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The Standard You Walk Past

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Draco recast the ward over his cauldron and set a timer for ten minutes. The last ingredient—a few drops of Horklump juice—sat in its own warded vial as Draco cleared up his work table. There was a minuscule ping as yet another unidentified object attempted to get into his cauldron, and Draco felt a dark satisfaction as that object rebounded back to whomever had thrown it; a few tables to the left in the row ahead of him, there was a loud squawk of surprise and a rush of words from Slughorn as he assisted that unfocused student.

Slughorn rarely approached Draco’s table at the back of the Potions classroom. It suited Draco fine, having suspected that Slughorn was more of a hindrance than a help. Uncle Severus, he

Draco shoved the thought away and focused back on his cauldron. With four more minutes on his timer, the milky colour in the potion was fading. He reduced the heat slightly and made a note in his potions journal.

Potter worked on a desk nearer the front, Weasel (Weasley) and Granger flanking him. The Boy Wonder was hunched over, and there was a brief flash of his hand above his cauldron as he tipped something in. Draco inwardly winced as a puff of white smoke rose from Potter’s cauldron.

“Harry, my boy, you’ve almost got it!” Slughorn swept over to Potter, giving Potter a pat on the shoulder. “Shame, shame. Go work with Mr. Weasley for the rest, don’t you worry!”

Potter mumbled something back, but Slughorn shook his head—a great theatrical move from Draco’s position, but probably nauseating up close. “Don’t worry, Harry! Everyone makes mistakes. Now, Mr. Weasley—”

Draco’s timer chimed in his mind, drawing his eyes back to his cauldron. The last traces of milky white dissipated and Draco removed the heat and completed the potion with three drops of the juice and seven slow anticlockwise stirs. A brilliant green colour initially trailed after Draco’s glass stirring rod, before the potion settled on a transparent aquamarine.

By the time Slughorn...deigned to visit Draco’s workstation, Draco had bottled his potion and labelled it, table cleared. Draco kept his eyes on Slughorn’s face, which was why he knew Slughorn did not even look at him. The professor glanced at the vial, muttered “Good,” and wandered back to the rest of the class.

Draco discretely cast some shields before walking past the other students to put his vial on the front table. He was not hexed, this time, but that did little to stop the low bitterness at knowing that, once Slughorn saw the curled Draco Malfoy on the vial label, the potion would be dumped. Draco would have kept separate vials of the potions he made if it were not for the risk of being found and the likely accusations levelled against him.

He had to walk past Potter and Weasley on his way out. Potter’s eyes were partially blanked over, whilst Weasley’s cheeks were red with frustration. Neither of them glanced at Draco.

*

Draco sat at his desk in the dorm room, pre-dawn. The room was blessedly empty—Potter had been absent the entire night. Draco was almost worried though; he knew Potter wandered at night, but Potter always returned just an hour past midnight. Given that Potter was still out...there was a chance Potter would return whilst Draco was still in their shared rooms.

It was Headmistress McGonagall’s idea to put them together in the same eighth year dorm room. A large number of Eighth Years returned so that there simply wasn’t enough room in the House dormitories. As such, McGonagall had converted the East tower into temporary accommodation, and in recognition that the Eighth Year students were adults, they were to room in pairs rather than in large groups. On the face of it, Draco was supposed to represent Slytherin, Potter Gryffindor. Perhaps she hoped for a leading example of house unity; Draco knew the students were waiting with bated breath either for his own demise, or for him to orchestrate Potter’s.

They were all wrong.

The night of the Welcome Feast was the last time Draco had interacted with Potter in any way, when he and Potter had politely shook hands under McGonagall’s sharp eye right after she announced their room allocations. Draco went up to the rooms first, whereas Potter stayed down in the common room with his fans.

And that was it. Three weeks had past since: Draco kept out of the way, and Potter sneaked around Hogwarts late at night doing who-the-fuck-cares and the only time Draco saw Potter was in the Great Hall or in class. He knew Potter never looked back at him, always too busy with Granger and Weasley, or the atrociously large group of simpering fans. Draco reminded himself that he was too busy studying.

Either way, they were not friendly, and they did not fight. They just had nothing to do with the other. It was better than Draco had hoped, honestly. With an even number of boys, Draco had no hope to obtaining a private room. Out of all the other boys, Potter was the least likely to kill him in his sleep; after all, what was the point of killing someone you had saved?

