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-Maybe love is a beacon, cutting a light through the complexities of life, making things a little bit simpler in its own messy way.-

The Great Hall was buzzing with the chatter of hundreds of students. Some of this chatter was carefree; amused even. The majority, however, represented the unamused portion of the students. Headmistress McGonagall had, on this particularly unremarkable Wednesday in October, just delivered a most peculiar message from Dumbeldore's Portrait. Even in portrait-captured suspension, Dumbledore could still be entertained. The message, McGonagall had relayed, was to honour Dumbledore's most recent wish for a "First Name Day".

McGonagall seemed as unamused by their former Headmaster's proclamation as most of the students. Surely making students call each other by their first names was the catalyst for fights to break out left, right and center? The rest of the staff at the Head Table had mixed reactions – Snape glared at all of the students, silently daring any of them to call him by his first name. Professor Flitwick clapped his hands, clearly appreciating Dumbledore's continuing sense of humour.

The students quieted under McGonagall's tight-lipped glare.

"Tomorrow, you will address each of your classmates and Professors," McGonagall narrowed her eyes in annoyance, "by their first names. Dumbledore has wished me to inform all of you that failure to do authorizes the nearest Professor to dock a minimum of five house points." McGonagall glared harshly at the Gryffindors. "That is all."

Harry and Ron stared open mouthed at their Headmistress, along with most of the student body, at this news.

"What's that old geezer playing at?" Ron said in disbelief. "None of the Professors look too happy about this news, do they?"

Hermione shrugged and smiled. "I'm just happy that Dumbledore can still enjoy himself. And he clearly still has loyalty from the staff and students, or else McGonagall would have just ignored him."

Harry nodded in the direction of the Slytherin Table. "The Slytherins definitely aren't going to play Dumbledore's little game," he noted. He certainly wasn't going to address any of them by their first names. Especially not blonde-haired gits who had annoying, perfectly symmetrical faces.

Hermione seemed to read Harry's mind. "Well, I'm going to respect Dumbledore's wishes. It's only for one day, after all. What's the worst that could happen?"

Ron flapped his arms and shushed Hermione. "Hermione! How could you say those words, after all we've been through? Now you've jinxed us!"

Hermione snorted. Harry secretly agreed with Ron – something was bound to go terribly wrong. He had a feeling in his gut that there was something much more devious sitting behind this First-Name Day event. Dumbledore surely would have noticed, whilst traveling through the various paintings around the castle, that things at Hogwarts had been rather dull since the beginning of term. Voldemort was dead, and his ex-Death Eaters were all locked away in prison. Harry's scar had been quiet, and his middle-of-the-hall fights with Malfoy had been severely lacking in entertainment value. Merely having all of the students call each other by their first names was not enough to shake things up though. A lot of the students in the higher years were already on a first name basis, and thus the First Name Day was largely a redundancy. No, thought Harry, there was something sinister behind the old man's plans.

Dinner ended and the three of them got up from the table. Ginny, Neville, Seamus and Dean accompanied them back to the common room. Harry noticed that they all reacted to the First Name Day very predictably: Seamus thought it was a laugh and was highly entertained, Ginny merely rolled her eyes, Neville was adamantly game for it out of respect for Dumbledore, and Dean just shrugged.

"I can't wait to start calling the Profs by their first names," Seamus said gleefully. "And if I don't, they deduct points! Dumbledore obviously wanted some fun out of this, and I'm going to provide him with it."

Hermione frowned, "Don't harass the teachers, Seamus!"

Ginny rolled her eyes and said, "They've been harassing us for years. It's about time we were allowed to annoy them."

"Cheers!" Ron grinned at his sister. "Harry, what do you think?"

Harry confessed to the group that he feared Dumbledore's sense of humor would not so easily be satiated. Neville frowned and seemed to consider the theory, while the others shook his suspicions off.

"Nah, he can't do something bad to the whole student body, could he? He was the former headmaster after all."

"He's surprisingly manipulative," Harry commented somewhat bitterly, thinking of what he had seen in the pensieve the previous year before his face off with Voldemort.

"Oh Harry, don't go reading too much into this. I know you, well, are a bit bored since-"

"Bored? Since?" Harry said, glaring at Hermione, who stuttered to reply, her face flushing at his glare. Ron, Dean, Neville and Seamus suddenly felt the need to rush up to the boy's dormitory.

Ginny cut in to save her. "She means that since this is the first normal year you've at Hogwarts, without any dark mysteries to solve, you're anxious to start poking at otherwise innocent things."

Beneath his annoyance, Harry could admit that maybe Ginny was right. At least a little bit.

"Fine, think what you want, but I still say something is fishy about all of this," Harry argued. He pushed past the two girls, who both breathed a sigh of relief, and retired to the dormitory, keen on getting a good night's rest before all Hell broke loose in Hogwarts the following day.

~~ The First Name Day ~~

"Good morning Harry! Good morning Dean, Neville, and Ron!"

Dean looked at Seamus, amused. "Seamus, mate, you already call us all by our first names."

Seamus threw a pillow at Dean. "Oh don't ruin my fun!"

Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes with Ron. What fun was there in calling someone by the same name you'd used for seven years already? Of course, this thought did not diminish the suspicions Harry had about Dumbledore's prank.

Ron groaned allowed and glanced at Harry, Seamus and Neville. "You've got Potions with the Slytherins. This should be good," By Ron's attitude, the immediate future was going to be anything but good.

"Malfoy's going to have a field day," Neville commented mopingly.

Seamus smirked. "Where's your Gryffindor bravery, Neville? Draco's not the only one who's going to have fun with this."

Dean snorted. "You say that git's name awfully easily, mate,"

Seamus threw another pillow at Dean.

Snape, with obvious reluctance, had reclaimed his post as Potions Master after the war's end. Which then meant that NEWT year Potions class was practically unbearable. On First Name Day, the first five minutes had proved to be the prerequisite to the worst Potions class ever. And no, Harry did not think he was exaggerating.

"I may have great respect for Dumbledore," Snape began quietly, glaring killing curses at the small group of students in his class, "but that respect does not extend to any of you." He paused to make sure his students had understood this. His upper lip curled in distaste. "You shall address me as 'Professor', anything else and I will deduct ten points."

Harry leaned into Hermione and whispered, "Didn't, er – Minerva - say that-"

Hermione cut him off, "Points can be deducted by addressing each other by last names, she never said anything about titles," she whispered back.

"If you are quite done babbling," Snape fumed, looking pointedly at Hermione, avoiding addressing her directly. With a wave of his arm, instructions for the day's brew covered the chalk board. "Brewing this potion requires a partner." Snape smirked at his students. Dumbledore wasn't the only one going to be entertained today.

There was a flurry of movement as students paired up. Harry opened his mouth to ask Hermione, but she had already been stolen by Neville, who grimaced at Harry in apology. Harry tried not to feel too annoyed – Neville needed Hermione's help more than he did.

Over on the Slytherin side, Draco had also been rejected by his regular partner. Pansy had paired herself up with Blaise, of all people. Draco glared at Pansy, who winked at him.

"What the hell, Pansy?" Draco mouthed furiously.

"Sorry love, it's Blaise's turn for my expertise," she said, smiling seductively at Blaise, who raised an eyebrow at the innuendo behind Pansy's words.

"I thought you'd try to pair up with that Irish bloke," Blaise pointed out, nodding his head in Seamus's direction.

Pansy blushed furiously and glared at Blaise. "Shush, dear, before I hex you."

Draco raised his eyebrow. He had already known, of course, that Pansy had for some time now harboured a flaming crush for Seamus Finnigan, but no one else besides Blaise knew. If Draco ever needed leverage, he thought menacingly…

"Draco's way better at potions than you are, Pans," Blaise said. She elbowed him in the ribs. "Oof!"

"Shut it!" She hissed, looking pointedly at Draco.

Draco narrowed his eyes. He scanned the room for a Slytherin in need of a partner. Potter, a few tables down, was doing the same thing. Draco sighed in exasperation. He had wasted too much time already. If he wanted to get a passing mark on the day's potion, he was going to have to team up with-

"Harry," Draco whispered fiercely, the name masked by annoyance. It felt horrifically strange to be saying Potter's first name out loud. It had a nice ring to it. He watched as Potter looked around in confusion, looking to see if any of his Gryffindor pals had called on him. "Harry!" Draco barked, this time louder. He sneered as Potter finally realized who was shouting at him. "Get your arse over here."

Harry turned back to give Neville one last glare before conceding to the Slytherin. Angrily, he settled his potions equipment next to Malfoy's, not making eye contact.

"Rubbish as you are at potions, we need to get this done. And by we, I mean I," he snapped.

They immediately set to work, attempting to compensate for their lost time. Both ignored how efficient a team they actually made when working in silence. Harry could, without inner malice, admit that the Slytherin was a natural at potions.

"Could you pass the black rose petals?" Harry asked, his voice distracted with concentration.

Malfoy did not reply or even acknowledge Harry's question.

Harry glanced at the blonde sighed impatiently. "Malfoy, pass the-"

"Five points from Gryffindor," Snape drawled from his desk.

"Oh honestly, this is the most idiotic –" Harry cut himself off, fuming as much as their potion. He turned to Draco. "Pass me the petals," Harry demanded of the blonde.

"I'm sorry, are you talking to me?" Draco asked him, wearing an extremely sarcastic smile.

Harry glared. The git was trying to get even with Harry by making him say his name.


"Another five points," Snape drawled again, now openly enjoying Dumbledore's game.

"Harry, honestly!" came Hermione's agitated voice from a few tables away.

"Draco – pass – the- petals" Harry said furiously. The name passing his lips was no stranger, of course, but he had always had a choice before – now, it just felt… weird.

"Ah, yes Harry, you mean these?" Draco, having a field day as Ron had put it, shoved the petals over to Harry. They had wasted another few minutes – Harry was surprised that Draco would sacrifice a good potions grade just to goad him. But then Harry thought of sixth year and – well, thinking about the git at all just made his stomach tumble awkwardly so he stopped.

Surprisingly enough, with their combined efforts, they managed to finish their potion on time. And Harry felt confident that on the way to Snape's desk, the little vial would be safe.

"Here you are, Severus," Draco announced loudly, smirking at Professor Snape.

Snape's eyelid twitched.

"Thank you, Draco," he said back with forced politeness. Harry snorted. Of course Draco would be exempt from any rules Snape had set forth about addressing him by his first name.

By the time lunch had rolled around, more than half of the school population was extremely nonplussed by their former Headmaster's recent source of laughs. The reason, of course, was the dwindling volume of glittering jewels in the House columns. Innocently enough, most of the students had simply been used to calling each other by last name only out of respect, and had remembered too late. The teachers had had no choice but to remove points.

"So, for respecting Dumbledore, no one is going to win the House Cup this year," said Ron, scowling as two blue jewels disappeared from Ravenclaw's crystal column.

Harry slumped in his seat. "At least it's half over," he grumbled.

"Honestly, who could have thought there'd be this much trouble over saying someone's given name," Hermione scoffed.

Ron glared at her. "It's your fault! You said – y'know- and you jinxed us!"

"Oh Ron, don't be silly. Losing house points is not the worst that could happen out of this."

Harry suppressed a laugh as Ron's eyes widened. "There! You did it again!" he shoved his finger in Hermione's face.

Hermione rolled her eyes at Ron and left the table, claiming she needed to go the library to look something up.

"Dumbledore, you really are wicked," Former Headmaster Dippet commented.

Dumbledore winked at Dippet, who had invaded his painting earlier on for a game of chess. Dippet had stolen the chess set from a painting on the sixth floor.

"And manipulative, I might add," Dippet continued. "What do you hope to gain from this?"

"Love, my friend, sometimes needs a catalyst to bloom to its full potential. I am merely providing to my students this catalyst," Albus remarked, his gaze thoughtful as he regarded his friend.

"And they still don't know of the side effects of your little game?"

"Ah, you see, that is my own invention. Normally, there would be no side effect to calling a peer by their give name. However," Dumbledore explained with an air of proud of excitement, "tomorrow they will indeed see the side effect. And thus, the catalyst."

Dippet shook his head and gave Dumbledore a smile as he moved his bishop. "Quite wicked," he repeated.

"Quite wicked indeed."

The remainder of the day was rather uneventful, if anyone asked Harry's opinion. Transfiguration had been the only interesting part of the day. Seamus had actually caused McGonagall to blush by saying her first name in a somewhat inappropriate manner. She had clearly choked back the urge to take points away from Gryffindor. McGonagall was certainly beginning to doubt that any sense of sanity had been painted in with Dumbledore's portrait.

Charms had been interesting for the first few minutes, after which Flitwick's determination to call every one of his students by their first name at least five times became very annoying.

Dinner finally arrived. Harry couldn't help but feel that the day had been somewhat anti-climactic. His suspicions of a hidden agenda to First Name Day had greatly dissipated, and were being drowned out by his desire for treacle tart.

"Hey Rubeus," Harry called out as Hagrid walked by. Harry, Ron and Hermione grinned as Hagrid flushed and looked at Harry in slight shock.

"Blimey, don' think yeh've ever called me that," Hagrid said. "I wonder wha' Dumbledore's playin' at."

Harry rose his eyebrows. "You think there's something else behind this too, then?" He saw Hermione roll her eyes from his peripherals.

