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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Tower

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Harry didn't know if he really wanted to befriend Malfoy. He wanted to stop Malfoy from serving the Death Eaters. He wanted to prevent him from doing anything to harm himself or others. And he wanted Malfoy to survive. He wanted so many things, and it was hard to imagine how he could help.

What was it Malfoy said on the train, he thinks he won't survive the year?

Harry had bid Hermione goodnight shortly after his admittance to wanting Malfoy's friendship, claiming tiredness. She had stayed behind on the window seat, and so he was forced to make the climb to the third floor of the Half-Blood Tower alone. As Flitwick had said, Harry found two doors on either side of the third floor: one door to the ladies' dorm room, the other to the men's. And he could already hear muffled voices coming out from behind both doors.

He opened the door to his new dorm.

"- absolute moron, Finnigan," he heard Corner mutter.

The dorm room was different to the Gryffindor dorm. The walls were made of simple wooden panelling. There was a door to the left that held a sign pinned to it, 'Bathroom', and one more door that led out to a balcony. The four-poster beds looked different, too. There were four of them in the room. Two beds were decorated by red curtains and quilts, and one of them had a jug placed on the bedside table. The third bed had blue curtains and blue bedding, and the fourth had green.

Michael Corner was sitting on his bed. His bed was on the right side of the room, closest to the entrance. What sort of creature is he? Does Cho know? The last Harry had heard, Corner was still dating his fellow Ravenclaw, Cho Chang.

Seamus was leaning against the pillar of his four-poster bed, clutching his right hand. He looked red in the face. His sandy-coloured hair resembled a stack of mismatched sticks. And he was wincing as if in pain.

"What happened?" Harry asked.

"Finnigan tried to enter the girls' dormitory," Corner replied. "And burned his hand on the doorknob. Flitwick really outdid himself with his protective charms."

Seamus grimaced. "I don't wanna go bother Pomfrey, it's only a little burn. I'll be fine."

"Liar. He's too much of a wimp to go see Pomfrey and admit what he did," Corner said.

Harry didn't know any spells to soothe burns. "Hermione might know a spell for burns, I can ask her?"

"What? No! Hermione will tell all the girls that I tried to enter their dorm room. I've seen her get angry at Ron, that's not happening to me. Not on the first day back."

"Why did you even try to enter their dorms, Finnigan?" Corner asked, snickering.

"We're on the same floor now. He couldn't do that spell where the stairs become a slide. So, you know, I thought anything he came up with wouldn't be as bad? And I needed to see Tracey."

Corner frowned. "You wanted to see Tracey Davis? The Slytherin?"

The bathroom door opened. Malfoy stepped out in his school uniform. He probably changed on the carriage ride to the castle. His shirt was unbuttoned and his tie hung lazily around his neck. There was also a long, purple bruise on his stomach, marring his pale, smooth skin. Harry flushed and tore his gaze away to look at Malfoy's face instead.

"There is nothing wrong with Slytherins, Corner, if that's what you're implying. I could hear you all from inside the bathroom."

He went over to his bed and bent down by his trunk. His bed was the furthest from the entrance, but the closest to the balcony. I wonder if all the dorms here have a balcony? The balcony was kept locked off by a glass door. Harry could see stone banisters outside through the glass, but not much else. He vowed to check the balcony out sometime during his first week back.

"What do you want, Malfoy?" Seamus asked, looking up from his hand.

The blond peeked over his trunk. "Do you need help with that?"

"You're offering?" Harry asked, astonished.

"I am. I studied a bit under Pomfrey last year, when I wasn't working for the Inquisition Squad. I have all the supplies necessary in my trunk to treat burns and cuts, that is, if you do want my help."

Corner scowled. "Why do you need supplies to treat injuries? You injure a lot of people?"

"I keep them for myself, not others," Malfoy replied shortly. He turned to Seamus. "Do you want my aid or not? Potter can still call Granger up here. I'd personally not risk the wrath of the girls, though, especially Davis. I hear she likes her privacy."

"All right, Malfoy. What exactly are you going to do?" Seamus asked.

"First of all, go wash in the bathroom with lukewarm water. Clean your hands." Malfoy stood and motioned for Seamus to follow him into the bathroom. Soon, the sound of rushing water came echoing out. "Gently, you ruddy Gryffindor! Not rough enough to break skin," he heard Malfoy shout.

