Harry spends another couple of minutes trying to open the door.
He knows it’s pointless, and he knows that, for whatever reason, they’re trapped in here. It’s not fear that drives him to rattle the door handle, kick it, blast several diffindos at it- rather, he feels personally attacked by a room that he thought had his back, as such. In the past, Harry and it have got on quite well. Now, he wonders if the Room of Requirement has some sort of cruel agenda against him, literally locking him in a room with Draco Malfoy.
Speaking of which, Malfoy seems to have accepted his fate much more quickly than Harry. Malfoy is sitting on a comfortable looking sofa, which has appeared to accommodate him, though he looks anything but comfortable. His hands are clasped tightly in his lap, his back is straight against the support of the sofa. He has that expression that seems to be ingrained in Malfoy genetics; brows knit slightly together in indignance, a faint hint of a sneer. He also looks a little injured- perhaps for the same reason Harry does, like this is a personal vendetta against him.
Bloody room. Thought it was his friend. Which in retrospect, is a bit of a stupid thing to think of a room.
With that, Harry gives up and growls, hands flying up in resignation. “Great. This is fucking brilliant.”
“It’s not exactly a dream come true,” Malfoy agrees, but maintains that sneer that implies that he doesn’t take any pleasure from it.
He stands on the spot for a moment, feeling useless and drained from it all. The room is empty, and has shrunk significantly since the last time he really, properly looked. It’s no longer accommodating for a vast library of things, rather, just two very grumpy men. It occurs to Harry then that everything that had been in here has been burned to a crisp.
And then it settles on him- the magnitude of what Malfoy has just accomplished.
Granted, Harry has never really considered learning to combat fiendfyre. But Malfoy, apparently, thought about it enough to teach himself the counter-curse. Harry wonders if he had anyone train him to pull it off; because he can’t quite believe that the power that he just witnessed came from Draco Malfoy, boy-weasel.
The wall of water that had come from Malfoy’s wand- it was so vast and dark and foreboding and terrifying, so cool and calm and threatening. And yet, as much as Harry wants to associate the magic he saw with evil, with dark magic, he can’t. He can’t imagine Bellatrix Lestrange with that kind of magic, not even Lucius Malfoy. There was something not only controlled, but confident and aware about the spell. It doesn’t seem particularly Draco Malfoy at all. It’s the opposite of the frantic, terrified, torn-apart person that cast the fiendfyre those years ago.
“I didn’t realise you cast the fiendfyre,” Harry says out loud. “I swear I saw Crabbe do it.” He sits opposite Malfoy, finding another, separate sofa manifest itself beneath him. The rest of the room remains empty, the castle’s pale, limestone brick showing no sign of being under fiendfyre for three years.
“I’ve told you already,” Malfoy says, looking at nothing over Harry’s shoulder, “it was me. You were quite distracted by whatever it was that you were doing in there, I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw things wrong.” Malfoy pauses, tilts up his proud chin. “Crabbe was never really capable of that sort of magic.”
“And you were,” Harry says, and it’s not meant to be an accusation, for once, but that’s how Malfoy apparently takes it by the growing sneer on his face.
“Yes. I didn’t know what I was doing.”
“Yeah, you said that before.”
“Well it’s true,” Malfoy argues, pitch rising slightly. “I wouldn’t have… if I’d known.”
“Sorry if I find that hard to believe,” Harry mutters, crossing his arms in front of his chest.
He’s expecting Malfoy to argue some more, expecting him to defend himself or gloat, or something. Instead, he’s met with a wall of silence. He’s frozen still, hands clasped so hard together that his knuckles are white. There’s a sheen of sweat across his forehead and cheekbones, giving away the physical exertion of the fiendfyre counter-spell. On top of that, he looks exhausted- there are dark shadows under his eyes that didn’t seem to be there before. Harry isn’t surprised.
He’s not sure if he’ll ever forget, or understand, the sight of Malfoy, feet planted firm, eyes narrowed in concentration, the electric-like charge of his magic making Harry’s skin prickle and his own blonde hair fly in disarray.
That silver-blonde hair, which was swept back carefully before they entered the Room of Requirement, is now hanging around his face. Strands of it fall in front of his eyes, but it doesn’t do anything to hide the fierce look in them. Harry assumes that he’s angry at him. He usually is.
“Why do you reckon we’re stuck in here?” he says, surprising Harry.
“Uh. I don’t know. I mean, maybe it’s… broken.”
A dark blonde eyebrow raises. “Broken?”
That familiar spark of frustration catches in his chest, that feeling of having to argue, defend himself against Malfoy. “Yeah, I mean, it’s been on fire for three years. That probably does something, right?”
Malfoy’s eyebrow ticks again. “I’m not sure if a room like this can be broken.” Harry thinks he’s finished, as he swings on leg gracefully over the other. Then he mimics Harry, crossing his arms in front of his chest defensively. “It must be because it thinks one of us wants to be stuck in here.”
Harry snorts. “Oh yeah. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
Malfoy still doesn’t look at him. “Well, it’s the only thing I can think of. Perhaps it’s what it thinks we need. I don’t bloody well know.”
Harry is suddenly reminded of Dumbledore’s comment. Perhaps you need to look ahead.
He ignores the thought, and the plummeting feeling in his stomach.
They both sit opposite each other in silence for a long time.
Potter is unbelievably loud, even when he’s trying to be quiet.
He sighs and breathes deeply, hums strange Muggle songs to himself, picks his nails- the last of which Draco didn’t realise could be a loud activity until he’d been trapped in a room with Harry sodding Potter.
The man in question lies on his back on his sofa, staring at his scarred hand, turning it over in front of his bored face.
“Perhaps we ought to think of a way to get out of here,” Draco says, as quietly as he can without whispering. Even then, the sound of his voice surprises Potter into looking at him. Draco looks away as soon as green eyes meet his.
