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hd inspiration for the hd_inspired community

Author/Artist: crimson_stained
Recipient: The hd_inspired Community
Title: The Swan Potter
Pairing(s): Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy
Rating: PG
Summary: All Draco had wanted was for Harry Potter to pay attention. When Potter ends up in the Manor, Draco tries to help Potter escape, and instead, accidentally finds a way to make Potter listen to everything he has to say.
Total word count: 9,989
Disclaimer: This story/artwork is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros. Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Beta(s): M and R

The Swan Potter


swan


It is many a teenager’s dream to one day find the person they’ve long fancied delivered straight to their doorstep. Draco Malfoy is no different.

Well, maybe slightly different. There is a slight bit of difference, because unlike most boys his age (or any other age), Draco does not like girls. He does not long for any of the young witches at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. None of them make his heart race or palms sweat. None of them make him stare goggled-eyed alight with desire. It isn’t as if none of them are pretty; they are. And it isn’t as if he hasn’t had any offers; there have been. Many of the ladies seemed to have hearts aching in his direction. Unfortunately for them, that attraction was a one-way street.

Draco Malfoy likes boys. It’s been a strenuously long journey of denial for him to admit this simple fact of the matter. At first, he had generated multiple theories of how this liking of boys had come to be. He blamed his parents for his father was too distant and his mother was too smothering. He claimed that his childhood tutors who read him stories had tried to do more than just read. He argued that Hogwarts just didn’t have the right girl for him and that maybe he was just neurotically afraid of girls. He believed that this liking of boys was just a phase he would eventually grow out of.

Eventually, he realized that this was not just a phase. There would never be a girl anywhere that he would ever be attracted to in ‘that’ way. He was also perfectly fine with girls and not afraid of them at all. His childhood tutors never did anything untoward and all of his friends had distant fathers and stifling mothers and none of them ever turned out gay.

Gay. That is the word for it nowadays. Out of all the words used to label boys who like boys, Draco likes this word the best. It means happy, and for a while, Draco has been a perfectly happy homosexual. Not a pouf. That word is perhaps his least favorite, for it sounds too much like puff. Draco Malfoy is no puff.

Lately, Draco has not been happy. Because other than being slightly different, he has found that he is just like every other member of the Wizarding population. He has developed a slight obsession with Harry Potter. Fierce competition in this arena.

Years of trying to separate himself from the herd in his anti-Potter antics have backfired. He spent too much time watching Potter in order to figure out the boy’s weaknesses, that Potter’s clumsy heroism and foolish courage began making Draco weak in the knees. Instead of spying on Quidditch strategy, he began spying on Quidditch-toned muscles instead. Years of glaring daggers at Potter, Draco finds himself mooning under those bright green eyes.

He had spent the rest of the school year trying to desperately nurse his infatuation by attempting to interact with Potter in any way possible. Yes, most of these interactions had a slightly negative connotation to them, but in an addled and deluded mind, fistfights and name-calling can become special fantasies and daydreams.

Now its summer, and Draco willingly admits that he misses Potter. The right word is pine, but for his own dignity’s sake, Draco refuses to think of himself as pining over Potter. It’s already bad enough that’s he’s mooning for the bespectacled git.

One summer day, while super secretly pining away, this pining turns into panic.

Some days it can be many a teenager’s nightmare to one day find the person they’ve long fancied delivered straight to their doorstep.

--------------------

Harry Potter is in the Malfoy dungeons. Father captured him last night. Apparently, Potter had been on one of his independent self-exploratory trips and Father had gone right up and just snatched him. Draco blames both Potter’s careless delusions of invincibility as well as Father’s villainy.

Draco had gone downstairs for a glass of water before bed and found Father dragging an unconscious Harry Potter towards the dungeons. Ever since he’d been broken out of Azkaban, he’d been taking his criminal behavior to a whole new level. He’d gone from stealing from the Ministry to kidnapping youthful boys.

“What the bloody fuck?” Draco had exclaimed as he watched Potter flopped along the marble floor.

“Language, Draco,” was all Father said as he continued to haul Potter towards the downward winding stone steps.

“Why do you have Harry Potter?” Panic sent seizure shocks through Draco. He was pretty sure that kidnapping Harry Potter was a crime unofficially declared to be punishable by death. He already half-expected the Ministry to burst through to hang the entire family up by their toes. Plus, Draco was also royally pissed at his father, because when Potter woke up, all minute chances that Draco could have had with Potter would really be blown.

“Saw him in Diagon Alley. Dark Lord wants him. Made sense at the time,” grunted Father, huffing as he continued to lug Potter around the Manor. Draco began to believe that too much time spent with Crabbe and Goyle Senior and the Dark Lord had really wasted Father’s mind.

“What are you going to do with him?” Draco’s asked.

“Hide him,” Father looked up. “Maybe you could help instead of standing around like a useless log.”

“Sorry,” Draco mumbled and grabbed Potter’s hands. A miniature thrill had rushed through him…he was holding Potter’s hands! Clammy and cold as they were…he was holding them!

As he carried Potter down the stairs to the dungeons, he watched Potter’s shirt slowly ride up to reveal a small, dark trail to…

They arrive at the cell before Draco’s mind could begin to venture through dangerous waters.

“You know, son,” Father began, once Potter was locked in a dungeon cell. Draco always thought it was creepy how his family still had dungeons. This probably contributed to why he was an exceptionally well-behaved child.

“Yes, father?”

“Maybe its time I trusted with you with some more responsibility.”

“Er,” Draco immediately began to think of ways to elude this.

“I think you ought to guard Potter. It’ll give you something to do for a while. Give you some experience in supporting the cause,” Father looked at Draco fondly now, as if he were offering Draco some true father-son bonding. Well, they certainly had something in common. Both had an interest in Harry Potter.

“Um, okay,” Draco’s heart palpitated. Guard duty? This is a free pass to stare at Potter all day and all night. Who cared about experience for his Death Eating application?

So now, here he is. All alone in the dungeons staring at Harry Potter, who is just right behind the big wooden door with the big steel bars. He presses his face against the bar, until his nose is all the way on Potter’s side of the cell as he waits for Potter to wake up.

-------------------------

The first thing Potter does is scream when he wakes up. He screams and shouts himself hoarse as he looks around the room.

