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Mental

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"Well it's a deviation of Legilimency, so it requires the same skills and basic principles but it's meant to be not as invasive, so the caster can sense the other persons thoughts without the whole invading the mind process. It's still countered by Occlumency though-"

Harry yawned openly, wishing heartily that Ron hadn't tried to win points with Hermione by faking an interest in what they were supposed to be learning about in today's Defence session. By the look on his face, Ron was also wishing he'd just kept his mouth shut.

It was much the same really, as it had ever been. Hermione would study, Ron would try to keep her happy and Harry would get distracted. There were subtle differences; of course there were. Going through a war tended to do that to people.

Hermione was a lot more easy going. Gone was the scowl and irritated twitch when Harry and Ron abandoned studying in favour of Quidditch or Exploding Snap. It was a little unnerving to start with, and Harry had spent the first few weeks back at Hogwarts looking over his shoulder, wary of being told off.

Ron had changed a lot as well, probably most notably of the three. He still said things at the wrong time and was absolutely clueless when it came to Hermione, but he tried: made extra effort to be nice to his girlfriend, especially after he inadvertently cocked things up. He was more patient with his friends also, and more likely to see things from more than one point of view.

Most of the time.

Harry didn't think he'd changed at all, really, but the others assured him that he had. Ginny commented on it most of all, saying how calm he seemed in comparison. He guessed she was right; losing the threat of certain-death hanging over your head would probably achieve that end.

Bringing a halt to his internal musings, Harry glanced over the rest of the class to see how they were getting on with their work on Occlumency. A fair few were looking dazed and a little confused, clear indicators that they had recently had their minds raided by whoever they were working with. The other half were flicking through books and taking notes to try and help protect their minds for when their partner regained enough of their mental faculties to return the favour.

"I hate Occlumency," Harry sighed as Hermione finished her explanation. He glanced down, adding a second wing to his doodle of a golden snitch that sat in the middle of his notes.

"Don't blame you after the farce you made of it in fifth year," Ron said, watching Hermione as she read her book, eyes flicking back and forth with speed.

Harry looked up indignantly. "Farce?"

"Farce, fiasco, fuck up - pick your favourite," Ron said with a grin.

Harry pulled a face at him and pulled his book back towards him as Ron chuckled. He stared down at the page for a second, then looked up sharply as a ball of blue light flew past his shoulder.

"Shit!"

"Sorry!"

Harry shot an exasperated look over at Neville, who was hovering a little way away, looking guilty, wand in hand. "So you can wield a sword like a pro, but still can't cast any spells in a straight line?" he asked wryly.

"Seems about right," Neville grinned back somewhat sheepishly. "Sorry mate."

Harry shook his head, amused. At least Neville had missed him; the incident with Dean's hair being removed by a stray 'Longbottom Special' was still fresh in everyone's mind.

He turned back to the book, staring at but not taking in any of the words. Instead of reading, his mind wandered and he sat daydreaming and half-listening to Ron and Hermione's talking.

"So it's not like being in a Pensieve in someone's head then?"

"No, it's more like what you'd call mind-reading than original Legilimency, because you'll just hear the thoughts rather than being transported into the mind-"

Urgh. New era Legilimency. He'd had quite enough experience sharing thoughts and visions with someone else, thank you very much. And now his head was back to being one hundred per cent his own, he didn't really want anyone else mucking around in there. He'd grown rather protective of his brain, and he didn't think he could be blamed for that. Glancing around again, he half heartedly considered asking the new DADA professor if he could be excused, what with him being the Chosen One and all…

A movement to his right caught his eye and he looked over; a very familiar figure had stepped into his peripheral vision, reaching up to examine the crooked case of books that stood against the wall, close to the desk Harry and the others were working at.

Draco Malfoy scanned the shelves twice and then sighed, looking put out. He turned and looked over towards Theo Nott, who he had been working with.

"Theo," he called, voice low. "Do you know who's got the Mindworks text?"

Theo shook his head in response just as Harry's face broke into a grin: the copy of the book in question was currently sat in front of him being ignored.

Malfoy turned back to the shelf with a frown. He continued to look in vain, with badly hidden impatience, before sighing explosively as he concluded that the book he needed definitely wasn't there. Scowling, he looked around, then his gaze fell on Harry, who immediately picked up the book he hadn't been taking notes from, waving it helpfully.

Malfoy rolled his eyes and shot a half-hearted sneer at Harry who stuck his tongue out in reply.

"Who're you pulling faces at?" Ron asked, twisting round in his seat to follow Harry's gaze. Comprehension dawned on his freckled face as he saw Malfoy hovering by the bookcase, one pale hand still resting on the shelf. He turned back to Harry and rolled his eyes, wearing his now familiar I-can't-believe-you-give-Malfoy-the-time-of-day expression.

Harry ignored him and looked back to Malfoy, who was glaring unashamedly at him. "Give me the book," he mouthed as Harry watched.

Raising the book, Harry feigned surprise, pointing at the cover. "This book?" He mouthed back and Draco rolled his eyes again before nodding.

Tapping his chin in mock thoughtfulness, Harry took a deep breath in- and then let it out, shaking his head sadly.

"Dick," Draco mouthed at him and Harry chuckled, turning back to Ron.

"Come on then, let's get it over and done with so we can say we've done it, and then we can go back to doing nothing."

Hermione shot him a look that was somewhere between exasperated and amused and shook her head, but didn't say anything. Harry climbed to his feet, Ron following suit, yawning widely.

"So it's Legillimens Exportai?" he asked and Harry nodded.

"Sounds about right."

"Sounds about right," Ron repeated incredulously. "You're about to go delving in my head and you think it 'sounds about right'?"

"Well, if you get the Occlumecy right then I won't be able to get into your head," Harry replied and Ron nodded his head, conceding the point.

"Okay, ready?" Harry asked and Ron nodded, bracing himself with his wand in hand.

"Legillimens Exportai," Harry said clearly, pointing his wand at Ron. His wand lit with a blue light, there was a moment of nothing, and then Harry heard it - a faint echo in his head that sounded similar to Ron's voice, scratchy and flickering like an out of tune radio.

Calm…concentrate…ho- hold…

Harry lowered his wand and the voice disappeared.

"I could hear you! You were telling yourself to keep calm and concentrate," Harry said, grinning.

"Couldn't keep you out then," Ron said ruefully, running his hand through his hair.

"Didn't sound very clear," Harry admitted. "I could only get a few words and it sounded- hey!"

Harry whipped around as out of the corner of his eye he saw Malfoy dart forwards and away from the bookcase, his grey eyes fixed on the book Harry had refused to give him. Without thinking, Harry lunged sideways towards the Slytherin and fastened his fingers around both of Malfoy's bony wrists, jerking him away from the book before his fingers could even touch it. To hell with the fact he didn't even need it, he wasn't about to let Malfoy get one over on him, not now, not ever. He barely heard Malfoy's noise of protest and indignation before there was a crash, a shriek and a shout of 'HARRY!'

Stumbling and tripping over Malfoy's feet, he whipped around, the Slytherin's arms held so tightly in his grip that they were almost chest to chest, just in time to see a ball of blue light heading directly towards his face.

He had a split second to contemplate just how badly this was going to hurt, and then there was pain, a muffled scream, followed by nothing.


 

Harry knew he was awake, because he hurt. Pain in his head, aching and throbbing like he'd taken a bludger to the face. He forced his eyes open to see the depressingly familiar ceiling of the hospital wing swimming above him and winced.

"Ow."

Ouch

Startled, he raised his head to try and see where that voice had come from. Everything was blurry; he sat up and groped out to the side table for his glasses, his fingers quickly locating the thin wire frames. He grabbed them, pushing them back onto his face.

hurts

He looked around again, feeling disorientated. There was no-one there, and that wasn't him who had just said that, was it? Or had he thought it?

"Hello?" he called tentatively and almost immediately heard footsteps. The curtain was flung back and there stood Ron, looking relieved.

"Finally! Been waiting around for you to get up!"

"What happened?" Harry asked, rubbing his temples.

"Neville - the plank - he miscast and hit you with that bloody legillimecy spell," Ron explained, suddenly looking a little shifty.

"And…?" Harry asked warily.

stop…

There it was again! That definitely wasn't him who had said or thought that- it was clearly another voice, quiet and faint and - oh shit- just like when he had heard that bloody basilisk in the walls when he was twelve.

"Ron?" Harry asked again, beginning to panic.

"Hedidn'tdoitquiteright."

"Come again?"

Ron took a deep breath. "He didn't do it right. He-"

fucking way-!

Harry scrambled to his feet, his hands pressed over his ears. He was pretty sure 'fuck' wasn't part of a basilisk's vocabulary, which only meant-

"Ron, why can I hear someone?" he asked hoarsely, shaking his head to try and dislodge the voice.

"You can hear him?" Ron asked glumly, sounding resigned. "Oh bugger-"

"Ron!"

Kill…stupid…away-!

Ron took a hasty step back, holding up his hands to try and placate Harry. "Promise you won't freak?"

"I'm already freaking out, there's a voice in my head!" Harry shouted, screwing up his eyes. "Cancel it, get Neville out of my bloody brain-"

"Neville?" Ron asked blankly.

"Yeah, I can hear him-" Harry faltered as Ron bit his lip, looking torn between laughing and crying.

"Ron?" Harry said dangerously, stepping towards the gap in the curtains. There had to be someone about who was going to explain just what the bloody hell was going on, and Ron was being infuriating at that moment in time; a sentiment that was quickly reaffirmed as Ron swiftly stepped in front of him, blocking his way.

"Ron, let me out."

"Not until-"

"Now!"

Harry pushed past Ron as he heard the word incompetent echo around his head. Ignoring his best friend's protests and the fact he was clad only in a hospital gown, he paused only long enough to hear voices coming from a cubicle at the other end of the hospital wing. He marched towards it, yanked the curtains open-

Potter fuck wanker stupid defence casting light pain stupid anyone else Potter scarhead stupid Longbottom murder Father hate people fool idiot stupid-!

He fell back with a cry, a blinding pain in his temples accompanying the tidal wave of thoughts that had crashed through his mind the moment he locked eyes with the person in the bed. An echoing shout of pain told him that the effect had been reciprocal-

"Oh for Goodness sake- Get him out of here!"

The shout ended the torrent of thoughts battering his synapses, and holding his head in both hands he looked up, eyes watering.

"You've got to be fucking kidding," Harry managed hoarsely as Ron hauled him unsteadily to his feet, his hands gripping Harry's upper arms tightly, keeping him upright.

"This has to be some sort of universal fucking joke!"

Harry could only stare unashamedly, his hands still planted over his ears as if that would help any. He didn't know whether to laugh or cry, because for once in his life, he wholeheartedly agreed with Draco Malfoy.

Chapter Text

"Mr Weasley, get him out of here!"

Madam Pomfrey bustled over, looking alarmed, flapping her hands in Ron and Harry's direction to chivvy them away from Malfoy. "Mister Potter, get back to your own bed! You shouldn't be in here!"

Go away go away go away go away-!

Harry took a stumbling step backwards, looking towards Draco who was sat up in his bed, curled forwards over his knees with his hands gripped into his white-blond hair. He was rocking back and forth slightly and shouting, his voice muffled by his knees. Harry guessed that the words would be pretty much along the same lines as what he could hear in his head, if he could make them out.

"Go-" Madam Pomfrey insisted. "You'll make things worse by staying-"

Go away go away go AWAY-!

Harry had had enough- the pressure of Draco's constant monologue in his head was becoming painful, there just wasn't enough room in his brain for his thoughts and Draco's, and it looked like it was Draco was having just as much trouble-

He allowed Ron to roughly pull him backwards out of the cubicle, standing stock-still as Ron turned away from him to yank the curtain back into place, blocking Malfoy from view. Almost immediately the influx of thoughts subsided, like floodwater receding down a drain. He felt tired and shaky and allowed Ron to manoeuvre him back to his cubicle without protest.

hurts too-

Fuck. So the thoughts were still there, thoughts that weren't his. Intruding thoughts that belonged to bloody Malfoy, of all people.

He could have cried as Ron pushed him to sit on the edge of his bed with a sigh. He wanted to carry on shouting and stamping around and maybe even get around to breaking some stuff, but after that encounter with Malfoy he felt too drained to even raise his voice.

Christ. Less than a year, and he was back to sharing his mind with someone less than desirable. How was this fair at all? Surely karma would have given him a break by now?

He leant forwards with a groan, pressing his forehead to his knees in an imitation of Malfoy's earlier pose. Just to complete the look, he threaded his hands into his hair on the back of his head, but managed to control himself and not rock back and forth like Malfoy had done.

How the fuck has this happened to him? It wasn't fair, he had paid his dues and now he was stuck with Draco in his brain? How long was this even going to last? Ten minutes was bad enough; the few disjointed words were unnerving, and he had the feeling it wouldn't get easier with time.

And why, oh why, did it have to be Malfoy? He wouldn't have even been anywhere near him if they'd not been bickering over that stupid book-

Anyone else would be better. Neville, or Ron, or Hermione, or- Harry's inner rant paused, imagining what it would be like if it were Ginny who was privy to all of his thoughts.

Well, he thought humourlessly. Maybe, for once, things could be worse.

It really was uncomfortable, Harry noted, whatever had gone on in his head. He could feel something - a sort of presence - in his mind that he hadn't always been aware of. As a matter of fact- he wasn't even sure that he could feel his brain before, but now that was definitely the case; something behind his temples hurting, aching, and sometimes throbbing and stabbing in time with Malfoy's thoughts.

It could be worse, he told himself firmly to stave off potential hysteria. It was just an accident and it would probably be fixed with a simple counter charm. He would be kicking Neville's arse for it, mind, but still.

He rallied himself and took a deep breath, sitting up and blowing it back out again through his nose, running his hands through his hair. Could be worse. Could be worse.

"Told you that you should have stayed put," Ron sighed after a few minutes of silence, a Hermione-ish frown directed at Harry. "You probably made it worse by looking at him."

"What's happened to me?" Harry asked uncertainly. He now felt a lot calmer than he had five minutes ago, but it was still a tricky situation nevertheless. "I know I can hear him, but how-"

link

He cried out in frustration, rapping his knuckles against his forehead as he heard the voice again, clearer than before.

"Is it really that bad? Can you hear everything he's thinking?" Ron asked, sitting next to him and looking worried.

"No, just odd words, but it's so-" his "-bloody frustrating!"

"It was Neville's spell," Ron said unhappily. "Didn't get it right and of course he hit you both when you were fighting over that book. It messed up somehow. It's meant to fade the moment you lower your wand…you've got to go and talk to McGonagall about it when Pomfrey's calmed Malfoy down enough for you two to be face to face."

"When I saw him…it got way worse. It hurt," Harry muttered, hesitating before he asked the next question. "Is he getting my thoughts, too?"

Not fair

"I think so," Ron said, nodding, and Harry's stomach tightened even though he'd been expecting that answer. "He was shouting when he woke up, sounding pretty mad. About five minutes before you."

Stupid school- f- defence-

Harry growled and pulled his glasses off, pressing his palms to his eye sockets and rubbing hard. "Fucks sake-"

He looked up as his curtains swished aside and saw Madam Pomfrey looking down on him disapprovingly, as if this mess was all his fault. Where was Neville anyway? He should he here taking the blame, not bloody Harry.

Stupid

"Well, come on then. Mister Malfoy has agreed to meet to sort this out, and you can't go to Professor McGonagall until you're dressed-"

"Malfoy has agreed?" Harry asked, irritated. "Since when are we running on his say so?"

"Since he's the marginally more difficult one out of the pair of you," Madam Pomfrey said tartly. "Don't you go making a fuss, too."

Meeting

Harry's jaw dropped incredulously and Ron shifted from foot to foot next to him. "Me, make a fuss? There's a Malfoy in my head, I think I'm perfectly entitled to make a fuss!"

Pomfrey eyed him sternly. "I've heard this all already from Mister Malfoy. If you would be so kind as to spare me the repeat, we can get down to business."

Not

"But-"

Pomfrey crossed her arms and looked at him sharply enough to make him falter. "Do you want to get this fixed or not?"

Harry scuffed his toe on the floor and scowled. "Yes," he muttered petulantly.

Trousers…need- where

"Oh, fuck off Malfoy," he snapped, shaking his head side to side. He heard Ron snort with laughter and Madam Pomfrey cluck her tongue disapprovingly.

"Language, Potter. Now, get dressed and go up to the Headmistress's office, if you would."

She swept away without another word, leaving Harry gaping at Ron, who looked torn between sympathy and laughter.

"Shut up-" Harry said, reaching for his trousers.

Pain how the

Ron tried to keep a straight face and failed, a reluctant grin spreading wider and wider over his face. "Sorry, I'm sorry…it's like the ferret said though." Harry glared at him but Ron wasn't fazed and carried on talking, sounding like he was on the verge of laughter. "Joke's on you two again, really."

 


 

 

"At least he's not a total bastard anymore," Ron mused as he and Harry made their way to McGonagall's office, Harry looking thoroughly dejected.

Here by

As Malfoy had left the hospital earlier and passed Harry's cubicle, the thoughts had grown in intensity and frequency, fortunately not with the same strength or pain as when Harry had first clapped eyes on him. They had then faded and now all Harry was treated to were occasional words at random intervals, combined with that strange feeling in his head.

"Hmm?" Harry asked, tearing his eyes away from his feet to actually look up at Ron and where he was going, narrowly missing a collison with a suit of armour.

Mess

"I mean, imagine if this had happened in sixth year," Ron shrugged with a grimace. "It would have been way worse. It's not like we actively hate him anymore, you know? He's not super-evil anymore, just a bit of a git."

"Are you trying to convince me or you?" Harry asked wryly with a small, tired smile.

Ron chuckled. "A bit of both, I think."

Waiting…long

"He's waiting for us," Harry said glumly as they passed the library and started to climb the stairs, every step taking way more effort than it would under normal circumstances. The portraits on the walls were smiling and waving at him as he passed, but he was in no mood to return the pleasantries.

"How do you know? Did he tell you?" Ron asked, looking startled.

"What?" Harry asked, confused.

Ron scratched his head. "Can you talk to each other?"

Harry shook his head. "No, I can just hear words. He thought 'waiting' so I assumed he was waiting. And it sounded grumpy."

this

Ron looked relieved. "Oh good. 'Mione said these Legilimency things can be quite potent. I didn't know if you could talk through the link. You probably could learn how to, you know. I'll bet she's already researching it-"

"No, nothing like that," Harry said impatiently. "Look, McGonagall will undo the spell in five seconds flat and then I can have my brain back with no more Malfoy intrusions."

Ron didn't reply.

The scowl on Malfoy's face was the first thing that Harry noticed as he sidled into McGonagall's office, after leaving Ron alone beside the gargoyles at the bottom of the staircase. The second thing was the rush of thoughts that spread through his brain at the sight of him.

It wasn't as painful as it was previously, but still disconcerting and made him wobble on his feet. Malfoy raised a hand to his forehead, his scowl slipping from annoyed to pained in an instant.

waiting Potter finally hair hands still here go away need to McGonagall end finish get out of arms…

Harry groped for the arm of the chair that was sat next to Malfoy's in front of the Headmistress's desk and sank down into it. Next to him Malfoy shifted his chair away slightly.

"Oh grow up," Harry snapped.

Fuck stupid hate face

"Shut up," Malfoy snapped back and then winced, pressing his fingers to his temples. Harry shot him a smug look, vindictive pleasure shooting through him; it appeared Harry's thoughts were still giving Malfoy some pain. Fucking wuss.

"I'm not a wuss," Malfoy snapped and Harry felt a jolt of pain rack through his skull even as he went to angrily respond.

"Fuck off-" Harry growled.

"The pain will subside," a tired voice came from behind them. "If you both keep calm. Just sit still for a few minutes and don't say a word."

Both boys resentfully shut their mouths and slumped back into the chairs, looking determinedly away from each other and forwards as McGonagall moved around to sit behind her desk. It was still strange to see her behind that desk instead of Dumbledore, but Harry didn't begrudge her the recently acquired title. She was a good Headmistress and the school was doing as well as it ever had.

"Better?" she asked after a while.

Hate him

Harry grunted in the affirmative and Malfoy didn't respond at all but to fold his arms tightly across his chest, still looking sulky. Harry wasn't lying; it was better. Less painful, less jarring and less frequent.

"Right," McGonagall said briskly. "Now I want you to look at each other and keep calm."

Harry gaped at her and ignored Malfoy's noise of protest. "Are you kidding?"

McGonagall gave him a glare. "Now."

Harry barely refrained from rolling his eyes, but did as he was told. He turned in his seat to see that Malfoy had shifted sideways and was already looking at him, his expression sullen.

Green eyes met grey, and they both winced-

Eyes green help get me out stupid can't believe stupid eyes hurts eyes no stop it don't Potter green-

He managed to not look away from Malfoy even as pain licked at his temples, a stinging accompaniment to the barrage of thoughts. His eyes watered but he held firm; if Malfoy could handle it then so could he, dammit.

The pain faded, slowly but surely, and Harry was immediately struck with a thought of his own, the moment he was able think anything other than ow.

Gosh, Malfoy's eyes were grey. Not just grey, but really grey. He'd never seen anything like it and was a little taken-aback that he'd never really noticed before. They were light, lighter than they should naturally be really, and they seemed to look into Harry, not just at him-

Said eyes widened noticeably and Harry blanched; crap, Malfoy could probably hear odd words of what Harry was thinking, so now really wasn't the best time to be pondering over Malfoy's bloody eyes-

"Still painful?"

Harry looked away so quickly his neck cracked. McGonagall was looking at him expectantly. "No," he said quickly, rubbing his neck. "It doesn't hurt anymore, it just feels weird."

"Weird?" McGonagall asked, an eyebrow raised, and Harry flushed. He knew he wasn't expertly loquacious at the best of times, and he really didn't want to make a fool of himself in front of Malfoy-

Fool, ha-

He looked up to scowl at Malfoy who was looking to McGonagall, perfectly straight-faced. "I can feel extra pressure just here," he said, touching two pale fingertips to his temples. "Like a Legilimency bond but stronger, and I'm pretty sure it's headed straight to Potter. It's uncomfortable, but not as bad as it was."

McGonagall nodded gravely and looked to Harry who grudgingly nodded in agreement. Malfoy was right; Harry was now pretty certain the funny feeling in his head was indeed the link connecting him straight to Malfoy.

"Right. So Poppy tells me this was an accident?"

Harry nodded. "Of course, why would we do this on purpose?"

Idiot

"Stop it," Harry said to Malfoy, who looked back incredulously.

"I can't!" His scowl deepened. "And stop thinking I'm a twat!"

"You are-"

"Boys," McGonagall broke in before the argument could get out of hand. They looked to her, still scowling.

"So it was an accident?" she prompted.

"Yes," They said together.

"Had to check," she said briskly. "You two cursing each other is not unheard of."

"We were working on Legilimens Exportai in Defence," Draco said and then twitched irritably, possibly reacting to Harry's thoughts about him still being a complete and utter suck-up. "Longbottom miscast and hit us."

McGonagall looked baffled. "Hit both of you at the same time? How close were you standing?"

embarrassing stupid idiot

Harry flushed. "We were…" A flicker of idiot echoed in his head again and before he could think of a more rational way to handle the situation, he had decided to forgo acting grown-up and simply tell on Malfoy. "He was trying to steal my book!"

Malfoy's jaw dropped. "Steal? He wasn't even using it! I asked nicely but he wouldn't let me look-"

"No you didn't!"

"I did!"

"So," McGonagall interrupted, shutting her eyes and rubbing her forehead. "You're telling me that you two - two eighteen year old men who should really know better - were fighting in class…over a book you couldn't bring yourselves to share?"

They both looked at their knees and mumbled. She sighed and reached for her biscuit tin, pulling the lid off. "We can win a war but still can't convince you two to get on. Remarkable."

Bad

Harry and Malfoy both accepted the proffered biscuits without fuss or argument, feeling abashed.

"We can only deduce you two have been bonded via a semi-permanent Legilimency link, rather than the controlled link you were using to practice your Occlumency. You can hear each others thoughts, yes? Well we can fix this," McGonagall said and they both looked up. "With a potion."

Harry looked hopeful but as he glanced at Malfoy the feeling faded; for some reason, Malfoy was looking almost dismayed.

No

"It's not like a normal bond, or link," McGonagall continued. "It's stronger because of Neville's miscast and the high emotions running at the time. See, when these bonds are created, they're only done by specialists and when the participants are willing and calm. Heaven on Earth knows how Longbottom managed to do it."

"And that means?" Malfoy asked, trepidation written all over his face.

"That we can't cancel it with the usual counter-spell. We have to use a potion, with psychological and neutralising properties," she paused. "And the potion takes two full moon cycles to brew."

"WHAT?"

Harry stood up and almost immediately fell back as angry thoughts swamped his mind, belonging to both of them.

"Potter, stop it!" Malfoy shouted, his eyes screwed tightly shut and his hands over his ears like Harry had done earlier. "Calm down! And STOP THINKING I'M A TWAT!"

"YOU ARE!" Harry bellowed back. "I am not having you in my head for two months!"

Fuck no way he know out bollocks Father potion too much find out Mother help fuck fuck help Snape-

"I don't want you in mine, either!" Malfoy shouted back. "Get OUT!"

"Enough!"

Harry would have ignored McGonagall, but she seemed to have known that and flicked her wand at them both, silencing them both and pushing them back into their chairs, which turned around smartly to face her.

Harry took a deep breath and tried to calm himself down. It seemed to work- the pressure of the link or bond or whatever it was receded. He glanced to Malfoy who had his eyes shut and was breathing in and out deeply, trying to compose himself as well.

Breathe calm stupid help need- n-n- will work help no way-

He was still seething, Harry could tell, but he was trying, and Harry was grudgingly grateful. Although Malfoy was probably only thinking about his own ends and couldn't give a flying fuck if Harry was in discomfort or not. Prick.

"The solution will be ready on the twenty-second of December, all being well," McGonagall told them.

Christmas stay fuck angry Mother-

"Great," Harry said hollowly. "Just great."

"Shut up," Malfoy grouched. "This isn't fun for either of us-"

Wanker

"Stop it!"

McGonagall pinched the bridge of her nose, breathing out slowly. "You know this kind of mental bond has its advantages if you work at it. They're often used by twins, or even experienced Aurors on field exercises. You can communicate clearly if you develop the skills, and learn to shut out any unwanted thoughts…"

She trailed off at the mutinous looks on Harry and Draco's faces.

"Oh you know what," she snapped, pulling her biscuit tin back towards her and snapping the lid on. "Grow up, and deal with it. Dismissed."

Harry and Draco glanced to each other briefly then back at her. "What?"

"Deal with it," she said sternly, pointing to the door. "You won't listen to reason right now, so go away, act your age and just deal with it."

Chapter Text

"Oh Harry that's awful-"

Hermione bit her lip and continued to gently rub circles on Harry's back between his shoulder blades as he sat curled over his knees in a chair in the Gryffindor common room. It was a pose he was rapidly becoming attached to; mainly because he couldn't look anyone in the face without twitching or growling in response to the rogue thoughts in his head.

"How long is this going to last?" Ginny asked, looking at him a little warily. Harry wished she would go away; she had been dropping hints for the past couple of weeks that she wanted to have a 'talk' about their relationship (or lack of) and it didn't seem like she would be cutting him any slack today, even with this ordeal hanging over his head.

Harry wanted to talk to her, he really did, but he was having enough trouble keeping his life under control after winning the war. Everyone wanted to talk, to say thank you, to see him, and he hated it, just as he had always disliked the attention. It wasn't Ginny's fault that his brain unhelpfully grouped her wanting-to-talk with everybody else's; it was just what had happened. And with the added complication of a mind full of Malfoy, now really wasn't the time.

"December twenty-second," Harry said, his voice muffled.

December too s-slow potion-Pansy fuck off slow too library now Potter GO AWAY

Harry snorted with laughter and Hermione and Ginny exchanged alarmed glances. Ron just shook his head, smiling ruefully. "He's not laughing at you, probably something Malfoy-related," he told them and Hermione nodded in comprehension. Ginny carried on staring at Harry looking like he'd grown an extra head.

"I think Parkinson is giving him the third degree," Harry said, sitting up and sinking back into the armchair, rubbing his aching temples.

Bitch

"Could you talk to him through it do you think?" Hermione asked curiously, pulling her feet up onto the sofa that was positioned opposite to Harry's armchair. Ron was sat next to her and Ginny was perched precariously on the arm next to Hermione; fortunately she seemed to have decided against trying to share Harry's armchair that afternoon.

"I don't know, I'm just trying to keep calm." Harry said tiredly. "I'm tempted just to stupefy myself until Christmas."

Ron chuckled but Hermione looked at him reproachfully. "That's not an option."

"I'd say it's definitely an option," Harry muttered, grabbing a pillow from behind him and setting it in his lap, picking agitatedly at a loose thread on its corner. "I don't want to hear that stupid ferrety voice any more."

problem sleep night Potter know find out stupid fucking books

"How is that a realistic option-"

"Because I can hear Malfoy." Harry said, turning his eyes to look at Hermione balefully. "Malfoy, Mione. In my head. Nattering on and on and swearing all the time and complaining-"

"Are we talking about Malfoy or you?" Ron quipped and Harry chucked the pillow at him, scowling.

"Shut up."

Trouble

"Sorry mate," Ron grinned. Harry let it go; to be honest, he was grateful that Ron was finding this amusing rather than a cause to fly off of the handle. He didn't think his headache could take Ron being angry about this as well.

shelf

"Argh, it's not even making sense," Harry said, frustrated. "It's just words-"

"I'll help if you want," Hermione said gently. "I've got a few books on Legilimency, we might be able to find a way to refine the bond-"

"I don't want to refine any bond," Harry groaned. "I don't want to talk to him ever, let alone in my head."

Talking link hate why

"No, it's not just about talking to him," Hermione said. "That's just a part of it. If you did, you wouldn't have all these odd words, and you could probably shut him out-"

"Really?" Harry paused.

Really

"Really," Hermione said. "It'd be tricky, but I think it'd be preferable to hearing Malfoy all the time."

"Yeah, that sounds good," Ginny said slowly. "At least-"

Fuck off you know hate research idea not fair shut hate Pansy twat leave alone up

"Shut up," Harry muttered.

"What?" Ginny looked at him, open mouthed and affronted.

"Wait, no, not you!" Harry said. "Malfoy thought it-"

Sleep able dream night block

"Sleeping!" Harry blurted out, sitting up straight and smacking his forehead with his palm. "What will happen at night? Will we share dreams?"

Night dream night

Ginny looked startled. "We weren't talking about-"

"We were talking about learning to control the link," Hermione said, also looking a bit bewildered.

Twat Potter twat

"You're the twat," Harry said, poking his forehead.

"Harry!"

He looked up again to see Ginny and Hermione gaping at him. Ron had his knuckles stuffed in his mouth to contain his laughter. "What, no- I meant Malfoy!"

Leave me alone!

"Holy shit, that was a sentence!"

Fuck shit sleep Potter AWAY!

Harry stood up unsteadily, staggering slightly on one foot. He could barely tell what thoughts were his and which were Malfoy's, he couldn't tell what he was saying out loud and thinking, and it was getting worse the more agitated he got. And that had been a whole sentence he'd just heard. Not an odd word but a whole sentence, clearly spoken in a voice that sounded less muffled and more like Malfoy's…

"A sentence?" Hermione asked, standing up and taking hold of his elbow, looking concerned. "You heard a full sentence? That was quick-"

Slow too much Potter need

"Shut up, Malfoy!"

"You know he can't hear you speaking mate," Ron began, also standing up.

"Do you want to talk to him?" Ginny asked, rising to join the other two and making Harry feel rather cornered.

Potter panicking wonder worse stop ouch not good

"I know it's not good!" Harry said, shaking his head violently. "Hang on- what?"

"Who are you even talking to?" Ron asked, baffled.

"You! Malfoy- hang on-"

Harry clenched his eyes shut and took a deep breath-

Confused talking pain too much sleep tired can't dreams find out

"Oh, fuck it!"

Harry made to slip in-between Ron and Hermione and bolt for the dorms to try and have five minutes to himself to sort out which thoughts were his or not, but a hand grabbed his sleeve, wrecking his impromptu escape plan.

"Where are you going?"

Leave calm down away Pansy bitch fat too much

"It's too much," he blurted, trying to prize his wrist out of Ginny's grip. "I can't work out what's what-" twat "-oh, for god's sake!"

He must have looked suitably distressed because Ginny let him go, looking worried.

"I'm sorry," Harry said. "He's getting wound up and I'm getting wound up and it makes it worse, and I don't know who's saying what-"

I'm saying he Potter need go go go so

He gave up and bolted, heading for the dorms. He sprinted up the stairs to the dorm room and ran in, flinging himself onto his bed and letting out a frustrated cry.

Interfering friends

Was that him or Malfoy thinking that? The thoughts were coming thick and fast, too fast to tell-

Stop talking

He took a deep breath and tried the only thing he could think to do: trembling and panicked, he counted down from three and then let his body go lax. He put his hands palm down on the bed by his sides and concentrated on breathing in and out, in and out, not getting angry or frustrated.

It worked. Slowly the pressure in his temples eased and both his thoughts and the input from Malfoy lessened and he was able to distinguish between the two.

Sorry-

Harry opened his eyes and blinked up at the scarlet canopy of his bed. He doubted sincerely the apology was directed at him but it was nice to hear a word that wasn't an expletive coming from Malfoy's mind.

Hard- d-difficult

He snorted tiredly, shutting his eyes and breathing out deeply. "You're telling me."

 


 

 

One…two…three…four…five

Shower

One…two…three

Pyjamas book where

One…two…three…four…five…six…seven…eight…nine…ten…eleven

Counting?

One…two…three

Potter

Harry smiled weakly to himself. Seems Malfoy had cottoned onto what he was doing, which was counting how much clear space he had in-between the thoughts that slipped into his mind.

Twenty-eight seconds was the record for the moment; as he relaxed and calmed down odd words kept slipping through but they were singular and quiet rather than the barrage of words that came through when they were agitated.

Harry sighed and rolled over in his bed, debating whether he would be able to fall asleep. He felt knackered beyond all reason; sharing thoughts with someone was more tiring than physically fighting with them.

He hoped Malfoy was just as shattered.

He had gone through angry, indignant and scared and now he was at a stage of weary acceptance. From the words and vague emotions he could pick up from Malfoy, he guessed he was too.

Ron was right, in a way. He was glad that Malfoy wasn't as bad as he used to be, and their enmity wasn't at the levels it had once been, but still. He hated him for being there in that classroom today and he hated the hold that Draco had on him, however weak or temporary.

Linked. To Malfoy. The concept made him want to laugh, cry and punch things all at the same time. He would be having trouble believing it if it weren't for the voice in his head, reminding him of the incident every so often.

Shit

Draco was a coward, and he was irritating, and he was awkward and stubborn, and definitely not someone Harry wanted to be linked with. He was glad they'd called time on wanting to actively hurt each other, and he'd kind of accepted the odd connection they had maintained after saving each others lives…but on this level? No fucking thanks.

There was nothing to be done about it. Hopefully they'd learn to control it and the effects on his life would be minimal…knowing his track record though, it wouldn't be that simple.

Tired

"You and me both," he muttered, reaching over for his wand and whispering 'Nox' to extinguish the light.

How was he going to get through this whilst he couldn't control it? He could barely concentrate to read a book, let alone get through a conversation with his friends. He was pretty sure he'd confused Hermione and Ron and probably upset Ginny with the mess he'd made earlier, trying to simultaneously talk and sort out the jumble of thoughts.

He swallowed thickly, rolling sideways and staring at the hangings that surrounded his bed. He just wanted to be normal and able to get on with his life…and sharing thoughts with someone was simply a vast invasion of his privacy. He didn't like it at all, especially not knowing what thoughts were slipping through to be read by Malfoy.

Exposed. Even with his life on the front pages of the Prophet, he had never felt this vulnerable or open. And it was all for fucking Malfoy to see, the git.

Harry suddenly realised that in his course of mulling things over, he hadn't heard anything from Malfoy in quite a while. Had it stopped? Had the link somehow lifted?

He shut his eyes and concentrated and his heart sank; no, he could still feel the connection but it felt…different. Calmer, softer. The sensation in his head wasn't aching or throbbing anymore, but gently whispering slowly back and forth, almost like a wave or a pulse-

Malfoy was asleep.

The answer came to him effortlessly and he breathed a sigh of relief. Malfoy was asleep and the thoughts had stopped. He rolled back over again and shut his eyes, the tight knot in his chest easing a little. If Malfoy could sleep, so could he. Today had been rough, no doubt about it. But, he though wryly, if he could defeat a Dark Lord…maybe he could get through a mind-sharing ordeal with Draco Malfoy.

 


 

 

"You look tired."

Harry simply stared back at Hermione across the table, and she had the good grace to look chastised, a flush spreading over her cheeks.

"Of course you're tired. You're mind linked with Malfoy," she muttered, going back to her juice. "Be quiet, Hermione."

"Did you get anything last night?" Ginny asked from next to her, frowning.

"No," Harry said, rubbing his eyes. "No dreams or anything that came from him, not that I could tell anyway."

"And this morning?" Hermione asked tentatively.

Hungry…

"Started up whilst I was in the shower," Harry sighed, toying with his breakfast. "Clearer than yesterday as well. It actually sounds like him."

"God, how are you not flipping out?" Ron asked, spearing a third sausage with his fork and lifting it to his plate. "That drawling voice in your head-"

"Honestly, there's no point," Harry said. "Believe me, I want to. But if I get angry he gets angry and it just makes it worse."

The other three fell silent, all looking glum and a little helpless. Harry couldn't blame them; he felt that way himself. The Hall was steadily filling up with students coming down for breakfast; their chatter echoed throughout the room, growing steadily louder as more and more students joined them. However, it wasn't loud enough to drown out the sound of Malfoy's voice in his head, odd words breaking through at intervals.

"Just carry on," Harry said to the others. "Do what you'd normally-" hall "-do and don't worry. I'll handle it."

Ginny looked unconvinced but Hermione and Ron nodded and started chatting about the upcoming shopping trip into Hogsmeade. Harry was grateful; there was nothing anyone could do about his current predicament and his friends worrying unnecessarily would just wind him up.

Smell food need Potter god now hide-

Harry tensed as he felt a strange tightening sensation in at his temples, but the pain he'd been expecting didn't come. His stomach sinking, he twisted around to see just what he was expecting; Malfoy entering the Hall, looking over towards the Gryffindor table with a sullen expression on his face.

Potter eat shirt hair go potions before he they

"Does it hurt?" Hermione asked, her voice quiet.

Harry shook his head slowly and turned away as Malfoy looked away and headed quickly towards the Slytherin table. He was alone, which was unusual; the usual entourage of Parkinson, Nott and Goyle were nowhere in sight.

"No. Feels a bit strange but it doesn't hurt," Harry told her and she nodded, satisfied.

Harry felt the urge to turn and look at Malfoy some more, to see if he was still sat alone at the table. He resisted; firstly he didn't want any more of Malfoy's thoughts to find a home in his brain and secondly he didn't want to look at the pointy faced git any more than he might have to.

"Harry?"

He looked up to see Ginny looking at him, amusement evident on her face. "I've been trying to get your attention-"

"Sorry," he said. "Distracted."

Granger sat move

"I can imagine," she said. "Nevermind, I've got to go and meet Luna for Transfiguration. I'll see you later, OK?"

He nodded, staring down at the scratched wooden surface of the table, and jumped slightly as she leant over and kissed his cheek before walking off.

Away

"Don't worry," Hermione said to him as he rubbed his cheek distractedly with the back of his hand. "I'll help you later, see what we can sort out."

Harry nodded unenthusiastically. He didn't want to sort it out. He just wanted it to stop.

 


 

 

Life with Malfoy as his brain-buddy had to go on, and that life was about to start with double Charms. Harry trudged along beside Ron after abandoning his breakfast, occasionally twitching as he heard the voice in his head, a mundane commentary on Malfoy's business that made him want to hit his head against whichever hard surface presented itself at the time.

book move class no Potter laces hands broken nail book where Pansy wand corridor move stupid pathetic nice look shit…

A few people glanced at him on his journey to Charms, but whether because they'd heard about his predicament or because he was Harry Potter he didn't know. Apparently, at the start of the year every house had been given a talking to and had been told to leave Harry well alone, and for the most part it had worked. The first couple of weeks had been manic but now things were better.

Bored Arithmancy ouch p-paper cut

Harry was too weary to even gloat over the fact Malfoy had apparently done himself an injury. He slumped down into a seat in Charms, mournfully realising it was only nine o'clock in the morning and he was already ready to go back to bed.

"Harry?"

Harry groaned inwardly and looked up from his bag. In front of his table stood Neville, looking wide eyed and panicked.

"I'm sorry," Neville started immediately, his words rushed and babbling. "I didn't mean to, I really didn't and Malfoy was there and they told me I've linked you and I don't even know how-"

Worried

"Neville! Neville, calm down," Harry interrupted, holding a hand out to placate his friend. He should have expected this- Neville had been conspicuously absent since the accident, and knowing him, he had been hiding well out of Harry's way.

"But-" Neville began.

"Forget it," Harry insisted, waving him away. "It's done, it'll be fixed and I'll kick your arse for it when it's over."

Longbottom

"Oh," Neville said, looking torn between worry and relief. "Erm…when will it be fixed?"

"December twenty-second," Harry said and Neville shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot.

"Oh," he said, biting his lip. Then, apparently unable to contain himself any longer- "I'm sorry, Harry! I really-"

"Stop!" Harry protested, his fingers on his temples as ouch Potter stress no calm rent through his mind. "Seriously Nev, if you stress me out it gets worse. Yes, I'm mad. Yes, you owe me big time, but for now I've come to terms with it and don't want to have to think about it any more thank absolutely necessary, alright?"

Neville nodded and hastily turned, dropping into the seat next to Hermione who was the other side of Ron, poring over her textbook.

"Nicely handled," Ron chuckled.

"Shut up," Harry groaned, continuing with unpacking his bag. "I can't be dealing with him right now."

Book where need page hundred calculate four

Ron was silent for a moment, flicking his quill back and forth between his fingers. "You know…if there's anything I can do, mate. Diverting Ginny, knocking Malfoy unconscious for a bit…"

Harry smiled weakly. "I'll bear that in mind. Thanks."

"Not a problem," Ron muttered in reply, raising his eyes to the front of the class as Flitwick climbed up onto his chair. "Just try and keep it together yeah?"

Harry nodded, looking down at his textbook.

Keep it together. Right.

 


 

 

Charms was easier than Harry anticipated. Flitwick must have been aware of Harry's situation because Harry barely participated in the practical session and he didn't say a word or draw any unwarranted attention to him. Harry's head started to feel slightly achy and tender around his temples, and as the minutes passed, every word that belonged to Malfoy was sounding more and more Malfoy-like, as if the Slytherin were stood next to him whispering directly in his ear. Most of the words were to do with Arithmancy and Harry was disgruntled that Malfoy seemed to be able to concentrate on his lesson whilst Harry was floundering in Charms. He half-debated getting riled up in order to flood Malfoy with angry thoughts, but decided against it considering the delicate state in his own brain.

Ron came to Harry's aid with no prompting or fuss, much to his relief. He stuck by Harry's side all lesson and on the journey down to the second session – Potions – deflecting anyone's questions and distracting anyone who tried to come up to Harry, giving him enough peace and quiet to focus on what he needed to do.

"Alright?" he asked Harry quietly as they sat down at their desks in Potions. "You don't look too good."

"Yeah, I'm fine. It's just distracting," Harry said. "I'm still not used to it. Every time I hear something it interrupts what I was thinking and I'm trying not to get stressed out about it-"

"You know what happens when you bottle stuff in mate," Ron said, a small frown on his face. "You'll explode. You need to let it out at some point-"

"What, in the middle of potions?" Harry asked pointedly and Ron pulled a face, conceding the point. "I'll take a break at- oh god no."

No tired pain can't deal with this away run notice

"What?" Ron asked alarmed.

"Malfoy's just come in, hasn't he?" Harry groaned, hiding his face in his hands.

Away room other side distraction share move classes

"Yeah," Ron said, twisting around in his chair. "He's not looking too good either-"

Even though just a short hour ago it would have been, it was now of little comfort knowing that Malfoy wasn't getting on fine either. Harry was in no place to be smug; he was now mentally hovering on a very fine line: one side of which involved him curling into a ball and crying, and the other consisted of him flipping out and throttling Malfoy with his tie.

No no avoid can't grades Mother proud carry on

"Welcome, settle down, settle down," Slughorn's voice boomed across the room as the final few students claimed their seats, Hermione sidling in last moment with a book in her hands, having clearly been to the library at break. Some things never changed.

Need to stick it out-

Harry shook his head violently from side to side again to try and shake the voice, not caring that he'd look like a wet dog if anyone saw him.

"Christ, I'm getting whole sentences-" he muttered to Ron.

Can't just leave –S- Slughorn shout

"Oh shut up," he muttered.

"Harry, mate, calm down," Ron said, his voice low and troubled.

Slughorn was beginning the pre-session talk and Harry grabbed his quill and his parchment with trembling hands, determined to at least try and take some half decent notes. "Today we'll be continuing to look at medicinal potions-"

Work need to finish shit notes

Harry twitched again; this was getting too much. Trying to listen to Slughorn, concentrate on his notes and shut Malfoy out whilst keeping a hold on his temper- something had to give.

"- which you will remember are complex and involve multi-process brewing, that is brewing two separate mixtures to combine for medicinal properties-"

Too close to concentrate wish go away Potter not fair kill Longbottom

Harry felt annoyance surge through him- Malfoy was getting annoyed and that wasn't good for his own temper, and how the fuck was blaming Neville going to help?

Stress feeding temper

"So I have here your correctly brewed potions from last week, now to move onto phase two-"

"Harry?"

That was Hermione, sounding concerned and another voice adding to the multitude of noise in his head-

Phase fucking waste of time

Harry's hand twitched violently and the nib of his quill snapped, blotting ink across his notes-

Calm down Potter

Something snapped. He was on his feet before he knew it, his stool screeching on the stone floor as he pushed it back. "You," he shouted, rounding on Malfoy and pointing at him as the rest of the class gaped. "Shut up! Telling me to calm down? I was fine before you started stressing!"

"Get lost, Potter," Malfoy snapped, his face pale, his own quill gripped tightly in his hand. "At least I could concentrate before getting stuck in a room with you-"

"Boys, boys!" Slughorn protested loudly. "Professor McGonagall assured me this wouldn't get out of hand!"

Fuck this too much hate

"Well it has," Harry snapped. "Come on, Malfoy, I want a word with you."

"What? No!" Malfoy started to argue. "I'm not leaving lessons just because you can't deal-"

"NOW!" Harry bellowed and Malfoy winced visibly, raising his hand to his head in response to Harry's anger but lowering it quickly.

"Fine," he snapped, grabbing his bag and climbing off his stool. Harry watched him, glaring for all he was worth even though it was making the throbbing in his temples intensify.

"Draco-?" Pansy began from next to him, looking concerned. Harry wanted to punch her for causing any type of delay; trust Malfoy's stupid fat-faced girlfriend to not know when to back the fuck off-

"Shut up!" Draco shouted and Pansy stared at him, affronted.

"Draco!"

"No, not you- him!"

Draco now looked like Harry felt; like he was about to seriously lose it. A welcome intervention came in the form of Theo Nott, who swiftly stood up on the other side of Malfoy, grabbing his elbow and leaning forwards, muttering something in his ear.

Harry felt the pain in his head lessen notably as Draco's shoulders relaxed a little and he nodded curtly, obviously taking heed of whatever Theo had said. He didn't reply, but just turned and marched out of the room, Harry following right behind him.

Can't believe leave stupid-

The door to the dungeons had barely shut before Harry rounded on Malfoy, grabbing his shoulder and spinning him round.

"You need to stop getting so wound up-" he snapped.

Draco tried to throw Harry's grip off of his shoulder. "Get off me. You started it-"

"Oh grow up," Harry growled. "Look, there's nothing for it, we need to get through this, and we need to do this together-"

Draco shot him a venomous look. "Yeah right, Potter. "When have you ever done anything to help me?"

Harry made a disbelieving noise in his throat, his voice rising uncontrollably. "Oh, how about when I saved your life, and your arse from Azkaban-"

Draco wrenched himself away as Harry received a flare of pain to his synapses in payment for his badly placed remark. Draco turned on heel, storming away without another word, not that they were necessary.

Malfoy didn't have to tell him out loud to fuck off. Harry heard it loud and clear regardless.

Chapter Text

Harry didn't know if Malfoy now doing his very best to ignore him was a good thing or a bad thing, all events considered. True, he didn't have to look at his stupid pointy face anymore, which helped a lot for not getting agitated. However, that end was being achieved regardless by the fact Malfoy seemed to now be in a constant state of low level rage after their argument.

In hindsight, mentioning Azkaban to Draco Malfoy in the middle of an argument hadn't been Harry's best idea. He didn't know whether to feel guilty or pleased; on one hand he had won the argument and got Malfoy to bugger off, but on the other hand he felt a little guilty about what he'd said.

Three whole days of carrying around a link weighted down by an angry Malfoy…it had been nothing short of bloody hard work. His performance in lessons had been abysmal, his interactions with his friends; shocking. He'd not even spoken to Ginny since his fall-out with Malfoy, though that was tabbed on both his pro and con list.

Harry stared down at his untouched meal, sat alone at the Gryffindor table. He could only be glad of three things right now: firstly that Ron and Hermione had been so helpful and supportive about the whole thing, secondly that the link seemed to shut down whilst he was asleep, and lastly that it was Friday, and almost the weekend.

tables complete eight…

The weekend. It was like a shining beacon of hope, calling out to him and nearly within his reach. The weekend meant sleep, no lessons, and therefore no bloody running commentary on Potions or Arithmancy. Trust Malfoy to like Arithmancy, which in Harry's opinion was pointless and as boring as a wingless Snitch.

He jumped a mile as a hand clapped down on his shoulder and an unfairly cheerful voice called out next to him.

"Still brooding about the Ferret, mate?" Ron asked heartily as he sat down next to him at the lunch table.

Harry grunted in response and Ron chuckled. "Can't be that bad- Hermione said it was easing off?"

"Yeah," Harry said, running a hand over the back of his head. "Still a pain though. It's not gone completely-"

Cunt!

Harry broke off with a wince and Ron paused, looking at him expectantly.

"Christ he's got a mouth on him," Harry said ruefully, shaking his head experimentally as if he were trying to rid his ears of water. "And I mostly get stuff when he's mad so it's all swear words and stuff-"

"I'll bet he's mad," Ron said conversationally, buttering bread with enthusiasm. "After what you said-"

"Well, what would you have said, Ron?" Harry interjected, nettled.

Ron merely shrugged. "Well I might have been a bit more tactful," he said thoughtfully, munching on his bread as Harry gaped incredulously. "Definitely wouldn't have mentioned Azkaban. Or the life-debt."

"He was working my last nerve!" Harry protested. "No way would have you kept your cool."

Calm bloody now down

"Hmm, probably not," Ron conceded. "Especially if it sounds like him too, now-"

"Yeah it does and can we drop it because you're stressing me out and that's stressing him out and then I get more swear words and he's giving me a headache-"

"Okay, okay," Ron said, holding his hands up and looking alarmed. "Breathe."

Breathe

Harry took a breath, and then laughed weakly at the echo of Ron's earthy voice in that stuck-up drawl he was becoming oh-so-familiar with.

"Good to see you smiling," a brisk voice said and he looked up in time to see Hermione sit next to him, dropping a stack of books onto the tabletop with a bang.

"I'm not, I'm laughing at how ridiculous this whole thing is-" Harry tried to argue.

"I've found out why you're getting less of Malfoy's thoughts," Hermione announced and he immediately shut his mouth and looked up, intrigued. "I found him in the library. Well, I was in the Charms section and I saw him lurking at the back, but he didn't see me because he was in the Legilimency section, so I followed him after he put his books back…"

"Hermione?" Harry interrupted as Ron covered his mouth and grinned into his palm across the table. "The point?"

"Oh. He had these," she said, showing him the books. "He's been researching the link and I think he's learning how to control it. Judging by the dates stamped in the covers he's had them since right after it happened."

"He is?" Harry asked, reaching eagerly for one of the books. "That's brilliant! He's doing all the work!"

He flipped the book over, beaming at it. He glanced up to Hermione and his heart sank, seeing her patented its-not-going-to-be-that-simple expression.

"What?" he asked warily.

"Well…from what I've read and heard…he's learning to control the bond from one side…" she paused. "He's still getting most of your thoughts, Harry. He can only control what gets out of his mind, so to speak."

"Yerwhat?" Ron asked, looking as baffled as Harry felt.

"He's…he's not trying to block me out?" Harry asked, his brow furrowed. "But that's the worse bit, getting all the thoughts."

"I don't think it is for him," she said quietly. "Because you've got a link, it's like a go ahead for thoughts to be shared, so you can't just Occlude your mind and keep him out. Regardless, I think he's more concerned about what you find out what he's thinking."

Talk

"So he's going to know what I'm thinking but I'm not going to be able to tell what he's thinking?" Harry asked, tossing the book aside and feeling put-out and a little alarmed. "How is that fair?"

"I though you were glad it was easing up?" Hermione asked with a frown.

"I am, but I thought it was for both of us!" Harry said, despairing. He pushed his plate away from him to make room for his elbows, putting his head in his hands and wishing that he could just stop thinking-

"You can do the same," Hermione said gently. "Maybe, if you talked to him, worked with him. He clearly knows how to deal with this-"

"No," Harry said immediately. "I'm not talking to him, not ever."

"You two are meant to have called a truce." Hermione said reproachfully.

"We have," Harry groaned. "But this is too-" fuck off "-WILL YOU STOP FUCKING SWEARING!"

His shout startled most of the table and he bent over, resting his head on the table. He could feel an embarrassed flush rising up his neck, knowing everyone was staring at him.

"Erm, pot calling the cauldron black there, mate," Ron pointed out helpfully.

"Shut up, Ron."

Hermione's mouth twitched in a smile. She placed a hand gingerly on Harry's shoulder to try and calm him. "Shouting at him won't help," she said quietly. "You've got to learn to-"

"I know," he interrupted, trying not to snap. He sat up straight and ran his fingers through his hair agitatedly, making it look worse than usual. "But there is no way in hell me and Malfoy will ever get on well enough to-"

Twat

Harry gave up. To hell with everyone that was watching, his dinner, his lessons and his sanity. He shut his eyes and leant forwards again, his forehead hitting the surface of a table with a dull thunk.


 

Dropping a hefty stack of books onto a table in the common room, Harry debated whether skiving lessons that afternoon was a good idea or a bad one.

On one hand he was now free to sit in the quiet and – finally – get some research done into this cursed link. But on the other hand…he was having to do research into the cursed link, something he'd been grudgingly unwilling to do up until Hermione's revelation at lunch.

Work wand position

It was like having hiccups, Harry decided as his thought train was cut short by input from Malfoy. Hiccups in your brain.

He would be getting on just fine, and then out of nowhere a thought would jump into his mind, uninvited and unexpected, and throw him completely off balance. He could go quite a while hearing nothing, and he would dare to hope Malfoy had managed to stop it all, and then-

Potter

He gave a small rueful smile as he settled himself down into his favourite chair and pulled one of the books – Linking Legilimency – towards him, preparing to immerse himself in the oh-so riveting subject of advanced Legilimency. Wonderful.


 

A couple of hours later and Harry was ready to curl up in a ball and cry. He'd read a large section of Linked Legilimency, a chapter from Advanced Occlumency, a section from Sharing Thoughts, Sharing Skills, and had concluded that his life was as good as over.

He now realised just why Malfoy was taking such strides to keep his thoughts to himself, and his perception of the bond had changed dramatically too. He'd already found out a lot about Malfoy by catching rouge thoughts…he could imagine how much more he'd know if Malfoy hadn't made any effort to stem the flow. Sure, he'd considered the fact that Malfoy would know what he was thinking and had been a little bothered by it, but not to this extent. Until now.

An uncomfortable prickle kept walking up his spine and he felt his cheeks burn every time he considered how much Malfoy would have found out about him. His stupid ignore-it-and-it'll-go-away approach had really turned out for the worst this time.

Third law

He looked morosely down the first list he'd made as he was writing; notes on the ways to control the link and a number of techniques to help him refine it. Calming his mind was a large part of it, and apparently once he achieved that he would be able to feel the link and begin to guard it. He knew it was going to be a god-awful pain, just as Occlumency had been. It wasn't lost on him that he was more desperate now to shut off his mind to Malfoy, than he had been to stop the wayward dreams in fifth year

There wasn't any other option; he had to learn how to keep his thoughts in. He hung his hope tentatively on that thought; he'd been rubbish at keeping other people's thoughts out, but maybe he'd have more success in making his own behave.

He sighed and reached forwards, pulling Sharing Thoughts Sharing Skills backtowards him. His eyes flickered morosely over the title of chapter eight: Visions and Visuals.

"When the subjects are in control of the thoughts that are shared between the link," he read under his breath, his finger tracing the words as he read. "They will not only be able to actively communicate, but also share visuals. Images, pictures and visuals will all be able to be shared at will. However, if both participants are not fully in control of their link, shared visuals will be errant and random and not controllable."

He groaned and slumped back in his chair. Christ. Fucking Malfoy. If he was working on this bond - which he was - and working at a faster rate than Harry - which Harry bet he was - Harry could end up flooded with unstoppable images and visuals, which would be a million times worse than just odd words.

finally

Debating whether to sit and sulk or carry on working, Harry gazed across the table that his work was haphazardly spread out over. Advanced Occlumency was open at a page entitled Communication through Legilimency, and he shot it a half hearted glare.

Working link

It sounded pretty cool at face value, he thought. Being able to talk through the link…it was just a shame it was Malfoy he'd ended up stuck with. If it had been Ron, they could have spent the time learning to play around and having a laugh with it, pulling pranks and talking about anyone who took their fancy, collaborating on essays without Hermione telling them off…

With a sinking feeling in his stomach, he knew that he probably would be able to get on with this much better if he asked Malfoy to help. His pride held him back though; technically he and Malfoy were no longer enemies, but it was coming on a bit fast to think they'd be able to work together productively on something.

His stomach slipped another few notches as he also realised that he wouldn't be able to tell the full effects of his work unless he asked Malfoy about it. He had concluded from his reading that he'd feel the link more securely, but wouldn't get the full picture of the traffic between them without talking to the Ferret.

fuck

All the books so far had referred to them as a pair or a partnership, and gave techniques for them to use whilst working side-by-side on the bond. Apparently, no-one had contemplated the possibility of a link being formed accidentally because of a clumsy classmate with a new wand he couldn't quite keep control of yet.

He tossed the book aside, pushing his glasses up his nose and rubbing his eyes tiredly. He still had over an hour alone before everyone else came back from lessons, and didn't want to read anything else that would depress him any further.

work

Leaning back in his chair, he got comfortable and shut his eyes, trying to calm his thoughts down. It was a horrible paradox- in considering all the things he didn't want Malfoy to hear about, he was thinking about them and thus making it more likely for Malfoy to pick up on them.

Ginny was first on his list. He couldn't think about her, because if Malfoy managed to get any insider information into that mess of a not-quite-relationship, he'd have taunting fodder for weeks. And if Ginny became privy to any of that information, she would have his bollocks on a plate. True, Malfoy wasn't as much of a git as he used to be, but he still had his moments. The possibility of causing trouble between Harry and Ginny would probably be too much for Malfoy's newly-reformed character to handle.

Daydreaming had also been put on a strict hiatus. He didn't want Malfoy to know any of the things that he dreamt or wished for, full stop.

good

Which opened up yet another question in his mind: the books all said that with a permanent Legilimency bond, they would be sharing dreams. Harry had expected that to be perfectly honest; your guard was never as low as it was when you were asleep- his experience in fifth year had proven that. So why wasn't he flooded with Malfoy-esque dreams in the middle of the night? He was grateful, for sure, and eventually put it down to the fact that their bond hadn't been done quite right. Thank you, Neville.

Fuck. Was there anything he could actually do or think about now without giving Malfoy one over on him?

Inspiration struck and he quickly scrambled to his feet, hardly daring to believe it. Yes, of course there was something he could go and do, and Malfoy could listen in all he liked and it wouldn't matter, not one little bit. Resisting the urge to cheer, he hastily packed up all of his books and notes, shoving them into his bag before running for the stairs of the tower. He took the steps three at a time, a broad grin on his face.

He was going to go flying.


 

Harry landed his broom, his feet hitting the frozen ground of the Quidditch pitch hard and making him stumble a little. It was cold and his fingers and cheeks were stinging, but he didn't care.

He pulled out his wand and cast a warming charm on the floor at the base of the stand he had landed nearby, flopping to the ground feeling exhausted but exhilarated.

His breath came out in visible puffs as he panted, leaning back on his elbows and crossing his legs at the ankle. Fuck, but November was cold in the Highlands.

Cold

"Too right it's cold," he breathed, looking up at the clouds that skittered over the sky.

Flying had been a brilliant idea; he felt better already. In fact, he felt calm and in control for the first time in a week, since the accident. Although, he concluded, now he had a bona-fide excuse to go flying all the time without Hermione nagging at him about homework: "But 'Mione, it's helping me to keep calm and not throttle Malfoy and is thus saving me from Azkaban."

He chuckled to himself and let his eyes drift shut, breathing in and out deeply to try and get his breath back. It was peaceful out here, only the noise of the wind to concentrate on. Without really considering or thinking about it first, he focused on that sound and tried to clear the rest of his mind- a technique recommended in the books he'd been looking at earlier.

Breathe in, and out. In, and out…listening to the wind, feeling it tug at his hair, feeling the cold air on his face, not thinking about anything other than that…

He tentatively brought his focus around to the link; concentrating on but trying not to think about it. He could immediately feel it- almost like a window in his mind. Solid and defined around the edge but full of nothingness-

Surprised, his eyes snapped open and the concentration was lost. He laughed, a little in awe. That had been easier than he had expected, and in his opinion not at all bad for a first try. His mind felt calmer and less turbulent than before, and he could feel the link more distinctly. Well, he'd found the bloody thing, he thought with a grin. Now onto shutting it.

Catch up

He blinked, startled. Was that thought directed at him? Was Malfoy trying to talk to him, making a snide comment about Harry being behind in learning to control the link?

Theo book

Oh. Apparently not.

He stood up, brushing himself down and grabbing his broom. It was too cold to stay out here really; he half expected snow before the week was out.

Get away, Pansy!

He chuckled, his good mood getting even better as Malfoy's petulant thought wandered into his mind, followed swiftly by a shut up!

Seems that Malfoy wasn't quite as in control of the bond after all. With his success and that knowledge in mind, he walked back to the common room with a smile on his face and a spring in his step.


 

"Guess what I did?"

Hermione and Ron simultaneously looked up from where they were sat by the fire in the common room as Harry walked over to them, grinning.

"Went flying when we were all stuck in History of Magic?" Ron asked with raised eyebrows. "We wondered where you had gone."

Harry glanced down at his Quidditch jersey before plonking himself on the floor next to their sofa. "Yeah I did, helped calm me down." He said. "But before that, I did a load of research into the link and how to control it."

"You did?" Hermione asked, looking mildly impressed. "We thought you were just sulking. Or plotting ways to incapacitate Malfoy."

"Nope," Harry said. "And after I'd been flying I tried doing the whole calming your mind thing, and literally found the link in my head. It's like a hole- and I reckon if I practice I can learn how to shut it."

"That's brilliant!" Hermione said excitedly. "Occluding Occlumens said links like that are a like a window-"

"Yes!" Harry said, pointing at her and nodding triumphantly. "Exactly!"

"A window with a view of Malfoy, nice," Ron sniggered.

"Sod off," Harry said, elbowing Ron's leg. "It was weird, I-"

"Harry?" Hermione interrupted before Harry could continue and he glanced up to see her smiling at him indulgently. "As much as I'm thrilled to hear about your new found love for Legilimency, can you shower first? You smell like Quidditch."

Harry found himself laughing harder than he had in days and obligingly stood up, still chuckling as he grabbed his broom. "Yes, sorry. Be back in a bit."

"Hurry up, I'm starving," Ron called to his retreating back. Harry swore at him over his shoulder and headed for the stairs.

God, nothing sounded better than a hot shower right now. He deposited his broom and made his way to the showers, his mood still spirited by his leaps forward concerning the link.

He undressed and was under the hot water in record time, seconding Ron's opinion on getting to dinner quickly; working and flying all afternoon had made him hungry.

He loved showers, some would say a disproportionate amount. It was a standing joke in the boys dorm; that Harry always took twice as long as anyone else to shower, but he didn't care. To come in from the cold and get right into a steaming shower…bliss.

Taking a long time showering had its other advantages too, he thought as a smile curled the corner of his mouth and his hand trailed lower, from its previous position washing his stomach, heading for a decidedly less innocent destination-

Shower-

He froze and his eyes snapped open, his fingers millimetres from his half-erect prick. Horror coursed him, obliterating every pleasant sensation he had retained from that afternoon.

He couldn't wank.

Even as he'd considered all the things he couldn't think about because of Malfoy, it had never even crossed him mind that sex would be off the list. He'd accepted that daydreaming was out, and this definitely was if Malfoy would be able to get a glimpse into what he was thinking about. Christ, the Ferret probably already knew what he was up to-

Snatching his hand away from himself, he reached over and grabbed the shampoo instead, feeling mortification wash over him, followed swiftly by despair.

He was a healthy, eighteen year old male, for fucks sake. And to go for two months without wanking was just not physically possible. He would die, and someone would have to carve killed by sexual frustration on his gravestone-

Warm

Oh, fuck! He had to stop thinking about it because if he didn't he would get angry, and that hole in his mind would get wider and wider and then Malfoy would know exactly what he was despairing about-

He took a deep breath and tried to recall the scene from the Quidditch pitch which had proved so successful in aiding his earlier attempt at calming his mind- breathing in and out, feeling the wind, the firm ground beneath him, the bite of the cold. Thankfully, it worked- he managed to calm down enough to stop his thoughts getting out of control. However, there was one that stayed resolutely in the forefront of his mind, and wouldn't shift, no matter how much he tried.

He was going to kill Neville. And bloody Malfoy, too.

Chapter Text

The desire to murder two of his school-fellows followed Harry through most of the weekend; he remained horrifically bad tempered and inadvertently had everyone walking on eggshells around him. He couldn't find it in him to care too much or feel bad about his behaviour; he'd bet that any of the guys would have reacted in the same way if they had found out that sex was off the cards for two months.

Seven weeks, he told himself firmly as he brushed his teeth on Monday morning, ready and unwilling to go back to classes. Not two months anymore. He'd already done a week, and really, things couldn't be any worse than the last seven days had been.

"Morning."

Harry turned around as Ron stumbled into the washroom, yawning widely, wearing only one sock and no tie, his shirt buttoned lopsidedly.

"M'in," Harry replied, before spitting his mouthful out into the sink. "You alright?"

"Yeah," Ron said, reaching for his own toothbrush. "Can't believe it's Monday already again though."

"Defence again today," Harry said significantly and Ron nodded in comprehension.

"Bloody hell, has it only been a week?" he asked, scratching his head. "Seems like well longer."

Harry sighed, putting his toothbrush back in place. "Tell me about it. Back to me, Malfoy, and Neville in a small, confined space with wands drawn. This is going to end badly."

"Worse than last time?" Ron asked and Harry had to laugh.

"Fair point."

"'ows e 'ink?" Ron asked, his toothbrush in his mouth.

"The link?" Harry asked, running his fingers through his hair and frowning at his reflection. "Very quiet."

"'ats 'ood," Ron commented, eyes on Harry in the mirror.

"I'd say suspicious," Harry muttered and Ron snorted with laughter, spitting into the sink.

"When are you going to stop being suspicious of Malfoy?" he asked, a mischievous glint in his eye as he wiped his mouth on the back of his hand.

Harry gave up on his hair. "When he stops being Malfoy."


 

"So you've not heard anything yet?" Hermione asked with interest as Harry filled her in on the state of the link. Her constant questions were a little unnerving and Harry had to remind her on more than one occasion that she had to stop looking at him like he was an fascinating science project.

"Nope," Harry affirmed as they descended the staircase that led into the Entrance Hall, Ron swearing just behind them as he tried to simultaneously do his tie and walk without bumping into things. "He might be still asleep."

"Hmm, could be," Hermione said thoughtfully. "Does seem the simplest explanation."

"I hope he stays asleep all day," Harry said. "I don't want him in the room for Defence."

"You could spend the session looking at the link together," Hermione said a little too brightly for Harry's liking. "The Occlumency work won't be any good for you two because of it-"

"I've worked enough on this bloody link this weekend," Harry said hastily, holding his hands up as if to ward off her suggestions. Hermione shot him an amused smile but said no more, instead turning to flick her wand at Ron, righting his tie in an instant.

Harry wasn't even lying about the amount of work he'd done that weekend. Upon discovering his 'problem', he had resolved to spend the whole weekend flying to forget about it. Two metaphorical bludgers took down his plan in record speed: firstly the pitch was booked by the house teams, and secondly, more flying meant more showers which led right back to the problem he was trying to avoid.

So instead of flying, he'd played cards and games with the guys, done a smidgen of school work, avoided Ginny, and worked on the link. He'd practiced clearing his mind and had even moved onto guarding the link during the latter part of the weekend. It was a difficult and tricky process and involved a lot of sitting around with his eyes shut, breathing in and out whilst he moved imaginary bricks around in his mind. He had felt ridiculous to start with, but Hermione had been supportive and gently encouraging, and got him to stick at it.

He could only hope that it was working. He thought it was; he could now find the 'window' quickly and easily, which according to Communication through Legilimency was the first step to controlling and fully guarding the link. Without asking Malfoy, however, he couldn't tell for sure.

Potter

"Ah!" he exclaimed, his steps faltering for a second as a irritable and familiar voice broke his train of thought. "There he is, he said my name!"

"Seems to do that a lot doesn't he?" Ron asked, looking puzzled. "You said yesterday your name comes through a lot."

"Yeah," Harry said thoughtfully. "Every few words or so, it's Potter. Or fucking Potter, or stupid Potter, or twat Potter-"

Ron started laughing and Hermione shot him a reproachful glance.

"Well he's bound to be thinking about you, because of the link," she said, ignoring Ron's sniggering. "And the link is probably more receptive to your thoughts about each other. I bet there's some theory on it somewhere-"

"I've got a theory," Ron said, clicking his fingers. "My theory is Malfoy is actually a great big nancy-boy who has a crush on Harry so is thinking about him all the time."

"That is not even funny right now," Harry said, giving Ron his best deadpan glare as they walked down through the doors to the Hall, the smell of bacon making his stomach growl in anticipation.

"Is a bit," Ron shrugged, biting back a grin.

"Malfoy is not gay," Hermione chastised half-heartedly.

"How do you know?" Ron shot back. "Go on Harry, take a sneak at his thoughts-"

"Shut up, shut up!" Harry protested, pushing Ron away by his shoulder, Hermione making an indignant noise as she was bumped in the process. "He still knows what I'm thinking about, remember? I don't want him knowing that we're discussing his sexuality-"

"Shame," Ron shrugged. "Got some interesting thoughts on that one-"

"Ron!"

"Okay, okay," he laughed. "Quidditch scores instead?"

"Yes please," Harry said fervently as they walked over and took their usual seats at the table, going through the mechanics of getting his breakfast, discussing the odds of Puddlemere United actually coming anywhere other than bottom of the league this year. He didn't need Ron making anything more difficult for him; the weekend had been troublesome enough as it was.

It hadn't been just a joke when he had mentioned to Ron that Malfoy seemed to think of him a lot; it was true. Every third word or so that came through from Malfoy - with steadily decreasing frequency as the weekend wore on - had seemed to be Potter, and like he had said to Ron, normally coupled with a swear word or two.

He learned other things about Malfoy too, from the words that still slipped through from time to time. He worked out that Malfoy argued with himself internally when faced with a problem, and that he got incredibly frustrated over trivial disagreements with his friends (Parkinson more than anyone else, it had to be noted). Mildly amusing was the fact that he appeared to be clumsier than Harry had ever given him credit for; he seemed to constantly be bumping into things and tripping over, with a steady litany of ouches and curse words to accompany the mishaps.

"Morning!"

He looked up with a nod as Seamus and Dean joined their group at the table, chattering excitedly about the probability of it snowing that day, as they sank onto the benches next to them.

"You guys in on the bet that it's gonna snow?" Seamus asked excitedly, glancing from Harry to Ron and then back to Dean. He tugged a blue fronted notebook out of his pocket and slapped it onto the table, flicking it open. "Come on, it's five to one on three inches-"

"Didn't they make that same bet about you, Seamus?"

"Ay, fuck off!"

Harry joined in with the laughter as Seamus swore at Ron who was grinning, high-fiving Dean across the table. Hermione merely rolled her eyes and hid back behind her book. Harry reached for another slice of toast, chuckling at Seamus, who was still collecting more takers on the bet, jotting names and amounts in his notebook.

Good morning, Potter!

Harry jerked back with a gasp of surprise, knocking his goblet over as his fist clenched and pulled back in shock. He grabbed it and set it upright with a curse as the others all leapt up around him, moving books and grabbing scarves so they wouldn't get drenched, but Harry ignored all the commotion, looking up over the Hall-

The bastard.

Sat directly across the room, eyes on Harry, intense and oh-so grey. Harry hadn't even noticed him come into the Hall, the link hadn't given him any indication that the blond was near, but there he was, clear as day.

Harry stared, trembling, and as he did the corner of Malfoy's mouth turned upwards in an almost-smirk.

I know. Clever, isn't it?

Anger flooded through him as Hermione tugged on his arm, saying his name and sounding concerned.

He couldn't look at her; he couldn't look away from Malfoy because now it was different, and all of a sudden horrifyingly real. It wasn't just odd words and accidental slip-ups, Malfoy could talk to him through the link and he had no way of shutting it out-

"That sneaky, Slytherin, bastard-" Harry growled as he climbed backwards off of the bench, his eyes still fixed on Malfoy. "You fucking stay right where you are, you fucking Ferret-"

Malfoy visibly blanched and as he saw Harry get up; he obviously hadn't been expecting such anger as a reaction to his smart-arse actions. He probably heard some of Harry's rather forceful views on that little stunt through the link too, because he hurriedly stood up, leaning over to mutter something to Theo Nott. Theo nodded back without looking up from his paper and Draco grabbed his bag, and appeared to be all set to make a smart departure from the Hall, eyes down and not looking back.

"Harry! Leave him, it's not worth it!"

It bloody well was going to be worth it, Harry thought as he ignored Ron and took off after Malfoy. He didn't care everyone would be staring and gossiping about his hasty departure from the table; he was going to throttle Malfoy. That, or make him explain how he'd managed to talk to him through the bloody link. Or both, if the opportunity should present itself.

Bowling over a pair of first years as he barrelled out of the Hall, he saw Malfoy running up the main staircase, pushing people out of the way as he went. He followed him, people diving to the side of the staircase as he tore after Malfoy, drawing his wand on the way.

Malfoy got as far as the deserted Charms corridor before Harry finally got him, pointing his wand square between Malfoy's shoulder blades-

"Levicorpus!"

There was a cry of shock as Malfoy was wrenched up in the air by his ankle, then a series of thuds signalling everything falling out of his bag to the floor, followed swiftly by Malfoy cursing fluently and flailing madly as he tried to right himself.

Fuck, Potter, what?

"You bloody well know what-" Harry snarled, advancing on Malfoy who stopped struggling and instead glared at Harry, grabbing his tie and moving it out of his face.

"Put me down!" he demanded, his breathing constricted. His bag slipped off of his shoulder to join his books and supplies on the floor.

"Not a chance," Harry said, flicking his wand at Malfoy to raise him a little higher so they were nose to nose as he advanced, stopping only a couple of feet from the upside-down Slytherin.

"Tell me how you did it," Harry said, his voice shaking his anger. "Tell me why-"

"It's a Legilimency link, what do you think I was going to do with it?" Malfoy interrupted, twisting in midair and bending his neck, looking up at his foot. "Put me down."

"How can you talk through it?" Harry asked, ignoring the request. Malfoy was steadily turning redder and redder in the face; a shocking flush in comparison to his normal complexion.

Malfoy straightened his neck, looking back at him with his grey eyes locked on Harry's. His hair was on end as he dangled in midair, looking odd, but not as strange as it would have had he not had it all cut short prior to returning to Hogwarts.

"Why should I tell you?" he asked, breathing hard.

"Because it's fair," Harry snapped.

"Gryffindor," Malfoy gasped, giving another lurch as he tried to shake himself out of the grip of the spell.

"You owe me," Harry said and Malfoy stopped his struggling, looking directly at Harry.

"You want me to explain how I did it?"

Fuck

"Yes," Harry said heatedly, his wand twitching in his hand.

"You want me to work with you, so you can get up to speed on working the link?"

"Yes," Harry huffed.

"So we'd work together?" Malfoy asked, a strange look in his eyes.

Harry hesitated, and then irritably jerked his head in the affirmative.

Not a fucking chance.

Harry gave a shout of frustration and turned away from the Slytherin, storming back off down the corridor the way he had come, leaving Draco alone and gaping after his retreating back.

"Potter! POTTER! PUT ME DOWN!" Malfoy shouted furiously after him. "I swear, if you don't-"

Harry flicked his wand over his shoulder without turning or breaking step and a grim smile crossed his face as he heard a shriek, a crash, and further cursing.

Arsehole

He ignored the insult, too angry to even process a response. He was fuming- how dare Malfoy talk to him in his head, and so casually, with that smirk on his lips like they were sharing a joke?

This was beyond ridiculous, he was going to have to-

"Ooft!"

He staggered slightly as he ran headlong into a body rounding the corner at the juncture of the corridors, and was about to apologise when he found himself looking into familiar brown eyes.

"Harry!" Ginny said breathlessly, brushing her hair out of her face and rubbing her ribs where they'd collided. "What's up with you?"

"Malfoy," he muttered, twitching irritably as pain echoed in his mind.

"Still?" she asked, sounding bewildered, and he resisted the urge to curse. Of course, still. It wasn't going away until the end of December, he'd told her that already.

"Yes," he finally bit out. "He's not being very co-operative."

Neither are you.

He clenched his fists and shut his eyes, trying to keep calm. Think of the Quidditch pitch, he told himself, breathing in and out through gritted teeth. Clear your mind-

"I wanted to talk to you anyway," Ginny said, breaking his train of thought. He snapped his eyes open to see her looking at him with a slight frown on her face, biting her lower lip between her teeth. "Where were you all weekend?"

"Trying to sort this out," Harry said, poking his temple with a finger.

Unsuccessfully.

"All weekend?" Ginny asked, raising her eyebrows.

"Yes, all weekend," Harry said.

And you still didn't get very far.

Harry resisted the urge to pull his hair out. He was so fucking wound up- which was apparently giving Malfoy a free pass to every damn thought that was in his head. This time though, Malfoy wasn't telling him to calm down or getting wound up alongside Harry; he was instead keeping up a sarcastic running commentary, pushing his voice through that window in Harry's mind that he was too angry to compose.

"I don't mind if you can't talk or anything, I'd just like to see you," she said.

"I know, it's hard though, it's not talking that's an issue-" he said, mentally chanting go away, go away, go away in his head, hoping Malfoy would get the message.

Shouldn't have dropped me on my head, Potty.

Oh god, he knew. He knew he shouldn't have mentioned Azkaban or shouted or picked a fight, because Malfoy had the upper hand and now Harry was fucked-

"I know, I don't mind though," Ginny repeated, looking at him earnestly. "I'll even help you do your work…" she trailed off and to Harry's horror, reached out and slipped a hand onto his waist, biting her lip in an oh-so-innocent gesture Harry had seen before. He was under no illusion as to what she meant, and was silently begging her to stop talking whilst the link was so open.

She didn't. She leant up and gently pressed her lips to his jaw. "Or I could distract you for a bit…"

Urgh! Weaselette sex-

"OH, FUCK OFF!"

Harry snapped, grabbing his hair and frustration, bellowing at Malfoy before he could stop himself. He realised his mistake a fraction of a second too late as Ginny's face reddened in shock and anger, and she turned on her heel and stormed away from him.

"No, Gin!" he called weakly. "I didn't mean you! I was talking to Malfoy!" he shouted helplessly after her, but she didn't turn around.

He breathed out heavily, his shoulders slumping as he watched her go. He shut his eyes, willing himself to not scream as he heard the sound of delighted laughter in his head.


 

After the fiasco with Ginny he'd gone back to the dorm-room, unwilling to face anyone or battle through any lessons. Instead, he'd ploughed on with his research and Legilimency exercises, despite Malfoy's constant interruptions making it take twice as long.

Keep going, Potter. You'll get it next year, maybe.

Skiving? That scared?

Temper, temper…

Bravo. I'd say ten points if it hadn't been so pathetically slow.

Fuck you, Potter.

Had he known Malfoy would be this unbearable because of one shitty comment, he wouldn't have bloody said it.

Initially, after hearing that Malfoy would be returning to Hogwarts as part of his ministry-ordered probation, Harry had been surprised and a little unsure of how to react. It had been easier than he expected. He had sent Malfoy's wand back, and had received a note in return, a simple missive with nothing but the words thank you on it. It hadn't been a lot, but it had been enough. Throughout the whole of September the tone had been wary acceptance; acknowledging each other with polite nods, speaking with a modicum of civility if the situation made it necessary.

Or apparently speaking to bicker over books, if the situation warranted.

It was a shame really; without this damn link causing all the trouble, they might have even got onto a proper conversation and got past all the stupidity of the past seven years.

Harry had conceded that as tricky as things were for him, things had to be tough for Malfoy. He didn't have that many close friends, really, and definitely more enemies than anyone else in the castle.

That thought had earned Harry the fuck you, Potter, and an hour of silence from the Slytherin. Although, he couldn't lie; that was a welcome respite from the constant barbs.

He turned a page of the book he was pretending to read, his thoughts still idly centred on Malfoy-

Alright, fuck you Potter! If you think you can get your whore of a girlfriend to do your dirty work you've got another thing coming. You'll both fucking regret that.

There was a thud as Harry's book slipped out between his fingertips, completely in shock at what he had just heard. That was the longest sentence yet, and the anger had been unmistakable in Malfoy's tone - what on Earth had gone on for Malfoy to explode at him like that?

I fucking hate you.

"Christ, what happened to you being quiet?" Harry muttered in wonder, climbing up off his bed. Something had to have happened; surely Malfoy wouldn't be flipping out over nothing? And as far as Harry knew, he wasn't one to go for full on confrontations, and definitely now that he didn't have Crabbe and Goyle as constant companions.

He paused, tentatively waiting to see if Malfoy said anything else through the link. It remained quiet, but Harry was disturbed to feel floods of ill-temper rolling through the link in waves, like storm clouds being passed from Malfoy though to him.

Bitch

Great. Unless Malfoy was calling him a bitch, he was angry enough to not be in full control of the link again. Being flooded with all of Malfoy's cursing was not something Harry was looking forwards to returning, so with a bad grace and no small sense of trepidation, he walked towards the dormitory door to find out what had gone on.

He was incredibly uneasy that Malfoy had mentioned Ginny. After the debacle earlier, no interaction between Malfoy and Ginny would end remotely well. Hell, he wasn't even sure that interaction betweenhim and Ginny would end well given the current state of things.

Feeling disconcerted and altogether unhappy with his lot at that moment in time, he slowly descended the staircase to go down into the common room. He briefly considered going back to fetch the Marauder's Map to find out where everyone was, but decided against it. He figured that at this time in the evening they would either be in the common room or the Great Hall eating dinner. Or in the library, if Hermione had gotten her way.

He didn't have long to wait: barely a minute passed before the portrait hole was flung open and Ginny, Ron, Neville, Hermione, Dean and Seamus all piled in. Ginny looked furious, Ron looked angry, Hermione looked fed up and the others all looked somewhere between excited and stunned.

"What's happened?" Harry said immediately, standing up as everyone's eyes flicked to him. He regretted his question instantly: Ron, Hermione Ginny and Seamus all started talking at once.

Fuck

"Stop, stop," he protested, stepping back and putting his hands over his ears. "I can't hear all of you at once and someone's made Malfoy mad, too-"

"Yeah, Ginny has made Malfoy mad," Ron said, clearly annoyed.

"Shove off, this has nothing to do with you-" Ginny snapped.

"He's my bloody best mate, and you've gone and made things worse-"

Tell your fucking girlfriend to jump off the fucking astronomy tower.

"What have you done?" Harry asked her, shaking his head unconsciously in response to Malfoy's ranting. "You've majorly pissed him off and he's shouting at me through this link-"

Hermione and Ginny both spoke at the same time, Hermione sounding alarmed and Ginny angry.

"I just told him to leave you alone-"

"He's talking to you through the link?"

"Yes he is - and Gin, why would you get involved?" Harry asked, despairing.

"Because you told me to fuck off earlier because of him!" Ginny said, clearly affronted. "He's messing everything up for us-"

"Ay, calm down, it's Harry who's gots to deal with this, not us-" Seamus chipped in, frowning at Ginny.

"It's affecting all of us though," Dean said unexpectedly, looking at Harry with a shrewd expression on his face.

"All of us?" Ron asked, turning to Dean. "This isn't bloody affecting you at all!"

"Well it is, we're all fighting because of it-" Neville tried.

"Yeah, because someone thought it would be a good idea to shout at Malfoy in front of the whole school at dinner!" Ron said, his exasperation turning back to Ginny who scowled defiantly back.

"Oh, you didn't," Harry groaned, rubbing his face.

Fucking twat

"I just told him to back off and stop tormenting you," Ginny said stubbornly. "Hermione agrees he shouldn't be being horrible to you-"

"Yes, I said there was no excuse for malicious behaviour," Hermione said, her voice tight. "I did not say that it was a go ahead to get involved and humiliate Malfoy in front of the whole school, which you just did."

Ginny gaped at Hermione for a second. "You're worried about Malfoy being humiliated?"

"Yes, because we know how Malfoy reacts when he gets embarrassed or humiliated! Especially in front of people! He lashes out, and that's not good for Harry, especially if Malfoy can now talk to him directly through the link!"

Everyone fell silent. Ron was looking at Hermione with a shadow of pride in his expression, and Harry immediately felt a surge of affection for his two best friends. Ginny was looking at the floor, Neville and Dean were looking at Ginny, and Seamus was staring at Harry.

"Gin, I appreciate you trying to help, but you've got to back off," Harry said quietly, wishing everyone else wasn't there. "This link is here till the end of December and there's nothing I can do about it. I've just got to get through it, and try and piss Malfoy off as little as possible in that time."

Ginny nodded, a tight jerk of her head, and turned away. Harry sighed, wishing there was some way to comfort her, but after a day being tormented by Malfoy he wasn't sure he was up to it.

"Can he really talk to you?" Ron asked in an undertone as Dean walked away with Ginny to the other side of the common room, and Neville and Seamus drifted off towards the staircase to the dorms.

"Yeah," Harry said, staring at the fire across the room without really seeing it. "We got in a fight about it earlier, and he's been a twat ever since."

"A fight?" Hermione asked wearily.

"Erm…yeah," Harry admitted. "I got him with Levicorpus and then dropped him on his head when he got shitty with me."

Ron burst out laughing and Harry couldn't help but grin, even as Hermione rolled her eyes at him.

"So I tell Ginny off for making the situation worse with Malfoy and you go and do that yourself anyway," she said, shaking her head. "Well done."

"Wish I hadn't done it, if that helps," Harry said ruefully. "I was only trying to get him to talk to me-"

"Whilst you were angry about whatever he said to you at breakfast, I'll guess," Hermione sighed and Harry nodded sheepishly. "Harry, you know better than to go anywhere near him when you're angry."

Hate

"I know," Harry said glumly, walking over to his usual seat near the fire, the other two following suit and sinking down into the comfy chairs opposite him.

"You know what this means?" Hermione asked, pulling a cushion out from under her and looking at him expectantly. Harry nodded miserably, knowing full well what his only option was now if he wanted to get through the experience without serious damage being done. Ron stopped sniggering instantly and looked at Harry, borderline horrified.

"Oh God. We're going to have to be nice to Malfoy now, aren't we?"

Harry rubbed his temples. "Yes. I think we are."

Chapter Text

"Why won't I calm down? Because they're a bunch of insufferable Gryffindor cunts, is why!"

Draco shoved through the door to the boy's dormitory, making it crash noisily against the stone wall behind it. Pansy Parkinson dashed in after him, looking affronted and annoyed, Theo Nott was just behind her, and Blaise Zabini sauntered in afterwards, looking as bored as ever.

"Draco!" Pansy said, her voice shrill. His head jerked irritably but he didn't answer as he stalked across the room and flung himself onto his bed, kicking a book off of the edge with a scowl. It hit the floor with a thud, pages creased.

"Shut up, Pansy," he said, shutting his eyes. "My head hurts."

"I'd say that's more down to Potter dropping you on your head than Pansy," Blaise said dryly, strolling over and also sitting on Draco's bed, leaning up against the headboard and stretching his legs out. He looked around indolently and then picked up Draco's copy of Flying First magazine from the nightstand, starting to flick idly through the pages.

Draco's scowl deepened and he scrambled to sit up, leaning over and snatching the magazine away from Blaise. "Oh har har; and give me that- I've not even read it yet."

Blaise held his hands up defensively as Draco scooted away, sitting against the footboard with the magazine clutched to his chest. "So I'm not allowed to read your magazine but the moment I get Artefacts Weekly, it's yours?"

Draco sat perfectly still for a moment and then tossed the magazine back to Blaise with a small sigh.

"I can't believe Weasley's nerve," Pansy said, sniffing. She sat down at the top of Draco's bed next to Blaise, and Theo walked around to sit cross legged next to Draco at the bottom. "I was this close to hexing her-"

"Well then, why didn't you?" Draco asked irritably, sitting up so there was more room for the others, pulling his long legs in and crossing them. "Before she shouted at me in front of everyone-"

"Well, I didn't want to get you into any more trouble-" Pansy began.

"Oh whatever, you just didn't want to give them any excuse to pick a fight with you-"

"Enough," Theo said mildly, cutting across the bickering. "We don't need you two fighting as well."

"Tell her then, she won't listen when I say shut up," Draco snapped.

"Draco."

Draco flushed and looked down at the stern hint in Theo's voice. "Sorry," he muttered, twisting his fingers together in his lap. "I'm just angry."

"You know you could work with Potter-"

"No!" Draco flared up again. "I won't."

"You were ready to kiss his shoes when we got back this year," Blaise interjected.

"Blaise, you're not helping," Theo said softly before Draco could throw anything in the other boy's direction. Blaise rolled his eyes but didn't say anything more, maybe due to Theo's reprimand, but more likely because of the mutinous look on Draco's face.

"Potter is being a twat," Draco said forcefully.

"You've not exactly been helpful though, have you?" Theo asked him.

"I don't fucking well want to be," Draco replied shortly, pulling agitatedly at the hem of his trousers.

"Draco's right," Pansy chipped in forcefully. "We don't want to be friends with Potter."

"This isn't anything to do with you," Theo reminded her. "I doubt you and Potter will ever be friends, what with what happened."

Pansy flushed. "Draco was worse to him than I was-" she began.

"We're not going into this again," Theo said firmly.

"But-"

"Shut up, Pansy," Draco repeated, sounding irritable. "Listen to Theo."

"Well why don't you listen to him then?" she snapped back. "I was only sticking up for you."

"Will you both shut up?" Blaise broke in, sounding thoroughly exasperated. "You're a nightmare, the pair of you."

"We all need to calm down," Theo said before Draco or Pansy could shout back at Blaise. "Draco- look, as much as you don't want to, you need to think about this reasonably. You've not exactly been sporting about this-"

"I don't care," Draco said defiantly.

"You do-"

"No, I did," Draco corrected. "Before he nearly broke my fucking neck, and before that bitch got involved and- and- and humiliated me in front of the whole school-"

"Then why didn't you talk to him, when he came after you? That was before either of those things," Theo asked patiently. Pansy was now watching Draco avidly, and even Blaise was looking at him carefully over the top of the magazine, waiting for his response.

"Because-" Draco tried, sounding like he was thoroughly struggling with the words. "Because he was angry at me and I didn't think he would be…and I don't want to make this easy for him."

"You know you should be the one working to be his friend, not the other way around," Blaise said casually.

Draco's scowl returned. "I know, I just…Don't want him thinking he can get his way all the time…Fuck it. It doesn't matter anyway; I'm not playing nice if he's getting his stupid bitch of a girlfriend to fight his corner."

"So you would talk to him if girl Weasley hadn't got involved?"

Draco's face shuttered in the face of Pansy's question. This was getting too mixed up to deal with properly; for Merlins sake, he didn't even know why he did things sometimes, so how did his friends expect him to be able to explain it?

"I don't want to talk about it anymore."

"Draco-"

"I do not want to talk about Potter any more. At all, ever."

Draco folded his arms across his chest and looked down at his knees with a sullen expression on his face. He hoped Pansy wouldn't carry on harping on at him, and hoped Theo wouldn't continue to make him feel guilty about the part he'd played in making the Potter-situation that bit worse.

He must have looked suitably serious about not talking about Potter anymore, because Theo shrugged and reached over to pick the book up off of the floor, gently smoothing out the crumpled pages. Pansy turned her attention to Blaise instead, leaning over and whipping the magazine out of his hands.

"Merlin!" Blaise threw his hands in the air, infuriated, as Draco tried to hide his amused smile and keep his scowl in place. "You only want to look at the fit Quidditch players, I swear I'm the only one who actually reads it-"

"Yes, yes we know," Pansy said, shifting around so Draco could look over the magazine with her if he so wished. The peace offering worked; his countenance relaxed and he leant sideways a little, his eyes scanning the page. "Now shush."

Draco did smile a little at that. Sat there with his friends around him, bickering and sniping as they usually did…he could almost pretend that there wasn't a problem with Potter at all.


 

"So. I can gather from your appearance that this is a somewhat tiring experience?"

Harry couldn't even be bothered to summon up a decent glare or a witty retort to send in McGonagall's direction. It was far too early in the morning, he was still dealing with the ramifications from yesterday's upset, and he was still on edge about the fact Malfoy had mastered communicating through the link. She must have guessed as much because her lips twitched in a smile.

"I must say, I'm very impressed with how you've handled this," she continued. "I had expected you to both end up in detention or the hospital wing within a few days."

"Came close," Harry muttered, leaning on the desk on his elbow and rubbing his forehead. He knew he looked like shit; he had been tossing and turning all night trying to work out how to keep both Malfoy and his friends happy at the same time.

"Draco tells me he's made significant progress concerning the link," McGonagall carried on, leafing through a sheaf of papers as she spoke. "He has declined to tell me any more, though."

"Mmmm," Harry said, sounding non-committal, pushing his elbow off the desk and leaning back in his chair. "We're both getting there."

"'Getting there?' Care to expand?"

Harry sighed. He didn't care to expand, really, but McGonagall wasn't a person he could brush off very easily. And he supposed she was only trying to keep tabs on the situation, lest he and Malfoy end up at each others throats.

"For me, the random thoughts have stopped, I think. I'm not getting any of his anymore… but he can talk to me directly through it," Harry said.

"He can, can he?" McGonagall asked, raising her eyebrows. "Have you discussed some boundaries?"

Harry's mouth twitched and he looked down at his lap and said nothing.

She paused in her examination of her papers and looked at him for a long moment. "Ah. Working separately, I gather?"

Harry nodded.

"You know you'd make more progress working together-"

"I asked him," Harry said after a moment. "If he'd teach me…but we'd had a fight and he's been in a bad mood with me since."

McGonagall sat back in her chair, perusing him for a moment. "You know you're not going to like what I have to say next…"

Harry rubbed his face. "I know," he groaned. "I don't want to talk to him."

"You're an adult now," McGonagall said sternly. "And you two are meant to have gotten over all this."

"We have…" Harry insisted. "But this is hard."

McGonagall's face softened a fraction. "I can imagine."

"He's not so bad," Harry said suddenly. "Not anymore…but he's still a pain."

McGonagall's lips twitched and Harry shot her a grin. She cleared her throat and put her papers down in a tidy pile to her right before leaning forwards a little, linking her fingers and placing her clasped hands atop the desk. "Can I ask - do you feel in control of the link enough to discuss Draco? There are some things that need to be said, and I very much doubt he would be happy knowing we are talking about him without him being present."

Harry snorted with laughter, knowing how right she was. "Yeah, I think so. I mean, I can think about him and he doesn't shout at me so I guess that means he's not getting the random thoughts."

"Well that is progress," McGonagall said briskly. "Harry…You do realise how difficult things are for Draco now?"

Harry was about to argue that they certainly weren't any more difficult for Draco than they were for him but McGonagall was looking grave and he sensed she wasn't just talking about the link.

"A…a bit," Harry said, scratching the back of his head.

McGonagall waited but Harry was at a loss as to what to say. Thinking about Malfoy in any depth made an uncomfortable feeling that he couldn't quite identify crawl up his spine, making him feel strange and awkward. It was close to the feeling he had been swamped with after the Sectumsempra episode, and he didn't like it.

"He…his Father died," Harry eventually said, now picking at a loose thread on his robes to avoid looking at McGonagall as he spoke. "And I know his Mother's a bit of a recluse. And he's being watched by the Ministry."

McGonagall nodded. "It's not only these things though. It's the things Draco won't want anyone to know about…and in regards to you, the fact he owes you his life is upsetting for him."

"Why?" Harry asked, perplexed. "I don't mind-"

"Think about how it would feel for Draco," she reminded him. "He's been bought up in an environment that had very high expectations. To be a wealthy pure-blood heir, to never let his family down, to never owe to anyone."

"Oh, yeah…" Harry muttered, running his hands through his hair agitatedly. "And I bet his Father never had anything nice to say about me…"

McGonagall nodded. "I don't think Draco himself has issues with you now. But whatever your view on the situation, he loved his Father and will still be very aware of what Lucius would think of him. It's taking him a while to get out of the habit, and to realise that he's his own man now."

Harry eyed her suspiciously. "How do you know all this?"

She paused and then looked at him again, her expression much softer than usual. "There's more than just the Ministry keeping an eye on him now. I think a lot of trouble could have been avoided if someone had taken the time to look out for Draco earlier on."

Harry nodded slowly, letting his breath out in a large huff. "Yeah. Would have been easier if he wasn't a complete prat, though."

McGonagall did smile at that; a small fleeting curve of her lips. "Quite. Now off you go, first class starts in ten minutes. I don't need to worry that you'll do the right thing, yes?"

