Disclaimer: I own nothing of Harry Potter and I make absolutely no profits from what I write. Besides the concepts of the Harry Potter world, which belong to JKRowling and Warner Brothers, everything is written by me.
Chapter 2: Shame
“This is hopeless,” Harry can’t help but whine to Ginny. She managed to take a day off to help him adjust. “I need to see my wand moving to cast these spells properly.” He rubs his eyes in exhaustion, missing the feel of his glasses. He must have lost them that night in the forest.
“Harry, you’re so close! You just need a little more of a flick at the end.” Ginny squeezes his hand gently, and he reciprocates by locking his fingers with hers, but quite suddenly he feels her lips against his and he jumps back slightly. He pushes her away, feeling embarrassed.
She doesn't say anything, but he can tell from the taste of the silence that he’s hurt her. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s with me.”
“It’s okay; you’re having a hard time.” She sounds a little wary when she continues, “it’s just, ever since you came back you’ve been a little to yourself, Harry. Not just with me, but with Ron and Hermione too.” She sounds dreadfully concerned.
“I just need some time to get used to this.” He smiles reassuringly at her, trying to hide the headache that’s coming in waves.
“I know. I’ll wait.” She sounds strained as her hand slips away from his. “You want to try the spell again?”
Harry really doesn’t want to but he also doesn't want to disappoint her. Sighing, he raises his arm to perform the spell, “Legere!” When nothing happens, he puts his wand down and glares back at the darkness.
“Maybe you’ll have better luck tomorrow,” she says hopefully. Harry nods for a response and continues to glare at the unjustness of it all. “Harry, do you want to take a walk with me outside? It’s a cold, fall day - your favourite.”
He’s momentarily tempted, but the memory of walking around the grounds with Hermione and Ron last week, holding onto them to not fall over while feeling everyone shamelessly staring at him was too painful to endure again. “Thanks Ginny, but I’m kinda tired.”
“Are you sure?”
“It could be fun?”
“You go ahead,” he says a little impatiently.
“Alright,” she sounds cross with him, but Harry can’t blame her. “I’ll check on you later,” and not waiting for his response, she walks out of his dormitory, firmly closing the door behind her. Harry sighs as he lays back on his bed. How did he manage to upset her so quickly? He’s had a knack of doing that lately.
After leaving the hospital wing nearly a week ago, he could sense the uneasiness and obligation he made others feel. No one could pass the chance to feel sorry for him. They had started to speak to him in a hushed voice; the kind that people reserve for those in their deathbeds. Everyone seemed to be going out of their way to make sure that he was comfortable. Harry couldn’t turn his head without someone asking him if he needed help to the bathroom.
Harry chucks his textbook at the wall in disgust.
But worse than his sudden dependance on other, his inability to learn new spells, or the gossip that circulates him everywhere he goes, are the nightmares. Harry envies a simpler time when nightmares were reserved to private nights and silencing charms around his bed. Now the days and nights hold no difference. When Harry wasn’t snapping at his friends or wallowing in self-pity, he was terrified. Every waking and sleeping moment was full of terrors: of cold eyes and cold bodies, of blazing fires and ruined castles, but worse than all that, all he saw was darkness. He was afraid that it was slowly swallowing his mind. Would he wake up and forget what his own reflection looked like? He was afraid of finding out.
“Harry?” Hermione lightly taps his arm, jolting him out of his thoughts.
“Hey! Didn’t hear you.”
“We were calling for some time, mate...” Ron says with concern.
“Sorry, I must have dozed off.” He can’t quite remember when or how he left his dorm. From the sound of the fire crackling and the feel of the cushioned armchair, he must be in the common room. There didn’t seem to be anyone else in the common room except the three of them.
“With your eyes open?” Ron asks.
“Nevermind that,” Hermione interjects. “I wanted to talk to you about the night you went blind. “Harry cringes at the word. “There must be something you missed? I’m sure if you told me one more time… ”
“Hermione,” Harry rests his head back against the armchair lethargically, “I’ve told you everything I could.”
“It’s just, I’ve found close to nothing on the curse he used on you. I’m hitting dead ends, Harry.”
“Maybe we’re not focusing on the right things. Maybe we should try to find the person who did this instead of wasting our time reading every book in the library.” Not that he had been doing much reading.
He feels her hand lightly squeeze his arm, and he has to fight the impulse to snatch his arm away. “We’re only trying to help. It’s unrealistic to go after a man without a name.”
“Or a face,” Ron puts in.
He shakes his head stubbornly. “I know his voice.”
Harry can feel Hermione and Ron exchanging a look. Feeling slightly suffocated, he begins to get up from the armchair.
“Where are you going?” Hermione asks with concern.
“I can’t sit here anymore. I know you both are worried and trying to help, but I need to get away from all of this. I’m going for a walk.”
“We’ll come with you!” Hermione makes a move to get up as well.
“No!” His face flushes in embarrassment. “No, just need to be on my own.”
Hermione begins to argue, but Ron quietly shushes her. As he walks through the portrait hole, he can hear Ron faintly whispering, “He’ll come around.”
