Title: primum mobile, or ten forgotten things
primum mobile, or ten forgotten things
Remembrances embellish life but forgetfulness alone makes it possible.
Harry walks quickly across the crowded hallways of Hogwarts towards Charms, Ron and Hermione ahead of him in their now-familiar huddle, he carrying her books and she tittering lightly — though Harry would have sworn not long ago that Hermione was not the tittering kind. He trails them by a meter or two, until he catches a flash of white-blond hair and his head jerks up — it's Malfoy of course, two paces behind his goons for once instead of the other way around. The parallel makes him wince, and also slow.
Then there's a strange, electric moment, when Draco's grey eyes lift and his gaze seems to hurl into the other boy's, like a bludger to the brain. Harry falters, then stops, but the other boy merely shakes his head, once, before moving past in a swirl of displaced air, laced with the scent of brimstone. Harry watches as Draco's shoulders climb again, as his head lowers, as he passes a knot of Slytherins going in the opposite direction without saying one word.
Harry can't help but feel as though he's been warned off: warned away. He calls ahead for Hermione and Ron, but they don't stop; don't hear him. At first he was grateful that they were letting him deal with Sirius on his own, but now he thinks that perhaps they are avoiding him. They don't know what to say is the problem, so they don't say anything.
Sirius's funeral service is a little quicker than Harry likes. It seems disrespectful, somehow, to allot this specific hour to mourning, then pack everything up and away. Hermione once told him that the Greek wizards hire Squib women to attend the funerals of their beloved, to wail and scream and tear at their hair. He ought to have done that, he thinks. He ought to have bought and paid for at least the pretense of suffering. Someone should be here, now, screaming: he wants it to be him. He wants to be able to: the shouting's sitting there, in his gut, churning like a rotten meal.
There are other people in the graveyard whom he can see at a distance: a woman and a girl. The girl places some flowers on a distant grave, her white knees brushing the yellow-and-green grass of winter. Harry watches them, and for whatever reason feels a little bit of his courage return. He's always been brave.
On the Hogwarts Express, clutching his shiny ticket in one hand and his duffel in the other, he comes again face-to-face with Malfoy. Draco is pink-cheeked and distressed-looking; he is pressing his right hand, hard, against his forearm. The scent of brimstone is stronger than ever.
It figures. Harry finds an empty compartment and goes to sleep.
When Harry's gaze swings up to Hogwarts Castle, there's nothing there.
The path around the lake is muddy and choked with weeds. There is an abundance of tiger-lily clumped around the water, and a smattering of heather and gorse where the front doors should be. The hillock is as empty as if it had never seen a castle.
For a moment, he's stock-still, staring up at the not-castle, as though he might will it into reappearance. Explanations flit through his mind: this isn't the right hill, the right lake. The Castle is invisible — he's hallucinating, dreaming.
Draco issues a choked off-query at his elbow, and somehow that sets him to running. There must be something left: he's thinking like a man whose house has burned down, a man who needs to sift through the wreckage.
Only, there isn't any remnant, no matter how he paws through the tall, dead grasses. There is no stone beneath his hands, nor any sign of the castle's presence or passage.
Behind him and somewhat to his left he can hear Malfoy's voice casting spell after spell: revealing spells and unlocking spells and once, a self-directed Ennervate, the Wizarding equivalent of pinching oneself awake. "This is your fault," the blond accuses. He's slumped to the slightly-squishy ground around the lake, immaculate hair out of sorts for once, and out of ideas. "I don't know how — but it is."
"Voldemort," Harry counters, quite suddenly certain.
Draco goes a little pale around the mouth. "You don't know that," the blond counters, tone almost low and harsh enough to hide the slight tremor at the end. "They could have hidden it. It could have moved."
In a way, it's a relief: Harry's grown to hate the periods of quiet, of waiting for Voldemort to strike, even more than he despises the wizard's actions. When Harry dreams, his war is over.
Draco's eyes shine, then flicker as he blinks in the gathering dark. "It's still your fault, anyway. Because he's after you, isn't he, Potter?"
