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Chapter 5: Truth or Dare
Malfoy had closed the heavy doors that lead to the Quidditch pitch exactly 1 minute and 37 seconds ago, and still Harry stood rooted to the spot, stuck on indecision. On one hand, he had avoided going outside at all costs, where it’s much too unpredictability and frankly, embarrassing. On the other hand, he had promised to himself that he wouldn’t let Malfoy walk away from him anymore. With an exasperated sigh, Harry takes a cautious step forward, reaching for the door handle. It feels awfully cold in his hand as he pulls the stiff door open. The wind that caresses his face is cool and welcoming, but he doesn't dare step outside just yet. “I can do this.” He says to himself, even as he feels his heart begin to beat in peril. He can’t understand why he’s so afraid to leave the castle, but it’s time to move forward. Taking a Gryffindor step, he closes the oak doors behind him as he faces the wind headon.
He’s not sure in which direction he’s heading, but he has a sense that the spare broomsticks are closeby. Walking carefully to not trip, he tightens his robes around himself, clearly not dressed for the cool weather. He comes across the small shack that holds the ancient broomsticks. The door is already ajar, which affirms his suspicions that Malfoy went to fly. He picks up a random broom and holds it over his right shoulder as he begins to walk towards the pitch.“Here goes nothing,” he says to himself as he climbs the broom. He lifts up from the ground and lets out a yelp of joy. The feeling of control comes back to him effortlessly. With just the smallest of touch, he turns his broom to the direction he desires. He’s still low against the ground, however, not daring to fly higher than just a few meters. But he hears an unfamiliar laugh right above him. Without a second thought, he flies higher, enjoying the feeling of the wind in his hair and the cold numbing his hands.
He begins to fly towards the voice, but he is distracted by a sound he’s never heard before. It sounds like a high pitched, silvery hum. He tilts his head to listen more intently, and with a sense of old, familiar belonging, he realizes he can hear the flapping wings of the Snitch. Grinning, he swirls his broom to chase after it. With accuracy he’s never experienced before, he can hear the snitch zigzagging to avoid being caught. Harry ignores all reason and logic as he dips into a dive, closing in on the Snitch. He can feel himself quickly dropping, coming closer to the ground. At the last second, the snitch switches directions; forcing Harry to do the same. He can faintly hear someone yelling in the background, but it doesn't matter. His hands enclose around the snitch, its wings at first resisting the hold, but finally they slow to curl around Harry’s finders. All he can hear now is the sounds of the wind dancing around him, and another person hastily flying towards him.
“How did you do that?” he hears Malfoy shout.
“I can hear its wings!”
“You HEARD it? Do you realize you almost killed yourself? You were inches away from ground!”
“I didn’t know you cared!” He yells back at Malfoy, beaming as he releases the snitch in his direction. He hears Malfoy catch it easily. As if some unspoken agreement had been made, they find themselves chasing after the snitch in friendly competition.
Harry is surprised to realize that he hadn’t flown in months. He can’t believe the elation in his chest and how much fun he’s having. He never would have thought that the two of them could ever be civil to each other, and to actually hear Malfoy laugh in a way that suggests he’s also enjoying himself is puzzling, if not a little disconcerting. Malfoy seems to have misplaced that rigid coldness he’s always carrying around.
Inspired by this change, Harry turns to face him, “Malfoy, let’s change it up a bit.”
“What do you have in mind?”
“I was thinking that if I win, I get to ask you whatever I want and you have to answer honestly.”
He hears Malfoy groan in exasperation. “I already know what you’ll ask. What if I win?”
“I dunno. You’ll ask me whatever you like?”
“How about if I win, I get to ask you to do whatever I want, no questions.”
“Well, it depends what it is…” Harry says wearily.
“I can’t tell you because I don’t know yet. But if it makes you feel any better, I won’t hurt your delicate Gryffindor pride.”
“So you’d save your Dare for later?” Harry asks, amused. “That is so unbelievably Slytherin.” Harry frowns while he contemplates his chances of winning, which aren’t nearly as good as they were a month ago. “This isn’t exactly fair, you know, given I can’t see.”
“It was your proposal, Potter.”
“I suppose,” he resigns as he reaches his hand out for Malfoy to shake. For a moment, he doesn't think Malfoy will agree to it, but at last he feels a cool hand shaking his a little more firmly than necessary.
Once inside, the warmth almost burns Harry’s skin after flying in the cold for nearly an hour. The rumbling in his stomach painfully reminds him of his hunger.
