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The Boy at the Robe Shop

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This is the last chapter I have saved from when I was writing this story almost a decade ago. I do still have a lot of love for these characters and the story and may slowly start writing subsequent chapters, but no guarantees!


18. Kisses

Harry’d seen Draco and Pansy kissing each other more times than he cared to. There had been that time at the Hospital Wing, when Pansy had stolen Draco’s first kiss: Draco’s surprise melting away as he accepted Pansy’s demanding lips. There had been that party Draco had thrown for Pansy’s birthday, when Pansy, squealing, had tackled Draco to the floor and drove her mouth onto his: it’d seemed like she was ripping his face from where Harry had been standing. There had been that evening when Harry had returned from detention with Filch, worn out from having scrubbed several bathrooms squeaky clean, only to find Draco and Pansy making out on Draco’s bed in the boys’ dorm: Pansy draped over Draco, her hands caressing Draco’s back, Draco’s arms encircling her waist, their kiss simple and sweet, familiar. Then there were the pecks of lips on cheek in the mornings, a giggling smooch now and then in the library.

They’d been nothing like this.

Draco’s lips were pressed softly upon Harry’s, unmoving, chaste. Harry didn’t know how to respond. He shut his eyes and concentrated on not moving; forcing himself to be completely still despite the shiver that was running down his spine, his skin, his limbs, and his blood singing in his ears. They stayed that way for a moment, locked at the lips, Draco’s hands resting on the place where Harry’s neck met his shoulders, until Harry began to feel dizzy, his head swimming as if he were low on oxygen—and realised that he was low on oxygen, he’d stopped breathing sometime between feeling Draco’s baby-soft mouth touch his and Draco’s breath grazing his upper lip.

Afraid to move even an inch, Harry had let out a puff of breath, praying it wouldn’t interrupt—whatever they were doing now. Draco’s lips were curling into a slight bow—Harry could feel his smile against his mouth—and without any warning, though Harry doubted he could have prepared for it even if there had been one, Draco’s tongue slid over Harry’s bottom lip, over and over and over, kittenish laps that almost made Harry gasp out loud. Instead he swallowed whatever sound he wanted to let out. He didn’t want to whimper pathetically, he didn’t want to scare Draco away with a groan, but, oh God, Draco, he couldn’t help pressing into that touch, helpless to do anything else but fiercely remember Draco’s warm lips on his.

Harry didn’t recall when he’d let go of the leather and had buried his hands in the silken

blond locks, when Draco had begun to make needy sounds from the back of his throat, but the moment he tasted a hint of chocolate and Draco, he hungrily etched the moment into his memory, because even as he drank down all the little whimpers and gasps, desperately wanting, longing for the moment to stretch itself just a little bit longer, he remembered with a burning ache that this—this wasn’t real.

The fact felt like a shard of ice implanted inside him. This was wrong, he’d been able to control himself before, he’d always managed to reign it all in without Draco noticing. But how could he now, when Draco was suckling gently on Harry’s bottom lip, their kiss achingly sweet, slow and sweet and simply wonderful. And, if Draco had been drugged, didn’t it mean Harry was, too? Draco had shoved that chocolate into his mouth, after all.

With a tender press of his lips, Draco pulled away. Harry leaned forward, following, not quite able to break away. He opened his eyes when he felt Draco’s thumb swiping over his cheek, only to draw in a sharp breath at the sight in front of him, light dancing in Draco’s darkened eyes, his cheeks flushed, his mouth swollen a delicious red. I did that, Harry thought, taking it all in, and felt something swell inside his chest.

It was shattered the next moment when Draco whispered: “I love you, Harry.” His eyes were full of adoration. “I love you so much,” he breathed.

The word sliced through Harry like a sharpened blade on raw flesh. Harry scrambled off the sofa, struggling to pull his wand out of his robe pocket. His eyes felt hot and his throat constricted.

“What’s wrong, Harry?” Draco was saying, eyes wide in concern.

It wasn’t fair. To show him a glimpse of what he would never be able to have, and take it away. The fact remained, cold and hard as stone, that this wasn’t real.

