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Draco Malfoy had been to visit Moaning Myrtle precisely three times before he had come to accept that this was probably going to be a regular occurrence.

Was there anything more pathetic than talking to a ghost about your problems? Draco was quite sure there probably wasn’t, but what other options did he have? He wasn’t about to turn to Pansy or Theo or Blaise, and certainly not Crabbe and Goyle. What would that do for his reputation within Slytherin House if he shared his uncertainty, let them get a taste of the dull sense of panic that was beginning to invade his every waking moment as more and more time went on and ideas for his task were still scarce?

And besides, Myrtle was actually a good listener. She understood his negative feelings too (having plenty of them herself), and what it was like to feel completely alone. And the best part was that she wouldn’t tell anyone, because he knew that she was just as desperate for his company as he was for someone to talk to.

The fourth time, on a cold, windy day late in October, he staggered to the bathroom in a sort of trance.

The necklace hadn’t worked. It hadn’t even made it to the castle doors.

Memories from this summer suddenly flashed across his eyelids: red, pitiless eyes, how they danced with cruelty whenever he raised his wand and pointed it at Draco’s heart; the feeling of his skin being flayed, being dipped in acid, writhing on the floor from the Cruciatus Curse; being forced to watch as the same fate befell his mother, or other Death Eaters that he was displeased with.

Being forced, sometimes, to do the torturing.

Soon enough he was leaning over the sink in the bathroom, shaking and dry heaving, trying to regain control and slow his stuttered breathing and the erratic rhythm of his heart.

Maybe Dumbledore would even suspect, since that Bell girl got hurt. And now…now he had no plan.

He gripped the sink until his knuckles turned white, breathing too hard and too fast.

And then he heard the sound of footsteps, soft, but still echoing on the hard marble floors of the huge bathroom. Stiffening, he straightened up and whipped around, fixing his face automatically with his trademark sneer and pulling up the walls in his mind that his Aunt Bellatrix had taught him to harness to full power.

It was a girl, a girl in his year. Half-blood. He knew her by sight but not by name, probably because she was wearing Hufflepuff robes, and he never bothered learning the names of the Hufflepuffs. But she was more familiar to him than others, and he suddenly realized why – she was the one whose spell work in class was positively atrocious. She had always had difficulty with even the easiest spells, and he remembered Pansy and her group of girls always giggling about it. What was more, he had never seen her in a group of people; she was always alone. Also, he distinctly recalled that she was a Prefect (how, he wasn’t sure, since her magic was clearly shit).

Moaning Myrtle was hovering behind her; they had clearly come from his usual spot with Myrtle, where he usually sat to talk to the ghost, on the other side of the sinks where there was a little ledge near the bathroom windows.

He glared at the girl, hating the uncertainty and slight concern that he saw in her eyes, positively furious she had seen him in a moment of weakness.

“Are you all right?” she asked finally, taking a careful step forward.

“Of course I am,” he snapped, his tone cruel and taunting. “What are you even doing here, anyway? Is a ghost really your only friend? That’s pathetic even for you, isn’t it? Or are you hoping Myrtle can give you spell casting tips?” Her eyes clouded with pain at his biting words; he had done damage, he could see that right away.

Merlin, she was easy. Stupid, emotional Hufflepuffs.

He was relieved when she didn’t say anything else, but instead turned and hurried out of the bathroom, leaving him finally alone.

Well, sort of.

“That wasn’t very nice,” said Myrtle vaguely and a little mournfully, zooming around his head. “And you have a ghost for a friend.”

“I have others,” he said, shortly, even though sometimes he wasn’t so sure.

“What happened, Draco?” she asked. “Something happened, didn’t it?”

Shoulders hunched, he trudged over to the ledge to flop down and tell Myrtle the whole, awful story about the stupid necklace, how it hadn’t worked, how he was out of options, how he was so afraid


 

It was the evening of the Halloween feast, but you hadn’t gone.

Too many people, too much excitement.

Instead, you had retreated to the library, which was one of few places that you could usually count on to get some peace and quiet, especially when the entire school was at a feast. Being alone was like a breath of fresh air that you rarely got to have at Hogwarts, or anywhere, really; but here, like this, there was no buzzing in your head, nothing to block. No effort needed from your brain.

Just silence.

That was why it was so shocking when, after nearly an hour of being in the library, you noticed that there was indeed another figure at one of the tables rather than at the feast, staring intently at a book.

When it was just one person, it was easy not to hear them. Still, you at least were always aware another person was in the room, and so you just stared, dumbfounded, at the back of that very familiar platinum blonde head.

Draco Malfoy.

How long had he been here? How hadn’t you known? Why wasn’t he at the feast with his cronies? You had never, not once, encountered someone so quiet, and – especially after your encounter with him in the bathroom, where he had been leaning over the sink as if he were sick and scared – you were intrigued.

And so you did something that you almost never did, because doing it all the time without being able to help it was bad enough, you almost never liked what you heard, and it was a rude thing to do, anyway. But the curiosity was so overwhelming that you did it – you actively tried to enter his mind.

The effect was immediate.

He stiffened in his chair, hands gripping harder on the book he was holding, and you instantly stopped, pulled away from the intrusion, suddenly terrified, because you were certain that he had felt it.

This was confirmed when, slowly, he turned to see you sitting at the table and staring at him, your eyes wide. His gray eyes were dark with anger, and you figured that now was probably a very good time to get out of the library, so you hastily picked up the book, snatched your backpack, and all but ran to the exit.

You had gotten half a corridor away and turned the corner at a brisk pace when you heard the footsteps running to catch up with you, and then a hand caught your wrist, roughly spinning you around.

Merlin, he was so tall. He had caught up to you quickly on those long legs, and now he was towering over you, positively radiating fury, so much so that you shrunk back, trembling a little at the legendary sneer of Draco Malfoy. “What the hell are you playing at?” he hissed, jaw clenched and eyes blazing at you.

Your voice was a small squeak. “I – I don’t know what you’re –”

“Don’t play stupid with me,” he interrupted in a snarl, taking another menacing step forward so that you bumped into the wall, book clutched to your chest. “I know what you were doing. I felt it. Spying on me, are you?”

“N-no…I’m sorry, I wasn’t…”

He took a step back, his cold eyes sweeping over you momentarily, now again with his trademark sneer. “If you know what’s good for you, you won’t do it again,” he warned darkly, and with that, he stalked off, his shoulders still stiff with anger and his footsteps echoing through the corridor.

You stood there, breathing hard, still filled with terror and confusion about what had just transpired, and you really only relaxed after long minutes had passed without hearing his footsteps anymore.


Her name was Y/N Y/L/N.

Draco Malfoy had found that out the day after his encounter with her on Halloween, because, much as he was loathe to admit it to himself, it had scared him.

Clearly, she could practice Legilimens. And what was more, she must be quite good, because he had been intently working on Occulumency rather than reading that book in the library. The library was a good place to go to pretend to read schoolbooks while he either brainstormed about the Vanishing Cabinet, tried to make other plans for murdering his Headmaster, or practiced his Occulumency. He had been warned, countless times, that Albus Dumbledore was one of the most accomplished Legilimens there was, so it was of the utmost importance that he continued to practice as he had done over the summer with Bellatrix.

Insane as she was (and as unpleasant as their practice sessions had been), she had done a good job with him, and he could block even Snape at this point.

But along comes this bloody Hufflepuff girl, who somehow was prodding at his mind so powerfully that he had nearly faltered, his defenses had nearly broken, and she could have gotten in.

And if she could do it…what about Dumbledore?

Furthermore, why the hell had she done it, anyway?

Where had she even learned that shit?

It was driving him mad, and his eyes kept unconsciously seeking her out to watch her carefully, suspiciously, and he couldn’t stop it.

He watched her, taking mental notes, because suddenly this girl was dangerous to him. But she didn’t try it again, and when she caught him looking at her she merely averted her eyes quickly, back to whatever she was doing – which, he noted, was usually reading some sort of book or scribbling in a little notebook that she always seemed to have with her.

And she was always alone. In the courtyard, at the table for meals, in the corridors. She kept her eyes down, most of the time, and slipped around the castle, completely unnoticed. Except, of course, now. By him.

All of this distraction was not optimal, considering that the time was passing quickly and he still was having no luck with fixing the Vanishing Cabinet, nor had he come up with another concrete plan. As the third week of November approached, he found himself spending more and more time with Moaning Myrtle. He would wake in the middle of the night, gasping and drenched in cold sweat from nightmares, and without a Calming Concoction he was having panic attacks almost daily.

The days he ran out of the stuff because he had been too tired or distracted to brew more were the worst ones.

The tremors would start in his hands.

They would travel up his arms, and then his breathing would get shorter until he was gasping and floundering for breaths that never felt like enough to fill his lungs. The tears squeezed out of his eyes unwillingly until they were streaming down his pale cheeks, and Myrtle would hover close by, trying to provide comfort; instructing him to breathe, Draco, just breathe, slowly, in and out…

On one such occasion, after a night of particularly bad nightmares full of torture and death and blood, he had hurried there at nearly two in the morning, emptied the contents of his stomach, and was now sitting on the familiar ledge, knees to his chest, sobbing and clutching at his hair so roughly that he felt a painful pulling at the roots. But he didn’t care. Myrtle was murmuring something, but he couldn’t hear her, couldn’t focus enough on her voice because his vision was getting dark around the edges due to lack of oxygen. A curious probing pressed at his brain, but he ignored it; he was too busy seeing his mother on the floor, screaming, and then her pale face standing nearby as the Dark Mark was burned into his arm, and the pain of it was so awful that he nearly bit his tongue in half, the bitter and tangy taste of blood filling his mouth as he writhed in the chair and passed out; when he woke, he saw the skull and snake on his arm, and he hated it.

He shuddered, choking on tears and the lump in his throat.

“Malfoy?” a voice suddenly whispered, and his head shot up wildly, adrenaline pumping through his veins.

Y/N was standing only a few feet away, looking tired and pale and completely stricken, and suddenly he knew that the probing in his brain had been her, and that she had seen it all. This was confirmed when he saw her eyes flick to his covered forearm, looking positively horrified. He scrambled to his feet, furious that she was here again, livid that she was invading not only his most personal time but also his fucking mind. She was seeing him vulnerable, she was seeing him cry, and now she knew, she fucking knew everything!

What are you doing here?!” he roared, pulling his wand out and pointing it at her. His hand was still vibrating violently and it was still hurting him to breathe. Standing here was making him dizzy.

She held up her hands in a gesture of surrender. “I – I was only coming to see Myrtle,” she explained in barely a whisper. He could see how she was trembling. “I swear that I didn’t mean to…to see…I couldn’t help it…”

Whether she was referring to his complete and utter breakdown or his memories, he didn’t know. It only made him angrier that she was pitying him, and he flourished his wand at her with a growl, but no words came out. He was still struggling to get the necessary amount of air in his lungs.

“Malfoy,” she said, her voice suddenly gentle. “You need to sit down…breathe…”

“Shut up!” he choked out, with as much venom as he could muster. “If this is what you want then two can play at this game, you fucking nosy bitch!” She stumbled backward then, watching him with wide, scared eyes, but he quickly brandished his wand at her and shouted, “Legilimens!”

And suddenly, he was in a classroom.

The children around him were probably about seven years old; and the teacher was talking, but he couldn’t hear her, because there was something truly awful going on in his brain. Holy shit, it was so loud – a steady, consistent buzzing: and he realized it was the voices and thoughts from the others sitting around him. He covered his ears, shaking his head, sobbing, wanting it to end, and he was shouting – except it didn’t sound like him, it was a girl’s voice, a little girl – and she was screeching, “Be quiet! Be quiet, please!”

“No one is talking,” the teacher said, rather crossly. “We’ve talked about this, Y/N…”

“Freak,” a girl called across the classroom at her, viciously, a girl in pigtails and a blue dress, and soon the chants were echoing in the room: freak, freak, freak…

The scene changed.

He was doing dishes, slowly, by hand, and when he looked down his hands were small and soft and feminine, and they weren’t his, but the young girl’s…

And the parents were sitting at the table behind him, arguing about something or other, and it was so difficult to block them out, because their emotions were running high; she was trying, truly, she was, because she knew how they hated it when she heard them. No one liked it when she could hear their private thoughts, and the last thing she wanted to do was make people uncomfortable…

But it happened anyway, and she heard it, clear as day, coming from the mother. In fact, it was so loud and clear that she was certain it had been said out loud.

…the divorce paperwork shouldn’t take too long…

And the young girl screeched, unceremoniously dropped the plate she had been washing into the sink with a clatter, and she whipped around with a fire in her eyes and stamped her feet. “You can’t!” she howled, beginning to choke up with tears. “You can’t divorce Daddy, you can’t, you can’t!”

The shocked looks on their faces told her what she had done; what she had accidentally revealed. And they couldn’t quite hide their exasperation or annoyance, their fear of her, even, and she couldn’t not hear how they wished that their daughter could just be normal, what a mess she always made of things…

A rapid succession of scenes happened after that, flicking across his mind so quickly that he became almost dizzy trying to keep up with them. It was just a blur of faces and feelings and places.

Moments where she had accidentally answered someone’s thoughts instead of what they had said; the looks of fear and concern that flooded their features, the strange looks she got; waiting to hear from friends but getting no contact again; even her parents, slowly drawing away, keeping their distance over breaks home from Hogwarts, fearful that she might hear something again, uncomfortable with the girl that could prod into people’s brains without trying; and there was the horrible, aching loneliness, and tears, and hours spent alone in her room…

ENOUGH!”

The scream had come from the girl, only she was in front of him now, and older, and real. This was no longer a memory, and she had forced him out of her mind with a spell, wand held high.

Stumbling a little, his blurred vision slowly adjusted to the familiar scene of Myrtle’s bathroom, and then his wide eyes found her. His mouth was agape, staring at her as she stood before him shaking – but this wasn’t with fear. This was new on her: rage. Her face was blotched with red patches and contorted in an expression of pure hatred, and tears were flowing down her cheeks.

Before he could blink she had flown forward and smacked him across the face.

The sound reverberated through the bathroom and he staggered again from the impact of her hand; he was so positively dumbfounded by the slap and her fire and what he had just seen, however, that all he could do was gaze back at her, mouth still open and hand moving to numbly hold his cheek.

“It’s like I told you!” she yelled, more tears falling down her face. Her voice, however, sounded murderous, not sad or upset. “I told you that I couldn’t help it, Malfoy! You stupid bastard!”

And with that, she turned on her heel and ran away. Her choked sobs floated through the air behind her, and he just stood there, breathing hard, watching the spot where she had disappeared and feeling the strangest, nagging feeling in his gut that he didn’t know how to identify.

Chapter Text

Draco didn’t sleep a wink that night.

Her memories were still raw in his mind. So fresh, and still powerful.

And because, tragic as they were, they were still infinitely better than his nightmares, he found himself dwelling on them instead of his own problems.

Some people, he knew, had a natural talent for Legilimency. He knew, for example that Snape was one of them. It was something of an ability that lie dormant, a skill ready to hone to perfection that some people could perform better than others, but that still usually required some sort of training. He himself couldn’t do it without a wand and the spell, but he certainly could perform spectacular Occulumency. He had never heard of a person that had such a natural talent for it that it happened automatically, as a child, without much – or perhaps no – training at all.

But something else was nagging at him, too, and it took him a while to realize that it was the loneliness; her loneliness that he had felt.

And it haunted him because it was so familiar.

Sometime around six in the morning, he began drifting off to sleep. His final thought before he faded away was that he would have to talk to her again; she knew now, after all. She knew everything. She knew he was a Death Eater, and that the Dark Lord was living in his home. Thankfully, she had seen nothing of his task, but she had to be sufficiently warned off. And, somehow, he would have to stop her from reporting him as a Death Eater…

She seemed to sense, however, that he would do something like this, for she was suddenly very difficult to find.

On the rare occasion that he did see her in the corridor over the next week, she was careful to slip into a crowd and blend in, hurrying away from him. This went on for a very tense week; at any moment, Draco was expecting to be pulled aside by a professor, or for Dumbledore to come find him.