*

There was something, about Hogwarts after dark. In the day time, the world flashed, sound buzzed against Harry’s ears. His face felt sore from smiling, and his eyes felt dry from keeping them open. There was always something to do, someone to talk to. If it wasn’t Hermione and Ron, or maybe Ginny, or Neville, it was some other Eighth year who wanted to talk to him about some work, or duelling club members or Quidditch players asking for his advice, or girls forever trying to dose him on love potions.

The night, however, held no expectations except Harry’s quiet. Strips of pale silvery light lined the corridors, giving the impression of bars: confinement, repressing Harry’s thoughts, keeping him away from the memories that lurked just below his eyes.

It felt like a brief moment when Harry curled up on the window seat of the North Tower, wrapped up in his cloak. The grey of the night landscape made him doze, half awake.

It was the slip into dark-clash-bright dreams that jolted Harry awake. Harry grimaced, sore from his folded up position. The sky was starting to streak yellow pink so he went back to the dorms.

*

It was almost six in the morning when Draco’s wards pinged, and Potter entered the room.

For a brief moment, Draco entertained the idea of ignoring Potter just like Potter had ignored him, but a desire to actually see Potter—to make Potter see him—made him twist in his seat to regard the Saviour.

Potter had some parchment in one hand and the silky shimmering Invisibility cloak in the other. His eyes were heavy with tiredness but they widened when Draco faced him. Draco had a sudden feeling of something wrong: there was no dislike, hatred, or fire of self-righteousness in Potter’s gaze.

Draco blinked, disoriented. How was he supposed to interact with Potter now? Sneer? Draco remembered Potter’s words and actions at his trial—extending not friendship but an agreement to be civil. Draco had been uncomfortable then, but Mother had prompted him to shake Potter’s hand.

Mother. She would want him to be polite. If it were not for Mr. Potter, we could all be in Azkaban, Draco.

Draco smoothed his face and greeted Potter with a curt nod. Potter responded with a nod of his own, but his eyes remained wide with surprise. Draco had no wish to pursue a silent conversation, so he turned back to his desk.

There was some pattering around from Potter, before a whumfp as Potter collapsed onto his bed. When Draco left the room an hour later, Potter was asleep.

*

Harry was paired with Ron for Defence, as usual. Hermione had paired with Ginny. Professor Berriky had taught them two spells—a temporary numbing curse and a concentrated shield spell—and partners were to alternate casting. At the moment, Ron was casting the curse. Ron was casting it weakly though, and boredom struck Harry.

He barely felt anything when his shield shattered. Ron gave a wordless shout, but Harry could muster only the tiniest bit of surprise as he fell.

Harry heard the crack of bone and the crunch of cartilage, and he winced.

Belatedly, as pain flooded into him, Harry realised the bone and cartilage was his. The pain as Harry’s nose crushed against the ground reminded him of Malfoy’s foot. Which made him wonder about Malfoy. What was Malfoy doing? That other morning was the first time Harry saw him since the Welcome Feast.

Sound filtered back into Harry’s ears as Ron turned him over, saying, “Sorry, sorry,” over and over. The entire classroom was noisy as other students and Berriky surrounded him. At the corner of his eye, he saw Hermione, and he had a sudden airy feeling as he was lifted off the ground.

“I’m fine, Ron. Hazards of Defence,” Harry said, watching as Ron’s face slackened with relief.

Berriky was saying something, but Harry focused on Hermione and Ron as they floated him out of the classroom.

Hermione peered at him worriedly. “How are you feeling, Harry?”

“M’fine.” Harry tried a smile, but his nose hurt too much.

Hermione gently shook her head, and Harry sensed doors opening before they entered into the white of the Infirmary. Somewhat dazed, he missed the weightlessness when Hermione lowered him onto a white bed. The sharp scent of blood replenishing potions preceded Madam Pomfrey as she swooped into Harry’s field of vision.

“Afternoon, Madam Pomfrey,” Harry mumbled.

Pomfrey frowned, but it was weakened by her fond tone. “Mr. Potter, it must be impossible for you have a school year without getting hurt.”

“Is it bad?” Hermione asked, leaning forward.

“Mr. Potter will be able to return to his rooms tonight. Just be patient.” Madam Pomfrey cast some quick spells. She left for a moment, returning with potions, which Harry dutifully drank.

“Broken nose and some small fractures. Lie back down, Mr. Potter.” Madam Pomfrey raised her wand. “This will hurt.”

Harry fought the urge to roll his eyes. When had healing not hurt? Ron, to his right, looked a bit pale as Harry’s nose reverse-crunched back into shape, blanching at the snapping sounds as the bone fractures healed.

Madam Pomfrey nodded in satisfaction. “Now, Mr. Potter, you are to remain still. You’ll be able to leave for dinner, but not before.”

