Title: Set Me Free Part 1/2
Summary: Everyone always told Harry to grow up. Now that he has, when is the promised happiness going to arrive?
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No infringement is intended.
Warning(s): CAPSLOCK!Harry, minor angst.
Word Count: 15422
Author's Notes: I hope that I managed to get some of the things required, although much of this story was pre-written before it was reassigned. Many thanks to my betas who've listened to me whine about this story for weeks, and cleared their schedules/stayed up WAY after hours to review the finished product. Especially my fellow chocolate-eater, who sacrificed what must amount to almost a full night's sleep fixing 47 pages of errors in word.
'Time to be home in bed', the clock on Harry’s desk read . He'd have to readjust that thing at some point, make it reflect what would no doubt be a confusing thought for a clock: that night shifts meant his bedtime was more around midday than 10pm.
Hell, at a lovely 4am he'd only been at work for 6 hours, and he had that much time again until he could leave, sink into his lovely, lonely bed and spend hours waiting for sleep to claim him.
He needed a proper Muggle clock. One that would let him time how many seconds exactly existed between the time he finalised the paperwork for one case before the next one came in. This would have to be the longest break he'd ever taken – he'd had a chance to go to the bathroom, get a coffee. It'd almost be a department record.
"Welcome to the Department for the Prevention of Magical Mischief," a chirpy voice said. Right on time, Harry thought wryly. "Protecting citizens from non-dangerous and non-harmful forms of Magic. Keeping the Muggle world safe...and ignorant."
Harry snorted into his coffee, wondering who'd added the last bit to the recording. Hermione would go spare when she arrived in the morning, she'd agonized for days on the exact wording for the recorded message that played on entry. Harry half hoped he'd be around to watch whoever was responsible catch the sharp edge of Hermione's temper – it'd be nice to see someone else get into trouble for once. Why Hermione had thought HE would be right for this department was beyond him; he was too amused by the antics of their cases to be truly effective in punishing people.
"Ah, Potter, hoped you' be on tonight." The smarmy voice was accompanied by blond hair, silver eyes, and a self-satisfied smirk. Malfoy. Again.
This was the third time this week and it was only Thursday. If the slimy bastard kept it up he'd beat Fred and George's record of 19 arrests in one calendar week. 21 if you counted the week as Sunday to Saturday rather than Monday to Sunday, the tossers. It had been hilarious, though, and had certainly accomplished their goal: distracting Harry from the fact that the blond git in front of him had managed to avoid incarceration in Azkaban on the grounds that the Wizengamot was 'unable to prosecute someone who had committed all their heinous acts as a minor in good conscience'.
"Where are your Aurors?" Harry asked suspiciously. Most people generally didn't turn themselves into a regulatory body, they were brought in kicking and screaming by the Ministry of Magic official who had arrested them. In Malfoy's case it was usually an Auror, tracking him in the hope that at some point he'd give them something serious to charge him with, and allow them to finally lock him and his slippery parents away for good.
"Left them at the door,” Malfoy said, gesturing to the entrance. He almost overbalanced from the violence of the gesture, and let his arm drop back down to his side. He grinned as he knocked the department's only surviving pot plant to the floor, and watched in glee as the terracotta pot shattered at his feet.
"They're not supposed to let you do that!" Harry snapped, unreasonably upset by the loss of the pot plant he had become quite attached to. He'd been planning to name it if it had survived much longer. Bernard, perhaps. "They know they're supposed to bring you straight to me."
"Don't throw a tantrum, Potter," Malfoy drawled, pausing before apparently deciding that the situation required an eye roll for good measure. He walked towards Harry's desk, swaying slightly as he moved. Harry felt a stab of satisfaction as Malfoy tripped over his rubbish bin, landing in an undignified heap on the chair opposite Harry's own. "It's not like I don't know the way. And even if I didn't, there are plenty of helpful signs to direct me should I unfortunately get lost on my way here."
"You've certainly been here enough times to know," Harry sneered, annoyed that Malfoy could keep his attitude even when drunk and disorderly. "If they've buggered off, how am I supposed to know what you've done this time?"
Bloody Tonks. She did this just to annoy him sometimes, Harry was positive. It wasn't his fault that Remus' buck’s night had gotten totally out of control, but as usual the blame seemed to rest entirely on his shoulders. Besides, it wasn't as though the man wasn't perfectly capable of Apparating back from Zimbabwe when he found himself there the next morning. On that note, who on earth invited Fred and George to their buck's night anyway? His fault? Harry thought not.
"I'll tell you what I've done," Malfoy said cheerfully. "It's a great story. It all started last night when I was having dinner with my parents, you see. We were all in a slightly historical mood, so we decided to have quail. Unfortunately my current house-elf isn't the best at the more quaint dishes and overcooked it rather a lot."
Harry rolled his eyes, trying to hide his impatient fidgeting. "Skip to the point Malfoy," he said tightly, his quill hovering over the official form he was required to use for witness statements.
"This is the point, Potter," Malfoy said scathingly. "Do you want me to tell this story or not?"
Harry threw his dentist's advice out the window, letting his teeth grind together in anticipation of the long-winded tale that Malfoy was no doubt about to spin. Normally Harry was able to ignore the ridiculous exaggerations while filling out the paperwork from the Auror's reports, but thanks to Tonks' overdeveloped sense of vengeance he was stuck with the human foghorn's version of the night's events. In Harry's estimation that meant that about 35% of the story, at maximum, would be true and unembellished.
"Since Dumpy was unable to cook an adequate quail my father decided that we should go to that lovely restaurant in the wizarding area of Suffolk - what's it called? Ah yes, Merlin's beard - the next night, which was tonight now that I think about it. Funny how these things work, isn't it Potter?"
Harry tried, as surreptitiously as he could, to reach for the stress ball he had stashed in his bottom drawer. It didn't often work, but at this point any extra seconds he could spend on not killing Malfoy would be extra minutes not spent in a disciplinary meeting when Hermione got in. Besides, it had a lovely, calming picture of Polaris Rose (the lead singer of the Dancing Nifflers) on it and the longer he could think about her long brown hair curled around her naked shoulders the happier he would be.
"Which we ended up doing, after pulling a few strings. It's very hard to get in there Potter – I think it would be fairly safe to say that you've never had the experience, and after that whole mess with father and Azkaban it took more than a few galleons to get a reservation, but that's neither here not there, really, is it? Either way, we ended up with our reservations and showed up at the polite time of exactly 37 minutes later, ensuring that our seat was still waiting for us, but that the people in line had just started to believe that they might have a chance of getting a table..."
