“What do you think he’s doing?” Harry asks no one in particular.
He stares over at the Slytherin table, hard.
“What? Who?” He hears Ron’s question, but doesn’t avert his gaze even for a moment.
“As if you need to ask,” replies Hermione, and he doesn’t need to see her to know that she’s raising her eyes to the ceiling. “Malfoy.”
“What about Malfoy?” Ron presses.
Finally, Harry turns his attention to his friends, who are sitting very close to each other at the opposite side of the table.
“He looks tired. I want to know what he’s up to.”
Hermione throws him an odd look, and just for a moment, he wishes he hadn’t said anything. Thinking before he speaks has never been his strong point, but just lately it seems to be getting worse rather than better.
Fortunately, he’s soon back on familiar ground when she sighs impatiently and fixes him with a reproachful stare.
“For goodness sake, Harry. He’s on our side? Remember? Would it kill you to open your mind just one iota and give him a chance?”
“It’s not that,” he attempts, closing his mouth swiftly, suddenly having no idea how to finish the sentence.
“Once a Malfoy, always a Malfoy,” Ron opines through a mouthful of bacon.
“Mouth closed, Ronald.”
Harry smiles, grateful for the diversion.
“Pass the sausages, Seamus,” he requests, and as he reaches across the table to accept the proffered plate a flash of movement across the room snags on his peripheral vision. At the end of the Slytherin table, Malfoy is yawning delicately, stretching a pale, refined hand across his mouth.
He’s definitely up to something.
It’s the not knowing he hates, or at least that’s what he tells himself. He can’t stand that Malfoy might know something that he doesn’t. And, he reasons, on pretty much every occasion during the last seven years, Malfoy has been up to something.
He chews on the end of his quill and attempts to stare a hole in the back of the blond head two rows ahead. The rational part of him knows that Hermione is right, as she often is. Strictly speaking, Malfoy is not the enemy. The war is over, and without the Slytherin’s decision to supply information to the Order, things could have ended up a lot differently.
Harry knows that he did it of his own free will, and at grave personal risk. He’s proved himself as trustworthy, time and time again.
And yet. It’s... weird. He watches Malfoy turn his terracotta plant pot into a handsome tabby cat with a lazy flick of his wand. The blond’s resulting smile is small but genuine, and disappears almost instantly as though he’s afraid that someone might actually see it.
He should smile more often, Harry reflects. The second the thought catches up with him, he drops his quill, horrified. A plaintive miaow snaps him back to the moment. Blinking dazedly, he glances down at his desk just in time to see Hermione’s Transfigured tortoiseshell climbing into his untouched pot. It stares back at him, and he fancies that there’s something recognisably judgemental about its expression.
“McGonagall’s coming,” a female voice hisses, and Harry stares more intently at the cat, bewildered.
“Stop daydreaming about Malfoy and do something,” Hermione continues, reaching across to pick up her cat, and it’s with a strange sense of relief that he turns to her.
“I was not. Don’t be disgusting,” he argues. Horrified, suddenly, as he registers her words, and yet more horrified by the blush that he can’t explain.
“Of course not,” she placates, smiling. She nudges him gently with her shoulder. “Cat.”
“This makes no sense whatsoever. Why would I ever need a cat?” he grumbles, poking half-heartedly at the pot with his wand. It grows a tail. Hermione shrugs, and her cat smirks over her shoulder.
“More to the point, Potter, in the unlikely event of a life-or-death cat requirement situation...what are the odds that one would be knee-deep in convenient plant pots?”
Startled, Harry looks up and straight into amused silver eyes. The blond Slytherin arches an elegant eyebrow and scratches negligently behind his cat’s ears. An agreeable laugh bubbles up in Harry’s chest and he squashes it hurriedly. He can’t help wondering just how long Malfoy has been listening in on his conversation.
With some effort, he twists his dismay into a scowl. “Shut up, Malfoy,” he mutters.
He’s not sure what he’s expecting, but he’s expecting something. A reaction. Malfoy merely releases a heavy, theatrical sigh and turns away.
They’ve been back for over three months. It’s almost the end of the winter term, and there’s been barely a confrontation to speak of. Briefly, Harry wonders what he would have to do to get a reaction out of his one-time nemesis.
Distractedly, he prods at his pot and by the time McGonagall reaches his desk, it’s cat-shaped, if still orange and a little cold to the touch.
