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Twist of Fate

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PROLOGUE - September, 1998

The sitting room at 12 Grimmauld Place was dark except for the flickering light coming from the fireplace. Harry sat sideways in a leather armchair, staring into the flames. A glass of firewhiskey in his hand that rested on his leg. The supper that Kreacher had prepared lay uneaten on a small table to the side.

"It could have been worse, Harry." Ron said, from the sofa where he and Hermione sat holding hands.

Harry turned and stared at Ron in disbelief, "How, how could it have been worse? In front of the entire Wizengamot, while watching along with everyone else on a three meter high projection screen, I found out that I'm not a virgin."

"Erm, good point." Ron muttered, "At least Kingsley cleared the gallery before allowing..."

"And it was just bits and pieces of images, Harry." Hermione said softly, "It was hard to tell exactly-" Ron squeezed her hand and shook his head. Harry closed his eyes trying to erase the images of those "bits and pieces" from his mind. Again, he thought with a bitter laugh.

Just then the flames flared up and Ginny's voice came through the floo. "Harry, please, I just want to find out if you are okay." Harry groaned but didn't respond.

Hermione looked at Harry, "Do you want Ron to go and talk to her?" Harry sighed and nodded.

Ron threw back the rest of his firewhiskey and gave Hermione a quick kiss. He stood up and went over to the fireplace.

Looking over at Harry he asked, "What do you want me to tell her?"

"Just tell her that...I'm okay. Tell her not to come to the trial tomorrow. I'll talk to her later." Harry finished tiredly. Ron nodded and smiled over at Hermione and threw a handful of floo powder into the flames and vanished. Hermione and Harry watched as the flames returned to normal.

"Harry, you had no recollection of those memories at all?" Hermione asked.

Harry looked over at her with a sigh, "No, well, yes. Parts of them were familiar... I'd seen them in dreams. But I never thought they were real...but now I guess..." Harry turned his head and looked over at Hermione. "You knew something though, didn't you? That's why you told me that Ginny should leave when they cleared the gallery."

Hermione hesitated. He didn't sound angry; she realized worriedly. It was like all emotions had drained out of him. He was still in shock. They had barely gotten him out of the courtroom before he had started to shake. He had turned back towards the flickering fire and was making green and silver sparks rise up in the fire, they blended with the red and gold flames and disappeared up the chimney.

"I didn't know, Harry, nothing for certain." Hermione closed her eyes as if looking back. "During fourth year, that seems like a lifetime ago now, I suspected that something was going on..."

"What." His voice had sharpened but nothing showed on his face.

"Something changed that year, you were happy. You were really happy despite everything with the Triwizard Tournament and even with Umbridge the next year. You would have a smile on your face and you would be humming some old Muggle song. And with Malfoy, even though you were still fighting each other, the fights were different. Almost orchestrated, like you knew exactly what the other was going to do."

Hermione sighed and looked sadly over at Harry. "And then all of the sudden it was over and everything was back to the way it was, even worse and..." she shrugged, "I thought I must have imagined it."

Harry looked are her curiously, "What Muggle songs?"

"Oh, I don't know, really old stuff from the Stones, Beatles, Hendrix..."

"No, it can't be..." Harry shook his head and then suddenly jumped up and ran out of the room.

Hermione heard him pounding up the stairs. She found him in Sirius's old room sitting in front of his school trunk. He was pulling everything out of the trunk until he got to the bottom. Hermione gasped as he pulled out a stack of old Muggle record albums. A bright yellow submarine shown on the cover of the top one.

"I found these when I was clearing out my trunk, when we were getting ready to go find the Horcruxes. I couldn't figure out how they had gotten there. I had no idea whose they were..."

Harry sank down on his knees, staring blindly down at the cover. "And these groups...oh sweet gods, Hermione. What did he do to me?"

Chapter Text

1994, Quidditch World Cup

"Harry, I was going out for a walk to look around, want to come with?" Cedric Diggory, the 6th year Hufflepuff, stood before Harry in the tent that they were staying at for the Quidditch World Cup. Surprised, Harry looked around. Ron and Hermione were playing wizard chess, Mr Weasley and Cedric's father were discussing politics.

"Um, sure." Harry set down the latest issue of Quidditch Today he'd been reading. Although he knew Cedric from school, he and the other boy had never spent any time together. Cedric was the Hufflepuff Team Captain that had beaten him last year. Cedric held open the tent flap and they both stepped outside. Cedric turned to the left and started walking down the lane between all of the tents. Now that night had fallen many of the tents had campfires burning near their tents. Harry had never been Muggle camping, but he was pretty sure that campfires usually weren't purple, green, blue and the other colors that were sending rainbow colored sparks brightly into the night sky.

Harry looked curiously over at the tall figure walking quietly beside him. Harry had often watched the Hufflepuffs practice and knew he was an excellent Seeker. The boy's curly hair fell over his eyes and he restlessly pushed it back with his fingers.

"So, where are we going?" Harry asked at last. He was glad for the chance to wander through the campground and see all of the wizards gathered from around the world, but Cedric didn't appear to be looking around at all. He seemed lost in his own thoughts as they slowly made their way through the campground.

Cedric looked up and noticed for the first time they had left the tents behind and were on a small path. "Oh, nowhere I guess." He stopped walking and Harry stopped to, puzzled. "I wanted to ask you a question or tell you something, I think is more the thing."

Harry felt the first flicker of alarm, "A question about me?" He looked over at Cedric. Although he still didn't like it, he had grown reluctantly used to people asking him for autographs, which he always refused. Why would anyone need his autograph? Or for favors, or questions about Voldemort. Cedric hadn't seemed the type but Harry guessed he'd been wrong about him.

Cedric nodded back towards the camp and looked at Harry, "I imagine it is hard, always living your life in the full view of everyone. Every move you make, people notice." Harry nodded, slowly, this was nothing new. He somehow didn't think he was going to like the question that the Hufflepuff was going to ask him.

Cedric looked straight at Harry. "I noticed that when you were looking at Quidditch Today you weren't exactly reading the articles, like most blokes do."

Harry took a step back, that definitely was not what he had anticipated. "I read the articles!"

Cedric gave a half smile "You look at it the same way I do, more for the pictures than the articles." Before Harry could think of a response, two wizards came down the path towards, them. "Evening, boys, nice night for a walk, 'eh?"

Cedric looked and saw more people were following the path. "Look, Harry, it isn't a big deal, maybe I'm wrong. I just thought that maybe if I was right that you might want to have someone to talk to about it. If you want to go back to camp that is fine. But if you want to talk, we can find someplace quiet."

Harry looked down at a tuft of grass and kicked it with the heel of his foot, stalling while he decided what to do. The noise from the camp, excited chatter and laughter seemed far removed now from where they were standing. He looked back at the path to the camp and then finally over at Cedric. The tall Hufflepuff stood there, waiting for Harry's answer. Harry was tempted to say that they should just go back but he had needed someone to talk to about this for too long. There were so many questions in his head and nowhere to go to find the answers.

Hesitantly, he said, "We could walk on a bit farther, I guess." Cedric gave him a smile and nodded. They started walking down the path into the grove of trees that surrounded the campground. "I think there is a clearing through here..." They walked on and soon came to a meadow. Cedric looked around carefully "I don't think there is anyone here..." and without ceremony he sat down in the middle of the field. After a moment's hesitation Harry sat down next to him.

Away from all of the campfires, Harry could see all the stars filling the sky with pinpricks of light. "Can you believe I never saw the night sky until I went to Hogwarts?"

"You never went camping or anything with your folks...Oh, Merlin, I'm sorry. Harry. I really forgot who I was with..." Cedric sat upright, embarrassed. "I'm-"

"No, it's okay. I understand, I grew up living with my aunt and uncle, they're Muggles. And definitely not interested in camping or anything like it." Harry was glad that Cedric had made the slip, it confirmed to him that Cedric wasn't interested in 'Harry Potter', and all the attention the name gathered.

Silence filled the space between them, in the far off distance Harry could hear the cheers and shouting. Harry knew that Cedric was waiting for him to say something. He wasn't sure how to start the topic up again. He hadn't dared to tell anyone, not even Ron and Hermione, his secret. That Cedric had guessed was disturbing. He started to say something and then stopped, restlessly he pulled up blades of grass and tore them into pieces.

Cedric said quietly, "I realized I was gay during my third year at Hogwarts. I couldn't fool myself into thinking that maybe it was just some phase I was going through that I noticed all the guys in my class but hardly any of the girls."

Nervously, Harry continued to tear the grass blades into tiny pieces. "How did you feel? When you realized it?" He didn't look over at the other boy, staring down at the small pile of torn grass he was making.

"Relief, I guess," Cedric said with a sigh, "I had never been interested in talking about what girl had the biggest boobs or the best ass. I never wanted to do those things and I thought there was something wrong with me. Suddenly everything made sense and it was a relief to me."

"How many people know?" Harry asked hesitantly, "Do you tell people that you are, erm, gay?"

"Do I walk up to people and say 'Hi, I'm Cedric, I'm gay'?" Cedric chuckled, "No, but I don't keep it a secret either. My family and friends know and I'm guessing many of my classmates know or at least suspect. My teammates know and I'd have to guess that with 90 percent of them it doesn't make a difference."

Cedric lay back in the grass and stared up at the sky. After a moment's hesitation, Harry lay down on the grass next to him. He shifted uncomfortably against the hard ground, staring up at the sky. He didn't know what question to ask next.

"Harry, let's just talk hypothetically, I think you would feel more comfortable with that." Cedric paused but Harry didn't stop him, "Hypothetically, if you were gay, I know it would be tougher on you than anyone else I know. You get a lot of attention focused on you. Everyone knows who you are and want to know what you are doing. But I thought that maybe, knowing that you weren't alone, that there was someone you could talk to if you need to, would help."

"That ten percent, that do care that you are gay, how do they treat you?" Harry asked, his eyes were focused on the faint trail of a satellite's illuminated path traveling across the arc of the sky.

"They behave like dicks, won't shower when I'm in the locker room. One tried to hex me and keeps saying dumb comments. But I know it is their problem, not mine. I don't have a problem with who I am."

Harry took a deep breath and asked the question that he had been wanting to ask, "What made you think that I might be...like you?"

Harry could hear Cedric's smile in his voice as he answered "Afraid you might be emitting a gay signal? Nah, I just notice things more than most people. I saw you looking at the photographs of the Quidditch players a bit longer than some people would. When we were walking through the camp you were looking at the guys rather than some of the very attractive girls we were passing by."

As easy as that, Harry thought. He felt a flash of anger rip through his body. Anyone could have guessed. Some of the rage he had been feeling all summer bubbled to the surface. He spent all of his time trying to fit in at school. He didn't need another reason for people to gossip about him. Unable to stay laying down he restlessly sat up and folded his elbows on his knees, laying his head in the fold of his arms. Cedric sat up too, "How old are you, Harry? Fourteen? Fifteen?"

"Fourteen, just turned." Harry said, not lifting his head up.

"Does anyone know, uh, hypothetically? Do you have anyone you can talk to about it?"

"I think we can abandon the hypothetical," Harry said with a sigh, "No, no one knows. I have a godfather, but he has his own worries right now. I can't bother him with this. I've been trying to get up the nerve to tell Ron and Hermione, but I thought that maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was just..."

"Going through a phase?" Cedric smiled, "Sounds pretty familiar to me. These kind of phases last a lifetime. Trust your friends, Harry. It is part of who you are, a significant part. If they object then it is better to know sooner rather than later. Somehow, I don't think that it will be an issue with those two though."

Harry contemplated, "Do you, what do you call it? Date anyone?"

"I have a boyfriend, Simon. He graduated this last spring. We thought he would be able to make it here but he couldn't get off of work." He hesitated and seemed to understand the question that Harry wanted to ask next but couldn't ask.

"We've been together for a year. We dated in school but weren't that open about it. Not because we were ashamed or anything, just that it isn't our style to snog in the hallways."

Harry stopped breathing for a second. For all the time he had spent in the last few months thinking about his "other problem" (his main problem being Voldemort) he hadn't once thought what it would be like to kiss a boy. His mind was filled suddenly with the image of Cedric kissing some faceless boy in the hallways of Hogwarts. The image suddenly switched to Harry kissing a faceless boy in the Potions room. He scrambled quickly to his feet, trying to shake the image from his head.

Cedric slowly stood up too, he reached out and put one arm on Harry's shoulder. "It's getting late and you probably have had more than you can handle for one night. If you ever want to ask questions or just talk, let me know. You can trust me not to tell anyone, but I think you should tell Ron and Hermione. It will feel a lot better once you aren't keeping it bottled up inside."

Harry nodded, "Thanks, Cedric. For everything. I didn't know what I was going to do..."

"I'm glad I said something, I almost didn't, afraid I might be wrong. Then I remembered what it felt like to be in your shoes at thirteen and thought I would take a chance. I could have used a friend who understood what I was going through back then."

They turned back towards the path that lead to the campground. Harry was surprised to realize how late it was, the campfires had been put out and most of the campground had settled down for the night. Neither of them spoke during the walk. Harry was lost in his own thoughts.

They reached the Weasley's tent. Hesitantly, Harry held out his hand, and Cedric shook it with a smile. "Remember, Harry, you can come to me anytime you want to talk." Harry nodded and pulled back the tent flap and went inside. Everyone had already gone to sleep. He quietly made his way to the cot set up for him next to Ron.

"Whereyoubeen..." Ron asked sleepily when Harry accidentally bumped into his cot as he tried to slip past it.

"Just out in a field, watching the stars." Harry said as he lay down on the cot and stared up at the tent ceiling. It was strange how just knowing one other person who was like him made a difference. He turned on his side and slept for the first restful night's sleep he'd had in weeks.

OooOoOoO

The next time he saw Cedric was at Platform 9 ¾. As he emerged on to the platform with Ron and Hermione he noticed Cedric right away. He was standing next to a tall blond man. They were standing away from the rest of the crowds and, Harry realized with a blush, were holding hands. Their fingers tightly entwined together as they talked to each other. Cedric must have felt Harry's eyes on him because he turned towards Harry and motioned Harry over.

"I'll be right back," Harry said to Ron and Hermione who were fussing over Crookshanks and Pigwidgeon. Hesitantly, he walked over to Cedric.

"Hi, Harry," Cedric said, shaking Harry's hand, "I wanted you to meet Simon. Simon, this is Harry." Simon glanced briefly at Harry's forehead, and smiled, holding out his hand for Harry to shake. "Nice to meet you, Harry."

"My da couldn't get away to bring me here, some Ministry emergency. Simon was able to take the morning off of work." Cedric looked at Simon, with an affectionate smile. "Simon is an intern at Gringotts"

"Mr. Weasley got called out on the same emergency," Harry said. He was wondering what Cedric had told Simon about him, if Simon knew.

Cedric seemed to sense Harry's thoughts, "I met Harry at the World Cup, we took the same portkey with the Weasleys to get there. It was an amazing game. Shame that it was spoiled by all of the commotion afterwards. I would love to see Krum play again. He was pretty amazing"

Harry nodded in agreement and looked over to see Ron and Hermione watching them. "I better get back to my friends. Nice meeting you Simon."

"Likewise," Simon said with a smile. Harry walked back towards the Weasleys. Ron was looking past Harry's shoulder towards Cedric and Simon.

"Will you look at that..." Ron said. Harry looked back at the couple just in time to see Cedric reach over and give Simon a kiss. "Did you know Cedric was gay?" Ron asked Harry, "he grew up over the hill from me and I didn't..."

"Uhm, yeah, he mentioned it." Harry said, watching his best mate's face carefully. "Does it bother you?" he asked after a pause, holding his breath. He still hadn't gotten the nerve to talk to Ron about it. With his scar hurting, the nightmare about Voldemort and getting ready to leave for Hogwarts there hadn't been an opportunity.

"Nah, but you just never know about people. Can't imagine wanting to kiss a bloke." Ron turned with a shrug, "We better get our stuff on board or we won't be able to find a seat together. Come on, Hermione," he called out to Hermione who was talking to Mrs. Weasley. Together they climbed up into the gleaming scarlet train. They found an empty compartment and stowed their gear. Climbing back out the train they went to say good-bye to the rest of the Weasleys. With a smile of anticipation they finally settled into their compartment and waited with eager anticipation for the whistle to sound and the train to pull out of the station.

"What do you suppose Bill was going on about wanting to be able to be at Hogwarts this year and Charlie saying that we would be seeing him again?" Ron asked as he pulled out the ugly maroon dress robes to throw over Pigwidgeon's cage to quiet the bird's squawking.

"I don't know," Harry said, "say listen, I need to tell you-"

He stopped as Hermione held up her hand and said "Shhhh!"

A slow drawling voice came through from the compartment next to theirs "My father almost sent me Durmstrang, their headmaster is..."

"Malfoy." Ron mouthed silently. Hermione got up quietly and pulled their door close, blocking out Draco Malfoy's voice.

"I didn't know they were right next door to us," Harry said, shaken. There is no way he could let someone like Malfoy find out his secret. Harry thought back at Cedric standing on the platform unashamed and unembarrassed to be seen kissing his boyfriend. He didn't think he could ever do that in public.

"He is such a git, I wish he had gone to Durmstrang so we wouldn't have to put up with all his crap all the time." Ron swung his feet up on to the seat next to him and stretched out. "What did you want to talk about, Harry? Did you have another dream?"

"Huh? No, I uhm, was just wondering who you thought would be Quidditch captain for Ravenclaw this year..." Ron excitedly launched into his Quidditch predictions as Hermione groaned and pulled out her Standard Book of Spells Grade 4 textbook.

OoOOoOoO

Harry didn't try to broach the subject again that week. The Triwizard Tournament was announced and Harry was excited about it even though it meant no Quidditch tournament. He had been hoping to go up against Cedric and his Hufflepuffs and redeem himself from last year's disaster.

Harry was rushing down the corridor. He was already late for Potions when he heard someone call his name. Looking back he saw Cedric coming towards him, "Harry, I've been wanting to talk to you. Do you have a minute?"

"No, I'm late for Potions, how about after?" Harry said.

"Sure, why don't you meet me outside in the courtyard." Harry nodded and rushed off.

Harry entered the courtyard after class, he saw Cedric sitting on a bench intently reading a letter. He walked up to him hesitantly not sure he should interrupt, but as soon as Cedric saw him he smiled and folded up the letter. "Sorry, my first letter from Simon, but it will keep," he stood up and clasped Harry on the shoulder briefly, "Why don't we walk down by the lake?"

As they headed down the path Cedric looked over at him, "I just wanted to check in with you, see how your first week is going."

Harry looked out at the lake and then at Cedric, "Good, good, I guess. Disappointed there isn't going to be any Quidditch. But the tournament sounds neat. I heard that you were going to try for it?"

Cedric smiled, "Shame about the Quidditch but the chance to be a part of the Triwizard Tournament, it is a chance of a lifetime. I can't pass it up."

Harry looked at him surprised, "So you are really going to try for it?"

"I think so, I wrote to Simon about it. He wishes he was back here so that he could have a chance to enter, too." Cedric stopped walking and faced Harry, "But, that isn't really what I meant when I asked you how things are going. Have you talked to your friends yet?"

"Ron and Hermione? No," Harry looked down and scuffed the ground with his trainers. "I almost did on the train, but -"

"You should, Harry. You know you can talk to me anytime. But that isn't the same as telling your friends."

Harry looked out at the lake. "I know, but if they don't like it. If it changes things with Ron. What would I do?"

"Then you would deal with it. At least then you'll know rather than hiding what you are going through just because you don't trust them."

Harry absentmindedly rubbed his hand through his hair. "I'll do it, I guess. But how do you say it?"

Cedric smiled and started walking again. "With things like this it is just best to say it straight - well, not straight, I guess," he laughed. "Remember, nothing to be a ashamed of, if anyone has a problem, it is their problem, not yours."

Harry nodded. He looked out over the lake and couldn't help thinking that he would rather fight dementors than tell Ron he was gay. He looked up at the path and realized they had looped around and were already back at the courtyard. Cedric stopped and pulled out his letter again. "You know where to find me if you need to talk." Harry nodded and headed back into the castle.

OOooOoO

Harry and Ron were in the Gryffindor common room working on their Divination homework late. They were getting more and more creative making up answers to their personal planet charts. Harry looked around and saw that the room had emptied out. Only Fred and George remained but they were tucked into a distant table, busily plotting something.

Ron was busy making more and more elaborate catastrophes that could befall the two of them "How about I get in a fight because …Venus being in the twelfth house?"

Harry took a deep breath, and with his nose buried in his copy of Unfogging the Future, "And I, erm, will find out I'm gay as because of the conjunction of Mars and Jupiter."

"Nah, it would be better if it was because of the retrograde rising of Uranus..." Ron burst out laughing. Harry didn't join in as he nervously tapped his quill against the parchment. Ron's smile faded from his face, "What made you think of that one anyway?"

Harry looked over at his best friend for the last three years. "Because it would be the only prediction that would be true."

Ron's jaw dropped open and he shook his head slowly. "Don't say that Harry, it isn't funny."

Harry shut his eyes, he didn't want to look at Ron's shattered face. "Wasn't meant to be..." he sighed. "Look forget about it, forget I said anything. Let's just finish this up."

"Nuh, uh, you can't say something like that and just leave it on the table." Ron looked around the room and sighed in relief when he realized that they were alone. "What are you on about? Are you serious?"

"Yes, I'm serious. No, I'm not making it up. It's not like I need anything else to make my life more complicated." Harry looked over at Ron. "You have to tell me what you are thinking."

Ron opened and closed his mouth again, "I don't know what I'm thinking. It's one thing for a pretty boy like Cedric Diggory. But you aren't...I, mean you're my best mate-"

Just then the portrait hole opened up and Hermione climbed through carrying a box in one hand and a piece of parchment in the other. Spotting Harry and Ron she came and sat next to Ron, "Hello! I just finished!" she said with a triumphant smile on her face as she looked from one to the other, "What's wrong?"

"Harry thinks he is gay." Ron said tersely.

Hermione's eyes widened and she looked to Harry for confirmation. "I don't think I am, I know I am." he said quietly.

"You know you are," Hermione nodded and carefully set the box and parchment down on the table. "How long have you known?"

Harry restlessly ran his hand through his hair, "It's not like all the sudden there's a switch that goes off in your head and you wake up and realize you're gay. I guess it was sometime last school year, winter, spring..."

"You've known for over six months and you haven't said anything!" Ron shouted as he stood up suddenly and his chair tipped back behind him. George and Fred looked up with surprise from the other side of the room.

"Everything okay, Ronnykins?" Fred called out. Harry looked from Ron to them and back, pleading with his eyes to Ron to sit back down. Ron looked at his brothers and back at Harry and Hermione still sitting at the table.

"Yea, yea, sorry." Ron waved off his brothers and he stood looking at Harry as if seeing him for the first time.

"Sit, Ron." Hermione hissed. "Harry, why didn't you tell us?" She reached out and grabbed Harry's hand. Ron picked up his chair and sat down. Harry couldn't tell what his friend was thinking. Ron's face was blank as he stared at Harry.

Harry looked at her and shrugged, "There was a lot going on last spring, Sirius, Buckbeak, you two weren't talking to each other." Hermione and Ron exchanged an embarrassed glances. The fight over Crookshanks and Scabbers seemed a lifetime ago. "I thought that maybe it would just go away..."

"Go away? How did you think being gay would go away?" Ron hissed quietly. Harry looked at him, he still couldn't tell what Ron thought about him, but at least he was still at the table.

He shrugged again, "It sounds stupid, but it would be easier if it did, wouldn't it?" He looked at Hermione.

She smiled and shook her head, "No, Harry, being someone you aren't isn't ever easier. Just makes things a lot more complicated. Do you have ah, er, a boyfriend?"

Harry flushed deeply, "No! No. I just..."

Ron took a deep breath, he looked Harry straight in the eye for the first time, "It is okay if you do, seriously. I don't mind, Harry. My brother Charlie is gay, you know. You just surprised me, that's all. I had no clue and all the sudden we go from making up Divination homework to your liking blokes. Wasn't quite expecting that, you know." Harry looked at Ron startled, he had met Charlie for the first time at the World Cup and hadn't realized he was gay.

Hermione squeezed Harry's hand, "It is no big deal, Harry. You seemed to really like Cho. I guess, I thought that..."

"Cho is really nice, and she is a really good Quidditch player. I think I thought if I focused on her I could fix my problem." Harry looked down at the table. "I think I've finally realized that this isn't a problem that needs fixing. I just need to accept it."

"That's good, Harry." Hermione smiled at him encouragingly, "You know we are here for you, whatever you need."

Ron nodded, "Me, too, mate. Well, not whatever you need..."

"Ron!" Harry and Hermione cried out together.

Harry looked at him and shook his head, "Let's so not go there..."

Ron smiled and looked at Harry, "Really, though. It's okay." Harry looked at his best friend and nodded. He'd wished he had told them both months ago, it would have saved him a lot of anxiety.

"Well, now that we have that all settled out, let me show you what I've been working on." Hermione reached over and opened up the box that she had set on the table. She pulled out a badge with the letters "S.P.E.W."

"Spew?" Harry said, picking up one of the badges. "What is this all about?"

Chapter Text

Harry groaned as he sat down at the Gryffindor table for supper. Every muscle in his body was protesting at him. His knees still hurt from where he had cracked into the desk during the Defense against the Dark Arts lesson that Moody had put him through.

Hermione looked at him worriedly, "Harry, don't you think you should go see Madam Pomfrey? Professor Moody shouldn't have put you under the Imperius Curse so many times today-"

"I'm fine, Hermione, I'm just sore." Harry brushed off her concern. He looked at the table laden with food and felt his stomach turn. He slowly stood up, "I'm not hungry, I'll just go and study," as he bent over to pick up his book-bag from the floor the whole room tilted and he had to put his hand out to stop himself from falling.

"That's it," said Hermione decisively, she stood up and moved to support him. "You need to go to the hospital wing. I wish Ron was here, but he is still in detention. Let me help you-" Harry backed away from her arm.

"Okay, okay, I'll go, but you don't need to help me. People are going to think I'm sick or something." Harry tentatively let go of the table and was relieved that he was able to stand up without the room swirling.

"Do you want me to help you, Harry?" Neville asked starting to get up from the table. Harry sighed as he looked and saw all of the eyes from the Gryffindor table focused on him.

"No. I'll be okay." Harry turned and walked determinedly towards the doors. He had to focus on each step he took. Pain was shooting through his body and he fought to keep the blackness from obscuring his vision. He made it through the doorway and into the corridor. He could hear Hermione talking to him but the roar in his ears prevented him from hearing what she was saying. He was just focused on making it to the stairs that would lead to the hospital wing. With relief he grasped the railing of the stairway and pulled his protesting legs up the first step. ...and then everything went black.

Harry came to and realized that his head must have exploded. Pain was radiating in waves from the back of his head. His eyes screwed tight against the shimmers of light. Had he been hexed? He could hear people talking but couldn't figure out what they were saying. His hand reached up to feel his head but was caught by someone or something.

"Don't touch it. We stopped the bleeding for now but it won't do to feel it." the voice sounded like it was a thousand miles away, but sounded familiar. Harry dared to crack his eyes open a little, Cedric Diggory's face was peering down at him. Cedric smiled, "Welcome back. You fell on the steps. You've got a pretty good gash on the back of your head. We are going to have to get you to the hospital wing."

Harry nodded and closed his eyes again. He heard the rumble of people talking excitedly; realized that everyone must be coming out of the Great Hall from supper. Just another day in the life of Harry Potter he thought with a sigh. Another day, another trip to the hospital wing.

"Okay, Harry, we are going to get you up. Lean on me." Cedric's voice told him gently and Harry felt strong arms standing him up. Cedric pulled Harry's left arm over his own shoulder and wrapped his right arm around the boy. Harry sagged forward and he felt the waves of dizziness sweep over him and slumped against the tall boy beside him.

"I'm going to need help," Cedric grunted as he suddenly had to support all Harry's weight when he blacked out again. "Malfoy, stop snickering and get over here."

Draco Malfoy stopped laughing, "Why me?" he protested, "Plenty of Gryffindors here to help their poor little Harry."

"I asked you, Malfoy," Cedric said with the authority of a sixth year prefect. Hermione looked at Malfoy with surprise as he broke away from his friends without any more arguments. He put his arm around the unconscious boy and pulled Harry's right arm over his shoulders. Cedric nodded with satisfaction and together they started climbing the steps.

"He is really out of it. Can't just be from the fall. What happened to him?" Cedric asked Hermione who trailed behind them carrying the dropped book bags.

"Professor Moody put him under the Imperius Curse in class today, four times." Hermione responded. "He shouldn't have done it at all-"

"Four times? We only got put under once." Draco interrupted, "Why did that nut-job do it to Potter four times? He do something to tick Moody off?"

"It was because Harry was able to fight it off the first time. Moody kept putting him under until he could resist it completely." Hermione explained as she looked nervously at Harry. If she had realized how ill he was she would have taken him straight to the infirmary. She knew from her textbook that an improperly administered Imperius Curse could permanently damage someone mentally.

They were near the entrance to the hospital wing when Harry started coming around. He felt the arms around him and started fighting to get away.

"Ease up, Potter. It is bad enough dragging your arse all over the school without having you fight us." a drawling voice came from his right. Harry groggily turned his head and through the flash of pain that the movement caused he saw Malfoy's gray eyes staring back at him.

"Hermione, I think something must be wrong. I'm hallucinating that Malfoy is hugging me."

"In your dreams, Potter." Malfoy sneered, "Your Hufflepuff boyfriend here recruited me to help out."

Harry slowly turned his head and saw Cedric laughing on the other side. "Hi, Cedric." he said in a sing-song voice. "You're not my boyfriend."

"Hi, Harry. That's right; I'm not your boyfriend." Cedric replied, bemused at the disoriented 4th year. "Okay Malfoy, we can take it from here." Madam Pomfrey hurried over to the group standing in the doorway. "Thanks for your help."

Malfoy let go of Harry and started walking away. "Good luck, Potter."

"Mr. Potter. I can only say that I'm surprised that it has taken you six weeks to end up here. Your previous record was four weeks, I do believe." Harry gave a sigh of relief as he was lowered into a bed. "Unbelievable man, she muttered as bustled around, "Turning that one into a ferret and using an Unforgivable Curse on you. Dumbledore is going to hear about this one, I assure you."

OoOOOo

Madam Pomfrey kept Harry in the hospital wing for two days. He would be thrilled if he never had to taste Skele-Gro again. Hermione took no small delight in reminding Harry that if he had let her take him to Pomfrey in the first place he could have avoided the cracked skull that he'd gotten by falling on the staircase.

"How are you feeling, Harry?" Cedric asked when he visited Harry the next day in the hospital wing.

"Fine. Embarrassed." Harry grimaced. "It seems like I spend more time here than in the classroom. And Hermione makes sure I'm not going to fall behind in my classes." He nodded towards the stack of textbooks next to his bed.

Cedric sat down next to the bed, "Do you want me to go over your Transfiguration homework with you? That is a hard class to get without seeing McGonagall do the demonstration."

"That would be great." Harry said eagerly. "I still can't get the pincushion down." Cedric turned to the right section of the Transfiguration text and demonstrated the wand moves to Harry to transform a hedgehog into a pincushion. The hour flew by and Harry looked up with surprise when he saw Ron and Hermione standing next to his bed. "Potions is over already? Can't say I'm sorry that I missed that... what happened to you, Ron?"

Ron looked down at his robes with a grimace, there was a large hole burned into his sleeve. "Neville blew up his cauldron again."

"Well, I'll go so that you can visit with your friends. I expect that you'll be back in class by tomorrow but let me know if you are still here. I can come back and help you out with your homework tomorrow." Cedric stood up and said nodded to Ron and Hermione.

Ron and Hermione watched as the tall Hufflepuff walk down the corridor and left the room. "Sorry to interrupt your study date, Harry." Hermione turned back to Harry smiling.

Ron's mouth dropped open and he stared from Harry to Hermione. "You and Diggory?" Ron gasped. He sank into the chair next to Harry's bed.

"No. He is just a friend." Harry protested. Hermione raised her eyebrow at him, "Honestly. He is seeing someone, the bloke that was at King's Cross."

"Well, you could do a lot worse." Hermione said as she sat next to Harry on the bed, "He certainly is easy on the eyes."

Ron did a double tack at Hermione. "Diggory? You think he is good looking?"

Harry and Hermione looked at each other and back at Ron, "Definitely." they said at the same time with a grin. Ron looked like he didn't know whose answer he liked least.

"Well, I hear he is going to try out for the Triwizard tournament. They just put a sign up in the Great Hall. The students from Durmstrang and Beauxbaton are going to be here the day before Halloween and they'll draw the names at the Halloween feast." Ron said, "Can't wait to see who else is going to try for it."

"Yea, Cedric says he is definitely doing it. Are George and Fred still planning on trying to beat the age line?" Harry asked, propping himself up with his pillows.

"They aren't saying, but they are plotting something." Hermione said, "They haven't played half as many pranks as they usually do, they must be up to something."

OoOOO

Harry shouldered his bag and hurried down the corridor as he made his way out the dungeons. Snape had made him stay and brew all of the potions that he had missed while in the hospital wing. It had taken two hours and the combination of the fumes and Snape's sneering commentary made him wish he was back under the care of Madam Pomfrey.

"Potter." a voice called out to him from a classroom.

Harry stopped and turned his head towards the sound. Only one student in Hogwarts could put that much condescension into one word. He slowly turned and went over to the open doorway to the classroom.

Malfoy was sitting at a table, his books and parchment spread out over the surface. He looked at Potter contemplatively. "Can't believe it took you two hours to brew three simple potions."

"Snape made me do each one, twice." Harry hesitated in the doorway. "What do you want, Malfoy?"

Malfoy twirled the raven feather quill in his hand and set it down. "I have a proposition for you."

"What kind of proposition?" Harry looked around the room. He expected to see Crabbe and Goyle lurking in a corner ready to pounce.

"If you can gather some of that famous Gryfinndor courage and come in here and shut the door, I'll tell you." Harry looked up and down the corridor, no one was coming. He eyed the Slytherin for a minute and then nodded and shut the door behind him.

Malfoy gave him a half-smile, "Very brave, Potter." Harry looked at him with surprise. He didn't think he'd ever seen Malfoy smile at him, at least not when he wasn't laughing at Potter. It changed his face from its usual haughty disdain to one that was almost attractive.

"My proposal is this: I'll tutor you in Potions if you teach me how to resist the Imperius Curse." he eyed Harry with cool gray eyes, the Slytherin's face was didn't show a hint of what he was thinking inside.

Harry looked at him in disbelief, "You're joking, right? You can't be serious."

'Yes, Potter, I am very serious." Malfoy snapped. "Will you do it?"

"You want me to use an Unforgivable curse on you? Not going to happen, I know this is some kind of trap." Harry turned and headed towards the door.

"It is not a trap, Potter. I need you to do this." Malfoy's voice rang out across the room. "I'm serious."

"Why me? Why not ask Moody?" Harry asked, although he already knew the answer.

"I asked. Dumbledore has forbidden him from using the Unforgivable Curses on anybody." Malfoy drawled. "You, it seems, are my only option." Harry had turned around and walked towards Malfoy. Against his better judgment he was intrigued that Malfoy would even consider asking Harry for help.

"Why is it so important to you?" Harry sat down at the table opposite of the blond haired wizard.

"It may not have occurred to you, Potter, but times are changing. Moody, as insane as he is, has the right idea. I need to learn how to resist the Imperius Curse." Malfoy leaned forward. "What do you say? Will you do it?" His voice remained flat but Malfoy's eyes were flaring with emotion.

Harry hesitated. "You do realize that to teach you how to resist the Imperius Curse. I would have to put you under the curse. Repeatedly."

Malfoy sneered at him, "Yes. Potter. I, unlike some, have the intellect to figure out that for myself."

"You and I have been battling each other since first year, Malfoy." Harry said slowly, "And yet you are willing to put your life in my hand. Are you really willing to take that chance?"

"Yes." Malfoy spat out. "I'm trusting in that Gryffindor honor to keep you from making me jump off the top of the Astronomy Tower."

"It is really that important to you to learn how to resist it?" Harry stared across the table at the Slytherin, trying to figure out the other boy's motivation."I could get in a lot of trouble doing this."

"Yes. It is that important. And you know you don't have to worry about getting in trouble. You are never get punished for any of the things that you do." Malfoy stood up and started shoving his books back into his bag. "Forget it. I thought you would like the chance to be at the top of the class in Potions instead of the bottom."

"I'll do it." Harry said the words before he could stop himself. Malfoy froze, his hand in the air holding his Potions text. Harry realized suddenly that Malfoy had never expected him to say yes.

"You realize that there is no guarantee that you can learn how to resist. I'm not even sure how I can do it, let alone if I can teach you. And, I want a witness. I'm not going to spend my life in Azkaban if someone finds out what we are doing. I want a witness to say that you were willing-"

"Fine." Malfoy had sat back down at the table, unlike his slouching, arrogant posture before he was sitting at the edge of the chair leaning forward. "Who? Not Weasley or Granger, I don't want any Gryfinndors in on this, they may tattle. How about Zabini?"

"No Slytherins. If you have a change of heart they would be the first ones to say that I made you do it."

Malfoy glared at Harry, "No Gryffindors. No Slytherins. That limits the field considerably. Ravenclaws are out, none of them would dare."

Harry nodded, "Hufflepuffs...loyal and fair?"

"How about your boyfriend then, Diggory. Think he would be game?"

"He's not my boyfriend." Harry said automatically, "I don't know if he would...I could ask." Harry nodded. "But, he is entering the Triwizard tournament, not sure if he'll have time."

"Find out." Malfoy snapped.

"When do you want to start? We need a place that no one can catch us."

Malfoy nodded, "I have a place in mind. I'll let you know where after you get Diggory to agree."

Harry stood up from the table, "You realize that this is the most time we have every spent talking where we haven't drawn wands?" He held out his hand "I'm trusting you on this one Malfoy. If you double-cross me..."

The tall blond boy looked at Harry's hand stretching out towards him and then up into Harry's eyes. "We are still enemies, Potter. Let's just call this a temporary ceasefire of hostilities."

Malfoy reached out and shook his hand. Harry felt a shock as their hands met. It felt like a sizzle of magic raced between them. He saw something flicker for a moment in Malfoy's eyes, and they dropped hands.

"Did you..." Potter wanted to ask him if he felt the sensation too, but didn't want the blond boy to get the wrong idea.

"Did I what, Potter?" Malfoy snapped as he picked up his bag.

"Nothing. Don't forget we have to schedule the Potions tutoring, too."

"I won't. Do you want your boyfriend to watch us make potions to make sure I don't poison you?"

"He's not... no. I think I'll be able to tell if you are brewing up a poison."

"Don't be so sure of that." Malfoy laughed and walked out the door.

OoOoo

Harry caught up to Diggory the next day in the library. Cedric motioned him to join him at his table. They worked together in companionable silence for a half hour before Harry got up the nerve to ask him.

"You want me to what?" Cedric looked at him in disbelief. "Malfoy actually is going to trust you to put him under the Imperius curse? That doesn't sound like him."

Harry looked around to make sure no one was nearby. "I know. I think...I think he is afraid that someone might use it on him."

"Having a father who is a likely Death Eater would probably make anyone want to be sure that they can throw off whatever dark magic they can. My dad is pretty sure that Lucius Malfoy was one of the ones who tormented the Muggles at the World Cup. You and Malfoy have never been exactly chummy. Just last month he tried to hex you when your back was turned" Cedric leaned closer to Harry, "Do you really think you can trust him?"

"That's where you come in, you can vouch for me if we get caught." Harry knew that wasn't the same thing as trusting Malfoy. When it came down to it, he knew the Slytherin couldn't be trusted. "Will you do it?" Harry was half-hoping that Diggory would say no. He had been up half the night thinking about Malfoy, he still didn't understand why he had said he would consider it.

"Depends, what is your motivation?" Diggory looked straight at him, "Why are you even considering this?"

Harry met his gaze. "Malfoy is going to tutor me in Potions"

Cedric raised his eyebrow, "Doesn't seem like a fair trade off to me. You are going to be using an Unforgivable curse on another student. That is punishable by..."

"I know. I figure that you will be there as a witness and we are both under-age. If we get caught it will just be put down as stupid teen behavior. But the key is not to get caught."

"Sure there isn't anything else making you want to help him? He isn't bad looking if you like tall, blonds..."

"What! Malfoy? I'm not that bent!" Harry whispered with a laugh. "Seriously, no." as the other boy looked at him doubtfully and then shrugged.

"Let me think it, a lot depends if I get picked for Triwizard tournament. We don't know how time that is going to take. But speaking of bent," Diggory leaned forwards. "Did you ever tell your friends?"

Harry nodded,, "I told them last week. It was good. I should have done it last year. Would have saved me a lot of anxiety."

"Have you thought about anything else?" Diggory laughed when the other boy looked confused. "Have you thought about seeing anyone? If not Malfoy, then who?"

"Who? Oh, no. Don't know really know anyone else who...is like us. And, erm, I don't think I'm ready for anyone else to know." Harry felt his face blushing deep red.

"If you look around a little more you might be surprised how many others there are at Hogwarts. We are not exactly hiding ourselves from everyone; you probably just never noticed."

Harry nodded, "Still, I don't think I want to give people a whole new reason to start talking about me. I would just like to fade into the background for just one school-year. With the Triwizard Tournament going on, hopefully that will be easy this year. Do you think you'll get it?"

"Don't know. I know of at least a dozen others that are entering. There is no guarantee that I'll get picked." Diggory leaned back in his chair and looked around the library. "It'll be interesting to see the Durmstrang and Beauxbaton students when they arrive next week. Get to size up the competition finally."

"About the other thing, arrange a meeting with Malfoy. I want to talk with you both together before deciding." Cedric picked up his quill and bent his head over his homework again. Harry nodded and tried to focus on writing his Transfiguration essay.

OoooOOoo

The next day Harry saw Malfoy was in Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures class. As much as Harry liked Hagrid he did not know what use knowing how to care for a Blast Ended Skrewt would be. But even that was no excuse for Malfoy's attitude towards Hagrid. Ron, Hermine and Harry trailed behind Malfoy and his henchman as they walked back to the castle. Not for the first time did Harry wonder why he was even considering helping the Slytherin wizard. He scarcely paid attention to what Hermione and Ron were discussing. He was trying to figure out how he was going to get Malfoy alone to tell him what Diggory had said.

As they neared the castle Ron and Hermione said they were heading back to the Gryffindor common room to study before supper. Harry saw Malfoy ahead of them standing on the steps talking to Goyle. Timing it just as they passed the Slytherins he said loudly, "I'll meet you up there in a few minutes, I need to go check to the Owlery to see if Hedwig is back yet."

"Do you want us to come with? Do you think she'll have a letter from Padfoot?" Ron said looking suspiciously at Malfoy as they passed him.

"Nah, I'll meet you back at Gryffindor. He probably isn't back yet, but he has been gone for two weeks, he has to be back soon. I'll see you in a bit." Harry didn't look back to see if Malfoy had gotten the hint but just turned and headed for the stairs that would take him to the West Tower. As he headed up the second flight of stairs he saw a glimpse of Malfoy coming up behind him. He continued up the stairs, only stopping when he'd reached the alcove that lead to the doorway to the Owlery.

"Potter." Malfoy said as he caught up to the black-haired wizard. Harry stood leaning against the wall waiting for him. "What did Diggory say?"

"He wants to meet," Harry said, straightening up. "He won't commit until he has talked to us. We can meet tonight after supper in the old Transfiguration classroom on the second floor next to the green dragon tapestry."

Malfoy scowl showed his impatience, "Merlin save me from you two, it is a simple request. Either you'll do it or you won't."

"I'm in, if Diggory will go along with it. You'll have to convince him that this isn't some scheme cooked up by you and your father."

Malfoy let out a snort of bitter laughter, "You can rest assured that this is not my father's evil plot. I need to know how to do this, Potter. And yes, it is killing me that you are the only one who can teach me." He took a step closer to Harry, who had to resist the urge to take a step backwards.

"How do you fight that feeling of sinking into that trance? How come someone like you can fight it when I have tried and failed every time?" Malfoy's gray eyes bore into Harry's green eyes as if he could find the answers within them.

"That is the problem; I don't know how I do it. I feel the calmness come over me and I don't like it. I hear the command and then something tells me I shouldn't do whatever is being asked of me." Harry replied hesitantly, "I don't know if I can teach you how to fight it. We are all taking a big risk for something that I don't even know how to do. For that matter, I don't know if I can even properly put you under Imperius." Harry was unnerved by how close Malfoy was to him. He took a step towards the stairs on the pretense of checking to see if anyone was coming.

Draco turned to look out the window, his arms propping up his body on the windowsill. "That is just fucking great, Potter. Of everyone in the school, it had to be you. And you don't even know what the bloody hell you are doing."

"Listen, Malfoy. It would be more than fine with me if you just want to forget this whole thing." Harry stooped down and picked up his book-bag. "Do I tell Cedric to meet us or not?"

"I'll be there." Without looking at Harry, he turned from the window and swept down the staircase his head held high and his black robes billowing out behind him. Harry watched him go and thought wryly that he could never pull off such a dramatic exit. He stood and listened to the echoing footsteps fading away and continued up to the Owlery. Hedwig wasn't back, but he stood for a while and watched the sun slowly slipping into the horizon. He replayed the conversation with Malfoy back in his head. The Slytherin has said he had tried and failed to resist the curse "every time" but Harry knew for a fact that Moody had only put him under Imperius once. Who else had used the Unforgivable curse on him?

Chapter Text

Harry hadn't told Ron and Hermione about the conversation with Malfoy yet. He knew how they would both react. He really couldn't explain why he was considering helping out Malfoy so he figured it would be best to avoid the conversation for now.

That night as they were finishing up supper he told them he had to go to the library to pick up his Potions book that he had left behind. He left quickly before they could invite themselves along; not for the first time he wondered why he was going to so much trouble for Malfoy.

Diggory and Malfoy were already in the room when he arrived, they stopped talking as he entered the room. He nodded to them and sat down at the empty desk next to Diggory. Malfoy's face was set and he refused to look at Harry, instead choosing to stare at the wall opposite of him. The only sign of movement was the steady tapping of his right index finger on the table. Harry looked over at Cedric questioningly, "What's wrong?"

"Harry, when you told me about this... it really seemed like a bad idea. But, I met with Draco earlier and he has convinced me that he does have a compelling reason why he wants to do this. And, I understand why he wants to keep those reasons private." Harry looked over at Draco who returned his stare, gray eyes cool with disdain. "What I need to know from you is why you are even considering helping him?"

"Erm, I've been asking myself that all day." Harry felt like he was being interviewed by a teacher rather than a fellow student, "I think it is because he asked me, I mean, for Malfoy to be willing to let me use the curse on him." Harry looked at Cedric and shrugged, "That he wants to learn this so badly that he is willing to ask me for help...it must mean he desperately needs to-"

"Oh, sod off, Potter." Malfoy looked over at him and leaned across the table, his hands laying flat against the surface like he was about to launch himself over it. "You know the only reason I asked you is because you are the only person who can do it."

"I don't even know if I can teach you. Why take the risk?" Harry leaned forward, his eyes flashing in anger.

Diggory looked at them and shook his head. "You two have been fighting each other since you got here four years ago. Do you really think you can work together?"

"I'm game, if Malfoy is." Harry responded with a shrug.

"If Potter can do it, I can." Malfoy bit out, he leaned back in his chair. "I think I'll have the tougher task, trying to teach potions to a git who clearly doesn't know the first thing about them."

Diggory nodded, "Okay, then we'll need to set up some ground rules before I agree to help. First, you can do the potions studying on your own, but I have to be present any time Harry here is using the Imperius curse." both boys nodded and he went on. "Draco, you are going to make a list of the commands that you want Harry to use on you while you are under. That way there is no question of you being made something that you find objectionable." Harry nodded, but Malfoy hesitated.

"Won't that affect my ability to resist the curse? If I know what to expect then it will be easier to just go along with it and not fight it?"

Harry started to say something and then stopped, looking to the older student to see what his response was. Cedric encouraged him, "Go ahead, what you were thinking, Harry?"

"I think it is harder to resist an easy command that you are expecting than an order to do something that you don't want to do. Moody told me to jump on a desk. There wouldn't have been any harm in doing it. I could have easily just done what he was telling me to do. However, if he had asked me to hurt someone, that would be something I clearly wouldn't want to do and would be easier to fight the temptation."

"Makes sense to me, what do you think, Draco?" Cedric looked over at Malfoy.

"We'll try it. What are your other rules?"

"Harry will need to practice the Imperius curse on an animal first, to make sure he can do it before he does it to you. An improperly administered Imperius curse can have serious consequences."

"Fortunately, Potter's wand work is better than his potions." Malfoy smirked, "What animal shall you practice on? How about your mud-"

Harry jumped up and reached across the table for Malfoy. "Don't say it. I'll walk out the door and that will be the end of this little partnership."

Malfoy pushed Harry's hand away, "Fine. Use a rat or skrewt then."

"Sit down, both of you." Cedric sighed, "Where are we going to hold these practice sessions?"

Malfoy straightened his robes and sat down at the table. After a moment, Harry sank back down in his chair. The blond wizard looked over at Cedric, "Do you know where the old Quidditch locker rooms are?"

Both Cedric and Harry shook their heads, "Good, no one does. They are under the West Tower, the Quidditch pitch used to be located on that side of the castle until it was moved right after my grandfather graduated from here. Grandfather told my father about the rooms when he came to Hogwarts and my father passed it on to me."

"Why would he tell you the password to get into the locker rooms?" Harry wondered, thinking uneasily that any mention of Malfoy's father in this plan was something to be leery off. He had never noticed the locker room on the Marauder's Map, but maybe the Marauders hadn't known about it either.

"There is an entrance to the Slytherin dungeon through the locker rooms. Malfoys never leave themselves with just one way out." Malfoy drawled. "Fortunately, I never shared this with anyone. We can practice down there and no one will be the wiser. Even the ghosts don't go there."

"Spend a lot of time down there do you, Malfoy?" Harry asked.

"As a matter of fact, yes. You don't get the top grades in this school without studying and I go there to get work done."

"I do believe you are second from the top." Harry said with a smile that got a little bigger at Malfoy's scowl, "Bet it gets your goat that a Muggle-born is at the top, doesn't it."

"Tell me again why you two think that you are going to be able to pull this off?" Cedric looked at the two fourth years and shook his head, "You can't even sit at a table without digging into each other."

"Potter is the perfect choice," Malfoy snapped, "Who better than your enemy to curse you?"

Harry tilted his head and looked over at the blond boy curiously, "You said that yesterday, that we are enemies. Do you really think of me like that? We are never going to be friends but enemies? I don't see you that way. Voldemort is my enemy. And although you seem to appreciate his view of the world, you aren't pure evil, at least not yet. Opponent. Stupid git. Major pain in the arse. All of those things but, an enemy? Too strong of a word for what we are."

Malfoy looked surprised for just a moment as Harry's words sank in, but then his face hardened into the all too familiar Malfoy mask, "Trust me, Potter. You are the enemy. I've always followed the advice that you should keep your friends close but your enemies closer."

"Pretty funny, you quoting a Muggle general." Harry said with a laugh.

"A Muggle? Potions isn't the only class you are sleeping through; if you paid attention in History of Magic you would know that Sun-Tzu was a wizard."

"Really?" Harry looked to Diggory for confirmation, Diggory nodded. "Well, anyway. Are we set, anything else we need to do?"

"This is all still hinging on the Triwizard Tournament. If I'm picked I might not have time to do this. The other school's delegates arrive tomorrow, and the Hogwarts champion will be picked on Halloween the day after. Let's wait until then."

Cedric stood up and looked at the two of them. "Neither of you asked me why I am willing to help you. Basically the reason is this - you both are the ideal representatives for your houses. Harry has already demonstrated remarkable bravery and dauntless courage. Draco, you are the epitome of a Slytherin. I've never seen a student with such cunning or ambition. Since you two started at Hogwarts I've noticed that the divisions between the houses are growing greater and greater."

He held up his hands when they both looked like they were about to object, "I'm not saying that you are to blame. These are very tough times in the wizarding world. We saw that at the World Cup. If you two can learn to work together I think it will go along way to mend the riff between the houses. You two, as a team, would be unstoppable. And, I look forward to seeing it happen." with a smile he turned and walked out the door.

Draco and Harry stared at the door for the moment. Malfoy turned to Harry, "What a Hufflepuff. The day you and I are a team is the day I kiss your arse." Malfoy laughed and left the room.

Harry sat in the room alone. He agreed with Malfoy, the chances that this would make any difference in how he and Malfoy got along was practically nil. But is was a distraction to keep his mind off worrying about his scar hurting, Sirius and...his other problem, he thought with a flush. He wondered when he would stop thinking of being gay as a problem. Probably around the same time that he thought blast ended skrewts would make a nice pet he thought with a scowl.

OOOOoooO

Halloween Night - The Great Hall

"Harry Potter"

Stunned. There was dead silence in the Great Hall. Harry sat at the Gryffindor table and was sure he must have misheard Dumbledore. He felt everyone in the room turn and stare at him and knew that it was true, Dumbledore had just read his name from the piece of paper that the Goblet of Fire had spit out. He stared at the paper that Dumbledore held in his hand. How could his name have been on it?

"Harry Potter. Harry, come up here, please." Dumbledore's voice rang loudly in the silent room.

He felt Dumbledore's eyes on him and he slowly forced himself to stand and walk towards the staff table. As he moved forward the silence gave way to noise and it grew until it had become a deafening crescendo. It took a lifetime to walk through the passageway between the tables. He finally stood before Dumbledore. The headmaster looked at him soberly and nodded his head towards the doorway where the other three champions had already gone through.

Harry felt frozen inside but his mind was screaming. He didn't understand how this could be happening to him. "Harry, join the others." Dumbledore said, nodding towards the doorway. Harry turned and walked through to the other room where Cedric and the other two champions stood by the fireplace.

Cedric broke away from the other two and came over to him, "How about it, Harry! I can't believe I..." Cedric trailed off, seeing the pallor in the other boy's face. "What's wrong, what happened. Are you okay?" He reached out and gripped Harry's arm.

Harry opened his mouth but no words could come out. All of the sudden there was a burst of movement from the door and Ludo Bagman entered the room. "Extraordinary! May I introduce, as incredible as it may seem, the FOURTH Triwizard champion!"

Cedric looked from Bagman to Harry in disbelief. His hand fell away from Harry's arm and Harry felt its loss. "What? What does he mean?"

"My name, my name came out of the goblet." Harry gulped. He couldn't think, "I don't understand-"

Just then the Madam Maxime and Karkaroff burst into the room followed closely by Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Snape. They were all arguing loudly and Harry could scarcely follow what they were saying. He walked to the other side of the room and stood staring fixedly at the fire in the fireplace. Not for the first time did he wonder how these things could keep happening to him.

"Harry," he felt Dumbledore's hand on his shoulder. "Did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire." Harry stared into the intense blue of Dumbledore's eyes, he wasn't sure what he saw in them was it disappointment, fear, or just confusion?

"No." he said as vehemently as he could. "I..."

Dumbledore held up his hand to silence Harry, "Did you ask someone else to put your name in the Goblet?"

"No." Harry could hear Snape's snort of disbelief. Dumbledore turned back to Maxime, Karkaroff and the other staff members in the room and Harry didn't even bother trying to follow the conversation. He felt Cedric looking over at him but he didn't know what to say to him.

Dazed as he was Harry realized that the shouting had stopped and he heard Dumbledore's quiet voice declaring that both he and Cedric would compete in the competition. Bagman announced that the first task would be held in three weeks and the task itself would be a secret until that day. Finally, Dumbledore dismissed them all and he and Cedric walked out of the room together.

The Great Hall was mercifully empty, the Halloween decorations from the feast still floated in the air. Harry stopped and turned to Cedric.

Cedric gave him a half-smile, "I guess we're playing together again...How did you do it?"

"I didn't! I don't understand how this happened." Harry put his hand on Cedric's arm. "I didn't put my name in the goblet. You have to be believe me."

Cedric looked down at him for a few minutes and then shrugged, "Ah, okay. I... good-night, Harry."

Harry watched Cedric walk away and felt the fear that his friendship with the other boy was walking away too. Cedric did not believe that he hadn't entered his name. Although he had only been friends with him for a couple of months he had really come to appreciate his friendship. With dragging steps he made his way up to the Gryffindor Tower. He would try and find Cedric tomorrow and talk to him.

OOOoooooO

The next few days were the worst Harry had ever experienced at Hogwarts. Ron wasn't talking to him. With the exception of his fellow Gryffindors, the whole school was treating him like a pariah. He hadn't been able to talk to Cedric. No one in the Hufflepuff House would speak to him and Cedric was always surrounded by a protective crowd of people wherever he went. In desperation Harry finally wrote Cedric a note and owled it to him.

Harry watched across the Great Hall when the owls swooped in to deliver the mail at breakfast. Cedric was laughing and joking around with his seatmates as the school owl delivered Harry's letter. Cedric looked down at the letter and read it, the smile fading from his face. He looked up and saw Harry watching him. Cedric gave a quick nod to Harry and slipped the letter into his pocket.

As soon as he was finished eating supper that night, Harry stood up. Ron was sitting on the other side of Hermione and was deliberately not looking towards Harry. Harry sighed and looked at Hermione. "I have to go, I'll catch you later." Hermione looked at him and gave a sad nod.

Harry quickly walked out of the Great Hall and left the castle,. He took the path that lead to the lake. Cedric caught up to him as Harry was nearing the boathouse. Both boys started talking at once

"Cedric, I-"

"Harry, I need to-"

Harry flushed, "Go ahead, yell at me."

Cedric smiled down at him and putting both hands on Harry's shoulders said, "I'm not going to yell. I started to say I owe you an apology." Harry looked at him in confusion. "I didn't, well, I didn't believe you the other night when you told me that you hadn't entered yourself in the competition. And, I actually thought that you had done it for about a day. Then I remembered something you said one of the first times we talked. How you had hoped that this year would be the one where you could just blend in and have nobody notice you. I realized that there was no way you would have entered. And then watching how everyone has been treating you these last few days... I haven't done anything to stop it, and I'm sorry for that, too."

"You can't stop it, it just has to run its course. I learned that second year when everyone thought I was the one attacking everyone." Harry said with a grimace.

"It always does seem to happen to you, doesn't it? Your first year was the troll and whatever happened that put you in the hospital wing for a week...never did get the story on that one."

Harry gave a shudder just thinking of Quirrell and the Sorcerer's Stone. "Maybe someday I'll tell you about it. If I live through this tournament."

"Have you talked to Dumbledore? Does he have any idea how this happened?"

"I haven't talked to him. I think he is disappointed in me... I don't think he believes that I didn't do it."

"I imagine he is just pretty scared that something is going to happen to you. A 14-year old in a Triwizard competition? That has never happened before and since the tasks are already set they can't change them. You haven't even taken your O.W.L.s yet. Who ever entered you clearly is not a friend."

Harry laughed, "Well, gee, thanks for spelling out my impending doom clearer than Trelawney has... She just says, "A cloud of death is lurking over the castle."

The Hufflepuff laughed and clasped an arm around Harry's shoulder and they started walking down the path. "You'll get through it, hopefully with all of your limbs."

"How do you feel about competing against Viktor Krum?" Harry asked with a sideways smile.

Cedric laughed, "Wasn't that a surprise! Here's hoping that none of the tasks are performed on brooms, although you could give him a run for his money." Harry scoffed at that, "Simon wants me to get Krum's autograph. "

Harry relaxed and listened to Cedric talking about his last letter from Simon and the advice that he had given on preparing for the competition. It felt good to know that he still had the Hufflepuff's friendship. For the first time in a week he was able to relax the tight knot that he'd had in his stomach since hearing Dumbledore call his name out. He looked up with surprise when Cedric stopped talking; they were back at the castle.

"Harry, I am trying to convince my house that it isn't your fault that you didn't do anything to get your name picked." Cedric grimaced, his gray eyes looked at Harry seriously, "but, there are a lot of hard feelings. Hopefully things will die down soon and everyone can just be excited to see the first task, rather than being mad at you for something that you didn't do."

Harry nodded, "It helps, knowing that you believe me. As for the rest," he shrugged. "Maybe I'll be so injured in the first task that I won't have to do the rest."

Cedric laughed, "I don't think that Madam Pomfrey wants to see you again anytime soon."

OOOOooOO

Ron stalked away from Harry after they had served their detention together cleaning cauldrons in Snape's classroom. He hadn't spoken a word to Harry during the entire two hours they had been stuck in the classroom.

"Potter." Malfoy's voice rang out down the corridor. Harry ignored him and kept walking. He heard Malfoy's footsteps running towards him and whirled around, his wand ready.

"Leave me alone, Malfoy."

Malfoy looked down at Harry's wand and sneered. "Pretty quick with the draw there, Potter." The Potter Stinks pin was flashing on his robes.

Harry tightened his grip on the wand and repeated, "What do you want?"

"I just wanted to thank you for screwing everything up for me. You really just couldn't resist trying to steal more attention for yourself, could you?"

Harry looked at him in disbelief, "Screw things up for you? What are you on about-"

"Diggory! After how you double-crossed him there is no way he was going to help out on our little 'study project' is there?"

Harry laughed bitterly, "As a matter of fact, Malfoy. He and I just talked about it yesterday and he said he would still be willing. Of course, that was before you hexed my best friend and put her in the hospital wing." he tapped Malfoy's pin with his wand so it changed back to the Diggory side. "What makes you think I would even consider helping you now?"

Malfoy's face went blank, "You mean..." Malfoy broke off as he looked over Harry's shoulder and saw Snape coming out of his classroom and turning towards them. "What is the problem here?" Harry cursed as he heard Snape behind him and slid his wand back into his pocket before turning around.

Snape glared at Potter, "Your detention is over, Potter. There is no reason for you to still be down here." Harry stared defiantly at Malfoy, daring him to say anything.

"I was just asking Potter about our Transfiguration homework." Malfoy responded quickly.

Snape turned towards Malfoy, his eye dropping to the Potter Stinks pin and back up at Malfoy. "Why do I get the feeling that you are not being truthful, Draco? Could it be because you surely have more sense than to ask Potter for anything?"

Malfoy didn't respond, but kept his gaze steadily on the Potions teacher. "Very well, if I catch you out here again after classes are over I will demand a full explanation." He turned and walked down the corridor.

Both students watched as Snape turned and went into his office. Harry turned to go up the stairs but Malfoy grabbed him by the arm and stopped him. Harry shook it off, "Leave me alone, Malfoy."

"Damn it, Potter. What do you mean Diggory is still willing to do it-"

"I meant just that, Diggory knows I didn't put my name in the goblet," Harry ignored Malfoy's incredulous laugh, "And, he was still willing to go along with it. But the deal is off, I'm not going to put up with this kind of crap from you." He pointed at the Potter Stinks pin, "and then have you have the nerve to still expect me-"

"I was angry, okay." Malfoy bit out, "I was sure that Diggory wouldn't help, and that it was all your fault because you just wanted to see your name in the paper."

"When will you get it through your thick Slytherin skull. I don't want these things to happen to me, they just do." Harry pushed Malfoy towards the wall, "I can't control what the papers right about me. Skeeter made up that entire story. It's not my fault she choose to leave Diggory out. I wish for Merlin's sake that she hadn't but it's not my fault. Back off, Malfoy. Leave me alone, leave my friends alone."

Harry turned and went up the stairs without a backwards glance.

OoOOOOoO

That night at supper he sat in his usual spot facing the Slytherins. Everyone at the Slytherin table was wearing the Potter Stinks pins, but he noticed that only Malfoy's was permanently set to the Diggory side. He watched as Malfoy toyed with the food on his plate but didn't eat. Shepherd's Pie was Malfoy's favorite, he always had an extra helping whenever it was on the menu. It suddenly occurred to Harry that knowing what Malfoy's favorite foods wasn't normal. He never paid attention to just how closely he watched the other boy. Malfoy stood up and walk over Diggory at the Hufflepuff table. He bent down and spoke to the 6th year and Cedric looked over at Harry.

Harry immediately dropped his gaze back to his own plate. He should have known that Malfoy wouldn't drop it. Well, it wasn't going to work, there was no way he was going to work with the git on anything, let alone risk being expelled or worse. He watched as Diggory stood up from the table and walked out of the room with Malfoy.

"Where do you suppose they are going together?" Ron puzzled. "I've never seen Diggory and Malfoy together before, do you think Malfoy is..."

"Honestly, Ron, why are you obsessed with who is or isn't gay?" Hermione snapped, looking up from the book on the history of house elves. "Ask Harry if they are friends."

Ron glared over Hermione's head at Harry and continued eating, stabbing at the food on his plate like he was wishing it was Harry's head.

OoOOoO

The next morning at breakfast a school owl swooped down towards Harry. He untied the letter with a sigh. Since the Daily Prophets article about him he had been getting hate mail slid into his book bag, delivered by owl, and written on the school blackboards.

"Aren't you going to read it?" Hermione asked when Harry left the letter sitting next to his plate. "It could be from Padfoot." Harry saw Ron's head turn towards them for just a moment before looking back down at the Potions essay he was trying to finish before class.

"Can't be from Padfoot, was a school owl." Harry said with a grimace, "I'm sure it is just more hate mail."

"You can't be sure, Harry. Why don't you just open it and see." Hermione persisted. With a sigh he picked up and opened the letter.

Potter, Tonight. Same place. Same time.

Incendio. Harry murmured before Hermione could see the letter and watched as the note disappear in a puff of smoke. "Sorry, Harry, I thought maybe it could be some good news for you." Hermione murmured, putting her hand on his and giving it a squeeze. "This will all die down eventually."

Harry looked over at the Slytherin table. Malfoy was staring at him. Unbelievable. The git really had no grasp on reality. What did he think he could say if they met that would convince Harry to help him. Harry's gaze dropped down to Malfoy's robes. He wasn't wearing the pin. He looked back at Malfoy's face. Malfoy raised his eyebrow at him and Harry mouthed "Fuck off" to him. The boy's face tightened into a scowl and he threw his fork down on his plate and and left the room.

Diggory caught up to Harry after lunch. "Harry, I talked to Draco for a long time last night. I really think you should meet us tonight."

"There is no way I'm going to help him." Harry looked at him, "I can't really believe you are taking his side."

"There are no sides, not really. I'm just a neutral bystander, but you two both yell at each other and never listen." Cedric sighed, "I just want to make sure that you both get a fair chance to air your differences."

Harry grimaced. "Fine. I'll be there, but there is nothing Malfoy can say that will change my mind."

OOoOOoOoO

Malfoy was the last one to enter the second floor classroom. Harry stood leaning against the teacher's desk. Cedric went over to Malfoy, who was still standing by the doorway. Putting his hand on Malfoy's arm he pulled the boy farther into the room. "You are going to have to tell him. There is no other way to convince him otherwise." Malfoy shrugged off Cedric's hand and walked over to the windows.

Harry just wanted to get this over with and leave; he had come as a courtesy to Cedric and that was all. Malfoy stood looking out the windows. After a minute Harry said, "See, even he knows there is no point." he stooped down and picked up his bookbag and headed for the door.

"Harry, stay. Draco, if you want this to happen you are going to have to tell him."

"Fine!" Malfoy snapped and turned around. Harry stopped walking and turned to face him. "I need to know how to fight the Imperius curse." he stopped and closed his eyes as if wishing Harry wasn't in the room. "My father...my father uses it on me."

"What do you mean he uses it on you? Is it a Malfoy after supper game?" Harry looked at him in disbelief.

"No...it isn't a game, Potter." Malfoy turned back towards the window and gazed out unseeingly. "If I do not perform up to his expectations he puts me under the Imperius curse until he feels I've learned my lesson."

"I don't get it," Harry looked at him, even though he suddenly had a dreadful feeling that he didn't want to get it.

"Let me spell it out for you then, Potter." Malfoy turned and walked towards the raven-haired wizard. Poking a finger in his chest. "hen I defended my mother against one of my father's rage he put me under the Imperius curse and made me be the one to hit her. The day I raised my voice to him he used it and made me sit at the dining room table watching them eat every meal but wouldn't let me eat for two days. When I failed to have the top grade against a mud-blood he made me kill my dog. Does that make it any more clear for you?"

Harry felt all the blood drain out of his face. He opened his mouth but no words came out. Malfoy cursed and turned back to the window. "I had no idea..." Harry said at last.

"Well, don't knock yourself out running for the door, Potter." Malfoy sneered, his mask firmly back in place. "It was just too much to ask of you, wasn't it."

"Draco, give Harry a minute to make sense of what you said," Cedric said coming over and standing at the window. Cedric dropped his voice so that Harry couldn't hear what they were saying. He stood frozen in the middle of the room, Malfoy's words running through his head - how could anyone do that to his own son. He remembered the blind rage on Lucius Malfoy's face the day that he had confronted him in Dumbledore's office after slaying the basilisk. Harry had been sure that the older Malfoy was going to attack him right in front of Dumbledore. It wasn't hard to imagine what he could do inside of his own home with no one to stop him.

"Malfoy, I..."

"Spare me your pity, Potter. Just tell me whether or not you'll do it."

Harry nodded, "Yeah, I'll do it."

"Fine, meet me outside the West Tower tomorrow night at 7." Malfoy nodded to Diggory and walked out of the classroom.

Harry sat down at one of the desks. "Who would do that to his own son?"

Cedric sat down next to Harry. "Lucius Malfoy...have you met him?"

Harry nodded, "A couple of times. He was involved with the Chamber of Secrets thing two years ago."

"Do you have any doubts that Draco isn't telling the truth?"

"No." Harry shook his head, "I never would have thought that Malfoy was going through that at home, but I don't think he is making up. It would take a pretty sick mind and Malfoy isn't sick he is just...mean."

"You never know what kind of lives people live when they leave school and go back home." Cedric murmured. Harry thought about the Dursleys. His life was never easy with them. But they didn't torture him, nothing they'd done approached the abuse that Malfoy had described.

"Do you think this will work?" Harry asked, "Even if he is able to learn how to throw off the curse, his father will just think of something else..."

Cedric looked over at Harry, "I think he is afraid his father will force him to do something far worse...and he is preparing for that day."

Chapter Text

One good thing about Ron not talking to him anymore was that it made it easier to meet with Cedric and Malfoy without raising any suspicions. "I'm going to study somewhere else" he said after fifteen minutes of sitting in the library with Ron sitting stone-faced across from Hermione and Harry.
"You don't have to go, Harry." Hermione gave him a tight-lipped smile. "Don't go..."
"It's okay, I'll see you later." He glared at Ron who had refused to look up from his book and turned and left.
He quickly exited through the courtyard entrance. The warm October days had given way to November and the sudden drop in temperature meant that no students were out walking on the grounds. Harry realized with dread that the first Triwizard task was now less than two weeks away. He followed the path that would lead him to the West Tower. Malfoy and Cedric were already there, standing next to the tower. "That's it?" Harry asked "How does it open?"
"It works just like the Leaky Cauldron's gateway... you tap here, here and here and the password is "Aperiens." Malfoy explained. The solid stone wall of the tower swung open and the three students ducked in and entered through the passageway.
Cedric and Harry looked around in astonishment. The room was large. Lockers and benches filled the space. The walls were covered with tapestries of Quidditch matches woven in intricate detail. Harry could see that there were showers and wash area off to one side. Farther back they could see a weight room and some type of office. Harry walked over to a locker and opened it. There were old fashioned leather Quidditch gear still hanging inside.
"This place is amazing, Draco!" Cedric said excitedly, his voice echoing in the chamber. Malfoy looked around and Harry realized that Malfoy looked proud. He saw this as his place, Harry thought. There was no place else like this in Hogwarts and for over three years it had been Malfoy's own secret. A place that he could come to and have all on his own. That he was willing to share the secret said a lot about how desperately he wanted to learn how to throw the Imperius Curse.
"When was it last used?"
"Sometime in the 50s. Back then the teams changed together, that is why it is so big. When they moved the pitch, they created the two sets of locker rooms."
Malfoy took off his robes and hung them on one of the hooks that was ran along the wall. Cedric and Harry did the same and Malfoy walked them through the main area to the back room. It was clear that this is where he spent his time. Rolls of parchment, bottles of ink and his text books were stacked on the desk. Harry looked over at in astonishment - there was a table pushed up against a wall that appeared to hold a full potions laboratory. No wonder Malfoy did so well in Potions, he could practice all the potions before even going to class.
"It doesn't look like it hasn't been used in forty years, there isn't dirt or dust or anything."
Malfoy looked around, "Well, it turns out that those housecleaning charms that Flitwik forced us to learn actually are useful. The house elves don't come to this part of the castle. Enough small talk, lets get this started."
Cedric nodded, "First, we need... We forgot, we need something for Harry to test the Imperius Curse."
Malfoy's mouth grimaced "Screw that..."
"No, it is important." Cedric said, "I would much rather Harry practice on a rodent than you, Draco." Harry chuckled but resisted making the obvious ferret comparison. By the glare on Draco's face it was clear that he knew why Harry had laughed.
"What do we do then?" Harry said, "Could you transfigure something into a mouse, Cedric?"
"I could, but I don't know if it would be the same as practicing on a real one."
"How about a spider? Moody used a spider in class."
"Not the same nerve structure as a mammal." Cedric objected, "We'll need to reschedule."
Harry looked around the room and then with a shrug he pulled out his wand, "Worth a try...Accio mouse."
"Don't be stupid..." Malfoy started to say when suddenly a gray form flew through the air into Harry's outstretched hand. Harry quickly put his other hand on top of it, and all that could be seen is the wormlike tail sticking out between his fingers. For a split second the other two boys looked at him with open mouthed amazement and then both laughed. Harry looked at Malfoy with wonder, he had never seen him laugh a genuine laugh, one that wasn't malicious.
"Harry, whatever possessed you to..." Cedric asked.
Harry gave a sheepish grin "Mouse droppings." and pointed with his finger to the corner of the room. He looked around for something to set the mouse in, he spotted a waste bin near the desk. "We are just learning summoning charms, I'm surprised it actually worked, couldn't get anything to come to me in class."
Malfoy gave a groan, "A little less talk about how little you know about magic would be helpful, Potter. I'm trying not to imagine spending the rest of my life on the fifth floor of St. Mungo's because you screwed up..."
"We don't have to do this..."
"Forget I said anything. We are going to do it. At this point it would be safer to be in St. Mungo's" Malfoy nodded at the squirming mouse in the waste bin. "Do it."
Cedric looked around, "Let's sit down and talk before you do anything." There was only one chair in the room but Harry and Cedric carried in a bench from the locker room to sit on. "I did some research on the curse. It seems that the biggest risk is when someone is under the curse for a very long time, hours and days. So to be safe we are going to do it for a maximum of 15 minutes. The other risk is the frequency of how often it is done. That is why you got so sick, Harry. You had it what, four times in an hour?" Harry nodded.
"We are just going to do it once each session." Malfoy opened his mouth to object, but Cedric shook his head. "There is no reason to take a risk, and if you haven't gotten it after the first 15 minutes you will need a break anyway."
"I've been under the curse for over two days, without a problem." Malfoy protested. "There is no reason to just..."
Cedric held up his hand, "Your father is an adult wizard who is fully trained in the Dark Arts, Harry isn't. I'm not going to budge on the 15 minute time limit..."
Cedric looked at Harry, "When you are ready to try, clear your mind of any doubts. You need to think the Imperius curse first before you cast. Then put all the force of your magic behind the incantation when you speak it. If you say it without meaning or do it half-hearted it won't work...or worse." Harry nodded.
"Are you ready to try it on the mouse?"
Harry swallowed but nodded. He didn't look over at Malfoy. Closing his eyes, he remembered Moody's wand movements. Opening his eyes, he stared down at the mouse and with a deep breath he waved his wand at the mouse and shouted "Imperio!" The mouse stopped its frantic movements in the bin. At the same time, Harry became aware of another feeling, he could feel the mouse's heartbeat pulsing, he could feel the mouse's fear. Harry looked over at Malfoy and Cedric, they were both staring down at the mouse.
Cedric reached down and picked up the mouse and put it on the floor, the mouse lay there waiting. "Good sign, it isn't running away. Now, think what you want it to do. A command."
Harry looked at the mouse and thought, "Wave your tail." The mouse's tail flicked madly about. "Stop." The tail stopped. "Rollover" the mouse rolled over. It lay on the bottom of the bin, waiting for the next command.
Malfoy's face was flushed as he watched the mouse, "What does it feel like?"
"It feels different, I can feel what the mouse is thinking, it is frantic It doesn't know what is happening. It is the opposite of what you feel when you are under the curse, I think. When you feel that calm trance feeling that you described. I think, I think the fear that your body has actually goes to the castor.
The color drained out of Malfoy's face. "You can tell what the mouse is thinking?"
"No. I just feel the fear. Of course, it is a mouse. I don't know if that makes a difference. It could be speaking in mouse and I don't understand it."
Cedric looked at Malfoy who was staring transfixed at the mouse. "I think that is enough, let's just make sure you can release it from the curse and that it is okay." He bent down and picked up the mouse and held it out for Harry.
"Finite."
The mouse immediately started pawing in Cedric's cupped hands, trying to get away. "Is he okay?" Harry asked coming over to stroke the mouse's head to try and calm it down.
"It's a mouse. Its brain could be completely addled and it would be impossible to tell." Malfoy drawled.
Harry rolled his eyes. "I imagine it will be equally hard to tell with you, Ferret Face."
"Very funny, Potter."
Cedric held up the mouse, peering into the mouse's face. "Seems okay." He knelt down and released the mouse and they all watched as it quickly scurried from the room. Harry was reminded bitterly of the last glimpse he had seen of Peter Pettigrew disappearing through the grass as Wormtail.
"So, we know Harry can successfully cast the curse. And the mouse," Cedric shrugged, "Appears to have survived the ordeal." Harry and Cedric looked at Malfoy. He was watching where the mouse had disappeared through a crack in the stones. The tall blond Slytherin straightened up and looked over at Harry.
"Enough delaying, let's do this." Malfoy's voice was cool, but Harry couldn't help wonder what he was thinking inside.
"We'll get there, Draco." Cedric motioned for them all to sit down again. "Harry, tell Draco what the sensation is like when you were fighting off the curse the first time."
Harry closed his eyes, "I felt the trance start, then, something inside of me just blinked and I heard Moody's voice telling me to jump on the desk. Part of me wanted to do it, but then a voice inside me told me that it was a stupid idea and I shouldn't do it...and I ended up just kind of running into the desk, not jumping."
"And the last time? What was the difference the last time he cursed you when you were able to resist it?"
"I think the big difference was I knew what to expect. I felt the trance start and I didn't even focus on what the command was, I didn't need a voice telling me anything. I just envisioned a tidal wave forcing the trance away from me. The wave just pushed and pushed and forced it out."
"Voices and a tidal wave. In your head." Malfoy shook his head. "That isn't a lot of help, Potter."
"I did warn you that I wasn't sure how come what I did works. The second time I imagined a brick wall being built, but it was too slow. Then I thought what I needed was something fast moving and large." he shrugged, "Tidal wave is what I came up with, but I imagine it could be anything."
"Let's try the tidal wave imagery and see where that gets you, Draco." Cedric said, "First just practice, visualize what it would feel like to be behind the wave and seeing it forcing the trance away."
Malfoy grimaced but closed his eyes. Harry realized that Malfoy's willingness to try without a sneer or sarcastic comment was very telling on how serious he was about fighting the curse. Harry was fascinated to see Malfoy's face relax. The signs of strain around his eyes eased and Harry realized that he would love to see what Malfoy looked like when he was asleep. Without the outward mask that he projected to the world he was a completely different person, one with beautiful eyelashes he thought with a flush. Eyes that were open, Harry realized with a start.
"See something you like, Potter?" Malfoy drawled. Harry flushed and looked away.
"Do you think you that visual image will work for you, Draco?" Cedric asked.
"Yes, let's do this."
"Do you have the list of commands?" Malfoy nodded and went over to where he had hung up his robes and pulled a roll of parchment from the pocket.
"It is just really basic commands. I'm still not sure if it is a good idea to use a list that I made," Malfoy said, "It might make it easier to resist."
Cedric looked over the list, "This is fine, I wanted you to make the list so that you would trust that nothing that you don't want to happen would happen to you. We can start with this and if you are able to resist them then we can throw other commands at you that you don't expect and see what happens. How does that sound?" Cedric said.
Draco nodded, "Fine. But no singing," he glared at Potter.
"Right, no singing." Harry agreed quietly.
"Do you think you're ready, Harry?" Cedric asked.
Harry stayed seated, staring at his wand. It was one thing to talk about doing an Unforgivable Curse on someone or doing it on a mouse. It was completely another thing to realize that you were about to do it on another human being. Even if the human was Malfoy. Cedric went over and sat down next to him, "Are you sure you want to do it? It isn't too late to back out."
Harry looked over at Malfoy who was standing in the middle of the room watching them. His shoulders were tense and cool gray eyes stared at Harry.
"I'll do it." Malfoy seemed to sag with relief for just a moment.
"Do it just like you did with the mouse, clear your mind, think the incantation, and don't hesitate." Cedric said, "Remember that since all the commands you give are thought driven, you are going to have to resist the temptation to think any encouraging thoughts towards Draco. If you think 'Come on you can do it, fight it.' that is going to cause confusion and might cause problems. Just think the command and nothing else."
"Are you ready, Malfoy?" Harry asked.
Malfoy nodded, closed his eyes and waited.
Harry stood up and walked towards the blond boy. Stopping right in front of him, he closed his own eyes and drew in a deep breath, opened his eyes and without warning lifted his wand and shouted. "Imperio"
Harry looked at Malfoy, his eyes were still closed. He could feel Malfoy's pulse beating inside his own head, he could feel the deep breaths that the other boy was taking in and exhaling. He could feel the emotions running through his own head - anxiety, fear, hunger. Cedric came over to stand next to Harry. "Do you feel it?" Harry nodded.
With shaking fingers Cedric held open the parchment for Harry. Harry looked down and thought the first thing on the list. "Touch the floor." Cedric and Harry both held their breath and then with a flash of disappointment watched as Malfoy bent at his waist and touched the floor.
Cedric moved towards Malfoy, "Draco, feel the tidal wave push against the calm, make the wave force it away from you." He gave a nod to Harry, to give the next command.
"Sit down in the chair." There was a few seconds delay and Malfoy, his feet dragging against the floor took the three steps to the chair and started to sit. He missed the chair and fell on the floor. Malfoy's face was flushed and beads of sweat were dripping down his forehead.
Harry immediately felt the surge of pain come through the link from Malfoy, and something else he realized. He felt hope. Cedric looked over at Harry and said "Just one more."
"Lift your arms up." The delay was even longer this time but Malfoy's arms reluctantly started going up in the air, but Cedric and Harry could see the battle as he fought to lower them. Harry felt rage mix with the fear, and then suddenly Malfoy's arms both lifted above his head.
"Finite."
Malfoy collapsed back down to the floor. Cedric and Harry rushed over to him and helped him into the chair. After a moment, Malfoy straightened up and then pushed away their arms. "Fucking hell, it didn't work!"
"It was only the first time, Draco!" Cedric said, "You can't expect for it to have worked the first time. You were clearly fighting it. You didn't react to the commands immediately and we could see that you were making an effort to resist it."
Harry stepped back. Feeling the the connection to Malfoy's emotions had shaken him. He felt like he had violated Malfoy. To know what the other boy was feeling was just wrong. Turning away, Harry walked through to the locker room area and found a glass sitting on a shelf next to the row of sinks. He filled it with water and brought it back to Malfoy. The color had come back into the boy's face and he seemed to have composed himself. He looked at the water glass with surprise when Harry held it out to him. "Thanks."
"What did you feel, Harry? What did it feel like for you?" Cedric asked, he was still squatting on the floor next to Malfoy. Harry hesitated and Malfoy narrowed his eyes at him.
Harry flushed and knew that Malfoy would hate what he was going to say, but if he was going to learn how to fight the curse he would need to know what Harry felt through the connection. "Yes, the curse gives you the ability to feel the person's emotions. I could feel a lot of anxiety at first and fear and erm,"
Harry gave a half smile and reached into his pocket and took out an apple and threw it to Malfoy who caught it with Seeker instincts, "and I could feel hunger." Malfoy who had already taken a bite, choked and glared at him. "When you missed the chair there was a surge of something, hope, I think. But with the last command I could feel the rage just take over you and that is when you responded to the command immediately and couldn't fight it anymore."
Malfoy had gone still as Harry had described what he had felt. He looked down at the apple and suddenly stood up and threw it across the room. The apple hit the wall and bounced off, leaving a circle of juice and pulp on the stone. Malfoy looked over at Harry and started advancing towards him, "So you are telling me that my ever-loving father could feel everything that I feel when he puts me under the curse."
He stood toe to toe with Harry, his gray eyes flashing in anger. Harry stood his ground, knowing that the other boy had the right to be furious. "Fear. Hunger. For two days I didn't eat this summer and you are telling me that he could feel my hunger that entire time... Or is it worse knowing that you, you great ignorant git," he eyed Harry up and down disdainfully, "Are going to be able to see it all too. I hate you, Potter." he turned and stalked away to the far side of the locker room.
Harry stood there stunned for a moment and then he started to follow Malfoy. Cedric grabbed his arm and stopped him. "I'll go, why don't you study for a bit."
Harry went over to desk and sat in the chair but didn't reach for his bookbag. He ran a restless hand through his hair and rested his head down on the desk. He couldn't imagine what it would be like if it was reversed and Malfoy was the one who knew what Harry was feeling. He knew that he would hate it if anyone could sense his every emotion. It had been disturbing sensing Malfoy's emotions but what had been far worse was the knowledge that he had the ability to control every movement that the other boy had made. It was just wrong, no one should take control of someone else's body like that.
He looked up and saw Cedric and Malfoy standing in the middle of the locker room. Malfoy was clearly shouting, his face was filled with rage and he was waving his arms, gesturing at Harry, but Harry couldn't hear anything. Cedric must have put up a shield he realized to prevent Harry from hearing the conversation. He saw Cedric motion to one of the benches and Malfoy reluctantly walking over to it, kicking a locker as he went. With a sigh, Harry reached down and pulled his Potions book out of his bag. He still had 12 inches to write for Snape and his Transfiguration homework to do.
He was half way through his essay when he heard Cedric re-enter the office. "How are you feeling, Harry?" The Hufflepuff looked tired, he wondered if Cedric was regretting getting involved.
"Me? I'm fine. How is Malfoy?"
"Better. He is going to take a shower, cool off, and then come back and talk. But before then, I need to how you are feeling about this. I wasn't just being polite. Do you want to quit?"
"What does Malfoy want to do?" Harry hedged.
Cedric tugged the bench closer to Harry so that he could sit looking straight at him. "I need to know if you do, regardless of what he wants to do." Harry looked over Cedric's shoulder and saw Malfoy in the other room. The boy had his back to him and had stripped off his shirt and was pulling off his trousers. Harry was struck by the unexpected realization that Malfoy had a really nice-
"Harry." Cedric's voice cut off the thought, Harry dropped his gaze back to Cedric's face, a deep blush staining his cheeks. "I need to know what your feelings are about using the Imperius curse on Draco."
Harry forced himself to concentrate "It felt wrong. Me, able to control him, is just wrong. No one should be able to do that. And then, being able to know what he was feeling, I felt like I was violating his privacy."
"So wrong that you don't want to do it again?"
Harry hesitated, "I don't want to do it again...but I do want Malfoy to be able to learn how to throw the curse. And there is no other way for him to learn, is there?" Cedric shook his head. "He was obviously fighting it, I could tell. I want him to have the chance learn to do it. So, I guess I'm willing to do it again. But I don't know about Malfoy. He hates me already-"
"Don't make assumptions. Let's just wait until he comes back. Why don't you finish your essay, and we'll see what Draco has to say." Cedric pulled out his own homework and opened his textbook. Harry stared down at the Potions essay with a grimace, he hated Potions. With a sigh, he picked up his quill and continued writing about the use of elderberries in restorative potions.
After a few minutes he looked over at Cedric who was frowning as he read Transfiguration book. "Cedric?" the Hufflepuff looked up.
"You seem really used to doing this kind of thing." Harry asked hesitantly.
"Helping fourth years use illegal curses on each other?" Cedric responded with a smile.
"No, I mean-"
"I know what you meant," Cedric said, "For the last two summers I've volunteered as a peer counselor at the local Muggle youth services board." he shrugged, "The first year it was an Independent Study for my Muggles Studies class but I enjoyed it so much I decided to do it again last summer. They give you training to learn how to work with other teens."
"You're good at it." Harry said, "Malfoy and I have never gotten along. That we have been able to be in the same room for this long without hexing each other is pretty major."
Cedric smiled, "Well, the night is still young...but seriously, I miss the counseling when I'm here. And, I'm hoping if I get enough "O"s on my N.E.W.T.s to get in the training program at St. Mungo's." He looked down at his text again and Harry figured he didn't want to talk about it anymore, then Cedric looked up again. "One thing I learned while counseling - the blokes who are most aggressive often are using it as a shield. Defensive, you know, you can't hurt me if I hurt you first." with that he looked down at his book.
Twenty minutes later, Malfoy walked back in to the room. His hair was damp, hanging down with a slight wave to it, Harry realized. He had never seen when it hadn't been slick backed. It changed the whole look of his face. Malfoy walked over to the desk, "Out of my chair, Potter." Harry opened his mouth to object, but shrugged and moved over to the bench. Malfoy sat down in the chair and looked at Cedric.
Cedric shook his head at the exchange and closed up his book. "We don't have a lot of time, it is going to be curfew soon. I'll make this quick. You both said you would be willing to continue."
Harry looked at Malfoy, the Slytherin stared back at him defiantly. "I was surprised too," Cedric said with a smile, "I think you both found something that you hate more than each other which is saying a lot. No small task trying to fight dark magic."
Cedric paused and looked at Malfoy, "Draco, do you think you can talk about it now? Tell Harry what it felt like from your perspective."
Malfoy scowled but nodded, "I kept trying to imagine Potter's tidal wave, I could see it pushing against the...Potter's command. But each time it came back at me." He picked up a quill and twirled it in his hand, Harry could tell he was looking back trying to remember the feeling, "I could hear his voice and try to fight it and then finally I just got so mad, and then it was just over. I'd lost." he threw the quill back down at the desk.
Cedric turned to Harry, "You described what it felt like before, anything more Draco needs to know?"
"Like I said before, I could tell Malfoy was fighting it. Could feel the resistance right until the end then I felt him get angry and I knew I had complete control." Harry finished, staring down at his hands.
Cedric looked from Malfoy to Harry and then wearily wiped his hands over his face, pinching the bridge of his nose like trying to clear a headache. "Okay, new rule: you need to use each other's given names." when both boys looked like they were going to object he added, "At least while you are in this room. Refusing to use a person's given name just encourages hostility. Harry, tell Draco if you have any ideas on what he should be thinking about, working on for next week."
Harry took a deep breath and looked over at Malfoy who raised an eyebrow at him, an amused look on his face. "Erm, Draco, think about another visualization for you to use, if the tidal wave doesn't work then think of something else that you could use as an image. When I was learning to conjure a Patronus I had-"
"A Patronus! There is no way you can do a Patronus."
"When did you learn how to conjure a Patronus!"
Malfoy and Cedric had spoken at once, both of them sitting up and looking at Harry. Harry smiled and shrugged, "Professor Lupin taught me how because of all of the dementors. They were, erm, a problem for me last year."
"Is it a corporeal or non-corporeal Patronus, Harry?" Cedric asked.
"Corporeal - a stag." Harry said.
"I don't believe you, Pot-Harry."
Harry rolled his eyes and pulled his wand out of his pocket, "Expecto Patronum!" The familiar silver-blue light raced from the tip of his wand. The stag form emerged in front of Malfoy and reared up on its back legs before dashing away through the open door to the locker room. With a leap it disappeared through the far wall.
Cedric watched the Patronus race away. "That is just incredible. And you are only 14! That is N.E.W.T. level work, you can earn an "O" for just creating a noncorporeal Patronus. A corporeal one, that is beyond most wizards' ability.
Malfoy had sat back down and put his feet up on the desk. "Well, what else could we expect from the "Chosen One."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Anyway, the only reason I mentioned it is because to summon a Patronus you need a very powerful happy memory in your mind. The first few lessons I wasn't using the right images, and all I got was a little silver vapor coming out. Once I found the right memory I was able to conjure it. I think that Malfoy, erm, I think that Draco," He looked over at Malfoy, "needs to find an image that will work for him."
"Excellent advice. And now we really have to get going, it is almost curfew." Cedric went over to the hooks where their robes were hung. He tossed Harry and Malfoy their robes. "We aren't going to try the Imperius again until next week. Will you two be able to meet and work on Potions this week?"
Harry hesitated and looked over at Malfoy who shrugged, "Sure, I guess."
"Good. Draco, do you have the ingredients for brewing restorative potions?" Malfoy nodded, "I marked one in your potions book. I think it would be a good idea if we have one ready for you to take immediately after our next Imperius session."
"I don't need to take..."
"Yes, you do. And to be honest, Harry could probably use one after too."
Cedric looked around the room, "Okay, I think we are set. Harry and I will have to hurry to get back before curfew."
Malfoy hesitated, "If you want to take a risk... there are tunnels that go back to each of the Houses. Only a member of that House can open the door to the tunnel, so I've only used the one to Slytherin. No way of knowing the if the tunnel is clear the whole way or where it comes out in your House."
"Where are the entrances?" Harry asked curiously. Malfoy walked over to an ante-room that they hadn't noticed in the main locker room. There were six doorways. Four of them were decorated with elaborate carvings showing the emblems of the Houses, snakes, badgers, lions and ravens. "Where do the other two doorways go?" Harry asked looking over at the two that didn't have the house markings.
Malfoy shook his head, "I don't know. I haven't followed them just in case they lead to the Great Hall or somewhere like Filch's office. I didn't want anyone finding out that I was down here."
Harry walked to the Gryffindor doorway. "How does it open?"
Malfoy shrugged, "The Slytherin one opens by tapping with my wand on the center stone. Try your wand here," he pointed to the stone in the center of the doorway that had a lion on it. Harry hesitated for a second and then tapped the stone with his wand. There was a pause and then the wall swung towards him, a horrible screeching noise of stone on stone filled the room. The open doorway showed a set of stairs disappearing into the blackness of the tunnel.
"Where does it come out in Slytherin?" Harry asked.
Draco scowled, "None of your business, Harry."
Harry held up his hands, "Just curious, it might give me a clue where this one would come out in Gryffindor." with a twinkle in his eye, he added, "I imagine it comes out in one of those archways on the right side of your common room, because the lake is on the other..."
Draco grabbed him and slammed him up to the wall, "Who have you been talking to?"
"No one has been talking, Mal- Draco, I'm just naturally observant."
"Stop it, you two." Cedric looked fed up. "We only have 10 minutes before they lock the castle doors. Since we don't know if we can get through, I'm going to go the outside way. Harry, are you coming?"
"Erm, no. I'm going to try this way... you know Gryffindor, act first, think later..." with a nod to them both he said "Lumos." and started up the stairs.
"I'll send out a search team in a day or two if you don't show up." Draco called after him. Harry continued up the steps, after only a few steps he heard the door screech shut. He immediately had misgivings as the little bit of light that had come from the old Quidditch locker room was cut off . He held up his wand higher and muttered the Lumos incantation again to make it brighter. The stairs stretched up as far as he could see. Shifting his bookbag to a more comfortable position on his shoulder he continued up the steps.
He was also beginning to wonder what creatures could live within these walls, if a basilisk could survive for a thousand years in the Chamber of Secrets. Harry lost count of the number of stairs he had climbed when all the sudden the stairs flattened into a small landing. Harry had a sudden vision of being forever lost in an endless maze of inner passages inside the walls of Hogwarts. It was relief when the tunnel finally ended, but there was no indication on how to open the doorway. Cursing Malfoy for being so unhelpful, he held up his wand and looked for a clue as to how to reveal the doorway.
Carefully scouring the stones for any type of carving and finding none he started randomly tapping stones to see if he could happen across the right pattern. A quick Tempus revealed that it was past curfew, even if he went back and exited through the locker room to the outside, Filch would have locked the outer doors. Harry held up his wand and said the password Malfoy had used to open the outer door to the locker room, "Aperiens". To his amazement the wall started swinging silently towards him.
Light started flooding the passageway, but it was blocked by a large tapestry that covered the doorway. Harry could hear voices and laughter coming from just on the other side of the tapestry. He stepped up to the tapestry and put his eye to the crack between the doorway and the fabric.
He could see straight into the common room, he realized immediately that the tapestry was the the one on the right side of the room, that showed the Gryffindor crest and was decorated with images of Quidditch. With dread he realized that Hermione and Ron were standing in the middle of the room, arguing. How was he going to get into the room without them seeing him? He was too far away from the portrait hole to make it look like he had just climbed through, or was he? He opened his bookbag and pulled out his Invisibility Cloak. Putting it on, he carefully stepped forward, the door swung shut behind him.
Holding his breath he sidestepped along the tapestry, careful not to make it move. Finally at the edge he stepped into the room and walked over to the portrait hole. Crossing his fingers that this would work he swept off his cloak at the same time as he opened the portrait hole. He hoped it would look like he had just stepped through from the outside rather than just standing in front of it.
Hermione saw him first and rushed forward "Where have you been? I looked in the library and everywhere and I couldn't find you." Harry looked over at Ron. He had been anxiously talking to Hermione just a moment ago, but as he saw Harry his face hardened and he turned away. Harry watched him walk away and the familiar tight feeling in his stomach came back.
"Oh, erm, I was studying with, erm, Cedric."
"Where!"
"Oh, erm, a study room..."
Ron laughed from across the room, "You can always tell when Harry is lying. Studying my foot. You were studying Ced-"
"Ron!" Hermione hissed, pointing her head towards the tables of Gryffindors who were watching the interaction with great interest. Harry's flushed face went pale. Was Ron mad enough at him to out him in front of everyone in the room?
Ron glared at them both, "You know what you were doing. You should be more considerate of Hermione, she was worried sick." he turned and went up the stairs to the boy's dormitory.
Hermione and Harry watched him stomp up the staircase, Hermione heaved a sigh, "He is just jealous, Harry. It will pass. But where were you really? I can't imagine Cedric, would be out in the castle studying after curfew, he's a prefect!"
"Oh, well, erm. We were studying until right before curfew. He told me to get back in time, but I, erm, decided to wander around in my cloak. You know, think things out."
Hermione gave him a doubtful look, "And you and Cedric, he has no hard feelings about the whole Triwizard champion thing? And, you spend over three hours studying with him and you are still just friends? "
Harry shifted his bookbag on his shoulder, he was exhausted, "Look, Hermione. He is a friend, and that's it. Good night." Harry didn't wait for her response but turned and headed up the stairs. By the time he got to the boy's dormitory Ron was already in his bed with the curtains shut. "Good" thought Harry. He flung himself on his bed and stared up at the canopy.

Chapter Text

Three days after the Imperius session, Malfoy flicked Harry a note during History of Magic as Binns droned on about the Treatise to End the Goblin Rebellions of 1354.

Potions. Saturday? After supper?

He looked over at Malfoy and nodded and continued doodling on his parchment. It was impossible to focus on Binns. The tournament was only ten days away now. He'd actually forgotten that Malfoy had promised to help him with Potions. He wondered what it would be like being alone with Malfoy without Cedric there to run interference. At least it would keep his mind off of trying to imagine what the first task was going to be.

OOOOoOOooO

Harry waited into everyone had gone down for supper and the common room was empty. He slipped behind the tapestry and held up his wand, "Aperiens". Nothing happened. Harry cursed, he had been afraid he wouldn't be able to get it open from this side. He tried one more time, nothing. There must be another way to open the door. Looking at the stones he saw that they were carved with figures, including four carved snitches. With a shrug he tapped on each of the snitches, and again issued the password "Aperiens." The wall pushed back and Harry laughed with excitement stepping through he quickly made his way through the corridor and down the stairs.

He came to the doorway at the end of the tunnel and again said "Aperiens" and the door swung open. The tunnel must be designed to make it easy to allow someone out who is inside, but you have to know the trick to open it from the outside.

Malfoy turned with a start when he saw Harry coming through the archway into the locker room. "Figured it out did you, Potter?"

"Yes, no thanks to you." Harry followed Malfoy through to the office. "So, how are you going to make me a Potions master?"

Malfoy snorted, "I think it will take every minute to just make you competent, Potter. We are starting with basic stirring," with that he slapped three potions rods down on the table.

"Which of these rods would you use for the preparation of a restorative potion?"

Harry shrugged and pointed to one.

"Wrong. Myrtlewood, Beech, Ebony. Potter. Positive, Neutral, Negative. This is basic potions procedures. You always just grab whichever one is nearest to you. Any potions that contain elderberry you use the ebony stirring rod. The myrtlewood will react with the poison in elderberry and strengthen it."

Harry narrowed his eyes at Malfoy, " Snape never mentioned that you had to use a certain rod for..."

"He did first year, hell, first week. How could you possibly have gotten to fourth year and not known this?"

Harry shrugged, "I never..."

"Open your potions book, any page. What do you see there." Malfoy pointed at the page.

"ER"

"Ebony Rod. You just need to read the words."

Harry ran frustrated fingers through his hair, "Those aren't words, they are letters. How are you..."

