Author's Notes: Thanks go to my beta and to all those who sent feedback about the original draft of the fic at schnoogle or on my LJ. Your help is greatly appreciated.
Gold Tinted Spectacles
Chapter 21 - "I always knew there were people who didn't like me"
Professor McGonagall didn't want him to go, but had stopped short of forbidding him; Ron and Hermione were both nervous about him going anywhere out of school grounds and Draco was silently anxious about the whole idea, but wanted to go as much as he did. Hence, as everyone else in the third year and above prepared for the last trip to Hogsmeade before Christmas, so did Harry.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Ron asked for the third time as Harry riffled around in his trunk looking for his money pouch.
Ron was sat on the bed, Hermione was hovering next to him and Draco was leaning against the wall looking pensive. The overriding emotion in the room was anxiety and Harry was trying to ignore it. He would be lying if he told them that the idea of leaving Hogwarts did not make him a little jumpy, but it was the same as leaving the hospital wing had been: something he had to do sooner or later. At least this time no one was trying to pretend anything and he and Draco would undoubtedly stick together like glue.
"We're going," Harry said evenly, "I have Christmas shopping to do and I'm not doing it by owl."
"But what if..." Ron began but Harry stopped him with a look.
"If I lived my life by what ifs I'd never get out of bed in the morning," he said calmly.
He looked over to Draco for a little support and his lover raised an eyebrow at him. Draco didn't exactly disapprove of the whole trip but this was obviously Harry's fight.
"A lifetime's learning in just over two months," Hermione said slowly, "Harry, you exceeded my expectations."
Harry sighed and pulled his money pouch out from where he had just spotted it. Hermione was obviously learning bad habits from Draco, or possibly she had been that way all the time and Harry's soul mate was just bringing it out more by being there.
"I'm not trying to prove anything," Harry said honestly, "I just want to go. If anything odd happens we'll come back, I promise."
Both Hermione and Ron looked at him in a very appraising manner: Harry accepted their scrutiny in good spirits.
"I haven't had a breakdown in three weeks," he pointed out hopefully.
He really wanted to go on this trip, but he did not want to upset his friends: they had been there for him ever since his "change" and they were rather high on his list of priorities these days.
"You're impossible," Hermione said pointedly and Harry grinned; he knew he'd won.
"If you go mental in Zonko's I am not bailing you out," Ron said with a half smile.
So that was it: they went shopping.
Harry might have been seventeen and he might have been a Hecatemus, but neither of these facts had reduced his fondness for sweets. In fact his increased need for high-energy food was rather encouraging the habit. Draco, whose sweet tooth was legendary in the school, did not object either when Harry dragged them into the sweet shop towards the end of their shopping spree. There was only one problem: a large number of the rest of the school had decided to do the same thing. They had already been to visit Ron's brothers in Zonko's; wandered around several other shops; and had lunch in a bid to avoid the rush, but it seemed that a large number of the rest of the pupils from Hogwarts had put off their visit to the sweet shop as well.
Harry was having such a good time being out of Hogwarts that he found it amusing when Hermione, Ron and Draco formed up around him like a protective barrier. He would be the first to admit he was still not good in crowds, but the way his friends and his lover put themselves between Harry and the rest of the people in the shop made him smile.
[Could you have picked a place with more people?] Draco grumbled good-naturedly in his head.
[Well if you want we could start a rumour that there's a sale on sherbet lemons,] Harry replied lightly which caused his partner to laugh.
"It's not polite to leave your friends out of the conversation," Hermione said with mock hurt.
"He started it," Harry said with a laugh and earned a dirty look from Draco.
"Turn the knife in my back while you are at it, why don't you, Potter," his lover replied and reached behind him dramatically.
Harry slipped his arm round Draco's waist and pulled him close, giving him a peck on the cheek as he did so.
"Forgive me," he said in an equally dramatic tone.
"Buy me a jelly snake and I'm yours," Draco replied and batted his eyelids.
Harry laughed and Ron gave a snort of playful disgust.
"Never tell me what you're thinking," Ron said as he shook his head and rolled his eyes.
That made the whole group laugh and then they made their way across to the counter. Harry point blank refused to let the others pay for anything since he wanted to give them something in return for letting him come shopping. Even Ron, who was known to be a little touchy on the subject of money, gave in when Harry insisted and began choosing sweets diligently.