“He’s yawning again,” Harry mutters, ignoring the loud clinking sounds his cat’s paws are making as it picks its way across the desk.
“What?” asks Hermione.
Odd... very odd.
Though he continues his covert Malfoy-watching, Harry wisely keeps his mouth shut around his friends. He remembers all too well the conversations the three of them had in sixth year, and he has no desire whatsoever to revive the subject. Obsession, they’d called it, and even now the word makes him feel uncomfortable.
It’s just... interest, that’s all. A healthy level of interest. And as far as Harry is concerned, interest in anything can only be a good thing. Ever since the end of the war, he’s struggled to get enthusiastic about anything. He hasn’t told anyone, but the only reason he’s come back to Hogwarts is because he can’t think of anything else to do.
It’s a whole three days after the Transfiguration incident when he brings it up again. It’s not his fault that he notices; it’s just that Malfoy always sits at the same place at the table for breakfast, and so does he. He’s almost directly in Harry’s line of sight.
Preoccupied, he drowns his pancakes in syrup as he gazes at Malfoy over Hermione’s shoulder. He’s not talking to anyone – not unusual in itself since the beginning of the year – but Harry can see the dark circles under his eyes from all the way across the hall, starkly visible against the pale skin. More tellingly, Harry thinks, Malfoy hasn’t touched the platters of pancakes but instead crumbles dry toast listlessly onto his plate.
“There’s definitely something the matter with him,” Harry asserts.
“Malfoy?” Ron asks. Harry nods. “Yeah, there is. He’s a wanker.”
“Apart from that,” Harry insists, looking down at his syrup-flooded plate. He sighs.
“’Mione?” prods Ron, forcing her to look up from her heavy Ancient Runes textbook. “Isn’t this where you usually jump in and defend him?”
“No,” she says lightly. “I’m usually trying to point out that he isn’t evil. I never said he wasn’t a wanker.”
“Hermione!” Ron exclaims, caught halfway between shock and reverence. After a moment’s stunned silence, reverence clearly wins out, and he grins at her. “Brilliant. Say it again.”
“No.” She sighs, tucking an errant wave behind her ear. “What is it now?”
“It’s pancakes,” he explains. “And he’s not eating them.”
“I have the feeling I’m going to regret this,” Hermione says carefully. “But... so?”
“He never refuses pancakes. Never,” Harry elaborates, shooting intermittent glances at the Slytherin table. Draco... Draco?!... is still picking at his toast.
“And you know this how?” Hermione asks, looking very much like she’s trying not to smile.
Ron has stopped eating, laid his fork down, and is regarding Harry suspiciously from under lowered brows.
“Yeah, how do you know that?” comes a third voice.
Glancing to his right, Harry realizes for the first time since sitting down that Ginny has been seated at his side since breakfast began. Her blue eyes are sharply accusing, of what he’s not sure, but her gaze seems to snake inside his chest and shrivel his internal organs. The cold, harsh line of her mouth hardens at his silence, and he winces inwardly.
She’s been none-too-subtly broaching the subject of resuming their relationship ever since school re-opened, and he knows that his desperate hedging and playing for time hasn’t been well-received. He doesn’t know how to tell her that he doesn’t feel like that for her any more. The thought of her stubbornly fails to stir his blood like it once did, and that’s the simple truth.
“Well?” she demands, wielding a fork with a carelessness that unnerves Harry.
Well, what? He backtracks hastily.
‘How do you know that?’ Malfoy. Pancakes. Ah.
“Enemies know everything about each other,” he says at last. “It’s, erm... basic defensive strategy.”
“Good thinking, mate,” Ron approves, turning his attention back to his eggs.
“Hmm,” says Hermione, eyes narrowed.
Beside him, Ginny mumbles something that sounds like ‘Malfoy... attention... me’ and proceeds to attack her breakfast with more vigour than is strictly necessary.
When he’s certain that no one is looking, Harry flicks his eyes back to the Slytherin table. Just in time to see Malfoy push his plate away and look straight at him. It’s not quite a glare and not quite a smile; the expression is at once smug and confused, and something prickles uncertainly on the back of his neck.
He looks away sharply, and when he looks back, Malfoy is no longer at the table.
The conversation from breakfast lodges itself firmly in Harry’s head, relentlessly spinning round and round, spewing out pointless and unanswerable questions. He puts up with it as long as he can, but when he’s staring up at the canopy of his bed and wondering if Malfoy knows what his favourite breakfast food is, he cracks.