“That was a good game,” Malfoy says much too cheerfully as he walks alongside Harry towards the kitchens. “I didn't think I’d ever say this, but maybe you should rejoin the team this year.”
“Wouldn’t you like that. Gryffindor would lose for sure.”
“Maybe not. You nearly got the snitch that last time,” and then Malfoy adds somewhat grudgingly, “It was pretty impressive.”
Harry smirks to himself. There’s nothing quite like losing to Malfoy to make him a little less insufferable. “Is that a compliment? I didn’t think that was possible from you. What would your Slytherin friends say to that?”
“They’d probably think it’s part of some scheme to hand you over to the neo-Death Eaters, or something.”
“Is it?” Harry asks lightly.
“Do you think it is?” Malfoy asks icily.
“No, I don’t.” he replies under his breath. Without needing to see Malfoy’s expression, he can sense that his teasing is not at all appreciated. “Okay, okay, that was uncalled for. But you know… going around calling people ‘Mudbloods’ doesn’t exactly do anything for your reputation.” And trying hard to keep a straight face, he adds, “Or being a Malfoy, for that matter - ”
“Potter.” Malfoy interrupts him.
“If you don’t mind, I’m going to ignore you now.” Malfoy says without missing a step.
Harry glares in Malfoy’s general direction, “You’re such a miserable prat.”
“Better than being an arrogant git.” he retorts.
“Son of a banshee.”
“Blast ended skank.
“Twitchy, pale, ferret face,” Harry mocks.
Malfoy chokes on his indignation. “Well, your hair is bloody ridiculous! And at least I don’t have a disfiguring scar on my face.” Then he says quietly under his breath, “I don’t look like a ferret…”
Harry laughs in spite of himself. Who knew he would still be so touchy after all these years? He can still remember the look of horror on Malfoy’s face when he was changed back. With this amusing image in his mind’s eye, Harry turns the corner into a corridor, still laughing. But his thoughts are interrupted by faint, muffled sounds coming from a classroom.
“Do you hear that?”
“Well, you’re breathing awfully loud -”
“Shh! ” Harry tilts his head in the direction of the noise. He can make out what sounds like someone moaning. “I think someone’s hurt.” He heads towards the classroom with Malfoy grudgingly in tow. “They’re in here, I’m sure!”
“I don’t hear anything.” Malfoy says in his best bored voice.
Harry opens the door to the classroom, but the sounds he heard moments ago seem to have stopped.. “You see anything?” he whispers.
“There’s no one in here. It’s just an abandoned classroom.”
The noise come back again, still muffled but this time a little more audible. “It’s coming from the right corner.” He hears Malfoy walk towards the place in which he’s pointing.
“It’s just a closet…” Malfoy says apprehensively. He can hear him getting a little closer, with Harry just behind now. He instinctively reaches for his wand when he hears a clear thump coming from the cupboard. “I heard that!” he hears Malfoy hiss.
“Open it!” he shrilly whispers.
“No!” He retorts. “That’s just the sort of thing only a stupid Gryffindor would do.”
“Don't be such a coward! Someone can be hurt in there!” Harry pushes Malfoy forward with one hand.
Malfoy sighs dramatically in resignation. “I hope you know that I hate you,” he says before swinging the door open. All at once, three screams can be heard piercing the delicate silence that was there a moment ago.
“What?!” Harry yells, unsure of where he should point his wand, while Malfoy continues to yell in horror. He then hears what sounds like Malfoy violently slamming the door shut.
“Auuugh! My eyes!” Malfoy cries in utmost disgust.
“What is it?!” Harry asks impatiently.
“They -” Malfoy seems to have lost his ability to speak, “They were - oh god!-”
“Spit it out!”
“Weasel and Granger! Augh!”“Oh.” Harry did not expect that. “Oh!” Harry suddenly grabs Malfoy’s arm (who seems to
have doubled over in distress) and attempts to leave the classroom in a great hurry. Not only is it embarrassing for him to catch his friends doing-whatever-they-were-doing, but for Malfoy to have seen something is perfectly traumatizing. He pulls Malfoy roughly and ignores his whining as he urges him to move a little faster. But then the closet door opens and Ron and Hermione stumble out before he can leave.
“Harry?” He hears Ron ask in embarrassed bemusement. “What are you doing here? And - with him?"
“Nothing! We were just leaving,” He says in rush, really hoping this awkward confrontation is not happening right now, with Malfoy in the mix.
“My eyes!” Malfoy shouts unnecessarily.
