Fanfic: Truths, Dares, and Love Affairs by fencer_x (Free to read, 564,411Clicks)

Description:

NEWTs are approaching, Mind Healing is mandatory, and something is wrong with the castle.

Characters:

No Archive Warnings ApplyDraco Malfoy/Harry PotterDraco Malfoy Harry Potter Minerva McGonagall Ron Weasley Hermione Granger Blaise Zabini Pansy Parkinson Gregory Goyle Seamus Finnigan Dean Thomas Original Non-Binary Character Neville Longbottom Andromeda Black Tonks Narcissa Black MalfoyHogwarts Eighth Year Harry Potter Epilogue What Epilogue | EWE Class Partners to Friends to Lovers Friends to Lovers Getting Together Drinking Games Alcohol Party Games Light Angst Banter Fluff and Humor Mind Healers (Harry Potter) Therapy Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD Nightmares Claustrophobia Self-Worth Issues Hogwarts magic Mystery POV Draco Malfoy Draco Malfoy & Ron Weasley Friendship Minor Hermione Granger/Ron Weasley Minor Seamus Finnigan/Dean Thomas H/D Erised 2021 Sentient Hogwarts affirmations Christmas Kissing Love Confessions

Summary:

Summary:

NEWTs are approaching, Mind Healing is mandatory, and something is wrong with the castle.And then, there’s Potter.

Notes:

For fencer_x.

Thank you to my alpha reader, A, and to my beta readers, K and W. This fic would not be what it is without all of your help. And thank you to the mods, for bringing us an amazing fest year after year.Fencer_x, you are absolutely brilliant. Happy Erised!

(See the end of the work for more notes.)

Chapter 1

Chapter Text

Eighth-Year Housing Assignments
Room 1: Draco Malfoy & Ronald Weasley
Room 2: Hermione Granger & Pansy Parkinson
Room 3: Harry Potter & Blaise Zabini
Room 4: Neville Longbottom & Gregory Goyle
Room 5: Dean Thomas & Ernest Macmillan
Room 6: Seamus Finnigan & Terrence Boot
Room 7: Parvati Patil & Susan Bones
Room 8: Padma Patil & Hannah Abbott
Room 9: Millicent Bulstrode & Lisa Turpin
Room 10: Daphne Greengrass & Amanda Brocklehurst
Room 11: Theodore Nott & Anthony Goldstein
Room 12: Justin Finch-Fletchley & Michael Corner

If there are any concerns, please see Headteacher McGonagall.

“No, I’m not going to McGonagall,” Weasley’s saying.Draco had been about to slip into bed when Weasley finally walked into their shared room. He’d suggested Weasley should find another roommate, and now he feels absolutely ridiculous arguing with Weasley while sitting on his bed, wearing green silk pyjamas.
Worse, Weasley is giving him that look, almost like compassion, as if Draco had been the victim of something and Weasley felt bad for him. Draco’s been getting looks like that since his public trial, and he can’t stand it.
“You’re telling me you wouldn’t rather be rooming with Potter?” Draco snaps back.
Weasley rolls his eyes. “Obviously. The whole point of this is clearly for every eighth-year to be paired with someone from a different house. Hadn’t you noticed?”
Draco hadn’t noticed. “Of course I noticed,” he spits. “Then why not—anyone else? Do you actually want to room with me?”
“If you have a problem with me,” Weasley replies, kicking off his shoes and changing into his pyjamas, “you can go to McGonagall yourself. I’m not about to bother her about something so trivial.”
And isn’t that rich, as if it were trivial, that Draco had verbally abused him and his family for years, that he had contributed to the cause that had taken away his brother.
“Right,” Draco replies as harshly as he can. “Because surely McGonagall wants to listen to a former Death Eater in her office.”
It’s not that he hates Weasley—at least, not anymore. But Draco abhors the persistent look of pity on his face.
“You know what I think?” Weasley asks, looking at Draco thoughtfully. “I think you do regret everything. But you’re too proud to ever admit that.”
“Congrats, Weasley, I didn’t realise you’d got your Mind Healing licence too. I’ll go ahead and tell Healer Fern they’re not needed, I can have you tell me things about myself that aren’t even true.”
But Weasley isn’t even taken aback. He just gives Draco that even look, eyes still filled with pity.
It’s enough to make Draco sick.
“Fuck you, Weasley,” he spits, turning away and tucking himself into his bed.
“Yeah, okay, Malfoy,” Weasley replies mildly.
It takes a long time for Draco to fall asleep.