“Hey!” Draco calls out, trying to quiet Potter. “Hey!”

Potter doesn’t seem to hear him, because he keeps yelling at the top of his lungs. It’s an incoherent jumble of ‘Help’, ‘What the bloody hell?!’, and ‘Get me out of here!’ Potter doesn’t stop screaming until Draco starts screaming back.

“Ahhhhhhhhh,” Draco shouts.

Potter freezes and stares wide-eyed at Draco. He takes a few slow breaths.

“What. The. Flying. Fuck?! Malfoy?!”

“Hello,” Draco says. “Now, I know this looks bad, but…”

“But I’m in the Malfoy dungeons so it’s not as bad as it seems?! What the bloody hell am I doing in a dungeon cell?! Why am I here? How did I get here?” Potter screeches. He looks around and screams some more. “Have you even looked in here? What the fuck is on the walls?”

Draco tries to peer in. He does spot some disturbingly sharp and shiny objects hanging on the walls. “Er. Don’t look at those.”

“How can I not look if they’re surrounding me?!” Potter yells hysterically. “Malfoy, I swear, get me out of here if you know what’s good for you!”

Draco shifts nervously.

“Really, Malfoy. I swear, if you don’t let me out, I’ll spontaneously explode. I know wandless magic and I’ll blast the hell out of you.”

“Two things,” Draco wiggles two fingers through the bars. “One, you do not know wandless magic. Otherwise you wouldn’t have screamed like a little girl. Two, if you spontaneously explode, you’ll die. And I haven’t heard the official word, but dying might be on Father’s planned itinerary for you.”

Potter starts screaming again.

“It could be worse!” Draco tries to shut Potter up again. He’s not as attractive when throwing a hysterical fit in the cell.

“How?”

“Um. You could already be dead?” Draco guesses that comforting people not a qualification dungeon guards usually have.

“How did I even end up here?”

“See, you shouldn’t wander around by yourself if you have people that hate you.” Draco points out. “That’s not very smart. Then again, Gryffindors aren’t really known for their brains.”

Potter kicks the wall, “Great. Fucking great. Why am I even here?”

“Father thought it might make sense to kidnap you.” Draco replies.

“It was a rhetorical question,” Potter groans and buries his face in his hands.

Draco continues to stare at Potter through the bars, his face pressed up against the metal.

“Are you going to stare at me as I rot and die?” Potter mumbles through his hands. “I didn’t know you were this much of a sadist.”

Draco blinks at Potter, who now has his back turned towards Draco. He is hunched in a corner, curled in a ball. This concerns Draco.

He takes a deep breath. “I don’t want you to die.”

“Hmmmmrm?” Potter makes a noise of confusion.

“I said, I don’t want you to die.”

“Hrmmrrrmmmmmm,” Potter moans.

“It’s true. I don’t!” Draco says more earnestly.

“You hate me,” Potter says, much more intelligibly now.

“Well, yes. Kind of,” Draco scratches the back of his neck. “Sort of. I used to. I mean, I do. I do hate you. Just. Gah.” His face flushes and Draco is for once glad of the dungeon’s creepy, dark lighting.

“What?” Potter turns to watch Draco intently.

“I mean, I don’t hate you that much anymore,” Draco mumbles.

“Why?”

“I don’t know,” Draco says. “I mean, you’re annoying with bad taste in clothing, hair, and friends. And you’re kind of an idiot. Sometimes, you’re more of a cocky, arrogant jerk than I am. You’re rude. Your glasses are too big for your face. And…”

“Malfoy?” Potter doesn’t sound too happy.

“What?”

“Those are all reasons for you to hate me.”

“You didn’t let me finish,” Draco says. “I mean, all of those things, and it just doesn’t really bother me anymore.”

Potter just sort of stares at Draco for a while. “While I don’t really understand why, I’m not going to argue with you since I’m sitting on this side of the dungeon door.”

“Good. I can’t really explain it any way,” Draco sniffs.

“So, if you don’t hate me, why keep me in here?”

“Oh, because Father will flay me alive.”

“So you’ll let me die just to save your own skin?” Potter cocks his head to the side and scrutinizes Draco. Merlin, Gryffindors were good at using moral logic against others.

“That’s a terrible way to put it.”

“That’s the way it is.”

“Well, what do you want me to do about it?”

“Get me out of here?” Potter gazes pleadingly at Draco, and it makes Draco wish that Potter’s eyes weren’t so green.

“I can’t.”

“You can.”

“I won’t.”

“Why not?”

“Why should I? What’s in it for me? You hate me. The instant I let you out, not only will Father kill me, but the Ministry will come and kill me again. And then all the Weasleys and Mudbloods will trample on my bloody corpse.”

“I won’t do that. I won’t tell.”

“As if,” Draco scoffs. “Everyone’s going to want to know where you disappeared to. You’ll have to tell.”

Potter suddenly looks even more worried. “Actually no one knows where I’ve gone. I…didn’t tell anyone I left.”

“Your stupidity is really quite convenient,” Draco murmurs.

Potter bangs the back of his head against the wall. “Well, fuck me, I’m so fucked.”

Draco blinks and presses his face against the metal until his cheeks hurt. “Er. Pardon?”

“Nothing,” Potter says as he continues to bang his head. “So there’s nothing you’re going to do about my impending doom?”

“You never told me what’s in it for me,” Draco points out.

“I won’t tell anyone. You’ll feel good about yourself for having done a good deed. I’ll forever be in your debt. You’ll be a hero.”

“Those are very intrinsic things,” Draco says thoughtfully.

“I forget you don’t have a soul,” Potter says snippily.

Draco makes an indignant sound. “That’s not true. I do too have a soul.”

“So let me out then.”

Draco makes a weak tug on the door handle. He then tries a stronger tug. And then again. “Um…”

“What?”

“I don’t know how?”

Potter starts to scream again.

--------------------

Draco decides to help Potter. Not only was Potter’s screams grating on his nerves, but the idealistic, romantic dreamer in him sees himself as a knight in shining armor on a rescue quest. Never mind that as the chivalrous hero, he also plays the part of the wicked captor.

