When he was six, Draco Malfoy had charged all of his parents' friends' daughters a sickle each to kiss him. More precisely, he had gone around telling all of the Daughters of Death Eaters (patent pending) that for just one sickle, each lucky girl could share a moment in a linen closet with him. His mother had slipped five sickles into his money purse, and at the end of the day, he'd shown his father what he'd earned. Lucius Malfoy was impressed with his son's initiative; Narcissa never mentioned that no actual girls (and one's mother really did not count) had actually paid to actually kiss their son, and, pacified, Draco cleanly avoided entering a long life of debauchery and prostitution.
Millicent Bulstrode liked to tease him about the whole sordid affair before Quidditch matches to psych him out. It wasn't so much that she wanted the team to lose, he assumed, but that she was trying to make him angry. This hypothesis was all-but-confirmed by the way she threatened to give him a "knuckle-sandwich" if he failed to catch the Snitch.
Draco Malfoy had played Harry Potter in Quidditch exactly one time, and he had lost in what he would have liked to think was a blaze of glory. To be truthful, it had been more like a blaze of humiliation. He had been more focussed on making sure Potter didn't catch the Snitch than the Snitch itself; so distracted, in fact, that he had never noticed that the Snitch was hovering beside his head. The rest, as they say, is history; and Malfoy very nearly would have been history himself if Professor Snape had not saved him from the wrath of Marcus Flint, the Slytherin Quidditch captain. Millicent, true to her word, had in fact given him a "knuckle-sandwich", but she had waited two months to do it, to be sure it came with the element of surprise.
But even Millicent Bulstrode kept her mouth shut about haphazard kissing booths and knuckle-sandwiches the morning of the final Quidditch match of the year—Slytherin and Gryffindor. The week prior to the match had been one of the most tension-filled weeks ever entertained at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Malfoy himself had been in the thick of it, being, as it were, that he was the Slytherin Seeker and the game would rely on him (a fact no one was above reminding him of every day of every week). That is not to say that the pressure was not on particularly heavily for the game in question; the winner would receive the Inter-House Quidditch Cup, and Slytherin had not lost it once in about twelve years. (Some said eleven; some inflated it to thirty; twelve seemed the most likely.)
"Catch the Snitch," Flint had barked when Malfoy had entered the Great Hall that morning. A short sentiment, but he'd made his point. The outcome of the game weighed heavily on Malfoy's shoulders, because while Slytherin was leading the tournament by two-hundred points, if Potter caught the Snitch when Gryffindor was leading by fifty points or more, the Cup was lost.
The addition of Harry Potter to the Gryffindor Quidditch team had made acquiring the Quidditch Cup particularly difficult for a number of reasons.
One, that Potter was, admittedly, a fantastic Seeker. Slytherin had been very, very lucky for the past two years, in that Harry Potter had landed himself in the hospital wing enough times to keep Gryffindor away from the Cup. But this year, even the fall Potter had taken from his broom in the match against Hufflepuff hadn't been enough to put Gryffindor out of the running.
Two, that the Gryffindors, when it came down to it, weren't above giving back exactly what they got. For all of the rancorous cheating and roughhousing that Slytherin was perfectly happy to put into a match, the Gryffindors were perfectly happy to resort to the same low and dirty tactics. That is not to say that Gryffindor would not have been able to win without lowering themselves to the Slytherins' level, but that hardly helped matters.
And three, Harry Potter had recently received a Firebolt; a fact that the rest of the Slytherin Quidditch team seemed to think was Draco Malfoy's fault. Malfoy might as well have sent Potter the Firebolt himself, for all the flack he was receiving for it. It seemed that they resented him for getting them all stuck with Nimbus Two Thousand and Ones, when clearly Malfoy's father should have waited a year and bought them Firebolts.
Malfoy, for his part, noticed that the Great Hall had become particularly chilly that morning. He was practically trembling with cold. On a typical day, there was not much colour in Malfoy's skin at all, but on this particular morning, he thought the veins on the backs of his hands were standing out starkly, as though his skin were made of parchment. Upon noticing this, he quickly stuffed them under the table and hoped his face did not look nearly as pale in comparison.
"You look ill," Millicent observed. "Almost as though you might faint, Malfoy. Problems?"
Before Malfoy could open his mouth to give back a proper retort, the doors to the Great Hall opened and the tables of all three other Houses burst into applause as the Gryffindor Quidditch team filed in like a military troop; given their captain, Oliver Wood, one half-expected the Gryffindors to shout, "Sir, yes, sir!" before pulling out their chairs and sitting down in one single motion. Instead, they separated into groups of friends; Potter, of course, moved down to the end of the table with Granger and Weasley. He glanced over at Malfoy and raised the corner of his mouth in what could only be called a satisfied smirk.
Breakfast seemed very hard to chew, and even harder to get down, like a rumour that was especially hard to swallow. Malfoy poked at his eggs with a fork, wondering whether it was his imagination, or if the eggs were in fact made of rubber. The thought of putting them in his mouth was revolting. Three seats down, Flint was shovelling in the eggs like there was no tomorrow, paying not a bit of attention to the rest of his team. At the Gryffindor table, Wood was making his rounds and patting each team member on the back, pointing to their food and making sure they ate. Malfoy scowled.
Warrington, a Chaser, was far too pre-occupied with dumping bits of his breakfast into a glass of pumpkin juice to take notice of the quality. By the end of breakfast, Malfoy had no doubt that someone would be drinking that glass for a mere handful of Knuts. And by the way Montague was watching with sickened fascination, Malfoy had a fair idea who that someone would be. He just hoped Montague would have the decency to wait until they were off the pitch to throw it all back up.
Malfoy shivered again and balled his hands into the sleeves of his robes. Why was it so bloody cold in the middle of April, anyway?
The Gryffindor team left as abruptly as they had entered, waved off with another round of applause from the rest of the school. Even Cho Chang, the Ravenclaw Seeker, was calling out for Potter to wish him good luck. Oh, no, the school certainly wasn't biased at all. Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were just far too drippy to bother winning themselves—especially when Gryffindor was around to do it for them.
"You are going to win, right?" Millicent asked, sceptically, furrowing her eyebrow.
Malfoy swallowed, hard. "Of course I'm going to win," he said with what he hoped was an air of confidence. "It's just Potter."