Somnius,” Harry choked, and watched Draco slump onto the couch, falling asleep. Harry slowly got on his feet and peered down at Draco. A lock of blond hair had tumbled

over Draco’s eyes, and Harry tucked it behind his ear.

Harry looked away from him. His chest area felt too tight and he wanted to be sick.

A white object wedged into the crook of the sofa caught Harry’s eyes. With a jolt, Harry realised that it probably was the card from Draco’s secret admirer. It had barely been an hour ago that Harry had tucked away the card. Anger flooded Harry in a frighteningly swift wave. He snatched up the card and flipped it open, gritting his teeth as he skimmed through

the words:

I wrote this to let you know you’re in for a bit of trouble

My heart goes wild just thinking of you begging for a cuddle

Every time your lips touch Potter oh how he’ll gasp and shudder

Curl into a smile I do because we are, at last, even

Best,

Gred (and Forge)

*

Harry was sitting on the stone floor by the sofa, knees drawn up and face buried in his arms, brooding, when Draco stirred. Harry cocked his head and watched. Draco slowly blinked his eyes open.

The love potion must have worn off by now. It was almost morning.

“Mm,” Draco said, rubbing his eyes and stretching. He discovered Harry looking at him and sat up. His hair was ruffled, and Harry wanted to smooth it down.

“Hi,” Draco said softly, his eyes barely open. On his mouth was a slanted smile.

“Hello,” Harry said, carefully watching Draco scratch his neck and not-quite-blink a few more times. He still looked disoriented.

“Um,” Draco said, when he realised that this wasn’t his bed.

Harry held his breath, hoping against hope that perhaps, Draco didn’t remember any of it. Perhaps then Harry could pretend it had never happened and they could go on being best friends without Draco being uncomfortable near him, then maybe Draco wouldn’t take away what few touches he’d always given Harry. Harry doubted he could ever look at Draco’s lips again without remembering the wondrous feeling of pressing them against his own, but he’d manage. He would have to.

But then Draco’s eyes widened almost comically, swiveling around to throw Harry a vaguely horrified expression. “Merlin, Harry,” Draco gasped. “We—I kissed you.”

Their gazes locked. Harry swallowed. “Yes.”

Draco dropped back onto the sofa, groaning and hiding his face behind his hands. “God,” he said after a few seconds. Then he paused, as if he couldn’t bring himself to talk about what he was recalling about last night. Harry couldn’t think of anything to say, to break the silence. Crazily, he thought of telling Draco he didn’t need to call Harry ‘God.’ He fixed his gaze on the hearth and clasped and unclasped his fists, feeling useless.

“I—I remember trying to climb on top of you,” Draco started in a strained voice. “And touching you. Merlin’s balls, I can’t believe I just—just went for you like a...a Kneazle in heat. Fuck.” His voice was muffled. “It was the chocolates,” he said. It wasn’t a question.

“It turns out,” Harry said when he was sure his voice wouldn’t break, “your secret admirer was the twins. They...I think they wanted to make a joke about—about how I’m into blokes.”

“Those fucking perverts,” Draco spat. “Bet it was for my interrupting the Weasel mating ritual. As if it were going to win them the Patil twins.” He made a disgusted noise. “In fact, I’m sure dunking his face in the pudding made him more attractive, in a rodent-like sort of way, obviously. At the very least, it hid his ugly face. And the freckles. Let’s not forget the freckles. One would think he’d be grateful for that.”

Harry wanted to see Draco’s eyes, but they were still hidden behind Draco’s hands.

“Yeah, well,” Harry said. Then he bit his lips and said, casually: “Apparently, their attempt to get at us fell flat. They failed on that. Because...we’re not...horrified or anything. We’re all right.” Harry held his breath.

“We’re all right,” Draco repeated. “Of course we’re all right.”

But as he rose and briskly walked toward the boys’ dorm, telling Harry that it was dead certain that the twins would pay dearly for this, Draco didn’t meet Harry’s eyes.

