"You ask him!" Vince insisted, nudging his best friend in the side.
"I asked last time!" Greg hissed back. "You ask him what's wrong!" They had been going back and forth for several minutes, the conversation turning into a whispered debate when Vince pretended not to notice his friend's gesticulations.
"But you're better at dealing with Malfoy than I am!" Vince wheedled.
"You always say that when you want me to do something!"
"Aw, C'mon, Greg. You wanna know what's eating him at least as much as I do."
"I do, but I still say it's your turn to get your head bit off!"
Vince groaned. "He's been worse than ever with this whole Potter-Snape thing."
"And I should know even better than you do," the taller boy reminded him pointedly. "I'm the one who has to put up with his mood every time you go and hide!"
"Why did I have to listen to my dad? Malfoy's impossible to get along with, sometimes. He's moodier than Daphne Greengrass."
"Because you want your piddling inheritance," Greg retorted. "And quit being so dramatic. Malfoy's not that bad. Sure, he thinks he's above everyone, and he's selfish, condescending, and rude..."
"You've left out how he thinks of us as his mindless lackeys and expects us to do everything he says without question," Vince interrupted.
"Okay! He's impossible to get along with, sometimes, and he sees us as his subjects instead of friends, but he still sticks up for us against everyone else. Remember how he told off that Jacoby Brighton when he called us stupid second year? Sent a few good stinging hexes at the stupid git, too – and he was a fifth-year! Malfoy had to watch his back the rest of the term.
"He treats us bad, sometimes," Greg acknowledged, "but he doesn't let anyone else. Yeah, he's a lousy friend, but he looks miserable, don't you think? I don't see anyone else asking if he's alright."
They turned as one to peer at the blond in question. 'Miserable' was very nearly an understatement. One might have said it appeared that he had lost his best friend, but for the fact that both boys were certain that Malfoy had no such person. He'd been sitting in the same chair since that morning, staring morosely at a spot on the rug.
"Y'know," Vincent noted, "he was a bit funny last night, too."
"I noticed," Gregory confirmed. "Think he had something to do with what happened to Potter?"
"Malfoy's not that reckless." His friend sounded doubtful.
"No, but you know what he's like when his temper gets the best of him – doesn't even think, just acts. Worse than a Gryffindor."
Vince's eyes went wide. "Oh, Merlin – Snape'd kill him!"
At that, they got up and started across the common room, coming to an abrupt stop when the door to the corridor opened and their Head of House stepped inside.
"Mr. Malfoy, I would like to speak with you," Snape addressed the blond from his position near the door.
Malfoy looked up, his face pale even for him, before nodding shakily. Rising to his feet, he moved towards the man, not quite pulling off his usual confident swagger, despite his efforts. Goyle tried to give him an encouraging look, but the other boy didn't even glance at him.
Once their professor and housemate were gone, the two friends turned to each other. "Bloody hell!" Vince murmured. Greg simply nodded.
Draco sat miserably in the chair he'd been directed to upon entering Professor Snape's cramped office, gray eyes fixed upon the edge of the desk in front of him. The man himself was currently standing over him, probably with his arms across his chest and a stern expression upon his face. Draco wasn't sure, though – he hadn't looked.
"I am extremely disappointed in you, Draco," Snape spoke after a moment. The teen flinched as though he'd been physically struck. "As I told you before, you committed an expellable offense. In fact, charges could have been brought against you for attacking a fellow student in such a way."
"I know, Unc – professor," the boy murmured, "I'm sorry." When the man didn't respond right away, Draco slowly looked up, the severe disapproval on the professor's face dealing him another blow.
"I don't believe you do," Severus told him frankly. "Your father is likely to imply that the main thing you did wrong was get caught, but I assure you, that is not the case. Cursing another student is a serious offense, regardless of who it might be. Which brings us to the specific issue I wish to address. Why did you feel the need to curse Harry?"
"I didn't mean-"
"Yet, despite your 'intentions', you still made the attempt," the man cut in. "The headmaster told me you said it was because you were jealous, that you found out that Harry is my son."
"I overheard him shouting at you in your office," Draco admitted miserably.
"So, you are jealous."
"What did you expect? You don't have time for me, anymore!" the boy accused, his tone hurt. "You let him in your quarters and he visits your office an-and you nod at him! At Potter, of all people! You used to hate him."
"When have you come to me and been turned away?" Snape asked pointedly. "Were I aware that you were so desperate for some of my time, I am quite certain I could have spared some for you."
"Well... I..." Draco trailed off, uncertain how to respond to that.
"Would I be correct in assuming that your jealousy has less to do with my 'not having time for you' and more with your having to share me with somebody else?"
The thirteen-year-old diverted his gaze, suddenly finding his own hands to be of unparallelled interest.
"I am your godfather, Mr. Malfoy," Snape sternly reminded him, "not one of your innumerable possessions. Nor do I appreciate you thinking of me as such."
Draco's head shot back up. "You're still going to be my godfather?" he queried, his tone a mixture of hope and trepidation.
"Foolish boy," the man admonished. "I agreed to be your godfather before you were even born. I'd hardly stop now."
Tears shone in the boy's gray eyes, betraying how much that bit of reassurance meant to him, before he quickly blinked them away again. "Thank you, sir," he murmured sincerely.
Snape inclined his head in acknowledgment. "Your punishment still stands. Make no mistake, you're still getting off lightly," he said. "However, I will be adding one more thing."
"W-what's that?" Draco asked uncertainly.
"You will apologize to Harry."
The teen promptly shut his mouth.
