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Storm in a Teacup

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It all happened because Potter was apparently unable to get a haircut. His hair had always been a wild mess, but these days the jet-black strands were everywhere. They curled around his ears, brushed against his cheeks, and would surely try to poke Potter's eyes out if Potter's glasses didn't protect them.

Draco suffered a severe case of second-hand itchiness whenever the damned things attacked Potter's face.

Potter, on the other hand, was apparently unconcerned by the ridiculous state of his hair, and he seldom reached up to brush away a strand or two, not even attempting to repeat the motion when the insolent strands neatly returned to their attacking ways.

A particularly stubborn lock was always intent on tickling Potter's right cheek. It stuck out, longer than the rest, and was one of precious few that had the ability to attract Potter's ire. Not that the impatient tug of Potter's fingers ever successfully tamed it.

One day, Draco was sure, he would lose his patience and curse the shocking black chaos off Potter's head.

*

To be perfectly honest, it wasn't just the hair. The adoring masses with yet unheard of ability to swoon and simper were equally at fault.

Draco couldn't help drawing a parallel: the Hogwarts student body was a lot like Potter's hair. A wild mess of black, intent on claiming at least a tiny part of the great Harry Potter.

It wasn't like they chased him around, exactly, but that was only because Potter had learned the hard way not to run and give them ideas. But someone always had something to say to Potter, something to show him, something to give him. They stopped him in the corridors to shake his hand and give him chocolate, to ask him something about defensive spells, to talk to him about the weather and the likelihood of rain next weekend, which, coincidentally, was a Hogsmeade weekend, and oh-are-you-going-with-someone-Harry-or-will-you-go-with-me?

Potter would smile and shake his head, then walk away to disappear as mysteriously as a ghost, undoubtedly with the aid of his Invisibility Cloak.

Where Potter disappeared to, no one knew. Except maybe Granger and Weasley, but they weren't telling.

The most popular theory was that Potter ran off to shag some oh-so-fortunate girl. If he were truly shagging someone for hours every day, it would at least explain the state of his hair.

No one could blame Draco for being curious. Everyone was curious. But not everyone knew Hogwarts hidden passageways as well as the person who had spent a year trying to find a way to let Death Eaters into the castle.

Though not proud of the reason he'd obtained that knowledge, Draco was grateful for it when he finally discovered Potter's hideout.

It wasn't an earth-shattering discovery. He found Potter in a narrow corridor on the fourth floor, sitting on the floor of a small alcove, brightly lit thanks to a high window overlooking the lake. He was alone and appeared to be studying. Definitely not shagging anyone.

He looked up when Draco stepped forward, and then blinked twice. A strand of black hair was dutifully tickling his right cheek.

"Sorry," Draco hurried to say before Potter drew a conclusion of his own. "I didn't know this place was occupied."

"I..." Ink dripped from Potter's quill down to the yellow parchment. As far as Draco could see, other than a few black blotches, the parchment was empty. "I didn't know people knew about it. Is this—" A tentative smile stretched Potter's lips. "Is this your spot or something?"

Draco had only been here once before, nearly two years ago. He shrugged. "Sometimes." He returned Potter's smile. "It doesn't matter, though. I'll find another spot." He turned a little as though to leave.

Potter scrambled to his feet. "No! I didn't know! I never saw anyone here, so I assumed..." He stuffed the parchment into his bag and bent to pick up his books. "I'll leave."

And that perfectly summarised every interaction Draco had with Potter ever since they had returned to Hogwarts to finish their schooling. As though through some unspoken agreement, they always ended up trying to out-nice each other.

Draco wasn't about to lose now. "Really, Potter, there's no need. You're studying. I only came here to stare at the empty walls and brood."

Potter laughed. He had packed his bag already. "Did it truly look like I was studying? That's brilliant. Because I was only pretending, just in case Hermione showed up."

"I see. So you were actually wanking?"

Potter coughed a little; he must not have expected Draco's conclusion. "Er, no. That would be embarrassing, in case—"

"Hermione showed up," Draco finished with a snort, then replayed his words in his mind and hurriedly corrected himself. "Granger, I mean." It just really sucked when one blindly repeated another's words; he didn't go around calling Granger Hermione, like they were or wanted to be friends.

Potter looked like he was trying hard not to laugh too much. His cheeks were flushed. Now he'd probably go around telling everyone he knew that Draco privately thought of Granger as Hermione and was perhaps secretly in love with her.

Potter's hair was vibrant, clearly in hyper-attack mode; one strand even sneaked in beneath Potter's glasses to tease Potter's eyelashes into excessive blinking.

Draco had to leave now or risk doing something stupid. Like hexing Potter bald, or worse, walking over to free Potter's face by capturing the mad hair with his hands.

"I'm not emotionally attached to this place, Potter," he said. "It can be your spot." He turned and hurried to leave before Potter could argue back.

*

It occurred to Draco later that the narrow corridor and the small bright alcove were perfect for studying in peace. Potter was unlikely to return now that his place of solitude had been desecrated by Draco's presence, so it could very well be Draco's study spot from now on.