Harry sighed, standing up and pushing the chair back around with his foot. "S'pose."

McGonagall rolled her eyes and shook her head, probably in exasperation more than amusement. Harry left the office, thinking morosely about the predicament with Malfoy.

He knew that being nice to Malfoy would be one of the biggest steps to take this year, maybe ever. Well, that was a slight exaggeration, but still…being at odds with him had been the way of things for eight years, and changing that would be a huge step. But maybe it was time to finish growing up a bit and make peace with Malfoy.

You were getting on alright before this incident, Harry's brain reminded him. He had to grudgingly accept that that was true; their truce had been going pretty well up until that fateful moment in Defence against the Dark Arts.

He stepped off of the spiral staircase that had taken him down from the Headmistress's office, barely watching where he was going. The link had been quiet all day so far and if he were honest, he almost missed the odd words he'd become so used to hearing. It was disconcerting too; when the words had been slipping through, he'd had a good idea of where Malfoy was and what he was up too, and now not knowing was making him irrationally uneasy.

Bloody Malfoy, messing things up again. Although, maybe this time, it wasn't actually completely the git's fault. Harry had probably set him off by chasing after him in a fit of rage...and then being dropped on his head and shouted at by Ginny had probably not done anything to assuage the Slytherin's tendency to be in a strop with Harry.

Harry could only forge on with the plan and try to be nice to Malfoy, in the hope that it would be enough to smooth over the damage done yesterday. He hoped it would work; he was on edge and had been all night waiting for Malfoy to throw more abuse at him over the link.

Thankfully and unexpectedly, the link had remained quiet. As a result, Harry was now full of a mixture of trepidation, wondering just how angry one had to make a Malfoy to get them to ignore you; and gratitude that Malfoy had chosen not to stay up all night hurling mental abuse at him.

Meandering slowly with no real desire to get to Potions on time, he crossed over the Great Hall and headed to the archway that would lead him down to the Potions dungeons. He realised that unless he was avoiding him, Malfoy would be there in the lesson today. Inexplicably, Harry found his stomach tying itself in knots at the though of talking face to face with him.

The moment he rounded the corner at the end of the corridor that led towards Slughorn's room, he spotted Malfoy; his white-blonde hair was reflecting the light from the torches and easily spotted, even from a distance. Well, now was as good a time as any for operation try-to-be-nice-to-Malfoy, Harry thought glumly. Heart sinking, he noted that Malfoy was - dammit -leant against the wall and flanked by Theo Nott and Pansy Parkinson. Bugger. Whilst they were no Crabbe and Goyle, their presence would undoubtedly make things harder for Harry.

A quick scan of the corridor revealed Ron and Hermione at the far end near the door, waiting to go inside when it unlocked for the day's sessions. Hermione spotted him and waved him over, but he shook his head and instead took a fortifying breath and made a beeline for Malfoy.

"Malfoy."

All three Slytherins turned at his words. Pansy's face transformed into a scowl, Theo looked taken aback and Draco just stared at him.

What?

Harry twitched irritably as Draco chose to speak to him via the link instead of out loud. "I wanted a word," he said, trying to keep his voice neutral and his mood level. Think rationally, he told himself. He'll be angry, but don't rise to it.

Not a chance

Harry swallowed and glanced to the other Slytherins who were staring unashamedly at him. "Can you…can you talk to me properly, please?"

No.

"Go away, Potter," Pansy said. "You've got no right to come over here and demand anything, not after what your girlfriend did."

Harry didn't at all like the way Parkinson spat the word girlfriend like Ginny was some second rate being, but he supposed it was an improvement on what Malfoy had been calling her last night.

"I just wanted to talk," he said, trying to ignore Pansy and focus on Malfoy. "Try and sort stuff out, you know."

No.

Malfoy still hadn't moved a muscle, people were staring to stare and Harry was starting to lose grip of his rational frame of mind.

"Please," Harry bit out, and saw Parkinson and Theo exchange a glance.

"Leave it alone, Potter," Theo said suddenly and unexpectedly. Harry stared at him and Theo shifted uncomfortably but held his ground. "Not now."

"Thanks, but I'm talking to Malfoy, not to you."

Pansy flared up immediately, her fists clenching by her sides. "So your girlfriend can shout at him, but we can't talk to you?"

"No, that's not-"

Leave me alone. I don't want to talk to you.

Harry snapped his attention back to Malfoy who looked away from him, his expression now sullen and fixed on the floor.

"We need to talk about this," Harry tried.

"Go away," Malfoy finally muttered.

"There," Parkinson said triumphantly. "He said it, now get lost."

"Parkinson - Pansy - please, just-" Harry rubbed at his brow, frustrated. "Just back off, yeah?"

"Leave her alone, Potter."

Harry's eyes widened at the vitriol in Draco's tone. Draco's composure had slipped and he now looked furious, his jaw clenched tightly and his voice constricted.

"Come on," Harry said to him in an undertone, trying to stop Pansy and Theo eavesdropping. "I just want to make this easier-"

"Easier?" Draco snapped, then hissed under his breath, clearly trying not to shout. "Easier would have been not nearly breaking my neck. Easier would have been putting a leash on your girlfriend-"

"Leave her out of this," Harry said, inwardly wincing as his words came out more harshly than he intended.

"Leave her out of this?" Draco asked incredulously. "Should have told her that before she fucking shouted at me!"

"I know," Harry said, trying to placate him. "I know-"

Just get out of my fucking face!

"Stop swearing at me-" Harry snapped before he could help himself.

"Oh yeah, because your language has been so much nicer than mine of late-"

"You're missing the point - stop being such a prat and talk to me."

"Get over yourself," Draco hissed, looking over his shoulder as the noise of the Potions classroom unlocking reached their ears. "I want nothing to do with you-"

"We're linked, you can't just ignore me-"

"Yes I can!"

"Can't!"

"Can!"

Harry opened his mouth to shout back, now well and truly past caring that everyone was watching and that his plan had completely gone to shit – but no sound came out. He watched, bewildered as Draco continued to shout at him with just as little effect, and then turned to see Hermione marching towards them with her wand out.

"Move," she said firmly, sounding irritated and pushing Harry's shoulder. "That way. Go."

He tried to protest but Hermione hadn't lifted her silencing charm and didn't look like she was about to any time soon. She turned her attention to the Slytherins, looking unfazed in the face of Malfoy's murderous expression. She ignored him and looked between Pansy and Theo.

"You two, go to Potions," she said, not unkindly. "Malfoy, come on."

Theo and Pansy looked to Draco who shook his head.

I'm not coming with you so drop it.

Hermione seemed to guess what Draco was saying when Harry rolled his eyes, tapped his temple and shook his head. She sighed and took a step towards Draco who flinched, eyes darting to the wand in her hand.

"I'm not going to hex you, just listen to me," she said to Draco, her voice low. Draco glanced to her wand again and then looked up at her face a little cautiously, his body tense. "You're both being complete idiots about this and rest assured I will be having words with Harry the first opportunity I get. But if you don't at least cooperate a little, I'm not going to help. I know you're mad with Ginny, and if you bothered to talk to Harry you'd know he's not exactly happy with her either."

Draco's cross expression gave way to one of mild surprise and he looked to Harry who pulled a face and shrugged, nodding fractionally.

Draco eyed him for a moment longer and then pushed himself away from the wall, shoving past Hermione and stalking off down the corridor. Hermione rolled her eyes and turned to Harry.

"You're welcome. Now talk to him, and behave. I'll see you at break. Finite Incantatum."

She jabbed her wand at him and turned away without another word. Harry gaped for a moment, trying to collect his thoughts, looked to Pansy and Theo who were also looking a little stunned, and then dived after Malfoy.

"Malfoy, wait up!" he called as Draco marched down the corridor towards the Great Hall. "Wait! Christ-"

Draco stopped abruptly and turned around, waiting for Harry to catch up. Harry stopped a few feet away from him, pulling his own wand out. Draco visibly tensed and Harry fought the urge to roll his eyes.

"Finite Incantatem," he said, pointing his wand at Draco, who immediately opened his mouth to speak before Harry could formulate a sentence.

"Are you really mad at Weasley? Girl Weasley?"

"She has a name," Harry said, frowning. "But yes," he added, before Draco could snap back. "I think she was totally out of order for shouting at you. It's got nothing to do with her and even though we've not exactly been pleasant to each other through this-" he poked his temple, indicating the link- "but that's for us to deal with, not her. And we've got to sort this out or we'll end up fighting constantly and driving each other mental and I'm pretty sure neither of us really want that, because I definitely don't…" He trailed off, unsure as to what to now say, or how his rant was going down with Draco. Draco was simply staring at him and keeping perfectly quiet. "And…and I'm sorry for dropping you on your head?"

The sentence came out as a question with an uncertain lift at the end and he winced; but Draco merely almost-smiled, the corner of his mouth twitching. There was a silence and Harry shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot.

"I'm sorry for…being a bit difficult," Draco finally broke the awkward silence that had gone on way too long, shoving his hands in his pockets and looking away.

"A bit?"

Draco's head snapped up. Shut up, Potter.

"Sorry, sorry," Harry said hastily, and then blew out his breath, laughing shortly. "I'm just so used to bickering with you, you know? And when you're in my head, it's a bit annoying."

Draco looked up at him, that almost-smile back. "I know."

"So…" Harry said after another pause. "Erm…"

Draco dropped his school bag to the floor by his feet and rubbed his eyes, looking tired all of a sudden. "So, what do you want?" he asked, sounding resigned.

"Erm…maybe for us to stop fighting?" Harry asked with a wave of his hand at nothing. He dropped it quickly and shoved it in his pocket, frowning. "I think this'll be easier if we try and get on a bit. Not be best friends or anything, I'm not expecting miracles…but yeah. Working together maybe."

Draco eyed him for a moment. "You talk a lot."

"So do you," Harry replied, tapping his temple with his free hand.

"Mmm," Draco conceded with a shrug.

"So…" Harry said. "What do you think?"

"I don't know," Draco said slowly. "But…" he swallowed and looked like he was struggling with what he was about to say. "Theo says he thinks it'll be better if we don't fight."

"What do you think?" Harry asked curiously, but Draco just shrugged.

"Don't know."

"You must have some idea," Harry said, a little bewildered.

Draco shrugged again, and then reached out to run a finger down the stone wall next to him, eyes fixed on his hand. Harry waited but Draco just continued to trace the joins in the stonework, looking resolutely away from Harry. Harry had to take a deep breath to quell the wave of frustration that rolled through him as Malfoy stood there, staring at the wall and not bloody helping.

"Malfoy," Harry said a little more forcefully.

Draco jerked irritably, as if it were all Harry's fault that he was being so useless. He dropped his hand away from the wall and sighed heavily, his shoulders slumping. "Theo said-"

"I'm asking you," Harry interrupted.

"I don't know," Draco replied immediately, now sounding as frustrated as Harry felt. Harry watched him as he crossed his arms tightly across his chest, his expression sullen. Harry frowned at him for a moment and then sighed. Fine. If Draco didn't want to offer any terms or suggestions, then he would just have to bloody well like Harry's. Some Slytherin he was turning out to be; shouldn't he be the one attempting to claim the upper hand out of this potential deal instead of sulking and staring at the fucking wall?

Harry pinched the bridge of his nose, pushing his glasses up out of the way. "Alright," he began, straightening his glasses and then folding his arms. "How about...I promise to stop my friends giving you a hard time, you stop bullying me with the link and we talk a bit more about it?"

"That's a lot of work for me and you," Draco muttered, looking down at the floor again.

"Malfoy," Harry said, exasperated. "Come on."

Draco shrugged again and Harry was again immediately struck with how wary and uncertain the Slytherin seemed. He still didn't seem to want to offer any thoughts or input to the conversation, at all, even after Harry had put his ideas out there. Harry debated getting annoyed with him, but McGonagall's words from earlier suddenly came back to him. He took a deep breath and tried to think about the situation from Draco's point of view.

Oh. Oh.

He recalled Draco's earlier use of words 'Theo said,' and it all became clear. Draco was a follower, not a leader - despite what he might want or believe - so it would be down to Harry to offer the solution and persuade him to agree. He didn't really know whether to feel bad for Draco, that he'd never had a chance to make his own decisions; or annoyed with him that he'd not grown out of it yet.

Harry took a deep breath and decided to just go for it. "I don't hate you anymore," he said and Draco looked up to him, grey eyes on Harry's green and his expression guarded. "We were getting on alright before this," Harry continued. "I don't want to go back to fighting with you because of it. I'm sorry about Ginny, I really am. I've had words, and she'll back off."

Draco nodded jerkily and rocked back and forth on his heels slightly, slipping his hands into his pockets. Silence fell again and Harry was tempted to babble some more just so it wouldn't be awkward, but he held his tongue and waited for Draco to think about what he'd said and - hopefully - respond.

Truce?

Harry smiled weakly, a disproportionate amount of relief washing through him in response to Draco's agreement to stop fighting. "Yeah. That'd be good."

They looked at each other for a moment, unsure of his to proceed now they weren't to be fighting anymore. Harry opened his mouth uncertainly-

I still think you're a prat.

He shut his mouth and rolled his eyes at Draco who folded his arms stubbornly across his chest.

"Likewise," he sighed, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his palms, trying to collect himself and form some sort of order in his brain so he could function for the rest of the day.

"That's okay then," Malfoy said quietly and Harry looked up at him, torn between exasperation and amusement.

"Yeah, I guess it is."

Malfoy unfolded his arms and looked down at his feet for a long moment, before bending down slowly and picking up his school bag from next to him. He flipped it open it and then hesitated, before reaching inside and pulling out a book, holding it out towards Harry without looking at him.

Harry took it and looked at the cover: it was the Mindworks text, the one they'd been fighting over in the first place-

"It'll help," Malfoy said, suddenly looking severely uncomfortable, a dull flush colouring his cheekbones. He clipped his bag shut and pulled it into his shoulder, stepping awkwardly away from Harry. "I'll see you- soon. No, around. I'll see you around. In class."

He clenched his jaw shut and left without another word, leaving Harry alone and feeling somewhat bemused.

"Thanks," he said out loud to the empty corridor, gazing down at the book that Malfoy had given him.

He let a small smile quirk the corner of his mouth. Unless he was very much mistaken, Draco Malfoy had not just agreed to call a truce, but gone as far as to do him a favour.

Miracles, apparently, did happen.

Chapter Text

Draco was bored. Ridiculously bored. It was only just half-past nine on a Monday morning and he was already mind-numbingly, spirit crushingly bored. Potions was a waste of time these days, considering the amount of time he had spent reading and playing around with his potions kit in the summer before returning to Hogwarts. Six months of house arrest had been even more boring than this Potions session, but it had had a few perks. Being able to look after his Mother without having to pretend he was staying at home just for her was one, and a rapidly heightened knowledge in potions was another.

He yawned widely, only half listening to Slughorn's babbling. Slughorn ignored him as many of the professors now did; he supposed a few of them weren't as forgiving or understanding as McGonagall. The old bat had turned out to be alright, all things considered. He knew it was probably down to her that he wasn't being horrifically bullied or even tortured like he had feared; he'd had nightmares about troupes of Gryffindors trying to pitch him off the Astronomy Tower on his first day back, but mostly they'd all just gotten on with it and paid him little or no attention.

Checking his watch, he sighed, predicating that they wouldn't be starting the practical for another half hour at least. He was past instantly blaming Hogwarts on the whole for his boredom, and now just accepted that some people just weren't as clever as he was and needed things to be explained ten million times.

He picked up his quill, flicking it around in his fingers before jotting a single word in the margin of his book. He sighed again, ignored the glance Pansy sent his way and tried to think of something to occupy himself until he could start brewing.

Looking around the classroom, he noticed Ernie Macmillan feverishly scribbling notes on a piece of parchment, apparently trying to write down everything Slughorn said. Next to him, Terry Boot was trying to shush Padma Patil who was whispering questions to him, frowning. The table closest to the door was designated Gryffindor; Granger and Weasley were sat side by side, but Draco couldn't care about them even if he tried. What he did care about was that one-third of their trio – the part he was interested in - still hadn't bothered to show up.

Skiving? You'll never pass Potions if you don't turn up, you know.

The barb sent to Potter was half-hearted at best; Draco really didn't have it in him to bait Potter properly anymore. Primarily because they had called that stupid truce; secondly because he was still wary of the Gryffindors even though Potter had promised to put a leash on them; and lastly because he was frankly becoming bored of it.

He'd had a vague thought that maybe Potter would have actually read that damn Mindworks text that he'd surrendered, and would have learnt to talk back to Draco through the link. Apparently not. He'd barely seen Potter in the week since they'd called their truce and not once had Potter spoken to him about the link or anything else for that matter.

Pansy tapped his knee under the table in a bid to get his attention. He ignored her again and reached for his quill, dipping it languidly into his inkwell-

Morning, Malfoy.

He jerked back in shock, knocking his inkwell over in the process. He cursed under his breath and set it upright, hastily grabbing his wand and Vanishing the mess before looking up to see Potter – bloodyPotter – sauntering into the room with a determined expression and a not-quite-smile plastered on his face.

"Sorry I'm late," Potter said to Slughorn who waved him in with his usual cheery greeting.

Draco just sat and stared as Potter slid into the seat next to Weasley, his eyes flicking back to Draco and his smile getting that little bit wider.

What, finally all out of things to say?

Took you bloody long enough, Draco sent back weakly, and heard Potter's chuckle echo around his head.

Well someone had stolen the most helpful book. Potter's answer came back loud and clear and Draco couldn't help but to be impressed. Potter must have done some seriously hard work over the past week to train his mind to access communication through the link, especially without Draco knowing.

Should have just let me have it in the first place, Draco replied and saw Harry grin ruefully, looking down as he unpacked his bag, rummaging through to find what he needed for the session.

Yeah, then we wouldn't be in this mess.

Entirely your fault, Draco instantly replied in the snappiest tone he could manage to mentally construct.

Fuck off, you were the one who tried to steal my book.

I asked nicely for it!

You're an arse.

It's talking to you, makes me tetchy.

Draco scowled across at Potter who looked back, eyes narrowed. The moment dragged out, both with eyes fixed somewhat suspiciously on the other.

Aren't we meant to have called a truce? Potter finally asked.

Draco eyed him warily for a few more seconds. Yes. But you started it-

I did not!

Do you want me to go back to winding you up all the time? Draco threatened, somewhere in a free bit of his mind wondering how mad this was - to be arguing with Potter via Legilimency, with no-one else able to hear. A shiver went down his spine as he thought of the possibilities - Potter wouldn't be able to prove he'd said anything. He cut that thought off almost immediately; talking to Potter would just beweird. Draco just couldn't imagine chatting to him about Quidditch, or Charms theory, or the new sweets Honeydukes had in stock. And his other option - well, firstly everyone would believe Potter over him no matter what he said; and secondly, Potter would undoubtedly go crying to his friends if Draco was mean, and he really did not want to be shouted at in front of everyone again.

Do you want Ginny to shout at you again?

Draco winced as Potter hit the problem right on the head. Stalemate.

Thankfully, Potter just chuckled again, the sound rich and deep in Draco's mind. Come on. Truce.

Fine.

Draco picked up his quill again, gave Potter one last suspicious glance before idly underlining a few words in his book. Slughorn was still talking on and on about Golpatt's Sixth Reasoning and its implications for potion mixing. Draco fought the urge to lean forwards and bang his forehead on the desk; he knew all about this, had found it in that old battered book in the library at the Manor, the one with the horrific pictures of Polyjuice Potion in use. He still hadn't had a go at making Polyjuice, he thought idly. And seeing as he would be strung up if anyone from the Ministry caught him down Knockturn Alley, his chances of getting all the ingredients were slim. Maybe he could ask a Professor for the extra pieces and claim it as part of his Potions work, as long as he promised not to abuse the potion when he'd done it-

I like not fighting with you, a thoughtful voice said, interrupting his mental plan of bribing Slughorn with Firewhiskey or crystallized pineapple to get his ingredients. He looked up, exasperated.

Shut up, Potter. Merlin, you're chatty this morning.

Potter gave him a small wan smile. Sorry. Just getting used to it, you know? Testing out the waters.

I know, but it's hard for me to remember to be nice when you're being annoying. I'm working, leave me be.

Working? You're not even listening.

Fine. I'm plotting ways to bribe Slughorn to obtain questionable potions ingredients for a project I want to do; leave me be.

No you are not!

I am too.

He looked up to see Potter smiling in his direction, a bemused expression on his face. Really?

Yes. Now let me plot.

He saw Potter bite his lip and shot him a warning glance in return: any jokes from Potter about him plotting anything would not be well received, at all, ever. Either his luck was in or Potter wasn't being one-hundred per cent his usual stupid self that morning because he just half smiled and then ducked his head, pushing his glasses back up his nose as he looked down at his book. Draco watched him for a moment and then followed suit, looking down at the page in front of him. All thoughts of plots and potions had gone, his mind consumed with what had just transpired. His heart was thudding a little more strongly than normal; adrenaline and excitement running through him as a result of the communiqués with Potter. God, to be able to talk without anyone knowing, and without much fighting or ill-will - they'd be discussing the bloody Quidditch scores before he knew it.

This is strange. Us talking like this.

Mmm, he replied, not entirely focussing, still wrapped up in his own thoughts. S'nice.

Come again?

Draco looked up sharply, realising what he'd just said. Bugger. Potter was watching him with a curious expression on his face. It wasn't hostility that Draco could feel coming through the link in gentle waves of emotion though; it was…warmer. Almost like wary acceptance.

This truce isn't so bad, he opted for saying, hoping Potter wouldn't realise he had kind of meant the entire situation was almost…nice. Draco frowned at himself, wondering where that thought had even bloody come from.

The corner of Potter's mouth quirked up.

I think-

Draco cursed inwardly as Potter abruptly stopped as Weasley elbowed him and muttered something. It must have been amusing because Potter grinned, ducking his head so Slughorn wouldn't see, before murmuring something back to Weasley.

Think what? Draco prompted before he could help himself, and immediately regretted it. Potter looked back at him, but Draco had just - far too late, bugger - noticed Granger, who was watching Harry closely, following his gaze over to-

Draco ducked his head sharply as Granger looked over to him, a thoughtful expression on her face.

Talk later, Potter said as Draco grabbed his ink stained quill and pretended to take didn't reply back to Potter, somehow paranoid that Granger would know what they were talking about and start interfering. He was grateful to her for the part she had played in getting him and Potter to call a truce, but also suspicious and unnerved by her observing them that morning. He could practically hear her brain humming, trying to put pieces together.

Had Potter not told anyone he could now talk to Draco through the link? Interesting, Draco contemplated, filing away the thought for future investigation.

A rustle to his left and then a tap on his knee interrupted his musing and made him look around; Pansy was holding a folded piece of parchment towards him under the desk, safely out of view. He would have ignored her but the put out expression on her face made him reconsider; her trademark annoyed-face probably meant Theo had passed the note over from the other side of Pansy, without telling her what it was about.

He grabbed it and unfolded it carefully in his lap, looking down at the words.

Potter's sorted out the link?

Draco folded it back up before Pansy could read it; he could see her trying to peer into his lap out of the corner of his eye already. Christ, no wonder people thought she was still trying to get into his pants; they just didn't know she was simply a nosey bitch. He slipped the note into his pocket, not wanting to risk writing back and Pansy stealing the note.

He breathed out deeply and looked up, and immediately saw that Potter was staring at him, green eyes intense behind those stupid lopsided glasses.

Merlin. Draco swallowed thickly and looked away, staring at the board, quickly double checking that all his mental blocks were in place so no errant thoughts would slip out to be read by Potter. He hadn't anticipated just how different things would be after giving Potter that stupid book- what had he been thinking? Now Potter had the bloody upper hand and he couldn't do anything without Potter keeping tabs on him. He couldn't even pass a note to Theo without Potter staring at him and wondering if it were about him.

Fuck. Potter could say anything he liked to Draco without Draco being able to stop him- anything about his father or the war or all the terrible things Draco had done.

He blinked and clenched his free fist under the tabletop to try and stop it trembling. Half of him was firmly telling him to just trust Potter, trust in their truce, and to carry on with how he'd been feeling earlier; that this could possibly be a good thing, a nice thing. However, the other half – the half that sounded suspiciously like Lucius – was now berating him for handing weapons over to the enemy, practically giftwrapped.

Malfoy?

He looked up one last time but Potter wasn't looking at him.

What?

Calm down. It'll be okay.

His mouth dropped open slightly in surprise, and he quickly shut it again, feeling a flush working its way over his cheekbones. Cursing his pale complexion, he grudgingly felt gratitude towards Potter wash through him, as well as a fair bit of annoyance that Potter had known that he was freaking out. Git.

However…Maybe Potter was right, for once in his stupid life. Maybe it could be okay.


 

"A word?"

Harry looked up in resignation at the sound of Hermione's voice, dropping the Mindworks book into his lap. He'd been waiting for this all day, ever since she'd spotted him and Malfoy looking at each other across the potions room. He just couldn't help but look; it was easy to forget he didn't need eye-contact with Malfoy to hold a conversation with him now.

"Alright," he said, pulling his feet up so Hermione could sit on the sofa next to his feet. She dropped her bag on the floor next to the sofa and then turned to face him, looking serious.

"You may have neglected to mention the fact you can talk to Malfoy through the link," she said flatly, reaching over and tugging the book out of Harry's hands. He made a noise of protest but she ignored him; turning it over and looking at the back cover. "I know you've had your nose stuck in this for the past week, but I didn't know you'd managed it."

"I didn't know if it would work," Harry said honestly, reaching out in vain for his book. "I didn't want to tell everyone and cause a big fuss if it didn't."

"And it did?"

"Perfectly," Harry said, unable to contain his grin.

"Well you don't seem that traumatised by the fact," Hermione said, frowning. "I was a little disconcerted that you spent the whole of Potions staring at him-"

"I did not!" Harry tried to argue.

"Yes you did," she insisted. "I'll be surprised if no-one else noticed; you spent the whole week looking miserable and then this morning-" she clicked her fingers, "you're grinning like an idiot and staring at Malfoy."

"Alright, alright," Harry said, holding up his hands as if in surrender. "You got me. We were talking in Potions. What's the crime?"

"Because…" Hermione looked like she was struggling to find the words, tugging agitatedly at a lock of her hair that had tumbled loose. "It's Malfoy."

"You were the one who pushed us into calling a truce," Harry said pointedly.

"I know," Hermione bit her lip. "It's just strange. And I don't know how everyone else is going to react."

"It's nobody else's business," Harry shrugged and she nodded, although didn't look entirely convinced.

"Hermione," he said gently, prodding her with his toes. She looked up at him, a cleft between her eyebrows as she frowned. "It's okay," Harry reassured her. "We just talked about the link, he was perfectly civil, and it's fine."

"But how long is he going to stay civil for?"

"I'm just going to have to have a bit of faith in him," Harry said, and felt immense gratitude towards his friend when Hermione didn't scoff or laugh. "I think this is better for everyone, and I think he knows that, too."

Hermione nodded slowly. "Alright," she said, then repeated herself, sounding more certain. "Alright. Yes, I think you're right, really. He's not that bad, I suppose. Just promise me you'll be careful."

"Of what? I'm not scared of Malfoy."

"I know," she said patiently. "But one wrong step and you two will be at each others throats again. Take this truce seriously."

Harry spluttered indignantly. "I am taking it seriously!"

"As seriously as Malfoy will be taking it," she continued, raising her voice slightly to talk over his protests. "This must be a massive deal for him."

"It's a massive deal for me!"

"Harry-"

"Enough," he pleaded, shutting his eyes and putting his hands to his ears. "I don't want to talk about Malfoy any more, I've talked to him quite enough today."

"Get used to it," Hermione said sternly, handing his book back over. He took it instantly and clutched it to his chest, and was immediately struck with a sense of déjà vu. Obsessing over Malfoy and being inordinately protective over a book? It could be sixth year all over again. Although he had to concede he was a lot more relaxed knowing that Malfoy's only plot at hand was bribing Slughorn for potions ingredients…although maybe Malfoy was plotting to brew something dangerous? But no, that would definitely be in breach of whatever parole he had been given, and Harry doubted Malfoy would have spoken to him about it, or been in such a good mood if he was up to no good…

"Harry?"

He jerked and blinked rapidly, hastily looking at Hermione who was sitting back, giggling. "Thoughts lost on Malfoy again?"

"Bugger off," he said without heat and she laughed.

"Sorry, sorry," she said, her expression sobering. "I was just saying…be careful; Malfoy is a part of your life, like it or not, and he's going to be in your head until Christmas."

Harry shot her a deadpan stare. "Thank you for reminding me."

She snorted and leant over to her bag, pulling a book of her own out. "If not for me, do it to get one over on Seamus. He's got two to one on you and Malfoy having a fistfight before Halloween and it's fifty to one on you making it until the holidays in one piece."

"Wow," Harry mused, eyes already back on chapter eleven – Images and Visuals – and scanning the page quickly. "I should get you to place something down for me. I could really make some money out of this."

Hermione laughed softly and they both settled down with their respective books. Harry tried to focus on his chapter, but found his thoughts wandering. Could he and Malfoy really go fifty to one and get to Christmas unscathed?

He certainly hoped so.

Chapter Text

"…It was just a really stressful situation - for everyone, not just me - so in short I'm really sorry, and I didn't want to take it out on you, it just kind of happened and it won't happen again, I swear."

Throughout the duration of Harry's apology-slash-rant, Ginny hadn't budged an inch. She was still standing in the corridor just outside her Charms classroom with her arms folded firmly across her chest and a stubborn tilt to her chin, but Harry could tell his babbling was achieving the desired effect because she was trying not to smile and there was a definite twinkle in her eye.

Hedging his bets and taking a calculated risk, Harry reached out and gently tugged at her sleeves to encourage her to uncross her arms. After a moment she complied; her posture relaxed and she let Harry take her hands, ducking her head as her smile got wider despite her best efforts.

"I mean it," Harry said, squeezing her hands. "I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault, I guess," she finally said, looking up and flicking her head so her hair swung back over her shoulder. "If Malfoy-"

"Can't blame Malfoy for everything," Harry interrupted gently, with a wan smile. "Contravenes the truce."

"Truce," Ginny said cautiously, as if she were trying the word out for the first time, trying to get her head around the concept. It had taken Harry long enough to get his head around the idea too, so he kept quiet and let her work her way through it.

Finally, much to Harry's relief, she breathed out and nodded. "Okay."

"You gonna be alright with this?" Harry asked her, ducking his head and trying to get her to look him in the eye.

"I guess I'll have to be," she shrugged, finally meeting his gaze. "It's only until Christmas anyway, I suppose," she said, sounding more confident.

"Yeah," Harry said, nodding keenly. "Then everything will be back to normal, I promise."

For a fleeting moment a troubled expression flitted over her features, but it disappeared so quickly that Harry was uncertain he'd even seen it. He looked at her a moment longer but her countenance was one again calm and untroubled. What could he have said or done to elicit that flicker of distress anyway? He really meant what he had just said; everything would be back to normal as soon as the link was gone, he just knew it.

"Gin?" he asked tentatively, praying that his luck would hold out and she wouldn't revert to being mad at him.

"I guess I'm sorry too," she eventually said, twisting her fingers through his. "I didn't mean to rile Malfoy up. He's just so annoying, and I was fed up."

"I know," Harry said with a half-smile. "It's okay."

"Lunch?" she asked, the corner of her mouth lifting in a smile. Relieved, he nodded, letting go of one of her hands so they could walk side by side towards the Hall. He couldn't help but smile with her; everything actually seemed to be working out and getting back into place after the accident. As long as he was careful for the next few weeks, and maybe thought about his bloody actions a little bit more before diving right in there, he could avoid annoying his friends and Malfoy and hopefully get through this ordeal easily.

It suddenly seemed a real possibility. A light at the end of the tunnel, he thought happily.

"You seem a lot happier about all this," Ginny said, interrupting his thoughts as they walked down the staircase, stepping smartly past the Bloody Baron who was drifting in the opposite direction, looking forlorn.

"I am," Harry replied truthfully. He was about to continue speaking, to explain a little more to Ginny about how the truce meant things between he and Malfoy weren't as tense, but he was distracted by a very familiar shock of white-blonde hair at the end of the corridor and as such the words never made it out of his mouth.

Although still a considerable distance away, Malfoy was slowly moving closer towards them, his steps meandering and irregular as he walked down the corridor. The reason for that was obvious; in his hands was a large leather bound book, which he was reading as he ambled down the corridor. Harry fought the urge to laugh; he couldn't help but be reminded of Hermione, and there was something just so un-Malfoy-ish about the whole thing. Normal Malfoy procedure had been to march along corridors, chin lifted defiantly, eyes darting this way and that. Although, Harry mused, he hadn't seen that look in quite some time.

Harry watched, endlessly amused as Malfoy's steps faltered as he almost walked into a plinth housing a suit of armour. Without looking up from his book, he stepped left, wobbling precariously and almost overbalancing as he crossed one foot too far over the other, carrying on along the corridor.

Watch where you're walking. You'll run into someone.

The blonde head jerked up and his eyes instantly landed on Harry. His footsteps faltered but he regrouped and kept on walking, eyes looking around everywhere but at Harry.

"So, have you got any work to be doing this evening?" Ginny asked him. She glanced at him and then along the corridor; she spotted Malfoy and Harry held his breath, but her expression remained calm and she looked back at him as if Malfoy wasn't even there. "We've not had a chance to hang out for a while."

"Yeah that'd be nice," Harry said, still looking at Malfoy who was drawing closer, still looking anywhere but at Harry, and obviously putting a lot of effort into doing so. Harry tried to keep his face straight; Malfoy looked so wonderfully awkward.

They were almost level and Malfoy was still looking away when Harry spoke to him again. He knew he was pushing it but he was feeling great and a little bit cheeky in effect.

Chin up old boy. It's not that bad

Instantly, Malfoy's eyes flew up to his, looking torn between incredulous and annoyed. As they crossed paths, Harry looked back over his shoulder at him, pleased to see Malfoy had almost come to a standstill, still gaping at him. Feeling bold, Harry winked at him and felt his spirits lift even further when Malfoy's gape transformed into a scowl, and he stuck his tongue out at him.

Arsehole.

Harry chuckled, looking away from Malfoy and facing forwards once more. Ginny glanced over at him, puzzled, then comprehension dawned over her face.

"You were talking to him over the link?"

"Yeah," Harry said absent-mindedly, his thoughts now on lunch. "Just saying hello."

Ginny nodded and didn't say anything more about the link or Malfoy on the rest of the journey down to the Great Hall. Harry didn't mind; he was happy holding her hand and thinking about how perfectly ridiculous Malfoy looked when he resorted to sticking his tongue out.

He still felt like laughing. It looked like he could still get under Malfoy's skin, no problems at all. God knows the git did the same to Harry when he put his mind to it.


 

Lunch was great, in Harry's humble opinion. He was cheerful and had a nice time chattering to Ginny as they ate, although he was sensible enough not to mention Malfoy in the course of the conversation. Seeing as they'd only just made up – and then ran into the source of the problem anyway, the bugger – he was trying his best to keep Ginny happy. Something in his head that sounded like Hermione warned him that talking about Malfoy right then wouldn't go down well.

During his lunch with Ginny, Malfoy was quiet and didn't speak to Harry over the link at all, which was a surprise. Maybe the git was developing some sense of propriety and understood that nattering on to Harry whilst he was having lunch with his girlfriend was not the best idea. Harry wouldn't say anything to Malfoy if he were to be having lunch with, say...Pansy Parkinson, after all. Or that girl in seventh year who seemed to be staring at Malfoy whenever Harry glimpsed her. Or even if he were to have lunch with Lavender Brown, who was insistent in her view that twat or not, Malfoy was indeed an attractive individual. 'And a bad boy,' she'd told Parvati. That was all Harry had heard before he'd scarpered away from them and that conversation, Ron following right behind him and looking slightly bemused. Well, whoever Malfoy chose to date this year, it'd be hard for Harry to resist the urge to take the piss, but he supposed he'd got quite good at resisting urges concerning Malfoy since they'd got back.

"- and said we should all go together for a change."

Harry blinked, remembering he was meant to be talking to Ginny. For the last thirty seconds he'd been unwittingly thinking of Malfoy and picking at his sandwich and as a result hadn't heard a word of what she'd said.

"Hogsmeade, right?" he asked, crossing his fingers under the table.

"Yeah," Ginny said, and he inwardly breathed a sigh of relief. "Seamus wanted to go with Parvati but she shot him down because he was being an idiot in the Tower, apparently. So Dean asked me if we all fancied going."

"Yeah, sure," Harry said. He didn't really care who he went to Hogsmeade with as long as Ron was about; things were always fun and they always had the option of losing the others, going to Weasley's Wizard Wheezes and claiming they got lost. He knew it was maybe a bit silly, an eighteen year old running around a joke shop like he was twelve, but he didn't care. It was fun. He hadn't had enough fun growing up, and with Voldemort gone, now seemed an opportune moment to catch up.

"You don't mind?" Ginny asked, reaching out to brush his hair out of his eyes. It fell back immediately and she shot him an exasperated smile, giving up.

"No," he said, pushing his hair out of the way more forcefully than Ginny had. This time it stayed out of the way for about three seconds before falling back. "Why would I?"

"No reason," she shrugged, turning away and reaching for an apple. "I better go anyway. I said I'd meet Luna before Transfiguration to go over the work."

"Okay," Harry said, leaning over and kissing the corner of her mouth. "I'll see you later."

"Yeah," she said, a slow smile spreading across her face, quickly leaning in and kissing him again. He smiled back at her as she moved back, running his hand down her arm before she grabbed her bag and left.

That's your idea of a hot date, eh, Potter?

His head jerked up. Sure enough, Malfoy was now visible; he was sat across the Hall at the Slytherin table, evidently having slipped in whilst Harry was talking with Ginny. His back was to Harry and he wondered just how Malfoy had managed to time that comment so perfectly without looking at him.

Sod off.

As you wish.

He was puzzled by Malfoy's response; he had expected a witty retort or an angry barb back at least. Although it sounded suspiciously like Malfoy would have had a snarl on his lips had the words been spoken aloud, and he wondered at the bitterness.

"Are you okay? You look cross."

Startled, he barely had time to register who had spoken before Ginny's empty seat was promptly filled with someone else: Hermione. She dropped her bag to the floor with a thud and slid a pile of books onto the table in front of her, eyeing him and looking worried.

"I'm fine," he said, shifting the books out of the way a little. "Don't look so worried about me all the time."

"I am worried," she replied promptly, reaching for a goblet. "We all are. You're stuck with Malfoy after all. How's he being?"

"Alright," Harry said. "A bit weird, but that's Malfoy."

"Weird?" Hermione quizzed.

Harry shrugged. "Makes a few smart arse comments now and again. Nothing mean, really. It's alright."

Hermione nodded in understanding, and when she spoke again, her tone was suspiciously light. He recognised it as the tone she used to tell him things he probably wasn't going to like.

"McGonagall asked me about you two. Asked how your truce was getting on."

Harry looked at her, indignation swelling in his veins. "What? She's asking you to keep check on me?"

"No," Hermione said patiently, as if she were explaining to someone who was being incredibly slow. "She's actually asked me to keep an eye on Malfoy."

Harry was taken aback for a moment. "Eh?"

"She's a bit worried about him," Hermione admitted, lowering her voice. "And she doesn't feel she can ask the Slytherins about it, because firstly, he doesn't share very well, not even with them; and secondly because she knows they'll tell him she's asking. So she asked me to see if I could, well, just keep an eye on what was happening between you two. Ask you if you know if anything's up with him."

"Why?" Harry was mystified about this sudden interest in Malfoy; sure, he'd had a rough time of it, but hadn't everyone?

Hermione sighed, her eyes across the hall on the back of Malfoy's head. "She thinks he's got survivor's guilt," she said. "Because his father died, and he didn't feel like he did enough to help him. And because of all the casualties on the our side he feels responsible for."

Harry stared at her. "Well, that's kind of true. He should feel responsible."

"He didn't kill all those people," Hermione said quietly, glancing at Harry. "Did he?"

It wasn't a genuine question, it was a statement, and he felt irked by it; he knew Malfoy hadn't technically killed anyone, but it was hard to excuse behaviour on a mere technicality. Although, Harry had kind of already forgiven him for everything, but wasn't really sure on what grounds. He just…had.

He shook his head, frowning. "No," he conceded, his voice low and his mind thoroughly confused. "But…shit. I don't know. Do we have to talk about it?"

"Yes," Hermione said gently. "We do. You're linked with him, and if you want to get through this without killing him, you've got to understand what he's feeling. Just a little bit."

"I know what he's feeling," Harry said, now feeling beyond irked and all the way into annoyed. Bloody McGonagall and Hermione; just because they were cleverer than him didn't give them the green light to interfere in his business. He was handling the link just fine, thankyouverymuch, and didn't need them to tell him how to deal with Malfoy.

"Harry-"

"Please, just leave it alone. It's fine," he insisted.

Hermione opened her mouth to speak to him again but luck must have been on his side because at that moment, the rest of the troupe of Gryffindors decided to join them at the table, their rambunctious chatter drowning out any protest from Hermione. Ron plonked himself down next to Hermione, and Dean, Seamus and Neville climbed onto the bench opposite them.

Hermione gave him a clear 'this is not over,' look but he ignored her, instead leaning over to peer over at Seamus's blue bound notebook.

"What're we betting on today?"

"You," Seamus grinned. "Nice odds on you punching Malfoy in the face before Halloween."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Can you tell anyone that takes that bet that the money comes with a hex from me?"

"Stop winding him up," Dean said to Seamus. "We're not betting on Malfoy. We've got a new bet, anyway."

"We have?" Seamus instantly asked, looking perplexed and picking up his notebook, flipping through the pages as if he'd missed something.

"Yeah," Dean said casually. "Odds on how many weeks you'll spend in detention if McGonagall catches you gambling in her school."

Seamus took the hint and immediately shoved the notebook inside his robes without another word, just as McGonagall walked up between the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff tables, moving past them and giving them a suspicious glance on the way. Ron, Dean and Neville all starting laughing, probably doing nothing to assuage the Headmistress's suspicion that something was amiss.

Harry rolled his eyes. "No more bets about me, Seamus. No more bets involving Malfoy."

The others stopped laughing, and Harry noticed Dean's smile vanishing completely.

"Why not?" Seamus asked, who, unlike Dean, still had a grin firmly in place. "People are very interested in this link of yours."

"Yeah, it's my link," Harry said firmly. "So bugger off."

Seamus let out a low whistle, nudging Neville who was trying not to smile. "Oh, hit a sore spot there, I have. Getting a tad touchy 'bout Malfoy are we, Harry?"

"No," Harry said petulantly. "I'm annoyed that you lot keep banging on about it. It's fine, leave us alone."

Silence met his words. Suddenly the humour had vanished; Ron was eyeing him curiously, Seamus and Neville were frowning slightly and Dean was looking less than impressed.

"Us?" he asked slowly. "Sorry. Didn't know there was an us."

Harry didn't like the way Dean said us, not one bit. Annoyance flared up in him again, just as it had when Hermione had started asking him about Malfoy, and saying all that stupid stuff about trying to understand him.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Dean was saved from answering by Neville, who chipped in, looking a bit confused. "Are you and Malfoy friends now?"

"We called a truce," Harry said impatiently.

"Does Ginny know?" Dean asked.

"Yes!" Harry said, exasperated and feeling a bit badgered by all the questions. "She knows, she was there when I was talking to him earlier-"

"Talking to him, or talking to him?" Ron asked, tapping his mouth and then his temple.

"Over the link," Harry said, nonplussed. He saw Dean and Seamus exchange a look, and couldn't miss the way Neville was looking at him, his countenance slightly wary.

"It's not that big a deal," Harry said, trying to get them to stop looking at him like that, like he was contagious or something. Christ, they wouldn't catch Malfoy off him just by sitting at the same table.

"Is a bit," Seamus shrugged. "You and Malfoy getting on, it's a sign of the apocalypse, right?"

"Don't think it's quite that bad," Ron said from the other side of Hermione, shrugging and reaching for the juice. "Before, yeah, maybe it would have been."

"Thank you," Harry said triumphantly. "See? Malfoy isn't a big deal anymore."

"No. But you suddenly turning around and acting like he's brilliant might be."

Harry's jaw dropped. Everyone turned to face Dean, who was looking intently across the table at Harry, who was so shocked that he missed whatever it was Seamus and Neville said in response.

"I never said he was brilliant," he finally managed to say, looking to Ron for support who shrugged again, raising his shoulders emphatically with an eye roll in Dean's direction. "He's just not that bad."

"Mm," Dean said, sounding unconvinced and now looking away from Harry, slowly doing up the clips of his bag. "I'm gonna go. See you later."

Without another word, he got up and left, walking out the hall the same way Ginny had done not long previously. Harry scratched his head, feeling disconcerted.

"What the hell was that all about?"

"No idea," Seamus replied promptly, pulling his notebook out again and flipping through to find something.

"I don't know," Neville said, looking down at his lunch.

Harry turned to look at Ron and Hermione, who were both watching him, looking concerned.

"Do you know?"

They both shook their heads slowly. Harry wasn't convinced; he was sure he was missing something here, but he couldn't put his finger on it. Was it really that big a deal to be getting on with Malfoy? Apparently so, if everyone's behaviour was anything to go by.

"Odds on that apocalypse seem good now, aye?"

He glanced up to see Seamus looking at him with an expression close to pity on his face, although it was friendlier; more understanding and less sharp, more like sympathy than pity.

Harry heaved out a sigh and nodded morosely. He looked back down to his place, suddenly thinking that lunch hadn't been quite so brilliant after all.


 

Stifling a yawn, Harry gently folded the corner of his Mindworks book and reached through the gap in his curtains to put it on the nightstand. It had been a long day and even though it wasn't late, he felt exhausted. His glasses were placed carefully atop the book and then he sank gratefully back onto his pillows, rubbing his tired eyes.

He was still mulling the incident from lunchtime over in his head, and still feeling confused by it. Half of him was incredibly glad that Ginny had forgiven him, but there was a flickering sense of unease in his stomach that couldn't let him believe everything was one-hundred per cent okay.

Dean's behaviour had puzzled him for a while, and then it had hit him; Dean had been in Malfoy Manor with them on that night during the war. It couldn't have left him with favourable impressions of the Malfoy family- which unfortunately included Draco by default. However, for some reason that explanation didn't quite sit right either. Luna didn't hate Draco, Harry knew that already, and she'd spent weeks in that cellar. Although, Luna's reasoning for not disliking Malfoy had something to do with the colour of his eyes making him susceptible to wrackspurts and thus rendering him unable to say no to anything, particularly his Father. As such, Harry hadn't given her opinion too much weight in his internal debate.

Wrackspurts aside, everybody knew full well the story of how Draco had refused to sell Harry out to his Father and the Dark Lord on that night. That, combined with the knowledge of how Narcissa had saved Harry, meant that the Malfoy name wasn't considered such a dirty word anymore. Even more so now Lucius had gone.

Sure, people still didn't like Draco very much, and there were a fair few people who still hated him and thought he should be in Azkaban…but it wasn't everyone. Harry supposed most people felt like he did; that Draco was a prat who had been caught up in grown up games that he couldn't deal with-

Potter?

His eyes snapped open again, jumping a little as a tentative voice broke through the quiet. Even through everything, he still sometimes forgot about the link and had to think for a second before he realised that Malfoy wasn't standing just behind him. Or laying in bed just behind him, god forbid. He blinked a couple of times, waiting to see if Malfoy would say anything else of if he'd go back to being quiet.

You're awake, aren't you?

Yeah, he finally sent back, feeling wary. Was the link stable? Or had Malfoy heard what he was thinking about? Bugger. He paused for a second before cautiously continuing.

Why?

Just wanted to ask something.

Harry waited again but Malfoy wasn't forthcoming with whatever the request was. Harry felt a small wave of trepidation roll though him; what if Malfoy asked something about Ginny? Or even worse – what if he had heard Harry's thoughts and wanted to talk about the war or something? He remembered what Hermione had said about him earlier and held himself tense, waiting for something potentially awkward.

It wasn't that he would refuse to talk to Malfoy about any of that stuff – well, he might at first, but he'd comply eventually; he just didn't want Malfoy thinking Harry would jump at his say so. He honestly didmean everything he'd said and thought about Malfoy lately; he really didn't hate him anymore. But what if Malfoy mentioned the life debt? What was he supposed to say about that? Oh God, what if he mentioned his Father, and they got into a fight about it? Christ, he'd forgiven Malfoy - Draco – for what he'd done, but no way would he be sympathising with Lucius any time soon. He began to panic. Fuck – he should have said no, that Draco couldn't ask a question, because he wasn't ready, he'd not worked half the stuff out for himself, let alone giving Malfoy fucking advice-

Is the Potions essay in for tomorrow or Thursday?

The rant abruptly stopped and his eyes opened in surprise. That was it? A question about Potions? He felt both relieved and also a teensy bit of something that felt unnervingly like disappointment. A frown crossed his face as he tried to work out why he felt as such.

Thursday.

Thanks.

Still frowning, he wondered why Malfoy hadn't asked one of his Slytherins. Surely they'd be in the common room by now, or even in the dormitories? He knew Pansy and Theo both took Potions, and why didn't Malfoy ask them instead of Harry?

Why didn't you ask Nott?

There was a pause.

Not sure. I guess you were the simplest option.

Oh, okay, Harry replied, feeling strangely flat in the face of Malfoy's answer. Right. He was just the easiest option. Forever designated to answering all of Malfoy's trivial questions about deadlines that even Ron managed to remember, just because of the stupid link.

Goodnight, Potter.

The quiet words halted his internal tirade, and he felt the annoyance slipping away, replaced by something he couldn't quite pinpoint. After all, Malfoy could have chosen to be horrible all the way up to Christmas, and instead he was asking about work and wishing Harry goodnight.

A small smile curved his lips as he rolled onto his side, tugging his pillow straight. He shut his eyes and breathed out deeply.

Goodnight, Malfoy.

Chapter Text

Life went on. Harry hadn't been entirely sure it would; Seamus had been kind of right when he'd said that the Harry and Malfoy situation had been a sure sign of the end of the world, and Harry had known full well that a truce between he and Draco was precarious at best.

But the horsemen had yet to arrive – much to everyone's surprise and the dismay of the few who had bet on Harry and Malfoy ending up in the hospital wing by Halloween. Harry had almost forgotten what it had been like to have everyone caring about his business and watching him all the time, until the Halloween feast. He had walked in with Malfoy coincidentally not far behind, and there had been a fair few groans of dismay as the unlucky gamblers saw that they were both perfectly unharmed.

Malfoy had shot Harry an amused look, rolled his eyes and sat with Theo Nott without saying anything more. Harry didn't mind; a quiet Malfoy was a pleasant Malfoy. Granted, he was turning out to be quite a pleasant (ish) Malfoy when he did speak over the link, but Harry wasn't about to tempt fate.

True, there was some banter that was a little mean - sent in both directions, of course – but nothing harsh or hurtful. Things like Draco mocking Harry's hair, or Harry joking that they'd lose him in the snow, being so pale and all. It was almost like they were going through the motions; a shared joke between the two of them. Harry was fine with it that way; he knew well they could be horrifically mean to one another if they so chose and it was always in the back of his mind. One mention of Lucius, Sirius or Dumbledore and their careful truce would fall like a tower of cards.

No, that wasn't on Harry's agenda. The banter with Malfoy was almost fun, for lack of a better word. And it seemed that Harry could take the piss a little and Malfoy wouldn't get mad, possibly because no-one else could hear. Harry was sure it'd be different if he repeated any of the things he said over the link out loud, especially if he were within earshot of their respective groups of friends.

With Ginny back to admitting she didn't hate him to the general public, Ron and Hermione not fighting (for now, anyway), his workload only half as horrific as he had feared, and Malfoy only being casually mean, Harry thought things were going swimmingly.

That was, until he woke up worryingly early on the first Sunday in November, an hour before he had to drag his arse out of bed and get ready to meet the others to go to Hogsmeade.

He was half awake, hovering in a delicious sleepy stupor, wanting to fall back into slumber and continue with whatever dream he had been having. He couldn't remember it, but knew it must have been a good one because his prick was rock hard and desperate for attention.

With stressing about almost everything in his life, sexual frustration had - thankfully- not been that much of an issue since he'd been linked with Malfoy, contrary to what he'd feared. He'd been careful not to go out of his way to get aroused, after that incident in the shower that still made him feel embarrassed and rather hot under the collar. But he couldn't control his dreams, and it seemed his dreams were out to get him because now he was wide awake and stuck with a hard-on that would not go away.

He blinked groggily, wriggled under his covers a bit and immediately wished he hadn't; his dick was rubbing against the inside of his pyjama bottoms and was quite clearly not going to listen to Harry's silent pleas to fuck off and leave him alone.

Movements still lethargic, he dug under his pillow for his wand and cast a silencing charm on his curtains, and then cursed himself under his breath. He couldn't touch himself, not with the bloody link there.

Although…he was pretty sure that Malfoy didn't get any of his random thoughts anymore. He'd asked him and Malfoy had said that he didn't, but Harry hadn't quite trusted him so had spent a good ten minutes thinking of the most horrible things he could about Malfoy, just to double check. Malfoy hadn't cursed him or shouted at him or thrown one of his infamous tantrums, so Harry guessed he was safe. However, in the heat of the moment, with his thoughts decidedly elsewhere other than Malfoy...would the blocks hold?

Yes, Harry thought desperately, quickly checking his mental blocks were all solid before giving in and shoving his hand down the front of his pyjama bottoms. He gasped out loud at the first brush of skin on skin, then took himself in hand properly.

"Fuck," he breathed, teasing the head of his prick with his fingers, pushing his foreskin back as he played, writhing slightly atop the mattress. It felt so fucking good, and he was left wondering why or howhe'd managed to go without for three whole bloody weeks.

He couldn't even take the tease of his own fingers for long; whatever he had been dreaming about must have been fucking fantastic because he knew he was going to come, and soon, barely five minutes after touching himself.

He wrapped his fingers around his prick and started pumping his hand up and down, biting his lip and letting his eyes flutter closed. God, he wasn't even going to have to conjure any dirty images in his mind; just the thought of doing this was making his hips roll and a telltale tingle stir in the base of spine.

Gasping, he reached down with his other hand to roll his balls in his palm. Oh, fuck going out today – he was going to stay exactly where he was and wank himself stupid instead because it was too good not to; he wanted to stay here all day, body tense and coiled tight, almost at orgasm-

He bit his lip hard to muffle his cry as he came, body shuddering as slick warmth coated his hand. His whole body went lax and he sank bonelessly back onto the mattress, trying to control his breathing a little.

Wow, he thought, flexing his toes just to check they were still there. He laughed a little breathlessly, before reaching for his wand to cast a cleaning charm.

He couldn't even be bothered to worry about the link too much; he was feeling far too content to worry about anything, really. And he'd not heard any indignant shrieks over the link so he assumed Malfoy was none the wiser. The git was probably still asleep anyway, considering it was still pretty early on a Sunday. Actually, Harry didn't know if Malfoy were an early bird or a late riser – he could have been up since seven plotting something nefarious for all Harry knew.

Chuckling, he grabbed his glasses and then climbed out of bed, stretching hard so all his joints clicked in a satisfying way. The rest of the dorm was quiet apart from Neville's snuffling and Ron's snores.Excellent, Harry thought, his smile getting even wider. First up meant first dibs on the shower room, and he'd probably have a good half an hour in there before anyone else got up and demanded he push off and stop hogging all the hot water.

Today was going to be a good day, he thought as he walked towards the bathroom, a noticeable spring in his step.


 

"Why the hell are you up already?"

Harry swivelled around on the bench at the sound of Ron's voice and grinned. Ron, Neville, Dean and Seamus were all there, looking tired and altogether not quite awake.

"It's a nice day," Harry said as they all clambered inelegantly onto the benches around him. The not-quite-argument from earlier in the week seemed to be completely forgotten as Dean sat next to him looking perfectly amiable. "Wouldn't want to waste the hours by sleeping them away."

"Has that link damaged yer brain?" Seamus asked grumpily, crossing his arms tightly across his chest and tucking his hands under his armpits. "It's not a nice day, it's fuckin' freezing."

"I like cold weather like this," Neville commented, staring up at the enchanted ceiling. It was almost pure white; the clouds above them heavy with the promise of snow.

"George taught me that charm to get snowballs to chase people," Ron said, looking happy as he reached for some toast. "I'll have to get some third years with it today."

"I'll bet you can't hit ten third years in the face with it," Seamus offered.

"I'll bet you can't go a day without betting anyone for anything," Dean chipped in and everyone laughed.

"How's Malfoy today?" Ron asked as everyone set about getting breakfast, chattering about where they were to go whilst in Hogsmeade. The Hog's Head with lots of butterbeer seemed to be the general consensus.

"Dunno," Harry said in response to Ron's now daily question. "Haven't heard anything today."

"That good or bad?" Ron asked through a mouthful of bacon.

"Eh," Harry shrugged. "Neither here nor there. He's not too bad when he does say anything, but it's nice to have my head to myself for a bit, you know?"

Ron nodded in acknowledgement, swallowing his mouthful. "I'm surprised how well you're coping; after those first few days, I thought it'd end in bloodshed."

"Well it's hard when you can't control it, getting the random words and stuff and not knowing what they're getting," Harry said. "But now the worst of it is he pops up when I'm trying to work to tell me my glasses are stupid."

Ron grimaced. "I'd kill him. Sounds bloody annoying."

"Can be," Harry conceded. "But it's kinda working out alright. Like, I hoped we'd put all that stupid stuff behind us this year and be civil, and it's easier when I can only talk to him and not have anyone else butting in."

"Like me?" Ron asked with a grin.

Harry laughed. "Yeah. Actually. And Pansy bloody Parkinson."

Ron snorted with laughter. "She's a stupid cow if there ever was one."

"I know," Harry said, munching on his own toast as Ron continued to demolish his fried breakfast with enthusiasm. "I wonder how she got into Slytherin some days; she's got about as much tact as a mountain troll."

"Well she followed Malfoy in, didn't she?" Ron said knowingly. "Had to keep an eye on him so no-one else could jump him and have his pointy blond babies-"

"Eew," Harry wrinkled his nose and elbowing Ron sharply. "Not a visual I want this early in the morning, thanks. That's disgusting."

"What's disgusting?"

They both turned simultaneously to see Hermione, Ginny and Lavender stood behind them, looking curiously at Harry.

"Pansy Parkinson having Malfoy's babies," Ron said promptly and the three girls all pulled identical disgusted faces, rolling their eyes.

"That's great table talk," Hermione sighed, sitting down next to Ron.

"Ron started it," Harry said, looking side to side to see if there was any space. "Gin- you want to sit-"

"No it's okay," she said quickly, and sat down the other side of Dean, immediately asking him about the Quidditch scores that had been in the Prophet that morning.

Harry sat still for a moment, feeling put out, and then cross at himself that he was bothered. They were all friends, no reason to start getting all possessive and weird now, just because they'd had a teensy fall out. He knew full well Ginny wouldn't like it one bit, and frankly, he couldn't muster up the energy to even imagine him being the clingy type either.

"So why are we discussing Malfoy's love life?" Hermione asked, drawing his attention back to the conversation he had been having. "Has something happened over the link?"

"No, nothing like that," Harry said. "We were saying that Pansy Parkinson is probably the most stupid Slytherin ever-"

"Subtle as a mountain troll," Ron chipped in helpfully.

"-and Ron said she followed Malfoy into Slytherin because she wants his babies."

"It's hardly surprising," Hermione said with a frown. "They're a couple aren't they?"

"No," Lavender said from across the table next to Seamus. They all looked at her questioningly and she shook her head. "They aren't. She wants to be but he doesn't."

"Oh," Hermione said, looking surprised. "They were all Yule Ball together-"

Lavender stared at her like she couldn't quite believe what she was hearing. "That was years ago," she said. "You're a bit behind."

Hermione looked affronted. "Just because I don't care about the social lives of everyone in this school-"

"Why doesn't he want to?" Harry interjected hastily before Lavender and Hermione started to bicker.

Lavender turned her attention to him. "Don't know," she said sadly. "I did try and find out..."

"I could ask him," Harry suggested, tapping his temple, but the idea wilted under Hermione's disbelieving stare.

"How well do you think that would go down? What if he asked you a question about Ginny?"

"Alright, was just an idea," Harry muttered, looking down at the table as Ginny's eyes flicked over to them at the mention of her name. Great, he suddenly thought. She was still sat next to her ex-boyfriend and they were still talking about Malfoy.

"That Greengrass girl wants to ask him out," Lavender continued. "The younger one."

"The one that looks constantly terrified?" Ron asked and she nodded.

"That's absurd," Hermione said, laughing. "I can't imagine her dealing with him when he's in one of his moods."

"You never know," Harry said, unable to stop joining in with the conversation even though he had a feeling Ginny wouldn't like it. What was bloody wrong with him? "He might appreciate a calming influence."

"And I think he'd be incredibly bored with someone who didn't stimulate him intellectually," Hermione said, shooting Ron an exasperated look as he choked on his juice, presumably at the word stimulate. "Honestly, Ron."

"What do you mean?" Lavender asked curiously.

"Well whatever Malfoy is or isn't, he's very clever," Hermione said.

"He is?" Ron asked, coughing and banging his fist to his chest to try and clear out his lungful of pumpkin juice.

"Yes, when he applies himself," Hermione said. "That's his problem. He doesn't put any effort in if he doesn't see the point, or the reward in it for himself."

"Since when have you been a Malfoy expert?" Ron asked, bewildered, sharing a glance with Harry who was also feeling slightly disconcerted at Hermione's Draco Malfoy knowledge. Maybe there was a book on him in the library or something. 'Why Draco Malfoy is a messed up individual,' or 'Ten easy ways to spot when Malfoy is being a twat.'

"I'm not," Hermione insisted, shaking Harry out of his Malfoy-book daydream. "It's just obvious. McGonagall thinks so, too."

"So, back to the intellectual stimulation?" Harry asked pointedly and Ron choked back another laugh, trying to keep a straight face. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"I meant that Malfoy is pretty clever when he wants to be, and has an attention span as short as a Bowtruckle, so I don't think he'd be with someone who didn't keep him on his toes a bit. A bit like you, Harry, I think you both need the same things in your relationships."

Harry's eyebrows flew up. "Excuse you?"

"Calm down," Hermione said with a smile. "I didn't say you were best friends or destined to get along wonderfully or anything."

Harry relaxed a little. "I should bloody hope not."

Ron chuckled from next to him and Harry elbowed him sharply. Ron looked up indignantly, rubbing his side.

"Oi! She was the one that said you should go out with Malfoy, not me-"

"I did not say that!" Hermione's mouth fell open and she pushed at Ron's shoulder, even as Seamus and Lavender turned to look at them, looking bewildered. "Ron, that is not what I said!"

"What? Harry and-" Lavender began, her expression slowly going from confused to excited.

"No!" Harry said forcefully, almost shouting, feeling an embarrassed flush working its way up his neck. That was bloody best mates for you. "Ron's being a dick."

He aimed a kick at Ron under the table and felt satisfaction roll through him as Ron yelped in pain and jerked forwards.

"Alright, I take it back!" he said, eyeing Harry incredulously and rubbing his shin under the table. "Merlin, you used to be able to take a joke."

"Yeah, joking doesn't include saying that," Harry said, folding his arms across his chest and looking at Ron fixedly. "People will come up with enough crazy theories about this link themselves, let's not addthat to the mix."

Seamus pulled out his notebook, waving it at Harry with a grin. "Thousand to one on you going out with Malfoy?"

"Fuck off!"

The others all laughed and Seamus shoved his notebook back in his pocket. "Only joking," he said, glancing towards the doors to the Hall. "Can we get going soon? I don't much fancy wading through snow if it gets much deeper."

Harry nodded, quickly looking up at the ceiling, where sure enough, white flakes had begun to fall. "Alright," he said. "Only if you swear there will be no more jokes about me and Malfoy."

Seamus sighed dramatically. "Must I?"

Next to Harry, Ron nodded. "He kicks pretty hard."

Seamus laughed. "Aright, no more Malfoy jokes. Come on then, the pub awaits. Meet you in the Entrance Hall?" he added to others, who were still eating. Lavender nodded and Seamus and Harry pushed away from the bench, leaving the Hall and heading up to the tower to collect coats, scarves and gloves to protect them from the elements.

"So, one last question," Seamus asked as they ascended the main staircase, his innocent tone not fooling Harry in the slightest.

"What?" Harry sighed, resigned.

"Is it really not that bad? Being linked with Malfoy and all?"

Harry was surprised; he'd expected a lewd comment about Malfoy's sex life or a joke about him being bent at the very least. But Seamus was looking genuinely interested, all jokes gone for the time being.

"No," Harry said thoughtfully. "It's complicated..." he said, thinking about the house divide and the moderate animosity that was still held between certain people in both Gryffindor and Slytherin. "...but he's not that bad. Malfoy by himself is fine."

"You two gonna end up mates?" Seamus asked.

Harry shrugged. "I don't think of him as having mates, more having minions," he said and Seamus snorted with laughter. "We'll be civil at least. We'll just have to wait and see."


 

"Don't you dare – don't you dare!"

Hermione's shout ended in a shriek as Ron's snowball sailed through the air towards her, hitting her on the shoulder, covering her coat in snow.

"You arse!"

Harry laughed as Hermione bent down to grab a handful of snow, flinging it back in Ron's direction. They'd managed a whole twenty minutes of walking towards the village of Hogsmeade before the snow started to fly; Ron had started with charming a snowball to hit Seamus in the back of the head, but after that they'd abandoned magic and resorted to simply hurling snow at one another, and things quickly were descending into chaos.

"Ron- Ron!"

Harry tried to get Ron's attention, but before he could, he was hit in the side of the face with a ball of freezing cold snow. It caught him off guard and he gasped, staggering sideways.

"Fuck!" he straightened his glasses and then tried to shake the snow out of his scarf, half laughing as he looked up to see Ginny standing a few paces away, doubled over laughing at him. He bent down to retaliate but before he could even make a snowball of his own, another hit him atop his head, sending a shower of snow over his hair and down the back of his neck.

"Oi!"

He turned in disbelief and delight to see Hermione grinning mischievously at him, her gloves covered in snow. He raised his own handful of snow threateningly but before he could throw it, Ron ran over to Hermione and tackled her around the middle, the pair of them falling into a snowdrift.

His sides hurt from laughing too hard but he couldn't help it; Hermione was shrieking and trying to get up, and the others were all offering their assistance by pelting the pair with snowballs.

Another narrowly missed him and he turned to face Ginny who was already running away from him, anticipating his next move as if she were Malfoy and could read his mind.

"Running away is cheating!" he shouted, taking off after her. He dodged past Neville and Seamus, who were carrying a screaming Lavender towards the snowdrift, apparently all set to drop her in it next to Hermione.

Catching Ginny wasn't a problem; he was taller, had longer legs and didn't care about falling over. As such, he caught up with her about five paces later, grabbing her around the middle a fraction of a second before he tripped over his own feet, sending them both tumbling to the ground.

It took him a good few seconds to get his bearings again; everything around him was white and he wasn't sure how far he'd rolled or in which direction. With difficulty he sat up and then promptly found himself nose to nose with Ginny. She was laughing as she brushed snow off of her face, kneeling up just next to him.

They were very close together, her knees pressing against his hip and he was momentarily frozen, realising that he'd not been this close to her in ages. She smiled at him and leant forwards ever so slightly, her eyes flickering across his face in a tell tale manner that he had become very accustomed to.

Panic suddenly shot through him, propelling him to scramble awkwardly to his feet before she could get any closer.

"You alright?" she asked, looking confused. She brushed off her knees with her hands and then held them out. Harry pulled her to her feet, feeling unnerved and thoroughly confused. That flash of panic had been so quick, and he'd moved on impulse, unsure as to why he'd even done it. It just seemed uncomfortable and almost wrong in a way he couldn't pinpoint, and the feeling was still crawling down his spine as Ginny waited for an answer. What the hell was wrong with him?

"Yeah," he said, swallowing and trying to get his throat to feel normal again. Feeling a little desperate, he looked around, and his heart jumped as he saw the others had all stopped throwing snow and were walking towards them. "The others are there, that's all."

She nodded, brushing her hair out of her face, turning to look at the others. "Fair enough," she said, and reached for his hand. He took it, feeling extraordinarily relieved that she'd accepted his somewhat lame excuse.

Thankfully the others caught up with them quickly, done with playing in the snow and eager to get to the Hog's Head for a drink and to warm up. Ginny slipped her hand into Harry's but turned to look at the others, laughing as Hermione tried in vain to get all of the snow out of her hair.

"Didn't know you'd got such good aim," Ron was frowning at Hermione who smiled, obviously pleased with the offhand comment.

"There's a lot you don't know about me," she said cheekily and Ron grinned at her, pulling her close and wrapping an arm over her shoulders. Harry smiled at the pair, liking how Hermione had learned to relax and have fun around her studies and schedule, under Ron's watchful eye of course.

Still laughing and chattering, they continued on their journey down towards Hogsmeade, the snow covered rooftops just visible at the bottom of the valley. Harry half listened to the others, chipping in and laughing as required, but his thoughts were elsewhere.

Kissing in the snow was meant to be romantic, right? So why had he freaked out like he was thirteen and had never kissed anyone before? Half on his mind was the threat of being snowballed to death by Seamus, and the fact that Ron was lurking nearby - something guaranteed to take the romance out of any situation.

That wasn't just it though, it couldn't be. It used to be a bit of a joke between him and Ginny, that Ron was a pain in the arse and was forever out to interrupt their moments together, but this didn't feel the same. Harry didn't feel like laughing about this at all.

As much as he hated to admit it, he suspected that the link was part of the problem. A skinny, blond, Malfoy-shaped problem.

It had seemed like lifetimes ago when he'd sat in the common room and put Ginny at the top of his 'things he couldn't think about because of Malfoy' list. He was now starting to suspect that things weren't exactly back to normal after all; at the very least his feelings about Ginny hadn't settled back into the same place they had been prior to the accident. They'd not been able to spend much time together at all, and her own issues with Malfoy weren't helping the situation.

Something niggled at the back of his mind, trying to remind him of how he'd avoided Ginny before the accident with the link, unwilling to sort their relationship out or take the step to being properly together again. He felt a flush of shame and guilt rising in his neck and pushed the thought away.

The words 'fucking Malfoy' flitted through his mind but there was no conviction in it. It wasn't Malfoy's fault, really. Harry supposed it might be as difficult for him; he didn't think any of the Slytherins would be happy about Malfoy's involvement with Harry.

Pushing open the gate at the bottom of the path, he sighed, unheard by the others. Oh well. He'd already done three weeks of his term as Malfoy's link buddy, and it had turned out better than anticipated. It would be fine.


 

"It's so nice to be warm."

Lavender's happy statement was met by murmurs of assent from the rest of the group as they drank from their glasses of butterbeer, relishing the warmth of the drink as well as the comfortable temperature of the Hog's Head. Since the end of the war, Aberforth had put effort into making his establishment more welcoming to his patrons; instead of dim and grey, the place was now lit with hundreds of candles which stood along almost every available ledge, except the bar. Several hovered above their heads as well, just like they did in the Great Hall, but Aberforth hadn't quite mastered the charm and as such, drops of wax sometimes fell from the candles to land in a drink or atop someone's head. A crackling fire lit the hearth in the winter months and probably most importantly, the place was now clean, the polished surfaces glowing softly under the illumination of the candles.

Many of the older students preferred to be here than the Three Broomsticks; it was quieter and not frequented by the teachers so they could relax more easily. Harry in particular appreciated the quieter atmosphere; sometimes in the Three Broomsticks it took him a good twenty minutes to get to the bar, because so many people wanted to say hello and shake his hand.

On the first Hogsmeade weekend of the year, Harry also had been delighted to watch Aberforth throw a fourth year out of the building after he'd started pestering Harry for an autograph. Most of the students, even the younger ones, respected Harry's request for privacy but there were still an odd few who became annoying.

The Hog's Head had easily become one of their favourite places to be in Hogsmeade, and they always sat around the same large, circular table when they were there, even when there were only two or three of them.

"So, here's to the boys winning the snowball fight," Ron said, raising his glass to the others who were sat around the table. The other boys all raised theirs in acknowledgment, to a chorus of indignant complaints from the girls.

"You did not win," Hermione said, grabbing Ron's wrist and pulling it back, almost slopping butterbeer all over the table.

"We did!" Seamus insisted. "You guys got hit with more snow-"

"But you called off the fight when Lavender hit you in the face," Hermione said.

"And there were five of us and only three of them," Neville conceded. "Wasn't really fair."

"Whose side are you on?" Seamus interjected indignantly, Neville giving him a sheepish smile in return.

The debate continued, gleefully reliving the finer moments of the fight as they drank. Harry listened happily, having missed half of the snowballing whilst having his moment with Ginny. He was contemplating reaching under the table to take her hand, but stopped when he realised he didn't really want to; he just wanted her attention away from Dean a little bit. He pondered this revelation for a moment, but his attention was quickly drawn elsewhere; he felt Ron nudge him and he looked significantly over towards the bar.

Harry frowned and looked over and his stomach flipped; sitting at the table just behind them and clearly in his line of sight were Malfoy and Nott.

"What's he doing here?" Harry hissed to Ron, feeling taken aback. Why hadn't Malfoy said anything over the link when he'd seen Harry already present in the Hog's Head?

"He's not allowed in the Three Broomsticks," Ron replied in an undertone and Harry mentally kicked himself. Of course Malfoy wasn't allowed in the Three Broomsticks, he knew that.

Morning.

Harry spoke quietly over the link, eyes on Malfoy. His suspicion that Malfoy knew he was there was confirmed as Malfoy slowly raised his eyes and then nodded at him. He didn't reply, just looked at Harry for a moment longer and then lowered his eyes.

Well, that was odd. Harry felt suitably taken aback at Malfoy's lack of response; he almost always said hello to Harry when he spotted him around and about.

Harry glanced back and saw Malfoy was looking at him again, with an expression that was unnervingly laced with interest. One pale eyebrow was slightly lifted and remained as so as he looked away again, leaning over to say something to Theo Nott-

Oh fuck, shit, fucking, fuck-

All the blood drained from Harry's face. He had chanced his first wank in weeks and now Malfoy was looking at him funny, and it couldn't be a coincidence. He felt the blood returning to his cheeks in a flare of embarrassment, mortification washing through him.

"You alright?" Ginny asked him curiously.

"Malfoy's looking at me funny," Harry muttered, his eyes on the table.

There was a pause.

"No he's not," Ginny said, sounding a little confused.

"He is," Harry insisted.

Another pause. "He glanced at you, but he's not looking at you funny," Ginny said, now perplexed. "What's wrong with you? How come you're all paranoid about Malfoy anyway?"

"I'm not paranoid," he replied, a little sharply. He looked up again and saw Malfoy was chatting with Theo, drinking a glass of something bright blue and smoky and not looking anywhere near Harry.

"He was," he muttered, looking petulant and still feeling worried. His palms were clammy and he wiped them on his knees under table, wishing that it wasn't quite as warm in the bar.

You're looking a little flushed.

He looked up again just as Malfoy's gaze moved away from him once more towards Theo. That couldn't be coincidence, right? Malfoy had been watching him and then looked away just to make Harry feel uncomfortable?

Fuck off!

"Well he's not looking at you now," Ginny said, but he barely heard her. He was too preoccupied panicking about Malfoy and how he'd quite clearly caught Harry out that morning.

What? The surprise in Malfoy's tone was clear.

You heard. Fuck off.

He didn't dare look up.

Alright, Potter. Just because you're having a bad day, no need to take it out on me!

Fuck off. No-one wants you here anyway. I'm surprised they let you in.

There was silence in his head for a moment, then Malfoy broke it. Even the voice in his head was shaking was badly constrained anger.

You're a cunt, Potter. Only acting nice when it suits you, I suppose.

Yeah, well, you don't deserve me being nice to you.

There as a crash and everyone at the table simultaneously looked around. The source of the noise was clear; Malfoy had knocked his chair over as a result of standing up and pushing away from table, and was now pulling on his scarf, looking furious.

"Draco!"

Theo Nott hastily stood up after him, casting a mystified glance over to Harry and the others before following Draco out of the bar. Harry had a glimpse of Draco marching away through the falling snow, just before the door swung shut again.

"Was that because of you?"

Ron was first to break the silence, looking concerned.

Harry nodded shortly. "It doesn't matter. He was being a prick."

"What did you say to him?" Hermione asked, her voice hushed. "I've not seen him that angry in weeks-"

"He was staring at me all weird so I told him to fuck off," Harry said, wishing he were alone with Ron and Hermione, if only to avoid the stares of the others which ranged from shocked to nervous to incredulous.

"Oh for Merlin's sake- he wasn't looking at you at all!" Ginny said, exasperated. "He was minding his own business for once."

"Do you think you might have overreacted?" Hermione suggested tentatively.

"No," Harry said shortly even as a flicker of doubt ran through him. Maybe Malfoy hadn't been looking at him strangely. Maybe he'd been looking at him for another reason entirely. That suddenly seemed more likely – surely Malfoy would have found it hysterical if he'd caught Harry with his hands in his pants? He didn't know – he didn't know Malfoy nearly enough to be able to second guess him or work out what he was doing.

"Harry-"

"I don't want to talk about it," he insisted. "Later," he added and Hermione nodded slowly in agreement.

The conversation around the table was stilted and awkward for a while, until Seamus bought up the topic of the Christmas holidays and the potential New Year's party that he would be planning if people chose to stay. Harry didn't join in; he couldn't care less about something that seemed so far away, and especially not something that was after the ending of the link.

Bastard.

He sighed and shut his eyes, rubbing his head as Malfoy's anger resonated around his skull. He now felt absolutely miserable; confused about Ginny, annoyed at Malfoy, and embarrassed by the situation he'd got himself in, just because he couldn't curb his bloody libido for a few weeks. Things had definitely taken a turn for the worse, he thought morosely, choosing not to reply to Malfoy's insult. And the morning had started off so bloody fantastically as well, and now he had girlfriend issues, friend troubles and a spitting mad Malfoy to boot.

Great. Just great.

Chapter Text

It didn't take Harry long to conclude that all the progress that he and Draco had made had been undone quicker than Viktor Krum could find a snitch. In the hours following their altercation in the Hogs Head, Draco had called him everything from a loser to a fuck-faced Gryffindor cunt, as well as making several comments about his manners, morals and the obvious link between his awful hypocritical personality and his lack of parents.

In retaliation, Harry had called him everything from a coward to a spoilt Slytherin son-of-a-whore, including several disparaging comments about his loyalty and his pathetic need to please his Father.

The argument was well out of hand by the time they returned to Hogwarts and didn't let up all through dinner. Harry went to the Great Hall, hoping Malfoy would be there so he could punch him, but he was absent from his group of Slytherins who were sat at the far end of their table. When they all left, Harry had noticed that Parkinson had a plate of food in her hand, presumably taking it back to the Slytherin common room for Draco. Harry had instantly laid into him, calling him a coward who wouldn't even dare go down to dinner.

By the time he went to bed, he'd annoyed Ginny by barely paying attention to her at dinner, confused Ron who couldn't keep up with where Harry's attention was focused, and thoroughly irritated Hermione who still insisted he'd over-reacted to whatever he and Malfoy had bickered about.

He hadn't been able to admit to anyone why they'd fallen out, anyway. He was never as comfortable as the other guys were when talking about sex and stuff, even when they were just joking around in the dorm room. Some of it was down to the fact Ron's sister was his girlfriend, and the rest…well, he just didn't get it. Joking about breasts and making lewd comments just wasn't something he'd over gotten the hang of.

And to even imagine telling Hermione about his minor indiscretion…The thought made him want to pitch himself off of the top of Gryffindor Tower. It was almost as bad knowing that Malfoy potentially knew about what he'd done. He was dreading the next day, wondering if Malfoy would decide to exact revenge by announcing that he knew all about Harry's masturbatory habits, retelling the story in excruciating detail to anyone that would listen. Harry had nearly had a seizure that one time Ginny had casually asked him how often he did it – what was the right answer to that fucking question when your girlfriend asked, anyway? – and he suspected he would actually have a full blown fit if Malfoy asked him any similar questions.

Under everything else he was feeling was a strong undercurrent of guilt. He hadn't meant to snap at Malfoy, he really hadn't; the words had just slipped through before he could think rationally. He'd just been so embarrassed, and on another level, ashamed. The topic of sex and all related activities was a truly uncomfortable one for Harry; he was well aware of his inexperience and how he just didn't seem to appreciate it on the same level as the other guys. He didn't want anyone, let alone Malfoy, delving into that part of his life, and finding out about his pitiful lack of experience and his stupid body that didn't seem overly bothered about gaining said experience. He didn't know which would be the lesser of the two evils; having no experience and being mocked for it, or forcing himself to gain experience even if he wasn't entirely comfortable with it.

What was wrong with him? He was eighteen, he was healthy, he loved sexual activity in which he were the sole participant, so why couldn't he bloody man up and involve anyone else? Then he wouldn't have lashed out and acted like a fifteen year old in the face of Malfoy's possibly harmless questions.

He couldn't help but fixate on the expression on Malfoy's face when he'd met Harry's eyes in the pub earlier. The subtle hint of interest, the way the grey eyes lingered on him…he couldn't work it out, and it unnerved and fascinated him in turn.

His head hurt. He was starting to suspect that he could sense Malfoy's emotions through the link, because every so often he caught pulses of anger or annoyance that didn't quite coincide with what he was thinking. The Mindworks book had said such a thing was possible, but that it normally only happened with participants who were emotionally close. Harry wouldn't class renewed mutual hatred as being emotionally close, but he'd also thought that he and Malfoy would manage to get on until Christmas. Showed how much he really knew about things.

He sat up in his bed and flipped his pillow over, trying to get comfortable. He had retired to the dormitory ridiculously early, mainly to get out of attempting to function normally amongst his mates whilst fighting with Malfoy. Although, he would readily admit that he was ridiculously tired anyway. Participating in a mental slanging match with Draco was proving to be bloody exhausting work, and that was on top of a busy day anyway.

The link had quietened down for now; around an hour ago Draco had adamantly said he never wanted to see Harry ever again, and Harry had said that that was fucking fine by him. Silence fell after that harsh exchange, although the link still felt tense and angry for quite some time afterwards.

He truly regretted what he'd said and how he'd acted, but couldn't seem to be able to stop himself launching retaliatory insults at Malfoy. Looking back on it, he knew he probably should have been the bigger man about it, and not risen to a fight, let alone started one. Even now, the hot, uncomfortable, embarrassment that had made him defensive and prickly had yet to fade, even as his eyelids fluttered shut and lassitude swept through him.

You're a prick.

Filled with anger and spite, the words echoed angrily in his mind as he slipped into unconsciousness, unable to even think of a retort before he was asleep.


 

"I found this for you."

Draco Malfoy stood in what looked like a study. It was night-time, and moonlight bathed the room silver. The carpet was patterned and expensive, lined with shadows cast by the intricate window frames, which criss-crossed across the huge panes of glass at the far end of the room. Countless aged books lined the walls in deep set cases and a large oak desk with curled snakes for feet stood near the windows. Behind the desk sat Lucius Malfoy, who was writing on some parchment, his expression tight.

"I don't want it. Get out of my study."

Harry watched as Draco's expression fell and he looked down uncertainly at the book in his hands. It was old, very old, its cover worn and faded. It would have been blue many generations ago, but was now coloured a muted grey, only a hint of its original vibrancy evident. The pages were thick and yellowed, their words and secrets held inside by a thick clasp with a keyhole in the centre.

"But…you asked Mother where it was. I found it in the library and thought you'd want it back-"

"You thought wrong."

The voice snapped like a whip and Harry was shocked at the venom in the tone. He watched Draco flinch, his hands tightening involuntarily on the book.

"But-"

"Get out. I told you once," Lucius said dangerously, finally looking up at his son. His eyes, so like Draco's, were cold and harsh. Harry looked back to Draco and noticed that in the time he'd glanced at Lucius, Draco had gone from his familiar eighteen year old form to looking much, much younger. He couldn't have been more than twelve.

Younger-Draco opened his mouth to reply, his eyes desperate and bright with tears, when a door materialised behind them and opened. Narcissa Malfoy walked in, her robes black and her face streaked with tears. "Draco, darling, come on."

Harry swore he felt the stab of panic and distress that ran through Draco in his own gut. Draco turned instantly and he ran to his Mother. The book he had been so worried about not a minute ago had vanished. "Mother! What's wrong?"

Harry looked to Lucius but he was no longer there; the high backed chair behind the desk menacing and empty. He turned again to see Draco was now barely six years old, his hands tugging at his mother's robes.

"Why're you crying?" he asked, sounding petrified.

"Because you'll die," his mother cried, sinking to her knees in a rustle of expensive fabric. More tears ran down her face as she cupped Draco's cheeks in her hands. "Please don't listen to him. Don't follow him. Don't trust them. Don't turn around."

Draco did. His small frame visibly tensed as he slowly turned and as he did, a shadow stirred under the desk. He looked back around but his Mother was gone, along with the door that she had come through. Shaking, he turned back towards the desk. He barely had time to scream before the shadow beneath uncoiled and Nagini launched towards him with frightening speed, her jaws aimed for his face-

Harry woke with a yelp, flailing and trying to extricate his arms from his blankets. His heart was hammering and sweat was beaded on his forehead; he shakily wiped it away with the back of his hand before fumbling for his glasses.

What the hell had that been about? Breathing shallowly, he tried to piece together all he had just seen, trying to remember before the dream slipped away. It had been Malfoy – Draco – and he had been getting younger and younger, and Narcissa had come in crying, and Lucius had been being truly unpleasant, and that fucking snake under that desk-

Why on earth had he dreamt about that? It made no sense, even with the fight with Draco the previous day-

It hit him like a slap, realisation dawning with startling clarity. There was a reason that he himself hadn't been in the dream, how he'd watched as if it were a film, but not been involved. That hadn't been his dream – that had been Malfoy's.

A hundred questions sprang to mind all at once: how come he'd just seen that dream of Malfoy's? Why had he never seen one before? What had happened to make it start now? Was it because it was a nightmare? Did that mean that Malfoy could see his dreams, too?

That question caused another puzzle piece to fall into place with a thunk and he groaned aloud at the implication. Maybe Malfoy hadn't known he'd been masturbating, but had got a glimpse of the dream that had caused him to wake up so aroused. Which in turn meant Harry had flipped his lid over nothing – over something neither of them could control. Yeah, it was embarrassing if Malfoy had seen his racy dream, but it wasn't as bad as Malfoy knowing he was wanking over it.

"Fuck," Harry muttered, rubbing his eyes. He fumbled under his pillow for his wand and cast a tempus charm, which revealed the time to be twenty to five in the morning. His skin felt clammy after waking up from Malfoy's dream, which hadn't been pleasant in the slightest.

He wondered if Malfoy had been woken up, too.

He didn't know what disturbed him more; the presence of the snake in the dream, or the way Lucius had spoken to and looked at his son. He'd always been mystified by Lucius's attitude to Draco, and the dream had awakened that old wondering. Lucius had seemed proud of and irritated by Draco in turn, loving him when the mood took him. Harry had seen for himself Lucius desperately trying to find Draco in the moments of the final battle, but it seemed that by then the damage had been done. He didn't think Draco ever knew where he stood with his Father, and couldn't imagine how that would make someone feel.

He tentatively wondered if he should try and talk to Malfoy, but thought better of it; he cringed as he remembered what he'd said to him earlier, the cutting remarks about his Father. Hermione was going to kill him when she found out what he'd said.

Harry wasn't sure if he knew the full extent of how bad their fall out had been. He didn't know how Malfoy was going to be with him tomorrow. The possibilities spanned all the way from angry to upset to vengeful and it made Harry unaccountably nervous.

It was as if a whole new vista had opened up in his mind concerning Malfoy. Seeing him as a five year old, scared and crying had affected Harry in a way he didn't think Malfoy could. He remembered when he had seen Draco told off by his Father in Borgin and Burkes all those years ago, and how he'd been full of satisfaction at seeing Draco abashed and angry. But this was something else entirely, and wasn't funny in the slightest.

He wondered if that incident from the dream was just a dream, or a memory.

He'd clearly felt the waves of terror that sliced through the dream at the moment Nagini had sprung and felt a stab of pity for Draco. That snake had been in his house for weeks. How many nights had Draco spent awake, terrified that the snake was slithering towards his room, hungry and well aware that Voldemort didn't care if Draco was there or not?

Harry felt sick. Confusion and regret were mixing horribly in his stomach. Christ, he didn't know Draco well enough to be linked like this to him – and now look what had happened. All they knew was how to get at each other like no-one else could, but not the why behind it.

Had his cutting remarks today triggered the nightmare Draco had just experienced? For all Harry knew, he could still be tangled up in it, asleep and terrified as only a scared five year old could be. He knew the feeling well; he remembered bad dreams when he was younger, locked in the cupboard under the stairs with no-one to comfort him. A flash of something stole through him and it took him a while to realise it was empathy; he felt connected to Malfoy in a way he never had, if only for the fears of their five year old selves.

Shakily breathing out, he tried to relax and lay back down against his pillows. First thing tomorrow, he would apologise and explain. And if Draco accepted, then maybe Harry could start getting to know him a little better. It was like Hermione always said when she did extra research on topics for lessons; 'you have to understand the background before the product or it doesn't make as much sense, see?'

Harry didn't see in the slightest when she was banging on about theoretical transfiguration, but supposed he would just have to see if Hermione's idea's on learning magical theory could be applied to Draco Malfoy as well.


 

"What did you want to tell us, then?" Ron asked finally, obviously not willing to wait any longer for Harry to spill. Upon waking that morning Harry had caught Ron by the elbow as he made his way to the washroom, and told him that he needed to tell him something. Ron had glanced towards Neville who was ambling around sleepily and Harry had muttered 'later,' indicating that he didn't want anyone else to know. Thankfully, Ron had taken then hint and just nodded.

Next to Ron at the Gryffindor table, Hermione glanced towards him and then back over the table to Harry, her interest immediately captured, just as Harry had suspected it would be. Harry was grateful to see that they both looked concerned, and Ron had even taken a pause from getting his breakfast to listen.

"I had a dream last night," he said in an undertone, looking carefully around them. Neville and Seamus were nearby but paying them no nevermind; their attention was on the paper and the shock Quidditch score that had made the news (Cannons 160, Kestrels 150 – apparently the Cannons Seeker had accidentally caught the snitch in his hood as he'd dived to avoid hitting one of his teammates).

"About?" Hermione asked, her voice hushed.

"Malfoy, and his Mum and Dad," Harry said and Hermione and Ron exchanged a startled look.

"Erm, mate," Ron began slowly. "Dare I ask why you're dreaming about Malfoys? Plural?"

"It wasn't me," Harry said emphatically, then lowered his voice. "It was Malfoy's dream. I just saw it."

"Really?" Hermione asked, sounding fascinated. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah," Harry nodded. "I was watching it but I wasn't in the dream, if you get me? And it was like a television, I could see a part of it, and then look elsewhere and look back. Like it was through a lens."

Hermione nodded and Ron looked baffled, presumably by the concepts of televisions and lenses. "What was it about?" he asked.

"He was in Lucius's study trying to talk to him, and Lucius was being a complete bastard to him, and Malfoy kept getting younger, and then his Mum came in crying, and Nagini appeared under the desk and tried to bite him."

"Whoa," Ron said, looking alarmed. "Malfoy's got issues."

"You're telling me," Harry groaned. "And that was after I spent all afternoon slagging off his Dad."

"Harry!"

Wincing at Hermione's shocked tone, Harry waved the coming reprimand away. "He started it," he said, well aware of how childish he sounded and cringing internally.

"But to mention his Father-" she said, sounding unimpressed.

"He said he was glad my parents were dead!" Harry argued petulantly. "Said they wouldn't be able to see what a tosser I'd turned out to be."

"That's harsh," Ron said with a frown.

"Harry, have you not listened to anything I've said about Malfoy?" Hermione despaired. "Oh, he's going to be foul now."

"No he's not," Harry said, and swallowed as she looked at him questioningly and not a little sceptically. He looked down at his plate. "I'm going to say sorry. Properly. And try and talk to him. You know. Understanding the background before the product."

There was a distinct hint of pride in Hermione's expression as she smiled at him, and Harry was glad that she was pleased he was finally listening, rather than wearing her 'I told you so' face. Ron still looked baffled.

"What?"

"I'm going to stop trying to muddle through this pretty much blindfolded," Harry explained, tapping his temple. "I'll talk to him. See if I can get to know him a bit better so we don't end up fighting all the time."

Ron continued to frown for a moment and Harry waited patiently, to see if he was going to be okay with this turn of events. "Will I have to be friends with him?" he finally asked.

"No," Harry said. "I honestly think it's easier if it's just me and him. Everyone else complicates things."

"Alright," Ron said, then nodded resolutely. "I think it's a good idea."

"You do?" Hermione got there before Harry, but looked surprised enough for the both of them.

"Yeah," Ron said. "I'm not completely thick you know. Even I can tell it might work out for the better this way. Dad always said you have to know someone properly before you make a decision about them."

"A decision about who?"

Harry nearly jumped out of his skin as Ginny spoke right behind him, sounding suspicious. He swivelled around on the bench to see her stood behind them, arms folded across her chest. More movement to his right caught his eye; he saw Dean sliding onto the bench further down the table next to Seamus. Hang on, they must have both walked into the Hall at pretty much the same time – had Dean accompanied Ginny down to the Hall? Wasn't that supposed to be Harry's job? Why hadn't she asked him to walk with her?

He was about to open his mouth and ask Ginny about it but before he could, Ron spoke first. Harry froze in his seat as Ron cheerfully drove a metaphorical herd of hippogriffs right through the situation, obviously oblivious to the effect that the subject of Malfoy had on Ginny.

"Malfoy. Harry's making friends with him to try and sort the link out."

Oh, fuck. The look on Ginny's face would have been truly comical if Harry wasn't the one on the receiving end of it. It started as outright shock, then morphed into disbelief and incredulity, laced with a hefty dollop of displeasure.

"What?" she finally asked carefully, trying to hard to keep her voice level.

Harry blinked a couple of times, racking his brains to try and think of a way out of this mess without causing even more trouble. He really wanted to kick Ron – hard – under the table but didn't think that that would be productive no matter how satisfying it might be. Ginny was still staring at him, looking less and less impressed by the second, waiting for him to say something.

Harry panicked.

"Did you walk down here with Dean?" he blurted out, and immediately wished he hadn't.

Ginny's jaw dropped in outright incredulity, and out of the corner of his eye he saw Hermione hide her face in her hands. Ginny shut her mouth again, her jaw clenched tightly.

"I suggest you sort out your priorities before you start asking me stupid questions," she said tightly before walking off without another word.

Ron and Hermione spoke at the same time.

"What is her problem?"

"Harry, you idiot."

"Me?" Harry asked Hermione indignantly. "She's the one off gallivanting with her ex-bloody boyfriend!"

"Really?" she asked in disbelief as Ron sniggered, muttering 'gallivanting?' with a roll of his eyes in Harry's direction. She lowered her voice, glancing down the table towards Dean. "She talks to him at the moment because you're so focussed on Malfoy."

"That's not fair," Harry argued. "She said she understood."

"Girls say stuff they don't mean," Ron chipped in and promptly received an elbow in his side from Hermione for his trouble. "Hey! I didn't say you-"

"You said girls!"

"Yeah, well-"

Tell me when you're out of the hall so I can get breakfast without having to be anywhere near you.

"Oh, don't you fucking start!" Harry cried out in exasperation. Hermione and Ron froze and he shook his head at them. "Not you- Malfoy."

I want to talk to you, he quickly said, hoping Malfoy would be in even a slightly compliant mood.

Fuck off.

Harry groaned and buried his face in his hands his elbows on the tabletop. "This isn't fair," he said, trying not to whine.

"We know," Hermione said understandingly. "But for what it's worth I think you're doing the best thing.

"Yeah?" Harry asked hopefully.

"Yes," she said firmly. "Now go and apologise to Malfoy."

"Yes boss," Harry said and then paused. "Can I have breakfast first?"

Hermione laughed. "Of course. As long as you spend the entire time thinking very carefully about what you've done."

"Well I'm glad this is so amusing for you," Harry said a little grumpily, reaching for some toast.

"Have to see the bright side, mate," Ron grinned. "God knows you'd jump off the Divination Tower if you didn't."

Harry sighed, resting his elbow on the table and cupping his chin in his hand. He was still tired.

"Too right."

Chapter Text

Draco pressed his fingers to his temples, trying to push away the headache that was threatening just behind his eyeballs. It was this damn book, with all its stupid tiny print and its stupid Latin phrases that Draco knew he knew, but couldn't quite remember.

He gave up and instead let his gaze wander around the library; there were a fair few people there that evening, all looking fed up and miserable as they tried to plough through tomes as dreary as the one Draco had in front of him. It was cold in here, too; so cold that Draco was wearing two jumpers. He didn't want to be wearing his robes when he didn't have to, and frankly, wearing his coat indoors would just make him look odd, and he didn't want people looking at him any more than they normally did.

He forced himself to look at the book again. He'd much rather be lolling around in the common room doing nothing than working on this essay, but it had taken a lot of people a lot of effort to keep him out of Azkaban and back into Hogwarts, and he wasn't about to fuck it up by failing his NEWT's. He smiled wanly to himself, very aware of his own changed perceptions on life, and wondering if anyone would ever believe he was working hard to not let anyone down, rather than trying to get himself ahead in the world. He wasn't sure he entirely believed it himself.

"Malfoy – can I have a word?"

The sound of Harry Potter's voice made Draco jump; in the relative quiet of the library it seemed incredibly loud, slicing through the silence like a physical force. He hadn't heard Harry creeping up behind him and immediately felt angry at being caught out, his heart thudding in his chest. Damn, he knew he should have worked on this in the common room, but Pansy had become downright unbearable. He had needed a break, unwilling to hear any more of her requests to be told exactly what Potter had said, and when, and in what tone of voice.

"No," Draco said, not turning around and continuing to look down at his book.

"Please."

He paused, wondering at the subdued tone of Harry's voice and the request, so unlike the demands he had come to expect from him. He put his quill down and slowly twisted around in his chair. His eyebrows flew up as he saw Harry; he looked terrible, weary and almost miserable. Draco's interest was immediately sparked; what had occurred for such a change in Harry's demeanour? The prat had been practically skipping around on Sunday before their fight.