Hagrid looked uncertain. "Well, min' you, he's gotta sense o' humour, that man. Still though, ne'er done summat without a reason."

"Surely it's just to coerce friendships between the Houses?" Hermione suggested hopefully.

Ron looked at her dryly. "Hermione, everyone is losing house points, and people have been hexing each other in the halls. I really don't think friendship is what Dumbledore intended from this."

"Those things happen all the time though," Hermione retorted back, arms folded.

"Obviously they have, s'just been worse," Ron said, determined to keep the argument going.

Hagrid shrugged and made his way up to the staff table for dinner.

Harry went to bed that night with a nagging feeling in his gut. Somehow, he thought, this was definitely not over. Everything had been much too calm for Dumbledore's tastes, surely. Harry knew the man too well (or at least, he thought he did). Harry didn't care what everyone else thought; his instincts, which were usually accurate, were screaming warnings at him. For what exactly, Harry didn't know. Sleep for Harry was restless, and for some reason, punctuated by a blonde haired man calling out his name over and over.

In the dark of the Headmaster's Office, the occupant of Albus Dumbledore's portrait was snoozing with a wide and secretive smile on his face.

~~The Last-Name Day~~

Harry woke with a start. He quickly took in his surroundings, and with comfort, decided that he was still safely in Hogwarts in his four post bed, and that it was almost time for breakfast. He felt uncomfortable upon waking, and after a moment, figured the reason must have been his dreams. Malfoy was such a git, invading his dreams like that.

Deciding it was safe enough to get out of bed and satiate his hunger (no, Harry was not being paranoid…not at all), Harry dressed and made his way down to the common room.

"Morning Ginny," he greeted brightly as he descended the stairs.

"Mo-orning Harry," she yawned. "Good sleep?"

Harry shrugged. "Alright, thanks. You?" Awkward.

Ginny mirrored his shrug.

Soooo awkward. Why was talking to Ginny so goddamn awkward right now? Harry didn't know.

"Cool. See you down at breakfast, yeah?" Harry grinned at her and fast walked to through the portrait hole, grin replaced by an uneasy grimace.

Harry quickly found his place between Ron and Hermione at the Gryffindor table.

"Morning," he greeted, putting some eggs and toast onto his golden plate.

"So, still alive then?" Seamus quipped, poking Harry in the side.

"What? Oh – hey, knock it off," Harry mumbled, glaring at the boy for making fun of him.

"See, Dumbledore's had his laugh, and everything is back to normal!"

Ron tensed and glared at Seamus, his eyebrow twitching. "Since when is anything normal around here?"


Harry whipped around at the familiar and winced at the extremely annoying way in which his name had been butchered - first thing in the morning, too. Ron and Hermione glared as Malfoy approached their table. He was waving around a piece of parchment, upon which they could clearly see the letter "A" marked in black ink.

"What does this look like to you, Potter?" Malfoy asked furiously, shoving the paper into Harry's face.

"A piece of parchment with a large letter A on it, you idiot."

Draco seethed and stepped back. "It's you who's the idiot here! It's our grade for yesterday's potion!"

Hermione gasped and gazed longingly at the paper. "How did you get that so fast?"

Draco smirked at Hermione. "I have my ways." He turned his attention back to Harry. Hermione could not hide the look of jealousy in her eyes – she clearly wanted to be able to get grades back that fast.

"So? Acceptable. That's fine," Harry said, shrugging. This of course was not the right thing to say, as it made Draco even angrier.

"Acceptable? You think – fuck you Potter! How the hell did you even manage to get into Snape's seventh year – excuse me, eighth year class? Where's your precious Potions textbook now, eh Potter?"

Anger boiled up inside Harry. People were beginning to watch in interest as the first Potter versus Malfoy conflict set in the Great Hall proceeded.

"You asked for black rose petals too early, you sodding idiot!"

"You didn't have to give them to me! God, you are such a git –" Harry's face suddenly screwed up into a grimace. He blinked, and cleared his throat. He opened his mouth to finish his sentence with "Malfoy!", but nothing came. It was if the boy's name had died in his throat, refusing to come out.

Draco cocked his head forward and glared at Harry expectantly. "Out with it Potter, don't be shy now."

Harry cleared his throat again. "You are such a git-" And that was all he could say. He rubbed his throat with his hands and shared a worried glance with Ron. Why couldn't he say Malfoy's name?

"Harry? What's wrong?" Ron asked, perplexed.

"I – I can't say his name," Harry answered, sounding bewildered.

Draco rolled his eyes and sighed explosively. "I don't fucking have time for this," he spat. He threw the graded parchment down to the ground, cast Incendio on it, and then walked briskly away.

Harry, wide eyed, sat back down at the table. "Hermione?" Harry prompted his friend, who had been staring, transfixed on the burning parchment. "Oh just go ask Snape for your grade! I'm sure that's what – what he did," Harry finished lamely, frustrated.

"So what happened?" Ron asked, focusing on Harry's newly acquired speech problem.

"I don't know, I just – I can't get his name out anymore. It's like something is blocking it," Harry said, massaging his throat.

Hermione made a contemplative "hm" sound. "Try saying his first name," she offered.

Harry snorted. "I had enough of that yesterday, thanks."

"Fine, then, if you don't want my help," she replied, looking mockingly insulted.

Harry sighed. "Draco. There, happy now? I've said it. It still doesn't explain why I can't say his surname."

The three sat in silence for a moment, each contemplating an answer. Harry hit the table with his hand. "I knew something like this would happen – something weird and unexplainable and-"

"Dumbledore-like?" Ron grinned. "Maybe you should go ask his portrait about it."

"Hah, fat chance he'd actually tell me the truth. He'd probably just stare at me over his hands and wait for me to figure it out for myself," Harry said, shaking his head.

"Well then that's all you've got to do then, isn't it? Figure it out," Hermione prompted.

"Easy for you to say," Harry mumbled. "Try to say Ron's last name," Harry suggested after a thoughtful minute.

"Weasley," she said without trouble.

"There's Ginny here too, though," Ron reminded her. "I don't know if that counts."

"Fine then – Ginevra Weasley, Ronald Weasley," she corrected.

"Someone say my name?" Ginny asked, turning her attention to the group.

"We were just doing an experiment," Hermione nodded. She looked shiftily at Harry. "Harry seems to be suffering some, er, repercussions of yesterday's First Name Day."

Ginny frowned. "Can he not say someone's last name?"

Harry peaked. "How did you know?" he asked, almost desperately. Maybe she had had the same problem?

Ginny shrugged. "I heard that Parkinson is having the same issue with Seamus. She can't say 'Finnigan'."

"Maybe it's just a Gryffindor-Slytherin thing? Dumbledore wanted to make us address those slimy gits by their first names forever!" Ron looked appalled at this self-realization.

Hermione made a tutting noise. "That's ridiculous."

"Prove me wrong then! Go on, say Malfoy's – oh. Right then," he finished lamely, flushing under her smug look.

"So, it's not just me then. Both Parkinson and I can't say the last name of someone else… what does it mean?" Harry wondered aloud. What had Dumbledore gotten him into this time?

"I'm not sure, but we'd better get to class," Hermione said briskly. She gathered her books and headed waited stubbornly for Harry and Ron to follow.

Harry let Ron and Hermione lead the way to Defence Against the Dark Arts, as he was much too preoccupied with the fact that a dead wizard stuck in a magical painting still had as much influence over Hogwarts as to control his speech.

Their latest DADA Professor was, much to the enjoyment of the older student body, similar to Lupin in every way accept for the whole werewolf bit. Professor Downing was exuberant and experience about the subject, and preferred practical demonstrations over reading magical theory. Harry, on more than one occasion, had been an assistant teacher to Downing, given his own significant experience in the field.

"Today we will be practicing the Patronus charm, as it will be included on your NEWTS," he said. There was a rustle among those who had been taught by Harry in the DA back in fifth year; Neville, Dean and Seamus all smirked at Harry, who winked back. Malfoy glowered at Harry's head from the back – it had been Harry's Patronus that had caused him to almost fail his DADA Owl practical back in Fifth year, and that had chased him off the Quidditch pitch in Third Year.

Harry had a feeling his assistance was going to be needed for this lesson. Not even a minute after he had thought it, Downing had called him to the front. He resisted the urge to look at Malfoy as he made his way up.

"Now, as I understand it Mr Potter, you taught a few of your fellow classmates the basic method of producing a Patronus in fifth year?" Downing said, smiling at Harry.

"Er, yeah – that's right," Harry confirmed, slightly surprised that the DA was now apparently common knowledge. Again, the members of the aforementioned Dumbledore's Army smiled at each other.

Downing scanned the classroom. "Who would like to volunteer to demonstrate the method under Mr Potter's instruction?"

At once, Malfoy raised his arm, a look of immense glee on his face. So, Potter couldn't say his last name, eh? Draco snickered. He was going to get Potter back for their abysmal Potions grade by making a fool out of the boy in front of the whole class.

"Malfoy, thank you for volunteering, five points to Slytherin," Downing offered, nodding at Malfoy.

Harry suppressed his groan of dismay as Draco walked up to the front, a smirk on his face.

"Er, right," Harry began, addressing the full class instead of his volunteer, "to make a Patronus work, be it the thin silvery shield, or the corporal form, you need to conjure up a really powerful, really happy memory. You need to concentrate on that memory and then say the words "'Expecto Patronum,'" he finished. Normally, Harry was normally comfortable with his assistant teaching position, and had no problems speaking to an attentive group of students his age. With Malfoy standing next to him though, he felt very edgy. The blonde didn't even have to do anything and he made Harry's skin crawl. It wasn't completely unpleasant.

Harry looked at Malfoy expectantly. The blonde did nothing except raise an eyebrow.

"Er, so, you need to –"

"Excuse me, my name is not 'you'," Malfoy cut in, sneering at Harry.

Out of his peripherals Harry saw Ron and Hermione exchange nervous glances.

Harry glared at the blonde. He tried then to say 'Malfoy', but again, it was if the name had perished in his throat; as if there was some barrier preventing it from being spoken.

"Mr Potter?" Downing prompted, looking warily between Malfoy and Harry.

Malfoy's smirk deepened as he watched Harry struggle to say his last name. Harry glared daggers at the blonde when he realized why Malfoy had so quickly volunteered for the demonstration.

"You git," Harry muttered beneath his breath.

Draco cupped a hand behind his ear and leaned forward. "I'm sorry Potter, I didn't quite catch that."

Harry made a small growling sound, and then with extreme reluctance, and somewhat in a rush, said "Draco, think of a happy memory, and say Expecto Patronum," Or else I will let my Patronus kill you. Somehow. Harry was sure it was possible, if he wanted it badly enough…

There was a collective gasp from the class. Even Professor Downing raised his eyebrows, surprised that Harry had addressed his rival so intimately in a classroom setting.

Malfoy nodded with superiority and said, "That's better." He concentrated for a moment, nodded, raised his wand, and produced a perfect Patronus which resembled a snake. The Slytherins clapped and "whooped" as the silvery snake slithered in between the desks.

The beauty of Malfoy's patronus was tarnished as Harry digested the fact that Malfoy could perform the spell easily, and that the git really had just volunteered to piss Harry off. Still, thought Harry, it was hard not to be impressed at a corporal Patronus, no matter who the caster or the form.

"Of course," Harry said, glaring at Malfoy, "One usually can cast this much easier in a classroom setting than when facing Dementors."

The Slytherins boohed at Harry's criticism. Downing motioned for the class to settle down, and dismissed Harry and Draco back to their seats.

"Git," Harry muttered under his breath.

Draco looked mockingly surprised. "Who? Who's a git?"

Harry rolled his eyes, resisting the insane urge to grin. "Oh shut up." He took his seat, glowering half-heartedly at the blonde. He watched Malfoy's snake Patronus swim in the air for its final few moments before it vanished. Harry could have sworn the snake had winked at him.

"Well that was utterly humiliating," Harry grumbled as he, Ron and Hermione left the classroom.

"Always knew that git's Patronus would be a slimy snake," Ron muttered. "Suits him perfectly,"

Hermione could not help but look impressed, despite herself. "That can't have been his first attempt, but it was rather beautiful, wasn't it?"

Harry and Ron threw her annoyed looks.

"I'm just saying! It's a very difficult spell!" She said sheepishly. "It's a shame your Parseltongue ability was killed off Harry, else you could speak to his patronus…" she drifted off at the disgusted looks Ron and Harry were pinning on her.

"Hermione," Harry asked desperately, "do you have any idea what's happening with me? Why can't I say his last name?"

Hermione frowned and shook her head. "No, I don't. I thought going to the library earlier might have given us a clue, but I don't think anything like this has ever happened, or at least if it has, it has never been documented." Hermione's ever standing faith in the library's wealth of knowledge left stopped Harry from suggesting that, if it had been documented, it was simply not available in the Hogwarts collection.

Charms was their next class, for which Harry was grateful because it was scheduled with the Ravenclaws. It was sad that Harry was now slightly afraid to go to any of his classes with the Slytherins – all because of a stupid name. And the fact that, recently, Harry couldn't stop staring at the blonde git.

Their class was shared with the seventh year Ravenclaws because there hadn't been enough returning eighth years to fill the class. Harry, Hermione and Ron made their way over to Neville, who usually sat with Luna.

