Well, I'm rather stuck on my other WIP because the muse for that story is in a bit of a sulk. So I started this one in the meantime because it wouldn't leave me alone. I don't know where it's going, and I'm not altogether sure where it's been, and I don't think it's terribly original. But anyway, here it is for your beta-ing pleasure.
Rating: R-ish, maybe?
Warnings: Slash, oblique references to violence--I'm not sure what may come in later chapters
Disclaimer: All the pretty toys belong to JKR and her assorted minions--I'm just rummaging in the toybox. I promise to put them all back when I'm finished playing with them. I'll try not to dirty them up too much.
Chapter Summary: Harry has been dreaming of Voldemort again, and he doesn't know whether to believe what he has seen. Is Voldemort trying to play another trick on him? He needs to know the truth--and to find the truth, he needs to find Draco Malfoy.
AN: This isn't a songfic, but I did borrow the story title and chapter title from "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails.
What I Need To Know: I feel as though I've laid things on a bit too thick as far as Harry is concerned. How does it read? To me it feels rather like swimming in treacle... But then, by the time I post anything, I've done so much editing that my mind is just numb. :(
If I Could Start Again
"Save me a seat, will you?" Harry nudged an elbow into Ron's ribs. "There's someone I need to find."
"Harry, wait--" Ron began, but Harry had already begun to push his way across Platform Nine and Three Quarters, deliberately hurrying his pace so that he would not be able to hear the rest of Ron's sentence above the babble of voices. He didn't feel much like answering any questions or making any explanations. Not to anyone, not yet. Not until he had a better idea of what particular explanations would be required, and how he might best make them without insulting his best friends of five years.
He craned his neck, straining to see above the crowd, but his slight stature prevented him from seeing much more than the students closest to him. He grumbled under his breath and pushed on. Being short and small was a distinct advantage in his position as Gryffindor Seeker, but the rest of the time it was a bloody nuisance.
He climbed into the nearest carriage and paused at the top of the steps to look out over the crowd. Frowning, he scanned for the tell-tale glimpse of silver-blond hair that would lead him to his quarry. Unfortunately, he didn't see it. He took his lower lip between his teeth and nibbled absently as he looked again--and then again. Still no sign of Malfoy anywhere. A knot of tension twisted in his gut, but he steadfastly ignored it. He wasn't going to worry about Malfoy, of all people. The slimy snake was probably already on the train, looking for someone to torment.
Harry walked the length of the train, peering into each compartment he passed. Most were empty yet--there was still some time left before the train was scheduled to leave, and most students were spending that time with their families out on the platform.
He did pass one compartment which was nearly full, however--a huddle of Slytherins, whispering furtively amongst themselves. Almost all of them were children of Death Eaters. Harry recognized Pansy Parkinson and Theodore Nott, as well as Malfoy's usual cronies Crabbe and Goyle. But Malfoy wasn't among them, he noted unhappily. Which meant he still needed to find the bloody bastard.
Harry quickly moved away from the window when he saw Goyle glance in his direction. He didn't particularly feel like facing down a half-dozen Death Eaters-in-training at the moment. He expected them to come after him, but no one did. Harry breathed a sigh of relief; Goyle must not have seen him, after all. He moved on, determined to check the rest of the train before it pulled away from the platform.
As he neared the end of the train, the knot of tension in his stomach grew tighter, until he began to feel slightly nauseous. He hoped that his dreams had simply led him astray again, and that he was worrying over nothing. Maybe Malfoy was bullying first-years somewhere, or plotting Harry's own death in secret. At least he could deal with Malfoy on those terms. He knew what to expect and how to react to those kinds of things. He didn't know what he would do if it turned out that his recent dreams of Malfoy had all been true.
He just knew that he needed to know the truth, whatever that truth might be. He'd learned a hard lesson with the events at the Department of Mysteries, and he wasn't about to make any assumptions this time around. He needed to think logically, not emotionally.
He had to consider all of the possibilities. The idea that this might be just another trick was not altogether far-fetched...but it certainly wasn't the most likely explanation. After all, this was Draco Malfoy he'd dreamed about--not Ron, or Hermione, or Lupin, or Mrs. Weasley. Malfoy wasn't exactly someone Harry cared about. In fact, before this summer, if anyone had accused him of being worried about the stupid git Harry probably would have sent them on to the hospital wing to have their head examined. Malfoy was his enemy, for Merlin's sake, and had been ever since their first year at Hogwarts.
Before this summer, Harry had wanted to see Malfoy suffer. But as it turned out, getting his wish hadn't felt nearly as good as he'd thought it would.
His cheeks burned with shame as he considered his previous attitude towards Malfoy. Their former rivalry seemed so petty now, and a bit pointless really. Who cared about Quidditch and house points and heated words in the face of betrayal, murder, and--
Harry's breath caught in his throat when he peered into the very last compartment on the train. He'd found Malfoy.
Malfoy lay lengthwise on the red velvet seat, his eyes closed, his head pillowed on one hand. He might almost have been asleep, if it were not for the rapid rise and fall of his chest and the deep lines of tension around his mouth. He held his left hand cradled against his chest, hidden within the folds of his torn and dirty shirt. Dried blood matted his long blond hair. He looked as though he hadn't had a proper sleep--or a proper bath--in months.
And he looked exactly as he had appeared in Harry's dreams.