However, he clings on to a tiny scrap of hope that if he does this one deed for Potter, it might override the years of ill will and contempt that has bred between them and maybe Potter might see Draco in a more positive light. Fast-forward and a few months later he might think of Draco as a dashing and daring Prince Charming. Yes, it’s time to try and separate himself from the herd.

He chooses Potions as a plan of escape, because it’s the only subject he knows extremely well. And if Potions can brew glory and stopper death, then it can certainly help him and Potter in this situation.

So, Draco waits until he knows Father has gone to bed to sneak off from his security post at Potter’s cell. He heads towards the pantry to find the Potions cabinet. Father never bothers locking this up. It’s always been thought that if Draco were to steal anything from there, the motivation would be self-gain or manipulation…both commendable behaviors.

There is a key on the wall indicating the meaning of all the Potions labels. Of course, Father still uses an arcane and complicated system of labeling materials. The labels can’t just outright say, ‘Hello, I am a Polyjuice Potion!’

The labels are a complex system of letters and numbers. The labeling key doesn’t even provide a precise name of the Potion. It just offers a vague and subjective description.

A1: For energy after a long day. Draco understands this as Pepper-up Potion.
A2: For those whose thoughts keep them up late into the night. Dreamless Sleeping Draught.
A3: For extra good luck. Felix Felicis.

So on and so forth.

He squints through the list. Ah. B33: For getting out of sticky situations you’ve trapped yourself into. Well. He didn’t know the exact name of this one, but he figures that Potter being locked in a dungeon cell is a sticky enough situation to need chemical help getting out of.

Looking through the bottles, he skims through them to grab B33. He holds the vial tightly in his hand as he hurries back to the dungeons. It would not do to be caught by Lucius before he even committed this act.

------------

“”Did you find anything?” Potter immediately asks. “Why did it take you so long? Will it work?”

“Yes. Calm down,” Draco wiggles the vial in front of Potter. “I found the solution.”

Potter eyes it dubiously. “What is that?”

“Potion. For getting people out of sticky situations. Which is what you’re in right now.”

“What is it called?” Potter is still ungratefully suspicious.

“It’s called the answer to your problem. Unless there’s another way to get out of here that you’ve discovered while I was gone?”

“No,” says Potter sullenly. He grudgingly walks up to the door and reaches his hand through the bars. “Give it over.”

Draco frowns. “Tut. Manners. I’m saving your life here.”

“Please. May I have the potion?”

Draco shoves it through the bars. “Here.”

Potter uncorks the bottle and sniffs at it. “Ugh. Are you sure this is right?”

“Positive.”

Potter stares doubtfully at it. “Well, nothing really to lose,” he murmurs before he takes a drink.

He smacks his lips together. “God, that tastes vile.” Potter looks around. “And I’m still in the dungeon. Way to…”

Potter begins to transform. His lips extend out until they become a bright, orange beak. His head grows smaller and his neck grows longer. His arms slowly become wings and he starts sprouting white feathers.

“Oh, fuck.” Draco swears. Potter has become a swan.

The swan looks up at Draco, and it has bright green eyes and a telltale black marking on what Draco believes to be its forehead. It’s definitely Potter.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Draco exclaims as the swan begins to hiss and honk at him.

“Shhhh,” Draco hisses back. The Potter-swan honks louder and flaps its wings as it waddles in a circle. It would be a little funny if Draco weren’t in such a panic. Not only did he fail at following his Father’s instructions, he’d also failed at breaking them.

“Shut up!” Draco cries. The swan doesn’t shut up. “Shut up. You need to be quiet. Father’s going to hear and he’s going to come down and see that you’re a swan.”

The swan keeps honking. “Shhhh. No. This is a bad thing. You don’t want him to know!”

Draco suddenly swallows down several nervous lumps as he tentatively voices his fear. “Oh Merlin. I’ve turned you into a swan. So not only are they going to kill you, but you’re going to become the banquet headliner.” They would kill Potter and serve him up for dinner. Oh shit, oh fuck. What had he done?

At least Potter-swan finally shuts up. It hisses one last time at Draco and stares balefully up at him. “I need to get you out of here. Can you understand me? Can you fit through the bars? Fly up and I’ll pull you through.”

Potter-swan flutters up and sticks his long neck through.

“Um. I don’t want to break it.” Draco tentatively reaches out and grabs the base of Potter’s neck and gives a gentle tug. Potter-swan honks loudly.

“Sorry, sorry, I’m trying. Try to get your feet on the ledge so your wings aren’t in the way.”

Potter’s now webbed feet slip through the bars in the little door window and he folds his wings dutifully. Draco begins pulling him through. It’s a tight squeeze, but swans are apparently more malleable than humans.

A few feathers lost, Draco finally has Potter through the cell. Still ungrateful, Potter bites his arms.

“Ow! Bloody hell!” Draco cries as he drops Potter onto the floor. Potter nips angrily at his ankles.

“Stop that! Ow! Stop!” He kicks at Potter. “Stop! We still have to find a way to get you out of here.”

He starts heading up the stairs. “We can’t let anyone see you.” He looks around and then down at Potter. “Can I pick you up again?”

Potter doesn’t do anything for a few seconds before nodding slightly.

“Okay,” he tucks the Potter-swan under his arm and tries to cover him up with his long robe sleeves.

He tiptoes up the steps and looks around again as he begins to make the journey toward his bedroom. Every sound startles him and every shadow scares him. He’s afraid that Lucius is going to swoop down at any moment now. The halls seem longer and his room seems further.

It seems like hours before he’s finally there and his heart is pounding. He’s glad that Potter has been patient and hasn’t made any noises. He shuts his door and sets Potter on the floor.

Potter immediately hisses at him and begins to wander off.

“Fine. I know you’re angry. I’m sorry. But at least you’re out of the cell! I told you it’d get you out.”

Potter stops waddling away and hisses angrily again at Draco.

“I know I buggered this up. I mean, you’re a swan now. It’s a little worse than being stuck in a cell, but at least you’re alive.”

Another hiss.

“Well, alive for now. But I’ll keep you safe. I promised.”

Another long hiss from Potter.

“I will keep you safe. It’s my fault we’re in this mess.” Draco walks over to his bed and flops down on it. “It’s a real mess. What is Father going to do when he finds out you’re gone?”

