Title: Flying Lessons
Summary: What if there never was a Voldemort or a Boy-Who-Lived? What if the story was just about two Quidditch-obsessed boys who really hated each other?
Warnings (if any): AU
Total word count: 9,000
Original prompt request number: 019
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.
Author's notes: As requested, this fic is pre-slash. Some might even call this gen. You also won't find Death Eaters populating this world, just Quidditch-obsessed loonies (which Harry finds just as disturbing). This fic takes place during Harry and Draco's first year.
I also want to thank the mods for putting on such an awesome fest. circeniko, when I read your prompt, I thought that would be a story I'd really like to read. I hope I did it justice. I had great fun writing it.
Beta(s): dragonfly_lily, daisy_chan and odd_nari
At age eleven, Draco Malfoy already exudes the smug self-righteousness of the high-borne. Loved, coddled even, he knows he belongs. So when a boy with shaggy black hair and mended glasses walks into Madam Malkin's robe shop the same time Draco is getting his school robes fitted, he only shows the minimum of curiosity. The boy's clothes are Muggle and too large by half, and he seems, to not put too fine a point on it, to be unlike anyone Draco has ever seen. There's something curious about the boy that he can't quite put his finger on.
Draco makes an attempt at conversation, but the boy proves to be impossible. He doesn't know anything. He doesn't even play Quidditch, and the scowl etched onto his face only grows deeper the more Draco talks.
Well, Draco's parents had warned him about talking to undesirables, and the boy is clearly deranged, calling that savage-looking man standing outside the shop brilliant! Draco is left with the utter certainty that the boy will be of little consequence, a nobody, sooner destined for Hufflepuff. Surely, no other House will want him.
Finally, the boy leaves (without even saying goodbye!), and Draco is left to curiously watch through the shop window as the boy disappears into the crowded street.
"Don't worry, dear."
Startled, Draco turns and sees Madam Malkin giving him a cheery smile. "I'm sure one day you two will get on famously," she says, pinning another inch off his robes. "I can sense these things, you know."
Draco isn't sure why she thinks he would be worried.
Like any real Wizarding boy his age, Draco is obsessed with Quidditch. His favorite professional team: the Wimbourne Wasps (Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!), his least favorite: the Chudley Cannons (bottom feeders, the lot of them), and he can instantly quote the amount of minutes it took James Potter, the last great British Quidditch player, to catch the Snitch during the 1980 European Cup final, along with other assorted statistics and sundry details of the late Seeker's career.
So when Draco overhears talk that a boy -- no, the son of a legend, was onboard the very same train, he immediately sets off to find him, if only to revel in the reflected glory of someone who shares James Potter's blood.
However, once he finds him, he can't quite believe his eyes.
"So, it's true, then?" he asks, to the very same boy with whom he had such an odd encounter with while getting his robes measured. "What they're saying all down the train. You're James Potter's son?"
The boy seems taken aback by the question, the scowl that Draco's already been acquainted with returning in full-force, his arms folded in front of his chest. "Yes. My name's Harry." His gaze shifts to Crabbe and Goyle, Draco's titanic-looking friends.
"Oh, this is Crabbe, and this is Goyle," Draco replies, smirking. "And my name's Malfoy. Draco Malfoy."
Draco hears a cough, or is it a snigger? Draco narrows his eyes.
There is another boy sitting in the compartment. His hair is red, and he is covered with freckles, but that isn't the most objectionable part of him. It's the bright orange-striped scarf draped atop the ugliest knit jumper Draco has ever seen. Draco snorts. "James Potter's son, friends with a Cannon's supporter? Now I have seen the end of days."
He turns his attention back to Potter. "You'll find that some teams are better than others, Potter. You don't want to go making friends with the wrong sort of fan."
Potter blinks at him. "It's just… Quidditch."
Draco wants to laugh at Potter's naiveté. Only Quidditch? Please. "And you'll find Quidditch is serious business in the Wizarding world. I can help you there." He holds out his hand. "Besides, I'm your father's biggest fan." He grins, a tad goofily, because it's true, and if Potter has a few extra autographed jerseys or one of his Dad's old Snitches lying around, all the better.
However, Draco quickly realizes it's the wrong thing to say, Potter's already humorless expression turning downright chilly. "I don't think my father would want anything to do with you, and neither do I!"
Stung, Draco's cheeks flame, and he drops his hand. "I'd be careful if I were you, Potter. Unless you're a bit politer, you'll be nothing in this school. If you start hanging around riff-raff like him," he cocks his head towards Ginger Boy sitting in the corner, "it’s bound to rub off. Next thing you know you'll be sorted into Hufflepuff and your life might as well be over."
Crabbe and Goyle both laugh as Ginger Boy leaps to his feet, his face scarlet. It clashes with his red hair. "Say that again," he demands.
"Oh, you're going to fight us, are you?" Draco smirks. He has Crabbe and Goyle to back him up. Potter only has… a rat?
It's not one of Draco's finest moments, obviously, and in his defense, rats are vermin, filthy and disgusting creatures best suited for the underclass (Cannon supporters already included). He ducks his head just in time and the rat lands on Goyle, sinking his teeth into one of his sausage-like fingers. Chaos ensues, but Draco really isn't paying attention anyway. He's too busy running away.
Out of breath and still stung from his encounter with Potter, Draco finds Pansy waiting in another compartment on the other end of the train. "So?" she asks, practically bouncing out of her seat.
Having known each other since they were both toddling around in nappies, Pansy has grown to share his enthusiasm for Quidditch, although her interest lies less with the reckless beauty of game itself than with the tight trousers professional Seekers tend to favor. Still, she was as eager as Draco to meet Potter (James Potter being no slouch in the trouser-filling department), and who can deny the coolness of getting to meet someone who once knew one of your idols?
Still, Draco is in no mood to rehash his encounter with Potter, whom he has now decided isn't worthy of carrying James Potter's mantle. "So what?" he snaps back, slouching down into the opposite seat, with his hands shoved into his pockets. Hoping she'll take a hint and go away, he turns to stare out the window, the autumn foliage being quite lovely this time of year. Full of rich greens and deep browns.
