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The Boy at the Robe Shop

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Disclaimer: The characters and the situation belong to J. K. Rowling, and this story has not been created for profit. Just for fun.

Author's notes: I have been reading h/d fiction for a long time and because I couldn't find any more completed fics to read, I decided that I should write one for myself. Hope you enjoy reading ;-)

 

 

Chapter One: At the Platform

 

 

The first wizard—real wizard, and that didn’t count Hagrid, who was sure friendly and all but, really, he waved an umbrella—that Harry had a conversation with was a pale boy with gleaming blond hair gelled back into a helmet of sorts, with grey eyes that didn’t actually look, really look, at you but somehow seemed to be looking at an idea of you, if that makes any sense.

Well, a first conversation, if it could be considered a conversation at all. If staring and thinking hard and not understanding anything the other person was saying while saying “no” a few times qualified as having conversation.

To tell the truth, Harry’s dislike for the boy had grown by the second, proportional to how he felt more stupid with every word that came out of the blond boy’s mouth. Harry was very relieved to leave the robe shop after having heard the boy call Hagrid names.

But dislike couldn’t be further from what Harry was feeling as he spotted three blond heads approaching him, pushing a trolley with two owl cages on top. One blond head was suspiciously shaped like a shiny helmet.

He released his death grip on his own trolley. He could feel tingles in his hand as warm blood rushed toward his fingers, paper-white slowly flooding pink. Harry wiped his nose with his sleeve. He had to look presentable when he was facing strangers, Aunt Petunia had beaten this fact into him, though not literally—instead she hit the table with a rolled-up magazine, hard enough to unbalance the pretty vase with the affected antique-like age lines crisscrossing the glossy surface. Harry had bodily prevented the vase from shattering on the floor by clutching onto it for dear life and using his stomach as a cushion against the tiled kitchen floor. The last time Aunt Petunia screamed at Harry was when Dudley had lied about Harry sneaking into the cabinet to eat the expensive French chocolates that had been bought for a guest; Harry had been upset, and suddenly, the dishes on the table had started hurling themselves onto the wall, the pieces shattering everywhere. Aunt Petunia had then gone completely still and completely white, and Harry had not eaten for the rest of the day and had to do garden work with an empty stomach.

Harry snapped back into reality when he heard a loud whine somewhere from behind. With a jump, he swiveled his head left, right, and then left again, and realized with a sinking feeling that the blond family was gone, he had actually lost them because he was thinking of Aunt Petunia, he really had let help slide through his fingers, he would never be able to come in contact with any other wizard for the rest of his life, and what the heck was platform nine and three-quarters anyway, he would have to go back to the Dursleys who would undoubtedly be jumping up and down with glee that their deliberate tardiness had succeeded in causing Harry misery. There was a burning feeling behind his eyes as tears welled fast, his nose runny again. Harry viciously wiped his nose with his sleeve. It stung.

Then there was the whine again.

Sniveling, still confused and hurt, Harry turned his head toward the whine. Standing not ten feet away next to a wide stone pillar was the boy with his blond helmet, the pointy, obnoxious, bratty git that reminded Harry so much of Dudley, and Harry felt like the gleam of light reflected by the boy’s shiny hair was an incandescent ray of holy light from the heavens.

“You can’t take Leo from me!” The blond boy stomped his feet and looked petulantly up at a blond man and woman. The man and woman both wore their hair long and loose. Harry blinked and chewed on his lower lip, wondering if it would be wise to interrupt the boy’s tantrum. Dudley’s tantrums tended to gain momentum if Dudley thought he was being interrupted by something other than a frantic “Yes, yes, of course we’ll buy you your fourth ice cream cone, Dinky Duddydums, Mummy’s sorry.”

The woman let out a deep sigh and put her hand on the boy’s shoulder. The boy pouted harder.

“Draco darling, you don’t even know what Leo eats every day,” she said in a gentle, coaxing tone.

“Listen to your mother, Draco. Without Dobby, Leo would die,” said the man, his voice detached but his eyes soft.

“I could bring Dobby to Hogwarts, then! Leo has to come with me.” Draco brightened suddenly. He poked the air with his forefinger and cried, “I know, Father could pressure the governors to accept Dobby to be my personal house-elf!”

“Draco.”

The boy, Draco, turned towards his mother and pleaded.

“Mother, make Father say yes! You know what Leo means to me!”

“Darling, you will make plenty of friends at Hogwarts. Real friends. I know you are nervous about meeting children your age, but everyone will like you.”

Draco was silent for a moment. Then he swallowed.

“No they won’t,” he said softly. “When I go to Hogwarts, no one will want to be my friend. I will be friendless and I’ll practically become a pariah without anyone to stand up for me.”

Draco’s voice was getting louder and shakier by the second.

“And when the upper kids beat me up ‘cause I have nicer hair, NOBODY will be on my side and I’ll be bullied. And I’ll NEVER be able to get good grades ‘cause NO ONE will want to be my study partner, and, and…”

Harry took a step back in surprise. The boy was voicing the exact thoughts that had troubled Harry’s sleep since he had talked with him at the robe shop. Well, except the fact that upper kids wouldn’t beat up Harry because of his hair. Er… On second thought, maybe Harry’s mop of a hair would offend them so much that they would have to beat him up because of his hair, too. So there.

Harry blinked and continued watching, fascinated in spite of himself. This wasn’t necessarily eavesdropping. He had to listen and wait for a break in the tantrum so that he could find a polite moment to interrupt and ask the blond family how they planned to get to Hogwarts.

The woman kneeled in front of Draco, and touched her fingers delicately to his chin, seeing him eye to eye. Harry noted with surprise that Draco’s eyes were watery, and that his lips were trembling. He started to say something, then closed his mouth to swallow.

When he talked, his voice was soft again.

“Mother, the boy I told you about, the boy with the terrible black hair and glasses I met at the robe shop…”

With a start, Harry realized that Draco was talking about him.

“…I lied, Mother. He… he didn’t like me. We didn’t talk about trying out for the Slytherin Quidditch team, or, or sharing a dorm room. I’m… I’m sorry, Mother.”

“Shhh… Draco, Draco. It’s all right. Darling, what’s wrong? Tell me.”

Harry leaned in to listen to Draco’s voice, small against the bustle of King’s Cross.

“He hated me. He hated me from the start. I could tell.”

Well, he was wrong. Harry didn’t hate him at sight, not exactly. Harry had been nervous, sure, but nevertheless he had been eager to meet a wizard his age. It was when the brat had started spouting offensive nonsense that Harry had decided that he didn’t like him.

Draco sniveled loudly and continued.

“I tried to make him talk with me. I talked about Quidditch, he didn’t play, so I started talking about the giant man who was right outside the robe shop.”

Hagrid.

“I talked about what you and Father told me, but then he was angry at me. He preferred the giant’s to my company.”

What did you expect? Harry wanted to argue. Hagrid was kind to Harry. He was the one who had personally delivered the news that Harry was not some useless piece of meat like the Dursleys so wanted him to believe.

“Then I tried to ask him about his parents, but he said they were dead, and I didn’t know what to tell him, but I tried. I tried to tell him that it’s okay ‘cause his parents were not Muggles, he had nothing to worry about because our kind stick together.”

Harry’s mouth formed a small O.

Draco’s voice was becoming shakier and thicker.

“I even asked his surname, just like you said, Mother, if I wanted to make someone see that I had made note of him as an important person…”

Draco trailed off and looked at his mother with wide, teary eyes, looking lost. Less than ten feet away, Harry was feeling embarrassed. And there also was an odd feeling somewhere close to his chest. So Draco hadn’t said those things to spite Harry. So… Draco wasn’t the cold hearted bastard that didn’t care if someone’s parents were dead or not. Draco actually had wanted to comfort Harry, as disastrous as it had been.

It kind of made Harry feel warm. A sort of fuzzy feeling.

And then cold again because he had made the person who tried to ingratiate himself to Harry think Harry hated him.

“If I take Leo, I’ll at least have someone who’ll tolerate me,” mumbled Draco, gazing down.

His mother’s thumb was drawing soothing circles on Draco’s cheek, wiping away invisible tears. Draco’s father had his hand on Draco’s shoulder. His large hand looked as if it would crush Draco’s rather small shoulder.

“Listen, Draco.”

At his father’s firm voice, Draco peered up at him through his pale eyelashes. There were tears clinging to them and Harry felt such a strong wave of guilt and regret that he had to refrain from stumbling forward and mouthing an incoherent apology and plea for forgiveness. He could have had a friend, a real friend, and he had offended him. Harry had made him cry.

“Listen. Malfoys are never shunned. Do you hear me, Draco? You are a Malfoy, and Malfoys are respected, admired, and sought after. You will never thirst for companionship.”

His voice was flat and factual, and very firm.

“Your father is quite right, Draco. Soon you’ll be surrounded by loyal friends and then where would Leo be? Starving to death alone under the bed, probably wilting all this quills as well, the poor porcupine.”

Draco gave his mother a shaky smile. His mother soothed her thumb over his cheek one last time and straightened up with a gentle expression. Draco’s father’s voice sounded again.

“Now, you have caused us a great inconvenience with your tantrum, Draco. You might have noticed that we missed your train.”

Draco cringed, and then flashed his father an uncertain smile. Looking down his nose at his son, the man raised a perfect blond eyebrow and continued.

“Since this is your first day, I will allow this one act of lenience. Let’s have the Floo ready for you.”

He squeezed Draco’s shoulder once.

When Draco’s family made to move, Harry frantically pulled at his trolley to reach them before they somehow disappeared from his sight. Unfortunately, in his hurry, his elbow crashed with Hedwig’s cage. It was not hard enough to upset but sufficient to cause an indignant hoot.

A very loud indignant hoot.

Three blond heads snapped around simultaneously. Harry suddenly found himself staring into Draco’s eyes, impossibly wide. His mouth was agape.

“Er…” Harry started.

“That’s him!” Draco shrieked and tugged his mother’s robe. “Mother! That’s the boy, the one I was talking about!”

 

 

Please review!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: The characters and the situations belong to J. K. Rowling. This story wasn't created for profit. Just for fun.

 

 

Chapter Two: The Sorting

 

 

Harry and Draco arrived in the middle of the Sorting, warily trailing after the headmaster. The headmaster was an old man with silvery grey hair, a bright blue bow holding his beard in a bushy bundle. Harry didn’t trust him, but he seemed a nice enough old man. Besides, it didn’t matter. Harry couldn’t have dragged his attention from the enchanted ceiling or the floating candles if he tried. Or about Draco’s hand in his. His first real friend. Harry smiled.

After Draco had gotten rid of his first shock at seeing Harry at King’s Cross, after Harry had awkwardly accepted Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy’s greetings, Harry had shifted from one foot to another while he mouthed a barely audible apology for eavesdropping, telling the Malfoys how he had only been looking for some wizarding folk to help him get to Hogwarts, how he didn’t dislike Draco, and how he actually kind of liked him (he carefully left out that his liking had only bloomed after he had heard that Draco had only wanted to be Harry’s friend at the robe shop).

Draco had chewed on his lip, glanced at Harry’s flushed face, then looked inquiringly up at his mother and father. At Mrs. Malfoy’s smile and nod, Draco had extended his right hand at Harry and whispered, Pleased to meet you. I’m Draco Malfoy. Harry had at first been dumbfounded at the hand offered to him, because, well, he hadn’t been used to anyone who actually wanted to shake his hand, at least until Hagrid had brought him along for a shopping spree at Diagon Alley.

As silence stretched between Draco and Harry, Draco’s hand, which was actually trembling slightly—whether from the effort of holding it up or from nervousness Harry wasn’t sure—had begun to lower a little bit. Then Harry’s hands had shot out and grabbed Draco’s.

Draco stared down at Harry’s two hands clasping Draco’s right hand for dear life and then looked up to meet Harry’s eyes. For a moment Draco’s lower lip had become all wobbly, and Harry had felt dread at having to witness Draco’s teary face close up, because Harry didn’t know what to do with crying people; there was that time once in kindergarten when Harry had tried to comfort a girl who had been the victim of Dudley’s deadly valentine, which consisted of cornering the girl with his gang and forcing a kiss out of her, and Harry had ended up scaring the girl away with his attempt at a gentle pat on the head which had somehow materialised into a vicious thump.

Then Draco’s face suddenly cleared up, it was actually glowing, his eyes folding into delightful half-moons, his small white front teeth biting into his lower lip, smiling, and it was as if the Sun God had chosen to bestow his light upon Draco and not others. So intense was the feeling that Harry almost forgot to breathe. Harry couldn’t believe he had almost turned this away with his lack of social skills.

It was very nice to have someone his age finally accepting him.

Young man, it is my guess that you must have a name as well… Harry had started at Mrs. Malfoy’s voice, reluctantly letting go of Draco’s hand. The warmth of the hand lingered in his palm. Fitting into Harry’s own hands unlike the hands of awed adults who had been honored to have met Harry Potter, warm and a little clammy unlike Dudley’s porky, sticky hand or Aunt Petunia’s dry, bony one that had grabbed Harry so many times to drag him somewhere unwanted.

Realizing with a blush that he must introduce himself as well, Harry had opened his mouth. But then Draco had snatched Harry’s hand in his and stood next to him as he loftily informed his parents, There is no need, Mother, Father. He will be Leo from now on.

Mr. Malfoy had frowned slightly, but nevertheless nodded with a sigh. Then he had turned to Harry and said, Don’t let Draco call you Leo forever, son. Harry had started to nod, and then realizing that he was speaking to an adult, hurriedly said, Yes, sir.

And that was that.

Now, Harry and Draco were approaching what seemed like a very shabby hat which sat in the middle of a hall filled with people. As Professor Dumbledore strode forward, the crowd parted, reverence apparent in how they looked up at the old man. The those eyes turned curious as they spotted the two boys following the headmaster in his wake: one boy with his nose up in the air, and the other boy scuffling along with his eyes darting to and fro nervously.

Harry involuntarily squeezed Draco’s fingers when he noticed the people all staring, and Draco pulled his nose down and whispered, “What?”

“Er… D’you know what that hat’s supposed to be?”

When he could hear no reply, Harry turned his head to find a pair of incredulous eyes staring at him. Well, Harry thought, it kind of was his own fault for not having dared told Draco about his rather Muggle childhood, afraid that he would forfeit their tentative friendship.

“I’d figured you’d know about the Sorting, at least.”

The condescending tone took Harry by surprise. Harry dropped Draco’s hand and turned away with a firm mouth.

But then Draco instantly pulled Harry by his arm, and suddenly Draco’s warm breath was in Harry’s ear.

“Sorry… Well, it’s just that you have to put on the hat and it tells you which house to go.”

Harry relaxed.

He knew about houses. Draco was pretty sure that he’d be in Slytherin, Harry had been told. He remembered Hagrid telling him that Slytherin was a house for dark wizards, that Voldemort, the wizard who had murdered Harry’s parents (which he still found hard to believe after years of believing that his parents had died in a car crash), had also been in Slytherin. But according to Draco, Hufflepoufs were children that nobody wanted, Ravencreeps were kids who lived in the library, and Gryffindorks were pushy, self-righteous thugs who rushed into anything. Slytherin was the one true house, the cunning house, who incorporated intellect with practical plans, who accomplished anything noteworthy.

When Harry had mentioned the comment about dark wizards from Hagrid, Draco had answered that it was because Slytherins had the means to gather followers and the other houses did not, not because Slytherins were evil or anything. His father had told him that there were plenty of evil people in other houses, just not that resourceful enough to go big. Besides, it would be just as well if there were evil wizards in Slytherin, because then they would have a bigger chance than any other student to infiltrate the evil and prevent it from growing big in the first place. It made sense, Harry thought. Know your enemy.

Then Draco had become excited and started making Plans to start a secret society of the Watchers, with him as the president and Harry the second in command, sneaking around school watching suspicious mongrels who were up to evil.

Harry had been swept away with Draco’s grand Plans for their school life. They had laughed and schemed while they waited alone in the headmaster’s office, the candlelight dancing in Draco’s eyes and the soot from the Floo moving up and down on Draco’s cheek as he acted out animated impressions of the Evil Upper Class Kids Who Bullied First-Years that Harry and Draco would rat out.

And Harry had forgotten to tell Draco his name. Harry made a face. That was why Draco was still calling him by the name of his pet porcupine.

So as they made their way up to the middle of the hall, Harry leaned toward Draco to tell him.

“I’m Harry, by the way.”

Draco had cracked a toothy grin at that, and Harry was busy grinning himself when he bumped into the headmaster, who had halted abruptly. He twinkled his eyes down at Harry.

An old lady was approaching. She rather looked like one of the witches in Dudley’s storybooks what with her wrinkly, pointy face and a tall witch’s hat and the long, swishy black robe.

Albus! We—” she started, then on seeing Harry, stopped mid-sentence to stare. Harry squirmed uncomfortably under her gaze and averted his eyes to watch what Draco was doing. Draco wasn’t paying attention to the woman at all, Harry noted. He was focused on the Sorting Hat, which was wriggling on a stool. Harry looked furtively up at the woman, who was looking at Professor Dumbledore now, to Harry’s relief.

The woman’s voice was strained when she spoke; “Albus, is he… So he’s here then?”

“Yes, Minerva. I believe it is safe to say so,” replied Professor Dumbledore. Then he turned to Harry and Draco.

“Mister Malfoy, Mister Potter, you will be pleased to meet Professor McGonagall, who will be your Transfiguration professor during your years at Hogwarts.”

“I’m very pleased to meet you, Professor McGonagall,” Draco said politely, and Harry mumbled the same phrase after him.

Professor McGonagall’s gaze briefly fell onto Draco’s blond head, but swiveled back onto Harry. Harry wondered if it was because of the Harry Potter stuff Hagrid told him about. It was kind of uncomfortable to be noticed at first sight. During one of Dudley’s loudest tantrums, he had wailed and wailed about wanting to become famous like one of the stars on the telly. Harry hadn’t really understood, because Harry would have hated it if people knew who he was everywhere he went. Then he wouldn’t be able to hide from Dudley’s gang or people like them. Worse, people would then know what a disappointment he was.

Professor Dumbledore clapped, and waved his wand, and when he spoke his voice boomed across the hall.

“Students, a couple of first years have been caught in unfortunate circumstances, and they haven’t been available for the Sorting, I’m afraid. Let us have a moment to welcome them to their new Houses.”

Then Professor McGonagall cleared her throat and, checking something on a piece of parchment, called, “Malfoy, Draco.”

Draco jumped, gave Harry a nervous glance, and let go of Harry’s hand to walk up to the moving hat. Once up to the stool, Draco turned his head to look up uncertainly at the professors, and then at Harry. Draco looked frightened and helpless up there, with everybody in the hall focusing on him, deadly quiet, expectant. Harry stared back, helpless as well, because he didn’t know any better.

Then Draco’s glance drifted to the headmaster, who, with twinkling blue eyes, was miming how to upturn a bucket over his head. Or how to put on an invisible hat.

Harry watched with sweaty hands, his heart beating fast rather irrationally, because there was no reason to be so nervous, this was a yearly procedure, Draco had told him, nothing bad was going to happen. Draco turned towards the hat and approached slowly, as if he was sneaking towards a wild animal prone to attack. Then he lifted the hat, sat on the stool, and, squeezing his eyes shut, made to pull it over his head.

“SLYTHERIN!” bellowed the hat. Draco promptly fell backwards over the stool. When he stood, his hair was ruffled and he was beaming. He winked at Harry and ran over to a table where other students were shouting and hooting and clapping their welcomes.

Harry stared after Draco, who was receiving pats on the back and whose hair was being ruffled ruthlessly by students clad in black robes and striped silver-and-green ties. Draco ducked his head, beamed at Harry, and waved.

Professor McGonagall cleared her throat once more and the hall fell silent. Harry clutched his own school robes tightly.

“Potter, Harry.”

There was a moment of utter silence in the hall before it broke into hushed whispers. Students in the back were standing up and craning their necks to see Harry, and Harry could hear astonished voices here and there going, Harry Potter?, That’s him!, That’s the Boy Who Lived, Did he really defeat You Know Who?, I wonder which house he will be in, Gryffindor, perhaps?

The last thing Harry saw before he pulled on the Sorting Hat was Draco’s astonished face.

 

 

A/N: Thanks for the reviews!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: The characters and the situation belong to J. K. Rowling. This story wasn't created for profit. Just for fun.

 

 

Chapter Three: Housemates

 

 

When the Sorting Hat covered Harry’s eyes and he blinked into darkness, Harry heard an amused voice ringing in his ears.

“Now, who’ve we here?”

“Er…”

“Well, well, well…” continued the voice, ignoring Harry’s attempt at speech. “Talent, there’s talent. And a thirst to prove yourself as well. And, oh my, courage. Innnterrresting.” The voice purred.

Harry just wished that this would be over soon. Why wasn’t the voice announcing his House right away? Draco certainly didn’t seem to be having a conversation with the hat. Harry swallowed. Not Hufflepuff, he thought. Not Hufflepuff.

“Har! No, you won’t be a Hufflepuff. Not Ravenclaw either, mind. Perhaps… Gryffindor? You could do great things in Gryffindor. You certainly have courage. And strength to act upon it.

“Then again, Slytherin would be a good match as well. The thirst. You could become great in Slytherin. How about it, eh?”

Slytherin’s the best House, thought Harry, thinking back to Draco’s animated speech on House supremacy.

The voice chuckled.

“That settles it, then. House loyalty already. So how about…

“SLYTHERIN!”

Harry threw off the hat, and ran toward the Slytherin table. The cheers couldn’t compare with before. Harry sat down beside Draco. He was exhilarated, his heart pumping wildly as the students around him shouted “We’ve got Harry Potter! Harry Potter!” So it took a moment to notice that Draco was rather quiet, staring at Harry with a weird expression (there was no other word for it). Harry wanted to ask him what was wrong, but then he was rather distracted by students standing up and thrusting their hands in front of his face.

The Harry Potter. I can’t believe it! Marcus Flint. Pleased to welcome you to Slytherin, Harry Potter.”

“Hi! I’m Catherine Honeybalm! Oh my GOD. You’re Harry Potter!

“Peregrine Derrick, mind you. So glad. Welcome to Slytherin, Harry Potter!”

The upper kids were closing in on Harry, and he warily grabbed one hand after the other. He craned his neck to look at the other first years, some of whom were staring at him, whispering into each other’s ears.

Then he was distracted by the food that had suddenly appeared on his silver plate. He wasn’t surprised, really. At this point, Harry believed anything. If someone told him that it was a traditional wizarding custom to wear lacey knickers beneath swishing robes, Harry would have complied without a grain of salt. Not that Harry actually wanted to wear lacey underwear, just that frilly panties were constantly mentioned as something absurd in the Dursley household. Uncle Vernon would always comment while watching the telly, spraying bits of half-chewed chips over his front, “That one’s a complete soddin’ loser, he is. Prob’ly wears lacy knickers underneath, the flamin’ pouf.”

All Harry remembered of the dinner was juicy roast turkey, pumpkin juice, treacle tarts, and voices, blurry grinning faces, hands patting him all over, and names, more names, and even more grabby handshakes. Then some moving stairs (NOT surprising) some ghosts (bloody mundane, at this point) and then, all of a sudden, the noise and the clatter were gone as he and the other first years were left to fend for themselves in what would be their bedroom for the next seven years.

Harry found himself clumsily unpacking his trunk onto a four-poster bed with dark green curtains.

“So, you’re the Harry Potter.”

Warily, Harry turned his head and looked toward the owner of the voice. Draco. Oh, thought Harry. Right.

“Yeah,” Harry breathed. Draco didn’t look mad. He just looked… flustered. Harry hoped that it was a good sign. He was also chewing on his lower lip again, Harry observed. It was a bad habit. The lip would hurt later.

“Um…” started Draco. He didn’t seem aware that the four other boys in the room were staring at them.

“I knew your last name was Potter. I mean, that old man with the funny beard, Dumbledore, called you Mister Potter, didn’t he now? And I knew you were Harry, you told me, so… Um… I jus’ didn’t know that put together you were Harry Potter, you know?” Draco babbled.

Harry bit his lip. How could he make friends if everyone already thought they knew him when they didn’t know him? Would he lose Draco?

The thought of losing the blond git, friend he was for however short amount of time, sent an unanticipated pang through Harry’s chest. He quietly waited for Draco to say something more.

Draco averted his eyes, twisting his fingers. “This doesn’t… I mean, we’re good, yeah? Still mates?”

“Yeah,” agreed Harry, relieved. He smiled.

That seemed to clear up the air in the room, as if a stuffy layer of cotton had been lifted. The room seemed brighter all of a sudden, and the boys who had watched over the conversation came into focus. This seemed to happen to Draco as well, because he turned towards them to introduced himself.

“I’m Draco. Draco Malfoy.”

All the nervousness was gone from his voice, and in its place was the haughty arrogance Harry had encountered when he had first met Draco. It was strangely endearing.

A tall black boy with high cheekbones and slanting, almond-shaped eyes then opened his mouth. His eyes darted to Draco, then to Harry.

“Name’s Blaise Zabini.”

The other boys followed his suit. Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe were hard to tell apart, so alike were their bulky physiques and gruff voices. They made Harry wary, because they kind of looked like the thugs Dudley liked to have around. But then Harry had thought that Draco was like Dudley at first. Well, until today. Harry shivered.

On the other hand, Theodore Nott was a gaunt, pale boy with curly dark brown hair and pale blue eyes. He seemed timid, and quiet.

“Did you really kill You Know Who?” Gregory Goyle was the first to ask.

“Er… I can’t really remember.”

“I think it’s bloody awesome. Killing a dark wizard,” said Blaise Zabini.

“It must have been a coincidence. What one-year-old baby willingly vanquishes a Dark Lord?” snapped Draco. Everyone turned to gape at him. Harry did, anyway.