Harry sniggered quietly and went to his own bed. Realising that he was still wearing Malfoy's jacket, he took it off and laid it on his bed. I wish Corner wasn't here. He wanted to put the jacket on Malfoy's bed. What's Corner going to think if I'm putting clothes on Draco Malfoy's bed? He promised himself he'd return the jacket later when no one else was around.

His trunk sat in front of his bed. He undressed, tossed his clothes into the trunk, and redressed into a pair of plaid pyjamas. Then, he picked up the jacket from his bed, folded it and placed it neatly atop his trunk.

He sat on his bed and rubbed his face. I wonder if Malfoy would consider treating my cuts from the train? Harry shook his head at the thought. Back on the Hogwarts Express, Malfoy had run away at the sight of his fangs. He very much doubted Malfoy would consider helping a vampire heal. Malfoy seemed to have taken care of his own, though. The blond man only had a few faded cuts on his cheeks and just one on his neck.

I need to act like a vampire, I can't keep relying on others to help me. Already, he'd had Tonks keep him from becoming frostbitten, and Snape help him to retract his fangs. He needed to learn to cope on his own. He took up the jug on his beside table and saw the blood inside. He drank it all. I can't forget to drink daily. I can't let Snape give me detention just for forgetting.

Moments later, the pair reappeared from the bathroom.

Seamus sat on his bed as Malfoy gathered his supplies. Malfoy went about treating the Gryffindor's burn quickly, first by asking Seamus to apply a lotion to his injured hand, and then by bandaging the burn himself, wrapping the fabric loosely and explaining that Seamus needed to remain behind in the morning so that Malfoy could redress the wound again.

"If all goes well, Finnigan, the lotion should help your skin heal by the morning. Form a new top layer. But it's best to leave the lotion on for two days just in case." Malfoy tied the bandage dressing off and retreated back to his trunk, where he put away his supplies away. "The lotion is magically designed to reduce pain, repair and produce new skin. Quite the marvel."

"You're the marvel, Malfoy." Seamus grinned at him. "Thanks, man. Girls won't notice now."

"Why'd you want to talk to Davis in the first place, anyway?" Harry asked from his bed.

"Ah. I met the Weasley twins in Diagon Alley during the holidays. They wanted to play a practical joke on Davis. Asked me to give her a dungbomb. Apparently, she pulled a fast one on Fred and managed to trick him into using a boxing telescope on himself when she last visited their store. I should have known better than to listen to Fred and George. They said they'd send me a first edition of their new product if I went through with it."

Corner snorted. "Well, good luck with that. I'm going to sleep."

Corner got up from his bed and started to undress for bed. Seamus hummed in agreement.

Harry watched as Malfoy collected his clothing and silently went back into the bathroom. He's probably changing there to hide the Dark Mark on his arm. The thought didn't bring solace to Harry, who then bid his fellow Gryffindor roommate goodnight and then closed the curtains surrounding his four-poster bed.

The following day after breakfast, the Head of Houses were required to confirm the timetables with their sixth-year students. Harry sat at the Gryffindor table alongside Ron and Hermione. As McGonagall finished reaffirming that Harry and Ron could continue to take Potions, now being taught by Professor Slughorn, and therefore they could continue with their career plans to become Aurors, she was interrupted by the sharp voice of Pansy Parkinson from the Slytherin table.

"You're not serious, Draco!"

He huffed. "I'm allowed to change my mind."

The surrounding sixth-year Slytherins broke out into chatter and laughter. Harry could see Zabini scowling angrily at Goyle and Crabbe, who were seated beside one another and whispering.

"You will all lower your voices, or I'll see fit the entire lot of you spend the night in detention!" Snape shouted. He stood up, and went on, "Mr Malfoy, you are cleared for your new timetable, however much I and others may disapprove. Now leave. Mr Goyle, we need to discuss..."

"Well, never have I heard such a commotion," McGonagall said, his thin lips drawn in irritation. "Normally, the Ravenclaw table is the one that causes all the noise." She turned around on the bench to train her gaze on Harry once more. "As I was saying, I'm quite sure Professor Slughorn will lend you books and ingredients until you can acquire your own. You as well, Mr Weasley. Now you're both set, off you go. Onto you, Mr Thomas..."

