Little Lion

Chapter 9

AN I don't own HP or any of the characters!

"Stop watching me, little dragon." It was a warning, but Harry's tone was light and amused so Draco merely looked back to his book.

"I'm reading, lion, and I have no idea what you're talking about." The Gryffindor common room had gone silent, now, listening to their hisses even though no one could understand them. They were a novelty now, to most of them.

"You haven't turned the page in over four minutes, little dragon, and you're a very fast reader. Care to try that again?" He laughed, but not before Ron caught it.

"Can you two stop whisper-fucking each other for like ten minutes, please? Harry and I really do have to finish this, Draco." The whole common room was listening now, and just waiting for one of them to let their temper flare. He and Harry were fiercely protective, now, and the school had quickly learned that. However, Ron had been getting better lately. Harry had given him a black eye first, of course, and Hermione had hexed him for calling Draco a deatheater, but they'd come to an awkward sort of bickering truce.

"Talk to him, Weasley, I'm just trying to read." Ron snorted, but Draco merely hid a smile and turned back to his book. Harry elbowed the redhead—and Draco had no doubt he would have placed a warning hand on his thigh, if they'd been sitting close enough—but Draco heard a cough from Hermione that sounded distinctly like 'bullshit'.

"Shove off, Malfoy." It was a seventh year Gryffindor that Draco didn't know. The girl sneered at him, and even though it made his skin prickle he managed an apathetic look. Harry was pissed enough for the both of them.

"Leave it, lion." Harry lowered his wand, but it seemed grudging. He was tense—they both were—and edgy because clearly, someone either knew their plans or fate was just not on their side. It'd been three days since their first dinner at Hogwarts together. Each night, they'd tried to enact the plan but, each night, someone or something managed to get in the way and it was becoming ridiculous. At first, Snape had been called into a private conference with Minnie. Then, about half of the school delivery owls had been cursed with a disembowelment charm which had caused quite the uproar, followed by an evacuation. And, finally, Harry and him had both been called out of dinner early by Flitwick for a makeup Charms lesson. Clearly, someone was trying to throw a wrench in their plans—but it wasn't Minnie, surprisingly.

Draco and Harry went everywhere together, without any exceptions. Thus, Ron had been forced to acknowledge him eventually if he ever wanted to speak to Harry or Hermione again, which he evidently did. Neither Blaise nor Pansy, however, had been bold enough to approach them yet. He didn't mind, though, because Hermione had become remarkably kind to him and Ron was being civil. Not that he deserved it…

"Hey, Drake. You got a second?" Immediately, both Hermione and Harry whipped around, wands already drawn. In the middle of the great hall, it was hard not to see the way most students flinched away from the gesture but it was even harder to ignore the way Blaise balked. His father had always been fond of curses, Draco remembered.

"Back off, Zabini." Somehow, Hermione had managed to pick up on his lion's protectiveness. Blaise paled in the face of two angry Gryffindors, and public humiliation, but his eyes stayed focused on the blond. He was waiting for Draco's answer, they realized.

"I'm listening." For the first time in his life, Draco stood face to face with the taller, dark-skinned boy and he wasn't scared. Blaise could have beat the shit out of him without even trying—and had, on more than one occasion—but Draco was filled with a rush of confidence as he stood between his two Gryffindor bodyguards. The other Slytherin seemed caught off guard by their sudden solidarity.

"Alone?" Even if Blaise was his (ex) best friend, he was a Slytherin. Draco had practically trained that ambition and that deviousness into the boy since childhood and he was not about to mistake that for friendship. He shook his head.

"Say it here, or don't say it at all." The other Slytherin gave him a look, but Draco ignored it. He knew how uncharacteristic it was for him to demand that a conversation be public, especially in front of the entire school, but he didn't trust Slytherin anymore.

"You have to stop, Drake." Harry's hand tightened against the small of his back. Draco knew him well enough now to guess that his lion's other hand had snaked around his wand, so he reached out to cover it with his own. No need to turn this into a duel—not yet, at least. Honestly, Harry needed to get a hold of his emotions before the entire school suddenly shattered like a metal goblet in the enemy's hand.

"Stop what?" Blaise shot him a pleading look, clearly not comfortable talking in front of Harry, but Draco didn't care.

"Pansy's parents are in town, you're welcome to join us for tea tomorrow. I know you, Drake," He glanced back at the Slytherin table, who were now all clearly watching. "Just... please don't do anything stupid." As vague and ominous as that warning was, Draco gave Blaise a grateful nod before following Harry to the Gryffindor table.