Fuck. It was times like this that Harry truly wished he'd joined Ron in Auror training. Sure, he'd have to deal with a few more Death Eaters making attempts on his life, but at this point he really believed that he would prefer a decent duel if it meant he wouldn't have to deal with the utter crap that Malfoy insisted on spewing out his mouth whenever it opened.
"They have very nice wines there, Potter. Even you would have to appreciate the ones they've obtained," Malfoy droned on. "I, personally, chose a lovely little bottle from the wizarding centre of Australia, a 1914 vintage, I believe. Much stronger than I expected, I'll admit, but it had such a lovely taste to it that I wasn't about to complain."
"Malfoy," Harry said slowly, trying as much as he could not to yell. "I'm glad you had nice wine. But for the purposes of us getting out of here in a relatively short amount of time, which is something I realise we have differing definitions of, can we skip to the part of the evening that resulted in you getting arrested?"
Malfoy made a face, one Harry chose to ignore for the time being. If he rose to every bait that Malfoy planted they would both be here until the morning shift came in and Harry did not feel like another round of 'Mudblood persecutes the innocent Dragon' in tomorrow morning's Daily Prophet.
"I was drunk, Potter, as was my father. When we came across an old Muggle woman, he dared me to show her my wand, which I did. I then found myself besieged by Aurors. My father managed to escape. I didn't."
"You showed a wooden stick to a Muggle and ended up arrested, Malfoy? That doesn't make the slightest bit of sense." Malfoy shot him one of the scathing looks that Harry despised, the one that made him feel about as stupid and useless as the cockroach hiding in broom cupboard.
"My wand, Potter. The appendage that has provided untold pleasure to a good- what is it now? 21? 22? - of the most attractive wizards of this generation. A number that would be much higher if someone in this room hadn't ensured that two of what would have otherwise been the most exciting years of my life had been spent hiding from what the Ministry has the nerve to call a law enforcement department."
Harry felt a rather large headache coming on, resulting in the temptation to reach into the middle of his drawer and pull out a comparably large painkilling potion. "You exposed yourself to an elderly Muggle woman?" he asked, eyes closed in a desperate attempt not to grab his wand and Crucio the first thing it pointed to. He could only hope that the Aurors had at least been responsible enough to Obliviate the poor woman at the scene, otherwise there would be a mammoth of a cover-up to organise.
"Of course not. I simply demonstrated the varying and interesting colours that a wizard's appendage turn that a pathetic Muggle could never achieve. Not without permanent damage, anyway."
Right. A complete and utter disaster then.
"Malfoy, I don't want to know what colour you've hexed your prick this time, I really don't. Just reassure me of three things – one, your father is at home, safely sleeping off his drunken stupidity, two, your mother intends to punish him quite severely in the morning and three the Muggle woman no longer has her memory of the night's events." Harry's hopes sank almost immediately as Malfoy's smirk turned into a rather frightening grin.
"I think father decided he fancied a trip to Berlin, or at least that's what he planned before our encounter with that old floral creature. Although I do believe that Mother took her mask and boots so you can probably assure yourself on the punishment side..."
Harry slammed the folder holding his paperwork shut, trying not to retch in horror. That was more than he had ever needed to know about Malfoy's parents. Frankly, he had no idea how Malfoy managed to live with the knowledge of what his mother did with masks and boots.
"Don't worry, Potter," Malfoy said in a tone that suggested he was trying to reassure a child who had just seen Santa Claus murdered by a jealous tooth fairy, another of Fred and George's most famous stunts. "It's normally something I try to block out. But considering the potency of the wine I drank tonight, I'm more than willing to admit that my parents have a loving and mutually satisfactory relationship. And really, isn't that what we all aspire to in life?"
Ignoring Malfoy's pious tones and the hideous mental images that his words invoked, Harry reached into his drawer for the one form that Malfoy had yet to see – the red one. Red for doom, Harry liked to think.
"New paperwork?" Malfoy asked cheerfully, peering at the new form. "Granger reorganising the department again? What is it this time? More closely matching the Mission Statement? Ensuring maximum cooperation while maintaining the integrity of the department's ultimate purpose and principles?"
Alright, so that part was true. The red form, however, remained the same. None of the reasons Malfoy listed came anywhere close to why he hadn't seen it before.
"Draco Malfoy," Harry said, almost (but not quite) feeling guilty at the sheer amount of pleasure he took in this. "I hereby charge you with Magical Mischief that risked the wizarding world being exposed to Muggles, and Magical Mischief that caused physical or psychological trauma to an innocent party. You will be tried at the Wizengamot's earliest convenience until which point you will either be held at the Ministry of Magic's holding cells or released on a bond. You do not need to reply at this time. If you chose to make a reply or statement, you must be aware that a penseive memory of the incident will be used during your trial before the Wizengamot."
Malfoy looked at Harry incredulously. Harry, in turn, resisted the urge to fidget under his unrelenting gaze. Who was the law enforcement here, for Merlin's sake? Harry James Potter, that was who. So why did he manage to feel so incredibly ridiculous under the force of Malfoy's glare?
"You can't be serious, Potter," Malfoy said condescendingly. "You're not actually going to charge me in front of a full meeting of the Wizengamot for something that consists entirely of flashing my unusually coloured penis at a now Obliviated Muggle?"
"A Muggle that wouldn't have had to have been Obliviated if you hadn't felt the need to hex your own dick and shove it in the face of the first old woman you found."
"Oh for the love of Salazar," Malfoy said, eyes flashing in what might have been either drunken indignation or righteous fury. Perhaps a combination of both. "I pulled my penis out in public. It's not an Azkaban worthy crime."
"It is now, Malfoy," Harry replied, grabbing the requisite forms from under what appeared to be three weeks worth of fast food breakfast containers. He made sure to write as neatly as possible so that there could be no possible loopholes or confusion when the paperwork was brought under scrutiny at the trial.
In his zeal to get everything completed it took Harry a few moments to realise that Malfoy was being terrifyingly quiet, considering how drunk he was. He looked up and saw Malfoy watching him, the look on his face plainly indicating that he'd learnt something new about Harry that had either disturbed or confounded him.
