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~ scene change

~*~ memory start and finish

 

 

 

There was a hiss in his ear and a sharp elbow digging into his side, pulling Draco out of his potions essay about the known and speculated properties of star fragments and how best to find them. Before he could get a proper glare her way, Pansy gestured at the incoming altercation on its way to their table. With a sigh, he put down his quill, capped his ink, and began preparing for the verbal acrobatics he had to employ in almost every interaction between himself and Potter.

This included cursing his father and that damnable old crone for what seemed the billionth time since their Eighth Year at Hogwarts had begun—and the upteen millionth time since he was eight.

“Is this your new idea of a joke, Malfoy?!” Potter hissed at him, red in the face and waving a crumpled bit of parchment. 

Glancing around, Draco saw that they'd started to attract attention from the other students, as he and Potter did. It was only a matter of time before the batty old librarian noticed them as well and decided to come over and kick them both out for the next week. Deeming that unacceptable, as he had nowhere else to study in peace—certainly not in the noisy Eighth Year common room, placed oh-so-conveniently up in the Astronomy Tower—he finished packing his things. 

He took a moment to distance himself as he stood so that none of his true feelings were close to the surface. Then, in the most neutral tone possible, said, "Shall we move this elsewhere, Potter? We don't want to disturb the studies of others, after all." 

With that he swept towards the closest door, knowing that by appearing to expect Potter to follow, he would—if only to call him a git. He allowed himself a small moment of self-pity for the burden of his detestable curse, but took a deep breath, pulled himself up to his full five-foot-eleven, and led them both into a nearby alcove. They would at least have some privacy in there. He'd also be able to lean non-threateningly against the back wall, so that Potter could have the aggressive position. Hopefully it would make this go smoother. 

Potter stood in the opening of the alcove, a galling six-foot-one and Draco could tell by the cock of his head that he knew the odds had been somehow stacked in his favor. However, Draco didn't want him to figure out he had noticed at the beginning of the year that giving Potter the 'high ground' allowed for more time to try and wiggle his way out of being a completely offensive twit. 

He waved a hand, motioning toward the parchment. “So, what's all the fuss about then, Potter?” 

Okay, so far not too bad. A bit snippy, maybe—he'd been trying for neutral wording—but at least it wasn’t outright hostile. He added what he hoped was an amiable smile, trying to take the sting out of the words. At least the tone had been friendly.

Potter looked at him a moment and waved at the entrance, casting a Muffliato . Draco drew a breath at the display of wandless magic; he did love a good show of control, but…this could not be a good sign. What was on Potter’s parchment that they needed so much privacy for? It was making him…edgy.

“What’s this about, Potter? I haven't got all day, you know.” 

‘Oh, smooth, Draco,’ he thought, 'poke the angry hippogriff. Learnt nothing in third year, did you?'

Potter narrowed his eyes, the bright green seeming almost illuminated with his ire. He passed over the crumpled mess of parchment with a shake, and asked, “‘What’s this about ?’ You tell me.”

As he straightened and smoothed out the creases, Draco felt the blood start to drain from his face. There. In his own script. One of the pages of his journal. And not just any page. Oh no, it could never be that simple, could it? No. 

It was one of his poems. Not just any old poem either. Of course not. That would be too simple. It just had to be one of the poems about Potter, but maybe it wasn't the finished version? As he kept reading Draco felt his knees buckle. Merlin's saggy bollocks, it was the finished copy. 

 

SENT

 

Rip my soul

Break my heart

They've turned pain into an art.

 

A broken body

A used mind

I wonder if it's yet my time.

 

The Darkest mark

The jagged cuts

I think I must be out of luck. 

 

There's no one left

And no one home

I realize now, I'm all alone. 

 

But wait! A light, 

So strong and bright 

An angel came and saved my life. 

 

With greenest eyes

And messy hair

He saved me from all who were there. 

 

He gave me hope

I think I love

The chosen one from above. 

 

D.M. + H.P.

 

Oh gods...it was even the version that had the stupid, tiny winged hearts flying all over the page. He'd spent more time than he would probably ever admit enchanting the silly things, lost in useless daydreams. Draco spared a fleeting thought to being angry at how his art had been treated, stolen and crushed like so much trash, but then remembered Potter. No. He was not going to deal with this right now. He couldn't. The curse would not let him try and fix this fragile almost-friendship they had. It’d proven over and over and over again these past ten years that the more he truly wanted something, the more it would fight him over it.

“Malfoy?” Potter sounded hesitant, almost… gentle?

That's when Draco noticed he was dripping onto the parchment in his hands. Shit. As soon as he registered he was crying, Draco tried to shove past Potter, tripped, and would have fallen flat had the oh-so-noble prat not caught him by the arm. 

“Get your stupid, fucking hands off me!” Draco was panicking and shoved again, fleeing as quickly as possible, letting his feet guide him all the way to an unused potions lab near the Slytherin dorms…his old dorms. 

“Great. Just great. Absolutely wonderful.” He gave a wet little laugh and sighed. 

Not even alone could he verbalize his true feelings. 'This is awful,' he thought viciously. The one way he had to be honest—at least when alone—was with ink and quill and now it—no, he was a laughing stock. There was no chance of being anything but. 

Someone had found his journal and was passing around choice bits. How they'd gotten past his protective spells he would, doubtlessly, never know. He rolled his eyes; they were probably even calling it a diary for maximum effect. He didn't dare let himself think of what else was in that damned book. It was bad enough Potter—and who knew who else—had seen that poem. If the rest was also fair game, Draco would leave and find another way to deal with his parole. Being mocked may be his due, but he didn't think he could take it if it was based on the things in his journal. 

Stupid curse.

Stupid Father.

Stupid.

Bloody.

Crone. 

Draco slid down the wall, then noticed he was missing a shoe. “Of all the most delightful , fan-fucking-tastic, absolutely best blasted things to top off this wonderful day!” He said each word with as much venom as he could muster. His words might not be his own, but the tone with which he chose to say them was still his alone. 

 

~*~

 

He had been barely eight years old when his father decided he was too soft to be allowed his own words. 

He'd been so excited that day when his father had suggested they go out on their own, just the two of them. A father-son day, if you will. His father had held his hand as he hadn’t since Draco was very small. He'd said they were going to visit someone terribly special that day. Draco's Great-great-great-great-grandmother Malfoy! 

Draco hadn't even known he had a Grandmother Malfoy! Let alone one so great! He was beyond excited when they got to her door step, that is until his father told him he had somewhere to visit first and would Draco be a good boy and wait with Great Grandmother inside? 

And of course, wanting to please his father, he'd said yes. 

The exterior of her home was elegant, but bland. Anyone could have lived there. At a nod from his father, he'd pulled the bell rope. He had felt the deep toll of her doorbell down to the very marrow of his young bones. The phantom thrum seemed to reverberate through the years, yet young Draco felt none of the fear it undoubtedly caused in others. This was his father's esteemed relative; the only fear he had was of disappointing his father. It took him a very long time to learn not to trust his father, but here, on this day when he'd been eight for no more than a few weeks, was when the first seed of doubt was sown. 

The great black door had swung open, and it’d taken young Draco far longer than he would ever admit to determine that the creature with more skin than bones was—used to be?—a house elf. It hadn't even spoken, just gestured for him to come in. He’d looked towards his father only to find that he had already left. 

The… elf had hissed at him and, again, gestured for him to move forward. Draco had just promised to be good, so he’d drawn himself up as tall as he could, squared his thin shoulders, and stepped into the house.  

The door had swung shut with nary a whisper of sound, and the elf had led the way deeper into the house, flashing him a grin with far too many far too sharp teeth. 

What he had noticed first was the lack of light. He’d been able to see, just barely, by the grace of a perpetual gloom that had appeared to have no real source. The second had been the cold. He’d been dressed for summer weather, and as soon as the door had shut, his breath had fogged before him. He had begun to shiver ever so slightly, but he'd promised. So, he’d followed his decrepit guide along a seemingly endless array of hallways. 

The décor had not been too terribly different from every other pureblood home he’d been in before, but something hadn't been quite right. The portraits had seemed to all be the same as the ones in his own home. The same relatives in practically the same, exact settings. However, there had been an eeriness there that he wouldn't place until years after. A certain stillness had persevered as they passed by, even as the candles all flickered and, in one window, an evening breeze fluttered a set of gauzy curtains. One could’ve said that the silence was as deep as the grave. 

He had kept himself distracted from the queasy feeling the portraits gave him by wondering how big of a wizarding space this was because that's what it had to be. There had been no way that the insides of that place fit the outsides. He’d been chilled to his very bones and half convinced that something was following them by the time his shambling guide had stopped and rapped one long, boney knuckle sharply upon the door in front of them. A woman's voice, deepened with age, had called out something Draco hadn’t been able to hear. The elf had turned and waved the door open, gesturing for him to hurry through. 

He remembered thinking to himself at this point, 'I promised to be good, and so I shall', as if it were a Courage Charm or some such nonsense. So, once again, he'd squared his small shoulders and stepped through the door before him into her parlor. 

Great-great-great-great-grandmother Malfoy had been and still was—in a word—terrifying.

A Crone, the likes of which were only ever see in ancient depictions of the Three Fates, had been sat before him. In this, the only encounter with the old witch he'd ever have, his first impression had been of immense age. He hadn't been able to see her very well in the shadows. Just a bit of skirt that had seemed to absorb every scrap of light it could catch and one gnarled hand, bejeweled with a mind-boggling plethora of precious rings, which sat upon a serpentine cane very much the match to his father's. 

“Come in. Come in, child." Her voice had been low and melodic, but had cracked like a bull whip around the room when he hadn’t comply quickly enough. "Do you not understand basic English, boy?” That had startled him into remembering the manners drilled into him since he had learned to walk. 

He’d strode forward in his best approximation of his father and sketched her a perfect little bow that would have made his mother smile in delight and call him her ‘perfect little gentleman.’ 

Keeping his head bowed in a show of respect, as was to be expected of a child his age, he had said, “Greetings, Greatest of Grandmothers. I am Draco, son of Lucius Malfoy and Narcissa Malfoy, née Black. It is my pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

During his introduction, the old Crone had seemed to labor to lean closer to him, but politeness had dictated that he could not lift from his bow until she'd acknowledged him. He’d watched her perfectly painted, Slytherin green nails go tap, tap, tap on her cane and then, with no real warning, he’d been snatched with a surprising amount of strength and speed out of his pose by one dry and age-withered hand. 

He hadn't quite been able to help the small squeak that had managed to escape him when he’d been pulled eye level with her. Her skin, instead of sagging like her elf's, had been stretched taut and dry across her bones, reminding him of nothing more than an animated skeleton. Her makeup had seemed to float just above her skin as opposed to upon it, which had made the slash of red at her mouth all the more distressing as it seemed to twist a second behind the movement of her lips. To this day, he still could not figure out how she had been able to see him. Her eyes had been milky-white with age, no hint of pupil left to even try to focus on. What was left of her hair had been painstakingly braided with tiny gems, making it appear as if frost clung to her in the chill of the house.

Her ears might be the part of her he remembered most clearly as that's where his eyes had settled and stayed any time propriety allowed. Her ears had been set so that one seemed higher than the other; however, the thing that had kept him sane under the scrutiny of such a frightful woman had been the absolutely absurd visual of her earrings dangling well past her shoulders. The weight of precious gems had stretched the lobes so far, it had seemed as if much more would rip them in half. 

Her grip on him had never lessened, even as she'd stood towering over him, tall and perfectly straight despite her seemingly ancient countenance. “Well met, young Malfoy. Well met indeed.” There'd been a slight sing-song quality to her voice then, as her hand had pulsed on his arm in a counter rhythm to the rise and fall in the cadence of her speech. 

“It is absolutely so, you know. Yes, it is.” She'd pulled him along after her, even though it had appeared as if she'd not moved any more than to stand. “I am the Greatest of your Grandmothers…by far the Greatest you'll ever know.” 

He had started to fall behind even with her grip upon him, for he had not known how, but she'd propelled them both forward quite quickly. He’d lost his footing completely when all forward motion stopped and fell in a heap at her feet. 

“Oh, do get up, boy,” she’d snapped, voice going hard and sharp. “I will not abide by any...childish antics. If you are a man worthy of the name Malfoy, you will cease them completely.” She’d never looked at him, yet he had been able to feel her attention like a fine dusting of small, many legged things crawling just out of sight along his skin and had scrambled to right himself. He vividly remembered fixing his hands behind his back so as to not fidget and earn more of her ire or show his budding fear. 