Preening under the attention, Draco started talking with more conviction.

“My father says that the Dark Lord was nothing more than an ambitious half-blood wanting to accomplish something out of his mediocre magic. Father says that he had known all along that the Dark Lord would eventually come crashing down. The way he implemented his plans were just plain wrong. My father says that in order to root an ideal, you have to go subtle, not all violent and bang swoosh! like the Dark Lord did.”

Draco swung his hands through the air to show them how crude the Dark Lord’s plans had been.

“Yeah, that’s what my da’s told me, too,” said Theodore Nott. His voice was surprisingly low. Raspy, almost.

Draco eyed him cautiously before he spoke, adding another dramatic hand gesture as if to say how can I be ever wrong?

“Well, he’s gone now.” Draco nodded at Harry.

But Harry had been feeling a little uneasy, all this talk about mediocre half-bloods and Dark Lords.

“Is there something wrong with being a half-blood?” Harry blurted. Blushing, he decided that it was better to get this out of the way fast. “Because I’m a half-blood.”

Harry took a peek at Draco, and was relived after nerve-wracking tension, for what felt like the thousandth time that day. It was just that he was new to this world, where he had a real chance at real life with real friends, and he didn’t want to mess up.

Draco was smirking, but not maliciously.

“Of course not,” Draco remarked in that haughty tone of his. Then he shot a warning glance toward the other boys as if he was daring anyone to object. Finding no one, Draco met Harry’s eyes again.

“You’re one of us, now, Harry. And we watch each other’s backs, us Slytherins,” Draco finished.

“Yeah. That’s what the Sorting Hat sang earlier. That you’ll meet real friends in Slytherin.” Blaise Zabini piped up.

Real friends, Harry thought.

 

*

 

Harry’s first few days had gone in a blur, with professors examining his lightning bolt scar and staring in awe, except Professor Snape, who, for no reason Harry could see, hated Harry with a passion. Then there were upper kids stopping Harry in the hallway to ask questions and confirm that indeed he was the Harry Potter, and Draco pulling Harry into hidden alcoves to avoid them and ending up in the Gryffindor Tower due to some bizarre ancient castle-magic—then arriving late to class and Draco trying not to cry with a dignified expression and Harry just flushed and embarrassed while Professor McGonagall took five points from each of them—then there was the exhilaration of Harry’s levitating a feather in the air—then more laughter with Draco while he made kissy faces at a furiously scarlet Gryffindor called Weasley for having a girl hold his hand as he swished and flicked his wand.

Harry practiced the swish and flick now as he sat on the couch beside Theo. Harry hadn’t really had a decent conversation with a girl before, so he felt awkward and unwanted while he sat amongst the first-year girls in the common room. Draco seemed comfortable enough with them, and seemed to laugh off Harry’s clumsy attempts to follow suit. But it was okay because Harry wasn’t alone in his miserable, self-imposed exile. It was reassuring; Theo seemed to be scared of girls as well. Not that Harry was actually frightened of girls. He was just uncomfortable around them.

He knew who each of the girls was, and he had talked to them when necessary, such as to tell them his name, and to get out of their way when they had to pass the door, or just to say good mornings and pass the salts. It was enough. The important thing was that Harry knew who the Slytherin girls were.

Tracy Davis was a rather willowy girl, taller than Harry, with a shy smile and uncertain eyes that kept blinking hard, squeezing them shut and opening them wide again. Harry hadn’t heard her speak ever. Even her name had been introduced by another girl. Tracy kept trying to hide behind the other girl named Pansy Parkinson. Harry couldn’t really understand the effect of it because that Pansy Parkinson was tiny. Smaller than Draco.

Pansy was a compact, fierce looking thing with wavy, shiny black hair and a pug-like, upturned nose. Her nose made her look like she was looking down her nose on everyone. Which was quite fitting, really, because her expression seemed to be stuck in a picture of having bitten into something distastefully sour. Dreadfully sour, Harry amended inwardly. When she talked, she talked fast and in clipped tones, bossing other boys around. Blaise, get my quill. Greg, hang my robe over the hanger.

Harry Potter, she’d said after having approached Harry with a regal air. More so than Draco, because Draco didn’t do that now with Harry. When Harry stammered yes, she had pulled out her hand and held it in front of Harry’s nose. Harry had crossed his eyes as he looked at the back of her small white hand, hanging limp right in front of his face. Er… He had started to sweat, because was there something that Harry needed to know but didn’t?! But then Draco had swooped in, snatched Pansy’s hand and kissed it.

It was quite ridiculous. How was Harry supposed to know that he had been expected to actually kiss the bloody hand as if in an early 1920s film that he had seen the Dursleys watching one Sunday evening? Harry was quite glad and a little mortified as Draco introduced Harry to Pansy. Pansy had wrinkled her nose and then even she, who had wanted Harry to kiss her hand as if she were a bloody queen—Harry couldn’t help internally gagging at this—laughed aloud at Draco’s theatrical usage of “m’lady” and “thy servant.” She looked surprisingly less like a disturbed royalty and more like a lively young girl when she laughed, Harry was relieved to note.

Then there was Millicent Bulstrode, a huge, bulky girl with drooping eyelids and a thick tussle of light brown hair falling to her shoulders. Harry had to admit that he was intimidated. Not because of her gender, though. Her shoulders were broader than either Vince’s or Greg’s, for Christ’s sake.

Harry was sure that Draco, as small as he was, was also afraid of Millicent, but Draco had a way of ingratiating himself to those whom he was afraid to have as his foes. Harry’d grinned and told Draco that the precise term was “sucking up.” He had got a bump on the head for that.

When the Slytherin boys had met the girls for the first time in the morning after their sorting, Blaise had taken one look at Millicent and whispered to Draco something offending. More like Bulltoad, was what he had whispered, Draco’d later told Harry. Unfortunately, it wasn’t small enough for Millicent to have missed, towering right in front of Draco as she was. She had menacingly stepped forwards toward him. Draco’s eyes were wide as saucers and terrified as Millicent’s shadow loomed over him, but before Harry had a chance to offer support, the look had vanished and he was back to his proud self.

Blaise, Draco had drawled to his then frightened mate, That is no way to speak of a lady, he had chided. Then, turning to Millicent, Draco had donned a charming smile, flashing his white teeth. Do not take offense, Millie. He patted Blaise on the head. Zabini here had no idea of whom he was speaking. I will personally ensure that this kind of uncalled for verbal abuse does not happen again in the dungeons. Or anywhere else, for that matter. He swooped his upturned palm across to demonstrate the sincerity of his vow.

While Harry wondered if Draco read a dictionary before bed every night, “Millie” had visibly thawed and petted Draco’s head and crooned in reply. Draco preened and, Harry noted, seemed pleased with himself. It was no wonder. He had a soft spot for people who expressed a fondness for his prickly little self.

Blaise, who had paled at Millicent’s advance (his dark chocolate complexion had somehow turned ashen), cleared his throat and shook hands with Millicent on Draco’s encouragement. This had redeemed Blaise. It also made all the girls fawn over Draco’s chivalrous behavior. Even Tracy had dimpled her cheeks as she petted his hair. Draco flourished under their attention.

The other Slytherin girl was Daphne Greengrass. She was very pretty, with flowing, golden hair and apple cheeks. Her only problem was that she giggled. Harry was uncomfortable with her giggling because he didn’t understand what was funny. He kept thinking that she was laughing at him or something. His hands kept rubbing his face expecting to find a speck of jam or juice that had got there while eating. She giggled into her palm when she had first heard Harry speak, and then she had giggled some more when Draco had kissed Pansy’s hand. When Draco had tried to kiss her hand, her giggles were uncontrollable. It had all been very terrible.

So Harry took refuge in having a companion in his uncomfortable situation. He looked sideways and found that same shade of unease in Theo’s face.

“D’you think we could go back to our dorms to… I dunno… prepare for tomorrow’s classes?”

At the suggestion, Harry’s glance floated to Draco and Blaise surrounded by the girls. Seated behind them were Vince and Greg, who had sort of latched onto Draco. They were avidly paying attention to Draco’s impression of a Muggle helicopter flyer encountering a eight-year-old Draco on a practice broom. Harry’s gaze turned a little wistful. He wanted to hear the rest of the story about the Muggle and the helicopter, too, but the ring of first years seemed so occupied with themselves.

“Okay,” Harry replied to Theo and made to get up. They shared a grin and sneaked down to their dorms where Theo introduced Harry to Exploding Snap. Harry thought he could make out the crowd’s noise in the common room but soon had to focus on his cards to stop them from exploding in front of his face.

 

Later, when Harry was almost asleep in his bed, he felt the mattress dip with someone else’s weight. He squinted, and with the very dim light from the luminous fish in the lake that showed through the enchanted windows, he thought he could make out a glinting blond head.

“Wha… Draco?”

It was blurry, without his glasses. Harry reached for them above his head and hastily put them on.

“Whar you doin’ here?” he croaked.

“You left early.”

The whites of Draco’s eyes reflected and magnified what little light was there. Harry tried to squint the sleep out of his eyes.

“Yeah… Er… Sorry?”

“Why d’you leave?”

Draco’s tone was very calm. His shoulders seemed tense.

“I thought you wouldn’t mind. You were having fun with the girls and all.”

Draco scowled and crossed his arms. “You could have at least said something before you went down.”

Harry considered for a minute, peering into Draco’s face in the dim light. Then he scooted over to make room for him so that Draco could slide beneath the covers next to Harry. Draco’s warmth was almost comfortable, but it was new, like the squishy bedding Harry had to get used to after spending most of his nights sleeping in the cupboard. Once Draco had been homesick and had not been willing to let Harry go to sleep while he himself lay awake. After that Harry had decided that he would better get used to this, talking to people late into the night. Sharing a blanket together. It made Harry feel a bit protective. It was strange. And new.

“I didn’t actually want to leave, you know,” Harry confessed.

When he glanced sideways at Draco, he was pouting.

“Er… I wanted to hear the helicopter story. Really. Can you… You could tell the story to me now, right? I mean, you don’t need a fucking audience to just talk.”

Draco seemed too quiet, so Harry peeked a glance again, and met Draco’s wide eyes. His lips were parted in a small O; Draco looked awed for some reason.

“Harry,” he gasped.

“What?”

“You said… fucking.”

Harry blushed. He had learned that word from Theo. Theo new a lot of swear words. He kept coming up with new ones every time a card exploded in his face. He said that his dad cussed a lot.

Then Harry stopped thinking of Theo and cusswords, because Draco was smiling that smile, which made it seem like he was under a bright spotlight.

“Okay. I’ll tell you.”

“What?”

Draco’s eyes narrowed.

“How the helicopter gave me this.”

Then he hitched his pajama shirt up and showed Harry a jagged, almost invisible white scar on his hip. Harry unconsciously brought his fingers forward to touch it. It wasn’t raised, like Harry’s scar was, but smooth.

When he looked up at Draco, he was smirking, clearly thinking that Harry was in awe of Draco’s dangerous life. Harry rolled his eyes but still snuggled closer to watch Draco tell his story. He watched Draco wave and twist his arms to demonstrate that the helicopter’s line of flight resembled a fly escaping a narrow catch. Then Draco’s dramatically bulging eyes and gaping mouth as he tried to imitate the Muggle’s appalled reaction at seeing a boy on a broom. Harry was sleepy, but he didn’t want to sleep.

This story was for Harry alone.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: The characters and the situation belong to J. K. Rowling. This story wasn't created for profit. Just for fun.

 

 

Chapter Four: On the Pitch

 

 

 

“You agreed to fly,” Harry said, steering the school Cleansweep round and round Draco. Draco was sitting on a bench in the empty Quidditch stands, his gloved hands holding up a thick Transfiguration textbook. Harry could only see his pale brows and eyelashes—his nose was buried in the pages.

“That means you have to mount your broom and kick off, in case you don’t know,” Harry added, nodding towards the tattered-looking school broom Draco always picked. He was always claiming that this particular Cleansweep was a bit lighter than the other brooms, and thus perfect for speeding. The broom was now forgotten underneath the bench, neglected. It looked forlorn. Harry could sympathise.

“I agreed to come out,” snapped Draco. “After your consistent nagging and whining and practically pulling my arm off, you’re lucky to have me here at all, Potter.”

Harry groaned. It wasn’t good when Draco started calling him by his last name.

“I didn’t whine,” Harry said. “And your arm’s fine.”

Draco glared at him. The light from his wand illuminated his face from underneath, and combined with Draco’s shut your mouth face, it had an eerie effect. Harry shut up and steered his broom away, leaving Draco to his studies to fly around the pitch once more. It wasn’t really all that exciting, Harry thought as the wind mussed up his hair and flapped through his shirt. He tried the corkscrew motion, one of the first Quidditch moves Draco had taught him once they’d busted the school broom shed. But flying loops in the dark by himself was just… not fun.

Harry hovered over one of the goal posts and looked over at Draco sitting at the other end of the field. Draco’s wand light was the one source of light in the pitch at eleven p.m., and surely Draco wasn’t going to be able to see Harry, immersed in darkness as he was. Harry grinned to himself as he balanced himself mid-air to pull out his invisibility cloak from the never-ending pouch strapped to his waist.

The cloak had come as a Christmas present from an anonymous person. When Harry’d shown it to Draco, who had been neatly organizing his unwrapped gifts into piles of “love to bits,” “into the closet,” and “pretend to love to bits,” Draco had all but abandoned his own gifts in favor of snatching the cloak, gaping and sputtering. Harry couldn’t stop Draco from cooing over the cloak and fondling it and beaming down at it for the next hour.

When Draco had finally, albeit reluctantly, let go of the cloak, he had made Harry promise not to tell anyone else. Then Draco’d grinned like the Cheshire cat, cackling and rubbing his hands together exaggeratedly as he predicted horrible, horrible fates that would befall the Gryffindorks, especially the Weasley twins that kept trying to feed Slytherin children pellet-puking pills.

Harry knew that Draco was thinking back to the one unforgivable occasion when Daphne had been discovered weeping in the corner of the common room surrounded by lime green gas. In between sobs, she had told them how the Weasley twins had offered her what looked like a green candy in the hall. Pungent green fumes oozed from Daphne’s mouth whenever she spoke. When Theo suddenly gagged and ran off to the loo, Daphne had started bawling as if there was no tomorrow.

So Harry’d went along with Draco on a mission to make the twins’ lives hell. They had thrown owl pellets at the twins to corner them into Peeve’s territory near the potions storage room, ambushing them later on, discretely tugging the seams from the twins' robes. As the twins walked away, their robes began to unravel. It wasn’t until their clothes had disintegrated up to their knees that one of the twins yelped and began running toward the Gryffindor tower. Harry was laughing so hard that he had let go of his end of the seam, but Draco, even between fits of uncontrollable laughter, had held on to his thread. One of the twins, Harry heard later, was clad only in his boxers and shirt when he arrived at the tower.

Then there were Plans which had gone terribly wrong. Harry could clearly remember the time they had scuffled under the cloak after curfew to ambush Filch and Mrs. Norris. Draco’s Plan had been to grab the cat’s tail and watch as the cat wailed and Filch jumped up and down. Mrs. Norris had grabbed Draco instead, and if Harry hadn’t covered Draco’s mouth with his hand and pulled him behind a dusty curtain, Draco’s indignant shout and their consequent capture would have made Filch’s day.

And there was that time, too, when Draco had casually asked the first-years one Friday evening in the common room what they’d do if they could brew an invisibility potion.

“I’d swap the hair care product that Bones girl uses,” Pansy offered, sneering. “With a hair-removing potion.”

“Dunno… Reckon I’d grab some of the sugar quills from Honeydukes. Sneak out to Hogsmeade with the upper years,” said Theo.

Draco made a noncommittal sound. Every Saturday morning, Draco received a package from his mum that contained several boxes of expensive French chocolate. He wasn’t short on sweets.

But when Blaise had snorted and said, “Myself, I would tackle the girls’ showers. Or rob some knickers and hang them in the Great Hall,” Harry saw that ominous gleam in Draco’s eyes.

Outwardly, Draco had chided Blaise, made him apologise, and defended the Slytherin girls’ virtue. Afterwards he had turned to Harry with wide eyes and mouthed, Perfect!

They had ended up locked inside Millie’s closet and had spent the night squished together, standing up.

 

That was almost three weeks ago, Harry noted, as he shivered in the cold February wind. His body was quickly losing warmth as he continued to hover. Harry took a peek at Draco again. The only thing he could see aside from the resentful textbook was Draco’s hair, disheveled by the wind. The blond locks weren’t matted into a helmet this time because Draco had been getting ready for bed when Harry dragged him out. It seemed that his hair was falling into his eyes; Draco pawed clumsily at his forehead now and then with his gloved hands. Harry smiled at the sight.

Harry had never used the cloak to pull a prank on Draco. He battled himself for a moment whether he should now. Harry had been sure that once outside Draco would give in and fly, but the stubborn git was just sitting there. Neglecting his broom. Neglecting Harry.

Harry covered himself and the Cleansweep as best as he could with his cloak. He flew towards Draco, unnoticed, and stayed in the air for several minutes observing Draco’s concentrated expression from close up. Harry frowned when he saw Draco bunching his shoulders, his breath fogging up. He almost felt sorry, but hell, it was Draco’s fault for deciding to read a textbook outdoors in February, when he could have had an exciting match one-on-one instead. Harry eyed the textbook menacingly before he grabbed it and tossed it over his head. Draco let out a holler that sounded somewhat like the sound he had made back in Millie’s closet—it was when he had realised that he was trapped inside with Millicent’s underwear collection dangerously close to his face.

Draco was waving his hands and falling backwards, so Harry thrust his hand forward and hoisted him back to his seat. For a moment, Draco looked left, right, and then left again, eyes wild and hair a blond halo against the wand light. Then he blinked, and before Harry had time to duck away, snatched at the cloak and revealed him.

“Harry!”

“Hey! Let go!” Harry protested. Draco was throttling him.

“Oh no you don’t. First you drag me from the comfort of my bed. I mean, how many times do I have to tell you that I need a decent night’s sleep before practicals? Especially Transfiguration! That McGonagall woman has eyes of a hawk, I tell you!”

Harry nodded frantically. Draco’s grip didn’t loosen.

“I graciously grant you the pleasure of my company out on this, this frosty February night, and then what do you do? Do you give me the peace I need to concentrate on my studies? Do you show me the appropriate appreciation for my brilliant presence?”

“S… Sorry! Jus’… let go? Please?”

Harry bounced back, coughing, as Draco finally let go of him.

“But no. You don’t even acknowledge that you dragged me out against my will. You whine and whine and wouldn’t leave me alone, and yet, I tolerate your ungrateful attitude. But what do you repay me with? Huh?”

“Okay, okay. I’ve got your point.”

Draco went on as if Harry hadn’t said anything. “But no. You then come sneaking up to me, with the cloak that I had suggested we bring for the innocent purpose of walking around after curfew, and then you chuck my book away!

Draco was hysterically waving his arms in the air. Harry winced. “Er… okay. Okay. I won’t do it again?”

Draco’s eyes narrowed. “You’d better,” he growled.

Feeling somewhat helpless, Harry bent down and fetched Draco’s Transfiguration book. He gingerly dusted the dirt off the pages before handing it to Draco. Draco accepted the book with a sigh, stepping off the pitch and plopping onto the grass.

“Harry, you don’t understand. You’re bloody good at Transfigurations. I’m, well… not.”

“Er… thanks,” Harry said. “Maybe I can help you, then,” he added for good measure.

“Really?” Draco looked relieved. Maybe he had been waiting for Harry to offer him help. Harry should have asked sooner.

“Yeah. ‘Course.”

“It’s jus’ that… I don’t understand why we have to change a spoon into a flower,” sputtered Draco. He looked frustrated. Harry shrugged. He sat down next to Draco in time to see him pluck a spoon out of his sack. He watched Draco frown hard at the spoon, wave his wand and mutter, “Verto.” Together, they watched in silence as the spoon lengthened. It continued to lengthen until it was as long as Harry’s entire arm. It was almost as thin as a wire now. Then the round ends split into five silver blobs. Three of the blobs started turning pink and narrow. Two of them colored a vicious red-black and fattened themselves. The metal started taking on a greenish tinge. Then the change gradually came to a stop.

Harry took the deformed flower thing from a frowning, pouting Draco Malfoy. He concentrated on the spoon’s form and its subsequent transformation into a large daisy. When he swung his wand twice and tapped the spoon, the silver blobs paled and thinned to form white petals while the spoon’s neck sprouted leaf-green sepals to support the blossom.

When Harry glanced sideways at Draco, he looked expectant.

“Right. So, you know that you have to picture a flower in the spoon’s place, yeah?”

Yes.”

“Okay. Er… what kind of flower did you imagine, jus’ now?”

Draco chewed on his lip before replying hesitantly. “It’s complicated. At first I wanted a pink rose, because Mother is partial to them. Then I remembered that Father likes narcissus. Did I tell you that Mother’s first name is Narcissa? Father can be romantic like that.”

Draco paused.

“Oh,” Harry said.

“But the real problem is,” Draco continued, scowling harder, “I had this thick picture book I got for my eighth birthday from a distant cousin. It was about the flora around the world, and I saw this illustration of a really ugly, gigantic flower. It’s called rafflesia, and it’s this deep red with white spots, really thick petals, and it’s bigger than you and me put together, see?”

Draco stretched his arms as far as he could and looked at Harry.

“And the worst part is,” he scrunched his nose, “the flower smells of rotting meat. Get it? Rotting meat!” Draco’s fist shook indignantly.

Harry imagined a monstrous man-eating flower with teeth. “For real?”

“Yes! So, you see, I was stuck. I could transfer this spoon to something romantic and pretty, or I could use this change to see for my own eyes a beastly flower that only grows in the rain forests or something.”

Harry shook his head. “I don’t think you can do that, y’know,” he said. “The spoon is so tiny. And if the raffle-something flower is as big as you said… I don’t think it’s possible.”

Draco puffed. “So you have to see that it’s not that I lack my magic or anything. It’s just that I can’t concentrate on one image.”

“Er… I think we should try the pink rose you mentioned.”

“Right.” Draco pulled out another spoon from his sack and held it up to his face. Harry could see their faces reflected from the round end of spoon.

“So… What I do is this,” Harry said. “First I imagine the flower, color and all, in the spoon’s place. I don’t think about the change, yet. Just the shape of the flower, instead of the spoon, yeah?”

“Okay.”

“Then I align this image so that the petals lie on top of the round part, and the stem matches the handle. Then I use my wand.”

Eyes glued to the spoon, Draco waved his wand and said, “Verto.” The spoon promptly turned into a rose. A somewhat rigid and steely rose, but a rose nonetheless.

“I did it.”

“Yeah. Good job.”

“I’m brilliant.” Draco beamed.

“If you say so,” said Harry, grinning, too. Spotting the Cleansweep on the ground next to him, he added, “So can you fly with me?”

Draco was smirking now. “Since you beg so nicely.”

Harry spluttered, but then Draco was laughing and already mounting his broom, his A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration lying forgotten in the grass.

 

*

 

Harry really couldn’t understand why he should be so out of breath after flying. It wasn’t anything like running; he didn’t have to support his weight or pump his legs or anything. He was just gliding through the air on a broom.

He must have wondered out loud, because Draco was answering him.

“It’s like riding a horse. You’re riding something, but still you have to use your own muscles to steer. And unlike horseback riding, you move in all kinds of ways on a broom. So you have to use your arms a lot. Hence”—Draco made a sweeping gesture—“the huffing and puffing.”

Harry felt something poking at his back and reached behind to pull away Draco’s Transfiguration textbook.

“And the muscles, too. D’you know how fit all Quidditch players are? Especially Adrian Wolf. From the Falmouth Falcons. Did I show you his poster? In the poster, he is wearing his Quidditch gear and the Falcons uniform, and he really has some mean muscles on him.”

Harry had seen that poster. Draco had shown him four times, admiring Adrian Wolf, Captain and Chaser for the Falcons. Wolf had wild, curly brown hair and blue eyes, with a slanted smile that revealed bone-white teeth. In Harry’s opinion, that smile seemed affected.

“I wonder if I have a crush on him,” Draco said.

“Er… I don’t think it’s called a crush.”

“Oh?”

Harry turned and looked at Draco. He was frowning. “I think. I think you call it being a fan.”

“Oh. Right. I’m a fan, I think.”

Draco looked content with that answer. They lay quiet for a minute, watching the night sky. Harry hadn’t ever watched the night sky before. He had known it was there, of course, but he had never paid that much attention. As his sweat began to dry, it was getting cold. Soon they would have to head back in. He wished he knew how to cast a Warming Charm, if there was such a thing.

“So what team do you like the most?” Draco asked.

Harry thought for a minute.

“I dunno… The Appleby Arrows fly alright, I guess,” said Harry, thinking back to a recorded match Draco had shown him before Christmas.

“The Arrows? Are you serious?” Draco raised himself up by the elbows to look down disdainfully at Harry.

“What?”

“You know why they’re called the Arrows?”

“Why?”

“Once upon a time, they used to shoot silver arrows whenever they scored. Real arrows. And not just one arrow, too. Every team member would shoot two or three each. So one day, the inevitable happened. Guess what.”

“What?”

Draco nudged him. “Guess.

“Alright. Er… someone got hurt?”

“Yes.” Draco seemed disappointed that Harry guessed right. Then he continued more enthusiastically, lips curling into an evil grin, “One of the Beaters got overexcited and shot an arrow toward the referee box. The arrow went”—he made a stabbing motion—“right through a referee’s nose!”

Harry was horrified. “You’re having me on.”

“Nuh-uh. These things happen in Quidditch, you’ll see when we make it to the team next year. You know how you have to cut the game if a Seeker catches the Snitch?”

Harry nodded.

“So in other words, the game has to go on until someone has the Snitch. The longest game recorded in the history of Quidditch lasted, wait for it, three whole months.