*

Harry stabbed his toast with vengeance. He didn’t feel like eating. Draco hadn’t talked to him after their conversation in the middle of the night, and when Harry had at last found him in the Great Hall, Pansy was stuck to his side like a barnacle. Clearly, Draco had told her what it’d been all about.

“It’s already dead,” Theo said, frowning at Harry’s plate.

Harry caught himself automatically looking toward Draco, and consciously forced his gaze to stay on Theo.

“So,” he started, and found that he didn’t have anything to say.

“So what?” Theo prompted.

“Er, so. You,” Harry said, lost. “And Millicent,” he finished, hearing her roar of a laugh further down the table. “How did you and she, er, end up together?”

“Oh, that,” Theo said, rolling his eyes. “Just the other night, Blaise was going on and on about this Marietta Glamorous Older Woman Edgecombe. And me and Millie, we were getting pissed off by the second. You know how he is.”

Harry shrugged.

“Then Millie asked me then and there to the Ball,” Theo said. “That’s it.”

“Oh,” Harry said. “Er, so it’s not...romantic?”

Theo snorted. “Of course not.”

He shot a sidelong glance at Harry. “And I take it that you and Smith are not ‘romantic’ either, yeah?”

Harry opened his mouth to reply, but was distracted by the sound of laughter coming from across the table. Harry knew without looking that it was Draco. He’d know that laugh anywhere. Pansy had apparently said something funny, because Draco was gripping her shoulder and laughing and laughing. Pansy looked pleased with herself, her pug nose up in the air. Draco brought his hands up to wipe invisible tears of mirth from his eyes, and for a moment, his gaze locked with Harry’s. Harry offered him a tentative smile, uncertain. Draco’s smile turned awkward. He gave Harry a halting sort of nod and looked away.

It wasn’t as if Draco were ignoring or avoiding him. Throughout the day, they chatted and went on Quidditch practice as usual. They worked together in Potions and Draco helped Harry research his Charms assignment. Despite all this, however, there seemed to an uncomfortable air between them. A Hippogriff in the room. Draco didn’t look at Harry even when he was talking to him. Never directly in the eyes. Whenever an awkward silence passed between them, Draco turned his head and searched the room for Pansy, as if he were seeking refuge in her after a tiring session with Harry. It hurt like a physical blow.

At least during the dueling club meeting, Pansy couldn’t attach herself to Draco. She had Weasley to take care of. When Zach excused himself to go to the loo after a round, Harry leaned on a wall and studied Pansy and Weasley, carefully not looking at Draco, not wanting

to see Draco avert his eyes every time he accidentally caught Harry looking at him.

Unlike Lupin, Moody didn’t give a rat’s arse about how dueling spaces were plotted out, what sort of hexes flew back and forth, or how strict they were with dueling courtesy.

“You’d be DEAD if you were in REAL BATTLE,” he hollered at injured students before dismissing them to the Hospital Wing. The meetings had moved from the empty Defence classroom to the much more spacious Room 34 on the second floor, and Harry had to look out for more than just his partner’s attack—jinxes and hexes were flying everywhere. Without rules or restrictions, the meetings were a free-for-all where they could practice interesting new spells on fellow students. After having been shot with a Body-Bind from Zach and an Itching Hex from Granger (and learning just how unfortunate such a combination could be), Harry’d made sure that Protego was his second nature.

As Harry watched, Pansy ducked a Body-Bind and hurled a Stinging Hex aimed at Weasley’s stomach. Weasley yelped and jumped out of the way, only to let out a piercing howl as the hex landed on his crotch. Harry winced. Even Weasley didn’t deserve that sort of pain. Curling up mid-stumble, Weasley rolled on the ground, whimpering and clutching his privates with both his hands as if he were clinging to a lifeline.

“W-watch your a-aim,” he managed to stammer in between dry sobs.

Pansy let out a decidedly unladylike snort. “What’s the matter? Afraid you won’t get it up for your girlfriend?” She let out a dramatic gasp, slapping her hand over her mouth. “Oh, wait, I forgot—you don’t have a girlfriend.”