"What was that about, little dragon?" Draco hesitated, glancing at Hermione. He still didn't totally trust that she couldn't understand them, even if she swore she only understood pieces, but she seemed confused. Harry would keep pushing, too, if he didn't answer.

"A warning. Pansy's parents are nearby visiting friends and my father is with them. Blaise wanted me to know that he was close." Subconsciously, Harry reached out and gripped his thigh. It was comforting, and Draco welcomed it even if it was a little too tight to be normal, but it immediately drew the attention of the Slytherins. Sneers of Potter's bitch could be heard. Just another few minutes, and then the teachers would all be filing in for dinner and hopefully their plan would finally work.

"You got all that from a tiny conversation? And what does that mean for us?" Harry frowned at him, clearly confused, but Hermione quickly moved to take the seat on his other side before another Gryffindor could and he paused to thank her.

"You can't apparate in Hogwarts, lion. If he wanted to get here fast, he would have to apparate nearby and use the closed floo network." His lion went quiet again as he realized what that meant. Lucius was close. The man could appear in a rush of flames the second he had a reason to, which meant that their plan might actually work. Wordlessly, he swallowed back a bit of terror.

"Hey Harry, pass me the pudding?" It was within Draco's reach, not Harry's, but they both appreciated that Hermione had adopted the habit of only directly addressing his lion. He passed the bowl, but his eyes lingered on the large fireplace at the front of the great hall. Would his father really come? Part of him was anxious, afraid that he'd figure out the plan and best them, but a larger part knew that his father was likely emotional. Angry, probably, and more than a little bloodthirsty.

"Snape's here. Is it time?" Draco steeled himself, digging his fingernails into his palm as some kind of anchor, but nodded.

"Might as well. I'm not going to be able to eat anything until this is done." Harry's hand clenched on his leg, but Draco forced himself to breathe. He caught Blaise's eye across the great hall, who shook his head slowly with a pleading expression on his face, but Draco took a second deep breath. In, and out. This was his plan, this was what he wanted.

"I love you, lion." He hadn't meant to make it sound so scared, but the way it trembled over his lips sounded like goodbye. Harry slid his arm around his waist, thank Merlin.

"I love you too, little dragon. This is going to work. We'll be okay." Draco nodded, but he didn't know if he meant it anymore. His father knew him, his father was powerful, if it didn't work… He glanced to Minnie, just to make sure she was there. She would step in if it went bad—she had to—and Draco repeated that over and over again to himself as he took a deep breathe. Harry was waiting, letting him be the one to make the first move.

"Hey Professor Snape!" Immediately, that dark head of hair whipped around. The entire great hall went quiet as Draco stood, overcome with some kind of confidence he couldn't understand. He pulled Harry up with him and smashed their lips together. Collectively, the entire room reacted. There were gasps and there were shrieks along with gossiping whispers but nothing stood out quite as much as his godfather's roar.

"DRACO!" He paled and pulled away, but Snape was already marching towards them. Please let it be enough, he thought, please let it be enough and please let this work. Harry gripped his hand tight, even as the Potions Master approached.

"Draco!" But then Harry had pulled him, placing himself between Draco and his godfather, and before the relief could even register he saw that flicker in Snape's eyes. That was what he'd been waiting for. In under a second, Snape grabbed at his forearm and hissed a spell, calling his father. This was it. This was the moment of truth. He was shaking, he realized, but then Hermione was beside him as well and they were facing Snape's beady glare together.

"You're going to regret that, Draco." The fire at the front of the great hall flared, rising high enough to blacken the walls, and out stepped Lucius Malfoy. He wasn't alone, either. Deatheaters swarmed around him and went after the professors, falling on the students like it was their last meal, and though Draco knew none of them would kill, it didn't help his anxiety. His father stepped forward, cane already tapping on the floor.

"Draco." It was a threat, an insult, and a command all in one but Harry's hand gripped his own so tightly that he didn't kneel. Fuck, he was so screwed. His father looked calm and collected but he knew better. He saw the tension in his shoulders, the way his hand inched towards his wand, and the way that cane thudded with anger. Dammit.

"Draco, kneel." He refused, and felt Harry's touch on his arm tighten even harder. Then that wand was out. Merlin he hated that wand and he knew exactly what it was capable of but he refused to let Harry be the one who suffered from it. He darted out in front of his lion, fully prepared to take the cruciatus curse again, and watched in amazement as it bounced off the air in front of him.

Harry had cast a shield.

Salazar Slytherin! He was so lucky that his lion had the sense to shield them! Lucius saw the shield, though, and his face twisted into a glare. All at one, he threw up barriers to barr the teachers and the rest of the student body away from them, forcing them to focus on the deatheaters rather than on Draco and Harry. His father advanced.

