Author's Notes: (NOT A SONGFIC!) Not everything in the warning is in the first chapter, which is short... you'll have to wait.
Faint of Hearts
Draco was irritated.
He had begun talking with Potter- between classes, sometimes at lunch or when they saw each other in he library- partly because his 'friends' had been ignoring him (Granger for her work, Weasley for his moping), partly because when he was around Potter everything cleared and he didn't accidentally look into someone's mind, and partly because he wanted to.
Potter wasn't, of course, the big-headed prat Draco had been advertising him as. He wasn't exactly sure what to make of Potter's character- when they were together, they talked at first of simple, nonchalant things; annoying Professors, difficult homework assignments, twittering first years they wanted dearly to pummel.
They dabbled in other more serious matters- post-Hogwarts careers, family life- but neither had been willing enough to talk to get the conversation really going. To Draco, it hadn't mattered all that much, because as long as he was around Potter, he was free of his irritating curse.
That was what brought on Draco's irritability.
Standing around Potter, talking to him, was all it had taken to clear his mind. Then, it had fogged over when he was with Potter, only stopping if he was standing uncomfortably close or looking straight into his eyes. This hadn't been as difficult; as long as conversation continued, he could make eye contact and not feel awkward about it.
Now, even that wasn't enough. He managed to sit and talk with Potter like always, ignoring the random thoughts that popped into his mind. He was fairly sure he never caught Potter's thoughts, but he heard the mental ramblings of everyone around him, whether it was Madam Pince, students walking past, or a pair of extremely emotional students across the castle. He didn't know what to do. Potter eased it considerably, compared to what it was like when he wasn't around, but Draco would've killed to have it stopped completely, like it had before.
But he didn't know how to do this, and it was irritating the hell out of him.
(why does Malfoy keep sighing)
(I wish he would just go to sleep)
(Auugh he is in a mood I am never gonna get to sleep)
"Shut up!" he screamed through his bed curtains, startling his dorm mates, who had said nothing. "I'm trying to sleep!"
September faded into October, and Halloween happened without incident. November was uninteresting, and December was cold. Throughout that time, changes happened, so slowly most never noticed until Christmas, when they took a look around.
Hermione Granger was no longer the object of the teacher's eyes. She had become startlingly obsessed with her schoolwork, and her housemates had taken to leaving the room when she entered, which wasn't a large task, as she was always in either the library, her dorm room, or in Madam Pomfrey's office, for only God knows what.
Ron Weasley was no longer recognized as the tall, skinny boy at Harry's side; he was, however, recognized as the boy caught smoking in the bathroom by his fellow classmen, the boy who skipped class without being reprimanded, the boy who never spoke nor smiled, at least in front of others. A rumor had spread that Madam Pomfrey had checked his arms and legs for signs of self-mutilation, but another had spread that she had found, thankfully, nothing. Not knowing which to believe, people were content to improvise the facts at their own will.
Draco Malfoy was no longer the boy who started fights with Harry Potter, nor was he the boy known for being second in class, right behind Granger. He wasn't swooned over by the Slytherin female population, nor was he respected by the males, with the exception of those who knew him well enough to fear him. He was no longer seen with Pansy Parkinson, who, without an arm to hang on, had actually began to do her schoolwork. He wasn't seen much at all, actually.
Harry Potter was no longer the Hogwarts-Hero-of-the-Month. He was no longer watched during breakfast, because he never came into the Great Hall. His name wasn't whispered loudly as he passed at lunch, because he never came to lunch. At dinner, he ate fast and left early. Banned from Quidditch, he didn't attend the games, or the practices. He didn't come to cheer on his team members, something even Ron Weasley did, if standing under the stands, smoking and frowning as Gryffindor inevitably lost counted as 'cheering'.
A few of the teachers had wondered, but no one had dared to ask where Potter and Malfoy disappeared to when they weren't in class. Most of them knew enough to know they didn't really want to know at all, if they even really knew what they meant by that.
"They passed the list around today."
Draco words, in the middle of their lunch, surprised Harry. They had grown used to eating their meals in silence, with the exception of the muffled clanging from behind the kitchen door. Draco had never voiced opposition to eating their bland, hastily prepared food while they sat on the floor of the corridor, beside the portrait with the pear. Harry had never voiced opposition to Draco's silence, or the way he frowned and shuffled his feet when Dobby was nearby.
Though they never talked, they enjoyed each others company. The mere presence, the knowledge that you could talk with each other, but didn't have to, or need to, comforted them both.
Draco's sudden words weren't unpleasant. He sounded like he was reciting a speech, monotonous. Harry looked at him a moment, too startled by the fact that he had spoken to remember the question.
"The list." Draco repeated, looking at the floor. "To stay at Hogwarts over the Christmas holidays. They've posted them up in the common rooms."
Harry nodded, remembering seeing it on his way to the kitchens this morning. He watched Draco's expression. "Do you want to go home?" Harry asked, his voice low. In all honesty, he expected anger. They had a silent agreement to ignore the elephants in the room, and Harry had just broken it.
"No." Draco whispered, surprising him. Harry slowly finished the peanut butter sandwich in his hand before saying anything else.
"Because of your father?" It sounded like a stupid question- Lucius Malfoy was in Azkaban.
"Yes." he said, his eyes sliding up to meet the wall opposite them. "He's... still there."
Harry, again, thought before he spoke. He hated asking obvious questions, once he had realized how stupid it had made him sound. He tried to decipher Draco's words, but he couldn't.
"What exactly do you mean?"