"Why are you sitting by yourself, Neville?" Ron asked as they sat down.

He blushed and looked at Luna out of the corner of his eyes. "Concentration's better. We're doing Dissillusion Charms today – NEWT level," he said.

They decided not to question their friend beyond his obvious lie.

"You should go to Dumbledore, mate. He's the one that started all of this in the first place," Ron suggested after class. Lunch had arrived, and the three of them made their way to the Great Hall with the rest of the students.

Harry sighed in defeat. "Yeah, I guess."

He was beginning to see no other alternative. Hermione seemed to agree – when the Library had failed them, Dumbledore was their next option. Even in portrait form, the former Headmaster could be a valuable source of information.

Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Malfoy, Pansy and Blaise waltz into the Great Hall. Draco shot Harry a glare, his mood now back to angry instead of mocking. Academics weren't only important to Hermione after all, Harry mused. Harry then watched an interesting dynamic unfold among the three of them. Blaise poked Pansy in the side, pointed to Seamus, and smirked at her. Pansy glared at Blaise and blushed. Draco rolled his eyes and settled into his seat, ignoring the both of them. Seamus noticed this from the Gryffindor table out of the corner of his eye, and looked at Pansy with a weary trepidation mixed with casual curiousity.

"Shut up, Blaise," Harry saw Pansy hiss.

Hadn't Ginny mentioned that, since yesterday, Pansy couldn't say Seamus's last name? And now, the Slytherin girl was acting…

Harry turned to Ron and whispered, "Ron, what's with Parkinson and Seamus?"

Ron raised an eyebrow at the still blushing Pansy. She had a slight pout to her lips and her eyes kept darting to and from the Irish boy. Ron shrugged. "Dunno, mate. She's probably planning something horrible to do with him, though."

Hermione rolled her eyes and sighed in annoyance. She turned around from her table in front of them. "It's obvious isn't it?" Well it clearly hadn't been to them but – "She fancies him!"

"You're mad! Why would she? She's a Slytherin –"

"Oh Ron, what does that matter? Has the war taught you nothing? I mean, granted, she's a bit of a bint but -"

Hermione gasped suddenly. Her eyes widened and she brought a hand to her lips. "Oh! It reveals unrequited love!" She glanced quickly between Seamus and Pansy, the former now staring at the latter, and confirmation dawned in her eyes. "Oh, it makes so much sense now! Dumbledore was obsessed with the idea of love – yesterday he must have put a spell on all of us so that when we said the first name of a person we liked, then the next day, you can't say their last name!"

Those around them blanched at Hermione's epiphany. Neville blushed even harder and looked over to Luna.

"That's so manipulative," Neville groaned. "Is it going to last forever?"

"Knowing the old codger, it'll only wear off when the love is returned," Ron muttered darkly.

Hermione nodded, agreeing with Ron's insight. "That sounds logical."

Harry choked. He really hated Dumbledore's sense of humor. Obviously the old wizard had made a mistake where Harry was concerned, because he definitely did not feel that way about that slimy blonde-haired git. Absolutely not. "But I don't-"

Seamus raised an eyebrow. "So, Parkinson's got the hots for me, eh? Interesting," he smirked. "S'cuse me, chaps," he bowed his head and then made his way over to the Slytherin table.

Ron paled and grimaced at Harry. "Er – you have unrequited love for Malfoy, mate?"

"No! No, Hermione, you must be wrong –"

Hermione looked extremely offended. "Harry, all of the evidence points –"

"Those were just two coincidences! Look, there's no way I have feelings for – for," Harry growled in frustration, "that slimy git!"

Ron looked comforted at Harry's vehement proclamation. "See, Hermione? There must be another explanation. Dumbledore wouldn't do something like that."

All of them, though, knew that Dumbledore would do something like that.

Hermione huffed. "Fine then. Waste all your time in denial."

Ron looked incredulously at Hermione. "Even if it was true, why aren't you more surprised about Harry and Malfoy?"

"Harry's free to fancy anyone he likes," she commented, shrugging.

"I don't fancy him!" Harry yelled, ashamed that his violent proclamation didn't feel truthful. He didn't… did he? Oh God now he didn't even know. His feelings were all jumbled and confused, making his gut wriggle uncomfortably. Damn you Dumbledore! Other students in the Hall were starting to stare in rapt curiousity.

Despite himself, Harry glanced to the Slytherin Table. Seamus was now standing over Pansy, who was blushing, her arms folded. She did not look unhappy though, Harry noticed. Coincidence.

Harry then made an oath to himself that he was never going to speak with Dumbledore's portrait again. Ever.

By the time lunch had finished and Potions class rolled around, the reason behind First Name Day had gone viral. Attached was the news that Pansy Parkinson and Seamus Finnigan were now an item. All of the students were now going around making sure they could say everyone's last names, and if they couldn't, everything from embarrassment, anger and happiness resulted. Some relationships were out right destroyed, like Justin Flinch-Fletchey and Susan Bones, who had dissolved when Justin could no longer say Romilda Vane's surname. Dumbledore, it seemed, had wanted to cause as much drama in as little time as possible.

And of course, Malfoy had heard the news. How could he not, with Pansy practically attached to his hip?

Harry had never so strongly not wanted to attend a Potions class. Maybe he could live the remainder of his life hidden beneath his Invisibility Cloak?

Where's your Gryffindor bravery? A voice demanded from within his head.

Screw that, Harry retorted back. Dumbledore killed it. Despite himself, Harry found himself quite nervous. His hands felt clammy, his heart was beating faster than normal, his mouth felt dry, his hands kept fidgeting with his sleeve, and it didn't help that Ron kept shooting him funny looks.

The small class size of Snape's NEWT level Potions usually worked against Harry; however, the lack of a full class population meant that Harry could sit relatively far away from the rest of the class, who usually clustered in the middle. Harry immediately commandeered a table in the far right corner at the back of the classroom.

And of course, Malfoy, keen on tormenting Harry, settled in next to him.

"This table is occupied," Harry snapped without looking up.

"Oh Potter, how long are you going to remain in denial?" Draco mused, putting extra emphasis on Harry's last name just because he could. "I know you love me," he sneered, though it lacked some of the customary hostility.

"Really? Because I didn't," Harry said weakly. His throat suddenly felt dry, and – was it hot in here? He resisted the urge to look at the Slytherin. Maybe Dumbledore's spell had caused him to fancy Malfoy? He could never remember feeling anything but strong animosity – well, no, that wasn't true. When he'd accidentally almost killed the Slytherin back in sixth year, he'd felt extremely worried and downright ashamed. No matter how much he thought he hated the boy, he never wished that level of harm to befall him. Surely Harry would have felt that horribly about harming anyone else that severely. And… well, Harry had been there that night at the Astronomy Tower. He had seen Draco lower his wand, and could remember feeling his heart jump in his throat in relief and pride. And at Malfoy Manor, hadn't Draco saved his life, all of their lives, by not admitting Harry's identity to Bellatrix? And then in the Room of Requirement, thinking quite desperately that he'd needed to save him from the Fiendfyre, save him from following Crabbe into a burning death. At the time Harry had ignored how closely Malfoy had been to him on the broom, how tightly he'd been squeezed by those arms (that had hurt). Yes, Harry had felt a myriad of emotions towards Malfoy these past seven and a half years – exhausted annoyance and extreme dislike, but also a burning almost desperate desire to see Malfoy, well, happy for once. Harry wasn't sure if this was his so called "saving-people-thing" coming into play, or if he was just a huge sap, but there was something about the Slytherin… One thing Harry was sure about was that no one made him feel quite so alive as Malfoy did. He wouldn't mind experiencing strongly positive emotions connected to Malfoy, to brighten up their strongly negative past.

But hell, Harry didn't even really know what love felt like. If love was needing to see someone be happy, then he loved a great many people. It was different though, how he felt about Hermione and Ron and others he loved, to how he felt about Draco. He thought he'd loved Ginny, but… Maybe…

Draco seemed caught off-guard. "You actually – is it actually true?" He asked, for once no mockery or sneer in his tone.

"Piss off," Harry mumbled, turning away from Draco, face flushed. He worried at his lip, confused at what he was feeling. Was it possible that Dumbledore's spell had the power to manifest within him false feelings of love? But then, it had been extremely awkward in the past few weeks whenever Harry had conversed with Ginny… he recently had been feeling an unstoppable gap widen between them. He had done nothing to close that gap, and neither had she.

"Potter," Draco murmured, stealing back Harry's attention.

Harry glared at the blonde, annoyed at the fact that the Slytherin could still address him by his last name. Annoyed, perhaps, that his apparent "feelings" would forever remain unrequited. Harry would never again be able to say "Malfoy", and that bothered him intensely. This is so depressing.

"What?" Harry asked, tight lipped.

"How would you like me to repay my life debt to you?" Draco asked, his lips curling into a grimace, as if asking that question had summoned from within him an urge to vomit.

Harry frowned, unsure how to answer such a heavy question.

Draco huffed and rolled his eyes. "The Room of Requirement. You saved me," he bit out, loathe to admit something like that so bluntly.

"I know that," Harry said quickly. "Don't worry about it-"

Malfoy glared at Harry. "That's now how things work, Potter. I have to repay you," he snapped.

Harry grimaced as he nodded, remembering Wormtail's gruesome death at Malfoy Manor. "I'm sure you'll think of something," he said weakly.

Draco smirked and leaned in closer to Harry, deciding to ruffle the boy's feathers. "You're a very good flier when one is riding your broomstick, Potter," he whispered, his voice taking on a seductive flavour. He snorted as Harry's face became beet red. Red with embarrassment, and then with anger – how could he joke about this?! Oh he was so infuriating!

"Look, Draco-"

Harry's retort was cut short as Snape (rather obnoxiously) entered the classroom, silently demanding the room's attention. His eyes darted to the man beside him. Draco's attention was focused up front, eyes soaking up the newly posted instructions for today's assignment. Harry's eyes trailed from Draco's blonde hair, to his eyebrows, eyelashes, his nose and – stopped at his lips. Harry licked his lips again – it was suddenly much too dry and hot in the room. Slowly, Draco's eyes left the chalkboard to meet Harry's. Harry jumped a bit and looked ahead, chewing at his lip and ignoring how hot his face suddenly felt. Even Harry could appreciate that, passed the negative veil of Draco's attitude, the Slytherin was quite attractive. He could imagine how his face would light up in a genuine smile. Harry suddenly very much wanted to see that. When Harry had been infatuated with Cho, or been with Ginny, he had never really considered the option of being with another boy. Now it was obsessing him. He cleared his throat and looked very pointedly ahead at the chalk board.

For some reason, the desire for Draco to take the mickey out of Potter had just… evaporated. Here was the most powerful and famous living wizard on the entire planet, to whom Draco had always looked up to (even if he fervently denied it), and he was suddenly interested in Draco. Draco had always despised Dumbledore for his manipulative and goody-goody ways, but he could not deny the effectiveness of the man's magic. Even more impressive that it had all been orchestrated from a magical portrait.

Needless to say, the remaining Potions session was torturous for Harry and highly amusing for Draco. Harry couldn't tell if he was angry and embarrassed solely because of the things Draco was muttering to him across their desks, or from the fact that for some unexplainable reason, Harry was now uncomfortably aware of how attractive the other boy looked and how his words affected him. Or both.

Damn you, Dumbledore!

"So what are you going to do about this, Harry?"

Ron looked at Hermione, flabbergasted. "Do? Harry isn't going to do anything because there's nothing happening! Right mate?"

Harry frowned and resisted the urge to bolt from the common room, uncomfortable with it all. He didn't want to answer either of them, especially Ron. He felt terribly guilty over Ginny, who had given him the silent treatment ever since hearing of Harry's supposed and newfound love for the King of Slytherin.

Ron's face fell with every passing second of silence on Harry's part. Hermione merely looked concerned.

"You know, it's not altogether surprising," Hermione commented after a moment.

Ron looked at her again in disbelief. Harry mirrored him. "Come again?"

A flush tainted her cheeks as she hastened to elaborate. "I – I mean, Harry's always been the most animated around Malfoy, right?"

"Most animated? What the ruddy hell is that supposed to mean? Harry, what does that mean?"

Harry didn't want to answer because his gut was screaming at him that she was maybe, kind of, absolutely right.

"But – but only in a negative way," he muttered, staring down at his fidgeting hands.

Ron nodded fervently in support.

Hermione shook her head, frowning again, determined to make her case. "Right, but only because that's the only side you've ever experienced. Malfoy's never had the chance to really show anyone his kind side-"

Ron snorted. "That's because it doesn't exist."

Hermione huffed in exasperation. "Ron, remember what I said in fifth year? About you having the emotional range of a teaspoon?" She sighed. "Look, all I'm saying is that, now without the burden of war weighing down on everyone's shoulders, we can all be a bit more… liberal with how we behave. That includes the Slytherins. You've seen how Parkinson and Seamus having been getting on," she pressed. "This can only be good for inter-house unity."

Ron rolled his eyes and slumped back into the cushions.

"Harry?" Hermione prompted. The other boy had been decidedly silent throughout most of the discussion.

He sighed and shrugged helplessly. "What do you want from me, Hermione? I don't understand any of this. One minute I was so convinced I was going to be with Ginny, but now –"

Ron bolted upwards, glaring at him. "But now?"