Potter doesn’t have anything to offer at first. Then, he says, helpfully, “Well, what do you suggest?”
Draco scoffs. “I don’t know. I thought maybe we could discuss our options.”
“So you don’t have any ideas,” Potter says blandly, who has returned to staring at his fascinating hand.
“And you have plenty?” Draco counters.
“No. You were just acting like you had something interesting to contribute. I was wrong.”
Anger flares momentarily within him, before he cools it down again. Calm down. He’s trying to get a rise out of you. Because he’s a total arse.
His decision to take the moral high ground and refuse to argue apparently causes Potter to look over again, a petulant sort of crease between his brows. He looks like he wants to say something else, but apparently chooses to remain silent. Or so Draco thinks.
“So. Let’s talk about it then. How do we get out.”
Draco considers that, if he’s going to have a grown up, calm conversation with Potter, he’s going to need at least one cup of tea. Naturally, a steaming pot of earl grey then appears on a coffee table between the two of them. Before he can even finish the thought in his head, a couple of slices of lemon pop into existence. This prompts a snort from Potter, who shakes his head to himself with a small smile.
“Nothing. Tea’s a good idea.”
A little jug of milk appears.
Draco can feel his lips purse. He has seen the expression he’s wearing on his father’s face plenty of times, and doesn’t enjoy the feeling of it on his own. It’s been a conscious effort, trying to erase Lucius Malfoy’s influence on him, and he reckons it might be a pointless task.
“Milk with earl grey. How terribly common.”
Yes, Draco thinks, it’s absolutely futile. Snobbery is in his blood.
Potter pours himself a cup before Draco has the chance to pour his own. He’s surprised by the small show of politeness when Potter pours it for him. Thankfully, he doesn’t add the messy slosh of milk into his. Draco takes the lemon and drops it carefully into the teacup.
“So,” Potter begins. “We’re trapped in the Room of Requirement.”
“Well, as in, it’s, sort of, what you said before. The clue’s in the name. The room thinks that we require each other’s presence.”
“Mm,” Draco replies, a noise that conveys no small amount of disgruntlement.
Potter takes the teacup in both of his rough hands, cradling it like a mug. The sleeves of his red cable knit jumper are rolled up to his elbows. His eyes dart around the almost-empty room, avoiding Draco entirely, his too long, messy hair seems to be everywhere at once, hasn’t been combed in probably decades. One hand flies to his beard, scratches it absentmindedly, and Draco can hear him swallow uncomfortably in the quiet of the room.
“So,” Potter continues, giving off unbearable waves of awkwardness that makes Draco want to hide behind the sofa. It’s a singularly Potter feeling. His social ineptitude is remarkable. “Maybe we should try and give it what it wants- or, what it thinks we want.”
Draco’s stomach twists unpleasantly as he hides expression behind the teacup. He takes a cautious sip. Too hot. Suddenly, he feels the steam settle, and he tries again. Perfect. Thanks for something, Room of Requirement.
“What are you suggesting?” he says, trying to affect disinterest.
Potter is looking at him, and he reckons he should attempt to be present for this conversation so he returns the look. The man’s eyebrows are pinched and raised, in the way that they often are. It makes him look anxious, or at least like he’s thinking about something quite hard, which Draco severely doubts, but in actual fact he reckons it’s just a natural, resting expression for Potter.
“I think we should try and… ugh, I don’t know,” he says, frustrated in his inability to articulate whatever it is he’s thinking. He slouches against the back of the sofa.
“Very insightful, Potter.”
They sit in more uncomfortable silence, whilst Draco watches Potter think. His nails tap against the china cup in an irregular rhythm, betraying his nervousness. Draco remains perfectly still, whist the man sitting across from him fidgets.
“I don’t know if I ever apologised,” Potter says. Draco feels slightly light-headed in surprise at the words. There’s a long pause before he continues. “I mean that, I’m sorry. For casting that spell on you in our 6th year. I just sort of… read it somewhere, and didn’t know what it was. It’s hard to explain.”
Draco doesn’t say anything. He examines the delicate flower pattern on his china cup. Rather more chintzy than his mother’s own collection, wherever it is now. Probably still back at the manor.
“I don’t understand,” he says quietly.
Potter frowns at him, looks away, huffs, look back, frustration only increased. “I’m apologising, what’s there to understand?”
“You didn’t know what the spell would do?”
Potter’s expression darkens. It appears that the both of them are remembering the specifics of sectumsempra. Draco has to stop a hand from instinctively touching his ribs, where the largest scar is. Whilst he’s always considered the event somewhat of a sore spot, it’s by far the least emotionally scarring thing to have happened to him during those final years at Hogwarts.
He therefore finds himself at a loss for words- not wanting to forgive Potter for what he did in that bathroom, nor wanting to let him think that he cares enough about it to not forgive him.
All this time, he’d thought Potter had tried to genuinely take him out of the equation.
This doesn’t change anything, he thinks to himself.
He frowns into his teacup. Then, “I suppose that makes us even.”
Potter doesn’t say anything for a moment, and Draco doesn’t want to see his expression. He doesn’t really want to talk to Potter about anything at all, although his brain seems to have different plans. It’s pushing everything to the front of his mind- all the pain and trauma of the war- it’s begging him to talk about it out loud. To tell Potter and make him understand. He has no idea why he has such an urge. It occurs to him that he’s always had it- always tried to grab his attention.
“Except I didn’t try to kill you. You did try to kill me.”
“When,” Draco replies quickly. Looks at him. Demands him to explain.
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe when…” Potter visibly struggles. “You chose the wrong side, Malfoy. You set the bloody Room of Requirement on fire.”
“I’ve told you, I didn’t know what it would do- I had no control then,” Draco says calmly. He’s proud of himself for giving off a calm demeanour when he feels anything but, right now.
Potter seems to consider this, plays with the empty teacup in his hands- dangles it off his index finger, watches it sway. “You really didn’t mean to do it?”