The panic attacks got worse. He couldn’t concentrate on anything, even his task. He began drinking double doses of Calming Concoction.

He wasn’t a prefect anymore, but Pansy still was, and she always gave him the passwords to the bathroom in case he wanted access to the bath there. Really, he rather would have just gone to Myrtle tonight to relax, but now he was almost afraid to go back there, certain that Y/N would see him in another moment of weakness.

What he wasn’t expecting, after he had entered the bathroom and glanced around to make sure no one was around to see his Mark and undressed, wrapping a towel around his waist to walk to the bath as large as a pool, was for her to be here.

Specifically, she was getting dressed, and he stopped dead, staring, feeling a sudden burst of fire in his veins. He couldn’t breathe. She had on her underclothes, but that was all. She was turned slightly to the side, so it was her profile he saw as raised the towel to her hair, shaking it a little to dry it out. His eyes roamed over the curves of her, the water droplets still clinging to her skin, and he swallowed hard, feeling an impatient sort of twitch below his navel.

But then she saw him, and he blinked, suddenly coming back to himself.

She let out a horrified scream, hastily covering the towel around herself and looking positively mortified. “M-Malfoy!” she shrieked, pointing an accusing finger at him. “Are you serious? Why are you here? Did you follow me?”

He scoffed, because it hid the fact that his heart was pounding far too hard and that he was still painfully aware of the heat in his body. “Of course I didn’t follow you,” he drawled, rolling his eyes and giving her his best sneer. “I was just coming to take a bath. I didn’t know you were here.”

He was about to add a demeaning comment about how he wouldn’t have wanted to see what he saw anyway and that it wouldn’t have been worth it even if he had intended to see, but the lie died in his throat. She was far too appealing and it was too blatantly false to say, even for him. Call it hormones, but the overwhelming urge to be close to her suddenly overcame him, so he took a few paces forward. But she hurried backward just as quickly as he came, putting even more distance between them and watching him with frightened eyes.

Rolling his eyes again, he said sharply, “Why are you acting like that?”

“Because I’m scared,” she said simply, honestly, still watching him with wary eyes. “I’m…” She waved a hand over herself, covered with the thin towel, and he saw it was shaking. “Vulnerable, and alone in here with you.”

His eyes darkened. “Just because I’m a Death Eater doesn’t mean that I’m going to do…that,” he growled. He saw how she shuddered at the word Death Eater, and he scowled. Really, the idea that he would force himself on a woman was just plain offensive. Even if he was desperate (which he most certainly wasn’t), it was clearly disgusting, and something that he would never, ever do.

Besides, he wanted his women to want him.

For some reason, she seemed to believe him, for she relaxed a little, though now she wouldn’t look him in the eyes, and the embarrassment was still clear on her face. “Then I’m leaving,” she mumbled, making to walk past him and toward the door, but again he stepped forward, and this time he reached for her wrist. He was well aware of the smell of the various bath soaps on her skin, and whatever shampoo she used smelled far, far too delicious. And up here, up close like this, when he really got a good look at her face, he realized that it wasn’t only her body that was appealing. He shook himself a little and remembered to put up the walls.

“Don’t come into my head,” he warned roughly.

It was her turn to scoff. “As if I want to hear the mean things you’re thinking about me right now,” she said, with a deep frown, and he almost laughed at how utterly wrong she was. “And besides,” she continued, a little angrily, “You know I don’t try to do it. And I especially won’t with you. Your head is not a fun place to be.”

She still wasn’t looking at him, but rather down at his bare feet on the tiled bathroom floor, though occasionally her eyes were flicking up to his bare forearm to look at his Dark Mark. She would always avert her eyes quickly, as if afraid to look at it too long, and for some reason this, too, frustrated him.

“Yours isn’t much better,” he shot back.

She just shrugged, looking rather miserable.

He let out an irritated sigh. “Look,” he said finally, trying to make his voice as hard and threatening as possible, “I can’t have you blabbing about what you know…”

“I’m not going to tell anyone,” she muttered.

He narrowed his eyes, disbelieving. “Why not?”

She finally looked up at him then, and there was a certain softness in her eyes. “I know you didn’t want it.”

He bristled. “You don’t know anything.”

Her eyes locked onto his firmly. This girl was completely insane, he decided; she was timid and frightened one day, and fierce on another. She was quiet and meek one moment, and the next there was a certainty and a confidence in her eyes that made him feel rather unsteady on his feet. “Are you forgetting I was in your head, Malfoy?” she asked pointedly, arching an eyebrow. “Are you forgetting that I felt your fear and doubt and uncertainty – ”

“Shut your mouth,” he hissed, gripping her wrist harder, but she yanked it free, glaring at him.

“I’m going to get dressed, and then I’m leaving,” she snapped. “And now that I’ve been completely and thoroughly humiliated and you’ve given me your warning, you can probably leave me alone now.”

She stalked away, still clutching the towel tightly to her, and he despised the fact that the strangest hint of regret was creeping into his chest.

Chapter Text

After that, she appeared in his mind far, far too often.

The distraction really was becoming a huge problem, because he found that her face, framed by her wet hair, was randomly appearing in his consciousness sometimes during long hours spent with the Vanishing Cabinet.

His eyes would also seek her out during classes, in the Great Hall, or in the corridors, and when their gazes met she would hurriedly look away, and sometimes a delicate flush would sprawl her cheeks. He kept telling himself he was keeping tabs on her because she knew his secret, but that didn’t quite explain the way his eyes would roam over her hips when she walked, or linger on her hands, wondering how they would feel on his shoulders.

When it became too obvious to even himself to deny that he was wildly attracted to her, it was still easy to shrug off. He was a man, after all, and she looked nice. He was just appreciating someone he was physically attracted to, which he had done before with plenty of girls.

But even he recognized that she was far more intriguing to him than the others.

He felt like he knew her intimately after being in her mind, and yet she was still a complete and total enigma to him. And more than that, it couldn’t have been more obvious that she didn’t want anything to do with him, whereas the other girls he set his sights on before usually threw themselves at him.

She was even beginning to invade his dreams; he would see her getting out of the bath, the delicate shake and twist of her body when she dried her hair, how the water had been clinging to her skin…

Granted, these were better dreams than the ones he had been having before, but it still got extremely frustrating to wake up with the pressing and almost painful need to relieve himself.

He didn’t let himself feel guilty. Merlin knew he needed to do something about his tension right now, anyway, so he let himself have it.

Besides, it wasn’t personal.

The month of November flew by, as did the first two weeks of December.

There was a festive sort of spirit around Hogwarts that Draco himself couldn’t feel. Most people were glad to be going home for the holidays, or perhaps to have something to think about that wasn’t the war happening and that could create some good memories in a year full of horrible news headlines and terror.

For Draco, however, the holidays meant going home. Back to him, and the Manor that he used to love and where, at this time of year, he had been showered and spoiled with presents and attention.

Now it had just become a place of nightmares.

And the worst part was that he had hardly any news to report to the Dark Lord. He was planning on trying to send Dumbledore some poisoned wine through Slughorn, disguised as a Christmas gift. He didn’t have much hopes for it, but still, maybe it could work. Not only would he not have to cast the actual spell to kill the old man, but he wouldn’t even have to witness it, either.

Quick and easy.

The Vanishing Cabinet, unfortunately, was still proving too difficult to fix. Anything he put through it came out damaged or broken, so he was nowhere near trying to put a living creature through it, much less a group of adult fucking humans.

Still, maybe if he was careful, he could embellish his progress a bit, and it would satisfy the Dark Lord enough so that he wouldn’t be tortured. Or at least, so that his mother wouldn’t be tortured. Her screams were beginning to haunt his dreams again, and as the time for Christmas break grew closer, he found that he wasn’t able to sleep much, even after trying Sleeping Potions. Every time he did, he heard his mother scream, and the high, cold laugh of his Master that told him that there would be no mercy.

Dark circles appeared under his eyes, and he began going on nighttime walks to the Room of Requirement, using as much time as possible to examine the Cabinet. It was on the night just before break that he was coming back from a particularly long session with the cabinet, taking a shortcut through an often abandoned corridor on the 3rd floor, that he saw her again.

He stopped short, heart pounding.

She hadn’t seen him yet. She was sitting against the wall, hugging her knees to her chest and with her face planted on her knees, and she was crying. Really deeply crying, her shoulders shaking with sobs.

Draco was immediately overcome by two overwhelming and conflicting sensations.

The first was to turn right around and go back the way he had come.

Crying girls had always made him uncomfortable. Whenever Pansy did it, he tried to leave the room as quickly as possible. If that didn’t work and she found him and threw herself on him, he would be forced to hug her and try and soothe her. And especially with Y/N, this option of turning and walking the other way was quite tempting, because he didn’t even know her, and he was quite sure she wouldn’t permit him to touch her, anyway.

The second, though…the second was to go over and talk to her.

And it seemed that one was winning, because his feet began carrying him forward of their own accord, before his brain had any real say in the matter.

She must have heard his footsteps, because her head jerked up suddenly. She looked frightened, probably thinking that he was a teacher and she was about to get in trouble for being out past curfew. When she saw him she just let out a sardonic little laugh and then hiccuped, shaking her head and saying miserably, “Oh, it’s you. Perfect.” She began furiously brushing tears away from her cheeks and narrowed her eyes at him. “Come to make fun of me?”

“No.” The readiness of his answer surprised him, and it certainly surprised her, judging from the shock that he saw reflected in her eyes. Even with her eyes all red and puffy, she was pretty, really.

He hated that.

He walked forward and sat against the opposite wall, facing her, but keeping his distance. Her eyes flicked around his face carefully, still wary. “What do you want?”

“Is…” He cleared his throat, massively uncomfortable. “Is something wrong?”

You fucking idiot, she’s sobbing alone at some ungodly hour in the morning! Of course something’s wrong!

She just stared at him, mouth agape, clearly dumbfounded, and then she shook her head in disbelief. “No, I do this when I’m happy, Malfoy,” she replied, sarcastically.

He fought the strangest urge to grin. “Well, what happened?” he pressed, impatiently. Pansy was quick to spill whatever was bothering her as she blubbered on him; Y/N, apparently, was not going to be the same.

But her eyes were looking at him more carefully now.

Suddenly, he felt self-conscious under her scrutinizing gaze, and even more so when she asked, very slowly, and in a voice that still sounded stuffy from all the crying, “What happened to you?”

“What do you mean?” he snapped.

“You’re…well…you look terrible,” she said finally, after a long pause.

“Well, don’t lay on the compliments too thick,” he grumbled.

She just gave him a watery, amused smile, and he realized that it was the first time she had smiled at him. Maybe the first time he had seen her smile at all. Something that had been tight in his chest loosened.

“I just mean that you look really tired. Are you okay?” She peeked quickly up and down the corridor, checking to see that they were still alone even though the silence in this part of the castle was nearly deafening. And then she said in a very low voice, “Is it because you have to go home and…you know.”

Yes. He did know. He was there, and she also knew what that meant. She had seen it, after all.

But he was good at acting like things weren’t bothering him, so he just shrugged, nonchalantly, keeping his face and eyes carefully neutral. “It’s fine.” She didn’t quite looked like she believed him by the way she furrowed her brow, so he quickly continued, “But don’t change the subject. What happened to you?”

“Oh, it’s…stupid, really.” She fidgeted with her fingers, staring down at them rather than meet his gaze, but when the silence became so long and loud that she peeked up to see him staring at her, eyebrow raised, she just sighed and the words seemed to come spilling out of her. “Well, it’s…I got a letter. Um. From my…father. I was supposed to be spending the holidays with him, but, um…well.”

What?” he asked, exasperated by her dancing around.

“Well he’s a Muggle, and…”

Draco couldn’t quite contain his involuntary shudder and the accompanying sneer, and she saw immediately. She narrowed her eyes at him. “Never mind,” she hissed, very brusquely and looking at him with disgust.

He bristled. “I didn’t say anything!”

“You didn’t need to. I could see it on your face. My mother’s a witch, if that makes you feel better,” she continued, her voice full of vicious sarcasm.

“Would you please just tell me what you were going to say?” he hissed, clenching his fists, hating that she was being so impossible. He should have gone the other direction rather than come over here.

“Why?” she challenged. “What do you care, anyway?”

Yes. She had a good point.

What did he care, exactly? Sure, he had determined that he was physically attracted to her, that much was undeniable. But that didn’t explain why he was sitting here, listening to her problems and actually wanting to hear them. Perhaps because it was better than thinking about his. “It distracts me,” he told her, honestly, and he saw her eyes widen the tiniest fraction before she let out an impatient little sigh.

“Fine. Well, we were going to go to France together, but now he wants to bring his boyfriend along, and –”

“Hold on,” said Draco, putting up a hand and staring at her, astonished.

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t tell me you’re homophobic too, Malfoy.”

“What? No,” he snapped. “I just thought…since he was married to your mother…”

“He likes men and women, and after they divorced he started dating a man, okay? Anyway, his boyfriend is also a…Muggle.” She watched him carefully, and though he felt the bitter taste in his mouth and the shiver of repulsion that jolted up his spine, he was careful not to let any of his feelings show on his face, and she seemed to deem it safe to continue. “And, well…he doesn’t want to bring me along because…he doesn’t want to explain me and my…what I can do. I told him I would control it, but…” She trailed off, lips trembling a little, and for some reason it was this, that helpless little tremble, that sent Draco over the edge.

“How can you defend Muggles!” he exclaimed furiously, throwing his hands up with irritation. It was so obvious, really, and his face twisted again into his familiar harsh sneer. “Look how they want to make you lesser, look how they fear you, want you to hide away for them and their inferiority…”

“It’s not just Muggles!” she argued, a passionate light entering her eyes. “My mother and her family didn’t want me there for Christmas either – that’s why I had plans with my father –  and they are all witches and wizards, so explain that to me! It’s just people, Malfoy, that’s all. I just make everyone uncomfortable.” She glared at him furiously, and he blinked in shock at seeing that more tears were spilling down her cheeks. “I should have known talking to you would only make me feel worse,” she spat, before getting to her feet and stalking away.

He was too shocked to say anything, much less get up and go after her.

This time, there was no denying the regret that he felt stabbing at his chest.

Chapter Text

Being at Hogwarts for the holidays really hadn’t been so bad.

Sure, you had spent more than a few nights crying yourself to sleep about your father’s change of plans and your mother’s very blatant lack of a letter inviting you to her family instead, but at least the castle was mostly empty. This was a piece and quiet that you rarely got for such an extended period of time, and now you had it almost all over the castle. It was lovely, really, so lovely that you had even felt up for going to the Christmas feast, because there were less than fifteen students there and it wasn’t often you went to feasts.

Plus, the holidays also meant that you had a very welcome break from Draco Malfoy. Draco fucking Malfoy.

The fact that he was gone for the holidays in itself was conflicting, because you knew what was waiting for him at his home, and it concerned you deeply. What you had seen in his memories still made you shudder, but most of all when you had seen those memories you had felt pity, sympathy, and fear for him.

On the other hand, when he wasn’t at Hogwarts he wasn’t there for you to look at, which was good, because quite frankly, looking at Draco Malfoy made you feel like the most shallow person in the entire world. You had even heard him just before break talking about Muggles the way he had, and you still couldn’t stop thinking about his eyes, couldn’t stop seeing the way he swaggered into a room or that stupid smirk. The git was attractive, and he knew it, and you knew it, though you were trying desperately to tell your brain that you didn’t know it.

And then there was this whole business that he was the only person at this school that really knew about what you could do and wasn’t treating you like a leper because of it. In fact, he seemed to be actively seeking you out, or at least, was willing to sit across the wall from you and let you talk late at night, even if he had been astoundingly bad at it. And, of course, it also helped that he was blissfully quiet; the quietest person you had ever met, in fact. You didn’t have to work to not hear him, and that meant his presence was almost as good as being alone.

It was felt too soon when the students began arriving back, the evening before term was about to start. Once you heard the inevitable sounds of people arriving in the Great Hall, you decided that it was time to go walking in less explored parts of the castle, determined to put off being around crowds for as long as you possibly could.