Rubbing his eyes behind his glasses, he casts a silent Tempus. It’s well after midnight, and all the other occupants of the Gryffindor boys’ dorm are sleeping. Or, at least, their curtains are drawn, and he doesn’t really want to think about the alternative.
With a light shudder, he sits up.
Whatever Malfoy is doing, he’s doing at night. And there’s every chance that he’s cocky enough to get caught. Harry is counting on it.
He hasn't used the invisibility cloak since term started, and he feels an odd tingle of nostalgia as he unearths it quietly from his trunk and slips it over his head. Silently, save for the slight squeak of rubber-soled shoes on the shiny floor, he slips out, through the eerily quiet common room and out of the portrait hole.
As he creeps along the cold, dark corridors, he is filled with a familiar but long-forgotten prickle of excitement. Realizes that it’s been a long time, far too long, since he last sneaked around in dark hallways fearing little other than detention. Whatever Malfoy is up to, he’s pretty certain there’s no Dark Lord out for his blood, and the realization of a lost childhood strikes heavy in his chest, immediately and inexplicably lightened by the thrill of a new chase.
He hears nothing but the sound of his own ragged breaths and the blood thundering in his ears until a faint scuffling issues from around the next corner.
Harry holds his breath and instinctively flattens himself against the cold stone wall, hand drifting to graze the top of his wand. After a moment, a small grey mouse scuttles across his field of vision, and he allows himself to exhale slowly. Adrenaline is wild in his veins, making him jittery; that, of course, is why he almost jumps out of his skin when just seconds later, Malfoy appears from around the same corner.
Hair slightly dishevelled, but otherwise looking every bit as immaculate and haughty as usual, the blond sweeps past him, robes swishing theatrically, long strides echoing against the stone floor, clearly not caring a whit for being caught out of bed. The easy predictability of it all makes Harry smile breathlessly, and he watches, unmoving, heart hammering, for long seconds until he realizes that Malfoy is almost out of sight.
Suppressing his muttered curses, he takes off down the darkened corridor, slowing when he is a safe distance behind the Slytherin. To Harry’s surprise, he does not head for the Room of Requirement, or even an empty classroom, but out into the night.
The December night is bitter and unforgiving; his breath visible to him even under the protection of the cloak. Frost makes the grass crunch underfoot as Malfoy cuts a rapid, unwavering path across the castle grounds and the biting wind lifts strands of platinum blond hair carelessly.
Harry’s fear that he’s being unwittingly led into the Forbidden Forest dissolves abruptly when his quarry swerves in the direction of the lake. Slowing as he reaches the edge of the water, Malfoy pauses, appearing to stare into the half-frozen depths. His sigh is drawn-out and so weighty that Harry can feel it. Harry shivers, and is grateful to blame it on the cold, even though there’s no one to call him on it.
Finally, Malfoy gathers his heavy winter cloak around himself and sits carefully on the frozen grass by the edge of the water. Drawing long legs up, he wraps his arms around his knees and casts a wandless Warming Charm that simultaneously surprises and impresses Harry.
After a moment, he creeps tentatively across the grass and settles several feet away from Malfoy. Waiting. Wishing he had thought to cast his own Warming Charm before setting out; the invisibility cloak offers scant protection against the elements, and his grasp of non-verbal magic is uneven at best. Malfoy, he thinks, would probably be most entertained to discover this fact.
Not that he’s going to. Harry rubs his arms and shivers and tries not to think about the melting frost that has begun to soak through his trousers. Eventually, reluctantly, he finds himself mimicking Malfoy’s posture, because – and only because – making himself as small as possible is the best way to keep warm.
Somewhere in the darkness, an owl hoots. The sharp, earthy smell of winter is heavy in Harry’s chilled nostrils. Malfoy doesn’t move.
Something rustles in the bushes. A stray wisp of cloud skates across the moon. Malfoy doesn’t move.
Harry stares at his profile, sharp-edged in the moonlight. As the night slips by, bemusement turns to disbelief, which is slowly replaced by seething, impotent rage.
This is what you do?! he silently screams at Malfoy, pressing cold-bitten fingers between his thighs. You just sit? You just fucking...sit?
Malfoy, unaware of the stream of soundless bile being directed his way, simply rests his chin on his drawn up knees and stares into the distance.