“There's a good lad.” Her voice had once again gone soft-edged and whimsical as she carded her gaunt fingers through his hair. 

He had yelped and jumped back from her, hands flying to his hair. Three glinting strands had been left in her hand. 

“How accommodating you are!” Her grin had felt like a slap to his young face; no one had yet dared to cause him physical pain before. 

He’d pressed back into the wall, as far from her as he could get. That's when things had taken a turn for the worst. Showing her his fear had been like spilling blood into carnivore infested waters. 

Annoyance had flashed across her face. “None of that now,” she’d muttered. 

Imperio,” had been said almost as an afterthought following the sudden flick of a wand in his face. 

His heart had pounded as he lost control of his limbs, a euphoria the likes of which he'd never experienced rushing over him as quickly as the water had when he’d been sucked below the surface of the manor's pond, washing through him so fast it'd been dizzying. 

“Come over here, boy,” she’d commanded with a flick of the wand to a spot directly beside her, far closer than he had been before. 

“There we go! Much better!” The soft edge had returned. “Proper young men don't go around making their dear grandmothers feel lonely, now do they?”

“Of course not, Grandmother.” There had been a dreamy edge to his words and he hadn't been able to remember what had frightened him so. 

“Come along, then, young Malfoy. We still have much to do with you.” And with a wave of her wand, the door before them had shimmered and faded away. 



~*~



Draco was pulled from his musings of the past by a soft tap on the door to his refuge.

“Draco? Are you in here?” Pansy's concern preceded her into the room and her eyes landed on him almost immediately. Unsurprising, as he wasn't trying all that hard to hide. “Oh, Dahling.” 

There were emotions in her voice he refused to acknowledge. Doing anything else would just restart the weeping nonsense, and he was very much ready to be done with that, thanks. He was quite sure he already looked frightful enough; crying always left him blotchy and swollen. 

She came to his corner and sat beside him. The warmth of her was shocking; he'd not noticed how cold he was. No wonder these last folds were alluding him; numb fingers did not make for crisp creases. He'd folded the damning poem into an origami rose, and he quite liked the effect. 

“That's beautiful,” Pansy said, plucking it from his hands and finishing the fold he'd been struggling with. “But I require your hands, Dahling.”

“Never.” He smiled at her as she took his hands up and, with an overly extravagant swish of her wand, cast a warming charm on him. 

“Then it's a good thing I didn't ask for them, isn't it?” She smirked as she brushed his fringe back. Ever since he'd started wearing his hair loose, the one lock was forever in his eyes. 

“Bitch, stop it. My hair is fine.” He rolled his eyes and flopped over into her lap. 

Thank Merlin that Pansy, at least, knew about his situation. ‘Bitch’ was as close as he could get to an endearment for her, so he'd made sure to never use it for anyone else. She also knew that 'stop it' meant 'please continue' in this instance. 

His curse was a finicky thing, seeming to only kick in with things he wanted or needed personally. Impersonal things, like essays for class or 'proper pure-blood etiquette' never seemed affected. Hell, it's not like he was given a rule book to go with the damn thing. None of the extensive research he'd indulged in over the years had helped either. Without knowing exactly what had been done to him, no one was willing to try and reverse it lest it kill him. Everything they knew, they'd learned through trial and error.

Pansy had been at the manor when he returned from that fateful outing—thank Merlin for small favors, he'd have gone mad without her—and she alone remained the only person outside of his family who knows of the curse. 

His mother had been as close to visibly furious as he'd ever seen her when his father's actions came to light. It hadn't taken very long, after all. 

He’d tried to say, “I love you, Mummy!” after being told she'd taken the privilege of inviting over his favorite playmate, but what came out was, “I hate you, Mother!” in the most joyful tone. 

Pansy had gasped. He'd slapped both hands over his mouth. He'd known that something had been done to him; he just hadn't known what as he'd not said a word to his father after being collected from her house. He'd rushed to his mother's side, sobbing in distress.

“I mean it! I mean it” came out of his mouth instead of what he'd wanted to say.

His mother had gathered him and Pansy up later that night and explained that Draco had been cursed to say the opposite of what he felt for someone. Apparently, not quite the “blessing” his father had wanted. 

He was pulled from his maudlin thoughts of the past and how hard it had been to learn to communicate through tone and opposing meanings—using the artful language of sarcasm—by Pansy asking a question about Potter. 

“What are you prattling on about now?” he smiled up at her sheepishly. 

“Honestly, Draco, do keep up.” She poked him playfully in the ribs, making him squirm and pulling a reluctant laugh from him. 

“I asked if you had any clue as to how Potter knew where you'd be? He was very confident you'd be exactly here when he came to get me.” She pursed her lips. “All he'd say was he has a map, but that ‘the how isn't important; Malfoy needs you.'” She gusted a sigh. “I mean, he was right, but I'm not sure I like it…him being able to find you before me.” She was still petting his hair, so she saw the question in his eyes before he had to try to word it. 

“Yes, Dahling. Potter-dearest sent me after you.” She quirked an eyebrow at him. “What did the two of you fight about this time that has him—of all people—sending me after you as worried as I've ever seen him?” she paused, leveling him with a calculating look, "And with seemingly good reason?”

“Oh, just some rubbish I wrote. It doesn't matter, really.” It hurt to hear his voice call his own work rubbish, even knowing none of it was true. He dashed at the renewed wetness on his cheeks, huffing. You'd think he'd have run out of tears by now.

“...Oh, Draco.” She pulled him closer and placed a small, motherly kiss on his forehead. “This would all be so much easier if we were compatible. Alas, Dahling, you're not my type.” She smirked, tweaking his nose. “Not enough of a chest on you.”

“As if you’re such a catch, Bitch.” He booped her back, smiling fondly. He was so thankful for her.

They were interrupted by another tapping at the classroom door. It opened just a smidge, allowing the smells of roasted pork and apples to waft through the room and cause a rather embarrassing plea for food from his stomach. They'd missed dinner, he supposed. A small scrap of white was waving in the doorway. 

“I come in peace and with food.” The aforementioned food followed the scrap of—was that tissue?—Followed by none other than Potter…. Of course. 

“May I come in?” Potter sounded odd, almost uncertain. He certainly looked unusually unsure of himself standing and fidgeting in the doorway. And Draco was nowhere near presentable. However, he had brought food—and it'd be a shame to waste such a lovely smelling dinner. Pansy's stomach was also complaining about the lack of sustenance, right in his ear, and it looked like Potter had damn near levitated half the feast with him if the parade of dishes were anything to go by.

Draco sat up and gestured for him to come in. “I don't see anyone stopping you, Potter.”

Potter looked around and seemed to nod to himself. Holding the levitation charm on the food with his wand, he waved a few chairs and tables together setting up a makeshift eating area. He then proceeded to set a rather lovely and appealing picnic-esque dinner. 

Draco and Pansy shared a rather startled look. 

“What the bloody hell are you playing at, Potter?” popped out without Draco really meaning it to, and it was so close to his actual thought, he startled. Had he just said exactly what he meant? To Potter?!

Potter stilled in his fussing with napkins and flatware. 

Pansy narrowed her eyes. “How did you know we were still here?”

“Just a hunch,” he said evasively. “Neither of you went to dinner…so I thought I'd bring you something to eat.” Potter was still not really looking at them. “I, uh…well. I may have also found another page that belongs to Malfoy.” He turned and started fishing around in his robes, finally handing over a—not as badly, but still—crumpled scrap of parchment.

Draco's heart sank. “How delightful,” he drawled as dryly as he could, reaching out with only slightly trembling fingers for it. What piece of his soul had fallen into Potter's hands this time?

“...how is he so bloody handsome?!? Every girl within a hundred meters—and some of the blokes, myself included—can't help but stare, no matter what he's doing. Smiling? Heart stopping. Laughing with the weasel? Watch me swoon. Ugh. Don't even get me started on his flying. Like some kind of avenging angel from on high. And he looks absolutely edible in Quidditch leathers....”

It was just a scrap. Nothing to get excited over. He just needed to melt into the floor as soon as possible. Draco groaned, turning to bury his flaming face in Pansy's shoulder. As she patted his back, he noticed she was shaking. Pulling back to make sure she was alright, he discovered that she was holding her breath, and her face was twisted up rather painfully.

“Pansy, what a fetching shade you've turned!?” he asked, alarmed. 

And that seemed to be the key. Pansy started to giggle, then laugh, and soon was leaning against the wall, tears streaming down her face as she struggled for breath. 

“Thanks ever so for the sympathy, Dearest,” he sneered at her, stung by her amusement at his embarrassment.

“Oh, don't be like that, Dahling!” she managed between giggles. “It's just that it…” She took a breath, visibly trying to get a hold of herself. “It reads just like my second year diary!” And she was off in another fit of giggles. 

A snort of mirth from behind reminded him that they were not alone. He closed his eyes, bracing himself with a fortifying breath. Just as before, this was in his own distinct script. There would be no denying ownership. Leveling one more withering glare at Pansy, which only served to set her off more as she slid down the wall in helpless giggles—the traitor—he turned his attention back to Potter who looked positively bemused by it all. He'd also served up heaping plates of gently steaming food. As Draco looked on, he waved a chair out invitingly. 

Draco sighed. A lifetime of etiquette lessons dictated that he could not turn down the offer without being the epitome of rudeness and he was trying desperately to not be rude to absolutely anyone anymore…not that his curse made that easy. As he sat, Potter came around the table and pushed his chair in. Draco felt a blush stain his cheeks at the deferential treatment.

“I'm quite capable of seating myself, Potter,” he said softly with a brief nod of acknowledgement. Damn, it looked like the previous fluke of saying what he meant was already gone. He'd wanted to say ‘thank you.’ 

“Oh! Um, sorry, then.” Potter released his chair quickly. 

Pansy was suddenly beside him, taking a seat as well. “What he meant was ‘Thanks, Potter!’” She winked at him, and a chill ran down his spine. What was she plotting?! 

“Er…You're welcome, then?” Potter once again was looking between the two of them bemusedly. 

Draco decided to ignore Pansy and Potter's strange behavior for now and gestured at the third plate. “Well? Are you going to just stand there all night?“

“He means, ‘Please have a seat, Potter.’” Pansy was positively beaming at him when he glanced her way. It was distressing.

Potter sat and tapped the glasses with his wand. As they filled with apple cider, Pansy's elbow was reacquainted with Draco’s ribs. She leaned over after getting his attention and whispered, “Draco, everything is apples.”  

That was enough to get him to really look at his plate. She was right. There was roast pork, topped with apples; apple-cranberry stuffing; honey-roasted carrots with apples; cinnamon-topped, mashed sweet-potatoes and apples; a sparkling apple cider. It also looked like treacle and apple tart for dessert. Each and every item here was a favorite of his. Astonished, he looked up. Had Potter really gone and requested all this from the kitchens? There was no way all of this had been made for the regular dinner, but Potter was already busily digging into his food as if he hadn't eaten yet either. 

This was probably one of the most bizarre days of his life. Draco shook his head and started cutting into his food. “So, do tell, Potter. How is it that the Golden Boy of the Wizarding World keeps happening to come into ownership of bits of my personal journal?”

“Would you believe me if I told you they were laying in the halls?” he asked, running a hand through his hair and thoroughly ruining any last semblance of order it might have had. “I honestly found them by chance—I was looking for Hermione's class notes.” 

Why did the prat have to be so adorable all the blasted time?! “Potter…If you shed on my food, I'll hex your hands to the table…” Draco was getting way too distracted. “Right. You expect me to believe that Granger forgot her notes—her class notes—in a random hallway? Or that she lost them?” He raised one perfectly arched eyebrow. “Try the other leg Potter; it has bells.”

Pansy snorted into her cider. “Down, boy,” she murmured.

Potter had lit up at the mention of his leg and turned to rummage in his robes again. “I almost forgot!” He turned back with a radiant grin, and Draco's heart stuttered. “You'll be wanting this back!” He stood and came around beside Draco and knelt. “Could you scoot out just a bit?” 