"You...don't get out much, do you Potter?" Malfoy said hesitantly, his expression more surprised and unsure than Harry thought he had ever seen it before. Harry looked away, determined not to let Malfoy get even a hint of how much the thought of that had bothered him before today. Instead he let his eyes narrow and the anger niggling at him take control.
"I get out plenty, Malfoy," Harry said through gritted teeth. "And it's not my personal life that's the issue here, seeing as how mine tends not to get me arrested on a regular basis. The only thing that would make it better than the joy it already is would be if I didn't have to deal with fucking morons like you all bloody night so I could be sleeping like a normal person."
"All right," Malfoy whispered, licking his lips. "Don't you ever have any fun, Potter?"
"This is fun," Harry snapped, vindictively filling in the 'recommended penalty' field with the longest term in Azkaban that this form of misdemeanour would allow. "I'm enjoying every second of it."
Malfoy continued to look perplexed, shaking his head.
"I expected more from you, Potter." He said it so quietly that Harry was unsure for a moment whether he had heard Malfoy speak at all. Shooting him the dirtiest look he could imagine, Harry placed one last tick on the coloured parchment in front of him.
"Shame I can't say the same for you," Harry said, feeling increasingly like a petty child the more he had to deal with the ferret. Malfoy started, his features settling into the cruel sneer, an expression that Harry was more familiar with. It was almost a comfort, the familiarity of their hatred. He didn't care if Malfoy was angry, it was the pity that Harry couldn't stand.
Standing abruptly, Harry made his way to the department's dilapidated coffee machine that he had affectionately named Remus for its warm heart, hiding behind a shabby appearance. He'd had enough of fighting with Malfoy.
"Your trial will be scheduled as soon as possible," Harry said tiredly, directing the comment over his shoulder so that he wouldn’t need to turn around at all. "If you leave a thousand galleon bond on my desk, you're free to go until you get the notice."
There was a clink of metal on wood behind Harry followed closely by a slamming of door. He didn't bother to look. The money would be there, it always was. He may as well enjoy his coffee before the next case came in.
"Welcome to the Department for the Prevention of Magical Mischief..."
It felt never-ending sometimes.
Harry was fairly sure that if anyone else decided to glare at him today he was going to hex the lot of them. Somehow, despite how unpopular Malfoy's antics had been lately, the idea that Harry might actually want to call him to task on them was even more so. He'd heard everything from 'waste of time' to 'hasn't that poor boy been persecuted enough'. Even Hermione had been unimpressed, claiming it was all a ridiculous waste of resources that they could be using prosecuting the real troublemakers.
Harry's request for clarification on who the 'real troublemakers' were if not Malfoy had resulted in an argument that had ended only when Hermione's chin had started to wobble while she tearfully told him that she was just trying to make the Wizarding world safer, and why wasn't he interested in helping her? He hated that she could still get to him that way, hated that in the end he wasn't sure he did care to help her any more.
Either way, Harry wasn't about to give up before he finally saw this. He wanted to watch, to savour every moment, as Malfoy finally got some form of punishment. It may not be what he deserved and it would certainly never make up for the knowledge that Malfoy was responsible for Dumbledore's death, but with any luck it would help fill some of the hole that Harry still felt at his loss.
Even if it didn't, it would still be petty payback for the six years of Malfoy's crap he'd had to put up with at Hogwarts and the two years since he was pardoned. That had to count for something.
The Wizengamot looked overly serious this morning, Harry had to note. It was unusual – he had sat through many of these relatively insignificant trials, and none of them had resulted in the members of the jury looking quite so solemn. With any bloody luck that meant that they were as sick of Malfoy and his crap as Harry was and would put the bastard away for long enough that Harry would actually have a chance to get himself out of the mess he called a job.
"All right people, thank you, we're settling down now." It was a miracle, Harry couldn't help but note, how Percy Weasley honestly seemed more pompous every time his voice sounded. Secretary to the Wizengamot was probably the least glamorous job in all the ministry, but Percy still managed to act as though it was the greatest of authorities and made him far superior to those who had the unfortunate luck as to be stuck in the same room as him. If Ron had been here, Harry would have made a face, but Hermione just couldn't appreciate it in the same way.
"Thank you Mr Weasley," old Grizelda Marchbanks looked as though she was having to summon a large amount of patience to address Percy at all, which made Harry snort into his hand. It still earned a glare from Hermione, her standard 'honestly Harry' look. Harry slumped down in his chair, feeling remarkably like he was sulking. He offered her his 'leave me alone' glare in return, but by that point she had turned her full attention to Madame Marchbanks. It was probably for the best, Harry didn't want to have to deal with another lecture on public unity later.
There was a scuffle to the side of the room. Harry looked over and met the defiant gaze of Draco Malfoy who was being escorted into the room by Tonks and Shacklebolt. Strangely enough it was Malfoy's face that was the least angry when it turned in Harry's direction. The blond git still had some of the same traces of pity that Harry had seen on his face when this whole mess started, and it infuriated him. Harry was not the one who needed pity.
Tonks and Shacklebolt sat Malfoy down in the centre of the room, and for the first time Harry wished they hadn't gotten rid of that barbaric cage. Harry saw Malfoy exchange a look with someone, and noticed for the first time that Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy had made their way quietly into the courtroom, matching looks of concern and frustration on their faces. Harry had to turn away to swallow the bile in his throat. It wasn't fair that a git like Malfoy got parents who'd come back to a place that had scared them so just to check on him, while he was stuck here by himself, and the only people who cared about him were absolutely furious with him for trying to do what they'd asked.
"As we all know, we're here for the trial of Draco Lucius Malfoy, hereby charged with Magical Mischief in the form of hexing a certain private appendage and showing it to one Alexandra Crane, a local Muggle who happened to be in the area and has now been obliviated. Our order of agenda today will begin with Mr Malfoy's response to the topic. If this differs from what is stated in the reports we have filed, we will of course need the testimony of all involved to attempt to discover where the truth lies. Mr Malfoy, do you have anything to say to this?"
Malfoy opened his mouth, exchanging a glance with his parents. Harry could see his eyes narrow, as though to spew out more of the ridiculous rhetoric that Harry had heard a thousand times before, but before he did, he looked in Harry's direction and his mouth shut slowly.
"No, your honours," he said quietly, looking at the floor. "I have nothing to say. Everything you need to know is in the report, I'm sure that Potter's reported it all accurately."
