Harry kicked his worn trainers in the direction of his bedroom door, easing down into his armchair – the one with its back to the door and the crochet blanket, as had now been wordlessly assigned to him over Draco’s highbacked and grey one closer to the window. Said armchair was immediately occupied, as Draco picked at the tight laces off his perfectly shined and unblemished brogues.
Harry slumped back, letting himself imagine for a moment a Draco Malfoy dressed in one of his old t shirts or a Weasley jumper, and tried to turn the smirk pulling at the corner of his mouth into a nonchalant itch. ‘I’m kind of surprised you didn’t want to go shopping.’
‘Oh, I did,’ Draco shrugged, dropping one shoe to the floor and starting on the other. ‘I doubted your Granger would have tolerated it for too long.’
‘Buy her a book and she’ll forgive a lot,’ Harry shrugged. ‘It’s usually how me and Ron got away with spending an hour in Fre – in his brother’s joke shop,’ he finished lamely, picking at the edge of his jumper.
Hermione had said a brusque goodbye to them within seconds of them landing back at the school gates, with a kiss on Harry’s cheek and a begrudging nod at Draco. She’d almost made him an offer of a Burrow visit, a gentle ‘you should pop in if you…’ that trailed to nothing and Harry could only respond to with a weak ‘yeah, course’ and a shrug with no feeling, and after she’d popped away they’d walked the ten minutes to Harry’s rooms in silence.
Harry swallowed, abandoning the jumper to bite at the edge of his thumbnail, trying to pretend he didn’t feel the sharp eyes reading his face.
‘Perhaps you should,’ Draco broke the silence with a low voice and the thud of his other shoe hitting carpet.
‘Should what?’ Harry asked around his thumb, like he didn’t know.
‘Should stop cannibalising your only hand,’ a pale eyebrow was raised in his direction. Harry frowned, wiping his hand dry against his chest and meeting eyes with the cold fireplace instead. ‘And visit them.’
‘Yeah, maybe,’ Harry said, dismissive.
Draco sighed, and the grate of the fire flashed to life under Harry’s scrutiny with a flick of a hawthorn wand. ‘Look, Potter. I’m not your mind healer.’
‘Exactly, you’re not.’ Harry rubbed the palm of his hand roughly down the coarse fabric of his thigh in jeans. ‘I sent that letter, so I don’t know – I saw Teddy, today. And ‘Mione, and I had to explain this –‘ a jerking hand towards his left – ‘ to Andromeda. So. Could you just leave it?’
Draco frowned, lips pulling tight with it as he turned away.
They devolved back to silence then, the room echoing with only the gentle cracks and spitting of the fire and the ever-present creaks and groans of an old castle around them. Running out of ways to nervously fidget, Harry ran his fingers through his hair, wincing when they caught on a knot at the crown of his head. He made a face, glancing towards Draco and expecting a comment or a look, but Draco was still turned away, the light of the fire warming his profile.
Harry huffed a sigh, felt it come from his bones. ‘If he didn’t reply to the letter, then – doesn’t that mean he doesn’t want to see me?’
‘I don’t know,’ Draco told him, eyes still on the fire.
‘Me neither,’ Harry grimaced. ‘Maybe I should wait until – until I’ve got an arm. So Molly isn’t too upset.’
‘Maybe,’ Draco offered, voice flat.
Harry huffed. ‘And you’re upset with me, now, too?’
Draco snorted, finally turning his jaw just a few inches to look at Harry out of the corner of his eye. ‘Not particularly.’
‘Then why the – ‘ Harry fumbled for the words, instead just awkwardly gesturing at the space between them. Draco watched his hand, and shrugged, looking back at the fireplace.
Silence built up again, a few beats long enough that Harry had opened his mouth, ready at another attempt at articulation when Draco broke it.
‘I don’t know why I care.’
‘About what?’ Harry asked, nonplussed. ‘About Ron, or the arm thing?’
‘Weasley,’ Draco confirmed, with the jerk of one shoulder and the wordless refusal to use his given name. ‘It shouldn’t really be anything to me, your friendship. Either way.’
Harry frowned, looking at the fire himself as if it held some necessary secret. ‘No, I suppose not.’
‘So,’ Draco turned to glance at him, then back away, and his expression was cool verging on controlled in a way Harry hadn’t seen since before – before the curse, and the statue. ‘I don’t know why I care.’
‘Because you’re my friend?’ Harry tried.
Draco sighed. ‘Yes, but – if Weasley is back in the picture, I doubt that will last. So why would I – ‘
‘Ron doesn’t get to tell me who my friends are,’ Harry interrupted, irritated. ‘Even if he’s not pissed off at me, you’re thinking about working here, so –‘
‘That doesn’t sound like more bother than it’s worth to you, at all?’ Draco shot him a wry smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. ‘If Weasley’s back, you won’t want me as a friend anyway.’
Harry’s mouth snapped closed, twisted. ‘That’s absolute crap. That’s definitely not true.’