The holiday decorations were still up – they would slowly be taken down over the next few weeks – and you simply walked along the deserted corridors, enjoying the garland and holly and the colors, until you heard footsteps behind you. Immediately, you recognized that they were loud.

Not the footsteps. No, it was the mind that was loud. They were one of those people that you had to actively work to block, even alone. Slowly turning, you found that it was some boy you didn’t quite know; a 7th year, perhaps, though you weren’t certain. He was huge and lumbering and he wasn’t walking entirely straight, and you realized with a jolt that he was must have been tipsy.

“Well, hello there,” he said, grinning widely and sauntering toward you.

“You shouldn’t be drinking, you know,” you told him. “I’m a prefect, and I don’t want to have to report you.”

He just laughed, condescendingly. “Lighten up, honey. It’s Christmas.”

“Christmas is over,” you said, coldly. The closer he came, the more uncomfortable you got.

“Aw, but look, honey, there’s still mistletoe.” He pointed above your head with a smirk. Horrified, you looked up to see that indeed, you were standing directly under a batch of the stuff. Pointedly, you stepped out from underneath it, still eyeing the boy with great distrust.

He chuckled. “You were under it, so you gotta…we gotta kiss, honey. That’s just how the rules are.”

You pulled out your wand and pointed it at him, directly at his heart. “We absolutely do not have to kiss. Don’t come any closer, and stop calling me honey.”

Laughing a little, he took a few paces forward again with an exaggerated fake pout. “But you’re so cute,” he slurred, and though he was still far enough away that he wouldn’t reach you yet, he held out his arms. Still, this was too much for you. You immediately sent a powerful Tripping Jinx his way, causing him to stumble on and crash to the floor loudly, with a pained grunt.

You couldn’t help but laugh loudly at his fall, but then his head shot up with pure anger twisting his features, and his thoughts suddenly became one thousand times louder – a scream in your head  – as he scrambled to his feet. You couldn’t hear anything else, couldn’t concentrate on anything else.

…stupid bitch! Thinks it’s funny, I’ll show her funny, I’ll take the bloody kiss if I want, maybe plenty of them, too…

Waving your wand quickly again, you tried desperately to conjure your magic. But just as in class, when there were too many people around you, your concentration was gone. All of your energy was sucked up by his thoughts, his horrible, violent thoughts rattling loudly in your brain, and though you waved your wand, nothing came out. You let out a choked sort of cry, utterly panicked now, and decided that perhaps it would be better to run; you hadn’t gotten far, however, before his hand caught your forearm. You let out a little squeak of pain – he was gripping so tightly that tears were springing to your eyes.

“Let go!” you pleaded, twisting violently to try and rip yourself free.

…quite fun, this is, watching her squirm, probably be best to put some sort of Silencing Charm on her…

Your heart was hammering painfully in your chest, your breath coming in terrified wheezes, and you felt more tears in your eyes; you opened your mouth to let out a loud, bloodcurdling scream before he could do precisely what he had just been thinking about. But before you could do so, a jet of red light blazed over from your right, hitting the boy square in the face, sending him flying, crumpling to the floor and rendering him unconscious.

You spun quickly – Draco Malfoy was standing just a few feet away, wand still pointed at the boy and an extremely hard look on his face. But then he straightened up, tucked his wand in his pocket, and looked at you.

Completely overwhelmed by the still lingering sense of buzzing panic in your brain which was now mixing with powerful relief, you ran over and, without even thinking twice about it, you threw your arms around his neck, hugging him tightly and letting a frightened few tears slide over your cheeks. He stiffened for a moment but then seemed to relax a little, wrapping his arms slowly and cautiously around you before giving you a few awkward pats on the back.

After a few moments, when you realized what you were doing – which was hugging Draco fucking Malfoy and crying at him for the second time – you quickly stepped back, glancing up at him uncertainly. To your surprise, his eyes were rather warm, though you noted that his jaw was still clenched tightly.

You stared. Warm was not a word you would ever use to describe him, and yet here he was, looking it.

“I’m not helpless, you know,” you blurted out suddenly. “I got him with a Tripping Jinx, before.”

He actually grinned at that, which only made you stare further. He had never smiled before either. At least, not a smile that wasn’t a smirk or a partial sneer. No, this smile was genuine, and it lit up his entire face. He looked even nicer when he smiled. “I did see that,” he answered, and though his voice was light and casual, he took your upper arm and began quickly steering you away from the corridor. “Why did it go so badly after that?”

You shuddered a little, remembering the boy’s voice practically bellowing threats in your head. “His thoughts were very…distracting.”

You peeked cautiously up at him, still feeling strange talking about hearing other’s thoughts with him, half expecting that face of fear and uncertainty that you had seen on others, half expecting him to drop your arm and flee. He does none of those things. He doesn’t press further, either, but perhaps he can guess what, exactly, you meant by distracting, because you see his eyes flash dangerously before he can seem to neutralize them properly.

And for a second – you guess it’s because he’s touching you, and because it had been particularly powerful – you get a glimpse from his head. Not a thought. Not anything concrete. Just a wave of a feeling.

Fury.

But it’s only for half a second, and then it is gone. When he speaks his voice is still calm. His signature drawl. “Is that why you’re so atrocious in class?”

You bristled. “Well, don’t lay on the compliments too thick,” you mumbled, and his mouth twitched at the reminder of what he had said to you before break. You sighed. “But yes. Pretty much.” You took the moment walking along beside him to study him, really study him, and what you saw worried you. The bags under his eyes were even darker than they had been before break, and his eyes were rather bloodshot. “Are you okay?” you whispered, unable to keep yourself from asking, and he looked over, surprised.

“Aren’t you the one who almost just got assaulted?”

“I know, but…” You pursed your lips. “Your break. Was it…okay?”

He just shrugged. You wished you would get another hint of his emotions again, because his face was so carefully blank, but you weren’t about to try and poke for it. That would be rude, especially after what he had just done for you, and besides, he would know. So instead, you asked, in a small voice, “Did he…hurt you?”

“It wasn’t so bad.” His face was still expressionless, as was his voice, but it didn’t matter. Something about the careful, halted way that he had said it told you that he was lying, and that it had been very bad indeed. Your stomach twisted, and your heart expanded, and suddenly you had stopped in your tracks and had turned and were hugging him tightly again. He was tense again, clearly uncomfortable with the intimate contact, but he didn’t push you away or make a scathing remark, so you supposed he was at least accepting of it. His arms even wrapped around you again, lightly reciprocating the contact, and you found yourself inhaling whatever scent was on his chest. Some sort of expensive cologne, surely. Whatever it was, it was good. Too good. “I’m so sorry,” you whispered, voice slightly muffled against his chest. “Can I…help you? Somehow?”

His bitter laugh rumbled through his chest. “Just don’t ask too many questions.”

You deflated a little and stepped back quickly from the hug. “Oh. Well, okay. I…guess I can do that.”

“I should go,” he said, quietly.

“Right. Um. Thank you. You know, for…”

He grimaced. “Anytime. Report him, okay?”

And then he was gone, walking away down the corridor, and you were left wondering how in the world you were supposed to stop thinking about Draco Malfoy now that he had gone and done something so damn decent.

Chapter Text

Fucking Slughorn.

Draco wanted to launch himself across his desk and strangle him with his bare hands. Fuck his wand.

As if it wasn’t enough that his classes were a complete and utter waste of his fucking time, time that he could be using to plot, Slughorn also had to go and assign them a large and difficult Potions project to do outside of class.

“You will be brewing Veritaserum,” the Potions professor said, bouncing jovially on his feet. “Slightly above level, I know, but it will be good practice and I’m confident you all can pull it off.” He smiled around at the 6th year N.E.W.T level Potions students, and continued, “Remember that Veritaserum takes a full lunar cycle to complete, so this is a long-term homework project for outside of class. You will be working with partners…” Immediately, there was a sort of scramble as people already began to inch toward each other, but Slughorn continued, with a bit of a smile, “…that I will be choosing.”

There was a collective groan around the classroom, which Slughorn chose to ignore. Draco felt again the urge to throttle the man, more violently this time.

“Mr. Malfoy,” said Slughorn, when he came to his table and Malfoy gave him a sort of grimace, “You’ll be with…Miss Y/L/N.”

Draco’s chest did something very strange at these words. On the one hand, it felt strangely airless and light, and he was nearly giddy. On the other, he felt an uncomfortable sort of squirm in his stomach. He just nodded curtly, accepting the piece of paper that Slughorn gave them with the time tables that they would be allowed to come and work on their potion, and stared blankly at the desk for a few moments before chancing a glance over at her. She wasn’t looking at him, but instead was twisting the paper nervously in her hands, frowning.

It took Draco a moment to realize that Slughorn had dismissed the class. He was planning on going straight up to the Cabinet today; he had to work especially hard considering that Slughorn had never sent that bottle of poisoned mead to Dumbledore for Christmas, the old fucking idiot.

At least he was making progress on the Cabinet, if only marginal. He could get inanimate objects through it unscathed now.

“Um,” he heard a small voice say from beside him, and he looked up to see her standing uncertainly by his desk, still twisting the paper a little. “So, I…guess I’ll see you tomorrow evening?”

He just nodded, and indeed, despite the fact that there were far better things that he could be doing, he made his way down to the dungeons with a slight scowl the next night, entering the Potions classroom to see that she was already there, looking very pretty in a yellow jumper and her hair in a messy sort of up-do. Draco had another sudden vision of the night he had stumbled across her in the Prefect’s bathroom. He swallowed hard again, hovering in the doorway.

She also looked distinctly nervous. “Hi,” she said, finally, clearing her throat.

Sweeping forward with a mere nod, he joined you at the table, throwing his bag roughly on the chair with a sigh.

“So,” she said, brushing some strands of hair behind her ears rather impatiently, which only served to make his mouth rather dry and wish he hadn’t been looking, “It says here we have to cut the fairy wings into small, fine pieces, and since that will take the longest it’s probably best we start there…”

He just nodded again, unpacking his potions knives and setting to work, barely glancing at her. He didn’t trust himself to do so, and it was probably better if they didn’t talk, anyway. And it was silent for a while, but then, after about twenty minutes of chopping ingredients in silence, she spoke up, a bit of a tremor in her voice. “Erm…Malfoy? Can I…ask you something?”

The tone of her voice alerted him that this may be a question that he wouldn’t like. “What?” he asked, gruffly, unsure if this new, rather uncertain Y/N was better than the previous, more combative and distrusting one.

“How can you block me so well? I’ve never met anyone that could do it like that,” she confessed in a mumble, and when he glanced over he saw that her eyes were down on the Potions ingredients and that her cheeks were rather flushed. It couldn’t have been more obvious that she had been wanting to ask this for a long, long time.“You must be very good if you can block me,” she finished hastily.

“Not very humble, are you?” he drawled, though there was a teasing lilt to it rather than a cruel one. He smirked at her, but mostly to hide the fact that her compliment had made his chest flutter.

She looked up. “It’s not bragging,” she said, a little defensively. “It’s just true. And it’s not like a – a skill or a talent that I worked at. Just some…thing that I can do and always could do and that I don’t really want.” And she looked so morose and sad that he clenched his jaw and answered the question.

“I’ve been practicing Occulumency pretty heavily since the summer.” He arched an eyebrow at her. “Also got a bit of a natural talent for it. Why haven’t you tried it, anyway? Could help you get some quiet.” He shook his head, remembering the buzzing he had heard and felt in her memories.

Merlin, it’s a miracle she isn’t fucking insane.

“I read about it, but I wasn’t any good,” she mumbled, looking away again and another blush tinging her cheeks.

It was delightful, really. But he quickly set his thoughts on other avenues. She had only just stopped appearing in his dreams, and it was better that way. He did not really want her to make a reappearance, not when he was going to have to start seeing her at least once a week, alone, for this fucking project.

He just chuckled. “Yeah, I can imagine.”

Her fire was suddenly back, for she looked up quickly, eyes narrowed. “What does that mean?”

“You’re too emotional,” he said, smirking, as if it were obvious.

She gaped at him. “I’m…you don’t know that!” she sputtered, clearly furious. He just raised an amused eyebrow and gave her a pointed look, and immediately she struggled to compose her face. “I’m perfectly unemotional,” she said, stiffly, in an attempt to be calm and composed while she was so very obviously still angry, and he couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the weak attempt.

“Uh huh,” was all he said sardonically, shaking his head and crushing a Boomslang Skin with his knife.

“I could learn it,” she insisted, though she looked like she was imploring him to agree with her rather than actually believing the words herself.

“You can’t feel when you do it,” he told her. “You have to learn to be empty. You have to compartmentalize.”

“Compartmentalize,” she repeated, mulling his words over. It was silent for another full ten minutes, and whenever he peeked at her she seemed to be deep in concentration. And then she finally spoke again, saying something that took him completely by surprise.

“Can you teach me?”

He actually set down his knife, slowly, before turning to stare at her. “You really think I have time for that?”

“What, you have something else that you’re doing?”

“Yes,” he snapped, gesturing forward with the arm that contained his Dark Mark, and that shut her up immediately. She was still staring at his sleeve warily when he spoke again. “Even going to classes and doing this fucking assignment is cutting into my very valuable time, so –”

“Well, if you don’t help me, I’ll tell Professor Dumbledore you’re a Death Eater and that you’re…up to something.”

He stiffened, glaring at her, but she held his gaze. “You’re bluffing.”

She just crossed her arms resolutely. “If you’re that confident, then try me.”

For a second – a second of complete and utter madness – he had the urge to laugh. She was manipulating him into helping her. This was such a Slytherin move that he was almost proud. Almost. But mostly, he was just furious. “Fine,” he hissed, sneering at her. “But we meet once a week only.”

“Twice.”

“Once, and that’s it.”

She let out a frustrated exhale. “Fine. What day?”

“Fridays. Seven o’clock. One hour only.”

She smiled a little. “Good. Okay.”

He narrowed his eyes suspiciously at her. “You’re so friendly all the sudden. Why?”

“I’m not friendly,” she said, with a huff. “But it’s…I can’t very well hate you. After…everything.”

Yes. Everything. Seeing and feeling some of his darkest memories and after him seeing hers. After he had swooped in to stop that guy from…who knows what. Something awful, surely. She had hugged him twice that day, and he still remembered the feel of her against him.

“Besides,” she said, “Now you can help me, even if you won’t let me help you.”

“Technically I’m being coerced, but whatever,” he muttered, but he couldn’t put any real venom in the words.


You hated to admit it, but you were nervous.

Sitting in the empty classroom on Friday evening, twisting your hands in your lap, you had all the time in the world to think about what was coming. A private Occulumency lesson with Draco Malfoy.

This year was insane.

You didn’t like the way that your eyes looked for him now during meals. Or in the classrooms. You didn’t like that you checked to see if the circles under his eyes had gotten darker or more pronounced, if he had gotten thinner, or if he looked exhausted, as he so often looked these days. You didn’t like that he had brushed off your offer of help, and that you didn’t know what, exactly, that Dark Mark on his arm meant that he had to do, but it was obvious to you – even knowing him as little as you did – that he did not want to do it, and that it was costing him huge amounts of stress and his health to do so.

Just a few lessons, you thought to yourself, feeling rather guilty. Then I’ll relieve him from helping me…

If you were honest, though, you also wanted to spend time with him, and you didn’t like that either.

It was stupid, really. But your relationship with him had changed; there had been a subtle shift, since that day after Christmas break, and it was quite possible that you were almost…friends. Or something similar. You knew now, at least, that he wouldn’t hurt you physically; you even knew that he would go so far as to stop others from hurting you, that he had been angry at the idea of someone hurting you, and that he had even come and sat marginally close to you while you were crying and hadn’t been cruel about it. At least, not on purpose. You had never had a friend before; not one that lasted long, anyway, and especially not one that lasted after finding out you could take a dip into their thoughts at will. And, well, again – you knew it was stupid, but you couldn’t help it. You wanted a friend. You couldn’t help wanting to draw closer to him anyway.

“Y/N,” drawled a familiar voice from the doorway, and your heart did a strange little squeeze. Part of you had feared that he wasn’t going to show up, but he was here.

You looked up. “Draco,” you greeted, as he casually strolled into the room. “So we’re on first name terms now?”