Harry decides that the best approach is to physically remove himself and Malfoy from this situation. So he covers Malfoy’s mouth firmly with his hands and begins to drag him out of the classroom. It does not register with him how odd this may look. “I’ll catch up with you later, yeah?” he struggles to say as Malfoy struggles to breathe.
“Harry!” Hermione exclaims with a mixture of shock and amusement. “It’s fine, he didn't even see anything! You can let him go.”
“Yes, please stop touching Malfoy. It’s making me feel sick.” Ron adds.
Harry slowly releases the Slytherin, who shrugs out his grasp violently. “Thank you for that!” he snarls at Harry. “And if anyone is going to be sick, it’s me! I saw things that cannot be unseen. I may as well be blind now! But Granger you’re right about one thing. I didn’t see anything noteworthy in one particular department, if you know what I mean.”
Harry refrains from rolling his eyes and wisely chooses to ignore that. “We didn’t mean to burst in like that. I just heard noises…” he words trail off as he feels his face warm up.
“He means he heard you shagging.” Malfoy adds.
“BUT no one saw anything.” he says loudly over Malfoy.
“What am I, a ghost?”
“He means no one important.” Ron rudely announces.
Harry can feel Malfoy go rigid beside him, a retort on the tip of his tongue. “Ron, don’t!” he chastises without thinking. Talking to his friends with Malfoy listening just won't do. Harry turns his back on his friends for a moment, making sure to block their view of Malfoy. “Maybe you should go. You’re not exactly…er…not... ”
“Helping. You’re not helping in this situation. It’s too weird you being here right now…”
“Look, I don’t give a flying fuck so you don’t have to explain anything to me.” Malfoy coldly replies as he shrugs out of Harry’s hands. It’s only then that Harry realizes he had been grasping Malfoy’s shoulders. Malfoy walks away without another word and closes the door of the classroom quietly behind him, as if to prove that he’s not at all bothered. Harry is confused by the disappointment he feels by his sudden departure. He had hoped that Malfoy would wait for him outside, but why would he?
“Harry, what were you doing with Malfoy?” Ron asks for a second time, with a trace of concern.
Harry isn’t sure what to say, so the truth seems simplest, “Flying.”
After reassuring Ron that he and Malfoy were definitely not “secret friends”, and that Malfoy definitely (or most likely) was not colluding anything sinister, the awkward conversation that he had hoped to avoid happened. Hermione insisted that Harry share how he feels about his two best friends being “together”. Looking back now, he may have said “It’s fine. I’m fine.” a little too often for Hermione’s taste.
The truth is, Harry is really happy for them. He can see that their relationship is blossoming (in ways that he would rather not think about), but a small part of him can’t help but feel a little envious. Sitting now in the Common Room with his friends, he reflects on his own relationship. He and Ginny never speak about their future together the way Ron and Hermione do, or go on dates, or sneak around the castle, or snog in public. He supposes he’s to blame for most of that. He must be the most wretched boyfriend in existence…
Maybe his thoughts were transparent on his face, because Ron leans towards him and says in a low voice, “Ginny has been asking for you these last few days. Is everything okay with you two?”
“Yeah, why wouldn’t it be?”
“Well, you don’t spend a lot of time together. I think she’s worried.”
“I’ve just been busy.” Harry frowns at his own poor excuse. He hadn’t noticed that it had been that long since they last spoke. “I’ll talk to her.”
Ron seems to pause before saying, “Harry, you’re my best mate and all, but Ginny is my sister. Don’t lead her on if you’re not ready.”
“What do you mean?” Harry asks offensively.
“It just doesn’t look like you two are even a couple. You barely talk to her, or spend time with her. You have to remember that she waited a year for you to come back, and I think she’s still waiting.”
Harry ducks his head in shame and crosses his arms defensively. “Who made you the expert in our relationship?”
“It doesn't take a genius to see that she’s barely in your thoughts these days.”
“What Ron means to say is that your mind seems elsewhere…” Hermione adds gently.
“There’s just a lot going on right now. I didn’t think I start the year not being able to see, fighting off Death Eaters, or trying to stop M-” Harry cuts himself off abruptly. He was so close to saying ‘Tryng to stop Malfoy from killing himself.’ The thought momentarily stuns him; the reason for his unwarranted worry has never been so clear to him until this moment, when he nearly let it slip that he cares. He tries to shrug off this revelation as insignificant. It’s perfectly normal that he’s worried; he would have to be a psychopath if he didn’t care that his classmate was suicidal. But the fact that he’s genuinely concerned for Malfoy’s well-being is very, very unsettling. He is at lost on what to do with this worry.
