Chapter Sixteen: Pushing Your Luck (Déjà Vu)
Thursdays, generally, were not the best days on Harry's timetable. In the morning, he had two hours of Magical Creatures in the cold grounds with Hagrid and all sorts of weird creatures they had to care for, whether the creatures liked it or not. Then there was Transfiguration between the two breaks, and NEWT-standard Transfiguration was the hardest thing Harry had ever done. McGonagall had high standards that Harry found himself straining to meet, and he'd only just completed their first project to a satisfactory state. Then after lunch was Potions. Even though the lesson was a lot more bearable than it had ever been, it was still difficult and he had to put in a lot of effort for two whole hours in a freezing cold dungeon.
So Thursdays, generally, were not the best days on Harry's timetable. Every Thursday, after the last lesson of the day, he, Ron and Hermione went out to the lake to sit and do their homework in peace, relax and let off some steam about their exhausting day. A lot of other students did this as well, and it was quite common practice to have fifty or so people gathered around the lake while it was still light, talking and doing schoolwork, enjoying themselves.
Just one such Thursday afternoon, they were all sitting on a blanket they'd brought to protect their uniforms against the cold ground, surrounded by paper and books, stacks of parchment and various bottles of different coloured inks. There wasn't a breath of wind to speak of, and it wasn't as cold as it usually was, so all of them were getting as much homework done as possible.
"What's a common domestic use for a heating charm?" Ron asked, rubbing his temple with the tip of his quill.
"Cooking?" Harry suggested.
"Oh yeah." Ron scribbled it down, as the doors of the castle came open, and a blonde-haired figure came out into the grounds. Ron rolled his eyes. "Oh look, it's the wandering poet."
Hermione frowned. "Don't, Ron, leave him alone."
Ron had started referring to Malfoy as 'the wandering poet', because most evenings, he could be seen sitting in one of the trees in the grounds, completely alone and far from the others gathered around the lake, drawing in a sketchpad that seemed to be the only half-decent thing he had. It seemed that Ron wasn't ready to feel sorry for Malfoy just yet. Unlike Hermione, Ron couldn't forgive all the jibes about his family and how poor they were quite so easily.
Harry watched absent-mindedly as Malfoy walked silently to one of the nearby trees, clambering up into the branches with little difficulty. Since being back at school, his health had picked up and even though he wasn't quite as agile as he had ever been, he didn't struggle anymore. Sure enough, he seated himself on one of the branches, stretching out, one of his feet hanging underneath as he opened up his sketchbook and started to draw.
Ron tutted and looked away. Hermione scowled. "Hasn't he been punished enough yet?" she muttered.
"No," said Ron, stubbornly. "Remember the time he gave you beaver teeth? Or calling you mudblood all the time? What about when he blacked both my eyes and gave me a nosebleed? Or the millions of times he had a go at Harry? All the dementor stuff? What about that?"
"Keep your voice down," said Hermione, quietly. Harry glanced over his shoulder and so Malfoy watching them over the top of his sketchpad.
Ron snorted. "Why should I? He should know what everybody think of him by now."
"I do," said Malfoy, glaring at Ron, his tone calm and yet angry at the same time. "Though you could do with learning some tact."
Ron turned around to glare right back at Malfoy. "Oh yeah? You're lacking that a bit yourself, aren't you?"
Malfoy just looked away back to his drawing, apparently not bothered enough to fight with Ron. Ron, however, wasn't going to let it drop so easily.
"What's wrong, Malfoy? Can't fight without Crabbe and Goyle standing behind you for back up, huh?" he sneered. People were turning around to stare now, and Hermione kept hissing at Ron to leave him alone, but he was taking no notice.
Malfoy didn't look up, just drawing silently, as though he no longer existed.
"Don't ignore me!" Ron yelled, angrily, getting to his feet.
The Slytherin in the tree looked up coolly, pausing in his drawing. "Can you give me a good reason why I shouldn't?"
"Because all those times, for six years, if you started on us and we ignored you, then you'd just go on and on," Ron snarled. "You just never let anything drop. It's not much fun on the receiving end, is it?" He walked forward to glare up at Malfoy in his tree. "I don't care what happened to you, because a lot worse has happened to other people. Look at Harry! All the times you went on about his family and how he wasn't wanted, and now it's you, and you just expect people to leave you alone?"
"Potter was a year old," said Malfoy, quietly. "He won't remember looking his father in the eye and seeing the fear of death there staring back at him before he crumpled and fell."