He just smirked, taking a seat on top of the desk beside you and peering down at you, eyes glittering. “Makes sense, doesn’t it? I’ll at least be getting to know you very well, after all.”

“Wh-what?” you stuttered, a little taken aback by the sudden tease in his tone.

Clearly, this was what he had been hoping for, because he gave you a slow, sardonic smile. “Didn’t you know? I have to dig around in your head so you have something to block. Obviously.” He tilted his head, relishing in your obvious discomfort. “What is it? You’re not thinking of backing out, are you?” His eyes glittered again, with a hint of a challenge in them this time.

You tilted your chin up defiantly. “Of course not.”

He just smirked. “Good.” He got to his feet, rolling up his sleeves and pulling out his wand. You just sat, staring at him, waiting for instructions. He smirked yet again, even wider this time. “Stand up, then.”

You rushed to comply, still watching him uncertainly, eyes now trained on his wand and standing a few feet across from him. You could see the very slightest hint – only a tiny little edge, really – of a black mark on his right forearm, and for a second, you couldn’t breathe at thinking about that horrid Mark etched on his skin. He had caught you looking, though, and he got a sour look on his face. “Are you afraid of me?” he asked, his face twisted in a familiar sneer.

“No,” you answered, nearly in a whisper.

“You’re lying,” he said, quietly. “But use it then. You’re not supposed to feel it, remember? Clear your mind. Empty it of everything. Thoughts, emotions, everything.”

“How?” you asked, confused and heart pounding. “Is there a trick, or – ?”

“No trick,” he said, laughing softly. “Just practice.”

And then, without warning, he raised his wand and pointed it at you, and said, “Legilimens!”

Immediately you were submerged in one of those many days that they had taken you to a Healer, and your parents were beside you, your father gripping your hand and looking strained and your mother arguing passionately with the Healer sitting across from them. “Are you sure there’s nothing that can be done? This is a debilitating condition, and it’s causing massive strain on the family – on her social life –”

It’s rare, but not unheard of, Mrs. Y/L/N,” said the Healer, a little uncomfortably. “There have been a few documented cases of this, erm…throughout history.”

Only a few throughout history?” Your mother shrieked, and you held tighter to your father’s hand, feeling the strongest urge to cry. “Why does she have this – this curse? What could have caused it?”

It’s just something that happens at birth,” said the Healer, quietly, patiently, but his eyes flicked to you and you saw it there, what you always saw from the Healers. Pity. His voice was very kind when he spoke again. “However, one could call it a gift, not a curse. Most people can’t even reach the point where they can perform Legilimens without a wand, even after years of practice – it is natural for your daughter, effortless –”

She hears voices in her head,” your father cut in, stubbornly. “That is not a gift.”

She can learn to manage it better,” replied the Healer with confidence. “We can begin with a therapy…”

The scene changed, swirled and faded, until a new one appeared.

This time you were outside your parents’ door frame, hearing them argue, and the guilt and shame at hearing the conversation they were having was so overwhelming, so stifling, that it choked you…

…can’t have another child, you know that! What if they turn out like that too…?”

You were able to get your wits about you to gasp loudly, “Protego!”, and you vaguely saw a flash of light, and a figure stumbling backward a little, and then the scene was gone, and you were lying on the floor of the empty classroom feeling violently ill and with wet cheeks. Hands pulled you up to a standing position; you wobbled a little, but were able to keep your feet. And then, suddenly, you felt thumbs moving across your cheekbones, and when you jolted back into full reality you noted that you were crying, and that Draco Malfoy was standing in front of you, wiping the tears away with a very serious expression on his face.

Why was it that you always had to cry like a weakling in front of him?

Jerking away, you turned your back and suddenly doubled over, placing your hands on your knees.

“Are you going to be sick?” he asked from behind you, sounding very uncertain.

“No,” you said, fiercely, even though you weren’t so sure.

“It’s normal to feel that way,” he told you carefully. “It will pass…”

Sure enough, after a few moments of deep breathing, it did, and you were able to stand again. Turning with your face set, you nodded at him resolutely. “Again.”

He looked very unsure, but you fixed him with such a hard glare that he didn’t deny your request. You tried anxiously to clear your mind, to empty it completely, to think of nothing….

Legilimens!”

Again you were elsewhere; and this one was more recent.

The Hogwarts corridor, and the boy was reaching for you under the mistletoe; your head was blissfully clear, and you shot the Tripping Jinx at him, and laughed. And then you saw his eyes, felt the same stab of fear, and then his voice was in your head, saying those awful, awful things, and the panic clogged you – you tried to run, but weren’t fast enough, heard his plans, wanted to scream, to cry for help, and then the flash of red light blinded you all over again…and the relief upon seeing Draco Malfoy was so immediate and powerful that you swayed, nearly fell over, and then you ran and launched yourself on him – to safety – with a little gasp, shaking and crying…

This time, you couldn’t even get him out.

But somehow the memory stopped, and as soon as it had, you sprinted over to the garbage and threw up. And then you vanished it with your wand and sat there, trembling from head to foot after reliving that experience all over again and having your head poked around in.

Draco hadn’t made a sound from where he was standing behind you. A sudden, awful, and rather humiliating thought occurred to you. “Could you hear him?” you mumbled, miserably. “Did you feel it like I did?”

“Everything,” he spat, and something about his voice made you turn around.

He was standing in the middle of the room, slack-jawed, his wand hanging limply at his side and staring hard at you with eyes that were burning with displeasure and anger. And again, you felt a wave of emotion from him. Your defenses were down, and his seemed to be as well, for you felt the anger even stronger this time, and you even heard the smallest string of his consciousness.

…that sick fucking bastard, I ought to…

“Stop,” you gasped, holding up your hands and shaking your head frantically, because having the emotional overload from him right now was too much, was making you sicker, even though it was still nothing short of astounding to really hear his consciousness for the first time. “Please, I can’t…I can’t right now, it’s…too much.” And despite the fact that you hadn’t explained yourself that well, he seemed to understand perfectly. Because in a few seconds the wall was back up, and you heard and felt nothing.

You slumped into the chair a little, determined not to cry, but thoroughly exhausted.

His footsteps crossed the floor, and when you opened your eyes, he was kneeling in front of you, but you stared down at his knees rather than look into his face.

“You’re not afraid of me.” He sounded like he was marveling at it, and you peeked up at him. He was gazing at you very intently, and his eyes…well, they were doing something you had never seen before. They weren’t warm, but they weren’t cold.

They were just…intense.

You remembered the relief you had felt in your memory, how his arms had screamed safety and you had instinctively jumped to him. And now he had felt it too. Your cheeks got warm.

“I told you,” you muttered, looking back down at his shoes.

“You were, though. Before,” he said, sounding like he was searching for an answer without asking a question.

“I didn’t know you,” you said, honestly. “By now you’ve had plenty of opportunity to hurt me and you haven’t. And really, I don’t think you could hurt anyone.”

His eyes got a little darker. “That’s not true. I’ve hurt people.”

“Not…punches or – or hexes, or things like that,” you clarified, rather desperately. “I mean really do serious damage. Kill or torture, or…or like that boy…”

He looked strained for a moment and then he shook his head, exasperated. “Stupid Hufflepuffs. Not everyone has a heart of gold underneath. I’ve tortured people. You do know that, right?”

“Not everyone,” you agreed. “But I don’t think you’re bad, Draco. Did you torture them because you wanted to?”

His gaze was impenetrable now. Carefully blank again. “No,” he said, finally.

“You see?” you encouraged. “You have a choice –”

“A choice?” he spat, standing suddenly, furiously, and running his fingers through his hair. “Are you serious? I do not have a choice! If I don’t do this, he’ll torture me and my mother, and kill us! Probably my father too, if he ever gets out of Azkaban.” His eyes were positively wild.

“Do what?” you whispered, heart thudding. “What do you have to do?”

“Stay out of it,” he snapped harshly. “It’s none of your business.” He waved a hand dismissively. “And we’re done for the night.”

“But it hasn’t been an hour!” you cried, indignantly.

“You’re pale, and you’re sick,” he replied, sharply. And then, after a longer pause, “Also, I have things to do.”

“Fine!” you snap, jumping to your feet.

And because you wanted to be the first to leave, you swept out the door without so much as another glance at him, hating that his refusal of your help and his unwillingness to share made you so positively livid and helpless.

Chapter Text

The following Friday, Draco was on his way to meet her again, feeling positively conflicted about it and hating that he did.

Really, it had been easier when he had just had the sexual dreams.

Now the dreams were back and the entire past week had been full of tense, loaded glances and reproachful looks on her part, and the time he had spent with her on the Veritaserum project earlier that week had been unbearably awkward after the argument the week before. He wasn’t sure what he hated most: the fact that she was throwing him these glances like he owed her something, like he was her fucking friend – or the fact that the look in her eyes always made him feel something, though what, exactly, he didn’t quite know.

And so right when he walked in the door and saw her waiting, sitting on a desk and swinging her legs a little but then looking up at the sound of his footsteps, he decided to set matters straight as soon as possible, before looking at her face would keep him from saying it. “We aren’t friends, you know,” he said, with a sneer.

A flash of hurt moved across her face, but she contained it quickly. “We’re not enemies, either,” she pointed out slowly.

That Draco couldn’t deny, so he just swept forward, rolling up his sleeves a little, but he was careful to keep his Mark completely covered this time. He hated the look in her eyes when she caught glimpses of it.

“I’ve been practicing,” she told him. “Throughout the week. Trying to be unemotional. I think I’ve been better.”

He raised his wand. “Ready to find out?”

She jumped down from the desk and faced him, standing tall and resolute. She nodded, and he immediately said, “Legilimens!”

He was instantly submerged in one of her memories, seeing it from her eyes. Outside, under a tree. A boy, standing in front of her, and he was leaning toward her, putting his hand on her face, closing his eyes…

NO!”

He felt the force of her pushing him out, and he stumbled, surprised.

She had never gotten him out so quickly before; she really must have been practicing. There was something else next to the surprise too. It was gnawing at his stomach, an irritated sort of stabbing sensation that was making him grip his wand so tightly that his knuckles were turning white.

“Some things are also none of your business,” she hissed suddenly, and he looked into her face to see that she was glaring at him furiously.

The gnawing, stabbing sensation in his gut increased but he did his best to ignore it. “I’m not trying to peek in on your snogging sessions,” he spat back, unable to keep from contorting his face with the anger that he felt so strongly, so…irrationally. “And you’re supposed to be blocking me!”

“I’m trying!” she answered heatedly, fists clenching.

“As if I would want to see that anyway,” he continued in his most disdainful voice, scoffing. “That wasn’t at Hogwarts. Muggle, was it?” The look on her face confirmed the answer, though she said nothing. She just kept watching him angrily, but his stomach took another painful blow at the confirmation he saw there. “Oh, lovely,” he drawled, with a horrible sneer. “Slumming it with the Muggles, are you?”

“Shut your mouth.” Her voice was quiet, but deadly.

“Didn’t think you were into bestiality – ”

“Malfoy, I’m warning you – ”

“If that’s the only boyfriend you could find, that’s truly pathetic – ”

She drew her wand before he could blink and set a spell at him, straight to the chest. It made him double over, wheezing, feeling like he had the air knocked out of him. Whatever she had hit him with, it was powerful.

“You’re the pathetic one,” she growled, and her voice was teeming with fury. When he finally got his wits about him to look up, he saw that her body was shaking. “I don’t know why I spend time with you.”

“I’m riling you up,” he lied smoothly, though he had no idea why he was doing it or where it had even come from. “You’re not supposed to feel, remember? You have to not be angry, no matter what I say…”

“So you don’t believe that, then? About Muggles?” Her face was hard.

There was a long pause.

“I didn’t say that,” he muttered finally, looking away.

A scene from Christmas break flashed through his mind.

A Muggle woman that one of the Death Eaters had brought over. His mother, pale as a sheet, had tried to insist that they take her out of the house, that they shouldn’t have her here, but they had only laughed in her face. They had called Draco in, made them watch as they tortured her, made him listen to her scream; they only laughed, and jeered, and she had sobbed, and Draco had felt sick. He had fled the room, tears in his eyes, and he had taken refuge in the bathroom, throwing up for what felt like hours, crying…

His chest suddenly tightened with a guilt that he had never known before.

“You don’t believe it though, do you?” she asked, watching him carefully, and momentarily he wondered what, exactly, she had seen on his face. “You don’t think they’re animals. Not anymore.”

“For fuck’s sake –”

“Answer me, Malfoy. Draco. Tell me. Do you like seeing Muggles hurt? Do you want it to constantly happen? Do you want to personally hurt them?”

“I don’t want to have to hide because of them,” he said angrily. “They’re clearly inferior, and I don’t want them to – to control us…”

“That’s not what I asked.”

He closed his eyes for a second, hearing the woman’s screams. “No,” he answered finally, in a very hard voice while glaring at the ground.

She was silent for so long that he finally peeked up at her. The look on her face made his insides writhe. It was a mixture of pity and softness, and it made him so uncomfortable that he scowled and turned his back on her, pacing away.

“You’re changing,” she said, gentleness and intrigue wrapped in her voice.

He whirled around to give her a scathing look. “How would you know? What did I tell you about us not being friends?”

She just sighed, looking rather exasperated now rather than angry. And her eyes were sad. “And the worst part is that you act like it’s such a bad thing,” she commented quietly, shaking her head, but then she walked over to stand in front of him again. “Go on, then. The hour isn’t over, Malfoy. Keep going.”

Anything was better than the conversation they were currently having.

So he complied, raising his wand.

Chapter Text

Malfoy had yet to show up for the Potion making session on the following Tuesday night, despite it being ten minutes past the hour. You hadn’t seen him over the weekend, either, around the castle, and right now you were partly worried and partly irritated that he still wasn’t here.

He finally arrived another five minutes later. You turned, rigidly, to glare at him and lecture him about his tardiness. Your remarks, however, died in your throat when you took in his appearance.

He looked awful.

His eyes were bloodshot and his usually pristine hair was unkempt and tousled. His pale skin had taken on a sort of ashen hue, and his eyes looked so, so tired.

If you had to guess, you would say that he hadn’t gotten any sleep over the weekend – come to think of it, you hadn’t seen him on Monday either. You just stared, mouth hanging slightly open, until you realized you would have to say something. He was just standing in the doorway, looking at you with a rather dead expression on his face.

“Malfoy,” you gasped, feeling your heart clench uncomfortably. “What happened to you? Are you all right?”

He just walked forward and slumped into the seat beside you. “Tired,” he mumbled.

You frowned. “Did you try a Sleeping Potion?”

He rolled his eyes with a scoff, but it was a ghost of his usual one. “Obviously. They don’t work anymore.”

You bit your lip. Asking too many questions meant that he usually pushed away harder, but something seemed to be seriously wrong. You noted the vague shake in his hands and wondered just how much Sleeping Potion he had taken that year for it to stop being effective. “How much have you been taking?” you asked slowly.

He just shrugged, which irritated you. “That could be dangerous!” you said, shrilly.

This, for some reason, made him laugh. But it wasn’t a normal laugh. It sounded sardonic and a little desperate. “Dangerous. Right.”

“Go to bed, Malfoy,” you said firmly. “I’ll handle this alone tonight.” You gestured to the simmering potion.

He looked over then, his exhausted gray eyes searching yours out and holding your gaze steadily. “No. I can’t sleep.”

“Why not?”

He shuddered. It was so tiny and minuscule that you barely saw it, but you had. Your chest squeezed again. Immediately, without thinking, you had reached out to place your hand on his arm, comfortingly, but he jumped and shifted away when you did so. Stung, you slowly withdrew your hand and stiffly turned back to the Potion, where you were chopping Billywig wings and stirring counterclockwise seven times every three minutes.

It was silent for a long time before he spoke again, in a low, rough sort of voice you had never heard him use before.

“Is that Muggle your boyfriend?”

You tensed. If he was trying to poke another fight with you about Muggles, you weren’t going to rise to his bait. Instead you went back to cutting the wings, slowly, methodically. “Only friends can ask me personal questions,” you answered calmly. You heard him let out a sharp, frustrated exhale, but you didn’t look up.