"Er… well, we- we've not been on, lately… Ron, it's just been so… so awkward!" Harry moaned, dipping his face in his hands.

"What do you mean, awkward?" Hermione asked softly.

"I dunno," he mumbled into his hands. "Just like – talking is more difficult than it used to be. And there's just no sense of intimacy anymore. It's like… she's just too…"

"Feminine?" Hermione finished for him.

Both boys gaped at her. She merely shrugged.

Harry took his glasses off and sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I need to be alone." He got up and trudged to the portrait hole, leaving the tower altogether. A good long walk outside was what he needed.

With fire in his eyes Ron got up to follow him. Hermione put a hand on his arm, stopping him.

"Ron, I know this is frustrating for you, but it's even more so for him. Just be his friend, alright?"

Ron stood in place, eyes narrowed. After a minute he gave up, sighing in annoyance, dropping to the couch heavily, arms crossed. Hermione smiled and patted his thigh. He rolled his eyes and put an arm around her, pulling her close. She pressed feather-light kisses on his cheeks until the corners of his mouth started twitching upwards.

"Okay, okay! Back off," he laughed, half-heartedly pushing her away.

"So Draco,"

"Shut up, Pansy."

"We all saw you two in Potions class. What were you whispering in his ear the whole time?"

"I said shut up."

"He looked positively flustered. Must have been something very private."

"Poor Potter," she sighed dramatically. "His true love remains unrequited. Will his shattered heart ever recover?"

Draco rolled his eyes and threw a cushion at her. She stopped it with the Impendtimenta charm, snickering at the frustrated boy.

"I for one am very grateful to the old codger. Who knew that Finnigan was so amazing in bed?"

Draco was tempted to cast a silencing charm on his friend.

She tapped a finger to her chin in thought. "I wonder how Potter is? Do you think they all share tips in that little bedroom of theirs?"

"Pansy I will Silencio you, I swear to Salazar," he growled out.

She giggled infuriatingly. "Oh come now Draco, aren't you a teensy bit curious? I for one am not surprised Potter got bored with girl Weasley. He must have masochistic tendencies, wanting to be with you."

Saying nothing, Draco up and left, swearing to himself that any place in the castle at the moment was more preferable than the Slytherin common room. A good long walk sounded like downright therapy.

Of course, when one went on a therapeutic journey to avoid the very subject of one's frustration, it was certainly not preferable to encounter said subject on said journey.



Draco rolled his eyes and pushed to walk by the boy, not keen on spending more time in his presence. It was all too confusing and he wanted nothing more of it. And no, he was not in denial thank you very much.

"Um, wait, I… I want to talk to you. While there's no one around."

Draco considered for a second to argue, but really, what would be the point. He was a tad bit curious to hear what Potter had to say, even if he was trying to deny it. They hadn't really spoken much since Potter had returned his wand to him a week after the war. The summer had been quiet, and then they'd all been summoned back to Hogwarts to finish up their schooling, which had been extremely disrupted in what had been supposed to be their final year. It had only been a month of school and already the veteran students were exhausted.

"I want to figure this all out," Harry mumbled, looking at nothing in particular. Maybe Dumbledore was testing him somehow?

"Surely you can do that without my presence," Draco drawled out, looking down at his finger nails.

Harry sighed. "Apparently not."

An awkward moment sustained itself before Harry spoke again. He tried to remember some of things Hermione had said earlier, about him being the most animated around Malfoy. He had to hand it to Hermione, the girl was very observant, if sixth year was anything to go by.

"Look, er, ever since first year, you've pissed me off to no end."

Draco raised an eyebrow. "Not really the best way to open a love confession, Potter."

Harry felt his face go red and resisted the urge to punch the blonde. Distantly he realized that yes, his friend had been right indeed – no one else got that powerful a reaction that quickly.

"Will you just shut up and listen?"

Draco reluctantly obliged and motioned with his hand for him to continue.

"Right. So. I think I've always been a bit obsessed with you," Harry stated bluntly.

Draco's eyes widened and he all of a sudden felt a bit uncomfortable. This wasn't all a huge joke then? Draco suddenly had the strong urge to make sure there weren't any portraits around them.

"You know, especially in sixth year. Hermione and Ron got a bit annoyed with me, actually. I used to stay up all night and – never mind," Harry bit off, Draco's expression cutting him short. "Anyways. Er, I'm sorry for what happened in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom, by the way." Harry winced at how lame his apology sounded.

Absent-mindedly Draco rubbed his chest, recalling the agony of that day. "That was some spell," he muttered darkly.

"I didn't exactly know what it was going to do," Harry admitted sheepishly.

Draco gaped at him. "You complete idiot, Potter! You used a spell without knowing the consequences? What the fuck!"

"I already got all this from Hermione, thanks. I don't need it again. I said I'm sorry, okay?"

The blonde snorted. "And I get to keep the scars forever." He sighed, eyeing Harry's tentatively hopeful face. "And I guess I'm sorry I tried to Crucio you."

"Thanks." Harry tapped his forehead. "And at least your scars didn't hurt when a psychotic maniac got emotional."

Draco sighed, ignoring his curiousity at Harry's statement. "Get to the point, Potter."

Harry summoned patience. "Fine." The point of this little chatting session with Draco, he didn't exactly know. In truth he had actually wanted to talk to Malfoy, but after he'd had a bit more time to figure his own shit out. What Hermione had said was definitely resonating within him, but all the feelings were still new and confusing and – somewhat exhilarating if Harry allowed himself to admit it. He visibly fidgeted, trying to put into words what he was apparently now feeling for the blonde.

Draco rolled his eyes, losing patience. He sneered at the fidgeting Gryffindor. "Look Potter, I haven't got all day. And neither do you – study break ends in 10 minutes."

Shit, ten minutes wasn't nearly enough time to figure this all out. There had to be an easier way to… to really scope out these new confusing feelings. It was maddeningly frustrating, trying to work it out verbally. Harry's eyes widened as a crazy idea flashed forward. It was stupid, and dangerous, considering the other person involved, but – oh hell with caution. Gryffindor bravery (or stupidity) spurring him on, Harry stepped forward, closing the gap between their bodies. His eyes flashed up into Malfoy's grey ones.

So green – wait - fuck what the hell is Potter doing – no, step back! Malfoy barely had time to process Harry's course of action before he felt a soft pressure descend on his lips. Potter was kissing him. In the middle of the hallway, minutes before class. Nopenopenopenopenope -

Draco grunted and shoved the other boy away, breathing hard, eyes glaring intensely. Potter stood opposite him, breathing equally hard, eyes excited, cheeks flushed, tongue darting out to lick at his lips and damn if he wasn't the most attractive thing Draco had ever seen.

Without saying a word the Slytherin bolted, not even caring if it was in the right direction for class. Alright, so, obviously the third part of the old codger's stupid Naming spell fiasco was that the unrequited love became requited with a kiss shared between both parties. Surely. Because otherwise… secretly living within Draco, perhaps for a long time, was an intense infatuation with Harry Potter. And that idea was so ludicrous that it made Draco laugh out loud, startling Pansy, who stood beside him outside of the Transfiguration classroom.

"And just what is so funny, pray tell?"

"I fucking hate Dumbledore," Draco whispered fiercely. "I think I'm going insane."

Hermione nudged Ron and pointed to Draco and Pansy with her head, pressing a finger to her lips. The two Slytherins hadn't noticed them trying to eavesdrop.

"Something to do with Potter?" Pansy whispered back, curious.

"Isn't it always?" Draco replied warily. He massaged a hand over his face. "Fucking Potter. Why is it always him? Why couldn't it have been some nice wealthy, pure-blooded girl with a nice family? Nothing can ever be easy, can it? Mother will murder me."

Ron would have laughed at the mirroring looks of shock on both girls' faces, if he wasn't feeling so sick at what Malfoy's words had implied.

Pansy's initial shocked face oozed into a smirk. "Draco, Potter is wealthy. Like, super wealthy, from what I've heard."

Draco rolled his eyes. "As always you are completely missing the point."

"Why, did something happen?" Pansy gasped. "Draco! Tell me everything!"

"God, shut up! Not here," Draco muttered, scattering looks at the surrounding curious student body. He couldn't stop the flush from dusting his cheeks. Hell, had Potter really kissed him? Christ.

"Oooh, now I am curious. You're blushing like mad!"

"Shut up, you bint!"

"Mister Malfoy, five points from Slytherin. I will not tolerate that attitude. Now kindly proceed into my classroom," McGonagall scolded, ushering her students in to the room.

Malfoy had the insane urge to stick his tongue out at their professor. He let Pansy usher him in to the room, taking his usual seat beside her. He could not stop his eyes from following the Gryffindor trio as they passed by. His gut gave a sharp lurch when Potter's eyes – fucking amazing shade of green – met his and he hastily looked away. Pansy was watching his every move and he wanted to give nothing away. If there even was something to give away. Which there wasn't. Fucking Dumbledore.

Draco concentrated hard on the Transfiguration lesson, shouting at himself to not turn around to look at Potter, determined to ignore the tingling sensation on the back of his neck that surely meant the Gryffindor's eyes held no interest for anything except for Draco. The Slytherin almost laughed out loud at the irony. Draco should have been used to be watched by Potter like a hawk. Wherever Draco went, Potter was there, glaring with narrowed eyes, Granger and Weasley shooting both Draco and Potter wary glances. Well now those furtive glances held a much different heat in them and it kind of scared Draco. Having Potter's attention devoted directly on Draco during sixth year had made him extremely nervous, adding stress to what had already been a horribly tense situation, leading to his inevitable break down in the bathroom. And now… now Potter's attention was once again focused on Draco. Instead of hostility, it was… curiousity tinged with… Draco shook himself. Concentrate. Transfiguration, right. Draco would just pass his N.E. and then get the hell out of Hogwarts and do… stuff.

It seemed like an absolute eternity before McGonagall was dismissing them. Furious, Draco realized that he had absorbed nothing from the lesson. He would have to get dear old Pansy to fill him in later. He sighed, annoyed at everything, picked up his shit and followed his friend out of the class.



He cleared his throat and looked directly into her brown eyes. There was a kind of reluctant acceptance there, veiled thinly by the hope that Harry was not about to end their romance, and it made Harry feel horrible. But he believed it was best for everyone, and she deserved the absolute truth behind the reason why. Trouble was, Harry didn't really know what the truth was.

"I don't think we're working out," he said, keeping his voice strong.

Ginny sighed and tugged at a chunk of her long red hair. She dropped her gaze to the ground and stepped closer to him, maybe trying to keep this conversation safer from passers-by. They were standing out in the grounds, near the tree that had shaded so many happy hours.

"Yeah," she agreed, her voice sad. "I can feel it too."

Harry breathed a bit easier and some of the tension in his shoulders dissipated. He wanted desperately to remain Ginny's friend, maybe even her pseudo brother. He loved her, he really did, but it was different now. And… it's true, there was someone else now, and he would never have guessed in a million years it would be Draco sodding Malfoy of all people, but hey, life happens. But he knew that Ginny would never understand, especially if Harry did not understand it himself.

"I deserve the truth though, at least," she said, turning to look at him again.

Harry kicked at a stone, watching the ripples on the water. He didn't say anything and each passing second felt like an hour, time curdling sickly in his stomach.

Ginny's eyebrows furrowed and anger erupted on her face. "I'm trying to understand this, Harry. How can you claim to love someone who you've seemingly hated for half your life? How? And, I didn't even know you were gay!"

Harry choked and felt his face heat up. Put so bluntly like that, it seemed extremely ridiculous. He rubbed a hand over his face, trying to massage away some of his embarrassment. He shrugged and met her stern glare.

"I don't know what to tell you, Gin. I don't really understand it either, but… I think it's always been him, yeah? I just never realized it. And as for… well, obviously I'm bisexual. Probably. I mean, I definitely enjoyed being with you."

Ginny snorted and shot Harry an uncharacteristically shy grin. Then a spark of pity hit her gaze and Harry hated it. He clamped his mouth shut, trying not to lose his patience. She was taking this all extremely well; he knew she held a fiery temper that could very well escalate their sensitive conversation to unwanted levels. Harry actually envied her self-control, thinking back on his own behaviour at the end of fifth year.

"Well that certainly explains sixth year a bit better," Ginny said. Harry was supremely relieved to hear a hint of sarcastic humour in her tone.

Harry grabbed at her attitude like a lifeline and gave a tired chuckle. "Yeah, that's what Hermione said."

"I mean, you got so obsessed that you even got bored with Quidditch! Quidditch, Harry!"

Harry moaned pitifully and covered his face with both hands. "I know! I wasted so much time on him!" He resurfaced, shooting her a glare. "And it was for a good reason, mind you. But still, you make a good point."

The grin slid off Ginny's face, and she narrowed her eyes. "So what? Are you just gonna corner him or something and demand a relationship?"

Harry blushed and scratched at his nose. "Er, well, that didn't work too well."

"What? You already tried? What happened? I demand details!"

Harry's face hurt with the smile he gave her. All of a sudden he had one of his best friends back. Months of awkwardness melted away into breath-taking relief and he wrapped his arms around Ginny, who gave a surprised laugh. He squeezed her hard and wondered at how damned lucky he was to have her friendship.