But it wasn't Just Potter anymore. During Gryffindor's match against Ravenclaw, Malfoy, Flint, Crabbe, and Goyle had snuck onto the pitch dressed as Dementors in an effort to distract Potter. They'd distracted him, all right—just enough for Potter to shoot something white and silvery at them before McGonagall deducted fifty points from Slytherin and gave them all detentions. And Potter hadn't forgotten it, Malfoy was sure. Potter would be even more determined to win, and more importantly, more determined to see Malfoy and the rest of Slytherin lose. Malfoy had to—had to—catch that Snitch first. He didn't care if it took him four hours. He would keep Potter away from the Snitch no matter what it took.
"Oh, I hope your arm doesn't hurt too much when you fly, Draco!" Pansy Parkinson crooned from the other side of Millicent. "I hope they kill that nasty hippogriff!"
"His arm does not hurt," Millicent answered severely. "He was pretending."
Malfoy glowered for all he was worth and pushed out his chair. "The next time you see me I'll be a Quidditch Cup winner," he announced, to no one in particular. Crabbe and Goyle nodded with faux enthusiasm. "And the next time you see Potter, he'll be picking grass out of his teeth," he added for good measure.
With that, he pressed his lips into a grim slash of determination and flounced theatrically out of the Hall. As he left, he heard Warrington offering six Knuts to whoever was brave enough to down his concoction.
The Slytherin Quidditch team entered the pitch to find the sky had been dyed scarlet. Such a large amount of the student body had slathered themselves with scarlet flags, rosettes, banners, and scarves, it was scarlet everywhere the eye could see, aside from a pitiful amount of green over in the Slytherin section of the stands. Scarcely had they set foot on the pitch before the myriad of Scarlet Spectators launched into a particularly enthusiastic round of booing, drowning out the cheers coming from the Slytherins.
"And here come the Slytherin team, led by Captain Flint," Lee Jordan, a Gryffindor, announced from the commentator's box. "He's made some changes in the line-up and seems to be going for size rather than skill —" Malfoy scowled at that last remark, which was obviously meant for him, but was at least pacified by the boos from the Slytherin stands. "—Warrington, Montague, Derrick, Bole, Hodgkins, Malfoy and Flint, leading the tournament by two hundred points, if you can believe it."
The Gryffindors did look small and unimposing when surrounded by the rest of his team, Malfoy noticed. So what if he was smaller than the rest of them? Size mattered more for a Beater than a Seeker, didn't it?
"Captains, shake hands!" Madam Hooch ordered briskly.
Malfoy licked his lips nervou—confidently, and glared at Potter from the corner of his eye. Potter, for all intents and purposes, had his face fixed into a grimace and his eyes hooked on Madam Hooch. Obedient, wasn't he?
"Mount your brooms!"
He swung a leg over his broom, tightened his hands nervously around the handle, and kicked off with the rest of the team at Hooch's whistle. A cacophony of cheers and boos ripped from the crowd, miserably audible over the wind whistling in his ears as the Slytherins met the Gryffindors in the sky. A cool burst of wind shot up the sleeves of his robes as he soared through the air. It wasn't so bad, flying. If Malfoy weren't so busy worrying about the Snitch, he might even have been able to enjoy it.
Potter shot a glare back at him before taking off towards the Gryffindor goal posts, and Malfoy sped after him. There was no chance he was leaving Potter alone, no chance—if Potter was going to spot the Snitch, Malfoy was damned well going to see it, too. "Fair is fair," he muttered under his breath, very nearly forgetting to swerve as he passed one of the Weasley twins.
If Malfoy had learned one thing about Harry Potter during his one prior match against him, it was that Potter couldn't stand to be followed. It distracted him. He would keep glancing back, checking to see if the other Seeker was still there, before making a cross face and pulling into a deep dive in an attempt to throw his opponent off of their game. For his part, Potter did a good job at trying to throw anyone else off—faking Snitch-sightings, pulling off impossible dives—but Malfoy had long ago told himself that anything Potter could do, he could do better. And he could certainly hold up a game of Follow the Leader.
"Warrington drops the Quaffle, it's caught by — Johnson, Gryffindor back in possession, come on, Angelina — nice swerve around Montague — duck, Angelina, that's a Bludger! — SHE SCORES! TEN-ZERO TO GRYFFINDOR!"
No, no, no. He had to catch the Snitch before Gryffindor scored again. Malfoy swerved around in the air to shoot his very best glare at Angelina Johnson, whoever she was, but it turned out he didn't need to. Flint was already there, and crashed into Johnson violently. A small smirk tugged at the corners of Malfoy's mouth as the crowd roared in outrage.
He turned his attention back to Potter, who was gesturing like a wild bird at Flint in disgust. Malfoy laughed out loud and nearly slipped off his broom in the process. Scowling, he found a better grip and took off after Potter, who'd already begun flying upwards to scan the pitch.
From this high up, Malfoy was in the perfect position to see one of the Weasleys toss a club at Flint. Flint careened forward and blood flew through the air as his nose connected with his broom handle. Malfoy's eyes widened, and he made a note to stay out of the way of the Gryffindor Beaters.
"That will do!" he heard Madam Hooch bellowing distantly. "Penalty shot to Gryffindor for an unprovoked attack on their Chaser! Penalty shot to Slytherin for deliberate damage to their Chaser!"
"Come off it, Miss!" the Gryffindor Beater shouted over the whistle.
Malfoy pivoted in the air to watch one of the Gryffindor Chasers take her penalty shot, a different one than the one who'd scored moments before. Hodgkins, the Slytherin Beater, hovered in front of the Slytherin goal posts.
"Come on, Alicia!" Malfoy rolled his eyes at the commentator's support of the Gryffindors. If Hogwarts had any sense, they would have put a professor as a commentator, or a Slytherin. Obviously no Gryffindor was going to make comments without being —
"YES! SHE'S BEATEN THE KEEPER! TWENTY-ZERO TO GRYFFINDOR!"
The Scarlet Sea roared victoriously, and a few feet away, Potter turned sharply in the air, his beady eyes focussed on Flint behind his spectacles. Flint was still bleeding, and Malfoy had to hand it to him. If he'd broken his nose, he certainly wouldn't have continued playing.