They had quite a haul by the time Harry decided they had enough. They had spent so long collecting things that Mr Honeyduke was serving other customers while the four found what they wanted. Hence they had to wait for him to finish with the others to pay, and it was as Harry reached over to pick up one more liquorice wand that someone pushed past from the gaggle near the till. Due to the fact that he was leaning over past the neat ring the other three had round him, Harry found himself jostled and the wand fell back into the box from his nerveless fingers.
The hatred that ran though him was so pure and so consuming that it dimmed out everything around him. It cut straight to his heart and Harry lost all sense of reality for a few moments; he had no doubt that the emotion was aimed at him. When the world came swimming back into focus Harry found Draco's strong arms around him holding him on his feet. With his soul mate so close the episode had not caused his mental barriers to drop, but it was still very disorientating.
"What happened?" Hermione asked urgently as Harry shook his head to clear it.
"Someone doesn't like me," he replied, forcing his mind back into balance.
"I'd say it was a little stronger than that," Draco said, a touch of ice in his voice. "That group of Slytherins, did you see which one touched Harry?"
"I wasn't looking," Ron admitted guiltily.
"I didn't see either," Hermione agreed with an annoyed grimace. "Are you okay, Harry?"
"I'm fine," he responded immediately, not wanting to let the incident completely wreck the outing. "I always knew there were people who didn't like me, but I had no idea I inspired such hatred."
[You're not fine,] Draco said silently, but did not voice his fears aloud.
[I will be in a couple of minutes,] Harry promised faithfully, [just don't let go.]
Draco rolled his eyes at Harry in exasperation, but so that only he could see.
"Let's pay and get out of here," Harry said and tried to smooth over the whole thing, "I need some air."
He was pretty sure he'd gone three shades paler than normal, because Mr Honeyduke served them ridiculously quickly after that and the look the man sent them seemed to indicate that he thought Harry might pass out any moment. They left the shop quickly before anyone could make a fuss and then moved to a quiet side of the street to regroup.
Draco had shifted in to protective mode and his mental presence was a great help as Harry tried to rid himself of the nasty aftertaste of the negative emotion. His soul mate kept his arm round Harry like a shield and as requested did not let go. It took a few minutes, but slowly the world made it back into proportion. Harry had given up feeling like an idiot when these things happened: he just accepted them as a fact of life and got on with dealing with them.
"We can finish shopping now," he said with a grin as lucidity returned. "Sorry about that."
Then, before anyone could comment on that he went cold as he saw a streak of black out of the corner of his eye. He turned his head and saw the tail end of a large black dog disappear. It was like seeing a ghost as memories of his godfather crowded into his brain and he felt suddenly faint. For the second time in the day the only thing that kept Harry standing was Draco.
"Harry," Hermione said in a very worried voice.
"That's it, we're going back to the castle," Draco said very firmly.
The Hecatemus could barely put two thoughts together let alone two words and he did not protest. Draco's presence was reassuring in his brain, but his soul mate did not ask questions, seeming to realise that Harry was in no state to answer them just at the moment.
He remained in a kind of dazed shock all the way back to Hogwarts and only as the four settled in the warmth of the common room did life begin to return to his preoccupied mind.
[What happened?] Draco asked calmly as Harry gazed into the fire.
"I saw a black dog," he returned aloud so his friends could hear as well, "it looked just like Sirius. I think a second shock was too much for my system, I'm sorry."
"No need to apologise, Mate," Ron replied firmly, "that would have affected any of us."
Harry didn't think that was correct, but he gave his friend a half smile for trying. Draco just pulled him into his arms where he was sitting on the sofa next to him and rested Harry's head on his chest. Of all people, his soul mate was the one who knew quite how badly his godfather's death had affected Harry and he did not try and make platitudes, he just wrapped the Hecatemus in a warm blanket of love.
"I'll see if I can get the house elves to give us some mulled cider," Hermione decided in a very practical manner. "Everything always feels better when you're warm."
The memories were still floating around Harry's mind and for a change he let them. It was as if after a year of repressing them, now they had surfaced, they were stronger than ever. He felt a little sad that there were not more, but he did not try and force them away.
It was five days before Christmas, and, as far as Draco was concerned, the school was nice and quiet. There not being pupils all over the place to fall over was a great improvement as far as he was concerned. He and Harry were the only two seventh years staying in Gryffindor over the holidays along with two first years, one third year, and one sixth year, which gave them a nice lot of space to enjoy.
"Apparating," Harry said as if the one word should explain everything that was on his mind.
