Prompt: # 41
Summary: Down in the Basilisk’s Chamber, trapped in mild peril, Draco Malfoy arrives at a pleasant revelation concerning old enemies. Specifically: it’s always best to keep them close at hand.
Warnings: Eighth Year, so AU; implied EWE. None, other than that
Word Count: 8,500
Author's Notes: Thanks to my darling, trusty Beta: lonerofthepack. Dear prompter, I do hope I’ve not strayed too far from your wishes and that this will suffice. Cheers!
Draco sighed. The faint tinge of fetid rot in the air could be worse but then, he supposed, several years had passed since Potter had reportedly slain the great beast. It was just that it was there and undeniably present, like bad eggs, always in his nose.
“It's just along here,” Potter gestured ahead at the gloom. “Walk carefully. There's… things.” He shivered, sending his hair tumbling blue-black in the dim. “Bits, you know,” he added, humping a slim shoulder and sounding for all the world apologetic. “And, er. Pieces.”
“Huh. Do tell.”
Draco sneered at Potter's oblivious back. There were indeed 'things', consisting mainly of ghastly bones with tattered strips of flesh and skin still clinging. Draco wasn't so squeamish nowadays, no, but still. It was vaguely sick-making, the rank, dank lingering odour and the not knowing specifically what his heels were pulverizing in passing.
“I had actually noticed, you know.”
He eyed it askance as they came abreast, the remaining bulk of the great Basilisk: the ribs jutting like giant bone archways, the raggedy-edged skin, tattering away on the cream-sepia gauntness of the skull. Huge jaws still agape – bloody larger teeth than could ever be conceived of as necessary for any creature that stalked the earth, magic or no. 'Course, he'd not believed a word of it, what Headmaster Dumbledore had told them all of the creature which had terrorized Hogwarts' ductworks for so long unattended. Not then… and he barely believed it even now, even with proof. Even with Potter fumbling along before, Jack circumnavigating the bounds of his particular Giant.
“Gross,” Draco remarked, trying for a careless tone. “Fantastically… gross.”
It was; he couldn't begin to wrap his head about what little tattle he'd heard of Potter and Basilisk. No twelve-year-old could've faced this down with any sort of equanimity; it was more unbelievable and unlikely than all the tricks Potter had managed to pull off in TriWizard.
“Hmm?” Potter jerked a bit but he didn't turn back to face Draco, stumbling over his own feet instead, like a poor drunkard. “What?”
Draco paid no mind; the whole of the tramp through this part of the castle so far had been somewhat treacherous. Besides, he was preoccupied and had been from the moment they entered the lav, remembering what he'd been like – felt like – as a student during Potter's years at Hogwarts.
Heh. Skepticism, mainly. And anger. Righteous anger.
…F'r instance, it had taken him simply ages to accept that the TriWizard hadn't been rigged; had never been. Couldn't be.
The bloodied robes in his father's private rooms had been his first real clue, though. He'd nearly vomited, coming across them in passing when sent on an errand to retrieve some bibelot or other. Had shied away from the summonings of his own too-vivid imagination.
Draco shuddered; some monsters never went away. Was heartily glad Potter had his back turned. He'd not particularly wished to revisit any of this. Damn Headmistress McGonagall for forcing him.
Lips set thin, he paced a little faster to keep up with Potter. The stones were slippery with damp and moss and the air only growing fouler with every step forward. He'd be glad when they were finished the task they'd been sent for: shoring up the Chamber's man-sized pillars. Sealing off the remains with a ward so that the poison still ambient and seeping would be fully contained whilst the last of the Beast rotted away to nothing.
Couldn't be too soon for him. As far as Draco was concerned, this should've been a matter for the Aurors, not two just-barely-made-their-majority young men.
A few steps farther on, completely without warning, Potter staggered a second time. Even Draco, determinedly with his eyes everywhere but on his fellow student, couldn't ignore it.
“Hey?” he piped up softly, hesitating. “Potter?”
“Ohhh…” Potter moaned, clutching his messy head with the hand not clutching his wand. “Oh!” He stopped walking altogether, hands curling into fists by his temples, his wand sticking out at a crazy angle. “Ew... urrrgh…”
“Oi!?” Draco called out, alarmed, catching the parchment white blur that was Potter's half-hidden face obliquely even as his eyes darted from one side to the other of the giant chamber. Having the resident hero flail about moaning was a bit creepy. Off-putting. Was there… was there perhaps something still alive down in this godsforsaken place? Some threat Boy Wonder hadn't gotten round to dispatching back in the day? “Watch where you're walking.”
But no – there was nothing. Just the ongoing drip-drip-slosh of the pool and the sound of water lapping. The last soothing in his ears, accustomed as they were to Slytherin. “Oi, Potter – do take care. You'll fall in.”
Potter acted as if he'd not heard. He lurched into the wall. Thrust a hand out into the acrid-tinged air currents to catch himself, barely making it, and Draco noted absentmindedly that his fingers were cramped white-knuckled. There was a definite shake to the narrow wrist and tanned forearm revealed by falling-away work robes.
“Potter? Potter, hey!”
It was a few second's work to catch him up and to tap Potter roughly on the shoulder. When he did, Potter swayed again, a pale reed in an unseen wind. Draco caught him by the bent elbows as he sagged, almost without realizing he'd moved to do so.
“Potter! What's up with you?”
Potter weighed a tonne for a little chap. He was dead pale and sweat was beading across his brow – but he said nothing, not even a groan.
“Is it your stomach?”
Draco would never admit he was concerned. Why should he? Potter was strong; Potter had nerves of steel – Potter didn't need that sort of help from him, Draco Malfoy. He only required a little obligatory assistance, clearing out the Chamber, and that only because Headmistress was forcing him to have it: 'Two Wizard job, Mister Potter.' She'd turned to Draco, staring at him with a fierce eye. 'And Mister Malfoy. You'll manage between you, I'm sure.'