Draco rolls onto his side and stares at Potter who's staring furiously back. It is most definitely Potter under that layer of feathers. Potter walks over to the window and flies up to the sill to tap on the glass with his beak.

“You want to leave?” Draco swallows. “I could just let you out.” He rolls off the bed and heads over to the window. “Do you really want to?”

Potter taps on the glass again.

“I’m going to try and find a solution. I can’t just let you out. You might get caught. Eaten. Hunted. Attacked. Who are you going to find to fix you?”

Potter just keeps tapping on the glass.

“How are you going to explain what happened to Weasley and Granger? You just look like an ordinary swan. Well except for that thing.” He points at Potter’s forehead marking, and Potter nearly bites his finger off.

“Sorry,” He rakes his fingers through his hair. “I’m going to have to leave here too.” Draco pulls at his hair, nearly tugging it out.

“Father is going to kill me or you. If he finds out I turned you into a swan, he won’t kill me. But he’d just go on and try to cook you or something. But if I hide you, Father will just think you escaped, and he’d go kill me. This is a lose-lose situation. One of us is going to die. I’d rather it not be me, but I don’t really want it to be you either.”

He keeps expecting Potter to reply, but he remembers that Potter is a swan and all he can do is honk or hiss or bite. None of which are good options.

“We’re going to have to escape. I have a broom and you have wings and maybe we can fly out of here and hide. How long do you think we could hide until they find us? I bet Father can find us easily. Where could we even go?” He begins pacing around the room now, mind working furiously. What sort of mess had he gotten himself into? He should have taken the Felix Felicis potion before he tried anything.

“I don’t even know what we’d do once we escaped. I’d have to figure out how to change you back into a human. I don’t even know where to begin with that. I couldn’t take you to Weasley or Granger because they’d just kill me. We could go to Diagon Alley, but that’s not very safe. Out in the woods couldn’t be very safe for you either. Things would probably want to eat you.”

Potter honks, a dismally quiet tone this time.

“I have to figure out what happened.” He looks at the clock. “I need to go back to the dungeons and get that vial. And maybe grab a potions book from the library.”

Potter seems to agree because he doesn’t hiss angrily. Instead, his neck just bobs about.

“I need to do this before Father wakes up. We need to leave here before Father gets up. Then we can figure out what to do.”

He hides Potter under his bed and firmly instructs him not to go anywhere. Nervously, he walks back down to the dungeons. It’s the dead of the night, and he hopes that Father is being normal and still fast asleep.

He makes it to the dungeon perfectly fine. The vial is there in the cell, completely empty. He wonders if he can retrieve it.

“Accio vial,” he whispers, sagging in relief when it flies into his hand.

The relief evaporates as he turns the bottle over in his hand and looks at the label. All the organs in his body drop to the pit of his stomach. Well, now he can never again complain that he deserves to have the best marks in his class, when he can’t even read simple letters and numbers.

The vial’s label is not B3. It is I33.

Draco curses both his vision and his father’s narrow handwriting. What the bloody hell is I33? He creeps towards the Potions closet to find the description.

I33. I33…I33. For transforming into the best beast for you.

It was a type of Animagus transformation potion. Oh fuck. Shit. Bloody. Shit. Draco stares from the bottle label back to the table on the wall to double check. He wishes he wasn’t seeing what he’s seeing. He can hear the seconds tick by on the big clock on the wall, and as the seconds turn into minutes, he knows that he’s made a huge, huge mistake.

He stumbles towards the library and sprints towards the Potions section. He pulls at random books and as he juggles them in his arms, he looks over the top of his stack and sees Father staring curiously at him.

“What are you doing?”

Gasping for breath, Draco shivers as he stares up, “Um, grabbing books for reading. Why are you up?”

“I was coming to check on you and heard noise.”

Draco’s heart won’t stop hammering. “I needed something to do. Potter’s boring just lying there.”

Father chuckles, a low, dangerous noise. “Let’s say we go wake him up?”

Draco swallows. “I need to go get something from my room first.” He hopes that this might buy him time. All he needs is five minutes.

Father nods, “I will meet you downstairs.”

Draco murmurs, “Okay,” and tries to control his steps as he heads back to his room. Once he’s out of Father’ sight, he sprints.

He goes into his room, grabs a bag and shoves the books inside. He grabs robes out of his closet and money out of the small vault he has in his room. Making sure he has his wand, he gets his broom and picks up Potter.

Potter squawks.

“Shhh,” Draco says nervously. His entire body feels numb and he feels like he’s moving through water, because everything feels so slow. “We have to go. We have to go now.”

He opens his window and perches himself on the broom. “Can you fly alongside me?”

Potter swings his neck up and down.

“Don’t fly away,” Draco murmurs as he climbs out his window. He has one foot on the sill and is ready to set off on the broom when he hears Father’s voice bellowing.

“Draco Abraxas Malfoy! Boy, you get down here this instant…”

Father knows. Father’s been down to the dungeons. He knows Potter is gone.

Draco squeezes his eyes closed as he pushes himself out of the window. He whispers a locking charm at the door to make it a little bit more difficult for Father to come in. He hovers in the air, waiting for Potter to take flight as well.

This is it. The moment he flies away, he’s giving up everything he’s ever known or had just for Harry Potter’s sake. He must have liked Potter more than he thought. It is a ridiculous, impulsive endeavor with unavoidably disastrous consequences. As he sets off into his sky, he isn’t sure if that dropping feeling in his stomach is because of adrenaline or dread. Impulsive decisions don’t suit Slytherins.

He whips through the air and he can hear Potter flapping next to him. They’re flying past the Manor grounds, and past the Wiltshire countryside.

Draco doesn’t even know where he’s going. He’s left the Manor behind, for Merlin sake, and for what? He can’t ever go back. Father would kill him the moment he ever saw him again. The severity of it all slams into Draco like a brick wall.

He is all alone. He has to keep running and hiding. He has to take care of himself. For the first time in his life, it dawns on him that there’s no one he could even ask for help. He has no one to turn to. He is completely and utterly alone and no one cares.

Courage is better in theory than in practice.

He glances over at Potter who is flapping sullenly. When Draco looks over, Potter hisses.

