For days, Harry had wracked his brain trying to come up with a way to help Draco. As much as he wanted to offer his support, especially with how poorly the boy seemed to be doing these days, Harry knew he couldn’t come forward. After all, Draco had confessed to Liber, not Harry, and he was certain Draco wouldn’t thank him should he find out they were one and the same. If there was one thing Harry had learned about the other boy, it was that he’d been taught to never show weakness, and never allow anyone to have any sort of hold over him. It certainly explained a lot of Draco’s behavior these past few years, Harry thought.

Try as he might, though, Harry couldn’t figure a way out. He knew that Narcissa Malfoy was born a Black. He wondered whether there might be a way for the House of Black – of which he was now the head after Sirius had named him heir – to step in and perhaps offer refuge. Grimmauld Place was unplottable, after all, but it was also under the Fidelius charm and Harry was not its secret keeper. Which meant he would have to talk to Dumbledore. Not that he was strictly opposed to the idea, he trusted the man, but telling him would mean coming clean about his illicit animagus form, and that held him back. For now, at least.

It was for this same reason that he hadn’t confided in Ron or Hermione, either. Part of him really wasn’t ready to share Liber with anyone, except in a way it was something he’d shared with Malfoy and that meant something, though Harry couldn’t voice what it might be. Oh, how he wished Sirius were still alive! Harry was certain his Godfather would have known how to help.

Being a Saturday morning, things were quieter than normal during breakfast, as many students opted to sleep in. Harry, however, could not sleep and had made his way down to eat, figuring he’d check the library afterward – and wasn’t it funny how Hermione’s standard response was rubbing off on him – to see if there was any useful information to be gleaned there.

Harry noticed several Slytherins were already at their table, talking quietly among themselves. Draco was there as well, though he kept his side of the conversation to a minimum. Harry was halfway through his eggs, toast, ham, and baked tomatoes when the mail arrived. A flurry of owls entered the Great Hall and Harry automatically looked up in search of Hedwig. Not that he was expecting anything, but she had a habit of showing up anyway just to say hello. She wasn’t there this time, however, so Harry let his attention wander.

He snorted into his glass of orange juice when he noticed the stately owl in front of Malfoy, delivering yet another care package. He didn’t think anything of it and set about finishing his breakfast when Malfoy suddenly sprang up and hastened out of the Hall, looking almost as pale as Nearly Headless Nick. Abandoning his meal, Harry got up to follow Draco, though he made sure not to seem in too great a hurry.

Having lost sight of Draco long before he’d even managed to get out of the Great Hall, Harry made for the front doors. He’d bet his father’s cloak he knew exactly where to find Draco. Sure enough, he was at their spot, pacing again, his hands cupped in front of his face as he took in ragged breath after ragged breath.

Deciding caution was the better part of valor, Harry shifted into Liber and walked up to Draco. Nudging the boy’s knee, he whined softly, looking up at him worriedly. Draco glanced down at Harry and seemed to crumple. He sat down heavily against the bleacher and Harry settled between the boy’s knees, allowing him to wrap his arms around him. Harry heard a rustling and it took him a second to realize that Draco was holding a piece of parchment in his hand.

“He hurt her, Liber,” Draco croaked into Harry’s neck. “Mother sent me a note to tell me, on his orders. Said it was punishment for my failure to kill Dumbledore. That the Dark Lord had heard of what happened to the Weasel. He-” Draco took a shuddering breath. “He cast the Cruciatus curse on her.”

Harry shuddered, whining quietly in sympathy as he nuzzled against Draco’s shoulder. God, Draco, I’m so sorry. He was at a loss as to how to help, but he dearly wanted to. So he let Draco hold him, let him cry his tears of despair, and did his damndest to give the boy as much comfort as he could. He might have thought him a prat these past few years, but Draco’s concern and love for his mother was something he could fully understand even if Harry had never experienced it himself.

They were both so absorbed in the moment that neither paid any attention to their surroundings and it wasn’t until a shrill, shocked, “Draco!” pierced the air that they realized they were no longer alone.

Draco sat bolt upright, frantically scrubbing his face as he tried to pull his composure around him like a cloak. Harry spun around and took two steps toward the intruder, who turned out to be Pansy Parkinson. Harry’s teeth were bared and he growled, taking up a protective stance between the girl and Draco. He could sense the boy’s discomfort behind him, heard him muttering under his breath, “Bugger!”