“Potter, what's wrong? Speak to me, Potter!”
It was faint, that familiar voice. Draco had to lean closer to Potter to even hear that he'd replied. He gripped the knobbly bones beneath his fingers tighter as he crowded Potter a bit, urging him away from the edge of the water. The dark smooth sheen of it was evil. Looked like blood.
“You sick? Is that it – ate something bad at breakfast? Flu? Wait – you've never had the Pox, have you? Oh yeah, I'll bet!” He was excited. “You Muggle ones never have, you realize? Must be it.”
It was the only explanation Draco could think of – Potter was coming down with some bug. Likely contagious, too. Dragon-pox, definitely, with his luck. He'd certainly never had it; been inoculated, of course, and Potter – with his stupid Muggle family not caring, not knowing –likely hadn't even known one could. But Dragon Pox could still sneak up on a person. Especially one past the normal age of having it. Insidious germ, Pox, just like… well, like a lot of things.
“Or, if not that, than something like, but tell me… tell me you're not really sick-sick, Potter,” he begged, hoping against hope, peering as closely as he could into Potter's half-closed eyes as he bent his fair head. “That would be the last thing we bloody need right now – oh! Merlin!”
Potter tottered – literally. Groaned, a parchment-pale hand going to his stomach, clutching at it, clawing at the fabric covering it. He doubled over suddenly, toppling sideways, and it was only Draco's fast reflexes that kept them both mostly upright.
“Watch it!” Draco hissed, stumbling them both along, using the wall as a prop. What to do? What to do with Potter, specifically?
There was no convenient bench to drop this ailing Potter on and stash him whilst Draco called for help; perforce he gathered the smaller boy up into his arms, scowling. “Shite! You are, aren't you? Bloody nuisance!”
Potter was a handful and a half, arms and legs flailing as he was half-lifted, mostly shoved with his feet dragging along, his dumb Muggle shoelaces coming undone.
Draco scowled from temper – and fear. He'd spent some time with Pomfrey – the Infirmary made for a decent refuge – but this. He knew a few incantations, basic shite, but not – not!
“Come on. I've got to find someplace to put you, Potter. You need more than I can do for you, that's for damned certain!”
So, so pathetic. Pitiable.
Draco would've said it aloud but Potter looked to be all about misery already. What he could see of him, at least, with his chin lowered like that, nose and specs smashed flat against Draco's chest. Gone limp, too, as Draco hauled him along, juggling to keep all his trailing arms and legs in a reasonable state.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Draco remarked softly, staring around him. The Chamber was gloomy and ill-lit. “Blast.”
Draco looked all the harder, peering at every single detail he could make out. Potter weighed a tonne for a man who didn't eat much. Funnily enough, he recalled all too clearly Potter gobbling everything in sight on Gryffindor table, with the Weasel inhaling up foodstuffs right by his elbow. As if no one had ever fed the git – either git. As if he'd been starved once.
It wasn't comfortable, the notion. Starving was barbaric—ugly. No more was Potter, who was scrawny and boney-elbows and kneecaps with it. “Damn and blast. Now what?”
Potter just moaned into Draco's breast-bone and went three shades whiter, as if that were even possible. Sweat was trickling down his scarred brow; he seemed tortured.
“– hate this – hate it!”
Draco barely heard, preoccupied as he was with sorting out what to do with Potter. Clearly he should summon Madame Pomfrey – failing that, go obtain some help from one of the other elder Wizards or Witches. Savior and all that rot; Draco couldn't, wouldn't be held responsible.
“Look,” he said, settling the sagging boy in his arms, “just look, stop moaning for a sec, will you? I'm thinking here. I need to know what to do for you.”
“….” Potter twitched once before going still. That was it.
But Draco found he didn't much care for the sudden silence, either. Potter's lean form went from awkwardly grain-sack like to completely limp, almost in the space of a breath.
Silence, utter. Nothing. No movement and the chest rising beneath his hard grasp was barely to be felt rising.
Draco gave him a little shake.
“Come on, Potter. Come on.”
Potter must be fooling with him, pranking him. Making out his sudden attack of Pox-or-whatever to be far more serious than it was.
He glanced furiously about him, taking in the sight and lingering ancient stench of basilisk. Basilisk, for Merlin's sake. Bloody whomping monster creature and Potter here being responsible for its demise, lucky git! Felled by the flu? Draco didn't think so, no.
Potter had better be pulling his chain. Wasn't Potter a bit of a jokester, anyway?
“Potter, stop that. Wake up! You've got to be conscious before I go anywhere. Potter – that's all there is to it, damn it!”
No, really. Draco wasn't ready for this – wasn't prepared for Potter to have the vapors on his arm and then pass the fuck out. Wasn't ready to be stuck in a smelly, stinky hole well below the familiar reaches of friendly dungeons he knew and then be held accountable for an unconscious Boy Who Persisted, the prat. Brave prat – oddly alright prat, too.
“Uhhh…” Potter moaned.
“Wake. The. Fuck. Up, Potter,” Draco growled and seriously considered shaking the little git again. He didn't, but only because Potter was suddenly quite hot. Burning up in his arms, as if consumed by fever – and trembling, too.
“Bloody.” Potter said this suddenly, his head lolling just as suddenly back across Draco's upper arm. “Blo…ngh! Bass! Bassssth…ssshthsk!”
“Pardon?” Draco was startled. Parseltongue now? “What did you just say?”
He stared down at Potter, what he could make out of him. Man was beyond wan: he was green. Slytherin green, even. And every single pain-filled crease and wrinkle 'round the infamous scar stood out like a brand across his pain-ridged forehead as his head lay against Draco's chest, bouncing lightly with every fast breath Draco took. Made Draco's own Potter-inflicted scars ache in sympathy, all down his torso.
“Blood, Potter?” he prodded, shifting uncomfortably as he tried to nobly ignore the jangle in his gut, his rapidly increasing heart rate. “What blood, exactly? Where? Is it… is it fresh?”
