Authors' Note: As always, lots of love to our beautiful betas, especially bribitribbit, whose comments always entertain as well as inform. Also, I, Abbey, want to thank likeafox extensively for putting up with me as I struggled to write a part of this and pushing me through writer's block several times. Enjoy, and remember: feedback is like crack to us.
It was the following weekend that Harry, Ron and Hermione decided to pay their visit to Godric’s Hollow. They told Mrs. Weasley that they were just going out for a bit, not so much because they thought she might forbid them from going as to save the bother of explaining. It didn’t matter much anyway; she was so busy supervising plans for the wedding (which all seemed to be very disorganized but dependent on large quantities of crepe) that she just gave them a distracted nod while waving her wand in the general direction of cake ingredients.
“I guess we should fly there,” Harry said uncertainly once they were out of the kitchen and back up in his and Ron’s bedroom. “I don’t even know where Godric’s Hollow is, though.”
“Godric, as in Gryffindor?” mused Ron, and Harry shrugged.
“No idea, I never thought of that."
“I did some research on it,” Hermione said, interrupting them, and Harry saw Ron roll his eyes good-naturedly over the top of her head. “It’s in South Wales, and I copied down this map. It shouldn’t take us that long if we fly over the Bristol Channel.” She spread out the piece of parchment on a bedside table and they all leaned over it. “I figure once we get there we can ask around to find your parents’ house, Harry.”
“Yeah.” Harry was just starting to realize how complicated this was. He supposed he could have asked Lupin what his parents’ address had been, but it was too late for that now. It looked like Hermione had everything covered, though.
He and Ron grabbed their brooms from the room, and then they made their way downstairs and outside to the broom shed, to get a broom for Hermione. Harry tried not to think about how he had stood in this same shed with Dumbledore almost exactly a year ago. To distract himself he looked up at the Burrow, recognizing some of the rooms from their windows.
This reminded him of something else. “Will it be okay to leave Malfoy here?”
Ron scoffed. “He’ll be fine, what’s going to happen to him? He’s locked in anyway, I think.”
“We ready to go, then?” asked Hermione, sounding nervous.
“I guess so,” said Harry. They mounted their brooms, and Ron moved a little closer to Hermione to help her. They kicked off from the ground, and began their journey.
Hermione had done her research well, and so they had relatively little trouble finding their way, thanks to her map and the handy Point Me spell Harry had learned for the Triwizard tournament (he wished, again, that he was of age and allowed to perform magic). The worst part of the trip was the wind and the moisture (they were keeping above the clouds, to avoid being seen by anyone). Even Harry, who was a very strong flier, found himself tired by the time they reached Godric’s Hollow.
Once there they dismounted on a narrow country road, and Hermione placed a Shrinking Charm on the brooms so that they could carry them easily and inconspicuously. Then they looked around at each other.
“I guess we need to ask someone for the address,” said Hermione tentatively. “Shall I go do that?”
“Alright,” Harry and Ron said, grateful that they wouldn’t have to ask themselves. Hermione looked around, and started walking towards the closest house they could see, a little way up the lane. Harry and Ron followed her, but hung back at the edge of the drive. They watched the back of the head as an elderly woman answered the door. After a few minutes in which they presumed her question was being answered, Hermione turned around and started back towards them.
“Well?” Harry asked when she was close enough to converse with. “Any luck?”
“Yes. She says we’re pretty close; it’s just a few streets over in that direction. She didn’t know the exact address, but she said we’ll recognize it, it’s the house that’s been partly…partly ruined.”
Not pausing, Harry started walking briskly in the direction that Hermione had indicated. Now that his plan to visit his parents’ home had finally been put into action, he found that he was impatient to actually arrive there. It was only consideration for Ron and Hermione, trying to catch up with him, that kept him from breaking into a jog.
He turned left onto a longer road, and continued walking until he came to the next street off of it. Then he had to wait until Hermione caught up.
“It’s the next one, I think,” she said. They kept walking until they came to it; the faded wooden sign at the entrance said Laburnum Lane.
“She said it was one of the first few houses,” Hermione muttered mostly to herself as they turned into the road. It sloped upwards, and combined with the rough, unpaved surface of the road this made for a somewhat difficult walk. Harry was so intent on watching where his feet were going that he almost walked into Ron, who had stopped abruptly in front of him.