Pansy stood, keeping a wary eye on Harry whilst eyeing Draco shrewdly. After a minute of silence that was only broken by Harry’s snarls, Pansy simpered, “Draco, darling, what on earth are you doing out here? You left your care package at the table. I hope you realize Crabbe and Goyle made off with all your sweets.”

Draco got to his feet. Harry didn’t turn his attention from Pansy, but he could practically hear the boy having trouble staying upright. Hear the amount of effort it took to keep his voice cool and composed. “Nothing, Pansy. Never you mind.” Draco took a breath. “And I don’t care about the sweets,” he spat.

Pansy apparently decided to ignore Harry in favor of trying to turn Draco’s upset to her favor. She took a step forward, her hand raised as if to console the boy. “Draco, what’s wrong? I only want to help.”

Yeah, right, Harry thought, and stick a knife in his back while you’re doing it. Harry’s hackles rose further, and he barked in warning, startling Pansy.

“Draco! Make him stop,” she told him, her voice giving away her conviction that he would do it.

Harry took a couple of steps toward her, growling louder. He wanted to pounce, to chase her away. He wished he’d have heard her coming so he could have stopped her walking in on Draco in distress. He knew it must be eating at the other boy to have been found in such a vulnerable position.

Harry heard Draco give an indelicate snort. “Don’t think so, Pans.”

“What?!” she shrieked. It hurt Harry’s ears, so he decided to pay her back by snapping at her, causing her to jump back a step.

Harry could hear the rustling of fabric and could almost see Draco fold his arms across his chest. “Go away, Pansy. I’m not interested. Never have been.”

Pansy narrowed her eyes at him, her cheeks blooming with indignation. “Our fathers-” she started, pulling herself up as best she could.

Draco cut her off. “I don’t care what our fathers did or did not do when we were kids, Pansy. When will you get it through your thick head? Father knows my position and it has not changed. He will honor my wishes in this matter!”

Harry was becoming confused, sure he was missing some sort of undercurrent in the conversation, but the way Pansy seemed to puff up in anger was enough for him to know she was trouble. And Draco didn’t need more trouble. He barked in warning again, snapping at her robe.

“Merlin’s beard, woman!” Draco burst out. “Just leave! Forget you ever saw me here, you insufferable-” Draco stopped, taking deep breaths to calm himself. “Just… go, Pansy. I won’t stop him if he attacks and I’m not sure he won’t, so…”

Pansy glared at them each in turn. “Just you wait, Draco Malfoy! You’ll pay for this,” she threatened.

Draco huffed in disdain. “I seriously doubt you have it in you, Parkinson.”

She shrieked in rage and made to fly at Draco, her hands clawed as if to rake her fingers across his face. Harry sprung into action, pouncing her and pushing her to the ground while snarling and barking at her. He gave Pansy just enough time to scramble back to her feet before giving chase. She ran around the quidditch pitch toward the castle as fast as she could, but Harry was faster. Pouncing, he got her down to the ground again and even as they fell he shifted back to human. In an instant, he had his wand out and aimed at Pansy’s head. “Obliviate,” he whispered fiercely.

Harry had no thought beyond making her forget what had happened, to at the very least save Draco that humiliation. His voice was low as he loomed over Pansy, pinning her down. “You never went to the quidditch pitch today. You didn’t find Draco. You’ll forget everything that happened out here today. You went looking for Draco inside the castle, but couldn’t find him so you gave up and went to your common room. You will get up, dust yourself off and go straight there, and once you are, you will have the sudden urge to get ahead on your homework. You. Will. Leave. Draco. Alone.”

With that, he ended the spell and got to his feet, allowing her to do the same. He was mildly surprised to see a dream-like expression on Pansy’s face as she did as he had suggested, fussing over her robes until it was impossible to tell she’d been tackled. Then she returned to the castle, humming quietly to herself. Harry watched her go with some satisfaction until she disappeared from view. Running his fingers through his hair, he sighed, hoping the rest of the spell would work equally well.

In his rush to stop Pansy, Harry had completely forgotten about Draco. He flinched when he heard the shocked, “Potter?” from behind him, reminding him of the other boy’s presence. Slowly, he turned around, holding his wand in a non-threatening way.

“Draco, I can explain-” he started, but Draco shook his head, backing away from Harry.

“I can’t believe you,” Draco hissed, his face draining of all color as the full realization hit him. He turned and ran, leaving Harry to stare after him.

“Well, Harry, you’ve made a right pig’s ear of it,” he muttered to himself, scratching the back of his neck, wand still in hand.