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The Marks We Bear

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Chapter 1
Friday 12th Sept (1st week of school - 5th Year)  
 
There were lots of things that made Harry Potter different from everyone else. Most of those things were pretty well known. From the physically obvious like his scar and his glasses and his messy black hair to the fact that his parents were both dead and he had been brought up by Muggles. To the fact that he was the only person who had ever survived the Avada Kedavra curse, the person who had almost defeated You-Know-Who.  
 
But there was one thing about Harry Potter that made him different that nobody else knew. Not even his closest friends, not even Dumbledore... in fact most of the time even Harry didn't know this one. Denial isn't just a river in Egypt after all.  
 
Today was one of those days when denial was clearly running dry.  
 
Cause he could cope with it when someone caught his eye on the street, when his mind ran away in the odd fantasy, even with the fact that he occasionally developed crushes on a classmate or two... but this was simply unbearable.  
 
It had to be some sort of new found masochistic streak, some form of self-flagellation for some consciously but not unconsciously forgotten misdemeanour.  
 
Of all the people his subconscious could possibly have chosen to latch on to... why did it have to be Draco Malfoy?  
 
It was days like this that his Gryffindorian recklessness was particularly unwelcome. It made him want to do very questionable things like leap over his desk, knocking aside his cauldron and Professor Snape, and throw Malfoy down on the floor and kiss him then just sit back and see how he reacted. Or maybe just jump out of the nearest window and thus avoid the hideous embarrassment of what might occur when he finally cracked from the pressure. That one was made tricky by the fact he was in a dungeon and there were no windows.  
 
He looked down at his simmering cauldron. Everyone else's potion was pink (except Neville's which was purple), his was vivid red with blue streaks. Perhaps he should just drink it and hope it put him out of his misery. Or at the very least deflated the hard on he had which seemed intent on doing press ups with the desk. Not for the first time he praised whatever Gods watched over hormone ridden school-boys that Hogwarts uniforms involved robes... nice, voluminous, loose, obscuring robes.  
 
How the hell Malfoy managed to give the impression of smooth, shapely shoulders and a really nice arse through them he had no idea. Why the hell Malfoy's arse had any effect on him at all he refused to think about.  
 
He looked down at his mis-coloured potion and then up at the impending Snape and sighed, he really missed the days when Potions class had inevitably meant pairing up. At least then when it went wrong the blame got shared around a bit. Cause the fact that he had no idea what he'd actually put in his cauldron or in what order was definitely at least 50% Malfoy's fault.  
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So how had it started? Well part of it had happened on the train back to school when halfway down the aisle to the bathroom he'd come face to face with this drop dead gorgeous blonde boy who stood about an inch taller than him and had shoulders to die for. It wasn't till said hunk had opened his mouth to say,  
 
"Are you going to get out the way, Potter? Or will we be spending the rest of the trip standing here?"  
 
That he had realised the identity of the boy he was staring at. Draco Malfoy had put on quite a growth spurt over the summer, he must have gained an inch a month. And where had that tan come from? And those muscles? And had he ever even seen Malfoy in a t-shirt and jeans before?  
 
He had moved aside to let Malfoy squeeze past him and then stood there watching that arse walk away. He had definitely been in a severe case of shock. But he'd got over that by the time they got to school, reminding himself that he had a crush on Cho Chang and therefore did not need to worry about whether Malfoy was a complete shag or not because he was not gay... he was just going through a phase and besides it was Malfoy and Malfoy was most definitely the enemy.  
 
Unfortunately while Harry had been quite definite on that point, Malfoy's memory seemed a little shaky. He was withdrawn, quiet. He rarely passed comment on anyone let alone insulted them. He spent more time in the library alone than he did with Crabbe and Goyle. Harry was half convinced that this new hunky man of mystery persona was designed specifically to drive him out of his mind. It was so much easier to ignore the way Malfoy looked when there were evil and unpleasant jibes coming out of his mouth.  
 
The Slytherins seemed as unsure as Harry of what they were supposed to make of this new version of Draco Malfoy. They had prodded a bit at him, kind of like kids prod at roadkill to see if it's really dead or not. But Malfoy was most certainly still alive and could bite if necessary. So they let him be. Mostly they ignored him and the power gap was filled by Blaise Zabini, but he really didn't have Malfoy's flair when it came to giving the Gryffindor's a hard time.  
 