"You should have learned this first year. In an advanced Potions textbook they aren't going to spell it out for you like a nursery school primer. Now, let's see if you can manage step number two in the directions, but I'm not going to hold my breath."

For the next half hour they worked side by side, Harry following Malfoy's directions as they prepared the ingredients that they were to use for the restorative potion. They were used to having to work with each other in Potions. Snape loved to pair them up. Harry never understood why; just assumed the potions master had a sadistic side.

In the Potions classroom, though, there was always tension between them. Both of them ready to snap at the slightest infraction. Malfoy had never held back, always willing to use a trip jinx just for the amusement of the other Slytherins. Harry didn't feel that tension now as he was standing next to Malfoy. He wondered if it was just because it was only the two of them. There wasn't anyone watching, no Slytherins to impress, no other Gryffindors to defend.

"Stop thinking so hard, Potter. It is distracting." Malfoy snapped as he grabbed the knife from Harry's hand.

"What?" Harry looked up in confusion.

"You are muttering to yourself. Stop it." Harry flushed and forced himself to focus on chopping the Yarnuckle pods.

Finally, it was time to start mixing the potions. Malfoy lit the fire under the cauldron and directed Harry to start adding the ingredients. "Now stir, with the ebony rod, three times in a counter clockwise direction..." Harry picked up the ebony rod and jabbed it into the smoldering light blue liquid in the cauldron.

"Not like that!" Malfoy grabbed Harry's hand and held on to it and guided Harry's hand in stirring. "You stir too fast and you'll break down the newt livers too quickly. For a ten inch cauldron you should take five seconds for each rotation. You need to do it slowly, not just slop it around." Harry looked down at Malfoy's elegant fingers gripping his hand. He saw Malfoy watching him. "Yes, it is really come down to this, I am having to hold your hand to show you how to make a simple potion."

"Better your hand than Snape's claw." Harry replied with a shudder, He couldn't imagine Snape being this close to him. Malfoy gave a laugh and released his hand as Harry, slowly, stirred the potion three times.

At last they were finished. Harry looked at the three bottles of finished potions sitting on the table. "Congratulations, Potter. I believe that this is one of the few times you have actually had a potion turn out correctly."

"Now if I can only do it in Potions." Harry mumbled. He went over to his bookbag and put his Potions book away. Reaching into the side pocket he pulled out some chocolate frogs and flipped a couple to Malfoy who caught them with a quick flick of his wrist. Harry smiled and unwrapped one of the frogs for himself.

"Thanks, Malfoy... " Malfoy looked at him sharply, "No, I mean it. I think I learned more down here than I have all year with Snape."

Malfoy's cheeks flushed slightly, "Don't let it get around. I'm not going to be holding remedial potions for all of the incompetent students in your House."

Harry did a quick Tempus to check the time and quickly asked, "There is still over an hour until curfew. I'm going flying. Want to come?" Malfoy looked at him in surprise. Harry had surprised himself. He hadn't originally intended to include Malfoy when he planned sneaking out to fly but it would be more fun to fly together.

Harry shrugged, "I have a snitch, we could play a round."

"It is pitch black outside, Potter. And cold."

"I know, it's perfect! No one will see us. We can Lumos the snitch."

"You're crazy." Malfoy tried to scowl but it looked more like a grin.

"So, you'll do it? You have your broom down here, right? I brought mine." Harry walked excitedly over to the Gryffindor doorway and tapped it open with his wand. Reaching into the doorway he pulled out his Firebolt and gear bag that he had left sitting on the stairs. "Come on..." he sat down at a bench and opened up the bag and started strapping on the protective gear.

Malfoy walked over to a locker and opened it and pulled out his broom and gear. "I know I'm going to regret this."

"What's to regret?" Harry said with a laugh. Digging to the bottom of the bag he brought out the box with the practice snitch. "I figured it would be better to use a practice one. We don't want to be out all night trying to catch a real snitch."

"Is that your own?"

Harry nodded, "I ordered it by owl the day after we were here last week." He was restlessly tapping his foot waiting for Malfoy to finish strapping on his gloves.

"You really planned ahead. Do you miss flying that much?" Malfoy asked curiously.

"Flying? There's nothing like it. I can't do it at all in the summer. Muggles. If I go to the Weasleys I can fly there but that is usually just the last week of summer or so..."

"There are wizard areas all over with Quidditch pitches, why don't you just go there to fly in the summer?"

Harry laughed at the thought of the Dursleys driving him anywhere let alone to go on holiday to play Quidditch. "That would be difficult considering I'm usually locked in my room."

Malfoy stopped buckling his glove and looked over at him. "Who locks you in your room?"

"Oh, erm, my uncle." Harry cursed to himself, he hadn't intended to tell Malfoy that, "Forget I said anything. Hurry up, I'll meet you outside." he stood up and headed for the exit.

"Wait." Malfoy called out, "We aren't going to be able to fly near the Quidditch pitch, there is a ward barrier around it." Malfoy said, catching up to Harry by the door, "I hit it the first time I went flying; almost knocked me off my broom. I think it has to do something with the tournament. The lake is clear, but we'll have to watch out for the Durmstrang boat though."

They stepped out into the November night. Harry laughed as Malfoy scowled at the cold. Quickly he mounted the Firebolt and kicked off and soared straight towards the starlit sky. He felt the familiar thrill of weightlessness take over him. Clearing the castle he turned towards the lake. Nothing could beat flying.

He looked down and saw Malfoy close behind him. He quickly twisted into a spiraling barrel roll and pushed the Firebolt to its maximum speed, ignoring the icy wind on his cheeks. He soared over the Durmstrang boat and found a spot near the center of the lake. He stopped fast and watched as Malfoy raced past him. When Malfoy had doubled back and hovered next to him, Harry pulled the snitch out of his pocket. "Ready?" Malfoy nodded and Harry murmured "Lumos" the snitch glowed gold and flew into the air.

Harry forgot about everything except chasing the snitch. He and Malfoy both fighting to catch the elusive winged sphere. It was easier to spot the golden light against the dark of the lake but not easier to catch. They flew in a tight pattern, each trying twisting moves to lose the other. It was a far different game playing one on one with Malfoy. When they competed together there were always the bludgers and other players to look out for. Without those distractions they both were able to push themselves to do more and more daring tricks. They were challenging each other to keep up.

Skimming along the lake's surface Harry stretched forward, his fingertips reaching for the snitch when he felt Malfoy shove him aside. The Firebolt wobbled and he fought to keep from splashing into the black water. Malfoy gave a shout of triumph and grabbed the snitch. Harry slowed down and watched as Malfoy held up the snitch up triumphantly. He pulled up and waited for Malfoy to come back around.

"You call that fair?" he asked, glaring at Malfoy. "I almost went in the water."

"Yeah, and you almost got the snitch, but I got it instead." Malfoy said holding it up with a smirk. "We never said what we were playing for anyway."

Harry smiled as he recognized that the real Malfoy was back, "How about winner gets the snitch...until the next game. And next game, I'll be winning it back."

"Assuming you don't meet a grizzly demise in the Triwizard Tournament."

"Gee, thanks." Harry didn't need to do a Tempus to know that they had already stayed out too late. "It's late, we'd better head in..."

They didn't say another word to each other until they were back inside the locker room. Malfoy pointed his wand at the fireplace and immediately warmth started filling the space as the flames flared into life.

"Thanks, that was a good match." Harry said walking over to the fire and warming his frozen hands.

Malfoy hesitated and then nodded, "It was different, wasn't it? Going one on one."

Harry smiled, glad that Malfoy had sensed it too, "No one watching. No distractions."

"No distractions other than the freezing cold, complete darkness, and random giant squid tentacles trying to drag you under?"

"Well, if you are going to be particular about things."

oOoOOOO

The next day as Harry was leaving the Great Hall after breakfast Cedric stood up from the Hufflepuff table and left the Hall with him, "I need to talk to you."

"What's up?" Harry asked curiously as they left the hall.

"Uhm, Just thought that you should, well, some people might find it suspicious if they noticed two students coming in to breakfast, both with bad cases of windburn." Cedric looked embarrassed, "Prefects or teachers might suspect that they were out flying at night, which would get both students in trouble and raise some interesting questions."

Harry groaned, he had noticed that Malfoy's face was chapped and red at breakfast, he hadn't thought about his own. "Oh, erm, we just wanted to relax a little..."

"Page 342 of your Charms book, Harry." Cedric said with a smile, he slapped Harry on his shoulder as he walked away.

Harry pulled out his Charms book. He found the page and laughed. Skin softening charms.

OOOooOoO

Cedric caught up to Harry as he was walking back from the library, "Hey, do you think Draco would be available to meet tomorrow afternoon?" Harry looked at him with surprise. When he had talked to Cedric two days ago he had said he was too busy to schedule another meeting. Cedric flushed, "I put it off because I was getting a little nervous about the first task. Now that it is only six days away, I think that it would be good to take my mind off of things. What about you? How are you feeling about the tournament?"

Harry stopped and looked down at his trainers, "Honestly, I am terrified."

"You have as good as chance as any of us. If you can kill a basilisk you can certainly take on the Triwizard tournament."

Harry shrugged, he knew that the only reason he got out of the Chamber of Secrets was because of Fawkes. He didn't think the phoenix would be able to help him this time.

"The less I think about it the better. I'll check with Malfoy during Magical Creatures this afternoon."

"Good. Can you tell me about how the tunnels work? How do I find the one in Hufflepuff?"

OoOOoOO

Cedric emerged from the Hufflepuff tunnel, his wand still held high. "That is amazing." he said with a smile, "Six years in this school and I had no idea. Really makes you wonder what else is within these walls"

Malfoy had a slight frown on his face, Harry couldn't help but feel sorry for him. For over three years he had kept the secret and had his very own part of Hogwarts, now he had to share it. They moved into the office and Malfoy sat down at the desk, Harry noticed with a smile that there were now two more chairs; maybe Malfoy didn't mind sharing the room as much as he thought.

"Did either of you have any thoughts about what to do differently?" Cedric asked after they were all seated.

Malfoy shrugged, but Harry sat forward on his chair a little. "I was wondering if I dismissed the voice in my head that told me not to do the command the first time a little too quickly." Malfoy laughed, "No, I mean I used the tidal wave thing to push away the curse the last couple of times, but the first time, the voice, call it an inner conscience if you prefer, argued with me."

Malfoy looked at him, "I do not listen to voices in my head, Harry." Harry wondered if anyone else could pronounce his given name with such disdain.

"You don't? You don't have an inner voice that tells you that maybe you shouldn't hex the next random Gryffindor you see walking down the corridors? To not eat a second helping of the blueberry tart so that you can still button your snug fitting jeans? To not push things too far with Moody lest he turn you into a ferret again?"

Malfoy glared at him, "No."

Harry laughed, "That explains a lot, maybe you should try it."

Cedric looking at the both of them with a half-smile on his face and then shrugged, "Well, Draco, if you do come across any voices other than Harry, maybe you should pay attention to them. What image are you going to use?"

"Flying." Malfoy said as he reached into his bag to pull out the list of commands.

Harry looked at him thoughtfully, "Interesting. Flying away from the command rather than trying to push against it. Could work."

"Are you ready Harry? Draco?"

Both boys nodded. "Okay, same as before. When you are ready, Harry." Cedric said, stepping away from them.

Harry held his hand loosely by his side, having done it before he knew what to expect but it didn't change the fact that it was wrong. He wondered how many times you had to do it before you lost that feeling.

"Come on Potter."

Harry looked up and pointed his wand at the same time. "Imperio!"

Malfoy's face went blank and Harry again felt the surge of emotions that weren't him coming through the connection. Impatience, Annoyance. Interesting, there was no fear this time, or anger Harry realized. He looked at Malfoy, his face was blank, no sign of fighting.

Looking down at the commands on the list, he thought the next one on the list. Walk across the Room. Immediately Harry felt the anxiety surge in Malfoy and then something more. Resistance. It was there and strong. He watched Malfoy's feet, he could see his right foot twitching. He gave the command again, and watched as the foot dragged itself forward, while his back actually leaned backwards. If it was any other situation Harry would have laughed at the image of Malfoy's body stretched out so awkwardly.

Walk across the room. Harry felt the battle between the Malfoy's resistance and his own command fighting to gain a hold of Malfoy. Sweat broke out on the blond's forehead. Slowly his body stretched forward and he was no longer leaning backwards. The right foot slid forward and the reluctantly, slowly the left started forward to meet it. Malfoy was starting to get angry but Harry could still feel the resistance inside of Malfoy fighting it.

He heard Cedric talking as if from a distance. "Tell him to stop, change the command."

Harry thought. Stop. There was a release of tension. The anxiety was there but no fear. Malfoy was frozen his body still strangely held out in a strange angle. Stand up Straight. Malfoy straightened up and pulled his feet together. There was no resistance, Harry wondered if it was because Malfoy wanted to not have his body stretched out like he was being pulled in two different directions. Sit down.

Malfoy bent his legs before Harry could feel the resistance start and then it surged. And he straightened his legs back up. Again and again his body fought. Never quite able to resist completely but never completing the command.

"That's 15 minutes, Harry, release him."

"Finite" The connection was broken and Malfoy's body sagged in relief, but this time he didn't collapse to the ground like he had the first time. Cedric and Harry stood looking at Malfoy, both relieved that it was over. Malfoy had his eyes closed and was breathing hard.

"Harry, do you have the potion?" Cedric asked.

"Oh, right." Harry walked over to the potions table and picked up one the three flasks of restorative potion that he and Malfoy had made.

Malfoy looked like he was going to refuse but with a shrug he reached out and took the flask from Harry. He uncorked it and took a couple of sips and then handed it to Harry.

"You too, Harry." Cedric added. Harry took a big sip; the liquid was bitter. He did feel an immediate relief as tension that he hadn't realized was there eased. He scowled at the aftertaste in his mouth though.

"Ugh, let's try this instead." Harry reached into his bookbag and pulled out three butterbeers and a bag of pumpkin pasties.

"Thanks, Harry." Cedric said with surprise. Malfoy looked at the pumpkin pasties suspiciously.

"Do you always carry snacks in your bag?"

"Oh, erm, yes. I guess so. Habit, I guess, never know when the next meal is going to be."

"This is Hogwarts." Cedric look puzzled, "There is always food, always at the same time."

"Right. Sure." Harry said with a quick stammer. A summer spent in his room living off of the food that Ron and Hermione had owled him wasn't that long ago.

Harry hesitated and then said "That went a lot better, Draco."

The blond snorted and looked over at Harry. "Don't be stupid. I wasn't able to shake it."

"Right, but you also didn't complete any of the commands. Except Stop and Stand Up Straight, and I think you did those just because you wanted to do them. Other than that you fought them the whole time and didn't give in. I could feel you fighting it and getting angry but the curse never won."

"I think Harry is right, I could see the battle that you were really fighting it. You kept your cool and didn't let anger take over. Do you think the flying image works for you?"

"I think so, much better than a bloody tidal wave." Malfoy said with a glance at Harry.

"Well, next time someone tries to use Imperius on me, I'll give your way a go." Harry said with a shrug.

"You really think there is going to be a next time for you?" Cedric asked curiously.

"Well, things just seem to happen to me. If you had told me a month ago I was going to have to compete in the Triwizard, I would have laughed at you."

"Oh, come off it, Potter. I know you put your name in somehow." Malfoy snapped.

"No, I didn't" Harry said hotly.

"He didn't." Cedric said. "I trust him to tell the truth. And if you didn't trust him you wouldn't be letting him use the curse on you."

Malfoy glared at Harry, who glared back. Something flickered in Malfoy's eyes and he settled back in his chair with a smile on his face.

"So, in the name of trust, Harry, I want this: you know some things about me that I didn't want anyone to know. I want an exchange of information, to guarantee that you don't tell anyone about what I said." Malfoy challenged.

Cedric sat up, "Draco, it doesn't work that way you can't make..."

Harry eyed Malfoy coolly. "No, I get it. It's okay. Let-"

Malfoy dropped the front legs of the chair back on the ground. "First item will be why you are locked in your room in the summer." Cedric turned his head sharply towards Harry, his eyebrow raised.

Harry nodded, he'd figured that this whole thing had been Malfoy's Slytherin way of getting more information after the little tidbit that Harry had let slip the other night.

"I live with my aunt and uncle. Muggles. They don't like magic. They think I'm a freak." Malfoy snorted at that. "So, when they are of the mind and I'm not working on whatever they need done in the house, they lock me in my room."

"Can't you just climb out the window?" Cedric asked.

"Bars." both boys looked at him in disbelief.

"It really isn't that bad. And it is a lot better than the cupboard. There is a little flap in the door for my food. If you knew the Dursleys you'd know that it is better to be locked in a room rather than having to spend time with them. It is really hard on Hedwig though; she can't go out and fly."

"So, that is number one," Harry looked at Malfoy questioningly. "Erm, number two-"

"Not yet. We are still on number one. The food flap thing." Malfoy pointed at the empty pumpkin pasties wrappers. "Is that why you carry around food?"

Harry shrugged. "Well, sometimes they would forget to leave me food if they were going out for the day. Number two..."

"Two, what did you mean by it was better than the cupboard?" Cedric asked quickly, with an apologetic look towards Harry for joining in on the game.

Harry flushed, he really needed to learn how to think before he blurted things out, "Oh, that. Before I had my own room, I slept in a cupboard under the staircase. Until I was 10, when I got my Hogwarts letter they let me have a bedroom."

"Do all Muggles treat their children like this?" Malfoy asked puzzled.

"No, not at all. Hermione's parents are really nice." Harry shrugged, "The Dursleys never wanted me, Dumbledore didn't give them a choice."

"Number three, Sirius Black is my godfather." Harry said, wanting to wrap up this little Potter confession session.

"Doesn't count, I already knew that." Malfoy said quickly. "My mother is his cousin. Do you really think she wouldn't know?"

Harry scowled, "Cedric didn't know," looking over at the Cedric's shocked face. "Not everyone can claim that a man falsely accused of mass murder is their godfather."

"Who says falsely accused?" Malfoy exclaimed.

"I do. And I hope to prove it someday. So, if you insist on another number three," Harry thought for a minute and said, "When I was ten I was at the London Zoo. I found out that I could talk to snakes. Something made me angry and I accidentally made the glass disappear in the boa constrictor's cage and it escaped."

Cedric and Malfoy both burst out laughing at once. Harry looked at Malfoy, it was a genuine no-holds barred laugh. His face was transformed from its usual disdain to one of genuine pleasure. Harry wondered if Malfoy ever relaxed this much when he was just with his friends in the Slytherin common room.

"What did you say to the snake?" Cedric said, wiping the tears from his eyes.

"Oh, I don't know, I asked it where it was from and I apologized for my idiot cousin banging on the glass."

Cedric started laughing again, "No, I meant say it in Parseltongue. I've never heard it."

Harry looked over at Malfoy who had stopped laughing. Malfoy had heard it that day in the dueling club. Malfoy had conjured the snake that had nearly attacked the students gathered around to watch the duel. Harry's talking to the snake was the start of everyone thinking that he was the one attacking everyone. Malfoy's gray eyes had gone flat, the laughter was erased from his face.

"Oh, erm, I don't know how I do it, I just do...like this." Harry started murmuring in the familiar hiss. Looking over at Malfoy he hissed, "You should laugh more often. You are beautiful when you laugh."

Cedric shook his head in amazement, "What did you say?"

Harry looked startled and said, "Oh, erm, I just said, erm, that I wanted more pumpkin pasties."

"I do hope you are able to talk without stammering in Parseltongue. Would hate for the snakes to think we are all idiots." Malfoy drawled.

"So, you really can do it." Cedric said, ignoring Malfoy. "I'm really surprised that you weren't sorted into Slytherin."

Harry opened his mouth and then shut it. He looked over at Malfoy. He didn't want to spoil the current truce that had developed between them by revealing that he had almost been sorted into Slytherin. Not for the first time he wondered if he had been sorted into Slytherin, would they have become friends?

Cedric was still talking about it, "I remember the night you were sorted, everyone held their breath when you sat down on the stool. Waiting for the hat to speak. You were such an unknown since you had been raised Muggle."

"Yes. The Great Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived." Malfoy drawled.

Cedric shook his head at Malfoy, "Well. Truly, it isn't his fault, Draco. It is not like he chose to have a dark wizard try to kill him and fail when he was one. Anyway, it took so long for the Sorting Hat to announce your house. I always kind of thought the hat was playing us, prolonging the suspense."

"Oh, erm, that's it. The hat was feeling very chatty. And I didn't know where I would end up." Harry squirmed in his seat. "Well, there you have it, Mal- Damn. Draco. Three secrets about Harry Potter."

Malfoy looked at him thoughtfully, "Pretty much confirms what I knew about you, violent deviant so dangerous that he has to be locked up and even then he manages to release serpents on unsuspecting Muggles."

Harry laughed, "That's me."

Cedric stood up, "Well, this was just what I needed to get my mind of the tournament, but we won't be able to meet again until after. I really think you are close to mastering this, hopefully the next session will be it."

Malfoy looked at Harry, "Assuming the Golden Boy lives through the first task."

"Well, if I don't Draco, you'll know that I died just to irritate you."

"I knew something was missing, the bickering. Couldn't have lasted forever I guess." Cedric said with a groan.

"I'll walk out with you, Cedric." Harry offered.

Malfoy looked over at Harry, "Wait. Do you just want to do another potions lesson now? There is still a couple of hours until supper."

Harry looked at Malfoy with surprise, "Sure, I guess." Cedric looked between the two of them and gave a small smile. "Have fun studying." and left using the Hufflepuff tunnel.

Harry sat down at the desk and pulled out his Potions assignment. "Do you want to work on this with me? I was going to ask Hermione but..."

"Since you have your own personal Potions slave you may as well take advantage of it." Malfoy said dryly.

"Exactly. Of course, I could just use the Imperius Curse and have you do all of my homework." Harry said it without thinking and then realized what he had said. "Sorry, not funny."

Malfoy looked over and winked, "If you are going to use the Imperius on me you could put it to better uses than your homework."

Harry froze for a second and said "Right, my very own book carrying, quill sharpening, arse kissing slave. I'll consider it. Be more interesting that's for sure."

With a smile Harry looked down at his homework and showed Malfoy the section he was trouble with and Malfoy looked at him in disbelief.

"That silly vacant look on your face during class really isn't an act, is it? You don't pay attention at all."

"Can't help it, Snape's voice annoys me so much I just tune it out."

Malfoy showed him where to find the answers for the questions posed in the essay. When they were finished, Harry hesitated, "Would it be okay if I stay and do the rest of my homework here? A lot quieter than the dorm."

Malfoy hesitated, "So long as you stop that annoying tapping of your quill."

Harry smiled and pulled out his Transfiguration homework and started working on it as Malfoy did his Arithmancy. They studied side by side for an hour, neither saying anything.

"So, how do you know that I like blueberry tarts?" Malfoy asked all the sudden, without taking his eyes off the essay he was writing.

"Oh, erm. I dunno, I erm, just noticed I guess." Harry winced at the sound of his voice stammering.

"They're a hell of a lot better than treacle tarts." Malfoy murmured, giving him a sidelong glance before looking back at his book.

Harry laughed and looked back down at his homework. He didn't get another problem solved as he contemplated Malfoy's comment. At last, Harry checked the time with a grimace, "I've got to go, Hermione is going to wonder where I've been."

"What business is it of hers?" Malfoy scowled, "And what about Weasley, doesn't he care? Noticed you two aren't exactly talking to each other."

"She's my friend and friends look out for one another. I don't want to talk about Ron." Harry said, "Don't your friends wonder where you go?"

"I tell them it is none of their business, you should try it." Malfoy said. "Potter, there is one thing..." Harry looked over at him, and to his surprise Malfoy was was looking uncomfortably down at his hands.

"What's wrong?"

"Blaise commented at breakfast that, I wasn't well, giving you as hard as time as usual." Malfoy said.

"I've noticed, so has Hermione." Harry nodded slowly. "That's a problem isn't it?"

Malfoy looked up and gave a half-smile, "Yeah, it's a problem."

Harry smiled back, "Give me your worst, I can take it. Everyone, other than Gryffindor, hates me anyway because of this stupid Triwizard thing. No reason why you shouldn't have a go at making my life miserable. But, down here it can be different, yeah?" He hesitated to go so far as to suggest that they could be friends.

"Yeah, that works for me." Malfoy smiled back. He lifted his head towards the ceiling. "Potter & Malfoy up there, Harry & Draco down here?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.

Harry smiled. "Yeah, that works..."

OooOOOOooO

Harry had waited for everyone else to file out of Flitwik's classroom before he had starting packing away his parchment and leaving. The week was finally over he thought with relief. No more classes until Monday. Harry planned to lay low the whole weekend. The last three days had been the worst since Harry's name had been pulled out of the goblet.

Skeeter's latest article in the Daily Prophet had incited students to new levels of vindictiveness. He could scarcely walk down the hallway without getting hexed, mocked or tripped. Hermione hadn't escaped the attention either; she was being teased mercilessly about being his "love interest" and had taken to retreating to the library whenever she could to avoid the whispered laughter.

Malfoy had been at the center of most of it, his gray eyes flashing with amusement. Even though Harry had given him permission to do his worst, Harry was still thrown by the dichotomy of the two Dracos. After having spent time with "Friend Draco" it made "Enemy Draco" seem all the worse. Harry couldn't figure out which one was the real one.

"Potter." Harry groaned but just kept walking down the corridor.

"Potter. Wait." Frustrated, Harry whirled around. "What, Malfoy? I think that you've had your full day's ration of fun at my expense already."

Malfoy frowned and then looked up and down the corridor, no one was there. "Just thought you might like to go flying tonight."

Harry bit back the first response that came to mind, if Draco could change from Enemy to Friend at the flip of a switch so could he. He gave a quick smile "You can kiss the snitch good bye tonight, It is going to be mine."

Draco gave a quick laugh "In your dreams. After supper?" Harry nodded and proceeded down the corridor in a much better mood.

OooOoOO

Harry emerged from the tunnel into the locker room and looked around. No sign of Draco yet, he had still been eating supper when Harry had slipped away from the Gryffindor table. Harry went into the office. He'd noticed the photographs on the walls before but hadn't taken the time to look at them before. The Quidditch teams from the 40s and 50s smiled back at him. It was funny to think that all of the men and women in the photographs would be in their seventies now.

He heard the sound of a tunnel opening and turned to watch Draco enter the locker room. It was unfair that the Slytherin could move like that, Harry thought grumpily. He felt like he was always stumbling around and Malfoy...didn't. He moves like a cat, Harry thought. Draco came striding through the locker room and stopped short when he saw Harry waiting by the desk.

"Hey, didn't realize you were here." Draco looked at Harry uneasily.

"Yeah, didn't feel much like eating so I came down here. Was looking at the photographs." Harry pointed at the wall. "Is your grandfather in here?"

"Oh, yeah." Draco pushed a nervous hand through his hair. He hesitated and then came over to stand next to Harry. "He is in these photos."

Harry looked up at the blond boy staring unsmiling at the photos and then at the tall boy standing next to him. "Does anyone ever not have blond hair in your family?"

"Not that I know of, of course they probably just drown any baby that didn't look like a Malfoy." Draco muttered.

"What?" Harry laughed.

"Oh sorry, did I say that out loud?" Draco looked embarrassed. "I always wondered, in Malfoy Manor there is an entire portrait hall filled with people who look like me. Makes you wonder doesn't it? Can't just be genes. Maybe magic?"

Harry nodded, "I've heard it enough times, my dad's hair, my mom's eye. A little bit of both. Not with your family."

Draco nodded distractedly, "Okay, enough chit chat, let's get it over with." He spread his arms out, "Have at it."

"What?" Harry looked at him startled.

"I figured you would hex me the minute I walked into the room, and now I realize that you are probably waiting until we are flying. Drop me into the lake." Draco shuddered, "Just as soon you did it now, too cold out for a swim."

Harry smiled, "Oh, I don't think you are going to get off that easy."

Draco narrowed his eyes at him, "What do you mean by that?"

Harry shrugged, "I'm sure you'll figure it out, when the time comes. Let's go flying." Harry walked into the locker room and opened up the locker that held his gear.

"Wait up, what do you mean..." Draco trailed behind him. Harry smiled and shook his head. He had hatched the plan the day before with Fred and George; he only hoped they would have it ready for tomorrow night.

"Do you have the snitch?" Harry asked as he pulled on an extra jersey to ward off the cold.

Draco gave him a dirty look but nodded. He pulled open his locker and started getting ready. "Don't expect that you'll be getting the snitch back tonight, Potter. I see no reason to let you off easy."

"Wouldn't expect you to, Malfoy." With a grin Harry fastened his gloves and picked up the Firebolt. "I expect you are going to be too scared waiting for my hex to even look for the snitch."

"Hey, you said..." Harry laughed and walked towards the exit. Draco caught up to him, tossing the snitch up in the air.

"Get a good last look, still going to be mine at the end of the night."

They exited the locker room and looked around, no one was in sight. Not that Harry expected they would be on a frigid Friday night. "To the lake?" Draco asked.

"That works, remember to watch out for the mast on the Durmstrang boat."

Draco laughed, "Almost flew straight into it last time didn't you?"

"Yeah, that would really impress Krum with our Hogwarts flying skills, falling out of the sky onto their deck."

Draco laughed and kicked off the ground with Harry right behind them. As soon as they were over the center of the lake he released the snitch. The glowing snitch immediately flashed out across the lake with Harry and Draco in pursuit. Every move that Harry made, Draco followed in tight formation behind him. Trying to shake him off Harry went into a vertical barrel roll higher than he would usually fly and then immediately double backed and raced straight down towards the water.

He heard Draco curse and turn but he turned too wide. Harry broke away and started searching the sky for the snitch. He spotted it seconds before Draco had caught up to him and bent down against the broom to maximize his acceleration. The snitch darted up and so did Harry. He didn't dare look back to see where Draco was, but knew he would have spotted the snitch too. He saw the snitch was flying straight towards the Durmstrang boat moored near the shore. He cursed and kept after it, only a few more feet. He stretched out his hand and willed the Firebolt to go faster. The boat was looming large in front of him and with a final burst he snatched the snitch from the air. He immediately pulled up and to the right to avoid colliding with the boat. When he was a safe distance away he looked back down at the ship and only then did he realize that someone was standing on the deck looking up at him. He turned away from the boat and headed back towards Draco.

"Are you effin' barmy?" Draco shouted at him as he came closer. "You practically flew straight into the boat!"

Harry tossed the snitch into the air, "We can just call that the 'Potter Feint', doesn't have the same ring to it as the Wronski Feint, though. And I can't imagine many people will be able to try it seeing as though most Quidditch pitches don't have a big boat in the middle of them."

"You really are nuts, off your rocker, nuts." Draco was sitting on his broom just staring at him in disbelief. "What if someone had seen you?"

"Oh, yea, about that," Harry looked back at the boat that was a few hundred yards back, "I think someone did, there was someone out on the deck as I went by. But it's not like they are going to know who it was."

Draco groaned. "Easy for you to say, you don't have hair that glows in the moonlight."

Harry looked over at Draco, his hair really did reflect the moonlight. And even after flying around for an hour it still looked good, whereas Harry knew his would look as messy as always if not worse. "Wouldn't worry about it, you didn't get too close to the boat, and I could be anyone."

"Sure fine, but let's head in just in case it was Karkaroff." Draco set off towards the castle, giving wide berth to the boat. "If he saw me out here, it would be a problem."

Draco lit the fire in the office fireplace and they dragged the chairs over to warm up. Harry sat with his legs stretched as close to the fire as he could get them. "Pretty darn cold, we won't be able to do that much longer."

"Yeah, different when we are flying in winter during the day. Good that we got out at least a couple of times though."

"And that I got my snitch back." Harry said, holding it up again.

"Yea, yea." Draco looked over at Harry, "Sure you don't want to hex me now and get it over with, don't really feel like walking around all weekend with a target on my back."

"With all I have to put up? You are worried about a simple hex?" Harry laughed, "Don't think you are getting off that easy."

"Are you really okay, with everything?" Draco asked hesitantly, "The last couple of days has been pretty rough with the article coming out."

"Ah, the article." Harry couldn't help sounding annoyed, "I thought I recognized some Malfoyisms in that."

Draco nodded, "Weren't hard to miss, but just so you know, I talked to Skeeter about that a couple of weeks ago. When I was still, er, mad at you."

"And now? Would you do say the same things now?"

Draco paused, "It's more complicated now, isn't it?"

"It is, but this is good." Harry looked around the room. "And I would have had to put up with all the other stuff anyway. This lets me get away from it for just a little while. So I guess that it is a pretty good trade-off. But Friend Malfoy vs Enemy Malfoy messes with my head a bit."

"Thought you didn't think of me as an enemy."

"Well, I didn't, I don't. Not really. Just sounds better than saying 'fucking arsehole' but that works, too."

"So, are you really mad or just a little?"

"Right now? Not mad. But it all gets to be a bit too much, up there. Ron, Tournament. Snape. Scar. Sirius. All too much.

"What happened with Weasley anyway?"

"He's mad at me. Don't really want to talk about it."

"Okay, what else is on your list. Tournament is obvious, What did you mean about the scar? What scar?" Draco look puzzled.

Harry laughed, he didn't care at this point. He lifted up his bangs. "Scar. I'm sure you've noticed it."

"So, what does that have to do with-"

"It is starting to hurt again, stabbing burning pain. Kind of distracting."

"It hurts?" Draco stared at his forehead, "How can a scar hurt? Why does it hurt?"

"I don't know, Malfoy. Next time I meet someone who has an Avada Kedavra scar on their forehead, I'll be sure to ask him."

"Draco." Draco said quietly.

"Draco." Harry said, nodding. "Enough of this, doesn't do any good to whinge about everything, nothing can be done about it anyway. And I should probably be heading back soon anyway." He stood up, "Thanks, Draco. This helped a lot."

"Sure you don't want to hex me now..."

"Nope..." with a wave of his hand, Harry headed through the archway. When he made it to the entrance to the Gryffindor common room he pulled out the Marauder's map. He saw with relief that Hermione and Ron were both up in the boy's dormitory room. He slipped on the invisibility cloak and slipped past the tapestry. He didn't take it off until he was standing outside the dormitory room. Taking a deep breath he opened the door and walked in.

Ron and Hermione stopped in mid argument and stared at him. "Where have you been!" Ron yelled before he could stop himself.

Harry shrugged, "What do you care?"

"Enough!" Hermione said, "Harry, are you okay? You look like you've been outside."

Harry cursed to himself, he'd forgotten to do the wind burn charm. "I went for a walk and came in just before curfew and then just wandered around in my cloak. Checked on Hedwig."

"How likely is that?" Ron muttered, he had turned away and headed out the door.

"Are you really okay?" Hermione asked quietly. "It isn't like you."

"Look. I'm tired, I'm sick to death of him," Harry pointed to where Ron had gone, "Acting like a git, and I just wanted some peace and quiet with no one cursing me."

"Okay, Harry. Are you still talking with Sirius tomorrow night?"

"Yea, It is going to be tight, 'cause Hagrid wants me to meet him at his cottage right before then."

"Why does Hagrid want you to meet?"

"No idea, Look, I'm really tired..."

"Oh, okay, good night, Harry."

"Good night." Harry threw himself on the bed as soon as she left the room. He hated lying to her, but there is no way he could say "I'm meeting Draco Malfoy in a secret room and we study together." Harry groaned and closed his eyes. He didn't want to think about Draco. It just made him more confused. He pulled the snitch out of his pocket. He threw it into the air and watched as the small gold sphere darted around the room.

OoOOoOOoo

Hermione caught Harry's arm as he was walking into the Great Hall for supper. "I need to talk to you." she hissed. Without giving him a chance to protest she pulled him back through the doors and out the front doors.

"What's wrong?" Harry asked, shivering in the cold.

"Harry, would you care to revise your story about last night?" Hermione stared straight at him. Her brown hair was blowing around her face in the wind and she impatiently pushed it back.

"Um, no?" Harry looked down at his trainers and then back at Hermione. "Why?"

"Because I just had a very interesting conversation with Viktor Krum! That's why!" Hermione hissed. "You weren't out flying last night were you? Please tell me you weren't!"

"Flying? Me, erm..." Harry winced at the sound of his own voice cracking. "What makes you think that?"

"Because Krum asked me if I knew anyone who has a Firebolt! That's why, Harry!" Hermione flung both arms up in the air. "And the whole school knows that you are the only one who has one!"

"Oh." He hadn't thought of that, and of course someone who flies on the Bulgarian national team would recognize a Firebolt in an instant. "What did you tell him?"

"The truth, that students aren't allowed to fly on school grounds outside of the Quidditch pitch, and that the Quidditch pitch is off limits this year."

"What did he say to that?" Harry asked.

"That that would explain why the student was flying over the lake! Harry..." Hermione shook her head at him.

"I had to, this whole week has been horrible and I just had to get away from it." Harry dropped any pretense. "He didn't see me though, did he?"

"No, and I covered for you and said that I couldn't say who it was, because the student could get suspended from school, and that he shouldn't ask anyone else about the Firebolt."

"Thanks, Hermione." Harry sighed in relief. "Do you think he believed it?"

"I think so, seemed to anyway." Hermione shrugged.

"Why did he ask you anyway?" Harry asked curiously. Hermione flushed, "I was in the library when he came in; I suppose I was just the first person he saw."

"Oh, that makes sense I guess. Did he say anything else?" Harry was hoping that Krum hadn't spotted Draco too.

Hermione gave a small smile and slipped her arm through Harry's as they turned and walked back inside. "Well, he might have mentioned something about how he was impressed with how well this mystery student flew..."

Harry stopped walking and turned and looked at her, "Now you are just kidding, aren't you?"

Hermione smiled serenely, "Maybe or maybe not. That will teach you a lesson about lying to me."

"Very funny. But come on, we don't want to miss supper tonight." Harry grabbed Hermione's hand and hurried into the Great Hall. He sat down with Hermione at their usual spot, facing the Slytherin table. Malfoy and his friends were sitting in their usual spot facing the Gryffindors.

Fred winked at him, "Glad you showed up, would've hated for you to miss the show."

Harry smiled broadly, at Fred and George, "So you did it?'

"Did what? Honestly, Harry, I don't know what you are talking about." smirked George.

Hermione looked between the three of them, "What is going on?"

Harry looked over at the Slytherin table. They had just finished their main course and through the magic of house elves the dessert dishes appeared in front of Draco and his friends. Harry nudged Hermione and pointed with his head towards the table.

Draco Malfoy smiled with delight at the blueberry tart in front of him. Reaching forward he took a large slice and put it on his plate. Next to Harry, Fred and George had started counting down from ten. When they reached one there was a pause and a loud bang and Malfoy turned in to a large emerald green canary with white feathers on top of his head. The canary leaped from the table flapping its wings and squawking. There was a flash of feathers and Malfoy was back and fuming mad. He swatted at the feathers that floated all around him and whipped around towards the Gryffindor table.

"I'll get you for this, Potter!"

Chapter Text

When Harry woke up Sunday morning his first thoughts were filled of dragons. He rubbed his hands over his eyes hard as if he could rub the images of the claws, flames and dragon scales from them. He had dreamed of dragons, snitches and Draco all muddled together. Ever since his name had been drawn from the goblet he had been trying to imagine what the first task could be, dragons had never been one of the hundreds of scenarios he had imagined.

Sirius had had an idea on what to use to fight the dragons but the firecall had been interrupted by Ron. Harry stared up at the canopy. He refused to think about Ron, he needed to focus on how to survive the dragons. He needed Hermione. She would know where to start to find a way that would allow him to survive. He also had to talk to Cedric. He was sure that Karkaroff and Maxime would be telling Krum and Fleur about the dragons. He couldn't let Cedric walk in unprepared to the arena.

Ron had already left the room by the time Harry climbed out of bed. Harry got ready and went downstairs for breakfast. He looked for Cedric over at the Hufflepuff table but he must have already had had breakfast. As soon as he was alone with Hermione he told her about the dragons. He felt a rush of relief when, instead of panicking, she just paled a little and said, "Right. Library." They spent the rest of the day in the library with all of the books that they could find about dragons.

By suppertime Harry was exhausted, and they were no closer than before in finding anything that would help Harry with the dragons. Harry looked for Cedric; there was still no sign of him. Deciding there was nothing to do but ask a Hufflepuff where Cedric was Harry walked over to Susan Bones as she was leaving and asked if she knew where Cedric was. "Why do you want to know?" she glared at him. She was wearing the Potter Stinks button.

"I just need to talk to him." Harry said quietly, trying to ignore the hostile stares from the other Hufflepuffs.

"I'm sure he doesn't want to talk to you." Bones turned around and walked away from him.

The next morning Harry woke up with the familiar feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach. Only one more day until the tournament. He and Hermione had snuck back in the library under the Invisibility Cloak and searched until midnight. He had given up long before then but Hermione struggled on sure that the next book would help them.

Harry slowly walked out of the castle heading towards the greenhouses for Herbology class. Across the courtyard he spotted Cedric walking with a group of Hufflepuffs. It was the first time he'd seen him but he needed to talk to him alone. He pulled out his wand and pointed it at Cedric's book bag and said "Difinido". The bottom of Cedric's bag fell out, dropping all of his books and parchment on the ground.

Harry heard Cedric tell his friends that he would catch up and he bent down to pick up his belongings. Harry hurried over to help him pick up everything.

"Hey, Cedric. Sorry, that was me" Harry pointed at the bag, "I needed to talk to you alone."

"What's wrong, Harry?" Cedric stood up and looked over at him, "Did something happen with Draco after I left?"

"What? Oh, no. It's just that, erm, I learned something this weekend. And Fleur and Krum already know so I had to tell you."

"What?"

"Dragons. The first task is dragons." Cedric's face grew pale.

"How do you know? Are you sure?"

"I'm sure, I saw them myself. Someone showed them to me, they're in the Forbidden Forest. And Maxim and Karkaroff were there too, so you know that they told the other two. I've got to go, I just wanted you to know..."

He left Cedric standing in the middle of the courtyard looking stunned.

OoOOOooOO

The rumors about the dragons had been flying since Sunday. Draco looked over at the Gryffindor table and watched as Granger leaned over and whispered into Harry's ear. He didn't appear to hear her. He was staring down at his plate, not eating. From where Draco sat the Gryffindor's face looked almost gray. Across the table from Harry, the Weasley was glaring, his freckles standing out in sharp contrast to his pale face. Draco wished he knew what was going on with the red-haired freak and Harry. He had refused to talk about it, but it was clear there was something wrong between the two of them. They had been inseparable and now they didn't even speak.

Next to Draco, Pansy and Blaise were busy making dire predictions about how long Potter would last against a dragon. Draco couldn't help wondering how long he would last if he was the one going into face a dragon instead of Harry. He had been livid when he had heard Harry's name announced on Halloween night. He had wanted the chance to be a Triwizard Champion to prove to his father that he was worthy of the Malfoy name. But he knew the reality was that he had been terrified of the hippogriffs last year and he couldn't imagine walking into a cage with a dragon. Potter, the idiot, had actually flown on a hippogriff and he was about to face a dragon.

McGonagall had come over to the Gryffindor table and spoke to Harry. He was standing up and walking away with her as if fighting dragons happened every day. Draco felt a surge of anger at McGonagall. Did she really think that the best way for Harry to prepare himself was to have to sit through all of his morning classes and then endure lunch in the Great Hall that was filled with students cat-calling him. Most of the derision coming from the Slytherin table Draco acknowledged.

Cedric had been excused from classes. Draco had seen the Hufflepuff walking around the lake with Professor Sprout. Cedric looked the part of a Triwizard champion. And Draco knew now that he had more than just looks going for him. He had hardly known the Hufflepuff prior to this year, other than playing against him in Quidditch. When Harry had suggested him to help out Draco had just thought of him as another Hufflepuff. He hadn't anticipated how the intensely the 6th year would become involved. Cedric had refused to consider helping until Draco had told him everything. It had been strange that it had actually been a relief to start talking and once he had started he hadn't been able to stop. Cedric had questioned him and challenged him when he suspected the Draco had just been trying to provide the answers he wanted to hear.

"Draco, you haven't placed your bet yet. How long do you think Potter will last? I have 60 seconds before he runs from the ring." Pansy laughed.

Draco eyed Harry's straight back leaving the room, "Put me down for 10 galleons that he goes the whole time, or until he is so injured they have to stop it. Whichever comes first." Draco stood up from the table and walked away ignoring the gap-jawed expressions of the Slytherins at the table. He had been watching Potter for three years; he knew that the idiot didn't stop until he couldn't go on anymore. Hopefully the dragon handlers knew what they were doing.

OoOOOoOOO

Up in the stands he wasn't so confident. From where he sat he could see the dragons in their pens, bursts of flame shot out at the handlers as they tried to maneuver the first dragon into the ring. Bagman hand announced that Cedric would be first, and Harry last. Draco looked around the stands. It was clear who the favored competitor was - Hufflepuff yellow was the predominant color being worn by most of the students in the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw cheering sections. Even in the Slytherin section there was some yellow, although most decided to wear black robes. Over in the Gryffindor section there was a sea of red and gold, garish enough to make his eyes hurt.

Draco could hear Pansy prattling on about something with Blaise who sat on the other side of Draco. Bagman's voice boomed loudly over the crowd, but his eyes were on the door that would open and let Cedric in to the arena.

He thought Cedric would be able to handle the dragon, although he looked uneasily at the Swedish Short-Snout that had just shot flames at a handler who had gotten to close. Maybe Cedric could conquer the dragon by just talking him into submission, Draco thought with a laugh.

The Hufflepuff could talk to a rock and find out its life story. He remembered during the first session in the Quidditch locker room when he had blown up at Harry. Cedric had listened to Draco rant about Potter without saying a word; then he had somehow gotten Draco to sit down and started talking, asking questions. And sometime during that half hour or so he had forced Draco to see Harry in a whole different perspective. Cedric had made him recognize that they both fed off each other, reacted to each other. "Start over" he had urged Draco. "Don't base your opinions on the past. Evaluate what you see, not what you think you see."

A roar filled the stadium and Draco watched as Cedric walked into the ring. The Hufflepuff was tall, but he was dwarfed by the size of the arena. The bell sounded and Draco held his breath as Cedric advanced into the middle and pointing his wand at a rock he transformed it into a Labrador dog.

Clever, thought Draco and he watched as the dog ran around barking at the dragon. Cedric moved towards the outer edge and started carefully walking the perimeter getting closer to the dragon's nest as the dragon bellowed fire and lunged at the terrified dog. The dog went wailing towards the other end of the arena with dragon in pursuit and Cedric darted towards the nest. He had almost made it when the dragon spotted him and furling its wings flew across the arena with a single flap of its wings. Cedric was forced to hide behind a pile of rocks as flames flew over his head. In a sudden burst of speed he ran across and grabbed the egg, the dragon right behind him.

Draco closed his eyes in relief as the trainers ran into the arena and made a shield that allowed Cedric to get off the field. Smoke was smoldering from his hair and tunic Draco realized with a start. The Slytherins around him burst into excited talk as they waited for Fleur to come out. He tried to join in on the talk but his eyes kept drifting over to the Hungarian Horntail. Harry's dragon. Even in its pen it was thrashing angrily, the spiked tail threatening to break the reinforced walls.

Fleur. Krum. Draco scarcely paid attention to them. Both fought their dragon and walked away with a golden egg. He nervously wiped his sweaty palms on his robes. Potter is next, he muttered. Blaise looked at him curiously. "Yeah, we know. Potter's next. Getting a little nervous about your bet? Too late to change it now."

The door opened and Harry walked out, Draco cursed. He'd been half hoping that the fool would have seen sense and skivved out the back. The bell sounded and Harry stood stock still. The crowd roared, and finally there was movement and Harry lifted his wand hand and shouted something. Draco couldn't hear what it was over the roar of the crowd.

"What did he say? What did he do?" he yelled at Blaise. Blaise just shrugged.

"The fool is just standing there!" Pansy shouted with glee. "He isn't going to even try for the egg!"

Draco watched and she was right. Harry was just standing in the middle of the arena with his wand arm stretched out. He wasn't even looking at the dragon, Draco realized with amazement, but staring off at the sky. The crowd got louder and louder as he did nothing. Suddenly Draco saw a smile dart across Harry's face, Draco turned to look to see what Potter had spotted and watched in disbelief as Harry's broom soared over the heads of those sitting on the top row of seats and raced towards Harry's outstretched arm. In a flash Harry had mounted the broom and was in air. A thundering roar filled the air as everyone in the stands leapt to their feet.

"Merlin. Is he just going to fly out of here?" Pansy said slowly as they all had their heads turned up watching as Harry went straight up in a vertical barrel roll. Draco recognized it as one of Harry's favorite moves.

He turned 180 degrees and came straight back down again. Up and down and over. Harry flew all around the dragon's head, staying just far enough away to avoid the flames that the irritated dragon kept shooting at him. Draco watched stunned as he realized Harry's plan. It might just work. Then all of the sudden he swung too close to the tail and Draco winced as the Gryffindor's shirt was torn by the dragon's spiked tail. Draco couldn't tell if Harry had been hurt, the red-shirt didn't show any blood. Cursing he watched as Harry resumed his teasing of the dragon. Someone had to protect the fool from the dragon; clearly the handlers weren't going to be quick enough.

"Draco, what the hell are you doing? You can't hex Potter now. If he falls, he's as good as dead. This isn't a bloody Quidditch match." Blaise was forcing down Draco's arm. Draco looked in shock at his wand in his hand. He had no recollection of raising it. He quickly put it back in his pocket, glad that Blaise hadn't noticed that he hadn't been pointing it at Potter but at the dragon.

Suddenly the dragon unfurled its wings and flew straight at Harry. Draco watched as Harry immediately reversed course and flew downwards to the nest, he scooped up the egg and raced away, up and over the stands. He flew right past Draco and Draco could clearly see the damage that the dragon's spikes had done to him.

"I can't bloody believe it. You won the bet." Pansy looked over at him annoyed. "How did you know?"

Draco shrugged, "I never risk galleons on anything but a sure bet. Potter is too big an idiot to think about giving up." He stood up and started to leave. He had to get out of the stands, find out if Harry was okay.

"You're leaving? They haven't even posted the scores yet." Blaise looked at him in disbelief.

"I've got to use the loo." Draco scowled, "You want to come and hold my dick?"

"Get the hell out of here, you ponce." Blaise laughed.

Draco quickly worked his way back to where the tents had been set up on the far side of the arena. He'd seen McGonagall hurry Harry into the one of the tents as soon as he had dismounted. There were people guarding the entrance, but Draco simply went around to the back of the tent and entered. He saw Pomfrey rush into one of the cubicles muttering about dragons and figured that was where Harry was. He walked down the length of the tent, seeing two empty bays and then with a smile he found Cedric, his face partially covered with a thick orange paste and his hair was definitely missing in patches.

He eyed the Hufflepuff, he didn't seem to be too injured, "You should gone with a Crup. A Crup would have yipped the dragon into madness, not hidden behind a rock like your Labrador did."

Cedric smiled at him, "I'll keep that in mind next time I'm foolish enough to get go into a ring with a dragon. Did you watch Harry? How did he do?" Cedric sat up excitedly, "They wouldn't let me out to watch. How bad is he hurt?"

"Bloke is a madman on a broom. Brilliant." Draco admitted reluctantly, he peered around the fabric screen to see if anyone was coming, "Got caught by the tail like an idiot, though, I couldn't tell how bad. Not like I can go check on him."

"Would you want to?" Cedric asked curiously. Draco stared at him, "Forget I asked, why don't I go down and see?" Without waiting for Draco to answer, Cedric hopped off the table and started down to the other side of the tent.

Draco flopped down on the bed that Cedric had just been laying down and stared up at the ceiling of the tent. Not for the first time he wondered how in Salazar Slytherin's name did things get so messed up that he was worrying about Harry effin' Potter like he was the git's nursemaid.

Cedric walked back in the cubicle, "He is going to be okay, Pomfrey has already fixed him up. Bit of a scar, here" Cedric drew his finger from his shoulder to his chest. Could have been a lot worse...I have to go, they are going to post Harry's score and then we get to find out what we are supposed to do with that." Cedric nodded towards the golden egg.

"Cedric, did Pomfrey say that your face is going to be..." Draco trailed off looking at the orange paste worriedly.

"Yeah, she said it would hardly leave a mark, and my hair will grow back too" he said with a laugh and walked out carrying the egg. Draco stayed laying on the bed. He heard Bagman's voice echoing throughout the arena, announcing Harry's scores. There was a moment of silence as the crowd did the math and a roar of excitement as they realized that Potter had tied Krum for first place. Unbelievable, he thought with a groan, how does he do that?

OOooOOOOOooO

Harry listened to Bagman talking about the eggs and the clue for the next task in stunned disbelief. He had survived the dragon and was actually tied for first place. He shifted the egg uncomfortably to his other arm, his shoulder still stung where the Horntail's spike had cut him. At last, Bagman sent them on their way and Harry turned to walk out of the tent. A heavy hand clasped him on the shoulder, startled he looked back and saw Krum.

The Bulgarian stared at him, his black eyes looking at him up and down coldly. Harry glanced nervously around. "Um, Hi?"

"You are very little." Krum said at last.

Harry shrugged, there was no use in denying it to the giant beside him, "Yes, I know."

"How little are you?"

"How little am I?" Harry asked confused.

"Years, years, how many years are you?"

"Oh, I'm er, fourteen."

"Fourteen? You fly very good for fourteen."

Harry looked startled, he didn't know what to say. He looked around the Bulgarian's shoulder and saw Ron and Hermione waiting for him. Ron was jumping up and down with excitement. He didn't hear what Krum said next until the word Firebolt caught his ear.

"Uhm, what was that?"

"Your broom, it is a Firebolt, is it not?" Krum stared at Harry, but his eyes had a spark of amusement in them now.

Harry felt his stomach drop, "Oh, yeah, it's a Firebolt."

"You fly very good, even better in the day, no?"

"Oh, I, uh." Harry answered with dread, there was no doubt that Krum knew that he was the flyer that was out on the lake.

"And, I think you have very good friends too." Krum looked over his shoulder where Hermione was standing next to Ron, biting her lip nervously.

"Yes, I have very good friends." Harry smiled, he knew that without hesitation.

Krum slapped him on the back, "Maybe someday when this is all over, we will meet in a different type of game. Quidditch? Ja?" With a brief smile the Bulgarian walked away from Harry and rejoined Karkaroff who had been glaring at Harry from across the room.

Harry stood stock still unable to move, Ron and Hermione ran up to him excitedly. "Is everything okay, Harry? He isn't going to...?" Hermione asked.

"Everything is good," Harry said with a smile, "Let's go write to Sirius, tell him what happened."

OoOoOOO

His footsteps filled the corridor with sound as Harry rushed through the dungeons for Potions, he was almost 20 minutes late. Bagman had scheduled a morning press conference for all of the champions. The same inane questions were asked again and again. Finally Cedric and Harry had been excused to leave. The burns had healed on Cedric's face, but his hair was still missing on the left side of his head. Cedric had laughed good naturedly when the photographer suggested that he stand with his right side facing the camera.

Harry walked into Snape's classroom and froze. Everyone in the classroom was standing up and shouting. In the center of the chaos was Malfoy with his wand outstretched and pointed at Ron who lay on the floor holding his arm. Hermione was shouting at Draco and Seamus was holding her back. Harry pulled out his wand and rushed forward. "What the hell-"

"Freeze, Potter. Put your wand away." Snape moved forward, pushing students out of the way to get to the pair. "You are late. Potter. Detention. You may serve it tonight with Malfoy, who" Snape turned and stared down at his godson, "somehow has forgotten to wait until after class to hex a Gryffindor. And Weasley, ten points from Gryffindor for being incapable of blocking a simple hex." Malfoy nonchalantly put his wand away and walked away.

The Gryffindors shouted with outrage at the injustice. "Silence! Get back to working on your potions." Snape snarled and went back to the front of the room. Harry, bewildered at what had happened before he entered the room, pulled Ron to his feet. Ron moaned and rubbed his arm some more. "What did he hit you with?"

"Some kind of stinging hex, but it hurts like the devil." Ron was looking around Harry, trying to see where Malfoy was. "I don't know what happened. We were just getting the ingredients for the potions and he shoved past me and when I shoved him back he whipped out his wand."

Hermione broke in, "He didn't even give any warning, just hexed Ron."

"Are you okay?" Harry asked. Ron rotated his shoulder experimentally and looked relieved.

"Yeah, it's fading. Bloody git."

Hermione looked over her shoulder at the Slytherins. "We better get to work before Snape decides to take more points." Ron walked back to the table and uprighted the cauldron that had spilled.

Harry looked over at Malfoy who was standing with Zabini at their table, he appeared to be focusing on slicing the salamander scales. Only the two red streaks of color in his cheeks and the tense set of his shoulders gave anything away. Glancing at Snape who had his back to the room, Harry stalked over to Malfoy.

"What the hell was that for?" He hissed.

Malfoy didn't look up from his chopping board, "None of your business."

"Malfoy, you hex my friends, it is my business."

The Slytherin snarled back, "Friend, don't make me laugh."

"What do you mean by that? Don't tell me-"

"Potter, you seem eager to spend more time with Malfoy. Zabini, you will be Weasley's partner. Potter, stay where you are." The knife in Malfoy's hand slipped a little and then he continued slicing. Harry cursed and looked over at Ron who was shaking his head in disbelief.

"Malfoy. Listen," Harry looked around, to make sure no one could hear, "When I told you to give me your worst, I meant me. Not my friends. They are off limits."

"Get to work, Potter." Draco said, and shoved Harry in the chest with his shoulder. Harry involuntarily sucked in air as a flash of pain traveled through his chest.

Draco froze. He looked from Harry's face to his chest and back again. "I thought that Pomfrey fixed you up, Cedric said that you were okay."

"Keep your voice down, someone will hear, anyway I'm fine. Forget about it." Harry snapped, looking down at the open potions book on the table, "What are we supposed to be making?"

"Consumptive Reagent Potion." Draco pointed down at the instructions, "We need frog's blood. Get it from the stores."

Harry glared at Draco and walked into the storeroom, he didn't realize that Malfoy was right behind him until the door closed behind him.

"What's wrong with you?" Harry exclaimed moving to shove Malfoy aside.

"What's wrong with me? What is wrong with you! I thought you weren't hurt that bad." Draco snapped, his arms folded on his chest as he leaned against the door.

Harry glared at him, "I want to know why you hexed Ron."

Draco moved towards, "Tell me why you are still hurting and I'll tell you why I hexed the git."

Harry stared at him in disbelief; he raked both his hands through his hair in frustration. "Fine. It's nothing. It just turns out that some people react badly to Hungarian Horntail scales. Just my dumb luck that I'm one of them. The wound is all healed but it is going to take time to stop hurting. Your turn."

Draco looked over at him, "How long?"

"How long what?"

"How long is it going to hurt like that..."

"I don't know. Your turn, talk."

Draco snarled, "Fine. I hexed him because he treated you like shite-"

The door swung open and the tall dark figure of Snape filled the doorway. He looked sharply between Harry and Malfoy. Harry thought with a laugh that the professor looked disappointed that they weren't fighting each other.

"You have forty minutes left to complete a potion that takes an hour, may I suggest you get started?" Snape stalked away leaving the door open.

Harry looked out the doorway and saw everyone in the class staring at them. He looked back at Draco with a worried look, they had been in the closet for a while. "Erm, we need to …"

Draco gave a quick nod and motioned for Harry to walk past him. Harry almost laughed as Draco's foot tripped him as he went past. He caught himself and whirled around pointing his finger at Malfoy. "I'm not through with you, Malfoy." he hissed and stalked back to the table.

The two of them worked in silence the rest of the time. Malfoy's face was completely blank, focused on the task in front of him, snapping orders to Harry to dice, chop and stir. Harry automatically did whatever Malfoy told him to do. In his head he was replaying the conversation in the storeroom. What had he been about to say about Ron? Yeah, Ron had treated Harry like shite but what business was it of Malfoy?

"Time." Snape stood up from his desk and began checking everyone's potions. Draco swore, they still had two steps to go before theirs was finished. Snape stopped and peered in to their cauldron.

"It appears that if you two want to receive a grade you will need to spend your lunch hour finishing your potion. Class dismissed."

Ron and Hermione rushed over to Harry, "We'll stay and help you finish Harry." with a glare at Malfoy who stood next to Harry smirking.

"Afraid that poor little Harry can't take care of himself?" Malfoy sneered.

"Listen, Malfoy, -" Ron snapped

Harry interrupted "Ron, just go to lunch. I'll be there in a few minutes. We are almost done with the potion. He," Harry pointed a finger at Malfoy, "isn't going to do anything that I can't handle."

"Don't be so sure of that." Malfoy muttered under his breath.

Hermione looked worriedly between the two of them, "Harry, you aren't better yet-"

"I'm fine, Don't worry about me." Harry turned back and stared at the potions book, pretending to know what he was supposed to be doing next.

"Granger, Weasley, unless you wish to start cleaning cauldrons may I suggest you leave." Snape's nasal voice carried across the classroom even though the professor hadn't looked up from the papers he was grading.

"It's okay." Harry said, "Honestly."

The two Gryffindors reluctantly headed out the door; as soon as it closed Malfoy and Harry both gave a sigh of relief. Harry set down the potion rod, the myrtlewood potion rod he thought with a laugh. "Okay, why did you hex Ron."

Draco glanced up to the front of the classroom where Snape was still sitting at his desk.

Draco looked over at him, "I hexed him because he treated you like a pariah for three weeks. You win the task yesterday and now he wants to be your mate again? You two sat down for breakfast together this morning like nothing happened." Harry stared at him in disbelief.

Harry took a deep breath, and rubbed his eyes "Draco, you can't do that. This thing with Ron, it was complicated, but it's over and we both want to forget about it. He and I are okay now."

"Fine. Let people treat you like skrewt excrement and walk all over you." He pointed at the potions book in front of them. "Frog blood. Three drops."

They worked silently next to each other and finished the potion. Harry was going over the entire conversation in his head. What did Draco care that Ron was talking to him again? Why did he care if Harry's shoulder hurt?

Harry poured the finished potion into the flask and gave it to Draco. "Do what you want to me, Draco. But don't hex my friends."

Draco hesitated like he was going to object and then shrugged. He turned and walked to Snape's desk and set the potion down. Snape looked up, his black eyes glancing between the two of them.

"Potter, you may go. Detention at 7 o'clock. I have a barrel of Siberian boarworms that need deboweling. Shouldn't take the two of you more than an hour or two. Draco, stay. There is something I need to discuss with you."

oOooOOoO

Cedric caught up with him just outside of the Great Hall.

"What happened with Draco?" The Hufflepuff looked at him worriedly, "Everyone is talking about how he hexed Ron Weasley in class today."

Harry shrugged, "I asked him and he said he hexed Ron because he was mad that Ron was talking to me again. I don't get it."

Cedric gave a little smile and shrugged, "Draco sees things differently than most people,"

Harry gave a laugh, "That's for sure."

"No, I mean he sees things in black and white. You don't desert your friends. You defend them. Friends. Enemies. No middle ground. You moved from one side to the other, now he is going to protect you."

Harry stared at Cedric, "So, he is mad because Ron was mad at me and now we're friends again? That doesn't make any sense."

Cedric paused, "Maybe not to you or I, but to Draco," he shrugged, "Yesterday, Draco snuck into the First Aid tent to check on you. He pretended it was to see me, maybe it was that too. But he wanted to know how badly you were hurt. Something to think about."

"Why would he care?" Harry look startled, "That doesn't sound like Malfoy."

"Maybe not like Malfoy, but definitely like Draco." Cedric looked at Harry. "By the way, this really isn't the place but..." Cedric looked up and down the corridor to make sure they were still alone, "I meant to find you sooner but the tournament got in the way. The things that you told Draco and me - about your family-"

Harry stared down at his trainers, he never should have said any of those things. "Cedric, don't worry about it. I'm only there a couple of months a year..."

"But they are your family and they shouldn't treat-"

"They aren't my family, my family is dead. They are just the people I have to live with, my guardians. My aunt might be my mother's sister but she has never treated me like family and I don't consider her that." Harry shut his mouth abruptly, he hadn't told anyone that, not even Hermione or Ron.

Cedric looked at Harry, "You need to talk to someone about it, or it is going to erupt out of you in anger. Or through snakes terrorizing children in zoos." Harry laughed but shook his head, "I'll think about what you said, but really, I'm okay. I'm happy here, Hogwarts is my home."

oOoOOOOOooo

Harry walked into Snape's dungeon classroom. Draco was already there sitting at a table with a large barrel on the floor next it. Snape stood putting the next day's lesson up on the blackboard, his wand directing the chalk across the board.

"Take care when deboweling those worms, if the intestines are punctured you will find the smell most unpleasant. Put the intestines in the bowl of alcohol when they are removed. You may begin." Harry sat down on the other side of the barrel from Draco. He looked into the barrel, the black liquid did not reveal the contents.

Snape quickly left the room, the fact that he was not staying around to monitor them made Harry wonder exactly how bad the smell of the worms was going to be.

"Have you done this before?" Harry looked over at Draco who was staring into the barrel with distaste.

"No. You?"

"No, we had to pickle rat brains last time, can't be much worse than that." Harry hesitated and then looked around. "Is there a ladle or something we can use? I'm not sticking my hand in there."

Draco looked in the barrel again, "Ugh. Look in the drawers over there."

Harry almost told Draco to go look but he stood up and started opening drawers until he found two large spoons. He brought them over to the table and handed one to Draco. "You, first." Draco scowled but plunged his spoon in and fished out a worm, it was dark green and over 12 inches long.

"Oh..." Harry paled. "This is not going to be fun."

"Since when is detention in Snape's class fun?" Draco said as he picked up his scalpel.

"Since never. What did he want to talk to you about after class?" Harry asked.

"About controlling my loathing of Gryffindors, and you in particular." Draco said with a sideways glance towards Harry.

"What did you tell him?" Harry's worm was even larger than Draco's; it slipped off the spoon and dropped back in the liquid. With a sigh he fished another one out.

"That I would try my very best but it was very trying considering what a pathetic lot of losers you are." Draco has successfully removed the intestine and quickly dropped it into the waiting bowl of alcohol.

Harry picked up his scalpel and carefully started cutting the worm open. Draco sighed and pulled out another one. "Two down, dozens to go."

"Do you think Snape just gives out detentions whenever there are disgusting tasks that need to be performed?" Harry asked.

"Definitely." Draco cursed as his blade slipped and a stench quickly filled the room.

"Oh, Merlin. Be careful." Harry held his arm up to his nose. "Gaaah.

"This is impossible, we can't do this one handed," said Draco as he held up his own arm to block the stench. "Do you know any smell blocking charms?"

"No, I wish I had my scarf...could tie it around my face."

"I've got mine." Draco went over to the sinks and washed his hands and then pulled out his scarf, a long length of silk cloth in Slytherin green.

"Who else but you would have a silk scarf? Wool not good enough?"

"Too scratchy. Here this is long enough, I'll just cut it in half."

"You don't want to do that! That's a good scarf." Harry protested as Draco picked up a clean scalpel and sliced through it.

"Mother sent me three," he said with a shrug. "She knows how cold it is in the dungeon, and scarves and gloves are easily lost."

Draco handed Harry his half of the scarf and tied his own around his mouth and nose. Harry laughed, "You look like a bandit in a Muggle cowboy western." Draco eyes flashed, the green of the scarf made his gray eyes seem almost hazel. "Come on get yours on and let's finish this, sooner we are done the sooner we are out of here."

Harry held up the scarf to his face and tried to reach behind his head to tie it. Pain shot through his chest as he lifted his arm up over his head. "Ahhh," he dropped his arm hastily, rubbing his chest where the Horntail scar burned.

Draco looked over him and shook his head. "Give me that..." he grabbed the silk scarf from Harry's hand and quickly circled it around Harry's head like a bandanna.

"Thanks," Harry sat perfectly still as the Slytherin stood behind him, he sucked in air as he felt Draco's fingers in his hair.

"There" Harry felt the Draco's hands tighten the scarf and then the light brush of Draco's fingers as they trailed over his shoulders. He jumped, startled at the touch. He gave a quick look at Draco who was already sitting down. Had he imagined Draco's hands rubbing his shoulder, or was it just an accidental touch? Draco had his head bent down and had picked up another worm. This was not going to help his resolve not to obsess about Draco.

"What did Pomfrey say about your pain? Can't she give you something for it?"

"She gave me a pain potion, didn't take it. They make me feel all fuzzy. Charlie, Ron's brother, said it should only be a few days. He was one of the dragon handlers" Harry forced himself to focus on pulling another worm out of the barrel.

"Maybe feeling fuzzy is better than wincing in pain every time you move your shoulder." Draco muttered at him as he pulled another worm out of the barrel.

"I really don't think you want me cutting open boarworms intestines while feeling fuzzy." Harry responded. He thought to himself that he was feeling fuzzy enough as it was sitting in the middle of Snape's classroom wearing Draco Malfoy's scarf tied around his face. The scarf blocked the worst of the smell. The feeling of the silk against his skin was distracting; knowing that it had last been worn by Draco was unnerving. He forced himself to concentrate on the worm in front of him.

He kept thinking back to Friday night when they had sat together next to the fire after coming in from flying. It had felt so...comfortable. He really hadn't had time to about that night since then. Hagrid had showed him the dragons the next night and everything after that was a blur. He slid over a look at Draco who was working on another worm. Six weeks ago he never would have thought that he would enjoy spending time alone with Draco Malfoy and wishing for more.

"Come on, I'm not doing these by myself." Draco's voice forced him to focus on the task at hand.

"Doesn't my status as first place in the Triwizard tournament count to get me out of a couple worms?"

"Tied for first place with Krum." Draco quickly corrected. "Although I'm sure you can find some first years that would be willing to do all of your detentions for an autograph."

"I bet Krum isn't deboweling worms." Harry muttered. "Oh, I didn't tell you. It was Krum. Friday when we were out on the lake. Krum was the one on the boat who saw me." Harry reached down for another worm with a grimace.

"Krum, really?" Draco looked up startled, "How did you find out? Is he going to say anything?"

"I don't think so, I mean he would have done so already if he was going to tell." Harry shrugged. "He recognized the Firebolt yesterday."

"Good thing you didn't crash right into the side of the boat." Malfoy laughed.

"Or into the side of the Horntail," joked Harry. "Splat."

"Don't say splat," as Draco looked down at the green worm in front of him.

At last they were done. Harry pulled down the scarf so it hung around his neck. "When do you want to meet again downstairs?"

"Why don't we wait until your shoulder is better. Go flying afterwards?"

"Sounds good. See you around..." They both headed out of the classroom.

"Hey, Harry." Draco called out, just as he was turning right to go towards Slytherin. .

"Yeah?"

"Good job yesterday:"

Harry flashed a smile, "Thanks, Draco." He went the other way and headed to the Gryffindor tower. He was just about to step through the Fat Lady portrait hole when he remembered the scarf tied around his neck in tell-tale green silk. He hastily pulled it off and stuffed it into his pocket.

OooOoOOo

Harry flipped a note to Draco as he passed the Slytherin studying in the library.

Tuesday? After supper?

Draco looked over at Harry who had sat down at a table a couple down from the Slytherin and nodded. Harry gave a grin and looked down at his homework.

ooOOoooOoOO

Harry ate a quick supper and stood up to leave, Ron was too busy retelling Harry's dragon match with Seamus to notice that he was leaving but Hermione gave him a questioning look. Harry just mouthed "Studying" to her with a quick glance towards the Hufflepuff table. She gave a worried smile but nodded.

Rushing up to Gryffindor he grabbed his Firebolt and bookbag and headed down the tunnel, whistling as he went. It had been a week since he and Draco had had detention together, since then they had only seen each other during class. Draco was already waiting when Harry entered.

"Hey," Harry nodded to him and and then went to the locker where he kept his Quidditch gear and returned the Firebolt to the locker.

"Your shoulder still hurt?"

"Loads better than before." Harry shrugged, moving the shoulder around. "Go flying afterwards?"

"Sure you are up for it?"

Harry closed the locker and shrugged, "No, reason why not, we could just fly around the castle a couple of times. Pretty cold out."

The Hufflepuff archway opened up and Cedric walked into the locker room. He smiled when he saw that Harry and Draco were waiting for him. He pulled up his chair and sat down.

Cedric looked from Harry to Draco. "You two doing okay?"

Harry looked over at Draco who smiled and shrugged, "No problems."

"No problems?" Cedric looked between them, "Last week you were hexing Harry's best friend and Harry turned you into a giant green canary?"

Harry laughed, "That is upstairs stuff, this" he motioned between the two of them, "is downstairs."

"Okay, well, then are we ready to start? Anyone want to do anything differently?"

Harry shook his head, and Draco just said "No, let's just go." He rolled his head around as if get the kinks out of his neck and nodded at Harry.

Harry pulled out his wand, "Imperio" He felt the immediate connection between him and Draco. No fear or anxiety this time, Harry thought, and but there was something there that was new, he peered at Draco who was staring back at him. It was anticipation, Harry realized with surprise.

Cedric showed Harry the list, more of the same kind of commands. He thought the next one on the list, "Pick up the chair" He felt the resistance surged through Draco's mind. Watching, holding his breath he didn't see Draco move his arm at all. "Pick up the chair." Nothing. Draco's face remained unchanged, relaxed.

Harry and Cedric looked at each other, Cedric smiled and pointed to the next thing on the list. Harry thought, "Jump up" Draco just looked at Harry. Harry felt the resistance that was still flowing through the connection surge even harder. He forced himself to focus "Jump up" Draco shook his head.

Harry chewed on his lip to keep from smiling and watched as Draco's eyes dropped to Harry's lips. Harry felt a sudden surge of emotion come through the connection from Draco, with a start he recognized it as...desire, wanting. He took a step back and dropped the list. He went to pick it up but Cedric said, "Forget the list, I think he has got it. Ask him to do something you think he would never be willing to do."

Harry turned back to Draco, had he really just felt what the thought he'd felt coming over the connection? He nervously licked his lips and Draco licked his own. Harry felt amusement mix in with the other emotions coming through the connection. Draco raised his eyebrow at him. Harry hesitated and figured, aw hell, Gryffindor, may as well go down in a blaze of glory, and thought the command "Kiss me."

Draco lifted his head in surprise, his eyes flaring dark, but he didn't step towards Harry. Harry felt desire and excitement surge through the connection. "Kiss me" he thought the command again. He could feel Draco's heart-rate going up; the increased pulse of it matched his own.

"Did you give him a command?" he heard Cedric asking, "What did you tell him to do?" Harry for once was grateful that the commands were thought driven.

"He passed with flying colors. Didn't even try to do it." Harry said, trying to keep his voice even as he ended the incantation with a wave of his wand,"Finite." He immediately felt the loss of the the connection. "Congrats Dra-"

Draco took two steps and shoved Harry up against the wall. He grabbed a hold of Harry's arms and pinned them to the wall, Harry forced himself to look into Draco's eyes that were flat steel staring at him. "Erm, uh, Draco...are you mad?"

"Cedric wants to know what your last command was, Harry. Shall I tell him? Or show him?" Draco whispered, his lips inches from Harry, his gaze not moving from Harry's eyes.

"Erm, show him?" Harry whispered back, closing his eyes as Draco moved closer. Draco slowly smiled and moved closer. "Oh, I definitely think showing him would be better."

Harry felt a shock as Draco's lips touched his own and with a groan he pushed forward into the kiss. If he was only going to have one chance to kiss Draco Malfoy he wanted to make it count. Draco's lips moved hard over his, forcing his head back against the locker. His tongue whispered over Harry's lips seeking entry and in a flash both of their tongues were twining together. Harry fought to get Draco to release his arms so he could pull the blond closer to him, but Draco held his arms tight over his head.

"Well, I think my job here is done." Cedric said with a laugh, walking away quickly from the entwined fourth years. Harry and Draco didn't hear him as Draco pushed Harry back, leaning his whole body against him. Harry started to kiss Draco along his jawline. He gave a sigh of relief as Draco finally released his arms and he immediately dragged his hands through the blond's hair, reveling in the feel of it.

"Hell, Draco." Harry said at last lifting his head to lean against the locker, breathing hard to catch his breath. "What is this?"

"What do you think it is?" Draco stared hard into Harry's green eyes. Harry lifted his eyes to the ceiling to avoid looking at Draco. He wished he could tell what he was thinking, what he wanted.

"It's nice? Yeah, definitely, nice." Harry muttered unwilling to admit anything more.

Draco snorted, a sound that Harry didn't think he'd ever heard the Slytherin make, "I am pretty sure it is better than nice. I have it on good authority that I'm a damn better kisser than nice."

Harry felt a surge of jealousy that he didn't know he was capable of, "Who?'

Draco smiled and rubbed his finger along Harry's lip, "Can't say and I think you are one who can appreciate that I don't kiss and tell."

"So if it is more than nice, what is it?" Harry forced himself to step away from Draco. He couldn't think with the Slytherin standing so close. He went to the bench and sat down straddling it and groaning at the discomfort the move caused his groin.

"Jeans a little tight?" Draco walked over and straddled the bench, sitting facing Harry. He pulled himself as close as he could, scooting closer as Harry instinctively tried to move back.

Draco put a hand on the back of Harry's neck and pulled it forward. "What is this? I think it is a celebration that our little Imperius project was successful." He slowly leaned forward and gave Harry a kiss on the lips. "I think it is a thank you, for helping me." Another kiss. "And, I know it is something I wanted to do for a long time." Another kiss. Harry closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against Draco's, he was breathing hard and having a hard time putting two thoughts together.

"How long?" Harry whispered.

"A very long time."

"You have a damn funny way of showing it." Harry muttered.

Draco laughed. "It's the Malfoy way, don't put your cards on the table until you are certain you can win."

"So, what happens now?"

"What do you want to happen?"

Harry hesitated, "More."

"More, right now?" Draco paused, "Or more tomorrow and the next day and the next?"

"Yes?"

"Yes, what?"

"Yes, tomorrow and the next and the next." Harry pulled Draco towards him. "Yes, to all of the above." He could feel Draco's smile against his lips.

"Good."

It was twenty minutes later that Harry broke free reluctantly, "I've got to go. I still have homework to finish."

"Do it here." Draco said, entwining his fingers with Harry's.

Harry laughed wishfully, "No, I really have to do it, I haven't even started on Charms that is due tomorrow."

"I promise you that my ability to concentrate is excellent. I won't distract you."

Harry asked, "You're sure?"

Draco growled, "Definitely."

"Good, because I can study a lot better with you next to me than spending whole damn night wondering where you are and who you are talking to."

"So, I'm not the only one slightly obsessed?"

"I'm not obsessed. I just have a keen sense of survival that requires me to want to know where you are at all times."

They stood up and with only a few lingering kisses walked over to the desk. Harry dragged the chair from the opposite side of the desk so that he could sit next to Draco. They both pulled out their homework and Draco was good to his word, he didn't take a single break, but he pressed his leg up against Harry's the whole time. Harry found it strangely more intimate than he ever realized it could be.

Draco checked the time. "Almost curfew. No time for flying."

"Wouldn't be that comfortable anyway." Harry muttered.

Draco laughed, "Why's that?" he whispered in Harry's ear.

"You know." Harry said flushing.

"Maybe we should do something about that next time." Draco said stretching his hand towards Harry's lap. Harry leaped up and moved away.

"So, what do we do?" Harry lifted his head towards the ceiling. "Still Malfoy & Potter, up there?"

"Do you want anyone to know?" Draco asked.

"No, not yet, anyway. You?" Harry said slowly.

"Do you know what they would do to me in Slytherin if they found out?" Draco admitted reluctantly.

"That you are gay, or you are...gay with me?" Harry asked curiously as he reached out and grabbed ahold of Draco's hand, reveling in the novelty of being able to do so.

"Gay with you." Draco shrugged, "The people who matter know that I'm bent. What about you? I've never heard a hint of a rumor about you and trust me I was paying attention. One of the reasons I hated you so much. Annoying as hell seeing you every day and thinking I would never be able to do this" He leaned forward and kissed him again.

"I was never sure...I really only figured things out this year. My life is complicated enough. I'm not too eager for the Daily Prophet to splash it across the front page, the less people that know the better. I've told Hermione and Ron that I'm gay and, Cedric." For the first time Harry looked around "When did he leave anyway? Do you think he knew this would happen?"

Draco laughed, "I don't know. He knew about me. And you?" Harry nodded. "It doesn't take a Ravenclaw to add one and one and get two."

"Okay, then I'll see you tomorrow in Potions?" Harry picked up his books reluctantly.

Draco nodded, "I'm going to give you hell. Be ready."

OoOOOOooOO

Harry sagged with relief when Potions was over. Draco had been a complete prat the entire class. Snape had paired them together the minute they had walked in the door and Draco had sniped and abused him the entire time they were making potions. If it hadn't been for Draco's knee rubbing against his own and the playful tap of his foot, he might have thought that he had dreamed last night. He stood up and raked his hand through his hair. "You are a complete git, Malfoy."

Malfoy whipped his head around and gave Harry a concerned look. Harry took a look around the classroom, no one was watching at them. He flashed Malfoy a smile as he passed behind his chair gave him a quick flick on the head.

He caught up with Hermione and Ron as they were leaving the room. "What was Malfoy's problem today? He was at you the whole time." Ron asked as they walked down the corridor. Harry looked back and saw Malfoy watching them.

"Wouldn't worry about it, he is probably just mad that the dragon didn't finish me off." Harry mumbled.

Chapter Text

The Next Day

Harry was perched in one of the wind-protected alcoves in the courtyard when Cedric found him. Harry looked up from his book and smiled as the sixth-year Hufflepuff approached him.

"I figured you would come looking for me today." Harry swung his legs down to make room for Cedric who hopped up on the ledge next to him. The sun shown down brightly on the courtyard keeping the November chill at bay.

"You made it tough enough, this was the last place I could think to look."

"Sun. Don't get many days like this in winter at Hogwarts."

Cedric nodded and didn't say anything more. They both sat next to each other without talking, Harry knew that Cedric would wait until he was ready to talk. Harry finally broke the silence.

"So, how did you know? That Draco... That I..." Harry flushed and stopped talking.

Cedric laughed, he had a rich, deep laughter that always startled Harry with how warm it was. Cedric was someone who enjoyed life and wasn't afraid to show it. "How did I know that you and Draco might be interested in each other? Honestly, Harry, I'm amazed that the whole school doesn't know..."

Harry looked over alarmed, "Don't worry, they don't. Most people see what they expect to see. I was listening to you sniping at each other at the World Cup and it caught my interest. And you and I had already talked." Cedric shrugged, "You and Draco were so aware of each other, the tension between you was tangible."

"Yeah, but most people think that it is because we hate, well because it seems like we hate each other." Harry said, staring out at the lake. Even he wasn't sure when his interest in Draco had changed from dislike to fascination.

"That is just the surface." Cedric pointed towards the lake, "Look out there, you would never know there are merpeople, giant squids, and more below the surface. I bet you were -are conscious of Draco at every point of the day. You know what he has for breakfast, class schedule, habits. And he knows all of yours. Either you both were really scary stalkers or you were really interested in each other."

"Is that why you agreed to help?" Harry asked. "To help with the Imperius curse?"

Cedric looked over at Harry, "To be honest, I wasn't going to do it, but after I talked to Draco I knew he would resort to any way possible to convince you to help him. And I was afraid that you two might hurt each other if there wasn't someone there to help intervene." Harry nodded at that, they had come close to fighting that first time.

"Have you talked about how you are going to handle it? I assume that yesterday wasn't a...fluke." Cedric asked cautiously.

"We are going to do the same as we have been doing, fighting upstairs, see each other downstairs." Harry shrugged, "Really can't see anyway around it. The Slytherins and, I have to be honest, Gryffindors would both go crazy if they found out. And with me," Harry looked down at his hands, "Everything I do catches the attention of the newspapers. And then there is Draco's father...there really is no choice."

"Do you think that will work?" Cedric asked.

Harry looked over at him, "What do you mean?"

"You both are … let's call it intense. To have a relationship and not be able to be open about it. To hide it from even your friends, it makes things much more difficult"

"Why is it going to be a problem?" Harry was feeling defensive, even though he had been wondering some of the same things himself.

"Well, look around your common room, the hallways, the Great Hall. Watch those couples who are in a relationship, straight, bent, any of them. You'll see them together but talking with friends, sharing meals together at each other's house tables, in study groups together. But they are also interacting with everyone else. It allows the couple to learn about each other, through interacting with each other's friends. It is all part of healthy relationships.

"You and Draco having to fight upstairs and then being alone downstairs in the Quidditch locker room? I don't want to embarrass you but I'll just be blunt, you run the risk of moving really fast, er, physically, and the emotional side of the relationship might be forgotten. But to make a real relationship work you have to have both... There is a thin line between love and hate, you have crossed over from one side to the other, I would hate to see you cross back."

"So you don't think that we should..." Harry looked out at the lake, a frown on his face.

"No, I'm not saying that at all, I just think you need to be aware of it and find away to balance everything."

"Would you want to come down and study with us sometimes? Harry asked hesitantly.

"I could do that, I really enjoyed spending time with you too, won't miss the Imperius part though. I was wondering..." Cedric looked at Harry almost embarrassed.

"What?"

"I would really love to learn how to conjure a Patronus." Harry laughed, "No, I'm serious. They don't even teach that to seventh years. I would love to try."

"Draco said he wanted to learn too," Harry said, "I don't know if I can teach you, but I can tell you what Lupin taught me."

Cedric smiled and held out his hand, "I think you truly underestimate your teaching abilities. Set it up with Draco, I can't wait to start."

Cedric hopped down from the ledge and looked up at Harry, "Think about what I said, talk to Draco about it. Let me know if you want to talk about anything."

Over the next few days it became clear how difficult it would be get time alone with Draco. Ron was eager to make up for three weeks of not talking by spending every minute with Harry. Hermione was already suspicious about how much time he had spent "studying" with Cedric.

Harry had spent much of the last week wondering about how everything had changed so quickly. He had kissed Draco Malfoy. Draco Malfoy had kissed him. After more than a year of wondering, of being unsure about whether or not he was gay, he had kissed another boy. He had kissed Malfoy and it had just felt so right. He could still remember the feel of Draco's body against his and just wanted more. Why he had even spent any time worrying about being gay? Anything that felt so good, so right, so brilliant couldn't be wrong.

Harry saw Draco coming down the hallway and tensed, Draco's campaign to give him hell hadn't relented throughout the week. To the glee of their fellow students and the consternation of Ron and Hermione, they had faced off four times, nearly coming to blows the last time.

Harry thought he was going to get past him without a problem when Draco grabbed him and shoved him against the wall. It felt so alike what had happened down in the locker room that Harry had to force himself to remember that they were in the middle of the second floor corridor and about 50 students were watching them. "What is your problem, Malfoy?"

"My problem is you, Potter." Harry had almost laughed at Draco. He hoped he knew what the real problem was, the fact that they hadn't been able to talk or see each other for the whole week.

"What are you going to be about it then?" Harry asked, biting his lip to keep from smiling.

Draco pushed him harder, "What I should have done years ago..." Harry shoved himself away from the wall, breaking Draco's grip on his shirt.

"Oh yeah, and what is that?" Harry circled around Draco, pulling his wand out.

"Oh, what are you going to do, hex me in? No magic in the hallways, Potter, surely you remember the rules." As he spoke Draco pulled out his own wand.

"When have the rules ever stopped you? Just name the time and place, Malfoy." Harry threatened.

"You want to meet-" Draco was cut off as Mad Eye Moody stomped down the corridor.

"I thought you learned your lesson about threatening students, Malfoy! Perhaps you've forgotten what it felt like to be a ferret." Moody stopped inches from Draco. Moody's magic eye whirled around to look at the other students. "Clear out, all of you! What are you do standing around here."

Harry slid his wand back into his pocket. "It is my fault Professor Moody, I, er, started it."

Moody swiveled his eye to look at Harry. "You did, did you?"

"Yes, sir." Harry shrugged, and nodded.

"Well, clear out the lot of you." Moody stomped down the corridor, dragging his wooden leg behind him. Draco sagged in relief, and Harry gave a quick smile and walked away. He slipped his hand into his pocket to retrieve the note that Draco had slipped him when he'd first pushed Harry against the wall.

"Tonight. 8 o'clock. Downstairs."

Harry smiled to himself as he headed towards Transfigurations.

Draco was already in the office when Harry came through the tunnel. He hesitated at the doorway to the office. "Hey,"

Draco leaned back in the chair and smiled. "Hey, yourself. Are you just going to stand there?"

Harry smiled and shook his head, walking into the office. "What's wrong?" Draco asked.

"Nothing," Harry shrugged, coming over to Draco and hopped on top of the desk next to him. "It is just that it has been so long that I'd started thinking that I had dreamed the other night." Draco smiled and stood up and leaned against Harry, putting his hands on either side of Harry on the desk. He leaned forward. "Well, maybe you did. What exactly did you dream?"

Harry took a deep breath, it had taken him a while to get used to Friendly Draco and now Teasing Draco was making his pulse race. "Hmmm. This," he leaned forward to kiss Draco, his hands pulling Draco's head forward. Draco nipped at his lower lip.

"Funny, I dreamed about the exact same thing. What else?' Harry looked nervously at Draco's teasing eyes. "Oh, erm, this." Harry closed his eyes and kissed Draco again, running his tongue against Draco's lips. Draco opened his mouth and their tongues twinned together. Harry fisted his hands in Draco's hair, forcing his head closer.

"Easy with the hair, Potter," Draco growled, breaking the kiss. "Don't want it looking like yours when we're done." Harry wrapped his arms around Draco instead, pulling his body closer.

"I definitely dreamed about messing with your hair, always too damn perfect." Harry replied.

"Well, that is where your memory and fantasies have gotten confused." He lifted his eyes to look at Harry's unruly mop. "Seriously, what is up with your hair? Do you want to know how much time I spent trying to figure out how anyone's hair can always look like same chaotic mess? I was sure you were making it look like that on purpose just to annoy me."

"Ditto with you and your hair." Harry laughed back, "Even during Quidditch your hair never dared be out of place. "

"That is what pureblood breeding will do for you. Perfect grooming at all times." Draco ran his hands up Harry's back. "Any idea how annoying it is to sit across the tables from you at breakfast every morning and wanting to come over and kiss you good morning."

"Fairly good idea, since you hexed me three times this week leaving breakfast." Harry grumbled. "Really, three times? Don't you think that is a little overkill?"

"Three words. Green. Fucking. Canary." Draco growled, "You are lucky I don't hex you every morning until the end of the school year." Harry couldn't help but burst out laughing at the memory of the feather covered Draco.

"You should thank me, everyone has forgotten about you turning into a ferret." Harry smiled.

"Right, and now everyone just makes tweeting noises at me as I walk by." Draco snarled. "At least ferrets don't make any noise."

Harry reached out and kissed the snarl off his face. There was no more talking until Draco broke away, breathing hard. "Fuck."

Harry couldn't argue. Draco was leaning against him, and he could tell that Draco was as excited as he was. He shifted his body, trying to get more comfortable. They stood in place, their foreheads touching trying to catch their breath. Harry closed his eyes to clear his thoughts. "Did Cedric talk to you, too?"

"Yea, nosy prat." Draco mumbled.

"What do you think?"

"Right now, or before you got here? A half hour ago I was thinking that he may have had a point. Now?" Draco pushed his hips suggestively against Harry. "I think that he has forgotten what it is like to be 14 and feeling like this."

"What point did you think was a good one?" Harry asked, forcing himself to look at Draco.

Draco sighed, his gray eyes dark "That I have spent the last year wanting to get to know you, wanting to know what it was like to be able to walk up and kiss you. I don't want to blow this and having you hate me again."

"Me, too,"

"So, where does that leave us?"

"Taking it a slowly? Studying?" Harry laughed, "Not that I could write a cohesive sentence right now."

"I have a better idea. I need a way to let you know when I need to see you. Notes are too risky."

Harry nodded., Draco went on, "And Granger and Weasley never leave your side these days."

"What about Goyle and Crabbe?" Draco grimaced, "Yeah, they are just as bad. A lot slower on the uptake though."

They finally came up with the idea of just using an insult using either 'ferret' or 'scarhead'. And then indicating the floor to meet and in how many minutes as part of the conversation or hand signals. They picked a spot and back up spot on each floor that was usually empty.

"Think anyone will catch on?" Harry asked.

"Only if they catch us in one of the alcoves, and then I can just punch you." Draco said easily, sliding his arms around Harry. "Snogging, fighting not much difference."

"No? Personally I prefer the snogging."

OoOOOOoO

Harry climbed the stairs out of the kitchen with Hermione and Ron. He couldn't believe that Dobby and Winky were working in the Hogwarts kitchens. Hermione was excitedly talking about S.P.E.W. and how if Dobby could be paid it would open the doors to house elf rights.

Harry was paying no attention to her, his mind was focused on the archway he had seen on the far side of the kitchen while he had been talking to Dobby. The archway that had stones carved with snitches. Could it be another tunnel to the locker room? He was going to have to ask Draco, maybe even bring him into the kitchen and try to get through to the tunnels that way. It would be good to have another way in and out of the locker room, it was getting tougher and tougher to sneak into the Gryffindor common room.

OoOOoOOo

Harry walked out of McGonagall's classroom thoroughly confused. A dance. He had to bring someone to the Yule Ball. He didn't even know how to dance let alone who to invite to one. He knew somehow that Draco was going to find this hilarious. His mind briefly flashed to he and Draco walking into the Great Hall together. Okay, that was funny. He could imagine the stunned expressions on everyone's faces. The deafening silence. The roar as everyone in the room realized what was happening. That would be pretty funny. Impossible, but funny.

"What's the matter, Potter, did McGonagall transform your pet Weasley into a rat?"

Harry rolled his eyes and turned to face Draco who was coming down the hall with Crabbe and Goyle. He did not understand why, of all the Slytherins, Draco chose to spend the most time with those two lumps of clay.

"No, Draco, I was just standing here wondering how long it was going to take you to turn back into a ferret. My guess is four maybe five minutes at the most."

Harry walked past Draco, their shoulders just grazing each others. He counted to ten and then turned around. Draco was looking over his shoulder and nodded and turned back. Harry continued down the hall with a smile on his face.

Harry quickly went down the corridor and ran up the staircase to the fifth floor. The corridor was empty with most fourth year students having a free hour before lunch. He slowly walked down the corridor until he came to the tapestry of the mead-drinking monks. Checking that the corridor was empty he quickly ducked behind the tapestry. Not for the first time Harry was amused by how many tapestry covered alcoves there were at Hogwarts. Great for snogging and private conversations, strange that the faculty didn't mind them.

Draco ducked in a minute later. He looked over at Harry who was sitting on the window ledge. Draco hesitated a moment and then came over to him and kissed him lightly ."What's up?"

Harry flashed him a nervous smile.

"Did you know there was going to be a Yule Ball?"

"Of course, not exactly a secret. Why?"

"Did you know the Triwizard Champions have to bring dance partners and dance the first dance?"

Draco burst out laughing, "Oh, I'm not going to miss that for anything."

"Yea, I pretty much figured that would be your reaction." Harry grumbled.

Draco tilted his chin up and kissed him, "Who are you going to take?"

"You?" Harry smiled into the kiss.

"Not bloody likely." Draco leaned against Harry, pushing him against the window. "Second choice?"

"I don't know! Who am I supposed to ask to a dance? A girl? Right? It has to be a girl?"

"Better be, or I'm going to be very upset with you." Draco murmured in his ear.

"Not to mention how many other problems that would cause." Harry grumbled.

"Right. So, who is going to be the lucky girl? Granger?"

"Hermione? No, that would be too weird. Wait. Who are you going to bring?"

"Easy. Pansy. "

"She better not be easy." Harry scowled at the blond who still had him trapped against the window.

"Oh, she is, but she knows I'm not interested. She and I practically grew up together, took dance lessons, I think Mother even hoped that we would end up together.

"That's the other problem! Doesn't matter who I ask, I've never danced a step in my life! How am I supposed to dance in front of everyone!" Harry pulled his hand through his hair. Draco caught his hand and kissed it.

"What do you mean you've never danced? Surely Muggles dance."

"Of course, they do, but it is not like I've ever been to a dance let alone had dance lessons. This is hopeless, I'm going to look like an idiot out there."

"No, you won't, I'll-" Draco whipped his head around at the sound of voices coming from the corridor. He pushed away from Harry and drew his wand. Harry pulled his out and pointed it at Draco just as the tapestry pulled back revealing two giggling Hufflepuff third years.

"I'm warning you, Potter, don't try a stunt like that again..." Draco glared at Harry and brushed past the shocked Hufflepuffs.

OoOOoOOo

Harry entered the Quidditch locker room and looked towards the office. Draco was sitting with at the desk, a large piece of paper in front of him, he looked up and quickly shoved the paper into a desk drawer.

"What was that?" Harry came around the desk and kissed Draco. He was still reveling in the idea that he could actually touch Draco and not get hexed.

"My Father Christmas List." Draco said, "You can't read it. It is just between him and me." He stood up and pressed Harry against the edge of the table.

"Hmmm. I don't know, are you sure that you aren't getting a lump of coal this year?" Harry wrapped his arms around Draco's waist.

"You think I'm on the naughty list? Can't be, I've been an angel, naughty thoughts don't count you know." Draco bent his head forward and nipped at Harry's ear.

There was a loud cough from the locker room and Harry dropped his arms from Draco, blushing slightly, as Cedric walked into the office.

"Hi Cedric." Draco smiled brightly at him.

"I really think I should get a loud bell and ring it before I even open the door." Cedric said looking between the two of them with a smile on his face.

"Well, once you learn how to do a Patronus you can send one ahead. Dead handy they are, can leap through walls. Lupin told me you can even use them to deliver verbal messages. I haven't learned that yet though."

Cedric nodded, "I've heard that, we'll have to see how that is done." he looked over at Draco, "Did you tell him yet?"

Draco smiled and shook his head. "Nope, waiting for you."

"Tell me what?" Harry looked concernedly between the two of them. "What's wrong."

"Nothing, except..." Draco stood up and went to the large wardrobe that was in the corner of the room, "We aren't meeting for Patronus lessons today." He opened the door and pulled out a large case.

"We aren't? What's that?" Harry looked nervously between the two of them.

Draco set the case down on the desk and took off the lid revealing a record player. "Grab the records, Ced." Cedric went over to the wardrobe and pulled out a stack of record albums.

"You have a record player! How? Is it Muggle or magic?" Harry came over to look at the player.

"Of course it is magic, but it can play Muggle records too, I think. I play music sometimes when I'm studying or draw-goofing off."

"Goofing off?" Harry smiled, "Sounds like something I would be good at."

"I'm sure you excel at goofing off. However, this, Harry Potter- The Boy Who Has Never Danced, is your first dance lesson."

Harry groaned and looked at Cedric who laughed and held up his hands, "Wasn't my idea, Draco said that you needed lessons."

"You two are going to teach me how to dance?" Harry said in disbelief.

"Who else is going to? Do you want to go out there and try it for the first time in front of everyone? I think not. I recruited Cedric here to be your first victim. I value my toes too much to sacrifice them to the cause."

"Something tells me I'm going to be no good at dancing."

"Hmmm. You always do seem to be stumbling around. There is only three weeks to the dance, scarcely enough time."

"Maybe I should wear steel-toed shoes." Cedric said, looking worriedly at his own feet.

"This is probably Draco's Slytherin plot of to ensure that you aren't fit for the next task. You could be laid up in the hospital wing for weeks. Toes crushed so badly that even Skele-Gro can't fix them" Harry agreed.

Draco replied. "Enough procrastinating. You two over there" He motioned to the open floor area in front of the desk. "I shall supervise." Draco sat very un-Malfoy like on the top of the desk with his legs criss-crossed and started sorting through the records. "The Wicked Sisters are playing at the dance. Probably one of their slow songs for the first dance." He carefully placed the record on the spindle.

Harry looked from Cedric to Draco. "You are really serious about this?"

Draco shook his head sadly at Cedric, "Very slow on the pickup isn't he? You," He pointed at Harry, "Put your right arm around Cedric's waist, and your left arm should hold his right hand. Cedric, you know what to do." Draco flicked his wand at the record player and the needle on the record moved over and dropped on the spinning record. The opening chords of the Wicked Sisters "Your Magic Moves Me" started playing.

Cedric held up his arms to Harry and winked, "I'll be gentle, I promise." Harry shook his head and blushing deeply stepped forward and put his left arm around Cedric's waist. Draco sighed and shook his head, "Your right arm, Potter." Harry cursed and switched arms.

"Right now, the proper distance to maintain with your dance partner is 5 to 8 inches. Don't squeeze too close or I'll hex you." Draco said with a wave of his wand.

"Remember to look at your partner, Harry, not your feet." Harry promptly looked down at his feet. "NOT at your feet. You are going to lead, of course. Look up at Cedric." Harry turned and stared at Draco, "Look at Cedric. It doesn't matter that he is taller than you. You probably are going to be shorter than any girl willing to say yes to you. You are going to need to lead and the first step is to leading is to be confident and and, Merlin help us, in charge of the dance."

Harry dropped Cedric's hand. "Isn't it just shuffling your feet around?"