Draco went back the next day, armed with books, parchments and quills. He sat cross-legged on the floor and Conjured a hovering wooden board to serve as a desk. It was a bit wobbly and it liked to bounce if Draco thought about what to write for too long, but he made some significant progress on his Transfiguration essay before Potter showed up. Or rather burst through the tapestry that marked the entrance. He was flushed and panting, and partly invisible. Head, chest and one hand was all Draco could see of him.

"Why is it," Draco said when Potter spotted him, "that you can stand your ground when facing a Dark Lord, but run like the wind when a little girl wants to give you chocolate?"

Potter was apparently agitated enough to try to brush hair away from his face. It made Draco feel special.

"I thought you come here rarely."

Draco nodded. "Today happens to be rarely."

Potter clearly didn't feel like being nice this time. "Fine, then." He struggled with the Invisibility Cloak, trying to pull it back over his shoulders.

"You're being ridiculous, Potter. There's plenty of room here, and I'm writing an essay in absolute silence. If you didn't actually come here to wank, just sit down and study. I promise not to give you any chocolate. Or talk to you. Or acknowledge you in any way."

Potter yanked off the cloak, then paused, staring at Draco. "I did come here to wank," he said at last, but walked over rather than left.

Draco eyed Potter warily as he slid to the floor at the opposite side of the alcove. "If you whip it out now, Potter, I will hex you."

"I'll try to contain myself." Potter stuffed the shimmering cloak into his backpack. Then he took out his Transfiguration homework. "I don't suppose you'll let me copy your Transfiguration essay?"

"Sure I will," Draco said, liking the way Potter's eyebrows rose in surprise. "I want a Galleon per sentence."

Potter was startled into a laugh. It brightened his whole face, teeth flashing white, eyes green, cheeks pink. The familiar strand of black hair touched his right cheek. Draco glared at it.

Potter took out a quill, shaking his head. "Will you at least make me that hover desk thing you have there?"

Draco tried to think of a reason not to do it, but his treacherous hand had already picked up his wand. "If it shuts you up," he said and Conjured a board for Potter.

Potter did, in fact, shut up and Draco returned to his essay. He tried very hard to ignore Potter's presence and not look up again.

*

"Is it always rarely?" Potter asked the next day when he found Draco in the alcove.

"I changed my mind," Draco said. "This is my spot and I'd like to keep it."

Potter sighed and turned away.

"You can stay," Draco hurried to add. "Just be quiet and stop bemoaning my presence." And cut your hair, Draco wanted to add.

Potter studied him for a moment. "Don't you come here to be alone?"

"I come here so I wouldn't feel like someone's constantly staring at me. I trust you not to do that." The last bit sounded bitter to Draco's ears; he hoped Potter didn't catch it.

Potter nodded and looked away as though to prove he was indeed not interested in staring at Draco. He moved to his spot in the alcove and Draco Conjured another hovering desk for him without a word.

*

Potter was a surprisingly pleasant study partner. He was very quiet, didn't make odd sounds with his mouth like Goyle, or sniff and sigh a lot like Pansy, nor did he have a twitchy leg and restless fingers like Blaise.

Potter had a tendency to drift off somewhere far away, staring at his parchment completely frozen, eyes wide and lips pursed. Sometimes he looked disturbingly vulnerable in those moments, other times he looked angry, as furious and intense as he looked that day he brought down Voldemort with Draco's wand.

Draco didn't even want to imagine what went through Potter's mind in those moments. Although he was sort of dying to ask and find out. He tried to do it, too, several times, at least once every time they ended up studying together.

But his intended question, "What are you thinking?" transformed into most mundane things by the time it reached his lips.

"Do you have a spare quill?" he asked once and Potter's gaze snapped up to burn through Draco before clearing.

"Sure," Potter said and then pulled a quill from his bag. Their knuckles knocked together when Potter handed him the quill. It was a wretched quill, it turned out. It made all of Draco's letters look mismatched and quivery.

"Our new Transfiguration teacher is a troll for making us write this," Draco declared another time.

Potter blinked, then shook his head. "Don't insult trolls. They're so much cooler. They have big, thick clubs. I bet Professor Tam's club is really small."

"Like them big and thick, then, do you?" Draco had to ask.

"Doesn't everyone?" Potter grinned and returned to his studies.

Draco thought about big, thick clubs for the rest of the day.

"I'll write your Potions essay if you write my Defence essay," Draco suggested one day.

Potter looked delighted. He even brushed away the stupid strand of hair clinging to his cheek as though he guessed it annoyed Draco something dreadful.

*

A week after they both got high marks for their respective essays, Potter arrived at the alcove, looking oddly flushed and restless. He fidgeted and tapped his parchment with his quill so much Draco lost his patience.

"What is it, Potter?"

Potter looked up and stared at him for so long Draco had time to think of fifteen different ways to describe the brightness of Potter's green eyes.

And then Potter said, "I'm gay."