So much for Potter’s gratitude and so much for his own role as a hero.

Draco swallows uneasily. If Potter is stuck like this forever, then he really is completely and utterly screwed. He might as well just jump off his broom now and save everyone the trouble.

-------

After hours flying in silence, they arrive in a small village somewhere south of Wiltshire. Draco isn't quite sure where they are. He hopes that wherever this place is, it isn't on a map. His arms and legs are sore from flying and Potter looks equally as exhausted. It feels as if days have passed since they've started flying. Really, it was only several hours. Draco also hopes that he doesn't overestimate the distance.

He wonders how far away Father is right now. Or how close. A dizzying, sick feeling rushes through his body just thinking about it. There's nothing he can do at this point but wait and hide. He has no energy left to fight or run. He keeps imagining that they'll be caught at any moment.

He looks curiously at the town ahead. It seems to be a concentrated cluster of old buildings. It appears ordinarily charming and easily overlooked. The village is small enough to be just another forgotten place, but big enough where no one questions the sudden appearance of two strangers.

Well, actually, one stranger who has a swan.

Draco watches the swan wobble to and fro, barely able to catch up with Draco's careful steps, slow as they are.

"You look too tired to walk," Draco murmurs as decides to scoop Potter up from the ground to carry him in his arms. After gripping onto a broomstick tightly, the light weight of the bird feels like a burden.

“Oomph,” Draco grunts and tries to adjust Potter in his arms more comfortably.

Instead of squawking angrily, Potter nestles against him, resting his long neck against Draco’s shoulder.

Draco smiles, “I have you. Don’t worry.”

He heads toward the village and looks around at some of the shops housing curious wares. There is a shop with strange objects that glow. Another shop with objects that have metal bars welded together and strange, spinning wheels.

“We’re among Muggles now,” Draco murmurs, suddenly very conscious of his robe. He is glad that he brought along some shirts and trousers. “We’re going to need a place to stay. Do you think their local inn will let us both stay? Let’s hope so.”

Potter doesn’t respond. Draco continues walking. With each step, the money in his bags jingles a reminder.

“I don’t have any Muggle money.” He looks up at a swinging wooden sign. A pawn shop. The bag of gold galleons seems to clink anxiously.

“Maybe they take gold?” He nervously pushes open the door. An old, rusting bell rings dully.

The dark store reminds Draco of Knockturn Alley. He clutches at Potter more protectively.

“Hello?” he calls out.

An old man steps out of the backroom. It seems that it is always old men that work at these pawn shops.

“Hello,” the man wheezes.

“Hi, I was wondering if I could exchange some gold for Mug…for money?” Draco stammers nervously.

“What kind of gold?” the man looks at Draco with distrust. He has a weathered, leathery face and beady, suspicious eyes.

Draco fumbles in his bag and pulls out a handful of galleons.

“What are these?” the man reaches for a pair of glasses to get a closer glimpse.

“Um, antique coins,” Draco stutters.

The old man picks one up and bites on it. Muggles are so curious.

“I’ll give you twenty pounds.”

“For all of these?” Draco stares dubiously at his handful of gold.

The man nods.

Potter nips Draco’s shoulder in warning.

“Surely, they’re worth more than that,” Draco replies with more confidence.

“Twenty-five pounds.”

Draco shuffles the coins in his hand. “Each of these coins is worth about that much.” He actually doesn’t know exactly what a pound is, but Potter keeps biting him. Or maybe Potter’s just nervous too.

The man’s lips are pressed together in a tight frown. “Fine.” He reaches behind the counter to grab a scale. “Put those on here.”

Draco does.

The man seems to be analyzing a series of numbers. “I will give you one hundred pounds for those.”

Potter doesn’t bite him again so Draco nods hesitatingly.

The man looks at Potter. “I’ll give you another fifty pounds for that bird.”

Draco grips Potter tightly. “No thank you.”

“Sixty pounds.”

“No,” Draco says. Potter wriggles in his tight grasp.

The man seems to reach out as if to grab Potter out of Draco’s hands. Instead, he just hands Draco strange looking notes while staring longingly at Potter.

Draco is unsure whether or not these are the pounds that the man is referring to. Pounds must be Muggle money. He doesn’t trust this man, but he has no choice. He takes the money and murmurs his thanks.

“By the way sir, is there an inn around?”

The man nods and gestures towards the right of the street. “You can’t miss it. Big red sign.”

Draco gives the man another nod of gratitude before hurrying out of the store. He feels self-conscious wearing his robes and carrying around a swan as he walks down the street searching for the inn. Not to mention he’s also lugging a broomstick behind him.

He sees the red sign announcing the location of the inn. The paint on the sign is peeling and through the dusty windows, the inside of the inn looks dimly lit.

The inn has a rusting bell that rings too when he opens the door. A decrepit old man slumps against a wooden counter. This village must slowly be dying—it seems as if those with very old age run all the businesses.

“Can I help you?” the man croaks.

“Yes, I’d like a room please.”

The man nods. “How many nights?”

One for now.”

The man reaches for a key. “It is twenty pounds a night.” He holds out a key with a bony hand. “You have room 205.”

Draco takes the key and fishes for the pounds. He hardly knows how to count them. He shuffles the notes around in confusion before handing them over.

The man counts them very slowly. He then looks up and notices the swan for the first time.

“We don’t normally allow pets here.”

Draco swallows nervously. He can’t leave Potter. He wonders if he could confound the man or shrink Potter and then Obliviate the man. Yet, at this moment, he’s too scared to use magic. What if Father had set tracking charms?

He is aware that he already looks conspicuous enough.

“Er. He won’t be a mess. I promise. He’ll be quiet.”

The old man just shrugs and waves him off, apparently too exhausted to care. “If you want to use a kitchen for dinner,” he nods at the swan, “there is a kitchen down that hallway. Your room is just to the left of the stairs.”

Draco blanches and grips Potter even more tightly. “Thank you, sir.”

He practically sprints up the stairs to his room once he leaves the old man’s sight.

-------------------

Draco shuts the door and locks it. He locks ever knob and bolt he can find on the door, before he sets Potter down.