“Harry – I think this is it.” Harry looked up in surprise, and could see at once that Ron was right. The drive that he was looking at was long, but even with it set far off from the road Harry could see that this house was definitely not in the best of shape, and was most certainly uninhabited at the moment.
As they got closer, Harry saw that even this was an understatement. He had not expected the house to still be completely standing; Hagrid had told him it had been destroyed, after all. Still though, Harry had always imagined that if the house hadn’t toppled on top of him and killed him as a baby, as it obviously hadn’t, it couldn’t have been that destroyed. Which wasn’t a little stupid of him really, to assume that much; it just meant that now, when he was finally seeing it for the first time, there was even more of a shock.
He admitted to himself that he was a little bit disappointed; he had wanted to come here to see the place where his parents had lived, where he had been born. Not one wall left standing and piles of fifteen-year-old rubble. He walked closer, and began circling the ruins, trying to discover something, anything recognizable. Along the way he also tried to construct a mental picture of how the house and land must have looked.
The one remaining wall faced the street, which was why from there it looked like more of the house was left. Judging by the size of the area covered by ruins, the house had been larger than he had expected it to be. Now weeds, tall grasses and wildflowers had made the area part of their reign, giving it almost a kind of uncivilized beauty.
Harry was so caught up in these observations that it took him a while to notice that Ron and Hermione had hung back and not followed him. He appreciated the thought, but he thought now that he wouldn't mind having them next to him. He walked back to where they were standing, and let them know with a look that it was all right, they didn’t have to continue their silent vigil.
Hermione, having gotten the message, asked, “Did you want to look around and see if there are graves, Harry?”
Harry shrugged. “Were there even bodies?” Hermione gave him a pained sort of look but stayed silent. It wasn’t that Harry minded looking around some more, but he doubted that there would be graves. It wasn’t like there would be bodies left, after all, and he found it hard to believe that the Muggles living nearby would have known enough about his parents’ deaths to give them graves.
Still, he followed the other two as they started up a slight hill, at the top of which was a likely looking location, with a clump of oak trees now surrounded in a light mist. When they reached the top he saw that the main feature of this part of the land was an immense tree that had been split almost in half, probably by lightning. And below it – Harry’s stomach squeezed even tighter – two gray headstones.
He wasn’t sure what it was, but something about the sight of the two large stones made something break inside of him. Maybe it was just because he had been in a fragile mood anyway, and after adding to that the disappointment of there being nothing of substance left of his parents’ house and their lives, well, he was suddenly very angry.
“Why are there even graves here? What’s the point?” he demanded, mostly rhetorically. He could tell that even if Ron and Hermione hadn’t been expecting this outburst they were very prepared to deal with it.
“It’s a sign of respect, Harry.” Hermione was telling him now, but he wasn’t really listening even as he snorted at her words. Ron joined in trying to calm him down tactfully, and Harry replied again about there not being much point, with their bodies having been destroyed by Voldemort anyway.
His head was still not processing much of anything, including everything that was being said at the moment, but even so, the voice that spoke next caught his attention. It was a familiar voice, one that belonged to practically the very last person Harry wanted to see at the moment. Specifically, Draco Malfoy.
If Potter and his cronies thought they could leave him alone at that rundown house, they had another thing coming. He was not used to such terrible conditions. All that dust and plebian food… Oh, and the crepe. The terrible sea of crepe that had attacked the room Draco was holed up in. He could not stand any more crepe.
Besides, Draco was terrifically bored at that house. Everyone was busy with wedding plans and the damned decorations and it was not as if Draco could even wander around, mocking them all. He had to stay in the crepe prison, wondering just how long it would take for the paper to overpower him.
Death by crepe. Not a good way to go.
So when Draco heard Potter tell the Weasel and the Mudblood to Apparate with him to Godric's Hollow, he made his plan. Potter was so secretive about this place; surely there was something worthwhile there. And if not… well, it was the Mystery Place or the crepe.
Draco gave Potter and his sidekicks a few minutes' head start before he snuck out the window of his prison and made a mad dash through the unkempt gardens (there were gnomes everywhere. Did these people not know basic gardening skills?), dodging plants of increasingly questionable nature and past the wards protecting the hovel (not that Draco could imagine a reason anyone would want to protect it… who would want to attack it anyway? All they would get out of it was a badly kept garden and crepe). Once he had brushed off the dirt and slime from the garden and arranged his hair properly, Draco Apparated to the location he had heard Potter mutter.
