Draco had always been able to see it.
In fact, he thinks he was the only one who saw it. Maybe except Luna. She always did seem to see things in that loony mind of hers that no one else saw. He never asked her, though, so he would never be sure if she did or didn’t.
Draco saw it, though. That’s what mattered.
On his first day at Hogwarts, he looked down to notice he had a thin string looped and tied around his right hand pinky. It was bright red against his pale skin. Leftover thread that wasn’t looped around his finger dangled off to the side.
He had no clue how it got there and after several tries to remove it, he realized it wouldn't budge. When he asked Crabbe and Goyle about it, they had no idea what he was even talking about. They didn't see any red string hanging from his finger. The string didn’t get wet when he showered. It didn’t get dirty in the mud during Quidditch practice. He realized it didn’t even seem corporeal, like a spirit. Draco thought maybe it was some weird magical charm his mother put on him to keep track of him or something, but she hadn't said anything. It was the only theory he could come up with, unfortunately.
The strangest part, though, was that someone else had one too.
The Boy Who Lived.
Harry Potter didn't seem to notice it, though. Which in retrospect made sense since he had very many other things on his mind during his years at Hogwarts.
But it made Draco angry for some reason. How could he have a string like Draco and not see it? It drove Draco mad. He wanted to smack Potter silly and ask him about the red strings only they seemed to have.
But he didn't.
He didn’t want people to think he was out of his mind. Even if that’s how he felt sometimes.
The stupid little inch of string that hung from where it looped around his finger would do something funny, as well. Anytime he was near Potter it would reach out in the direction of Potter's string. And Potter's would do the same. It was as if the strings wanted to connect. Like they belonged to the same thread.
It put a little fire of fear burning in Draco's chest. No one, not his parents, not his friends, not even Potter could see the strings. Only he could. At least, that he knew of. And he didn't know what it meant. But he wanted it to stop.
It made him hate Potter even more. Couldn’t stand to be around the idiot.
Why doesn't he see it too , Draco would wonder often. But he couldn't ask anyone for fear of looking absolutely insane. So he did his best to ignore it. Didn't even want to think about it.
Ignore it he did to the point that eventually he got used to it. He even forgot it was there after a while. Even when the string would point and reach because Potter was near or supposedly near (like “following his every move” near), Draco didn't even notice it.
Because Draco too started to have many things on his mind. A mark itched at his arm too distracting for anything else, especially some stupid bit of string.
He only remembered the stupid string when his days became bleak in those months before the Astronomy Tower. But he couldn't think about it for too long. Not then. Not when he had a task to complete for the sake of his family’s survival.
When the war was in full swing and he was home, surrounded by Death Eaters and a giant snake, only then did he focus on the string. It stood out against the greys and darkness that suffocated the Malfoy Manor. He would rub his thumb against it for comfort sometimes when he would train with Aunt Bella. He'd roll the bit of hanging string between the thumb and forefinger of his other hand out of habit when he couldn't sleep; the nightmares too much to handle. And on many nights, he wondered if Harry Potter could finally see the string, or if it remained a figment of his own imagination. It’s all in my head , he would think before drifting into restless sleep.
When Potter showed up at the manor, face hideous and deformed from a stinging hex, Draco knew beyond a doubt it was Potter. The string reached, and if Draco had to name it, it felt like it was begging Draco to let it attach to it's twin on Potter's dirt smudged hand. Instead, Draco pulled away and lied to his father, lied to Aunt Bella, and by doing so, lied to the Dark Lord. His gut told him to lie. Told him not to continue on doing these horrible things. He was so afraid, though. Afraid to die. Afraid to lose his family. Afraid to just lose .
But deep inside (where that little flame of fear had nestled in his chest because of the string and Potter) it was clear that he couldn’t do it. Draco knew that he couldn't just give Potter up to die. His conscious and his heart wouldn't be able to handle it. Draco was not that type of person. He never really was and he never really would be, apparently.
Some time later, when he sat in the castle awaiting news of Potter's death, sure that Potter would walk to the forbidden forest ready to die to save those fighting for him, Draco stared at the string. Red and bright tied around his finger in several loops, leaving the rest to hang limp. It was comforting to have now, especially with how bloody scared he was, feeling dreaded anticipation gnaw at his stomach. His whole body ached. His lungs burned from the smoke he inhaled from the Fiendfyre Potter had saved him from. His eyes hurt from crying over his fallen friend. But mostly it was his stomach tied in big heavy knots.
