“Enjoying yourself, Potter?”
Harry let out a groan. Was Malfoy ever going to leave him alone? That was a rhetorical question. He knew the answer perfectly well.
“No,” he answered bluntly, not even bothering to look up. It was too much effort. “Now go away.” Who designed these circular benches anyway? You had to crane your neck to look whoever sat next to you in the eye. Then again, it was the Yule Ball. You weren’t meant to sit. You were meant to dance. Which Harry was pointedly not doing.
“Lover’s tiff?” the git’s voice drawled, and Harry felt like he wanted to punch something if he wasn’t this tired. “Your partner didn’t look very happy when she walked away.”
“Parvati isn’t my girlfriend, or lover, as you put it,” he bit back. “Pretty sure she doesn’t like me that much anyway. I mean, she wasn’t even my first choice.”
Malfoy snorted at that. “Who knew saint Potter could be such a dick?” he mused out loud, to which Harry spun round furiously.
“What are you still doing here anyway, Malfoy?” he asked. “Aren’t the Slytherins holding their own party in the dungeons?”
Malfoy shrugged at that, causing his silk – or whatever the hell they were made of, as if Harry knew about fabrics – dress robes to silently shift. The candlelight bounced off them, giving Malfoy’s face a slight golden edge. Harry rolled his eyes, just because.
And then the git sat down next to him, arms draped lazily over the backrest. He wasn’t touching Harry, but his hand still felt uncomfortably close. Harry bristled.
“I’ve seen Goyle throw up enough times in my life,” he replied. “Thought I might have more fun here, watching losers like you attempt the waltz.”
“Oh, because you know everything about the waltz?” Harry bit back, turning furiously to face Malfoy, who just drew up one eyebrow.
“In case you forgot,” he drawled, “I grew up learning these things.” He gave a nod to Neville and Ginny. “Surprisingly enough, Longbottom seems to know what he’s doing as well. He’s better than you, in any case.”
“Just piss off, Malfoy.”
“No, I don’t think so,” Malfoy replied lazily. “I’m rather enjoying this. The great champion, defeated by a waltz.”
“Yeah, well, if you know so well, why don’t you fucking show everyone how it’s done?” Harry snapped. “Go and show off your skills, I know you’re dying for some attention.”
Malfoy didn’t reply for a moment, to Harry’s bliss. But then he stood up smoothly and faced Harry, his hand reached out.
He stared at the outstretched hand.
Malfoy raised an eyebrow.
“Well? You wanted me to show off.”
Harry stared some more, thinking back to the last time Draco offered him his hand. They had been eleven; Draco had been haughty, Harry had been stubborn. They had hated each other ever since.
“If you think I’m gonna take that hand, you are seriously delusional,” he said, less eloquent and more blunt than the last time, but then again, their hatred for each other had come a long way since then as well. “Go bother someone else.”
“Come on, Potter,” Malfoy said, only a hint of a sneer in his voice, “isn’t this whole thing about inter-house unity?”
“Maybe about friendships between schools, but definitely not between houses,” Harry replied, but McGonagall waltzed past at that very moment.
“Potter!” she cried out as she swirled around, clearly a little tipsy. “So glad to see you put aside your differences and promote some inter-house unity!”
“But professor –” Harry protested, but McGonagall wanted to hear none of it.
“Inter-house unity,” she replied, putting emphasis on every word, before twirling away again.
Harry looked up at Malfoy, whose eyes were glinting with a malicious glee.
“Well, Potter?” he drawled.
Harry shook his head slightly. He couldn’t imagine what Malfoy was getting out of this. Was it to laugh at him? Public humiliation? They never got up close to each other like this. It was just… weird.
But he could feel McGonagall’s eyes still on him. So he swore under his breath and reached out reluctantly, letting the Slytherin drag him onto his feet. He strengthened his grip just a bit more than necessary, just to let Malfoy know he still wasn’t on board with this, and just felt grateful that his friends weren’t around to witness him. They had gone to bed, while he had to stick around to close the ball with a final dance later. He only vaguely registered how comfortably warm and dry Malfoy’s hand was.
He awkwardly brought his hand down to Malfoy’s waist, but the Slytherin snorted.
“I don’t think so, Potter,” he said, grabbing Harry’s left wrist and placing the hand on his shoulder before placing his own hand on Harry’s waist. “I’m leading.” And with that, he dragged Harry onto the dancefloor.