“Wow. That’s messy.” Harry blinked. “Three months. How did the players eat and everything?”

Draco shrugged. “I guess they kept swapping players and all.”

“How do you know so much about Quidditch history?”

“Well, I didn’t grow up in a cupboard, unlike some people.”

“That was low, Draco. Low.”

Draco snickered. “Actually, Marc told me. You know Marc, right? Marcus Flint, Captain of the Slytherin team?”

Harry fished up an image of a tall, broad-shouldered boy with short hair, thick brows, and protruding front teeth.

“I know who he is.”

“Good. He’s a really nice guy. He gave me this book called Quidditch Through the Ages as a Christmas present. I actually showed it to you but I recall that you were busy with the Squealing Spectacles I gave you. I nailed you with that one. I’m very observant and thoughtful like that.”

“I haven’t seen you hanging around with him,” said Harry, racking his brain for images of Draco with the ugly boy.

“I think it was around Halloween, when Pansy and Blaise decided to play chess together and I was bored. Greg and Vince are great guys but they’re not really entertaining, so I looked for you. Then I saw that you and Teddy were busy swapping chocolate frog cards. So I wandered off and got lost somewhere because of the moving staircase, and ran into Marc. He’s been real nice to me since we first met. He saw me fly once, he told me, and he’s sure that I’ll make it on to the team next year,” Draco grinned. “I like him.”

Harry didn’t really want to hear about Flint. “Theo hates it when you call him Teddy, you know.”

“Really? I didn’t know. I think Teddy is a good name.” Draco furrowed his brows. “I’ve been meaning to ask you. How’s Teddy like? I’ve never had a decent conversation with him. He seems awfully quiet. Does he have bad breath or something? Because if that’s the case, it’s understandable that he talks to you and not to me. Sharing the same problem and all.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Piss off.”

“No, but really. How’s he like? What do you talk about with him?”

“We gossip. Mostly about you, to tell the truth. We once had a fascinating conversation about how you look so much like a girl when you have your hair down. We talked about how you would fit right in with Daphne in the girls’ dorm. Another time, we had an animated discussion on whether you could be convinced to wear a long wig and dress to fool Snape that you’d accidentally drunken a gender-bender potion and ask for a day off. Preferably blaming the Weasleys and docking their House points. Or whether you would—Ow!” Harry rubbed his arm where Draco had punched him.

Draco sniffed. “You deserved that. Honestly. Pull my other one.”

Then his expression became thoughtful. “That’s why I use the hair potion, you know. The one I use to pull back my hair.”

“Huh?”

“When I was little, I used to have hair down to my shoulders, and my father’s acquaintances kept congratulating Father for having raised such a sweet and polite princess.” Draco snorted. “Father wanted to cut my hair short, but Mother disagreed. I ended up using the potion.”

So the helmet had history.

“But enough about me. About Teddy. I’m curious.”

Harry tried to think back to the conversations he had with Theo. They didn’t talk much actually, but Harry never felt uneasy with Theo like he sometimes did with Blaise or the girls.

“He tells me about his dad a lot. Er… his mum died, you see. I’m not sure I’m allowed to tell you about that, so, I’ll just leave it.” Harry thought some more. “And he knows a lot of games, so we play them. And… we once talked about our parents. I don’t really remember mine, but you know the picture of them Dumbledore gave me? I look at it and I sort of… imagine, you know?”

We’ve never talked your parents before,” Draco huffed.

“Er… It’s just that… both your parents are alive and—”

“I know, I know. Just get on with it.”

Harry hesitated. It sort of hurt that Draco didn’t care to think from Harry’s perspective.

“Well, that’s it,” Harry snapped. “Theo and I don’t really talk that much. You’re the one who doesn’t shut up.”

A few minutes passed without either of them opening his mouth. Harry swallowed once or twice and thought of things to say, but couldn’t find any. Then Draco was getting up and tucking his book into his sack.

“Where’re you going?”

Draco gave Harry a cool glance. “It’s past midnight. Where d’you think?”

Harry lay dazed on the field as he watched Draco’s swiftly moving form disappear into the dark.

 

 

A/N: Thanks for the reviews!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: The characters and the situation belong to J. K. Rowling. This story wasn't created for profit. Just for fun.

 

 

Chapter Five: Draco’s Detention

 

 

“Mate, your king just went down.”

At Theo’s voice, Harry snapped back into reality.

“Huh?”

Theo wordlessly gestured to the chessboard between them. Harry’s black king was on its hands and knees, nursing its head wound pitifully. It had taken a blow to the head four times in a row now. The white pieces were cheering and carrying their bishop on their shoulders.

“Er… yeah,” said Harry, forcing himself to look away from the sad sight, only to find Theo staring at Harry as if he were something under a magnifying glass. It was making Harry squirm.

“You’re out of it all day. Wha’s the bother?”

“It’s nothing,” said Harry, hastily.

Theo frowned. “You had a row with Malfoy.” It wasn’t a question.

“Er… sort of. Look, it isn’t that important.”

“Circe, you’re making me miserable with your brooding.”

Harry let out an impatient sigh. He tried to right his king, but the king stumbled and crawled backwards when it saw Harry’s approaching fingers. Frustrated, Harry fisted his hand and mumbled, “I’m sorry. Okay? Can we just… play chess?”

“Not if I want all my blacks intact. They’re already pissed off as it is. Look at it, Harry, the black king wouldn’t even let a fellow come near him, the poor sod.”

Harry looked down to see the black king staggering backwards, frantically waving his hands as Theo’s fingers made a snatch at him. The king looked traumatised.

“Er…”

“Jus’ go bother someone else, Harry. No offense, but I’d rather start on my Potions essay than sit here watching you brood.” Theo flashed Harry an apologetic grin and shuffled over to head for the library.

Unfortunately for Harry, the effect of mashed slug and pixie wingtips in calming draught held no appeal. Really, Harry couldn’t think about anything else but the cool distance that Draco had maintained between them the whole day.

When Harry returned to the dungeons last night and peeped around Draco’s curtains, he’d found Draco fast asleep. Or pretending to sleep, anyhow. Which would be worse because it meant he was trying to avoid Harry. Harry reminded himself that Draco was one of the most mercurial people he had met; their little spat—if it could be called that, considering there wasn’t much said at all to merit such a cold attitude from Draco—would be forgotten, hopefully. He should stop fretting.

Harry had still been hopeful when he had woke up to a Draco-less dorm, because surely Draco would partner up with him in double Potions with Gryffindor—they were always partners in Potions. But Harry had found Draco’s usual seat empty. Draco sat in the first row, head bent together with Pansy in a whispered discussion. Harry ended up partnered with Tracy. A nice girl, really, who nodded and smiled tentatively at him.

Things got worse when Harry attempted to catch Draco’s eye while they were queuing up for toadfish gills. He had locked eyes with Snape instead, and had to mumble an embarrassed explanation as to why he had been mashing and virtually grinding the gills to a gooey glop in his fists. Snape must really have hated him if he was willing to humiliate a Slytherin in a combined class. In front of Gryffindors, no less.

The rest of Harry’s day had gone by in much the same manner, with Draco pretending Harry didn’t exist and Harry, who didn’t even remember why things had gotten to this point and was getting exasperated by the hour, trying to think of a way to just have a word with the frustrating, stubborn, irritating git.

Harry had eventually given up and decided to wait until Draco’s fit was over. But then he recalled that one time Draco had found out that a second year Slytherin girl had been discretely using his tropical fruit essence shampoo. Not discrete enough, apparently. Draco had fumed at first, powerless, because it was a second year. Harry remembered how Draco had paced furiously to and fro in their dorm, making everyone toss and turn. Harry’d sat next to Draco the next day in History of Magic while Draco drafted an evil recipe for the hair product he was going to slip to the sneaky little shampoo-pilfering kleptomaniac. Harry was used to Draco coming up with his Cunning Plans during Binns’ class—Draco had explained that he found the background droning very inspirational—but Harry had never seen Draco so intent on silent revenge. It was very intense. Harry was sure he didn’t want Draco as an enemy.

But now that Harry finally made up his mind to corner Draco and talk him through his bloody annoying silent treatment, he couldn’t find him anywhere. Not in the dorm, the common room, the showers, the common loo, the dungeon loo, the Great Hall loo, the Great Hall, the Quidditch pitch, the library, the gardens—Harry even checked the broom sheds and cupboards just in case, but there wasn’t a sign of Draco anywhere.

Harry was trudging back down toward the Slytherin dungeon, dejectedly running a hand through his messy hair, when he literally walked into Snape. Harry smothered a yelp just in time.

Snape glared down his nose at Harry. His nose was hooked dramatically. Its slope started gradually enough before it plunged down to a pointy end. Snape’s glare probably gained momentum somewhere along the nose. Harry bet that was why the look was so piercing.

“Going somewhere, Potter?” drawled Snape, ending the oppressive silence.

“To the dorms, sir,” Harry mumbled and shuffled back a few steps. He pretended to be looking demurely down at his toes while actually glowering at Snape’s boots. He willed them to move away.

No such luck. Snape was starting to speak.

“Perhaps… it would be wise to pay a visit to,” Snape paused, “the trophy room, Mister Potter.”

Harry looked up, not sure he had heard right. “Sir?”

Snape was frowning down at him. “My advice for seeking Mister Malfoy, Potter,” he snapped. “The third floor.” With that, Snape stalked past Harry, robes billowing like mad behind him as he disappeared down the corridor. Harry bet Snape practiced that move in front of a mirror.

Then Snape’s comment hit home and Harry frowned, puzzled. Why would Draco be there on a Friday night? It was possible that this was some kind of trap Snape had set up to out Harry. Actually, it was perfect. No one knew where Harry was right now. For some kind of unknown mysterious reason, Snape had been wanting to do away with Harry for months now, and this was his chance. That was it.

Harry shook his head when he realised where his thoughts were going. Snape was his Head of House. Christ. And Snape seemed to actually like Draco, always stopping in front of his desk during Potions to compliment his neat chopping skills. Harry didn’t think he would use Draco out of all the students as a bait to lure Harry into some trouble.

It was worth a try, Harry supposed, and sped along the corridors and up the stairs before he could change his mind, only coming to a stop in front of iron doors that opened into the trophy room.

Harry tiptoed forward and peered inside. Moonlight streamed through tall windows framed with intricately carved woodwork. It reflected on the many silver plates adorning the opposite wall. Harry leaned farther in to run his eyes over even more trophies winking gold and silver—to discover one shiny blond head bent over a corner of the room.

Harry blinked and rubbed his eyes. Sure enough, it was Draco, running a soggy piece of cloth over a silver plate in the dim corner of the trophy room.

Draco certainly looked out of place with that rag in his hands. He wasn’t even holding the rag right, Harry observed. Rags were supposed to be held tight, not pinched delicately like it was some kind of dainty handkerchief. Harry supposed Draco never cleaned up after anything in his manor. Probably his house-elves dabbed his mouth with a napkin during meals and brushed his teeth for him, too.

The door Harry was leaning on creaked against the floor, alerting Draco of his presence. Draco lifted his head at the sound and locked eyes with Harry.

“Thank Merlin,” Draco said, flitting his eyes shut and looking very relieved.

He didn’t seem surprised at Harry’s appearance. At all. Harry wondered if this was a good sign.

It was only after Harry was squatted down next to Draco and polishing a bronze goblet with expertise that he found the words to speak.

“So,” Harry started. “Er… What landed you in detention, anyway?” He almost added, here of all places, but stopped himself just in case it was an on-switch for one of Draco’s enraged outbursts.

Draco was glaring at the silver plate in his hands. “Filch ambushed me last night, when I was walking back to the dungeon,” Draco said glumly. “I think he heard my footsteps and decided to jump me. Leaped out at me from behind a bloody armor.”

“Did he?” Harry was horrified. “I’ve never heard Filch give out this kind of detention before,” he added, trying to banish a mental image of Filch jumping Draco. He scowled at the room in general.

Draco sighed. “Filch couldn’t lay a finger on my person, of course, that man’s no match for my agility and grace, you should know. I almost lost him, too. But then that cat leaped in front of me and tripped me. Then d’you know what it did? You’ll never believe it. The vile creature started yowling and rolling on the ground, pretending to be the victim!” Draco’s eyes blazed.

Harry was convinced that the cat had somehow been victimised. Probably Draco had kicked it or something.

“Figures,” Harry said outwardly, nodding in sympathy. He rather felt sorry for Mrs. Norris.

“Think about it, Harry. This is an assault on the dignity of the whole Hogwarts population. Enslaving a student in revenge for a cat,” Draco spat out the word with venom. “Just wait until I tell my father about this.”

He started applying more pressure onto his rag, until he realised what he was doing and let out a yelp and dropped the filthy cloth.

“You’re a lost cause,” Harry said, amused.

Draco gingerly pinched the rag with his thumb and forefinger. “Can’t believe this rag is supposed to be cleaning the filth.” He held it up for inspection, giving it a dirty look. “Bet there is a whole colony of knwerp-bellied roaches inhabiting this vermin-topia. Bet it hasn’t been washed properly in centuries. Ugh.”

Harry sniggered.

“You think it’s funny now,” Draco pouted. “Just you wait. I’ll slowly waste away, the unidentified roach bites having eaten away at my defences throughout the ages.” He lowered his eyes and placed his hand on his heart. “One day in the future, when you discover a cold and dead but strangely beautiful corpse of a blond youth in the Slytherin Dungeon, you’ll regret what an inconsiderate prick you had been to me this night.”

“Um…” Harry said, waving his own dirtier rag pointedly at Draco. “I’d hate to interrupt your impassioned speech, Draco. But I can’t help noticing how you’ve been toiling away for the last half hour, polishing so many plates.”

Draco stared at the silver plate in his hands, the same plate he had been fiddling with since Harry first showed up. “I cannot put into words how much you mean to me, Harry,” he said in a chipper tone, nodding approvingly at Harry’s collection of finished trophies.

“I can see that,” Harry said.

“Don’t be so mean. Really,” Draco batted his eyelashes, “I’m being sincere.”

“Right. This detention really sucks.”

“Now you agree,” Draco said, triumphant for no reason Harry could see. “This is crap compared to what we did for Snape’s detention. Now that I mention it, I didn’t expect Snape to go so easy on us, yeah? After Blaise and all that strip tease thingy he had going on. Blah. Honestly.”

Harry remembered. He made a face. “Ugh. Don’t remind me.”

Strictly, it hadn’t been Blaise’s fault. Who knew Draco’s Whisky Bonbons really contained whisky inside all that chocolate? Harry was just glad he was only a slurring, staggering drunk—nothing like Blaise’s appalling habit of pulling off his clothing one by one with a predatory smile. Blaise had later insisted that he had learned that one from his mother. It had done nothing to appeal to the grim Potions master.

“Not that I’d welcome another detention, though,” Draco continued. “I already had two detentions now. But at least Snape’s detention was useful. I think it actually helped me with my Potions practicals.”

“I think I prefer rubbing trophies to sniffing potions ingredients, thanks.”

“It’s because you’re so bad at it.”

“I know.” Harry rolled his eyes. “I don’t need you to keep reminding me. Snape is doing a fine job of it without any extra help.”

“No need to get all huffy at me, now. I’m not saying that in a mean way,” Draco touched Harry’s hand to indicate his sincerity, “I’m simply amazed, Harry. Tell me. Who in the world except Harry Potter would dare touch grubbernaut pus with bare hands? Who in the world but you would try to sniff out Doxycide right out of the bottle?”

Harry grunted.

Draco smiled fondly at Harry and petted his hair. “Worry not. It is my firm belief that Severus Snape is genuinely good at heart. He just hates you because you’re so horrible at Potions.”

Discussing Harry’s Potions skills, or more accurately the lack thereof, seemed to cheer up Draco. He was even humming a tune now, running his fingers over an intricate platinum goblet.

Harry felt the need to remind Draco of their task. Draco’s task, Harry suddenly remembered.

“You know, this is absolutely nothing compared to what the Dursleys made me do.”

Draco stopped humming and made an indignant sound. “What were you, their house-elf?!

“I.” Harry furrowed his brows. “I reckon I was.”

“That’s absurd. My hatred of Muggles just tripled.” Draco scrunched his nose in distaste. “Ugh. Muggles.

He finally put down the goblet and moved on to a dusty bronze trophy. He now seemed less afraid of the vermin-infected rag, Harry noticed.

“I used to have a songbook for children. It had songs about Muggles. D’you want to hear one?”

Harry shrugged.

“It’s quite horrific, actually. Listen: It’s raining, it’s pouring, the Muggle is drowning. We spell him dry and charm him warm and burn to ash next evening.

The tune really was rather too cheerful for the lyrics. “It is horrific. Your mum let you sing that kind of songs?” Harry asked, curious. It explained a lot, actually.

“Mother says it’s educational. It’s related to history. She says Muggles hunted and burned our kind a long time ago.” Draco abused his rag. “Stupid filthy Muggles,” he added. He had a way of saying Muggles that reminded Harry of Aunt Petunia speaking of “freaks like Harry.” It was interesting.

“Some Muggle children's songs are disturbing, too,” Harry offered.

“I can’t believe it. Those copycats.” Draco shook his head. “You know, many wizarding children stories are disturbing, too. Some are downright grotesque. I cannot understand what adults are thinking letting children read that kind of stuff. Perverts, the lot of them. I used to have nightmares about the Warlock.”

“Wha’s that?”

“I think you’re better off not knowing in detail. It’s this story about a man with a hairy heart ripping organs out of live bodies.”

Harry considered. “I once found Dudley reading an alphabet book that was really gross. It goes like this, I think. A was for Amy who fell down the stairs, and B was for Basil assaulted by bears, er… and I think C was for Clara who wasted away. And pictures, too, about kids dying in really creative ways. One kid was ‘devoured by mice,’ even. Dudley used to love it.”

Draco shook his head again and muttered, Muggles.

“Anyway, I’ve been wanting to ask you something,” Harry ventured, deciding that Draco was acting friendly enough to discuss.

“I’m all ears, Harry. Do tell.”

Harry swallowed, suddenly anxious. “You. Right. I was kind of wondering. Er… This morning. And. Why were you, you know? In classes, I mean.”

“What’s that? Your grasp of the English language is appalling, Harry.”

“I, uh… Why did you avoid me all day? Today, I mean. Um… yeah.”

Draco stilled his scrubbing for a second before he resumed with renewed fervor. Harry thought Draco’s ears were red, but couldn’t really tell in the dim light.

Draco muttered something Harry didn’t catch.

“Sorry?”

Draco huffed, “I said, I’m sorry.

“Oh. Um… but.”

“I said,” Draco sniffed, “I was sort of pissed off that…” He looked peeved. “You wouldn’t talk about real important things with me, but then you would with Nott. I have ears, too, you know. You can talk to me. I’m supposed to be your best friend.

“Yeah,” Harry breathed, bewildered. He had been expecting… well, not this. This kind of straightforward, miffed response. “Er… I’m sorry, too, I guess. For not talking, I mean.” Harry hesitated. “Well, but the thing is, I don’t really have anything to talk about my parents. With Theo, I just sort of imagined what it would be like, y’know? To have them.”

Draco considered this. “I used to imagine what you’d be like. I used to hear bedtime stories about you, did you know?”

Harry was stunned. “What?”

“I understand that you sometimes have a hard time with spoken English, but do try,” Draco said lightly. “Bed-time-stories,” he enunciated.

Harry quelled his urge to stick out his tongue.

“Mother told me stories about a boy that defeated an evil Dark lord.” Draco shrugged. “I thought at first that it was a fairy tale. I imagined that you were some kind of prince, lording over your people. I imagined us being friends and going on adventures together, fighting forces of evil, that kind of thing.”

“Me. A prince. Lording over my people.”

Yes.” Draco grinned and raised a blond brow. “It really is an amusing image if you think about it.” He grinned wider as he threw his hands up and waved wildly. “Hail all! Long live Prince Potter!

Harry was horrified, really. He felt the corners of his mouth tugging up.

Draco clasped his hands together dramatically, his face a picture of innocence. “Oh, Merlin! It’s Perfect Prince Potter! Here, my lord, pray grant me an autograph on my person, pray run your aristocratic fingers over my unworthy arse, I beg you.” Draco turned around and wriggled his arse at Harry, who was laughing so hard it hurt.

Draco looked over his shoulders with a hurt expression. “Is my bottom so unworthy that my lord finds it fit to laugh so cruelly?” He pouted.

“Since you beg so nicely,” Harry said with a smirk and shot his hands forward to tickle him. Draco shrieked and fell on his arse trying to twist away.

“How dare you take such liberties with my person! What a fine prince you are, Harry Potter. I wouldn’t have pinned you for—Oof!”

“Shut up.” Harry squatted down next to Draco, elbowing him.

Draco scowled and rubbed his ribs. “This is an abusive friendship. You wound me, Harry, you really do.”

“What can I say? I can’t seem to keep my hands off you,” Harry said wryly.

“A natural reaction to my dazzling presence.” Draco swept his palm in a grand gesture in front of himself as if to indicate, Who could resist this?

“Shut up,” Harry said with a grin. He plopped backwards and let the cold from the stone floor seep through his robes.

“Harry?”

“Yeah?”

“I’ve just had an idea. I think.”

Draco was quiet, so Harry nudged him. He gave Harry a sidelong glance.

“Maybe you should spend the summer at my place, you know? Maybe we could search for wicked curses in the library. And practice for Quidditch tryouts next term?”

Harry pulled back to look at Draco’s face, feeling a bit dazed. “You mean that?”

“Course I do. So, what d’you think?”

Harry thought he would look ridiculous to anyone who was looking because he was grinning so widely. “You’re brilliant.

Draco poked Harry’s shoulder with his forefinger. “There. That sentence. Memorise it. Practice saying it in front of the mirror. You’ll be using it a lot in the future.”

Harry was definitely feeling dizzy—the air must be really stuffy. He laughed a little breathlessly.

 

*

As excited as he had been over having Harry over the summer, Draco had been unhealthily upset when he had read the negative reply from his parents. Harry’s own disappointment had been forgotten as he bodily prevented Draco from hexing his father’s prize eagle owl with facial tentacles. Draco’s hex had zoomed off course, leaving what looked like dead octopus arms hanging limply off the ceiling of the owlery. Harry wondered if they were still there.

“It’s kind of hard to concentrate if you keep watching me, Harry,” Draco said, his quill scratching the parchment, writing a letter of protest to his parents. “I know I’m gorgeous. A welcome respite to the eye in this hovel of thugs. A practical eye candy, if I say so myself,” he preened, “but please. Do remember that staring is rude.”

“You have ink on your chin,” Harry said.

Draco’s unoccupied hand flew to his chin. His cheeks reddened, but he didn’t stop writing his letter. It made Harry smile.

“Draco, I don’t think your parents will change their mind.”

The peacock quill stilled for a second before resuming its rhythmic flutter. The green ink wasn’t gone, Harry noted.

“I’m sure I can make them rethink their choice,” Draco said in an overly casual tone.

“It’s really okay, y’know,” Harry said gently. “You’ll just have to write to me a lot. Jus’ promise me.” When Draco refused to reply, Harry cupped his fingers beneath Draco’s chin to lift his face. Harry swiped a thumb across the green smudge there for good measure.

A crease appeared between Draco’s eyebrows, and Harry snatched his hand away in case his touch had been inappropriate. Harry never knew if his touches were proper or not. He wished that he had that casual confidence about touching other people like Draco did. His parents had probably coddled and petted him a lot when he was little.

Draco was now pouting. After a dramatic pause, Draco rolled over to Harry’s side and said, “I promise.”

Harry smiled.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: The characters and the situation belong to J. K. Rowling. This story wasn't created for profit. Just for fun.

 

Chapter Six: Letters

 

Draco’s first letter was an enraged rant about how he was beaten by a Gryffindork in not one but all subjects. Harry himself had fared pretty average, he thought. Not that he knew anyone else’s grades, but still, his grades were acceptable. Converted to Muggle terms, he was about B minus, or C plus. Far better than Dudley, for sure, who came home with Cs and Ds and mostly Fs. Aunt Petunia used to say that it wasn’t his fault; her Duddydums was just too much of a man to spend so much time chained to a desk like a sissy.

One morning, Harry woke up with a start to find his barred window rattling alarmingly loud. He squinted his eyes open and reached for his glasses. It was barely five, and there was an owl trying to peck its way in. Harry hurried over to the window and made a frantic motion with his arms to get the owl to shut up and stop making such a racket. He then slowly reached around to unlatch the metal bars off the wooden frame. The Dursleys had faith in those infallible bars, and Harry needed to keep it that way if he didn’t want his window boarded up.

The huge eagle owl glowered at Harry before lifting its foot in an imperious manner. Harry was suddenly and strongly reminded of Pansy’s hand.

“Er… Here you go,” Harry said, offering the owl some of Hedwig’s Owl Treats. The eagle owl glared some more and tried to peck off his hands, seeming offended for some reason. Harry pulled back his hand protectively. But really, it wasn’t the owl’s fault that it had such a foul temperament. Any predator with the name Flopsy would hate its life. Draco had insisted that it was a good name, and besides, he had been five when he named it, but still.

Harry watched the owl fly away before he replaced the bars seamlessly. He sat on his bed and unfolded the letter. Draco always seemed to prefer dark green ink on thick, creamy parchment. And his penmanship was so… refined. Harry’s own sentences looked like he had tried to bend chicken wire into letters—in vain.

 

Saturday, June 27, 1992

Harry,

You forget that my father is one of the school governors. I’ve always thought that it was convenient, but as it turns out it’s quite useless.

At first I wanted my father to help me smuggle a broom to school, bend the rules a little, let one first year keep his Nimbus (yes, this is the broom I told you about a million times, the same broom I’m going to bring to school next term!), but he wouldn’t do it. Then I wanted him to pressure the governors into letting a student keep a personal house-elf. Father didn’t even grace this with a reply.

