“Concentrate, Miss Patil! We’re trying to make cushions invisible, not the whole class!”
The Charms classroom was a hub of activity as Professor Flitwick directed their lesson from atop his desk. He’d started out in the middle off the room, boosted by a stack of books, but bad aim on behalf one of the Hufflepuff students had caused his paper pedestal to vanish.
In truth, the sixth year Charms students were supposed to be practising a Disillusionment Charm — a spell meant to make the charmed object invisible. Despite their best efforts and rather different incantations, many students still found it difficult to differentiate between Vanishing and Disillusioning. Thus far they’d managed to lose two cats, several books, the professor’s hat, and one of the Slytherins. Although none of his friends seemed overly concerned, Professor Flitwick assured them that he would be returned at the end of class.
“Focus, everyone! Concentrate on the object in front of you. Don’t just will it away, or soon we’ll have lost the castle. And don’t forget to enunci- augh!” The professor’s desk vanished from sight mid-sentence, dropping him to the floor. “I said focus!” Flitwick squeaked as he hopped to his feet. “Now try again!”
All along the rows, students raised their wands. Some shouted and some mumbled, but everyone repeated the incantation: “Prestigiaerum!” A number of cushions disappeared, and — to the relief of the entire class — only one managed to explode. The students whose charms had been successful nervously groped the air in front of them, hoping to find that their cushions were merely invisible, and not completely vanished.
In the front row, Draco prodded his still very visible cushion with his wand. He was tempted to set it on fire, like Finnegan had done, but he somehow doubted that would earn him full marks. He didn’t entirely understand why his spell hadn’t worked; Charms was actually one of his best subjects. But for whatever reason, his heart wasn’t in it, and it showed in his lacklustre attempts at the craft. With a sigh, he propped his elbow up on the desk and rested his head on his hand, half-heartedly trying to keep the look of overwhelming boredom show on his handsome face.
“Oh, dear. One more time, Mr. Malfoy.”
Draco straightened up quickly. Flitwick had unexpectedly migrated from the place where his desk once stood, back to the middle of the classroom, and now seemed to speaking only to him. “Keep the memory of the image strong in your mind, but visualise an empty desk. Go on.”
Well aware of the other students’ eyes on him, Draco stared at the beige lump of a cushion on his desk. A sneer played at the corner of his mouth as he imagined it disappearing, as the professor had instructed. With a deft flick of the wrist, he repeated the incantation.
A Ravenclaw girl in the second row stifled a giggle. Draco could feel the heat building in his cheeks, along with the realisation that the cushion was no longer the only thing in the classroom that he wanted to burn.
Flitwick offered him a sad smile. “Not up to your usual standard, I’m afraid.” He briefly surveyed the remaining students before adding: “Mr. Potter, you seem to have mastered this charm. Why don’t you stay behind and help Malfoy. Mr. Crabbe, you come with me and we’ll go rescue Mr. Goyle. The rest of you, go practise in the safety of your common rooms. Class dismissed!”
It was hard to tell who was more disgusted by the professor’s instructions. While Draco’s usual sneer had returned, Harry — who had until that point been minding his own business on the opposite side of the classroom — looked as though an entire army of Dementors had caught him in the loo with his drawers down. He, Hermione and Ron exchanged looks of sympathy and revulsion as the other students packed up their things.
“We’ll see you back in the common room, alright mate?”
Harry could only nod. The prospect of having to tutor Draco Malfoy had somehow disabled the use of his vocal chords.
“You’ll be fine, Harry,” Hermione whispered as she gathered her textbooks. “Draco’s actually quite good at Charms.”
Ron grimaced. “Why do you even know that?” he muttered, ushering her out of the classroom.
Harry watched them go, feeling increasingly like this must have been some sick sort of trick. Everyone knew how much he and Malfoy hated each other. Surely even the professors must have realised; McGonagall certainly did! It had to be a joke. Any minute now Flitwick would stumble back into the classroom, smiling in that chipper, wrinkled way of his, and tell them both to go home and enjoy their afternoon.
The seconds dragged by, emphasized by the ticking clock at the front of the classroom. It may have been invisible (Ernie MacMillan seemed to enjoy ‘missing’ his target), but it wasn’t silent. After a full minute, Harry resigned himself to his fate and glanced across the room to his rival.
Draco was glaring back at him, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘if looks could kill’.
“So, uhmm… I guess you’re not foc-”
“I don’t need your help, Potter,” Draco hissed, interrupting him. Straightening the cuffs of his shirt, he glanced down at the cushion and waved his wand. “Prestigiaerum!” The cushion vanished with a soft pop, and Draco looked oddly relieved. “You can go now,” he sneered.
Harry would have been happy to, but Flitwick had instructed him to stay and help. “Is it still there?”
“The pillow, is it still there? Ron was having trouble keeping it from vanishing, too…”
The flush crept back into Draco’s cheeks as he reached out, feeling the air. “Yes,” he lied, though his fingers found nothing but empty space.
Harry pursed his lips and stood up. “Look, I know you don’t want my help, but Flitwick said-”
“I don’t care what the professor said. You think you’re such a great wizard, just because you can do a bloody Disillusionment charm? You’re not even at the top of the class.”
“And you are?” Harry retorted. Draco’s expression shifted from rage to smugness as Harry recalled what Hermione had said about Malfoy being pretty good at Charms. The more he thought about it, the more he realised how his rival did seem to do rather well in all of their classes. He’d always assumed that his rival’s high marks in Potions over the years were the result of Snape’s favouritism, but Malfoy — like Harry — had gotten high enough scores on all of his OWLs to continue the majority of their subjects, despite the professor’s high expectations. “Oh…” was all Harry could seem to say about the matter.