"And allow me to make one more thing perfectly clear," Snape uttered, his voice soft and menacing as he leaned in towards the blond, who pressed himself as far back into the chair as he could. "If you ever hurt my son again, godson or not, expulsion and prison will be the last things you have to worry about. Have I made myself clear?"
"Yes, sir," Draco murmured.
Snape straightened back up, his tone returning to normal. "Good," he stated. "Now, I do believe you are to be in your dormitory, are you not?"
The boy nodded quickly and when the professor glanced meaningfully at the door, he jumped to his feet and scurried out. Yet, despite the new threat and the fact that he was still in Very Big Trouble, a part of Draco felt a little bit better. After all, he still had his godfather, and that meant more to him that he'd ever admitted aloud.
Draco paused outside the door to the hospital wing. He had expected Severus to accompany him when he apologized to Potter, but when he'd told the man that he planned on doing so during dinnertime, Snape had made no indication that he wished to go with him. In truth, if he'd thought there was any way he could get away with it, Draco probably would have circumvented the confrontation entirely. Speaking with Potter had never been one of his favorite things before. Now, after everything that had occurred, he looked forward to it even less.
Quietly, he entered the sterile ward, soon locating the boy he wished to speak to at the far side of the wing. Potter didn't seem to notice his approach, instead, he just sat there, gazing down at his hand. It looked a bit strange, and as he drew nearer, Draco realized the reason for this was that his classmate's hand was encompassed in a dark brown brace.
He was only a few meters off, now, and still Potter didn't look up at him. Why was he staring at his hand so fixedly? So... determinedly? As though waiting for something to happen?
Abruptly, the headmaster's words came back to him: "... it is possible that he may be facing permanent disability."
Draco felt the color drain from his face. Potter's fingers weren't moving; not even a twitch. He could see that clearly, now, as he was standing scarcely a meter away. The other boy's expression was stricken, green eyes bright with unshed tears, even as his left hand clenched convulsively at the bed covers. Draco's own hands began to shake, and he drew in a sharp breath.
At this, Potter's attention snapped over to him, a scowl overtaking his features. "What do you want, Malfoy?" he spat.
"I came to apologize," Draco responded automatically.
"Whatever," Potter scoffed, voice quiet as he turned his head the other way. "Just leave me alone."
The Slytherin recognized the dismissal, it was evident in his rival's tone, yet, still he lingered. "Potter..."
"I said leave me alone!" the dark-haired boy shouted, whirling back towards him. "Just leave!" He grabbed up a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans and hurled it at the intruder left-handed. The package managed to strike the blond's shoulder, bursting open as it hit the ground, its contents skittering noisily across the floor.
Draco didn't even flinch. Previously, having something thrown at him would have made the Malfoy scion angry, especially if Potter was doing the throwing, but now... Now, it was as though the other boy was a wounded creature, lashing out at anyone who drew too near. What was more, it was all his fault – all because he had allowed his temper to get the better of him.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"Apology not accepted!" Potter raged, continuing to throw anything he could get his hand on at the other boy. "I don't forgive you! I'll NEVER forgive you! NEVER!"
Potter had surprisingly good aim with his non-dominant arm, as most of the objects he threw hit their target. Still, Malfoy didn't move, as though he was fixed to the spot.
"Get out of here!" the boy was screaming now. "Leave, DAMMIT!" Having run out of things to throw, he grabbed up his wand and cast a stinging hex. Then, another.
Madame Pomfrey, who had been watching the whole exchange from the door to her office, decided it was time to intervene. Taking the young Slytherin by the shoulders, she steered him to the double doors leading out to the corridor. A distinctive plinking sound suggested that Potter had even hurled his wand after his unwanted guest.
"I think it is time for you to return to your dorm, Mr. Malfoy," Poppy told him firmly. "And if you would, do refrain from visiting Mr. Potter again. I'll be sure your Head of House knows you've made your apology. Do not trouble yourself further." She turned to go back inside.
Draco watched through the small window in the door as she quickly made her way back to Potter's bedside, picking something up off the floor along the way. The Gryffindor appeared to be openly weeping, his body rocking back and forth as he pressed his useless hand against his chest. The mediwitch's attempts to calm him seemed to be failing.
Slowly, Draco took a step away from the door, tears stinging his own eyes. "I'm sorry," he whispered hoarsely to the empty hallway. But as the reality of what he had done finally sank in, he realized that those two words just weren't enough – that they'd never be enough. Ever.
Severus smoothed the fringe back from Harry's forehead. Even in the dim light coming from the small globe near the bed, the tear-tracks down his cheeks were still visible. Poppy had told him about how Harry had responded to Draco's apology. He hadn't expected anything else, really.
"For what it's worth," she had confided, "I do believe Mr. Malfoy has begun to realize how much harm he has caused Harry."
That was something, at least. The professor hoped that if he could get Draco to acknowledge his wrong-doing, the boy would learn to think before acting in the future. If the youth could be truly remorseful for his behavior and the damage it had done to another, perhaps, he wouldn't be destined to follow his father into the darkness the man would have his heir embrace.
The Potions Master came back to the present. If he was startled to find a pair of green eyes staring up at him, he didn't show it. Instead, he continued to card his hand through his son's messy, black hair.
"Malfoy was here," Harry murmured.
"I heard," Snape responded.
"He said he came to apologize."
"Did... did you tell him to do that?" the boy's voice broke slightly.
"Because he needs to understand that what he did was wrong," Severus responded simply.
"I won't forgive him," Harry declared.
"That is your prerogative."
The boy grew quiet again, allowing the repetitive motion to soothe him. "Don't leave," he whispered.
"I will remain until you are asleep," the man promised easily. In fact, he remained long after Harry had drifted off again, only leaving when a certain mediwitch insisted he get his rest.