***
Draco sits down in the back corner of the Transfiguration class. He’s the first one here, and that’s intentional; if he sits down first, then everyone else in the class has the opportunity to avoid sitting next to him. He doesn’t think too deeply about how uncomfortable it would be for everyone involved if he were forced to impose his presence on some unsuspecting classmate.By the time the rest of the class has shuffled in, there are only two empty seats left: the one next to him, and the one next to Potter, who’s also sitting in the back row.
No one’s giving Potter the wide berth that they’re giving Draco, but it’s still… odd. For him to be sitting alone, even if Granger and Weasley are at the next table—he’d saved the entire goddamn country and now people didn’t want to sit with him? Potter seems completely unbothered to be sitting alone.
But it’s not Draco’s business, so he tries to focus on nothing but the table in front of him and the clock as it ticks toward the start of class.
McGonagall sweeps into the room a mere thirty seconds before class is scheduled to begin. All of her kind smiles from the Welcome Feast are gone; her face betrays nothing but pure, unadulterated, NEWT-level severity. Draco feels threads of excitement for a challenging year tangle up near his chest.
“Good morning, class.”
“Good morning, Professor McGonagall,” the class replies in unison.
“This is a NEWT-level class,” she begins. “I expect each of you to treat it as such. You will practise outside of class. You will read what I assign you. You will write coherently and sensibly in your written work. You will arrive on time to class. And you will pay attention while you are here.”
McGonagall seems to take a look around the classroom, then nods sharply to herself. “This class will also involve partner work. Mr Potter, please move next to Mr Malfoy. You will be partners for today.”
Potter gets up, grabs his bags, and moves to sit down next to Draco. He looks at Draco as he slumps into his new chair, and his green eyes flash with some emotion Draco can’t read.
There’s a bit of muttering from the other students as Potter moves, but McGonagall shuts it down with a short and deliberate clearing of her throat. Draco angles his body away from Potter, his excitement for the class quickly dwindling into dread.
“Alright, class. Let’s get started.”
McGonagall explains that they’ll be continuing work on conjuration, the more difficult counterpart to Vanishment. She reminds them of their sixth-year coursework on conjuration, but emphasises that due to the varying levels of seventh-year education, they’ll be starting at the beginner stages again.
‘Beginner stages’ turns out to mean conjuring replicas of their partners’ items. Draco looks around Potter’s side of the desk, finally settling on an object to replicate. Nothing happens when he casts the Conjuring Spell, though.
“What are you doing?” Potter asks. His tone is neutral, but Draco scans his expression anyways. Potter has a small smile on his face that Draco assumes is mocking him.
“Conjuring, Potter. I should have predicted your inability to listen to instructions.”
“I meant what are you trying to conjure,” Potter snaps, and his annoyance somehow makes Draco feel more comfortable.
“That watch you keep playing with.” Draco nods toward it, and Potter seems to catch himself fidgeting with the lugs. It’s a nice watch, stars circling the face, and it looks like solid gold.
And that’s when Draco realises what his issue is—you can’t conjure gold. “Of course,” he mutters softly, then casts again, focusing instead on Potter’s tattered Transfiguration textbook.
His conjured replica is a bit off in colour, but is otherwise exact.
“That’s not a watch,” Potter points out.
“Well spotted,” Draco sneers. Potter’s eyes are so goddamn green as he rolls them at Draco, and Draco can’t look—he just can’t.
Draco stares at the desk in front of them, not watching as Potter tries to conjure… whatever he’s trying to conjure. It only takes Potter a few tries, and then a replica of Draco’s ink bottle is on the desk.
Draco conjures Potter’s quill, and Potter conjures Draco’s textbook, and neither of them say anything else to each other, and then McGonagall’s sending them off for the day.
But then it happens again. And again. And again. Draco arrives early to class and sits alone, everyone else comes in, no one sits next to Potter, and Potter and Draco are assigned partners.
The only reasonable explanation that Draco can think of is that the saviour is intimidating. Potter clearly has friends, and everyone seems to want to talk to him outside of class, but during classes, they leave him alone. Draco supposes they’re daunted by the possibility of using their own magic opposite someone whose magic ended a war.
In Herbology, Professor Sprout has them partnered for extracting beans from Sopophorous plants. In Muggle Studies—required for all students this year, though not at NEWT level—it’s counting money. In Charms, it’s Anti-Alohomora charms, trying to prevent each other from unlocking a small chest. In Potions, it’s brewing rat tonic. In Defence Against the Dark Arts, Professor Weasley—Bill Weasley, who’s unforgivingly attractive—has them shooting wandless, nonverbal Shielding Charms against each other.
And nothing changes, as the days go by, even as they sit down for the second session of each class, and then the third, and the fourth. No one sits next to Potter, and no one sits next to Draco, and eventually, they sit next to each other from the start of each class, resigned to the inevitability of their partnership. Potter incessantly fiddles with his watch, and Draco pretends to not notice his presence.
He refuses to think too hard about Potter being next to him. If he thinks too hard, he’ll think about how Potter has only got taller since last year, how his green eyes are obscenely beautiful, how his chaotic hair is begging for fingers to gently brush through it.
If he thinks too hard, he’ll think about how he only ever hated Potter because of what he stood for. About how, now that the war is over and Draco has realised how wrong all of his former beliefs were, he has no choice but to respect what Potter stands for.
And if he respects what Potter stands for, then there’s nothing stopping Draco from giving into the parts of himself that are attracted to Potter, or worse, the parts of Draco that still desperately want to be his friend.
So he doesn’t think too hard, and he doesn’t look at Potter, and he makes every effort not to speak to him at all. And it’s fine. Everything is fine.