Draco abhorred blood. Naturally.
“…llergic… may…be?” It was a sigh, nothing more, and Potter's lips were parched, Draco noted, chapped and dry as waxen paper. “Smell!” As if he were desiccating in front of Draco's very eyes. “…of'ud,” Potter whispered, gulping like a fish in open air. “– hurts!”
“Potter!” This was worrisome, Draco admitted freely. He didn't feel so bad, now, about losing it just a little – letting his teeth show, as it were. “Potter, hang on, alright?”
He shifted them about forcibly, dragging Potter's unresisting body along as he spun, looking back towards the way they'd come through. “Merlin's bollocks,” he growled, huffing. It seemed the only egress, even though the Chamber was enormous. “You keep saying things and not saying things, Potter, and it's no help. I'm busy at the moment, can't you see that? Damn you. Damn you and your damned falling over like this! We have to have you looked at, you annoying little fool – falling ill now, at the worst possible time! We need Pomfrey!”
Draco ignored him. A barely conscious floppy-mumbly Potter was no judge.
Let's see. Draco frowned. Think! The Infirmary was clearly called for but how to make their way there?
“I should send up a signal,” he muttered darkly, strictly to himself. He looked about again, more concerned than ever. But how? And – “Where to?”
Where would the distress spell they usually used when they ran into difficulties even go?
The ceiling of the Chamber was lost in darkness; he'd no way of telling even where it ended. And if the Basilisk had been trapped here all that time before Potter offed it, then likely it was closed off. No chimneys.
No hearths, no floos, no exits. Just… tunnels. Several.
Hope sprang up. Draco grinned.
They'd entered through a tunnel and before that had been the terrifying tumble down what seemed to be a duct. He'd not much appreciated it, all the twisty-turning sliding, completely out of control, but needs must. Where Headmistress sent him, Draco would go. Willingly – or appearing so, leastwise. He could manage to make nice, couldn't he?
“Right! Right, got it.”
Had, too. With everyone, bloody every single one who'd come back, as he had: Hufflepuffs, other Slytherins – Pansy. Even the Trio. Even Potter.
… Not that Potter had ever been his first choice to work with. Not Potter, of all people. He'd have happily taken on Granger or even the Weasel. Granger had some manners beaten into her, at least, and the Weasel. Weasley was a Pureblood, even if… Well, he and the Weasel wouldn't talk much, if at all. They'd just get whatever it was needed doing, done. That was the Way, wasn't it?
It was sort of his worst nightmare come true, being set to work with Potter. Not that Potter wasn't an alright enough chap, on the balance, but what would they say to one another? He couldn't even imagine conversing. Could never think of what to say. Or what Potter might say—or expect.
Was his worst fear, actually, being caught alone with Potter. Draco didn't think he could quite manage his usual savoir faire. What was he supposed to talk about as they went about their assigned chores, anyway? That he'd not said already? Thanks? Sorry? Oh, and err – thanks again? Weather's alright, isn't it? Awkward.
There'd just be an awkward silence, in the end. He 'd been sure of it. And he'd pretty much been spot-on, so far.
'Course, he had questions. Possible conversational routes in mind. Always had, really.
He blushed, even considering possible 'conversations', and blinked fast to rid himself of visions of chatting with Potter, like real people did. Normal people, people who didn't have seven years enmity and one quick, say-it-as-fast-you-ever-can apology between them.
Draco thought and thought – and to his credit, stayed mostly on task. How to seek help?
Until Potter's weak groan made him start. It seemed different… in a bad way. An ominous way.
“Hey!” he squeaked, his voice cracking from nervousness. “Don't – Potter, don't you dare –!” He poked Potter's ribs hard; couldn't help himself. The way Potter was twitching gave him the willies.
Potter was sick; no denying it. He was panting and paler than the moonlight filtering down from parts unknown. His chest heaved and he began to tremble furiously, hunching his shoulder blades and struggling to push himself against the warmth of Draco's body even as he almost slid down the front of it.
“Oh, Merlin – this is bad,” Draco groaned, gripping Potter as hard as he could. He jiggled them round again, back on his search for a safe place to deposit his burden. “So – frigging –bloody – bad. Potter, why in Merlin's name d'you have to be so bleeding difficult, always?”
It was a rhetorical question; he didn't get a rise out of the obviously ailing Potter and honestly, he rather didn't expect one. Just his luck, what? Always awful.
Bother, Draco thought. He'd have to find his way up top, into the Castle proper. Find someone, anyone. Be forced to leave stupid sick Potter down here unattended and make his way back, slipping and sliding, likely right up that bloody funnel that dropped them into the dank corridor, and then search out Pomfrey and escort her to Potter. Or – or he could maybe flush out one of Potter's mates; send them off for help – oi, that was it!
… Or, better yet, track down Headmistress. Though any proper Headmistress should've already known one of her students was taken ill – and another one was quietly freaking out because of it. Wouldn't Hogwarts itself inform her?
But McGonagall hadn't appeared, nor had she been notified by this great sentient lump of stone and mortar he and everybody were so busy fixing up – no one had, seemingly, not even a stray house elf. No one knew, no one cared and no one was on their way, coming to help them out. It was silent, except for his own fast breathing – Potter's torturous huffing – the annoying drip of water.
Fine, then. Draco pulled a sour face. Fine.
He'd climb back up – he shuddered at the thought of the scrapes and bruises he'd no doubt collect – and he'd locate another student first thing. Send them away to fetch the healer and then come straight back to the Chamber. Because Potter couldn't be left for long.
Thing was... if he were Potter, he wouldn't want to be left at all. Abandoned, that is, left laying by the body of his old enemy. He'd want to know someone was there. Even if it was someone practically a stranger to him, he'd want that someone there.
…Even if his companion were only another old enemy, it would still be better than nothing.
