Author’s Note: Sorry this chapter took so long in comparison to the previous two! I’ve been swamped with finals so I’ve only been able to write a small amount each day. Thank you to everyone who is reading, and I hope my delay in getting this chapter up hasn’t caused you to lose interest in this story! x
Harry stretched his arms behind his back and gazed outside where the sun was still shining despite the fact that it was almost dinnertime. His mind wandered to Quidditch, and how perfect the weather had been today for flying. Because they had spent all of the previous day preparing for the Inter-House party, however, Harry and Hermione had devoted the majority of the afternoon to catching up on their homework assignments. Or rather, Harry had. He suspected that Hermione was at least a week ahead of the scheduled curriculum.
The sound of approaching voices could be heard from the other side of the portrait hole, and when it swung open Ron Weasley climbed through, followed by Dennis Creevey, who was also on the chess team. “Ron!” Hermione exclaimed, dropping her quill and hurrying over to throw her arms around him. Harry looked away sheepishly, not wanting to interrupt their reunion, but Ron walked over and clapped a hand on Harry’s shoulder.
“How’s it going, mate?” Ron said, grinning. “We got first!”
“That’s fantastic!” Harry said, smiling. “Things have been, er, interesting here…”
“First? Oh Ron, that’s wonderful!” Hermione beamed while Ron swelled with pride.
“I’ll tell you all about it over dinner, I’m starving,” Ron said. He turned to Harry, “What were you saying, what was ‘interesting’?”
Harry opened his mouth to speak, glancing to Hermione. Before he could begin, Ginny entered the Common Room from the Girls’ Dormitory.
“Welcome back! How was it?” she asked, stopping in front of her brother.
“We got first!” Ron beamed.
“Wow! Well I’m headed down to dinner, I’ll catch up with you all later,” Ginny said, making her way to the portrait hole and climbing out.
Ron turned to Harry and Hermione with a puzzled look on his face. “Wait, why is Ginny going to dinner without us? Has Quidditch practice switched to Sundays?”
Harry and Hermione exchanged a look that did not go unnoticed by Ron.
“Oi!” Ron said, looking between them. “What happened? You’re not—”
“We broke up,” Harry said quietly, looking at his feet. “It was her idea, actually…”
“Why on earth would she do something like that?” Ron said, looking bewildered. “D’you want me to talk to her about it? I’m sure I could talk some sense into her…”
“No! I mean, er, I appreciate the offer, but it’s fine. I think it’s for the better, actually. We’ve discussed things,” Harry explained, looking at Hermione for help.
“It’s probably for the better,” Hermione said carefully. Ron looked puzzled.
“Blimey, I go away for one weekend and I miss something like this…” he said, shaking his head. “Are you alright, mate?” he said to Harry, looking concerned.
“Um,” Harry began. This was harder than he thought. His tongue seemed to be tying itself into knots inside his mouth. “Let’s just get going to dinner—”
“Harry,” Hermione said, looking pointedly at him. Ron looked expectantly from Harry to Hermione, and then back to Harry.
“What’s going on? You know you can tell me, we’re best mates!” Ron said.
“Well, it’s just that I may have found, er, I may be interested in someone else. I know it’s really sudden…” Harry trailed off.
Ron frowned. “That is a bit fast, don’t you think? Who is she, then?”
Harry took a deep breath. “He,” he said. It took all his willpower to continue to look Ron in the eyes.
“No, I mean who…” Ron stopped, realization dawning on his face. “Oh...”
Hermione took Ron by the hand and led him toward the plus armchairs. “Maybe we can sit down and talk about this,” she offered, motioning for Harry to sit down across from Ron.
“Are you sure about it?” Ron asked finally. “How do you know?”
Harry knew he would have to tell Ron about Draco at some point, so he felt that he might as well get it over with all at once and pray that Ron wouldn’t terminate their friendship right then and there. “Well I’m not… sure, I suppose… I mean I’m pretty sure. See, at the party Hermione told you about I sort of… snoggedDracoMalfoy,” Harry said, the last words jumbling together trippingly off his tongue.
“You WHAT?!” Ron spluttered, his eyes widening in shock. Hermione reached her arm over to place it over Ron’s as if attempting to brace him.