When he finally rises, stretches and turns back to the castle, it’s almost light, and Harry can no longer feel his fingers, arse or feet. His nose is so cold that it feels as though it belongs on someone else’s face. Haltingly, he stumbles back across the grass behind Malfoy’s elegant, dark-clothed figure, silhouetted against the soft pink and orange sunrise. After a moment, he stops, and the second that Malfoy is a safe distance away, he drags out his wand with numb fingers and casts the Warming Charm.
“Thank fuck for that,” he mutters into the wind. “Sitting. He sits. Draco Malfoy... sits.”
He’s still thinking about it when he crawls gratefully under his bedclothes for the last couple of hours of sleep before breakfast. For some reason, Harry is disappointed.
Perhaps it was a one-off, and he’ll do something more interesting next time. Cheered slightly by the thought, Harry quickly drifts into a dreamless sleep.
As he blearily eats his breakfast that morning, Harry experiences a momentary twinge of sympathy for the Slytherin when he trails into the Great Hall, sunken eyed and listless. Until he remembers that it’s Malfoy’s fault that he’s so tired in the first place. Stupid git, with his... sitting. Pointyness, and sitting.
Stupid, pointy, sitting git. Harry glares until Malfoy looks up, and, slightly bemused, glares back.
It isn’t until he’s sitting by the edge of the lake once more, staring at Malfoy for want of anything better to do, that he realizes that the blond isn’t actually all that pointy any more. He can’t help but wonder when that happened. Though still angular, he seems to have grown into his face when Harry wasn’t looking.
There’s something compelling and otherworldly about the pallid skin, silvery hair and heavy grey eyes, and Harry looks. At first, because he tells himself that there’s precious little else to look at, but eventually just because he wants to. And there’s no one around to tell him not to.
He forgets the Warming Charm again.
On the third night (just to really make sure) Malfoy has a letter. Elegant, curving black script on thick creamy parchment. He reads it over and over before he spreads fresh parchment out on his drawn up thighs and writes one back.
Something stops him from leaning close and reading over Malfoy’s shoulder. Instead, Harry just watches him. He bites his lip when he’s thinking hard, and he has beautiful handwriting.
He’s still reading the letter the next day. So absorbed in it, in fact, that he’s not looking where he’s going as he wanders down the Charms corridor towards Harry. Half-asleep, leaning against the wall, Harry watches the scene unfold as if in slow motion.
Malfoy, head buried in his letter.
The two fifth-year Gryffindors, crouching at either side of the wide corridor, each holding a length of wire at mid-calf height. Muggle pranks have become the latest thing, and the novelty of tripping someone up by such prosaic means in front of a watching crowd is clear on their faces.
Some of the students behind Harry have also noticed the scene, and the air seems to hum with anticipation. Just a couple more steps and –
“Malfoy! Look out!”
The words are out of his mouth before he can stop them, and the entire corridor falls silent. Malfoy’s head snaps up and he halts, dropping his eyes to the potential hazard. Raising them again to meet Harry’s, wordless questions spilling out everywhere. Face burning and horror-stricken, Harry corrals every last sliver of his famous mettle and forces a shrug, holding onto the eye contact as though his life depends on it.
“Thanks, Potter,” he says eventually in a dry, strained voice.
Malfoy steps neatly over the wire, sends an entrail-freezing glare at each of the crouching pranksters and stalks away down the corridor, absorbing himself once more in his letter.
“What the bloody hell did you do that for?” demands Ron from behind Harry. Several pairs of eyes swivel to pin Harry to the spot.
He rubs his eyes. He’s certain Hermione once told him that a person could go mad from lack of sleep. That’s what it is, for sure.
“I don’t know,” he replies eventually. “I really don’t know.”
On the fourth night, Harry discovers that if he sits close enough to Malfoy, the Slytherin’s Warming Charm will cover him too. He thinks that it’s probably the longest the two of them have spent in such close proximity without wanting to kill each other. It’s pretty damn close, too. He could touch Malfoy if he wanted to.
He doesn’t want to, but Harry tucks his hands into the pockets of his robes, just in case.
By the seventh night, Harry has stopped coming up with excuses as to why he’s still following Malfoy.
Sometimes he writes letters, and sometimes he just sits.
Harry prefers those nights. He finds something deeply calming and comforting about Malfoy’s stillness; the steady, deep breathing and the occasional flicker of long, pale fingers through windblown hair.