***
“Would you just come to the party?” Blaise says, exasperated, from his bed. Afternoon light highlights his green duvet. Draco is at Blaise’s desk, refusing to acknowledge to whom the other half of this room belongs.“I’m not going to your stupid party,” Draco replies. “You invited Gryffindors.”
“Yes, Draco, I did. We need to make new connections. This is the best way.”
Draco glares at him. “Speak for yourself. And it’s not like he’s not going to be here, he’s your goddamn roommate.”
Blaise rolls his eyes. “Because I specifically requested Potter as a roommate,” he drawls.
“You might as well have,” Draco retorts. “You’ve made friends with him.”
Draco expects him to deny it, but Blaise just shrugs. “He’s a good guy. You’d like him. Or, rather, you do like him, and refuse to admit it.”
“I do not,” Draco lies.
“Right. You just saved his life at great risk to your own, for no reason.”
“Well, we can’t all run off to the continent and avoid conflict, can we?” Draco snaps.
Blaise just smiles wryly. “I missed your deflections, Draco, truly. It’s so lovely to have you back in my life.”
At that moment, the door squeals open and Potter walks into the room. He gives Draco a nod, then says hello to Blaise and drops his school bag on the floor. Draco turns to walk out.
“Where are you going, Draco? I’m sure Potter would love it if you stayed, isn’t that right, Potter?”
Draco is out the door before he can hear Potter’s response.

***
Draco doesn’t attend Blaise’s party that weekend, or the weekend after. He hears Weasley coming into their room after both parties around three in the morning smelling like Firewhisky, though, and he can’t help but feel a bit relieved he didn’t have to deal with hours of being around social people.Three weeks into classes, the eighth-years’ mandatory Mind Healing sessions with Healer Fern finally begin. Draco heads to his first appointment after Charms on Thursday.
Healer Fern is sitting peacefully at their desk, sipping from a large mug that says Mornings Are Tea-Dious on the front. They’re not wearing robes, like they were at the Welcoming Feast when McGonagall had first introduced them to the school. Instead, Fern’s wearing a black knitted jumper, their curly blond hair tied up at the top of their head, and they’re looking up at Draco as he enters.
“Good morning, Mr Malfoy,” Fern says. “How are you?”
“Good morning,” Draco replies cautiously, wondering if he’s supposed to sit down on the chair or the couch. Neither look particularly comfortable. “I’m fine, how are you?”
“Fine, thanks. Take the couch; I’ll come to the chair.”
As they both sit down, Fern looks at him thoughtfully. “Now, Mr Malfoy, I am here to keep an open mind, and I expect my clients—in this case, you—to do the same. With that being said, I need to advise you that I am a Squib. I find it’s best to be up front about this when working with wizards, since emotional outbreaks often are connected to magical outbreaks, and I am unequipped to handle the latter.”
Draco catches his wince at the word Squib. He knows better now, but years of pure-blood propaganda have certainly left their mark. “That’s fine,” he replies evenly.
Fern looks at him thoughtfully. “Now, before we get started, we should discuss expectations. I know what McGonagall hopes to get out of each of my sessions with her eighth-years, but I also know that Mind Healing works best when clients come willingly, not when sessions are mandated, such as in this case. Therefore, I’d like to set some expectations with each individual.”
There’s a pause, and Draco’s not sure what he’s supposed to say, so he just stares.
“What do you hope to get out of these sessions, Mr Malfoy? What would you like to work on?”
How is he supposed to know what he wants to work on? He’s not the one who signed up for this. Five minutes in and frustration is already gnawing at him, though he really should have expected this. “Whatever you think is best,” he replies coolly.
“You can’t think of anything that you’d like to work on?”
“I was a Death Eater,” he snaps. “I’m nice and fucked up. Is that what you’re looking for?”
Fern purses their lips. “No, Mr Malfoy, that’s not what I’m looking for. I understand the reflex to lash out at people in order to stop yourself from feeling too much. Do you use rudeness as a defence mechanism?”
Draco’s mouth drops open, but the frustration simmering within him has turned to real anger. He’s not about to admit that they’re correct, not while they’re saying it like Draco’s a frog they’re dissecting. But, well. Fern is correct, and he’s well aware of his own tendencies.
“I’m afraid I wasn’t hired to coddle anyone,” Fern continues.
“I don’t need coddling.”
“I’m glad to hear it. Let’s try again, then. What would you like to work on with me during our sessions?”
Draco glares for a few more seconds, and then the fight just… leaves him. He lets go of his rigid posture and falls back into the couch cushions, rubbing at his temples.
“I don’t know where to start,” he says softly.