And how in Merlin's name was Draco supposed to refuse with Potter Right There and looking up at him with his stupid ruffled hair and his stupid green, green eyes all bright and expectant? He wasn't. So, he damn well just kept his mouth shut, scooted his chair out, and turned slightly towards him. Potter then proceeded to pull out his missing shoe and, instead of doing the sensible thing and just handing it over, had apparently decided to give Draco heart palpitations.

Potter gently lifted his foot, sending shocks of sensation up Draco's leg, and slid the offending shoe on. At this point, Draco was barely breathing so as to not shatter whatever fever dream he was obviously having.

Once the shoe was snug, Potter beamed up at him. “Good. It fits. Sometimes I have to do adjustments after resizing something.” 

If Potter didn't let go of his foot soon, he was going to pass out due to lack of air, but he also didn't want to say anything for fear of breaking whatever spell held them both.

He'd forgotten to account for Pansy.

She propped her head on his shoulder. “Ooo, a perfect fit! Nice work, Potter!” she grinned, following with a muttered, “Breathe, Draco.”

Potter had dropped his foot, startled by Pansy's sudden appearance, and stood swiftly, a tinge of red about his ears. “Right, uh, thanks, Parkinson.” He wouldn't look directly at them, once again running his fingers through the previously tousled locks. Much more abuse, and his hair would be standing completely on end. 

Potter cleared his throat, retaking his seat. “Anyways, in answer to your question, Malfoy…she didn't lose them. They appear to have been stolen. Along with Ron's two and a half feet for Mcgonagall and Seamus’ betting pool records.” He rolled his eyes at the last. “And if I heard the talk in the common room right, a lot of other people are missing important paperwork. Including you, it seems.”

At this news, Pansy stilled and very nonchalantly started to gather her things. “I just remembered,” she finished off her cider, “I left a…potion brewing that needs checking in, oh, the next five minutes give or take. Sooo, I'll just be off.” She turned before heading out the door. “You kids play nice, now…and, Potter?” The look she leveled on him was the pure essence of Slytherin ice. “Don't fuck this up. Ta, Dahlings!” And out she swept. 

The following silence was resounding. 

Draco needed something neutral to say, and he needed it now. “So what measures are being taken to catch the thief?” Surely this was neutral conversational ground—he hoped it was. Talking to Potter under the curse was tricky, particularly so after he'd developed feelings for the git. 

Potter propped his head in his hand, elbow on the table, and Draco cringed a bit, feeling his mother's disapproval all the way from the manor. It also meant they were now at eye level, and Draco was finding it incredibly difficult to meet his eyes now that they were alone.

“As far as I know, mostly we're all just looking for the missing items. No one seems to want to involve the professors if we don't have to; we're all adults, after all.” He chuckled, a low sound that made Draco's toes curl. This friendlier Potter would be the death of him. “Never mind that all they're probably managing is destroying the Eighth Year living quarters,” he grinned slyly.

Draco snorted. “Was that a joke at others’ expense, Potter? My, how the mighty have fallen!” That wasn't too far out for this strange verbal game they were playing, was it? 

Potter quirked an odd little half smile. “Maybe I was never that far up to begin with. Listen, Malfoy...” His hand was in his hair again; Draco was disgustingly amused to be the current cause of the perpetual state of disarray. “Would you be up to helping me catch this thief? You're top of the class, next to Hermione, and you give Ron a run for it in chess…and I work better with a partner to bounce ideas off of and both of them are a bit…” he trailed off, waffling his hand back and forth.

“Running around like beheaded chickens?” Draco supplied dryly with a small smile and a slight blush at receiving praise. “I suppose if I must babysit you in order to collect what is rightfully mine, then that is just my lot in life at this point.” 

Potter cocked his head to the side, expression going thoughtful. “And I suppose that's a 'yes' then?”

Draco startled slightly, eyes going just a tad wide, and gave him a cautious nod. 

“Brilliant! I'll meet you in the library in about half an hour!” The thoughtful look vanished as Potter beamed at him again and waved the remains of their meal into the dinner basket. He gave Draco one last, lingering look before whisking out the door. 

Draco stared after him in a haze of mild bewilderment. Had that really just happened? He shook his head to settle his thoughts. What a bizarre day…and it seemed as if it would be a strange night too. 

 

~

 

Draco woke the next morning to Pansy giving herself a manicure at the foot of his bed. It was such a common sight he barely bothered to move, snuggled in as he was. He looked at her fondly from his comfy nest of blankets and moved his feet into her lap. “Bitch, how do you keep getting in here? Get out before we get in trouble.”

He heard someone, possibly Ernie Macmillan, mumble across the room, “...’s jus Park’nson...g’back ta sleep. ‘s t’ea’rly…” The Hufflepuff was one of Draco's more easy-going Year-mates.

She barely glanced from her nails. “Big dick energy,” she deadpanned. 

Draco barked a laugh before he could help himself. He was shushed from at least four of the seven other beds in this section of the boys’ dorms. Pansy could have put the proverbial cat with the cream to shame in that moment. She always looked so smug when she got him in trouble with laughter. As if it proved that she was irresistibly funny or something. He huffed and rolled his eyes, a small, exasperated smile tugging at his lips. If Finnigan or Blaise came looking for retribution for their interrupted Sunday lie-in, he'd just point them at Pansy and enjoy the show.

She blew on the last of her nails as she lightly snapped her fingers in his direction. “Gimme. I'm positively wasting away from lack of juicy details on your night with the most eligible bachelor in all of Wizarding London.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “Oh, yes, because it's such a sordid affair to be used as a second-rate encyclopedia and a weasel replacement.” He stretched, grabbing his wand and tapped the pocket in his pajamas three times to unlock the sealing wards he'd placed the previous night to protect the square of parchment.

“Oh, don't be like that.” Pansy pouted, slapping at his knees. “I spared us both last night by waiting this long, but I am absolutely going to expire at any moment if I don't find out how I came to find the two of you cuddled up asleep together mere hours after I left you!” She snatched the square out of his hands and quickly removed their normal, protective measures with practiced ease. 

They'd started this years ago. Once they figured out that, if he was completely alone and ‘talking’ to only himself, he could be honest without having to talk in half-truths, semi-lies, and all about-the-bush. It had made confiding in his best friend much less of a headache. Not that he told her everything, per se. The more…personal bits went into his journal. His refusal to even keep a journal in Sixth Year had almost torn them apart, and yet, here they were. It was nice to have some of their old habits back. 

As he watched Pansy read his notes on the previous evening's events, his thoughts drifted towards Potter and how Draco had been right. The previous night had been strange, if rather difficult at times, but it had also been—entirely unexpectedly—extremely enjoyable. 

 

~*~

 

Draco had shown up to the fairly empty library five minutes before Potter had said to meet up and was feeling a bit foolish for how fast his heart was beating. 

‘Morgana blast it! This is not anything even remotely date-like!’ he reminded himself viciously for what felt like the twentieth time in as many minutes. Potter just needed a…a…what did Potter need him for again? 

Draco took a deep breath. He disliked feeling so under-prepared. It should be just like when he'd tutored Potter in Potions the month prior. That hadn't been too bad. Draco had some amount of leeway within the curse when discussing the facts of a topic. They'd still fought occasionally over those facts—Potter couldn't differentiate between powdered moonstone and powdered moondrop to save his life, let alone explain that difference—but altogether, the experience had left him almost hopeful for the slim possibility of friendship. 

However, they'd been on fairly even footing in that scenario. Potter had him at a rather large disadvantage this time—what with his innermost thoughts littering the school—and Draco was only about eighty-seven percent sure he wouldn't use it against him. 

“I knew you'd manage to get here first!” Potter panted as he slumped against the wall, disheveled from running to meet him, apparently. 

Draco had to physically turn away to keep from staring at the vee of skin exposed by Potter's shirt. The prat had his top four buttons undone! How the hell was he supposed to deal with this?! 

‘Just breathe,’ he reminded himself again. 

“Yes, well, do come along, Potter. I refuse to spend all of my night playing sidekick to your hero…. And for the love of Merlin, tidy yourself up. You're representing our Year...you might try acting like it from time to time.” He turned and strode into the library with all the outer confidence of an adult dragon, but he was shaking like a newborn hatchling on the inside. There was no way Potter would want to try this ‘solving crime together’ thing now; his stupid curse was in full force. 

He was not prepared for Potter to burst out laughing. He turned, heart sinking. It had all been a prank, then. He'd known it must be, but, still, he had hoped….

Something of his discomfort must have shown on his face, though, because Potter calmed a bit, taking deep gulps of air between lingering giggles. 

“Sorry, sorry! But the only sidekick I know of in any capacity is Robin: Boy Wonder! And I can't help but think you'd object to more than just the job description.” Potter was no longer out-right laughing, but his eyes were sparkling with good-natured mirth. “I bet you'd look brilliant in his costume. Though, if you were to ask me, instead of a sidekick…” his eyes darkened ever so slightly, “...I'd make you a main event. Like the Dread Pirate Roberts or something.” He winked and went to claim an out of the way table. 

 It was making Draco a bit lightheaded if he were to be honest—all the emotional whiplash of the day. He was having a hard time telling if he was pissed off, turned on, flustered, giddy, or scared. He supposed it must be some mix of all of the above, and Potter wasn't helping things by being so bloody attractive and confusing. Who the hell were those people? What in the world did a robin and a pirate have to do with sidekick's?! Also, was he flirting with Draco? He couldn't be sure, as the only person he'd ever flirted with was Pansy and that didn't count. But there was no way. Right?

He gazed after the enigma that was Potter and caught him staring. They both flushed. Nevertheless, Potter was waving him over, and so, head held high, he went.

 

~*~

 

“Huh…” Pansy flopped down, crumpling his carefully worded note and forcing him to scoot over or be landed on. “You guys really did a lot of work last night.” She almost sounded disappointed enough that Draco almost felt guilty for not adding more of the personal details…but he wasn't ready to share certain facts with her yet. He still wasn't really sure what they meant himself.

He wanted to hold onto the soft glow in his chest privately just a bit longer. Last night had been almost like something out of a fairy-tale at times. Rather terrifying at others, but he wouldn't change a thing.

 

~*~

 

After a couple of hours of working together steadily in the quiet of the library, Draco had been thoroughly disgusted with the lack of information and progress they'd managed. 

Surprisingly, they had worked fairly well together, previous tutoring sessions notwithstanding. Those had had a set curriculum to follow, deducing how to catch a thief did not. Potter had managed to impress him with his ability to think outside the box—no real shock there. When had Potter ever let little things like rules get in the way? His being muggle-raised also allowed for some interesting theories on the 'why' of the thefts, even if some were just downright fanciful.

“...or it could be someone who doesn't know they’re doing it, like sleepwalking. Sleep stealing?” Potter was a study of thought in motion. His chair was tipped back on two legs, rocking ever so gently. At the same time, he made one of the small paper cranes he'd all but begged Draco to fold flutter around the table. How had he never noticed that the man couldn't sit still?

“As truly plausible as that might be,” he couldn't quite help the eye roll, not that he really tried very hard, “maybe a break and some air would allow for a fresh perspective?”

Potter perked up, reminding Draco of nothing more than a hound hearing the word ‘walk.' “That's a brilliant idea!” Down came the chair and crane as he rose, bending to stretch out muscles kinked from sitting in, generally, the same spot for hours. 

It took Draco more effort than was pretty to not drool all over himself. Potter was fit as fuck, and watching him display that fact from less than a foot away, shirt riding up to show off smooth bronzed skin, was starting to make things…difficult. So, he did what he'd always done—evade. 

Standing, he tidied up the table a bit and cut a glance at the source of his… discomfort. “If you're done making a spectacle of yourself, Potter?” He gestured towards the door with an exaggerated sweep of the arm. “I'm…” Draco trailed off. 

Once again, Potter was staring at him thoughtfully, head tilted, as if he'd done something peculiar. 

“What? Is there ink on my nose?” 

A mischievous grin spread across Potter's face, and he shook his head no as he reached out and grabbed Draco's hand, simultaneously pulling him away from the library exit and sending his poor heart racing. 

“The way to fresh air is behind us, Potter.” He managed to sound almost normal, thank Merlin. 

The only answer he got for his efforts was a rakish grin that stole his breath away, and “Yeah… but I know a shortcut” as he was led deeper into the bowels of the library. 

Soon they came to a stop next to an innocuous portrait of an empty table. Draco looked around and snorted. “This is about as far from fresh air as you can get, Potter. Have you finally lost the plot? One too many hits from old snake-face?”