With a pop! Draco found himself standing in a field near a house that was in even worse shape than the Weasleys'. It was more rubble than house, actually. As he looked around, Draco heard Potter's voice screaming some sort of unintelligible blather. At last, something familiar. Stepping gingerly around the piles of stone and rotting wood, Draco traveled towards the ranting, which was emanating from behind a massive oak tree split down the middle, a massive burn highlighting the schism.
Draco saw the damned trio forming a semi-circle around two large stones, their backs facing him.
"Why are there even graves here? What's the point?"
"It's a sign of respect, Harry." The Mudblood tried to calm Potter down with that annoying 'Lie back on the couch and tell me about your childhood' voice of hers.
Potter snorted. "Respectful?"
"Harry, your parents…"
Oh. So this must be where Potter got that ugly scar of his. Draco looked around at the ruins and the dying grass. He had thought it would be a bit more impressive. Maybe with a nice broken statue of Merlin or some other symbolic relic, like a baby rattle or something. Potter's story was romanticized enough; the location ought to match the myth.
The only thing that was left were the stones Potter was ranting about. Well, those and the various rubble piles like the rotting broom shed in the corner.
"…it doesn't matter, does it?" Potter's angry voice rang through the early morning mist. "There weren’t even bodies to bury, were there? Everything was destroyed when Voldemort cast the final killing curse, wasn't it?"
"Good lord, Potter, get a grip. You would think after fifteen odd years you would have gotten over their deaths." The trio whipped around as one.
"What the fuck are you doing here?" Weasley gritted though his teeth.
"Language. Good little Gryffindors shouldn't say such terrible things."
Potter pulled his arm out of Granger's grip and snorted. "That coming from a Slytherin?"
Draco tugged the sleeves of his robes down casually. "Who would know better?" He glanced around once more. "All these years and no one has managed to clean this place up… Is that what you are doing? A nice little 'Restore the Legend' project? You’d think you would be busy, what with the war and all, but it is nice to see you all take a— you want to let go of my robe, Potter? You’ll wrinkle it, and the Weasel's fat mother doesn’t iron properly, so you can see how it would be quite a hassle." Potter's hand clenched the black fabric tighter.
Well, this was certainly more interesting than crepe.
"Look, Malfoy, I’d actually rather not deal with you at all—“
"You, too? Perhaps we can start a club. We could make badges."
"Shut up! This is serious, you idiot. We—" he pointed his free hand over at the Weasel and the Mudblood "—have things to do. And you." Draco received a sharp jab to the chest. "You need to go back and sit in that room and try not to cause any more trouble than you have. Got it?"
Draco raised his eyebrows. "I’m not going anywhere. It is boring in that dump." Potter sighed heavily, leaning his head back as he rolled his eyes before releasing his death grip on Draco's robes.
Draco glanced down where a lump of fabric stood out from his chest. "Look what you have done, Scarhead." Smoothing out his mangled robes, Draco said, "What are you doing here anyway?"
"You are not staying, you know," Weasley scowled from behind Potter.
"It is not like you can just send me back, you idiot. Everyone will see me." Draco turned to Potter. "Including your little girlfriend." Potter glared.
"We are… looking for stuff, okay?"
"You know, things."
"Oh Potter, you master of the English word, take me now!"
Potter ran his hands over his face as if he were trying to flatten it.
Yes, this was far more interesting than the crepe.
Locking people up without giving them anything to do should be punishable by death, Draco thought as he lay on the lumpy bed, staring angrily at the ceiling.
He was used to being kept occupied somehow, be it through the regular fights between Pansy and Blaise (you'd think he'd learn not to steal her chocolates after six years) or struggling to understand the mechanics of a new spell (or the bloody vanishing cabinets). Idleness didn't suit him, and usually led to new plans to make Potter's life miserable, all of which were rather impossible to carry out these days, what with him being labeled a quarantine patient and all.
The mini-adventure to Godric's Hollow had been somewhat interesting, fresh air and banter, but had also led to the stupid triumvirate attacking him and dragging him bodily back to his tiny prison.
Draco heaved a great sigh and arched up from the bed. Sitting with his hands lazily thrown over his ankles, he glanced around the room. There was a tiny, dusty window through which light filtered in, creating shadows on the monstrous pile of boxes and crepe.