Ron, too, had given it a go at fighting with the new-but-not-necessarily-improved Draco Malfoy. Malfoy had ignored his initial attempts and when Ron pushed farther had rounded on him,  
"Do you really have nothing better to do with your life, Weasley? Am I so important to you that you can't take the hint? I have no interest in playing stupid games with you so either come to the point or go away."  
 
"Touchy, Malfoy. Can't take the heat any more, I guess."  
 
"Perhaps I'm just bored of playing with matches, Weasley."  
 
Ron took too long trying to figure out if that was an insult or not and Malfoy simply walked away.  
 
Malfoy walked away.  
 
From an excuse to trade insults with Ron.  
 
If Harry hadn't been standing right there watching the exchange he wouldn't have believed it. Even Hermione was stumped and she usually had an opinion on everything.  
 
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Draco's POV  
 
It's strange, walking through the school halls like a ghost or a condemned man. I don't have anything to say to anyone here and so I say nothing. I do my work. I eat my meals. I sleep. Around me they stare, they whisper or they ignore. They don't know what to say.  
 
It was interesting watching the entire power structure of the Slytherin House reform around my absence. For a week or so they were lost and confused and then they moved on. Me, I'm still lost and confused. I don't know what I'm supposed to do now that I've refused my previous role in this world. I feel kind of numb and aloof.  
 
I was so much a part of things in this school. Of the structure of things. In Slytherin House I ruled supreme in my year and over all those below. I even had limited power over those above me thanks to my family. And I revelled in that position. I manipulated, I ordered, I wallowed in my power. All so I could feel important. So I could grasp that one thing I'd never been able to find. That one thing I envied above all in others. I desperately wanted recognition, praise, power and I sought it the only way I knew, through the belittling of others.  
 
God, I sound like a therapist. I've been thinking about this way too much.  
 
But aside from my school work what else is there to do? I have no real friends, just people who were dragged along by me to my own ends or who followed in my shadow.  
 
I'm making myself sound like some ex-Machiavallian genius, I may be quieter but I obviously retain my penchant for the dramatic.  
 
The problem is that all this quiet, inner turmoil is really starting to get on my tits. I want to move on but I don't know where to go. I'm desperately looking forward to the start of the Quidditch season, but that's months away and we won't start practising in earnest for a few weeks yet.  
 
I want people to talk to, I want to have fun... I want to know why Harry Potter keeps looking at me like that.  
 
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Probably nothing would have come of any of it if fate hadn't taken a hand.  
 
It's funny how fate never seems willing to let things be.  
 
Harry could have quite happily ignored his lustful obsession until it went away or at the least he learnt a really good repression technique. But then how would he have found out the things he did and who knows what might happen if you remove a person from a story. With no Draco getting in the way... would things have worked out the way they did?  
 
Draco could have gone on in his new solitary role, getting far better grades than he ever had before and just getting used to being alone. Maybe in a year or so when people started to forget what an ass he'd been when he was younger he would have made a few friends. He probably would still have gotten himself disowned, but not quite as early as it actually happened.  
 
But what if's are infinite and unknown. This is the story of what is known, what did happen. And this is where it all started...  
 
On the quidditch field.  
 
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Thursday 18th September  
 
Draco got up early, before the rest of his house, and headed down to the Quidditch field. He hadn't had much chance to fly over the summer and he wanted to get back in shape before they started practising again. No need to make any more of a fool of himself on the pitch than he usually did.  
 
When he arrived he was irritated to note that someone else was already out there, swooping around the pitch and out as far as the Forbidden Forest and back. Looping and diving with an ease that could only be one person, Potter.  
 
"Perfect," he though sarcastically.  
 
But there was more than enough room in the air for the both of them and if he left Potter alone he supposed the other boy would do the same. They may have spent the last four years as rivals but, unlike Weasley, Potter wasn't inclined towards starting trouble or petty mudslinging. If he didn't start anything they could both practice in peace.  
 
He climbed onto his broom and kicked off, taking care to steer away from where Potter was flying.  
 
