try to teach you potions."
"Malfoy, he already decided. It is you or I have to drop."
"Then drop," Malfoy started to walk away and Harry grabbed his arm. A shock shot through his arm and he hastily let go of Malfoy's arm.
"What the hell was that?" Harry asked staring down at his hand in disbelief.
"What was what?" Malfoy said as he brushed his sleeve. "Don't Muggles know about static electricity?" Harry looked narrowly at Malfoy, it hadn't felt like any shock he'd ever gotten from static electricity. Was Malfoy using some kind of ward to prevent others from touching him? Considering the animosity that some of the students felt towards him he wouldn't be surprised.
"You tutor me and the hours goes towards your Ministry hours," Harry shrugged, "Surely, a little potionwork is better than having to work in shoveling manure for Hagrid."
"I wouldn't be so sure, Potter. The manure piles have a distinct advantage over tutoring. You aren't there," Malfoy slung his book bag strap over his shoulder, "I'll think about it."
"Don't think too hard. We need to start right away if I'm going to catch up."
"I said I would think about it. I'll let you know this evening." Malfoy walked away without looking back. Harry was left staring at his retreating figure. Malfoy was dressing a lot more subdued this year, no flamboyant waistcoats or robes. Plain black without even any Slytherin green except for his tie, but even without fancy adornments he was still the most noticeable student in the school.
Malfoy disappeared around the corner of the courtyard, no doubt heading down towards the lake. The last thing he needed right now was having to spend time one on one with Malfoy. The git was distracting enough in the classes they shared together, having to study together was going to be a nightmare.
"There you are!" Harry turned to see Ginny walking towards him, her broom over her shoulder.
"What?"Harry looked at her blankly, "Hey, Ginny."
"You forgot, didn't you?" Ginny said with a sigh, "Seeker practice? You promised-"
"Right. Sorry. I'll go get my broom and meet you on the pitch," Harry was grateful for the distraction. Ginny was the captain and seeker for the Gryffindor team. He had been secretly happy when it had been decided that eighth years wouldn't be eligible to play Quidditch. As much as he loved the game, this year he just wanted to fade into the woodwork as much as possible.
"Well, hurry up. I only have a couple hours before I'm meeting Neville for a study date." Ginny called over her shoulder as she headed towards the pitch. Harry waved his hand in acknowledgment and headed up the steps of the west tower to get his broom. All of the returning eighth years had rooms in the tower under the owlery, since there weren't enough places in their own houses.
Harry had not really been surprised last summer when Ginny had come to him and told him that she didn't want to get back together. Harry supposed he should feel something other than relief when she and Neville started dating but he couldn't help but feel glad that she had someone, and it wasn't him. Ron had objected to Ginny's change of allegiance more than Harry but Hermione had convinced him that it was for the best for everyone. Neville and Ginny had been through a lot the previous year at Hogwarts whilst Harry was looking for the Horcruxes. It was no surprise to him that they were together now.
"Seven o'clock, Potter. Old potions lab," Malfoy didn't even bother to wait to see if Harry agreed before he went to sit at the Slytherin table with his back to Harry.
"What was that about?" Dean asked.
"Guess Malfoy decided to be my Potions tutor." Harry said with a laugh, "Would it kill him to be just a little polite?"
"He is doing you a big favor," Hermione frowned at him, "I'm sure it is awkward for him."
Harry nodded as he looked at the back of Malfoy as he sat down at the very end of the Slytherin table. He remembered the shock he had felt when he had touched him out in the courtyard, "Hermione, do you know of any kind of personal ward that would give someone a shock if you touch the person using it?"
Hermione straightened up and stared at Harry, "No, I haven't but it is an interesting idea. It could be very useful for victims of abuse or bullying. What made you think of it?"
"Oh, no reason."
"So, teacher, how are you going to make me a Potions master?" Harry asked as he walked into the classroom and threw his book bag down on a lab table. Malfoy looked up from where he had set out a cauldron and chopping board full ingredients.
Malfoy laughed, "It will take every minute to just make you competent, Potter. I could tutor you until we were a hundred and you still wouldn't be anything more than adequate. We are starting with stirring," with that he slapped three potions rods down on the table. "Tell me, which of these rods would you use for the preparation of a restorative potion?"
Harry shrugged and pointed to the nearest one.
"Wrong. Beech, Myrtle, Ebony. Neutral, Positive, Negative." Malfoy pointed at each rod in turn, "This is basic potions procedures. Any potion that contains elderberry you use the ebony stirring rod. You just turned in your essay on a hundred uses of elderberries for restorative potions, did you not learn that you if you use a myrtlewood rod it will react with the poisons in the elderberry and strengthen it?"
Harry narrowed his eyes at Malfoy, "Slughorn never mentioned that you had to use a certain rod for-"
"That's because it is a first year, hell, it is a first week lesson. Snape covered it years ago. How could you possibly have gotten to eighth year and not known this?"
Harry shrugged, "I never-"
Malfoy grabbed the potions book, "Open this up to any page. What does it say?" Malfoy jabbed a finger down on the random page where the book had fallen open.