"Maybe for Muggles, but for purebloods there is definitely no feet shuffling." Draco clapped his hands. "As you were. Now your hand should be gripping Cedric's lightly but firmly" Harry rolled his eyes. "To lead you are going to communicate with all of your contact points - your eyes, left hand, and your right arm which way you want your partner to step."

"But I don't know!"

"Patience, Oh Chosen One. Step apart I'll show you what I'm talking about." Draco moved over to Cedric and with a smile bowed to Cedric "May I have this dance."

Cedric laughingly curtsied, "My pleasure, sir." in a false falsetto. Draco stepped into Cedric's arms and they immediately started moving in around the room as if they had danced together for years. Harry couldn't help but admire how easily they circled the room, avoiding the desk and chairs, perfectly in tune with the music. He actually felt a little relieved when the perfection was broken as Cedric stumbled while going backwards. "Sorry, not used to following."

"Alright," Draco stepped away from Cedric, "Did you see the steps?" Harry gave him a blank stare, "Uh, no."

Draco sighed dramatically, he turned and flicked his wand at the record player to stop the music. Harry glared at him. Draco kissed him. "You are going to thank me for this."

"If I were you, I'd think twice about having any blueberry tart tomorrow night." Harry grumbled.

"Try it and I'll trip hex you throughout your entire first dance," Draco drawled coming up to stand next to Harry and held out his arms as if he had a partner. "The basic steps, and that is all we will have time to learn are, step step, step hold, step step, step hold. And again, and again. Look at my feet, Potter."

Cedric was leaning against the desk and watching, "Come on Harry, you fought a dragon, I think this is well within your abilities." Harry's face burning with embarrassment as he attempted to make his feet make the same steps that as Draco's.

"Good, now with the music, Cedric if you would." Cedric obligingly started the music. "Wait for it... you have to listen to the beats in the music, you just don't start moving. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and begin...Listen to the music, follow the beat of the music..."

By the end of the hour, Harry was able to navigate Cedric around the room with only bumping himself and Cedric into the desk once. "That is going to have to be good enough for tonight. I think I'll need to stop by hospital wing after all for that Skele-Gro after all." Cedric said, falling into a chair.

"Did I really..." Harry looked alarmed, he had stepped on his toes a few times.

"Kidding, Harry." Cedric gave him a brief shake of the head. "What other music do you have, Draco? I think I've heard enough of the Wicked Sisters to last me to the dance."

"Take a look..." Draco pointed to the small stack of records next to the player.

"Do you have any Muggle music?" Harry asked when he joined Cedric flipping through the stack.

"No, why would I buy Muggle records?" Draco said with a laugh, he wrapped his arm around Harry's waist.

"Just wondering."

"Do you listen to Muggle music at your uncle's house?" Draco asked.

Harry hesitated, "Me, no. Dudley has a CD player in his room, it plays smaller silver discs." he sighed and slipped a record out of its sleeve and turned it carefully over and slid it back. "Records are considered to be old-fashioned now for Muggles. It's a shame, there is something special about a vinyl record album."

"But you've seen a record player before right? You knew how to work it." Draco persisted. Harry hesitated and then tugged the hair of his fringe forward nervously.

"I had one for a little while, but something happened to it."

Cedric looked curiously at Harry, "What happened? Your cousin break it?"

Harry glanced from Cedric to Draco and shrugged, "No, not my cousin, my uncle."

Cedric sat down, "Why don't you tell us what happened."

Harry glanced at Draco, "He just put on his therapist hat, didn't he?"

Draco nodded, "Best not to fight it, he is like a boggart, won't stop until you give in and answer his questions."

"Still waiting," Cedric said with an easy smile.

"Okay, well, when I was nine I was shifting around the boxes stored in the cupboard where I slept. I was getting bigger and there wasn't a lot of room to stretch out. Anyway, I found a box that had been pushed back beneath the lowest part of the stairs. I opened it up and it was an old pink record player that had been decorated with flower stickers and peace signs."

"Whose was it?" Draco asked curiously as he reached out and grabbed Harry's hand.

"My mother's...she had painted her name on the side of the player. 'Lily' in big curly rainbow coloured letters." Harry said closing his eyes and seeing the name Lily in his head. "There were record albums, too. A whole box of them and headphones. Big old fashioned headphones. It was the first time I had held anything that had belonged to my mother."

Harry felt a burning in his eyes. Five years later he could still feel the excitement as he realized what he was holding. "I hadn't even seen a photograph of my mother back then, the Dursleys had refused to acknowledge her at all. But those records, I knew that she had handled each one of the records, had picked them at the store, had listened to them wearing those headphones."

"Did you play the records?" Cedric asked quietly. "What were the groups?"

"Old Muggle groups, Beatles, lots of Beatles, Rolling Stones, Cream, Simon & Garfunkel. There was a little bit of everything."

Harry stood up and started to pace back and forth. Draco look at him with narrowed eyes. "What happened. You already said your uncle broke the record player."

Harry looked over at Draco who was leaning against the desk. "I was able to keep it a secret for about a year. There was a plug- an electric plug in the cupboard, I would listen every night or whenever they had locked me in the cupboard. I could lie there on that tiny cot wearing the headphones and imagine what it would be like if my mother was still alive and was playing me her favorite music. I knew all of the words by heart, all of the album notes, the covers, and imagined my mother doing the same thing."

"And what happened." Cedric asked.

Harry stood still in the middle of the room, closing his eyes to block the memories. "One night, I must have fallen asleep and turned over. The plug for the headphones came out and the music blasted out of the player. With the headphones on I hadn't realized what had happened, but my uncle heard it. He pulled me out of the cupboard and ..."

"What did he do Harry?"

"He was mad. Really mad." Harry shuddered involuntarily at the memory, "He smashed it. He smashed the record player to pieces with his big Smelting cane. And then he smashed the record albums. The only thing I had from my mother and he destroyed it."

Draco walked over and put his arms around Harry. "I tried to save the bit of the case that had her name on it but he threw it all into the dustbin. I think Aunt Petunia was furious with him when she got home. They had a huge row and he had to sleep on the sofa. Made me wonder the reason she kept it all those years, they had always said that my mother was a bad person. Why would Aunt Petunia keep her record player and be mad at my uncle for destroying it? But that was the only thing I had of my mother until Hagrid made a photo album for me of photographs he had gathered from my parent's friends after my first year."

Cedric and Draco looked at him in stunned shock. Draco leaned his forehead against Harry's "Well, we have two things in common, Quidditch and a life away from Howarts that is horrible."

"Fucking Merlin's Beard," Cedric swore and Harry turned to look at him in disbelief, it was the first time he had ever heard the even-tempered sixth year raise his voice let alone swear. "Have either of you ever," Cedric closed his eyes in frustration, opening them to glare at them both, "Ever thought of asking someone for help? To talk to anyone? Dumbledore? McGonagall? Snape?"

Both boys shrugged simultaneously, "Why would we?" Harry asked.

"Because, what you two are going through is just...wrong." Cedric threw himself out of his chair and started pacing, "It is wrong that a guardian destroy the only memory an orphan has of his mother! It is wrong that a father force his child to beat his mother! You both realize that these kind of things are not what happen in normal families, right?"

Harry scowled, "Sure, but if your 'family' isn't normal there isn't much you can do to change it. You just have to deal."

Cedric looked between the two of them in amazement, "That's the thing, you shouldn't have to deal. There is help available in the Muggle world, even in our world," He looked at Harry. "You were still in primary school when this happened, you could have gone to a teacher. They are obligated by Muggle law to report abuse cases."

"But they never hit me," Harry protested, "He smashed a record player."

"They made you live in a fucking closet, Harry." Cedric's face was pale in fury, his gray eyes flashing in anger, "That is abuse. They fed you through a flap in the door. That is abuse. And Draco," He turned to face Draco. "I admit that it is tougher in the pureblood wizarding world to seek help, but with someone powerful behind you, someone like Dumbledore..."

"I would never go to Dumbledore for help. I am a Malfoy," Draco pulled himself up coldly, "We deal with our family problems ourselves."

"And where has that gotten you?" Cedric snapped, "Think of your father, where did you think he learned how to torture a child? From his own father. Abused children more often than not become abusers. Do you want to continue you this chain?"

"I'm fucking gay, I'm not going to have to worry about that." Draco snapped, he tightened his hold around Harry.

"Oh no? You don't think your father isn't going to force you into a pureblood marriage to a witch the minute you graduate from Hogwarts? Do you think your father is going to let the Malfoy bloodline die? There are dark potions that can be used to temporarily alter a person's sexual orientation. Do you think that your father would be above using such a potion on you?"

"That is years away," Draco said, "A lot can change."

"Only if you allow things to change, only if you have the support to stand behind you." Cedric replied in a calmer voice. He pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, I never blow up like this...it's just that it is extremely frustrating for me. The more I know about what you are both going through at home...this is way beyond what I can help you with and I don't know what to do..."

"We don't expect you to do anything. It doesn't affect us here." Harry said, leaning back against Draco.

"It doesn't? See that is interesting, I think it does affect you. If you had the support of family behind you, maybe you wouldn't have to hide your relationship. If you hadn't been abused for the last decade, maybe you wouldn't hide who you are behind aggressive behavior." Cedric looked at Draco and then at Harry. "Maybe if Dumbledore knew what you were going through in your home he could find somewhere else for you to go each summer.

"But don't worry, I'm not going to say anything. But I want you both to consider the possibility of getting help for your home situations. Before something serious happens to one or both of you."

Cedric sighed, and held up his hands, showing defeat. "Okay, I'll take my therapist hat off, now, but please think about what I said."

OoOoOOooO

After much debate Harry finally decided to ask Cho Chang to the dance. She has been one of the few students who had been nice to him before the first task. It was a plus that she was the Ravenclaw seeker so that they could probably talk about Quidditch. Harry had never felt really comfortable talking to girls other than Hermione so that would be good to have something he felt he could talk about.

After a week of trying to find a time when she wasn't surrounded by her friends he gave up and realized that he would have to walk up to her in front of everyone and ask to talk to her. He stood outside the Defense against the Dark Arts classroom waiting for her class to get out. She emerged from the classroom laughing with her friends. "Erm, Cho, can I talk to you for a minute?" he asked, face bright red.

oOoOOOoOoo

Harry slouched into the Quidditch locker room, Cedric and Draco were already waiting for him.

"What's wrong? Draco asked immediately.

"Finally got a date for the dance," Harry said miserably.

"Oh, ho." said Draco with a smile. "Who is the unlucky girl?"

Harry threw a glance at Cedric, "Well, I asked Cho Chang first..." Cedric laughed and Draco looked confused.

"I asked Cho to the dance last week." Cedric explained to Draco, "Sorry, Harry, didn't know that is who you were thinking of asking. I could have asked someone else. Simon was in Ravenclaw so Cho and I saw a lot of each other last year while Simon was still here. Simon can't come to the ball, so I asked Cho."

"Poor Harry," Draco shook his head, "So you had to ask two girls...who was your next choice?"

"Pavarti Padma," Harry grimaced, "She was just walking by while Ron and I were talking. She giggles. A lot. But her sister is going to go with Ron, so he is taken care of too."

"Good. Now you can focus all of that anxiety that has been twisting your stomach into a knot towards something more important. Me." Draco kissed him hard on the lips, Harry glanced at Cedric and broke away but didn't object to Draco's arm draped around his shoulders. "By the way, how did you get away from the Weasley rat?"

"Ron not Rat." Harry said automatically, "I finally just told him that I needed time alone to think about things, and to not ask me about it. I think he feels guilty enough about the way he treated me that he didn't object. But I think Hermione is suspicious."

"What do you mean? Suspects what?" Draco asked.

Cedric smiled knowingly, "She thinks Harry and I have something going on." Harry nodded, "She came up to me at the library and gave me a not too subtle hint that I should not be...carefree with your emotions."

"She what! She can't do that...!" Harry blustered. Cedric waved a hand.

"It's fine, I'm glad she is a good enough friend that she wants to look out for you." Cedric said reassuringly, "But it could cause problems for you if she thinks you are studying with me and she sees me upstairs without you..."

Harry nodded, "I'll think of something."

Draco peered down his nose at Harry, "All this subterfuge could be avoided if you just told them both to mind their own business. There are advantages to being a rude Slytherin and not a whimpering Gryffindor."

"So, what lesson is it going to be today? Dancing or Patronus?" Cedric asked, ignoring Draco's comment.

"Patronus." Harry said firmly. "That I can do."

OooOoOoOOO

Three days later at breakfast, Harry was busy ignoring Hermione's dire warnings about his not taking the second task seriously when the owls began swooping into the Great Hall. With so many students staying for the Yule Feast the owls were delivering many more packages and bundles than usual.

"Cor' look at those owls," Ron pointed, a bit of egg stuck to his face, "Wonder who is getting that." Harry looked up to see three large barn owls carefully flying with a large package strung between the three of them. The owls circled and then carefully landed next to Draco Malfoy.

"Malfoy, figures." Ron grumbled. "Probably a new book on hexes to curse us with."

Harry watched with narrowed eyes as Draco carefully untied the bundle and flipped each of the owls a piece of sausage before waving his arm and sending them off. The owls weren't from Malfoy Manor, Harry knew all of the owls his father used. Draco didn't open the package, just placed it carefully on the floor next to him. "I wonder what could it be..."

"I don't know, Harry. Why don't you just go and ask him." Hermione said, annoyed that Harry wasn't paying attention to her. "Honestly, Harry. There is only two months to the task, nine weeks! You haven't even figured out the egg, let alone figured out what you need to learn..."

Harry nodded abstractedly. Draco caught him staring and winked at him and went on talking to Blaise next to him.

"Harry, have you thought about asking Cedric." Hermione asked quietly.

That did catch Harry's attention, he swung around to look at her. "What do you mean?"

"Well, I thought that maybe that he might know something...might be willing to help you. Considering that... you know, you study together." Hermione finished quietly, giving him a significant look.

"Oh, er. Well. Uh, no." Harry cursed himself for being able to think of lies as quickly as Draco and decided to go for the truth. "We are supposed to solve it ourselves you know, I couldn't ask him."

Hermione nodded, "I suppose, but he might be willing to give you a hint."

Ron turned and looked at them, "Who you are talking about? Cedric Diggory? Why would he want to help Harry? He is the competition!"

Harry shook his head quickly at Hermione who frowned at him and then looked at Ron, "No reason."

Chapter Text

Christmas. Harry hadn't even thought about what he could get Draco for Christmas. And how strange was that, Harry realized. He was sitting in the middle of History of Magic wondering what he could get Draco Malfoy for Christmas. It was only a week away, he would either have to get something at Hogsmeade on Saturday or order it by owl and that could take a while. It had been easy picking out Hermione and Ron's presents. Harry had no idea what you get for your former nemesis that you are now secretly seeing. Harry glanced over at Draco. He had his head down and was doodling on a piece of parchment. His right arm was covering the paper so he couldn't see what it was. Every few minutes he glanced over at Harry and then back down at the paper.

"What are you doing?" Harry mouthed to him the next time Draco looked at him. Draco just gave a quick smirk and shook his head and shifted to make it harder for Harry to see the paper. Harry frowned and looked back at his own notes and quill. He quickly looked back at Draco and realized what didn't look right. Draco wasn't holding his quill; it was lying on the desk. What was he writing with if not his quill?

Harry glanced around the room. Ron was giving him a funny look. Harry looked down at his own parchment and pretended to be writing notes. He knew Ron had seen him and Malfoy looking at each other. He would have to fake another fight with Draco; may as well start it now. Harry pulled his wand out and pointed it at Draco's quill.

"Mobilipluma" he murmured and the quill started lifting from Draco's desk. Harry flicked his wand cautiously and the quill started to bounce. Draco looked up and realized what was happening and grabbed for it. Harry smirked and made the quill go higher. He glanced over at Ron who was laughing quietly in his seat. Looking back Draco was trying to grab his quill; students around the room were breaking out laughing. Hermione frowned at Harry.

Draco swore and flipped over the parchment on his desk before Harry could see it and stood up trying to grab at the dancing quill. Binns voice droned on; more and more students were watching. Harry flicked his wand down and the quill dropped to the ground. Draco snatched up the quill and growled at Harry before sitting back down. He pulled a book out of his bookbag and slammed it on the desk. He bent his head down and read it, looking up only to glare occasionally are Harry.

At last the class was over, Draco quickly got up and left the classroom, glaring at Harry as he left. Harry slowly put away his ink and quill. Parvati had a class in the classroom across the hall and he knew she would be waiting for him right outside the door. If he waited long enough she would have to leave for her next class and he could be late for Charms, Flitwik had been so impressed with Harry's summoning charm during the first task that he could probably skip class and the professor would be delighted.

"Come on, Harry" Hermione said impatiently, coming to stand next to his desk "You can't avoid her the whole week. You are going to have to talk to Parvati at some point."

"Not if I can help it..." Harry muttered. Every time he did talk to her, she just giggled.

"Harry, isn't this where Malfoy was sitting?" Hermione asked frowning, looking down at the desk.

Harry turned slowly and looked over at where she was standing next to Draco's desk, "Erm, yeah, I guess so. Why?"

"These smudges on the desk. Do they look like anything to you?" Hermione was turning her head to try to see them at a different angle.

Harry came over and looked to see, there were faint, dark smudges on the desk. The smudges looked a little bit like a face. Harry squinted, they looked a lot like a face.

"Harry, it is a face, don't you see? Here is the mouth and chin and nose, and the face looks like it is wearing...Harry! It's you! He drew you!" Harry froze. It was his face, in faint charcoal smudges on the desk. Draco had been drawing him. When he had flipped over the paper because Harry had sent his quill up in that air, and then set his book on top. It must have transferred some of the charcoal on to the desk top.

"What's that?" Ron came over from the doorway where he had been standing guard for Harry, watching to make sure that Parvati had left. Hermione was biting her lip and pointing at the trace of Harry's face.

"Why in Godrick Gryffindor's name would he be drawing you?" Ron looked at it horrified. Harry opened his mouth but no words came out.

Hermione looked over at the both of them, her face a little pale. "Do you think it is some kind of dark magic? Like those Haitian voodoo dolls you hear about?"

Hermione's word shook Harry into action; he took the sleeve of his robe and quickly rubbed away the smudges.

"Oi! What are you doing?" Ron pulled back Harry's arm but the smudges were gone. "Why did you do that? That was evidence!"

"It was nothing! Just some weird smudges that looked a little like me if you squinted. Like the Muggles who see the Virgin Mary in a crisp." Harry looked from Hermione to Ron. "It really didn't look at all like me."

Hermione looked unsure, "I think I should check in the library to make sure, I haven't heard about that type of curse but..."

Harry gritted his teeth, "Look, we are going to be really late for Charms. We'd better go..." he grabbed Hermione by the arm and steered her out of the classroom.

OooOOoOOO

The next night he met Cedric and Draco for another Patronus lesson downstairs. The previous time they had only been able to produce a thin trail of silvery vapor from the tips of their wand. "Okay, you have the incantation down now. Just remember that you have to think the happiest thought that you can think of and put all of those feelings into the incantation and feel it flow through your wand arm and through your wand."

Draco and Cedric stood on either side of Harry in the center of the locker room. "Ready to give it another try?"

Cedric smiled and nodded and Draco gave a curt nod, "Okay," Harry pulled out his wand, "On three, one, two, three. Expecto Patronum!" Harry's stag leaped in full form from Harry's wand. Harry scarcely spared it a glance; he looked quickly over at Draco's wand. A shimmering veil of silver formed a shield and then disappeared. Harry heard Cedric's laugh of delight and turned to see a large silvery bird flying around the horns of his stag.

"You did it!" Harry slapped Cedric on the back and watched the two Patronuses. Cedric's faded after a minute and disappeared in a rain of silver dew towards the ground. "That was incredible; I've never seen a bird Patronus before! It almost looked like a crow or a raven."

"A raven," agreed Draco, "too big to be a crow."

"Alright, Draco this time it is your turn. Happy thought and feel it in your wand."

Cedric was still smiling in delight that he had produced a Patronus. "Hey, Harry." he came over to Harry and whispered in his ear.

Harry blushed, "I..."

"Worth a try." Cedric said with a wink. "I'll just be practicing over here." He wandered off into the office.

"Where's he going?" Draco asked, staring down at his wand as if questioning why it wasn't obeying him. Harry walked over to Draco and took the wand out of his hand "what are you...mmph" Harry grabbed Draco and wrapped his arms around him. He forced Draco to walk backwards until he was against the locker. Harry ran his hands over Draco's chest and slipped his tongue into his mouth. Draco growled and started returning kiss for kiss. Draco grabbed Harry's head and pulled him towards him. Harry stopped abruptly and handed Draco his wand back, the blond automatically reached for it. Harry stood behind him and whispered. "Think the happiest thought you can imagine, and just do it." Draco turned and stared at Harry, "Are you kidding me?"

"Nope."

"Right then, Expecto Patronum." Draco held his wand steady and the silvery mist sprang from his wand and formed for a few brief shimmering seconds a large four legged animal... he lowered his wand and it disappeared.

"You did it!" Harry shouted excitedly. "Try again." Draco gave the incantation again and the animal reformed, and loped past the lockers and disappeared.

"A panther, your Patronus is a panther." Harry smiled shaking his head at Draco, "figures, I always thought you moved like a jungle cat."

"A jungle cat? How can anyone move like a cat?" Draco protested, but he was laughing with delight at where his Patronus had disappeared.

"Pretty cool Patronus, Draco," Cedric said voice from the doorway. "I figured you just needed some extra incentives to get motivated."

oOOOo

Harry, Ron and Hermione stood at the top of the High Street into Hogsmeade. "We'll meet up in an hour at the Three Broomsticks, right?" Hermione said looking at the other two. "No peeking at what shops I'm going into!"

Ron and Harry exchanged glances. They knew that Hermione did all of her shopping at Smythwick's bookstore, and there was no danger that they would be shopping there.

"Right," Harry confirmed, "One hour." Fortunately, he had already bought Ron and Hermione's during the last Hogsmeade weekend. He quickly moved down the street until he got to Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop. There were a number of Hogwarts students in the shop and Harry poked around looking at the various quills and parchments on display. At last the clerk was free and Harry stepped up to the counter.

"I owled you an order...I'm, er, Harry-"

"Harry Potter!" The clerk's eyes rose automatically to Harry's forehead. "We've got your order and have it all ready for you! Perhaps you would like to inspect the kit?" Harry looked around and saw the other students in the store looking at him.

"No!" Harry said hastily, "I'm sure it is fine! Just wrap it up and I'll take it." Harry quickly pulled out enough galleons to pay for the package and left the store. He hurried to meet Ron and Hermione at the Three Broomsticks. Hermione was the last to arrive, carrying large rectangular packages.

"Done at last!" She said with a smile, "Harry, can I use Hedwig to deliver my parent's presents?"

"Sure, she'll be glad to get out." Harry said, looking around the room. Draco was at a table on the other side of the room. Ron and Hermione had seen him also. Hermione gave Harry a nervous look.

"Just because I couldn't find anything about a dark curse that involves drawing the victim, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist, Harry." Hermione said, "If I could just get into the Restricted section..."

"Hermione, really just drop it." Harry said impatiently. "I haven't broken out in boils, or drool, or anything. It was just a smudge on a desk."

"Doesn't seem like you, Harry." Ron said looking at him questioningly, "You've always been willing to see the worst in Malfoy. Why not now?"

Harry shrugged and took a sip of butterbeer, "I don't know. He isn't that devious, I guess. If he is going to try something he is just going to hex me or trip me, not use dark magic. So, Hermione, when are you going to tell us who you are going to the dance with? We are going to find out in three days anyway..."

OooOOoOOOoO

Christmas Eve Morning

Harry woke up early, Ron and the others will still asleep in their beds. Gathering up his clothes he hurried into the bathroom to get dressed. He walked down the steps into the common room that was still empty. He swiftly opened the tunnel door; Draco's present was sitting on the steps where he had hid it the night they had gotten back from Hogsmeade, along with a basket he had gotten from Dobby. He went down the stairs, hoping that Draco hadn't overslept and would be waiting for him.

They had agreed to meet before breakfast on Christmas Eve, it would be impossible to get away from their friends over the next two days. Harry figured that most of the Gryffindors would sleep in late and wouldn't notice that he was missing from his bed.

Harry walked into the locker room and smiled as he saw Draco standing in the office waiting for him. "Happy Christmas" he said with a smile and a kiss as he realized that Draco had put a Christmas record on the player and started a fire in the fireplace.

Draco grumpily kissed back, "Too bloody early for happy anything. Couldn't we have met tonight?"

Harry smiled, "Too many people sneaking in and out of each other's rooms leaving presents. Here I have something to make you feel better." Harry sat down on the floor in front of the fireplace and opened the basket. "Breakfast"

"You are sitting on the floor." Draco said. He was still standing and staring down at Harry.

"It's a picnic breakfast; you eat picnics on the ground not in chairs." Harry retorted.

"Picnics are eaten on picnic blankets, not the floor," Draco said as he walked over to the large wardrobe, "there is a difference." He opened the wardrobe and pulled out a green bundle. Walking towards Harry he unfolded it to reveal a blanket with a large coiled snake, the Slytherin emblem. With a flick of his arms he laid the blanket on the floor and sat down, looking at Harry. His lip twitching, Harry moved over and sat next to him on the blanket, bringing the basket with him.

Draco perked up as he looked in the basket. "How did you manage that?"

"I asked Dob-one of the house elves to fix a breakfast basket." Harry said with a shrug. He wasn't sure if Draco knew that the Malfoy's former house elf was down in the kitchen or if he would even care but didn't want to make trouble for Dobby. He started pulling out pastries, scones and a thermos of hot chocolate. He held out a sticky bun. "You had said that you always wanted to kiss me at breakfast. Here is your chance."

"Hmmm." said Draco as he bit into the bun and then leaned over and gave Harry a sticky kiss, "I guess I can forgive you for the atrocious hour. Especially if you share that hot chocolate.

"Oops. No mugs." said Harry looking at the empty basket, in true Dobby fashion he had neglected to put in any plates or mugs.

"No worries" said Draco, he went over to the desk and pulled out a mug out of a drawer, "We can share." He opened the thermos and poured the steaming frothy chocolate into the mug.

"Are you ready for tomorrow?" Draco asked with a smile, peering over the rim of the mug as he took a sip and then handed the mug to Harry.

Harry grimaced "No, be just as glad when it is over. At least she has stopped following me around."

"How did you manage that?" Draco asked.

"I dunno, she just did. Hermione probably talked to her, she is good with that kind of thing."

"Talking to people?"

"Yeah, I'm bollocks at it."

"You talk okay to me, most of the time."

"You're not a girl." Harry mumbled, his mouth full of bun.

"Thank you for noticing." Draco leaned forward and licked a bit of caramel from Harry's lip. Harry dropped the bun on the blanket and reached out and pulled Draco towards him. Lips and teeth mashed together in a flurry as Draco pushed Harry farther and farther back until he was laying on the blanket, Draco atop him. Harry ran his hands up and down Draco's back, reveling in the feel of him. Draco was supporting his weight with his arms on either side of Harry. Their tongues danced together, Harry could taste chocolate and caramel and Draco and just wanted more.

Harry reached up and fumbled as he tried to unbutton Draco's shirt. He finally got it open to and slipped his hands against Draco's chest. Draco responded by pushing his leg between Harry's. Harry groaned at the contact, lifting his hips to grind against Draco's. He slipped his hands around to grip Draco's arse, pulling him closer.

Many minutes later; breathing hard Draco broke away, Harry fumbled and pushed off the floor, he looked over at Malfoy who was brushing sticky bun crumbs off his jersey. "This is why civilized people don't go on picnics," he grumbled, his cheeks flame red against the paleness of his skin.

Harry reached over and kissed him once slowly on the side of his neck, "Hmmm. I think this is exactly why people have picnics."

"Don't start again or we'll never get our presents open." Draco whispered, reaching out and grabbing a hold of Harry's chin and turning it towards him, giving him one hard kiss. "And I, for one, am eager to open presents."

Harry smiled and stood up. He retrieved the package that he had left by the door. "Happy Christmas, Draco." Draco gave him a delighted smile and went over to the chair. Harry leaned against the desk and nervously watched him open the package, he chewed on his lip. He was suddenly second guessing himself, what if he had been wrong?

Draco carefully opened the package; he didn't tear through the paper but carefully unpeeled the tape on either end. "It feels like a book..." Harry felt like wrestling it away from him and tearing off the paper for him. At last the box was free. The hinged wooden box had two latches. Draco looked at Harry curiously and then flipped open the latches and opened it.

He stared into the box without saying anything for so long that Harry wanted to grab it out of his hands and apologize. At last Draco looked up, his gray eyes dark and untelling. "How did you know?"

"It's okay then? I didn't know, not for sure." Harry said to him anxiously.

Draco pulled out a charcoal drawing pencil and held it in his hand, "It is wonderful..." Harry sagged with relief. The artist's box was filled with colored & charcoal pencils, a sharpener and pastels. A sheaf of drawing paper was carefully fitted inside the lid.

"But how did you know?" Draco repeated with a small smile of wonder on his face.

"That day in Binns class? You flipped your drawing over... and it left a mark on the desk and we saw it." Harry said, coming over and standing next to Draco.

"We? Who we?" Draco asked alarmed.

"Oh, erm, Hermione noticed it first, and realized that the smudges looked like me, and erm, Ron."

Draco shook his head alarmed, "What? Why didn't you tell me before!"

"We've hardly talked since then, but it's okay. Hermione thought you were doing some kind of curse on me. And I rubbed it off before Ron saw it properly."

"It's okay because Hermione thought it was a curse..." Draco shook his head disbelievingly. "But..."

"After I saw it I remembered all of the times that I'd seen you with smudges on your sleeves and hands." Harry shrugged, "Always puzzled me because you are so ...fastidious. So why would you let yourself get all smudgy? Once I saw the drawing I realized...and it all made sense."

Draco stood up and carefully set the box on the desk and came over and put his arms around Harry. "Thank you. No one has ever gotten me such a perfect gift."

"So you really do draw?" Harry said with relief, "Would you...could I see your drawings sometime?" Draco nodded, a blush flooding his cheeks. "Yeah, I draw. I'll show you...but first you have to open your present." Draco walked over to the wardrobe and pulled it out the large package that the three owls had delivered.

Draco handed him the package, he had a nervous look and didn't let go of the package right away. "I hope this is okay, I actually asked Cedric if he thought you would …well, open it."

Harry took the package and started tearing the paper away, as he saw the edge of what was inside revealed he took a deep breath and looked at Draco, who was staring at him, his eyes inscrutable. Harry pulled the rest of the paper away and stood there, leaning the desk holding the stack of record albums in his trembling hands.

"I know they aren't your mother's albums and they probably aren't the same ones... but I thought you would..." Draco's voice trailed off as Harry set down the stack of albums and started flipping through them.

"Cedric helped, he knew what groups you had talked about and I owled a music store that carried Muggle albums and ordered any albums they had by them-" Draco stopped talking when Harry grabbed him around the waist and buried his face into Draco's neck.

Draco tentatively put his arms around Harry, "I'm sorry..." Harry reached up and put his fingers against Draco's lips to stop him from talking. He took a deep breath and straightened up; his green eyes were shining.

"It's perfect, they're perfect. I never thought I would be able to..." Harry shook his head and turned back to look at the stack of albums. He picked them up and walked over to the blanket. Draco hesitated for a minute and joined him on the blanket.

"This was one of them..." Harry held the album with careful hands, as if it would shatter if he gripped it too tightly. "I remember listening to it and wondering whether she had picked it out or maybe my dad. It didn't seem like something a teenage girl would listen too." The album cover showed a close up of a man's torso clad in jeans, with a zipper.

"Do you want me to put it on the player?"

Harry hesitated, "No, put this one on..." Harry handed him the album covered with a grid filled with the musicians' faces.

"The Beatles? What a strange name for a group..."

Harry shrugged; he was separating the albums into two stacks, ones that he had listened to in the cupboard and three that he hadn't heard before. Draco walked over to the player and carefully placed the album on that Harry had given to him.

The record player's needle settled on to the album and there was a moment of quiet and then the opening chord filled the room. Harry closed his eyes and sat in absolute stillness. He felt Draco come over to him and sit behind him. Draco wrapped his legs around Harry and drew his arms around him. He felt Draco rest his chin on Harry's shoulder. With a sigh, Harry leaned back against him.

It's been a hard day's night, and I been working like a dog
It's been a hard day's night, I should be sleeping like a log
But when I get home to you I find the things that you do
Will make me feel alright

You know I work all day to get you money to buy you things
And it's worth it just to hear you say you're going to give me everything
So why on earth should I moan, 'cause when I get you alone
You know I feel ok *

"It's okay?" Draco whispered

"S'okay." Harry said quietly, listening to the music with his eyes shut and holding on to Draco's arms. He was trembling slightly. The music was filling the room, so loud he realized because he had only ever heard it with the headphones on. To hear the notes swirling around the room made the music come alive. With his eyes closed he felt like he was back in the cupboard in the dark just listening and imagining what his mother looked like. Although Aunt Petunia was her sister, Harry's imaginary images of his mother never looked like her. She always had long hair and a happy smile, he imagined her with dark hair like his...

By the time the third song had finished Harry had begun to shake harder, it was all just too much. He heard Draco stir behind him...

"Bugger this." Draco stood up and pulled out his wand, stopping the music. Harry looked at him confused. "I'm okay, honest, it is just..."

Draco held out his hand, Harry took it and let Draco pull him to his feet. "Dance with me."

"What?" Harry half laughed.

"It is Christmas Eve morning and I'm not going to let you get all mopey." Draco looked at him, "We are both going to a dance tomorrow with girls, I want to dance at least one dance with my boyfriend."

Harry looked at him startled, "Is that what I am? We are?"

Draco flushed, "Well, we are exchanging Christmas presents, snogging and getting all weepy, what would you call us? Enemy with benefits?"

"Boyfriend works for me." Harry said with a laugh.

"Right then, dance with me." Draco held his hands out to Harry.

Harry raked his hand through his hair, holding back, "What about your toes?"

"That's the beauty of not doing slow dances, much less danger of smashed toes." Draco flicked his wand at the record player and the music started playing. Harry closed his eyes waiting for the music to start, feeling Draco holding his hands. He felt Draco let go of his hand and then felt it on his chin, he opened his eyes. Gray eyes stared into his, "Trust me..." Harry nodded and didn't break Draco's gaze as he felt Draco pull him into the dance.

Before this dance is through
I think I'll love you too
I'm so happy when you dance with me
I don't want to kiss or hold your hand

If it's funny try and understand
There is really nothing else I'd rather do
'cause I'm happy just to dance with you *

They danced to all four songs, Draco leading Harry around the room in spinning, hip bumping, and laughter.

As the music stopped and they heard the needle left off the album and return, the silence filled the room. Harry held on to Draco, both their heartbeats were pounding hard. Harry took a deep breath and looked at him. "I don't know how to thank you... no one has ever..."

Draco kissed him softly, "I was afraid that it would be...too much. Sad instead of good."

"It's good. Caught me by surprise. What's funny is that I've never heard the music out loud before. It was always with the headphones on, in the dark in that tiny cupboard. It's better out here, with you."

"It is a funny kind of music..." Draco hesitated; Harry could tell that he didn't want to offend Harry.

"Yeah, nothing like wizard groups, instruments are all guitars, drums and keyboards. And Muggle kids nowadays, they listen to different stuff now a day, edgier, louder. These groups were pretty cutting edge for their time though, when my mum was a teen. My teacher at primary school said that the BBC wouldn't even play them."

"We have to get back, don't we?" Harry said looking at alarm at the time." Breakfast in the Great hall is half over."

"Where are you going to tell them about where you've been?" Draco asked

"That I went for a walk," Harry nodded towards the exit that lead outside. "I'll come around the castle that way."

"Are you ready for tomorrow night?"

Harry grimaced, "No. Rather face off with the dragon again."

"Just be a total git and she'll get the picture." Draco said with a shrug.

"That isn't very nice."

"Be better than having her follow you around like a puppy dog all night."

"Easy for you to say and Cedric. You both are going with girls who know..."

"Your choice, you can out yourself...wonder what the Prophet's headline would be "Boy Who Lived Gay Exclusive..."

"Ha ha"

Harry looked around the room, "I'm going to leave the albums down here, no sense bringing them upstairs where we don't have a player...Would it be okay, if I come down here when I can and listen to the records?"

Draco nodded, "So long as you don't get all maudlin and depressed, that isn't why I gave them to you."

"Promise." Harry looked at the desk where the art kit lay open. "Are you going to show me your drawings sometime?" Harry asked, titling his head at Draco. Even though he knew now that Draco liked to draw he still couldn't vision the Slytherin sitting and actually sketching things.

Draco nodded slowly. "I'll show you next time. But you probably won't like it...never had any lessons of course. Father doesn't consider drawing a very Malfoy appropriate skill."

OOOooOOOO

Harry walked into the Great Hall with Parvati on his arm. He was still reeling from the sight of Hermione with Viktor Krum. Why hadn't she told him that she was going to be Krum's partner? What had she done to her hair? Harry was so busy pondering these questions he scarcely noticed that they had walked the entire length of the room and were at the head table. Parvati was beaming and smiling at everyone. Harry went sit in the empty chair next to Percy. He looked over and saw Cedric pulling out a chair for Cho. Harry spring back up and did the same for Parvati. She gave him a cold glance. He hadn't dared look over at the Slytherin table.

Percy was rambling on about the Ministry and Hermione and Krum were talking, their heads bent together. Harry strained to hear what they were talking about and realized with a laugh that Hermione was trying to teach Krum how to say her name. They couldn't be dating he thought with relief, if he doesn't even know how to say her name.

Harry looked around the room and his eyes went automatically to the Slytherin table, Draco was sitting next to Pansy, his dress robes were black of course and velvet. Pansy was wearing a fluffy pink outfit. The pink and black robes together seemed to emphasize how ill-matched the couple was. Draco turned his head and met Harry's eyes. "Stop staring" he mouthed and turned his head back to Blaise.

All of the sudden the meal was over and the lights dimmed. The other champions stood up with their partners. Harry realized with dread that he was really going to have to dance with Parvati in front of everyone. Cedric gave him an encouraging nod as they lined up on the dance floor. For one brief moment Harry wondered what Cho and Parvati would think if he asked to switch partners. Not that he minded dancing with a girl, but he knew that Cedric wouldn't let him embarrass himself. The music started and Parvati eagerly grabbed a hold of Harry. All of Draco's carefully taught instructions went out the window and Parvati steered Harry through the dance. Harry gave a quick glance over at Draco who was laughing and shaking his head. Harry shrugged and just waited for the song to be over.

With relief he saw that other couples, including Draco and Pansy, were coming out on the dance floor. The song finally ended and Harry led Parvati to the edge of the dance floor. "Aren't we going to dance the next one?" she asked with a pout.

"Oh, erm, I want to find Ron...and Padma." Harry walked towards the Gryffindor table where he found Ron glumly sitting next to Padma…

OOoOoOOO

"Mail is here," mumbled Ron, his mouth full of food. Harry looked up to see the owls swooping into the Great Hall. He smiled when he saw Hedwig circling and coming towards him, a scroll attached to her leg.

"Who sent you a letter using Hedwig? You didn't send him to Padfoot did you Harry?" Hermione looked concerned.

"Don't know," Harry flipped Hedwig a piece of sausage, and untie the scroll. Hermione and Ron were watching him hold the scroll.

"Aren't you going to open it?" Ron asked.

"Oh, erm, sure." Harry flushed, Draco wouldn't have used Hedwig to send him anything that he couldn't open in front of Ron and Hermione, he hoped.

Holding his breath he unrolled the scroll. It was a pencil sketch of Harry on his broom holding on to the gold egg with the Hungarian Horntail chasing him, its wings unfurled. Harry was laughing in the picture; his hair seemed to be blown back in the wind.

"That is a really good drawing of you, Harry" Hermione said slowly, "Is there a note or anything?" Harry blushed and shook his head.

"No note, no signature."

Ron gasped, "You don't think Malfoy..."

"Why would Malfoy draw a picture of me and mail it to me using Hedwig?" Harry laughed, "Next you'll be saying that he likes me."

"Well, he did draw you on the desk..."

"That was just smudges, really can't we forget about strange smudges on desks?" Harry grumbled reaching to take the drawing back from Hermione who was studying it intently, looking for a signature.

"Probably just another secret admirer," said Neville who had been looking over Hermione's shoulder. "Harry has plenty of those."

Harry put the scroll into his bookbag and only then did he dare to look over at Draco across the tables. Their eyes met briefly and Draco flashed a quick smile before turning to talk to Goyle sitting next to him.

OoOOOoOOo

Cedric came up to Harry as he was walking back from lunch, "So last night seemed to go okay?"

"Wasn't that bad. Pavarti is a little miffed at me." Harry shrugged, "Cho didn't get annoyed with you."

"Well, that is probably because she knows I'm seeing Simon and we were just going as friends and because I danced more than once dance with her."

Harry smiled ruefully, "Yeah, I'm not too good at this deception thing."

"Well, there is honor in being honest; you'll just need to find a way to walk the line until you can be completely honest about who you are." Cedric paused. "So you and Draco exchanged gifts?"

Harry flushed and nodded, "He told you, didn't he? What he was getting me?" Cedric nodded and looked concerned.

"He mentioned last night that he was afraid that you would..."

"Become a mopey git?" Harry gave a half smile.

"Pretty much."

"I can't believe he found the albums. No one has ever gotten me such a thoughtful gift. My aunt and uncle sent me a tissue." Cedric looked confused, "You know, for blowing your nose. They always send me something utterly worthless so that I know that it isn't that they've forgotten, but that they remembered and don't care."

"That is..." Cedric shook his head. "I don't even know how to respond to that." Harry waved his hand dismissively; he didn't bother trying to figure out the Dursleys anymore.

"But Draco's present...it was a shock I admit, but listening to them made me realize how much my life has improved in the last five years. I have a lot to be happy about, and now I can share them with Draco and you..."

"What about sharing them with your other friends?' Cedric asked curiously.

"Someday," Harry said, "I thought about that last night. There were at least five or six gay couples out dancing with each other last night. Maybe I just need to get over being scared of what everyone will say."

"That would be a huge step Harry, but don't do anything rash...and especially not with checking with Draco. No way can you predict what kind of backlash it would cause. This tournament is already pushing a lot of attention towards you. By the way, how are you coming with the egg?"

Harry laughed, "Nowhere. You?"

"Haven't a clue...oh, one more thing. Not to add to your lists of worries but last night Cho talked about you a bit..."

"Oh?" Harry asked puzzled.

"Let's just say she is interested in you." Cedric laughed, and patted Harry on the shoulder as he walked away.

Great, thought Harry, another one to watch out for, at least she doesn't simper and giggle.

OooOoOoOOO

Harry stood up from the desk as he heard the record player's needle left off the album and return to the off position. "I'm taking requests, what do you want to hear next?"

"Play that kinky one by the Pebbles..." Draco said not looking up from his sketchpad.

"The Pebbles?" Harry laughed, "You mean the Stones?"

"Whatever...pebbles, rocks...the one with the zipper."

Harry nodded and slid Sticky Fingers out of the jacket. The zipper on the album cover was pulled down, courtesy of Draco's curiosity

Harry placed the needle on the record and went back to sit at the table next to Cedric. "When are you going to show us what you are working on?"

"When I show it to you." Draco said easily. He had been drawing for the last hour, only glancing up from his paper occasionally to look at Harry and Cedric.

Draco had finally shared some of his drawings with Cedric and Harry a few days earlier. He had pulled them out of the desk drawer and walked away as Cedric and Harry started looking through them. There were drawings of Slytherins in their common room, Snape, McGonagall, Cedric and a lot of drawings of Harry. Harry was amazed at how Draco could capture someone with just a few strokes of his pencil. Others were more elaborate, detailed sketches that must have taken hours to finish.

Harry shook his head in amazement, "How do you do all these without anyone noticing? They are incredible." Cedric nodded his headed in agreement.

"You are really talented, Draco." He held up a drawing of Harry walking into the Great Hall. I can't believe how you were able to capture the look that Harry has when he walks into a room."

Harry looked up in surprise, "What do you mean my look? I don't have a look."

Draco and Cedric both laughed, "You do, you walk in and survey the room, assess the danger level and..." Cedric trailed off.

"And then you engage, dive into whatever is going on around you." Draco continued with a laugh, "The only room you don't enter like that is Snape's... his classroom you sidle in, making it clear that you would rather be anywhere than sitting in front of him. It is no wonder he hates having you in his class. You clearly don't want to be there."

Harry looked at the drawing, "Well, I don't want to be there. Anyway I wouldn't call that a look, it is just survival. I think you drew me taller, to make me look more noticeable in the drawing."

"Artist's prerogative. I draw you as I see you." Draco had said airily.

Harry tried to get a glimpse of the drawing as he went back to his chair. Draco scowled and turned it over so he couldn't see it.

"Which one of us are you drawing?"

"None of your business. Work on your Transfigurations, you still have at least 12 inches to write. I am done."

Cedric looked up, "Talking or music, not both. I can't concentrate." He smiled as he said it though, his quill bouncing along to the music.

Harry laughed and picked up his quill, they had been able to meet three times since the Yuletide Ball, sneaking off for study and Patronus sessions. Classes had started again though and it was going to be tougher to get away.

Draco looked up, "What is he singing about anyway?"

Can't you hear me knockin, ahh, are you safe asleep?
Can't you hear me knockin, yeah, down the gas light street, now
Can't you hear me knockin, yeah, throw me down the keys

I've been begging on my knees
I've been kickin, help me please
Hear me prowlin'
I'm gonna take you down *

Draco looked up from his drawing and smirked, "Anytime you want to beg on your knees…let me know."

Harry ignored Draco, "Some people think it is about someone trying to get drugs from a dealer…others think it's about a girl. I just love the guitar playing at the end of this one…Always had a fantasy that I would become a great guitar player and escape from Dursleys."

There was a pause on the record player and the next song came on. Draco flashed Harry a smile. "My dance."

"This one?" Harry asked with surprise as "Wild Horses" came on…

"Definitely," Draco murmured, pulling Harry out of his chair.

Cedric close up his book, "I think I'll leave you to the dancing and go and write a letter to Simon up in my room. Remember that curfew is in a half hour."

Draco and Harry scarcely noticed he was going. Harry swayed with Draco, their feet barely moving. "I thought foot shuffling wasn't allowed?" Harry murmured.

"Shut up." Draco said as he kissed him.

I know I dreamed you a sin and a lie
I have my freedom but I don't have much time
Faith has been broken, tears must be cried
Let's do some living, after we'll die

Wild horses couldn't drag me away
Wild, wild horses, we'll ride them some day*

OOoOOoOoOo

Ron, Hermione and Harry stopped short next to Hagrid's cabin for Care of Magical Creatures class. Hagrid wasn't outside waiting for them. A witch introduced herself as Professor Grubbly-Plank was there and said that she was would be teaching the class. She turned and led them to the paddocks. Harry and the rest stayed back wondering what had happened to Hagrid.

"What's going on?"

"Where's Hagrid?"

"Wondering where your precious Hagrid is?" Pansy Parkinson sneered. "You should read this."

Draco was standing next to her, with his practiced look of disdain on his face. Harry stared at him, Draco knew something. He was pale, paler than usual, Harry felt the first tingling sensation that something was about to go very wrong. Draco wouldn't meet his eyes and looked away.

Hermione had grabbed the copy of Daily Prophet and gasped, "Dumbledore's Giant Mistake"
Ron, Hermione and Harry stood and read the article.

"How could they! What difference does it make who his parents are?" Hermione was spitting angry. Harry read the quotes that Draco had given the newspaper. The Slytherins stood watching them. Goyle was laughing and reading his favorite bits of the newspaper.

"Draco Malfoy! How could you tell such lies," Ron shouted,

Harry could scarcely hear Draco's response. His head was buzzing and he stared down at the article. How could someone he cared about treat someone like this? Think thoughts like this? Waves of nausea swept through him, he knew he had to get away and quickly.

"This is too much." he forced himself to say, looking at Draco, "You pushed it too far." He thought he saw Draco flinch but probably just imagined it. He turned and walked away with Hermione and Ron close behind him.

"We should check on Hagrid," Hermione said worriedly. "Make sure he is okay."

Harry nodded numbly and followed them up the steps to Hagrid's cabin. All he could think of was that last night while they were downstairs in the locker room listening to albums and laughing that Draco knew that the Prophet was going to press with this article.

There was no answer to their pounding on Hagrid's door. Harry suspected that he was in there but there was nothing they could say to get him to open the door. They gave up and walked back to the castle. As they came through the entrance doors, Draco was there. Harry knew he had been waiting for them. "Hey Scarhead, you afraid that..."

Harry whipped out his wand, "Silencio" and kept walking without looking back. He was shaking with anger. How could he have been so wrong about Draco. He'd thought that the Slytherin had really changed, that was his mistake he realized. Draco's attitude towards Harry had changed, but inside he was still the same prejudice git he was four years ago when he had insulted Hagrid outside of Madam Malkin's.

Hermine and Ron were talking excitedly about how they could help Hagrid. Harry could scarcely focus on what they were saying. "I'm going back up to Gryffindor." He mumbled.

"You feel okay?" Hermione asked worriedly.

"Just a headache."

"Is it your scar, Harry?" She glanced up at his forehead.

"Nah, just a regular headache."

Thankfully the boy's dormitory was empty. Harry threw himself on his bed and closed the curtains. He stared up at the red canopy. He never should have trusted Draco. Malfoy, he's Malfoy now Harry scolded himself. He threw his arm over his eyes and willed the hurt to go away. How had Malfoy tricked him into thinking that he cared? Was it all a set up? Would the next Prophet article be an exclusive on him and Malfoy dating?

Harry could hear the others coming back and getting ready for supper.

"Uhm, Harry? Are you in there?" Ron called out.

Harry forced himself to answer, "Yeah."

"Aren't you coming to supper?"

"Nah, you go down, I'm not hungry." Harry couldn't stomach the thought of sitting in the Great Hall and watching Draco, no, Malfoy crowing to his friends about what a great trick he played on Harry Potter.

"You sure? Want me to bring something back for you?"

"No, don't bother." Harry replied, thinking to himself, go away, Ron, just go away and let me be miserable.

Ron had been gone not even a half hour when Harry heard a familiar tapping on the window. He dragged himself over and there was Hedwig with a note tied to her leg. Harry untied the note and flipped Hedwig an owl-nut.

"I need to talk to you."

Bloody git, hell of a lot of nerve to still use Hedwig. Harry crumbled it up and threw it into the fireplace. Hedwig fluttered around the room and came to rest next to Harry where he sat on the bed. Harry reached out and gently petted the great snow owl. "It's not your fault. I know he just convinced you to deliver it."

Harry successfully avoided Malfoy the entire week. Malfoy hadn't tried to send any more messages, no more coded messages in the hallway. Good, thought Harry. He'd finally gotten the message. It didn't stop Harry from staring up at the canopy of his bed every night. Wondering how he was going to get through the next day of seeing him class.

On Saturday, everyone was going into Hogsmeade. Harry never felt less like joining in, but he knew it was better than being miserable in his room. He had done enough of that all week. The Gryffindors set off down the path to Hogsmeade. Harry heard Hermione in suck in a breath of air, and he looked up, Cedric was waiting for them at the base of the hill.

"Harry, I know something has been wrong this week. And I think it has something to do with Cedric, you don't have to …" Hermione grabbed his hand. Harry laughed, "It has nothing to do with Cedric, honestly, Hermione."

"Harry, please, do you want me to stay with you..." Hermione clearly didn't believe him.

"No." said Harry bluntly, "I'll catch up to the rest of you in town." The other Gryffindors gave Cedric a curious look as they drew up to him on the path. Harry stopped but motioned them to go on. Cedric nodded at Harry and gave him a smile. Hermione walked on reluctantly looking back. Harry gritted his teeth and stared over Cedric's shoulder, not wanting to look at the Hufflepuff.

"You are going to have to talk to him, Harry." Cedric said quietly.

"Nothing to talk about."

"I'm not going to get in the middle of this, I told him that too. But you need to talk to him at least once, so you know where the two of you stand."

Harry laughed bitterly, "There is no us. There is just Draco fucking Malfoy and the idiot Harry Potter who was gullible enough-"

Cedric held up his hands. "Like I said, I don't want to get in the middle. I'm friends with both of you. You need to tell him whatever you have been keeping bottled up inside all week."

Harry took a deep breath, "Yeah, fine. Tell him I'll meet him tonight downstairs. I need to get my Firebolt back anyway."

"And your record albums?" Cedric asked.

Harry felt the tears that he had refused to shed all week welling up. He shook his head angrily refusing to breakdown. "Guess I'm going to lose those albums twice. No way can I keep his present now."

Cedric reached out to grab Harry's arm but Harry brushed aside and started walking down the hill. The sooner he was done with Malfoy the better.

OooOoOoO

Harry felt Draco's eyes on him the whole time at supper. He half-listened to the excited talk about everyone's day at Hogsmeade while he picked at his food. Finally he stood up and told Hermione that he was just going back to the tower.

"Want me to come with?" she asked. "If you want to talk about anything..."

"No, just need to be alone."

Harry quickly went upstairs. The common room was empty and he slipped through doorway into the tunnel. Harry gave a sigh of relief when he emerged into the locker room. Malfoy wasn't there yet. He walked over to the locker where he had put his Quidditch gear and Firebolt. He pulled them out and carefully placed them in front of the Gryffindor tunnel entrance, he didn't want to forget them when he was through talking with Malfoy.

He went into the office. The record albums were still sitting on the desk. He reached out and tentatively traced the outline of the submarine on the cartoon cover of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine album. He didn't even know he was crying until a tear dripped on to the album, he angrily rubbed it off the cardboard and swiped at his face. He wasn't going to do this; he wasn't going to fall apart.

"Harry." Malfoy's voice came from the doorway. Harry didn't turn around.

"It's Potter to you." he said as coldly as he could. "I just came to get my stuff."

"Don't do this, please." Malfoy said quietly, "Let me explain."

"There is nothing to explain," Harry slammed down his fist on the desk and whirled around to face Malfoy. "This, whatever it was, is over."

Draco's face was pale. His gray eyes were filled with tears. Harry brushed past him and Draco reached out and grabbed his arm. "I need to talk to you."

"No." Harry stared down at the hand gripping his upper arm and over at Malfoy, just inches away. "I can't date someone who hates other people just because of who their parents are. Who cares so little about one of my friends."

"It wasn't like that," Draco spat. Harry pulled at his arm.

"Let me go."

"No." Draco gripped him harder. "Harry, please..."

"Don't call me Harry." Harry reached out with his right arm and hit Draco with all of the rage he had been feeling all week packed into a punch that landed right on Draco's cheekbone. His head flew back and he fell backwards. Harry looked down coldly at him and turned and headed for the Gryffindor tunnel. He was stooping to pick up his broom when he heard Draco coming at him. He spun and crouched, lunging forward he caught Draco off balance, tackling him to the ground. Draco punched Harry in the side, trying to get him to let go. Harry let loose in a rage, hitting Draco anywhere he could. Draco got his arm free and punched Harry in the nose. Harry immediately felt the coppery taste of blood in his mouth and throat. Draco stopped struggling, and reached out with his open hand. Harry fell back, sitting on the ground, dazed by the pain of the blow.

"Crap, Harry. I'm sorry."

Harry wiped at the blood coming from his nose with the back of his hand. He forced himself to stand up and looked down at Draco. "Looks like we've come full circle to where we started." He turned and stalked towards the tunnel entrance and picked up his wand to open the door.

"You can't go back into Gryffindor looking like that." Malfoy called out.

"Don't tell me what I can and cannot do." Harry said quietly, he had put his hand out and was leaning against the wall, his head down. "You don't have the right."

"Neither do you." Malfoy said, "You can't tell me who I can and can't talk to."

Harry whirled, "No, I can't... what I can do is say that I'm not going to be friends with someone who says and believes such hateful things." He felt the blood dripping down his face and wiped at angrily. "I really...liked you, Draco. I was really happy down here with you. I thought you were too, and you just had to ruin it."

"I know. I'm sorry." Draco hadn't stood up, he was sitting on the floor where they had fought, his arms resting on his knees.

All the anger seemed to drain out of Harry and he slid down the wall and sat on the floor a few feet from Draco. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back. He felt his nose tentatively. The bleeding had stopped.

"Did I break it?" Draco asked, watching him.

"Don't think so. No crunching. Have to try harder next time."

"I don't want there to be a next time."

"Why did you do it?" Harry asked quietly, still not looking at Malfoy. "The article, why did you do it?"

"I don't know how it happened. Skeeter was talking to us all, us Slytherins. Asking about the school. And someone said something about Hagrid and the hippogriff. And she kept asking questions and everyone was saying bad stuff about things that had gone wrong in Hagrid's calss. The skrewts, and everything" Draco grimaced, "And she asked if we knew Hagrid was a giant and everyone got excited and talking about it. I actually don't remember saying half the things she said I said. But I may have. And her damn quill was zipping over the parchment, writing down who knows what."

"Her bloody quill." Harry grimaced, "Half the stuff she quoted about me in that first article was all made up. No way would I say all the things she said I said."

"For what it's worth...I'm sorry." Draco said, he looked up and stared over at Harry. His eyes unfathomably dark.

"Are you sorry for what you said about Hagrid? Or just sorry that this," Harry swirled his hand around the room, "Is over."

"Sorry for hurting you. What I believe, that isn't part of us, is it? Can't we just-"

Harry stood up, shaking his head, "I can't be with someone who thinks that way, Draco. I wish... I wish this could have worked out differently." Harry caught a glimpse of himself in the mirrors and grimaced. He walked over and turned on the faucet in one of sinks and carefully splashed water onto his face, wiping away the blood. He turned off the tap and looked back in the mirror, Draco was standing behind him.

"It's the way my family taught me. It was drilled into me every day. Mudblood, half-breed, hate for anyone who wasn't a pureblood."

Harry held Draco's eyes in the mirror and shook his head slowly, "You need to start thinking for yourself. I'm a half-blood. When you lump all half-bloods and Muggle born together you are including me. You can't care about me and at the same time believe that I and everyone like me are less worthy than you and your family is because you are pure bloods. If you don't think that is true anymore then you need to learn to stand up for what you know is right, not just going along with your father. You can't have it both ways." He turned away and went back to the doorway and picked up his things. "I'll see you around."

"Don't go, Harry, please." Draco pleaded but Harry opened the door with his wand and stepped through without looking back.

OoOooOoOoO

Ron and Hermione had stared at him gap-jawed when he'd come back to the tower. He had refused to let Hermione fix the bruises. Hermione had shaken her head and muttered about talking to McGonagall about Cedric. She didn't believe that it hadn't been Cedric that he had been fighting with until the next morning at breakfast when Malfoy walked in, his face as bruised as Harry's.

The whole school was talking about the Potter/Malfoy fight by the end of the day. Cedric had stopped Harry and tried to talk to him but he had just walked away. The sooner he forgot about everything the better. Malfoy didn't try to talk to him again. They both passed each other in the hallways with careful avoidance. Bets were flying around the school about when the next fight was going to take place and who would win.

The next week passed like a blur. The only thing that distracted Harry from the misery of breaking up with Draco was the realization that the second task was only four weeks away and he didn't have any idea of what it was.

He was desperate to go flying, it was the one thing that allowed him to escape from all of his worries and just be happy. Draco had even taken that away from him, Harry thought bitterly. Although, he had to admit to himself that he wouldn't have been able to fly at all this year if it hadn't been Draco and his secret room. As a poor substitute Harry had taken to running. He got up early every morning and ran around the lake, lap after lap, until he couldn't go any farther.

He was sitting on the steps leading to the castle, waiting for his pounding heartbeat to return to normal. He was sitting there with his head bent over his knees, catching his breath when he saw two feet step up beside him and heard someone sit down next to him. He looked over and saw the all too familiar yellow and black Hufflepuff robes covering the legs. He didn't bother looking up to confirm it was Cedric.

"Hi Cedric."

"You've been avoiding me."

"I've been avoiding everyone." Harry said tiredly, "besides, you don't want to get in the middle."

"No, I don't, but I'm still your friend, and I'm worried about you. Didn't actually come and find you to talk about Draco." Harry looked up startled. Cedric looked over at him with a concerned look, "The second task is only three weeks away. You need to focus on that...you haven't even solved the egg yet have you?" Cedric asked quietly.

"How do you know I haven't?" Harry asked automatically even thought it was true.

"Because you aren't panicking and spending every minute in the library like I am." Cedric said with a laugh.

Harry felt his heartbeat leap, "Worse than dragons?" he asked faintly, trying to imagine what it could be.

"I think this one is more of a challenge...magic wise. More difficult to achieve." Cedric said slowly. "You need to get started working on it. Take the egg to the prefect bathroom on the fifth floor...take a bath with it."

"Take a bath with the egg?" Harry looked bewildered.

"Trust me. You really have to focus on this, Harry. You can't spend any more time sulking about Draco. There is plenty of time to get that sorted out...afterwards."

"I'm not sulking. Besides there is nothing to sort out. It's done." Harry said quietly. Strangely the words didn't hurt as badly as they had, he was getting used to it, he supposed.

OoOOoooOo

Harry walked away from his close encounter with Snape and Filch shaking. It had been too close a call. Now he was without his map, Moody having taken it. And he had the mystery of the egg solved but no clue on how he was going to go underwater in the lake for an hour. He could swim a couple of laps, but no way could he ...he needed Hermione.

Hermione, Ron and Harry walked into the library the next day. Harry laughed, Cedric was sitting at a table by himself, a large stack of books discarded next to him. He looked up at Harry and gave him a wink and turned back to his book, flipping pages.

Every spare minute he had was spent at the library, trying to find a way to get through the second task was all he thought about during the day. It was only when he was back in his bed at the end of the day did he dare to let himself think about Draco. Cursing himself for doing it, he would pull the loop of green silk scarf from the bottom of his trunk and lay in his bed, coiling it around his hands. Feeling the cool silk slide through his hands he would replay every time they had spent together. The first meetings with Cedric, the detention with Snape when he had felt Draco's hands on his shoulders and dared to hope, connecting to Draco through the Imperius curse...

OOoOoOoOoO

Second Task

Draco sat on the stands overlooking the lake. Cedric, Fleur and Krum were standing on the platform next to the lake. There was no sign of Harry. "Where the hell is Potter?" He grumbled to Blaise.

"No idea, but it looks like you are going to lose this bet." Blaise snickered.

Draco could see the judges gathered trying to figure out what to do. Where were Granger and Weasley? With Potter? Probably, but he wouldn't skive, would he? Granger wouldn't let him for one thing.

McGonagall had just gathered up her robes to hurry back to the caste when they saw a figure racing around the lake at breakneck speed. He was wearing his robes and was a mess, hair sticking out everywhere. Draco swore, he didn't know to be happy or mad that Harry had shown up.

Harry came to a stop next to the others; he bent over trying to catch his breath. Draco saw Cedric reach over to talk to him but Bagman made the announcement and the horn sounded and the competition had begun.

"He is just walking into the water like that!" Pansy called out in delight, clapping her hands excitedly. "I do believe the Boy Wonder is going to fail!"

Cedric, Krum and Fleur had already disappeared into the lake. Harry was still just stepping slowly into the lake. Draco studied him hard, he appeared to be grinding his teeth, "Doesn't he have a plan? Isn't he going to take off his robes? He can't go into the lake with his robes!" The crowd was cat-calling and laughing.

Draco saw Harry's body jerk, something was happening to him. Harry's mouth and nose were suddenly covered with some flesh colored material. His hands jerked up to his neck; large gills had appeared on his neck. Before Draco could think of how this had happened, Harry had disappeared beneath the surface.

"What the hell did he do? Did you see his face disappear?" Blaise asked stunned. Draco shook his head and looked at the clock. Fifty-five minutes were left. He stared out at the lake, there was no movement. Bubbles broke the surface of the water, but even the waves seemed to have died down.

With dread Draco realized that this was far worse than the dragons. Harry could be drowning down there and no one would know. Cursing, he checked the clock. Ten minutes went by. Twenty minutes. What the hell was happening? Draco looked over at the judge's stand. None of the judges or faculty looked concerned. Maybe there were people down there watching to make sure nothing happened.

Suddenly there was a huge splash and the crowd leaped to their feet. Fleur was at the surface coughing and flapping her arms. Something below the surface pulled her towards the judge's platform. Draco saw Madam Pomfrey rush over and help her out of the water, putting a blanket around her. Fleur cried out and fought to get back in the water. What was down there that they were supposed to retrieve? Bagman had just said that something had been taken from them and they had to retrieve. What could it be? What would be so precious that they would swim underwater for an hour? Draco watched Fleur, she was distraught. It wasn't just the competition; he didn't think she would care to risk drowning again for the Triwizard tournament.

"Where are Potter's little friends? You wouldn't think they would miss this." Pansy commented to Blaise.

Draco's eyes swept the Gryffindor section of the stands. The Weasel and Granger were both missing. With a feeling of dread Draco looked towards Ravenclaw, he scanned each face until he realized with dead certainty that Cho wasn't there.

It wasn't a something that had been taken from them, but a someone. Draco felt nauseous; he knew nothing would stop Harry from rescuing his friends. He would risk everything. The minutes crept by, he finally saw McGonagall and Moody walking up to the edge of the water looking concerned. Draco could tell that Moody's magic eye was penetrating the water trying to see what was underneath.

The hourmark passed. Still no sign of the remaining three champions. Could all three of them have drowned? There was a ripple growing on the surface and suddenly Cedric emerged from the water holding on to Cho, the bubble head still around him he swam towards the surface. Cho smiled and gave Cedric a hug and they walked out on the shore to the roar of the crowd. Pomfrey rushed over throwing blankets over their shoulders as they emerged from the water.

Krum was next, holding a limp Hermione Granger. As soon as he cleared the water the shark's head disappeared. Granger gave a shake and looked around as if startled to be above water. She and Krum swam towards the shore and Draco narrowed his eyes as Granger hugged Krum, but then she looked around frantically when she realized that Harry and Weasley weren't back yet. Krum seemed disappointed that she wasn't paying him any more attention and stomped off. Cedric stood in a foot of water looking for Harry.

"Where the bloody hell is Potter?"

"Cheer up, Draco." Pansy smiled, "He has clearly lost this task. Hopefully he never comes up."

Where the hell was he? Draco felt his heart stop as there was a huge splash and Harry appeared, holding both Ron and a young girl. He saw the Weasel spit water out of his mouth and look around with a smile on his face. Harry slowly swam towards the edge of the lake, towing the girl next to him. Weasley appeared to be yelling at Harry.

"Probably complaining how long it took, and who could blame him. Bloody late." Blaise commented, Draco felt like yelling at Blaise to go and try the task himself before critizing how Harry had done.

"Are those merpeople?" Goyle asked pointing a finger. Draco looked out at the lake again. Near where Harry had come up over a dozen green mossy heads were sticking out of the surface. One of them swam over to the judge's platform and Dumbledore stood up and knelt down to talk to him. There was a large rumble from the crowd as they began to stomp their feet, waiting for the judges' marks. Dumbledore stood up and went over to talk to the other judges.

"Something is going on." Blaise muttered, "Maybe they are going to pitch Potter out of the tournament for being so late."

Bagman's voice rang out over the lake. Draco could scarcely take in what he was saying, he watched as Fleur wrapped her arms around the young girl. Draco realized who she was, Fleur's younger sister. No wonder the Beauxbaton champion had been so frantic to go back in the lake. And Potter had saved her and the Weasley. Fleur had stood up and was hugging Harry tightly, she kissed him on both cheeks.

"Bloody fucking Potter."

"You can say that again, how can he come back last and still be tied for first? This whole thing is fixed." Blaise grumbled.

"Wait, what happened? I didn't catch what Bagman said." Draco looked around startled.

"Really, Draco you have to pay more attention. They are claiming that Potter found the four hostages first but stayed until last to make sure that everyone was rescued. Sounds like a bunch of crock to me. They gave him 45 points for 'moral fiber' if you can believe that. At least Diggory is tied for first place with him. He'll beat Potter next time. "

The Slytherins stood up and were heading out, Draco sat where he was, watching Harry and his two friends, join Cedric and hug one another.

"Aren't you coming Draco? We are going to have a commiseration party in the Dungeon." Pansy called out. Draco waved them off, "I've got to do something. I'll be up in a bit."

He sat there as everyone slowly walked around the lake and back up to the castle. He saw Harry and his friends walking arm in arm, laughing towards the castle. When they had disappeared from sight, Draco stared out at the lake. The merpeople had disappeared back into the dark depths. Trust Harry to go the hero route; if he had been competing he would have grabbed his hostage and raced to the surface without hesitating. Harry had stayed and made sure everyone was safe.

Not for the first time Draco realized that whatever drove Potter to stand up for what was right was just part of who he was. The git fidgeted, stammered and stumbled through classes and life. But when it came to deciding what to do in a tough situation he didn't hesitate to choose the right path. Where did he learn that? Not from his parents, not from the Dursleys. Draco had blamed the whole article snafu on how he was raised, his parents. He knew know that that wasn't good enough. Potter had been raised in a fucking cupboard; yet he always did the right thing.

Draco felt like he had been sleepwalking through the last four weeks. He closed his eyes and remembered dancing with Harry on Christmas Eve morning to that weird Muggle band. And then Harry had left those records sitting on the desk when he left. They still sat there; Draco hardly went down into the locker room anymore. The one place in Hogwarts that has been his and his alone and now he couldn't stand to be there without Harry. He'd give anything to have things back the way they had been. Draco stared out at the lake, he would give anything. But would he do anything? Draco knew what he had to do; he'd known it for weeks now. He didn't know if it would work, but he would have to try. And damn the consequences.

OoOOoOoOO

That night there was a celebration for the completion of the second task in the Great Hall. The Hogwart students were jubilant with both Hogwarts students tied for the lead. The Beauxbaton students were also celebrating, despite Fleur's last place finish in the task. She and her sister had run up to hug Harry when he had walked in with Ron and Hermione. To his embarrassment several of the female students throughout the meal had taken to sending sparkling trails of glittering stars to zoom and circle over his head.

The Gryffindors were ecstatic; Harry could scarcely eat for all of the jostling at the table. Finally dessert appeared on the table and he was reaching for a slice of treacle tart when he heard Ron say, "What's Malfoy up to? If he is giving Hagrid a hard time, I'm going to..."

Harry whipped his head towards the head table. Draco was standing next to Hagrid who was bending down stiffly to hear him. He saw Hagrid's face freeze.

"The bastard..." Harry was standing up and about to head over when he heard Hermione exclaim, "No wait..."

Draco Malfoy, pureblood, was holding his hand out to Hagrid. Harry watched as Hagrid hesitated and then shook his hand. The Slytherin table was absolutely silent as was everyone around Harry. Draco gave Hagrid a small smile and then walked out of the Great Hall without looking left or right.

"What the bloody hell was that?" Ron shook his head in disbelief.

"I know what it looked like, but I don't believe it." Hermione exclaimed. "I'm going to ask..."

"No," said Harry jumping up, "Let me go, I have to know..." Harry felt an all too familiar buzzing in his ears. Harry walked over to Hagrid who still had a faintly stunned look on his face.

"Hagrid? What happened? Are you okay? What did Malfoy say to you?"

"He apologized," said Hagrid, he had stuck his finger in his ear as if checking his hearing, "said he shouldn't have said those things to that Skeeter woman, and that he was glad that I was back teaching." Hagrid looked down at Harry. "Never thought I would see the day when a Malfoy apologized."

Harry looked towards the doors where Malfoy had exited and then over at the Slytherin table. Everyone at the table was talking angrily, arms flying up in the air. This clearly wasn't some Slytherin joke that Draco had played on Hagrid. Harry gave a brief smile to Hagrid and walked away.

He sat back down at the Gryffindor table, "What was it?" "What did he say?" Ron and Hermione asked at once.

"He apologized," said Harry with a disbelieving laugh, "He apologized to Hagrid."

"As if that makes all those hateful things he said okay!" said Hermione angrily.

"It's a start." said Harry quietly. "I've got to go do...something. I'll see you back in the tower in a little bit."

"Where are you going? You can't disappear on us tonight, there's a party!" Ron said looking at Harry in disbelief.

"I know, I'll be back upstairs in just a little bit." Harry said hurriedly standing up from the table. He hesitated as he got out of the Great Hall. He knew that Fred and George and others were busy decorating the Gryffindor common room. With a curse, he ran out the front doors and around to the West Tower. He slowed down as he got close. He stared at the entranceway. Did he really want to do this? One apology did not make up for what Draco had done. Harry felt his heart pounding in his chest.

He knew though that he hadn't been happy since he and Draco had broken up. It had taken all of this time to even think his name without hurting inside. He still fell asleep every night holding the git's bloody scarf in his hand. All good reasons not to open that door again. He didn't want to make himself so vulnerable again. Harry shook his head as he did it he took a deep breath. "Aperiens"

Draco was sitting on the floor leaning against the lockers opposite the entrance to the Gryffindor tower. He was holding his head in his hands, his elbows resting on his knees. He hadn't heard Harry come in through the other door.

"I thought Malfoys didn't sit on the floor?" Harry said quietly. Draco swung his head around with a start and scrambled to his feet.

"Well, we'll just add it to one of those things that I'm rethinking about my family." he said quietly. His eyes were watching Harry walk across the floor towards him. "I didn't think you'd come."

"That is why you were sitting here waiting for me?" Harry asked, his voice sounded a little harsher than he had intended.

Draco shrugged, "I had hoped that maybe...but I hadn't really thought that it would be enough to change your mind."

"It wasn't." Harry said flatly. Draco's shoulders sagged. Harry forced a small smile, "but it was a start." he finished quietly.

Draco's eyes flared, but the expression on his face didn't change, "I know, I don't know if I can, but I want... to change." He dragged his hand through his hair, "I sat out on those stands for a long time after everyone had gone inside. You make me want to see things in a different way. I want to look in the mirror in the morning and like what I see. I don't want to become my father."

Harry had hardly breathed as he listened to Draco. He took a deep breath. "I don't know if I can do this again, Draco. I've never hurt so badly as this last month. Every bloody night I would close my eyes and think of you..."

Draco gave a half laugh, "Every day, every night. It's been hell. I know you are better off without me-"

"Don't decide what I'm better off with or without," Harry exclaimed sharply, stepping closer to Draco. "The two months we were together were the happiest I've had in years. Don't put yourself down and say that you aren't good enough for me, that is a cop out."

Harry stopped a foot from Draco. "I'm willing to try again, 'cause I'm miserable without you, and I believe in the downstairs Draco." Harry reached out and placed his hand on the side of Draco's face. Draco was perfectly still, scarcely breathing. "I hope that someday the downstairs Draco and upstairs one will merge together."

Draco turned his head slowly and kissed the palm of Harry's hand that was cupping his cheek. "Me, too." They stood there for a minute both afraid to move. Harry gave a groan and reached and hugged Draco who melted against him. They stood there tightly embraced for what felt like hours.

"I have to get upstairs. They are having a surprise party for me in the tower." Harry said huskily, breaking the embrace. He hesitated and then kissed Draco quickly on the lips. "We are going to need to talk more. Set up some of those ground rules that Cedric likes so much."

Draco nodded; his eyes were gleaming with unshed tears. "You scared me to death today, out on the lake. I'm surprised my hair didn't turn gray."

Harry reached out and ruffled Draco's hair thoroughly, "It looks as perfect as always."

Draco shook the fringe that fell into his eyes out of the way.

"So are we okay?"

Harry hesitated, "Let's take it slow and see what happens. I don't want to make any promises..."

"That's okay, I just want a chance." Draco said quickly. "Okay, you go to your party, I'll go get pounded to a pulp in the dungeon." Harry eyes flew open with concern.

"Are you serious? They wouldn't do that, would they?" Draco regretted his words.

"Nah, I was just joking. They aren't going to be happy with me; but I can handle it." He drew himself up to his full height. "There are a lot worse things." He hesitated and then leaned forward and kissed Harry one more time. "Go, have fun at your little Gryffindor love fest."

Harry gave a half smile and left through the door that went outside. He hurried around and entered the castle through the courtyard entrance.

 

Chapter Text

Harry eagerly walked into breakfast the next morning. He hadn't felt so good in weeks, he had survived the second task and he as back together with Draco. Ron and Hermione walked beside him. "Are you humming?" Hermione said looking incredulously at Harry.

"Me? Erm, no, I don't think so." Harry said blushing.

"It sounded like you were humming Yellow Submarine." she persisted. Harry coughed nervously.

"Oh, well, maybe. You know how you get a song in your head..." Harry shrugged.

"What's a submawhat?" mumbled Ron, chewing on a rasher of bacon.

"Did you guys hear about Malfoy?" Seamus leaned towards them eagerly. Harry whipped his head around to look at the Slytherin table. Draco wasn't there. He felt the blood drain out of his head.

"No, what about him?" Hermione asked.

"Apparently, the Slytherins took exception to his apologizing to Hagrid and made him walk the gauntlet." Seamus laughed delightedly.

Ron sucked in his breath and shook his head, "That's pretty harsh."

"What? What is a gauntlet?" Harry asked concernedly.

"Very pureblood kind of punishment. He had to walk past all of the Slytherins without his wand. They all took turns hexing and jinxing him." Harry felt nauseous. That stupid, stupid git.

"Why? Why would they do that to him?" Hermione asked confused.

"Shaming his house. Can't imagine why if he felt a need to apologize to Hagrid that he did it in front of the entire school. Would have been much safer and easier to do it in private," Seamus said with a shrug.

Harry felt clammy. He knew why Draco had done it. This was his fault. "Is he okay?"

"Suppose he will be, the Slytherins dumped him off at the Hospital Wing sometime after midnight." Seamus broke off as Harry stood up. "Where are you going?"

Harry was climbing over the bench to leave and go to the Hospital Wing when he felt a hand on his shoulder. "Morning Harry, congratulations on yesterday." Cedric's warm gray eyes stared down at him.

"Oh, thanks Cedric. You, too. I was just-"

"I wanted to talk to you. Do you have a few minutes?" Cedric looked around the Gryffindor table, smiling pleasantly, "Have you finished your breakfast?"

"Oh, yeah. I'm all done." Harry nodded, standing up from the table.

"Harry, you haven't eaten anything yet!" Hermione called after him as he started walking away. The two boys ignored her and left the Great Hall.

Harry turned anxiously to Cedric as soon as they were clear of the doors. "Have you seen Draco? Is he okay?"

"I went up to see him as soon as I heard." Cedric shook his head. "All I can say is that I'm very glad I wasn't sorted into Slytherin. They really did a number on him." He gripped Harry's arm harder as he made a move to run down the hall towards the Hospital Wing. "He is going to be okay. The last thing he needs is for you to show up looking for him. Word will get back to the Slytherins."

Harry scowled, "But this is my fault, if I hadn't..."

"Don't take responsibility for things that you didn't do and can't control. Draco made the decision to apologize in public and he knew that the Slytherins would not take it well."

Harry ruffled his hand through his hair, "He said something about going back to Slytherin so that they could beat him to a pulp...I didn't think that he was serious."

"So you saw him last night?" Cedric asked.

"After supper." Harry blushed, "We sorted things out a bit."

Cedric smiled, "That's good. You'll both have to be extra careful now. The Slytherins are going to be suspicious." Cedric look worriedly at him, "Let me know what I can do to help."

"Could you tell Draco...that I wish I could come and see him?" Harry said, looking around. Students were starting to leave the Great Hall and were giving the two of them curious looks. Everyone expected Cedric and him to be rivals because of the tournament. If only they knew the truth. "Do you know how long he is going to be there?"

"Probably a couple of days. He isn't hurt that bad, but Madam Pomfrey wants to give the Slytherins a chance to cool down. She's had to deal with gauntlet victims before."

"Tell him I'll try to sneak in and see him tonight." Harry said quietly as he saw Ron and Hermione approaching.

"Don't take any foolish risks, Harry." Cedric cautioned, "He'll be out soon enough."

"Me? Do something foolish? Risky?" Harry said with a laugh, "Nah, I just face-off with dragons and threaten to stab merchieftans."

OoOOOoOo

Snape finished giving out the homework assignment to the Potions class. He coldly surveyed the room. He had been in a foul mood the entire morning. Even if he was head of Slytherin, Snape was not happy with his own house. His attitude towards the Slytherin had been as nasty as it typically was towards the Gryffindors. He had already taken 50 points away from Slytherin. Harry hoped that that would make the Slytherins think twice about acting out towards Snape's godson.

"Potter. You will bring Draco the homework assignment and provide the books he needs to finish the assignment." Snape said coldly.

"Me! Why me? Make one of them do it." Harry protested. Even as he said it, he was smiling inside. Looks like he wouldn't need to use the invisibility cloak to get to see Draco after all.

"Because I told you to do so. Surely even someone as dull-witted as you can figure that out. Class dismissed." Snape turned his back to the class. Harry stood up and shrugged when Ron and Hermione expressed their sympathies.

"Do you want us to come with you?" Hermione asked.

"What? To visit the ferret in a hospital bed?" Harry scoffed, "I think I can handle him." Harry blushed slightly, thinking of how much he wanted to handle Draco. "I'll go and then meet you at lunch."

OooOoOOoO

Harry opened the door to the Hospital Wing. Only one bed had the curtains drawn, Draco must be the only patient. Madam Pomfrey came out of her office, heading for the door. She stopped short when she saw Harry.

"Oh, Mr. Potter I was just off for my lunch. Are you not feeling well?" She asked, automatically putting a hand on his forehead.

"No! I'm fine," he said backing away from her, "Sna- Professor Snape asked me to bring Malfoy his homework." Harry with a disgruntled expression on his face.

"He is resting. I can take those to him."

"Well, Professor Snape said I had to explain the assignment to him, make sure he understands what he has to do..." Harry said.

"Well, that is fine then. Be sure not to try and wake him up if he falls asleep. He is still recovering from...his experience. I'll wait, just to be sure."

"You don't have to miss lunch. I'm sure this will only take a few minutes. I won't wake him up." Harry said anxiously. In his head he was thinking "go, go, go"

Madam Pomfrey looked at Harry and then at the clock. "Very well, if there are any problems ring the bell by Draco's bed and I'll come immediately."

Harry walked over to the curtained bed and tentatively pulled back the curtain, "Draco?"

Draco was lying in the bed, propped up with three pillows. He looked at Harry warily, "What are you doing here? You can't..."

"It's okay." Harry said hastily, holding up the Potions book, "Snape told me I had to come and give you your homework in front of everyone. And I protested and everything." Harry came over and stood by Draco, other than dark purplish circles under his eyes, looked as he always did, delicious.

Draco looked at him in surprise, "Snape sent you?" Harry nodded and pulled the visitor's chair right up next to the bed. He reached over and grabbed a hold of Draco's hand, intertwining their fingers together.

"Surprised me, but he was in such a bad mood in Potions, took 50 points from Slytherin!" Harry shrugged, "He probably didn't trust the Slytherins to come."

Draco looked sharply at him, "They didn't do anything wrong. I shamed the house, Slytherin house rules make it clear what the punishment would be." Draco's face tightened, "Snape should know that."

"So you knew they would...?" Harry felt his temper rising, "You shouldn't have done it-"

"It was worth it. I would do it again." Draco tugged on Harry's hand, "Come over here." Harry hesitated and then smiled. He hopped up on the bed and sat next to Draco. Draco winced a little as Harry settled on the bed.

"Are you okay?" Harry asked alarmed. "I can get off."

"Stay. Just sore."

"So they just...you had to..." Harry stumbled,

"Yeah, I don't want to talk about it." Draco said. "I'm still thinking about Snape."

"Why?" Harry distractedly, he was trying to resist the temptation to lean over and kiss Draco. Now wasn't the time, someone could come in at any minute.

"Snape sending you to see me, after he warned me about you." Draco said shaking his head.

Harry stared at him, "What do you mean he warned you...what are you talking about?"

Draco flushed, "In November, that day we had detention together. After he caught us in the storeroom together."

"He KNOWS?" Harry shouted. "Snape knows? I'm as good as dead-"

"Hush up" Draco hissed. "He doesn't know about this," Draco motioned between them, "I certainly didn't tell him. But he might suspect or has guessed."

Harry flopped backwards on the bed, his head by Draco's feet. "Severus Snape knows...why am I still alive? He could have poisoned me any class since then. He must be waiting until...why is he waiting?"

"Stop being a drama queen." Draco grumbled, "He isn't that bad. Anyway, he held me after class that day and warned me that...getting involved with you would be a very bad idea."

Harry sat up, "What did he say, exactly."

"He said something about how I shouldn't trust you. That behind your pretty green eyes was the heart of a Potter and Potters will always show their true colors. And because my father will kill me..."

Harry looked at Draco horrified, "He won't tell your father will he? Draco, I'm not going to take a chance on you-"

"Forget it," Draco waved his hand dismissively, "Nothing we didn't know before. Snape won't give us away. He isn't exactly a big fan of my father. The fact that he sent you to see me is almost like he is giving his blessing. I'm guessing he figured if I was serious enough to...do what I did last night that he wouldn't object."

"Snape thinks I have pretty eyes?" Harry said, remembering what Draco had said earlier, "That is...disturbing."

"Why? You do have very nice eyes. Especially when you take off your glasses. I can see why Snape would find them attractive." Draco reached up and pulled them off and set them on the bedside table. Harry smiled, leaning forward towards Draco. He stopped a mere inch from Draco's lips. "Please do not use the words Snape and attractive in the same sentence."

They both froze when they heard the doors to the wing open. In a flash Harry was off the bed and had slammed his glasses back on his face. "Malfoy, I don't care if you don't want to do it. I'm just the messenger. Take it up with Snape." he snarled loudly.

Draco drawled, "Just leave it and get out of here, Scarhead. Run back to-" the curtain swung open to reveal Cedric's laughing face.

"You two should take your act on the road." Cedric looked over his shoulder, "But not right now, Blaise Zabini and a pack of Slytherins are about a minute or two behind me. I heard them talking about coming here after lunch."

Harry looked alarmed at Draco. "They won't try anything here will they?"

Draco shook his head, "No, it'll be fine. They are probably going to give me the all clear. If you get your arse out of here."

"Okay, I'm out." He gave Draco a quick kiss. "Thanks, Cedric."

OooooOoOO

Harry wasn't sure how he was going to get away to see Draco again until the Witch Weekly magazine came out a few days later with an article about Hermione and her 'love interests'. It was painful for Harry to see Hermione so hurt and embarrassed because of him. After two days of her getting hate mail and jeered in the hallway as they were walking to classes Harry asked her if it would be better if she wasn't seen with him as much.

"You don't have to Harry. This will blow over in a few days." Hermione said anxiously.

Harry looked at her, "But would it be easier if I didn't hang out with you all the time?" Hermione blushed and nodded. "I think it would, but..."

Harry smiled, feeling a little guilty that he was happy to have an excuse to get away. "It's okay. I understand. They'll print some new scandal in a couple of days and we can all go back to normal."

"Thanks, Harry" Harry felt a little guilty that he was taking advantage of the fallout from the article to see Draco, but not guilty enough to prevent him from doing it. He slipped a note Draco during Potions class to meet him downstairs after supper. Draco gave a brief nod as he was heading out of class.

Harry was nervous walking into the Quidditch locker room. He wished Cedric could have joined them. Harry understood now what Cedric had been talking about back in December when he said that being with other people while in a relationship was important. It would be easier to get past the fight if they were able to see each other while with friends.

Every time he passed Draco in the hallway he wanted to be able to just grab a hold of his hand and walk with him. Instead they had had two spats outside of Potions and Draco had egged him into almost hitting him outside the Great Hall. Ron and Dean had pulled him away from Draco, telling Harry that he wasn't worth getting a detention over. Harry had looked back over his shoulder at Draco and laughed as Draco had winked at him.

He sat down at the desk and pulled out his Potions book. He heard a doorway sweep open and turned to see Draco walking towards the office. He stood hesitantly in the doorway. "Hey."

"Straw is cheaper." Harry said. His eyes were drinking in how good Draco looked. He had undone his tie and unbuttoned the top buttons of his shirt. His blond hair was mussed as if he had been dragging his hands through it. Harry's fingers inched to unbutton Draco's shirt the rest of the way and mess up his hair even more.

Draco gave a laugh, "What?"

"Just something one of my Muggle teachers in primary school would say whenever we said 'Hey'. Never made any sense to me either." Draco walked into the room and sat in the chair next to Harry. "How are you feeling?"

Draco gave a dismissive shrug. "You doing the Potions essay for tomorrow? I haven't started it yet."

Harry nodded, "I still have a foot to go." Draco pulled out his Potions book. Harry could tell that Draco felt as nervous as he did.

"Should we- do you want to talk?" Harry asked hesitantly.

Draco looked up, "Do you?" He was wearing his Malfoy mask, giving no sign of what he was feeling.

"Not really...it's enough right now, just being back here." Harry shrugged.

Draco nodded quickly in agreement. "This is good. Do you want music?""

Harry smiled and stood up, "What should I put on?"

Draco said, "The one with the guys on the sofa."

Harry went over to the player and put the Crosby, Stills and Nash album on the turntable. He wondered if Draco's refusal to call the music groups by their names was his way of pretending that he wasn't listening to Muggle music and enjoying it.

They studied for the next hour and a half without much talking. Harry looked up occasionally to smile at Draco. There would be plenty of time to talk later. It felt good just to let go of the tension and misery that he had been feeling for the last month. Harry reached over with his left hand and lightly grasped Draco's right. Draco gave a little smile and kept on writing with his left. The small contact seemed to relax them both.

"Are you going into Hogsmeade this weekend?" Draco asked as they were packing up. Harry nodded. He was excited about seeing Sirius but felt guilty because he couldn't tell Draco about the visit.

"You?"

"I don't think so. Just going to hang out here." Harry's face twisted, he hadn't thought about it before but Hogsmeade weekends would be a perfect chance to hand out with Draco all day. Maybe the next one he could pretend to be sick so that Ron and Hermione would go without him. He looked over at Draco who was still rolling up his parchment. He knew that Draco was waiting for him to make the first move.

Harry pulled Draco out of his chair and put his arms around him, "Do you know what I was thinking that we really need down here?"

"What?"

"Comfortable chairs...or a sofa." Harry said with a smile, he took two steps back, bringing Draco with him until he was resting against the desk. Draco wrapped his arms around Harry. They just stood there for a minute looking at each other.

"So are we okay?" Draco asked at last.

Harry tightened his arms around Draco, "I was thinking about what Cedric had talked about when we first started...seeing each other. How it would be hard to always just be one on one. Not being around other people. Having completely different friends."

Draco grimaced, "And having to fight and bicker all the time upstairs."

"So how do we make it work?" Harry leaned forward so that their foreheads were touching. "We were doing okay..."

"Until we weren't"

"We could see if Cedric can join us down here more..." Harry said.

Draco nodded, "Go flying again..." Harry nodded.

"Really wish we could just go somewhere where no one knows us. Where we could just walk down a street together and no one knowing that you're a Malfoy and I'm me."

"Well, that isn't going to happen is it?" Draco said bitterly.

"I know, but one can dream."

Draco softly kissed Harry. Harry gave a groan and returned the kiss, moving his hand up to Draco's neck pulling him towards him. Draco captured Harry's lower lip, nibbling on it as Harry shifted back on the desk, wrapping a leg around Draco's.

"Well, since four months ago I only dreamed that I would be doing this with you, I suppose it is okay to dream."

"All we have to do is find a way to keep your father, the Slytherins, Voldemort, and the Wizarding world from killing us." Harry muttered, ignoring the Draco's flinch when he said Voldemort's name.

"Can't that wait until we are 15?" Draco said.

"Well, next year we'll be taking our O.W.L.s, be kind of busy. How about the year after that?"

"I guess that leaves us sneaking away down here and seeing what - Hold on, I forgot to tell you something."

"Forgot what?"

"While I was in the hospital wing..." Draco turned and walked out of the office pulling Harry with him. He went over to the archways in the main part of the locker room. "There was an archway like these...in an alcove down at the end, opposite of Pomfrey's office. Had snitches on it."

Harry nodded, "It would make sense..." He looked closely at the two archways that didn't lead to one of the Houses. "Enough bludger accidents in Quidditch to justify having the locker room connected to the hospital wing. Here..." There were carvings of wands crossed with bones. It has to be this one. And I bet the other one goes to the kitchens."

"How do you know that?" Draco asked.

"We were down in the kitchens a little bit ago and I saw an archway with snitches on it."

"How do you get in to the kitchens?"

"Entrance is down near the Hufflepuff House, you just tickle the pear in the painting and the door opens..."

Draco shook his head in amazement. "You tickle the pear? How did you figure that out?"

"Just have to trust me on it," said Harry, not wanting to give away Fred & George's secret. "It would be a lot easier sneaking in and out of the kitchens than the Gryffindor tunnel." Harry used his Invisibility Cloak to sneak behind the tapestry but he was always afraid that someone would see the fabric moving as the door opened.

"Isn't the kitchen full of house elves? They would tell." Draco said shaking his head.

"I think I could do it...I know some of them pretty well."

"You know the house elves? Are friends with them?"

Harry stiffened, "Yes, is that a problem?"

Draco shook his head, "No, just seems very...Gryffindor."

Harry nodded, "It might be, but Dobby saved me last week the day of the second task. I had stayed up all night trying to find a way to do the task and had fallen asleep. Dobby woke me up and gave me the gillyweed."

Draco stared at him, "That is how you did it? Gillyweed? And because of a house elf?"

Harry nodded, "I would have been standing on the shore with no plan. I've gotten through the first two tasks just by sheer luck and help from others. My luck is going to run out soon."

Draco shook his head, "Someone might have told you to Accio your broom but only you could have flown like that and gotten the egg. Only you could have used the gillyweed to get through everything that you did under the lake and save not one but two people."

Harry shook his head, "I'll just be glad when this whole thing is over and I've lived through it."

Draco wrapped his arms around Harry. "I'm not worried. I think you are going to win."

"That makes one of us. I just want to survive." Harry grumbled. He gave Draco a quick kiss. "I have to get back...getting late. Easy to lose track of time down here."

OOOOooOOO

Harry, Hermione and Ron stood up and said good-bye to Sirius. Harry was grateful knowing that Sirius was so close. He planned to send an owl with food for him as soon as they got back to the castle. He couldn't believe that he had been living off of rats.

"Harry, I need a word with you in private." Sirius said Ron and Hermione nodded, not surprised that he would want to speak to his godson alone.

"We'll wait for you at the bottom of the path, Harry" Hermione said.

Sirius and Harry watched as the pair walked away. "What's up, Sirius?" Harry asked curiously.

Sirius sat back down on the ground and pointed for Harry to sit down too, after he had Sirius asked "Who is it?"

Harry felt chilled, "What do you mean?"

"Come off it, Harry. You have a sappy look on your face when you think no one is looking. James had the same look when he started seeing Lily. All secret smiles and happy. Considering someone is trying to kill you and you still have the third task ahead of you, I don't see much reason for you to be happy. So who is it?"

Harry stared at Sirius, "I can't tell you. I'm sorry, but I really can't say who it is." He didn't want to keep it from Sirius but there is no way he could tell him.

Sirius shook his head, "Is it Diggory?"

"What? No!"

Sirius smiled, "You've mentioned him in every letter you've written to me, Harry. If you are worried that I'll be upset that he's a he, don't be. Nothing wrong with-"

"No, it isn't Cedric...a friend of his." Harry interrupted.

"A male friend?" Harry nodded, flushing slightly. It is one thing to know that you should be able to date whoever you want, girl or boy. It is another thing to have to tell your godfather that you've only met the previous year.

Sirius smiled, "Well, the Diggorys are good people. I imagine anyone Amos Diggory's son is friends with will be good for you.

Harry winced inside, if he told Sirius that it was Draco Malfoy he could only imagine what his reaction would be. Harry shifted and looked down the path, "I should go catch up with Hermione and Ron."

"Okay, Harry, I'll let you go. But be careful, now is not the time to let yourself be distracted. There are people out there who want to do serious harm to you." Harry nodded and headed his way down the mountain path. When Ron and Hermione asked what Sirius wanted to talk about Harry just shrugged and said it was nothing special.

OooOOooOo

Cedric and Harry walked out of the castle together. They had been summoned to the Quidditch pitch to learn about the third task. "They must have dropped the barrier around the pitch, couldn't get near it whenever we were out flying."

"What did they do to it!" Harry said angrily as they drew up to the stadium. The entire smooth field of the pitch was now a twisting mass of thick, tall bushes.

"They destroyed it." Cedric said disbelievingly, "I can't believe it." Bagman and the others were standing at the edge of the field.

"Don't worry boys. Your pitch will be as good as new in time for next year's Quidditch matches." Bagman went on to describe the third task. A maze. Harry's heart picked up a beat or two. This didn't sound nearly as frightening as dragons or the lake.

At last Bagman dismissed them, Harry and Cedric turned to walk back up to the castle when Krum stopped them. "Can I talk with you? The Durmstrang student asked in his heavy accent.

Harry shrugged, and looked at Cedric, "I'll catch up with you." Cedric nodded looking curiously at Krum but turned and started to walk away with Fleur.

Krum pointed towards the Forbidden Forest, he said brusquely, "We will walk over here."

Harry shrugged and followed him. The Bulgarian's familiar scowl gave nothing away. With a sudden thought of dread Harry wondered if he was going to try to blackmail him into losing by threatening to tell about Harry's flying at night. Harry quickly dismissed the idea, he and Draco hadn't risked flying since that night and it was months ago. If Krum had going to make a fuss about it he would have done so already.

"Where are we going?" Harry asked as Krum led him past Hagrid's cabin.

"I don't want to be overheard." Krum grunted. Finally he stopped and turned to Harry. "You are friends with Ced-ric?"

Harry looked puzzled, "Erm, Yeah, of course..." Krum nodded and looked at him and hesitated, "Good friends?"

"You could say so." They were standing at the edge of the Forbidden Forest. Harry's eyes automatically drifted through the trees looking for some of the more intimidating residents.

"And 'ermoine, vot is she to you? She tells me you are friends, but you seem to spend a lot of time with her. She talks about you a lot."

"Hermione and me? No, we aren't... she is just a friend. Honest." Harry said.

"And Cedric, he is just a friend, too?" Krum asked.

"Yes, like I said they both are good friends." Harry said impatiently, wondering where this conversation was going.

"I vos vondering because Karkaroff will not let me..." Krum broke off and looked down at his feet. Harry heard him muttering in Bulgarian. Krum looked up again and shrugged, "This is easier to say in Bulgarian. You fly very well. After all this, maybe you would like to go flying with me?"

Harry looked at him with surprise. He couldn't believe that Viktor Krum would really want to go flying with him. But Krum had mentioned flying with him after the first task and here he was asking again.

Harry grinned broadly, "Sure! I would love to go flying-" Harry broke off as he saw something moving through the trees.

"Vot is it?" They both turned to see a man emerge from the forest. Harry gasped in shock as he recognized the bedraggled figure as Bartemius Crouch.

OoOoOOOoO

Harry could feel every pair of eyes on him as he walked into supper with Ron and Hermione. It was no surprise that word of what had happened in Divination that afternoon had spread throughout the school. The room was uneasily quiet as they walked towards their usual spots at the Gryffindor table. As they sat down the room erupted in a hive of excited talk. Harry ignored it all and looked across to where Draco sat. He was staring over at Harry. Harry gave a little shrug and looked away. It was more than frustrating that he couldn't just go over and tell Draco that he was okay.

He had spent the entire afternoon in Dumbledore's office and he was still reeling from what he had learned. Snape really was or had been a Death Eater. The screaming still echoed in his head as Pettigrew was tortured. Harry dared a quick glance at Neville. Finding out what had happened to Neville's parents had been a shock.

Harry looked down at his plate. There was food on it. He looked over at Hermione who had just set the plate in front of him. "You need to eat, Harry." He never felt less like eating but at least it would give him something to do.

"So, Harry. What happened in class?" Seamus Finnigan asked. Everyone around them got quiet now that someone had dared to ask the question.

"Fell asleep. Nightmare. Headache." Harry stared over at Seamus. "Do you want to make something of it?"

"I've slept in the same rooms as you for the last four years Harry. Never heard you having nightmares like that. Never heard you scream like that." Seamus' voice had an aggressive tone to it. Some of the first and second years were staring at Harry with alarm.

"Well, I dreamed that you were having a threesome with Snape and Trelawney." Harry snapped, "That would make anyone scream their head off." Ron choked on his food as Seamus swore at Harry.

Harry looked around, "Anyone else want to ask me anything?"

"Yea, Harry," Fred piped up from down the table. "Where was Seamus in that love sandwich? On the bottom?"

"Oi! Our sister is sitting here!" Ron spat out at Fred, glaring at him and George.

Ginny waved a weary hand at them. "I stopped listening to Fred a long time ago."

"I'll draw you a diagram, Fred." Harry said with a smile.

The tension at the table was broken and Harry started to eat his supper. He could still feel people around the room staring at him. He gave a quick glance over at the Slytherin table and could tell that Draco was frustrated at not being able to talk to him. He needed to find a way to sneak downstairs and hope that Draco followed.

"I'm going to go for a walk," Harry told Hermione and Ron as they headed out of the Great Hall.

"What! You can't do that!" Ron stared at him.

Hermione nodded vigorously, "Harry, Sirius told you that you shouldn't go off alone, especially after what happened with Crouch."