***
Draco wakes up gasping for air. Voldemort’s got Narcissa, he’s got her, and Draco needs to—A warm hand on Draco’s shoulder interrupts the panic. “Are you okay?” Draco’s head jerks up at Weasley’s low voice.
“What are you doing?” Draco tries to snap, but it comes out shaky. He takes in his surroundings slowly: the dim light of the room, the hint of dawn peeking from underneath the curtains, Weasley’s concerned face above him.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to overstep,” Weasley replies, sounding genuinely regretful. “It’s just, well. If it were me, I’d want to be woken up.”
Weasley had—Weasley had woken him up from a nightmare. Had Draco been… screaming?
Oh, god, he had been.
He doesn’t want Weasley to see him like this, doesn’t want anyone to see him like this—
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Draco replies sharply, sitting up. He looks around the room, trying to come up with a reason to escape from it. “I’m going down to breakfast.”
“It’s six in the morning, Malfoy.” Weasley sounds bemused now, but Draco refuses to look at him. He quickly changes into his school robes and rushes out the door.
He doesn’t go to the Great Hall; Weasley wasn’t wrong about the time. But Draco can’t stand the thought of being in the same room with Weasley after he saw him like that. Maybe by tonight Weasley will have forgotten all about it. Or maybe Draco will crash with Blaise.
Fuck, no, Potter is rooming with Blaise.
Maybe he’ll sleep in the common room tonight.
After wandering the corridors for an hour or so and grabbing an early breakfast, Draco makes his way to the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. He’s almost a half hour early, and Professor Weasley raises an eyebrow, but doesn’t say anything. He just turns back to whatever he’s reading at the front of the classroom, tucking a long lock of ginger hair behind his left ear.
Bill Weasley—even with his longer hair, his scarred face, and his tooth earring—reminds Draco too much of his roommate, whom he does not want to think about. Draco resolutely does not think about how long the list of things he refuses to think about is getting.
As the students shuffle in and the class gets started, Professor Weasley announces that they’ll be working on Imperturbable Charms.
“Now, these are for creating barriers,” he says, rolling up the sleeves of an orange pullover. It should look terrible, and much too casual. It doesn’t, though, not on him. “Anything that’s been Imperturbed will be protected from Dark magic. Objects and spells will bounce off of the Imperturbed item, and sound within or behind the Imperturbable barrier will be muffled. Yes, Dean?”
“Can you Imperturb a person?”
Professor Weasley grimaces. “Yes, although I wouldn’t recommend it. Any other questions? Okay. Now, the spell…”
He instructs each set of partners to cast the charm on their own desk, and passes out Muggle tools for them to hit the desks with.
“Now, it’s important you don’t cast any spells at the desks; we don’t want anything rebounding. Use only the tools, and make sure to keep a firm grip—if you cast the spell correctly, it should bounce right off the desk, and I don’t want anyone getting injured.”
Draco rolls his eyes at that. As if Hogwarts suddenly cares if students get hurt.
The tool given to Draco and Potter has a wooden handle, with metal at the top that’s flat on one side and pointed on another. He thinks back to the Muggle Studies introduction to tools and tries to come up with the name… hamper? Hamber?
Draco casts the Imperturbable Charm to turn the desk into a barrier, and Potter takes the hamber. When he strikes the desk, the hamber bounces right off, and Draco feels a smug sense of satisfaction that he got the spell right in one try.
Of course, Potter has to get it right on the first try too, so they end up pointlessly hitting a desk for the rest of the class time, Draco deliberately avoiding any eye contact when Potter looks in his direction.