"What?" he asked shortly. Interested or not, he was still thoroughly angry about their argument and the things that had been said. He knew he had been just as bad as Harry, but the twat had started it with that comment about Lucius. Draco's mouth tightened as he recalled the remark; he didn't even know how he felt about his Father anymore and couldn't bear anyone else shoving their opinions in his face.

"I've been trying to find you since Monday morning," Harry said awkwardly, rocking on the balls of his feet. He ran a hand through his hair, leaving it messier than it had been to start with. There was a pause, Draco waiting for Harry to continue, refusing to give him the help he so clearly needed in the art of conversing. After a while, Harry glanced around them and then back to Draco. "Can I sit?" he asked, gesturing helplessly to the chair next to Draco.

Draco's mouth fell open in indignation. "No!"

Harry sat down anyway, an almost beseeching expression on his face.

Jerking his chair around sharply so he was facing him, Draco looked over his shoulder, feeling alarmed. "Go away," he hissed fiercely. "I don't want to talk to you."

"Please," Harry said again.

Draco paused, eyeing him suspiciously. I don't want to talk to you, he said again over the link, trying to make his words sound as threatening as possible.

Harry was unfazed by the venom. "I know," he simply said morosely, looking down at the table, eyes wandering across the book Draco had been looking at. Feeling annoyed and somewhat childish, Draco reached over and slammed it shut. Harry blinked a couple of times, frowned, and then looked directly at Draco.

"I'm sorry."

"You're what now?" Draco asked abruptly, unable to help himself. He was startled out of anger by the up front apology, and now more than curious about Potters abrupt turnabout in attitude.

"Sorry," Harry said, looking back to the book Draco had snapped shut, staring at the front cover. "I'm sorry. I overreacted about something and said some awful things, and you didn't deserve it. I don't want to fight with you."

He exhaled heavily after he'd finished speaking, as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulder by the simple act of getting the words out into the open. His shoulders visibly slumped and he rubbed his face vigorously, looking like he were debating whether this had been such a good idea after all.

Draco was stunned. He hadn't expected this, not at all. What he had predicted was for Harry to stay in a foul mood with him forever. And of course, he would be too stubborn to make the move to mend the rift if Harry wasn't going to help, and thus they would hate each other until the end of time.

"Well…?" Harry asked uncertainly after a brief pause, his fingers tapping the tabletop giving away his apprehension. He looked to Draco, obviously waiting for a response to his apology.

"Shut up, Potter," Draco said shortly, jerking his head irritably. "I'm trying to think."

Harry blinked at him a couple more times but obediently kept his mouth shut. He sat quietly, fidgeting uncomfortably in his chair. Draco looked at him, trying to work out what was going on in Harry's scarred head, and why he was suddenly apologising and looking at Draco differently.

Ah.

That damn nightmare.

His immediate and instinctive feeling was to lash out at Harry and tell him to fuck off, to get him away from Draco's emotions and personal business. That nightmare had not been a pleasant experience and the idea of sharing it with anyone, especially Potter, was mortifying. A scathing remark about Sirius Black was there on the tip of his tongue, perfectly poised to make Harry storm off in a rage, but he swallowed it. Maybe it was time for a different approach than fighting.

You saw my nightmare.

It was a statement, not a question. Harry looked at him, but his lip and then nodded.

Why aren't you making fun of me about it?

Harry's eyes widened behind his stupid glasses. "I wouldn't," he breathed, shaking his head slowly. "That wasn't funny. It scared the life out of me so god knows how you felt."

"Yes, well," Draco said bitterly. "Welcome to being me. Now piss off and let me work."

He pulled his chair back around violently and yanked his book back towards him. He opened it at random, flipping viciously through the pages to find where he had been reading. Stupid Potter, stupid fucking nightmares, stupid link-

He was so caught up in being furious at his book that he didn't see Harry move. Warm fingers abruptly closed around his wrist, halting his ferocious page turning. He gasped at the contact, immediately trying to yank his arm free.

Harry held firm, his fingers tight on Draco's skin. "Why are we suddenly sharing dreams?" he asked. "How come I've never seen any before?"

"Because I've been taking dreamless sleep, you idiot," Draco snapped. "Let me go."

Harry obliged, loosening his fingers enough for Draco to win his arm back, drawing it up his chest and rubbing his wrist with his free hand.

"You've been taking dreamless sleep?" Harry asked, looking astounded. "For three weeks? Why?"

"Because I didn't want you nosing around in my business and will you keep your fucking voice down," Draco whispered harshly, glaring at Harry.

"Then how come I got that dream?"

"Because Pomfrey says I'm not allowed any more," Draco said tetchily. "I'd say you should go and get some, but I think that ship has sailed."

Harry glanced around them. "Did you see my dream?" he asked, his voice low.

Draco paused and fought to keep his face from flushing. Of course he'd seen it. He could barely forget about it. He didn't fancy divulging that information though so he merely jerked his head in an affirmative gesture.

Harry flushed. "Then…then why is it so bad?" he asked, trying to keep his tone casual. "We're even, right?"

"No, we are not even," Draco snapped. "Go away-"

"I won't," Harry said stubbornly. His hand twitched and Draco pulled his own hands up his chest once more, lest Harry try and grab him again. He wasn't sure he liked Potter touching him. It felt strange. "Not until we sort this. I'm sorry, alright?" Harry continued urgently. "I overreacted because I was embarrassed about- about that dream, and I shouldn't have said that stuff about your Dad. You know we were getting on before this, and I don't want to go back to fighting with you. I didn't mean to see your dream, it just happened. And I know now so it's not that bad, right?"

Draco stared at Harry, silently willing him to go away and leave him alone. They were on uncomfortable ground; Harry's stupid questions were edging closer and closer to topics that Draco wasn't willing to share. Harry stared right back, his eyes wide and so bloody green.

"Alright," Draco snapped, on impulse. He knew he could either stay mad at Harry which meant Harry would then refuse to leave, or just take the stupid apology so he would drop it and piss off. He decided to pick the lesser of the two evils, no matter how much it irked him. "Alright. We're even. Truce back on. Now go away."

Harry looked taken aback. "What?"

"Are you deaf?" Draco whispered angrily. "I said the truce is back on. I'll be nice. Don't say anything else about my Father and stop trying to get into my head and we'll be fine."

"I'm not trying to get into your head," Harry said, confused. "Why are you so worried-?"

"I am not," Draco hissed, an then took a deep breath, shutting his eyes for a moment. "I'm just saying," he continued, his voice marginally calmer. "Well? Yes or no?"

"Okay," Harry said, looking thoroughly bewildered. Draco gritted his teeth to hold back an insult, and grabbed his bag, opening it and preparing to pack everything away, just to get out of there and away from him. Christ, even Pansy would be a preferable option to this right now, regardless of how clingy she was being.

"Then you stop saying things about my parents and don't ignore me if I talk to you?" Harry asked as Draco shoved his book back into his bag. Draco almost rolled his eyes. So Gryffindor to expect fair turnabout.

"Fine," he said, huffing out a breath and closing his bag, snicking the clasp shut with unnecessary force. "Now leave me alone."

He stood up, his chair screeching loudly on the stone floor. Harry stood up hurriedly as well, his legs bumping the table. "What? But I thought-"

"Yes, for Merlins sake. I'll talk to you. Just stop asking fucking questions," Draco said, desperate to get away. He was scared Harry would be able to look him in the eye and somehow know, even though his mental blocks were as strong as they ever would be.

Harry still looked uncertain. It was unbelievable really, how desperate he seemed to be on good terms with Draco once again after all the horrid things he'd said.

"I'll talk to you later," Draco insisted. He slung his bag over his shoulder.

"Promise?" Harry asked, chin lifted in challenge. The prat still wasn't moving or getting out of the way.

"Yes. Now go away."

Draco pushed past Harry who let him go, watching him as he left the library. His heart was hammering in his chest and he was internally cursing himself for being so bloody stupid. No wonder Harry had looked confused; Draco knew his behaviour was downright erratic. He'd probably raised more suspicion by running off but he just hadn't been able to bear it, Potter looking at him like that, like he cared and wanted to know what Draco was panicking about.

It was so unfair, he thought petulantly. Pomfrey should have just given him more dreamless sleep, not harped on about the effect it could have on his subconscious if taken for too long. He didn't care that he now felt more awake and with it, and had done since the moment he'd stopped taking it; he did not want Potter to get any more free showings to the fairground his head became when he was asleep.

In the midst of his anger and frustration, though, he couldn't help but feel relieved at the fact he and Potter were no longer fighting. He was filled with no small sense of wonder that what he had wanted for years had finally happened; Potter had come to him, said sorry and asked to be his friend.

If he wasn't so worried, he would have smiled.


 

 

"I found him," Harry announced, flopping down onto the sofa in the common room and sending several books sliding off onto the carpet. He bent down to pick them up, looking at the titles – none of which he could connect to having any relevance to their work. "He was in the library."

"That's amazing considering that's where the map said he would be," Ron commented, reaching over and picking up a book with a weary frown. "Hermione, you aren't even doing Divination."

"It's for the historical theory," she insisted, snatching the book back. "What happened with Malfoy?"

Harry passed the books over to Hermione who carefully stacked them next to him, atop an already towering pile of Transfiguration books. Seeing their impatient expressions, he took a deep breath. "Well. He shouted at me a lot and called me some names, and said I'm seeing his nightmares because he's stopped taking dreamless sleep, but he doesn't want me nosing around in his head, oh, and he's now getting my dreams too and he said he'd stop being mean and we could have a truce again, but he didn't seem very happy about it and then told me to go away and ran off."

Ron and Hermione both blinked at him, taking a moment to process his words.

"Hang on, what? Dreamless sleep?"

"The truce is back on?"

She and Ron exchanged a somewhat mystified look and then looked back to Harry.

"The truce is back on?" Ron repeated.

"Yep," Harry said, and then he frowned. "I don't know if he meant it. He said he'd talk to me later but I haven't heard anything."

"You think he lied?"

"I'm not sure," Harry scratched the back of his head, still feeling a little unsure about what had actually happened. "He was being very weird."

"That's normal for Malfoy though, right?" Ron asked with a sly grin.

"Alright, weirder than normal," Harry conceded, scrunching his nose up. "He was cross with me which was understandable, right, and then the moment he bought up the dreams he seemed to freak out."

"And he ran off?" Hermione asked slowly.

"Yep. He insisted he'd stop being mean and the truce was back on and then scarpered. I made him promise to talk to me later, but I'm not sure if he will."

"That's very strange," Hermione said thoughtfully. "You said you mentioned the dreams?"

"Yeah, that's what started the whole thing off," Harry said. "When he got all edgy. He asked if I'd seen his dream and then started freaking out."

"So you told him you'd seen the nightmare?" Hermione asked.

"Well, yeah," Harry said, toeing his shoes off and pulling his feet up onto the sofa. "He's been taking dreamless sleep apparently, but Pomfrey won't give him any more."

"Which explains why you're suddenly getting his dreams," Hermione said in wonder.

"Yeah, and he got one of mine on Saturday night," Harry admitted.

"Is that why you got angry at him in Hogsmeade?" Ron asked.

Harry nodded, happy to let his friends think that that was what the fight had been over. It was almost true, although technically Harry had thought Malfoy had seen something other than his dream…

"That's dangerous, you know," Hermione commented. "Taking dreamless sleep for that long. It can really affect your thinking, make you awfully sleepy during the day."

"Must be some crazy stuff floating around in there that he doesn't want you to see," Ron said, tapping his head and making Harry laugh.

Hermione didn't laugh, however; instead she looked at Ron, nodding seriously. "I think you're right, Ron."

"I am?" Ron asked, genuinely surprised.

"Possibly," Hermione said with an amused smile in his direction, before turning back to Harry. "It sounds like he's got something he doesn't want you to find out. It would explain why he's been taking dreamless sleep for so long, and maybe he's angry because he can't anymore. He's scared something will show in one of his dreams."

"You think?" Harry asked curiously. The thought of Malfoy having something to hide – again – was an intriguing one at least.

"Probably."

Ron chuckled. "Knowing Malfoy it's something pathetic. Like he doesn't want you to know he still sleeps with his teddy bear or something."

"Mm, probably," Harry laughed, wriggling to get comfier on the sofa, propping his elbow on the armrest and resting his chin on his hand, shutting his eyes and enjoying the warmth of the fire on his face. He snorted with laughter but didn't open his eyes as Hermione tutted at Ron who was happily expanding on his Malfoy-with-a-teddy-bear theory.

For what it's worth, thank you for saying sorry.

Harry's head jerked off of his fist as Malfoy's voice rang through his head, and a slow smile spread over his face. He hadn't been aware of just how much he'd been waiting for Malfoy to talk to him, to let him know that the truce was alright, that they were alright.

Thank you for accepting. Wasn't sure you would.

The voice on the other end of the link sounded petulant and tired. Don't push it. I'm still cross with you.

I know. It's okay. I don't mind as long as we're friends again.

There was a pause.

Friends?

"Is that him?" Hermione asked, and Harry started.

"What? Oh yeah. He's saying thank you for apologising."

Well, not enemies anymore so, yeah. Kind of?

Hardly. Magic won't fix this one.

What will?

There was a long pause and Harry wondered if Malfoy would actually offer him a response. He could imagine him shrugging if they were face to face, looking away uncertainly.

Time. Maybe.

Oh. Well that was understandable; everyone needed time to get over things that had upset them. Harry couldn't resist a small smile.

And my endless charm and winning smile?

Sod off, Potter. Ask Granger if we need both books for Arithmancy tomorrow.

Harry turned promptly to Hermione. "Malfoy wants to know if you need both books for Arithmancy tomorrow.

Hermione looked taken aback. "No," she finally said. "Just Numbers in Nonsense."

Just the one about nonsense.

Thanks.

You're most welcome.

Fuck off. I'll talk to you later. Thank you.

Harry couldn't help but smile, chuckling softly. Malfoy was slowly becoming less and less of an enigma as time went on, his behaviour making more and more sense every time Harry found out something new about him. He guessed that right now Malfoy had seen the sense in them calling a halt to their fight and had half-accepted Harry's apology, but wasn't yet ready to dive straight back in to how things had been. Harry could understand that; some pretty nasty things had been said which, as Draco said, would take some time to get over. And not to mention the secret they now suspected Draco was harbouring; Harry reckoned Draco would be wary about telling Harry anything, if he was worried Harry might find out or guess.

Must be a pretty big deal if Draco was willing to listen to Harry and agree to renewing their truce, just to get him off the topic…

"Harry?"

He looked up to see Ron and Hermione staring at him, both looking worried.

"Sorry," he said, sitting up a little so he were facing them properly. "I'm not talking to him anymore."

"What were you talking to him about?" Ron asked.

"Just stuff," Harry shrugged.

A look was exchanged between Ron and Hermione, one that made Harry suspect that they'd discussed this situation without him, behind his back. "What?" he asked suspiciously.

Ron gave Hermione a meaningful look, and she shook her head. Ron mouthed 'yes', looking insistentand then she relented, turning back towards Harry.

"It's just…strange," she said, not looking at him, choosing instead to train her gaze down to her knees instead. "After the war, when we all talked about him, and agreed we'd give him a chance…"

"We thought it'd be all of us, you know?" Ron continued, and Hermione nodded.

"I'm not doing it on purpose," Harry began.

"We know you're not," Hermione reassured him. "And I'm starting to think he'll only respond to you anyway."

"'Respond to me?'" Harry asked, raising an eyebrow. "He's not my pet cat, Hermione."

"That's not what I meant," she said as Ron sniggered. "I just mean…you two have always have something going on, haven't you? It was you who wouldn't be his friend, you who had all the drama with his father, you who saved his life…I think it has to be you. Like you said at breakfast yesterday, everyone else just complicates things."

"Then…what's the problem?" Harry asked slowly.

"It's hard," Ron shrugged. "Not knowing where you're at with him. And Ginny's all mad, too."

"That is not my fault," Harry said defensively. "If she didn't flip out every time his name was mentioned-"

"It's not exactly her fault either," Hermione said. "It's hard for her, with everyone wanting your attention, and now Malfoy is your main priority."

"He's not my main priority," Harry said, exasperated. "He just happens to be around for the ride when I go to my other priorities."

Ron and Hermione laughed and even Harry managed a chuckle. "This is all your fault anyway, Hermione. You were the one who keeps telling me to understand Malfoy or whatever it is I'm doing."

"Well it's helping, isn't it?" she asked. "You get on better-"

"I suppose," he conceded. "He's still pretty mad at me right now," he shook his head. "Don't worry about it anyway. I'm sure we've got other things to talk about."

"Fair point," Ron said. "And we're not worrying, really. It's just a bit disconcerting."

Harry looked at him. "No, that's disconcerting."

"What's disconcerting?"

"That you used the word disconcerting."

Harry laughed at Ron chucked a pillow in his direction, pulling a face at him. "I know some big words, I'll have you know."

"Just give me fair warning before you use them then, between Malfoy being nice and you using four syllable words in the right context, I might go into shock."

"Wanker."

"That sounds more like you."

Harry ducked another pillow that came flying his way; it hit the mantelpiece above the fire and Hermione hastily summoned it before it caught alight.

"Not near the fire! Ron!"

"Harry started it-"

"Harry?"

An uncertain voice made Harry twist around. Neville was stood just behind the sofa, looking awkward and shifting on his feet.

"Not come to apologise again have you?" Harry asked with a grin. "I told you, it's fine."

Neville gave him a brief smile. "I know. Even Malfoy said he's not angry about it any more."

"He did?"

Harry, Ron and Hermione all spoke simultaneously.

"Yeah," Neville said, looking sheepish. "I went to try and say sorry. Because it's not fair on him either, really."

"What did he say?" Harry asked, a little astounded.

"Told me it was fine, he didn't mind, stop apologising or he'd hex me," Neville said with a small grin. "I don't think he meant it though."

Harry couldn't help but fight a smile that was threatening to break over his face. He actually felt a teensy little flicker of pride in Malfoy, if only for not giving Neville a hard time over what had happened. The git was just perfectly, wonderfully, ridiculous at times.

"Anyway, Harry, I was meant to give you this."

Neville held his hand out; in it was a small square of folded parchment.

"What? Who's that from?"

"I'll let you read it," Neville said, avoiding Harry's gaze as he slowly took the piece of parchment. "I've got to go anyway. Meeting Luna in the library, she wants to show me the new Quibbler."

"Say hello for us," Hermione called and Neville nodded, beaming.

"Will do. See you later!"

Harry glanced back at the parchment in his hands, and then looked up to see Ron and Hermione staring at him avidly. He rolled his eyes but didn't comment; instead he slowly unfolded the parchment, eyes widening as he realised who it was from.

Harry

I'm really sorry to write to you like this, but I somehow manage to just get cross whenever I try to talk to you at the minute. I don't mean to, I really don't.

It's hard spending time with you when I know your thoughts are so focussed on Malfoy. I know you want to get along with him, it's just hard for me to see why. I just want you to know that I'm not mad at you really, I'm just frustrated with the whole situation. You've not really told me anything about what's going on, and I can't be comfortable spending time with you when it's not just me and you – it's me and you and Malfoy.

Come talk to me soon, when you know how you're feeling. I miss you.

Ginny.

Harry re-read the letter twice more, uncertain as to how he should feel. He knew it was hard for Ginny, and that she must be feeling a little like a third wheel with him being linked to Malfoy, but what did she expect him to do about it? And how could he tell her about what was going on when she got angry every time Malfoy's name was mentioned?

He guiltily thought that she was right, in a way. It was going to be him and Malfoy until Christmas, with not quite as much space for everyone else as he would have liked.

Bugger.

"Well?" Ron asked, receiving a slap to the back of his head from Hermione for his trouble. "What?" he asked indignantly, rubbing his head. "You want to know too-"

"Yes, but I'd give it more than ten seconds-"

"It's alright," Harry sighed, tossing the note over to Hermione. "Just Ginny. Saying sorry. Generally being confused about Malfoy."

"Join the club," Ron said, giving the note a quick once over and then looking back at Harry, a sympathetic expression on his face. "Sorry, mate."

"It's okay," Harry said, waving him away. "I know it's hard. It'll be fine. I think."

"You think?" Hermione asked, looking up from the letter.

"Well yeah. It should be. It's if she can be patient until Christmas."

Ron snorted. "Patience isn't Ginny's strong point. I don't know how she waited for you for so long."

"She didn't," Harry said. "She went out with Michael and Zach and Dean and then me."

Ron pulled a face, a clear 'thank you for reminding me' expression of mild disgust. Harry ignored him.

"What I don't get is why she's writing to me," Harry said to Hermione, hoping for some insight. "She's never had a problem with talking to anyone face to face. It doesn't make sense."

"No," Hermione said slowly. "It doesn't. This isn't like her."

"She doesn't really want to see you," Ron said and Harry looked around at him so quickly his neck clicked. "The Malfoy thing is an excuse."

"What?"

Ron shrugged. "Whenever she really didn't want to talk to me she'd send Fred to tell me."

"But she said she missed me," Harry said, reaching back to grab the letter from Hermione, his hand closing on midair as she moved it smartly out of his way, apparently re-reading the letter.

"I think Ron might be right," Hermione said, her eyes flicking back and forth over the letter. "And I'm surprised you're so bothered all of a sudden, Harry."

Harry's mouth fell open indignantly. "I am bothered!"

"Why wouldn't he be bothered?" Ron asked with a frown and Harry internally winced, hoping Hermione hadn't awakened Ron's possessive-elder-brother streak.

Hermione gave Ron a pointed look. "You know as well as I that Harry and Ginny aren't the same as before. It's not anyone's fault, it's just the way things worked out after the war. People sometimes grow apart, it's only natural."

"I am here you know!" Harry said, exasperated. "You know, the bloke you're talking about?"

"Sorry," Hermione said insincerely. "Just trying to work this out."

"It's not some sort of logic puzzle," Harry said, annoyed.

"I know," Hermione said patiently. "But it is complicated. I think Ron might be right. I think Ginny thinks that she should be really angry about this, but maybe she's not."

"She said she is," Harry said, reaching over and snatching the letter from Hermione, holding it possessively to his chest. "It'll be fine."

Even as he spoke he remembered how he'd freaked out when she'd tried to kiss him in the snow, and how he'd avoided her up until the situation with Malfoy had pressed him into trying to resolve issues with her. He sighed and pulled his glasses off, rubbing his eye sockets with his fingertips and wishing things would make sense. Wishing Malfoy made sense, wishing Ginny wasn't acting so strange. He blinked hard and then put his glasses back on to see Hermione looking at him, a small wan smile on her lips.

"Don't worry too much about it," she said. "What will happen will happen, and we'll meet it as it comes."

Harry nodded slowly, comforted by Hermione's cryptic words even though he didn't entirely understand.

"I think that's a load of crap," said Ron and Harry laughed. "But we're here for you, mate."

Harry laughed, folding up the note and shoving it in his pocket. "Thank you. I'll bear that in mind."

Chapter Text

"Harry. Get up. Breakfast."

Harry was barely awake but he still felt the thud of a pillow hitting the back of his head, presumably thrown by Ron. He groaned and forced himself to sit up, pushing the rogue pillow away and groping for his glasses.

"What time is it?" he asked groggily, pushing his glasses onto his face.

"Five minutes before we're leaving for breakfast," Ron told him and Harry groaned again, falling backwards onto his pillows.

"Great."

"What's up with you?" Ron's voice asked curiously from across the room. Harry could hear voices and movement around the dormitory, and presumed that everyone else was already up and getting ready, "You're normally first up out of everyone. Did Malfoy keep you up last night?"

Harry heard Seamus mutter something, and Ron and Dean both laughed in response. He immediately sat up, irritably disentangling his feet from the duvet and clambering out of bed. "If that was a gay joke I'm going to hex you."

"Course not," Seamus grinned at him and Harry flipped him two fingers in reply. Seamus winked and sauntered off towards the bathroom, leaving Harry torn between laughing and throwing something at the back of his head.

"No dreams then?" Ron asked as he did his tie up, glancing over his shoulder to check none of the others were listening.

Harry paused, his hand stilling on his stomach as he scratched his bellybutton. He frowned. "No, actually."

Ron frowned right back. "He's stopped taking the dreamless sleep, right?"

"That's what he said," Harry shrugged, shaking his head slowly from side to side. He paused. "Something feels different."

"Maybe you did both dream but you can't remember it?" Ron suggested as Harry tried to focus and locate some clean clothes. "Are you sure you're alright? You don't look with it."

"I dunno," Harry said slowly. "It feels…" he trailed off, unable to properly explain it. His head felt strange – more specifically, the bit in his head concerned with the link felt strange. It felt sluggish and heavy, like it was still fast asleep. Maybe Malfoy was still asleep? No, that couldn't be it. He knew when Malfoy was asleep because he'd felt it before, and it didn't feel like this, like his brain was trying to wade through treacle.

"I think someone's stunned Malfoy, or knocked him out," Harry said distractedly. "The link feels weird."

"Really?" Ron asked, sounding intrigued. "Weird in what way?"

"All slow and heavy," Harry said, trying to focus and struggling. "God, this is strange."

Ron checked his watch. "Need to go to the hospital wing? Or McGonagall?"

Harry thought for a moment. "No. We'll go to breakfast and ask Hermione."

Ron clicked his fingers and nodded. "That'd work. She's been reading more into this link than you have, I don't know where she finds the time."

Harry nodded but didn't reply; he was too busy trying to get his brain to function so he could get dressed, and thinking about what could have happened for the link to feel like this. He was worried; after all, Neville wasn't a Legilimency pro by any standards, and McGonagall had always said they'd been lucky to avoid any nasty side-effects. Maybe this was it? Or maybe Malfoy was sick, and that's what the feeling was. Or maybe his earlier joke to Ron had been accurate, and someone had stunned Malfoy. Irrationally his mind jumped to Ginny – he could easily imagine her sending a surreptitious stunner Malfoy's way if the opportunity presented itself.

He smiled guiltily to himself and then proceeded to get washed and dressed as quickly as he could, as not to be left behind whilst the others went for breakfast. He managed it; tripping over his shoelaces, trying to tie his tie and simultaneously pull his jumper sleeves straight as he followed the others out of the dorm.

Malfoy?

There was a long pause – longer than Malfoy normally took to reply and Harry felt a flash of alarm run through him. What if something was really wrong with him? God, if Ginny had stunned him Draco would be furious, and then he'd refuse to be Harry's friend anymore-

What?

Harry nearly sighed out loud in relief as he heard the familiar voice in his head. He didn't hesitate to reply as quickly as he could manage. Are you okay? The link feels strange.

There was another pause.

Feels fine to me.

Harry frowned. He didn't know if he fully believed Malfoy, but if he did choose to accept what he was saying, that meant the problem was on his side and his side only, which was disconcerting.

Really?

Yes. Maybe you're sick or something.

Harry didn't reply; he could hear the lack of conviction in Draco's words and how flat his voice sounded, even in his head. He didn't sound happy at all, or even cross or annoyed at Harry's questioning this early in the morning. He sounded as tired as Harry felt.

"You alright?" Ron was still looking concerned, slowing to walk beside Harry and letting the others pull ahead.

"Yeah, I just can't work this out," Harry said, rubbing his temple. "Malfoy says it feels fine on his end."

"Do you believe him?" Ron asked.

"Not sure."

They lapsed into silence as they descended the staircase. Harry was still confused about what was going on inside his head - more so than usual, at any rate. His instincts had - mostly - served him right in the past, and his gut was screaming at him that something suspicious was going on.

He trailed after the others, his feet dragging, feeling like he'd not slept in a week. It almost felt like fifth year all over again, when his sleep had constantly been disturbed, full of dreams of the Department of Mysteries and visions of Voldemort.

Why, oh why, did every encounter involving Malfoy make him feel like he was sixteen all over again? Not only in terms of bad sleep and mind-sharing episodes, but all that other stuff too. Like how his emotions were on an apparent rollercoaster, the intensity of which was only narrowly outdone by his hormonal-feeling-left-out-of-everything phase back in the day. He didn't get why Malfoy annoyed him so much, didn't understand why he overreacted to anything that Malfoy did that was even slightly out of line, and didn't understand why he was still thinking about the git.

"Harry."

Ron's voice, spoken in an undertone, interrupted his thoughts.

"Over there."

Harry looked down the staircase and across the Entrance Hall in the direction that Ron had nodded, and his heart leapt into the base of his throat; Draco had just appeared from the archway that led to the dungeons, and was walking slowly towards the Great Hall. Most importantly, he was alone, which gave Harry a sterling opportunity to try and find out what was going on, without having to ask Hermione and risk everyone sticking their noses in.

"Back in a minute," he said, galvanised into action.

"I'll save you some toast," Ron called after him as he forced his weary limbs into motion, barrelling down the remainder of the steps, pushing past Dean and Seamus, and nearly knocking Neville over. Tripping over his shoelaces, he dived through a group of third year Hufflepuffs, muttering 'sorry', but never taking his eyes off of his target.

Draco didn't even notice him coming, and jumped a mile when Harry reached out from behind him to grab his shoulder. He whipped around, trying to duck away from Harry's touch and looking genuinely frightened.

"Fuck, Potter! What the hell are you doing?"

"I want a word," Harry said. He took a hold on Draco by his upper arm and tugged him back across the Hall towards the dungeons.

"Potter, I just came from this way," Draco protested, but his tone was weary and he didn't sound quite so much like his usual snappish self. "Quit manhandling me."

Harry paused and came to a standstill, trying to think. "Sorry," he said, loosening his grip on Draco's arm slightly. "I just want to ask you something. No fighting, just talking. Promise."

Some benevolent deity must have been looking after him because Draco just sighed and nodded, his shoulders slumping. He made a half-hearted effort to pull Harry's fingers from his bicep as they started walking again, but gave up pretty quickly, letting his hand fall back to his side.

When they reached a more secluded spot, a little way down the corridor Draco had first emerged from, Harry let him go and turned to face him.

"What – shit, are you okay?"

The question was startled out of him by Draco's appearance; he hadn't really looked properly at him before whisking him away, but now he did…Draco looked like shit. His eyes were dull and shadow ringed, his skin even paler than usual, and his hair – whilst not on Harry's level of untidiness – was ruffled and definitely not in its usual immaculate state.

"What?" Draco asked, staring at him.

"Are you okay?" Harry repeated.

Draco blinked at him a few times. "I'm fine."

"You don't look fine," Harry said. "And the link feels strange – what's going on?"

Draco looked away from him, raising a hand and rubbing his eye socket with his knuckles. "Nothing," he finally said, speaking more loudly than necessary, trying to inject some life into his voice. "Everything's fine."

"Malfoy," Harry said patiently, trying to work out what was going on with a brain that seemed to have been hit with a confundus. "Don't-"

"It's fine," Malfoy insisted. "I'm flattered that you're pretending to be worried, but you can turn off your hero-mode for today, everything-"

"I'm not pretending to be worried," Harry interrupted. "I am worried.

Suspicion overtook Draco's features as he abruptly shut his mouth, eying Harry carefully through narrowed eyes. "Why?"

Harry fought the urge to groan out loud. He reached up and pinched the bridge of his nose, pushing his glasses up out of the way. "Why does everything with you have to be a massive battle?"

"Because we're not friends," Draco snapped back, bristling. "So I can only assume you have ulterior motives-"

"You know what, we are friends. Deal with it," Harry suddenly replied, dropping his hand, pushing his glasses straight and choosing not to make any wisecracks about Draco normally being the one to have ulterior motives.

Draco's mouth fell open. "You can't just tell someone that you're friends!"

"I can and I did," Harry replied. "Now tell me why the link feels like it's been stunned."

Draco blinked at him a few more times, and Harry waited patiently for him to mentally deal with the fact they were now officially friends. He would bet his broomstick that Draco was trying to work what was going on, and if he'd come out better or worse for it.

"I don't know," Draco finally said, not meeting Harry's eyes. Not for the first time, Harry wondered how Draco had managed to survive as a Death Eater, if Harry could so easily tell when he was lying. Maybe it just that Draco couldn't lie to him, in the same manner that Harry couldn't control himself around Draco.

"If you know something, tell me," Harry said, lowering his voice and glancing over his shoulder as two fourth year Slytherins walked past, shooting them curious glances. "I mean, this link is Neville's handiwork, I wouldn't be surprised if it's fucked up on some level."

Draco's lips quirked in an almost-smile that disappeared too quickly for Harry's liking. "I don't know," he repeated. "It doesn't feel any different to me."

"There's something going on with it," Harry insisted. "And don't tell me you're fine, you look knackered-"

He paused as a suspicious bubble of thought rose to the surface of the sludge that his brain seemed to be filled with. "How much sleep did you get last night?" he asked.

Draco shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot, his lack of answer telling Harry everything he needed to know.

"Have you been up all night?" he asked in disbelief. "All night? On purpose?"

"No," Draco immediately replied, but Harry knew he was lying. If Draco had been up all bloody night, he'd be fucking shattered, and that's what Harry could feel over the link; Malfoy's tiredness seeping into his own consciousness, just as his anger had done during their fight.

"You so have!" Harry exclaimed. "Why would you do that? It's making me feel shattered as well!"

"Sorry," Draco said, his eyes flicking to Harry's for the briefest of seconds. His countenance had shifted from uncomfortable and all the way into distinct unease and something that could have been panic. "I just couldn't sleep."

"Then why not just say that?" Harry asked.

"Because- because I didn't think I could just talk to you," Draco struggled to say. "This is hard."

"I know," Harry said. "But look at it this way; we've been talking for the last five minutes and we've not called each other any names or argued or anything-" Draco almost smiled again and Harry took heart from that, pushing through what he wanted to say next. "And I don't want you to hate me about it, but I am worried. We're in this together, and I do worry about you now."

Harry ticked off his second miracle in as many minutes because Draco didn't snap back or make a fuss or act like a twelve year old brat, he just stared tiredly at the wall and then mumbled something.

"What?" Harry asked.

Worry about you too. A bit.

Harry didn't reply straight away. He just looked at Draco with a small smile on his face, nothing short of wonder running through his body, almost overriding the lassitude in his mind.

"Going to tell me why you couldn't sleep?" he asked tentatively. "Wasn't a bad dream, right?"

"Dreaming would require sleeping," Draco muttered, before rubbing his eyes vigorously with the heels of his hands, then looking up, trying to gather himself once more. "We need to go to breakfast. Can we talk about this another time?"

Draco's abrupt change of subject rang another set of alarm bells in Harry's mind, and the last piece of this particular puzzle clicked into place. He recalled the conversation they'd had in the library, and what he'd discussed with Ron and Hermione afterwards. Draco's return to the abrupt manner which he'd used to get Harry to leave him alone was also telling: there was something he didn't want Harry to find out, and Harry could only assume the silly bugger had been so scared that it would show in his dreams, that he'd refused to go to sleep.

"What are you so scared of me seeing?" Harry asked softly, and then wished he hadn't. Despite Harry's gentle tone, Draco's face shuttered, his whole frame tensing slightly.

"Nothing," he said. "I just couldn't sleep. It was- I'm sorry, I can't-" he paused and clenched his jaw tightly, obviously frustrated with himself. He took a deep breath, in and out, before speaking again. "I can't talk about it right now. Please just go to breakfast."

Harry didn't want to let it go, but he'd learned a lot in the past few days, and that included recognising warning signs that told him when to leave something alone. He sighed, and then nodded.

"Do me a favour and go to bed?" he asked, without much conviction that Draco would agree.

"I'm sorry," Draco said, and Harry was surprised to see he genuinely looked it. "I can't miss Transfiguration, I really can't…" he trailed off with a helpless shrug and Harry nodded.

"Okay."

Draco nodded at him, and then spoke without looking at him. "I don't want to fight anymore, but I can't just tell you everything."

"I understand," Harry said. "Even if I don't always like it, I guess I understand."

There was a pause, and then Draco slowly looked up at Harry. Their eyes met for a brief moment and then Draco swallowed, jerking his eyes away and walking away.

Harry watched him go. Considering he still didn't have his answers, he still felt that had gone remarkably well. But now, there was the question of just exactly what Draco Malfoy had to hide, and Harry knew he wasn't going to be satisfied until he knew.

Again. Bugger.


 

Harry stared listlessly down at his dinner, not even making any effort to eat it. His knife and fork lay abandoned on the table in front of him, next to his plate of barely touched food. Everyone had given up on talking to him, and were chattering away to his left. It had been a ridiculously long day, his concentration in tatters thanks to Draco and his trying not to sleep or dream shenanigans. Harry didn't feel cross at Draco; instead intrigue and concern laced his thoughts, wondering what Draco were hiding, and how bad it had to be for him to go to such extremes to hide it from everyone.

He contemplated reaching for his goblet, wondering if he could make the effort to lift his hands out of his lap to get himself a drink. He decided against it, and was just about to give in and go back to the dormitory when he felt a subtle but sudden shift in the link.

The pressure and the dead weight seemed to slowly lessen, as if his mind were shaking off Draco's exhaustion, fighting to be free again. He sat perfectly still, the sensation somewhat disconcerting. His mind seemed to rise slowly and steadily out of the depths to break the surface, becoming clear once more. He felt a flash of alarm, wondering what Draco could have done to elicit such a change, but his sharpened wits almost immediately figured out what had happened.

Draco had fallen asleep.

He knew he was right; if he concentrated on the link, he could feel the soft waves of slumber, almost like a pulse, gentle and calming. It was like opening a window to a cool breeze on a stuffy day, and he marvelled at how easy it was to just bloody think now Draco had given in and gone to sleep.

He reached for his knife and fork, catching Ron's attention at his side, who turned around with a questioning look, his mouth full of chips.

"He's gone to sleep," Harry said quietly.

Ron swallowed his mouthful. "Does it feel better? The link?"

Harry nodded. "Yeah," he said gratefully. "Yeah, it feels fine."

"What about you?" Ron asked in an undertone. "You alright?"

"Tired," Harry replied with a short laugh, rubbing his forehead. "And I want to know what the bugger's hiding."

"Again," Ron said with a grin and Harry just shrugged, smiling apologetically. "Maybe you'll find out tonight, if he's sleeping?"

"Maybe," Harry said thoughtfully. "I don't know if I'll get his dreams every night. I mean, I don't remember dreaming every night."

"I had a dream Hermione bought me shoes that were made of books," Ron said. "She got upset because I wore them in the rain and the ink ran."

"You scare me some days," Harry informed him matter-of-factly, reaching for his goblet with his now lethargy-free arm.

"You defeated Voldy and are linked with Malfoy and I scare you?"

Harry laughed. "Fair point."

"I think you're the scarier one at the minute," Ron continued. "Making friends with Malfoy is a terrifying idea."

"It's not too bad," Harry said, pouring himself some juice. He wondered if Draco had accidentally fallen asleep somewhere, maybe in an armchair in the Slytherin common room, or purposefully gone to sleep in his own bed. Harry had always wondered if the Slytherin dorm would be like, being under the lake and all. Would there be windows like those in the common room? He couldn't imagine drifting off to sleep with Merpeople just outside the window panes, rather than owls.

"You think the Slytherin dorm is like ours?" he asked Ron as he picked up a chip, biting it in half and frowning thoughtfully.

Ron groaned. "Here we go. You're obsessed all over again."

Harry looked at him indignantly. "I am not!"

"You bloody well are. You'll be asking what type of pyjamas I think he wears next."

Harry paused. "Can you imagine Malfoy in pyjamas?"

Ron sighed, spearing a chip with his fork. "Imagining Malfoy in pyjamas is your weird thing, not mine."

"It's not a weird thing," Harry argued. "I was just wondering, is all. He always wears really expensive stuff. Can you get designer pyjamas?"

Ron lowered his fork and turned to face Harry properly, looking serious. "Mate, as your best friend, I feel obliged to tell you that yes, asking questions about Malfoy's designer pyjamas is a bit of weird thing."

"You bought up the pyjamas thing."

"As a bloody joke! You're the one banging on about it."

"Alright, alright, no more talk about Malfoy's pyjamas," Harry said, holding up his hands in surrender.

"Thank you," Ron said emphatically. "Can we talk about the Charms essay instead? Because I've done most of it, but I just don't know what to do for the last three inches. Hermione said something about colour change incantations but I can't see how that's got anything to with what we're doing, and she's eight inches over, anyway…"

Harry let Ron expound about his Charms essay, nodding along and occasionally offering suggestions, but his mind was elsewhere. Specifically, his mind was on Malfoy, and what he would look like in a pair of Harry's tattered old stripy pyjamas. He hid his grin and turned back to Ron, trying not to laugh as he mentally added a pair of fluffy slippers to his picture of Malfoy getting ready for bed.


 

Disappointment was the first thing Harry felt when he awoke the next morning; sleep had not delivered to him any answers about Draco. All he could remember dreaming about was trying to get his Charms essay finished, but all his quills kept breaking and his ink kept spilling and Hermione kept telling him that it should have been in yesterday, anyway. All that achieved was to add worry about school-work to his intrigue and mounting frustration over Draco.

He climbed out of bed and set about his morning routine, glad Ron wasn't required to forcibly drag him out of bed this time around. He felt more alert and awake than the previous morning, but he could tell that the link still wasn't one hundred percent back to normal. He could feel pulses of lethargy gently spilling from Malfoy's mind into his, and if he concentrated, he could feel the tired weight of the link as a block in his mind.

He frowned at his reflection thoughtfully as he brushed his teeth. Malfoy must have got at least a little sleep, because otherwise they both would have been dead on their feet. However, it didn't feel like Malfoy was well-rested and refreshed, and Harry could imagine him having a restless nights sleep, tossing and turning with worry. Harry remembered being told that Legilimency links were sometimes used by Aurors in the field; but what bloody good would that be if one of them was sleep deprived? He was having enough trouble casting a lumos, let alone attempting anything as complex as catching criminals.

He kept an eye out for Malfoy throughout breakfast but he didn't show in the time Harry was in the Hall. Feeling slightly put out, he left for Charms, trying to resist the urge to mentally ask Malfoy where he was. His resolve lasted around seven minutes and then crumbled as he slid into a seat next to Ron in the Charms room.

Malfoy?

What?

Are you okay? You missed breakfast.

There was a pause and Harry felt a thrill of alarm run through his mind and body – a wave of alarm that didn't belong to him but made him shiver nonetheless.

Oh fucking hell! I've overslept- tell Flitwick I'm on the way.

Harry laughed softly, shaking his head. Relax. It's only charms.

The reply was breathless and a little panicked. Harry had a mental image of Malfoy trying to get dressed as quickly as possible, tripping over his trousers and getting stuck in his shirt. I can't miss any more lessons! Tell him I'm on my way!

Okay, calm down. I'll tell him now.

Harry rolled his eyes and stood up, edging his way to the front of the classroom where Flitwick was busy restacking his books on the seat of his chair, ready for him to climb up onto to start the lesson.

"Professor?"

Flitwick turned around, looking up at Harry with a smile on his face. "Harry! Is there a problem?"

"Erm, no, it's not me…Draco's running late and he just wanted me to let you know he's on his way."

Flitwick's mouth opened in an 'O' of surprise, but he quickly recovered, nodding quickly. "Oh. Yes, of course."

Harry nodded and then turned back to the class, abruptly stopping as he saw Seamus, Dean and Ron all staring at him. He forced his feet to continue to move, and sat back down, feeling uncomfortable all of a sudden.

"What?" he asked, very aware of all the eyes that were fixed on him.

Ron stared at him. "You're kidding right?"

Harry raised his eyebrows, starting to get annoyed. "What? Kidding about what?"

"Haven't you got no idea what you just said?" Seamus asked from Ron's other side, looking at Harry eagerly.

Harry stared back, nonplussed. "I told Flitwick that Malfoy would be late."

Ron shook his head, eyes still fixed on Harry. "You said Draco would be late."

Harry opened his mouth indignantly to say that no he certainly had not just called Malfoy by his given name, when he realised that yes, he actually had. Shit.

"Oh," he said feebly, after a long pause. "Suppose I did. It's not a big deal."

Ron shook his head as he reached forwards to grab his bag, pulling it towards him across the table and flipping it open and rummaging around for a quill. "It's bloody weird."

"Nah," Harry said a little desperately, trying to bluster through with confidence, whilst cursing himself internally. Fucking Draco, really? "Just part of the truce, you know?"

Ron paused, frowning thoughtfully. "Draco," he said experimentally, and then wrinkled his nose, shaking his head. "No, sorry, it's weird."

"Weird is one word for it," Seamus said, a sly hint to his voice, his hand disappearing into the pocket of his robes to pull out his blue notebook. "Odds on-"

Harry didn't know what Seamus was about to make odds on, but he was ready to bet it was something along the lines of Harry being queer and in love with Malfoy. Accordingly, he lunged across Ron towards Seamus and grabbed the book, trying to wrench it out of Seamus's hands. "Fuck off! Give that here!"

"Oi! Get off you madman!"

"Give it!"

"What on Earth are you doing?"

Harry immediately let go of Seamus and turned to see Hermione stood in front of them, looking exasperated, as if she were dealing with two toddlers who hadn't yet learnt to share. Her arms were full of books, and Harry guessed she had been to the library in the teensy window of time she'd had between breakfast and Charms. Seamus pulled the notebook protectively up to his chest, smoothing its now crumpled cover.

"Harry's gone mad! Can't take a joke anymore!"

Ron leant forwards again, now he was able to sit up straight without Seamus and Harry knocking him off his chair. "Harry called Malfoy Draco," he chipped in helpfully, and Harry groaned, slumping forwards over the desk, wishing he could vanish.

"You did?" Hermione asked, sounding intrigued. Thankfully, Flitwick chose that moment to finally clamber atop his stack of books and call for quiet, so Hermione's analysis and Seamus's jokes were both called to an abrupt halt.

Harry lifted his head off the table, determinedly avoiding eye contact with anyone. He knew Ron was shooting him furtive glances every now and again but didn't look back. He wasn't quite comfortable even thinking about just how, when and why Malfoy had become Draco, and he definitely didn't want to discuss it.

Am I in trouble? I'll be there in five minutes-

You're fine, calm down, Harry interrupted Draco tiredly. I told him you were on the way and it's fine.

Positive?

Yes. Take your time.

Thank you.

Harry felt himself smile. It was strange really, how every little thank you from Draco seemed to be worth ten times more than anyone else thanking him for something. He supposed it was because Draco had rarely ever said thank you to him. The only time he could recall was the mumble he'd received when Draco had tried to thank him for saving his life. People were constantly thanking him for saving the world and all, and the novelty had worn off pretty quickly, so to receive a genuine thank you from someone over something he'd actually wanted to do was quite nice.

Ten minutes later, he heard the sound of the door creaking as it opened. He looked up sharply to see Draco edging into the room, looking embarrassed and apologetic. Flitwick nodded without stopping his explanation into Emotional Charm Displacement Theory, and Harry watched as Draco slid into the closet free seat, looking relieved.

See? Not a problem.

Draco's mouth twitched in a smile as he opened his bag, pulling books out.

Did I miss anything?

A thrilling revisit to the theory behind emotional transportation charms, Harry told him.

There was a short pause. Maybe you should pay attention, might help you with that essay you're panicking about.

Harry was stumped for a moment, and then he realised what Draco was referring to: the inane dream he'd had about the bloody essay.

You saw my dream?

He shot Draco a sideways glance but Draco was busy looking at Flitwick, the very model of a diligent student.

Yes. I particularly liked how shrill Granger was. Made me laugh.

Harry hid a guilty grin. Behave.

I am behaving.

Badly.

He heard a chuckle in his mind. Touché. Now shut it, scarhead, let me listen.

Yes sir.

Knowing that he probably did need some help to get that essay finished, Harry tried to turn his focus to Flitwick. However, he was distracted with the thought that maybe, all things considered, Malfoy becoming Draco wasn't really that bad.


 

"Seamus, I'd really love to debate on the odds of Smith being punched in the face next game, but I've got to finish this."

Seamus laughed, rocking back in his chair. "How much you got left to do?"

"Five inches," Harry sighed. "And it's boring."

"Sack it off," Seamus suggested. "You're the almighty Potter, Flitwick won't care."

"Hermione will," Harry said pointedly. "I'm not allowed back in the common room until I've done it."

Seamus chuckled, letting his chair fall back onto all four legs with a bang, and making the fourth years sat at the next table glare at them. "Banished to the library eh? How come Ron's not suffered a similar fate?"

"Because he's done the bloody essay," Harry grumbled.

Seamus looked dismayed. "We've been beaten to a deadline by Weasley? Fuck."

"Yeah, that's more upsetting than letting down Hermione and Flitwick."

"You're telling me."

They lapsed into silence as Seamus grudgingly pulled a book towards him and Harry tried to reread his last paragraph and determine just exactly what point he'd been trying to make. NEWT's were bloody hard work. He was only determined to actually get some so no-one could accuse him of using his fame to get himself a job. But at times like this, when he'd left a complicated essay to the last minute – again – he sometimes felt a teensy bit like flipping everyone two fingers and taking one of the offers he'd already had.

Boo. Finished charms yet?

Harry jerked his head up and turned around in his chair to see Draco slipping into a seat at a desk several rows behind him. Draco gave him a small, almost imperceptible wave and then set about unpacking his bag.

No, nearly there though. What're you doing?

Potions.

Harry didn't reply. He slowly turned back around in his chair to see Seamus looking expectantly at him. "Have you got like a Malfoy-radar?" he whispered, even though Draco probably couldn't hear them from where he was, anyway.

Harry shook his head. "He said hello," he replied, tapping his temple.

"You two seem to be getting pretty close," Seamus said, the innocent tone not fooling Harry in the slightest. He quickly glanced behind him, and saw Draco was already immersed in reading, his brow furrowed in concentration and his quill held ready in his hand.

"Shut up," Harry said as he turned back to Seamus. "He's being bearable at the moment, last thing I need is him finding out you're making gay jokes about us."

"He might like it."

"Seamus."

"Sorry," Seamus said. "I'll behave, promise."

"Badly," Harry muttered, immediately recalling the similar conversation he and Draco had had in Charms that morning.

"Probably."

"Look," Harry said in an undertone. "I don't mind the jokes, not really. I just don't want anything to piss him off. He's honestly okay now we're mates and I don't want to mess that up."

Seamus eyed him carefully. "You'd class him as a mate?"

Harry glanced over his shoulder again just to check Draco was still focused on his book.

"Yeah," he said. "This morning he asked me to tell Flitwick he was running late, and it was just like a friendly thing, you know?"

Seamus nodded. "But what happens when the link gets taken away? Can you talk face to face?"

"A bit," Harry conceded. He'd really not given much thought to how well they'd communicate when the link was removed. If anything, he'd forgotten that the link wasn't permanent. Now the chaos with the uncontrollable thoughts had calmed down, it really wasn't so bad. In fact, it was maybe proving to be a good thing now that he and Draco were being civil.

"Don't think I could do it," Seamus said contemplatively.

"Not much choice," Harry said ruefully. "But it's not that bad anymore. He's still right weird sometimes, but he's not really horrible anymore. Not now I'm being nice."

"Ah, I see," Seamus said knowingly. "One of those poor traumatised souls who was a right twat because the world was mean to him?"

Harry snorted with laughter. "Maybe."

"Has he told you why he did it?" Seamus suddenly asked, his voice low.

Harry swallowed. He knew exactly what Seamus was talking about. "No."

Seamus nodded and turned back to his book. Harry was relieved he'd let it go; he didn't think he'd dare ask Draco about that night he let the Death Eaters into Hogwarts. He wasn't sure he'd dare ask Draco about anything like that to be honest, lest he hear something he didn't want to know. He didn't want Draco to say he was glad he'd done it, didn't want to know that Draco was still as selfish and corrupt as they'd first imagined.

He forced himself to write down a conclusion for his Charms work and then threw his quill down. It wasn't his best work, but it would have to do. He debated going back to the common room, but didn't want to go through the torture of having Hermione read what he'd written, only to frown and say "hmm," as she reached the end.

He reached for his bag and pulled out the Mindworks book, deciding to stay in the peace and quiet of the library for a while. And besides, maybe Draco would come over for a chat when he'd finished his Potions work. Harry surreptitiously turned his chair so he was side-on to the desk, so he could see Draco out of the corner of his eye rather than having his back to him.

Chapter thirteen was proving to be most enlightening, and Harry quickly found himself absorbed. Fascinated, he re-read how he and Draco would potentially be able to share images and visuals with one another, but there was a particular paragraph that caught his eye.

If one participant is sleeping or incapacitated, for example, by way of mild stunning, the partner may still be able to access information from the others mind. This would be similar in process and function to Legilimency, however, because of the established link no eye contact will be required. Patience and relaxation are necessary in order for the partner to seek along the link and slowly draw out visuals from the others mind. Is it as if both minds are in the relaxed state of sleep, so similar in theory to sharing dreams. Practice as such would not be possible with two awake participants, due to the level of Occlumency the mind will have developed to ensure the link were to be stable enough to even attempt such a feat.

Harry pondered over the paragraph for a while. He could see the advantages of such a trick for Aurors; if one was found stunned maybe some art of their subconscious could offer clues to their partner as to what had gone awry. He itched to try it, to see if the link between him and Draco was strong enough for them to shae images whilst they were awake.

He lifted his eyes and a slow grin overtook his features; it seemed that Draco's night-time shenanigans had finally caught up with him. He was in his chair, his elbow on the table and his head resting on his fist. His eyes had fluttered shut and his quill was lax in his hand, and in was all too clear that two nights of little sleep were finally taking its toll.

The girls on the tables between Draco and Harry were pointing and giggling at Draco but Harry ignored them. He turned back to his book but suddenly a thought seized him and he paused, slowly turning back to look at Draco. Was he really asleep? Or was he just dozing? Would it even matter? Before he'd really thought about it, or considered the consequences, Harry carefully turned down the corner of the page he'd been reading and put the Mindworks book aside. He looked back at Draco, concentrating hard.

He found the window in his own mind and slowly, tentatively felt along the link. For a few minutes nothing happened, and he huffed in frustration. He shifted in his chair again and took a deep calming breath. He tried again, pushing a little bit harder on the window in his mind, imagining the corresponding window in Draco's mind-

A flicker of an image crossed over his mind; a hand pressed against a door, maybe?

Heart hammering wildly, Harry tried again and was almost immediately rewarded; another image flickered uncertainly in his mind. The hand again, a pale hand, and then there was another hand, fingers closing around a bony wrist.

What the hell? What was Draco dreaming about? Harry frowned but didn't take his eyes of off Draco. Holding his breath, he relaxed his mind and waited, and this time the images came quickly and fluidly.

A shoulder, and the body it belonged to turned, and Harry saw it was Draco, being pushed up against the door Harry had previously seen. The hands flickered across Harry's mind again, and then Draco's face was back. His mouth was moving to say something Harry didn't hear, and then the whole image stuttered and then drew out so Harry could see the whole picture. He saw Draco from head to toe, his clothing askew and his hair a mess, being pinned against the door by another boy. Another boy who was leaning in to capture Draco's mouth in a kiss, his hands on Draco's shoulders and one of his thighs sliding between Draco's legs-

Harry gasped out loud in shock and reflexively jerked backwards. He felt his mind tear itself away from Draco's as the sharp movement made the chair he was on teeter dangerously on two legs. Before he could collect himself, it tipped backwards, sending him sprawling to the floor with a crash.

People around him gasped and laughed but he didn't care; his eyes wildy sought out Draco, locking on him almost instantly.

He was wide awake and standing up, his own chair knocked to the floor behind him. The fingers of one hand were pressed to his temple and he was trembling, not in anger, but something that looked like pure terror.

"Malfoy-"

Draco bolted. He turned heel and ran out of the library, not even stopping to collect his things, leaving Harry sprawled on the floor, still in shock. He let Seamus haul him to his feet but barely heard a word he was saying; his mind was fixated on what he'd just seen, the secret he'd just stolen from Draco.

Well, that certainly complicated things.

Chapter Text

Sitting on the edge of his bed, Draco sat perfectly still, staring unseeingly at the window in the Slytherin dormitory that was directly opposite the foot of his bed. The water beyond the window pane was dark, murky and calm, and the reeds visible at the bottom of the stone window frame were almost perfectly still, eerily suspended in the water, tendrils reaching out to nothingness.

Draco felt the same; mentally suspended in nothingness. After his initial shock, terror and subsequent flight from the library and away from Potter, his mind had shut down and gone blank. He didn't know what to do, what to think about, how to feel. He just wanted to stay perfectly still, hoping the world would continue to turn and pass him by, without him having to deal with what had just happened.

Malfoy, talk to me.

He blinked, ignoring the pleading voice in his head. Potter had been requesting to talk to him ever since Draco had run away, every sentence becoming more agitated and frustrated. Draco had ignored him every time, the panic gripping his heart tightening like a vice with every word from Harry.

He wasn't angry.

He was terrified.

He hadn't meant to doze off, hadn't meant to have of dream of that sort in the middle of the fucking library, with Potter nearby. If he was at all angry, he was angry at himself for putting himself in that situation. He knew Potter had access to his dreams. Fuck, he supposed that it was inevitably anyway; Potter probably would have seen his dream even if he'd been the other side of the castle.

Come on. You've left your stuff, at least come and get it.

Shame and fear crawled their way up Draco's spine and he swallowed thickly. No way was he going to be going back to the library to have Potter challenge him about what he'd just seen. No way was he going to let Finnegan take the piss out of him, to go back whilst everyone laughed at him.

His eyes burned and he rubbed at them crossly. He didn't want to cry over this, it was just so stupid. He couldn't help it, and Merlin knew he'd tried. He made an effort to move and kicked his shoes off, letting them fall to the floor with despondent thuds, and then turned around to crawl onto his bed. He curled up in the centre on his side, reaching up to pull a pillow down under his head.

He wasn't going cry. He wasn't. He was eighteen and had survived a war, so wasn't going to cry about something as trivial as Potter finding out that he was- that he- well, that he wasn't normal.

"Fuck," he whispered, his voice thick and catching in his throat. He'd done so well to keep this hidden from everyone but his closest friends, tried so hard to be the Malfoy heir he should have been. Being the dutiful heir didn't involve being- being the way he was. Or at least, didn't involve the rest of the world finding out that he'd been pretending all this time.

And now Potter knew. And Potter would make fun of him and scorn him and call him names and laugh at him and refuse to be his friend anymore.

Draco clenched his eyes tightly shut and curled his body up tighter, curling his hands into fists beneath his chin.

Malfoy, please talk to me.

He didn't move.


 

The door to the Gryffindor dormitory crashed open, banging against the stone wall behind it. Ron looked up, startled, as Harry stumbled through the door, tripping up the last step, his arms laden with belongings.

"Where the hell have you been?" he asked, dropping Flying With The Cannons. "And why have you got two bags?"

"Malfoy's," Harry panted, dropping both bags and the rest of the things onto his bed.

Ron raised his eyebrows. "Going to tell me why you're stealing Malfoy's things?"

"He left them in the library," Harry said breathlessly, waving his hand to try and brush away the questions. "He's-"

"He left all his stuff?" Ron asked, bewildered. "Is that his scarf?"

"Yes, but Ron-"

"Why would he just-"

"Ron, he's gay."

Harry hadn't mean to blurt it out in such a manner, honestly, but he couldn't help himself. It had been bouncing around his mind since he'd seen Draco's dream and he just couldn't keep it inside any longer. It was like a lit firework, a lit firework that had to go off at some point, apparently making him crazy in the process. He watched as Ron's eyebrows flew up and his mouth fell open. "He's gay?" Ron finally asked, looking gobsmacked. "Really gay? How do you know?"

"He fell asleep," Harry explained, sitting on his bed next to the pile of belongings. Distracted, he picked up Draco's silver and green scarf, twisting it in his hands. "He was dreaming-"

"Oh god, what did you see?" Ron asked, looking alarmed.

"Just him- he was kissing someone. A boy," Harry said, clearing his throat which seemed to have become awfully tight all of a sudden. A flicker of guilt ran through him, but it wasn't enough to make him admit that he'd been deliberately prying into Malfoy's dreams. He was still cross with himself that he'd not stopped to bloody think what he was doing, before messing around with the link. He'd just been so caught up in the possibilities that he hadn't stopped to consider the ramifications.

Ron shook his head, whistling beneath his teeth. "Wow. Seamus owes me so much money."

"No!" Harry almost shouted before he could stop himself, his hands clenching around the scarf. "You can't tell anyone."

"Why not?" Ron asked, looking disappointed.

"I'm not even meant to know," Harry said emphatically. "There's got to be a reason why he doesn't want me or anyone to know."

Ron eyed him carefully for a moment. Harry barely noticed; his eyes were still on the soft green wool between his fingers. He couldn't stop thinking about it, the way Draco had been pushed up against the door, the small smile that had curved his lips before the other boy had claimed them- who even was that boy? Was he a dream, or a memory? Would it feel different to kiss another bloke? He imaged it must; all hard angles and stubble and short hair beneath your fingers-

"Harry?"

He jerked his head up at the sound of Ron's tentative voice. "Sorry, what?"

"Are you alright?"

He sighed, dropping the scarf to his knee so he could rub his temples. "I – yeah. Yeah, course I am. It's not something to be not okay about really, is it? It shouldn't bother anyone. It doesn't bother me."

"You look like it's bothering you," Ron said with a small frown.

"I just don't know," Harry said helplessly, trying to concentrate and stop thinking about what he'd seen. "Why didn't we know?"

"Well everyone thought he was with Parkinson, right?" Ron suggested. "And we don't really dig about in the personal lives of Slytherins, you know?"

Harry snorted tiredly. "Too right."

"Does he know you know?"

Harry nodded. "He woke up and freaked out. Ran away without his stuff, that's why I've got it."

Ron got up and wandered over, looking at Malfoy's bag curiously. "Have you tried talking to him? With the link I mean?"

"Yeah. He won't reply," Harry said half-heartedly. "And don't go through his bag."

Ron halted, looking disappointed. "Ah, come on. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity, to get some inside dirt on a Slytherin-"

"We've already got inside dirt on him. And anyway, he's probably hexed it so if anyone but him goes in it'll bite them."

Ron immediately drew back, looking alarmed and holding his fingers protectively up to his chest. "Good point. Wouldn't put it past him."

Harry didn't reply. He didn't honestly think that Draco had hexed his own bag, but for some unfathomable reason he didn't want Ron going through it. It seemed wrong, like it was invading Draco's privacy. Which was a completely ridiculous and hypocritical thing for him to think, considering what he'd done that evening.

"This just makes things so much more complicated," Harry said, scrubbing his face with his hands.

"If nobody knows except us mate, I don't see why," Ron said slowly as he sat back down on his own bed, swinging his feet. "You're not going to be a prick to him about it, are you?"

Harry frowned. "No. Why would I?"

Ron shrugged. "Some people don't like it."

"I'll bet his dad didn't," Harry said and Ron nodded in agreement.

"Maybe that's why he didn't want anyone to know?"

Harry gave him a pointed look. "His dad's dead, Ron."

Ron rolled his eyes. "I know that. But maybe he had to pretend to be straight when he was alive, and he's not gotten out of the habit."

Harry's eyes widened as he remembered something from what seemed like years ago. 'Whatever your view on the situation, he loved his Father and will still be very aware of what Lucius would think of him. It's taking him a while to get out of the habit, and to realise that he's his own man now…'

"Bloody hell, I think you might be right," Harry said and Ron shot him a grin.

"Happens more often than people think."

Harry huffed in frustration, pushing the scarf off of his knee and onto the bed next to him. "Why does he care so much what everyone thinks? Yeah, I get why he wouldn't want his dad to know, if he was pushing for an heir for the Malfoy line or whatever, but does he really think everyone else will care that he's- he's, you know."

"Gay?" Ron offered, an eyebrow raised. "You can say it."

"I know," Harry said, annoyed, more so than he probably should be. "It's just strange. Everyone kept joking about it."

"Yeah...Seamus would flip if he knew. I think his notebook would combust with excitement," Ron said a little wistfully.

"You actually bet on Malfoy being gay?" Harry asked, falling backwards onto his bed, half crushing his bag in the process. He groaned, thinking of his Charms essay and half-heartedly tugged his bag out from underneath him.

Ron made a non-committal sound. "We bet on everything."

Harry sighed, draping an arm across his eyes. "I so should have taken that 1000-1 bet about me going out with Malfoy. I would have earned a killing."

There was a pause, and then Ron spoke, sounding uncertain. "Erm, mate…?"

"What?" Harry lifted his head up, craning his neck to see Ron looking at him, looking torn between concern and possibly laughter.

"Nothing," Ron said after a beat, shaking his head and pulling his feet up onto his bed. "Doesn't matter."

Harry shrugged and dropped his head back onto the mattress, breathing out deeply. He was knackered. Today had been a long day.


 

Harry couldn't sleep. He was sure Draco couldn't either.

It was gone midnight and the dormitory was quiet, save for Nevilles snuffles and Ron's snores. The room was dark and Harry wanted nothing more than to get some rest, but he just couldn't. He couldn't stop thinking about what he'd seen.

He had tried to put it out of his mind, he really had. It was just kissing, right? So why was he obsessing over it like a twelve year old? All he'd seen was a five second glimpse and now he just couldn't think about anything else.

He wondered what a bloke would taste like. Would you be able to tell the difference, just by taste? Or would they kiss differently? Ginny kissed with passion, there was no doubt about it, but the way that boy had kissed Draco was something else altogether. More forceful, possessive in a way that made Harry feel strange.

Asking Draco about it wasn't an option, no matter how much he desperately wanted to. He wanted to know who the boy had been, why he'd been kissing Draco, what it had been like. He also wanted to tell Draco it didn't matter to him, wouldn't make him think any less of him, but he was afraid that Draco would flip out at him for prying into his mind. Truth be told, he wasn't completely sure Draco knew that Harry had purposefully gone into his thoughts. He had expected threats and violence and shouting as a result of his mistake, but all Draco had done was flee.

Blokes had less curves. They'd feel different against you, right? He experimentally ran his hands down his own torso, from collarbones to navel, wondering what it would feel like to be pressed against flat planes, instead of breasts. And there was how boys would smell, too. That had to be different. Harry could recognise Ginny's floral scent a mile off, and even Hermione's perfume sometimes. But blokes would be completely different, he supposed.

He paused, stilling in his bed as a thought occurred to him. He laid perfectly still for a moment, and then slowly reached under his pillow, his hand closing on green and silver wool. He gradually pulled it out and then balled it into his hands. He looked at it in the gloom, the stripes of colour barely distinguishable, and then slowly, tentatively bought it up to his face. He breathed in deeply and had to shut his eyes. The smell of boy, of Draco, was overwhelming. So different to Ginny or any other girls he'd encountered. It was earthier, deeper, and laced with whatever expensive cologne Draco probably wore. It was oddly familiar, yet completely strange, and somehow comforting because of it.

Opening his eyes in the dark, he blinked slowly. He moved the scarf away from his face and tucked it under his chin, and suddenly wished that he was asleep so he didn't have to think anymore. He didn't understand, and at that moment he wasn't sure he ever would.


 

"Harry, you've left Malfoy's bag."

Harry paused in the doorway of the dormitory, pulling his own bag over his shoulder. "Not taking it. Come on, I want breakfast."

"You're going to leave it here?" Ron asked, confused.

"Yes," Harry said. "He can have it back when he asks me for it."

"Why not just give it to one of his friends?" Neville asked from next to Ron, looking curiously between Harry and the bag that sat against Harry's pillows.

Harry hesitated. "Because I want to talk to him," he finally said, thankful Dean and Seamus had already left. "He's upset about something and won't talk to me."

"Oh," Neville said. "That's a shame, I thought you two were getting on."

"We are, just a momentary blip," Harry said.

"Blackmailing him with his bag probably isn't the best plan you've ever had," Ron said, scratching his head.

"It's the only plan I've got," Harry said impatiently. "And he needs his bag back, it's got his Potions essay in."

"What if one of the other Slytherins asks for it?"

"I say no," Harry replied promptly. "I told him that," he continued, tapping his temple. "I told him this morning that if he wanted his bag back he'd stop being such a wuss and come and get it himself, and I wouldn't give it to anyone else."

"I think you're barking," Ron said with a shake of his head.

"Linked to Malfoy, I'm allowed to be," Harry called over his shoulder as he turned to go down the stairs. He heard Neville and Ron laugh behind him and shook his head with a smile. He wanted to get down to the Great Hall as quickly as possible to see if Malfoy would show; he knew Draco would be torn between hiding from him some more and not wanting to miss any more lessons.

He'd barely taken a step down the stairs when he came nose to nose with someone he wasn't expecting, coming up the stairs the other way; Hermione.

"Fucking hell, Hermione!"

"Go on, move," she said impatiently, pointing up the stairs back towards the dormitory. "I'm not sitting around downstairs waiting for you two to get ready. Seamus and Dean left ages ago. I swear if Ron is finishing the reading for Transfiguration this morning-"

"I've bloody done it! Nice to hear that you've got faith in me," Ron's voice called grumpily from up through the open doorway. Harry couldn't help but laugh, obediently backing up the stairs and through the doorway.

"I do have faith in you," Hermione said impatiently as she followed Harry into the dormitory. "I just- whose bag is that?"

She looked from Harry to his bed, and then back to his side where his own schoolbag was resting against his hip.

"Erm, Malfoy's?" he said, scratching the back of his head and unsure as to why it came out like a question.

"Am I missing something here?" Hermione asked suspiciously.

Harry shrugged, feeling sheepish. What with everything going on, he'd completely forgotten about telling Hermione about what had happened yesterday. He glanced to the leather bag on his bed – so much nicer than his own tattered thing – and then to the others, eyes flicking awkwardly past Neville.

There was a pause and then Neville came to Harry's rescue, nodding brightly and then clapping Ron on the shoulder. "I'll see you guys down there," he said. "I'm starving anyway."

"Cheers Neville," Harry said gratefully and Neville smiled quickly before walking off, clattering down the stairs and humming to himself.

"So, Malfoy's bag?" Hermione prompted.

"Er-" Harry began, suddenly stumped. What was he meant to be telling her? About his bag-blackmail plan, or the Malfoy being gay part, or the bit about how he'd discovered that Draco's scarf smelt nice? Actually, maybe just the first two, he thought distractedly, frowning slightly. He didn't really want anyone to know that he'd somehow fallen asleep hugging Draco's scarf-

"Want me to fill in?" Ron asked, his lips twitching.

"Yes please," Harry said fervently, running his fingers through his hair.

"Alright," Ron said brightly. "Malfoy's gay, Harry found out, Malfoy's hiding from him and Harry won't give his stuff back until he comes to get it. And I had nothing to do with all of the above."

Hermione blinked at Harry who shifted from foot to foot. It did kind of sound a bit insane when put in such blunt terms.

"Malfoy is definitely gay?" she finally asked.

Harry nodded. "Ninety-nine per cent sure."

"And how do you feel about that?" she asked slowly.

Harry frowned. "Fine, why? How should I feel about it?"

Hermione shrugged. "I don't know. Sometimes little things are huge deals for you, and then sometimes you kind of seem to miss the point."

Harry stared at her, stumped. "Missing the point about what?"

"Oh, nothing, I just meant generally, nothing specific," she said, a bit too quickly for Harry's liking. "It's all just a bit confusing really. But anyway, how did you find out that Draco's gay? Did he tell you?"

"Not likely," Harry snorted. "I caught a dream of him getting together with some bloke."

"Really?" Hermione asked, sounding scandalised, a blush covering her cheekbones. "Oh, gosh-"

"Relax, they were only kissing," Harry said, grinning as Hermione blushed even more.

"Well yes, obviously," she said a little crossly. "Who was it anyway?"

Harry shrugged. "No-one I recognised. Could have just been a dream though, right?"

"So it wasn't you?" Ron chipped in slyly.

Harry's jaw dropped, and he turned to exclaim indignantly at Ron. "No it was not me!"

Ron shrugged. "I always said I reckon that Malfoy fancies you. Explains why he was always such a bitch to you."

It was Harry's turn to flush. "You- no- just shut up," he managed, turning away and stalking off, leaving Ron laughing behind him.

"Mate, I'm only kidding," he laughed, he and Hermione following him out of the dormitory.

Harry just huffed and ignored him, shoving his hands in his pockets. Malfoy didn't fancy him, that was just ridiculous. Didn't explain a bloody thing. They were just two ex-enemies who didn't fancy each other, not at all, so why did everyone keep saying stuff like that?


 

Stop being stupid and come to Transfiguration.

Harry checked his watch and scowled. Malfoy had around thirty seconds to appear or he'd be late for Transfiguration and then McGonagall would murder him, link-issues and gay-dilemma's notwithstanding. He'd spent as long as possible in the Great Hall but Nott and Parkinson had arrived without Malfoy, and without even so much as looking at Harry which annoyed him even more.

Malfoy, please. Come on.

Again, nothing. Fuck it was starting to get frustrating. Malfoy had never ignored him; it was always arguments and snide comments and hexes. He even wished that Malfoy was furious with him, just so he'd hear from him. He never expected it to happen, but there it was: after having a constant companion for weeks, he missed Draco's voice.

Why was this such a big deal? It was ridiculous, Harry thought crossly. He wouldn't be this stupid if anything like this had happened to him; if someone had accidentally found out he was gay, he wouldn't throw a childish tantrum and refuse to see everyone, he'd just get on with it and tell anyone who had a problem to fuck off.

It must be hard, caring so much about what everyone else thought.

McGonagall entered the room and the chatter within immediately died down. Harry felt his heart sink, and tried one last time to get Malfoy to talk to him.

Draco, please. Talk to me.

He didn't get a response.


 

Harry chucked his bag onto his bed, glaring at the bag that was already there, sitting innocuously beside his pillows. His plan had failed miserably; apparently Malfoy was more concerned about Harry knowing he was a poofter than failing his NEWT's. Which was ridiculous, because firstly Malfoy needed everything he could get if he stood a chance of getting a job once he left school, and secondly Harry didn't care about Malfoy being gay. Well, he didn't care in a bad way, anyway. He was interested, sure, but he didn't think of it as a negative.

Harry had been so sure that someone would have come to him asking for Malfoy's stuff. Parkinson or Nott maybe, but no-one had said anything. He glared at the bag some more and spitefully contemplated going through it. Maybe he'd stumble upon a huge cliché like Malfoy's diary, and he could read that and work out what was going on in that infuriating blond head.

He resisted the urge and instead sat up against his headboard, shoving Malfoy's bag over and automatically delving under his pillow for the scarf. He sighed, wrapping it around his hands and wishing that it could tell him more about its owner.

"Has he ever kissed a bloke whilst wearing you, hmm?" he asked out loud and then snorted with laughter. He really was going mad if he was talking to a scarf.

There was a thud and a crash and he jumped a mile, jerking back and knocking his head against the headboard. He untangled one hand from the scarf and rubbed the back of his head, his heart beating wildly. The source of the noise was clear; the dormitory door banging open against the wall behind as someone had flung it open.

"Sorry," Ginny said as she came in, wincing. "Forgot that door does that."

"Christ, Gin, warn a bloke," Harry said, rubbing his chest. He was somehow irrationally disappointed; his mind had jumped to a scenario where Draco had stormed up to talk to him, to demand his stuff back, then had broke down and admitted everything, sitting down beside Harry to talk to him-

"Who the hell's is that?" Ginny asked, startling him out of his thoughts.

"What?" he asked, and then his brain caught up. He looked down at the scarf still wrapped around one of his hands. Whoops. "Oh, it's-"

"Malfoy's," she said flatly. "It's Malfoy's, isn't it?"

"Yeah, he left it in the library yesterday," Harry said, wishing that she would go away, wishing that she would just vanish for a while, so he didn't have to deal with this as well as trying to deal with Malfoy.

"So why didn't you give it back?" she asked, coming over to sit next to his outstretched legs, pushing his bag out the way.

"He hasn't been about today," Harry said and she frowned.

"Why not give it to one of his friends?"

Harry shrugged. "Wanted to talk to him."

Ginny's posture stiffened. "Right."

"You alright, anyway?" Harry asked her, trying to steer the conversation away from Malfoy. He realised he was still holding the scarf and dropped it on the bed next to him.

"Yeah, sorry I haven't seen you lately," she said, not looking at him. "Had a lot on."

"Yeah, me too," he muttered. Where was Ron when he bloody needed him? God, he'd barge in at any available opportunity before, and now he was nowhere in sight. Probably off trying to get in Hermione's knickers, Harry thought uncharitably. Or trying to get her to do his bloody Potions work.

"Want to come down to dinner?" Ginny asked, and she slid closer, putting a hand on his knee.

Harry froze. As she moved closer he caught the scent of her floral perfume, and all he could think about was pressing Malfoy's scarf to his face so he could smell that instead. He jerked away before he could help himself and then stopped, swallowing thickly, his weight braced on his hands either side of him and his shoulders tight.

"What the hell?" Ginny asked in disbelief, holding her hand up away from Harry as if he'd burnt her.

"Sorry-" he said helplessly.

"What's wrong with you?" she asked.

"Me?" he asked, anger suddenly flaring through him. "What's wrong with me?"

"Yes!" she said, responding equally as angrily. "You're blowing hot and cold-"

"I've had a lot to deal with!" he said, climbing off his bed and standing up, folding his arms across his chest. "You're the one who apparently can't deal with the link, even if it's nothing to do with you-"

"It's everyone's problem-" she argued, standing up the other side of his bed and clenching her fists by her sides.

"No its not! It's mine and Draco's problem, and if you lot can't push off and deal with it then-"

"Draco?" she interrupted in disbelief. "He's Draco now, is he?"

"So what if he is?" Harry snapped, well and truly at the end of his tether. He didn't understand what was going on with anyone, not even himself, so how on Earth was he meant to keep everyone else happy? Unfortunately, it seemed like Ginny was running out of patience, too.

"You're acting like you think he's more important than me-"

"Yeah well, maybe I do," Harry shouted. "At least he's stopped giving me a hard time about every fucking thing. At least he's not running off with his ex every minute of the bloody day-"

"I-" Ginny began but she faltered. Harry's eyes widened slightly. The remark about Dean had been a cheap shot and a guess at best, but somehow he'd hit the nail on the head.

"Just go," Harry said wearily, sitting back down on his bed and grabbing the scarf again. "Go and find Dean. I'm sure he's waiting somewhere."

Ginny stared at him for a moment and then spoke, her voice tight. "I only talk to Dean because he can talk about other things than Malfoy. Everything that comes out of your mouth at the minute revolves around Malfoy."

"Whatever," Harry shrugged, ignoring her and staring at the scarf.

"Do you fancy him? Is that it?" Ginny snapped.

Harry nearly swallowed his tongue, sitting up straight. "What?"

"You're sat there looking at his scarf like it's the most precious thing you own-"

"Ginny, get out," Harry said fiercely, glaring at her. "Get out."

"No denial, I see," she snapped and then turned on her heel, storming back down the stairs.

Harry scrambled up off the bed, nearly tripping over in the process. He ran to the door, swinging on the stone frame to keep himself upright. "I do not fucking fancy Malfoy!" he bellowed down the stairs after Ginny, and heard an indistinguishable but angry shout thrown back at him.

"Fuck off!" he shouted for good measure, and then stormed back to his bed, flinging himself on it. He had Draco's scarf back in his hands before he knew it, and irritably threw it away from him as he realised what he'd done. He breathed in and out a few times, and then gave in. Feeling unaccountably guilty, he reached out and picked up Draco's scarf. It had done nothing wrong, after all.

What was happening to him? Why did he suddenly hate Ginny being anywhere near him? Why did Malfoy dominate his every waking thought? And why could he not get that damn scarf away from him?

He breathed in deeply, Draco's scarf pressed to his nose, and suddenly found that he didn't care.

Chapter Text

"Draco, you have to go to lessons today. Or at least go and get your stuff back from Potter."

"No," Draco replied immediately, sounding bored, his eyes fixed on his Potions textbook. He was lying back on his bed, still dressed in his pyjamas, with no intention of going anywhere that day except maybe to the bathroom.

"It's been three days. Come on, you've had the weekend to calm down-"

"I don't want to," he cut across Theo before he could expound on his million reasons as to why Draco should go and talk to Potter. He wasn't going to talk to Potter, and that was that.

"You know you shouldn't miss Defence," Theo tried half-heartedly, looking down as he tied his tie, fingers moving slowly.

"I heard you yesterday, now drop it," Draco said irritably, anger immediately bubbling up inside of his chest. He got up off his bed, tossing his book aside, and stalked towards the bathroom and away from the questions. He was cross at Theo for going on at him and making him snap; Theo knew damn well what would happen if he continued to harp on about the situation, and Draco disliked feeling guilty for snapping at his friend even if it was Theo's fault.

"I think he has a point," came a bored sounding voice as soon as he entered the bathroom.

Draco groaned, his steps faltering as he realised he bathroom would provide no safe haven for his shredded nerves. "Christ. Not you, too."

Blaise raised an eyebrow as he looked at his face in the mirror, magical razor held in hand. "I think he's being very patient with you. I'd have told you that you're being stupid a long while ago."

"I am not being stupid," Draco insisted, running his hands through his hair and then wrinkling nose in distaste. Merlin, he needed a shower. "Potter still wants to talk to me, and I bet he's just waiting to make fun of me-"

"Theo?" Blaise called, interrupting Draco. Draco glared at him.

"Yes?"

"Has Potter called Draco any names yet?"

There was a pause, and then, "No, I don't think so. Not according to Draco, anyway."

Blaise nodded in mock thoughtfulness. "That's interesting," he said, and then raised his voice again, ignoring Draco's death glare.

"Has the whole school started wildly gossiping about Draco?"

"Definitely not," came the reply.

"Alright, enough," Draco said, shaking his head and walking over to the stone topped counter in which the sinks were embedded. He ignored his reflection in the mirror above the sinks. "I get the point."

"Do you?" Blaise remarked. "Go on then, explain the point to me."

"Fuck off, Blaise," Draco muttered, turning his back to the counter and placing his palms on the stone surface, jumping back so he was sat next to the sink Blaise was shaving at. He reached out and idly ran his hand over one of the taps, carved stone in the shape of a hissing serpent.

"Potter does not give a bludger that you're queer," Blaise said bluntly, dipping the razor into the basin of water and lazily swirling it around. "Now if you'd just stop caring that you're queer, it would make life easier for all of us. You included."

A dull flush appeared on Draco's cheekbones, a sharp contrast to his pale complexion. "Stop it," he said forcefully, pulling his hand away from the tap and folding his arms tightly across his chest.

"I'll stop it when you stop being in denial," Blaise offered.

"I am not in denial," Draco began heatedly.

"But you haven't really ever accepted it, have you?" a mild voice came from the doorway. They both turned to see Theo standing there, watching them both.

"I can't," Draco started to say. "My Father-"

"For Hecate's sake, man up, Draco!"

Draco rounded on Blaise, looking furious. "Shut up! It's easy for you! You'll just marry anyone who crosses your path and you'll have your ten Zabini babies and be done with it!"

Blaise raised an eyebrow. "I'm not my Mother," he said calmly, rolling his eyes. "I plan on getting married to someone filthy rich just the once."

"And you're not your Father," Theo added, walking over to lean on the wall beside Draco's swinging legs. "Why not do what you want, hmm?"

"Don't know what I want," Draco muttered, looking down at his feet.

"I do," Blaise announced. "Potter."

"Oh piss off," Draco sighed, and made to slide off the counter, but Theo stopped him with a gentle hand on his knee.

"We're only trying to help," he said quietly and Draco jerked his head in an accepting gesture. "Just…think about this in the context of now, rather than how things used to be."

"'The context of now?'" Draco repeated, looking confused. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"He means that now it's different," Blaise filled in. "Your Father is gone, Potter now actually wants to be your friend, the world isn't out to get you anymore, so maybe people finding out about this wouldn't be so terrible."

Draco blinked a few times and then stared down at his feet again, a furrow between his eyebrows. If he hadn't been quite so preoccupied, he would have noticed Blaise and Theo exchanged a startled glance. They remained quiet, not wanting to disturb anything which could potentially be Draco actually thinking about something.

Blaise rinsed his face and reached for his towel, and the movement caught Draco's eye. He blinked in surprise and then looked up to Theo. "Sorry, what?"

"Nothing," Theo said with a fleeting smile. "Just thinking though, Potter aside, you should probably go to lessons before McGonagall summons you and tells you to stop missing classes. And you won't get the O you want in Potions if you miss any more."

Draco sighed, rubbing his face. "You're probably right."

"Of course I'm right," Theo said gently, clapping Draco on the knee and then turning around to walk back in the dormitory.

"Well, what are you waiting for? Ten minutes, Malfoy, or we'll leave you behind," Blaise said, gathering his things and sauntering off. Draco remembered to scowl at his retreating back, unsure as to whether he should feel annoyed at or grateful to his friends.

He quickly collected his things and doubled back into the bathroom. Draco didn't like rushing, but he knew deep down that Theo was right, and he should go back to lessons. He'd thought Theo had been right yesterday, but had bottled out at the last minute, refusing to leave the dormitory once more. He had then spent the whole day feeling guilty about missing yet more lessons, and wondering why Potter had not yet stormed down to the dungeons and demanded to talk to him. Every morning he'd received the same request from Potter: Come and get your stuff, I'll give it back when you come and talk to me. He'd been too scared to even contemplate agreeing, and had spent his whole weekend in the dormitory as a result.

He slipped through into the shower cubicles and hung his towel up as the shower automatically turned itself on, the pipes groaning in the walls. He felt ridiculously afraid, more so than he had done in a long time. He couldn't second-guess Harry at all, and that made him uneasy.

He barely understood himself right now, let alone Potter.

He stripped as he waited until the water warmed up a little and then stepped under the spray, wincing. That had been the first drawback he had discovered of being a Slytherin; the showers were more often than not bloody freezing. 'It'll toughen you up, stop complaining', had been the response from his Father when Draco had voiced his objections, and his lips curved in a rueful smile at the memory.

Served him right for being last through the showers, he supposed with a sigh as he reached for his shampoo. Normally he was up early enough to steal the little hot water that was there. Apparently in the same manner that Potter did, he mused.

He'd found out a lot about Potter in the time that the link had been unstable, and could assume a lot more, too. Potter was a daydreamer of epic proportions, and Draco had been endlessly amused by the tiny thoughts that caused Potter to drift off and lose track of what he was meant to be thinking about. He was an incredibly optimistic person considering everything that he'd been through; Draco was fascinated by how Harry could find joy in the tiniest little things, and bizarrely Draco was proud of him for it. He couldn't work out why, and it irritated him endlessly, but he couldn't help it. Proud was the only word for it. And mixed with a little bit of jealousy as well, because no-one was proud of Draco.

He snorted tiredly as he washed himself. That wasn't strictly true; his Mother was proud of him. She was the reason Draco was trying so hard to get his NEWT's and find himself a life after Hogwarts. Bugger regaining pride or status, that ship had sailed a long time ago. He just wanted his Mother to be safe and secure, and not have to worry about him any more.

The water turned itself off as he stepped back away from the showerheads. He stood still for a moment, listening to the drip of the water on the tiles, suddenly feeling nervous again. He didn't want to leave the relative safety of his room and go and deal with Potter. He just didn't know how Potter would react to his news about Draco being…he swallowed thickly. He should be able to say it in his own head, for Merlin's sake.

He shivered and made himself move, reaching for his towel. It wasn't just the cold that was making prickles run down his spine, however. Memories he'd tried to forget resurfaced; of cutting remarks, snide comments and malicious whispers. He had never worked out the exact time that Aunt Bella had found out about him, but he knew it must have been at some point when she was teaching him Occlumency. Soon after that the jokes had started, the whispered comments, the things said to Draco only when they were well out of earshot of both Lucius and the Dark Lord.

Hot uncomfortable shame crawled its way through his veins as he remembered. He should just be able to forget it, to know that to them it had just been another form of sport, a game in which Draco was the focus of the mockery and taunting.

As much as he knew he should be strong and put it all behind him, he just couldn't bear hearing anything like that again.

He dried himself off and got dressed as quickly as he could, forcing himself to move quickly as not to be left behind. When his last item of clothing was in place, he paused to stare at himself in the mirror in the bathroom, trying to get his hair to dry and sit straight. He gave up, huffing in annoyance. How Potter didn't get furious with his hair was a source of mystery to Draco; he'd cut it all off rather than look as messy as Potter did.

And he'd rather cut it all off than look like his Father, he thought, smiling ruefully as he tugged at his fringe.

"Draco! Hurry up. Leave your hair alone."

He rolled his eyes at Blaise's shout. "On the way," he called back. He paused, looking at himself a beat longer and then slowly breathed out.

Bring my stuff. I'm coming to breakfast.

He swore he felt the thrill run through him that belonged to Potter, and sure enough, around four seconds later he heard Harry's excited reply.

Brilliant! I'll see you in the Hall! I'll be like five minutes- just got to find my shoe.

The knot in his stomach tightened. Was there really any point going to breakfast if he didn't feel he could eat anything, anyway? He rubbed his face, suddenly beyond caring how he looked. He didn't want to talk to Potter about this; he was scared of talking to his friends about it, even scared of just thinking about it. Discussing it meant dealing with it, and that seemed a terrifying prospect.

"Draco!"

"Yes, alright," he called back irritably. He sighed at his reflection one last time and then left to follow the others to breakfast. He had a moment of wondering where his bag was, and then resisted the urge to slap himself as he realised Harry had it.

"There's no point in going," he muttered to Theo as they paused in the common room. "I've not got any stuff for today."

"Potter will bring your bag back, stop worrying," Theo said, the tiniest trace of impatience in his tone. Draco huffed and ignored him, folding his arms petulantly across his chest. His foot started tapping against the stone floor as they waited for Blaise to rearrange everything into his bag and he had to bite his tongue; he'd rushed through the damn shower just to have to wait for Blaise to finish being an arse.

"Come on already!" he finally burst out.

Blaise looked up in mild surprise. "Oh, so sorry. Here was me thinking you didn't want to see Potter."

"It's not about Potter, it's about you making me rush and then spending ten years arsing about with your bag," Draco managed through gritted teeth.

"Sorry," Blaise said, not sounding it. "Wait a moment, should we wait for Pansy and Queenie?"

"Oh for fucks sake!" Draco stepped over and threw himself into an armchair, pulling his feet up under him. He ignored Blaise's annoyed remark and Theo's reprimand and sat stock still, glaring at the bookshelf so he didn't have to look at his stupid friends.

He was so preoccupied with being cross he didn't notice Theo shake his head and walk towards the doorway, obviously fed up of waiting, too. Draco scrambled out of the chair just as Theo disappeared through the stone archway, and resisted the urge to swear as Blaise immediately followed, sauntering after him as if it were Draco causing the hold up.

"So, are you ready for this?" Blaise asked, tone nonchalant, as they left the common room.

"No," Draco muttered back, eyes darting around unconsciously.

"Have to be some day," Blaise replied seriously. "Sexual frustration makes you stroppy, and you won't get any until you deal with this denial thing you've got going on-"

Draco aimed a sharp elbow into Blaise's side. "Will you shut up?" he hissed. "That is not what I need right now."

Blaise just laughed. "Harsh truths, Draco."

Draco chose to ignore him and instead dropped back to walk with Theo. "Wish I had my scarf," he complained, running his fingers over his bare adam's apple. "It's cold."

"You'll get it back in a bit," Theo said. "Does he know you're about today?"

Draco opened his mouth, about to tell Theo what he'd said over the link, but the words died on his tongue. He stopped dead in the corridor as a familiar figure stepped out from behind a statue of a knight just in front of them. A stupid figure who must have ran all the way down from Gryffindor bloody tower to get there so quickly.

"I'll take that as a yes," Theo said lightly as Harry looked beseechingly to Draco, a familiar bag held in his hands.

Draco abruptly shut his mouth, trying to regain some composure. "What are you doing here?" Draco asked, more than a little taken aback by Harry's sudden appearance.

"Bringing your stuff back," Harry said, but made no move to pass Draco's bag over. Silence fell between them. Draco felt a flush work its way up his neck and stared at the floor, even as Potter continued to look at him.

"Well, I'll be off then," Theo said lightly, and Draco snapped his head up to look at him.

"Don't you dare leave me by myself-" he hissed, clenching his hands into fists at his side.

"You're not by yourself," Theo said calmly as he stepped away. "You're with Potter."

Draco bit the inside of his cheek to stop himself hurling abuse of Theo's retreating back. Instead, cursing internally, he turned back to Potter, who was still stood there clutching Draco's bag like a lifeline.

"So," Harry said, too loudly. "I've got your bag."

"I can see," Draco said flatly. "Can I have it?"

Harry hesitated, his eyes flicking over Draco, who immediately realised that this wasn't going to be as easy by anyone's standards.

"I thought…we could talk," Harry said carefully.

Draco cringed inwardly. "Why not just talk to me over the link?" he tried.

Harry didn't miss a beat. "Because you were ignoring me."

Draco laughed shortly. "Touché."

There was another pause. Draco continued to stare down at the floor, wishing Potter would just give him his damn bag. The silence stretched out, growing steadily more and more uncomfortable, until-

"Please can you just give me my bag?"

"Do you want to go and get breakfast?"

They spoke at the same time, their sentences overlapping. Harry responded with a shake of his head, and Draco blinked in surprise.

"Breakfast? With you?"

Harry let go of Draco's bag with one hand to scratch the back of his head, looking sheepish. "Yeah. We could talk."

Draco eyed Harry carefully, unsure as to how he should be feeling. Harry didn't seem like he was about to point and laugh at him. If anything, he looked earnest, almost desperate to talk.

"It's okay," Draco said, still eyeing Harry warily. "We don't have to talk about what happened."

Harry swallowed, and Draco watched his adam's apple move in his throat. "I kind of want to talk about it," he finally said, looking up at Draco, his eyes bright.

"I'd really rather not," Draco said, folding his arms across his chest.

"Why not?" Harry looked genuinely surprised.

"Because I don't want to talk about it," Draco said tightly, and then cringed at how pathetic his retort had been.

Harry frowned at that. "Why not? It's not that big a deal, really."

"Then why do you want to talk about it?" Draco snapped before he could help himself. Underneath his defensiveness, however, he couldn't help but recognise that Potter actually wasn't going to take the piss out if him. He really didn't mind that Draco was…was gay.

Harry shrugged, running his fingers through his hair, a gesture Draco was starting to recognise as a nervous one. "I don't know, really."

"Talk to someone else," Draco suggested, wincing at how sharp his tone came out. Thankfully, Harry didn't really seem to notice.

"I don't know anyone else who is gay."

Draco froze, his breath caught in his chest. It was long moments before he remembered to breathe, and then he looked around wildly.

"Will you keep it down?" he hissed fiercely. "I don't want you telling the whole school."

Harry looked at him for a moment longer, and then he turned around, walking back down the corridor. "Come on, let's go get breakfast."

Draco gaped after Harry's back for a moment. "Potter, you're going the wrong way," he called, exasperated.

"Not. Come on. And then you can have your bag back."

You're insane, you know that? Draco told him as he huffed explosively, before following Potter down the corridor with a bad grace.

Quite probably, was the reply, and Draco rolled his eyes.

Harry stopped a little way down the corridor beside a large painting of a bowl of fruit, and waited for Draco to catch up. Draco frowned at the painting.

"Dare I ask?"

Harry reached out and tickled the pear, which giggled and then turned into a green door handle. "Seven years living in the dungeons and you never knew this was here?"

"What is this?" Draco asked, torn between being irritated and intrigued.

Harry just nodded down the narrow corridor that the painting had revealed, an indication for Draco to go first. Draco scowled and then stepped past Potter to edge cautiously along the corridor.

This better not be some ridiculous plot to get me into trouble.

I'm not eleven, and that was always your thing, right?

Shut up-

Draco's message to Potter was abruptly cut short as he found himself in what he immediately recognised to be the kitchens. The sheer size of the room boggled him for a moment, and then he realised it was an underground counterpart to the Great Hall, which must have been above their heads. House elves were bustling about around four large tables, and a few had stopped to look at him.

"Breakfast," Harry said simply. "Thought it'd be better than facing everyone in the Hall-"

Draco rounded on him instantly, alarmed. "You've told everyone?"

"No, I just figured that people would gossip if we walked in together," Harry shrugged. "People get stupid."

Draco was mildly impressed with Harry's capacity to be sensible, but didn't say as much. Instead, he watched as Harry spoke to a house elf; a polite request for he and Draco to have some breakfast brought over. Within seconds, a platter of breakfast foods had been put together and carried over, handed to Harry by three smiling elves. Harry thanked the elves and then promptly moved over and sat down cross legged on the floor, putting the tray down beside him and the bags belonging to him and Draco behind him.

"I'm not sitting on the floor," Draco said flatly.

"Stand up then," Harry squinted up at him and then looked back to the platter of food, reaching out for a bacon sandwich.

Draco sighed and then sank down to sit beside Potter, reaching out to pick up a bacon sandwich of his own. Truth be told he was bloody starving and didn't want to go through the motions of arguing for the sake of it.

"Thanks," he said quietly, and Harry nodded, chewing his breakfast and looking thoughtful.

He swallowed his mouthful. "So," he began, and then stopped. He raised his sandwich to his mouth and then lowered it again, looking very much like he wanted to speak but couldn't bring himself to do it.

"Don't strain yourself," Draco said softly.

"I just…we can't just ignore what I saw," Harry said suddenly.

"I could," Draco muttered. "Quite easily."

"Does no-one know?" Harry asked curiously.

Draco hesitated. He didn't want to discuss this at all, but Potter was watching him, looking wide-eyed and earnest. And Potter hadn't said anything mean to him like he'd feared…and for some bizarre reason he trusted the git. Besides, Draco knew that it would be better to work with Potter, rather than risk arguing and the situation blowing up in his face.

"My friends know," he finally said, clearing his throat as his voice caught.

"Are they…do they mind?"

"No," Draco admitted. There was a pause, and Harry was watching him, waiting for more, green eyes fixed on Draco's face. Draco swallowed again. "Blaise keeps telling me to stop being in denial."

Harry laughed at that, a quiet soft sound. "And are you?"

Draco shrugged. "Probably."

"You didn't look very in denial in that dream," Harry said suddenly. Draco looked sharply at him and saw Harry was now staring determinedly down at his bacon sandwich, a dull flush covering his cheekbones. Draco was intrigued; why was Potter blushing like a twelve year old? Was he really that inexperienced? Draco wanted to know, and that desire was enough to make him forget his fear, just a little.

"How did I look in my dream, then?" he asked boldly, before he could help himself. Harry looked back up at him and Draco held his gaze, trying to keep himself from trembling.

"You looked…you looked like you were having the time of your life," Harry finally said, his voice low. He shook his head slightly and looked back at his sandwich. "You were smiling."

Draco smiled faintly, there in the kitchen. "Do you not smile when you're kissing someone?"

Harry wrinkled his nose. "I tend to be worrying that I'm doing it wrong too much to smile."

