With nowhere else to go, Harry Potter sat in the empty Potions classroom, waiting for class to start. He had put on his cloak that Malfoy had so weirdly returned to him. He could feel his eyes getting heavy. He folded his arms on the table in front of him and laid his head down. He'd be able to rest his eyes for just a few minutes before other students started coming in.
He was asleep almost immediately. And dreaming again.
He was in a dungeon of some sort. The cleanest dungeon Harry had ever seen. A crimson carpet led the way down a dimly lit hallway. He looked behind him and saw nothing but darkness. Harry stepped forward, following what seemed like a stoic river of red. Muffled screams and shouts reached his ears, coming from ahead of him. He wanted to stop, but his feet kept carrying him forward.
As the screams subsided he heard a familiar voice. It was snide, and like Malfoy's, but deeper, older. Lucius Malfoy. It had to be. Harry noticed insignias carved into the dungeon walls. Too smooth and intricate to not have been done by magic. The closer Harry got to one of them, the more blurred it became. He squinted his eyes even though he knew it wouldn't help.
The hallway opened up into a great room, well lit by a greenish fire burning in the center of the room. Harry looked to either side, seeing what seemed to be cages or cells lining the east and west walls. It was too dark, that far away, but Harry wasn't sure he wanted to see what was in the cells anyway. The screaming started again, uncomfortably close. Harry noticed a small group of people standing in a semi-circle around one of the cells towards the back of the room. They were all of different heights, dressed in black, hoods covering their heads. No one turned as Harry approached.
"Excuse me," Harry said, tentatively.
No one moved. Harry turned his attention to the screaming coming from the cell directly in front of black-clad figures. He tried to push his way through their ranks and he passed right through them. Knowing you're dreaming and being able to do something about the fact that you're dreaming are two very different things. Harry knew it was a dream and as far as he was concerned, he was just along for the ride. Since his dreams started this year, he couldn't see any direct connection to Voldemort, not like before. This was the closest he'd been to seeing anything remotely resembling the Dark Lord's plans. Assuming the dark-clad figures were who he thought they were.
Once he cleared the ring of figures he looked back at their faces. Except, they had no faces. Where their faces should have been was smooth and featureless skin. Harry shuddered. The screamer was right next to him now. He turned and saw a man on the floor of a cell. His skin was almost shredded off of his beaten and battered body. He lay in a pool of blood. Just beyond the shredded man, inside the cell stood another figure wielding a wand. The figure was tall and slender, with short platinum blonde hair, slicked back from his forehead. Draco Malfoy did have a face. And it was screwed up with determination and pain. His cheeks were wet as if he had been sweating. Or weeping.
"Do it again, Draco." Harry turned towards the menacing voice. The same one he had heard before. It was another tall, blonde man. He had no face like the other followers, but Harry knew him just the same. Lucius Malfoy.
"Malfoy, don't!" Harry yelled.
Draco Malfoy looked right at Harry. He looked as if he was looking at a ghost. Malfoy was talking, but no sound was coming out. The other boy's face grew more and more agitated. He was visibly screaming now, but Harry still couldn't hear any sound. Malfoy raised a hand to point behind Harry. Harry turned and saw the hooded figures advancing on him, the circle closing in, wands raised. They all shot out a brilliant green light all at once.
Harry felt the blast hit him in chest. It was pure light and burning agony. He screamed and fell backwards, his chair hitting the hard stone floor of the Potions classroom. The laughter of the other students brought him forcefully awake.
"If you're finished, Mr. Potter," Snape's acid drawl cut through the laughter, "I'd like to return to today's lesson. Or will it be points from Gryffindor?"
Harry willed his cheeks to stop burning. He wanted to fall through the floor and be buried under the Black Lake for all eternity. How long had it been? He was just supposed to rest his eyes. How come no one woke him up when class started? He turned to Ron and whispered violently, "Why didn't you wake me up?"
"I didn't want to interrupt your beauty sleep, Potter."
Harry fell out of his chair again. He was sure Ron would be sitting next to him; he always did in Potions. "What.. what are you doing here?" Harry demanded.
"New Potions partners, Mr. Potter." Snape was suddenly in front of him, looking furious. "That's ten points from Gryffindor for interrupting my lesson again."
All of the Gryffindors in the class groaned collectively. Snape turned his venomous stare on them. They were suddenly silent. "And another ten points, Mr. Potter, for wearing the," he paused, looking Harry up and down, "incorrect uniform."