"What difference does it make?" Ron snapped. Absolutely everybody was watching now, a lot of them were giving support for Ron, some of them cheering. A few of Blaise Zabini's admirers were whistling and applauding. "Harry saw his godfather die! He saw Cedric die! He saw them all die! And look at you, you haven't changed at all, I don't care what anybody says. You still think you're better than us, but you're not! You're just like us!"
Malfoy looked away again. "If you're looking for a fight, you're not going to get it here. Go throw stones at Zabini, fit a leash on Lupin, lock Flitwick in a cupboard, just leave me alone."
Harry found himself on his feet, moving forwards to stand next to Ron, feeling his anger rising at the slur about Lupin. "You do think you're better than us, don't you? Just because Professor Lupin's a werewolf doesn't make you half the person he is."
"Which part of leave me alone is it causing you the most trouble?" Malfoy snarled from the tree. "I'm not even bothered to fight with you. Go away."
"Why's that? Because you're a Malfoy?" said Harry, angrily. "Because Malfoy's shouldn't have to fight? They get people to do it for them?"
"No," said Malfoy, and he sounded nearly as angry as Harry now, his eyes narrow, his fingers shaking from supressed anger. "It's because you're an arrogant, heroic little mudblood lover, that's why! Leave me alone!"
Ron pulled out his wand, pointed it up at the branch Malfoy was sitting on and cried, "Diffindo!"
There was a loud creak, and the branch snapped dangerously, jolting Malfoy down. His eyes widened in fear, scrabbling for the trunk, but Harry drew his wand as well. "Diffindo!"
The branch gave way with a loud crack, and Malfoy fell hard from the tree, hitting the ground with a cry of pain. Everybody cheered except Hermione who said, "No, Harry, Ron, don't!", but they weren't listening. Ron strode forward and turned Malfoy over, wand pointing right at his face.
"Take back what you said about Harry."
"No," Malfoy snarled, fighting to get Ron off.
"Take it back," Harry said, angrily. He stood next to Ron, cousins standing together, both their wands pointing at Malfoy on the ground. "Take back everything you ever said. Everything about me, about Ron, about Hermione, about Lupin, about everybody."
"Make me," Malfoy snapped. He lashed out, trying to knock their wands out of the way. Everybody had jumped up from their groups of friends and was hurrying over to watch. A crowd was forming around Malfoy, Ron and Harry, all cheering, all yelling for Harry and Ron to jinx him. Hermione was at Harry's elbow, pleading with him, but he ignored her. Years and years of being taunted by Malfoy had peaked inside him.
"Take it back or I'll curse you so badly you'll wish you'd never come back to Hogwarts," said Ron.
Malfoy lashed at them again, trying to crawl away from them, the sketchbook still clamped tight in his arms.
Ron raised his wand, "Accio sketchbook!"
Malfoy gave a grab for it as the book was yanked out of his arms and soared into Ron's hand. Hermione snatched at it, with a shrill, "Ron, no!" Ron pulled it away from her, and starting to flick through it, sneering.
"How sentimental," he said, passing picture after picture of Malfoy Manor and Lucius. "Didn't know you were so wet, Malfoy."
"Give me it back!" said Malfoy, and Harry could hear a note of panic in his voice that somehow just made him want to hex Malfoy even more.
Hermione pleaded, "Ron, please, just give him it! Don't be so mean!"
"I don't need you to fight for me, mudblood!" Malfoy snarled viciously at her, making another grab for his sketchbook.
Harry felt his blood boil with fury. He did think he was better. He was still arrogant, he still thought that being pureblood gave him the right to insult everyone lower than him. He raised his wand, furiously, and cried, "Scoritis!" A jet of light burst from his wand, struck Malfoy around the face and he cried out as a burn started to spread over his flawless pale skin.
Hermione said, "No! Harry, don't, you'll get in trouble!", pulling at his arm, trying to make him stop. "Please Harry, look at him, what's he ever done to you?"
And at that, Harry suddenly felt a cold flush spread from his stomach right up to his chest. He'd seen this before. Snape's pensieve... Snape, in the middle of a crowd of people, all of them calling for James Potter to jinx him, with Sirius behind his best friend, laughing, taunting Snape, and Lily pleading with the two boys to let him go. He felt his hand shaking as he realised with a rush of cold, horrible realisation that he was turning into everything his father was.
"Ignore her Harry," Ron said, angrily. "Remember the time he fouled you at Quidditch? All those times? Come on, Harry, make him pay!"
Harry was just staring at Malfoy, his hand shaking. "What am I doing?" he said, his eyes wide, and then he started to back away, just wanting to run, wanting to shake off the stains his father had left, but he didn't get far when the voice he least wanted to hear in the whole world shouted over the crowd.