Harry swooped round in a graceful loop de loop, revelling more than practising. As he came back level facing the Quidditch pitch he saw another figure flying up, curving away from him. Harry gripped his broomstick tighter, the irritating thing about Draco Malfoy was that there was never any mistaking him. He wasn't the sort of person you accidentally walked past without recognising or had to squint at unsurely if seen at a distance. There wasn't a single boy at Hogwarts as blond as Malfoy, even his flying style was distinctive. A natural grace and ability hampered by over-thinking and a stiffness that only faded in the very few moments when he was truly caught up.  
 
Harry might not know Malfoy very well, but thanks to Quidditch he knew everything there was to know about how he flew.  
 
Without even realising he was doing it, Harry began mirroring Malfoy's flight path. Always keeping behind and to the right of him where he could watch him but could not be watched in return. Once he realised what he was doing it became a game, more interesting than randomly wandering, trying to anticipate Malfoy's moves, holding their distance precisely. Then as they reached the pinnacle of a high swoop Malfoy turned into a sharp downward dive, hurtling towards the grass only a few degrees from vertical. Harry followed about 20 feet behind, trying to catch up so that they would pull up together at the same altitude. If Malfoy pulled up lower he might see Harry following him. But Malfoy left it a little too late, or else was going faster than he realised and as he pulled up the end of his broom caught the ground and the resulting jerk threw him off backwards. Harry was so caught up in watching Malfoy somersault back through the air that he almost did exactly the same and only his quick reactions and his slightly less break-neck speed allowed him to angle to the side and slow so that he tumbled harmlessly onto the grass in a cushioning roll. Unlike Malfoy who landed on his back and skidded across the grass for a few feet.  
 
Without thinking Harry scrambled up and ran over to where Malfoy lay. "Are you okay? Where does it hurt? Don't move!" He began running his hands over Malfoy's limbs looking for broken bones. "Does your neck hurt?"  
 
"Of course my neck hurts, everything hurts!" snapped Malfoy, embarrassed at making such an idiot of himself in front of Potter.  
 
This snapped Harry back into awareness of what he was doing and he jumped back as if he had burn his fingers.  
 
"Right, yeah. Remind me to stand back and laugh next time."  
 
He started to back away, his face burning at the realisation that he had been touching Malfoy. Damned first aid training. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, after what had happened to Diggory and his inability to save him, learning how to save people had made him feel like he was doing something. And it had got him out of Privet Drive for a few hours a week.  
 
Malfoy's voice broke his train of thought.  
 
"Wait!" He was sitting up, wincing. "Wait, I'm.... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap."  
 
Harry stopped backing away and stared at Malfoy in amazement.  
 
"You're ... what did you say?" he took a step back towards him.  
 
"I'm sorry. I was just... embarrassed. I guess I was flying faster than I realised, I'm a bit rusty." Draco gave up on trying to sit up, it hurt too much. His entire body felt like one big bruise.  
 
It took Harry a moment to get over the shock of Draco Malfoy apologising. He walked back over to where the other boy lay on the grass.  
 
"D'you... need a hand?"  
 
"Actually I thought I might lie here until the world stops spinning."  
 
This kicked Harry's first aid training back into gear and he dropped back down next to Malfoy holding up his hand, "How many fingers?" After all a concussion might explain the apology.  
 
"Three. I'm fine, really. Just a bit dizzy and a lot bruised."  
 
"Still, you should let Madame Pomfrey check you out, just in case. That was a pretty impressive landing."  
 
"Don't rub it in," Malfoy groaned.  
 
"Sorry. Um... while you're... not going anywhere and everything... could I ask you something?"  
 
"I suppose. Can't promise you an answer though."  
 
"I just wondered... why are you being nice to me?"  
 
"I am not being nice to you!" protested Draco. "I'm just... not being nasty to you."  
 
"Well, okay. So why aren't you? Being nasty I mean?" asked Harry nervously. "I mean not that it isn't great and everything but it's... really weird."  
 
Draco gave an odd smile. "Nobody likes change."  
 
"I didn't say I didn't like it... I mean... I was just wondering is all."  
 
"Let's just say I had an eye-opening experience this summer," he answered finally in a voice that implied further questions were not welcome. "So is that hand still on offer?"  
 
"What? Oh, right". Harry stood up and reached out his hand to help Malfoy up.  
 
"Thanks, Potter." Malfoy stood there awkwardly for a moment then turned, retrieved his broomstick and limped back towards the castle.  
 