“No,” he says after a while. “I didn’t want to do any of it. I…”
There aren’t really any words to explain how little he wanted to do any of it. How much he was expected to do, how little he could actually accomplish. He couldn’t kill Dumbledore. He couldn’t fight, not on any side. All he could do was be passive, watch the world burn. It’s his biggest regret, that he didn’t at least try to do something. He can only make peace with it now. And he can’t expect Potter to understand.
“I tried to save you,” he whispers, internally curses his mouth for saying what he’s thinking out loud. For this bizarre urge to have Potter see him.
The room suddenly feels too small. It opens out, provides vaulted ceilings as the thought passes through his head. But then, he considers, he’s not sure if that will help the tightness in his chest and claustrophobia.
“In the manor,” Potter supplies, matter-of-factly. “You said you didn’t recognise me.”
He says it quietly, like he doesn’t really want Draco to hear. “I remember.”
Harry lies on his stomach, head resting on his arms, looking away from Malfoy. He can’t stop thinking about what he said. I didn’t want to do any of it. It’s not as if he didn’t sort of realise that already- he’d always sensed how reluctant he was. But somehow, that didn’t change the fact in Harry’s mind that Malfoy was a murderer, with evil intent.
He did choose the wrong side, Harry reminds himself. He always had a choice. Harry could have chosen the easy path himself, but he didn’t. He always held Sirius’ advice close to his heart- that it’s one actions that defines a person. Malfoy’s actions, or lack thereof, were pretty damning.
Despite Harry’s surety in this, and despite the fact that he really doesn’t care about Malfoy, he can’t stop thinking about it. Dumbledore’s words keep replaying in his head. He reminds me a lot of myself, in some respects. When I was a young man. Ambitious, troubled. Determined to seek respect from the wrong people.
Can a man change?
Harry hates how much Dumbledore’s words seem to latch onto his thoughts and swim round his head, lurking, like mermaids hunting him in a dark lake. It’s been like that for as long as he can remember; he’s always received so frustratingly little from Dumbledore that he tries to parse everything he says to buggery. It’s maddening.
And then there’s the fact that, this whole time, Malfoy had thought he’d been trying to kill him in the first floor girls’ bathroom. That’s a whole other thing that Harry can’t really get his head around.
Had Malfoy really thought he’d tried murder him?
He buries his face in his arms, speaks into his wool jumper. “You tried to kill Dumbledore,” he mumbles.
Unsure whether Malfoy could actually translate what he’s said through his jumper, he waits. If he didn’t hear him, it’s not the end of the world. He doesn’t actually want to talk things out with the tosspot anyway. Of course he doesn’t. Why would he? He just has a sneaking suspicion that the Room of Requirement would rather they did, that’s all.
Harry sighs, and his trapped breath makes his face too hot. He turns his head to look at Malfoy. “Yeah, but you tried to.”
“But I didn’t,” he emphasises, carefully holding a fresh cup of tea. Harry reckons if he keeps drinking from the bottomless pot of tea, he’ll just melt into a puddle of earl grey. And lemon. Don’t forget the lemon.
“But you tried to.”
“Right, I don’t see us getting very far with this.”
Harry fixes his gaze on him. Draco never seems very comfortable looking back, it seems.
“You still tried to murder somebody. Fair enough, you didn’t follow through. But you didn’t do anything. You just… let it all happen. You didn’t argue.”
“And that makes me a murderer?”
Harry watches Malfoy’s foot bounce up and down absentmindedly, his frustration- or perhaps it’s nervousness?- showing. He finally puts his cup down on the coffee table, takes off his robes and black waistcoat with the small buttons on it. The shirt underneath is a sort of silky grey. It fits him well, Harry thinks, because he remembers a time when Malfoy lost so much weight, looked so gaunt and sick with anxiety that his white school shirts billowed off him like sails.
“I don’t know,” he finally admits.
“Well, I’ll tell you know, it doesn’t,” he snaps, finally. “If I’d murdered someone, it would make me a murderer. My family- my father, my mad aunt. They’re murderers. I couldn’t live up to their expectations,” he adds bitterly.
Harry can’t imagine for a second what it would be like to have Bellatrix Lestrange as an aunt. What it would be like to have her live in your home and torture people in your front room. The Dursleys were bad, and he let them do terrible things to him. But they weren’t psychopaths.
“Poor you,” Harry says with as much sarcasm as he can manage.
“You wouldn’t understand,” Malfoy replies.
It’s so terribly teenaged and angsty that it makes Harry laugh. “Sorry,” he finds himself saying.
Malfoy glares at him, and Harry’s sort of glad for it. He’s used to that glare. It makes the whole situation feel more familiar and less like they’re trying to get to know each other.
“I know that what I did… or more, what I didn’t do, doesn’t make me a good person.”
Harry blinks at him, surprised, and waits out of interest. He sits up, leans back on the arm of the sofa.
“I daresay I’ll never be able to make up for the fact that I let it happen, that I didn’t fight back, or choose the right side,” Malfoy continues. “I can argue that I was just a boy… too young to know any better. And, you know, I only did what I thought I was meant to. To protect myself, and my family.”
He pauses, his leg stops bouncing. A hand runs through his hair and tries to push it back. And although thinks to himself none of these things are excuses, Harry has never been very good at feeling anything but sympathy when someone is showing their vulnerable side to him.
He’s trying very hard not to be swayed.
Because this is Malfoy.
“I didn’t exactly have the best role models growing up. I only did what I knew. But… there comes a point where it goes beyond yourself. It got to the point where… everything the Malfoy family have stood for. It was really hurting people.”
Malfoy’s voice cracks, and suddenly he stands up, swooping over the other side of the room. It would seem comically theatrical to Harry, if he weren’t so horrified that Malfoy was really telling him all this. It’s making him feel remarkably uncomfortable, but he simultaneously can’t take his eyes off his back. He can see his shoulder blades through his shirt; the material stretches over his back as he folds his arms over his chest.