“B-bugger off! If my—if I am in any way h-hindered by this—”

“Oh, no you don’t. Don’t you dare blame your puny prick on me, Weasley.”

Weasley jumped up, outraged. He didn’t make a pretty picture, his legs bent inward and his hands over his groin like a toddler about to wet his pants. But his voice was impressive. He bellowed: “PUNY PRICK? PUNY PRICK?!?

Pansy seemed wary. She trained her wand on Weasley. “No need to tell the world. We already know.”

Weasley’s eyes bulged. Without any warning, he began to unbutton his trousers furiously, muttering, “You’ll know a big dick when you see one, Parkinson. Puny prick indeed.”

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Pansy shouted, her mask of disdain completely shattered as she stared, horrified and flushed bright red, at Weasley’s crotch.

Fortunately, Moody intervened.

Harry was silently observing Pansy and Weasley’s matching tomato-red faces when someone pinched his arse. He yelped and whipped around.

“Did you just pinch my arse?” Harry asked incredulously at Zach, crushing his wrist.

Zach was wearing a sly grin. “C’mon,” he drawled. “We’re going out. Everyone knows we are, thanks to your, no offense, very Gryffindor invitation.”

Harry dropped Zach’s wrist. “We’re not,” he ground out, “going out.”

The sly look instantly disappeared from Zach’s face. “It was you who asked me out, Potter, not the other way around.” His voice was bitter. “Or would the savior of the wizarding world be too high and mighty to be seen fraternizing with a Hufflepouf?

“That’s not what I meant,” Harry replied, slightly embarrassed for Zach. So, Hufflepuffs knew what other Houses called them.

Zach crossed his arms. “Then go out with me.” “Go out,” Harry repeated. “I never—”

“Yes you did! You asked me to be your partner for the Yule Ball. Partner, as in a couple, dancing together at the Ball.”

Dancing? I didn’t,” Harry spluttered.

“The least you could do is meet me for a date at Hogsmeade this weekend,” Zach interrupted.

“Or are you too—”

Fine,” Harry spat out. “I’ll go out with you this Saturday. Happy?”

Saturday morning found Harry scowling down at his plate of eggs at breakfast in the Great Hall. Pansy was chatting away at Draco about getting herself a new owl. She’d been eyeing that pretty grey one for ages. Her brother had sent her some Galleons that she could spend without her parents breathing down her neck, and what did Draco think of her buying the owl today?

Draco’s casual but distant attitude toward Harry hadn’t changed, but Harry didn’t let it drive him away. If Harry stayed near Draco like he’d always done, if they kept on having routine conversations, no matter how contrived, maybe it’ll all go back to normal.

“What do you say, Harry? I got the inspiration from Hedwig,” Pansy said, turning around to

face Harry. Then she scrunched up her face as she took in Harry’s shape. “What did you do to yourself? You look like death.”

“Thanks, Pansy,” Harry said dryly. He didn’t feel like talking to her.

“It doesn’t matter,” Pansy said bossily. “You’ll cheer up when you go shopping with us today. Blaise is planning to buy the Edgecombe girl a present. I promised to help him.”

“I can’t go with you guys,” Harry said, resigned. “I have to meet Zach.”

Pansy gasped. “A date!” She turned to Draco, eyes wide. “Harry has a date! Here I was, thinking that Harry wasn’t serious about Zach, you know, the way he treated that Hufflepouf, when Harry’d been just too shy to ask him out properly all along!”

Harry could see out of the corner of his eye Draco turning to face his way, and carefully, Harry lifted his gaze from his plate—to discover that Draco actually was looking at him. Not his nose or forehead or somewhere behind him, but directly into his eyes for the first time since...since that night. Harry held his breath, transfixed on the silver orbs of Draco’s eyes, waiting for him to say something. Anything.

“You can’t go on a date dressed like that,” Draco said, looking vaguely horrified.

As Harry sat on the bed staring at Draco rummaging through Harry’s wardrobe, he couldn’t have been more glad that he’d decided to inflict a minor vengeance on Zach by looking as horrible as possible on their “date.”