Draco bit back a laugh and brought his sandwich up to his face to hide his grin. Silence fell for a while as they munched their breakfasts, but it wasn't awkward. Draco didn't know what Potter was thinking, but he knew that he was curious about it. The panic over having to potentially discuss things with Potter had dissipated, and now he was yearning to know why this was such a big deal for him.

"I'm sorry," Harry said after a while. "For what I saw."

"Me too," Draco said, tossing the crust of his sandwich onto the platter. "Then I wouldn't have to be talking about it."

"It's not so bad, right?" Harry asked doubtfully. "I'm not going to tell anyone."

Draco made a non-committal sound, reaching for a goblet. To his surprise, Harry picked up the pitcher of juice and poured him a drink before he could do so himself.

"I don't have a problem with it," Harry said, making a show out of putting the pitcher back on the platter. "Not at all. I don't want you to think I'm going to be mean, or going to be horrible about it, because I won't."

Draco remained silent, mentally cursing Theo for being right. "Then…then why do you want to talk about it? Surely if it's not a big deal you should leave it?"

"I just…I wanted-" Harry stopped, looking lost for words. He shook his head.

Draco sipped at his juice, still watching Harry carefully.

"This is mad," Harry suddenly said. "Me and you having breakfast like this. I think my mates would explode if they knew."

"What, can't stand the thought of the Chosen One being friends with someone like me?" Draco asked, unable to say the word Death Eater out loud.

Harry smiled weakly. "Something like that. I'm glad you're calling us friends now."

Draco sighed. "Well you kept insisting, I thought it would be less hassle to just go along with it."

"Glad you've finally caught on," Harry said with the hint of a cheeky smile.

"Will your Gryffindors not be worrying where you are?" Draco asked. "I'd hate for them to have to send out a search party."

Harry snorted. "Ron and Hermione have fallen out and Ginny is off with her ex. I bet they've not noticed I'm gone."

"Oh come on, of course they will," Draco began, but Harry shook his head.

"It's not like you think," he said thoughtfully. "Most of the time I'm just kind of floating around on the edge of things. Everyone's got their own stuff going on, and since I got linked with you they've kind of left me to it."

"Oh, so sorry-"

"I don't mind," Harry interrupted. "To be honest, when you're not mad at me you're better to talk to anyway."

"Really," Draco said flatly.

"Yeah," Harry said with a little shrug. "You don't say the same things over and over and over. S'quite nice."

"Let me guess, Granger goes on about school work, Weasley goes on about Granger, Finnegan goes on about gambling and Longbottom continues to apologise for accidentally cursing us?"

Harry started to laugh. "That's about right," he said. "Although Hermione and Ron spent most of the time talking about you, actually. You and me."

Draco felt his cheeks heating up and turned to look at the platter, reaching for an apple. "Who did I miss?" he asked, moving the conversation away from the concept of him-and-Harry. "There's another one of you lot, isn't there?"

"Dean," Harry said and Draco was surprised to see the scowl flitter over his face.

"Oh dear," Draco said lightly, pulling his jumper sleeve down and polishing the apple in his hand. "Sorry I asked."

"It's okay," Harry said, watching Draco turn the apple over in his hands. "Ron thinks Ginny wants to get back with him, but doesn't want to upset me."

"I probably shouldn't care about the love-lives of your Gryffindors, but is that a problem for you? Surely it would upset you?"

"I dunno," Harry said. "I just really can't be bothered will it all. Especially when they keep banging on about the link, it's not their business."

Draco wasn't sure what to say. He and Harry Potter had just sat and had breakfast together, and the world hadn't ended. It was surprising and a little overwhelming to find that they could talk together like this, like they were actually friends.

"Can I ask you a question?" Harry said after a moment, looking away from Draco.

"I'm sure I'll regret this, but yes," Draco said with a sigh.

"Was that guy…were you just dreaming or was it a memory?"

Draco didn't answer. He ran his thumb over the shiny skin of the apple in his hand.

Memory, he finally said.

He heard Harry draw in a sharp breath. Who was he?

I said you could have a question. That's two.

"Touché," Harry murmured and Draco looked up at him.

"We better get a move on," he said. "We'll be late."

Harry nodded, conceding the point and stood up, stretching before reaching down to grab their bags. He hesitated and then passed Draco's bag over.

"Thanks," Draco said, opening his bag and putting the apple inside. "Although considering you pinched it, I'm not sure I should be saying thank you."

"I told you I'd give it back the minute you came to get it," Harry said matter of factly, lifting the strap of his own bag over his shoulder and pulling it straight. "I did."

Draco rolled his eyes. "Almost Slytherin of you."

Harry grinned at him. "You'd be surprised."

"I'm sure I don't want to know," Draco drawled and Harry chuckled.

"Come on."

They left the kitchen and walked side by side through the corridors towards the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. Draco couldn't quite believe it had been four weeks since their accident, but there it was. Half way through November and they were both still alive.

"Will you ever tell me who he was?"

Potters quiet voice made Draco jump, he'd been so busy thinking he'd almost forgotten that Harry was there. The question made him tense, his shoulder tightening.

No.

Why not?

Draco stopped dead in the corridor and Potter halted next to him, biting his lip. "Drop it," Draco said quietly. "Please."

Harry nodded, shifting from foot to foot. He looked over Draco's shoulder and stayed silent as a first year Ravenclaw walked past them, and then spoke again, his voice low.

"I just want to know," Harry said. "I wouldn't tell anyone."

"I know you wouldn't-"

"So why can't you tell me?"

Draco folded his arms tightly across his chest. "Look, I trust you wouldn't say anything, but there are some things I can't-"

He broke off, horrified to feel a lump in his throat. Bloody Potter and his questions, this was taking it too far.

"I'm sorry," Potter said, looking startled. "I didn't-"

"Yes you did," Draco said tightly. "I told you to drop it.

"I'm sorry," Potter repeated, now looking mortified. "I just couldn't stop wondering and thought you might want to talk about it, because I know now and there's no point pretending I don't-"

"He was the son of one of Fathers business partners," Draco bit out. Potters eyes grew impossibly wide and Draco had to look away. "Father would leave me to entertain whilst they talked. I don't think Father quite realised what we got up to for entertainment."

Potter didn't say anything for a moment. "You told me," he finally said, wonder evident in his tone.

"Well, you asked," Draco snapped.

Yeah, I did, Harry said, his eyes fixed on Draco's. Draco swallowed thickly.

"Was he the first boy?" Harry breathed, stepping slightly closer so Draco could hear him.

Draco nodded. He taught me everything.

Harry let his breath out shakily, and his eyes flicked from Draco's down to his lips and then back again. The movement was so quick Draco almost missed it, but as Potter bit his lip and moved backwards again, realisation hit Draco with the force of a bludger.

Potter liked what he had seen. He'd seen Draco getting off with another bloke and he'd liked it, but he couldn't work out why he couldn't stop thinking about it. Draco knew the look well, that look that combined fascination with desperation and hopelessness. Fucking hell.

Potter was as gay as Draco, and he didn't even know it.

"What happened to him?" Harry asked. Draco blinked, trying to focus and not give away what he'd just realised, what he thought he knew. God, but Harry was so close, and so, so bloody dense.

Draco looked down. "His Father caught us. Never brought him on any more visits after that."

"I'm sorry," Harry murmured.

Draco shook his head. "Forget it. Lets go. Defence."

"Malfoy-"

"It's okay," Draco insisted, but froze as he felt a hand on his elbow.

Look at me.

Draco raised his eyes to Harry's, feeling terrified all over again. The hand on his elbow tightened and the Harry's other hand reached hesitantly out, touching his shoulder.

"Don't be scared of talking to me," Harry said softly. "I'll listen."

"I can't talk to you," Draco began. "You know our history-"

"Fuck history. If you don't hate me, I don't hate you," Harry said urgently. "I don't want…I don't want you to feel alone. I want to talk to you."

Draco nodded, his eyes wide and his heart hammering like he'd just run a race. Potter was gay, and he wouldn't stop asking questions, and he was apparently obsessed with Draco's dream, and he was comforting Draco, his fingers still touching his arm-

Something uncurled in Draco's chest, a tightness he'd never noticed dissipating like lifting stormclouds. Well, if Potter was gay surely that meant it was okay for Draco to be gay, too? No-one would give a fuck about Draco if it came about that Potter was queer-

Draco stopped his hysterical thoughts abruptly. He was getting ahead of himself; he wasn't even one hundred percent sure that Potter did fly for the other team.

He nodded slowly. I'll talk to you, he said. If I need you, I'll talk to you.

"And I can talk to you?" Potter asked urgently.

Draco nodded, his eyes transfixed on Potters. Wildly, he contemplated kissing him to see if his theory was true – Harry was certainly close enough for him to do so. He felt startled at the urge inside him and shocked at himself; he had barely dared admit that he was gay before today so why was he now contemplating kissing Harry bloody Potter?

A gasp, a cough and whispers drew their attention; they both looked around to see Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil just behind them, looking at them with wide eyes. Parvati cleared her throat and she and Lavender walked past them with cheery smiles.

Draco cursed under his breath and Harry turned to him with a frown, finally dropping his hand from Draco's shoulder.

"Come on, before we're late," he said and Draco nodded dumbly as Harry turned his frown to Parvati and Lavender. "Wonder what they're whispering about."

Draco didn't dare say anything. Was Potter really that dense? Two of the biggest gossips in school had just caught Potter with his hands on Draco, comforting him in the middle of a corridor whilst standing less than a bloody foot away from him?

Draco followed Potter into Defence and slid into his seat next to Theo without a word, pulling his bag onto his knee. Christ. Chosen One or not, sometimes Harry Potter was pretty bloody oblivious.

Chapter Text

Draco flopped down onto his bed, breathing out deeply and feeling exhausted. Today had been a long day, and it seemed a million years since he had sat and had breakfast with Harry.

Breakfast with Harry Potter. It had been surreal, but also quite nice, for lack of a better word. He wasn't entirely sure when it had happened, but his predisposition to be annoyed with Harry seemed to have faded, and now they could talk without any prickly defensive anger making things difficult. For the most part anyway. And rather annoyingly, after talking with Potter about his sexuality, it really did feel like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Trust his friends to be right, again. It seemed he'd broken down so many barriers, and in such a short amount of time.

He flipped open his bag and went to delve through it. He poked past his half finished Potions work – bugger, he really needed to get that finished, – his Transfiguration textbook, his quill case, and then paused, frowning. Something was missing.

His bloody scarf! He'd forgotten all about wanting it back after the impromptu breakfast, and hadn't given it another thought, until now.

Trust Potter to forget something, he thought grumpily. It wasn't like it was cold or anything. No, November in the Highlands was clearly a delight. Draco was going to love being buried in snow until February, without his bloody scarf.

Potter, you've forgotten my scarf.

Draco felt a shiver of alarm run through him and paused, intrigued. He wasn't alarmed by the fact Potter had his scarf, but it seemed that Harry was.

Are you sure?

Draco's eyebrows flew up. The reply from Harry seemed feeble even through the link. He had a sudden mental image of Harry nervously scratching the back of his head, tugging at his hair.

Yes, I'm sure, I left it with my bag and it's not in here.

I don't think I picked it up. Ask around, maybe someone else has got it.

Draco frowned. That didn't make sense at all - if Harry didn't have the scarf then why didn't he just admit that the minute Draco had asked for it?

Okay, I'll ask around.

He chose not to harass Harry about the mysterious vanishing scarf any more, instead turning the issue thoughtfully over in his mind. Harry had his scarf, he just knew it. Would he think Draco would be furious if he admitted he'd forgotten it? Draco was briefly indignant; he'd been very well behaved and possibly even nice to Harry today, and this was the thanks he got for it?

He shook his head. Harry wasn't afraid of him and his temper. Never had been, probably never would be.

A thought occurred to Draco, a hesitant flutter in the back of his mind, hardly daring to be acknowledged. Harry knew full well Draco was gay. Draco suspected that Harry had eyes for the boys, even if Harry hadn't quite worked it out himself…

Had Harry kept his scarf on purpose?

He'd had a monumental battle with Pansy in fifth year over the same bloody scarf. Draco remembered her wide eyes when she'd seen him after the summer; he knew he'd gotten taller and discovered cologne, but apparently to the girls in his year it was a bigger deal than he'd anticipated. Their attention had been endlessly annoying, especially considering that during the same summer holidays, Draco had discovered that he quite liked kissing boys. Draco's patience wore thin when Pansy had taken to stealing and wearing his scarf, saying how nice it smelt. One hex later and Draco had his scarf back, wrinkling his nose in distaste because all he could smell was Pansy and her stupid, girly, flowery perfume.

If he applied the same logic to Harry and the situation they were now in…Merlin, he was exactly the bloody same as the girls, just three years later.

Draco imagined Harry sat in his dorm room, wearing Draco's scarf, and a shiver ran down his spine. Harry may be oblivious, but Draco sure as anything wasn't.

Are your sure you've not got it? Not accidentally left it in your dorm or something?

No I've not. I'll have a look but I don't think I've got it. I can't remember picking it up or anything. I might have done, actually, I'll check, I could have got in confused with one of mine-

Draco bit his knuckles to stop himself laughing, even though Harry couldn't hear him. He could practically see Harry panicking, and cut him off before the idiot did himself an injury.

Alright, it's not a big deal, just have a look at some point.

Relief was the emotion Draco felt flicker through his body from the link.

Yeah of course. Are you coming to lessons tomorrow?

Yes.

Okay, I'll have a look now. See you in the morning.

Draco briefly wondered if he and Harry would ever have breakfast together again. They wouldn't be able to in the Great Hall, what with the house tables and all. People sometimes swapped around for meals, sure, but for Draco Malfoy to sit at the Gryffindor table? Not a chance. He'd be hexed out of the Hall before he could pour himself a goblet of juice.

Draco flopped back onto his bed again, toeing off his shoes and slipping his hands behind his head. The possibility of Harry being gay was making both more and less sense with every puzzle piece added to the picture.

Harry's determination to be Draco's friend. His infamously rubbish relationship with Girl Weasley. His near-obsession with Draco's dream. How close he had been to Draco earlier, and the hands on Draco's arms. And now, the kidnapped scarf.

Not heterosexually appropriate behaviour, all in all.

But for Harry Potter to be into boys? The whole world was expecting him to settle down, have his three perfect kids with his childhood sweetheart, to smile and nod and behave like a model hero. Draco snorted, shaking his head. They'd obviously all but dismissed Harry's somewhat volatile behaviour in his earlier years. And besides, they'd never seen him on a daily basis or been close enough to him to know that he was just as flawed an individual as the rest of them.

Draco contemplated how many of Harry's friends had noticed anything. He wondered if Girl Weasley had noticed that her supposed boyfriend seemed to be more interested in Draco than her. Probably not, if she was off doing the dirty with her ex, Draco supposed bitchily.

He wondered what would have happened earlier if he had given into that mad urge and kissed Harry in the corridor. Probably a punch in the face, he thought. Not out of spite or anger; more likely shock. No, it wouldn't have gone down well at all, considering Harry's apparent obliviousness about his own sexuality.

But Harry's sexuality aside, it was possibly time for Draco to really consider his own.

He knew he liked men, liked looking at them, liked being close to them. He hated any of the same with girls, and didn't really think it was fair to blame all of his disgust on experience Pansy, despite how much of a terrible kisser she was.

For everyone to know these things, however, was a huge step. But...if he seriously wanted to consider actually having a proper relationship with someone, it was a step he had to take. His life had been a rather lonely one, with being an only child, and the paths he had followed. Now he was growing older, with the prospect of leaving Hogwarts coming up close, maybe it was time for him to start opening up and sharing with someone.

It was funny how his mind immediately imaged that someone to be Harry.

Harry's preoccupation with Draco had caused something to shift subtly within Draco's own perspective. Maybe this wasn't such a bad thing. Maybe, if being gay meant that he could capture the interest of someone like Harry, it really, really wasn't a bad thing. Something unnerving was working its way through Draco's veins, a flicker of self-confidence he'd not felt in a long time.

He smiled.


 

Harry frowned as he walked past the Arithmancy classroom on the fourth floor, his steps faltering. He looked back at the gang of girls who were stood in the doorway of the classroom, whispering frantically and shooting him covert glances. As he looked back at them they all turned quickly away, nonchalant expressions not fooling him in the slightest.

Frown deepening, he turned to face forwards and carried on the way he was supposed to be going. He turned the corner and passed two sixth year Hufflepuffs, who gave him exaggerated nods before turning to each other with wide eyes. He paused, turning on the spot to watch as they walked away from him, heads close together.

Right. He knew that he'd been somewhat…inattentive since the end of the war, not quite as good at realising what was going on around him. Because really, losing the threat of certain death had done wonders for his daydreaming capabilities, and that in turn had maybe left him a little out of the loop as far as noticing anything went.

But almost complete obliviousness aside, he knew something odd was going on. He'd started noticing people looking at him strangely around Tuesday afternoon. By Thursday morning he'd caught a fair few people whispering, and now it was just getting out of hand.

He needed Hermione. He had no idea why people would be talking about him right now; he'd not been illegally enrolled in any tournaments, wasn't talking to monsters in the walls, wasn't having fits all over the place. In fact, he'd been pretty normal as of late, so what was with the renewed interest in him and his daily business?

It couldn't be about Ginny. He'd not even spoken to her since their shouting match in his dormitory. He'd seen her a few times of course, but she had point blank ignored him. He didn't really mind.

Work had been the main reason he couldn't find time to worry about Ginny; he'd been swamped with essays and reading and questions from every subject. He had managed to plough through it with help from Ron, Hermione…and Draco. He was finding it easier and easier to talk to Draco, and now often favoured going to him for help than Hermione. He felt guilty, of course, but Draco would either answer a question with one sentence or a simple I don't know, sorry, and it was a considerable time saver considering how Hermione could sometimes go on a bit.

That was a point, he could ask Draco about the Transfiguration work that was in tomorrow. He would ask Hermione of course, but for some reason – possibly Harry telling her so - she was under the illusion that he'd already finished it.

Have you finished the Transfiguration questions?

No, going to go to the library and do the last two this evening. Have you?

Harry was relieved he wasn't the only one not to have finished. He took a left down towards the main staircase, hoping Ron and Hermione would be already downstairs having lunch.

No. Got the last three to do.

Come and find me if you get stuck. I've got some books which will help.

Harry was taken aback but smiled. He wasn't expecting an outright invitation for help from Draco, but he wasn't going to turn it down if it got him these bloody questions done. And besides, it might be nice to talk to Draco face to face again. The last time hadn't gone as badly as Harry had predicted at all, and it had been a whole four days since their breakfast together. He just hoped Draco wouldn't quiz him about his supposedly still missing scarf, as he doubted he'd be able to lie to his face about its whereabouts. Especially as Harry knew full well where the scarf was; tucked up in Harry's bed.

Will do. Thanks.

He reached the bottom of the stairs, not failing to notice the group of girls who started giggling madly as he walked past. True, they could have been giggling about anything, but he had a sneaking suspicion that it was about him.

Huffing, he pulled his schoolbag onto his shoulder more securely and pushed past them, looking around for familiar faces. If Hermione and Ron had gone back to the bloody common room without him, he would be having words. Lots of rather stroppy words.

His heart leapt and then sank immediately as he spotted a familiar shock of dirty-blonde hair by the doors to the Great Hall. He would have happily gone over to say hello to Luna, but next to her stood Ginny.

Faltering, his looked around to see if there were any way he could sneak into the Great Hall without being spotted. He had just set his eyes on a gang of burly Gryffindor fifth years who would provide adequate cover, when he heard a lilting voice call his name. He cringed.

"Harry! Why are you staring at those boys? Come and say hello."

He turned slowly and walked towards Luna, feeling more awkward with every step. Luna was beaming at him and waving, and Ginny was staring at the floor, her arms folded across her chest.

"Hi Luna," Harry said, too loudly. He paused. "Hey Gin."

Ginny's eyes flicked to him. "Hey," she replied softly, almost lost under Luna's rather more exuberant greeting.

"I've not seen you in ages," she said excitedly. "Oh, but you've been busy with Draco Malfoy haven't you? I'm not surprised; this link business must be a bit of a burden."

"Yeah, a bit," Harry managed feebly, wishing Luna would have the common sense to be quiet.

"I don't think burden is the word for it," Ginny interjected, and Harry stared at her.

"What?"

"I'd call it a burden," Luna said, looking puzzled. "Malfoy's a bit difficult, isn't he?"

"Well, from what I've heard, Harry isn't finding him difficult at all," Ginny said, finally raising her eyes to meet Harry's, looking angry and hurt. "I think he's finding him quite easy."

Harry's jaw dropped. He looked around and swore as he saw several people stood nearby, looking rather interested in the proceedings, and definitely close enough to hear what was being said.

"What are you on about?" he said, dropping his voice and stepping closer to Ginny.

She glared back at him. "Don't act like you don't know."

"Know what?" he asked urgently. "Am I supposed to know something? Is this why everyone keeps looking at me?"

Ginny laughed then, a bitter sound. "You're joking right? Or you've been confunded." She turned away from him and made to step away towards the Hall. Harry was quicker; he reached out and grabbed her sleeve, pulling her back around.

"If you've got something to say, say it," he said angrily, still trying to keep his voice low. Ginny's eyes widened.

"Are you really that stupid?"

"Don't call me stupid," he snapped, letting go of her arm.

"Well you're plenty stupid if you thought no-one would find out, you know how gossip spread in this school, and it's not like you made an effort to hide it-"

"Hide what?" he exclaimed.

"You getting together with Malfoy!" Ginny exploded, and Harry froze, his mind going blank. "Everyone knows, Harry. Lavender Brown saw you hugging him in the corridor, we've all seen the way you look at him, the way you talk about him, and as for your bloody breakfast date the other morning-"

"How do you know we had breakfast?" Harry asked before he could stop himself.

Ginny's mouth fell open. "That's your biggest concern? Everyone in the school knows you're going out with Malfoy and you're worried about that?"

Dimly, Harry heard laughter behind him. "I am not going out with Malfoy," he said to her, before turning to see who was laughing. Several groups of students from different houses and years, too many for him to tell to shut up. "I am not going out with Malfoy," he repeated as he turned back, this time angrier and louder.

"That's why you've been so distant, isn't it?" she demanded, her eyes bright. "Why you've been acting so strange? You can barely talk to me anymore, you're always talking with Malfoy-"

"We're linked!" Harry argued, his voice growing louder. "It's not my fault-"

"The link doesn't make you have breakfast with him, or sit cuddling his scarf, or spend more time with him than you do us," Ginny shouted back. "You're bloody obsessed with him!"

"I am not!" Harry argued, but even as he shouted there was a niggle in the back of his mind, one that said that his argument might not be quite true.

"Really," Ginny said, and her tone was flat and disbelieving.

Harry's mind was whirling, thoughts crashing through too quickly to keep up with. "I am not," he repeated. "Why the hell- Malfoy's a bloke, for Christ's sake."

Ginny shook her head. "We didn't think that mattered to you-"

"For fucks sake, Ginny, I'm not gay!"

Luna frowned. "That would certainly make sense."

Harry rounded on her. "I'm not gay!"

"Course not. Move up."

Harry span around as he heard a familiar voice behind him, to see Ron walking up just behind him, Seamus in tow.

"Ginny, bugger off and leave him alone," Ron said flatly. Ginny opened her mouth in outrage but Ron shushed her, frowning and looking stern, a look he had evidently borrowed from Hermione. Harry was going to promote Ron to being his own personal fucking saviour, because he gripped Ginny by the elbow and pulled her away, muttering words that Harry couldn't hear.

"Come on, you're making a scene," Seamus grinned at him as Ron towed Ginny away. Harry opened his mouth indignantly in protest but Seamus had already turned his attentions to Luna."

"Not seen you in a while," he said friendly, giving her a nod.

"Harry's been very busy and he's the one who normally invites me to things," Luna said seriously. Harry shuffled awkwardly in his shoes, feeling guilty. It wasn't just Ginny being neglected by his current predicament.

"Aye, well if you want, come out with us tomorrow in the snow?" Seamus offered and Luna nodded enthusiastically, her strawberry shaped earrings bouncing.

"That'd be lovely," she said, and then turned to Harry. "Will you and Malfoy come as well?"

Harry blinked at her, trying to think. "Er, no, I don't think so."

Luna sighed. "Oh, that would have been nice. I haven't seen him properly since he said sorry." She patted his arm. "I better go after Ginny, I think you've upset her. I'll talk to you soon Harry."

Harry watched as she drifted away, passing Ron who was returning alone, looking grim. People were still hovering nearby, staring unashamedly or laughing with their friends.

"Come on," Ron said. "Let's get out of here."

Harry followed without argument or question. People were still staring; he could feel their eyes following him out of the Hall. They headed away towards the library, an area of the castle which would be quiet whilst everyone was at lunch. Embarrassment and anger at Ginny rose up in Harry's chest as he realised that the whole school would probably know about her accusations by dinnertime.

Oh God, Draco was going to be furious. If people started gossiping and spreading the rumour that there was something going on between him and Harry, he would freak out – just look at how badly he'd reacted to Harry finding out about his sexuality.

God, Harry was freaking out, never mind Draco. Everyone was saying he was gay, Ginny was saying he was gay – that wasn't true. His mind leapt to the scarf that was hidden under his duvet and the way he couldn't work out why he liked it so much – no. He wasn't.

"Harry, are you alright?"

He turned no Ron and faltered, slowing down and then stopping. "No," he said unevenly. "Everything is…I don't even know what's happening in my life."

Ron and Seamus stopped beside him as he leant against a suit of armour, dropping his bag to the floor and vigorously rubbing his face, pulling at his fringe.

"Cant say I blame you, mate," Seamus said after a while. "Lot to keep track of."

Harry pulled his hands away from his face. "This is ridiculous. I start talking to Draco and everyone suddenly thinks I'm going out with him."

Seamus and Ron exchanged a glance.

"Well…" Ron began awkwardly.

"You don't seriously think it's true?" Harry asked weakly. "Ron, I'm not gay- I went out with your sister-"

Ron eyed him seriously, cheeks going pink under his freckles. "Harry, you've been saying some weird stuff lately."

Seamus nodded slowly in agreement. "You call him Draco."

"That's, that's his name," Harry tried, feeling more bewildered and wrong footed by the minute.

"You made a joke, the other day about going out with Malfoy," Ron said. Harry racked his brains, looking bewildered. "About taking the bet about going out with him?"

Oh. That. That was just a joke, why was Ron pulling him up on that? "I was just joking," he began, but Ron shook his head.

"You didn't say it like it was a joke. You said it like it was…was something you could actually do," Ron said seriously. "And I know you've still got that bloody scarf."

"You've got his scarf?" Seamus asked surprised.

Harry tried to take a step back, but his back hit the wall. "I'm not," he managed to croak, shaking his head. "This is all just out of hand."

"Since you found out…" Ron glanced at Seamus and then gave Harry a meaningful glance. "You know, you've not stopped going on about it."

"Found out what?" Seamus asked curiously, looking from Harry to Ron.

Ron ignored him. "Harry no-one would care, you know."

"God, will you just drop it?" Harry blurted out, leaning down and grabbing his bag. "I'm not- I'm just trying to make a new friend, and everyone- oh fuck it."

He pushed past Seamus and Ron, feeling his face flaming red and just wanting to get out and away from all their stupid comments.

"Harry, hold on!"

He ignored Ron's shout and bolted along the corridor, almost running and not caring. This was ridiculous. He was not gay, he just wasn't. His thoughts turned desperate as he slipped through a tapestry concealing a hidden staircase, stumbling up the first couple of steps in his haste. He couldn't help but think about the dream he'd seen of Draco's, and how he'd not understood anything when he'd held Draco's scarf to his face.

Oh, God.

He wasn't, was he?

There was only one person who could help, only one person who might be able to get him out of this mess he'd landed himself in. Ironically, the person who had unwittingly caused this mess in the first place.

Draco, where are you?

He slowed, his heart hammering from adrenaline and his flight away from Ron and Seamus. This was probably a bad idea; if everyone thought he was gay the best option wasn't to go and find the one person in the castle that Harry knew was gay. On one hand, Draco could give him answers; but on the other hand, they might be answers Harry really wasn't ready to hear.

Arithmancy classroom, third floor, next to the Chinese Fireball painting.

Harry's heart leapt; by his calculation Draco was not far away at all. Up the staircase, around the corner and second door on the right. Without pausing to further consider whether this was a good idea or not, he took off up the stairs as if being chased.

He nearly knocked over Professor Vector as he tore through the tapestry at the top of the staircase. "Sorry!" he shouted desperately over his shoulder, but didn't stop. He hurtled around the corner, past the painting of the notoriously grumpy dragon and then skidded to a halt outside the door to the Arithmancy classroom.

A thought occurred to him and he paused. Why was Draco in here? Was he by himself, or was he with Parkinson or Nott or anyone else? He reached out for the doorknob, his heart pounding in his chest and his breathing laboured.

Are you by yourself?

Yes. Why?

He didn't bother to reply. He quickly glanced behind him and then pushed through the door, slipping into the room and immediately shutting the door after himself, leaning on it and breathing out heavily. His eyes immediately sought Draco, who was sat at a desk close to the door, quill in one hand and sandwich in the other, books and parchment spread out in front on him. He looked up, expression mildly surprised.

"Have you just ran here?" he asked with a frown, putting his sandwich down and brushing the crumbs off his fingers. Harry's eyes followed the movement and he swallowed.

"Yeah, actually. Trying to get away from everyone."

Draco looked interested. "Why? What have they done?"

Harry hesitated and looked away. He pushed away from the door and shoved his hands in his pockets, stepping forwards and closer to the desk Draco was working at. "Why are you working in here?"

"Because it's quiet, and you're avoiding the question," Draco said with a raised eyebrow.

Harry avoided Draco's gaze, instead reaching out to turn one of the books around so he could see what Draco was looking at. Draco made an impatient noise and promptly turned the book back again before Harry could even get a good glimpse.

"I take it you didn't run up here to get help with Transfiguration," Draco said slowly, flicking his quill back and forth between his fingers.

Harry shook his head, still looking down at the upside-down book. Where did he start? What was he supposed to say?

"I needed to talk to someone," he said quietly, not daring to look for a reaction on Draco's face.

There was a silence, and then Draco spoke, sounding curious. "And why did you not go to Weasley or Granger? They'll probably be of more use."

"People have started talking about us," Harry blurted out, feeling his face heat up anew and wishing that the floor would open up and swallow him. "Saying stuff."

"Dare I ask?"

"They think…I haven't said anything to anyone about you, I swear, but they think…everyone thinks I fancy you, and there's something going on between us."

He forced himself to look up, tensing and waiting for an explosion of temper from Draco. It didn't come. Draco sat perfectly still, looking at Harry with intense eyes. Harry saw him swallow, and then after the longest pause of Harry's life, Draco put his quill down.

"And why are they saying these things, do you think?"

Harry resisted the urge to take a step back. Draco was looking right at him and Harry was unnerved; he had predicted anger and upset from Draco, but he just sat there, disconcertingly calm.

"Do you not get it?" Harry asked, his voice sounding strange to his own ears. "If they think something's going on, they're assuming that you're…"

Draco appeared to think Harry's words over, eyes dropping to the tabletop, a cleft forming between his eyebrows. After a moment, he looked back up, breathing out slowly and deeply.

"I suppose they are."

Harry swallowed thickly as Draco slowly pushed his stool back and stood up, walking around the table until he was stood next to Harry, close enough so their shoulders brushed against one another.

"Why did you come and find me?" he asked quietly, tracing his finger over the edge of the book Harry had tried to look at before.

Harry opened his mouth, trying to find an explanation that made sense. "I don't know. What people think about me. I thought…"

He trailed off, shaking his head. He nearly jumped out of his skin as Draco suddenly moved around, their proximity forcing Harry to move, too. He tried to edge away, belatedly realising that maybe this had been a very bad idea indeed, but found himself wedged in, his back to the table and Draco right in front of him.

"You're very close," he said stupidly, and saw Draco's mouth twitch in a smile.

"I am," he replied, his eyes on Harry's.

"Shouldn't you be scared someone will walk in? Everyone will know you're gay if they see you pinning me to a table," Harry managed, his eyes wide and fixed on Draco's. The table was digging uncomfortably into his back, and Draco was so, so close.

"That doesn't matter anymore," Draco said quietly. "But what does matter is why you keep coming to find me. I bet you don't even know why you come to me more often than go to your friends. Maybe you should stop worrying about me, and start trying to work out why you're all of a sudden relating to me more than your friends of seven years."

Harry shook his head fractionally. He drew his breath in sharply as Draco moved even closer, his legs brushing Harry's.

"Is it because I've been through a pretty hefty amount of shit at the hand of the Dark Lord, and you can relate?" Draco asked, his voice low. His fingers reached out to gently tug at the bottom of Harry's tie, and Harry saw they were shaking. "Is it because you saved my life?" Draco continued, looking down at his fingers which were gently twisting the red and gold material between them. He breathed in and out and seemed to steel himself, before looking up at Harry, eyes bright. "Or is it because I'm gay, and you think you can relate to that?"

Harry was frozen. He had never been so close to another boy like this, face to face, close enough so that they could kiss, but his brain had apparently abandoned him and he couldn't think. Oh God, they were right, everyone was right, he was obsessed with Draco and obsessed with the fact Draco was gay, and maybe he liked that scarf so damn much because he would rather have Draco pressed up against him than anyone else. But fuck, Draco was so fucking close, and Harry could see every minuscule fleck of blue in his grey eyes. Terror gripped Harry from the inside out; he was absolutely fucked because he couldn't actually find a problem with Draco being that close to him.

Oh, God. He was.

Draco didn't seem to need an answer. He gave Harry's tie a gentle tug. "Would you like to run away now?"

Harry managed to nod and speak, his voice hoarse. "Yes please."

Draco's lips twitched in another smile. "Go on then."

Harry didn't waste any time. He bolted away from Draco and out of the room, slamming the door behind him. He staggered along the corridor and then slumped against the wall, his hand placed over his heart which seemed to be trying to escape.

Well. It seemed he'd got his answer.

Chapter Text

Harry didn't dare move. He was going to stay hidden in the secret corridor behind the tapestry on the third floor, because he didn't trust his feet, or the rest of his traitorous body. He was terrified that if he tried to walk back to Gryffindor tower, his feet would instead lead him straight back to Draco.

The link had been quiet since he had fled from Draco, and he suspected it would stay that way until he chose to break the silence.

What on Earth had happened to Draco in the past week? The shuffling, awkward, insecure boy had gone, and somewhere along the line he'd been replaced with someone with a devious streak of confidence. Guaranteed, it was shaky and still laced with nerves, but there was no doubt about it. Draco had found some self-respect and had apparently come to terms with his sexuality.

And was now using it to torment Harry and ruin his life.

He wondered if he'd ever have found this out about himself if he'd not been linked to Draco. He cringed, imaging what life would be like if he'd carried on going out with Ginny. Surely he wouldn't have been able to do it? Surely if he was getting this wound up over another bloke, Ginny wasn't really doing it for him?

He felt awful. Truly awful because until that point he had genuinely believed that he liked Ginny, that he wanted her. But now whatever he had felt had been eclipsed by Draco simply standing next to him and playing with his bloody tie.

The git had changed everything.

Harry made his feet move and took a step towards the tapestry and then groaned as he realised something was missing from his side.

He'd left his bloody bag.

Oh, how the tables had turned.

He didn't dare go and retrieve the bag now. He didn't know what Draco was going to do for his next move at all, and that made him nervous. The balance of power had shifted in a big way, and he wasn't sure he liked it. Before, when he was the one holding onto Draco's secret, it was easy to coax Draco into a more compliant state, to try and help. But now Draco was the one with Harry held in the palm of his hand, Harry had no choice but to accept that Draco would be the one calling the shots from now on.

Draco had been cleverer than Harry had initially realised. He'd practically given Harry the go ahead to tell everyone about his sexuality, but Harry couldn't do that unless he wanted to potentially blow his own cover.

Shoulders slumping, he cautiously moved his feet towards the tapestry again. He didn't feel any overwhelming urge to run back to Draco, so took a few more steps. That was just how he was going to have to do it, he reasoned. One step at a time.

All he had to do now was to get back to the dorm room. One tiny little thing. He didn't have to talk to Draco, or go and fetch his bag, or contemplate just how he'd ended up fancying my ex-nemesis who just happened to be a bloke. No. All of that big and frankly terrifying stuff could wait.

Wishing he had his invisibility cloak, he managed to get back up to the common room without incident. Well, expect for a few people staring at him, but that was to be expected after Ginny's outburst in the Entrance Hall. It wasn't lost on Harry that she may have been a teensy bit right. Figuring out just how right she was could wait until he'd actually had some time to think about everything, in privacy, and after the initial shock and terror had worn off.

"Not so fast."

His attempt at a stealthy manoeuvre across the common room was sabotaged as a hand grabbed the back of his robes, jerking him to a standstill. Wildly, he thought Draco might have somehow been so bold as to break into the Gryffindor common room, but as he turned he came nose to nose with a decidedly less startling face.

"Calm down, mate," Ron said, letting him go and holding his hands up in a gesture of surrender. "Are you okay?"

Harry briefly contemplated running away from him again, but dismissed the thought almost immediately. He needed some advice and some help, and this time definitely not from Draco. Every time he went to Draco to sort things out, things just came out even more complicated than they had to start with.

"Can I talk to you?"

Ron looked relieved. "Thought you'd never ask."

The knot in Harry's chest tightened as Ron moved towards the stairs that led up to the dormitory. Ron had known before he'd even realised anything. God, had he been exhibiting any outrageously queer behaviour that he'd not even noticed? No-one had known about Draco – actually, was that true? Everyone had assumed Draco was gay in the course of accusing Harry of being bent. Did no-one care?

He felt like he was walking to a bloody courtroom trail, following Ron up the steps to the dorm room. He knew he was going to get an interrogation, but he didn't know how vigorous it was going to be. Especially if he didn't know how to answer.

As soon as they reached the thankfully empty dorm room, Harry collapsed onto his bed, rubbing his face vigorously.

"So," Ron said, without preamble from somewhere across the room. "Malfoy?"

"What about him?" Harry asked, sounding braver than he felt. He didn't sit up though.

"I take it you went to find him after you ran away?"

"Yeah, he'd said about doing some transfiguration work…"

"Do you fancy him?"

Harry swallowed thickly. "Yes."

"And he fancies you?" Ron asked.

Harry sat up, frowning at Ron. "Are you not mad?"

Ron looked at him, bemused. He leant back where he was sat on the edge of his bed, putting his weight on his hands. "No, I'm not mad. It's not like you've chosen to fancy Malfoy to piss everyone off, right? I bet it's more trouble for you than it's worth."

Harry managed to laugh. "Too right."

There was a pause, and Harry heard Ron shuffling uncomfortably. "Erm," he tried. "Have you, you know. Kissed him?"

Harry shook his head, unsure as to whether he wanted to be amused at Ron's new awkwardness. "No. He got pretty bloody close to it earlier though."

"Well that's…" Ron began, and then shook his head. "Sorry mate. I can only think of punching him if he got that close."

"Well you're completely straight," Harry muttered.

"And you're not?" Ron countered, and Harry realised what he'd said.

"Considering the crap that keeps coming out of my mouth, I don't think so, no," he finally said, running his fingers through his fringe.

"And considering you're obsessed with Malfoy again?"

Harry sighed. "Well that's just the thing. I've never…like, thought about guys or anything. It's just…it's just him."

"Maybe you're Malfoysexual?"

Harry shot Ron a glare. "You're not being helpful."

Ron shrugged. "This is awkward enough without me trying to be sensible."

Harry couldn't help but laugh. "I suppose."

He clambered up properly onto his bed, pulling a pillow down under his head. He heaved out a sigh, feeling like he could just go to sleep then and there.

"When are you going to give that bloody thing back?" Ron asked, making Harry look up again.

"Huh?"

"That."

Ron pointed towards the head of Harry's bed and he flushed as he saw Draco's scarf peeking out from underneath his remaining pillow. The green and silver stood out shockingly against the reds of the rest of the room.

"Oh," he said. "I'll give it back later. I've got to go and get my bag at some point anyway."

"Why, where's your bag gone?"

"I left it when I ran away from Draco. I assume he's got it."

"You ran away from him as well?" Ron asked, his tone weary.

"He got too close," Harry mumbled, knowing that his argument came out sounding rather pathetic.

"Well here we have a problem," Ron said matter of factly. "You think you're queer, you won't go within three feet of any girls, you're arse over tit for bloody Malfoy and you're now complaining that he's too close?"

Harry didn't answer. He just stared at a spot on the wall, not wanting to meet Ron's eyes. This was hard.

"I don't know what to do," he finally said quietly. "Before he was hiding from everything and whining that he didn't want anyone to know, then he turns around and changes his mind and says he doesn't care who knows, and now he's torturing me."

"If that's torture, what a way to go."

"But everyone else-" Harry struggled to say. "They're all giving me shit about it."

"Bollocks to everyone else," Ron said. "If you don't make a move somewhere, you're never going to get laid."

Harry scowled at him. "Is that what my crisis comes down to? Getting laid?"

Ron rolled his eyes, as if Harry was being the difficult one. "When were you last happy being close to anyone else?"

Harry sighed, his scowl disappearing. "Never."

"There you go," Ron said promptly, and the grimaced. "I can't believe I'm actively encouraging this."

"You are?"

Ron nodded. "I'm not saying you should shout it from the rooftops or anything. But if Malfoy's, erm, 'getting close', maybe you should let him. You've got to know, at least."

"That's another thing I don't get," Harry said. "One minute he's crying and screaming because I found out he's gay, then within a week he's suddenly all confident and, and, looking at me weird."

"Told you Malfoy fancied you," Ron replied. "I said that ages ago."

"You really think he does?"

"Oh god, you sound like Lavender," Ron groaned. He feigned a high pitched voice. "Do you think he likes me? How can you tell?"

"Oh, har har," Harry said dryly. "Arsehole."

"Glad to be of service. I'm going back for Charms anyway, Hermione'll kill me if I miss it."

"I'm staying here," Harry said. "Don't want to see Draco just yet."

"Cant work out whether you want to punch him or kiss him?"

Harry laughed tiredly. "I'm past punching him. I think it's the other one."

"I told you, go for it."

Lifting his head up again, Harry looked at Ron pointedly. "In the middle of Charms?"

Ron snorted. "Fair point. I'll see you later."

Harry waved lazily as Ron left the dormitory, leaving him alone and feeling significantly calmer. It was strange how knowing that you had the support from your best friend could make everything else seem a little easier.

Although, easy was relative in the grand scheme of things. Technically, admitting he fancied Draco Malfoy should be a piece of cake considering he'd defeated a Dark Lord, but right now it seemed to be one of the hardest mountains Harry had ever had to climb.

Is this what it felt like to be normal? He couldn't help but wonder if he would have gone through this earlier on in life if he'd not been distracted by Voldemort. Was this all just normal teenage boy stuff that he'd missed out on?

It was kind of nice. And terrifying. And complicated. And no doubt Ginny was going to hex him, Hermione was going to lecture him and the rest of the castle were going to point and whisper. Not to mention the ribbing he'd get from Seamus if he ever found out.

Everyone else could shove it, he decided. Doing what he wanted instead of what everyone else expected suddenly seemed like a very good idea.

But first, he just had to work out exactly what he wanted.

He rolled over onto his back, reaching up to pull Draco's scarf down into his hands, holding it under his chin.

He thought maybe he had a vague idea already.


 

He could see pale arms wrapped around someone's neck. Someone with brown hair and a dark tan, who had their own hands curled around the others hips, fingers digging in tightly. Both were shirtless, and the contrast in their skin was startling, the effect heightened by how closely they were pressed together.

The image guttered and flickered and moved closer. One of the dark-haired boy's hands lifted to thread into white-blond strands, holding him even closer. Pale hands move to smooth over the flexing muscles in the other boy's back, tentative yet sure.

They were kissing, still kissing like there wasn't going to be another chance. The boy with the blond hair was leaning back, held in place by the hand in his hair. Leaning back just enough to tease, to make the other follow, tilting forwards eagerly.

Their mouths separated and Draco appeared to gasp as kisses were placed along his neck, open mouthed and insistent. A hand was creeping around the waistband of his trousers, curling around the button. Harry swore he heard another gasp as the image flickered again, and the sound of heavy breathing, full of anticipation-

Harry opened his eyes slowly in the darkness, his heart thudding.

Oh, God.

That had to be a dream of a memory, right? It was the same boy they'd talked about before. God, Harry had never been kissed like that, he'd barely imaged ever kissing like that.

He placed a hand over his beating heart and then realised that it wasn't just his heart that was rather interested in what he'd just seen. He moved his hand with a groan of despair to press against his erection through his blankets. This was so fucked up, he was uncomfortably hard from watching Draco bloody making out with that guy, and he shouldn't be.

It was normal right? Anyone would be aroused at seeing two people get off that passionately? He wondered what was happening in the rest of the dream, if it had trailed off into something inane about homework or Quidditch, or it had gotten more…intimate.

Had he just witnessed a dream that could have led to sex?

Had Draco had sex with that boy?

It wasn't a secret that Harry was absolutely clueless about sex. In fact, it was often a source of hilarity for the other boys in the dorm, that Harry got so uncomfortable whenever jokes or conversation headed that way.

Was it even possible to have sex with another guy? Harry knew the limitations of his own body pretty well, and he was pretty sure attempting anything like that would surpass those limitations by a long way. Miles. Light years.

He felt himself blushing as he briefly contemplating asking Draco about it. Was he insane? Draco would murder him. Or start taking dreamless sleep again, thus cutting off Harry's only avenue of sexual education.

Luckily, in his hesitant and somewhat uncomfortable musings over the mechanics of gay sex, his erection has decided to relent. Maybe he wasn't that interested after all. Or maybe it was natural, because of nerves. He knew Ron had been dead nervous before he'd slept with Hermione for the first time, although that wasn't anything he wanted to think about any time soon.

Hang on – why was he feeling nervous? He wasn't going to sleep with Draco.

Was he?

No I am bloody well not! He thought, panicking slightly. He wasn't going to be doing stuff with anyone, he was going to stay celibate for the rest of his life and never think about him or Draco having sex with anyone ever again.

He groaned again, rolling over and burying his face in his pillow. This was not going to be easy.


 

"You look knackered. Again."

Harry sighed as he slipped onto the bench at the Gryffindor table next to Hermione. Ron was opposite them, munching his way through a tall stack of toast. The Hall was fairly quiet, many people already having eaten and left.

"Did you not sleep at all?" Hermione asked, sounding concerned.

"I did a bit," Harry said, pulling at his tie. He'd tied it in such a rush after getting up late, that the bloody thing was nearly choking him. "Not enough. Link playing up again."

"Dreams?" Hermione asked quietly and Harry nodded.

"Draco's," he said quietly. "And they're becoming rather enlightening."

Ron made a gagging noise and pulled a face, but Hermione just looked interested. "Really? In what way?"

Harry hesitated. He glanced around warily, not wanting to divulge within earshot of anyone else. He'd made a good point of avoiding the major thoroughfares on the way down to breakfast, unwilling to face the crowds that were undoubtedly still gossiping about him.

"Him with that boy again."

Hermione went pink, opening her mouth and then closing it again before she found any words. "Oh. Well. That's…" she cleared her throat. "Dare I ask?"

"Not conversation for the breakfast table," he muttered.

"You're right," Ron said, wrinkling his nose. "He is torturing you."

"You've still not told me what happened yesterday," Hermione said to Harry, who frowned at her as he poured himself some juice.

"You've heard what happened."

"I'd like to hear it from you," she said gently and he nodded, suddenly feeling a little guilty. He knew things were different now, and he'd been preoccupied with Draco and the link, but there was no real excuse for forgetting to tell Hermione everything. In fact, she'd probably be able to offer some more intelligent insight into his situation, in comparison to the remarkably detail-free plan he and Ron had come up with.

"Sorry," he said genuinely. "There's just so much going on I can barely keep up."

"Harry? Can I have a word?"

Harry turned around in surprise as he heard Dean's voice just behind him.

"What about?" he asked warily, not entirely certain as to what this could be about. He suspected it was something to do with the showdown he'd had with Ginny in the Hall the previous day.

Dean looked down at the floor. "I'd rather talk in private."

"I wouldn't," Harry said flatly. "I've got enough to be dealing with right now."

"Ginny's upset," Dean said bluntly, meeting Harry's eyes. "Really upset."

Harry gaped at Dean for a moment. "And you're expecting me to sort it out? After what she did yesterday? After everything?"

"Well, I thought-" Dean began, but didn't get anything else out before Harry interrupted.

"Let me get this straight. You, the guy who is sniffing around my ex, is coming to me to sort out your problems?"

Deans hands twitched by his sides and he shoved them into his pockets. "The problems are down to you," he said tightly. "And if we look back, I think you were the one who went after my ex."

"Harry," Hermione whispered at his side, but it went unheard as Dean continued.

"That's kind of cleared it up though. If you're calling her your ex."

"Bugger off, Dean," Harry said, shaking his head. "I've got enough on my plate without dealing with this."

Dean sighed, pulling his hands out of his pocket to rub at his temples. "Harry, you're a great bloke, but at the moment you're being ridiculously selfish."

Across the table Seamus hid his face in his hands. Ron was staring at Dean like he'd want nothing more than to punch him. Hermione was looking at her breakfast and trying very hard to pretend she wasn't listening at all.

Harry couldn't do anything but gape. "What?"

"I know you've had a lot going on, but you haven't even thought about Ginny in all of this. She's having to deal with you…you know, and all this stuff with Malfoy-"

"I know!" Harry exploded, standing up sharply and making Dean take a step backwards. "I know it's hard on her! But she's apparently more than happy taking comfort from you so just fuck off and stop making this more complicated than it needs to be! I don't want to talk to her, she doesn't want to talk to me, so stop feeling guilty and just get on with it!"

Dean blinked at him, looking shocked. "You really don't care?"

"Would you want me to care?" Harry demanded. "Would you both be happier knowing I was kicking up a fuss over it? Because that's pretty immature."

Dean's face clouded over. "Sorry for trying to be respectful."

"Thanks for the thought but I don't need you to be respectful. You and Ginny are free to do as you please."

"You could have at least told her that," Dean said coldly. "She's the one that's been feeling guilty."

"Why the bloody hell should she?" Harry asked.

"I don't know," Dean countered. "Especially considering what's going on with you and Malfoy."

Harry saw red. "Yeah, exactly," he snapped, ignoring Hermione's sharp intake of breath beside him. "I'm so obviously shagging Malfoy, so feel free to tell Ginny so she can shag you in return, perfectly guilt free."

He sat back down without another word. The table around him was eerily quiet but he didn't comment, reaching out to pour himself more juice, even though he'd not yet drank anything from his goblet.

When the silence had gone on far too long, he looked up. Dean was gone. Seamus was looking like he wanted to laugh and shake Harry's hand, Hermione was looking worried, and Ron was looking faintly green.

"I don't know," Ron said mournfully, swallowing. "If it was the bit about you shagging Malfoy, or the bit about Dean shagging my sister."

Harry's anger immediately faded as Hermione reached out to take Ron's hand across the table, now looking like she wanted to laugh herself. Harry couldn't help it. He laughed, shaking his head. "Sorry, mate."

"I think it was calling him immature that did it," Seamus chipped in, grinning widely. "Seriously, he's been banging on about being mature and responsible and taking the high road for ages. I mean, he's gots the right idea, but I don't think he really knows what he talking about. Pretending to be all grown up, like."

"I wish he wouldn't," Harry said, shaking his head as he reached for toast. "Him and Ginny both."

"I do get her point," Hermione said, still patting the back of Ron's hand and fighting to keep a straight face. "You should have told her."

"I know," Harry sighed. "It's hard though when I don't know what I should be telling people."

"That you're queer and get a boner looking at Malfoy?"

Ron choked on his juice, Hermione made a high pitched noise that could have been one of distress, and Harry threw his toast at Seamus.

"Shut up!"

"No denial, I see," Seamus grinned. "Not any more, anyway."

"How do you- what are you on about?" Harry hissed across the table, feeling a flush rising in his neck as he remembered the incident from the previous night. Not that he'd be sharing with Seamus that he had indeed gotten a hard-on from watching Malfoy making out with some guy.

"Calm down," Seamus said patiently. "I won't say owt. Everyone else just thinks it a rumour or gossip. I'm just clever enough to work out what's really going on."

Ron snorted in disbelief. "You mean you were there when I talked to Harry the other day."

"Whatever works," Seamus shrugged, conceding the point.

Their banter was low on Harry's list of things to care about; he was currently trying to calculate just how much damage had been done by calling Dean immature, saying he was welcome to shag Ginny, and shouting that he was shagging Malfoy.

Bugger.

I've got your bag. Come and get it.

Harry jumped a mile as Draco's voice cut clearly through his thoughts. Hermione eyed him curiously as he rubbed his chest. His heart was seriously going to give out soon, thanks to that blond menace.

"Draco," he said. "Got my bag."

She nodded. "Are you going to fetch it now?"

He nodded, grabbing a piece of toast that he hopefully wouldn't have to throw at anyone. "It's got my Transfiguration questions in it. I need to finish them today or risk being murdered."

Hermione's expression turned indignant. "You said you'd finished them!"

Harry froze, opened his mouth uselessly, and then just shrugged sheepishly, pasting what he hoped was a winning smile onto his face.

"Just go," Hermione said wearily as Seamus and Ron laughed.

Harry didn't wait to be told twice. He darted away from the table, munching on his toast.

Where are you?

Leaving the common room. Do you want to come and meet me so no-one stares?

Yes please. On the way.

Harry headed across the Entrance Hall and towards the Slytherin dungeons, his stomach clenching tightly, nothing to do with the toast he'd just finished. He felt nervous. Nervous about going see someone, awkward and gangly in a way he hadn't since he'd tried to talk to Cho in fourth year. His pulse quickened as he remembered Draco's dream that he'd been witness to. Would Draco know he'd seen it? Would he be angry? Or would he use it as part of his new torturing Harry campaign? It would certainly work if he decided to do so.

The time for wondering and making up stammering apologies was soon cut short however, as he turned onto the corridor that led down to the Slytherin dungeons he saw a flash of blond hair, lurking near the same alcove he'd waited in before.

I can see you.

You were meant to.

I thought you were hiding.

Why would I hide when I'm waiting for you?

I've given up on trying to get you to make sense.

"You're wanting me to make sense?" Draco said with a smirk as Harry drew close. He had his bag and Harry's bag pulled over either shoulder, the straps crossed over his chest.

"It would help," Harry said ruefully, coming to a stop at Draco's side.

"Here you go," Draco pulled at the strap of Harry bag and lifted it over his head, passing it back. "Unhexed and unharmed."

Thank you.

Draco looked up at Harry and a hesitant smile pulled at the corner of his mouth.

You're welcome.

There was a silence, in which Harry made a show of puling his bag onto his shoulder, checking all the buckles and zips, before finally looking back up.

"So," he said awkwardly, hoping that he wasn't blushing again. He didn't dare look at Draco's mouth, that mouth that he'd seen firmly attached to another blokes, didn't dare wonder what it would taste like. It was like being torn in two. When he were with the rest of the word, thinking about Draco like that seemed alien and uncomfortable, and he couldn't help but panic about what everyone would think, what everyone was already saying. When he and Draco were alone and close, the thoughts came flooding in thick and fast and he couldn't stop them.

"You look tired," Draco said, saving him from having to finish his sentence. There was another pause. "Did…did I keep you up?"

Harry jerked his head up to look at Draco who was looking away, idly running his thumb over the joints between the armour plates on the statue of the knight next to him. There was a faint pink flush on his cheekbones, contradicting his casual tone.

"Yeah," Harry said, his voice scratchy and rough. He cleared his throat. "Yeah, you did."

Draco looked at him then, his eyes bright and Harry swallowed thickly. He didn't look away.

"Are you mad?"

Draco shook his head, and slowly licked his lower lip, biting on it with straight white teeth. It was a small gesture, not calculated at all, but it lit Harry's nerves on fire nonetheless.

"Oh," Harry managed. "I'm glad."

Draco's eyes flickered away and then back to Harry's. The flush on his cheeks deepened. "How much did you see?"

Harry swallowed again. His throat wasn't working properly, he was sure of it. "Just. Just the kissing. The kissing without-" he gestured to his shirt, pretty sure he was blushing as hard as Draco. "Yeah."

"Oh," Draco said, tone nonchalant. "And then you woke up?"

Harry nodded, unable to say anything without his voice cracking.

Draco looked away again, raising his hands and examining one of his nails as if it were the most interesting thing in the world. "Probably a good thing that you did."

Oh god. He was trying to kill him. He knew it. He was going to die of blushing too hard. It was possible right? Not enough blood to get to all his vital organs because it had all diverted to his face.

"Dare I ask?" he managed to ask, trying to inject some bravery into his tone. God, what was it about Draco that made him like this? He could talk, argue and shout at anyone else without feeling like this; nervous and awkward and like his limbs were too big for his body.

Draco almost smiled at him. "I don't think you're quite ready to hear the rest of it."

Bloody hell. How was Harry supposed to think about this rationally when Draco was basically just standing there and being all weirdly suggestive and seductive, dropping hints about that bloody dream and playing Harry like a bloody harp?

"So, I take it you've still got to finish the Transfiguration questions?"

Harry blinked. "What?"

"The transfiguration questions," Draco said, turning from sexy to impatient in the blink of an eye. "Did you finish them?"

"Oh, no. Still got three to do."

"Do you want to meet up later and finish them maybe? If you're feeling extra lazy, which is probably a given seeing as it's you, you can copy mine."

Harry was taken aback. "Er, thanks?"

Draco shrugged. "Wouldn't want your abysmal marks being blamed on me and this link. I'll see you later, anyway. Before or after dinner?"

"Before," Harry decided. "We've got a free period last thing haven't we?"

Yes. Plenty of time, then. I'll see you later, scarhead.

Harry couldn't reply. He could only stand and stare as Draco walked off without another word, without looking back.

What a git.


 

"Ron, do my Transfiguration for me."

"Not a chance."

"Please?"

"No."

"It's a matter of life and death."

"…what?"

"If I get them done now I don't have to go and see Draco."

"Then definitely not a chance. You're going to see him."

Harry glared half heartedly at Ron as they dropped their bags to the floor beside the sofa in the common room. "You're meant to be on my side."

"I am on your side," Ron said, flopping down onto the sofa, arms and legs everywhere. "But you're going to see him."

"But…" Harry dropped onto the sofa next to Ron. "I did tell you how weird he was earlier, didn't I?"

"Like twenty times," Ron said with a roll of his eyes. "And why are you so scared? Where's your inner Gryffindor gone?"

"Draco stole it," Harry muttered, leaning back and shutting his eyes.

"Bollocks," Ron snorted. "Stop being such a wuss."

"Oh, says you," Harry interjected. "Remember the day before you took Hermione out on your first proper date?"

Ron sat up straight, pointing at Harry. "That's different. Hermione is scary."

"So is Draco," Harry said, knocking Ron's hand away. "He's a Slytherin."

"Who you've suddenly let get away with running circles around you. What happened?"

Harry didn't want to let Ron know that what had happened was Harry had noticed Draco's eyes, lips and arse, in that order. And apparently, when Harry fancied someone his mental capabilities disintegrated at an alarming rate.

"Dunno," he opted for saying.

I just left Arithmancy. I'm going to the library straight away. You better come sooner than later if we've got any hope of getting you to understand this.

"He wants me to go and meet him now," Harry said.

That was mean. And besides, you said I could copy yours.

Ron nodded. "Off you trot, then."

Where's the fun in that? Wouldn't want to make things easy for you.

Harry sent Ron a beseeching look. "Do I have to?"

Heaven forbid you'd ever do that. I'm on the way.

"Nope, you don't have to but then you'll spend the next week whining and being all confused and I'll have to kill you."

"Fine," Harry sighed. "Point. Now if I don't come back-"

"I'll assume you're snogging in the back aisle of the library."

Harry pulled a face at Ron and stood up, scowling. He was about to stomp off without a word when he felt fingers catch his sleeve. He turned around to see Ron looking at him with a lopsided smile.

"I know I prat about, but I get how hard this is. Don't worry. Just go for what you want, yeah?"

Harry relaxed a little, the tension easing from his shoulders. "Thanks mate," he said, and Ron nodded, slumping back onto the sofa.

"Just don't actually snog him in the library. Hermione'd do her nut."

"Bugger off."

Harry grinned at Ron who waved lazily back, and then took a deep breath and headed to the portrait hole. He contemplated using his invisibility cloak so no-one would see him or stop him, but he figured he wouldn't be able to wear it whilst working with Draco in the library, so it was pretty pointless.

Working with Draco Malfoy. Things had certainly changed since the start of the year, and not in ways he could have anticipated.

Transfiguration, he told himself sternly. He was going so he could finish his Transfiguration work. He tried repeating it with every step but it did nothing to ease the butterflies in his stomach as he drew closer to the library.

He groaned, tugging his bag up onto his shoulder. He was eighteen, for Merlins sake, not a fourteen year old girl. But then again, there was the common occurrence that he had just discovered boys, too.

Wouldn't do for his life to be simple now would it?

Where are you?

He rolled his eyes, shaking his head. On the way, calm down.

I'll just add being late to your repertoire.

Harry didn't reply. He was only about thirty seconds away from the library anyway. Merlin, but Draco could whine when the mood took him, the git.

Harry hoped that these stupid nerves didn't make him do anything…stupid.

Several seventh year Ravenclaw girls watched him with interested expressions on their faces as he sidled into the library. At least all the younger years were still in lessons, and he wouldn't have to put up with shameless giggling and squealing.

Where abouts are you?

At the back. Near the Ancient Arithmancy section.

If Harry were going to run away, that would have been the moment to do so. The bloody Ancient Arithmancy section? Right next to the aisles that no-one ever went down except for clandestine snogging sessions. It was one of Hermione's pet hates; Harry supposed she just couldn't bear the thought of books being disrespected as such, even if no-one ever read them. Harry didn't have issue with people stealing kisses in the library, what he did have issue with was Draco choosing that spot to sit in. People only ever met at those tables when they had other priorities than studying, and he was sure Draco knew it.

He didn't stop. He paused for a beat on the corner of the Arithmancic Herbology section and then steeled himself to go on. Ron was right. He needed to find some Gryffindor courage and stop running away. Whatever the outcome was going to be, he had to face it.

He spotted Draco easily, sat alone at a small table at the very back of the library, books spread out in front of him. Harry approached quietly, and Draco didn't look up or acknowledge him, even as Harry slid onto the chair beside him.

"Couldn't have sat anywhere else, hmm?" Harry muttered, opening his bag and tugging a book out.

"I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about," Draco murmured, his eyes still fixed on the parchment in front of him.

"Oh, I'm sure," Harry whispered, and Draco looked up, challenge in his eyes.

Harry looked away, delving in his bag to find a quill. "Oh come off it. You know the reputation of this corner of the library."

"Maybe, maybe not," Draco said, his face giving nothing away.

Smart replies had all but abandoned Harry, so he instead concentrated on unpacking his bag, carefully unrolling his unfinished Transfiguration questions.

What are you working on? He peered over at the multitude of books Draco had stacked on the desk. It was like working with Hermione, although he didn't say that out loud.

"Herbology at the moment," Draco said. "I'll finish Charms if it gets boring."

"Oh, bugger," Harry groaned, suddenly realising that he hadn't even started the charms work. "I haven't even thought about that one."

"Shall I add poor organisational skills to the list, too?"

"There's a list?"

"Yes," Draco replied, and then paused. "It's not all bad, though, I suppose."

Harry felt a strange sensation in his chest at the offhand compliment, a sensation that tightened alarmingly as without warning, Draco shifted his chair closer to Harry's and leant over, looking at his Transfiguration work. Harry couldn't do anything but sit helplessly back in his chair, his hands held awkwardly in his lap. Draco was so bloody close again, practically leaning across him, and – Merlin – he could smell Draco's cologne. He was sure his heart rate had doubled and was probably audible, and tried to calm himself down. He wondered if that cologne had played a part in that other boy being attracted to Draco.

"They're okay," Draco said, breaking Harry out of his staring-at-Draco's-ear trance. "You'll be able to do the last three in about half an hour if you concentrate."

"If I concentrate," Harry replied, wanting to cry as he felt Draco shift back onto his own seat, his leg nearly brushing Harry's. "Right."

"This will help," Draco said, leaning over away from Harry to reach for his bag. Harry couldn't help but watch the way his muscles flexed in his back, the ridge of his spine faintly visible through his jumper. He sat back up and dropped a book onto the table ontop of Harry's work.

"Alright, which chapter?"

Draco raised an eyebrow. "Want me to write it for you?"

"Just the chapter?" Harry asked, almost pleading.

Draco heaved out a long suffering sigh. "Four for the first three, five for the next two and six for the last ones."

Thank you.

Harry started flipping through the book immediately, hoping it would actually help and that Draco wasn't sending him on a wild thestral-chase. He'd still find it pretty funny to get Draco to read four chapters before accidentally on purpose realising he'd given him the wrong book.

He shifted the book to the side, holding the page down by resting his hand on the corner. He belatedly realised that the movement placed his arm close enough to Draco's so that he could feel the material of Draco's jumper catching against his as Draco wrote. Out of the corner of his eye he watched Draco scribbling notes down on his parchment. He could barely stop looking at Draco's hands, the same hands he'd seen touching someone else in that dream-

You're left handed.

The minute the words had been formed, he wanted to cringe. How bloody daft did that sound? Of course Draco knew he was left handed, just because Harry had never noticed before didn't mean he had to state the bloody obvious.

Ambidextrous actually.

Harry looked up, eyebrows raised in question. Draco simply swapped his quill from his left to his right hand and carried on writing. The words were less neat with his right hand than his left, but still perfectly legible.

"That's mad," he whispered, and Draco smirked.

Comes in very useful. Makes multi-tasking easier. You know, using both hands at the same time.

Harry nearly snapped his own quill in half as his fingers twitched. He stared down at his textbook, not daring to look up, and frantically trying not to think about Draco multitasking in any context.

"Maybe you should learn to multitask," Draco whispered, leaning over slightly. "You'd get a lot more done."

Harry had to fight not to shiver at Draco's proximity, and swallowed thickly. "I can only multitask when I'm on a broom."

Oh, really?

Harry fought the urge to groan out loud and drop his forhead to the table infront of him. He had meant flying, that was it, but apparently every other sentence that he came out with was a blatant innuendo. This was unfair, so unfair. Where had his damn inner-Gryffindor gone again? It was like the minute he got within ten feet of Draco it gave up and ran away.

Look.

A sharp elbow nudged him in the ribs and Harry looked at Draco questioningly. Draco nodded ahead of them and Harry followed his gaze to see two seventh year Ravenclaws heading their way, holding hands and trying to hide guilty smiles. Harry recognised the boy from the Ravenclaw Quidditch team, and knew he was a boy who was rather popular with the girls in school.

"The delights of the Ancient Arithmancy section," Draco breathed as they approached. "Quiet until raging hormones take over."

"Hermione would give them detention for a week," Harry replied in an undertone.

The boy and girl approached, both pink in the cheeks. The girl avoided their gaze, holding onto one the boy's hands with both of her own and looking down at her shoes. The boy looked directly at them, looking embarrassed but also eager.

"Er, are you two…?" He gestured to the aisles around him. "Or are you…studying?"

Harry's mouth dropped open in shock. That boy thought they were here for that? He really thought that they'd actually jump each other for the first time in the bloody library? Although considering that everyone in the castle apparently thought they were already going out, so maybe snogging sessions in the library was what everyone expected? Harry felt embarrassment and indignant anger surge through him; why was everyone else allowed to make judgements about his personal life? Why was everyone else making assumptions that were based on nothing but rumours? However, before he could vocalise any of his objections, Draco apparently predicted an outburst and elbowed him again, hard.

"We're fine just here for now," Draco said to the boy. "Go ahead."

The boy nodded and then shot Draco a grin and another nod, before he and the girl hurried past them without another word, his hand in the small of her back and guiding her along. They disappeared around the far stack at the very back of the library, their giggles soon lost between the books.

"Back aisle," Draco rolled his eyes. "Lovely."

"Draco!" Harry hissed. "You prat! They think we're back here to- to, you know."

"Study?" Draco offered.

"Bloody hell!"

"Calm down," Draco whispered, peering back at his textbook. "It can't bother you that much, or you wouldn't have sat with me."

"Didn't mean you had to make it worse! You're asking for trouble," Harry whispered heatedly.

"Am I?"

"Everyone already thinks I fancy you," Harry whispered, feeling himself blushing again. "I've got nothing to bloody lose. The worst that will happen to me is that people will carry on saying it."

"Or you'll confirm it," Draco said slyly.

"Or I'll tell everyone that it was your idea to meet here," Harry replied, and saw a grimace flitter across Draco's face. "That's a point, actually. I might as well just tell the truth about you flirting with me-"

"I am not!" Draco hissed, and Harry bit back a grin to see his demeanour slipping. Not so completely in control now, was he?

Arsehole.

Harry did grin at that. What? Don't like me stating the obvious?

There is an art to subtlety, Potty.

Yeah? You were never very subtle before.

There was a pause and Harry felt a flash of alarm run through him. Bugger. He should have been more careful; he was so wrapped up in the whole tangle of the link that he had almost forgotten all the other stuff hiding just under the surface, stuff that could turn nasty with one too many misplaced comments.

I don't know what that is supposed to be a reference to, but if it's something unpleasant you can fuck off and do your own Transfiguration work.

Harry didn't know what to say. He was a little…awed, for want of a better word. Draco was so bloody unpredictable. One minute he would be flirtatious and mischievous, the next upset and panicked, and full of controlled fury only seconds later.

I think I'll get much better marks if you do it.

Draco's head jerked up sharply, and then he smiled at Harry. A proper smile, which made his eyes light up and made him suddenly seem untouched by the war. Harry felt like a balloon was inflating in his chest at the reaction; he had actually managed to say the right thing. One careful and sheepish compliment and Draco's anger had disappeared like water down a storm drain.

For what it's worth, I'm sorry for the lack of subtlety when we were younger.

It's okay. You can make it up to me.

Harry's eyes were transfixed again by Draco's quill, which was flicking back and forth between his fingers. Harry suddenly wondered if Draco would play with his tie again.

And how do you suggest I do that?

Heat once again flooded across Harry's cheeks. He reached for his book, pulling it towards him so he could pretend to read. At least he didn't have to talk out loud to Draco, that would potentially make things more awkward than they already were. At least with the link he could say thinks without having to hear himself actually saying them.

You're torturing me on purpose, right?

Possibly. You didn't answer the question.

Harry swallowed. Transfiguration, he told himself hazily. He was here for Transfiguration.

I think you know.

I might.

Harry looked up and saw Draco was staring at him intently, his quill now still in his hand. His cheekbones were pink, stained with a telltale flush that was starting to accompany most of their conversations. He was so bloody close, again. Close enough that in one move, Harry could lean across and kiss him. God he wanted to. If they were alone, somewhere no-one else could see, hear, or know about, he would. He'd grab the pointy blond git and kiss the breath out of him, just so he would know. So he could stop driving himself mad with wondering. He wouldn't even care that he was constantly worried that he was bad at it. He just had to do it.

He reigned his thoughts in, with effort. He was almost desperate to see if he really was, you know, desperate to have Draco close to see if it would make as much sense as he suspected it would. But he couldn't, not in the sodding library.

Talk about subtlety. Sitting them in the notorious Ancient Arithmancy section was about as subtle as a knee in the groin. But maybe, that's what Harry needed to face up to all these confusing feelings.

"So. Transfiguration?" Draco asked, clearing his throat.

"Yeah," Harry said, feeling dazed. "Transfiguration."

This was going to be a long afternoon.

Chapter Text

Draco laid back on his bed with a sigh, closing his eyes and letting his body relax for a moment, a stark contrast to how his mind was still whirring with thoughts about that afternoon. He couldn't quite believe it really. If anyone had told him a few weeks ago that he'd be studying in the Ancient Arithmancy section with Potter, his only response would have been a scornful laugh.

But now…his body was still tingling. He'd purposely sat so close to Harry that their arms and occasionally their legs had brushed, and he'd revelled in every twitch and falter Harry had made when it did happen. The only side effect was that his own concentration had been somewhat less focussed than usual.

And that rather inappropriate thoughts seemed to be crossing his mind at a rapidly increasing rate now that he'd found someone to feature in his daydreams.

He sat up with effort, and pulled his bag towards him, dragging it across his green blankets. He initially delved inside for his Charms book, before changing his mind and pulling out his new Flying First magazine instead. He'd done enough work for today, Transfiguration questions and Potter-baiting all included.

He flicked through the first few pages and paused at page four, which featured the very attractive seeker from the Greek National Quidditch team, who also happened to be the former main feature in Draco's daydreams. He smiled, but not at Alexis Laskaris, gorgeous though he undoubtedly was. He was smiling to himself, thinking that maybe he soon wouldn't have to daydream about unattainable Quidditch players and men he'd never meet. Maybe he soon wouldn't have to daydream at all…

He mentally chastised his errant thoughts, warning himself not to let his mind run away with him. There was a long way to go before he even started thinking about anything along those lines, as enticing as it was to his newly reformed mental perspective. He just had to focus on what had happened and the small possibilities that could arise from those tiny steps.

It was strange thinking about it. Bittersweet in some odd way, and full of a sense of importance that didn't just come with any regular study date. If that was even what it had been, Draco thought bemusedly. The whole situation was insane, really. It had taken them eight years, a war and a broken Legillimency link to get them there, but it looked like it was going to be worth the wait.

They were going to kiss. He just knew it. Draco shivered as he recalled how he'd seen Harry looking at him as they'd talked earlier, like Harry was itching to lean just that little bit closer. Draco could have done it, quite easily, but some part of him didn't want to give in quite so easily. He wanted Harry to want the kiss so badly that he just couldn't take it anymore. He had to know that Harry wanted it as much as he did.

He quirked an eyebrow at Alexis Laskaris who winked back at him and swooped his broom around to face the other way, hovering perfectly. Draco turned the page, wishing he still had the guts to be that confident on a broom.

I've still got your Transfiguration book.

He paused as Potter's quiet voice spoke in the back of his mind.

Its okay, I'll get it tomorrow.

You sure?

Yes, not studying anymore today.

Draco waited but there was no answer through the link. He was pleased that Potter had chosen to speak to him; obviously the incident in the library hadn't been that traumatic for him.

Maybe he'd even liked it, underneath all the protesting and flapping about and blushing.

Thank you for today.

Draco smiled again, feeling something warm uncurl in his chest.

You're welcome.

He barely had any time to smile about Harry's quiet and sincere 'thank you' when the dormitory door opened, banging noisily against the stone wall behind. He jumped, dropped his magazine, and then scowled up at the entering forms of Pansy and Theo.

"There you are. Where have you been?"

Draco raised an eyebrow at Pansy, who marched over with a face like thunder, shoving his bag out of her way and sitting on the edge of his bed. She didn't wait for an answer, reaching over and whipping Draco's magazine away from him, flipping through it somewhat viciously, still ranting without even looking up.

"Actually don't answer that. You've been with Potter, haven't you? What is it with everyone suddenly fancying Potter? He's still got those stupid glasses and he's scrawnier than you, and he's still such an arse. And he's so oblivious to anything going on around him, which is my opinion is ridiculously selfish. I think all those Unforgivables damaged his brain-"

Draco lifted his chin up to look past Pansy to Theo, raising his eyebrows in a question. Theo just shrugged, looking helpless and rather amused.

"-I must have heard his name around a hundred times today, and not even from anyone in our year who actually knows him. It's ridiculous, he's not saved the world again lately, all he's done is start shagging you-"

"Pansy!" Draco protested, holding his hands up to try and stop her talking. "I have not shagged Potter!"

She glared at him, throwing the magazine at him and narrowly missing his head. "Well, everyone is saying you have. Might as well get a good fuck out of all this gossip."

"What?"

"You're infuriating," Pansy snapped, standing back up and looking very much like she would be happy to throw more things in Draco's direction. "And I'm not putting up with it any longer."

Draco watched, completely bemused but quite unwilling to follow, as Pansy huffed and stalked off towards the door to the dormitory without so much as a backwards glance, slamming the door on her way out.

"What in the name of Merlin was that all about?"

Theo shrugged, and sat on the edge of the bed in the space that Pansy had vacated not ten seconds previously. He reached over to pick up the magazine, smoothing out the cover. "No idea."

"Oh, come on," Draco said, his tone disbelieving. "She must have been working on that rant all day, and I know you humour her."

Theo shrugged again. "I think she's jealous."

"Jealous?" Draco repeated, frowning. "Of…wait a minute, she's jealous of Potter?"

"I think so," Theo said, starting to flick though the magazine. He didn't even so much as give page four a second glance, Draco noted. Theo really was horribly straight some days. "She was getting a bit cross with the whole situation anyway. Complaining that you don't talk to her as much anymore. You know, that girl thing of having to talk about everything all the time."

"Wonderful," Draco sighed. "That doesn't explain the sudden all-encompassing hatred of Potter, though. Well, the renewed hatred of Potter."

"I think it's because of the other stuff concerning Potter," Theo said delicately. "That's changed recently, too."

Draco turned his head away, suddenly rather interested in his pillow, picking at one of the buttons. "I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about."

Theo ignored him. "Well, she's always fancied you, hasn't she? I think she could convince herself that you two could be together, but now you're interested in Potter and it's all real, she's lost that little fantasy."

"That's just ridiculous," Draco said. "She knows that I'm not interested in her."

"Girls," Theo shrugged, as if that explained everything. In a way, it did. "They're all a little insane."

"I thought being gay meant I wouldn't have to deal with it," Draco muttered.

Theo laughed shortly, sounding a little surprised. "You're actually saying it out loud now? Blaise was betting that your epiphany would only count as long as no-one else actually found out about it."

Draco shrugged. "I might as well say it out loud," he said. "It's making Potter rather nervous, and that's quite fun." He paused, frowning slightly. "Not to mention that apparently most of the school always thought I was queer anyway…I suppose that was my oversized ego thinking that everyone would actually care."

"Possibly," Theo said with a small and rare smile. "I think you've grown out of that now. It's about time, really."

Draco shrugged. "It's nothing," he said, his tone bold and overly offhand. "I'm just having a bit of fun. Its fun seeing Potter getting his wand in a twist."

Theo just looked at him, a firmly incredulous expression on his face. Draco stared back, lifting a brow in challenge, and Theo sighed and looked away.

"So what did you do to make Potter nervous?"

Draco shot Theo a sly grin. "Nothing. Just sat with him and did some work in the Ancient Arithmancy section."

Theo's jaw dropped. "You did what?"

"Nothing like that," Draco insisted. "I don't think he's quite there yet. I just wound him up a bit. Verbally, I mean. I didn't touch him."

"Yet? So you do want to get with him?"

Draco paused, realising his slip-up. He breathed out deeply, and chose to continue with his latest policy of being honest about his wants and desires. Well, more honest than normal, anyway.

"Like you wouldn't believe."

He heard Theo's soft but sharp intake of breath and but still didn't move to look at him. Some part of him was cursing himself for telling Theo anything about his now almost overwhelming attraction to Potter. He could just imagine his father's voice berating him for giving away any information which could potentially be used against him, even to his 'so-called friends.'

"Don't tell anyone."

Theo studied him patiently. "As if I would. But you're going to have to kiss him at some point, you know. I think he'll explode if you wind him up any more."

Draco gaped indignantly at Theo. "What do you know about it? For all you know, he's not interested and he's getting nervous because he's horribly homophobic-"

"Of course. That's obviously what's going on," Theo deadpanned. "I don't believe that he's not interested in you, and I don't even know him."

Draco laughed, a short delighted laugh that made Theo smile.

"You really think so?" Draco asked him, his tone again casual but his eyes sincere and questioning.

Theo shrugged. "Probably. Anyway, you've got a good track record for getting what you want, discounting that nasty business with the war. You'll be fine."

Draco couldn't help but smile.


 

With supreme effort, Harry made his feet move towards the steps up to the dormitory. He was knackered, and it was obvious in the way his shoulders slumped and his feet dragged across the carpet of the common room.

Draco was a bloody infuriating…arse. He couldn't even articulate anything more descriptive to describe how much of an arse Draco was. It had been torture. Nothing short of torture. Sitting in the bloody Ancient Arithmancy section, so close together that Draco was practically in his lap, so that he could smell nothing but his cologne. And that was in addition to the slight embarrassment of knowing there were people kissing not far away, people who had thought that he and Draco were planning on doing the same.

He had been more than tempted, and that had been disconcerting enough as it was. How he'd managed to finish his Transfiguration work was a mystery to him, if he considered the amount of time he'd spent wondering how it would feel to lean over and kiss Draco. What would he taste of? Would he be able to feel stubble on Draco's jaw? Would that freak him out? He honestly didn't know, but it didn't stop him from wanting to find out.

He reached the dormitory after what felt like hours, pushing the door open and planning on falling face first onto his bed and going straight to sleep. If he could summon up the energy, he might deign to kick off his shoes and find Draco's scarf to wrap himself up in, but-

"There you are. Thought you'd never come back."

Harry faltered as he saw Hermione and Ron sat side by side on the edge of Ron's bed, and then his eyes widened and he stepped back.

"God, sorry. Didn't know you'd be up here-"

"Oh, don't be daft," Hermione said impatiently. "We're not doing anything, we were chatting and waiting for you."

"Oh," Harry said, uncertainly. Most of the time the slightly altered dynamic between the three of them was easy to deal with; Harry remained happily oblivious and they were discreet with their relationship and didn't shove it in his face. He still wasn't sure if he believed that they hadn't been up to anything; god knew that if he'd got someone up in his otherwise empty dorm room for the afternoon, he would definitely have been up to something.

"Wizards honour, mate," Ron said with a grin. "Come on. We want to know what happened with Malfoy. Sit down, you look shattered."

Harry sighed and resigned himself to the fact that he was going to have to wait to have his nap. He sat on the edge of his bed, dropping his bag to the floor. "It was a nightmare," he said without preamble. "He's an arse."

Hermione looked alarmed. "What? What did he do? Did he say anything horrid?"

Harry glanced up, puzzled, and then it clicked. "Oh! No," he said. "He wasn't an arse like old-Draco being an arse, he was…different."

He felt a blush climb its way up his cheeks. How bizarre was that, that now when he called Draco Malfoy names it was because he'd been infuriatingly gorgeous and flirtatious, rather than being mean?

"Different, how?" Ron asked a little warily.

"He's…" Harry swallowed. This shouldn't be so hard, right? He knew how he felt, knew what he wanted. Would verbalising make it that much different? Everyone was already talking about it anyway, so why was he so unwilling to confirm the rumours?

"He's teasing me," Harry blurted out. "He's just…an arse."

"Mate, I've not seen you this tongue-tied since you tried to ask Cho to the ball," Ron said, sounding amused. "It's like that all over again."

Hermione answered. "Well it is a bit, isn't it? He's never kissed a boy before."

"I am not going to kiss him," Harry interjected.

Ron and Hermione both looked at him disbelievingly and spoke at the same time.

"Yes, you are."

Harry gaped at them a little incredulously. "Can you really believe that you're encouraging me to kiss Malfoy?"

Hermione laughed. "It seems perfectly in line with the rest of the ridiculous things you've done. As long there's no more war or Avada Kedavra's, kissing Malfoy is fine by me."

There was a silence, and then Hermione pointedly nudged Ron with her elbow, who started, and then spoke, scratching his chin. "I told you already that I think it's alright," he shrugged. "As long as you don't do it in front of me."

"Believe me, I won't be kissing anyone in front of anybody," Harry muttered.

"Nervous?" Hermione asked gently and Harry immediately wished that he was still back in the library. He didn't mind discussing things like this with Hermione, not overly much anyway, but it was a bit weird with Ron. Ron had been brilliantly supportive lately, Harry couldn't deny, but he balked at the thought of discussing kissing blokes with him. Talking with Hermione was sometimes like talking to a Healer. Efficient and straight to the point, which didn't leave much room for embarrassment. And in situations as such, it was a welcome approach.

"Bit," he mumbled, and then heard Ron clear his throat loudly.

"Said I'd meet Neville, get him to check my herbology," he said too loudly. "I'll see you later."

He clapped Harry on the shoulder, kissed Hermione on the temple and then left the dormitory, clattering down the stairs and whistling tunelessly.

"It's not that he's got a problem with it," Hermione said as soon as Ron's footsteps had faded and Harry decided to look back up. "I think it's just awkward to talk about when he's not allowed to make jokes about it."

"I know," Harry agreed. "I wouldn't want to listen to him talking about kissing either. No offence," he added hastily, but Hermione just laughed.

"It's alright. So. You didn't kiss him today then?"

Harry shook his head. "No. I don't know if I should have, or what. I don't know the rules around this-"

"I think you have to throw the rule book out of the window," Hermione said. "Liking someone isn't something you can follow steps to. Look at me and Ron, that never went to plan. And you and Malfoy is a whole new level of difficulty."

"It's not so bad any more," Harry conceded. "We don't wind each other up."

"Only with sexual tension, right?" Hermione said mischievously.

"You're not meant to say things like that," Harry groaned, rubbing his face.

"Well it's true," Hermione said unapologetically. "Have you thought about where all this sexual tension is really leading, by the way?"

"No," Harry said faintly, his mouth working without permission from his brain.

"Well, I think you should," Hermione said matter of factly. "Because I think you'll end up in bed together before Christmas."

"Hermione!" Harry protested, flapping his hands violently. "Stop it! I've not even kissed him – maybe I don't even want to, yeah? And he's not, not my boyfriend or anything, he's Malfoy. We're just linked."

"Really." Hermione said flatly. "Being linked meant that you two could learn to get along. It doesn't compel you to want to kiss him. It's not a marriage bond."

"I know it's not-"

"I just want you to think about it, and be prepared. You're only human, Harry."

"I know," Harry said, and took a deep breath. "I will think about it, but I don't know where this is leading yet. I could kiss him and hate it. We could have another massive fight tomorrow. I don't want to work myself up for things that might never happen."

"That seems fair," Hermione said. "Although I think you two are past fighting."

"You never know," Harry sighed. "I think I need to go clear my head for a bit. Flying or something."

"Good idea," Hermione said. "You all caught up with Transfiguration?"

"Yes," Harry said. "I'll have to do some Charms tonight though if I want to get that finished in time."

"Well have a fly first," Hermione said, and Harry could hear the unsaid 'but don't stay out too long' at the end of that sentence. He grinned at her.

"I'll get the Charms work done, don't you worry."

"Alright," she smiled. "Go and fly."


 

Harry did. He wasted no time in locating his flying gear and Firebolt and rushed outdoors, nearly bowling over the beaters from the Hufflepuff team that were just vacating the pitch. He'd flown so hard and fast that he'd nearly fallen off his broom twice, not that he'd be admitting that to anyone anytime soon. It had felt wonderful. The air was cold and refreshing, and the castle looked beautiful in the fading light, carefully outlined in bright white snow which rested on the roofs and ledges.

He didn't stay out long. Flakes of snow had started to drift from the sky so he'd called it a day, not wanting to freeze completely. Besides, he was more than exited about the prospect of getting in and going for a hot shower.

Where have you been? I can feel you smiling over the link.

Harry nearly laughed out loud, hearing Draco's voice as he walked back towards the castle, his footsteps crunching in the snow.

Flying.

Really? Are you mad? It's snowing.

It's not too bad. Can't stay out much longer though, I'll freeze my bollocks off.

Classy, Potter.

Harry laughed out loud again, his breath visible as white puffs in the air. It was actually quite fun talking to Draco now that he wasn't such a stuck-up wanker. Well, a small part of Harry's brain said unhelpfully, he didn't really have much of a problem with considering Draco a wanker…

He banished his misbehaving thoughts and raced back up to the castle, wanting to get into the shower as soon as possible, so he could then sneak down to the kitchens and get some dinner afterwards.

The common room was warm and welcoming, and full of people chattering, reading and playing games. It really was a wonderful place in the winter, all cosy and welcoming. He couldn't imagine the Slytherin dungeons being as welcoming in cold weather. Although, as he'd contemplated before, maybe the dormitories were warmer and friendlier than the common room.

He saw Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Dean, Seamus and Neville sat by the fire, laughing and talking together. Neville and Hermione spotted him and waved hesitantly, presumably because of the presence of Dean and Ginny. The pair had their backs to him and were sitting shoulder to shoulder, and he could just see one of Dean's hands resting in the small of her back, his thumb tracing gentle circles on her jumper.

He smiled lopsidedly back at Hermione and Neville, and he pointed to his broom and then upwards, indicating he was off to the dormitories. Hermione nodded and smiled and he grinned back before turning away to race up the stairs, taking them three at a time.

It was telling how little it now bothered him to see Dean and Ginny together. In some strange way he almost felt guilty; he had dived straight in there when she and Dean had fallen out back in sixth year. But maybe they'd needed the time apart to understand each other better, needed to grow up a little to make it work. Harry didn't know. All he did know right then was he wanted to be in a hot shower, right away.

Finally getting under the hot spray was bliss. It soothed his tired muscles and warmed his chilled extremities and instantly made him relax. The steam and his lack of glasses made everything around him blurry and indistinct, but he didn't mind. In a way it added to the whole atmosphere, and allowed him to drift off and think about the rest of the world whilst safe in his own steamy bubble.

Did you fly by yourself or with your Gryffindors?

He jumped a little as he heard Draco's voice. He shifted awkwardly on his feet, feeling unaccountably nervous that Draco was talking to him whilst he was wet and naked. Like prying on Draco's dreams, it seemed to cross some sort of line that he wasn't quite ready for.

Just me.

I don't blame you. They all have been rather infuriating of late, I would imagine. Are you working on your Charms yet?

Harry dipped his head under the spray, wondering if he should just lie and say yes.

No, just having a shower to warm back up.

There was a pause, and he wondered if he'd managed to actually shock Draco into silence.

Are you really in the shower?

Yep.

Draco didn't reply and Harry couldn't hold back the small smile that played around his lips and the shiver that went down his spine. He wondered if Draco was thinking about him in the shower, and then blushed, shaking his head.

Unbidden, Hermione's words from earlier came back to him: 'Have you thought about where all this sexual tension is really leading, by the way?' He frowned, looking down at his body and trailing his hand over his stomach. He'd never found other guys attractive before, had never imagined doing anything with another bloke. In fact, he could only recall imagining indistinct shapes and blurry planes of flesh when imaging sex or wanking. Come to think of it, he couldn't really recall thinking about breasts, either.

Had Draco felt this uncertain when he'd first encountered another boy? How quickly had they gone from kissing to anything more?

Had they actually done anything more?

Draco?

Harry bit his lip, blinking hard in the spray of the shower. Maybe Draco wouldn't reply. Maybe he'd been so freaked out by Harry talking to him whilst showering that he wouldn't-

Yes?

Harry's heart was beating a tad harder than it had been when he'd gotten into the shower, he knew it. But…he had to know. What was the worst that could happen?

How far did you go with that guy? The one I saw in your dreams?

There was a flicker of some emotion through the link that he couldn't distinguish. Whatever it was, it didn't do anything to calm his heart down.

I slept with him. Only once, though. Why are you suddenly being nosey? Shouldn't you be running in the opposite direction?

He let out a shaky breath, wondering if this really was a good idea.

You really slept with him?

There was that feeling again, ebbing through the link and feeling strange up and down his spine.

Potter, are you trying to ask me what it's like to have gay sex?

Harry's heart skipped a beat.

No.

Are you sure?

Harry screwed his eyes shut and swallowed, trying to push down whatever feeling it was that was making his chest feel too tight.

No.

There was a long pause. Harry shifted further under the spray of the shower so it ran over his face and down his front. He kept his eyes shut, breathing in and out through his mouth. He didn't want to look down at his own body, didn't want to realise that what he saw was something he would find attractive reflected in someone else.

If you really want to know…I'm happy to tell you.

He couldn't say no. He just couldn't. Who else would humour him as he muddled his way through this? Who else could really understand? Draco knew what he was going through - only a week ago it had been Draco panicking about his sexual identity. And for once, he wasn't making jokes or mocking, and Harry desperately wanted that to continue.

He took a deep breath. Go on.

It depends on your preference for position. You know. Whether you give or take.

Draco's voice was awkward and faltering. Harry was glad Draco seemed embarrassed, too. It made this whole situation easier to bear, that Draco wasn't being patronising or acting all superior. He was just talking in a really low, hesitant, voice which was making Harry feel strange in a way he couldn't pinpoint.

Do you have…a preference?

You'll have to wait and see, won't you.

Harry groaned, leaning forwards so his forehead resting on the tiled wall of the shower.

Oh god.

He didn't dare reply to Draco. He didn't dare move, or think. And he was never going to listen to Hermione, ever again.

He leant back, running a hand over his face to wipe the water out of his eyes. He rubbed at his jaw, noting absently that he needed a shave. He wondered if Draco had to shave as much as he did, what with being so blond and all. His hair always looked so fine, and he'd never seen Draco with any trace of stubble.

Unbidden, an image of Draco in the shower flicked through Harry's mind, water on his face, pushing his wet hair off of his forehead.

"Oh, no," Harry groaned aloud, shaking his head violently to try and stop the errant thoughts. "No, no, no."

Curse his stupid brain that loved daydreaming and his libido which wasn't going to go quietly. He reached for his shampoo, wishing heartily that he could just work this out without the whole world intruding and without anyone caring. And without Draco being such a bloody tease.

Do you think you have a preference?

He froze at Draco's, question which sounded rushed and flustered. Immediately, two conflicting images came across his mind, swift and confused and unclear. A tangle of limbs, naked skin on show, fingers twined together, mouths almost touching. The difference was startling though; in one he imagined Draco below him, gasping and arching, and the second he was covered by Draco's body as Draco moved over him-

I- I don't know. I haven't thought about it. No.

Harry went back to washing his hair, tugging at it roughly to try and distract himself from thinking about that. He was suddenly aware of his prick, heavy and thickening between his legs, taking an ardent interest in his thoughts about sex. He pulled roughly at his hair as he rinsed it, praying that his body would calm down and not follow through into a full blown erection. For god's sake, he didn't even know how it all worked. Well, he could hazard a guess, but he couldn't imagine it to be anything pleasant, right?

He didn't dare ask Draco any more questions. He'd done well at being casual – mostly, he hoped – so far, and hadn't yet made too much of an idiot out of himself.

He was bound to make a fool out of himself at some point. He was horrifically inexperienced, as the lads liked to joke about every now and again, and that was just with girls. What he was supposed to do with a girl, that was kind of easy to work out. But with two guys? Well, touching another guy would be sort of similar to touching yourself, right? It couldn't be that different. He knew what he liked when he touched himself, so surely transferring that across to someone else's dick couldn't be that tricky.

As if he was even contemplating this, he thought a little desperately. He hadn't even kissed Draco yet.

He couldn't help it. His mind started to wander again as he reached for his body wash. What would it be like to have another guy use his mouth on him? Well, to be frank, in his current sexually frustrated state he would appreciate anyone going down on him, regardless of gender. The question was, could he image himself doing it to anyone? He shivered again and tried to ignore the way his prick was feeling even fuller against his thigh, the prickles that ran down his spine. Oral sex was never anything that had appealed when thinking about girls. Where were you meant to put your mouth anyway? But with another bloke, you only really had one option, which had to be simpler than dealing with girly bits.

How had he changed his mind to equate being queer as the simple option in the space of less than ten seconds? In fact, how had he managed to go from contemplating kissing to contemplating blowjobs in the space of a day? God, his study date with Draco seemed like it was hours ago, not at all like it had been that very afternoon. He had lost his mind, he must have done. He shook his head violently and refused to contemplate how it might feel to have the warm weight of another man's prick on his tongue.

But Draco said he'd actually had sex with that guy...that was something completely different.

That was it, he was drawing the line. He was traumatised enough considering bloody bloke-on-bloke foreplay, let alone going as far as thinking about full-blown sex. Did rubbing off against each other count? You know, if your bits were touching? Or did you actually have to…penetrate someone?

"Stop it," he told himself firmly, feeling flustered and embarrassed and cross at himself for being as such. "It's not going to happen."

It'd hurt, right? It wasn't as if that was made for that. But if it was so horrible, surely people wouldn't do it. This was stupid, he could just stop blushing like a thirteen year old and ask Draco and get his answers, so he could stop bloody thinking about it.

Potter?

Harry started a little, having forgotten they were in the middle of a conversation, wildly panicking for a moment that Draco had somehow read his thoughts like he used to be able to.

Yeah?

Does…does the link feel strange to you?

Harry swallowed thickly. He could still feel those strange ebbs of something washing through the link, twining down his spine. A foreign sensation which somehow felt like it belonged under his skin.

Yeah, it does.

He reached out and turned the shower off, turning and padding out of the cubicle, groping for his towel.

Oh. I'm glad it's not just me.

It was strange how neither of them were worried about this strange sensation. Harry was definitely glad it was not just him feeling it, and was starting to suspect he knew what it was anyway.

He wrapped his towel around his waist and reached for his glasses. If his intuition was right, it seemed that Draco had been just as affected by their conversation as he had.


 

Bloody fucking hell, he was going to be late, again. Harry dashed through the Great Hall and down the corridor to the dungeons, barrelling past a group of first years who yelped and tried to dodge out of his way. He'd stayed up ridiculously late nattering to Ron as he'd made a half-arsed attempt at getting his Charms work started, and no-one had thought to wake him up this morning, the arseholes. His sleep had been erratic as well, punctuated by an inane dream about shopping for a never ending list of potions ingredients that he was pretty sure belonged to Draco anyway.

He didn't even have time for breakfast, and he was already bloody starving. He just knew that he couldn't be late for Potions this morning because the potion they were making was the culmination of weeks worth of work, and would form the basis for a huge essay they had to write before Christmas.

NEWT's were hard. He pulled his bag around, rifling through it to check he'd remembered to pick up his Potions textbook. He'd missed way too many lessons already this term because of the link and subsequent hiding from Malfoy sessions, so he really couldn't miss any more-

"Oh!"

He couldn't stop the exclamation from slipping past his lips as he halted outside the closed door of the Potions classroom, narrowly avoiding a collision with a familiar figure. The person also appeared to be running late, dashing towards the classroom door and only avoiding tripping headlong into Harry by grabbing hold of the stone frame around the door to keep himself upright.

"Sorry," Draco said, his eyes wide. His tie was undone, hanging in two straight green strips over his shoulder, and his bag was clutched in one fist, falling open as only half of the buckles were done up.

Running late?

Draco rolled his eyes and then looked down, tugging ineffectually at the end of his tie.

Obviously, yes.

"Was that your dream about shopping for potions supplies that kept me up?"