Draco pulled himself off the bed and wandered over to the chaos in the corner. The boxes were all covered in thick layers of dust, the cardboard damaged and broken with clumsily folded tops. Draco thought belatedly that he should have stolen a few of Snape's books when he left, and sighed as he began to look through the topmost boxes.
He dug through handmade Christmas ornaments and tacky china cats, and wasn't surprised to find that the Weasleys had no sense of organization. The only thing that seemed to have any order at all was a rough wooden chest, filled with moth-eaten baby clothes and teeth-marked rattles.
As Draco flipped through a pile of dog-eared Marvin the Mad Muggle comics, something caught his eye: a box overflowing with tiny yellow balls and weird sticks. A quilt had been thrown over it, as if meant to hide it from view, but in reality only making it more conspicuous. Draco threw the comics aside and weaved his way through the mess towards it.
He reached for one of the balls and was rather disturbed to find it fuzzy and deceptively hard. Draco pulled his hand away quickly and reached for one of the sticks instead. He pulled the quilt away and tugged the stick out of the box, thinking it was some sort of convoluted beater bat.
When the stick was fully out of the box, however, he was startled to see it had a flat, oval plane attached to it, taut netting running across in tiny hatches. Draco had never seen anything like it and couldn't quite figure out what it was supposed to do.
He ran through all the sports he knew, trying to place its bizarre shape. Not Quidditch, or Quodpot, not that stupid Muggle game Thomas had played, football or whatever it was; it wasn't used in racing.... It couldn't be for a sport, then.
Draco twirled the device over in his hands, enjoying the heaviness and strange balance of it. If not sports, then what? Gardening? Those idiotic things some Muggle-obsessed people used to move boats with? But no, the water would go right through the holes, it'd be useless.
Maybe... no, it was too big and awkwardly shaped for that.
He waved it around a bit, thinking it might be one of those mail-order wands Crabbe had talked about. But no sparks came from it, only the sound of air neatly being sliced. Draco rather liked the sound and waved it around some more.
He was quite enjoying himself when the tip of the thing hit a precariously stacked pile of boxes, sending them crashing to the floor, burying Draco in abandoned belongings on their way down.
A strand of garland draped itself over his face while food-stained Lockhart books pounded his body and Draco thought that this was life.
It took far too long for Potter to burst through the door, carrying half-eaten toast and his wand, looking about for some evil to defeat. He seemed rather disappointed to just find Draco lying on the floor in pain, still clutching the stick like a lifeline.
"What happened?" Potter asked as Granger and Weasley rushed through the door. Weasley began to laugh uproariously from the door jamb.
Draco rolled his eyes. "The Weasleys failed to understand the concept of organization."
Weasley managed a half-hearted protest but fell into laughter soon after.
Potter walked over to Draco, his footsteps inappropriately loud from Draco's position on the floor. He peered down at him, his toast sprinkling crumbs on Draco's face. "Malfoy, why are you holding a tennis racket?"
A what racket? "What are you talking about?"
"Did you steal a tennis racket?" Potter asked in a scandalized tone. Draco thought he ought to be harder to faze by now.
Draco shifted uncomfortably under the books. "As fascinating as your gibberish is, I'd like to enjoy it without book corners stabbing me in the neck." Potter reached for the stick and pulled it up, Draco hanging onto the other end.
"Where'd you get this?" Potter asked, still holding onto the oval head of the stick.
Draco tried to tug it away from him, but Potter held on tightly, his fingers curling into the netting. "Are you unable to think of nothing else?" Potter just kept looking at the stick in a very strange, almost nostalgic manner. Draco sighed. "It was in the corner."
"Ron," Potter called out and Weasley stopped laughing long enough to look over at him. "Who in your family plays tennis?"
"Tennis. Who plays? Or used to, I guess."
Weasley looked rather bewildered. "Tennis?"
Granger took a step forward. "Do wizards not play tennis?"
"What, is an instrument or something?" Weasley asked from the doorway, studying the racket from afar.
Potter shook his head, sending his untidy black hair flying. "It's a game," he said as the sound of soft footsteps floated in through the open door. Mrs. Weasley walked in, still holding a wooden spoon and wearing a frilly pink apron.
"Hello, Draco dear. I was about to come bring you some breakfast when we heard that terrible crash! Are you okay, dear? I learned quite a few healing spells while Fred and George were growing up, if you're hurt." She smiled at Draco, and he just stared at her and her disgustingly genial nature.