Potter watched him go for a moment then picked up his own broom and ran after him. "Wait up! I'll walk you back."  
 
Malfoy paused and started to look back but then groaned and dropped his broom again, clutching his hand to his neck. "Ow!"  
 
Harry picked up Malfoy's broom and tucked it under his arm with his own. "Told you to go see Madame Pomfrey," he said smugly. "You've probably got whiplash."  
 
Malfoy gave him a funny look. "I've got what?"  
 
"Your neck," explained Harry. "It's when your neck gets jerked too fast and it damages your spine and everything. I did this Muggle first aid course over the summer and I've been reading up on medical magic, I'm studying it this year. Here, let me see."  
 
Harry put both the brooms back down and moved behind Malfoy, bringing his hands up to his neck. He swallowed nervously as he allowed his hands to settle on either side of Malfoy's neck. "Try and hold your head still and straight," he said. Then he pulled his wand out of his pocket and, trying to focus on his task, incanted, "Reficio Musculis Vertebrata." As heat spread through Malfoy's neck he could feel the tight muscles under his hand relaxing.  
 
Draco actually moaned. "Gods, you don't realise how much something hurts till it stops. Guess you've got the touch, Potter."  
 
Harry tucked his wand back into his pocket and ran his hands over Malfoy's neck and shoulders, inclining his head forward and back. "It doesn't hurt when I do that?"  
 
"Nope, feels great. Don't suppose you could do my arse while you're at it?"  
 
"What?" Harry jumped back, his eyes automatically going to Malfoy's backside.  
 
"Now that my neck doesn't hurt any more I'm becoming increasingly aware of what actually hit the ground first." Draco reached behind himself and rubbed carefully at his tail bone.  
 
Harry just stood there and gaped at the way what Malfoy was doing pulled his robes closer to his body. He was trying very hard not to think about touching Malfoy's arse.  
 
"I'm sure you'll be fine, you're just bruised."  
 
"But it hurts," Draco whined unconvincingly.  
 
Harry was glad Malfoy couldn't see the brilliant red colour he was sure his face had gone. "Don't be such a baby. Consider it a punishment for past misdeeds."  
 
Now Malfoy did turn round. "Nursing a grudge, Potter?"  
 
Harry considered his answer. Something short and rude came to mind but he settled for civility, "Not really, after all we always won in the end."  
 
Malfoy didn't look pleased with that. "I suppose you did," he said shortly. Then he looked at him with a piercing gaze, "My turn to ask a question."  
 
"Um, okay."  
 
"Why are you being so nice to me?"  
 
"Oh, um...." Harry floundered.  
 
"After all I've done to you and your friends... the detentions, the insults, that thing with the hippogryff... I wouldn't be so quick to forget." His expression was closed, giving nothing away.  
 
"I haven't forgotten," said Harry. "But like I said, we always won in the end. Buckbeak got away and we've gotten you as many detentions as you've gotten us."  
 
"I doubt Weasley and Granger would see it that way."  
 
"Probably not, but they have more reason to hate you than I do."  
 
"Oh?"  
 
"Hermione's always been just a mudblood to you and your entire family seems to have some sort of personal feud going on with the Weasley's... " Harry trailed off, all the insults and fights coming back to mind, the reality of which side Malfoy had chosen to be on. He gave Malfoy a cold glare. "You know digging up your past actions really isn't going to help you much in your quest to become a new person. I've suddenly gone off the idea of being anywhere near you."  
 
Harry turned and began to walk back to the castle, berating himself silently for being nice to Malfoy.  
 
Behind him Malfoy started to follow, calling, "Potter, wait."  
 
"Get stuffed, Malfoy," he shot over his shoulder. "You'll need to do a lot more than stop insulting me for a couple of weeks and fall off your broom to get me to want to hang out with you."  
Malfoy drew alongside him. "I thought you said you weren't nursing a grudge?"  
 
"That was before I remembered why I ought to be."  
 
"And why's that?"  
 
Harry stopped again and faced off with him. "Because you're a small-minded, bullying, prejudiced, cowardly little git and your father is on first-name terms with the man who killed my parents!" he shouted. "You probably got that tan sunbathing in some Death-Eater resort where the evenings entertainment is torturing Muggles and plotting to take over the world! In fact I wouldn't be surprised if this whole being nice thing isn't some secret plan to kill me so that Lord Voldemort will give you a nice seat next to your Father at his evil wizards convention."  
 