And Draco said nothing at all, because he was busy contemplating whether or not to cast a Purging Spell on his ears. Or an Anti-Random-Babbling Charm on Potter.

"I like blokes," Potter said, because Draco's silence must have given him an urge to clarify. "I want to shag blokes," he added. "Well, not all of them. Just a few. Well, I wouldn't mind shagging a few girls either. Especially the athletic ones. And funny, loud ones. But mostly blokes. I think about it a lot. Too much, in fact."

Draco found his voice; he had apparently lost it somewhere in the depths of his stomach and it came out in a strained whisper. "Why are you telling me this?"

Potter was still staring, wide-eyed. "Because I need to tell someone. It's driving me mad. And well, you... you can't exactly tell anyone, can you?"

Draco never liked it when people told him what he could and could not do. "I can," he assured.

"Well, yes, I suppose. But no one will believe you're telling the truth. They'll just think you're making stuff up to be mean."

That hurt. It was true, sure, but it still hurt.

Potter must have realised it. "I'm sorry. That was rude. Sometimes I'm not sure how not to be rude to you."

"I get it," Draco said. "Perfectly normal attitude for a complete ponce."

Potter's sudden smile looked uncertain. "You're teasing, aren't you? I can never tell."

"I'm always perfectly serious and I hardly ever tease," Draco said. "Now please fantasise about shagging blokes quietly. I have an essay to write."

Potter laughed, a breathless, quiet sound, and Draco shut him up by Conjuring a hovering wooden board, which flew at Potter and smacked him firmly in the chest.

Silence reigned, but Draco had trouble with his essay. The air in the alcove was sparse and his vision was curiously blurry.

He was trying hard not to imagine what Potter was thinking about.

*

Four days later, Potter stared at his Charms homework with an accusing sort of scrutiny, as though he'd ordered it to write itself but it stubbornly refused. A narrow beam of fading sunlight illuminated his face; the warmth of it pinked his cheeks and dried his lips. He kept pulling his bottom lip between his teeth only to release it seconds later. Each time it looked fuller and redder. One black strand of hair was sneaking toward the bridge of his nose.

"Have you told your friends?" Draco asked.

Potter looked up with a twitch of his head that sent the daring lock of hair to the side where it had to satisfy itself by tickling Potter's eyebrow. "Told them I hadn't written my fabulous Potions essay, you mean? Of course not. Hermione is so jealous. She accused me of cheating again, but she has no proof."

"About wanting to shag blokes, you idiot." A smile tugged at his lips. "It was rather fabulous, wasn't it?" He blinked. "Wait. What do you mean she accused you of cheating again? Cheating at Potions? You've done it before? Oh. Oh! In our sixth year! I knew it."

Potter's hovering desk bounced. A quick tap of his quill against the parchment made it stop. "No, I didn't."

"Didn't what? Cheat? Tell them you're gay?"

"Both."

"Why not?"

Potter shook his head sadly. "Because cheating is wrong."

"Potter."

"Besides, I was just following a different set of instructions. It's not technically cheating."

"Potter, I'm referring to your newfound desire to shag blokes." He frowned. "Whose instructions were you following, then?"

"It's not newfound, exactly. I had fantasies about blokes before." Potter seemed to drift off for a moment — probably having a shockingly inappropriate fantasy right then and there — and then he blinked and added, "They were Snape's instructions."

"Snape instructed you to fantasise about blokes?"

Potter's scowl dislodged the strand clinging to his eyebrow, and it slid lower, nearly poking his eye out. It served him right for scowling. He rescued his eye with a shake of his head. "I had an old Potions book filled with Snape's instructions and I followed them, and that's why I was better at Potions in our sixth year."

"Snape wasn't our Potions teacher in our sixth year," Draco pointed out, distracted; there were more important things to think about. He assumed an air of nonchalance and asked, "So who were you fantasising about back then?"

"Ginny Weasley." Potter was looking at him through his eyelashes, smiling. "And no, he wasn't. That's the whole point. I ignored Slughorn, used Snape's old book and followed the instructions written in the margins."

"Ginny Weasley is not a bloke. And you do realise, Potter, you had Snape's instructions at your disposal for five years. Why haven't they helped you before?"

"I didn't know the book was his. Maybe that helped. I never liked listening to what he had to say. And you asked me who I was fantasising about back then. Well, it was Ginny. That was two years ago, though. Other fantasies happened in the meantime."

"So who is it? A student? A professor? A Quidditch star?" It was probably Viktor Krum. Everyone fantasised about Viktor Krum."

"All of the above."

"You have a very slutty mind."

"Doesn't everyone?"

"Mine's very monogamous, actually."

"Oh? Who's your special fantasy person?"

Draco had to consider it. "A blurry, sort of undefined thing," he decided. "It gives good head."

Potter laughed. It was pretty funny. And sadly true. Draco feared he lacked imagination, visual aspects of it at least. He really liked his blurry, undefined person, though. Giving it a face would make it real. And real tended to lead to spectacular disappointments.

"You should tell them," Draco said.

"About your blurry thing that gives good head?"