Harry felt like screaming that they should leave him alone, but he knew that they were only being good friends. It wasn't their fault that the only person he wanted to see right now was Draco. "It will be okay. I just need some quiet."

They heard footsteps approaching and turned to see Cedric. Harry smiled, of course it was Cedric. He always found a way to show up at the right time. "Hope I'm not interrupting anything. Harry, I need to talk to you about the third task...if you have time." Ron stiffened as if he was about to object but Hermione put her hand on his arm.

"We'll see you upstairs, soon. Won't we, Harry?" She said, frowning at him slightly as if she didn't approve but wasn't going to object.

"Sure, I'll be right up." He nodded at her, and then turned and walked out the front doors with Cedric. As soon as the doors had closed and they were alone on the front steps Harry sank down, sitting on the steps holding his head in his hands.

"Are you okay?" Cedric said concernedly, sitting next to him.

Harry nodded, his eyes still closed. He took a few deep breaths. "Just too much, sometimes. Everyone watching me."

Harry felt Cedric reach out and rub his back. The small gesture of comfort eased some of the tension he had been carrying. Not for the first time Harry wondered at what a difference knowing Cedric had made in the last eight months. He had really come to rely on the Hufflepuff's friendship and support. Harry wasn't sure that he would have been able to get through all of the pressure of the tournament and all the attention that had been focused on him without Cedric's help. And he knew that he and Draco would likely never have overcome their differences if it hadn't been for Cedric. Cedric had also spent a lot of time over the last couple of months talking with Draco and that he was always calmer and more in control afterwards.

"I don't think Hermione likes me too much." Cedric said after a minute or two. He had dropped his hand and they both were just sitting looking at the lake.

"It's not that," Harry hesitated, a little embarrassed, "She thinks that we are... you know."

"And, she doesn't approve because she doesn't like me?" Cedric asked curiously, turning to look at Harry, "She doesn't seem like the type to object just because I'm male."

"Uh, no. She doesn't approve because she knows about Simon. She thinks..." Harry broke off as Cedric started laughing.

"Well, that makes me feel better. I didn't know what I had done to offend her. I take it you haven't discouraged her entirely of the idea?"

Harry nodded, "Since obviously I'm going off somewhere...and I know if she realizes it isn't you she will harass me until she figures it out-"

The doors to the castle opened and light poured out onto the steps. Cedric scooted a little farther away, but Harry was too tired to bother what someone might think about them sitting next to each other.

"Is he okay?"

Draco. Harry turned and smiled. "I'm okay, now." Draco stood on the steps above them, obviously torn between wanting to go to Harry and afraid that someone else might come outside. Harry and Cedric stood up. Harry stared at Draco, wishing that he could put his arms around him.

"Why don't we go downstairs," said Cedric, looking around. "Anyone could come by and we can talk better down there. Draco, do you want to follow-"

Draco waved them off, "I know." Cedric and Harry set off, walking around the castle to the West Tower. They could hear Draco's footsteps following them in the distance. For the thousandth time Harry wondered what it would be like to be able to walk next to Draco and not have to worry about what would happen.

They reached the tower and Cedric opened the door. Draco came in a couple of minutes later. He came over to Harry and reached out and touched his face softly. Draco shook his head, "You look like shite."

For the first time all day, Harry laughed. "Thanks, I feel like it. Let's sit down. I'll tell you what happened."

When they were all sitting around the office, Harry told them as succinctly as he could what had happened in Divination. He didn't tell them about the Pensieve and the memories that he had visited with Dumbledore.

Both boys were shaken by Harry's description of his dream. "That is incredible, Harry." Cedric shook his head.

Draco stared at Harry's forehead. "And this has happened before, hasn't it?" his voice was strained with tension.

Harry nodded, "This summer and before that."

"You have to live with that, and I've been making it worse for four years by calling you Scarhead, and Merlin knows what else?" Draco stood up so quickly his chair tipped over. He started pacing back and forth. Harry stood up and came over to him and put his hands on Draco's shoulders.

"Stop it. It is not like you could have known. And let's be honest, up until this year you wouldn't have cared if you did know."

Draco stared at him, "I hate that I treated you like shit for four years and that I still have to upstairs. I hate that I'm going to have to call you Scarhead tomorrow, knowing what pain it causes you."

Draco tried to break away from Harry but Harry tightened his grasp on him, "And I've treated you like shit for the same amount of time and I will tomorrow. It has to be enough that we know what the truth is down here." Harry stared at Draco. "We have gotten past all of the bad. Don't let it eat at you. We both have had shitty parts to our lives. Big deal."

Draco wrapped his arms around Harry. The two boys leaned against each other.

"Are you sure?" Draco asked anxiously. "Because, tomorrow I'm going to have to..." he glanced at Harry's forehead and winced, "I'm going to make a big deal about the Divination thing and I don't want you wondering..."

"It will be okay. We have to go on as everyone expects us to behave."

"I really need to come up with a better name than Scarhead. I don't think I'm going to be able to say it without wanting to vomit."

"You can always use his title," Cedric said. Both boys turned to look at him puzzled, "You know, The Chosen One."

"More like 'The Cursed One.'" Draco said, shaking his head, "We could try that one out on you."

Harry laughed, "Thanks for the recommendation. I'll have my publicity department get started on that right away."

"I wonder what it would feel like to date like normal people." Draco said, "Without having to plan fights in hallways and call each other names."

"I think you would both find normal very boring and find a way to make it not normal." Cedric said.

"We can be normal," Harry protested. He was glad that all the tension had vanished from the room, "Talk about Quidditch and what not."

"Speaking of Quidditch, I've been wondering, Harry. What did Krum want to talk to you about the other night?" Cedric asked.

Draco nodded "That's right, with all of the excitement of Crouch being spotted and Krum getting attacked I forgot that the reason you saw Crouch was because of Krum."

"Oh, I don't know why he dragged me all the way off towards the woods, but all he asked me about was going flying with him." Harry said with a shrug.

"Again? He said something after the dragons didn't he?" Draco asked.

"Viktor Krum wants to go flying with you?" Cedric said surprised. "Was that all he said?"

"Well it was a little confusing, he asked if we - you and I - were friends and then he asked about Hermione. And I told him we were just friends. I think he must be interested in Hermione. Oh, and then he asked me to go flying after the tournament is over. Which is kind of strange, because he had already asked me, but I thought he was just being nice." Draco snorted and looked over at Cedric. Cedric was covering his mouth with his hand choking a little.

"What's wrong?" Harry asked confused.

Draco shook his head and said to Cedric, "It is truly amazing, how oblivious he is."

Cedric burst out laughing. "Give him time. He'll work it out." Harry stared at the two of them in bewilderment.

"What are you on about? You don't think he wants to really go flying? Just asking to throw me off for the third task?"

Draco kissed him, "No, Harry. I do really think he wants to go flying with you."

Harry stared at him blankly for ten seconds. He shook his head vigorously, looking from Cedric to Draco. "No! He isn't... he wasn't... was he?"

"See, I told you he would catch on." Cedric leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs. "Now, if only an international Quidditch star would ask me to go flying with him. Wouldn't hurt to give Simon something to be jealous about."

Draco smiled, "Well, I'm not jealous." Cedric looked at him quizzically. "Why should I be? Krum is going back to Bulgaria and I'll have Harry all to myself. Plus, it is kind of hot knowing that my boyfriend is good enough for said international Quidditch star."

"Well, wait a minute. What about Hermione? He took her to the dance. He must be interested in her." Harry protested.

Cedric looked at him and smiled, "Well, let's think about that. Couple of possible explanations. All three of us went to the dance with girls. Krum might have asked Hermione for the same kind of reason. And he getting to know Hermione, he may have seen it as an opportunity to find out if you were...available. Or," Cedric shrugged, "He may like both of you and is investigating the possibilities."

Harry looked stunned, "That just doesn't seem likely. This day has just been one nonstop dragon ride. I think you two are wrong. I'm sure he is just interested in Hermione and he was being polite about asking me to go flying with him."

Draco laughed, "Right, because he is so polite. He is as surly as they come... to most of us."

OoOOOoOO

Harry found Cedric studying in the library. He slid into the seat next to the Hufflepuff and looked around to make sure no one was nearby. "Cedric, I was wondering…erm. You are pretty good in Transfigurations, aren't you?"

Cedric shrugged, "I like the coursework. I'm taking the Transfiguration N.E.W.T. levels next year, so I guess you could say so."

"Well, it is Draco's birthday in a couple of weeks. I was wondering if you could help me with something." Harry said nervously, looking around.

Cedric's eyes sparkled, "This sounds intriguing…what did you have in mind?"

Harry put his head close to Cedric's and whispered into his ear, Cedric gave a burst of laughter that was quickly quieted thanks to a glare from Madam Pince.

"Sounds ambitious, I'd love to help you. When do you want to do it?"

OoOoOoOoOOOOoOOOoo

Harry slipped Draco a note as they were leaving Potions Friday afternoon.

Sunday, skip supper, come downstairs.

Sunday afternoon Harry came up to Hermione in the Gryffindor common room. "Hermione, I was wondering, well. I'm going to skip supper tonight. Cedric and I are going to, erm, talk about the maze and share ideas on how we should train for it."

Hermione looked up from her Arithmancy to look doubtfully at him. "I thought you weren't supposed to help one another?"

"Oh, well, we are just to talk about different stuns and spells we should be learning. That can't do any harm." Harry said hesitantly, tugging at his fringe.

Hermione shook her head, "Harry, do you really think it is a good idea to spend so much time studying with Cedric? You know he has a boyfriend."

Harry flushed, "It is okay, honest, Hermione. Can you just cover for me with Ron?"

Hermione nodded and watched him thoughtfully as he walked away whistling.

Draco walked into the locker room and stopped short. Harry and Cedric looked up from where they were pulling food out of baskets on to the desk. "What is this all about?"

Harry came over and pulled him into the room. "Happy Birthday!"

Draco stopped walking and looked at him surprised. "How did you know it was my birthday tomorrow?"

Harry gave a laugh, "Well, I asked Zabini and he told me." Draco raised an eyebrow at him. "Don't believe that one? Well, erm, it might be that I remembered from last year or the year before. You probably know when mine is too…" Harry said with a shrug.

"The entire wizarding world knows when the Boy Wonder was born. Surprised it isn't a national holiday." Draco said as he gave Harry a hug, "How in Merlin's beard did you get all of the food?"

"House elves, just like at Christmas."

Cedric came forward, "Happy Birthday, Draco. Nice of Harry to include me in this celebration he planned."

"Did you come through the tunnel from the kitchen?" Draco asked looking towards the tunnel entrances.

"Yeah, but it is okay. The elves didn't see where we went, I made sure of it."

The three students sat down at the desk and started eating. "Kind of nice having a private dining hall." Cedric said, "Maybe we can arrange to have the elves deliver us dinner every Sunday."

Harry laughed, "I am running out of excuses for being missing so much. But it would be worth it to make everyone wonder, just to have time down here."

Draco leaned back in his chair, "I'm stuffed."

"No room for blueberry tart?" Harry asked.

Draco looked at him dourly, "You know I haven't had any since that night."

Harry looked a little sheepish, "I know, I feel bad. So here you go." He reached into the last basket and pulled out a blueberry tart. "All yours."

Draco eyed it suspiciously, "You first." Harry and Cedric gave a laugh. Harry cut a slice for all three of them and with a flourish dipped his fork into the tart and ate a bite of it.

Draco stared at him for twenty seconds and then gave a smile when Harry didn't turn into a canary. "Okay, I guess it is safe."

When they had finished and all the dishes had been tucked back into the basket Draco turned to Harry, "So what did you have planned for entertainment? Dancing?"

Harry laughed, "Actually, I was thinking Patronus races."

Cedric and Draco both looked at him and laughed. "Can they race?"

"Don't see why not…let's try." They walked to the doorway to the locker room, Harry held up his wand. "On three, one, two, three…" In a flash the three patronuses were streaming out of the tips of their wands. Cedric's raven easily reached the end of the room first, sailing over the heads of the stag and panther. The boys sat on the floor and watched as the three patronuses interacted with each other. The panther playfully darting at the stag that fended it off with its antlers and the raven flew overhead.

"So, how do you suppose you end up with the Patronus that you do?" Cedric said idly. He held up his wand and sent his raven patronus soaring around the locker room.

Harry shrugged, "I don't know, my dad had the same Patronus. Maybe you inherit it along with your magic."

Draco added his panther to the others. "I don't know. My mother's is a lynx. Is there any symbolism in the animals?"

"Well, I looked them up after last time." Cedric said, casting his Patronus again after the first one faded away. "The Stag is seen as one who travels between this world and the afterlife. The Raven is traditionally the seen as a harbinger of death or the Devil."

"And the panther?" Draco asked, intrigued.

"In some legends it is said that the Panther protects people from the Dragon."

Harry gave a laugh, "Draco's Patronus protects people from…Draco?"

Cedric laughed, "Maybe it is intended to protect him from himself. But truly, I wouldn't put too much merit in the symbolism." He stood up and brushed off his trousers. "This has been great. Thanks for including me in the celebration. I'll be off. Happy birthday, Draco."

Harry and Draco watched as Cedric disappeared through the Hufflepuff tunnel. Draco scooted closer to Harry, "Thank you for my birthday surprise, I really had no idea."

"Well, it is easy to keep a surprise from you when we only get to talk every couple of weeks." Harry said with a shrug, "But, come here, I want to give you your birthday present." He stood up and pulled Draco to his feet. Holding Draco's hand he led him over to the far side of the office where a large object covered with a blanked was pushed against the wall.

"What's under there?" Draco asked, standing behind Harry with his arms around him.

"Your birthday present, I hope." Harry said with a nervous laugh. He went over and pulled the blanket off to reveal one of the wooden benches from the locker room, with the old Quidditch leather guards piled on it.

Draco looked at him with his eyebrow raised, "My birthday present is an old bench?" Harry took a deep breath and held up his wand. With concentration he said the complicated incantation and made the necessary swishes with his wand. There was a pop, and Harry watched with a delighted smile as the bench and old uniforms transfigured into a green leather settee. Draco gave a laugh of astonishment.

"How did you ever? What made you…"

Harry gave an embarrassed shrug. "We need some where comfortable to sit. Figured someone would notice if I dragged one of the sofas down from our common room, so I thought it would be easier to make one." He walked over and gave a tentative push on the cushions to check stability. "Cedric helped me with the incantation. It only will last a couple of hours and then it will transform back."

"If McGonagall saw this she would give you an "O" in Transfiguration for the year." Draco said. He looked at Harry. "I think it would be a good idea to test it out. Make sure that it is comfortable?" Harry laughed and nodded.

OOoOOOOooOo

Draco signaled to Harry that he needed to see him right away. They met in an empty classroom on the third floor.

"What's wrong?" Harry asked as soon as Draco entered the classroom.

"We have a problem. That Skeeter woman. She knows what happened in Divination."

"She what!" Harry shouted.

"Keep your voice down! She knows, I don't know how, but she knows. She sent me a letter. Wants to meet get my take on it."

"Of course, she does." Harry said bitterly.

"I can refuse but everyone at the table saw the letter. If I don't meet with her they will wonder why..." Draco's voice trailed off.

"And after the last article and you apologizing to Hagrid it will make them suspicious. Dammit, why won't that woman leave me alone?"

"I don't know, let me think, is it because you are Harry effin' Potter? You know, Boy Wonder, Chosen One, etc, etc."

"Very funny. You are going to have to talk to her." Harry said, "Only way. Play it like you would if we were enemies."

"You need to tell me how much should I say, I don't want you to-"

"Don't worry about it, okay. I'm not going to blow up at you. No matter what you say, Skeeter and her bloody quill is going to bend it to fit whatever story she is trying to tell. And besides this one will be about me, not bashing my friends, I can take it."

"Goyle and Zabini are going to be there too...if they say something off, they are going to expect me to-" Draco was pacing back and forth, Harry went and stood in front of his path, forcing him to stop.

"Listen: You came to me and asked me what to do, I told you to go Malfoy on me. I'm not going to get mad at you, Draco. Mad at Skeeter sure, but we'll be okay. I promise."

"Things were a lot easier when I thought you were shit-for-brains attention seeking braggart."

"That's it, just channel that venom and do some good ol' Potter bashing."

Draco forced a smile. "Alright, I've got to go. Am I going to see you before Saturday?"

Harry glanced at the door and decided to risk giving him a hug, "I don't know. We are spending every spare minute practicing spells for the task. Ron and Hermione aren't even studying for their exams to make time for me."

"The Potions exam is on Friday, tell them they need to study for it. Since you are getting out of exams you can skive off. Meet me downstairs on Thursday night after supper." Draco said, whispering into his ear.

"Okay, I'll try. I'll signal you during Thursday supper if I can't get away." Harry gave him a quick kiss and headed for the door.

OooOoOO

Harry felt a pang of guilt as he watched Ron stiffly try to sit down at the Gryffindor table on Thursday night. Harry had been practicing stunning spells that afternoon and Ron had kept missing the pillows that Hermione had placed for him to fall onto.

Ginny looked at her brother and laughed, "You look as pathetic as Aunt Myrtle. So, Harry, are you ready?" Harry gave a shrug as he reached for a second helping of beef stew.

"I suppose. Hermione has taught me practically every hex and jinx in the book. Just have to try and keep them all straight in my head."

Hermione looked at him encouragingly, "You'll do fine, Harry. But I really think we should get one more practice session tonight-" Ron gave a groan and Harry quickly interrupted.

"No, you have your Potions exam tomorrow. Besides, I don't think will Ron will be able to move if I stun him one more time. I'll just go off and read in the library or somewhere."

"Are you sure, Harry?" Hermione gave him a worried look.

"Positive." Harry dared a quick glance at the Slytherin table. Draco and his friends had their heads together and were in a heated discussion. Draco looked over at Harry and Harry gave him a quick nod. Draco returned the nod and went back to arguing with Blaise. Harry felt a brief stab of jealously towards the swarthy Italian. He had seen him and Draco out walking that afternoon at lunchtime. Something he and Draco would never be able to do together. Or could they? An idea flashed in his head, he couldn't believe he hadn't thought of it sooner. He stood up hurriedly from the table.

"Where are you going, Harry?" Ginny asked.

"Forgot to do something, I'll see you later." Harry hurried out the Great Hall and up the stairs that led to the Gryffindor Tower. Grabbing what he needed he hurried into the common room and slipped into the tunnel before anyone got back from supper.

Harry was pacing the locker room floor by the time Draco sauntered in. He stopped short when he saw Harry smiling at him. "What's wrong?"

"Why do you think anything is wrong?" Harry said, walking over to him.

Draco held up his hand, holding Harry away, "Because you are smiling like a Gryffindor that is up to something."

Harry smiled, his green eyes flashing, "We are going to take a walk." Draco snorted and started to walk towards the office. Harry grabbed his arm and pulled him back. Kissing him hard, he repeated. "We are going to take a walk. I've been trapped in the castle on all of these beautiful days. I want to go for a walk with you.

"And you don't think anyone will see us? The sun doesn't set for another hour." Draco had wrapped his arms around Harry, "I think that all of the training for the Triwizard has addled your brain."

Harry wiggled out of Draco's arms and went to the bench. With a practiced swirl of his arms he put on the Invisibility Cloak. "Care to rethink that last statement."

He laughed at the stunned look on Draco's face. The Slytherin tentatively put out his hand toward where Harry was standing. Harry swiftly scooted around and came up behind Draco, grabbing him and kissing his neck.

"You bloody prick, I can't believe you..." Draco spun around, "You've been keeping this a secret all year?"

Harry pulled down the hood so just his head was exposed. "Yeah, sorry. Never occurred to me to use this for anything other than sneaking around..."

Draco paled looking at Harry's head floating in space. He reached out and gave him a shove. "The freakin' Screaming Shack! That is how -"

Harry rubbed "Ouch. Forgot about that gag last year. But you deserved it. Following us like you did."

Draco gave a snort of laughter, "Well, that was during my I-hate-Harry-Potter-because-I-can't-stop-thinking-about-him phase"

"Not in that phase anymore?" Harry murmured. He took a step closer and pulled his arms out from under the cloak, grabbing ahold of Draco's hands and pulling him to him.

"No, I'm in an entirely new phase, now it's the I-want-to-snog-Harry-Potter-in-the-locker-room phase."

"Too bad, because I am in the I-want-to-snog-Draco-Malfoy-under-a-tree phase," Harry said, he broke away from Draco and headed towards the door that lead outside. "Are you coming?"

Draco hesitated, "I thought you weren't supposed to leave the castle?"

"Who is going to know? I'll be under this, you'll just look like you are walking by yourself." Harry pulled the cloak completely over himself and lifted his wand to open the door. Draco cursed and came over, he pulled the hood back and kissed him hard on the lips.

"If we get caught, it will be on your head." Draco snapped. Harry flashed him a smile and disappeared under the cloak again. Draco slipped through the door and it closed behind him.

"How am I supposed to know where you are?" Draco muttered as he stepped away from the wall. There were very few paths on this side of the castle which was fortunate because it meant it was unlikely that anyone would see Draco emerging from the wall.

"Like this," Harry reached out and with the cloak still covering his hand, he grabbed Draco's right hand. Draco gave it a squeeze and held on.

"Alright, fine, this may actually work. Where do you want to go?" Draco muttered.

"Around to the far side of the lake." Harry said, sweat was already running down his face. The heat of the day hadn't faded yet and the cloak did not allow any air to get through. He would put up with the heat just for the pleasure of being outdoors for the first time in weeks. "Head away from people so you can talk and not look-"

"Crazy? Hush up, people up ahead." Draco said as he turned on to the path that would lead around the lake. Here and there on the grassy hill leading from the castle to the lake were clumps of students, studying for end of term exams. Or pretending to study, Harry thought as he saw Fred and Angelina lying on a blanket together. Fred looked over and saw Draco on the path. Draco cursed and kept walking.

"Hey, Malfoy. Where's your goon squad?"

"Sod off, Weasley." Draco responded, not stopping to confront him. Harry held on to his hand tighter and focused on making sure that his feet didn't show from under the cloak.

"Sod off? That was the best you could do? Where is all the Malfoy malevolence?" Harry laughed as soon as they were safely away from everyone.

"I was more worried about him noticing that half my fingers are missing on my right hand than coming up with a suitable reply." Draco said, his eyes scanning the path ahead.

Harry looked down and sure enough the cloak was cloaking most of Draco's hand. He tried to let go. Draco squeezed tighter. "Forget it. We'll be on the far side soon. No one is over there that I can see."

"Go past that grove of trees and then there is a really large chestnut tree." Harry said, still whispering. Draco gave him a curious look and walked that way. Harry gave a sigh of relief as they reached the chestnut that had a broad trunk at least three feet across. With a last look around that no one was nearby, he went around to the far side of the tree and took off the cloak and sat down.

"Don't you think you should keep that on?" Draco said sitting down next to him.

"Too hot," Harry said, "In fact," he reached down and pulled his t-shirt off. He wiped his face in the shirt and tossed it on the ground. He leaned against the tree reveling in the feel of the late day sun on his skin. The breeze from the lake cooled his over-heated skin.

Draco groaned. "So you think the next person who walks by won't be at all curious about a half-naked Harry Potter sitting next to me?" Draco muttered, at the same time as his hand was reaching out and touching Harry's chest.

"I think it would be much more interesting if they saw a half-naked Draco next to half-naked me." Harry said as he was pulling Malfoy's shirt out from the waistband of his trousers. Malfoy tried to bat his hands away. Harry smiled and easily trapped both of Malfoy's hands with one hand and pulled on the shirt with his other. "Relax, the path is gravel. We'll hear anyone coming from either direction and we can just pull the cloak over ourselves."

"And if they decide to sit under the same tree?" Draco scowled, as Harry started unbuttoning Draco's shirt.

"Then we'll go with plan B" said Harry with a happy smile as Draco's shirt came off. Harry ran his hands over his lithe body and tugged him closer to him.

"What is Plan B?"

"Stun them." Harry swooped forward and starting kissing Draco's neck. The Slytherin skin tasted salty. Harry's tongue lapped against his jaw and done the cool lines of his neck.

"I can go along with that." Draco admitted, as he rubbed his hands along Harry's muscled back. "I can't believe under all those baggy clothes you have a body like this." Harry looked up and smiled.

"You'll have to thank Hermione and her Triwizard training regime. She had me running up every staircase in the castle twice a day. Anyway, the clothes aren't mine"

"What do you mean the clothes aren't yours?" Draco looked at him in disbelief. He straightened up and poked the t-shirt with a foot as if the rightful owner would be back any minute for them.

Harry sighed and sat up leaned against the tree. He knew from experience that Draco wouldn't stop talking until his questions were answered. "They're hand me downs from my cousin. Can't believe I haven't told you this before. Dursleys won't spend any money on me, so I get all of Dudley's old clothes and he is huge."

"Why don't you just buy your own? You have money from your parents, don't you?"

Harry frowned. "Yeah, but if I come home with a trunk full of clothes, my aunt and uncle will get suspicious and realize that I have money. I don't want them touching it. Besides, I don't really care what I look like." Draco opened his mouth to protest, "Do you really want to spend the hour that we have before curfew arguing about my clothes?" Draco smiled and shook his head. He pushed back against Harry so they were both lying in the grass.

The sun had already started to set when they stood up. Harry reached to tug on his t-shirt. Draco stopped him and ran his hand along the faint scar from that the Hungarian Horntail that ran along Harry's chest. He pulled Harry to him and kissed gently along the scar. "Promise me that you'll come out of the maze without any scars."

Harry smiled, "I'll try my best. This has been the best day in a long time. I can't believe I never thought about using the cloak to get us out of the locker room before today."

Draco tried to smirk but it was more of a happy smile. "I can't believe we haven't gotten caught."

Harry looked at Draco and laughed the Slytherins pants were covered with dust, his shirt wrinkled. Harry started brushing the dirt off Draco's pants. "If anyone sees you coming in like that they'll know you were rolling around with someone."

Draco shrugged, "Let them wonder, besides I have a clothes in the locker room to change in to." Harry reached down and picked up his t-shirt, not bothering to put it on he flipped on the cloak, grimacing at the heat.

They walked towards the castle in silence even thought there was no one around to hear them. Draco had an intense look on his face, a frown marring his forehead.

"What's wrong," Harry asked at last, wondering what had changed so quickly.

"The tournament is in two days," Draco said, Harry nodded, "And after the tournament there is only a week more of school."

Harry stopped short. Draco felt the pull on his hand and stopped also. Harry pulled back the hood. His green eyes worried, "I hadn't thought about that, I've been so focused about the tournament. Two months-"

Draco scowled, "Put the damn hood up." Harry hastily pulled it back up. And Draco started walking again. "I've been thinking about it. I don't think we'll be able to write at all. Father gets all correspondence owled to the Manor. And the house elves report to him about all letters going out."

Harry spoke from under the hood, "I can get owls. My aunt and uncle don't like it, but Hermione and Ron write to me in summer. Anyway, could you send out letters without your father knowing?"

"Maybe, if I'm lucky he will be gone on one of his trips a good part of the summer." Draco's voice sounded tight.

Harry pulled him closer to him, "We'll figure something out. Let's talk about it next week, after the Triwizard is over."

"After you win the Triwizard?" Draco said with a smile. Harry laughed, which Draco quickly shushed, "Ravenclaws, two o'clock." they were getting closer to the castle so neither risked talking again until they were inside.

Harry flung off the cloak and through it on a bench as soon as the door closed. "That was worth every risk." he said with a thrilled laugh.

"Sometimes you have some very good ideas." Draco agreed. "But, it is curfew in fifteen minutes. I need to change," he said looking down at his dirt covered clothes with distaste. "What about you, won't someone say something?"

Harry laughed, "There are advantages to always looking like a mess. No one will think I look any different."

Draco pulled off his shirt. Harry sat on the bench and enjoyed the view. Even in a year without Quidditch, Draco had stayed fit. Draco grabbed a clean shirt out of the locker, "Stop staring." He looked over at Harry, his face set, "On Saturday, don't do anything foolish. Just play it safe."

"I'm not worried, so long as there aren't any dragons, should be safe enough." Harry shrugged. He was still thinking about summer holiday. He couldn't believe that he hadn't realized it was only a week away. It was bad enough when they had to go a week or more before being able to sneak downstairs together. Two months. A lot could change in two months.

"Things with you are never as they should be, who knows what traps they have put in there." Draco said seriously.

OoOoOoOO

Of all the bloody days for them to run that article. Draco looked up from the Daily Prophet that Pansy had thrust into his hand with a squeal. 'Disturbed and Dangerous' the headline screamed across the front page with a photograph of Harry looking sourly at the camera. Draco forced his lip into a sneer as Pansy excitedly read the article aloud to the Slytherin table. It was far worse than he had imagined. Throughout the Great Hall Draco could see clumps of students sharing and reading the paper - all the while stealing glances small silent group of Gryffindors. Draco looked at Harry. He had seen Granger and Weasley try to hide the paper from Harry but he had grabbed it away from them. Draco's stomach did a flip as he saw Harry's face grow pale as the black haired Gryffindor gripped and read the paper. Skeeter had twisted everything he had said into the worst possible connotation.

Crabbe and Goyle had started cackling as Pansy finished reading, Goyle elbowed him and Draco gave a laugh and joined in their mocking of everything in the article. He saw Granger get up from the Gryffindor table and run from the room. Where was she rushing off to? A lot of students were heading out. Malfoy realized that he only had a few minutes to get to Binn's History of Magic examination. He walked slowly past the Gryffindor table. Harry had his head down and appeared to be picking at his breakfast. He didn't look up as Draco walked past. Draco hesitated but Blaise came up behind him saying, "Come on, we are going to be late," and pushed him towards the door.

Draco could scarcely focus on the examination. Why hadn't Harry looked up? Had he just not noticed or was he mad at Draco? He had told Draco that he wouldn't get angry about it, but the article was far worse than either of them could have anticipated. Reading the way that Skeeter had twisted his words made him furious. He could only imagine how mad Harry was about it.

At last the exam was over. Draco was the first one out the door. He hurried down the stairs to the ground floor. He had to find Harry. Maybe they were out by the Quidditch pitch getting a look at the maze. Draco ran down the front steps and stopped. Harry was walking along the lake path with a woman with red hair and a man. Draco recognized her as the Weasel's mother, it was hard to say who the man was beside them. It was too far to see his face but from the hair it could only be one of the oldest Weasley of the brothers. Farther down the path Draco could see Cedric walking with three people. All of the champions' parents must have been invited to attend the final task. Dumbledore must have invited the Weasleys for Harry. Draco felt some of his tension ease, visiting with the Weasleys would distract Harry from the task and the article.

The article. Draco still had to find a way to talk with Harry. Make sure that everything was okay. He didn't want Harry going into the third task without making sure that everything was okay between them. Harry had to be completely focused on getting through the maze.

Draco sat down on the steps and pulled out a textbook, hoping that they would walk past them into the castle. He looked up from his book to see that they had continued on the pathways that lead to the courtyard entrance. The Diggorys were now walking along with Harry and the Weasleys. The group was laughing and relaxed as they disappeared out of sight around the corner of the building.

Footsteps fell on the stone steps. Draco looked up to see the tall, blond man that had been walking with the Diggorys coming towards him. "Are you Draco?" the man asked hesitantly.

Draco nodded. "I'm Simon. Cedric asked me to deliver a message. I don't know what it means but he told me to tell you that 'Everything is okay downstairs.'" Draco gave a quick laugh in relief before regaining his Slytherin composure and scrambled to stand up.

Draco held out his hand, "Tell Cedric, thank you. And, erm best of luck to him tonight, a lot of Slytherin galleons are riding on his beating Potter."

Simon gave a laugh, "And your galleons, Draco? Where are they riding?" Draco felt his heart stop for a minute. Had Cedric told his boyfriend about them? He forced himself to breathe; he knew Cedric and trusted him. If he trusted Simon that had to be good enough.

Draco gave a wink, "Let's just say I have my bet in the right place. Maybe I'll see you tonight at the tournament." He picked up his bag and headed down the steps towards the paths that led away from the castle. Knowing that Harry wasn't angry at him about the article was a huge relief. He just had to remember not to cheer for Harry while sitting among all of the Slytherins tonight.

Draco watched as Harry and the other Champions filed out of the Great Hall behind Dumbledore at the end of the supper feast. Dumbledore had announced that everyone could start walking down to the Quidditch pitch in five minutes.

Of course, the Slytherin table was the last ones to leave the hall, not wanting to appear too eager. Draco tried to calm his nerves. He knew that Harry could handle himself in the maze. If he had any brains he would just stay safe and not try to win. Not that that was likely, the Gryffindor in Harry wouldn't let him not try to win.

At last they took their place in the stands. Because they were so late getting out to the pitch all of the higher up seats in the stands were filled. Everyone who had arrived earlier had taken the highest seats to try and see over the 20 foot hedges that formed the maze. The maze that had looked harmless in the daylight when he had walked past it earlier looked much more sinister in the dark.

"Why don't we try to get higher up?" Draco asked Zabini, looking futilely for a spot. He could see Dumbledore and the other judges sitting in a large box seat that looked directly over the entrance to the maze. The Weasleys and Diggorys along with Krum and Fleur's families were sitting in the stands behind the judges.

"Don't see why. It will be dark soon. We won't be able to see anything anyway." Blaise said with a shrug. "This way we'll be able to leave quickly and get to the Potter Lost party." Draco gave up and turned his eyes back towards the entrance. The maze stretched before them. Only the outside edges of the maze were lit by torches. Harry and Cedric were standing at the entrance of the maze. Bagman's voice boomed out in welcome to everyone attending. The stadium grew quiet and without further fanfare Bagman gave the signal and Cedric and Harry both set off into the dark tunnels.

In five minute intervals, Krum and Fleur entered the maze. The stadium was absolutely quiet, everyone straining to hear what was going on inside. Strange flashes of light would occasionally flash from different areas. Draco strained his eyes to see something in the darkness. Time seemed to stand on end, from the flashes that could be seen he knew at least one or two of the champions were working their way deep into the middle of the maze.

Suddenly a scream filled the air, so high pitched it sounded like the screams of the mandrake. There was a collective inhale as the hundreds of people in the stand gasped. No one dared to make a sound for fear of missing the next noise coming from the maze.

No red sparks. Draco wondered if this was a good sign or a bad one. It must have been Fleur that had screamed. No man could make that high pitch of a scream. Draco turned towards the judges' box. Dumbledore must have thought so as well. He had stood up and was directing faculty members on brooms towards the far side of the maze near where the scream had been heard. He could see Fleur's parents and sister clutching one another in the stands. After a few long minutes three wizards on broom could be seen levitating the limp body of Fleur out of the maze and towards the locker room entrance where Pomfrey was waiting with a stretcher. Draco watched as Fleur's family made their way quickly through the stands to the locker room.

Minutes slowly clicked by, no other sounds were heard emanating from the maze. There was excited chatter in the crowd when a golden haze drifted up and out of the maze. Around him the Slytherins had grown bored of waiting for nothing to happen and had started talking about the party after the event was over and what everyone's summer plans were when school let out the following week. Draco felt like screaming in frustration.

Suddenly from near the center of the maze a shot of red sparks rose high in the sky. In a flash Professor Hooch was over the spot with two other wizards on brooms. They signaled together and in one motion levitated the motionless body of Viktor Krum out of the maze. The crowds waited until the floating body was safely on the ground next to the locker room until it erupted in excited chatter. Draco stared in disbelief into the maze. What could be in the maze that could have knocked out Krum? The Slytherins were again focused on the maze, throwing out wild guesses as to what happened to him.

"I bet Potter went completely mental and attacked them!"

"He and Cedric have seemed kind of chummy lately. Maybe they ganged up on the other two."

Suddenly, a column of swirling of colors erupted upwards from the very center of the maze. As quick as it had appeared the column disappeared in gust of wind that swept towards the stadium. No one moved for a moment and then there was pandemonium. Everyone was on their feet, screaming. Draco turned towards the judges' box. Dumbledore was on his feet, the wizard clapped his hands and all the lights in the stadium flooded on. Immediately there were louder cries as hundreds of people scrambled to cover their eyes from the blinding light. By the time Draco's eyes had adjusted to the light he could see that a dozen wizards were flying over the maze.

"Silence" boomed out Dumbledore's voice, echoing through the night air. All noise stopped. All eyes were on the maze and the figures on brooms sweeping over the top of each path.

"They aren't here, they're gone!" Mad Eye Moody shouted to Dumbledore, his magic eye sweeping the maze faster than any of the other staff on the brooms.

"Gone? How could they be gone?" Draco shouted at Blaise, he didn't wait for an answer. He was climbing down the stairs of stadium. He didn't care what the Slytherins would think. He had to get out there, he had to find Harry. No one tried to stop him as he made his way along the sidelines towards the maze entrance. Suddenly an arm reached out to grab him. Draco instinctively turned, drawing his wand and stared into the eyes of Simon.

"It won't do any good. You can't do any more than they are already." Simon said to him roughly as Draco fought to get him to let go of his arm.

"I need to find-" Draco hissed.

"Don't. Do you think he would want you making a fuss?" Simon was forcing Draco back, out of the path and away from the eyes of curious bystanders who were looking at them avidly. "I want to be out there, too, but we are just going to have to wait."

Draco stared at him for a moment and then nodded. He followed the other blond to a bench that had been placed under the uprights for the stands where no one could see them but they had a clear view of the maze entrance.

"What do you think that was? That swirl of color?" Draco asked hesitantly.

"Portkey beam." Simon said simply, "It had to be. I've never seen one so powerful though. At first I thought it might be part of the maze but then I saw Dumbledore's reaction. Never saw the old man move so fast and I knew something was wrong."

"So it must have taken both of them?" Draco said, Simon nodded, "Where the hell could they be?"

"No way of knowing. We'll just have to ask them when they get back." Simon said determinedly.

A half hour went by. Draco had taken to pacing back and forth in the narrow pathway between the uprights. Simon had gone and checked on the Diggorys to see if they had had any news. He came back shaking his head. Draco had to suppress a scream of rage.

"Only Potter would get himself in a fix like this." He spat out angrily, forcing himself to sit back down on the bench.

"Well, you'll be sure to yell at him when he gets back here." Simon said with a strained laugh. He looked over at Draco and gave a shrug, "I don't see any point in pretending I don't know that you are seeing Harry Potter. Seeing as how you are a basket-case because he is missing."

"Cedric didn't tell you?" Draco asked hesitantly. He was glad to have something to distract him from casting yet another tempus to see how much time had gone by.

"Cedric doesn't reveal confidences, but he has mentioned you or Harry in a lot of his letters, but very carefully not at the same time. I can read between the lines as well as anyone can. So you and Harry Potter?"

Draco shrugged, "No one knows but Cedric. But we've been seeing each other for a while. Seven almost eight months." Depending on whether you count the month we weren't, Draco thought to himself.

"That is pretty remarkable. I saw you two dueling that day in Lockhart's Dueling Club. That was only, what two years ago? You two went at it like mortal enemies."

"You were there?" Draco looked at him with surprise, "I thought only first and second years were there."

"I was a sixth year but I was there. Standing off to the side." he gave a laugh, "I'll admit that Lockhart interested me for a bit. Until he opened his mouth that is and I realized that all he had was a very pretty face. Obviously, before Cedric and I started dating." he added with a cough.

Draco gave a laugh, "I think you got the better one of the two."

Simon laughed. "Agreed." He stood up and raked his hands through his hair. "I never should have encouraged Cedric to do this damn tournament. There has been something off about it since the beginning."

Draco looked over at him, "You mean since Harry had his name drawn out of the goblet?"

Simon winced, and then nodded. "Well, obviously something was wrong since this isn't the Quadwizard tournament."

"Harry didn't-" Draco protested.

"I know, I know. Cedric told me. But it just means that something was off. A fourteen-year old in this thing? Wrong and dangerous." Draco couldn't argue with that.

He was about to say something when he felt a whoosh of air, turning he ran towards the opening in the stands. The swirling column of light was back. It vanished and lying on face down on the ground was Harry, his arms were around Cedric and a large gold cup was clutched in his other hand.

Draco froze, he didn't even feel Simon racing past him calling Cedric's name. The stamping of hundreds of feet propelled Draco forward and he pushed and shoved his way through the crowd. Finally, he made it to the front. Ten feet in front of him stood Dumbledore, kneeling next to Harry. Harry was fighting him, not letting go of Cedric's body. Body. Draco looked at the lifeless body in Harry's arm. Harry was screaming, he realized. Screaming that Cedric was dead. Voldermort. Back. Portkey. Cemetery. They Killed Cedric. There was blood, Draco realized, on Harry's face, arms, leg. His sleeves had been torn away and he was bleeding from a large gash on his arm.

Simon was fighting to get to Cedric, Draco saw with a daze but a line of faculty was preventing anyone from getting too close. He heard the crowd stirring, "The Diggorys, make way for the Diggorys." He turned to see Cedric's parents making their way through the crowd, the crowd parting to make room for them. Simon turned and rushed towards them, putting his arm out to support Cedric's mom as she caught sight of Cedric on the ground.

Draco looked back and saw that Harry was gone. Cedric's body still lay on the ground next to the gold cup, but Harry was gone, again. He had just been there. Draco had only looked away for a moment. Dumbledore had stood up and was going over to Diggorys parents. He restrained them and turned towards Fudge, motioning the Minister of Magic forward. And then Dumbledore had vanished into the crowd as well.

Draco winced as a scream filled the air for the second time that night. He turned back to see Cedric's mother kneeling on the ground, holding her motionless son in her arms. Amos Diggory was standing, clearly in shock. Simon was on the other side of Cedric. Tears were streaming down the blond's face as he held Cedric's hand.

Draco backed away from the scene. He had to find Harry. He had to find out what had happened. He turned and started pushing his way back through the crowd. Coming towards him were Ron Weasley and Granger. From the expressions on their faces they clearly had no idea where Harry was either.

He burst out of the confines of the stadium and glanced around, there was a trail of torches lighting the way towards the castle. Clumps of stunned students talking excitedly but most of the people were still in the stands. Draco started running up the path, He had only gone fifty yards when suddenly he saw a flash of light and fell painfully to the ground unable to brace himself for the fall. Full Body Bind. Someone had hexed him he realized grimly, his face was buried in the grass.

Draco struggled to release himself from the binding curse as he saw two feet step up to him. Hands flipped him over roughly and looked up into the glowering face of Severus Snape.

"Whatever you were planning on doing, you will not do." Snape hissed at him, "You cannot do anything to help him. You will only expose yourself, further endangering your life and his. I will release you when you promise that you will not do anything foolish. Blink if you agree."

Draco forced himself to blink. With a wave of his hand Snape released Draco. Draco scrabbled to his feet, he grabbed Snape's left forearm. The Potions master hissed and pulled his arm away.

"Where is he? Is he safe?" Draco demanded. Not caring what his godfather thought of him. He had to know.

"Dumbledore knows where he is and has gone to ensure his safety. You will go directly to my quarters and wait for me in my sitting room. You will not attempt to locate him until I have returned."

Draco opened his mouth to protest. The Potions master drew himself up to his full-height and stared down at the blond student. "If you do not agree I will leave you here in a full body bind until morning."

Draco cursed and raked his hand through his hair. "Fine. I'll wait for you. But I need to know if he is okay. He was bleeding."

"He was not in imminent danger of dying from that injury." Snape said stiffly, "Go."

Draco was half way to the castle when realized that Snape had qualified his statement with "from that injury". Was Harry in imminent danger from something else? He ran up the castle steps and was strongly tempted to start searching for Harry. But he knew that his racing through the castle shouting Harry's name was the worst thing he could do. He forced himself to walk and slowly went up the steps into the Front Hall. It was still deserted but he knew that soon it would be filled with students returning from the stadium. Draco quickly crossed to the stairs that would lead him to the dungeons and Snape's quarters.

His unique status as Snape's godson gave him privileges enjoyed by few. Snape on rare occasions invited Draco to join him in his private study for a solitary meal or one on one Potions tutoring. It was one of the reasons Draco excelled above everyone else in Potions. Draco reached the door to Snape's quarters and used the password that Snape had shared with him to open the door. He entered quickly and closed the door behind him.

Draco flung himself down on the sofa and closed his eyes. He couldn't believe how quickly the world had turned upside down. Cedric. How could he be dead? In his mind he replayed the vision of Harry holding Cedric's body, screaming. Cedric had been completely lifeless. Maybe he had just been stunned. Draco could see Cedric's eyes blank and unseeing though and knew that couldn't be true. Draco screamed with frustration and started pacing the room.

Where had they gone? What had happened to them? Harry had been bleeding from his arm and leg. His face had been covered with dirt and blood. How had Cedric died? Draco hadn't seen any injuries on him. Minutes turned to hours, Draco was sure this was how people went mad. He debated leaving and trying to find Harry, but knew that Snape was his best source of information. There was no one else who would be willing to help. At least he knew that Harry was back and alive. Draco lay back down on the sofa covering his eyes. What if it had been Harry's body on the ground? He remembered the grief on Simon's face as he held Cedric's hand. He couldn't believe that Cedric was gone. Draco angrily wiped away the tears that coursed down his cheeks. The Hufflepuff had gone out of his way to help Draco this year. He let Draco talk for hours about his frustrations of his Father, his fears of having to go home every summer. Cedric had calmed him down and made him realize that-

Without warning, the door flung open and Snape stalked into the room. Draco glared at him from across the room. "Where is Harry? Is he okay?"

Snape paused only slightly as he walked into the room. "Potter is in the hospital wing and well-guarded. Any attempt to reach him would be fool-hardy at best and suicide at worst."

Draco took a couple of deep breaths, "He isn't hurt badly? And Cedric, he isn't really..."

"Potter's injuries are minimal. Cedric Diggory is dead." Draco shook his head at this confirmation and sank into a chair holding his head.

"Surely you weren't involved..." Snape looked at him in disbelief. Draco almost laughed. His godfather was looking at him with genuine shock. Draco didn't think he'd ever seen that expression on Snape's face.

"No, Cedric was a friend. He helped us, Harry and me." he said quietly.

Snape held up a hand, "Tonight's events have made your... arrangement with Potter even more dangerous. You wouldn't listen to me before when I warned you to stay away from him. And, I said nothing more, assuming you would soon be over such foolishness." Snape stared at Draco, who defiantly refused to look away. "I am telling you now, you must stop consorting with him. For both of your sakes. As of tonight none of us are safe."

Draco shook his head. "I can't, I won't." His mind went blank at the thought of letting Harry go. It had taken them four years to figure things out between them, nothing could convince Draco that he should let him go now.

"One person has already died. Which one of you will be next?" Snape said coldly. Turning his back on Draco he walked over to the far wall and held his wand up to the wall, murmuring an incantation that Draco could not hear. The stones disappeared revealing a large hiding spot. Snape reached in and withdrew a bundle of cloth. He shook it out, not caring that Draco saw. A smaller piece of fabric fell to the ground. Draco recognized it immediately, his face paled in shock and he looked over at Snape's forearm.

"Yes, Draco. Everything has changed." Snape's cold voice was emotionless as the stark stare of his black eyes. Go back to your dormitory. Do nothing for Potter. Forget him. Nothing can help him now."

Draco shook his head and backed away from Snape. He bumped into the door and turning he yanked it open. He race down the corridor, but stopped abruptly when he realized that he didn't know where to go. The Slytherin dormitory was out of the question. Downstairs. He had to go downstairs. Draco swiftly turned and went up the nearest staircase that would return him to the ground floor. The Front Hall was filled with students gathered in clumps talking excitedly. Some were sobbing and hugging one another. He quickly made his way through the crowd. No one called his name. He quickly went through the doors and as soon as he was outside, started running around the castle until he came to the West Tower. With relief he pulled out his wand and opened the door. He moved inside quickly and closed the door.

He slumped down on the floor, leaning against the lockers. Harry was in the hospital wing. He had to get to him. But he couldn't just waltz in there, he needed a plan. Draco banged his head in frustration against the locker. He had been in Snape's quarters for two hours waiting for him to return. Why hadn't he spent the time thinking up a plan instead of contemplating what he was going to do to Harry when he ever got his hands on him again?

Draco opened his eyes and looked around the room. Draped over the bench in front of him was a cloak of silvery cloth. Merlin. Harry's invisibility cloak. He had forgotten it as he was leaving on Thursday night. Draco laughed. He didn't need a plan after all. Draco stood up and grabbed the cloak, he moved swiftly through the locker room to the archway that was marked with the crossed wand and bone. The door opened, Draco looked at the gaping dark hole and holding up his wand, he said "Aperiens" and the doorway revealed itself. Draco took a deep breath, "Lumos," he murmured holding up his wand and started up the stairs.

The stairs were not as steep as those that lead to the Slytherin house. And the passageway was much larger, Draco supposed because it had been used to transfer injured Quidditch players. Draco considered where the tunnel entrance was in the hospital wing. The archway was opposite of Pomfrey's office in a small alcove. There weren't any beds near it. With any luck no one would be standing right in front of the alcove when he opened the door. And if they were, the worst that would happen is they would see a gaping hole and Draco could close it. If they didn't know the password they couldn't make it reappear. Draco felt his confidence building. This could work, this had to work.

He reached the top of the stairs and walked down a long corridor. Cobwebs hung low and the air was stale. At last, the tunnel ended and Draco stood facing the brick wall. He put on the invisibility cloak and looked down to make sure he was completely covered. He took a deep breath and held up his wand, "Aperiens."

Chapter Text

Harry stared up at the all too familiar ceiling of the hospital wing and wished that everyone would leave him alone. Hermione, Ron, Bill and Mrs. Weasley were all clustered around his bed. Hermione held his hand tightly as if afraid he would disappear again if she let go. So much had happened in so little time that he couldn't make any sense of anything.

With relief he heard Mrs. Weasley say, "Harry, you must rest. Take the sleeping potion, and Siri- Padfoot will be right outside the curtains here, if you need anything just let him know."

Harry looked down and smiled, his godfather animagus had his shaggy paws on Harry's bed. Madam Pomfrey had been shocked when Padfoot had run through the door with Dumbledore and had tried to shoo him out. Dumbledore had been very firm that the large black dog must stay by Harry's side.

Harry nodded wearily to Mrs. Weasley. Hermione kissed Harry on the cheek. Ron gruffly clasped his hand. "Night, mate." Harry scarcely noticed that they were leaving. Bill Weasley ushered his mother away from Harry's bed and pulled the curtains closed that encircled the bed. Harry could hear conversations taking place farther down the room but he didn't try to hear what was being discussed.

Harry sank back into the pillow, unwilling to close his eyes. Whenever he did he knew he would see Cedric laying dead in the cemetery. His gray eyes staring up at Harry, unseeing. Even when he tried to remember everything that happened at the cemetery it was all a blur, with Voldemort in the center of it. Harry looked over at the sleeping potion, he hated the taste of it and the feeling it gave him when he finally woke up. Maybe it would be worth it this time to just escape.

His scar still burned dully, the pain potion that Madam Pomfrey had given him for the cuts to his arm and leg did nothing to help his curse scar. The visions of his parents floating in the cemetery came back to him. Harry rubbed his hand wearily over his eyes. He had to find a way to get a message to Draco. He knew that the blond Slytherin would be crazy with worry. May be he could send a Patronus, he thought for a moment and then gave a bitter laugh. Brilliant idea, a big stag Patronus running through the Slytherin common room. No one would notice that at all. A faint movement caught his eye and he turned to look towards the curtains but nothing was there. Suddenly a hand reached out there and Harry choked back a cry, scrambling away from it.

"No, it's me." Draco's voice whispered, there was a whoosh of fabric and Draco was standing next to him in the bed, holding the invisibility cloak.

"Draco!" Harry whispered, reaching to pull Draco to him. Harry gave a startled cry as a dark blur came lunged towards him and suddenly a large black dog was on the bed. The dog's teeth clenched the back of Draco's throat. Draco lay flatten against the bed, frozen in terror.

"No! Sirius, NO!" Harry whispered frantically, scrambling to pull back the dog. "It's okay. He's my boyfriend." The dog whipped around to stare at Harry, Draco gave a sigh of relief as the teeth left his throat. The relief was quickly replaced with an "oomph" as Sirius regained his human form and pushed his weight against the slender Slytherin, crushing him against the bed. Draco struggled to get away from him.

Harry pulled back on Sirius's arm, "Sirius, stop. Please, it's okay."

Sirius didn't let go of Draco but turned to look at Harry. "He's a Malfoy."

Harry would have laughed if he had the energy, "I know. He is also my boyfriend. Can you please let him go."

Draco was cursing under his breath but wasn't fighting anymore. Sirius warily stood up, releasing the blond wizard. Harry shuffled over on the bed and put his arms around him.

"This is who you've been seeing? No wonder you wouldn't tell me his name." Sirius spat on the floor. "His father is a Death Eater, Harry!" Harry quickly put his hand up to cover Draco's mouth to prevent him from talking.

"I know that, but Draco isn't. No more than you are because your brother was." Sirius looked angrily between the two of them. Harry could tell Sirius wanted to argue more, but he just didn't have any energy left.

He said wearily, "Don't make a fuss, not tonight. Please, I just need him here. I can't deal with anything more." Harry cursed as his eyes started filling with tears, still holding on to Draco he sank back down on to the pillow. Draco stretched out on the bed next to him, looking defiantly at Sirius but not saying a word.

Sirius stared at the two of them. He shook his head at Harry, "We will definitely be talking about this tomorrow," and in a blink of an eye he was gone, in his place was the large black dog. The dog padded outside of the curtain and the two boys could hear it lay down.

"Nice godfather you have there." Draco muttered, reaching and putting his arms around Harry, pulling him towards him on the narrow bed.

"Did you hear about Cedric?" Harry mumbled, he rested his head on Draco's chest.

"Yes," Draco hugged him tight, "Go to sleep, time to talk tomorrow" Harry nodded faintly and was asleep within seconds.

OoOoOoOO

Harry woke to the unfamiliar sensation of a warm body laying next to him, stroking his hair. He turned his head and looked into Draco's eyes.

"Somehow I didn't imagine the first time we slept together it would be in a hospital bed with your dogfather sleeping on the floor ten feet away." Draco drawled softly.

Harry smiled sadly, "And I didn't think you would have so many clothes on in the morning." He looked down at Draco's clothed body on the bed and gave a laugh, "You even have your boots on."

"Well, I figured if I had to leave in a hurry you would have a tough time explaining how you ended up with two pairs of shoes under your bed." he tapped his feet together, the black dragon skin boots gleaming, "And anyone would know that these aren't your usual disgusting Muggle trainers."

Padfoot gave a sharp bark of warning outside of the curtain. Draco leaped off the bed and grabbed the invisibility cloak from the end of the bed. Pulling it over himself he backed against the wall just as the curtains parted and Madam Pomfrey walked in.

"Good morning, Mr. Potter, how are you feeling this morning?" the healer looked over at the night table and picked up the still full bottle of sleeping potion. "You didn't take the potion! Were you able to sleep last night?"

Harry nodded, "Yeah, I was so tired I didn't need it." he said with a shrug.

"Any headache? Pain?" she asked while pulling back the pajama top to see his arm. The large gash made by Peter Pettigrew had healed leaving a red scar from the inside of his elbow to his wrist.

"Just a bit of a headache," Harry shrugged.

"I'll bring you some headache potion with your breakfast." Madam Pomfrey hesitated, "If you are up to it. The Diggorys would like to speak with you this morning. They are meeting with Dumbledore right now, making arrangements to take.., well, making arrangements."

Harry lay back and stared bleakly at the ceiling, "I'll talk to them. Whenever they are ready."

"Very good of you, let me know if you need anything before breakfast." Madam Pomfrey went to pull back the curtain, seeing the large black dog standing on the other side, she hesitated, "I think the dog needs to go outside. Shall I take him out?" Harry looked at Padfoot who was now sniffing around the bed, getting dangerously close to where Draco was standing.

"That would be good, thanks." Harry said. He watched as Pomfrey shooed Padfoot towards the door.

Draco pulled off the cloak and climbed back on the bed, he grasped Harry's hand, "I am going to have to go. You are going to have a lot of visitors."

Harry nodded but asked hesitantly, "Can you stay until after the Diggorys leave? It will be easier knowing you are nearby." Draco reached and clasped Harry's neck, pulling him into a hug.

"I spoke to Cedric's boyfriend Simon last night... we waited together while you were gone." Harry looked up at Draco and touched his cheek. His pale skin was almost translucent. He looked exhausted, Harry wondered how much he had slept last night. "He seemed just like the kind of bloke Cedric would date. He stopped me from trying to go in the maze to look for you."

Harry gave another smile, that faded quickly as he remembered the events of that previous night. "Draco, I saw your father last night."

Draco stiffened. "Where?"

"A cemetery. It was where the portkey took us. Peter Pettigrew was there. He did some kind of ceremony." Harry hesitated and drew back the sleeve of his pajama to show Draco the scar. "They used my blood to bring back Voldemort."

Draco ran his hand along the scar, his fingers shaking. "He can't be back."

"He's back and he used the Dark Mark to call all of his followers. They came with their robes and masks on. Ready to serve."

"My father. Of course." Draco said bitterly, "Who else was there?"

"Nott, Goyle, Crabbe...it was like parent's night for the Slytherin house." Harry said, gripping Draco's hand tightly.

"That's what Snape meant, he told me that everything had changed."

Harry gave a bitter laugh, "He got that right. Voldemort was dangerous enough without a body. He wanted to duel me. Well, I guess we did..."

Draco looked at him incredulously, "You dueled the Dark Lord and walked away?" Harry nodded rubbing his hands over his eyes as if to wipe away the image. "It is all hazy right now, but something strange happened between our wands. They connected. And we levitated because of the connection. And everyone, well, the ghosts or I don't know what they were, shadows of people that Voldemort had killed came out of his wand. My parents, Cedric." Harry's voice broke. "I can't believe Cedric is gone."

Draco reached out and intertwined their hands together. Harry leaned against Draco, "We got to the cup at the same time. And talked and decided to grab it together, win together, you know. And it was the portkey, the fucking cup was the portkey." Harry took in a ragged breath, "And we ended up in the cemetery. And I knew right away it was bad, I tried to get Cedric to leave but then Voldemort he, he..." Draco wrapped his arms around Harry tighter. "They just killed him. Avada Kedavra. It's green, you know. A flash of green, just like in my nightmares. And just like that Cedric was gone, Draco, he was gone. He never had a chance."

And with that Harry was sobbing, letting go of all the tears he had been holding back since he had landed with Cedric's body back in the pitch. Harry felt Draco's hands rubbing his back, carding through his hair, wet cheeks pressed against his own. Neither of them saw the curtains pull back and the giant black dog peering at them over the edge of the bed and then silently slipping away to the other side of the curtain to stand guard.

At last, Harry picked up his head and took a few deep breaths. Closing his eyes, he mumbled.
"I don't know how I am going to do this. How am I going to talk to his parents? He didn't deserve to die like that. One minute we were so happy, about to win the cup together, and the next minute he was gone. And there was nothing I could fucking do about it."

Draco reached up and wiped aways the trails of tears on Harry's face. "Tell them that. Tell them that he was happy, that he died without pain. Tell them what he meant to you." Harry nodded slowly, he rested his head against Draco's chest, "We owe him so much. And he'll never know."

"I don't think he would-" Harry broke off as they both heard Padfoot's bark. Draco scrambled off the bed, cursing as his foot got caught in the sheets and barely got the cloak over himself before they heard the curtain being pulled back. Madam Pomfrey came in, a levitating a well-laden breakfast tray behind her.

"I wish your dog wouldn't bark, Mr. Potter. Very inappropriate for a hospital ward." She said frowning down at Padfoot who was sitting next to her.. Padfoot cocked his head and wagged his tail against the floor. Pomfrey's lips twitched into a faint smile before turning back to Harry.

"The Diggorys will be here in 15 minutes. Have some breakfast. Goodness me, what did you do to these bed sheets?" She shooed Harry into the chair next to the bed to eat while she straightened the sheets. "Do take the headache potion. It will be help, Mr. Potter. There is no need to be brave about pain..." The healer prattled on talking as she made the bed, never noticing Harry taking food off of his breakfast tray and holding it behind his back and Draco's hand coming out from the cloak and grabbing it. She finished straightening the bed and looked at the nearly empty tray. "Well, I see you haven't lost your appetite."

The Diggorys visit was difficult as Harry had imagined. He haltingly told them what had happened. His hands twisting the blanket on the bed as he tried to describe Cedric's run through the maze, their mutual decision to take the cup together. Cedric's mother was a frail shadow of the woman he had walked around with the lake yesterday with Cedric by her side. Cedric's father had reassured him that they didn't blame him. Simon had stood at the foot of the bed. Lines of grief etched on his face. He hadn't spoken a word the whole time that Harry had talked to the Diggorys. At last, Mrs. Diggory said that they would leave Harry to rest and turned to go. Simon held the curtain aside and was going to follow them out when Harry called him back.

"Simon, can I talk to you for a minute?" Simon hesitated and then nodded. He turned and told the Diggorys that he would meet them in the entryway. Harry hesitated and then turned to look towards the wall, "Draco?" Simon looked at Harry confused, but gave a small smile as Draco stepped forward, pulling the cloak off as he approached the bed.

Harry looked at Simon, "Draco and I wanted to let you know how much Cedric meant to us. He made it possible for us to find each other." Draco gripped Harry's hand tightly and looked over at Simon.

Draco hoarsely said, "He was a good friend, he didn't deserve to go like that."

Simon looked at them both and nodded, "Even though Cedric never told me that you two were seeing each other, he wrote a lot about spending time with you. He was so proud that you taught him to throw a Patronus, Harry. And I know he valued both of your friendships. I only wish that I had had more time with him. I was jealous of you both. You got to spend the whole year with him."

With a nod of his head Simon left them alone. Harry sagged against Draco, completely drained. Draco said. "Take the potion, go to sleep. I need to get back, everyone is going to wonder where I've been."

Harry asked, "What are you going to tell them?"

Draco shrugged, "I'll think of something."

oOOoOOOO

Ron and Hermione were sitting by the bed when Harry woke up that afternoon. He was happy to see to see his friends and grateful they didn't expect him to talk. Hermione shot Harry concerned looks when ever Ron wasn't looking. Finally she sent Ron off in search of tea and came over and sat on Harry's bed.

"Harry, about Cedric...I know you said you weren't seeing him, but..."

Harry sank his head further back in the pillows, "I wasn't, Hermione. We were just really good friends. He is in lo-dammit, was in love with his boyfriend, Simon. He and I just spent a lot of time talking. About being gay, and my aunt and uncle, and lots of things. And I am going to miss him more than you'll ever know."

Hermione looked at him, "I am so sorry, Harry."

Harry angrily wiped away the tears that had started rolling down his face, he had told himself he wasn't going to cry any more. "I am, too. He should be walking around as Triwizard Champion today, not going home with his parents in a box."

"At least they have his body, Harry. You brought it back for them." Hermione said rubbing his arm.

Harry gave a bitter laugh, "Did I tell you what Voldermort said? 'Killthespare.' If Cedric hadn't been so noble and wanted me to take the trophy, we wouldn't have decided to grab it together, win it together."

"If he had grabbed it by himself, he would still be dead and no one would have known what had happened to him, Harry. That would have been far worse for his parents."

OooOoOoo

The next couple of days passed in blur. Harry left the hospital wing and went back to the dormitory. Everyone gave him a wide berth in the common room and at the supper table. He could feel all the curious eyes watching him and having hushed conversations. He could feel Draco's eyes on him at every meal, never had the the gap between the two tables seem so large. The Slytherin table was the one table that almost levitated with excitement. The news of Voldemort returning had not had the same effect as it had on the other three house tables. Crabbe and Goyle were almost giddy, their pasty faces crackling with mirth. Draco often joined in the conversations, excitedly talking and laughing. Harry watched from the Gryffindor table with a feeling of dread.

Finally, he slipped Draco a note as he sat studying in the library, "Meet me by our tree, 3:00" and told Hermione and Ron that he was going for a run. "Do you want me to go with you, mate?" Ron asked as Harry changed into his running clothes.

"Nah, I just need some time to myself." Harry said, tying his trainers. He slipped out one of the side doors to the castle. He started to jog around the lake slowly, there was still twenty minutes before Draco was supposed to meet him. It would give him the chance to make sure no one was to near the grove of trees. He was finishing the first circuit when he saw Draco walking by himself on the far side. With a kick of speed he ran around the curve of the lake and caught up to Draco. He bumped into the Slytherin's shoulder as he was passing.

"Hey, watch where you're going, Potter." Draco shouted out.

"Don't take up the whole path, Ferret." Harry shouted over his shoulder. He continued running past the trees and then, checking to make sure no one was nearby, he ran off the path and double backed through the woods. He slowed to a walk to catch his breath until he came to the chestnut tree. Draco was leaning against the tree already, watching him with hooded gray eyes gleaming. Harry gave a small smile and sat down next to him. It was hard to believe how much had changed since they had sat under the tree four days ago.

"You're sweaty." Draco said, running his hand over Harry's arm. He didn't look as though he minded.

"Hazard of running." Harry caught Draco's hand and held on to it tight. They sat quietly for a few minutes. Draco looked at him curiously but didn't say anything.

Harry couldn't think of how to put what he needed to say into words. He was afraid of what Draco's answer might be. His voice sounding strained, he said. "I am worried about what will happen when you are back with your father. I am scared that something-"

"It will be okay, it is only two months, and then we'll both be back here." Draco said, squeezing Harry's hand tightly.

"A lot can happen in two months. And Voldemort-"

Draco bit out, "Yes, I know. I'm hoping that maybe Father will be away with him, meetings. Mother said that the last time, Father would be gone for weeks, months at a time."

"And if he isn't? What if these Death Eater meetings are at your house?"

"If the Dark Lord is at Malfoy Manor, well I don't think he is going to bother with a 14-year old."

"He just had a 17-year killed." Harry snapped. "Don't take a chance, talk to Dumbledore. He'll find a place for you."

"And what? Walk away from my family, my heritage? For better or worse, I am a Malfoy." Draco snapped angrily, standing up. His blond hair shining white in the afternoon sun. Harry scrambled to stand next to him and grabbed his arm.

"Now that Voldemort is back, you are going to have to make a decision. Voldemort or the Dark Lord. Fighter or Follower."

Draco shoved Harry's hand off his arm. "Don't do this. Don't mess us up, not now." he tried to move past Harry.

Harry moved to block him, "We have been avoiding this and we can't anymore. All I have to do is look at the Slytherin table to know how excited, how thrilled your friends are that Voldemort is back."

"I can't say or do anything that would show that I feel any different." Draco snapped.

"How do you feel about him coming back, Draco? I need to know. You still call him the Dark Lord. You might even be shaking hands with him in a few days. He might be living in your house. Things are going to be expected of you, maybe not this summer, but soon. What are you going to do? You know where I stand. Where do you?"

"Dammit, Harry, don't do this to us." Harry stepped towards him, grabbing both of Draco's arms that were crossed in front of him.

"Your Dark Lord has tried to kill me more than once," He pushed back the hair covering his scar on his forehead. "He gave me this scar. He killed my parents. He tortured and killed who knows how many others. You have to know that now that he is back, he is going to do more evil, more harm. I don't think it is conceited to guess that I am at the top of his hit list. And that is why I need to know exactly whose side you are on."

Draco's face was pale and he was starting to shake, "Do you know what it is like that for every day of my life my father take about the glory days of his time with the DarkLord. How great a wizard he was. How he demanded absolute allegiance from his followers. How I would be expected to swear my allegiance to him when he returns. How you were to blame for his disappearance."

Harry opened his mouth to object, Draco shook his head, "Hear me out. I asked my father, when I was 8 or 9, how a baby could have made such a powerful wizard disappear." Draco grimaced, "Let's just say I learned never to question my father about anything the Dark Lord did.

"And then I met you. And I wanted to hate you." Draco started pacing, "I did hate you. It was what I was supposed to do. But the more time I spent watching you, getting to see how you interact with your friends I realized that you were just the same as any of us. That there had to be something wrong, something that didn't equate anymore.

"The message was always the same. The Dark Lord is our leader, Harry Potter is responsible for his fall, we must do everything to destroy Potter, to wait for the return of the Dark Lord."

"So why the hell are we here?" Harry growled, "If you believe-"

"Just fucking listen to me." Draco grabbed Harry and pulled him towards him. He kissed him hard and fast. "I believe in this now. I know you now. I know you are not the person who my father has hated for the last decade. But it doesn't mean this is easy for me. And, no, I don't know what the hell I am going to do. But I don't want to lose you and that has to be enough for you right now." Draco was breathing hard, he was shaking with tension.

Harry hesitated and then reached to pull Draco towards him."I'm sorry, I know this is hard for you. Harder for you than me. I just needed to know what you were really feeling," Harry said, "I'm scared for you. I don't want anything to happen to you." He put his arms around Draco. "I don't want you going home and being forced to do things that you don't want to do." Draco sighed with relief into the hug, the tension flowing from his body.

"It won't happen. I promise. If you only knew how much I hate having to be two personalities. I am sick at the thought of not being able to talk to you for two months." Draco said softly, running his hand through Harry's hair and cupping the nape of his neck, pulling Harry towards him. "We aren't going be able to send owls. I don't think we should risk it." Harry nodded. "So, I already left something for you in the locker room. Your birthday present and something a little more. So you don't forget about me."

"You didn't have to..." Harry protested. Draco smiled.

"I wanted to, I hate to think of you living with that horrible Muggle family all summer." Draco closed his eyes as if trying to forget what had just happened, "I put the package in the locker with your Firebolt. Not sure if we'll get together down there before we leave. I am going to miss you."

"I'm sorry, Draco. Sorry for doubting you. This is just so unbelievably hard for me." Draco gripped Harry's waist forcing him to turn so his back was against the tree. He leaned hard against Harry, pressing their bodies together, chest to chest, groin to groin, thigh to thigh. Harry felt the sharp bite of the tree bark through his damp t-shirt as he wrapped his arms around Draco and kissed him, slipping his tongue into Draco's mouth. Their two tongues danced and explored as Harry slipped his hands up underneath Draco's shirt. The faint sound of voices in the distance made Draco break away and peer around the tree.

"We have about five minutes until your watchdogs reach us."

Harry resisted the temptation to peek. "Hermione and Ron?" His mind was still reeling from their fight and Draco's kisses.

"Who else?" Draco said rolling his eyes. "How do you want to play it? Fight or sneak away?"

Harry shrugged, "Haven't had a good fight in a while. "

Draco smiled, rubbing his fingers over Harry's lips, "And you are looking a tad bit snogged, be good cover. The Prophet article?"

"Sure." Harry said, "'Disturbed and Dangerous' coming at you."

Chapter Text

Harry's resolve to not worry about Voldemort lasted about one week after he left Hogwarts. It started with the frustration from the lack of the news about Voldemort's return in the Daily Prophet. Did no one care that he was back? What steps were being taken to stop him from gathering all of his Death Eaters? When he wrote with frustration to Sirius he received only vague explanations. Ron and Hermione's letter were filled with inane stories and no news. Surely something had to be happening?

Harry knew that at some level his frustration was all coming from the fact that he had no idea what was happening to Draco. Was he alright? Had his father tried to use the Imperius curse on him? Was Voldemort at Malfoy Manor? These are questions he couldn't ask anyone and he it filled with a gnawing, worrying pain that grew worse each day.

At night, Harry pulled out the package that Draco had left for him in the locker room. Nine thin envelopes were inside. Draco had dated one for each week they would be apart. With shaking hands Harry had opened the first one on July 3rd. He carefully removed the paper and stared down at a charcoal drawing of him and Cedric, studying down in the locker room. Draco had captured Harry with his head turned towards Cedric. Cedric, smiling warmly, was looking back at him. Their books were spread out in front of them on the desk.

Tears burned in Harry's eyes as he traced the delicate lines of Cedric's face. Draco had captured Cedric's personality, open and honest, caring, loving life. It was so unfair that he should die so young. Draco was able to capture both of them in just a few strokes of his pencil. Harry sat frozen staring at the drawing for longest time. It was only when he went to discard the wrapping paper that he realized that there was a note inside.

I know that you are probably second-guessing everything that happened. Wondering what you could have done differently. Don't. Know that I miss you. D

Harry had been tempted at first to open the rest of the envelopes all at once, but resisted. Each week's envelope was a way to mark the time until he would see Draco again. On his birthday he saved Draco's present until the very end of the day. He waited and listened for Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon to go to bed. He listened as Dudley thudded and thumped his way through his evening routine until there was finally silence in the house. With shaking hands he opened the envelope and pulled out a blank sheet of the heavy drawing paper. Puzzled, he turned it over. The other side was blank as well. Harry cursed in frustration until he saw the note in the envelope.

Use your wand. Happy Birthday.

Harry pulled out his wand. Draco knew he couldn't use magic in summer so Harry hesitantly just touched his wand to the paper. Harry smiled as the drawing of Draco and Harry slowly revealed itself. They were dancing, arms wrapped around each other, staring at each other, lost in their own world. Legs entwined as if moving to the music. Draco had drawn the entire office, the desk with the record player on top, the album covers splayed across it. Harry lifted his wand and the image disappeared. Touching it again with the wand made the drawing reappear.

Running his fingers over the paper Harry realized that this one had been drawn with ink, all the others had been done with charcoal. Draco must have charmed it to only appear when Harry's wand touched it. This was the first drawing that Draco had given him of himself. The other drawings had been of Cedric, the Castle, the Great Room, and one of Harry by himself, perched on the desk. But there had been no drawings of Draco. Harry had figured that Draco thought it too risky but he had found a way.

Harry had been safely tucking away all of the drawings at the bottom of his trunk, where it was unlikely that Dudley would find them. This one he kept on his desk, he pulled out his wand a dozen times a day just to reveal the drawing on the blank paper. Only four more weeks, Harry thought, and we'll be back at school.

OOOoOoOO

Harry scarcely heard the clicking of the lock as Uncle Vernon locked him in the room. He looked down at the letters that had arrived in rapid succession that night. Surrender Wand. Expelled. Trial. Don't Leave the House. How had everything gone wrong so quickly? How was he supposed to find out what was happening if no one would tell him anything. How did the Dementors find him? He had to know. Sitting down at the desk he quickly wrote out three letters to Sirius, Ron and Hermione, demanding answers. When Hedwig had finally come back from her nightly flight he brusquely tied the letters to her leg and told her not to come back until there were responses.

As he watched her fly away into the night he thought about the letter he hadn't written. The one he couldn't write. What would happen if he couldn't go back to Hogwarts? Would he be able to see Draco again? Would Draco even find out why he'd been expelled? Harry stood up and started to pace the small room. Who had sent the howler to Aunt Petunia? How come Dumbledore had never told him about Mrs. Figg?

Harry stood up and went over to the desk and picked up the blank paper that held Draco's painting. He placed it on the bed and as he set his wand on top of it he realized that if they took his wand away he wouldn't be able see the drawing ever again. Sighing deeply, he laid down next to the drawing and fell asleep, hoping that answers would come in the morning.

OoOoOOOO

Grimmauld Palace - "Toujours Pur"

Harry had seen Sirius watching him with an appraising look and knew that sometime soon Sirius would confront him about Draco. The moment came unexpectedly when Harry and Sirius had caught Kreacher trying to smuggle a large tapestry out of the formal sitting room. They stood examining the unusual family tree of the Black family.

"How come you are not on here, Sirius?"

"I was, but my dear old mother blasted me off when I ran away from home." Sirius pointed to a small burn mark, "Tonks name was blasted off too, along with her mother, Andromeda." He pointed to two other burn marks between the names Bellatrix and Narcissa. Harry traced the family gold line down and Draco's name leaped off of the tapestry at him.

"Draco? I'd forgotten that you were related." Harry wished he could take back his words as soon as he had said them. Sirius turned away from the tapestry to look at Harry, his eyes burning bright and hard at Harry.

"So, he told you that much did he?" Sirius started to say more but Molly Weasley bustled into the room with more Doxie repellent. "Molly, Harry and I are going upstairs for a little talk. We'll be back in a bit."

"That's fine, I think we are just about done with this room anyway." Molly Weasley said with a casual wave. Sirius clapped his large hand down on Harry's shoulder and steered him towards the door. Harry looked up nervously at his godfather. Sirius's face was set, deep lines of worry etched on his gaunt face.

"Sirius," Harry said, as Sirius led him up the staircase, "I don't think-"

"Save it until we are upstairs." Sirius said and walked quickly down the corridor to his bedroom. Once inside he pointed to the bed. "Sit."

"Sirius-" Harry stood in the doorway, holding his hands up defensively.

"Sit." Harry sighed and went and sat down. Sirius closed the door quietly, careful not to slam it shut. Sirius held up his wand and cast a Silencio and turned towards Harry.

"I have held my tongue for these last two weeks. Figured there was not much point if the trial didn't go your way and you were expelled. It would have solved the problem."

"There isn't a problem-"

"Quiet." Sirius had been pacing in the small room but he went over to the bed and sat down next to Harry. He looked at Harry seriously. "All summer I've been trying to rationalize how you could have possibly been caught up with a Malfoy. And I can't for my life figure out how a smart wizard like you could be so stupid." He looked at Harry, "I am going to give you a chance to explain, tell me how this happened."

"Well, it started with Draco, he needed help." Harry started, he wanted to Sirius to understand. "He found out that I can resist the Imperius Curse so he asked me to help him learn."

"Not something most fourth years need to know." Sirius said, his face expressionless.

Harry wasn't sure how much he should reveal about the Malfoy family. "Erm, well, someone in his family uses it on him. And he wanted to be able to stop them. There was no one else at school who could help, so he asked me."

"Mighty convenient that, more likely a trick to get you to commit an Unforgivable and get locked up."

Harry laughed, "I thought so too, but it wasn't. It was real and we worked together and he learned to throw the curse."

"So, how did you go from the Imperius curse to...whatever you want to call it you are doing with him.."

"We, erm, we just started spending a lot of time together. Studying and even went out flying a couple of times. It was really the first time we had been around each other without anyone else. And I realized, we realized, that we liked each other." Harry finished lamely.

"Did you forget what his family represents? The Malfoys have fought against and despised Muggle-borns for centuries. Harry, for Merlin's sake, Lucius Malfoy is a Death Eater, has been right from the start."

"I know, I know. But Draco is different." Harry said, wondering what he could say that would convince Sirius, "He is in a tough place. He has to act a certain way in school and with his family. But with me he is different, he is really nice and, and...funny."

Sirius took in a deep breath. "How do you know which Draco is the real one? Maybe he is setting you up for something big, Harry. Remember what his father did to Ginny two years ago? Giving her that diary..." Harry looked at him startled, "Yes, Dumbledore told me about that. Malfoys don't change their spots. He can't be trusted."

"He can be. I'm telling you." Harry quickly got up, his frustration mounting at not being able to make Sirius realize that he knew more about Draco than he did, "I know who Draco is-I trust him." Sirius glared at him and Harry forced himself to calm down. Yelling at his godfather would not help his argument. "And I am really worried about him. I don't think he is safe at home with his father and Voldemort might even be there."

Sirius put his arm around Harry. "Doesn't that tell you something right there. You have to see that seeing someone who is on the other side is going to be big trouble for you."

"But he isn't..."

"You don't know that!"

Harry stood up and started pacing, "I do know, Sirius. And besides, he is just 15. Just like me."

"Just like you, eh? And how long have you been fighting You Know Who? Four years! Who are you to say that he isn't doing the same for the other side?"

Harry raked his hands through his hair, frustrated that he couldn't make Sirius understand. Sirius sat on the bed looking at him, waiting for the answer. "How about your best friends, Hermione and Ron? If you are so sure about Draco, why haven't you told them?"

Harry looked at his godfather, his face flushed with frustration. "I will, eventually. Last year, though, it was all so new. You can't know what it is like... to find out that you are gay and be so afraid that everyone will hate you because you are different. And then you find someone that is like you. That likes you back. You can't know how that makes me feel. How good it feels to be with Draco. I don't want to do anything to mess this up."

Sirius stared at him, his eyes burning bright. "I can imagine what it would be like, Harry. But it doesn't mean that you are right. I know better than anyone what the consequences are of putting your trust in someone who isn't worth. Your parents paid the price for my mistake. I don't want the same thing to happen to their son. Believe it or not, I do know what it is like to be a teenager and fall in love for the first time and think that no nothing else matters. But not with Malfoy. You need to find someone else Harry. You can't see him anymore, Harry."

Harry felt the anger and frustration that he had been carrying around for days surge through him. He felt something tear inside of him at the thought of being cut off from Draco. "NO, I DON'T KNOW THAT. I AM SICK OF BEING DIFFERENT. I JUST WANT TO BE A NORMAL BLOKE WITH A BOYFRIEND. WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE DIFFERENT FOR ME?"

"You know why, Harry." Sirius kept his voice low and watched as Harry continued his pacing. "And you aren't doing yourself any favors by pretending that your life is the same as any other 15 year old."

"YOU ARE WRONG. WHEN I'M WITH DRACO IT IS REAL AND JUST FOR A COUPLE OF HOURS I CAN STOP WORRYING ABOUT EVERYTHING."

Sirius held up his hands, "I want that for you too, Harry. But just not with Draco Malfoy. You are making the biggest mistake of your life, ."

Harry straightened and took a deep breath. Lifting his chin he said quietly, "If I am, then it is my mistake. No one else's."

OooOoOoOo

Harry stepped on to the 9 ¾ platform with relief. Four weeks ago he had been afraid that he would never be here again. Now that it was finally September 1st he dared to wonder if Draco might have had a change of heart over the summer. If he would still want to see Harry. With a sigh he pushed away the doubts, he would find out soon enough. He had to force himself not to look for Draco. They probably wouldn't be able to talk to each other alone for days. Harry forced himself to focus on saying good-bye to Moody, Mrs. Weasley, and Tonks. Sirius as Padfoot put his saucer-size paws up on his shoulders and licked his face.

Somehow he ended up in a compartment with sitting with Ginny, Neville and Luna Lovegood, a Ravenclaw. It wasn't too bad (up until the unfortunate incident with Neville's plant) and Cho Chang seeing him covered in slime. Finally, Ron and Hermione joined them after their prefect meeting with the news that Draco was a prefect also.

The door slid open and Harry's heart almost stopped. Framed in the compartment entrance was Draco. For a moment, Harry let his eyes just drink in the changes that two months had made in him. Draco seemed to have grown a couple of inches, his hair was longer so that it just curled over the collar of his robes. Robes with a prefect badge pinned to it. Harry looked up at Draco's face. His face was drawn back in its well-practiced sneer. Behind him the thick faces of Crabbe and Goyle leered into the compartment.

"What do you want, Malfoy? Can't you find some first years to harass?" Harry said as he forced himself to maintain his composure. Unfortunately, his body didn't get the message and he had to shift uncomfortably in his seat as he felt all the blood in his body run south under Draco's cool gaze. Fortunately, everyone else seated in the compartment was looking at Draco and not him.

"Manners, Potter, or I'll have to give you a detention." drawled Draco. "I am a prefect now, remember that. I have the power to hand out punishments to whomever I think deserves them."

Harry choked back a laugh, as he glared at Draco. "You might be a prefect, but you are still a git. Get out and leave us alone."

"Watch yourself, Potter. I'll be dogging your every footstep." Malfoy turned and left, with Crabbe and Goyle lumbering out behind him. Harry looked nervously at Hermione. From her alarmed look she had caught Malfoy's comment, fortunately with Neville and Luna in the compartment she couldn't say anything.

Harry stood up, he couldn't wait another minute to get Draco alone. "I need to use the loo." Quickly, he left the compartment and turned towards the direction the Draco had gone. Moving towards the end of the carriage there was no sign of the Slytherins. Frustrated, Harry went to move into the next carriage when he felt a hand grab him and pull him in to the last compartment in the car.

Harry didn't have a chance to see his assailant as lips crashed down on his and he felt the hands that had grabbed him press against him. He was shoved against the wall of the compartment and only saw the flash of white hair as he bent his head and gave himself to the kiss. Harry grabbed Draco's head and pulled it towards him, reveling in the feeling of Draco's hair slipping through his fingers. Draco's leg slipped between his, pushing against him.

"Bloody hell, Potter. It has been too fucking long." Draco groaned as he pushed Harry away from the wall and down into the seats of the compartment.

"Wait, the windows. Anyone could look in and see." Harry said with a nervous glance towards the door. Draco snarled and glanced over at the door. In two steps he was at the compartment door, pulling the shades down and snapping the lock.

"Anything else, you want me to do? Feed you chocolate frogs?" Draco asked. Harry was leaning against the cushions, looking up at Draco with a look of stunned amazement that they were actually alone together.

"No, you'll do just fine."

Draco gave a wicked Slytherin grin and was back on top of Harry in a flash. Harry was glad he hadn't changed into his robes yet. He could feel the warmth of Draco's body on him and every inch of Draco pushing against him. Draco slowly lowered his head towards Harry's, pushing down in a slow rocking motion against the full length of his body.

"Miss me, much?" Harry said with a slow smile against Draco's lips.

"Can't believe how long it has been. Do you know what it took for me to not want to jump in your lap and start rutting against you in front of all your Gryffindor friends?" Harry reached up and raked his hands through Draco's hair, roughly sweeping it back.

"I have a pretty good idea. I was wondering how much time I would have if I started mauling you before Goyle started beating the shite out of me." He ran his hands down Draco's neck reveling in the feel of the Slytherin's skin against his own.

Draco gave a low growl and pulled away from the caress, "Wait a minute. I almost forgot how bloody mad I am at you. What the hell did you think you were doing? Almost getting expelled? What were you trying to do to me?"

"To you? I've never been so frightened. I thought they were going to take my wand away, that I would never see you again, never be back at Hogwarts." Harry heaved himself up, pushing Draco into a sitting position. "What did you hear?"

"That you used magic and they were going to expel you."

"You didn't hear about the dementors?"

Draco pulled back, pushing with his hands to be able to look into Harry's face. "What dementors? What are you talking about?"

"Dementors, big fucking, suck your soul out dementors. They attacked my cousin and me and that is why I had to use magic. I sent a Patronus after them to scare them away."

Draco shook his head in disbelief. "I never heard anything about dementors. I couldn't figure out why you would use magic, and why you had to be tried for such a minor offense."

Harry gave a half-smile, "We can talk about it later. I'm going to have to get back or they'll come looking for me. Let's not waste time talking."

Draco nodded, "I can go along with that."

OoOooOOoO

Harry didn't see Draco again until the first day of classes when he was walking down the corridor with Ron and Hermione, heading towards Snape's classroom. They were passing one of the many alcoves when he saw Draco leaning against the wall, seemingly reading a textbook. He walked on and then stopped just short of the classroom door.

"What's wrong, Harry?"

"I think I forgot my Potions book in Binns class. I'm going to have to run back and get it." Harry looked frustrated, "You guys go on in and save me a spot. We all can't be late for Snape." Without giving them a chance to reply, he turned and went back down the corridor. When he looked back he saw with relief that they had gone straight into the classroom. He ducked into the alcove. Draco was still leaning against the wall.

"Hey, aren't you going to Potions?" Harry said, standing a little ways from Draco. He knew they couldn't take a risk of standing too close, anyone walking by could look in and see them.

Draco nodded, "I need to talk to you, warn you. About Snape." Harry felt a feeling of dread come over him.

"What about him?"

"He spent the better part of the summer telling me all the reasons we shouldn't see each other anymore."

"Yea? Sirius did the same thing."

Draco nodded. "I had to tell him, that I wouldn't." Harry looked at him with alarm, "I lied," Draco added hastily. "Everything that he said made perfect sense, except for that the fact that I don't want to stop. I can't stop."

"So what do we do? How do we make him think we aren't..."

Draco shrugged, "I guess we'll just have to be more careful. Starting with not walking into class at the same time. Why don't you go in first...I can get away with being late."

Harry checked the time, and nodded. "Can we meet downstairs tomorrow night?"

Draco smiled, "After supper?" Harry nodded and hurried down the hall towards the classroom.

He had already settled into his seat next to Ron and was pulling out his books when Draco sauntered in about a half minute after the bell rang. Snape looked over at the Slytherin as he came in but didn't say anything.

"Bugger," said Ron, "If that had been you, Snape would have docked us points if we came in late."

Without turning to look at him, Snape drawled, "Five points from Gryffindor for talking." Ron gave a cry of outrage and Harry put his hand on his arm to calm him down.

"It isn't worth it," he whispered, "He'll do anything to take points from us."

The worst part of the class was that it was a double session. Harry struggled to focus on the potion he was supposed to be making. After missing Draco for two months he couldn't help but enjoy the luxury of just being able to look across the classrom at him again.

When he wasn't sneaking peeks at Draco he was thinking about Snape. He knew that Snape was in the Order, but he also clearly had been in contact with Malfoy all summer. And if he was in the Order why would he make such a big deal about Draco seeing Harry? Of course, Snape couldn't let Malfoy know about the Order. So maybe Snape was just protecting himself.

Harry was so distracted that he missed the key ingredient in the Draught of Peace. At the end of the period Snape loomed over his cauldron. "Potter, you seem to have lost the ability to read simple instructions. What is on the third line?"

Harry looked in his potions book and realized with a groan that he had forgotten the hellebore. Snape sneered at him at with a wave of his wand vanished the contents of Harry's cauldron. "In Potions as in life, Potter, you would be wise to heed the warnings from others. A missed ingredient or a bad decision can kill you."

OoOOOoO

Harry stomped out of McGonagall's office. A week of detention with the horrible Umbridge woman just for telling the truth and McGonagall has the nerve to tell him that he should do everything he can to avoid more. The worst thing about the detention is that he wouldn't be able to meet Draco after supper. Or maybe he could...detention couldn't take more than a couple of hours. There would be time to go down to the locker room and still be back in time for curfew. Ron and Hermione wouldn't know that he hadn't been at detention the whole time.

Harry walked out of Umbridge's office after midnight. His hand was aching from where her quill had dug into her skin. He cradled it in his hand as he walked through the darkened corridors. Who ever heard of writing lines for seven hours? And he had to come back three more times? There was no point in going down to the locker room. Draco would be long gone by now. Another thing to hold against Umbridge.

The next morning in Divination Harry could feel Draco's eyes on him when he walked into Trelawney's hot, stuffy classroom. He had already written out a note explaining what had happened, but he didn't get a chance to slip it Draco before class started. Ron had made for a desk on the opposite side of the classroom.

Finally, class was over. Harry hastily stood up and put his books back in his bag. He looked over at Draco who was laughing at something Zabini had said as they headed for the door. Harry felt a flash of jealously at the casualness of it. It would never be possible for Draco and Harry to walk down a hallway and joke around with one another.

Harry looked impatiently back at Ron who had dropped his papers on the floor. "Hey Ron, I'll catch you downstairs, too hot up here for me."

"Yeah, I'll see ya." Harry hurried towards the door that would lead to the ladder out of the Divination tower. Draco had just put his hands on the ladder and was turning to go down it when Harry came up to them. Their eyes met and Draco stopped his descent. "Hey Blaise, I forgot something. Be right there." Harry looked back and saw Ron heading towards them, he hastily handed Draco the note.

"I couldn't make it. Umbridge had me stay until midnight." Draco put the note in his pocket just as Ron cleared the door. Ron looked between the two of them.

"What's going on? What do you want, Malfoy?"

"Just reminding Potter to watch himself. Now that I'm a prefect he can't expect to get away with all the things he had had in the past."

"Oh, yea?" Ron shoved his badge towards Draco, "Remind your own Slytherins that I'm a prefect too. If you hassle Harry, I'll be glad to return the favor."

Draco laughed at Ron, "Can't imagine what Dumbledore was thinking, making you a prefect." With that he turned and slid down the ladder.

"Can you believe that git?" Ron huffed, "He has a lot of nerve."

"No use getting upset," Harry shrugged, "He just likes pissing you off."

"Us off, don't you mean? Pissing us off?" Ron said.

"Right."

Chapter Text

Harry walked slowly towards Umbridge's office. He felt ill at the thought of having to write more lines. His hand was still sore from the previous night's detention. The corridor was empty, everyone else had already headed down to the Great Hall for supper. He heard the sound of footsteps running behind him and looked in surprise to see Draco hurrying down the hall. Harry stopped and looked around to make sure no one was coming from the other direction. He quickly went over to meet Draco, pulling him into an alcove.

"What are you doing here?"

"Just wanted to see you. How the hell did you end up with four days of detention on the first day of school?"

Harry shrugged. He was tired and dreading going into Umbridge's office again. "I couldn't believe the lies she was saying about Voldemort and Cedric. And she is going to try and teach the Defense without even having us practice with our wands!"

Draco shook his head, "Don't mess with her, Harry. I've heard things, she can't be trusted. Don't get on her bad side."

Harry gave a laugh, "I am pretty sure that it is too late for that. She was at my trial, too. Was one of the ones that voted me guilty."

Draco looked worriedly over at Harry. "How late do you think you'll be?"

"She kept me until midnight last night, and I still have to do all of yesterday's and today's homework. I won't be able to meet you." Harry looked around, "I have to go, I can't be late."

"We'll have to find a way to get together, I miss you. And stop getting detentions." Draco slid his hand along Harry's cheek and then hurried down the hall in the opposite direction. Harry watched him disappear around the corner. It was funny how even the quick little stolen conversations they had could make him feel better. Too bad they were so rare. Harry slowly made his way to Umbridge's office. It was even worse than the first night. His hand already sore burned in pain and he had to grit his teeth to not make any sound. He was determined not to give her the satisfaction of knowing that it hurt.

It was after midnight when Umbridge finally let him go. The corridors were empty as he made his way wearily back to the Gryffindor tower. As he walked into the common room he was glad to see that everyone had gone to bed already. He couldn't face the thought of talking to anyone. It took him until two in the morning to finish his Potion's essay on Moonstones. His hand hurt so badly by the end it was almost impossible to write.

In Potions the next morning he could hardly keep his eyes open. If it wasn't for Ron's constant nudging he would have fallen asleep right at the table. Snape glared at him throughout the class and took ten points from Gryffindor when he failed to answer Snape's question about hellebore.

Finally, class was over and as he stood up and saw Draco slowly gathering his things. Harry turned to Ron and said, a little louder than necessary, "I need to do something to wake up. Think I'll skip lunch and walk around the lake."

"Do you want me to come with you?" Ron asked, a little reluctantly. Harry laughed, Ron hated missing a meal for any reasons.

"No, you go on. Grab me a sandwich and I'll eat it on the way to Magical Creatures."

Harry gave a quick look back at Draco to make sure he had heard and got a nod in response. He hurried up the stairs and in to the bright sunshine of the September day. There were other students out enjoying the sunshine but Harry quickly passed them by, making his way around the lake. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Draco taking the path going around the lake in the opposite direction. Harry practically hummed with excitement and had to force himself to keep a steady pace and not break out into a run.

When he got to the patch of trees he left the path and made his way under cover until he got to the large chestnut tree. He leaned against the tree and watched Draco as he moved down the path towards him. Not for the first time he envied how Draco made every move he made seem so elegant and smooth. Harry always felt awkward in his own body, twitchy and stumbling.

Draco drew nearer and smiled as he saw Harry waiting for him. "I brought you a sandwich. Knowing the Weasel he will probably eat half of whatever he brings you." Harry laughed because he knew that Draco was right. He took the sandwich and sat down next to the tree.

"How was Umbridge last night?"

"Fine. Didn't talk to her at all, just did the lines." Harry didn't want to tell Draco what was happening in detention. He swallowed a bit of the sandwich. "Aren't you going to sit down?" Harry motioned next to him. Draco looked distastefully at the ground and but shrugged and sat down.

"Are you going to be able to get away this weekend?" Draco asked.

Harry set down his sandwich and held out his hand to Draco "I want to, I am going to try. I have Quidditch practice and have to get caught up in my homework. With Umbridge keeping me so late I haven't been able to do hardly any of it."

Draco nodded "Maybe I can help with your homework? If your bulldogs will let you out of their sight, that is." Draco caressed his hands over Harry's and wincing Harry tried to pull back his hand. Draco looked at him puzzled and didn't let go, "What the hell is that?" The bright red angry marks were clearly visible in the sunlight. Harry tried again to pull back his hand. "It looks like letters, how did you get that?"

"Umbridge. Detention. She has some demonic quill that makes you write with your own blood."

Draco looked at him horrified. "You mean..."

"Yes. For two days I've been writing lines into my own hand. Can I have it back please?" Harry didn't mean to snap at Draco but he was just so bloody tired. Draco didn't let go, holding on to Harry's hand tightly, staring at the scars that were starting to form.

"That isn't right." Draco traced the healing scar softly and Harry tried not to wince.

"Since when is anything that happens to me right?" Harry asked with a bitter laugh.

"But, Harry, your hand..."

"I'm fine. Only two more nights and I'll be done."

Draco looked like he was about to object. Harry caught his chin and turned it towards him and gently kissed him. "I haven't had a chance to thank you for the drawings this summer." Draco flushed and looked away. Harry gave a chuckle and kissed the side of Draco's neck.

"They kept me sane. All I could think of was getting back to you." Harry hesitated, not sure if he should ask, "How was your summer? Other than Snape?"

Draco looked down at the ground, "Could have been worse I guess. Actually, they pretty much forgot I was home. I stayed in my rooms, out of the way and they...well, there were a lot of people in and out of the Manor."

"Was, erm, was Voldemort-" Harry asked hesitantly.

Draco picked up a rock and threw it in to the woods, "Probably best if you didn't ask..."

Harry nodded, he figured he knew the answer and it would make everything more real and awkward if Draco admitted it. He looked down at his sandwich and picked it up and flung it into the woods.

"Aren't you going to eat?" Draco asked.

"Not hungry all of the sudden." Harry said grimly.

"Listen, we are back at school. We are safe and whatever they are doing isn't going to affect us." Draco said.

Harry hesitated; the last four years had taught him that Voldemort had a way of getting past the school's defenses no matter what precautions were taken. He stood up and dusted off his robes. "We've got to get going. Lunch is almost over. Time for Magical Creatures."

"You go first, I'll catch up when the coast is clear."

OOoOOo

Draco looked up in surprise when Harry walked into the locker room. He stood up and came over to him. "I thought you had Quidditch practice."

"Fred got hit with a bludger so Angela called practice early. Told Ron I was going to the library." Harry smiled as he looked around. It had been almost three months since he was last in the locker room it looked just the same. The record player was out and the stack of Muggle records lay next to it.

Draco nodded and watched as Harry paced the room. Harry didn't know why he felt nervous. A lot had happened since the last time he had been down here. Draco came over and pulled him to him in a loose hug, his arms around Harry's waist. Harry sighed at the touch and reached out to caress Draco's cheek. It was like coming home, being in Draco's arms again.

"How have things been going with you?"

"Not as bad as with you." Draco said with a shrug, "You do realize that Umbridge is out to get you."

Harry nodded, "And Snape, too."

"Snape isn't-"

"He has given me "D"s on the last two essays and vanished two out of my last three potions." Harry said bitterly. "I think his little vendetta against me has gotten even more personal. Before he just didn't like me. Now I know he hates me."

"We need to come up with something that will convince him that we had a fight. That we are split up." Draco muttered. "I told him last week that we hadn't seen each other because of all your detentions and homework."

"What did he say to that?"

Draco snorted, and in his best Snape imitation he said, "'Do not delay, Draco. The sooner you end it with Potter the safer we will all be.'"

"What did he mean by that? He threatened me in class too, 'bad decisions in life can kill you' what on earth does that mean?" Harry exclaimed, "What does what we have have anything to do with him?"

"I don't know," Draco said with a laugh, "It was all he talked about this summer though, drove me crazy with it. That's why I finally gave in and told him that I would stop seeing you."

"So how do we convince him?" Harry asked, "It is not like we are ever together. We fight all the time upstairs. What will convince him that something has changed?"

Draco shrugged, "I've been thinking about it. We always sit so we can see each other at lunch. What if I sit with my back to you and you look mad about it. And a fight, a real fight. We'll need to have a big fight."

Harry winced, "I hate hitting you for real."

"You'll need to do it, and you need to start it so it looks like I broke up with you and you are ticked off. It is the only thing he will believe."

Harry nodded. "I suppose."

"I'll let kiss your bruises and make them better." Draco smiled, pulling Harry towards him.

Harry gave a laugh, "That could be interesting..."

"The one I worry about is Umbridge, Snape might be angry but he isn't going to try and get you kicked out. Umbridge wants you out. She is going to try to do anything to get you expelled."

"Can you believe her class? What is the point of a Defense Against the Dark Arts class that doesn't teach any defense."

Draco agreed with a grimace, "I would rather have Quirrell back than her. How are we supposed to prepare for our O.W.L.s with her as a teacher?"

Harry gave a shudder at the memory of Quirrell. He hesitated, "We, well, Hermione and Ron were talking about that. Hermione asked if I would...give Defense lessons."

Draco raised his eyebrow, "To whom?"

Harry shrugged, "Gryffindors, classmates, I guess. I told her no."

"I think you should do it."

Harry looked at him with surprise, "You do?"

Draco nodded, putting his arms around Harry and pulling him close, "You and I both know that things are happening that we can't control. The best way to prepare is to learn as much as we can now. You are a natural teacher. You know a lot more about defense than most of us, you should teach others."

"Okay, I'll think about it more I guess. Hermione was going to organize a meeting, see who is interested."

"One thing though, Harry. Don't get caught." Draco's face was serious, and he wrapped his hand behind the nape of Harry's neck and looked at him soberly. Harry flushed and nodded.