He’s continually exhausted, but can’t seem to stop. Slowly but surely, the empty, unsettled sensation he’s had ever since the end of the war has begun to recede. In its place is a gradual, warm ache that’s not completely unpleasant.
In the absence of hatred after almost seven years, Harry recognises that feeling nothing at all for his former enemy has been the strangest thing of all. This new, consuming fascination with the Slytherin is at once disturbing and liberating. It’s something. He feels something, and it’s confusing and wonderful.
Ron asks, frequently. Harry doesn’t know what to say.
Hermione seems to have acquired a new and maddening knowing smile.
Ginny isn’t speaking to him.
Harry can’t help feeling that he should be more upset.
The last day of term rolls around before he knows it. The staff have gone all out with the decorations, even though the vast majority of the students are going home for the holidays. Understandably so, Harry thinks. It’s the first Christmas in several years that doesn’t have the shadow of Voldemort hanging over it. Those who have lost relatives to the war are pulling together ever more tightly so as not to let their losses show. Those whose families are intact, celebrating their good fortune.
Harry has an invitation to the Burrow, which he has politely refused. This will be his last Christmas in the first real home he ever had, and that’s why. It’s definitely nothing at all to do with Draco Malfoy.
“The ferret is staying too, you know,” Ron informs him over shepherd’s pie that evening.
“I know,” Harry says lightly.
“Did you ever find out what he was up to?”
As he considers his response, his eyes find Malfoy’s from all the way across the Hall. It’s happening more and more frequently, and this time neither of them looks away. Just for a moment.
“No, I didn’t,” he says finally, dragging his eyes away. “Wanker,” he adds. The word feels foreign on his tongue and the smile it provokes is genuine.
“You got that right.” Ron conveys a forkful of mashed potato to his mouth. “Watch your back over the holidays, mate. Fewer witnesses, you know what I mean?”
“Oh, for... never mind,” Hermione sighs, throwing her fork down onto her plate with a clink.
Harry catches her eye and throws her a small, conciliatory smile. He wonders just how horrified Ron would be if he knew that Harry was spending hours at a time with Malfoy, with no witnesses at all. It’s a wonder he hasn’t had his bollocks hexed off yet. Hermione raises a delicate eyebrow, and not for the first time, Harry hopes desperately that she can’t read his mind.
Over the next couple of days, the castle is the quietest Harry ever remembers it being. He is one of only three Gryffindors staying behind, and the usually-bustling common room is deserted.
Contemplative, he stretches out full length on the sofa in front of the fire until it’s time to grab up his cloak and wander down to the lake. He doesn’t wait to follow Malfoy any more. Harry knows he’ll be there, every night, and he always is. In a world where nothing seems certain any more, he draws a peculiar solace from knowing the Slytherin’s routine.
On December 23rd, he sits close enough to notice that Malfoy smells vaguely of cinnamon, and that his newest letter is addressed to ‘Darling Draco.’
Something twists unpleasantly between his ribs at the salutation, and he stares at the lake very hard until Malfoy puts the letter away. For the first time, he wishes he could ask Malfoy who writes him the letters.
Christmas Eve brings the second letter in as many days, though this time the handwriting is different. Smaller, messier. The letter is short, and Harry resists the temptation to read over Malfoy’s shoulder. Instead, he sits perfectly still under his cloak and watches the wind shaking the sparse, shadowy tree skeletons on the far side of the lake.
It’s the sound that makes him look. Somewhere between a sniff and a sigh, and oh fucking hell... is Malfoy crying?
Surely not. But as he watches from just inches away, a single tear rolls down the pale cheek and a deep shudder shakes the slender body of his onetime enemy. Just for a moment, Malfoy’s posture speaks of utter despair, and then, within a fraction of a second, it’s gone. A deep, cleansing breath; shake of dishevelled hair; hand wiped quickly across his face. Harry watches the evidence of Malfoy’s loss of self-restraint sink into the skin on the back of his hand.
Within seconds, he is looking out over the lake as though nothing has happened. For the first time, Harry actually feels guilty for intruding, though it’s a bit late now, he supposes. There’s something about the way that Malfoy hangs so hard onto his control even when he’s to all intents and purposes alone that makes Harry ache.
He finds himself wondering how many times one has to watch a person cry before it becomes weird to keep referring to them by their last name.