“I take you shopping,” Draco mumbled, tossing a pale shirt over his shoulder in Harry’s general direction. “I take you and buy you clothes that fit. Clothes that are classy. Clothes that make you look good.”

“Yeah,” Harry said faintly, gratified. Draco was grumbling and whinging under his breath, and it was so normal, so familiar and dear, Harry could laugh out loud, he was that relieved.

“And what do you do?” Draco went on. “You bollix it all up by wearing a yellow scarf with a blue jumper and green trousers. Even a decent robe over this… ensemble wouldn’t hide the hideosity. You look like a bloody flower bed. How many times do I have to remind you that you only wear that scarf with the sand-colored shirt? I can’t believe the nerve on you, Harry, ignoring my advice.”

Draco turned around and looked critically at Harry. “What unimaginable terrors do you inflict upon your hair before you get out of bed?”

“Um,” Harry said.

“What did I tell you about the essence of being a Slytherin? We have to be—”

“Devilishly handsome at all times,” Harry finished, grinning, because Draco was seating himself next to Harry on his bed, reaching out to smooth down licks of obstinate black strands. It felt nice. Draco bit down on his lower lip in concentration as he styled Harry’s hair, and Harry had to repress the urge to lean forward and steal a kiss. Instead, he hesitantly touched his fingers to a blond fringe tumbling onto Draco’s eye.

Draco shied away. Harry snatched back his hand as if he’d been burned. Silence stretched between them like a widening gulf.

“About that night,” Harry burst out, and stopped. Draco started, his fingers stilling on Harry’s hair for a moment before resuming.

“What about it,” Draco said casually.

“You aren’t—I mean, why are you acting like that?” Harry said haltingly, softly.

“Acting like what?” Draco’s voice had become defensive, and his fingers quickened. “You said that it didn’t...change anything,” Harry tried again after swallowing.

“So I said.” Draco abruptly took back his fingers and stood up.

“Where are you going?” Harry almost shouted, clutching Draco’s shirt, panicking.

“We have to leave sometime, don’t we? I haven’t dressed you up for nothing, you have Zach to go on a date with,” Draco said, his tone breezy, and Harry wasn’t going to let him revert to staring beyond Harry and acting restless around him. He clutched harder at Draco’s shirt.

“Why are you acting like I’m making you uncomfortable?” Harry said, trying to sound offended but failing and ending up sounding desperate.

“I’m not—uncomfortable.” Draco turned around to face Harry. It was an improvement. Harry relaxed his grip a fraction.

“Then tell me,” Harry started, more confidently this time. “Why are you—you’re avoiding looking at me in the eye, and you’re awkward when you’re around me. Is it because”—Harry inhaled sharply—“I’m...because of me being...” He trailed off, searching Draco’s face for an answer.

Draco was perfectly, terribly white. “No,” he said, dropping down next to Harry and grabbing his shoulder too hard. Harry forced himself not to lean in to the touch. “It’s not like that. It doesn’t matter. I find myself telling you again and again that Slytherins are real friends. To the grave. So I’d appreciate it if you just understood that we’re going to be best mates no matter what, without making me say that word out loud. It’s a gross Hufflepuff word”—Draco scrunched his nose in distaste—“Loyal.”

“Oh,” Harry said, exhaling. “Then what’s wrong? If that isn’t it.”

Draco instantly turned pink and looked mortified. “I just—” he sputtered. “Harry, how did you think I’d face you like nothing happened after I—I molested you?” He stood up and started pacing.

“Er, Draco,” Harry tried, “you didn’t exactly molest me.”

“Yes I did,” Draco said vehemently. “I jumped you. I groped you. I practically tried to rape you!”

“I don’t think—”

“You don’t need to make excuses for me,” Draco spat out. “I know what I did. Worse, I remember what I’d been thinking while I was trying to do you! The only thought in my head was that I should get close to you and touch you and, even as I’m thinking back now, I actually enjoyed forcing you!” Draco hugged himself and shuddered.