“I know I was on the wrong side,” he says quietly. Arguing with him. “I know I chose wrongly. But it didn’t entirely feel like I ever had a choice.”
“Everyone has a choice,” Harry says.
And then, memories of prophecies and claustrophobia. Of death sentences and futures he can’t change. Of being a scared boy.
“I don’t need to defend myself to you,” Malfoy whispers.
I wasn’t really trying to argue with you, Harry thinks to himself, but he supposes that he sort of was provoking him. It comes naturally to him. An urge to ruffle Malfoy.
“I don’t think I’ve ever really considered you a murderer. Just, someone who wanted to be,” he says eventually.
Malfoy’s shoulders tense, still turned towards nothing in particular in the half empty room. He can see his head dip, like he’s staring at the floor.
“Mm. Well. I don’t suppose someone who throws oranges at my head at breakfast would consider me a murderer. More, target practice.”
Harry pauses, a little shocked at Malfoy’s attempt at humour that for once isn’t aimed at humiliating him. He laughs, causing Malfoy to glance at him over his shoulder.
“No, I suppose not.”
Harry blinks and then there’s a fireplace in front of Malfoy. A small fire is crackling as he lays a hand against the wall in front of him, leans wearily against it. His hair hangs down in front of his face- of which Harry can only see a fraction. It’s such a tired, unkempt look; it reminds him of the Malfoy he met in the first floor girls’ bathroom, the frightened boy leaning over the sink and weeping.
It starts to sink in that, perhaps, he has rather a ‘black and white’ view of things after all.
“A fireplace?” Harry asks. “Really?”
He can see a frown grow on Malfoy’s face, before he huffs a half laugh in understanding. “I don’t think there’s any risk of burning the place down again.”
It’s been a couple of hours, according to the tempus that Draco casts. McGonagall is going to think they’re dead. People will talk. Students will whisper that Draco Malfoy killed Harry Potter.
Bloody hell, he really wants to get out of here.
And yet, there’s a part of himself- that he’s choosing quite stoically to ignore- that finds talking to Potter satisfying. Sating some part of himself that’s been craving it since he was eleven years old. He sincerely hopes that’s not why the Room of Requirement has trapped them in here.
He’s currently nibbling on a sandwich, which the Room has quite kindly procured for him. He’s always known that he’s eaten delicately- politely- but compared to Potter, who practically inhales his own sandwich like he’s been starved during his childhood, he’s positively elegant.
He casts another tempus, because he’s bored and frustrated and beginning to worry that he’s going to be expelled. Or fired. Or something.
“Your fans will be missing you,” he mutters, and having finished his sandwich, decides to lie back on the sofa. His head is at the opposite end of where Potter’s is lying on his own sofa.
Potter sighs loudly, turns his head to examine the felt lining of the cushion his head is propped against.
“You know, I was just beginning to feel a little bit sorry for you, before. But then you go and say something twatty like that.”
Draco’s chest constricts. “I don’t want your pity.”
“Yeah, well,” Potter murmurs. The idea that Potter feels even slightly sorry for him makes him so furious and nauseous that he has to close his eyes and measure his breathing. Don’t let him get a rise out of you. Your voice will do that awful squeaky thing that it does when you’re stressed.
“Did it ever occur to you that maybe I don’t have a choice either? Like, you were going on about how you were brought up a certain way, that you didn’t know any better, didn’t have any control over anything that was happening- but then- oh, sod it. It doesn’t matter.”
Draco tries to translate this, can feel a frown crumpling his face. The darkness of his closed eyes begins to shimmer. The idiot is giving him a headache.
“Go on,” Draco prompts.
“It doesn’t matter,” Potter repeats.
“Bloody hell, you’re a stubborn arse- you’ve piqued my interest. Spit it out.”
The sound that comes from the other sofa is almost like a growl. “Why does everyone keep saying that I’m stubborn? Am I really that bad?” he asks, and it sounds so earnest a question that Draco laughs.
“I’m getting the impression that you are,” he says, because they haven’t actually known each other that long, in the grand scheme of things. Seven years of not really talking to each other except when they’re insulting each other across the great hall isn’t really knowing each other.
“I had this prophecy. Do you know about the prophecy?”
Draco opens his eyes and looks at Potter, who’s picking at his cuticles.
Potter snorts. “I’m surprised your dad didn’t tell you all about it.”
Draco swallows, throat suddenly dry.
“Professor Trelawney made a prophecy about how either Voldemort or I were going to die. ‘Neither one shall live while the other survives’.” He says it in a dramatic voice, a bitter smile playing on his lips. Draco feels suddenly aware of how much older they both are. “And then, I found out that, for Voldemort to be defeated, I had to die.”
It’s said so casually, and Draco’s holding his breath.
“But… is that when Hagrid...”
“Yeah. Your mum, actually. She sort of saved my life. Told everyone I was dead.”
Draco sits up. He hasn’t heard anything about this from his mother before. He feels a simultaneous swell of affection for her, as well as confusion that she never told him. He doesn’t have the words to respond. Luckily, Potter hasn’t finished.
“I’ve never… chosen anything for myself. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t be Harry Potter. But then, I’m The Chosen One. Everything was chosen for me already. From the day that I die to the clothes the Prophet thinks I’m meant to wear, to the… every detail. Of who I’m meant to be.”
Potter continues to pick at his nails.
“You never did seem to enjoy the fame,” he comments, crossing one leg out in front of the other on the sofa. “Saint Harry Potter. Weighed down by a glorious burden.”
Potter laughs, and whilst there is some bitterness to it, it also seems genuine.
“I didn’t choose this life,” Malfoy mimics theatrically, one hand flying to his forehead.