But apparently the powers Father does have include having free access to school records. Not actually free, as in open and direct, but you know what I mean. He knows exactly who beat me in what subject. I’m so lucky.

Harry smiled. He could see Draco pouting while writing this.

The guests Father and Mother refused you for are some pompous pricks from the French ministry. Father’s acquaintances. I’m neglected and so alone. But since I am an ardent and aspiring student and because I am fascinated by the intricacies of potion brewing, so very unlike you, I’m spending my time doing my Potions assignment first. I bet you don’t even know what it is. I still can’t believe that Granger beat me in Potions. Ugh.

Speaking of, why do you think Snape hates you so much? At school I thought it was because he knew at first sight what a slob you are, but now that I have time to think it over, it seems strange. Do you think Snape is actually jealous of your fame? He always seems so bitter about it. Though I’ll admit, Snape’s still my favourite professor. Do you remember his speech about how to “bottle fame, brew glory, and stopper death”? Just. Wow. I have that memorised, you know.

It’s very quiet in my quarters. Except that annoying house-elf Dobby. He nearly wet his clothes when I mentioned your name in passing. He’s crazy about you. I’ve been telling him that you look like Adonis. And that you are six feet tall with bulging muscles. He practically fainted when I told him about your heroic rescue of Mrs. Norris from a tree. He’s drinking every single drop. It’s amusing as hell.

Write soon, Harry.

Bored and impatient,
Draco

P.S. If your reply is as short as the last one, I’ll tell Dobby that your bits are longer than my wand. Then I’ll make him spread rumors among Hogwarts elves.

 

Harry rummaged through his trunk, but all he found was some yellowing parchment crumpled at the edges. Harry tried to straighten it up—to no use. His school quills, when he found them, were neatly snapped where his Charms book had squashed them. Harry sighed and felt around under his bed. He remembered throwing a ball-point pen in there somewhere. He encountered many long-forgotten socks and empty, sticky soda bottles before his fingers wrapped around a dust-covered pen.

 

Tuesday, June 30, 1992

Dear Draco,

I’m sorry if my last letter was too short.

Harry chewed on the tip of the pen. If he wrote about how the Dursleys were treating him, Draco might explode after learning how mere Muggles dared treat a wizard with anything less than absolute servitude. Harry spun the pen with his fingers before putting it to paper.

I guess there’s one good thing about having the Dursleys as my guardians. They never care about my grades.

I finally moved out of the cupboard. I have my own room now. I earned it, you know. Guess what. I tried to use magic on Dudley. They don’t know we’re not allowed to use magic, so it was hilarious watching Dudley run for his life while I muttered some nonsense about “hocus pocus.” But the problem is, I’m sort of locked in. They put bars on my windows and everything. I’m not really allowed to go outside through my door, either, except to go to the loo. At first I was really angry, because Uncle Vernon tried to keep me from letting Hedwig out and locked all my textbooks away in the cupboard and all. Then I was miserable because I miss Hogwarts and the Slytherin dungeon and even Binns. Now I’m just hungry.

Harry chewed on the pen again, racking his brain for other things to say. It was really hard to put his thoughts on paper if he couldn’t think of anything other than the weather to write about. Talking about himself seemed to come so easily for Draco. Harry envied him.

I think they don’t want the neighbors or anybody else to meet me by accident. I think it’s because sometimes I use magic without meaning to. Do you do that, too? Or is it because I’m living with Muggles? Once, when I was little, the Dursleys took me along to the zoo. Dudley ended up locked in a display window, my doing. I actually helped a snake escape. The snake was a boa constrictor, and it was rather friendly. It thanked me before it headed for Brazil or something.

Well, as for Snape, I can’t really understand either. I can’t believe he’s head of Slytherin. Isn’t he supposed to care about us then? Actually, he really does seem partial to Slytherins. Except me. He’s just a greasy git.

Harry looked over what he had written. It seemed long enough. He spent several minutes mulling over which word to use to sign off before deciding to go with the safest.

Sincerely,
Harry

P.S. Stop harassing the house-elf. It deserves a medal for having put up with you for so long.

 

Harry waited until Hedwig returned from her hunt to send the letter. Hedwig was a very affectionate owl, Harry was proud to note. He hoped she wouldn’t encounter Flopsy. The last time they met, they had practically gouged each other’s eyes out.

When the familiar eagle owl arrived several days later, it was even more vicious than usual. Harry supposed that was because it was carrying two huge parcels and three letters. Harry pitied him.

The first letter, when Harry opened it, was a mess of furious scribbles, blotchy in some places, crossed out in others.

Why are you hungry?

Oh dear, Harry thought as he read the first sentence.

Why are you hungry? Was it a metaphorical term, as in, you’re hungry for my dazzling sense of humor and delightful company? But I honestly doubt that you could put such metaphors to use, what with your grasp of English and everything. But were you meaning that literally? But that means, Holy shit, Harry, ARE YOU STARVING?! Oh my god. Merlin. Circe. I can’t believe those filthy Muggles actually STARVE you!! The NERVE! Just! Argh!! I sent you something to eat, so hurry before you die, you twit. I don’t want you dying on me, Potter. STAY ALIVE!!!

Harry was grinning by the time he finished the note. Draco’s anger on his behalf was just so… endearing. Harry obediently unwrapped the parcel attached to this letter, or more accurately, manic note. The wrapper seemed expensive with its silky texture and shifting colors, but the wrapping itself was haphazard at best with the ribbon done in a hasty half-bow. Harry stopped when he uncovered a sturdy white box the size of his head. It was very light, but once the wrapping paper fell apart, it suddenly gained weight. There must have been a charm on that wrapper, Harry assumed.

When he opened the lid, his mouth began to water almost instantly. A most delicious scent filled the room. The next thing he knew, Harry was digging his fingers into steaming roast chicken. It was heavenly.

He had finished off the whole chicken and was nipping at the bones before he remembered the other parcel.

This should take care of your locked door. It’s supposed to open all un-magically locked doors. I made Dobby sneak this one out of my father’s study. Dobby can be deadly useful when it comes to it. And. Ugh. I just can’t believe it. Locking you up! How dare they treat you that way! Locking the savior of the wizarding world!! It’s disgraceful, is what it is. I hate, hate, HATE them. I cannot express in words how much I detest them. Ugh!!!!!

Harry snorted as he unwrapped briskly. Sure enough, inside the parcel was a brass key of sorts. Harry put it carefully away under his mattress. Not that Aunt Petunia or Uncle Vernon would wander into Harry’s room, but it wouldn’t do to be careless.

Draco’s third letter was much more calm. Harry wondered which poor thing—or creature—Draco had vented out his frustration on. Maybe it was Flopsy. That explained his more-than-usual snappy attitude today. Or maybe it was that Dobby. The poor elf.

But still, Harry couldn’t suppress a smile when he pictured Draco pacing angrily with a permanent pout, a mess of abused objects in his wake.

 

Friday, July 2, 1992, started Draco’s third letter. He finally remembered to begin his letters with the date, Harry noticed.

Harry,

I hope you have eaten the chicken by now. If you haven’t, do it now. There. Have you finished? Okay. Now I can tell you about my brilliant plan for your captors. But since I really don’t know about your situation there, I’ll just explain it to you and wait for your reply before I put it into motion. You know that we aren’t supposed to do magic because we’re not of age, yeah? But they can’t prevent us from just using magical items. Get it? You know about Zonko’s? I have some of their products stashed away somewhere—Marc gave them to me, in case you’re wondering. I could send your cousin a pretend letter from his school—Sweatings, was it? Ugh. Such a filthy name, fitting for filthy, hygiene-challenged Muggles—and in the envelope, I’ll put—wait for it—DUNGBOMBS! They’ll never know what hit them!!

Harry could practically hear Draco cackling.

So I’ll wait for your feedback, Harry. This really is one of my best plans yet, you have to agree.

Anyway, I have another matter to clear with you. Did you, or didn’t you, actually have a conversation with a snake in that zoo you mentioned? Conversation, as in, the snake talked to you, you understood what the snake was saying, you talked back, and the snake also understood what you were saying. Because if this is true, you’re a Parselmouth. Don’t know what that means, right? It just means you hiss really well. And it’s a very, very rare magical ability. Salazar Slytherin was a Parselmouth, too. Hey! Maybe you’re some long lost descendant of Slytherin himself! That’d be cool. Maybe I’ll buy you a snake for your birthday. Then it can keep you company, and you could tell me all about the wonderful minds of snakes. Bloody awesome.

There IS this tradition among Parselmouths that they turn out to be Dark wizards in the end, but I sincerely doubt that you’re going to follow that path, what with your clumsiness and all. You’d probably be all incoherent and awkward in front of Dark creatures, too. NOT Dark Lord material. And besides, there must have been tonnes of innocent Parselmouths that kept quiet because of the rumors, right? I’m always right. So don’t worry your messy head over it, Harry.

And as for accidental magic… Well, you know that when you’re a baby you can’t control your body at first? How you don’t have total control of your fingers and end up bopping other people in the face? And how you can’t hold your piss and end up wetting yourself? It’s the same with magic, actually. But accidental magic is very subtle for most kids, and if you don’t pay attention, you miss it. Like, a kid who accidentally bumps into a wall finds that suddenly, the wall is soft and bouncy. But as for you, what with vanishing glasses and making it reappear and stuff (and we don’t even learn the Banishing Charm until fourth year, mind you!), I think it’s because your magic is really strong.

I’d say that I envy you, what with all that hissing and vanishing glasses, but I had wild accidental magic as a child, myself. I once turned my father’s hair into spinach when he tried to force me to eat yucky food. It was hilarious. I mean, He looked constipated. And he NEVER looks constipated! I think he was torn between being mortified and being pleased that my magic was strong enough to do that. I’ve never seen the expression on my father since. I kind of want to see it again, though. For fun.

Take care, Harry. Don’t die, please.

Yours,
Draco

 

*

 

Draco kept sending Harry sweets and gourmet meals with every owl, the meals charmed warm and steaming and always so good. Draco explained in length how he had made Dobby persuade his brother Tibby to save dishes from the dinners and make sure they stayed fresh and warm. Harry was having much better meals than Dudley, he noticed. Harry feasted on exquisite cuisines, the same that appeared during dinner at Malfoy Manor, while Dudley was sticking to the Denmark Diet. It consisted of eating spinach sandwiches. Enough said.

It really was a month of triumphs for Harry. Not only was he getting regular, better meals, he had also succeeded in gently dissuading Draco from carrying on his plan for Dudley. It was a great plan, Harry conceded, just very likely to get them both in huge trouble for using a magical product on a Muggle. Harry was even getting his homework done, the brass key working wonders on all the locked doors blocking his cauldron and other “freakish stuff.” He wasn’t at all bored, since he had unlimited access to Dudley’s collection of novels. Judging from their immaculate, crisp state, the books would never be missed.

The only drawback was that he missed Hogwarts. Badly. He missed its towering walls and creepy corridors lined with talking, moving paintings. He missed its crazy staircases with their trick steps and ends. He missed waking up to a busy dorm, all that rush to wash up and eat breakfast. But most of all, he missed his friends. Theo, with his quiet comfort and ease with cusswords, intensely loyal, steadfast and reliable with secrets. And Blaise, too; Harry hadn’t really been close to him, but he was just there with his snide, obscene comments, always being thumped by Pansy and Millicent because of his sleazy remarks. And Vince and Greg, two solid bodyguards whose dumb observations were becoming familiar and most amusing.

And Draco. Draco, who was feeding Harry and sending him long, long, involved letters, Draco who was practically writing Harry’s Potions summer essay for him, Draco who was annoying and endearing at the same time, teasing Harry mercilessly for one little mistake while simultaneously soothing Harry’s worries in his own snarky way, trying to persuade Harry he needn’t be worried about his Parseltongue or his lack of Quidditch practice.

 

*

 

When Harry’s window rattled in the now-familiar noisy way Harry had come to associate with Flopsy, Harry jumped awake from his bed and stumbled toward the window. It was midnight and he didn’t want the Dursleys ranting at him. Harry expertly avoided the owl’s tempered swipes and quickly untangled the letter.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY HARRY!

Harry blinked. He checked his watch—it read 00:02. He turned back to the parchment. Beneath the capital letters was a huge smiley face blinking its eyes. As Harry stared, a speech box oozed out of its mouth and words began to appear.

I’m the first one to congratulate you, right? Don’t feel too disappointed that Flopsy didn’t fetch you a ginormous present. Dobby offered to deliver your gift himself! I didn’t know Dobby could do that, you know—visit you. I guess it’s because elf magic is different. Now that I think about it, how convenient do you think it could have been if I knew about it from the beginning? Stupid Dobby. I think Flopsy resents me for making him carry huge parcels every other day. Anyway, Dobby will be there any second now. Don’t scream like a girl when you see him.

Lots and lots of hugs,
Draco

A crack startled Harry and he dropped the letter. He promptly found himself staring at a set of enormous luminescent green eyes. Which was quickly watering up. Which was attached to a thing, with sticks for arms and legs and huge droopy ears and a complexion that uncannily reminded Harry of E.T..

Harry swallowed.

After some confused blubbering on Dobby’s part about the whereabouts of Harry Potter, a six-foot tall athlete with golden hair and immaculate physique, Harry managed to convince Dobby that he was the Harry Potter. Then the elf had prostrated himself in front of Harry and wailed about how it was an honor to have met the Harry Potter, practically thrusting what appeared to be Harry’s presents—three boxes!—into Harry’s arms before fretting about Harry’s room, tucking away used socks and underwear and making Harry hot in the face.

To Harry’s relief, Dobby didn’t stay around long—something about Master Draco needing Dobby for his night-time snacks.

An enormous three-story whipped cream cake with fresh, juicy strawberries, orange slices, and blueberry syrup appeared out of the biggest box—to Harry’s absolute delight. From the medium-sized box came a wooden bowl filled to the brim with treacle tarts. Carved on the side were the words, Bottomless Bowl of Bliss.

Draco must have been imagining that Harry had become some sort of matchstick guy if all these sweets were any indication. At this rate, Harry would almost be a match for Dudley by the time he boarded the Hogwarts Express in September. Well, on second thought, not really. No one could become Dudley in the course of a couple of months. Dudley was a result of years and years of an alimentally debauched lifestyle.

Harry popped a tart into his mouth as he unwrapped the third and smallest box. He frowned as a worn-looking sort of leather-bound book appeared. The cover was a faded grey, the leather smooth with age. When Harry opened the book, he saw that a note was attached to the inside. He recognised Draco’s neat flourishes and green ink.

I found this among the grimoires in the library. I don’t know why this was among them, because clearly the writer is NOT a Malfoy, but I do know that he was a former Hogwarts student. And a very adventurous one, too! He wrote about secret places in the Hogwarts castle. SECRET PLACES. As in, secret passages right to Hogsmeade or to the kitchens, and secret meeting places for romantic escapades where no one will disturb you. Sound exciting? I hope so. Enjoy!

It did sound exciting. He almost ripped the page in his enthusiasm to start reading. It was some kind of journal, Harry observed. On the inner cover, spiky words written in black ink met his eye. It read, Property of Tom M. Riddle.

 

 

A/N: Thanks so much for all the reviews!

I have something to clarify before I move on to the next chapter:

As for those wondering whether Quirrel and the Sorcerer's Stone ever happened, well, they didn't. This story is not going to be a reenactment of canon events from a different perspective. Of course, there will be Voldemort and struggles and conflicts between characters, but it won't be the same.

As for the Riddle diary, it is not the same one as in the canon. It isn't a horcrux, so Tom can't talk back to Harry or Draco. It's really just a source of information of the castle--in Harry and Draco's view right now. It will play a role in the plot later on, but not now!

Please leave a review! I look forward to feedback ;-)

- Devon

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: The characters and the situation belong to J. K. Rowling. This story wasn't created for profit. Just for fun.

 

Chapter Seven: Quidditch Tryouts

 

Tom Riddle certainly had been one hell of an adventurous student. And very, very resourceful. The thick journal brimmed with step-by-step directions, self-explanatory diagrams, and some other mumbo jumbo involving scraps from articles and other ancient textbooks. Several post-on notes wedged between pages were so old they looked as if they would disintegrate with a single misplaced touch. Harry couldn’t understand many of those. The parts that Harry did understand made Harry all bubbly inside. With this and his invisibility cloak, Harry and Draco would practically own the castle.

Draco enthused about the “secret places” in his letters, ten or so of them wholeheartedly focusing on his Plans to utilise the free access to Hogwarts kitchens, Hogsmeade, and one intriguing part of the castle called the “Come and Go Room.” Slytherins were going to rule, Draco had written gleefully, they were going to have secret parties every weekend catered by the Hogwarts elf population. Only VIPs, appointed by Draco, would be invited.

In Diagon Ally, once Draco had whined his way into shopping without the supervision of his parents, he was unable to stop gushing on about whether they should try to venture into the Chamber of Secrets, whatever it was—if they did, would the basilisk be still alive? Technically, it should have died because, what was there in the Hogwarts castle to feed a humongous serpent, especially if it turned creatures into stone? Or, was it secretly devouring house-elves one by one?

Then Draco had waved the plan away with a disappointed frown when he realised that the door to the chamber, according to Tom Riddle, was located in a girl’s loo. Ugh. What would people think when Harry and he emerged from their adventure out of a girl’s bathroom all bloodied and out of breath? They’d probably be nailed down as pervy weirdoes and avoided like the plague throughout their years at Hogwarts. Ugh.

But once they were back at Hogwarts, Harry had discovered that Draco had all but forgotten about the journal and his masterful plans in favor of drilling for the Quidditch tryouts that were to be held not two weeks away.

Ten bloody days!” Draco was muttering as he pushed a school broom into Harry’s hands. He seemed more nervous than Harry was, which didn’t make sense, because Draco had been practicing all summer whereas Harry hadn’t.

Harry rubbed at his eyes, still quite sleepy. The sun wasn’t even up yet. It was Saturday morning. A day which Harry considered stood for Sleep Soundly, Doze Daylong, and Punch That Bastard Who Wakes You. But Draco had woken Harry, and Harry couldn’t possibly sock Draco in the eye, could he? What with Draco being overly snippy and nervous and shifty and permanently irritated as the tryouts neared, he would not react well to a grumpy violent Harry.

“Get on, sleepyhead! We’ve no time, I keep telling you.”

“We’ve plenty of time,” Harry mumbled, but Draco was already out of earshot, shooting across the Quidditch pitch on his own Nimbus Two Thousand and One.

Marcus Flint showed up a couple of hours later to Draco’s great relief. Draco had been flying in anxious circles for half an hour, no matter how Harry tried to calm him down, reminding him that he was absolutely marvelous on a broom, no one would stand a chance, and maybe being so nervous would be bad for him. Harry had failed to restore Draco’s usual haughtiness—it was affecting Harry too, Draco’s sudden and unwelcome bout of insecurity. It reminded Harry of Draco at King’s Cross a year ago.

“Marc, thank Merlin. I’ve been waiting for ages. You promised to show me that feinting technique, remember? And something called the Wooling-something Shimmy, yeah?” Draco sort of fluttered about the tall buck-toothed Quidditch captain, looking up at him with a strained expression. Flint wasn’t looking.

“Yeah,” Flint answered Draco half-heartedly—his eyes were on Harry. Flint grinned an awful grin. His teeth were everywhere. If he expected Harry to return the smile, well, he was out of luck. Harry didn’t really feel like smiling. Draco was tugging at Flint’s sleeve, now, Harry noticed with a frown.

“So you’re Harry Potter.” Flint was offering Harry his right hand. Flint’s hand was rough and clammy. Harry didn’t like it.

Marc,” Draco whined, clutching Flint’s sleeve, and the older boy finally seemed to acknowledge Draco. He smiled down at Draco with a soft expression, placed a hand on Draco’s shoulder, and squeezed. Harry decided that Flint was a little too grabby for his own good.

“Here, kiddos, wear these before you get on those brooms, yeah?”

Watching Harry and Draco put the Quidditch gloves on and mount their respective brooms, Flint opened his mouth. “I know Draco here wants the Chaser position, but what about you, Potter?”

“Harry wants to be a Chaser, too,” Draco said, pulling impatiently on his broom. “You said there were two Chaser positions open in the team. It’d better be Harry and me.”

Harry suddenly felt light as he realised that Draco wanted to be in the team with Harry. He had thought that Draco dragged Harry out for practice because he wanted some company. The warm feeling was slightly dampened by the fact that Flint clutched Draco’s wrist to calm him down. Honestly. He could use words. There was no reason to go all grabby.

“Well, actually we’re looking for two Chasers and a Seeker. Not interested in trying for Seeker, Potter?”

“I’ll just go for Chaser, thanks,” Harry said, and turned his head to share a knowing smile with Draco. But Draco was pouting at Flint.

“Now are you going to show me that feint or what?” Draco jiggled Flint’s broom for emphasis.

Flint guffawed, his broom skidding down a few feet. He climbed back up immediately, grinning at Draco, amused.

“All right, little dragon. Watch, and learn.” Then he was shooting off across the pitch with a Quaffle tucked at his side. Draco zoomed right behind him, Harry not far behind.

 

When Harry’s stomach started growling for food, the sun was high up in the sky and the sky was dotted with other aspiring Quidditch players. Draco’s tension had waned a little after the productive morning, having learned both the double-hand feint—in which a Chaser feints a pass with his right hand while expertly swapping hands and zapping through the opening provided by the distraction—and the Woollongong Shimmy—which basically was a coordinated, extremely fast zigzagging motion on the broom designed to lose the other team’s Chaser. Harry and Draco lacked somewhat in the accuracy department, but since they already knew the mechanics, practice would make perfect. At least that was what Harry had told Draco in reassurance.

Harry practiced the Woollongong once, then rose into the air to hover on top of a pillar. Draco’s beacon of a hair caught his eyes and Harry absentmindedly watched Draco perform the Woollongong. Now that Flint had gone, Harry was glad to note, Draco didn’t act so much like a baby, all whiny and attention-starved. Well, Draco actually was an attention whore, but not in the way he was acting with Flint, that was for sure.

Harry spotted the blond zigzagging toward him. Draco pulled up his broom close to Harry. He made an attempt to flatten down his wind-swept hair as he let out quick puffs of breath, his chest rising and falling rapidly.

“Good shimmy,” Harry offered. For some reason, his mind immediately provided him with images of Draco shimmying. In Muggle clothing. Harry shook his head and frowned. He must have picked that up on the telly sometime.

“Not good enough,” huffed Draco, scowling down at the crowded pitch.

Then his dour expression suddenly turned into a puzzled frown as he squinted his eyes and focused on a spot on the ground. He turned to lock eyes with Harry with a weird face. His head was cocked, and an amused smirk played at his lips.

“What?” Harry demanded.

“It’s your fan, Harry,” Draco said gleefully, “the she-Weasel.”

“She’s not my fan,” Harry protested as he scanned the grounds for red hair. There she was, sitting on a bench in the stands. When she spotted Harry looking, her face flushed an astounding red. She tried to shy away and wave at the same time.

Harry turned his head away after an awkward wave of his own. He ignored Draco’s smirk. “She doesn’t even know me, for Christ’s sake.”

“I’m not too sure about that. Let me see,” Draco said and started to count off points on his fingers. “She knew that you practice Quidditch with me on Saturdays, that you crave treacle tarts, that you like to go to the giant-man’s hut on weekends, and—”

“It’s Hagrid,” Harry muttered, but was ignored.

“And she knows every class you attend, where to find you on Friday evenings, she even has pictures of you, I saw her fawning over it, and I just bet that she even knows the color of your—”

“Okay! Okay. I get your point. But she doesn’t know me, yeah? Know me like, like you and Theo and, y’know.”

“I know, I know. But still. Way to go, Harry. Not even on the official team yet and already you have a fan following your every move on a broom.”

At least that got Draco out of his worried snit, Harry reminded himself.

 

*

 

Harry was beginning to understand the source of Draco’s apprehension as he queued up with the other Slytherin Quidditch team hopefuls. Draco and Harry were the only students below third year, and the upper years were towering over them. They didn’t seem too fond of the two second years. Which was understandable. The House Quidditch teams were mostly made up of the upper years who had more bulk, speed, and stamina.

Draco clutched Harry’s hand with his own sweaty one and dragged Harry forward so that the tall upper years didn’t block their view of the Captain and the rest of the team.

“Welcome to the Slytherin Quidditch tryouts,” Marcus Flint was saying. “The graduating years took with them our two Chasers and only Seeker. So.” He clapped, effectively silencing the whispers arising at the mention of Quidditch positions.

“Listen up. It’ll go like this. Those trying out for Chasers will wear green, those going for Seeker will wear silver. Ah, ah!” He held out a hand to stop the buzz of questions. “I, myself, will charm your Quidditch gears so that they represent the proper color. And—” A few of the members standing behind Flint snickered loudly. Flint stopped speaking for a second to shoot daggers at them with his eyes.

“D’you hear that? Marcus is going to use a color changing charm!” one thuggish, hairy boy said in a stage whisper to a lean dark guy next to him. The other boy sniggered. “Guard your faces, little-ones! Pray you won’t have to explain why your face is spew-colored for the rest of your lives,” he said loudly toward the nervous, grumpy students holding onto their brooms tightly.

“Shut up.” Marcus rolled his eyes and resumed his explanation. “So, Chaser wannabes queue up there, yes, there. And Seeker wannabes, here. Yeah. Good.”

Eight students for Chasers, three for Seekers. Harry felt Draco grip his hand painfully as they queued up.

Another loud clap, and all eyes were on Flint.