"Thanks Gin," he said, sighing happily into her hair. She gave an awkward pat to his back and he pulled back.

"So, details! Come on Harry, it's not like you'll be able to share with anyone else. Hermione will just splutter and be all prudish, and Ron will just throw a fit, I know he will."

Harry chuckled. "Yeah, he's not too thrilled."

"Well, even though it'll be hard for me to fully accept this, if Malfoy makes you happy, then who the fuck am I to argue? Also gay sex is hot."

Harry stared at her open-mouthed, his face red. What… he hadn't even thought about – oh God, and now he was just gaping at Ginny like an idiot, trying not to picture everything he could do with the blond, who was probably loads more experienced than Harry, but surely it didn't really matter that much, if the feelings were strong enough, right? Oh God…

"Oh tosh off, don't look at me like that. The least you can do is divulge to me all the dirty details. I have to get some kind of positive out of all this."

After another awkward minute Harry managed to collect himself. "Er, well, nothing much has happened yet."

"Have you kissed yet?"

Harry coughed, face hot. "Sort of," he mumbled.

Ginny looked a bit hurt, but Harry could see her curiousity was winning. "When?"

"Last week. Sorry," he said, realizing that he had still technically been a couple with Ginny.

The girl pursed her lips. "I'll only forgive you if you tell me everything."

Harry gave a weak laugh. "Fair enough."

"So? How was it? Did he like it?"

Harry snorted. "Probably not, as he ran off. Granted, I kind of charged at him a bit. He was probably just shocked more than anything."

"Reminds me of our first kiss," Ginny said, giving him a wistful smile. "Though, if you'd ran off I'd have just chased you and pinned you down."

"Hah, yes, well, I don't think Draco would have really appreciated that much. He looked like a deer caught in the headlights."


"Ah, it's a Muggle expression. Y'know, headlights are on cars, and… never mind."

"Are you going to try again?"

Harry shrugged.

"Maybe at the Halloween party?"

"Oh, are you going to that? I thought it was eighth years only…"

"Like hell I'm not going! I deserve to be there as much as anyone."

Harry grinned at her, loving how feisty his friend was. Definitely Molly Weasley's daughter. "Maybe. We'll see. I don't even know if he's going."

"Ask him then."

"… Ask him? Like, out on a date?" Dear God, it was like fourth year all over again. He remembered preferring to fight another Hungarian Horntail to choosing a date for the Yule Ball, and that had been back when things had been relatively simple. Now he was supposed to ask Draco Malfoy, ex Death Eater and Slytherin King, out to a secret Hogwarts party? Funny how life happened. Well fuck, at least there was no psychotic immortal freak out to kill him anymore. Harry could fully appreciate that asking a person out on a date, regardless of who they were, was a luxury that many could not have even afforded consideration during the war. All of that was over now, and Harry was going to take advantage of it. "Yeah, okay, I think I will."

Ginny beamed at him and slapped him on the shoulder. "Nice to see that ol' Gryffindor courage! Don't let it be like the Yule ball fiasco."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Alright, enough out of you," he said, grinning at her.

They started walking back to the school, sensing it was soon time for dinner. "I'm really glad I have you, Ginny. Really. It means a lot."

Ginny gave him a smile, trying to mask how much she would miss being Harry's other half. She couldn't deny that a part of her was relieved; the last few months really had been awkward. No one had mentioned it, even though everyone had sensed it. Well, everyone except for her oblivious brother. Ron would certainly need strong counselling to accept Harry's new love interest. At least Ginny could still be there for Harry to support him.

"Yeah, well, don't forget our deal. You can come talk to me about your love issues only if I get details." Ginny laughed as Harry blushed.

Pansy tugged at Draco's sleeve. Draco eyed her, annoyed and impatient.

"What?" he hissed. "We need to go to class, Slytherin really can't afford any more points –" oh fuck it, it's not like anyone actually cared anymore. He sighed. "What?"

"Just wait a sec," she said. She nodded her head to the left and Draco followed her gaze. Potter and his two cronies were exiting the Great Hall and immediately shot him wary glances. He made eye contact with Granger and shrugged both his shoulders as if to say "what do you want? I'm just standing here!"

Finnigan and Thomas exited a second later and Pansy made a stupid squealing noise and let go of Draco's abused sleeve, flouncing off to see her new boy toy, leaving Draco suddenly alone and wishing desperately that Greg still populated his shadow.

And then Potter was shooing off his friends and awkwardly approaching Draco, chewing at his lip, his eyes shooting to the floor and goddamnit he suddenly looked too adorable for words and Draco had the urge to run away again.

"Er, hi," Potter said, eloquent as ever. Girl Weasley actually winked at Potter, then proceeded to drag away Weasley and Granger, which was extremely out of place and now Draco felt truly nervous.

"What?" Draco snapped. Potter seemed unaffected by his tone. Damn.

"Are you, er, going to the Halloween party on Friday?"

Draco raised an eyebrow. He had, actually, been intending to go to the secret eighth-years-only Hallow's Eve party, thinking that maybe it would be good to relieve some of the tension amongst the war-exhausted students. A party was just what everybody needed to forget a little bit, to inject some excitement and fun into their lives, if just for the evening. Yes, Draco had been quite looking forward to it, until he'd heard the location of the party was to be the now repaired Room of Requirement. For obvious reasons, he was reluctant to return to the place of so much tragedy. And anyways, Draco had assumed Potter would be going with girl Weasley, but now that he cared to think about it, the famous couple hadn't really been a "couple" since the new term had begun. And her immediately recent behaviour contradicted every assumption Draco held about the girl. Draco stamped down the urge to smirk. It seemed that Potter had cut off things with her, and was now in direct pursuit of Draco – which, really, should have made Draco feel superior and given him the urge to just humiliate Potter, but, like in Potions class, he just… didn't feel like it. Maybe it was the fact that Harry fucking Potter had just asked Draco out on a date. So in response to Potter's question he merely shrugged. "Sure."

Potter's green eyes lit up a bit at the somewhat hopeful reply. It had not, after all, been an outright rejection. "Great. I, uh, well –" Potter chewed his lip, his eyes darting to and from Draco's, and Draco held his breath, because it looked like the boy was trying to gather up the courage to say something important, but then – "Well, I guess I'll see you there then." Potter seemed supremely disappointed in himself and Draco wanted to punch the bloke, frustrated that he would be so bloody obvious about his feelings and not have the courage to do anything about it. But Draco was a fucking pathetic tool himself, so really, he had no say in the matter. And, honestly, it wasn't like Draco actually wanted to go to a party with Potter. Really, what a stupid idea. The two of them at a party – Potter couldn't even dance, for goodness sakes.

The Slytherin sighed. "Whatever, Potter." Besides, if Potter was okay with spending hours in the Room of Requirement then Draco could be too. After all, the Room would probably not resemble the Room of Hidden Things, which had been destroyed by that horrible cursed fire.

"Bye then," Potter said. He stood there for a second, blatantly nervous about something.

Draco eyed him wearily, not used to such unpredictable behaviour from the Gryffindor. "Right." Potter's eyes flashed down to Draco's mouth and suddenly it was a bit hotter in the Entrance Hall, and – and Draco really needed to go to class. "Bye, Potter," he said as he walked calmly away. Later he felt like punching himself, because damn, he was a fucking huge hypocrite.

The days leading up to the party passed by in a much welcomed blur. Potter hadn't tried to kiss Draco again, a reality which Draco could not tell whether he was pleased or disappointed about. Because really, Draco hadn't even had time to really feel the kiss. Potter had nearly bowled Draco over with his haste, and Draco's eyes had nearly been impaled by those stupid ugly frames the boy insisted on wearing (didn't Potter have mountains of gold? Why didn't he just replace the goddamn things? Or better yet, correct his atrocious vision with magic? Honestly.). What if Potter actually was a good kisser? His lips had certainly felt… Draco shook himself. Charms class was no place to be thinking about snogging his rival.

Pansy of course was going to the party with Finnigan. She had on a scandalously short dress, which left nothing at all to the imagination, and had the Irish boy practically drooling, much to her amusement. Draco himself wore a pair of dark navy trousers, slightly tighter than his uniform pair, and a form-fitting cerulean collared shirt. Simple and comfortable. Pansy had claimed they were going to be late if he didn't tear himself away from his reflection this minute, hauling him away and insisting that his hair looked lovely and that Potter would surely be a fool to pass him up. Draco had spluttered and blushed fiercely, arguing with her all the way to the seventh floor that really, he just looked good as a general self-rule. Greg had opted to stay in the dormitories, mumbling something about reading his comics and wanting to be alone, and Draco did not blame him for wanting to stay away from it all.

Being a tad late made things easier. There was already a door formed in the wall, signalling the Room was in active use. Draco steadied his slightly racy breathing and Pansy gave his hand a reassuring squeeze. Granger stood next to the door and acknowledged their arrival with a tight-lipped nod, making eye contact only with Draco.

"Evening Malfoy," Hermione offered, speaking directly to Draco. Beside him Pansy sniffed in disdain, not oblivious to being ignored. Despite himself, Draco felt that his friend deserved the cold hostility from Granger, after what had happened in the Great Hall the year before. Granger cleared her throat. "The Room is still a bit weak, but it should respond to simple wishful thoughts. I think requesting small things like pillows or goblets would actually help progress the repairs, so I'm encouraging everyone to give it a try, even if they don't really need anything."

Draco nodded, agreeing this made sense.

"Why the hell would we need pillows?" Pansy snapped.

Draco rolled his eyes. "It was just an example, let it go," he muttered.

Pansy sighed and grabbed his hand, pulling him forward, clearly wanting to join the party. "Well come on then, Seamus is probably wondering where the hell I am."

Draco found himself quite unable to move. He swallowed past a dry throat as he stared at the wooden doors. His breath seemed to be constrained in his chest, unable to form fully. A flash of raging fire sparked in his vision and he shook his head as if there were bugs swarming around him, blinking rapidly. He resisted the urge to cough, knowing that there was no actual smoke filling the hallway.

"Go in without me," Draco said, ashamed at how shaky his voice sounded. "I need to – to use the loo."

Pansy hesitated for a second, looking a bit concerned. Draco shook his head almost imperceptibly and she rolled her eyes, nodding. "I'll see you in there." He watched as his friend opened the doors and entered the room, a blast of noise and laughter reaching his ears. He caught a glimpse of the social gathering inside. Perfectly safe. No fire. Just go in, damnit.

Draco exhaled shakily and swallowed again, trying to clear the lump forming in his throat. He lifted one foot to take a step forward, then let it fall back in place.

He couldn't go in.

It was ridiculous. There was no fire this time, no frantic desperate climb to survive, no smoke trying to choke the breath in his lungs, but his brain did not seem to fully grasp the apparent safety of what lay behind the doors.


Granger approached him timidly, expecting him to lash out at her, because really, what else had he ever done to her? He snapped his gaze to her, seeing the open concern on her face. Concern for him. He appreciated dimly that she had been in the Room too, that awful night. She knew what he was going through, more so than Pansy, and that was possibly why Granger was still outside, hesitating to enter a space holding so many horrible memories. For the first time he felt empathy with Granger. It was disconcerting, but altogether humbling.

"Need a minute," Draco mumbled, avoiding her gaze.

Granger's eyes widened. She had been expecting him to react a lot more negatively than that. She stepped back, giving him back his space, not wishing to puncture the delicate bubble of cautious conversation.

"Harry's in there, too," she said softly after a minute, as if this was an important piece of information.

Draco almost laughed, because for some reason it did mean something that Potter had already made it into the Room. Everything was so ridiculous about this entire situation. "Of course he is."

"Do you… I can go get him if you want?"

That snapped Draco out of his "moment". He could fucking go into a party without a damned chaperone, thank you very much! He sneered down at Granger, who actually had the nerve to smile, and then accepted the final steps to the doors, shoving them open. "Aren't you coming in?" He asked, peering around at her.

Granger gave him a beaming smile and nodded. Draco felt like an idiot. He did not deserve that smile. All Draco saw when he looked at Granger was terrible memories of the manor, all he heard was screams being ripped from her throat as his Aunt Bellatrix had tortured her. He had been there, fighting against Potter and the rest of them like a filthy coward, while they had all nearly been killed, and now she was fucking smiling at him and it made him feel horribly guilty. Needing to get away from her, he hurried into the room and all the distraction it offered.

The party was in full swing. The room was spacious, easily holding its thirty or so occupants. The decorations were magnificent, rivalling those shown off at the annual Halloween Feast, which had occurred the previous night. There were the regular assortment of live bats flocking around, glowing pumpkins hovering in the corners, burning candles, random spider webs in the corners. And then there were random, slightly out-of-place decorations, like rainbow-patterned streamers and bubbling fountains, that Draco suspected the Room had provided on the whims of its occupants.