Every breath he took felt like it was counted while he waited. His left leg bounced, anxiously. He had plenty of patience, and yet in this situation, Draco was ready to tear his hair out because he didn’t want Potter to die, but he couldn’t do anything. If he did anything to stop this, he’d lose more than he could ever bear. That’s if he made it, of course. Time felt so agonizingly slow, Draco was sure it had stopped. But at the same time it was flying by like the wind through his hair like those years ago, in what felt like a different life, Malfoy would chance Potter around the Quidditch field.
All Draco Malfoy could do was wait, staring at nothing and hoping enigmatically that Potter lived.
Suddenly, the string vanished right before Draco's eyes.
He panicked and started to look at the floor around him wondering if it had fallen off somehow, but he didn't see it. His finger felt bare and cold. Draco felt his heart break for the little bit of mystical magic he knew nothing of.
His heart broke more when Draco realized it had to be about Potter. It had to mean he was gone.
The string was gone and it was because Voldemort killed Potter.
That thought alone made it hard to breathe.
It’s all my fault , Draco thought repeatedly. It’s all my fault. If I hadn’t been so afraid. If Dumbledore hadn’t died, then Potter would never have… . The hand that had once glimmered in the sun because the red string was so bright, now paled and looked so plain to him. He held it up in front of his face, just staring at it as he continued to blame himself for everything.
He felt empty.
But just as quickly as the string had disappeared, it appeared again, so bright red that the second he saw it, it eased his aching heart, putting it’s broken pieces back together.
He knew Potter was alive when the Dark Lord presented him to the castle as dead. Potter looked dead, but Draco knew. The little string reached and Draco's heart pounded away nervously, but the little flame in his heart kept burning. That's how Draco knew Potter lived.
The string was back, so Potter had to be alive.
Even with thinking that, Draco still felt a weight lift from him when Potter moved.
Then everything became chaotic again and Draco stopped thinking of the string for a while.
When the war was over finally, he found himself back at the manor with nothing to do. Draco decided he couldn't ignore the string any longer. He went searching in the massive library at the manor and even sent owls to book collectors his father knew. He searched and looked for any story about invisible red string.
After almost a year of searching, he found it in a mythological book that a collector that specialized in muggle mythologies had gotten from his trip to the wizarding school in Japan.
Reading the passages didn't calm the fire in his chest, but it stiffly punched Draco with reality.
He and Potter had a connection. A destiny owed to each other that they couldn't break. And all Draco could think about for a few more months, was... what if the strings connected? What would happen? Would Potter finally be able to see it? And would it confirm the part of the myth Draco was too afraid to confront?
Would it confirm that they were destined to love one another?
And just like it did when Draco was a child, the damn string and it's connection to Potter drove him crazy. He didn't- no, he couldn't admit to himself what it all meant. He read the book. He found more books about it and read those too. But he couldn't let himself feel what he had blocked off for years.
He loved Harry Potter.
He didn't want the string to be right. Draco didn't want to lose to a piece of mythological string, dammit.
But he couldn't stop thinking about it until he felt obsessed. There was only one thing he could do. He had to let his string connect to Potter's. He had to give in. Because Draco had to admit to himself, the string only symbolized his feelings for Harry bloody Potter.
He loved the fucking savior of the wizarding world.
To be able to see what would happen when the strings connected, some time was taken to plan a nicely timed accidental run-in with Potter at the Ministry. It had to be inconspicuous, so Draco made sure he had a reason to be at the Ministry. So he chose one of the days he had to appear before the auror watching his family for their monthly meeting ( just in case they decided to flip flop sides again the auror sneered the first day). Draco had waited nervously for a few minutes after spotting Potter with Weasley and Granger, coming up the hall. He must have looked suspicious, honestly. He didn't care, though.
Then when Potter was close enough, he turned the corner quickly and practically slammed into his (former?) rival.
"Sorry-!" Potter started, then when he realized it was Malfoy he gave him a wary stare. "Malfoy?"
Draco gulped and held out his right hand, trying not to glance at the string as it practically dragged his hand closer. "Potter. Sorry about that. I-..." he took a deep breath and actually said something he had wanted to say for a while. "Thank you for saving me from the Fiendfyre that night."