Beside him Harry felt Hermione jump. When he looked at her it was with the same curious, questioning look that he'd seen on Malfoy's face when he'd asked Harry about the concept of fun. He could almost see her feelings for Malfoy change, see the hatred slipping out of her for confusion, relief and a grudging respect. He was tempted to stand up and remind her of all the times Malfoy had called her names, cursed her behind her back and tried to make her life miserable, but at this rate that would just get him tried.
"Are you...sure, Mr Malfoy?" Madame Marchbanks asked quizzically. "We don't often have the people charged in this room supporting the testimony of those who've charged them."
"I'm sure," he said, in the same quiet voice, his eyes occasionally straying to Harry. "There's no need to bring testimony into this, I agree with what I'm sure Potter's got down there. Let's just get on with the decisions." Madame Marchbanks shot a dark look at Harry, her brow furrowing.
"Mr Malfoy, no one has influenced you at all, have they? No one has attempted to convince you that the testimony is unnecessary?" All the while she kept her eyes on Harry, dark and suspicious. Harry's temper, already close to the surface, was becoming harder to restrain. How dare she imply that he had something to do with this ridiculous display. He had no idea what Malfoy was playing at, but it had nothing whatsoever to do with Harry.
"No, they have not." Malfoy said clearly, staring resolutely ahead. "I've simply had time to think of my actions in this instance and have come to the conclusion that I have created needless extra work for an already overloaded department of the Ministry. I do not blame Potter at all for his determination to prevent this happening again, and I submit to the Wizengamot's decision, whatever it may be." Madame Marchbanks nodded, her face softened with something akin to affection.
"Well, in that case, Mr Malfoy, I think we can safely assume that you understand the consequences of your actions, and will be less likely to permit such a juvenile and dangerous act in the future?"
"I will," he said surely, meeting her eyes. Harry had to try and stop himself from retching, couldn't they see he was making the whole bloody thing up to make them feel sorry for him? It was a classic approach – even the older Malfoys were smiling in approval.
"This can't go unpunished. As petty a case as this is," Madame Marchbanks said, her eyes drifting towards Harry, "it does indeed have merit. One cannot so cavalierly risk the exposure of the Wizarding world without consequences, as the consequences for such an action would be dire themselves. As such I sentence you to 12 months of a good behaviour bond and a further three months volunteering at St Mungo's, so you will better appreciate the sacrifices that were made to keep this world safe."
Malfoy bowed his head, although Harry could not tell whether it was to show supplication or hide annoyance. Harry shook his head in disgust. The ferret should have been put in Azkaban and left there to rot. Good behaviour bonds? Volunteer work at St Mungo's? Harry did that as a community service, a hobby, out of his own free will and they were treating it like a punishment. It was ridiculous.
"Mr Potter, will you be willing to oversee Mr Malfoy's parole period?" Harry felt his control on his temper snap, and stood up abruptly.
"No, Madame Marchbanks, I will not. I've had all I can bloody take from him at this point, and if I never see him again, it'll be too damned soon, I assure you." Harry ignored the gasps, whispers and yells of indignation as he walked out of the courtroom, slamming the door behind him. It was too damned much. How he ended up here, he didn't know - 21 years old, having done everything that anyone had ever wanted from him, and in return he got to see people sentenced to live his life as punishment.
Right now all he wanted to do was run back to his apartment, slam the door and hole up there until the ache inside him went away. He'd even consider it, if he didn't have to be at work again by the time his wallowing in misery would start to make even the slightest bit of difference.
Two hours wasn't enough time to properly sulk misery out of your system, Harry had discovered. He knew full well that sulking was exactly what he was doing, loath as he was to actually have to admit that. There it was, the perfect chance for the Wizengamot to actually punish Malfoy for what had happened with Dumbledore, and they let it slip through their fingers because Malfoy was good at looking apologetic. All bloody Malfoys were good at looking apologetic, that's why they were always free to bloody well wreak havoc whenever they wanted to.
He'd called in sick to work in the end. There were days when he could face the job with interest, when he recognised that however petty it was, he was doing a good thing for society. There were days that he could face it, barely, because he really didn't know any other way he could contribute to the Wizarding world any more. And there were days like today, when he could not face it at all, and would rather contemplate how absolutely fucking miserable he was alone, in bed, with no one to see him if he caved, hours later, and let a tear slip past his defences.
Hermione hadn't been happy. She had first tried to insist that he come in anyway, 'just to get out of the house'. When he'd refused to bow to that, she'd tried to come over, to 'see how he was'. He supposed that telling her that her precious job really didn't mean enough for him to come in when he was feeling this crap wasn't the politest, but at least he'd managed to close the Floo off before she could yell back. And frankly, it'd been worth it. He had his nice warm bed, his absolutely silent and empty apartment, and that was all he needed right now.
Except that in every moment of peace in his damned life, there had to be an interruption, didn't there? Of course Hermione wouldn't have left their argument where it stood. No, she had to come over, pound on his door repeatedly until he opened, and harass him for the next three hours on the nature of commitment and responsibility.
"Go away, Hermione!" Harry roared from his place under his bedclothes. It came out a muffled, but he was fairly sure that Hermione was intelligent enough to work out what the general gist of it was. The pounding didn't stop, and Harry sat up, grabbed his wand and hexed the door with a lovely sign of 'GO AWAY' in flashing red and gold. Honestly, if she kept going through that, she had the patience of a saint.
Flopping back down on his bed in a tangle of sheets, Harry closed his eyes and tried to tune out the frustration that had been so common lately. Thankfully the pounding at the door had stopped, which made the process slightly easier. If he knew Hermione as he did, however, there would be a note waiting for him to pick up. It would no doubt list all of the things that he should be doing, all of the ways he should be doing them, and all of the people he should be talking to about doing them.
He hated all of those bloody people.
Hauling himself out of bed, Harry made his way to the entry hall, idly wondering whether Hermione's banging at the door would start to put dents in the wood. She usually slid the note under the door after several minutes of furious writing, so if his timings were to be believed, it would be happening any second.
Except that he could usually hear her writing by this point, and the silence in his apartment was not providing any covering noises. He certainly couldn't hear any of the angry or upset mutterings that usually accompanied said writings. So what the hell was going on with her? If she was trying to get around to his window again, she was in for a bit of trouble. He'd had it permanently sealed the last time she'd burst in through the balcony in a rage while all he wanted to do was mope and pretend he wasn't crying.