“Hey,” Harry said softly, reaching out to steady Draco. “Hey, don’t get all riled up. I, um. I, er, felt you up, too.” Harry blushed. “So,” he said, searching for words. “We’re, um... even.” He shrugged, feeling awkward and glad. Draco always became irritated with the weirdest things. Things that didn’t even really matter.

Draco stopped pacing.

“Oh,” he said. He sounded startled. Harry offered him a smile. Draco looked uncertain for a second before the corner of his lips twitched up.

“I think,” Harry said, keeping his hands firmly by his side and not brushing his thumb over Draco’s smile, “I’m ready to hear the rest of your scathing criticism of my sense of style.”

*

Harry’s date with Zach went all right, Harry guessed. It was probably because he was in a

good mood after making up with Draco that morning. Harry told Zach about his and Draco’s plans to sabotage the Weasley twins’ dates for the Yule. They chatted amiably and ate ice cream cones at Fortescue’s. Actually, the reason he’d felt all right was that it didn’t even feel like a date. It was just two blokes hanging out. The only glitch had been when Zach had planted a kiss on Harry’s mouth before they parted. It was too fast and Harry hadn’t seen it coming.

When Zach waved goodbye and disappeared toward the Hufflepuff common room, Harry wiped his mouth. Zach’s lips tasted of Butterbeer, a bit sour. Kissing wasn’t supposed to be like that. Kissing was supposed to be sharing short, hot breaths and holding the other, the only real thing in a world gone blurry, in a spell of dizziness. Kissing was sliding his fingers through corn-silk blond hair, the buzz of his blood rushing in his ears, too loud, swallowing all the sounds of little gasps and sighs and wanting to keep them inside him forever.

When he found Draco waiting up for him on his bed, curtains drawn, reading a thick novel under wandlight, Harry wanted to tell him all this.

Noticing Harry peeping through the curtains, Draco looked up and smirked. “Satisfying day?”

“Yeah,” Harry said, kicking off his shoes and pulling off his coat and scarf, eager to join Draco.

Draco closed the curtains and muttered the Soundproof Charm so that they wouldn’t be overheard discussing Dark Lords and Horcruxes.

Draco made a sound of disappointment when he saw the diadem Harry had fished out from the Come and Go Room.

“This is it?” he said, pinching the diadem up for close inspection.

“Yeah. The Dark Detector lead me to it. There wasn’t anything else. I’m pretty sure that’s it.” Harry shrugged. He pulled out Tom Riddle’s journal, which was wedged between his rather crisp copy of Hogwarts: A History, and located the part where Tom—Voldemort, he corrected himself internally—had elaborated on his success with procuring bits of his soul in his prized belongings.

“What do we have to look for, next?” Draco asked, balancing his chin on Harry’s shoulder and peering at the journal in Harry’s hands.

“Er...” Harry squinted at the miniscule writing, not distracted at all by the warmth of Draco on his back, his hair tickling Harry’s cheek. “It says, Ravenclaw’s Diadem, we’ve got it now. And it’s a little erased, but some kind of locket. Or necklace. There’s a picture of it here. And one’s not inside Hogwarts. I have no idea how we’ll get that one, but the last one’s some sort of ring.”

Draco sniffed. “I had the impression that we were searching for evil Dark Lord soul bits. Apparently, we’re mistaken. We’re on a treasure hunt for the remnants of his jewelery box.”

Harry stifled a laugh and pretended to look offended. “That’s harsh. I thought I was being a hero, entering dangerous territory as the Dark Detector lead me into perils unknown.”

Draco brushed away Harry’s reply with a condescending wave of his hand. “Come on. A tiara with jewels all sparkly and glittery. And according to the Dark Lord’s Dear Diary, we’re going to embark on an expedition for an antique necklace and a priceless ring. I feel used.”

Harry felt the need to get the conversation back on track. “So,” he said, eyeing how Draco was fingering the crown jewel, “how d’you suppose we can get Moody to do away with it?”

“I suppose we can always Transfigure this thing into rubbish, so that Moody’s going to think we want demonstration on a piece of garbage,” Draco said, flicking his eyes to meet Harry’s and offering him the diadem.