Harry tried the door; it rattled under his hand, but refused to budge. Malfoy didn't even open his eyes at the sound. The only indication he gave that he had heard anything was to draw his knees up towards his chest, so that he lay in a fetal position.
The aisle was beginning to fill up with students, all chattering noisily as they found their friends and settled their belongings into their chosen compartments. Harry glanced back towards the beginning of the train, wondering whether Ron and Hermione had found a compartment yet. He should join them, he thought. Someone else could deal with Malfoy. Let his own friends help him--let someone else, anyone else, take responsibility for him. Didn't Harry have enough to be going on with already?
Harry took one last look through the window. Malfoy's eyes were slitted, just a hint of stormy grey visible through his thick lashes. When he saw Harry looking, he let his eyelids fall shut once more. Otherwise his demeanor did not change.
For a moment Harry fancied that he'd seen a sort of pleading desperation in Malfoy's eyes. But that couldn't be right. Malfoy wouldn't want Harry to help him, would he? If anything, he was probably desperate for Harry to go away. Harry knew if he'd been found in such a state, the last person he'd want to talk to would be Draco Malfoy. Malfoy undoubtedly felt the same way about him.
The train lurched into motion, rolling gently towards Hogwarts. Harry felt a sudden longing for his friends--he wanted to share Chocolate Frogs and Every Flavor Beans, play a few games of chess or Exploding Snap, discuss Quidditch strategies, and speculate about the who might be teaching DADA this year. He didn't want to worry about a stupid Slytherin who probably deserved everything that had happened to him, and then some.
Harry had just about decided to look for Ron and Hermione when a sudden shove sent him sprawling. He shook his hair out of his eyes and looked up to find Theodore Nott standing over him, flanked by Crabbe and Goyle. Crabbe was grinning evilly, clenching and unclenching his massive fists. Goyle, on the other hand, stared through the window into Malfoy's compartment, his brow wrinkled in a puzzled frown. Nott smirked down at Harry, casually twirling his wand in his long fingers.
"You and I have unfinished business, Potter," Nott said, his voice cool and sharp. "A little matter of revenge for your putting my father in Azkaban."
"Get in line," Harry replied with a sneer. "Malfoy's already claimed the privilege." He scrambled to his feet, gripping his wand tightly in his sweaty fist.
Nott cast a glance through the window. "Well, as it happens, I was looking for Malfoy just now. We have a few things to discuss, he and I. Slytherin business." He grinned nastily at Harry. "So I'll let you go this time, Potty. But don't think I've forgotten what you owe me."
"I'm not going anywhere," Harry said firmly. "And I don't owe you a bloody thing," he added as an afterthought.
Goyle turned away from the window to look at Harry, still wearing the same puzzled frown. He reminded Harry of a dog who'd suddenly found himself with a new master--very lost and confused, and completely unable to understand the reason behind the change.
Nott arched a brow in a look that was so patently Malfoy that Harry felt the sudden urge to laugh out loud. But Nott's next words killed that urge before it could fully form.
"Oh, don't tell me," Nott said gleefully. "You're here to protect Malfoy from us, aren't you?" He snickered. "Oh, this is rich--a Slytherin with his very own pet Gryffindor as a bodyguard! Guess there's more to Malfoy than meets the eye."
"I'm nobody's pet," Harry snapped. "But your father, on the other hand..."
Nott's face instantly darkened. He lifted his wand, pointing it at Harry. "Cru--"
"Stupefy!" Harry shouted. A beam of red light flew from the tip of Harry's wand and struck Nott in the chest. Nott crumpled and fell to the floor, unconscious.
Crabbe raised his fists and took a step towards Harry--then suddenly stumbled sideways as a huge fist hit the side of his head. A surprised expression flitted across his ugly face, just before Harry's second spell sent him sprawling on top of Nott.
Goyle turned to face Harry, his fists still clenched. "You gonna hurt him?" he asked, cocking his head towards Malfoy's compartment.
"Not unless he tries something first," Harry replied evenly.
Goyle took a long moment to think that over. "Okay," he finally replied. "But if you hurt him, I'll thump you."
Goyle nodded, apparently satisfied with their agreement. "I gotta get my stuff before anyone gets a chance to tell the others what I done," he said. "I'll be back."
"Hang on." Harry rummaged through his pockets and came up with a handful of coins. "Can you get some pumpkin pasties off the trolley? And maybe some Chocolate Frogs? I don't think Malfoy's had much to eat in the past few days."
Goyle stared thoughtfully at the pile of coins Harry pressed into his hands.
"And get something for yourself as well," Harry added, more out of a need to spur Goyle into action than any real feelings of generosity. He wasn't sure yet whether he trusted the hulking Slytherin--but as he didn't entirely trust Malfoy either, he supposed it didn't make much difference.
Goyle grinned at Harry, pocketing the coins. "Sure," he said cheerfully. He set off in the direction of the Slytherins' compartment.
Harry had to push Crabbe and Nott out of the way of the door before he could get to it. He peered through the window; Malfoy hadn't moved in the slightest, and his eyes were still closed. Harry sighed and wished he'd left well enough alone to begin with. "In for a Knut, in for a Galleon," he muttered. It was too late to change his mind now.
He pointed his wand at the door. "Alohomora," he said, and gave the door handle a quick tug. The door rattled and hissed as it slid open.