"Honestly. What exactly are you afraid of? Weren't Granger and Weasley ready to die for you? You keep saying that in all your interviews."

Oh, fuck.

"You read my interviews?"

Of course. Of course Potter would focus on that. "Often. Loudly and in public, using my most dramatic voice and all of my limbs for stronger emphasis. It's the highlight of every Saturday evening in the Slytherin common room."

Potter's laughter wasn't loud, but his shoulders shook from the force of it.

Something warm squeezed Draco's chest. Potter thought him funny.

"I know," Potter said after he calmed down. "And I know exactly how they'll react. Hermione will be very supportive and tell me it's all right, possibly insist she knew it all along even if she didn't. And Ron will thump my back and be very, very awkward. And then he'll try to set me up with Charlie. He keeps saying Charlie's gay. Everyone does, really."

Charlie was probably one of Weasley brothers. There were so many. "Is Charlie the one with a scarred face? Or the one without an ear? Or the one with the glasses?"

"Um, no. He's the muscular one, with the dragons."

"Oh." The muscular one. With the dragons. "Best say nothing at all, then. You don't want to get mixed up with dragons. They're not very friendly."

"I'll tell them, eventually," Potter said, because of course he wasn't afraid of dragons. "I just... these days, we sit in the common room, and Ron and Hermione discuss what they'll do after school and where they'll live; the most normal conversation you can think of. They're planning their lives, and for the first time in years they don't have to worry about me. I just don't think it's the right time to bring it up."

"I see. You feel guilty because you and your problems were the main topic of conversation all these years, and you've decided not to bother your friends with them again, but at the same time you really miss it, so you thought you'd whine at me instead."

Potter's foot twitched, as though he wanted to kick Draco, but thought better of it. "You're a complete prick, you know that?"

Draco had to laugh. "Luckily for me, you like pricks."

Potter glared for a second, but then snorted. "You started this conversation. I was minding my own business, not bothering you at all."

That wasn't true. Potter was bothering him. With his hair and his lips and his bright face. "It was an innocent question," Draco said. "Not an open invitation for you to share all your feelings. I just wanted to know if I could start selling my 'I support Poncy Potty' badges or not. They're ready for mass production."

Potter looked like he didn't know whether to laugh or hex him. "You are joking. Right?"

"Absolutely not. They're the same old badges. Except they no longer flash 'Potter stinks' when pressed. Due to obvious reasons, I changed them to say, 'Potter sucks.'"

The indignant protest Draco expected failed to happen. Potter's lips parted and then, amazingly, he blushed. He looked down at his homework, shaking his head. "You're joking," he said and didn't look up again. His face was completely red, though, for at least another half an hour.

Draco found it hard to concentrate on his essay. His wooden board wouldn't stop bouncing. Potter was just sitting there, his mind most likely full of thoughts of... Well. It was very distracting.

That night, Draco thought about their conversation a lot. He decided it had been inane and ridiculous, and his replies lacked bite and weren't amusing enough, but he couldn't help replaying parts of it in his mind with a vague sense of satisfaction.

*

Saturday morning found Draco in a good mood. He had risen earlier than normal and walked down to the pitch, hoping to catch Potter during his morning flight. His fingers were toying with a badge in his pocket. He had Charmed it yesterday and planned to offer it to Potter as proof he hadn't been lying. Either Potter would be horrified or he'd laugh himself silly. Both possibilities promised to be endlessly amusing.

Sure enough, Potter was already there, flying around the pitch on his Firebolt. He wasn't alone, though. The weather was warm and the sky clear, and quite a few other students were in the air, playing impromptu Quidditch matches. Others cheered them on from the stands.

Draco nearly turned away and left, but Potter spotted him, spun on his broom and flew straight at him. He reached Draco in seconds and hovered a few feet away, grinning as though drunk.

"I hope that's a Snitch in your hand, Malfoy," he said by way of greeting. His face was flushed and sweaty. He must have spent an hour or so doing insane flips and figures just to show off. "Release it if you dare and we'll see which one of us can catch it first."

Draco's fingers wrapped tighter around the badge; he wished it were a Snitch. He hadn't expected Potter's invitation; they didn't really spend any time together outside their alcove.

"It's not, sorry."

Potter looked up at the sky. "Maybe we can steal someone else's."

"I didn't even bring a broom, Potter."

"Which is odd, I must say." Potter hopped down from his broom and walked closer. Warm air seemed to surround him, reaching out to wrap around Draco's body.

"I just wanted—"

"To have a quick one-on-one with me?" Potter's grin turned lopsided. He leaned in, voice lowering. "Admit it." His warm breath tickled Draco's cheek.

Draco's chest hurt. His heart lost its steady beat and throbbed in an erratic, slow rhythm.

"Harry!" someone yelled; it sounded like Weasley. "We're getting some breakfast! Coming?"

Potter looked away and squinted in Weasley's direction; Draco drew a quick breath.

"Sure, all right. In a minute!" Potter called, then turned back to Draco and cocked his head. "Unless you've changed your mind." Potter was so close, so warm. His eyes seem to reflect the sun.