“Okay,” Harry replied meekly.

Madam Pomfrey shook her head, giving Hermione and Ron a level look. “Ms. Granger and Mr. Weasley, ensure that Mr. Potter gets his rest.”

“Of course, Madam,” Hermione promptly answered. Madam Pomfrey took her leave as Hermione and Ron settled down on the chairs by the bed.

“Hermione, Ron, I’m fine by myself,” Harry said. It looked like Ron almost believed him, but Hermione definitely did not. “You should attend classes.”

Hermione stiffened, but in the end, they both stayed by his side.

They talked about common things, sometimes just Hermione and Ron while Harry dozed, and sometimes the three of them. It made Harry yearn for those times when it was just them, just the three of them against the world—not that he wanted the War or Voldemort back.

Madam Pomfrey eventually returned and declared him healthy enough to leave. Hermione was still worried, and she stayed by his side during dinner, which consisted of him shifting food around his plate as he accepted the sympathy and hope you’re okay’s and told Ron that he was going to be a great Auror if he could defeat the ‘great Harry Potter’. Ron went red at that, whilst the rest of the table laughed.

*

Back at the common room, Ron and Hermione exchanged glances, and Hermione didn’t tell them to get out their homework. Instead, she placed a warm hand on Harry’s arm.

“Harry, maybe you should go straight to bed tonight,” she said.

Harry blinked and turned to Ron, but Ron was nodding at Hermione’s words.

Guilt slugged through Harry’s veins. He had worried his friends to the point that Ron didn’t even make a joke about Hermione agreeing to not do work.

Ron took a firm grip of his other arm. “C’mon mate, we’re making sure you get rest tonight.”

Harry let them accompany him to his room. However—

“I’ll be fine,” Harry protested, embarrassed as Hermione helped him take off his shoes and outer robes, transfigured the rest of his clothes into pyjamas, and sent a cleaning spell to his teeth.

Harry,” Hermione huffed.

Ron drew back Harry’s bed curtains, lifting the blankets. “In ya go.”

“I’m not a little kid,” Harry muttered, but Ron’s earnest look kept him from rolling his eyes.

“We’re worried about you, mate,” Ron said, frowning. He tugged Harry forwards.

Obediently, Harry climbed into bed and lay still as Hermione and Ron tucked him in. “But I am fine—”

“Go to sleep, Harry.” Hermione smoothed his hair, drawing his eyelids down.

He must have been tired after all because he fell asleep immediately...with the image of Hermione and Ron standing by his bed, as though they were his parents.

*

The screech of Draco’s innermost ward ripped Draco awake. The calming blue white of his dream shattered into the darkness of night. His hand grasped the wand under his pillow before his eyes even opened. The moonlight and his own moonstone gave enough light for him to point his wand at the intruder.

The figure hovered by the corner of Draco’s bed, on the window side where Draco kept the curtains opened. A muffled whimper-scream emerged, and Draco scrabbled backwards as the intruder—person—POTTER!—collapsed onto the bed.

Conspiracy scenarios and mean pranks filled the hysterical part of Draco’s mind. The other part forced his breathing to even, to examine, to listen. Draco’s eyes sharpened with a nonverbal spell, allowing him to make out Potter’s face in the shadow of the silver light. Potter’s eyes were closed and his mouth open, glistening saliva pooling at the corner.

Once Draco’s heart stopped drumming in his ears, he could make out Potter’s even, deep breaths. Potter was asleep.

Draco closed his eyes momentarily, but when he opened then again, Potter was still there. Bloody Merlin. He flicked his wand, levitating the git off his bed, himself rising from the warm covers. Potter’s curtains were thrown back and his sheets messed up. Irritated, Draco deposited Potter on top of them.

Draco was very much planning to leave Potter like that, but then the Boy-Who-Lived-To-Annoy just had to make a little mewling sound, shiver, and curl up. With bad grace, which Mother will never learn of, Draco properly tucked Potter into bed and cast a warming charm for good measure.

Potter’s shivers desisted, and any mewling faded.

Barely refraining from childishly flicking Potter in the forehead, Draco turned back to his own bed, still warm. Exhaustion dragged Draco gratefully back to sleep.

*

Much to Draco’s rising irritation, it was just under two hours later when he was forced awake again. It was the sound of screaming that woke him, and for a heart-stopping second, Draco thought it was him. He lifted his hand to his mouth, but it was closed, and the screaming continued.