***
On Saturday morning, Draco wakes up—wakes up?—standing in the middle of the Great Hall with an odd feeling in his gut. He blinks his eyes a few times, trying to remember how he got here.The Great Hall is completely empty, save the long tables and benches, and a soft, pink light is shining through the windows. It must be dawn.
Draco shakes his head, trying to clear it. He starts walking back to the eighth-year common room.
Had he been sleepwalking? He hasn’t sleepwalked since he was a child, not that he can even remember doing it, it was so long ago. His mother likes to tell the story of the time he’d sleepwalked out into the garden and been found by the peacocks.
The castle’s freezing, and Draco’s thin silk pyjamas do absolutely nothing to help the situation. He takes his wand out of his pocket and casts a Warming Charm.
Just as he turns into a portraitless corridor on the second floor, slowly making his way all the way back up to the eighth-year tower, he sees—Potter. Doing… Draco has no idea what.
Potter is fully dressed in his school robes, but he’s ducking and twisting and casting spells, seemingly against the wide expanse of empty stone wall.
Draco just stands there, staring, as Potter seemingly uses the wall to fight himself. It’s not long before Potter notices him.
Potter turns slowly, taking Draco in. Draco is too taken aback to avoid the eye contact, and he immediately regrets it—Potter’s just so intense, all the time, and even more so right now. Draco can almost see the adrenaline through Potter’s clear green eyes, and Potter’s face shines with sweat, but he slowly shifts out of his battle stance at the sight of Draco in his pyjamas.
“What are you doing?” Draco can’t help but ask in bewilderment.
Potter’s face turns sheepish, brown cheeks flushing even more. “Practicing duelling.”
“You’re duelling yourself.”
“Er… yeah. Got the idea with the Imperturbable Charms, you know?” Potter rubs his hand against the back of his neck. He’s standing awkwardly now, all confidence from his self-duelling gone.
Draco can’t help but admit how genius that is, using the Imperturbable like that—and it explains how Potter was casting at the wall, then defending against his own hexes.
“Why?” he can’t help but ask. But Potter’s eyes immediately narrow.
“Why not?” Potter replies darkly, and Draco realises that even now, Potter must still not feel safe. “What about you, then? What are you doing?” He gestures vaguely at Draco, face lightening up, and Draco remembers he’s in his pyjamas.
“Nothing,” Draco snaps defensively. “None of your business. I’ll just be going.”
A flash of curiosity shows on Potter’s face, then disappears as quickly as it came. “Fine,” Potter retorts, but Draco’s already brushing past him.
He needs to get back to the common room, he needs a shower, he needs clothes, he needs tea, and he needs fresh air.
Thank Merlin today’s a Hogsmeade day.

***
Draco walks with Blaise, Greg, and Pansy, sticking to the outside of the large Hogwarts pack walking to Hogsmeade. The late September air is crisp, and Draco breathes it in.“I need a new coat,” Pansy says. “And so do you, Greg.”
Greg frowns. “What’s wrong with the coat I have?”
“It’s hideous,” Draco tells him.
“Truly offensive,” Blaise agrees.
Greg shakes his head in defeat. They shop for coats, then stop at the Three Broomsticks for lunch.
“Draco, you need to come to my next party,” Blaise orders through a mouthful of potatoes.
“Ugh, Blaise,” Pansy cuts in, wrinkling her nose. “You’re horrifying the ancestors.”
Blaise winks at her. “Good,” he says through another mouthful. “We should all strive to piss off our pure-blood forefathers.”
Draco snorts.
“You know Draco’s never going to go to your parties,” Greg offers.
“That’s right,” Pansy agrees. “Not as long as Potter’s there.”
“Mind your own business,” Draco snaps at her.
She blows him a kiss. “Never, darling.”
And then Draco rethinks what Greg has said. “Greg, have you been going to Blaise’s parties?”
Greg blushes, and Draco’s jaw drops. “Yeah, so?”
“Why?”
“Blaise is my friend,” Greg says, cheeks reddening even more. “And Neville asked me to.”
“Neville?!”
“Greg, you’re giving him an aneurism,” Blaise chides. “You know poor Draco can’t handle first names with Gryffindors.”
“No, he’s just mad that we’re actually friendly with our roommates, when he refuses to even look at Weasley,” Pansy counters.
“What do you mean, ‘we’?” Draco asks. “You’re not telling me you’re pals with Granger?”
Pansy just shrugs. “She helped me with that Potions essay.”
“I could have helped you with the Potions essay.”
“But you didn’t, and she did. It doesn’t matter, Draco, honestly, you’re the only one with a stick up your arse.”
Draco just sighs. “Weasley is… fine,” he admits painfully. “He’s perfectly fine. But I’m…”
“You’re… dealing with a guilt complex and refusing to make meaningful connections with anyone who wasn’t on the wrong side of the war?” Blaise guesses. The Three Broomsticks patrons are obnoxiously loud, but Draco’s grateful, since it means no one else can hear this conversation.
“Oooh, I want to play too,” Pansy says, smiling wickedly. “You’re… trying to not be attracted to Potter, and being friendly with Weasley means being friendly with Potter, so you can’t do it?”
“I’m not—”
“Good one, Pans,” Blaise winks.
“You’re actually in love with Weasley, not Potter,” Greg offers, grinning.
“I’m not in love with—”
“Weasley, but you are in love with Potter?” Pansy smirks at him. “What a surprise.”
Draco groans in frustration. “You’re all horrible friends,” he tells them.
“We know,” Blaise says, smiling. “That’s why you love us. So, are you coming to my party next weekend?”
“Can we talk about literally anything else, please?” Draco pleads, rolling his eyes in exasperation.
For once, his horrible friends take pity on him.