Wandering closer to the door, Harry put his ear against the door to listen. There was someone there, he could hear the breathing, but it sounded...different to Hermione's. Not as erratic, and somehow...deeper. If breathing could sound deeper, anyway. He bent down to check through the viewer, realising randomly that this was the first time he'd ever had to use it – other than Hermione and Ron, who tended to make themselves obvious before they entered, in the two years he had had this apartment, no one had come to visit him.
Well, that was certainly a depressing thought, wasn't it?
Of course in his typical contrariness, as soon as Harry saw who was at the door, he wished that no one knew where the fuck it was in the first place. Pulling the door open so quickly he almost hit himself in the head, he resisted the temptation to smash his new visitor in the head only due to the memory of the paperwork that came along when he did that.
"What. The. Fuck. Are. You. Doing. Here. Malfoy?" Harry asked through gritted teeth, the fingers holding the door steady white with strain as he prepared to slam it in Malfoy's face. "You know what? Never mind, I don't care why you're here. Make yourself not here, now, before I call some form of law enforcement to get rid of you for me."
Harry turned, pushing the door at Malfoy as he started to walk away. He stopped dead when the expected noise of the door slamming didn't come, and turned back around in fury.
"I said GET OUT MALFOY!"
"No." The reply was simple, quiet. Harry almost didn't hear it over the beating of his heart, which managed to block out even the sound of his harsh breathing. "I'm not leaving, Potter, at least not yet. And don't bother calling the Aurors, I highly doubt they'll come over for a simple case of 'visiting'."
"You're not visiting, Malfoy, you're trespassing," Harry snapped. "And I want you to get the hell out of my house before I pick you up and throw you out." Malfoy shook his head, refusing to meet Harry's eyes, and Harry honestly believed that if he saw pity on Malfoy's face again, he might just have to kill him.
"You...you weren't..." Malfoy started, as though searching for the right words. Harry picked up a picture frame off his hall table, gave serious thought to smashing it over Malfoy's head and threw it across the room, watching it smash into pieces. He saw Malfoy looking at him out of the corner of his eye, and wondered if burning the only happy picture he had left of his parents would be cutting off his nose to spite his face.
"Don't say it, Malfoy. Just don't fucking say it." Harry turned away completely, refusing to see anything in the bastard's face that may make this endless experience he called his life seem even worse. Thankfully, his lounge wasn't that far from his entry hall and he was able to sprawl among the mismatched cushions and hide his face from the intruder.
"You know what I'm going to say, then Potter?" Malfoy said, and it was only because the sarcastic tone Harry knew so well was back in his voice that he could turn over and face him.
"Yes, Malfoy. I know exactly what you're going to say. "You never used to be like this. You've changed. You're different. I've heard it a thousand fucking times, and all I have to say to that is no shit. Of course I've fucking changed, what did you expect? That I'd waltz out of the final battle, stop by Honeydukes for a couple of chocolate frogs and head down to Diagon Alley for a new broomstick or something?"
Harry started to pace, kicking anything that ended up in his path. He expected that he'd need to replace both his vacuum cleaner and his coffee table, but since he wasn't fond of either of them, he didn't really care at that point. Maybe he could claim them as a business expense, since Malfoy was clearly a business issue. He could see Malfoy trying to get a word in edgewise, but Harry wasn't interested in hearing anything he had to say.
"I suppose I was just supposed to pick up where I left off and pretend that nothing had fucking changed then, was I? Pretend that I didn't almost tear my own soul apart trying to find the pieces of your Dark Lord's, then come back to a world that was so happy I'd managed what they never even bothered to try that they've forgotten about me entirely, unless they need me to make a happy speech on some stupid fucking anniversary. And what do I get out of it, Malfoy? NOTHING. A stupid job in a department that looks after the dregs of society because they can't look after themselves, a house that's good for nothing but sulking, and the loss of almost everyone I've ever loved, because they either died and left me, or left me and moved on. WHAT PART OF THIS MEANS I SHOULD BE THE BLOODY SAME AS I WAS WHEN I WAS 14?"
Malfoy looked shocked, and it gave Harry a perverted sense of pleasure to know that he was the cause of it. It felt better than almost anything he could remember feeling to know that someone, anyone, finally realised that his life wasn't a bloody picnic, and expecting him to be the brash saviour of the Wizarding world they'd turned him into as a child was just outright foolishness.
"No one's forgotten you Potter," Malfoy started, cutting off as Harry turned back to him.
"No, they remember Harry Potter," he said bitterly. "They don't remember me."
Malfoy shook his head, as though he couldn't quite make Harry understand what he was saying. Leaning back against the wall, Malfoy's hair shone against the white paint and Harry had the irrational desire to toss the keys to the apartment at him and scream 'if you look so good in the bloody place, you should just live here, then'.
He clenched his fists, closing his eyes to try and remain calm.
"Get out, Malfoy."
"You don't even want to know why I've come then?" Malfoy asked wryly, not budging from his space against the wall.
"I don't give a flying fuck why you've come, Malfoy. Just go." Harry sounded defeated, he knew, but there was nothing more he could really say. Everything that had made him so frustrated and angry over the past year had been said, screamed, and Malfoy acted as though none of that mattered in the slightest.
"I came, Potter, because I think you need help. And the people who supposedly love you are sorely letting down their end of the bargain in that arena." While he was talking Malfoy had moved to stand directly in front of Harry, so close that he could count every single one of the white blond hairs that sat at the base of his neck. If he wanted he could lean forward, rest his head against that same and find a new place to hide away from the world, and Harry cursed himself for being so desperate for comfort that even Malfoy seemed like a possible source.
"I don't need help," Harry said through gritted teeth, clenching his fists against the usual rush of anger that came when anyone suggested he needed any form of help. "I don't need your mediwitches, your doctors, your fucking psychiatrists-"
"That's not what I meant, Potter," Malfoy said, leaning forward slightly to tilt Harry's head up to meet his gaze. "Those people would just feed your ridiculous situation by telling you you're exactly where you're meant to be and you just need to learn to manage your emotions to be truly happy and move on, am I right?" Harry nodded dumbly, listening to the words of so many people echo themselves out of Malfoy's mouth.
He felt a pressure tickle his side, looking down to find Malfoy's hand moving to rest on his hip. He tried to jerk away, but found himself quickly trapped between Malfoy and the wall behind him.