As the sun comes up, it starts to snow. To his surprise, Malfoy – Draco? – walks back to the castle more slowly than usual and tries to catch falling snowflakes on his tongue. When he’s successful, he smiles unreservedly. It isn’t until Harry gets back to his room and glances in the bathroom mirror that he realizes he’s smiling, too.
Christmas dinner is eaten at one long table in the Great Hall; soft snow falling from the ceiling dissolves into nothing before it touches the diners below. Though the atmosphere is buoyant with laughter, sparkling lights and celebration, the absence of Dumbledore is a painful twinge in Harry’s side each time he thinks of it.
Almost unconsciously, he looks away from the third-year Hufflepuff asking to pull a cracker at his side and is only a little bit surprised when grey eyes meet his immediately from halfway down the table. Draco’s expression is a curious blend of pain, regret and something that Harry can’t quite identify. To his astonishment, he finds himself smiling at the blond, watching his startled eyes widen and then drop hastily to his empty plate.
“Harry,” prods the student at his side, lightly elbowing him in the ribs.
“Right, sorry,” he replies, turning to the small, curly-haired girl and letting out a long he breath he wasn’t aware he’d been holding.
When the cracker explodes and deposits four white mice into Harry’s dessert bowl, scrabbling and kicking custard all over his clean robes, he thinks Draco Malfoy is laughing at him.
He doesn’t mind.
It’s just before midnight when Harry walks down to the lake. The snow has stopped falling, but everything in sight is covered in a thick, even coating of sparkling white. The lake is fully frozen now.
Silently, Harry settles at Malfoy’s side; the warmth, proximity and familiar smell instantly comforting. The clear night allows the full moon to dangle unobscured in the dark sky, just beyond the bleak stripped trees at the other side of the lake. Harry’s thoughts are immediately drawn to Remus, and his gentle sigh is pretty much involuntary.
Draco smiles, chin resting on his knees, and Harry daren’t breathe.
“I know you’re there, Potter,” he says eventually.
The customary edge of malice is completely absent from his tone, and yet Harry is seized with irritation at being caught. For long seconds he sits, perfectly still, thinking. It’s pointless, of course.
“No, I’m not,” he disagrees.
Malfoy laughs. It’s a surprisingly warm sound, not dissimilar to the one he thought he heard at the dinner table. Reluctantly, and only because he feels slightly ridiculous sitting under an invisibility cloak when the other person clearly knows he’s there, Harry drags the cloak over his head and casts it aside.
Malfoy’s smile of triumph is unnerving, and Harry’s hand drifts to his side where his wand is tucked into his waistband, more out of habit than anything else.
“I’m not going to hex you,” Draco says. “Idiot.”
“Why not?” Harry asks, Ron’s words drifting, unbidden into his head. “No witnesses.”
“If I was going to do that, I would have done it last night.”
“You knew I was here last night?” Harry demands, horrified. Immediately wishing he could stuff the words back into his mouth because Draco is smirking now and he’s just making it worse.
“And before that, I suspect. You know, for the supposed Saviour of the wizarding world, you’re not terribly good at stealth and observation.”
“What do you mean?”
“You fidget, terribly. You do not breathe quietly, whatever you might think. That thing might make you invisible, but it does not stop snow from landing on you,” he recites, ticking off the points on his fingers with obvious relish. “And let’s be honest, Potter. You’re the only person I know that possesses both an invisibility cloak and an inclination to stalk me.”
Sinking quietly into a pit of humiliation, Harry rubs uselessly at his red face. “I wasn’t stalking you,” he almost whispers.
“Of course you were. I should, of course, be furious with you for invading my privacy, but I can’t blame you, really. I am very interesting.”
Harry doesn’t need to look at Draco to know exactly how smug he looks. Gritting his teeth, he digs his fingers into the snow. “I hate you, Malfoy.”
“No, you don’t.”
The snow within his clenched fists is compressed into dense ice with the effort of not arguing back, just for the sake of it. Harry half expects the world to cease spinning on its axis, purely as a result of his tacit agreement that he doesn’t hate Draco Malfoy.
“Why do you sit out here?” he asks at last, eyes fixed on the silvery full moon.
“Can’t sleep. And you must have noticed that Slytherin isn’t the most pleasant place to be since... everything happened. Everything has changed.” Malfoy sighs, pulling his knees closer to his chest.
