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Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any of its characters, settings, etc. They belong to J.K. Rowling. 

 

Snow fell over London as the Christmas break came to an end for another year. White flakes sparkled in the hair of many students as they crossed onto Platform 9 ¾ , their boots leaving delicate tracks towards the train’s carriages. Parents, siblings, and guardians alike stood waving to their loved ones as the train puffed out of the station, heading for Hogwarts. On board were a load of magical students who, truthfully, had no idea what the next few months had in store for them, or of the truths that would be revealed.

For Harry Potter, it seemed as though everything would be the same as it were. Same friends, same school, same problems. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary as he boarded the Hogwarts Express, shaking snow out of his unruly black hair. He glanced side to side, scanning for an empty compartment.

“Left, Harry,” huffed Hermione impatiently, heaving her bag of school books onto her shoulder.

Harry rolled his eyes, doing as she said. Striding through the narrow aisle, he peeked into compartment after compartment, looking for an empty one. He caught the eyes of many curious students, many of whom were girls trying to catch his attention. He ignored them, averting his gaze, much to the girls’ dismay. An empty compartment caught his eye about halfway down and he beckoned to Ron and Hermione. “Down here, come on, before the train turns that first bend and we get thrown through the glass.” Harry slid the glass door aside and stepped in, plopping down on the bench.

Hermione followed Ron inside, slumping her books on the bench. She glared at Harry. “Should have let me go first,” she puffed.

“Why’d you bring so many books, Hermione?” Ron questioned, eyeing the bundle beside her.

“I brought them to get ahead, Ronald!”

“To get ahead, or for ‘light reading’?” Harry sniggered.

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t go asking me for help anytime soon, you two, I swear.

Harry and Ron broke into laughter. The two started into a lighthearted conversation about quidditch while Hermione stuck her nose into yet another school book. The two glanced up at her after a while of her silence, aside from the odd flipping of a page.

“How’s your chapter of A History of Magic, ‘Mione?” Ron asked.

She didn’t look up. “Interesting.” Both boys raised their brows at her, which she could see over the top of her book. She acquiesced. “Boring.” Hermione sighed, placing the book on the bench beside her.

“Want anything from the trolley?” Harry voiced.

Hermione shrugged; Ron scoffed. “Did you really ask me that?”

Harry laughed. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

The group rose from their seats and turned left down the aisle towards where the trolley witch was rolling her treats along. The three hurried towards her and she stopped, smiling at the three. “Anything from the trolley dears?”

Harry surveyed the group who motioned that it was up to him. “Er, three pumpkin pasties, three chocolate frogs, and… three licorice wands, please.” Harry searched his pockets for the change as another figure emerged from behind the trolley witch.

“Three pumpkin pasties, please,” Malfoy announced. Harry glanced up at the blond, startled, and almost dropped his change. He had his head turned away from the group, not making eye contact. In fact, he didn’t even make eye contact with the trolley witch.

“Here you go, dear,” she said, handing Malfoy the pastries, and taking the coins from him. He fumbled one and reached for it, revealing the other side of his face. Harry almost dropped his coins again. Half of Draco’s face was blue and purple, a cut under his eye causing it to swell. As his coat swung open at the movement, Harry also caught a glimpse at bruises on his neck and shoulder. Malfoy quickly recovered as the trolley with rolled away, stuffing Harry’s coins in her pocket.

Beside him, Ron scoffed, flicking his head up towards the blond. “Who’d you get in a fight with, Malfoy?”

Malfoy rolled his good eye. “Funny, Weasley,” he sneered.

“What? Good ol’ Daddy not being so nice at home?” He snickered, to which Hermione smirked.

Malfoy’s eyed widened for a fraction of a second, then he squinted “Again, very funny, Weasel. Not that it’s any of your business.” He shifted his body away from Ron, although neither him or Hermione seemed to notice.

Hermione laughed. “It’s just interesting to see someone like you in a shape like this.

“Yeah, who’d you piss off this time?” Ron added.

“Again,” Malfoy huffed, backing up. “None of your damn business.”

“The invincible Draco Malfoy, beat up?” Ron laughed again. “No really tell us who did it?”