Potter shakes his head and scowls, but he’s still smiling, much to Malfoy’s surprise. He wonders if that was sort of what he was aiming for. What he’s been aiming for this whole time.
“Fuck off,” Potter mutters, lays an arm over his face so that his bearded chin is all that pokes out.
They lie in silence for a while. A long while; Draco can’t really tell exactly how long, though.
“Why are you here? At Hogwarts?” he asks. There’s not meant to be any accusation in the statement, but Potter takes it that way, scowling again.
“None of your business, Malfoy.” Potter hesitates. “What are you doing here?”
Draco sneers. “None of your business, Potter.”
They lie there for another long while, and Draco wonders if he’s fallen asleep, face hidden behind his arm.
But then, it seems that Potter has finished whatever internal debate he’s having, and speaks again. “I need to do something good. Something good that I’ve chosen to do. I don’t want my life to be one big prophecy. I have to… I have to do something.”
Draco swallows. He stares at the dancing flames in the fireplace.
Hours have gone by and it’s late. Harry wasn’t even the one to cast the counter-spell for the fiendfyre, and he finds himself exhausted; that protego totalum is the most effort he’s put into magic since the war. That, and the time he had to put a flat pack bed together, which wouldn’t cooperate without magic.
When he considers that he’d like to crawl into his rather nice bed in his rather nice quarters, a single bed appears in the corner of the room. The Room of Requirement, quite amazingly, recognises that Harry doesn’t really like sleeping in big beds.
Malfoy appears to take no notice when Harry skulks over to the bed, tears off his jumper and shoes, and crawls under the duvet. He doesn’t sleep though. Lying there, he thinks about the fact that, despite the fact that he resolutely doesn’t like Draco Malfoy, he’s been very lonely. And, against his better judgement, he’s enjoyed talking to him. It’s been weirdly cathartic.
Eventually, he hears Malfoy move to the other side of the room. Harry turns round in his bed and sees that Malfoy now has one of his own. It’s all suddenly very reminiscent of being back in the dorms, though he can’t imagine what it would have been like to share one with Draco Malfoy.
He obviously thinks Harry’s asleep, because he seems relatively relaxed, despite everything. His shoulders slope downwards and he’s rolling his head from side to side, as if trying to get a crick out of it. Harry suddenly feels that he’s spying on a rare moment of vulnerability from Malfoy. He’s not meant to see him like this, when he’s getting ready for bed and thinks he’s alone. A strange fluttering anxiety takes hold of him as he watches him, watches Malfoy run both hands through his silver hair. And then he sits down on the edge of the bed, unties his shoe laces. Whereas Harry had kicked his trainers off, Malfoy’s actions are careful and slow.
“Your hair’s short,” Harry says, breaking the silence, making Malfoy jump a little.
He looks up from behind said hair, which is hanging in front of his face. “Not really. What do you mean?” he demands.
Harry slips a hand under the pillow, lying on his side. “Your dad had long hair in a ponytail. I thought it was a Malfoy coming of age thing, to grow it long.”
Malfoy slips off his shoes and sits up, giving Harry a measured glance. It’s neither disdainful or judgemental. And then, to Harry’s amusement, a self-conscious hand runs through it again and he looks away.
“Don’t worry, it suits you,” Harry jokes.
Malfoy glares at him, before lying on his back and staring up at the vaulted ceiling.
“I didn’t want to look like my father.”
“Oh,” Harry says lamely. He’s hit a sore spot. And he supposes he can understand why.
“Your hair is messy. It’s like it gets worse and worse every year.”
Harry frowns. “Hey. I wasn’t judging you or anything. I mean, usually it looks all greasy and slicked back. Now it’s kind of, floppy.”
“Floppy,” Malfoy drawls.
“Yeah, I mean, it is.”
“My hair was never greasy.”
“Yeah, it was,” Harry laughs.
“That was gel.”
“Well it looked greasy.”
“I’m getting the distinct feeling that you are judging me, Potter.”
“I’m not! I told you, I’m not judgemental.”
And then Malfoy laughs.
“What?” Harry demands.
“Potter, you’re up there with me on judgmentalism.”
“Is that even a word?”
“Well, if it’s not, it is now,” he says imperiously.
They lie there in silence. Harry eventually turns over onto his other side, facing the wall, and closes his eyes.
“And Potter- don’t let any of this trick you into thinking that I don’t still hate you. Because I do.”
Harry doesn’t want it to sting, but it does.
“Fine,” he says casually. “And I still think of you as a Death Eater. So we’re on the same page.”
Harry doesn’t look to see if his words have made any impact.
Draco wakes up before he even realises he’d fallen asleep. He must have been really exhausted; he hasn’t slept that well, or fallen asleep that quickly, since he was a boy.
He sits up in his bed, looks down at his wrinkled clothes. He wonders why he didn’t think of imagining pyjamas to wear. But then, he reckons he’d rather burst into flames than get changed in front of Potter. Then again, the Room of Requirement probably would have provided something for that, too.
Too sleepy to really care, he swings out of bed and stretches. Potter is sitting on his sofa, eating some toast. He didn’t think bed hair would be possible with him, considering the state of it already, but then, there it is.
He suddenly remembers what he said last night. He decides he has no reason to regret it.
Potter notices him as he stands up. He doesn’t say anything, but continues to munch on his toast, eyes fixed on the wall in front of him.
Draco sighs. “Good morning.”
Potter doesn’t say anything.
“What time is it?” he asks.
Potter casts a tempus. Later than he thought.
“They’ll be properly panicking now,” Potter comments.
Draco takes an apple, which has appeared on the coffee table between them. He finishes it without either of them saying anything else to each other.
He can’t help but feel awfully aware of the fact that he’s been engaging socially with Harry Potter.