"Probably," Draco shrugged, averting his eyes from Harry's. There was a faint pink flush on his cheekbones, which Harry was sure was mirrored on his own complexion. That was happening an awful lot lately. Harry couldn't help but think back to the conversation they'd had whilst he was in the shower, and hurriedly cleared his throat before his mind started to wander.

"We should-"

"Yeah."

They both reached for the door handle at the same time and then simultaneously pulled back. Harry waited and then reached again, assuming Draco was waiting for him to open the door, only for Draco to reach out too. Harry laughed awkwardly, hurriedly stepping back.

Go on. After you.

Draco smirked and reached for the handle.

I should have let you go first. God knows you need the extra time to work on your Potions skills.

Harry resisted the urge to slap Draco around the back of the head.

A whole second isn't going to make a difference.

That's where you've been going wrong. Of course a second makes a different in Potions.

You're a prat, Harry informed him as he took his seat next to Ron, who was staring mournfully down at his notes like he couldn't understand a word of what they said. A second later the door swung open and Slughorn bustled in, a tray of some gently fluttering orange flowers in his hands.

Takes one to know one.

Harry glanced up and saw Draco looking at him out the corner of his eye. He pulled a face at him and Draco smirked before turning away to face the front as Slughorn called for quiet.

Harry unpacked his bag quickly and quietly, resigning himself to having to take notes if he wanted to do well in today's lesson. It was strange how he wanted to do well in Potions now, but not for the sake of his potential career as an Auror. In a way he couldn't really understand, he felt like he owed it to Snape to actually put some effort in and do well. Not that it would ever be appreciated, he thought with a wry smile.

Resting his elbow on the edge of the desk and propping his chin on it, he looked down to his blank parchment and tried to listen to Slughorn lecture them on the Commisceo Theory of Blended Potions.

He idly wrote the date at the top of his parchment – since when was it already the 13th of November, anyway? – and scrawled Commisceo Theory next to it. He wished he wasn't so tired. Why was Malfoy dreaming of shopping, anyway? Although Harry supposed he should be grateful that his dreams hadn't followed the path of his musings whilst in the shower. That would have made for a decidedly awkward encounter between him and Malfoy this morning, more so than their impromptu meeting outside the classroom had already been.

He'd nearly headbutted him, for merlin's sake, and that was embarrassing enough before the debacle with the doorhandle. If he'd actually bothered to look where he was going he could have avoided ending up that close to Draco again, close enough so they could-

His hand jerked and he blotted ink across his parchment as a mental image of him kissing Draco flashed across his eyes, Draco's hands on his cheeks and his mouth open under Harry's.

"You alright?" Ron muttered as Harry cursed and tried to salvage his sentence. Harry nodded, feeling flustered. In truth, he wasn't. He didn't want to have to be sitting in Potions having a sexual orientation crisis. Actually, he would happily go back to the time when he was actually having a sexual orientation crisis, rather than a when-were-he-and-Malfoy-actually-going-to-kiss crisis.

Going all the way back to when the only problem was an errant link and Ginny being mad at him seemed incredibly appealing, too. As if that had only been a couple of weeks ago - this whole thing with Draco was completely ruining his comprehension of time.

Potions. He told himself firmly. He was here to concentrate on Potions. To focus on the Commiscero Theory and how good Malfoy would look on his knees in front of him, his hands on Harry's hips and eyes shut, his mouth ghosting over his abdomen-

His eyes widened in shock again and he rubbed hard at his eyes, even as the image faded.

"Potions," he muttered fiercely and Ron shot him a startled glance.

"Mate?"

"Sorry, just trying to concentrate," he whispered back. He pulled his parchment close and leant over, staring down at it. He tried to listen to Slughorn and hastily jotted a few more words down.

Blending mixtures. Beneficial properties. Acquired magic from multiple stages. Kissing the skin of Draco's neck, hot and open mouthed.

He nearly threw his quill across the room. For fucks sake, what was wrong with him? He couldn't last ten seconds without thinking about Draco. He should have chanced being late and had a wank this morning, because his dick was undoubtedly feeling neglected and finding these thoughts about Draco entirely too enticing.

He made to jot down something Slughorn was saying about the blooms of the Aranatura Plant, not caring of it was relevant but just wanting to do something other than thinking about Draco. Beside him, Ron was also half-heartedly jotting down words between taking time to doodle a snitch on the corner of his parchment.

Aranatura. Right. Antiseptic properties, Harry jotted down, although it didn't work as part of an antidote to counteract kissing Malfoy again, but this time they were horizontal, obviously lying down, and neither of them had a shirt on. They were kissing like they needed to do so in order to survive, hot and frantic and nothing like Harry had ever imagined-

- and then the image flickered and then disappeared.

Harry's eyes widened and he whipped around in his seat to see Draco staring at him across the room. The knut dropped with a thunk he suspected was probably audible.

You fucker! That was you!

He barely resisted the urge to dive out of his seat in order to throttle Draco, clenching one hand around the edge of the tabletop and holding on so tightly his knuckles went white. There was nothing wrong with his concentration - those thoughts had been sent via the bloody link! Fuck, he'd been so caught up in his current predicament he'd forgotten all about the further possibilities for the link, in particular the possibilities concerning images.

As if I would. Draco looked away and to the front of the room, but he was blushing and trying not to smirk. Harry wanted to kill him, clenching his free hand and mangling his quill in his fist.

How did you do it?

Ron nudged him and he turned back to see Slughorn looking at him a little curiously as he carried on talking to the entire class. Harry swore under his breath and ducked his head, still fuming and resisting the urge to go and punch Draco in the face.

Practice. It's not hard.

Teach me so I can send you an image of me murdering you.

He chanced a look at Draco, who was writing on his parchment – with his right hand today, Harry noticed distractedly – and looking a lot less self assured than he did ten seconds ago.

What, you didn't like it? I was just sharing some possibilities.

You're an arsehole.

I thought you'd appreciate a less subtle approach.

He was too cross to even carry on mentally shouting at Draco. He took a few deep breaths and instead turned his attention back to his work, vowing to have a nice long chat with Draco the minute this damn lesson was over.


 

The minute the hand of the clock in the potions room ticked into place at the 'End of Lesson' slot, Draco legged it. He'd had five minutes of immense amusement at the start of the lesson, slipping images to Harry across the link and watching him squirm in response. He'd suspected he could send images across the link for some time, but had never found an opportune moment to do so. The Potions lesson had been just too perfect an opportunity, what with Harry still blushing over their conversation yesterday, and then the obvious tension between them as they'd tried to negotiate the door to the Potions room.

Unfortunately Harry had caught on a lot quicker than Draco had thought he would.

And he was mad.

Draco had felt the quietly controlled indignation rolling through the link for the whole session. His potion has come close to being botched several times as he lost concentration, focusing on Harry rather than the instructions he was supposed to be following. Not wanting to discuss this little incident face to face with Harry, he had decided to take the Slytherin route and bolt the moment he could.

For a whole glorious minute, he thought he'd managed it. He walked as quickly as he possibly could without actually running from the dungeon, turning right instead of left out of the door, heading further down the corridors that led to the Potions supply cupboard and then the disused dungeons beyond. Everyone else would turn left out of the classroom to go up towards the Hall, and hopefully he could stay out of the way until Potter found this whole thing funny.

He turned left and then immediately right again. Hopefully if Harry followed him, he would get lost in the maze of tunnels that Draco, as a Slytherin, knew well.

"Impedimenta!"

Draco barely had time to look over his shoulder when he felt the spell hit him squarely between his shoulder blades. It wasn't strong, but it still had the effect of slowing him down, making him struggle to walk as if he were trying to wade through treacle.

Panic filled him from top to toe. Why oh why did he insist on continually making these bad decisions concerning Harry? He just had to push it too far and make him mad and then run away which apparently just made Harry even madder. It was just like when Harry had chased him after he'd worked out how to talk over the link. As if he'd not learned his lesson by now.

It was that realisation that made him falter in his struggle to keep moving away from Harry. Normal Draco behaviour would be to run away, so now he was going to grit his teeth, hedge his bets and do the opposite.

A second after his decision to stop trying to run away from Harry, he felt a hand grab his shoulder and he was promptly spun around and pushed up against the cold stone wall of the corridor, his robes clutched in Harry's fists.

"I should deck you for that," Harry threatened, pushing Draco harder into the wall, crowding up to him so their bodies touched. Draco was unsurprised to feel a thrill run though his body at the contact, despite the imminent possibility of being punched in the face. The corridor was dark, the shadows only broken by a few sparsely mounted torches. The dim pools of light they created didn't fully meet and it was in one of these dim patches that they had stopped, almost nose to nose in the gloom.

"In the middle of lessons, Malfoy?" Harry continued angrily. "There's a time and a place."

Harry stared at him and Draco stared back, unable to do anything but hold onto Harry's wrists and try and control his breathing.

"Being this close to me isn't heterosexually appropriate, you know," Draco managed to say, and suddenly the whole mood shifted.

He saw it in the widening of Harry's eyes, heard it in the small intake of breath, felt it in the slight shift of Harry's body against his. The indignant anger vanished as if someone had cast an actual spell, and all the feelings from the flirting and the teasing rushed back into play.

Harry swallowed thickly, and Draco watched his throat move. "I never said it was."

"Still cross?" Draco asked and Harry nodded slowly, his eyes now on Draco's mouth. He was getting closer, so excruciatingly slowly, and Draco could feel Harry's breath on his face.

"Yeah," Harry said, his voice low and breathless, unlike anything Draco had heard from him before. He cleared his throat. "Still cross."

"You better move away then," Draco said, keeping his body perfectly still, his eyes flickering over Harry's face. "If you didn't like what you saw."

"Did you like it?" Harry asked, his eyes flicking up to Draco's. Oh God, they were so close, and Draco could feel Harry trembling against him. He could sense the uncertainty and the naivety and the desperation for everything just to make sense. He should know, he'd been there himself. It was strange that now he was playing the part of the experienced one.

The light from the dim torches flickered across Harry's face and Draco's breath caught. His eyes were so wide and green behind his glasses, and there was no-one else around, no-one else to make Harry worry or to whisper about what they'd seen. Harry wanted it so badly Draco could nearly taste it and being the focus of that desire was making Draco's heart pound high up in his chest.

Did you like it?

Draco swallowed as Harry repeated his question, nervous and tense. Oh god, it was just the two of them in the dark, with no excuses for this not to happen. All Harry wanted was Draco to admit that he wanted it too.

Fuck, but he wanted it. Wanted to taste Harry, kiss him and never stop.

"Yes," Draco whispered against Harry's mouth, and then Harry had tilted his head just enough and his lips were pressing against Draco's, warm and chapped and perfect.

Draco drew in a sharp breath through his nose and tightened his fingers around Harry's wrists, not daring to move them incase Harry came to his senses and remembered that he actually wanted to punch Draco, not kiss him.

Harry pulled back slightly, breathing heavily and trembling worse than ever. Unable to help himself, Draco leant in again to catch Harry's lower lip between his own, kissing him gently but surely. Harry was obviously a lot smarter than Draco had ever given him credit before, because as Draco moved to kiss him again, he carefully opened his lips against Draco's, and then there was the first hesitant touch of tongue against tongue.

And who the fuck cared that it had taken them a million years to get there, because it was worth going to Azkaban and back for; the way Harry kissed so hesitantly, his tongue gently responding to every move of Draco's. His whole body was tingling and he prayed that Harry was feeling the same. By the way he clutched to Draco's robes and his breath came in short stuttered gasps, Draco suspected he did.

Draco let go of one of Harry's wrists and reached up to thread his fingers into Harry's hair, angling his head to take the kiss deeper. Harry uttered a soft moan into Draco's mouth and Draco felt his own body respond, pleasure pooling in his groin as their mouths moved together.

It had been too long since he'd kissed anyone. And this was just too perfect, and it was Potter. All valid reasons as to why Draco's body was getting far too excited over a kiss that had so far lasted two minutes at most.

And it seemed he wasn't the only one. His heart leapt up into the base of his throat as he shifted slightly and felt the hard press of Harry's cock against his hip. Harry gasped against his lips and moved back slightly, his forehead resting against Draco's, his breathing still heavy.

Well, that answers a couple of questions.

Even Potter's mental voice was breathless, and if Draco didn't suspect his own would sound the same he would have laughed.

Not all of them?

Harry swallowed again, his hands finally unclenching. He ran his hands almost experimentally down Draco's chest, smoothing the creased material. Draco noticed that they were still shaking.

Not yet.

Chapter Text

Life as Harry knew it was over. It had to be. He was stood in the coldest part of the dungeons in the bloody dark and he was nose to nose with Draco Malfoy, and he'd just kissed him. He was still stood so close to Draco that their lips were brushing and he could almost feel Draco's chest moving as he breathed, but for some reason that Harry couldn't quite comprehend, they weren't actually kissing any more.

He didn't dare speak, not even through the link. He was pretty sure that something amazing had just happened, a moment that would somehow define his life for the better, and he didn't want to cock it up by saying something stupid.

Opening his eyes wasn't an option either. If he did it'd probably scare the magic right out of Draco, considering they were still nose to nose. It was a position Harry very much wanted to stay in, which would admittedly be problematic if he wanted to do anything other than kissing Draco in the near future.

Some part of him was still in shock, despite the general consensus in his mind which said that what had just happened was rather good. That little part of him couldn't quite believe it. He'd kissed a bloke. He'd put his mouth on another bloke, and it had been brilliant. More than brilliant. His lips were still tingling – if kissing Ginny had been nice then this had been simply mind-blowing, something he felt in his whole body, right from his eyes all the way down to his toes.

It was as if a picture he'd been trying to see for a long time had suddenly become clear. He finally had answers to all those things he'd wondered about – well, most of them anyway. The scent - Draco's scent - that he'd been so fascinated with had driven him completely wild when combined with those hot open-mouthed kisses. Harry felt heat in his cheeks as he remembered just how much he'd liked it; he was still half hard and couldn't deny how good it had felt to press himself up against Draco's hip.

Potter…

His body tensed slightly and he moved back a fraction, but still didn't open his eyes. He didn't want Draco to say anything, because knowing him it would be full of sarcasm or some disparaging comment about Harry's kissing skills.

I have to go to Arithmancy.

Oh. Well that wasn't anything mean. Harry felt a worry he'd not been aware of lift from his shoulders, making it very hard not to smile.

No you don't, he replied, leaning back in slightly so his lips almost touched Draco's again. Draco's mouth curved in a smile before he gently moved his head so he could kiss Harry again, one long lingering kiss that made Harry's toes curl. His breath caught in his throat and his fingers twitched on Draco's chest, and then Draco pulled away, taking a step back.

I'll talk to you later. Go and finish Charms.

Harry finally opened his eyes and when he did his heart did a funny flip-flop inside his ribcage. Draco was looking right at him, his grey eyes wide and full of something that he'd never seen in Draco's expression before. It looked strangely like hope.

He smiled weakly and Draco blinked in what could have been surprise, before leaning in to kiss Harry again. Harry felt a thrill run through him just before Draco pulled back quickly; it seemed that Draco couldn't help but kiss him, and that was a definitely a welcome boost to his ego.

Unfortunately Draco seemed to reign in some self control because instead of kissing Harry some more, he sighed and stepped away, his eyes on the floor.

"Draco-"

The word seemed so loud in the quiet of the corridor and Harry bit his lip, too late to stop the softly spoken word from escaping. Draco paused and then stepped back, gently reaching out to tug on the knot of Harry's tie which was just visible above the neckline of his jumper.

"I'll talk to you later. Don't go all sappy on me now, Potter."

Harry laughed softly and Draco smirked, quickly leaning in to nudge Harry's jaw with the tip of his nose. He lingered for a second, and then pushed away, leaving Harry alone in the darkness of the corridor.


 

"So. You kissed him."

Harry stared up at the scarlet canopy of his bed, his hands behind his head. "Yeah."

"Was it okay?"

"Yeah. Pretty good."

"So. Gay, then?"

"Probably."

"Alright."

Harry glanced over to Ron who was mirroring his pose, laid on his own bed and looking up with a thoughtful frown on his face.

"Going to tell Ginny?"

"Not yet."

"Fair enough," Ron said, breathing out deeply and shutting his eyes. "You know Hermione will insist on talking to you about feelings and stuff."

"I know. Haven't quite worked it out yet."

Ron didn't reply immediately and Harry let his own eyes drift shut, too. He could relax for five minutes before he had to start on his work, surely? Just five minutes to doze and think about kissing Draco, think about pinning Draco to more walls and pressing up against him…

"Can I ask a question about feelings and stuff?"

Harry pulled a face as Ron's voice broke through the peace, wishing for the continuation of their monosyllabic questions and answers. Things were so much easier and less awkward that way. "Do you have to?"

"Are you kissing Malfoy because you want to see what it's like, or is it a bit more?"

Harry craned his neck up to frown at Ron. "What are you on about?"

"Is it just kissing and stuff, or do you want him to, you know? Be your boyfriend or something."

Harry opened his mouth with a vehement denial on his tongue, but he paused, suddenly confused. It was just kissing, right? Just two hormonally charged boys kissing for the sake of it? Or was it something different? Why did everyone else seem to be several steps ahead of him? No wonder he kept cocking things up and landing himself in difficult situations; apparently everyone else was concerned with possibilities that hadn't even crossed his mind.

"He's not my boyfriend," he opted for finally saying somewhat cautiously.

"Fair enough," Ron said again, sounding content enough with Harry's answer.

Harry nodded in partial and distracted agreement, thinking hard. Even with the rumours and Ginny's questions, he hadn't given much thought to the possibility of him and Draco actually being together. It was crazy to even contemplate it, right? Considering their shared past and all that had happened, it was surely asking too much for them to be in a relationship? He wrinkled his nose as he considered the phrase 'boyfriends', thinking that it sounded a bit silly.

His thoughts were cut short and he paused as he felt a rush of what he could only describe as joy wash through him, originating from the link. He was a little in awe; he'd felt odd spikes of emotion that belonged to Draco at random points, but nothing this strong or tangible. And definitely nothing this positive.

After his initial reaction had faded, he had to acknowledge that it also alarmed him a little. It was similar to the emotions that he used to get flashes of when Voldemort was feeling particularly furious or pleased. He reached up and nervously touched his scar, but it remained just as lifeless as it had done since Voldemort's demise. No pain, no prickling, no blurred vision. The feelings that were being shared between him and Draco even felt different in a way; they were gentler and softer and almost felt like something they were sharing together in a positive way, rather than it being an invasion into his mind.

Was the joy Draco was feeling because of their kiss earlier? He certainly hoped so. Maybe Draco was also thinking about it just like Harry was, wondering what it meant and when it would happen again.

The sound of distant footsteps on the stone stairwell drew his attention away from deliberating over Draco and the emotion he could still feel, tickling under his skin and easily discernible from his own feelings.

"That'll be the rest of the questions about feelings and stuff on the way," Ron said as the footsteps grew louder. Harry barely had time to scowl at him before Hermione appeared at the top of the stairs, looking impatient and slightly incredulous.

"Are you two really just lying about whilst I have to traipse all the way up here to get a conversation from you both?"

They both shrugged and made identical non-committal sounds. Hermione huffed and turned towards Harry, standing next to his bed with her hands on her hips and an unmistakable air of meaning business.

"So. What happened?"

Resigned to regaling the incident between him and Draco again, and this time in more than single word sentences, Harry sighed and sat up halfway, propping himself up on his elbows. He trained his gaze on his toes, unwilling to make eye contact. He cleared his throat.

"Kissed him."

"About time," Hermione said briskly, pushing her hair away from her face. "Is that okay with you?"

"Yeah. S'fine." Harry said, trying not to think about just how fine it had actually been. He'd undoubtedly start blushing violently if he did start thinking too much about just how enjoyable he'd found it.

"No freaking out?" Hermione asked. "No arguing? No curses? Both of you unhexed and unharmed?"

"No, we're both fine."

She nodded, looking pleased and apparently satisfied with Harry's reply. "That's alright then," she said and then without another word she walked around Harry's bed to sit on the edge of Ron's, reaching out to put a hand on his ankle with a smile.

Ron sat up with a bewildered frown directed at Hermione. "Is that it? I thought you were going to go on at him about feelings and emotional connections and being careful about the past and all that stuff."

"I do not go on," Hermione said, pushing at him indignantly. "And besides, it's not my business. What Harry feels is up to him."

Harry and Ron exchanged an amused glance and then both shrugged.

"I did actually have a question about feelings and stuff if you've got time," Harry said, sitting up properly and crossing his legs.

"Of course," Hermione said brightly, turning to face him. Harry chose to ignore Ron's frantic head shaking and signals of 'no, no, please no,' from behind her.

"I can feel emotions through the link. Draco's," he said. "When he's cross, when he's sad, when he's happy. Pretty much everything."

"And has this started since you kissed him?"

"No. It was happening before but it's stronger now," Harry explained. "Happens more often. You don't think I've messed around with the link by kissing him, do you?"

"No," Hermione said after a moment, looking thoughtful. "My guess is that you've just opened the link up on a more emotional level. You obviously feel something for him, so it's possible that the link has just relaxed because of your emotional connection."

"What?" Harry protested, suddenly feeling a little overwhelmed. "Emotional connection? I only kissed him once!"

"I told you not to ask," Ron said, shaking his head. "Shall I suggest that we should now go and get on with that Charms essay so we don't have to talk about you and Malfoy and your bloody emotional connection?"

"Yes please," Harry said fervently, scrambling up off his bed. "Common room?"

"Yep," Ron said, grabbing his bag and following suit, staggering slightly as his foot got tangled in the covers. He disentangled himself and raced after Harry, not even pausing to look back.

"Fine, I'll just sit here by myself and talk about emotions, shall I?" Hermione shouted after them, before standing up and muttering, "Boys."


 

"You nearly finished?" Ron asked Harry, sounding somewhat mournful and almost defeated. They had been working on their Charms essay for over three hours, only stopping for a hurried dinner in the Hall, and they were getting rather fed up. The table around them was littered with books, scraps of parchment, sheets of notes and a couple of broken quills that had been snapped in frustration.

Harry shook his head. "Four inches left to go."

Half of him just wanted to scribble out a conclusion and be done with it, but the other half of him really wanted to do well this year, to get good NEWT grades to prove that he wasn't just a pretty face with an aptitude for slaying dark lords. Also, Hermione was sat reading in an armchair next to their table and had told them sternly that 'shoddy OWL level work won't cut it, and neither will writing a conclusion you don't even understand, Ronald Weasley.'

So, instead of thrashing out another four inches of nonsense, he was actually making an effort to finish his essay to a decent standard. He would never admit it out loud, but Draco was making things a lot easier. Again, he was efficiently answering simple questions that Harry had, pointing him towards books that would help, and offering casual suggestions for things to include.

Staying on Draco's good side was something Harry should have invested in a long time ago. Because aside from the help with the essay, the small waves of calm Harry could feel through the link were helping him from becoming too frustrated with his slow progress.

So, Higgins says that the wand movement for colour change reversal should be a perfect mirror of the original incantation?

Yes, and that's a load of shite.

Harry's lips quirked in a smile. I thought as much. Anyone who will quote me on it being a load of shite?

Standard book of spells, theory section.

Thank you.

"Pass me your Charms book," he said to Ron, who tossed it over, looking disgruntled.

"I don't think it's fair you get help from Malfoy," he said, accurately guessing why Harry suddenly wanted the book. "Hermione won't help me."

"I do help you," Hermione said, without looking up from her book. "Just in a less obvious way."

Ron rolled his eyes and went back to his essay. Harry bit back a laugh, flipping through the book to find the theory section-

Something icy-cold washed through him, starting in his head and slowly ebbing through his whole body. His hands froze on the book halfway through turning a page as the sensation spread, uncomfortable and distressing.

Draco?

There was no reply, just another wave of whatever feeling that Draco was experiencing. It felt like he was truly miserable - and if Harry concentrated he could feel anger and shame threaded throughout.

Draco, are you okay?

I'm fine.

Harry wasn't convinced or relieved; Draco's voice was tense and tight and he could still feel how upset he was.

Are you sure?

Yes, I'm fine. It's nothing. Make sure you get your Charms finished.

There was something in the way that Draco spoke that left Harry understanding without a doubt that the conversation was over. He bit his lip, trying to resist the urge to press Draco some more over what had happened. He was clued in enough now to know that bugging Draco would not go down well, but it didn't mean that he was going to be happy about it.

Hermione's talk about emotional connections came back to him, unbidden. He sighed, flicking back through his Charms book, unable to deny that he was genuinely worried about Draco. He was just going to have to wait until Draco would tell him what on Earth had just happened for him to feel that way.

God but Harry hated waiting.


 

Harry wasn't paying attention. Not to his breakfast, not to Ron, not to anything going on at the Gryffindor table. He wasn't even paying attention to Ginny and Dean who were sitting a little way down the table, sitting far too closely together to be called just friends.

What he was instead paying acute attention to was the back of Draco's head. He was sat directly across the Great Hall from Harry, but facing away from the rest of the house tables. He was accompanied by Theo Nott who was reading the Daily Prophet in apparent silence, and they were both sat some way away from the rest of the Slytherins.

"Morning all."

Harry grunted in response as Seamus slid onto the bench next to him, reaching for the coffee pot. He was planning on ignoring Seamus as he was doing everyone else, until Seamus spoke again.

"Is your Malfoy alright this morning?"

Harry twisted sharply to look at him, almost knocking his juice over with his elbow. "What?"

"Rumour has it he was on the business end of a nasty hex from one of the seventh years," Seamus said, his voice low. "Says Zabini to Parvati to me anyways."

"That'd explain it," Harry murmured, his eyes flicking back to Draco. "Last night?"

"I assume so," Seamus said. "I don't know much, just what's been said."

"Who hexed him?" Harry asked. "What did he do?"

"Apparently someone asked him if he was a bender," Seamus said. "He got shirty with them so got himself hexed. Not sure who it was."

"Oh Draco, you tit," Harry murmured to himself, a pang going through his chest at the thought of Draco getting hexed for standing up for himself.

"I don't understand it meself," Seamus shrugged. "Most people always thought he was queer anyway, just never had proof. Don't see why it's a big deal all of a sudden."

"I don't know," Harry replied slowly. "Might just be they're using it as an excuse. There's still people not happy with him after everything he did. And there's still some right tosspots about who are just dicks for the sake of it."

"Wonder why he didn't tell you," Seamus pondered.

Harry shrugged, but he had a good idea as to the answer. At times Draco was still an odd and volatile mix of pride and shame, a combination which undoubtedly made him as temperamental as he was. And right now, Harry would guess – if the rumours were true - he was embarrassed and angry about being hexed, and torn between thinking whether he deserved it or not. Harry hoped that his self-confidence wouldn't have taken too much of a knock, because he really was liking the self-assured Draco who teased him and kissed him in corridors.

Although, he decided as he finished his breakfast, if he found out which of the Slytherin seventh years had hexed Draco, Harry was going to hex him back at the first available opportunity, whether Draco liked it or not.


 

As the minute hand of the clock on his bedside table ticked softly into place beside the hour hand, both now resting at the twelve, Draco sighed and finally gave in. He pushed his bedcovers away from him, kicking them down into a rumpled heap at the bottom of his bed, and then groped under his pillow for his wand, shivering slightly in the cold air.

"Lumos."

He winced as his small curtained space lit up, rubbing his eyes with his knuckles. Sleep was evading him yet again, and things had been this way for just over a week, ever since he'd been hexed by that stupid seventh year idiot. The memory no longer made him feel uncomfortable and angry, just resigned and a little weary at how petty some people could be. It wasn't lost on him that only a couple of years ago he probably would have done the same; taunted someone for a supposed weakness. He was glad that he'd grown out of doing things like that. Well, mostly, anyway.

It had been quite an imaginative hex, he had to admit. One that made him cry without stopping, fat tears rolling unstoppably down his cheeks until Theo worked out how to remove it. He'd spent nearly an hour leant over the sink in the bathroom, cursing Devlin Crowley for hexing him and threatening to curse Blaise for laughing.

He sighed and slowly slipped out of bed, gasping as his feet hit the cold stone floor. Quickly, he located his socks and shoes and some more clothes which he tugged on over his pyjamas. He might be feeling depressed and maudlin, but he didn't much fancy freezing.

He slipped out of the Slytherin dorm, hyper aware of every sound around him in the dark. The soft ticking of the clock on the wall as the snake shaped pendulum swung back and forth, and his own soft footsteps on the stone.

His old haunt had been the Astronomy Tower, back in fifth and sixth year. In the times where things became too much to deal with, when he didn't understand or when he was frightened, he would climb the hundreds of steps and lean over the railings at the top, out into inky blackness, and let the wind soothe away his misery and panic.

The tower wasn't an option anymore. He wasn't sure he was even allowed up there these days; McGonagall had told him upon his return to school that he wouldn't be continuing with his Astronomy NEWT, offering no further explanation as to why. His Mother said it was because McGonagall was concerned it would bring back too many bad memories for him, but he wasn't so sure. Whatever the reason, he was grateful. He liked astronomy, had always been fascinated by the stars and the patterns they made, but he didn't want to stand at the top of the tower with other students looking at him askance, avoiding the edge when he was nearby.

They shouldn't look at him like that, and it frustrated him that some students still did. He hadn't even done anything. He'd lowered his wand for Merlin's sake.

Draco shook his head and carried on walking, quickening his pace. He knew what had happened that night. He had accepted his share of blame and he had come to terms with it. Thinking about everyone else's reactions and opinions wouldn't help.

He slipped towards the courtyard so he could sit under the covered walkway and watch the snow that was falling. He could do it for hours, sit and look into the sky as white flakes slowly fell to earth in mesmerising swirls. It calmed him and reminded him that there was a whole world, a whole universe out there, larger and more amazing than anything he'd already seen.

Sinking on to a bench and leaning back against the stone wall behind him, he pulled his cloak tightly around himself, wishing Aunt Bella had never set fire to his fur lined one. It had been so much warmer than the one he'd got left. He breathed out heavily, watching as his breath formed white spirals in front of his face, and as always, his mind drifted to Harry.

A warm shiver went through him as he remembered their kiss. As if it had been a week ago that they'd stood in the dungeons, wrapped around each other. He wanted it to happen again, badly, but supposed an opportunity would only present itself when he stopped brooding and actually talked to Harry beyond a simple good morning and questions about Transfiguration.

He was becoming so used to Harry's voice popping up at irregular intervals throughout the day, asking about work or commenting on something he'd seen or heard. It was oddly endearing, and Draco often suspected that Harry chose to natter on to him without really thinking about it anymore.

Whatever joy he'd felt after the kiss had unfortunately been short lived; the altercation with Crowley really had put him in a negative state of mind. At first he had been truly delighted when thinking about the kisses he and Harry had shared, but now, he was starting to doubt. Harry had never kissed another boy before. Draco was conveniently linked to him and probably the only single gay boy within reaching distance.

It wasn't hard for Draco to start thinking that he was just being used. After all, Potter had had very little interest in him before he'd found out that Draco was gay.

A soft noise caught his attention and he whipped his head around, his body held perfectly tense. He swore softly as an owl swooped out from under the covered canopy to fly silently across the courtyard, passing the still, snow-covered branches of a tree and then disappearing into the night.

"Couldn't sleep?"

Draco jumped so violently he nearly fell off his bench. Heart pounding, he turned the other way to see none other than Harry stood not three feet away from, wrapped up in his own cloak and looking slightly dishevelled, like he'd just jumped out of bed.

"Fuck, Potter! You scared the life out of me."

"Sorry," Harry said insincerely, and then walked straight over to sit on the bench next to Draco without question or explanation.

"Could have warned me you were coming," Draco said, still irritated at being frightened. "Why are you out here anyway?"

"Knew you couldn't sleep," Harry shrugged.

"And how did you find me?" Draco asked suspiciously.

"Magic."

Draco huffed and rearranged his cloak from where it had fallen as he'd jumped. As he did, his shoulder brushed against Harry's, and a tingle ran through him. Had Harry finally sought him out to kiss him again? Probably not, Draco's pessimistic side grouched. And even if he had, that's all he'd want, right?

Are you okay?

He didn't answer Harry's question straight away, unsure as what to say. He finally decided to be honest. Not really.

He looked straight ahead out over the courtyard. He didn't know what else to say to Harry. In a way, he didn't trust himself not to get snappy with him; he'd been sulking about the hex and then had moved on to brooding about everything else, as was his habit to do, and being cross with everyone was a reflex reaction when he was feeling as such. And with Harry it was always more pronounced and always ended badly.

I heard you got hexed.

Yeah. Not a big deal.

Harry fidgeted next to him and Draco resigned himself for more questions.

Then why are you still sad? I can feel it you know.

"So sorry," Draco muttered out loud.

Don't be sorry. I know it's still hard some days.

Draco didn't reply. It really was hard some days, harder than it should be considering that he had gotten through the war unscathed. He'd been given a second chance and allowed back to school, which was often more than he thought he deserved. He was about to speak again and try and verbalise some of these confusing and painful thoughts when he felt fingers gently brush his arm, and then move over his cloak. He sat perfectly still, his heart racing as Harry's fingers clumsily found the edge of his cloak and then slipped under it. He thought of asking Harry just what the hell he was playing at when cold fingers found his and gently wrapped around them.

Harry was holding his hand.

He glanced to Harry's face but he was looking resolutely forwards out over the courtyard. He swallowed and followed suit, looking straight ahead, hesitating before moving his fingers so they were linked together properly, his threaded between Harry's.

It wasn't what he had expected at all. He hadn't held hands with anyone in forever, and it both calmed and excited him. It was such a simple gesture but it meant a lot to Draco, especially considering the conversation they'd been having just prior to the hand holding. He hoped fervently that Harry knew what he was doing, because he didn't think he could stand for Harry to be oblivious or careless with his feelings anymore.

Maybe, Draco dared to think, this was more than just stolen kisses.

"What happened?" Harry finally asked, his voice breaking the silence. "When you got hexed?"

Just someone being an idiot. Called me a queer.

He felt the acute spike of indignation from Potter and squeezed his fingers without thinking.

Stop it. Not worth getting angry over.

Surprise was the next thing he felt. "You can feel what I'm feeling, too?"

"Yes," Draco said softly and turned to look at Harry. His profile was troubled, and as he watched Harry reached up with his free hand to push his glasses back up his nose.

"It's gotten stronger," Harry said unnecessarily. "I could always tell when you were angry, but now I feel everything."

Draco didn't dare reply. He knew the extent of the emotions that were now being shared through the link, because he could feel them coming from Harry, too. It was just disconcerting to know that everything he was feeling was laid bare for Harry to experience as well.

Why are you still sad? It's not all about the hex, is it?

No, Draco replied, the safety and quietness of the link much easier to speak over, rather than hearing his voice out loud. It's a lot of things.

Me?

A bit.

Do you regret kissing me?

No. But I don't like that I've been your little experiment.

Harry reached out and cupped Draco's cheek in his palm, turning Draco's face towards his, his eyes wide. "You think that's why I kissed you?"

"Of course," Draco replied bitterly. "It's always the same. I try and do something good for myself and it just comes out all wrong. You hated me before you knew I was gay. Doesn't take a genius to work it out."

"You're so bloody pessimistic," Harry said in wonder, his thumb moving ever so slightly on Draco's cheekbone, cold and rough and perfect.

"Yeah well," Draco said moodily. "Can you blame me? We all can't have your heroic resilience and sunny disposition-"

Harry cut him off with a kiss. It was clumsy and awkward, with Harry's glasses bumping Draco's cheekbone and their cold noses knocking together. But Harry's mouth was warm and wet and Draco couldn't help but pull him closer, his fingers curling around the fabric of his cloak.

Harry pulled away, his forehead pressing against Draco's and his breath warm on his cheek.

You drive me mad.

Likewise.

Harry laughed shortly, running the cold tip of his nose down Draco's cheek. I like kissing you. And it's not just because I'm experimenting. I like your stupid sense of humour and how clever you are and how you really care about things that matter.

Draco frowned slightly, a cleft between his eyebrows. How do you know what I care about?

I can feel what you feel, remember. And you get sad and you feel guilty…I can't really explain it.

Draco didn't reply. Instead he gently kissed the corner of Harry's mouth again, loving how Harry's breath hitched in his chest as Draco's lips touched his skin.

"Thought you weren't coming back for any more," he murmured, and he felt Harry smile against his cheek. I assumed you'd got your answers and were done with me.

"Not at all. Thought I'd wait 'till you'd gone from angry to a manageable sulk," Harry said quietly. "Didn't fancy getting hexed or shouted at for interfering."

"Probably for the best," Draco said ruefully and then paused. Thank you. For understanding. Or trying, anyway.

"Come again?"

Draco huffed and made to push Harry away, making him slip dangerously close to the edge of the bench, hands coming out to grab Draco's wrists. "I said it once, I'm not saying it again."

"Fair enough," Harry laughed, righting himself on the bench and then standing up. "Come on. We better go in before we freeze."

"Okay."

Draco stood up as well, his mood significantly calmed by their brief encounter. Not that he'd ever be admitting that to Harry, of course. He nodded and then stepped away, ready to go back inside and try and get some sleep.

"Draco."

Draco paused and turned around, his eyebrows raised. Harry just smiled lopsidedly, pushing his glasses up his nose again.

It'll get better. Just takes time.

Draco smiled weakly back and nodded. Goodnight, Harry.

Night, Draco.

Chapter Text

Harry carried on kissing Draco, his mouth open against his neck, kissing, biting gently, pulling the collar of Draco's shirt to the side to reach more pale skin. They were warm, so warm, so close together. They were in a dormitory, the hangings of the beds around them changing continually from green to red and back again, unnoticed by either of them. Fingers were tugging and pulling at the knot of his tie and he didn't want them to stop. He wanted more. He gasped and kissed Draco on the mouth, hot and demanding, his tongue twining with the other boys. Pulling back, he cupped Draco's face in his hands and tilted it up towards him, but Draco had his eyes shut, closed against Harry's gaze.

"Look at me."

Draco obediently opened his eyes and Harry started as he saw that they were green, bright green. Draco was looking at him, stunned and confused, his mouth hanging open with uncertainty.

"Your eyes-"

His words caught in his throat as if he'd been silenced, his voice snatched by the soft slithering noise they heard behind them. Harry immediately pulled Draco closer to him, his arm around his shoulders, gripping tightly. He looked around wildly, wishing he had his wand. They were now in a strange cold room somewhere in the castle, with stone walls and a stone floor, and all around the sides of the room were piles of clutter; furniture and books and forgotten possessions, like the towering piles that had existed in the Room of Hidden Things. There was a low hiss from somewhere amongst the piles, and Draco wrapped his arms tightly around Harry's waist, pressing his face against Harry's collarbone, petrified to face whatever it was moving in the darkness.

"Is it-"

"I don't know."

The noise came again, louder and closer. The sound of snake skin on a stone floor. Harry tensed, turning around slowly, so slowly, not daring to look under the desk that was in the corner of the room-

There was a scream and a flash of blinding green light-

Harry sat up with a stifled yelp, breathing heavily and blinking in the dark. There was sweat on his forehead despite the chill of the night, and he was trembling. God, he really wished that he didn't have these nightmares anymore, although this one had been slightly different to his usual; normally he would be in the Forbidden Forest with a different cast of characters, and that was easy enough to understand. But this, what did this mean? Kissing Draco and then the green light? He was confused and still a little disoriented.

Potter?

Draco's voice came through the link, sounding uncertain and shaky. Harry felt an inordinate sense of relief at the sound of his voice, knowing that he wasn't alone and there was someone there to talk to.

Yeah, I'm here, Harry replied, wiping his face with the back of his hand.

Was that my dream or yours?

Harry swallowed thickly as he laid back down, realising with a jolt that Draco had experienced the same dream as he had. Prickly waves of fear that belonged to Draco kept washing through him, and he tried to keep calm for both their sakes.

I don't know.

Draco didn't reply immediately. Harry felt him slowly calming, the terror fading to be replaced with uncertainty. Harry pulled his blankets back up over his shoulder, feeling clammy and shaky, but somehow thankful that he wasn't alone, that he had someone close by who knew exactly what he'd just been through. The last he heard before he fell back into slumber was Draco's quiet reply.

Neither do I.


 

By the time he sat down in Charms the next day, Harry had almost forgotten all about the dream. He was instead pondering over the conversation that he and Draco had had the morning they'd shared breakfast. He had been half joking when he had told Draco that his friends had pretty much abandoned him to deal with his own business, but now, sat at a desk completely by himself, Harry had to think that it really was ringing true. His friends did have a lot going on, and he now acknowledged that in the wake of everyone else's issues he really was being left to bimble around by himself on the sidelines. He had to admit that he didn't really mind being left alone, as he was rather preoccupied with the link and Draco.

Bored, he let his gaze wander over the classroom. A desk over, Hermione and Ron was discussing – or arguing about, some might have said - their plans for the Christmas holidays. Seamus and Dean were chattering loudly a desk in front and Neville was talking to Hannah Abbott with a small smile on his face, sat way over the other side of the room.

So Harry was left alone trying to dispel the butterflies that were currently flapping enthusiastically around his stomach. At first he'd been worried he'd eaten something dodgy at breakfast, but had quickly worked out that the strange feeling in his organs was nerves. Nerves about seeing Draco bloody Malfoy of all things.

When he heard the classroom door creak open again, he instantly looked up to see who it was, cursing himself as he did so. He sighed as he saw Zabini, Parkinson and Nott wander in, unfortunately and suspiciously without Draco in tow. Where was the silly git when Harry actually wanted him?

Maybe Draco's friends were also getting on with things without him, in a similar fashion to how Harry had been left to deal with the link. Curiously, Harry watched as Parkinson and Nott took a desk together, Pansy scowling heavily, and then Zabini slipped into a seat next to a blushing Parvati. Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes. It seemed that Zabini and Parvati were taking the new 'spirit of inter-house unity' very seriously.

He wasn't one to talk really though, he supposed. He and Draco were probably the bloody poster boys of inter-house unity, considering their past and how far they'd come. A tell-tale creak interrupted his thoughts and had Harry looking up towards the door again, his stomach clenching as he saw Draco sidling in, scowling more ferociously than Parkinson was. Harry felt alarm run through him, hoping that Draco wouldn't take out his obvious but as yet unexplained bad mood on him.

Draco paused a step into the room and glared around, looking progressively more and more like he'd like to throw something as he saw his friends hadn't left room for him to sit. Finally, his gaze settled on Harry and the empty seat next to him. His shoulders tensed for a moment and then he stepped forwards, looking determined.

I'm sitting with you.

Harry didn't have time to reply before Draco was marching over and sliding into the seat next to him, dropping his bag on the floor next to him with a hefty thud. The butterflies in Harry's stomach started flapping again with a vengeance.

People will talk, he said as Draco delved into his bag for his wand.

Talk about me sitting in the only available seat? Draco replied, his tone snappish. Let them.

Are you alright?

Draco opened his mouth, probably to snap back in response to Harry's hesitant query, but then abruptly shut it again and breathed out deeply, running his fingers through his fringe.

Yes. Sorry.

He offered no further explanation but the scowl disappeared, transforming into an only slightly petulant frown. Harry bit back any more questions, taking the positive change in Draco's demeanour in stride and managing to feel slightly pleased that he'd maybe been the cause of it. Draco shifted slightly in his seat as he leant down to pull his book from his bag, and Harry suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to take hold of Draco's hand. Last time Draco had been miserable Harry had managed to distract him quite well with a bit of hand holding and some kisses. Kisses were out of the question in the middle of Charms, obviously, but hand holding…would anyone notice if they held hands under the desk? Actually, would Draco let him hold his hand under the desk? For all they'd shared so far Harry didn't know where he and Draco stood in terms of this not-quite-relationship they had managed to end up in.

It was bizarre; everyone in the school assumed that they were shagging. All Harry knew was that Draco let Harry kiss him when there was no-one else around, and he had more as yet unexplored urges towards Draco that he would really like to try out. He didn't know if that made them boyfriends, or lovers, or partners, or just two arch enemies linked by a dodgy bond who had more in common than they first thought.

That dream last night, Draco said quietly over the link, bringing Harry's focus back to reality. I've been thinking about it.

Me too, a bit. Wasn't nice, Harry replied, flipping through his Charms book to the theory section at the end, remembering the noise of the snake on the stone floor and suppressing a shudder.

That's not it. I can't work out whose dream it was.

Harry paused, his brow furrowing as he tried to recall. Now he thought about it, he realised that the dream had been sort of strange, a warped perspective with emotions threaded throughout. Draco spoke again before he could dwell on it any further.

I think it was both of ours.

Harry turned his head to look at Draco, who was flicking his wand listlessly, making it roll back and forth across the tabletop. Harry realised that to anyone else watching they would both look supremely bored.

How is that possible?

Draco appeared to think for a moment, looking troubled and feeling hesitant. This thing with feeling each others emotions. The link's opened up on more levels.

Emotional levels? Harry asked cautiously, remembering Hermione saying something similar and wishing that he'd actually listened to her.

Yeah, Draco said, and Harry just knew that Draco was resisting the urge to squirm in his seat, the conversation making him blush and feel a little embarrassed. I think it means that the link is so relaxed that our subconscious still communicates when we're asleep. Hence the dream we both made up.

"That's insane," Harry breathed and Draco half smiled, picking up his wand. "And a bit amazing," Harry added and felt surprised happiness roll through Draco in response.

"Yeah."

"Does this mean if we start fighting again it'll go away?"

Draco shrugged. "Don't know. I don't know if it'll stay open now it's open, or if it can go back the other way."

"Can you still send pictures?" Harry asked and Draco did grin then, a bright smile that lit up his eyes as well. Harry blinked and then right there in the forefront of his mind was an image of the two of them kissing in the snow, outside under the cover of the walkway.

"Git," Harry whispered, trying not to smile.

"Takes one to know one," Draco whispered back, and Harry rolled his eyes. He glanced over to Ron who raised his eyebrows in question, looking a little concerned. Harry just shrugged and half smiled, turning away. When Ron asked later, which he undoubtedly would, Harry would tell him that sitting next to Draco wasn't that bad, really.

In truth, Harry didn't mind at all.


 

The rest of the week was an easy one compared to Harry's latest standards. He and Draco were back to talking on a regular basis - over the link of course. The majority of their conversation was centred around Quidditch, with the qualifiers for the World Cup coming up, and their still hefty workload. The only slight problem with their communication was Draco's tendency to snap when someone or something else other than Harry had upset him, but Harry was learning quickly how not to exacerbate the problem. He would bring Draco around from his bad mood with bad jokes and purposefully stupid comments that Draco would laugh at him for. On one memorable occasion they had found themselves alone just outside the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, and Harry had quickly leant in and kissed the scowl right off of Draco's face. The shock in Draco's expression had been totally worth it, despite the stinging hex Draco had winged his way for 'jumping on me with no warning, you complete git.'

It was fun, in a convoluted way. Draco kept him on his toes in a way no-one ever had before, and Harry found himself daydreaming even more about Draco and the possibilities for their next encounter. The way Draco looked at him sometimes led Harry to believe that they weren't going to stay at kissing for long. It made him nervous and excited and clumsy and terrified, all in the best possible way.

The only slight irritation Harry had was Draco's steadfast refusal to tell him who had hexed him. He didn't know if Draco was embarrassed or didn't want Harry to kick up a fuss, but either way it was frustrating. He just wanted to know, for Merlin's sake. And maybe - definitely - hex the bastard back.

He contemplated asking Seamus if he knew who it had been, but held himself in check, grumpily conceding that going out of his way to find out from someone else when specifically told not to would piss Draco off even more.

"Harry, you coming to lunch?"

Harry diverted his mind away from Draco's mystery attacker and nodded to Neville, heaving his bag up more securely onto his shoulder and wishing he could slip away and go and find Draco. It was a full week since their night-time meeting and aside from the one fleeting kiss in the corridor, they hadn't had any moments together or time alone.

And despite whatever else might have been, patience was not one of Harry's virtues.

"Have you started the Defence paper yet?" Neville asked as they descended the staircase in the East Wing. "I'm a bit confused about it all, I mean I know the basic principles for Occlumency, but I'm unsure about how it all works with the practical application of non-verbal spells-"

In all honesty, Harry hadn't really been listening as well as he could have been, but he genuinely didn't hear anything else that Neville said beyond the words 'spells'; his heart had leapt into his mouth as he caught sight of unmistakable blond hair at the bottom of the staircase.

I can see you.

Draco turned, looking around, and he spotted Harry halfway up the staircase. Their eyes met for a fraction of a section just before there was a flash of yellow light and then Draco's bag turned itself inside-out, tipping the contents all over the floor. An ink bottle smashed at the same time Harry felt fury rend through him – belonging to both him and Draco.

Harry was down the stairs before he could even think about what he was doing, pushing past anyone who didn't get out of the way quickly enough. People around him at the bottom of the stairs were laughing as Draco struggled to turn his bag the right way around, his jaw tight.

You okay?

Draco nodded stiffly and waved his wand, levitating his books back up and stuffing them back into his bag one by one.

"Who was that?" Harry asked quietly.

"No-one," Draco muttered and Harry shot him an exasperated scowl, turning around to face the assembled gaggle of students.

"Who was that?" he repeated to the corridor at large. No-one answered but several faces turned to look at a burly Slytherin boy who was standing a little way away, looking smug and thoroughly pleased with himself.

Potter, leave it alone. I'm fine.

"You?" Harry asked the boy quietly, ignoring Draco's tense voice and stepping forwards, drawing his wand.

The boy shrugged, his countenance defiant. "What of it? S'only Malfoy."

"Do it again, and you'll receive something worse in return," Harry said levelly, although the threat in his words was unmistakable. Several students around him shifted uneasily but the boy just stared at him, unimpressed.

"Whatever."

"Clear off," Harry said, wanting nothing more to do with any of them. He raised his voice to shout at the whole group assembled in the corridor. "All of you. Move."

The students obliged, slowly shuffling away. The boy who had jinxed Draco's bag shoved past Draco on the way, knocking him with his shoulder. Draco may have been older and taller, but the boy was wider and much more heavily built, and as such Draco staggered slightly before righting himself and continuing to pick up his scattered possessions.

Harry stepped forwards angrily, but Draco reached out and caught his wrist, letting go of his bag with one hand. "Don't," he said tightly and Harry nodded jerkily, lowering his wand and stepping back.

"Who is he?" he asked, when they were alone in the corridor.

"No-one."

"Draco."

Draco pulled a face and knelt down to pick up his quills. "Devlin Crowley," he said, so quietly that Harry nearly missed it. "It's not about me being bent, he's just using it as an excuse. His brother was killed by a Death Eater, so naturally it's all my fault."

Draco's face twisted in an ugly scowl and Harry hovered nearby, suddenly feeling helpless. This was dangerous territory to be heading into. They could talk about school work and quidditch and kissing well enough, but the moment the war became a viable topic they both shut off, feeling awkward and slightly vulnerable.

"Go on," Draco said heavily, rubbing his face with his free hand. "I'll be fine."

"Was he the one who hexed you before?" Harry asked, and he crouched down beside Draco, picking up a stray galleon and twisting it between his fingers.

Draco nodded stiffly. "It's not a problem. He just thinks he's exacting revenge, although he's about as subtle as a bludger to the groin. How he got into Slytherin is beyond me."

"You should have told me."

"It's not a big deal," Draco repeated adamantly.

"Okay, sorry," Harry said quickly. "Just...if this happens again, will you please tell me?"

"Not a chance," Draco snapped back, bristling and hovering dangerously close to a full-on fit of temper.

Harry sighed, rubbing his chin. I'm not trying to interfere. I just don't like that you're getting picked on for stuff that's not your fault.

Finding that hard to believe, Draco replied, although Harry felt some of the misplaced anger fade away, replaced with the usual pessimism and discontent.

It's true. I worry about you.

Fine, Draco finally replied. If I need your help, I'll ask. Just don't interfere if I don't need you to.

Sounds like a fair deal to me.

Draco didn't reply. Instead, he clambered to his feet somewhat unsteadily, still looking a little frustrated. It was more than that though, underneath the anger Harry could sense his hurt, the upset that he were being blamed for things that weren't his fault. It made Harry feel strange in a way he couldn't pinpoint, tight and tense and uncomfortable.

Draco reached out expectantly and Harry pressed the galleon into his palm, curling his fingers around Draco's. He hesitated, and then unable to help himself, he pulled Draco's hand up to his mouth, gently kissing his knuckles.

"Are you mad?" Draco hissed, yanking his hand away and making a fuss out of putting the galleon in his pocket. "Anyone could see."

"Don't care," Harry said boldly, and stepped closer, reaching out to run his fingertips down Draco's cheekbone, somehow needing to give him some comfort, some reassurance after the altercation with Crowley. He watched, fascinated, as Draco's eyes fluttered shut at the touch for a moment, before snapping open and looking panicked.

"Potter," Draco said, grabbing hold of Harry's fingers and sounding exasperated. "Not here. We can't."

"Not here?" Harry said, his voice low and strange to his own ears. The tension between them was rapidly swelling again, emerging from nowhere and building and building, making Harry want nothing more than to just grab Draco and pull him close. Draco looked up to meet his gaze and Harry was gratified to see the same desire and want reflected in grey eyes.

Come on.

Draco reached out and took his hand, threading his fingers through Harry's. He quickly looked along the corridor and then moved, tugging Harry along behind him. He headed to the first door he came across and quickly pulled his wand out, pointing it at the door and muttering something Harry didn't catch. Nothing happened but Draco appeared satisfied, pushing the door open and hauling Harry into the empty room after him.

Harry heard the sounds of the door being closed and locked, and he barely had time to turn around before Draco was on him, his mouth pressing against Harry's, off-centre and urgent.

Stop rescuing me, you fucking prat, he heard Draco say, his voice desperate. That was strange enough as it was; Harry knew without a doubt that Draco's mouth was currently occupied with kissing him, but he could still hear Draco's words as clear as day.

I'm not – he tried to reply but his concentration was lost as Draco pressed up against him, his hands threading into Harry's hair as they kissed, open mouthed and hot. Draco pulled away but Harry couldn't complain; Draco was now kissing along his neck, biting down gently between kisses and making Harry's whole body tingle. He could sense flashes of Draco's arousal through the link, whipping his own to a fever pitch, and he gasped as Draco shifted and Harry felt the press of Draco's erection into his hip, feeling his own prick swelling rapidly in response.

Draco captured his mouth again and Harry was suddenly very aware that he was nothing more than a passive participant in the kiss; Draco was directing every move and whilst it felt undeniably good, Harry wanted to give as good as he got.

Without thinking, he shoved his hips forwards and felt Draco gasp into his mouth. He reached up with one hand to grip Draco's hair, angling his head so Harry could control the kiss and take it deeper. Draco moaned and his hands slid down across Harry's shoulders, his thumbs tracing Harry's collarbones. Harry barely had any time to register how nice that felt before a hand was slipping lower, down his side and across his hip, before pushing between them, fingers fumbling at his crotch. Harry froze and his mind went blank as he felt long fingers wrap around the outline of his hard prick, rubbing awkwardly through the material of his trousers.

"Whoa," he gasped and tore his mouth away from Draco's, stumbling back. "What are you doing?"

Draco gaped at him for a moment, looking bewildered. "What do you think I was doing?" he asked, confusion giving way to angry indignation and what felt through the link to be uncomfortable embarrassment.

"You touched me-" Harry managed, realising that he was holding both of his hands held protectively over his crotch, as if he were shielding himself from attack.

"Well that's generally how it goes," Draco snapped, his face colouring. "I thought you'd appreciate it seeing as you were the one that started rubbing up against me."

"I didn't!"

"You did," Draco argued, and ran his fingers through his hair, looking frustrated. Harry glanced down and saw Draco was still hard, his erection clearly visible through his trousers. Yeah, probably very frustrated, Harry thought with a wince.

"I'm sorry," he managed to say, feeling stupid and well on the way to mortified. "I just never-"

"No, I get it," Draco interrupted. "I just thought you'd be slightly more Gryffindor about this, if you get me." His tone was slightly accusing, as if he were defending his actions, trying to deflect blame away from himself. Harry didn't know why Draco felt silly; it was clearly Harry's fault for being the inexperienced one who couldn't handle having another blokes hand on his dick despite how much he'd daydreamed about it.

"I'm new to this whole kissing blokes thing," Harry said lamely. "I'm not quite there yet-"

"Fuck's sake, Potter - I haven't been laid in ages," Draco suddenly burst out, grabbing his hair again.

He turned away with a huff of frustration. Harry had frozen in place again, his knees feeling weak. He had half a mind to laugh at Draco's outburst; one moment he was upset because some twat was bullying him, and the next he was cursing because Harry had halted what had probably been shaping up to be a very pleasurable groping session. Anyway, Harry was pretty sure that if he did laugh it would come out hysterical. Draco was talking about - he was mentioning- he was thinking about sex. Actual real sex that Harry was probably supposed to participate in despite how clueless he was.

You- you wanted to...?

Harry saw Draco pause and the slender shoulders slump.

No. Calm down. I didn't mean it literally. I was just – forget it. Draco rubbed at his face, his back still to Harry.

Harry wasn't sure what to do. His first feeling was relief that Draco hadn't actually been talking literally about sex, but it didn't make him feel much better overall. However embarrassed Draco felt about that bodged encounter, Harry felt worse. For gods sake, he knew things had been headed this way and had been genuinely excited – albeit a tad nervous - about it, so why had he bolted like a skittish Hippogriff the moment Draco had actually touched him?

I'm sorry, he chose to say, stepping forwards and putting a tentative hand on Draco's shoulder. You just took me by surprise.

Draco turned around slowly, his gaze trained on the floor. So you didn't hate it?

No, Harry said, gently squeezing Draco's shoulder. Was just a bit fast, is all. Give me some more warning next time.

"You'll be lucky if there is a next time," Draco huffed grumpily, folding his arms across his chest, although Harry knew he wasn't seriously cross. He could feel Draco's relief through the link, as clear and tangible as his own.

"There'll have to be if you want to do anything about that not getting laid thing," Harry said with a grin.

"Oh fuck off, Potter," Draco said, pushing Harry in the chest with both hands. "Get out of here."

"Talk to you later?" Harry asked.

"Probably," Draco sniffed.

Harry grinned and leant in to kiss Draco hard. He felt Draco's breath hitch in his chest before he kissed Harry back, his fingers clenching in the material of his jumper.

"Just go away," Draco groaned against his mouth. "You're driving me mad, you bastard."

"In a good way, right?" Harry quipped, hastily backing up as Draco drew his wand, looking threatening. "Alright, alright, I'm sorry. I'll make it up to you?"

Draco narrowed his eyes. Get used to the idea of touching, and we'll go from there.

"I'll see what I can do," Harry said and dived for the door, still not quick enough to miss the stinging hex that hit him on the arse on the way out.

Git, he grumbled good-naturedly as he walked away, rubbing his backside where the hex had hit him.

Shut up. I know you're not really mad.

Harry did chuckle at that. He still felt awkward and a little bit silly, but also thankful that the worst he'd received was a mild hex for his moment of foolishness. It wasn't that he didn't want to do things like that with Draco; even the brief brush of Draco's fingers against him had felt undeniably good. He was just nervous and inexperienced, and didn't really like being the one that wasn't in control.

It seemed the link really was the saving grace in this confusion, despite it also being the cause. Harry didn't think for a second he and Draco would be able to communicate as well without the link being there; it was almost like they could say the difficult things without having to speak the words. It would undoubtedly be a million times more difficult if they had to speak aloud to one another, especially when they were broaching difficult subjects.

So. Lunch, herbology, and then an evening thinking about having Draco Malfoy toss him off, Harry thought, taking a deep breath with a wan smile. Shouldn't be that hard, right?

Chapter Text

Draco ran his hands slowly yet surely up the thighs he was currently knelt between, savouring the shiver than ran through the body they were attached to. He repeated the action, his hands sliding that bit higher, and fingers reached up to thread into his hair, gripping gently as if Harry were trying to ground himself, stop himself floating away.

"Draco."

Harry's voice was low and shaky, trembling almost as much as his body, coming from a place deep inside that Draco had never found before. Harry was sat back in a comfy armchair, the cushions deep and red, his whole body balancing on a fine line of anticipation and need.

"I know," Draco replied, and he leant forwards to press a soft kiss to the bulge in the front of Harry's trousers. There was an audible gasp from above him and Draco smiled, shutting his eyes and nuzzling against the hardness he could feel through the material.

He pulled back far enough to reach for the buttons of Harry's trousers. He opened the top one, and then the rest shifted into a zip before his eyes. He was grateful for the easier option; his fingers were suddenly fumbling, nerves making him clumsy.

Time stuttered and twisted and jumped and suddenly there were no clothes at all, Harry was gasping as he ran his hands over Draco's bare shoulders, his whole body shifting and writhing in the chair. Draco was leant over Harry's lap, Harry's cock between his lips, teasing and licking, bending down to take him deeper, sucking harder.

"Oh god, Draco-"

He moaned deep in his chest, reaching up to wrap his fingers around the base of Harry's prick, sucking hard on the head and running his tongue across the slit. Harry's hips jerked up and Draco wished he were sat in Harry's lap, straddling him as his hips moved like that.

Blinding arousal tore through his very veins, and Harry's as well, he could feel Harry's excitement burning in his skin, they were on fire and Harry was so close, and Draco wanted nothing more than to bring Harry to climax, to be the one responsible for Harry falling to pieces, and then suddenly it was happening, Harry's body was convulsing and he was crying out in a broken voice-

Draco slowly opened his eyes in the darkness, his heart thudding in his chest and his whole body tingling.

Oh God. Had he really just dreamt about going down on Harry? There was no way he could brush over that or pretend it was something else; it had been so vivid that he could almost feel the warm weight of Harry's prick on his tongue. He rolled over onto his back, very aware that his body was very aroused as a result of the dream. He groaned, wishing half-heartedly that he could stop reacting as such to his wayward thoughts about Harry; he may have accepted his sexuality but that hadn't been a go ahead for his prick to jump to attention every time the git crossed his mind or was anywhere nearby.

He could feel Harry's arousal through the link on top of his own, and supposed that Harry had also been awakened. As such, he didn't dare put a hand on himself, no matter how badly he wanted to; he was certain Harry would be able to feel his emotions and know what he was up to, and he didn't want to be scare him off. Besides, a small amount of misplaced pride said that he didn't want to be caught wanking over Potter until he'd caught Potter wanking over him.

Draco?

Draco nearly leapt out of bed in shock as Potter spoke, his stomach clenching painfully. He should have bloody expected Harry to talk to him if he knew he was awake, the bastard.

What? He asked, trying to keep his voice level.

Was that my dream or yours?

Yours, Draco replied immediately, although in truth he wasn't at all sure.

What? By the sound of Harry's voice, he wasn't sure either. I don't think it was.

Of course it was, Draco replied. I wouldn't be thinking that about you.

Yes you would, Harry replied, sounding distracted rather than insulted. Draco had to be slightly, albeit grudgingly, impressed with how Harry no longer got offended by every little thing he said. Now he either laughed, made a smart-arse comment in return, or more often than not passed over Draco's snide remarks as if he'd not even noticed them.

I wouldn't, Draco repeated determinedly. He idly wondered if Harry could tell when he was lying through his teeth.

Maybe it was one of those dreams we both made up.

Harry sounded embarrassed and a little breathless. Draco wondered if Harry were in a similar state; aroused and tense, wanting nothing more than to stroke himself to completion, to ride out the feelings coursing through his body.

I doubt it, Draco replied instantly. I can't imagine your subconscious coming up with something like that if you get scared the moment someone touches you.

Draco almost felt Harry roll his eyes through the link and bit back a smirk. Ever since it had happened a couple of days previously, he'd been periodically teasing Harry about what he called 'the touching incident'. At first Harry had been very defensive about it, but after a while he just took Draco's smart-arse commentary on the chin and mostly ignored it.

You realise then by that logic you've just admitted that dream was yours?

"Shit."

Cursing aloud, Draco groaned as he realised his slip up. Bugger. He really should think more before taunting Harry, as it didn't always work out the way he intended.

Fine. It was both of us. I was just playing around.

Thought as much.

Draco pulled a face at Harry's smug tone and wished that Harry were there in Draco's bed so Draco could chuck a pillow at him.

I have been thinking about it, you know. Touching and stuff.

A smile tugged at the corner of Draco's mouth at Harry's words, rushed and awkward. Such a Gryffindor, blurting out everything on his mind. Draco wasn't complaining, though. He'd been itching to get his hands on Harry for quite some time and was pleased to hear that Harry had been thinking about the possibilities within their reach. Draco had nearly hexed Harry when he'd pulled away during their last encounter, feeling embarrassed and stupid at his forwardness and presumption. His only consolation had been the fact that Harry had seemed even more mortified than he'd been.

His smile widened as he rolled back over, pulling his pillow into a more comfortable position. He shut his eyes, sending Potter one last promising word before he went back to sleep.

Good.


 

Harry knew he had to stop staring at Draco. More specifically, he had to stop staring at Draco's mouth. He had barely been able to tear his eyes away since that dream they'd shared earlier in the week. Thursday, Friday and Saturday had passed in a blur, a mere background disturbance into Harry's now almost obsessive thoughts about having Draco suck him off, just as he had in the dream.

Draco'd be pleased, Harry thought idly as he buttered his third piece of toast, ignoring Hermione and Ron who were quietly bickering next to him. As Draco had requested, since their bodged encounter Harry had given a lot of thought to touching, and also to several other illicit activities too.

And now, he thought maybe he was ready. For just about anything Draco could dish out. Well, almost anything, Harry thought with a wince, backpedalling slightly. But touching...that seemed like something he could definitely do. Considering that last night he'd ended up wanking whilst still thinking about Draco's mouth...yeah. At some point he was definitely going to have to invite Draco to join in, considering that all his thoughts revolved around the git. It had been a small mercy that Draco had been asleep at the time; Harry knew that Draco would delight in teasing him mercilessly if he'd been caught out, and whilst there was no point denying that he found Draco ridiculously attractive any more, he didn't want to admit he'd been wanking over him until Draco admitted to wanking over Harry.

He sighed, trying not to think about the previous night and the orgasm that had left his face tingling and his toes numb. Now was not the time. He glanced up again at Draco, who was sat on the far side of the hall, looking sleepy. His hair was slightly tousled and Harry itched to run his fingers through it. Or maybe pull on it to make him wake up a bit. Draco had his elbow on the table and his chin cupped in one hand, and every so often he would yawn widely, belatedly covering his mouth with his free hand. He was apparently listening to Zabini who was talking away at his side without pause, gesturing with graceful hands to emphasise whatever it was that he was going on about. Harry scowled. Zabini was a git, and not in the way Draco was a git. He thought he was gods bloody gift to every girl in Hogwarts, and didn't even try to hide his cocksure opinion from anyone.

Stop staring.

Harry blinked, startled, to see Draco's eyes on him, looking faintly amused. He felt himself blush and nodded, quickly looking away and concentrating on his own breakfast.

You've been doing that an awful lot lately, Draco said, the smirk evident in his tone.

Says you. Harry retorted. I'm not the one who had to go to the hospital wing because I cut my finger in potions.

That was an accident, you plank.

You were staring at me and you know it.

Shut it, Potty.

Harry chuckled and looked up as he heard the familiar swoosh of the post owls pouring into the hall. He winced as several cold drops of water dripped from the rather bedraggled looking flock of birds, landing straight down the back of his neck.

"Bloody birds," Ron complained, wiping his face as Hermione retrieved a rolled up newspaper from the soggy and rather put out looking owl that was in front of her. "Can you not put Impervious charms on them?"

"No," Hermione said vaguely as she paid the owl. "They-"

FOR FUCKS SAKE POTTER!

Harry nearly yelped aloud as Draco's shout rent through his mind, accompanied by a roll of anger that spread quickly through his whole body like a prickling flame.

"What the hell?" Harry said aloud, pressing a hand to his forehead as he looked up, feeling thoroughly confused. He was just in time to see Draco stand up and storm away from the Slytherin table, looking angrier than Harry had seen him in weeks. Pansy Parkinson reached out to grab his sleeve but Draco had his wand out quicker than Harry could blink. He pointed it straight at her and she immediately let go of him with a cry, rubbing the back of her hand.

Draco!

Harry stood up, feeling bewildered but Ron grabbed his arm and yanked him back down onto the bench.

"Ow, Ron!" Harry said indignantly, trying to wrestle his arm free and keep his balance on the bench. "I've got to go after...him..."

His words faded and died as Hermione shoved the Daily Prophet in front of him, folded with the bottom half of the front page facing upwards. Without even realising what he was seeing, he took in the headline, the opening sentence, and the photograph that collectively took up the bottom half of the page, underneath the real news of some political reform the Ministry was pushing through.

"Oh bloody fuck."

He picked up the paper, his eyes wide behind his glasses. He could hear excited chatter throughout the hall, the volume having risen since the arrival of the post. And he had a good idea as to why.

Chosen One leaves Long-Term Love for Death Eater.

"Oh no," Harry said, barely aware of what he was saying. "Oh no, oh no. Ron, look what they've done. Oh fuck. Fucking fuck."

"Calm down," Ron said, his voice low. "People are staring."

Harry could barely think. He read the headline and the opening sentence again, wanting to Incendio the paper, but didn't get any further than that. His eyes were drawn unstoppably to the picture; a grainy black and white image of him and Draco, knelt close together in the corridor as they picked up Draco's scattered possessions, Harry reaching for Draco's hand and bringing it to his lips-

"Who even took that?" he asked, more to himself than anyone else. He felt heat rising in his neck as he stared down at the infinitely looping picture. A strange feeling crawled up the back of his neck; it was like his feelings for Draco were so obvious for everyone to see, feelings that he'd not even properly considered himself. It made him feel vulnerable in a way he hadn't before, and it was terrifying.

Because that was the issue really, wasn't it? When their bickering and petty fights were all stripped away, there was something there between them, something that Harry couldn't pinpoint. It was what made them share dreams, made Harry want to hex Devlin Crowley, caused his stomach to flip every time Draco walked into a bloody room.

Still staring down at the picture, Harry swallowed thickly. It seemed that the progress he and Draco had made was much more than just building bridges after the war. It was more than just experimenting with sexuality. It was more than just a side product of the link. At least it was starting to become as such to Harry.

And now, whatever it was, it was there on the front page of a newspaper like it was something everyone was entitled to see. Harry was used to his life being everybody's business, but this thing with Draco felt too fragile and too uncertain to have everyone else evaluate and judge.

Draco?

Leave me alone.

Harry's heart sank as he cast his eyes over the article. Draco sounded like he was either about to kill something or burst into tears. Harry couldn't blame him. Draco must be feeling just as vulnerable and exposed as Harry, as well as a whole bunch of other stuff because of what the article had dragged up. Christ, it took them twelve lines to actually refer to Draco as an acquitted death eater, and the two lines after that were blatant references to his actions during the war – and not the ambiguous ones that had actually turned out to be quite helpful in the grand scheme of things.

Harry couldn't believe what he was reading. The writer had been somehow informed of the legillimency accident and the link, and had the audacity to suggest that Draco had been the one to engineer the situation, in order to manipulate Harry and gain forgiveness from the general public. His incredulity grew with every new word he read; according to the author, Harry had been distraught to find himself without direction or destiny after the end of the war, and when this new misery was combined with his inherently self-destructive tendencies, it enabled him to be 'now so easily led by other misguided characters.'

"Are you okay?"

Harry made himself nod as Hermione reached across Ron to put her hand atop Harry's, gently squeezing. He looked up and saw several students twisting around in their places to look at him, muttering behind their hands to their peers.

"Thank Merlin you didn't take that thousand to one on you going out with Malfoy, eh? I would have been just about bankrupt."

Harry looked up weakly as Seamus dropped onto the bench opposite him, looking unconcerned, reaching for a goblet and the juice. He glanced idly over the paper that Harry still had clenched in his hand and shrugged in the face of Ron's glare and Hermione's scandalised expression. "What? It's official now, right?"

"Seamus-"

Seamus ignored Hermione's interjection and instead spoke directly to Harry. "Your Malfoy just nearly knocked me over on me way here. He went into the Arithmancy classroom next to the statue of King Arthur. Reckon he's still there, but he's looking a bit of state."

Harry didn't hang about. He scrambled backwards off of the bench, dropping the paper back onto the table, in too much of a hurry to even remember to thank Seamus for the information concerning Draco's whereabouts. He could feel an almost overwhelming combination of fear, upset and anger in his body, although he couldn't pinpoint which emotions were his own, and which were being sent his way by Draco. He walked as quickly as he could towards the doors of the hall, needing to get away from all the staring.

Thankful that none of the students in the halls knew anything of the story in the Prophet yet, Harry ran to the Arithmancy room, praying that Draco was still there. He didn't even stop to consider what he might say, he just opened the door and quickly shut it behind him.

Draco was sat at one of the tables, perched on a high stool with his ankles hooked around the wooden legs. His elbows were on the tabletop and his back was curved in a graceful arch as he leant forwards. In front of him was a contraption that resembled an abacus, with brightly coloured blue and green beads covered in what might have been runic symbols. Draco had his wand pointed at it and the beads were sliding over the wires of the frame in seemingly untraceable patterns, clacking softly as they went.

"Go away, Potter."

Harry shook his head, even though Draco wasn't looking at him. Draco's eyes were red and puffy, and his voice was thick, and it made Harry's insides clench tightly.

"I'm so sorry," Harry said helplessly, his voice far too loud.

"You just had to, didn't you?" Draco said, and he lowered his wand. The beads stopped moving, and the silence that followed was one of the loudest of Harry's life.

"Had to what?" he asked as Draco slid off his stool to face him, his jaw clenched tight and his chin trembling almost imperceptibly.

"You had to go and ruin it," Draco bit out, his voice gaining momentum and volume as he spoke. "Things were fine, just me and you, and you had to fucking ruin it by pulling this ridiculous stunt-"

"You think I did this?" Harry asked in disbelief. "You think I sold that story to the Prophet?"

"Well who else could have done?" Draco snapped back, his pale face turning a blotchy pink. "I should have fucking known, it's been far too long since you bagged yourself a front page-"

"Stop it," Harry snarled, drawing his wand and clenching it tightly in his fist. "I wouldn't do that and you know it. I thought you knew me better than that."

Draco laughed mirthlessly. "We don't know each other at all."

"Yes we fucking do!" Harry shouted, and Draco's face went pale again. "Don't even deny it! I know you – I know what you're scared of and what you want and all those little things you think I'm too thick to notice-"

"You don't know anything!" Draco shouted back, his voice cracking. "You don't know what I want. You don't know how I feel!"

"It's exactly the same as how I feel!" Harry yelled. "That it's great when it's just me and you and for some fucked up reason it works with us, but then the rest of the world sticks their noses in and messes it all up! They assume things and think they know us from one fucking picture!"

He took a deep breath, shaking and feeling adrenaline coursing through him. "And that picture scares the crap out of me, because I can literally see how I feel about you, and I'd not even had a chance to work it out myself."

Draco was now staring at him, wide-eyed and stunned. Harry felt like laughing. He should have been honest from the start if that's all it took to get Draco to shut up for a bloody minute.

"I hate feeling vulnerable, and I know you do too," Harry said bitterly. "And now it's out there for everyone to see, and I hate it just as much as you. So don't you blame this on me or try and make me feel bad. It wasn't me, and if you accuse me again I'm going to punch you. If you'd even properly read the fucking article you'd know it's not exactly been nice about me, either."

He turned away, not sure he could even look at Draco without wanting to shout some more. This was so unfair to both of them. Draco's shaky reputation was being dragged through the dirt again for no good reason, when he hadn't done anything wrong. And Harry...he barely could keep up with how much his life was changing, so how was it fair that it was plastered on the front page? He hated how everyone seemed to know everything about him before he even managed to guess. It was one thing when Ron and Hermione figured him out, or even bloody Seamus, but the rest of the wizarding world? Harry wanted to hex them all.

He jumped slightly as he felt fingers touch the small of his back, hesitant and trembling. He stayed perfectly still and then two arms slid around him and wrapped around his waist, holding him with a strength to almost match his own. Draco's body pressed lightly up against his back, with Draco resting his face against Harry's hair. Harry could feel Draco's breath on the back of his neck, and suddenly all the fight went out of him. It wasn't Draco's fault; he was just reacting to bad news in the only way he knew how, lashing out at those around him. Harry felt the tension leave his body and after a moment he carefully reached to cross his arms over Draco's, holding tightly onto his elbows.

I don't like the rest of the world knowing, Draco said after a long moment. His words were stilted and difficult, and the effort it was taking him to speak about his feelings was painfully obvious. My feelings are mine. And they always twist them into something bad, even when they're not.

I know they're not bad, Harry said quietly.

Yes, but I always care too much about what everyone else thinks.

Harry nodded, knowing that there was no point in offering false comfort or trying to argue to the contrary when they both knew that what Draco said was true.

It's not fair, is it?

No. It's really not.

Harry sighed and dropped his head back so it rested on Draco's shoulder. He shut his eyes and breathed out deeply, feeling significantly calmer. He let some of his weight rest back against Draco, idly thinking that it was nice how they could share giving and taking comfort without feeling awkward or falling into gender specified roles. If he was with a girl, Harry would feel like he had to be the one standing strong. But with Draco, he felt like he was starting to be able to let himself be cared for as well. And on a less emotional and more practical note, it was pleasing to know that Draco could actually take Harry's weight if he were so inclined to lean on someone.

Draco turned his face to look towards Harry, the side of his face brushing Harry's as he leant down slightly. His cheek was smooth and Harry wondered what it would feel like if Draco's hadn't shaved that morning, if the soft scratch of barely-there stubble would feel nice. Harry felt Draco's breath against the skin of his neck and couldn't stop the shiver that went through him. Draco's breath hitched in response, and then he carefully moved further, moving agonizingly slowly before pressing a kiss to Harry's skin.

The moment turned from innocent to sexual in a heartbeat. Harry exhaled shakily and turned his head a fraction to the side, an unspoken request for more. Draco obliged, his arms tightening around Harry as he kissed Harry's neck again, his mouth open and warm. Harry felt the spike of Draco's arousal through the link, moment before Draco shifted, pressing his hips that bit closer to Harry's body.

Draco kissed him again, his lips lingering against Harry's skin, and Harry tightened his grip on Draco's arms almost subconsciously, daring to lean back a little to press his body harder against Draco's. He bit his lip as Draco drew in a sharp breath, and Harry felt nerves rising in his stomach. This was it. Now or never.

Draco...

Draco pulled his mouth away from Harry's neck, and when he spoke over the link his voice was low and trembling, laced with need Harry had never heard before. We can stop if you want.

No, don't stop.

Draco's breath caught and Harry stifled a gasp as Draco leant down to kiss his neck again, the faintest hint of a bite making Harry's whole body tingle. He could feel Draco's swelling erection beginning to press against his arse, and had to bite his lip to stifle a whimper as Draco tugged an arm free from under Harry's, trailing his fingertips across Harry's abdomen and then lower, across the waistband of his jeans.

Harry didn't know what to pay attention to; the prick pressing against his arse, his own erection which was filling and stiffening at a rapid pace, or the kisses Draco was now laving up and down his neck, sloppy and desperate.

"Oh god," Harry choked out as Draco gently rocked his hips forwards. Draco moaned shakily in response, and then hesitant fingers reached down to press against Harry's cock through the material of his trousers.

This was, this was too much- this was another bloke with his hand on Harry's dick, with his own far too close to Harry's arse to be considered comfortable. Harry couldn't, he just couldn't do it – and then Draco moved his hand so it was fully cupping Harry's erection at the same time as he bit down on his neck, hard, and suddenly Harry wasn't thinking at all.

He twisted around in Draco's arms and didn't give either of them time to draw breath before Harry had crashed his mouth against Draco's, reaching up to twine his fingers in short blond strands. Draco gasped as Harry pressed up against him, feeling the first awkward bump of cock against cock.

The sensation was completely alien, and yet it was completely right in a way that Harry couldn't bring himself to explain. Draco shifted and Harry felt their pricks nudge together again, and suddenly something inside of him snapped. Some mental barrier he'd created out of uncertainly and fear gave way, and now all he wanted was more.

He shoved his own hips forwards and Draco stumbled back a step before righting himself and pushing back. They were still kissing, tongues twining filthily, all semblance of control lost. It was hot and desperate and messy, and if Harry weren't so caught up in the sensations he would have been embarrassed about what he was doing, the way he thrust himself up against Draco, desperate and rushed. He couldn't get over how mind-blowingly good it felt to be rubbing up against another guy; the angle was off and the friction almost too rough, but Harry didn't care. His dick was touching Draco's and it was sohard and just perfect for Harry to rut up against.

Pleasure was pulling them apart from the inside, and Harry didn't know if it was the shared emotions through the link, or the fact it was a boy, or the fact it was Draco that was making this feel so good. It was if his rational brain had switched itself off and all he wanted was to feel, to know, to finally see what this was like.

Draco stumbled back again, trying to walk backwards and kiss Harry at the same time. Harry was about to curse him and make him fucking stand still when Draco's back hit a desk, forcing him to come to a stop. He immediately reached back, bracing his hands against the desk and canting his hips forwards towards Harry's. Harry swore and grabbed hold of Draco's hips, pushing himself forwards again as his fingers curled around the bony ridges. Draco's mouth dropped open and his head tilted back as Harry set a brutal pace, frotting roughly against Draco, his hips moving in a way which must have been instinctive.

"Oh god," Draco choked out, bending back even further and pushing harder. Harry didn't even have time to think; pleasure was pooling in his groin and twisting around his spine, and he could feel Draco's orgasm approaching through the link, arousal which swam through his veins and made Harry's head spin.

"I'm-"

Harry only managed to choke out a word out before he was coming. His hips jerked erratically as pleasure tore through him, his prick pulsing violently against the inside of his boxers. Oh god, he had just come in his trousers like he was fourteen all over again, but he couldn't bring himself to care because Draco was crying out and his whole body was stiffening, jerking helplessly against Harry's, before collapsing back against the desk.

Harry collapsed with him, leaning against him with his face buried in Draco's collarbone, his breathing harsh, his legs feeling weak and his mind trying to process what had just happened.

He'd come. He'd come whilst rubbing his dick up against Draco's, and it had felt fantastic. It wasn't quite the careful handjob he'd been imagining in his mind as of late, but he didn't care. He had no idea that sex could be like that, so hot and desperate and unplanned and uncoordinated and good, good in a way that was uncomfortably and shamelessly right.

"Potter, my back-"

Draco squirmed underneath him and Harry made himself move, stepping back so he wasn't crushing Draco into the table. He was pretty sure he should say something, but hadn't got the faintest of ideas as to what that something should be. He could feel his face turning red as he remembered how he'd moved, the way he'd just shoved himself against Draco with not even a modicum of control or finesse. He could also feel uncomfortable stickiness covering the inside of his boxers and he grimaced as he shifted, blushing even harder at the thought that Draco was in a similar state.

"Er-"

Alright?

Draco spoke as he ran his hands through his hair, before summoning his wand and waving it once over himself and then Harry as an apparent afterthought. Harry started, finding his underwear suddenly clean and fresh.

You've so got to teach me that.

The corner of Draco's mouth hitched in a half smile but faded as quickly as it had appeared. Harry hovered nearby, unsure as to what to do, tentatively trying to feel Draco's emotions through the link. After a moment he decided that words were probably not going to be his ally in this situation, so instead he stepped forwards and wrapped Draco in a hug, Harry's arms tight around his waist.

He felt Draco's surprise through the link and then Draco slowly moved his arms to wrap around Harry's shoulders.

Cuddling after sex, Potter? What are you, a Hufflepuff?

"Shut it," Harry muttered against Draco's neck. I'm trying to tell you that that was amazing, if you'd stop being an arse for ten bloody seconds.

Amazing? And I didn't even get your trousers off.

Harry rolled his eyes and leant back, pulling back enough so he could see Draco's face. Draco looked away, although he didn't let go of Harry.

You liked it then.

Yes, Harry said honestly. Couldn't you tell?

You took me by surprise this time, Draco said, one of his hands tracing an idle pattern on Harry's shoulder blade. Wasn't expecting you to be that forwards.

Thought I better start behaving like a Gryffindor, Harry said with a wan smile. I just...wanted it. So I went for it.

With a fair amount of enthusiasm. I think I've got the bruises to show.

Sorry.

Don't apologise, you idiot. I quite like being rough when the occasion calls for it.

Harry smiled briefly. Did you like it then?

Yes, Draco said simply and Harry immediately felt relieved. He had always been worried that his inexperience would be the downfall of any sexual encounters he attempted, but he believed Draco when he said he'd liked it. And besides, he was still sure that Draco wouldn't hesitate to say something a little mean if he'd done anything wrong or stupid.

So, Draco said, his casual tone immediately setting off alarm bells in Harry's mind. Over your stupid fear of sexual intimacy?

Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Yes. If that's what you're insisting on calling it.

Oh good. Glad that's no longer a problem.

"We do have another problem now though," Harry said aloud, more to himself than to Draco. He felt Draco tense at his words regardless at where they were directed. "The paper." He looked up, studying Draco's face, even though Draco still wasn't looking at him. "What do we do?"

Draco shrugged and Harry bit back his immediate flare of impatience. "I kind of need your input on this, too."

"I don't know," Draco muttered, his eyes still fixed firmly on the floor. "Don't ask me to choose."

"You have to, a little bit."

I always make bad choices.

Harry didn't know what to say to that. He opened his mouth uselessly and then closed it again. Draco looked completely helpless, unable to commit himself to anything, too scared to make a decision. It was frustrating, but Harry supposed he now understood why Draco was the way he was sometimes. As such, he decided to be the one to take control of the situation, for Draco's sake and in order to get the answers he needed. As long as Draco did answer the questions, Harry wouldn't complain about him not offering any of his own suggestions or thoughts on the situation.

"Do you care that everyone knows?"

A cleft formed between Draco's eyebrows, a thoughtful frown shaping his features. He bit his lip, and then slowly shook his head. "No. Don't think so."

"Worried everyone will say it's all your fault?"

Draco hesitated, and then nodded.

"Does it change anything if I tell you it's not your fault at all?"

Draco shrugged. "Maybe. A little."

Harry considered Draco a little while longer, watching as Draco chewed nervously on his lower lip, his eyes troubled and thoughtful. Harry wished he could read Draco's thoughts again, to know what exactly was making him so worried and distracted without having to pry answers from him.

"I think..." Harry finally said carefully. "We should just carry on as we are. Pretend today never happened, ignore anyone who mentions it, and just do our own thing."

"How can we pretend it never happened?" Draco replied. "I'm probably going to get hexed to pieces for this."

"Then we hex people back," Harry said bluntly. "It's worked so far."

Draco's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "You didn't hex Crowley, did you?"

Harry grinned lopsidedly. "Not yet."

Draco shook his head with a sigh. "You're impossible."

Harry smiled and Draco pulled a face back at him, before looking away. The question of what he and Draco actually were drifted into his mind again as he studied Draco's face. The paper had said that they were a couple, and Harry was starting to think that maybe, inexplicably, they actually were.

They kissed and held hands. They made fun of each other and helped each other with their work. Harry got butterflies every time the git was near, and he wanted to hex the people who made Draco upset. He couldn't stop thinking about him, and he'd abandoned his relationship with the girl everyone thought he would marry, just so he could work on an at the time non-existent relationship with Draco. And now they were becoming closer sexually as well as going to great lengths in order to figure out how not to wind each other up too much.

He didn't quite know how to verbalise these thoughts in a way that wouldn't sound like complete gibberish. But he felt like he had to do something, to finally make a move that would mean something. He was done with being dragged along the current. He was Harry Potter for gods sake, he should be able to claw back some sort of control over his life.

"Come to Hogsmeade with me next week."

The words were out of his mouth before he had even properly considered them. He saw Draco's eyes widen in surprise, just before Draco laughed, sounding strangled.

"You're joking, right?"

"No. Come on. It's a good idea," Harry said, his brain working quickly and latching onto the idea with growing enthusiasm. "If we try and deny what's going on people will keep asking and the next time we're caught out it'll be even worse. If we just say 'what of it', and keep hanging out, what can people say?"

"You have a horrifically idealistic view of the world," Draco said, avoiding the question in a way Harry was becoming rather accustomed to.

"Yep. Kind of have to have when you're me."

Draco gave him a funny look, as if he wanted to comment on what he'd just heard, but he didn't say anything. Harry didn't know if that was a relief or something to feel wary about.

"Just think about it, okay," Harry said when Draco continued to decline to offer a response to his question. "I'd like to hang out with you outside of school."

"It won't be-"

"Just shut your trap and think about it, alright?" Harry interrupted. "Don't say no right away. Think about what you want and then tell me."

"Potter-"

"Think about it," Harry said firmly and Draco's shoulders slumped.

"Fine," he sighed, running his hands up and down his upper arms, and then spoke through the link, his words quiet and rushed. Are you really not mad about the paper?

Frustrated more than anything. Annoyed that people think they have any right to my life, Harry told him honestly. I'm not mad with you though, so it's alright.

Draco nodded and breathed out deeply, looking marginally less worried. He took another breath and seemed to collect himself. "Okay. Right. I better go and find everyone before Theo thinks I've offed myself."

"Don't say that," Harry admonished half-heartedly. "As much as I understand how melodramatic you can get sometimes, topping yourself isn't really a realistic option."

"Shove off Scarhead, you're a bigger drama queen than me."

Harry laughed. "Oh yeah, course. Alright, I'll talk to you later."

Talk about how you're now completely and officially most definitely queer?

Harry rolled his eyes as he stepped up towards Draco, reaching out to pull him close by his jumper. Alright, no need to go on about it.

Draco's smug 'I told you so,' was lost as Harry leant in and kissed him, holding onto him tightly and feeling strangely content, despite the looming fallout from the paper. He pushed the thought away and instead concentrated on giving Draco a proper goodbye kiss, letting himself get lost in the moment for just a little while longer.

Chapter Text

“Well I'll be honest with you Potter, this I didn't see coming."

"If it makes you feel any better, neither did I," Harry said tiredly and McGonagall's lips twitched in a weak smile.

"Quite."

Harry slumped further down into the chair next to McGonagall's desk, not at all ready to have his almost-a-relationship with Draco examined by the headmistress. He'd barely been awake an hour and hadn't even managed to finish his breakfast before he'd been summoned to her office. It had been bad enough spending twenty minutes fending off curious housemates in Gryffindor tower whilst trying to get to out; he was already knackered and he'd yet to even get to the Monday morning Defence lesson. At least breakfast hadn't been too bad. Ron and Hermione had fended away anyone who had tried to come to talk to him, and he didn't get post from strangers at Hogwarts anymore; since the war a simple system had been created as to spare him from an influx of post from well-wishers and admirers. The system dictated that only people who Harry had preapproved could send him post, the rest would be diverted and sent into storage. The list of acceptable senders was short and Harry was seriously considering making it even shorter; he didn't know how much the rest of the Weasley family already knew about his current situation, but he was now frankly dreading talking to them about how he'd broken it off with Ginny, and for Draco Malfoy of all people. Every time he'd spotted her lately, she seemed happy with Dean by her side, but Harry didn't think for a second that that would get him completely off of the hook with the rest of the family.

"So. Dare I ask?" McGonagall said, breaking Harry out of his daze. "The report in the Prophet? Can you tell me how much is true?"

"Erm..." Harry began, feeling uncomfortable. "Well...me and Draco are...well, yes."

McGonagall sighed and saved him from the trouble of having to try and construct sentences by instead interrupting to ask him a direct question.

"So, you two are in a relationship?"

"Pretty much," Harry said, scratching the back of his head. "It's not what you'd call...official yet. I'm working on that bit."

"But how did this come about in the first place? I'm finding it a little hard to comprehend considering the animosity you two held when the link was created."

"Well you know. Supporting the new spirit of inter-house unity and all," Harry said, quoting back McGonagall's words from the start of term feast. The look she gave him quite clearly stated that she'd noticed and wasn't entirely amused.

"Not quite what I had in mind but I suppose it shall have to do," McGonagall said wearily and Harry hid his grin by briefly looking down at his feet. "The best I had hoped for was for you two to stop trying to incapacitate each other."

"Getting there."

McGonagall ignored the joke. "Do I need to intervene?" she asked, her tone serious in an instant. "I shall speak to the students as a whole if you wish."

"No," Harry said, shaking his head and sitting up a little straighter in his chair. "Thank you, but no. We'll be fine. I'd rather not draw any more attention. The plan is just to ignore everyone and try and get on with it."

"A mature decision if I may be so bold as to say."

Harry snorted. "I wasn't trying to be mature, I was trying to get Draco to stop being stroppy about it."

McGonagall pursed her lips. "Yes, well. Either way I am glad you're dealing with this as sensibly as the circumstances allow."

"It's only been a day," Harry said, mildly amused despite himself.

"Yes, and in the past a day would have been plenty of time for you to cause a scene and break every school rule you could find," McGonagall said tartly, and Harry bit back a grin.

"Fair point."

"I know it's not really my place to ask, Potter, but I feel I must. Are you one hundred percent sure you are doing the right thing?"

Harry paused, thinking carefully. "As far as I can be," he said slowly. "I mean, you can never be sure with anyone, can you?"

"He isn't just anyone, Potter. You boys have a lot of history. I find it hard to believe that you can just forget everything that has happened."

"We had to," Harry said. "Because of the link. It wasn't a choice; we would have driven each other insane if we hadn't."

"So you've forgiven each other for everything?" McGonagall asked slowly.

Harry shook his head. "No. But I understand why he's the way he is a little better now. I'll put Madam Pomfrey on hold for the day we try and talk about his dad though."

McGonagall's lips twitched in an almost smile again. "Well if you're sure," she said, schooling her face into a more solemn expression. "The only thing I can say is, go for it."

Harry blinked. "Excuse you?"

"Go for it, Potter," McGonagall said impatiently. "That's what they say isn't it? Never mind anyone else, go for it and keep your head up high. And if I so much as catch a whiff of any unpleasantness towards you within the walls of this castle, I shall make it very clear that this is nobody's business but yours and Draco's."

This time, Harry couldn't hide his smile. "Thank you, Professor."

"You're welcome. I suppose this might be for the best, if you're sure. After all, Dumbledore always said that we would find love in unexpected places," McGonagall said, and Harry blushed, suddenly feeling awkward, like his limbs were all too long and his heart was too big for his ribcage.

"Yeah. S'pose."

"Well, you may go," McGonagall said, reaching for a stack of parchment that was on her desk and summoning a quill. "I daresay you have more important conversations to be having and lessons to get to."

Harry nodded fervently and slipped out of the chair, banging his leg on her desk in his haste to grab his bag and be away from the impromptu conversation he'd been summoned to.

"Thank you Headmistress."

She nodded, her eyes still lowered towards her work. "And just so you know, Potter, I have my eye and several others around the castle on Devlin Crowley. Please don't act the vigilante in the corridors."

Harry nearly laughed aloud in surprised delight. Instead he nodded and smiled as he left the office, humming as he waited for the spiral staircase to descend and drop him back off in the corridor below. He reached out so his fingers trailed along the stone wall as he moved, thinking that it was still strange to see anyone but Dumbledore in the office he'd just left. The stone was cold and smooth under his fingers, a reminder of the wintry weather that still gripped the castle around surrounding landscapes. On occasion he still felt guilty about the fact that he'd still got Draco's scarf hidden in his bedding; as far as he'd worked out, Draco didn't have another and it really was getting ridiculously cold-

Harry's internal monologue stopped abruptly as he stepped off the bottom of the spiral staircase and came face to face with a figure he wasn't expecting to see.

Ginny.

His initial reaction was one of surprise, followed swiftly by caution as he didn't yet know why she was there. She looked different, he thought. Or maybe, he realised as he took a step closer, he was just seeing her differently. He didn't feel anything out of the ordinary at seeing her stood in front of him, quite unlike how he felt when he looked at Draco. Everything that had changed made Ginny seem far away somehow; over a divide that Harry could no longer bridge.

"Hey," she said, looking right at with her arms folded across her chest. "I was looking for you."

"Well, you found me," he said a little awkwardly, taking a few steps along the corridor so he wasn't blocking the entrance to McGonagall's office. Ginny followed him and walked a little way past him, before turning around so she was facing him again, leaning on the wall.

"I just wanted to talk to you."

Harry felt a sinking feeling in his chest. He didn't want to have it out with Ginny in the middle of the corridor. He was weary from fighting, and just wanted everything to go away so he could be with Draco in peace. "Gin, I really can't be dealing with being shouted at this morning. I'm getting enough grief as it is because of the bloody Prophet-"

"I'm sorry."

Harry froze "Come again?" he managed to say.

"I'm sorry," Ginny repeated. "For all of this. For how I shouted at you. It wasn't my place to say those things in front of everyone."

Harry didn't reply; he was at a loss as to what to say. Whatever he'd been expecting, it hadn't been an apology. He had figured that he and Ginny would stay at loggerheads until Hermione forced them to talk to each other, considering that they no longer had any reasons to be face to face. He wasn't even going to the Burrow for Christmas, what with the link and their break-up, so would have no cause to properly see her at all in the near future.

She sighed, running both of her hands through her hair and pushing it back away from her face. "I thought you were...I didn't realise that it was like that."

"Like what?" Harry asked, nonplussed.

"You and," Ginny paused, her jaw clenching a little. "Malfoy. I didn't realise that it was actually something serious. I thought you were just feeling trapped after everything, having to come back here, and freaking out. Trying to wind people up. And then Seamus told me and Dean that you really liked him, and then the photo came out..."

"I'm going to bloody kill Seamus," Harry muttered.

"I wouldn't," Ginny said with the ghost of a smile. "He's been sticking up for you. Hexed Zach Smith the other day for a comment he made about you."

"Oh."

And just like that, all the anger was gone. The defensiveness and the misunderstandings between him and Ginny just didn't seem to matter anymore. It was a welcome weight off Harry's shoulders, one that he hadn't quite realised the gravity of until that point. At the end of the day, Ginny had been a good friend, and he would like to be able to keep her as such, even though he'd never look at her in the same way again.

"I wish you'd told me," Ginny said suddenly, looking away from him and down the corridor. A gaggle of Ravenclaw first years were stood at the far end, squabbling over something they couldn't see. Probably a book, knowing Ravenclaws.

Harry nodded. "And I wish you'd told me that you wanted to get back with Dean."

"I didn't know what I wanted," Ginny said quietly. "I was so sure that me and you...well. I think in the end it was everyone else that wanted me and you to last forever. I didn't want to go home and explain to everyone that I was with someone else. Again."

Harry bit his lip. He could almost hear Draco's disparaging commentary in regards to the amount of guys that Ginny had been out with, but that wasn't an opinion Harry shared. He knew how hard it must have been for Ginny to admit she was wrong, and even harder for her to admit that she was ashamed of or worried by something.