After about ten or so attempts, they concluded that it wasn’t their competence but the diadem’s magic that was botching up their spells.

“This stinks,” Draco said, eyeing the diadem with distrust. “This is going to go so well.” He schooled his face to look all innocent and naïve. “Professor Moody,” he started, pitching his voice so that it struck the exact sweet tone he used to suck up to professors, “we want a demonstration of Fiendfyre on this crown. Yes, we are aware that it’s an invaluable historical artifact. Of course we know it seems suspicious that we have it at all. Yes, I do believe that’s your Dark Detector trilling like mad on your desk. No, we haven’t forgotten you are an ex- Auror and a half-crazed war veteran to boot.

“Hey, we’re dealing with serious Dark Lord business here,” Harry said, struggling to keep his tone serious.

“With our luck, Moody might turn out to have a hidden fetish for tiaras. He might want this thing for himself, to wear at home when nobody’s looking,” Draco said dryly. “We’re doomed.”

“Let’s think this out,” Harry suggested, hoping to put Draco in an optimistic mood. “You’re good at planning—” flattery always worked well “—so we’ll come up with something.”

“Right,” Draco agreed. “We just need some time. But the thing is, now that we actually have the Horcrux, I think we need to dispose of it as soon as possible.” He shuddered. “To think there’s a soul trapped in there.”

So for the time being, they pretended to be interested in learning to cast and control Fiendfyre, though they learned much more about useful hexes and jinxes to use on annoying kids than the curse itself during sessions with Moody.

“No, no, NO. You have to flick your wand DOWN, Harry,” Moody hollered when Harry failed to produce bat bogeys from a faux opponent Moody had conjured for their practice.

When Harry and Draco made to leave the office at the end of their lesson, Moody stopped Harry mid-exit.

“Heard you landed in a detention with Filch for gluing the Weasley twins’ tongues to their palates,” Moody said gruffly, his grin not quite joyful due to the scar tissue weighing it down.

“Er... Yes, sir,” Harry said.

“Who did you learn that from?” Moody asked, still grinning.

“Er.” Harry hesitated. “You, sir.”

Moody clapped Harry’s back as if to congratulate him. “That’s right. Now, I feel responsible for your detention, Harry. I do.”

“Are you saying that you’re getting Harry off detention, sir?” Draco piped in, hopeful. The detention was scheduled for Saturday evening, and it cut through their usual Quidditch practice hours.

“I’m flattered that you believe I have the authority to do so,” Moody said, barking out a short laugh. “No, Harry’s still having detention.” He leaned forwards, his eye flicking between Draco and Harry. “To hell with Filch. Detention on Saturday evening.” Moody sneered, baring his yellowing teeth. “Nope. You’re having detention with me, Mister Potter. Right now.”

“Oh,” Harry said. “So, er, I’m supposed to stay behind now? To have detention with you, sir?” “Correct,” Moody boomed, cracking another frightening grin.

Draco beamed at Harry. “Guess you won’t have to fear Marc’s wrath on you, then.”

Harry’s buoyant mood dimmed a little when the door closed behind Draco and Moody called Harry to sit beside him. As if there were something they had to discuss. Harry’s stomach dropped.

“Aren’t I supposed to have detention, professor?” Harry asked, seating himself and trying not to betray his apprehension.

Moody grunted: “Those brats deserved what they got.”

“Oh,” Harry said.

“Now,” Moody said, both his eyes focusing on Harry, his voice low and intent. “I wanted to tell you, Harry, that as a former Auror, I see things. I watch and absorb information others normally overlook. I notice deceptions, observing the way people talk, the way their eyeballs flicker restlessly in their sockets. I recognise emotions that are mostly invisible to others by focusing on the way people place their body, the way they handle their hands.”

Harry stayed completely still, not daring to avert his eyes or fidget with his fingers, afraid to show any sign of panic. Why was Moody telling him this? What if—what if Moody had seen through his and Draco’s cover story? They’d thought it made sense, but in the eyes of an ex-Auror, students suddenly turning up wanting to learn Dark spells just for the sake of learning must have been too transparent. Moody must have been suspecting all along that they were lying about the reason they wanted to learn Fiendfyre. Bloody hell, Moody probably had been looking for a perfect chance to interrogate them.