“Good. Now, I’m going to release the Snitch, and whoever catches it will be Seeker. Of course, if the team doesn’t really approve of that kid, we’ll release the Snitch again.” As the three students trying out for Seeker raised their voices in confusion, Flint shrugged. “That’s just the way it is.” He then opened the trunk and released the Snitch, just like that. In a golden flurry of zapping wings, it whizzed through the air and disappeared to somewhere on the pitch in a matter of seconds. The Seeker wannabes looked tense and upset.

“Don’t mount your brooms yet, kiddos,” Flint warned before turning to the Chaser queue. “As for Chaser hopefuls, I’m going to separate you into two teams. There’ll be no Keepers, but there will be Beaters. Our Beaters. Lucian Bole and Peregrine Derrick.”

Two big boys grinned and waved. One of them was the hairy boy that had snickered at Flint. The other was, Harry squinted, sort of familiar. Derrick caught Harry staring and waved more enthusiastically. Right.

“I’ll be watching you guys play. How you fly, how you pass, how you score. I’ll jus’ cut the queue in half, yeah? Okay. So that’s your team. Now, I’m going to charm your robes and, er, for the different teams, your brooms. It’s temporary, don’t worry! No need to get all strung. There.”

The Seeker hopefuls looked like they were going to have kittens. Harry didn’t blame them. The Snitch had been released ages ago and they were still waiting as Flint went around charming their clothes and brooms. Harry couldn’t understand why the rest of the team were not helping.

“So, mount your brooms, everybody. Oh, right,” Flint blinked at the Seeker tryouts, “you guys can look for the Snitch now.”

Draco was good on his Nimbus as he streamed through the air next to him in the Hawkshead Attacking Formation, even on a ridiculously purple broomstick. Draco was always graceful on a broom, Harry knew of course. On their first flying lesson with Hooch, when Longbottom had needed to be carried away like a baby because of his icky boo-boo, as Draco had called it, Harry had seen Draco flash a wicked grin before rising slowly to the air. Harry followed, naturally, though in rather jerky motions. As for Draco, he had a way of leaning in so that his torso fit against the body of the broom, molding himself to the streamlined stem. Draco steered his broom with a minimum of required movements—an slight incline of his head, a weight shift of his thighs, or an attuned pressure on the handle, that kind of thing. Subtle, and refined.

Harry felt a low vibration in the air before he took a moment to realise that it was a Bludger plunging toward them. In a matter of seconds their formation broke apart, the Bludger bolting through and missing, and Draco was darting through the air as the opposing team’s Chasers, two red blurs, closed in on him on both sides. Harry spurted forward, wind gushing by and blood thrumming with adrenalin. Harry was tailing Draco as he raced towards the goal hoops, burdened—the bulky teenagers were squeezing him, slowing him down and trying to maneuver him sideways.

Two more red brooms whooshed past in an attempt to overtake Draco—and Draco in no position to fight them, Harry realised with alarm, because he was struggling against the players bullying him left and right. Harry careened downward to follow their shadow, knowing that Draco would try to lose them with the Porskoff Ploy, and yes Harry was right, Draco suddenly shot upwards into the air, the opposing Chasers close behind but losing purchase due to the sudden disorientation. Harry veered upwards, but not much, and there it was, the Quaffle, hurtling downwards right into Harry’s outstretched right hand, and in two seconds two Chasers on purple brooms appeared at Harry’s sides and they were ripping through the air in the renewed Hawkshead Formation—their path clear, their outsmarted opponents still high up in the air.

Then there was another Bludger. Its distinct hum had alerted Harry of its approach and he ducked as it rushed by his head—but then the player on Harry’s right was yelling and falling away, and suddenly the opposing Chasers were racing towards him, making Harry turn sharply to the left. Draco cried out Harry’s name from above, behind, and Harry abruptly remembered the double-hand feint and the Quaffle was thrust from Harry’s left hand towards Draco while the Chasers followed the path of Harry’s right hand, into the empty air.

There was loud whooping from the stands as Draco scored the Quaffle right through the middle hoop. Harry punched his fists in the air and laughed, blood rushing in his ears, but there was no time for celebration because the Quaffle reappeared gripped in an opposing Chaser’s hands and the game swiftly shifted toward the direction of the opposite goalposts.

So it went, back and forth, leaving Harry flushed and lightheaded and breathing hard, his team ahead by forty points. Harry could see the frustration on the other players’ faces as they witnessed two second years best them again and again. They were turning rougher with each additional score. Several times already, an opposing Chaser had tried to unbalance Draco’s broom with force. Draco was too agile for them, of course, Harry noted with pride. Being small had its advantages.

Draco had the Quaffle now, and he was zigzagging through the sky with a concentrated expression—white-blond strands whipping around his head without any trace of the hair potion he had applied this morning. Harry had Draco’s back, so to speak; Harry was right beneath him in case he needed to pass the Quaffle. But there was no need, it seemed; a Bludger aimed for Draco had slammed into his follower instead, and Draco tore through the air alone. Harry sped forward onto the goal hoops to hover and wait while Draco did his Woollongong.

Harry tensed when he saw a Chaser on a red broom approach him. He was the player that had lost Draco because of the Bludger attack. Harry frowned, puzzled, because the Quaffle was currently high up in the air with Draco, and this player was coming towards the goalposts with a limp arm and a furious expression. In the several seconds it took for the player to reach him, Harry head was wheeling with whywhyWHY? There was no need to come here yet, the hoops were empty—that is, except for Harry.

When Harry realised that the crazy fifth year was coming for him, it was too late to completely get out of the way, and the player was crashing into Harry and Harry was somersaulting through the air, clinging tight to his broom as the green of the ground and the blue of the sky swam in front of his eyes. He spotted a red blur, the insane fifth year, pelting towards him and, Oh Merlin he was going to do it again. Harry’s grip on his broom slipped and he had only a moment to witness the Quaffle whamming into the fifth year’s face before he was hanging upside down on his whirling broom. Draco threw the Quaffle, Harry realised with a jolt and wanted to laugh but he was still reeling upside down and trying to grip something with his hands—and then he did grab something, it wasn’t the broom, it was shiny and golden and fluttering and Harry didn’t know why he grabbed it but because it was just zapping by, and—Oh GOD, he had caught the Snitch.

By the time Harry reached the ground, Flint was ordering some students to take the injured player to the hospital wing. “I think the Quaffle broke his nose,” Flint was saying, wincing but unsympathetic enough to reassure Harry that Draco won’t be getting in trouble for his feat.

Draco was by his side in an instant. He wore a concerned frown, hair all bunched up and about his face. Harry tried to offer Draco a toothy smile and congratulate him on the precise aim. He took one step forward—and black cotton was taking over his vision, clot by clot morphing into a black cottony monster in front of his eyes. Harry felt Draco grab his arm to support his weight.

“Harry, are you alright? That was a nasty spin. That fucking tosser! I cannot believe he just went for you like that! I hope I smashed his nose beyond repair. Bloody LOSER.” Harry was dizzy and stumbling forward, and he also hoped the fifth year’s face had been disfigured, but he wasn’t frowning. Frankly, he wanted to laugh because, well, Draco had smashed that sod’s face with a QUAFFLE of all things. And then Draco was adjusting his grip on Harry’s arm and Harry simply wanted to pull Draco into a big bear hug, because his scrunched up nose was so stupid and so dear.

When Harry’s vision finally cleared away, he realised that all the players were down on the ground, around him.

“Er, I’m alright, I guess. Just sort of dizzy.” Harry blinked when he felt Flint’s hand on his shoulder. Flint was speaking.

“The Chaser wannabes can go now, I think. And I have to say, that was quite a game. The results will be posted tomorrow night in the common room, kiddos.”

Draco’s grip tightened on Harry’s arm.

“Has no one found the Snitch yet?” Flint said, turning to and frowning at the three Seeker hopefuls.

With a jump, Harry suddenly remembered what was in his clutched fist. He still felt the minute flutter. It was feeble at best. He had probably crushed it.

“Er,” Harry said. Flint looked down at him. Harry offered his hand. “I think I’ve got it.”

The Snitch flapped its wings weakly. Draco gasped, and Flint’s eyebrows were attempting to disappear into his hairline. Well, it didn’t make the Snitch go away. The golden ball stayed put at the center of Harry’s outstretched palm.

 

A/N: Thanks for the reviews!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: The characters and the situation belong to J. K. Rowling. This story wasn't created for profit. Just for fun.

 

Chapter Eight: The Prince of Slytherin

 

Sunday morning started with a warm, moist breath in Harry’s ear.

“D’you think you’ll be made Seeker?” a familiar voice whispered.

Harry just knew that it was before five in the morning. He rubbed his eyes, turning his head toward the warmth. Draco’s face was so close he didn’t need his glasses to focus. Draco was chewing on his lip again.

“I,” Harry began, and stopped at the croak that came out. He cleared his throat. “Not sure. He… er, Flint did let the Snich outtagain, dint he? And, um.” He cleared his throat again. Harry really wished Draco would stop abusing his lower lip. It was distracting.

“The other Chaser tryouts. D’you think they…? They were good. Weren’t they?”

Harry absentmindedly lifted his hand to cup the back of Draco’s neck, petting the soft blond locks at the nape. “Not as good as you,” he said. Draco brightened and preened a little, though he still had that anxious air about him. Praise junkie, Harry thought affectionately. He let his hand fall after a few seconds.

“It’s Sunday, Draco. Sleep a little, will you?” Harry mumbled, head quite heavy and getting heavier still. He thought he heard a faint okay before a weight lifted off his mattress. Harry hugged his blanket tighter. His side suddenly felt cold.

 

*

 

Draco was high strung all morning. Usually he liked to court the Slytherins during breakfast, enacting outrageous impressions of professors and telling them all about his recent escape from a doomed pair-up with Longbottom or his latest triumph in teaching Greg and Vince how to levitate feathers.

But now, he was poking at his food, making a mess out of it on his plate. He had a lost look in his eyes and was continuously biting down on his bottom lip. It was puffy and looked raw and Harry wanted to tell him, I told you so, but really, Harry hadn’t told Draco before, so, that was that.

“Draco, I’ll slap the daylights out of that Marcus Flint if he so much as attempts to chuck you,” Pansy offered during breakfast, shooting a warning glance toward the upper years.

If this was any other day Draco might have said something about how Pansy was such a generous, kind girl and would she object much to turning that generosity to where it really mattered, such as passing him that bowl of pudding? Or maybe he might have sniffed and pointed out how Pansy was making it sound as if he were a scorned lover, and Malfoys were never scorned.

What Draco did now, was nod feebly. Harry didn’t like it.

“Could pound him, if you want,” Greg offered. Next to him, Vince crushed his fist in his palm to demonstrate exactly how they’d do it.

Draco shrugged. “Marc’s okay, it wouldn’t be his fault if—” He paused. “It’s better if I don’t think about it.”

But clearly, he couldn’t stop thinking about it. Everyone could see. The air around them was so morose that even Blaise, who had been flaunting his new Ravenclaw girlfriend to everyone, left his girl to come sit with them at the Slytherin table.

As for Harry, he was thinking about Riddle’s journal and how Draco had been heels over arse about it before. Maybe the secret places would pull his thoughts away from Quidditch for a few hours. Hopefully.

“The Come and Go Room?” Blaise said slowly, waggling his eyebrows.

Harry wanted to roll his eyes, but Draco was finally cracking a smile at Blaise’s mock-lascivious expression, Daphne’s giggle and Millicent’s guffaw aside.

“Well, the room is supposed to turn into anything we want. A toilet, a bedroom, a spa.” Harry shrugged.

“I say, let’s go check it out,” Pansy commanded, taking Draco’s arm in hers and pulling him to his feet.

It must have looked funny if anyone had been watching—a group of second years purposefully marching back and forth in an empty corridor on the seventh floor. But miraculously, a door appeared, and even Daphne stopped giggling in favor of an amazed expression.

They at first agreed to “need” a place to relax, and what they got was a huge chamber with a crackling fireplace surrounded by plush armchairs, velvet-soft rugs, and soft, plump cushions. When Harry’s stomach rumbled they tried to wish tea and cakes into being, to no avail. What did the trick, however, was marching around some more in the corridor “needing” snacks—greeting them in the chamber were tonnes of treacle tarts piled high, barrels of pumpkin pastries, countless bottles of fizzy drinks—“This must be heaven,” Greg gasped, awestruck.

Harry was happy and warm as the evening wore on. What a turn his life had taken. A couple of years ago life consisted of cleaning after the Dursleys, bullied and friendless, stuck in an endless cycle of helplessness and loneliness—now here he was, buried in a plump armchair, surrounded by friends.

Even Draco seemed to have forgotten about his Quidditch anxiety. In fact, Draco was getting on marvelously with Theo, Harry was pleased to note. Theo was a reserved kind of guy, usually preferring to stay put, always pretending to be sick before flying lessons (with frightening expertise; even Madam Pomfrey had bought it) and backing out of any activity that required moving his limbs more than was strictly necessary, the lazy sod.

What Theo did enjoy was reading, burying himself in books and never looking up until hours later, and this seemed to be weirdly going along well with Draco’s zeal for devouring written knowledge—though in Draco’s case, it was motivated by a need to win. To show that Granger girl who’s boss, to quote. Harry fondly watched Draco and Theo have an animated conversation about Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration, oddly proud of his two friends. They were talking about whether the sweets in the room could have been Summoned from the kitchens or whether the food could all be an elaborate Glamour created by the castle’s magic—if Summoned, what was so special about the magic that the food simply appeared instead of flying through the air into the door, was it something like forced Apparition? Even the brief flashback of the horrible Side-Along-Apparition with Dobby to Diagon Ally couldn’t dampen Harry’s mood. He continued listening dozily to Theo’s low and certain voice and Draco’s impatient, enthusiastic one discussing some whatnot about wormholes, beguiling charms, and disillusionment.

Harry pulled his legs up into the chair and concentrated on breathing in and out, lifting his heavy eyelids every now and then. The buzz of conversation washed over him. Blaise was sitting on a rug not far away, courting the girls, talking about his girlfriend, Harry could tell from the snippets of conversation he heard—“Padma, the sweetheart…then we had this amazing kiss…Filch and the…got an eyeful…not even a rival….” Then Millicent was roaring out a laugh at some remark, and Blaise was running his tongue over his upper lip, eyelids drooping in a caricature of sexy. Pansy scowled with her hands over Tracy’s ears while Daphne giggled into her palm.

Harry had almost dozed off when he was rudely jolted awake at the sound of his name spoken out loud. And something about Ginny Weasley. When he looked up warily, abruptly and reluctantly wide awake, Blaise was waggling his eyebrows at Harry in that absurd way of his. This little get together didn’t seem so good an idea all of a sudden.

“So, are you going out with Ginevra Weasley, or what?” Pansy demanded.

Harry groaned. “No, I’m not.”

“You’re no fun. What d’you think of her, then?” Blaise materialised at Harry’s side and started poking Harry’s arm, chattering on. “She’s cute as a button, if you ask me. Don’t tell me she’s not. She is.”

“She’s uh… Ginny’s a sweet girl, I guess,” Harry mumbled, inching away from Blaise and his insistent poking.

“Ooh. It’s Ginny now, is it?” Daphne was saying with blatant mirth. “And did you hear? Harry says she’s sweet!

A chorus of Awws echoed after the remark. Draco was in now as well, Harry noticed with an exasperated feeling. When he met Harry’s eyes, Draco pretended to swoon into Vince’s arms.

“I saw her give you something the other day.” Pansy smirked. “Care to tell us?”

“I know!” Draco piped up, eyes glinting. “I saw it, but Harry wouldn’t let me read it. It was a love letter.

The girls squealed in delight. Well, minus Millicent—she was guffawing.

Harry’s face felt hot. The Slytherins’ eyes had all taken on the same glint. It was a scary effect.

Haarrry, tell us,” Draco whined and latched onto the back of the couch Harry was burrowed in (trying hard to dig and disappear into) and put his arms loosely around Harry’s neck. Harry couldn’t see his face, but he just knew that Draco was pouting.

“Er, it was just a stupid poem, really. Something about special bonds and my eyes and moons and…. Why’re you laughing?”

“Wow. A special bond between you and Ginny.” Draco sighed happily. He rested his elbow on the back of the sofa and started in a high-pitched voice – “So like emeralds, your deep, clear eyes… Under the moon, asleep, we lie.” He had schooled his face into a picture of blissful agony and was now clutching his heart. Millicent was howling and even Theo, reliable Theo, was sniggering at Harry.

“We bond, me and your wand,” Blaise attempted to continue, but Pansy was thumping him over the head with a cushion. Millicent was practically crying, while Daphne tittered and covered Tracy’s ears.

Harry wanted to die.

It wasn’t that Harry disliked Ginny—when he said sweet, he meant it. She really had a thing for him and it was kind of cute if not annoying. But it was creepy how she managed to “bump” into Harry after every class or how she had been “taking a walk” alone at night on the edge of the Forbidden Forest that one time Harry had gone to meet Hagrid.

Harry didn’t have any hard feelings against her owls every morning though, which came with packages of treacle tarts that he suspected had been collected from Ginny’s Housemates during meals. She had this shy, adoring look on her every time she caught Harry’s eyes, and when she had actually stood face to face with Harry after breakfast a week ago, it was really sort of sweet how she had at first frozen, solid, before squeaking and thrusting a box of chocolates and a pink envelop at him. She reminded Harry of Dobby.

It’s for the best, Harry thought bitterly as he saw his Housemates bonding over his mortification. But then again, the cozy atmosphere in the Come and Go Room didn’t freeze over as Draco realised the time, and Harry settled for the assurance that it really had been for the best.

Blaise tried to frog-march Draco, who had gone all pale and was pretending nonchalance. Then Blaise was making another awful comment about the “go” part of the room’s name, at which Draco made a disgusted sound and batted Blaise’s hand away. The ability to make Blaise shut up somehow seemed to have inspired courage in Draco, because he was charging down the corridors, down the stairs, down some more stairs into the cellar, and, after hesitating in front of the entrance, through the stone passage and into the common room.

Harry tailed close by just in case Draco decided to freak out.

Draco did freak out when he saw the poster above the fireplace, on which large black letters read, Chasers – Draco Malfoy, Graham Montague / Seeker – Harry Potter.

He was whooping and hugging Harry and squeezing him so tight it almost hurt, but in a warm and safe sort of way. When he let go, Draco did a little victory dance, he was so happy. It made Harry grin like an idiot.

 

*

 

“Let me see,” Harry said sternly, but if Draco were looking at Harry now he would have seen Harry’s lips twitching. “You wanker,” Harry added for good measure.

“Nope. Not yet,” Draco pinned. “Interesting that you should call me a wanker, Harry. After all, I wasn’t the one wanking off that time in the shower, it was—”

Shut up,” Harry growled, flushed and very warm in the face. He tried to elbow Draco, but Draco had the advantage of not having someone’s hands over his eyes, and easily avoided the attack.

“Oh, terribly sorry, we don’t talk about it, I remember now.” Draco was probably smirking, the git.

But when Draco finally let Harry see, he couldn’t have been further from a git in Harry’s opinion. On Harry’s bed was a broom, a shiny new broom, its mahogany handle flashing in the lamplight, Nimbus Two Thousand and One etched along its sleek form. Draco was explaining how the other players would get their own brooms by owl, how his father had promised, how Harry’s broom couldn’t wait until tomorrow because Draco wanted to present the broom himself.

Harry ran his fingers over the broom and choked out a thank you because he couldn’t bring out his normal voice. Draco was smiling that smile and was looking away as if he were shy, and Harry felt happy. Ridiculously so.

 

The Great Hall came alive with triumphant cheers and excited hoots when huge owls dropped broom-shaped parcels in front of each player on the Slytherin Quidditch team the next day. Draco was being hailed as the Prince of Slytherin, and he was loving it, everyone could tell by the way Draco was glowing and preening, and by his overly-dramatic impression of the Chaser taking a Quaffle to his face.

Then Ron Weasley had to have been blocking the entrance to the Great Hall. He just had to step in front of Draco, with the Thomas guy and the Irish bloke Finnigan behind him.

“Let me see…. Atrocious red hair, hideous freckles to match, and threadbare hand-me-down robes, hmm… who could it possibly be?” Draco drawled with the relaxed, leisurely attitude of someone for whom nothing could go wrong at the moment. Greg and Vince sniggered behind Draco, but Harry wasn’t really impressed with Draco’s comment—that was a bit mean of him, wasn’t it, this Weasley hadn’t done anything to merit such malice.

But then Weasley stepped forward, forcing Draco to look up because of their height difference. They were so close that they practically shared the same air—and Harry clenched his fists, ready to pull Draco back if necessary.

“Shut your trap, Malfoy,” Weasley snarled. His face was livid and menacing as he loomed over Draco. “You think you’re so clever, do you? Well listen up, Malfoy. Everyone knows that you bought your way into the team. The poor bloke’s head looked like a goal hoop to your eyes now, did it? Some Chaser. Lucky boy had a rich father, eh?”

Gasps echoed around the few students who had been listening.

Draco stood there completely still, frozen silent. On his face was a terrible expression, eyes wide with fury and lips a thin white line. Suddenly Harry was jolted sideways as Pansy stormed past with blazing eyes. She grabbed the dumbstruck Weasley by the collar and slapped him hard across his face. Weasley staggered back with a yelp. His hand flew to the angry red handprint rapidly blooming on his left cheek.

But Weasley’s comment had already ruined everything.

Sitting by the fire in the common room, when Harry leaned sideways to tell Draco that it was all right, Draco finally broke out of his quiet fury and growled at Harry that no, it wasn’t all right, it wouldn’t be the same, now the rest of the school was going to think he had bought his way into the team.

Harry recalled the picture of rapt concentration on Draco’s face when he mounted his broom, the anxious voice that had woken him Sunday morning, the smile Draco had given him last night, and Harry resented Weasley for daring to utter a single remark implying that this wasn’t worth anything.

“I didn’t buy my way in,” Draco said again, his voice cracking a little.

Harry reached out to pat Draco’s hunched back. He wanted to say that he knew better than anybody how much Draco deserved to be on the team, Ron Weasley could go bugger himself for all he cared.

But Harry’s fingers closed on empty air—Pansy had Draco’s head in her lap and was cooing down at him.

“Poor baby,” she said as she soothed her fingers through Draco’s hair. Draco spat a few vicious words about how the Weasel would look so handsome with a Quaffle smashed in his face, his decrepit Shooting Star would probably disintegrate with the force of the hit, and oh how tragic it would be that the manufacturer of the broom had gone out of business, leaving no option for any repair? Draco let Pansy tuck back stray blond locks behind his ear as he ranted on, curling up into a comfortable position and burying his head in her robes. Harry snatched back his hand.

 

Harry felt better when Draco crawled in next to him in the middle of the night, snuggling close.

“I’ve been thinking,” Draco whispered as Harry busied himself tugging up the blankets to cover them both. “The Weasel twins are on the Gryffindor team, right?”

“That’s what I heard,” Harry whispered back.

“Well, d’you remember that spell Riddle wrote down in that entry about the kitchens?”

“The stomach bug one, y’mean?”

“Yup.” Draco grinned, and Harry could see that glint he got when he was thinking up a Plan, and had to grin back. Draco’s grin turned into a smirk. He quirked one blond brow. “It’ll be such a shame, don’t you think, when those Weasels can’t stop puking on the day of their first Quidditch match?”

“Shock. And horror,” Harry whispered, miming a gobsmacked Gryffindor.

Draco laughed into Harry’s pillow. Harry reached out and patted Draco’s cheek, his fingers touching soft skin now and not empty space. Harry had seen Pansy do it earlier and knew that this touch was alright, he didn’t need to worry if it was improper or offending or—or anything.

“Ron Weasley could go bugger himself for all I care,” Harry said now. “I don’t know anyone who’d deserve to be on the team more than you.”

Draco was smiling then, the smile Harry thought Weasley had robbed. Draco’s pupils were blown and his eyes were almost completely black except for the silver lining of his iris. It was the prettiest thing Harry had ever seen.

He really was the Prince of Slytherin, Harry thought, watching Draco’s eyelashes fan out against his pale skin as Draco closed his eyes and wiggled a bit, getting ready to fall asleep.

“Night, Harry,” hummed Draco.

“Night, Draco,” Harry breathed, and closed his eyes as well.

 

 

A/N: I apologize for the horrible puns ;-) Please review!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: The characters and the situation belong to J. K. Rowling. This story wasn't created for profit. Just for fun.

A/N: Thanks for the reviews! They make my day ;-)

As for those who are confused with the timeline:

First year - Chapters 1~5
First summer - Chapter 6
Second year - Chapters 7~10

The boys will go through a year, a summer, then return to Hogwarts. The summers will always be a landmark between years!

 

Chapter Nine: Rows and Phobias

 

School year was busy for the second years, and after struggling through all the classes, essays, research assignments, extra homework, and Quidditch practice to boot, it hardly left time for Harry to enjoy his evenings with his housemates.

But oddly enough, it made gaps for rows with Draco. They ranged from small ones like that time Harry had got more valentines and Draco had been jealous, which was ridiculous because most of the heart-shaped cards and chocolates came from people Harry barely knew. And some cards had been simply embarrassing, like that gigantic red heart from Ginny that had sung Harry a continuation of her love poem, much to the Great Hall’s amusement.

Then there were bigger rows such as that time Harry had accused Snape of purposefully sabotaging Harry’s grades because, surely, Harry couldn’t have been doing as badly as that hopeless Longbottom—and Draco had leapt to Snape’s defence, nagging on about each and every mistake Harry had ever made in Potions.

They eventually made up after each spat, of course, and some, when Harry thought back to it, they had fought over for ridiculous reasons. Like that time Harry had exploded after Draco’s continued attempts to stop him from visiting Hagrid.

“You’re off to see that oaf again,” Draco said to Harry as he was getting ready one Sunday evening.

“It’s Hagrid,” Harry said for the hundredth time, and sighed. When Draco refused to budge from door to their dorm, Harry narrowed his eyes.