Images flash quickly through Harry's mind, a fast-forward home-movie show: Hermione studying, Ron tossing a quaffle, Hagrid's hands, Sirius's smile. "Me and anyone who helps me," Harry agrees. He pauses for a moment, thinking. "We'd better stick together until I can figure this out."
Draco eyes him. "A ringing endorsement for your company."
Madam Rosmerta tilts her head to one side, considering them. "If you're looking for old castles, there's the Aberdeenshire Castle Trail just up north." She smiles sweetly, then, transferring her regard from Harry, to Draco and back again. "Are you boys on holiday? It's a bit early in the schoolyear to be skiving off."
"I'd like a room," Draco says, slowly, as though he believes there's a chance he may be misunderstood.
"We'd like a room," Harry corrects. He withdraws nine Galleons and offers them to Rosmerta, who takes one from his extended palm and turns it over several times in her hand.
"Now, I don't normally take foreign currency," she informs them, leaning down to polish the coin with her apron. "But you boys seem like decent sorts. How's about I take this over to the antiquities shop on the corner and see how much it's worth? If you like the price, you can change them all over yourself."
Harry nods. "We would appreciate that." He wonders if it's his face that's changed, or if Madam Rosmerta wouldn't know him if he told her he was Harry Potter, savior of the Wizarding World. He waits until the curvaceous witch departs before turning on Malfoy.
"I thought we agreed to stick together."
Harry grips Malfoy's left arm, hard, and leans in close. "Didn't you hear her? We may be the only two people capable of finding out what's going on."
"…and what might that be?" Draco's eyes are hard and angry, and his lip is curled enough to show a bit of tooth.
Harry's a little relieved to see the Malfoy he remembers — relieved enough to loosen his grip a bit, shrug when the Slytherin snatches his arm back as though Harry's hands burn. "No-one knows us. Voldemort has cast some kind of spell to make everyone forget Hogwarts, hide it from the Wizarding World."
Draco pins him with another one of those searching looks, as though he's gazing not at Harry but through and past him. "And also forget what a Galleon looks like," he scoffs eventually, turning from the other boy.
Madam Rosmerta bustles through the large, oaken door of the Three Broomsticks with a wide smile on her face. "Good news, lads!" she exclaims. "Old Mister Burgess down the street is more than willing to pay for rare coins like yours. What do you say?"
Draco turns his back to Harry. "He didn't recognize them?"
She frowns in consternation. "No, indeed he didn't. Wanted to know where you'd got them, as a matter of fact."
"I'll take care of this." Draco turns to Harry with a more pleasant smile than Harry knew he possessed; he opens his palm and juts it towards the other boy, imperious. When Harry merely stares, he taps him across the chest with his open palm. "Come along, then, Potter, cross my palms with silver. Or gold, as the case may be."
Harry sees it in his mind's eye: Malfoy running off with everything they own. But until he finds a way to overcome Voldemort's spell, he needs all the allies he can get. He can't risk alienating Malfoy now.
No, the truth: logic isn't in the lump in his throat, in his stuttering pulse. He needs the certainty of his name on someone else's lips, which means he needs Malfoy. He can't be alone in this.
He's stared at Malfoy for so long that the Slytherin's sweetly pleasant expression has dissolved to blankness, though he has not moved his hand. Harry meets Malfoy's eyes one more time, attempting to somehow infuse the blond with his trust across the distance; then he empties the nine Galleons, twelve Sickles and two Knuts into Malfoy's hands. He bids them a fond farewell: the coin, of course, and not Malfoy.
Harry stuffs both hands into his trouser pockets to avoid reaching out to snare Draco again on his way out the door, and encounters the rasp of stiff paper against his fingertips. Digging is rewarded with a crumpled gold ticket stamped the Hogsmeade Express in wide, shiny red letters — . It's punched, as though that were the name of the train that took Harry here. He curls his fingers around the strange ticket, decides the conductor gave him the wrong one.
Harry busies himself waiting for Malfoy by tearing it into small, perfectly square pieces.
Draco eventually returns sometime around o'dark-thirty, drunken and bemused. Harry surprises himself with a sharp tinge of worry, metallic in his mouth.
"Would you believe it?" Draco demands; and for all he's swaying, the fact that he isn't slurring is probably a mark of his breeding. "Pounds. That's what they gave me is pounds, Potter. Muggle. Money." He takes out several bills and thrusts them at Harry, frowning in consternation. "Made of paper."