He looks at the tiny, shabby room with the worn furniture. There are strange things in here that he’s never seen before and he hopes that they are just ordinary Muggle appliances. He sags onto the bed and stares at the stained, chipping ceiling. One day ago, he would have been in his own giant, luxurious bed in his pristine room.

He glances over at Potter who has settled onto an overstuffed, ugly armchair.

“It’s all your fault you know.”

Potter tilts his neck sideways and hisses.

“It is. If you hadn’t been off wandering on your own or if you had been more alert, neither of us would be in this mess. You would never have come to the Manor and I never would have had to leave.”

Potter just hisses again.

“Well, yes, it technically isn’t your fault, as the victim, that my Father kidnapped you. But, in retrospect, you really shouldn’t have made it so easy. Shouldn’t you be more careful?”

Draco covers his face with his hands. “And yes, it is my own fault for getting myself into this mess. Well, us into this mess. We could both still be in the dungeons right now. You wouldn’t be a swan, and I wouldn’t have my own father out to kill me.”

He sighs, “But, then you’d also be dead. It was a lose-lose situation. I couldn’t have just let you die.”

Potter makes a soft honking sound.

“I don’t know why I couldn’t have just let you die. I told you that I don’t hate you. Not anymore. And while you might not have known, I do have a conscience too. I don’t need anything else adding to my guilt. Plus, if I let them kill you, if the Ministry ever caught wind of this, I’d be charged as an accomplice.”

Another pause where Potter honks quietly.

“Azkaban would be terrible for my complexion.” Draco groans in frustration. “I don’t know what to do now. I mean, we’re here, but we could get caught. What if Father finds us? We can’t very well stay here forever. I don’t even know how to count pounds. I’m scared to use magic. What are we going to eat? What do you eat as a swan? I can’t very well make you eat chicken or beef can I? And how am I going to make you…you again?”

Potter squawks as Draco begins to hyperventilate. His entire body shakes with anxiety.

“You’re right. You’re right. Sorry. I can’t panic. I can’t. I have to stay calm. We can figure this out. Or well. I can. Ha. Look at me. Talking to a swan. Ha.” Draco takes a few deep breaths.

“I could start looking at these potions books I brought to figure out what happened.”

Potter squawks sleepily, and Draco continues to babble on nervously. “Or are you tired? You can sleep. Do you want me to get you anything? Are you hungry? Thirsty?”

Potter sways his head a little bit before tucking it into his wings.

“Okay. Okay. I’ll let you sleep. We can get some food and water later. I don’t want to just leave you here out of my sight. That old Muggle down there might try to cook you…”

He realizes that Potter has fallen asleep. If Draco hadn’t been crazy enough before talking to a swan, he must seem even more insane talking to a sleeping swan. He tries to take a few more calming breaths, before reaching for his bag.

He needs to figure out what’s happened before he himself can rest. However, as he begins flipping through pages in the books, the text swims in front of his eyes. He can barely focus or concentrate on any one thing at the moment.

Its overwhelming exhaustion and dread all at once, and he can barely handle it. His eyes droop as he clutches at the books. He’s too scared to fall asleep in case Potter disappears so he crawls towards the edge of the bed until he’s by the chair. He makes sure one hand is on Potter’s feathers before he succumbs to the fatigue.

As he sleeps, he has nightmares about Potter disappearing and Father finding them. He dreams that there are tracking charms in the books and Father materializes out of thin air to torture him. He dreams of Father slowly incinerating Potter before advancing on him. The room slowly fills with dozens of Death Eaters all of them chuckling as Draco screams and screams and…

--------------------

Draco awakes to Potter pecking him with his oversized, orange beak.

"Oww," he moans. "Stop."

Potter doesn't stop. Draco is sure he'll have bruises from this.

"What do you want?" Draco mutters and opens one eye.

Potter cranes his neck over to the stack of books and feverishly pecks at the first one.

"Oh. You want me to start reading now." Draco yawns. "How selfish."

Potter only hisses at him.

"Well, it is!" Draco insists. "Earlier when I wanted to look at the books you wanted to sleep. Now when I need to sleep you want to look at the books." He ignores the fact that he had fallen asleep as well. From the expression that Potter gives him, Draco knows that if Potter physically could, he would be rolling his eyes. Nothing to brag about of course, but he is getting quite skilled at communicating with a swan.

"Fine. Research it is." Draco grabs a book.

He skims through the table of contents and then the index. There is nothing about animal transformation. He tries the next book. The only transformation the second book mentions is a permanent, half-way, grotesque transition from man to beast. Draco closes that one immediately, glad that he had not accidentally made Potter drink that particular potion. Finally, in the third book, he finds something.

The Temporary Animagus: Lost your wand? Is turning into an Animagus too difficult a spell? Here is a quick fix for when you need to transform into the best beast for you. Just a drop will give you results that lasts hours. No reversal drought needed, only the passage of time.

Draco remembers the vial that Potter had chugged. He had definitely drank more than just a drop.

“Ah. Good and bad news Potter.”

Potter nudges Draco’s hand away with his beak.

“This appears to be temporary. ”

Potter makes a happy, crooning sound. It’s the first positive noise that Draco’s heard him make, and it makes Draco smile.

“We just have to wait it out.”

Potter looks at Draco with confusion, as if wondering why Draco can’t just magically reverse the situation right away.

“See, it says here that if you have just a drop, the effect lasts hours. You drank multiple drops. More than multiple. So…the effects are going to last a while.” Draco skims the proportions in the book and tries to calculate the amount of time. “A week.”

Potter begins to peck at him angrily again.

“Ow. It’s not my fault you were so eager! Ow! Potter. Stop!” Draco rubs the sore spots on his arm and frowns at the rapidly appearing bruises.

“Violent git.”

Potter just hisses and flutters back to the couch to sit in a sulk.

“Look, there’s nothing we can do about it now. I mean, we’re just lucky we don’t have to brew some complicated potion with impossible-to-find ingredients that only work every other full moon.”

Potter doesn’t respond.

“It really could be worse.”

If swans could give people the stink-eye, then that is what Potter would be doing right now.

“Don’t look at me like that. At least you’re only stuck like a swan for a week. And yes, it’s bloody shite that you’re a swan, but once this is done, you can go back to being…you again.”

Draco flumps down on the pillow.