Harry picked himself up off the floor and straightened his cloak. "I am not wearing the incorrect uniform." He was aware of how petulant he sounded, but there was little he could do about that now.
Snape's robes billowed as he whirled angrily to face Harry once more. "You are wearing a cloak from Slytherin House, Mr. Potter. Last I checked, that is not your correct house. Have you joined my house without my knowledge, Mr. Potter?"
He heard Malfoy snort with laughter that was poorly contained. The other Slytherins joined in. "Fifty points from your house. Gryffindor." Snape added, as if Harry might be confused.
Harry sat once more, head down, defeated. He fumbled with the folds of his cloak, finding the patch attached that advertised his house crest. It was indeed Slytherin. He groaned inwardly. His mind raced back to this morning, when he had literally run into Malfoy and.. he had given him the wrong cloak. He looked at Malfoy sitting beside him. The blonde boy was still snickering, but dutifully taking notes.
"You did this." Harry said quietly. "On purpose."
Draco Malfoy gave him an innocent look and motioned towards Snape.
The potions master was towering above him, glowering. "Out, Potter."
"What?" Harry said stupidly. He knew it as soon as it was out of his mouth.
"Professor, please-", said a voice near the back of the room.
"Miss Granger, I do not need advice on how to run my classroom."
Harry gave his professor a hard look but packed up his things and slung his bag over his shoulder. He stopped at the door to look back. Malfoy had a huge genuine smile on his face. Harry felt like he wanted to punch it right off.
Harry sat on the school grounds, grateful for the cool breeze blowing across the lake. He was on a hillside, watching the Whomping Willow try to whomp a passing butterfly. It did little to ease his bad mood. He briefly considered getting too close and getting whomped himself. That'd land him in the hospital wing for a little while. Or maybe the secret passage to the shrieking shack would still be open. He could hide out there until everyone forgot his absolute mortification.
His thoughts turned to Malfoy. He couldn't reconcile the momentarily vulnerable and hurt boy in the dungeon this morning with the Malfoy who just humiliated him in front of an entire class. Then he thought of his most recent dream. Sometimes, Harry knew, his dreams carried a weight. Sometimes he saw things as they were happening. Sometimes he saw the past. Very rarely did he see the future. He wondered if this dream about Malfoy was any of those things. Or maybe none entirely. Maybe they were just a product of his tired and over-exerted psyche. He sighed, giving up on the whole thing. It made his head hurt worse than it already did.
He felt the presence of someone behind him before he could hear them. Soft footfalls on the newly fallen autumn leaves told him his feeling was right. He was too tired to turn and look. He didn't want to deal with anyone right now, especially not a well-meaning friend, feeling pity for him. He stared out at the Black Lake and wondered briefly how cold the water was already. If he jumped in, would the shock force the breath from his lungs? He thought of the burning in his lungs from when he ventured to the bottom of the lake in the TriWizard Tournament. No, he didn't want to go out that way.
Someone sat down next to him in the grass with a soft sigh. Harry knew immediately it wasn't a well-meaning friend.
"Thinking about drowning yourself in the Black Lake, Potter?"
Harry started and looked at the boy next to him, incredulously. How did he know? Malfoy turned to look at him, seeing it written all over his face, Harry was sure. Malfoy raised his eyebrows. "That bad, Scarhead? Things could be much worse, you know. The Dark Lord could be after you, haunting your every waking and sleeping moment." Malfoy snickered, then laughed loudly apparently enjoying his own joke. Harry's jaw dropped. Did Malfoy know? Who had Hermione told this time?
Malfoy picked up a dead leaf from the grass and began pulling it apart, piece by piece. "This is my favorite time of year." He was talking as though he and Harry had been pleasantly discussing the weather. Harry had only known one or two insane people in his short life. Second year, when Professor Lockhart had accidentally obliviated himself, the man had seemed like a confused child. Malfoy was different. He was full of nonsequiturs and nonsense. Or maybe, he was full of more truth than Harry wanted to believe possible.
It was also Harry's favorite time of year, but instead he said, "Why did you do that, Malfoy?"
Once again with the innocent look. "The leaf? It was dead already."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Why did you switch the cloaks?"
"Oh, that." Malfoy chuckled, his stormy eyes sparkling. "It was only a joke." He turned to the side to show Harry the patch on his own cloak. Harry leaned forward to see better. It was emblazoned with the Gryffindor crest. That didn't explain anything. Harry was starting to believe the rumors were absolutely true. A gentle breeze blew across the lake, ruffling Harry's hair and making Malfoy's fall out of place. "I didn't think anyone would notice", he said finally.