"Potter!" she cries. "Did you see him?"
No such luck there.
"Yes," Draco says, glaring at her.
God, she's annoying. "Why do you care so much?" he demands.
Pansy's cheeks betray a slight flush, which she fails to cloak with the upward tilt of her chin. "I don't," she says, rearranging the pleats of her skirt. "I just thought it might be nice to meet him. That's all."
Draco can't help it. He bursts out laughing. "You and Potter. Like he would even notice you."
Pansy raises her eyebrows. "Oh yeah? Why were you so eager to meet him, then?"
Draco has his reasons, which he is not about to divulge. Besides, he doesn’t care about Harry Potter. Really.
"Fine." Pansy starts rifling through her bag. "I will give a Chocolate Frog to the first person who can tell me what's going on." She looks up at Crabbe and Goyle, standing guard by the door.
"I got bit by a rat," Goyle replies, holding up his bloody hand.
"Harry Potter has a rat? Dear God." Pansy gives a shudder. Rats being about as fashionable as frogs, only less so. "That's it?" She turns to Crabbe.
Crabbe shrugs. "Potter told him he didn't want to be his friend."
"Oh, did he?" Pansy tosses the Chocolate Frog to Crabbe and turns to back Draco, a smirks growing on her face.
"Like I care," Draco snaps back. He looks at them all stubbornly.
Pansy pulls another Chocolate Frog out of her bag and bites off its head. "Right," she says around a mouthful of chocolate, "I believe you."
Meanwhile, Harry, the tousle-haired, lonely boy mistaken for someone who gives a damn about Quidditch, is starting to view his newfound notoriety with growing sense of alarm. It seems it's not enough that he was made to endure a miserable upbringing because of his parents' untimely death; there's this new, magical world he has to navigate, which he is finding increasingly bizarre and unsettling. And to top that off, father apparently was some sort of Wizarding George Best when all this time Harry thought he was drunken ingrate (at least that was what Aunt Petunia said).
It almost makes him miss the relative sanity of Little Whinging. Almost.
"You had no idea, did you?" asks a bushy-haired girl, who has since invaded his and Ron's compartment uninvited.
Harry gives her a scowl. "Who are you again?"
"Hermione," she replies. "I'm super-smart, which means I don't do athletics, so I wouldn't know Quidditch from a tennis match. Ron, here, is enthusiastic but untalented."
"Hey," Ron cries. "How did you know? We just met."
Hermione shrugs. "I'm smart. I can tell these things. So, Harry, tell us your life story."
Harry sighs. He might as well get on with it.
"Well, I thought I was the sole survivor of a car wreck that killed my parents. That's how I got my scar." He points to his forehead. "The hospital nicknamed me the Boy-Who-Lived because, you know, I lived."
Hermione shakes her head. "Tragic."
"Now I find out my dad was taking my mum for a spin on his new Quidditch broom and they crashed full speed into Big Ben. Apparently, my dad had been drinking. I guess my Aunt Petunia wasn't really lying about that part of the story after all. Anyway, I didn't even know brooms could fly." Harry laughs, because otherwise he might cry. "What am I saying? I still don't know what Quidditch is."
"Really tragic," Ron adds.
"Don't listen to him, Harry," Hermione interjects. "He's being boorish. Again. Go on."
"Right. Dumbledore, for reasons known only to him, left me on my Aunt and Uncle's doorstep where I grew up, unloved and unwanted. A freak made to sleep in a cupboard, constantly tormented by my fat cousin."
Hermione's eyes start to glisten. "You know, I can just tell we'll be the best of friends."
"Me too," Ron replies.
"Really?" Harry asks, taken aback. "We have absolutely nothing in common."
"We have you," points out Ron.
"Oh. Well, that's comforting."
Hermione grins at Ron. "We know."
"So, Harry," asks Ron, "since we're going to be best friends and all -- you wouldn't have anything with your father's autograph lying around--"
Harry sits dwarfed under the Sorting Hat, chanting under his breath, "Not Hufflepuff, Not Hufflepuff." (The sway of not being branded riff-raff is too hard for Harry to deny.)
"Not Hufflepuff, eh? Did I ever tell you about the time I Sorted your father?"
"No, but I sure you're going to."
The Sorting Hat lets out a wistful sigh. "He was the greatest Quidditch player I'd ever seen."
"Really? I had no idea."
"Don't get lippy with me, boy."
"Sorry. It's just… no one cares about me. Only that I'm James Potter's son. I'm a someone too, you know."
"Over-realized sense of importance. Self-centered. Rude, bordering on sullen. Better be, Gryffindor!"
A cheer erupts from the Gryffindor table and, in a daze, Harry stumbles to his feet. He can see Ron trying to enthusiastically wave him over. Hermione is standing beside him, her eyes still glistening and her arms outstretched, and Harry is struck with a sudden resurgence of affection for Dudley and his dumb friends.
"Harry, my boy. Are you all right?"
It's the Headmaster, his eyes twinkling behind his moon-shaped glasses.
"I was wondering if there were do-overs with Sorting," Harry asks him. "Maybe I'm a Hufflepuff after all. Look," he points to a table full of losers and riff-raff. "They look like a quiet non-sport loving bunch."
Dumbledore chortles. "Nonsense, Harry. You are to be Gryffindor's New Hope. Remember, Quidditch is life. The very essence of our being."
Out of the corner of his eye, Harry can see Malfoy making faces at him from the Slytherin table. "No. I'm pretty sure it's not."
"Pssh. Run along now. Your friends are waiting for you."
"Tha-- That's what I'm afraid of, sir."
"Oh, and Harry? Quidditch try-outs are in two weeks. Don't forget."
Classes start. There's Astronomy on Wednesday, Herbology on Thursday, essays to do, Hufflepuffs to mock, and for Harry, the misery of his own notoriety to wallow in.