“That’s enough,” Harry interjected, as Malfoy flinched when Ron stepped closer. Harry squinted, brows furrowed at the blond. “Leave him be, Ron.”

“Harry-“

“Just… leave him alone. He wasn’t trying to fight us,” Harry nodded at Malfoy. “Let’s just go back to our seats.”

The blond stared after the group as they left, shaken by the actions of all three members. He knew he’d treated them badly in the past, and had expected it from Weasley… but not Granger. And certainly not from Potter. Sauntering back to his seat, he couldn’t help but wonder if maybe the raven haired boy knew more than he ought to.

Back in his compartment, Harry watched Ron mow down on his pumpkin pasty. He was vaguely aware of Hermione calling him a pig, but it didn’t fully register. His mind was reeling. The whole interaction was odd. Malfoy had lacked most of his usual venom… he seemed tired. Harry tried to convince himself that that was it. He was just tired and that’s why it seemed off, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. He had flinched when Ron stepped towards him, which seemed unusual. And it had been Christmas break… who would he fight at home? Harry couldn’t see him fighting a friend he had over for dinner or anything of the sort, it seemed too odd. Although, to be fair, all of this seemed odd to Harry. The colourful bruises seemed fresh and out of place on the boy’s face, something he’d never seen, even after particularly rough quidditch games.  

Harry recalled memories of Malfoy from before Christmas. The more he remembered, the more concerned he grew. He hadn’t really been himself, Harry recalled. Drawn back, quiet, blending into the crowd… not like him at all. And the boy who was normally proud of his family…. To be alarmed by the mention of his father…

It clicked. Harry’s stomach churned as he realised what made him so uneasy. He recognised these traits in himself – his past self. When he was living with the Dursleys. He swallowed thickly. The fingerprint shaped bruises on Malfoy’s neck flashed in his brain. A surge of worry flooded through him.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong…. But I don’t think I am. How did I not notice before?

Harry put his head in his hands, tugging at his hair. Ron and Hermione had such loving families – they had no idea. They wouldn’t see what he did, and so they just attacked him as they’d always done. Back and forth, back and forth. Except now it was different. Harry had his suspicions… he had empathy. Something he never thought he’d feel for the boy.

As he knew from growing up, the situation is not fun. And he could only imagine what it would be like for Malfoy, his father being a powerful Death Eater who’d narrowly escaped imprisonment. The external damage was easy to spot, but internal – not so easy. Almost impossible. Yet it can be some of the most damaging.

Maybe I’m wrong. Don’t play the hero, Harry. You don’t know his life.

But you know yours. He might need help!

You may have no idea what you’re talking about.

But I need to find out!

It’s none of your business.

Wouldn’t I have wanted help when I went through it?

What makes you think he’d want your help?

I have to try…

“Are you alright there, mate?”

Harry jumped, his gaze flying up to meet Ron’s. Hermione’s eyes were on him too. “Y-yeah,” he stammered. “I just need air, I think. I’ll be back.”

“Okay,” Hermione called after him, but he’d already left.

Harry paced along the aisle, once again peering through all the doors. Nope. No. Nope. Then, a white blond head faced away from him, surrounded by Slytherins, namely Blaise Zabini and Pansy Parkinson. He slid the door open and stepped inside, causing Pansy to look up at him as he approached, followed by Blaise. He tapped Malfoy on the shoulder lightly. He flinched, staring up at the out-of-place Gryffindor.

He turned to look at Harry, and Harry squinted. His bruises were gone. “What do you want, Potter?”

“Can I talk to you for a moment?” Malfoy eyed him. “Please.”

“Okay.” He stood and ushered Harry into the aisle outside the compartment. “Now, what do you want?”

“Relax,” Harry said. “I’m not going after you, or anything. Just a civil conversation.”

“Potter. We’ve never had a civil conversation. What do you want?”

“I just… I’m sorry about Ron and Hermione,” Harry admits.

He rolls his eyes. “Yeah, okay. What do you really want? Come to mock me too?”

“No.”

“Uh huh.”

“Draco, I’m not here to try and hurt you.”