“And what if I said we were friends?” he pressed finally.

Though your traitorous heart sped up hopefully, you continued cutting as if he hadn’t said anything of importance to you. “Then I would say you have a real funny way of showing it.”

He cursed under his breath. “Then how do you want me to show it?”

You set the knife down and turned to face him, rather incredulously. He was turned toward you already, studying you carefully. “You could start by not insulting me or my family,” you said slowly. “And not be sarcastic or – or pull away whenever I ask you a question about yourself or express interest in helping you.”

“I already told you that you can’t help,” he said irritably. “I can’t tell you what I…it’s not something you need to know. And it’s better if you don’t, anyway.”

“Then why don’t you start by telling me why you can’t sleep,” you suggested. “You’re doing things that are terribly unhealthy, Draco…”

“Back to Draco, are we?” he drawled, and you saw his mouth twitch when you looked at him in shock. When you raised an eyebrow at him, however, he just sighed, and muttered irritably, “I have nightmares, okay?”

You felt the overwhelming urge to touch him again, but resisted. “About what?” you only asked, softly.

“Lots of things,” he mumbled, not looking at you. “Mostly things that happened over the summer, or…or over Christmas break.” His voice became suddenly hard. “I don’t want to go into detail.”

“Okay,” you said carefully, biting your lip. “Can I…help you? Somehow?”

“Haven’t I told you –” he began waspishly, voice dripping with sarcasm, but then he saw the look on your face and closed his mouth quickly before saying slowly and carefully, “I mean…not really.”

You closed your eyes for a moment and swallowed hard to brace yourself for the inevitable rejection. But you had to ask anyway, just in case he would allow it. Steeling all your courage, you looked up into his eyes and held them steadily with yours. “Can I hug you then?”

He blanched momentarily before smoothing his face into an unreadable expression.

And then, slowly, his mouth turned upward at the corners, in a teasing sort of smile that momentarily made his tired features look more awake and made your cheeks heat up uncomfortably. “What?” you asked, nervously. “What are you smiling at?”

“You like hugging me,” he said simply. He was grinning now.

“I’m offering comfort, you pompous arse!”

And you like hugging me,” he pointed out, still with that taunting little smile that made you want to either smack him, or…or you weren’t sure what. “Or are you forgetting I was in your head?” It seemed to amuse him even more, using your own words against you, and you just gaped at him. “Are you forgetting that I could feel that you don’t hug people often, even though you’d like to, and it felt safe to you, and that you thought I smelled good – ”

“That’s enough. Occulumency lessons are over,” you growled, turning away and beginning to aggressively cut the Billywig wings again with flaming cheeks, trying not to hear his quiet snickers.

To your consternation, however, he scooted his chair closer to yours, until he was only inches away. Positively flustered, you froze your movements and felt your entire body tense up yet again, but you didn’t look up.

“I’ll hug you if you answer my question,” he said finally, softly.

You forgot your discomfort in your irritation, and you whipped around to face him, glaring. “You can’t hold hugs for ransom! That’s not how friendship works!”

“Well, this isn’t some sunshine and rainbows Hufflepuff friendship, it’s one with me,” he drawled, looking positively delighted at your outburst rather than offended. “So that’s what I’m offering. Take it or leave it.”

“The hug was meant for you,” you said. “You’re not offering me anything here.”

He sighed, dramatically. “You’re impossible, and I know you’re lying. But fine. What do you want, then?”

You thought a moment. “I want you to let me in. Just for a few minutes.”

For the second time that evening, he blanched. “No. Absolutely not.”

“But –”

“Off the table,” he growled. “And don’t even think about trying it.”

“Fine,” you huffed, crossing your arms and looking away with a bit of a pout, feeling the bitter sting of a twofold rejection.

To your absolute and utter shock, however, he scooted forward and before you had properly realized what was happening, he had wrapped his arms around you, pulled you easily into his chest, and placed his head on top of yours so that you fit right under his neck, at the top of his chest.

Oh.

When he wanted to be, Draco Malfoy really was a nice hugger. And damn it if he still didn’t smell extremely good, even as disheveled and exhausted as he was. Tentatively, you snaked your arms around him and clasped them behind his back, unable to resist letting out a little sigh of contentment.


Body contact made it nearly impossible to block others, and you had resisted it most of your life. Touch deprived, the Healers had sometimes called it. But no amount of therapy could get you to hug people when you could hear them so loudly. But as you already knew from previous experience, hugging Draco Malfoy was still completely and blissfully silent.

“That question?” he murmured into your ear.

“Which one?” Your voice was muffled by his shirt.

“That Muggle,” he said, impatiently.

You pulled away to look up at him suspiciously. “Are you asking because you’re going to say some idiotic anti-Muggle garbage and make fun of me, or because you’re genuinely curious?”

He rolled his eyes. “The second one.”

“Then no,” you said simply, turning back to the potion and sincerely hoping that you hadn’t missed a stir. You didn’t think you had hugged him for three whole minutes, but you couldn’t be sure. Time had passed rather strangely when you were in his arms. “He is not my boyfriend.”

“Do you fancy him, then?” he pressed.

“Not anymore,” you said curtly.

“What happened?”

You turned back to him with a little puff of air that sent some of your hair flying out from your face and narrowed your eyes at him. He was merely watching you intently, with no sign that he was going to taunt or tease. So you sighed, rolled your eyes, and said, “I’m sure you can already guess. What do you think would happen if you could hear all the thoughts of a girl you’re seeing? Would that be fun for you?”

His mouth quirked up slightly at the sides. “Fair point.”

“Exactly.”

He leaned forward. “But what was he thinking that you didn’t like?”

“No more questions about this,” you said shortly. And then you looked over at him very suspiciously when he remained silent. “What do you care?”

“I don’t,” he said, shrugging, his face still blank and neutral, though you had looked away and didn’t see his triumphant little smile after.

Chapter Text

The following weeks were…strange, to say the least, but mostly good.

January moved rapidly into February, and you continued meeting Draco Malfoy twice a week: once for the Potions project on Tuesdays until it finished, and then once for Occulumency (despite what you had said about the lessons being over) on Fridays. Not only were you getting along during these times, but you were getting along quite well, when the topic didn’t stray too close to anything too personal or go into territory about what he did in his other free time, such as where he went when he wasn’t in class or at meals. You noticed when he skipped, or when he looked more tired than usual, but trying to ask him why or tell him to eat or go to class never ended well, so you had no choice but to worry from afar.

Still, he was so…interesting.

When he didn’t have a sneer on his face, you found he had a nice smile, and that he was actually funny and witty. Clever, too. He read a lot of books, and he liked history. He played the piano and spoke three languages. And, even better, you were seeing improvement in your Occulumency.

Part of this may have also been a desperate desire to keep him out of your private thoughts, because he was in them far, far too often. You did not want him to know that you sometimes stared at him in class, memorizing the features of his face or observing how sunlight coming in from the classroom window made his hair shine. You did not want him to know that when he smiled or laughed you tried to commit it to memory so you could replay it later, when you were lying awake at night and couldn’t sleep, or that anytime he was near you your heartbeat would increase and your stomach would fill with butterflies.

And so you practiced controlling your mind every single day, every minute that you could. You sat and counted slowly in your mind and tried to think of nothing else, and feel nothing else. And amazingly, you were already noticing an improvement when you came to meals or went to class – the buzzing of the students was already much, much quieter.

Once, for example, in Charms class - which you shared with the Slytherins - you found yourself desperately struggling with the task at hand. The stifled giggles you heard from a group behind you only served to make you more flustered. But it was then that you locked eyes with Draco across the room, and he raised an eyebrow and mouthed a reminder: No emotion.

You turned back to your task, closed your eyes for a few seconds, and emptied your mind as you always practiced. And to your absolute shock, things had gone so quiet in your head; and it was so blissful and wonderful that you did the spell easily. Pleased and surprised that you had done it so well around such a large group, you had looked back to him with a triumphant smile, and the corners of his mouth had turned up ever so slightly in congratulations before he looked away.

Yes, you were slowly finding out that Draco could actually be a decent friend to have, even if he could be a distant one and shut you out of his personal affairs.

It was on a Saturday late in February that you were wandering down to visit Myrtle again. It had been a while since you’d done so, but it was one of those evenings where you knew you wouldn’t be getting to bed until quite late. And so instead of going up to your four poster bed in your Prefect bedroom to lie there tossing and turning, you decided to pop in to the familiar second floor bathroom to visit the ghost. The lack of sleep itself was due to none other than Draco, who you couldn’t seem to stop thinking about, both because you were beginning to suspect that you liked him far too much (which was nothing short of terrifying), and because you feared for him and his strange, secret task and the Mark on his arm. And you were thinking that you may even be able to talk to Myrtle about this new…relationship. She would keep your secret, and besides, who else could you talk to?

But when you push open the door to the bathroom, quietly, you hear the undeniable sounds of quiet sobs and shaky, panicked breathing echoing off the walls, and before you can even see, you know who it is.

To save his pride, you could have turned around and left. But the sounds he was making were terrifying you so badly that it was never really an option. So, fully knowing that he may push you away further, you rush in, past the sinks and to the ledge by the window, and you stop dead for a moment when you see him.

He was sitting hunched over, face buried in his knees, his body shaking and his hands gripping his hair as he rocked back and forth, gasping for air. Myrtle was floating nearby, looking positively distraught and cooing anxiously, “Breathe in through the nose…slow breaths, like we always do…you can do it…”

Draco,” you finally choke out.

He stops rocking at the sound of your voice, body stiffening, but his breathing is so shallow now that he doesn’t seem able to even speak to you, so you take advantage of this and rush to his side, reaching out desperately with both hands to grasp at one of his arms. “Draco,” you said urgently. “It’s all right…look at me…”

But he doesn’t look up. His breathing is getting worse, shorter, quicker, and he’s rocking desperately again, and suddenly you’re fearful that something is really going to happen to him. “Please,” you pleaded, taking his face in your hands and pulling it up out of his knees. He’s pale, too pale, and there are tears streaming down his cheeks, his eyes wide and fearful and panicked.

“There,” you whisper, still clutching his face and forcing your own to remain calm so as not to scare him further despite the fact that your heart is clenching in your chest. You feel something floating at the edge of your mind, and you realize that in this situation, his mind is weaker, and that you could hear him easily if you chose. But you have a strange sense of control that allows you to ignore it completely.

His eyes are locked intently on yours now, and he’s still floundering for air. “It’s not good to fold over when you’re trying to breathe,” you continue, gently. “Now you’re straighter and you can breathe better. In through the nose, just like Myrtle said. Like this. See?” And you do it, breathe in slowly through the nose for him to imitate, fingers moving soothingly over his face as you did so. He just chokes, and for a moment your heart stops, because he doesn’t seem to be breathing at all. “Come on,” you whisper, brushing your fingers rather desperately through his hair.

He closes his eyes at the contact, and then he breathes in through the nose; it’s a rattling, shuddering breath, but it’s slower than the others. After a few minutes of this, with you and Myrtle both offering quiet encouragement, his breaths have returned to a more natural pace and you can relax.

Unable to resist the urge to offer physical comfort, you throw your arms around his shoulders and bury your face in his chest so that you’re both sitting on the ledge, wrapped up in a tight hug. You rub slow, steady circles on his back, and little by little, you feel his tense body begin to relax against yours and his heartbeat slow.

How long you sit clinging to each other like this, you don’t know. Myrtle has thrown you a significant look and floated away, and then you hear him sigh quietly, feel the rise and fall of it against your hands. Your heart sinks, and you prepare yourself for him to push away or whatever he’s likely to say – you shouldn’t be here, why are you here, go now, leave me be, Y/N – but to your surprise he moves his hands to your hair and begins to run his fingers through it slowly, carefully. You close your eyes at the pleasant sensation of his fingers grazing your scalp.

When he finally speaks, his voice is hoarse. “Can you…hear me?”

You had almost forgotten about that. To your surprise, you can’t hear a thing right now. Perhaps if you tried, you would be able to, but despite his emotional compromise, he’s silent again. Or perhaps you’re getting better at controlling it, even around a person that’s hurting. “No,” you whisper.

He lets out a slow breath. “Good.”

For some reason, this frightens you.

“Why? Is there something in particular that you don’t want me to –”

“Plenty of things,” he cut you off. He sounds so very tired.

“I’m getting better,” you tell him, leaning away to look at him for the first time with a small smile. “You were always easier, but I think I’m really getting better, even with others. Thanks to you.”

“You’re working hard,” he reminded you, with the ghost of an exhausted smile.

You touch his face again, cupping his cheek and biting your lip in concern. “I’m really, really worried about you.”

He closed his eyes again with a small sigh, and then he leaned his forehead against yours. “Don’t. There’s no point to that, Y/N. Nothing you can do.”

“I can’t just turn it off, Draco,” you said, a little miffed. You hesitated, and then asked, voice tentative, “Is it…going badly, then? Whatever you have to do?”

He opened his eyes to gaze at you, and they were positively haunted. “Yes,” he said finally, voice strangled.

Suddenly you stand, pulling him slowly to his feet with you. “I want to show you something,” you tell him with a hopeful smile, and then, taking him by the hand, you pull him purposefully from the bathroom.

Chapter Text

Draco doesn’t say or ask anything as you lead him carefully through the near silent castle. It must be well past midnight by now, so you keep your eyes and ears peeled for any teachers, for Filch, or for Mrs. Norris, but there are no obstacles or problems on your way to the place you wanted to show him.

When you reach the fourth floor, you take him to the familiar corridor. It is one of the lesser used corridors in the eastern end of the castle, and this one in particular has a dead end. Hanging at the very end of the left wall is a blue tapestry with a witch on it, and she’s wearing a dress covered in jewels and a crown on her head. You just glanced at him once before stepping forward and tapping three times with your wand, right on the woman’s heart. The tapestry flutters, and you can push it open now; still holding his hand, you pulled him inside.

It’s filled with so many things – stacks of books, unfinished drawings, notebooks, various plants. The walls have posters or pictures, and there’s even a little nest of blankets and a pillow in one corner near a tiny little window, where you would often snuggled up to read. You were slightly embarrassed by the mess, but there was nothing to do about it now.

So you just dropped his hand and turned to face him, smiling a little shyly. “This is…kind of my special place,” you explained, as his eyes zoom around the little area, lingering on every item with a distinct interest. “When I was younger, I was even worse with…being around others. And before I was a prefect, I only had the shared dorms, so I never got any quiet. But I found this tapestry one day in second year, with this alcove behind it, and, well…I enchanted it so only I could get in. So it could be mine. A place just for me to…come and get away.”

He had stopped looking around the little makeshift room and was watching you very carefully, face partially bathed in shadow, but an intense light in his eyes.

“And, well…” you continued, feeling suddenly even more shy and looking down at your feet. “It’s yours now too. If…if you ever wanted to use it.”

And suddenly, a pair of arms is wrapped around you, squeezing you tightly and lifting you off your feet, spinning you around once before putting you down, but still not releasing you.

“Can’t breathe, Draco!” you gasped out, but you can’t help laughing a little, and he chuckled too, letting you go and taking a step back while gazing at you with something very much like affection on his face. Your throat suddenly goes dry, and it’s probably right then that you realize just how utterly and hopelessly fucked you are when it came to Draco Malfoy.

“You’re brilliant,” he said seriously, and his eyes move around the room again. “Truly. You did that in second year?”

“Yes,” you said, face warming at his compliment. “I’m actually quite good at magic when I can concentrate.” He was examining a stack of your books now. “You can take any one of those,” you told him kindly. “I’ve already read them all. I haven’t been up here in a while now, actually.”

He plucked the top book from the stack with nimble fingers and glanced at the title. “Persuasion,” he read out, and then turned to look at you. “What’s this one?”

“Oh, you…you won’t like that,” you mumbled hastily, not looking at him.

“Oh no?” He was peering down at it, frowning a little. “Why not?”

“It’s…” You sighed, hating that the pleasantness between the two of you was probably about to be broken. “It’s a…Muggle romance novel,” you said finally.

His face didn’t change. Instead, he just stepped forward and held the book out to you. “Will you read to me?”