"Horrible," Harry gamely agrees, plucking a hundred pounds from Draco's fingers to pay for their room. Then he's moving the same hand to the small of Malfoy's back to nudge him none-too-gently up the stairs.
"My scarf," Malfoy laments, half-turning as though he intends to go after it on the spot. "I've lost my scarf; it's cold, I want it."
Harry rolls his eyes; he knows the blond can be melodramatic, but this is taking the prancing ponce act to new depths. "You sodden git, you probably left it in a pub somewhere," he growls. "Go to sleep."
Draco lets himself fall down onto the large bed, curling immediately to one side. His lips are slightly parted and his lashes rest in dark-blond half-moons against flushed cheeks. He's asleep already, unless Harry misses his guess.
"Tomorrow," Harry says, "I'll check some of the secret passages that lead into Hogwarts. Just because we can't see the Castle doesn't mean it's not really there. We may still be able to get inside."
"Mmm." Draco nuzzles the pillow beneath his head and smacks his lips.
"Then, we will storm the Castle."
"With lightsabres," Harry tacks on, soft as cobweb. "And cows. Can't forget the cows."
Draco snuggles deeper underneath the covers and releases a happy little sigh. Harry flops down next to him, staring at the ceiling. He knows he will figure this out: he'll save Hogwarts, as he has every year since he was eleven, and once when he was too young to remember. But for now, night has long since fallen, it's dark, the bed is warm, and the presence of someone alive and audibly breathing as he drifts off makes him feel almost as though he is back in the boys' dormitories up in Gryffindor Tower: home.
Harry returns from a fruitless search of the cellar at Honeydukes to a row. A bald-pated, elderly Scotsman is shouting at Draco, something about cheats and liars and scoundrels while Madam Rosmerta flutters her hands, as though the bird-like motions will placate him. Draco's features light up with hope when he sees Harry, and he leans forward as though he plans on meeting the Gryffindor halfway across the pub; but a wary glance at the Scotsman gives him pause.
"Is that the other one?" the man demands, turning the full force of his glare on Harry. "Probably a two-man job, now I think on it — one to sell them, the other to steal them back. Probably stole them in the first place, hawking gold out here in the middle of nowhere. Isn't that right, boy?"
Harry has a rather visceral reaction to being called ‘boy', and meets the older man's flinty eyes with a growl, placing his hand over his wand pocket.
"Easy now, Mister Burgess," Madam Rosmerta cautions. "They're just boys."
"Just boys who easily cheated me of nearly three-hundred pounds — twice that if you consider the loss of the coin!"
"We didn't take the Galleons," Malfoy says stubbornly, looking a lot braver with Harry standing next to him.
"Well now, there's still no reason to get all het up," Madam Rosmerta says lightly. "These boys can't have spent but so much. What do you say they give you back your money? I'm sure I could pay off the difference; they'd work here until they made it up."
Burgess deflates. "You don't have to go and do that," he protests; but his eyes roam over Harry and Draco as though weighing whether they are worth the trouble of a protracted dispute.
Draco offers the pair a dazzlingly charming, wry smile. "All right," he says, lowly. "Just to avoid any misunderstanding. Let me go upstairs and get it. Potter?"
Harry follows him up the stairs and into their rooms. Once the door is closed behind them, he takes Malfoy by the shoulders and slams him into the wall. "Just what do you think you're doing?" he hisses.
"I didn't take the Galleons," Malfoy spits, squirming under Harry's hold. His eyes are clear and blazing, daring Harry to contradict him. "My scarf's gone —"
Harry snorts in derision.
" — and so is my tie, and my pocketwatch and our Galleons."
Harry blinks, easing away from Draco. "Oh."
"I didn't take them," the blond repeats, turning to the bed and stuffing a pile of miscellany into Harry's duffel: a hand-towel, a toothbrush, a crumpled cotton shirt.
"We probably shouldn't stay here," Harry says, bending down to grab Draco's sweater from the floor; habit makes him fold it neatly before placing it atop their other belongings. Harry can't help but notice: the duffel seems less full than yesterday.