Harry had been pleased to hear he could take Potions at NEWT level. He'd been awarded Exceeds Expectations for an OWL grade, and Professor Snape had only wanted to accept students with an Outstanding level of achievement onto NEWT level. It was a relief to know Professor Slughorn was still welcoming students with Exceeds Expectations.

His first class was Defence Against the Dark Arts with Professor Snape. He had been surprised to see that Ron and Hermione had been accepted into at NEWT level, given they'd only achieved Exceeds Expectations. Harry had been the only one out of them to achieve an Outstanding grade at OWL level. For whatever reason, though likely on Dumbledore's orders, Snape had lowered his standards to let a lesser grade into his class.

Now confirmed, Harry, Ron and Hermione made their way to the DADA classroom. It was a little while until the class started, so they simply stood outside and talked.

"Katie Bell is Captain, you know. I'll have to tryout again," Ron said, not sounding happy by the notion. "She reckons you should've been made captain, Harry, but because you're a vampire and all, well..."

"Ron, don't be so thoughtless. You know Harry can't play Quidditch now, stop talking about it."

Harry shrugged. "It's fine, Hermione. I'll be too busy this year, anyway."

Hermione beamed. She probably thought that he was referring to their NEWT studies, and she proceeded to talk about how taxing Ancient Runes was likely to become and when they could start group studies in the library together. In actuality, Harry was more concerned with simply getting through his sixth year. Between remembering to drink blood, trying to keep an eye on Malfoy, and studying for NEWTS, I think I'll have enough to do.

Eventually, more students arrived for the classroom. Harry saw when Malfoy, Goyle and Zabini appeared at the corridor's entrance. The three made to stand near the back, behind the other queuing students. So, Malfoy did get at least an Exceptional Expectations in Defence Against the Dark Arts. I wonder what other grades he got for his OWL levels?

The door to the classroom opened. Snape stepped out.

"Inside," he ordered.

Harry found a seat quickly beside Ron. The class went as he expected. Snape rattled on about much more advanced their work load would be this year, and how he expected not many to pass his NEWT level class. He showed pictures of individuals suffering at the hands of the Cruciatus Curse, a Dementor's Kiss, and the Inferius.

"...You are, I believe, all complete novices in the use of non-verbal spells. What is the advantage of a non-verbal spell?"

Hermione's hand shot up into he air.

Snape took his time eyeing everyone else in the classroom, before he sighed, looked at her and said, "Very well. Miss Granger, your answer?"

"Your adversary has no warning about what kind of magic you're about to perform," she answered, "which gives you a split second advantage."

"An answer copied word for word from The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 6," he said dismissively.

Over in the corner, Zabini sniggered. Harry glanced over his shoulder and saw the dark-skinned boy grinning and passing a note to Goyle. One guess that it's something insulting about Hermione. Harry thought Malfoy would be in on it, but the blond boy was in the seat next to the window, and seemed to be ignoring Snape's teaching in favour of staring outside.

"On the other hand," Snape went on, "Miss Granger is correct in the basic point. Yes, those who practice non-verbal magic may gain the element of surprise. Not all wizards are capable of this, however; it is a question of focus and mind power which some -" his gaze lingered on Harry "- unfortunately lack."

Harry knew he was referring to their failed Occlumency lessons last year. He glowered back at Snape until the professor looked away.

"You'll now divide into pairs. One will attempt to jinx the other without speaking. The other will attempt to repel the jinx in equal silence. Carry on."

Many students of the class were in fact former members of Dumbledore's Army, and yet, even they were struggling. There were students who were clearly cheating: whispering incantations rather than speaking them out loud. Indeed, in the first ten minutes, Hermione was only one to manage a non-verbal incantation, repelling Neville's Jelly-Legs jinx without uttering a word.

Ron, on the other hand, had spent the last ten minutes in complete silence, with his face turning as cherry red as his hair. He was concentrating so much on casting a non-verbal spell, that Harry was beginning to wonder if he himself would have to finish class without repelling a single spell.

"Pathetic, Weasley," Snape said, as he approached them from his desk. He made to stand in front of Ron and then raised his wand. "Here, Potter - let me show -"

A bright ball of light came from the corner of the room. It smacked into Professor Snape and knocked him off-balance, sending him stumbling sideways into his desk. There was a great thump when he hit it. And clumsily, Snape stood up again.

"Who cast that Protego?" he asked, eyeing the room.