The whistle blew, and Potter's eyes never left the Quaffle. Malfoy half-wondered if Potter had some sort of telekinetic power. Just as the Quaffle was about to soar neatly through one of the Gryffindor goal posts, Wood jerked sharply and caught it to the chest instead.
It was at this point that Malfoy remembered he actually needed to look for the Snitch, instead of the tail of Potter's broom, and in a particularly brave act of determination, dove into the thick of the game, leaving Potter to scan the perimeter. The wind roared in his ears, making the tips of them sting, and he very nearly collided with Flint, who looked very peeved indeed.
"Catch the Snitch!" Flint repeated before flying off after one of the Gryffindor Chasers.
"'Catch the Snitch'," Malfoy muttered in imitation. "Gee, d'you think I might've forgotten that by now? Here I thought I had to catch the sodding Bludger."
Above him, Montague swerved suddenly, his foot nearly colliding with Malfoy's head. Malfoy gulped and dropped down a few feet, in time to see Montague grab a Gryffindor Chaser round the head. He couldn't help snickering this time as the commentator shouted, "THAT WAS DELIBERATE!" The Quaffle dropped neatly past Malfoy, who could have caught it himself, had he been a Chaser.
Hooch zoomed over, screaming at Montague, but fortunately, the damage was already done. Still sniggering, Malfoy scanned the pitch below for any sightings of gold.
"THIRTY-ZERO! TAKE THAT YOU DIRTY, CHEATING —"
Malfoy's stomach tightened and he resumed his hunt for Potter, forgetting the Snitch once again. If Gryffindor scored just twice more, just twice, and Potter caught the Snitch, it would all be over. And then, suddenly, Potter was hurling himself towards the Slytherin goal posts, flat against his Firebolt—
Malfoy panicked and zipped after him, diving quickly before they collided with the Slytherin Beaters — Potter flew through them, a Bludger zinged past his head, and Malfoy had a fleeting hope that Potter would be taken out of the game. He ducked, caught a Bludger to the elbow, and then Bole and Derrick, the Slytherin Beaters, were on him at once. Malfoy took the opportunity to search frantically for the Snitch, but whatever Potter had seen was gone, or Malfoy was really losing his eyesight.
There was a loud thud from above, and Malfoy looked up to see Potter smiling with morbid satisfaction as Bole and Derrick gathered their wits. They'd crashed into each other instead of Potter.
Had that been him causing the crash instead of Potter, it would have been a penalty shot, Malfoy realised irritably. The Snitch was long gone, but at least Potter hadn't caught it either.
Moments later, Flint scored, but Malfoy didn't have the enthusiasm to even let out a, "Ha ha!" He was too busy tagging along just beside the tail of Potter's broom. They were hovering awfully close to the Gryffindor section now, and for a moment, Malfoy had thoughts of simply diving straight into it and watching them all scream; watching them all jump for cover while he barrelled straight toward them and polished off the Parting of the Scarlet Sea.
It was either that, or pull Potter's broom out from under him.
"YOU DO NOT ATTACK THE KEEPER UNLESS THE QUAFFLE IS WITHIN THE SCORING AREA!" Malfoy couldn't be bothered to see what had happened, but was sure it was going to — yes, Gryffindor scored again, he noted with disgust. What was the good in cheating if it only gave the Gryffindors more chances to score?
And now the score was sixty-ten, Gryffindor. Malfoy felt his face flushing with heat as he thought of Potter catching the Snitch, Potter grabbing the Quidditch Cup, Potter -
Potter was soaring upwards now, and then Malfoy saw it. A sparkle of gold, the SNITCH, and Potter was already so close; there was no way Malfoy could catch up. . . .
So, instead, he did the only logical thing one could do in such a situation.
He launched his Nimbus forward and hurled himself at Potter's broom, grabbing tightly to the tail of it. It was heavier than he would have imagined, and his thighs were straining from keeping a grip on his own broom, but he was pulling. Potter turned around, looking absolutely scandalised.
Malfoy pulled harder on the Firebolt, and a flash of rage flickered in Potter's eyes before he swung his arm at Malfoy, who grinned malevolently at the sight of Potter so helplessly frustrated by the fact that he was quite out of reach.
"Penalty! Penalty to Gryffindor! I've never seen such tactics!" Hooch was screaming now, and Malfoy felt a sense of pride at that last bit. He let go of Potter's broomstick and re-seated himself comfortably on his own.
"YOU CHEATING SCUM! YOU FILTHY, CHEATING —"
"BAD LUCK, POTTER!" Derrick shouted.
Perhaps there was something to this cheating after all. Gryffindor seemed to be thoroughly distracted by their anger; the Gryffindor Chaser hadn't even been able to make their penalty shot, and Montague scored a moment later. But Malfoy didn't get to see it, and his elation over his dirty shot lasted only a few moments before Potter started following him.
Following wasn't even the correct term. He was on top of him, behind him, next to him — Potter was everywhere, making vehemently sure that Malfoy wasn't going to — their broomsticks were clacking together, Potter's hair was hitting Malfoy in the face, and Oh God, his thigh was rubbing against Malfoy's, his knee digging into Malfoy's thigh, and Potter jerked and his hip hit Malfoy's and — Oh God.
"Get out of it, Potter!" Malfoy shouted frantically. He tried to turn, but Potter was there, too, poking him in the shin with his Firebolt, eyes narrowed in determination, his hands wrapped tightly around the handle between his knees — Oh God.
Malfoy gasped and veered sharply away from Potter, but Potter didn't seem to notice any discomfort whatsoever. If in fact he did, he obviously didn't mind, because he simply pressed on in marking Malfoy so closely that Malfoy could hear him panting—panting, Oh God.
And then, as suddenly as Potter and his stupid body had come, Potter pivoted around sharply and sped off. Malfoy was vaguely aware of an outraged cry from Flint, but had more pressing things to consider at the moment—like the way Potter's hip had been pressing against his.
"SHE SCORES! SHE SCORES! Gryffindor leads by eighty points to twenty!"
Even that didn't serve as a distraction to the tightening of Malfoy's stomach, or the more distracting tightening of his trousers—Oh God, Oh God—something had to give, he had to get Potter out of his head; there was a flash of gold below him, but who cared about the Snitch at a time like — The Snitch!