Then, Draco begins to ease out the window.
"What are you doing?!"
Draco turns to face him with one leg standing on the second floor, the other dangling in the winter breeze. "What does it look like? We sold the coin in good faith, Potter. It's only his own fault if he lost it. Besides, you're right for once: we can't stay here. Now hurry up and help me down before they come up the stairs looking for us."
When Harry frowns, trying to find a hole in his logic, Draco rolls his eyes and grabs Harry by the shirtfront.
One bruised shinbone later and they're heading north. "We should go back to London, see what we can find out in Diagon Alley," Harry tells him. "We can stay in the Leaky —"
"I don't care where we're going so long as we're moving," Draco cuts in, sneaking a glance over one shoulder. "That man was in possession of some antique Mongolian scythes that were very intimidating." The blond freezes, like a hound scenting a rabbit, eyes pinned on something in the distance. "Here," he says, "follow me."
Harry watches with rising incredulity as the Slytherin takes off towards the platform, where a train is idling, passengers disappearing into its cavernous depths. Before he's aware of making any kind of deliberate decision, he has taken off after the other boy. Draco's white-blond hair disappears from view as Malfoy slips through the train's sliding doors, and Harry's last human connection is swallowed by the crowd.
Harry can feel his muscles clench as his legs pump, as he leans forward into the wind, his whole world narrowing down to the train, the aperture, to Malfoy inside. The doors close behind him and he stumbles, rapping his already-abused shins and knees against the ridged metal floor of the train. He looks up to find Malfoy standing over him, eyes wide.
"I can't find my wand," he says in a low, urgent voice, yanking Harry to his feet.
"You lost it running."
"No." Draco worries his bottom lip between his teeth. "You check for yours."
Harry places his hand over his pocket — it's there, it has to be there. It was there at the Three Broomsticks when Burgess threatened Malfoy. He could feel it, his hand pressed to the shape of the holly wood covered by corderoy —
"I dropped mine as well," Harry says, ducking his head.
"You didn't bloody well drop it!" Malfoy shouts, causing several people to turn to stare. "My scarf, my pocketwatch, our money, our wands—!"
"What do you want me to do about it right here, right now?" Harry whispers. "Now shut it! People are beginning to stare." He pulls Draco into a seat and settles down beside him, glaring at anyone who continues to direct attention their way.
There is a long silence, broken only by the man asking for their tickets; they'll have to travel up to Aberdeen because they don't have quite enough to pay for London, and Diagon. Malfoy reasons that they can find a way to make some money for the rest of the trip once they reach Aberdeen, but Malfoy probably has no idea how much bread costs, much less how hard he'd need to work for every Knut, or how long. The argument peters out, perhaps because both boys realize just how pointless it is: if they change lines at Aberdeen and continue northwest, they will not even have enough money left to buy a single meal.
Finally, Draco turns to Harry again, petulance clear in the curve of his lip. "I'm still debating whether to tell you what else is odd about all of this, Potter."
Harry half turns in his seat, curling his left leg up. For all that the sun is barely beginning to set outside, he feels as though he's been awake for days on end. His chin tilts to lie on the train's headrest, but his glasses press uncomfortably against his cheek, so he removes them.
"Don't you want to know?" Draco asks. He mirrors Harry's pose, half-turning to face him.
Without Harry's glasses sharpening Draco around the edges, he looks pleasantly blurry, anonymous — as though he could be anyone. "Tell me," Harry says. Watching the Slytherin's features shift at such a small distance is unexpectedly absorbing.
"When we first met, I'd lost my wand," Draco tells him, his voice slow with exhaustion. His eyelids flutter. "You helped me find it."
"With a spell?" Harry asks.
Draco swallows and rolls back to face the front of the train, eyes sliding past Harry's. "You couldn't do spells, Potter. When we first met. You don't remember it, do you?"
"You just said —"
"Merlin, Potter — I made it up, of course, to see if you'd agree with me."
"Where did that come from?"
"I just wanted to find out — fuck it all, it seems like something you'd do. You're a hopeless do-gooder, don't think for a second I've forgotten that."