“Bugger,” Draco growled, rising to his feet to begin the search for a decent place to prop Potter out of harm's way whilst he was off playing knight-in-shining. “Bugger this and bugger you, too, Potter, for making a bad day worse.”
Potter didn't comment; he was pallid and sweaty where he lay, and every glance back over his shoulder at him only spurred Draco to move a little faster, seek a little harder.
He was the last one in the world who could afford the great Harry Potter expiring on his watch.
“Here! Shite, yes! Found it! Here we go, Potter,” Draco crowed aloud when he found it –the perfect place. “Now we're brewing with fire.”
Tucked off in one of the stone archways that led nowhere, the ones that lined the Chamber, deceptively not leading to freedom, it was a tiny alcove. A dry floor, with little rubble. Barely there when viewed by the naked eye, nothing more than a hollow carved in the shadow of an overarching lintel, it was still secure and well out of the way of the great beast mouldering in the main space. And the oily dark, water, probably poisoned – and the disquieting trickle of rubble and stone dust Draco could hear always on the edge of his ears, sending the message that this Chamber was sorely in need of repair.
The Basilisk was the worst of it, though. Clearly Potter felt that way, too.
Yuck. Foul thing, the Basilisk. Must've been horrible to deal with. And after – hadn't Potter been wounded or something?
Draco seemed to recall he'd heard Potter had ended up in Infirmary again, after.
For that matter, how had Potter ever managed to make his way free of the Chamber, all those years ago?
He shook his head over it – over himself, and his damnable curiosity. Never had it gotten him much good before, had it, his wanting to know every detail there was to know about Potter.
Details – he didn't know them. Hadn't – likely wouldn't, either. No one had ever said, excepting Skeeter and who ever believed a word she wrote? No one sensible, that was.
Not he, certainly.
Draco had admitted to being just a bit interested, when he'd finally overheard a bit more of the story, just a few days before, in passing. The ex-Ravenclaws amongst them had been joshing at Potter, pushing him hard for his recollections of his little 'adventures' Hah! 'Adventures'!
Draco had sneered then; he sneered now in sympathy even as he was busy with carefully lowering Potter's limp form to the patch of dry pavers.
“Bloody!” He sent a few scattered bits of rubble out of the way with a gesture of his fingers. “Right, Potter. There you go. Stay put, now.”
Wandless magic. Good shite to know – and better to be more than a little proficient at it. Who knew? He might need more of it in just a few moments, dealing with finding someone to help him with Potter. Had served him pretty well even after Potter had taken his old wand, hadn't it? Wandless.
Thinking furiously, he patted Potter down, checking for fever, sprains, hidden wounds. Better to know about that as well before he took off. Better safe than sorry, yeah?
He rocked back on his heels, considering. The man – er, boy? No, Potter was a man. Right, er… Potter seemed alright, just a little out of it. As if he were not so much unconscious with pain or fever, but more as if he were suffering through a nightmare, waking.
It didn't sit well, knowing his next logical step was to leave.
So… perhaps a Tracker on Potter? Keep a wary eye on him from a distance, then?
Might work. Might be exactly the right thing to do.
Draco mentally patted himself of the back, for thinking clearly whilst under pressure. “Just wait, alright?” he told Potter. “I'll be straight back, I swear. Someone to help you – won't be a moment. They'll come running, I bet,” he snorted. “Popular git.”
Potter made not a sound as Draco reluctantly withdrew, only settling into a crumpled heap at the base of worn-looking pillar. Glancing about him in the ever-present gloom, Draco reflected that it looked as though a real war had been fought down in this abandoned hole in the ground.
He sidled back, uneasy. Decided one had. A real Battle, maybe as rough as the last one. One against one, too.
Just like. Just like… Draco shook himself. No.
Not going there. Not again. No.
He didn't care to think too hard on what had happened last May – or last year – or the year before that, even. Any of the years and there'd been a lot of them.
Potter himself had said very little that night, hedging even when the Ravens wouldn't let up, but Weasel had blurted out a whole lot more, later. He was as proud as anything, Weasel was. Proud of Potter – proud of helping him. They were allowed drinks in the privacy of the common room they shared, the returnees. The unofficial ones, like the Trio, and the official worker ants, like Draco and the others of his ilk, born on the wrong side, Magisterially forgiven but still stuck with wading through rehabilitative community service. Being all pretty much of an age, being late teens and maybe a bit more carefree now that the threat was gone, perhaps it was excusable when they all drank a little too much or laughed a little too loudly. Not so much Potter, though. He was a quiet sort of chap, these days. All his fire banked down and really very closed-mouthed. But after Potter had yawned and rubbed his eyes, making much of being knackered and toddling off to bed, Weasel's tongue had been loose, Draco supposed, and he'd told them all. Everything he knew, at least.
Which was more than Draco had ever known, before. Even Skeeter hadn't been privy to some of it.
But… Draco would've liked to have heard the tale from Potter's lips, all the same. Weasel was such a suck-up, really, even if he was a good mate. Better than most of Draco's mates had ever been, excepting maybe Pansy and Blaise, maybe Greg, but… still. Git was a git, even if he could fight like a real Wizard. Even if he'd gone back to Potter's side like a good little mate and stuck by him like glue, at the end.
Gossip was rife.
“Right, alright,” he said aloud, more for the comfort of his own voice than any other reason. Potter was still too woozy to speak. “Just… going, then. Going.”
He walked backwards at first, not wanting to let Potter go out of his sight, but it was dangerous to keep that up for long. Foolish, too. The oily, oozy water lapped over the edges of the pool; the rock that formed the pathway was slippery.
“…No…” Draco thought he might have heard Potter say, but he couldn't stop. Not now. If he stopped now, he wouldn't go at all and then they'd both be stuck down in the Chamber till Doomsday…or someone finally had the good sense to notice Potter was missing. It'd be hours, certainly, one way or another. So, no. No. It behooved him to find some help for the silly sick git and that he would do.
“Oh, fuck,” Draco muttered, spinning on his heel and making tracks. “Be right back, I promise!”