But something was terribly wrong. Wrong with the moment, with the world around them, with Potter. The way he was looking at Draco, his smile, his flushed face. His hair. His ridiculous, wild hair, windswept and clinging to every part of Potter's face it could reach. Potter was in too sharp focus, too bright in a dull world.

Draco shook his head to clear it.

"All right, then." Potter's sigh sounded exaggerated. "Your loss." He turned.

"Wait!" Draco called, not sure why. Something important had happened and Draco couldn't figure out what. Potter had broken the moment too soon; he couldn't just leave.

"What?" Potter tried to brush a few strands away from his face. It did no good. That long one, the most annoying one, was clinging to his cheek. Draco couldn't stand it anymore. He just couldn't stand it.

He took out his wand.

Potter blinked at it. "Er, are you planning to hex me?" He sounded bemused, but he was still smiling.

"No," Draco said. "This is important. Trust me. Stay still."

Potter obeyed.

One small Vanishing Charm and that strand would be gone forever. He could trim a few others, too. Potter ought to be grateful. Draco focused on Potter's cheek. The skin beneath was pink; Potter's blush spread downward, all the way to his collar, stretching somewhere beneath his shirt, who knew how far. "Evanesco," Draco whispered.

The spell flashed bright, but the strand was still there; Draco could hardly believe it.

Potter's hair was untouched; his clothes, though, were gone.

Someone screamed in the distance. The air filled with gasps and shrieks, laughter and whistles. Potter's eyes were so very wide. He stood naked in the middle of the Quidditch field, with Draco's wand pointing straight at him.

The commotion grew louder, people were running towards them, and Potter just stood there, naked, staring. He looked so, so shocked.

Draco opened his mouth. "I didn't—" What could he possibly say? He had no explanation, no excuse. He didn't even know what had possessed him to lift his wand to Vanish Potter's hair. Why do it now? Why had he done it now? Where was a Time-Turner when you needed it?

Draco took a step back and did the only sensible thing he could think of: he spun around and bolted.

Moments later, in the safety of the castle, he realised he had dropped and lost the badge.

*

The world didn't end, Draco kept reminding himself the following week. Besides, the consequences weren't as bad as they could have been.

Potter's friends were very, very cross and had exhausted their facial muscles by glaring and scowling at Draco excessively. Draco was used to worse; they didn't even try to hex him. McGonagall deducted one hundred points from Slytherin and gave Draco detention, cleverly choosing to assign him to Hagrid for maximum punishment. But that was nothing Draco hadn't experienced in the past.

He was a secret hero to many. That was new. Someone had managed to snap a few pictures of Potter's nakedness, and many Hogwarts students spent hours fondly staring at the numerous copies. They tended to give Draco thumbs up when they saw him.

It would all be quite amusing, actually, if not for the knife embedded in Draco's chest, which loved to twist and poke more deeply whenever Potter looked at him, whenever Potter didn't look at him, whenever he caught someone drooling all over Potter's pictures, whenever Potter was forced to leave the Great Hall with pink cheeks, whenever Draco sat down to study and it wasn't the alcove. He didn't dare to go back, even though he knew he'd never find Potter there again.

The knife hadn't appeared right away. It had taken two days after the event for it to sink in. It happened in the middle of the night, a particularly hot one, filled with bad dreams and damp sheets, when Draco woke up with a sudden realisation: Potter was his friend. After all these years. Potter was his friend.

And now he wasn't.

The pain in his chest began in that moment and it would not stop.

He thought about trying to explain himself to Potter. He thought about it a lot. He'd tell Potter he didn't want to humiliate him in public; he just wanted to fix his hair.

But Potter wouldn't believe him, of course. And it wasn't really true, anyway. It was never about the hair. Draco realised that, too. It had shoved the knife even deeper.

On the bright side, since he walked around feeling like someone was constantly stabbing him and like he was half-dead already, it apparently made him courageous. And Draco needed courage when Hagrid sent him alone into the Forbidden Forest to collect all the knotgrass he could find. The special sort, with extra flavour and nasty temper, which was perfect if one was brewing knotgrass mead. Once, Draco would have filed an official complaint for being forced to aid Hagrid in such inappropriate endeavours, but now he just couldn’t be bothered.

The forest was dark and brooding, and smelled of danger and rot, and it suited Draco's mood perfectly. He found a rich green patch with ease; he didn't even have to walk far into the forest. He set aside the leather drawstring bag Hagrid had given him, and knelt, careful not to touch the grass with his knees. It liked to sneak towards its victim, wrap around it and tie it in firm, unbreakable knots. The trick was to snatch one blade of grass at the time and hastily Petrify it. The patch looked unruly and wild, and deceptively still. It reminded Draco of Potter. He picked the strands and Petrified them with glee.

He barely flinched when something rattled in the bushes; he merely glanced up when a Thestral swooped down to snatch some poor squirrel from a tree branch. He wasn't even tempted to scream when air shifted to his right and shimmered away to reveal Potter.