"You don't need to move on, Potter, that's never been your problem. When were you the most happy? When you were gallivanting on some adventure with Granger and the Weasel, or showing everyone else up on a broom." Harry nodded, looking anywhere but Malfoy's intense grey eyes in front of him. "That's what you've forgotten – that the rules are only applied to everyone else."
As Harry opened his mouth to remind Malfoy that the rules were important to keep people like him in check, and to stop madmen taking over the world, he found his face pressed to the very part of Malfoy's neck that he'd been thinking about earlier and Malfoy's arms sliding up to circle his waist.
"Sure, there are laws that should be kept, based as they are on freedom and morality and all that boring twot. But then there are rules, Potter, made for no other reason than to make life easier for the people making them, and it was those you were born to break, wasn't it?" It had been so long since Harry had felt this kind of contact, had anyone willing to just hold him, that breaking away was so much harder than he wanted it to be. When he finally gave in, let his head fall fully onto Malfoy's shoulder, the other pressed a kiss to his hair. "Break them, Potter."
Harry shook his head against Malfoy's shoulder, utterly ashamed at the tears that had started to fall from his eyes however tightly he closed them.
"I don't know how anymore, Malfoy." He felt Malfoy nod against him, tightening his arms around Harry.
"It's okay, Potter. I'll help show you." Harry laughed bitterly, finally mustering the strength to pull away, brush away his tears and pretend some form of dignity.
"I don't want to be like you, Malfoy. I never did." Malfoy drew back, looking as offended and hurt as Harry had hoped he would, although the look was fleeting. "And the rules...they're needed. For...everything, Malfoy; they're needed to make the world work. And us? We're not kids any more, and I can't pretend to play one."
"You don't have to play a kid," Malfoy asserted, sighing as Harry cut him off again.
"That's exactly what it'd be, you know that," Harry said, kicking out at the wall behind him. He couldn't believe that he was so desperate for human contact that he actually missed the feeling of Malfoy's warmth against his own.
"Not always. Just...come to a Quidditch game with me tomorrow. There's nothing kid-like or rule breaking about that, it's just a game."
"Why the fuck should I?" Harry said mutinously, feeling remarkably like the child he asserted himself not to be.
"Because I asked. And if you spend time around me, you may end up being a good influence. At the very least, you know I won't be charming Big Ben to sing the Hogwarts theme song, which is what I will be doing if you don't come."
Harry glared, holding the expression for a long moment before he let it drop into a nod.
"Fine. You know where I live. Just don't do anything stupid tonight, okay? Give me one damned night off." Malfoy nodded, pulling away from Harry and walking towards the door. When Harry looked up to tell him that this changed nothing between them, he was already gone, leaving the door open in his wake. Letting himself fall to the floor, Harry rested his head against the wall and sat, waiting desperately for the strength to get up.
He still had no idea why he'd given in.
"Wakey wakey, Potter, time to get up!" Harry had trouble understanding why there was a cheerful voice in his bedroom at that exact point. Either he was dreaming or Hermione had reprogrammed his alarm clock to ensure that he was on time. Again. He didn't think he'd ever get over the memory of Professor McGonagall's voice ordering that he get up at that exact second or else. It certainly wasn't a process he'd ever given anyone permission to repeat. He felt a poking at his scar and reached up to bat it away with more force than intended.
"Fuck, Potter, that hurt!" Harry groaned, opening his eyes.
"Don't tell me you actually came, Malfoy," he said, still half-asleep and fighting his way out of dreams of strangling people and leaving their bodies under his bed for all eternity. "I wasn't serious about going with you to the bloody game."
"Well, I was," Malfoy replied, reaching down to pull Harry up and out of bed. "As it is, we're going to miss the beginning if you don't get up and get ready, and since our tickets are only valid if we show up at precisely the right time, I can assure you that it will ruin the entire day."
Harry looked at the blond incredulously, before dropping back down on to the bed and shading his eyes with his arm.
"I really don't want to know what kind of tickets you've procured that mean we have to be there right as the game starts, Malfoy. But since I'm not going anyway, I don't really think it matters too much."
"Sure you are, Potter. Or have you forgotten what happens if you don't come?" Harry smirked up at the disturbance in his bedroom, glad that he'd had enough time after Malfoy had left last night to come up with a list of reasons why Malfoy was really not going to be causing any of the mischief he had planned tonight.
"You do realise it was just yesterday that the Wizengamot informed you of what would happen if you did get into any more trouble, right?" Harry looked at Malfoy in triumph, expecting some form of argument or insult, but was instead left confused as Malfoy just raised an eyebrow and looked at him.
"So?" Harry asked, baffled. "You'd be sent to Azkaban. I hardly think this is worth it."
Malfoy kept his eyebrows raised as he stared at Harry, not saying a word. Harry stood up, moving to stare Malfoy in the eyes, breaching his personal space as badly as Malfoy had done to him the day before. Still the taller man didn't move, except to tilt his head back and toss hair out of his face. Harry felt something in his chest drop, and he moved away to safer territory.
"Would you really go to Azkaban to make this point to me?" Harry asked hoarsely, looking at his hands. He felt the whisper of breath on his hair before his towel magically appeared over his shoulder.
"Yes. Now go have a shower, Potter, you stink. And make it a short one, we need to leave in twenty minutes. You're just lucky I budgeted enough time for you not being a morning person. And hurry – I'm going to make breakfast, and if it's cold by the time you get back, you'll just need to eat it that way."
Harry made his way to the bathroom, baffled. This was completely unlike anything he had ever seen from Draco Malfoy. There was the familiar superiority, some of the sneering and sarcasm, but the rest...it occurred to Harry that while Malfoy apparently knew Harry well enough to tell how long it would take him to get out of bed, Harry knew nothing of Malfoy beyond the veneer he presented to the people he didn't like while they were in public. How did Malfoy know so much about Harry?
The shower was short, Harry's showers always were. He'd gotten so used to showering with the last scraps of hot water when he lived with his Aunt and Uncle that the habit of rushing through his morning grooming had never quite escaped him. Within ten minutes he had showered, dressed, shaved, combed his hair and decided on one outfit out of a seemingly never-ending wardrobe that he hated. It was just so much easier to let Mrs Weasley and Hermione shop for him than it was to battle love-struck shop assistants.