"For God's sake, my dad was just a Quidditch player," he cries, one afternoon after getting accosted for an autograph outside Charms.
"Just?" A hush sounds over the gathering crowd. "Did he just say--"
"I'm not him, you realize that, right?" Harry looks around, panicked as the crowd presses closer. A Hufflepuff brandishes his wand. "Look, Ernie. I'm not James Potter. Just because I look like him doesn't mean I'm the same person."
In his desperation, Harry turns to a doughy-looking boy he recognizes from his dorm. "Neville, you understand. Surely, you're not a Quidditch fan. Look at you. I bet you can't even fly a broom."
Neville shrugs. "Actually, my Gran is a Quidditch fiend. All the Longbottoms are." He hands Harry a crumpled piece of parchment. "She'd be really pleased if you signed this for her."
Harry sighs, scribbling All the best, Harry "Not James" Potter and hands the parchment back to Neville. "I'm doomed, aren't I?"
Meanwhile, on the other side:
The whole school has gone barmy. It's as if Draco is the only one who can see Potter for what he really is: a socially-awkward twit whose only discernable skill is giving a good scowl. Of course, children, being naturally vapid and stupid creatures, talk of him constantly.
"Did you hear? James Potter's son is at Hogwarts."
"I know. He sat next to me in Charms!"
And the most egregious:
"Oh my god. Harry Potter just looked at me!" followed by a high-pitched squeal and a round of giggles.
Even his mother includes a note with her latest box of sweets, asking for his impression on Hogwarts' newest sensation.
Draco responds, scrawling Potter Smells Like Poo on a piece of Malfoy embossed parchment before crossing it out, (he is writing his mother, after all) and writes Not Our Kind. Hates Quidditch instead.
As it turns out Draco isn't the only one having a tough time reconciling the four-eyed, skinny boy in person as the son of a Quidditch legend.
"A hair-brush would do wonders," says Pansy one morning over breakfast as they both watch Potter and Weasley stuff their faces with kippers and eggs. Her nose wrinkles. "And better taste in friends." Her attention wanders to Oliver Wood, holding court at the other end of the Gryffindor table. "Now he knows his way around a comb."
Draco buries his face in his hands. At least he has Crabbe and Goyle. In a world gone mad, it's something.
Of course, like Pansy, Draco has known Crabbe and Goyle nearly all his life. Pure-bloods stick together. It's in the rulebook, right after intermarriage, torturing Muggles and playing Quidditch. Draco has no reason to doubt Crabbe and Goyle's loyalty. They're both simple, after all.
After breakfast Draco finds the Golden Boy lurking outside and clearly basking in the attention of his followers. And then, to his surprise, he recognizes...
"Crabbe? Goyle? What are doing?"
"Erm." Goyle bites his lip.
Crabbe looks sheepishly at the quill and parchment in his hands. "Trying to get Potter's autograph."
"No. Not you too." It's worse than Draco thought. It's one thing for girls to act loony in Potter's presence (they're girls), but Crabbe and Goyle too? They're Slytherins for God's sake. Draco is starting to think Dumbledore has spiked the pumpkin juice. Draco wouldn't put it past the creepy old man. His sock fetish is already legend.
"But I thought you--" protests Goyle. "You know. On the train."
"That was before--" Draco drops his voice. " You know…”
Crabbe and Goyle stare at him.
"Fine." Draco grits his teeth. "He rejected me, all right?"
Crabbe and Goyle both exchange glances. "Oh… Right."
"So, we're clear. We hate Potter."
Both nod, repeating, "We hate Potter."
"Good. Now go away and act menacing. Look, there's a Hufflepuff wandering in circles like an injured bird. Go give him a good shove and crush whatever spirit he has left. I don't care. Just return some order to this school. The whole place has gone to the dogs."
"You sure?" asks Crabbe.
"Yes. I 'm sure," Draco cries, exasperated. "Why wouldn't I be sure?" He sighs, a headache threatening. Just being in the general vicinity of Potter could do that to a person. "Just go. Please."
God. The situation has grown more intolerable than Draco thought. He actually said please. He looks up and sees Potter staring at him in disbelief.
"What?" Draco snaps at him.
"I was going to ask you the same thing," Potter replies, rounding on Draco. "I suppose you want an autograph too? Or a clever anecdote about my father, perhaps -- even though I was eighteen months old when he died. Go ahead, Malfoy. MAKE MY DAY."
Draco blinks, swiping his hand across his face. "Ew… Say it. Don't spray it, Potter. Why would I want something from you?"
Potter looks momentarily vexed. "I don't know. Everyone else does?"
Draco thinks for a moment. "Okay. How about this? Flying lessons are this afternoon, which I expect will be a source of great embarrassment for you." Draco grins, pleased with himself.
"Is that it?" Harry asks.
Draco stares at him. “You’ve never flown a broom before."
"I'll have even more reason to mock you, then." Draco sighs, deflated. "Forget it."
"Ooh." Potter waggles his fingers. "You scare me, Malfoy."
Potter should be scared. Flying is not for the fainthearted or the terminally lame. Luckily, Draco is neither. He smirks as he jumps onto his broomstick, Longbottom's Remembrall tucked inside his arm.
Oh, he's just having a laugh. A little mischief-making. No harm done. Like anyone is going to stop him.
Oh no, he didn't.
Harry grabs his broom to give chase, forgetting that he has no idea what he is doing and too pissed off to care. Malfoy is a spineless twit for picking on someone as defenseless and pure as Neville. Gryffindors take care of their own (even if Harry is the only one bothering to take a stand; the rest rubbernecking and generally acting useless). Malfoy is not going to get away with this.
Seconds later he is airborne, gliding over trees-tops; the wind rushing through his hair. It takes a moment for his brain to catch up, and when it does the unexpected happens. He cracks a smile. He's flying. He's actually flying. It's a day of firsts.
Harry angles the broom around to go back toward the castle still overcome with a sense of awe. He has never flown in an airplane before. He has never even been in a building taller than a few stories. And here he is, high enough to fly with eagles.