***
Potter’s escaped, they’ve all escaped, and thank god, but Bellatrix is screaming now, and she’s throwing Draco across the room. He can’t help his shout of pain as his spine hits the back wall, as he crumples to the floor. Bellatrix is still screaming, and Draco tries to get up, but he can’t, and then—The entire house shudders. He’s here, the Dark Lord is here, and Draco can’t move, can’t get up, and then there’s a bang, and Draco’s eyes shoot open.
The Dark Lord is here, he’s—
Draco’s eyes slowly absorb the view in front of him: a small, homely room with two beds and two dressers, dark walls, and Weasley, walking in through the doorway. Weasley looks guilty as he takes in Draco’s upright position and wild expression.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you,” he says. Draco’s eyes turn to the wall on the clock. He’s breathing hard, and he forces himself to slow his breaths down.
It’s four-thirty in the morning.
Draco heaves a sigh, rubbing at his eyes. “Out with Granger?” he inquires, too tired for the words to hold the derision he’d aimed for.
Weasley turns bright red, visible even in the dark room. “No, I was in—I was downstairs?”
“Okay, Weasley,” Draco replies, laying back down and closing his eyes.
“No, really,” Weasley says defensively. “I woke up and I was in the Transfiguration corridor. I must have been sleepwalking, or something.”
This tugs at something in Draco’s brain, but it’s too early for him to properly think. He’s at Hogwarts, he’s safe… he’s already asleep by the time Weasley slips into his own bed.

***
Hogwarts slips into deep autumn as September turns to October, and October quickly turns to mid-October. The Dark Forest looks like it’s on fire, shimmering in the wind with bright yellows, oranges, and reds. Draco takes the time each day to step outside and walk the grounds, breathing in the smell of the fallen leaves and letting himself relax in the quiet of the season. Pansy joins him, sometimes.Draco still hasn’t gone to any of Blaise’s parties, but Blaise really is starting to wear him down. Not that he’ll admit that, of course, but one of these weekends he’s actually going to go to one.
Maybe.
Probably.
Maybe.
He’s in Charms class on Friday, waiting for it to be over so he can head back outside. It’s a bit warmer today than usual, but still chilly, and it’s the perfect weather to sit in the sun and enjoy the breeze.
“You could help, you know,” Potter says, bringing Draco back to the present. They’re supposed to be using the Protean Charm, linking one piece of parchment with five others, so that the writing on the main piece of parchment would show up on the rest.
Draco’s already finished his Charmwork, though they’ll be working on the Protean for the next few classes. “I could,” Draco agrees, not looking at Potter. His tone conveys just exactly how little could translates to will.
“You only know this one because you copied Hermione’s Charmwork on the DA coins back in fifth-year.” Potter sounds frustrated.
“Maybe you should copy her coursework too, then.” Draco doesn’t bother denying the slight.
Potter just sighs. He doesn’t talk to Draco for the rest of the class.