"There is something I have to tell you." Draco shifted uncomfortably, "Umbridge came to me and a few other Slytherins."

"She did? What for?"

"She wants us to spy for her."

"She WHAT?" Harry looked at him in disbelief. "What did you tell her?"

"What do you think?" Draco scowled, "If I refused then she would know something was wrong. I figure I can help you keep out of trouble if she thinks I am on her side. And, I might find out more of what she is up to and be able to tip you off.

Harry looked over at him, "That could be really useful. If I do the lessons it will be good to know what she is planning for patrols and everything."

Draco nodded, "Now you are thinking like a Slytherin." Harry smiled and wrapped his arms around Draco. "When do you have to get upstairs?"

"Soon. Too soon." Harry grumbled. "I told Ron that I was just running down to the library for a book. And I still have to come back with it."

"You mean, we just wasted our first time alone down here, talking?" Draco had a petulant look on his face, "We didn't even get a chance to test my birthday present yet to see if it still works." They both glanced over at the bench that was pushed up against the wall, the Quidditch leathers still piled on it.

Harry groaned and backed away as Draco tried to pull Harry towards him, "No time, this weekend, I promise."

Draco smiled and didn't let go of Harry, "Should we plan the fight for tomorrow then?"

"Wha-oh. Yeah, I guess so. Before or after class?"

"After. We are going to be doing Strengthening Potions. I want to be sure to be able to focus on doing those right. Probably will be on our exams." Harry shook his head at such practicality.

"Okay, you ignore me at breakfast, I get pissed and shoot you dirty glances during class and then get fed up and start a fight as we leave." Harry nodded, "I hope this works, I don't want to fight you every week."

"One thing more," Draco looked down at their hands that intertwined. "The Slytherins are going to be at Quidditch practice tomorrow."

"What! It is Gryffindors time on the pitch!"

"I know, I know. But you know any student can go down and watch. They are planning on giving Weasley a hard time."

"Which- you mean Ron?" Harry looked at Draco, "No, don't do that. He is conscientious enough as it is. If you guys raze him he will play terribly."

"What do think would be worse? A hard time at practice or a huge to-do during the first game? May as well get him used to it."

Harry shook his head, "I don't like it."

"Well, it is already planned, I don't think I can stop it..."

"And if you participate it will make Snape and all your Slytherins less suspicious." Harry said grudgingly.

"Pretty much."

"Okay, if you have to, but for the record I hate this stuff."

OoOOooOO

Harry looked up from his potions book to see Draco entering the locker room through the tower entrance. Draco wasn't expecting him to be there and stopped short when he saw Harry sitting at the desk. They hadn't seen each other since the fight outside of Snape's classroom two days earlier. Harry was glad to see that the bruises on Draco's face had already faded or had been healed by someone. Hermione had wanted to heal Harry's black eye but he had refused.

"Ouch." Draco reached out and gently touched Harry's black eye. "How come you didn't get that fixed?"

Harry shrugged. "Well, you did promise to kiss my bruises and make them better..." Draco laughed and carefully kissed the spot just below Harry's right eye. "Actually, I thought it would make Snape happier to see me all bruised up because of you for a couple of days."

Draco shook his head, "Good idea, I suppose. I've been wanting to ask you for the last two days why you hadn't gotten it fixed. Hate not being able to talk to you when I want to. How did you get away tonight?"

"Ron's brother sent him a really snarky letter about me. I was ticked off so I left Gryffindor. Only place I could wanted to come to was here. Hoping you would show up."

"What do you mean snarky?"

"Just stupid Percy stuff, how I am dangerous. How Dumbledore is dangerous. How he shouldn't be my friend." Harry grimaced, "Ron got really angry at Percy, but I just thought I would clear out."

"Percy has a lot of insider information in the Ministry."

"Well, the ministry has shown that they aren't exactly on my side right now. And I'm certainly not on theirs. They won't even admit that Voldemort is back!"

"Well, unfortunately for us we don't need them to tell us that."

"Yeah, well. I have to get these essays done for Snape."

"He didn't assign an essay in class."

"Not to you or anyone else," Harry grumbled. "My punishment for the fight. I need to write a two foot essay for every ingredient that goes into the Draught of Peace."

"Two feet on each ingredient?" Draco shook his head. "That is going to take days."

"Well, he only gave me three days to do them all," Harry said. "I've finished two and have three more to go."

"Let me do two of the other ones and you can just re-write it in your handwriting." Draco sat down and pulled open his books, "It isn't fair that you are the only one to get punished for the fight."

Harry shrugged, "He isn't likely to assign you extra work. Especially since he is probably happy that you did what he told you to do, or at least thinks you did. Do you think it worked?"

Draco shrugged, "Seems to have. He told me that I made a 'wise choice'. Kills me to not to be able to watch you. I like the way you bite you lip when you are trying to not fuck up your potion."

Harry gave a laugh and shrug, "That must be all the time, I always seem to mess them up. Anyway, it is only one class, the other ones we can-"

"I think we need to be careful in all of our classes." Draco cut in, "Blaise and Pansy were both looking at us funny in Magical Creatures yesterday."

Harry bit his lip, "What did they say?" Draco smiled and ran his finger along Harry's lip, Harry gave it a little nip with his teeth.

Draco smiled as he moved his hand through Harry's hair, "Just suggested that maybe my opinions of Gryffindors had changed since I seemed to be, in their words, ogling you."

"Hermione is suspicious, too." Harry admitted, "It is hard to get anything pass her and she made some comment about how I was paying too much attention to you."

"Well, you know what the solution is to that?" Draco asked with a smile.

"More fights?" Draco shook his head slowly, "Less ogling?"

Draco shrugged, "Well, maybe less ogling, but I was thinking of more getting it out of our system." He reached over and pulled Harry's chair towards him.

Harry laughed, and batted Draco's hands away, "And how will I explain to Snape that I haven't finished his bloody essays? Help me finish these and then we can get it out of our system."

oOOOoOoO

The exhilaration that Harry felt after the meeting at the Hog's Head disappeared when word spread of Educational Decree Number Twenty-Four. Hermione, Ron and he debated hotly whether or not to try and hold the meetings. It was only when Dobby told him about the Room of Requirement that he realized that maybe it would be possible. He was willing to risk

"We are going to do it." Harry said nervously as he lay next to Draco on the green leather sofa.

"Do what?" Draco muttered as he unbuttoned Harry's shirt.

"Defense classes. We are having our first meeting tomorrow." Draco stopped what he was doing and stared over at Harry.

"Are you sure you want to risk it?"

Harry looked at him half annoyed, "You are the one who said I should do it!"

"Well, I did. But that was before Umbridge banned all school groups. If she catches you-"

"We just have to make sure she doesn't catch us. That is where you come in. Are you patrolling tomorrow night?"

Draco nodded, "Goyle and I are both supposed to be on watch tomorrow."

"Well, be sure to keep clear of the seventh flour, okay?"

"Where are you going to meet?"

"A house elf told me about a special room, it is supposed to transform into whatever kind of room you need."

Draco's eyes lit up, "Whatever kind of room?"

Harry laughed and lightly ran his fingers down Draco's spine. "Mmmm Hmmm."

"That bears some investigating, don't you think?"

"Well, we are going to test it out tomorrow. If it can transform into a Defense classroom, who knows what else it can create."

oOoOOOoOO

"Hey, Scarface"

Harry groaned and looked down the corridor. Draco was standing in the middle of the entranceway. "What do you want Malfoy?"

"Just thought I wondering how you expect to pass your O.W.L.s with a performance like that in Transfiguration. It took you what five tries to transfigure that mouse into a hat?"

"What business of it is yours how many times it took?"

"Just wondering what your plans are when you flunk out, Potter."

"Buzz off, Malfoy." Harry walked past him and went on to the stairs. He checked the time, he had plenty of time to meet Malfoy on the third floor before going to Quidditch practice. He quickly double backed up the stairs and walked down the fifth floor corridor to their usual meeting spot behind the large dragon sculpture.

Draco showed up a few minutes later. "We have to find a better way to set up meetings. I have exhausted every possible insult that I can think of that has numbers in it." He stood carefully on the other side of the alcove. There was always a chance that someone would walk by and look in.

Harry nodded, "Agreed. It seemed like a good idea a year ago but now it is just too hard. We'll think of something else. What's wrong?"

"Just wanted to know how your meeting went last night."

"Good! Really good. The room is perfect and we had over 25 people there and I was really pleased on how everyone did."

"Umbridge knew something was up. There were so many of you moving back to your dorms when it was over that she suspects that you had a meeting. You are going to need stagger everyone's coming and going more."

"I did a bit, everyone left in groups of twos and threes." Harry said.

Draco shook his head, "Stagger the departure times more and have some people leave by themselves. Not everyone in Hogwarts walks in groups of three."

"Okay, I'll do that next time. Our next meeting is next Wednesday."

"I'll make sure I'm on patrol. Be really careful, Harry." Draco's face was serious. "I don't want you getting caught."

"I won't" Harry said with a smile, he leaned out of the alcove and saw that the cost was clear. He come over and put his arms around Draco. "Thanks for worrying about me."

"I'm not worried for you." Draco drawled as he put his arms around Harry's waist. "I am only thinking of myself. Any idea what it would do to me if you got expelled? "

"Well, between DA meetings and Quidditch practice I'm not going to have much time to spend downstairs."

Draco nodded, "Only two weeks until our match. Are you ready for it?"

Harry grinned, "More than ready, it has been way too long since last year when we were sneaking out at night to play."

"Don't look too confident, Potter. You only got the snitch last time because I wasn't stupid enough to fly into a fucking boat."

"Whatever works. I have to get to class. Any idea how I can tell you if I'm going to be able to meet you downstairs?"

Draco shrugged, "I do most of my studying down there at night if I don't have Quidditch practice. Just come if you can get away."

ooOoOoOo

Harry finished his essay and handed it to Hermione. She quickly scanned it and made a couple of corrections and handed it back to Harry. "I must say your essays have really improved this year, Harry. You are putting a real effort into them."

Harry smiled, "Probably because we have so much homework that I can't procrastinate anymore." He thought to himself that it was more likely because he knew that as soon as he finished the essay he would be able to sneak away and see Draco. "That was my last assignment, I think I'm going to go down to the kitchen and say hi to Dobby and get something to eat."

Hermione nodded and Ron just groaned. Harry knew that Ron still had two essays to go, so there was no chance that Hermione would let him go down to the kitchen for a snack.

He quickly made his way down to the passage that led to the kitchen. Fortunately, Dobby saw him and came right over. "Harry Potter! What an honor! What would Harry Potter like to eat!"

"Hi Dobby, I was wondering if you have any more desserts left from supper?" Harry looked around nervously, as he had hoped, most of the house elves were finished with cleaning up after supper and the kitchen was nearly empty. Dobby had returned with a tray full of desserts. Harry's eyes light up at the sight.

"That's perfect, Dobby! Do you have a couple of forks?" Dobby snapped his fingers and two forks appeared on the plate.

"Anything for you, Harry Potter."

"Dobby, I'm going to take the other exit. Don't tell anyone, okay?"

"Harry Potter can trust Dobby!" Dobby dutifully covered his eyes and Harry quickly moved over to the archway that led to the locker room.

Draco was sitting at the desk. He looked up startled at the sound of Harry walking through the locker room. "What are you doing here?"

Harry laughed, "Aren't I welcome anymore?" He set down the covered tray on the desk and came over to Draco. Straddling his legs over Draco's lap, Harry sat down in his chair facing Draco. Framing Draco's face with his hands he kissed him hard.

Draco put his arms around Harry. "You are most definitely welcome. Especially since I smell chocolate. Please tell me there is chocolate on that tray." Harry laughed and half turned to pull the tray towards them.

"I thought you could use some dessert to fortify you for tomorrow's match." Harry picked up a plate and with a smile he took a forkful and held it out to Draco. "How badly do you want the chocolate?"

"Anything." Draco's eyes were focused on the forkful of gooey chocolate. "Name your price."

Harry pressed himself down on Draco's groin, "It is pretty expensive. You may need a payment plan." Draco reached up and grabbed Harry's wrist and forced his hand holding the fork to his own mouth.

"Let me have this and I'll give you a blow job every day until the end of school year."

Harry laughed, "And here I thought Slytherins were supposed to be hard to negotiate with..." as he handed him the plate. Harry stopped talking as he watched Draco's next move. Draco gazed into Harry's eyes with a lazy smile on his face. He never broke eye contact with him as he swirled two of his fingers into the mousse.

Bringing his fingers to his lips he slowly licked off the chocolate, his tongue running the length of his fingers before he started his next lick. Harry's mouth dropped open and he moaned as Draco returned his fingers to the plate for another coating of chocolate. Draco smiled and held up his fingers in front of Harry's mouth and Harry eagerly leaned forward to lick the chocolate off. He grabbed Draco's hand and held on to it as he licked every drop of chocolate from his fingers.

"The key to Slytherin negotiations, Potter, is to know when you are in a win-win situation. No matter what price you set, I knew I would win." Draco drawled and he pulled Harry towards him.

OOoOoOOo

Harry lay on the green leather sofa, his arms crossed across his face. He had no idea if Draco would dare to come down downstairs when he realized that Harry wasn't at supper. He wasn't sure if he even wanted to see Draco. He could still hear Draco's hateful words ringing in his ears out on the pitch. One minute they had been battling each other for the snitch, the next he had been sinking his fist into Draco's stomach, wanting to cause him as much pain as Draco's words had caused him.

Banned for life from Quidditch. Last year he hadn't been able to imagine going a year without playing a game and now he was facing a lifetime.

Through the stillness of the locker room he heard the footsteps moving quietly down the rows of locker until they stopped by the doorway. Not bothering to turn his head, he waited and after a long pause Draco came around the desk and kneeled on the floor next to the sofa. Harry could take him a deep breath and start to say "I'm sor-"

Harry cut him off, not bothering to sit up or even move his arms from his face. "Don't. Don't you dare apologize."

Draco paused, Harry could hear him shifting restlessly. Harry was glad that Draco hadn't tried to sit next to him or touch him. "What do you want me to say?"

"Nothing. Don't bother saying anything," Harry sighed. "I don't want to hear any excuses."

"Do you want me to go?" Draco's voice was flat. Harry knew that if he looked over he would see the Malfoy mask that refused to show any emotions. He gave a little bitter laugh.

"I've been down here for the last half hour trying to decide if I wanted you to show up or not."

"What had you decided?"

"That I miss Cedric." Harry heard Draco's sudden inhale of breath, "Not that way, you stupid git. I miss how just talking to him always helped. Situations that seemed impossible would be doable by the time he got done talking."

He heard Draco shift, turning around to sit on the floor, leaning against the sofa near Harry's head. Harry reached over and dropped the snitch into Draco's lap. "Here. That was the problem wasn't it? That is why you got so mad."

"I don't know what it was..." Draco's voice was barely above a whisper. "It was losing, it was all the chanting, it was you getting the snitch. The words just started coming out of my mouth and I couldn't stop them."

"Couldn't stop them? That is BULLSHIT." Harry swung his feet down and stood up, Draco scrambled to stand up next to him. "YOU WERE FUCKING MAD AND WANTED TO SAY ALL THOSE THINGS."

"I DIDN'T, I DIDN'T MEAN IT!" Draco shouted back at him, they were standing within inches of each other, staring at each other, eyes flashing. It was all Harry could do to not hit Draco again. He reached down and picked up the snitch that had fallen on the ground. He reached down and shoved it into Draco's hand and forced his fingers to close around it.

"It could just have easily have been your hand that grabbed it than it was mine. You were just a second behind me. But I got it. And my reward? A Bludger hit straight into my back, my boyfriend insulting my dead mother, and a lifetime ban from Quidditch."

"I- What? What do you mean you are banned from Quidditch?"

"You haven't heard?" Harry looked at him in disbelief. "Surely all of the Slytherins are crowing with delight. George, Fred and me. All three of us are banned. Thanks to the bloody High Inquisitor."

"I didn't go back to Slytherin. I've been out walking around, trying to figure out what to say to you."

"What did you come up with?" Harry walked away from Draco and started flipping through the records on the desk.

"I hadn't gotten much past apologizing and groveling when I realized that nothing I could say would make-up for what I did." Draco walked up behind Harry and hesitantly put his hands on Harry's shoulders. Harry shuddered but didn't brush away his hands. "I am sorry, Harry, more than sorry."

Harry spoke so quietly that Draco could barely hear him, "I'm sorry, too. I'm sorry, because every week I risk so much just to sneak down here for an hour or two alone with you. I'm sorry, because I have to lie to my best friends and I can't tell them about you. I'm sorry, because I know that I'll forgive you and everything will be fine until the next time. And most of all I'm sorry, because I love you and no matter how many times I tell myself that it isn't worth it the risk anymore I can't make myself stop seeing you."

There was a hitch in Draco's breath and his hands tightened on Harry's shoulders. He tried to turn Harry to face him but Harry fought against him. "Harry...please, turn around."

Harry shrugged and then slowly turned to face Draco, leaning against the desk. He looked defiantly at Draco. The gray eyes looked over at him soberly. The pale skin of Draco's face was marred only by the faint trace of a bruise where one of Harry's punches had landed. With trembling fingers Harry reached up and traced the line of the bruise down his cheek. Draco put his hand over Harry's and turned his head so that he could kiss the palm of Harry's hand. He softly grasped both of Harry's hands and held them between the two of them.

"I am sorry. I am sorry I got mad at you for catching the snitch. I am sorry that I am jealous at how good a seeker you are. I am sorry that I let my temper get away from me and I said things that I don't believe and that I shouldn't have said. I am sorry that my words caused you so much pain. I am sorry that..." Draco took a deep breath and looked into Harry's eyes, "I am sorry that you won't be able to play Quidditch because of me. And most of all I am sorry, because I love you and I don't know what to do to make this better."

Draco leaned forward resting his forehead against Harry's. They stood there for a few minutes just listening to each other breath. Harry slowly felt some of the pain ease.

"Do you regret saying yes to helping me last year? Do you regret us?" Draco whispered, staring down at their clasped hands.

Harry hesitated but shook his head, "No, I don't regret it. I just wish it was easier. I wish that we could obliviate all the anger and problems from upstairs and just have our time down here be just us."

"And reverse it when we went go upstairs?" Draco said with a sad smile. "Erase all of the good memories?"

"No, never. You make me whole." Harry said. "You complete me. I just wish that things could be different, easier."

"Nothing about your life is easy." Draco said.

Harry laughed and rubbed his scar, that was thankfully pain free at the moment. "That is true, why should my love life be any different." Lifting their intertwined fingers together, Harry gave Draco's fingers a kiss and sighed. "I have to get back. They are going to be wondering where I am." He tried to pull his hand away and Draco tightened his grip.

"Don't go."

Harry sighed and looked over at Draco, there was a faint pink flush in Draco's cheeks. He pulled Harry to him. "I need you." he kissed Harry. Harry could feel his desire in the kiss and returned it. Draco pushed against him, grinding his hips into Harry's. "I want you."

Harry pulled back and looked at Draco startled. Draco reached up and pulled off Harry's glasses. "Do you mean..." Draco nodded with a half-smile as he traced Harry's lips with his fingers. Harry took in a ragged breath but hesitated, "I don't want you to feel like you have to, because of what happened."

Draco smiled and shook his head, "It is time, don't you think? It was nearly a year ago when we first kissed." he ran his fingers over Harry's lips. "Every night I imagine what it could be like. I am tired of just thinking about it. I want you. And I think you want me too." Harry nodded. With all the time they had spent together exploring each other's body they had always stopped short of this final intimacy. Draco reached down and pulled up on Harry's t-shirt, Harry lifted his arms allowing him to pull it off all the way. With shaking fingers he reached over and started unbuttoning Draco's robes. Draco kissed Harry along his jawline as his hands worked to unfasten his belt and unbutton his jeans.

"You wear too many clothes," Harry muttered as he finally slipped the robe off of Draco. Draco smiled and said. "Let me help" he stepped back and quickly stripped off his shirt. Harry reached down to the floor and pulled his wand out of his jean's pocket and pointed it at the fireplace, a making the fire roar to life and send warmth into the room. They stood there for a moment and just held each other, despite the heat from the fire Harry was trembling. "You're sure?" Draco nodded, "Erm, do you know what to do? I'm not...I haven't." Harry's cheeks flushed bright red.

"I asked Cedric last spring...he talked to me, gave me some pamphlets." Draco pulled Harry towards him, "I've been wanting to do this for a very, very long time."

Harry looked into Draco's warm gray eyes. "Show me."

OoOoOoOOO

The library was filled with students studying for the end of term exams. Hermione hissed over at Harry. "You're humming again, Harry."

Harry looked over at surprise at her. "I was?" Ron laughed but didn't contradict Harry.

"Yes! Between your humming and Malfoy's tapping. You are both driving me to distraction." She turned and glared at where Draco sat with his back to them one table over.

Harry looked over and shrugged. "I don't hear any tapping."

"Honestly, Harry. We have exams starting next week!"

Harry shrugged and looked back down at his text book. They worked quietly for another ten minutes when Harry noticed Draco walk past him and into the stacks. He silently counted to sixty and then reached into his bookbag and took his invisibility cloak out and quietly slipped it under his robes. "I need to go check on something." and quickly left the table before Hermione could ask him what.

He walked down the rows of stacks until he came to where Draco was waiting, idly leaning against the shelves in the Arithmancy section. Harry came up to him, "Nice tapping."

Draco laughed quietly, "You started it, you were humming loud enough for half to the library to hear. May as well have been singing."

Harry pulled out his invisibility cloak, "Ready for a study break?" He didn't give Draco a chance to respond but swooped the cloak over the both of them.

"Very kinky, Potter. In the middle of the library? And here you were humming about not getting any...satisfaction" Draco whispered to him as pushed him against the book shelves.

"Haven't seen you in forever, just had to see you." Harry whispered back as he tugged on Draco's shirt and ran his fingers over his bare back. Draco sucked in his breath at Harry's touch. "And I would love some satisfaction…"

The next moment they heard the unmistakable sound of Ron's voice and both froze, "Harry went down here somewhere and Malfoy is missing. Bet he is trying to get one last fight in before break." Harry groaned as he realized that his friends had turned down the aisle they were in.

"Honestly, Ron. Malfoy isn't going to try anything in the-" Hermione's voice broke off and she coughed suddenly. "I, um, think I saw Harry go down the other aisle. Let's look over there."

"No, I'm sure he went this way." Ron said petulantly, but he let Hermione pull him away and back towards the entrance. Draco glared at Harry under the cover of the cloak as he tucked his shirt back in.

"That was a little too close." Harry nodded and reached up and kissed Draco. "I better go before they come looking for me again."

OoOOoOO

"Ron, why don't you go the other way so we aren't all seen walking together." Hermione said, with her hand on Harry's arm as they set off for the DA meeting.

Ron gave her a puzzled look and then shrugged and nodded.

Hermione waited until Ron was a good distance down the corridor before turning to Harry. "Is there anything you want to share with me?"

Harry looked at her startled, a light flush moving up his cheeks. "Erm, no?"

"Harry." Hermione stared hard at him, "You know you don't have to hide anything from me. I understand."

"You do?" Harry hesitated, "What do you understand?"

"You're obviously seeing someone!" Hermione hissed at him. Harry felt the tickle of alarm run down his spine.

"How do you, I mean, what makes you think that?"

"You've grown, Harry!"

"I have?" Harry looked at her puzzled, "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Your cloak doesn't cover your shoes when TWO people are under it!"

"It doesn't?" Harry stopped in the middle of the corridor and looked down at his shoes.

Hermione shook her head and laughed at him, "No, Harry it doesn't, let alone two pairs of shoes. So, who is your secret snogging partner?"

"I can't tell you," Harry said slowly. "I really can't. I'm sorry."

"Why not?" Hermione asked, looking at him hard, "I can keep a secret, I promise."

"I know. I'm really, really sorry. But I promised him." Harry took a deep breath, "We both agreed to keep it a secret until we were ready to start telling friends."

"I could find out, you know." Hermione looked at him sternly, "I saw his boots, and they were quite unique."

"Don't, Hermione, please." Harry pleaded, as he silently reminded himself to tell Draco not to wear those boots anymore. "It would cause a lot of problems."

"Okay, Harry. Because I trust you and I know how hard this is for you," Hermione said with a smile, "But as soon as you are ready to tell someone, I want you to spill the beans. I want to know all the details, including why you feel the need to use the library as your snogging headquarters."

Harry gave a shaky smile and nodded. A thought suddenly occurred to him, "Hermione, since you know. I haven't been able to get …my erm, friend, a Christmas present yet and since you know maybe you could help."

OoooOOooO

Harry walked back into the Gryffindor common room, he still had a faint stunned feeling as he looked around the room and saw Ron and Hermione over by the fireplace. He sank into the armchair near them and put his head in his hands.

"What happened?" Ron asked, looking up from his homework.

"Is it Cho?" Hermione asked.

Harry nodded and slumped looking into the fire. "She started talking to me after class about Cedric and was really upset and crying."

"So what happened?" Hermione asked, biting the end of her quill.

Harry shrugged, "I didn't know what to do. She obviously wanted me to comfort her so I gave her a hug and then she looked up and we were under the mistletoe..."

Hermione shook her head, "Harry, please don't tell me you kissed her."

"I didn't know what to do! She was just standing there obviously waiting to be kissed I didn't think I should just walk away? That would make her cry more wouldn't it? I just wanted her to stop crying. And it wasn't like I could tell her why I'm not interested in her." Hermione's look told him that clearly he hadn't though all of his options through clearly.

"So you..."

"I kissed her."

Ron started laughing uncontrollably. Hermione shook her head at the both of them and waited for Ron to stop rolling around on the floor.

"Did it kindle any hetro feelings? How was it? " Ron said, gasping for breath.

"Wet." he said truthfully. "She was crying and everything."

"Not a good sign, mate, having a bird start sobbing when you kiss her. You might want to stick to the blokes."

Harry gave a laugh and looked over at Hermione. She was looking from Ron to Harry in disbelief.

"Don't either of you realize what Cho is going through right now?" She proceeded to tell them exactly all of the worries that Cho Chang was going through right now and then turned to Harry, "And you! How do you think she is going to feel if you don't follow up the kiss?"

Harry shrugged, "I'll just be sure not to let her catch me alone again." Hermione shook her head at him.

"Harry, that is just going to be worse!" She looked over at him. "You'll need to tell her you're seeing someone...or something." she added hastily as Ron looked at them.

"You are seeing someone, Harry? Who?" Ron asked, "Why does Hermione know and I don't?"

Harry took a deep breath, "I'm not...I haven't..."

Hermione glared at him and then turned to Ron, "What Harry is trying to say is that he might be interested in someone but he isn't ready for anyone to know about it." Ron looked between Hermione and Harry and then shrugged, "Good, now let me finish this letter to Viktor."

Harry quietly thanked Merlin for Hermione and her diversion of Ron's attention to Viktor Krum. He thought back to kissing Cho. If anything the experience taught him that he was definitely gay. There wasn't even a spark of interest when she had kissed him. Nothing like what he'd felt the first time he and Draco had kissed. Draco. Harry groaned as he realized that he had to find a way to talk to Draco before term ended in two days. The way that gossip traveled between the houses he knew that the fact that he'd kissed Cho would be all over the school by morning.

OoOoOOOO

Christmas Night, Grimmauld Place

Harry listened to Ron's breathing waiting to be sure his friend was sound asleep before he quietly said "Lumos" under his covers and pulled out the gold galleon from under the pillow. With fingers crossed he tapped the wand and the message "Are you there?" etched across the surface. He wasn't sure if Draco had found his present in the locker room, and if he had if he was able to open it. He knew it was a risk sending a message not knowing where Draco was but he needed to talk to Draco.

So much had happened so quickly after Mr. Weasley was attacked by the snake and they were whisked away to Grimmauld Place. He was still reeling from the news that Voldemort was in his head that he was desperate to contact Draco. His finger traced the pattern of the Gryffindor lion that he had etched on the surface of the coin. On Draco's coin he had etched a dragon. He had wanted to put the star pattern of the Draco constellation but thought it would be too much of a risk if someone else found it.

The minutes ticked by and finally the letters finally appeared back. "Yes." Harry smiled with delight and wrote "Happy Christmas!" There was another pause and Harry started to wonder if Draco was having problems with the coin or if he was so far away that the coins couldn't communicate with each other that quickly.

"Cho?" Harry's heart sank as he saw those three letters appear on his coin. With everything that had happened he had completely forgotten about kissing Cho. Of course Draco had found out about it and he had probably been wanting to kill Harry for the last week.

"Long Story. Don't Worry. Explain Later."

"Explain now."

"Cho crying Re: Cedric. Mistletoe. Me dumb. Love U."

"U Idiot. "

"Agreed."

"Where R U?"

"With Weasleys"

"U OK?

"Sorta. Tell all when back."

"K. Have to go. Love U. Neat coin."

"K. Miss U. Tomorrow night?"

There was a long pause. "Maybe. Lots of Company Here."

"Oh."

"Me msg U when ok to talk."

"K. Don't take chances. Only 2 weeks til back. Stay safe."

"U 2"

"G'Night"

"Night"

Harry slid the coin under his pillow and put away his wand. He stared up at the ceiling and thought about who the likely guests were at Malfoy Manor. He wouldn't bet a knut on the likelihood that there was a large snake and Voldemort on the guest list.

Chapter Text

Grimmauld Place

Harry could feel Sirius' eyes following him as they all welcomed Mr. Weasley back from the St. Mungo's. Snape, who had just confronted Harry and Sirius about the Occlumency lessons, had already stalked out of the room. Sirius had reluctantly put his wand away as the Potions master had left. The entire Weasley family was glowing with happiness and Harry felt uncomfortable intruding on their family homecoming. Harry slipped out of the room and went up to the bedroom he was sharing with Ron. He lay on the bed staring up at the ceiling and idly felt the galleon coin in his pocket. Draco had only been able to contact him twice in the week since Christmas.

Sound of the door opening startled him and he turned to see Sirius framed in the doorway. Harry quickly scrambled to sit up. Sirius came into the room and closed the door.

"I know by the way you haven't been able to look me in the eye that you are still seeing the Malfoy boy." Sirius said as he sat down on Ron's bed facing him. Harry lifted his chin defiantly but did not confirm or deny it. Why Sirius thought it was any of his business was beyond him.

"You are more like your father every day. Once he had decided on something, nothing could change his mind." Sirius hung his head down and looking at his knees. "But I can't remember any time he got himself in such a dangerous situation."

"It isn't dangerous. It isn't even a situation! I told you that last summer. It is just Draco and me." Harry protested.

"Just you and Draco, eh?" Sirius looked over at Harry. "Well, in a few days you are going to start Occlumency lessons with Severus Snape. Do you know what that means?"

Harry looked at him confused, "That I have to spend more lessons with Snape yelling at me?"

"It means, lover boy," Sirius growled, "That Severus Snape is going to be using leglimens to go through every thought in your head. How long do you think it is going to take him to find out about Malfoy?"

Every drop of blood drained out of his head, Harry felt light-headed and nauseous all at the same time. "Oh, Merlin."

"There. That is what you needed. A slap of reality in the face." Sirius growled, "What do you think Snivellius is going to do when he finds out you have been shagging his godson?"

Harry looked over at Sirius. "You have to get me out of those lessons."

"And just how do you suppose I can do that? Stuck like I am in this hell hole?"

"You don't understand. If Snape finds out Draco tricked him he is going to be furious at him."

"What do you mean tricked him?"

In for a knut, in for a galleon, Harry sighed. "Snape knows about us. He figured it out last year. We faked a fight and a break up a few months ago so that he would leave Draco alone about it."

Sirius stared over at him, "Snape knows and you are still alive?"

Harry shrugged, "I don't know how he guessed. It isn't like he caught us together-"

"Like I did?" Sirius snapped out. Harry nodded miserably.

"Anyway, he guessed and was making my life hell so Draco told him that he was going to break up with me and we had a fist fight and made sure that it would look like we hated each other again. I still think he is going to fail me in Potions. He uses any excuse he can to take points away from me."

"And it didn't sink into either of your thick heads that maybe Snape and I know what we are talking about? This thing with you seeing Arthur being attacked by the snake. Your connection with Voldemort. If you think Snape is a problem, what do you suppose is going to happen when he figures out that he can see inside your head? He will take the knowledge and use you and Malfoy. He will use it to destroy you, Harry."

"Well, then I better figure out how to do this Occlumens thing right quick." Harry said, with more confidence than he felt. "Can you help? How can I prevent Snape...and Voldemort from finding out."

"Help you? The only thing that will help you will you two to come to your senses and find someone else to get your jollies off on the better." Sirius snapped back.

Harry knew he had to find a way to convince Sirius to help him. Somehow he had to show that Draco was more than just someone, as Sirius had said, that he was shagging. He glanced at his trunk. He went over and dug to the bottom of it and pulled out the blank piece of drawing paper that was hidden at the bottom. He went and sat next to Sirius and handed him the paper "What's this then?" Sirius asked turning the paper over to see the other side. Harry touched his wand to it and the image appeared. He smiled involuntarily as he saw Draco's face come to life next to his in the drawing.

Sirius looked from Harry's face to the drawing and back again. Harry said softly, "This isn't just a lark. We really love each other. He drew this for me for my birthday. There is a lot more to him than just being a Malfoy. And I'm not giving him up."

Sirius handed the drawing back to Harry and stalked out of the room. Holding the drawing in his hand for a minute Harry stared at it until the sounds of many feet charging up the stairs shook him out of his trance. Moving quickly across to the trunk he thrust the paper under his clothes and quickly closed the trunk lid just as Ron, Fred and George came in.

"What are you doing up here?" Ron asked, "Come on and join us?"

"Yeah! We are have to start planning for New Year's Eve!" George piped in, "Fred has some wicked ideas for party favors."

Sirius didn't try to talk to Harry again until the night before they were due to go back to Hogwarts. His godfather motioned to Harry to follow him out of the kitchen as soon as supper was finished. Together they went up to Sirius' bedroom again. Sirius stood against the closed door and said reluctantly, "You win. I've been trying to think of someway to convince you and I know that it is no good. I won't stand in your way about this. And heaven help us when it all goes to hell."

"You won't?" Harry sat up excited, "Why?"

"I figure you are going to do it no matter what I say. And I don't want Snape getting any more weapons against you."

"So how do I get out of the lessons?"

"Don't think you can, besides you need to learn how to block Voldemort out of your mind. I wish there was someone other than Snape at Hogwarts that could do it. But the slimy devil is the only one other than Dumbledore who can teach it."

"How about Dumbledore? Can't he teach me?"

"Wish he could, Harry. Sent him a message to try and and he sent his reply this morning. He was adamant that it has to be Snape."

Harry slumped into the chair, "So, what am I going to do?"

"I've never mastered it. But I remember the lessons we got when Voldemort first came to power. You can resist it just like you do the Imperius curse. But you have to focus and block. And Snape should allow you to have your wand, if he doesn't you let me know right away. Protego will help keep him out, but it is better if you can block him internally rather than a regular shield."

Harry looked over at him and shook his head, "I don't understand half of what you just said. I know how to cast a Protego but not one inside my head."

"Best thing is to practice your non-verbal Protego. In the time it takes you to say Protego he can half way through your head. Have you done any non-verbal spells?"

"No, not on purpose at least."

"Well, start practicing tonight. Start with an easy summoning spell. If you can get that down non-verbally then try a non-verbal Protego."

Harry shook his head. "I only have two days..."

"Well, you best get started. The safest thing is for you to stop seeing Malfoy. But if you aren't going to be smart about that then you'll have to learn how to master Occlumency right quick."

"But how?"

"Don't think offense, think defense. You are blocking off part of your mind. You are going to have to use a shield to protect your thoughts that you don't want Snape to access."

"And if I can't?" Harry said. "If Snape finds out that Draco-"

"Then you and Draco are going to have to do some fast explaining. And you better hope that Voldemort doesn't get curious. Can you imagine what he will do when he finds out the son of someone in his inner circle is bending over for you?"

Harry felt his temper start to rise, "Don't say it like that!"

"Just saying what everyone is going to think if they find out. How do you think all the Weasleys would react if I were to go down and announce that you have a boyfriend and who he is?"

"Don't. Just please don't." Harry said wearily. He knew that Sirius could do whatever he wanted, would do whatever he wanted. The fact that Draco and his relationship had not been discovered so far was sheer luck. Sometimes he wished it would, if it was forced out in the open they wouldn't have to sneak around anymore. But deep down he knew that if it became public knowledge that it would be the death knell to their seeing each other. The pressure would be overwhelming from both of sides and he doubted they would be able to keep things normal between them.

"Doesn't it tell you something that you can't tell the family that you are closest to about the person you have been in a relationship with for over a year? And the only two people who know about it are both trying to convince you what a bad idea it is?"

Harry shrugged, "You know what? I really don't care. In the last four years I've fought mountain trolls, battled Voldemort how many times, killed a basilisk, and been attacked by Dementors. Being with Draco is the only thing that truly makes me happy. Being with him makes me feel normal, and I am sticking with him as long as he will have me." Harry didn't dare mention his mounting fear of what Draco's reaction might be when he finds out that Dumbledore thought that Voldemort could see inside his head and that he was seeing the dark wizard's thoughts.

Sirius sighed heavily, "Just be careful, Harry. Don't promise him anything. If you have start have a bad feeling about something he asks you to do, don't do it. You have good instincts, usually, I'm going to have to trust you. And know that I am here for you. Don't be afraid to come to me if you need help."

Harry leaned over and gave his godfather a hug, the older man gruffly returned it. "One thing for certain about you, Harry. There is never a dull moment with you around. Sure livens up this place having you here for the holidays."

The hope that he would see Draco on the Hogwarts Express was soon dashed when Lupin announced that Dumbledore decided it would be safer for them to return at the end of the break on the Night Bus. Hermione sat next to him on the swaying bus as it raced across England. Harry gave her an absentminded smile, lost in thought about Draco and what his reaction would be to to the newest twist in Harry's life.

"So, Harry, are you excited to get back?"

Harry gave her a puzzled look, "Well, considering I am going to have to take Occlumency lessons with Snape, I would gladly stay at Grimmauld place."

"Aren't you excited to see your friend again?" Hermione raised an eyebrow. "You didn't tell me how he liked the Christmas present."

"Oh, erm." Harry looked hastily around but Ron was busy holding tight to the seat in front of him, trying not to land on the floor again as the bus swayed wildly back and forth. "Yeah, it worked great. We were able to send messages back and forth a couple of times."

"Really? I wasn't sure how far the range of the coins would allow messages to travel. Where did you say he was spending the holidays?"

Harry looked at her and laughed, "Nice try. I didn't say where he was for the holidays. It worked fine over a pretty good distance. I was just wondering how he is going to react to the news that Voldemort is taking up space in my head."

"Oh, Harry. Do you have to tell him? I mean, can you trust him to keep it a secret?"

Harry looked out at the traffic that they were zooming past, wincing as they just squeaked past two lorries. "I can trust him. And, yeah, I have to tell him. It kind of affects him, too, doesn't it? If Voldemort can get in my head he might find out about … him. It could put him in danger, so I have to tell him.

"You really think that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named would go after your boyfriend?" Hermione's eyes went wide.

"How am I supposed what he will do? But I'm not willing to take a chance and not tell D-my friend about it." Harry flushed as he almost said Draco's name. Fortunately Hermione hadn't seemed to notice.

"Is that all that is bothering you?"

Harry shifted and wondered why he had sat next to Hermione. "Occlumency with Snape. How am I supposed to take lessons from Snape? He hates me, Hermione. He really hates me."

"He is a teacher, Harry!" Hermione shook her head at him, "He can't hate you. It will probably be better with him one-on-one."

Harry shuddered at the thought of meeting with Snape alone. He had to find a way to meet with Draco before the first Occlumency lesson the next night. Fortunately with the coin it would be a lot easier to set up meets.

OOOoOoOOOo

As soon as they were back in the castle Harry sent Draco a message on the coin

Skip lunch tomorrow. I have to talk to you.

What's wrong? Downstairs?

Tell you tomorrow. Downstairs. Love you

OoooOOOoO

"Hey" Harry said as he walked into the locker room the next day. Draco was sitting at the desk, his books spread out in front of him.

Draco looked up and said with a smile, "Straw is cheaper."

"Listen to you, using silly Muggle sayings. The world has truly turned upside down." Harry smiled nervously and came over to him.

"I know why you had to see me." Draco drawled, pulling Harry towards him.

"You do?" Harry couldn't help blanching at the thought. Had Draco heard something while he was home about the connection he had with Voldemort, "Erm, what do you know?"

"I know it is two weeks past Christmas and you haven't gotten your present from me." Draco turned away from Harry and reached under the desk and pulled out a large box. He set it heavily on the desk.

Harry laughed and looked at it. "It's huge."

"Yeah, couldn't have owled it to you even if I'd known where you were. Mind that after you took off in the middle of the night after kissing Cho Chang I was more tempted to set it on fire than to send it to you."

"Hell, I've forgotten about that."

Draco laughed reluctantly. "Well, I guess that makes me feel a little better, if she was so forgettable."

The whole Cho thing seemed so unimportant compared to the newest developments.

Harry hesitated and then gave a sigh, "That was just one big awkward nargle-nest. Somehow we ended up being the last ones to leave the DA meeting. She is still upset about Cedric and wanted to talk about it, she was one of his best friends." Harry shrugged, he still couldn't figure out how he had ended up kissing her, "And she was crying and there was mistletoe. And well, I think she likes me not that I like her" He added hastily. "I didn't know what to do and it just seemed the easiest way to get her out of the room was to kiss her so that she would leave."

"You just kissed her so she would leave?" Draco drawled. "Seems like telling her you weren't interested might have gotten the message across a little more directly."

"It was a peck! Not like I kiss you." Harry exclaimed, and then he shrugged, "I hate girls crying. It makes me stupid."

"I would have to agree to that." Draco said, "Forget about it. After all I've put you through I figured you earned a free pass this time. Not, mind you, that you have my permission to kiss every crying girl or bloke that you come across."

"I promise. No more." Harry sighed with relief. "But honestly, that isn't why I had to see you. There is another problem."

"It can wait until you open your present." Draco said with a smile. "Don't you want to see what it is?"

Harry gave a half-smile and resisted the temptation to check to see how much time they had until class. He kissed Draco, "Thank you for being so understanding."

"You are lucky I am." Draco pulled the present towards Harry. "Go on, open it."

Harry smiled and tore the paper off the box. Pulling the flaps open he stared down into the box. "Clothes? You bought me clothes?"

Draco reached in and pulled out the first item a forest green button down shirt and held it up to Harry. "Yes. I bought you new clothes. Clothes that have not ever been worn by your whale of a cousin."

Harry laughed and reached down and pulled out a pair of jeans. "How did you know my size?"

"I guessed, figured anything close would be better than what you are wearing right now." he shuddered, "Ever since you told me that you are wearing someone else's clothes I haven't been able to wait to get them off of you."

"And hear I thought you couldn't wait to get my clothes off for an entirely different reason." Harry said with a laugh. He set down the pair of jeans, "Thank you. I can't believe you bought me clothes. I can't wait to try them on."

Draco went to pull off Harry's robes. "How about now?" he asked with a twinkle in his eye. This time Harry did check the time and groaned.

"No, we can't. It is almost time for class. The reason I needed to see you was something a lot more serious. There is hardly time to explain but just listen." Harry, as quickly as he could, explained the events of the attack on Mr. Weasley and all the developments since then. Draco paled when he heard about the connection between Harry and Voldemort. When Harry told him about Occlumency lessons with Snape, Draco exploded out of his chair.

"Fucking Hell, Harry." Draco was pacing back and forth in the room. "I don't like it," he shook his head at Harry. "You can't do it. Snape is going to know in a minute and then the whole gig will be up."

Harry nodded miserably; he was slumped against the desk. He had been up half the night worrying about the Occlumency lesson with Snape and Draco's reaction. "How am I supposed to get out of it? And I can't let Voldemort stay in my head. It is bad enough if Snape finds out about us, but what if Voldemort does?"

Harry walked over to Draco and put his arms around the other boy's waist. "Listen. I've been thinking about this ever since I found about what all my dreams mean. I understand if this is too much. You can't take a chance with Voldemort finding out-"

"Just shut the fuck up. I'm not giving you up just because the Dark Lord might find out." Draco spat out. "I admit that I'm a little freaked out right now-"

"Yeah, nothing like finding out your boyfriend has a split personality with the evilest wizard since Grindelwald."

Draco scowled, "Don't joke about this."

"What am I supposed to do...really? Not to sound like I'm having a pity party for myself but how the fuck can my life get worse?"

"Easy. Tomorrow night you are going to have Severus Snape flipping through every memory in your head..." Draco gave a laugh and pointed at the green leather sofa, "Snape is going to see that too. Isn't he? Every minute of our last time down here."

"We are so fucked." Harry went and sat in one of the chairs, his head in his hands. "You are going to have to obliviate me. He can't see what isn't there."

"Not that I would ever do it but would you really want that? Just erase everything?" Draco asked slowly.

"No, I don't. But I also don't want Severus Snape watching me and you together." Harry gave a bitter laugh. "I just realized, we are getting all worried for nothing. As soon as he sees into my head and sees us together, he is going to kill me. Then the whole problem is over."

Draco laughed and sat down on his knees in front of Harry he reached out and grabbed Harry's hands. "Sure. You get an easy out but I'm stuck with him haunting me for the rest of my mortal life."

"Maybe I can become a Hogwarts ghost and haunt the Potions room to torment Snape for the rest of hismortal life. I'll be worse than Peeves."

"So, you don't think that you'll be able to do to block him?" Draco asked him seriously, staring down at their hands. "You can block the Imperius. It has to be the same kind of thing."

Harry shrugged miserably, "I don't know, do I? Until I'm actually in there with Snape. And you know how Snape makes me stupid. I can hardly say the right answer in class, even when I know it. How am I going to keep him out of my head, especially on the first try."

Draco nodded, "He does make you extremely stupid. I can never understand why you get everything wrong in class when I know we've gone over it down here."

"So, if you won't obliviate me, what else?" Harry said, "Hey, what about taking the memories out. Like when you do for a Pensieve? Do you know how you do that?"

Draco snorted, "We could try, but I have no idea how to do it and we only have five hours until you are meeting Snape."

"Should I just refuse to go and meet him? Dumbledore and Snape can't force me to do it, can they?" Harry said.

"That would put you seriously in trouble with Snape, and he is going to wonder why you are refusing. Besides which it doesn't solve the problem of the Dark Lord being in your head. When it comes down to it, Snape doesn't matter. I mean I don't want him to find out, but he didn't do anything when he knew before so chances are he is just going to be angry but not stop us. But if he finds out..."

"Does he know who you are? Would he recognize you if he sees you in my head? Have you met him?" Harry hated asking but he couldn't avoid the question anymore.

"He hardly knows I exist. Mother makes sure that I stay in my rooms whenever he is in the Manor. He hasn't even seen me, yet." Draco laughed dryly and walked over to the wall and pointed at the image of his grandfather glaring out from a Quidditch team photograph. "But that won't make a difference. If he sees me in your thoughts he is going to know I am a Malfoy."

They looked at each other, Harry sighed. "Okay, so I have to do this with Snape. I have to learn to keep Voldemort out. I'm not going to risk him finding out about you. We'll just have to deal with Snape if it comes to that."

Draco nodded soberly, but all the sudden looked up with a smile, "I'm thinking that we are thinking about this the wrong way. If Snape sees me in your head he won't know whenthe memories are from. You can just say they are from last year. Other than the creepiness of having him see us together, that is. And, what if you make other memories that he'll know are more recent?"

"What do you mean? I'm not going to go around snogging people to confuse him."

"You already have, you idiot. Cho."

"Cho?... No, I can't do that! That wouldn't be right. I can't use her like that."

"I'm not telling you to shag her or even kiss her. Just chat her up. Maybe even take her to Hogsmeade on the next weekend out. Create memories with someone other than me, it will distract Snape off of us. Snape will know that they are from this year."

Harry shook his head, "I don't like it but I'll think about it. We have to go. I can't be late for Umbridge. Last thing I needs is more detentions with her and evenings with Snape." he looked at the box of clothes. "I won't have time to take those up to the room. Okay if I leave them here for now?"

"Of course," Draco smiled, "Can't wait to see you in them though, and out of them for that matter."

"Thank you for the present, and being so understanding about everything." Harry leaned over and kissed him.

"I suppose being understanding is the least I can do for the Boy Who Lived" Draco gave a small smile.

"You don't have to be, and I love you." Harry looked at the time and swore. "We are going to have to run for it. I'll go through the kitchens to save time. You can take the Slytherin tunnel, that will get you closer."

Harry slid into his chair just as Umbridge was calling the class to order. He ignored Ron and Hermione's curious looks and bent down to get his quill and parchment out of his bookbag.

OoOoOoO

"Meet me at the tree"

Draco was already standing by the tree when Harry walked up. Harry cast a spell to erase their footsteps from the snow as Draco looked at him. He was shivering with cold

"What's wrong, why here? It is damn cold out."

"Just needed to get outside. I feel like I'm about to explode."

"How did it go last night?"

"Snape? Or me rolling on the floor unconscious and cackling with laughter as the Death Eaters escaped from Azkaban?"

Draco turned from where he was peering around the tree, making sure no one was coming. "What? When?"

"In the dorm fortunately, after Snape's lesson. Ron found me. Had to hit me to wake me up." Harry muttered, kicking at the snow. "Guess your family will be setting a few more places at the table."

"Fuck. Harry. Don't take it there. What happened?"

"Voldemort happened. The whole Occlumency thing with Snape was a disaster and when I got back I fell asleep and didn't wake up until Ron hit me. I was laughing out loud, hysterical. Ron was really freaked. Hell, I was freaked out."

"Things are going to get bad." Draco muttered. "I can't believe you knew about it last night."

Harry stared at him, "I didn't know about it, I just felt Voldemort laughing. I was laughing. I went into the bathroom and vomited."

"Are you okay now?"

"Headache. Scar hurts." Harry waved off Draco's concern, "but it almost always does now. What do you think is going to happen. Bellatrix is your aunt..."

Draco grimaced, "I'm waiting for the owl to tell me about it. My aunt is crazy. She was before she got sent to Azkaban according to my mother. I can't imagine what ten years in that place has done to her. No use worrying about it until she shows up. What about Snape?"

"It could have been worse. I blocked him a little, don't know how but I was able to cast a shield and force him out. But it is exhausting I was so wiped out by the time we were done, I can't imagine doing this again with him."

"You are going to be fine. And I'm more worried about the connection with the Dark Lord."

"Do you have to call him that?" Harry grumbled tiredly, "It just reminds me..."

Draco looked at him sourly, "It doesn't really matter what we call him, does it? We both know who we are talking about. And my stomach twists a little less calling him the Dark Lord than Voldemort, thank you very much."

Harry nodded, it wasn't an argument worth having he knew. "Okay. I have to see Snape again tomorrow night. And we have a DA meeting set for Thursday night. Let me know if you suspect anything from Umbridge, okay."

"Do you think it is wise? Having another meeting on top of everything else?"

"We have to, don't you realize with all the Death Eaters escaping everyone is really frightened. Maybe not at Slytherin, but those who parents fought before. They know what this can mean, they know that they have to prepare."

Draco nodded, "I'll see if I can switch with someone else to be on patrol for Thursday, keep things clear for you."

OoOoOoO

"Do you have it?" Draco asked eagerly as soon as he came through into the locker room office. Harry nodded and held out the much read copy of the Quibbler article. He pulled back his hand at the last moment as Draco reached for it.

"I don't know, Draco. Seeing as you are a member of the High Inquisitor's spy squad. Giving you this is in direct violation of Education Decree Number 27. I may have to turn you in."

"Bollocks, to that, the day you voluntarily give anything to Umbridge is the day I walk into the Great Hall starkers. Give it over" Draco said as he grabbed the newspaper out of Harry's sat down in his chair. "Put on some music while I read about the Boy Wonder."

Harry smiled and went over to the record player and put on the Stones' Sticky Fingers album. It was funny, Draco always used magic to put on the records but Harry still did it the way he had done it so many years ago hidden away in the cupboard under the stairs. He tried not to think too much about it but he supposed it was one more way to remember his Muggleborn mother.

As the record dropped on to the spinning turntable and the needle descended on to the spinning vinyl he looked up at the wall behind the desk. Harry had surprised Draco for Valentine's Day by taking down all of the old Quidditch photographs and put up Draco's drawings in the frames instead. The wall was now covered with the intricate drawings and sketches that Draco had created. He smiled in memory of Draco's expression when he had walked in and seen the wall. The Slytherin wizard had blushed and protested, but had conceded that he would much rather have the drawings on the walls than his grandfather's photographic image glaring down at him and Harry.

He looked over at Draco who was reading through the article, his lips pursed in concentration. As happy as Harry was about how the article turned out, it still had been incredibly hard to talk about Cedric. To talk about that night in the cemetery. He walked over and stood behind Draco's chair and loosely put his arms around Draco's shoulders. Draco reached up and gripped Harry's clasped hands and they both finished reading the article together.

"Skeeter did a good job." Draco said with surprise, "How did you ever get her to write such a…"

"Real article and not an inflammatory propaganda piece for the Ministry?" Harry said with a laugh, "Hermione gets the credit for that, she found out Skeeter's little secret and blackmailed her."

"That is positively Slytherin, I think I have been underestimating Granger." Draco said with a slow smile.

"You most definitely have underestimated her." Harry said as he took the article from Draco and put it back in his Charms book, tapping the newspaper so that it was disguised to look like a page from the textbook. "You know, she is the one that made our coins."

Draco pulled out the galleon from his pocket and looked down at the dragon etching that covered the surface. "Granger did this? I assume you bought them."

Harry smiled and shook his head. "She knows I'm seeing someone, so I asked her to make the coins for a Christmas present for my mystery boyfriend. I added the dragon after she had charmed it."

"Brilliant. I don't know of any fifth years or even seventh years who can do a Protrean charm." Draco shook his head in disbelief.

"Yeah, well remember that the next time you put her down for being Muggleborn," Harry grumbled.

Draco came over and nuzzled Harry on his neck. "I think she would miss it. She likes beating me in almost every class. If I stopped calling her names she might not try so hard." Harry laughed at the thought of Hermione not trying her absolute best in every class.

OoOoOoOO

Harry looked around in satisfaction at the members of the D.A. as they tried to produce Patronuses. Half the group had already been able to at least produce a silver mist and three had actually produced a corporeal one, Cho, Hermione and Ron.

Two things happened simultaneously that Harry didn't know which occurred first. The door to the Room opened and he saw Dobby standing there, wringing his hands in terror.

"Harry Potter, Harry Potter, sir. Dobby has come to warn you..." Harry's attention was drawn away from the trembling house elf by the excited gasps from one side of the Room of Requirement. Turning he saw a panther Patronus bounding past the students towards him. It leaped at him and he heard Draco's voice call out "She's coming!"

Harry gaze shifted from Draco's panther Patronus to Dobby. He looked up at the stunned group of students who were standing motionless. "WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? RUN!" he bellowed. There was a split second delay as they looked at him blankly and then there was a mad rush for the door.

Harry stood in the middle of classroom watching to make sure everyone was getting out of the room. He shouted at them to make for the library or the owlery so they weren't all traveling down the stairs towards their dormitories at the same time. There was a thumping noise and Harry turned around to see Dobby slamming his head against the floor. He ran back and picked up the small elf and shook him gently. "Stop it. Stop it! Dobby, I forbid you to hurt yourself. Go back to the kitchens, hurry!"

Running out the door of the Room of Requirement he could see the last of the D.A. members disappearing down the far staircase. Quickly he turned and ran the other way. He started down the far staircase but swore as he got a glimpse of Goyle heading up the stairs. The lumbering Slytherin was still a couple of flights down though and moving slowly. Harry turned and ran back down the corridor. Draco was standing in the middle of the corridor, Harry skidded to a stop. Draco ran up to him, "What are you doing! Get out of here, she'll be here any minute."

Shaking his head, Harry looked at him. "It's no good. Goyle is coming from up the other stairs." They both eyed each knowing that there was no way out for Harry. Harry shrugged and reached down and pulled up Draco's wand hand. The hawthorn wand was trembling in his grip.

Harry was breathing hard, but he looked at Draco, his green eyes boring into Draco's, "Do it."

Draco's eyes went wide, "I can't!"

"Between you turning me in or Goyle, I would rather it be you. Do it now, we are out of time." Harry forced his voice to be firm, even though he was shaking. They both could hear the thud of footsteps running towards them from both ends of the hallway.

"Damn you, Harry. You always have to be the hero." Draco went back a few steps and held up his wand. Harry nodded at him and gave a half-smile as Draco chose to hit him with the jelly legs jinx. His legs collapsed from under him and he hit the ground hard. Draco paled but he tightened his jaw with resolve, not breaking eye contact with Harry he called out loudly "Hey Professor! I've got one..."

OooOOO

Harry wearily climbed into his bed. After he had finally made it back to the common room he had been assaulted by Ron and Hermione and all of the Gryffindor DA members. Relaying what had happened over and over again had been exhausting and he finally had begged to be able to go up to his room.

He climbed into his bed and pulled the curtains shut. Shakily he pulled the galleon out of his pocket and tapped a message to Draco.

"In my room."

"Expelled?"

"No, but Dumbledore is gone."

"What?"

"Dumbledore took blame. Disappeared."

"What?"

"Tell you tomorrow. Tired."

"Sorry couldn't give more warning. Didn't know until last minute"

"Don't worry. Love you."

"Love you."

OooOooO

Harry stopped by the kitchens and made sure that Dobby was okay. The trembling house elf assured him that he had done as Harry asked and not punished himself. Harry hesitantly asked for a couple of sandwiches. Dobby plied him with an entire tray of food and then turned with a wink so that Harry could use the secret entrance to the locker room. As he headed down the stairwell Harry wondered if Dobby had explored on his own to see where the staircase went or if he even wondered where Harry went with the trays of food.

Draco was already there, pacing the length of the room when Harry walked in, carefully balancing the tray of food and drinks. "Thank, Merlin. Are you okay?"

Harry set the food on the nearest bench and grabbed Draco and pulled him into a hug. "I'm fine. Got really lucky, but I'm fine."

"What happened? Umbridge is furious." Harry pulled back and pointed to the food.

"Let's eat, and I'll tell you what happened." Draco nodded and walked into the office ahead of Harry. With a single swipe of his wand he conjured up the green leather sofa and they sat down on it with the food between them. Harry, as succinctly as he could, described what had happened in Dumbledore's office.

"So, he just vanished?" Draco asked in disbelief. Harry nodded.

"Him and Fawkes, just gone."

"No wonder Umbridge is so upset. And you got off scot free?" Harry shrugged and nodded.

"There wasn't anything she could do. But, it is just a matter of time until she tries to catch me on something."

"Don't tell me you are going to have more meetings. You can't."

Harry shook his head sadly, "No. The D.A. is officially dead. No way we are going to risk it again. I forgot, thank you for the Patronus, between you and Dobby we got the message." Harry tilted his head and asked curiously, "How did you get it to talk?"

"What do you mean?" Draco asked absentmindedly as he took another bite of his roast beef sandwich.

"Your Patronus, it gave me your message." Harry said.

"It what? It spoke?" Draco asked, his eyes wide in disbelief.

Harry laughed, "You didn't do anything different?"

"No, I just sent it on its way, but I was thinking that I had to warn you that she was coming."

"Well, it worked. Your panther said out loud "She's coming. It was your voice, but there was so much confusion in the room that I don't think anyone recognized it."

Draco moved the tray onto the ground and reached for Harry. "I think we need to have a little celebration for your narrow escape," with a smile Draco reached for Harry's robes and slowly started to unbutton them.

OoOOoo

Harry took a deep breath and pushed open the door to Snape's office. Each session with Snape had gone worse than the one before. It was becoming harder and harder to block him out. The last few sessions Snape had found memories of Draco and had sneered at Potter's attempt to block him. "Ashamed, Potter? You should be. It is a disgrace to think of you are an equal to Draco. The only thing that astonishes me is that it took him so long to come to his senses."

After the first session with Snape Harry had reluctantly given into Draco's suggestion of spending time with Cho as a way of fending off Snape's attacks into his mind. It had helped, he supposed but the date to Hogsmeade had ended so disastrously that Harry had regretted it ever since, even without Hermione's condmening dressing down of him for leading Cho on. The mixed memories of Cho with Draco had seemed to push off Snape and for that alone Harry was grateful.

The worse thing about the Occlumency lessons was that rather than making his nightmares end he seemed to be getting worse rather than better. The dreams of the hallway, the doorway, and worse even Voldemort's conversations were becoming a nightly experience.

Snape was standing by his desk waiting for Harry as he entered the room. He scarcely had time to set down his books before the Potions master has lifted his wand and with a look of loathing spat out "Ready, Potter? Leglimens!"

Harry felt the thoughts flying forward, He was so exhausted by the events of the day before that he knew he would have a hard time to shield his thoughts of Draco. He fought desperately to suppress them, to push other memories forward but he could feel Snape's relentless search.

Unwillingly, the image of Draco and his last time together entered the whirlpool of thoughts and he tried to pull it back to send the Protego shield to stop Snape. But there was a flood of images racing through his thoughts,They were stretched out on the leather sofa, legs intertwined. Draco sitting up and pulling off his own shirt. Draco reaching and slowly unbuttoning Harry's green shirt. Harry hastily pulling it off and throwing it on the floor. Harry standing up to unfasten his trousers. Harry shouted to try and stop the memories and it was with a gasp of relief that Harry suddenly realized that Snape had ended the Leglimens spell before the memory had gone any farther. The relief ended as soon as he opened his eyes and saw the fury on Snape's face.

A blow hit him across the face and he fell to the ground. Stunned he looked up at Snape looming above him. "How dare you." Snape shouted down at him, Harry scuttled backwards afraid that Snape would kick him.

"What?" Harry shakily touched his hand to his cheek that was burning from Snape's blow.

"Tell me Potter, when was that last memory from?" Snape was shaking with anger, he had stepped away from Harry as the young wizard had scrambled up.

Harry shakily said, "I don't know...last spring I guess."

"Do. Not. Lie. To. Me." Snape spat out.

"What makes you think I am lying?" Harry shouted back, his fear turning to fury at Snape's attack.

"Your clothes, Potter." Snape looked at him from head to toe. "In the five years I have the great misfortune to know you, you have worn nothing but oversized Muggle shirts and jeans under your robes. That shirt in your memory was a wizard shirt, a new wizard shirt. Where did you get it?"

"It was a gift." Harry muttered, not looking at Snape.

"A gift that you got this year." Snape did not give him a chance to deny. "When were you with Draco? You have been seeing them this whole time, have you not? Do NOT try to deny it."

Harry backed away. "I do not have to answer your questions."

"You will stay right here, Potter. I am going to return with Draco. Do not even attempt to leave. The door will be locked until my return." Snape swept out of his office. Harry picked up his book bag and flung it at the door as he heard it the lock click shut.

"GOD DAMN GODRICK ON A STICK" he shouted at the walls. Draco. He realized with a jolt that he had to warn Draco that Snape was coming for him. He hastily pulled the galleon out of his pocket and tapped in, "Snape knows".

Draco would not have time to reply, the Slytherin common room wasn't that far away but at least he would have a minute to prepare before Snape came crashing through his dormitory. Harry slid the coin back into his pocket and looked around the office. He felt like smashing all of the potions bottles sitting on the shelves. Picking up a potions book that was sitting on the desk he threw it across the room. It made him feel marginally better. Looking at the desk to see what else he could throw, his eyes fell on the Pensieve. Harry gave a small laugh and looked towards the door. It would serve Snape right if he looked into the memories that Snape had been so carefully removing before each of their Occlumency sessions. How dare Snape invade Harry's mind and see everything and then have the nerve to protect his own memories.

Without hesitating, Harry went over to the Pensieve and leaned over the basin, submerging his face. What he saw made him regret the impulse to intrude into Snape's most secret memories. As he watches his father torment Snape he became so lost in the memory that he forgot about Snape's imminent return until he felt something grab him and he looked over to see the furious visage of an adult Snape standing next to him. "Having fun?" Snape snarled as he gripped Harry's arm harder. Harry felt his entire body being shaken as he was flung back into the present. Landing on the floor he looked up to see Snape's enraged face and Draco's confused one staring down at him.

"How dare you?" Snape yelled at him, "Did you like what you saw? Did you see the truth of what kind of man your father truly was?" Snape turned his glittering black eyes to Draco, "And you, that you would lie to me. That you would continue to carry on, with this..." Snape jabbed at Harry with his toe. Harry scrambled to his feet and away from Snape, he stood next to Draco. Neither of them dared to look at each other or Snape.

His voice was like ice raining down on them. "You fools. You have absolutely no idea of the dangers you are playing with. Men have died. Women have died. Children have died. Yet you continue to act as if this will not affect you. You two were never meant to be together. Get out of here, I have no time for fools."

Harry and Draco hastily made for the door, just as Harry put his hand on the door he heard Snape's voice call out. "Potter. You will speak to no one about what you saw here tonight. Not even him. You will never come here again. I am through with attempting to help you." Harry looked back briefly to see Snape standing by his desk, with a quick nod he slipped through the door behind Draco. As the door closed he could hear the sound of a jar breaking against it.

Draco looked at him, they both instinctively reached out to hold hands even though they were standing in the middle of the corridor. Draco reached out and ran his hair through Harry's hair. "Let's go downstairs." Harry nodded and they turned to head down the corridor.

"We can go through the kitchens" Harry said quietly, "It will be faster."

"Together?" Draco asked, "Pretty big risk, don't you think."

"Don't care. Just walk behind me like you are in Malfoy stalker mode." Harry shrugged, he was so incredibly tired. He quickly wove through the dungeon corridors, Draco following a few dozen yards behind him. When he came to the painting of the bowl of fruit, he reached up to tickle the pear and the doorway opened up just as Draco came up behind him.

"I've heard about this but never have been down here."

Harry smiled, "We come down here a lot for late night snacks and to get food for parties." He skipped down the last few steps into the kitchen and looked around, supper was long over and the kitchens were almost deserted. The crash of crockery told him that they weren't completely deserted. Harry turned towards the sound and saw Dobby standing next to the pile of broken plates. The little house elf was trembling. Harry hurried over to him, "Dobby, what's wrong?"

"Master Draco, sir, Master Draco is right there." Dobby held up a shaking hand to point at Draco who was still standing on the stairs. His face was the image of the haughty pure blood git that Harry saw every day in the corridors. Draco gave Dobby a cold stare and then turned to look at Harry.

Harry swore under his breath, "It is okay, Dobby. Master Draco and I are just going somewhere to talk. Do you have anything that we could have as a snack?" He smiled as Dobby forced himself to look away from Draco and turned and snapped his fingers at the nearest counter, a plate full of sandwiches appeared.

"Thank you, Dobby. Remember, this is our secret. Don't tell anyone about Draco and I being down here. Or my secret exit."

"Yes, Harry Potter, sir. Dobby will not tell." Dobby gave another suspicious look at Draco, and turned from them. His gnarled hands reached up and pulled one of his eight hats that he had balanced on his head. Wringing it in his hands as he walked away, only turning once to look worriedly at Draco.

"Come on, this way." Harry said and he showed Draco where the entrance to the locker room was.

"That's it? You aren't going to threaten him?" Draco said in disbelief. "How do you know he won't tell anyone."

"I know because he is Dobby." Harry said simply, "He has saved me, or tried to save me, loads of times. I trust him. Come on." Harry tapped with his wand and opened the entranceway and illuminated his wand to make his way down the stairs. After a moment's hesitation Draco followed him.

It was with relief that they opened the door on the other end and entered the locker room. Harry set the plate of food down on the desk and smiled as Draco enveloped him in his arms. They stood there for a long time, just enjoying the quiet and lost in their own thoughts. The coolness of the room and the steady feel of Draco's chest rising and falling against his own worked to calm Harry's racing thoughts and ease the tension in his muscles.

Finally, Draco stepped away and looked at Harry, "All in all, I think he took it pretty well."

Harry gave a shaky laugh, and shook his head. "If by took it well you mean than he didn't Avada Kedavra us on the spot, then I guess you are right."

"What gave it away?" Draco asked.

Harry laughed and plucked at the shirt he was wearing. "He found a memory of me wearing one of my new shirts and knew it had to be from you."

Draco groaned, "You mean…"

"Yeah, from yesterday. Why Snape is paying attention to what I wear is beyond me. But he knew and wasn't pleased…" Harry reached up and put his hand on his cheek where Snape had hit him. "Definitely not pleased."

"What was in the Pensieve?" Draco asked idly, as he laid his own hand over Harry's. "His own thoughts, I take it."

Harry hesitated. He still hadn't had a thought to think about the memories he had seen of Snape and his own father interacting when they were in school. Of his own father bullying Snape. "I can't say, I mean. There is a reason why he put them in the Pensieve. I don't think I should—"

Draco leaned forward and kissed Harry, "It is okay. Don't tell me. I don't want to know." Harry turned around and pointed his wand at the bench and transformed it into the sofa. "I should be getting back but I just want to take a nap right now. I am so bloody tired. I can't think anymore, join me?"

Draco nodded, "Pretty traumatic couple of days, can't wait to see what tomorrow brings." Harry nodded wearily and laid down on the sofa, Draco stretched out next to him and put his arms around Harry. The black-haired wizard's eyelids fluttered shut and he was asleep before Draco pulled the blanket over them. Draco silently stroked Harry's dark hair and stared up at the ceiling.

Chapter Text

They woke with a crash when the sofa transfigured back into the bench. Harry rolled off the bench and landed hard on Draco. They looked at each other and laughed. "That's never happened before." Draco drawled as he rubbed his head where it had banged on the stone floor.

"Sure gives us a better idea on how long the transfiguration lasts. It is nearly midnight." Harry got up stiffly. His body ached from falling asleep on the narrow sofa.

"Can't believe I fell asleep, meant to stay awake. We have to get back to the dorms. Are you going to have any problems getting in?" Draco asked. "I can just say I was on patrol."

Harry shrugged, "I'll make something up, chances are everyone will be asleep by now."

"Are you okay?" Draco asked.

"About Snape, and all?" Harry nodded, "Yea, I guess."

"Well, fortunately with Easter hols coming up we don't have to worry about seeing him for another week. Give him time to cool down."

Harry looked at Draco who was straightening his robes. "About Easter. Do you have to go home? Can't you stay here? Most fifth years are staying to study for the O.W.L.s" Harry asked hesitantly. He didn't want to have the same argument that they had before summer break last year, but he didn't want Draco going back to Malfoy Manor either.

"I have to," Draco looked down at his textbook that he was stuffing into his book-bag, "My mother. I need to make sure she is okay."

"Can't she leave?" Harry asked, "What if she met you in London or somewhere?"

"As if my father would ever let her leave his sight." Draco said with a bitter laugh. "The only time she can leave is when he puts a tracer on her so that he knows exactly where she is at all times."

"But can't you ask for help?" Harry asked quietly,

"From whom? Snape? Dumbledore? Snape isn't going to lift a finger to help us now and Dumbledore is gone. Even if I could, my mother would refuse. I tried last summer, even though it was nearly impossible to talk to her alone. Father always has a house elf watching over her. He says it is to see to her every need but I know it is just to spy on her."

"What if they don't let you come back? Or try to do something? If Voldemort is seeing as much into my head as I am his..."

"We don't know that, not for sure. And besides, what is the worst they can do to me?" Draco shrugged. "Father might think of Mother and me as his own playthings to torment but he wouldn't let anyone else have a go at us."

"What about your aunt and her husband? They are family and...evil." Harry asked quietly, "I saw what they did to Neville's parents."

Draco ran a hand through his hair, "What am I supposed to do? What would you do? If your mother was trapped in a house with a bunch of power hungry wizards? Would you send her an owl and tell her you weren't coming home anymore? I don't think so."

Harry wanted to lie and say that he wouldn't do it, but knew that Draco wouldn't believe him even if he said it. "Okay, I won't say anything more about you not going home. But just be careful and stay out of the way. And let's think of a way to try and convince her to leave."

Draco shook his head, "I've tried, Harry, I have. She is too scared and it's been too long. I don't think she'll ever go and if she doesn't then I don't. I am all she has; I'm not going to abandon her."

Harry shuddered at the thought of what the worst Voldemort and his Death Eaters could come up with. "Well, send a message on the coin if you need help."

"And, what exactly would you do?" Draco looked at him in amused disbelief, "Storm the Manor? Stop worrying about it. I'll be fine. C'mon, it's late. We have to get back to our dorms." Harry tried to smile but couldn't quite manage it. He put his arms around Draco. "Sorry, I ruined things with Snape again."

Draco shrugged, "He was bound to figure it out eventually, and now we don't have to worry about it. I'll see you after the holidays, okay?"

Harry pulled Draco's head towards his and slowly kissed him, taking his time to nibble on Draco's lower lip and jaw, "I'll be here when you get back. Just be sure you come back in one piece. Send me a message if you can, okay."

Draco groaned and pulled away from Harry, "Study hard while I'm gone so we have plenty of time to play when I get back. I would like to test out some more transfiguration charms on that bench, see if we can get a more comfortable sofa...or bed."

OoOoOO

Harry walked into breakfast after the holiday break with trepidation. He hadn't seen Draco since he had returned from the Manor. Harry smiled to himself when he saw him sitting at his usual spot next to Blaise at the Slytherin table. The blond seemed much as he always did, but maybe a little more tired. There were shadows under his eyes and he moved stiffly. Harry sighed. Draco hadn't sent him a single message while he was gone. Harry hadn't expected him to, even though he had checked his pocket a dozen times a day to make sure he hadn't lost it. Draco seemed to feel Harry watching him and looked over and gave him a brief nod before turning back to talk to Blaise sitting next to him.

OoOOoOO

Harry and Ginny ran out of the library, bursting through the doors in a fit of laughter as they were chased by their books, parchments and quills. Harry was looking back to see if the furious librarian was following them when he ran straight into something solid, someone he realized. He looked up to see Draco's glaring face staring at him. Without thinking he put his hands on Draco's shoulders to balance himself and Draco batted them away, "What's your problem, Potter? Get your hands off of me." They both turned to the sound of Ginny's laughter. She had her arms around her waist, bent over as she laughed, tears streaming down her face.

"Ease up, Malfoy." Harry shook himself and forced himself to take a step back. "What are you doing in my way, anyway?"

"It is called walking, Potter. And contrary to what you may think, the corridors are not here for your exclusive use. Get out of my way." Draco glared at Harry and turned towards Ginny who was wiping the tears from her eyes. He looked back at Harry, "Does the Weasel know you're eyeing up his sister?"

"Hey!" Harry and Ginny said at the time. Draco swept past Harry into the library, hitting him hard with his shoulder as he passed. Harry shook his head as the doors swung shot, but not before he got a glimpse of Madam Pince glaring at them.

"Ginny, remind me not to let you sneak me chocolate in the library again." Harry said as he stooped down to pick up their fallen papers and books.

"What would fun would the library be if you can't sneak in chocolate? Next time, I'll make sure we don't get caught." Ginny said with a laugh, as she twisted her long red hair out of the way to gather up her own things. "So, should I talk to Fred and George? About how to get you into Umbridge's office" she whispered.

"Yeah," Harry said quickly, looking around to make sure no one had heard them. As he said it he felt the coin in his pocket growing warm. A message from Draco. "I've got to go, I'll talk to you later. Okay?"

Harry hurried down the hall to the nearest alcove and pulled out the coin.

What was that about?

Kicked out of the library for food.

Looked like you were having fun.

Ginny is nice but she isn't you.

What is it with you and Seekers?

?

Cho=Seeker Girl Weasley=Seeker

I only want the Slytherin Seeker

Remember that. Can't believe you almost hugged me

Caught off guard. Missed you. A lot.

Tonight?

I'll be there.

OOooOooO

Harry looked at Draco as the Slytherin rushed through the locker room towards him. He didn't protest as Draco pulled him towards the wall and trapped his arms over his head. He met Draco's kiss with equal passion, reveling in the feel of his lithe body against his own. When they at last came up for air he laughed, "Miss me much?"

"You have no idea." Draco said, as he reached and started unbuttoning Harry's robes. "How much time do you have before you need to get back?"

"Enough, enough to talk and, erm, you know." Harry said with a flush. Draco stopped what he was doing and looked at Harry, his gray eyes amused.

"If it is all the same to you, we'll start with the 'you know'. Talk later." Harry laughed and started to work on Draco's clothes.

Afterwards, they lay in each other's arms, the green Slytherin blanket covering them both. The fire in the fireplace warmed the room. Harry twisted so he could look at Draco sleeping beside him. The blond's hair was tousled and had fallen forward, covering his forehead. Harry reached up and ran his hands gently through it, stroking the hair back again. He was still amazed, when he stopped to think about it, that they were together. That they had been able to look past everything else and just see each other.

"You keep that up and we'll have to 'you know' again and won't have any time to talk." Draco murmured. Harry stilled his hand and started to pull it away. Draco opened one eye to look at him, "That is not necessarily a bad thing, Potter."

Harry smiled and kissed him. "I want to hear how things went, how was your holiday?"

"Not exactly the pillow talk I was hoping for. But I suppose we need to move on," Draco said with a grimace and stood up and started to get dressed, "I want to go over tomorrow's potion lesson with you. Make sure you are ready for it. Snape is going to use any chance he gets to deduct points from you."

Harry doubted that anything that they studied for Potions would help them face Snape's wrath but he supposed it wouldn't hurt. "We can study Potions, but what happened when you went home?"

Draco stopped buttoning his shirt and looked at him. "You never told me that his eyes were red."

Harry froze, "Voldemort? You saw him?"

"How many other people with red eyes do you know?" Draco scowled. "He has been there before but the house is so big and Mother always has me stay to the family wing up until now. I never actually saw him up close until now."

"And what happened?"

"It was because of my Aunt Bellatrix. She insisted I join them for at meals, and once the Dark Lord realized that I was going to school with you he became very interested." Harry felt his breath catch in his throat. Draco was trying to look nonchalant as he threaded his belt through his trousers. Harry reached out and stilled his hand.

"What do you mean, he was interested?"

"He wanted to know the classes we took together, who you spent time with, the truth about the articles in the Prophet." Draco shrugged.

"My mother tried to deflect the questions, pointing out that we hardly knew each other. But my father was eager to prove himself useful to him. Father kept encouraging me to relate every little detail about you."

"So what did you say?"

"That we were in different houses and except for a few classes together we never spend any time together." Draco quirked a smile, "I opted not to mention our extracurricular activities."

"Good decision." Harry said. "So that was it? Dinner conversations?"

"Dinner with a twelve foot snake and a man with no nose," Draco said with a grimace. "Definitely put me off my appetite. There were a lot of Father's associates there the whole week. They spent a lot of time planning and talking about something."

"Really?" Harry said, intrigued. "Do you know what?"

"Not really. Just a lot of discussion behind closed doors. A lot of people coming and going. Had the impression my father was nervous about whatever it was. Enough about that, let's review Potions. I want to make sure that you are ready for tomorrow in case Snape tries to trip you up."

OooOOo

Harry checked the time, it was almost time for Potions. Double Potions. Harry wished he could think of an excuse any excuse that would get him out of having to sit in Snape's classroom for the next two hours.

"C'mon, Harry. We don't want to be late." Harry looked up and saw Ron standing next to him.

"Right, sure." Harry looked back towards the Slytherin table and Draco was moving towards the exit, as well. He looked at Harry and grimaced for just a moment before turning away. There was nothing to do but to go to class and face Snape.

With relief Harry realized after the first half hour that Snape was opting to just coldly ignore both him and Draco. Until the end of class Harry when he walked up to Snape's desk and set down his flask of potion. He kept his eyes down, not daring to look him in the eye. He had half turned away when there was a crash. He looked back to see the flask laying broken on the ground. Snape looked at him coldly, "Zero points, Potter." Harry was struck by the very certain reality that Snape was going to fail him and no matter how what he did in class he wouldn't be able to stop it from happening. He didn't bother to protest but went back to his table and started stuffing his supplies back into his book-bag.

Ron looked at Harry with a confused look on his face, "What happened? It looked like Snape did that on purpose." Harry shrugged. He hadn't told Hermione and Ron anything about what had happened with Snape. The image of his own father taunting and bullying Snape continued to haunt him. Hopefully he would get the answers from Sirius this afternoon. Everything was set for him to talk to him using Umbridge's floo. He wondered what Fred and George had meant by diversionary tactics.

OoOoOoO

"How did your Career Advice appointment go with Snape?" Harry asked Draco as soon as he drew near to Harry by the tree. Draco shrugged.

"Probably could have gone better. He spent the hour yelling at me about you." Draco shook his head, "I have no idea why he hates you so much."

Harry hesitated, he hadn't told Draco about the Pensieve memories, how badly his own father had treated Snape. Talking to Lupin and Sirius had helped only a little. "I think it goes back to my father. They really hated each other in school." Draco looked at Harry and laughed.

"We hated each other and look where we are now."

"Well, I think we should both be grateful that my father and Snape did not solve their differences like we have." Harry grinned, "So no career guidance, just yelling?"

Draco shook his head, "He thinks I should go into Potions," giving a slight grimace.

"You don't want to do that? You are excellent in Potions."

Draco shrugged and sat down at the base of the tree, Harry sat next to him. "I want to do something different. I like Potions but I would rather do something more creative. More me Of course, Father will tell me what he wants me to do. Not much point in planning anything until he decides for me."

Harry shook his head, "You'll just do whatever he says?"

"Well, it depends on what he decides, of course. If he says Death Eater, I"ll politely decline."

"You think he will?"

"I've given up trying to predict my father. Best not to worry about it. When is your appointment?"

"Tomorrow." Harry smiled. "Do you suppose I should have more ambition than just living past the age of 17?"

Draco looked at him "And you'd better live past 17. You probably should plan to do something. You are only going to be able ride on that Boy Who Lived tailwind for so long."

"Actually, I was thinking of Auror." He said it hesitantly; afraid that would Draco would laugh.

Draco boy looked at him and just nodded. "I can see that."

"You can?" Harry was more than surprised.

"You can think on your feet, you do what needs to be done without backing down. Of course you are pants at Potions. You would really need to work on that."

Harry grimaced, "I know, maybe you could help? Snape never will." Draco nodded.

"I could be persuaded, with proper incentives."

Harry laughed, "Why do I think those incentives won't involve the usual kind of payments."

Draco grabbed Harry by the shoulders, forcing him on the ground. He straddled the black haired wizard, pinning his arms down. "Because you know me very well." as he lowered his head to kiss him.

OoOOo

Harry was dreading June not just because of the looming menace of the O.W.L.s but also because Draco's birthday was rapidly approaching and he was stumped as to what he could give him. He had been banned from going to Hogsmeade and he couldn't order anything by mail. Even if something he ordered made it past Umbridge's screening process there was no way he could get a package delivered without Ron and Hermione demanding to know what was inside.

An idea slowly formed in his head during Astronomy class one night, as he stared up at the night's sky. He didn't know how he could pull it off or if Draco would even like it but he couldn't think of anything else. The solution finally came when Hermione announced that she was participating in the Ravenclaw's annual O.W.L. All Night Cram Session and that she expected Harry and Ron both to participate.

Ron hemmed and hawed as long as he could, but finally agreed.

Harry shook his head. "I can't. I'm not going to spend an entire night in Ravenclaw with Cho glaring at me."

Ron looked at him in disbelief, "What do you mean you aren't going! I wouldn't have said yes if I knew you weren't going!"

Hermione glared at Ron, but turned to Harry. "Promise me that you'll spend the night studying. If you are going to apply for Auror training you have to do really well on the exams."

"I promise, I'm going to study Astronomy all night." Harry said it so earnestly that Hermione gave him a suspicious look but nodded.

That night he messaged Draco on the coin,

Friday night, let's celebrate your birthday.

Isn't that the Ravenclaw study night?

Get out of it

Okay. where?

Meet me downstairs.

Draco came whistling through the locker room. Harry straightened up from where he was leaning against the locker waiting for him.

"Happy birthday." he said with a nervous smile.

Draco smiled at him, "So what do you have planned this year?" His smile flickered for a moment and they both remembered that Cedric had been there last year for Draco's birthday.

"I miss him to," Harry said. Draco gave a rueful smile and rubbed his hand against Harry's cheek.

"You always seem to know what I'm thinking."

"Not always." Harry took Draco's hand and led him into the other room. "We have to wait for my surprise for a little while, so I thought we could dance. I've missed dancing with you."

Harry smiled and turned to the record player, he held up a package. "Your first present." Draco reached out and grabbed the thin 12" square present. "Hmmm. I wonder what ever could this be?"

"Shush and open it."

Draco unwrapped the album. He looked down at the cover with surprise. "How did you get the latest Hot Cauldrons' album?"

Reaching for the album, Harry carefully slid it out of the cardboard and placed the record on the turntable. "Well, I uh, bartered for it from a first year Gryffindor."

"What did you give him? Or her?" Draco asked curiously as flipped over the cover to see the cover art, the six members of the Cauldrons were dressed in all black and were crawling out of a huge cauldron.

"Oh, erm, a photograph." Harry muttered.

"A photograph of what?" Draco turned to look at Harry curiously.

"Me." Harry's cheeks flushed bright red. "Look, I couldn't go buy something, I couldn't owl-"

"You got the newest Cauldrons album for just a photograph? Doesn't seem like a very fair trade." Draco was smiling broadly at Harry's discomfort.

"I signed it, okay." Harry said, as he turned to Draco and buried his bright red face into the blond's neck. "She wanted one of those damn Chocolate Frog Cards autographed."

Draco threw his head back and laughed, "I would have loved to seen that." He put his arms around Harry, "Thank you. Thank you for setting aside all of your pride and doing that for me." He slowly started moving his hips in rhythm to the music that was filling the room.

"You're welcome." Harry wrapped his arms around Draco's neck. "It is almost worth the humiliation."

"Only almost? I'll have to step up the dancing..." Draco ran his hands down Harry's torso and stepped forward, forcing Harry to move with him. Their bodies were tight together but they moved as one. Draco led them around the room, the beat of the music setting the pace. They only stopped when the needle lifted and returned at the end of the album. Harry reached with his wand and flicked it at the player. The record lifted up and flipped over to play the other side. "I thought you liked doing that by hand." Draco murmured as he nuzzled Harry's neck.

"There is a time and place for everything." Harry said with a smile. "Speaking of which, it is almost time for my other surprise."

"There is more?" Draco said with a smile. "This seems pretty nice as it is."

Harry checked the time, "We should go."

"Go. Go where?" Harry just smiled and broke away from Draco with a smile, he walked into the locker area and opened a locker and pulled out Draco's broom, he tossed it towards Draco, who caught it with a quick grab. Opening the next locker Harry pulled out another broom.

"Whose broom is that?" Draco looked alarmed, "We're going flying? Umbridge has spies everywhere, Harry. We can't..."

"It's Ron's, I'm, er, borrowing it. Relax. We are just going to the top of the Astronomy tower. I'll use my cloak and I'm going to use a disillusionment charm on you..."

"Disillusionment charm? When did you learn that?" Draco asked.

"Hermione. She thought it would be a good way to get an "O" in Charms."

"She's right. Okay, I'm game if you are." Draco said with a shaking laugh, "You aren't afraid of getting expelled?"

"If we are, we'll go together." Harry said with a smile. "But we won't get caught. Just fly straight to the Astronomy tower."

"Okay." Draco nodded and they both moved to the exit. Harry slipped on his cloak and turned and pointed his wand at Draco, in a flash the boy had been concealed, just a shimmer showed here he stood. "Hmmm. Hadn't thought about the brooms. They will still be visible, but it will just be for a minute."

"I hope that that is the only thing you forgot." Draco muttered. Harry laughed and opened the door. Peering around it to make sure no one was walking by they walked out on to the lawn and closed the door behind them. The sun had just set, the sky was a a deep purple to the west as the last colors of the sunset were fading.

"Don't dawdle." Harry said and climbed on his broom and kicked off. It took less than a minute to fly around the castle to the Astronomy tower and he gently landed on the rampart of the tower, he turned to see Draco's broom floating next to him. He laughed and pointed his wand, "Finite Incantatem". Draco appeared next to him.

"Nice view." Draco looked. Harry bit his lip nervously and went to the door that led to the stairs.

"Dobby?" The house elf rushed in and smiling broadly he looked at Harry. "Everything is ready for you, Harry Potter, sir!" The elf peered around Harry to see Draco, "And Master Draco."

"Thanks, Dobby." Harry smiled with relief. Dobby snapped his fingers three times and a table appeared next to Draco. Covered plates of food appeared next.

"Anything else, Harry Potter, sir? Dobby would be proud to serve..."

Harry cut him off quickly, "No this is perfect. Thank you, Dobby."

"I will clear away everything, when you give the signal sir. Just ring the bell."

Dobby disappeared with a crack, leaving Harry and Draco alone, the table between them. "Erm, dinner for two." Harry said with an embarrassed laughed. When he had thought up the idea of having dinner on the tower, he thought that Draco might like it. But now it seemed like a foolish gesture.

Draco wasn't smiling, he walked around the table and put his arms around Harry, "You are amazing." He nibbled at Harry's lower lip, "Only you could come up with something like this."

"You like it?" Harry asked surprised, "It isn't too...schmaltzy?"

"Dinner under the stars? It's schmaltzy, it's romantic, it's perfect." Draco raised an eyebrow at him, "I've been meaning to ask. Why does that house elf always call me Master Draco and calls you sir?"

"Oh, erm. Dobby is the house elf from Malfoy Manor that I freed, or rather, I tricked your Father into freeing a few years ago."

Draco chuckled, "No wonder he looks so familiar, Father was furious about that for weeks."

"Good. No more talk about your Father, let's just enjoy your birthday dinner."

OOOoOO

"You fucking idiot." Draco muttered into his ear as Harry struggled in his arms under the gleeful eye of Umbridge. "What the hell were you thinking?"

"Take his wand," Umbridge tutted over to Draco. Draco reached into Harry's pocket and slid out the wand. Harry watched as Draco adjusted his features into a look of amusement and casually flipped Harry's wand up in the air.

"Mr Malfoy, be so kind as to fetch Professor Snape. Tell him I require more Veritaserum."

Malfoy looked over at Harry, their eyes locked for a minute and then Harry shrugged. After all this time it would be almost funny to be found out because of Umbridge, Snape and Veritaserum. Or not. He thought as Draco shot him one last glare before heading out the door.

When Draco returned with Snape the professor he could tell that Draco had been yelled at by the Potions master. He was pale, paler than usual. Snape swept into the room and Harry could feel the anger radiating off of him. He almost sagged with relief when Snape told Umbridge that there was no more Veritaserum to be had.

He wasn't sure what would happen next, and when Hermione started babble about a weapon Harry looked at Hermione in disbelief. She must have a plan but he didn't have a clue about what it was. He saw Malfoy giving him a curious look but just shrugged.

When Umbridge announced that she would go with Harry and Hermione to retrieve the secret weapon he saw Malfoy straighten up. Harry knew that Draco was thinking that this could be the chance they needed to get away. If Draco could slip him his wand there was a chance. Three to one against Umbridge would make it easy. He heard Malfoy volunteer to help guard them. His hopes were dashed as he heard Umbridge turned down Malfoy's offer. She hurried Hermione and Harry out the door. Harry gave one last look to Draco standing in the middle of the room, his face set.

OoOOoOO

Harry looked at the group of Gryffindors that met Hermione and him as they emerged from the Forbidden Forest. A grinning Ron handed his wand back to him. "How did you get away? Erm, what happened to Malfoy and the others?"

"It was almost too easy. It was like he wanted us to get away. Ginny got him with the Bat Bogey Hex!"

"Oh?" Harry said.

"She is the master of it." Ron laughed. Harry had to laugh, Draco was going to be furious but at least he wouldn't be permanently injured by it. He looked at his wand, trust Draco to find a way to help. He slid his wand into his pocket. Sirius was in trouble, it had been hours since he had his vision, he had to focus on getting to the Department of Mysteries.

OoOoOOOoO

Harry walked slowly down the stairs from Dumbledore's office. His thoughts were filled with the last vision he had of Sirius disappearing behind the veil, of the prophecy. Lost in his thoughts Harry blindly walked into someone. Backing away he apologized and looked around. The corridor was filled with students hurrying to breakfast. He looked at their smiling faces as they moved around him. They had no idea, he thought, that the world had changed. For them this day was just the same as yesterday. He wished it was yesterday, that he could turn back time again and save Sirius.

He had to get away and there was only one place he wanted to be. Heedless that anyone could see him he pulled out his coin.

Where are you?

Downstairs. His response was immediate. Harry gave a smile, he knew that Draco must have been waiting for hours looking at his coin waiting to hear from Harry.

I'll be right there.

Nice to know you are still alive, you stupid git. Harry laughed despite himself and hurried towards the kitchen entrance.

Draco was standing by the doorway when it opened. They looked at each other uneasily. Draco was glaring at him.

"Mad?" Harry asked hesitantly. He knew Draco had every right to be angry but he just didn't have the energy for another fight.

"What do you think?" Draco spat out, "You disappear for twelve hours and then just walk in like you've been out for a stroll."

Harry shook his head tiredly, "Hardly a stroll. I'll tell you everything, but I need to lie down. Haven't slept at all yet."

Draco hesitated and then nodded, looking at Harry's somber face. "Okay, I have food here too." Harry shook his head at the thought of even trying to eat something. Draco put his arm around Harry's shoulders and Harry tiredly rested his head on Draco as they slowly walked into the office. He stretched out on the sofa, with Draco lying beside him.

"Go to sleep, we can talk later." Draco said. "So long as I know you are okay, that is all that matters."

Harry struggled to keep his eyes open. "No, I need to tell you. It is about your father." he felt Draco stiffen beside him. "We went to the Department of Mysteries to rescue Sirius, but it was a trap. Voldemort and your father's trap to catch us."

"But you got away..." Draco said, tightening his arms around Harry.

Harry nodded, "Your father didn't though. They arrested him and a bunch of other Death Eaters."

Draco shifted, Harry opened his eyes to stare into the somber gray eyes of Draco. "It was bad, Draco. And scary. And Sirius is dead. And Ron, Hermione, Ginny, all of them are up in the hospital wing..."

Draco looked at him, "They are going to be okay, though?" Harry nodded. "I didn't know where you had all gone. By the time we got free of Umbridge's office I searched the entire castle. Couldn't find you, it was like you had vanished in thin air."

"Not thin air, thestrals." Harry mumbled sleepily. "You aren't mad, about your father then?"

Draco gave a little laugh, "What? Be mad that my father is in jail and that I won't have to worry about going home next week for the summer? Of course, I'm not mad. Go to sleep. You can fill me in tomorrow."

Harry woke up and panicked for a moment when he realized he wasn't in his own bed. He looked around and saw Draco sitting at the desk, studying. The memories of the last night came flooding back to him.

"Finally awake, sleepyhead? I was beginning to think you would sleep through the whole day."

"What time is it?" Harry said, stretching. He realized with a start that he wasn't wearing any clothing. He looked at Draco questioningly. "And, what happened to my clothes?"

"It is just after one o'clock." Draco blushed, a faint pink, "I vanished your clothes. To be honest, they stank." He walked over to a locker and took out a pair of trousers and shirt for Harry. "I knew you still had some clothes down here. Go take a shower and you can tell me everything after you are cleaned up."

Harry nodded and walked over to the old Quidditch showers. As the hot water poured over him he tried to imagine what Draco would think of everything that had transpired the night before. Of the prophecy. He remembered that Draco hadn't been mad when he had told him about his father being arrested. He hoped that he still wouldn't be when he heard the whole story. With a sigh he turned off the water and turned to see Draco leaning against the wall, holding out a towel. As he grabbed hold of it he quirked his eyebrow at Draco. "Surprised you didn't join me."

Draco smiled and shook his head, "Much as I would have loved to, I kind of thought you just needed some time to get your thoughts together." Harry nodded, and dried off roughly. He quickly got dressed, pulling on the same shirt and trousers, Harry thought ironically, that Snape had seen in the Occlumency lesson.

Draco reached out a hand and pulled Harry towards him, "You look better already, not nearly as death warmed over as you did." Harry flinched involuntarily at Draco's choice of words. "Ready to talk?" Harry sighed and nodded.

Draco led him over to the sofa and Draco sat on down at the corner pulling Harry into his lap, "Talk." Haltingly at first, Harry started talking, telling him everything that had happened in the Department of Mysteries, everything that Dumbledore had told him.

When at last he had stopped talking, Draco was quiet. His face was blank of emotion and Harry tentatively reached out and ran his hand down Draco's cheek. "You said you were okay last night about me getting your father arrested, are you sure?"

Draco turned so that he could look Harry in the eye. "You did not get my father arrested. He got himself arrested. He decided to set the trap to catch you. Don't take responsibility for things you didn't do, Harry." Draco took a deep breath. "That is a lot to take in." Harry nodded.

"It is one thing to know that someone is trying to kill you, or wants to kill you. It is another thing to find out that I will have to kill him if I want to live."

"Do you think you can do it?" Draco asked, "Kill him?"

Harry got up off the sofa and started pacing. "How am I supposed to do it? He is the most powerful wizards ever and I am just some 15 year old who probably failed half his O.W.L.s. How am I supposed to do this?"

"You'll find a way, you always do." Draco said, "Look what you and your Gryffindors pulled off last night." Harry stopped walking around the room to look at Draco.

"But look at what it cost. Sirius died because of me. Ron and Hermione could have been killed too, we all could have been." Draco came over and put his hands on Harry's shoulders.

"Sirius chose to come and rescue you. Just as you chose to rescue him when you thought he was in danger." Draco said softly, "I am so sorry you lost him. I know how important he was to you." Harry rested his head in Draco's chest.

"It just isn't fair. Why does everyone who cares about me have to go away?" He muttered, hating how pitiful he sounded.

"Hey, I care about you, I love you. And I'm still here." Draco said, wrapping Harry in a tight hug, "And thanks to you it should be safe for me to be home this summer. With Father and all his associates locked up, I imagine You-Know-Who is going to be too busy recruiting to stick around the Manor."

"Thank Merlin for that." Harry said. "For the last month I've been trying to think of a way to keep you out of there. My last plan was to stun you and lock you in my trunk and not open it until we were on Privet drive."

"A whole summer locked in your bedroom with you?" Draco gave a slow smile. "Maybe you need to revisit that plan."

Harry grinned sheepishly and checked the time, "I have to get up to the hospital wing, they are going to be wondering why I haven't stopped to see them yet."

Draco twisted his lips, "I hope that they understand that you needed to catch up on your sleep."

"Well, they were up all night as well. And I was the only one not injured. Hardly seems fair since I put them in danger."

Draco opened his mouth as if to argue his point but just shook his head at Harry instead, "When can we see each other again? Only a couple days of term left."

"Tomorrow? I'll message you once I find out how my friends are doing."

Draco nodded, "Okay. We are going to have to have some kind of fight upstairs. As soon as everyone find out what happens they aren't going to expect me to not attack you."

Harry laughed, "When you went off to get the Veritaserum all I could think about what the expressions would be on everyone's face if Umbridge asked the wrong question and the serum made me tell about us."

Draco shook his head, "You wouldn't have laughed if you were the one that had to walk into Snape's office and tell him what was happening."

"Was he mad?" Harry asked.

"Furious." Draco said with a grimace. "He had to smash his last bit of Veritaserum so that he didn't have to lie to Umbridge about not having any more."

"I forgot to thank you for letting everyone go." Harry said with a smile. "How long did it take you to vanish Ginny's bogey hex?"

Draco growled, "Two seconds is too long for those disgusting things to be flapping about. Goyle couldn't stop laughing long enough to finite them."

"Crabbe and Goyle didn't suspect anything then?"

"No, I loosened the bindings on the Weasels when they weren't looking and that is all they needed to get away." Draco looked at Harry, "You owe me big for that one."

"I promise, I'll make up for it tomorrow." Harry looked regretfully over at Draco. "I have to go."

Draco nodded. "I'll see you tomorrow." Harry nodded and quickly made for the exit.

OoOoOOO

The next couple of days passed quickly, Harry was relieved when Ron, Hermione and everyone else who was injured at the Department of Mysteries attack were released by Madam Pomfrey by the end of the week. They had a couple of days to enjoy the June weather before the Hogwarts Express was due to depart. Even though it meant that he and Draco only got to see each other for a couple of hours. Draco had gotten a letter from his mother, reassuring him that it would be safe to return. His father and the rest of the Death Eaters, in a lightning-fast trial, had been tried and sentenced to a life sentence to Azkaban. Harry gave a huge sigh of relief at the news. He wished there was some way to convince Draco to talk to Dumbledore for help, but knowing that his father was locked up helped.

OoOoOoO

"Where have you been? It is almost time to leave for Hogsmeade." Harry turned from his pacing as he heard Draco coming through the Slytherin tunnel.

"Sorry, Slytherins are all on edge, seeing as how they are going home and half of their fathers are in prison." Draco said dryly, "Not all of them see it as the blessing that I do."

"Oh." Harry didn't know what to say, he knew it was hard for Draco to always have to play two different roles in school.

"Forget about it. Just be glad you didn't walk through the Slytherin common room about an hour ago. Speaking of which, we are going to be attacking you on the train." He said it with a smile.

"You are?" Harry laughed, "Should I be worried?"