As he wondered out of the bedroom, Harry had to bite back a smirk. From the crashing in the kitchen it would seem that Malfoy had indeed decided to try and make some form of breakfast. The swearing would indicate that perfect Mr Pureblood still had a lot to learn about some traditions. At least he didn't know all the bloody answers.
"Having fun there?" Harry asked as he wandered into the kitchen, a hint of Malfoy's own drawl in his voice. The look he received in return was almost beautiful in it's frustration and repressed anger. He pulled out a chair, dropping into it as gracelessly as he could manage.
"Muggle appliances and I have never gotten along," Malfoy said shortly, wiping a sweaty piece of hair out of his face. "This is the sole reason that house elves were invented and are continually popular, Potter. I know you have at least two that would lay down their lives for you, it's almost cruel to leave them wallowing somewhere they dislike while they could be here, ecstatically taking care of you."
Harry's brows furrowed over Malfoy's definition of cruel. Hermione had convinced Harry that leaving Dobby and Winky at Hogwarts was by far the best thing for them, however they continued to protest. She'd used that same word, claiming it cruelty to want them enslaved.
"Here," Malfoy added, dropping a plate of burnt toast in front of him. "That's your breakfast, and if you don't eat it within the next five minutes you're going to miss the afternoon of a lifetime, so I suggest you get that jaw moving." Harry stuffed a piece of toast in his mouth, making sure to chew it as loudly and obnoxiously as possible, giving Malfoy as many views of the inside of his mouth as he could reasonably manage in one mouthful of toast. He'd intended to annoy the blond, and Harry couldn't help but wilt a bit when all he received was an approving smile.
"Done?" Malfoy asked cheerfully, a happiness in his voice that Harry had never heard before. Harry shook his head, gesturing to the other pieces of toast left on his plate as Malfoy reached for his wrist and tugged him upright. "Good to know. Let's go."
Harry protested through his mouth of toast, but allowed himself to be tugged into the living room, where Malfoy was already attempting to set up the Floo. There was a large bag situated in front of the fireplace that Harry didn't recall owning and he shot Malfoy a suspicious look.
"What's that?" He asked, pulling his hand away from Malfoy's.
"A bag, Potter," his companion bit back, disdain apparent in his voice. "Obviously."
"What's in it?" Harry asked crossing his arms in front of his chest, feeling the frustration flood back that always came when he had to deal with Malfoy in a professional sense.
"Bag things," Malfoy said evasively. "Look, it's not something you need to know right now, Potter, but I can assure you that it's nothing that will get you, or me for that matter, in any form of trouble. Just trust me."
"Yes, because you've given me ample reason to do that," Harry snapped, regretting it instantly as Malfoy's face darkened. The last thing he wanted now was to get into a fight that would result in having to explain to Hermione, any of the Aurors and the Ministry Regulatory Body why he'd hexed one of their convicted cases.
"I was sixteen, Potter," Malfoy said softly, his eyes searching Harry's face for something Harry did not understand. "He'd threatened to kill my mother and do unspeakably painful things to my father if he ever saw him again. Regardless of what you think of my parents, I love them. That wasn't a choice I'd had any preparation for. I was a sixteen year old kid and he was the Dark Lord. What was I supposed to do?"
"Gee, I dunno Malfoy," Harry said sarcastically, bitterly, pushing the words out with every ounce of fury he'd ever had over this. "I was expected to kill him at that age, so if we're using my 'preparation', I'd say that you should have pulled your wand and hit him with the worst curse you know."
"I never asked that of you, Potter. I can assure you that after I'd seen him for the first time, I wouldn't have asked that of anyone, least of all another sixteen year old. What they asked of you was ridiculous – no one could have done that and survived."
"I did it," Harry reminded him darkly.
"You didn't survive, though, did you?" He asked Harry simply, and Harry had to turn away to hide the burn of tears in his eyes. It was typical of his twisted life that the only person who seemed to understand him was the worst enemy he had left. "Now, move it Potter. We're already late and the Floo will be cut off in a minute, we only have a limited amount of time that it's open and I don't intend to miss this."
Harry shook his head, baffled. He had no idea what kind of Quidditch stadium would have a Floo entry, or why anyone would think it easier to Floo than to Apparate. Not that it mattered, since Harry had every intention of packing himself back to his bedroom to sleep out the rest of the day as soon as he could work out how to get rid of Malfoy, preferably permanently.
Not that Malfoy seemed interested in giving him that option, if Harry took into consideration how insistently Malfoy was tugging at his wrist. He let himself be led closer to the Floo only in the hope that Malfoy would go first, letting Harry close it off and spend the rest of the day in blessed silence.
Once again Malfoy seemed to have thought ahead, however, and when he tossed the Floo powder into the fire and yelled something unintelligible, he pulled Harry in with him, holding tightly as the Floo pulled and pushed them through to where they were supposed to go.
"You're late, Mr Malfoy," a stern, familiar voice said darkly. "A few more seconds and I can assure you that you would have been unable to find your way through."
Harry looked at Malfoy in outrage, too furious to yell. How dare Malfoy drag him back here, pretend that he had a right to stand in this place and look pleased with himself, as though he'd earned the right to come back here.
"Sorry, Professor," Malfoy said, an amused grin on his face. "Potter here was rather harder to rouse from his hibernation than I thought he would be. But we're here now, and the clock behind you tells me we have exactly 3 1/2 minutes until the match starts, so it appears that there was no harm done."
Professor McGonagall's face softened as she looked at Harry, and she gave him a brief smile. Pulling a paper bag out of her desk, she handed it to Harry, her eyes shining.
"Welcome back, Potter. I must admit that Hogwarts hasn't been quite the same without you." Harry looked at the parcel in his hands, nodding sullenly. He didn't want to speak, knowing that anything he said would be rude and harsher than the woman in front of him deserved. Instead he nodded, forced a smile and looked at Malfoy with daggers in his eyes.
"We're going to miss it," Malfoy said hastily, grabbing hold of Harry's arm again. "And since that's the only reason I managed to get him out of the house this morning, I'd imagine it would be a good idea to at least let him see the game."
Professor McGonagall smiled, the warm, shining look still lighting her eyes. Grabbing a set of keys off her desk, she led Harry and Malfoy down the familiar stairs to the headmaster's office, striding confidently down the hallway as the stairs closed behind her. As she passed them, Harry yanked his arm away from Malfoy, turning to face him in fury.