Draco pulled back his curtains with a flick of his wand. The room was empty, as far as he could see, aside from Potter. It was Potter who was screaming. Draco was torn between the urge to bury his head and wait out the screaming and the other, insane urge to go over and calm Potter. He wondered if the noise could be heard from outside.

He wondered how likely it would be for the others to think it was his fault.

Fuckity-fuck.

Draco threw back his blankets and moved quickly to the other bed. He waved his wand to re-tuck Potter in, neaten the bed and dry the sweat-soaked sheets. But Potter continued to scream, messing everything up again.

He should just put a silencing charm up and leave Potter to his silent screams.

But what would Mother do?

Draco scowled. Given that Draco owed Potter a number of life-debts, she would insist Draco do something to help. To calm Potter, to ease his nightmares, if Draco were in such a position to do so.

Draco placed a hand uncertainly on Potter’s forehead. It was warm, but not feverish. Did he need to talk to sooth Potter? However, the screams wound down to pathetic whimpers.

His hand on Potter’s forehead covered the stupid scar. Without it, without that green gaze, Potter looked ridiculously innocent. Strands of black hair tickled at Draco’s fingers.

Steeling himself, Draco began to stroke Potter’s forehead, Potter’s hair.

The way the black hair parted between his fingers—so pale in contrast—was fascinating. And that it seemed to actually work, the whimpers and tremors easing, felt entirely surreal.

A year ago, Draco didn’t think he’d live. How could he have ever imagined being in this kind of situation? Fighting each other for almost seven years, being on different sides in a fucking war, and now...Death Eater helping Golden Boy.

Draco withdrew his hand the moment he realised that Potter was sleeping peacefully again. A Tempus told him it was less than an hour till his normal wake-up time, and it was with a longing resignation that Draco made an early start to his morning.

*

The sky suddenly turned dark, and Harry understood, at the back of his mind, that this was a dream. But it didn’t stop the sudden welling of remembered fear. Black robes and pearly white masks. Harry ran, he tried to, but his limbs felt sluggish. They caught him—did they in truth?—and then it was Cruciatus all over. Harry tried to drag himself away, and for what felt like a brief moment, the pain stopped, and the sky was lightening—and then it returned as Harry saw Cedric, saw him die over and over and over again—

Somewhere, Harry could feel it, was safety. Maybe just beyond the horizon—and with a snap, he was there—there in the white softness, and thank Merlin he couldn’t see or sense any more Death Eaters—it felt like time stretched and it was forever—

Even in a dream, it was too good to last, and darkness descended and the walls closed in. His cupboard. A sudden panic hit him—he was too big for his cupboard now! He pounded on the door, and it opened, revealing Aunt Petunia.

“Get to work, boy,” she sneered, and Harry stumbled out of the cupboard gratefully. Only to watch in horror as Aunt Petunia morphed into Bellatrix, and she pointed her wand at him and grinned—

Harry woke, almost jumping from his bed, wand drawn. His breathing was harsh in his ears, and it took just a brief second for the darkness of the dream to fade, to be replaced with the silver glow from the window and the golden Lumos from Malfoy’s desk. Malfoy’s head snapped towards Harry, wand raised. Harry suddenly felt stupid, and he dropped his wand arm. Malfoy’s face smoothed, and he gave Harry a curt nod and turned away, leaving Harry to feel the emptiness where they usually traded insults.

It was early, the sun barely risen.

So this is when Malfoy does his work.

Harry shook his head, limbs tired. His bed was mucked up, and the room felt entirely...blank. He quickly changed into his robes, packed his bag, and headed down early to the common room.

The Eighth Year common room was large and round, with two roaring fireplaces on either side and two sets of stairs directly ahead that led to the dorm rooms. The banners of the four houses adorned the walls, but the room itself was furnished with muted browns and greens. The fires cast warm glows, and with no small relief, Harry curled up on one of the sofas.

Hermione woke him up later, gently shaking him awake. “Harry, breakfast.”

Harry immediately reddened, having been caught. “Sorry, just woke up early, and I—”

Hermione smiled exasperatedly, pulling him to his feet. “C’mon Harry, it’s fine.” Her glance flicked to the boy’s staircase. “Ron will be coming down, raving for breakfast—now.”

On cue, Ron was bounding down the stairs. “Hermione! Harry! Breakfast awaits! We have to get there before all the bacon is gone—” For a moment, he scowled. “Bloody Seamus tricked me yesterday. I’m not going to fall for it again.”

Hermione gave Harry a sly grin and looped her arm with Ron’s. “Let’s go then,” she said, amusement colouring her tone.

Harry found himself smiling as he followed them out.