With another wink and a quick squeeze of his fingers, Potter let go of his hand and pulled out his wand. Draco missed some of what he was doing, more preoccupied with the fact that he'd somehow been holding hands with Potter for some time and not noticed. He could feel a seemingly semi-permanent flush deepening and crawling it's way down his neck. What in the world was going on with Potter?! 

A hand waving in his sight line brought his attention back to the man and matter at hand. 

Potter had done… something, and suddenly there was an open tome upon the once empty table with 'Open Sesame' inscribed upon the pages. He looked quite smug about it for some bewildering reason and seemed particularly amused that it confused Draco. 

“It's a book...? Do you want a biscuit? Can we go outside now?” He crossed his arms, lest he embarrass himself doing something idiotic. Like trying to reclaim Potter's hand.

“We are.” Potter then swished his wand with an extravagant flourish. Draco had no way of knowing if it was necessary or just an odd bit of showboating on Potter's part, but found he didn't care anymore as the portrait swung open, revealing a hidden passage. 

Potter climbed up and sat on the ledge leading into the rather dark and, if the angle of Potter's legs were any indication, steep tunnel. “I told you; I know a shortcut.” He held out his hand. “Scared, Malfoy?” he quipped. 

Draco's bemused grin turned competitive at the not-so subtle nod to their old rivalry. “You wish, Potter,” he shot back, taking the offered lift up into the mouth of the unknown. 

It was a tight fit. Potter obviously had some kind of plan that involved Draco sitting next to him, but this was not the largest of portrait holes, really only big enough for one almost-grown man. They might have fit side by side a few years ago, but certainly not now. 

After the third time of getting an elbow in his ribs, Potter bodily moved him to sit in front and between his legs. It felt suspiciously like being held, and Draco wasn't sure he could handle it. They were so close, Potter must be able to feel his heart pounding out a mad rhythm in his chest. Draco squirmed a bit, trying to get just a tiny bit more space between them before he really embarrassed them both. He stilled at the hand on his shoulder, barely daring to even breathe. 

“Do you trust me?” Potter asked, breath tickling the fine hair around his ear. 

Draco shivered. The sensation was overwhelming, but he despaired a bit as well. There was no way he'd be able to answer that question the way he wanted. His curse blocked all true feelings from verbalizing. He opened his mouth ready to spout off some bit of sarcastic work-around when a simple, cautious, “Yes,” slipped out instead.

He was still processing the bizarre phenomenon of honesty without effort and its rather dizzying implications, when he felt Potter hug him close with a whispered, “Good,” as he closed the opening behind them.

 

~*~

 

There was a hand in his face again, drawing him out of his musings of the night before. “Pansy to Draco! You in there?”

He shifted, causing her to sink into the divot he'd left, and successfully removed her hand without having to emerge from his cocoon of blankets. He turned his head, blinking at her lazily. “What do you want now, you hag?” He yawned. He had to agree with his dorm mates, it really was to early for her nonsense on a Sunday morning.

“Ugh, you're so charming.” She rolled her eyes and shoved at him lightly. “I was asking how you felt about the first name thing…are you going to be okay?” To anyone else Pansy would look nonchalant, barely interested, but Draco could see how worried for him she was. "Should I try telling him?"

"Oh yes! Absolutely !" Draco sniffed in disdain. "He'll definitely believe us ! No possible reason for him not to, after all." He rolled his eyes.

"Okay, okay… No need to bite my head off. It was just a thought. Sheesh."

"And a marvelous one at that," he added with a pointed look.

She huffed and went back to the letter. Without the threat of his father hanging over them, Pansy had brought up the idea of just telling everyone the truth about his curse. Draco was thoroughly against it. After everything that happened and with how long he'd been forced to keep it secret, there was absolutely no way for his truth to sound like anything but an excuse.

Pansy meant well, and he loved her for it, but it just wouldn't work.

She was just worried over him, and with good reason, honestly. She was the only one who knew how long he'd pined after Pott…er, Harry. Merlin's Beard, but that was going to take an adjustment period.

As were other less clear-cut changes in the dynamics between himself and Po—Harry.

 

~*~

 

The first thing he'd noticed had been that Potter's secret passage wasn't as pitch black as he'd first thought. There were small glowing plants lining the walls, like an enclosed star field. The effect was stunning in a vaguely, claustrophobic way that was not helped by the fact that Potter had his arms around his waist.

Draco cleared his throat. “Do you mind?” he asked as primly as his poor, wrecked nerves would allow. 

“Not at all!” Potter all but chirped back, the arsehole. “I'd do the same for Ron or ‘Mione, and they've done this before! And anyway… you don't know the way.” He was practically vibrating with excitement, which should have been Draco's first warning. But in his own defense, he was extraordinarily preoccupied with being absolutely surrounded by Potter and, if he were being honest, with an odd feeling of disappointment. Even if it wasn't a surprise that, of course, he'd shown his best friends whatever this was ages ago.

“I need you to relax a bit, though, Malfoy. I won't be able to guide you if you're all stiff!” he chuckled, the rumble of it vibrating through Draco's chest. “I need you to be on the broom, not to be the broom.”

Potter thought he was real funny with his bloody broom metaphor. Draco heaved a sigh and tried to relax his body as if he were about to go flying. It was stupidly easy. Potter was a warm, solid weight at his back, the rich scent of him was all around, and the soft glow from the walls reminded him of the night sky that he very much wanted to see at some point that evening. 

“Brilliant! Now…” Potter collected his hands and held them to his stomach. “Please keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times and hang on!” And he pushed on something.

Suddenly, they were sliding forward and starting to pick up speed at an alarming rate, and then… they fell. Or rather, they were still sliding, just extremely quickly in a downward direction and Draco was feeling a bit conflicted. He couldn't quite decide if it was worse to close his eyes, magnifying the sensation of falling, or to keep them open and see the once individual glowing spots turned into streaks of light.

The only thing keeping him from fully losing his shit was Potter. He was laughing. A childlike, joyful sound that Draco was pretty sure wouldn't be the case if they were hurtling to their demise. He'd managed to forcibly keep himself from clutching at Potter right up until the world went upside down twice in rapid succession. After that, he gave up all pretense and clutched at every bit of Potter he could reach.

After a few more of the stomach-twisting loops and turns, Potter—who it seemed was having the time of his life—was saying, “Brace yourself!” right before they plowed into something firm, but thankfully soft. 

The force of impact should have crushed him beneath Potter—what, with his being in the front—and would have if Potter hadn't twisted them around at the last possible moment so that Draco's slighter frame was on the opposite side of the… whatever the bloody hell they'd run into in wherever the bloody hell they currently were. 

Potter was still giggling as if he'd been hit with a Tickle-Me Jinx. He also seemed to have lost his bloody mind, going on about how brilliant that was and how fun! Draco could very easily have strangled the blasted prat right then and there. He wrenched himself out of Potter's loose embrace, too distracted to even enjoy it in passing. 

Fun ?!?  You call that fun?!” He was trembling slightly, whether from anger or fear, he wasn't sure. “You've absolutely lost your senses, haven't you?! Hurtling, at great speed, through the bloody dark—at Great Speed—with no control, At Great Bloody Speed !!!  Into who knows what , to who knows where ! Why in Merlin's name did I think I could trust you?! You're just like everyone else! Let's scare the Death Eater! Let's make sure he knows what he did! Nevermind whether he actually wanted to do any of those awful things. Nevermind that his mother's life was forfeit if he didn't! Let's remind him that he's not welcome!" He was screaming at this point.

"I thought you were different, seeing as how you stood up for Mother and me, but I guess even the 'Great Saviour,' Harry Potter, needs a laugh every now and then, doesn't he?!” 

He was outright shaking at this point and couldn't bring himself to care. “I'm trying so fucking hard to make up for everything. Fighting every blasted day against the things they did to me. Against what my Father did to me with—” His throat closed off, making anymore speech impossible. 

The curse had caught up with him. It always did. Sometimes, if he wasn't really thinking of what he was saying, then it was almost as if the damned thing was caught off guard. It only ever happened in cases of extreme emotions, something his father had tried very hard to train out of him. He had the scars to prove the bastard had almost succeeded too. He'd activated the failsafe again as well. He wasn't allowed to speak of his ‘blessing' from the crone. It'd be at least a good five minutes or more before he’d be allowed to have his voice back after an episode like that.

“—foy… Malfoy… Draco!” 

Draco looked up, startled at hearing his given name, noticing that he'd somehow sunk down in a corner of the room they were in. He scrubbed at his face, and, sure enough, there were wet streaks down his cheeks. Damn it. When had he placed so much power in Potter's stupid hands? Just because they'd managed to be civil—if not almost friendly—on occasion this year, did not mean that all was forgiven. He should have known better. 

He glared up at Potter, curse still gripping his vocal cords in retribution for circumventing its purpose. He'd been rendered mute for a week after his father's hearing, when he'd told him exactly what he thought of him before they took him away. However, what it stole from him in vocal prowess, he was perfectly capable of making up for with body language.

Once he saw that he had Draco's attention, Potter seemed less sure of himself and dropped to sit in front of him. “I'm sorry!” he blurted to Draco's surprise. “I forgot how it can be the first time you take this particular tunnel…. Ron was angry with me too, for not warning him properly.” 

Draco snorted in disbelief. 

He was scrubbing at his hair again, Draco noticed wryly. “It scared the crap out of me the first time too, and I used it for its intended purpose at the time!” He chuckled softly. “Should give you a laugh. The ‘Great Saviour' running like a cornered stag from a gaggle of giggling first years.” 

Potter shook his head as if the imagery, or perhaps the memory, was unpleasant. He brightened a bit. “Turns out that my dad and Sirius are the ones responsible for it working the way it does. They found it sometime during the first war and fixed it up….“ 

Draco raised a sardonic eyebrow.

 “Well, okay, yeah, they might have made a few additions,” he amended with a rueful half-smile. His expression sobered. “I honestly didn't mean to scare you, and I certainly won't be having a laugh about it… not when I should have given you some kind of warning.” He pushed his glasses up. “As for where we are, the slide lets out in an unused stall in the thestral birthing stables—be thankful it's not foaling season, the smell can be...unique," he grimaced and wrinkled his nose. "And we landed in maximum-level, multi-layered cushioning charms that I check every time I'm out this way.” Potter snorted hard enough to need to readjust his glasses again. “I've had to use it too often not to—less in the last month, though, thankfully.

"Malfoy…no, Draco—may I call you Draco? You could call me Harry?” When Draco didn't say anything, Potter continued, “You are more than what they tried to make you. Everyone has seen how hard you're trying to make amends, and I know that they were holding your mum hostage…. I had the misfortune of occasionally being in Voldemort's head.” At Draco's wince, he nodded. “Yeah, that was about as fun as you'd expect.

“My point is, no one is running around going ‘That vile Death Eater shouldn't be here!’.... You made some truly abysmal decisions and may bear the Mark, but you were awful at being a Death Eater. Particularly when compared to the likes of the Carrows or even your own father." When Draco glowered at the mention of the arsehole he had the misfortune to call Father, Potter smiled sympathetically but barreled forward with what he seemed determined to say.

"It was war…a lot of us did things we’re not proud of. If anyone has a problem, it's more ‘cause you were a bully and a spoiled git before, and now I'm wondering how much of that was forced on you.” Potter was giving him a considering look. “I'm thinking that taking you at face value is the wrong way to go about things.”

If Draco blushed much harder, he'd set the stable ablaze. He wasn't sure what to do with this all too insightful and ernest outburst on Potter's part. But if he didn't do something soon, the silly prat would surely kill him with this gentle kindness. Luckily, self preservation and deflection were talents he possessed in spades.

Decision made, he stood abruptly, almost braining himself on a shelf full of odds and ends in the process. He looked down at Potter, cocked a haughty eyebrow, and strode out of the stall. He took a moment to breathe and recenter himself before popping his head back around the doorframe just in time to catch Potter's little lost puppy routine. He looked so adorable, sitting there with his mouth agape and that little wrinkle he gets when he's confused or worried between his brows, staring at the stall door.

Draco decided to take pity on him and tapped at his throat, then mimed locking his lips. He rolled his eyes as Potter's confusion seemed to deepen and waved for him to get off his arse and come on. He'd be damned if he didn't get to see the stars tonight after all of that. 