It's pretty bloody amazing.
He tests his skill, angling the broom this way and that, and weaves easily between a pair of tall trees. It's almost as if he's been flying his whole life, and he has the mad thought that his father is guiding his broom. Maybe there is something to him having his father's resemblance after all. Maybe he can be just like him. A Quidditch star. Or one of the cool kids. The thought gives him intense pleasure.
"Come and get it, Potter," Harry hears Malfoy cry.
Harry spins around in mid-air. He forgot about Malfoy. He is still hovering over the lawn with Neville's Remembrall held aloft in his hand, as if waiting for Harry to notice him.
Another smile lights Harry's face. He has a purpose. Something to do. Places to fly.
Malfoy is going to regret this.
Oh, Draco regrets.
The frenzied talk in the school corridors has changed once again.
"Do you think it's true that Potter had never been on a broom before?"
"I heard he only learned yesterday."
"I heard he joined the Quidditch team."
"Well, I think he's brilliant. He has such adorably tousled hair."
Draco rolls his eyes. Like flying is that hard. Even Pansy managed a decent first-time effort yesterday before flying headfirst into a hedgerow (his left ear still deaf from her blood curdling screams). As Draco sees it, any self-respecting Wizard should be able to fly a broom. Potter isn't that special.
But, of course, Potter is special, isn't he? Potter would become the youngest Quidditch player in a century. Dumbledore would buy him a new broom. And, of course, all the rules would be bent just for him.
Draco is pretty damned sure he never wants to hear the words Harry Potter, Quidditch and God-on-a-broomstick ever again.
Draco is so over Quidditch it hurts. He may take up gardening.
"This is your fault, you realize?" asks Pansy, tossing Draco a copy of the day's Prophet. JUST LIKE HIS DAD, the headline screams in bold type, next to a large photograph of Harry Potter wearing a Quidditch uniform and zipping around on his new Dumbledore-purchased broomstick.
Draco rolls his eyes. Way to be dramatic. It's just Quidditch.
Oops, did he just say that out loud?
"I mean…" Draco looks at the angry faces crowded around the Slytherin table, some brandishing brooms like pitchforks.
Draco licks his lips and puts on his best angelic-looking smile; the one his mum always told him was so precious. "Look, I think fault is very strong word, and if we're going to blame someone, let's blame Longbottom for leaving his Remembrall where anyone could take it. You were there. Did you really think Potter was going to stop me? He even said he never flew a broom before, which I don't believe for one moment, by the way."
"But you egged him on!" Pansy cries.
"I didn't know McGonagall was going to give him a spot on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, did I?"
"Still," Pansy says, "I didn't come to Hogwarts to watch someone shorter than me steal our Quidditch Cup."
Draco puts his arm around Pansy's shoulders. "So Dumbledore thinks he finally found his Chosen One to lead the Gryffindors to victory. It doesn't mean it’s going to work. Trust me. Potter is only eleven. He's not God."
Not God, but not of this world either.
Draco fumes as he watched Potter speed over the pitch, the eagerly anticipated Gryffindor-Slytherin match having started only minutes before. If Potter lacks experience, he makes up for it in effort, all speed and attack, and very little grace. Draco can see no fear or doubt when he looks at Potter. Just the face of a winner.
The Slytherins are so doomed.
"You know, he's not bad," observes Pansy, eyes pressed to her omnioculars. "He's no Cedric Diggory, though."
Draco makes a face, Lee Jordan's voice booming across the stadium as the Gryffindor team scores another goal. "Ew! Diggory's a Hufflepuff."
Pansy giggles. "So? He's got a tight arse."
Draco sighs. He's beginning to hate his life.
"Besides you're just jealous," Pansy adds. "Don't worry. When you're old enough to fly a broom maybe I'll ogle you."
Draco shuts his eyes. "I hate you, Pansy."
Pansy smirks. "That's funny. Because I hate you."
The barb goes unanswered as Draco is distracted by the glint of something shimmering against the sky. Potter has spied it too and is speeding toward it, his arm outstretched. The crowd roars in anticipation and Draco can no longer watch.
He supposes it goes without saying he would give anything to be in Potter's place right now. Anything at all, and the stab of hatred Draco feels toward Potter at that moment surprises him in its intensity. That he lets it roil around unabated surprises him even more. He doesn't think of himself as a bitter person, generally, but he has a hard time imagining himself hating anyone more than Harry Potter. The feeling is pure and caustic and utterly liberating.
There are still ways to make Potter pay.
Winter comes, striking a chill in the dank castle and making Quidditch practice nearly unbearable. Harry stands near the Quidditch shed, blowing into his hands, his broom tucked under his arm. He's alone for once. The happy by-product of the cold weather is that his normal coterie of followers -- fans, hangers-on, Hermione -- have abandoned him for the warmth of Hogwarts' giant hearths. Their loss. The snow on the ground glistens in the moonlight, the night quiet and still. It's a perfect time to fly.
He jumps onto his broomstick and kicks off. The rush of cold air is brutal at first, and it nearly causes him to turn back, but he soldiers on, climbing higher into the sky. He's immediately gratified by the view. The lake has frozen into large blocks of ice and in the far-off distance he can see the twinkling lights of Hogsmeade. And, of course, towering beside him is Hogwarts with her spires and snow-capped turrets.
It gives him fierce pleasure to realize that this is home, not Little Whinging with its perfect hedgerows and dull rectangular houses, and even duller, stupid people. He hasn’t thought of the Dursleys much, nor of the rest of the Muggle world. Perhaps that’s why he has a hard time reconciling with the fact that he’s only been here a few months. It's like he's been here all along.