Without time for thought, Malfoy dove, his world suddenly turning green as the grass came closer and closer, the Snitch a tiny golden sun against it, and then —
Something hard knocked into his ankle. Potter was there, from out of nowhere, his crimson-swathed arms in Malfoy's line of peripheral vision. Malfoy pushed his Nimbus faster, his arm was almost there, he could feel the wings on his fingertips, he was going to get it, and he was going to win —
An elbow knocked into his wrist and he was pushed out of the way.
With a soft, cold slap, Potter's palm connected with the Snitch, and all Malfoy could do was look on in horror, not even bothering to right himself on his broom, as Potter's fingers wrapped around the tiny beating wings.
A pause of silence.
And then the pitch was filled with a deafening roar, and Potter pumped his fist and the Snitch into the air. Malfoy clenched his jaw, and he knew this time that the red he was seeing wasn't because of any old Gryffindor banners. His stomach sank with his broom as he landed on his feet on the grass of the pitch.
"We've won the Cup! We've won the Cup!"
"We've won the Cup! We've won the Cup!"
Malfoy was frozen, his palms still white to the knuckle around his broom handle, as the rest of the school crashed onto the field in a scarlet tidal wave, pushing Malfoy out of the way, rushing forth to clap the Gryffindors on the back. Malfoy stumbled backwards into a large Gryffindor seventh year, who gave him a look of disgust before pushing past him.
He couldn't see the rest of his team for the sheer amount of people on the pitch now, but it didn't matter. The Gryffindors were propped up onto the shoulders of the crowd, Potter at the very lead, mouth spread impossibly wide in an ugly grin. Wood was sobbing, McGonagall was sobbing, and Malfoy felt that grinding Potter's spectacles into powder would be a very good idea indeed. The crowd shifted as one and launched the Gryffindors into the stands, and some younger Gryffindors and Ravenclaws took the opportunity to pat Malfoy on the back in sarcastic, bitter thanks.
The noise was deafening as Dumbledore awarded the Cup to Wood. "Go, go, Gryffindor!" The gold of the huge Quidditch Cup gleamed like an enormous Snitch as Potter held it up in the stands.
Malfoy's thigh still burned where Potter had rubbed against it.
Malfoy was the first to enter the Slytherin locker rooms, for which he was glad, because it gave him the chance to kick two of the locker doors in privacy. It also gave him the chance to howl over how much kicking the lockers had hurt, before ceremoniously flinging his shin guards at the shady wooden bench.
He had been so close. He'd felt the Snitch, felt the wings against his fingers, and he'd seen it well before Potter had. Potter had knocked his arm out of the way so hard he was certain his forearm was going to bruise over it, but that didn't much matter when GRYFFINDOR was engraved on the Quidditch Cup.
That Snitch was rightfully his. For all the cheating Slytherin had done, it was Potter in the end who'd shoved him out of the way. Oh, no doubt it was a legal move; if it weren’t, it would be considered one when Potter was the one performing it. But if Malfoy had done that very thing to Potter, had knocked his arm out of the way so he could get the Snitch—the rest of the school would have spent weeks in outrage over Slytherin winning like that. Malfoy's teeth ached from grinding them so hard.
As he heard the rest of the Quidditch team begin shuffling in, Malfoy quickly slipped into the last stall of lockers, where a large basket of spare shin guards and dead Bludgers were kept in storage. He couldn't face them now, not when he wasn't ready to act arrogant.
"Not showing 'is face, I see," Bole's low, scratchy voice announced. "'Course, 's'all well and good that Malfoy's dad bought us all those brooms, but bloody hell, you'd fink 'e was on the Gryffindor team wif the way 'e plays."
"I told him to catch the Snitch," Flint growled darkly.
"I'll kill him," Warrington ground out.
"You? Flint 'ere broke 'is nose over it!" Bole said.
Malfoy peered around the lockers to see Flint sulking against one of the benches. A nice scab of blood had formed on the bridge of his nose, and Malfoy loved the sight of that scab. He wanted to go rip it off.
"Yeah, well, we'll get 'em next year," Warrington muttered.
"What next year?" Flint said. "It's our last year."
"Oh yeah." Warrington gave pause for thought at that. "I'll kill him."
It was one thing to stand around listening to your team-mates insult you, but it was quite another to cower behind a set of lockers while doing it. Malfoy considered, for a moment, stepping out and shocking all of them, but then he remembered that none of them would exactly care that he'd overheard what they were saying. So, he did the only thing he could do, which was to slip out through the window unnoticed.
He ate supper in the Potions classroom alone well after ten o'clock that night, long after everyone else had already left for the Great Hall. Professor Snape, who preferred to take dinner in his classroom while preparing lessons, had given Malfoy a sceptical glance before allowing him to have his plate sent there as well. Malfoy ate in the back of the classroom quietly, leafing through his Potions text. Snape didn't say a word. Malfoy couldn't decide if it was out of consideration or pure loathing that Snape was quiet, but in the end, he was grateful for it.
In his head while he ate, he planned out all sorts of different ways the match could have ended. In most of them, Potter ended up diving straight into the ground and splitting his head open with a nice lightning-bolt-shaped crack. Sometimes, Malfoy himself was the one to dive into the ground, but no one noticed; they were too busy cheering Potter on. And in the worst-case scenario, the one that had popped into his head without his really considering it, Potter's arms went around his waist instead of batting him away, and Malfoy caught the Snitch just like that. Then everyone—even the Gryffindors—cheered, and Potter rubbed his hand over the crease of Malfoy's inner thigh.
Malfoy was very thankful indeed for the butcher-block Potions table when he processed that particular thought.
The Gryffindors would be celebrating well into the night, Malfoy was certain, and if he knew the Slytherins, they would all gather in the Slytherin common room, plotting his untimely demise. He had no desire whatsoever to return to Slytherin Tower with Millicent Bulstrode and Marcus Flint waiting for him, and so, after finishing his dinner, he bravely marched on to hide in the shadows of the corridors.
What was wrong about the whole picture was how well the Snitch seemed to fit in Potter's palm. Just one light touch and it had flown into his hand like it was magnetised. On the other hand, when Malfoy had been close, the Snitch had tittered just out of reach, flirting with letting Malfoy catch it, as though it were just waiting for Potter to catch up so it could go to the real Seeker. The thought left a bitter taste in Malfoy's mouth.
