Draco sat alone at the Slytherin table, except for Pansy Parkinson and Blaise Zabini who looked much more interested in their own conversation than Draco. The pale boy was pushing his food around his plate, watching it with as much excitement as Harry had for divination – which wasn’t any at all.
Harry had noticed the Slytherin grow thinner and thinner as the days passed. He barely touched his food or talked to anybody, though he dutifully appeared at lessons. It puzzled Harry to the point where it was such a nagging curiosity that Harry made it a point to study the boy.
Harry looked out for him every lesson they shared – which were quite a few – and unconsciously kept tabs on him. Harry soon found his life revolving around Draco Malfoy – almost like a repetition of 6th year, but not quite. There was something different about it this time. Harry was quite sure that Draco wasn’t causing any trouble, yet whenever Draco entered the Great Hall every mealtime, Harry perked up. It was almost as if Harry had developed a supernatural sense of the Slytherin.
Everytime their eyes crossed paths, Harry wanted to take the boy’s hand and ask him if everything was alright. However, whenever the opportunity arose, Harry would take one look into the boy’s hollow dead eyes and back away. He knew that look. He had worn it when he was searching for horcruxes and it felt like even though they had hit rock bottom, it would only get worse. He hadn’t wanted to talk to anyone and he decided that giving Draco space would be the best thing to do. But, Draco got thinner and his eyes became sadder and he seemed more distant than he ever had before.
Breakfast ended. Harry dutifully finished eating his breakfast at the Gryffindor table, surrounded by friends and happiness and Draco still hadn’t touched his food or uttered a word to anyone. Harry pushed the thought to the back of his head and brought his attention back to Ginny. Ginny and him had finally begun dating after returning to school. It was definitely much more convenient to have her in the same year as he was, giving them more time to build their relationship up from the shambles it had been.
Ginny held his hand and continued droning on about quidditch, her lips smiling and eyes twinkling. Harry could see that it made her more than happy – the way her eyes lit up and how she looked like she could conquer the world on a broomstick – and he smiled too, not because he found quidditch particularly interesting anymore, but because when she smiled, Harry felt like he could do anything. Maybe he could do anything.
“I'll be right back, Ginny,” said Harry, stepping over the bench and leaning over the table to give Ginny a kiss on her forehead. Ron rolled his eyes in exasperation and Hermione smacked him lightly on the shoulder. She gave Harry an apologetic smile and interlaced her fingers with Ron’s. He blushed and rested his head on her shoulder before waving Harry off.
Harry shuffled over to the Slytherin table, shoulders sagging and his head lowered. He sat himself down next to Draco, leaving a generous amount of space between them, hoping he came off as non-threatening. “What are you doing here?” spat out Pansy, whipping her head in Harry’s direction. Harry had to stop himself from falling off the bench and tried to hide his fright
Pansy smirked at his reaction before snaking her arm around Draco’s possessively. Blaise furrowed his eyebrows in confusion, probably trying to figure out why Harry had suddenly appeared. “And to what do we owe the pleasure of a visit by our very own Saint Potter?” Blaise drawled, looking Harry up and down. Harry felt queasy at the mention of Draco’s nickname for him. It almost felt wrong, coming out of Blaise’s mouth. The dark-skinned boy was sizing him up and Harry shifted back just a bit.
“I just wanted to talk to Draco,” Harry answered, inclining his head in Draco’s direction. Pansy snorted and Blaise raised an eyebrow, searching for an underlying meaning to Harry’s innocent statement. Draco lifted his head at the mention of his name and glanced furtively at Harry before quickly returning his gaze to the empty plate in front of him. Harry frowned slightly at Draco’s refusal to acknowledge his presence, but pushed the feeling away.
“Draco doesn’t want to be disturbed by the likes of you,” sneered Pansy, pulling Draco’s arm towards her body in an almost possessive manner. “I wasn’t aware that you were the spokesperson of Draco over here,” said Harry, voice lilting. Pansy’s cheeks reddened significantly at the rebuff. Draco chuckled abruptly – a mirthless hollow thing, like his eyes. Harry hadn’t seen something that cheery escape from Draco in days and his mind perked up at the thought that this just might work.
“Okay Potter, I’ll talk you,” said Draco, a familiar glint of amusement flashing briefly across his face as he finally met Harry’s eyes. Harry stood up and led them outside the Great Hall, away from curious glances and unwanted gossip. “Draco,” said Harry, dragging out the syllables almost lyrically, “I’ve just been wondering if you’ve been okay lately.” Draco tugged down the sleeves of his robes uncomfortably and refused to meet Harry’s eyes. “And why exactly wouldn’t I be okay?” spat out Draco, defensive. Harry took a step back and Draco’s eyes widened in guilt.
“Its just that I’ve noticed that you haven’t been quite yourself lately and…” Harry trailed off as he noticed panic start to settle into Draco’s thin frame. The blond was trembling ever so slightly and his white-knuckled hands were fisting his robes. “I don’t mean to intrude Draco but,” Harry started once again, hoping to take a less drastic and direct approach.
“You don’t know a single thing about me, Potter,” said Draco, voice laced with venom, “so don’t go around thinking that you can save everyone with a few pathetic words and that golden heart of yours. There are things in this world that even you can’t comprehend with that meagre intelligence of yours.” Draco stormed off, every step away from Harry driving the words further into his heart like a stake.
Harry didn’t know why he felt so hurt and fragile in this moment. Draco had definitely said and done worse to him. These words however, stung like slap to his face and he soon realised that it was because they rang with truths that he wouldn’t – couldn’t – admit to himself. After the Wizarding War, he had constantly gone around trying to fix everything that was broken. He’d believed that maybe if he managed to put everything back together, everything would go back to normal. He had tried to erase the memory of Voldemort from his life, yet he couldn’t, because Voldemort was entwined to him in such an intricate way that nobody could entangle the two, even though the part of Voldemort inside him had been destroyed.
How had a few words from Draco reduced him to a crumbling mess? More importantly, how had Draco managed to pick up on his hidden insecurities, weave them together and wield them against Harry like a weapon? He sighed as he saw the blond head of hair disappear into the Great Hall. He ran a hand through his hair and leaned against the cool stone wall, grateful for its support.
Nobody understood the burden that had been on him his whole life. Even now, with Voldemort gone, he felt pressured to be a ‘Saviour’ if only because everyone kept expecting him to do so. Only Draco had seemed to notice the gnawing feeling inside him that had hounded him since he found out he was the Chosen One. Maybe talking to someone who understood how he felt would get him over this seemingly immovable roadblock in his life. Maybe talking to Draco would help him get over his own insecurities and broken pieces the same way he hoped to help Draco. Maybe Draco could help him.
Harry stood up and straightened his robes, pulling his sleeves down and fussing with his hair. As he sauntered towards the Great Hall, a plan began to formulate in his mind. He smiled to himself as he worked together the pieces and how they clicked together. However, his thoughts shattered like glass against stone when a familiar voice punctuated the crisp morning air in a shout that could only mean danger.