“Sir,” Harry said, feeling faint.

Moody eyed him. Harry waited, hands damp, for the blow.

“Does Mister Malfoy realise,” Moody started, “that you have... shall we say, feelings for him?”

Harry was shocked into silence for a fleeting moment by the completely unexpected statement, from Moody of all people, before he composed himself enough to let out a distressed, “I don’t know what you mean, sir.” Inside, he was reeling, apprehensive for a completely different reason. He wanted to shout at Moody and wring out just where Harry’d slipped, what had given him away. Merlin, what if other people saw it too, just from watching him, what if other people looked at him and saw a bloke infatuated wit his best mate?

“Secrets don’t get past old Mad-Eye,” Moody said with a horrible smirk. “You don’t need to lie to me.” He looked very pleased with himself. Uncovering a crush among his students was not something Harry expected to warrant such a glint in his eyes.

“I,” Harry said, and gulped. It was just wrong. “Professor, I—just. I don’t really want to—”

“You’ve never told anyone about this, I take it,” Moody said, interrupting. He placed his scarred hand on Harry’s shoulder and squeezed in what he probably assumed was a reassuring way. “Don’t concern yourself over my opinion. Or about embarrassing yourself for that matter. You need to let it out, I can see that it’s eating you up. I’ve seen a lot during my days.”—his gaze turned distant for a fleeting moment—“Oh yes, a lot during my days,” he growled. He then focused back on Harry and said in a more soothing tone: “Nothing surprises me anymore. Nothing gets past my eyes, either. Let it out.”

Harry felt embarrassingly hot in the face. “I... I don’t know what to say,” he confessed. Moody grinned that terrible grin. “Start from the beginning. When?”

“I,” Harry said. He swallowed. What was he doing, about to confess that he liked Draco, in a not-so-brotherly way. He imagined having this conversation with Snape, and shuddered. Maybe talking to an adult about it might make it less intense. Maybe he won’t slip up next time. He could ask Moody how it’d become so obvious. “Professor,” Harry began reluctantly, “don’t you think it’s...wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong about it, as far as I can see,” Moody answered gruffly.

Harry swallowed. “I think...I think it has to do with how I was treated when I was a child.” Moody raised a brow.

Harry licked his lips. “I have this theory, sir. My family—my aunt and uncle, I mean—used to lock me up. I lived most of my life in a cupboard before I came to Hogwarts. The first wizard my age I met was Draco.” Harry faltered, remembering the short encounter at Madam Malkin’s, where he’d decided that school in the wizarding world would be none too different from the Dudley-infested grade school. “I didn’t really like him when we first met,” Harry continued. “I thought he was an obnoxious snob—and he kind of still is, sir. But it’s not like that’s what defines him. He’s more than that. He... he’s brilliant sometimes, and he really shows that he’s an only child, but he really cares for me. I think. And,” Harry swallowed, “maybe I sort of latched onto him, emotionally, y’know?” He realised that he was talking to Moody and hastily added, sir. “Maybe I’m sort of unstable, because I wasn’t treated well as a kid, sir. That’s why, I think, I’m so... attached to Draco.”

Moody, who’d been listening quietly, chuckled. He patted Harry’s shoulder.

“Ah,” he muttered. “Puppy love.”

Puppy love, Harry thought next day, as he watched Draco prance around the floor with Pansy in his arms during a dance lesson for the Yule Ball. McGonagall was clumsily trying to guide Longbottom into something that resembled a dance more than a drunken bear stumbling along, and Harry was drinking in Draco’s fluid steps and turns, as graceful as his flying, while Harry waited his turn to partner up with a bloke to learn the dance. Puppy love was supposed to be blind adoration, a crush. It was a phase. Harry thought he could endure it, if it didn’t last too long. A crush didn’t last forever, Harry reminded himself. It would pass.