He didn't scream, but the knife in his chest twisted. For a moment, he amused himself by thinking that perhaps this had been Hagrid and Potter's plan all along. They meant to lure Draco into the forest and exact revenge. Perhaps Vanish his clothing and leave him for the werewolves to find.

It would have been preferable to what Potter was obviously here to do. Potter leaned against a tree trunk, hands in his pockets, and stared at Draco. He wanted to talk; it was written all over him.

"I'm busy," Draco said, not looking up from the grass in his hand. It tried to wrap around his finger and Draco shot a spell at it. He set it into the bag, careful not to break it.

"Just thought I'd return this."

Something whooshed through the air and smacked Draco's shoulder. Draco glanced at it out of the corner of his eye. It was the 'I support Poncy Potty,' badge. It landed neatly into the knotgrass patch. The grass wrapped around it with delight and swallowed it.

"Thanks a lot, Potter. I don't have a spare, you know."

Draco Charmed three more blades of knotgrass before Potter spoke again.

"You won't even tell me why you did it?"

The knife twisted again; Potter sounded so hurt. "I like making badges. You know that." Draco could almost feel Potter getting angrier. He was silent and still, as though ready to explode any second now. Maybe that was a good thing. Maybe he would hex Draco and leave.

"I just want to know why, Malfoy. Did I do something to annoy you or was this your plan all along? What, were you biding your time? Waiting for me to get so stupid as to let you point your wand at me and hex me? Were you looking for ways to publicly humiliate me the moment I told you I was gay?"

Draco didn't know what to say to that, except the truth. "Actually I just wanted to fix your stupid hair, but I missed." Of course, the truth was a joke.

"Malfoy." Potter sighed. It sounded shivery, somehow. Like Potter was about to cry. Draco looked up in fright. Potter didn't seem weepy, though; he just looked disappointed, betrayed. "Why do you hate me so much? Even after I... Why?"

"Even after you what?"

Potter kicked the ground with his foot. "You know what."

Draco knew what. "Were you expecting gratitude?"

"Actually, no. Not from you. I was expecting lack of hatred. I thought we'd moved past that. I thought—"

Draco Petrified the blade of grass in his hand so forcefully it turned into green ice. It sparkled up at him like a gemstone and Draco crushed it in his hand.

Potter wasn't finished. "Were you sitting in the alcove every day, hating me?"

Draco had a crazy urge to laugh. He didn't laugh, though. He said, "I was aiming for your hair."

"For fuck's sake, Malfoy, can't you just — Just say it. Just tell me how much you hate me. You clearly do, so why won't you say it?"

Draco drew a calming breath. "I was aiming for your hair."

"Malfoy—"

Draco shot up. "I was aiming for your stupid hair, Potter!" Sparks flew out of his wand; his throat hurt.

Potter was armed in a second, poised to strike. "Right. All right. I hear you. You wanted to Vanish my hair, not my clothes. Is that some sort of excuse? How is that any better, exactly?" Potter's eyes were searching Draco's face. "Or are you actually insane?"

Draco was insane; he turned mad in exactly that moment. He felt it happen. A switch flipping in his head. He charged at Potter, not even caring that Potter had his wand pointed at him. Draco's wand had fallen to the forest floor. He didn't care. He crushed Potter against the tree with his body. Potter's wand was trapped between them, but neither Draco nor Potter paid any heed to it. Potter was staring at him, eyes as wide as they had been when Draco had spelled his clothes away at the pitch.

"This strand, right here..." Draco reached up and trapped it between his fingertips; it was the long one, his most hated one that liked Potter's cheek. Potter glanced at it sideways, then looked back at Draco. "I dream about it," Draco said. He dreamt about it a lot. Nearly every night. "It was the first thing I saw, you know."

"Malfoy," Potter whispered. He said it in a way a person would speak to a madman.

Draco tugged at the strands in his grip. "You were all sweaty, your face was dirty. We were all sweaty and dirty, weren't we? Fire does that, turns everything into heat and dirt. I looked up and there you were, that stupid strand of hair stuck to your cheek. It was so bright I could barely see. I only recognised you because of your stupid, stupid hair. Stupid Potter with his stupid hair come to save me."

Potter's eyes were greener than the knotgrass.

"You think I hate you. Oh, Potter. The truth is so much worse. I'm one of them now. I'm one of those you hate the most. One of your adoring fans you're running from. I don't hate you. I want to give you all the fucking chocolate you want. I want to take you to Hogsmeade and buy you a carriage full of treacle tarts. See, I even know they're your favourites. That alcove? That's not my spot. I was looking for you. I was looking for your hideout for weeks. And I found you and then I went back just to see you again. And, you know, I'd write any essay you want. No charge. I'm pretty sure I'd even strip on a crowded Quidditch pitch if I knew it would make you laugh."

Potter shook his head, very slowly. "You wouldn't."

"I would. Well, I would now, because I'm so sorry I..." The knife twisted again; Draco couldn't speak.