Potter, with his awkward joints and dirty spectacles and that astronomical scar. It wasn't fair. The real Seeker, indeed. Malfoy added weight to his steps and took no small satisfaction in stomping on the corridor floor.
He would have bet money on what everyone was saying now—the same things they'd been saying last year, when he'd missed the Snitch two inches from his face. They never said anything when he won Quidditch matches, but he supposed if Slytherin had come this close to winning the Cup, he had to be at least a fair Seeker. Besides, he'd beaten Diggory from Hufflepuff, and Potter hadn't even managed that.
Malfoy gave pause in the third-floor corridor at a statue of a hump-backed, one-eyed witch. It was rather grotesque, true, its face a mangled array of the most interesting arrangement since Picasso; but that wasn't what had drawn his attention. What had was the witch's hump: it was opened, ajar like a door, and wide enough for someone to crawl through. Malfoy wouldn't even have noticed at all if he hadn't been sticking to the shadows against the walls, and even now he had to blink twice to be sure he really saw what he saw. But it was still there, the hump opened for all and sundry, and he glanced around him.
No one was around to have opened the hump, and for a fleeting moment he wondered if Sirius Black had whittled his way in through the statue. He pictured Black on the other end of the statue with a nail file, having spent the entire year standing behind it, sawing his way through with a maniacal look in his eye, just to kill Potter. Malfoy smirked at the thought. But then, he thought, if Black had broken into the school again, surely the castle would already be in a state of disarray and bed-wetting over it. Besides, this seemed very much like the sort of secret passageway that had been opened from the inside; surely if someone had been breaking in to kill someone, they would have at least had the decency to seal up their secret entrance.
Glancing around again, Malfoy wielded his wand and shoved his head and shoulders in through the hump. He felt around with his hands for something to grasp onto, but before he could catch his footing, the world turned over and he was sliding head first down some sort of chute made of cold, hard stone. He grasped for the walls, but he was sliding too fast, and he at least had the good sense to put his arms over his head before he landed on the ground with a thump.
"Brilliant," he muttered in disgust, patting the ground for his wand. He crawled to his feet, dusted himself off, and muttered, "Lumos!", which revealed nothing at all.
He seemed to be in a passageway of some sort, and one that was rather shabbily made at that. It was rather low; though, much to Malfoy's chagrin, he had plenty of room for standing, and it was just narrow enough that one person could walk in it. The walls were packed with earth; wooden beams which didn't look nearly sturdy enough to hold the tunnel from caving in stood flat against the walls here and there. The ground was cold underneath his feet, and he began to wish he'd brought his cloak with him. He considered turning back, but regretfully decided the slide looked near impossible to climb back up. With a grimace, he realised he'd have to go on.
Malfoy was not the sort for exploring. He preferred to leave that up to the Gryffindors, or Crabbe and Goyle, if it was necessary that something particularly arcane be investigated before the Gryffindors got to it (not that he met much success there). Rather, he didn't see the point in putting himself in any danger, and thought that was one of the large differences between him and Potter—he was smarter.
He certainly didn't want to explore this passageway and find whatever was on the other end of it, but it seemed he had no choice.
The passage was angular and sharp, twisting and turning like the body of a basilisk that had just eaten a particularly bony wizard, and never seemed to end. While he walked, Malfoy considered the fact that his being stuck in this passage was very much Potter's fault, for if Potter hadn't knocked him out of the way, he wouldn't have had to hide—that is, keep a cool distance—from the rest of his House. With that thought in mind, he noticed his feet were growing very cold indeed, and scowled.
After what seemed like forever, or at least twenty minutes, the tortuous ground turned into an upward climb; Malfoy found himself at a set of lumpy stone steps, each step just deep enough to fit the ball of his foot and looking very much as though it had been there since the dawn of time. Of course, it was just typical that they stretched far out of sight. He wouldn't have been surprised if they came to a halt at a cul de sac and he was forced to go all the way back.
And so, his feet already sore with cold, he ascended the staircase, wishing each worn step was Potter's face as he slapped his feet down onto stone.
The staircase went on even longer than the servant's staircase they had at the Manor, which led all the way from the ground floor to their chambers at the height of the Manor. Malfoy had a gut feeling that he would reach the top of the staircase and find himself opening a trapdoor into the lake, and so, when his head collided with the ceiling, he was very, very prudent upon pushing it up.
Fortunately, no tidal wave of murky water rushed down to meet him, and thus he pushed the trapdoor open and raised his wand. The only thing visible in the tiny light coming from his wand was a large box that said, "ICE MICE." He slid the trapdoor completely open and climbed out, dusting himself off. He seemed to be in some sort of cellar, filled with dark corners and shadows, and probably all sorts of vermin, if he had looked hard enough. There wasn't any sound coming from above, so he could only assume that he was beneath the dungeons, and took quickly to the rickety wooden staircase.
Malfoy opened the cellar door stealthily and was very surprised to find that he wasn't in the dungeons at all.
The dark didn't disguise the fact that he was standing behind the counter of Honeydukes; nor did it hide the vibrant crimson and gold scarf wrapped around the neck of a very certain Gryffindor that seemed to be in the process of looting the store.
How very curious it was that Harry Potter should be in the middle of Honeydukes far beyond closing time, gathering sweets from the shelves of saccharine-sickness.
Malfoy should have known. He should have known Potter knew a secret way into Hogsmeade. Potter wasn't even allowed in Hogsmeade at all. Earlier in the year he'd humiliated Malfoy by lurking around in an Invisibility Cloak during one Hogsmeade weekend, and despite the fact that Malfoy had told Professor Snape immediately, Potter hadn't even been punished.
A slow smirk slid across Malfoy's face. He leaned into the counter, crossed his arms, and rapped his knuckles softly.
"I'm coming, George," Potter called crossly over his shoulder. "I haven't been gone that long." Potter turned around, took one look at Malfoy, let out a small, feminine shriek and promptly dropped half of his arms' contents. There was a loud plink of breaking glass, and in his wand light, Malfoy thought for a moment that the red pool spreading on the floor was blood. At a second glance, he realised it was just strawberry butterbeer. Frowning, Potter dug around in his robes for his wand and muttered a charm to pick up the broken glass.
"Isn't this a picture," Malfoy drawled, stepping out from behind the counter.
Potter, for his part, did his best to compose himself and look stern. "Malfoy, what are you doing here? How did you get in here?"