"Have you spoken to your mum about it?" Harry asked carefully.

"A bit," Ginny said. "I told her about you and Malfoy and the link, and how we'd not spoken in ages...she kind of just brushed over it, you know how she does. The 'everything will be fine,' speech."

"She's not going to be happy with me, is she?" Harry said with a sigh.

"No. But you only have to deal with it in the capacity as a family friend now. The expectations on you have lowered dramatically," Ginny said, half-joking. "I'm the one who has to bear the brunt of her rattling on about how you'd be so much better being one of the family properly."

"Does she not like Dean?" Harry asked.

"She likes you more," Ginny said simply.

"I'm sorry," Harry said honestly. "If it could have been different..."

"And it definitely can't be?" Ginny asked, her bold tone belying her hesitation.

"No," Harry said, taking a deep breath. "No. It can't be. If it wasn't Malfoy, it would have been someone else at a later date."

Ginny nodded slowly. "I probably should be glad this happened now, rather than later."

"Yeah," Harry said.

"So you're...you're gay, then?"

"You seemed pretty sure of that when you were shouting at me," Harry said.

"Harry."

"Yes," he said, looking down at his feet and answering her question properly. "I am."

There was a drawn out silence. Harry wasn't unaware that that was the first time he'd actually directly confirmed that he was gay. Before it had been shrugs and maybe's. But after yesterday's encounter with Draco and the revelation from the paper...there was no sense in being evasive about it any longer.

Ginny sighed. "I suppose it all makes sense in a very nightmarish sort of way," she said. "You always did follow him around a lot."

"As everyone likes to remind me," Harry muttered, and Ginny smiled. It was a weak smile, still a little off-centre but it was there, and it was enough to let Harry know that they'd be alright in time.

"You are happy, aren't you?" she asked.

Harry nodded. "Yeah. Are you?"

She nodded slowly, looking down at the floor. "Dean's great. He understands me more now, I think," she said, and then bit her lip. "I really am sorry, Harry. I didn't do right by either of you."

"Everyone's entitled to be confused once in a while," Harry said. "I was."

Ginny nodded, understanding. "Okay," she said, and then seemed to organise her thoughts and feelings, brushing her hair back again and straightening up to look directly at him. "Alright. Are you coming to Hogsmeade this weekend then? We're all going together seeing as it's the last one before the holidays."

Harry swallowed, hearing the unspoken invitation. "I'm going with Draco," he said, shifting from foot to foot. "Just me and him, I think."

"Ah, a date at Madam Puddifoots?" Ginny said, and Harry had to look up and see her smile before he realised she was teasing him. He had to smile.

"Not a chance," he said. "One traumatic experience in there is enough for me."

"I can imagine," Ginny said, wrinkling her nose. "Not exactly a place-"

Potter?

At the sound of the familiar voice, Harry automatically turned on the spot to see Draco walking up slowly behind him. Harry's heart jumped against his ribs at the sight of him, butterflies fluttering through his stomach. All the memories of their encounter the day before came rushing back, causing heat to rise in his neck. He could barely look at Draco without remembering what they'd done yesterday, how Draco had pushed his hips into Harry's, silently asking for more, his mouth open and gasps tumbling from his lips. There in the corridor, Draco's mouth lifted in an almost smile as if he knew what Harry was thinking, and then disappeared instantly as Ginny leant away from the wall to see who Harry was looking at, appearing in Draco's line of sight.

"Hey," Harry said out loud as Draco took another step closer, his movements somewhat cautious and his expression now bordering on suspicious.

I was looking for you.

"Hi," Ginny said behind Harry, obviously unawares of the conversation that was going on unheard by anyone but Harry and Draco. Draco didn't reply; his eyes flicked to her and narrowed slightly, enough for Harry to notice and feel slightly alarmed by.

"What's up?" he asked hurriedly.

"We're excused from Defence," Draco said, his eyes finally leaving Ginny and locking onto Harry's. "It's advanced Occlumency and obviously we're no good for it."

"Right, brilliant," Harry said, still on edge and wondering if Draco was going to snap and say anything horrid to Ginny. Draco didn't reply, so Harry spoke again, trying to break the tension that had settled over the corridor. "Do we have to do anything else instead?"

Well, I'm going to the library, Draco said, his voice cool. Work on the Defence essay. I'll leave you here for your cosy little reunion, shall I?

He turned on his heel before Harry could reply, walking back the way he had appeared from with his hands shoved in his trouser pockets. The happiness that Harry had initially felt coming from Draco had disappeared to be replaced with irritation and another emotion Harry couldn't pinpoint.

"Draco!" Harry shouted after him, exasperated. He turned to Ginny, who was looking bewildered.

"I take it he said something over the link? Because that made no sense to me."

"Yeah," he said distractedly.

"Go after him," Ginny said with a wan smile. "Tell him to stop being a prat."

"Thank you, Gin," Harry said fervently. "I'll talk to you later, okay?"

He didn't wait for her to reply; instead he legged it after Draco and caught up with him quickly, not too far down the corridor. If he were being honest, he suspected Draco was expecting Harry to come after him; his pace wasn't as quick as it had been on the occasions when Draco had genuinely tried to run away from Harry.

"What's up with you?" he asked in bewilderment, pulling Draco around by his shoulder.

Just didn't want to interrupt your nice little getting back together moment, Draco said, his eyes not meeting Harry's and his tone bitter. Understanding hit Harry immediately, and he suddenly realised what the strange feeling he could sense through the link was.

"You're jealous!"

Draco bristled and Harry wished that he'd had the sense not to blurt it out loud.

I am not, Draco replied hotly. You can do whatever you want.

Harry rolled his eyes and reached out, fisting Draco's jumper in his hand, and pulling him close enough so he could kiss him. Draco made a noise of surprise in the back of his throat, and pulled his mouth away from Harry's.

"What are you doing?"

"You said I could do whatever I wanted," Harry said flatly. "I wanted to do that."

Draco rolled his eyes in return. "Idiot. Anyone could see. We're in the bloody corridor."

"I think that ship has sailed, don't you?" Harry said dryly. "Now, are you going to stop being stroppy or do I have to drag you off to an abandoned classroom to cheer you up?"

A light pink flush broke across Draco's cheekbones, and he bit his lip, trying to hold back a smile that he didn't want Harry to see.

You're catching on quickly, aren't you?

I'm a fast learner.

Draco did smile at that. Harry smiled too, feeling pleased with himself. It seemed that he was getting good at this making Draco smile business. A combination of minding what he said and showing Draco exactly what he wanted seemed to be working well. With a dollop of teasing and name-calling from both of them as well, he mentally added. On parchment their relationship seemed impossible, but out here in the real world, somehow it was working.

"Come on, let's go to the library - hang on," he said, frowning and pulling at Draco's jumper again. "Are you wearing two jumpers?" he asked in bewilderment, spying another black and green edge peeking out from underneath the collar of the jumper he had in his hand.

"It's cold," Draco said defensively, pushing Harry's hand away and scowling as Harry laughed delightedly. "And someone has lost my scarf."

"What a bastard," Harry said in mock sympathy and Draco elbowed him in the side.

"Prat. I'm still cross at you."

"For the scarf?"

"No, for hanging around with Weasley," Draco said, somewhere between exasperated and petulant. "I don't mind you talking to anyone but her."

Harry leant in and kissed him again. "She was just asking if I was going to Hogsmeade with everyone this weekend," he murmured. "I told her I was going with you."

"Sod off, I haven't said yes yet," Draco replied, pushing Harry back and marching off down the corridor, nose in the air.

Harry grinned, shaking his head in exasperation. Bloody melodramatic git, he thought, resigned to the fact that even the insults on his head now came out in a fond rather than mocking tone. He followed Draco to the library, and didn't say a word as Draco weaved a path through the shelves to the very back of the room. Draco halted in the Ancient Arithmancy section, next to the table they'd sat at before. It was a mark of how far they'd truly come that they just shared a look before sitting down and starting to unpack their bags.

From the moment they sat down, Harry couldn't help but steal glances across the table at Draco. Now they were alone, the rest of the world and the Prophet seemed a million miles away, and Harry was seized with the urge to drag Draco down the bloody back aisle of the library and have a repeat of yesterdays encounter.

"I wanted to talk to you about something, anyway, now we're here." Draco said quietly, stirring Harry from his recollections. Which was probably a good thing; the library really wasn't the place to be getting all hot and bothered thinking about what he could do to Draco in hidden corners of the castle.

"Yeah?" Harry asked, forcing his mind to the conversation at hand. He managed to not point out the fact that Draco could talk to him anytime and anywhere in the castle; it was too early in the morning to be kicked in the shins.

My mother wrote to me this morning.

Harry drew in a breath through his teeth. Bollocks. He'd almost completely forgotten about Narcissa Malfoy and what her views might be on the situation. He'd only seen her once since the final battle, and from what he'd heard she had become something of a recluse, rarely leaving the Manor. Would she be angry about Draco's involvement with Harry? Did she even know that Draco was gay? He knew that Draco loved his Mother fiercely, and anything she had to say about the situation would mean a lot to Draco.

A soft noise distracted him and he looked down to see Draco carefully passing a folded piece of parchment to him across the table. He took it and opened it slowly, taking his time to read the elegant script that covered the page.

Dear Draco,

I think there is little need for me to articulate what this letter is in regards to. I'm shocked at the very least – the last I heard from you was that you and Harry Potter had stopped fighting. However, this is not the time for me to remind you that I like to know what is going on in your life in more detail than you normally provide in letters.

Please owl me back as soon as you can to tell me what is actually happening with you, particularly what is happening with you and Potter. I'm disinclined to believe the words of the Prophet, but the photo speaks for itself, unless it is an elaborate hoax. I have had requests from the Prophet and other publications asking for my opinion on the matter; needless to say I sent them away without response.

If what the Prophet says is true and you are somehow romantically involved with Potter, be careful. There are people who would still like to hurt you simply for your name. I do not think Potter is one of those people, but regardless of what I think, make sure that you stay safe, and make sure that his intentions are fair.

I love you, and do not be afraid to tell me the truth. If it all becomes too much, come home for the holidays and I will arrange with the Headmistress to send you back to dissolve the link as necessary.

Mother.

"Well, I don't know what to make of that," Harry said in an undertone, passing the letter back. Draco took it and slipped into his pocket with a snort.

"I know," he whispered. "I can't believe she used the phrase 'romantically involved.' We're about as far from romantic as you can get."

"You mean you're about as far from romantic as you can get," Harry said, and then had to stifle a yelp as Draco smartly replied to that statement. Apparently it wasn't too early to be kicked in the shins, after all.

Have you wrote back yet? Harry asked, leaning down to rub his leg before sitting back up and picking up his quill.

Draco shifted in his seat, leaning back and crossing his long legs at the ankle. No. I wanted to ask you first.

Really?

Don't act so surprised, Draco said dryly. It affects you, too. And I had to double check that your intentions are fair before I reassure Mother that you're not going to pitch me off the astronomy tower.

Your sense of humour is really inappropriate some days, Harry said, frowning across the table at him.

Well, what can you do? Draco replied with an elegant shrug, picking up his own quill and pulling his parchment towards himself, making an impatient noise as it caught underneath one of the many books he'd somehow pulled out of his bag. It really was like working with Hermione sometimes.

What can I do, Harry replied wearily. Go ahead and write back. Tell your mother my intentions are completely honourable.

I hope not.

Harry blushed and aimed a kick at Draco who looked like he was trying not to cackle. Well, that was nice, Harry thought sardonically. One hint of Harry being embarrassed and Draco looked like he'd been hit with a bloody cheering charm.

Prat. I just meant that you can feel free to tell her what you want.

You don't mind?

No. I think she'd like to know.

But, Draco paused, flicking his quill between his fingers. Nevermind, he sighed, dropping his quill and rubbing his face. Urgh. What I wouldn't give to forget about my bloody mother for a minute.

Harry paused for a moment and then decided to act on the impulse that had suddenly sparked within him. He grinned, putting his own quill down and standing up. Reckon I can help with that, he said, holding his hand out for Draco to take and quirking his head in the direction of the aisles behind them.

Draco gaped at him and then smirked in reply, taking Harry's hand and letting Harry pull him up out of his chair. Harry glanced around and saw the library was deserted as far as he could see, and then quickly pulled Draco away into the aisle at the very back of the library.

Taking me up the back aisle, eh Potter?

Shut your trap, Ferret, or you're not getting anything from me, Harry said as they slipped further into the darkness, tingles running down his spine. He stopped when he felt they were suitably hidden, and felt Draco wrap his arms around his neck.

Oh, calm down. I like this new and improved Potter who isn't too uptight for snogging in the library.

Harry could feel Draco's breath ghosting over his face and smiled. He felt excited and giddy and a little reckless, and was almost shivering in anticipation at the thought of sharing more kisses with Draco. His only regret was they couldn't do anything more than kissing in their current location; after yesterday he was itching to try out more new things. He brushed the thought away just before he leant forwards to capture Draco's mouth, loving the way Draco's breath hitched in his chest before he was kissing Harry back, pressing him back into the shelf behind him.

I think I do, too.


 

Are you awake?

Harry blinked, lowering the Marauders Map to rest atop his bedcovers. He'd been idly looking at it before going to sleep, tracking the progress of the Grey Lady. Since he'd first spotted her on the map after coming back to Hogwarts, he noticed that with every night that passed she'd been moving further and further out of her wing in the west of the castle, sometimes crossing the paths of other ghosts. It was nice for Harry to see that the end of the war was having positive repercussions for everyone, not just the living.

He'd also been pondering over Narcissa Malfoy, wondering if she'd got Draco's letter yet. Draco hadn't shown him what he'd written as a reply to her letter, and had hit Harry with a textbook when Harry had tried to steal a glance as he was writing it. He had deigned to tell Harry that he'd told his mother that they were 'friends with the potential for more'. To Harry, that sounded as ridiculous as the phrase 'boyfriends' and was far too evasive for him to like. They were practically a couple, so why didn't Draco just say that?

He wondered why Draco wanted to know if he was awake. His emotions had been up and down and all over the place today, starting off in one of his pensive brooding moods, unsettled and snappish. By lunchtime he'd been more relaxed, and had even almost apologised to Harry for being in a bad mood. This evening had been a whirl of different emotions, some good and some bad. Harry didn't feel it was his place to ask every single time Draco had a change of heart, so settled himself with guessing. It could have been people asking about the Prophet article, stress with his schoolwork, annoyance at Parkinson, or even – Harry was dread to think – another altercation with Crowley. He was hoping that Draco would open up and voluntarily tell Harry why he was feeling so unsettled, rather than Harry having to wheedle it out of him at a later date. And besides, if all Draco was doing was bickering with his friends, Harry wasn't sure he actually wanted to know anyway.

Harry?

Harry started. Shit, too much wondering and not enough finding out. Yes, sorry. You okay?

There was a long pause and Harry half-watched the Marauders Map as the dot belonging to Nearly Headless Nick approached the one belonging to the Grey Lady.

You said- Draco's voice was hesitant and then he finished his sentence in a rush, his words tumbling over each other. You said to tell you if anyone hexed me again.

Harry dropped the map and sat upright. What? Are you okay?

Yes, I'm fine, I just- will you come and find me?

Yes, Harry replied instantly. I'm on my way. Where are you?

Same place as last time.

Harry didn't reply. He quickly scanned the Marauders Map and saw that Draco's dot was indeed near the courtyard, not in the dungeons with the rest of the Slytherins. Waiting long enough only to drag some clothes on and hide the Marauder's Map under his pillow, he slipped out of the otherwise silent dormitory and down through the common room which was occupied only by two seventh years who were surrounded by books and looking vaguely panicked.

He passed nobody on the short walk down towards the courtyard, although several paintings grumbled and growled at him as the light from his wand crossed over their frames. He ignored them, moving quickly and quietly and hoping he wouldn't bump into Filtch. Although his temperament had improved somewhat after the war and Harry reckoned he could talk his way out of trouble if caught, he still didn't want to be waylaid when Draco needed him.

He pulled his cloak tightly around him as he stepped through the archway that would lead him to the covered walkway surrounding the courtyard. Snow lay thick on the ground and it was becoming colder and colder with every passing day. Slowly edging around the corner, he spotted Draco sat on the same bench they had occupied last time, underneath the covered walkway and looking out across the open courtyard. At least he assumed it was Draco; the figure was wearing a cloak with the hood pulled up over their head.

Behind you.

Harry spoke quietly so as not to startle Draco, and to double check that it actually was him. As such, the figure turned towards him and Harry caught sight of a pale face underneath the shadows of the hood.

Are you alright?

Harry walked over quickly and sat on the bench next to Draco, a concerned frown on his face. He wanted to be able to see Draco's face, so he reached up to gently pull the hood back. Draco jerked his head away and Harry let go, bewildered.

"Draco?"

"Promise you won't laugh?"

Harry was taken aback, and instantly curious and worried about what Draco was hiding. God, what had he been hexed with? It couldn't be anything pleasant if Draco had taken to covering it by wearing a hood.

Draco didn't seem to require an answer. He reached up with a sigh and with both hands slowly pulled the hood of the cloak back. Harry's jaw fell open and he hastily remembered he wasn't allowed to laugh, snapping his mouth shut and biting his lip.

Draco's hair had been turned black. Jet black, which made him look shockingly pale in comparison. His eyes stood out, disconcertingly pale when compared to his new hair colour.

"Who did that?" Harry asked, unable to stop staring. He reached out and ran his fingers through the hair above Draco's ear. It was just as soft as normal but a completely the wrong colour. It made him look completely different, like a stranger from a frequent dream was sat at Harry's side.

"Pansy did it."

"Pansy?" Harry repeated, temporarily thrown. "But I thought she like, loved you!"

"Yes, exactly," Draco said dryly and then paused, looking out over the courtyard. "She asked me about Hogsmeade and apparently I was idiotic enough to tell her I was going with someone else. I should have known the silly bitch would take it personally."

Harry smiled, a hesitantly pleased feeling creeping through him. "And who is the unlucky person that you're inflicting your company on instead of Parkinson?"

"Fuck off, Potty."

"Me, right?"

"You're unbearably slow some days, Potter."

"Seems you were slow enough to let Parkinson hex you," Harry said mischievously, holding up his hands in surrender as Draco drew his wand threateningly. "Okay, okay. Why don't you take it off?" he asked, gesturing to the hair colour.

"Can't. Someone else has to do it and the rest of my so-called friends were too busy laughing."

Harry took the hint and drew his own wand. Hoping silently that the hex wasn't anything too devious or complex, he quietly whispered a counter charm and then watched in relief as Draco's hair instantly started to turn steadily from black back to white, from the roots to the tips.

"Done," Harry said and Draco grabbed a lock of his fringe, tugging it down in front of his eyes and sighing in relief as he saw blond.

"Thanks."

"Why black?" Harry asked curiously as the final hairs above Draco's ears settled back into their normal colour. Harry definitely preferred him as a blond, it had to be said.

"Let's just say I'm lucky I got out of the way before she hexed on a scar and glasses."

"What?"

"Have it your way if you're so obsessed with Potter," Draco mimicked in a shrill voice and Harry choked on a laugh.

"Did she really say that?"

"Yes," Draco said, and slowly turned to face Harry properly, the corner of his mouth lifted in a smile. She's jealous.

Of what? Harry asked, moments before Draco leant in and kissed him. Harry shut his eyes, drawing a sharp breath in through his nose as Draco's mouth moved against his.

You're not that stupid. Work it out.

Draco pulled back, ghosting one last chaste kiss onto Harry's lips before settling back onto the bench, leaning back against the wall and looking out into the night.

"She always thought we'd end up together," Draco said suddenly. "We used to be inseparable. And then it all fell apart a bit."

"Why?" Harry asked. Draco didn't reply for a long time. Harry followed Draco's example and leant back against the wall, looking out across the courtyard. Everything was very still; there wasn't a breath of wind to stir the snow that lay glittering in the moonlight. Harry shifted closer and pressed his side against Draco's, pleased to feel a tiny flicker of contentment through the link in response.

She always talked about the revolution. The war, Draco finally said, his voice so quiet he would have been impossible to hear if he were speaking out loud. She thought it was brilliant, the best thing to ever happen. She knew she'd be better off for it because she's a pure-blood. She just wanted to be popular and the girl of the moment, you know? She was always horribly jealous of the girls in the other houses, she wouldn't admit it though.

So she thought she'd get one over on them if Voldemort took power?

Draco flinched visibly, but kept on talking. Yes. She only ever heard this brilliant version of the revolution though. Kind of like I had to start with. When I told her how much I hated it all, she called me a traitor.

Harry was simultaneously fascinated and dismayed by what he was hearing. Suddenly things weren't so black and white anymore, and Draco - well, Draco had clearly been less of an evil bastard and more of a complete coward. And as for hearing all this about Pansy…it was complex to say the least.

You really hated it?

Yes. I hate myself more though, for not working it out sooner. I was no better than Pansy to begin with. I was jealous of everyone else who seemed to make friends so easily. I never got the hang of it. I was only popular in Slytherin when I was being a twat to the other houses, and I so wanted to be popular. I just wanted to be better than everyone. Good enough for Father.

Sadness overwhelmed Harry at Draco's quiet words, and he was almost completely sure it was his own. He gently reached out and found Draco's hand, lacing their fingers together.

I wish you wouldn't hate yourself for it anymore.

"Stop it," Draco said aloud and tried to tug his hand away, but Harry held firm.

"Shut up. Stop trying to close off every time you say something real. I'm listening, aren't I?"

"One day I'll say something you won't like."

"Yeah. And one day I'll return the favour. But it's not now. Stop worrying."

"Optimist," Draco said with an appropriate curl of his lip.

"Silly twat," Harry retorted and Draco scowled at him. "Look, I get it. You were an idiot, but you were misguided by everything going on around you and it must have been hard. At least you cottoned on to the fact there were other choices out there."

"Didn't always make them, did I?"

"No," Harry said quietly. "You didn't. But nobody does. It wasn't just you who made bad choices."

There was implication lying heavy in his words and Draco looked up at him, his expression a mixture of intrigue and wariness. Who?

Me for a start, Harry said. And lots of other people, too.

You can tell me. If you like.

Harry didn't know if Draco wanted to hear him to say it for his own sake or for Harry's; he suspected it was a bit of both. Draco wanted desperately to know that he wasn't the only flawed one, not the only one to have made mistakes. Harry wanted to just be able to talk. His stomach clenched as he thought about actually verbalising some of the feelings he'd left not properly acknowledged since the end of the war. He didn't know if it were a good thing to do so or not.

Remus, he said after a while. Lupin. He married Tonks. Harry felt Draco's fingers twitch against his at the mention of her name. It was when she was expecting Teddy, and all this stuff was going on, and he left. Thought he'd done wrong by them, because of what he was. So he left. I went mental at him. I didn't think it was right for him to abandon his family because of he was feeling sorry for himself. He went back though, but he still made that choice to leave.

Harry blinked hard behind his glasses. "And," he said aloud, trying to keep his voice light. "That's the first time I've really spoken about that since it happened. And I feel bloody guilty for telling you about this stuff he did wrong instead of all the great stuff he did."

"He taught you the Patronus Charm, didn't he? The Stag?" Draco asked softly and Harry nodded.

"Yeah. Third year. Seems a million years ago. What's yours, by the way?" he asked, suddenly struck by the fact he didn't know.

"Can't do one," Draco said quietly.

"Oh," Harry said, now not knowing what to say and feeling a little stupid. He'd never contemplated that Draco couldn't do a Patronus, what with his return to Hogwarts in seventh year with the dementors as sentinels…it must have been terrifying, knowing that he couldn't protect himself against the creatures that were lurking just outside. Between that at school, and Voldemort at his home, the year couldn't have been a pleasant one for Draco in any way, shape or form.

"It's okay," Draco said, shaking his head and trying to return to a less melancholy and more upbeat manner, something which Harry was both surprised at and grateful for. "It's not Dementors I need to worry about. Apparently I rather need a charm to ward off Pansy."

Harry laughed quietly as Draco turned towards him, resting his cheek on Harry's shoulder. Harry leant his head against Draco's, breathing out softly. He felt content and strangely like they'd just achieved something huge. In a way they had, even though Harry knew they had a long way to go. Sharing feelings and memories from the war wasn't ever easy.

Maybe feeling vulnerable was okay, in the right time and place. And, Harry thought as he gently brushed his fingers through Draco's hair, pressing a kiss to his temple and breathing out deeply, with the right person it really wasn't that bad at all.

Chapter Text

"Are you completely sure, Harry? You know you can come with us if you like."

Harry returned Hermione's worried frown with an exasperated stare of his own. He didn't want to go over this again, but thankfully Ron didn't seem to think that the upcoming trip to Hogsmeade was something to make a big deal out of, either.

"Leave him alone, Hermione. He wants to go with Malfoy," Ron said impatiently, trying to untangle his scarf from the incomprehensible mess it had managed to wind itself up in. Hermione watched him, obviously resisting the urge to sort it out herself. "And besides, it'll be weird for them if Ginny and Dean are there. He'll be better off spending the day snogging in Madam Puddifoots."

"Oi!" Harry interrupted indignantly from where he was perched on the edge of his bed, tugging at his gloves to turn all the fingers the right way around. "We are not stepping foot in that bloody shop."

"Well there you go then," Ron shrugged, turning to face Hermione as he finally straightened out his scarf, winding it around his neck. "If they're not holed up in there we'll probably bump into them at some point anyway."

Hermione didn't look convinced. She was chewing on her lower lip, her brow knitted in a frown. "It's just that you're not coming with us for Christmas, and I'd hate to think that you feel you can't come today because of us being a couple-"

"It's not because of you," Harry tried to assure her. "I just think it'll be good for me and Draco to get out away from everyone."

"He means if he keeps Draco in a good mood he might get laid," Ron said, dodging the pillow Harry threw his way in response.

"Ron, don't be such a, a boy about it," Hermione said crossly as Ron tossed the pillow back onto Harry's bed with a grin.

Well, that is plan B," Harry said seriously, unable to resist winding Hermione up. Ron hid a grin as Hermione gaped at Harry for a moment, before huffing and leaning over to grab the pillow, shoving it into his face.

"We didn't really need to know that," Ron said, laughing as Harry sat up and straightened his glasses, pushing the pillow away. "Hang on-" he paused, a pained expression crossing his features. "Please tell me that this plan B of yours doesn't involve Malfoy being naked in our dormitory?"

"What, you think I'm getting naked in the dungeons?" Harry asked incredulously, trying not to grin at the look of horror on Ron's face. "It'll be bloody freezing down there."

"I can't believe you," Hermione said in disbelief as Harry gave in and laughed as Ron shook his head and flipped him two fingers in return. "A week ago and you were panicking about kissing him."

"I'm only joking about," Harry grinned, nudging her leg with his knee. "I'll be sensible, promise."

"I'm only saying," Hermione said with raised eyebrows, smoothing down the front of her coat. "Now will you two hurry up, I've been ready for ages and it's too warm to be wearing all this in here."

"Yes captain," Ron said, picking his coat up and pulling it on, trying to button it up with gloved fingers before giving up and pulling his gloves back off.

"You might as well go, Harry," Hermione said, shaking her head and looking like she was barely suppressing the urge to roll her eyes at Ron. "We've got to wait for the others anyway and Seamus was still finishing his breakfast ten minutes ago."

"Alright," Harry said, standing up and suddenly feeling nervous. It was one thing to joke with Hermione and Ron about his date – if it could even be called that – with Draco, but to think about actually doing it…well, he was just praying to whoever was listening that Draco was in a good mood.

"See you later," Hermione said, her expression soft and understanding. Harry nodded, trying to summon some bravery from somewhere down in his shoes as he left the dorm room, almost smiling at Ron's farewell shout of, "good luck with the ferret!"


 

Draco checked his watch for what must have been the hundredth time that morning. With an appropriate clenching of his heart and stomach, he saw it was almost time to leave the Slytherin common room to go and meet Harry in the Entrance Hall. Normally around this time, he'd be complaining vocally about having to walk down to Hogsmeade in what could potentially be a blizzard, but today the weather was low down on his list of concerns.

He was nervous. His stomach was full of what could only be described as snakes, twisting around violently and making the prospect of eating breakfast impossible. It just seemed unfeasible that he, Draco Malfoy, was about to embark on what could almost be described as a date with Harry Potter. A Harry Potter who had turned out to be a lot nicer and more complicated than Draco had ever given him credit for.

Forefront in his mind was wondering over what might happen if people saw them together in Hogsmeade. They would basically be confirming the story in the Prophet. Harry's determined attitude to not let it bother them was a welcome one, albeit something of a curiosity. From what Draco could remember Harry had never liked people talking about him, speculating and gossiping. But maybe, Draco thought carefully, Harry didn't mind because this time it was actually something true they were saying. Yes, it was annoying that everyone thought that they had a right to talk about Harry's life as if it were their own, but at least it wasn't all unfounded lies.

And maybe, Draco had half-thought once, Harry deemed whatever it was between the two of them to be important enough to not care about what anyone else thought.

One on occasion, Draco had found a side of himself that supposed maybe, once the negativity had died down, it would be quite nice to be receiving so much attention. He had pushed the thought – which seemed like it belonged to his fifteen year old self – away, cross with himself. Thinking that the negativity surrounding this business between him and Harry would die down was surely far too optimistic for him even to consider, and besides, his desire to be in the centre of attention had died with the war. He didn't want it to come back.

Draco checked his watch again and his heart skipped. Time to go, and for a disillusionment charm that would hopefully get him through the common room unhexed by Pansy. He didn't like to think himself as a complete coward anymore, but you had to pick your battles after all. Truth be told, he didn't really fancy his chances against an irate Pansy who was still feeling slighted after Draco's repeated refusal to go with her to Hogsmeade.

As Draco slipped his gloves on, he wondered how Potter's friends were reacting to the news that he wouldn't be joining them for the last trip before Christmas. He felt a streak of vindictive pleasure roll through him knowing that even though the Weaselette had tried to convince Harry to go to Hogsmeade with the Gryffindors, Harry had declined. Draco still didn't like Ginny Weasley, and he suspected a lot of it was to do with simple jealousy and the irritation that inevitably came hand in hand with being around someone's ex. Of course, another part of it was still to do with annoyance at her shouting at him in front of everyone, and Draco was confident that he wouldn't be forgetting about that anytime soon.

Funny how he could carry grudge like no other when the mood took him, Draco thought wryly as he carefully slipped out of the dormitory and through the common room, holding his breath. And funny how sometimes he could also choose to be more forgiving than many people thought he was capable of.

He sighed in relief as he crossed and exited the Slytherin common room unseen, giving Pansy and Theo the widest berth possible. Pansy hasn't seemed that cross this morning, but he still didn't fancy pushing his luck. As it were, he waited until he was quite a distance away from the Slytherin dungeons before removing the charm and becoming fully visible once again.

Right, he thought, steeling himself and making himself move, trying to ignore the usual pessimistic voice in the back of his mind which was currently listing every possibly disaster that could befall. It was just a simple trip into Hogsmeade. What was the worst that could happen?

I'm on the way, he told Harry as he checked his watch again.

Ready and waiting.

Harry's reply was quick and sounded cheerful, causing Draco's stomach to clench tightly again. He was insane. This whole idea was insane, he just knew it, but he forced himself to keep walking, carefully traversing the corridors and weaving past groups of students who were excitedly chattering about the trip, bundled up in layers and layers of warm clothing and heading towards the Entrance Hall.

Draco shoved his hand into his pocket and pulled out his hat; a black knitted cap that was actually deceptively soft and warm. Well, technically it was Theo's hat, but Draco had decided that morning that he'd be borrowing it on the premise that it would cover his hair. Thus, hopefully he and Harry wouldn't be quite as distinguishable, at least from a distance.

You're not with the rest of your Gryffindors, are you? Draco asked, his steps faltering a little as he left the relative safety of the dungeon corridor and stepped into the Entrance Hall.

No. But I'd hurry before they get here. I'm right by the door.

The threat of being waylaid by whatever group of Gryffindors that were about to appear made Draco quicken his pace. He slipped behind a group of third year Hufflepuffs and spotted Harry immediately; he was leaning against the wall next to the open door, his arms folded across his chest. He was wearing a heavy winter coat and a ridiculous matching scarlet scarf and hat which pushed his hair down his forehead so it caught on his glasses. Draco just hoped he wasn't wearing matching gloves as well.

I can see you. Move, and I'll catch you up just outside.

What? Harry asked, looking bewildered as he scanned the Hall looking for Draco.

Walk through the door and I'll catch you up in about five seconds – less people will stare.

Harry seemed to understand because he abruptly pushed himself away from the wall and slipped through the main doors, dodging a cursing Argus Filtch who was trying in vain to sweep the snow that was drifting in back out of the doorway.

Few people noticed Harry's abrupt departure and Draco hoped even less had seen him quickly following a few seconds behind. He pushed the worry aside and caught Harry up quickly, knocking him with his elbow.

Harry stopped walking and turned to face him, smiling lopsidedly. Draco's words caught in his throat as Harry pushed his glasses up his nose, his eyes fixed on Draco's. All Draco could think about was the incredible desire he felt to kiss Harry, and how amazing it was that the barriers between them were falling slowly and steadily, making him feel nervous and vulnerable and strange. He knew Harry was thinking about it as well, and he was seized with an urge to tell Harry that he wanted nothing more than to do it again, he wanted to steal Harry away and press kisses all over him and spent the day wrapped up in his limbs.

He bit his tongue, tried to make his thoughts behave and said something else instead.

"Your hat is ridiculous."

Harry's smile widened and his shoulders visibly relaxed, as if he were also relieved that the vulnerable moment had passed. "And yours is...interesting," he said, eyes on Draco's black knit cap.

"It's not mine. It's Theo's."

"And why are you stealing hats from your friends?"

"Well firstly it's cold," Draco said matter-of-factly. "And secondly, people can spot me a mile away because of my damn hair. I thought it'd be best to be a little bit inconspicuous."

Harry nodded, looking impressed with Draco's reasoning, and then grinned slyly, "Or I could just charm your hair black again."

Draco reached out and shoved him, making him stumble a step, laughing. "Not funny, Potter. I had to disillusion myself to get out past Pansy this morning."

Harry laughed even harder, the sound bright and unexpected. "You did what?"

"She's mental, I'm telling you," Draco insisted, feeling put-out that Harry was finding the thought of another potential hexing from Pansy a source of amusement rather than concern.

"I think you're the mental one. Disillusioning yourself, really?"

"I think you're driving me mental," Draco said, exasperated.

Harry chuckled but didn't say anything in response. Instead he just nodded towards the path that led down through the grounds to the gate at the bottom. A comfortable silence fell as they walked, their footsteps crunching in the snow as more flakes swirled and settled around them. Draco didn't mind really; it was nice to just be able to walk side-by-side with someone without feeling the need to be constantly chattering. When he was younger it had been no secret that Draco liked the sound of his own voice too much to be considered healthy, but now he was older and slightly wiser, he realised that what he had to say probably wasn't all that important in the grand scheme of things. Besides, he had spent a lot of time in sixth and seventh year in silence, with nothing but his own thoughts and fears for company and he had grown to deal with - if not sometimes appreciate - silence.

His thoughts were disturbed as Harry brushed against him, his elbow gently nudging Draco's as they walked. The touch catapulted Draco back to the present and he shivered with something not caused by the cold. He glanced at Harry as they walked and noted that he seemed content enough with the lack of conversation; Draco couldn't feel any awkwardness or discomfort through the link at any rate.

Harry was quite attractive in a strange way, thought Draco idly as he stole another look across. Even though his hair was a state and those ridiculous glasses hid his eyes from view most of the time, and that was without starting on the matching Gryffindor hat/scarf combination...Harry was skinny and athletic and Draco had no doubt that as his confidence rose he would be increasingly eager to touch and to be touched. The thought made Draco's mouth water. He didn't like being completely in control in the bedroom; he much preferred to be swept up along in moments where his partner was eager and unafraid to simply go for it. He had an intuitive feeling that Harry's enthusiasm and natural dominance would be more than welcome when applied to the bedroom.

The rest of the walk didn't seem to take that long, even though the distance was the same as ever. Draco spent the majority of the journey in a somewhat contemplative state, knowing that this would be the last Christmas he would have as a student at Hogwarts. The scenery was more beautiful than he had ever given credit to, and at the same time he was somehow glad he'd not been sent to Durmstrang, if only for the simple fact that it would undoubtedly be even colder than Hogwarts.

Simple things, Draco thought with a small smile. They were more important to him than ever, since all the misplaced ideals from the war had been stripped away from him. Simple things like appreciating a view, or stealing kisses in the library, or repeatedly brushing up against Harry Potter to see if he'd give in and hold his hand.

Where are we going? He finally asked Harry as they slipped through the gate at the bottom of the lane. He assumed Harry had a plan for where they were headed and hoped that the git wasn't tactless enough to suggest the Three Broomsticks. Draco didn't think his lifetime ban would be repealed even if he were with the Chosen One.

Hogs Head alright?

Draco breathed a sigh of relief. As well as being able to avoid the Three Broomsticks, the Hogs Head would be wonderfully warm inside, and he was yearning to get out of the cold. Yes, that's fine, Draco said and Harry nodded.

I prefer it to the Three Broomsticks, Harry said as they went past the old Zonko's shop, trudging through the snow that had piled up high against the sides of the buildings. People leave me alone.

Well the Three Broomsticks is just one of many places I have a lifetime ban for, Draco said lightly, trying not to sound as bitter as he felt. So I'm glad you won't go in.

"What? Where else are you banned from?" Harry asked out loud as they reached the Hogs Head, pulling the door open and propping it open with his foot so Draco could follow him in. Draco's assumption had been right; it was deliciously warm inside from a combination of a roaring fire, a multitude of ever-bright candles and what felt like several heavy duty warming charms.

"Scrivenshaft's, Madam Malkins and Ollivanders," Draco said with a shrug. There were probably a fair few more shops that wouldn't let him in that he hadn't even tried to enter. He had made a vow to try not to think about it too much, but it was his nature to brood.

"Oh," Harry frowned, weaving past tables and heading towards the bar, Draco following him closely. "Well, I'm not allowed in Gringott's without an escort."

"I wasn't aware it was a competition," Draco said dryly as he joined Harry at the bar, standing close to the polished wooden surface and running a gloved finger along the shining edge. The Hogs Head wasn't yet that busy; many students still hadn't left Hogwarts yet.

"Just trying to stop you sulking," Harry grinned, and turned away to speak to someone else before Draco could get his indignant response out. "Hey Ab."

Draco abruptly shut his mouth as the man behind the bar slowly turned around. Fuck. He resisted the urge to step back and averted his eyes away, feeling like the bottom had just dropped out of his stomach. Uncomfortable prickles worked their way up his spine; so far he'd managed to avoid having to speak to Aberforth Dumbledore at all, sending Theo to order drinks for the both of them any time they'd been in Hogsmeade. This time he hadn't even been thinking about it, he'd just blindly followed Harry up to the bar.

"Potter," Aberforth said slowly. "Nice to see you. Didn't know if you young ones would be braving the weather."

"It's not too bad," Harry shrugged. "Last trip before Christmas, anyway. Neville and the others are on the way down. Seamus has got your winnings, too."

Draco prayed with every spare bit of hope he had in his body that he would be ignored during the pleasantries, but he suspected that he wasn't going to be so lucky. Aberforth's eyes had already flickered over him more than once and he knew that his face was too-easily recognisable, woolly hat notwithstanding.

"He better have. Let me ask, why are you not with them?"

Draco didn't dare look up but he felt Harry shrug next to him.

"Came with someone else."

"I see. And this someone else just happens to be the brat who tried to kill my brother, if my eyes serve me right."

Draco felt his face go pale. He looked up and saw Aberforth was looking at him intently, blue eyes bright. His throat tightened alarmingly and his hands shook by his sides as he looked helplessly to Harry, who was looking unperturbed.

"Leave him alone, Ab," Harry admonished. Draco couldn't believe it; why had he put himself in this situation? And why the hell was Potter acting like it wasn't a big deal? He couldn't decide if he wanted to cry or storm off and go back to the castle, so stayed exactly where he was, feeling scared and angry.

"Scares easy, does he?" Aberfoth asked, his eyes still on Draco, his expression curious.

"Sometimes," Harry said, his lips twitching. "Can we have two butterbeers, when you decide to stop picking on us?"

"Suppose," Aberforth grunted and then turned away. "I'll bring them over."

Draco felt a hand close around his elbow and let Harry pull him away from the bar, guiding him into a small booth on the far side of the pub.

"Don't mind him," Harry said as he sat down, pulling his hat off. "He doesn't mean it."

"Then why did he fucking say it?" Draco snapped as he slipped into the seat next to Harry, tugging his gloves off his shaking fingers. "I know what I did, alright? I don't need people going on about it to remind me to feel guilty-"

"Calm down," Harry said mildly, running his fingers through his hair to try and wrest it back into some form of order. "He's just testing you, I think. He wouldn't let you in if he really had a problem with you."

"I'm sure-"

"He already doesn't let Zach Smith in, just because, and I quote, he 'doesn't like his face'," Harry said, rolling his eyes. "Trust me. He's just like that."

"I don't like him," Draco said.

"You might if you hear him starting on me," Harry said with a grin. "It's not just you he picks on."

"Will he be picking on your hair?" Draco asked as he unbuttoned his coat and pulled his hat off. "It's a state."

"Better than the hat, right?" Harry quipped. "So, what were we talking about? Why are you banned from Scrivenshafts? The other two I kind of get-"

"I don't want to talk about it," Draco replied, trying to keep his voice down.

"But-"

"I don't want to talk about it," he repeated. He was feeling abashed and angry and didn't trust his temper to hold if Harry kept asking about stuff like that. If it were just the two of them, calm and alone, then yes, he would have told him. But not now, when his nerves were raw and his temper frayed.

"Don't let Ab ruin your mood," Harry tried to say. I like it when you tell me stuff.

Draco turned to him, exasperated. Look, just because I don't hate talking to you doesn't mean I want to talk about everything all the time. There's a time and a place.

Harry nodded looking unconvinced, but his reply was cut off by Aberforth stomping over and setting two glasses of butterbeer down on the table.

"On the house," he said gruffly. "Happy Christmas, Potter."

Draco felt as well as saw Harry's smile, and instantly became preoccupied in trying to latch onto the small flutters of joy that always seemed to lift his own mood. As such, he almost missed Aberforth's gaze turning his way.

"And you-" Aberforth began. Draco's stomach clenched tightly and the small feelings he'd been desperately trying to hang onto died. He looked up, his hands trembling beneath the table and wishing it was in his nature to be brave. "War's hard on the just and the unjust alike. And it's extra hard on you people who can't decide between the two."

Draco's mouth nearly fell open. He swallowed and nodded jerkily, completely dumbfounded by Aberforth's quiet comment.

"And look after him," Aberforth said, pointing a finger at Harry. "Sure as magic can't look after himself."

Harry started to laugh and even Draco managed a weak smile, feeling uncomfortable and slightly overwhelmed.

"Told you," Harry said as Aberforth walked away.

"Shut it," Draco said, trying to regain some composure. "Stop laughing, you utter state-"

Impulsively, he reached out to ruffle his fingers through Harry's hair, making it stick up even worse than it had been before. Harry made a noise of protest and grabbed at Draco's wrists, pulling his hands away from his hair.

"Pack it in. You're the one who's got to be seen with me," he said, and Draco laughed.

"Touché."

Look who's just come in.

Draco looked up immediately, his eyes darting to the door to see none other than Blaise, who was looking smug and holding the door open for a smiling Parvati Patil. His eyebrows flew up as he took a sip of his butterbeer.

Still trying to get in there, I see.

Harry sniggered by his side. He'll be lucky. Seamus has been trying for years.

"Well, Blaise certainly has his charms," Draco said, his voice low. "I give it until Valentines before she caves."

"Is that a bet? Because I'll bet on her," Harry whispered back. "They seem to make a good couple though."

"I know nothing about it," Draco said. "I'd rather know nothing than have Blaise go on and on about how ragingly straight he is."

"I hear that," Harry said gravely and raised his glass in a mock toast. Draco rolled his eyes, returning Harry's mischievous smile with a small one of his own. He felt a hand slide onto his knee under the table and his eyes widened fractionally, his heart beating that little bit harder at the touch. Would Harry kiss him right then and there in the middle of the pub? He honestly didn't know, he wasn't at all sure how seriously Harry was taking his flipping-two-fingers-at-the-world policy. Harry's eyes flickered down towards Draco's mouth and he unconsciously licked his lips as Harry leant forwards an almost imperceptible distance-

"Say cheese, Malfoy."

There was a blinding flash of yellow light and a puff of purple smoke. Draco leapt back away from Harry in shock, banging his knee on the underside of the table in the process. He turned around, heart thumping madly, to see Devlin Crowley stood not three feet away, a camera in his hands and looking thoroughly pleased with himself. A small thin girl with long dark hair was at his elbow, her dark eyes watching Harry and Draco carefully.

"Oh fuck off Crowley," Draco snapped, his face colouring. He was not in the mood to deal with him, and was angry both that he'd been caught out and that his moment with Harry had been ruined.

"It was you," Harry said suddenly, and Draco felt Harry's anger spike through him. "You took that photo and sent it to the Prophet."

"What, you hadn't worked that out already?" Crowley said, and the girl next to him giggled. "Just thought everyone should know what Malfoy is up to. I didn't plan on the Prophet blasting you too."

Draco tensed, ready for Harry to explode. He could feel the anger boiling up within him, and knew Harry could very well flip his lid at one more word. Without thinking, he slipped his hand under the table and squeezed Harry's knee, hard, trying to distract him from throwing his glass at Crowley's head. He was stunned as he felt Harry's rage subside, pushed back down and replaced by a different type of carefully controlled anger.

Keep calm, Draco said, his hand tight on Harry's leg. We'll get him back some other way.

Alright, Harry replied, forcing his voice to be calm. You ready?

Draco felt alarm run through him. For what?

"Accio camera."

The camera shot out of Crowley's hands and into Harry's. He tossed it to Draco who managed to catch it, reflexively bringing both his hands up to grab it.

"Hey!"

Crowley took a step forwards but stopped immediately as Harry pointed his wand at him.

"You're incredibly lucky that McGonagall has told me not to curse you," Harry said conversationally to Crowley, who was slowly going redder and redder.

Tear it up. The film.

Harry didn't even glance Draco's way as he spoke, instead he carried on talking to Crowley. "Because there's nothing I'd like more than to hex you into next week."

"Give me my camera back," Crowley said, his hand twitching at his side.

"In a minute," Harry said and Draco hid a grin as he turned the camera over in his hands. Not even bothering to use his wand, he prised the back off in a weak puff of purple smoke, before grabbing the strip of film and pulling it out.

"You can't do that!"

"You can't take pictures of me without permission," Harry replied angrily. "This isn't any of your business. Go deal with your own issues and leave us the fuck alone."

Keep going. Pull all of it out and give it him back.

Draco happily obliged, pulling more and more film out of the back of the camera, pooling it into an ever-growing pile atop the table.

"Malfoy-"

"He's a little busy," Harry said with a grin. Draco fought to keep his own face straight in the face of Harry's amusement and Crowley's fury.

"You two are sick," Crowley spat, his hands balling into fists.

"Sick of silly twats like you," Harry said, sounding bored. "You can't lay into Draco for being queer without laying into me, too. And if you have other motivations for giving Draco a hard time," he said, his tone dangerous. "You take that up with McGonagall. I hear she would quite like a nice long chat with you."

Crowley was literally shaking with rage, and Draco could see out the corner of his eye that almost the whole pub was watching. With a dull clunk, the last of the film came free and Draco snapped the back of the camera shut, tossing it back to Crowley who barely managed to catch it.

"There," Draco said with a smirk. "All done."

Harry flicked his wand and the film atop the tabletop vanished. He smiled brightly at Crowley who paused for a moment, frustration and embarrassment written all over his face, before turning on heel and leaving the pub with his girlfriend running just behind.

"And don't come back!" someone in the pub shouted, and the tension was broken. People started laughing and Draco caught Blaise's eye over the crowd, nodding in return to his raised eyebrows, trying not to join in with the laughter.

"That felt good," Harry said with a grin.

"I know," Draco said. His hands were trembling from a combination of exhilaration and adrenaline. The look on Crowley's face was one he'd treasure forever -finally, it was just so good to get one over on that prick, and in such a way that left him looking like an idiot in front of everyone.

We make a good team.

Smiling, Draco looked up at Harry as he reached for his drink. Suppose we do on occasion.

Harry pushed his glasses up his nose. "Got me thinking though," he said, suddenly thoughtful. "You know we were talking about Zabini and Parvati being a couple?"

Yeah, Draco replied, a little wary at the sudden change in demeanour and topic.

Well, how would you feel if I said we should officially be a couple?

Draco choked on his mouthful of butterbeer. "You what?" he asked hoarsely, rubbing his chest as he coughed, completely stunned.

"Well, think about it," Harry said infuriatingly calmly. "We're basically there anyway."

Draco gaped at him. "We are most certainly not."

Harry scowled back, his relaxed and thoughtful composure disappearing in an instant. "You know what? We are. Deal with it."

Draco didn't miss the fact that Harry had said exactly the same thing when he'd insisted that they should be friends, all that time ago. His reaction was pretty much the same, too, he noted. He felt completely shocked; yes, he liked having someone making decisions for him but to have Harry sit there and just decide things like that with no warning or discussion?

"Are you mental?" he asked, shaking his head.

"Probably," Harry said.

"You can't just tell someone that you're going to go out with them," Draco said, his brain not working quickly enough to properly comprehend what Harry was saying. Yeah, he liked being with Harry and everything was good between them, but to actually officially state that they were a couple? It would be the end of the world as they knew it.

"I can," Harry said, and Draco ignored him.

"The world would end," Draco said aloud. "Potters and Malfoys do not end up in relationships."

And Potters and Malfoys shouldn't end up snogging in the library and getting off in classrooms, but we've already done that, Harry pointed out.

It will not work.

"It is working," Harry insisted, his voice low. "You know it is."

"Then why bugger it all up by doing this?" Draco demanded. He really didn't know how to feel about this. It was too much, too different. A huge change that would make everything different, more so than it already was. People would talk and stare and say it was a terrible idea.

"I wanted to know where I stood," Harry said mulishly. "It's nice knowing something's definite."

Draco shook his head again. A small part of him – the often ignored optimistic bit – was trying to make itself heard, debating that this was actually what he had wanted all along, to be in a relationship with someone that meant something. But being in a relationship; that implied commitment and having to compromise and allowing himself to be vulnerable. It meant having the responsibility of doing right by someone else, making sure that you took care of them before your own needs. It meant actually having to apologise when you cocked something up or said something mean. It meant telling his Mother. It meant security and warmth and possibly even a four-letter word that Draco hadn't even dared dream about.

Draco groaned and slumped forwards, pushing his drink out of the way as he rested his forehead on the table. He knew that when he looked up and saw Harry's stubborn yet somehow pleading expression, he just wouldn't be able to say no, no matter what his internal monologue said.

Drama queen.

Draco ignored Harry's jibe. "What happened to the Potter who got scared when I tried to kiss him and couldn't string a sentence together?" he asked mournfully. "I miss him."

"Is that you agreeing?" Harry asked brightly, and Draco lifted his head up to glare balefully at him.

Draco huffed. "So help me Potter, if you call my your boyfriend I'm going to Crucio you."

"That's completely not funny coming from you," Harry frowned, but then his face cleared and he looked at Draco, his expression pathetically hopeful. "So it's a yes?"

"You're going to make me say it, aren't you?" Draco said and Harry shrugged.

"It'd be nice."

Fine. Yes.

Harry's eyes widened. You actually made a decision. I mean, you actually agreed to something, you normally make me make you do it.

Draco flushed. You didn't give me much choice, arse.

Harry laughed and Draco suddenly thought that maybe agreeing to this ridiculous proposition wasn't such a bad thing if it got Harry to look that flustered and pleased.

"Come on," Harry said, pushing at Draco's shoulder. "Let's get out of here."

Draco was more than happy to oblige. He knew the rest of the Gryffindor clan would be entering Hogsmeade at any moment and he wanted to avoid them for as long as possible. God, he hoped he wouldn't have to have any awkward conversations with Weasley or Granger. He cringed, suddenly feeling horrified at the thought of potentially ending up in a double-dating situation with them.

He had not thought this through.

As they slipped out of the Hog's Head, he opened his mouth to tentatively voice his concerns, praying that Harry would take him seriously and realise that this was a big deal for Draco, all jokes about Crucio's and Weasley-Granger encounters aside. But as he did, he felt Harry's gloved fingers slip through his, and Harry smiled weakly at him, a smile that was full of relief and hope and just as much uncertainty as Draco felt.

He shut his mouth and smiled faintly back. Thinking it through could wait until later.

Chapter Text

Harry couldn't quite believe it.

Despite a less than pleasant encounter with Devlin Crowley and a somewhat questionable conversation with Aberforth, Draco had somehow been in a good enough mood to accept Harry's announcement that they were a couple. Well, there had been a slight argument and a bit of incredulous gaping, but all in all it hadn't taken a lot of time to get him to agree.

And now they were walking through Hogsmeade, hand in hand.

It was a wondrous feeling, and suddenly Harry understood the lopsided grin that graced Ron's features whenever Hermione reached for his hand. It just felt right. Harry knew he was smiling like an idiot as they walked but he just couldn't help it. He did acknowledge that part of it was probably down to the immense satisfaction that came hand in hand with getting one over on Devlin Crowley. In a way it had been so much more satisfying than simply punching him or cursing him, and it had been great how he and Draco had worked perfectly in synch to simultaneously humiliate and enrage Crowley.

And now…he had a boyfriend. A partner. An other half. A pain in the arse. A person that wanted to spend time with him, and who would put up with him being impulsive and needy and stubborn and demanding. A man who had grown from a complete coward into something else entirely, a something else than intrigued Harry beyond anything he'd ever thought to be possible.

It was really too insane to comprehend, if he tried to think about it too much. But if he didn't try and over-analyse, the simple fact of the matter was that Draco made him feel like a normal person, a normal teenage boy who just wanted to spend time with someone he cared about, to muck about and tease and be teased and be filled with an overwhelming urge to kiss them.

It did add a lot of pressure to their sometimes tenuous relationship, in a strange way. Now, they weren't just responsible for themselves; they now had concrete obligations to one another. Having been in a total of two not-very successful relationships - if they could even qualify as such - in his lifetime, Harry would readily admit that he wasn't completely aware of what these obligations would turn out to be.

Obligations aside, at that moment in time, he just really wanted to kiss him. He knew he was staring at Draco's mouth again, but he just couldn't help it. He wanted to just push Draco up against the nearest wall or flat surface and kiss him breathless. He hadn't been able to do anything as such since their clandestine night-time meeting earlier in the week, and his patience was running out. It didn't seem to matter to his restraint or libido that they were in the middle of Hogsmeade and besides, he was now allowed to kiss Draco whenever he wanted, right? Draco had forfeited the right to complain about being seen snogging in public now that he'd agreed to be Harry's…whatever.

"What?" Draco asked, a pink flush covering his cheekbones as they meandered down the high street past Gladrags Wizardwear. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

"Because I'm wondering if you'll hex me for kissing you in the middle of the high street," Harry said honestly, a grin shaping his features.

Draco shot him a look that what was a half glare, half mischievous smirk, his eyes narrowed. "Yes, I'm wondering too," he said, the corners of his mouth upturned.

Harry's grin widened. "Good enough for me."

He reached forwards and grabbed the collar of Draco's coat in his fist, pulling him close and kissing him square on the mouth. Draco staggered slightly before righting himself by gripping onto Harry's sleeves, returning the kiss with his mouth open under Harry's.

Harry was elated. Draco's mouth was warm and wet and perfect, and for once the prat wasn't whinging or insisting that they try and hide somewhere. He was just kissing Harry back, his hands still clutching Harry's elbows, his tongue twining around Harry's in a way that made him dizzy.

"Bloody hell, get a room."

Harry and Draco broke apart with a jolt at the sound of the call, turning their heads in unison to see Ron, Hermione and the rest of the Gryffindors walking up the street towards them. Harry felt a wave of irritation and frustration roll through Draco, adding to his own disappointment at being interrupted.

Tell him to piss off, Draco said uncharitably, turning away and shoving his hands into his pockets with a scowl. It was lucky he did because the moment his back was turned, Ginny and Dean stepped out from behind Lavender and Seamus.

"Hey guys," Harry said, waving half-heartedly with one hand and grabbing hold of Draco with the other. Draco, who had been attempting to sidle away, made a disgruntled noise as Harry grabbed the back of his coat and pulled him back up to his side.

Oh for fucks sake, Draco said mutinously as he turned around and saw Ginny. I changed my mind. Tell her to piss off instead.

"Been into the Hogs Head?" Ron asked. "We're going for a drink in a minute."

"Yeah, already been," Harry said, ignoring Draco's mental ranting. "We were just going for a walk."

"Aye, looked liked you were walking," Seamus grinned.

Harry tightened his grip on Draco's coat as he twitched irritably, his jaw clenching. He suspected Draco wouldn't dare say anything out loud when he was obviously outnumbered, but he wasn't quite one hundred percent sure. He was momentarily distracted, wondering whose side he would take if this got out of hand.

"Where're you going anyway?" Ron asked. "Don't think you can get out of the East gate, apparently it's snowed under."

Harry shrugged. "Don't know. Wherever we end up."

"Well I for one want a pint," Seamus said, rubbing his hands together. "Sure we can't persuade you to join us for another one?"

"Nah, only just left," Harry reasoned, although there was more than one reason that he didn't want to follow the others back to the Hog's Head. Ginny's quiet and understanding expression was one, inappropriate jokes were another, Draco's brewing temper was definitely a contender, and the prospect of more kisses in the snow was definitely the last and most convincing.

"Well, if you're sure," Hermione began as Draco sighed loudly and turned on the spot again, looking down the street. Harry wanted to roll his eyes; Draco really could be a bona-fide brat when the mood took him. It was bizarre how Harry now found it amusing rather than point blank annoying.

"We're sure," Harry began and then felt Draco freeze, a moment before he swore.

"Fuck."

"Well isn't this a cosy gathering," a shrill voice rang out.

Harry turned on the spot to face the same way as Draco and his heart sank as he saw Pansy Parkinson and Theo Nott walking towards them. Theo looked wary and Pansy looked irritated, and Harry suddenly understood why Draco had disillusioned himself rather than tangling with her when she looked this cross. Behind them, the rest of the Gryffindors fell quiet.

"Slumming it with Gryffindors, eh Draco?" Pansy said bitterly as she stopped a few feet away from them. "My, my."

Harry winced as he felt Draco and the rest of his friends all bristle at Pansy's words. Merlin, she really wasn't the fastest broom in the shed, was she? Harry kind of guessed that she was angry about Draco's relationship with Harry because that destroyed the vision she'd had of them ending up together, but the others didn't know that and wouldn't think twice about cursing her if she didn't shut up.

"I kind of understood when you just wanted Potter all to yourself," she said. "But I didn't realised you'd resorted to this."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Ron said angrily, taking a challenging step forwards. Hermione grabbed his hand and pulled him back, at the same time as Seamus and Ginny both shifted restlessly, hands going towards wands. Beside him, Harry felt Draco shift and turned to watch as Draco rubbed his face vigorously before looking up at Pansy, and then to the angry troupe of Gryffindors, his expression flat and resigned.

It felt horrible, to have two sets of friends squaring up against each other like this. Harry felt torn and helpless. He knew that he would have to side with his friends if it came to a simple Slytherin versus Gryffindor scrap, but he couldn't just leave Draco. However, beneath the surface it didn't seem that it was as simple as a fight over house colours; it was friends feeling confused and strange and betrayed, and trying to find their places in this new world that had been created, one that didn't care much for school houses.

Draco stared at the Gryffindors a little longer. Harry watched him in turn as he quietly assessed their stand to defend their Gryffindor honour against one bitchy woman who was simply silly and pissed off that things had never gone her way. The moment drew out, and then held his breath as Draco quietly spoke.

"Pack it in, Pants," he said quietly. Harry could feel the embarrassment and tension in him through the link, and hovered awkwardly, not entirely sure if he should leave or stay. "I'll talk to you later."

"Draco," she began and he shook his head sharply.

"If you can't be civil, stop it. There's a time and a place," he said tersely. "Now is not it."

Pansy stared at him and then her face twisted in anger and hurt. She shoved past them, knocking Harry and Lavender with her shoulder as she marched past. Theo stepped forwards, sighing.

"Sorry," he said quietly, although Harry wasn't sure if he was saying it to everyone or just Draco. "She's just…"

"I know," Draco replied moodily. "But tell her to pack it in before I forget she's my friend."

"She'll come around," Theo said and then patted Draco awkwardly on the shoulder before following Pansy, nodding at Ron and the others as he passed, disappearing down the frozen high street, soon lost in swirls of snow.

The minute he was gone, the group visibly relaxed. Shoulders slumped and wands went away. Seamus and Dean turned to each other with raised eyebrows, muttering something that Harry didn't catch. Ron breathed out deeply, laughing shortly as he exchanged a look with Hermione and then looked towards Harry and Draco.

"Nicely handed, Malfoy."

"Sod off," Draco snapped back, and Ron drew back in surprise. "I didn't do that for your benefit."

"Sorry," Ron said, holding his hands up in surrender. "Was only trying to be nice."

"Well don't," Draco said tersely, before turning his back on them all and folding his arms across his chest.

Harry sighed. It wasn't his fault that any of this had happened, but Draco shouldn't be taking his mood out on everyone else. He felt gutted that what had been shaping up to be a very good moment had been ruined so quickly and effectively. He could feel Draco's malcontent and hoped that he'd be able to bring him back around and recapture the pleasant atmosphere from earlier.

"Sorry," Harry muttered, turning towards Ron and Hermione as Draco remained stubbornly facing the other direction. "Pansy's mad with him, not-"

Don't you dare talk about me like I'm not here.

"- with you lot…" Harry trailed off in response to Draco's petulant comment. He shrugged helplessly and surreptitiously tapped his temple and shook his head. Hermione seemed to understand; she nodded briskly and brushed the snow from her face.

"Alright, the Hogs Head it is. Last chance, Harry."

"I'll see you later," he said, smiling gratefully. Hermione nodded again and turned to the others, signalling for them to move on. They all waved goodbyes to Harry who nodded in return, smiling wanly and wishing that everyone could just get on.

"Plan B?" Ron mouthed as he walked by, and Harry shoved him away, trying not to laugh.

"Not a bloody chance," he said and Ron turned to walk away backwards, pulling a sad face and wiping imaginary tears from his cheeks.

"What is that all about?" Draco asked icily, his eyes on Ron. Harry started, having failed to see him turn back around.

"Nothing," Harry said hastily as he watched Ron turn away and jog to catch up with the others, their chatter and laughter audible but not discernable. "He was laughing at me, not you."

"Good," Draco said, standing by Harry's side and watching the group leave, his expression unreadable. Are you cross that I wouldn't hang out with your friends?

No, Harry replied. I wanted to spend the day with you.

Draco breathed out, his breath clearly visible in the air in front of his face. He pushed at a piece of his fringe that had fallen loose, rucking it up under his hat.

Sorry. I just- there's a lot to think about. It's a lot to take in.

Not all bad, right?

Harry reached out and took his hand and Draco sighed. "I've ruined the day now, haven't I?"

"Not at all," Harry said. "Come on. Let's walk. See if we can't find someone else for you to vent your anger on."

"Shove off, Potty."

Harry grinned and readjusted his fingers so they were gripping Draco's more securely. He didn't sling an insult back; that could wait until later.

The same comfortable silence that had fallen whilst they walked down to Hogsmeade descended once more as they wandered hand-in-hand along the path that would lead up past the shrieking shack. It was deserted, as it normally was in such weather, but Harry didn't mind.

He couldn't help but wonder what his parents would say if they could see him now. Somehow he thought he knew that they wouldn't mind who he ended up with, as long as he did right by them and they returned the compliment. It was hard to truly know, and it made a small sad smile cross his face and a pang echo through his heart. Sirius's reaction was much more easily imaginable. A look of blank incredulity, an insistence on checking Harry for the Imperius Curse, several hours or maybe days worth of questions to evaluate Harry's sanity, and a couple of days of sulking when he realised that now he had to be nice to a Malfoy, if it were even possible for him to be as such.

The thing Harry did hope was that everyone would have been happy as long as he was happy, just like his friends were.

"What're you being so morose about?" Draco asked after a while, reaching up to brush a few errant flakes of snow off of his face. "I can feel it you know."

Harry didn't reply out loud; it was becoming habit for them to say the things that were difficult over the safety of the link. It was just easier that way.

Just thinking what my parents would have said about all of this.

How wonderfully terrifying.

I think that they would be happy as long as I was happy.

There was a long pause and Draco steps slowed. Harry glanced at him and saw he was frowning slightly, looking pensive.

They hated my father.

Yeah, but that's not you.

Draco shrugged. Harry didn't reply; he honestly wasn't sure how. Lucius Malfoy was one of the big subjects that he didn't feel ready to discuss, despite their newly created and fully official relationship. He didn't want to ruin the trust they were steadily building by wrecking it with misplaced comments about Draco's dad. He'd learned that lesson already in the course of navigating the link, and wasn't about to make the same mistake.

It all seems different, somehow, Draco suddenly said as they rounded a bend on the path, the shrieking shack coming into view.

What does?

This place. It doesn't feel the same as when I first saw it.

"Yeah. Well, we've grown up a lot since third year," Harry shrugged.

Draco snorted. "Yeah. In third year all I had to worry about where ghosts and floating heads."

It took Harry a few moments to cotton onto what Draco was talking about, but when he did finally remember he couldn't help but laugh. It was okay; Draco seemed amused rather than annoyed so Harry let himself laugh at the memory of tormenting Draco whilst wearing his invisibility cloak.

"We were idiots, weren't we?" he chuckled. "Massive idiots."

Draco raised his eyebrows. "You were an idiot. I was merely retaliating."

Harry spluttered indignantly, dropping Draco's hand so he could push at him. "You started most of it, if I remember rightly!"

"Yeah well, all in the past and everything," Draco said with a roll of his eyes. Harry shook his head in amusement as they slowly came to a halt in front of the shrieking shack. He stepped forwards, reaching out to put his hands on the rickety fence that surrounded the house, brushing snow off of the splintering wood.

"There were never ghosts, were there?" Draco asked, stepping forwards beside Harry with his eyes on the building. "Snape told me it was Lupin."

"Yeah," Harry said softly. "Dumbledore told everyone it was haunted so they'd stay away."

"A Gryffindor telling lies?" Draco said slyly. "Unbelievable."

"Happens more often than you think," Harry laughed, pleased that Draco seemed more back to his usual self now that they'd gotten away from the others. They had been right all along, he mused; it really was easier when it was just the two of them.

"Oh, I know," Draco said with a smirk. "I mean, how many times did you lie about being out after curfew, or hexing me?"

Harry nudged at him with his elbow. "You make it sound like all I did was be mean to you."

"Seemed like it," Draco sighed. "Not long ago someone said that all I had ever done was torment you, but I didn't actively plan it or anything. I just kind of did it. Well, except that one time with the Dementor trick."

"And the time you lured me out to a duel you never turned up for?" Harry added. Draco stared at him, nonplussed. "First year? Or how about the time you broke my nose, that was in sixth year if you don't remember-"

"Alright, alright," Draco said, now looking uncomfortable. "I was a prick, I know."

"Yeah," Harry said slowly, casually. "You're not so bad anymore."

"You're not still mad?" Draco asked carefully, not looking at Harry. "There's a lot of bad stuff I did that we don't even dare mention yet."

Harry knew he was right, but for some reason it didn't seem to be that much of a problem anymore. Now the war was over, childish vendettas weren't on his priority list.

I don't like who you used to be. I like who you're becoming, he said quietly.

Draco flushed an obvious and startling pink. He opened his mouth and then cleared his throat.

You're an unbelievable sap scarhead, he finally replied, his tone disapproving. That was almost romantic.

Harry grinned and turned around, reaching forwards to take hold of Draco's wrists, pulling him up close. Just living up to your mothers expectations.

Draco huffed, rolling his eyes. "Do we have to talk about my mother?"

"I suppose not," Harry said contemplatively. "What would you rather talk about instead?"

I'd rather not be talking at all, Draco replied, and then his mouth was on Harry's again, warm and insistent. Harry returned the kiss without a second thought, pulling Draco even closer so they were chest to chest, noticing somewhere in the back of his mind that Draco was a tiny bit taller than him, so he had to tilt his chin up ever so slightly to kiss him back properly. He felt Draco's hands slide along his arms and then across his chest and moaned appreciatively into Draco's mouth-

- right before Draco's hands tensed on his chest shoved him back, hard. He tripped backwards and fell onto his back in the snow, sliding down the bank that was next to the house. He stopped at the bottom in a heap of limbs, gasping and spluttering and feeling disorientated, snow inside his scarf and in his hair.

"What the hell?" he shouted indignantly, brushing snow out of his eyes. Draco was at the top of the bank cackling with laughter, leaning over with his hands clutching his sides. "Payback for third year, Potty!"

Harry didn't know whether to laugh or shout some more. He drew his wand and pointed it at Draco, who promptly stopped laughing and shrieked as his feet shot out from under him. Harry flicked his wand back and Draco was yanked down the snow covered bank after him, landing ontop of Harry in a tangle of limbs and with several choice swear-words.

"Fuck! Ouch!"

Harry was laughing now, scrambling up onto his knees so he could grab Draco's wrists, pinning them down either side of his head. Draco was looking stunned, his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open. He had snow all over his face and his black cap and he looked so completely unguarded that it made something in Harry's chest skip.

"Get off, you twat!"

"Playing payback, are we?" Harry managed to pant as he clambered over Draco, using his body-weight to keep Draco pinned down. Draco stopped struggling and froze, looking up at Harry with suspicious and slightly worried eyes.

"You wouldn't," he said.

Harry let go of one of Draco's wrists to gently run a gloved finger down the bridge of Draco's nose. Draco's eyes widened a fraction. No, he said, flicking the point of his nose. I wouldn't.

Draco's relief was tangible, and Harry was taken aback and pleased to feel something that felt peculiarly like affection come hand in hand with Draco's relief. As such, he smiled tentatively and then leant down to kiss Draco again. This kiss was different from the one at the top of the bank. This time it was gentle and careful, almost chaste, but somehow it felt right.

Harry pulled back and let Draco up. He sat up wincing and looked rather put out. "Well done. Now I'm soaked."

"Well, it was your idea to push me down the bank," Harry replied, clambering to his feet and hauling Draco up, too. "Want to go back?"

"Yeah," Draco nodded. "Ready when you are."

They took a moment to brush the snow off of their coats and then paused, looking at each other and feeling unsure before simultaneously reaching out and taking each other's hand. Harry grinned, Draco pulled a face at him and they set off back along the path, stepping through the snow side by side.


 

"Augh. I hate being cold," Draco complained as they finally reached the relative warmth of the castle. Argus Filtch was still sweeping snow back out of the doorway, complaining fitfully as every student came in only to drop more snow over the flagstones. A couple of bedraggled students were stood nearby, but they didn't pay any attention to Harry and Draco.

"Well we're back now," Harry reasoned, pulling his gloves off and shoving them into his pocket. "Got a while to kill before dinner though."

You going back to Gryffindor?

Harry turned to Draco who was looking at him intently, his expression laced with something that made Harry shiver.

Was going to, why? Where are you going?

Dungeons, Draco replied and dropped his gaze, looking down at the floor. He paused for a moment and then spoke again, his tone light and not fooling Harry in the slightest. You could come with me if you liked.

Harry's eyes widened. You what? Me come to Slytherin?

Well yeah, Draco said, looking more casual than Harry could tell he felt. I don't think Theo and the others are back.

The implications in the words made Harry flush. He looked down at his toes and then back up to Draco, his heart thudding so hard he suspected Draco could hear it. If Draco were right, then they would be alone together, and Harry didn't think they'd spend the time before dinner sitting around talking in the common room.

Scared, Potter?

Harry looked up to see Draco smirking at him, the expression challenging and nervous and eager all at the same time. The knowledge that Draco very much wanted to get Harry alone made him feel nervous and exhilarated, full of a delicious anticipation he'd never felt before. He was going to finally get the chance to act upon some of his daydreams and wonderings, to get his hands on any bits of Draco that he wanted to. He bit back a grin as he realised that his 'plan B' might actually be on the cards, schooling his features into a more innocent expression.

You wish, he replied with a smirk of his own, stepping towards the dungeon corridor.

He felt Draco's thrill of surprise and excitement a fraction of a second before he heard the footsteps following closely behind him.

You don't even know where you're going.

Yes I do, Harry replied with a grin. I've been in your common room before.

"You have not," Draco replied archly from right behind him.

"I have too," Harry replied. "And it was you who let me in."

"What? You're lying."

Harry just laughed at the indignant disbelief in Draco's tone. That was a story that could wait for later. There was potential touching to be had; talking about Polyjuice potion and sneaking into common rooms that weren't his could wait until later. A lot later.

"If you don't tell me I'm leaving you in the corridor," Draco threatened as Harry took the turning that he knew would lead him down to the Slytherin rooms.

I'll tell you later, Harry replied as he came to a stop outside the blank stone wall that he knew would turn into an archway on command. Promise.

Draco huffed and shoved him out of the way, and then paused, looking at the wall uncertainly.

"What? Forgotten the password?"

"No," Draco scowled at him, and then turned to look at the wall. Are you sure this is a good idea? I don't know who's in there.

Harry looked at the archway too, realising that Draco had a point. What if Devlin Crowley or someone equally as unsavoury were in the common room? Now that he'd come to terms with what and who he wanted, he didn't have a problem with putting people in their places, but it made sense to avoid trouble if they could.

"Disillusionment charms?" he suggested tentatively.

Draco looked relieved. "Thought you'd never ask."

Draco pointed his wand at them both in turn and Harry winced as the sensation of cold water dripped down his body.

"Okay?" Draco – or the indistinct shape with Draco's outline - asked.

"Yeah - hang on," Harry said, a thought occurring to him. "Do you not have to actually touch someone to cast that charm?"

"No," Draco replied, looking bewildered.

"Bastard," Harry muttered under his breath, a rueful smile on his face as he remembered his first disillusioning at the hands of Mad-Eye. "Not you," he added as Draco's eyebrows flew up in indignation. "Go on."

Draco muttered something incomprehensible back, put obliged. He turned to the wall and whispered what must have been the password because a moment later there was an archway in front of them. They slipped through it, Harry just behind Draco and watching carefully to keep track of Draco's outline as he moved, blending almost seamlessly in with the walls behind him.

The Slytherin common room was almost exactly the same as he remembered from second year, although it didn't look quite as intimidating now he was older. It was still as cold though, and his chilled and damp clothes suddenly seemed to bite against his skin. There were quite a few Slytherins in the room, although they looked to be mostly first and second years. No sign of either Crowley or Parkinson which was a relief.

They slipped past a group of second years who were playing with a deck of exploding cards and through another archway towards the back of the room. They ended up in a small low ceilinged corridor, which had large oak doors at intervals along each side. It was dark, lit only by flickering torched mounted on snake shaped brackets on the walls.

"This place is creepy," Harry muttered.

"Shush," Draco hissed back as they passed more doors, stopping at the last door on the left. A portrait of a haughty looking wizard was mounted on the blank stone wall at the end, his eyes scanning the corridor undoubtedly to find the source of the footsteps he could hear.

"Disillusioning yourself again, young Malfoy?" the picture said loudly and spitefully, making Harry jump as Draco pulled open the door at the end. "Coward."

Draco didn't reply; he waited for Harry to come in behind him and then shut the door. The dormitory was empty save for the two of them, and suddenly Harry was very aware that he and Draco were completely alone together. It was what he had been hoping for in the back of his mind, a chance for them to be together. And now they were officially together, he felt like it was an opportune moment for them to move forwards in terms of sexual experience.

"Who was that?" Harry asked casually as Draco pointed his wand at them both to remove the charm.

"Lord Yardley Platt," Draco said with a curl of his lip. "The Goblin slayer. Calls himself Lord, no-one else will. He's been dead for five-hundred years, so no-one really cares."

Harry didn't reply. He was too busy staring around the room he was standing in, realising that he really was in the Slytherin dormitory. Five beds decked in green sheets stood around the rectangular room, two along one side and three along the back wall. On the only wall that was unoccupied by beds there were four large arched windows, through which he could see the lake. Green tendrils hovered in front of the windows, framing the view of the murky green water beyond.

"Wow," Harry said, stepping towards the closest window and jerking back abruptly as a dark shape darted across one of the windows, disappearing as quickly as it had appeared.

"You get used to it," Draco said, and Harry turned to see him pulling his hat and gloves off, tossing them onto one of the beds. His bed. Oh god. Harry was six feet away from Draco's bed and Draco was taking clothes off. Only a hat and gloves but still, the implications made Harry's mouth go dry. He hastily averted his eyes and they fell on the bed next to Draco's. A large trunk was open at the bottom, half full of neatly folded clothes.

"Who's is that?" he asked, grasping for more casual conversation so he didn't have to think about the imminent possibility of Draco taking off more clothes. Draco unbuttoned his coat, stepping closer.

"Theo's," Draco said, walking over to hang his coat up on an ornate iron coat-stand and that stood in the corner. "He always packs early."

Harry looked back to the trunk, having almost forgotten that everyone was leaving for Christmas in a few days. He'd been so preoccupied with thinking about the Hosgmeade trip and everything that he hadn't even considered that he and Draco would be the only eighth years left come Wednesday.

"Is Zabini leaving, too?"

"Yeah," Draco said. It's just me that's staying.

Harry noted the fleeting hint of uncertainty and sadness that came with that statement and felt uncomfortable. It was because of the link that Draco couldn't go home for Christmas, to see his Mother. Harry had seen his own stay over the holiday period as a potential good thing; Ron and Hermione would have some time alone, Ginny wouldn't be able to bother him and he could keep well out of Mrs Weasley's way.

Are you staying in that ridiculous hat all day then?

He blinked and refocused. Draco was perched on the edge of his bed, looking at him somewhat nervously but also in badly-concealed anticipation. The excitement about being alone came back with disconcerting strength and speed, having faded a little in contemplating the Christmas holidays.

But now, he was alone with his…well, thinking of an alternate word for boyfriend could wait until later. The simple fact of the matter is they'd ended up alone in Draco's dormitory, and the tension between them was growing with every second of silence that passed.

"I might," he finally replied with a grin. "See no good reason to take it off."

"Shut up and get over here," Draco said, his tone threatening and belying his nerves in an instant. Harry snorted with laughter and wandered over to stand in front of Draco who stood up so that they were nearly nose to nose. The laughter on Harry's lips died as he realised just how close Draco was, close enough so he could feel Draco's breath on his face and track every minute flicker of Draco's eyes as they moved between Harry's lips and face.

So, Draco said quietly. Ready for more?

Harry nodded fractionally and then leaned forwards to press his mouth to Draco's. Almost immediately, Draco reached up to tug Harry's hat off, dropping it to the floor behind him. They continued to kiss, feeling completely on edge. Harry didn't know if it was because their nerves and anticipation were being shared through the link, or because he'd been waiting for this for what now felt like forever.

He soon found he didn't care. Draco's fingers found their way to his coat and started tugging ineffectually at the buttons; Harry realised after a moment that it wasn't so much a ploy to actually undo the buttons, but a hint for Harry to take his coat off. He hastened to help, tearing at the buttons whilst returning Draco's desperate kisses.

He managed to get his gloves and scarf off as well, dropping them carelessly onto the floor atop his coat. His jumper was next, his glasses knocked askew as Draco tugged it up over his head.

Okay? Draco asked as he pressed kisses along Harry's jaw.

As long as we're not interrupted, Harry panted in reply. Draco laughed breathily and then stepped back, his hands on Harry's waist. He toed his shoes off and then edged back to sit on the edge of his bed, leaning back ever so slightly in a pose that set Harry's nerves alight.

Harry couldn't help himself. He followed Draco, kicking his shoes off and sitting next to him and twisting so he was leaning over him, kissing him hard and holding him in place with a hand on the side of his neck. Draco's breathed hitched in his chest and he leant back even further, forcing Harry to move with him if he wanted to keep his mouth on Draco's.

Harry's mind was spinning. Draco was leaning back further and further, forcing Harry to move too, and then Draco was lifting his legs and moving around so he was laid fully atop the covers, pulling Harry with him with a gentle hand on the back of his neck. Harry was leant awkwardly over Draco, his legs half off the bed, so he moved properly onto the bed too, moving clumsily around until he was laid on his side next to Draco, leaning over him slightly.

He leant down to kiss him again, his whole body trembling slightly. With both feet on the floor it had just been another snogging session, but now they were lying on a bed together, and that meant something completely different.

Running a hand down Harry's chest, Draco leant up to kiss him again, gently and carefully. It was as if Draco couldn't get enough of Harry which was insane enough to be comprehending as it was, let alone when he felt dizzy with lust.

Looking down Draco's body, Harry swallowed as he saw the bulge in the front of Draco's trousers. He looked up to Draco's face again, biting his lip. Draco was breathing heavily, his hair a mess, with want written all over his face. He slipped his arms around Harry's neck and pulled him over so Harry was almost lying on top of him, and Harry gasped as he felt one of Draco's legs wrap around one of his own.

"What- what if someone comes in?" he managed to pant as Draco pressed a kiss to the side of his face, near his ear.

Draco paused at that, looking out over the room. "You want to…" We could shut the curtains, he said hesitantly.

Harry paused for all of a second and then nodded. Fuck it. He was eighteen and he was in a relationship and he deserved to be able to do rude things with his other half. Draco immediately reached under the cuff of his sleeve to pull out his wand, waving it to shut the dark green curtains around his bed and then casting a small lumos charm, which lit up their small curtained chamber just enough to see. For good measure, he added silencing and locking spells to the curtains as well, to ensure they wouldn't be interrupted.

"Okay?" he asked, and Harry nodded. Draco tossed his wand to the side and swallowed nervously, before leaning up to kiss Harry again.

As their mouths moved together, Harry realised just what he'd been missing. Having someone touch and kiss him was truly exhilarating; he could never guess just where Draco's fingers and hands were going to be, and the small gasps and sighs that Draco made in response to Harry's movements were rapidly becoming addictive. And who the hell cared that it was another bloke that he'd found this with? Harry sure as hell didn't anymore. Everyone else could just shove off, because this couldn't be wrong when it felt so brilliant.

Their kisses were becoming more desperate, their tongues twining together with increased fervour and hands starting to become less gentle. Harry ran one of his hands down Draco's chest, marvelling at the smooth planes and muscle he could feel under his palm. He moved it lower and lower, feeling reckless and wild, and his fingertips brushed over Draco's abdomen and the waistband of his trousers.

Draco cried out loud and Harry's pulse surged in response, his breathing becoming more laboured as he watched Draco tip his head back, pressing it into the pillow.

Please, Draco managed to gasp, the word broken and uneven.

"What?" Harry asked, not teasing, desperate to know what he should do, how he could pull more cries from Draco's lips.

Draco's restraint seemed to snap. He sat up sharply, nearby head-butting Harry in the process and scrambled around so he was kneeling next to Harry, almost overbalancing in his haste. He reached for the hem of Harry's T-shirt, desperately tugging at it to try and pull it up over Harry's head.

Harry didn't care where this was going, he just knew that he wanted more. God, he'd never been so hard in his life, and his glasses had been nearly knocked off but he didn't care. He hurriedly straightened them and then he was reaching for Draco's shirt too and pulling at it, trying to get him shirtless too, and then suddenly he was pushing Draco back onto his back, clambering on top of him and kissing him for all he was worth, pressing their bare chests together.

It was messy and desperate, and not at all as smooth or co-ordinated as Harry had imagined it would be. It was awkward fumbling, scrabbling fingers and elbows in ribs, and it was just brilliant. Harry suddenly know how it felt to be a real teenage boy, groping blindly and naively but in the best way possible.

"Oh fuck," he moaned as Draco pushed him onto his side, reaching down with no warning to rub Harry's prick through his trousers with the flat of his palm. Harry's hips jerked forwards of their own accord, and then in the blink of an eye he knew exactly what he wanted. He pulled his mouth away from Draco's and looked down, panting heavily. He reached for the button of Draco's trousers, flipping it open and tugging them apart with one hand.

"Fuck," Draco said, his hand falling away from Harry's crotch as he looked down at Harry tugging his trousers open. His mouth was hanging slightly open and his chest was heaving, and the prat had never looked quite as attractive as he did to Harry in that moment.

Harry kept pulling and tugging, somehow needing this in a visceral way he didn't want to explain, and then Draco lifted his hips and moved his hands down to help, and suddenly his trousers and underwear were around his thighs, and Harry froze in place, his hands faltering and his mind going blank.

Harry knew it probably wasn't the done thing to stare at another blokes prick like this, but he couldn't help it. There was an odd ringing in his ears, behind the thud of his pulse, and he couldn't think, couldn't do anything but look. Draco's chest and neck were flushed pink, and his thighs were trembling but that wasn't what Harry was concerned with. He was instead staring at Draco's prick which was rock hard, lying flat against his stomach, the head a rosy pink. Distractedly, Harry couldn't help but wonder that he'd caused that, caused this evident and unmistakable arousal.

He reached out with shaking fingers to hesitantly touch, pressing his fingertips against the hard flesh. He felt Draco exhale shakily, his abdomen clenching tightly. Harry noticed that Draco's prick was probably longer than his own by a fraction, but it wasn't quite as thick around. He didn't know how they stacked up against the rest of the male population but he found he couldn't care less. He wanted to touch it, he wanted to explore Draco's body and never stop.

Still queer? Draco asked breathlessly, interrupting Harry's thoughts. He was grateful; he reckoned he'd probably stepped from inquisitive looking into what was probably obsessive staring territory.

I reckon so, Harry replied, tearing his eyes away to look at Draco's face.

Better double check, Draco replied and then moved his hands to pull open Harry's trousers, shoving them down unceremoniously. Harry only had time to gasp before a hand was snaking into his boxers, warm fingers wrapping tightly around his prick.

"Oh god," he choked as Draco pushed his trousers and underwear down even further with his free hand, freeing Harry's erection from the confines of the fabric. Draco's hand started to move and Harry's world fell apart, pleasure tearing him up from the inside.

"Come on," Draco whispered against his jaw as he ran his hand up and down the length of Harry's prick, his words full of need. "Harry - touch me. Like you'd touch yourself, come on-"

Harry managed to move so he could reach Draco's cock, curling his fingers around him. It was warm and hard and at the same time velvety soft, and it wasn't much different from his own really, apart from a few subtle differences he could feel that served to constantly remind him that he was touching someone else.

Their mouths crashed together again, messy and off-centre consumed with need. Harry forgot about everything but the hand frantically fisting his dick, and his own fingers tugging at Draco's. The arousal was building between them again, throbbing through the link and making Harry's skin tingle.

Draco's hand moved so his fingers were teasing just the head of Harry's prick, rolling it between his fingertips. Harry keened, his hand moving faster up and down the length of Draco's dick, tightening his fingers ever so slightly-

"I-"

Harry's whole body jerked as Draco took him in hand again, jerking him roughly. He could feel his climax approaching, a stir at the base of his spine, and he could feel similar sensations bolting through the link from Draco, and nothing had ever felt so damn good-

One quick twist of Draco's fingers and Harry was coming, his toes curling with the force of it all. He dimly heard Draco swear and he tried to make his hand move again, but it didn't matter, slick warmth was coating his trembling fingers and Draco was gasping, his spine arching off of the bed.

They collapsed together, panting, sticky and sated. For a while, the only sound to be heard was two sets of laboured breathing as they tried to collect themselves and calm their bodies and minds. After a long while, there was a rustle as Draco pushed Harry away and sat up, reaching for his wand.

Harry felt completely in a daze. That had been so brilliant that he couldn't even find words to describe it. He absently flexed his toes and his sticky fingers, and then felt the tingle of magic rush over him, cleaning his hands. A body flopped down next to his, an elbow landing in his side.

"Git," Harry grumbled, pushing at Draco until he was in a more comfortable position.

"Shut up," Draco replied, and Harry grinned.

So. Being gay is kind of brilliant, then.

Draco smiled against Harry's bare shoulder, his lips moving on Harry's skin.

Well I'll admit that handjobs are better without the side-order of overwhelming shame and denial.

Harry rolled his head to the side to look at Draco. He was laid on his side with his hand pillowed under his cheek, his eyes fixed on Harry's and his mouth turned into an almost smile.

"No more denial then?"

Draco rolled his eyes. "I haven't been in denial for a long time. I wouldn't be kissing you in Hogsmeade if I were."

"Fair point," Harry grinned. "I like the not-in-denial you anyway."

Draco raised an eyebrow. "You mean the me that teases and torments you to within an inch of your life?"

Harry smiled. That's the one.

Draco smiled back. Harry reached out and ran a hand down over Draco's shoulder, his eyes following the progress of his hand across Draco's pale skin. Harry wasn't exactly super tanned but Draco was almost obscenely pale in comparison. Harry figured he quite liked it, his eyes trailing over all the pale skin that was on show. Draco must have noticed because he quickly reached down to pull his trousers and boxers back up, blushing slightly. Harry followed suit, not wanting to be the only one lying about with his dick on show, and then resumed with his staring at Draco.

He'd stolen glances at Draco before, but never had he taken the time to properly look. His eyes travelled along Draco's collarbones which were clearly visible under his skin, and then down his bare chest. He lifted a hand to gently run a finger across the dip where Draco's collarbones met, and then his hand paused before it moved down across Draco's ribs.

Shining weakly in the light was a faint scar running across Draco's chest, diagonally across his sternum. It was so faint Harry wasn't sure it was actually there, but as he tilted his head slightly he saw the light glance off it, the scar tissue minutely different from the surrounding skin. His eyes widened, his throat tightened, and he looked up helplessly, realising that he had put that scar there all that time ago, that it was his fault.

Draco-

Draco abruptly pushed his hand away. Stop it. I don't want to talk about it.

But- Harry tried to argue, feeling torn.

No, Draco said fiercely. I don't want to talk about it, not now, not ever. I like you too much to remember that by all rights I should hate you.

Harry blinked at him and then nodded dumbly, understanding. He moved his hand away, trying not to look back down at the scar.

I'm sorry, he said simply, and Draco's scowl faded.

Been waiting for that for a long time, he said with an almost smile, his mouth moving into a softened curve. Harry half-smiled back at him again, moving his hand along Draco's neck and slipping his fingers into the short hair at the back of his neck. Draco's features relaxed further but then the gentle expression faded as quickly as it had appeared. A worried crease appeared between his eyebrows, and he bit his lip, looking down and away from Harry's face.

"What?" Harry asked, frowning in turn.

Draco didn't look up. What's going to happen to us when the link goes?

Harry didn't reply. He moved his hand so it rested on Draco's shoulder, his skin warm under his palm and his thumb tracing idle circles. His immediate response was to call Draco an idiot and tell him that it would be fine with or without the link, but something held him back.

He'd become so used to feeling what Draco did, sensing his emotions though the link regardless of Draco's outward appearance or the face he put on to the rest of the world. He'd also become accustomed to hearing Draco's voice in his head at any minute of the day. If he were honest, it was becoming something he was growing to appreciate; hearing that voice in the back of his mind somehow made him feel like he'd never be alone.

An uncomfortable twist of foreboding crawled up Harry's spine as he realised just how dependent on the link they'd become. He'd noticed it before but had dismissed the thoughts, almost forgetting that come the twenty-second of December, the link would be gone. How would they cope without it? How would they know how the other really felt? How could he comfort Draco or push him for answers if he didn't truly know how he was feeling? How would he know when Draco was joking or avoiding something, or trying to conceal hurt or shame?

Fuck, how were they even going to talk? How would they talk about the huge things that they were only just starting to share? The thoughts they couldn't bring themselves to utter aloud, their words stunted by nerves and fear of a vulnerability that they couldn't bear?

Harry…

It was barely a whisper. Harry raised his troubled eyes to meet Draco's and his heart skipped; Draco looked open and vulnerable, so imperfect and beautiful that it almost hurt to look at him.

Stop worrying, prat, Harry said, feigning an exasperated roll of his eyes, quickly leaning in to kiss Draco on the mouth.

What he had really meant was 'I don't know,' and he knew full well that Draco knew that. By the way Draco held tightly onto him, resting their foreheads together, Harry suspected that Draco knew exactly what all those things were that he didn't dare say, even over the link.

Chapter Text

"Harry?" Draco asked, his voice a gentle murmur. He didn't open his eyes, and he hoped that Harry would continue running his fingertips up and down his arm. It was such a simple gesture but it felt ridiculously nice. Maybe this being in a relationship lark wouldn't turn out to be too bad after all.

"Mmm?" Harry replied, sounding as content and lazy as Draco felt.

"They'll start serving early dinner in a few minutes," Draco said, hoping Harry would get the hint. Harry's hand stilled on his shoulder, warm and heavy.

"You want to go now?"

Draco opened his eyes and nodded, seeing Harry's eyes were open and fixed on his face. He couldn't help but smile at the sight of Harry lying there shirtless in his bed, and a strange ripple of emotion went through him as Harry returned the smile with one of his own.

"We should get dressed then," Harry said with a grin as Draco sat up.

"Well yes," Draco said, yawning and stretching so all of his bones cracked. "I don't think anyone would appreciate us wandering down to the Hall half naked."

"I would," Harry said, sitting up and leaning against Draco, pressing kisses to his bare neck. "I'd appreciate it a lot."

Draco let his eyes flutter shut at the touch, his body shivering. He was still tingling from earlier, still elated about what had transpired. It had been exactly how he'd imagined; off-centre and awkward and fumbling and fucking brilliant. The feel of Harry's fingers around him, and the warm heat of Harry's prick in his hand…there was no way he was going to be in denial ever again.

"As much as you might appreciate it…" he said, turning around to shove Harry away, hunger overriding his desire to have another round of touching. For now, at least. "Pack it in."

Harry laughed and reached for his shirt, pulling it over his head and hiding his chest from view. Draco couldn't help but be disappointed and hoped that Harry wouldn't be able to feel it over the link. Yes, he was starting to become mildly obsessed with Harry's naked body, but it didn't mean that Harry had to know that piece of information, now did it?

He found his own clothes and pulled them on, trying to brush his hair into some semblance of order with his fingers, before finding his wand and lifting the spells in the curtains.

Can you hear anyone?

Harry sat still, obviously listening for a moment before shaking his head. It'll only be Nott and Zabini in here though, right? They won't be so bad.

Says you, Draco replied as he pulled at the curtains, opening them a fraction and peering out. I'll get teased for weeks.

Good job they're leaving on Wednesday then, right?

Draco rolled his eyes as he pulled the curtains back to reveal the still-empty dormitory. He was relieved to find it as such; whilst he wasn't ashamed of people knowing he was with Harry – and what they were getting up to behind spelled curtains – he didn't want trouble if he could avoid it. And whilst he thought it might be quite nice to let Theo know he'd taken his advice, and obviously it would be brilliant to rub it in Blaise's face that he was getting some, he knew that they'd tell Pansy and he didn't know just how happy she was going to be about it.

"Come on. I'm hungry."

"Yeah me too," Harry said, following him off the bed and wrapping his arms around Draco's waist, nearly tripping them both over. "For you."

Draco laughed; he couldn't help it. "Merlin save me Potter, if you're going to start with the bad jokes," he said, pushing him away and trying to hide his smile. "You'll be on sex hiatus until you stop."

"Sorry," Harry said insincerely as he shoved his feet into his shoes with a grin. "I'm just ridiculously happy, what with getting my first decent handjob ever. Well, at least I think it was decent," he added, frowning and looking a little worried.

"You're a right prat, you know that?" Draco said, exasperated. He reached out and fisted Harry's shirt in his hand, pulling him close and nudging their foreheads together. "Of course it was decent. Pack it in, I'm meant to be the insecure one."

"Not about sex," Harry said seriously. "With sex I get to be the awkward one."

"Are you saying that I'm awkward?" Draco asked, eyebrows raised.

"Yeah, except when it comes to sex," Harry said matter-of-factly. "Then you turn into some weird super-confident nutter who drives me mad."

Draco didn't have the heart to pretend to be offended. Instead, he shot Harry a smirk and leant over to kiss him. "Well, it's one part of my life where I actually know what I want," he said, his voice low. "So it's easy."

"Yeah?" Harry asked, sounding a little breathless. "And what do you want?"

Draco laughed and slapped Harry gently across the cheek. "You're not that dense, Scarhead. Come on, I'm starving. Winding you up can wait until later."

"Winding me up seems to be your permanent occupation," Harry muttered as Draco put his shoes and his second jumper back on.

Draco bit back a smile. It was strange how the earlier worry over the link had all but disappeared in the face of these new exciting feelings that came with the start of any relationship. Although, Draco mused, Harry had been kind of right. They'd been practically a couple for weeks. All they'd done today was seal the deal and progress onto half-naked groping.

Draco pushed thoughts of the link away. They'd been there for a while, growing in insistency every time he realised he couldn't speak to Harry out loud. He knew Harry was worried too, but he wasn't going to let it ruin their evening. He couldn't. Thinking about it too much made it real and scary, and he just didn't want to deal with it right now. He just wanted something nice to go right in his life for once, for it not to be blemished by negativity. And if pretending that nothing was amiss let them do that, then he'd carry on pretending right up until the twenty-second of December.

They stole out of the dormitory as quietly as possible, pausing only for Draco to cast Disillusionment charms over them both. He knew Harry was feeling reckless and bold, still full of adrenaline after their groping session, but Draco wasn't feeling quite as brave. As they slipped down the corridor and through the archway, Draco felt two hands slip onto his waist and warm breath on the back of his neck.

Look. By the fireplace.

He shivered; he knew that Harry didn't have to stand that close to him to whisper over the link, and there was no doubt that Harry knew it too. Draco couldn't say he really minded, despite the blatant and thinly veiled excuse for Harry to get his hands back on him. Draco smiled and flicked his eyes to the fireplace, and immediately his smile vanished and his stomach dropped. Sat on one of the large sofas was Devlin Crowley, who was looking mutinous and scowling at everyone nearby whether they looked to him or not.

Shall we get him whilst he can't see us?

Don't be an idiot, Draco replied sharply, quickening his pace ever so slightly. You never read the school motto?

Don't poke a sleeping dragon? Does that apply to you too?

Draco heard the blatant innuendo in Harry's tone and then groaned as he cottoned on to the bad joke. You're a nightmare. And you obviously can't read Latin properly.