Harry can hear things he has never been aware of before. It’s easy to catch what people are saying about him from across the room. He could tell who is walking around him by the sound of their footsteps. But his hearing isn’t the only sense that is overcompensating. He finds himself especially sensitive to people touching him. He was never the sort to be concerned with public displays of affection, but recently any human contact is an unpleasant shock.
Harry, who was not focusing on where he was stepping, is abruptly shaken out of his thoughts as he trips over something sprawled across the floor. Cursing, he feels the floor with his hands until his fingers touch fabric. As he curls his hands around the form to see its shape, he realizes quite suddenly that he’s touching someone’s arm and torso.
His whole body reels back violently. He can feel the corners of his mind beginning to panic. Did he just stumble over a dead person? Is Hogwarts under attack? He wills himself to breathe calmly to better hear his surroundings. A moment passes by and all he can hear is silence. Urging on his Gryffindor courage, Harry places his hands on the person’s chest and senses the steady rhythm of a heartbeat against his fingertips. He places his ear above the person’s face and listens to their faint, slow breath. Sighing with irrational relief, he realizes that the person is only unconscious - most likely in need of medical help. Making up his mind, Harry stands up and performs the spell that makes the person feather-light in his arms. He supports the limp body by bringing it closer to his own. Harry can’t help but notice the sweet, Autumn scent on the boy’s cloak, mingled with a metallic scent that seems misplaced. Where the boy’s face is resting against Harry’s chest, Harry notices a dampness seeping into his shirt. Is he bleeding? He begins to walk a little more urgently, trying his best to remember the steps to the Hospital Wing.
During the past week, Harry had spent the majority of his time either alone in his room, or navigating through the castle by night. He had gotten rather good at knowing the layouts of certain corridors and rooms, as long as furniture didn’t move around drastically. He had been given a week to adjust to his new condition and surroundings, but that time was soon over. In a few days time, he would start attending classes. A part of him didn’t feel ready to face normal life yet, but if he was honest with himself, he had never felt ready.
Harry hears the person moan in evident pain as he begins to stir. Very carefully, Harry places him on the floor, bundling up his scarf under the person’s head. “Can you hear me?” he asks quietly. The person doesn't respond; perhaps he isn’t conscious yet. But then Harry hears the person groan and cold hands are suddenly pushing Harry away. He hears the person beginning to sit up. “Wait, I think you shouldn’t get up,” Harry urges. “You were out cold for a moment there.” Harry tries to gently ease the stranger’s shoulders back but he stops when the person overtly recoils at the contact.
He then shoves Harry aside and scrambles to his feet while letting out a dry, uneven laugh. Harry frowns slightly, really unsure of what is happening. He can hear the person beginning to leave the deserted corridor, scraping his hand against the walls to keep from stumbling over. “Was only trying to help!” Harry calls to his retrieving back. For a moment he considers running after him, but decides against it as he hears the sounds of someone desperately trying to get away.
Today will be hell. He was sure that by today most of the effects of the other night would have worn off, but the pounding in his head and the ache in his abdomen said otherwise. Sitting in a stuffy Potions room while pretending to listen to Slughorn can’t be helping much either. Maybe if he just closes his eyes for a minute… The door suddenly slams open loudly, causing Draco to jolt out of his pained sleepiness. When he turns to see who it is, his stomach lurches unpleasantly at the sight of Potter, who is rushing in late and looking as unkempt as usual.
“Ah, Harry! I’m glad you’ve decided to join us today.” Slughorn exclaims excitedly. “Please take an empty seat quickly.” Draco looks around the overcrowded room of both 7th and 8th years, and scowls in annoyance when he realizes that the only empty seat is next to his. How life hates him so.
Potter seems to linger uncomfortably at the door for a moment, his face beginning to flush. “Er… Sir...” he says, looking embarrassed.
“Oh yes! I’m sorry Harry! Draco can you please help him to his seat?”
Glaring furiously at Slughorn, Draco refuses to say anything as he reaches for Potter’s knapsack and tugs him aggressively to the seat next to his. Potter sits down clumsily and snatches his knapsack out of Draco’s reach, looking utterly miserable.
The lecture continues for the next half hour, but Draco is beyond the point of pretending to listen. Every so often, he sneaks a glance at Potter. It’s very eerie for Draco to see Potter so damn lifeless; his eyes glazed over and unblinking, staring into nothing. A pang of guilt kicks Draco in the stomach, but he buries it stubbornly. Looking away from Potter, he forces one single thought to resonate - Potter fucking had it coming.
“The partners next to you will be the ones to use for the rest of the term… ” Draco manages to hear. At these words he hangs his head in his hands and almost laughs at the irony of the situation; his plan to avoid Potter all term had already failed. “Now please collect the ingredients you’ll need for today’s potion,” Slughorn concludes.
Potter doesn’t make a move to get up, but Draco supposes he wouldn’t be very useful. Three minutes later when he returns to his working space with the ingredients and tools, he finds that Potter is no longer alone. Sitting next to him is his frizzy-haired, know-it-all sidekick.