"The same way you did, I reckon," said Malfoy. "You're not allowed to be outside at all, are you, Potter? Black is trying to kill you. But I suppose you thought you'd polish your day off by looting Hogsmeade after your unearned Quidditch win."
Potter looked flabbergasted. "Unearned!" His mouth dropped open and his eyes narrowed behind his spectacles. "I caught the Snitch fair and square, which is more than I can say for the way you were playing!" He stormed up to the counter and piled his armload onto it, pulling a small pouch out of his pocket.
"Wasn't enough to practically knock me off my broom to get to the Snitch, was it?" Malfoy goaded with delight. "Now you've taken on a life of petty thievery, too! You're lucky I didn't land on my head, Potter, or my father would have had something to say about that!"
"I didn't knock you off your broom," said Potter, "and I didn't trip you, either!" He turned around and shot Malfoy a venomous glare before going back to his ill-gotten booty. He began muttering under his breath, "Six and five is eleven, and three is fourteen. . . ."
"You may as well have!" Malfoy spat angrily. He wasn't sure just what was more infuriating—the fact that Potter had done it in the first place, or the fact that he was ignoring him now. He aimed his wand at Potter's hands. "You practically knocked my head off, when you know I was there first. I would have — what are you doing?"
Potter slammed a Galleon down on the counter viciously. "I'm paying for this stuff."
Malfoy paused and stepped closer to the counter, peering over Potter's shoulder. Sure enough, there was a small pile of Galleons and Sickles there, and Potter seemed to be counting the prices on everything else. Malfoy couldn't help it: He laughed. "D'you mean to tell me you went to all this trouble to sneak in here, through that ghastly passage, and now you're paying for the stuff you've stolen? Oh, what a rebel."
Potter turned to him with narrowed eyes. "I'm not stealing anything. I'm paying for all of it. Are you going to tell anyone about the passage?"
"What's it worth to you?"
Potter glared again and went back to counting his money. From this close, Malfoy had a perfectly good view of Potter's face, right down to the tongue sticking slightly out at the corner of his mouth in concentration (Potter obviously had very little talent at math). Malfoy swallowed and tightened his fist around his wand.
"What are you stealing an army's worth of food for, anyway?" He'd meant for that to come out sounding sharp and cool, but he had a feeling the effect was lost somewhere around the point where his voice started rising nearly a full octave. Why did Potter have to stick his tongue out to count bloody prices?
Potter pursed his lips. "It's not for me. It's for Gryffindor. You know, to celebrate getting the House Cup and all." He looked up pointedly.
That fixed Malfoy up right quick. "You wouldn't have that stupid House Cup if you hadn't pushed me out of the way at the last second! You didn't even see the Snitch! I had to do it for you. And you cheated! You practically ripped it out of my hand!"
"You grabbed onto the back of my broom when I would have caught it the first time!"
"Well, if you want to get technical."
Potter snorted. "Are you going to tell anybody about the passage or not, Malfoy? I have to go back to Gryffindor." He turned around to leave, and Malfoy quickly stepped in front of him.
"And why shouldn't I?" Malfoy pointed his wand into Potter's face, and the latter blinked under the light. "Or did you think you had some sort of right to have your own little entrance into Honeydukes? Oh, but maybe since it's you and all, you're allowed. I suppose Dumbledore gave you a pass to come down here and take whatever you wanted when no one was around."
Licking his lips nervously, Potter fumbled for an explanation. "Look, Malfoy, what do you want?"
"Your head on a platter."
Potter shifted his weight and hugged his food closer to his body with a loud crunch of tiny cardboard boxes. "I'll put a Memory Charm on you, then."
"Oh, I'd like to see you try." Privately, Malfoy thought he was doing tremendously well performing under the pressure of Harry Potter repeatedly licking his lips. "You know what I think, Potter? I think you know you're really caught here. And I think that puts me in a pretty nice position. Wouldn't you agree?"
Potter sighed and pushed his spectacles up on the bridge of his nose with the tip of his finger. He licked his lips again and said, "Kiss me, Malfoy."
Malfoy did a double take and came narrowly close to swallowing his tongue. "What?!"
Potter was blinking at him as though he were quite perfectly insane. "I said shove off!"
Malfoy dropped his hands quickly and cursed himself. Great. Now he was imagining things, and worse yet, imagining that Potter was inviting him to kiss him. Perhaps the pressure was getting to him after all.
"Are you going to tell anyone or not? Because—"
"Oh, just go back to your stupid Tower!" He held Potter's gaze for a moment and looked away, disgusted, upon discovering how nervous and irritated Potter managed to look at once.
"So you're not gonna tell anyone?"
"No! All right? I'm not going to bloody tell!"
There was more crinkling of cardboard, signalling that Potter was walking away, and as Malfoy picked up a bottle of strawberry butterbeer and opened it, he couldn't help thinking he'd gotten off remarkably easy. Surely Potter wouldn't accept it that quickly.
"What are you going to blackmail me for later?"
Malfoy tightened his grip around the bottle of butterbeer and turned around. Potter, of course, was still standing there, eyes narrowed in suspicion, looking for the entire world as though he'd just sold his soul to the devil. It was tempting, but there were more tempting things in Honeydukes, and he was rather worried that if he gave into one temptation, he might very well give into all of them.
"Nothing. I'm not going to rat out you and your pathetic friends, I'm not going to blackmail you—though Lord knows I bloody well should—I'm not going to do anything to you. But if you close up that stupid statue when you leave, I swear I'll have your guts for garters." The last bit was a phrase Malfoy had heard his father use once, and he'd been meaning to work it into his vernacular at some point.
Malfoy took a long, hard swig of his butterbeer and imagined that Potter was walking away just then, but he wasn't. He imagined that Potter was going to admit that he'd cheated, but he wasn't. Nothing ever went his way, Malfoy reflected, and swallowed hard.
Instead of walking away, or even admitting that he'd cheated, Potter looked at him uncertainly.
"I'm not going to tell!" Malfoy shouted. He'd known Potter was stubborn, but this was a bit much. Malfoy, of course, wasn't exactly the most trustworthy person in the world, but that wasn't precisely the way he saw it; to Malfoy, Malfoy was the person he trusted singularly. So it was that he could not help but wonder what Potter wanted for proof. An oath signed in blood, perhaps?
