The rest of September passed in a similar manner as the first week of classes – loads of homework and difficult assignments, meetings with Draco and the prefects, and meals filled with Ron hastily chewing food and talking simultaneously. Hermione was exhausted and excited when the first Saturday in October dawned clear and warm with only a smattering of clouds in the distance. Thankful the weather was cooperating for the first Hogsmead trip of the year, she climbed into her shower to get ready for the day. Throwing on the clothes she set out the night before, she hurriedly plated her hair into a thick French braid. Slowing down to apply her makeup, Hermione absentmindedly listened to her roommates’ conversations. Finally finishing, she slipped out the room unnoticed.
Harry was waiting for her outside her door, “You look pretty, ‘Mione.”
She started to thank him, but was pushed aside when Ginny barreled by her, glaring daggers at the two of them.
Hermione rolled her eyes as the two of them followed her to the common room “Thought we were past this, you know?”
Harry laughed as they joined Draco at the portrait and they merged with the other students making their way down to breakfast. The three of them had begun to hangout more over the last couple of weeks. Sometimes Ron, Pansy, or Blaise joined them, but mainly it was the three of them. People had started dubbing them the ‘New Trio’, which always made Hermione scoff. Ludicrous! You’d think we couldn’t make new friends. Even Ron had branched out and was hanging out more with Seamus, Dean, and a Hufflepuff on the Quidditch team, Jason. Hermione knew it was good – the fight against Voldemort had driven Harry, Ron, and her closer and alienated everybody else in their life. Look what it’d done to her relationship with Ginny.
Walking into the great hall for meals lately always made Hermione smile. Tables these days were surrounded by students from different houses, breaking old traditions and sitting with whomever they pleased. Hermione loved that more and more students were embracing it. Sliding into an empty spot at the Gryffindor table, Hermione loaded her plate with fruit and toast, knowing she had a busy day ahead of her.
“Could she be any more discreet?” Draco asked, motioning to Ginny with a slice of apple.
Harry laughed, “Pretty sure that is her being discreet.”
Hermione snuck a look at the ginger. Ginny was sitting at the Hufflepuff table, pretending to be deep in conversation but practically staring at the three of them over the top of her glass.
“Whatever,” Hermione found she didn’t care anymore. “She’s acting worse than Ron when you were chosen to be a champion.”
Harry and Draco laughed at Hermione as she rolled her eyes at their reaction.
Harry munched on a sugar quill, listening to Draco and Hermione chat about how smoothly the trip was going. He was finding it easier and easier to be around Draco, but sometimes – like just now when the blonde laughed, head tossed back – a sharp pain made it hard to breathe.
Harry realized somebody was talking to him and looked around confused. Only Draco was there, standing in front of him, looking down impatiently.
“Hermione said she forgot something at the Three Broomsticks. I said,” he spoke slowly, making sure Harry was listening, “I was going to walk back.”
Harry stared up at him for a minute. His eyes were unreadable pools of grey that grew deeper and deeper the longer Harry looked. He felt frozen, the spell only breaking when Draco spoke again.
“If you want to, you know join me.” His voice was softer this time, unsure.
Harry started to smile, but bit his lip to stop it from growing too wide, and he turned back toward the castle, Draco by his side.
“You know what I mean, Draco.”
“No,” Draco’s voice was stiff, pained, and angry. “No, I don’t think that I do.”
Blaise stared at him, hard. The two of them were sitting under a tree by the Black Lake after classes. They’d come out to study, but apparently Blaise couldn’t focus and was insistently broaching the subject of Draco’s sexuality every chance he had. Draco was doing his best to focus on his difficult potions essay. When rearing this potion, Draco had been distracted and he was trying to articulate why the potion had disastrously exploded, coating him in yellowish slime when it was supposed to be pale blue with a watery texture.
Blaise pulled the parchment out of his hand, “The Dark Lord would be more accepting of Hermione Granger than society is currently accepting of people like you.”
Like you. The words stung but Draco knew he was right. The horrible things they reported in the papers about the things they did to people like him…
“I know,” the whisper that came out was broken and barely audible and Draco found he couldn’t meet his friend’s eyes.
“I’m not trying to be mean, mate. And frankly, I don’t give a flying whatever about whom you sleep with, but-”
Draco could barely force out the words, “I know.”