It has been lonely these past few years. And, curiously, more lonely being back at Hogwarts with no one he knows around. The thought creeps up on him that, perhaps, he shouldn’t try and hate Potter- especially since he’s always taken some kind of pleasure in winding him up. Perhaps those times of hating him are behind him. That being said, he’s not sure if he’s quite ready to make that giant leap.
“Where do you live?” Potter asks, without looking at him, breaking Draco from his darkening thoughts. He’s holding a mug of tea. He can see this becoming a habit for them- drinking tea and asking blunt questions.
“No, you twat, I mean where do you actually live?”
Draco rolls his eyes, pours himself a cup. He can make small talk, if it means not thinking about the past. “A Muggle street in Chelsea.”
Potter looks at him for a moment, a smile creeping up on his face. “Obviously.”
“Chelsea. So typical.”
Draco quashes the building frustration within him. He’s only just woken up, and he doesn’t want to be mocked. “What? And where do you live?”
Potter’s smile dwindles but it’s still there. “Croydon. It’s- hang on, did you say a Muggle street?”
Draco makes a non-committal noise, sips his tea, looks Potter in the eye and waits for him to laugh again.
“What- I mean- I thought you hated Muggles.”
Draco doesn’t respond, because the answer to that is far too long and complicated to go into. Instead, he sits up straight and lets Potter stare at him.
Eventually, Potter quirks his eyebrows. “Well, shit. Fair enough, then.”
“Yes.” Draco thinks about Potter’s answer for a moment. “I don’t suppose you live in the Muggle world, too?”
He seems to sobre up a bit now. He’s now curled up in the corner of his sofa, looking quite content. It’s bizarre to see Potter like this- a blanket over his feet, steaming mug in his hands, a relaxed, sleepy expression. “Yeah, I do. I used to live with Ron and Hermione in their place, near the Burrow. But uh… yeah, I wanted my own space. And it’s nice to be able to go out into Muggle London without being stared at.”
The last comment makes him roll his eyes. What a burden you must bear. But then, it hasn’t occurred to Draco before that Potter wouldn’t be famous in the Muggle world. In his mind, he’s always been the sickeningly perfect, saint Harry Potter. It makes him wonder what Muggle-Potter is like, what he got up to. What it was like to grow up in the Muggle world, in a Muggle family.
“You lived with Weasel and Granger,” Draco says mildly. Potter rolls his eyes at the names, but nods, trying to give off a nonchalant air but not managing it very well. “That must have been… uncomfortable.”
Potter frowns, tries to hide a smile, and, again, doesn’t manage it very well. “In what way?”
“Oh, come on. You know exactly what I mean.”
Now Potter does laugh, hides it behind his fist as if he feels he oughtn’t. “Uh. I mean, not usually. Not really. The three of us were best friends for years, and they were in love with each other for most of that time. I never felt like I was third-wheeling that much.”
“Hm.” Draco doesn’t believe that this is the entire story.
“Although,” Potter adds, confirming Draco’s theory, making him smile a little to himself. “I did accidentally walk in on them once showering together. Ron never had a habit of locking the door when it was just him, and well. Yeah.”
Draco can’t help the image that pops into his head, and it makes him grimace- which makes Potter laugh liberally, this time.
“It was really awkward for like, days. Hermione wouldn’t look me in the eye for ages.”
Now Draco’s laughing, until he realises that, somehow, he shouldn’t be laughing with Harry Potter, so he stops. Potter seems to register the same thing at the same time, and they both go uncomfortably, suddenly quiet.
Potter stares into his mug for a moment, and then closes his eyes. He seems simultaneously relaxed and on edge, both tired and well rested. Draco can’t really put his finger on it- he’s never really been able to with Potter. Of all his years of people watching, of riling Potter up and taunting him, he’s found that he can predict Potter rather well. And yet, at the same time, beyond knowing what will get on his tits and what won’t, Draco finds he’s remarkably contradictory. He’s both inflammatory and patient, both guarded and open. Draco has seen Potter at meal times, completely shutting himself off from those around him. He’s watched him poke at his food solemnly, avoiding any social interaction from any of those who care about him. He’s seen him quietly listen to conversations, with a look of calm interest and affection for his friends. He’s seen him laugh along with his Gryffindor peers, enjoying the attention without realising he’s the centre of it. Draco has watched the various phases of Harry Potter come and go, has been frustrated and fascinated by how he can be everything, all at once.
He isn’t sleeping, Draco knows- only closing his eyes and pausing, in some way. Both relaxed and tense. He’s never seen him sleep before, never seen him with his eyes closed like this; it appears so vulnerable that Draco feels he shouldn’t be seeing it, but he can’t tear his eyes away.
It’s then that he realises he’s staring. He turns his full attention to the pastries that have appeared on the coffee table between them. That, also, seems to rouse Potter from his half-sleep.
Harry’s beginning to lose his mind.
The Room of Requirement shows no signs of letting down its guard. Apparently, as much as they’ve spoken- more than they’ve ever spoken to each other face to face in all the seven years that they were at school together- it’s not enough.
Currently, Malfoy is standing in front of the fireplace again. The room has gained more furniture as the hours have passed; it’s not like the Gryffindor common room, but it’s not like the Slytherin one, either, from what Harry remembers. The Room has saliently chosen to pick out neutral brown colours, rather than choosing reds or greens. There’s a couple of sofas, the coffee table, the fireplace- and there’s a chair in front of it now, as well as a rug. Some bookshelves and a little radio. The place seems to shift in size every time Harry thinks about it. Right now, it’s quite cosy.
And after all these years of not seeing Malfoy, not even really thinking about him, there he is. He can’t quite get over the fact that they’re trapped in here together. But no, there’s Malfoy, looking angstily into the flames. He’s turning his wand over in his hand. Harry has been considering putting on some music to lessen the boredom. He gets bored easily as it is anyway, but this is torture.
Bored in a room with Malfoy is literal torture.