Draco breathed a small sigh of relief as Granger veered off to go find Weasley. Draco scanned the room. All of the eighth years were there, and a few from seventh, maybe even a scattering of sixth years. He couldn't trust any of them. Hell, he could not even trust the room itself. What was to stop any of the party goers from wishing a candle to fly into Draco's eye? Or something more terrible? He fingered the wand poking out of his pocket, silently thanking Potter for the millionth time that he'd deemed Draco worthy enough of its return. Damn, he owed Potter a lot. If he let himself realize just how indebted he was to Potter it would be a little bit overwhelming. Worse was that Draco had no idea if he was good enough to repay the debt. He sighed and picked up a random drink from the food table, not even tasting the smooth liquid as it glided down his dry throat. Really, he should not have even come to this stupid party. He wanted his N.E. to land a job on his own terms, yes, that was the only reason keeping him at the school, amidst all of the glares and murderous stares directed at him on a daily basis. But there was no reason to have attended this stupid party… except for of course…

Laughter, particularly that brand of laughter, caught Draco's ear. Huh. He had never really heard Potter laugh before. Draco decided it was a pleasant enough sound that need immediate repeating. Trying to remain inconspicuous, he took a few steps closer to the group in the corner. Granger, Weasley, Potter, Thomas, Longbottom and Lovegood. Draco spotted Finnigan and Pansy close by; Seamus was clearly eager to join his Gryffindork friends, but obviously wanted to stay in Pansy's good graces. Draco snorted at the ridiculousness of the entire situation. Curiously, girl Weasley was also absent from the Gryffindor reunion, in fact she was across the room curiously close to Dean Thomas, and Potter didn't seem to care much. For some reason Draco felt a little bit ecstatic at that observation.

After a minute Draco was embarrassed to realize he had been hovering, extremely awkwardly, near the group. He caught Granger's eye and quickly looked away, feeling his face heat up – what the hell is wrong with him. He took a gulp of whatever he was drinking to distract himself. It wasn't like he wanted Potter to himself or anything, but he was curious if, you know, Potter still loved him after all, and maybe –

"Hello Draco," Luna's dreamy voice said, floating over everyone's heads.

Draco choked on his drink. Oh for the love of God, it was a social gathering, so why did he feel so wrong at being, what, caught? Granted, he did look a bit weird just standing there, alone, a few feet away from the Gryffindors.

"What the hell do you want, Malfoy?" Ron demanded, glaring at him over Harry's head.

Hermione rolled her eyes and worried at her lip, clearly expecting a full out brawl to ensue.

Draco took a calming breath, willing his patience to keep up with the situation. "Nothing at all, Weasley. Surely you don't have a problem with me just standing here, do you?"

Ron narrowed his eyes distrustfully. Granger hissed something up into his ear and the boy's face turned red and he dropped his glare. Potter blushed when he met Draco's eye and it was bloody wonderful. Draco took another sip of his drink as suddenly he felt his mouth go extremely dry. Knowing that apparently the Saviour of the World felt some kind of love towards him, combined with the memory of their brief kiss was doing – things to Draco's self-restrained libido, and maybe it was just the infectious party atmosphere, or some other factor, but suddenly Draco just really wanted everyone to leave except for Potter. Some part of him wished that he and Potter could somehow be alone, right now, just to figure some part of this whole thing out. He held contact with those green eyes, letting a few of his walls drop down, and saw Potter's eyes widen by a fraction.

The air around Draco seemed to crackle and tingle, people gasped in shock, and suddenly Potter and Draco were inside a small room of their own, or perhaps even a tent of some sort. It was a bit dark, with a few candles hovering in the small space around them. Sounds from the party outside were muffled, but it sounded like people were shouting, maybe even banging on the walls of their conjured space.

"What the fuck?" Potter's eyes were wide, frantically taking in his newly cramped surroundings, a brilliant blush dusting his cheeks. He patted at the walls around him, confirming their stubborn integrity.

Draco's heart beat wildly in his chest. He'd forgotten what room he'd been in – the fucking Room of Requirement, which actually fulfilled wishes. Well fuck, he hadn't meant for his wish to be alone with Potter to be taken literally, had he? And now it had happened, and the people outside were probably going insane with worry that their precious Saviour was encased in a fucking box with an ex Death Eater.

"That wasn't me, I swear. I mean, the Room must've – otherwise…" Potter sort of trailed off, shooting furtive glances to Draco.

Draco sighed, massaging a face over his temple. "It might have been me."

Harry's eyebrows rose and he stared at Draco in disbelief. "What – erm, what exactly were you thinking before this happened?"

"I'd say it's pretty fucking obvious, isn't it Potter?"

Harry sighed, expressing out loud Draco's own frustration. "Look, I don't want to be stuck in here with you if you're going to be a bitch about it. I'll just wish us out, yeah?"

Draco snapped a hand on to the boy's forearm. "Ah, no wait, not yet."

Harry's eyes widened further at the pale hand gripping his arm. Draco cleared his throat and retracted his hand.

"Besides," he rushed to say, "I don't think we're technically stuck in here. The entire party is probably fervently wishing us out of here anyways."

"Well then clearly the Room's magic is working well enough to keep fulfilling your wish. What exactly did you wish for?"

Draco sighed in frustrating and wished he had enough room to effectively pace his anger out. It was starting to get a little bit hot in their enclosure. He tugged nervously at his collar, thankful he was not dressed in their usual thick robes.


The Slytherin rounded on Harry, exhaling harshly. "I – I just wanted a second to – to figure it out. What the fuck do you mean by it? What do you mean you love me? How can that be possible, Potter? How?!" Draco realized dimly that he was shouting. The people outside could probably hear but he did not care at all.

Harry backed up a bit, pressing his back against the cushiony wall of their little partition. Draco cancelled out the distance, glaring desperately at the Gryffindor. He watched, fixated, as Harry swallowed. Flashbacks of Harry's earlier conversation with Ginny shot to the forefront of Harry's mind, and wow, how could the same conversation be so different with a different person? "I – I don't know! I didn't even realize I felt that way until a few weeks ago!" He bit his lip, drawing Draco's eyes to it like a magnet. "We have a lot of history, most of it negative, but all of it charged, and I don't know, maybe in some way, the tension was masking something else?" Harry didn't sound positively sure about his line of reasoning, and that did not comfort Draco. His eyes were trying to bore inside Draco, distracting him from staying focussed. "I just - I think maybe we're supposed to – I mean, I want to – I don't know, okay?!"

"Potter, you are so messed up! This entire thing is insane!"

A sort of hysterical laugh tumbled out of Harry's mouth. "Draco, you just summed up love perfectly! It is always insane, and hardly ever makes sense! All I know is that you've always been there – I mean fuck, I was obsessed with you in sixth year, and looking back it probably wasn't all just because I suspected you of doing evil shit for Voldemort."

Draco couldn't help it, he cringed at the sound of that piece of shit Wizard's name. "Don't – don't say it."

Harry's eyes burned with stubbornness. "I'll say whatever I goddamn please. I killed that son of a bitch, I'm allowed to say his name – Voldemort."

"Shut up!"

"Make me-"

Draco grabbed Harry's face, turned off his brain and slammed his lips against Harry's mouth. And of course, because the Room had obviously repaired itself only to torment Draco, that was the exact moment when their little alcove of privacy vanished itself, leaving Harry and Draco to crash down to the floor, still joined at the lips, in the middle of the frustrated and angry eighth years.

In a move that surely saved Draco's fate, Harry acted quickly and flipped them over, so that he was on top, making it obvious that he was now in control of their kiss, cupping Draco's face close to his, prying open Draco's pliant lips with his tongue, making Draco's gut surge with pleasure, deafening him to the outraged cries of the crowd around them. A few people made cat calls, seemingly urging them on. One of them might have been Ginny Weasley, but it couldn't have been because that would be ridiculous.

Harry broke away, leaving Draco breathless and desperate for more. "Did you figure it out then?"

In reply Draco shoved Harry's head back down to meet his lips, kissing him again before Harry whined and broke away.

"We need to get out of here," Harry half-moaned into Draco's ear, a ragged, husky sound that short-circuited some part of Draco's brain. "Come on, come with me. I need to save you from Ron."

Draco let himself be tugged up and pulled out of the room. Harry somehow managed to get both of them out of the Room unscathed. He avoided everyone's incredulous stares, feeling horribly like he was already on trial for bewitching their Saviour. Blindly, Draco followed closely behind Harry, dimly aware that they were heading towards Gryffindor house. Luckily they ran into no one on the way, as it was way passed curfew.

"Back early, dears?" The Fat lady commented brightly.

"Dragon scales!" Harry replied a bit breathlessly.

The portrait door swung open at the password and Draco followed Harry into the Gryffindor common room for the first time ever. It was all extremely surreal. He wondered where they would go next. His gut surged again as he realized that every other Gryffindor eighth year was still at the Halloween party, leaving the boy's dormitory completely empty.

The few people in the common room looked like blurs to Draco as Harry sped them up towards the dormitory. They were both slightly out of breath from adrenaline and the speed of their exit. Harry finally closed the door behind them, wandlessly casting a few privacy spells as he did so. Draco had about a second to appreciate the power behind the magic, and the utility of the spells before Harry, with a mad look in his eyes, shoved Draco down on a four-poster bed.

"P-Potter, w-wait, I-"

"What?" Harry barked. Boldly, he sat on Draco, straddling the boy's hips. Draco swallowed past a dry throat, felt his heart beat hard in his chest. "What?" Harry asked again, more gently this time, leaning down closer to the blonde, the tips of their noses grazing in the softest of touches.

Draco shivered and his eyelids fluttered. He inhaled deeply to calm his heart, and his mouth watered a bit as the musky scent of boy flooded his senses, and oh dear Lord how he had missed being this physically close to another human being. The last few years of hard War had left him severely touch-starved, and now Harry Potter was straddling his hips, and it was all crazy, and damn if that crazy Old Man's practical joke wasn't the best thing to ever happen to him. Harry's impossibly green eyes stared down at him and anything Draco had to say to contradict any part of his current situation withered and died on his tongue.

"Nothing," Draco whispered, panting slightly. Slowly he brought his hands up to rest lightly on Harry's denim thighs, feeling them tremble beneath his fingers. Harry tilted his head, keeping his lips a fraction of a kiss away from Draco's, teasing him. Draco's lips followed Harry's, drawn like a magnet. A small groan of frustration escaped his throat, and maybe that was all the permission Harry needed to confirm that this was actually happening. Their mouths met, immediately opening, and Harry moaned loudly when their tongues glided against each other. It was by far the best kiss Draco had ever shared with anybody, and the fact that it was with Harry Potter made it astounding. Something hard and annoying pressed into Draco's temple and he backed out of their kiss.

"Potter," Draco panted against Harry's lips.

"Harry," the boy said into his ear, pressing kisses down his neck.

"Harry," Draco moaned. "Harry…"


"Take your glasses off," Draco whispered, nudging Harry's head up. "Do it properly this time." This time, because there had been a last time, and surely there would be a next time.

Harry smiled and obediently removed his frames, setting them to rest on his bedside table. "Better?"

Even in the dim lighting of the bedroom, Draco was hooked on Harry's eyes. Without the glass of the frames in the way, Draco could really look into Harry. It was stupid how happy it made the Slytherin feel. He let his eyes roam all over Harry's face, eventually resting on the lightning bolt-shaped scar cutting into his forehead. He frowned and brought a thumb to scrape along the scar. That one small, seemingly insignificant mark had been the cause of countless deaths and years of hardship. Draco sighed roughly and pulled Harry into a fierce embrace. Maybe none of it did have to make sense. Maybe all he needed was to, just for once in his life, let himself feel. And whatever this was with Harry, it felt right. Maybe love is a beacon, cutting a light through the complexities of life, making things a little bit simpler in its own messy way. It had taken a lot of fucking work to uncover the beacon, but was still there.

"It's kind of stupid," Draco mumbled into Harry's hair.

Harry pulled sharply back, eyes furrowed with insecurity. "What is?"

"It's stupid how much tragedy it took for us to get to this point."

Harry nearly cried with relief. Up until this point, he'd been guessing how Draco felt about it all, pawing around in uncertainty. Having Draco openly acknowledging that there was a "this" was both exhilarating and terrifying. Harry decided to ride the former feeling, shoving away the inevitable consequences of their union for future analysis. He pressed a finger to Draco's lips, shutting off further words.

"I don't want to talk about any of that right now. Just… let's just be, yeah?"

"Show me how, then," Draco muttered, saddened by the realization that he'd never before in his life been allowed to 'just be'.

"Okay," Harry whispered. He pressed a kiss to Draco's forehead, then one to each of his cheeks, giving a strangled whimper and pausing to kiss away the salty tears resting there. "I hated to see you crying," Harry mumbled against Draco's neck. "It made me feel sick."

Draco hugged Harry tighter to him and gave a sad laugh. "I didn't much like it either. Myrtle was goddamned annoying about it, too."

Harry snorted. "Yeah, that was an unexpected development."

"I thought you said you didn't want to talk about this?"

Harry gave him a small smile. "No, I don't really. Too many other things higher on my priority list."

Draco felt another surge of pleasure in his stomach. "Such as?"

Harry kissed him again, effectively cutting of the need for anymore conversation. Tonight Harry would treat this burgeoning relationship with Draco like any other development in his life; he would dive head first and ask questions later.

They were a tangle of bony limbs and there was nothing soft about either of them, and it should have been painfully awkward, both mentally and physically, but the fact that it was not awkward spoke volumes about how perfectly they fit together. Harry quite effectively shut down Draco's ability to say anything coherent beyond "yes", "more" or "goddamnit Harry I'm not made of glass". It was not gentle, and maybe it would take a lot of work to get to that stage, because there had never been anything gentle shared between Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter. Right now there wasn't enough room to be gentle, Harry needed this too much, needed to prove to both Draco and himself that yes, okay, maybe he had felt strongly for the Slytherin for quite some time now, and all they'd needed was a big push in the right direction. Because this, this frantic physical rush of desire, was definitely the right direction.