The two went back to working in silence. Blaise thinking about who knew what, Draco alternating between remembering how Harry bit his lip yesterday and wondering what horrible things his father would say if he knew how he liked to spend his nights.
“How did you know?” Draco looked out over the lake not ready to meet his friend’s eyes, “About, well, you know. You said you knew.”
Blaise was silent for a while, prompting Draco to look over at him.
“I don’t know, mate. It just all added up. Zachariah Barnes the summer after fourth year, Melody Astrik when we went to Bora Bora…they all added up to,” He gestured vaguely, “well, this.”
“You knew about Ziah?”
“Yeah, man. Durmstrang isn’t Jupiter, Draco.”
“Well, thanks. For, you know, not telling everybody.” Draco looked up at his friend through his lashes, “And for not caring.”
Draco flopped back on the grass, eyes focused on the fading sky. He let the sound of the water lapping against the shore a few feet from them fill his ears, losing himself in memories.
“What are you doing here?” he sneer spreading across Harry’s face shocked him.
He’d never seen that much venom from the boy before – except maybe directed at Snape. With a shock Draco realized that sneer was directed at the professor. He stood in front of him, blocking Draco from Harry’s view. The professor moved to stand next to the headmaster. Dumbledore was sitting at his desk, spectacles low on his nose, chin rested on his hands. Draco took one of the empty seats in front of him, knowing instinctively that Harry was supposed to take the other.
The stone cold words shocked him. If he hadn’t been a Malfoy, the shock might have shown on his face, but he had more control than that.
“No! You listen to me, Malfoy,” Harry pushed him up against the dungeon wall, his face mere inches from his. Draco felt his chest tighten, after how he spent his summer – after Ziah – he was familiar with this feeling. And extremely wary of it. He shouldn’t feel this way about boys – let alone Harry freakin’ Potter.
“Oh,” he sneered down at the angry Gryffindor, “I’m listening.” Draco knew his voice sounded predatory; he didn’t care.
Something flickered briefly in the other boy’s eyes before he subdued it, “I have accepted that you are useful, but I don’t have to like it.”
Draco had never heard the word Harry shouted – nor had he ever felt that much pain in his life. It was exhilarating! For the first time in years, Draco felt alive. Even as his body bounced off the wet bathroom floor, Draco felt alive.
“Bloody – shit – Merlin, I never…” Harry came into his dimming line of sight, eyes greener than anything Draco had seen before. He looked scared – really scared. Draco tried and tried and tried to reach out to the boy, but he couldn’t reach him. Warm fingers closed around his fumbling hand and Harry opened his mouth, yelling something Draco couldn’t hear.
“I’m-” Draco tried to get Harry’s attention, but speaking was a struggle.
“Shhh, Draco, Dray, Dammit Dray I am so sorry.”
It was the first time Harry had called him anything other than Malfoy and it shocked him.
“Please –I don’t want to die…” Draco barely managed to get the words out before everything went black and Harry was no more.
“Merlin, Blaise. If I only knew…” He trailed off, squeezing hi eyes shut, feeling more than overwhelmed at the memories, the conversation, and everything in his life at the moment.
“What’s it like? Being one of the most recognizable wizards in the world?”
Harry tossed his head, laughter bubbling from his lips.
“Yeah, yeah. I get it.”
“I know,” Harry murmured. “I know you have it much worse than me.”
“It’s much worse without you.”
Harry couldn’t help the small smile the crept up, “I know the feeling.”
“You seem to be doing alright.”
Harry could feel his companion pulling back, creating much needed distance between them.
“I am. But what part of alright is good enough? I’ve always been alright, but-“
“But with her, it’s better than alright? It’s good enough?”
The silence stretched between them. Harry could hear the bats swooping over the Forbidden Forrest, the Black Lake lapping at the rock lined shore, and his companion’s slow, even breathing.
“But, she isn’t you.”
His companion’s breath caught.
The space between them closed and the knife plunged deep into Harry’ chest. Draco faded away, revealing Voldemort – then Snape – then Draco again – and then Ginny.
Ginny smiled, a smile made up of a thousand daggers – like the one she twisted in his chest, “If I can’t be good enough, then you can’t be.”