He didn't need to ask anyone. As it turned out, many students were already staring in the direction of the corner of the room, where Malfoy was leaning against the wall. The blond was panting. He had sweat on his forehead, fringe sopping with it. Zabini stood in front of him, arms folded and scowling.

"Draco, you cast two counter-jinxes at once?" Zabini asked angrily, throwing up his hands. "What's the point in me trying to jinx you if you can cast two non-verbal spells at once? You should be trying to jinx me."

"Mr Malfoy," Snape said, choosing to ignore Zabini, "while you are evidently capable at casting non-verbal counter-jinxes, you were instructed to only defend yourself, not other students. Or was I not clear?"

"Yes, you were clear," Malfoy replied stiffly. "Until you took over Weasley's role in their pair and attempted to jinx Potter. I simply did the same. I took on Potter's role and deflected your attack."

"So, to be clear, you were defending yourself against Mr Zabini. You noticed that I had taken over Mr Weasley's role as the jinxer, and you choose to react by interfering and defending Mr Potter as well as still defend yourself against Mr Zabini?"

"I did."

Snape scowled. "I did, sir."

"There's no need to call me, 'sir', Professor."

Several people gasped, including Harry. No one had ever defended him against Snape before in classes. Ron had been given smacks on the head alongside him, and there had been occasions when other students had whispered snide remarks against Snape in his own classes, but no one had ever openly disobeyed his instructions - for Harry alone.

Harry could see Ron trying not to laugh beside him. The boy's cheeks were glowing red, and he was holding a hand in front of his mouth. Seamus, Dean and Neville were also grinning not a few feet away. Hermione was the only one in the room who seemed to look more shaken than pleased.

"Detention, Mr Malfoy. This Saturday night at eight p.m., my office," Snape said. "I don't take cheek from anyone. And I'll explain in your detention how it is not a good idea to take on two opponents at once. Even if you are trying to defend the Chosen One."

For the remainder of the class, Harry couldn't keep himself from glancing back at Malfoy. He could feel Malfoy watching him, too. It was intense. It made Harry blush and wish for the class to end quickly. He wanted to talk to Malfoy. He wanted to ask Malfoy if they could find somewhere they could talk by themselves.

"That was bloody brilliant, Malfoy!" Seamus shouted, once they were outside in the corridor.

"Not really," Zabini said.

Malfoy scowled at Zabini.

Harry, Ron and Hermione were walking towards the entrance to the Grand Staircase. Harry glanced behind him to see Malfoy and Zabini were straying behind, most likely because they also had a break before their next class and didn't want to return to separate common rooms. Harry frowned, finally deciding that he couldn't wait until he got lucky and found Malfoy by himself. He would have to ask Malfoy for a private chat.

"I'll see you both in Potions," Harry said.

Ron gasped. "Mate, what are you -"

"He'll tell us later, Ronald. Come on." Hermione grabbed Ron by the arm and hauled him towards the Grand Staircase.

Grateful for Hermione's help, Harry - apprehensively - approached Malfoy and Zabini.

"Malfoy, can we talk - alone?"

"No, you can't, Potter," Zabini snapped. "Draco told us what happened on the train. I don't trust you not to scare him again into breaking things. Bloody egotistical, you are. Why, if Pansy were here -"

"Blaise, stop." Malfoy groaned. "You saw what happened in class. I'm quite able to look after myself. And I doubt Potter will try to come near me again, not after last time." He looked tired. His fringe and shirt were still wet with sweat. "C'mon, Potter. We can talk in our dorm room. I need to shower and change. This heat and the non-verbal spells proved...ah, a bit too taxing for me."

Malfoy led the way back to the seventh floor. Several students eyed them on the way. Once inside their dorm room, Malfoy locked the door shut and cast a silencing charm.

"To ensure no one overhears us," he murmured. "I'll be in the shower, you wait here. I'll answer your questions once I'm out."

Harry listened as the shower started running. He rolled his eyes, suspecting that Malfoy would take an eternity in the shower before he showed himself. He did defend you against Snape, he got a detention for you, don't go and mock him now. Harry thought about what he should ask Malfoy. For a start, why is he acting so nice now?

It was over ten minutes before Malfoy stepped out into the dorm room. The man had redressed himself into his trousers, socks and shoes, but had neglected to pull his shirt back on. Harry glanced over the bleeding Dark Mark on his left arm and stared at the long, thin bruise on his abdomen.