Malfoy had paled a little at this outburst but when Harry stopped shouting all he said was, "I see." He held something out to him and after a moment Harry realised it was his broom. "You forgot this."  
 
Harry took it from him, feeling somewhat deflated now that he had done all that yelling.  
 
"Thanks for fixing my neck."  
 
Malfoy walked off and Harry stood and watched him disappear back into the castle.  
 
He hadn't had breakfast yet and he already felt like he needed to go back to bed.  
 
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"I just wonder what he meant about having an eye opening experience," said Harry.  
 
"Who cares," answered Ron. "He's an evil prat. He was a evil prat before summer and he's still an evil prat. He's just an evil prat with a lot less to say."  
 
"It is strange though," said Hermione. "I mean he is very different. Maybe what happened last year had more of an effect on him than he let on. I mean he was always quick with the big talk about hating muggles and everything but talk's just talk. Maybe now it's all really happening he's realised it isn't so great."  
 
"Hermione," said Ron, disgusted at all this discussion of Malfoy. "Don't you remember what he said last year after Diggory died? Didn't seem very upset about it then, did he? Seemed pretty sure you and me were next on the list!"  
 
"I remember," said Hermione. "Of course I remember. But like I said, it's just words. If you can't get past stuff like that you end up like Snape."  
 
Ron shuddered at that thought.  
 
"Snape's one of the good guys though. I just wish I knew if Malfoy'd really changed for the better or if he's just... changed," mused Harry.  
 
"Well, you said he's taking Muggle Studies this year, Ron. Rather odd for someone who's supposed to hate them," noted Hermione.  
 
"Know your enemy," retorted Ron. "That's got to be somewhere in the Dark Wizards Handbook."  
 
"And he's taking quite a few classes I'm in, he seems really different. No snide insults, no mucking about... "  
 
"I've said it once but I obviously need to say it again," said Ron in exasperation. "Who cares! He's leaving us alone, great. Let's leave him alone too. Even if he wasn't Malfoy he's still a Slytherin."  
 
"I know," said Harry, letting the topic drop but not ceasing to watch Malfoy out of the corner of his eye.  
 
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After breakfast Harry headed up for their Defence Against the Dark Arts class, dragging behind Ron and Hermione and completely failing to notice the way their hands kept brushing against one another accidentally.  
 
This would be their 4th DADA class with this years new teacher, a very strict man by the name of Professor Hartlebury. Which wasn't good cause they had a joint class with the Slytherins and that always meant trouble. On the other hand it also meant Malfoy. Not that that wasn't just another kind of trouble, it crossed his mind that he might get better grades if he focused more on the subject of the class than who he fancied in it. On the other hand his academic life was even more screwed up than his love life. He was stuck in 2 completely useless classes... Care of Magical Creatures was often fun but rarely educational and Divination was without a doubt the biggest pile of crap ever... and there was no point in dropping them now cause he would be too far behind to take up new subjects for his OWLs. Hermione was taking 12 subjects and he was only taking 9, two of which were a complete waste of time. At least he'd added Medical Magic and Spell Creation to his timetable this year which were bound to come in useful given his life so far. They were subjects only available at 5th year and up. He wondered what subjects Malfoy was taking. He knew he was in Muggle Studies with Ron and some of Hermione's classes but he wasn't sure which ones.  
 
He was last into the classroom and found he had a choice between sitting right in the front or sitting further back next to Malfoy but just in front of Ron and Hermione. Gritting his teeth he took the latter choice, he hated sitting in the front row.  
 
He sat down without even acknowledging Malfoy's presence and gave Ron and Hermione a pained expression.  
 
"Still nursing that grudge, Potter?" Malfoy muttered under his breath.  
 
"Shut up, Malfoy," Harry hissed back.  
 
Professor Hartlebury set them to practising advanced hex deflection techniques, supposedly able to deflect spells from wizards more powerful than yourself. It involved a lot of complicated wand waving. He prowled up and down the class studying their technique, as he reached Malfoy and Harry he watched for a few moments.  
 
"Very impressive, Mr Malfoy. Very impressive indeed. Perhaps you could give Mr Potter a few tips, he seems to be auditioning as a majorette."  
 