***
Draco’s walking out to the lake when he feels a pull.And then he’s standing in what appears to be a broom cupboard. And Potter is right in front of him. It smells like rotting wood in here, and there’s barely enough light peeking in from the edges of the door to tell it’s him, but Draco would recognise those messy curls anywhere.
“Malfoy? What the fuck?” Potter asks.
“What the fuck,” Draco agrees.
Potter reaches around, searching for a handle. He pulls it, but it doesn’t budge.
“Alohomora.” Potter tries the handle again to no avail. “You want to give it a go?”
Draco tries the handle, and then Alohomora.
“Come on,” he urges, pulling the door as hard as he can.
“Too bad Flitwick didn’t teach us the countercharm to an Anti-Alohomora,” Potter says mildly, but Draco can hear an undercurrent of anxiety to his voice.
“There is none, that’s the whole point,” Draco snaps.
“Oh. Oh, fuck. We’re really stuck in here.” Draco can’t make out the expression on Potter’s face, but his voice is soft now, much too soft. Draco’s never heard Potter sound like that, and it’s… unnerving.
“Yes.”
“Oh my god,” Potter whispers, sliding down till he’s sitting on the floor.
Draco’s stomach drops. This is bad. This is very not good. “Potter.”
“I’m fine, sorry, I’m fine—”
“Potter.”
“Sorry, I’m alright, really—”
But Potter is not alright. Potter is clearly panicking for some reason, but Draco doesn’t know how to deal with that, he only knows how he always deals with Potter.
So he does.
“Pull yourself together,” Draco snaps, wincing internally at himself. “Get the fuck up and help me fix this.”
“Sorry,” Potter says again, softly, and then he clears his throat. “Er. How, then? Do we fix this?”
Draco casts Lumos, and the cupboard brightens considerably. It’s cramped, filled with tattered brooms and cleaning supplies. In the light, Draco can finally read Potter’s expression. He looks miserable, but doesn’t seem to be panicking anymore.
Potter doesn’t show any signs of getting up, so Draco slides down too, sitting in front of him. Their legs are both bunched up against their bodies, knees brushing each other. Potter’s not looking at him; he’s just playing with his watch, taking slow breaths. The air in the cupboard is tense.
“Could you send a Patronus to someone?” Draco asks.
Potter clears his throat again. He tries it, but not even the dimmest spark of light comes out. “Sorry, it’s just—I’m just—”
“Stop apologising,” Draco interrupts, not wanting to hear why Potter can’t produce a Patronus right now. He can do it against literal Dementors without issue. And he’s done it in front of Draco before, so it’s not him. It has to be something else, and something bad. Draco doesn’t want to think about which horror from Potter’s past is currently rendering him afraid of broom cupboards. “We’ll try something else.”
“Okay,” Potter says warily. “What?”
“It would help if we knew why we were here.”
Potter sighs. “It’s my fault, I think. The castle keeps doing this to me.”
“Trapping you in cupboards?”
“No. Yes. Kind of?” Potter sighs again. “I keep waking up in random places in the castle. I thought I was sleepwalking, or something, but then yesterday, I was walking back to the common room after class and I got yanked out of the corridor and put into the Charms classroom. The castle’s just pissed at me, I think. I’m not sure why it brought you into this.”
Draco blinks slowly. “You… you think you’re in the middle of a feud with the castle, or something?”
“Or something.”
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Draco tells him. “How arrogant do you have to be, to think an entire castle has it out for you and you only?”
“That’s right, I’m arrogant—” Potter starts to snap, but Draco interrupts him.
“It’s happened to me too,” Draco tells him. “Being yanked around the castle. But I just thought it was sleepwalking. It’s never happened to me while I was awake.”
“Until today?”
“Obviously.”
“Okay.” Potter takes a deep breath. “So why us?”
A jolt of memory hits Draco. “And Weasley. It’s happened to Weasley, too.”
“What? He never told me.”
“He thought it was sleepwalking, but now I don’t think it was.”
“Fuck.” Potter sighs. “We need to talk to Hermione.”
Before Draco can respond, Potter’s casting his Patronus again. There’s some light, but it’s still not corporeal.
“Give me a few more minutes. I’ll get it.”
Draco doesn’t respond, just leaves Potter to it. Potter takes a few deep breaths, then casts again, takes a few more breaths, casts again. Draco’s grateful Potter doesn’t ask him to try a Patronus.
“I owe you an apology,” Potter says after a few more attempts.
Draco startles. “Why?”
“For… almost killing you. Back in sixth-year. I honestly didn’t mean to—”
“Potter, why are you bringing up an incident from two years ago?” Draco’s entire body stiffens, and the tension in the cupboard heightens.
“Well, I mean, I… I’ve never apologised for it. And I needed to. It was unforgivable, really, so I don’t expect you to—”
“Merlin, would you stop?” Draco snaps, barely holding onto his self-control. Potter sounds so genuine, and Draco wants to tell him it’s fine, to tell him he wishes Potter had hurt him worse.
“Yeah. Sorry. I’ll stop.” And then, because of course Potter can’t just stop being sincere, he goes on, “I just wanted to clear the air a bit. You saved my life. And you… you’re nice to Ron.”
“I’m not nice to Weasley,” Draco interrupts, stopping himself from relaying all the times that Potter saved his life.
Potter blinks. “He told me you were.”
Draco’s mouth drops open. “He told you I was nice to him?”
Potter nods, and Draco doesn’t know what to say, so he just stares at him.
“Anyways, as I was saying, I’m not the person I used to be,” Potter continues. “And you’re not who you used to be, either. I thought a fresh start might be nice. Probably easier than just snapping at each other. But I understand if you don’t want that.”
Draco’s not having a heart-to-heart with Potter. He’s not talking about this in a locked broom cupboard.
But then he makes the mistake of looking up, and he catches Potter’s expression, green eyes wide and pleading, mouth turned down in misery, and, well.
He’s known since the beginning of the year, since Potter sat down next to him in Transfiguration, that he can’t shut him out forever. Not with those eyes. Not with that earnestness. It’s a miracle Draco’s made it all the way till October before giving in. Draco’s Potter-shaped self-control slowly dissipates into the air like one of Potter’s failed Patronuses.
“You had every right to do what you did.” Draco sighs. “I was never upset at you for it.”
Potter’s eyes widen even more. “You should have been.”
“Well, I wasn’t.”
Potter takes a deep breath. “Alright. Well. So, you hate me for the rest of it, then? The rivalry, and all that?”
“I don’t hate you,” Draco says softly. It’s less than a whisper, but Potter jerks as if he had shouted.
“Then why are you—why do you act like it?”
And maybe Draco’s restraint isn’t completely gone, because he’s able to keep from admitting that if he stops being rude to him, he’ll end up swooning over him like all of Potter’s obsessive fans, which would be horrifying for both of them.
“It’s just who I am,” Draco replies.
Potter looks doubtful, but he doesn’t press. “Alright,” he says. “I can be a dick back, if it helps.”
Draco can’t hold back a laugh. “Please do.”
“You’re, er, a git, Malfoy,” Potter contributes halfheartedly.
“Thanks, Potter,” Draco replies genuinely.
“Truly the worst.”
“Not as bad as you.” Draco smiles.
“You’re not as smart as Hermione.”
“You’re not as brave as Longbottom.”
Potter cracks a smile. “You’re shit at Potions.”
“Now that’s just a lie—” Draco splutters, but Potter’s laughing at him, and he can’t help but laugh too.
While they’re still laughing, Potter casts the Patronus, and it takes shape. “Go to Hermione,” he says. “Tell her: Malfoy and I are trapped in one of the broom cupboards. Not sure which one. Something’s off with the castle’s magic.”
The Patronus heads off. Draco can’t help but quietly admire the proud form of the stag. He sits in a comfortable silence with Potter as they wait for Granger to arrive.
And if Draco’s disappointed when the knock comes, well. At least he’s self-aware.