“I…you really want me to read this to you?” you stuttered out, shocked.

He raised an amused, sardonic eyebrow. “That’s why I asked.”

“Um…okay. Sure.” Still uncertain, you slowly took the book from him and watched in slight awe as he went to sit on the blankets in the corner, tapped the lantern beside it with his wand, and then looked up expectantly.

“Coming?” He tapped the spot beside him pointedly.

Heart in your throat, you just nodded and walked over to settle beside him, but without looking at his face. You sat cross-legged while he sat back against the wall, leaning his head back and then watching you intently as you nervously flipped the book open to the first page. After one last tentative glance at him you began to read in a low murmur, so that your voice wouldn’t travel out of the alcove.

He didn’t say anything when you read; sometimes you felt his eyes on you, scanning your face. Other times he was gazing out the window at some of the stars in the sky, or staring at the ground while he listened carefully, a hint of a frown on his face. You read for so long that your voice began to get scratchy and your throat began to hurt, and you could feel that your eyes were beginning to droop. You didn’t want to give in. This was a strange but welcome lull in the natural rhythm of your relationship with Draco; a time where he seemed to be, at least for right now, letting some of his guard down, and you didn’t want it to end.

You heard a quiet laugh then, and you looked up to see that he was grinning at you. The angles of his face looked so nice illuminated by the soft light of the lantern, and for a moment all you could do was stare.

“Getting tired?” he asked knowingly.

“My throat does hurt a little,” you admitted.

He edged closer, and butterflies like you had never felt before erupted in your chest and stomach. Slowly, eyes fixed on yours, he took hold of your shoulders, turned you around, and then eased you back so that you were sitting between his legs. His arms reached around your sides to pluck the book from your fingers so that he was holding it instead. You struggled to breathe when you heard his voice, a low murmur near your neck. “I’ll take a turn, then,” was all he said, softly, and then he began to read, his head hovering just over your right shoulder to see the page.

He was warm, and comfortable, and being like this with him, his deep voice reading quietly in your ear and with his arms partially around you to hold the book was nothing short of incredible. You found your eyes beginning to droop again, heard the words weaving pleasantly in and out of your consciousness, and you leaned your head back against his chest, beginning to fade away.

A man does not recover from such devotion of the heart to such a woman! He ought not; he does not…”

With a happy little sigh, you slowly drifted into sleep.

Chapter Text

You woke the next morning against something warm and solid, with the faint scent of a familiar cologne.

Draco was lying on his back beside you, still sleeping, one arm tucked underneath your back and the other lightly draped over your side. You were lying on your stomach, with your head and one hand on his chest and nestled into his side. You had no memory of how you had gotten like this; the last thing you remembered was falling asleep as he was reading to you, but you weren’t complaining.

Slowly, you extracted yourself from his arm and stretched out the muscles that were stiff from sleeping halfway on another person as well as on blankets heaped on the floor rather than a bed.

Still, you weren’t complaining.

Draco didn’t wake when you sat up. He simply shifted, his face twisting into a light frown before he let out a little sigh in his sleep before his face smoothed out and he continued sleeping on. You took a few moments to observe him there, in the blankets, hair all mussed and face peaceful. You had never seen him without his guard down like this. The dark circles under his eyes were still large, but you were happy that he at least seemed to be getting some good sleep.

You decided to slip away briefly to get some breakfast food and bring it back, and you hoped that he wouldn’t wake before you returned.

After nearly forty minutes in which you went to your room and changed and then quickly visited the kitchen for said breakfast food, you were hurrying back up and tapping the wand on the woman’s heart before pushing the tapestry aside. Draco was still lying on the blankets, seemingly sleeping. But he must have already been in the state of waking, for when the tapestry began to move and you entered the alcove he began to stir, slowly rubbing his bleary eyes and sitting up.

The sight of him sitting there, still waking up with his tired and hazy eyes looking at you standing there with a bag in your hands, made your heart clench in your chest.

“Hi,” you said, a little breathlessly.

He just let out a little grumble as you sat beside him. You nudged his shoulder with yours and smiled. “Sleep well?”

“I slept, so I’d say it’s an improvement,” he mumbled, rubbing his eyes again and squinting at you. “You?”

You shrugged. “The floor isn’t optimal, but it was fine.”

“What, I’m not a good enough pillow?” He was grinning now, clearly more awake, because you could see from the slight sparkle of mischief in his eyes that he was teasing.

“You’re decent,” you replied, shrugging, trying to ignore the way your cheeks were heating.

“Just decent? Going for my ego today, are we?” he drawled, and you just laughed and nudged his shoulder again with yours, and when you peeked up you saw his eyes were on the bag you had brought. “What’s that?”

“Muffins,” you said, turning to face him completely and brandishing the bag with a shy smile. “I thought you might be hungry when you woke up, so I went to get some. I…” You hesitated, suddenly becoming uncertain due to the look on his face. Something had flickered on it, but you couldn’t determine what it was. You swallowed hard and pressed on. “I thought you said once that you liked muffins,” you went on tentatively, biting your lip.

“I did say that,” he said, very quietly.

You immediately beamed at him. “Good, because I had to go to the kitchens to get them. Since breakfast was over, there weren’t any on the table, but the house elves had some for me…” You began rummaging in the bag, peeking around at them. “I got blueberry, and cranberry, and nut…”

“What? What time is it?” He sounded suddenly rather horrified, and when you glanced up he was now squinting at the powerful sunshine streaming into the tiny little room and his features twisted in concern.

“Er – two,” you said, and he looked at you, his eyes suddenly wild.

Two?” He began making a mad scramble on the blanket to stand up. “I – I can’t afford to – I need to go…”

“Oh.” You slowly stood with him, feeling disappointment flood your entire body.

The relaxed Draco from yesterday, the one who let you get close, was slipping away before your eyes. He had a frantic, distracted air about him, he wasn’t looking at you, and he was already leaving to go and do who knows what. What had you expected, anyway? To spend a nice Sunday together after sleeping in his arms?

Well, okay, maybe that was what you had been expecting.

Apparently, that had been stupid of you.

With your heart sinking and a spike of sadness in your chest, you watched him rake an agitated hand through his hair and make to sweep toward the tapestry.

“Wait!” You called out the word before you could stop yourself.

He stopped and slowly turned around. His face was careful and blank again, and you recognized the Draco Malfoy that you usually interacted with. “Um…” You didn’t dare ask him to stay. You knew he would say no. So you just thrust the bag of muffins out toward him. “Please take these. And promise you’ll eat them. I…I don’t think you eat enough, and I’m…I want to make sure…” You paused, biting your lip again, for you had seen that same flicker of something on his face that you had seen earlier, and for whatever reason it was making you waver.

Suddenly, he swept toward you, his smoke-colored eyes blazing with determination, cupped the bottom of your face almost roughly in both of his hands, tilted your chin up, and kissed you.

You let out a little squeak of shock and dropped the bag right on the floor, but neither of you took any notice.

His lips moved with an urgency against yours, and when he tilted his head a little to kiss you deeper, you responded by tentatively wrapping your arms around his neck and drawing closer to him. You weren’t sure how long it went on. It could have been seconds, and it could have been minutes. He was positively intoxicating, and time had completely ceased to exist, just like when you hugged him. The only thing that mattered were the soft movements of his fingers on your face, the warmth of his mouth, and the heat of his body against yours.

When he finally did pull away, your breathing was rather staggered and it took you a few seconds to open your eyes. When you did, he had ducked to pick up the bag that had fallen to the floor and was straightening up, looking carefully at your dumbfounded face. And then he smiled, a crooked, genuine smile.

He leaned down and pressed his lips to yours again, just once, very softly. “Thank you,” he murmured against your mouth, and you felt his slight smile before he turned and left, the tapestry fluttering behind him.

Chapter Text

Draco Malfoy had kissed you.

The sentence won’t stop running through your mind, over and over, because it still didn’t feel real. He had kissed you, and you had liked it, and you were definitely not just friends. Okay, so you hadn’t really had a friend but you did know enough to realize that friends didn’t kiss, and especially not like that.

Friends also don’t have a problem with constantly thinking about the other friend in the way you were thinking about him.

But the problem was this: Draco Malfoy had kissed you and now you hadn’t seen him for nearly three days.

The first time you had seen him again after he had left the alcove had been on Tuesday, in Potions class; your heart had fluttered violently in your chest and you kept glancing over at him hopefully, but he didn’t even look at you. It was like you didn’t even exist, and the problem only continued through the week until, by Thursday, you’re almost literally going insane and you realize that you aren’t even sure if he’s planning on meeting you for your weekly Occulumency lesson.

He’s avoiding you, and it hurts.

But you’re not willing to let it slide. At least not without an explanation, and so on Thursday evening you go for a walk, hoping to discover him somewhere in the castle. When you have no luck after wandering about for a few hours, you head up to the Astronomy Tower to look at the stars and try to shake the feel of his lips on yours and not feel sad that he has essentially been treating you like the weekend never happened at all. Sometimes you seriously do begin to doubt whether it did – perhaps it was all just a figment of your imagination.

It’s nearly midnight and you’re shivering when you decide to finally head down and get to bed. As luck would have it, that’s when you finally run into him.

He’s coming from a set of stairs that leads to a 7th floor corridor, and you spot him from a distance, so he has no idea that you are nearby. You wait, playing it smart, and then carefully follow him in his descent all the way down to the ground floor. You wonder if perhaps he’s heading back to the Slytherin Common Room for the night from…wherever the hell he’s been.

And suddenly, you’re furious.

So when you’re both not in the staircases and he’s walking briskly through an empty corridor, with you trailing behind him, you finally call his name loudly. Angrily.

Draco Malfoy! You stop right now!”

His steps falter, and then he stops, but he doesn’t turn. You have to hurry up behind him and tap him pointedly on the shoulder, and you can feel how tense he is there under your fingers and by his posture.Slowly, as if steeling himself, he turns around to face you, standing there with your hands on your hips and glaring up at him.

“What the hell?” you said indignantly.

He just raised an eyebrow, his face cool and collected. “What?” he drawled.

You wanted to stamp your foot at his nonchalant attitude, but you resisted, knowing it will make you look like a three year old. “I think you know very well what,” you said, acidly. “You’ve been avoiding me.”

He rolled his eyes and then said, with a sneer you hadn’t seen in a long time directed at you, “Or maybe we’re just not attached at the hip and I don’t have to answer to you about my every movement?”

You blinked, shocked, and struggled not to feel the ache in your chest at his words, but it came anyway. “I never ask you to do that,” you said, slowly, and try as you might you couldn’t quite keep the hurt out of your voice. “You’re being mean. You know that I just want to talk to you after…after what happened.”

“What’s that?”

Your fists clenched at your sides and you grit your teeth at the impassive, almost bored expression on his face. And you are so frustrated and irritated with him for everything that you do the one thing that you know will make him angry enough to react: you actively try to probe into his mind.

It doesn’t work, of course. He doesn’t let you in, but you had been expecting that. You had just wanted to catch his attention and see if he had felt it, and it seemed to have worked, because his expression suddenly darkened and twisted into one of fury. “I told you not to do that on me,” he growled, taking a step forward.

“I was just checking to make sure you didn’t have brain damage,” you said sarcastically. “Because you’re certainly acting like it, Draco.”

He let out another huff of anger and squeezed his eyes shut, pinching the bridge of his nose with one hand before opening them back up to glare at you. “Look, I shouldn’t have done it, okay?”

“Shouldn’t have done what?” you asked, too innocently.

“You know what,” he snapped, jaw clenching. “Now drop it, and forget it.” He turned stiffly on his heel to go, but you hurried to catch up and walked beside him.

“I don’t want to. I want to talk to you about it.”

He halted in his tracks, whirling to face again you with a look even more agitated and irritated than before. “There’s nothing to talk about!” he hissed coldly. “I can’t give you what you want, Y/N.”

“It can’t be that hard to have a conversation with me, Draco, we’ve been doing it now for months. Honestly,” you scoffed, wondering if all boys were this positively infuriating or if it really was just him.

“I don’t mean –” He let out another exasperated groan and ran a hand through his hair before looking down at you very seriously, his mouth pulled into a deep frown. “I don’t mean about wanting to talk to me. I meant in general. I can’t…I can’t give you what you want in general.” His eyes were suddenly pleading, like he wanted you to understand some piece of the puzzle that you hadn’t seen yet.

Before you could reply, however, there was a faint shuffling sound from around the corner, causing you both to freeze and then stare at each other in horror.

“Heard voices, my sweet…where are they, do you think?” Filch’s scratchy voice muttered, and panic clogged your chest at the idea of being caught out past curfew. You had never been caught out of bed before – you had never even had detention before, and it would be so much worse since you were a Prefect.

Without another second’s hesitation, Draco grabbed your hand and pulled you along the corridor at a run, rounding the corner at a nearly breakneck speed and dashing along the next one. But he stopped suddenly, nearly yanking your arm off, and you saw that he was fumbling hastily with a door on the wall. Filch’s footsteps were growing louder; any moment now, he would be turning the corner into this corridor. “Oh, please hurry,” you whispered desperately, and then the door sprang open, and he was pulling you unceremoniously inside a broom cupboard and shutting the door as quietly as possible behind you.

He immediately drew his wand and pointed it at the door with great difficulty due to the cramped quarters, murmured a spell to seal it, and then you both waited with bated breath, trying to stifle the sounds of your panicked breaths.

There wasn’t a single inch to move. You had both had to turn sideways to fit inside, and so you were facing each other, pressed against the other, with Draco’s hands on the wall on either side of your head.

Filch’s footsteps and other lightly pattering footsteps that you took to belong to Mrs. Norris stopped right outside the door, and you couldn’t help but clutch at his arm in terror. When you heard Filch say to Mrs. Norris, “Do you smell them, my sweet? Are they perhaps in the broom cupboard?” you couldn’t help but almost let out a small gasp of fear, but Draco’s hand shot out to cover your mouth before you could. Peering up at him, you saw he was giving you a look of severe warning to keep absolutely quiet, and you just stared up at him with wide, fearful eyes.

“No?” Filch murmured. “Perhaps further on, then…”

Their footsteps faded away; you both waited, hardly daring to believe your luck, until they had retreated completely. Only when it had been silent for a long minute did he move his hand away and you both let out relieved exhales.

You saw him make a movement to pull his wand out and to unseal the door, but you took the opportunity to swipe it deftly from his fingers and jam it behind your back, pressing it between you and the wall so he couldn’t reach it.

“Hey!” he growled, trying to reach around and take it back, but you smacked at his arm. It was very difficult to have this struggle when you were only inches away from his face and when your bodies were squished together in this cupboard, though, and he eventually stopped struggling and threw you the dirtiest look he could possibly manage. “Give me back my wand. Now.”

“Not until you talk to me.”

“Merlin, you’re fucking irritating –”

“Is that why you don’t want to talk to me anymore, all the sudden?” you pressed.

“I told you why,” he said, voice hard. “I can’t – ”

“Give me what I want, yes, I heard you. But it’s very arrogant of you to presume that you know what I want,” you shot back, your voice equally hard.

He looked suddenly very strained. “I know you want things to…to be normal,” he said, and his voice was rough now. “I know you want everything to be more like this weekend. But you don’t get it, do you? I’m a Death Eater, Y/N,” he emphasized, and you flinched a little, which only seemed to make things worse. “See?” he hissed. “You flinch whenever I say it or when you see my arm. Things can’t be normal between us. Not really. We’re not on the same side, and I can’t give you what you want. Not as friends, or – or –” He stopped, the words choking and then seemingly dying in his throat. “Or anything else,” he finally says, flatly.

“There it is again. How do you know what I want?”

“I’ve been in your head,” he said dully. “I understand you better than you think.”

There was suddenly a rather nauseous feeling in your stomach that told you that you’re about to take a gigantic risk, but you decided to throw caution to the winds and do it anyway. You reached out to put your hand on his face, and he tensed at the contact, but doesn’t draw away – not that he could anyway in these tight quarters. But he’s looking at you intently now, and his eyes are almost frightened.

“I…I really like you,” you whispered shyly. “I fancy you, Draco.”