Quite some time later, Draco felt himself submitting to blissful exhaustion. He heard Harry whisper "finite" on the privacy spells right before sleep pulled him under.

Draco didn't want to be here, but he knew there was no escape. Aunt Bella froze him with her insane eyes, her twitching lips, her insanity promising nothing but painful retribution should he make a move in the wrong direction. Where was Mother? No, he didn't want to speak with Father – Father was as bad as Him. It was not okay, none of this was. Maybe that raddish girl could help… but no, Draco had hurt her too, and Mr Ollivander.

Someone was screaming, and maybe it was him, he couldn't tell. No, that was a girl. Brown bushy hair. Horrible. She turned into a house elf, a pitiful creature that Draco had about a second to recognize before it was being ripped in half by – a chandelier? No, a dagger. Too much blood. Draco was drowning, drowning in red hot flames of blood curling into snakes, strangling him and stealing breath from his lungs, choking off his screams. A huge python danced in front of him, red eyes burning Draco's vision. A horrible laugh – a cackle, no, crackling – flames everywhere, licking at his mind and taunting his sanity. Panic. Keep breathing, no wait, run. Crabbe and Goyle laughed around him, screaming curses and pushing Draco off a tower of things no one had remembered to collect. Draco was dying, and hadn't this happened before? Pain bloomed across his chest and now he was bleeding, cold water was soaking through his skin, but there would never be enough blood to quench the raging flames surrounding him.

Green eyes burst through the flaming creatures, green like the death curse, except there was promise and hope shining from those emeralds, not murder. The promise in those eyes refilled Draco's lungs with desperately needed oxygen, staving off the burning inferno threatening to pull him under.

"Draco! Here, I'm here! Grab my hand!"

He was too far away, he would never reach Potter in time, no matter what anyone said about his Quidditch skills. He didn't have a broom, so how the hell could Draco be expected to compete? He'd always lost before, and this time was surely no different. Father sneered down at him, a huge fiery face amidst all the other monsters of Draco's nightmares.

The fiery mouth of Lucius Malfoy opened, wide and grotesque, flames licking around his face. "You think Potter can save you? You think Potter loves you? Oh Draco, you were always such a disappointment."

"No, Father, stop – shut up!"

"Draco, grab for my hand!"

"I can't, I can't reach you! Help me!"


Draco thrashed, his limbs unable to break free from – danger, going to die, can't breathe – Father will kill me this time, I know he will, and Mother will die too, if I don't repair the cabinets -

"Draco, sshhhh, it's okay, come back to me, come on," someone was hissing frantically in his ear.

Blessed consciousness rushed Draco back to life like a dunk in a cold stream. Oh God, it was all just a dream. No, a fucking terrifying nightmare. That was Harry's arms wrapped around him, not fatally cursed flames conjured by a panicked victim.

Draco moaned, squeezing his eyes shut. It was still dark in the room, and his body was exhausted. He felt like shit, his skin clammy and cold and he was shivering. His lack of shirt did not help either, his naked chest exposed to the cool midnight air. He swallowed past a dry throat, whimpering and feeling pathetic, wanting Harry to look away, but to keep holding him because he was Draco's anchor. No one had ever comforted him after a nightmare and, up until this very moment, he didn't realize how much he needed it.

Harry rubbed soothing circles onto his sweaty back, peering at him with worried eyes, a look that Draco had only seen a few times before, but now finally had the time to fully appreciate.

"Sorry," Draco mumbled. He slumped against the pillows, massaging his trembling hands over his face. God, he hadn't had a nightmare that powerful since his dreadful nights at the manor.

Harry shook his head and gave him a shaky grin. "Don't need to be sorry about anything."

There was a shuffling sound behind the closed curtains and some mumbling. Harry opened the curtains to poke his head through, seeing who was awake. Draco curled inwards, realizing then that he was practically naked, in Harry Potter's bed, surrounded by potentially hostile Gryffindors. And he did not feel remotely like defending himself to anyone.

"Hey, Ron, please, can you go get me a glass of water?" Harry whispered.

There was a moment of tense silence, and Draco watched as Harry silently communicated the urgency of his request to his best mate. Draco held his breath, realizing this was a heavily charged moment. There was a loud huff of frustration, the sound of blankets being shoved down, then padded footsteps near the bed. Harry sighed a breath of relief and turned back to Draco after casting a soft "lumos" with his wand. The glow of light cast Draco into sharp relief, highlighting on the dips and rises of his chest, the shadows under his eyes, his ruffled hair, and – Harry blushed – the dark red bruises on his pale neck.

"I hate nightmares, too. They always make me feel like shit," Harry whispered.

Draco grunted. "Yeah. I bet yours were way worse," he admitted. He'd heard, of course, how Harry's fits in class, his head aches, his famously bad nightmares had all been exacerbated or caused by Harry's shared head space with Lord Voldemort. It was another thing to add to Draco's guilt list.

Harry shrugged. "Hey, a nightmare's a nightmare. They all suck." He paused a beat, searching Draco's tired face. "Do you, er, want to talk about it? Sometimes it helped for me…"

The blonde was just opening his mouth to reply when the curtains brushed softly open, a glass of water held in a freckled hand. The curtains opened to reveal Ron, who was obviously trying his hardest to avoid looking at his shirtless friend and his equally exposed bed mate.

"Oh, thanks," Harry nodded. He took the glass of water and handed it to Draco.

Despite himself, Ron quietly asked, "Nightmare?"

Harry met Draco's eyes, and Draco tipped his head forward, indicating that Harry could tell his friend whatever he pleased. He took a sip of the water and nearly groaned aloud at how soothing the cool liquid felt against his burning throat. God, this was so much better than just trying to go back to sleep, scared and alone and hardly daring to breathe.

"Yeah," Harry whispered back, surprise that Ron had even bothered to ask evident in his tone. "Draco had a bad one." He stared at Ron, silently begging him to be sensitive about this issue. He'd had enough experience sharing a dorm with Harry to know that nightmares, regardless of who suffered from them, were not to be ridiculed. Nevermind that Draco Malfoy, the most infamous Slytherin and son of Lord Voldemort's right-hand man, was currently lying almost naked in Harry's bed, still looking disheveled from an evening of intense intimacy.

Ron's eyes slid down and landed on Draco's exposed chest, and he grimaced. Harry was about to tell him off, mitigating what would surely be a distasteful comment about the blonde's exposure, but then Harry detected sympathy in the red head's widened blue eyes. Ah… the scars.

Draco noticed the attention and glared at both of them, pulling up his blankets to cover his chest, feeling extremely vulnerable. But still…Draco was tired of always being angry and hated, so…

"Thanks, Weasley," he muttered, raising the half-full glass of water in Ron's direction.

"Uh, no problem," Ron said, surprise clear in his tone. "Night then."

Ron closed the curtains and returned to his bed.

"Do you still want to tell me about it?" Harry asked quietly. He leaned in and brushed a straying lock of blonde hair back from Draco's clammy forehead.

"No." Draco turned to his side, away from Harry. There was a tense silence and then he heard Harry sigh.

"Nox." The light went out and darkness fell.

Draco wasn't the least bit tired. He felt annoyed and scared in the aftermath of his nightmare, annoyed at Weasley seeing his vulnerability and his ugly scars, guilty and frustrated about denying himself the chance to open up to Harry, and most of all, insecure about this new relationship he was diving blindly into. He bit his lip and groaned in frustration, begging himself to just fucking let it go. It was almost physically painful when he felt a warm arm wrap around his chest, purposefully stroking down a part of the scars.

"Maybe in the morning," Draco finally mumbled. He couldn't lose what he had with Potter before it had even begun, screw the consequences. His stomach churned unpleasantly at the thought of how the rest of the student body took the news, or – Draco shuddered – how his Mother would take it. He wasn't even going to think about his Father. He was in Askaban, and could rot for all Draco cared.

Draco actually felt Harry's smile form on the back of his neck and it nearly gave him a heart palpitation. The arm resting over Draco's chest squeezed and Harry snuggled in closer, pressing his groin into the crevasse of Draco's backside.

Sleep evaded Draco for a long time, but he must have drifted off at some point, because suddenly it was bright in their secluded bed space and people were talking.

"… Three Broomsticks today for lunch?"

"Sounds good. Is, um, Pansy coming too?"

"Yeah mate, and you're gonna have to get used to seein' her around," Finnigan replied.

There was a bit of a tense silence. Quietly, Harry sat up and stretched, his back cracking. Draco stayed still, for some reason wanting to pretend he was still sleeping. It was Sunday, and everyone had been planning on spending it in Hogsmeade. Eighth years were allowed to visit the village every weekend, provided they occasionally volunteered some of their time assisting with the ever ongoing repairs.

Harry gazed down at Draco, his breath catching. It had really happened then. Draco Malfoy was really in his bed, they had really kissed in front of everyone, had really almost shagged in his bed – Harry groaned, realizing that Ginny would be absolutely horrible about all of this, demanding all of the details. There was no escape. It was a fair price to pay though, to wake up in bed with someone he cared for. It wasn't a new experience for Harry, as he had shared his bed with Ginny many nights at the Burrow in the summer, both seeking comfort after the traumatic events of the war. But with Draco everything was different. More vivid, and certainly more powerful. It was made even better by the knowledge that Draco had opened up to Harry, both physically and mentally, letting Harry comfort Draco after what had surely been a horrible nightmare. Harry smiled and dipped down to press a kiss to Draco's shoulder.

Draco twitched at the contact and gave up his charade, rolling over to lie on his back, gazing up at Harry. The boy was beautiful, sitting there in the four poster bed with the rich red curtains as a back drop. His glasses were still off, his hair was messier than usual from the countless times Draco had threaded his fingers through it, and there was a soft smile on his face. This is real, and it's happening to me, and I can keep it.

"So is Malfoy actually in there with Harry or what?"

Draco and Harry dawned equal expressions of horror and Draco almost laughed. Dormitory life could be a bitch sometimes.

"Er, yeah Neville, but just let them – Seamus, what the fuck, stop!"

Ron's valiant efforts were for naught as suddenly the red curtains were ripped open, the Irish boy standing at the side of the bed, naked shock on his face.

Draco sat up fully, letting the blankets fall to expose a hip bone. Yes, he was still wearing underwear. He wasn't stupid. But they were low rise, and quite nice looking on him, so he could show them off if he wanted. And also, Harry was becoming adorably embarrassed by the whole thing, and even though Draco's whole life had changed overnight, he still loved picking on Gryffindors, regardless of who they were.

"Why yes, Mr Finnigan, I am indeed actually here. Harry and I were just about to snog each other into oblivion, weren't we love?"

Harry slumped into his bed and groaned, covering his bright red face in his hands.

Dean Thomas actually snorted, Neville made a sort of choking noise, Seamus just spluttered like an idiot and mouthed out the word "love", and Ron looked torn between disgust and respectful amusement. Oh, this was precious, was the Irish boy actually uncomfortable with homosexuality?

Draco smirked and leaned over to Harry, pulling his hands off his face and planted a big loud kiss onto his lips. Seamus squeaked and ran out of the room, grabbing his cloak as he went. Draco pulled back and rolled his eyes.

"That wasn't funny!" Harry barked at Draco, who was now getting himself out of the bed.

"Was a bit, mate," Ron offered, shrugging.

Dean and Neville, the latter frowning at Harry and Malfoy, followed after Seamus.

Ron cleared his throat and pulled on his jumper. "Hermione and I are heading down to the village. You want to meet us all for lunch?"

Harry shot Draco a look and the blonde shrugged. Harry gave him a weary look. "You can't just answer everything by shrugging you know, or this is going to be a very complicated relationship."

Draco blushed. So this is definitely a relationship. If he was going to be with Harry, then he supposed he would have to at least make an attempt at acquaintanceship with the rest of Gryffindor. Pansy at least was making an effort. The rest of Slytherin could suck it, especially Blaise, who still wasn't even speaking to him. Theodore Nott had attempted to strike up a conversation with Katie Bell at the Halloween party, but she had given him a cold glare, stifling his desire to extend anymore olive branches. Greg was just moping around, apparently a bit lost without his other half, distant from the rest of Slytherin House. Draco wondered why Greg had even returned for eighth year, assuming that school had never really been a top priority for the Goyle family.

"If it's alright with your friends, then yes I would love to come," Draco said, trying to keep his tone nice and even and void of sarcasm. He was trying, really.

And if the reward for Draco trying to be nice was Harry smiling at him like he was the most brilliant thing in the whole entire world ever, then Draco would fucking try a lot harder. Draco was positively lost in that smile, those green eyes, fuck he was becoming such a sap –

Ron cleared his throat, red dusting his freckled cheeks. Harry shook himself and turned back to Ron, the smile fading a bit and Draco wanted to punch the ginger right in the face. "Right, well, see you in a few hours then, yeah?"

"Well that went amazingly well, I'd say," Harry spoke after a moment. It was incredible; no one had hexed either of them yet, or accused Draco of enchanting Harry in any way, or had even yelled at him or anything. Granted, he hadn't gotten round to telling Mrs Weasley yet, but Harry didn't want to think about that right now. There were still two months until Christmas Holidays. "I think you and Ron may actually get on."