Potter's slack form disappeared from view round the corner as Draco re-entered the main corridor proper. He spun again to find his bearings and then put a solid leg into it, scrabbling forward over scree and the many uneven places in the pavers where mortar had crumbled. Bones large and small crunched noisily beneath his feet. It was… not so good.
He hated bones, randomly. Didn't used to but he did now. Had seen enough of them, maybe – too many... Nagini had used to spit them out, after swallowing. Draco recalled nearly falling headlong into a pathetic little pile of what might've been their Muggle Studies Prof once, down at the edge of his mother's prized herb garden. Had sicked up in the rosemary shrubs, repeatedly, and then been very furtive going back to his rooms. Red puffy lids and the smell of stomach acid weren't exactly forgivable in the son of Lucius Malfoy. In any Death Eater, however young.
Not even if Father had looked rather like a species of Inferi himself, by then.
Voldemort had snapped Father's wand, once. Draco remembered that; fuck, he could never forget, could he?
He'd rather wanted to tell Potter about it, the experience; had rehearsed the conversation in his head. Not then, of course. Later – much later. Well after the house elf – the wands – his ghastly auntie and her ghastly knife.
Never had there been such an unexpectedly pleasant surprise, Potter appearing in the Room. He might've talked to him then, if they'd ever had the opportunity. 'Course they hadn't, naturally. Fallen all to hell in a hand-basket shortly, of course it had – why ever not? Story of his life, but still. Had eased his mind when Potter had shown up in his own home, even if it was to make off with Draco's own wand like some thief in the night. Made up for Crabbe being a fucking bloody bastard when he was sent back to school… almost.
For a little bit, at least, he'd known where Potter was. Or maybe not that much, specifically, but that he was alive. Still breathing, still fighting, still… being Potter. The twat had been so horridly elusive for the longest while. Which had been a good thing, really – but also not.
Poor Vince. Oh, Merlin.
Too young to die, even if he was an insufferable arse at the end.
At the thought – of Vince, good old dumb Vince, screaming and laughing, both, and both maniacally as he wielded his wand playing with Fyre – and then this most recent sight of Potter, too sick to even move, poor git – Draco ran faster, leaping over piles of tumbled rocks as if they were nothing. The acid rank breeze his rush caused stung his nostrils.
As he ran he prayed, just a bit. Or maybe it was more that he hoped. He hoped – rather a lot – that Pomfrey would pronounce it all nothing serious. He hoped Potter was alright. Even Dragon Pox could be gotten over with fairly easily. He wouldn't wish it on anyone he knew, of course, not even Potter – not even Weasel! – but still. Potions, rest, all that. Nothing serious. He'd learnt that much, at least, helping Madame out now and then, after his official work was finished. Chap had to keep himself busy somehow; stay out of trouble.
Especially when he wasn't exactly popular, like Potter.
…Merlin, it couldn't be serious, whatever Potter had. Potter had said something… mumbled a word? 'Allergy' maybe?
Er?… Would an allergic reaction even do that – fell a spry young man like a swift kick to the bollocks?
Draco wrinkled his brow, frowning as he ran.
Maybe. Potter had certainly looked pretty rotten, back there.
Draco allowed himself to admit he hadn't liked at all how pale Potter was, how weak. It panged him, something inside twisted like fuck. He didn't want Potter feeble. Couldn't abide it. Potter shouldn't be, ever.
Potter was always very strong. Inhumanly so, sometimes.
Draco moved faster still, best as he could, and marvelled over how very long it was taking him. It had seemed like such a short time had passed since they'd slid willy-nilly down that blasted painful tunnel, since Potter had bent his head over the sink in Myrtle's loo and hissed something weird and snake-y. Then there'd been a passage where none was before.
But… where was it now? Because by rights it should've been bloody obvious, a great big hole like that.
He craned his neck to look about him, nearly veering into the wall, not minding where he was going. It should have been close by… right round this bend – or maybe it had been the bend back before and he'd missed it?
Right here. Here was the intersecting tunnel, blocked off at both ends by rock falls. Here was the scrape of what had to have been diamond-hard basilisk skin against the narrowing walls. But above – there was nothing. No opening. Gone – it was gone.
“Fuck!” Draco exclaimed, stomping a heel furiously since no one could see him, giving in to temper. “Fuck, fuck, fuck! Now what?”
It couldn't just disappear… could it? A whole passageway? A whole hole?
Maybe so. He cocked his head. There was the very nearly inaudible noise, the sound of something dry trickling. The same as he'd been aware of back in the Chamber; the sound of crumbling rock and acrid mortar. The literal sound of disuse and degeneration.
“Lumos!” His wand up, held high, he stepped under where the chute should have been, and examined the blanked out ceiling stone as best as he could. “Lumos maximus. Brilliante!”
T'was like a Muggle searchlight, exposing every crack, every seam, every dark corner and deceased small creature. The ones they used round the Muggle aeroport, Heathrow. He'd seen the images in the film clips the new Muggle Studies Prof insisted on showing them.
There! There was the source of the sound: a thin stream of dusty gravel, amounting to a miniscule pile on the floor. It trickled with a hiss, like Potter's Parselmouth sounds.
“…Fuck.” All at once Draco knew what it was above him – a false bottom. A trapdoor, sprung to go off when tripped by an intruder. The pyramid builders had used them, for the purposes of consigning would-be thieves to a drawn-out, dried-out death, starving and thirsting underground. Tombs within a tomb.
Draco somehow doubted the Founders knew less than the pyramid builders. It was a trap door. There was no way out, not now. He knew it. And not even Wizard sparks could make it through that tiny, tiny tantalizing gap between stone. A tonne or more of it, he'd wager, and laid so that any movement to shift it would bring the whole corridor roof down upon his head. He'd be smashed flat – and Potter would be left alone.