"Nothing you can't handle, I'm sure." Draco said, "Although I would prefer that our good-byes could be kisses and not hexes." He reached into his robe pocket and pulled out a small rectangular box.

"What's this?" Harry asked as Draco handed it to him.

"Your birthday present." Draco said with a shrug. "I wish we could spend your birthday together, but that isn't going to be possible for a couple of years, is it?"

Harry shook his head and smiled woefully, "Not unless you want to fly over and meet my aunt and uncle."

Draco shuddered, "No, thank you. Why don't you open it now. I know it is another month to your birthday but..." Harry smiled and pulled the ribbon off the box, tearing the paper off he lifted the lid. A thick band of gold and silver woven metal lay in the box.

"A necklace?" Harry said with a start.

Draco laughed, "Call it a chain, if necklace sounds too poncy for you. You can wear it under your shirt. Figured no one could see it there, but we both will know.

Harry reached and picked it up. "Thank you, it is beautiful."

"Turn it over." Draco set aside the box and held Harry loosely around his waist. Harry flipped the chain over, engraved on the other side was.

Amor unus animus duorum corporum habitantes

"Er, my Latin is a little rusty."

Draco smiled, "Your Latin is non-existent. It is a quote from Aristotle, 'Love is a single soul inhabiting two bodies.' "

Harry smiled, "It is perfect, thank you."

Draco nodded, "I wanted you to be able to feel this touching your skin and know that I wish I could be with you. That I love you."

Harry nodded, "I love you." he hesitated. With a rush he decided to ask the question that had been weighing on him for days, "Do you think next fall, since your Father is locked up. That we might be able to..." his voice trailed off, he didn't want to put the words out there.

"Come out of hiding?" Draco finished for him. Harry nodded, glad that Draco had been thinking along the same lines. "I've been thinking that too. Maybe we can talk about it when we get back? Come up with a plan? Isn't something we can do by just walking into the Great Hall holding hands."

"Actually, I was kind of thinking just that. It would be worth all the hexes just to see everyone's expressions if we snogged in the middle of Welcoming feast." Draco looked at him in disbelief and then just laughed,

"And I would be bundled off by Aurors to see how I had enchanted you or given you a love potion. I'm not saying we can't, I just want to do it carefully. Agreed?"

Harry nodded, "That is enough to keep me going this summer. Will you be able to message me?"

Draco smiled, "Shouldn't be a problem, but let me contact you first. I just want to get back to the Manor, make sure there aren't any unexpected surprises."

"I'll be waiting. I'm glad that this summer we have a way to stay in contact. Last summer was horrible."

Draco shrugged, "It will go quick and then we'll be back here. We should get going." He kissed Harry, twining his tongue against Harry's, breaking away from the kiss he smiled. "Don't forget to duck when you see the Slytherins coming at you on the train…"

Chapter Text

The first night back on Privet Drive Harry unpacked and got Hedwig settled in her cage. He was keenly aware of the coin in his pocket, waiting for the signal that Draco had sent a message. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia pointedly ignored him at supper, other than his aunt handing him a list of everything he was expected him to do while home. Dudley was out somewhere with his mates. As soon as he had finished washing up the dishes he went back to his bedroom. Draco had said he would send a message as soon as he could, it had been hours. As he heard the clock chime midnight, Harry finally curled up on the bed and fell asleep, the coin gripped tightly in his hand. He woke up in the morning and checked the surface, no message. Harry went into the bathroom and splashed water on his face. There was no reason to get worried, he reassured himself. He went downstairs and started his chores. Aunt Petunia always canceled the cleaning service in the summer. No reason to spend money when Harry could provide free labor.

Periodically, throughout the day he pulled out the coin. Still no message. Each time, he slowly let the coin fall back into his pocket of the cast-off jeans from Dudley. He had left all of the clothes that Draco had given to him for Christmas in the locker room. Looking down at the over-sized jeans that were held up by a belt he knew that Draco would hate seeing him looking like he did. Only eight weeks he told himself. He could endure eight weeks without Draco. He felt the heavy weight of the chain around his neck and felt reassured.

On the third morning when he woke up and there was no message from Draco, he flung the coin in frustration across the room. Almost immediately he scrambled out of the bed to find where it had fallen behind the desk. It was worse; he realized suddenly having a way to communicate and getting no message. Last summer he hadn't been this anxious, he'd known that he wouldn't hear from Draco at all. It is no big deal he told himself. Draco is probably having a nice time with his mother without having to worry about his father being home.

Four days later in the garden shed Harry swore when the rake he had reached for knocked over the stack of newspapers. He still had to finish the weeding of the flowerbeds before Uncle Vernon came home. Throwing down the rake he started restacking the papers when the word Wiltshire caught his eye. He quickly slid the paper out and sank slowly down to sit on the floor of the shed when he saw the headline "3rd Wiltshire Youth Missing"

Scanning the article quickly he heaved a sigh of relief when he came to the description of the missing boys. All were dark-haired, not a blond among them. Harry knew he was being foolish, even if Draco was missing, it wouldn't be written up in a Muggle newspaper. It was comforting to know that at least whoever had snatched the missing boys wouldn't go for a blond like Draco. Harry shoved the paper back into the stack and went out to the garden. For the first time he was grateful for all of the work that the Dursleys made him do. It helped keep his mind off of wondering why Draco hadn't contacted him.

By day ten he forced himself to keep the coin in his pocket. He didn't pull it out to check. He still slept with it clutched in his hand, just because he didn't want to sleep through any message.

By day fifteen he contemplated flying to Malfoy Manor. The fact that he didn't know where it was located in Wiltshire did not seem that big of an obstacle.

The next day Harry held Dumbledore's letter announcing that he was coming for a visit in his hand. For one brief dreadful moment he wondered if Dumbledore was coming to tell him that something had happened to Draco. He quickly came to his senses and remembered that Snape was the only person who knew about Draco and him. And Snape was the least likely one to tell.

Harry left his trunk half packed, waiting for the hour that Dumbledore had said that he would arrive. He still didn't dare hope that the Headmaster would, so he didn't pack. He pulled the coin out of his pocket. Two and a half weeks with no word. For the thousandth time Harry reminded himself that they had gone the whole summer without a single word. But he had thought that this summer would be different. Draco didn't have to worry about his father. The only reason he wouldn't send a message was because he had had a change of heart or because something else was stopping him. Harry sat on the edge of the bed staring down at the coin; he didn't know which one he feared more.

The doorbell rang. Harry jumped to his feet and raced down the stairs to get to the door before Uncle Vernon.

OoOOoOO

The excitement of being back at the Burrow helped to take Harry's mind off of Draco but it was a constant shadow that hovered over him. With a heavy heart on his birthday he slipped the coin into his pocket as he got dressed. Four weeks more. He sat down and pulled the drawings from the bottom of his trunk. Setting his wand on the drawing that Draco had created for his last birthday Harry sighed heavily as he watched the image of him and Draco come forward. He almost didn't feel the warmth in his pocket but he leaped to his feet and frantically grabbed for the coin as he felt on the floor for where his wand had fallen when he had jumped up.

"Happy Birthday"
"Where are you? Are you okay?"

"Bad summer."
"What happened?
"I love you."
"I love you, too. Tell me what's wrong."
"Remember that I'll always love you."
"Draco, what's wrong?"
"Have to go"
"Dammit. What happened?"

There was no response. Harry sat heavily on the bed, fighting back the urge to scream in frustration. He didn't know when he had felt more frightened. Something bad had happened to Draco. He had no idea what to do, who he could turn to for help. Dumbledore. He could try and contact Dumbledore. He should have said something to Dumbledore when he had seen him, but had been afraid that he was panicking for nothing. Now he knew something was wrong and he had to do something. Harry quickly went over to the desk and pulled out a sheet of parchment. Dipping the quill into the ink he stared at the blank surface. His hand was trembling and drops of ink dripped from the point of the quill. What could he possibly say? 'Dear Dumbledore, Draco and I have been secretly dating for two years and something has happened to him.' Harry gave a bitter laugh and threw down the quill. So, not Dumbledore. Snape? For all Harry knew Snape might be the reason that Draco was having a 'bad summer'.

Closing his eyes, he saw stars and realized that he was starting to hyperventilate. He forced himself to slow his breathing down. He walked over to the window and stared out of it unseeingly. Malfoy Manor. Draco had to be at the Manor. Wiltshire wasn't so far from the Burrow. Harry turned and headed for the door and bumped into Ron coming down the hall.

"Where did you disappear to? We're about to start a game of Quidditch."

"Oh, yeah. I don't feel up to it right now."

Ron looked at him in disbelief, "You don't feel like Quidditch? Let me fetch Mum. You must be coming down with something."

Harry forced himself to laugh, it sounded weak even to him. "Nah, just thinking about things."

Ron narrowed his eyes, "You okay?"

"Yeah, go on. I'll be out in a bit." Harry tried to smile reassuringly at Ron, and was grateful when the other boy just nodded.

"Okay, don't wait too long though."

Harry sank back down on the bed as soon as Ron tromped down the stairs. He could ask Mrs. Weasley where Malfoy Manor was, she would know. He went downstairs in search of Ron's mother who could always be found in the kitchen. She wasn't, instead Hermione was sitting at the table, studying Arithmancy.

"Hi Harry, I thought you were out with the rest playing Quidditch."

"Didn't feel like it." Harry dragged a restless hand through his hair, "Do you know where Mrs. Weasley is?"

"She went over to visit the Tonks. Mrs. Tonks asked for one of her recipes. Why?"

"No reason." Harry sank down into one of the chairs and rested his aching head in his hands.

"Are you sure you are okay?"

"Yeah, just have a headache." Harry shook his head at Hermione's alarmed look, "Not that kind. Just a regular headache."

Hermione nodded and went over to a cabinet and pulled out a potion flask and set it down next to Harry. "Here is Mrs. Weasley headache cure, should do the trick."

Harry nodded but made no move to take any, "Hermione, do you know where Malfoy Manor is?"

"Wiltshire? Isn't it?" Hermione quirked her head at Harry.

"I know it is in Wiltshire, but do you know exactly where it is?" Harry didn't even care that his question made no sense.

"Well, no one does, do they? Unless the Malfoys want them to know. It is unplottable just like Grimmauld Place."

Harry felt his heart stop. "It is?"

"Of course, that is what is causing the Order so much trouble. They know You Know Who is there...but they can't find where it is. Lupin has been searching the area for weeks."

"Oh." Harry stood up and forced himself to walk to the door. There was nothing he could do. Even if he told everyone, they wouldn't be able to rescue Draco if they couldn't find the Manor.

"Harry, what's wrong?" Hermione had a concerned look on her face. "You can tell me."

"I can't. I'm sorry." He stumbled on the words and quickly went out the door, closing it softly behind him. He sat down heavily on the backsteps. Holding the coin in his hand he willed it to deliver another message from Draco. The curtains covering the windows twitched, he didn't see Hermione staring at him concernedly from the kitchen.

OoOOOOo

Two days later, Diagon Alley.

Harry stepped out of Madam Malkin's Robe shop. He felt like his heart had been torn out of his chest. He replayed the encounter he just had had with Draco. Draco had been angry and vicious. There was no hint or indication that it was all in fun. During all the fights they had faked at Hogwarts over the last two years they had always found a way to show that they cared about each other. A hidden smile, an amused wink, a gentle touch that no one else could see. Draco had stared at him coldly and left the store without looking back. Harry felt a hand on his arm and jumped, he looked over to see Hermione standing next to him.

"What happened in there, Harry?" she indicated with her head back towards the shop, "Is everything okay?"

Harry stared at her concerned brown eyes. For a moment he wondered if she knew, and then shook off the feeling. She couldn't. "Just typical Malfoy shit, wasn't it?" He tried to grin but knew he failed miserably at it.

"Was it?"

Harry forced himself to shake the feeling of dread. "Well, he did seem extra angry? Like he didn't want us to find out something. I wonder what he is up to?"

"I imagine that he is just angry about his father being sent to Azkaban?" Hermione asked.

"That or something else." Harry turned as Ron joined them. He forced himself to smile, "Should we go meet your mum now and see Fred and George's shop?"

Weasley's Wizard Wheezes was more astounding that Harry could have imagined. The store was packed and clearly a success. Harry was still trying to figure out what had happened at the Robe shop when he saw Draco walk past the outside of the store. He told Ron and Hermione that he would be right back, that he was going to see where Malfoy was going. To his chagrin they both insisted on following.

A half hour later they were back. Harry could hardly pay attention to the conversations going on around him as he desperately tried to think of another explanation for what he had seen. He slipped away and in to the backroom of the store. Pulling out his coin he sent a message to Draco.

"What is wrong? What happened to you?"

There was no response.

"D, I am really worried. Talk to me."

"D, I love you."

His coin stayed cold in his hand, warmed only by the heat of his skin. Harry drew in a shaky breath. Maybe Draco didn't have his coin with him. Maybe his mother was nearby and he couldn't send a message. There were lots of reasons why he hadn't responded but Harry knew that whatever it was it had something to do with the conversation he had heard Draco having at Borgin and Burkes.

Harry boarded the train days later with relief. Soon, very soon. He would be able to confront Draco and find out what was going on. He reached up and felt the chain around his neck. He knew whatever had happened that they would be able to overcome it. Whatever had happened to Draco, he would fix it. Days ago Harry had forced himself to stop speculating what could have happened at Malfoy Manor. He was driving himself crazy trying to guess.

Harry did not seek out Draco on the train. If the Slytherin wanted to find him, he would. It would only lead to more frustration because they wouldn't be able to talk freely without the potential of someone overhearing. This resolve lasted until they were nearly at Hogwarts. Harry had chewed his fingernails to the quick. Draco hadn't even come by to taunt him like he had done the year before. After the endless lunch with Professor Slughorn was finally over he put on the Invisibility Cloak and followed Blaise Zabini back to the carriage where he knew Draco would be.

Harry slipped into Draco's compartment behind Zabini and swiftly climbed up into the baggage rack. He knew that Draco had seen him climbing up. He listened as Draco bragged to his friends. Harry could hardly stop himself from shaking. At last the train rolled into Hogsmeade. The Slytherins slowly gathered their things and started to depart. Harry almost thought that Draco was going to leave with them, but at the last minute he turned back and told Crabbe and Goyle to not wait for him. The door closed and Draco walked over to the window, pulling down the shades.

"Come on down, Harry." Harry swung down of the rack, stumbling a little as his legs, stiff from being curled up for so long protested the move.

"What the hell is going on, Draco?" Harry came up behind him, putting his hands on his shoulders and turning him. He looked stunned at Draco, at the tears streaming down his face. Draco was shaking. He reached up and swiped the tears, "What happened? What's wrong?"

Draco opened his mouth but Harry never heard his reply. The spell from the tall dark figure in the doorway hit Harry square in the back and he dropped to the ground with a hard thud before Draco could catch him.

"I thought we agreed that you would not talk to him, it would only make things worse." Snape's cold voice echoed in the compartment as he stepped into the narrow space.

Draco wiped his face, forced himself not to look the inert figure on the floor. "He came in here, snuck in here, about a half hour ago. Hiding under his cloak." He tightened his jaw. "He wanted to know what happened. He knows something is wrong."

"Soon he won't suspect a thing. We have been through this too many times. If you want to give him a chance to live. If you want your mother to live, you know what you have to do." Snape said it without a flicker of emotion. "Draw your wand and do what you need to do, before he comes around."

Draco dropped to his knees next to Harry. He held his wand to Harry's forehead, but his hand was shaking so badly he dropped it. "I can't do it."

"You have to do it. Now."

Draco wanted to protest, but he knew it was the only way, he lifted his wand again.

"Just like we practiced, Draco." Snape's voice for the first time held just a hint of compassion. "It is the only way."

"Delens dilectione mea.

Obliviate memoriam amoris.

Biennio tribus mensibus."

Draco felt the magic through the wand, his hand hook as he saw the faint shimmer of violet, gold and blue emanate from Harry's forehead to his wand, but he forced it to hold steady until the last shade of color was gone and he finally could lower his wand. His chest hurt, the bands of anguish so tight that he had to fight to breathe. He rested his head against Harry's chest, needing to hear the solid steady beat of Harry’s heart. His shoulders shook with grief as he realized that it would be the last time he’d ever be able to do so. 

With a broken cry, he grabbed Harry's shoulders and pulled him into his lap and the tears he’d been holding back rolled down his cheeks as he sobbed. Harry's head fell limply against his shoulder. Draco pressed his lips against Harry’s, tasting of salt of his own tears and yearning to feel Harry kiss him back, but he never would feel Harry’s kisses again.

“Enough.” Snape spoke harshly, any sympathy he’d shown before was gone as he pulled back on Draco’s shoulders. 

Draco nodded and breathing hard to control his sobs, he gently set Harry back on the floor of the carriage. 

"Let me check." Snape pointed his wand at Harry, "Leglimens."

Ignoring Snape, what he was doing to Harry, Draco sat back on his knees and studied Harry's face: the faint dusting of summer freckles, the turn of his lip. Memorizing them. 

"It is done. There is no need for more. Any memories that remain will be so disconnected as to not make any sense." Snape spoke brusquely, "Remove the necklace." 

Draco shuddered but obeyed. He pulled down Harry's t-shirt to expose the gold and silver chain. With fumbling fingers he undid the clasp and slipped it off. The metal felt warm in his hand.

"I will retrieve the drawings from his trunk. Is there anything else that he would have of yours?" Draco shook his head, still staring at the chain as he flipped it over and ran his fingers over the inscription. 

"You know what you have to do when he comes to, do it. We must hurry, there’s not much time left." Snape left the compartment, the door sliding shut with a harsh clang. Draco listened to as the footsteps faded away before he again reached for Harry. Cradling him, Draco smoothed the hair out of Harry's eyes and through the blur of his tears he smiled a little as he tried to untangle the mess that was Harry's hair.

"I love you, Harry. I will always love you. I know you'll never know but I will and now you will be able to live. You have to: you need to destroy him. I know I won't be around when you finally do, but I'll come back like Peeves and haunt you until you get it done. Do it for us, Harry, for Cedric, for my mother. Please, Harry."

Draco's tears were running down his face and one dripped onto Harry's cheek and Draco jerked back as Harry flinched in response, he was waking up. Draco swallowed to hold in the cry of rage. It was too soon, he needed more time to say goodbye, but there was none left, time had run out for them.

Drawing in a deep breath, Draco set Harry back down. Standing, he roughly wiped the tears from his face with the back of sleeve as he took two steps back and waited, his wand ready in his trembling hand. Harry groggily opened his eyes and sat up as he looked around in confusion. His green eyes focused on Draco, his pupils widening in alarm.

Draco raised his wand, "Petrificus Totalus"

 

Harry's body froze in place.

"I thought I saw you there, Potter. You are not as clever as you would like to think." Draco gritted his teeth as stared into the green eyes that were locked on him. Forcing himself not to think about what he was about to do he drew back his foot and kicked him hard in the face. The blood splattered on the floor and stained Harry's shirt. "That was for my father." He picked up Harry's Invisibility Cloak and threw it over the Gryffindor and walked out of the compartment.

Snape was waiting for him. The potion master handed Draco a sheaf of drawings. "Is this all of them?" Draco glanced unseeingly through the stack of drawings and nodded. He walked away without a word. If Snape said anything more, he did not hear him. He exited the train and turned automatically towards the path that would take him to Hogwarts. The tall figure of his godfather walked next to him. As they drew near to the gates that marked the Hogwarts entrance, Snape put his hand on Draco's shoulders, stopping him. Draco brushed off the hand angrily.

"I did what I had to do." Draco said, "Don't ask more of me."

"Nothing more, but you need to take this." Snape held out a slender vial.

"What is it?" Draco didn't actually care, he would have gladly taken poison if only to stop the pain.

"A mood elevator. Your performance is not yet over. You must play your part convincingly." Snape said, "The effects are short live, but it should get you through the feast." Draco held out his hand and swallowed the sickly sweet potion without a word. He stalked away, lost in his own thoughts as Snape resumed guard at the gate. Waiting for Potter to be found.

OoOoOOO

"Pip Pip"

Draco had not paid attention to a single word that Dumbledore said during his speech. He was solely focused on trying to get through the Feast without vomiting. Harry had walked into the Hall halfway through supper, his clothes still stained with blood. Draco watched as Hermione and Ron both rushed over to him. Weasley had spent the rest of the meal shooting angry looks at Draco, he knew that Harry must have told him about the broken nose.

Draco felt waves of nausea every time he thought of his foot impacting Harry's face. But he had played his part like he had promised Snape he would - he had joked with his fellow Slytherins, gleefully told Crabbe and Goyle about breaking Harry- dammit Potter's nose. He knew he had to start thinking of him as Potter, but couldn't do it. He would always be Harry to him now. His hand slipped into his pocket for the coin that he knew would never again send him a message. He hadn't told Snape about the coins. Harry would never know where the mysterious coin in his pocket had come from and would discard it. But Draco could, with a swipe of his wand, see the last message that Harry had sent and it was all he had left.

Hearing the sound of benches being pushed back and the excited chatter of the first years making their way out of the Great Hall. Draco looked around, his eyes automatically being drawn to the Gryffindor table. He sucked in his breath as he saw Dumbledore standing next to Harry, the headmaster's hands on Harry's shoulders. Even from two tables over Draco could see the wizard's blue eyes staring into Harry's green ones. Dumbledore's body suddenly stiffened and he froze for a moment. With a forced smile the headmaster patted Harry on the back and turned away. Harry stood there looking puzzled for a moment and then turned to Ron and Hermione, with a shrug.

With a start Draco realized that Dumbledore was walking swiftly towards the Slytherin table. Straight towards Draco. Draco took a step back, almost falling over the bench. He looked frantically towards the staff table and saw Snape standing up and moving towards him as well.

"Draco. A word in my chambers, if you please." Dumbledore was standing next to him. Draco didn't say a word, he was in a panic and almost collapsed with gratitude when he heard Snape's voice next to him.

"Draco has had a very trying day, Albus. Surely, this could wait until tomorrow?" the cool tones swept over Draco and he stared down at the ground. He realized with certainty that the headmaster knew, how had he figured it out?

"I think not, Severus." Dumbledore held up his arm, pointing towards the exit. "After you." Snape nodded and quickly moved towards the exit, most of the students having already left. "Draco." Draco looked at Dumbledore's hand. It was blackened. The fingers appeared to have died. He quickly looked away.

They rose up the magical steps to the top of the Headmaster's tower and Dumbledore opened the door. He turned to look at Draco. "If you would wait here for a few minutes, I need to speak to Professor Snape alone." Without waiting for an answer he stepped inside, closing the door behind him.

The sound of Snape's raised voice disappeared in a moment and Draco knew that Dumbledore must have put a silencing ward up. He sat down on the bench in the ante-room and stared up at the ceiling. Draco forced himself to take in slow, deep breaths. He had made it through the summer. He was back in Hogwarts, but the stone walls of the castle would never again be welcoming. For a brief moment he let his thoughts drift to the Quidditch locker room. He would have to go back there one more time, but never again. His hand slipped into his pocket and he pulled out the chain that he had taken from Harry. Weaving it through his fingers he willed himself not to breakdown now.

OoOoOoOO

September, 1998
Courtroom Ten

Harry, Ginny, Hermione and Ron entered the courtroom for what Harry thought was the thousandth time since the trials of Death Eaters had begun over eight weeks ago. Harry glanced back and saw that the Aurors assigned to him had taken their usual place on either side of the doorway. Their presence had been a hard fought battle, Harry hadn't wanted them but the media storm that the trials had generated had reached a fever pitch and Harry could hardly move through the crowds without resorting to hexing.

Harry gave a sigh of relief as they sat down in their usual spot. This would be the last trial they would have to attend. Soon the repairs to Hogwarts would be completed and they would be back in school. Ron, Hermione and Harry would be eighth year students. All students affected by the war were being invited back to complete their schooling. Harry glanced down as Ginny slid her hand into his. He smiled at her, but couldn't quite meet her eyes. Things between them had been strained since he had returned. It was another reason he was anxious to get back to Hogwarts. Once they were away from the chaos of the trials he would be able to rest, he would be able to focus on Ginny. He was sure that everything would fall back into place again. Squeezing her hand he turned to look across the courtroom.

With a sharp intake of breath he took in Draco Malfoy's appearance. The blond wizard was seated in the defendant's chair. He was thin, almost gaunt. His features had always been sharp but today his cheekbones stuck out sharply in relief to his face. He wore stark black robes and the color drained what little color may have been in his complexion away.

"He looks terrible," Hermione murmured. Harry nodded in agreement. As if he had heard the words, Malfoy turned his head and looked straight at Harry. There was no flicker of acknowledgement in the cool gray eyes that gazed at him. The arrogant confidence was gone, however. All that was left, Harry realized, was a frightened 18-year old man that had done some terrible things and some not so terrible ones.

Narcissa Malfoy had been tried on treason charges and accessory to murder. She had been found guilty of the treason charge for hosting, however unwillingly, Voldemort in her house. Harry had testified on her behalf, explaining how she had saved his life. He and her lawyer had successfully argued at her sentencing hearing that she be given a minimal sentence. Her sentence was handed down as a year of house arrest. The Ministry had intended for her to serve the time at Malfoy Manor but she had refused to return to her family home. In a surprise development, her sister had come forward and requested that she come to live with her and Teddy Lupin at the Tonks home.

Harry felt the nudge from Ginny and looked around, the members of the Wizengamot were filing in and everyone else in the gallery was standing. He stood up, wiping his hands on his robes. It was different, he realized, sitting and waiting for the trial of one his classmates to begin. Someone he had competed against, had fought and had hated for the last seven years.

At last the Wizengamot members had all taken their seats. Kingsley Shacklebolt, the newly sworn in Minister of Magic, entered the courtroom and sat down. It reassured Harry that Kingsley was present. He hadn't presided over all the trials but this one was so controversial that he had made it clear that he would attend. Harry had gotten to know Kingsley well over the past several months. The minister had invited Harry, Ron and Hermione over for dinner on several occasions. He had gone out of his way to show Harry the Ministry of Magic was improving and was eager for Harry to join the Auror program. Harry appreciated the time that Kingsley had given him and knew that the Minister was feeling a lot of pressure from many sides to demonstrate publicly that the wizarding world could trust the Ministry.

The bailiff banged the gavel on his heavy oak desk. "If it will please the court, we call to order the Wizengamot for the trial of Draco Malfoy."

Kingsley looked up from the papers that were neatly arranged on the table in front of him. "Is the prosecution prepared to proceed?"

The lead prosecutor, the Honorable Ecclesiastes Smith, a short rotund wizard, stood up hastily, "Yes, your honor."

"And the defense?"

The lawyer sitting next to Malfoy stood up, "Samuel Goldstein, for the defense, sir. The defense would like it formally noted that we protest the undo haste that this case was rushed to trial."

"So noted." Shacklebolt's dry response acknowledged the lawyer. "Are you prepared?"

"As well as we can be."

"Very good." Kingsley again looked down at his notes, "Let it be noted that this trial is a unique one, insomuch as the defendant is being tried for crimes committed as a juvenile, and simultaneously for crimes committed as an adult. Because of this the court regulations have been relaxed to allow more latitude in cross-examination and statements."

The prosecutor rose, "May it be noted that the speed of the trial was deemed necessary because of the frail health of some of the witnesses and the imminent departure for other key witnesses who will be leaving to attend Hogwarts."

Malfoy's lawyer stood up, "Nearly all these witnesses had agreed to return to the Wizengamot if the trial was pushed back to a more suitable date."

Smith gave a derisive laugh, "Nearly all, not all of them."

Harry watched Malfoy during this exchange, he seemed to be staring almost disinterestedly at a spot on the floor in front of him. The wizard's characteristic blond hair was still combed back but had grown so long that it had fallen forward and covered his face.

"Where did you find him?" Hermione asked, nodding towards the lawyer.

Harry grimaced, "America. No one here would take on the Malfoys."

"I still don't understand why you are paying for Malfoy's lawyer." Ginny whispered to him.

"I've told you," Harry said, his eyes not moving from Malfoy.

"Yes, but I don't understand why."

"His mother saved my life. He saved my life at Malfoy Manor." his voice was tense as he turned to look at Ginny, "It is as simple as that. All of their accounts were seized. They have the right to a fair trial. If my paying for their lawyer helps to guarantee that, it helps pay the debt I owe them."

Hermione gave a little cough to shush them as the prosecutor stood up to give his opening statement. Harry had heard the little man give the same speech at the last five trials, he paid scant attention to it. He wearily sat back, he was so unbelievably tired. Foolishly he had thought that after Voldemort was dead he would be able to rest at last, he would be able to live his life out of the spotlight. The last four months had been a non-stop as the Death Eaters had been rounded up and the trials had begun. The media's relentless pursuit of him had made Rita Skeeter's articles seem like a walk in the park.

At last the prosecutor wrapped up his speech, "We will not be safe until the last of the Death Eaters are serving a lifetime sentence in Azkaban." Harry thought dully, he would have thought that the lawyer would try something different occasionally.

Goldstein stood up and came around the table. "Draco Malfoy is a marked Death Eater. He does not deny this, the evidence can be plainly seen on his arm. It is my desire, to prove that the Wizengamot that simply wearing this dreaded mark does not and should not indicate his compliance, his guilt. A young man of sixteen when the mark was forced upon him, he should not be judged by this ugly scar alone."

"Are you prepared to call your first witness?" Shacklebolt turned to the prosecutor.

"If it pleases the court, I call Draco Malfoy to the stand." There was an immediate murmuring in the gallery as Malfoy stood up and moved to the witness stand.

The prosecutor stood up and walked over to Malfoy after he had been sworn in, "Please state your name, residence and age."

Draco turned to the prosecutor and gave him a cold sneer, Harry almost laughed at the return of such a familiar look to the blond's countenance. "Draco Lucius Malfoy, 18, cell block twelve."

Smith with a practiced look of exasperation said, "The residence that you lived at prior to being arrested."

"Malfoy Manor, Wiltshire or Slytherin House, Hogwarts. Take your pick." Draco said with a shrug.

"Your honor, we are off to a difficult start. I would like to request that I be able to question the defendant with the use of Veritaserum."

Harry felt Hermione stiffen next to him. He knew that she had been upset about the liberal use of Veritaserum during the trials.

Goldstein was on his feet in an instance, "May I remind you that Veritaserum is clearly not allowed in juvenile offenses. Five of the counts against him were allegedly committed were when he was a juvenile, only two of the charges occurred when he achieved his majority."

Smith was ready for him, with an almost bored tone he said, "The defendant is an adult of 18 years as we stand here at trial today. The Wizengamot has already voted to not hold two separate trials."

Harry watched Kingsley closely, he was a good man, but the strains of the Ministry were already weighing heavily on him. The minister leaned over and consulted two of the Ministry lawyers that were sitting on the bench next to him.

"We will allow the administration of Veritaserum, but strongly caution the prosecution to restrict its questions to those relevant to the case. This is not permission for a fishing expedition, sir. If I perceive that you are casting without purpose I will call a mistrial and we will start this all again at a later date."

Harry could see that the prosecutor had to restrain himself form showing his delight at the outcome of his request. "It just isn't right," Hermione said, "taking away their free will."
Turning his head, Harry watched as the bailiff approached Malfoy with the now familiar slender vial. For the first time he saw fear in Malfoy's eyes. The blond retreated from the outstretched hand that held the eyedropper.

"Do we need someone to hold his head?" the prosecutor asked helpfully.

Goldstein came over and murmured into Malfoy's ear. Harry watches as Malfoy finally nodded his head. When Goldstein stepped away though, Malfoy obediently opened his mouth when requested and the bailiff administered the drops of serum. The bailiff nodded to the prosecutor and resumed his seat.

Shacklebolt looked between the two lawyers, "We will proceed, each of you will have one hour to question the defendant whilst he is under the influence of the Veritaserum, beginning with the prosecution."

"Let us start again. Please state your name, age and residence."

"Draco Lucius Malfoy, 18, permanent residence, Malfoy Manor, Wiltshire."

"Do you bear the tattoo that is commonly known as the Dark Mark?"

"Yes."

"Did you take this mark willingly?"

There was a pause, Harry could see Malfoy struggling with the answer but the serum won out, "Yes."

Harry and Hermione shared a glance, Harry had known that Malfoy's father had been a Death Eaters, but he had always hoped that he had been forced to take the mark rather than done it willingly.

"As a student in the year of 1997 did you illegally provide the means for Death Eaters to enter Hogwarts and did you participated in the battle that resulted in the death-"

"Objection! Two questions are being asked here, Ministry Veritaserum regulations clearly state that only question can be asked at a time."

"Sustained. Please phrase your questions more carefully." Kingsley stared over at Smith.

"Let me rephrase, as a student in the year of 1997 did you illegally provide the means for Death Eaters to enter Hogwarts?"

"Yes."

"Did these Death Eaters and you engage in a battle that resulted in the death of Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore?"

"Yes."

"During that same school year, did you make several attempts on Headmaster Albus Dumbledore's life.

"Yes." Malfoy's jaw was clenched tight, he spat out the single word answers. His gaze was focused on the stone floor in front of him.

"Did you use the Imperius Curse on Rosmerta Boraca?"

"Yes."

"Did you force Rosmerta Boraca, under the influence of the Imperius, to give a bottle of poisoned mead to Professor Slughhorn?"

"Yes."

"Who was intended recipient of this poisoned bottle of mead?'

"Albus Dumbledore."

"Who actually consumed the mead?"

"Ronald Weasley."

"Did this consumption result in his becoming gravely ill?"

"Yes."

"Did you also force Rosmerta Boraca, using the Imperius Curse to give a cursed necklace to Hogwarts student Katie Bell?"

"Yes."

"Did the resultant injury from the cursed necklace result in Bell spending weeks at St. Mungo's?"

"Yes."

"Who was the intended recipient of the necklace?"

"Albus Dumbledore."

"Moving on to the school year of 1997-1998. Did you participate in the torture of your fellow students at Hogwarts under the administration of Amycus and Alecto Carrow?"

Malfoy's response was not immediate, Harry saw beads of sweat breaking out on Malfoy's forehead as he fought the effects of the serum.

"Yes." Ginny's hand tightened in his. He looked over to at her pale face. She still had not told him all that she had gone through at Hogwarts last year but from what Neville had told him, he knew she had been subjected to too many punishments by the Carrows and the Slytherins.

"Did you use an Unforgivable curse on your fellow students"

"No." This time the answer was immediate. The prosecutor almost tripped himself as he spun around.

"Did you use the Cruciatus Curse on Hogwarts students last semester?"

Malfoy had almost a smug look on his face as he stared at the prosecutor. "No."

The prosecutor turned to Shacklebolt, "Clearly the prisoner-"

"Defendant." Goldstein shouted without bothering to look up from his note-taking.

"Clearly the defendant has not been given enough Veritaserum. I request more be administered."

"Objection! The serum was dosed properly. You witnessed its administration and have been questioning him for over twenty minutes. Why do you think that he is not being truthful?"

"Because he is clearly lying!"

The defense lawyer stood up and came around his table. "If it may please the court, may I be permitted to briefly question my client, to provide proof that the Veritaserum is working properly?"

Kingsley waved his hand in agreement, silencing the prosecutor with a glare.

"Draco, were you forced to administer punishments to your fellow students?"

"Yes."

"What curse did the Carrow brothers expect you to administer?"

"The Cruciatus Curse."

"And is this the curse you used?"

"No."

"What curse, hex or spell did you use to administer the punishments that the Carrows ordered?"

"Crucifigo hex." Draco said the word with confidence. There was an immediate increase in the chatter in the gallery. Harry looked questioningly at Hermione, she shook her head "I don't know that one."

"For the benefit of those who are not familiar with this hex, can you explain what it is?"

"It is a hex that send electric stimulation to the nerve endings of the hands and feet of the victim, but does not affect the central nervous system."

"I see, and how did you administer this alternative hex, under the watchful eyes of the Carrows?"

"I used a nonverbal command."

"Why did you not just use the Cruciatus curse?"

There was a long pause; again Harry could sense that Malfoy was trying to choose his words carefully still while being forced to answer the truth. "I have seen the effects of the Cruciatus curse. I did not wish to inflict it on others."

Harry felt Ginny's hand trembling in his, he turned to her. Her brown eyes were dak with emotion. She was staring at Malfoy. "Did he use it on you?" he whispered. She nodded, biting her lip. "Did he say Cruciatus?" Ginny stared at Harry, "I don't know. I don't remember. It hurt. He took his turn giving punishments when Neville and I were caught. I don't remember what he used. I was too scared."

Goldstein resumed his questioning, "Do you believe that the Crucifigo hex hurts less than Cruciatus?"

"It is equally terrifying but the pain is significantly less. There is no long-term damage with the Crucifigo, unlike the Cruciatus."

"I object! On what basis does he make this statement!"

"Draco, have you personally been subject to both of these torture techniques?"

"Yes."

"Thank you, Draco." Goldstein turned to Shacklebolt, "I would like to remind that court that the use of Veritaserum is only as effective as the questions asked. If one does not ask the right questions one will not get the true answer, serum or no serum."

Shacklebolt nodded his head involuntarily and then turned to the prosecution. "I trust that you are confident that the defendant is still under the effects of the serum?"

"Yes, your honor." Smith said the words grudgingly.

"Please resume your questioning."

"You just stated that you have been subjected to both of these spells. Please state who used them on you."

Malfoy paled, he clearly did not want to answer but the serum again did not allow him to defer. "The Cruciatus Curse was used on me by my father, Lucius Malfoy, my aunt Bellatrix Lestrange, and Voldemort. The Crucifigio was used by Severus Snape."

"Why was the-"

"Objection. My client could not presume to know the reasoning that these casters of the spells were using."

"Sustained."

"Who taught you this alternative torture technique?"

"Severus Snape."

"Why did he-"

"Objection! My client could not possibly presume to answer why Headmaster Snape did anything."

"Let me rephrase. How did you come to learn this technique?"

"I told him that I would not use the Cruciatus. He offered it as an alternative. I had him use it on me to in order to be sure that it was not as painful as the Cruciatus"

"Why not refuse altogether?"

Draco's sneer was clear across the room, "I bear the Dark Mark. If I did not comply, the punishment would have been fatal. Severus wished for me to survive. We sought an alternative and found Crucifigio."

"And who taught you to use nonverbal commands."

Draco looked almost bored, "Severus Snape."

The prosecutor walked back to his table and flipped through his notes. It was clear to Harry that the man was flustered that the initial questioning had not gone as he had anticipated.

"Who have you used an Unforgivable curse on anyone?"

"Objection! He's clearly casting wildly." Goldstein was on his feet, protesting. Harry knew that it was too late, once the question had been asked the Veritaserum would force Malfoy to answer, it was one of the reasons he and Hermione objected to its use.

"I used the Cruciatus curse on Death Eater Thorfinn Rowle" the words were spat out.

Goldstein turned to Kingsley Shacklebolt, "Your honor, clearly the prosecution is simply asking questions blindly. I again must ask permission to question my client to clarify his answer."

"You will have your turn, sir. The prosecution has ten minutes remaining of their allocated hour." Shacklebolt turned to Smith. "I will not remind you again, you are not permitted to use the Veritaserum to seek more charges against the defendant."

"Yes, sir. I do apologize." Smith said with an insincere smile. He turned to Malfoy,

"Did you confront Harry Potter in the room that is commonly known as the Room of Requirement-."

"Dates, please. You will recall that my client has had a long and strained relationship with Mr. Potter."

Harry had straightened up at the mention of his name, curiously he thought he saw Malfoy flinch at the word relationship.

"On the 2nd of May 1998."

"Yes."

"What was the nature of this confrontation."

"I asked for him to return my wand."

"Did he return it?"

"No."

"Did you subsequently attack Potter?"

"No."

"Did the attack result in the destruction of the Room of Requirement with fiendfyre?"

Malfoy hesitated, "No. Yes." His tongue stumbled as the serum sought the answer. Harry understood the difficulty.

Goldstein was on his feet, "Please, your honor, my honored colleague needs to rephrase the question."

"If I may be permitted to ask how the room was destroyed?" Smith turned to Shacklebolt. The minister nodded. Harry knew that Kingsley already knew the answer.

"How did the Room of Requirement come to be destroyed?"

"Vincent Crabbe started the fire."

"Why did he do so?"

"To kill Potter."

"Did you encourage him in this action?"

Malfoy looked at him in disbelief, "Of course not. We almost died. Vincent did die."

A bell chimed through the courtroom. Goldstein was on his feet in an instant. Smith looked like he was going to object but turned and returned to his seat.

"Draco, I would like to provide the Wizengamot some clarification for some of the answers you gave." Malfoy nodded, he seemed to relax just a little as the lawyer approached him.

With a scathing glance towards the prosecutor, Goldstein turned back to Malfoy, "You stated that you have used the Cruciatus curse once, please tell us who and why it was used."

"I used it in August 1997, on Death Eater Thorfinn Rowle under orders of Voldemort."

"What reason did Voldemort give you for ordering you to use Cruciatus curse."

"Rowle had failed in his attempt to apprehend Harry Potter."

"Why did you not use the Crucifigio curse instead, as you had with the students."

Draco shrugged, "He was a Death Eater." his mouth closed but the Veritaserum was fighting him. Harry could see the struggle and the serum won out. "He had tried to kill Potter." the words were spat out unwillingly.

"You were asked if you took the Death Mark willingly. To which you gave a positive answer."

"Yes."

"Why were you willing to take the mark?"

"By taking the mark I could prevent the torture and death of others." The words were spoken just above a whisper. Harry could see members of the Wizengamot looking at each other, unsure of what they had heard.

"Who were the others that were being tortured?"

"Muggles."

"When and where did this event take place?"

"Late June and July of 1996 at Malfoy Manor"

"Who conducted this torture."

"Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange."

"Would you have willingly taken the mark if it were not for the torture and killing of these Muggles?"

"Never." Malfoy spat out the word.

"How old were you at the time that the Mark was forced on you?"

"I had just turned sixteen."

"Was taking the mark the only thing you were forced to do?

"I was forced to take a vow to kill Headmaster Albus Dumbledore."

"What would have been the consequences of not succeeding in this difficult mission."

"My mother would have been killed."

"Would you have tried to kill Dumbledore if not for this vow?"

"Of course not."

"Why did you attempt to use cursed necklace and poisoned mead to kill Albus Dumbledore."

Malfoy's body practically shook as he tried to choose his answer, "I had been sent reminders of the consequences of failing in my mission. It was necessary to show that I was trying."

"What were the reminders that you were sent?"

"A lock of my mother's hair and newspaper clippings."

"The newspaper clippings were of what?"

"Articles of missing Muggles. It was a reminder that more would be killed if I did not succeed."

"As a member of a pureblood family did the fate of a few Muggles really matter to you?"

"No one deserves to be tortured and killed like that - not wizards. Not Muggles."

"The Muggle deaths to which you referred. These took place at Malfoy Manor?"

"Yes."

"How many Muggles were killed?"

"Three." The word was whispered.

"Speak up please."

"Three."

"And who killed these Muggles?"

"Voldemort."

"During the summer of 1996 did Garrick Ollivander become a prisoner at Malfoy Manor?"

"Yes."

"Where was he held."

"In the cellars"

"For how long was he held prisoner?"

"Until June 1998 when he escaped with Potter and the rest."

"What were your interactions with Mr. Ollivander over this time period."

"I brought him food and water when I was home from school. I brought him blankets and cast warming spells to help him stay warm."

"Who assigned you these tasks?"

"No one. I had been forbidden to have contact with the prisoners."

"Forbidden by whom?"

"Voldemort. Bellatrix. My father."

"You say prisoners. Who else was held in the cellars?"?

Draco shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Luna Lovegood, Harry Potter, Granger, Weasley. Others, many times I did not know the names of who was there."

"Did you provide food and other comforts for these prisoners as well?"

"For Luna, yes. The rest were only there for a few hours."

"The night that Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger was brought to Malfoy Manor in April of 1998. Were you summoned?"

"Yes. I was asked to identify Harry Potter by Bellatrix."

"And did you do so?"

"No."

"Why not."

Malfoy looked at his lawyer with a laugh, "Because they would have summoned Voldemort and he would have killed him."

"And you did not want this to happen?"

"No."

"Harry Potter escaped that same night with the other prisoners. Did you assist in this escape?"

"Yes. I released the wards that prevented disapparation out of Malfoy Manor."

Harry felt his jaw drop open and he turned to Hermione to Ron. "Did you know about that?" he whispered. They both shook their heads. Harry looked over at the prosecutor who was consulting with the other members of his team. Again, he felt a flash of anger at how the trial was being handled. That information should have been found out before Malfoy was ever brought to trial.

"Were you punished for this action?"

"Yes."

"How were you punished?"

"Cruciatus."

"Were you threatened with death as a punishment?"

"Yes."

"What reason was giving for not killing you."

"They thought I might be still of use to them."

"At Hogwarts?"

"Yes."

"When Harry Potter left the Manor did he take your wand with him?"

"Yes."

"The next time you saw Harry Potter was the night May 2nd. You attempted to retrieve your wand."

'Yes."

"Why?"

"Because I was using my mother's and could not cast spells well with it, I could not fight with it."

"For whose side did you want to fight that night."

"Against Voldemort."

"Even though you were a marked Death Eater."

"Yes."

"What happened in the Room of Requirement?"

"Potter refused to return my wand. Crabbe tried to kill him and Grander and Weasley by toppling over a tall stack of stuff on them. I tried to tell Crabbe that he couldn't kill Potter. He refused to listen and the idiotic git decided to use fiendfyre. The fire was out of control and we climbed to the top of one of the stacks and Potter and Weasley came back and rescued us. Goyle and me. Vincent was already dead.

The bell chimed and Malfoy sank back in his chair in relief.

Kingsley stood up. "As governed by the defendant's right after the use of Veritaserum this concludes the defendant's testimony for today. In order to expedite this trial we will proceed with the prosecution's next witness after a one-hour recess for lunch."

OoooOo

"The prosecution calls Harry Potter to the stand."

Harry stood up and walked to the witness stand. He settled into it easily, the first two trials he had had a hard time in the chair. It was only a few years ago he had had to sit in the very same chair during his Underaged Magic trial. The fears from that day stuck with him even after all this time, after all he had been through.

"Please state your name, age and residence."

Harry waited as there was a cough from Kingsley. Smith flushed and turned back to Harry. "My apologies, just your name and age for the record." The ministry had agreed to preserve 12 Grimmauld Place's unplottable status in order to help protect Harry's privacy.

"Harry Potter, eighteen."

"You were a student at Hogwarts from 1991 until you left the school following your sixth year in 1997?

"Yes."

"You were in the same school year as the defendant Draco Malfoy?"

Harry rolled his eyes at the tediousness of the questions. "Yes."

"Please describe your relationship with the defendant."

"There was no relationship. We were in different houses. We, or I at least, tried as much as possible to avoid him. We had some classes together."

"So you wouldn't describe your relationship as friendly."

Harry laughed, and with surprise, he looked over to see Malfoy smirking as well. Malfoy quickly looked away from Harry, not meeting his eye.

"No. We weren't friendly with each other."

"Please describe the events the night of June 30, 1997.

Harry hesitated, waiting. The prosecutor had been frustrated in the previous trials by Harry's and Kingsley's need to protect certain information. The withheld information had no impact on the trials but the prosecutor was frustrated that he was not given a reason, other than the standard 'Ministry Secrets.'

Kingsley spoke, "Please restrict your description to the events that happened at Hogwarts."

"Headmaster Dumbledore and I had been on a trip. We apparated back to Hogsmeade. Rosmerta Boraca pointed out the Dark Mark over Hogwarts. We flew on broomsticks to the Astronomy Tower at Hogwarts." Harry stopped, paused remembering that panicked flight on brooms, landing on the tower ramparts. The sounds of a battle echoing up from the castle.

"And what happened, next."

Harry described how Dumbledore had told him to get Snape, but before he could go down the stairs there had been the sound of someone coming. Dumbledore using the Full Body hex on him and covering him with his cloak so he could see and hear everything that happened but could not do or say anything. Malfoy coming in to the tower and the conversation that followed. How Malfoy had stripped Dumbledore of his wand. Had told about how the Death Eaters were in the castle. Harry closed his eyes trying to remember the exact chain of events. Dumbledore had been so weak, and Malfoy had been standing in front of Dumbledore holding up his wand, shaking.

"Dumbledore told Malfoy that he had known that he had been forced by Voldemort to try and kill Dumbledore. Malfoy told Dumbledore that nothing had gone as planned and that if he didn't do it Voldemort was going to kill his mother. Dumbledore said that he had known all along about the plot, but had not wanted to discuss it with him for fear that Voldemort would use Legilimany and discover that Dumbledore had talked to Draco. But now that it was time, he wanted Malfoy to fight on the side of the Order, to hide no longer. Dumbledore assured him that the Order could protect Malfoy and his mother.

"And what did Malfoy say?"

"He repeated that everything had failed. Dumbledore told him that all was not lost. He said that Malfoy had not given up everything for nothing. That there was still a way out. Then Malfoy told him that there were Death Eaters in the school. That they had entered using the vanishing cabinet Malfoy had repaired. That they were fighting in the school."

Smith pointed to Malfoy, "The defendant told Dumbledore that he was the one that let in the Death Eaters?"

"Yes."

"Did the defendant threaten Dumbledore?"

"Yes. Malfoy said that Voldemort was going to kill his mother, Malfoy's mother. That he had run out of choices. Dumbledore repeated that the Order could still protect Malfoy's family. That there were still choices."

"What happened next?"

"Malfoy lowered his wand, Dumbledore was moving towards him then all of the sudden I could hear people coming up the stairs. The Death Eaters were coming up the stairs."

"These are the Death Eaters that the defendant himself was responsible for letting into Hogwarts using the Vanishing Cabinet?"

"Yes. There were four of them, they began to argue about who should be able to be the one to kill Dumbledore, since Draco had failed to do it. They were still arguing about it when Severus Snape came out on the ramparts. Snape delivered the Avada Kedavra."

"What happened after that?"

Harry took a shaky breath, "Dumbledore fell from the tower, I was released from his Body Bind spell upon his death. The Death Eaters, including Snape and Malfoy fled. I pursued them towards the lane that leads to Hogsmeade but was unable to catch them.

"Please describe what happened the next time you saw Draco Malfoy."

"Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger and I were captured in April of this year by a group of snatchers. The snatchers brought us to Malfoy Manor in hopes of a ransom. Malfoy, Draco Malfoy, was summoned by his father and Bellatrix Lestrange to identify me. Hermione had used a stinging hex before we were captured to disguise my face. Malfoy told them that he didn't think that it was me. But, he and I, both knew that he did. Unfortunately, Ron and Hermione were identified by the photographs in the Daily Prophet and Lucius Malfoy was convinced of my identity. We were sent to the cellar and found the other prisoners. I was able to summon Dobby a house elf from Hogwarts who used to work at Malfoy Manor, he assisted in our rescue."

"So Draco Malfoy did not assist you."

Harry shifted uncomfortably in the chair, "I was not aware of his help. Dobby used elf magic to get through the wards, but three of us disapparated separately, using side along to bring Luna and Ollivander back with us. If there were wards preventing disapparation then someone must have dropped them because we had no problems leaving."

"So there is no proof that, if there were such wards, that it was Draco Malfoy that dropped them."

"Other than Draco Malfoy's testimony under Veritaserum saying so, no."

"When you left, you took Draco Malfoy's wand, correct."

"Yes, mine was broken, I needed a new one."

"What became of this wand?"

"I used it until I had my own wand to use. I still have it. "

"Why didn't you turn it into the Ministry?"

Harry shrugged, "No one asked me for it. My intention was and is to give it back to Malfoy, if he is released."

The prosecutor looked excitedly at Kingsley, "I would like to request that the witness present the wand as evidence, so that a wand master may examine it."

"I will allow that." Kingsley nodded.

"Mr. Potter, when would you be able to..."

Harry reached into his robe pocket and pulled out the hawthorn wand. He looked over at Malfoy who was glaring at him. His lawyer leaned over and caught his arm. Malfoy looked at him and nodded. The lawyer obviously wanted to know if Malfoy thought the wand was his. Harry didn't know why he had slipped the wand in his pocket that morning, it was a last minute decision as he was heading out the door.

"Erm, thank you. That was very prompt."

The rest of the afternoon was spent with testimony from Ron, Hermione and Luna. All confirming the same things. Ollivander took the stand shakily and supported Malfoy's testimony that Malfoy had brought him food, water and other items which made it possible for him to endure the two years of captivity.

"I have no doubt that if it was not for Draco, I would have died that first winter."

OoOooOO

"Please state your name and occupation for the record."

"Theodore Loveless, I am a wand master," the wizard was tall and wiry, of about seventy years of age. His gray hair hung down to his shoulders

"And your residence, sir."

"St. Ives, Cornwall."

"Have you had an opportunity to exam the wand in question?"

"I have."

"Have you determined the original owner of this wand?"

"I have. The wand was originally sold to and used by Draco Malfoy."

"And how did you come to this conclusion?"

"From the description provided by Garrick Ollivander, the wand's creator and by matching the magical signature of Draco Malfoy to the wand's history."

"Were there indications that anyone else had used the wand?"

"The wand has one other master, its current master. The magical signature matches that of Harry Potter."

"Please provide the court with an analysis of the wand's memory."

"If I may at first provide a brief explanation of what my analysis can and cannot determine?"

"Of course."

"When analyzing a wand's memory I am able to determine the magical signature of the caster, the sequence in which significant spells were cast. However, as we all use our wands every day for mundane tasks that require little magical power, these spells fade from the wand's memory. What is retained by the wand over time is just those spells of such power and force as to imprint themselves in to the wand's own magic. These impressions can be retrieved going back several years, depending of course on how powerful the witch or wizard's magic is. When a wand master analyzes a wand's history, we begin by unraveling the history, very much like a ball of thread."

The man walked to the center of the floor where a small stand had been set. He placed the wand in a vertical wand holder so that its point tipped straight up.

"For the protection of those present I will cast a shield within which I may release the history without releasing wild magic into the room. Once it has been safely released and visible I will provide my analysis. I beg the court's time as this does take a few minutes."

Loveless stood next to the wand and cast a shimmering shield that was at first opaque but within a few moments the surface cleared and they could observe the master standing next to the wand. The shield was nearly ten feet across and encompassed a large portion of the open floor space in front of the Wizengamot members. With his own wand he cast a beam of light at the hawthorn wand and a shimmering gold connection appeared. The wand master began to rapidly spin his wand arm around his head, the gold thread connection never broke and instead the enclosed area became filled with dozens and then hundreds of gold loops, each floating on its own. The gold thread wasn't smooth Harry realized suddenly but appeared to be knotted with beads or encircled with spots of colors.

Suddenly, Loveless lowered his wand and broke the connection to Malfoy's wand. The golden loops stayed where they were, hovering inside the small space. Loveless motioned with his wand and slipped through the shield. He was breathing hard. The exertion of unwinding had clearly drained him. He walked over to the witness stand and drank a glass of water.

"As will soon become clear," Loveless paused to take a deep breath, "I was surprised that such a relatively young wand that it has experienced significant powerful use. A most fascinating instrument. Now that the history has been unwound I can drop the shield and provide the analysis."

With a flick of his wand the shield disappeared. Immediately the golden loops sprang to fill the center of the room. In the bigger space the thin gold thread expanded becoming almost ropelike.

Loveless walked quickly to the other side of the room where a thin end of the rope floated. A blue knot twisted the rope near the end. "This is where the history ends, that is to say the most recent spells cast. This blue knot is that of the disarming charm, Expelliarmus. Which is very interesting, because as I have said, every day spells are not usually retained. This one was, however, issued with such force as to provide a permanent impression in the wand's history. It is, of course, the spell used by Harry Potter on You Know Who. Quite remarkable, it is the first time that I have ever seen such a power impression for a spell..."

A cough from Shacklebolt prompted the wand master to move on.

"As it was easy to determine from this one spell that the caster was Harry Potter, I was able to trace back to where the wand exchanged hands." He stood where he was and pulled on the rope. The loose end with the blue knot dropped neatly on the ground behind him, as he pulled the rope coiled on itself. He came to a black knot. "Here is where Mr. Potter cast the Cruciatus curse. Again, a very powerful magical marker." The stillness of the gallery erupted in excited talk, as everyone turned to stare at Harry. He sat stiffly in his seat, Hermione touched his arm and he leaned to whisper in her ear, "Carrow." Thinking back to that late night in the Ravenclaw Tower with Carrow threatening Professor McGonagall.

Kingsley Shacklebolt banged his gavel on the desk, "If the witness would please limit his testimony to the wand usage of the defendant who is on trial."

"Of course, of course." the wand master rapidly pulled on the rope. Hand over hand, the wand master made the rope fly through his hands. Harry watched the knots slip by, there was a section that had a tight cluster of knots. Hermione nudged him. "Gringotts" Ron smiled over at them from the other side of Hermione and nodded. The previous week Harry had had to meet with Gringotts representatives to negotiate a settlement for the damage they did in their break-in. He was grateful that Bill Weasley had been able to participate in the meeting. The goblins were still livid but they were able to come up with a compromise and he once again had full access to his vaults.

At last the man stopped, he held up the rope. "It is here the signature changes. A magical signature is much like a heartbeat. Wand masters can feel it pulsing and can match it to the wizard. In this case it also made easier because as you can see here the twisting of the rope here is reversed. Mr. Malfoy is left-handed and of course, casts with his left hand.

"My analysis of Mr. Malfoy's usage is this, there are significant times where the wand was clearly used only for schoolwork, no significant usage. Except these peculiar lavender knots. Which I admit, I had never encountered before. After reviewing the testimony regarding the Crucifigo spell I decided to conduct an experiment with a willing assistant. I was able to determine that these knots are indicators of this most unusual spell." He started to pull on the rope again.

"As we move farther down the wand's history," the wand master paused and held up the rope for all to see the black knot woven into the rope. "We again have the familiar black knot of the Cruciatus curse. It is the only time the Cruciatus curse was used by Mr. Malfoy. Thanks to Mr. Malfoy's Veritaserum testimony, it also provides a time-marker for this portion of the history. This occurred on August 1st 1997. Going back further, we have another long spell of no significant spells or particularly powerful magic."

The wand master's hands and arms were moving non-stop to pull the gold rope through his hands. Sweat was starting to roll down his face from the exertion. Harry was impressed that such a seemingly frail man could exert so much effort. The coil on the ground was growing rapidly behind him. The man stopped and held up the rope.

"Here, we see the knot of the Imperius curse. It was used twice within a two month period. Again this matches the testimony provided regarding Rosmerta Boraca." The wand master let go of the rope and again walked over for a drink of water. Harry noticed with surprise that most of the rope was now coiled on the ground. All that remained was a single line of the rope stretching across the room like a clothes line. At the very end was a single knot, it was far larger than all of the other knots combined.

Harry gazed fascinated at the Gordian knot. It appeared to be woven of multicolor threads of violet, gold and blue and was so large that it appeared to weigh down the end of rope. He looked over at Hermione, she was at the edge of her seat. "This is truly fascinating, I had no idea so much could be learned from a wand." she whispered to Harry.

The wand master walked over to the knot. "And finally we come to this final knot. It was so powerfully cast and woven of two magical signatures that it actually stopped the wand history, I was unable to pull anything more after this." the man stretched his hands out and without touching the knot he was able to levitate it into the center of the room.

"And, what was this spell that was cast?" The prosecutor had sprung up. His excitement was evident on his face.

"A memory charm, a very powerful memory charm. Not your run of the mill obliviate. And one, I might add, that was applied to a significant time period of memories."

Harry looked over at Draco Malfoy. The blond had moved to the edge of his seat and was shaking his head as if denying what was happening in front of him.

"And who was the victim of this, as you say, significant memory charm? Can you determine the subject of this crime?"

The wand master gave a small smile, "Unlike a Pensieve memory that can replay an entire memory, the knot does not have that capability." Harry watched as Malfoy fell back in his chair in relief. "However, I have determined that I will be able to pull fragments of the memories that were erased-"

Goldstein was on his feet, "It is my understanding that obliviated memories cannot ever be retrieved, even fragments." Malfoy's face had gone completely white, his whole body was shaking.

The wand master smiled, "As I said when I started, this wand is very unique. There is only one circumstance when memories can be retrieved. This is much like when a wand duels with its own twin core and experiences Priori Incantatem. The only way a wand can retrieve memories, or rather fragments of memories, is when the two magical signatures that created the knot are also the signatures of wizards who have been or are master of the wand. Such is the case with this knot of memories."

Silence filled the room.

Goldstein sank to his seat, slowly. Kingsley Shacklebolt's voice rang out into the silence. "To be absolutely clear. You are saying that the victim of this memory charm was Harry Potter."

"Yes." The wand master said simply, "Without question."

The room exploded with sound. Harry sat, stunned, oblivious of the noise and commotion that surrounded him. He stared at Draco Malfoy who, for the first time during the trial, had locked his eyes on to Harry's. There was no color in the blond's face. The gray eyes that had appeared dull and uninterested during the trial were blown wide in fear. Malfoy was shaking his head as if he could prevent the truth from coming out. Harry watched witlessly as Goldstein grabbed Malfoy's arm to get his attention, whispering furiously in his ear.

"Clear the gallery, clear the gallery." Kingsley voice rang out using Sonorous, the only way he could be heard over the clamor. Harry became aware of the flash of red robes standing in front of him and realized that the Aurors assigned to him had moved in and were standing on either side of him. Shielding him for the avid gazes of those around him. The sounds of shuffling feet and excited voices slowly faded.

"Harry, what does he mean, what did Malfoy do to you?" Ginny asked, she was clutching his arm pulling him towards her.

"I don't know. I have no idea." Harry muttered the words, "It has to be a mistake. Malfoy never got that close to me. Someone would have witnessed it."

Hermione was holding on to his other hand, "We'll just have to wait and see." she whispered quietly.

Ron was looking furiously down at Malfoy, "I knew you should never have gone back to save him from that fire, the git is evil."

Kingsley banged his gavel.

"Were you aware of this?" Shacklebolt shot the question at the prosecutor.

"No, your honor. The wand was presented as evidence at the last minute, by Potter himself. There was no time for the testimony to be reviewed prior."

"Harry, please step forward." Kingsley turned to look at Harry. He shakily stood up and moved to the stairs that lead from the gallery to the floor of the courtroom. He saw that Ron, Hermione and Ginny were moving down with him. He looked just at Kingsley, ignoring the excited faces of the witches and wizards of the Wizengamot.

"Do you have any knowledge of this event?"

"No, no. It must be a mistake. Malfoy never would have had a chance to do it."

"Loveless, is there any chance this is a mistake? That it is another person's memories that were erased?"

"No. None. I can prove it, it is easy enough to release the fragments of memories that were retained to be projected."

"NO! YOU CAN'T DO IT! DON'T DO IT." Malfoy screamed from the chair where he sat, the chair automatically restrained him as it felt him rising out of it, thin ropes wrapping around his forearms. Malfoy struggled against the restraint. "HARRY, DON'T LET HIM DO IT-"

"The defendant will be silent or be silenced." Shacklebolt's voice rang out.

"DON'T, FOR MERLIN'S SAKE, HARRY-" Draco's mouth was still moving but no sound was emitted as Shacklebolt's spell hit him. His body was writhing against the bindings, the cords of his neck bulging as he struggled against the restraint.

"Harry, did he just call you Harry?" Ron muttered quietly, "Since when has Malfoy called you Harry?" Harry shrugged. The whole thing had taken on a bizarre resemblance of one of his nightmares, he kept expecting to wake up in a cold sweat.

"Harry, should we proceed?" Kingsley looked at Harry.

Harry stared at Malfoy, who had stopped his struggles and instead was sitting perfectly still, staring at Harry as if willing him to say no. He was petrified, Harry realized. "Yes, I want to find out what this is all about."

"What do you need?" Kingsley asked the wand master.

"Simply lower the screen. It will take a few minutes to loosen the knot so it can be projected." Kinglsey nodded, he turned to the members of the Wizengamot. "A fifteen minute recess as the wand master prepares." Kingsley flicked his hand and four seats appeared on the courtroom floor, between the prosecution and defense tables. "Harry, I presume that you want your companions to be present, for support?"

"Yes, they know all my secrets anyway." He said it with small smile.

"Harry, can I talk to you?" Hermione was already tugging on his hand and pulling him away from Ron and Ginny.

"What's wrong?" Harry wasn't really paying attention to Hermione, his gaze was on Malfoy who appeared to have gone in to some kind of trance or stupor, he was sitting in the chair, rocking back and forth.

"I don't think Ginny should stay."

Harry gave a laugh, "What do you mean? I don't have anything to hide from Ginny."

"You don't know - we don't know what these memories are, they were taken from you." Hermione's voice was tight with concern. "I think there is a chance, that she shouldn't be here."

"Why?" Harry's voice was sharp.

"We've known each other a long time, Harry." Hermione tried to smile, "I guess I am asking you to just trust my instinct. I don't know what is going to appear on the screen, but there is a chance..." her voice trailed off.

Harry stared at her and then turned to Ginny who was standing next to Ron. Her red hair was in a long braid that was swung over her shoulder. She saw him looking at him and gave a smile. Harry knew she had been through a lot because of the Malfoys, both Lucius and Draco. He didn't want to put her through more if he could prevent it.

"Okay, I'll tell her, but where should she go? I don't want her standing out there in the corridor with all the press photographers."

"Have an Auror take her to Mr. Weasley's office." Hermione said it so quickly that Harry knew she had already thought of it before he had asked.

"She won't be happy but I'll do what you say." Harry walked away and told Ginny. She was, predictably, furious. Harry felt the start of a headache forming as at last she stalked away, accompanied by the Auror. The door had just closed behind her when Kingsley's gavel sounded, calling the room to order.

Harry, Ron and Hermione turned and took their place, Hermione still trying to explain to Ron why she had had Ginny leave.

The large projection screen filled one side of the room. Loveless stood at the other end. The gold knot had been expanded, still retaining its original shape but now space and holes floated through the tangle of colored threads. He had positioned a wand behind the knot.

"Are you ready, Loveless?" Kingsley bit out the words as if regretting the decision to display the memories.

"Yes."

"Proceed."

"Very well, as I said. The memories will be mere fragments, no sound of course. And because of the nature of the memory charm knot, I cannot control the sequence that they appear."

"What is your best estimation of the time frame that these memories cover?" Kingsley asked the question.

"Judging by the size and complexity of the knot, I would estimate two or three years. Of course the intensity of the memories, the emotion erased also affect the size of the knot."

"And you have not visualized these memories?"

"No, sir."

"Very well, are you ready Harry?"

Harry gave a brief nod, grateful for Hermione's tight grip on his hand. He heard the wand master give the incantation and a beam of light shot through the knot of threads and onto the screen. He turned his head automatically to the screen, thinking, irrelevantly that they should have brought popcorn because it felt like being in a Muggle movie theater. And then all thoughts left his head as he saw the image of himself and Draco Malfoy flying against a night sky, Malfoy laughing and holding up an illuminated snitch. The image broke away with a flash and was replaced by one of Cedric Diggory and Malfoy dancing with Harry leaning against a desk watching them and laughing. Flash. Draco and Harry sitting at a desk, books spread in front of them, Harry reaching out and tucking a strand of hair behind Malfoy's ear. Flash. Cedric Diggory and Harry standing next to a shouting Malfoy. Flash. Harry leaning against Malfoy, rows of books behind them. Flash. A naked Malfoy on top of a writhing Harry, his head thrown back in obvious ecstasy as Malfoy trailed kisses down Harry's bare chest.-

"ENOUGH. FINITE. END THIS NOW."

The room went dark. Harry's eyes were still fixed on the now blank screen. For the second time that day the room was completely silent. He looked around and saw that every person in the room had their eyes trained on him. He stood up shakily, "If you will excuse me." he said, his voice sounding strangely flat to his own ears. He focused on the stairs that led the way out. Walking towards them, he had to consciously think about putting one foot in front of the other. The silence followed him, although maybe it didn't, he could scarcely hear through the loud buzzing sound that was filling his head. Stumbling, his foot hit the first step and he was grateful when familiar arms gripped him from both sides. "Loo." he whispered, perhaps needlessly.

Ron and Hermione held up his sagging weight as they hurried him towards the door. Pandemonium hit as soon as the doors opened. "Harry Potter, did you know you had been obliviated?" "When did Malfoy attack you?" "Will you be pressing charges against Malfoy?" Harry was vaguely aware of that the Aurors were moving ahead, clearing the passageway until they made it to the loo. As soon as the doors closed behind them Harry rushed to the toilet stall and fell to his knees vomiting. He felt like his soul was being expelled with the bile that erupted from his mouth and nose. At last he collapsed against the wall, all strength gone.

"Here, Harry." Hermione said it quietly, holding out a bottle of water.

He reached for it, fumbling with the cap. Rinsing his mouth out, he spat the water on the floor, heedless of the mess. Hermione neatly vanished the puddle and sank down on the floor next to him, her hand gently stroking his hand that lay limply on his leg.

Harry looked up and saw Ron was leaning against the wall, his freckles standing out in stark contrast the paleness of his face. Ron shook his head at him, "Can't say I was expecting that, mate."

"You and me both." Harry said with a bitter laugh. "Could that have been faked, created?" he looked at Hermione.

Hermione shook her head, "No, Harry. I don't see how it could have been."

"Right. Wonderful. And to think I woke up this morning thinking that all of the strangeness in my life was behind me. That we would go to Hogwarts next week and I would be able to move on."
Harry closed his eyes. "If we stay in here long enough, do you suppose everyone will go away? I can't face all those cameras, all those people."

"I talked to the Aurors while you were, um, puking your guts out. They are clearing the corridor. We'll be able to go straight to the Apparition point." Ron said.

"I'll go check and see if it is clear yet." Hermione said, giving Harry a pat on the side of his cheek and easing herself up.

Harry nodded, his eyes still closed leaning against the stall wall. "Fucking Malfoy."

"Actually, it looked like..." Ron's voice trailed off abruptly as he stared down at the business end of Harry's wand that was pointed straight at him.

"If you know what is good for you, you will not finish that sentence."

Ron held up his hands defensively, "Sorry, sorry. I'm still in shock here. My brain has turned off." Ron said it with a wan smile.

Harry dropped his hand loosely in his lap, "You and me both."

They heard the sharp click of Hermione's heels on the tile, " I saw Kingsley, he said he would come by Grimmauld Place tonight. We can leave, everyone is gone. Are you ready, Harry?"

Harry gave a sharp laugh, "Ready as I will ever be." Ron held out his hand and Harry gripped it, pulling himself up.

 

Chapter Text

The sitting room at 12 Grimmauld Place was dark except for the flickering light coming from the fireplace. Harry sat sideways in a leather armchair, staring into the flames. A glass of firewhiskey in his hand that rested on his leg. The supper that Kreacher had prepared lay uneaten on a small table to the side.

"It could have been worse, Harry." Ron said from the sofa where he and Hermione sat holding hands.

Harry turned and stared at Ron in disbelief, "How, how could it have been worse? In front of the entire Wizengamot, on a three meter high projection screen, I found out that I'm not a virgin."

"Erm, good point." Ron muttered, "At least Kingsley cleared the gallery before allowing..."

"And it was just bits and pieces of images, Harry." Hermione said softly, "It was hard to tell exactly-" Ron squeezed her hand and shook his head.

Harry closed his eyes trying to erase the images of those 'bits and pieces' from his mind. Again, he thought with a bitter laugh. Just then the flames flared up and Ginny's voice came through the floo. "Harry, please, I just want to find out if you are okay."

Harry groaned but didn't respond. Hermione looked at Harry, "Do you want Ron to go and talk to her?" Harry sighed and nodded. Ron threw back the rest of his firewhiskey, he stood and went over to the fireplace. Looking at Harry he asked, "What do you want me to tell her?"

"Just tell her that...I'm okay. Tell her not to come to the trial tomorrow. I'll talk to her later." Harry finished tiredly. Ron nodded and smiled over at Hermione and threw a handful of floo powder into the flames and vanished. Hermione and Harry watched as the flames returned to normal.

"Harry, you had no recollection of those memories at all?" Hermione asked.

Harry looked over at her with a sigh, "No, well, yes... I'd seen something like them in my dreams. But I never thought they were real...I thought they were just weird fantasies or nightmares, but now I guess..." Harry turned his head and looked over at Hermione. "You knew something though, didn't you? That's why you said that Ginny should leave."

Hermione hesitated. He didn't sound angry; she realized worriedly. It was like all emotions had drained out of him. They had barely gotten him out of the courtroom before he had started to shake. He had turned back towards the flickering fire and was making green and silver sparks rise up in the fire, they blended with the red and gold flames and disappeared up the chimney.

"I didn't know, Harry, nothing for certain." Hermione closed her eyes as if looking back. "During fourth year, that seems like a lifetime ago now. I suspected that something was going on..."

"What." His voice had sharpened but nothing showed on his face.

"Something changed that year, you were happy. You were really happy despite everything with the Triwizard Tournament and even the next year with Umbridge. You would have a smile on your face and be humming some old Muggle song. And with Malfoy, even though you were still fighting each other, the fights were different. Almost orchestrated, like you knew exactly what the other was going to do."

Hermione sighed and looked sadly over at Harry. "And then all of the sudden it was over and everything was back to the way it was, even worse and..." she shrugged, "I thought I must have imagined it. I didn't think about it again."

Harry looked are her curiously, "What Muggle songs?"

"Oh, I don't know, really old stuff from the Stones, Beatles, Hendrix..."

"No, it can't be..." Harry shook his head at her and just stood up and rushed out of the room. Hermione heard his footsteps pounding up the stairs. She found him in Sirius' old room sitting in front of his school trunk. He was pulling everything out of the trunk until he got to the bottom. Hermione gasped as he pulled out a stack of Muggle record albums. A bright yellow submarine shown on the cover of the top one.

"I found these when I was clearing out my trunk, when we were getting ready to go find the Horcruxes. I couldn't figure out how they had gotten there. I had no idea whose they were..."

Harry sank down on his knees, staring blindly down at the cover. "And these groups...oh sweet gods, Hermione. What did he do to me?"

"I don't know, Harry. It makes no sense." Hermione sank down next to Harry. "Was there anything else in the trunk that you didn't know where it came from?"

Harry shrugged, "I was never good about emptying it out each year. I always just added to it. Always seemed to fit."

"Let's go through it, see what else is here."

Harry nodded and together they began removing everything. When they reached the bottom they were left with a small pile that Harry did not recognize. Hermione picked up the length of green silk. She ran it through her fingers, "One end has been sliced, the other side is finished. I think it is from a Slytherin scarf, Harry. And it is a good one, this is very expensive silk."

He nodded dully and picked up the snitch. "This is a practice snitch, I've never had my own...always used the team's."

"Do you think it is the one that was in the memories?" she said the words softly, afraid of his reaction.

"I suppose, it could be." he shrugged as he tossed a small paper sack into the rubbish bin.

"What was that?" Hermione asked curiously.

"Just some pastilles that Dumbledore gave me last year, right before he died. They were nasty, I think I saved them just because they were from him." He turned and picked up the coin. He didn't notice Hermione reaching into the bin and taking the sack of candies and putting them into her pocket. Harry looked at the coin had a Gryffindor lion engraved on it. "And this?"

Hermione reached out for the coin, "I have seen this before, Harry. You asked me to put the Protean charm on it." She shook her head, "I can't believe I never asked you about it again. I remember now, you wanted it as a Christmas present for someone."

"I didn't tell you who?"

"No...I don't know. I can't believe I forgot about it." her hand shook as she held the coin, "Do you think that I was obliviated too?" Harry folded his hand over hers, and shook his head.

"No, if you had you wouldn't remember the coin at all." He closed his eyes. "I would give anything for this to be just another dream. Why did I ever give them the wand, Hermione?"

"You wanted to do the right thing, you always do. There is no way we could have predicted..."

"That I had obliviated sex with Draco Malfoy?" Harry choked on the words.

"Well, erm, yes." Hermione tried to laugh but couldn't quite manage it. "I don't know if I should mention it but the Protean charms retain a history. Usually the last couple of messages received and sent."

"Do it."

She hesitated, "Hand me your Charms book, I haven't done this one before. I want to make sure I get it right." Harry nodded and dug through the trunk for his old Charms text. Handing it to her, he turned back to the trunk and with a flick of his wand he sent the rest of the trunk's contents back into the trunk. Setting his wand down on the albums he turned back to see Hermione muttering the incantation over the Protean charmed coin.

"Hand me that sheet of paper, Harry. I can imprint it on the paper so we can keep a record." Harry looked around for the paper that they had found crumpled at the bottom of the trunk and handed it to her. With a practiced flick of her wand she sent the shimmering spell on to the paper.

The words swirled on to the paper and then disappeared. Hermione blinked. She looked from the wand to the paper. "That shouldn't have happened."

"What shouldn't have happened?"

"The messages should have appeared on the paper, but the words just disappeared instead." Hermione bit her lip, "Why would they have..." She felt the paper and gave a smile. "Of course, how clever."

"Hermione." He bit out the word, his patience was non-existent.

"The paper is enchanted. Something is needed to reveal what is on it...probably when the right wizard's wand touches the paper."

"Let me guess, my wand." Harry reached for his wand. Hermione lay the paper on the ground and Harry touched his wand to it. Dark lines immediately began filling the surface. "Merlin." Harry groaned as Malfoy's image emerged. Harry's face appeared, their arms were wrapped around each other. Against the surface of the drawing came the words from the Protean Charm.

What is wrong? What happened to you?

D, I am really worried. Talk to me.

D, I love you.

"Those are the last messages that you sent. Shall I retrieve the ones that Malfoy sent?" Hermione was biting her lip, wishing she hadn't told him that she could retrieve the messages. It could have been later, he had been through too much already that day. It had never occurred to her that it would be love messages.

"Sure, why the hell not." Harry said it almost listlessly. His head was tilted as he looked at the drawing, his face was expressionless.

I love you.

Remember that I'll always love you.

Have to go.

Harry picked up his wand and the words and image faded away. He touched it again and it came back. Hermione looked at Harry worriedly; she was very concerned with how calmly he was behaving. He wasn't yelling or cursing, just sitting there staring at the drawing, at the words written on them. His face was drained of color but that was the only indication that something out of the ordinary was going on.

"So it appears that I exchanged love notes with Malfoy, someone drew us dancing, and we played seeker games at night with this snitch. This clears everything up." Harry looked around for his glass of firewhiskey and took a deep swallow.

They heard the sound of the doorbell ringing downstairs. Hermione stood up with relieve, "That will be Kingsley. Maybe he will be able to fill us in..."

"Yes, maybe he's found evidence that proves I'm a Veela werewolf that has a secret love child with Malfoy." Harry stood up. "That would finish off this day quite nicely."

"Harry." Hermione put her arm on his shoulder as he moved to brush past him, "You know that Ron and I will stand by you. No matter what happens."

Harry gave a laugh, "Sure, you will, but will I? Draco Malfoy. Malfoy the git who broke my nose sixth year. Malfoy who fought, taunted or hexed me whenever he got the chance. And I sent him lovey dovey bloody secret messages. And I danced and did," he shook the paper, "I don't know what with him. I don't know even where to start to understand this or if I even want to."

"We don't know everything Harry, don't judge yourself or Malfoy. Let's just find what we can, okay. Then we'll go from there."

They went down the stairs together. All three of them had been living at Grimmauld Place since the trials had begun weeks earlier. Ron and Harry originally had gone back to the Burrow following the battle at Hogwarts. Hermione had spent a month visiting with her parents who were back living in their home after nearly a year of hiding at an Order safe house with the Dursleys.

Harry had been restless and felt trapped in the Burrow. It was too much so soon after everything happened. Seeing Ginny every day had been awkward, she had clearly been ready to start things up again and Harry just couldn't, not yet. He had used the trials as an excuse to leave. Ron had told his parents that he didn't want Harry to be all alone at Grimmauld Place. Shortly after that Hermione had moved in in order to be able to attend the trials and to be close to Ron.

Kreacher was at the bottom landing, "Harry Potter, sir. Minister Shacklebolt is in the sitting room for you. Would you like refreshments served?"

"That won't be necessary, Kreacher. Thank you." Hermione spoke to the house elf because Harry had ignored him and just walked down the corridor. Kingsley was standing in the middle of the sitting room talking to Ron who must have just returned from the Burrow, he was still brushing Floo powder off his shoulders.

"How is Ginny?" Harry asked, ignoring Kingsley for the moment.

"Very worried," Ron said with a shrug. "A special edition of the Prophet came out." he said the words hesitantly. "She saw it and was pretty upset."

"They couldn't wait until the morning?" Harry looked from Ron to Kingsley in disbelief.

Kingsley shook his head, he pulled a copy of the paper out of his robe pocket and handed it to Harry. OBLIVIATED screamed the headline in six inch letters, underneath was a photograph of Harry being supported by Ron and Hermione leaving the courtroom. The photo-Harry walked like an automaton, his face slack with shock. Photo-Ron-and-Hermione looked almost as stunned but at least had the presence to glare at the people blocking their way.

"What does it say?" he asked disinterestedly as he tossed it into the fire. He went over and sat sideways in his favorite leather armchair again.

Hermione motioned for Kingsley to sit down in the other armchair, since Harry hadn't said anything. She and Ron went and sat down on the sofa. "Nothing about the actual memories we saw, we are trying to contain that and so far have succeeded" Kingsley said, "But a lot about how the memories were found."

Ron w whispered to Hermione, "He doesn't seem very upset."

"He is in shock. Just shutting down."

"The trial is officially on hold. Draco Malfoy is on the medical ward, being treated for injuries he sustained from the guards on his cell block. I have the head of the Auror Department investigating what happened. The guards claim he provoked the attack, but no matter what the cause, he was beaten and hexed severely."

"Bloody shame they didn't finish the job." Ron muttered, Hermione nudged him and shook her head.

"No, he is the only one that can tell us what happened." She looked over at Harry, he hadn't shown any interest in the news about Malfoy.

"Harry, you don't remember anything about, well, a relationship with Malfoy?" Kingsley said, his voice tight with embarrassment.

Harry shook his head, but didn't look away from the fire. "Nothing that I didn't think could just be weird dreams. We were sleeping in the rough for months, your mind starts playing tricks on you after a while."

Kingsley looked worriedly at Harry but decided to go on, "Well, Malfoy needs a day or two to recover from his injuries. Harry, I would like you to go to St. Mungo's tomorrow. See if they can-"

"NO!" Harry leaped to his feet and faced Kingsley jabbing his finger at him, "I am NOT going to have anyone poke their BLOODY wands at me to find out what the BLOODY else is BLOODY wrong with me. I've had a enough. I am BLOODY DONE. I was a BLOODY HORCRUX. I BLOODY WELL DIED. I had a BLOODY MADMAN living in my head for BLOODY YEARS. AND NOW I AM THE BLOODY OBLIVIATED GAY LOVER OF A BLOODY DEATH EATER. To hell with you Kingsley and the whole bloody wizarding world." He turned and stormed out of the room but not before overturning the side table where the supper had been laid as he left. Walburga Black's portrait started ranting and Hermione heard Harry throw something at it before heading up the stairs.

The three figures sat stunned where they were, listening to the slamming of doors and the sound of something being thrown against a wall.

"Well, that's good." said Hermione with a satisfied smile.

Ron and Kingsley looked at her in disbelief. "That was good?" Ron said with a laugh.

"Yes, much better that he is angry and smashing things to smithereens than sitting here like a zombie and retreating into himself. Ron, why don't you go upstairs and let him yell at you for a while. Just in case he gets a little too carried away," this was accompanied by another loud crash, the sound was almost muted by the raised voice of the portrait still raving about mudbloods. "And for Merlin's sake please close the curtains on Walburga as you go by."

"Right. Marvelous. I certainly am getting all the fun jobs tonight. If I don't come downstairs in an hour or so, send in reinforcements." Ron squared his shoulders and left the room.

"Sorry, Kingsley. He has been in a daze since we left the courtroom. It is good that he snapped out of it, I was getting worried."

"Quite all right, and definitely better than the alternative. Haven't heard that much swearing since Sirius and I stayed up all night drinking and sharing our troubles a couple years back. Sirius could swear as hard as he could drink." Kingsley shook his head.

"Sir, I would like to have the mind healers at St. Mungo's to examine me and Ron." Hermione said it hesitantly, but with resolve. "I suspect that if Harry's memories were tampered with, ours could have been also. Harry and I were looking at something upstairs and I knew I had seen it before but something was wrong about the memory."

"There is a very good chance of that, I am afraid. Malfoy and whoever helped him do this, they would have had to done something to you, too. You would have known something was wrong, otherwise." Kingsley sat back down. "This was always a farce of a trial. I should have never allowed it to be rushed in front of the Wizengamot like it was. Too many things about Malfoy that didn't add up. But I let that bloody Smith and his team convince me otherwise."

"Are you going to declare a mistrial?" Hermione asked.

"Not yet, but the possibility is definitely not off the table. It is, of course, now a closed trial. No public gallery observing. Harry can attend and have whoever he needs with him for support."

"Did Malfoy say anything after we left the courtroom?"

"No. He was pretty much catatonic, he wouldn't or couldn't walk."

"Then how did he provoke the attack?"

Kingsley nodded soberly, "All the guards that were there are being questioned. The first report is that he went from being completely passive to attacking them. We'll get to the bottom of it and I have an E.Y.E. on him now, recording everything so if anyone else decides to get their revenge, we'll be able to stop them. Especially considering what happened with Lucius Malfoy." Hermione nodded soberly, Lucius Malfoy had resisted arrest and been killed by the Aurors who had been trying to bring him in.

There was a loud echoing crash upstairs, Hermione winced, "I think that was the wardrobe. I hope the boggart didn't get out."

Kingsley laughed, "I think I won't get anything more from Harry tonight. When he comes around," There was another loud crash, "tell him that I would like to meet with all three of you tomorrow afternoon at four o'clock in my offices. I'm meeting with both attorneys and we'll decide how we are going to proceed." He stood up and shook Hermione's hand. "I'll owl St. Mungo's and tell them to expect you and Ron tomorrow morning. If Harry is willing to let them, erm, point their bloody wands at him, bring him with you. I would really like to find out everything we can before proceeding."

OOoOOO

Harry looked up as Ron and Hermione walked into the kitchen. Harry was sitting at the large oak table in the kitchen where he had placed Regulus' record player and the stack of Muggle records. Without a word he got up and poured them both a mug of coffee. Handing them them the mugs of fragrant coffee, he sat down on the bench across from them. Ron was holding Hermione's hand, gripping it tightly. Harry looked from one to the other. He'd known them long enough that it was easy to read their body language.

"He got you both, too. Didn't he?" Harry's voice was tight with anger, "Fucking bastard, I am going to-"

"No, Harry." Hermione shook her head, "We weren't obliviated. They checked really carefully for that, there is no sign of it." She took a deep sigh, "It was another spell, they can't tell when it happened but-"

"What did he do to you?" Harry snapped.

"A charm. A trust charm. An old one... very few people have ever heard about it. 'Adcredo', it makes you just accept what you are told to accept. To not question."

"Both of you?"

"Well, yes. It would have to be both of us." Ron said bitterly, "Bastard knew he wouldn't be able to do it to just one of us. Maybe you too."

"Is it reversible?" Harry asked quietly. Knowing that his own memory had been tampered with was bad enough, having it happen to his best friends because of him was almost more than he bear.

"Already done." Hermione said it with a reassuring smile. "Fortunately, it has a counter-charm."

"And? Do you remember anything different?" They shared a look again, and Harry suppressed the urge to feel irritated. Since they had become a couple, Harry had started to feel slightly like a third wheel.

"I spent a lot of time talking to the Healer Watson about the charm, Harry. And I need to do some of my own research," Ron and Harry snorted at the same time, "but, apparently nothing was erased. It simply made us accept and not question. That is probably why I knew about the coin, knew that you had given it to your boyfriend but didn't ask you about it later."

"And, why I knew you were gay, but didn't think twice about you dating my sister." said Ron, shaking his head. "We both knew you were gay, but it never occurred to either of us that since Ginny most definitely isn't a boy, that you shouldn't be interested in her. We never even talked about it."

"Oh god, Ginny. How am I going to explain this?" Harry shook his head, "Wait, this makes no sense. You knew I was gay?"

Hermione and Ron nodded, "You told us the first week of school, fourth year."

"I told you I was gay... so obviously I knew..." he said in disbelief, "So, why did I want to date Ginny? I definitely wanted to, it was just about all I could think about sixth year."

"You need to go to St. Mungo's, Harry." Hermione said, "You were probably given some kind of love potion."

Harry shook his head, "No. If there was more done to me, I don't want to know about it right now. Besides, that doesn't even make any sense. Even if Malfoy and I had some...thing going on. Why would he obliviate me and then give me a love potion to fall in love with Ginny. What could he have possibly have gained? How could he have even given it to me?"

"I don't know, Harry, I don't know why it was done," Hermione protested, "but a love potion would explain so much. You have to admit that your feelings for Ginny have changed, I knew that even in May. The potion was probably fading."

"Everything was so mixed up after the battle, but. I kept telling myself that once everything settled down I would be able figure everything out with her." Harry said, shaking his head. "How could I be gay, know I'm gay, and not remember?"

"Go. To. St. Mungo's," Hermione said with her teeth gritted. "Healer Watson was brilliant. Once you have the Adcredo taken off, you may remember more or think of things that happened that you dismissed because of the trust charm."

"I don't want to go." Harry mulishly. He loved Hermione but didn't she understand that he had enough to deal with, without adding more problems.

"It's okay, Hermione." Ron shook his head, "There is no rush, obviously this was done at least two years ago. A few more days won't make a difference." He looked over at Harry, "Right?"

"Right." Harry smiled at Ron with relief for understanding him.

Hermione clearly disagreed but decided to change the topic, "Harry, what is the significance of the record albums. Why these albums?" Hermione asked, flipping through them.

"I can't figure out how they got in my trunk."

"They aren't exactly new groups. These are all from the 60s. Do they have a special meaning for you?"

Harry hesitated, the months that they had spent on the run had brought the three of them closer together than ever. During those endless nights in the tent or around a campfire, he had shared a lot about life with the Dursleys. He had never told them about the worst day, when his uncle had discovered him listening to records in his cupboard.

"Should we put one on? I've never heard a whole album of Muggle music before." Ron said, reaching for the top one. Harry put out his hand and stopped him.

"I have to tell you about them first. I've been sitting here, trying to get up the nerve to play one. It has to do with being at the Dursleys. Before I even got my Hogwarts letter." Tracing the cracks in the table with his finger, Harry hesitantly told them about the night that his mother's record player and records were smashed by Uncle Vernon. Ron and Hermione looked horrified. Harry shook his head, "I just can't understand how this ties into Malfoy. It must have something to do with this whole thing, but I don't know how. But, I never told you two. Why would I tell him of all people?"

"What did you think when you found them last July? You said you found them when you were cleaning out your trunk."

Harry dragged a hand through his hair, "I guess I thought maybe someone put them in the wrong trunk. But I knew that they didn't belong to anyone in our dorm. We didn't even have a record player." Harry looked to Ron who nodded, "But I was so tense that day I found them, worried about getting to the Burrow safely, then Moody was killed and we were on the run and I didn't think about it again."

Hermione put her arm around him, "Let's not worry about it. We'll go to the meeting with Kingsley this afternoon. Maybe that will bring some answers."

OOoOoOoO

The trio entered Kingsley Shacklebolt's office with trepidation. Harry scanned the room quickly and sighed with relief when he realized that Malfoy was not among those present. His lawyer, Goldstein was there as well as the prosecutor and his assistant. Everyone turned to look at Harry as he entered.

"Thank you, Harry. I appreciate you agreeing to meet with us." Kingsley said the words as if Harry had a choice, he thought with a laugh.

"The purpose of course of this meeting is to decide whether or not the trial should continue, declare a mistrial and start over, or take some other action." Kingsley turned his gaze to the prosecutor. "As I have already stated, I had regrets that this case was brought to trial so quickly when it was clear that not all the evidence had been gathered."

"My office has dealt with twenty Death Eater cases in the last four months. If we took ridiculous amounts of time with all of them-"

"Justice would be seen, and you would save yourself of the trouble of having the decisions over-ruled. And a lad of eighteen would not be facing a life in Azkaban for behavior that was forced on him by others, usually using torture." said Goldstein.

"Let us sit down and discuss what we know and I have just received an owl that will be of interest to all parties."

They all found their seats and Kingsley pulled out a sheet, "First, Malfoy will be recovered enough the day after next to attend a hearing or resume the trial. The guards who were present have been interviewed using Veritaserum. He did provoke the attack to a degree, but the guards over-reacted. Two guards have been terminated and two others have been reassigned desk jobs for failing to protect Malfoy from the attack."

"What do you mean he provoked it?" asked Harry.

"He deliberately shoved the guards as they were putting him in his cell. Not much, the guards over-reacted."

Smith smirked, "He was probably trying to delay the trial, get himself injured so that it gets put on hold, just like it has been."

"Regardless of the cause, I have heightened the protection of Malfoy, including the use of the E.Y.E. I trust that will be sufficient to protect him," Kingsley turned to Malfoy's lawyer, "Mr. Goldstein, what knowledge if any did you have of your client's relationship with Harry Potter?"

"I would ordinary invoke attorney-client privilege, but there is no need in this case. I had absolutely no idea. He had spoken at the time of our pre-trial meetings about his various encounters with Mr. Potter but never indicated that there was any type of, well, intimate relationship."

"And, Harry" Kingsley turned to Harry who shifted uncomfortably in his seat, "From your reaction yesterday and the obvious memory loss, you had no idea as well."

"No, none." Harry shook his head. "Malfoy and I were nothing but antagonistic towards each other in school."

"Undoubtedly, there is far more going on than we know about." Kingsley said, "I would like to again reiterate my wish that you go to St. Mungo's, especially after having received the results from Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger's examination. Which they have already agreed to allow to be shared," he eyed them both, Ron and Hermione both nodded, "both had the trust charm, Adcredo, used on them at a time sometime in the past. It is impossible to know when. Presumably at the same time as your memory was erased."

Harry bit back the urge to say no, "I'll consider it."

"Actually, sir, the case of Mr. Potter's memory loss does bring up an interesting point. He has testified in five cases. Case in point, Narcissa Malfoy's release was granted almost solely on Mr. Potter's testimony. Because we have clear proof already that he has suffered... tampering-"

Harry felt the anger surge and started to stand up but Kingsley beat him to it. He slammed his fist on his desk. "Enough. The only evidence so far is that he has had memories removed. Not added, not altered. Until we find evidence to the contrary. His testimony will stand." Kingsley's voice was cold with anger. "If I hear one word that casts doubts on Mr. Potter's testimony or mental status your entire team will be dismissed. Is that clear?" The lawyer nodded reluctantly.

Kingsley continued grimly, "In light of Draco Malfoy's testimony I feel that we need to receive verification of the account of his time at Malfoy Manor. The only living witness that we have available to us is, of course, his mother. With that in mind I have requested her presence at the hearing. She will be accompanied to the Ministry by the Aurors from her current place of residence."

"Do you really feel that is necessary, sir?" the prosecutor said dryly "Narcissa Malfoy, had plenty of opportunities to provide information. What do you hope to gain?"

Kingsley glared at the prosecutor, "Information. which is what we need. Evidence to tell us what in Merlinl is going on. Do I make myself clear?"

"Certainly, sir."

"In addition, I have received an owl from Aberforth Dumbledore. He has Pensieve memories from his brother. Albus Dumbledore gave them to him for for safekeeping shortly before his death. According to Aberforth, Albus told him that he would know if and when it was necessary to bring them to our attention. Apparently that time is now."

"The memories have something to do with Malfoy and I?"

"Presumably, we will know more when he arrives. He will be present at the hearing and we will view the memories. With both of your permissions, these memories will be witnessed by just the smaller Wizengamot counsel and the involved parties. We do not want anything like what happened yesterday to occur.

"I have no objection." Goldstein said.

"Provided that there is proof that the Pensieve memories have not been tampered with, I will not object." Said Mr. Smith.

Kingsley turned to Harry, who shrugged. "If it helps answer what happened to me, I'm in favor of it."

"Very well, we will reconvene in Hearing Room D, the day after next to witness the Pensieve memories. Thank you all for coming in this afternoon."

As everyone was filing out of the room, Samuel Goldstein put his hand on Harry's arm. "If I could talk to you for a few moments, alone, Mr. Potter."

"Oh, sure." Harry said, blinking in surprise. "Where..."

"You may use my assistant's office, he has left for the day." said Kingsley, having overheard
the request.

Goldstein nodded to him, "Thank you, sir. Very kind of you." They were led to the other office and he shut the door. Goldstein looked at him nervously, "Mr. Potter, I find myself in a very awkward position. You, of course, retained me to defend both Narcissa Malfoy and her son. However, in light of these recent developments..."

"You want to know if I'm still going to pay your bill." Harry said flatly. He hadn't given a thought to the irony that he was actually paying for Malfoy's lawyer.

"Bluntly, yes. If I was handling this case in America I would do it gratis, it is so intriguing. However, with my expenses living here for the last six weeks..."

Harry stared at the man, who had the decency to look embarrassed. He had come to Britain at Harry's request, taking a leave of absence from his own firm. And had taken on two cases that no one else had been willing to and had done a damn decent job. Harry had been honest when he told Ginny that he owed a debt to the Malfoys. He had hired the lawyer anonymously; he owed it to them but didn't want Malfoy knowing about it. Now he was stuck paying to defend the bloody git who had obliviated him.

He refused to think about the notes that the Protean charmed coin had revealed. He wanted to just be able to walk away from it all. He was tired, bone tired. He hadn't been sleeping well before the Malfoy trials and last night he hadn't slept at all. He had laid awake for hours, gotten up to pace the house and finally as dawn broke he had tied on his running trainers and left the house. He had started running and hadn't stopped until he reached the river. He had stood by the riverbank, watching the last of the sunrise. Wishing he was anywhere but London. Wishing he could just leave everything behind and start over. There was a delicate cough and he remembered abruptly about the man in front of him. Damn the Malfoys. Damn the debt he owed them. But even as he thought it he knew what he would do.

"I'll continue to pay your expenses for one more week. And then he is on his own."
he said, fighting the temptation to tell the lawyer to go back to America. He was a better man than Malfoy and he was going to stand by his word to the lawyer.

Goldstein looked surprised. "That is truly generous."

"And I am more the fool for it." Harry said bitterly, "Do not tell Malfoy."

"No, sir. My services will remain provided by anonymous donation."

Harry walked out the door and met with Ron and Hermione. "What was that about?"

"Nothing. Where to now? Back home or our usual Muggle pub?" Harry asked as they walked down the corridor. They did not eat at any wizarding restaurants or pubs, it was too difficult to enjoy themselves with all the attention focused on Harry.

"The Burrow." Hermione said it firmly. "Ginny has been waiting all day to hear from you, and well, I think Molly and Arthur are owed an explanation as well."

Harry shook his head, "I don't know what to tell her. I don't know what happened yet. I can't tell her that - that, about what we saw-"

"You don't have tell her everything. Just say that Malfoy obliviated your memory and we just saw...erm, and that, erm, it was just...Bloody hell, I don't know what you should say." Ron shook his head. "But she already knows about that he took memories away from you. She is going crazy and is really worried about you."

"Do you think it will be any easier, if you don't tell her what we know up to now? And just have to tell her later?" Hermione asked, quirking her head to the side. "She is strong - she can handle a lot. But what she can't handle is not knowing, of being protected because you are afraid."

Ron and Harry looked at each other. "I would much rather skip that for a few more days," Harry said, shaking his head.

"Sorry, you aren't getting a choice." They had reached the apparation point while talking and Hermione grabbed each of their hands and with the practice move that she had done hundreds of times in the last year, disapparated bringing them along.

"Hermione!" Harry shouted angrily as soon as they landed outside the Burrow.

"Harry, you would have agreed eventually. Because you always do what's right. I just saved us some time." Hermione said. "Besides, it is Tuesday and that means..."

"Shepherd's Pie." Ron said with huge grin, "I can't believe I almost forgot it was Tuesday. Sorry, mate, no choice. We can't eat pub grub when Mum's Shepherd's Pie is just waiting here for us."

Harry groaned and started to argue but before he could get a sentence out, Ginny was flying across the garden towards them. Her red hair streamed out behind her as she ran. She slowed to a stop in front of them. She looked at all three and then her eyes focused on Harry."You aren't glad to be here." she said accusingly.

"I, erm, well, I mean, we were just..." Harry trailed off and glared at Ron and Hermione who were walking quickly through the garden towards the house. "I don't know what to tell you." He said it simply.

"The truth is always good." Ginny said dryly. "I've been going crazy here today. The truth can't be worse than what I have been thinking in my own head." She turned and led Harry to the garden bench that was on the near side of the garden. "My latest guess was that you had an affair with Malfoy, how crazy is that? So, really Harry, anything you..." Harry had stopped walking and just sank on to the bench, staring at her.

"Harry, what's wrong." Ginny said worriedly, putting her arm around him. "What did I say?"

"Ginny. I am so sorry." Harry laughed bitterly, "Oh, Merlin, this is so stupid. Here I am apologizing for something I didn't even know I did."

"What, what did you do? What don't you know?" Ginny said, her voice getting sharp.

"What you said," Harry said, he didn't dare look at her. His eyes were roaming the garden, seeking out gnomes. They were always there, hiding-

"What I said? I didn't say anything, just told you about the crazy ideas I have been having-" Ginny stopped, shaking her head violently. "You didn't, you couldn't have. Harry, you aren't even GAY!"