And he wouldn’t ordinarily strike up conversation with Malfoy. But it’s that boredom that leads him to sigh, stare at Malfoy, watch him turn his wand over and over in his hand before saying, “You’ve been staring at your wand for, like, an hour now.”
Malfoy’s hands freeze. A grey eye peers at him through a curtain of blonde hair. For a moment he doesn’t say anything, though he looks like he wants to.
Harry raises his eyebrows then shrugs, not expecting an answer. Then:
“That time on the 6th floor. That wasn’t the only time you almost killed me. Intentionally or not.”
Something in Harry’s chest squirms at those words. Even before he’s heard what he has to say, he feels a horrible mixture of defiance and guilt.
“You stole my wand.” Malfoy turns slowly towards Harry, casually brandishing the wand. Holding it like it’s a piece of evidence. “You took it from me and left me completely helpless.”
Lying on the sofa, legs crossed over one another and head propped on the armrest, Harry feels like suddenly like he ought to sit up straight. He watches Malfoy stalk across the room, holding his wand and staring at the wall like he’s mentally somewhere else entirely.
“I had to. We had to get out of the Manor alive-”
“And what about me?”
The sudden loudness to Malfoy’s voice shocks Harry into standing up from the sofa. This whole time there’s been tension building, but he wasn’t expecting this. He wasn’t expecting an argument about this. About anything else, sure. But in all honesty, he’d forgotten he’d taken Malfoy’s wand. Clearly, he hadn’t. Clearly, this has been on his mind.
Malfoy’s glaring at him now, eyes wide and furious and lips pursed. His adam’s apple bobs as he swallows.
And then he walks towards Harry slowly, pointing an accusatory finger.
“You left me entirely defenseless. Oh yes, you had to get out of there- of course you did. You had to go save the world again. But what about the other people who were trapped there? What about the people who had their home invaded by Lord Voldemort, what about my mother, what about me? Imprisoned and threatened with death, any wrong move we made? What do you think about that, Potter? Leaving someone there, with the most dangerous person in the world, without a wand?”
Malfoy sneers. Harry tenses. And then Malfoy shakes his head, a little disbelievingly.
“But then, of course that didn’t occur to you. You decided who was right and who was wrong. You decided who deserved to live. Saint Potter.”
Until now, Harry hasn’t known how to feel. And then the anger rises up. He takes a step towards Malfoy.
“No. That isn’t how it was. I didn’t choose, you did. You all chose the wrong side-”
“It wasn’t a choice!” Malfoy yells. And the way he angles himself towards Harry when he does it makes him lean back instinctively. “What teenager chooses to help the most evil magical force in the world? God, and I thought I was narrow-minded- I chose to be with my family, to help the people I loved- how could I have left all that behind without being killed?”
“Sirius did!” Harry bellows.
Malfoy stares at him, shakes his head again. And he turns on the spot, walking away combing his hair with his fingers in frustration.
“Sirius did,” Harry repeats. “He left the Black family. He knew what was right, he actually had a moral compass and he followed it.”
“A moral compass.” Malfoy laughs bitterly, and the sound makes Harry’s insides twists uncomfortably. “I was indoctrinated from day one,” he seethes, back still turned to him. “I was a child. Can’t you get that through your thick skull? I didn’t know how to leave. I didn’t have an escape. I was brought up in a house of Death Eaters and I was taught a different version of what’s morally right. I was a child- and- and- I’m making the right decisions now, aren’t I? Aren’t I? Doesn’t that make me like your beloved Sirius? Doesn’t that make me a better man than I could have been?”
“It’s not an excuse!” Harry begins to pace about the room, keeping his eyes on Malfoy. But he won’t look at him, he’s half turned and grimacing at the wall. “You’re just coming up with excuses- people- people can be brought up by monsters and still know what’s right!”
I should know, Harry thinks, before he continues.
“People can live with monsters and still choose to fight them! To be brave, not help them and do nothing! And, by the way, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that calling someone a mudblood is a bad thing-!”
“Oh for Merlin’s sake, I was a child-”
“Stop saying that!” Harry cries, waving his arms in frustration. “Stop saying that, so was I! We all were!”
“And shouldn’t that make it easier for you to understand?”
The break in Malfoy’s voice makes Harry stop. Till now it’s been anger and frustration and boiling hatred- but that sound is grief. Grief for what they’d lost- a childhood.
Harry’s shoulders slump.
“Shouldn’t that make it easier,” Malfoy repeats more quietly. He’s looking at him now, expression contorted like he’s trying not to cry. “You know how terrifying it was. You had all those friends around you, real friends- I didn’t. I didn’t have any of that, I was entirely alone. All except for my Death Eater father and complacent mother. You had everything that I didn’t.”
“Look at you,” he sneers, waving a had at Harry. He steps back, feeling suddenly self conscious. He doesn’t understand where this has come from. “Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived. The Chosen One. Everybody chose your side. Even when they hated you, they knew you were the one to follow. Even with the fame and glory, you had friends that actually cared- not people who were just after your title and- you- you have everything. You’re better than anyone else. Aren’t you? You were always better. So much better than the rest of us, and you’ve made it abundantly clear that you think you’re better than me, because I’m just some evil monster to you, aren’t I?”
Harry growls. “I’m not-”
“Listen to me,” Malfoy interrupts, hands pressed together as if in prayer, eyes wide in frustration, desperation. “You have always decided who was worth your time and who wasn’t, and you were always better, the most important person in the world, the saviour, you don’t even stop for a second to consider how it might be for someone else because why would you? It’s so hard for you to have everyone on your side, poor you, to have everyone tell you how wonderful you are and to born on the right side of the battle. Well, not everyone is so lucky, Potter. Not everyone’s given those choices. Not everyone’s born brave. Not everyone’s born on the right side.”