Harry bolted up sweat soaking him, his pajama bottoms, and his bed clothes, looking around frantically. Just a dream. It was just a dream. BREATHE. Ron, Neville, and the rest of the dorm stared at him and he realized Ron had his wand out.
“Wh-what?” He stammered, but he didn’t care.
Ron stuffed his wand back under his pillow; his face creased in worry, “Mate, you just kept screaming incoherently.”
The rest of the guys went back to whatever they were doing and Ron gingerly sat on the edge of his bed. Harry just shook his head.
“Mate,” Ron sighed. “Whatever it is, talk to me or Hermione or Ginny.”
Harry nodded and Ron headed to the washroom, cleaning up for the day ahead. The rest of the boys filtered out one by one, heading down to breakfast until it was just him and Ron left.
“Are you going to shower?”
“No,” Harry looked at Ron, face blank. “I’m skipping today.”
“Get some air.”
“Get some air.”
Draco stared down at him, face and eyes empty and black. He was always so good at shutting off his feelings, at least on the outside. Sometimes Harry would catch glimpses of something. He didn’t know what it was, but he knew – at least, he thought he knew – he wanted to find out what it meant. So, Harry had cornered him. He’d used his map and cloak to sneak away from his house and friends and located Draco hiding in an alcove in the dungeons. Harry hadn’t expected to find him in sweat pants working on his potions homework on an oversized couch. He hadn’t expected to lose control and find himself pinning Draco down. He hadn’t expected Draco to push him up, push him up against a wall, and stare at him for several moments until finally he uttered the order and moved out of Harry’s way.
“Dray,” Harry tried to talk, but Draco wouldn’t let him.
“I think you need to leave, Potter. You need to go upstairs and get some air.”
Harry ignored the command and sat down next to Draco’s potions book, “I’m horrible at this subject. I don’t know how I’ll ever pass with high enough marks to be an Auror.”’
Sighing, Draco sat down next to him, “If you’re going to stay, at least stop talking.”
They sat in silence for what felt like hours – and it probably was.
“Dray,” Harry began, but the other boy jerked his head up so fast Harry was worried he might have whiplash.
“Why?! Why do you call me that?”
Harry shrank back at the hostility in Draco’s voice, “Why not?”
When Draco didn’t answer, he thought he’d spoken to soft for him to hear, but he finally responded, “What are we doing, Potter?”
“Well, you are doing potions and I’m about to head back to bed.”
Harry smiled softly at the memory; the next day was the only other time he’d voluntarily skipped class to spend the day in bed. He couldn’t face everybody and pretend like he wasn’t questioning everything in his life, kind of like now. He must have fallen back asleep because he woke to a floorboard creaking.
Confused and sleepy, he drew his wand only to be met with Hermione’s light laughter “Honestly, Harry. It would be far too late if I were wishing you harm.”
He shrugged, placing his wand back on his bedside table as she crawled into bed next to him. He noticed she wasn’t wearing her uniform either, but sweatpants and a tee shirt. He raised an eyebrow at her appearance, “Head Girl skipping class?”
“If you are,” She smiled softly. “Whatever it is, Harry, you can tell me. You know that, right?”
“I know.” He smiled softly at her, leaning back into his pillows.
She leaned down on one elbow, staring into his eyes, “So?”
“So, let’s not talk if it has to be about that.”
She nodded, “Then how about we nap.”
He smiled, nodding thankfully. Hermione knew not to push things and he really appreciated it. Closing his eyes, he snuggled up against her and quickly fell asleep.
Hermione glanced at Harry, confusion flowing through her. She knew what Ginny would say if she walked in and saw this – probably the same thing that would briefly flit through Ron’s head before he got his emotions under control, but there were no romantic feelings for Harry. Just – confusion. He was so obviously lost and hurt, and it hurt her. He looked troubled, even in his sleep. His forehead creased and his lips pouting. He curled into her, seeking comfort.
He mumbled something and tossed about, bumping into her repeatedly. She placed a comforting hand on his back, and he stilled, rolling over onto his back. The chain fell out of his shirt, revealing a tiny – obviously shrunken – silver ring. Conflicted, she reached for it. Opting to wait until he decided to confide in her, she tucked it gently back into his shirt.
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