“I’m going to be stuck like this forever. I can’t go back to the Manor. I’m always going to have to hide. I’m going to be poor. What if I can’t even go to Hogwarts, because Father will find me.”

Potter seems unsympathetic.

“Right. Don’t feel bad. It’s fine. You’re still mad I turned you into a swan. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think I messed up that badly. In fact, I think that in this situation, you’re quite lucky. I on the other hand, risk my life for you, have to be responsible for you, but also have to put up with…” he waves his hand dramatically in Potter’s direction as the swan hisses at him. “With this.”

Draco throws an arm over this face. “At least we know we just have to survive a week. Then we can go our separate ways. ”

When Potter honks loudly in agreement, Draco’s heart drops just a little.

“Don’t blame me for my father’s sins,” Draco murmurs. He’s not sure if Potter hears him or not.

----------

After having several nervous breakdowns and fits of anxiety about leaving Potter alone, Draco goes to buy supplies for the two of them. He hopes that Muggle shops have food that he is familiar with.

He is practically running through the streets to find a store that might have food for both him and Potter. He’s never been shopping for groceries before. He’s always thought that food just magically appeared. House-elves normally took care of mundane tasks like cooking.

He spots a shop featuring things that might look edible and hurries inside.

Immediately he’s overwhelmed. While there is a selection of vegetables and fruits that look fresh, a lot of the Muggle food is in strange packaging. There are foods that require something called a microwave or an oven. Draco has no idea what those things are.

He’s overwhelmed by the variety and the color and while a lot of the food sounds familiar, he has no idea what’s actually in the packages. Already apprehensive about leaving Potter alone, he feels the need to hurry and purchase the food.

Panicking just a little, Draco grabs a basket and just begins throwing things in. Some bread, some vegetables, some fruit, some meat. He even ventures out to grab some of the weird Muggle items. He hopes swans eat bread and fruit. He would buy fish, but he is sure he won’t have any idea how to use the kitchen at the inn.

His hands are shaking by the time he pays at the counter. Heaving the basket of food, he sprints towards the hotel. He is having nightmarish visions of coming back to an empty room or seeing a cooked swan on the table. Or seeing Father.

He dashes inside the inn and up the stairs, eyes darting around in paranoia. He fumbles with the lock and throws open the door, frantically scanning the room for Potter.

Potter is still on the same chair he was on when Draco had left. His entire body sags with relief.

“I got the food,” he says, trying to gasp for air.

Potter just continues to sit there.

Unsure of what to do now, Draco pulls out the food and puts it on the table. “Do you think we could put a stasis spell on here for the food to keep or do you think the magic would be detected?” he wonders aloud.

Potter finally gets up off the chair and waddles across the floor to an odd looking box with a handle on it.

“What’s that?”

Potter pecks at it with his beak.

Draco goes to open the box and inside, the box is cold. Potter gestures at the food with his beak and then at the box.

“Put the food in there to cook?”

Potter squawks angrily.

“No. Okay. In there to…oh. To keep fresh?”

Potter just flutters back to his chair.

“Okay, I’ll put it in there.”

Draco scratches at the back of his neck. “I guess. I’ll just make a sandwich or something. Do you want to just eat some bread and vegetables?”

Potter honks quietly.

“Is that a yes?”

Potter honks again. It doesn’t sound particularly vehement, so Draco just assumes that Potter agrees.

Over dinner, Draco tries to talk to Potter.

“Is the bread okay?”

Potter doesn’t respond.

“I wonder what the big box is called,” he wonders.

Potter turns his back to Draco.

Frustrated, Draco says, “I could have just left you to fend for yourself you know.” It’s a lie, and Potter must know it too, because he doesn’t honk angrily at the idea at all. He just turns his head to look at Draco. It’s a very scoffing type of look.

For the rest of the night, Potter doesn’t make a sound. Draco sighs and doesn’t continue trying. It’s stupid making conversation with a swan anyway. He only wanted to keep Potter entertained. He doesn’t even know why he’s really bothering.

---------------

Potter is less ornery today. At least he’s responding to Draco’s questions. “Are you hungry?” “Are you thirsty?” Potter will honk his assent to these questions. Draco works hard to cater towards Potter’s whims.

He wants Potter to be happy. A small part of him hopes that maybe Potter might start appreciating him. Hope. It’s really the only thing he has now.

By evening, Potter even introduces Draco to a new Muggle invention. He pecks at buttons on another strange looking box. Muggles really like box-shaped contraptions.

“What’s this?” Draco asks. Potter presses another button and the box comes to life.

There are images that flash across the screen. Like a portrait but with even more action. Draco is transfixed. The images tell stories. Sometimes there are breaks within the stories introducing other Muggle inventions. Draco sits at the edge of the bed with his eyes glued to the screen.

It doesn’t go past his notice that Potter has flown up on the bed next to him.

Later, Draco goes to take a shower. Still paranoid, he leaves the bathroom door open so he can hear if anything goes amiss. As he steps out of the shower, it startles him when Potter meanders in.

Draco yelps and clutches the towel even closer against him, feeling self-conscious as he stands bare-chested dripping water all over the floor. Potter blinks up at him, and pokes the bath with his beak.

“Do you. Um. Do you want me to run a bath?”

Potter just pecks at the bath again. He stares at Draco eerily.

Hoisting his towel up, Draco begins fill up the bath with water. By the time he’s done dressing, Potter’s already floating in the water. When he sees Draco, he croons. Draco thinks that this may mean Potter is pleased.

From now on, he runs a bath for Potter often. He’s glad to see Potter paddling around in the tub and listen to Potter cooing joyfully.

-----------------

Draco thinks that Potter may be starting to listen to him now. It may just be the loneliness of having no real person to talk to, but Draco begins to try talking to Potter again. Today, Potter makes quiet sounds at seemingly appropriate times.

“I miss home. I never got to say goodbye to Mother. She must be crazy with worry over where I am. I’ll probably never see her again. I’ll never see the Manor. It’s like I exiled myself from the house. I don’t even know what I’ll do for the rest of my life. Or even for the rest of the summer. Do you think they’ll find me? What do you they’ll do if they find me?”

Draco swallows. “You were worth it though, Potter.”

Potter stares quizzically at him.