“Ronald,” she said warningly. “There is nothing wrong with being gay…”
“Okay, very funny,” Ron said, standing up. “You two almost had me there. Snogging Malfoy—“
“It’s not a joke!” Harry said, a sinking feeling settling into his stomach. “Look, it’s just as much of a surprise to me as it is to you.” Ron blinked.
“Just how pissed d’you have to be to snog a prat like that? We’ve only been enemies since first year!” Ron exclaimed.
“Well maybe it’s time we all stopped being enemies!” Hermione said. “I know you’ve noticed how the Slytherins have been behaving toward us lately—with civility. If they can try to make amends why can’t you?”
“I…” Ron began, seemingly at a loss for words.
“And,” Hermione interrupted. “I would have thought you would try to be more understanding for Harry. We have to support him in this time. He’s just realized that he’s probably gay, which, by the way, is perfectly fine, and there’s no need for you to perpetuate negative, archaic views—”
“Hermione, I’m right here,” Harry reminded her. “And I know we’ve been enemies forever. I’m just going to give it a shot with him, okay? We’re having dinner tomorrow and I’ll be able to see if he’s really changed as much as I think he has.” He decided that it would be best to omit any details of what had gone on earlier that day.
Ron stared at Harry for a while. “There’s nothing wrong with being gay,” he said, to which Hermione nodded in vigorous agreement. “You know I always have your back, mate.” Ron offered his hand out to Harry, who was still sitting in an armchair. “Shall we go down to dinner? I’m starving.”
Harry stood up and Hermione pulled both he and Ron into an awkward hug. “I knew you would be understanding, Ron,” she said, smiling.
Ron laughed and they made their way out of the Common Room. “I said I understand the gay part, but that doesn’t mean I understand the Malfoy—ouch!” he rubbed the back of his neck where Hermione had just hit him. “Okay, maybe I can try…”
Harry felt a wave of relief as they walked down to the Great Hall. He knew Ron wasn’t completely on board with the whole Malfoy thing yet, but he had taken it far better than Harry had imagined he would.
“Is it just me, or has the Weasel been staring over here ever since his return?” Draco asked Pansy, biting into a large chocolate-covered strawberry. Pansy stared at him as he licked the stain of chocolate off of his bottom lip.
“Maybe he’s wondering why you’ve been staring at Potter for the last half-hour,” she said with dry amusement. Draco took another bite and strawberry juice trickled down the corner of his mouth, which he licked up slowly. Pansy rolled her eyes.
“What?” Draco said indignantly, casting a quick glance over to the Gryffindor table and then looking back to Pansy. “I am not staring at anyone, it’s just a bit unnerving when Weasley won’t stop watching my every move…”
“Oh, please. You are staring at Potter. Don’t think I don’t see you putting on your little show for him,” Pansy said. Draco’s eyes widened with feigned innocence. He leaned in, brushing her silky black hair behind her ear.
“Would you say it’s working?” he whispered, turning his eyes to look over at the Gryffindor table. Harry was staring directly at him, transfixed, with his fork raised halfway between his plate and mouth.
“Draco Malfoy,” Pansy said, straightening and pushing him away playfully. “If you think I am going to be a mere player on your stage when you won’t even tell me any good details, you are sorely mistaken.”
Draco frowned. “I told you,” he said quietly. “I’m not going to mess this up before it’s even started.”
Pansy looked slightly taken aback by this admission. Draco rarely ever let himself appear vulnerable, but she had been privy to small instances of this honesty throughout their many-year friendship. “He’s foolish if he doesn’t appreciate the opportunity to be with you,” she said, squeezing Draco’s arm. Sensing the need for a change of subject, she added, “Can you help me with my Arithmancy tonight, by any chance? I can’t learn from Theodore, he’s shit at explaining.”
“Sure,” Draco replied absently, glancing toward the Gryffindor table one last time
“What’s the matter, mate? You look like you didn’t sleep all night,” Ron commented to Harry as they made their way to N.E.W.T. Potions on Monday morning. “You didn’t… you know… sneak off to see Malfoy or anything?” he added darkly.
“Ron,” Harry said with a sigh. “I just didn’t sleep well. Wouldn’t you have noticed if I’d snuck out of bed in the middle of the night?”
Ron looked relieved. “Yeah… just checking,” he said, shaking his head.