 

~*~

 

Draco sighed and cuddled into Pansy where she was petting his hair absently as she held his letter aloft. “So, you and Harry Dearest...” she squirmed and giggled, trying to flee his vengeance for the tease. “You really were just accidentally slumped together because neither of you knows when to quit? Really?” He could hear the incredulity in her voice and snuggled deeper into her shoulder so as to keep his blush hidden. 

If she got a chance to see his face, she might read there what she couldn't in the letter—that he'd kept choice bits of the previous night to himself instead of sharing them with her.

After all, falling asleep together really had been an accident. As for the rest? Well that was more or less accurate... right? 

 

~*~

 

They’d remained quiet for a while after leaving the stables, just enjoying the night air. It was quite chilly, being late November, so Harry tossed a couple quick heating charms over them both. They hadn't thought to grab their cloaks…as they might have if they'd left the castle like civilized wizards. However, Draco didn't mind not having his cloak too much as Harry's magic washed over him.

It was during their walk around the lake that Draco's voice had come back. Leading to Pot-Harry—he was very insistent about their using given names now—and himself having a rather interesting, if embarrassing, conversation about poetry of all things.

“So, Draco…you er, like Shakespeare, then?” Harry was looking out over the lake and most definitely not at him, which was good as the question had caught Draco off guard. Gaping like a fish was unattractive to say the least and rude to say the most—as was abruptly changing the subject, but well….

He cleared his throat, waving a hand nonchalantly. “As much as one might expect from a British wizard, I suppose. Solidarity and what not.” 

Harry looked at him as if he'd grown a second head. “Huh? Solidarity?”

“Well, yes…wait. You do know Shakespeare was a wizard, right?” Draco sighed and feigned disappointment. “Don't you ever pay attention in class? Poor Granger.”

“Hey! I was just a tad busy before now.” Harry bumped his shoulder into Draco’s playfully.

Was it truly necessary to be so attractive, even when pouting? Draco shook his head. "Dare I ask what has you asking after The Bard?” He attempted to feign nonchalance, "Surely, since you were so busy saving the world and all, your history homework was excused? Or are you fishing for extra tutelage?" He smirked. Please don't be about his poem.

“Well, I, erm...had noticed that your work was a sonnet, and, uh, I didn't think you'd mimic the style of someone you didn't like the work of, and…I, er, well, that is...I, uh... I liked your poem.” Of course it was about his poem. Well, at least Potter—Harry was the one blushing about it this time. 

“Yes. Well, poetry is a perfectly acceptable pastime…. It's not solely for girls, you know. Shakespeare was, after all, male,” he blustered, looking everywhere but at the man beside him. 

At this, Harry whipped towards him, grabbing his shoulder to pull him to a stop. 

“Exactly! I've loved poetry ever since we performed ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ in primary!” His excitement was contagious, and Draco found himself grinning back. 

“Is that that dreadfully overused poem about daffodils by Wordsworth?” Draco grinned, a teasing twinkle in his eye.

Harry shoved at him good-naturedly, then deflated a bit. “I'm pants at it, though—writing it, that is…. But!" He glanced at Draco, an edge of mischief in the corner of his smile. "I'm pretty good at recitation! In fact—!”

He pulled Draco over to sit on one of the few benches scattered around the lake and bowed him into the seat with a playful quirk of a grin. “Allow me to entertain you, fine sir!”

Draco was left laughing and slightly breathless at the special attention. He'd never had this side of Harry directed at him before. Honestly, who'd have thought that poetry, of all things, would be their common ground? 

He was pulled from his contemplation by Harry dipping a low bow as if holding a feathered hat. “You're most likely already familiar with M'lady Dickinson, and so, without further ado—!”

Draco was almost giddy with the wonder of Harry trying-to-kill-me-with-friendship Potter getting ready to perform a recitation of a poem he liked enough to have memorized, for only him, and to get to see him having so much fun with it too! Draco had to keep reminding himself that it was just because Harry was excited to find another poetry connoisseur. 

 

“Wild nights - Wild nights!

Were I with thee

Wild nights should be

Our luxury!”

Harry was making serious eye contact. Draco felt the flush staining his cheeks spread at the undivided attention. It was as if that gaze was piercing straight through him, privy to feelings that had no voice. He just had to remember, it's just a recitation—just a performance. Nothing more.

“Futile - the winds -

To a Heart in port -

Done with the Compass -

Done with the Chart!”

 

Harry's voice had been deep and melodious during the first verse, but had risen in a crescendo of passion during the second. Draco sat enraptured in silence.


“Rowing in Eden -

Ah - the Sea!

Might I but moor - tonight -

In thee!”

 

Harry had backed down on the volume behind his voice, ending it all as if whispering in the ear of a lover and Draco was left trembling. Transfixed by the shifting emerald eyes that had seemed to hold him captive in one way or another since he'd been eleven years old. Harry took a bow, and, once eye contact had been broken, Draco leapt to his feet to applaud such a spectacular performance. Decorum be damned. 

He was beaming at Draco again, panting slightly from the exertion of performance. “You enjoyed it, then,” he grinned. 

Draco nodded vigorously, refusing to even try to speak. He'd not sully a performance of that caliber with half-truths and sarcasm. 

“Hey, you've something….” The look that Harry was giving him was scattering Draco's thoughts to the four winds. 

It must just be the rush of such a powerful recitation; there's no way such a tender look was truly meant for him. If he were to let himself think that even for a moment, he'd believe Harry was going to kiss him…and that just wasn't possible. Suddenly he felt whatever it was that Harry brushed out of his hair fall into the collar of his shirt and it was cold! He yelped and started trying to remove it as Harry burst into laughter. 

“Sorry, Draco!” he giggled, face alight with joy. “But look! It's snowing!”

After that, he and Harry had run around like primary school children, trying to gather enough snow for, well, anything, really. Giggling and chasing each other with small handfuls of the stuff. But as first snows go, this was just a light dusting that would surely be gone by morning. It was the most magical first snow fall he'd ever experienced.

All good things must come to an end, however. The heating charms had completely worn off, and they were both chilled to the bone. Even with harry rubbing at his hands and shoulders, Draco was shivering so badly that on their way back inside, Harry insisted on a detour to the kitchens for some hot cocoa. Draco found himself somewhat grateful for the excuse the chill provided him with, as he was fairly certain he was flushed from more than the cold. He had a sneaking suspicion that the extended proximity to his long-time crush had much more to do with it. 

“Will you stop that?!” he exclaimed, chuckling after Harry had once again managed to catch his free hand.

“You're freezing ! I'm going to feel really awful if you catch a cold because of me!” 

Draco felt a small thrill at seeing that little worry wrinkle between Harry's brows in regards to himself again. "I am not freezing! Which you'd know if you paid attention in any class beyond DADA for even just one singular, solitary moment." He rolled his eyes and smiled. "I'm already warmer just by virtue of being back indoors. However, if you're that chilled, you can gather our things, and we'll continue by the common room fire.”

 

~*~

 

And that's exactly what they'd done. Parked themselves on the large sofa right in front of the great fireplace and continued working right up until Pansy woke them from their tangle of blankets and paper and, mortifyingly, each other.

She'd smirked her arse off, but otherwise behaved herself as he and Harry had said hurried good nights and each scurried to their respective dorm rooms.

Draco glanced at where she had dozed off next to him after getting bored when he refused to react to her teasing after reading his letter. He probably owed her a 'thank you' for saving him. The teasing, or even possibly outrage, from the rest of the Eighth Years had they found them tangled together instead…. He shuddered at the thought. Then again, she'd more than likely giggled herself back to sleep the night before; after the stuttering, babbling mess he'd been upon waking up in Harry's arms. So maybe she'd already gotten her payment for services rendered.

He yawned once more, glad it was a lazy Sunday and there were no classes to worry about. Draco stilled, staring at the top of his bed curtains. “What in the…?” he muttered, pushing the covers down so he could stand up on the mattress. 

Pansy snorted awake when she rolled into his legs. “S’matter?” she asked, rubbing at bleary eyes.

“There's a tear in my curtains.” 

Draco looked closer; it was a rather long tear. About a foot long and cut all the way through, the damage was jagged as if torn by a cat’s claw. Further inspection revealed three smaller tears arranged around the largest. Something had made its own door into his bed and circumvented the spells he placed on the curtains. His bed where he'd kept his journal.

He jumped down from his bed and scrambled into his dressing robe—no time to get dressed—he had to find Harry. Luck was on his side, in that he was in the common room. Unfortunately, so were at least a quarter of their returning Year-mates. Merlin but it was too early for this. Draco took a fortifying breath and walked up to him.

“Pott—Harry, it's a creature.” 

He was holding his head high and looking only at Harry. He was expecting some form of outrage from Weasley at the very least for using Harry's given name, not for him to grin and pound on his best mate’s back, congratulating him for ‘finally taming the dragon’... whatever that meant. 

Draco looked at Weasley, perplexed. “How'd you know I suspect a dragon relation?” All chatter stopped at his question. 

“What do you mean, Draco?” Hermione asked, a small, bemused smile tucked into the corner of her cheek. 

She had been one of the very first Draco had apologized to—via letter, of course—but she'd taken it to heart and they'd had an odd, almost-friendship ever since. He gave her a small smile and nodded toward her. “Harry, I thought you told your sidekicks everything?” He grinned, cocking a brow.

“Well, yeah.” If Harry abused his poor hair any more it was just going to fall out. Draco had had enough. He summoned his own hair brush and handed it to the utter distraction that was Harry Potter.

“But all we managed to do was determine what the thief couldn't be.” Harry was looking at the hairbrush as if he'd never seen the like before. "Er....Thanks?"

Draco sighed and took the brush back. “Like this.” He swiped it through his own hair a couple times. “There's charms for detangling in the bristles. Just…try it. Your hair is an utter disaster; for the love of Merlin, fix it.” he snorted at the gobsmacked expressions on Harry and Weasley’s faces.

Rolling his eyes, he turned to Hermione, falling into the facts of what he suspected easily. “In answer to your question, I mean that I think our paper thief is a creature. Not much bigger than a cat, I'd say.” Draco measured his hands out about a foot. “And possibly a dragon relation of some variety, given the claw tears at the top of my bed curtains.”

Hermione took his information and seemed to mull it over. “That might make more sense than you'd think. Parvarti? Can you bring Lances-a-lot over here?” She motioned over the other girl who was holding a shivering, mewling bundle of black and white fluff swaddled in a blanket.

“Lance is the kind of kitten that doesn't fear much and shreds whatever he does. We found him scared out of his wits this morning and glued to the bannister with some kind of…saliva?” 

She seemed uncharacteristically uncertain about that last bit, but before Draco could ask her about it, Weasley piped up with, “A Wyrm—That's it!” 

“A Worm?” Harry was looking at his best friend like he'd lost his mind. “Hate to tell you, mate, but worms don't have claws.”

“Not Worms! Wyrms!” It clicked for Draco at the same time that Weasley confidently crowed, “ A BOOKwyrm to be exact!”

“But it's almost the end of November?! The Bookwyrms should have all migrated by now, right?” Hermione Granger was looking to her boyfriend for confirmation of information; what bizarre alternate dimension had Draco woken up in? 

“Well, yeah, for the most part,” Weasley confirmed. “But! Hagrid has a young female that he's rehabilitating! We got to study her in classes a couple weeks ago….”

Hermione was positively beaming at Weasley as he started rattling on about the lesson. Harry stared between them, amused. He glanced at Draco and whispered, “Ron's wanting to be something of a magical veterinarian and has been studying his arse off.” He snorted a bit, smiling happily at his two best friends. “I think ‘Mione might be smitten all over again.”

“...was really very interesting—you see, Bookwyrms who can't or don't migrate, hibernate for the winter. But to do so, they need a hoard to make a nest out of, and Bookwyrms hoard treasured writings! If it's important to you and on paper, they want it, and they'll get it however they can.” Weasley turned away from his captivated audience and asked, “Malfoy, can you show me the tears you were talking about?”

“If I must.” Draco smirked. 

“That's a ‘yes, certainly,’ just by the by,” Pansy piped up lazily from behind him, draping herself over Draco's shoulders. 

He rolled his eyes. “About time you got up, lazy Bitch.”

“Love you too, Dahling.” She then proceeded to kiss his cheek, and he instantly knew she was wearing lipstick, and that it was now on his face. It was the only time she ever displayed that kind of affection in public.