It just keeps getting better. He places his materials down, trying to ignore the sounds of someone coddling the Golden Boy. “Harry, why didn’t you wait for me this morning? We could have come together,” Granger asks.
“Yeah.. I left early to grab a bite.”
“Oh.” She sounds disappointed. “Well, how come you were late to class?”
From the corner of his eye, Draco can see Potter shrug.
There is an awkward pause in which Granger doesn’t seem to know what to say next. Draco can’t help but snigger under his breath as he begins to assort the ingredients. “I tried getting Slughorn to change partners, but there’s this new policy that we have to sit with other housemates. Sorry, Harry… ” She actually sounds apologetic, which only deepens Draco’s smirk. “Do you have something to say, Malfoy?” She suddenly snaps, causing Potter to jump slightly.
“Not to a Mudblood,” he drawls, refusing to give her the satisfaction of even looking at her.
“You really have no shame, don’t you? Not even after Harry saved your worthless life?” At this, Malfoy opens his text and begins to read the instructions with care. “Or after he publicly defended you instead of denouncing you for what you really are -” Her shrill whispers are beginning to catch the attention of nearby students. “- a sorry excuse for a death eater.”
“Hermione -” Potter tries to interject without success. Draco refuses to look at her, wills himself to not hear her. Dice the roots into even 1 cm cubes he reads. Chop. Chop.
She goes on relentlessly, “but did you really not feel some regret when Harry saved you a third time and came back blind for it?”
“No one asked him to!” Draco unexpectedly lashes out. He’s now looking directly at her with fury in his eyes. He can see a flicker of shock in her features, followed by confusion. “I didn’t fucking ask for him to save me. And I will never be grateful, not to Potter.” He spits out the name like it’s a curse. It takes him a moment to realize that he just lost his composure in front of the entire class. He didn’t even notice he had knocked over his stool in his hasty attempt to tower over Granger.
Potter then turns to face Draco directly, his eyes piercing into Draco’s with that sweet, familiar fire of resent. “Next time I’ll let you burn,” he says frigidly.
“What is the commotion?” Slughorn asks from the front of the class. “Hermione, please return to your seat.” She glances uneasily at Potter as she leaves.
When Draco has his anger in check and is sure that no one is listening, he leans close towards Potter and whispers in a low, levelled voice, “No you won't.” Draco catches a strange expression flicker upon Potter’s face, almost like a shocking revelation has just occurred to him.
Suddenly Potter turns away from him, his eyes appearing to hide a secret. “Pass me the Mortar and the Mistletoe berries,” is all he says. Draco does so without comment, as he anxiously contemplates on what Potter could have just discovered.
Should have taken the longer route back, Draco thinks regretfully as blood dribbles down his nose and over his chin.
“Where’s Daddy when you need him?”he hears Don Greenberg taunt as he throws another punch at Draco’s stomach. Draco unsuccessfully tries to double over in pain, but the two Ravenclaws (that look like the Beaters on the Quidditch team) are tightly clasping his arms behind his back. He bites down hard on his lip, refusing to cry out. Instead he lets out a dry, shaken laugh.
“You think this is funny, Malfoy?” Greenberg hisses into his face.
Draco manages to catch up with his breath, “It’s hilarious that you need to have me pinned down to throw a blow. And quite frankly, you fight like a filthy Mudblood.” Draco grins at him smugly, tasting blood in his mouth.
At these words, Greenberg takes his wand out and points it directly at Draco. “I’ll never understand why they let you go. No one could have been fooled by your innocent act.” He slashes his wand to tear away Draco’s entire left sleeve. “The dark mark you were so proud to wear might be gone now, but you’ll always be a death eater.” He points his wand at Draco’s forearm, pressing its tip into his flesh. “Don’t forget that.” At first his arm is only warm, but quite rapidly, the heat that is emerging from Greenberg’s wand becomes unbearable. Draco lets out an agonizing scream when the flesh on his arm begins to blister open. Greenberg quickly removes his wand and says to Draco in a haunting, empty voice. “That’s what Voldemort did to my family, but only he didn’t stop.” He stares expectantly at Draco, possibly hoping for the Slytherin to respond with humility.
For a response, Draco spits blood squarely into his stupid face.
Greenberg lets out what sounds like a war cry and punches Draco across the head, making him see stars. Greenberg throws one, last blow to his stomach for good measure. Dazed and breathless, Draco finds himself roughly being forced to walk backwards. He attempts to struggle against their hold but it’s futile. The two Ravenclaws that are holding his arms back in place quite suddenly push Draco into a small, dark room. He feels himself slam against the back wall of the closet as the door shuts loudly in front of him. Draco holds in his breath, listening closely to the sounds of them walking away. Once their footsteps can no longer be heard, Draco lets himself slide down against the wall lifelessly, his mouth gaped open in a silent scream. He furiously pulls on the locks of his hair, urging himself not to cry. But the tears come anyway, and all he can do is bury his shame in his knees.
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