Harry feels suddenly helpless, as though nothing he or Draco does is going to be enough to stop this, and the choked-off feeling just as rapidly blooms into anger. "Why would you ask me that if you'd already figured —"
"Scarves and Galleons aren't all we're losing," Draco says.
"I think I may have found something," Draco tells him, unwinding his new scarf and dumping their duffel on one of the two kittycornered, ratty couches in the hostel's common room. He nods towards the two Rastifarians playing cards in the corner; the Rastifarians' hair jewelery jingles as they nod back. "Here," Draco says, collapsing onto the couch himself and pulling out a dogeared volume. "There's a legend in that says a castle was going to be built just south of here, by a lord named Gwffyndyr; but he quarreled with his brother and it was never completed."
Harry doesn't shift from his position sprawled across the second couch, but he shifts his attention to Draco.
"Hogwarts Castle was never built here, in other words," Draco fills in.
Harry doesn't reply. He's been trying to recall the exact contours of Hermione's face all afternoon, but all he can bring up is her perpetual cloud of bushy hair, shiny and brown, and a pair of warm eyes that spark with intellect. He can't remember her nose, her mouth, her cheeks, her neck, her hands; the tips of her fingers were inkstained, always, he knows that… or perhaps he's started to fill in the missing spaces with hopeful invention.
This task, recalling the girl who's saved his life a half-dozen times over, seems vastly more important than whatever minimal progress Malfoy's made over the past two weeks.
"I sent an owl — a letter — to my parents, the Muggle way. Nothing's come back."
Harry doesn't mention the strange missive that came two days ago, marked with his name: Harry, darling, please come home. We heard about the mess in Hogsmeade, and it doesn't matter. Please call, you know how to reach us. It's in his Aunt Petunia's handwriting; he wasn't sure what to do with it, so he thoughtlessly stuffed it in the duffel.
Draco rises from his couch and moves to Harry's, sitting so abruptly that Harry has to curl his knees and press the small of his back into the cushions more from instinct than conscious thought. Then his stomach is pressed to Draco's back, his knees tucking in around the other boy. "Potter," Malfoy says quietly, "you can say something, you know. Anything would be good."
There is another, shorter pause, and long fingers land in his hair; Harry flinches. He isn't sure he remembers anyone touching him this way.
"I never told you how pathetically glad I was to be gone, did I?" Draco queries, fingers threading through Harry's dark hair and tugging gently, the motion questioning in and of itself. Harry smells old books with a faint whiff of brimstone. "The Dark Lord gave me two choices: one bad, the other worse. I suppose this is door number three."
Draco's restless tugs cease and now he's cupping the back of Harry's neck in his palm, running his fingers through Harry's hair, and then shifting the fringe out of his eyes. The scar is paler these days, stealing away the Savior of the Wizarding World and returning Just Harry, who listens to the Rastifarians laugh as they play poker, who feels the warm human touch and can't help but arch into it, just a little. He remembers sprawling across a couch before a fireplace, he and two others, the girl playing with his hair just like this.
Harry closes his eyes over the image of Hermione's face. He wants, needs to be able to save them. Without them, without Hogwarts (Voldemort), he's no longer special (visible).
Draco's mark is fading, too: he can see it, a grey smudge across pale skin.
"We played a game, right?" Harry asks one day as winter is thawing to spring. "We flew. We were both chasing after the same thing…"
"How did we really meet?" Harry asks later, when Draco brings back potato scones and coffee to the hostel for breakfast. "Are you sure you can't remember?"
"There was a class like chemistry," Harry insists as they walk about, futilely attempting to find Harry a job he really doesn't want, "only it wasn't exactly like that. And I'm pretty sure me and the teacher didn't really get along."
"Professor Snape," Draco replies to that one, and Harry's eyes light up in instant recognition.
"Are you sure that wasn't the caretaker?"
Draco laughs. "You wouldn't call a caretaker a professor!"
"Then why do they seem like the same person?"
Draco's eyes sparkle with merriment as he leans in to press his lips, soft and undemanding, against Harry's.
It's the most familiar thing that Harry can remember feeling since he stepped off the train, and the easiest.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy and other Harry Potter characters belong to J.K. Rowling and her associated businesses. The Harry/Draco World Cup and its participants make no claim upon them.