"He's fine, Mrs. Weasley," Potter said, still not looking up from the racket. Draco rolled his eyes at him.
"My vocal chords are fine, too," he said. Potter glanced up and glared at him, but went back to the racket immediately after.
Mrs. Weasley looked down at the racket Draco and Potter were holding onto. "Oh dear, you found Arthur's old tannus things," she said exasperatedly.
"It's 'tennis', Mrs. Weasley," Granger said.
"Either way it's a nuisance. Those stupid balls bounce like mad and break everything in the house." Mrs. Weasley eyed the box of balls and rackets warily before turning her attention back on Draco. "You must have a terrible case of cabin fever, dear." She smiled at Potter and Weasley. "Harry, Ron, don't you think it would be nice to take Draco outside for a while? He's been shut up in here for so long..."
"There's a reason for that, Mum." Mrs. Weasley serenely ignored this and looked down Draco, her maternal instincts oozing from every pore.
"Take me outside? What, like a dog? I'm sorry, I understand old habits are hard to break, but I'm not your child." Draco tried to tug the racket back out of Potter's infuriatingly strong grip.
Mrs. Weasley seemed not to have heard, but Potter narrowed his eyes angrily, and Weasley paused for a second before jumping at Draco. He was stopped short, though, when Granger grabbed his arm. "Don't, Ron," she hissed, and he obeyed like the dog he was.
"I think that's a splendid idea. Harry, Ron, why don't you take those tannos things out and have some fun. Arthur says that they're supposed to be part of a game, after all."
Both Weasley and Draco looked like this was as far from a splendid idea as possible, but Potter sighed and gave in. "There's a public park around here, right, Ron?" he asked, gathering an armful of tennis balls and hastily shoving another tennis racket into Draco's hands.
Weasley still looked slightly bewildered at Potter's willingness to take Draco out for exercise (like an animal, an inmate). "Yeah," he said slowly. "Down the street, by the Muggle part of town. There's those weird cars and ekelektic lights, you can't miss it."
"You're taking me to a Muggle town?"
"Shut up, Malfoy." Potter grabbed the end of Draco's racket again and dragged him out the room.
Draco tugged back. "I feel so sorry for your professors, Potter. For the eighty-seventh time, I do not require a lead like a bloody dog. I'm not your precious Weasley--" Potter pulled harder as they went down the stairs, reminding Draco of gravity for a few terrifying moments before he regained his balance and was able to tug Potter back.
He smirked at the bottom of the stairs when Potter glared at him, but before he could beat Potter's brain in with the racket, Potter shoved the tennis balls into Draco's arms and whispered, "Stay here. I'm going to grab some food from the kitchen and Ginny can't see you."
"Bring me coffee."
"Coffee," Draco said slowly and clearly. "Hot, brown, smells like liquefied joy."
Potter flapped his hands at Draco impatiently. "I know what coffee is."
"Then why are you still here?"
"You can't have coffee and play sports; you'll give yourself a heart attack."
Draco sighed. "Little Weasley is in that room, right?"
"Yeah," Potter said, his voice careful.
"And you don't want her to know I'm here?"
"Okay then. If you don't bring me coffee, I'll scream."
Draco held up three fingers. "One," he said, making a show of lowering a finger.
Potter scrubbed at his face. "Just... wait here." He disappeared into the hallway.
While Draco waited for Potter to return with his coffee, he carefully leaned against the doorjamb and looked at the many little yellow balls balanced precariously in his arms. They were fuzzy against his skin and had a foreign, burnt kind of smell.
Muggles were clearly insane.
Potter came stumbling back, a canvas bag swinging from his wrist and an enormous mug of coffee in his grasp. "Ginny thinks I've gone mad," he said, glaring at Draco.
"She's just now noticing this? Poor girl, she's even slower than I thought."
Potter seized Draco's racket and bodily dragged him out of the house, spilling drops of the precious coffee in his haste.
"POTTER." Draco snatched the mug out of Potter's clumsy, uncaring hands, pushing the small mountain of tennis balls into the canvas bag so his hands would be free for caffeine consumption.