As he arcs his broom back toward the pitch, he releases the Snitch he has clutched in his left hand. Its wings flutter and start in mid-air, and then in an instant it’s gone. Harry chases after it, teeth gritted as he heads into a blast of cold air. The broomstick wobbles, the wind giving resistance, but he keeps the broom under control while his eyes search for the Snitch. A flutter of movement beckons him to the left, and Harry is about to give chase when something else catches his eye. It’s a boy sitting alone in one of the stadium seats, his blond hair glowing in the moonlight. Harry recognizes Malfoy immediately, and a strong feeling of distaste wells up inside him. Harry has half a mind to go tell him to shove off when he sees the Snitch again, its erratic movements drawing back his attention. Malfoy forgotten, he speeds toward it when something goes horribly wrong.
He swears he sees Malfoy's face light up as he falls to the ground.
It's the pain that assails Harry's senses first, and then it’s Hermione, weeping into his shoulder. Harry spits out a mouthful of curly hair. "Ow."
"Sorry, Harry. I get carried away." Hermione lets go, looking contrite.
"I know," Harry says, happy to see her. He looks around and sees he's lying in the hospital wing, covered head to toe in plaster. "Hi Ron," he says, recognizing his best mate standing beside the bed, Madam Pomfrey and Dumbledore, hovering behind.
"We were so worried," Hermione answers before Ron can open his mouth.
"Now children. Harry has broken every bone in his body," Madam Pomfrey says, pulling out a giant bottle of Skele-gro. "I think it's time for you to run along. This is going to be extremely painful."
"You broke your broom too," Ron says, holding up a toothpick-sized piece of wood.
"Well, there are more brooms where that came from," Dumbledore interjects cheerily. "I've already owled Quality Quidditch Supply. They're going to send you a prototype of the new Firebolt in exchange for your endorsement. You're a Quidditch star, Harry. You might as well start acting like one."
"I don't think he'll be flying anytime soon," Madam Pomfrey orders, giving Harry a stern look. "It will be full bed-rest for you, young man. No Quidditch."
"Nonsense, Poppy." Dumbledore's eyes twinkle. "There's nothing wrong with him that a few sherbet lemons and a good night's sleep won't fix. The Ravenclaw game is on Saturday," he adds, rubbing his hands. "Nicholas Flamel and I have a wager."
"Albus, honestly. He's just a child."
Harry would respond, but he is too busy passing out from the pain.
"I'm telling you," Harry says, two days later, still lying in the hospital wing. He stopped screaming yesterday. Today his limbs merely throb. "Malfoy did it."
"Honestly, Harry," Hermione says. "Malfoy may be a spiteful bully. Rude, obnoxious, totally annoying..."
"…a ferret-faced git, tosser, wanker," Ron adds.
"…a horrible human being," Hermione continues, "but do you really think he's capable of sabotage?"
"Yes," Harry says, certain of it. "He hates me. You should see the way he looks at me."
Hermione heaves a teetering stack of books onto the bedside table. "That you are paying any attention to him at all tells me you need another hobby, like doing your homework. I took the liberty of bringing you some reading material."
"Yeah, Harry." Ron shudders. "Why would you even look at Malfoy? Ick. Oh, my sister sent you a Get Well card." He hands Harry a perfume-scented envelope.
Harry sniffs it and wrinkles his nose. "You have a sister?"
Ron grins. "Believe me, Harry. She's your biggest fan."
"Ah, the smell of Quidditch in the morning," Theo Nott says with a smile, as he climbs out of bed.
Draco rolls his eyes and heads up for breakfast. The Great Hall is already festooned in banners of red and blue when he arrives, but the real talk of the school is not today's game but if Harry Potter will actually play.
"Who cares?" Draco insists, heaping spoonfuls of jam atop his toast.
"I don't," Blaise replies, but he never cares about anything.
Crabbe and Goyle both grunt and Pansy merely sighs. "Well, you already know how I feel," she says.
Draco gives her a look. "You can't possibly be interested in Potter. Honestly."
"I'm not. I'm just interested in his bum."
Despite his professed disinterest, Draco squeezes into a seat next to Pansy, the Quidditch stadium already filled to capacity, the latest rumor being that even the Cannons (God help us all!) have sent a scout to watch the Wizarding world's newest wunderkind. The crowd roaring, all eyes are on the Gryffindor side, waiting for Potter to appear.
And there he is, stepping onto the pitch.
"Something’s not right," Pansy observes.
Draco grabs the omnioculars out of Pansy’s hands, and sees it for himself. Broom in hand, Potter looks, for lack of a better word, terrified. It's a shocking sight.
Madam Hooch blows the whistle and they're off, both teams speeding into the air. Potter, however, only manages to get a scant few meters off the ground, his broomstick wavering. As the stadium roars, he jumps back off, and Draco watches, stunned, as he runs off the field.
Draco is left wondering why he didn't find that more satisfying.
With cascades of presents under the tree, overstuffed stockings hanging by the fire and tables groaning with food, Christmas has always been Draco's favorite time of year. It's also the only time Draco's mum gives him free reign to torment Dobby ("just don't break him, dear"). With his mad Aunt Bella staying over, the holiday only gets better. Of course, as is custom, the dinner conversation turns to Quidditch. It is the sport of Pure-bloods (and the occasional talented half-blood), and one can't talk about Quidditch without bringing up the subject of Harry Potter's amazing fall from grace. Draco quickly loses his appetite.
He sneaks away after dinner, his father too busy challenging Uncle Rodolphus to a duel in the game room to notice and his mum tippling another bottle of sherry. Grabbing one of his brooms, he takes flight into the cold night. He doesn’t make it far when he realizes his heart is not into it, and he turns back home.
He has no idea what's got into him.
Classes resume after the Christmas holidays, and Harry discovers the price one pays from walking away from Quidditch glory. When there were once gaggles of students following him around, constantly beckoning for his attention, he now hears jeers and whispers as he walks past.
"I can't believe he just quit."
"He was a phony anyway. His dad would be ashamed."
"Face it. Potter is a loser. Look at him. That hair.
"Have you seen Cedric Diggory lately? He can really fly."
Is fame so fleeting, Harry wonders. Only a foolish person would ask, and he already knows the answer. Harry supposes he should be relieved, never having been comfortable with all the attention anyway. Still, he's taken aback with how quickly the tide turned. Were none of these people his friends?