While Harry considered the possibility that Malfoy might actually be smarter than he was, Draco summoned a new cushion from a pile in the corner. He didn’t want to keep practising, but he wasn’t one to just give up because he wasn’t feeling up to it. Plus, with Potter in the room, it had somehow become a matter of pride. Hell, if he managed to successfully cast a Disillusionment Charm on the cushion, perhaps his next attempt could be on the Gryffindor.
“Prestigiaerum!” The cushion didn’t disappear altogether, but it was significantly more transparent than it had been. Holding it up, Draco felt as though he was staring at something a ghost might use for home decorating. He tossed it over the edge of the desk and turned his wand on it a second time. “Incendio!” Very vibrant and very real flames engulfed the cushion, quickly reducing it to a pile of ash.
Harry’s hand instinctively tightened around the handle of his wand. “Not quite the the right spell, there… we’re trying to make them invisible. Not destroy them.”
“Why are you still here?”
“Not entirely sure,” Harry answered, moving around the row of desks and stepping out into the middle of the classroom. As he walked, his foot connected with something hard, heavy and completely invisible, sending him sprawling onto his face.
Draco didn’t bother to suppress his laughter as Harry struggled to his feet, glasses askew and cracked on one side. He was breathing heavily, not from the impact of his fall, but from the fact that he’d embarrassingly forgotten the cluster of invisible items on the classroom floor. And worse — he’d face-planted right in front of the one student at Hogwarts that he hated the most.
“And Flitwick honestly expects you to teach me something?” Draco asked with a sneer.
Harry’s jaw tightened as he removed his glasses. “Well, you obviously can’t do it and I can. So yeah, I guess he does.”
Glancing across the desk, Harry was relieved to note that he couldn’t actually see Draco’s face. Despite being only a few feet away, the Slytherin was nothing more than a pale blur against the backdrop of the classroom.
Draco, however, noticed for the first time just how bright Harry’s eyes were. ‘Like a fresh pickled toad,’ that horrific cupid had sung in their second year. Why in Merlin’s name he could recall it now, he couldn’t say. but the poetry didn’t do Harry’s eyes justice. They were a pleasant but impossible sort of green — the kind of over-saturated colour you would only find in a Van Gogh.
Harry interrupted Draco’s assessment by answering: “Flitwick wouldn’t have had me stay if he didn’t think you needed extra help.” He looked away from Draco’s blurry shape and blindly attempted to fix his glasses.
Draco seethed. Without thinking, he stood up abruptly, smacked Harry’s glasses out of his hands and grabbed him roughly by the tie. With a sharp tug, he pulled the Gryffindor hard against the desk. Harry winced as his hip bone connected with the edge.
“I don’t need your help,” Draco hissed angrily. “And if Flitwick hadn’t landed on his head so many times today, he would have realised that.”
Harry grabbed Draco’s hand, trying to peel the Slytherin’s fingers away from his tie as it slowly tightened around his neck. “Let go of me, Malfoy!” He grunted.
Enticed by the sight of his rival struggling, Draco pulled harder. “You think you’re so special, Potter. Special because your mudblood mother died and defeated the Dark Lord, leaving you all the bloody credit and an ugly scar?”
“Don’t you bring my mother into this,” Harry wheezed, breathing raggedly. His nails dug into Draco’s hand but the pale boy only held on tighter.
“You’re pathetic. No better than that fool, Lockhart — living off the successes of others.” He grabbed Harry’s wand hand and slammed it harshly down on the desk to keep the Gryffindor from hexing him with his last breath. “It’s a wonder you have friends, useless as you are… but a mudblood and a Weasley are fitting company, I guess.”
Harry could feel his lips going numb. If he could see more than blurry shapes without his glasses, he’d have realised his vision was swimming from a lack of oxygen. “Malfoy!” he choked. “Stop!” He hadn’t felt his lungs burn so painfully for want of air since the tournament in his fourth year, as he desperately clawed his way to the surface of the lake.
“I should destroy you,” Draco murmured. His face was inches from Harry’s, though Harry hardly noticed. “And I will…” Enthralled by his power over the Gryffindor, he pressed his lips against Harry’s briefly — though for Harry, time seemed to have stopped entirely. The sound of the clock was drowned out by the loud ringing in his ears, and every passing second seemed to last for ages. Drawing Harry’s bottom lip between his teeth, Draco bit down hard — much harder than he realised as Harry, in a sudden surge of strength, jerked backwards. Startled by his reaction, Draco quickly let him go.
Harry collapsed to the floor, gulping down huge mouthfuls of air now that his tie was no longer choking him. His head throbbed and his lip stung — but he could breathe again, and for the moment that was all that mattered.
Draco watched as Harry struggled. After a moment and without a word, he gathered up his things and walked out.
He hadn’t been kidding when he mentioned wanting to destroy the Gryffindor — and in a way, he had. For all their loyalty, Harry would never be able to explain to his friends what had happened that afternoon in the Charms classroom. He would have no answer when Hermione asked him what happened to his lip or how he’d bruised his wrist. He would silently endure Ron’s endless teasing about how he managed to break his glasses while working with cushions.
But worse than the newly-planted seeds of dissension and the coppery taste in their mouths — that kiss had left them both with an overwhelming lust for more.