“I’m glad that I got you out of there. I mean, I know that I didn’t do it in the most effective way possible, but I’m glad that I managed to get us both out. I didn’t want to you to die in there. It wouldn’t have been right.”

Potter clicks his beak together. Draco pretends Potter’s saying, ‘Go on.’

“After the fact, it feels good to have defied Father. I don’t think I really liked where his plans were going. Or where his plans for me were going. I don’t know what my own plans are, but…I think they’re better than his.”

Draco just smiles down at the bed, “I must have liked you more than I thought.”

Potter continues to just stare quizzically at him. Draco clears his throat nervously.

“Umm. Hmm,” He wants to change the subject. “I just wonder if I’ll ever see some of my friends again. What do you think will happen next year at Hogwarts? Bet Vince and Greg will have orders not to talk to me anymore. I hope Pansy will still want to talk to me. Blaise too.”

Draco hugs his knees up to his chest. “It’s funny the reasons why people won’t talk to you. A lot of people don’t talk to me anymore after I…well. You’ve probably heard some of the gossip.”

Potter honks, and Draco takes this as a ‘yes.’

“It’s hard to figure things out by yourself when no one is willing to help. I’ve spent a lot of my life alone, and it looks like I’m going to be spending a lot more time alone. At least before I had one or two people floating in and out. Now, when you leave, it’ll just be me.”

He sighs, “The only easy thing in the world is trying to deny certain truths about yourself when you’re not ready to admit the facts.”

Draco laughs nervously. “You’re probably bored just listening about this. All my inane dramatics and worries.”

“Anyway, a lot of people won’t talk to me anymore once they find out about this.” Draco picks at the sheets of the bed. “Although, some people might want to start talking to me.”

He glances over at Potter. “Technically, you’re still not talking to me, but. I don’t know. I guess I’m hoping that after this you might want to.”

Potter just ruffles his feathers, maybe thoughtfully.

“I’ve always wanted to talk to you like this. It’s a little disappointing knowing that the only time you’ll sit here and listen to me like this is when you’re stuck as a swan.”

Draco stares up at the ceiling. “There’s always been things that I’ve wanted to tell you. If I told you now, would you really listen?”

Potter makes a crooning sound. Draco also understands this as a ‘yes.’

“I want to apologize for all the shite I’ve done for the past few years. It was stupid. You’d probably never accept an apology from me under any circumstance, but at least now you’ll hear me say it. So you know that I did.”

Potter honks softly.

“And I really don’t know what your honking means. I like to pretend that you’re saying things that you’re most likely not.” Draco chuckles to himself. “You know what’s funny is that the whole time, I was trying to get back at you for turning down my friendship first year. I could never really get past that.”

Draco flushes. “I never really figured out a way to get you to notice me. I guess turning you into a swan was the closest I came to it.”

They are both quiet for a while, before Draco murmurs, “And I bet I’ll regret saying all of that when you’re human again. I forget that just because you’re a swan it doesn’t mean you can’t understand me.”

He’s been rambling for an entire day now, mumbling useless confessions at Potter. It’s not as if anything’s really going to change. What Draco thinks is the worst, is that as he talks to Potter, he realizes how much he had really liked Potter in the first place. It’s going to make letting Potter go so much harder.

------------------------

At night, he reaches out to stroke Potter’s feathers, and for some reason, Potter lets him.

It’s relaxing feeling the silky feathers against his palm.

“I’ve been wondering why your Animagus form is a swan,” Draco murmurs with his eyes closed. “At first I thought you might be something ferocious. Like a lion. I guess I’m lucky that you aren’t, otherwise you might have tore me apart by now.”

Potter seems to be relaxing as well, as his eyes are only half open now. He is slowly drifting asleep.

“It makes sense to me now though. Swans are rare and they’re beautiful. And they’re romantic, like in all the fairy tales about them.” Draco grins and whispers, “I see you as all those things.”

Potter just coos sleepily which makes Draco smile more.

When he thinks Potter is asleep, Draco think if only this could be his own fairy tale. Happily ever afters don’t happen for people like him.

-----------------

Potter sleeps on the bed with Draco now. Before bed, Draco runs his fingers through the soft, fluffy feathers.

He turns to stare at Potter, “You might leave in the morning, then won’t you? You’ll probably transform over night.”

Potter ruffles his feathers excitedly.

He sighs. “I wonder if there was any way I might have convinced you to stay.”

Potter turns and stares right into Draco’s eyes. It makes Draco nervous. Then, suddenly, Potter hops on to Draco’s chest. The warm weight is comforting.

Draco exhales, “When you’re gone, who will take care of me?”

-----------

Something is crushing him in the morning. Draco groans and tries to push whatever it is off. It’s hard and heavy and it seems to be breathing.

Draco screams.

Whatever is on him covers up Draco’s mouth.

“Shhhh. Shut up.”

Draco blinks. “Potter?”

“Mm. Hm.” Potter flops back down on top of Draco.

“Ow. What. What are you doing still here? And on top of me? And no longer a swan”

“It’s six in the morning. I was still sleeping. And the potion wore off,” Potter yawns.

“I thought you’d punch me or something. Once you had limbs,” Draco mutters.

“Did you want me to do that?” Potter asks.

Draco winces, “No.”

“Good, I hadn’t planned on that.” Potter rolls off of him.

Draco rubs the back of his neck, “I also thought you’d be gone by now.”

Potter looks at Draco curiously, “Did you want me to be gone by now?”

Draco swallows. “No.”

“Good. I wasn’t planning on leaving either.”

“So, what are you going to do?”

Potter just continues to stare at Draco. “I wanted to say thank you. For getting me out of the dungeons. You didn’t have to, and you did.”

“I did have to,” Draco whispered.

Potter just smiles, “And now I guess I have to stay.”

Draco is taken aback. “Why?”

Potter leans forward, “One, is because when I was a little birdie, someone told me that they must have liked me more than they thought. Two, he also convinced me of a reason to stay.”

Draco’s heart hammers in his chest. “And what’s that?”

Potter tilts his head to the side, and Draco just feels swallowed up by those brilliantly green eyes.

“Because. It’s my turn to help you now.”


End.

Tags: animagus exchange, fiction, pg
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