Malfoy pondered this—whether he would have to prick his finger, or Potter would just stab him—and as he did, Potter finally moved past him, behind the counter, and to the cellar door. Malfoy thought that waiting a good while to leave himself would be respectable; after all, he certainly wasn't going to trap himself in any narrow passages with Potter. (Oh God.) Who knew what the consequences might be? (Oh God!)
This new development was far from stellar.
Potter shot him a glance over his shoulder before disappearing. In the quiet of Honeydukes, Malfoy could hear Potter's steps retreating down the staircase, and, a moment later, the slamming of the trapdoor. It was rather a relief.
He would have liked to think that the reason he didn't want to follow Potter out was for reputation's sake; after all, it wouldn't exactly look proper to be seen crawling out of a statue behind Potter, particularly after Potter had managed to so thoroughly beat him not even twenty-four hours earlier.
Slytherin logic was a funny thing. Malfoy had lost so badly that Bole had suggested he might as well be playing for Gryffindor. If Malfoy were caught with Potter, his death certificate would be as good as signed. Bole or Derrick or another moronic Quidditch team member would suggest Malfoy had been on cahoots with Potter; that perhaps Malfoy and Potter were in on a grand scheme together to ensure that Gryffindor won. Soon after that, effigies of Malfoy would be burned over the roaring fire, and he'd have to seek refuge with the blithesome Hufflepuffs, left to live his life forever incognito.
It could happen.
But the real reason Malfoy didn't want to follow Potter through that passageway was because he was afraid their thighs just might brush against each other. It was a very narrow passage. What if Potter turned out to be afraid of the dark?
The thought of Potter being afraid of the dark provided some amusement, which Malfoy was grateful for.
So. Potter had his own secret passage into Hogsmeade. Professor Snape would surely have been delighted to know (if Snape was capable of such an emotion). Malfoy, however, had no intentions of telling anyone. A secret passage was always handy. Of course, there was the minor setback of having to share it with Potter, but nonetheless, it could be of use to him. Assuming, that is, that it was never again of use to Potter at the same time. No, it definitely would not do to meet up with Potter again. Even if he did cheat incorrigibly, Malfoy was starting to think he was losing his edge. He'd barely even castigated Potter, and he'd had the perfect opportunity.
Malfoy finished off his butterbeer and put the empty bottle back on the shelf, in the back behind the other bottles. Normally, he would have considered himself above theft, but a little mayhem now and then never hurt.
He wondered if he'd given Potter a sufficient start. He was getting antsy, and without any torches or fires lit in Honeydukes, it was starting to get rather chilly. The passageway, of course, would be even colder by now. He would have to light a Burn Repellent Fire with his wand and hope for the best when he got down there.
Deciding he had waited quite long enough, Malfoy held up his wand again and swept past the counter. Upon opening the door, he caught only a flash of scarlet and yellow in the dark before Potter sprang on him. Sprang was a relative term, but it was the only one that could be used for the quick movement of Potter stepping so closely to Malfoy, and before Malfoy really knew it, he was being kissed.
Malfoy's sound of protest was muffled behind lips that were crushing his firmly—a bit too firm, if one wanted to be completely honest—but Potter was kissing him, and that was all the only honest thing Malfoy really needed to think of.
Malfoy was frantic, but he found himself wholly unable to move. In fact, both he and Potter seemed to be standing completely still, each with their hands to themselves, and in the midst of all of this kissing, Malfoy couldn't decide whether he was relieved or disappointed that Potter's hands were full.
Potter's eyes were wide open behind his spectacles, and Malfoy couldn't help thinking that staring at him this closely was a rather creepy thing. He closed his eyes and, tentatively, moved his lips against Potter's; half hoping his inexperience wouldn’t be completely obvious. Oh God.
Finally, Potter had the good sense to breathe and detached his mouth from Malfoy's with a loud gasp of air mixed from both boys. Later, Malfoy would wonder why Potter couldn't just breathe through his nose.
Malfoy opened his eyes and stared at Potter, who was looking back at him almost coquettishly. At Malfoy's staring, however, Potter's eyes widened and he looked —
"Do that again," Malfoy blurted out. Blood rushed to his cheeks when what he'd actually said sank in, and he was certain he looked exactly like Potter—afraid.
"I think I'd like that," said Potter, and he didn't seem to need any further encouragement.
Draco Malfoy had many fantasies, in most of which he starred as the heroic role of the Boy Who Caught Sirius Black, or the Boy Who Found the Chamber of Secrets. It was a bit late for the latter. However, most of the fantasies he entertained that did involve Harry Potter also involved no small amount of humiliation and embarrassment for Potter; none of them, until now, had ever taken Potter's mouth into consideration.
But with this second kiss, Potter was a bit more relaxed, and it suited him. He had obviously been standing behind the door deciding whether or not to come back for a while, and had acted without thinking. His kissing was less firm now; softer, and Malfoy thought, dizzily, that if this weren’t Potter's first kiss, too, he would hex him. It simply would not do for Malfoy to spend his first kiss with Potter if Potter had been kissed before.
All of that, however, became unimportant when Malfoy realised that his lips were being gently pried apart by Potter's tongue. Oh God. Potter's trying to slip me The Tongue. The idea of it horrified and excited him all at once, and it was very fortunate for him that their bodies were not pressed together. Otherwise, he would have been severely embarrassed.
Potter seemed to have paused, evidently put off by the fact that Malfoy had spent so much time weighing his options, and when Malfoy opened his mouth, Potter sighed into it with relief. And then, Potter's clumsy tongue was in his mouth.
Malfoy's mind thoughtfully lost all ability to process thought.
It was almost alarming, but Malfoy certainly wasn't going to look inexperienced, and he thought that it would be a very good idea to put in whatever he got. Anything Potter could do, he could definitely do better. He had, after all, decided that a long time ago. So, while Potter paused to breathe, Malfoy took the opportunity to run his tongue over Potter's lower lip.
"Oh God." Potter whispered in a rush, and his breath was warm against Malfoy's mouth and Malfoy thought he just very well might—
Malfoy pushed Potter away as though he were the plague and backed right into the counter, panting.
"What's the matter with you?" asked Potter, panting himself. "Did I do something wrong?"