Draco let out a long-suffering sigh and beckoned at Weasley as he scrubbed at his cheek with a bespelled handkerchief—it was the only way to get it off anymore. “Get a move on, then.” When the whole room made to follow, Draco leveled a look at them. “Presumed experts only.”

When Harry, Hermione, and Pansy continued to follow anyway, he just shook his head and led the mini parade to his part of the dorm. Thankfully, his roommates all seemed to have pulled themselves out of bed. 

Once there, he turned with a flourish, dressing robe flaring out behind him, and bowed. “I present to you! The evidence.” Hearing Harry snicker was well worth the dramatics and formal speech. Draco shot him a grin.

He sobered quickly, however, when he saw the tomfoolery that Weasley was about to attempt. "Why Weasley, if you wanted into my bed that badly, you could have just asked.” He let a hint of his old sneer color his voice.

Draco made a show of inspecting his fingernails, very pointedly not looking at where Weasley and his shoes were frozen in place, about to climb into Draco's bed…his clean bed. Never mind that he could use magic to clear any detritus away after the fact. It was the principal of the matter! One simply does not climb into another's bed uninvited! Rude! 

“Well, umm…how else am I supposed to get a look at the tops of your curtains?” Weasley would be the death of him, Draco was sure. 

“You are capable of magic are you not, Weasley?” He sighed—circumventing the curse was much harder with Weasley than with Harry—and cast the charm to take the curtains down. "I thought I saw you in Household Charms: How to Take Care After School? We covered bed charms last week.”

Weasley flushed to match his hair as he reached for the floating curtain. No mean feat, to be sure. 

“You're taking extra courses, Ron?” Hermione almost looked hurt as she asked the question, which was odd. Normally she was ecstatic about others expanding their knowledge, as demonstrated by her earlier adoration of Weasley's showing off his expertise with magical creatures. Something was off.

Harry looked vaguely alarmed by the odd not-fight that appeared to be brewing. Draco looked between the trio in bewilderment.

Weasley busied himself with looking over the claw marks. “Oh, yeah, these definitely look like Susie's claw pattern for sure! You can tell by the spacing here and the width of the tear.” He was babbling, that much was obvious. “Wonder how she got loose this time, the clever little bugger.”

“Ron?” Hermione asked so softly she almost couldn't be heard over Weasley's nervous chuckles about naughty dragon-kin thieving around Hogwarts. 

Harry still looked sad and lost at the not-fight seemingly brewing, Pansy had moved well out of range just in case of a blow out, and Draco was kicking himself for stepping in whatever mess this was and inadvertently putting that look on Harry's face. He vowed then and there to try his absolute best, curse be damned, to never be the cause of that look ever again. 

Weasley had stopped his fidgeting and was staring at Hermione in a rather helpless fashion. He cleared his throat, shifted his weight, cleared his throat again, and finally seemed to find some of that touted Gryffindor courage. “Yeah. Yeah...I'm taking homemaking courses…I didn't tell you, er, I was gonna…." He took a deep breath and seemed to settle himself. "I just figured that, you know, I should be able to do my fair share around the house while you take on the Ministry, is all.” He offered Hermione a sheepish, yet hopeful smile.

Pansy was suddenly grinning fit to split her face. “Smooth, Weasley. Veeeery smooth. ”

“Ron... are you asking me to live with you?” Hermione breathed, eyes gleaming in a way that Draco had no intention of trying to decipher. Ever.

Ahem . I do believe you have clearly determined that these claw marks belong to the Bookwyrm, right, Weasley?” With the way that he and Hermione couldn't seem to look away from each other, trying to get back on track was apparently a lost cause. But Draco still had to find his missing journal, blast it. They could go be disgustingly in love elsewhere as soon as he knew where to look for the beast.

“Yes,” was the only answer, but whether Weasley was responding to Draco or answering Hermione was unclear.

“Great! Best guess as to finding it?” Draco rushed on, trying to cut the lovebirds off at the pass. 

“Oh, Ron, of course I'll live with you,” Hermione beamed.

Weasley looked a bit dazed. “I'd try high places with access to the outdoors. Oh!  And look for beheaded pests, like mice. They don't like when critters that chew on books come close to the hoard." He took a deep, settling breath as he turned back to Hermione. "You will?” A grin of pure joy lit up his face.

Whatever else he was going to say was overridden by Hermione as she grabbed her boyfriend by the hand. “Ok, good. Yup. They got it. Try bell towers, tall dormitories, the Owlery,  the observatory, excetera, excetera.” She was dragging Ron from the room quite quickly. “Look out for headless rodents. And…” she paused at the door, looking back at the rest of them, eyes sparkling and a flush riding high upon her cheeks. “Don't need Ron for a bit.”

The door shut with a soft click, silence ringing in the sudden departure. 

“Well, I do declare!” Pansy exclaimed, dramatically fanning herself and mock-swooning against the bed frame. “Granger certainly has more fire in her than I gave her credit for!”

Draco was left holding the bed curtains, pretty sure he was giving Harry an encore of his gaping fish act. That, however, was preferred to Harry's stuttering mumble trying to explain to an increasingly amused and poker-faced Pansy about how his friends were normally more discreet, and he'd not a clue what had gotten into ‘Mione, but he was very happy that they'd decided to live together and, "Hey! Maybe we should try to find that Wyrm, huh?”

Draco pulled himself together, if for no other reason than to save the poor man from Pansy. She'd let him go for as long as she could keep a straight face, and he'd seen her hold it together for hours on end before. 

He patted Harry's shoulder. “Come along, then; I'm about to be brilliant.” 

 

~

 

A few hours later, Draco was quite pleased with their results. His plan had been well received as Pansy hadn't been keen on trying to physically search the whole castle for the beast. Harry had just seemed relieved she'd let up about his friends. He'd agreed that it was a good idea, although Draco couldn't shake the notion that he'd found something fairly amusing about the whole thing.

It was crafting the bait that had taken a bit. Particularly since he insisted that they each keep  the contents of their notes personal and private, so as to make it as real as possible. Now, a simple tracking spell on each note, locking them with wards, and leaving them in the common room. Easy...or so Draco had thought. 

Harry Potter could not sit still. He'd decided to sit next to Draco and just about wiggled them both off the sofa in the past half hour with his fidgeting. Draco sighed and cleared yet another splatter of ink off his parchment. Watching Harry watch and not-watch the little squares simultaneously was giving him a headache.

“Why don't you boys go have a fly or something?” Pansy mused. “No sense in all of us sitting around here, waiting.” She cut a glance at where Harry was twisting a long gone confection wrapper to bits. “I, at least, want to spend my Sunday in the common room finishing my reading.” 

Draco caught a glimpse of Pansy’s book cover and lit up. It was the next volume of that muggle illustrated novel that Pansy's relative in Japan was sending her! It was unique in every way from anything Draco had ever read before, but the most exciting part was that the romantic interests were both men.

The faster he removed distractions, the faster he'd get to read it. With that in mind, Draco capped his ink and stood abruptly. “Just flying sounds like a bore. How about a Seekers’ game, Harry?” 

Harry perked up at the mention of flying, even with the brisk, early, winter air. The suggestion of a Seekers’ game had lit an eager glint in his eye. “Friendly or Challenge, Malfoy?” he asked, standing, a sly grin dancing around his lips.

Draco gave him a measured look at the sudden use of his surname again, a smirk settling on his face when all he saw was Harry's competitive streak. “What's the difference, Potter?” he purred, relishing the feeling of rivalry without all their old antagonism.

“A bet. Winner gets to choose one thing for the loser to do.” Harry stepped closer, and Draco could feel the excess energy narrowing, finding focus. The fact that the focus was him sent his pulse racing.

This...this he could work with. It was oddly comforting to know that some things hadn't changed. That Harry still saw him as a worthy challenge. Draco knew that he'd been playing games with the other Eighth Years as none of them had been allowed to be on the House teams, but that there had been enough interest to schedule recurring time slots. 

Draco hadn't bothered to waste everyone's time by asking to be included. No sense in asking to be publicly rejected, and, even if the curse would have let him, he refused to beg. He did still have some pride left, after all. Misplaced though it may be.

However, he hadn't heard of any bets being made by or against Harry. No one seemed able to keep up with him. Draco preened, tossing his hair a bit. “You're on, Potter. Meet me on the pitch in thirty.”

As he turned to go prep, Draco tossed back, “Oh, and, Harry?” All eyes were on him. “Don't make me wait to kick your arse.” He tossed in a wink and a smirk for good measure and left chuckling with the image of Harry pulling his very own gaping fish routine.

 

~

 

Exactly thirty minutes later, Draco was cursing Pansy for suggesting flying, of all things. It was fucking freezing ! The light snow of the night before hadn't melted away as expected and had, in fact, continued all night, leaving a thin blanket of snow over everything. And Merlin's tits! Why was the whole school in the blasted bleachers?!? He layered on another Heating Charm.

Just as he was wondering where the bloody hell Harry was, the damned prat came strolling out onto the pitch not just in any old flying outfit. Oh no. The arsehole apparently paid enough attention the day before to play dirty. He was kitted out in his damned Quidditch Leathers

Draco swallowed hard, glad that he'd taken some time with his appearance. He wasn't in bloody Quidditch gear , but it was a close second and, he gloated as Harry came closer, quite a bit warmer.

“You can forfeit if you're too cold, Potter.” He smirked, watching him shiver ever so slightly despite the shimmer of heating charms. Maybe that'd teach him to try and press an advantage against Draco. 

“Don't hold your breath, Malfoy. I've never been better,” he beamed, happy as a clam on a summer seashore. 

Draco shook his head, bemused. “Doubtful.” He looked around at the still filling stadium. “Care to explain all this?” He jerked his thumb in the direction of the expanding crowd. 

Harry ducked his head a bit. “Apparently, if we're planning to…” he rolled his eyes, adding air quotes, “‘Put on the Match of the Century!’...we need to be more careful about who’s in hearing distance. Seamus and Dean might have made a big deal of it.” 

“Merlin and Morgana, are you also not allowed to piss by yourself?” Draco was flabbergasted enough that he forgot to even attempt to filter his cursed words. Seekers’ games were not typically terribly entertaining for audiences. That's why there's normally a game of Quidditch going on at the same time. “Boredom must be at an all-time high if they've nothing better to do then watch me out-fly you.”

Harry grinned. “I guess we'll just have to give them a show then, eh?”

The vibrating energy was back, and it seemed to feed off the bustle of the crowd, but…it was also starting to affect Draco. He could feel himself getting wound up, caught up in the thrill of it all. These people had come out to watch just him and Harry. He grinned back. “You are going to regret this, Potter.”

As they made their way to the center of the pitch with its dusting of snow, the crowd quieted down. Seamus' voice rang out, loud and clear. “Harry! Malfoy! Good of you to join us!” The crowd rippled with laughter. 

“We all heard you're having a wee Seekers’ game, hope you don't mind that we've crashed the party! Which rules are you playing by? D'ya need a referee? We've several on hand!” Again, there was a wave of laughter.

Draco tuned out the rest of the pleasantries and let Harry deal with the crowd and Finnegan. He busied himself with the Snitch case, making sure it was set for Seekers’ games. Glancing up showed that Harry had finished stirring up the crowd with Finnegan, and it was game time. 

They saluted each other with their brooms and took to the air as an enlarged Tempus counted down the seconds until the delayed Alohomora would take effect on the case. Finnegan's voice rang out the count, with the whole crowd joining in on the last five! Four ! Three! Two! One ! The box popped open and the Snitch zoomed free, zipping once around Draco's ankle, twice around Harry's head, and then off into the painfully clear blue sky. 

With a whoop of pure joy and a climbing corkscrew, Harry took off after it. 

 

~

 

They pulled out all the stops against each other for the next hour, even performing a bit of a halftime show to the delight of their audience. Draco was elated when it was Harry who suggested the whole thing, right down to enchanting their broom tails to trail smoke in all of the House colors, proving, yet again, that he had a flair for the dramatic when he wanted to.

Draco blushed as he soared high above the stands, looking for a glint of gold against the snow. It was a good thing they were both excellent flyers. Some of the maneuvers would have been disastrous had they been a hair less aware of each other's skills. He could have toppled them both if he'd allowed himself to be distracted by how close they needed to be for several of the broom switches at the end of their impromptu show.