Draco had never seen that much hatred and that much pure rage in his father's face before. Clearly, Lucius was beyond the point of putting on a show or keeping up appearances, so Draco could guess that his story had managed to go public. And, if the rage was any indication, people were siding with him. His father looked livid. Another three curses bounced helplessly off of Harry's shield before Draco registered the feeling of his lion's hand on his arm.

"You're sure about this, little dragon?" This was his last chance to back out, his last chance to beg for forgiveness. He could still grovel at his father's feet and take the punishment, he could still go back to the Manor and pretend everything was normal. But Harry kept his hand on his arm, and Draco steeled himself. No, this was the only way his lion would be safe and this was the only plan they had. It would work. It had to work. Taking a deep breath, he nodded.

"Imperio!" Immediately, any sense of worry or anxiety just disappeared. His father advanced on them like a vulture diving down at its prey, but Draco merely looked at the man. He felt his body relax, and he saw his father hesitate. Words fell from those pale lips, but Draco was deaf to them as warmth engulfed his body and his mind. It was Harry whose voice he actually heard.

"Raise your wand." Draco did it, watching as the tip began to glow a sickly shade of purple. What kind of spell glowed purple? He couldn't remember, honestly, but he didn't really care because Harry hadn't asked him to cast anything or to think about that. His lion's touch disappeared. It took a minute to register, honestly, but then Draco saw with horror that Lucius had thrown Harry out through the barriers as well. He was alone.

"You can do this, little dragon. Stupefy him." Draco obeyed instantly, watching his father block the spell with ease. Those hard, steely grey eyes turn on him. Lucius Malfoy looked shocked, honestly, that Draco had had the strength to raise his wand at him let alone cast a spell, but it quickly turned into amusement.

"You're going to fight me now, Draco?" But the words barely mattered, because he was waiting for the one voice he could hear above all the other chaos. His lion's.

"Hit him again." He did, and again Lucius blocked but it was less arrogant now. Draco was an amazing dueler—he knew that, and his father had paid for his private lessons for over ten years—and now that he had the strength to do it he was deadly. His father sneered, but Draco was already firing another curse.

He attacked, following Harry's orders like clockwork because he knew he would never have the courage to attack his father otherwise. The great hall was in complete chaos and teachers were getting involved, trying to evacuate the students they could reach and banish the deatheaters that got too close, but Lucius was focused solely on them. Screaming, Lucius managed to get Draco away from the barrier and away from where Harry was standing, whispering to him, which, under any other circumstances would have paralyzed him with fear. But Draco stayed steady, even when he felt the eyes on him. Even when he heard Aunt Bella's cackle, and even when his father slammed him against the stone wall. His mind was blank, though, and he was only vaguely aware of his own body's pain surging through him, right alongside Harry's fear. It wasn't his own, though. He wasn't scared.

"Stay strong, little dragon, you can do this." It wasn't a command, but no one else had any way of knowing that. The parseltongue was lost on everyone, even Lucius, and even though Minnie was clearly giving her all to reach them, now, he understood her need to protect the others. He could duel, even if he was scared. Minnie knew that too, and she knew that many of the first and second years would be decimated by deatheaters before he even flinched.

"Focus, little dragon." Harry's voice was like liquid luck in his veins. His lion would never have given him an order or command that wasn't what Draco wanted, which was what let him trust the Gryffindor with such a powerful curse. What Draco was considering, without Harry's influence, was much worse. And yet, Draco felt the encouragement in his veins and it gave him strength, even against the man pinning him to the stone wall.

He raised his wand.

Draco was still very aware that he was more than a foot off the ground, being pinned by his father's fist, but it made him tall enough to reach his father's face. Locking eyes with his father, he jabbed it under the man's jaw. So much like his own... He felt the entire room go still.

The other deatheaters knew him. They knew that he would have never dared to raise his wand at his father, let alone so clearly threaten him, and they went silent in shock. All eyes were on Lucius, though. Slowly, his father's face darkened, and then broke into a smile.

"How perfect!" his father laughed. "You think you can beat me, Draco? You won't do it. You've never been anything more than a coward, and everyone here knows that." Across the room, Harry whispered: Do as you wish. Draco felt the haze of obedience vanish from his mind, though no one else knew what Harry had said, but just for a second he couldn't breathe. His father looked livid. The same face that had haunted his every living moment since he was a child stared down at him with nothing short of murder in his eyes. His father saw the fear, too, and laughed.