Malfoy walked over to his trunk. He brought out a ball of bandages and quickly dressed his arm. Then, he picked up a new shirt from his trunk.

"Go on, then, Potter. Ask what you want."

"Where did you get that bruise from? Why haven't you healed it?"

Malfoy stiffened. "Those questions I'm not willing to answer." He pulled the shirt over his arms and began to button it up. "Surely you have more important things on your mind?"

"All right. Why did you defend me against Snape?"

"I have no doubt you could've handled it by yourself, but you shouldn't have needed to. Snape broke his rule about pairing, inserting himself in Weasley's place." He sniffed. "And besides, I didn't feel like letting him hurt you."

"You didn't want Snape to hurt me? Me?" he spluttered. "Why are you acting so great lately? You - you used to be the worst, and now..."

"Now I no longer want to trick and hurt people, Potter. It's that simple." He eyed the jacket on Harry's trunk. "I trust you don't need my jacket anymore?"

Malfoy picked his jacket up and placed it on his own bed. The act made Harry uneasy for some reason. I liked his jacket because it kept me warm. He can take it back, it's his own property. Malfoy then retrieved a Slytherin tie from his trunk.

"What was it like, living under the same roof as Voldemort?"

Malfoy winced. And Harry regretted asking. The Slytherin sat on his bed, leaving his tie to hang undone over his shoulders.

"You really want to know, Potter?" Harry nodded. "Vol...the Dark Lord wasn't at the Manor for the entire summer. Mainly August. My mother and I tried to hide my veela side from him. The changes were slow. I started changing in fifth year, I knew that; I asked Pomfrey about it. She tried to hide it from me at first, but eventually told me what was wrong. It was going okay until I went home and turned sixteen in June. When I turned sixteen, I experienced the worst pain imaginable. My stomach felt like it was trying to rip itself apart. Worse, Aunt Bellatrix found out."

"Bellatrix was with you?"

"She spent the entire summer with us, which was awful. She'd just sent Sirius to St. Mungo's and she was in hiding from the Aurors. My father was sent to Azkaban. She mocked and humiliated my mother and I. You have no idea what I went through." He stood and attempted to continue tying his tie, if a little more aggressively now. "The day I turned sixteen, my mother tried to hide me in my room the entire day. But Bellatrix knew something was wrong. She found out and told the Dark Lord."

Harry wanted to step forward. I don't want to know anymore, I want to help. He wanted to retie the man's tie for him. He wanted to hug the man. Instead, he asked the one question that had been plaguing him.

"Why did you take the Mark, Malfoy?"

"I didn't take it voluntarily! My Mark bleeds, in case you didn't notice back on the train." He raked his left hand through his sopping wet hair. "The Dark Lord punished my mother - tortured her - for trying to hide my veela side. He cast the Cruciatus on her. And he gave me a choice. I could either take his Mark and fulfil a mission for him, or he would kill her. I took the Mark to save my mother, Potter. My mother. I don't regret doing it."

Harry had his answer. He knew for certain now. Malfoy doesn't want to be a Death Eater. He took it to protect his mum.

"Why...why does your Mark bleed?" he asked, sympathetically.

"Veelas aren't supposed to be branded. My blood is constantly fighting the dark magic, so my Mark never actually heals." Malfoy rubbed his arm. "The Dark Lord thinks he owns, a powerful creature, but he doesn't. I won't have it. Bellatrix taught me Occlumency, and I've been using it against the Dark Lord. He don't know who my mate is. I can keep that a secret from him. And I will think of a plan to help my mother escape from the Manor. You don't need to help, Potter, I will figure it out by myself."

"But...I still don't understand." Harry titled his head and rubbed the bridge of his nose in exasperation. "What do you mean, that Voldemort doesn't know who your mate is? Do you mean, like, how Zabini is one of your best buddies? And what's your mission? And all of doesn't explain why you saved me from Snape. You got a detention for me."

"Potter, what are you doing - acting like this? Asking me questions? Caring about my bleeding arm? Just because I start checking in on Sirius, helping your friends and defending you in class, that doesn't mean we're friends."

Malfoy finished tying his tie. It ended up crooked, though. Harry wanted to approach him and correct the tie. Malfoy won't let me touch him though, let alone fix his tie.

"But...I want to help. I want us to be friends."

He stuck his hand out, hoping that the Slytherin would shake it.