With a heavy sigh, Potter tugged harder on Draco's racket and pulled him out of the house and down the dusty dirt road. Draco carefully avoided potholes and held on to the mug for dear life. The mug itself was scarlet with a chipped rim, tiny bits of white plaster peaking through the enamel. Draco had a vague memory of his mother stubbornly throwing away any china that got chipped or cracked, always muttering something about possible porcelain consumption and St. Mungo's. Draco stared warily at the cup.
Things were going along as well as could be expected when being forcibly exercised by the Boy Who Lived to Torture Innocent Blonde Young Men Who Only Wanted Some Form of Protection as Promised by Various Authority Figures, Damn It. There were random dirt clumps to deal with, of course, and the air smelled like mildew and the strange tennis balls, but the fresh air was a nice change from the dust and chaos of the Weasleys' and the stench of antiseptic at Potter's.
Draco thought he just might make it through the morning when he and Potter reached an enormous stick with buzzing balls of light sitting atop it. To hell with improper ingestion, Draco thought and downed half of the mug.
Potter looked around and guided Draco to a walkway along a road that was occupied by enormous metal boxes with wheels that were moving and making loud noises and emitting something that looked like a lit stink bomb. Draco stifled a shriek as one zipped past him, causing Potter to glance behind him with his eyebrows raised.
"Is there a problem?" he asked, a hint of amusement in his voice.
Draco stared. "Yes, there's a problem," he said slowly and carefully. "What are those... those things with the wheels?" He pointed over to an enormous yellow thing that was currently rumbling ominously in the street.
"That's a car, Malfoy. Surely you've seen those before. Even Ron's used one." Potter tugged back on the racket, trying to drag Draco further down the street where even more of the 'cars' were waiting. Draco planted his feet firmly on the ground and held Potter in place.
"Malfoys, unlike your precious Weasleys, do not associate with Muggle objects or ideas, Potter. What does the car do?" Potter stared blankly. Draco contemplated throwing him in front of the car to see what would happen. "While we're young."
Potter ran a hand through his hair, managing, in a complete disregard for natural law and physics, to make it even more wild. "Cars... they're like tiny trains, kind of. They carry people around but don't have to run on tracks, so people can go wherever they want."
"Why don't they just use trains?"
"Why don't they...? So they can go wherever they want without having to deal with the train schedule."
"But Muggles are stupid; surely they kill themselves in these car things."
Potter made a strangled noise in his throat and said, "Look, that isn't the point."
"Are they really so stupid they would rather die than wait five minutes for a train?"
"We're going to the tennis courts now," Potter said firmly, and with far too much strength for his measly arms, pulled Draco down the sidewalk. Draco moved as far away from the street and cars as possible.
Many terrifying beeps and skid noises later, Draco and Potter had reached the small park and Potter had eagerly steered them over to a fenced in lot with nets running across and white lines printed into the ground.
Oh good, another prison.
The lot was already full of people in white, hurtling the little yellow balls at each other, the sound of the rackets slicing through the air at once overwhelming and comforting.
"Damn," Potter muttered. "We'll have to wait." He plopped himself down on a nearby bench, pulling Draco down with him, and opened the canvas bag. Draco watched the players on the court, sipping his coffee slowly.
"What is this, some kind of demented Beater practice?" Draco asked, following the arc of the ball nearest to him as the two player slammed it back and forth across the net.
Potter kept digging through the bag, pushing aside the tennis balls in his quest. "Don't mention Quidditch out here, Malfoy. And yeah, kind of. You hit the ball back and forth and try to keep it inside the white lines. If you can't hit it back, you lose a point." Potter's hand emerged from the bag, clutching an apple. "It's kind of hard to understand unless you play it."
"Fifteen-love," someone shouted from the courts. Draco raised an eyebrow.
"What are they talking about?" He paused. "And I want an apple, too."
Potter rolled his eyes and shoved one into Draco's outstretched hand. "That's how they keep score. It's hard to explain." He gestured awkwardly at the court as if searching for the right words.
"Why're they saying 'love'?" Draco asked, taking a bit of his apple in between sips of coffee.
"It means that player doesn't have any points." Draco snorted and Potter hid a smile behind his apple.
They watched the courts for a while longer, eating their apples and waiting for people to leave. Draco felt a bit perturbed at the companionable silence developing, and made sure to glower menacingly at Potter every five minutes for safety. Potter never seemed to notice, instead watching the tennis games with an eerie, pleasant look on his face.