Harry catches his sigh and it spreads through his veins, forcing the tension from his body. He wipes his cold, wet hands and tucks them into his pockets.
“It’s changed for everyone, Malfoy. Not just you,” he says mildly.
“I expect you have it all planned out.”
“Not really,” he admits, unnerved by the sudden desire to be honest but finding himself unable to stop. “I don’t even know if I want to be an Auror any more, but... I get the feeling that if I don’t, I’ll be somehow disappointing the entire wizarding world.”
“Yes, I’m sure it’s awful to be you,” Malfoy says drily. “Saint Potter. I dare say there are very few people who will be disappointed or surprised by anything I do.”
His bitterness is tangible, and Harry wants to shake him out of it. As usual, he says the first thing that comes into his head.
“If everyone has low expectations of you, you can’t lose.” Harry shrugs and directs an uncertain half-smile at the Slytherin.
“Goodness, Potter, I didn’t know you had a sense of humour,” he says, allowing one corner of his mouth to lift in a ghost of a smile.
“You’d be surprised what I have,” Harry advises, smiling back. It isn’t until he notices the almost imperceptible widening of Draco’s eyes that he realizes just how that sounded. Flushing violently, Harry scrabbles around for a distraction. “Who sends you the letters?” he throws out impulsively.
For a moment, there is silence. Harry scuffs lightly at the snow with the toe of his shoe.
“My mother,” Malfoy says finally. Disturbingly, Harry’s primary emotion is relief. “She’s sick, and I’m not allowed to see her while she’s under house arrest, but we can write. It’s ridiculous. The manor is my home, too. However, the Ministry has spoken.”
He scowls, and Harry opens his mouth to respond but is cut off.
“And please don’t bother telling me that she’s lucky she’s not sharing a cell with my father. It’s become rather tiresome.”
“I wasn’t going to,” Harry says, surprised. “I was just going to say that the Ministry has never made much sense to me, either. For what it’s worth.”
Draco’s small noise of astonishment is delicious; the shock renders his face uncharacteristically open and Harry can’t take his eyes away.
“Why did you follow me, Potter?”
“I... I don’t know. I was worried about you,” he says quietly, reluctantly. “And curious. Mostly curious...” he adds but it’s too late.
Unexpectedly, Malfoy looses an undignified snort of laughter. It rapidly escalates into a fit of hysteria so incapacitating that he flops back in the snow, clutching at his ribs and laughing himself breathless.
Harry looks down at him, cheeks pinked with exertion and pale hair fanned out against the pure white snow. When he opens his eyes, the silver irises sparkle, unguarded and more alive than Harry has ever cared to notice, and the feeling whacks Harry in the stomach. He can’t speak.
“Oh, Merlin... you were serious,” Draco gasps, trying to pull his breathing under control.
“Erm,” says Harry. Apparently, coherency has deserted him completely, and there’s no way of knowing if or when it will return.
Draco laughs again, but his eyes are warm.
“You’ve never been particularly articulate, have you?” he opines. “I’m going to go out on a limb and imagine that you have other talents.”
Before Harry has time to compose a retort, Malfoy’s fingers are grasping handfuls of his jumper and yanking him downwards with surprising force. Cursing softly, he lands awkwardly, hands sinking into the snow at either side of Draco’s head. Several fine, blond strands slide through his fingers and Malfoy’s warm, apple-scented breath skates across his lips.
Heart pounding erratically, he allows the dangerous eyes to capture him and the last of the uncertainty and emptiness fades away. This is weird, and surreal, and wrong, and in that moment he knows he’s going to do it anyway.
“Shut up, Malfoy,” he mutters, leaning down the last half an inch and kissing the mocking mouth.
Draco’s hands tangle immediately in his hair and the tongue that slips into Harry’s mouth is warm, skilled and enthusiastic. He is wonderfully, unexpectedly responsive, and the kiss is a battle of wills that Harry doesn’t actually care about winning. His knees dig into the snow, icy wetness spreading out over his skin. He barely notices.
“That was interesting,” Draco rasps as they separate for breath.
Despite his better efforts, it’s clear to Harry that his chances of saying anything remotely rational are out of the window. All he can think is I’m kissing Draco sodding Malfoy.
“Shut up, Malfoy,” he repeats, but he can’t help smiling.
The raised eyebrow is pure challenge. “Make me.”
Harry thinks he can manage that.