This was bizarre. Harry tried to keep the maximum amount of distance between them, but Malfoy was having none of it. His grip on Harry’s waist was of iron, and Harry was honestly surprised that his rival would comfortably hold him this close. His own hands were clammy, one squeezing Malfoy’s hand far too tightly to be comfortable while the other bunched Malfoy’s dress robes, fingers entangled in the fabric. It was like dragging someone by the lapels before throwing them across the room in a physical fight, except he couldn’t throw Malfoy across the Great Hall like he felt the urge to. He was held far too tightly for that. So he just had to go along with it, not knowing where to look all the while.
“Merlin, you are atrocious,” Malfoy drawled as he swung Harry across the dancefloor. “Loosen up, Potter. It hurt to look at you from a distance, but this is even worse.”
“Then why did you volunteer to offer me a fucking lesson?” Harry bit back, finally meeting Malfoy’s eyes. He was shockingly close; both boys seemed taken aback for a second. But then Malfoy’s trademark sneer appeared again, and for a moment Harry thought it felt more like a mask than anything. He wondered if it had always been just that; a mask. The split second where they just locked eyes had looked far more real, far more vulnerable. It had been an expression he had never seen on Malfoy’s face. And now his head was reeling with it, the image swimming in his head.
“I thought it might be amusing,” Malfoy drawled in reply. “Besides, just imagining you trying to close this joke of a ball gives me nightmares. I felt personally responsible to give this school at least a mildly acceptable image. They’d think us savages if I didn’t interfere.”
Harry snorted. “Sure,” he muttered. “Just an excuse to get close to me, mess with my head a bit more.”
Malfoy briefly seemed to stiffen, but then the moment was gone again. “Match your feet with mine, Potter. I am begging you.”
Harry nearly snorted at that – who would have thought Malfoy could beg? But he decided to comply. The quicker he got the hang of things, the quicker they could separate, and both be on their merry way.
So he stared at his and Malfoy’s feet, trying to figure out the pattern, but his brain couldn’t quite keep up with his eyes, and he was getting confused between Malfoy’s crisp steps and his own messy choreography. Malfoy made a noise of frustration, letting go of Harry’s waist for a blissful second, only to poke him in the forehead.
“Eyes up here, genius,” he sneered. “You’re never going to figure it out that way.”
Now Harry once again didn’t know where to look, so he pointedly focused his gaze over Malfoy’s left shoulder. He could see other Hogwarts students give him confused looks, and he felt his face heat up. His gaze quickly shifted to the ceiling so he didn’t have to face the judgment of his peers, but that only made him dizzy and disoriented.
“Merlin, you are hopeless,” Malfoy said. “Just – put your feet on mine for a second.”
They stood still for a moment so they could manoeuvre themselves, but this just ended up being even more awkward. Harry was leaning back a little so he didn’t have to be flush with Malfoy, and now had to desperately cling on for dear life to keep his balance, while Malfoy had to use all his strength to make sure Harry didn’t go falling backward and crack his head open on the stone tiles.
But after a minute or so, Harry started to trust Malfoy’s grip. He seemed to be steady enough, and could finally just focus on the feeling of his feet, and the pattern they kept being set in. Triangles and triangles, rotating around themselves in wider or smaller circles based on how large Malfoy’s steps were. One foot being joined by the other before stepping away again.
“Think you can do it without training wheels?” Malfoy finally asked, and to Harry’s surprise, it didn’t sound as much like a sneer as usual.
“Uh, yeah,” he replied, “I think so.” He stepped off Malfoy’s feet but kept the space between the tips of their shoes close. And this time he more or less managed to keep up. “How am I doing, O Waltz Master?”
“Getting there,” Malfoy replied reluctantly. “Wanna try a twirl?”
Harry was about to bite back a scathing retort when the song ended. In its place, something slower came on. He groaned internally.
“I think I’m done for the night,” he replied instead. “Thanks for the lesson. I’m sure I won’t fuck up the closing dance now. Your conscience can rest easy.”
“Um, actually Potter,” Malfoy replied, mortification growing in his voice, “I think this is the closing dance.”
Harry looked around, and sure enough, the other champions had dragged their partners back onto the dancefloor – apart from Victor, who’d had to find someone else after Hermione had stormed off – and were now performing some kind of waltz that was closer to a slow-dance. Flitwick called out to the couples, remarking on their “final opportunity” to move in each other’s arms or whatever. Harry’s face felt like a furnace.
“Where’s your dance partner?” Malfoy asked, and Harry sent a panicked look around the Hall. He couldn’t see either of the Patil twins anywhere, and he reckoned that was only fair. He let out a groan.
“Probably gone,” he replied.
“So you have no-one.”
“I’m sure I could ask any one of those girls,” he said, remembering Ron’s words from before the Ball, which now felt like years ago. He was Harry Potter. Surely he could snag any girl.
