Author's Notes: For some reason, my notes on Chapter 1 got removed. I think it's important to the overall flow and feel to the story, so here goes an attempt to recreate it. This is a re-write of a fic I wrote back in 2004, after the OOTP, before HBP. Meaning this is an AU, one where the events of the last two books have no bearing whatsoever. Back then, this fic only had three chapters, so wow, look at us go. Also, it takes place at the start of their seventh and last year of school. Leave me a review if you are so inclined. New chapters are posted every Friday and sometimes in between if I have too many or if I can't stand the cliffhanger (yes, it happens).
Draco Malfoy woke up with a jolt behind the curtains of his four poster bed. He sat up slowly, his head already aching. He ran a shaking hand through his blonde hair, slicking it more or less back into place. His hand came away drenched in a cold sweat. He couldn't remember if he screamed that time or not. He sat very still, listening for signs of movement in his shared dormitory room. It was dark. Too dark to be anywhere near morning. Another nightmare. What a childish problem to have, but every time Draco closed his eyes, it seemed, there were disturbing scenes, frightening images, and when he awoke, he could barely remember what it was that scared him so badly. He just knew it was getting worse.
Before he had left for the school year, his father had grown angry about the "bad dreams", punishing Draco for what he could not control. His mother had been a little more understanding. She had tried to place a warding spell around his mind, so the dreams would cease to touch him. His hopes had been high that the dreams would stop altogether once he got to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
So far they had only gotten worse. Much worse.
The thought of going back to sleep made his stomach turn. The thought of studying divinity or care of magical creatures, his worst subjects-not because he didn't apply himself, but because he didn't care- was infinitely more appealing. He leaned over and pulled his curtain back. The biggest problem with having your dormitory in the dungeons, he thought, isn't the smell or the lack of hot water, it's not having any windows. He had no way of knowing if was an hour after he went to bed, or an hour before breakfast. He decided that it didn't much matter; he wasn't getting any more sleep tonight either way.
He sighed and swung his bare feet to the cold flagstones and stopped short. An arm's length away, was a form on the floor. A shifting, sighing shapeless lump in the dark. Draco felt the metallic taste of fear in his mouth before reminding himself sharply that he was awake. He was pretty sure he was awake, anyway. There would be an explanation. He was at Hogwarts, after all, and nothing so sinister could even enter the grounds. Well, almost nothing. He thought of all of those times before that Harry Potter had to save the day from whatever menace happened to trudge through the Great Hall. Trolls and evil teachers that first year, the Basilisk second. The list went on. Why would it be different in this, their seventh year? He felt a weird, stifling feeling in his throat at the thought of the Boy Who Lived. He swallowed hard, quashing it before it could turn into more.
He gathered up his courage and padded over to the lump on the floor. If stupid Potter could do all those things, he could certainly check out this weird thing on the floor by his bed. It looked as though it were something wrapped in a sheet, the same color sheets that were on his own bed. Gingerly, he grabbed an edge and pulled, slowly. He hissed through his teeth as his efforts revealed the top of Goyle's sleeping head. Cursing himself for his foolishness, he kicked Goyle's sleeping form. Goyle only snored a bit louder than before.
Draco sighed deeply and rubbed his tired, sleepless eyes. He wondered, not for the first time, if his father was right, maybe it was all in his head. He briefly considered the implications, then shut it from his mind. It would do no good speculating on his future as a madman. He gathered his school uniform and towel in his arms and headed towards the semi-private bathrooms adjoining the seventh year boys' dorms.
He shut the door, applying a minor locking spell as an afterthought. He turned on the water and let it run, waiting for the water to heat up. You'd think that wouldn't be such an issue in a magical castle. Draco looked at himself in the mirror, seeing a ghost of who he used to be. His skin looked paler than usual; his face had a gaunt, haunted look, making his sharp features look even sharper. He looked.. dangerous. What is happening to me? He shook his head to clear his thoughts.
The mirror was starting to fog. He sighed and began to undress, leaving his pajamas on the floor. They landed in a puddle of water. That was strange, he didn't remember stopping the drain. But then again, there were a lot of little things he forgot to do or did and then forgot he did them lately. Water was running over the sides of the porcelain tub. He stepped through the water, now as deep as his ankles, wondering how it got to this point without him noticing. He reached towards the full tub, ready to pull the plug, when the water spraying from the sprayer head turned a dark shade of crimson. He could see it splashing in the tub below, the red drops curling underwater the way that only blood would. In seconds the entire tub seemed full of blood; the water, if that's what it still was, ran over the sides in rivulets. He reached for the drain plug once more when a scaly white hand shot out of the water and closed around his wrist. Draco gasped and tried to wrest his arm away but his feet couldn't find purchase on the underwater tile. He slipped with a splash, kneeling before the tub, still pulling when what looked like a human head started to rise above the surface. Draco wanted to shout, to scream, but his mouth only opened and closed instead.