Thank Merlin, Harry wasn't distracted by Draco's feelings for him, even if—his eyes narrowed. Harry was zipping around like mad down there. But was it a feint, or had he found the blasted thing? It would be about time one of them did. Draco was chilled even with his warmer clothes and recast warming charms. He was starting to worry for Harry in those leathers.

There! A flash of gold had him diving at a near vertical angle for the pitch, the wind whistling in his ears drowning out Finnegan's voice and cheers from the crowd. 

Harry hadn't noticed that he'd lost it yet, but he would soon. It was time to end this, fun as it had been. Maybe they could play more in the spring. 

Draco pulled a triple barrel at the very last second to avoid a trip to the infirmary, but never took his eyes off the little, sparkling ball desperately trying to get away. His whole world narrowed down to the snitch in front of him. He barely even noticed when a line of warmth pulled up alongside him, just enough to grunt, “Mine,” and lunge. 

He'd left his broom behind….‘That was stupid,’ he thought, just as the ground rose up to meet him, sending him tumbling arse over teakettle. 

The first thing he was aware of was a frantic Harry. “Draco! Draco, are you all right?!” He was pulling Draco up and twisting him this way and that way, checking his head and feeling along his legs. Draco stared at him, dazed; no one besides Pansy or his mother had ever cared this much if he was hurt. Draco started to giggle when Harry poked a rather ticklish spot around his ankles and then fell into a full out belly laugh when he felt something move inside his shirt. Harry looked scared that he'd hit his head or something when, still laughing, Draco began to unbutton his coat. 

Once he had enough undone to reach inside, Harry started laughing too. He helped Draco stand, Snitch in hand. 

“He's caught the snitch! Malfoy wins!” Finnigan shouted through his Sonorous, causing the crowd to burst into cheers. 

“Great game, Draco.” Harry grinned, clapping him round the back, as much as to support him as to congratulate him. “It's freezing out here; let's head in, shall we?” 

Harry had Draco wave his handful of winning Snitch one last time as he turned them towards the castle. And if he never quite let go of Draco…well, who was he to tell the Savior what to do? 

 

~

 

Getting back to the Eighth Year dormitory proved to be a bit of a challenge as everyone, including some of the teachers, wanted to stop and congratulate them on a game well played. ‘The match of the century!' as some were still calling it. Draco rolled his eyes and let Harry deal with it all, using his tumble to excuse his lack of conversation and also giving Harry a valid reason to rush people when it might otherwise have been rude.

At one point, instead of dealing with an oncoming clump of well wishers, they ducked into a small closet. Not the best idea for Draco's poor pounding heart and slowly unraveling control, but it gave them a bit of a reprieve from the masses, so he'd just have to deal with it. 

“Merlin's Moldy Hat! I don't think I've dealt with this many people all at once in months!” Harry slumped against the back wall as Draco cast a Lumos . “I honestly think the whole bloody school was out there, so how are they all already in here too?!?” 

He sounded so put out about it, Draco couldn't help chuckling and gestured at them both. “We took the time to clean and warm up. It gave them a head start.”

Harry grinned up at him from his slump. “Since when are you so nice to the masses?”

“Just stating the simple facts for your simple brain, you prat,” Draco scoffed with a prim sniff, a small smile displaying his teasing even through the lens of the curse. 

“Yeah, well, speaking of facts….” Harry straightened up, grin fading to something Draco didn't quite have a name for. It was still a smile, but it was so warm, it made his heart ache with dangerous hope. 

“You won, Draco! Congrats!” And he held out his hand, so very reminiscent of when Draco had offered that very same thing in First Year. 

Draco felt his heart filled to bursting at the gesture and clasped the offered handshake. “Thank you, Harry. It was a fantastic game.” He smiled and refused to look the gift horse that was allowing him to speak his honest mind in the mouth. Maybe it was pure-blood sportsmanship. Whatever it was, he was just going to be thankful he'd been allowed to be honest here in this moment. 

“Now, I do believe I owe you a favor.” Harry leaned back again, crossing his legs at the ankle and arms over his chest. Looking far too good for Draco's continued sanity. “What can this poor excuse for a genie do for you?” he all but purred, an odd gleam in his eyes. 

“A poem!” Draco all but squeaked, and hastily cleared his throat.

Harry cocked a brow. “You want another private recital?” He grinned salaciously.

Draco was staring. He really needed to stop doing that where Harry could see. “No—not quite,” he managed to stammer out. ‘Damn it, Draco, get it together.’

Harry was just looking at him as he waited for him to explain. Looking like the start to possibly half of Draco's wank fantasies…. He really needed out of this blasted closet. They were too close; it was messing with his head and…other regions. There was no way that Harry was actually looking at him like he was a tray of fine desserts.

“I want you to write me a poem,” he finally managed to get out, wondering when the hell his decorum and his curse had left him. He was making a fool of himself.

Harry startled at his request. “But I'm absolutely pants at writing poetry! I told you that!” he protested.

“And I don't believe you.” Draco was grateful that the strange tension had backed down some. He could think again. “Poetry is a personal thing, but…the beauty of it is that everyone gets something slightly different out of it, even if they read the same poem at the same time. Life experiences change the way they enjoy it. You've read mine and fair's fair, after all.”

Harry sighed, a slight quirk of a smile hovering around his lips and ran a hand through his hair. “When you put it like that, I don't really have an argument, do I?” 

“Wouldn't have mattered if you did," Draco smiled wolfishly. “I won the bet.” He slipped out of the closet to the sound of laughter and continued to the dorm. 

Harry caught up just as he stepped into the common room to the dulcet tones of a softly snoring Pansy. Draco grinned wickedly; this was the best chance he'd ever have to pay her back for the Goldilocks Incident of last month. He'd spent most of a week undoing all those curls, since she'd charmed each one individually.

Just as he finished charming her hair to float around her head as if underwater, complete with a red tint—they'd recently been working their way through muggle fairy tales, and Pansy was rather fond of the mermaid one—Harry called out, “Draco?! I think Susie was here! The notes are gone!”

He lept back as Pansy startled awake, book dropping to the floor. “Hu—wa?” She was never the most eloquent when forced awake, and her hair swaying round was enhancing the dazed look. 

Draco was glad for the ruckus Harry was making; it gave him an excuse to hurry over and not spoil his prank right away. “Must I think for you? If they're gone, then cast your tracking spell already.”

“What does it look like I'm doing?” Harry rolled his eyes. “I'm not inept.”

“Did I say you were?” he smirked, reigning in the curse and trying to make up for his distracted lack of filter, as he cast his own spell. Each was keyed to a different note to make sure they found the hoard. He gestured impatiently at Pansy,  "Come on, you lazy cow, cast your tracker. The Wyrm came while you snoozed the day away."

Harry took one look at her and quickly turned away, stifling a snort. “The Little Mermaid? Really?” he murmured at Draco, surprise tinging his voice. 

Draco flushed. “You can prove nothing,” he mumbled back. 

“Oh, anything can be proven, dahling, you know that,” Pansy said from right behind them. “What are we not proving, exactly?” 

Draco thought quickly. “Harry thinks that he can prove that there's someone more enchanting than you." He smiled innocently as the modified courting line tumbled from his lips. There was no way she wasn't going to recognize that, blast it.

“...Uh huh.” She turned to Harry. “What'd he do to me?” She arched a threatening eyebrow, crossing her arms and tapping this morning's freshly manicured nails on her bracelet. 

“It's really rather pretty, honest!” Harry blurted, eyeing the tap, tap, tap of her nails.

Draco dropped his face into his hand. “What a thrilling display of Gryffindor courage.” 

Pansy flicked her gaze at him, dark eyes flashing, sensing weakness. “Well, Dahling? What did you do to your best friend while she was asleep and defenseless?”

He smiled sweetly at her. “Why, only made your dreams come true, of course. It's what I do! What I live for.” 

Pansy stilled, eyes widening slightly, and conjured a hand mirror on the spot. “Draco,” she breathed, hand flying to her waving locks of red-tinted onyx. “I love it!”

Draco sighed deeply. The whole prank was to make her think it was something she'd hate. The one time he'd accidentally made her cry, he'd felt so bad he'd forced the curse to let him apologize and suffered being mute as punishment. “Enough soppiness, Bitch," he pouted, miffed that his prank had been cut short. "Just cast your spell already.” 

Pansy was still playing with the gently flowing locks, but finally cast the tracker spell after he poked her, still preening.

All of the locator spells pointed straight up. 

“Huh. I guess the Observatory does make the most sense, doesn't it?” Harry was staring at the ceiling and started listing all of the supporting facts. “All of the thefts have been Eighth Years, it has windows open to the outside at all times, and it's been relatively free of activities so far this year.”

“Yes, yes, that's fascinating, but now we need Weasley.” 

“But he's, um…. They've not. Er….” Harry looked like Draco had suggested they go for a swim in the snow and was turning a rather fetching shade of pink across the tops of his ears.

At his reminder, Draco flushed a bit too. “I know, but the beast—”

“Susie,” Pansy interjected with a grin. 

Susie knows him already and will be much more likely to let him near her hoard.” He dropped down onto the couch Pansy had been occupying, picking up her book and flipping it open. “If you're not willing to fetch him, then we'll simply have to wait.”

At Harry's tortured groan, he said slyly, not bothering to look up, “It's not like you'll be bored . After all, you do have a bet to fulfill.” This elicited yet an even more tortured sound as he chuckled to himself.

That, however, piqued Pansy's interest. “Wait…. You won?”

But Draco wasn't having it; he wanted to read this book. “Yes, but if you must know more, go ask Finnigan. He decided to make it an event.” He rolled his eyes. He knew full well that with Pansy's love of good gossip, she wouldn't be able to resist knowing right now as opposed to later in his next morning letter. 

He smiled into the glorious hush of the common room at her departure. Just him, her book, and Harry scribbling away at a piece of parchment just for him.  Life was actually kind of good at the moment.

 

~

 

They stayed that way for a while, inside their own little bubble of tranquility. And Draco was having the hardest time not fantasizing about future lazy Sundays spent together, when a dazed and mussed Weasley wandered down from the dorms. 

“Ah, Weasley,” Draco drawled, setting aside the book he'd finished a while ago. “Back so soon? I guess the rumors about redheads are much exaggerated,” he grinned mischievously.

Weasley just kind of stared at them both. Draco shared a glance with Harry. 

“You doing alright there, Ron?” Harry was already standing, ready to catch him if he fell over like it looked like he would. 

Instead of that being necessary, Weasley just sat heavily next to Harry, blinking a bit. “Harry….” 

“Yeah, Ron?” Concern was written all over Harry, from the set of his shoulders to the wrinkle between his brows. 

“Slow down, Weasley. We can't understand when you babble so.” Draco was pretty sure they were about to bury a body, and his alarm made talking through his blasted curse just that much harder. Merlin, but he hated the damn thing.

“Harry, I—that…. We…. I'm engaged.” He was still dazed, but the shock was wearing off, and he was practically radiating joy. “I'm engaged to Hermione, Harry!” He beamed at them both.

Harry blinked at him, shocked stock-still for but a moment, before bursting into motion and wrapping Weasley up in a tight hug. Laughing and crying and just generally overflowing with ecstatic happiness. It was so contagious that when Harry drew an equally stunned Draco into the celebratory hug, he went. By the time Hermione had made it to the common room, the three of them were a tangled, laughing mess on the floor. 

“I take it you told them?” She giggled at the sight of them. 

“He told us,” Draco confirmed, grateful that the simple fact of it neatly sidestepped the curse. He detangled himself from the others as gracefully and with as much dignity as he could muster and dipped into a formal bow. “May you always know your own heart, be free in your support of each other, and live long and happy lives. Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials!” The curse has no control over formal congratulations. Take that, stupid crone.

“In other news,” he pointed at the still hovering tracking spells, “we've triangulated the location of Susie's hoard. Weasley, I don't suppose you have time to spare to help us catch her?” Draco quirked an eyebrow at the man and grinned. "All prior engagements all wrapped up?"

Sobering a bit as they helped each other stand, Harry added, “Yeah, mate, and don't you need that essay back sooner rather than later? Isn't it due tomorrow?”

At the mention of his two feet for McGonagall, Weasley snapped back to the matter before them. “‘Course I'll help! Just need a few things from Hagrid. He's gonna be so happy we found her!”

He gave Hermione a small kiss. “Be back in a tick,” he chirped and went to gather whatever it was he'd deemed necessary to catch a Bookwyrm. 