“If you aren’t going to come with me to Hagrid’s place, at least keep your own thoughts about him to yourself,” he snapped. He was tired of having to argue with Draco every time he insulted Hagrid, every time he tried to stop Harry from visiting the gamekeeper.

Draco glowered at Harry. “Does it bother you? That I call that clumsy oaf for what he truly is—a dimwitted troll?”

“If you hate him so much, why don’t you go insult him to his face?” Harry said, not necessarily angry, just exasperated at Draco’s continued refusal to see the plain fact that Hagrid wasn’t a monster.

Draco was flushing, Harry could see, and he was clenching his fist so tightly his knuckles were stark white against the back of his hand. “I’d love to insult him,” Draco spat out maliciously, “but I doubt he’ll comprehend the insult with that troll brain of his.”

With that, Harry shouldered his way out and stormed through the castle, fuming, and his usually pleasant evening with Hagrid had become a mess of horrible feelings.

During History of Magic on Monday, Harry sat in a far corner of the room. Professor Binns’s voice seemed strangely quiet. Harry told himself that he didn’t miss Draco’s low-voiced prattling or his furious scratching on parchment overriding the drone, because, well, that git could sulk all he wanted and Harry wouldn’t’ care. But then Draco didn’t seem to be sulking. He was sitting in his usual spot, hunched over his desk. His hands seemed busy. Probably some other Plan, Harry thought, feeling angry all over again.

But then Draco straightened his back and blew into his cupped hands. A paper crane flew out and fluttered onto Harry’s desk.

You dunderhead, do I have to explain every single thing? the note began, and just like that, all the tension melted from Harry’s shoulders.

Look, you have to promise not to tell anyone. It is extremely important that you promise. If you do, tap your desk three times.

Harry did. More words began to appear on the note.

Good. I’ll say it now. Well, technically, it’s writing, but. Okay. I’m terrified of Hagrid. There, you have it. Happy?

Harry couldn’t help smiling at that, because why was Draco scared of Hagrid of all people when he was chummy with the Bloody Baron?

When Harry told him so during lunch, Draco scoffed and made a face at him.

“Ghosts, Harry, are just echoes, nothing more. Why would I be afraid of some ethereal form? Whereas the giant-man”—here Draco shivered a little—“is an immediate and tangible threat. D’you never see how big his hands are? D’you never see how the ground rumbles when he walks by? If he so much as pats some poor kid the wrong way, he’ll end up breaking the kid’s spine. Crushing it. That kid could be you.”

Harry really couldn’t see the threat. “You’re funny, Draco,” he said.

Harry chuckled at Draco’s indignant squeak.

“Oh, wait,” Harry said, suddenly remembering that one time Draco had been badly frightened by a ghost. “I forgot.” Harry grinned. “D’you remember Myrtle?”

Draco groaned.

It had been just after their triumphant match against Hufflepuff, during which the other team’s Seeker had dove for a golden gleam on the ground by the goal hoops. Harry had plunged after him, but then he was confused because he could have sworn he saw the Snitch hovering over the hoops. So he let the Hufflepuff Seeker go after that thing on the ground and flung forward to chase his own Snitch. As it turned out, the golden gleam on the ground had been the sun reflecting off a golden ring. Which had fallen out of Draco’s finger sometime during the match.

The team had poured into the showers, singing the Slytherin victory song, shouting and whooping and throwing soap at each other. But Draco had dragged Harry out into the castle and up the stairs, excitedly going on about how he had won the password for the Prefects’ Bath.

“But the Captains are using the Quidditch showers, Draco,” Harry’d protested, just for the sake of it.

Exactly,” Draco had said, poking his finger in the air.

Once there, Draco had blissfully dived into the huge hot-water pool filled with peach-pink foam—only to reappear, gurgling and splashing and screaming that someone was IN there.

“Stop!” Draco snapped, and Harry turned to him to give him a stern look.

“Draco, I wasn’t saying anything.”

“Of course you weren’t. I am aware that thinking might be alien territory for you, Harry, but do try to avoid getting lost in thought, especially those regarding my past mortification.”

Harry considered. “We should do something about that, y’know.”

Draco looked cross. “What? About acquainting yourself with the process called thinking?”

“We should get you over that stupid fear of Hagrid,” Harry said, ignoring Draco.

“It’s not fear. Malfoys don’t fear anything. We,” Draco searched for words, “we have phobia,” he said loftily. “In this case, a magnum-homo-phobia.

“You sound like a hardcore queer hater,” Harry said, smiling.

 

*

 

The Easter holidays found Harry and Draco treading over to Hagrid’s hut under the reddening sky.

Draco was sulking, of course, the prat, his face dour and feet dragging. Harry rolled his eyes and waited for Draco to catch up. They were in Hagrid’s pumpkin patch now, and Draco was taking an inordinate amount of time moving across the several feet to the hut’s back door.

Harry was about to knock when a shrill cry ripped through the tranquil evening. He jumped and stumbled backwards, looking left and right, and tried to locate the source of that sound.

“Wha—what was that?” Draco gasped, suddenly at Harry’s side.

“Dunno.” Harry gulped. “Wasn’t Hagrid, though.”

When they heard nothing for a few seconds, Harry and Draco shuffled forward up the stone steps to Hagrid’s hut. Harry shot a wary glance around him before knocking on the door.

Fuck you!

Draco choked, slipping on the steps, and Harry’s hand flew to balance him. Draco looked like a deer in headlights, his eyes too wide and wild.

“I knew it!” Draco said in a shouted whisper. “That giant’s clearly murdering somebody. We’ve got to get out of here, quick!” He pulled on Harry’s sleeve, trying to back down the steps.

“Hey, hey, calm down, will you?” Harry said, and tried to wrap his mind around the voice. It surely wasn’t Hagrid’s, it was way too shrill and scratchy. Harry knit his brows in confusion—who’d be at Hagrid’s place during the Easter holidays? Someone who’d, uh, shout swearwords at the man?

“I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!”

Draco grabbed Harry’s arm tightly. Harry looked at him with an uncertain expression. “D’you think… Hagrid might be having, er, a private moment in there?”

“Wait, you think we’re eavesdropping on a lovers’ spat?” Draco said, amazed.

“S’not impossible. Hagrid’s a bloke, too.” Harry shrugged.

“But you said the giant knew we were coming!”

When Hagrid welcomed them into the house, there was that voice again.

“You stink! You smell like shit!” it shrieked.

Hagrid chuckled. “Sorry ‘bout that. Jus’ a Jarvey, mind yeh.”

“What’s a Jarvey?” Harry asked, dumbfounded.

The Jarvey was huddled in on itself in a wooden cage on top of the scrubbed table. It rather resembled a very large brown ferret, Harry observed. Harry knew because Dudley had once whined on for days about wanting to have a white ferret for a pet after he saw one win a cat-ferret fight on the telly. Dudley had wanted it to maul the old tabby next door, which had bitten Dudley’s finger several years ago when it was a kitten.

“Yeh want ter see her face?” Hagrid asked as he gently turned the cage so that the Jarvey was now facing them.

Foul creatures! Monsters! Beasts!” The Jarvey shrieked, earning a wince from Draco. Harry made a face at the rude animal. Upon close inspection, he discovered that the fur on its face was damp, and that its murky brown eyes were spilling over with tears.

“Hagrid, er, I think the Jarvey’s upset about something,” Harry pointed out.

Hagrid nodded. “Reckon she lapped up some Glumbumble-infested honey. Don’t let her throw yeh ‘round, she’s only a youngling, not really cussing hard yet.”

“Glumblom—what?” Harry looked toward Draco, puzzled.

“Glumbumble. Read somewhere that it pisses melancholy stuff. Makes you wish you were dead,” Draco said in a small, clipped voice. His eyes were fixed upon Hagrid’s form, which was now tending to his big black dog, Fang. Ensconced in his basket, Fang was chewing on a piece of raw meat and making happy sounds.

Fuck you!” The Jarvey screamed at Draco. Draco looked away from Hagrid, glowering at the Jarvey.

“Now yeh reckon why I’ve got meself busy, yeah? Sorry ‘bout missin’ yer game, Harry. But I heard all about it, mind yeh. Heard you swept the pitch with them Ravenclaws, eh?” Hagrid placed a very large and very heavy hand on Harry’s shoulder and pressed, probably trying to show how impressed he was. Harry barely kept himself from crumpling forwards under the weight.

“Er, yeah, thanks,” Harry managed.

“An’ who’ve we got here? This the Draco you can’t stop talking about?”

“Er,” Harry said, a little warm in the face. Draco preened. The prat would preen if the devil eyed his arse.

Then to Harry’s infinite surprise, Draco approached Hagrid with a polite smile and a straight back, offering his right hand. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Hagrid. I’ve heard a lot about you from Harry as well.”

Hagrid looked baffled. “Oh, Harry talked ‘bout me, eh? Er, reckon it’s nice meetin’ yeh.” He looked at Draco’s hand for a moment, which was small, white, and trembling a little, before gawkishly accepting the greeting.

Draco stood a little taller, pasting a brilliant smile on his face. “What a nice place you have here, Mr. Hagrid. And nice pets as well. That handsome black hound over there seems, uh, ferocious. Must be quite a hunter, I imagine.”

Fang looked up from his saliva-soaked steak to let out a booming bark of approval.

“Fang?” Hagrid said blankly with a bewildered expression. “He’s a right bloody coward, tha’ one. Wouldn’t hurt a fly if he had the chance.”

Draco looked lost. His eyes quickly raked over the room.

“Um. The Jarvey’s most charming as well, Mr. Hagrid. Very, um, exotic.”

The Jarvey seemed offended by this, and suggested none too gently that Draco rot in hell for eternity. Harry snickered and promptly found himself on the receiving end of Draco’s own Go-Burn-in-Hell glower.

The Jarvey’s little fit seemed to relax Hagrid from the unexpected bout of decorum on Draco’s part. Hagrid chuckled and offered them tea and cakes. Harry declined politely, of course, because Hagrid’s rock cakes tasted like, well, rock. And his, er, tea, which was bubbling in the massive cauldron over the fire, reminded Harry of mud. Taste and all.

Draco didn’t refuse, the poor sod, refusing didn’t agree with being Mister Perfect Manners or something, and he ended up choking and coughing and telling Hagrid that this was the best treat he had eaten, ever. Hagrid rewarded Draco with a pat on the back, making Draco stumble off the chair.

 

“That went well,” Harry said when Hagrid had left them to tend to a Thestral foal, whatever that was.

Draco seemed knackered. He slumped in his chair, abandoning that ramrod straight posture that Harry supposed was part of the Mister Manners image. Draco peered into his chipped teacup, at the rest of the brownish-grey substance now swiftly curdling into something inedible. On his face was a martyred expression.

“Y’know Harry,” he began conversationally, still looking into his cup. “I’ll always cherish the initial misconception I had of you.” He sighed. “What a sweet and lovable child you seemed, draped in a too-big school robe on the stool in that robe shop. I’d never have pinned you for someone so mean.”

“I’m sure you were really sweet as a child, Draco, no whining, no nagging, no crying whatsoever,” Harry said wryly.

“I was an adorable child. Absolutely delightful. I used to charm all the guests at the manor. I was Mother’s little pride.” He slipped off his gold ring and held it in front of Harry. “S’my birth ring. Rub it. Go on.”

A bit warily, Harry rubbed the golden surface of the ring. A wisp of silvery smoke rose from the ring to form an image of a blond toddler. Draco crooned at the replica of himself with rapt adoration.

“Er… you were—”

“Precious? Angelic? Lovable?”

“—pudgy,” Harry said, smiling, to Draco’s appalled face.

Draco snatched his hand away. “You’re a horrible liar, Potter.”

“I thought that was the whole point of Slytherin,” Harry said, rolling his eyes.

“No, to be Slytherin is no such thing as engaging in blatant lying. As a Slytherin, one has to submerge oneself in the subtle and sophisticated surveillance of one’s foes.”

“Like that time you spied on the Ravenclaw team, y’mean?”

Draco raised his chin. “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

Draco’s spying had been strategic for their game against Ravenclaw, Harry recalled. Draco had come up with the plan, which he had insisted on calling Wolf Cry after trying out various alternate versions of Boy Who Cried Wolf. The plan itself was simple, really. During the game, Harry was to pretend to see the Snitch every fifteen minutes or so. After several steep, dangerous dives amounting to nothing, the Ravenclaw Seeker would ignore Harry’s feints, and when Harry was diving after the real Snitch, his path could be clear.

“What if she sees the Snitch while I’m trying to dupe her?” Harry had asked, doubtful.

“She won’t. Unlike you, I have a mean power of observation,” Draco mimed looking through a telescope, “and am perfectly capable of discerning the particular habits of enemies.”

“She’s not our enemy, Draco,” Harry pointed out. “She’s our opponent.”

“Can’t see the difference.” Draco sniffed. “Anyway, Chang never sees the Snitch. She just keeps tailing the other Seeker until he sees something, and trying to seduce him away with her antics, and voila!” He swept a palm through the air. “Coast is clear!

“Draco,” Harry shook his head with a woeful look, “she doesn’t seduce the other Seeker.”

“You’ll see when you get on the pitch, when she’s pressing her thigh into yours and showing leg—”

Harry couldn’t help laughing at that. Draco looked offended.

“Pull your mind out of the gutter, you prick. You’ve been spending too much time with Blaise.”

Harry snickered as he remembered Draco’s sputtered indignation at being told that his mind was in the gutter.

Then the Jarvey screamed again, emphasizing how everyone in the room was an absolutely vile and useless piece of cow dung that should go drown itself, and Harry’s snickers turned into peals of laughter—only to stop abruptly when he heard yet another unidentified voice coming from somewhere inside the hut.

“Ee, you cheeky monkey!” The voice giggled at the Jarvey’s cry. “You woke me, sssilly!”

Harry groaned. “I wonder what Hagrid’s got now.

Draco looked blank. Harry tried to explain. “Y’know, the voice? That said ‘cheeky monkey’?”

Draco gently put a palm to Harry’s forehead as if to check for a fever. Or some other possibly deranging disease Harry could have contacted during their short stay.

“Harry,” Draco said. “You’ve gone barmy.”

Harry looked over his shoulder uncertainly. Fang woofed at him and resumed slobbering over his doggy pillow.

Then there was another voice, hissing: “We will dissembowel him,” it said, and Harry was truly alarmed this time. “Then we will evisscerate the inssulting creature,” it hissed. Harry whipped around.

“It says it’s going to kill us,” Harry said frantically, only to be met with a very strange look from Draco.

“Harry, if you want to leave here, just say so,” he encouraged.

“No, no, I mean, didn’t you hear that? It said—”

“Ss’irritating, lisstening to your inane ramblingss, thiss place is abominable, I need to feed, but you mussn’t think of feeding on that creature there, you’ll get uss killed for good, ss’better if you don’t think at all…” interrupted yet another raspy voice.

“Who’s there?” Harry called loudly, looking from left to right.

“Harry,” Draco called—but couldn’t he wait, they were apparently in grave danger, and Harry called out again: “WHO’S THERE?!”

“Who iss thiss? Come closser…”

“Harry! You’re hissing!” Draco snapped.

Harry gasped as he banged open the cabinet to find a vivid orange and black three-headed serpent staring out at him with beady eyes.

 

*

 

Draco’s face looked paper-white as he stared up at Hagrid, who was ducking his head to enter through the back door.

“Er, Hagrid,” Harry started.

“Yeh alright, Harry? Yeh look a bit grey, mind.”

“Hagrid, er, why do you have a baby Runespoor in your cupboard?”

Hagrid stopped dead in his tracks.

“Mr. Hagrid,” Draco ventured. “Are you, um, licensed to keep Runespoors?”

“Ah,” Hagrid said. “I, er—found it, actually. Thought I’d have a drink las’ night, the barman didn’t know what it was, but I could see it fer what it was an’ all.” He suddenly developed a keen interest in Fang’s basket and ambled over to pet Fang and fluff his slobbery pillow. Fang woofed in approval.

 

Later, when they returned to their dorm, Harry really couldn’t bring himself to ask Draco if he had successfully overcome his fear of Hagrid.

“That man is dangerous, I keep telling you,” Draco was trying to convince Harry. “I mean, a Runespoor! It’s classified as XXXX, d’you know? What am I thinking, of course you don’t know. XXXX is the second dangerous rating for all beasts. The snake is venomous. It’s only about a feet now, but in a few months it grows as long as seven feet.” Draco let out an indignant huff. “You could have got me killed.”

Harry regretted having reacted to the snake’s voice in the first place.

“Er, at least it was a friendly snake,” Harry said. Draco looked at him as if he had grown another head.

“The left head was planning to strangle you and suck you dry,” he said.

“I was talking about the right head.” Harry shrugged. “It was talking about the Jarvey, wasn’t it?”

“Whatever.” Shaking his head, Draco plopped down on the couch. He promptly began smoothing down licks of his hair, which had been molded into a blond nest of sorts during their walk to and from Hagrid’s hut.

“I think you ruined my prospects for Care of Magical Creatures next year. I don’t want to be around any magical creature ever again,” Draco said, pouting. He turned towards Harry to shoot him a look of scorn. “And you, please do try and tame your hair before the next century. Slytherins have a reputation to keep up. We have to be devilishly handsome at all times, s’that clear?”

God. Devilishly handsome his arse. Did Draco ever look at Greg and Vince, Harry wondered. He stole a sidelong glance at Draco, who was still busy with his poncy hair do.

“So you’d help me out if I went out on a date with a bird’s nest for hair?”

Draco shot him a miffed look. “What do you take me for? I’d laugh and laugh and pretend we’re strangers, of course.”

“Hey! That’s not very nice.” Harry laughed. “Say that you’re sorry, Draco.”

“For what?”

“For thinking about kicking me when I’m down,” Harry said for the sake of it, not really expecting Draco to relent.

To Harry’s amazement, Draco nodded. “Okay,” he said.

“Er, really?”

“Yeah.” Draco looked into Harry’s eyes with an innocent expression. “I’m sincerely sorry that your hair looks like it’s been under attack.” Draco kept a straight face for two seconds before he broke into laughter. It took a moment longer for Harry to realise it wasn’t really an apology.

Harry threw a pillow at Draco. And missed.

 

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Chapter Text

Disclaimer: The characters and the situation belong to J. K. Rowling. This story wasn't created for profit. Just for fun.

 

Chapter Ten: End of the Year

 

 

The Weasel War, as Draco named it, had been a long and fierce affair that lasted until the end-of-year feast.

House Weasel, with their representative colors of red and orange, favored a direct and physical stratagem. After the twins discovered that their puking fit on the day of their first Quidditch match had been Harry and Draco’s doing, they continued to bombard the two with strange products of their creation, and once they even succeeded in making Harry hiccup for five whole hours until he was ready to curl up and die.

Ron Weasley stuck to more of a direct-contact method, preferring to jump and pound after furiously searching for witty comebacks that eluded him.

As for Ginny Weasley, she was the most subtle of all, though clearly as effective because she had the element of surprise. Her sole target was Harry, and Harry knew she was a nice girl, she really liked him, be it superficial or not—but her adoring owls and notes hosted one too many times explosives which blasted in your face and covered you with a viscous, foul-smelling goo.

House Slytherin was more concerted in their efforts. When confronted by a clan of Weasleys, Greg and Vince were to assume a guard-like position on either side of the group, schooling their faces just so. They were not to utter a single word, Draco had warned, for if they did, their dumb remarks could ruin the whole hulky-and-menacing look they had going on. Just in case some idiot made a comment about Greg's and Vince’s bulk, Draco made them practice saying Built for maximum impact while cracking their knuckles, but he eventually gave up because it just sounded wrong. Not the knuckle part—Greg and Vince made it sound like they were breaking bones—but the maximum impact one. They couldn’t wrap their tongue around the correct way to pronounce it.

Meanwhile, Draco was to engage in a battle of wits, as to goad any Weasley into physical abuse so that he could happily tattle on Professor Snape, who would then mercilessly dock Gryffindor’s house points.

Pansy, on the other hand, was a hidden weapon. If the struggle became too violent, she would step in, and the Gryffindorks, guided by a sense of chivalry, wouldn’t dare pummel a tiny girl like her. Though Harry saw Ron Weasley’s fist tremble with the effort not to, that one time Pansy had told him how she wouldn’t want the Weasel to turn the other cheek—it was just as ugly.

As for Harry, he didn’t really have an active part in all this, except for having been on the receiving end of several Weasley jokes, or having furtively aided physical struggles by sending a silent hex or two that made inappropriate bodily parts tingle so bad the hexed person simply had to reach and scratch bare skin. It worked well on Ron Weasley’s bum.

No real harm was done. Well, except for that time on the Quidditch pitch when Madam Hooch had accidentally double-booked for Slytherin and Gryffindor and Bludgers had entered the scene, but it was more of a Flint versus Wood warfare, so that was that.

And that time Draco wanted to impose Ronnie the Runespoor on Ronnie the Weasel, but that didn’t count because Harry had managed to dissuade him before he did any serious damage to the Weasel or Hagrid, who was currently striving to work up to the license requirement.

The grand finale swooped in with House Slytherin’s green and silver draped across the Great Hall in the end-of-year feast. Last year’s champions, the Ravenclaws, were a morose bunch of sods poking at their food.

Slytherin Ruled. Somehow the fat, roast turkeys and piled mounds of roast and boiled potatoes tasted much better than Harry remembered them last June, and Snape was looking finer than usual, his hair seemed styled so that it had more of a refined shine to it and not so much the usual greasy glob. Snape had considerably warmed to Harry after he caught the Snitch at exactly twenty minutes into the Quidditch finals against Gryffindor, and Harry could now sort of see why Draco was fond of the git. Being on the receiving end of nepotism wasn’t half bad.

Draco wasn’t paying as much attention to the steaming platters of chipolata, and instead he did impressions of the twins (“Where’s my robe? Oh no, I’m indecent in front of McGonagall!”), the thug Weasley (shocked, horrified, and oh so traumatised by Pansy’s stinging slap), and young Ginny Weasley (sad, so sad, why wasn’t Harry Potter falling into her clutches?), in that order, kindly facing the Gryffindor table so that they could enjoy the show.

Only the Slytherin upper years were allowed to celebrate in the common room that night, but Draco managed to smuggle a bottle of champagne into the second-year boys’ dormitory, which was already stacked with food directly from the Hogwarts kitchens, special thanks to dear Tom Riddle.

The champagne wasn’t that good, and it tasted a little like un-sweetened grape soda. They drank anyway. It made Draco ramble on and on even more than usual, and afterwards he fell asleep with Harry’s stomach for his pillow. Harry thought of the way he had of laying his head on Pansy’s lap while relaxing in the common room, and felt a sudden pang of vicious satisfaction, because Pansy never had Draco falling asleep on her, blond tufts tickling her fingers, little puffs of breath warm against her belly. Draco had bits of confetti stuck in his hair, winking in the candlelight, and Harry ran his fingers through the soft white-blond strands. Only twice.

It was temporary, of course, and Draco went back to the comfort of Pansy’s lap when they boarded the Hogwarts Express.

An hour before they arrived at King’s Cross Harry jolted awake to a rich and very thick smell of chocolate. When Harry squinted open his eyes and put on his glasses, he found everyone enjoying snacks without him.

“Mmmm… Chocolate,” Draco was moaning as he devoured a Swiss chocolate truffle his mother had sent him for his train journey.

“Lookie, Haddy’s ub,” Pansy said, mouth full.

“Have a truffle,” Draco said, waving one in front of Harry’s face. Harry dazedly caught it and put it in his mouth.

“Theo was just telling us he’s going to visit Mongolia with his father,” Pansy said after swallowing.

“Er, yeah, I heard,” Harry said, a bit croaky.

“You should try to take after that Genghis Kahn.” Draco grinned at Theo. “From what I know, he yelled at people and cut open rebels. You should do the same. You cuss well. The Mongols will love you.”

Theo rolled his eyes.

“Why’re you going to Mongolia of all places?” Pansy frowned. “Last year it was Tibet. Why can’t you go to a decent European place where you can get me fancy souvenirs? As for me, I am going to Italia. Maybe I’ll get some tan, who knows? Not so brown brown like the Patils or anything. Just tan enough for me to look good in a bikini, y’know?”

Harry choked on his chocolate.

Bikini? Wha’s that?” Draco raised a brow.

“It’s this bathing suit.” Pansy batted her eyelashes. “Muggle. Very sexy,”

“Muggle, Pansy? Muggle?” Draco looked appalled. “You. But,” he sputtered. “Muggle clothing is hideous! Just look at Harry!”

Everyone looked at Harry. Harry crossed his arms self-consciously.

“What?” he shot, defensive.

Draco shook his head. “Your clothing. It’s Muggle, and it’s repulsive.” Ugh, he added after making Harry spread his arms so that his Housemates could see properly.

“Er, my clothes are not exactly at the height of Muggle fashion,” Harry said, fingering the hem of Dudley’s castoff shirt. Under scrutiny, he was just glad that the hem reached his thighs, effectively hiding the patched-up spot on his trousers.

Pansy bit her lip, trying to stifle a laugh. “I’ll show you Muggle fashion when we meet before school year, is that fine?”

Draco looked petulant. “Sure. Though I’m certain I’ll be preferring you in robes.”

“You’ll see, Draco, you’ll see,” Pansy said, petting Draco’s hair in soothing strokes. Draco wore a sulky look. “And what’re you doing this summer, Draco?”

At that, Draco sat upright, batting away Pansy’s hands. He turned toward Harry to share a wolfish grin. “I’m spending the summer with Harry. He’s going to stay over at my place.”

Pansy looked shocked. “But, but you said to me that I couldn’t come over!” she said, indignant.

“Sorry, Pans. But Father said that I couldn’t bring home girls yet,” Draco said, his tone not exactly apologetic.