Harry just laughed in response, the sound rich and full in Draco's head, and Draco felt another exhale of warm breath wash against his skin, making him tingle. He was hyper aware of how close Harry was behind him and the feel of Harry's hands on his waist, and for a second he couldn't fathom exactly why they weren't still in his bed.

His stomach growled loudly as if in response, and he pushed the thoughts of sex from his mind and concentrated getting out of the common room. He was hungry for Merlin's sake, and besides, maybe it would do well for him to make Harry wait a little – until he came begging for more. Draco was under no illusion; when he was with someone he trusted and liked he was downright easy, but it didn't mean he was going to give away that fact until he'd had a little fun tormenting Harry. For some reason - probably a very Slytherin one - he didn't want to give away the true extent of his own desire for Harry just yet. There was only so much vulnerability and exposure he could take in one go, after all.

They made it out of the common room unscathed and unseen and paused a little way down the corridor, next to the suit of armour they'd met at before so that Draco could remove the charms.

"I feel stupid doing that," Harry said as he watched his fingers come back into view.

"I feel safer," Draco replied, looking up and down the corridor. "Come on. Move it before Pansy decided to come back."

Harry obliged, thankfully without any disparaging comments about how Draco shouldn't be scared of Pansy. He wasn't scared of her anyway, he just didn't really know how to talk to her right now. And he definitely didn't want to be hexed again. That made him wary and sensible, not scared.

They walked shoulder to shoulder through the dungeon corridors, both quiet and content to think to themselves for a while. At least, until they reached the Entrance Hall and Draco felt Harry falter.

"Er-"

Draco looked up and the source of Harry's sudden hesitance became clear; just at the bottom of the stairs were Weasley and Granger, and they had stopped walking and were looking directly at them both.

"Bugger," Draco muttered, feeling distinctly put-out. It had only been a few hours since he'd had a go at Weasley over nothing, after all, and he was expecting retaliation.

"Harry! We've been wondering where you'd got to," Hermione called over. Harry started walking towards them and Draco grudgingly followed a step behind. Retaliation aside, he didn't want to hang out with Gryffindors, especially not his new boyfriend's best friends. It was a recipe for insults, inappropriate questions, mistrust and in short, disaster.

He hovered behind Harry, refusing to appear interested in their conversation about the Hogsmeade trip. He didn't care what Granger and Weasley had bought or where they'd been or what an idiot Finnegan had been in the pub. He just wanted to be alone with Harry and get his bloody dinner-

An elbow in his side made him look up away from his shoes. Weasley and Granger were looking at him expectantly and Harry was also staring at him, his expression almost beseeching.

"What?"

Weasley looked away, trying to keep a straight face. Harry shrugged, reaching up to scratch the back of his head, and Draco suddenly cottoned onto the awkward uncertainty and hope he could feel through the link.

"Well, dinner," Harry said. "They're going, and seeing as we're going - well."

The knut dropped and Draco's shoulders slumped. On the tip of his tongue was a resounding 'no,' a refusal to sit with bloody Gryffindors for dinner, but then Harry looked up at him again, his expression pleading. Draco nearly groaned aloud, realising with a mix of resignation and horror that he wouldn't be able to say no.

"Fine," he muttered, rubbing between his eyebrows, feeling Harry's flicker of surprise before he looked up. "Whatever. As long as I get some food in the next two minutes I don't care."

Harry smiled somewhat reproachfully at him, undoubtedly recognising the bravado behind his statement. Draco raised his eyebrows and stared back defiantly, hoping he looked unimpressed.

You're a massive git. Come on.

He pulled a face at Harry. I'm playing nice, what more do you want?

The four of them wandered into the Great Hall, all three boys breathing in deeply at the smells of wonderfully cooked food. The Hall was full of first and second years and a few students who had come back from Hogsmeade early, for whatever reasons. Draco was quiet, and remained so as Granger steered them towards the end of the Gryffindor table.

Alright? Harry asked as they sat down.

Draco scowled at him. I'm not a complete coward anymore.

His scowl and Harry's half-heated glare in return were interrupted by a giggle from the other side of the table. They both looked up to see Hermione and Ron both trying to contain their laughter.

"What?" Draco asked, frowning. Harry nudged him with his knee under the table, and Draco nudged him back harder. He knew how to behave, for pity's sake.

"You're talking over the link, right?" Ron asked and they both nodded.

"All we can see is your reactions," Hermione explained. "It looks ever so strange, because we don't know what you're talking about."

Harry grinned at that. "Sorry. I keep forgetting that we do it."

"Do you ever talk aloud to each other?" Ron asked curiously as he reached for a goblet.

"A fair bit," Draco volunteered to say, knowing Harry would be grateful to him for speaking to his friends. "Depends on which is easier."

"I'd hate that," Ron said matter-of-factly, and Draco watched as Hermione rolled her eyes. "Never able to hide away from someone when you've done something wrong."

Harry laughed. "It's not so bad," he shrugged, exchanging a glance with Draco. Draco almost-smiled back, feeling the familiar bubble of something he couldn't pinpoint swelling in his chest. Whatever it was, it made him not really mind that he'd been coerced into sitting at the bloody Gryffindor table for dinner, even though he knew Pansy would actually throw a fit if she came in and saw him.

"What time did you two get back anyway?" Hermione asked as they all hungrily dug into their dinners. "You can't have been walking that long-"

"Wasn't late," Harry said. "Probably before you two."

"Where've you been then? Wandering around the castle? We've been in the common room."

Harry exchanged another glance with Draco. "Er, we went to Slytherin", he said as casually as he could.

"You did?" Ron asked, looked impressed. "And you're still alive?"

"We're not all evil," Draco interjected, feeling that he should defend himself and his house somehow.

"No, just you, right?" Ron joked, a challenging look in his eye. Draco bristled but then felt the wave of panic and alarm that ran through Harry. He took a deep breath, knowing Harry didn't want them to fight, but also knowing that Ron was issuing him a challenge of sorts, to see if Draco could hold his own. He couldn't really blame him, he thought grudgingly; only Harry really knew him and knew that he wasn't a complete coward anymore, and as Gryffindors the other two were only making a noble - albeit misplaced - stand to defend their friend.

"Well, obviously I've got the market cornered in terms of evil," he drawled. "So you don't need to worry about the other Slytherins being mean to poor little Potter."

Harry laughed, Hermione's lips twitched and Ron sat back, looking faintly impressed. "I'm trying to work out if you're somehow now nice when you're being mean."

"Don't strain yourself," Draco said airily, grinning as Harry elbowed him in the side.

"He is nice, he just doesn't want anyone else to know," Harry said with a mischievous look in his eye.

Shove off Scarhead, he replied and Harry laughed again.

"Wow," Ron said, shaking his head in mild disbelief. "You two are actually like, a couple. You really act like it – wasn't expecting it."

"Does that offend your delicate sensibilities?" Draco asked, and Ron shot him a withering look in return, flipping him two fingers across the table.

"Play nice, children," Hermione said, a smile on her face. Ron looked at her and smiled, and Draco suddenly wondered if he and Harry were that obvious when they looked at each other. Half of him hoped not.

Thank you, Harry said quietly over the link, and Draco slipped a hand under the table to squeeze his knee in reply. Lingering in the back of his mind was a fleeting twist of guilt, one that grew more insistent as he glanced at Weasley and Granger again. He somehow knew at some point he was going to apologise to them, but the thought made him feel nervous and like he was twelve all over again. Apologising meant acknowledging all the wrong he had done, and he didn't like to recall how much of a twat he had been.

Stop worrying, Harry said as if he could read his mind and not just his emotions. This is more than enough for now.

Draco looked at him in wonder, not quite able to pinpoint how Harry had known what he was worrying about, even without talking over the link.

"So, is Slytherin still the same? Has it changed any?" Ron asked, disrupting Draco's thoughts.

"Almost exactly the same," Harry replied, and Draco immediately realised what they were on about.

"You! You said you'd explain that thing about being in my Common Room!"

He watched, mystified as Harry, Ron and Hermione exchanged wicked smiles, none of them saying anything.

"Potter!"

"Alright, alright," Harry said, putting down his knife and fork. Draco perked up immediately, his eyes fixed on Harry and wanting very much to know if Harry was telling the truth or just winding him up.

"Well, remember second year? When you were being a massive git and mouthing off about the Heir of Slytherin? We thought it was you to start with."

"You've got to be kidding me."

"Well, it all added up at the time. Anyway..."

Merlin help me, Draco thought as he listened in disbelief and wonder to the three Gryffindors explaining their shenanigans and deception with Polyjuice Potion back in second year. He was suitably impressed, but also simultaneously affronted to find out that they'd got one over on him as mere twelve year olds. Just his bloody luck, to end up with the most Slytherin bloody Gryffindors of the lot.


 

"So, I'll come find you tomorrow?" Harry asked hopefully as he and Draco halted outside the portrait of the Fat Lady, who turned and looked down on them with undisguised interest.

Draco narrowed his eyes at him, his expression playing around amused. "I don't know. I might just force my way into your common room and have a look around. Fair's fair and all."

"You most certainly will not," the Fat Lady interrupted indignantly, looking scandalised. "Be off with you."

Harry ignored her, his attention wholly on Draco. "You're Slytherin, you're not supposed to care about fair."

"Well after what I heard at dinner, I think you're turning out to be more Slytherin than me," Draco replied and Harry grinned at him.

"Thank you for that, by the way," he said genuinely, and Draco nodded.

You're welcome. You know that I only did it for your benefit though.

I know, Harry said with a soft smile, which Draco hesitantly returned.

"I'll see you tomorrow. Breakfast," Harry said, leaning in to kiss Draco on the mouth. Draco returned the kiss and then nodded, surprising Harry with the complete lack of argument. Draco kissed him again and Harry opened his mouth, flicking his tongue gently against Draco's.

"I should go," Draco said, pulling away far too soon for Harry's liking. "I'll see you tomorrow."

Harry nodded, resigned to the fact that they couldn't stand snogging in the corridor all night. "Want me to walk you back?"

Draco rolled his eyes. "I walked you back, idiot. I'm perfectly capable of walking by myself."

"Just checking," Harry said, a strange feeling in his chest as he leant in and kissed Draco again. He didn't want to leave Draco for the night, he wanted to smuggle him into the tower and wrap him up in scarlet Gryffindor sheets.

Go on, or we'll be here all night.

I don't mind.

Draco laughed, looking half amused, half exasperated. "Tomorrow. You can snog me all you like when I've had a decent night's sleep."

"I'll hold you to that," Harry said mischievously.

Goodnight, Harry, Draco said, and he quickly leant in and kissed Harry once more before turning on his heel and walking off. Harry watched him go, his fingers coming up to touch his lips and feeling bemused and pleased. It was normally Harry initiating the kisses between them, but it seemed Draco was getting a little bit braver as every minute passed. It was welcome change, and made Harry feel more confident that he'd done the right thing in turning his life upside-down for Draco.

"So, a Slytherin? I didn't know you were so inclined," the Fat Lady said, interrupting Harry's thoughts.

"Neither did I," he said with a shrug. "Gingerbread."

The Fat Lady looked disappointed at his response that didn't give her any more information to gossip with, but swung forwards to admit him to Gryffindor Tower nonetheless. He spotted Ron and Hermione instantly as he clambered though the portrait hole, pleased to see that they'd bagged their favourite sofa by the fireplace.

"You weren't long," Ron remarked as Harry flopped down onto the sofa next to him. "We left early in case you wanted some alone time with Ferret."

"Nah," Harry shrugged, leaning his head back against the cushions and shutting his eyes, basking in the warmth from the fire. "He was tired, I'm tired."

"So, no plan B then?" Ron asked slyly. "We thought you'd jump at the chance."

"We? You mean you," Hermione interjected with eyebrows raised.

"Nah," Harry said again, and then grinned. "Only so many times you can Plan B in one day, you know."

Ron choked on air and Hermione squeaked, her face flushing pink.

"Oh Harry," she said, her eyes wide as Ron spluttered. "You didn't? I mean – did you?"

"I didn't sleep with him if that's what you're asking," Harry said, lifting his head up just in time to see the blush on her cheeks get even redder.

"Well, I know, but-"

"Oh god, that's why you went to Slytherin," Ron said, his voice hoarse and his eyes as wide as saucers.

Harry raised an eyebrow. "What, you think I went to admire the architecture?"

Ron started to laugh a little helplessly, looking torn between wanting to know and wanting to spell his ears closed. Hermione joined in, and then Harry did too, laughing unstoppably.

"Well, I think it's a good thing you're getting more comfortable with him," Hermione said after the laughter had subdued, wiping her eyes and making her opinion sound uncannily like a medical diagnosis. "He seems to really like you."

"He does?" Harry asked, suddenly feeling bashful. He tried to hide his smile, picking at the corner of the sofa cushions.

"Yes," Hermione said reassuringly. "I mean, if he's willing to sit with me and Ron because you want to..."

"And if he's willing to, er, let you 'plan B' him," Ron added. "Must be a good sign, right?"

Harry couldn't help the grin that broke out over his face. He knew if Draco were there he'd call him a sap and throw something at him, but he didn't care. He'd spent the day kissing in the snow, having fun and fooling around behind closed curtains and it had been amazing. He was a far cry from the uncertain bloke who had panicked when Ginny had tried to kiss him in the snow all that time ago.

It was mad really, that it had ended up being Draco sodding Malfoy who made kissing in the snow seem like the best thing since Charms. All in all, things were going so well that Harry could almost force himself to believe that there was nothing at all to worry about. He almost didn't dare to consider the fleeting thought that passed through his mind; kissing in the snow and having dinner didn't depend on the link, right? He pushed the thought away, not wanting to ruin his mood by becoming worried or morose about something he couldn't help.

They'd be just fine, he thought firmly, dismissively. With or without the link.


 

Thankfully, the snowstorm that had gripped the castle had relented by Wednesday morning, as if the weather were anticipating the students leaving for holidays aboard the Hogwarts Express and had decided to give them a break. The sky was clear and blue, the threat of more snowfall gone for the time being. Deep trenches had been created in the snow by the students traipsing down from the castle to the thestral drawn carriages at the bottom of the lawn, all of them laughing and cheerful and thankful that they didn't have to drag their trunks with them.

By twenty to nine, only three carriages remained, the thestrals harnessed to them stamping their feet impatiently as they waited for the stragglers to leave the castle. Seven or eight students still hovered in the Entrance Hall, saying goodbye to the few others who would be staying behind for Christmas. Or in Harry's case, hovering in the Entrance Hall and trying to get his friends to leave on time so they wouldn't miss the train.

"We'll be able to talk to you through the common room fire, I've doubled checked with McGonagall," Hermione said briskly as she buttoned her coat. "And obviously you can write but we'll only be gone for a couple of weeks."

"I know," Harry said with a smile. "We'll be fine."

"Yes, we don't need the ridiculous sentimental speech," Draco drawled from where he was stood behind Harry, leaning on the wall. "Goodbye will do."

Hermione sent him an exasperated glance as Harry bit back a laugh. Ron frowned, wrinkling his nose. "You sure you're going to last two weeks without throttling him?"

"Shut up, Weasley."

"We'll be fine," Harry repeated and Ron pulled a face at Draco and Draco stuck his tongue out in return. Wonderfully mature, he thought wryly before turning his attention back to the conversation. "You two go and have fun."

"What shall I tell Mum?" Ron asked Harry. "She's going to ask, you know."

"Tell her the truth," Harry said with a shrug. "She might not like it-"

"Weasley, I explicitly forbid you to mention my name," Draco chipped in loudly.

"Do you just like making things difficult? Like, what sort of weird kick do you get from being a pain in the arse?" Ron asked and Draco smirked back at him.

"Just to see that confused frown on your face," Draco said with an affected sigh. "Makes my day."

"Pack it in, the both of you," Harry said, more amused than he was willing to admit. Despite the bickering, he was thrilled at how things had evolved over the past few days. Basically, the version of events that Harry understood was that Draco had decided he wasn't going to be a twat to Ron and Hermione, and in turn Hermione and Ron had decided to be nice to Draco. Harry hadn't said a word about it; he was far too proud of all three of them to ruin it by saying it out loud.

So now, here they were. Hermione and Draco being civil, and Ron and Draco going through the motions of being mean to one another. And Harry and Draco being inseparable. Since Sunday they had only been apart in the evenings and at night, spending the rest of their time together in the library or the Hall or wandering around the snowy grounds, bickering, flinging snow at each other and snogging at every available opportunity.

"Alright, I'll just refer to you as Ferret," Ron said with a grin, and Draco scowled at him in return.

"Send my love, yeah?" Harry interrupted hastily. "And just…"

"I know, mate," Ron said, understanding. "I will."

Hermione stepped forwards and wrapped him in a tight hug. "We won't let anyone say anything horrible," she whispered in his ear before pulling back, and Harry nodded gratefully.

Ron clapped him on the shoulder and then nodded at Draco, who didn't bother to nod back. "Alright, see you soon. Let us know how it goes with the link being removed yeah? We'll probably talk to you before then anyway."

Harry swallowed, feeling the now-familiar sensation of his chest tightening every time he remembered that the link was going to be removed. A similar flicker ebbed through the link from Draco, and Harry resisted the urge to physically grab hold of him.

"Yeah, course," he said, smiling and knowing Draco could tell that he was faking it. "Go on, before the carriages go without you."

"We left your presents on your bed," Hermione said. "No peeking, and I'll know if you-"

"Draco?"

A loud voice called out behind them, cutting Hermione off. Harry felt a jolt belonging to Draco run through him and he turned to see Pansy and Blaise stood in the middle of the Hall, obviously having spotted Draco as they made their way out. Draco eyed them warily and Harry stood silent and tense, waiting to see what would happen.

Finally, Pansy spoke. "Can I talk to you?" she asked, her eyes downcast and her tone subdued and flat. Draco exchanged a glance with Harry, his eyebrows raised, and Harry nodded fractionally in return. Draco pushed away from the wall and sauntered over to Pansy and Blaise, walking away from Harry and the others so he couldn't hear what was being said. Harry watched him go, knowing that the swagger was all for show; he could practically taste Draco's nerves from where he stood waiting.

"Is she still pissed at him?" Ron asked, his eyes also on the Slytherins on the far side of the Entrance Hall.

Harry nodded. "As far as I know. Apparently she went mental when she found out I'd been in his dorm."

"Gah," Ron said, pulling an exaggerated face of distaste. "Told you, I don't want to know what happened."

Harry snorted with laughter as Hermione tutted at Ron, pulling her bag more securely onto her shoulder. "Leave him alone, Ron," she said. "He's perfectly entitled to do what he wants."

"Doesn't mean he's entitled to tell me about it," Ron muttered, and then laughed as Harry shoved at him.

"Go on, clear off. Your mum will never forgive me if I'm the reason you miss the train as well."

"She does love you, you know," Ron said as he reached out to take Hermione's hand. "She's just disappointed."

"Her and the rest of the world," Harry said good-naturedly, quickly glancing to where Draco was stood talking to Pansy and Blaise. He couldn't feel any alarm through the link so he supposed it was alright for now.

"We'll talk to you soon," Hermione promised, and they shared one last hug before she and Ron left, walking down to the waiting carriages, both of them eyeing the thestrals a little apprehensively. Harry leant against the stone doorway and watched them go, feeling somewhat sad and also a little relieved. It would be good for them to have some time together without him as a third wheel, and he didn't really want to spend his Christmas on eggshells around Ginny and Mrs Weasley. He smiled ruefully; whatever he thought wasn't going to stop him missing his best friends.

Come over.

With a frown, he turned away from the door to look over to where Draco was. He was still talking with Pansy and Blaise, his arms folded across his chest and his back to Harry.

You sure?

Yes. This is getting a bit awkward.

Harry laughed softly and then pushed away from the wall, wandering over to where the Slytherins were talking. As he approached, Draco turned to look at him, relief flickering over his face.

Harry nodded to Blaise and Pansy as he stood next to Draco. Blaise nodded in return. "That's our cue to leave, Pansy," he said bracingly. "Don't want to miss the carriages. Look after him, Potter, and make sure he doesn't open any presents early. He tries every year."

Harry bit back a laugh as Draco scowled at Blaise, who stepped back with a sly smile. "Play nice, Draco. Have fun."

Blaise took another step away and then paused, waiting for Pansy who as yet hadn't moved. She looked at Draco who nodded at her fractionally, his mouth lifting in a half-smile, and then she sighed.

"I still don't like you, Potter," she said, not looking at him.

"Wasn't expecting you to," Harry replied calmly.

She nodded jerkily and then stepped forwards and seized Draco in a hug, nearly tipping him over. She whispered something that Harry didn't catch, and then pushed Draco away.

"You better send me a present," she sniffed, and then she walked away, pulling Blaise along with her.

Draco and Harry watched them go until they disappeared through the doors and out of sight, followed by the last few first year stragglers. Within minutes, the Hall was empty and the last of the voices had faded away. The castle suddenly seemed a lot bigger, somehow. It was almost silent; disconcertingly quiet without the chattering of hundreds of voices in the nearby Great Hall. Even the portraits seemed to be quieter than normal, as if they too were saddened by the emptiness of the halls and corridors.

"Okay?" Harry said, stepping closer to Draco so their shoulders were brushing.

Draco nodded. "We'll be fine."

Harry nodded, relieved. He didn't care much for Pansy at all, but he was glad on Draco's behalf that she wasn't as angry with him anymore.

"So," he said finally, rocking on the balls of his feet. "Just us."

"Yeah," Draco replied slowly, his eyes still on the door as it closed with a loud creak and a dull thud. "Just us."

Harry didn't reply. He could feel a level of uncertainty within Draco, a strange unease as if he didn't know how to feel about everything. Harry could tell that he didn't know whether to feel anxious about not going home or grateful that he didn't have to. He just hoped Draco's pessimistic side wouldn't make too much of a return in the wake of being left alone for the holidays.

You okay? Harry asked quietly.

Fine, Draco replied abruptly, and then heaved out a sigh, rubbing his face. I just – Mother.

I know, Harry replied quietly, and he slipped an arm around Draco's waist, pulling him up closer. I'm sorry.

"Not your fault," Draco said flatly, but he slipped an arm around Harry's back anyway, holding onto him tightly. They stood in silence for a while, listening to the sound of nothingness around them and trying to work out where they should go from here. Harry's own instinct was to go to Gryffindor Tower, to seek some comfort in the warmth and familiarity of the common room, but he didn't want to leave Draco.

Come to Slytherin with me?

Harry was relieved for the suggestion. He nodded and slipped his fingers through Draco's as they finally moved. For once, Draco didn't argue about being discreet, he just gripped onto Harry's fingers and tugged him towards the dungeon corridor. Harry supposed there was no point in discretion anyway; there were only around thirty students staying for the holidays anyway, so the crowds that normally gawked and giggled at them were gone.

They walked in comfortable silence together down the Slytherin archway. They didn't bother with disillusionment charms this time; according to Draco the only Slytherin students left were four first years and three sixth years, none of whom cared about Draco and Harry in the slightest.

A few heads turned their way as they walked across the common room but no-one said anything. The whole atmosphere was subdued; the excitement of having free run of the castle would come later, after people stopped missing their friends so acutely.

"No hiding yourself away today? My, my, you're getting brave," a scornful voice rang out as they walked along the low-ceilinged corridor to the dormitory. Draco rolled his eyes at Harry who glared at the portrait on the wall at the end as they drew closer. "Let me guess, everyone else has left the castle so – who is this? He is not a Slytherin."

"I'm a Gryffindor," Harry replied boldly. "Harry Potter."

"You!" Yardley Platt shouted, turning malevolent eyes towards Draco, who was ignoring the altercation and pulling open the door to the dormitory. "You cowardly little bastard – bringing a Gryffindor down these halls!"

"Shut up, for Merlin's sake," Draco muttered, reaching out to take Harry's hand and pull him away.

Platt's painted eyes bulged. "You unnatural heathen – you disgrace to the house of Slytherin-!"

Draco slammed the door on the shouts. "Some days I think he's channelling Father's spirit," he said angrily. "Bastard."

"Does he always pick on you?" Harry asked in wonder, choosing not to question Draco's comment about Lucius.

"No," Draco said. "He normally shouts at Blaise. He's racist in terms of bloodline and skin colour so Blaise offends his very sensibilities. He just picks on me because I disillusion myself to get out sometimes."

"He's foul," Harry said and Draco nodded.

"Sometimes he's alright. Has his favourites. Pansy's one of them."

"I can imagine," Harry muttered and Draco shot him an amused smirk. He kicked off his shoes and left them abandoned in the middle of the room, and pulled one of his jumpers off, throwing it onto one of the neatly made beds. He flopped down onto his own bed, shutting his eyes and breathing out deeply. Harry followed him, toeing his own shoes off and then sitting on the edge of the bed next to Draco's prone form.

"It'll be okay, you know," he said and Draco laughed, muffled by his pillow.

"Don't you start," he said, and his hand groped out to grab hold of Harry's sleeve. "Get over here."

Harry let himself be pulled so he was lying down next to Draco, and then Draco rolled over so his head was resting on Harry's shoulder, draping one long leg over Harry's.

"Clingy," Harry teased.

"Shut up," Draco said half-heartedly, his eyes already shut. He breathed in and out deeply, his breath tickling Harry's neck, and Harry felt his whole body relax.

Harry wriggled around a little to get comfy, stopping only when Draco grumbled and told him to pack it in. He wrapped his arm around Draco's shoulders and turned his head to the side so his face was pressed to Draco's hair, knowing somehow that Draco didn't want to talk. He didn't really want to either; if he were honest he couldn't quite work out what they should be talking about if they did. It could be the link, Draco's Mother, Pansy, the Weasley's, the other people Harry always missed at Christmas... He subconsciously tightened his hold on Draco, somehow suddenly fearful that Draco would leave. It was ridiculous really, but Harry couldn't help it; he'd lost a lot of people in his life, and he didn't want to lose any more.

He breathed out deeply as Draco moved his head slightly so he could kiss Harry's neck, calming and soothing his worries. Harry relaxed at the touch and forgot all about everything that could have been a cause for worry, instead focussing on the simple pleasure and comfort that came with being close to someone you cared about, and who cared about you in return.


 

The dungeons weren't that bad, all in all, Harry supposed. They were definitely colder than Gryffindor Tower, but they somehow seemed calmer, more secluded. And Draco was right; Harry was already getting used to the dark shapes that flittered through the water behind the windows, although he was grateful he'd not seen anything that could be large enough to be the giant squid. Harry tore his gaze away from the windows, looked down to the old copy of Flying First magazine he'd been reading, and then glanced up at Draco again. Harry was sat against the headboard and Draco was sat cross-legged in the middle of his bed, a book in front of him, his fingers lingering on the corner ready to turn the page. He'd been unusually quiet since everyone else had left, his emotions troubled and tangled and hard to pinpoint. They'd been in the Slytherin dormitory for hours, lying quietly together and then moving to sit and read, still close enough to one other so that they could reach out if needed.

Sighing quietly, Harry put the magazine down and moved towards Draco, who glanced up but didn't comment. Harry crawled around him until he was sat behind him, and tentatively ran his hands over Draco's shoulders.

The situation was an awkward one for him. He wanted to be happy and excited that he and Draco had the holidays alone together, but he couldn't just ignore Draco's mounting depression over the fact everyone else had left. It hurt a little to think that Draco couldn't find any positivity out of staying alone with Harry, but he realised that there were bigger issues than his own slightly wounded pride.

You're quiet.

Draco sighed, his hand faltering on his book. He flexed his neck each way as Harry continued to clumsily rub his shoulders. Then he finally spoke, sounding troubled.

I want to go home.

Harry's hands faltered. So, there it was. Draco didn't want to be here at all, he wanted to be in the Manor. Harry made his hands move again, unsure as to what to say.

They were staying at Hogwarts because it was the easiest option, but he supposed that like Narcissa Malfoy had suggested in her letter, they could somehow organise for them to go home and then be bought back in on the twenty-second. It would be a hassle, what with security around the castle still incredibly high, but it would be possible. When it came down to it, a selfish part of him didn't want to leave Hogwarts. He didn't have his own home anywhere, and this would be the last time he could stay for Christmas. As unappealing as the Weasley household was at this moment in time, Grimmauld Place was an even more unattractive prospect. It may have been cleaned and refurbished, but he didn't think it would ever feel like home.

He supposed that he could stay here without Draco. But that meant being apart from Draco, something he didn't want to do.

Fuck. One of them was going to be miserable, either way.

"If you could, would you go?" Harry asked quietly.

"Mother's on her own, in the Manor. I can't just-" He broke off, shaking his head.

Harry nodded, taking a deep breath to summon up the will to say what he really didn't want to.

"If you want to go home, you can. We can both go-"

"What?" Draco snapped suddenly, his body going tense. "Just waltz out of Hogwarts and apparate? It's not that easy."

Harry drew back a little, alarmed at the sudden change in tone that he'd forgotten to expect. "I never said it was, I was just suggesting that we-"

"You just want to go with your beloved Weasleys, right?" Draco said, turning around and climbing off his bed, an ugly scowl on his face. "I should have guessed. Well go on then - You go and get your special permission to go, I'll see you on the twenty-second."

Harry was completely taken aback. Shit, even with the link he still didn't know what Draco was thinking, and he was at a complete loss as to what to say to try and calm Draco down.

"Look, I know things are hard sometimes," Harry said, edging forwards, uncrossing his legs so he was kneeling. "Things are hard for everyone-"

"Oh, so sorry," Draco said bitterly and Harry cursed inwardly. Fuck, was there anything he could say right when Draco was in one of these moods? He didn't seem to have time to even try; as he opened his mouth Draco beat him to it, his words twisted and sour.

"I forgot that us evil-types aren't allowed to feel upset, just have to grin and bear it because obviously it's all my fault anyway-"

"What the- for god's sake, Draco, calm down!" Harry said, holding his hands up in surrender. "I don't want to go to the Weasleys. I want to stay here, and I want to stay here with you. Just – please. Calm down."

Miraculously, rather than shouting back, Draco did calm down. He stared at Harry for a long moment, his mouth open and his face pale, and then took a deep breath, running his hands over his face before slumping back onto his bed, sitting on the very edge.

"See, this is why-" he began, and then broke off, swallowing thickly. I don't even know what I'm so angry about. He paused, looking uncomfortable and a little ashamed. I don't want to get mad at you when you don't deserve it.

Come here.

Harry held out his hands and Draco hesitated for a moment before taking them, allowing himself to be pulled up onto the bed and into an embrace. He was tense and trembling, his nerves and temper still frayed, so Harry chose to keep his mouth shut. Instead, he just held Draco to him, running a palm up and down his back until he felt Draco's agitation subside.

He felt like he'd dodged a curse in a way, by managing to say something that had caused Draco to stop arguing. It was frustrating as hell, knowing that when Draco decided to be in a foul mood, he'd stay in one until he chose to let Harry help. Harry felt unnerved and a little shocked at how easily he'd slipped into comfortable territory with Draco, forgetting about Draco's temper and his insecurities. He used to have to actively make sure he didn't say anything to upset or rile him, but in the past couple of weeks he'd been calmer and more grounded, and Harry in turn had let his guard down.

Finally, Draco's breathing slowed and his frame relaxed, his cheek resting against Harry's collarbone. Harry was thankful, and he saw sure Draco could feel it. He didn't say it aloud though lest Draco wilfully misinterpret, accusing Harry of being selfish and unwilling to deal with Draco when he was upset. That wasn't the case at all; Harry would willingly put himself in the way of insults and curses if he thought he could help Draco to calm down and feel better.

You want me to stay? Harry finally asked quietly.

No, Draco replied, sitting up awkwardly and rubbing his face. He looked and felt exhausted, and Harry could still feel a trembling anxiety just below the surface, emotions that could erupt into more temper if Draco was so inclined. I'll be fine, you can go.

You sure? Harry asked and Draco nodded.

I'm fine. Going to bed. I'll see you tomorrow.

Harry didn't want to go, but Draco's tone didn't invite an argument. If Harry concentrated and tried to sort out of the jumble of emotions within Draco, he could sense helplessness and anger directed at himself, because he couldn't keep it together.

There was really no point in Harry staying to try and cheer Draco up, if Draco didn't know what the problem was. It was frustrating as hell, but Harry should have realised that Draco would have moment like this, regardless of how well their relationship was going.

"Alright," Harry finally said, scooting off the edge of the bed. "I'll see you in the morning, yes?"

Draco nodded and leant over to kiss Harry, a quick peck on the corner of his mouth that didn't feel right. Heart sinking, Harry just nodded in return and left the dormitory without looking back.

Chapter Text

They were running though the never-ending corridors of the manor, twisting and turning, hearts pounding in their chests. The corridors were black and dark, only lit by moonlight pouring in through the tall windows along the left hand wall. The picture frames along the right were all empty, abandoned. Draco's face was white and panicked, terrified, and Harry tried to call out to him but found that he couldn't utter a sound.

Draco looked behind him and a strangled sob rose in his chest, his feet stumbling slightly.

"No!"

He ran as if his life depended on it, running from the soft slithering sound that followed every turn he made. He reached the end of the corridor, grabbing the doorhandle and pulling, tugging as hard as he could, but the door wouldn't budge. Tears ran freely down his face as he banged on the door with his fist.

"Let me in! Mother-"

There was a hiss behind him and Draco whipped around, his back pressed to the door that wouldn't open for him. Fear swelled and rose in the corridor, sick, twisting fear that choked him and drained him of colour.

Voldemort was walking towards him, his red eyes glittering. His robes billowed around him, and he held out a skeletal hand towards Draco, palm up and inviting.

"Draco, my son, do not run from me."

Draco looked around desperately, his chest heaving with panicked sobs, and a door appeared to his right. He dived for it and yanked it open, slamming it shut behind him. A familiar room swam into focus, one with bookcases and a tall high window that Harry had seen before. Lucius Malfoy looked up from behind his desk with the carved snake feet, looking irritated.

"I told you not to come in. Get out."

Draco shook his head violently. "Father, he's out there-"

"I don't care!" Lucius snarled, banging his fist onto the desk. "Out of my study!"

Harry looked back to Draco and his heart clenched as he saw the fifteen year old boy he no longer knew stood there, terrified and begging.

"Please, just let me stay-"

"I said no!" Lucius stood up, looking furious, drawing his wand-

Harry swam back into consciousness, feeling disorientated and dizzy. His mouth was dry and his body was covered in a fine sheen of sweat, a result of the dream he'd just witnessed. He felt helpless and more than a little scared. Sharing dreams with Draco had become a regularity that he'd grown accustomed to; mostly they were about schoolwork and flying and other inane topics that didn't mean a lot.

Not tonight, apparently. Harry didn't have to think hard to work out what this dream meant. Locked doors in the Manor, Draco being unable to find his Mother, Voldemort walking around his home and Lucius throwing him to the wolves-

Harry?

Harry's stomach tightened as he heard Draco's voice, quiet and trembling over the link.

I'm here, he replied. It's okay, it was just a dream.

Stay with me, Draco said, his voice thick. Just for a minute.

Harry nodded, even though Draco couldn't see him. Of course, I'm right here.

Draco didn't reply but Harry didn't need him to; he was just grateful that Draco still felt he could come to Harry for help. After a long while, Draco seemed to calm down and relax enough to fall back to sleep, slow pulses of troubled slumber ebbing across the link into Harry's mind. He swallowed, feeling inexplicably guilty. He should have stayed with Draco, refused to leave when Draco got stroppy earlier. Now they were in a relationship, the link wasn't the only source of comfort that they had; they had each other as well and Harry should have used that to their advantage and done more to help.

Sleep pulled at Harry's mind and he went unwillingly, wishing he could have Draco there with him to hold onto instead of just offering words over the link.


 

Harry stifled another yawn against the back of his hand, blinking hard. He'd had a rubbish night's sleep all in all, what with Draco's nightmare and his own worries, and it was taking its toll already even though it was only lunchtime. He'd crawled out of bed around midday and half-heartedly got dressed before making his way down to the common room, curling up on one of the sofas with Flying With The Canons open on his knee.

He knew that Draco was awake, and also knew that Draco was still rather agitated and restless. He could feel sharp bursts of annoyance and despair over the link, but remained quiet. He honestly didn't know what to do; if Draco had been borderline unmanageable yesterday afternoon, how was he going to be after nightmares about the manor? Harry wasn't going to push him for answers; he was tired, and there were two of them in this relationship after all. He wasn't going to be the one doing all the work.

Resting his head on his fist, his elbow propped on the arm of the sofa, he let his eyes drift shut for a moment. He wanted to go and get something to eat, but at the same time didn't want to leave the warmth of the fireside-

"Erm, Harry?"

He cracked an eye open to see one of the Gryffindor third years who had stayed behind looking at him nervously. Alex something-or-other, Harry vaguely remembered. The kid had obviously been outside that morning; he was bundled up in outdoor gear and still dotted in snow, and a similarly clad friend was stood a little way behind him, pink cheeked and windswept.

"Yeah?" Harry asked, clearing his throat and sitting up a little.

"There's someone outside asking for you," the boy said. "He's arguing with the Fat Lady. She won't let him in."

Harry's eyebrows flew up and his mouth fell open, an incredulous laugh tumbling from his lips. "A Slytherin by any chance?" he asked, a slow smile lifting the corners of his mouth.

Alex nodded eagerly. "Yeah. He looks a bit cross."

"I'll bet he does," Harry muttered, and heaved himself up off of the sofa. "Thanks, Alex."

He couldn't help the excitement that ran through him as he walked over to the portrait hole. Had Draco really come to find him? Traipsed all the way from Slytherin to tangle with Gryffindors, just because he wanted to see Harry? It seemed that Harry wouldn't have to be the one doing all the work, after all.

Pushing the portrait aside, he clambered through the hole to the sounds of raised voices. He was barely through when the portrait snapped shut after him, almost catching his sleeve in the process.

"Whoa, watch it!"

Draco and the Fat Lady both wheeled around to look at him. Harry spared her a glance to see that she looked rather put-out, and then fixed his eyes on Draco. Relief flickered over his face before he smoothed his features back into a scowl.

"Took your bloody time," he huffed, folding his arms across his chest.

"I should have known it was you!" the Fat Lady said dramatically. "Take him away with you, go on!"

"You knew it was him, I told you I wanted to talk to Harry," Draco said, sounding exasperated, before turning to Harry. "What's the point in me going out with you if name-dropping doesn't get me anywhere?"

The fat Lady squawked indignantly and Harry laughed, walking forwards and catching Draco's elbow, pulling him along the corridor a little. "Enough of the name-dropping, git. What's up?"

Draco's face fell immediately, and the indignant anger from his argument with the Fat Lady disappeared. He shifted from foot to foot, all of a sudden looking miserable.

"Draco?"

Draco shook his head, pursing his lips together.

Draco-

"I try and do it myself but I can only seem to cheer the fuck up when I'm with you," Draco finally burst out, the words tumbling over one another. "Go ahead. Laugh if you want but I'll curse you."

Harry smiled weakly, reaching out to wrap his arms around Draco. Draco stiffened but then relaxed, his arms snaking around Harry's waist and his forehead resting on his shoulder. "You're a right twat, you know," Harry said softly. "There's no shame in wanting some comfort."

Draco shook his head fractionally, his jaw clenched tightly. "Thought I should try and do it myself."

"Is that why you wouldn't let me stay last night?" Harry asked.

Just because we're together or whatever doesn't mean you should have to do everything for me. I've got to do stuff myself.

Harry nodded, understanding. "Well you kind of did," he reasoned. "You got through the night by yourself, even with that nightmare."

Draco pulled back a little and bit his lip, looking troubled. "S'pose."

"Why didn't you ask me over the link?" Harry asked curiously. "I would have come and met you."

Draco shrugged. "I know, but the point was that I wanted to fix it. Not you."

Harry nodded. "Come on," he said gently. "Let's go get some breakfast, and then you can come and sit with me in the tower."

"Eh?" Draco looked confused. "Me, in Gryffindor?"

"It's a whole lot warmer than the dungeons," Harry grinned. "And then we'll be even, right?"

Draco sighed and then nodded. He still looked miserable and rather pathetic, but at least now he was letting Harry comfort him. In a way it was strange that Draco had been so determined to look after himself without needing any help, but on the other hand, Harry should probably have expected it. He'd heard Draco demanding to be left alone, insisting that he could manage by himself before...Harry shivered, suddenly feeling like sixth year hadn't been that long ago after all.

"Potter?"

Harry looked up, his thoughts broken. Draco was looking worried, biting his lip and Harry realised that he must have been able to feel Harry's negativity through the link and fleetingly wondered that on some occasions it might be easier to not feel everything that the other did.

"Sorry," he said, trying to shake away his worry. "Come on, lunch."

Draco didn't look convinced but he nodded and reached out to take Harry's hand, holding onto him tightly. Harry squeezed his fingers in return and tugged him away from the Tower and down towards the Hall.


 

"Can I show you something?"

Harry looked up from his bacon-sausage-egg-hash brown and ketchup sandwich that he were trying to assemble, eyebrows raised in question. The mood had lightened considerably since their moment outside Gryffindor Tower, aided by several bad jokes on Harry's part and, of course, the prospect of food. Draco had wolfed down several croissants and was now sat staring at Harry's plate across the table and looking unimpressed.

"You're disgusting," he said matter-of-factly. "It's a good job you're a good kisser."

"Oh thanks," Harry said, licking ketchup off his thumb. "You're so nice to me that I just don't know how I stand it."

"I just said you were a good kisser. Take it or leave it."

Harry rolled his eyes. "What did you want to show me, anyway?" he asked, lifting an eyebrow and grinning across the table, the innuendo blatant in his tone.

"Get your mind out of the gutter," Draco said half-heartedly and leant back in order to pull a piece of parchment out of his pocket. "Mother wrote back."

Harry grabbed a napkin and wiped his fingers as Draco tossed the tightly folded letter over the table to rest next to Harry's mug of tea. "When?" he asked, reaching for it.

Draco shrugged, his manner evasive. "A while back. The same day I wrote to her."

"The letter you wouldn't let me read?" Harry asked as he unfolded the parchment. Draco made a non-committal noise in response, so Harry ignored him and turned his attention to the letter. He noticed immediately that it wasn't the first page of the letter, only the last. Just before he started reading, he wondered how many more pages were missing.

what you think is best.

We have discussed this before and I will not do so again. The Manor is not a good place for you, and your coming home for Christmas is still not something I can agree to. It may be my selfish wish as a mother but I will not endure your Christmas being ruined by nightmares and memories when you could stay at Hogwarts. I know it is not ideal, but you know as well as I that you at least sleep better when you're there. I do not enjoy seeing that your childhood home drives you to fear, and I like having to follow you through the old corridors when you sleepwalk even less. Yes, I will admit that the link is a perfect excuse for me to tell you not to come home for the holidays. I will miss you dearly of course, but try and just have a good Christmas with Harry. If what you have told me is true, he will take care of you.

Don't worry about me. I am content to stay at the Manor for now. We will work something out upon your graduation.

Love, Mother.

Harry looked up, eyebrows raised. "Where's the rest of it?"

"You don't need to read the rest of it," Draco said pointedly. "I'm only showing you that bit because-"

"Because it explains why you were being such an arse yesterday," Harry finished for him, the pieces of the puzzle slotting into place in quick and efficient succession.

Draco glared at him. "If you have to put it that way."

"So your mum doesn't actually want you to go home?" Harry said, his eyes scanning the letter again. Well, that certainly made the mood from yesterday easier to understand, and did explain why Draco got so angry when Harry suggested that they go home.

"No, she wants me to come home but doesn't think I should," Draco corrected, sounding sullen.

"She's just looking out for you," Harry said, pushing his glasses back up his nose as he looked back up. "You know that."

"Well yes," Draco said, as if he knew that it were obvious. "It just-" he stopped and reached for his coffee, shaking his head. How would you feel if you were told not to go home?

Harry's hands faltered as he went to pick up his sandwich and then drew back. He swallowed and rubbed his hands on his thighs, suddenly feeling a bit uncomfortable. There was still a side of him that Draco didn't know; he hadn't yet heard about the part of Harry's life that was linked to the Durselys.

Well, he said slowly, wondering if it were a good idea to keep talking. That happened to me every year. My foster family – they didn't like having me around. They told me to stay here every holiday.

A silence met his words and he kept his gaze resolutely downwards, fixed on his lunch that he didn't quite dare and try and pick up. He could feel a whole host of feelings ebbing through the link but for once didn't want to work out what they were.

Fuck, Draco finally said, and Harry looked up to see him looking gutted. I'm being a right selfish twat, aren't I?

Harry shrugged, his eyes flickering up to Draco's concerned grey ones. "Kind of."

Draco didn't even bother to look offended. He rubbed his hand over his mouth, slumping back and looking forlorn. "I just-" I'm sorry. I get so wrapped up in my own stuff I never bother to think about anyone else. He paused, his eyes on Harry's and looking troubled. You deserve better than that.

You do better than you think you do, Harry said, torn between wanting to hug Draco for managing to take a step back from his own worry to acknowledge Harry's, and wanting to throw a hash brown at him for being such a melodramatic git.

"Come off it," Draco finally said, now looking cross at himself. "I'm so ungrateful. At least I've got a mother."

"Hey," Harry said firmly, deciding that his own whining about his past could be postponed until Draco was in a better place to deal with it. In a small way he was relieved that now wasn't going to be the time for him to bear all about his childhood with the Dursleys. "It's okay. You didn't mean to."

Draco sighed again and reached out over the table, his palm facing upwards. Harry immediately obliged, slipping one of his hands into Draco's and feeling thankful for the gesture of reassurance that didn't involve talking. Draco wrapped his fingers around Harry's, his expression still troubled and brooding.

Your foster family weren't good to you, were they?

He sounded hesitant, as if he were crossing some invisible line for asking. Harry's initial reaction was to feel defensive, like Draco was breaking some unwritten rule by asking about the Dursleys; Harry didn't even talk to Ron and Hermione about them, after all. But maybe sharing things that weren't nice were part of the obligations of being in a relationship.

No, he finally said. They didn't like magic. Didn't like me. It's alright though, I didn't like them either. It's not like I wanted to see them and couldn't. They were horrid.

Draco was quiet; his only response was to run his thumb over Harry's. He looked thoughtful, as if he were considering something in depth.

Not all Muggles are that bad though? He finally asked, sounding tentative. Harry frowned, but quickly realised that it wasn't such a stupid question after all considering who he was talking to.

"You've not met many Muggles, have you?" he asked. Draco shook his head slowly, staring almost absent-mindedly at their joined hands.

"No."

"And I bet that you didn't get told anything nice about them?"

Draco blinked and looked up to Harry, shaking his head again. "No. All I heard was what Father said. And occasionally Severus, but he hated everyone so it wasn't really a fair representation."

"Muggles are the same as us," Harry said and shook his head as Draco raised his eyebrows in what was unmistakably mild disbelief. "No, I mean that some are nice and some aren't. It's the same with wizards; some are good, some aren't. You can't judge everybody by one example."

"I suppose," Draco said, but didn't say anything else. Harry watched him carefully, wondering if Draco actually believed him or not. It was hard to judge; after all Draco had had sixteen years under the influence of his father, and only a few weeks with Harry.

Harry had a fleeting and startling moment wondering what on earth he was doing; holding hands with the boy who had scorned him and his friends for seven years, the boy who probably had ingrained racist tendencies that weren't just going to go away. His hand twitched in Draco's, but then Draco looked up at him with a rueful smile.

"I think you're probably right."

The doubt vanished as quickly as it had appeared. Harry smiled back and squeezed Draco's hand, deciding not to verbalise or give away what he'd just been thinking. He didn't feel guilty as such; being in a relationship with Draco meant putting trust in him, and Harry had to make sure that that was something he could do, that it wouldn't all fall apart if he did decide to think about Draco's past and his flaws.

"Of course I'm right," he said, then slipped his hand out of Draco's so he could finally attack his sandwich. "Now eat up. Ten minutes before your guided tour of Gryffindor Tower."

Draco rolled his eyes. "As you wish, O chosen one."


 

"I still don't think it's a good idea," Draco said flatly, staring at the portrait hole with a small frown marring his features.

"It's fine," Harry said impatiently. "Come on."

"I don't know-"

A muffled voice interrupted them, sounding annoyed. "Will you two please make up your minds? I'm not hanging open all day whilst you two dither."

"The Fat Lady has spoken," Harry said solemnly, and then gave Draco a rather forceful nudge, making him stumble a little. "Climb."

Draco huffed but obliged, moving forwards and clambering through the portrait hole with some difficulty. "This isn't at all dignified."

Harry laughed and followed him through, the portrait snapping shut after them. He straightened up and looked to Draco, grinning at his wide eyed and speechless expression.

"Welcome to Gryffindor. You've not burst into flame so I reckon you'll be fine."

"It's so red," Draco said, wrinkling his nose in distaste as he looked around. "I've never seen so many cushions in my life."

"Well, we win the score on comfort I reckon," Harry laughed, making his way across to his usual spot by the fire. "Unless Hufflepuff is more comfortable, I've never been in."

He flopped down onto the sofa, watching and feeling amused as Draco cautiously stepped towards him, his eyes still wandering around the room. He looked wary, obviously slightly uncomfortable being in what used to be considered enemy territory. It was a little unnerving for Harry to see Draco in his common room; it had been a safe place over the years, and frankly one that he'd never expected to see a Slytherin in.

Harry lounged back on the sofa, his relaxed nature a complete contrast to Draco's tense posture. He purposely made a show of getting comfortable, toeing off his shoes and tugging a cushion under his head. Draco perched on the edge of the sofa, still looking around.

"Well, it's…there's just so much stuff in here," he said, gazing carefully around and looking very much like he was debating whether to be scornful or not. "It must be crowded when everyone's here."

"Can be," Harry said, wriggling further into the sofa. "Relax. Come on, get comfortable."

"I'm not sure how I feel about relaxing on Gryffindor furniture," Draco said, his lip curling. "It's red."

"Stop whining," Harry said, reaching out to grab hold of Draco's sleeve, tugging him closer. "I've been in a Slytherin bed, fair's fair."

"You'd have to do slightly more persuading to get me between bloody Gryffindor sheets," Draco said, raising an eyebrow but allowing Harry to pull him further onto the cushions of the sofa.

"Oh, yeah?" Harry grinned, still tugging at Draco until he was sat right at Harry's side, leaning against him with his back against Harry's side, allowing Harry to easily wrap an arm around his shoulders.

"Yes," Draco said firmly, reaching up to hold onto Harry's hand, pulling his arm a little further over his shoulder. "Lots more persuading."

"Well you don't really seem to having much trouble getting comfortable," Harry remarked as Draco kicked his shoes off and pulled his feet up onto the sofa, wriggling to get comfortable.

"Yeah, well," he drawled, shutting his eyes and tipping his head back against Harry's shoulder. "Making the best out of a bad situation. And besides, if I shut my eyes then I don't have to actually look at what you lot dare to call decor."

Harry snorted with laughter but didn't reply. He was full of food and warm and comfortable and just wanted to laze around. Draco seemed more than happy to follow suit; Harry could feel similar flickers of contentment ebbing through the link, a welcome change from the restless agitation from before.

It was nice just to sit and be, Harry thought idly. With your other half sat by your side, their warmth and scent a pleasant addition to the warmth from the fire and the vague smells of Christmas that surrounded them. The sky outside the Tower was turning grey and heavy with snow once more, but Harry didn't care. He was instead idly wondering how much persuading it would actually take for him to convince Draco to stay the night in the tower. He didn't know the unwritten rules of dating, so didn't know the appropriate amount of time to wait before you spent the night with someone. Hang on – was inviting someone stop the night with you the same as suggesting sex?

Harry moved his head slightly so his cheek brushed against Draco's hair, nuzzling against the blond strands and breathing in deeply. He wanted Draco to be with him for the night, yes, but he didn't know if he were ready for anything more.

He had been thinking about it, but he didn't know how to broach the subject with Draco, even over the link. Of the two mental pictures he'd had of him and Draco together in that way he had come to the conclusion that he liked the one of Draco beneath him more, but he didn't know if that was something Draco would be happy with.

"What are you thinking about?" Draco murmured, interrupting his musings. "Can feel something."

Harry bit back a smile. Okay, maybe Draco not knowing every time he thought about sex wouldn't be so bad.

"Nothing," he replied.

"I don't believe you," Draco drawled but he didn't pursue it any further. Harry was thankful; for now he just wanted to sit in peace and be lazy so he contented himself with smiling against Draco's hair and breathing out deeply, relaxing once more.

The rest of the day was a good one, as far as days that consisted entirely of being in the company of Draco Malfoy went. They lounged around in the Tower for the afternoon, reading and dozing and making lazy conversation when they were so inclined. They had managed to drag themselves down to the Hall for dinner after much procrastinating over having to actually get up, and then went straight back to the Tower. Harry had been surprised to see Draco follow him without comment or complaint, and amused to see his changed demeanour when they did get back; he was much less cautious, instead nosily delving around the common room, all the while keeping up a mildly disparaging commentary on Gryffindor taste.

After rejecting all the books he'd found as 'plebeian literature,' Draco had come across a chess set tucked at the back of a cabinet and insisted they play. Harry had reluctantly agreed, partly because he hoped that if Draco stayed late enough, he would agree that he might as well stay the night.

It didn't seem like keeping Draco here late would be a problem; they had been talking for hours and it didn't seem like they would be stopping anytime soon. Draco could probably out-talk Lavender Brown if the mood took him.

"The stairs actually turn into slides?" Draco asked in disbelief after listening to Harry describing the intricacies of Gryffindor Tower. "That's cruel."

Harry laughed, looking up from the chessboard that was sat between them on a low coffee table, ignoring the pieces who were clamouring for him to hurry up and make a move. "Why, what happens in Slytherin?"

"We just can't get in. We can see in, but can't step through the doorway. Blaise has tried every counter charm he can think of."

"Sounds typical for Blaise," Harry remarked, giving up on thinking strategically and moving his bishop across three diagonal spaces, much to the piece's dismay.

"Now I know you're not even trying," Draco said, immediately ordering one of his knights to take the bishop which shot Harry a reproachful look as it was dragged off of the board. "You're terrible at this."

"Yeah I know, but it keeps you happy," Harry grinned, slumping back onto the sofa and shutting his eyes. "I give in. You win."

"It'll do, but I'd prefer hearing you say that if I'd actually won properly," Draco said with a shake of his head. "Where's the patented Potter-must-win attitude?"

"Reserved for Quidditch," Harry said lazily and Draco laughed.

"Right. If you're giving up that easily I guess I should call it a night."

Harry cracked an eye open. Or you could just stay here.

Draco sat up from where he'd been lounging on a mountain of what must have been all the pillows in the common room, piled on the floor on the opposite side of the table to Harry.

"You're not serious."

"Deadly," Harry replied.

Draco eyed him carefully, his eyes narrowed slightly. Is this just because of the nightmare I had last night?

Partly, Harry said with a shrug. "The rest of the reasons are entirely selfish."

Draco half-smiled at him and then sank back onto the cushions. "Alright. But when we tell this story later can we at least pretend I argued more?"

Harry laughed, a little taken aback. "Too lazy to actually go through the motions of arguing tonight?" he asked mischievously.

"Yeah," Draco said with a shrug, and then his eyes flicked up to Harry's. And I'll confess, I'm quite curious to see how red the dormitories are.

There was something in the way that he said it that made Harry's body tingle. "Come on then," he said, trying not to completely give away how eager he was to have Draco up in his room, but probably failing considering how quickly he stood up.

Draco smirked up at him. Eager, much?

"Shut your trap," Harry replied holding out a hand to haul Draco to his feet. "You should be honoured you get to stay in the Tower, you know."

"Hardly," Draco scoffed. "You should be begging me to stay."

"How about an incarcerous and I drag you up the stairs?" Harry said pointedly, but Draco just laughed.

Kinky. Didn't know you had it in you, Potter.

Oh shut up, Harry replied, letting go of Draco's hand and feeling a flush rise in his neck. You've had your invitation, take it or leave it.

I think I'll leave it, Draco said, the challenge clear in his tone.

"I thought you were going to not argue tonight?" Harry said, exasperated.

Draco smirked again. "Don't want you thinking you can get your way all the time."

Harry rolled his eyes and set off towards the staircase, knowing that Draco would rather follow him than be left in the common room alone. He was right; he had just reached the archway when Draco huffed loudly behind him and footsteps followed him across the room.

"No need to get your wand in a knot, I was only joking."

"You were being a nuisance," Harry replied, still walking steadily up the stairs. "Keep up, our dorm's right at the top."

"Now I know why Weasley doesn't get fat despite eating his own bodyweight in food every day," Draco said. "These bloody stairs."

"Stop whining," Harry said. "And be nice."

"I'm agreeing to stay in your dorm, Scarhead, I'm all out of nice."

"God, shut up for once in your life."

The banter stopped as Harry pushed open the door to his dormitory, stepping in with Draco just behind him. It was clear which bed was his, Harry thought ruefully, even though it had been made by the house elves. A pair of shoes were abandoned next to the foot of the bed, and his coat, hat and scarf were all dumped atop the mattress. His Christmas presents from Ron and Hermione were piled haphazardly on his beside cabinet and his trunk was open at the foot of his bed, although he was pleased to be able to say that it wasn't in its usual state of disarray.

"Oh god. It's even worse up here."

Harry turned to Draco who was looking around, eyes wide. "Worse?"

"It's just all so red and gold and just...okay, you're Gryffindors. I get the point."

Harry frowned. "Your dorm is green."

"Not every available surface," Draco said as he stepped forwards, looking around. "And a circular dorm? How cosy."

"I like it," Harry said unapologetically. "You can go back to Slytherin if you want."

"Oh stop being so sensitive," Draco said, making a sudden beeline for Harry's bed and perching on the edge of it. "I'm here aren't I? Wouldn't be me if I wasn't slightly mean about it."

Harry looked at Draco for a moment and then grinned. He was right. Draco was here with him, had agreed to spending time with Harry in Gryffindor Tower without much arguing...and now he had his other half sat on his bed and why were they still bickering when they could be kissing?

Moving to sit next to Draco, Harry smiled, pushing his glasses back up his nose. I like that you're here.

Sap, Draco replied, but Harry felt the flicker of joy that ran through the link and smiled, knowing that Draco was at least happy to be by Harry's side, if completely not happy that being by Harry's side meant being in Gryffindor Tower.


 

Do you really sleepwalk when you're at the manor? Harry asked idly as he climbed into his bed, pushing the covers back and flicking his wand so all the lights except the one next to his bed extinguished. The room immediately went dim, the remaining light just enough to see by, bathing Harry's bed in a comforting glow.

Yes, Draco replied, his voice clear in Harry's head even though he were out of sight, still faffing around in the bathroom. It had taken ten minutes of sulking before Draco had consented to use the toothbrush that Harry had transfigured for him, and as such Harry was ready for bed a long while before Draco.

What's it like?

I don't know you dolt, the point is that I'm asleep.

Harry chuckled. Oh yeah.

"Mother hates it," Draco said appearing in the doorway to the bathroom, rubbing his neck and chin with a towel. He was wearing a pair of navy pyjama bottoms and a white cotton t-shirt that belonged to Harry, and his wand was held loosely in his other hand. Harry couldn't tear his eyes away from the subtle shift of muscle beneath the thin shirt or the white strip of skin that kept showing itself above the waistband of the pyjama bottoms – it almost made the twenty minute argument over the 'substandard' items of clothing worth it. As he watched him, Harry wondered whether anyone else had seen Draco like this, tousled and sleepy and unguarded. Maybe that boy had, whatever his name was. Something fierce in Harry's chest hoped not.

"I tend to wander into the old corridors," Draco said, snapping Harry's attention back to the conversation at hand. "The ones we had closed off."

"Can't you lock the doors?" Harry asked.

"Not magically. Certain enchantments won't work on parts of the Manor. It's like Hogwarts," Draco said, throwing the towel back into the bathroom onto the floor, presumably for the elves to pick up in the morning. "I did wake up in the cellar once though. I'd locked myself in somehow."

"Must have been frightening," Harry said cautiously.

Draco just shrugged, turning his face away, but Harry saw his jaw clench imperceptibly before he waved his wand to turn the light off in the bathroom. He hovered for a moment and then turned abruptly away from the door, padding towards the bed.

"Still can't believe you managed to get me into your pyjamas," he said loudly. "Have you had them since first year or something?"

Harry braced himself as Draco flung himself onto the bed, knocking Harry's leg with his elbow and making the mattress bounce. Melodramatic git, Harry thought, feeling exasperated.

"Fine. Sleep naked then. I don't care."

Draco rolled onto his side so he could glare at Harry who stared back, expression challenging.

"I'm not sleeping naked."

"Then stop whining," Harry replied, kicking at Draco's feet to try and get him to move. Draco obliged, pulling himself up into a sitting position and tossing his wand onto the bedside cabinet, before slipping his legs under the blankets.

This is weird, Draco said with a frown.

Harry laughed softly as Draco settled next to him, leaning against the headboard and pulling the blankets straight.

Everything the past few weeks has been weird.

Draco nodded in agreement, smiling ruefully. He settled down, still looking around the room from bed to bed. Harry wondered if he were trying to work out which of the beds belonged to the other individuals that Harry shared a dorm with. Normally you could easily tell, but the lack of possessions due to the holidays made it almost impossible. The only clues were the posters stuck up by the beds, but Draco wasn't to know that Seamus supported the Kestrels, or that Dean followed Muggle football as well as the Quidditch leagues.

"Can I ask you something?" Harry asked all of a sudden, deciding to take advantage of Draco's compliant mood – bickering about decent quality sleepwear and toothbrushes aside – in order to ask him something, a something that his earlier musings whilst staring at Draco had bought up.

"No."

Harry ignored him. "How come I don't see any of your dreams about that boy anymore?"

Draco elbowed him sharply. "I said no."

"Oh come on," Harry wheedled. "You used to think about him all the time. I was wondering why I hadn't seen him lately."

Draco's reaction was starling; a deep flush broke out over his cheeks and he crossed his arms tightly across his chest, looking discomfited.

"I'm not feeding your ego so drop it."

Confused, Harry opened his mouth to ask what the hell Draco meant, and then the knut dropped. A slow grin overtook his features, his happiness not even quelled by Draco's growing annoyance.

"Tell me."

"No."

"Please?" Harry asked hopefully. When he received no reply he changed tactics and instead leant over to gently breathe over Draco's ear. He was rewarded as a shiver ran through Draco's lithe frame.

Just tell me, he said, pressing his lips just behind Draco's ear. Draco's legs shifted under the blankets, moving against Harry's, and he exhaled quietly.

You know why.

Tell me, Harry coaxed, gently pulling at Draco's earlobe with his teeth. He had no idea what he was doing but it seemed to be working. Draco's annoyance was morphing into less brittle resistance, laced with growing arousal.

Draco moved his head away slightly. I'm meant to be the one that winds you up.

Tough, Harry replied, following Draco and kissing his neck. Draco's breath caught in his chest and then he groaned softly as Harry worked one of his hands under his T-shirt, running it across that strip of skin that had teased him earlier.

Trailing his fingers lower, Harry pressed them fleetingly against the growing hardness between Draco's legs, just long enough to tease.

"Tell me," he whispered.

"Fuck, alright," Draco groaned, tilting his head further to the side, a silent plea for more attention on the skin of his neck. "It's you, you bastard. Why would I think about anyone else when you're right here?"

"Good," Harry breathed, and slid his hand back down so he was cupping Draco's erection, revelling in the moan that slipped out of his mouth. "Because I only think about you, and fair's fair and all."

"Shut up about fair," Draco groaned, planting his hands either side of his body on the bed and pushing his hips forwards slightly. "Come on."

Harry swallowed a moan of his own as he watched Draco move, his mind whirling. He could oblige and toss Draco off with fumbling fingers, and have Draco reciprocate, but this time his arousal wasn't so overwhelming that he couldn't think, couldn't contemplate anything else that he might like to try.

"Draco?"

"What?" Draco glared at him as Harry pulled his hand away, reaching up to push his fringe back.

"Will you-" Harry broke off and instead leant forwards and captured Draco's mouth in a kiss.

What? Draco asked, his hand coming up to rest of the back of Harry's neck, holding him close with their foreheads touching.

I want you to-

Say it.

God. Suck me off. Like- like you did in that dream.

Draco's breath hitched again and his lips touched Harry's once more. "I suppose," he said against Harry's mouth, his voice low and rough, "that I could."

"Please," Harry said, beyond caring about his own pride, just wanting to know how it would feel to have Draco's mouth on him. He was ridiculously aroused, his whole body was aflame and then Draco was laughing and moving around to straddle Harry's knees, running his hands down his chest and kissing him slowly.

"Only," Draco said as he pushed Harry's t-shirt up to reveal his stomach, clenched tight with anticipation, and then curled his fingers around the waistband of his pyjama bottoms. "If you return the favour."

"Depends on how good of a teacher you are," Harry said breathlessly. Draco smirked at him and then shifted back more so he could lean down and press a kiss next to Harry's bellybutton. Harry bit his lip, thinking that maybe he really would like to return the favour, but Draco didn't have to know how eager he was, now did he?

He groaned as Draco kissed lower, reaching up to slip his fingers into Draco's hair without thinking. Oh god, Draco was going to go down on him, and it was going to feel amazing, he just knew it.

"You pull my hair and I'll bite you," Draco murmured and Harry hastily loosened his grip, realising he'd been unconsciously clenching his fingers in the short blond strands. "Lift up."

Obediently, Harry lifted his hips so Draco could pull his pyjama bottoms down, wincing a little as the waistband caught on the head of his prick.

"Sorry," Draco said quietly, but Harry didn't have time to marvel at Draco's apology because nimble fingers were snaking around his prick, lifting it carefully away from his body.

"Fuck." He resisted the urge to move one of his hands to clamp it over his mouth; he felt Draco's own arousal throb through the veins in time with his exclamation and realised that Draco liked the noises he made, whether he'd ever admit it or not. His head was swimming; he could feel hot breath ghosting over the head of his prick and felt it twitch in Draco's grip.

Nice, Draco said simply and then Harry's reply was lost on a cry as Draco's tongue swept firmly over the head of his cock. He forced his trembling fingers to relax as his hips shifted forwards minutely, his body moving instinctively and without permission. His hips jerked again and he moaned softly as Draco closed his mouth over the head of his prick and started to suck.

Harry couldn't watch; it was just too much. The sensations of a warm wet mouth suckling at him combined with the sight of Draco's blond head buried in his lap was almost overwhelming, and he wanted this to last as long as possible.

He shut his eyes and let his head lean back against the headboard, stroking his shaking fingers through Draco's hair and focussing on what he could feel. The cool air around them heightened the sensations of warmth from Draco's body and mouth and he had to keep himself relaxed in order to quell the urge to shove himself deeper into that wicked mouth.

Is it good?

Harry laughed breathlessly. "Oh god yes."

I can feel – you want something-

"Deeper," Harry managed to gasp, wondering how the hell Draco could manage mental communication right now. He guessed it would be a different story if Draco were the one on the receiving end.

His whole body tensed in reaction to the mental image of him sucking Draco's cock, and the sensation of Draco slowly taking him deeper into his mouth, his lips tight around Harry's prick. When he had gone as deep as he could he pulled back before plunging down again, then returning to suck harshly at the head.

Harry keened, the sound loud in the otherwise quiet room. Draco redoubled his efforts in response, twining his tongue around Harry's prick, bringing a hand up to gently stroke the base, his thumb pressing against the underside.

"You keep that – oh – you keep that up and I'll come," Harry gasped.

Good.

Harry lost himself in pleasure. There was nothing like it in the world, the way Draco sucked at him, and oh god, why hadn't he come to terms with everything sooner, because then he could have been doing this all the time. He could feel Draco's arousal steadily building as his own did, could feel how badly Draco wanted Harry to come, and he wanted – he was going to-

He didn't even have time to warn Draco before pleasure twisted its way around his spine, pooling in his groin, and then he was coming. His hands tightened in Draco's hair and his whole body tensed as he came, spilling himself down Draco's throat as he gasped and shuddered.

"Oh fuck, oh god," he managed to say as Draco extricated himself from Harry's grip and shuffled up the bed so he was sitting across Harry's thighs. He was still shuddering, the aftershocks of his orgasm almost painful in their intensity.

He felt a gentle slap across his cheek and jerked his eyes open to see Draco smirking at him, his hair ruffled from having Harry's fingers tugging at it.

"Wake up, Potty. You've got something to take care of."

Harry laughed weakly and then looked down to see Draco's prick tenting his pyjama bottoms. Looking back up to his face, he saw how flushed Draco was, his breathing deep and erratic.

"You don't have to," Draco said, reaching up and running his thumb across Harry's lips, his eyes following its path intently. "If you're having another one of your fear-of-sexual-intimacy predicaments, you can-"

His words ended in a yelp as without warning, Harry pushed them both forwards so Draco fell onto his back on the bed in awkward tangle of limbs, Harry atop him.

"Shut up, god," Harry said, and unceremoniously shoved Draco's shirt up, pressing kisses to his chest the moment he could. Fuck, Draco tasted as good as he smelt, and Harry wanted nothing more than to take Draco's prick in his mouth, to see what it tasted like and how it felt. Harry worked his way lower and Draco lifted his hips from the bed, allowing Harry to tug his pyjama bottoms down. Harry leant down, pressing a kiss to the gentle crease where Draco's thigh met his groin, feeling a shiver run through him as Draco groaned softly and reached down to gently tug at Harry's hair. God, he could almost taste Draco's arousal, the scent heady and already somewhat addictive.

"Okay?" Draco asked, his voice quiet and hesitant.

Harry looked up and his heart skipped; Draco was propped up on his elbow, looking so completely undone without Harry even having touched him yet. His free hand was reaching down to touch Harry's cheek, and he was biting his lip uncertainly.

More than okay, Harry replied and relief flickered over Draco's face. Just...tell me what to do.

Draco nodded and Harry was suddenly never more grateful for the link as he was in that moment. Draco could talk to him gently and quietly over the link, guiding him through this experience for the first time. Harry paused, wondering if he'd have been brave enough to do this is the link weren't there. Everything would feel different surely, if he couldn't directly feel Draco's emotions alongside his own? A little over a week, and he wouldn't have to wonder anymore.

He pushed the thoughts aside as Draco gave a gently encouraging tug to his hair, and instead focussed on the task at hand.

"Don't hate me if I'm bad at this," he murmured as he lifted Draco's prick away from his stomach, smiling as it jerked in his grip.

"Maybe I should reconsider if you think you'll be terrible at it," Draco replied breathlessly.

"Well," Harry conceded, grinning playfully. "Shouldn't be that terrible. I had a good teacher."

He looked up and Draco grinned in return. Their banter was soon lost as Harry threw himself headfirst into his latest sexual adventure, words replaced by gasps and sighs and breathless laughter. All the worry and stress that rested on their shoulders was forgotten as they tangled together on scarlet Gryffindor sheets, the only thought left in Harry's mind as Draco came with a cry was an idle wondering over whether there was something wrong with him considering how much he apparently enjoyed having someone's prick in his mouth.

Oh well, Harry thought lazily some time later as he pulled Draco close, their bodies sated and calm and already halfway to sleep. He'd just have to do it again in the morning, just to double check he actually liked it and all. He chuckled to himself and fell asleep with Draco pressed against him and a smile on his face.

Chapter Text

Draco swam slowly into consciousness, feeling warm and comfortable and lazy, and quite unwilling to be awake. The air on his face was chilled, a reminder of the snow that continued to fall outside the castle. He idly wondered if the grounds of Hogwarts were enchanted to bring snowy weather for Christmas; he certainly didn't see this much snow throughout the rest of the country.

At least it was warm in this damn tower. Despite all the red and gold and the surplus of furniture, it really wasn't so bad. The warmth was definitely welcome considering the weather, and the showers...Draco could go on and on about the showers. With only two of them in the dorm and not many people in the entire tower, there was plenty of warm water to go around. Draco wondered if Harry would ever stop blushing and spluttering and take his suggestion that they share a shower seriously.

He shifted and soon found a warm shoulder to rest his face against, shifting lethargically and wrapping himself around the sleeping form next to him. As he pressed his chest to Harry's back and wrapped his arm over his waist, Harry gave a sleepy grunt and tugged Draco's arm further and tighter around his middle before settling back down into slumber.

This morning was the eighth in a row that Draco had woken up wrapped in scarlet sheets and Harry's arms, and as much as he was loathe to admit it out loud, he was becoming quite used to it. He had found that he had fewer nightmares and woke up less when he was sharing a bed with Harry; the warm presence and the steady thump of a heartbeat next to his own was a comfort he'd never expected to find anywhere. He was almost daring to think that he would be able to spend a night in the Manor without sleepwalking or having nightmares, if only Harry were there with him.

Somehow he knew that the comforting presence next to him was made all the more tangible because of the link. If he awoke in the middle of the night the first thing he did was feel, to make sure Harry was sleeping and calm next to him. He brushed the thought away, feeling something prickly and tight creep up his spine. He couldn't think about that. Not today.

What he would think about instead was the glorious week that he and Harry had had together. They'd barely spent any time apart, except for that one afternoon where Draco had stormed off in a huff because Harry had hit him in the face with a snowball. He'd gone back to his dorm and sulked, waiting until Harry had resorted to pleading before deciding to walk back up to Gryffindor Tower.

The apology had been well worth it, he remembered with a smile, rubbing his cheek against Harry's shoulder. Harry had barely let him in through the portrait hole before he'd dragged him up to the dormitory and shoved him up against the door, dropping to his knees and fumbling with Draco's trousers.

Draco shivered, feeling his prick twitch at the memory. He remembered that first night when Harry had asked him to go down on him, the gasps and cries that Harry hadn't been able to keep in, the way he'd tugged at Draco's hair as if he just couldn't take anymore.

And when he'd reciprocated...he'd been clumsy but enthusiastic , and Draco had been amazed to feel the need underneath the wonder and excitement. He'd held his tongue and not commented on Harry's desperation, focusing instead on carefully guiding him through the experience, talking to him through the link as he cried and gasped out loud. That first time had seemed to take down the final wall of Harry's apprehension about sex, and afterwards they'd barely been able to keep their hands off of each other. If Draco had had any fears that that they'd be incompatible sexually, they were completely unfounded; they seemed to fit together perfectly, knowing what the other needed and wanting to please the other as much as themselves.

In hindsight, maybe the reason that they could read each other's needs and desires so easily was because of the link. It was just so easy when Draco could feel Harry's arousal alongside his own, to know what he was enjoying, which touches pushed him closer to the edge. There was no lingering doubt, no uncertainty over what they were doing, no worrying if the other was really enjoying it. You couldn't lie when the other person could feel what you did.

Draco felt a pang go through him as he again thought about the imminent removal of the link. He and Harry wouldn't be where they were now if it weren't for the link, and tomorrow it would be gone. They'd mentioned it sparingly over the past week, glossing over what they both knew was deep rooted fear with bravado and jokes. Occasionally they would both fall quiet, lost in thought, and then their contemplative gazes would meet, Harry would make a bad joke and they'd fall back into each other's arms, kissing and touching so they didn't have to think about the link anymore.

Draco suddenly felt cold. The pleasant sensations from thinking about their sexual exploits had faded, leaving nothing but twisting worry in the pit of his stomach. He couldn't just push it away like he had been doing so resolutely; today was the last day they had together with the link to keep them bound, the last day they had the link to help them through the difficult moments and the tough conversations.

How would Draco ever tell Harry that he slept better than he ever had when he fell asleep with his fingers wrapped in Harry's? How was he ever going to admit it out loud when he'd not yet managed to say it over the link? God, he had wanted to. He had wanted to the first morning he'd woken up by Harry's side and he hadn't been brave enough, and now he was out of time.

In front of him, Harry shifted, his body moving against Draco's, their toes brushing together. Always awake first, Draco would normally sense and feel Harry waking up and coax him fully awake with teasing kisses and gentle touches, driving him mad until Harry had no choice but to admit defeat and let on that he was awake, rolling over to engage in what was becoming a routine early morning groping session. Not this morning. Harry shifted again and then paused, his hesitance clearly felt through the link as he realised that this morning wasn't going to be the same as the others.

"Okay?" Harry's voice was rough with sleep as he rolled over to face Draco, blinking hard. Unable to help himself, Draco reached out and smoothed Harry's hair back from his forehead with his palm, tracing the bridge of Harry's nose with his fingertips.

"You feel sad," Harry said as Draco pulled his hand back, pulling the blankets up over his shoulder and to his chin.

It's the twenty-first.

Harry blinked again, whether because of Draco's words or because he didn't have his glasses, Draco didn't know. Nearly Christmas, he finally said.

Hot, defensive anger flickered through Draco and he rolled over, clenching his jaw tightly. That's not what I meant and you know it.

He stayed perfectly still as Harry shifted up close behind him, pressing a kiss to the back of his neck. An arm wound its way around his waist, gripping more tightly than it normally did.

I know, Harry said, and his voice was thick. Draco was alarmed to feel his own throat tightening and his eyes filling with disconcerting speed, his fear exacerbated by Harry's. This was so unfair. He just didn't know what tomorrow was going to bring. Over the past week, some strange unnamed feeling had been growing quietly and steadily in Draco's chest, a feeling that clenched and intensified when Harry was near, when Harry touched him or smiled lopsidedly in his direction. Draco was terrified that when the link was removed, the feeling would disappear with nothing to support it.

Will we cope without it?

He cursed himself the second he asked, feeling childish and pathetic. He should be stronger than this, he should be able to keep his head high and do everything with ease, but he just couldn't. He swallowed thickly, blinking hard as Harry pressed even closer.

We have to, idiot.

Draco laughed helplessly and then rolled over in Harry's arms so they were face to face again. Harry looked downcast, pensive and thoughtful, his expression much closer to that of his younger self, the Harry who still had the war resting heavily on his shoulders.

Can we – can we not just keep it? Draco asked, hearing the desperation in his own tone. We're not hurting anyone.

I can ask, Harry said, but he didn't sound hopeful.

You don't think they'll let us.

No, Harry said, his voice catching. I don't think they will. It's not supposed to be like this, is it?

Well we can just refuse to take the potion, Draco said fiercely. They can't force feed us.

Harry looked at Draco, his expression troubled. "Do you really want to stay like this? It's not natural, it's not normal."

"But it's the only thing we've got," Draco said, his voice tight, fighting to keep himself from crying. This was ridiculous; he shouldn't be getting this upset over this. He looked away from Harry, suddenly finding it too difficult to look at his eyes without his glasses on. There was something in that naked gaze, something huge and terrifying that Draco couldn't – and wouldn't – name.

"No it's not," Harry said, reaching up to cup Draco's cheek, forcing him to look back up. "Look at us. This is insane – me and you, it should never work but it does. That's something – that's not the link. All the link has done is help."

Draco didn't reply. He felt exhausted even though he'd only just woken up. "Remember when we were worrying that we wouldn't survive two months being linked together?" he said, shaking his head. "Remember?"

"Yeah," Harry said unsteadily. "I do."

He leant in and captured Draco's mouth, his breath hitching in his throat. Draco kissed him back, opening his mouth under Harry's and pulling his arms out from under Harry's so he could wrap his arms around his neck. He didn't want to lose this, to lose Harry. He'd survived a war and had been the one to end up with Harry Potter and they couldn't just take that away from him now-

The blankets twisted around them as Harry pushed gently at Draco's waist, rolling them over so Draco was underneath him. Draco looked up hesitantly into Harry's face, shivering as Harry's eyes flickered over his face, his expression earnest.

We'll be fine, Harry said and it sounded like a promise.

Draco nodded and kissed him again, holding on tightly enough to leave fingerprints over Harry's body.

I just... he shook his head.

Harry didn't reply straight away. He moved down slightly, resting his head against Draco's collarbone, his hand next to his face and splayed out over Draco's chest, his fingers warm on his skin.

I'm going to go and see McGonagall.

Draco frowned at him, confused. Why?

Just to check what time we need to be there tomorrow, Harry said, but his tone was vague and evasive. He sat up, reaching for his glasses. Draco sat up too, pulling the blankets around his waist, feeling helpless and lost. He watched as Harry reached for his clothes, tugging them on haphazardly. His jaw was set in a resolute expression that Draco had seen on him before.

"Harry," he said quietly as Harry shoved his feet into his trainers, grabbing his wand from the nightstand and slipping it into his pocket. He looked up and Draco's shoulders slumped as he realised there was nothing he could say. He could feel the turbulence within Harry and didn't blame him for wanting to get away for a while.

"Don't be too long," he finally said, his voice quiet.

Nodding, Harry leant across the bed and kissed him hard. "I'll be right back," he whispered and then he was gone, clattering down the stairs and out of sight.

Draco didn't lay back down. He drew the blankets around him, shivering and feeling very much out of place beneath the scarlet sheets. It was okay when he was here with Harry but alone he felt like an interloper.

It was just so twisted, really, that Draco now felt like he belonged at the side of Harry Potter. He threw himself back onto the bed, rubbing at his face hard with his hands and trying to stop himself over-thinking. Maybe the universe was giving him a chance to make amends by putting him at Harry's side. Draco didn't trust divination, but he suddenly somehow felt deep down that there was a reason that all this had happened, there just had to be.

Rolling over, he pulled Harry's pillow close and buried his face in it, waiting anxiously for Harry to return.


 

"Hello, Harry. I did wonder if I might see you today."

Harry stepped quietly into the Headmistresses office, his hands in his pockets and his shoulders slumped. He didn't reply to her greeting; he just walked over to where McGonagall was sat, not at her desk, but at a small round table near the window. Two comfy armchairs were next to the table and as Harry approached she carefully poured out two cups of tea into willow patterned mugs.

"Am I intruding?" Harry asked quietly, all of a sudden feeling a lot older than he really was.

"Not at all," McGonagall said, and with a flick of her wand the chair opposite hers gently slid back, a clear invitation for Harry to sit down. He did so gratefully, sinking into the soft chair, quiet and withdrawn. He stared out of the window, still managing to appreciate the beauty of the view over the lake and the Forbidden Forest on the far shore.

"I hope you are having a good holiday, as far as circumstances allow," McGonagall said and she pushed a cup of tea across the table towards him. "I was a little surprised when one of the portraits in the South Corridor told me that the Fat Lady had admitted Draco to Gryffindor Tower."

Harry smiled fleetingly and nodded in conformation.

"And I assume he has stayed in the Tower with you since?"

Harry nodded, reaching out for the mug of tea to give his hands something to do. He faltered as something occurred to him.

"Is that against the rules?" he asked, colouring slightly. "It's not like I broke any enchantments to get him in."

"No, no rules have been broken," McGonagall said. "I think the castle is rather outdated in some of its defences, at least."

Harry snorted tiredly. "No contingency plan for blokes smuggling other blokes into the dormitories?"

McGonagall pursed her lips. "Quite. At any rate, I think these days some of the boys have more to fear from the girls trying to get into their dormitories. Girls were never quite so forwards when the enchantments were created."

Harry smiled again but it faded quickly. He was here for a purpose and to seek some advice, but it was hard to verbalise his thoughts. God, life would be so much easier if everyone were mentally linked, so no-one had to put words out there in the air to be heard by all.

"I wanted to talk about the link."

The words seemed too loud in the quietness of the room, the silence only broken by the soft ticking of a clock somewhere and the crackle of the fire. McGonagall nodded and set her cup down, looking serious.

"And what about it?"

"Well," Harry began uncertainly. "Me and Draco talked. We – well, he wanted to know if there's any way we can keep the link."

McGonagall looked at him, her expression serious. "You would really want to keep the link?"

"Well, a part of me would maybe like to see how everything worked without it," Harry admitted. "I mean, I've had to share my mind with someone forever, and I dunno. It'd be nice to have it to myself for a bit." He stopped, shaking his head.

"You don't sound convinced," McGonagall remarked.

He sighed. "Well, we wouldn't be where we are now without it."

"And Draco definitely wants to keep the link?"

Harry nodded, staring down at the table. "He's terrified of having to do without it, I can tell. There's so much he doesn't dare say to my face, and he's convinced himself that all this is just because of the link. It's not, I know it's not, but when he makes up his mind, it's pretty hard to change it."

"Harry, I'm sorry," McGonagall said, and her unnaturally gentle tone made Harry's heart clench. "I'm sorry that you've been so worried about this, and I should have told you sooner. According to the Ministry, a permanent mental bond as such isn't actually legal. It's not certified, not performed by a registered specialist, and it wasn't done with consent."

Harry slumped back into his chair, unsure as to whether he felt completely deflated or relieved. The matter had effectively been taken out of their hands, and that meant that the link would be gone tomorrow afternoon whether they liked it or not.

"And even if we don't consider the legal aspects," McGonagall continued. "I don't think it's healthy for you two to be so dependent on the link to make your relationship work."

Harry nodded dumbly, drinking more of his tea so he didn't have to reply. It felt like the bottom had just fallen out of his world. The loss of the link suddenly seems so real and threatening and unstoppable, not just a vague problem that they might have to face. A wave of torment flickered through the link and Harry had to shut his eyes for a moment as he realised that Draco had felt his own turmoil loud and clear. He set his drink down, rubbing at his face.

Draco was going to be crushed.

"Oh," he finally said, trying to inject some confidence into his voice so it didn't waver. "Well I guess that's that problem solved."

Silence fell again. Harry looked back out of the window, watching flakes of snow gently flutter past the window panes. He thought that maybe he would feel relieved that the link would be gone, but he could only feel as such if Draco were going to be brave enough to work at their relationship without it.

"For what it's worth you've managed remarkably well in this situation," McGonagall said after a long while. "Trust yourself, Harry. I think you're right. There's more to you and Draco than just a broken Legilimency link."

Harry nodded again but words failed him. He gestured to the door, opening and shutting his mouth uselessly, wishing his throat didn't feel so tight.

"I will see you tomorrow. Be here at noon," McGonagall said quietly and Harry fled the room without looking back, moving as quickly as he could without actually running. When the staircase finally lowered him to the corridor below the Headmistress's office he did run, sprinting all the way back to Gryffindor tower, not wanting to think, not wanting to feel anything. He hurtled up the stairs to his dormitory and then came to a halt in the doorway, leaning on the doorframe and breathing heavily.

Draco was still in Harry's bed, sitting up with the covers pooled around his waist. He was pale, almost too pale really, and his hair was mussed and ruffled from a night's sleep and Harry's fingers. The red covers draped over his legs seemed shockingly red in comparison to his complexion, and despite the look of worry on his features he was the most gorgeous thing Harry had ever seen.

Harry made himself move and walked across the room to clamber onto his bed, pulling Draco roughly up close. Draco didn't protest; he shuffled around so he was pressed as close to Harry as he could get, his face pressed into Harry's shoulder and his arms tight around his waist.

"I asked," Harry said, his voice wavering. "About keeping the link."

Draco tensed in his arms and Harry swallowed thickly. "We're not allowed to keep it. It's not legal to have a permanent link like this."

"Not legal?" Draco asked, sounding confused and angry. He pulled back to study Harry's face, as if he couldn't already tell when Harry was lying through the link anyway.

"No. Semi-permanent links have to be done by a registered Ministry person, not Neville," Harry said, with a feeble attempt at humour.

"Fucking Longbottom," Draco said bitterly, burying his face back into Harry's shoulder, but Harry knew full well that he didn't meant it. If it weren't for Neville they wouldn't have the link in the first place, and they couldn't really blame Neville for not being a Ministry approved Legilimency expert.

Harry held onto him tightly and then gently leant back, pushing Draco's face away from his shoulder and kissing him before Draco could complain. Draco kissed him back, his fingers curling around Harry's waist and pulling him back down onto the bed. Harry was grateful for the distraction; kissing Draco was simple and easy and good enough to make him believe that everything would be alright.


 

"It's remarkable, really, that potions can affect the mind as such. People used to think that Legilimency was only affected by wandwork, that was until Hector Hodsworth decided to experiment with moonstones and Aracaria flowers. The only problem really is the time it takes to brew, two full moon cycles with an illegal Legilimency bond must have been very distracting. I have used the updated recommendation to the potion, so hopefully all you'll feel is slight dizziness as you take it, that's down to the Moondew in it…"

Harry wasn't listening to any of Slughorn's babbling about the potion that was currently being ladled into a small goblet and placed on the table in front of him. He didn't care about the properties of the ingredients, or what it was that made the potion twist and shimmer like a memory in a Pensieve. All he could care about was the turmoil he could feel washing through the link, the trembling of the boy who stood at his side.

A second goblet was placed beside the first and Harry felt Draco twitch next to him. He swallowed thickly and reached out to slip his fingers through Draco's, the gesture hidden under the table. Draco's fingers stayed lax for a moment and then he seemed to collect himself, squeezing Harry's hand tightly.

"If you would like to drink the potion, it is ready when you are," McGonagall said from behind them, her tone crisp and efficient. Harry nodded and reached out with his free hand to pick up the goblet closest to him. He could feel Draco's anger and frustration and reluctance even as Draco followed suit a second later, picking up his goblet. He swore he could almost hear Draco thinking about refusing, wanting to throw the goblet to the floor and be done with it. Although he didn't know what would happen if only he drank the potion, and he prayed that Draco would go through with it; he didn't want to betray Draco by being the only one to drink.

He looked over helplessly to see Draco had turned slightly and was staring at him, his eyes bright. The fear and turmoil in his mind grew in strength as their eyes met.

"It'll be alright," he said, his voice low and rough.

Draco's jaw clenched and he nodded, and raised the goblet to Harry in a derisive toast, his throat moving as he swallowed thickly.

Harry raised his own goblet, his eyes still fixed on Draco's, clinging onto his fingers so tightly he was probably hurting him. They both paused, goblets inches from their mouths and then Draco's expression flittered towards defiant before his face shuttered; he looked away and then he necked the potion in one, tossing the goblet carelessly back onto the table and wiping his mouth on the back of his hand.

Trembling, Harry followed suit.

It didn't taste bad. It didn't really taste of much, but that was the least of Harry's worries. His head started to spin and he was feeling lightheaded, blinking hard to try and keep the room in focus. He held tightly onto Draco's hand as another that belonged to someone else settled on his shoulder to steady him as white light swelled in his mind and over his eyes, glittering and swirling around them, blurring out everything around him-

It faded as quickly as it had appeared. Blinking, Harry looked around the dimly lit dungeon room, breathing shallowly, and then he looked over to Draco, who was staring at him and looking like he was about to be sick.

He couldn't feel anything.

No fear, no anger, no joy, no steady thump of a heartbeat that he hadn't realised had been beating alongside his own. He wanted to ask Draco if he felt the same but the window that had been in his mind had disappeared, leaving a heavy weight of nothingness where it had once existed. It wasn't just in his mind that there felt to be something missing; his whole body felt too light and fragile without the added layer of Draco's thoughts and emotions to wrap himself up in.

Draco made to pull his hand back but Harry just gripped it tighter. Draco jerked back again but Harry yanked him back, shaking his head tersely as Draco looked up in angry uncertainty. He wanted to tell Draco not to let go over the link but he couldn't, so settled for gripping on so tightly that Draco's knuckles went white.

"How does it feel?" McGonagall's voice broke through their moment of silent communication.

"It's gone," Harry said, his voice sounding hollow to his own ears. "Feels – feels like it did before."

McGonagall nodded. "Draco?"

Draco flinched almost imperceptibly at the sound of her voice and then nodded. "It's gone."

"You may go," McGonagall said. "If you feel any untoward effects in the next few days, go straight to Madam Pomfrey."

Harry nodded and turned towards the door, pulling Draco with him. They walked quickly and quietly, still hand in hand, neither daring to speak out loud. Harry kept wanting to shake his head violently to clear the odd sensation he'd been left with, but he knew there was nothing there. That was the problem – there wasn't anything there anymore.

They walked a little way along the corridor and then Draco's steps faltered and slowed. Harry stopped with him and reached out to grip onto his sleeve with his free hand as Draco looked down at their feet and raised his other hand to rub at his eyes with his knuckles.

"It feels-" he began but broke off, shaking his head.

"Feels wrong," Harry whispered and Draco nodded.

"Feels wrong not to have you in my head," he said bitterly, and Harry didn't need the link to know that he was close to tears. "This isn't fair."

"Nothing is," Harry said and he moved his hands to cup Draco's face, tilting his head up so he could kiss him. Draco kissed him back quietly but desperately, his fingers digging into Harry's arms and his breath catching in his chest as he tried to keep his tears at bay. It still felt brilliant, Harry still had the giddy feeling of butterflies that rose up in his chest every time he kissed Draco, but it still felt strange without Draco's emotions alongside his own.

Despite the fact he were as close to Draco as it were possible to get, he felt strangely lonely and almost like he'd been abandoned. He kissed Draco fiercely to distract himself from the tears threatening behind his closed eyelids, his heart breaking at the thought of Draco feeling the same way that he did.

Chapter Text

The trip back up to Gryffindor Tower was the longest of Harry's life. Yes, he still had Draco by his side, following Harry without complaint or argument, but something still didn't feel right. The silence that they used to be able to share now felt strained and uncomfortable, knowing that there would be no possibility of quiet words over the link to break it.

He felt like he were missing a limb. He hadn't realised just how much a part of him Draco had become; it wasn't just his mind that now felt too empty but every part of him. Even his bloody toes missed Draco.

It surprised him just how potent the physical affects were, alongside the mental ones. It was almost like a layer of clothing that he'd been wearing day in and day out had been stolen away from him, leaving him cold and unprotected. God, he and Draco really had been wrapped up in the link together, more than he'd truly realised.

It was ridiculous really, how Harry was loathe to let go of Draco's hand even to let him through the portrait hole as they reached it. It was like he now needed the physical connection with him to make up for the loss of the mental one. Draco didn't seem to mind; the moment they were through the portrait hole he reached out for Harry's hand again, threading their fingers together and then holding on with his other hand for good measure as well.

He wouldn't look at Harry though; he kept his eyes averted and down towards the floor as they crossed the common room and traversed the staircase up to the dormitory. He seemed so closed off; Harry was used to Draco schooling his features into indifference but before he could always tell what was going on underneath, and now he could only guess. Harry was tempted to shake him or shout at him to make him meet his eyes, to make Draco show something on the surface, but he held himself back. The whole atmosphere was brittle and strained and he somehow knew that aggression would only make it worse.

After shutting the door to the dormitory, he shook his hands out of Draco's grip in order to pull his jumper off. Uncaring, he threw it onto the floor and then moved over to sit on the edge of his bed, reaching out expectantly with both hands. Draco's eyes flickered up, and then he slowly moved forwards to cross the space between them and slip his hands into Harry's.

"Stay," Harry said, his voice hoarse, and Draco nodded. Harry moved his legs apart and pulled him forwards so Draco was standing between his knees. Harry slid his hands onto Draco's hips and leant forwards, pressing his cheek to Draco's stomach, shutting his eyes and feeling exhausted. After a moment, long fingers came up to thread through Harry's hair, gently pulling and tugging.

The silence felt less oppressive the closer they were together. When they were touching like this Harry didn't feel like he had to talk so the weight of the missing link seemed to lessen.

Draco trailed his fingers gently down the back of Harry's neck and then back up over his ear before threading back through his hair. Harry swallowed thickly and his fingers tightened on Draco's hips, wanting him to stay in the comforting position a little longer but not wanting to seem weak by asking out loud.

Draco didn't utter a word of complaint; he just stood still and carried on carding his fingers through Harry's hair, occasionally touching his neck and face with gentle fingers. He carried on for what felt like hours, until Harry felt strong enough to move his face away from Draco's body, wordlessly pulling Draco into his bed so they could hold each other.

"Don't go," he said as Draco settled down next to him, watching Harry with careful eyes.

Draco snorted tiredly, but when he spoke his words were subdued. "You're not coming across as very heroic."

Harry laughed quietly and rolled over, pushing Draco back so he was half draped over him. Draco made a noise of protest in his throat but then relaxed under Harry's weight, wriggling to get comfortable before settling down with his arms looped loosely around Harry's body, his hands resting in the small of his back.

"I keep wanting to talk to you-" Harry broke off, shaking his head. "It's frustrating."

Draco nodded. "I -" he began, and broke off, clearing his throat. "I keep thinking I don't have to say anything. Because you normally know how I'm feeling. But you can't anymore."

"I'm not completely hopeless," Harry said. "I can tell by looking at you."

"Sometimes I lie," Draco said, his voice low. His countenance was distressed, his eyes flickering back and forth with his conflicting thoughts. "You always knew-"

Harry squeezed him to stop him talking. "It'll be alright. Stop worrying."

"You're worrying, too," Draco argued. "Don't you start lying as well."

Harry laughed shortly and shifted around, settling as Draco ran a hand up and down his back. He curled his fingers around the neck of Draco's jumper, pulling it down slightly so he could see skin. He could see the gentle flutter of Draco's pulse on the side of his neck, and he ran his fingertips over it, feeling a rush of something fierce and protective run through him as he did.

Draco couldn't leave now. He just couldn't. Harry hadn't been fooled by Draco's bravado as they'd taken the potion in the slightest; he knew how scared and uncertain he was. It was strange in a way that at first he'd felt vulnerable because Draco had been privy to his thoughts and feelings, and then it had grown into a vulnerability because of the link and everything they shared over it, and now they felt vulnerable because the link had gone and they were alone.

They would get through this. It would be hard, but as long as they were both willing, they could manage it, right? If Ron and Hermione could make being together work after seven years of dancing around each other then Harry and Draco should make it seem like a walk in the park. They would just have to take it one day at a time.

"Feels like I'm missing an arm or a leg," Harry murmured, shutting his eyes and breathing out deeply, nuzzling his cheek against Draco's collarbone.

Draco was quiet for a long time, and when he spoke Harry barely heard the quiet words. "Feels like I'm missing a lot more than that."


 

Draco's body jolted and his eyes snapped open in the dark. He drew in a deep shuddering breath and reached out instinctively to find Harry through the link, only to remember that he couldn't. Of course he fucking couldn't; they'd had the link removed earlier that day and it still didn't feel right. He bit back his frustration and rolled over, reaching out for Harry physically instead. His fingertips quickly found warm skin and he shifted forwards, pressing his chest to Harry's back and slipping his arm around his waist. Harry slept on, oblivious to Draco's discomfort and restlessness.

He'd been awoken by yet another dream, and he was still feeling prickly and defensive in the aftermath. He'd dreamt that he had been standing in the gardens of the Manor with all of his friends around him, and in his hands were threads of wool, a single strand connecting him to each of the people standing around him. His father had been there and he'd been cutting the threads one by one, and as he did the people disappeared. Pansy, Theo, Greg, Vince, his Mother, Snape, all vanishing into nothingness until there was only one thread left, a long green thread that led straight to Harry's hands. He was standing still, smiling quietly at Draco with his hair a mess and his glasses lopsided on his face. Draco could only watch as his father walked up to the thread, his lip curled in disgust, before he touched his wand to the thread and it broke, Harry vanishing along with it.