The figure in the tub kept rising slowly, the blood, Draco was sure it was blood now, running off the pale white flesh, leaving it a bit pink. He saw a face, a man, head and shoulders, but he had chunks of skin missing, flaps of decrepit flesh all over his body, as if he had been waiting in this full tub, right here in the Hogwarts dungeons, for years. Then the blood man opened his eyes.
"You", the thing half rasped, half gargled, "you did this to me."
Draco shook his head, eyes wide with shock. He finally pulled his wrist free, his momentum carrying him against the opposite wall. He felt his head hit the stones, hard. Draco sagged to the floor, sitting in the water, vaguely worried that his underwear were getting wet.
"You!" the thing in the tub shrieked. It was pointing a long white bony finger at Draco's face.
For some reason, the fear was suddenly gone. Draco felt sleepy, the sleepiest he had in a long while. His eyes threatened to close. He fought to keep them open, but only halfheartedly. He was vaguely aware of a pair of cool clammy hands around his neck, squeezing tighter and tighter, when he realized he didn't have to fight anymore. He could be done. Give in. He let his heavy eyes close and forced out a final breath.
Suddenly, he heard a harsh voice on the other side of the door.
"Alohamora!" Professor Snape was suddenly in the room, looking very annoyed indeed. Draco heard another spell, or maybe a curse from his professor. He was so tired. Through half-lidded eyes, Draco saw the potions master wading through the water, lifting up his sleeping robes in a futile attempt to keep them dry. Something tickled at Draco's mind. This was all so different a moment ago, but he couldn't remember how or why.
"What is going on in here, Mr Malfoy?" Snape asked in his usual accusatory tone. Draco closed his eyes, ignoring Snape's questions. He was too tired for this. Snape grabbed his chin and peered into his face. Draco complied, only because it was easier than fighting. His eyes closed.
When he opened them again, his head felt clear. He was still on the bathroom floor in his underwear, Snape was still in front of him but the bathroom was dry. The water or the blood, whatever it was, was gone. Draco craned his neck to see into the tub behind his professor. It was empty. Not even a drop of red. Nothing. Draco's head was suddenly pounding. He vaguely remembered hitting it against the wall. He raised a hand to feel the back of his head. There was a bump, but his hand came away clean. He was suddenly aware of his classmates crowding the doorway and whispering to each other urgently. Great, he thought, more rumors.
"I healed your..wound the best I could," Snape said scathingly. The potions master seemed to turn everything into a personal offense. As if Draco had planned this whole debacle just to get Snape's robes wet. He turned his attention to the doorway. "Back to your rooms." His command was heard and obeyed, yet the curious students took their time, some sneaking another glance before moving away. Draco covered his face with his hands. It felt like his eyeballs would fall right out of his pounding head if he didn't keep his hands up.
"Tell me what happened here, now." Snape was stern, more stern than he should've been with an injured student. Draco wondered what his professor was thinking. Did he believe the rumors? Or did he know more? He knew Severus was a close family friend, but how close exactly, he couldn't say.
"I was.. asleep. Dreaming. Nothing more." Draco fought to get the lie out. He hadn't even been able to reason out what had happened for himself yet, how could he explain it to someone else? Snape regarded him with a level stare. Draco knew that he knew he was lying and found that he didn't very much care. Snape looked as if he were about to speak, when the water suddenly started running, filling up the tub again. Draco's eyes went wide. Snape barely reacted at all. He helped Draco to his feet, hurrying him towards the exit. "Go", he said, "wait for me outside."
Draco looked down at himself, wearing underwear, and red ringed marks around his ankles and one wrist. "But Professor, I.."
"Outside, Mr Malfoy." Snape cut him off. "Outside of the Slytherin common room, but do not leave the dungeons. I will take care of this, but I need you gone." Snape shut the bathroom door in his face.
Draco Malfoy sat outside the door to the Slytherin common room as instructed. The hallway was dim, lit only by the torches in sconces on the walls. He didn't know what was happening. He only knew he wanted to punch the solid rock wall of the dungeon, scream, cry, anything at all to get rid of this feeling. He rubbed his eyes. He had thought it all a dream, all inside his head, until Snape saw it too. He had to have. What in hell did that mean? And banishing him from the dorms so quickly, Snape must think it was his doing. As far as he knew, he wasn't doing anything.
He looked toward the hidden door, knowing it wouldn't be moving already but still hoping, and saw a shape moving down the darkened hallway. Footsteps were echoing on the dungeon walls, getting closer. Draco smoothed his hair with both hands, standing up straight to his full height. If he was going to be seen like this, he'd have to look like he was doing it on purpose. He cursed Snape silently for not giving him even a moment to get dressed. He ignored the pounding in his head and made his face impassable. He fixed his gaze on the opposite wall. Anyone who knew who he was, and it basically the entire school by now, wouldn't dream of saying anything to him. The echoing footsteps stopped near him.