"ER," Harry mumbled.
"Ebony Rod. You just need to read the words, Potter."
Harry ran frustrated fingers through his hair, "Those aren't words, they are just letters. How are you supposed to know-"
"Again, Potter, you should have learned this first year. In an advanced Potions textbook they aren't going to spell it out for you like a nursery school primer. Now let's see if you can manage step number two in the directions, but I'm not going to hold my breath."
For the next half hour they worked side by side, Harry following Malfoy's snarled directions to cut, chop, and crush the ingredients that they were to use for the restorative potion. Strangely, it didn't feel uncomfortable working next to him. Harry supposed it was because they had had to work together so often when Snape was alive. The old potions professored had loved teaming them up in class.
Finally it was time to start mixing the potions. Malfoy lit the fire under the cauldron and directed Harry to start adding the ingredients. "Now stir, with the ebony rod, three times in a counterclockwise direction..." Harry picked up the ebony rod and jabbed it into the smoldering light blue liquid in the cauldron.
"Not like that!" Malfoy grabbed Harry's hand and Harry felt the same jolt of electricity that he had felt when he had grabbed Malfoy's arm earlier that day.
"Shit." Malfoy grabbed his hand back and stared in horror at the cauldron where the liquid had turned black and was furiously boiling.
"Get back" Malfoy shouted at the same time as he grabbed Harry and shoved him away from the table. There was a loud whoosh and the room filled with silver smoke.
"What the hell was that? Harry shouted, waving the smoke away. The flames had gone out under the cauldron and there was a large black dripping spot on the ceiling where the potion had hit, it was dripping back down onto the table and floor. Malfoy was looking at Harry with horror, "Look, Malfoy. I didn't do anything wrong. All I did was stir with the cursed ebony rod."
"A surge. A bloody magical surge." Malfoy muttered, "It can't be..."
"Magical what?" Harry said, "That was like static electricity again, wasn't it?" He stood up and brushed off his clothes and held out his hand to Malfoy. The blond boy and ignored his extended hand and stood up on his own. Harry dropped his hand down; Malfoy was looking at him in disbelief. Walking around Harry, Malfoy used his wand to vanish the remaining potion and scourgified the surface of the table.
"Lesson over, Potter." Malfoy said not turning around.
"What? Wait a minute, you've got to tell me what went wrong. Why did..."
"We're done here. You must have fucked up the mixing of the ingredients. And we can't very well go on without a cauldron." Malfoy walked away from the table and sat down at the desk and pulled out his Transfiguration text. "You can leave."
"Listen, I'll get you a new bloody cauldron, just tell..." Harry stood his ground. Malfoy was refusing to look him in the eye. His head was bent down and he was staring at the book in front of him.
"Get out, dammit." Malfoy said, his voice cold.
"Fuck off, Malfoy." Harry picked up his Potions book, that mercifully had missed most of the explosion, and stuffed it back in his bag. Why did the git want to blame him for whatever that happened, all he had done was stir. Cursing the day he'd ever agreed to come back to Hogwarts he headed outside, it took two walks around the lake until he finally cooled down enough to go inside.
Later that night when he and Hermione sat studying in the common room he remembered what Malfoy had said about a magical surge. "Hey, Hermione, do you know what a 'magical surge' is?"
Hermione looked up at him with surprise, "Where did you hear about that? It is very rare, we aren't studying it in class-"
"Oh, I just heard someone say it and didn't know what they meant."
"It is when two people's magical auras are so attuned to one another that they have the ability to unite, or bond, their magic. Those with a united aura are said to have a firebond. It usually makes them more powerful magically, because they can draw on both their magical cores at once. Magical surge describes what happens before they are able to unite their auras - whenever they touch or interact their magic can surge or shock. It can be quite dangerous."
"I believe that." Harry muttered, "What do they have to do to fix it? Is there a potion or something?"
"Fix it? Well, most people who share an aura, they choose to bond." Hermione said, "I've never heard of a case where they haven't, it is such a rare gift."
"What do they have to do to bond?" Harry asked, a feeling of dread coming over him. Whatever it was that happened between him and Malfoy he wanted to end it as quickly as possible.
"Well, there are formal bonding ceremonies, called Ignis Vinculo, but I believe those were just formalities carried over from the last century. In most cases I've read about the two people bond through sex." Hermione said absentmindedly as she re-read her essay. "Why so many questions?" She added looking up at Harry. He had gone pale, "What's wrong? Is everything okay?"
"I need to go to the library." Harry said, hastily standing up.
He walked into the library and looking around he realized that he had nowhere to start looking for information that would prove Hermione wrong. He went up to Madam Pince, "Yes, Mr. Potter?"
"Erm, I was wondering where I could find information, for a project that I have to write, on, erm, magic bonding?"
"You must be working with Mr. Malfoy. He already has the books and is over there..." Pince turned to point towards where the all too familiar figure of Malfoy was sitting at a table by the windows; when she turned back Harry was gone, the door swinging closed behind him.