Harry's brows furrowed low and his lips tugged into a frown, but he looked down at Draco's hand and sighed. "Yeah. Well, it was payback for not outing me back at your house. Did you get your wand back by the way? I gave it over to-"
But he had finally taken Draco’s hand for the seemingly innocent handshake and both men gave small relieved sounding gasps the second their hands joined together.
Draco watched the strings grow and wrap around each other tightly, becoming one long thread connecting them both.
It seemed that Potter didn't see the string still, but he had definitely felt something. Draco was sure Potter probably thought Draco did something suspicious, like a weird version of a curse, but that was okay. Draco knew the truth.
"I did get my wand. Yes," Draco smiled and pulled their hands apart to show the wand in his pocket. "Thank you for that as well. It's a bit weird but exciting to think my wand is the one to kill him. Makes me a little proud even though I didn't do anything helpful," he rambled. He was so nervous it must have been obvious to anyone watching.
Potter and friends looked at him like he had five heads, but Potter’s lips twitched like he was amused and that didn’t piss Draco off like it used to.
Draco’s smile softened but remained while he looked at the string that continued to connect both men. It was longer allowing them to move around and it only seemed to grow longer and longer the farther apart they were. But it was shorter the closer they got. It followed them around and Draco assumed it would continue to do so the rest of their lives if the legends rang true.
"Er- right. Um..." Harry gave an awkward smile and cleared his throat. "I'm glad. I guess."
Draco nodded. He looked at Potter’s green eyes for a second, then his lips, then the string, then back to Potter’s eyes. He decided it was now or never. The words came out in a bit of a rush even though Draco hadn’t meant it to sound like some schoolgirl crush. "Potter, look I'll be frank. I fancy you, for a while now, I suppose. And I'm sure you didn't ever think of me like that, but I can't deny it anymore. For some reason, that even I can’t fully understand, I actually like you, surprising as it is."
Potter and the others stared at him with wide eyed and slack-jawed, standing shocked and silent.
"Okay… Well, that's done," he whispered. Then Draco straightened his jacket and lifted his chin, trying to hold on to some idea of pride after that embarrassing display. He was proud of himself for doing this, but he was also ready to throw up from the nerves. The flame in his chest was burning enough to hurt, especially when Potter didn't say anything.
Of course, Potter didn’t say anything.
How long had Draco actively and vocally hated Potter and then to suddenly say that he fancied him? It would have surprised him too if that tables had been turned. Should he really say he didn’t expect rejection? Still, it hurt.
Draco turned and started to walk off, trying very hard not to feel sorry for himself. He had been sure that the string meant for them to be together, as slightly horrifying as that idea was at first. But maybe since Potter couldn't see it, it meant that this was one sided? That hurt more than not ever knowing. He shouldn’t have said anything. Feeling like a moron, he briskly walked away towards the floo. Hopefully, if he got away fast enough he could deny this ever happened.
The string dragged behind him, still attaching him to Potter..
But then a hand grabbed his and pulled him to a stop.
"Malfoy, what the fuck?" Potter said, still holding his hand to keep him still. His other hand scratched through his messy hair and he looked at the floor, pensive. Then he sighed and looked up at Draco, eye to eye. “Did someone give you a strange potion?”
“No,” Draco said, voice low, heart racing. “I wish, but no.”
Harry’s lips twitched again, but this time it formed into a smirk. "Merlin, can we at least get dinner or something first before you admit your undying love for me?"
Draco almost squawked. "I didn't say undying love , Potter."
But his heart skipped a beat when Harry chuckled and gave a big bright smile. The flame in Draco's chest warmed and washed over his entire body, pleasantly.
“Fine, take me out to dinner,” Draco added, a playful sneer on his face. “But you better dress up, Potter. I won’t be seen with you looking like you just woke up sleeping with the trolls.”
Harry rolled his eyes, finally letting go of Draco’s hand. Draco pretended not to feel sad at the loss of contact just like how he pretended not to notice Weasley still confused and shocked as Granger patted his shoulder in amused pity.
“You’re going to be insufferable.”
“You should have known that before you stopped me from walking away.”
He gave Draco a strange look but there was no malice behind it. It made Malfoy’s stomach do flips. “Get lost, Malfoy. I’ll owl you about our date.”
“Shove off, Potter.”
Draco quickly turned and walked away again, his face warm. He said it was a date . Why did that make Malfoy so happy? It was the happiest he’d been in years. The string pulsed with a loving glow.