‘That’s probably it,’ Draco continued, back at the fire, ignoring him. ‘That’ll be why I care.’
‘Why, because – ‘
‘Because I don’t like being a replacement.’
Harry gaped. ‘Why would you tell me to – why would you get me to write, and visit if you thought – if you thought you were a replacement?’
Draco shrugged, a sharp movement of his head and shoulders as Harry saw the shadow of the firelight pick up the clenching of his jaw. ‘It makes sense to get it over and done with, before I do something stupid like agree to work with you.’
Harry’s heart clenched, one hard punch in his chest. ‘Could you stop being a dick for five seconds?’
Draco’s jaw swung round, fixing Harry with a hard stare in flint grey. ‘At your pleasure.’ He unfolded, a sharp movement, and before Harry could get his bearings he was sweeping past the left arm of Harry’s chair and towards the spare bedroom – Draco’s bedroom.
‘I just want to – ‘ Harry started, before he was abruptly interrupted by the loud click of Draco’s bedroom door returning to its frame in his wake.
Harry sat in angry silence, picking at the frayed leather of his chair with short fingernails, until the sunset eased into a twilight darkness through bare windows and a house elf popped into his living room to encourage the waning fire and leave a large plate of sandwiches on the table next to Draco’s abandoned chair, before catching his expression and vanishing again.
It was such bullshit that he’d accuse him of – that he thought Harry was trying to replace Ron with him, like Harry was growing out of touch with Ron and just happened across frozen marble Malfoy and thought losing an arm for that made any fucking sense.
Like he could even replace Ron? Ron was – Ron was his best friend from a conversation over sweets on the train, Ron was at his back. Most of the time. Ron definitely wasn’t expensive robes and sarcasm and blond hair.
But now Draco was something, too, and the idea of neither of them speaking to Harry again gave him a strange hollow, empty feeling in his chest and like he wanted to punch something. Even if Ron – if Ron could be okay with everything, maybe. Harry had this new friendship – thing – with Malfoy that he wouldn’t give up on even if Ron couldn’t understand it or tolerate it like Hermione could.
Harry didn’t give up on things easily. If Draco didn’t understand that yet, he was going to.
Harry pulled himself up from his chair, back clicking with the effort and the stiffness of a few hours of quiet thought and intermittent seething. He picked his wand out of its straps, flapping to light up the room with more than the low glow of the fireplace as he made his way towards Draco’s bedroom door.
He leant against the solid wooden frame of it with his right shoulder, rapping a short knock out on the panel with the knuckles of his hand. ‘There’s sandwiches if you want them.’
A long, awkward pause, in which Harry heard the creak of furniture, and he resolutely didn’t move from the doorframe, choosing instead to knock again once, then twice. More silence. Then, quietly – ‘Fuck off.’
‘I’m not going to fuck off.’
‘Piss off, then.’
‘Malfoy,’ Harry sighed at the door. ‘Not doing that, either.’
There was another moment’s silence, and then the soft sound of socked footsteps towards him. The oak door opened to reveal Draco, in crumpled white shirt and black trousers and messy blond hair framing a pinched face. ‘I heard you. Sandwiches.’
‘And juice, I think,’ Harry added, shrugging. ‘Not why I’m here.’
‘Do tell,’ Draco answered him, propping his weight against a hand on the frame Harry was leaning against.
‘You’re not a replacement.’
‘Duly noted,’ Draco nodded once, curt, and began to close the door. Harry edged past it, dodging right to avoid his left side being caught as Draco pushed it to. ‘For fuck’s sake, Potter.’
‘No, this is important,’ Harry told him, watching as Draco abandoned the door handle and instead turn to cross his arms over his chest and consider him. ‘You’re not a replacement, at all, because I couldn’t replace Ron anyway. You’re not him, or like him at all,’ he clarified at the raised eyebrow. ‘I don’t see why I can only have so many friends.’
‘That’s a question to raise with yourself, I think. Since you seem to only have two at any time.’
‘That’s not fair,’ Harry frowned, slumping back against ancient wallpaper now he was safely ensconced in the room. ‘Neville’s my friend, for one. And Luna.’
‘Two of any quality,’ Draco added, twisting his mouth. ‘Do you have a habit of invading bedrooms?’ He added, with a pointed look at Harry suddenly occupying his wall uninvited.
Harry flushed, tilting his head. ‘Not really. Sorry,’ he added, withdrawing a little into himself in his place at the wall. ‘It’s just – what you said was total crap. I don’t know what’s going on with – I need to work it out, with Ron. And that’s my problem. But I want you to –‘ Harry trailed off, blushing more at the raised eyebrow and expectant expression on Draco’s face, leaning against a poster of his bed and his arms still defensively crossed. ‘I want you to be my friend, either way,’ he rushed out.
They both stood quietly for a moment.
Draco huffed through his nose. ‘We’ll see.’
Harry glowered at that. ‘No, fuck off. That’s how it is.’