"What's going on here? Let me through, out of my way!"
It was Snape. Harry turned, starting to run, but Snape came through a gap in the crowd, pushed into the circle with Harry, Ron, Malfoy on the floor, cradling the burn on his face, and Hermione pulling at Harry's arm to make him stop.
It took perhaps two seconds for the Potions master to realise just what was going on. And when he did, Harry just wished he could die on the spot, just kill himself and not have to see the expression on Snape's face anymore. It was unbearable to see. So much fear, so much fury, so much complete and utter disbelief at what he was seeing, and for a moment, Snape just froze, as the crowd hushed instantly. Harry saw the professor's hands shaking as he looked from Malfoy to Harry.
Harry stared back into those black eyes, and he could see not a Potions master, but a teenage boy who had spent so many years reliving a scene just like this in his nightmares. "I - " What could he say? What was there to say? "I didn't realise - "
It was as though anger itself had failed Snape - or that his anger was so great it was inexpressible. Harry knew that it was probably the latter. The professor just stepped forward, pulled Malfoy to his feet, supporting him, and then grabbed Harry hard around the back of the neck. Harry cried out with pain, and Snape's face seethed, as though he was feeling it himself, his grip relaxing slightly even though it still hurt so much Harry found himself twisting to get out. But Snape wasn't going to let go. Harry could see red marks blooming on the back of the professor's neck, as the guardian bond inflicted the same pain back on him, but Snape didn't care. He started to stalk up the grounds towards the castle, too fast for Harry to walk, so he kept stumbling and tripping, unable to keep up. Everytime he fell, Snape just grabbed him again and pushed him even harder. Though Harry hardly felt the pain. He hardly knew he was walking, he hardly even registered that Malfoy was fighting to keep up as well and there were tears staining his face, dripping into the burn with hissing sounds.
Because his guilt was drowning him. He'd done just what his father had. Snape was right. He was no better than his father. He was a bully.
Snape half-dragged him up the steps to the castle, down the corridors to the dungeons, in complete silence apart from their frantic footsteps and Malfoy's shaky breaths as he tried to calm himself. Finally, they reached the door of Snape's office, Snape hauled it open, flung them both in and then Snape had Harry by the front of his robes and was suddenly yelling so loud it hurt.
"YOU SORRY LITTLE INVERTEBRATE, POTTER!!"
"I'm sorry!" Harry cried, fighting to get away, shaking with fear. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I didn't - "
"WHAT!? IT WAS AN ACCIDENT, WAS IT!? YOU DIDN'T MEAN TO DO IT!?!" Snape's eyes were practically alight with fury, almost bulging from the force of his rage.
Harry choked, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, it got out of hand!"
Snape's fury hit boiling point, and Harry could see the explosion deep inside him as decades of bottled up anger and anguish burst through a damn in his chest and just drowned Harry in anger. Snape was shouting so loud Harry couldn't even hear what he was saying, he was just so angry it went past anything and everything Harry had ever, ever experienced. He shouted about James Potter, Sirius Black, Pettigrew and Lupin, turning his life into a living hell from the moment he ever stepped into the castle on the first day, the years of anger and injustice he went through, how much of his life he had given up to keep Harry safe and this was how he was repaid, by just proving once and for all that James Potter hadn't died sixteen years ago but was continuing to rip his life apart through his son. Harry just kept yelling back that he was sorry, I'm not my father, I'm sorry, please, I didn't mean to let it all happen, I'm sorry. Malfoy was shouting something too though nobody heard him at all over the noise of Harry and Snape's yells, until -
"STOP IT!!!!!" Malfoy practically screamed, as he seized a glass jar from the side and flung it down on the floor, shattering it to pieces.
The silence that fell was nearly as painful as the screaming. Harry could hear ringing his ears, his heart pummeling the inside of his chest, he was so scared. There were tears pouring down Malfoy's face and the burn had spread down his neck. He was shaking harder than either of them as he pointed at his wound and screamed, "OW!!!! OW, FOR THE SAKE OF MERLIN, STOP YELLING!!!"
Shaking furiously, Snape left Harry and turned to Malfoy, taking out his wand and stretching the Slytherin's neck back. "Stay still," he said, and his voice was hoarse, shuddering nearly as much as his hand. He muttered something, and the burn faded slowly away as a soft blue light sprinkled from his wand, healing it. Malfoy just closed his eyes, as though it was all becoming too much. "There." Snape drew his wand away, tucking it back up his sleeve.
