Prompt: Panic Attack
Character: Harry Potter
Umbridge had taken Quidditch away from him.
The toad had taken his broom too, holding it prisoner in her lurid pink office. The iron manacles were overkill though. Like she was creating some sort of medieval torture display. He was sure her next Educational Decree would reinstitute hanging from one’s thumbs as a valid detention practice. Part of him wondered if it’d be more or less painful than carving into the back of his hand, night after night.
But even with his broom gone, Harry found himself drawn to the Quidditch Pitch. He laid flat on his back, unbothered by the damp spring grass—just breathing. Just Harry. But the aching of his hand, Fudge refusing to accept Voldemort’s return, the fact that Dumbledore had gone into hiding, and the ever present burning of his scar gave Harry a reckless impulse to steal his broom back and fly—just fly—just disappear.
Make no noise and pretend I’m not there.
“Look who it is—shouldn’t you be in the library, Potter?”
Harry jumped to his feet. Draco Malfoy never traveled alone and he’d rather keep the Inquisitorial Squad within his sights. Malfoy, flanked by his usual pair of thuggish bodyguards, was accompanied by Pansy Parkinson and a girl he recognized as Millicent Bulstrode. All of them were flashing new Inquisitorial Squad badges. Malfoy had pinned his right next to his Prefect badge, throwing out his chest so that you couldn’t possibly miss it.
“What makes you say that?” Harry clenched and unclenched his fists. He was hopelessly out-matched.
“Well, without a broom you clearly don’t belong on the Quidditch Pitch,” Malfoy drawled, and the Slytherins around him snickered derisively.
“You don’t look like you’re here for Quidditch Practice.”
“Did you forget?” and Malfoy flicked his badges, “Patrolling the school is part of my responsibilities now. Let’s see, five points from Gryffindor for defaming the Quidditch Pitch.”
Harry bit the inside of his cheek. They’d past the point of fairness and right into tyrant country, and the current tyrant would just love a reason to teach him the bones of his hand accompanied by bloody visual aids. But— “Well, then you best clear off, because I don’t think anyone has defamed the Quidditch Pitch as much as you have,” Harry said, “Exactly how many times have I caught the snitch before you?”
The smirks vanished at once. Harry saw Malfoy’s hand twitch, and moved at the exact same time, the both of them withdrawing their wands in a single synchronized motion.
“What’re you going to do, Potter? There are five of us and only one of you,” Malfoy sneered. The other Slytherins took out their wands at that, but it only made Harry tighten the grip on his wand.
“I’ve faced worse odds,” he retorted, and he saw Parkinson and Bulstrode glance at each other nervously. It would have been a bluff if they all didn’t know it was true. Malfoy seemed to pause a moment, before sneering.
“Nothing more than a lucky accident, I’m sure,” he said, taking a step toward Harry, rising his wand straight up in front of his face—like he had that fateful day at the dueling club. “One and one. Just you and me.”
“In fact, I prefer it this way. Just you and me, Harry Potter… you and me…”
Harry raised his own wand, ignoring the way his heart had just reverberated in his throat. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw the other Slytherins slowly create a circle around them. If only he’d let Ron and Hermione had come with him, he might not have gotten into this mess. But he could take Malfoy. He could take all of them. Like he’d said—he’d faced worse odds.
“You have been taught how to duel, Harry Potter?”
Malfoy inclined his head in a poor imitation of a bow, earning another round of snickering. Harry’s mouth went dry. He heard the words, pounding in his ears as he bowed his head, high and cold—a trickle of ice freezing his anger.
“We bow to each other, Harry. Come, the niceties must be observed…Dumbledore would like you to show manners… Bow to death, Harry…”
He and Malfoy straightened, raising their wands to the combative position.
“And now you face me, like a man… straight-backed and proud, the way your father died…”
Harry couldn’t breathe. It felt like his lungs had seized, unable to move. He couldn’t see the Slytherins around him anymore—were they still there? He saw Malfoy blur in front of him, wand still raised, mouth moving but no sound. His heart was thudding so hard his chest actually hurt. Had Malfoy hit him with some spell? He must’ve cast it silently—he didn’t know Malfoy could do that. His legs suddenly didn’t seem able to support him, and Harry’s hands shot to his knees, fighting to keep himself upright. He needed to retaliate, cast a hex in response, he couldn’t crumple now—he needed—
It took Harry a minute to realize that Malfoy was standing in front of him, wearing a bewildered expression, and another for him to remember where he was. The stones of the graveyard fell into the grass, the dark shapes of prowling Death Eaters blended into a huddled group of Slytherins urging Malfoy to leave before someone saw.
“What—what did you—” Harry managed, struggling to regain his breath. “—Just couldn’t fight fair—huh?” He could still hear Lord Voldemort’s high cold voice, and resisted the mad urge to cover his ears.
But Malfoy didn’t give his characteristic smirk. He watched, silent, as Harry wheezed and placed his hand over his hammering heart.
“As much as I would like to take credit, Potter, I can’t. But I will.”
“What?” Harry could feel his pulse slowing now. “What does that mean?” And why was Malfoy speaking so quietly?
“Or do you want me to tell them what really happened?”
“Should’ve figured you’d get one sooner or later.” Malfoy had straightened up, putting away his wand and avoiding Harry’s eyes as he spoke.
“Get what?” Harry asked, swallowing.
Malfoy raised his eyebrow and sneered, though it seemed muted, verging on a grimace. “An anxiety-attack.”
Harry stared at him. He had not—he didn’t get—
“Looks like I won,” though his words didn’t quite have the drawling smugness they usually would. He seemed to wait to see if Harry would contradict him, and when met with silence he turned and walked away.
Harry watched him and the other Slytherins leave, before flopping onto his back. He closed his eyes and breathed, inhaling the grass. He was back, suddenly and violently—facedown outside the maze, breathing the scent of the same grass, head swimming, blackness gathering at the corners of his brain. And then he clenched his hands, to tighten his grip on the Triwziard cup and Cedric’s body and grasped nothing.