He ignored the fierce scowl on Pansy’s face in favor of shooting a knowing smile at Harry. “We’ll pick you up in a week, right? Dobby’s a secret, so you will have to Side-Along with Mother and Father.”

“Yeah,” Harry said, smiling.

 

*

 

Harry fidgeted as Mrs. Malfoy kissed his left cheek, then his right.

“Draco has been writing a lot about you in his letters home, Harry,” she said. Her tone was warm, but she wasn’t really looking at Harry. A puzzled frown marred her porcelain features as she examined Harry’s clothing. She shot a questioning look at Draco, who was talking animatedly to his father. Mr. Malfoy had his hand on his son’s shoulder, a mildly interested expression warming into a small tug on the corner of his mouth now and then at Draco’s busy gestures.

“We’re very sorry we couldn’t invite you to the manor earlier, sweet. We wanted to welcome you home on holidays, but for some reason Draco insisted that he stay at Hogwarts with you on Christmas and on Easter.”

Mrs. Malfoy was reserved and elegant, so unlike Aunt Petunia, and Harry racked his brain for what he knew of in the manners department; he wanted to make a good impression.

“It’s very nice to meet you, Mrs. Malfoy. Draco said such good things about you.”

Mrs. Malfoy rewarded Harry with a warm smile, but then she frowned again as she delicately touched Harry’s shoulder, as if she had to confirm that Harry was wearing what she thought he was. “Excuse me for asking this, but…”

“Er,” Harry said, not knowing what to say.

“Is this, by any chance, Muggle clothing?”

Harry nodded. Then realizing that he was talking to an adult, quickly said, “Yes, ma’am.”

“Is this a sort of… camouflage for transportation?”

“Er, not really, no, ma’am,” Harry said, confused. Draco knew better than anyone what Harry was going home to. Harry hadn’t actually told anyone else in such detail, not even Theo. Looking up, Harry discovered that Mrs. Malfoy was gaping at him, lips parted.

“Harry,” she said in a small voice, “are you… Who are your guardians?”

Harry opened his mouth to answer, but before he uttered a single word a rough hand snatched at his shoulder.

“I take it you are ready,” Uncle Vernon grunted.

Mrs. Malfoy’s eyes were wide for a moment before her face turned into a picture of polite interest.

“You must be Harry’s…”

“Uncle,” Uncle Vernon said, uncomfortable as he took in the lilac and blue summer robes Mrs. Malfoy was wearing.

“A pleasure meeting you, Mister…”

“Vernon,” Uncle Vernon said, pulling on Harry’s shoulder, clearly wanting to get out of here, fast. He kept looking over his shoulder as if he were afraid someone would notice him talking with these ‘freaks’ and condemn him for eternity. It would have been amusing if not for the insistent tug at Harry’s shoulder.

“Mr. Vernon,” Mrs. Malfoy said. “I’m Draco’s mother. Narcissa Malfoy.”

She held out a thin, long-fingered hand, a single platinum ring adorning her ring finger. Uncle Vernon looked very uncomfortable as he gingerly grasped her hand and shook twice. Mrs. Malfoy had an aristocratic air about her, Harry noted, and Uncle Vernon probably had, too. She looked more sophisticated than any of the “high-class” women Aunt Petunia always had wanted to befriend.

“What a surprise,” Mr. Malfoy said as he stepped forward, Draco at his side. “I don’t remember having heard much about you, Mr. Vernon.” He shot a frown down at Draco, to Harry’s bemusement.

Draco pulled at his fingers, gaze turned down.

“Lucius Malfoy, Mr. Vernon. A pleasure,” he said, and Uncle Vernon had to shake his hand as well. “I’ll be sure to inquire after you from now on.” Mr. Malfoy’s gaze was once again directed at Draco. Harry wondered what was wrong.

Uncle Vernon was shoving Harry away from them all, so Harry hastily said his good-byes to Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy before he could be dragged off and humiliated in the middle of King’s Cross.

The tight hug Draco gave Harry just before made up for it, though.

 

*

 

Saturday, June 19, 1993

Harry,

I have great news! I know it hasn’t been a week yet, but Mother and Father decided that you should come to the manor early!! So I’ll be seeing you on, wait for it, Monday!

I have to tell you something before you come, though. Don’t hate me after reading it. Okay. Here it goes.

You might have noticed that, when my parents met your uncle at the train station, they seemed a little… taken aback, yeah? Mother and Father had heard, along with the rest of the wizarding world, that Harry Potter had been sent to live with Muggles after he defeated the Dark Lord, but they thought it was a cover story. It makes sense, doesn’t it? You were just a baby, but a really high profile figure, so your identity should be under security, right? Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, I didn’t tell them about your situation—they were appalled that the story about you was true. And that your Muggles were locking you up and not feeding you.

That sounds pretty bad. Don’t be mad at me, Harry. I’ll tell you why. I had to tell my parents all about it, so you could say that I had practice telling this. Mother and Father were really disappointed, they said, and I’ve been grounded to my room until you arrive. I’m supposed to make it up to you.

I’ll just stop stalling and say it now. I wanted to do it by myself. You know, making sure that you have stuff to eat, and… stuff. This is going to sound really really bad, and please don’t hate me for it, but I wanted to be important to you. Father made me admit that I wanted you to rely on me, and he said it’s a very Slytherin strategy, but it should only be used against people I want to utilise. You’re my best friend, so I’m not supposed to do it.

That was why I wanted to stay over for the holidays, you know. Because if you came over, my parents were going to know all about it, and you wouldn’t be needing me anymore.

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean any harm, really. I really like you, Harry, and I’d never wish you ill. Forgive me?

Draco

*

 

It was ridiculous, because Draco didn’t have anything to be sorry about; he’d been the only reason Harry had emerged from summer break alive and sane. Harry didn’t have to forgive him. It was nice, though, knowing that Draco wanted Harry for himself.

Well, it wasn’t worded that way, Harry knew because he had memorised most of the letter after reading it for the zillionth time, but it was implied. Harry thought so anyway.

Besides, being grounded to his room didn’t seem much of a punishment to Draco. The Dursleys’ residence would fit snugly in Draco’s bedroom. Second story and all.

The room was adorned in soft green and cream, a huge painting of a flower garden taking up a wall.

“Flowers,” Harry observed.

“This room used to belong to my great-great-grandmother Pyxis when she was young,” Draco said, standing next to Harry and eyeing the painting. “I used to have the room on the East Wing. I had that room since I was born. It has paintings of dragons and everything, but then”—he turned to face Harry, his eyes alight—“I discovered her diary on the grimoire shelf, and consequently the fact that Pyxis loved the Malfoy library so much she charmed a door to open straight into it.

Draco pulled Harry impatiently toward a door almost hidden behind a cream-colored bookshelf. The pale green of the door made it blend in with the wall, and it wouldn’t have been recognizable if it weren’t for the wooden texture beneath the color and the slight jut of the doorknob, which was carved into the head of a serpent with jade almond-shaped eyes.

“The door doesn’t open for me,” Draco said, and made Harry pat the doorknob. A gasp escaped Harry’s lips and he reached to touch it again. The knob wasn’t there. It was an elaborate life-like painting on the wall.

“It’s a drawing,” Harry said.

Draco looked triumphant. “That’s what my parents think. They think it’s the wall pretending to be a door. Kind of like Hogwarts. The manor is magical, too, y’know. But,” he lowered his voice, “Pyxis says that there’s a way to open it.”

“So how d’you open it?” Harry asked, intrigued.

“That’s the thing. I’ve been trying to find a way ever since I asked for this room, and changing rooms wasn’t easy, mind you, because Mother designed my last room and she couldn’t understand why I wanted to leave. I had to argue that the dragon paintings gave me nightmares.”

Draco started biting his lower lip. “That’s not true, in case you’re wondering. I liked the dragons fine. Well,” he studied his fingernails, “perhaps except for the Hungarian Horntail. But that’s just because that one never forgave me for pinning Adrian Wolf’s poster over it. As if it’s any match to Adrian Wolf,” Draco finished vehemently.

“Er, you never found a way then? When did you move in, exactly?” Harry said, trying to remind Draco that they were supposed to be talking about the door, not Adrian Wolf. He didn’t want to hear any more speeches extolling the endless virtues of that Chaser.

“It’s been…” Draco counted off fingers. “Four and a half years, actually.”

Harry studied the door-painting, raking his glance over the tall frame, the elegantly curved grooves, and the serpent-head doorknob, which was currently winking at him. Harry blinked.

“Draco, the snake just winked at me.”

Draco scrunched his nose. “No it didn’t. It’s just you imagining things. Wouldn’t be the first time.” He smirked, and Harry rolled his eyes because Draco was alluding to that time Harry saw Snape wear striped trousers underneath his robes. It had turned out to be a special potion ingredient sac designed to indicate different ingredients with different colors. Draco had solemnly chided, in front of the whole common room when everyone was present, that Harry’s unhealthy crush on Snape simply had to stop.

Harry just knew that someone had told Snape about it; the gaze he had thrown Harry next day had been exceptionally subzero.

A pop announced the arrival of Tibby, who told Harry and Draco that they were expected in the dining hall for dinner in ten minutes.

“I’m starving.” Draco licked his lips. “Come on.” He was dragging Harry by his hand, and Harry tried not to trip as they barreled down the stairs.

 

What with all the grandeur of the rest of the manor, Harry had imagined a long dining table with candelabras and everything, with seats located on the two opposite sides. When Harry arrived at the dining room with Draco, however, Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy greeted them at a round marble table.

Harry sat down self-consciously between Draco and Mr. Malfoy. He anxiously looked to see if he could start eating; he was famished; but he didn’t really know any proper dining manners except not to talk with your mouth full or anything else disgusting. He spied Mrs. Malfoy starting on her salad, and mimicked the move, glad.

It was different from dinners at Hogwarts. There was no scrabble for the best pieces, and food kept reappearing on the plates as if he hadn’t eaten at all. No shouting to pass the salt or the bowl of tarts; each person had his own.

Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy asked them about school, Quidditch and Potions and Transfiguration, and Draco was doing most of the talking, as always, about Slytherin winning the House Cup seven times in a row, and about the horrible players on the other teams. Harry was nodding and agreeing and adding bits of details to Draco’s long-drawn tale of his Cunning Plans to defeat Gryffindors.

Then Mrs. Malfoy cleared her throat.

“So, Harry,” she said, eyeing him intently, “Draco told us that you’ve been living with your Muggle relatives, is that true?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Harry said, wondering if he had to tell them about his life—or, more accurately, lack thereof—in the Dursley household.

“We’ve heard the specifics, and we just wanted to say…” Mrs. Malfoy threw a meaningful look at her husband, and Mr. Malfoy continued: “We want to offer our sincere apologies, son. If we had known better, we would have invited you to the manor no matter the circumstances. Draco has told you about this, I imagine?” Mr. Malfoy made a stern face at Draco, who was eating his dinner in an uncharacteristically quiet way.

“Thank you, Mr. Malfoy, Mrs. Malfoy,” Harry said hastily. He didn’t really mind. Draco didn’t do anything wrong, in Harry’s point of view, there was no reason Draco should be scolded regarding Harry. “Draco has been really good to me,” Harry added. “I’m glad to have him as a friend.”

Draco looked up at that, and after offering Harry a toothy smile, turned to his father with a smug expression. Harry knew that face. It was Draco’s I told you so face.

“Well, I’m sure Draco is lucky to have an understanding friend like you. Right, Draco, darling?” Mrs. Malfoy prodded.

“Of course, Mother.” Draco nodded smoothly. “And I just remembered, Father, you said Harry and I will be having a new tutor,” he said, his face inquiring.

Harry knew that tactic, too. It was Draco’s way of steering the conversation away from unwanted topics.

After eyeing his son for a few seconds, Mr. Malfoy obligingly told Draco about the tutor they recruited for Draco's and Harry’s education during the summer.

“Every weekday,” Draco fumed later after dinner, when he was showing Harry the guest room. “We are on summer break, my friends are going to Mongolia and Italia and we’re stuck here with lessons every day?”

“It could have been worse,” Harry said, still in awe with his room. He imagined the Dursleys having an apoplectic fit when they saw where Harry was staying and felt vindicated. “What are we supposed to be learning, anyway?”

Draco shrugged. “Dark Arts, I guess. And some defence.”

He had Harry’s full attention now. “The Dark Arts?” Harry asked, incredulous. “But we aren’t supposed to learn them!”

“Yes, we are,” Draco argued. “Father says the education at Hogwarts is ridiculous, because how are we supposed to learn Defence against the Dark Arts if we don’t know what we are fighting in the first place? He says that we can’t be expected to build a shield for some weapon we have no idea of.”

Know your enemy.

“Besides, it’s not like we’re going to practice Dark Arts or anything. We’re just learning the basics.”

Harry was still wary. But he nodded anyway, because strangely enough, Draco made sense. Harry really didn’t remember learning much in Professor Brinley’s DADA class except that vampires were dangerous, dangerous creatures that should be avoided at all costs. Just recalling that class brought to mind the odor of garlic, which adorned every available space on the wall of the classroom. Professor Brinley had a habit of calling upon unexpected students to check if they had a sharp stake and a jar of garlic on their person.

“I had a plan for our summer, and the lessons are just disruptive,” Draco said petulantly.

“What plans?”

“Well, for starters, we were going to attack the library, know what I mean? You wouldn’t let me report on Ronnie the Runespoor”—Draco shot him a glare—“so apparently, we have to make sure that Hagrid is licensed at least.”

“Yeah.” Harry smiled.

The license required that Hagrid have an interview at the Ministry of Magic with an expert in the field. To pass, Hagrid would need to be an expert on Runespoors himself.

The problem was, the kind of specific knowledge Hagrid needed on Runespoors, about feeding them, sheltering them, and making sure they were not a danger to any civilian, wasn’t in the accessible parts of Hogwarts library. Madam Pince wouldn’t allow Hagrid into the Restricted Section ever since Hagrid knocked over a shelf and almost caused the library to collapse once, when he was a student.

“I was hoping that maybe we could find a way into that charmed door in my room, because according to Pyxis, it’s supposed to lead us to a section of the library that’s secluded from the rest.”

“Oh,” Harry said. “So you admit that you were looking for my input, do you?”

“Don’t be daft, Harry. I’m just using you for your hissy fits.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “So you need me to talk to a snake?”

Draco frowned at that. “Um, I dunno, actually. Pyxis always wrote about this pet snake she had, though.” He shrugged. “Maybe she used the snake to open the door or something.”

Then he suddenly gasped. “Maybe she made her snake talk to that snake head!”

“The snake head that winked at me, y’mean?”

“Maybe the head had really winked at you! Maybe it wanted to talk to you. Wow.” Draco clutched both of Harry’s hands in his, eyes liquid silver as he laughed a little breathlessly. “Wow,” he said again. “Harry, I think that’s it! You’re brilliant.”

Harry blushed and nodded, looking down at their joined hands. He gave a tentative squeeze. Draco beamed.

 

 

Please review! I'd like to know what you thought ;-)

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: The characters and the situation belong to J. K. Rowling. This story wasn't created for profit. Just for fun.

 

 

11. Summer at the Manor

 

The jade-eyed serpent head on Pyxis’s door turned out to be very chatty. At first Draco had leaned forward to listen as Harry and the knob hissed back and forth. After about half an hour of hissing, Draco was on the verge of a tantrum.

“Er, can you open the door now?” Harry pleaded.

“Of course. But tell me, is it really true that there are thousands of sspecies of sserpents out there in the world? Venomous oness? Little oness? With actual tailss?

“Uh, yeah,” Harry said. “Er, they slither, kind of, and they eat mice, and stuff.” He thought hard. “I can get you a picture book about them from the library.”

Oh. Please do. I’ll be waiting!” With an excited wink from the snake, the door clicked open.

Finally,” Draco said, and stalked into the room. “Harry, you know that you’re not supposed to hiss in front of other people, right? Let alone have a conversation with a snake?”

“I told you, and it went all right.” Harry shrugged.

“That’s different,” Draco said, eyes raking over columns of tall, wooden shelves withholding endless rows of dusty-looking books. “It’s very hard to take me by surprise. I have experience in these kind of things. I know the way of the world. Jaded, one might say.”

“Now I understand why you screamed like a girl when Brinley’s vampire bat went for you,” Harry said conversationally. And received a glare from Draco.

“You promised not to bring that up!”

“Right. My mistake,” Harry said.

Draco huffed loudly and stomped deeper into the library. “I’m doing this all for your own good, Harry, one might think you’d show some gratitude, but nooo, there you are, making fun of me, mocking me, deriding me…” Harry could hear him grumbling, and couldn’t help grinning.

“I’m grateful, Draco,” he said. “I really am.”

“You should be. And you should listen to me,” Draco said from somewhere behind a column of books. “I know best. You remember that time people were all saying how McGonagall and Flitwick were found in a compromising position in the Charms classroom? That McGonagall was pregnant and she was hiding her stomach with Glamours?”

“I remember,” Harry said, making a face.

“Well, you see, it all started with McGonagall interrupting Flitwick and whispering something in his ear during a Charms lesson. Chinese whispers, Harry, Chinese whispers. One person sees you chatting up snakes, and soon they’re all talking about seeing you raise the dead and build a serpentine army and that kind of stuff.”

“Er,” Harry said. “Draco, how do you know? I mean, about how that rumour with McGonagall started?”

“Oh,” Draco said. “I started it.”

 

*

 

The secluded section of the Malfoy Library was almost as big as the un-secluded section. Rows and rows of shelves aligned themselves, shifting and grinding into position smoothly as Harry and Draco ambled about and looked for books on Runespoor caring.

Not long into the search, they uncovered the perfect book for Hagrid. Gore and Glamour: Rules and Rituals for Runespoor Rearing, read the title. Their shiver of excitement soon became that of horror as they learned how Carl the Capricious was found in pieces one morning, his pet Runespoor discovered with a half-digested finger in its stomach, and how Marley Junior lost a limb and part of her face trying to meditate a fight between the three heads.

At this point, Draco had become convinced that this book was a danger to the world; it was going to give Hagrid inappropriate ideas. But his hysteric fit subsided, to Harry’s infinite relief, after reading that Runespoor eggs were rare and very valuable potions ingredients which bestowed mental agility upon the drinker.

Introduced were complicated recipes for the Soul-Shielding Serum (which could seal your mind from any kind of invasion, be it drug, spell, or another wizard), the Potion of Piercing Perception (which would allow the drinker to see and hear beyond human range), and the Hammer-head Heal (which would clear your head instantly from simple migraine, hangover, or concussion). Runespoor eggs could also strengthen a variety of love potions, though the writer knew not of any that had been successful.

Harry wanted to help Draco brew the potions, he really did, but he couldn’t really oblige Draco’s requests to conjure day-old spider eyes and fermented Hippogriff toenails. Letting Draco immerse himself in the theories of love potions, Harry wandered around the library, looking for more books that could help Hagrid.

As Harry was inspecting the lower shelves a brown and worn book caught his eye. It was wedged between two thick tomes and Harry couldn’t see its title well, but it did look like Quidditch. After dusting the cover, Harry peered at the title written in neat golden letters: Quidditch. Another word seemed to be written above, but it was faded and Harry couldn’t make out what it was. Anyway, Quidditch was enough to draw Harry’s attention.

One glance at Draco told Harry that he wouldn’t welcome interruption. Piles of leather-bound books with titles such as To Chop or Mash: Dilemmas in Potion Making, Poción de Amor, and Use of Hippogriff in Magical Drugs surrounded Draco like a fortress. Draco himself was buried nose-deep in a heavy black tome, eyes darting left and right as he skimmed through the pages.

Harry shrugged to himself. He could tell Draco about this book later, whatever it was. Draco would welcome anything about Quidditch, but not right now.

What Harry found inside the book, however, wasn’t what he had been expecting. Well, he didn’t exactly know what he had been expecting, but it sure wasn’t a bunch of pictures of Quidditch players in weird uniforms. No descriptions whatsoever. Just pictures.

Harry frowned down at the black-and-white picture of a Quidditch player. The uniform was odd, with clingy clothes and lots of leather straps. The next several pages all sported similar pictures. A smiling man with bulging muscles posing atop his broom, a tall blond leaning against a boulder, then another brunet, but this time tall and lanky, looking lazily out the picture and blinking slowly, sensuously.

He absently turned another page, and did a double take as his eyes landed on a picture of the lanky brunet and the blond, snogging. Harry squinted to see better, but the blond person was most certainly a male. Both people were male. And they were practically eating each other’s face as they eagerly mouthed each other, tongue showing now and then as they shifted angles.

Harry’s heart pounded. Harry shifted his grip on the book; his palms were damp. He then turned another page, and this time a gasp escaped his lips.

“Find something?”

Harry jumped at the sound of Draco’s voice. “Um. No, nothing’s here. Er, I’m fine,” Harry said in his best Nothing’s Wrong voice. He had never been so glad that he had always been horrible with words; his stammers didn’t seem incriminating.

Draco shrugged and returned to his research.

When Harry peered back at the book in his hands, the brunet was still pinning the blond against the wall by the wrists, devouring the blond’s neck, his other hand roaming up and down the pinned man’s side. The blond guy was writhing, his face contorted in what looked like agony.

Or bliss, Harry’s brain provided helpfully.

Harry had seen Dudley’s porn collection hidden among his canon of classic English literature, and the whole idea of scantily clad people in zealous snogging sessions was not new to Harry. Far from new. Dudley’s stockpile of porn ranged from innocent-looking females in schoolgirl uniforms to girl-on-girl action, and Harry had seen them all, goggle-eyed and curious, one lazy evening last summer. But they were Muggle porn, and the pictures didn’t move. And they never featured two blokes going at each other.

Harry swallowed, twice, stole another quick glance at Draco, and turned to the next page, where a picture of the blond straddling the brunet met Harry’s eyes. There were less clothes involved this time, and Harry had an unobstructed view of the smooth, pale expanse of the fair bloke’s chest. As Harry watched, the other man’s hands slid up the blond’s front to finger and tease his nipples. Harry’s gaze grazed over the rest of the blond’s front, blotchy now, up to his face, to find tendrils of hair, white in the picture, damp and curling on his forehead, and his lips shiny and parted, flushed and swollen; then the blond was biting down on his already abused lip, lightly chewing on it—and Harry’s trousers suddenly felt very tight. His breath hitched.

Harry snapped the book shut, and shoved it in the lowest shelf. He sat in front of it, knees drawn up, hands pressed to his crotch, willing and wishing the sudden feeling to go away.

After several endless moments, it did.

Letting out a shaky breath, Harry looked up to see that Draco was still poring over his research, ensconced in his fortress of books. He had moved on to another book, Harry noticed, and was making notes in the margins, his fancy peacock quill alternating between fluttering and stilling. Harry watched quietly, uncertainly, as the feather end of the quill kept brushing over Draco’s cheek and the corner of his mouth, again, and again.

“Draco,” Harry said, and cleared his throat. “Draco,” he called again.

“Hmm?” Draco raised his brows, eyes still glued to the book in his hand.

“I… I don’t think there’s anything, er, interesting on this shelf, I checked,” Harry mumbled.

“Got it. Won’t waste time over that shelf. Thanks,” Draco said breezily and continued scribbling down something, tongue stuck between his teeth in concentration.

Harry nodded and started looking at the next shelf, but his head was filled with images of blonds and pale chests and shiny, puffy lips.

 

*

 

“The Dark Arts is defined by roughly three common traits,” the tutor began, but Harry’s brain was having a hard time processing his words; it was too busy taking in the fact that sitting in front of him across the square table was Severus Snape, his hair greasier than ever, hooded eyes throwing them a cool glance over his hooked nose.

“I still can’t believe you’re our tutor,” Draco breathed, reaching out a hand as if to touch Snape’s nose. Harry snatched Draco’s hand before it could make contact.

“Mister Malfoy,” Snape warned for the fourth time, impatience creeping into his voice.

“Er, Professor,” Harry said, jumping a little when Snape whipped around to face him, “Maybe… maybe you could, er, tell us how you got to be, y’know… here?”

“I see you are articulate as always, Mister Potter,” Snape said, sighing. Snape noticed Draco’s bewildered expression, and sighed again. “Lucius called in a favor. Let’s put it at that, shall we?”

“Father made you teach us?” Draco gasped.

Snape glowered. And shook his head tiredly. “The three common traits of the Dark Arts, gentlemen.”

At this, Draco shook himself out of his dazed stupor and readied himself to take notes. Harry clumsily followed.

“The Dark Arts,” Snape continued, “is mercurial by nature. In the part of the caster, a Dark spell will mutate depending on the state of mind. Take the Cruciatus Curse, for instance. As one of the Unforgivables, it causes searing pain”—Snape frowned, as if the mere mention of the curse disturbed him—“the caster has to harbor immense hatred toward his victim. He has to want, from the bottom of his heart, to make the cursed writhe in pain so intense death would be a welcome respite. Or the curse will not take.

“Another example is the Silens Mens,” Snape continued. “If the caster intends it to calm down the mind, the spelled person will experience a sudden tranquility, effective against nightmares. But cast with malicious intent, Silens Mens will wipe the victim’s mind; years of memories may disappear, or in other cases, the ability to talk, hear, or feel will be gone. Yes, Mister Malfoy?”

“Professor, then what about, um, the non-Dark spells? Sometimes they vary in intensity as well, sir.”

“Very good.” Snape nodded approvingly. “You will notice that for many spells and charms, the effects produced are not equal in intensity. However, this is due to a difference in the caster’s strength or control of magic, not his state of mind.

“The next common trait, is the uncontrollable nature of Dark spells,” Snape drawled, waving his wand to conjure a silent, smoky image of a raging fire.

“This,” he continued, “is Fiendfyre.”

Harry and Draco watched, fascinated, as the fire consumed everything in its way, wolfing down houses and hurling half-burnt furniture and people into the air, a baby bawling and trying to run away but tendrils of fire shooting out and licking him, burning him, killing him.