His vocabulary was shrinking; Draco sneered for the comfort of sneering. Dispirited, he turned slowly and began his slow-as-sad-treacle way back, using his Lumos to light his way, peering at every cross-tunnel for egress, just in case.
Every one of them was blocked solidly, as expected.
They were… it wasn't good, was it?
He made the main Chamber at a trot, eventually, thinking as hard as he could.
They weren't fucked, not really. McGonagall knew where they were, in theory; they'd only to wait and they'd be discovered. Dinner time, latest.
It was maybe… noon.
One o'clock, then.
It only remained to make sure Potter was comfortable 'til dinner, then. A rescue effort would be mounted, surely. Draco just had to ensure Potter didn't expire before then.
“Potter!” he yelped, nearly falling over him in the eerie gloom. “What the hell?”
The little git had been crawling, apparently, whilst Draco had gone on his abortive mission. Had made his way back to the centre aisle, hard by the remains of the Basilisk, and was curled in a shivering heap. “Oh, Potter,” Draco sighed. “You idiot twat. Why do that?”
No response, except Potter's teeth chattered.
“You cold?” Draco asked unnecessarily, going down on his haunches. Of course Potter was cold; that was evident. It couldn't be good for the idiot to be lying on the cold stone. Not when it was damp…and who knew? Maybe some of the Basilisk venom had leached out of the remaining fang and right into the stone? “Come on, then. We have to move you somewhere better than this. If you don't have pneumonia already, you soon will.”
To that he stuck his hands under Potter's armpits – they were burning up, he noted – and heaved. Wrangled Potter onto his lap, pushing the tousled head on its floppy neck against his chest for safekeeping, and looked about him. Holding Potter was like holding a deceased Squid– all floppy and chilly to the touch, except where he was burning up.
“Headmistress,” he remarked, more for the sound of his own voice than for any better reason, “is going to skin me alive. You just know that, don't you, Potter? Fuck.”
Somewhere better? Hah! Really, the Chamber might be majestic and a fine example of classic Salazar Slytherin style architecture but as to creature comforts? There were none.
“Fuck…” Draco muttered and rued his stunted ability to think of more creative curses than only that. Must be exposure to the Muggleborns; they said it all the damned time.
“Hmm…shite. Okay, alright.” Back to the alcove, then. But…
Wait… wait. There were things he could be doing, yes. Granted, it wasn't the first idea that leapt naturally into his head, using healing spells, incanting small words to ease little pains and annoyances (cold, faint, allergic?) but… yes. He had tried his hand at repairing people – at fixing minor stuff up. At amends.
“Ennervate!” he said quickly (touching Potter's scar with his wandpoint but not looking, not looking at all, no) and sure enough, Potter stirred a bit. “Episkey,” he added, just to be sure. Potter fluttered his lashes a few times and then opened his eyes.
“Where – where are we?” the twit wanted to know, hauling himself up to sit slouched on Draco, and Draco barely suppressed an irked sigh at his obvious out-of-it-ness. Sometimes Potter truly did annoy him.
“Where do you think?” Draco snapped and waved a hand about at the Chamber. “Stuck, that's what.”
It wasn't like it would do any harm, so…
“Commodio!” Draco commanded. A quick touch of his wand to a pebble and then the quiet incantation “Stibadium!” gave them a pallet to sit upon.
The floor softened under their arses and inflated, becoming springy and cushioned; the dank air warmed just a smidge, like a wee bubble of comfort about them.
“Phospor!” They needed light, steady light. It was bit too dim in the Chamber; was bloody giving him a headache. Possibly Potter too, come to think – but no matter.
“Er. Better, yeah? Good. Keep your arse down, then. Keep still.” This in case Potter decided to wriggle – or bolt.
Draco glanced away quickly, not wanting Potter to think he was looking for thanks or anything. He wasn't, really.
He didn't get any thanks, anyway. Not a word, not a peep.
Dead silence, with only the drip-drip-drip of hidden moisture off shattered stones and rotting bones to pick away at the quiet.
He looked up after a while, to find Potter staring at him, all wide-eyed and gormless. About six inches off his forehead, too, creepy git.
“What?” Draco wanted to know. He grimaced; Potter had a boney arse to go with his elbows. “I'm not a fool, you know. We'll be waiting a while, I'd think. May as well be comfortable.”
“Ah… okay.” Potter slid his bum cautiously onto the thin mattress-like pad Draco had transfigured from the pebble. He shrugged his shoulders expansively, rolling his head about on the stem of his neck. “Erm. Thanks?” he added and peeped at Draco from behind his spec rims. “Draco.”
That infuriated Draco – there was no cause for Potter to appear flirtatious, was there? – but the tremors he could see affecting the smaller boy's frame infuriated him more, never mind that Potter had never before addressed him by his first name. He had boundaries, didn't he? Pretty clear ones, too.
Bugger that; he could ignore it. He could ignore a lot if needs must.
“You still chilled?”
Really, it was too much. He disliked Potter visibly being discomfited. It was ineffably irritating, the same as Potter's stifled sneeze was.
“Drat,” he muttered grimly, shifting close to share heat. “You are a wizard, Potter – you know? Not helpless. But, hey. Whatever. Consolo!”
Wand to left nostril; wand to right side rib cage, wand to mid-sternum, all in a flash. One-two-three, like magic.
Potter's jaw dropped.
“Better now?” Draco couldn't help but prod Potter a little; thanks wouldn't come amiss and he was starting to tire. “I should hope so,” he huffed. Stared hard at Potter to express his disgruntlement. “Now – amuse me.”
“Oi!” Potter jumped. Which instantly made Draco frown. “Amuse you?” he parroted weakly. “Why, exactly, would I want to do that?”
“Because you owe me, of course,” Draco pointed out. “Tell me a story, then. I like them.”
“A… story?” Potter peered at Draco as if he'd recently discovered a wholly known-and-normal species of fauna was actually some other species entirely: a sport. One that bit viciously without warning, perhaps. Something dangerous. “You want me – me, Harry Potter – to tell you a story? Am I hearing you quite right, Malfoy? Did I maybe… hit my head?”