She shouted the last of it, standing up. Her hands on her waist. "This isn't funny, Harry. It isn't. If Ron put you up to this-"

"Ginny, gods, Ginny. I don't know ANYTHING. All I know right now is what we saw in the memories that were shown. And it was pretty clear that we, he and I were-"

"You cheated on me with DRACO MALFOY?" Ginny's voice had raised an octave.

"NO! Maybe! I don't know!" Harry shook with frustration, "That's why I didn't want to come here. How the hell am I supposed to know what I did since I don't remember?" Harry forced himself to take a deep breath. He wanted to reach out and grab Ginny's hand but was afraid to, "But Ginny, the glimpses we saw, I'm pretty sure that they were before we even started dating."

"The pictures you saw, showed you and Malfoy together?" Ginny said, her voice getting a little calmer. She sat back down on the bench.

Harry nodded miserably, "Yes. And last night, Hermione and I found some things at the bottom of my school trunk that seem to support, well, what we saw."

"Like what?" Harry could tell that Ginny was trying to hold it together but she was wringing her hands in her lap and had slid away from him slightly on the bench.

"Stupid stuff. A coin, like the D.A. coins but it was obvious that we used it to communicate with each other and, erm, a half a Slytherin scarf," Ginny shuddered at that, "and just some other things."

"So you are bi, or gay. Or something." Ginny said slowly.

"Or something." Harry said, "I wish I could tell you what I am, but obviously I don't have a clue. I can't tell you how badly I wish I knew what was going on, but part of me is terrified to learn more. Sweet Godric, Ginny. I wish I could tell you everything was going to be okay. But I can't."

Ginny stood up and held out her hand to Harry, pulling him up. She gave him a gentle hug. He hesitantly put his arms around her, "Harry, I can't tell you how I feel about all of this. I don't know. My instinct is to scream and rant at you, but I know this isn't your fault. It is that bastard Malfoy's fault. But it doesn't change the fact that I love you, have for as long as I can remember. And we will figure out what happened? Everything will be okay."

Harry tightened his arms around her waist, "You are more than I deserve, Ginny. You are the best thing to happen to me."

Ginny said dryly, "I'm not sure how to take that, clearly your standards in the past have not been too high." she stood up, "Come on, it is Tuesday. If we don't get in the house soon, Ron and Bill will have eaten all the pie. And then I really will be upset."

When they got to the house, Harry was very relieved to discover that Ron and Hermione had already told Ron's parents about what had been learned from the memory. Telling Ginny was bad enough, he couldn't imagine telling Arthur and Molly about it. Bill was in the kitchen as well, "It's Tuesday," he said with a smile. "Fleur is visiting her family this week so there is no reason for me to miss out. Besides, I needed to talk to you, Harry."

"The goblins better not want any more money..." Harry started angrily.

Bill laughed, "No, I'm pretty sure they know that they pushed the limit as far as they could. No, one of my co-workers came to me today. He said he wanted to talk to you about the, erm, situation."

"About Malfoy?"

Bill nodded. "He wouldn't say what, but just that he thought that it might help you know more about what happened. I know it seems like an odd request, but he is a straight-up good guy, if he says he has information, then he does."

"Who is he?" Harry asked puzzled.

"Simon Ward, he was at the meeting briefly last week."

"Don't know the name, but sure, I guess. Come by Grimmauld Place after work?"

"That will be fine, I'll let him know."

Arthur took Harry aside after supper was finished, "Harry, I realize I can never take the place your father, but regardless of what happens I want you to know that Molly and I consider you our son. I want to be there for you tomorrow."

Harry shook his head, "No, really. You don't have to do that." All he could think of was the memories that had already been shown. He would die of embarrassment at the thought of the Weasleys seeing it. "Please, no..."

"I am going to insist. Now, I understand from what Ron said, or rather what he tried to say when he wasn't stammering. That you saw things that were of quite a sensitive nature. Molly will stay home with Ginny. And I, well frankly, I have seen enough in my day that I wouldn't blush if we found out that you had an affection for goats."

Harry had choked at that and had agreed just so that he could leave without hearing further comments from Arthur Weasley.

OOOoo

The next morning Harry came down the stairs trying to stretch out the stiffness of the rough night of sleep. He went into the kitchen and from the smells alone realized that Kreacher had done a proper fry-up and for the first time in days Harry was surprised that he actually had an appetite.

Maybe talking to Ginny last night had helped more than he had thought. The only thing about this whole fiasco was the relief to get the confirmation that he was gay. He had thought he'd gone crazy over the last four months. He still loved Ginny, but no more than he did Hermione. That had been the first inkling that something was wrong. He hadn't felt any desire to get back together with Ginny. Deciding it was just exhaustion, he had waited for the old feelings to come back. But when he saw how Ron and Hermione hadn't been able to keep their hands off each other those first days after the battle. They had been through everything, almost, that he had. And it clearly hadn't stopped them, still wasn't he thought with a laugh, as he realized it was past nine o'clock and they were still not downstairs.

When he and Ginny had first started dating he had felt the same way. He loved every minute with her. But when he had gone back to the Burrow in May, everything was different. He had felt trapped by Ginny and knew that he didn't want to be alone with her. It had felt wrong kissing her and he couldn't figure out why. Finally, he had fled, going back to Grimmauld Place to get away from her questioning gaze. And that was even before the dreams had started, that had him left him waking in the morning confused. It was the night that he and Ron were at their favorite Muggle pub that he had to admit to himself that there might be something else going on. He had found himself ordering the cask conditioned ales, just for the pleasure of watching the bartender's biceps as he pulled the pint. It wasn't until he had idly wondered to himself what the man looked like with his shirt off that he knew there was only so much you can chalk up post-battle exhaustion.

Setting his plate in the sink Harry was surprised to hear an unfamiliar voice in the front hall. Heading down the hallway he stopped short when he saw Hermione standing there with another woman. A woman wearing the all too familiar robes of St. Mungo's.

"Hermione." he felt the anger building and tried to tamp it down, which was getting harder and harder to do.

"Harry, first of all. Don't worry. I apparated us directly to the front step. No one in the park saw Healer Watson arriving." Hermione said reassuringly. The press presence in the park across the street had multiplied tenfold since the news of Harry's obliviation had been revealed. Much to the confusion of his Muggle neighbors and the consternation of the Ministry that repeatedly warned the media that fifty wizards and witches in robes in a Muggle neighborhood was a clear violation of the Secrecy act.

"Hermione, I told you." Harry shook his head. He turned to the healer, "I am sorry you made a wasted trip."

"Harry! Just talk to her. Please, for me." Hermione pleaded.

"Mr. Potter, I do understand your hesitancy. If you would like me to leave I certainly will however I would like the opportunity to talk to you. I promise, I won't examine you or do anything against your will. Miss Granger is deeply concerned about you, perhaps you will consider it just to ease her mind." the healer looked at him expectantly, with a glance towards Hermione's anxious face.

Harry stared in disbelief at the two women. In his own home. "Right. Fine. In here," ungraciously he turned and stalked towards the sitting room, not looking back to see if they followed. He threw himself unceremoniously into the leather armchair.

The healer entered the room, turning back she spoke to Hermione who hesitated but nodded and turned away. The healer closed the door and walked over to the other armchair, sitting down and arranging her robes neatly.

"Mr. Potter, I fully realize that having me show up, literally on your doorstep is a tremendous invasion of privacy. Considering how little privacy you enjoy these days, it must seem all the more intrusive. I would not have come at all, but for the tremendous concern that Miss Granger has expressed. She is is genuinely worried about you, and frankly, from what I discovered between her and Mr. Weasley, rightfully, so."

"I'm sure she told you I am not interested in finding out what else was done to me." Harry said, gritting his teeth to keep from snapping at the healer.

"That is fine. Let me tell you what I found about what happened to Miss Granger, she of course gave me permission to speak about it." the healer said. She paused but when Harry didn't reply, she went ahead. "Miss Granger had been given a trust charm, called Adcredo, which I'm sure she told you. It is one of the most difficult, only an extremely powerful wizard or witch can cast it. Fortunately it is much easier to lift than to cast.

"It is a charm that does require the laying of hands on the head of the subject, it cannot be delivered by a wand or from a distance. While touching the subject, the caster tells them what they want he/she to accept. It is impossible to know exactly what the command was given to Miss Granger. The strength of the charm on both her and Mr. Weasley was very weak. These charms were not intended for long-term use. It is likely that any effects from their charms would have worn off by the end of the year.

"Fine. Then there is nothing to worry about. I'll just wait." Harry said, standing up. "Sorry to have wasted your time."

"Miss Granger suggested that you might have been dealt additional charms or potions. And there is the very obvious concern about the memory tampering." the healer said gently, Harry groaned and sank back down.

"Look, I appreciate it. But I know that memory charms are permanent. I can't get back what was taken."

"True. But, clearly you did not lose the entire two years of memories. So the memory charm that was used is very unique. Memories are interwoven like a tapestry. There are dark magic memory charms that are capable of removing only selected memories, almost always one of the extreme emotions - love or hate. These charm cuts the threads of these memories from the other ones that they are woven amongst. But it is impossible to completely erase all of the memories. There are going to be the torn pieces of memories that still remain, unlike a standard obliviate that cuts out the memory like a knife."

Unwillingly Harry felt himself drawn into conversation, "So the fact that I've had strange dreams that I couldn't explain with, erm, the person in question. Does that indicate that I might get some of those memories back?"

"Very probably. The fact that you have had some dreams already is a strong indication. Much like a victim of a stroke must relearn how to speak, how to do everyday tasks, your brain has suffered a severe trauma. The threads connecting the memories were severed but it is possible for some, and I do mean some, not most, will reconnect. They will always be fragments but you will be more certain of them, not wonder if they are a dream or nightmare. But like you have already experienced, they may come in your sleep, when your subconscious is most active. In addition familiar objects, sounds, or smells can also trigger these memories.

"What if I don't want them back, can they be disconnected permanently?" Harry asked, thinking back to the screen in front of the Wizengamot. He couldn't imagine living his life, dreaming those kind of dreams every night.

"No, irreparable damage could be done if any such memory charm is used on you again. You are extremely fortunate to have come through the first experience with a healthy mind."

"I assume Hermione told you that...I was probably given some kind of love potion?"

"Yes, she mentioned the likelihood. There are many different kinds of love potions. Without examining you it is impossible to say what if any may have been used."

"Is there one..." Harry hesitated, "What I tell you here is private, right. Just like if we were at St. Mungo's?"

"Absolutely, the healer/patient confidentiality protects you regardless of where we are."

"Is there a love potion that could make me fall in love, or think I am in love with someone who isn't the sex that I am usually attracted to? I mean that I wasn't attracted to before I had the potion."

"In a word, yes. But more likely to be successful, you were given a combination of potions. And by potions I mean the powerful potions of the dark arts, not your run of the mill Amortenia or Weasley Wheeze's novelty love charms. These love potions also need to be brewed by a potion master, not someone who just dabbles in potions."

Harry scoffed at that thought, Hermione had even produce Polyjuice Potion in their third year, if someone is determined enough they could do it, and Malfoy had always been at the top of their Potions class. "Do they wear off on their own? I was probably given it two years ago."

"Even the most potent love potion will wear off in six to nine months. No love potion would last that long without being re-administered."

"What are the ways it can be given? Could they have put it in my food?"

"Again, theorizing because I don't know precisely which one if any may have been given to you, it could have been put in your tea, soup, even a lolly. It is very difficult to give you accurate information without knowing more about your specific case, Mr. Potter."

Harry gritted his teeth. "Fine, you can examine me and see what was used." He may as well get over with; he knew Hermione would never stop pestering him until it was done.

"I think you are making a wise decision. It is better to know what one's condition is than to not find out simply because you are afraid of the potential outcome." Healer Watson pulled her wand out of her sleeve and nodded to Harry, "Perhaps easier if you close your eyes for this first part."

Harry hesitated, closing his eyes while facing someone's wand was not behavior that Mad Eye Moody would have approved of, but he obliged her and shut his eyes. Almost immediately he felt bands of magic tightening around him and he resisted the urge to open his eyes. He heard the healer begin to murmur incantations and the bands loosened gradually.

"Okay, Mr. Potter, you may open your eyes." Harry opened his eyes and immediately shut them again, the room was much brighter than it had been when he had shut them. The healer gave a laugh, "I should have warned you, the containment bands are rather bright, your eyes will adjust in a moment or two if you care to try again."

Harry cautiously opened his eyes again, blinking against the brightness until the glare subsided. The glare was from the bands of color that encircle him as he sat in the chair. The healer nodded approvingly, "Mr. Potter, I can confirm that the Adcredo was definitely used on you. It is represented in the band around you in turquoise hue. It is quite thin, only an inch or so wide, when it was originally cast it would have been ten times this diameter. Those corresponds with the time frame of Ms. Granger and Mr. Weasley's Adcredo, so they would have all been applied at the same time."

She pointed to the largest band that was nearly twenty inches wide, it floated near Harry's head. He craned his neck to try and see the whole thing. "It would appear that nearly two years of memories were removed, you can see the thick violet and gold band, this band represents your life's memories." she pointed with her wand. "The holes and slices through this section shows where the memories were removed."

Harry turned to look at the band that surrounded his head. "That is it, my memories?" he asked, fascinated and horrified.

The healer shook her head, "No, it is simply a reflection of them. The incantation I used can only create a mirror image," she pointed at the band, "Each year of your life represents approximately an inch of width in the memory band. It should be solid, it is for everyone who hasn't been given a memory charm. For someone who has been obliviated you will see just a minute hole punch or slice. On yours as you can see, it is solid up until this point," she pointed with her wand, "and then there is a honeycomb of holes and slices, those are the missing pieces." she looked gravely at Harry. "It is a significant memory loss."

"The blue edges that surround the gaps in your memory indicate that the memory charm used was Amoris Delere, one of the dark art ancient memory charms favored by Pureblood families.

Harry said blandly. "That would figure, Malfoys are Purebloods of course and love the dark arts."

"In addition, it is certain that a love potion was used on you, I believe it was Romanorum vis Amoris . As far as dark art love potions it is actually one of the milder ones, however it appears that it was used in conjunction with Quam Puella. Regarding your question earlier, I take it that the other subject of this love potion was female, and you normally are gay?"

"Yes." Harry said shortly, "I don't know Latin. Amoris, I understand, Quam Puella is..."

"Classic old world Pureblood potion to protect the family line. It redirects a gay male to be able to be attracted to a female. It was designed to beget an heir and then gradually wear off."

"How long does it typically last?"

"Again, it is hard to say without knowing the dosage given but I would imagine, with the Romanorum vis Amoris the potion would have had to be taken every six months to remain potent. Without taking more all effects probably would have faded within nine months. All that is left now is the mere shadow of the potion. I was barely able to discern enough to detect it. Another month and it would have been gone completely. "

"So when would I have taken it? Don't love potions hit all at once? I started, erm, thinking about Ginny in the fall of 1996 but it was nothing overwhelming." Harry said, thinking of Ron's reaction to the love potion given to him by Romilda Vane.

"I see you know of someone who has fallen victim to Amortenia. No, Amoris is much more subtle, when properly dispensed. It is given in small doses over a long period of time. I suspect that the Quam Puella potion was given first, and then the Amoris started within two or three months. When done subtly it makes no one is the wiser least of all you the, erm, victim. Especially when you and the people closest to you are under the effects of Adcredo."

"The, erm, Quam potion has worn off as well? Harry asked.

"I imagine you realize that more than I do." the healer said with a smile. "You have no need to fear any lasting effects from either of those potions. There is no need for me to treat you for them. But I would like to remove the Adcredo, with your permission. It is quite faded but may perhaps still be clouding some of your thoughts."

Harry thought of refusing, just to irk Hermione for bringing the healer to his house. "What happens when you take it off? Do I know right away about what I had, erm, just accepted because of it?"

"No, not precisely. Again there is no way I or anyone else can know about what the command was that was given. But in general, and certainly in the case of your friends, they had already had an indication, because of your circumstances, what might have been suggested. So they were able to realize fairly quickly what issues had been charmed. With you and the trauma your brain has been through it may be months until you are able to sort out everything and know what was retained, unfortunately you'll never know what was lost."

"Okay, take it off." Harry said. It was easier to just get it done with, at this point he just didn't care.

"It does require a laying of the hands." the healer held up her hands, "with your permission."

Harry shrugged and the healer laid her hands on his head and closed her own eyes. After a few minutes she opened them and picked up her wand. She drew it slowly up and down his body and the turquoise band that had been there was gone. "Just like that?" he said with surprise.

"Just like that. It is a very simple counter-charm, the complexity is in when it is placed." the healer tucked her wand in to her sleeve, "From your reluctance to even be seen by anyone at St. Mungo's I know that you will be resistant to this suggestion, but I strongly recommend that you consider visiting a mind healer, Mr. Potter."

Harry stood up, "No, absolutely not." He had enough people poking around in his head to last a lifetime.

"I make the suggestion not just because of the recent discovery, but because of the stress that you must have been under for the last year or more. I daresay that you find sleep difficult, dreams troubled, appetite poor?" Harry shrugged but didn't bother answering. "A mind healer could help with that, please consider it."

"Thank you for coming over, I'm sure Hermione nagged you until you agreed. Could you do me a favor and tell her everything that you told me. She is going to want to know, and I know she'll want more details about everything."

"If you feel comfortable with me sharing it, I will be happy to give her all the information." Healer Watson looked bemused, "She certainly is very avid in learning everything she can about the charms."

They walked out the door and Hermione and Ron were waiting on the stairs for the door to open. "Well?" Hermione said anxiously.

"What we thought, love potion, Adcredo, and the memory charm. I told Healer Watson to tell you everything," Harry said, shrugging.

"Thank you, Healer Watson." Hermione smiled gratefully, "I truly appreciate your coming over."

"My pleasure, I'll give you the details when we get back to St. Mungo's, as well as some texts that might help your research." Hermione smiled gratefully and said that she would apparate her back to St. Mungo's immediately.

"You okay, mate?" Ron asked hesitantly after the two women had left.

"Yeah, sure. I'm going to go for a run." Harry wanted to get out of the house before Hermione got back. He had no desire to spend the rest of the day analyzing everything again. He went up the stairs to change into his running clothes. For one brief moment he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. He looked the same on the outside, messy black hair, green eyes, scar. How could so much have changed inside, without him ever knowing it? He looked away and tied on his shoes. Each day he had been steadily adding more distance to his run. It wouldn't be long until he was running marathon lengths just to escape from his thoughts. When he ran all he focused on was putting one foot on the ground after another, one breath after another.

Harry came home, pleased with the distance he had run. Even without the release that running gave him from the stress of the week it felt good to push himself after months of being cooped up while they were hiding out. He wished he could go flying but that would have to wait until everything was settled out.

Coming down the stairs after his shower he heard voices in the sitting room, making his way there he walked in to see Bill Weasley standing and talking to Ron and Hermione. A tall thin, blond wizard stood next to him. "Hi, Bill and, erm, Simon? Nice to meet you again." Harry walked forward and held his hand out to the the wizard, who quirked a smile and shook Harry's hand.

"Simon Ward. Thank you for seeing me today." he looked at Harry, "Do you remember me? Other than last week at Gringotts?"

"I'm sorry, have we've met before that?" Harry flushed, "You must have been at Hogwarts?" He stabbed a guess, because he didn't remember meeting him at all. Simon sat at the edge of his chair and looked at Harry.

Simon hesitated and then said "Yes, I went to Hogwarts, but we didn't meet because..." Simon hesitated, "This is really awkward. Let me start with last week's meeting. You probably noticed that I left right away?" Harry nodded, "I left because I was upset that you didn't recognize me."

Harry looked at him in horror, "Oh god, I didn't have sex with you too, did I?"

Simon threw back his head and laughed, "Merlin, no!" he shook his head, "Sorry, I'm starting this badly. I was Cedric Diggory's boyfriend."

"Oh." Harry said, "I don't understand."

"How much do you remember about Cedric?"

"Well, we played Quidditch against each other and then the Triwizard, and, erm, when he died of course." Harry said it, "Did you want to talk about that...?"

"You don't remember being friends with him? Studying together?" Simon asked, "You and Cedric were really good friends throughout that year. We met three times and when you didn't recognize me last week, I admit. I was upset. Like you had forgotten Cedric, too." Simon grimaced, "It wasn't until I saw the Prophet story this week and found out about what happened to you that it made sense that you wouldn't recognize me."

"So, we met through Cedric Diggory." Harry said it almost to himself.

Simon nodded, "The first time was on September 1st at the King's Cross, Cedric introduced us, you and he had talked a lot during the World Cup the week before. And the next time was the day of the Triwizard, the day that Cedric died," he swallowed hard. "We, Bill, Mrs. Weasley and the Diggorys walked around the lake together that afternoon."

Bill spoke up from the sofa. "I can confirm that Simon was with us at the lake, Harry. And you and Cedric were clearly friends, joking around like mates. I'm sorry, I guess we never talked about that day. I didn't know that you didn't remember something about it."

"I'm sorry, I just don't remember any of this..."

"I know. I'm sorry, too." Simon gave another sad smile, "The last time we met was the next day. In the hospital ward. I came with the Diggorys to see you and you told us what had happened."

"I remember that," Harry said, sitting up straighter, "I definitely remember that conversation with the Diggorys. It was one of the hardest things I've done. I don't remember you being there, though."

Simon nodded, "I was there and after you finished talking to the Diggorys, you called me back. Asked to talk to me alone."

Harry blanched, "I did?"

"You did. And as soon as the Diggorys left, Draco Malfoy came out from an invisibility cloak where he had been hiding."

"Malfoy was using my cloak?" Harry look horrified. "I let him use it?"

"I don't know if you want to hear this, but you and he were dating, Harry." Simon said it simply, "had been for months when I saw you in June."

"Malfoy actually told you we were...dating?" Harry said the words faintly, he felt like the bottom had fallen out of the room.

"You did. There in the hospital wing. You told me that you and Draco wanted me to know how much Cedric had meant to you both, how he had helped bring you together. Draco had alrady told me about you both the night before, while we were waiting for you and Cedric to come back. We had waited together under the stands, he had been a nervous wreck, worried about you."

"I'm sorry, I just don't know what to say to all this." Harry sat with his head in his hands. It was one thing to tell himself that maybe it was all a trick, or that Malfoy must have forced himself on him. Or even a one-off. But now, the more he learned the worse it got.

"About a month after Cedric died, Draco owled me a drawing he did of Cedric." Simon's eyes teared up, "It was such a thoughtful gesture."

"Malfoy can draw? He is an artist?" Hermione asked, her eyes meeting Harry's, they were both thinking of the drawing upstairs in his trunk.

"Yes, he was very good, even at fourteen." Simon said, "Cedric talked about how he was always drawing."

"That isn't the Malfoy we know," said Ron. "Hardly seems very Slytherin."

"Well, that is what is so difficult. I just can't imagine the boy that drew that sketch for me, the boy that I met that horrible night who was so frantic about what had happened to you, doing what he did to you. It just doesn't make any sense."

"You can say that again," Ron said sharply, "Malfoy and Harry fought that whole year. They fought every year."

Simon stood up and went over to Harry, "I'm sure I've given you more questions than answers. I thought it might help to know that someone knew about you two. He hesitated and then pulled a thick packet of letters from his robe pocket. "Cedric and I exchanged a lot of letters. He often wrote about what he was doing with you. I think they might help fill in some of the missing pieces. I used a Muggle photocopier and copied the sections of letters when he wrote about you or Draco." He held them up but didn't offer them to Harry, "If you don't want to take them right now, I understand. You can take them or you can just let me or Bill know if and when you are ready."

Harry hesitated. His instinct was to not take them, but he knew that he would obsess about the letters even if he didn't read them. He held out his hand and Simon handed the packet to him.

"I hope that coming here didn't make things worse. Please believe me when I tell you that you were a very good friend to Cedric. I hate the thought that you lost that too. One of those letters talks about how you taught him to throw a Patronus. He was thrilled and he told me that it was all because of you."

Simon held out his hand for Harry to shake, and Harry shook it. "I appreciate you coming over but I have to admit that you kind of pulled the broom out from under me."

"I understand. Send me an owl or tell Bill if you want to talk, anytime." Simon nodded to Ron and Bill, and Hermione saw him out.

"I hope you don't mind that I brought him over, Harry." Bill sank down in the nearest chair, "When he said that he had information about you and Draco, I had no idea that it would be that."

"So you and Draco all fourth year?" Ron looked at Harry wide eyed. "Where the hell were we?"

"Well, you weren't talking to me for part of that year," Harry said shooting him a glance.

Ron winced, "Right, I like to forget about that...sorry, bad choice of words," when he saw Harry's glare at him. "But still, I don't understand, obviously how you would have started, erm, seeing each other. And where and when? We are always together, other than that time in November."

Hermione shook her head, "No, we weren't. Remember? Harry, you went off by yourself a lot. You would always come back saying you'd been studying or out running." She bit her lip and thought back, "You would come back after curfew, would say that you were just out walking around. Everyone at school was pretty horrible about you getting in the Triwizard, I thought you just wanted to be alone."

"But instead I was meeting Draco Malfoy and Cedric Diggory." Harry said tonelessly, looking down at the packet of letters. "How could Malfoy have erased him too?"

"The healer talked about interwoven memories." Hermione said, "Since Cedric knew about you and Malfoy, all three of you must have spent a lot of time together. His memories were probably so woven into the ones with Malfoy that they disappeared along with the ones of Malfoy."

Harry shook his head at her angrily, "And where does that leave me? What do you suppose I am going to learn from these?" he waved the letters at her, "I taught Cedric Diggory how to throw a Patronus. And I don't remember, because my SLYTHERIN BOYFRIEND DRACO MALFOY decided to OBLIVIATE ME." Bill, Ron and Hermione just looked at him as he started pacing back and forth.

"You know what really scares me? What if he had decided to erase you or Ron from my memory? He could have just as easily as Cedric's memory went away. He could have done anything he wanted to because I apparently just let him. How would you feel if all the sudden I had no memory of us? Where would I be if I had lost all that we have been to each other? Who knows what else, who else he took from me."

"That didn't happen, Harry." Hermione said reassuringly.

"How in the name of Godric Gryffindor do you know? Maybe I had fifty so-called boyfriends! Maybe I was the Slytherin House sex toy! I don't know because I DON'T REMEMBER ANYTHING."

"HARRY!" Hermione said, shocked. Ron stood shaking his head. In the background they could hear Walburga Black's portrait start her screeching, set off by Harry's rant.

"I'll see you later," Harry said it abruptly. He turned and headed for the door and Ron grabbed his arm.

"Where are you going? Why don't we go out together and grab a pint and..."

"No. I want to be alone." Harry said, shaking him off, he all but ran from the room and slammed the front door as he left.

Ron and Hermione were talking and waiting in the kitchen three hours later when they heard a loud thump, followed by the sound of Walburga Black's portrait wailing. There was another loud thump and another. Ron and Hermione looked at each other and ran for the front hallway. They skidded to a stop when they saw Harry heaving a sledgehammer at the portrait. The shrill screams of the portrait were cut off by the heavy impact of the hammer against it. Harry pulled back and heaved again. Huge holes covered the portrait, Mrs. Black was feebly covering her face, but Harry didn't relent. Again, he pounded the weight against the portrait.

Ron and Hermione looked at each other and shrugged and sat down on the stairs to watch. When the portrait and its frame were nothing more than splinters on the floor he started on the wall. When his shirt got in his way he ripped it off and kept going. Finally he stopped, his chest heaving from the exertion. He looked around in a daze as if he wasn't sure where he was and dropped the sledgehammer. It fell with a dull thud on the floor. Slowly sinking to his knees amidst the debris, he started sobbing. In a flash, Hermione was there, wrapping her arms around him.

"I don't understand, I just don't understand." He sobbed into her shoulder. "What did I do to deserve all of this."

"Nothing, nothing, Harry." Hermione was in tears herself, "You didn't do anything wrong. I promise, it wasn't anything you did. Things just happen to you, I don't know why but they do..." She stroked his head gently and looked helplessly over Harry's shoulder at Ron who was hoovering nervously nearby.

Ron picked up the sledgehammer and it slipped out of his hands and thumped on the ground. "Um, what weight hammer is this?"

"9 kilos. It was the heaviest I could find at the DIY."

"Well, it sure did seem to do the trick." Ron said with a laugh.

Harry lifted his head off of Hermione's shoulder and looked around clearly for the first time. Broken plaster, wallpaper, wood and the shattered pieces of the picture frame covered the floor. His lip twitched and a chuckle started deep down in his chest, Hermione smiled and soon started to laugh, in a moment they were all laughing uncontrollably.

"Oh gods." Harry said. "I can't believe I did that."

"I can't believe it took this long to get rid of that horrible woman."

"I can't believe how bad you are going to hurt in the morning. 9 kilos? Are you nuts?"

"Yes. Clearly I am." Harry said, he gave a kiss to Hermione on the cheek, "And I am going to hit the shower and go to bed."

Ron came and helped Hermione stand up. They listened as Harry's footsteps faded away and the door to his room closed.

"Do you think he is going to be okay?" Ron asked worriedly.

"I don't know. There is only so much one person can take. And I would have thought that Harry met that point before all of this happened. And now," Hermione shook her head. "I'm worried, really worried."

Ron kicked at the stack of broken plaster and wood on the ground, "At least we don't need to listen to that old bat anymore."

Hermione heard a moan, and saw Kreacher standing at the end of the hallway. Staring at the mess and wringing his hands. "Oh, Kreacher. I'm so sorry, there seems to have been an, erm, accident."

Chapter Text

They walked into Hearing Room D with trepidation. The lawyers were already seated. Goldstein sat with Malfoy by his side. The blond was staring at the table in front of him, not lifting his head to see who was entering the room. Goldstein was leaning towards him trying to get his attention but Malfoy did not seem to hear him. Harry saw with surprise that Narcissa Malfoy sat by her son's side. She looked better, Harry thought, than she had the month before at her own trial. He supposed that being out of jail would improve anyone's looks. She had her hand gently on Malfoy's arm, her face tense with concern. It had been months since they had seen each other. Both had been held in separate cell blocks since their arrest and after her sentencing she was immediately sent to server her sentence under house arrest at Andromeda Tonk's house.

He forced himself to look around the room to see who else was present. With relief he realized that only the six-members of the Wizengamot counsel would attend this viewing. He saw the Pensieve basin waiting, across from it was a screen that he knew would project the images from the Pensieve for all to see. Harry felt his stomach begin to twist again, and looked away. Nothing could be worse than what he'd already seen. No matter how many times he told himself that though, he still didn't believe. it.

Arthur Weasley checked with the officer of the court and asked where they were to sit and they were shown to a table on the far side from Malfoy. After a few minutes delay, Kingsley Shacklebolt entered with Aberforth Dumbledore. Harry hadn't seen Aberforth since the day of the memorial service at Hogwarts, days after the final battle. Clearly the older man felt uncomfortable in his surroundings. He was tugging nervously at his beard and robes. Aberforth looked around and his eyes fell on Harry. He swiftly moved over towards their table.

"Harry, I'm sorry. I didn't know about the trial. I've been so caught up with helping with the repairs at Hogwarts, I hadn't seen the Prophet in weeks." Aberforth reached out to grasp Harry's hand.

Harry shook his hand, "I don't understand."

"If I'd known that Malfoy was coming up for trial I would have come forward sooner, of course." Aberforth shook his head, "Albus trusted me with the vial of memories and told me I would know when to turn them in. But I messed up."

"Do you know what is in the memories?" Harry asked half-hopeful, half-dreading.

"No, just that they have to do with you and that Malfoy boy. And Dumbledore said it was essential I keep them safe. Told me I had to give you this before-" he was cut off as Kingsley called the hearing to order.

"We are here to witness the Pensieve memories that Aberforth Dumbledore has volunteered. The memory vial has been examined and has proven that the seal is unbroken and is as it was created on September 1st, 1996. I will tell you that this hearing has a Ministry Secrecy level of five. Nothing revealed here may be discussed by anyone not in attendance without my express approval. With no exceptions." Kingsley looked sternly over at the Prosecution lawyer. "Very well. I will not make the interested parties wait any longer. Let us proceed." He gave a nod to the technician who stood by the Pensieve. The lights dimmed and the man picked up the vial and carefully poured it into the basin. He touched his wand to the basin and immediately the image came on to the screen.

It was the Great Hall, Harry realized with a start. He watched as Dumbledore made his way from the staff table to the Gryffindor table. "Welcome Feast," Hermione whispered. "Sixth year," Harry wondered how she knew but then saw himself, his face still swollen from Malfoy's kick that he had given him that day, and his hair even more a mess than usual.

"Harry, welcome back." Dumbledore gripped Harry by the shoulders and stared into his eyes. "How are you?" memory-Harry stiffened and shrugged. Harry remembered that he had not wanted to tell about Malfoy breaking his nose on the train. He could deal with Malfoy on his own, he hadn't needed Dumbledore's help.

Dumbledore stared hard into Harry's eyes. "I bid you good night, Harry. However, I may need to speak with you later, after you are settled. Ron, Hermione." Dumbledore nodded politely at all three of them and walked swiftly away towards the Slytherin table. Straight towards Draco Malfoy.

Dumbledore came up next to the Slytherin."Draco. A word in my chambers, if you please."

Snape had moved over from the staff table, Harry heard as he said, "Draco has had a very trying day, Albus. Surely, this could wait until tomorrow?"

"I think not, Severus." Dumbledore held up his arm, pointing towards the exit. "After you." Snape nodded and quickly moved towards the exit, most of the students having already left.

They rose up the magical steps to the top of the Headmaster's tower and Dumbledore opened the door. He turned to look at Draco. "If you would wait here for a few minutes, I need to speak to Professor Snape alone." Without waiting for an answer he stepped inside, leaving Malfoy outside.

Harry looked curiously at Malfoy. He had reached out and was gripping his mother's hand tightly.

Dumbledore looked at Snape as the door closed. Dumbledore waved a casual hand at the door, clearly throwing up a sound shield.

"What have you done, Severus?" Dumbledore's face was deeply etched in worry, "I could feel the change in the boy even as he entered the Hall. After speaking with him now, even the briefest glimpse of leglimancy tells me that a part of him has been destroyed-"

"We did what we had to do. It was the only way. To try and save them both from being killed."

"So instead you decided to destroy the most powerful weapon that young Potter had to defeat-"

"Do not try to push your ridiculous theory on me again, Albus. When you hear the facts about what happened this summer, while you were unavailable."

Dumbledore motioned to the chairs, "Sit down, Severus, and tell me all."

Harry became aware of furious whispering taking place across the room. He looked over and saw Malfoy arguing vehemently with his lawyer and his mother. Their voices became raised.

"Lights up. Is there a problem Mr. Goldstein?"

"Sorry, sir. My client is requesting that he be allowed to change his plea to guilty. I have told him that now is not the time-."

Malfoy stood up, he stared defiantly at Kingsley. "I demand that I be allowed to change my plea to guilty. There is no need for this to go on any further. I will plead guilty of all charges on provision that these memories be destroyed without being watched by any one. Sentence me and let's be done with it," his voice was steady but his hands were shaking violently.

"Sir, I protest! He is clearly trying to cover up something-"

"I understand your concerns, Counselor. Please sit down." Kingsley turned to Malfoy who was still standing, his jaw set. "Mr. Malfoy, this is an Evidentiary Hearing. You are free to change your plea once you trial has resumed. However, today at this hearing we will be viewing this evidence-"

"No. You can't. You don't understand." Harry could hear that Malfoy was trying to keep the desperate plea out of his voice.

"I understand your concern in light of the grave charges that face you however-"

"Fine. Then I request permission to return to my cell." Draco snapped the words coldly, but Harry could still see the trembling of his hands that defied the man's steady stance. "I can't stay here."

"That is your right. Guards, please return Mr. Malfoy to his cell. Same precautions as before."

Narcissa Malfoy tried to leave with her son but was held back by the guards. Malfoy walked swiftly towards the exit, at the door he stopped and looked back, he swore and looked straight at Harry. "Potter, you don't want to see what is coming. Trust me, it is better not knowing." Harry looked at Malfoy, his nemesis' face did not wear the usual arrogant sneer or even cool indifference. He looked concerned, worried Harry realized with a start. Malfoy looked like he was about to say more but swallowed hard and shook his head and walked out the door with the guards on either side of him.

"What does Malfoy know that he doesn't want you to see?" Ron whispered.

Harry shrugged but turned back to the screen with a feeling of dread as again the lights were darkened. He remembered the protest that Malfoy had made at the trial when the wand master had been about to display the images. But these were Dumbledore's memories though, not Malfoy's not Harry's, what could be that bad?

"I visited Malfoy Manor a month ago, while you were recovering from your...injury. And, I found Draco. He was not the boy who had left school a few weeks before. He had been broken, Albus. Broken. The Dark Lord had been waiting for Draco when he returned at the end of the term. As you know Potter refused to learn Occlumency. He gave the Dark Lord free access to all his thoughts. The Dark Lord had seen what Draco meant to Potter. He believed he could use Draco to lure Potter to Malfoy Manor. Draco refused, but he paid a heavy price for that refusal.

"I warned you that their relationship was too dangerous. Two years ago I did as you said and ignored it, hoping that Draco would soon come to his senses. Last year, when it became clear how dangerous their relationship was I reiterated my concerns and still you ignored my concerns. Even as you knew that the Dark Lord was accessing Potter's thoughts."

"I am well aware that we both failed to assist Harry in learning leglimancy, Severus. What did they do to Draco?"

"The Dark Lord and Lestrange used the Cruciatus curse on him. Still Draco refused to tell Potter to come."

"What did Voldemort do when he refused?"

"He sent his newest recruits out to find Muggle boys, boys of Potter's age. Boys with dark wavy hair. He altered their eye color to be the exact green of Potter. He carved scars in their foreheads. And the Dark Lord himself tortured the first one, in front of Draco. Demonstrating to Draco how painful Potter's death could be.

"With the second boy, he struck him down swiftly with Avada Kedavra. He told Draco that it was up to him to determine how Potter would die. And then he forced Draco to say how the third Muggle was to die. If he chose a swift death for the Muggle he would join the ranks of Death Eaters, he would take the Dark Mark. He knew the boy would die, but could not bear to see the torture."

"It is one thing to endure the pain yourself, completely another thing to observe someone else's torture." Dumbledore nodded.

"Yes, he agreed to take the Mark, it didn't save the Muggle's life, just made the last hour of it not tortured by Cruciatus." Snape stood up and began to pace, "Draco began to plan his own death from the minute the mark was burned on to his arm. For he knew that he could never stand before Potter bearing the mark.

"I found him in Lucius' laboratory brewing a hemlock and wolfsbane potion, Albus. He meant to kill himself rather than have Potter know that he had given in to the Dark Lord. He was sure that Potter would never understand, he would never accept Draco with the mark." Snape walked over to the windows, looked out at the night, his voice pained.

"I tried to convince him that there was another way. Convince him that he could help Potter by joining me in my fight. To fight the Dark Lord from the inside. He refused," Snape said bitterly, "Because he could not bear the thought of Potter thinking that he had joined the Death Eaters. We both knew that if he were to succeed in deceiving the Dark Lord that Potter could not know the truth, because of the connection that the Dark Lord has even now to Potter's mind.

"Draco knew of the prophecy, Potter had told him. I told Draco that Potter would have a better chance of being the one who survived with Draco helping him from the other side. It was that which made him willing to consider it, but still he could not bear the thought of Potter believing that he had betrayed him. I told Draco there was a way to prevent Potter from ever knowing.

"He resisted, but at last he said he would rather Potter never know what they had, than having Potter think that Draco had betrayed him. He could live with that if he had to."

"I think you both underestimated what Potter would have been willing to understand and forgive. The boy has a tremendous capacity to love, forgiveness is in his very nature. But that is neither here nor there now, for the deed is done. What did you use?"

"Amoris Delere"

"Once again you turn to the Dark Arts." Dumbledore said. "The charm that would allow a Pureblood father to forcibly remove all memories of their child's misplaced love."

"The Dark Arts have served me well." Severus said, "Only this memory charm can delete all the memories of love while leaving the rest of their interactions intact. It was of course not possible to simply obliviate everything from the Boy Who Lived."

Dumbledore gave a sad smile, "Considering your distrust for Harry I suppose I should be grateful for your restraint. Did you cast the charm or Draco?"

"Draco. It is more effective, more complete if done by the one who knows the subject best."

"And he did it willingly?"

"He had no choice. All viable options were exhausted."

"You could have come to me, you should have come to me, Severus."

"I did not have that liberty. Time was of the essence. I did not take this solution lightly. I knew that it would affect Draco deeply, if I could have saved him this pain I would have. Would you rather he have died?" Snape turned and faced Dumbledore, "You know I will never have a son of my own. If I had, I could not hope for a better son than Draco. And I have tried to be a father to him, Salazar knows that his own father is not worthy of the title."

"Harry will never be the same and neither will Draco, I'm afraid. You leave me with a great dilemma, Severus."

"The story is not yet finished, Albus. After the Dark Mark was burned upon his skin, the Dark Lord decided that Lucius must be made to suffer for his failure at the Department of Mysteries. And that Draco must pay the price."

"And the price?"

"An assignment. An impossible assignment for which he was told the punishment would be the death of his own mother."

"And what is the this assignment?"

"To kill you," Snape said it with a glimmer of amusement. "Clearly the Dark Lord does not yet know that you have already been given a death sentence."

"It is refreshing to know that my Occlumency skills have not faded with age. How did you counsel Draco about his task?"

"I told him that I would help him. In fact, I am now required to, for Narcissa in her deep concern for her son has made me take the Unbreakable Vow."

"That is good, Snape. For it will have to be you who kills me, I do not want the burden of taking my life on Draco. As it is, I am worried for Draco, he has lost much. He must bear the Dark Mark and has vowed to kill me." Dumbledore said the words softly. "And he has lost Harry, has sacrificed his love so that Harry might live. That is much for a boy of sixteen to bear."

"He will live. That is all that is important."

"But at what price, Severus?" Dumbledore stood up, "We have kept him waiting long enough."

As Dumbledore moved to the door, the image on the screen began to flicker. Bands of color moved across the screen. "What is wrong with the memory? What is happening?" Kingsley asked the wizard monitoring the Pensieve.

The technician paused the memory and did a quick scan with his wand. "It isn't coming from here, sir. Something is disrupting the -"

"Sir, may I suggest we take a break before continuing?" Hermione's voice was tight with concern. Kingsley looked over and saw Harry, and knew in a moment where the disruption was coming from. The table in front of the young wizard was vibrating, magic was emanating in waves from him. Harry's hands were clenched fists on the table's surface. Ron was leaning over and talking to Harry, whispering frantically in his ear, trying to calm him down.

"Yes, a very good suggestion. Miss Granger, I believe the hearing room to our left is available if you would like to -" They were already up and moving, Ron and Hermione flanking Harry and Arthur Weasley moving ahead to open the doors. Within seconds there was a door slam and the sounds of furniture being smashed were heard, the lights flickering with each crash.

"We will adjourn for two hours for an extended lunch break." there was another loud crash. "Auror Healey, please make a note on the schedule that Hearing Room C will be unavailable until repairs are complete." Kingsley rose quickly, pointedly ignoring the calls of the prosecutor.

Ron, Hermione and Arthur Weasley stood near the door just inside Hearing Room C. Arthur and Hermione had hastily raised Protego shields to protect them from the magic and shattered pieces of wood that were flying through the air. Harry was pacing slowly back and forth through the room. He appeared unaware that chairs were exploding into splinters as he passed by. He wasn't yelling or swearing, just appeared to be lost in thought with his head down as he paced.

"Has this happened before?" Arthur whispered to Hermione.

"Just twice," Hermione said, wincing as a large table on the far side of the room suddenly burst into flames. Ron swore and swiftly moved through the room, gingerly skirting Harry, and used his wand to put out the flames. "After Tonks and Lupin's funeral and after the trial on Monday. He just lets things boil inside of him until they burst out, but that wasn't as..."

"Explosive?" Ron said dryly as he slipped behind the shield again.

Kingsley Shacklebolt slipped through the door. He looked from Harry to the group pressed up against the wall. "Just going to let him wear himself out?"

Hermione nodded, "I think it might be dangerous to try and intervene."

"Should I have a healer come...?" Kingsley said with a wince as a chair flew up and hit the ceiling as Harry flicked his hand at it. "Give him a calming potion?"

"Would you like to offer him a potion right now?" Arthur said with a laugh. "I think Hermione is right, a few more minutes of this he will be exhausted."

"I can cancel the hearing. We can do it tomorrow."

"I don't know, I think it is better to get it done with, rather than make him go through days like this." Ron said, "Knowing Harry, once he calms down he will want to just get it over with." Hermione nodded in agreement.

"Well, I told the rest we were taking a two hour lunch break. Hopefully that will be long enough otherwise I'll reschedule for tomorrow. Assuming the building is still standing," as the blackboard mounted on the wall cracked into pieces and fell to the floor as Harry walked past. "If he doesn't calm down by then we'll have to take measures, he could do serious harm to himself or others."

"Just be glad that Malfoy choose to leave the room. No telling what Harry might have done to him." Ron said, shaking his head.

Hermione looked over at him, "It makes you wonder, doesn't it? If Malfoy still cares about Harry? He tried to stop the memories from being played, even though it will almost certainly help his case. He was willing to plead guilty and go to Azkaban just to keep Harry from seeing them."

"It brings into question many things. If Malfoy was helping the Order from the other side as Snape had done, he shouldn't be on trial at all. However, he did obliviate Harry, he can't go unpunished for that." Arthur said.

"There are many questions that have to be answered." Kingsley said.

"I can't believe that Dumbledore knew that whole last year at Hogwarts and-" Hermione became suddenly aware of the silence in the room. Harry was standing ten feet away from them. He was breathing hard from his outburst but seemed calm.

"There is nothing wrong with my hearing. You can stop discussing me as if I wasn't here." he didn't try to keep the bitter tone out of his voice. "So Dumbledore knew about it and didn't tell me, he probably had his reasons."

"You just decided to destroy the room because you don't mind?" Ron asked, looking around. Harry turned around and looked at the destroyed furniture and the huge gouges where chairs had crashed into the walls.

"Sorry, Kingsley." Harry said, slowly shaking his head at the wreckage, "It was this or do something really drastic."

"I shudder to think what your definition of really drastic is," Kingsley said. "Do you want to go on with the viewing, after lunch?"

"Yes. Let's get this over with. And I want to talk to Malfoy." Harry said, his voice firm. He was exhausted by the energy and magic he had just released. He just wanted it all over with.

"Not alone you won't." Kingsley shook his head, "Let's see what the next memory holds before I talk about letting you talk to him directly."

They entered the Hearing Room again and Harry sat down at the table. He ignored whatever Hermione was saying to him, she was probably talking about staying calm. It didn't matter, he wasn't going to let himself lose control again. This morning he had been caught off guard, it hadn't occurred to him that Dumbledore could have known about Malfoy obliviating him. The next memory would be with Malfoy, they would probably talk about it, so it wouldn't be that bad. Harry ignored everyone in the room and just stared straight ahead, he was exhausted from his earlier rampage. He just wanted to get this over with so he could leave.

Dumbledore opened the door and Malfoy walked into the office.

"Draco, please sit down." Dumbledore indicated to a chair, and then sat in the chair next to it.

"Draco, Professor Snape has told me what happened this summer." Dumbledore's kind voice clearly startled Malfoy, the boy looked at Dumbledore warily. "I wish you had come to me. I wish you had enough trust to come to me when you needed help."

"And, how exactly would he have gotten a hold of you?" Snape spat out.

"Yes, yes. Severus, A seemingly insurmountable problem." Dumbledore waved his hand at Snape. Malfoy stared at the damaged hand. Dumbledore followed his gaze and gave a small smile. "I see you have noticed my injury. Think nothing of it. A minor problem that will soon be of no consequence." Snape snorted, but did not turn back from where he stood at the window.

"When I say I wish you had come to me, I meant both you and Harry." Dumbledore said the words kindly as he walked around his desk and sat down in his chair. "It was one of my greatest pleasures to bear witness, even from so far a distance, of the love that grew between you two boys."

"You knew?" Malfoy looked shocked, his voice shaky.

"There is very little that goes on in Hogwarts that I am not aware of, Draco." Dumbledore smiled, "Whether it is a young first year accessing the old Quidditch rooms or the Gryffindors' relentless pursuit of midnight snacks in the kitchens or two young Seekers flying in the moonlight over the lake."

"But that is neither here or there now, because of the path you were forced upon this summer. A very dangerous one." Dumbledore's gaze shifted briefly to Malfoy's left forearm and back to his face. Malfoy grabbed his robe sleeve and tugged it down as if to prevent Dumbledore from seeing what he already knew was there. "The mark that you wear does not define who you are, just as the scar that Harry must wear upon his forehead does not define him. Both of these marks were forced on you boys by the same man. You both have shown remarkable bravery and fortitude in the face of relentless and terrifying danger."

"I had no choice." Malfoy said the words quietly.

"You did and you made a difficult decision that will put you at odds against the one you love most, that will make you hated and feared, and one that may easily result in your death from either side of those who fight this war."

"I had to do it- Harry is safer this way. My mother is alive." Malfoy looked to be near tears.

Harry watched the screen hardly able to recognize the blond boy on the screen that bore so little resemblance to the coldly arrogant Slytherin that Harry knew from the corridors of a start Harry realized that the screen Draco looked like the one that had walked out of the hearing room a couple of hours earlier. Worried, concerned, frightened.

He took a deep breath. "Has Snape told you everything?"

"Professor Snape. Yes, he has. As I say, a most difficult challenge." Malfoy stared at the headmaster who was smiling over at him.

"I don't want you to worry about that task tonight, Draco. Tonight we are faced with a far more significant problem. As I said, I knew of your relationship with Harry. It was a great relief to me, for it solved a problem for which I had become increasingly concerned. Time was growing short, and for reasons that you do not need to know, it was essential that Harry fall in love. While I was reluctantly prepared to assist him in this direction, it soon became evident that no such assistance was needed."

Malfoy spoke, his voice falteringly, "What do you mean he needed to fall in love?"

Dumbledore shook his head, "I shan't trouble you with the details, for we are now faced with a great dilemma. You have erased all memory of your relationship from Harry's memory. This loss is permanent, even I would not be able to retrieve anything but the barest of memories. And, there is no time for you to re-establish this relationship. I think you will admit that the fact that it happened once was...remarkable."

Malfoy looked at his arm bitterly, "It is over. There is no way to go back."

"Yes, sadly, I agree. The hour is late and no doubt that you are eager to return to Slytherin house. Let me be direct. Harry must fall in love as soon as possible. In order to expedite this I am prepared to use a love potion to encourage this relationship."

Harry heard Ron's surprised gasp next to him but ignored it. He stared resolutely at the screen, forcing his breathing to remain calm.

Malfoy leaped to his feet. "You can't do that to him!" Malfoy looked from Snape to Dumbledore, "When he finds out he will be livid, he trusts you. This will destroy him when he finds out."

"A risk, regrettably, I must take. Like you, my hand has been forced by others." Dumbledore motioned to Malfoy's chair. "And, so we need to select someone for whom Harry shall fall in love." Malfoy's body was trembling visibly on the screen as he struggled to control himself. "And now, Draco, I need your help to determine who the object of Harry's affection shall be."

Sweat broke out on Malfoy's forehead, "No. I won't do it."

Snape spun around at this, "Albus, you said nothing of this. You aren't even sure your theory is correct!" Dumbledore motioned Snape back.

"Severus, it must be done. And, Draco must help us chose, who else knows him better? Who else knows who would suit?" Dumbledore looked at Malfoy, "Would you rather Professor Snape make the selection? I readily admit that I am too far removed in age from today's youth to hazard a guess."

Malfoy shook his head. "I can't. Don't ask this of me."

"Cho Chang?" Dumbledore suggested. He was staring at Malfoy and the boy shuddered and looked away.

Malfoy said quietly, "No, too needy. He needs someone who can stand on their own."

"Ron Weasley?"

Malfoy gave a short laugh and shook his head. "Don't make me do this, please. I can't..."

"Hermione Granger?" Dumbledore's voice was firm.

Harry could hear Hermione and Ron whispering furiously, but ignored them. He could get through this, if he didn't think too much about his life being destroyed up on the screen.

"It can't be either of them." Malfoy protested, "They are best friends, it would destroy their friendship when they find out about the potion. They are too important to Harry. He can't lose their friendship. You can't do this to Harry. If you give him a potion and he finds out. He has lost so much already, his parents, Sirius, Cedric."

"It is a consequence that I cannot worry about tonight. This must be done, Draco. I agree, however, that Harry's closest friends are unsuitable. So who would you recommend? Someone who can stand on their own, someone who shares Harry's passion for Quidditch, someone who would care for Harry for who he is, not just his name."

"The girl Weasley." Malfoy said the words so quietly that Dumbledore barely heard him.

"Ah, of course. The youngest Weasley. The lovely Ginevra."

"But he is gay. He isn't even bi-he isn't attracted to girls." Malfoy said, looking ill at ease.

"A potion will temporarily overcome that challenge. Rest assured, Draco, that once he is no longer taking the potion he will return to normal. I have no desire to permanently change who he is or his sexuality. He will be as he is now. The attraction for Ginevra will slowly fade or be taken over by his own natural feelings for her, if they are strong enough."

Harry felt Hermione's hand tighten in his, but he refused to look at her. He slowly started counting to himself, forcing to keep his breath at a steady rate. He had tunnel vision, all he could see was the figures on the screen.

Dumbledore stood and came around the desk to sit in the chair next to Malfoy, "Understand, that this is not a step I take lightly. However, I am well aware that the time that Harry must confront Voldemort draws near and he needs every weapon available at his disposable." Dumbledore reached out and touched Malfoy's arm. "Believe me when I say that if there was any other way I would turn to it in an instant. And now, I fear I have kept you very late. I am sure you are eager to rest." Dumbledore stood up and looked over at Snape. "Severus, I require you to go to your laboratory and retrieve the necessary potions. I will send notice to our Gryffindor friends to come and see me."

Malfoy stood up and made for the door. "Draco, just one last question. Does anyone else, other than Ron and Hermione, know that he is gay?"

Malfoy shook his head, "No, Sirius Black and Cedric were the only others that knew."

"Thank you, Draco, for your sacrifice. It is my heartfelt hope that your loss will not be for naught. I shan't presume to wish you good night, for I know your dreams will be troubled for a long time to come."

The screen went blank for a moment and then they were back in Dumbledore's office. Harry watched as he, Ron and Hermione filed into Dumbledore's office and sat down in front of his desk. He had no recollection of this happening that night

"I apologize for summoning you so late on your first night back. Undoubtedly you are anxious to catch up with your fellow Gryffindors. Please have some herbal tea and I will tell you what I require."

Dumbledore went to his credenza where a pot of tea stood ready under a cozy. With his back to the students he poured three cups from the lavender pot. He brought Ron and Hermione both a cup of tea, however with his back to Harry, he slipped his hand into his robe and poured the contents of a vial into the last of the tea cups. With a steady hand he brought Harry that tea.

All three of them took sips as Dumbledore proceeded to talk about this and that, until a glazed look came over their faces. They sat still in their chairs, not talking or looking at each other. Walking behind them, Dumbledore gently placed his hand on Harry's head and murmured into his ear, he repeated the process for Ron and Hermione. He then went and sat behind his desk and waited, after a few minutes they each gave a shake as if waking up.

Dumbledore smiled benevolently at them and thanked them for coming in to see him. Harry, Ron, and Hermione nodded blankly and left the office. Dumbledore sat motionless in his chair, listening to Fawkes who had started to sing, his call filling the office with mournful cries. As the song faded away Dumbledore nodded and smiled sadly at Fawkes, "I couldn't have said it better myself."

The memory ended and the lights came back up. Kingsley looked stunned and and looked down at his papers for a moment before lifting his head. "I had planned to continue with the testimony from Narcissa Malfoy, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. Dismissed." Kingsley rose from his place at the bench and walked quickly over to Aberforth and grabbed his arm, pulling him away. Aberforth looked back at Harry, but sighed and went with Kingsley.

Harry stood slowly, he knew he should be angry, should be yelling but there was nothing left inside of him. He closed his eyes and all he could see was the image of Dumbledore pouring the potion into his tea. He felt Hermione slide her arms around him, "You'll get through this, Harry. Don't think about it yet. Let's go home."

"Hermione's right, we'll go home and -" said Ron.

Harry looked at him and shook his head. "It just keeps getting worse and worse. I thought the other day had to have been the worst and now Dumbledore-"

"Don't think about it right now, Harry, please." Hermione whispered in to his ear, "We'll get out of here, go back to Grimmauld-"

"No, please not there...I need to..." Harry looked around conscious that everyone was looking at him, he looked at Hermione. "I have to get out of the city. I need air. There are too many people here."

Hermione bit her lip and nodded. "Okay, I'll take us somewhere." she put her hand on his arm and started walking towards the door. "Do you want Arthur to go back to the Burrow, talk to Molly and Ginny?"

Harry shrugged, he was focused on simply walking wherever Hermione was taking him. Didn't want to think. He was exhausted from his outburst earlier, he had nothing left to fight with.

He vaguely heard Ron ask where they were heading but didn't pay attention to the answer. They got to the apparation point and he automatically tightened his grip on Hermione's arm. He closed his eyes against the kaleidoscope of colors. When they landed he stumbled a little on the rough surface. He let go of her arm and without opening his eyes breathed in the salt air. He opened them and looked around with surprise. They were at Shell Cottage.

"It's okay, we'll be alone. Fleur is visiting her folks. Bill is still at work." Hermione said gently. Harry nodded, but didn't say anything. Turning away from Ron and Hermione he made his way to the far end of the garden. Ron made a move to follow him but Hermione held him back. Harry followed the path until he got to the rough carved white stone that he had used to mark Dobby's grave only a few months earlier. He sank down on the ground and stared out at the waves crashing down on the beach.

Ron was pacing down in front of the cottage. "Don't you think that you or I should go talk to him? You are all about talking. All you ever want to do is talk. Three days ago you were worried because he wasn't talking."

Hermione shook her head, "I think he is beyond the shock and sometimes there are no words that can help. What could you or I say right now?" she wrapped her arms around herself, chilled despite the warmth of the day. "Harry thought of Dumbledore like a grandfather. Someone who was looking out for him. And then in May when he found out that Dumbledore had known all along that Harry would have to die in order to defeat Voldemort. Harry just accepted it. He's never had a chance to really think about that, wonder how Dumbledore could ask that of him. Simply expect him to stand in front of Voldemort and let him strike him down. And yet he did it, because he trusted Dumbledore and believed that if Dumbledore thought that that was the only way then he had to do it.

"And now to find out that Dumbledore not only knew about Malfoy, knew that Malfoy had erased Harry's memory, but covered it up and actually gave him the potions so that he would fall in love with Ginny." Hermione shook her head, "That Dumbledore is the one that used the Adcredo on all three of us,"

Ron looked at her startled, "He did?"

"Didn't you see in the memory? He put his hand on each of our heads and whispered in our ears."

Ron turned towards Harry's still figure sitting up on the bluff. He had been sitting up there for two hours. "I think I was too much in shock at that point. To hear Dumbledore just listing our names as potential candidates. Poor Ginny. She was just chosen, randomly. It could have been anyone," he paled, "It could have been you."

Hermione nodded, "And that is the shame of it, the love potion was wearing off. Harry hadn't taken any since the end of sixth year. I think that he, Dumbledore, had planned a way to keep giving it to Harry after he had died. When we went through Harry's trunk the other day Harry had some candies that Dumbledore had given him. I haven't told Harry this but I had them examined at St. Mungo's. They were infused with the love potion. I didn't know what to think when I got the report but now it makes sense I guess. Dumbleore's plan failed because Harry never ate the candies, so..."

Ron looked at her in disbelief, "You mean?"

"Yes, Dumbledore was wrong, Harry didn't need to be in love, didn't need the love potion to defeat Voldemort. He did it on his own. The potion had already lost its potency by the time Harry faced Voldemort."

Ron put his arms around her. "You said it before, how does one person take so much and not break?" he felt her shiver, the afternoon sun was sinking lower in the sky and the temperature was dropping. "Let's go make a fire on the beach, keep warm."

They gathered driftwood and soon had a roaring fire built in the fire-ring on the beach. They sat together on the beach, their arms around each other, watching the flames as the sun set. "Why here? How did you decide to come here?"

"I just remembered Harry going for long walks or sitting right there on the bluff when we were here after being at the Manor. Watching the sea and listening to the waves is probably better therapy than anything you or I could say right now." Hermione said it sadly.

"You are right, Hermione." a voice behind them startled them both, "You always are." Harry came out of the darkness, his face lit by the fire-light. He sat down next to them, cross-legged on the sand. He picked up a long piece of driftwood from the pile and started to jab at the fire, sending trails of sparks up into the night sky.

"Are you doing okay?" Hermione asked hesitantly.

Harry shrugged, "Did I ever tell you...no I know I didn't. I haven't told anyone. The prophecy that Snape overheard and told Voldemort. That it could have been someone else? There were two of us, two boys born at the end of July that could have been the boy in the prophecy. Voldemort just decided it was me. Fifty-fifty chance that it could have been someone else who was the Boy Who Lived, The Chosen One. A flip of the galleon."

"Do you wish it had gone the other way?"

Harry sighed, he took off his glasses and rubbed his face. "I used to wonder. What it would be like to never have had all of this happen to me. Wonder who I would be if I had been a Muggle and not a wizard, if Hagrid had never brought me my Hogwarts letter, or if Voldemort had chosen the other boy. I realized that there wasn't much point wondering. I had to deal with what I'd been dealt. For seven years I have been the pawn in other people's games and I just don't want to play anymore," he lay back in the sand, setting his glasses on his chest and folding his arm over his face. "I'm just so tired, just want to..." his voice faded away.

Hermione opened her mouth to say something and Ron shook his head. They watched the still figure on the sand near them and realized he had fallen asleep as he lay there. "That's good, he has hardly slept at all the last few nights." she whispered.

Ron nodded and looked towards the house, "I think Bill is home, the lights are on in the house. I'll let him know we are here, see if he has some food."

The next morning Harry woke up to the sound of the gull cries in the early morning sun. He looked around disoriented, he was lying next to the embers of the dying fire. Hermione and Ron were sleeping on the other side of the fire ring. He slowly sat up and hastily cast a warming spell as the blankets covering him fell away. He looked around and saw Bill coming down the path from the house carrying a thermos of coffee and mugs.

"You are already awake. I thought I would just leave the coffee so that you would have it when you woke up." Bill smiled, his face twisting because of the scar tissue that crisscrossed his face. "I would have thought you three would have had your fill of sleeping outdoors already."

"I thought so, too." said Harry, rubbing a hand over his stiff neck. "Don't think the camping was actually planned."

"You fell asleep, Hermione was afraid if they woke you up to bring you in the house, you wouldn't go back to sleep." He poured two mugs of coffee and handed one to Harry, "Why don't we take a walk. I still have an hour before I have to leave for work."

They set off down the beach. The tide was heading out and the shorebirds were darting over the wet sand, chasing their breakfast. Harry sipped the coffee and was grateful that he hadn't woken up in the bedroom in Grimmauld Place.

"How are you coping? With everything?" Bill asked after a few minutes of silence.

Harry's face tightened, "Honestly, not well."

Harry opened his mouth to say something but couldn't, Bill went on, "I know about Dumbledore and the love potion. Ron told me last night. And Dad told Ginny and Mum."

"What did Ginny say?" Harry asked as he picked up a rock to throw into the retreating waves.

Bill shrugged, "She is upset. But she is going to be okay. Ginny had known something was wrong ever since you returned. She might even be relieved to know that there is a reason. Rather than, well..."

"Rather than me not caring anymore?" Harry asked and Bill nodded. "I didn't know what to tell her this summer. I don't know what to think of it myself. We had seemed so real and then it didn't and now..."

Harry looked back down the beach where he could just see the sleeping figures of Ron and Hermione laying on the beach. "It is just so complicated. And to find out that the only reason Ginny and I were even together was because of Dumbledore giving me some kind of bloody potion. How can I face her again? And, to find out about Malfoy. That he and I..." he shook his head and looked out at the water. "The way they were describing us...actually supposed to have been in love."

"Don't worry about Gin, this is going to be hard on her, but it wasn't your fault. She and you are both victims." Bill commented, "I really don't know what to say about the Malfoy thing. It is no big deal that you are gay. But it is pretty hard to think of you and Malfoy as a couple. When Simon said that, I was floored."

"Exactly. I mean, he is the git that let Greyback into Hogwarts. He is the reason that you have those scars." Harry's voice shook, "How could I be with someone like that?"

"By the sound of it, that was after you were obliviated. So at least you weren't still seeing him when the Death Eaters got in Hogwarts. There was something about that in the memories wasn't there? Ron said something about it."

Harry nodded grimly, "He had been forced to take the mark. Something about Voldemort killing Muggles. He took the mark to stop it. Snape said in the memory that Draco was so upset that he was going to kill himself. But Snape convinced him to try and help our side, help me get Voldemort."

"Help you by obliviating you?" Bill shook his head, "That is definitely twisted Slytherin thinking."

"Tell me about it. Assuming this is all true how could anyone I was in love with do such a thing?" They had turned and started walking farther down the beach. The gulls skittered away from them as their footsteps left imprints on the wet sand.

"How do you feel about Malfoy, now? Do you see him want to go to Azkaban?"

Harry hesitated, "I have no idea. I hear how he described his mother being tortured, of his having his own father use the Cruciatus on him. And he was only 16. Watching Muggles die. Dying while being tortured and looking like me. How twisted is that? But then he took away two years of memories from me. Two years of Merlin knows what. Love? I can't even fathom that. That makes me furious; I want to pound him into the ground. I mean, bloody hell, who does that to someone he loves? But it comes back to that he did try to help us, as much as he could. We would have died that night at Malfoy Manor, if he hadn't released the wards. "

"He released the wards?"

"Yeah, that came out under Veritaserum. I would love to get the whole story on that."

"I think you need to get the whole story on a lot more than just that."

Harry shook his head, "I don't think I can handle anymore. I just want to find out if he helped us. I was wrong about Snape and without Snape's help Voldemort would still be alive. When it comes down to it, the trial is about whether or not Malfoy is a Death Eater, not what he did to me. If he was, fine, send him away. If he helped us, then that is a different story. I can't think about what he did to me. If I spend too much time thinking about that, I'll go crazy."

"You seem pretty calm about it this morning."

"Being here helps, a lot. You should have seen me yesterday around noon. I probably will have to send the Ministry some galleons for the room I destroyed. The last four days have nothing but a roller coaster. I'm angry, beyond angry. I don't have a clue who I am, anymore. I lost two years of my life. Erased by someone who I was supposed to have have been in love with.

"Every time I walk through the Ministry or take a step on to the street in Diagon alley I get mobbed. Attacked by witches and wizards who just want to touch me because I'm Harry Potter, the bloody Boy Who Lived. Mobbed by the reporters and photographers because any story about me will make them money. I'm a freak and I'm really afraid I'm going to explode and take out everyone around me." Harry hesitated before admitting that, he knew his magic was getting out of control. All the anger inside of him was building and he felt it in his magic, the pulse of it was stronger than his own heartbeat.

"I know a little something about being considered a freak, Harry. After this happened," Bill motioned towards his face, "I didn't think that anything would ever be the same. I was sure I would lose Fleur. That people would be frightened of me, that I would never be able to have the life I had hoped and planned for." he shrugged, "I was wrong. And it is my family and Fleur that made me see that, they helped me realize that I hadn't lost everything when Greyback mauled me. Some days it is still hard, but I get to carry my scars on the outside. People can see them. They can choose to accept them or not."

Bill stopped walking and looked at him, "You have to carry all but one of your scars on the inside. It doesn't mean that they are any less difficult to bear and you shouldn't have to do it alone. I would hope you already know this but, I'm going to say it because it needs to be said out loud. My parents, George, Charlie Ron, of course, Ginny, even Percy. We all consider you part of our family. We have for years. We love you and no matter what we are going to stand by you. We want to help you get through this and I really hope you let us."

OOoOoO

Draco lay on the cot in his cell staring up at the ceiling. He had stared at the same spot for weeks. It never changed. He knew every crack, every dimple in the plaster. It had been hours since he had walked out of the hearing room. When he had heard that Dumbledore's brother had Pensieve memories he had been afraid, afraid of what it could be. And his worst fears had been confirmed when he'd seen the memory displaying the feast, had seen the screen showing Dumbledore walking towards him.

What had Dumbledore been thinking? How could he have done that too Harry. Why had he saved those memories? Harry had already been through enough, and now to find out that Dumbledore had betrayed him. If he had known that the memories existed he would never have let the case gone to trial. He should have pleaded guilty when he was arrested. Nothing was worth making Harry go through what he must be feeling right now.

A noise down the row of cells caught his ears and he turned towards it. With astonishment he saw his mother walking towards his cell, accompanied by two guards. For one distracted moment he realized how lovely she looked, "Mother, what are you doing here?"

The guards unlocked his cell and let her enter, "One hour." He growled, with a glance towards the E.Y.E. that hovered near the corner of Draco's cell. Draco had sprang off the cot and moved to hug his mother.

"Are you okay, what's wrong. Why are you here?"

"I spoke with Minister Shacklebolt. I convinced him to let me talk to you." His mother's hand cupped his cheeks and she gently stroked back the hair that had fallen forward covering his eyes.

"He let you come?" Draco shook his head, wondering if he was imagining it. "Why? Why now?"

"My son, you have been through so much. This is not the life I imagined us having when I held you as a little baby." Her mother looked around the cell, bare except for the cot and a few blankets. She seemed to shake herself and motioned for him to sit down on the cot, she sat next to him. "The minister allowed me to come. I'm sure it is because of the memories. They prove that you were trying to help defeat Voldemort. They made the difference."

"But Harry, he must be devastated. Did they play everything from that night?" Draco whispered the words. He didn't need to have seen the memories to know what happened inside of Dumbledore's office that night. They were burned into his own memory.

"They did, we saw everything. Severus telling Dumbledore about that horrible summer. About you agreeing to help. Dumbledore giving Harry the love potion. The Adcredo being administered."

Draco let out a sob that he couldn't contain, "Gods, Harry. This is going to destroy him. What happened, how did he take it?" His mother gripped his hand and looked at him worriedly,

"He was upset. They stopped the viewing for a while and his friends took him to the room next door. He, well, it sounded like he was pretty upset. Then he came back and was calm through the rest of it. Didn't do anything but watch the screen."

"I could have stopped it. Protected him. I should have pleaded guilty from the beginning. He doesn't deserve this."

"He deserves to know the truth, Draco." His mother said it without hesitation. "Otherwise he would be forever haunted by pieces of memories, never knowing what was real and what wasn't."

Draco shuddered at that, "But now he knows what Dumbledore did to him. That is the worst part. That he know that everything with the Weasley girl was a fraud. He didn't deserve that. He needs to know he can be loved for real. He needs to be. He has lost everything now. I would give anything to make things okay for him."

"The best thing you can do for him now is tell him the truth. We have had to live under the lies and fear for too long."

"I don't know if I can. It will just hurt him more. Knowing what I did to him to us."

"If you want him to recover then don't try to shield it. I know what you went through, how I almost lost you. That you would have willingly died just to save your Harry. I will be forever grateful to Severus for offering another way."

"I think the price was too great. I never would have agreed if I'd known..." his voice trailed off.

"That you wouldn't die in the war?" his mother said softly. "I know, but you didn't die. You lived. There has to be a reason. Why we both survived when by all rights we should be dead. That is a gift that should not be wasted. We can prove that the last of the Blacks and Malfoys are not people to be feared or scorned. That we are not the blind followers of the dark arts that your father and grandfathers were." She put her arms around him. "I have lost everything. I can't bear to lose you, Draco. Please try, don't give up just because you think it will save Harry some pain."

Draco nodded, not sure if he was agreeing or just trying to make his mother happy. "Tell me about Aunt Andromeda and my cousin Teddy." He was grateful to see the smile light up her mother's face. She had had very few reasons to smile for too long. "He is adorable. Such a little thing. You forget how small babies are until you get to hold one again. Just five months old but already smiling and gurgling."

"And you and Andromeda are getting along okay?"

His mother nodded, "She has been through so much. Losing Ted and Nymphadora. But she is brave and she is making it through. We have had many long talks. I never told you this but she had warned me about marrying your father. Told me I had to defy our father and not do it. But I was so afraid, afraid of betraying my family."

She gave herself a little shake, "And I'm very grateful to have this chance to help her with the baby. She didn't have to give me a place to live, and she did and we are slowly mending all that has happened."

"I'm glad, Mother. I'm happy for you." Draco said. It was a relief to see that the deep lines of worry that had been etched in his mother's forehead were slowly fading. The pain and fear that she constantly lived under for so long were gradually going away. He doubted if they would ever be gone forever though.

"The only thing I have left to worry about is you. Don't give up, Draco. Don't think that there is nothing more to live for. Don't throw yourself away, Draco. Please, try for me. Show them who you really are, not the mask that you have had to wear for so long."

Chapter Text

Hours later, they were in Kingsley's office, having made a quick stop at Grimmauld Place for showers and change of clothes. Harry had already told Hermione and Ron about the decision he had made while sitting on the bluff and now he laid it out for Kingsley. The minister protested but Harry had pushed until reluctantly he had agreed. Ron and Hermione were silent, neither of them were convinced it was the best course of action but Harry wasn't interested in being talked out of it.

As they waited for the lawyers to be summoned Kingsley opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out a sealed envelope and handed it to Harry, Harry's name was written across the front of it in very familiar handwriting, "What's this?"

"Aberforth left that for you yesterday. It seems he was supposed to have given it to you before you saw the memories," Kingsley grimaced. "It slipped his mind in the rush to get here."

Harry looked at Albus Dumbledore's handwriting and the Hogwarts seal on the envelope, he held it out to Kingsley, "I don't want it."

"Harry, it probably will help explain..." Hermione protested.

"Helps explain why the Headmaster of Hogwarts decided to not only condone the assault of a student by another student but went on to cover it up using spells, potions and charms? I'm not interested."

"Harry, you should read it. It may not justify it but..."

Harry handed the letter to Hermione. "Here, you take it. I'm making you official keeper of all mystery letters that people give me. Read them. Destroy them. I don't care. But if I take it, I'll burn it." Hermione reluctantly slipped the letter into her robe pocket and was going to say more but was interrupted by the arrival of the two lawyers.

"Come in, counselors. I want to update you on the status of the Malfoy case." Kingsley sat at his desk and waited for everyone to be seated. "I am declaring a mistrial. It has become clear that there is much to this case that we do not know. From the discussion between Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape that we heard during the Pensieve memories it supports Malfoy's claim that he was assisting the Order, or at least assisting Dumbledore and Snape in their work.

Smith, opened his mouth to protest but Kingsley cut him off.

"As of now Draco Malfoy is no longer a defendant. Charges will need to be re-filed, if and only if, it is deemed after proper review of the existing and forthcoming evidence. What we need to do is assess whether the help that he provided outweigh the crimes we believe he committed. We have Malfoy's own testimony under Veritaserum that indicates that he not only saved Harry Potter's life in Malfoy Manor by not identifying him but also by making escape possible for six people by dropping the wards.

"But he tried to kill Dumbledore three times, seriously injuring two students in the process!" Smith protested.

"Yes, and we have his testimony, again under Veritaserum, that that was because as a sixteen year old boy he had been forced to take these actions under extreme duress and the threat of killing his mother." Goldstein said soberly, "A difficult dilemma for a man let alone a teenager."

"What about what he did to Potter!" Smith turned and faced Harry, "Surely, you can't want him to get away with what he did to you!"

"Do not presume that you know what I want," Harry shook his head at him, "I want answers from Malfoy. Why did he not tell anyone that he was working against Voldemort? What else did he do to help us from the other side? I made a mistake in judging Snape because of what I thought I knew about him. I don't plan on making that mistake again."

"He OBLIVIATED you. What else-"

"Smith, I have already told Harry that he can have his questions answered. Truly, Smith, if Harry Potter is willing to listen to what Malfoy has to say, shouldn't a Ministry lawyer be willing to do the same?"

Kingsley ignored the sputtering indignation of Smith and opened his door. He spoke with his assistant outside and then came back in. "Malfoy is being summoned. Please be seated as we wait."

"So who is asking the questions? I may be an American, but even my crash course in British Wizarding law tells me that this is highly irregular." Goldstein looked from Kingsley to Harry.

Harry said, "I am. I want my questions answered, after that," he shrugged, "It is up to Kingsley and Smith."

"Are you going to ask him about the memory charm? I will have to advise him to not further indict himself." Goldstein looked at Harry with concern. Harry could sense the awkward position the lawyer was in. Protecting his client from the man who was paying his bills.

"I do not want to hear anything that he may have to say about that. I don't want to know. Whatever our relationship was before that event, he was willing to erase it. I have no interest in learning more. I want this trial over with so I can leave. If he really helped the Order then let him go. If it is all one big lie then try and sentence him. This isn't about what he did to me."

The two lawyers were staring at him, "This is outrageous, we have to follow proper procedures," Smith said, ignoring Harry and looking at Kingsley.

"Nothing about this trial has followed any type of proper process, why should it start now?"

It took ten minutes for Malfoy to be brought up to the room. Harry spent the time staring out the window. He ignored the sound of the windowpanes rattling in the frame. He could just see the glimmering reflection of the Thames in the distance. On the street below Muggles were rushing wherever they needed to go, cars were stopping at the zebra crossing and moving on. Life going on for so many, he thought. He wondered if his ever would. The door opened but he didn't turn around. He had to force himself to keep his breath calm and even.

"Mr. Malfoy, step in. There has been a development in your case. Please be seated." Kingsley said.

"What is he doing here?" Malfoy asked. Harry had no doubt that the blond was pointing at him.

"Mr. Malfoy, as of a few minutes ago, I declared a mistrial. The prosecution will need to re-file charges in order to go to a new trial. We are meeting here to determine whether those charges should be filed. Your cooperation in answering the questions asked today will go a long way in deciding your fate. Yesterday, you were willing to go to Azkaban, I hope that you have taken the night to rethink that."

"And how are you planning to ask these questions? Drug me with more Veritaserum?" Malfoy drawled. Harry turned to look at him. He was relieved to see that the Malfoy who was standing in front of him was the arrogant defiant one. Not the one from yesterday who had hesitated and looked back at Harry with the worried, concerned expression. Harry didn't know how to take that Malfoy. This one he knew how to handle.

"No, Malfoy. You are just going to tell us what happened sixth year and last year. Were you helping Snape fight Voldemort. Yes or no."

Malfoy stared at him. "What do you care?"

"I don't care. All I care about is getting this over with so I can be done with you. Don't be the prat like you always have been. Just answer the damn questions so I can get the hell away from you..."

Goldstein coughed, "I don't think-"

"Yes. I was helping Snape." Malfoy stared at Harry defiantly.

"Why didn't you tell anyone? Why didn't you tell anyone you were working to help defeat Voldemort?"

"Who. Would. Have. Believed. Me?" Malfoy looked at Harry, "You? Them?" he pointed at Kingsley and Smith. "Other than my own mother, the only people who knew are dead. No one would have believed us."

"You could have said it under Veritaserum." Harry stated.

"As my own lawyer proved, Veritaserum is only as effective as the questions being asked. It is impossible to get the whole truth."

"You tell us then. This is your only chance, Malfoy. Why, if you were willing to help defeat Voldemort, did you try and kill Dumbledore?"

Harry could feel Malfoy's indecision. He looked away and Harry could see his jaw clenching, gritting his teeth at whatever conflict was preventing him from answering.

"Come on, Malfoy. You love talking; you never shut up at Hogwarts. This is your time to brag. What did you do?" Malfoy turned and glared at Harry.

"Fine. The summer that I took the mark, Voldemort also made me take a vow to kill Dumbledore. I took it to save my mother. He had threatened to kill her. I didn't expect to actually go back to school so I didn't think the vow mattered because I would never be near Dumbledore again."

"What had you planned on doing instead?" Harry refused to think back to the memory where Snape described Malfoy brewing a hemlock potion. The Malfoy he knew was too arrogant to consider suicide.

Malfoy laughed, "Doesn't matter, Potter, whatever I had planned it made the vow seem not that relevant." Draco shifted uncomfortably in his chair, "Snape convinced me to change those plans. Voldemort was still threatening to kill Mother. So, Snape told me to spend the year trying to fix that damn cabinet to appease him. We didn't think it could be fixed."

"What went wrong?"

"My mother was still being held a prisoner in our own home. Voldemort was getting impatient, he sent me the threats. Snape and I came up with the plan for me to use the Imperius on Rosmerta to make her give someone the cursed necklace to give to Dumbledore. That way Voldemort would know that an attempt had been made. The necklace was in a sealed box and wrapped. How were we supposed to know that the silly girl would unwrap it and open the box before she even left Hogsmeade?"

Harry shook his head at that and looked at Ron to see if he believed it. "What about the mead? I almost died," said Ron from where he stood leaning against Kingsley's bookcase.

Malfoy laughed to Ron's outrage, "What a farce that was. I added Aconite to the mead, ironically the same ingredient that makes your brother's Skiving Snackboxes so entertaining. It was supposed to have given whoever took it a very dramatic reaction and then quickly recover. Unfortunately, Slughorn had just given you a potion to counter the love potion..." Malfoy's voice trailed off and he flushed, pink creeping up his pale cheeks. The word love potion hung in the air.

"Go on. What went wrong this time?" Harry's voice was steel.

"The counter-potion that Slughorn gave him reacted with the Aconite which caused your bigger than planned reaction."

"Bigger than planned! I almost died!" Ron shouted.

"Or, you had a reaction that made you violently ill for a day or two and then were fine. Dumbledore and Snape spread the word, with Madam Pomfrey's cooperation that you were sicker than you were. She actually gave you sleeping potions so that it seemed you were deathly ill."

Smith stood up, "How are we supposed to know this is the truth! He is assuredly lying through his teeth to try and save his own skin. If we are going to continue I demand that Veritaserum be used."

"No. We are doing it my way this time." Harry said firmly. "The Vanishing Cabinet."

"I had made the mistake of telling Voldemort about it that summer when I didn't think I would be alive to actually use it. I remembered Montague getting trapped in there," Draco raked his hand through his hair, "I had told them that I would fix it, I never planned on actually using it. Snape and I were just going to tell him it couldn't be fixed."

He stared down at the floor in front of him. "But at Easter break, he demonstrated what would happen if I failed. He used the Cruciatus on my mother. With me watching. He promised that he would kill her using that curse. Not Avada Kedavra, he would torture her to death. Like he had the first Muggle." Malfoy shuddered involuntarily.

"So I fixed it, I couldn't let my mother die." Malfoy shook himself and sat up straighter, "That night, Dumbledore was supposed to be out for the night, Snape had told me that he was going away for the night. I thought that the Death Eaters would go to his office, find he wasn't there and then leave." he said, "I didn't know they would bring Greyback. I didn't know there would be guards and all of the D.A. members. And they fought just like you taught them. And then I was at the top of the Astronomy Tower with Dumbledore."

"I know what happened up at the tower. What about your seventh year. How did you help?"

Draco paused, he took a deep breath and then the bored Malfoy expression was back, he said nonchalantly, "It was almost like fifth year, I had to go on patrols. It was easy to ignore or plan routes around what Longbottom and his team of hooligans were planning. They were fairly obvious. I could head off other Slytherin patrols. When I did have to punish someone under Carrow's orders, I used the Crucifigo. It was bad but not as bad as the alternative."

"What do you mean it was just like fifth year?" Hermione asked, speaking up for the first time. Malfoy looked alarmed when he looked at her but Harry shook his head.

"Don't answer that. I'm not interested." Harry said. He did not want to hear Malfoy say a single thing about what had happened that year. The year that Malfoy had erased from his memory. He forced himself to concentrate. "Anything else you did at Hogwarts?"

"If I heard something being talked about by the Carrows or other Slytherins that seemed useful I reported it to Snape. That didn't amount too much." Malfoy shrugged. Harry thought that he certainly wasn't trying that hard, the old Malfoy would have made up something.

"What about the wards. Why did you drop them?"

"I heard the apparition crack and knew that Dobby had arrived."

"How did you know it was Dobby?" Harry asked, "It could have been anyone."

Malfoy rolled his eyes, "No, it couldn't have been anyone. Dobby used to be our house elf. He is the only one that could have apparated through the wards. I knew he was your friend. I don't know how you contacted him but I knew he wouldn't be able to apparate anyone out without the wards being dropped. So I did it."

"And you helped Ollivander, Luna and Dean before we arrived." said Hermione.

"As much as I could," Draco shifted angrily, "I wasn't a bloody saint like Potter. He was in the house for two hours and rescued everyone in the cellars. I was there off and on for the two years that Ollivander was there and all I did was bring food and blankets. I didn't rescue him."

"You couldn't, could you? Without risking your mother." said Hermione softly. Ron looked at her sharply.

"He is still a bloody git, Hermione." Ron said angrily.

"Enough," said Harry. "Is there anything else you did to help the Order? This is probably your last time to stand up for yourself. Do it."

"That is pretty much it." Draco said, he pulled himself up straight in the chair and adjusted sleeves of his robes.

Hermione spoke up, "I have a question, what form does your Patronus take?"

Malfoy face froze and he stared at her and then looked at Harry. He shrugged, "Can you even throw one?"

"I used to," Malfoy's face flickered for just a moment. He took a deep breath and looked at Hermione, "When I could cast one, it was a panther." Hermione nodded knowingly. Malfoy shifted in his seat and the mask came over his face again.

"So what happens now?"

"Just one more question. Why. Why did you do it?"

"Do what, Potter?" Malfoy leaned back in his chair, for all intents in purposes looking the same arrogant git he'd been at school.

"You know what, why did you help our side?"

Malfoy's jaw tightened, he looked over at Kingsley. "Do I have to answer that? What difference does it make why I did anything?"

"You don't have to answer any questions. You can go back to your cell until we determine whether or not to proceed with the charges. I will bring your statements and the other evidence to the Wizengamot Council and that decision will be made by the end of the week. But like I said when you came in, your cooperation goes a long way in deciding your fate."

Malfoy stood up and walked over to the windows, after a moment he said hesitantly, "A long time ago, two people made a difference in my life. One took a chance on me. He did me a favor, a risky one. He didn't have to do it and I never thought he would but he was willing to help me. Even though I didn't deserve it. The other person helped me see the person who I could be. Helped me see that I wasn't fated to become my father just because I was a Malfoy. They became the first true friends I ever had.

"One of them asked me one day, if I was going to be a fighter or a follower. Of Voldemort. And I realized that there was no way I could be a follower and I made the decision to be a fighter. But then, I was forced to take the mark. I would rather have died than live with it. I was prepared to die. When Snape told me that there was a way I could help, I wanted to prove to myself that I had been worthy of my friends. That I could still fight, but it would have to be from the other side. So I did what I could, it wasn't much but I tried." He wheeled back around and stared at Harry. "What now?"

Harry shrugged. "Up to the lawyers and the Ministry. I really don't care what happens to you. I just wanted to hear what you had done to help us. Call it perverse curiosity. I'm walking away." and he did just that, not looking at the lawyers or Kingsley. Ron walked out with him and after a moment Hermione followed them.

OOoOOO

Draco shut his eyes with relief as he saw Harry walk out of the office. He shook himself, trying to shed the feeling of self-loathing that had gripped him since he had walked into the office. He heard someone approach, "Are you okay?" his lawyer asked.

"I'm fine." He sucked in a ragged breath of air and looked over at Shacklebolt, "What else do you need to know?" His face had lost the one of cold indifference, exhaustion was clearly written across his face.

Shacklebolt stared at him, startled at the change in expression. "Was that all an act?"

Draco shrugged and dragged a hand through his hair, "The words were the truth, the attitude was for Harry's benefit. He doesn't know any other Malfoy than that one."

Smith jumped out of his chair, "How can we trust this charlatan who is obviously a two-faced liar!"

Draco turned and smiled at him, "Only a lawyer such as you would recognize another charlatan. I'll answer your questions, under Veritaserum, if you want. I don't want to Harry to know more than he has to, he can't take anymore. Can't you feel how he was just on the edge of exploding?"

Shacklebolt looked at him curiously, "He seemed pretty calm."

"You're joking right? The windows were vibrating from the magic he was giving off. He had to keep his hands clenched to his side to keep control of it. He's been pushed beyond what he can handle. I wasn't about to add to it by showing him any other Malfoy than the one he knows he hates." He looked at Shacklebolt, "I've had to be that Malfoy for too long. I'm ready to be rid of him, so long as Harry isn't in the room."

"Harry? What right do you have to call him Harry?" Smith exclaimed in an outraged voice.

"A hell of a lot more than you do." Draco said with a shake of his head. "Did you have questions for me or can I go back to my cell?"

OoOoOoO

Hermione showed Professor McGonagall into the sitting room. Ron gave Harry a nervous look and sat down at the edge of his seat. Harry had to laugh. It was strange to see the dragon of Hogwarts in his own house.

"Harry, I'm sure you are wondering why I requested to see you."

"Oh, well. erm. Yes."

Hermione sat down on the sofa next to Ron. "Is there going to be a delay in opening the school, Professor?"

"No, we are very fortunate. It looks like the repairs will be complete in time for the planned October 1st opening." McGonagall arranged her robes more neatly around her. "Harry, I need to speak frankly with you. I know about the developments that arose from Draco Malfoy's trial."

Harry tried but couldn't hold back the snort that he felt. McGonagall nodded sympathetically but went on.

"Exactly. I came here tonight to talk to you. I have spoken with Kingsley about his sentencing. As you have been told, Draco is being cleared of all charges, except the assault on you. For that, he is being sentenced to two years probation since the offence occurred when he was a juvenile." Harry nodded, Kingsley had owled him the decision after Harry had refused to come back to meet with him. McGonagall went on, "Because of this he would be qualified to attend Hogwarts as an eighth year when it re-opens-"

"You are not going to let that git into the school after what he did to Harry!" Ron was on his feet.

"Mr. Weasley. If you please," McGonagall glared at him. "We may not be at Hogwarts, but you will extend me the courtesy of respect." Hermione pulled Ron back on to the sofa.

"You were saying, Professor McGonagall?"

"Yes, of course, I need to consider the well-being of all my students. And I completely understand, Harry, that if you are uncomfortable with the thought of Draco Malfoy attending I will-"

"It will not be a problem, Professor McGonagall." Harry spoke for the first time.

Ron, Hermione and McGonagall all stopped and stared at Harry. "It won't be a problem?" Ron said faintly. "You won't mind being in classes with-"

"It won't be a problem, because I'm not going back." Harry said as he stood up and walked across the floor, taking a defensive stance against the bookcase. "I've been meaning to tell you but haven't known how. I'm not going back. I just can't."

"Harry, you have to go back." Hermione protested, coming over to him. "Your N.E.W.T.s, you need to take them."

Ron nodded, "We had a plan, mate. Finish school, get into the Auror program."

Harry shook his head, "Maybe at one time, but you both have to know that nothing is the same now. We can't pretend that it is… I can't stomach the thought of school. Of having everyone staring at me, having them know about Malfoy. Or even being an Auror and spending more years of my life hunting rotten people who would just as soon kill me as not. I need a change. A complete change."

"Do you have a plan, Harry?" McGonagall had an understanding look on her face, which surprised Harry. He thought she would be the last one, other than Hermione, who would understand. "If you need a referral to an apprentice program..."

"No. I appreciate that but I already know where I am going. Romania." He looked apologetically at Ron and Hermione. "Charlie wrote to me a few days ago and invited me. I'm going to go and work with the dragons."

OooOooO OoOOoOOOOO

Hermione walked into the kitchen and stopped short. Most mornings Harry was already sitting at the table, drinking coffee and reading the Muggle newspaper. She looked at the pile of things on the table and a feeling of dread came over her. There was a letter on top of the stack of record albums. Reading it, she felt a sob rip through her chest as Ron came up behind her. "What's wrong?"

"He's gone." Hermione said, tears rolling down her cheeks.

"What do you mean he is gone? Last night he told us he would wait. That he would listen to what we had to say."

"He just said that to keep us from stopping him." Hermione handed him the letter, "He left this morning."

Dear Hermione and Ron;

I had a portkey for seven this morning. I am sorry to leave without saying good-bye, but I know you would just try and convince me to stay and I can't do it. Believe me when I say that I have to go. I've been trying to hold it together for too long, I just don't want to try anymore. I have had to put up with this for seven years. I'm not doing it anymore. Everything is a reminder of what I've lost and the thought of going back to Hogwarts is impossible. Dumbledore. Him. I can't even write his name. It is just a matter of time until the Prophet digs up what happened, I have no desire to be in England when that happens.

Hermione, I am leaving the letters from Dumbledore and Diggory. If you want, read them. You decide whether or not it would be better to keep them or not. I told Kingsley to send any letters, confessions, or Merlin help me, Pensieve memories to you. You decide what to do with them. Sorry to put the pressure on you but all I would do is Incendio them. I don't want to learn any more about what happened. I just want to forget (hah!) and start a new life.

Ron, I sent a letter to Ginny, a coward's way out, but I really couldn't handle seeing her again. Thank your parents for me. I'm leaving the Marauder's Map for you, doubt if you'll need it but you never know.

I also sent a letter to Andromeda. Other than you two, the only other person I will miss is little Teddy. I can't stay and be any type of godfather to him when all I want to do is scream and destroy things. Better I do it in Romania than here.

Use the house whenever you want. Do whatever you want to it. I suppose I should have fixed the wall before I left...I told Kreacher that he can go to Hogwarts with you or stay here, whatever he wants to do.

Hermione, I left a copy of a Power of Attorney for you with Kingsley. You can use it to get funds for the house or Teddy if he needs something. If Kingsley has a question regarding Mathe Slytherin, just make the decision. Please don't contact me about that, just do what needs to be done.

I know Charlie usually comes home for Christmas, I'm not promising that I'll be ready to do that. Maybe you both could come to Romania? Assuming I'm still there in December.

Harry

P.S. I left the things we found in the trunk. Give him back the record albums. Throw out the rest.

Hermione sat down and looked at the pile of records. "He wants us to take those back to Malfoy."

"Why give them back? Why not just destroy them or throw them away?" Ron asked, still staring down at the letter, too stunned to comprehend the words written on it.

"Destroy them like his uncle destroyed his mother's albums?" Hermione shook her head, "My best guess is that he knows that the records must be significant. He wants Malfoy to have them back as a kind of..."

"As an 'Up yours, Malfoy'?"

"Well, crudely put, yes. He isn't even sure he'll come back for Christmas."

"He'll be back. He'll be back. He can't stay away forever." Ron tried to sound reassuring, but he didn't know if he was telling himself or Hermione. Just then Kreacher came in carrying the Daily Prophet. He looked hesitantly from Hermione to Ron.

"What's wrong, Kreacher?" Hermione asked, reaching for the paper. Kreacher looked like he was going to hang on to the paper but hanging his head he gave it to her. Hermione opened the paper and slowly sank on to the bench. She laid the paper flat on the table so Ron could see it.

"HARRY POTTER'S SECRET LOVE AFFAIR"

"Oh gods, no." Ron shook his head. "Who talked? No one was supposed to talk."

"Someone did. It was inevitable, even Harry knew that," Hermione said, quickly scanning the story, "It just says here 'Ministry Insider' as the source. They don't mention the love potion, thank Merlin. It sound like the whole article is based on the first images that were seen in front of the Wizengamot."

OOoOOOOo

October 1, 1998

Draco tried to focus on what McGonagall was saying but his eyes were focused on the clock behind her, ticking the minutes towards eleven o'clock. He wondered if Harry would be getting on the train. Would he take the Hogwarts Express? Probably, nostalgia and all that. He thought back at the expression on Harry's face the last time he saw it. Maybe not. Harry hadn't looked like he was feeling nostalgic about anything that day, as he had coldly turned and walked away.

"Draco. Please, your attention would be most appreciated. As I was saying, in agreement with the conditions of your probation you are restricted to the Hogwarts grounds during the entire the school year, except for the holidays during which you may return to the Tonks residence to be with your mother. In addition, you will serve your mandated volunteer hours as Potions assistant to Professor Slughorn's first and second year classes."

"I understand all of the restrictions." Draco's eyes drifted towards the clock again.

"I am certain you do. Now, because of the large number of students who are returning to complete their interrupted schooling, we were unable to accommodate all the students in the traditional houses. As a result, all returning eighth year students will be housed in the West Tower." Draco looked at her sharply, she now had his full attention.

"Yes, just so. Much renovation was necessary to accommodate the dormitories." She gave him an appraising look, "The West Tower dormitory is accessed from the first floor. It does not include the ground floor level. Fortunately," she looked briefly over her shoulder at Dumbledore's portrait, "I was informed of the presence of the former Quidditch rooms on the ground floor. They remain untouched. The intent is that if and when Harry Potter should ever desire to learn more that the room should be as it was when he was there. I don't know if it would help or hinder his recovery, but it is not our decision to make. You are not to access these rooms, is that understood?" Draco did not dare speak, simply nodded.

"On that topic, I know you are restricted from speaking of Harry, please know that myself and certain new staff members are the exceptions to that restriction. In addition, I need to tell you, to save you from staring at the clock. Harry Potter is not returning to Hogwarts."

Draco stared at her blankly for a moment, numbly he said, "He isn't?"

"No, he has elected to not complete his schooling. A choice that is perhaps understandable under the circumstances." Draco stared down at the floor in front of his chair. He had been dreading seeing Harry for first time, or even the hundredth time. Knowing that Harry hated him. Knowing that Harry knew that Draco had betrayed him, had destroyed a part of him. But at the same time, even fleeting glimpses of Harry was what he had hoped for, what he needed.

He gritted his teeth and looked at McGonagall, "Is it because I am here?"

She shook her head, "His decision was made before you were given the option to return. I'm sure you understand that he was given the choice to determine if you would be allowed back. He had already made plans that did not include returning to Hogwarts."

"Where did he go?" He'd asked the question before he could snatch the words back.

"I'm not at liberty to say." McGonagall looked at him sternly. "But that cannot be a concern of yours. It is best that you focus on the upcoming school year and make the most of it. I understand that you hope to enter the training program at St. Mungo's?"

Draco nodded, "Assuming that my N.E.W.T. levels are sufficient."

"You were always near or at the top of your classes, Draco." McGonagall looked at him soberly, "However, I am not so naive as to not realize that this will be your most difficult year. The unfortunate timing of the Prophet articles and the uproar from the public about the charges against you being dropped is likely to result in your classmates -"

"Hexing me to Hades and back?" Draco said dryly. "I can handle it."

"I have every confidence that you can, but how you handle it is a concern of mine." McGonagall stared at him. "Because you are on probation you cannot defend yourself, even if attacked."

"Like I said at my sentencing, the only thing I am interested in is getting enough O's to get into St. Mungo's. I have no interest in taking on anyone. I just want to disappear while I'm here."

"I think what Headmistress McGonagall is trying to say is she is concerned that you may have a difficult time not only with your fellow students but also with coming to terms with the past events yourself, Draco." Draco's eyes swung to the portrait of Dumbledore. The man's blue eyes shined down at him, much as they had in life.

"What do you mean?" Draco asked.

"You and I both committed terrible acts in an effort to protect and help Harry. Desperate times called for desperate actions. However, Headmistress McGonagall and I both feel it is time for you to forgive yourself for your actions." Dumbledore's painted expression looked at him soberly, "Harry is lost right now. He is trying to find himself after having so much being taken from him. It is impossible to venture a guess when he will return. The best thing you can do now is to simply permit yourself to heal. So that when he does return you are best able to help him."

"It doesn't matter. There is a chasm between us that can never be crossed. He will never forgive me for what I did to him. Worse, I bear the mark that represents everything that he is against. He will always hate me." Draco said, hardly able to believe he was actually having a discussion with a portrait. He hadn't talked to one since he was ten.

"Today? He certainly does, and he is none too fond of my memory either. We both committed grievous assaults against him. However, I hold on to the hope that he will find it in his heart to forgive. There is no chasm that cannot be crossed. As I told Professor Snape so many years ago, Harry has a tremendous capacity for forgiveness."

"I think we all know that there are some things that can't be forgiven and I'm pretty sure this was one of them. But, I promised myself that I would try to move past it. I want to help people, make up for what I did in the past." Draco said, he looked away from the portrait and stared towards the window. He looked back at McGonagall and was surprised to see her smiling gently at him, as was Dumbledore in his frame.

McGonagall looked at him, "I am very glad to hear that, and I hope you find this helpful in accomplishing that goal. We now have a mind healer on staff at Hogwarts. Healers McCain will be holding group sessions for returning students who were directly involved with both sides of the war and for those who lost loved ones. In addition, she will be offering one on one counseling. As you know, another condition of your parole is weekly counseling session. You will be expected to attend the group session with some other eighth years."

Draco gritted his teeth "I'll do the one on one because it is required for my parole, but I'm not going to do any group thing."

McGonagall laughed, "You seem to be under the impression you have a choice," her smile faded away as she looked at him, "Draco, this has been a difficult time for us all. An especially difficult one for you. I would like this school year to go smoothly."

Draco nodded, he was anxious to leave her office, "I will be in a dormitory in the West Tower?"