He closed his eyes tightly, and you saw his throat move when he swallowed hard. And you felt the familiar ache in your chest, the familiar uncertainty when it came to him, but you pressed on anyway. “I like talking to you and reading with you and being close to you and…and kissing you. If you don’t see me that way, that’sfine. But you can at least tell me directly, you know?”

He opened his eyes suddenly, a flash of gray in the darkness of the cupboard. And then he laughed, a small, disbelieving laugh, and he placed his hands on the sides of your face again. At first you thought, with a thrill of happiness, that he’s going to kiss you. But he didn’t. He just gazed down at you for a long time, very intently, before letting out a resigned sort of sigh, nodding once, and closing his eyes.

And you suddenly realize what he was doing. He’s…letting you in.

When you enter his mind, it isn’t words that you hear. It’s too much and too fast for that. It’s more like flashes of feelings and images – his eyes always searching for you in the Great Hall, or watching you in class, or how you read in the courtyard; your collarbones, dotted with water droplets, after getting out of the bath; contentment, listening to your voice read to him; the constant and nearly uncontrollable urge to touch you or kiss you. You’re bombarded, over and over, with feelings of want, and affection, or a fierce protectiveness, a softness, even, whenever he sees or looks at you –  

You exit his mind with a jolt, your eyes flying open and staring at him in shock, and he finally opens his to gaze at you. They are raw and anguished. “I don’t know what’s happening,” he said, rather hoarsely. “And we don’t – I can’t –”

But unable to stand it any longer, you take his shirt and yank him down to close the mere inches between you and kiss him, fiercely. He seems to deflate, to relent, and then his fingers are gripping you more tightly and you grip his shoulders to hold on tightly to him and pull yourself as close as possible.

It was a beginning, and an end.

Chapter Text

Things were more regular, after that.

Sometimes good, sometimes wonderful.

Sometimes bad, sometimes terrible.

As winter slowly turned to spring and then spring slowly passed, warming the grounds and bringing the end of the school year closer and closer, you began to realize that Draco had been certainly right about one thing: whatever your relationship was, it wasn’t normal, and it wasn’t as simple as you had thought.

He still disappeared for half a day, a day, or entire days without telling you exactly where he was going or what he was doing. He still was steadily losing weight, his skin was taking on a gray color permanently, and he was almost always exhausted. Some weeks it seemed like he didn’t have any time for you at all. Some weeks you had to help him breathe again. He was still difficult, too; he still snapped, he still resisted talking to you about anything serious, and you still felt the pangs of sadness and disappointment whenever it happened. There was nothing you could do about these things – you either had to accept them or not, and for now, you had decided to accept them, because the alternative was being without him.

Because there were so many good things, too.

For one thing, our Occulumency skills were still vastly improving due to continued weekly lessons with Draco and your practice alone throughout the week. You had even begun doing homework with some of the other students in your House in the Common Room, in a group, because it didn’t cost you the concentration to be around them anymore, and you didn’t accidentally answer their thoughts. And even though you still had a long way to go, your ability was beginning to feel more like an actual ability and not a curse. Your social relationships were improving, and your magic no longer was drastically suffering in class.

You were beginning to feel…normal.

And then there were the good parts of being with Draco, of course.

There were invigorating conversations, sometimes, or those times where you could both laugh until your stomachs hurt – times where you could momentarily forget the pain and fear of what was happening in the world, or forget about the brand on his arm. Though they were quite rare, there were evenings spent on the Astronomy Tower, lying on your backs and looking at the sky; or others, cuddled up to read together in your special alcove; or entangled together on the blanket, your lips moving against his and your hands touching his arms, his shoulders, his chest, his hair, his face, while his did the same. You always felt so warm after kissing him for so long, and he would always hold you afterward. Those were perhaps your favorite times with him: when he just held you close and you could lay against him and hear his heartbeat and cherish that he was here, with you.

One night in April, after a particularly heated make out session, he was holding you close and stroking your hair and you were lying on his chest.

“Are we…you know. A couple?” you asked him tentatively, kissing his neck.

His hands froze for a moment before slowly continuing their movements in your hair. “Is that what you want to call it?”

You frowned a little and peeked up at him. “Don’t you?”

“I think being an official couple would be an extraordinarily bad idea,” he told you very carefully, not quite meeting your eyes.

“Even in private?” you pressed, frowning deeper.

He hesitated. “Yes.”

Suddenly, you felt hurt clog your chest and the anger that came lashing out as a result. “What, so I’m just some girl that you snog sometimes?”

He sighed. “Y/N –”

You struggled against his arms to sit up and glare down at him. “Are there other girls that you’re meeting up with, all those times you disappear?”

Merlin –”

“Are there?”

“Of course not,” he said roughly, slowly pushing away, sitting up, and wrapping his arms around his knees. You noted, suddenly, how tired his eyes looked. “You know that. You know how I…you felt what I feel for you. Is that not enough?”

“I don’t know,” you said quietly, suddenly realizing how true your words were.

“I told you,” he said, after a long silence, looking up at you with a mixture of hurt and irritation in his eyes. “I’ve always told you what I can and can’t give you. I’m happy with this. With us.”

“I don’t disappear on you, or have secrets,” you reminded him.

“You knew that had to be part of it, Y/N,” he said sharply, rubbing almost unconsciously at his forearm.

You deflated a little. You knew he couldn’t help it, and that he didn’t want what was happening to him any more than you did. Suddenly, you felt remorse alongside the still bitter taste of regret and resentment. You scooted closer and wrapped your arms around him, lying your head on his shoulder. “Sorry,” you mumbled, and he sighed, tucking his arms around you and kissing your forehead.

“Don’t worry,” he muttered.

You’re reminded of your differences and of the real world at times like this, and you despise it. It’s easy to forget, sometimes, that he’s beholden to a Master that might kill him; that might kill you all. It’s easy to forget because thinking about it quite nearly drives you mad, because it can’t happen. It won’t.

You wished things were different. No war. No Death Eaters. No such thing as You-Know-Who, or blood status.

Why did you have to go and fall in love with the most complicated boy possible?

Chapter Text

Time presses on. A mixture of pain and bliss, together, with him.

And then, at the beginning of May, something truly awful happens.

It’s after a particularly difficult Transfiguration lesson with the Gryffindors, and you’re about to go and and see if maybe Draco had gone to your alcove to meet you. He had been having a hard past couple of days, it seemed to you, because he had been incredibly distant and distracted, and you wanted to hug him and kiss him and offer some small form of comfort, if he’d let you.

You hear about it in whispers: Harry Potter shot an unknown spell in the girl’s bathroom on the second floor. He almost killed Draco Malfoy. Sliced him right open, multiple times, in the chest, and Malfoy almost bled out…

Feeling the tears spring immediately to your eyes and swallowing the acid taste of bile in your throat, you turned on your heel and you ran as fast as your feet can carry you to the Hospital Wing.

Maybe Harry Potter knows his secret. He almost killed him, he almost killed him, I could have lost him…

Your brain was panicked, and everyone’s faces were a blur. Even with all of the other students in the hallway, dashing through them like this, you could hardly hear them and their regular buzzing. You were far too focused on getting to the Hospital Wing. But you made it only to the doorway. You caught a glimpse of a deathly pale, shirtless figure with blonde hair at the far end of the room and you’re about to cry out for him and sprint forward when Madame Pomfrey is in front of you, blocking your view and crossing her arms with a furious glare.

“I knew all the students would be coming here, wanting to have a look – this isn’t a zoo, girl! Go on!” She made a shooing gesture with her hands.

“No! He’s my…my friend!” you gasped out desperately, backpedaling as she ushered you into the corridor. “Please, please, let me see him! I just want to make sure that he’s going to be okay. Please.”

Madame Pomfrey looked at you rather skeptically, but when she took in your panicked face, pleading eyes, and the tears beginning to stream down your cheeks, she just sighed and said, “Professor Snape has requested that Mr. Malfoy does not have visitors and that he has the utmost privacy, but he’s going to be just fine. Professor Snape thankfully counteracted much of the problem quickly, and the Dittany will work it’s magic overnight. After he gets a bit of extra bed rest tomorrow, I’ll release him tomorrow evening.”

“When will he wake up?” you pressed anxiously.

“Probably this evening, but as I said, he still can’t have visitors, so you’ll just have to wait until he’s out and about.”

You let out a groan of frustration. “Could you just…could you please tell him to meet me as soon as he’s out, Madame Pomfrey?”

She looked a little miffed. “I have plenty of other things to be doing than delivering messages for teenagers, Miss Y/L/N…”

Please,” you begged, sniffling a little. “If you won’t let me tell him myself, then please tell him for me. I’m really worried.”

She heaved a great sigh, but her expression softened a little. “I’ll do my best,” she said briskly. “Now please, I need to attend to him…” With another move of her hand, she dismissed you and turned quickly, shutting the door of the Hospital Wing behind her. You stood glued to the spot for a long time, hating that he was on the other side of that door and you were unable to sit beside him. But then you turned stiffly, mechanically, and walked at a snail’s pace down the corridor, like you were dragging heavy weights attached to your shoes.

You slept in your alcove on the very, very unlikely chance that he would be released earlier and he could join you.

Although sleeping was actually a very strong word; rather, you lay awake, and would cry yourself into states of a fitful doze. You may have gotten a few hours of real sleep. You weren’t sure. But Draco’s stark paleness wouldn’t leave your mind, and every time you closed your eyes you dreamed that there was blood seeping from his chest and a light draining from his eyes while you screamed.

The next day was, if possible, even worse.

You don’t dare leave the alcove – if he were somehow released earlier and came here, you don’t want to miss it, and you didn’t dare go to the Hospital Wing and wait, knowing other Slytherins may be there. And so you stayed, waiting for what feels like days. You tried to read as a distraction, and it sometimes worked.

By evening, you are starving, trembling, still crying, and exhausted. It was easily the worst and longest wait of your entire life.

It was getting dark by now, so it must have been late. You weren’t sure what time it was, and you were afraid to check in case it made you anxious. But you were just wondering if you should indeed go and check the Hospital Wing again when you heard the slightest shuffling movement outside, and the rustling of a bag, and the tapestry fluttered open so that Draco could step inside.

You scrambled to your feet, staring at him with wide eyes. He was still so pale, and the darkness under his eyes had gotten worse, despite probably sleeping almost two days straight in the Hospital Wing. He was holding himself differently, too. He was slightly hunched, rather than standing tall and proud as he usually did, and his face was carefully set, but you could see a furrow in his brow that meant he was still in pain. And then you saw the bag in his hands, and because you didn’t have anything better to say, you pointed at it with a shaking finger.

“What is that?”

He held it up a little. “I brought you snacks.”

You felt suddenly very strange. “You got out of the Hospital and instead of coming straight to see me, you…brought me snacks?”

“I knew you’d be up here all day, crying and driving yourself crazy, so…” He gestured with the bag again, arching an eyebrow at the way you were staring at him, which was probably a mixture of horror and shock.

And then you burst into loud tears, rushed forward, and threw your arms around his neck. “You absolute idiot, Draco Malfoy!” you wailed, while clinging as tightly to him as you possibly could. But then you heard his stifled groan of pain, and you immediately withdrew, gasping and positively furious with yourself. Your words came tumbling out in a panicked rush, in between your horrible, choking sobs. “Oh god, oh no – Draco, I’m so sorry…what was I thinking…” You twisted your hands together frantically, eyes flying over him for damage.

He just dropped the bag to the floor beside him and gave you a tired smile before pulling you back and wrapping his arms around you. “Just a little gentler, that’s all,” he murmured into your ear, sounding a little amused.

You can’t stop crying. You want to stop. He’s the one that had the trauma happen to him, after all, but you can’t seem to stop the rush of tears that keep spilling over your cheeks or the strangled sobs erupting from your throat that are causing your whole body to tremble violently. “I-I’m s-sorry,” you sobbed. “I-I was just so…so scared…people were s-saying that you almost d-died…” A fresh wave of panic crashed over you and you clutched tighter to his shoulders, though you were still careful not to press yourself too tightly against his chest or abdomen.

“It’s all right,” he murmured, hands moving up and down your back.

“D-does it hurt very badly?” you asked, pulling back to peer up at him with concerned, watery eyes. “How do you feel? Can I do something?”

He paused for a long moment, and then he just leaned back to swipe some hair from your face. It was difficult, since it was sticking to your wet cheeks, but he did it gently, methodically, and then he moved his thumbs over your cheekbones before shaking his head with a small smile and leaning his forehead down to yours.

You reached up to wrap your fingers around his wrists and grip them tightly. “Tell me what happened,” you whispered. “What was the spell?”

Sectumsempra,” he muttered, closing his eyes with a little shudder. “Even Potter seemed surprised by what it did, so I have no idea where he got it. He walked in on me with Myrtle, in the bathroom, and we started to fight…he hit me with it and it knocked me over, and then my front was being cut open…Snape came in, I think…I was woozy by that point, from all the blood loss…”

You silenced him with a kiss, because you don’t need to hear more and because you wanted to taste his mouth on yours. You kissed him with a desperation that you never had before, leaving you both rather breathless when you pulled away. “Can I see?” you whisper against his lips, peering cautiously up at him.

His eyes are a little cloudy. “I…I don’t know if that’s…”

“I can handle it,” you promised, and indeed, you already felt better after your little breakdown, felt stronger, so you slowly reached for the buttons on his shirt.

You glanced up at him questioningly, but he didn’t stop you. He just gazed down at you, eyes swirling with uncertainty and something else – lingering desire, you think – and you carefully, gently, began unbuttoning his shirt. His chest is moving faster than usual, and when you finally undid all the buttons you took the shirt off of him entirely, carefully pushing it over his shoulders and his arms, where it falls to the ground near the bag of snacks.

Now he’s standing there shirtless, and you suck in a breath between your teeth at the sight of the raised scars that are traversing his pale chest and his rib cage and his stomach – angry, pink scars, but still very well healed considering the fact that it only happened yesterday. They look as if they had been very deep. Your eyes range over the Dark Mark etched onto his forearm, contrasting so sharply against the paleness of him, and then over the scars once more, memorizing every single one of them, before looking up at him steadily. He’s watching you with a very curious look on his face, his eyes darting around to examine your features.

“Are they permanent?” you finally ask softly.

“They’ll fade, but there will always be…something there.”

For a second you almost want to laugh, because you know how proud and vain he can be and you know that he is probably worrying about his aesthetic value. But then you just stand up on your toes a little bit to kiss him again, gently this time. “Well I think you look…tempting.”

Tempting?” His voice take on a very teasing lilt and his eyes are glittering at you now. His hands come back to rest on your face, and he grins. “Are you one of those women that likes scars because they mean I survived an attack? Makes me more manly, or something?”

You shrugged and gave him a mischievous smile. “Maybe I am.”

His eyes darkened a little, and you recognized the look that he had on his face. He often got it before he kissed you, and usually before the kind of kissing that leads to a particularly passionate snogging session. Which, of course, you’re not opposed to right now, but your stomach suddenly gave a loud rumble, and he chuckled. “Are you glad I brought this now?” he teased lightly, bending with slight difficulty to pick up the bag and handing it to you. “Go on, eat something.”

You rolled your eyes, but took a biscuit and started to eat it. “Thanks,” you told him, with a brilliant smile. “Really.”

He just quirked his mouth up to one side, clearly still extremely amused.

You swallowed down another bout of nerves. “Will you stay with me tonight?” you asked. “I can…we can sneak into my Prefect room, so it’s not uncomfortable for you. I…I don’t want to be away from you,” you finished, rather shyly. “Not after…”

He just nodded, with eyes like melted iron that made you feel warm all over.

And so after he put his shirt back on and you both had eaten quite a few of the snacks he had brought, you’re slipping hand in hand through the corridor, making your way down to the Hufflepuff Common Room and clambering inside with bated breath, hoping that no one is awake at this hour. Thankfully, it was empty, and with quick, rushed footsteps, you both crossed the room and took the staircase that lead to your single room that had been awarded to you as prefect last year.