Draco shivered, not liking the implications of the dream one bit. Even with the warm body pressed against his, he couldn't help but feel alone. It was stupid, really. He was eighteen and had survived a war and had managed to end up with Harry Potter, but he still felt like crying just because he didn't have a Legilimency link to bond him to his bloody boyfriend anymore.

The link had been instrumental in everything they'd been through. The slow progress they'd made had all been because of the link, and now it was gone. Draco wasn't an idiot; he knew full well he wasn't good at speaking out loud about his feelings or emotions. He got tangled up and confused, and got angry at the wrong things and lashed out at other people, often forgetting what it was he was upset about in the first place.

How would Harry ever know what it was that was truly bothering him if he couldn't feel what Draco did? Draco had tried to be truthful with others before; he honestly wanted things to be simple but it just wasn't in his nature. And the horrible paradox was that the more he got upset about how twisted everything had become the deeper he hid his true feelings, thus making it all so much worse.

Harry didn't stand a chance.

Draco pressed his mouth to the back of Harry's neck, breathing in the now familiar scent of his skin. God, how had he ever thought that all it was between them was stolen kisses? It was more, it was so much more and that was too much for Draco to handle without the link there to help.

He tightened his arm around Harry's middle and kissed the back of his neck again with trembling lips, the movement more deliberate this time. He wanted Harry to wake up, to roll over and hold Draco tight and tell him it would be okay. He knew that Harry would comfort him in a heartbeat if he told him about the dream or asked for help, but he couldn't bear to say it out loud. He knew he was weak, but he didn't want Harry to think so too.

He kissed him again, shifting his body against Harry's and finally felt Harry move in return. His legs shifted lethargically against Draco's and he sighed quietly. Draco pulled his arm back so his hand ran across Harry's waist and settled on his hip, his fingers digging in slightly.

"Can't sleep?" Harry mumbled, his voice thick with slumber. Draco replied by leaning up slightly and kissing the side of Harry's neck, eliciting a sleepy groan from Harry's lips. Almost unconsciously, his hand moved around Harry's hip, his long fingers trailing over his abdomen.

A yearning desperation was growing inside Draco's chest. He wanted Harry so badly, wanted him as close as he could get him. He needed it, needed it like he needed the link back, had to have Harry's heartbeat back alongside his own again.

He moved back and pulled Harry with him, his hands tugging at Harry's limbs until Harry obliged and rolled over. Draco dragged Harry on top of him, hooking his legs around Harry's so that he couldn't move away, pressing them chest to chest so he could feel Harry's heartbeat thudding softly against his sternum.

Something must have shown on his face that Harry understood because Harry just nodded fractionally, moving his hands to push Draco's hair away from his face, resting his weight on his elbows either side of Draco's shoulders.

"I can't-" Draco broke off, feeling tears stinging his eyes. He wanted to tell Harry everything he was feeling, all his fears and insecurities but he just couldn't bring himself to do it.

"I know," Harry whispered and then he leant down to press his mouth to Draco's. Draco's heart skipped in his chest and he pulled his arms up from his sides to wrap around Harry's neck.

They kissed clumsily and desperately, holding onto each other tightly, and Draco couldn't help but notice that it felt so different. He couldn't sense Harry's arousal alongside his own which made it all feel not exactly emptier, but somewhat more controlled, without their arousal feeding one others and whipping everything into a frenzy. Now he wasn't blinded by lust and emotions, Draco could sense other things that he'd missed before – the subtle feel and every slight movement of Harry's fingertips against his skin, the gentle whisper of Harry's breath across his face, the small noises that Harry made as they kissed. It was as if his other senses had been freed to take account of the moment more instead of being swept along in sensation, but that still didn't entirely make up for the loss of the link.

Arousal was building inside Draco's body, the kisses familiar and filling him with anticipation. At least Draco didn't need the link to tell him that Harry wanted him too; Harry's mouth, hands and body communicated his desire perfectly. God, he definitely didn't need the link to tell him; he gasped into his mouth as Harry shifted his hips and he felt Harry's erection nudging against the inside of his thigh and then higher as Draco moved in response.

Yes, he thought desperately, wishing that Harry could hear him. Do it, please.

Harry's breath hitched as if he'd heard Draco's plea, when in reality it was probably down to the way Draco rolled his hips underneath Harry's. Draco felt heat flood his face; the desire to have Harry take him was overwhelming and almost embarrassing to feel. He'd spent so long telling himself that to want to be in this position was weak and shameful, and the one time he'd actually done it he'd been cut up between humiliation and the brilliance of how it had felt.

He wanted it so badly he could almost taste it. He turned his head to the side as Harry pressed hot-open mouthed kisses along the side of his neck, hitching one of his legs up around Harry's waist in a silent request for more.

God, two little words and Harry would, Draco knew he'd do it. All he had to do was admit it and ask out loud, and then Harry would do it and they'd be bonded together in a way that didn't rely on the stupid link-

He opened his mouth, willing himself to just say it, to just ask Harry to fuck him and take him so they'd be as close together as humanly possible-

He shut his mouth and closed his eyes, a tear forced from beneath his closed eyelids and running down his face into his hair. He turned his head again, seeking out Harry's mouth with his once more, internally cursing his own cowardice and praying that Harry would just do it anyway without Draco having to ask.

Harry kissed him hard and then shifted lower, kissing the hollow between Draco's collarbones. Draco let his head fall back onto the pillows and let his legs relax, unsure as to whether he felt relieved or disappointed. He swallowed thickly as Harry kissed lower and lower, suddenly thankful that Harry couldn't feel his turbulent emotions. However, if Harry could feel them he'd have understood what Draco needed-

He pushed the thoughts away and concentrated on the feelings of Harry's mouth and hands on him. It felt strange, and he was acutely aware of the slight tremble of Harry's fingers and the way his breath caught in his throat every now and again. It seemed he wasn't the only one feeling scared and uncertain after all.

Harry's hands settled at the top of his thighs and he drew in a sharp breath as Harry's mouth closed around the head of his prick. The spike of arousal he anticipated feeling from Harry never came, but he felt the way Harry's fingers tightened on his skin and the moan he gave regardless.

God, it felt amazing. So simple but so achingly perfect, the way Harry sucked at him, his hands gently massaging the very tops of his thighs. His thumbs were curled around Draco's legs far enough so that they settled in the crease of his groin, and the flare of need ran through him again, wishing that Harry was inside of him, needing it in a way that he didn't want to understand.

His heart was pounding and his skin was tingling. He wasn't going to last; he was wound so tightly that his whole body was soon hovering on the edge. Harry seemed to sense it; he gripped Draco's thigh tighter with one hand and moved the other up to wrap around the base of Draco's prick, his tongue swirling around the head before sucking harshly.

Spine arching and hands fisting in Harry's hair, Draco came. He spilled himself down Harry's throat with a cry, letting Harry nuzzle and lick at him until he were too over-sensitive to stand any more attention.

"God, you-" Harry said, his voice raw and scratchy as he climbed back up the bed. "Amazing."

Draco felt hot tears threaten at the compliment, feeling vulnerable and loved, the feeling conflicting with the ever-present loneliness caused by the removal of the link. He could feel the warmth of Harry's body in contrast to the cold air as Harry lifted one of his knees, ready to move from atop Draco and settle back down at his side. Draco shook his head and reached to grab hold of Harry's hips, keeping him in place, straddled over Draco's body.

"What?" Harry asked, sounding uncertain.

Draco replied by reaching down to curl his fingers around Harry's prick. Harry gasped and then shifted, his hips jerking back and forth as he pushed himself into Draco's hand.

"I won't-" Harry managed to say, his chest heaving with his breath. "I won't last."

Draco didn't pause, he just wanked Harry harder, gritting his teeth as his wrist protested the awkward angle. Thank fuck for being ambidextrous, he thought wildly as he switched hands seamlessly, able to grip harder with his left hand and making Harry keen. God he wanted Harry to come, he wanted him to fall apart and come all over him, and never think of anything but Draco-

He shifted down the bed and reached down with his free hand, rolling Harry's balls in his palm. It was all it took; Harry gave a strangled shout and then Draco felt warm wetness spatter over his stomach and chest.

"Fuck," Harry gasped, his arms shaking violently. Draco moved his arms out of the way as Harry collapsed down ontop of him, not caring a bit about the mess as he wrapped his arms around Harry's neck and pressed kisses all over his face.

"God, you and those hands," Harry said, his voice uneven, returning Draco's kisses when they landed close enough to his mouth.

Draco didn't reply. He just kissed Harry over and over, not wanting to stop, wanting to carry on and do it all again for the brief respite from grief that it gave him. When he and Harry were like this, wrapped up together, touching and kissing, they felt close enough so that the missing link didn't matter.

Draco's kisses slowed and then stopped. Harry buried his face in Draco's shoulder, breathing unevenly, and he missed the way Draco's jaw clenched and he blinked hard, fighting more tears.

It wasn't enough.

Sex wasn't going to be enough to get them through the conversations they could no longer have. They couldn't resort to touching each other every time they got too scared to say anything aloud. It had barely been two minutes but Draco was already feeling alone and unwanted again, empty and scared even though Harry were still there next to him.

Digging under the pillow for his wand, he pulled it out and muttered a cleaning charm over them both. Harry made a noise of approval and nuzzled at Draco's shoulder, already halfway to sleep. It was just how it had been for the past week, waking each other up for midnight groping sessions, but it wasn't the same.

Anger was the main thing Draco could feel; anger at himself for not being able to vocalise his neither his fears nor his desires. It should have been so easy, just to whisper a few simple words, so why couldn't he do it?

He was hopeless. He couldn't even suggest that to Harry, so how was he meant to talk about the big things that they'd not quite managed to reach yet? How was he supposed to do right by Harry when he couldn't tell what he was feeling? As bad as Draco was at being stubborn, Harry also had a reputation for being obstinate so how would they be able to navigate one another without the link?

Draco was afraid. Deep down in his heart he knew all his worries were trifles compared to the one thing that really made his heart falter.

What if Harry changed his mind about liking Draco?

With the link he was assured of Harry's feelings for him, sensing his arousal and affection and delight at being with Draco. Even when they bickered he had still been able to feel a thread of something strong yet unnamed connecting them both. But now, he didn't know. He was left to the demons of insecurity and dependence on the word of another. After having years of people lie to him and feed him whispers that led him astray, he didn't know if he could trust Harry to always be there with him.

The thought of Harry leaving him without any warning made him feel ill. Without the link he wouldn't be able to sense problems before they arrived, he would be unprepared and humiliated.

"Sleep," Harry murmured, breaking Draco's thoughts. "We'll talk in the morning."

Draco nodded jerkily and obediently shut his eyes. He breathed in and out deeply and held Harry tightly to him, wishing that everything were simple, and wishing that he were brave enough to make everything right.


 

When Harry woke up the next morning, he felt disorientated and alone. He immediately tried to push the feelings away, determined to make a more positive start to the day; if he remained upbeat and strong then hopefully he could show Draco that everything would be alright. Still fogged by sleep, his initial reaction was to feel through the link to check if Draco were still asleep or not – but then he remembered that he couldn't. He swore softly and then rolled over, reaching out to try and find Draco with his hands.

His hand slid across warm bed sheets and his brow furrowed as he reached further and further, his fingertips finding nothing. Feeling a horrible sense of foreboding in the pit of his stomach, he opened his eyes and then he sat up wildly, realising that he was alone.

The bed was empty, and there was no sign of Draco in the room at all.

"Draco?"

His shout reverberated through the air and when the only reply he received was more silence, he swore again and climbed out of the bed, scrambling for his clothes. He darted over to check the bathroom, almost tripping over as he simultaneously tried to do up his trousers. That room was just as empty as the rest of the dormitory, and Harry gritted his teeth as he saw Draco's transfigured toothbrush still sitting next to his in a pot near the sink.

"Where the fuck are you?"

Frustration rolled through him as he tried once again to reach out to Draco through the link, the attempt reduced to nothing more than thoughts in his own brain. Fuck! He couldn't even sense Draco, to know how he was feeling to try and guess why he'd run off before Harry had woken.

Apprehension grew in the pit of his stomach as he shoved his feet in his shoes and then legged it out of the dormitory. Draco was probably in the Slytherin dormitory moping around feeling sorry for himself, that was all. Harry's jaw clenched; this wasn't easy on either of them, so why did Draco get to be the one to have the mental breakdown? They could get through this, if the prat just stopped being so pessimistic-

Harry clambered through the portrait hole in such haste he tumbled out the other side and nearly careered into a figure that was standing in the corridor not three feet away from the Fat Lady, apparently about to enter the Tower. He straightened up, feeling flustered.

"Shit! I mean- sorry Professor! I was just…"

The words died on his tongue as he took in McGonagall's grave expression. She was looking at him with a mixture of apologetic regret and sadness, and Harry's shoulders tensed.

"What? What's happened?"

"I'm sorry, Harry," she said, and then paused for a moment before sighing and continuing to speak. "Draco has gone home."

Harry stared at her, unable to process the words he'd just heard, unable to even think. His ears were ringing and a dead weight seemed to be settling over his chest, a weight that was edged in disbelief and growing panic. It was like a punch to the gut, a disaster that he should have seen coming and done more to avoid.

"What?" he finally managed to say. Behind him, he could hear several of the portraits whispering behind him, but he ignored them. "He's gone – back to the Manor?"

McGonagall nodded. "I tried to dissuade him, or at least discuss this with you first. He wasn't in a mood to be reasoned with, and was adamant that he had to return home. He was very distressed, so I had no choice but to let him go."

Harry stared at her, hoping for a contradiction, praying that this was all some stupid joke or elaborate trick that Draco had decided to pull. When none came, he stepped back, shaking his head and feeling torn between laughing, crying and punching the nearest wall.

Draco had left. He had actually gotten up and left, knowing full well that Harry would be alone, and he'd not explained or even said goodbye. "How did he even get home?" he asked, the question as much a muttered wondering rather than an address to the Headmistress.

"The floo in my office," McGonagall replied quietly.

Swallowing thickly, Harry nodded, feeling dazed and lost. Draco was gone, and now he was completely alone. Not just alone mentally, but physically as well. The castle suddenly seemed huge and empty, knowing that there were no-one he could turn to.

His sense of loss quickly morphed into anger. Draco was a coward, a complete fucking coward who was only thinking of himself, as usual. God, Harry felt like such an idiot – he genuinely thought that Draco had been learning to think about them as a pair, together, but apparently not. He'd gotten scared and had run away to mummy instead of bloody talking to Harry about it. For fucks sake, he'd not even given it a full day and he'd run away-

"Harry?"

He jerked his head up, realising he'd been silent for far too long. He looked into McGonagall's sombre face and nodded, clenching his jaw tightly as he made up his mind.

He wasn't going to go running around after Draco this time. If Draco was expecting him to follow he had another thing coming; Harry wasn't going to chase anyone who abandoned him without a word, and he certainly wasn't going to be stepping foot inside Malfoy fucking Manor.

Yes, he knew Draco still had a streak of cowardice within him, but this was too far.

"I think," he finally said heavily, rubbing his face, "I need to use your floo, Headmistress."


 

Grimmauld place was cold and quiet and still didn't feel quite like home despite having been thoroughly cleaned and refurbished months previously. Even though the new decoration and furniture had made the house undeniably more welcoming, to Harry it now felt as oppressive as it had ever done. He stood in the living room, his bags by his feet, now unsure as to what to do. He could hear the soft ticking of the clock on the wall and the wind outside making tree branches tap gently against the window.

He looked around dispiritedly, seeing nothing that even stirred a flicker of feeling or emotion within him. He felt blank and empty, like everything inside him had been vanished.

He hadn't even decorated the place for Christmas. He'd planned to do it when the holidays started and had completely forgotten about it in the wake of the link and staying at Hogwarts for the holidays. Oh well, he thought dispiritedly. At least he wouldn't have to spend the time taking all the decorations down again in a week's time.

Stepping back, he slumped onto the sofa, now feeling forlorn and miserable and wishing he could go back to feeling vanished. He pushed at his bag with his foot, hating that it was there, hating the fact he was alone in his house without anybody there.

His righteous anger and fury at Draco's stunt had faded disconcertingly quickly as he left Hogwarts. It had been easy to simply be angry and plan to go home just like Draco had done, to make the point that he wasn't going to mope around alone without him, but now he'd gotten back and had quickly realised he didn't know what to do next.

He was purposefully trying not – and failing - to think about Draco; doing so made misery and resentment flare up in his chest, heavy and brittle. He'd been furious the whole time he'd been packing his bags, hating the sight of his bed in Gryffindor Tower that Draco had shared with him, hating the sight of Draco's toothbrush sat next to his like it fucking meant something.

God, was Draco ever going to make anything of his life? Was he ever going to grow the fuck up and commit to something, to get over his pathetic nerves and indecision? Harry still felt like such an idiot; whilst Draco had been much more positive he'd been blind to Draco's faults, forgetting what he could really be like. To think that he could achieve happiness for once in his bloody life, and then relying on Draco fucking Malfoy for that?

Harry was used to being disappointed by Draco, but he never expected it to hurt quite so much.

It was almost too much; the combined news of losing Draco and also the ever-present sensation of the missing link made Harry feel small and insignificant in a way he hadn't since he were ten and locked in the cupboard under the stairs. He blinked hard, staring down at his feet but not really seeing them, feeling too exhausted and lost to contemplate crying.

He stood up, grabbing his bags. He wanted to keep busy, keep moving so he didn't end up sitting around brooding over what had happened. He wasn't going to cry. Crying was reserved for moments when terrible things had happened, not for when you'd been abandoned by a cowardly Slytherin twat.

No matter how much Harry was starting to think he had been arse over tit in love with the cowardly Slytherin twat.

He should have seen this coming, he thought as he clambered up the staircase to his room at the top of the house. But he'd honestly believed that everything would be okay, especially after Draco had woken him last night with gentle kisses and a teasing hand.

God, it stung even more to be left after a moment like that. The sex had been different, more open and raw in a way that the link never allowed them to experience before. Harry had missed sharing the sensations between them but at the same time he'd been in awe of the heightened senses he could feel. The gentle press of Draco's fingers on his shoulder, the warmth where Draco pressed a kiss to his skin. Whilst he'd been laid on top of Draco he'd wanted so badly to ask Draco if they could go further. He almost thought Draco had wanted it too, with the way he wrapped his leg around Harry's waist and moved underneath him, but without the link he couldn't be sure so he'd said nothing.

And now…maybe they never would. The thought of getting so far with Draco – physically and emotionally – but not sharing that experience with him made Harry feel hollow and empty. It seemed a silly and trivial way of looking at things, but Harry had been contemplating and even looking forwards to sleeping with Draco, and he couldn't help but feel disappointed that they hadn't.

He pushed open the door to his bedroom, breathing in and out deeply. At least this room felt welcoming, and he seemed to relax a fraction as he stepped inside. It had taken a long time for him to give the go-ahead to redecorate Sirius's old room, unwilling at first to let go of the connection that the room still provided with his godfather. It had been Ginny who had assured him that redecorating the room wouldn't be a bad thing, and she had been right. It didn't do to dwell on the past and constantly think of what might have been. So, he'd agreed and the room had been redecorated in cream, with one deep red wall behind the head of the bed, and a matching red carpet and curtains that served as a tribute to his and Sirius's Gryffindor heritage.

The few possessions that he had amassed over his life were in this room. A few photo's had been framed and stood on his chest-of drawers, friendly faces waving and pulling faces at him. His old school books lined a shelf by the window, and the shelf below contained a few ornaments and nick-knacks that he'd collected and kept. A few two-inch high Quidditch player figurines waved lazily at him from the windowsill, leaning nonchalantly against the golden snitch that lay in the centre, glinting in the weak sunlight.

Yes, this small room was Harry's home. His space, the beginning of something that was his own.

He couldn't help but feel miserable that he hadn't got anyone to share it with.

He padded over to his bed, dropping his bags at the foot before slumping onto the bed, collapsing over sideways and pressing his cheek to the patchwork quilt that Molly Weasley had made him. He felt exhausted.

Shutting his eyes and swallowing thickly, he breathed in and out deeply and tried to get his stomach and heart to settle back into a normal position. In the past couple of weeks, he'd vaguely imagined what it would be like to invite Draco over, to have Draco here with him. It was still strange, and he didn't quite feel like he owned his own house, but he had liked his vague daydreams about making a bit of a home with someone by his side.

He hoped Draco was having fun in fucking Malfoy Manor.

Pushing himself into a sitting position, he took his glasses off and rubbed his face vigorously. Right. He needed a new plan. Step one – to go home – had gone ahead smoothly, but step two – forget about Draco – wasn't happening at all.

He needed a distraction, and someone to talk to.

Settling his glasses back on his nose, he stood up and walked back down the stairs into the living room. He walked purposefully over to the fireplace and knelt down beside it, staring at the worn bricks in front of him. He reached for a pinch of floo powder that sat in the pot on the hearth and then hesitated, sitting back on his heels and looking contemplatively into the fireplace. He had a moment of thinking that maybe it would be better to stay exactly where he was, alone, so his abandonment couldn't be made knowledge to others. It burned in the pit of his stomach, bordering on humiliation. He'd turned his life upside-down and for what? Apparently to be left alone, like nothing had ever happened.

He shook his head, knowing deep down that he didn't want to stay here alone. He needed the company of his friends. He took a deep breath, steeled himself, and then threw the pinch of powder into the fireplace.

Roaring green flames appeared, and he quietly said "the burrow." Moments later, Percy Weasley's face appeared in the flames.

"Harry!" he exclaimed, looking surprised and straightening his glasses. "I thought you were at Hogwarts!"

Harry forced a smile. "Change of plan," he said lightly. "Is Ron about?"

"Yes, of course, he's right here-"

Percy's face vanished from the flames and moments later Ron's appeared, looking worried and confused. "Why are you at home?" he asked without preamble.

"Malfoy left," Harry said abruptly. "We had the link removed, he freaked out, and he left."

Ron gaped for only a second and then collected himself. "He left? Just like that?"

Harry nodded, forcing himself to keep speaking as if he were relaying the Quidditch scores. "Yep. Didn't even say goodbye. I woke up this morning and he was gone."

Ron's indignation on Harry's behalf was welcome and soothed his own frayed nerves. "The fucking shit!" he exclaimed. "That's not on!"

"Well, dunno what I was expecting," Harry said tonelessly. "He's still Malfoy after all."

"Have you tried to contact him?" Ron asked.

Harry shook his head. "Why should I?" he asked bitterly. "I'm done chasing around after things. I've had enough of that."

Ron nodded, his expression understanding. "You want to come through, mate?" he asked, looking hesitant and hopeful at the same time. "We'd be glad to have you, and there's more food than even I can eat."

Harry nodded. His desire in that moment to be in the company of Ron and Hermione overrode any potential objections that he had had about going to the Burrow, and he couldn't bear the thought of being alone in his house.

"You sure?" he asked tiredly. "Your mum won't mind? What about Ginny?"

"They can shove it," Ron said, and Harry raised an eyebrow. Ron stared back, nonplussed. "I'm not giving up my best mate just because my sisters in a strop," he said and Harry's lips twitched in a smile. "It'll be fine," he repeated earnestly, looking sincere. "Just trust me. Come through, drink with me and forget all about that ferret."

Harry nodded and Ron's face disappeared. He sighed and moved, ready to step through the floo, thinking that whilst a drink was a welcome prospect, forgetting about Draco was something he wasn't going to be able to do.

Chapter Text

Harry was never going to trust Ron ever again. Well, more specifically he was never going to trust Ron when he said something difficult would be fine. Especially when that something involved Harry being stuck in an enclosed space with a large amount of people who really weren't his biggest fans at that precise moment in time.

Even though nothing had been said directly to him, he still felt like everyone was staring at him and judging him. He couldn't help but remember past Christmases, where he had loved the warmth and the cosy environment provided by the Burrow, but now it just felt closed and oppressive. He didn't appreciate the bright, festive decorations or the softly twinkling lights of the Christmas tree; he barely even took notice of them. Instead he stared down into the depths of his drink and wished his stomach would relax and unknot itself.

He raised his eyes sombrely from his glass, looking out across the room. Christmas carols were playing quietly from the old radio in the corner, and the room was full of chatter and laughter. Harry wasn't daft enough to try and join in; even if he'd have been able to get into the Christmas spirit, the rest of the Weasleys either didn't want to talk to him, or didn't appear as if they knew how to talk to him. He didn't really blame them, all in all.

It had been the same ever since he'd arrived at The Burrow. Mrs Weasley had avoided him, her smile strained when she did speak to him, quickly bustling away after only a few words. Ginny had been glancing at him all night, only to look away when he looked back, her expression troubled. The rest of the family had tried to be normal with him, the effort painfully obvious and the conversations stilted, and George had point blank ignored him.

He didn't know if he felt better or worse for deciding to come to The Burrow to be in the company of Ron and Hermione. Whilst they were with him it was bearable, but at moments like this when the pair's attention had been called away elsewhere, leaving him alone…he might as well be back at Grimmauld by himself. At least there was no-one there to be disappointed in him.

He glanced over to where Mrs Weasley was talking with Bill and Ginny. Ginny's eyes flicked to him and he quickly turned his head away, staring unblinkingly at his glass and feeling incredibly alone all of a sudden, wanting nothing more than to hide himself away from the world. He swallowed hard and then made his feet move, slipping quietly out of the room and into the kitchen.

Thankfully, the kitchen was empty. He walked over to the sink, leaning on the edge and staring out of the part of the window not blocked by snow. The sky beyond was inky black, dotted with stars. He couldn't help but wonder if Draco could see the same stars out of his window, and then berated himself for being a complete idiotic sap.

He shut his eyes and breathed out slowly through his nose, trying to quell the emotions that were rising in his chest. He wasn't going to cry. He wasn't. For fucks sake, how had he ended up in this position - in tears over Draco bloody Malfoy? He was Harry Potter. He'd defeated a Dark Lord and won a war, but apparently he made a mess of simple everyday things like keeping a boyfriend.

He pulled his glasses off and pinched the bridge of his nose hard with his fingers. God, this was horrible. He was never ever going to fall in love with anyone ever again because it just created such a mess when it all went wrong. Cross with himself for letting thoughts of Draco get to him, he shoved his glasses back on his nose and stared resolutely back out of the window.

"Well, you look like an acromantula at a basilisk party," a casual voice came from the doorway. Harry started and then turned around cautiously. Arthur Weasley was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, and as Harry looked at him he walked slowly over to join Harry by the sink, also gazing out of the window.

"Yeah," Harry said, his voice thick, and then cleared his throat feeling stupid.

"Not feeling the Christmas spirit, I take it?"

Harry shifted from foot to foot, now feeling awkward as well as stupid. He shook his head, not quite trusting his voice to remain steady.

"I'm sorry, Harry," Arthur said suddenly and clearly. Harry remained silent, waiting for more. "For the others, I mean," Arthur continued. "They don't mean to be rude but I don't think they can quite understand."

"And you understand?" Harry asked, sounding unconvinced.

"I don't, not really," Arthur said simply. "But I do know that you're a good man, and you wouldn't have done anything with the intention of hurting Ginny."

"I didn't," Harry said ruefully. "It just kind of happened."

Arthur nodded. "Not all things are meant to last forever. And besides, Ron told me about the Legilimency Link. I suppose being privy to all of Draco Malfoy's thoughts could make you more sympathetic to him."

"Or make you want to strangle him," Harry muttered, not entirely sure if he were joking or not.

"Hmmm," Arthur conceded, still gazing idly out of the window. "Either way. You're your own man, and they'll come around. It'll just take time. It's just that Draco has never been a friend to any of us, but if you think he's come around into a decent human being…then I'll trust your judgement."

"Thanks," Harry said quietly, feeling a spark of gratitude somewhere in the twisted knot of feelings in his chest. It was what he'd been aching to hear without even realising it; just to know that someone didn't think badly of him for the choices he made was more than welcome. However, at the same time it hurt to hear Arthur saying that he'd give Draco a chance if Harry wanted, considering what Draco had done.

"Dad?"

Harry and Arthur both turned at the sound of Ron's voice, finding him hovering in the doorway, looking uncharacteristically worried. The expression melted into one of relief as Arthur strode forwards and clapped him on the shoulder.

"All sorted," he said heartily, and then disappeared back to the others without another word.

"What did he say?" Ron asked, edging into the kitchen, followed closely by Hermione.

Harry shrugged. "Not a lot."

"Good," Ron said, and his smile was understanding. "Now all you have to do is wait for the others to catch on."

"Next Christmas maybe," Harry said, attempting a joke but his voice coming out shakier than he'd aimed for. Ron managed half a sad smile and Hermione stepped closer, reaching out to rub Harry's shoulder.

"Oh there you all are. I was wondering where you'd disappeared to. Mince pies, anyone?"

They all looked up together as Mrs Weasley bustled into the kitchen, walking over with a tray of mince pies in her hands, holding them out expectantly. Hermione politely declined, Ron took two and then she swept away before Harry could reply.

Harry stared morosely after her, trying to work out why he now felt like crying just over a mince pie.

"Oh for goodness sake," Hermione muttered under her breath as Ron passed Harry one of the pies. He didn't really want it, but he was grateful for the gesture anyway.

"She's just upset," Ron said, his voice low.

"Harry's done nothing wrong," Hermione whispered back fiercely. "I wish people would stop acting like they know what's going on. None of them have seen Malfoy in over a year except Ginny, and she's not a fair judge."

"Ditto," Harry said hollowly, putting his mince-pie on the worktop. That was just the crux of the problem wasn't it? No-one would be sympathetic or care about his plight because they didn't know Draco, didn't know how much he had grown and changed. They would never know how much he did for Harry, in his stupid, special, selfish way.

"I know, but it's not really Mum's fault either," Ron said and then trailed off as Percy appeared in the kitchen, leaning around the doorframe.

"George has got some new Christmas fireworks he wants us to see," he announced, "we're lighting them in the yard in a minute."

"Brilliant," Ron said, perking up. "Cheers, Percy."

Percy nodded and disappeared again, and Harry wished that he could find somewhere in this house where they wouldn't be interrupted every five minutes. It was a hazard of coming to the Burrow that he should have better anticipated, really.

Feeling exhausted and wanting to just stop thinking for five minutes, he allowed himself to be dragged outside to watch the fireworks with everyone else. His brain ached from second guessing and contemplating, and he just wanted it to stop. Slipping between Ron and Hermione, he tried to ignore the way Ginny moved away from him to stand the other side of Bill and her mother. He buttoned his coat up against the bite of the cold air and shoved his hands in his pockets, looking down at the trampled snow beneath his feet. Christmas and fireworks were for people who were happy, he thought dejectedly. Stupid things designed to make the already happy individuals even happier, and the lonely even more upset and miserable.

Hermione slipped her arm through his and Harry tried to dismiss the spiteful voice in his head that said that she'd rather Harry would get out of the way so she could hold Ron's hand. He knew where the thought had come from; anger at Draco notwithstanding, he just wanted to be able to hold the bastard's hand and be with him whilst they watched fireworks together.

He watched the first fireworks go up with a sense of detachment as everyone around him laughed and clapped. Glittering snowman made of sparks danced their way across the sky, higher and higher, quickly joined by reindeer and waving golden stars.

Shuffling next to him made him look around. He frowned as he saw Ron had taken a large step back, beckoning discreetly to Hermione. Harry paused, wondering what the hell Ron was playing at. Was he really trying to get Hermione to leave Harry alone again so they could sneak off to do whatever it was they did together?

Hermione looked at Harry and he raised his eyebrows in question, but she merely held her finger up to her lips in a shushing gesture. She reached out and took his hand and his worry that he was about to be left out faded in an instant. Now thoroughly nonplussed, Harry let her tug him backwards towards the house, treading quietly and trying not to draw attention. They slipped away from the group easily enough; the fireworks were more than adequate distraction and the crackles and bangs masked the soft sounds of their footsteps.

Harry didn't speak until they were back in the house and the back door had been quietly shut behind them. Frowning, he turned to Ron and Hermione who were talking in whispers together, hovering in the doorway to the sitting room.

"What's going on?" he asked, his voice low.

Ron and Hermione exchanged a glance and then looked back to Harry.

"Got something to show you," Ron said in an undertone, jerking his head towards the sitting room.

Confused, Harry slowly walked over and followed Ron into the sitting room. He made a beeline for the fireplace, beckoning Harry to follow. Harry's frown deepened; on the floor by the fireplace were two small bags.

"Quick, they'll notice we're gone soon enough," Hermione said urgently, pushing past Harry and grabbing the pot of floo powder off of the mantelpiece. "Harry, come on."

She flung a pinch of floo powder into the grate, turning the gently flickering flames roaring green. Harry stared at her.

"We're leaving?"

"Oh, honestly," Hermione said impatiently. She put the pot back on the mantle, leant down to grab the bags and stepped into the flames herself, disappearing in a swirl of glittering soot and green flames.

"Hang on, where are we even-"

Harry didn't get to finish his sentence; they heard the sound of the back door being unlatched and voices spilling into the kitchen, so without further explanation Ron shoved Harry into the fireplace, shouting 'Grimmauld place,' just before Harry was whisked away in the flames.

Harry barely had time to register what was going on before he was stumbling out of the fireplace in his sitting room. "What the hell?" Harry said, coughing and spluttering. "Have I just been kidnapped?"

There was another swirl of flames and Ron appeared, clutching a bottle in each hand and grinning from ear to ear. "What are you whinging about? We just saved your arse."

"Your Mum is going to do her nut," Harry said, watching in disbelief as Hermione dropped the bags she'd bought by the sofa before waving her wand, summoning glasses from the sideboard, clearly intending to settle down and stay at Grimmauld Place for some time.

"Let her," Ron shrugged. "Dad knows we've gone. He'll do damage control."

"This night is about you," Hermione said, walking up behind Harry and nudging him with her elbow before holding three glasses out to Ron, held tightly together in a triangular formation. "It's not Christmas Eve until tomorrow, so tonight you are going to drink and rant about Draco, I am going to drink and celebrate that I get one night away from Molly's hints about marriage, and Ron is going to drink just because he can."

"Are you kidding?" Ron frowned as he shoved a bottle towards Harry and then pulled the top off the one in his hand. "I'm going to be drinking because you just mentioned the 'M' word."

Harry laughed. The sound startled him a little; he hadn't been expecting to even be able to laugh any time soon. The dead weight in his stomach didn't shift, but it still felt nice to smile. It felt even nicer to have his two best friends do this for him, to whisk him away from the discomfort he'd experienced at the Burrow, just to try and cheer him up. Harry set the bottle Ron had passed him on the coffee table, hiding a small and relieved smile.

He watched as Ron filled the three glasses in Hermione's hands before setting the bottle aside next to the yet unopened one Harry had placed on the coffee table. Harry quickly took two of the glasses from Hermione and then passed one to Ron, who eyed it happily.

"So, a toast to my Dad for helping orchestrate this escape," Ron said, lifting his glass up.

"You mean kidnapping," Harry corrected, raising his own glass.

"Involuntary escape?" Hermione offered, her own glass joining the other two.

Ron and Harry laughed. "You have a way with words," Ron grinned and then they all drank deeply from their glasses and then simultaneously coughed and spluttered.

"Still not got the hang of this whiskey thing," Ron said, thumping his chest.

"You just need more practice," Harry said, and impulsively reached for the bottle that Ron had placed on the coffee table. "Like right now."

Ron laughed and held out his glass. Hermione held out hers too, wiping her eyes.

"Really?" Ron asked, and received a glare in reply.

"Just because I'm a girl doesn't mean I don't deserve to get drunk too," Hermione said, trying to sound assertive whilst coughing every other word.

Ron and Harry exchanged a glance and then both shrugged, grinning. Harry filled Hermione's glass back up and Ron wrapped his arm around her shoulders.

"You're brilliant, you know that?" he said and Hermione smiled into her cup. "Now," Ron continued, looking up at Harry with an air of meaning business. "Where do you keep your Christmas tree?"


 

"Don't, Ron, no! Stop moving - Ron!"

Harry couldn't stop laughing. He was sprawled on his sofa, clutching his sides weakly as he watched Ron and Hermione trying to put the star atop the lopsided Christmas tree that now stood in the corner of his sitting room. In lieu of a stepladder and without any sense to tell them to levitate the bloody thing, Hermione was sat on Ron's shoulders and shrieking as he staggered slightly, trying to keep upright without pitching them both over.

"Ron! Stand still!" she squealed, grabbing onto his hair with one hand and reaching out with the other to steady herself on the wall, the star clutched tightly in her fist.

"I'm trying!" Ron said, gripping onto her knees tightly. "Sit still, you maniac!"

Harry slumped backwards, coughing and smiling. He was hovering on a delicious boozy stupor, and the whole room was slowly revolving around him, including the sparkling star shaped decorations that now adorned his ceiling. The evening had been fun; feeling reckless, they'd drank most of what Ron had smuggled out of the Burrow, and were now definitely feeling the effects.

Hermione had charmed the stars all over the ceiling as Harry and Ron had tackled the Christmas tree, draping it with ridiculous amounts of multi-coloured tinsel. Stockings had been placed on the chimney breast and the surface of the coffee table now resembled an ice-rink, complete with several conjured inch-high penguins that were happily skating around the bottles they'd left there. Twinkling lights framed the windows and the door, and Hermione had charmed the large landscape painting on the far wall so instead of a summer woodland, the landscape was now a snowy one, much to the bewilderment of the rabbits that hopped between the trees. It felt wonderfully Christmassy, and Harry's spirits were lifted.

He'd been determinedly pushing away thoughts of Draco all evening, joining in with Ron and Hermione in the decorating shenanigans to distract himself. He'd been successful so far, but now as he laid back and had a moment to catch his breath, he suddenly wondered how the Christmas tree would look had he and Draco decorated it.

In his mind he imagined a tree more elegant than the riotous tinsel-covered creation that he and Ron had assembled. He could see Draco perfecting the silver decorations and threatening to chuck stuff at Harry as he turned them red and gold when Draco was turned the other way.

The smile slid from his face and his whole mood abruptly shifted, the happiness and good spirits he'd felt dissipating with startling speed. Out of nowhere, a piercing need and longing coursed through him, and he suddenly missed Draco so much he couldn't even comprehend it. He didn't even bother to try to tell himself not to think about Draco any more. Now, despite his previously valiant efforts, all he could think about was Draco lying next to him in his bed in Gryffindor tower, on his front hugging a pillow to his chest, smiling slightly and trying to hide it as Harry ran his fingers over his back.

He swallowed thickly and breathed in and out shakily. He wanted him back. He didn't even care what he'd done, fuck, he'd forgive him for everything if he just came back-

"You alright mate?"

A blurry freckled face swam into view upside-down above him. Harry blinked and Ron came into focus, his expression questioning.

"You know," Harry said contemplatively, his voice thick and catching in his throat. "I never even thought about kissing you."

"Well," Ron said, moving around and shoving at Harry to make him sit up. "What a strange way to be insulted."

"No," Harry said, struggling to sit up, sinking into the sofa cushions as he attempted to push himself upright. "I just mean – I meant that it's only ever been-" he paused, leaning on his elbow. "Him."

"Not drunk enough to say his name yet?" Ron said and gave him a hefty shove, pushing him into a sitting position and nearly knocking Hermione off the other end of the sofa.

"His name is banned," Harry said, shaking his head and laughing helplessly.

"Banned Malfoy," Ron said solemnly. "I like it."

"Do you miss him?" Hermione asked, sipping from the cup in her hand. Harry had no idea what was in it.

"No," Harry said forcefully, and then tipped his head back against the sofa cushions. "Yes. He's a bastard."

"Well, yes," Hermione said, as if it were obvious. "He's Malfoy."

"I thought-" Harry began and then shut his eyes against the slowly revolving ceiling. His limbs were all too heavy for him; his body felt strange with all the alcohol thrumming through his veins. He felt tired, so tired, and the desire to hide from the world was growing once again.

"Thought he'd turned into a nice person?" Ron offered.

Shaking his head slowly, his head lolling against the sofa cushions, Harry felt misery settling in his chest. "He was never nice," he said, finding it more and more difficult to speak with every word. "Well, he was. In his way. He was…I don't know. God, I feel like such an idiot."

"Why?" Hermione asked, resting her head on his shoulder.

"Because everything is upside-down and I'm alone," Harry said helplessly. "It was easy when he was there. Made it seem okay."

"D'you love him?"

Ron's question was casual but Harry's reaction wasn't. As Harry tilted his head forwards, his eyes filled up with alarming speed. He blinked and the tears spilled down his cheeks. He felt them with strange detachment; he didn't feel like he was crying but it was happening and there wasn't a thing he could do about it.

"Yeah, reckon so," he said, his voice steadier than it should be considering the tears that still rolled steadily down his face.

Hermione laughed thickly next to him. "Stop it, you'll start me off," she said. "Go back to being a happy, talkative drunk."

"Tell Draco to go back to being a decent human being and I'll go back to being a happy drunk," Harry offered.

"At least you've not tried to drunkenly floo-call him," Ron said brightly. "Your dignity is intact."

Harry laughed, more tears falling down his cheeks. "Dignity? Being – being chucked by Draco Malfoy leaves you with no dignity."

"Are you sure he's actually gone?" Hermione asked. "He might just have run away."

"Same difference," Harry said, finally feeling the emotions that should have come when his tears started. His throat tightened and he raised a hand to pull his glasses off and place a hand over his eyes, wishing that he wasn't drunk anymore. There was some jostling next to him and then Hermione wrapped her arms around him in a hug, holding him tight.

"We'll turn him into a ferret when we go back to school," she said seriously and Harry laughed through his tears, immeasurably grateful for the support of his best friends. He took a deep breath, trying to regain some composure. He didn't really now how he felt about Draco at all anymore, and somewhere within him he now felt that he should stop thinking about him and stop being so pathetic.

"I second that," Ron said. "Now. Where do you keep those Vee Dee things? Let's watch something stupid and silly and laugh some more."

Harry pulled back from Hermione, wiping his face with his sleeve and slipping his glasses back onto his nose. "Vee Dee's," he said, nodding and trying to project some buoyancy into his voice. It worked - at least he thought it did. He cleared his throat and nodded again, remembering that he was a Gryffindor and making an immediate resolution to start acting like one instead of crying like a Hufflepuff. He wiped his cheeks again, this time with more purpose, and when he spoke again his voice was clear and determined. "Yes. Lets do that. DVD's. As long as there's no-one blond in the leading role, sounds good."


 

Draco stood in the dark, leant against the doorframe of the drawing room, his temple against the smooth wood. He blinked tiredly and pulled his dressing gown tighter around him, wishing he'd put some slippers on. The room beyond was bathed in gently flickering firelight and the elegantly decorated Christmas tree twinkled softy in the corner.

Christmas had never felt so lonely, not even when the Dark Lord had been in residence. Back then, he had known that there was no chance for Christmas celebrations so hadn't really mourned them. Now, he was full of the acute awareness that had he not fucked everything up, he would actually have had someone to share Christmas with.

"Can't sleep?"

He pushed himself away from the doorframe and padded across the room at the sound of his mother's voice, slipping into the high backed armchair near the fire. She sat in an identical chair on the opposite side of the fireplace, a blanket pulled over her knee and her needlework in hand, lit by a soft hovering ball of light that floated at her shoulder. Draco didn't look at her; instead he stared at the flames in the hearth without really seeing them.

"No," he said listlessly.

"Do you want a drink? Something to eat?"

He shook his head slowly, rolling against the velvet of the chair. "No," he said again. He pulled his wand out of his pocket and summoned a blanket from the sofa that sat by the bay window, dropping it over his feet to keep them warm.

"You've eaten barely more than nothing since you got back," Narcissa said, her tone slightly disapproving.

"I know," he said. "I'm fine."

Narcissa sighed and waved her own wand. The hovering ball of light went out and she set her needlework on the table next to her, folding her hands in her lap and gazing at Draco. He shifted uncomfortably, turning his head further away from her, hoping that she wouldn't begin the conversation he'd avoided ever since he'd gotten home.

Her gaze didn't relent and as she sighed softly he swallowed, knowing he wouldn't be able to run forever. Even as he realised, it he felt a flicker of relief went through him; he was tired of running from himself and what he had done. As such, when his Mother finally broke the silence, he stayed put instead of turning on his heel and fleeing from the conversation.

"I thought," she began, her voice soft, "you said leaving Potter was for the best."

"It was. It is," Draco said tiredly, rubbing at his brow.

"Then why are you suffering? If it was for the best."

"Just because something's for the best doesn't mean you have to like it," Draco said, wishing that he could stop feeling so torn and conflicted.

Narcissa nodded. "Yes, but its left you completely miserable. Look at you, moping around the house, feeling sorry for yourself like you were the one to be abandoned-"

"I didn't abandon him," Draco cut across her. "I-"

Words failed him. His mother looked at him with a sad smile on her face and he broke off, feeling a lump in his throat as he realised what he had just said. His argument wavered and died as he stared down at the floor, his heart thudding painfully in his ears and the word abandoned echoing in his mind.

"I," he said, his voice cracking over the words. "I did, didn't I?"

"I think so," Narcissa said gently.

Draco pressed his hand over his eyes, swallowing thickly. He had been so sure that getting up and leaving Harry that morning had been for the best. He'd been scared and panicked and hadn't known what to do or how to feel.

All he'd done was prove himself to be the coward everyone thought he was.

"I didn't know what to do," he said, the words finally tumbling from his lips. "I didn't know how he felt-"

"Why didn't you just ask him?" Narcissa said, her tone challenging and sparking anger in Draco's chest. Words and feelings that he'd pushed down and away for years rose in his heart, ugly and bitter and before he knew it he was shouting, words he'd sworn never to say tumbling out of his mouth unchecked.

"Since when have you ever encouraged me to talk about my feelings?" he demanded, his voice rising. "When did either of you ever tell me it was okay to ask? You never did. The one time I asked Father if he was angry at me or not I got a backhand, and you just encouraged me to keep my trap shut. Even before the Dark Lord was here – everything I said was wrong. If I was sad I was pathetic, if I was happy I was making a fool of myself - and Harry, fucking Harry who thinks he can guess everything I'm feeling and makes me talk about everything, and he's so optimistic it makes me want to strangle him."

He stopped himself talking, shutting his eyes and breathing out deeply through his nose, trying to stop himself shaking.

It was like he'd just flown a race at breakneck speed, what with how his heart was thudding inside his ribcage and his limbs were shaking. He couldn't believe how it felt to finally let some of those stagnant feelings out, to verbalise some of the thoughts he'd kept under lock and key for so long.

Trembling, he glanced up at his mother, wondering if he'd gone too far. She was still smiling sadly at him, and relief flooded him as he took in her understanding expression.

"You love him?" she asked gently.

Draco fought to keep him chin from wobbling. He nodded, clenching his jaw to try and stop himself from crying, again.

"Yes," he said, his voice thick. "I'm such an idiot."

"For falling in love or for leaving?" Narcissa asked calmly.

"Both," Draco said.

"You have nothing to lose by telling him-"

"Don't you understand? I've already lost it," Draco said, opening his eyes. "He won't forgive me for this. Not even if I managed to tell him that I-"

He broke off, feeling exhausted and defeated, and not quite able to get his head around the fact he was in love with Harry bloody Potter. Of course, it just had to be him, didn't it? It always had been. He should have known that tangling with Harry Potter would end in disaster.

It was just…he'd been so nice to Draco, nicer than he ever should have been considering everything that had happened in the past. And every time they'd kissed, Draco had just been able to forget, and just be happy.

He'd been on borrowed time though, and he'd known it. It wouldn't take long before Harry remembered all the things he did, remembered that by all rights he should hate Draco. What would have happened when they left school, if they even made it that far? Harry would have to provide for the both of them as Draco would undoubtedly be refused reputable work, Draco would grow bitter and take it out and Harry and everything would-

He jerked his head sharply to stop himself thinking. They hadn't made it to the end of school, so there was no point thinking about it.

"I'm going to bed," he said tonelessly, and pushed himself out of his chair, kicking the blanket away from his feet. He didn't wait for a response and his Mother didn't try to stop him. He trudged through the corridors, shivering and wishing that he could stop missing Harry for just one second.

Pushing open the door to his room, he slipped inside and lit the lamps either side of his bed, bathing the room in soft light. As they had done every time he had stepped into the room since he'd got back, his eyes were drawn the desk by the window, and the package that sat innocuously in the centre of the polished wood.

Without thinking about what he was doing, he walked over to the desk, bracing his hands either side of the parcel and staring down at the bright red wrapping paper. After a moment, he moved and trailed his finger contemplatively over the golden ribbon that circled the package, tied in a messy knot at the top. He really was rubbish at present wrapping charms, he thought dejectedly.

Doubt was filling him up. After the conversation with his mother, his previous adamant reasoning that leaving Harry was the best thing for everyone was faltering. Was he really thinking clearly, or had he just been unnecessarily pessimistic and frightened? A horrible twist in his stomach told him that maybe he'd not done the right thing after all.

He swallowed thickly, wishing he could go back to how he felt earlier that day; his stubbornness had left no way for doubt or indecision, and now they'd arrived, they hurt. God, this relationship thing was difficult.

If there even was a relationship to salvage, he thought, and then was startled by the fact he'd contemplated salvaging the wreck he'd made anyway.

"What the fuck do you want, Draco?" he murmured to himself. He had to work it out. Did he want to take the cowardly, easy route out - again - or did he want to actually work at something, put in some effort and tackle these difficult things that he was so scared of?

The biggest question was whether he thought the relationship could work without the link. Or maybe, Draco thought tentatively, the biggest question was to ask whether he was brave enough to at least try to make things work without the link.

It wasn't down to the link, he realised. It was down to him.

He breathed in and out deeply, and then clenched his jaw, making up his mind. He pulled open the top drawer of his desk and pulled out a quill and ink, turning his attention to the small label that was attached to the parcel, still blank and waiting for script. Not stopping to think about it, he quickly wrote down the first thing that came to mind and then threw the quill down onto the table. He picked the parcel up and strode over to the window, opening it and pushing it open, shivering slightly as the cold air flooded in. He whistled loudly and there was an answering screech almost immediately. He was grateful; he didn't think his nerve would hold out if he had to wait for Apollo to return from hunting.

Seconds later, Apollo landed on his windowsill, bobbing his head and clicking his beak. Draco smiled weakly, reaching out to run a finger across his head. Apollo had been his own since he were eleven and despite how big and scary he looked, Draco trusted him implicitly.

"This," Draco said as he held the parcel forwards. "Needs to go to Harry Potter. He said he lives in Grimmauld Place, London, but I don't know which number."

Apollo hooted softly, which Draco took as understanding. He carefully attached the parcel to Apollo's leg, double then triple checking to make sure it was secure, only stopping when Apollo twitched impatiently.

"Okay. Take it before I change my mind," Draco sighed and stepped back hastily as Apollo spread his wings and took off into the night. Draco slumped against the windowsill, nerves twisting in his stomach as he watched Apollo grow smaller and smaller, before disappearing into the distance.

He wondered what Harry would say when it arrived.


 

Harry opened his eyes blearily in the dark and immediately clenched them shut again. Oh god. He felt awful. His mouth was dry and his head was throbbing and aching and he really shouldn't have drank so much. He was sure that if he moved his stomach would through some sort of mutiny against the rest of his body, what with the way it was grumbling restlessly.

He laid still for all of ten seconds and then realised what had awoken him in the first place. An insistent tapping was coming from the window, and it seemed to be growing louder and more impatient.

Slowly propping himself up on one elbow, Harry looked out over the sitting room. He'd fallen asleep on the sofa, and on the floor nearby Hermione and Ron were laid fully dressed atop a mattress that they'd either nicked out of the spare room or transfigured from something else. Ron was snoring slightly and Hermione was twitching in her sleep.

There was a screech and the tapping grew another notch louder. Harry looked towards the window, realising that the source of the noise was obviously an owl, an owl who wanted to get in.

Cautiously and somewhat unsteadily, he stood up and slowly made his way to the window. He checked his watch and saw it was nearing seven in the morning; outside everything was still dark and the air had a definite chill to it, belying the arrival of morning.

Yawning and wishing his body would feel normal, he pulled the curtain back and then froze, his stomach churning threateningly. He recognised the large eagle owl that sat on his windowsill instantly. It was unmistakable; he'd seen that owl for six years, swooping into the hall to bring Draco letters and sweets from home.

The fucking thing was scary as hell up close.

It hooted softly and Harry reached out to unlatch the window, feeling nervous. Although, he had to admit that he couldn't tell if he were nervous because of the owl, or scared at the reasons as to why it was there. It hopped inside and held out its leg expectantly, looking at Harry with unblinking eyes. Harry's own eyes were drawn to the bright red parcel attached to the owl's leg, and his heart clenched painfully, feeling more and more confused by the second.

The package looked like a Christmas present. And given that it was now Christmas Eve…Could it really be a Christmas present from Draco? Why on earth would he be sending Harry a Christmas present?

The owl hooted and Harry turned his attention back to the bird. "Are you going to bite me?" he asked, his voice low and raspy.

The owl hooted disdainfully, as if saying that such trivial violence was beneath him. Harry wasn't entirely comforted and reached out with no small amount of trepidation to take the parcel. The moment it was in his hands the owl took off, without waiting for a thank you or any treats. Absently, Harry shut the window, his eyes already back on the parcel in hand.

Should he open it? It wasn't technically Christmas yet, but it was now Christmas Eve and that was close enough, right? And Draco had sent it instead of just leaving it which had to mean something. His heart was pounding painfully in his chest and a horrible feeling akin to nervous anticipation was twisting through his stomach.

He had to open it. If it were just a gift from someone he would wait until Christmas morning, but this was different. Draco had sent it even after leaving – what if there were a message inside? Fuck, the parcel itself was as good as a message –

He was pulling at the golden ribbon before he'd even finished the thought, his hands moving without permission from his brain. The moment the ribbon was off he set the parcel carefully down on the windowsill and tore the wrapping paper off, his breath held in his chest.

His trembling fingers revealed a dark wooden box, intricately carved with swirling patterns that reminded him of the wind. The lid was held closed by a small silver clasp which upon closer inspection, he saw had his initials carved on in a delicate cursive script. Heart beating even faster, he reached out to touch the clasp which popped open at his touch, revealing the contents of the box.

Three perfect golden snitches, sitting inside a case lined with green velvet, glinting in the sparkling lights of the Christmas tree. They were exquisite, with the same carved patterns from the box running over their casing. Tucked inside the box alongside the snitches was a small folded piece of parchment. He reached it for it instantly, thinking that it could be a message from Draco, but as he picked it up and unfolded it he saw it was more information about the gift he'd been sent, presumably written by the makers.

Personalised Recallable Golden Snitches.

For Seekers who wish to practice their skills, professional and amateur alike, these golden snitches are charmed to return to their owners hand at a spoken word.

To activate the charm, when holding your snitch for the first time, tap with your wand and say your chosen word. The snitch will then behave as any normal snitch, but will return to your hand when the word is spoken. No longer will you be caught in thunderstorms, forced to practice into the night or made late for appointments because of a hard-to-catch snitch.

"You bastard," he whispered, hardly daring believe that Draco had bought him something so perfect and brilliant, and also feeling amazed that Draco had managed to keep his trap shut about it and leave it as a surprise.

He cast his eyes around and spotted a small card stuck to the discarded red paper. He reached for it without hesitating, tearing it off of the paper and opening it, recognising Draco's script instantly and feeling relief and trepidation flood through him in tandem.

Just say the word, and they come right back.

Happy Christmas Harry.

Love Draco.

He read the words three times, hardly daring to think. Did that mean what he thought it meant? Did Draco mean that if Harry asked, he'd come back?

He paused, running his finger over the edge of wooden box. Did he even want Draco to come back?

He slipped the card inside the box and closed the lid, running his hands reverently over the lid. He looked up out of the window, breathing out deeply, and for the first time since Draco had left he felt the tension in his chest ease a little.

Picking up the box, he stepped away from the window and picked his way carefully across the room, treading quietly so as not to wake Ron and Hermione. He slipped out of the room and padded up the stairs to his room, closing the door gently behind him once he was inside. The bed looked comfortable and welcoming, and he was eager to slip under the covers to be warm and get some proper rest, rather than dozing downstairs on the sofa.

After placing the box of snitches carefully on his bedside cabinet, he walked around the bed to where the bag of possessions he'd brought back with him from Hogwarts still sat, unpacked and ignored. He hesitated only for a second and then pulled the bag open, pulling out Draco's scarf. He'd had it hidden all the time whilst Draco had been in the tower with him, unwilling to give it up. It had been a last minute addition to his bags when he'd packed to leave, returning to his dorm to shove it in his bag, refusing to consider why he hadn't been able to leave the common room without it.

He climbed into bed with it clutched in his fist, not even bothering to get undressed. He pulled the duvet up over his shoulder and tucked Draco's scarf under his chin, breathing in and out deeply and shutting his eyes.

He'd think about it in the morning. For now, he just wanted to sleep.

Chapter Text

"I hate to say this considering the circumstances mate, but that is an amazing present."

Ron was staring down at the snitches in awe, his mouth hanging slightly open and his hands cradling the box that was sat open on the kitchen table.

"I know," Harry said from where he was perched on the edge of the table, sipping a mug of tea and rocking a chair back onto two legs with his feet. "Must have cost him a fortune. I'm more impressed he managed to order it without telling me."

Ron snorted and nodded, conceding the point. Harry gazed down at the box, cradling his mug of tea between his hands and relishing the warmth. It was now midday and the three of them had only just managed to converge in the kitchen after waking up feeling rather worse for wear. Several hot drinks and a round of showers later, they were all feeling more human and capable of conversation, bundled up in pyjamas and dressing gowns and taking refuge in the kitchen.

"You said it had a note with it?" Hermione said from where she was stood by the cooker, supervising the frying bacon. The smell alone was making Harry's mouth water, and he hoped his still queasy stomach would be able to handle having food in it.

"Yeah," Harry said, slipping his hand into the pocket of his dressing gown and fingering the small card that was in there. "Just a small one."

Hermione held out her hand expectantly, not even turning around. Harry smiled and pulled the note out of his pocket, sending it floating over into Hermione's palm with a flick of his wand.

There was a beat of silence as Hermione regarded the note. "Well, that's interesting," she said, walking back over to Harry to pass him the note back. "Do you think he's talking about more than the snitches?"

Harry contemplated the note, staring down at the inked letters. "Maybe."

"What's it say?" Ron asked as Hermione moved back towards the cooker, waving her wand to make several bread rolls on the worktop start buttering themselves.

Harry tossed him the note and Ron read it, his eyebrows raising as he reached the end.

"'Love Draco'?" he said. "I don't know if you want to hear this but I reckon he's still arse over tit for you."

"You think?" Harry said, picking one of the snitches carefully out of its velvet bed and watching as two wings slowly unfurled, flapping gently as if testing their strength and surroundings.

"Well he bought you a bloody brilliant Christmas present and then obviously decided to send it even after the whole link-removing mess," Ron said with a shrug. "He didn't have to, right? And you were always saying you were worried he'd freak out when the link was removed. It's not like he did it for no reason."

"It could be an apology, if you think about it," Hermione chipped in as she carried over a plate of bacon sandwiches. Harry and Ron reached for one before the plate had even hit the table.

"Yeah," Harry said thoughtfully, eyeing his sandwich with satisfaction before taking a bite. He chewed it hungrily and swallowed before continuing. "Just like him, really. Incapable of saying anything out loud like a normal human being."

"Well then, that's his peace offering and him begging none-too-subtly for you to take him back," Ron said through his mouthful, and Harry snorted with laughter.

He didn't tell Ron that he was thinking exactly the same thing. As he'd woken that morning and slowly set about washing, dressing and brushing off his hangover, he'd been thinking a lot by what Draco had meant by sending the present. Obviously Draco wouldn't be able to say things frankly or simply, so he'd have to look at his actions and subtle messages in more depth to ascertain how he was feeling.

And if he, Ron and Hermione were right, Draco wanted Harry back.

It was amazing how much calmer he felt this morning; the turbulent whirl of emotions that had dominated his mind and body yesterday was almost gone. Since Draco had sent the present it felt like he now had some control over the situation. Now he had some idea of what Draco was feeling and thinking, he could think about everything more clearly and logically.

Although he still wasn't one hundred per cent sure about everything; without the link it was impossible to be so. He still didn't definitely know why Draco had left, and still didn't know for sure that Draco would be willing to work on their relationship without the link. He still missed the sodding thing; when he'd woken up that morning, still slightly tipsy, he'd tried to talk to Draco over the link again, before hazily remembering that it had gone.

There was no point in trying to kid himself otherwise; he was immeasurably touched by the gift Draco had sent, and affected even more so by the simple note that had accompanied it. It must have taken a lot for Draco to swallow his pride and stop running away, and that was something huge.

However, he still had his own pride and he still didn't want to be the one crawling back to Draco just because Draco had decided to play nice. Draco's actions had made him cautious; whilst the present had given him hope and made him think that maybe things could work, he wasn't going to rush into anything.

"Going to take the git back then?" Ron asked, breaking Harry's train of thought.

Harry shrugged, taking another bite of his sandwich. "Maybe."

Ron nodded thoughtfully. "Going to keep the present?"

Harry nodded. "Course."

Grinning, Ron reached for his mug of coffee. "Going to make him run around in circles after you to prove he's worthy?"

Harry hid a grin of his own in the rest of his sandwich. "Definitely."

"Don't push him too much if you're going to forgive him," Hermione said sternly. "You know how prickly he gets when he's feeling vulnerable."

"He left me two days before Christmas," Harry said pointedly. "I don't care if he's pricklier than a bloody hedgehog, I expect grovelling."

Ron and Hermione both laughed and Harry smiled too, extraordinarily relieved that he was starting to sound like his normal self again.

"So, you are going to take him back then?" Ron asked. "If the grovelling is satisfactory?"

Picking at his sandwich, Harry hesitated. He knew deep down that the answer was yes, but wasn't quite ready to say it out loud. He'd realised that nothing worth having ever came easy, and when all was said and done he did love the pointy blond bastard which did help with the whole forgiveness thing.

"We'll see," he finally said. "One day at a time."

"Going to send him anything back?"

Harry paused. "Should I?"

Ron shrugged, but Hermione looked thoughtful. "Would you want a reply? If you'd done something awful and were trying to make up for it…"

"Hmm," Harry sighed. "Part of me says that I shouldn't reply and just let him get wound up until we go back."

"And the rest of you?" Ron prompted.

"Doesn't want him to turn crazy just because I didn't reply," Harry said. "Fuck, I better really. He might pitch himself out a window if I leave him stewing. If I write back to him will you send it for me with Pig?"

"Sure," Ron shrugged. "As long as you think it's the best thing to do."

"Keep it simple," Hermione suggested and Harry nodded. He finished off the rest of his sandwich, put another pot of tea on to brew and left Ron and Hermione talking in the kitchen as he slipped up to his room to find a piece of parchment.

He sat at his desk for a while, biting the end of his quill and wondering what to write. Somehow he knew that Draco would be waiting for a reply, filled with nerves as he waited to see how Harry would react to the gift. He wanted to reassure and soothe his nerves, but without making too much of a big deal over it. He and Draco had to take this a step at a time, and he didn't want to promise too much too soon. He wanted Draco to know he appreciated the gift and somehow tell him that there was hope for the pair of them, despite them both being monumental fuck ups.

He took a deep breath and started writing. He found it surprisingly easy; in a way it was like talking over the link. He could say what he wanted without having to do it out loud.

Name signed on the bottom, he put his quill down and read it over. Did he really want to send it? If he did it would set he and Draco back on a path together, with the potential for more heartache and strife. If he didn't send it, he could walk away and try and forget, to get over what had happened and move on.

He folded the note, his heart fluttering in his ribcage. It wouldn't be him if he picked the easy route out, right? And as stupid and ridiculous as it was, love was one of those ludicrous things that you just had to fight for. Harry didn't know who had established the unwritten you-must-fight-for-love rule, but it was probably centuries old and he wasn't about to defy it now.

Wondering what Draco would make of it, he unfolded the note and checked it one last time.

I got your present - don't be cross at me for opening it early. Thank you, I love it. Can't believe you managed to keep it a surprise, though.

Love Harry.


 

"Harry! Happy Christmas, glad you decided to join us."

Harry took Arthur's outstretched hand and allowed himself to be pulled into a crushing hug. Arthur clapped him on the back and then released him, looking pleased. "You look more like yourself, glad to see it."

"Thanks for inviting me back," Harry said sincerely. "Wouldn't be the same without Molly's Christmas dinner."

"You sure it didn't have anything to do with Ron and Hermione telling you that you had to come over? Arthur asked, sounding amused. "That floo call sounded like it didn't leave you much room for arguing."

Harry smiled sheepishly, scratching the back of his head. In truth, he would have happily spent the rest of Christmas lazing about in Grimmauld place, playing with the ice-skating penguins, munching on biscuits and welcoming Hermione and Ron for visits when they were so inclined. Hermione had had other ideas; she had told him sternly that now he was so cheerful that he was working things out with Draco, he should make an effort to show his face and sort things out with the Weasleys.

He had wanted to point out that he wasn't exactly cheerful about the state of things with Draco; he was calmer and quietly guarded about the situation rather than miserable and pathetic, but she had been wearing her firm expression so he'd caved.

So now here he was, back at the Burrow, still feeling like the odd man out but now in a place to do something about it. The small exchange with Draco had given him a sense of control back and revived his Gryffindor spirit, which now meant making positive steps to clear the air with the Weasleys.

It was just unlucky really that that had to start with the two women of the household. Oh well, he thought idly. At least everything after that would probably seem easy in comparison.

He chatted to Arthur for a moment longer, listening to Arthur expound in delight about the old battered laptop that he'd been given for Christmas. It was a familiar and comforting routine and Arthur's happy demeanour gave him the confidence he needed to believe that the rest of the family would also come around and welcome him back. Making his excuses and promising to come and look at the laptop later, he slipped away to track down Ginny and her mother.

He headed towards the kitchen, following the smell of cooking turkey and other Christmassy delights, knowing that Mrs Weasley would be stationed at the cooker for most of the morning. He walked slowly and quietly, feeling uncertain despite his improved disposition.

"-says that Harry will be here for dinner."

He paused just outside the door at the sound of his name, wary of the slightly disapproving tone that laced Molly Weasley's voice. He was about to step forwards and make his presence known when he heard Ginny reply.

"I'm glad," she said boldly. "I don't want him to be alone, not on Christmas."

"Yes," Molly said, her voice troubled. Harry waited, wanting to hear what their thoughts were before he went in to talk to them. "But do you think it's appropriate, him coming here?"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Well, you know the situation is a little…" Molly hesitated, sounding uncertain, "complicated at the moment."

"It's not complicated at all," Ginny replied and Harry marvelled at her resolute tone. "Me and Harry don't love each other. Harry is in love with Malfoy, and nothing's going to change that."

"It could be just a phase."

"It's not," Ginny said firmly. "I did think that before but it's not. So just please…just don't take it out on Harry. He didn't mean for any of this to happen."

"Well you've hardly come across as his biggest supporter," Molly said gently. "When he was here-"

"I was awful, I know," Ginny said abruptly. "I just didn't expect him to turn up and I didn't know what had been going on…I was going to talk to him after the fireworks but Ron bloody kidnapped him. He's still the same old Harry, Mum, he's just with someone else. Simple as."

There was a silence, broken only by the clinking of plates and the soft sounds of cooking food. Harry leant against the wall next to the door, feeling a lot older than he was. He was touched by what Ginny had said, and was also idly wondering when it had become common knowledge that he was in love with Draco.

Deciding that he'd lurked quite long enough, he stepped into the kitchen, knocking softly on the back of the open door as he did. The two women turned around, their faces transforming into identical expressions of surprise as they saw Harry.

"Hey," he said softly. "Happy Christmas."

Ginny's expression morphed into one of slight suspicion, and Harry could tell she'd been wondering how much of the conversation he'd overheard. He shook his head almost imperceptibly at her and she nodded in return, her expression clearing.

"Happy Christmas," she finally said with a small smile. "Was wondering if you'd come over today."

"Hope that's okay?" Harry said, turning his gaze to Molly. She eyed him for a long moment and then slowly put her wooden spoon down, before walking across to Harry and wrapping him up in a hug. Slightly startled but immeasurably relieved, Harry hugged her back.

"I'm glad you're here," Molly finally said, pulling back and examining him. "Your Christmas present is still under the tree." Her expression was subdued and still hesitant.

Harry nodded. "Can I talk to you for a minute? If you're not too busy that is?"

Molly nodded. "If you can talk whilst I cook," she said briskly, her tone retuning to a more cheerful one that sounded much more natural. "Come on."

Harry glanced over to Ginny who half smiled at him, her expression understanding. She put down the spoon she'd been holding and slipped from the kitchen, giving Harry's elbow a brief squeeze on the way out. He didn't say anything; there would be time to talk to her later and besides, he had a feeling that they'd be alright anyway. It was bound to be a bit strange; it would be with any couple that broke up, but her standing up for him was as clear a message as any. He watched her go before crossing the kitchen to lean on the worktop, watching as Molly supervised the stirring pots on the top of the cooker.

"So, you're looking more cheerful than you did," Molly said casually, turning to her chopping board.

"Yeah," Harry said, watching one of the spoons slowly revolving in a pan of gravy. "Sorry about the other night. I had a lot on."

"Ron told me that," Molly paused and then continued. "He told me you were feeling disorientated after the Legilimency link had been removed, so you and Draco couldn't be too close."

Harry was mildly impressed by both the lie and the way Molly managed to say Draco's name without so much as a twitch. "It was more like Draco had a mental breakdown because we removed the link so he decided to leave me."

Molly's hands faltered. She didn't say anything for a long while but Harry kept quiet. He'd played his hand, and now he wanted to see how she'd react-

"I'm so sorry, Harry," the words suddenly tumbled from her mouth as she turned around and reached for one of his hands, her eyes bright and her chin trembling. "Here you are having to go through that and we're all being so troll-headed about it-"

"It's okay," Harry said, feeling slightly alarmed. "I know it was a lot to take in. It was my fault really, I didn't talk to you or tell you what was going on."

"All I knew was that you'd had this Legilimency accident, and then suddenly Ginny said you two weren't together any more and then the story in the Prophet-" Molly trailed off, holding his hand tightly.

"I know you wanted me and Ginny to last forever," Harry said quietly. Molly's head moved fractionally but she didn't say anything. "I'm sorry. I can't change who I am. And who I am is a gay man who's accidentally fallen in love with Draco."

Molly laughed thickly, the sound more like a hiccup. "I just wanted you to be part of the family, properly."

"You just try and get rid of me," Harry joked quietly and she laughed again, wiping her eyes.

"I'm sorry for being so silly," she said. "It's just a lot to take in."

"I know," Harry said honestly. "I'm sorry too."

Molly looked up at him and all at once he felt all the pain she'd been through; losing a son in the final battle, all the trials and tribulations that her family had been through over the years, and more recently the uncertainty and worry over her only daughter's happiness. He barely had time to appreciate it before she was looking away, breathing out in a deep sigh.

"Well, come on then," she said, and the moment was gone. She smiled at him, genuine for the first time since he'd seen her. "Make yourself useful and go and help George set the table."

Harry grinned at her and obediently slipped out of the kitchen, his spirits lifted and his heart feeling lighter than it had in days. That was until he looked up and abruptly came nose to nose with George who was standing in the way and worryingly holding a bunch of knives in each hand.

"Ginny tells me you've gone gay for Malfoy, and I'm not allowed to ignore you anymore because it's not actually your fault," he said without preamble.

"Well yeah, but I'd prefer being ignored rather than being stabbed for it," Harry asked, looking pointedly at the cutlery.

George shrugged but mercifully lowered his hands. "Debatable."

"I didn't do it to be a prick," Harry said bluntly. "And I definitely didn't do it to hurt Ginny."

"I know," George said impatiently, waving a hand and making Harry take a hasty step back. "I just," he paused and wrinkled his nose. "Malfoy. Really? He was such a pointy fucking bastard to us all. Do you remember the song? And the Prophet article-"

"He broke my nose," Harry pointed out. "If I can forgive him for that, then you should be able to forgive him for being an idiot when he was fifteen."

George pulled a face. "Do I have to?"

"No," Harry said mildly. "But you'll have to get over the fact that I'm with him."

George eyed him suspiciously. "Ron said you'd broken up."

Harry levelled him with a suspicious look of his own. "Did he tell you that or you did you hear it on the extendible ear network?"

"That would be telling," George replied, a sly grin overtaking his features. Harry watched him for a moment and then grinned too, holding a hand out. George promptly handed over a handful of cutlery and together they carried on with setting the table. Harry smiled quietly to himself as he did, unable to help himself. He didn't know if anything had been said by Arthur or Ginny but it seemed that attitudes towards him were becoming less frosty by the minute.

"You made it back then," a voice called out and Harry looked up to see Ron walking over with an armful of Christmas crackers. Harry grinned up at him and Ron grinned back, dropping the crackers onto the table. "Help me sort these out."

It was just like any other Christmas after that. Ron, Harry and George nattered about the Christmas charity Quidditch tournament, Percy dropped in to loudly voice his opinion that it was a waste of time, Hermione came in to roll her eyes and charm the placemats into the right place in the blink of an eye, and then before he knew it, Christmas dinner was ready and the whole family were descending on the table.

It was noisy and a little raucous but Harry loved it, finding himself wedged in between Ron and Percy and repeatedly knocked by their elbows. He was still quieter than normal, his mind often drifting back to Draco without him really noticing, but no-one seemed to mind. The food was delicious and spirits were high, and this time around Harry couldn't help but be cheered by the atmosphere, rather than being made miserable by it.

Some time later, collapsed on the sofa with Ron and Hermione, full to the brim with Christmas food and fending off Molly's offers of more mince pies, Harry felt lazy and almost content. He stilled missed Draco, but the feeling was now like a soft ache in his chest rather than the gut-wrenching pain of days previously. With the small tentative glimmer of hope resting warm in his heart and all his friends around him, he couldn't help but think Christmas wasn't that bad after all.


 

Draco hated Christmas. In fact, he was ready to cancel every Christmas in the future just so he didn't have to put up with all the fuss and expectation and let down that he'd experienced over the last week. He hated Muggles too, he thought angrily as he tried to edge past a group of young women who had come to a standstill on the platform in Kings Cross station, blocking the way as they argued loudly about which platform they were supposed to be on, one of them checking some sort of hand-held box that apparently would provide the answers.

For the seventh year in a row Draco vowed to somehow make the Ministry connect Hogwarts to the floo network so he didn't have to deal with London or the train station. At least he didn't have his trunk this time; there was nothing he hated more than the odd glances he got from the Muggles when he was carrying all his school paraphernalia with him, as if he was the weird one or something.

He was refusing to admit that his foul mood was probably exacerbated by the fact he suspected Harry might be on the train. Apollo hadn't taken that long to return from his present delivery run which made him think that Harry had indeed gone home rather than staying at Hogwarts. He didn't even have anyone with him to distract him; his Mother didn't leave the manor anymore and he hadn't even spoken to any of his friends whilst he'd been home, so they all probably thought he was still safely at Hogwarts with Harry. Which he would have been, he thought, if he'd not been such a fucking idiot about everything.

He finally pushed past the women and slipped through the barrier to platform nine and three quarters without even looking around to check he wasn't being watched. He didn't care; he just wanted to get onto the train and sat down out of the way as soon as possible.

He was early and there were only a few students that had already arrived which was a relief. The gentle waves of steam that drifted across the platform from the scarlet steam engine were strangely welcoming and filled him with gratitude that he was back in the magical world. It wasn't that he really hated Muggles, he thought as he climbed aboard and headed straight to the back of the train, finding a small compartment to hide away in. He was just easily frustrated and Muggles were just so slowat everything, using stupid little glowing machines instead of magic to try and make their lives easier. Draco scowled as he imagined Harry explaining to him what the little glowing machines that he saw Muggles holding to their ears did, his expression patient and understanding. Harry was of the opinion that Draco hated things he didn't understand. Draco was of the opinion he hated things because they were stupid.

He shoved his bag into the luggage rack and slumped down into the corner, looking out of the window at the wall on the far side of the platform. Now he couldn't stop thinking about Harry, and that was making him even more irritable and nervous. The note Harry had sent him in return had given him hope that maybe things between them could be fixed. However, the lift the hope had given him had quickly faded and he'd been reduced to second-guessing everything and trying to read into every letter Harry had written. He'd drawn the line when he'd found himself examining Harry's bloody handwriting, trying to ascertain if it seemed happy or not. Embarrassed and frustrated, he'd refused to reply to save himself the torment of another round of analysis when Harry had written back – or, even worse, a period of anguish because Harry hadn't written back.

He was regretting it now; refusing to correspond by owl meant that now they'd probably have to have to conversation face to face, and that definitely wasn't a welcome thought.

"What the hell are you doing here?"

Draco jumped violently, nearly banging his head on the glass of the window. He whipped around to see Pansy, Blaise and Theo all crammed in the doorway, staring at him in disbelief.

"You're meant to be at Hogwarts," Blaise continued. "What happened?"

Draco just shrugged. "Change of plan," he said lightly. "Went home instead, now I'm here."

"Why?" Pansy asked and Draco huffed in resignation.

"Sit down, for Christ's sake," he snapped, his tone belying his relief at finding his friends." I feel like I'm being interrogated."

"You are," Theo said simply as they pushed into the compartment, shoving bags and coats in the luggage racks, jostling each other as they went. Within minutes, Draco found himself opposite Theo and wedged in next to Pansy, with three expectant faces looking in his direction.

"Let me guess," Blaise drawled. "You fell out with Potter and stormed off home in a huff?"

Draco glared at him and then lowered his scowl, looking back out of the window with a sigh. "I don't want to talk about it."

"That's a yes," Theo said and Draco scowled at him too.

"You fell out?" Pansy asked, eyes narrowed.

"I don't want to talk about it," Draco said forcefully. "Look, yes, alright. We fell out. I don't know if we're together anymore. I've had a shit Christmas so can we please drop it and talk about something else?"

There was silence for a moment and then Pansy broke it.

"You still owe me a Christmas present," she sniffed. "Even these two managed to send me something."

Draco looked up at that, surprised. "You did?" he asked Blaise, who just shrugged, looking bored. Draco laughed, shaking his head. "Fuck. I better get my act together if you're being a better friend than me."

"Pfft, not hard to beat," Blaise drawled dismissively, but his grin took the bite out of his words.

Draco pulled a face back, more out of habit than anything and then settled in to listen to his friends chattering about Christmas, thankful that they had obliged and stopped questioning him. He was quiet and remained so even as Pansy blathered on about the Italian son of her mother's friend who had apparently swept her off her feet on New Year. He didn't even make a disparaging comment as Blaise talked about the ludicrously expensive gift he'd sent Parvati Patil. All he did do was smile quietly and wonder if he or Harry would win the bet on the pair lasting until Valentines without jumping each other.

He was half dozing with his head on his fist when he was rudely interrupted by an elbow in his side. He looked up to see his three so-called friends all sitting with grins on their faces and their wands held horizontally across the foreheads, kept in place with a finger. Draco was instantly hit with the urge to copy the motion and shout 'not it', but quickly pushed it away, feeling ridiculous. They had grown out of that stupid game to determine who would have to go and do and fetch something for the group years ago. And he'd never lost; it was hard to do so when Crabbe and Goyle had been nearby.

"What are you, twelve?" he asked irritably. "I'm not doing whatever it is that you want doing."

"I'll have a pumpkin pasty," Pansy said, lowering her wand and holding out a galleon with a bright smile.

"Me too," Theo chipped in.

"I'll have some chocolate frogs as well," Blaise held out his own galleon.

"I'm not going," Draco insisted. "I don't want anything from the damn trolley."

"Slowest wand draw has to go, you know the rules," Pansy said. "Off you trot."

"No," Draco said stubbornly.

"Scared of seeing Potter?" Blaise asked, a smirk on his face.

"Oh piss off," Draco said, standing up and snatching the galleons, stalking out of the compartment, slamming the door on the way out just to be a nuisance. It didn't work; the others just laughed and waved him goodbye.

Gritting his teeth and resigned to the fact he shouldn't really be off daydreaming whilst in a compartment of Slytherins, Draco trudged the length of the carriage, the money clenched tightly in his hand. He looked determinedly forwards, refusing to look into the compartments along his right hand side lest he see anyone he wasn't prepared for.

He moved quickly and purposefully and made it through another carriage without incident until he reached the next door. He pulled it open and promptly came nose to nose with a figure who was coming the other way, only looking up from his feet just in time to avoid colliding with Draco.

The bottom dropped out of Draco's stomach.

"Hey," Harry said weakly, obviously as startled as Draco.

"Hi," Draco replied automatically, his voice sounding strange to his own ears. He swallowed and looked down, not knowing what to do at all. The weight of what he had done hung between them, heavy in the air and making the prospect of conversation seem both terrifying and impossible.

"You okay?" Harry asked hesitantly. Draco looked up at him again and resorted to nodding, not trusting his mouth to behave because the feelings racing through him at the sight of Harry were so intense, he could almost believe the link was back.

God, seeing him almost hurt. Memories of kissing and holding hands and talking over the link rushed back and he was almost overwhelmed by the force of the urge he felt to physically grab hold of Harry and hold him close. Who had he been kidding? There was no way he could get over Harry, not when the idiot was this close and so scruffy and damn perfect-

"Good," Harry said awkwardly, snapping Draco out of his reverie. An uncomfortable silence followed, and Draco felt embarrassment prickle its way up his spine.

"Looking for the trolley," he blurted out. "Theo and the others sent me to fetch their food."

God, how stupid did he sound?

Harry smiled weakly. "She's in the next carriage. Ron's already stocked us up."

"Oh," Draco said. "Thanks."

The uncomfortable silence fell again. Harry was looking resolutely down at Draco's feet, as if he were waiting for Draco to be the one to say something. Was he kidding? Draco was never the one to be able to speak first…which was probably exactly why Harry was waiting for it. Shit. Draco swallowed nervously.

"I-" he began and Harry's head snapped up to him, his green eyes wide and hopeful. The sheer intensity of the gaze made Draco falter, feeling vulnerable and completely hopeless.

"Should get back," he finished lamely. "Pansy might eat Theo if I keep her waiting."

Harry nodded, looking down at the floor again, his expression unreadable. "Yeah. I better go too."

"Where are you going?" Draco blurted out before he could help himself. A small terrified voice inside him was creating scenarios of Harry going to meet some girl, or even worse – another guy who was interested in him and didn't treat him like shit, unlike Draco-

"Toilet," Harry said, looking at Draco curiously.

Draco felt his face flame red. "Oh. Sorry," he muttered. "I'll see you later." Feeling completely mortified and well aware he was acting like an idiot, he shoved past Harry and dived into the next carriage, ignoring the call of his name that followed him. He marched down the carriage, shoving his hands in his pockets and wishing that he could just be even a little bit braver than he was managing to be at the moment.


 

"You were gone a while," Ron commented as Harry slid back into the carriage, sinking into his seat and staring down at the small table that Ron and Hermione were playing Dragon Dominoes on.

"Bumped into Draco," Harry said, smiling ruefully as Hermione and Ron instantly looked up.

"What did he say?" Hermione asked, looking down distractedly and separating two of her dominoes as the dragon on one of them started grumbling at another, curling and uncurling its wings agitatedly.

"Not a lot," Harry said. "I caught him off guard a bit."

"Did he try and blank you?" Ron asked, completely ignoring his own dominoes which were sending small showers of sparks over the table towards Hermione's.

"No," Harry shook his head. "He just looked flustered, and scared. Like he didn't know what to say. The usual tongue-tied mess, I suppose," he sank back against the seat and rubbed his face, pushing his glasses up out of the way. "God, I just wanted to grab him and force a decent conversation out of him."

"Good luck," Ron snorted and looked down at his dominoes, belatedly turning one around so it couldn't spit sparks at the others. "God, someone owl George and tell him these things are lethal."

"You think you'll be able to talk?" Hermione asked.

"Definitely not in the middle of a train," Harry said. "Maybe if we write it all down," he said humourlessly.

"That's not a bad idea," Hermione said thoughtfully.

"Everything involving Draco is a bad idea," Harry groaned, shaking his head and ignoring the amused yet sympathetic smile Hermione sent in his direction. He still felt a little shaky from him impromptu meeting with Draco – that wasn't at all how he'd imagined their potential reunion. In the one he'd imagined there'd been more talking, more kissing and a lot less clothes.

He supposed one awkward conversation was all he could really hope for at the moment though. It was early days. It was just so hard to be realistic when Draco was right there within touching distance, looking all pathetic and confused and unable to string a bloody sentence together.

Hang on – what if Draco had changed his mind about everything? What if the awkward conversation had been borne of a desire to actually avoid Harry? Did he regret sending the gift? He hadn't replied to Harry's note- maybe Harry had been wrong to be so complacent about it-

"Harry?"

Harry jerked his head up at the sound of Hermione's gentle voice.

"Stop second guessing yourself," she said, carefully edging a domino across the table. "You know what he's like."

He breathed out deeply, trying to calm himself down. "I suppose," he said, still unconvinced.

He spent the rest of the train journey trying valiantly to act normally whilst brooding over Draco's behaviour. Why couldn't they get their act together and just fix it? Probably because at that moment there wasn't the opportunity to have a conversation without a hoard of people watching in or listening.

He made up his mind in an instant. He'd have to get Draco alone and just have it all out – fuck his previous resolution to take it a day at a time; he couldn't bear this new situation, with them both edging around the other and being confused and not daring to just give in. Bollocks to his pride; he'd drag Draco out of the damn feast to get an opportunity alone with him if he had to.

It was simple. He wanted him back, and Harry was filled with a fierce determination to achieve that end as soon as possible. God, it was just like when he'd first started considering his sexuality; one face to face encounter with Draco and his carefully constructed thoughts and plans fell like a tower of cards.

By the time the train slowed, slowly chugging into the Hogsmeade station, Harry was so wound up he couldn't sit still. It wasn't really in his nature to wait for things, although he had become a lot more laid back and patient since the end of the war. That newly developed sense of self-control was all but decimated as the train finally ground to a halt; he grabbed his bag, cursing as the strap got caught up in the luggage rack.

"Calm down," Ron said, sounding amused as Harry finally freed his bag and then swore, turning to see the crowd of eager looking students already crowding the corridor.

"Think I can claim I get corridor priority because I'm the Chosen One?" Harry asked, frowning as he pulled his bag onto his shoulder.

"No," Ron and Hermione said simultaneously.

Harry huffed, reaching out to pull open the compartment door, sticking his head out and looking each way for the tell-tale flash of blond hair. He didn't spot it, so he resigned himself to wait for the rest of the students to get out of the bloody way before he, Ron and Hermione could disembark. He scanned the platform continually as they made their way to the carriages, wondering if he'd missed Draco or if Draco had taken to wearing a hat to hide him from searching eyes.

He growled in frustration as he caught himself wondering if Draco were hiding from him on purpose, cross that he'd descended into being such a bloody wuss about the situation.

"Mate, you're scaring me a little bit," Ron said as Harry edged past a group of fifth year girls who were – in his opinion – taking far too long to pick a carriage.

"In a rush," Harry said promptly, ignoring the girls who were vocally objecting to his queue-jumping. Ron and Hermione followed, muttering apologies and then climbing into the carriage, sitting down opposite Harry and sending him identical reproachful looks.

"What?" he asked, looking around at the students to see if Draco was anywhere in the vicinity. "The heart wants what the heart wants."

"'The heart wants'?" Ron repeated incredulously. "A week ago you hated the git."

"Yeah, well. That was before I actually saw him," Harry said, still twisting around and searching the crowd. "It's easy to hate him when he's not there. I just…I'm not having the pointy blond bastard be anywhere but with me."

"Well you sound like you've made your mind up," Hermione remarked.

Harry finally gave up on his search and turned back to sit properly in his seat. "I have," he said honestly. "If you were me and you'd been through all that crap with someone you wouldn't just give up because they've been a tit, would you?"

Hermione's lips twitched. "Of course I've got no idea what that would be like," she said pointedly. Harry laughed and Ron frowned at her.

"Are you talking about me?"

"What? No," Hermione said innocently. "We're talking about Malfoy."

Ron didn't seem mollified; he continued to look from Harry to Hermione with a slightly suspicious look on his face. Harry hid a grin and took pity on him, continuing the conversation.

"I'll have to grab him at some point this evening," Harry said. "When there's no-one else about."

"Are you kidding? Tonight's going to be hectic as anything with the feast and stuff," Ron frowned, swaying slightly with the motion of the carriage.

"Hence the phrase grabhim," Harry said pointedly.

"I'm not sure kidnapping is the way to go, mate," Ron laughed.

"Oh, coming from you," Harry shot back.

Ron held up his hands in a gesture of surrender. "Alright, calm down. I have to tell you though, Malfoy makes you insane."

Harry snorted and sank back into the seat of the carriage. "Yeah well, what can you do."


 

"Harry, can you stop staring? You're freaking me out."

"Sorry Nev," Harry replied, hastily looking away from the doors and down at the table. They'd been sat down for a good fifteen minutes, waiting for the rest of the students to file in to the Hall, and Harry had been watching the doors over Neville's shoulder for most of that time.

"You's freaking us all out," Seamus said, waving a hand in front of Harry's eyes. "Snap out of it."

Harry batted his hand away. "Pack it in, I'm just looking for Draco."

"Thought you were staying here with him for Christmas anyways?" Seamus asked.

"Long story," Harry muttered, drumming his fingers on the table, propping his other elbow on the table and resting his temple on his fist.

"I think Malfoy's made you crazy," Seamus remarked.

"That's what we said," Ron chipped in helpfully.

"God, shut up," Harry said impatiently. "Just because-"

The retort died on his lips as he glanced up again and froze, his eyes fixed on the figure that had just entered the Hall, head bowed and expression sullen. Harry watched him, breath caught in his chest, as Draco followed Pansy, Theo and Blaise over to the Slytherin table, hands shoved in his pockets and ignoring everyone around him. He made it halfway across the Hall before he lifted his head and looked almost unconsciously over at the Gryffindor table-

Their eyes met and Harry wished that they had the link back so he could tell Draco to march his arse over to the Gryffindor table to sit with him instead. Draco's eyes widened slightly and then he looked away, looking thoroughly uncomfortable, a flush staining the back of his neck. He sat down quickly and hesitantly raised his eyes again; looking instantly away as he saw Harry was still watching him. He turned his face away, looking increasingly desperate, biting his lip agitatedly.

The rest of the feast was a blur to Harry. He ate and laughed and chatted with his friends, but he was distracted and couldn't fight the urge to repeatedly look up at Draco. It seemed that Draco was in a similar state; sometimes Harry would look up to see Draco already looking at him, his expression anxious and becoming steadily more so as the evening went on.

"This is doing my head in," Harry muttered to Ron, looking down at his empty dessert plate and knowing that Draco was watching him. "He's watching me again, isn't he?"

"Yep," Ron said casually. "He looks like he's either going to cry or throw something."

"What am I supposed to do?" Harry said, more to himself than Ron, rubbing his forehead with his fingers.

"I thought you had a plan? You were all for kidnapping and forcing a conversation earlier," Ron commented.

"He's making me nervous," Harry admitted. "I can't tell what he wants."

"Go and ask him," Ron suggested.

Harry frowned at him. "I can't exactly march over to the Slytherin table and talk to him in front of all of his friends-"

"Good job he's leaving the Hall then," Ron deadpanned, pointing over towards the Slytherin table.

Harry looked up so quickly his neck clicked, and then his heart leapt into the base of his throat as he saw Ron wasn't lying; Draco was edging his way out of the Hall, walking quickly with his gaze trained determinedly on the floor, avoiding eye contact with anyone. Harry looked up to the staff table but either no-one was looking in Draco's direction or they'd seen him and they didn't care-

"Just remember, everyone will watch you follow him," Ron said, drawing Harry's attention back. "The whole school. And you know what they're like for gossip. Lavender's looking your way already."

Harry hesitated for a moment, torn, and then made up his mind.

"Oh fuck it."

He clambered back off the bench and set off after Draco, walking as quickly as he could without actually running. He ignored a shout of his name and slipped through the doors, his heart fluttering madly inside his ribcage.

"Draco."

The word rang out across the Entrance Hall, so loud in the quiet. Draco froze, halfway across the empty space, the sound of his footsteps dying. Harry swallowed and took a step closer and Draco slowly turned around, his expression frightened.

Before he was even aware of what he was doing, Harry was walking over and taking hold of Draco, curling his hands over Draco's shoulders and holding him in place so he couldn't run away. Harry felt Draco's hands shakily grope along his arms and then his fingers fisted in the material of Harry's shirt, clinging onto Harry's upper arms.

"Don't," he said weakly. "I just-"

"Why did you send me that present?" Harry asked, his voice low. "Tell me."

"Don't," Draco said, turning his face away. "I've been fucking watching you for over an hour and I can't think of anything I can say that'll make up for it or that won't sound stupid-"

"At least try," Harry said angrily, cross that Draco was already saying he couldn't make this work. For god's sake, they'd only been talking for less than five minutes.

Draco shook his head. "I can't, alright," he said, and to Harry's shock his voice was bordering on tearful. "I can't say the right things."

"You can," Harry insisted, but Draco just shook his head again.

"I can't," he said. "I never say anything out loud so this will never work-"

Harry let go of Draco with one hand in order to draw his wand. Draco made a noise of protest and distress and tried to take a step back but Harry was quicker, raising his wand and pointing it straight at Draco's face.

"Legillimens Exportai!"

They both gasped but Harry barely heard it. The window in his mind had sprung open once again and through it he could feel Draco all over again. The sensation was almost overwhelming; through the whirl of his thoughts and feelings he noticed he couldn't feel any of Draco's emotions, but there was still something tangible and just so Draco-like there that it was enough to nearly knock him off his feet. He could almost hear Draco's heartbeat too, thudding softly alongside his own once more.

Don't shut me out, Harry said, voice trembling. He waited for what seemed like an age; Draco was perfectly still, standing with his eyes shut and breathing shallowly through his mouth.

But I'm no good with words.

Harry nearly collapsed with relief; hearing Draco's quiet and subdued voice actually participating in something that resembled a conversation was more than he could have hoped to hear.

You don't have to be, he replied. Just stop running away.

He lowered his wand and the connection faded, leaving him hyper-aware of the sounds of their shallow breathing and the mad thudding of his own heart.

"You-" Draco tried, his voice croaky. "You forgive me?"

"Yes, you idiot," Harry said roughly. "I don't want to do this without you."

"But I left," Draco struggled to say. "Christmas. What kind of person does that?"

"An idiot," Harry repeated. "Stop feeling pathetic and make it up to me instead. Come on. Enough of that being pessimistic crap. I can forgive you so just accept that and stop being, being-"

"An idiot?" Draco said quietly. Harry laughed shortly, nodding.

"Yeah, that."

They stood in silence for long moments. Harry waited, his stomach feeling tight and tense, waiting for Draco to reply or say something, anything. Draco appeared to be thinking hard; his eyes kept flickering back and forth and there was a small cleft between his eyebrows.

Minutes passed, and still he said nothing, looking increasingly agitated as the seconds ticked by. Harry sighed, his shoulders slumping.

"Fine," he said tonelessly. "I get it-"

"Just shut up," Draco interrupted and then before Harry could blink Draco leant forwards and pressed his mouth to Harry's.

Harry's breath hitched in his chest and he tightened his grip on Draco's shoulders. The kiss was barely more than a simple press of lips but he could smell and taste Draco again and it was just everything he'd missed over the past couple of weeks. His whole body was flooded with relief, having Draco back in his arms was the best thing he'd felt in ages. However, Harry had barely any time to truly appreciate the kiss before Draco was pulling back, his eyes now on Harry's face.

"I don't know if I can do it," Draco began helplessly.

Harry cut him off by kissing him again, moving his hands to cup Draco's face. "Just try," he breathed against Draco's lips. "I don't know either but we've got to try-"

Draco nodded, letting his eyes flutter shut and gently pressing his lips to Harry's again, trembling all the while. "I don't-" he said. "I just didn't think-"

Whatever Draco did or didn't think was lost as the noise from the Hall suddenly grew louder; they looked around simultaneously to see the doors slowly swinging open in preparation for people to leave the hall.

"Shit," Draco muttered. "We better move."

"Don't go," Harry said. "Not this time."

Draco looked at him intently for a moment, and then he breathed out deeply as if steeling himself for something. "The tower," he finally said. "I'll come with you if you want."

He shrugged as he said it, but Harry recognised the nonchalant offer for what it was. Draco was still clearly uncertain and scared, but he was willing to at least spent the night with Harry-

Fuck it. Second guessing and taking it a step at a time could wait until the morning.

"Come on," Harry finally said. He stepped back and held his hand out and Draco took it instantly, threading his fingers through Harry's and once again letting him lead them up to Gryffindor Tower.

Chapter Text

Harry knew that he should probably try and retain some sense of perspective, but it was proving a challenge, and one that he didn't think he'd win. As he led Draco up to Gryffindor Tower, walking as quickly as they could manage, he was trying to remember his valiant resolutions about taking it slowly and going one step at a time. All in all, he was failing admirably.

All he could focus on was the feel of Draco's slender fingers clenched tightly in his and the sounds of his shallow breathing right behind him. They were both trembling and Harry could only hold on tight and pray that Draco was feeling the same as he was. He was still full of adrenaline from their meeting and the brief moment they'd had linked by legilimens exportai, and his spirits were lifted even further at Draco's suggestion that he accompany Harry to the tower.

"Password?"

Harry ground to a halt outside the tower, suddenly wanting to swear. He didn't know the new password yet, what a bloody idiot he was.

"Poinsettia?" he said doubtfully, reciting the last password from the previous term. The Fat Lady stared down at him and then sighed.

"Seeing as it's you," she said with a dismissive wave of her hand, and then swung forwards to admit them both.

Harry grinned, climbing through the portrait hole hurriedly. He didn't really know why he was rushing so badly, but he was conscious of the fact that he wanted to talk to Draco before the rest of his housemates overran the tower. He turned on the spot, heart still thudding madly and watched Draco climb through after him, his face flushed and his eyes fixing on Harry as he straightened up.

"This counts as me not running away," Draco said matter-of-factly, looking down and twisting his fingers together. "Just so you know."

Harry smiled weakly. "I gathered that much."

He stepped forwards and reached out, running his fingers down Draco's jaw and along his chin. "I missed you," he said quietly.

Draco mumbled something, the words inaudible.

"What?"

Draco breathed out deeply. "Missed you too," he said quietly.

Harry couldn't fight the smile that was threatening to break out over his face. "That wasn't so hard, was it?"

"Stop it," Draco insisted, battin