“What is it, Harry?” Hermione asks, concerned.
“I have to ask you something.” He decides it’s better to say something than to keep them completely in the dark, “If you suspected that someone was going to hurt themselves, would you confront them about it? Or say something to a Prof?”
“It depends how sure I was, and how seriously they would hurt themselves.”
“I’m not sure at all, but it is serious.”
“What happened?” Hermione asks.
“Who is it?” Ron asks sharply.
“I… er, can’t say who. But it looked like they were trying to … commit suicide.”
He hears Hermione gasps and suddenly Ron’ hand is clutching his arm tightly, “It’s not Ginny, right Harry?” Ron asks in a shaky voice.
“No! Of course not.” Harry replies in shock. He hears Ron sigh in relief, and it only briefly registers with Harry that this is a strange reaction.
“You have to tell us who it is.” Hermione says.
“I can’t, I’m sorry. I know for a fact that this person wouldn’t want anyone to know. And maybe I’m over reacting. I could be taking this out of proportion! Just because I saw them standing at the edge of the Astronomy Tower doesn't mean they have a death wish.” The silence that follows isn’t very reassuring to Harry. He sits there brooding for minute, thinking hard on what he should do, or if he should do anything at all.
“I think you should talk to this person. Maybe you didn’t see what you thought you did.” Hermione says at last.
“You’re right.” He sighs. If only it was that easy.
Harry’s fingertips lazily trail the brick walls as he walks towards the Great Hall for breakfast. There is nothing better than walking through the castle when it’s empty. Being surrounded by so many people when he’s in the corridors is something he despises. Only yesterday, three girls that he has never spoken to before cornered him and asked him to be their dates to the Ball. His response was always the same, that he was going with his girlfriend. It was a little irritating when one girl claimed she didn’t know he had a girlfriend.
“What kind of Hero doesn't have a girlfriend?” he jokes to no one. He then hears familiar steps behind him, coming towards him fast. “Ginny?” he calls out.
“Morning, Harry! I woke up earlier today and I thought you would enjoy some company.” she says enthusiastically. Since talking to Ron a few nights ago, he had made a conscious effort to pay more attention to Ginny. She seems to have noticed, because her mood was much lighter.
“Of course,” he smiles and deliberately takes her hand in his. He makes a move to continue walking, but she stays rooted to her spot.
“Stay a moment.” she slyly says as she tugs on his arm to hug him. He laughs apprehensively as he wraps his arms around her because it seems the most appropriate thing to do. They stay in this embrace for a long time, with their faces very close to one another. For a few moments, all she does is stand there, as if waiting for something to happen.
She then gently runs her hands through his hair, her face inching closer to his. “What are you doing?” he blurts out, because he really doesn't know what’s going on.
She drops her arms to her sides and steps back. “I’m not doing anything.” It’s evident by her tone that she’s extremely hurt, but trying not to show it. “I thought… we were having a moment.”
She turns away and begins to walk in the direction of the Great Hall. He steps beside her in silence, not sure what to say. He knows he royally messed up, but he just couldn’t connect to whatever she was feeling just then. “Ginny, I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine.” The crack in her voice makes him wince.
At the Great Hall, Harry stacks his plate with eggs but barely touches them. It’s evident that Ginny is trying to act normal, but her prolonged silence is too much to bear.
“Ginny, it just seemed like you were trying really hard to make me feel something, and I just didn’t.” he says after some time.
“I wasn’t trying to do anything! “ She snaps at him. “I thought we were both feeling that. It was such a beautiful moment for me. After so long, I finally had you back. We used to have moments like that all the time, and I just really missed it. For a moment, I thought everything would be okay. I was happy.” At this point her voice is beginning to fail her. She stops talking for a moment, and Harry is sure that she is willing herself not to cry. “When I realized it was all in my head, that you felt nothing, it really hurt. How could you not feel anything?”
“I don’t know.” he says, ashamed. “Maybe I’m just having an off day?”
“You’ve been like that for a while” she sadly says.
He begins to reach out to her, but stops when he hears Rons and Hermione approaching them. “We’ll talk soon,” he says under his breath. Harry can only hope that she nodded.
A/N: Please leave your reviews!! I really appreciate it! (and it inspires me to post faster.... I have the next few chapters written out already, but this site is so infuriating with its demands, that it takes time to post. Literally have been trying to post these past few chapters within the last few months. Just got fed up but I'm trying again - rant OVER.)
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