The Slytherin's sniggered loudly, but Malfoy just said, "Yes, sir."  
 
As the Professor continued back to correct Ron's exuberant gesturing Malfoy turned obediently to Harry.  
 
"You're using your elbow too much, it's all in the wrist, Potter."  
 
"I don't need your help, Malfoy."  
 
"If you want to survive being hexed you do."  
 
"Why, are you *planning* to hex me?" Harry flicked a little too viciously and his grip on his wand slipped, it flew through the air in a slow arc and hit the back of Millicent Bulstrode's head.  
 
This time the entire class burst into laughter. Millicent looked daggers at him and raised her foot to stomp on his wand, but before she could bring it down Malfoy muttered, "Accio wand." Harry's wand flew through the air and Malfoy caught it. "Maybe next time you should listen to me."  
 
Harry snatched his wand back out of Malfoy's hand, flushing slightly as their fingertips brushed past one another. "Maybe if you would shut up I could concentrate on what I was doing."  
 
"I thought you were bigger than that, Potter. I guess I overestimated you."  
 
"I'm just remembering which side I'm on. You know, the opposite one from you."  
 
"How terribly black and white of you."  
 
"I don't remember *you* ever leaving much room for shades of grey."  
 
"I am grey," Draco muttered, half to himself. "I stand between the darkness and the light."  
 
"You're nuts is what you are," commented Ron from behind them.  
 
"Stay out of this, Weasley," Draco snapped.  
 
"That is enough!" ordered Professor Hartlebury. "Since you seem to have plenty of time to talk I presume you have mastered the technique we are working on. Malfoy, Potter, to the front and give us a demonstration."  
 
Harry gave Malfoy a look of utter detestation and hoped like hell Professor Hartlebury would let Harry do the hexing as they trooped to the front of the class.  
 
"Mr Malfoy if you will attempt to hex Mr Potter, nothing too painful please. Mr Potter, let's see if your deflection technique has improved any in the past few minutes."  
 
Harry planted himself in what he hoped was a confident and intimidating stance and glared at Malfoy from behind his outstretched wand. What the hell had he been thinking, Malfoy was absolutely not in the slightest bit cute.  
 
In front of him Malfoy adopted a lazy, insolent position that exuded about twenty times more confidence than Harry could summon up. "Ready for me, Potter?"  
 
Oh, Merlin. Definitely not cute but so incredibly fucking sexy. How were you supposed to concentrate when someone was looking at you like that?

"Always," Harry answered, his mouth dry.  
 
In her seat next to Ron, Hermione was giving them both a very suspicious look.  
 
Then Malfoy let loose with a well aimed disorientation hex.  
 
Harry quickly tried to perform the complex wand wiggle Professor Hartlebury had shown them at the start of the class but his concentration was completely shot and Malfoy's hex went right past his gesticulations and hit him square between the eyes. He staggered back, then forward, then tripped over his own feet and suffered the further indignation of falling flat on his face in front of the entire class.  
 
Once more the Slytherins burst into gales of laughter, but this time the Gryffindors didn't join in. Though a few of them were stifling minor giggles.  
 
Harry opened his eyes but couldn't seem to focus on anything, something that looked vaguely like a hand floated towards him.  
 
"Need a hand, Potter?"  
 
Harry gritted his teeth and took Malfoy's hand, allowing him to pull him back to his feet. Unfortunately he immediately started to fall over again and ended up clinging to Malfoy as if his life depended on him as the classroom spun around him.  
 
"Still don't need my help?" Malfoy asked dryly in too low a tone for anyone else to hear.  
 
"Quit gloating and help me back to my seat," Harry growled, thankful that the disorientation was making him too queasy to enjoy the close contact.  
 
"Well I think that about covers Mr Potter's hex deflecting skills," remarked Professor Hartlebury. "Does anyone else think they can do a better job?"  
 
Harry sulked dizzily in his chair as the rest of the class trooped up in pairs to try. In the seat next to him Malfoy was smirking as if it was the most fun he'd had in months. Although Harry wasn't to know, it was in fact the most fun Draco Malfoy had had in months.  
 