“There's nothing wrong with your hearing, Potter,” Draco shot back. “I've already ascertained that; give me credit – and yes. Yes, I do. I'm bored.”
“Bored?” Potter looked about him, wonderingly. “Here, Malfoy?”
Draco shrugged of the Chamber of Secrets as if it was nothing at all. He'd seen worse, of course. Potter would have to do better than that. He could hardly expect Draco to react like a tourist, could he?
Or wait… mayhap he did. The plebe. Sighing heavily, Draco attempted to explain:
“Yes, bored. I like to know… things. Learn things. And you owe me, Potter – don't say you don't. There's nothing to eat and nothing to drink and nothing to do down here in this Merlin-forsaken hole… so, tell me a tale. Make up something if you have to.”
Potter blinked at him again, fast and furious, and Draco could practically feel the waft of stirred air from Potter's far-too-long-for-a-boy eyelashes. Like his own, they were. Pretty decent.
“Go ahead,” he added, growing impatient. “I'm waiting.”
So… Potter did. Settled himself comfortably, Transfigured another chunk of rock into a lap robe and bloody well did.
“Hum, lessee. Right. We'll start here, then, alright? Since I won't have to go the bother of describing the scenery.”
It began as mockery – of this, Draco was sure – but as Potter went along, pulling words out of the thin air, drawing images with his agile fingers, summoning all manner of recalled emotions with his voice, modulated and excited, calm and cool by turn, Draco relaxed.
“Don't stop there!” he commanded when Potter trailed off, his eyes fixed on a certain spot not far distant, where the great skull of the basilisk lay upon the damp, green-lichened flags. “Go on, Potter!”
“Well, he was so handsome – Tom was, you see – unearthly –“
And Draco was shocked and a bit miffed, because what? Potter couldn't have been at the age where he was noticing. Draco hadn't even been noticing things like that 'til Fourth – and then sickening, what; girl bits and exhilarating, yes, flying and then… well.
“Gross,” he shuddered, because Voldemort had never been 'Tom' in his mind and he couldn't begin to imagine it. But as Potter went on, stumbling sometimes over his words (no one ever said he was a great story teller, but he was at least an adequate one), Draco pieced and parsed, filling in the blanks (long stretches of them, actually, and there, he'd always thought he knew so much) in his knowledge.
“It was…” he said, when Potter seemed finished with his tale at last, all the fantastic length of it, and the Basilisk had been slain once again, in memory. “It was… as if…” he ceased trying to say, because there weren't words, really.
“What?” Potter nudged him softly. He'd crept over as he spoke, somehow, and now he and Draco were tumbled up together in a heap of bent legs and arms, propping each other; two blokes who looked they might share a fag, next. “As if what, Malfoy?”
“It's…. well, it's all wrong, for one thing,” Draco identified the feeling welling up in his breast and it was indeed indignation. “Why did Headmaster never tell us, for that matter? I mean, we're Wizards, Potter. We could've helped you!”
“S-Seriously, Malfoy?” Potter burst out laughing, falling intro giggles so boisterous he nearly fell into Draco's lap. “Go on with y-you!” he panted, snorting when Draco merely stared down his nose at him. He pulled himself together soon enough. Shrugged meditatively. “He couldn't, I don't think… or maybe it was more wouldn't. The Order, you know? Too much at stake, too many secrets to tell. People would be in danger –”
“That's bosh,” Draco stated firmly. “Utter twaddle, Potter. He could've and should've and you can't tell me different. We all may've hated your guts just on principle, Potter, but we certainly weren't about to sell out one of our own, alright? He should've said – honestly said, and given the details.”
“Oh…” Potter sighed, so hard he slumped, almost to the point of slipping off the transfigured lilo. “You know, Malfoy, I wish. I truly do. Would've been nice, not being hated. Wouldn't have minded that.”
“You weren't hated, Perfect Potter,” Draco thought about this. “Far from.” Offered it up softly, because it was the truth as he saw it and maybe he didn't want to admit it any more now than he did then, but still. Potter couldn't go about thinking –
“Oh, bu –”
“You were a hero, arsehole. Hard to hate a hero, even if we never got all the pertinent details, alright? Was still… impressive. Just like your Seeking.”
Potter looked askance at this, and crawled closer, to peer into Draco's eyes in a rather intriguing sort of scrutiny, tilting his chin this way and that, 'til Draco wanted to grab his messy head to make him cease.
“Well,” he said finally, after Draco only continued to cock a disbelieving eyebrow at him, “you certainly never said. Malfoy. Draco.”
“Didn't kill you, either,” Draco replied immediately, his voice gruff. He looked away. “Or rat you out to Auntie Bella, either. Take it as read, alright? You weren't… totally reviled.”
“That's… that's certainly –” Potter sputtered and Draco slewed his chin back round so he could transfix Potter's shocked-silly expression with a hard glare. “I'm, uh. I'm… rather… hmm.”
“What?” He seemed to be saying to that Potter an awful lot, lately. “What now, Potter? Is that not the truth, then?”
“Well, ye –”
“And who didn't AK Headmaster, either?” Draco wanted to know. “'Because I do know you were there. You testified it, and then it was all in the papers. Skeeter said –”
“Skeeter!” Potter huffed the two syllables with a great amount of indignant dislike. “As if you should ever believe anythi–”
“It was true,” Draco interrupted hastily. “I didn't. And I didn't fight for my wand when you needed it, arsehole, but you – you!”
“What? I what, Draco?” And now it seemed to be Potter's turn to question, to ask. He'd crowded Draco almost to the edge of the transfigured pebble-bed and was staring at him, definitely as if Draco were something that bit – as in, was biting Potter squarely in the arsecheek.