"Pathetic!" He threw Draco to the ground, casting yet another layer of defensive spells to keep anyone else from intervening. "Kneel." Draco obeyed without even comprehending the command. Around him, he felt the great hall collectively suck in a breath but he couldn't look to see what had happened. His father's cane rested coldly against his cheek.

"I always knew you were foolish, Draco," Lucius crooned, dragging the silver of the cane's tip across Draco's lips. "And I always knew you would disappoint me, but this?" Fuck. Draco's entire body seized and trembled with terror because he knew he'd fucked up and his father would not be forgiving, not now. His mind reeled, trying to find a way out, but he was interrupted.

"I love you, little dragon." Immediately, Draco's head whipped around to find the source of the parseltongue. His father's cane cracked into the back of his head and forced his attention back on the situation, but it was enough. He'd caught a glimpse of emerald eyes. His lion.

"Your precious Gryffindor can't save you now, Draco." At the mention of Harry, Draco felt a surge of confidence. He stood, even if his legs shook, and he started to back away but he wasn't running. His body needed to be closer to his lion if he was going to have the strength to do this, so he stumbled backwards until he felt a familiar pair of eyes on his skin.

"You can do this, little dragon." Draco wanted to scream that he couldn't, that he needed Harry to step in and help him, but his mouth refused. This was just like that damn muggle oven. He wanted to beg Harry to take over because his lion was so much better at being strong but he couldn't—he knew he couldn't. Harry couldn't reach him, even if he tried, and Merlin that was terrifying. But Harry was there, still, and that was what mattered because he felt the strength and the emotion pulsing even through the barrier. Shaking, he lifted his wand.

"Expelliarmus!" His father laughed as his cane flew him from his hand, and then rebounded off his defensive wall right back to him.

"Really, Draco? That's what you're going to try to attack me with?" Lucius kept going, but Draco effortlessly blocked and focused on a voice that was slowly rising over the din of noise.

"Yes little dragon! I told you you could do it! You disarmed him, little dragon, you stood up against him! You can do this!" His father's face had turned gleeful, and Draco knew what was coming. That look always came before the curse, before he felt everything just disappear and he suffered the worst moments of his life. Fuck. Harry's voice rattled around in his head like loose coins, but that familiar warmth and strength that had always surrounded his lion lingered in the air. Lucius grinned at him.

"Imperio!" Draco braced, but… nothing happened. Another wave of warmth and reassurance came from somewhere in the background, but Draco couldn't focus on it. His father's face had fallen, and was quickly turning angry.

"Imperio!" But again, nothing happened. Teachers were screaming and Draco could see aurors popping up into the great hall like gnomes out of a garden, but he couldn't stop to look. Deatheaters were fleeing, now, but his father was turning red in the face and advancing again.

"What did you do!?" No one was breaking through the defenses fast enough, though. The entire student body was panicking and the deatheaters had vanished but all eyes were on him. He was shaking, still, so badly that his wand could barely aim even as he blocked the curses his father hurled at him, but he couldn't breathe. Everyone was panicking, including him. There was one person, hidden in the chaos, who was calm, though. His lion. Harry, with his voice low and soothing, was speaking to him.

"You're so strong, little dragon. Look at how far you've come, look at how angry he is. He knows that he's losing control. Without the curse, he knows that you're stronger. Look at his face. He's afraid of you, little dragon." And Harry was right. Lucius was furious but, beneath that, there was something else. Could it be fear, though? Draco had never stood up for himself before, had never had the courage to even hesitate on a command. He lifted his wand straight at his father.

"You wouldn't dare, Draco. I'll kill her! I'll kill your mother if you don't stop this!" But Draco held his wand steady, and felt another rush of warmth from Harry. "I'll kill your precious lionheart! I'll fuck him just like I fuck you! I'll slit his throat and let you watch him choke to death on his own blood!" That was too far. Any doubt that Draco had had melted at that sentence. He felt every ounce of protectiveness and anger he'd ever felt towards his father, towards the Dursleys, surge in his chest. Images began filling his mind.

Him, on his knees, as young as four or five years old taking a beating from his father's cane. His mother casting healing spells on herself and trying to hide the bruises from him when she came to say goodnight. Pale, blond hair falling against his bare stomach. He felt his father's hands as they ripped of his clothes and imagined them doing the same to his lion. His lion… He saw bruises and scars and bloodsoaked cuts against his lion's perfect skin and a wave of anger washed over him. Lucius had threatened his lion.