"Why are you doing it at all?" Malfoy demanded. Oh, he didn't mean to sound so angry, but something had to give, or else his trousers were in danger of giving themselves. He tried to think about Herbology, Granger, Sprout, but that wasn't exactly easy when Potter was standing so close. "You don't just go around kissing people because they aren't going to rat you out!"
"I was kissing you because you weren't the only one on the Quidditch pitch today, you know." Potter looked half-shocked and half-infuriated, probably because he was embarrassed.
"So you admit you cheated!" Malfoy shouted triumphantly.
"I didn't!" He softened in the wand light. "All I'm saying is that - that when I was marking you—you know, blocking you—I . . . was there."
Malfoy processed this information quietly. Potter had done it on purpose. He hadn't said it, but it was obvious. Potter had known exactly what he was doing, rubbing his body parts against Malfoy's; and worst of all, he'd known exactly what he was doing to Malfoy. Or he appeared to. And on top of that, minutes later Potter had shoved him out of the way to get the Snitch. Malfoy had never considered Potter to be particularly sadistic before, but this took the cake.
"Oh, you were 'there,'" Malfoy snarled angrily. "Well, that changes everything! In that case, we should start exchanging love notes!" A small, insignificant part of him was telling him to shut up, but Malfoy did not handle embarrassment well. In fact, he would have to say he had tried his best to remove the word completely from his mind.
Potter's lower lip dropped slightly open and his eyes narrowed. "I can't believe you, Malfoy. Let's just go back to the castle, okay? Just shut up and let's go back to Hogwarts."
"Gladly," said Malfoy venomously. He wiped sweaty palms off on his robes and marched past Potter and down to the cellar in the dark. From the upstairs of Honeydukes, Potter mumbled something, and a beam of light pointed down the stairs.
Malfoy was furious. Why, he couldn't exactly say. He felt almost as though he and Potter's roles had been reversed: Potter had been the one affecting him on the Quidditch pitch, and Potter had been the one to knock him out of the way to get the Snitch. Admittedly, Malfoy had never pushed Potter out of the way and succeeded, but it was the principle of the thing. Potter had embarrassed him twice in one sitting, and now here he was, thinking he could simply kiss Malfoy without even bothering to think of the consequences.
"I'll get that," Potter said quietly, as Malfoy struggled to find the trap door.
"This is one time only, Potter," said Malfoy. "You do realise this, don't you?"
Potter lifted the trap door and glared at Malfoy over his shoulder. "Oh, I really agree." He wrapped a hand around the cornered edge of the floor where the trap door was as he began descending the worn stairs leading to the passageway.
Was that spite he'd just heard in Potter's voice? Malfoy growled and followed, pulling the trap door closed behind him.
"I mean, you can't just start doing this on a regular basis, Potter," he nagged. The stairs were much worse going down than they had been going up. "It just isn't proper, I reckon."
"Wouldn't want to look improper," said Potter curtly, without stopping to turn around.
"And I won't tolerate any more of your little games, either."
That made Potter stop and turn around. When Malfoy shone his wand into Potter's face, he realised his cheeks were flushed bright pink. "What games, Malfoy? What are you talking about?" He marched up two or three steps and glared up at Malfoy.
"I mean this," Malfoy said inelegantly, gesturing between them with a hand. "Trying to distract me in Quidditch! That's what I mean!"
"I wasn't trying to distract you! I wasn't doing it on purpose until -"
"Until what, Potter?"
"Never mind." Potter turned around and started hurrying down the stairs now. By the way he was moving it was obvious he was familiar with this staircase and had used it several times.
"Never mind what?" Malfoy did his best to mimic Potter's quick steps, but the stairs were so shallow he feared he would stumble and send them both crashing. "You can't just say never mind. That's just - it's just rude!"
"Shut up, Malfoy," Potter said quietly.
Bravely, Malfoy darted forth and grabbed Potter by the scarf. Potter nearly choked himself before he caught his balance and realised that it was Malfoy who was preventing him from moving.
"Until what, Potter?"
Potter's face clouded over. "Until I realised that I liked it, okay? Can you just shut up now?"
Embarrassing Potter, on the other hand, had its infinite rewards.
When Malfoy yanked on Potter's scarf a second time, he didn't have the intention of kissing him, but that turned out to be exactly what he did. Potter let out a small "Mmf" of surprise as Malfoy latched his mouth onto Potter's violently, gnashing their lips together with heavy force, digging his fingers angrily into the scarf.
As he kissed Potter, Malfoy thought about just how many people had been at that Quidditch match, and just how many of them had been supporting Potter. He thought about Potter throwing mud at his head by the Shrieking Shack, and he thought about the fact that Potter had been the one to find the Chamber of Secrets instead of him. And as he slid his tongue experimentally over the roof of Potter's mouth, Malfoy was satisfied to hear a flop and a plink as Potter's armload dropped.
The passageway was narrow enough for one, but for two it was nearly impossible, as Malfoy discovered when he and Potter reached the foot of the stairs and the horrifically cold ground. Consequently, one was left following the other at a close pace that made both feel claustrophobic, and Malfoy privately decided that perhaps having this secret passage wasn't so good after all. On the other hand, this left them some room to maintain the unspoken, agreeably avoided eye contact that had started right after Malfoy let go of Potter's scarf. Malfoy's forearms were a sore reminder of the way Potter had dug his fingers into them. He was quite sure they would be bruised later, and his first instinct was to tell his father. In hindsight, he realised that would definitely take some time to explain.
Malfoy was very much certain that in a day things would go back to normal between him and Potter, and he was equally certain that that was how he would prefer it. Without Potter as his archenemy, Malfoy was unsure just what he would do for rivalry. And of course, there was always the troubling fact that hating Harry Potter was almost as exciting as kissing him. If Malfoy could not—would not, rather—have one, the other would do just fine.
He and Potter had long been trading places with each other, beating each other in this weird and childish race to see who had the upper hand, for three years now. Oh, Malfoy knew very well how childish it was, but kissing Potter would surely have put an end to it—not to mention put Potter in the lead. Yes, hating Harry Potter was, in the end, much more interesting than it sounded. Three kisses were more than enough.
"You can walk ahead now," Potter mumbled, stopping in his tracks so Malfoy could pass.
Their thighs brushed together as Malfoy took the lead, and Potter sucked in a sharp breath that was audible in the cold silence.
In the dark, Malfoy smirked.