"There are single, double, and triple rooms in the tower. The other students will be assigned roommates regardless of their original houses. You have one of the singles. I have no doubt that you will need your privacy."

"Fine. Is that all?" Draco tried not to sound too tense. It had seem like a good idea when he was sitting in his cell waiting to be released: Go back to Hogwarts, complete his N.E.W.T.s, get into the St. Mungo's training program. Now he was faced with the reality of having to attend classes and share living spaces with people who had every right to hate him. He would have to face Granger and Weasley. Both Weasleys. And the Slytherins, the few of them that were returning. He had betrayed both sides and now he would have to live with the consequences because he had somehow lived through the war and even more miraculously had not ended up in Azkaban.

McGonagall nodded. "Please come to me if you have any problems. I want to be able to help you." Draco quickly stood up and left. He emerged from the staircase and looked towards the Entrance Hall, thinking he would walk around the lake. That thought quickly died when he saw the two people walking towards him. He swiftly turned and made his way down the corridor heading in the opposite direction.

OoOOoOoo

Hermione and Ron apparated into Hogsmeade behind the Hog's Head. By silent agreement they ignored the fact the last time they had done this was in May and Harry had been with them. The world was different now, but the lane leading to Hogwarts was the same. Ron held his hand out to Hermione, "Are you ready?" In his other hand he held a bouquet of flowers.

"No," she shook her head, "But, I don't think I ever will be so we may as well go on." Ron gave her hand squeeze and they started walking towards the gates of Hogwarts. They had decided to apparate rather than take the Hogwarts Express. The media was in a feeding frenzy, desperate to get a glimpse of Harry. They followed Ron and Hermione every moment of the day, hoping that they would lead them to Harry. They had avoided the photographers this morning by going to the Ministry and apparating from Kingsley's office.

The gates silently opened for them and then closed. Hermione knew that in a few hours the gates would be packed with reporters hoping to catch a glimpse of Harry once they figured out he wasn't at King's Cross. Ginny had chosen to brave the crowds. She wanted to show everyone that she wasn't afraid to show her face as the seemingly cheated-on and abandoned girlfriend of Harry Potter. Kingsley had been furious that the story had gotten to the Prophet. An investigation showed that one of the guards who had been fired after attacking Malfoy had sold the story to the Prophet. Fortunately he had only seen the memories from the wand so the details were sketchy.

They drew near to the castle, and stared up at the familiar structure. "How can it look the same and yet feel so different?" Hermione asked.

"It is like the Thestrals, you don't know what's there until you can see them. We can see a lot more now when we look at the castle."

Hermione nodded, "Are you ready to go inside?"

"Let's visit Fred first. I promised Mum I would bring her flowers to him straight away." Ron said soberly, and they turned to walk around to the far side of the castle, past the Quidditch pitch to the Field of Honor. Fifty-four grave stones stood there in neat rows. They wove their way through the markers until they got to Fred's. "Fred Weasley 1978-1998 Son, Brother, Beater, Joker"

They both smiled at the marker. The Weasleys had argued for many days about it. George had insisted on the wording and finally Arthur and Molly had agreed. Ron knelt down and set the flowers down in front of the stone. Hermione gently put her hands on his shoulder. "It still seems unreal. It is easy to forget for a day or two, pretend that he is at the shop selling whiz-bangs. And then George walks in the door at Mum and Dad's and I look behind him expecting to see Fred and he is never there."

"Fred was so alive in life, it is hard for any of us to think that he is truly gone." Hermione said, "It will help, you being able to go and help George on the weekends. Good for both of you."

Ron nodded, "I don't know how he does it. Thought he would have..."

"He is taking it hard, but he is trying to keep it together. For your folks, and I think he is afraid to just let go." Hermione said.

"Well, let's hope he doesn't decide to run off to Romania, too." Ron said gruffly, "Are we ready to do this?" Hermione nodded.

They walked into the entrance of Hogwarts. The repairs that had been done to the castle were evident. "It is remarkable that they were able to repair everything so quickly." Hermione said, looking around. Their footsteps echoed in the empty corridor, in a few hours the corridor would be filled with hundreds of students. It felt strange being back as eighteen year olds after a year away.

"I told McGonagall we would stop by." Hermione looked down the long corridor, "Should we do it now?"

"I suppose we have to find out where our rooms are, she told us we weren't going to be in Gryffindor." Ron said, shaking his head. "Doesn't seem right, but maybe it will be easier. Can't imagine Gryffindor without Harry."

"The dorms were full before, how would they find places for everyone? They had to open up a new dormitory. It only makes sense that we be the ones that use it."

They turned and walked towards the entrance to the Headmistress's tower, they stopped as they caught a glimpse of a familiar figure disappear around the corner at far end of the corridor. "Was that?" Hermione asked hesitantly.

Ron nodded grimly, "How we are going to get through a year with him here, I don't know."

"Don't judge him too quickly, Ron." Hermione said. "You heard all the pressure he was under, how can we -"

"He obliviated Harry!" Ron looked at her incredulously, "How can we not judge him!"

"I know. How can I forget?" Hermione hissed looking around to make sure no one was nearby, "But you saw Malfoy at the hearing. He was trying to protect him..."

"Do you really expect me to be nice to him?" Ron shook his head at her, "It isn't going to happen."

"Let's not have this conversation right here. Let's go talk to McGonagall and find out where our rooms are and get our class schedules."

"I better not be his roommate." Ron said with a glare towards where they had seen Malfoy disappear.

The meeting with McGonagall was brief, she was rushed to make sure everything was in place for the arrival of the rest of the students. To Ron's relief, he was rooming with Neville Longbottom. Hermione roommate was to be Luna Lovegood, who had requested to be in the eighth year dormitory. Ron had been surprised with the news of the mind healer being on staff, but Hermione was relieved. She hoped that the counseling sessions would help to heal the wounds that the war had left. Even she had felt uneasy walking the corridor and remembering everything that had happened just a few months before. She couldn't imagine what it would be like for Ron, Ginny and all of the others who had lost loved ones to walk down the corridors where they had died.

Ron had tried to hide his relief when McGonagall told him that eighth years would not be eligible to play on the Quidditch teams. He just couldn't imagine playing without Harry.

As they stood up to leave, McGonagall stopped them. "I understand how difficult it is going to be sharing a common living area and attending classes with Draco Malfoy. Of all the returning students you both have suffered the most from his past activities." She looked at them soberly, "But I hope I can count on you to set an example for the other students. If this school year is going to be a success we need everyone to set aside their past differences and move forward."

Hermione looked from Ron to the Headmistress, "We will certainly try." Ron snorted and she elbowed him in the side. "Are you concerned about his safety?"

"In a word, yes." McGonagall said, drawing herself up to her full height, "And I am going to make it clear that there is a zero tolerance policy for anyone who bullies or attacks other students. I am determined to make sure that every student is given a chance …"

OoOOoOoOOO

Malfoy never made an appearance in the common room or at the Welcome Feast. The returning eighth students had their own table in the Great Hall. It felt strange to sit at a table with Ravenclaw, Hufflepuffs, Gryffindors, and even a few Slytherin. Blaise Zabini, Daphne Greengrass and Theodore Nott were the only other Slytherins to return. They sat together at the end of the table and did not talk to any of the others.

"Why does Malfoy get his own room?" Ron grumbled.

Luna piped in, "They are probably afraid he would be hexed in his sleep. If he roomed with a Slytherin or one of you. He seems to have succeeded in making enemies of almost everyone." and Hermione had had to agree. Ron had rolled his eyes but not said anything. The blonde witch seemed a little more subdued than previous years, her robes were the same as all the others, no crazy earrings hung from her ears, no necklaces of butterbeer caps around her neck.

The first years arrived with the usual ceremony of the Sorting Hat. Hermione had bit her lip nervously as the first Slytherin student was announced but was relieved that there was the usual applause and celebration, even though it may have seemed slightly more muted than in previous years.

She looked over at the Gryffindor table and saw that Ginny was visiting and laughing with her own classmates. Only someone who knew her well would know that her smile was a brittle copy of her usual one. Tomorrow was Friday she thought with relief, they would be able to go to class for a day which would help get everyone settled and then have the weekend before starting the full week of classes.

"Ready, Hermione?" Ron asked, she looked around and saw that the others had finished eating.

"Oh, yes. But shouldn't we wait for..." Hermione pointed with her head towards the end of the table where the former Slytherins were still finishing eating.

"Why?" Ron asked. "They wouldn't wait for us."

"To set a good example," she hissed. It was a moot point a moment later when Theodore Nott looked over at Hermione and stood up. The rest of them stood and together they all walked out of the Great Hall together. It was a small thing but it gave Hermione hope that maybe some of the old house rivalries could be fixed.

OoOOoOOoO

Draco emerged out of the kitchens a few minutes before his first class, Advanced Arithmancy, was to start. He hadn't planned on having breakfast in the kitchen but hadn't been able to face the Great Hall. He had skipped the Welcome Feast the night before for the same reason.

Slinging his book bag over his shoulder he quickly made his way to the fifth floor classroom. The fact that his robes were several inches too short for him now was something he was very conscientious of but there was nothing he could do about it. The Malfoy accounts at Gringotts were still being held by the Ministry. His mother had launched a writing campaign as soon as the charges against him had been dropped, trying to get some of the funds released so that they had money to live on. Until then he had to make do. Fortunately he did have a new wand. The Ministry had reluctantly returned his old one, but he could never touch the hawthorn one again.

He slipped into the back row in the classroom seconds before the bell rang. He pulled out his text book as Professor Vector called the class to order. All he had to do was get through this year one class at a time. He dragged his hand through his hair, feeling the unfamiliar shortness of it. The first thing he had done after he'd been released was cut his hair. It was short and spiky now. His father would've hated it, he thought with a small smile.

It was only after Professor Vector put the first problem on the blackboard that he dared to look around. Granger was sitting in her usual spot in the front of the classroom, Luna Lovegood sitting next to her and Zabini was in the seat right in front of him. The rest of the class was filled unfamiliar seventh year students. Luna twisted in her seat and gave him a small smile before turning back around. Draco uncapped his ink and tried to focus on what the professor was saying.

Fortunately, it was a double session of Arithmancy class and the morning went by quickly. When the bell rang, he slowly started to repack his supplies. Keeping his head down he didn't look up as Blaise walked past him. His former roommate brushed past him, knocking hard against his shoulder.

"Hi Draco," a sing-song voice said, he looked up to see Luna Lovegood and Granger standing next to him. "Did you check your room for Bowcrinkles?"

"Hi Luna." Draco picked up his bag, "No Bowcrinkles." He and Luna had become friends when she was imprisoned in Malfoy Manor. It had impressed Draco, how she had faced the reality of her situation with incredible strength. Bravery comes in all forms. He hadn't forgotten that Luna had been one of the D.A. members that had braved the Department of Mysteries with Harry.

"Malfoy." Granger said it quietly, her face tense. Draco raised his eyebrow at her, she and the Weasleys were the last one he expected to talk to him. She flushed slightly. "So, you got settled in okay, yesterday? You weren't at the Feast."

Draco snorted at that one, he didn't know what Granger was up to but he knew that no one had missed him. "Granger." he acknowledged her but didn't bother to respond to her question.

"Shall we go to lunch?" Luna said brightly. Draco looked at Granger expecting her to make some excuse but she just nodded and agreed. They both turned towards the door and then looked back at him expectantly. He took a deep breath and joined them.

"Does Weasley know that you are going to be walking into the Great Hall with me?" he glanced over at her and was satisfied to see her stiffen.

After a moment she replied, "It is going to a lot of people a while to get used to you being here. Luna and I talked last night I agreed that you deserved a chance."

"Why?"

"Because you tried. Because no matter how wrong you were to do what you did to Harry you did make it possible for us to escape from Malfoy Manor." Granger looked like she was going to say more but they had gotten to the entrance of the hall.

Luna looked over at him and saw him stop. She slid her arm through his, and gave him a bright smile. "Don't let them see that the Wizarding world's new enemy number one is afraid to eat lunch."

Draco nodded and lifted his chin and walked into the room with her and forced himself to keep walking as the room fell silent. "Our table is over here." Luna said, unfazed by the fact that everyone was staring at them. Granger was walking with them still, but slightly to the side. Draco was reminded of all the times that Harry had had to do the same walk. After he had been picked for the Triwizard, after the parseltongue incident and a dozen other times. Harry had always managed to do it. He tightened his grip on his book bag and walked past the silent Slytherin and Gryffindor tables. Ginny Weasley was glaring at him and then switched her angry glare to Granger.

With relief he sat down at the Eighth year table choosing a spot as far away from the Slytherins as he could. Luna sat next to him and babbled on about something and Granger sat next to Weasley. He saw Weasley lean over and whisper in to her ear and she just shook her head and told him, "Later." By the glare that Weasley gave Draco he knew that it wasn't too hard to see that he was not pleased.

He ate as quickly as he could and left the table. Fortunately, he was helping Slughorn for the rest of the afternoon. The potions professor nodded to him and didn't waste any time with chit chat, just told Draco what he expected of him. The usually salubrious professor was decidedly not. Draco wondered how willingly the professor had greeted the news that he had an assistant this year. At least Draco didn't have to worry about being invited to be a part of the Slug Club.

It was a strange feeling, being back in Snape's classroom. Knowing that Snape would never enter the room with his robes sweeping behind him. Draco gave a laugh as he remembered trying to make his own robes sweep in a similar fashion second and third year. When he was young and naive and thought that appearances were what made the man. He had always had a difficult relationship with his godfather. Both father figure and teacher Snape had also been an unforgiving, harsh taskmaster. Intolerant of Harry or even Harry's memory. The last two years he had been unwilling to let Draco dwell on what he had lost. Now, Draco, realized with a bitter laugh that Snape had been right.

Since it was the first day of class there really wasn't much for him to do. He ended up sitting in the back of the classroom, his eyes involuntarily drifting to the table where he and Harry had sat four years ago, deboweling boarworms. He remembered hearing Harry's intake of breath as Draco had tied the scarf around his head that day. It was that gasp that had made him wonder if there was a chance that Harry could be gay. Draco smiled to himself as he remembered daring to let his hand rub across the Gryffindor's shoulders as a test and had been pleased by the other's reaction, a delicious shiver. It was that one little thing that had made him start thinking about Harry in a whole different light. That they might have more in common than he could have hoped. For just a moment he let himself wonder where Harry was, and then cast out the thought. It didn't matter even if he was standing right next to him, Harry would never want anything to do with him again.

Draco was startled out of his reverie by the bell going off. The first year students filed out, Draco noticed a few of the braver ones sneaking a glance at him. Slughorn came up to him with a list of ingredients that he wanted prepared for Monday's class. Draco spent the rest of the afternoon in the workroom to the side of the classroom preparing the ingredients and tools. It was better than just daydreaming and actually felt good to be useful.

At last the bell sounded and Draco glanced at the clock. Supper would be served in an hour, any other school year he would have gone back to the Slytherin common room or down to the Quidditch locker room to study. He couldn't imagine sitting in the West common room. The fact that he hadn't been hexed yet was surprising, but the day wasn't over yet. He went to library and quietly sat down at one of the many empty tables. He was the only one there other than Madam Pince.

He slipped a piece of drawing paper out of his bag and started drawing. While under arrest he had not even been allowed paper or pencil. To pass the time in his cell he had found himself sitting on the floor, dragging his finger through the dust. Draco was lost in thought when he heard someone sit down next to him. Reflexively he flipped the paper over with a start.

"You draw him well." Luna said.

"What are you doing here?"

"You didn't come back to the dorm, I figured I would find you here. Do you know where he is?"

Draco felt himself grow pale, "I can't talk about it, Luna."

"Can't or won't?" Luna tilted her head at him, "You should talk-"

"I can't talk about him, I'm forbidden by my probation."

"Shame that," Luna smiled at him, "It might help to talk, but at least you can still draw him."

"Where did Looney Luna go? I miss her." Draco tried to smile, but couldn't quite pull it off.

"She went away, sometime around February or March, I think. If you find her in the cellar, you can send her back." Luna said with a sad smile. "I think it was when Garrick got so sick and I was afraid he would die and I would be left all alone down there."

Draco swallowed hard. The blonde witch was smiling at him gently, no sign of anger on her face. "I'm so sorry."

"So am I. It is one thing when you lose your things, you can always find another. It is another thing when you lose a part of yourself, isn't it?" She reached over and slid the paper from out from underneath Draco's hand and looked at it. "Do you know where your missing half is?" Draco looked at the face of Harry staring back at him on the paper.

"It's gone and can never be found. Not in the cellar, not here, not anywhere." he said quietly.

Luna stood up and patted him on the shoulder, "I wouldn't be so sure, even Nargles find their way home eventually. Come on, it's time for supper."

Draco stood up and walked out of the library with her. Strange how the only person talking to him was the woman who had been a prisoner in his house for five months. Supper was a repeat of lunch, Luna sat next to him and chatted and everyone else at the table ignored him. If the rest of the year went like today, it wouldn't be so bad.

After supper he headed back to the West Tower with Luna. Unlike the other houses there were no passwords required to enter. Perhaps they thought that 18-year olds were past such gimmicks. Draco really hadn't gotten a good look at the Common Room the night before. He had been intent on getting to his room before anyone else showed up. Now he looked around as everyone filed in. The common room was very plain, filled with mismatched sofa and chairs. Thick purple drapes were hung on the windows, but the room lacked any other decoration. The other eighth years went to sit on the chairs and sofa, Granger and Weasley went immediately to the far corner and were having an intense conversation. Draco turned to go up the stairs to his room when Luna stopped him.

"Want to play a game of chess?" One of the things Draco had snuck into the cellar for her and Garrick was a chessboard. He had played her a couple of times and had been surprised that she was a very good player. His father had been furious to discover the board after everyone had escaped. Draco looked from Luna's face to where Blaise sat glaring at him, and shook his head. "Not tonight."

His room was at the top of the stairs. The best part about it was the view that it offered, he could see for miles. The worst was the fact that he was directly below the owlery. The renovation to the tower meant that there was now an outside staircase to reach the owlery but there was a constant movement outside of his window as the owls went on their nightly travels and returned. The flutter of wings past the window put his already unsteady nerves on edge. Fortunately, whatever they did in the renovations had hidden the smell and sounds of the owlery.

The room was small. There was a study desk, bed and room for his trunk and not much else. The bed lacked the canopies that like the Slytherin beds. The only personal items that he had set out were a drawing of his mother and the artist's case that Harry had given him. When he had gone back to the Quidditch rooms that last time two years ago he had only taken the case and the record albums.

He hung his robes up carefully, they were already worn and since he didn't know if and when he could get now ones he couldn't risk anything happen to them. His eyes automatically went to his sleeves of his shirt, to make sure that the mark was covered. Even two years later he couldn't stand the sight of it. He had thought of trying to burn it off, until he had seen some of the other Death Eaters in the holding cells who had tried. The mark found a way to bleed through even the deepest scar tissue.

N.E.W.T.s, he reminded himself, all he was here for was studying for the exams. He opened his Arithmancy text and focused on his homework. Halfway through solving the first problem he heard his doorknob rattle as someone tried it. Cursing he reached for his wand just as the door swung open.

"Expelliarmus," Blaise shouted out and Draco's wand flew out of his hand even before he could point it at his former friend.

Draco stared at him and but didn't say anything. He saw out of the corner of his eye where his wand lay but there was no way he would be able to reach it in time.

"You had to come back here, didn't you?" Blaise spat out as he stared at Draco from the doorway. He stepped inside and shut the door.

"Surprised it took you this long to make a move. You waited all of 24 hours." Blaise took two steps across the room and punched Draco in the jaw. His head snapped back and he fell against the desk. "You bloody ponce." He grabbed Draco by the front of his shirt and punched him in the gut. "How fucking dare you show your face after making a mockery of us all."

Draco grunted as he tried to suck in air. "I have the same right to be here as you." he gasped out.

"You dared to call yourself a Slytherin, sit at our table, live in Slytherin House and all the time you were taking it from Potter. Bending over for bloody Harry Potter. You are worse than all the other blood traitors combined." He drew back his fist and hit him again, the blow brought Draco to his knees and Blaise drew his foot back and kicked him. He got one more kick in before Draco saw his wand and was able to grab it as Blaise was drawing back to kick him again. Draco forced himself on to his feet and turned to face Blaise with his wand raised.

"Get the hell out of here." he said, his wand trembling in his hand, "GET OUT."

"It is only going to get worse, Malfoy. Until you give up, we don't want you here." Blaise turned and walked out, but not before upturning the desk. Draco heard his footsteps as they receded down the staircase and only when they faded away did he dare sink back on to the floor, spitting up blood as he did.

oOoOoOO

Hermione looked at Blaise Zabini as he came back down the stairs. He had sat down next to Daphne Greengrass and whispered something in her ear. Greengrass had smiled delightedly and reached out to kiss his hand.

"That's funny." she said to Ron who was sitting next to her reading the latest Quidditch Quarterly.

"What is?"

"I heard Zabini tell Daphne that he was going to get the book that they had talked about, but he came back down without it."

"Like Daphne Greengrass would read a book." Ron laughed. "That would be like Pansy Parkinson taking Ancient Runes."

"I think he did something to Malfoy." Hermione said with a glance up the stairs.

"So, what if he did?" Ron turned to look at her now, "Not like I wouldn't like a go at him."

"Would you really?" Hermione asked worriedly.

"After what he did to Harry?" Ron looked at her incredulously, "I would gladly throw him in a lake filled with Infieri and laugh as they pulled him under."

"He saved our lives, Ron! And, however misguided what he did to Harry was, he did it to try and save Harry. Malfoy was tortured and had to watch people die. And he still tried to save Harry from knowing about it."

"To save his own skin." Ron said bitterly.

Hermione shook her head, "He did it to save Harry from going through all the pain that he is going through right now." she grasped Ron's hand, "Like it or not I think Draco Malfoy really loves Harry. And somehow, I don't know how, Harry loved him-"

"I still can't believe that."

"Malfoy saved our lives and I think we owe it to him and go and make sure Zabini didn't hurt him."

"So you are going to go and knock on his door and check on him like you're his mum?" Ron said in disbelief.

"Yes," Hermione nodded. "And you are going to come with me." She stood up and looked down expectantly at Ron.

He cursed under his breath and stood up, "If Ginny finds out, she is going to kill both of us."

Hermione shrugged and headed up the stairs with Ron following slowly behind. They neared the top of the stairs and stopped, Malfoy's door stood partially open. Ron drew out his wand and motioned for Hermione to wait. He took a step towards the open door and swung it all the way open. Malfoy was on the floor, leaning against an overturned desk in the middle of the room. His face was covered in blood from his nose and a cut on his face, his arm was gripping his side. He looked at him through his one eye that was not swollen shut.

"You two came to finish me off? Fine, have at it." and he spat a mouthful of blood on the floor. Ron stood there staring down as Hermione came around and knelt by him.

"Is anything broken?" she asked anxiously.

"What? You want to make sure that you only get credit for what you break?" he said with a disbelieving laugh.

"So, I can fix it. I'm quite good at Episkey."

"Better ask lover boy over there, first." Draco turned his head so he could see Weasley a little better from his one good eye, "I don't think he is eager to have you play nursemaid to me."

Ron swore and put away his wand, "Do you want help or not? Hermione is good or I can drag you down to Madam Pomfrey."

"Depends, do you have any Skele-Gro? Episkey doesn't work to well on ribs." Draco groaned and spat some more blood on the floor.

"Right, broken ribs and spitting up blood is more than I can handle." Hermione said grimly, she looked over at Ron. "Why don't you get Neville-"

"Already here." Neville's voice came from the doorway, "Luna made me come and see what was going on."

"Great. A whole Gryffindor reunion, like that won't get me beat up again." Draco tried to take a deep breath but ended up coughing. Luna pushed past Neville and came and sat on his other side.

"I warned you about checking for Bowcrinkles." she said sadly.

"If by Bowcrinkles you meant casting a locking spell on the door, you should have been a little more direct, Luna." Draco said looking over at her with a half-smile from the swelling in his face. She patted him on the hand and then moved away as Ron and Neville came over.

"Ready, Malfoy? This is going to hurt." Neville and Ron as they both reached under his arms and pulled him up. He grunted as his ribs grated against each other. "Don't puke on us, Malfoy. That would really tick me off." Ron threatened as they started to move forward.

Draco fought against the blackness but as the three of them stood at the top of the stairs he looked down and everything went black.

"Well, that is easier." said Neville as he and Ron hastily adjusted their hold to accommodate the unconscious weight of the wizard between them.

Hermione looked at him in disbelief, "How is it easier?"

"He won't feel it as we drag him down five flights of stairs." Ron said with a grin. "Tough luck that he lives at the top of the tower." Hermione nodded and turned back to look at Malfoy's room.

"Why don't Luna and I put his room back in order? It will only take a minute, we'll catch up." Ron grunted his agreement and they started down the stairs. Hermione watched them for a moment and then turned back into the room.

She looked at Luna and shrugged. "Let's get the desk put back and then get his things gathered up." Together they set the desk upright and Hermione reached around to put back the textbooks. She found a drawing of Narcissa Malfoy that had fallen under the bed. Seeing it confirmed that Malfoy must have been the one who drew the sketch that Harry had found in his trunk, the technique was the same. On the far side of the desk Luna sat on the floor next to a broken wood box. "What's that?"

"His artist box." Luna said sadly, holding the broken cover. "This will make him sad."

"Why's that?" Hermione asked as she came around to sit next to the blonde.

"It is all he has left from Harry." Luna said simply as she picked up the charcoal pencils and slid them back into the case. Hermione dropped the papers she had picked up and stared at the case.

"Harry gave him that?"

Luna nodded, "Their first Christmas. It was really quite sweet of him. Draco hadn't even realized that Harry knew that he liked to draw."

"Harry gave him that." Hermione didn't realize she was repeating herself, "How do you know?"

"Draco came down to visit me a lot in the cellar at Malfoy Manor when he was home over Christmas, when I was first captured. We talked. I think he felt bad that I was there. He told me about Harry." Luna said simply. "Of course, neither of us thought we would be alive to remember any of it."

Hermione reached for the broken lid, "Reparo" she said, watching as the broken wood seamed back together. She held the lid up to the box and repeated the spell, the hinges creaked and metal folded and she carefully closed and opened the lid. "There, he will never know it broke."

"He'll know, but he'll be glad that it was fixed. We always know when something we love is broken, don't we?" Luna smiled happily as she fitted the last of the pencils in the case. "I wonder where he kept these?" she said holding up a handful of crumpled notes.

"Can I see?" Hermione asked and Luna handed them to her.

Tuesday, After Supper?

Sunday, skip supper, come downstairs.

Meet me by our tree, 3:00

There were over a dozen notes, all in Harry's handwriting. "He kept the notes that Harry gave him." Hermione said in disbelief. "What does downstairs mean, surely not the dungeons?"

"It is where they used to meet, he wouldn't tell me where." Luna explained, she took the notes back and tucked under the removable drawer in the box. "Shall we go see him?"

They saw Blaise Zabini still sitting in the common room as they left, he glared at them but didn't say anything. "I'm surprised that Draco didn't fight back, or if he did, Zabini doesn't seem to have a mark on him."

"He can't," said Luna, "Condition of his parole, no fighting."

"Not even to defend himself?" Hermione asked, shocked.

"No fighting, dueling or hexing." said Luna. "He is hoping no one finds out that he can't defend himself."

"He is right to worry. There are some here who would be happy to just use him as a punching bag." Hermione said shaking her head.

Luna and Hermione came across Ron and Neville walking out of the hospital wing. "How is he?"

"Broken ribs." Ron said with a shrug, "Pomfrey was getting the Skele-gro as we left."

"Okay, I'll just tell him good-night." Luna said. Hermione nodded and said she would go with her. She was still rattled from seeing the notes from Harry. It was one thing knowing that they had seen each other, it was another thing to seeing the proof in the little notes that Harry had sent.

"Do you want me to wait?" Ron offered, Hermione shook her head.

"We'll only be a minute." She and Luna walked through the doors, only one bed was occupied. Madam Pomfrey was standing next to him, holding a flask of potion. She has already reduced the swelling on his face so that when Draco turned to glare at them he was able to do it with both eyes.

"You missed your boyfriend." he said.

"We just came to make sure you are okay." Hermione said, as Luna came around the other side of the bed.

"Yes. Fine. I'm fine."

"He'll be fine once the Skele-Gro starts to work." said Madam Pomfrey. She handed him the dosing spoon. "Three tablespoons, Mr. Malfoy. Miss Granger, may I have a word with you?"

Hermione looked at surprised and nodded, "I'm sorry this happened, Draco." She turned and walked away quickly, looking back she saw Luna leaning close to Malfoy and talking to him.

Madam Pomfrey followed her and turned into her office. "Miss Granger, I spoke with Headmistress McGonagall and she said I should give this to you. It is for Mr. Potter." she picked up a sealed envelope and held it out to Hermione. Hermione looked at the letter and then at the healer. Hesitantly she reached out and took the letter from her.

"You should know that Harry is refusing to read all letters like this." Hermione said. "This isn't the first one."

"I realize that, but for my own conscious I needed to write it out." Madam Pomfrey flushed. "When Dumbledore asked me to give him the potion, if something happened to him, if something happened to Dumbledore that is. I didn't know what … no, that isn't true. I could smell the potion and suspected what it was. And still I gave it to Mr. Potter, that last day he was here."

"It is okay." Hermione didn't know what else to say, "Don't let it worry you."

"How can I not?" Pomfrey said and shook her head. "If ever he wants to talk to me, I'll tell what little I know."

Hermione gave a smile and nodded. "If he wants to know..." she looked over at her shoulder to where Draco Malfoy lay in the bed. He seemed to be staring at an alcove to the far side of the room. "We need to worry about the present right now, not the past."

OoOooOOOoO

Draco walked into the Great Hall for breakfast, as he expected, the room fell quiet. He headed over to the Eighth Year table and sat down at the end farthest from Nott and Greengrass. Zabini had already left the school. McGonagall had come to the hospital ward and told him. "Zero tolerance policy is what I told all the students, Mr. Malfoy. And I meant it." she said sternly. Draco did not know if Zabini being gone would mean he had less to worry about or more. It might mean that anyone with a problem with him being there would resort to more subtle techniques than kicking him in the ribs. As if to remind him that they had only recently been healed his ribs protested as he reached for the muffins.

"Here, let me." Granger said and she moved the basket closer to him, "Are you doing better?"

Draco nodded and didn't bother to respond. He didn't understand Granger's motivation for being nice to him, until he did he wasn't going to take any chances. He ate as quickly as he could and stood up. He picked up his book bag gingerly, the Skele-repaired ribs still needed a couple more days to mend but he didn't want anyone to think he was hiding in the hospital wing afraid to show his face.

"Are you sure you are well enough to go to class?" Granger asked. Draco looked over at Weasley to see what he thought of his girlfriend's concern about him. The red-head had his head down and was steadily eating, ignoring them both. Luna was sitting next to him and looked up and winked at Draco. He flashed a quick smile at her. Luna Lovegood was the only person he trusted now. Nothing like being bonded by terror to bring together two utterly diverse people.

"Are you going to Runes? Luna and I have it too." Granger bent down and got her book bag. "Ready, Luna?" Luna nodded. Granger leaned over Weasley's shoulder and whispered something in his ear and Weasley grunted back. She smiled and gave the red head a quick kiss on the top of his head which made Draco shuddered.

"Let's go." Granger said brightly, "I'm excited to be back in class after missing last year.

"You didn't miss much last year," Luna said, "Not much learning went on." Draco couldn't help but nod in agreement.

"Hermione. Can I talk to you?" The voice called out from behind them as they passed the Gryffindor table. Draco would recognize that voice anywhere, he would have kept walking but Luna put her hand on his arm as she turned.

Ginny Weasley was standing behind them. Draco heard Hermione hesitate and say, "We are just on the way to class, Ginny. Can we talk after?"

"Now." The She Weasley brushed past them leading the way out of the Great Hall. Again all eyes were focused on him. Draco cursed under his breath and Luna patted his arm. "Best to get the yelling over with early, don't you think?"

The four of them had just cleared the doors of the hall when the red headed witch spun around and pointed her finger at Granger. "I want to know why you are walking to classes with him. Why are you even talking to him?" The words weren't shouted but Draco knew that Harry's girlfriend, ex-girlfriend or whatever she was, could raise the roof when she wanted too.

"Ginny, please. Not now. Let's talk about this later." Granger a pleading tone in her voice that Draco knew wouldn't work.

"You know what he did to Harry! How can you even stand to be in the same room as him, let alone WALK TO CLASS WITH HIM!"

Great. Yelling. That had taken all of ten seconds. Draco started to walk away before the shouts were directed at him. He made it five steps. "Don't you go anywhere, Malfoy." Ginny stepped in front of him. "What did you do to Hermione? Another obliviate? Make her forget-"

"For Merlin's sake, Ginny. He didn't do anything! I just think he deserves a chance. They dropped all the charges-"

"HE OBLIVIATED HARRY!"

"BECAUSE HE LOVED HIM!" Granger shouted back. Draco felt all the blood drain out of his face. This couldn't be happening within earshot of the entire school body. He looked up and saw the Weasel walking towards them. Terrific.

"What's going on?" The Gryffindor was already pushing up his sleeves as if getting ready for battle.

"Nothing. Bloody nothing." Draco said grimly, he turned to walk away.

"Stay where you are, Mr. Malfoy" McGonagall's voice rang out. Draco shook his head, bloody great. All five of them turned to watch McGonagall sweeping towards them followed by a blonde witch that he didn't recognize.

"What seems to be the problem here?"

No one spoke but three pairs of eyes looked towards Ginny Weasley who was still glaring at Draco. "I just wanted to know why Hermione was walking to class with him. It is one thing that he gets to be here, but she doesn't have to be nice to him."

"I see. Well it is fortuitous that Healer McCain has arrived. She is going to be holding counseling groups and it appears that you five have just volunteered to be her first group." McGonagall said the words with finality.

"We don't need a Healer."
"Counseling with him?"

"What do you mean counseling?"

Draco didn't bother responding. He had already known this was coming and didn't know how he felt about it. He looked over at the healer, she was of medium height and had blond hair past her shoulders, her cheeks were dimpled.

"Even me, Headmistress McGonagall?" Luna spoke up, "I'm not really part of this..." she motioned her hands at the other four.

"I think it would be beneficial if you attended as well. You are Mr. Malfoy's friend and I'm sure he would appreciate having one included."

Ginny Weasley looked like she was about to explode, Draco thought satisfactorily.

"When are we going to meet? We have Runes in just a few minutes."

"With the headmistress's permission we are going to meet now. It is best sometimes to meet when the emotions are engaged. Less time to build our defenses." the healer spoke for the first time. Granger looked horrified at the idea of missing class.

"I will let Professor Babbling know, I'm sure I can arrange to have the class notes and homework collected."

"Very good," Healer McCain smiled at them, "Headmistress McGonagall has kindly arranged a classroom for group use while I'm here," she motioned for them to follow her. They reluctantly followed her down the hall. Draco brought up the rear of the group, wondering how he could possibly get out of the session.

They entered the classroom on the third floor that had been converted for use by the healer. The entire room had the look of a cozy living room rather than a classroom. Sconces on the walls cast a glowing light on the armchairs and sofas that were arranged in a loose circle. Healer McCain motioned for them to sit down. Ginny glared at Granger but didn't say anything and choose a chair a distance from the sofa that Granger and Weasley had sat on.

McCain looked at the group. "You should know that I had intended to meet with you all, later in the week. However, in light of the events this weekend we decided to move up this first group session. It became clear that certain issues need to be brought out in the open before there is a repeat incident which of course cannot be tolerated.

"Now, I know you are all familiar with one another, however I have not had the opportunity to meet you all. We are meeting because of all of you have been affected because of actions taken by Draco. I spent the weekend discussing with Headmistress McGonagall how best to handle such a diverse group. We would like to prevent further attacks, and the best way to do that is to help in the understanding and hopefully the healing.

"Now, as all four of you know, Draco is prevented by his parole agreement from discussing his relationship with Harry Potter. However, it is impossible to have these sessions with that restriction. And so I have received permission from the Ministry that this restriction be lifted while in sessions. This is with the understanding that these sessions are to be held in complete confidence and not discussed outside of this room. Is that understood?"

"One problem, I don't want to discuss it." Draco looked at the healer, "It is none of their business."

"It is their business." the healer said simply, "all three of them were directly and drastically affected by your actions. Ideally, we would have Harry Potter here to participate but it is understood that he is out of the country."

"He has refused to talk about it for a reason. He doesn't want to know what he did to him." Ron Weasley spat out.

"Don't you want to know why?" the Healer asked, "How are you going to sit in class with Draco, share a common living area, see him every day without airing what is making you grip the arm of that sofa so tightly?"

Weasley looked down at his hand and consciously loosened his grip on it.

Draco shook his head, "This isn't going to do any good. They don't care and I don't want to do this."

"I care. I want to know what happened." Granger looked at him. "I want to know how if you loved Harry as much as I suspect you did, how you could do that to him."

"He tricked Harry and then he covered it up by obliviating him." Ginny said coldly, "Harry could never have been in love with him."

Draco looked over at the healer, "See? No point."

"All I am hearing is the exact reason why we need to do this. Everyone has their own version of what happened. Only you can share what really happened."

"No, I can't share what really happened. Listen. I know that counseling is part of my parole, but they never said group. I can't talk in front of them."

"Because you know that we know Harry and know that he would never, would never have-" Ginny's voice trailed off.

"Love someone like me? Well, he did and he didn't even need love potion to do it." the words came out of his mouth before he could stop then. With an outraged scream Ginny launched herself at him. Granger and Weasley caught her as she swung wildly at Draco, he had to lean back in his chair to avoid getting hit.

"YOU BASTARD! How dare you! You're just filthy Death Eater scum." Ginny was screaming at the top her lungs. The healer stood up and came over putting her arms on Ginny's shoulders as Granger and Weasley held her arms.

"Please, take your seat Ginny." the healer spoke firmly, "We are not going to call names and attack." Ginny shook off their hands, turned and sat down. Her face was pale and her hand trembled as she brushed the hair back from her face.

"Draco," the healer turned to him. "Please refrain from making inflammatory comments."

He nodded grimly, but took a deep breath. It was too easy to fall back in to be the arrogant, cruel prick that he used to be. Taking a deep breath, "I'm sorry. That was uncalled for, I shouldn't have said that." As all three Gryffindors stared at him like he had lost his mind, he thought that it was quite worth the effort it took to apologize.

"Well, erm, thank you Draco."

"I don't trust him." Weasley spoke, "The real Draco Malfoy would never apologize for anything."

"Maybe you haven't met the real Draco," Luna said, her voice smiling at Ron, "Before you decide whether or not Harry could have loved him, you should meet Draco."

"An excellent suggestion, Luna." the healer said, "Why don't you tell me about the real Draco that you know."

Luna looked over at Draco, her eyebrow raised. He wanted to shake his head at her, tell her not to do it. If he wanted a new life though, he had to start with the three people who were glaring at him right now.

"Sure, tell them whatever you want." he said, staring at the ground in front of him.

Luna's quiet voice filled the silence. "Draco's visits after I was kidnapped were the only thing that kept me sane. I knew he was taking a big risk coming down to see me like he did. But he always came and would bring food and blankets for us, for Garrick Ollivander and me. When you are a prisoner for months you lose hope, but Draco's visits kept me alive until you came and rescued me.

"We knew what a risk Draco was taking but he still came. He even brought potions to help keep Garrick alive when he was so sick."

She looked around the room, "I think all of you need to think about how he helped you instead of how he hurt you." she turned to Draco, "I don't think I ever thanked you in person, Draco. But I thank you every day in my prayers. I'm not the same person I was when I was taken off the train, but at least I'm alive and that is because of you." she stood up and pulled Draco up into a hug, going up on her tiptoes to whisper something in his ear. Draco looked at her in disbelief, a faint smile coming to his pale face. His hand briefly stroked her hair as he hugged her.

"Why did you take such a risk? To help Luna?" the healer asked.

"Because it was the right thing to do. I had seen enough bad things happen to people already, so anything I could do to help, I was going to do." Draco said, he held Luna's hand gripped tightly in his hand. "And you helped me as much as I helped you."

Luna smiled happily and sat down in the chair next to him. She looked over at him and whispered, "You need to tell them what you told me."

He shook his head, "There's no point, they will never believe it."

"We won't believe what?"

"How Harry and Draco fell in love." Luna said simply.

"Harry does not love Malfoy." Ginny said, gritting her teeth.

"But he did," Granger said softly, "I've seen the notes that Harry wrote to him and the drawing that Malfoy drew of them both. I don't know how, but Harry must have loved him and I think Malfoy did too."

"Please, I would like you to use each other's given names. Not using given names just encourages hostilities-" the healer cut off as Draco laughed.

"Sorry, someone told Harry and I that exact same thing a long time ago." The sentence came out so easily that Draco was as surprised as everyone else. Casually saying something about Harry and he was something he had only ever done with one person, Luna. On those dark terrifying nights he would talk with her about Harry. And it had been oddly comforting to know that someone else knew about what he had once had.

"Who?" Granger asked.

"Cedric Diggory" Draco said.

"I thought maybe it was him." Granger nodded to Draco's astonished face she explained, "Simon Ward came to Harry's house and told us that Cedric and Harry were friends and about you."

"Simon...damn. I'd forgotten about him." Draco said shaking his head.

"Guess you would have obliviated him to, if you had remembered." Ron said. "He is the one that filled in the first of the missing gaps."

Ginny looked confused, "Who is Simon Ward?"

"Cedric Diggory's boyfriend. He came to the house after the Prophet article told about Harry being obliviated. He told Harry that he had met Harry and Draco and knew that they were dating back during the Triwizard."

"How come this is the first I've heard about this!" Ginny said angrily.

Weasley looked uncomfortably at his sister, "Didn't seem like we needed to rub it in your face. Bad enough knowing that, well..."

"Merlin save me from my brothers. Stop trying to protect me." Ginny growled. "So Cedric Diggory and this Simon Ward knew about Harry?"

Granger nodded, "Apparently. According to Simon, Harry met Cedric at the World Cup and became friends."

"Wait, what do you mean apparently Harry and Cedric became friends? Doesn't he know he was friends with him?" Draco felt the blood drain out of his face. "Doesn't he remember Cedric?"

Ron looked at him in disbelief. "No, he doesn't remember, because you obliviated two years of his memory. Or did you conveniently forget that?"

"I obliviated me, not Cedric!" Draco shook his head, "He can't have forgotten Cedric."

Granger looked, her brown eyes soft with concern, "No, Harry lost most of the memories of Diggory also. All Harry remembers of Cedric Diggory is being in the Triwizard together, the night he died and playing Quidditch with him the year before."

Draco stood up and started moving around the room. He couldn't sit still any longer, "That wasn't supposed to happen. He shouldn't have lost those memories...Cedric was his friend. He ...damn."

"Draco, when Amoris Delere is used, the intention is to only delete the love memories of a specific person but if someone else was involved in the relationship, if the memories are intertwined then that third person is lost also."

"Wait, are you saying Cedric Diggory and Harry were also-" Ginny said shakily.

"No! Merlin, don't even suggest that, Cedric was just a really good friend. He helped us, he made a difference. It was devastating when he died. And I think I can honestly say that Harry loved him, but just as a friend. I can't believe that I destroyed that too." Draco dragged his hand through his hair.

"Since the Diggory memories were not the actual target of the charm, it is possible that he may regain some of them." the healer said. "When his mind starts to recover from the trauma it is possible."

"Anyway Simon left Harry the letters that Cedric wrote. The healer I spoke to said that they may help trigger memories." Granger said, looking towards the healer for confirmation and she nodded. "But Harry refused to read them. He doesn't want to know any more."

"He should read them. Cedric was a good man." Draco said.

"You say he brought you together, how did he do it?" the healer asked gently.

Draco nodded, "You are sure I won't be violating my parole?"

"I have a signed statement from Minister Shacklebolt giving permission to participate in counseling sessions and share whatever information is deemed necessary for the therapy."

"What will Harry think, if I spill it all to his friends?" Draco said, "They'll know more than he does."

"Because you obliviated him." Ron snapped. "Why be worried about him all the sudden?"

"I've never done anything without worrying about how it could affect Harry." Draco snarled.

Ginny gave an outraged laugh at that which Draco ignored. He looked over at the healer.

"It would be far more ideal if Harry was here to participate but we don't have that option. So we will need to work together for now. When he is ready, it may help to have his friends already have gained an understanding."

"I will never understand." Ginny said shaking her head, "There is no way Harry could have loved him."

Draco walked over to a table that had a pitcher of water and shakily poured a glass. With his back to the group he drank deeply from the glass. He heard someone come up behind him and knew it was Luna. "You can do this, Draco. Just like you did that night in the cellar." she whispered.

"But, it is our secret, Harry's and mine. Even when we were seeing each other, he didn't want everyone to know."

"I think it is time for the secrets to end. Enough harm has been done by them." Luna said softly.

Draco looked at her and back at the group who was sitting there watching them. "What if he hates me for talking?"

Luna grinned at him, "He already hates you, so I don't really see how he can feel worse about it." Draco laughed at that, a short bark of a laugh. What she said was true. Didn't really matter, Harry would never forgive him. If he wanted to start over though, if he wanted to make it through the next ten months living with Harry's friends he had to make them understand.

With a feeling of dread that they wouldn't believe him anyway he sat back down. In a halting voice he started telling them about the first meeting down in the dungeon classroom when he had asked Harry for help. How they had started to meet with Cedric in the locker room.

"What locker room?" Ron asked. "Out at the Quidditch pitch?"

Hermione shook her head, "Honestly, am I the only one who has read Hogwarts: A History? The first Quidditch locker rooms were in the base of the West Tower right below our dormitory." Draco looked at her and almost smiled. Figures she would have known about it.

"So, you expect us to believe that Harry just agreed to help you with the Imperius curse. And he actually used it on you?" Ron looked at him shaking his head, "and then you just started…"

Draco shrugged and nodded. "It isn't like we didn't fight, but we were able to work out the problems. Cedric helped a lot with that. We went flying a few times, just the two of us. And we worked on Potions downstairs. It was the first time that I'd ever spent any time with him alone and got to see him without all the Chosen One crap. Then we had detention together and we realized, or at least I realized then that I, well, wanted to...be more than just a friend. And after that is when things kind of changed between us," he flushed remembering the first kiss that he and Harry had had. Being so scared that he would kiss Harry and have the boy shove him away.

"Why did you get detention?" Weasley asked.

"Hexing you in Snape's class." Draco said, remembering with a smile. "I think Harry got a detention just for being late. Snape had us debowel worms together. Stench was horrible."

"The scarf. That is why he had the piece of your scarf." Hermione said.

Draco nodded, "Tied it around his head to keep the smell out. He was still hurt from the dragon, couldn't lift his arm up to tie it himself."

"What happened after that Christmas?" Hermione asked, "I remember Harry being miserable. I thought it was because of the second task and not solving the egg or maybe because he was in love with Cedric."

"You thought Harry was in love with Cedric Diggory?" Ron and Ginny exclaimed together.

Hermione nodded impatiently, "At the time, yes. They were always together. And back then I knew he was gay. It was before the Adcredo of course. I didn't tell you, Ginny because even though I knew you had a crush on him and I knew Harry wasn't ready to have people know he was gay. And I didn't want Ron to give him a hard time about it."

"That January, we had a fight. Broke up for about a month." Draco said, grimacing at the memory. "My fault, as I'm sure you would expect. Article in the Prophet about Hagrid."

"That was a very hateful article." Hermione nodded.

"Harry said he couldn't be with someone who thought like I did." Draco agreed, "I had to make a decision about who I was going to be. A bully like my father, or someone I admired like Harry."

"And so you apologized to Hagrid!" Luna said with a smile, "Right in front of everyone in the Great Hall."

"Right. And got run through the gauntlet for it." Weasley said, remembering suddenly. "We all thought you had gone temporarily insane."

"No. Just wanted to show Harry that I could change." Draco said, "It was worth every hex."

"So all the fights and insults between you two were just a fake" Hermione said, but shook her head. "Harry isn't that good of an actor. You can always see everything he is thinking."

"Sometimes you see what you want to see and we pretty much were used to being dicks to each other upstairs. It was easy to keep the two roles separate." Draco shrugged, "Messes with your head though."

"It fooled me." Weasley said.

Ginny looked from her brother to Granger in disbelief, "Are you just going to take his word for all this? He could be lying through his teeth! Don't forget that he erased Harry's memory of all of this. He probably had a pretty good reason. Maybe Harry hated him, maybe Malfoy used Imperius on him and forced him to do stuff."

"Harry can shake the Imperius, you already know that. Do you think I could really have 'done stuff' to him for two years without him doing something about it? The only things we did, we did together, I didn't force anything."

"Ginny's right though. All we have to go on is what Malfoy is telling us." Ron agreed.

Healer McCain turned to Hermione, "Do you think Draco is lying? It seemed like a very honest telling."

"I believe him. It matches what little we know. The snitch, the scarf, what Simon told us." Hermione said. "And Harry taught you to how to a patronus, didn't he?"

Draco hesitated and then nodded, "Cedric and I both wanted to learn so he taught us. Cedric's was a raven."

"And you aleady told me that yours was a panther. You sent it to warn us that Umbridge was coming when the D.A. was meeting in the Room of Requirement." Hermione ignored at the gasps from Ginny and Ron and just looked at Draco.

"You saw it? Harry didn't think anyone had noticed."

"Everything spiraled out of control right after that, it slipped my mind. But I've been replaying everything that happened that year and I remember a patronus coming into the room almost the exact same time as Dobby."

Draco shrugged, "I tried to keep the patrols away from that floor during your meetings. Umbridge didn't give me any warning that night so I had to use the patronus."

Ginny interrupted, "I still don't believe it. I want to see this locker room. Maybe there is proof down there."

Draco shook his head, "No."

The healer looked over at him, "I know Headmistress McGonagall told you that you couldn't go there, but as part of a-"

Draco said harshly, "No, I won't, I can't. I promised myself I wouldn't go back there."

"See! He is hiding something!" Ginny said triumphantly. "I don't care if he won't go, I want to see if this place even really exists."

"I want to see it, too." Ron said nodding in agreement, "If it is like he said it was, there will be something there."

The healer looked over at Draco, "Would you object if they went?"

He wanted to say no, that the place was his and Harry's. No one should go there. He hated that he had no power to stop them, they would go regardless of what he said.

"So long as they don't...mess anything up." he said resentfully.

"Draco, if I told you that Harry gave me the record albums to give back to you. Would you want me to take them back to the locker room?"

Draco stopped at stared at Granger. "He gave them back to you?"

"Yes, he doesn't want anything from you." Weasley said with satisfaction at the expression on Draco's face.

"Of course, he doesn't. I know that." Draco managed to snarl back. He shifted in his seat and looked towards Luna. She had a worried look on her face, and he wanted to tell her it was okay, but it wasn't.

"What was the significance of the albums?" the healer asked. "You didn't mention those before."

"Just some record albums. Not a big deal. You should take them back to the locker room. It is where they belong," he said the words casually but inside he was screaming. Those albums belonged with Harry.

"How did you get them in Harry's trunk?" Granger asked. "He found them there after sixth year."

"Dobby put them in the trunk for me. After Dumbledore died, I guessed that Harry wouldn't be coming back to school. I wanted him to have them, they'd been a gift. At one time they had been important to him. I knew he wouldn't know how they got there but I'd hoped that he would just accept that they were there and his."

"You didn't want him to lose them, because he had lost his mother's when his uncle destroyed them." Granger guessed, looking at him closely.

Draco shrugged and pointedly looked at the time. "It is past lunch. I have Herbology. Are we done here?" Draco looked over at the healer. He felt gutted. He couldn't imagine sitting in a class but he would do just about anything to get out of this room.

"Yes, of course." McCain looked with a start at the time, "I hadn't expected this session to go so long. We will be meeting again, of course. You all have individual sessions with me this week and we will be meeting as a group again on Friday."

"What about going to see this locker room?" Ginny asked, she had stood up and was standing with her hands on her shoulders.

"I will check with Professor McGonagall and get her approval." the healer said with a glance at Draco who had picked up his book bag and was slinging it over his shoulder, "And let you know when we can do that before the next session."

OoOoOoOO

Hermione and Luna walked out of their room. Hermione carried the bundle awkwardly in her arms. They walked through the common room and were almost at the door when Malfoy walked into the room. His gaze immediately fell to the albums that she carried. Hermione could see his jaw tighten, without a word he walked past them heading straight up the stairs towards his room.

Hermione watched as he disappeared, "What do you think he is thinking?"

Luna shook her head, "He is trying not to think, trying not to feel. Sometimes the pain is just too great and all you can do is breathe in and out and hope that tomorrow is better."

Hermione looked at Luna closely, "Are you okay? You seem... not like yourself. I haven't wanted to ask, but what happened?"

Luna gave her a little smile, "I'm breathing in and out and hoping that tomorrow is better," she looped her arms through Hermione's. "Let's go see their love nest."

Ron who had been out visiting Hagrid met them in the front hall and they were standing there talking as Ginny walked up with Neville. Ron and Hermione looked at Neville with surprise. "Are you coming too?" Hermione asked, "I thought..."

"I asked if Neville could come. McGonagall said he could."

"If that is okay with you both." Neville said. He gave a glance at Ginny. "Thought it might be easier for Ginny if someone was there for her."

Ron looked like he was about to argue that since he was her brother, Neville wasn't needed. Hermione gave him a quick jab in the side. Just then the healer walked up with McGonagall.

"Right, so we are all here. Draco has declined to come, so we can go along." McCain said briskly.

"Right, there are several entrances to the old locker rooms, but we will be using the outside entrance through the West Tower." McGonagall explained. With trepidation they set out to walk outside of the castle taking the path the led to the West Tower. Stopping at the stone tower they looked towards the stones, there was no indication of what to do next. McGonagall moved forwards with her wand raised, "Entrance is gained by..."

She tapped the stones and gave the incantation. They all watched with amazement as the doorway opened up. Hermione stared at the opening. "It's true. They really met here." she whispered to Ron.

"Just because there is a door doesn't mean anything" he said brusquely as he walked through the doorway. The healer stopped a few feet in, she crinkled her nose. "It obviously hasn't been opened up any time recently." The room had the dank musty smell of disuse. Hermione nodded but walked farther inside, looking around. The room was just what it had been described. A locker room. Benches and rows of lockers filled the space. "Doesn't seem like a love nest." she murmured.

"Through here," said Luna. She walked down the rows of lockers and Hermione could see a doorway ahead of her. The group moved to the doorway and stopped.

Hermione's gaze drifted over the desk with two chairs pulled up to it, a record player sat on the top of the desk. On one side of the room a potions lab table was carefully laid out. Hermione gave a gasp as she saw the wall behind the desk. Framed drawings covered the wall. Setting the bundle of albums on the desk she moved forward to see the artwork.

The drawings were of the Great Hall, professors, and the center one was of Cedric and Harry, books sprawled in front of them on the desk. Malfoy had captured them laughing at some forgotten joke. Harry's hair was falling forward, a chaotic mess. His smile broad and carefree. Cedric Diggory was alive in the drawing, his eyes sparkling with laughter. Another drawing was of her, Ron and Harry. Harry was in the center of the drawing, larger than life. Malfoy had drawn them in the Great Hall sitting at the Gryffindor table. The details in the drawings were incredible.

Hermione felt as someone came up beside her and was surprised to see Ginny standing next to her. Her eyes darted from drawing to drawing and then settled on the drawing of Harry and Cedric. Hermione heard her intake of air as she looked at it. "What do you think?" she asked quietly.

"He loved him." Ginny said. Her voice breaking, "I didn't think he could have, not really."

"How come there aren't any drawings of Malfoy?" Ron asked.

"Maybe he doesn't like drawing himself." Hermione said.

Luna called to them, she held blank sheets of paper. "These are the drawings of Harry and Draco."

"How do you know?" Ron asked.

Hermione said, feeling the paper, sensing the magic on it. "He enchanted them, so that only his or Harry's wand could reveal them. Like the one we found in Harry's trunk."

Luna nodded. "Draco was always afraid that it would found. He didn't want to risk Harry being exposed. So he never drew them together on regular paper." she shook her head, "The shame of it is that he can never see them now. Only his old wand and Harry's will reveal the drawings."

"Doesn't he have his old wand?" Hermione asked. She hadn't paid attention to what wand Malfoy was using.

"Refuses to use it. Not after what happened during the trial. Garrick gave him a new one."

"Garrick Ollivander? He just gave Malfoy a new wand?" Ginny said, "He was a prisoner in Malfoy's own house."

"We were Voldemort's prisoners. Not Draco's." Luna said, "A new wand is a small price for a life."

The healer spoke from the center of the room. "Does this help you believe Draco? Does seeing where they met make a difference?"

"This is obviously the room we saw in the wand memories. But it looks different." Ron said looking around.

Hermione closed her eyes and thought of the memories they had seen, "The sofa, there was a sofa in the memories."

They all looked around, no sofa to be seen. McGonagall cleared her throat and the students looked at her. "It would seem that Harry and Draco both should have earned higher scores in Transfigurations." She nodded towards the bench that was against the wall, with old leather Quidditch uniforms stacked on it. "The bench shows indications of multiple transfigurations. I doubt it could have stood much more."

"You mean?" Ron said looking at the bench and shaking his head, "Harry is pants at Transfigurations."

"Yes, indeed. Perhaps he had greater motivation down here than mere classwork." the professor replied dryly. Hermione blushed deeply as she remembered what the memories had shown the two boys doing on the sofa. She quickly walked over to Ron who was still looking at the bench in shock.

"What do you think?"

"I think it explains a lot about where he was fourth and fifth year." Ron said, shaking his head. "Never did make sense that he would say he was in the library or out running." Hermione nodded.

"It still doesn't explain why Malfoy obliviated Harry though. Why if they had all this going for them did he give him up?" Ginny said. "How could he have even considered it? None of us would have done it."

"I think that is a question best put to Draco himself, rather than speculating. We can address it on Friday." said the healer. "Has everyone seen enough?"

Hermione nodded but her eyes drifted back to the drawing of her and Ron with Harry. Ron followed her look. "You want to take it?" he asked, wrapping his arms around her.

She gave a smile, "A little, but I think it belongs down here. I just wonder why Malfoy would draw us."

Luna came up to them, "He was jealous of you two, but knew how important you were to Harry."

They headed towards the exit and Ron noticed the archways, "Are those the other entrances?"

McGonagall stopped and looked. "Yes, they lead to the four houses, and also the kitchens and hospital wing. However two of the tunnels have partially collapsed because of the battle. Repairing them is not a priority since there is no need to use them any longer."

They left the locker room and Ginny hurriedly walked off towards the lake, clutching Neville's hand tightly. When Hermione and Ron got back to the common room Hermione told Ron she would be right back and went up to the room she shared with Luna. She came back down carrying the Diggory letters. Ron looked at her with surprise. "I thought you didn't want to read those."

"I didn't, I don't. But, if we ever hope to understand what went on between Draco and Harry we need to read them."

"Do we need to understand?" Ron said, "It is over. Harry doesn't want to know about it. Malfoy destroyed it."

Hermione shook her head, "Harry is going to have to come to terms with everything at some point. And, if we understand it, it might make it easier on him." She untied the packet of papers. "It looks like Simon kept them all in order, the first one is from right after the World cup."

OoOoOoO

Draco was walked into Healer McCain's room with trepidation. The week had gone quickly, but he had made a point to avoid everyone. He left his room early and didn't return until after classes were over. During their shared classes he kept his face down and only spoke when asked a question by the professor. When sitting in the library he could feel Granger's staring at him, but he refused to make eye contact with her. That they all knew everything. He hated that they had walked through the locker rooms and seen what should have been just for him and Harry.

He sat down in a chair and waited for everyone else to arrive. Granger and Weasley were the last to walk in the door.

"Thank you everyone for meeting again. Ron, I understand that you are leaving right after the session to assist your brother in his shop."

Weasley nodded and shifted uncomfortably in his seat, glancing at Draco, "So what are we talking about today?"

"Well, first of all, I would like to get everyone's impression of the visit to the locker room. Do you think Draco is telling the truth about his relationship with Harry? Does it make a difference? Ginny, why don't you start?"

Ginny didn't look at Draco. "I guess it did show me that they really were together but in the end it doesn't make a difference. Because of what he did to Harry."

"You mean the erasing of his memories?"

Ginny nodded tightly, "No one who truly cared about someone could do that to the person they loved." Ron nodded in agreement.

McCain turned to Draco, "Do you want to try and explain?"

"No." Draco said curtly. Luna gave a laugh and McCain did a double-take and seemed to not know what to say.

"I think it is because none of us could possibly understand what Draco was feeling that summer. What drove him to do it." said Granger.

"Very good, Hermione. Draco, can you tell us what happened that summer? The summer before your sixth year, wasn't it?"

Draco looked at the group incredulously, "You people have absolutely no bloody idea. You don't want to know. You spent, what a total of five minutes with Voldemort? How did that make you feel? Can you even conceive what it is like to live with him in the same house for a month? To see him every day. To see him torture and kill people. Kill people and feed them to his snake."

He pointed at Ginny, "You say you would never do such a thing to Harry. How would you like to watch some poor bloke die whose only misfortune was having a vague resemblance to Harry? To watch him scream in agony as Voldemort tortured him until his voice failed, until he collapsed unconscious on the floor. Watch him lay there until he regained consciousness so that Voldemort could torture him again. Do you think you wouldn't do anything to stop it from happening again? Do you think you wouldn't try to save Harry from that fate?"

Draco's voice cracked but he looked at Weasley, "And then to have your worst nightmare suddenly come true, the real Harry suddenly is standing in front of you in the very room where the fake Harry Potters were killed. To be so terrified that you can hardly think. To hear your own father and aunt planning to call Voldemort to give him their grand prize. Knowing that the man that you loved and tried to protect, who you sacrificed everything for, was about to die."

He turned to Luna who had tears slowly rolling down her face. He reached out and gripped her hand, "You don't want to know what it was like. Luna knows. That kind of terror, it changes you. We are never going to be the same. The nightmares that still haunt me every night are of you three standing in the middle of Malfoy Manor and having to watch you die. It is by sheer luck and a house elf that you didn't. Do I regret that Harry knows about us? That he has to go through this pain? Hell, yes. Do I regret doing it? No, because he is alive. I did what I had to do and I would do it again."

He shook his head and walked out the door, letting it slam shut behind him.

OoOoOoOO

Draco leaned against the tree, cursing himself for his outburst. He picked up a chestnut and lobbed it into the lake. He watched as the waves broke in laps against the shoreline. It was a mistake he realized, coming back to Hogwarts. He never should have tried. He would pack up his trunk in the morning. It wasn't worth it.

He heard the crunch of footsteps in the fallen leaves and cursed. "Whoever is there, go away."

"I'm sorry, Draco." Hermione Granger's voice said.

"Save it. I don't want your pity." he said roughly, "How did you find me?"

"Harry's map." she walked closer, hesitantly. Draco turned to look at her, at the map she was holding in her hand.

"Figures. Don't think he would approve of how you are using it."

"Harry doesn't matter right now." Hermione said simply. "I'm more worried about you."

Draco gave a laugh, "You don't have to worry about me. I'm heading out. I don't need to be here, I can study just fine away from here."

"Don't do that, Draco. I mean it. When I said, I'm sorry. I read Cedric Diggory's letters. I know how much you meant to each other. I should have realized that nothing but the most desperate circumstances would have made you..."

"Obliviate him?" Draco drawled, "You think? Maybe I do that to all my Gryffindor boyfriends."

Hermione gave a laugh and to Draco's discomfort sat down next to him. He looked at her in disbelief. "Does your ginger know that you are here?"

Hermione nodded, "He had to go to London, but he agreed. We weren't judging you fairly."

"What in life is fair?" Draco said, he leaned against the tree. "You've said your apology, you can go."

"Is this the tree? Where you and Harry met?"

He turned to look at her, "What do you know about that?"

"Harry's notes that he wrote to you. You saved them. When Luna and I tidied up your room last week, after Blaise, well, you know. I saw the note about meeting at 'our tree'"

Draco shook his head, and nodded towards a big chestnut tree about twenty feet away. "That was it."

Hermione nodded, she looked around. "Didn't you two have a fight there, once? Or pretended to fight, I guess. I remember Ron breaking it up."

"Why are you here, Granger?" Draco growled.

"To give you these. Loan them to you." Hermione said, "I want them back in case Harry ever wants to read them, but I think you should read them."

Draco looked at the folded packet of papers. "What are they?"

"The Diggory letters." she said simply, "I think that you would like to read what he had to say about you both."

"What, Granger, you don't think my life is torturous enough?" his voice harsh, "I relive it every day. I don't need to read Cedric's words to make things worse."

She shook her head, "No, I think you need them to remember and hope." she reached for his hand and folded his fingers around the papers. "Harry isn't gone forever. We want him back and I know he'll return when he is ready." She started to say something more and shook her head, "Read the letters. I regret that I never got to know Cedric like you did. He was clearly a wonderful person." She stood up and brushed off her robes and walked away.

Draco sat there staring at the letters. Salazar save him from well-meaning Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs.

OooOoOOO

Draco walked into the Great Hall for breakfast the next morning. He felt Granger staring at him while he sat down in his same spot at the far end of the table, next to Luna. Luna smiled at him, how did she always find a way to smile he wondered. "I'm sorry," he said roughly, "About yesterday. I didn't mean to drag you into it."

She shook her head gently at him, "It was good. Good for them to hear the truth. We can only live in our dreams for so long and then reality needs to bring us down."

Draco looked at her, "But you, you need your dreams."

Luna shrugged, "I still have hope, and in the meantime I have you." Draco flushed, remembering his thoughts of leaving Hogwarts yesterday. They may not still be prisoners in Malfoy Manor but Luna and he were still very much prisoners. That he thought of leaving her to fight alone shamed him.

"We are a sad pair, aren't we?" he said.

"A gay broken hearted former-Death Eater and a trapped spirit of a lost soul," Luna said with a smile, "What a funny pair we are."

"How are we going to free you?" Draco asked.

"How are we going to cure your broken heart?" she countered. "Both are questions that can't be answered."

Draco was about to reply when suddenly the owls swooped into the Great Hall bringing the mail. They watched as the owls circled finding their target and came down to land. A large black raven caught Draco's eye and he watched as it suddenly plunged towards their table. Granger's eyes went large as it landed next to her. She looked at the two letters tied to it hesitantly. Draco didn't blame her for being tentative, raven's beak was intimidating. Granger looked at Longbottom gratefully when he held a piece of toast up for the raven. The raven grabbed at the toast and quickly scarfed it down, but not before Granger had untied the letters from its claw.

She looked at the letters and quickly stood up and walked over to the Gryffindor table where Ginny Weasley had half risen off the bench. Granger handed her the other letter and they both left the room. Draco watched as the raven flapped its wings and launched itself towards the opening in the ceiling.

"I guess we know who he is returning to," Luna said. Draco swallowed hard and nodded as he watched the black bird disappear.

OOOOOoOO

That night he waited until the eighth years were all sitting in the common room. Hermione looked up from her Arithmancy text to see him standing there. He held out the letters.

"Thank you, you were right." he said, "It was good to read Cedric's words. He was a good man."

Hermione nodded. "He gave a lot of insights into both of you." Although Cedric often hadn't named who he was talking about, it was easy to know when he had been talking about Harry or Draco.

"We both had a pretty twisted childhood." Draco said simply, "One of the things we had in common."

"Cedric wanted to be a therapist, didn't he? A mind healer?" Hermione asked, "Is that why you want to get into the St Mungo's program?"

"One of the reasons, a big reason." Draco conceded. He hesitated, glancing around the crowded room. "Would you want to go for a walk? I want to run something past you."

OOoOOoOoooo

Week before Christmas, 1998

Draco had permission to apparate with Luna to London. It was exactly a year since she had been taken off the Hogwarts Express by the Death Eaters and she hadn't wanted to face taking the train again. She was spending the holiday with Garrick Ollivander and visiting her father on the Thickey ward. After seeing her settled, Draco apparated to the village near his aunt's house and walked down the lane towards her small cottage. Having spent the entire summer in a cell and then being limited to the Hogwarts grounds the luxury of being able to walk down a country lane gave him more pleasure than he could have imagined two years ago.

He opened the door to the Tonks home and froze. Harry was sitting on the floor in the center of the room holding a toy. Teddy was giggling in delight, reaching for the toy dragon. A Swedish Short-Snout, Draco thought irrelevantly. His mother and aunt were sitting in the armchairs. The two men stared at each other, not moving. After a time that felt like an eternity, Draco watched as Harry carefully handed the toy dragon to Teddy and leaned forward to kiss the eight month old on the forehead. Standing up, he walked over to where a leather coat lay on the table. He picked it up and disapparated without saying a word, leaving only a trace of breeze when he left. Teddy chortled with laughter as he looked around to try and see where Harry had gone.

Draco sagged against the door, closing his eyes. No one had the right to look that good, he thought with a curse. Harry's skin had the burnished deep tan that one gets when they spend all their time outdoors. He wasn't trying to hide his scar anymore; the school-boy fringe was gone. His wavy black hair had grown past his shoulders and was tied back with a leather strap into a rough ponytail. Draco's fingers itched at the thought of pulling on the strap, releasing the hair to run his hands through it.

To make it worse, sometime in the last few months Harry had found the time to buy clothes that fit. Fit him like a glove, Draco thought as he remembered the stretch of the Muggle jeans and the rough cotton shirt. Even dragon skin boots, Draco thought with a laugh. Harry Potter in boots. A far cry from his old trainers.

"Are you okay, Draco?" his mother had come up to him he realized with a start, was holding his arm. He forced his lips into a smile.

"Sure. Of course." He kissed his mother on the cheek and was relieved to see that his mother also looked much improved. The unhealthy translucent .that she had acquired in jail was completely gone replaced by a healthy pink. "Happy Christmas." he walked into the room and sat down next to Teddy who was chewing on the stuffed dragon. Picking it up he twirled it over Teddy's head, unconsciously in the same position that Harry had been just moments ago. "How long was he here?" he asked quietly.

"Just an hour or so." his aunt said. She looked uncomfortable. "We didn't realize that you would be arriving so soon."

"I didn't take the train," he said, his eyes focused on Teddy's wriggling body. "Apparated into the village and walked up. I can leave, if you want to floo him and tell him to come back, finish his visit."

"No," his mother shook his head. "He was about to leave."

"How long is he visiting for? Or is he back permanently?" he tried to make his question sound idle as he picked up Teddy and smiled as the little boy gripped his fingers tightly.

"Two weeks, I think." his mother said and Aunt Andromeda nodded in agreement. Draco held the toy up and looked at it.

"I guess this tells where he has been." There were a dozen dragon toys scattered around the floor. "Romania must be cold this time of year."

"Draco, don't..." his mother said.

Draco forced himself to look up from the toy and put a smile on his face, "I'm fine, Mother. Don't you look wonderful. Positively glowing." He forced himself to shake off the melancholy. "Let me show you the newest plans."

OOoOOo

Harry apparated to Grimmauld Place, he needed somewhere to think and the Burrow was never a good place for quiet contemplation. As soon as he had heard the door open he knew that it could only be Malfoy. That still hadn't prepared him to look up and see the man that had been haunting his dreams standing in the doorway. And not the Malfoy he had last seen in Kingsley's office. This one stood tall and had lost the gaunt look that he had acquired in jail. The blond hair had been clipped short, far shorter than Malfoy had ever worn it during school. The change in his face was startling. The shorter hair softened his sharp features and made anyone looking at him notice how gray his eyes were.

It was the clothes that were the same though, Harry realized with a start. They were the same ones he had worn the previous years. They were at least six inches too short and were well-worn. The Draco Malfoy he had known had always been the best dressed student. He never would have worn too short, worn robes unless there was a reason. Harry thought about what Narcissa Malfoy had been wearing. He hardly knew the woman or current fashion but when he thought about it, her robes had looked worn. He had noticed the neat mending of a frayed cuff when she had handed Teddy to him.

Cursing, he realized suddenly the only reason why the Malfoys would be caught wearing mended, poor fitting clothing. He checked the time. He still had an hour before he said he would meet Simon Ward. He turned and apparated to the Ministry. The fact that he wasn't wearing customary formal robes to visit the Minister didn't bother him a whit. He landed at the Ministry apparation point and checked in with the receptionist.

"I'm here to see Minister Shacklebolt."

The receptionist didn't look up, "When is your appointment?"

"I don't have one. He'll see me." Harry said with confidence.

The receptionist started to laugh as she looked up, "The minister does not see-HARRY POTTER!" Everyone within earshot of her screech turned towards them.

Harry nodded. "You were saying?"

"Err, I was saying you can go right up. I'll let his assistant you are coming."

The fact that no one in Great Britain had seen Harry Potter in three months and he was now striding through the lobby of the Ministry like he belonged there, wearing a long black leather coat, jeans, and boots probably had much to do with the fact that no one moved or spoke until he disappeared into the elevator when the foyer exploded in exciting chatter.

By the time the elevator made it to the top floor and the door had slid open, Kingsley's assistant was standing at the door. "Mr. Potter. What an unexpected surprise. I've let the Minister know you are here. He is in a meeting but will be with you directly."

Harry looked around at the small receiving area. "That is fine, I'll just wait here."

"Not at all, sir. The minister directed me to have you wait in his office. More private you understand." Harry nodded and followed the assistant into Kingsley's office, turning down his offer for refreshments.

"Harry, this is most unexpected." Kingsley stepped into the office a few minutes later. They shook hands and Harry sat back down in the chair opposite of Kingsley.

"Yes, sorry. Impulsive."

"Certainly, but I've come to expect that from you. How are things in Romania?"

"Cold. With spots of fire here and there." Harry waved his hand dismissively, "Why haven't the Malfoy accounts been freed?"

"How did you know there haven't? Malfoy hasn't approached you, has he? He isn't allowed to as part..."

Harry shook his head. "Not his fault, I was visiting Teddy Lupin at Andromeda's. He came home for the Christmas hols. I left. The accounts?"

"Funny you should mention that, it was the topic of the meeting I was just attending. We have received a very interesting proposal from Narcissa and Draco Malfoy regarding their former home, Malfoy Manor."

"They want to move back?"

"Not hardly." Kingsley picked up a packet of papers and slid it across his desk. "Their proposal. Hermione has already read and approved it. I wouldn't be at all surprised if she had a hand in it from the beginning."

"Hermione?" Harry shook his head, "Why did she..."

"You'll have to ask her." Kingsley shrugged. "I know you don't want to anything to do with Malfoy but, I think you should read the proposal."

"What does that have to do with accounts?"

"In essence the Malfoys want to burn down Malfoy Manor, which is the best thing to do with it. Far too much Dark Magic in the place. In its place they propose to build a recovery and rehabilitation center for victims of the wars."

"They want to what?" Harry looked at the minister in astonishment. "Start a...?"

"Yes, it is quite a change in beliefs isn't it? The Cedric Diggory Center for Healing, they are calling it. They are proposing that funds from the Malfoy vaults will be used to pay for initial costs of the building and staffing. In exchange they request a modest stipend to live on. Read the proposal. I would like your opinion. The Ministry is hesitant to make such a move without your blessing, not just Hermione's."

"What does it have to do with me?" Harry asked brusquely

"If this center is going to be accepted it needs to have your approval, otherwise it will fail." Kingsley said simply. "Anything associated with the Malfoys is risky. The fact that they changed allegiances and helped defeat Voldemort does not change the fact that Lucius and Draco Malfoy were both marked Death Eaters. If you are actually willing to support it, it could be a success. And quite frankly, St. Mungo's cannot handle the demand on its services these days. The Janus Thickey ward was nearly at capacity before the events of last May. Now there is a waiting list and they have taken over another lesser used ward at St. Mungo's."

"What do they know about running a recovery center or whatever it is being called?"

"It is all in the proposal. Take it with you, ask Hermione about it."

Harry nodded. "I'll look at it. In the meantime free up some of the Malfoy money so they can buy some new clothes."

Kingsley raised his eyebrow at him, Harry flushed. "It is because of that awkward little problem that they both saved my life. I can't forget that no matter how hard I try."

"You saved Draco's life, doesn't that counter at least one of those life debts?"

"You would think, but the git is haunting me. I don't want to feel guilty that he is walking around in clothes that don't fit because the wizarding world wants to punish him for what he did to me. That is just between him and me. The fact is that all but one of the charges were dropped. There is no reason to keep their money. I want to feel mad, not guilty."

Kingsley gave him an appraising look, "Still is remarkable, you going to all this trouble to make sure they have money to live on."

Harry stood up, "Just means I'm still an idiot. Thanks for seeing me on such short notice."

"My pleasure. I'm sure you'll visit will be the talk around the bubblers for days. Have a good Christmas and give my best to the Weasleys."

"Will do." He looked at the door, "What are the odds that no one called the Prophet and everyone else?"

"Slim to none. Do you want to use the floo?"

"No, mind if I change here?"

"Change what?" Kingsley asked and Harry smiled and took out his wand. He quickly cast the glamour that he had been working on over the last few months. Kingsley did a double take as Harry suddenly took on the appearance of a sandy brown haired wizard with blue eyes. The glamour made him look like a twenty-five year old.

"What do you think? Will it pass?"

"It definitely will pass muster. That is quite an impressive glamour. It makes me hope that someday you might reconsider going into the Auror program. Only problem is your clothes are still the same."

"Good point." Harry eyed his coat. "Damn, I like this coat. Hate to transfigure it, never quite fits the same afterwards."

"Here, allow me." Kingsley went to the wardrobe in the corner of his office and pulled out a plain black robe. "I use this one when I need to go somewhere incognito. Wear it over the top, don't worry about returning it. My wife expects me to lose at least one set of robes a month."

Harry emerged from the Ministry and was confronted with dozens of photographers, they ignored him as they watched the door for Harry Potter to come out. He quickly moved down the street and made his way to the restaurant.

Simon Ward was sitting at a table in the corner, watching the door when he got there. Harry swiftly made his way over and sat down, much to the surprise of Simon. "I'm me. This is a glamour."

Simon squinted as he looked at Harry, "Really?"

"Really. Do you want to ask me a challenge question to make sure?" Harry asked.

Simon laughed, "Sure, who set up the meeting at your house in September?"

"Bill Weasley." Harry said easily. Simon laughed and shook his hand.

The waiter came over and they quickly took care of the business of ordering lunch. Harry enjoyed the novelty of being able to sit in the middle of the restaurant and being completely ignored. Simon gave him a quizzical look.

Harry looked at him and said, "You are probably wondering why I wanted to meet with you."

"A little. Well, no, a lot." Simon said with a laugh, "Thought it was interesting when you sent me the owl. There has been a lot of discussion on the great mystery about where Harry Potter went. Quite a few theories have been thrown about."

"Well, the rumors that I am a permanent resident on the Thickey ward are a tad exaggerated. I've been out of the country. I'm only here for the holidays and will be going back."

"I can't exactly say that you look good, but you sound good. A lot more relaxed than when we met in September."

"Couldn't have gotten much worse, the only way was up." Harry admitted.

"So you have come to terms with things?" Simon asked, "I hope you don't mind me asking."

"Not at all. Yes, better. Some things I will never accept. Will never forgive. But-" he fell silent as their food arrived. The waiter fussed with their beverages, and silverware. At last he walked away and Harry continued. "But, the blind fear that I'd lost complete control of my life is gone."

Simon slowly picked up his knife and fork, but looked over at Harry. "Never forgive?"

Harry's mouth tightened for a minute. "There are some things that are beyond all consideration. But that is not what I came here to talk about. I wanted to let you know that a few of the memories with Cedric have come back. I thought you would like to know that."

"They have?"

Harry nodded, "No way of knowing how much I lost but I have a few back. The first time we talked at the World Cup." he swallowed hard, "You were right. I would have hated to have lost that permanently. He was the first person I told I was gay. He convinced me to tell Hermione and Ron that I was gay."

Simon teared up and blinked rapidly to clear his eyes. "I'd wondered. When he got back from the World Cup he said he had talked to someone who had just realized he was gay. He was really good at talking with people. Helping them."

"That is what I remember, us talking. The memories aren't clear enough to know everything that was going on. But it was clear that we were friends." Harry shook his head, "I wish there was more but it could be that things are still getting sorted out in my head."

"Did the letters help?" Simon asked.

Harry hesitated and shook his head, "Have to be honest. I haven't been able to get up the nerve to read them. Not sure I ever will."

Simon nodded, "Cedric was a good man. A good friend. I remember thinking how very fortunate we found each other when we did. When he first died, was killed, I was angry that we only had two years together. And one year of that he was in still in school and I was down here." He took a drink of water and paused, getting his thoughts together. "But sometimes that is all you get. And I was fortunate, so fortunate, to have had him in my life for even that brief time."

"Are you seeing anyone else?"

"No. Wasn't ready at first and now," He looked out the window at the passersby, "I still find myself comparing everyone to Cedric. And that really isn't fair."

"Have you heard about the Malfoy proposal?" Harry said, "I just learned about it."

"The Diggory Center?" Simon nodded, "Draco wrote to me and the Diggorys, asking permission to name it in honor of Cedric."

"So you don't mind?"

"Not at all, I think it is a wonderful way to remember him." Simon looked over at Harry in his disguise, "I wrote him that my only concern was how you felt about it."

"Yes, that seems to be everyone's concern. I haven't read it yet." Harry said.

"It is needed." Simon said simply. "They have asked me to serve on the board if the project goes ahead, and I'll do so gladly."

"You think it is worthwhile, then?"

Simon looked straight at Harry, "I think it is way overdue. I wish it was already open. There is a generation of children like you and I who grew up without parents because of the first war." Simon said soberly, "There is a whole new generation who needs help. I would like to see them get more help than we did."

"Your parents were killed..."

"By Death Eaters when I was seven." he said, "I was fortunate enough to have been old enough to have memories of them and I was raised by my grandparents who loved me."

"I'm sorry, I had no idea."

"No reason you should have, but I wish there had been something more for me to help understand what had happened. Something like what the Malfoys are proposing."

Harry shook his head, "I just can't get my head around the idea of the Malfoys being benevolent."

"I think there is a mistake to lump all Malfoys together. Narcissa and Draco are different than Lucius and all the Malfoys before them."

Harry gave a half smile at that, "Not in my world."

Simon looked like he wanted to say something about that, but shook his head. "Thank you for the invite to lunch, I need to get back to work. Let me know if you want to talk again sometime. I hope at some point you are able to read the letters."

"Maybe. It is good to know that you approve of this," he tapped the proposal, "I'll keep that in mind as I read it."

OoOoOoO

Harry went back to the Burrow. He slipped into the kitchen and was surprised that Molly wasn't bustling around like always. Ginny and Charlie sitting at the table talking intently at each other, they stopped abruptly as he walked in. Brother and sister they looked much alike with strong cheekbones and the Weasley red hair, Ginny's long hair hung freely down her back. Charlie's hair, the exact same shade of red, was short now, cut so that it just curled over his collar.

"What is going on?" he said, glancing uneasily between the two of them.

Charlie looked up at him and smiled, "Nothing, just a difference of opinion. How's Teddy doing? You were there a long time."

"Didn't work out like I expected." Harry looked uneasily at Ginny. "Welcome home. How did your semester go?"

"Good. All things considered." she stood up from the table and came over and hugged him. "Better than last year, but just about anything would be."

"Mad at me?" Harry asked as he slung his coat around the chair.

"Mad at you for?" Ginny looked at him puzzled.

"For taking off in September without seeing you." Harry said simply.

"I understood," Ginny said, to which Charlie laughed disbelievingly. "Okay, I understood after I threw a few dozen books against the wall and had an all-out meltdown."

They looked at each other and Charlie stood up, "And this is where I pretend like there is something I need to do in the other room."

Harry laughed and watched as Charlie left. "You get along well with him, don't you?" Ginny said.

Harry nodded, "He is a good bloke. It has been great working with him. I never really spent any real time with him before. He was already in Romania when Ron and I started school."

Ginny nodded, her face tense. "So, how are you? Did leaving help?"

Harry reached out and grasped her hand, interlacing her fingers with his. "It helped. There is no way I could have stayed. I needed time. Time to chop down trees and fight dragons. Be mad."

"And are you still mad?" Ginny asked.

"Sometimes, but nothing like I was when I first got there. Charlie can tell you. I was pretty out of control."

"Did you remember more from what you lost?"

"I have bits and pieces. Like the healer said might happen. Not much of it makes sense, it is like a jigsaw puzzle with most of the pieces missing."

"So you remember more about Malfoy?"

Harry nodded, "More than I'll ever feel comfortable with, but yeah."

"And you are definitely..."

"Gay? Definitely. I'm..." Harry paused, he shook his head. "I'm not going to apologize for it. But I am sorry that you got caught up with everything that happened. I'm really sorry-"

Ginny shook her head, "I'm just collateral damage. I'm glad you are feeling better. Is there a chance that you'll come back? I don't want you to disappear into the wilds of Romania for forever"

"Is that what you and Charlie were arguing about?"

"No. Not really. Just something stupid."

"Like?"

"Like, I don't have to say. But what I do like is your hair." Ginny said with a laugh. "What made you decide to grow it out?"

"Charlie suggested it. He pointed out that the reason it was always so messy was because it would never stay short enough or even lay flat. This way I can just tie it back. Stays out of my eyes this way, which is pretty handy when you are trying to wrangle a dragon back into its cave."

"It looks good. You look good. Happy."

Harry shrugged, "Wouldn't say I'm happy, but I'm not drowning anymore. And truth be told, when this visit is over. I'll be ready to go back."

"Did you have a good visit with Teddy?" Ginny said, "I would love to go with you tomorrow and see him."

Harry hesitated, "It was short. Malfoy came in."

"He did? Did you talk?" Ginny asked, she looked like she was going to say more but stopped.

"I just apparated right out of their living room."

"So you didn't say anything? He didn't say anything?"

"No. Just froze. Wasn't expecting that he would be there that early, the train doesn't get in until a lot later."

"He didn't take the train." Ginny said.

"You don't say." said Harry dryly. "I'll check with Andromeda before going over there again. You should come. Teddy is adorable. Hard to believe how much he has changed in four months."

He pointed to the table where he had set the packet from Kingsley. "Do you know about the Malfoy thing? Kingsley gave it to me."

"Their foundation? Diggory Center?" Ginny hesitated.

"Yes. It seems everybody has heard about it."

"We have group counseling sessions at Hogwarts. It has come up." Ginny said carefully. "Everyone in our group is in favor of it. The healer helped write the proposal."

Harry narrowed his eyes at her, "Malfoy is in these counseling groups?"

She nodded and flushed, "Yes, along with Ron, Hermione, Luna, and sometimes Neville. Sometimes Dean and Seamus."

"You didn't write about that in your letters." he tried not to sound accusing but he knew hadn't quite succeeded. His hand clenched the table unconsciously.

"Well, you said from the beginning you didn't want to know anything about him. And after he got beaten up during the first few days of school, the sessions were mandatory."

"Someone beat him up? Who?"

"Blaise Zabini." Ginny said, "He was expelled because of it."

"So, let me get this right. You are in group chit chats with the man that obliviated me and the result of all that was this." Harry tapped the folder, "Do you talk about me in these little chats?"

Ginny hesitate, he heard footsteps entering the kitchen but ignored them. He stared at Ginny, "I asked, was I the topic of these group counseling sessions?" his voice was dangerously quiet. Ginny paled but didn't say anything.

She glanced over his shoulder and Harry wasn't surprised when he heard Hermione speak from behind him. "It wasn't like that, Harry." she hesitated, "We were all so mad. I was mad but also I wanted to try and understand what had happened."

Harry swung around so he could see Hermione and Ron. Ron was standing next to her, with his arm wrapped protectively around Hermione's shoulder.

"We all needed to know." Ginny said nodding, "I couldn't understand how Malfoy could be let in the school. I hated him."

"Hated? Not hate?" Harry said, looking at her. "Now you are all on his side?"

"Of course, we are on your side, we know this is difficult, Harry." Hermione said, "Ideally, you should have been there too-"

"Have been there? While you discuss the parts of my life that I will never remember?" he looked at them. "What the hell happened while I was gone? You too, Ron?" he looked at his best friend in astonishment.

"You weren't there, Harry." Ron said simply. "Like Hermione said, we were all so angry. If I was going to make it through the month without getting expelled like Zabini I had to try and figure out Malfoy."

"And did you?" he looked at the proposal again. "Kingsley told me that you already signed off on this, Hermione."

"It is a good idea. It is a good proposal. If it was from anyone else other than the Malfoys you wouldn't hesitate to support it."

"So everyone keeps telling me." he stood up, "Tell Molly that I won't be here for supper." he headed for the fireplace.

"Wait! Harry, where are you going?" Hermione said, "We need to talk about this and you just got home."

He hesitated, "I'll come back in the morning." He vanished in a flurry of sparks.

"Well, that went well." Hermione said, sagging into a chair and leaning her head on her hands.

Charlie walked back into the room and looked around "What was the yelling, where's Harry?"

"Gone." said Ginny, "You were right, he didn't take it well."

"Wasn't that hard to know that he wouldn't." Charlie said, shaking his head, "Where did he go?"

"Grimmauld Place" said Ron.

Hermione shook her head, "How did he find out about it so quick. I thought we were going to wait and tell him tomorrow."

"He went to see Kingsley, he told Harry about it." said Ginny. "I wonder why he went to see Kingsley."

"Who should go to Grimmauld Place and talk to him?" said Hermione, "Assuming he hasn't closed the floo."

"I'll go. He's probably has lumped you all together as the enemy, now." said Charlie, shaking his head at them.

OoOOOoOoO

Harry heard the floo open up and Charlie's shout. He didn't bother to respond.

"Harry! You here?" Charlie shouted again, in the bellow he used when in the dragon corral to be heard over the snorts and noise of the dragons.

With a wave of his hand he sent his patronus galloping down the stairs. They used them a lot in Romania to communicate across the distance of the woods and over the slopes of the mountains. So much so that he had been startled one day when he had, somehow, forgotten to pick up his wand and was still able to cast his patronus. Since then he had been careful to do it only when no one was watching. Other than Charlie, he didn't want people to know about his wandless magic, just one thing more that made him different from everyone else.

He heard Charlie clomping up the stairs and coming down the corridor. Charlie leaned against the doorframe and looked at Harry lying on top of the bed, "Nice room, like what you done with it."

"That is all Sirius, I never bothered taking down his stuff."

Charlie looked at the posters of girls in bikinis, "You don't say."

Harry laughed, "They have a permanent sticking charm on them. Won't come down."

"Well, you could fix that like you did Walburga's portrait or you could just put other posters up over the top of them."

Harry sat up at that and looked at the girlie posters, "What was that?"

Charlie rolled his eyes, "Just put other posters on top of those. Posters more to your liking, so to speak."

"How come no one else thought of that? Harry said with a laugh.

"Well, probably because not many others have George and Fred as brothers. They put some posters up in my room using permanent sticking charms when they first found out that I was gay. Just in fun. Let's put it this way, if Mum had ever found them she would have killed me. I was desperate, couldn't take them down so I covered them up with Quidditch posters. With permanent sticking charms so that Fred couldn't take down mine." he smiled at the memory.

Harry laughed and looked over at the posters, "I don't mind them, they remind me of Sirius. Especially the motorcycle ones. And of course, I don't really live here so it doesn't much matter."

Charlie nodded, "So how long are you going to sulk? Mum is planning a big to-do for supper."

"Tell her I'm sorry, I'll come back tomorrow."

"Because you're mad that Ron, Ginny and the rest have moved on and you haven't?" Charlie asked.

"They talked about me with him!" Harry looked at him, "What right do they have to talk about what happened. It didn't happen to them, it happened to me! It is none of their business!

"It happened to you, but they are all involved. You can't say that Ginny wasn't affected by what happened. Or Ron? Hermione? They are your best friends. You might want to live in complete denial but they decided to talk about it. They wanted to learn what happened, which is a hell of a lot more than you have done."

"Don't tell me what I should be doing." Harry said threateningly, he stood up and moved towards Charlie who was still standing in the doorway.

Charlie looked at him and shook his head, "All you are doing is hiding in Romania. Risking your neck taking foolish chances with the dragons or when you are out flying because you can't stand thinking about it. You are going need to deal with this sometime."

"It is my fucking neck, I can do what I want with it. Doesn't give them right to blab about me all over Hogwarts."

Harry pushed past Charlie and made his way up the stairs.

"Where are you going? Stay in one place for more than five minutes."

"Go the hell back to the Burrow!" Harry said over his shoulder as he turned and went up another flight of stairs. Charlie looked where he was heading and sighed. Harry pushed open the door to the roof and saw Charlie standing there. Harry looked behind him at the stairs and then at Charlie.

"Didn't feel like following you up three flights of stairs." Charlie said with a smile. He pointed his wand at two of the chairs that were covered with snow and debris, blowing it away. He sat down and motioned for Harry to sit in the other one.

Harry reluctantly sat down, regretting leaving his coat downstairs. He cast a warming spell over both of them.

"Thanks," said Charlie, in surprise.

"I might want to sulk, but I don't want to freeze." Harry shrugged. "Get enough of that in Făgăraș."

"So you concede that you are just having a snit?"

"First a sulk and now a snit? What do you think I am, twelve?"

"Sometimes you act it." Charlie said, "Worse than Ginny in one of her tantrums."

"Gee, thanks." said Harry, "You can just move on then and leave me here to stomp my feet."

"What, when you've finally had a breakthrough and were actually able to say Malfoy's name out loud?"

Harry gave a laugh, "Must be the shock of seeing him today. Wasn't expecting it, which is stupid considering I knew he would be coming home today."

"Didn't know you had seen him."

"See. There you go, I had two breakthroughs today." Harry stretched out his legs, leaning back in the chair. "He came to Andromeda's while I was still there."

"And..."

"And nothing, I got up and left."

"Sorry, no points. If you had yelled or cursed him, I would give you a point. Two, if you'd punched him."

"Not worth it."

"So we are back to the sulking."

Harry sucked in deep breaths of the cold air, and wished he was back on the mountains. "I shoudn't have come back. I don't know how you talked me into it."

"You came because you knew it was the right thing to do. This is our first Christmas without Fred. Mum and Dad need us all here. So, man up. Don't spoil it for her. Come back to the Burrow and play nice. We can plan a good old fashion Weasley shout-out for tomorrow when Mum is off Christmas shopping."

"Did you actually just tell me to 'man up'?" Harry said staring at the red haired man sitting next to him.

"Sure did. And I expect you to do it, or you are going to find yourself mucking out all of the dragon caves for a month when we get back."

"Well, if you put it like that." Harry said. He stood up, "Okay, I'll go and play nice."

"Nothing likes threats of towering mounds of dragon dung to make you see sense."

Harry followed Charlie through the floo and after a few tense moments with Hermione and Ron they all agreed to put off any arguments until the next day. By the time Molly Weasley got home from the market they were playing Quidditch, in the back garden with Hermione cheering them on.

OoOOOOOOOo

Harry smiled as Molly excitedly got ready to go shopping with Ginny. Ginny did not seem to share her mother's enthusiasm but was willing to go along with her. Harry suspected that she was glad for the excuse to avoid what was coming.

Ron and Hermione held hands at the table and Charlie sat across from Harry. At last, Molly and Ginny disappeared in a whirl of sparks up the floo. Harry took a long sip of his coffee from the mug that he held tightly clasped in his hands. He looked over at Charlie. "Now can I have my snit?"

"Sure, have at it." said Charlie with a laugh.

"Harry, let me explain..." Hermione started but Harry shook his head.

"No, let me." Harry took a deep breath, "I thought about it all night. I understand that you had to do something to get along with the bastard this year. But what I can't accept is you talking with him about me."

"It wasn't like that Harry," Hermione said earnestly, "It didn't start out like that, we just needed to understand why he did it."

"Why? Why he did what? Obliviated me?" Harry said with a laugh, "I'm sure he had plenty of reasons."

Ron took a deep breath, "Look, I'm never going to like the bloke. But..."

"No! No buts!" Harry slammed his fist on the table, "How would you feel like it if Hermione obliviated your memories. And you find out two years later that you were supposed to have this incredible love for her and she just took it away."

"But Harry,"

"At least you would remember, maybe, that she was your friend. All I know is Malfoy, the horrible son of a Death Eater bloody bastard who made most of my six years at Hogwarts a living hell. And you expect me to be okay with this?" Harry took a ragged breath, "It's fine. I'll just go back to Romania and you can keep on talking about me with your new best mate." he made a move to stand up but Charlie reached across the table and grabbed Harry's forearm, he pulled on his arm forcing Harry to lean across the table. Charlie reached with his other hand and pulled Harry's head towards his, whispering fiercely in his ear. Harry cursed but listened; finally Harry snarled and pushed Charlie away.

"Okay, okay. I'll listen." He threw himself back onto the chair and turned to Ron, "Talk. I won't interrupt. Convince me why the bloody Slytherin deserves a chance."

Ron was frozen though, his face pale. Looking between Harry and Charlie. He swallowed hard and looked at his brother, "Are you two, erm, well, together?"

Charlie and Harry looked at each other and started laughing, Charlie sat down and leaned back in his chair. "Why, would that be a problem for you, little brother?"

Ron's voice squeaked, "Erm, no. Of course not..." he trailed off, "You aren't, are you?"

"No," Harry said firmly, shaking his head. "We definitely are not, although I am curious why you would object. You didn't have a problem with me dating Ginny."

"Yeah, well, that was different. Because, you and she, and Charlie is… I mean that he and you..." Harry watched with amusement as Ron's face went from white to bright red.

"Sit down, Ron." Hermione said, shaking her head, "You are going to burst something and you are just digging yourself in deeper." Ron sank into a chair. "Of course, it isn't a problem if you do decide to date. I don't think it actually had occurred to Ron that two gay men deep in the mountains of Romania might find that they have some things in common. He is slow to adapt."

"Putting it that way, we should really rethink the possibilities." Charlie said laughingly as he looked at Harry who just shook his head.

Harry looked over at Ron. "Believe it or not, Ron, I do not have any desire to run through all the Weasleys as far as dating goes. I'm sure it will ease your mind to know that Percy and George are safe from me, too."

Hermione narrowed her eyes at Charlie, "But, you did cut your hair." Harry stilled for a moment, but Charlie just shook his head at her.

Ron look confused, "What does Charlie cutting his hair have to do with anything?"

"Well," Hermione flushed, "I just thought he might have because when it was long it used to look a bit like Ginny's..."

"I just cut my hair, Hermione. No ulterior motives." Charlie narrowed his eyes at her, "Aren't we getting a little off topic here?"

"Right. You were going to explain why you think Malfoy deserves another chance,"

"Harry, it's not that he deserves a second chance." Hermione bit her lip and looked towards Ron who shrugged, "But let's say I did obliviate Ron. Even though I love him, I went ahead and did it so that he doesn't remember me. Do you think I would do that on a whim? Without a really good reason?"

"But that is the point, you wouldn't do it!" Harry burst out, "I know you wouldn't!"

"I don't think any of us could say what we would do under certain circumstances," said Ron, shaking his head "And even though I hate the git, I am willing to concede that I'm not sure what I would have done if I had been put through what Malfoy had been."

"He thought he was saving you, Harry. He wanted you to beat Voldemort, wanted to help you do it." Hermione's voice shook a little, "He was afraid that Voldemort would use the mental connection to you to lure you to Draco, to trap you. Like he had with Sirius."

Harry looked from Ron to Hermione, "And you believe him?" They both nodded. Harry shook his head, "I can't see it. I don't get it."

"What? What part don't you get?" Charlie asked.

"Even, if I am willing to concede that maybe Voldemort was doing such diabolical things to Malfoy that he had to do something so drastic. I still don't get how I got together with Malfoy in the first place." Harry admitted at last.

He had spent nights trying to figure out how that had happened and none of it made sense. "I don't care how good looking he is, there is no way that I would just have woke up some morning during fourth year and say 'Hey, I think I'm going to have a go with Malfoy'" Ron and Charlie both laughed at that but Hermione just nodded.

"Are you ready to learn about how it happened? Because if you are, I think you should read the Diggory letters. They really do help understand."

Harry looked at Ron, "Did you read them?"

Ron nodded, "You should read them. If for no other reason than to learn more about Diggory. You and he were pretty good friends."

"I'm starting to remember that," Harry reluctantly admitted, "I've had a few memories of him coming back. I remember us talking at the World Cup and in the courtyard at Hogwarts."

"That's good, Harry." Hermione exclaimed, "The healer said you might get more of his memories back. Do you want me to get the letters?"

Harry hesitated, "I'll take them back to the Făgăraş with me. What I want to hear about now is this Diggory Center. How did that idea come about?"

Chapter Text

J anuary 15, 1999

Waiting with the others in the conference room of the Ministry, Harry adjusted the collar on his formal robes, trying to make it feel less like a noose. Molly had wanted him to wear his Order of Merlin ribbon but he'd refused. His presence at the press conference was needed but he didn't want to draw any more attention to himself than he could avoid. It was still hard to believe how quickly things had moved since first learning about the Malfoy's proposal three weeks earlier.

Sitting in the kitchen of the Burrow before Christmas, Hermione had told him about the Center and convinced him to meet with Narcissa Malfoy and Healer McCain. He had been surprised, shocked really, about how much thought had already gone into the proposed Diggory Center. After listening to the soft spoken