"I mean..." Draco shifted his feet. "I mean, his presence. It's still there. His portraits are still on the wall. We still eat dinner with his silver. Any minute, I know he's going to come around the corner, or into my room, and..." he stopped, breath hitching in his throat. He looked at the floor again, away from Harry. Harry waited, and he could feel the awkwardness of what Draco was doing. He wondered if he was blushing.
"You don't have to tell me," Harry assured him. "But... I'd be better if you did, I think. I can keep a secret... believe me."
He shifted again, and turned his gaze to the stone floor beside Harry. "He... you know what he did. You can guess."
"It won't make you feel any better if I do." Harry hoped he didn't sound pushy.
"He beats me." Draco said impatiently, as though irritated. His gaze rose to meet Harry's. "Hard."
They were quiet for a moment, before Draco turned away again, his vision fuzzy. He knew Harry had seen the tears forming in his eyes before he'd realized it himself. He forced himself not to blink, afraid of what would happen if one fell. Afraid he would fall. I just need a minute, he thought to himself. I'll be fine...
Then, he felt the hands wrap around his shoulders, and his body shook, surprised and terrified with the contact. He heard himself murmur protest and he moved before he was even sure what was going on, and when the hands held firm, he couldn't help it, and he felt the tears spill over, surprisingly cold, and his clutches at the arm in front of him, afraid he would fall apart if he let go. He heard himself release a compulsive sob.
He fell right into the embrace, turning and taking the comforting body against his own. He felt Harry sobbing suddenly, too, and the thought, which should have been confused at the very least, was actually almost as comforting as the embrace itself. He tightened his grip on Harry's torso and managed to steady his breath.
The tears had lasted only a few seconds. He wondered if that was... natural. He felt Harry's cease almost in sync with his, and they remained there for a moment, silent, unmoving. Draco felt his mind clear completely, and he allowed himself a relieved laugh, and only leaned into the Gryffindor more, allowing his head to fall forward as he rested his neck against the other boy's.
Eventually, Harry leaned against the wall, relaxing and ignoring the thought of his Godfather's face if he ever saw him now. He managed to block the thought out when it wouldn't leave, and he felt pleasantly warm with the embrace. He wondered if this was supposed to be happening. At the end of last year, it was unthinkable.
Harry knew without looking at his watch that breakfast was almost over, and he grinned to himself when he remembered he had Potions first thing today... not that he particularly enjoyed Potions, but lately, Snape had been pairing him up with Malfoy, obviously intending some sort of punishment. They didn't even pretend to fight; they were busy with the Potion, and even if they weren't, Snape was usually off in his thoughts, not noticing nor caring when someone's cauldron overflowed or exploded. The thought that something could keep Snape from taking points from Gryffindor was almost as abnormal as... well, Harry hugging Draco, for instance.
"Did you see him in Potions?"
Harry looked up from his lunch. Draco's expression was one of thoughtful bewilderment. He nodded, not able to shake the memory, either. It had been... awkward.
"I thought he was about to cry." Draco said, sliding his plate away from him. "I don't like this. It's making me sick."
Harry knew he wasn't talking about the food. "I still can't figure out what's wrong with him." Thinking back, Harry couldn't remember any disturbing dreams or vague warnings from the teachers. Whatever was going on- if it had anything to do with Voldemort- was being kept quiet enough so that he hadn't even been suspicious.
"Do you think... do you think the Headmaster's going to do anything about it?"
Harry looked at his anxious expression. "What do you mean?"
He looked around the hallway, trying to find the right words. "I mean... you don't think... they would fire him, do you? For... for being emotionally unstable or anything?"
Harry felt something cold in the pit of his stomach. The thought was somehow even more disturbing. "No." he said, trying to convince himself. "Dumbledore wouldn't... he didn't actually do anything. He didn't breakdown and cry in front of us."
"I saw his eyes tearing up, though." Draco pulled his knees against his chest, resting his chin on them. "I could tell he wanted to. Needed to. Whichever."
Harry took another bite of his food and almost choked at Draco's next words. "Think it has to do with Voldemort?"
Draco watched him down his pumpkin juice, then take a deep breath. His gaze was somewhat cold. "I didn't think you twitched at the name. I thought you said it all the time."
"I do." he said, clearing his throat. "It's just... I didn't think you did."
"Oh." He looked at his plate. "So do you? You know he's a Death Eater."
"I know." Harry said, looking down as well. He wished he could tell Draco... well, a lot, but he knew it was too risky, even if he trusted the Slytherin. "But I don't think it has to do with Voldemort. He just looks so... drained. I think he's just sick of trying. I think the War's to hard on him."
Draco sighed. "Who's not tired?" he said suddenly, stretching his legs out and leaning against the wall. "Why do you think..." he stopped, looking at Harry.
"We're here?" he finished for him. He looked reluctant, but nodded.
"That's one of the reasons."
They left it at that, Harry collecting their plates and handing them to the house elf, who twittered and chirped her thanks. He followed Draco down the corridor, glancing at his watch.
Twenty minutes early, Harry mused to himself.
"Really?" Draco said, turning and raising an eyebrow. "I thought it was later than that."
Harry's jaw dropped. He watched the color slowly drain from Draco's face. "What did you just say?"
Draco opened his mouth to speak, but the silence lingered. Harry looked at Draco's eyes, which were wide, surprised; afraid. He replayed the last moment in his head, his suspicions growing with every second that passed. He wondered, momentarily, if Draco could still read his thoughts. Was he doing it for Voldemort?
Draco gasped audibly, gave what could only be described as a shudder, and fled, too afraid to look over his shoulder.
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