Even Ron and Hermione act as though they're disappointed in him.
"Harry, you’re over-thinking it," Hermione tells him amid drifts of snow on a cold January afternoon.
"Trust me, Harry," Ron says. "You just have to get right back on."
Harry looks at the broomstick he has gripped in his hand. "I don't think it's that easy," he starts to say.
"There's nothing to be afraid of," Hermione persists.
"I'M NOT AFRAID, ALL RIGHT?" he yells back, glaring at them both.
Hermione flinches, but still continues, "Harry, I know--"
"NO, YOU DON'T KNOW. NEITHER OF YOU DO." He looks at them both staring at him with wide-open eyes. He takes a breath. "I just don't want to," he finally grits out. It's the best explanation he can come up with. "I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry too," Hermione replies, Ron nodding, and Harry knows they mean it. He's done with flying. Even Double Potions with Snape sounds more appealing.
"The Draught of Despair is a difficult potion," Snape intones, pacing the length of the Potions classroom. "Surely most of you will fail miserably in your attempt." He pauses, lingering in front of Longbottom's desk before moving on. "Its purpose should be obvious. The unfortunate drinker will be stricken with the most acute sense of despair much like I feel each and everyday for having to teach you stupid imbecilic children the fine art of potion-making." He stops at the front of the classroom before spinning around, his long black robes snapping at his ankles to great effect. (Draco really loves it when Snape does this.)
"Which one of you miserable cockroaches can tell me its antidote?" He sweeps past Granger's desk, ignoring her raised hand and turns to Draco. "Mr. Malfoy?"
"Essence of Mandrake, sir," Draco replies as Granger's face turns a frustrated shade of purple.
A hint of a smile appears on Snape's face. "Very good. Two points for Slytherin. And why is that?"
Draco opens his mouth to answer, but sees to his immediate chagrin Snape's attention has turned to the back of the classroom.
"Enervate!" A flash of light flares from the end of Snapes's wand and at once Potter is sitting ramrod-straight in his chair, yawning, his eyes blinking awake. A ripple of laughter moves across the classroom. "Surely, I'm not interrupting anything?" asks Snape, leaning over Potter's desk.
Potter flushes, scratching the back of his head, and yawns again. "Erm…"
"Essence of Mandrake, Potter. I asked you a question."
Potter's mouth opens and then shuts again. "Erm," he repeats. "What?"
"Twenty points from Gryffindor." Granger lets out an audible gasp. "You're just like your father, Potter. Lazy, stupid. Although your father was never a coward, was he? He would never just quit Quidditch." Snape pauses to let that barb sink in, as Potter's face turns red then purple, his knuckles white from gripping the edge of his desk.
Snape stalks back to the front of the classroom and begins writing the day's ingredients on the board. "You're lucky. Anyone other than Dumbledore's Golden Boy I would have had flogged, naked" (Potter's face is now green). "However, I have a better idea."
There was something about the look on Snape's face that Draco doesn't like.
"Henceforth, you shall be Mr. Malfoy's partner."
That was it.
"No," Potter and Draco both gasp.
"This is no picnic for me either." Potter is glaring at him, arms folded in front of his chest.
Oh, of all the nerve. "You should be relieved that you got assigned a partner who will actually speak to you. I, for one, could care less that you've shown yourself to be the world's biggest loser." Draco hands Potter a knife and points to pile of Shrivelfigs on the table between them. "Chop. Chop."
"Oh yeah, at least I'm not a bigoted, pointy-faced Slytherin."
Draco shrugs. It's all true.
Potter shakes his head. "I hate my life."
"I hate your life too," Draco replies. "Why aren't you chopping?"
"I'm not doing all the work."
Draco leans back in his chair and props his feet on the table. "Oh yes, you are. You're the one who fell asleep in class."
"That's because your girlfriend snuck into my dorm last night. I had to lock myself in the bathroom to get away from her."
Draco sits up, laughing. "Wait. What?"
"That cow, Parkinson. She tried to kiss me. It was disgusting."
Draco can actually relate. Pansy tried to kiss him once too. "She's not my girlfriend, Potter. She's just touched in the head about Quidditch players. Even ones with disgraced sob stories like yours. Don't worry, I'll mock her mercilessly about it after class."
"I don't find that comforting, Malfoy. I actually find that mean."
Draco shrugs, picking up a spoon and stirring the potion clockwise three times as directed. "You say that like it's a bad thing," he says, the potion gurgling nicely under his ministrations. "We're ready for the asphodel."
"You don't feel at all guilty, do you?"
"Guilty for what?" He looks at Potter. "Come on, Potter. If we don't add the asphodel now the potion will…"
"Explode?" Potter finishes for him. He smirks, and Draco thinks there's something chilling about the way Potter is twirling the dried asphodel bloom in his hand. "I know you sabotaged my broom, Malfoy."
"So?" Draco meekly manages, when his cauldron blows up in his face.
"I hate my life," Draco tells Professor Snape later in the hospital wing.
"Welcome to my world," Snape replies. He looks suspiciously pleased with Draco's predicament.
"No. Really. I hate my life. What is wrong with me?" he cries, waves of angst and ennui washing over him. He holds his head in his hands. "I have a sudden urge to write poetry and drink absinthe. I'm only eleven."
"You stupid boy. You were drenched with the Draught of Despair when your potion exploded. It's extremely potent, even a small drop can make one want to run and hide in the ladies' bathroom and weep bitter, salty tears."
Draco blinks at him. "Erm… What?"
Snape ignores him, clasping his hands together. "The effects should wear off in two weeks."
Draco gapes. "But there's an antidote."
Snape shrugs. "Perhaps."
"But you said so in class."
"Oh, did I?' He pulls tiny black bottle out of his sleeve and holds it up. "I suppose you're right." He slips it back into his robes. "Two points for Slytherin."
"What about Potter? He was standing right next to me. How's he feeling/"
Snape shrugs. "I imagine you'll find him dull, testy and unimaginative, but isn't he always?"