Except the only girls remaining were those who, like Flitwick had suggested, wanted that one final dance with their dance partner. The others had gone to bed it seemed, or wherever else they might decide to continue the party.
“Looks like you’re stuck with me.”
Malfoy’s voice was oddly soft at that. Harry thought he would have detected a sour tone in there, but when he looked up to meet his rival’s gaze, he found Malfoy swallowing.
“Got more than you bargained for, Malfoy?” he said, equally quiet. Somewhere along the way, the tension with which he’d clung onto the boy, fight-or-flight instincts singing in his veins, had bled away. The cutting remarks had lost their edge, and Harry found himself holding onto Malfoy now not because he had to, but because he couldn’t seem to bring himself to let go. His palms were clammy again, but for a different reason this time, one he couldn’t quite figure out, didn’t quite want to figure out.
Malfoy didn’t even bother with a reply. He just started moving to the melody, his gaze not breaking Harry’s, something stubborn in his expression, but also something uncertain. Harry’s stomach clenched. Those fight-or-flight instincts were still there, muted, but he didn’t quite feel like it was a fight he was preparing himself for this time. He just found himself unable to look away, the air between them electric with something familiar, yet foreign.
He wanted to shake his head. This is nuts, a tiny voice in the back of his head said. This is Malfoy. But Harry was entranced, as if he were staring into the eyes of a snake. Stormy grey eyes, clinging to his face the way he had clung to Malfoy before when standing on his feet. Eyes that wouldn’t snap away, eyes that drank him in.
The arm reaching up to Malfoy’s shoulder was no longer tense, hadn’t been in a while, but was instead now resting there, failing to keep that initial distance between them. They were moving, more fluently with each step, and Harry felt like he was just being swept along by the tide as Malfoy moved him around the Hall. He forgot about his peers. He had forgotten about McGonagall’s threatening words, inter-house unity. It was just them. His heart raced, but his mind was quiet.
“Potter,” Malfoy muttered at some point, sounding equally distant, “don’t run…”
And Harry, who had taken Malfoy’s advice on the waltz and had come out unscathed, now stayed still, trusting the boy who had, up until less than half an hour ago, been his biggest rival. He trusted him, and let him take the lead.
“Don’t run,” Malfoy muttered again, “don’t move…” as he leaned in.
The music ended.
The lights came up, and the spell was broken. Harry blinked, shaking his head. Malfoy seemed to rear back a little, as if the electric air between them had shocked him. And all that tiny voice in the back of Harry’s head could say, through the fog of the moment and exhaustion, was… What?
And Harry found himself wanting more. He wanted the quiet to return, wanted the world to fall away again. He’d been scared and angry and anxious all year, but for a moment, in the arms of someone he was meant to loathe, he had forgotten everything. But Malfoy was already moving away, and suddenly Harry felt cold.
All around him, his peers seemed to start paying some attention to him again. He suspected they were all caught up in their own little moments, not caring about what he’d been doing, which honestly, what had even been the point of him sticking around this long to close the Ball if that had been the case? But now they were watching him again, and he cleared his throat. Nothing had happened. There was nothing to see. So please don’t let there be any rumours… The thought of Hermione or Ron catching wind of this mortified him.
Funnily enough, Cho didn’t even cross his mind.
He made his way back through the corridors, spotting the occasional couple hiding in an alcove, barely recognisable. He could hear Filch in the stairwell, reprimanding any students still out of bed, as he made his way up to the seventh floor. As he passed one of the alcoves though, a pale hand shot out of the shadows and dragged him in.
His breath caught in his throat as he found himself nose to nose with Malfoy again, now closer even than they had been just minutes before. They were both panting as if they had run a marathon, but all they were doing was hiding in an alcove, away from Flich’s prying eyes, breathing each other in as they were pressed up against each other.
“I thought you told me not to run,” Harry whispered. And then you went and ran away yourself.
“I couldn’t be caught with you,” Malfoy replied, equally quiet. “I miscalculated.”
“Imagine if the Slytherins heard.”
“We’d both end up in the hospital wing.”
For a second they held each other’s gaze, but then the tension broke, and both boys began hiccupping with silent laughter. This was all so bizarre, so strange, so different.
“How did we end up here?” Harry asked, still laughing. Their foreheads were pressed together, and he found himself once again clinging to Malfoy’s dress robes. He felt Malfoy shake his head.
“Merlin only knows,” the other boy replied before falling into another fit of hysterics again. “Imagine my father’s face when I tell him!”
“Tell him what?” Harry asked.
“Years of legendary rivalry,” Malfoy hiccupped, to which Harry snorted, “and now this.”
“Fraternising with Harry Potter.”