***
“I was stuck in the Potions classroom,” Granger says emphatically as she walks up the stairs with Draco and Potter. “With Padma Patil.”“You were—how did you get out?” Potter asks incredulously.
“Ron came and got us,” she replies. “I sent him a Patronus once we realised we couldn’t get out. The door was unlocked from the outside, same as yours.”
“How long were you in there?”
“Maybe five minutes?” Granger guesses. “Anyways, we’ve got to talk to Headteacher McGonagall. I was on my way there when I got your Patronus. How long were you two in there?”
“Same as you,” Potter says quickly, glancing briefly at Draco as he lies. “Five minutes. Why are we talking to McGonagall?”
“Well, after Ron got me and Padma out, he told us about his experience waking up in the Transfiguration corridor, and then we got all of the eighth-years together—except you two, obviously—and turns out it’s happened to all of us. The castle has been moving us around, mostly while we’re sleeping, and we’ve all just chalked it up to nothing because we haven’t talked to each other.”
Potter groans. “Fuck, we’re so stupid.”
“Quite,” Granger agrees. “Anyways, I’m going to go straight to McGonagall’s, are you coming?”
“Sure.”
“Malfoy? Would you like to join us?” Her tone is civil, but wary.
Draco shakes his head. “No, thank you. I’ll see you in class, Potter.”
As he turns left towards the eighth-year tower and they turn right, he hears Granger asking, “Did Malfoy sound polite to you, just then?”
Draco winces and climbs up to the common room.

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