Except for one person, that is. Draco turned to look, forcing himself to make his gaze all ice and daggers. He recognized the voice and hated the sympathy it was already laced with. He hated the feeling that rose in his chest whenever Harry Potter was near.
"Potter." He spat the word as if it were poison in his mouth. Potter stood before him, a few inches taller than he was last year, but still standing half a head below him. Draco smirked, pleasantly surprised that this was still one of the things he bested Harry Potter at.
"Malfoy, why are you..?" He trailed off as he looked Draco up and down. Draco felt exposed under the other boy's concerned look, but only for a second. He remembered who he was, his noble lineage, and wherever he was, that was where he was supposed to be. Potter was the one out of place.
"Bugger off, Saint Potter."
To Potter's credit, he actually winced. It was always good to know when insults landed and he was suddenly grateful that Potter's face showed it every single time. Potter's brow started to furrow and Draco prepared himself for whatever comeback the other boy decided to sling at him.
Potter screwed up his face. Apparently he was thinking hard about it. Draco smirked. "Are you okay?"
Draco gaped, the smirk sliding off his face, caught off guard. His eyes locked with Potter's obscenely green ones and he saw it there, the shining concern, the genuine feeling and he felt.. something. He couldn't remember the last time he had heard those words all strung together like that and directed solely at him. Then the moment passed and all he felt was a little sick to his stomach. He felt suddenly drained, physically, emotionally, completely. He raised a hand to his head and rubbed his eyes, slowly. What he wouldn't give for just one good night's sleep. "Yes, I'm fine", he tiredly sighed.
"What was that?" Potter leaned toward him. "No 'Potter' at the end of that line? No personal insults? Sure you're okay, Malfoy?"
Draco leaned back against the wall, forgetting how cold the stones get in the dungeons. He shivered and crossed his arms over his bare chest. "Potter, don't. I'm not in the mood."
Potter sighed. "Look Malfoy, I'm not either, to be honest." He started to take off his cloak. Draco's eyes widened. Why wouldn't he just leave? "Something is wrong and you're obviously cold. Here, take my cloak." Draco stared at Potter's hand, holding out the garment. For a second, Draco was touched, and he stood frozen, not sure how to handle it.
"Last time I checked, I didn't need to be saved by the illustrious Harry Potter." He was back to spitting poison. He didn't want to, but it seemed that he didn't know how not to. He turned his face to the side, snubbing the gesture entirely.
Potter gasped sharply. Draco turned to look at the other boy; his insult could've been better. The cloak was dropped to the floor and Potter's eyes were wide and fearful. Draco turned to look down the hallway, following the other boy's gaze. There was nothing there.
"Malfoy, uh.." Potter's voice trailed off.
"What is it?"
"You, um, you have a great bruise going around your neck." Potter came closer, reaching towards Draco's neck. Draco froze with the memory of what had happened in the bathroom. He froze at Potter's soft, delicate touch, the awe in the other boy's eyes. Green eyes looked up and locked with his silver ones. "It looks like.. hands, going around your neck," Potter's voice was almost a whisper.
Suddenly there were noises coming from inside the Slytherin common room. A door slamming. Snape's angry yet quiet voice. Draco was suddenly aware just how close Potter was. He shouldn't be that close. He placed his shaking hands on Potter's chest and pushed him away, gently. "Go."
"You're not okay. Tell me what's going on."
Draco scoffed. "Just go, Potter. You don't want to be around when Snape comes to fetch me."
"Leave. Now." Draco plastered his steely gaze on the other boy, trying to make it register. It was a command, not a suggestion. Potter glanced at Draco's body once more, scowled, and turned and ran down the stone hallway. Draco was vaguely aware of a sense of loss, but at what, he couldn't be sure. The pounding in his head returned and doubled, as if making up for lost time.
The door to the common room suddenly materialized out of stone and burst open, clanging, the noise echoing in the empty space. Draco's hand went to his temple, trying to relieve the sharp burst of pain the noise had brought him. The potions master stepped toward Draco, his voice a dangerous whisper, "Headmaster wishes to speak with you. Dress." Malfoy looked down the hallway, the way Potter had gone. "Now, Mr Malfoy. Don't keep us waiting."
Snape's black sleeping robes billowed out behind him as he left, just as his regular robes always did. Draco forced down a chuckle. He smoothed his hair into place and set his face to stone. Facing the others after Merlin knows what Snape told them wasn't going to be easy. Hardly anything was these days, anyway. He turned to the door, his bare foot hitting something soft. He looked down. It was Potter's cloak, right where he had dropped it. Draco thought of Potter's surprisingly gentle ghost of a touch on his wounded neck and shivered. Telling himself it was just the cold, he picked up the cloak, shook it out, and draped it over himself, feeling ready to face his house.