As much as Draco tried to get into watching the games (the thought of hurling balls at Potter was rather intriguing, after all), he couldn't quite get the appeal. Everything was very calm, very understated, and didn't seem like a sport at all. Draco was used to the brutal violence and vigor of Quidditch, not to graceful swings and stifled grunts of effort. Where was the blood, the anger, the passion?
At last, two boys dressed in immaculate blue and white gathered their rackets and balls and left, the shorter of the two tugging the bill of his hat down impossibly far. Potter stood up eagerly, gathering the bag and the end of Draco's racket once more. Draco sighed and downed the last of his coffee before allowing Potter to drag him to the courts.
The first thing Draco noticed when he walked into through the tennis court gate was the overpowering stench of sweat and that weird burnt smell of the tennis balls he had noticed earlier. He had a sudden upsetting image of the entire court catching on fire and clutched his racket tighter, shutting his eyes and taking deep, soothing breaths.
Which was when Potter had the audacity to hurtle one of the burning-balls past his head. Draco heard it whizz through the air and ducked.
"You're supposed to hit the ball, Malfoy." Draco opened his eyes for the sole purpose of glaring at Potter (and to watch for any more dangerous flying spheres).
"There's a reason I'm not a Beater," Draco said, standing up slowly and dusting himself off. "But it's not because I don't like to hit balls at people." Draco smirked and gripped the racket, copying the way Potter was holding his. "Try that again."
Potter pulled one of the yellow balls out of his pocket and hit it towards Draco. Draco had a terrifying moment when he thought the ball was going to kill him, but he hastily swung his racket and, in a refreshing change of pace, had the good fortune to meet it. The ball lobbed gracefully through the air and hit the net that separated Draco and Potter. Potter laughed and Draco tried not to sulk too obviously.
“You’re supposed to hit it over the net, Malfoy,” Potter said, sounding like the ability to hit a fuzzy yellow thing with a giant plastic lolly meant he was somehow better than Draco.
“Just go, Potter,” Draco scowled. He looked at his racket, then looked at the way the players in the next court over were swinging their rackets.
Potter smirked, and hit the ball in a high arc over the net. Draco, always a fast learner, took the opportunity to slam it back towards Potter’s face, delighting in the widening of his eyes as he hastily threw his racket up to protect his nose. Potter glared, then hunched over, a deadly serious, almost frightening look on his face.
They played in a silence broken only by sporadic insults and grunts. Draco wasn’t particularly skilled, rather clumsy and, like Potter, overenthusiastic to hit violent balls. Still, he was pleased to have an opportunity to run and stretch limbs that had been unused for over a year now, even if it meant losing to Potter (his third least favorite thing in the world). He had missed Quidditch last year, but he hadn't realized how much of an impact it had been on his body until now, when every lunge and swing and step caused him to feel the stretch and burn of muscle long forgotten.
He was starting to pant in earnest now, sweat dripping slowly down his face and neck; he could see and hear Potter doing the same across the net. But Potter made no move to end the game or rest and Draco had no intention of giving up to Potter, of all people, so he kept playing, kept diving for balls just beyond his reach and stretching to return hits and serves.
He hardly noticed when it began to rain, light but simultaneously heavy, every drop soaking through Draco's clothes to reach his skin.
He hit the ball back to Potter, but Potter let it go by, watching it lose momentum and power as it traveled past the white lines of the court. "We should go back," he said, removing his glasses and wiping them against his shirt. "You're not supposed to play tennis in the rain."
Draco laughed, but it came out as more of a strangled cough. "That's stupid."
"All the same." Potter went to retrieve the ball.
The other players were leaving the courts now, a wave of white rushing for the gates illuminated by quick flashes of lighting in the darkening sky. “Hey, Potter. When did you learn this game?” Draco asked, carefully masking his voice so as not to appear too impressed at Potter’s skill. He was a little afraid Potter would say he’d never played before; it would be just like the Gryffindor golden boy.
Potter crocked an eyebrow and said, “I’d play whenever we had a free day at the school I went to before Hogwarts.” He let out an empty laugh, and Draco thought he heard Potter say, “It was the only sport where my cousin had to be one hundred feet away from me,” but it made him feel uncomfortable so he ignored it, instead tilting his head up to the sky, letting the rain wash away heat and sweat.
“My hair’s going to be ruined,” he mused to the world at large.
Potter snorted. "Well, in that case, let's go."