He started at the use of his given name. “Who said I’m-“

“I know what it’s like. And I mean it, I’m sorry about what Ron and Hermione said. They shouldn’t have said any of that stuff. It was mean, and you hadn’t even said a word to Ron when he started on you.”

Draco blanked, silver eyes darting between Harry and the floor. Finally, they settled on Harry. “Thanks.”

Harry nodded. “Of course. Er, see you around.”

“Yeah,” he said, still with a blank expression. “See you.” Then he turned and headed back to his seat.

Harry let out a breath, nodding to himself. No progress, but that was okay. He was sure he’d talk to him again. He was determined. Damned hero complex or not, he was determined. He knew the damage done by abuse and he’d be damned if he let the boy deal with it all by himself.

I sure hope I’m wrong.

*

After getting the apology off his chest he returned to his seat and joined Ron and Hermione’s conversation. They had been going back and forth about the pronunciation of certain charms and counter charms. Hermione and Harry ended up mocking Ron who butchered a few of them, but all in good fun. The three laughed the rest of the ride away.

Dinner was already on the table when they arrived, and the starving students tucked in almost immediately. Pumpkin pasties and chocolate frogs from the trolley only go so far. As the trio settled in for dinner, they were joined by Ginny, Dean, and Seamus. Conversation and laughter continued to erupt from the Gryffindor table over the course of their meal.

“How was your break, Seamus?” Ginny chirped.

“It was good, thanks,” he smiled. “Spent some time with my muggle cousins. I enchanted the Christmas cookies to make them all hyper. It was fun for me to watch really, but quite the tango for me aunts. Had to round them all up, you see.”

“Seamus! You can’t do that,” Hermione scolded, though she was smiling.

He shrugged. “No one found out, though I think my Mum was suspicious.”

“I guess so!” Chortled Ron. “All these kids suddenly hopped up from just a cookie or two. You should talk to Fred and George about that one.”

“Sure!” Dean smacked his arm. “So you can enchant all these cookies perfectly fine, but you can’t do one potion with me without blowing it up!”

“Oi, shut up, Dean,” he snickered. “It’s an art.”

“Then you’re no artist,” Harry added.

The group roared with laughter. Harry sipped at his pumpkin juice, doing his best not to let it spill as he attempted to settle his laughter. Over his goblet he spotted a pair of silver eyes gazing at him, a spark of curiosity resting there. Harry nodded at him. The blond’s head tilted slightly, to which Harry’s lip twitched upwards. Then he nodded back ever so slightly, but Harry caught the movement. His eyes flitted away, and Harry went back to his conversation.

*

Neither boy slept that night. Both stared at the ceiling, wondering what would happen in the days to come.

Draco pondered his interaction with Harry for quite a while. It had been odd… but nice. But it was like Harry knew. Maybe he did. What did he mean when he said that he wasn’t there to hurt him. He had to know – nothing else made sense. He’d have to be more careful, or run the risk of his whole family’s reputation being shattered. His limited safety being taken away. But something kept his mind circling back to Harry… subconscious trying to tell him something that he didn’t want to accept.    

Harry had drawn his curtains almost two hours later than everyone else, but still he did not sleep. He lay wide eyed, pondering all the signs and signals he’d missed. He may never find out the truth, but he sure hoped he could. Harry groaned, rolled over and cast lumos. He stared into the ball of light emitted by the tip of his wand, transfixed. Vaguely he wondered if instead of being so worried about what Malfoy was up to, he should’ve been focusing on the way he had been acting instead. He didn’t know if he could get the boy to open up because pushing wouldn’t be any help either. He’d pull away, turn more into himself. If there’s anyone left that he truly trusts, that is. He will internalize himself completely.

Draco, Harry realized, had been wearing a mask. If his suspicions were correct, he had been protecting himself, projecting what he wanted everyone to see. But now Harry had witnessed a brief glimpse underneath the mask that had slowly been deteriorating all year. Why now? He didn’t know. How long? He didn’t know that either. Honestly, he didn’t know any of it for sure. But what he saw was still enough.

But for Harry, that wasn’t the most important thing to worry about. It was the truth. The extent of it. And above all – revealing the boy under the mask.

Because that boy – that Draco- maybe he could help him. And maybe, just maybe, they could learn to be something other than rivals.