Malfoy opened his eyes, "Good, now YOU sit down there, and POTTER is going to sit down there, and nobody is going to do anymore yelling but me! Are we clear?" He spoke so angrily and so stubbornly that Snape didn't argue back. He looked as though he was all screamed out. He fell into a chair behind his desk, sitting forward, scraping his fingers through his hair.
Malfoy turned to Harry, and it was the Slytherin's turn to berate him. "You are arrogant, you are vile, you are a hypocrite, and you are just blind to what you are! And don't you dare talk back to me Potter, because this is NOT fair! You're going to sit there, and I don't care what you think, you are going to LISTEN to me and you will listen WELL." He then turned to Snape and said with a much calmer, more respectful tone that was still angry, "I'm not going to yell too loudly at you because I'll get expelled, but not only do you walk too fast, you're blind too! There, I said it! Now BOTH of you just be quiet!"
Snape and Harry both obeyed, too stunned by Malfoy's cheek to really do anything. Snape looked as though he'd never been told to be quiet by a student in his life, and Harry just didn't want the Potions master to start shouting again.
Malfoy addressed Snape first, with a level, shaky voice. "Potter is not his father. He might be arrogant, he might be stubborn, he might cross the line sometimes, and I am not standing up for Potter, but he is not his father. He's not your stress relief outlet. I don't care what Potter's father did to you, but taking it out on him is not going to help anything. No matter how loud you scream, Potter's father will not hear you."
He then turned to Harry, brushed his hair out of his eyes before saying, "Professor Snape and I are not half as arrogant as you. You're a total and utter hypocrite. You say I think I'm better than you, when you then think you have the given right to humiliate me publicly, burn my face, and then shout at Professor Snape. You don't understand what respect is, you don't understand that you're not the centre of the universe, you don't understand that people out there suffer just as much as, if not more, than you."
He then faced between both of them, staring straight ahead. "I am arrogant. I used to think I was God's gift to bloody everything. I used to consider myself better than everybody else, I used to think I owned this school, I used to think I was superior to you, Potter. I used to suck up to you, Professor. But I am not what I used to be! I am not Malfoy, I'm not a piece of skin full of noble blood, I'm a person who saw their father killed, I am DRACO."
He took a deep breath, and then said, "There. I have been wanting to say that for YEARS." He looked at Snape, and then at Harry. "Now do either of you have any more problems you wish to get out in the open?"
Harry shook his head numbly. Snape did too.
"If that's so, both of you should have no trouble with apologising to each other, and looking each other in the eye while you do it, and just letting all this stupid fighting drop. Professor Snape is a good teacher, and Potter with admittedly a little practice is a good student. There is no reason to fight." He glared at them both. "Apologise."
"Sorry," Harry mumbled.
"Sorry," came the muttered reply.
"I'm not convinced!" Draco said, angrily, his eyes flaring again.
Snape was silent for a moment, then got up, walked over to Harry's chair and sat back down. He looked Harry directly in the eye, and even though Harry could see it was costing him a lot of pride to do so, the Potions master he never thought would even tolerate him said, slowly and clearly, "I'm sorry."
Harry looked back, and he was completely sincere and honest when he said, "I'm sorry too."
Draco sighed. "Thankyou for that." He sat down on a chair, looking exhausted. "And don't thank me too much."
Snape glanced over his sholder at the weary Slytherin. "By the way, Malfoy, five points from Slytherin for talking back to a professor. And Potter, twenty points from Gryffindor for cursing Malfoy." The very corners of his lips twitched ever so slightly. "And ten points each for being the first students to ever dare shout at me in my entire career. Now out. And I don't want to see any rivalry between either of you again."
Draco and Harry both left the room silently, and when the door shut, they started to walk towards the entrance hall together. After a moment, Draco said, "I didn't know you could shout that loud."
"Likewise," said Harry.
Draco stopped then, and Harry did too as the Slytherin turned to him, looking at his feet, fighting with himself to get the words out. "Look, Potter... maybe I got a faulty first impression of you. And maybe I've been a bit... prejudiced."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "Don't choke on that apology, Draco." Draco looked up, and Harry smiled. "I got a faulty first impression of you too. Even though you were a total stuck-up jerk at times."
Draco smirked. "I could say the same about you." He paused, considering, and then extended his hand. "What do you say, Potter? Peace?"
Harry took Draco's hand. "Peace." They shook hands, and Harry realised it was now six years since Malfoy had first offered his hand to Harry on the Hogwarts Express. "It took us long enough."
"True," said Draco. "I think this is the first time I've actually... well, spoken to you."
Harry thought about that, and after a moment, he nodded. "It is, isn't it?" He paused, and then said, "I'm... sorry about your sketchbook. Hermione probably got it, she'll have it somewhere for you. And... sorry about... your dad."
