Chapter Fifteen: Bonds

Draco flat-out lied when asked if he'd managed to cast the patronus spell, even though he had the spell mastered by the end of winter break. The reality that his patronus was Harry Potter disturbed Draco greatly. So much, in fact, that he was distracted during their lessons and ended up in the Hospital Wing overnight. Harry, of course, felt guilty about it, even though it was Draco's own fault.

The last Saturday before break ended, Draco sought out the Head of his House. Professor Snape was one of the few people he knew he could talk to about anything without condemnation.

Snape was in the potions classroom, preparing for Monday's classes. Draco cleared his throat as he walked into the classroom. "Professor, do you have a moment?"

Snape smiled, a surprising sight unless you were Draco. "Of course. What may I do for you, Mr. Malfoy?"

Draco stopped near the front row of tables and shifted uncomfortably on his feet. "Do you know the patronus spell?"

"I have cast it before," Snape replied with a nod.

"If you don't mind my asking, sir," Draco said hesitatingly, "what is your patronus?"

A look of understanding appeared on Snape's face. "I take it you are having trouble mastering the spell--"

Draco shook his head, interrupting. "No, I can cast it, but... I think it's wrong."

"Wrong? How so?"

"It's just wrong." Draco clasped the medallion hanging around his neck and tucked it beneath the collar of his robe. "Potter said my patronus would be something I know would always protect me, no matter what. It should my father, right? Or my mum?"

"Not necessarily," Snape said, taking out his wand. "It could be something that represents a potion, like this. Expecto patronum."

Snape flicked his wand as he cast the patronus spell. A ghostly green cauldron formed in the air. It floated above head, tilted, and spilled its misty contents onto the dungeon floor. The spell dissipated after a few moments.

Snape glanced expectantly at Draco. Draco looked pained as he whispered, "Expecto patronum."

Knowing the secret to magic, Draco needn't say the spell words any louder, nor use his wand. In the space between the Slytherin and the Potions Master, Draco's patronus formed solidly out of the green mist.

Snape stared. "I see."

"I don't understand, Professor," Draco said forlornly. "Why is Harry Potter my patronus? I hate the ruddy git."

"Ah, but do you respect his wizardry and character?" said Snape.

Draco shrugged. "I guess."

"Draco," Snape began, addressing his favorite student more personally. "Whether you believe it or not, you and Mr. Potter have formed a bond that is stronger than mentor-student, stronger than friendship, and even stronger than lovers. You two balance each other perfectly; his strengths are your weaknesses and visa versa. Together, you two have the potential of becoming the most powerful wizarding partners the world has ever seen."

Draco was stunned at his teacher's words. "But I don't even like Potter much."

"That is why your relationship is so great," Snape said. "Unlike friends or loved ones, you are unafraid to hurt Potter's feelings and readily point out his faults, as he does yours."

"What if that changes, though?" asked Draco. "What if I end up hating him so much that I can't stand to be around him any longer?"

"The results would be the same as if you fell in love with him." Snape pulled a face, but continued honestly. "Trust and communication are the keys. If you still have both, no matter which way your personal relationship turns you will continue to work perfectly together."

"And if either one of those keys is missing?"

"The potential for disaster is unequivocal," Snape replied ominously. He tapped the side of his nose. "However, if the two of you can put aside your differences and work together at this young age, I have little doubt that you two will continue to do so far into the future."

Draco found Harry and Dumbledore playing Wizard's Chess in the Great Hall later that Saturday evening. After his conversation with Snape, Draco had taken a long walk through Hogwarts' halls, thinking about what the professor had told him and about his relationship with Harry. It was hard to believe he and Harry would possibly become the most powerful wizards in the world. Draco had known he would be one of the greats -- he was a Malfoy, after all -- but he didn't suspect he might become another Dumbledore or Salazar of old.

The idea was both exhilarating and frightening at once. With such power came even more responsibility. Would Draco be called on, time and again, to fight wizards such as Voldemort (provided they finally destroyed him) in the future? Would what Draco wanted most, to create new potions, be continuously put aside because of a sense of duty?

And what about Harry? While Draco had the choice to learn, Harry was forced to do so because it was expected; he was the Boy Who Lived, the savior of the wizarding world. Would the pressure to be the best break Harry? He'd almost lost it already, if not for Draco's calling him on it. Snape was correct in saying that they balanced one another. They kept each other grounded in the now, countering the desire to dwell on past pains and misfortunes. They'd helped each other out of their independent depression and taught each other how to laugh again.

Draco had been riding on a moving staircase when he realized he was grateful that Harry wanted to be a part of his life, and that he liked being an influence on Harry in return. He still hated the prat, but in a way, he suspected, that someone hated a brother.

Draco took a seat beside Harry at the Gryffindor table and glanced over the chess board. "Pawn to B8, Potter."

"What?" Harry looked at him, then looked back at the board. "Oh. Oh! Pawn to B8." The pawn on the board moved to the correct spot, blocking Dumbledore's check. Harry grinned at the blond. "Thank you, Malfoy."

"Yes, thank you, Mr. Malfoy," Dumbledore said dryly. He surveyed the chess board. "For that, I think a pop quiz is in order."

"But we're still on holiday," Draco protested.

"Then, if you cannot cast the patronus spell yet, it will not cost you," Dumbledore said. He looked at Harry. "Mr. Potter, I would like to see you cast the patronus, as well."

"Certainly, Professor," said Harry. "Expecto patronum."

The stag, Prongs, appeared a short distance away, between the Hufflepuff and Gryffindor tables. The misty animal reared his head and pawed at the floor.

Harry looked at Draco. "Have you had any luck?"

Draco smirked. "Try not to get a swelled head, Potter. Expecto patronum."

Beside the stag, fifteen-year-old Harry Potter formed from the spell's mist. Draco's patronus pushed up his ghostly glasses, smiled, and began to pet Prongs.

"Excellent," Dumbledore said, pleased.

"Blimey," Harry breathed, green eyes wide. "That's me!"

"Yes, it is," Draco said. He watched as the two patronus' dissipated. "Apparently, I'm a raving nutter and think that you will always protect me."

Harry blinked several times, coming out of his shock. He grinned lopsidedly at Draco. "You're right. You are a nutter."

Draco scowled. Harry laughed.

Albus Dumbledore smiled.

Chapter 16