“You can stop bringing him up, you know,” Harry added. “Believe me, I know it’s weird. It’s not like I’m proposing marriage to him, though. It’s just dinner.” He had been trying to remind himself of this fact all through the night to calm what he assumed were nerves. It was just dinner. He’d been on dates before, obviously, so there was really no need to worry. But this date is with a boy, he reminded himself, a swooping feeling coursing through his body and settling into his stomach. Just dinner, he told himself again.
Harry’s stomach flip-flopped again when they entered the Potions classroom and he saw that Draco was already there, sitting next to Theodore Nott and apparently in a heated discussion. They were bent over a complicated-looking chart and Harry vaguely remembered seeing Hermione studying something similar for Arithmancy.
“…if you use this formula,” Draco said, pausing to write something on the parchment. He gave no sign that he had noticed Harry’s arrival. “You will find that it actually follows this pattern here, and not the first one,” he continued to write and Nott’s brows furrowed.
“But you can’t just apply anything to the sequence,” Nott said, shaking his head. He grabbed the parchment and hunched over the desk, scribbling something. Harry realized then that he had been staring at the interaction between the two, and quickly sat down next to Ron, turning his attention to his friend.
“I’m sure Hermione could sort them out,” Harry said quietly to Ron.
“Sort what?” Ron asked, setting up his cauldron. Harry realized belatedly that it was highly unlikely that Ron would have even noticed, let alone listened in on, the conversation between Draco and Nott.
“Er, nothing,” Harry muttered, pulling out his own materials from his back. He was thankful when Slughorn chose that moment to enter the classroom.
“Good morning,” Slughorn addressed the small class. “I trust you have all been hard at work on your essays, which, may I remind you, will be due this Wednesday no later than four o’clock. Mr. Malfoy, Mr. Nott, I should hope that is not outside schoolwork that you have brought to class.” Malfoy snatched the parchment away from Nott and tucked it away in his bag, his eyes catching Harry’s. “Today,” Slughorn continued, “We, or, shall I say, you, will be brewing the Oculus potion. It is on page 285 of your books and it’s function is to restore the sight to one who has temporarily lost it. Not terribly exciting, I’m afraid, but this is a standard among the N.E.W.T. officials. You will find the powdered Unicorn horn and Mandrake roots in the storage.”
Everyone began preparing their ingredients almost immediately, and Harry noticed Malfoy heading directly for the storage room. Without thinking, Harry stood up quickly and followed.
The storage room was not a room, per say, but, rather, a dusty, funny-smelling cupboard containing rare ingredients from exotic locations. “Hey,” Harry said, stepping into the musty room behind Draco. Draco whirled around.
“Oh,” Draco said, “It’s you.” His mouth formed somewhere between a smirk and a smile. “Are we still on for later, or has Weasley talked you out of it?” he asked, seeming nonchalant.
“No,” Harry said quickly. “I mean, yes, yes. No to Ron talking me out of it, I mean,” he felt his face getting hot. Why was it that whenever he was around Draco he was reduced to a babbling idiot?
Draco looked amused as he gathered enough Mandrake roots. “What are we doing, then?” he asked, turning to look at Harry again.
Harry realized that he had spent so much time worrying about the date itself that he hadn’t actually spent any time deciding what they would do. What would I want to do? He asked himself, racking his brains. “I was thinking we could go flying, maybe,” he said, surprised at how quickly the idea came to him. “I have access to the kitchens, too, so we can have dinner pretty much wherever you want.”
Draco smirked again, but there was no malice in his face that had marked it through previous years. “Of course you would have access to the kitchens,” he said. Draco stepped closer to Harry and Harry’s senses were assaulted by his proximity. Draco leaned in so that his mouth was next to Harry’s ear. “I’m looking forward to it,” he whispered, his hot breath ghosting over Harry’s ear and sending a visible shudder down his spine. Draco pulled back, softly kissing where the bottom of Harry’s ear met his jaw before stepping away.
“I’ll see you later this afternoon, then,” Harry said when he finally found his voice. He was using all of the willpower he possessed to stop himself from shoving Draco against the wall right then and there and having his way with him.
“Yeah,” Draco said, giving Harry a rare grin before leaving the storage room with his materials. Harry quickly gathered enough powdered Unicorn horn and Mandrake roots for his own potion and made his way back to his desk, silently thanking whoever came up with the idea for wizards to wear the loose-fitting robes that concealed his Malfoy-induced condition.