Draco gaped at Harry as if he'd just asked him to eat a thousand cockroaches. "A Malfoy get along with a Weasley?! My God Potter, you have high hopes. I will just mitigate your dismay right now by ensuring that will never happen. Ever."

"Ever?" Harry had a hurt look on his face, but Draco could see a twinkle of playful amusement on his face as he leaned in closer. "Not even if I do this?" He pressed a quick kiss to the corner of Draco's mouth, darting back before Draco could deepen it.

"If that's all you got, then certainly not."

Harry dipped down to lick at Draco's jaw, nibbling at a soft ear lobe before trailing kisses down into the flushed and sensitive skin of his neck. Draco shuddered and tried to remain focussed.

"N-no, definitely not," Draco wasn't even sure what he was disagreeing to anymore. Something about… Oh God Harry was good at finding exactly what spot on his shoulder to suck. "H-Harry, what – what about Hogsmeade?"

"We have a few hours," Harry panted into his ear. A warm tongue darted into the sensitive appendage and Draco was instantly hard.

Draco moaned and pulled Harry on top of him, gasping at the delicious friction of their erections grinding against each other. Draco's hand had become intimately acquainted with Harry's cock the night before, and he'd almost given Harry the pleasure of his mouth instead of his hand, but Draco had never gotten the chance, but now…

Pleasure surged through both boys as they rutted against each other, Harry panting and moaning into Draco's sensitive ear, fingers scraping at tingling scalps, nails raking down skin. Draco opened his mouth to Harry's tongue, letting the muscles rub and slide against each other, losing himself in the sinful pleasure.

"Want to suck you," Draco managed to finally gasp.

"W-what?" Harry croaked, leaning back and gazing at Draco with wide eyes. He swallowed, the sound audible. "Really?"

Draco narrowed his eyes and took a second to realize that that damned Weasley girl had never given Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Fucking-Most-Deserved-Being-Sucked-Off a blow job. That was fucking unacceptable. Draco had only ever given one blowjob before, and it could have gone a lot worse, so Draco knew he wasn't terrible at it.

"Oh, you've got to be kidding me. You've never…"

Harry shook his head, eyes still wide with cautious optimism.

"Get on your back and sit up a bit on the pillows," Draco ordered. "And take off your boxers."

Breathing slightly heavily, Harry complied, not wanting to say anything in case Draco decided this was all just a huge joke and he hadn't just offered to do the Thing that all his dorm mates spoke of (he still would never be able to get the image of Hermione doing that, thank you very much Ron) that Ginny had never offered to do. Harry's eyes fell to Draco's lips, flushed and swollen looking from kissing and Harry groaned in anticipation.

"Spread your –"

Harry didn't even let Draco finish, spreading his legs as wide as he was comfortable.

Draco smirked at him before dropping his attention down to the – holy shit he has a perfect cock. Well of course Harry Potter, Saviour of the Wizarding World and all that is good, would have ideal proportions. But Draco wasn't at all jealous, because for one, he knew he himself had quite a nice endowment, as Harry had made clear the night before with his attentions, and two, Harry had chosen Draco to be with.

Before Draco or Harry could reflect on anything else but the moment, he leaned down and took Harry's erection in his mouth, lapping at the hot swollen head with his tongue, bringing the salty flavour of pre-cum to his taste buds. Harry twitched violently beneath him, panting and moaning and making beautiful sounds of pleasure, and Draco held down his bucking hips with both hands, needing to control the situation in his favour.

"Oh – oh fuck, Draco, that's – ugghh," Harry panted. His fingers clenched the sheets beneath him, his neck arched back, eyes open wide to stare blindly at the ceiling of his bed.

Draco relaxed his throat and took as much of Harry into his mouth as he could, impressed with himself when he felt coarse pubic hair brush against his nose. Harry made a choking sort of whine, his breaths coming in rapid gasps. Draco retreated all the way to clear his throat and swallow a bit of the saliva that had collected in his mouth, then dove back down again, licking and sucking Harry into incoherent babbling.

"D-Draco, I'm – you need to s-stop, gonna come," Harry gasped, his hips twitching madly beneath Draco.

Panting, Draco broke away and wrapped a hand around Harry's cock, easily pumping it up and down over the slick velvety skin. God, he was nearly coming himself just from watching Harry twitch and moan. He was beautiful and Draco wondered how the hell he'd never seen it before. Harry's whole body stiffened and his mouth opened in a silent scream as he climaxed, thick globs of cum shooting out to cover Draco's hand.

"Fuck," Harry moaned.

"Next time, if you want," Draco said, smirking at Harry. Please say yes for the love of Merlin.

Harry actually growled and yanked the blonde's head down into a vicious kiss, plundering the boy's mouth with his tongue. "Oh I do want, I want it now," he panted. "Fuck that was amazing. Give me your hand." Without waiting for a response from the slightly shell-shocked Draco Harry grabbed the hand that was covered in his spunk and licked it clean, and Draco almost came from the sight.

"Y-yeah? Like, right now?" Draco said, uncertain if Harry knew what he'd actually agreed to.

Harry's eyes were bright and his cheeks were flushed and he nodded, biting his lip. "Only – only if you want."

It wasn't even a question, obviously, but Draco answered anyways by grabbing Harry's face and kissing him deeply. Nervous butterflies made trouble in his gut but Draco wanted it too badly. It was incredible, and unthinkable, but Harry Potter was addictive and Draco wanted everything. There was just the question of logistics, and Draco was assuming Harry had never had previous experience with boys, if what he'd heard about the boy's love life was any indication. Yes, there had been rumours back in fourth year that he and Cedric had been an item, but Draco had never put stock in it.

"Can I fuck you?" Draco asked timidly. Harry looked at him, clearly nervous. "Changes it a bit, yeah?"

"Well, yeah, but – but I want it both ways, eventually. Do you, er, know what to do then?"

Draco nodded eagerly. "I have a bit of experience. Both ways. It hurts like a bitch at first, I won't lie, but then it's fucking incredible."


Draco gave him a slow languid smile. "Really."

The Slytherin held his breath as he stared at Harry, who was apparently still deciding if he wanted it anymore. And fair enough, thought Draco. Having something shoved up your ass did not sound like a picnic. But Draco knew what he was doing, and there was so much riding on this being special and –

"Maybe… maybe we should wait a bit, then?" Draco hated himself for saying it, thinking he'd punctured the happy bubble of whatever happy reality he was currently visiting.

Blessedly, Harry seemed to sag a bit with relief. "Sorry, yeah. Definitely soon though. I want to, with you. It's just…"

"A bit fast, yeah?"

"Come here," Harry said softly, opening his arms. "Thanks."

Things were comfortably silent for a minute.

"Draco," Harry said, nudging the boy in his arms. "Do you want to tell me about your nightmare?"

A chill swept over Draco's skin and he sighed. "Way to ruin the mood, Potter."

Harry rubbed his calloused hands at his back, soothing away the goose bumps. "You don't have to, it's alright."

It was amazing that Draco knew Harry so well that, even though Harry claimed it was alright, it really wasn't. Harry put great stock in people opening up to him, and if Draco exposed his vulnerabilities to Harry, it wouldn't weaken anything; surely their relationship would be a bit stronger, and isn't that what Draco wanted?

"It was just… it was horrible. I think being in the Room of Requirement just sort of kick-started the memories of that night. My Father was in the fiendfyre, and then you came for me, but I couldn't reach you, and – and Bellatrix was torturing Granger, and then I saw Dobby die, and… yeah. Horrible," Draco trailed off. He buried his face into the comforting heat of Harry's neck.

"I dream of that night too, sometimes. Hermione had to practically shove me into that Room yesterday for the party."

And suddenly Draco felt a lot better about himself.

"Urgh, you need to shower, Potter."

Harry chuckled. "Care to join me?"

It was a very long shower.

The Three Broomsticks, luckily, had not been damaged in any way by the war. It was a kind of safe house, welcoming customers in from the slightly chill November air with a warm blanket of nostalgia and good old fashioned pub food. Some of the older students preferred the Hog's Head over the Broomsticks, if only to chat with Aberforth, but today the cozier atmosphere of the Broomsticks was much more welcoming.

Draco tried to not show how bloody nervous he was to be eating a meal with a bunch of Gryffindors – and one Ravenclaw – like he did it every day. Well, okay, technically they all ate under the same roof while at the castle, but there was so much more space in the Great Hall.

There were ten of them crowded around the largest round table in the pub. Draco and Harry sat squished together with Ginny on Draco's left and Harry on his right, then Ron and Hermione, Pansy and Seamus, Dean to Ginny's right, Luna next, then finally Neville. It was a damned nice feeling, being included at a big table full of people, and not having it be for the plotting of murdering teenage boys for psychotic overlords. And surprisingly, Draco was receiving a lot less hostility than he'd anticipated. Which made him feel horribly guilty, of course, but still. He was trying to think of reasons why he might deserve the forgiveness of his classmates. Pansy, on the other hand, he felt a bit sorry for. Even Finnigan was starting to look a little strained under the pressure. But that had been a stupid move on her part, outing Harry like that in front of the entire school, demanding someone turn him over to Voldemort.

Harry turned to beam at Draco, and his heart skipped a beat at the sight. Even in the dingy lighting of the pub Harry's smile lit up his brilliant green eyes. Draco's fingers itched to remove the glasses to clear his view.

"So Malfoy," said Ginny, who nudged him slightly with her elbow. It was the first time any Weasley had directly spoken to him, without venom dripping from their voice. It was strange. Draco could not decide how he felt about it. Especially because this particular Weasley used to be the one kissing Harry and sharing his bed.


Ginny's eyebrows raised. "So you can be civil!"

Harry leaned around Draco. "Hey, play nice you two."

Draco waved him away, turning his attention back on Ginny, because despite himself, he was curious as to what she could possibly have to say to him. And it was probably important to Harry if he attempted to "play nice" with his ex-girlfriend. Or something.

"So do you want tips, or what?"

"Er, tips?" What the hell could Weaslette possibly teach him?

She leaned in close to his ear and he barely stopped himself from cringing. "You know, on what Harry likes in bed," she whispered, wiggling her eyebrows.

Draco blanched and felt his face heat up. "Wh-what?! No! I can figure it out for myself!" And he was absolutely not jealous, and what the hell did she know – she'd never even sucked Harry off, and Draco had done that a few hours before. So no, he did not tips for God's sakes.

"What? What did she say?" Harry poked around, curious.

Ginny waved her hands up in front of her for defense, looking perfectly innocent.

"Merlin, Draco dear, I didn't know you could get embarrassed! And by a Weasley no less!"

"Oh do shut up, Pansy." He leaned over to Ginny, smirking, and whispered into her ear. "And I'll have you know, I've already progressed much farther than you in that field, thank you very much."

It was Ginny's time to turn red. She narrowed her eyes at Draco. Oh she was getting those details.

"This cannot be good," someone groaned. "Ginny and Malfoy are definitely scheming something, and it will be good for no one."

"Yes, the world will definitely end soon."

"God, everyone just – just shut up and drink your butterbeers!"

Draco shot a wink at Finnigan, who glared back, then pecked Harry on the cheek. "But love, you make it so easy!"

Ron actually laughed, and that in itself seemed potent enough to break the tension.

"Oh Ron," Hermione whispered, smiling at him, like he'd just won a huge prize or something.

Draco felt like maybe the world wasn't ending, but only beginning. And it was about goddamned time.

Finger tips grazed along naked skin, softer than butterfly wings, leaving goose bumps in their wake.

"I'm glad you came back for us," Draco whispered.

"I'm glad I did, too."

"I don't know if I'd have been able to. Was it terribly difficult?"

Harry was silent for a moment, following the path of Draco's fingers on his chest, enjoying the simple pleasure of it.

"I think a part of me, maybe for a moment, was just tempted to board the train. But the idea of oblivion scared me more than facing Voldemort. And I knew it'd be for the last time, and then everyone would finally be free. I could still save people. So, no, I guess it wasn't too difficult."

"You're too goddamned noble for any of us, Harry." Draco frowned; that hadn't been what he'd meant to say. He'd meant to say we all owe you more debts that any of us can ever repay, and I love you, you idiot.

Harry snorted in amusement.

"So many people don't deserve you."

"Watch it, Malfoy. Don't put me up too high or else I'll burn."

Draco was silent for a second, because there was something important that Harry had just said. No, not the reference to Icarus. It had all come full circle. The realization hit Harry at the same time and his eyes opened wide, looking a bit shiny in the dawn light. He gasped and cupped Draco's burning face in his hands, eyes frantically darting back and forth, seeking confirmation in Draco's stunned gaze.

"Draco, you…"

"You can say my last name," Draco croaked, a bit shocked. Hadn't… hadn't someone said that Dumbledore's annoying, wonderful spell would end when the love was returned? Oh… I guess I must…

A bubble of laughter escaped Harry's mouth and he kissed Draco hard.

"I love you too."

That seemed like an appropriate place to end this fanfic! I am so happy I actually managed to finish this one. It had been sitting half-finished on my hard drive for the past couple of years, and now that it's done I am so pleased to post it. I hope you liked it!