“You...” Draco hated to recall it but it was true, too. “You!” True as any of the already-legends of Potter's heroism. Of all the things he really didn't want to think of, of all the things that never made sense, this was the one. The breaking point. The reason he'd held himself aloof all these many months of working together. “You… tried to kill me. Didn't you?”
“What, in Myrtle's lav?” Potter looked startled – then appalled. “No! No, I did not, Draco Malfoy! It was an accident –”
“Really?” Draco wasn't too sure. “I saw your face, you know. It was… it had gone all funny. Last thing I remember, actually, was your face –”
“I was sorry, alright?” Potter sat right up – and by now he was in Draco's lap. Straddling it, with knees firmly planted on the thinning mattress (the spells were wearing off; it was already colder and danker than it had been). “I didn't fucking well mean to, okay? I didn't know, Draco… I didn't know it would do that. I just thought –”
Draco snorted and stuck his hands on Potter's waist to steady him. Git was flailing his arms, looked like he'd tumble off and crack his head open any moment now.
“Accident, huh? Somehow, Harry, I don't quite buy into that hypotheses. You despised me; don't tell me you didn't, and there I was, slobbering like a baby, and you just couldn't pass up the chance –”
Draco shivered. As the stones of the Chamber did, crumbling. So loud! And the power of that denial reverberated, right down to his bones, the roots of his eyeteeth.
“But –” he protested. “I. I saw your face…”
“I was – look, Draco. Look. It wasn't like that, alright? I was suspicious of you and no, of course I didn't like you, much. You made my life miserable for years on end, alright, and you were a git completely, all the time to me at least, but I didn't hate you – I never hated you, really. I just – I couldn't – you made me so angry!”
“I did?” Draco blinked at him, suddenly awed. “Really? 'Cause I thought –”
“I broke your nose,” Draco countered instantly. “Don't forget that, Harry, 'cause I've not.”
“So?” Harry shrugged one thin shoulder. “So what?” Seemed no matter how much he shovelled food in his mouth he never gained weight. Or more it was… he stayed lean. Draco had watched that peculiar effect and wondered about it too, sometimes. “I threw mud at you and Hermione punched you – quite cracked your jaw, too, didn't she?”
“Grr!” Draco growled, deep in his chest. “Don't remind me, Harry. Stooopid!”
“– And then there were the hexes on the train and you were all gelatinous and nasty with boils –”
“You positive you don't hate me, Harry?” Draco really had to ask. “Think about it.” Because, really, what sort of hero would be that utterly childish – that spiteful, that inanely irritating, anyway? “That's pretty terrible, what you've done to me over the years, listed like tha–”
“And you hurt my feelings, every chance you could, Draco, and don't dare say to me that wasn't worse, alright? My mother alone… all you said. Bad, Draco. Really… really rotten,” Harry pointed out sharply, bouncing atop Draco's hips with his own hard knobby ones and it smarted and rather ached a bit… but it also… it also…
Felt pretty decent. Actually.
Draco flushed. Scarlet – and he knew Harry saw, as how could he not? They were nose-to-nose, good as, and essentially breathing the same air.
“Hey,” he said, after a moment. A long moment. “Um, Harry?”
Harry's face was so close his luxuriant eyelashes (ridiculous eyelashes, they were, but Draco didn't begrudge them him… too much) brushed across Draco's hot cheekbones.
“Ah… see? I'm… I'd. Um.”
Smooth, maybe he wasn't. Hadn't ever done this before, had he?
It was a risk of massive proportion; of course Draco realized that. And it wasn't as though this was much other than a mad impulse, but. He'd always wondered (well, he'd wondered for a long time, if not exactly always.) He'd wondered what it was like to have Harry – Potter – not hate him, quite so much. And a kiss… or maybe a real honest-to-Merlin snog, if they got lucky with tunefully symphonic bodily chemistry, as it certainly seemed they should do, given everything that had ever gone before between them, all these years now – a proper snog would work really very well as an effective apology.
“I like it if –“
For the Sectumsempra… and the mud… and the boils.
And, too, for many and varied his insults to Harry's mum (that had been nasty, he admitted it now) and every single petty, vicious, thinks-too-much-Slytherin thing he'd ever said or done to make Harry's life harder than it had already been. As it had been in truth and Draco was no fool.
No fool, indeed.
It's been said longtime enemies are almost better than lovers at knowing a person. That they're the ones who've spent veritable lifetimes observing, watching, obsessing over their hated ones…their archrivals, their nemeses. That the bond between two people who absolutely have always never gotten along, oil to water, bile to agar; who could cheerfully hex each other to pieces over a disputed slice of toast or equally over a DADA incantation misfired, was as strong as the bond between lovers… mayhap stronger.
Enemies, especially ones cultivated for a very long time, could read minds – taste feelings – know what lay soul-deep. Sort layers. See souls. Know what each other wanted most and how (of course) to make it impossible to reach.
“Oh. Oh, yes. Right, then.”
Or… the opposite.
Harry kissed him. Just like that, no fanfare, no warning, no harm and no foul.
And Draco kissed Harry in return. Reciprocated, just like that, softly, with no explanation needed, no long-winded speeches of forgiveness or matching guilt or anything like. Sweetly, shyly – for all of three seconds – then hard as he possibly could, jaw gaping open, gnawing and nipping and sucking away at Harry's lips, tongue and all the hidden inner recesses of his mouth as if they were the last edible food left on Earth.
Harry snogged him, just as desperately. It was perfect.
And when it was at last most finally over (it took a very long time to accomplish it properly, what with Harry slip-sliding into Draco's chest, quick-silver like the barmy-arse ex-Seeker he was, and Draco having to grip Harry all over that slim body just to keep him in constant contact, and this through and despite all those horrible loose-fitting clothes and their silly robes). Then periodically they'd stop, staring nose-to-nose and smiling like complete loons, panting, totally winded. Cocks erect under half-undone and skewed-aside shirting tucked up under sweaty armpits; a right mess both of them.
Nipples painful. Seams close to bursting. Hungry.
And then do it all over again.