 

~

 

It turns out that you don't need very much to catch a semi-tame Bookwyrm. Just some of her favorite treats—Ruby Locust and Sapphire Pill-Beatles, apparently—and someone she was familiar with. The rest of what Ronald—Draco had refused to call the man 'Ron', they just weren't that close in his opinion—had gathered was for after she was removed from her budding nest. He'd insisted on given names seeing as how Draco was on a first name basis with the most important people in his life and, well...Harry had given him puppy eyes. He'd really had no choice but to acquiesce.

Bookwyrms, Draco learned, secrete a special mucus that they use as a particularly strong glue to bind their hoards together into a nest. They would need to use a very gentle solvent and lots of patience if they wanted their important papers back intact. Thankfully, Susie was only half grown and so hadn't been building a very large nest. 

Draco and Hermione got to work gently separating what they could and prepared to work on the trickier bits while Harry and Ronald escorted Susie back to Hagrid. Pansy was given the dubious pleasure of informing the rest of the Eighth Years that the paper thief had been caught.

“Sooo, how long have you liked Harry?” Hermione was studiously watching her work as she peeled two fragile pieces of parchment from one another. 

Draco had to let go of the area he was picking at, lest he tear it in half. ‘Deep breath,’ he reminded himself. “Whyever would you ask something like that?” He'd been trying for blasé but was fairly certain he'd missed that when he heard his voice waver.

In answer she passed over the page she'd just worked loose. He took it, bracing himself. He could already tell it was a page from his journal. 

“...had the dream again. I wish I hadn't. We're not even friends and never will be with this blasted, Morgana be damned ‘blessing’ hanging over my head. It's too hard to dream of having him in my life, in my bed…of being important to the bloody Savior. I make myself laugh. Dreaming of being worthy of Harry Potter. I never learn, do I? You'd think after all of our bad history, I'd give up on him, but I guess the heart always wants what it can't have. D. M.”

“Draco, please breathe. It's okay. I kind of already knew. It's okay,” Hermione pleaded with him. “Just breathe.”

He sucked in a much needed breath. It felt as if he'd been suckerpunched. He focused on just breathing deep, just like Hermione was telling him to do. 

One, two, three, in

One, two, three, out

One, two, three, in.

One, two, three, out

Once the world stopped spinning, he grabbed blindly at the hands on his shoulders. “No further than us—Please! I can't—”

“Draco.”

 “Please! This is the closest I've ever been to friends with him. I can't let him—”

“Draco….”

 “...He already knows, but he's still letting me be his friend and if I lose that now, over these stupid...I—” The curse grabbed him hard, actually causing pain for the first time since it had originally been placed upon him—wrenching his words to a halt. In the following silence, he finally noticed that the voice saying his name was definitely not Hermione's.

He whipped his head up looking around wildly, when had Hermione left?! Wha—!

“Draco!” Harry cupped his face, holding him still, and gazed into Draco's wet, panic-stricken eyes.

He brushed back Draco's fringe gently. “How are you so bloody smart and so blasted blind at the same time? You silly git.

“Pansy caught me on the stairs and explained a few things that make the last few years make a hell of a lot more sense.” He brushed a few of the still falling tears away. Draco was so confused; had Pansy given his secret to Harry? 

“She also gave me some advice on how to make you listen.” He saw the question almost as it formed in Draco's mind. “Do you want to know what she said?”

Draco nodded as best as he could with his face still cradled in Harry's warm, war-calloused hands. 

He was very close. Close enough that Draco could almost taste the scent of the tea he'd had not an hour earlier. Close enough that he could see the scattered flecks of gold in his green eyes. “She told me to kiss the boy,” he whispered as he did just that. 

At first, Draco just sat there, stunned. He was kissing…Harry Potter was kissing him. Him. Draco Malfoy...was kissing…being kissed by Harry Potter! 

But Draco had never been one to sit passively where Harry was concerned and soon was kissing him back with everything he had left in him: every desperate dream, every flight of fancy, every single late night fantasy. He poured everything into this, his very first kiss. 

For all of that, it wasn't an impassioned kiss of driving lust. No—even though that was definitely a very present undercurrent—it was so much more. Harry was as gentle as he was demanding, subtly asking before taking what was given, pushing only for what had already been offered freely, and offering the same in return.

Draco didn't know how long they'd been kissing, but he did know that it wasn't just one long, continuous kiss. Harry had peppered him with dozens of kisses, and he'd followed suit. Somehow, he found himself straddling Harry's lap, resting his head on his shoulder, and held in a loose embrace as they just sat and breathed together.

Harry hugged him close for a moment before relaxing once more, gently petting Draco's back. “That was… um... wow,” he murmured, just loud enough for Draco to hear him. 

Draco hmmm ed his agreement, not willing to move just yet. That had been better than all of his daydreams put together. 

“But….” Harry pulled him up to where they were face to face again. “Just in case that wasn't straightforward enough— ahem …Roses are red, Violets are blue, you made me write this poem, so I'll use it to say: I love you,” he recited, looking straight into Draco's eyes, despite the red stain on his cheeks. 

As the last syllable left Harry's lips, Draco felt a strange sensation deep in his throat. Harry's eyes grew wide, and a light was shining from around his neck. Then, from deep inside his inner ear, Draco heard a chain snap. A bone-deep sound, like the toll of a bell from so long ago. 

He gasped, throwing back his head and baring his throat, as the painful twist holding his voice captive released all at once. 

Draco was floating in a daze; what had just happened? He felt light…almost...free—for the first time in forever. He opened his eyes as he lowered his head to see Harry grinning fit to burst. 

“Holy shit!” He stood with Draco still in his arms. “I think Pansy was right! Draco! Try to say something honestly?!?” 

Draco blinked as it dawned on him what Harry meant. It couldn't be, could it? “I love you, Harry Potter and have since half of forever!” 

He clapped the hand that wasn't holding onto Harry over his mouth. Had that really just come out of his mouth?! He had to try again. 

“I love my Mother!” He laughed. Another! “Pansy Parkinson is my Best Friend in all the world!” He laughed again and pulled Harry in for another mind-melting kiss. Draco wasn't sure how yet, but he knew that Harry was somehow responsible for freeing him from his ten year imprisonment.

He pulled away as he slid down Harry's body to stand on his own two feet, but kept his arms looped around Harry's neck. “How?” he asked breathlessly. “How did you break the curse? Father told me it was permanent. Unbreakable. How?”

Harry grinned, resting his hands on Draco's hips, thumbs tracing little shiver-inducing patterns. “It was Pansy who figured it out. Apparently, you owe her for her knowledge of cursed princesses.” He chuckled as Draco blanched. “Something about ‘true love’ seeing beyond the exterior to the beauty within.” 

“That makes no sense…. We've barely even been friends for two full days!” Draco scoffed. “Not that they haven't been mostly wonderful days,” he was quick to reassure. “But, true love just doesn't happen that fast.”

“Well, no…but we've been mostly friends for months now—we'll have to talk about why you don't think so sometime soon—and we’ve saved each other’s lives during the war. I honestly haven't hated you for a while…and I think the fact that I've used our fighting for wanking material indicates a much longer infatuation than just the past two days, don't you?” he winked.

Draco flushed so hard at that last admission, he actually swooned in Harry's arms, dizzy with the blood rush and implications.

“You wha…? How long?” He managed to get past all of the different scenarios clamoring around in his head, all trying to point out how different life could have been if only this fight had pushed a bit farther or maybe if that insult hadn't pushed quite so many buttons. Hindsight was going to kill him with the overload of alternative solutions—maybe he should have written for help in Sixth Year like Pansy had all but begged of him before he shut her out of the worst of what was happening—to all of the problems he'd experienced in the past few years. 

“How long? You mean how long have I thought you were the most fit bloke I've ever seen?” Harry grinned at Draco's nod, and used his two extra inches of height to press an advantage.

“Do you remember—” Harry was slowly moving them towards the closest wall—“back in Forth Year—” ending with Draco pressed against said wall—“an after dinner scuffle?” Harry slowly took his hands and pressed them into the wall right next to his head, slotting his own body along Draco's until he was well and truly pinned. “That ended something like this?”

Draco nodded, breathing in the rich, heady scent that was uniquely Harry. He remembered that night clearly. It was the first in a long line of incidents to be turned into daydream fantasies of green eyes, dark hair, and messy kisses that, as he matured, eventually led to more… detailed flights of fancy.

“That was the first time I can remember wanting to kiss you to shut you up.” A low rumbling chuckle bubbled up through Harry's chest and made Draco's toes curl. “If you'll recall…I let you go like you'd burned me when you asked…”

Draco swallowed and breathed, “I asked—‘What do you think you’re doing, Potter’?”

Harry leaned in closer and whispered along his jaw, “What I should have done much sooner.”

He then sealed their lips together with a kiss that just about lit Draco on fire. Once again, it was electrifying, but, this was no gentle give and take; they were a mess of mouths, teeth, tongues, and roaming hands against hungry skin. Years of repressed wants and desires fueled their need for each other. 

All good things come to an end, however, especially when you forget you’re snogging in semi-public.

“—open my eyes? ‘Cause I love him like a brother, and I really don't need to see his prick.”

Draco sighed into the fading kiss as Harry pulled back, laughing softly. He dropped one last lingering kiss on Draco's swollen lips as they detangled themselves from each other. Harry kept his hand in his though, a steady declaration that made Draco fairly giddy inside. 

“You can look now, Ron. We're decent,” Harry called, rolling his eyes good-naturedly at his friend's antics. 

Ron was hiding behind a grinning Hermione and Pansy, peeking through his fingers to make sure of the safety of his vision, but he was also grinning at them. 

“Dunno, mate. You're looking a little in decent to me,” he said, looking them both up and down. 

Draco paused in what he was about to say and looked at the disarray of their clothing. He flushed scarlet and turned away to put things back into some kind of order. 

Harry just laughed. “You would know, wouldn't you?” Which caused not only Ron, but Hermione as well, to blush lightly. 

There was a story there that Draco wanted no part of; Harry had obviously seen more of his best friends than he really wanted to contemplate.

Pansy came over to Draco, eyes shining. “So, it worked, then? The curse is gone?”

Draco smiled. “It worked.” He wrapped her up in a hug and murmured a sincere, “Thank you, Pans.”

He turned, stepping out of her embrace, and walked over to the others, bowing low. “I would like to apologize for all of the truly horrible things I've said over the years. Cursed or not, I take responsibility for my actions.”

“But you've already apologized, Draco. With the letters,” Hermione protested. 

“And now you've heard it from my own mouth,” he reasoned.

As he straightened, he looked back to Pansy. “So, Bitch, do tell,” he smirked. “Who made you my fairy godmother?” 

Everyone paused getting back to work dismantling the hoard to stare at him, shocked. 

“Draco? You okay? It's not coming back, is it?” Harry was quick to move to his side, checking him over like a mother cat with kittens.

Pansy looked concerned, bemused, and slightly relieved too. 

Draco snickered, stealing a quick kiss just because he could. “I'm fine, Harry,” he reassured his boyfriend... that's what they were now, right? The thought sent a thrill of happiness through him like fine champagne.

“But you can't honestly tell me that just because I don't have to use sarcasm anymore, that you thought I was going to give it up?” He shook his head in mock disappointment. “Poor, naive Potter. At this point, sarcasm is my native language,” he smirked.

Oh, he'd just had a wonderfully wicked idea. He reached up and twirled a lock of Harry's hair ‘round a finger. “I suppose I could give you lessons if you'd like….” He leaned in close. “However, I'm not an easy tutor. It could take a long time… several sessions, at least,” he mumbled, nibbling on the edge of Harry's jaw.

Feeling the full-body shudder run through Harry the moment it clicked had Draco cackling like mad as he was swept up and bodily carried towards the stairs. 

“Harry? Draco? We still have so much to do!” Hermione called after them, giggling. 

“Just let 'em go, ‘Mione. Just let 'em go, please,” Ron begged, grinning.

“Yeah, they'll be worse than useless for the next few days at least, I'd wager,” Pansy snickered. 

"This is going to be the best year ever." Draco whispered, grinning as he nibbled just under Harry's ear, encouraging him to find them a private room more quickly. Relishing the moan of need and growled, “Damn it, Draco!” as he was pushed into the nearest flat surface and kissed to within an inch of his life. 

Yup. This was definitely the very best way to start the rest of his life. 

 

~fin~