Draco has to concede his point. "But -- "
"Have you ever heard of the saying 'Life is pain'?" Snape interrupts.
"No." Draco frowns. It seems as if his face is stuck that way. "That's an awful saying."
"My mother had those words embroidered on a pillow that sat in our parlor. At any rate, Dumbledore promised me the Defense of the Dark Arts position if I figured out how to get Potter flying again. Seeing as there is only so much Potter a man can take before he starts Crucio-ing schoolchildren, it shall be your job." He pulls the black bottle back out. "The antidote only if Potter flies."
"Oh, look at the time. I have badminton with Minerva in thirty minutes." Snape gives Draco a toothy grin. "Have fun."
Pansy greets Draco in the common room. "Turn that frown upside," she chirps. "Look what came in the owl post."
It's a Nimbus. The one he tried to bully his father into buying at the start of the school year.
"So?" Draco slouches into the nearest sofa and kicks off his shoes. He knows he looks like shit, clothes rumpled, his hair unkempt, but he could really care less. More pressing is his desire to curl up in the corner and die. Suffice it to say, he couldn't be less interested in flying.
Three hours later, Draco still hasn't moved, hasn't eaten and the weight of his depression has become oddly comforting. Pansy, in the meantime, has spent the duration thumbing through a stack of thick books. "Got it, she says, looking up, a smudge of ink on her nose. "The antidote. If we were to prepare the antidote ourselves it would take…" She frowns, looking at the text again, "forty-seven days to prepare?"
"I told you," Draco says.
"That's longer than the affliction lasts."
"Poetic, isn't it?"
"So what are you going to do?" God love her, Pansy actually looks concerned for his welfare. Draco's oddly touched.
"Cry myself to sleep, get fat and stop bathing." He gives her a wry smile. It's the best he can do under the circumstances.
"No, really. Draco." Pansy stands, both hands on her hips. "You love flying. I know you do."
"You're suggesting I help Potter?" Draco narrows his eyes. "I know you have some weird thing for him, but--"
"His arse, Malfoy. Just his arse." Pansy looks momentarily wistful. "His lips are soft too."
Draco buries his head in his hands again. "Oh God! Make it stop."
Pansy throws ups her hands. "You're impossible, you know that? I don't know what I'm going to do with you."
"But I am a Malfoy, which makes me better than 99 percent of the people at this school," he replies, trying for sarcasm, but it falls flat somewhere between snootiness and self-delusion.
Pansy looks unamused. "Do you know what your problem is? You would cut off your nose to spite your face. You're a jealous, spiteful, pathetic little boy. I'm done." She storms away.
"Merlin's tit," Blaise observes from where he is sitting on the opposite couch, " I think someone figured you out."
Draco glares at him. "I was going to include her in that one percent."
Blaise shrugs and reopens his newspaper. Harry Potter: Traitor To Us All, the headline reads. "My mum mixed the Draught of Despair into my fourth daddy's pumpkin juice. He jumped off our roof the next day. It was sad but at least then I didn't have to hear him whine."
"You know, Malfoy. I'm not sure I care anymore that you sabotaged my broom. I kind of figure you did me a favor, actually. I just want you to admit it."
Draco grunts, busy slicing soapbark. Potions class again. Elementary cleaning concoction scented with lavender. A ridiculously easy potion. Why couldn't this have been the potion that exploded in his face? At least then he would smell nice.
"Is that supposed to be a 'yes'?"
Draco snorts. "You're not going to let this go, are you? Fine. I messed with your broom. I admit it. I was jealous. I wanted to see you fail. Happy now?"
Potter looks mulish. "No. Not really."
"Too bad," Draco replies harshly, slicing another handful of soapbark. In his haste, however, the knife slips. "Ow!" he cries, staring in shock at the blood dribbling down his fingers.
"You okay?" he hears Potter say.
To his embarrassment, Draco has always been squeamish at the sight of blood. An incident remains vivid in his memory of the time he cut his knee wide open after stumbling down one of the Manor's many garden pathways, and his father angrily telling him to get up after he had passed out. "No. Yes. I'm fine. I'm fine," he insists, the wound starting to sting.
"Draco." Potter's hand touches his elbow.
"Fuck you, Potter," Draco manages to grit out to before sliding unconscious to the floor.
"The second time in as many weeks," Madam Pomfrey tuts after Draco wakes. "I wish I understood what Severus is doing with you two." She shakes her head, heaving a sigh. "You're lucky Harry got you here as quick as he did. You sliced right through one of your tendons."
Draco turns his head, confused, and sees Potter sitting next to his bed. There's a large blood spot on his shirt. Draco's stomach flips again realizing that it's his own. "Go away," he croaks, embarrassed. He is about to ask for Pansy when he remembers that she stopped speaking to him a week ago.
Madam Pomfrey is making a tutting sound again and he rolls his eyes, giving her a dutiful look. "Your hand is healed," she tells him. "There is a small scar by the base of your thumb, but otherwise you're fine." She smiles.
"So we can go?" Potter asks.
"We? We aren't going anywhere, especially with him," Draco cries.
Potter sighs and looks at Madam Pomfrey.
"Well, I can't force him to go with you," Madam Pomfrey tells him before turning to Draco, "but you can't stay here. The Weasley boys set firecrackers off in Great Hall again. I have students missing limbs. I need the bed."
Draco looks at his hand. It's just one of the many miraculous things about being a Wizard, he thinks inspecting it. Wounds always get healed. "Fine. I'll go," he says, looking at Potter.
"Good I have something I want to show you," Potter tells him.
Harry doesn't ask Draco what he sees, but he recognizes the look of wonder on his face all the same.
"How did you find this?" Draco asks, fingers skimming the mirror's surface.
"I was wandering around the castle, bored out of my skull. Hermione was bothering me about something. I don't know." Harry shrugs. "You know, I'd probably go flying but…" He trails off, not finishing.
Draco looks at him sharply. "But you stopped flying. Because of me."