And the anger in Harry’s stomach falters. The unadulterated hatred gives way to something else. Everything that he’d understood about their relationship comes apart from the seams, and Harry’s not sure what else is left. It had never occurred to him that Malfoy felt anything beyond disgust towards him. Disgust and anger at his existence, nothing more. Just another target for his bullying and snobbery. But this-
Is that really how Malfoy felt this whole time?
The memory of eleven year old Malfoy, extending his hand and waiting for a hand shake.
Harry shakes his head, scratches his beard, ruffles his hair, takes off his glasses, walks away.
“But you have a family,” he says out loud, finishing his thoughts. He has his back to him; he can’t look at him right now. He doesn’t want to feel any sympathy for him, and he knows that if he turns and looks at him, he will. “I wasn’t that lucky. I had to make my family. I had to build those relationships, I had to find the right people.”
Malfoy snorts. “Well, you’ve rather changed tack, haven’t you?”
“You were saying you had no choice at all with all this nonsense about prophecies and fate, and suddenly saying you’re arguing that you’ve been choosing since the beginning.”
Harry stalls. “That’s- I’m- all I’m saying is that you had more than you think,” Harry interrupts, massaging his temples. “You had love and support from two parents. I was lucky, but I didn’t have that privilege. I wasn’t as set up for greatness as you seem to think. With the Muggle family that raised me… it could have gone a different way.”
It could have gone a different way, he realises.
Malfoy doesn’t say anything for a while. The fire crackles and fills the silence. Harry stares at the rug beneath his feet, swirling brown and cream patterns and dancing, fabric horses running along the borders. And The Room of Requirement feels as if it has shrunk. He feels as if he’s being pushed closer to him, but he doesn’t want to. He doesn’t want to acknowledge this.
He feels suddenly too warm. He pulls off his jumper, throws it aside, rolls up his shirt sleeves. Rubs his face and sighs. He hoped that a sigh would take some of the weight off his chest, but it doesn’t.
He’s so tired.
Then, at last, Malfoy takes a breath. A slow, steadying breath.
“You’re right. I was privileged. And I could have done better. I didn’t. I was scared. Impressionable.” A pause. And Harry swears the room is smaller again; the beds have gone. There’s a sad laugh from over Harry’s shoulder. “You know what Olivander described my wand as? Malleable. The wand chooses the wizard, and the malleable wand chose the malleable boy.”
Harry sticks his hands in his pockets, kicks the rug. “I got basically the same wand as Voldemort.”
Malfoy seems to catch his breath behind him.
“Yeah,” Harry confirms with a huff, a half laugh. “Wands don’t tend to say nice things about people. I think it’s better to just ignore them.”
The surprised laugh that Malfoy makes takes Harry aback. He smiles to himself, against his better judgement.
“We both got dealt shit cards,” Harry says.
“I want to do better now,” Malfoy says quietly. Fragile.
Harry nods. “Yeah. Yeah, so do I.”
And there’s the sound of a creak. The sound of a door opening.
Harry looks up, and the door to the Room of Requirement swings open as if it hadn’t been stuck shut for just over a day. It hangs there, showing the corridor outside, as if to say, well come on then, what have you been waiting for?
When Harry turns to look at Malfoy, he sees an expression that quite acutely matches how Harry’s feeling. A mixture of disbelief, relief, and weariness. And humiliation.
They don’t say another thing to each other. They both leave the Room of Requirement and find separate exits from the 7th floor.
Harry can’t believe it happened, even now.
This is largely because the rest of the school has gone on as if they haven’t been missing for a day. Turns out the Room of Requirement can mess with time too. It’s an alarming discovery, and one that Harry doesn’t intend to investigate any further. No- the past twenty four hours have been exhausting, frustrating, upsetting and… a lot of other things that he’d rather not dwell on.
He’d said as much to Hermione after he got out, writing out almost everything that he spoke about with Malfoy in a letter. After that rollercoaster, he needs someone to share this with. It’s almost like when they were at school, when they’d stumble upon some new discovery that he found in the library and then spill the beans in the common room. Harry doesn’t feel any obligation to keep what Malfoy admitted a secret, doesn’t feel any guilt in sharing with his best friend.
What he does feel, when he reads her response, is disbelief.
Well, that was unexpected. When I said you should stop going on about Malfoy, I fully expected you to continue, but not like this!
All the stuff you’ve told me, I’ve had to translate from Harry-language into Hermione-language. You’re clearly pretty angry at him still and obviously hate his guts which, fair enough. That sounds like an intense experience. But when I reread everything you’ve told me after removing that anger then, well, I feel pretty sorry for him.
Before you get tetchy with me, just think about it. You’ve not told me much about the Dursleys, but I imagine that part of the reason you didn’t turn out like them is because they didn’t treat you like Dudley. You always knew that you weren’t a part of that world and you didn’t want to be. But if you had been? How would you have known that their behaviour was wrong? As much of an excuse as the whole ‘I was a child’ thing is- you WERE. Children aren’t meant to know any better.
And imagine for a moment being Malfoy, brought up by such a frightening family. Imagine not knowing any better. Imagine idolising your father and truly believing he was the person you should be. And think of how badly that family treated him- his aunt, Voldemort coming along. Lucius grooming him for leadership. I mean, it’s sort of like Stockholm syndrome, or something.
Not to get too psychological. I suppose after what you’ve told me, I suddenly find Malfoy very interesting.
It sounds like you do too, although you’ve always been rather fascinated by him, haven’t you?
Anyway. I know you want me to be angry with him like you, Harry, but I’m sorry, all I can think is- poor Malfoy. Yes, even after the terrible things he’s called me and even what Bellatrix did. He was a prisoner there too, remember.
Anyway, onto happier things. Have you heard any decent Muggle music recently? I’m obsessed with Coldplay these days. I’ll send you a Walkman and a few CDs, soon. Don’t let anyone see you, they’ll tease you for years. Ron still won’t stop laughing at me and my tape player.
Write soon. And try not to be too angry at the world.
All my love