"Avada kedavra!" For a second, everything stopped. His father's face contorted in shock, and then in betrayal, but Draco didn't let the curse weaken. There was so much hatred in those cold, grey eyes… Draco had to wonder if there had ever been love in them at all. The curse left his body like the world's loudest scream, sucking the air from his lungs and blasting out of the end of his wand.

And then his father fell.

Draco watch the man who had controlled him his entire life fall lifeless to the ground, and he still couldn't breathe. Everything he'd ever been afraid of… Every scar, every bruise, every night that Draco had cried himself to sleep or woken up in a cold sweat from the nightmares. It all fell, right there, in a heap of black robes and blond hair. What had he done?

His strength evaporated, and Draco collapsed to his knees. The walls came down and people flooded into the space but, before Draco could even scream at them not to touch him, there were hands on his skin. Warm, familiar, calloused hands that pulled him tightly against a steady wall of muscle.

"Finite! Finite, hey you're okay. You did it, little dragon, we're safe now. You did it." He was crying, sobbing against Harry's chest and shaking so badly that nothing seemed real anymore. Those slow, gentle touches let him breathe—but just barely. His father was dead. It didn't seem possible and yet Draco knew it had to be true because he'd just done it. He'd killed his own father. He'd cast an unforgivable curse, he'd killed someone, why weren't the aurors coming for him?

"Don't touch him!" But then Draco understood, because Harry had backed them against a wall and had his wand raised at the crowd. "Back the fuck off and don't come any closer!" Harry was crying, too, he realized. Sobbing, actually, and shaking almost as badly as Draco even as he raised his wand at the aurors. How were they not dead? Ignoring aurors was one thing, but actively threatening them with a wand? But then Draco saw that shield again, the same mix of yellows and blues swirling in the air between them, and he understood.

"I love you, little dragon, I love you so goddamn much and I'm so proud of you. You did it, dragon. You did it. I love you so much—I love you, you hear me? We're safe, now, it's gonna be okay." Draco nodded, but he had trouble believing it. He felt like he was drowning, somehow, and he clung to his lion so tightly that he was sure it had to hurt. They were safe, so why did it feel like a part of his soul had just shattered?

"Harry! Harry, please!" It was Minnie's voice that managed to reach them through the shield. She was crying too, he realized, and Harry waved his wand at the barrier before burying his face back into Draco's shoulder. He breathed in deeply, relishing the safety of his lion. Minnie took a cautious step forward, reaching out with one hand towards the shield, but the second she realized that she'd been allowed through she was on the ground with them.

For the first time in his entire life, Draco didn't flinch away from an adult's touch. She pulled them both into her arms and smoothed their hair and kissed their forehead and told them over and over again that everything was going to be okay, that they were safe now. Draco just nuzzled deeper into Harry's chest.

"He used an unforgivable curse Head—" Minnie was shielding them now too, though, and she turned on the aurors.

"They are minors!"

"But Headmistress—"

"I am their legal guardian and you will get your hands off of my son!" Vaguely, Draco was aware of someone moving away from them. Had someone been touching Harry? Surely, he would have noticed. But, then again, everything felt dark and hazy in a way that didn't quite seem real and the only thing he was sure of was his lion's hold on him.

"Minerva—" Minnie was not having it, though, and Draco thanked every religion he could think of. She'd pulled him into her arms as well, hugging the life out of him and shielding him from the onslaught of aurors.

"He has been cursed, Minister! They require medical attention and they will be getting it!" Minister? Since when was the Minister of Magic there? Draco couldn't pry his eyes open, though, so he focused on the feeling of Harry's heartbeat against his cheek and Minnie's hand on his back. It felt good, honestly. Like family.

"You're safe, you're safe boys, you're safe." He jolted, but it wasn't Harry's voice hissing at him. Minnie, still crying and still holding them tightly, was whispering those two little words over and over again in parseltongue. Draco could imagine that Harry had taught them to her in case he ever had a panic attack when Harry wasn't there, but Merlin he was so glad. Those words were repeated over and over again, sinking into him like Harry's pulse. Glancing up, Draco managed to catch a glimpse of his father's body being levitated out of the great hall, but shockingly there was no remorse. He felt no guilt, no fear. The aurors could take him now, honestly, and he would be alright because now his lion was truly safe.

"You're safe, boys. I've got you, everything's going to be okay..." Draco nodded, but curled tighter between the two of them as if he could managed to shut the world out. Minnie tangled a hand in his hair and held him close. It felt strangely maternal, actually, and though it surprised them both Draco quickly felt his lion melt into the hold and he followed suit.

"You're safe, boys."

Thanks so much for reading! Thoughts? Please review! I hope to have the next update soon!