That got Harry again. “Fraternising,” he wheezed. “Only you would put it like that. Christ.”
“Yeah,” Malfoy replied breathlessly. “Fraternising.”
They caught each other’s gazes as they calmed down again. Their breaths slowed, then synchronised.
“Fraternising,” Malfoy muttered, and now Harry’s breath stuck in his throat. He could swear his heart stopped, that fight-or-flight returning as Malfoy leaned in and stole his breath away.
And as their lips met, Harry’s eyes fluttered closed. As the dark of the alcove enveloped him, his body came to life, nerves humming and veins singing with electricity. The breath Malfoy had stolen from him was returned to his lungs with a sigh, and God, how could he have missed out on this? All these years of tension, of electricity. And now, here they were, drinking each other in, a hit of oxygen that Harry never knew he’d been starving for.
He felt a thrill rushing through him as Malfoy closed the gap between them completely, slowly bringing his body to be flush against Harry’s, pinning him between Malfoy and the wall. Harry felt enveloped, as safe as he had been when relying on Malfoy’s grip in the Great Hall so he wouldn’t fall, feeling so safe despite the adrenaline coursing through his veins. He opened his mouth with a sigh and pulled Malfoy even closer. Malfoy happily complied, letting out a soft little moan as the kiss deepened.
“How did we end up here?” he mirrored Harry in a whisper when he finally broke away for some oxygen, their foreheads still pressed against each other, his eyes closed as if he feared it would all vanish the moment he opened them, like a dream.
“Did you know?” Harry asked quietly. “When you asked me to dance?”
“That we would end up making out in an alcove?”
“That you wanted to make out in an alcove.”
Malfoy let out a huff of laughter, but when he finally, carefully opened his eyes to drink in Harry’s emerald green gaze, there was no amusement to be found in his expression. Just honest, open vulnerability. How had they gotten here, where Malfoy could show that vulnerability to Harry? That Harry took it in without mockery or questioning, or even much shock?
“I don’t think I ever could have guessed that,” he whispered. “I hate you, remember? You ruined my chance at a reputation. You’re a Gryffindor. An idiot and a prick.”
Harry laughed softly at that too. “You’re cruel,” he replied. “A blood supremacist. Arrogant.”
Malfoy exhaled slowly. “We hate each other,” he whispered, then gently nipped at Harry’s lips, making his blood sing again. “Opposites of the spectrum. Cunningly ambitious versus stubbornly just.”
“The Saviour and the Death Eater’s son.”
“Merlin, there are so many things I want to take back right now,” Malfoy breathed before deepening the kiss again. This time it was Harry who broke away.
“Just because we’re making out?”
Malfoy was quiet for a moment. “I’ve not felt too comfortable with who I am for a while now,” he then admitted quietly. “I could hear my father’s voice in all my words.”
“Is he not some sort of hero to you?” Harry asked. The hum of electricity was quietening down to a simmer as they now just held each other. Malfoy gently released himself from the embrace and slid down the wall, and Harry mirrored him to join him on the floor, their knees touching.
“It was easier to believe that when I lived with him all day, every day,” Malfoy replied. He pulled out his wand, twirling it absentmindedly between his fingers. Yesterday, the image would have alarmed Harry. Now, he trusted the Slytherin not to actually use it to hex him. “But the further away you are from it all, the easier it is to gain perspective. To start having other people influence you. To understand who you want to be.”
Harry nodded. He understood that, to some extent.
Malfoy looked up then, meeting his gaze again, and there was something akin to remorse in them. “If this thing between us ever comes out,” he said, “if I ever get the chance to be more than the Death Eater’s son, more than the villain in your hero story that everyone keeps enforcing… Will you tell Granger I’m sorry?”
Harry swallowed. Malfoy’s words struck something deep and personal. He looked at the Slytherin, seeing just a scared, insecure boy of his own age, trying to figure himself out. There was no rival, no villain in sight. He nodded.
“I’ll tell her,” he promised.
The spell was broken by approaching footsteps, and they both shot up, nearly knocking their heads into each other. “Filch,” Malfoy hissed, and Harry nodded.
“I’ll run one way, you another,” he whispered, to which Malfoy rolled his eyes, a blissfully familiar sight.
“Obviously,” the Slytherin replied, “you’re going up to the seventh floor while I’m headed for the dungeons. We’re heading in separate directions anyway.”
“See you at breakfast?” Harry asked. Malfoy grinned.
“I’ll launch a sausage your way,” he replied. “I’ll make sure to aim for your head. Not too hard a target to miss.”
Harry snorted and elbowed him in the ribs. “Three…” he mouthed.
“One,” they spoke in unison as they shot off, the cries of the concierge ringing in their ears.