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That night Draco replayed the day in his head over and over, hoping that maybe this once he would be distracted enough not to dream about it again. Dreading the moment when he finally fell asleep. Strangely enough he couldn't quite figure out what had been best about today... getting one over on Potter in Defence Against the Dark Arts or the simple pleasure of physical contact with another person. Someone who didn't want anything from him, someone whose touch didn't make his skin crawl. Even with the later arguments, Harry's freely offered hand and gentle touch on his neck remained somehow untainted and comforting.  
 
But eventually he fell asleep...  
 
It was starting again. Just like every night. He felt it coming.  
 
The air grew cold around him, started to darken. Then he heard her voice.  
 
"Please, just let me go. I didn't do anything. Please."  
 
She was behind him and he refused to turn around and look at her. But in front of him his father stepped out of the shadows.  
 
"What are you waiting for, Draco, she's just a Muggle? Time to practise what I've been teaching you."  
 
Draco tried to refuse but he couldn't seem to make any noise.  
 
Then the air grew colder and darker still and out of the shadows behind his father stepped Lord Voldemort. Draco tried to look away but he couldn't seem to move at all as he watched those white spidery hands stroke his fathers arms, the monstrous face whispering words he couldn't hear into his fathers ear. He tried to scream at them to stop it as his father leant back into the embrace. His mouth was open and he was yelling as loud as he could, he could feel the air coming from his lungs, but no sound passed his lips.  
 
Then without his moving the girl was in front of him and his father behind. Her face was completely vivid in his minds eye despite the fact he had known her only a couple of hours. She was crying and looking up at him from where she was shackled on the floor. Just as she had been when he had first seen her. Naked, covered in bruises and blood.  
 
Inside his head he was repeating over and over, "Wake up, wake up, wake up..."
 
"Don't go straight to the end," hissed Voldemort. "Try out the Imperius curse first, it's bound to come in useful in the future."  
 
Against his will he felt his wand arm raise.  
 
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry..."
 
"Imperio," he heard himself say. His voice was loud and harsh and echoed in his head.  
 
Behind him he could hear his father moaning and panting, his subconscious mixing events together.  
 
In front of him the girl was dancing, tears still running down her face. He tried to close his eyes so he couldn't see her but it didn't seem to make any difference.  
 
He was lifting his wand again.  
 
"No, no, no, no, no..."
 
"Crucio." His voice crashed through his head.  
 
The girl was screaming now, her body twisting itself unnaturally. Bones seemed to be shattering under her skin.  
 
Yet despite the noise he could still hear them behind him. The slap of flesh on flesh, harsh groans...  
 
His wand arm was raising itself again.  
 
"No..."
 
"Yes!" shouted his father.  
 
He opened his mouth to say the words ...  
 
He woke up to the sound of screams, his own. His throat in agony but his face, as usual, dry.  
 
He pulled himself into a ball, shaking, twisting his fingers into his arms where they'd leave bruises by morning. If he could just cry, if he could just cry the nightmares might go away and he could sleep. The books he read said it wasn't healthy not to cry but he couldn't do it, he didn't know how to start any more.  
 
He glanced around the dark enclosure of his curtained bed, he had learned by now to put silencing charms on the curtains before he went to sleep. He felt completely alone. The previous day as far away as a previous life and the summer as sharp and vivid in his mind as yesterday should have been.  
 
It was a long time before he fell asleep again.  
 
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Harry woke with a start in a tangle of sweaty, sticky blankets trying to grasp back at the fading images of the dream he'd been having. It wasn't often he woke in the night from something other than a nightmare and he was loathe to lose what few pleasant dreams he had.  
 
Moments into his mental replay of soft skin on skin his conscious caught up with his subconscious and reminded him he wasn't supposed to be thinking about that.  
"Oh, Merlin. Not again."
 
It had been even worse tonight, with the sensory memories of Malfoy's cool hand and the soft skin of his neck and shoulders still vibrant in Harry's mind.  
 
He leapt out of bed and headed for the bathroom to clean himself up repeating his mantra.  
 
"It's just a phase, it's just a phase, it's just a fucking insane phase. I'm traumatised, it's some weird left over psychosis from facing down Voldemort. *IT* *WILL* *PASS* *DAMN IT* Cho Chang, Cho Chang, Cho Chang, Cho Chang naked, Cho Chang naked on a broomstick... oh, Draco Malfoy naked on a broomstick... *FUCK!*"