‘Be your friend, or fuck off? And in my bedroom uninvited. Mixed signals, Potter.’
‘It’s not like I’m in your bed,’ Harry shot back, then caught himself, blushing. ‘Is that a problem?’
One pale eyebrow shot up. ‘Your not being in my bed?’
‘No!’ Harry went red, then, glaring at Draco’s short of amusement. ‘That I want to be your friend and Ron’s. Even if there’s problems.’
Draco’s face turned serious, looking past Harry to the enchanted windows giving off the dim white moonlight of a winter evening. ‘And ‘we’ll see’ is not an acceptable answer.’
‘No,’ Harry nodded. ‘It isn’t.’
‘Fine.’ A pale hand lifted to brush his fringe out of his face. ‘Then no, I suppose it isn’t a problem.’
‘Malfoy – ‘
‘Potter.’ Draco ran a hand through his hair again, and Harry realised how tired he looked. ‘Would it be that hard for you not to push this?’
Harry opened his mouth to answer, paused, and huffed frustration through his nose. ‘Yeah, if it means you won’t think about teaching.’
Draco caught his eye, slumping more against the bedframe. ‘Why is that so fucking important to you?’
Harry’s dark eyebrows pulled down, as he fisted his hand roughly into the pocket of his jeans. ‘Am I wrong that it could make you happy?’
‘Just because something works for you and your ego, Potter, doesn’t mean that it’s for everyone –‘
‘Fuck off with that, it’s not ego,’ Harry jerked his jaw, fist tightening in his pocket. ‘I’ve seen you, you enjoy it, you’re way better at it than I am.’
‘So what you think you know about me should dictate my choices?’
‘So that’s not true, then?’ Harry shot back. ‘So you don’t enjoy it?’
Draco’s annoyed expression faltered, looking away and back as he took in a breath. ‘I don’t know. I don’t know a lot of things,’ he said, with a long close of his eyes. ‘I don’t know if I can do that. I don’t know if you’ll want me here, a year from now. I don’t know if they’ll even let me be a fucking professor. Don’t bother,’ he added, when he saw Harry open his mouth in rebuttal. ‘I respect the Headmistress, but she isn’t everything.’
‘Snape used to bully the fucking students and they kept him on,’ Harry burst out, bitterly, and winced when he saw Draco’s expression. ‘I - sorry. I’m sorry, it’s just – if you take your NEWTs this summer there’d be no fucking reason for you not to be here. You’re not a – you’re not a werewolf,’ he added lamely, swallowing. ‘Or a – whatever the fuck Quirrell – what he was doing. I’m not going to let other people blame you for shit that wasn’t your fault.’
‘There was plenty that was, Potter. That I blame myself for. You can only put so much on a dead father,’ Draco laughed humourlessly. ‘My father did a lot, but even you can’t blame him for breaking your fucking nose.’
‘Yeah, yes you did that –‘ Harry took a deep breath, eyes up at the ceiling and back. ‘And I – I’ve done things too, haven’t I? Things people don’t know about, even, like that – like that spell in the bathroom.’
Harry watched Draco’s eyes change, from irritated to surprised to guarded in a moment. ‘Let’s not pretend that cutting up a Death Eater isn’t on your list of good deeds.’
‘So nearly murdering another student with a spell I don’t even understand is a good deed?’ Harry laughed once, without feeling. ‘That’s not the point – the point is, there’s nothing you’ve done that means you shouldn’t be able to do this. And if anyone tries to – I want to be there to help. They shouldn’t let me be a teacher, but they do,’ he added, with a desperate smile. ‘You’re just as qualified for it as I am.’
‘Merlin help them,’ Draco said, tilting his head up to hit against the wood of the bed post with an audible thud. ‘Two shitty teachers that end up fighting by Christmas.’
‘I’m not going to fight you,’ Harry told him, his face honest. ‘Unless you’re a massive dick about points.’
‘Potter, of course I’d be a massive dick about points,’ Draco tilted his head, meeting his eyes with a raised eyebrow. ‘It’s like you don’t understand the important parts of house rivalry.’
‘You’re supposed to be a teacher, not a Slytherin,’ Harry told him.
‘Slughorn is Head of House, and I’d be replacing him.’
‘Oh,’ Harry said. ‘Shit.’
Draco laughed, a low chuckle as he looked out of the window. ‘’Oh, shit’ indeed.’
Harry smiled, thunking his own head back against the wall. ‘Come on, what Slytherin doesn’t take the chance to be lord of the Slytherins?’
‘True,’ Draco mused, looking at him. ‘If I start now, they might manage a House and Quidditch Cup dynasty that lasts until I retire.’
‘No way in hell,’ Harry rebuked, shaking his head vigorously. ‘Gryffindor team’s got a good chance this year.’
‘Potter, they broke my arm.’
‘All’s fair in love and war,’ Harry shrugged, sniggering at Draco’s mock look of disgust.