Draco looked up from where he was completing his Arithmancy homework, hoping that more of an explanation would be provided. Sometimes Harry seemed to forget that although they were in constant contact they did not have the same brain.
"Hmm, conversations in single words, an experiment in communicating with Hufflepuffs?" he asked sarcastically.
Harry grinned at him cheerfully and put a form on top of Draco's almost completed calculations.
"You need to get your licence," his soul mate said happily.
"I've known how to Apparate since I was fifteen," Draco replied calmly. "Why do I need a licence the moment I hit seventeen, and, for that matter, I became an adult the moment I bonded with you, so what's the sudden rush? It's not as if we can use it here."
Harry looked a little crestfallen at that response and Draco felt a pang of guilt. It wasn't that the idea of being able to Apparate legally filled him with horror or anything; it was just the idea of having to go through the motions.
"Okay, don't look at me like that," he said after a few seconds, "I can't maintain my cool, calm, guiltless Malfoy exterior when you do the puppy dog thing. I do want my licence, but the idea of going anywhere near London with you just at the moment fills me with dread."
That put an understanding smile back on Harry's face and he gave Draco a quick peck on the cheek.
"Doesn't make me want to dance for joy either," his lover replied, "but I think it's covered. I've been talking to Dumbledore today: actually it was his idea that you get your licence as quickly as possible, and we've made arrangements."
Several overly complicated plans came to the Slytherin's mind at the revelation that the headmaster had come up with the whole idea, but Draco shoved them aside.
"This smells fishy," he said slowly, "we're not just going to London for a piece of paper are we?"
Harry appeared surprised, and then amused; Draco knew he had deduced the truth.
"Technically I don't need a license," he decided to inform his lover of his reasoning: Harry was not stupid, but he was also not devious enough for the Slytherin's tastes, and it was one of Draco's projects to educate his soul mate in this area for his own good. "You have one and so they can't prosecute you for Apparating without one so they can't prosecute me. Even the Ministry isn't that stupid. So there had to be another reason for going. I assume this has something to do with the Order."
There was no hesitation as Harry nodded and Draco marvelled once again at how easy it was to be completely honest with each other. Their bond made it impossible to lie, but it did not make it impossible to hold back, and the fact that neither of them ever tried was something he found incredible. Draco hoped he never stopped feeling the slight surprise.
"Dumbledore thinks it's time you were introduced to some of the Order and the headquarters personally," Harry explained calmly. "Getting your license is a good excuse to go to London and meet up with Lupin and Tonks."
"You are aware that a rendezvous with a werewolf and a Metamorphmagus should not be a settling prospect," Draco said lightly.
It drew the expected laugh from Harry and Draco let himself enjoy the amusement that ran through his lover.
"So you'll come then?" his soul mate asked cheerfully, which Draco found just so 'Harry'.
He was pretty sure he could force the term 'Harry' into wizarding language usage if he tried hard enough. There was something unique about the way his soul mate saw the world, a combination of respect, love and responsibility that no one in Draco's experience had ever used before. It was obvious to him that Dumbledore had set up a meeting of certain members of the Order so they could meet the traitorous golden child of Lucius Malfoy in person and yet Harry was still asking as if the whole trip was optional. What was even more amazing was that Draco was sure if he said 'no', his soul mate would trot back to the headmaster and tell him they weren't going.
"Yes, I'll come," he said, putting a resigned tone into his voice, "are we going tomorrow?"
"No way," Harry replied firmly, "I have other plans for your birthday. The Order don't get you 'til the day after."
"And do I get a say in these plans?" Draco asked, trying not to play up to the mischievous look in his lover's eyes, but unable to keep the slight smile off his face.
Being linked to Harry Potter was very bad for his ice-cold image, these days the only people in front of whom he seemed to be able to maintain it were the Slytherins. It occurred to Draco that maybe that said more about the Slytherins than it did about him.
"No," Harry said cheekily and planted a kiss right on his mouth.
When Harry broke away, Draco rolled his eyes just to keep up appearances and his lover laughed before he turned and headed back out of their room. The term might be over but Draco had plenty of homework to finish as did Harry, a fact which seemed to have escaped the Gryffindor. Draco was already fully prepared to give absolutely no sympathy when his soul mate tried to cram all his assignments into the last few days before term began again. It was technically true that Harry was taking the opportunity to practice with his Hecatemus abilities while most of the student population was away, but that was no excuse as far as Draco was concerned and his planned lack of understanding had nothing to do with revenge for the number of times his lover had distracted him, honestly.
End of Chapter 21
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