Draco turned his eyes to the floor, shrugging slightly, though Harry could see he didn't feel quite so casual about it really. "Things happen. As Weasley said... I'm not the only casualty..."
"That was unfair of Ron though," said Harry, as they started to walk up the corridor to the hall again. "Maybe we're all a little arrogant deep down."
They left the cold dungeon corridor, up into the evening sunlight streaming into the entrance hall. Harry glanced across at Draco, and realised suddenly just how little he knew about the Slytherin. They had hated each other for six years for no reason apart from jealousy and arrogance. Pointless, really, Harry thought.
"Aren't you going to your common room?" Harry asked.
Draco scoffed. "Zabini already does enough damage to me without presenting myself as an easy target." His fingers instinctively curled around the locket dangling around his neck. "Every single thing I do, he picks up on. You have no idea, Potter."
"So where do you spend all your time?" Harry asked, as they headed across the hall for the grounds.
"The Great Hall, mostly, or the library. The astronomy tower is always empty. I did think I was safe sitting in a tree in the grounds until somebody cursed me down. Oh yes, it was you and Weasley. How forgetful of me."
Harry looked across, and saw that Malfoy was smirking. Deep down, he could see a little of the old Malfoy hidden underneath, a little of the Malfoy who enjoyed taunting people. Harry grinned. "You're a real prat."
"As are you. We make quite the pair, wouldn't you agree?"
They stepped out through the main doors of the castle, to immediately be greeted by a swarm of attention. Ron was fighting through the crowd. "Harry, Harry! What happened?"
"Where's Draco's sketchbook?" said Harry.
Hermione appeared at his elbow, and handed him the book, looking absolutely passed herself. "You haven't been expelled, have you, Harry?"
"No, I got ten points for Gryffindor for yelling at Snape," said Harry, bemusedly. He handed Malfoy the sketchbook, and as simple as the gesture was, Ron's eyes widened at it.
"What - "
"Thankyou." Malfoy tucked the sketchbook under his arm, then looked up at the horrified expression on Ron's face. "Oh, by the way, Weasley, Professor Snape wants to see you. He says to pack before you go though, he has some bad news for you."
Ron's face fell in horror. Harry stared at Malfoy. "Snape didn't say that, did he?"
And then he saw that sly smirk again, and he laughed. Ron didn't find it funny. "Oh right! You're just stupid, Malfoy. Come on Harry, leave him to it."
"Draco and I have agreed to stopped fighting," said Harry.
"Oh, that's wonderful!" said Hermione, shrilly, beaming at the pair of them. "So no more fighting? Seriously? This is all so great, I'm really, really proud of you both! So what happened in Snape's office?"
"He made you make up, right?" said Ron.
"No," said Harry. "We both yelled at Snape, Draco smashed one of his jars and he gave us ten points each."
"No, really, tell us."
Harry couldn't help but smile.
Once again, the weeks started to roll by. Draco started to spend more and more time with Harry, Ron and Hermione, following them around to Ron's annoyance. Ron, it seemed, still hated Draco and wouldn't let Harry out of his sight, making sure that Draco knew who was Harry's best friend. Harry didn't mind really, and neither did Draco. He did his best not to provoke Ron, and even let Ron copy his Transfiguration homework one day as a gesture of good will. Hermione was delighted to have Draco around, because they both did Runes, and neither Harry nor Ron wanted to listen to a word of what she said about the subject, though Draco did. Harry found that the Slytherin was quite clever, especially with Runes and Astronomy. He was also becoming highly successful in the Pure Arts, delighting Alrister when Draco managed to turn one of their balloons a completely different colour one lesson.
Neville was still terrified of Draco and generally stuck close to Hermione's side if he was around. Ginny didn't really seem to mind much, and Luna didn't seem to have even noticed that Draco was there until one lunch time when she suddenly looked over the top of her Quibbler and said, "Draco Malfoy," in her dreamy sort of way. Draco was rather wary of Luna from that moment on and wouldn't let her sit too close to him, telling Harry he had allergies to weirdoes.
And so the weeks rolled passed, until all of a sudden it was November and the bitterly cold weather came, along with six-inch deep snow all over Hogwarts. The fires in classrooms were lit to try and drive back the cold, but the students' breath still rose in mists in front of them. Thankfully, the house elves kept them all warm with a series of piping hot stew and puddings everyday, and Flitwick showed them a neat little charm to insulate their cloaks against the cold, so all in all, life becamse very bearable again after the drama of the Thursday by the lake. Things were just getting relaxing for Harry, until towards the end of November when they became so much more exciting once more.
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