"You wouldn't," Potter repeated. "Malfoy, you're... babbling nonsense. If I asked you to write my essays for me, you'd tell me to fuck off."

"No, Potter, you don't understand. I'd write all of them for you. I would. I'm like the little girl with the chocolates, following you around, hoping for a chance to do something to make you smile at me."

Potter smiled, as though to grant Draco's wish. "Those chocolates are usually filled with Love Potions, you know."

"It doesn't matter. It's the same thing, Potter. You're not listening." Which was terribly annoying, because they were so close; their foreheads were pressed together, they breathed each other's air, and Potter must have heard Draco's every word, but he just wasn't paying attention. "I'm one of them now. One of your mindless fans. I was just really good at hiding it."

Potter was whispering now. "Do you want my autograph, then?"

Merlin. "I don't want your autograph, Potter."

"What do you want?"

Potter's eyes were so close, and so green. "I want... I want to stop being your mindless fan. I want to stop feeling like this. It's torture."

Potter leaned his head sideways. "It is, isn't it?" His lips brushed against Draco's. By accident, Draco thought, but then they did it again, warm, soft pressure reaching down all the way to Draco's chest, melting the knife there away.

"Are you..." Draco spoke against Potter's lips, which made it difficult to breathe. He pulled away, just a little. "Are you being kind?"

Warm breath tickled Draco's face as Potter laughed. "You really do have a very high opinion of me all of a sudden. I'm not being kind." Potter's hand sneaked down to the small of Draco's back. "It wasn't my hideout, you know. I found the place the same day you found me. I only went back hoping to see you." Potter's lips twitched; his hand pressed more firmly against Draco's back. "Does that make me your fan? I didn't think of it that way, but if that's what we're calling it..."

Draco had little time to absorb this information because Potter was kissing him again. Kissing him because he wanted to; that part Draco absorbed with his whole being.

Potter's tongue slipped past Draco's lips and Draco felt himself fall forward, even though there was nowhere to fall, but that was how it felt, like he was slipping into something he'd never break free of.

That should have been terrifying, but instead it made Draco happy. So happy he had to break their kiss to laugh.

"You're Potter," he said, laughing against Potter's cheek. He kissed Potter's cheekbone, moved lower to graze his teeth against Potter's jaw, then to the side to trap Potter's earlobe between his lips so he could nibble on it, and then below to suck on the tender skin there. "Stupid, ridiculous Potter," he murmured, mouth full of Potter's taste.

Potter's hair was tickling his nose. Draco buried his face in the unruly, black mess and breathed in a lungful of apple-scented air.

It occurred to Draco, through a kind of haze, that the scent of Potter's hair, no matter how wonderful, probably couldn't have been responsible for his near-orgasmic state.

Potter's hands were firm on Draco's hips, their bodies pressed tightly together, rocking, shuddering, maybe even hovering above the ground. Potter's breath was hot on Draco's neck, his teeth and lips sending small shocks of pleasure through Draco's body.

It was over shockingly fast; one moment the pleasure was overwhelming; in the next, it was ebbing away, no matter how hard Draco tried to recapture it

But when he finally opened his eyes and found the strength to lift his head, he realised that in those few moments the world had shifted and changed. He had woken up in the world he glimpsed back at the Quidditch pitch, the dull one, where Potter — Potter, whose head had fallen back against the tree, his eyes half-closed and his hair a mess — shone brighter than anything else. But this time it didn't feel wrong; it felt like the most perfect world to live in.

Well. Draco shifted. Sticky pants aside and all.

Potter was smiling. "Will you really buy me a carriage full of treacle tarts?"

"I will," Draco vowed. "Eventually. One at the time. If I buy you so many at once, you'll eat them all and get sick."

"Right. And will you really write all of my essays?"

"Absolutely! If it makes you happy, the moment you write an essay, I'll happily copy it." Potter frowned at that and Draco shrugged. "The English language is tricky. It's too easy to twist meanings. It's not my fault."

Potter cocked his head. "Will you at least take off your clothes on a crowded Quidditch pitch?"

Draco felt a stab of guilt. That would be fair, he supposed. "All right. I'll do it."

Potter laughed. "You must have something impressive to show. It felt impressive earlier." He leered at little, but the effect was ruined with a slight blush.

Draco beamed.

"I think I'd prefer a private show," Potter decided.

"It can be arranged. I know just the place." Draco grinned, but then some of his lost reason returned to his mind and he glanced back at the patch of knotgrass. His bag was gone; the grass looked inconspicuous and unmoving. "Well, I'll do it if you help me serve my detention. It is technically your fault that the stupid grass ate half of my efforts."

Potter mock-sighed. "For a person who claims he'll do everything for me, you're kind of high priced."

Potter's bottom lip quivered as he tried to contain his laughter. Draco bent forward and kissed him senseless. "My everything, Potter, is worth a lot," he said, even though he never really thought so before. He thought so now though, especially with Potter looking at him like he agreed, like he was even willing to pay the price.

"I'd better go rescue your bag, then," Potter said, and then went and did just that. He was good at that sort of thing. It made Draco want to kiss him all the time. It was really quite pathetic.