"That's a shitty apology."
"It wasn't an apology."
Harry scoffed and turned towards the lake. The giant squid was swimming in lazy circles near the surface.
"What did you dream about?" Malfoy's voice was soft, barely above a whisper.
"How did you know I was dreaming?"
"Come on Potter, no one shrieks like that and falls out of their chair if they're not dreaming about something horrible." Malfoy thought for a moment, then added, "Or terrifying."
Harry suddenly had a weird feeling. That same weird feeling he had had in the dungeons. He regarded the tall boy sitting next to him, awfully close next to him now that he thought about it, and saw the storm waging in his grey-blue eyes. Harry thought he saw turmoil and.. a bit of hope? He wasn't so good at reading people. He just knew he didn't want to be caught in whatever trap Malfoy was trying to set for him. He'd had enough of that for one day.
"Well, I wasn't. I woke up and saw you there next to me."
Malfoy laughed. "You're a dreadful liar." He picked up another leaf and started tearing it with his long fingers.
"How long are you going to sit here?" Harry demanded.
Malfoy raised an eyebrow. "How long are you? Most of today's classes are already over."
"What? No they're not, it's only.." Harry craned his neck to find the sun's position in the sky. Sure enough, it was well past when he thought it was. He couldn't believe he'd been out here all afternoon and the only person to come looking for him was Draco Malfoy. He rose to his feet, brushing off his pants. Somehow, bits of leaf were all over him.
"Leaving already, Potter?" Malfoy's annoying sneering drawl was back.
Harry turned to face him, suddenly angry. "What's going on with you, Malfoy? One minute you're doing everything you can to embarrass me and the next it's like you're.. you're trying to be-"
Malfoy rose languidly to his feet. He straightened up and looked down his nose at Harry, the way he had so many times before. "Trying to be what?", spoken like a challenge.
There was a pause. Harry tried to think of another way to say 'friend'. Except there was no way he would ever be friends with Draco Malfoy. Not after that first night in Hogwarts. And there was no way that was what Malfoy was trying to do now. "Normal", was what he said instead.
Not knowing what he would find in Malfoy's eyes, Harry decided not to look. He gathered up his bag and started to storm off when he remembered his cloak. He needed it back. "Give me my cloak, Malfoy." Harry found himself offering the one he had been given that morning.
Malfoy smirked. Harry's blood began to boil. "Hm, I think I like yours better. It is a tad short though." That was the last straw. Harry launched himself at Malfoy, gripping him around his middle, carrying them both tumbling down the short hillside. The look of surprise on Malfoy's face alone almost made the bumps and bruises worth it. Harry was up first. The world was blurry and spinning. His glasses got knocked off at some point. He was vaguely aware of Malfoy in front of him, coming more into focus.
Malfoy reached back, his hands balled into fists, and let a punch fly at Harry's head. Unfortunately, depth perception without his glasses was nearly impossible. Malfoy's fist connect with Harry's nose. Harry immediately threw a punch back, hitting only air. Malfoy laughed, his stupid normal-person laugh. Harry tackled him again and they rolled end over end, locked in combat. Suddenly both their bodies hit something hard. Malfoy gasped. Harry couldn't make out what it was. Only that it was rough and hard and felt sort of like tree bark.
A branch from the Whomping Willow landed right in between them. Harry couldn't make out Malfoy's face, but knew it must mirror the shock of his own. They had rolled down the hill, right into the roots of the sentient, violent tree. Harry wished for once, he could face this tree with his glasses on. He saw the blurry figure of Malfoy running away. Typical, he thought. A sledgehammer of a branch caught him in the stomach. He doubled over, coughing. Harry saw another branch coming for him and tried to roll out of the way. He looked up, expecting to be safe enough, but the branch was still heading right for him. Suddenly, Harry felt two hands grip his shoulders hard. He was pulled quickly out of harm's way. The deadly branch landed just shy of his feet.
Harry looked back at the person who had saved him. "Aren't you going to thank me?" Malfoy said snidely. Both boys got up and ran a safe distance away from the tree. The Willow seemed to shudder with disappointment.
He stared at it for a while, recognizing that it could have gone much, much worse. There are some things that magic cannot help. Malfoy was beside him, handing him something. Harry squinted at the black object in his hand. His glasses. He snatched them up and put them on, one large crack going through one of his lenses. Malfoy waved a hand and his glasses were as good as new. Harry could only watch, dumbfounded, as Malfoy gave him a small smile and turned and walked away.