Harry bites back a laugh. "I don't think it's just because of you. Not everything is about you, Malfoy."
Draco scowls at that. "I sabotaged your broom, you fell, got injured and couldn't get back on. It's hard not to get the connection."
"If it makes you feel better to think you destroyed my ability to fly then have at it, " Harry snaps.
Chagrined, Draco turns back toward the mirror, and after a long moment of silence Harry sits down on the floor. He realizes with a start that he's not looking in the mirror; he's watching Draco.
"Erised means desire," Draco says with surprise a few days later.
Harry nods, reading, "I show not your face but your heart's desire" from the inscription written backwards across the top. "Don't feel bad," he hastens to add, seeing the look on Draco's face. "It took me two weeks to figure that out, and that was after Hermione helped me.
"She knows about this?"
Harry shrugs. "She told me she saw a reflection of herself surrounded by a dozen red-haired children. She screamed and ran away."
"Hey, the potion is wearing off," Harry observes.
Draco shrugs and looks away, feeling oddly embarrassed. "Maybe."
"Can I ask you something?" Potter's eyes look exceptionally bright.
"Sure,' Draco replies, thinking Potter is going to ask him what he sees when he looks in the mirror.
"Why didn't you take Snape's offer?" Harry asks instead.
Draco frowns. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Snape offered you the antidote if you could figure out how to get me on a broom again. I can understand why you wouldn't want to help me. You hate me and helping a Gryffindor probably causes Slytherins to go prematurely bald, but I also know Dumbledore bought you your own broom. Considering how much you like Quidditch, I would think you would have tried it out at least once. Take it for a spin after class. Instead of just letting it languish under your bed."
Draco narrows his eyes. "How do you know all this?"
"I have an Invisibility Cloak."
"Do you watch people wank too?"
Harry chokes back a cough. "Don't be daft."
Draco shrugs. It doesn't look nearly as convincing as he would like. "You should have figured out by now that a Slytherin will never help a person when they're down.'"
"I see. That must be why you stopped flying too."
That night Draco dreams he is flying, his arms stretched out like a bird. He doesn’t need a broom. He has wings. Then, of course, the dream being a dream, everything starts to get really weird.
Potter sails by on broomstick. Neville Longbottom is on board too, his eyes twinkling behind his half-moon glasses. Then, bizarrely, Draco sees a snake, eyes red as it slithers past.
Draco has always hated snakes. Almost as much as he hates ferrets (they're vermin!) He starts to fall.
Why can't he fly, he thinks frantically, his hands clawing at the air, but it's no use.
He's done for.
Draco wakes with a start, eyes blinking into the cold darkness, his dream receding back into the night. Then he remembers the most bizarre part. Potter was waiting to catch him on the ground. He's sure of it.
On a bright February morning, Draco wanders into the dusty room tucked away on the third floor. Potter is already there, sitting on the floor by one of the windows.
"It's gone," Draco finally stating the obvious after staring at the spot where the Mirror of Erised once stood.
"Dumbledore took it away." Potter stands. He walks over to Draco. "I suppose it served its purpose."
A curious smile plays across Potter's face. "What do you think?"
"I think you're daft," Draco says. He tugs at the hem of his sleeves, hesitating. "Can I ask you something?"
Potter shrugs. "Sure."
"Do you even like Quidditch?"
Potter laughs. "That's an odd question."
"It's fun. Sure. But I think I liked it more because my dad played it."
Draco shakes his head. "I think half the school would have given anything to be you."
"Like you, you mean?" Potter raises his eyebrows.
"Yeah," Draco says after a long stretch of silence. "Look, there's really no point in staying. I'm going --" He starts to walk away.
Surprised, Draco turns around.
Potter hesitates, swiping a hand through his messy hair, standing it on end. "It's a nice day out."
Draco looks out the window. "It's lovely." He rolls his eyes and looks back at Potter.
"Don't you want to try out your broom?"
Of course, the day Draco finally pulls the Nimbus out from under his bad is the day Pansy comes to visit him in his dorm room.
"I never thought guilt was a good look on you," she says, standing in the doorway.
"You're talking to me now." He scowls at her, but he's secretly pleased. She's a pain in the arse, but let's face it. Crabbe and Goyle aren't exactly conversationalists, and Theo and Blaise are just weird.
She smirks, sprawling atop his bed, rumpling his bed linens. He gives her another scowl. "Imagine my shock," she says, grinning now, "When Potter comes up to me after class."
Potter. Draco's eyes perk up. "Oh, did he finally admit that you're the love of his life?"
Pansy giggles. "NO! He asked about you. I thought Granger and the Weasel were going to faint dead on the spot."
The corner of Draco's mouth turns upward. "Did he?"
"So you're friends now?" Pansy lets out a dramatic sigh, her hand pressed to her forehead. "I'm so easily replaced."
Draco rolls his eyes. "Please. Like anyone could replace you."
"Right," Pansy says, watching Draco polish his broomstick. "Going flying?
Draco shrugs. "Maybe."
Draco doesn't answer. It's none of her business, and who cares, anyway?
"Dumbledore will be pleased," Pansy says.
Draco snorts. "Yeah, like I care. I'm not doing it for him." Draco turns the broomstick over in his hands, satisfied. It's good broom. Even if Dumbledore did buy it for nefarious, Gryffindor-ish reasons, he's not going to give it back.
The sun has started to set behind the trees, casting long shadows across the pitch.
"Now what?" Potter asks, sitting astride his broom, both feet planted on the ground and the wind tousling his inky hair.
"Just…" Draco is at a loss as to how to explain it. "Fly."
"Fly." Potter repeats, nodding before breaking into a wide grin. "Okay."
Then he is gone. Draco watches from the ground as Potter speeds into the air.
Like any true connoisseur of the game, Draco understands that the true beauty of Quidditch lies in flight. Potter will never be a beautiful flyer. Still, Draco thinks he may have fallen in love a little.
With Potter's flying.
Not with Potter.
That would be weird.