But then Potter was nearly eaten by the grass, and Draco had to rescue him, which was kind of pathetic of Potter too, so Draco thought this thing between them might just work out in the end.

*

They spent the evening in their alcove. Draco Conjured a makeshift bed and Potter Conjured blankets. The blankets soon disappeared and the bed was very bouncy, but it served its purpose.

Potter was lying down on his side, propped up on his elbow, fingers toying with Draco's hair. "You know," he said, with a soppy sort of smile, the kind that only happened after a couple of orgasms, "I really like your hair, too."

Draco snorted, smug. He was in an exceptionally good mood. Earlier, Potter's hand had travelled downwards, and his fingers had slipped between Draco's buttocks, and then pushed inside, painfully gentle and shockingly skilful. It was a strange feeling, exposing, too intimate, burning in a way that made Draco ache for more. Traces of Potter's touch lingered even now. It made Draco squirm constantly; he was suddenly too aware of that part of his body.

"That's only natural, Potter," he said. "Everyone likes my hair. The Malfoys' hair has been admired through centuries. People wrote songs about it. This, on the other hand..." Draco reached up to grab a fistful of Potter's hair. "It looks like something my house-elves use for dusting. Liking that is a sign of definite madness."

"Maybe I should cut it. That never really worked well in the past, but who knows?"

Draco's grip on Potter's hair tightened. "Don't you dare. Not ever, Potter."

Potter placed a palm on Draco's naked chest. "I won't," he said. "Breathe."

"It wouldn't suit you, anyway." Draco eased his grip.

The bed bounced.

"Merlin," Potter sighed, "why is everything you Conjure so demanding?"

"Spoken like a lazy person."

Potter's hand travelled down Draco's body to wrap around his prick. It was soft, but it wouldn't stay soft for long, not with Potter touching it.

"If I'm so lazy, then why am I doing all the work here?" Even as he grumbled, Potter edged downwards until he was settled on his belly between Draco's legs. His face was alarmingly close to Draco's crotch, his hand squeezing and stroking constantly.

Draco eyed Potter's caressing fingers. "If you manage to get it up again, I might be persuaded to fuck you," he said. Potter stared at him, unblinking. Draco's skin heated all the way to the middle of his chest. He looked away. "If you'd like..." he added.

Potter gripped him tighter and breathed hotly against the tip of Draco's prick. Draco shuddered.

"Am I competing against your blurry thing?" Potter's voice was so low, so rough, Draco almost jumped out of his skin. His prick twitched.

"Of course," Draco breathed. "And countless other people who gave me blowjobs in the past."

"Countless?" Potter's tongue peeked out to give Draco a teasing lick.

Draco tried not to squirm too much. A moan escaped him. It was too hard to lie at this point. "It's hard to count zeroes."

Potter's lips closed around the tip and he sucked a little before pulling away. "But the blurry thing... It's probably spectacular. How could I ever compare?"

"You can defeat anyone," Draco said mindlessly.

Potter laughed, then sucked Draco's prick into his mouth and proved Draco right. Draco got harder faster than he thought possible.

Afterward, Potter lay down on his stomach and let Draco do as he promised. Once again, Draco came with his nose buried in Potter's hair.

Sticky and sated, deep inside Potter, he decided he could do this forever.

He would have to, he supposed, or he would end up regretting, and possibly sniffing black feather dusters for the rest of his life. He was stuck with Potter now.

*

"Have you told them?" Draco asked. He was whispering because they were in the library. Sometimes they'd study there because they'd stopped studying in the alcove and used it for other purposes.

"Um," Potter said.

Draco glanced at Granger and Weasley. They were studying, too, two seats away. Well, mostly they were studying, but sometimes they were just sitting there whispering and giving Draco odd looks. Potter had told them that Draco was now his study partner because he felt horrible about that accident at the Quidditch pitch and wanted to redeem himself by helping Potter with Potions.

Potter's friends were still struggling to swallow that story; Draco heard they suspected that nefarious ploys were afoot.

"I still don't think it's the right time," Potter said, keeping his voice low. "I just don't want to spent hours discussing this with them. And that's exactly what will happen."

Draco shook his head. It was time to put his foot down. "Granger!" he called, ignoring Potter's twitchy head shakes. Someone said, "Shhhhh!" as Granger and Weasley looked at Draco. "I just thought I'd tell you," Draco began, "that Potter here and I are in love, and are actually planning to live together when we finish school. And we're gay, if the implication of my previous statement wasn't clear."

Weasley blinked and Granger said, "Er, right." Then they returned to their studies.

"See? It took two seconds." Draco grinned at Potter, who stared at him in shock. Draco couldn't blame him. They had never really discussed love or living together.

Draco looked down at his book, his face hot.

A minute later, Weasley whispered, "Harry? He is joking, right?"

Potter laughed. "I can never tell," he said, but seemed quite happy about it. Happy enough to grab Draco's chin and give him a sound kiss.

If anyone gasped in shock, Draco didn't hear them.