As soon as you’re inside, you turned to tell him that he could use the bathroom first, if he’d like, but you couldn’t get the words out before he has swooped in and kissed you, hard. It has the same sort of desperation to it as the kiss you had given him in the alcove, and although you didn’t melt against him for fear of pressing too hard against his injuries, you did let yourself drown in his lips. He tasted like chocolate chip cookie, and you sighed in delight when his hands come to rest on your hips and he tilted his head to kiss you deeper. You felt yourself getting warm quicker than usual, so you took hold of his shirt again and started to pull almost desperately at his buttons. He reached down to help and then shook it off almost impatiently before returning to continue the quick, frenzied pace of his lips on yours.

After a few minutes, his fingers moved up from your hips and to the hem of your shirt, pulling it up a little, slowly – a question. You answered it by wordlessly lifting your arms up. When he broke the kiss to pull at the shirt, you got a glimpse of his darkened eyes, the look of pure want on his face, before he is lifting it over your head, tossing it to the side, and leaving just your bra behind.

For a moment he just stood there, chest heaving just like yours, eyes darting with fervent appreciation over your exposed skin before pulling your face back to his.

“You’re the tempting one,” he muttered against your lips, voice deeper than usual.

You just whimpered softly against his mouth, and before you know it you’re both stumbling backward and falling onto the bed. He hovered over you for a while, but when he lowered himself to be closer to you, all you can think about is that you’re hurting him, even if it does feel incredibly nice like this.

“Your injuries, Draco,” you gasped desperately. “Be careful…”

“Fuck my injuries,” he growled roughly, before moving his lips down to kiss slowly down your neck and to strategic points along your collarbone, making you squirm underneath him and your breathing come even quicker. The closer he got to your bra with his mouth, the more you dug your fingers into his back and arched upward almost automatically, before finally you took one of his hands and moved it rather impatiently up to touch you over the fabric. He cursed under his breath, and then his mouth is back on yours, kissing you feverishly.

Soon enough you are moving your hips against him for more friction and he’s pressing closer to you to deliver it, which is nothing new with Draco, really, but then you’re tugging at his trousers and he’s pulling at yours, which is very much new. He’s panting between kisses and so are you, and you know that logically, the rest of your clothing will start to come off next…and then…and then…

Your mind, however, which had been so blissfully blank until now, suddenly became fearful and panicked when his fingers drift slowly to your back, to you bra clasp; and you realize that no, no, you don’t want this, not yet…

Draco,” you squeaked against his mouth, tensing completely.

He froze immediately. “Yes?” he breathed back.

“I’m…I’m not ready for…for this yet…” You felt how your cheeks got warm, how the strongest sense of shame overwhelmed you, but he complied immediately, rolling carefully off to the side of you, wincing a little as he did so, and propped himself up on his elbow to look at you. “I’m…so sorry,” you whispered, unable to meet his eyes and feeling, for some reason, mortified.

“Don’t be,” he said simply, leaning down to press his lips against yours, very, very softly. When he stopped and looked at you again, he only grimaced at the still uncertain look on your face. “I mean it,” he warned, looking stern.

You just bit your lip and gave him a small smile. “Okay,” you said.

He pulled you back against him, still carefully, and kissed your neck before draping an arm over you. And you open your mouth to say thank you, to say how much you like him, and really, you’re so attracted to him, but you just aren’t ready yet, but when you are it will be him, most certainly, and…

That wasn’t what came out.

Instead, you whispered, “I love you.”

His hand, which had been tracing a light pattern on your hip, stopped its movement, and you heard the way that he practically stopped breathing. “I –” He began, sounding a bit choked. “You…”

Your heart stopped and then sped up almost painfully at his clear hesitation, but you hastened to reassure him. “You don’t have to say it back, or…or anything like that. It’s just true and I…it’s time that you knew. That’s all.” You slowly and carefully turn around to face him; his face is stricken, and rather agonized. “Really, Draco,” you said, before kissing him one last time, on the jaw, before snuggling into his neck. You felt him relax a little, and then felt his arms tuck around you again.

This time it felt like a beginning, but it was actually an end.

Chapter Text

That night you spent together in your room was the last bit of peace that you got.

Draco, of course, had always been distant in many ways. There had always been disappointments or heartaches intermingled with happy reprieves, such as the times exactly like that one in your room.

But things got really bad, after that.

He was eating even less; he wasn’t coming to any classes. He came to meet you far, far less in your regular alcove, and you highly suspected that he wasn’t sleeping, either. When you asked him what was happening to him, he would snap, or pull at his hair, or sometimes he would even begin to ramble something about how he was “running out of time” or that he was “almost there, it was almost fixed.” When he was with you, he was completely distracted.

For the next month, you watched him deteriorate and felt it hurt you more every single day. He was always working on his mysterious mission, and it was draining the life out of him. It was draining the life out of you, too, because while you knew that he had the threat of punishment or even death hanging over him, he still wouldn’t talk to you about it, wouldn’t let you help, and all you could do was worry. But then while he was around, all you could do was act like you were not worried, because you didn’t want to agitate him further.

And you felt how his presence was becoming a slow drain on you, felt the resentment at his distance grow greater and greater, and how you were giving him everything that you could but it never felt like enough. And you were starting to wonder if maybe, perhaps, he had been right.

“Are you okay?” Hannah Abbott asked you one day, as you were doing homework together. She had become one of your favorite friends so far over the past few months, and you were spending more and more time with her and Susan Bones, which was a blissful relief due to your increasingly strained relationship with Draco and because you were finding that you enjoyed having friends. You had craved them all along, really. “You seem…sad, Y/N.”

You looked up from your essay – where you suddenly realized you had written the same sentence three times – and then turned back and began scratching it out hastily. “I’m okay,” you told her, not quite honestly. “End of the year, you know. Exams and all. Just tired.”

But something was drawing near. You could feel it.

Maybe it was something about the manic, terrifying energy that Draco was radiating whenever you were around him, or the increase in disappearances in the newspapers, but the month of May felt like the month of doom.

And something was nagging at you. Something terrible, and something dark, but you didn’t realize what it was until one day about a week later, when Draco entered the alcove, and upon the sight of him you felt something settle, heavy and unpleasant, on your chest. It nearly choked you, and you knew.

He just began to pace, and he started to speak, again, about how he was “almost there”, and how he could do it, yes, he could pull it off…

It was like you weren’t even there.

“Draco,” you whispered, but he didn’t seem to hear you. He was still pacing, still murmuring, almost fanatically, and so you tried again.

Draco,” you repeated, louder this time.

Your chest hurt. It was painfully tight.

What?” he hissed, whirling to face you, and then he saw your face. “What?” he repeated, his voice quieter now and a dread filling it. “Is everything okay?”

“No,” you choked, feeling your heart break in two. “I can’t…I can’t do this anymore.”

He blinked, and then he swayed a little on his feet before taking an uncertain step toward you. “Do what?” he asked finally, roughly.

“Us. This.” You gestured between the two of you sadly.

He blinked again, and then his face twisted in anger and confusion. “I don’t understand. You just said you loved me a few weeks ago.”

“I do,” you said miserably, because really, that was the sickest, cruelest part of it all.

“Right,” he said sarcastically, and you flinched at the acid entering his voice. “So you’re ending the relationship. Makes sense.”

Is it a relationship? You won’t even come out and say so, not even just to me in private!” you replied, feeling the tears beginning to burn in your eyes. “You won’t say we’re a couple. It’s almost like…you’re ashamed of me.”

“I am not ashamed of you!” he argued heatedly, fists clenching at his sides and real fury on his face now.

“Really?” you pressed, feeling more tears squeeze out of your eyes. “You’d be perfectly happy to tell your father and mother or the other Slytherins that you spend time with me? Or introduce me, a Halfblood Hufflepuff, as your official girlfriend?”

“I haven’t – I’ve had other things on my mind, Y/N!” he spat, but you saw the panic flit through his eyes at your words and your chest got even tighter.

“I know,” you answered quietly, voice shaking. “But think about it, for just a second. Think about it all, Draco, what it would mean for us, even if things were somewhat normal and you didn’t have this task you never would tell me more about. What do you feel about our parents meeting? Or even just you meeting my parents? My father is a Muggle, or have you forgotten? Or better yet, what if my mother was, too? What if I was Muggleborn? How would you feel about me then?”

He couldn’t quite contain his flinch or his slight shudder, and it solidified your decision and broke your heart at the same time.

“But you’re not,” he argued, almost desperately.

You just shook your head, tears cascading down your cheeks now. “You haven’t accepted it all yet. You still care too much about blood, don’t you? I think you’re better, but it’s still a problem for you. And you’re fighting on the other side, however unwillingly.” You paused, swiping the tears away from your cheeks as best you could even though they were coming so quickly that your vision was becoming blurry. But you looked up at him as steadily as you can, even though your legs want to collapse under you at the pained look on his face.

“I warned you,” he whispered finally, his eyes sad. “I tried to tell you…”

“I know,” you mumbled miserably. “And I’m so sorry. But I don’t feel that you want to be close to me like I do with you, and it always hurts. Not to mention my blood. I never feel like enough. I do love you, Draco, but I – I think that I deserve better.”

Why did doing things for yourself have to be so hard? Why did it have to hurt no matter what?

He just closed his eyes for a moment, his face twisted in an expression of utter agony before he opened them again, and the look he was giving you was resigned. “Right,” was all he said, his voice dull and flat. After a long moment where you just stared at each other, he slowly turned to go, his body completely rigid.

“Be careful,” you pleaded quickly, finding that you wanted to say one more thing, just one more, to him. “Promise.”

He stopped, but he didn’t turn around. “I’ll do my best.” His voice was hollow and almost cold. “You too, Y/N.”

And then he was gone, the tapestry fluttering behind him.

This time it felt like an ending, and it was.

Chapter Text

Two weeks pass.

Slowly. Painfully.

Sometimes it feels like it was just morning and then it is suddenly night, and you’ve hardly blinked. Sometimes it feels like time is hardly passing at all. You still look for him – in the halls, during meals, in class. He doesn’t look your direction, but you hope, maybe, that he will. At least once. Then maybe this nagging feeling that it was all a dream or a figment of your imagination will go away.

You miss him so much it aches.

You’re so very glad that you have your own room, because then you aren’t waking the other girls in your year with your horrible, wretched sobbing every night. But even the room is tainted with memories of him, and sometimes you lie in the blankets and inhale deeply, trying to get the last vestiges of his scent. But it’s gone.

It’s gone, and so was he, and perhaps you never had him.

He couldn’t give you what you wanted, you had to remind yourself. He was right. He can’t let you in. He’ll always push away. It would have kept making you sad. This sadness, at least, will pass.

It didn’t feel like it would, but you had to keep hoping, or you would go insane.

It’s a decently warm night in June, nearly three weeks since you last spoke to him, when he seeks you out.

He looks almost frantic rather than cool and almost bored as he had for the past weeks you had watched him from afar, and when he spots you he rushes right up and takes your arm, pulling you with him without a word. You had been in the Great Hall for dinner, and the other students – for you found you could actually attend dinner at a somewhat normal time now, when there were more students, though you still tended to go a bit later due to years of a late schedule – stared shamelessly at the sight of Draco Malfoy pulling you along with him.

You were too shocked to say anything, and even just the simple fact that he was gripping your arm was a marvel to you after the weeks without so much as a glance, but when he began pulling you along a corridor and to the staircases, you spoke up in protest. “What are you doing, Draco?” you snapped.

He didn’t answer. He just kept tugging forcefully at your arm.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve,” you hissed, trying to dig your heels into the smooth stone floor but not succeeding in the slightest. “Doing this out of the blue, after weeks of not even so much as looking my direction – ”

“May I remind you,” he says suddenly, his voice dry and sarcastic, “That you’re the one who broke things off with me?”

“You know why!” you shoot back, rather flustered.

He just throws you an exasperated look. “Yes,” was all he says, vaguely, still not relenting the pressure on your arm as he pulls you to the familiar corridor, a route you had both taken plenty of times. It’s making your heart beat faster just remembering and just walking this direction with him, damn it, but it’s also making you so sad, so desperately and horribly sad.

“Draco,” you try again, angrily. “I really want to know –”

“I’ll tell you when we’re there,” he says, cutting you off. “Trust me, and hurry up.”

And you’re so surprised and so intrigued that you comply, closing your mouth and trotting obediently along beside him, shooting not so covert glances at him the entire way. He still looks tired, and pale, and sick. But there was something else on his face, a light in his eyes that you thought might be triumph.

He taps the tapestry with his wand, right on the woman’s heart. He pulls you inside, as he’s done so many times before. The nostalgia is choking you. When it flaps closed behind the both of you he finally turns to face you head on.

You see his chest rise and fall as he takes a deep breath. “Do you still love me?”

“I…” This, you truly had not been expecting. “You know I do,” you mumble, feeling a pain in your chest.

“Then do something for me,” he pleads, urgently. “Please.”

“Draco –”

“Please, Y/N. I’m begging you, and I don’t fucking beg,” he growls.

He looks so positively distraught that your heart clenches. “What is it?” you ask, knowing that you’ll do it. Of course you will, when he comes to you looking like this.

“Tonight…” Something seems almost stuck in his throat, for he opens his mouth, but no words come out. He’s gazing at you like he’s unsure you’re real, eyes cloudy and swirling with something suspiciously like fear, but then he continues, in a voice that he’s clearly trying to make neutral. He succeeds, mostly, but there’s still a slight waver. “Tonight something is going to happen. Here, at the castle. Something…something bad.”

Oh god. Oh god, oh no, Merlin…

“What’s going to happen?” you whisper, horrified.

His task. Oh Merlin, no, he’s taking part in something…oh Draco no, no…

“I’ll spare you the details,” he mutters, looking away for a moment, but then he’s looking at you again, and he has stepped closer, his eyes roaming your face like he’s memorizing every single detail, a very intense light in their gray depths. “I want you to just promise me something. Promise me that you won’t leave this place. No matter what you hear – you don’t leave until morning. Okay?” You just stare up at him, stricken, and he places his hands on your shoulders with a hint of panic. “Okay?” he presses roughly, shaking you a little.

“Where are you going?” you choke out, feeling tears fill your eyes. “What’s happening? Draco, please –”

“I have to go,” he says, and you feel your heart break all over again.

Where?” you cry out, tears flowing now. “Where are you going? Tell me something, fucking anything –”

The rest of your words are drowned out by his mouth. You want to push him away, you want to hate that he’s kissing you, but you can’t. All you want is for him to continue, to talk to you, and to never, ever leave.

“I can’t,” he whispers finally, pressing his forehead to yours and taking a slow, shuddering breath. “I really can’t, but please, please, promise me…Y/N, if something were to happen to you…” He closes his mouth and his brow furrows, and he’s silent for a long time. “I couldn’t live with it,” he finally says, brusquely. “So if you really love me then fucking promise me. Say it.”

You stare up at him, terrified. Trying to remember what his face looks like. “I promise,” you whisper finally.

His shoulders slump in relief; he lets out a long exhale that he has been holding, and then he kisses you again just once, softly, before he pulls away and forces a crumpled piece of paper into your stiff fingers. “Stay here,” he murmurs urgently, and then he’s turned, he’s hurrying away, he’s gone.

You had meant to ask if you would see him again. You had meant to tell him to be careful. And you had meant to tell him that you loved him, one last time.

But he had left too quickly for you to say anything, and before that he had stolen your words with his lips. You want to be angry but you just feel numb. And now he was gone, and something awful was happening out there, and at a time that you needed him more than anything, he wasn’t here. Perhaps even taking part in whatever awful thing he was talking about.

It was too much. You sank to the floor and began to sob, curling up into a ball and stifling the sounds of your tears with your own knees.

It was probably hours later that you finally sat up. You hear the faint sound of a crash, and maybe even a scream coming from the castle. Anxiety, almost unbearable, shoots through you, and you feel dizzy.

Your eyes are swollen and painful, and tears are still slowly coming out, but your body is no longer wracked by sobs anymore, and your breathing is somewhat normal again, or, at least, normal for the level of fear you were currently feeling.

It was only then that you had the presence of mind to reach for the note he had given you, to smooth it out and read what he had written, feeling your heart ache at his familiar, tidy handwriting.

I love you. I’m sorry.


FIN