"Look, Malfoy, I don't know what you're playing at, bringing me back here, but you have no right-" Harry broke off as Malfoy stepped closer to him, bunching a hand in Harry's clothes and using the leverage to yank Harry's face to his.
"Potter, you have no idea what rights I do and do not have to do anything. And just for once I wish you'd just stop and realise that I've not given you any reason over the past few days not to trust me. Accusing me of every crime under the sun will not change anything about the past, I can assure you, but it has every possibility of fucking up the future." Harry gaped, realising he was surprised to see the old enmity in Malfoy's face. He'd gotten so used to the implacable calm and sudden amusement that this old anger hit him full force, twisting his stomach in ways he didn't understand. Malfoy sighed, letting him go and smoothing his robe softly. "Look, let's just...go, okay? If you're still absolutely miserable after today, then I'll leave you alone. Just give it a try."
He turned and walked down the hallway after McGonagall, giving Harry no choice but to either follow or be left behind, something the biggest part of him desperately wanted. In the interests of Malfoy finally leaving him alone, Harry figured that an hour or two's sacrifice was probably worth it.
Malfoy led him down to the Quidditch pitch, something Harry shouldn't have been surprised about. It was Gryffindor and Slytherin, the spirits running high even now, before the first whistle had been blown. None of the players had flown onto the pitch yet, prompting Harry to wonder whether they were really as late as Malfoy had made them out to be.
"I didn't realise how strange it would be from this side of the field," Malfoy whispered, softly enough that Harry almost didn't hear him. He had to agree – everything was so strange from the ground when he was used to seeing this view from the air. He saw Malfoy shake his head, an action Harry had enacted himself a thousand times to try and clear unwelcome thoughts. "I wonder if it'll rain?"
The last was flippant, louder, a comment obviously directed to Harry. He looked up at the sky, saw grey clouds and wondered how long they'd been there. When had he stopped noticing things like the weather? He wasn't cold, surely he should be in this weather?
"Here," Malfoy said, tossing him the bag that he'd had in Harry's apartment. Harry opened it cautiously, stunned to find it containing nothing more than scarves, hats and flashing Quidditch signs. He dug through, seeing if there was anything hidden under the sea of green, managing to dig up only a yellow 'GO QUIDDITCH' sign that looked like it would belong better in the Hufflepuff crowd than the Gryffindor one.
"It's all Slytherin," Harry said wryly, smiling involuntarily at Malfoy's self-satisfied smirk.
"Yes, well, there's no point supporting the team that's going to lose, is there, Potter?"
This rivalry was familiar, comfortable. This kind of rivalry didn't get anyone hurt, resulted in nothing more than missed hexes and the occasional broken bone.
"I highly doubt that, Malfoy. When was the last time Slytherin beat Gryffindor?" Harry asked, tossing a Slytherin scarf at Malfoy's head. Malfoy smirked more, wrapping the scarf around his neck.
"When was the last time Gryffindor beat anyone without you, Potter?" He asked innocently, adding a Slytherin hat and jumper to his ensemble. Harry's face tightened, and he looked unconsciously up at the pitch, at the tiny players that were starting to fly onto the field. Harry shook his head helplessly, positive he remembered victories that he wasn't responsible for. "Well, unless you count the Weaslette, of course. But she just didn't have your finesse, Potter. And if you win without finesse, you may as well have lost."
Harry laughed, shaking his head. He reached out a hand to tug on Malfoy's scarf thinking idly that if he pulled hard enough he might cut off the blond's air supply but Malfoy extracted himself easily.
"Not good enough, Potter. I'm far more difficult to kill that that." Malfoy's eyes narrowed and the smirk that Harry found he didn't despise quite as much any more flickered across his face. "How about a little wager? You're sure Gryffindor will miraculously defeat the almighty Slytherin. I think you're deluded. Why don't we make it more interesting?"
"Interesting how, exactly?" Harry asked, crossing his arms over his chest. "I hardly have the same amount of galleons to bet as you."
"Galleons?" Malfoy asked, aghast. "Don't be ridiculous. I meant interesting, Potter, not that horrid Muggle betting. No, I was thinking more along the lines of...whoever loses this honourable wager, must run across the field to congratulate the other's head of house. Naked."
Harry's eyebrows raised involuntarily and he bit back a snort.
"What is it with you and flashing your dick? It seems that every time I see you lately, you're either naked or close to it."
"I won't be the one getting naked here, Potter, please try and pay attention. The point of this is that Gryffindor will lose and you will be running across the pitch to talk to Professor Snape while leaving your clothes in the possession of my charming self."
"Not happening," Harry said, shaking his head. "I'm happy to stick around and watch this match, but that's it. I'm not going to make some stupid bet that would require me to do something that I'd have to arrest myself for."
"Scared?" Malfoy asked, his eyes challenging. "The Harry Potter I know wouldn't shy from a bet this simple."
"The Harry Potter you know wouldn't streak in front of eleven year olds," Harry countered, his face hard. "They're kids, the last thing they need to see at a school Quidditch match is your naked arse."
That's the last thing anyone needs to see, Harry added to himself.
"Fine," Malfoy countered. "Whoever loses needs to streak through the Ministry of Magic, in full view of the Department for the Prevention of Magical Mischief offices, making sure to take a swing by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and finish with a dip in the fountain in the lobby."
"I'm not making that bet with you, Malfoy. It's childish and pathetic," Harry snapped.
"Aren't you the one who said you'd forgotten how to be exactly that?" Malfoy asked quietly. Harry looked away, unable to bring himself to meet Malfoy's eyes. He hated that the bastard was right about that, and that there was a part of him that was resisting growing up so badly that this sort of childish endeavour was tempting. "Just let go, Potter. I'll even let you wear a glamour when you lose so no one knows it's you. And to prove just how certain I am, on the off chance that the Slytherin seeker is killed by a bludger before he catches the Snitch, if you win the bet, I'll go as myself."
"Azkaban," Harry reminded Malfoy. Distantly, he hard the starting whistle.
"I know, Potter. It won't come to that." Harry rolled his eyes, biting back a sigh.
"Fine, okay? I'll bloody do it, now can we watch the damned match already?" He did his best to ignore the self-satisfied smirk plastered across Malfoy's face. Typically, when Harry finally committed himself to something like this, bloody Slytherin took off to an instant lead.