“Uncontrollable,” Snape said, and paused for a moment before continuing. “Third. This trait applies to the castee. The Dark Arts, once released on its target, becomes sentient, incorporating itself into the victim’s soul, infringing on his will and his choice. Another of the Unforgivables, the Imperius Curse, is a prime example. The spell will bind itself to the victim’s system, the spell’s will taking over the victim’s and making the victim carry out deeds under the influence of the caster.

“The Cruciatus Curse shares this nature as well. Non-Dark pain spells stimulate the nervous system. Dark pain spells worm inside and command pain from the inside. There is no outside stimulation. Just the war within your soul.

“Commercial love potions are not considered Dark, for they but provide an illusion, a thin veil over the drinker’s consciousness. They wear off after a few hours, with no side effects or permanent damage. Dark varieties, however, that incorporate certain ingredients or certain rituals, encroach the soul of the drinker, changing it, mutating his blood for eternity.”

The smoky image was now featuring a wizard offering himself to a vain-looking witch, his eyes a-sparkle and hands stretched out entreatingly. The witch was buried in jewels and other riches. They aged, their hair graying and face wrinkling even as Harry and Draco watched. At some point, a young and handsome man appeared next to the witch. The other man, old and forgotten, offered more riches, more presents, but it wasn’t enough to make the witch stay. Realizing that the witch had left him, he wept and wept until he collapsed, his face a grotesque mess of grayed skin and protruding bones. He didn’t move again.

 

*

 

The lamplight illuminated his room when Harry blew out the unnaturally bright candles. Harry loved his bed. It was even bouncier and softer than the one at Hogwarts. There was no need to mention Harry’s bed at the Dursleys'. It had been better than the ground, but marginally.

Harry grinned to himself, imagining Aunt Petunia’s expression if she’d seen where Harry was staying. Her imaginary reaction was mostly based on her face when she discovered that the delicate woman and graceful man she had welcomed into her house, offering tea and biscuits, had turned out to be Harry’s kind. Harry sniggered to himself as he recalled the way her nostrils had flared, her mouth slack with astonishment. He made himself comfortable under the covers and closed his eyes, content.

Suddenly, the door opened a crack, and Harry blinked at the vertical line of light.

“Draco?” Harry whispered.

“Mmm,” Draco said. He closed the door behind him and padded over to Harry, the carpet muffling his footsteps.

Draco climbed in the bed and burrowed under the blankets. He didn’t say anything, just curled up next to Harry and lay his head on the pillow.

Draco’s silent but warm presence had been lulling Harry to sleep, when Draco voice, barely a whisper, sounded in Harry’s ear.

“Harry, Harry. Talk to me.”

“Er,” Harry said.

Draco rolled over so that he was lying on his side facing Harry. Lamplight shone on his face, illuminating it so that his eyes, nose, and cheeks stood in sharp relief.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Draco whispered. “I kept thinking of,” he wet his lips, “the man, dying.”

It took a moment for Harry to remember the smoky image of the old, gray man weeping after the witch.

“Oh,” he said.

“I didn’t know love potions were such terrible things,” Draco said, biting his lip. “I think Runespoor eggs make it Dark. I think that’s why the eggs are controlled substances. And to think I’ve been looking up how to make Dark potions all of last week.” Draco shivered a little.

“Well, er, it’s alright. You didn’t know.” Harry tried to sound reassuring, but Draco was shaking his head.

“It’s not that. I know I haven’t done anything wrong. It just creeps me out. That I was searching that kind of stuff.” Draco paused. “You can talk to me, right? It’d help me stop thinking about it so much.”

“Okay, er, so. Talk. Right,” Harry said.

Draco was looking up at him expectantly, and Harry had to think of something to say, but it was Draco who always chattered away, and Harry’s mind was blank. “Dudley has a huge porn collection,” Harry blurted. And wanted to bang his head.

Porn,” Draco said. “You mean Blaise was actually talking about real stuff?”

“Yeah,” Harry said, relieved that Draco wasn’t offended. Or teasing him.

“Huh.” Draco sniffed. Then peered at Harry, curious. “So there’s really pictures of naked women with boobs big as watermelons?”

“Er,” Harry started, thinking back to the magazines he had looked at. “Not that big. But pretty big. Kind of like, er, melons.” He shrugged.

Draco looked amazed. “And here I was, so sure that Blaise was just bluffing.”

Harry shrugged again. He didn’t really want to talk about porn with Draco, not when images of the blokes from that book kept clouding his head.

“Are there really pictures of chains and handcuffs and fake pricks and stuff? I was so sure Blaise was taking the piss about those.

“I think I saw handcuffs once,” Harry said. “And… a fake prick? That sounds disgusting.”

“It does sound terrible, doesn’t it? I mean, fake arms and legs are okay, sort of, but installing some fake thing down there? Ugh. It’s just wrong.”

Harry didn’t think fake pricks were used to replace real ones when people got hurt, but he wasn’t sure, so he just shrugged.

“I used to have a governess once,” Draco said, looking at the ceiling, thinking. “She was this really old lady. I think her name was Mrs. Prumers or something,” he squinted his eyes, then confirmed, “Yeah. Mrs. Prumers. Anyway, when I turned ten, she said it was time I learned about girls.”

“There’s a time for that?” Harry asked, bemused.

“She said so.” Draco shrugged. “She told me that boys were born to respect girls. She made me memorise this rhyme that says girls are made of sugar and spice, and everything nice, and boys are made of snips and snails, and puppy dog tails. She said people made this rhyme because that was the whole idea of boys and girls.”

“Oh. What about Millicent?” Harry said, and Draco punched him lightly on the shoulder, sniggering.

“Well,” Draco said when he could talk, “that’s exactly it. I was preparing to meet angels and goddesses when I went to Hogwarts, and one look at Millie and Pansy and…” He swept his hand across the air to illustrate the obvious conclusion.

“I once heard Uncle Vernon telling Dudley that a man should be able to control his woman.”

“Tell him to try controlling Millie.” Draco snorted.

“Well, Uncle Vernon doesn’t exactly, er, control Aunt Petunia either. She’s always telling him off for shoving his socks under the bed and lounging on the sofa and watching too much telly. Then his face gets all red and he tries to say something, but all the things he says somehow give my aunt more things to scream about.”

“I think Mother manipulates Father, too. She has a way of making Father do things she wants him to do,” Draco whispered, a grin playing on his lips. “Who d’you think was the controlling one with your parents?”

Harry thought for a few seconds. “I think,” he said, “it was my mother, too. Dumbledore told me about my parents, once, in first year, and he made it sound like my dad would have done anything to marry Mum.”

“Mrs. Prumers used to tell me all about marriage,” Draco said, blinking slowly. “She said I’m supposed to stay pure until I’m married to a decent girl. That I shouldn’t have girlfriends or anything.”

“Blaise,” Harry pointed out.

Yes,” Draco said, nodding vigorously. “I think she was just exaggerating. It doesn’t matter, does it, when we’re all married and have babies?”

Harry decided to ask the question that had been lingering too long in his head.

“Draco,” he said. “Er, d’you. D’you know anything about blokes making out? I mean, two blokes?”

“Blokes?”

“Yeah. Er, Dudley had queer porn. It was, um, new.”

“Oh. I guess there would be porn for homosexual people. There’s money where there’s demand.” Draco’s expression turned thoughtful. “But queers can’t make babies. We have to have babies.”

“Oh,” Harry said.

“I’ve been thinking,” Draco said after a few minutes of silence. “You’d have to shag some time, right?”

“Yeah. Guess so.”

“Who’d you want to be your first?” Draco asked. “In Hogwarts, I mean.”

Harry’s mind began to crowd with images of pale skin and smooth chest and damp white hair, and—“Ginny,” Harry spat.

Draco gasped. “You mean you really like the she-Weasel? Um, we weren’t really sure, I mean, you were always so dismissive when we tried to talk to you about the girl Weasel—oh, I’d better not call her Weasel now, right? And, wow. I had no idea you actually fancied her.”

“I don’t fancy her,” Harry snapped.

“Oh, I wouldn’t call mine a fancy either. D’you want to hear about me, then? I’ll think about our plans to seduce Ginevra later, yeah?”

Harry made a non-committal sound.

Draco went on regardless. “I think,” he said, excitedly, “Pansy.”

“What?” Harry sat up violently. “Why?”

“Surprised, are you?” Draco said, smirking, completely misunderstanding. “She really seems to like me. And I kind of like it when she pets my hair. I don’t really enjoy anyone mussing my hair, and this includes Marc, he needs to stop messing up my style, but her fingers, they’re kind of nice.”

“Oh,” Harry said, voice small, not knowing for certain what to say because there was a knot in his stomach and his lips were too dry. He wanted to say that he could do that for Draco, too, pet his hair and listen to him prattle, and Harry did like him, more than Pansy, that was for sure. Maybe best friends were supposed to feel bereft when they talked about fancying other people. Maybe Draco felt that way about Ginny, too, but was hiding it. Draco was good at hiding his feelings, Harry knew, because Draco never seemed annoyed when Marc was touching his hair or pleased when Pansy was fawning over him.

Harry’d had no idea.

“Maybe I should ask Blaise for pointers. Maybe I’ll have a girlfriend, too, next year. Maybe I should ask Pansy out.”

“Maybe,” Harry said softly. In the corner of his eye he saw Draco, looking content and peaceful as he closed his eyes, his hair splayed around his head in a blond halo, white against the deep blue of the duvet.

“Sweet dreams, Harry,” Draco whispered.

“You, too,” Harry whispered back. He shifted and turned away from Draco, confused.

Harry dreamed of Hogwarts, the Slytherin common room in the evening, Pansy stroking Draco’s hair, and Draco never looking at him, just at Pansy, her smirk malicious and ugly on her pug face as she whispered into Draco’s ear. Then there were the brunet and blond from the leather-bound book, wearing strappy Quidditch gear, pale skin glistening with sweat, bodies moving sensually against each other, hands roaming up and down bare skin, lips locked in a never-ending kiss…

 

*

 

Everything Harry had taken for granted seemed somehow new, the way Draco’s eyes lit up when he thought of his Cunning Plans, like that time Harry dug up a book called Besting Bullies in their secret library and Draco had a grand time picking up useful hexes; the way Draco would touch Harry, light and casual, grabbing Harry’s hand to drag him elsewhere, patting Harry’s back to show approval, pressing against Harry on a broom when flying in tandem; and the way Harry’s breath caught when Draco smiled that smile, and laughed that laugh, carefree and mirthful, completely letting go.

And Harry wouldn’t lose any of this, he reminded himself, if Draco kept being Harry’s best friend. There wasn’t anything to worry about.

“Make it do that again,” Draco was saying, breathless from laughing.

Focusing on the snake-headed faucet, Harry asked politely if it could please stick out its tongue, and the snake did, its forked tongue tasting the water underneath and waggling a little at both of them before disappearing once again.

They were late for dinner. When Harry and Draco arrived at the dining hall, Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy and Snape were already seated, waiting.

“I’m sorry, Mother, Father, Professor,” Draco said, out of breath from running down, not sounding sorry at all. Harry bowed his head and sat in his usual seat next to Draco.

“Have you made lists of things you need, dears?” Mrs. Malfoy asked.

“Oh, right. Diagon Ally tomorrow, is it?” Draco said, expertly arranging his napkin on his front.

“Right you are, darling.”

“Classes start soon. Has Severus been a good tutor?” Mr. Malfoy asked, eyeing Snape.

“Are you suggesting that I am not, Lucius?” Snape drawled.

“Professor Snape is great, Father.” Draco turned to Snape and beamed. “You’re the best teacher I’ve ever had, sir. You should teach Defence Against the Dark Arts at school. Brinley only ever talks about vampires. He always makes us carry garlic in our robe pockets.” He made a face. “It’s disgusting.”

The corner of Snape’s mouth curved upwards, marginally. “Fortunately for you, Brinley has left Hogwarts. But I’m afraid the headmaster has already appointed a professor for the position.”

“Do you know who it is, sir?” Harry asked, curious, and a bit worried, because Brinley might have been a piss-poor teacher, but his homework was easy and good.

“No, Harry,” Snape said. “It’ll be a surprise for me as well.”

“I’d like it if you taught Defence Against the Dark Arts, too, sir,” Harry said, nodding. “If only you were a bit nicer to us.”

“I will be nicer, if you try being smarter, Mister Potter,” Snape said, not maliciously.

“Don’t you worry yourself, Severus,” Mrs. Malfoy said. “I, for one, believe that you are a very nice man.”

“But what is Narcissa’s opinion against thousands of others?” Mr. Malfoy said, his expression innocent.

“Very funny, Lucius,” Snape deadpanned.

“I’m glad you think so,” Mr. Malfoy said, voice cool, then turned to Harry. “Now, Harry,” he said smoothly. “We’ve been wanting to make you a proposal.”

“Yes,” Mrs. Malfoy piped in, also looking at Harry. “We have thought about this for some time, and we wanted to ask your opinion before bringing this up with Dumbledore. Harry, we’d like to become your legal guardians, Lucius and I.”

Mrs. Malfoy was looking at Harry, and Harry wasn’t really processing what was being said.

“Er,” Harry said. Draco burst into laughter next to him.

“You daft git,” Draco said fondly, hand warm on Harry’s arm. “You can leave your horrible Muggles now. And we’ll be spending all the holidays together, and you’ll be coming home to the manor in the summers, and we’ll practically be inseparable!”

Harry ducked his head, smiling, helpless. “Oh,” he said.

“How is that possible?” Harry heard Snape asking, somewhere in the background. Draco was telling Harry about his plan to make his father rebuild the Quidditch pitch at the manor so that it would look like the Hogwarts pitch, and they could invite other players for practice, and then team Slytherin will be unconquerable—not that it was anything less at this point.

“Narcissa’s cousin is Sirius Black. Harry’s godfather,” Mr. Malfoy was saying, but Harry didn’t know any Sirius Black, and Draco was chattering away about training with a faster, better Snitch, and Harry couldn’t really concentrate on anything because all he could sense was the blood rushing in his ears, and the corners of his mouth tugging up.

“What do you say, Harry, dear?” Mrs. Malfoy asked Harry, gently placing her hand on his shoulder, and Harry tried not to beam at her, it wouldn’t be gentlemanly, but she nodded and seemed satisfied.

Draco was smiling, and Harry felt light, lighter than when he was flying.

 

 

A/N: Please review! I'd like to know what you thought ;-)

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: The characters and the situation belong to J. K. Rowling. This story wasn't created for profit. Just for fun.

 

Chapter Twelve: Defence Against the Dark Arts

 

Harry was sure that nothing, absolutely nothing could sully his walking-on-clouds disposition as he pottered about Diagon Ally with Draco, who was jabbering on as usual about training Greg and Vince for the Beater position. But that was before Harry spotted Pansy buying a cone of ice cream at Fortescue’s. Pansy, who looked different from before summer break, with her hair done into expensive-looking glossy curls that fell to her shoulders and her tanned-in-Italia arms and legs bare for everyone to see. Her bright pink Muggle dress stretched tight over her chest and hips, and in Harry’s opinion, the effect was simply ridiculous, like a little girl trying to mimic a grown woman.

“Dear Merlin,” Draco gasped. “Pansy?!

Pansy looked over her shoulder, coyly, and batted her eyes. The hem of her dress barely covered half her thighs. She looked ludicrous among all the other robe-clad passersby.

But clearly, Draco didn’t think so, because he was already ahead of Harry, busily pushing through a small crowd of French-speaking tourists to reach her. Harry followed, bumping shoulders hard with the bemused foreigners.

“So, what do you think, Draco?” Pansy smiled slyly.

“I don’t think much of anything Muggle, you can’t change that,” Draco said, grinning. “But on you, Pansy, everything looks gorgeous.” He quirked a brow, exaggeratedly doing Pansy a once-over.

Pansy posed, then realised that Harry was present. “Hello, Harry,” she said. “How d’you spend your summer? Why’re you so quiet?”

“Harry’s probably lost the ability to speak at the sight of you, Pans,” Draco drawled.

“Yeah.” Harry nodded briskly at Pansy, then said to Draco: “We were going to have a look at that Snitch, yeah?”

Draco, however, was facing away from Harry. His eyes were fixed to the window looking into Flourish and Blotts, down and across the road.

Could that be our one and only Ginevra Weasley? Pansy, d’you see her?”

“That’s her, the little wench,” Pansy said, her face scrunching up into a frown as she stood on her toes to look over to the window. Her voice had that vicious tone which came up with any mention of Ginny ever since Pansy tried to appropriate one of Ginny’s love letters and it promptly exploded in her face. “I can see she still has those little piggy braids of hers. Does no one tell her that braids are simply wrong?”

Draco winked at Harry. Harry felt sick.

Draco spoke up. “The Snitch can wait.” He cleared his throat. “I just remembered; Harry said he left something at the bookshop. We should go get a look at that new accessory shop you found interesting, Pansy, Harry might take awhile searching.”

Pansy seemed pleased, clinging to Draco’s side with a satisfied curl to her mouth. Draco placed his hand on the small of Harry’s back and gave him a none-too-gentle shove towards the bookstore.

“Go get her, tiger,” he whispered and squeezed Harry’s hand encouragingly before disappearing into the crowd with Pansy on his arm.

 

*

 

It was with a perverse sort of determination that Harry strode over to the bookstore. Up to the front doorway, to be exact, before he stopped in his tracks.

This was ridiculous. Harry didn’t like Ginny Weasley. Well, he sort of did, but not that way, not like the way Blaise liked Padma, wanting to have lunch with her and do homework with her and just be with her, having to touch and hug and be close at all times. Ginny was cute, that much was true, but only in a See That Cute Little Bunny-Rabbit kind of way. Besides, it didn’t even matter what Harry thought of her because she liked Harry Potter, Boy Hero, Vanquisher of Dark Lords, not Harry.

“Hey, look who’s decided to grace us with his majesty’s presence,” a voice remarked from the direction of the streets.

“Our very own Harry Potter, that’s who it is,” another answered in an amused tone.

With a sinking feeling, Harry turned around to see two tall red-headed boys with shit-eating grins looking down at him.

“Er…” he said, backing into the bookshop. An excited girly squeal from behind told him that he had landed himself between a rock and a hard place. So to speak. Harry slowly turned around with dread to face the inside of the store.

Harry Potter,” Ginny squeaked, clutching at her second-year Charms textbook as if it were the only thing between her and a certain fiery death.

“Er, hi,” Harry said, his grasp tightening on the doorframe.

“Harry, Harry, Harry,” said one of the twins, shaking his head. “What is a celebrity like you doing all alone?”

“Nice meeting you,” Harry mumbled, and tried to shoulder his way out. But the twins, brutish Beaters as they were, blocked him. Effortlessly, it seemed. It was amazing what a simple age and height difference could amount to. It was unfair.

“Could it be…”

“…that the great Harry Potter is trying to deprive us of…”

“…his radiant presence?”

An unexpected help, or so it seemed at that time, came from Ginny in the form of an enraged yip: “Leave Harry alone, you two! He hasn’t done anything to you!”

Harry stared at Ginny, torn between being grateful that he had an ally and being mortified that he was relying on a second-year girl for help.

If Draco’d been in this situation, he would have feigned nonchalance, his defence mechanism of acid tongue rearing its head and landing him in a deeper snit. Harry, on the other hand, preferred the pacifist’s way out: nodding and pretending he was sorry. The Dursleys always seemed to buy that one. Harry only had to be patient for a few minutes, letting their accusations wash over him.

So Harry schooled his face to look repentant, hoping that the twins wouldn’t remember the time he had helped Draco plan that ambush with silent dungbombs…or the time Harry sneaked away to inform Snape of the tussle going on by the Transfiguration classroom when Draco was goading the Weasleys…or the day Harry had shot an untraceable itching charm to Ron Weasley’s underarms…Harry stopped. He blinked as realisation dawned on him.

“Come to think of it, George, Harry here hasn’t ever done us harm, d’you realise?”

“Yeah, I do.” Weasley pondered this for a moment. “He really hasn’t,” he finished, seemingly awed by the discovery.

The twins wore identical expressions of bemusement as they peered down at Harry.

“Er,” Harry said.

The twins once more broke into broad, ear-to-ear grins.

“Ginny’s right, Fred. Harry hasn’t done anything to us.”

“Yeah, Ginny, you’ve saved us.”

“We couldn’t have thought it up ourselves — ”

“Blinded as we were by that demon called prejudice — ”

“When indeed you had been right all along, Ginny darling.”

“Harry Potter is fit for your affection, we know that now.”

“After all, he survived that snake pit uncorrupted. It’s a feat worthy of your blessed heart, Ginny dear.”

Large hands were roughly mussing up Harry’s hair, and Harry felt ill. Draco would be with Pansy now, arm in arm, laughing and whispering together, and possibly he might be going on with his plan to ask her out, and Harry was stuck here among the Weasleys, helpless to do anything but just stand and let his hair be tousled beyond redemption. And he’d even let an insult to Slytherin slide without any suitable retort.

Harry felt like a failure.

“Er, would you. Would you stop doing that?” Harry hissed, attempting to protect his hair. He wouldn’t ever manage to look devilishly handsome, but the least he could do was avoid looking like an electrified hedgehog.

“Aww… Look, Fred, Harry’s just another sweet kid — ”

Just like ickle Ronniekins!”

“Poor kid should have been sorted to Gryffindor.”

“Probably that Malfoy whelp’s doing, if you ask me.”

Weasley spat out Malfoy with such malice that Harry’s head shot up sharply, suddenly tense.

Eyeing Harry’s displeased expression, the other Weasley nudged his twin and said in a stage whisper: “Come on, Fred. Malfoy’s not that bad, I for one, think he has a great personality — ”

“For a flea-infested rodent, that is — ”

“— and there also might have been some other thing I liked about him — ”

“Too bad he spent it, then.”

They snickered.

Harry’s fist was clenched so hard he felt his nails biting into his palm on the verge of breaking skin. He bit the inside of his cheek. Draco had been right all along. Harry had always felt detached from Draco’s animosity toward the Weasleys, but they were every bit the bitter, petty, good-for-nothing, prejudiced pigs with mouths bigger than were healthy.

“D’you think Malfoy’s forgiven nature after what it did to him?”

“Don’t be so harsh, brother. I have a belief that some day, that kid will go far.”

“I sure hope he stays there, George. You know what they say. Some people bring happiness wherever they go…”

“And some, whenever they — ”

Harry felt vicious pleasure ride through his veins as his knuckles connected to the side of Weasley’s jaw with a satisfying crack.

Ohmygod, FRED!!” Ginny screeched, voice shrill, somewhere behind him.

“You slimy little—oof!”

Harry had never taken part in any physical struggles at Hogwarts, but he had plenty of experience with Dudley’s gang, and those years serving as a punching bag hadn’t been in vain. Ducking a blow, Harry charged and felt his head collide with the other twin’s stomach. Then Harry was on top of him, crushing his sternum, blindly swinging his fists and feeling them sink into pliable flesh and strike sharp bone. There were screams and people shouting, the rustle of feet scuffling and the white noise of the crowd yelling out at the same time, but all of it was muffled, Harry’s ears were filled with a loud buzz that could be his gushing blood or his thrumming aura of magic.

A blow from behind left his head swimming, his vision blacking out for a second, and then there was piercing pain in his left cheekbone, and Harry leaped and twisted and his elbow was planting a savage stab in Weasley’s rib, the soundless O of his shocked face burning into Harry’s retina as Harry pulled back his sore fist to—

Harry!

Suddenly there was Draco’s voice and then his arms were around Harry’s middle, frantically pulling him backwards. A lime-green thing whizzed past Harry’s ear, gurgling and spitting and clacking its jaws. It clamped on one Weasley’s left leg. Weasley howled. His brother jumped to his rescue, swearing loudly, but the thing had teeth everywhere, and it kept sniping and snapping, barring any possible approach.

Somewhere a girl was crying. Probably Ginny.

“Wha’ was that?” Harry gasped, dizzy, turning his head left to look at Draco.

“Fanged Frisbee,” Draco said into Harry’s ear, readjusting his arms on Harry’s waist and dragging Harry into the crowd, away from the yowling Weasleys and the ferocious Frisbee.

Draco stopped when they reached a relatively secluded spot between two shops. Harry stood on his legs, wobbling a little. His palms were sweaty and an excited buzz coursed through him, the leftover energy from the fight seeking an outlet.

“You’re all bloody, Harry,” Draco said softly, gently lifting Harry’s right hand to his eyes.

“I’m fine,” Harry mumbled, suddenly embarrassed. He stole a sideways glance at Draco, who was worrying his lower lip again as he peered at Harry’s dirty hand.

“I’m fine,” Harry said again, averting his eyes, when Draco let go of his hand to feel the bruise welling up on Harry’s face with a concerned frown.

Harry looked up when a shadow drew over them both. How embarrassing if Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy were to discover Harry now, just out of a fight. What a disappointment it would be.

But it wasn’t either of the Malfoys. It was a stranger.

“Let me see your hand, Harry.”

Who knew him, apparently. Not so uncommon, but still. Harry looked up at the man warily.

“This is Mr. Lupin, Harry,” Draco piped up, his voice cheerful. “Mr. Lupin let me borrow the Frisbee. Apparently, there was at least one adult who was capable of seeing that brawl for what it was: a savage Weasel attack on a helpless victim.”

Draco frowned a little at the disastrous bird nest on top of Harry’s head before tentatively touching his fingers to Harry’s hair, then petting him more confidently with each stroke. Harry stayed still.

“Hello, Mr. Lupin. Nice to meet you,” Harry said mechanically and extended his hand. Then realised it was his dirty hand.

Mr. Lupin took Harry’s hand without a word and pulled out his wand. Harry winced at the prickle to his cuts when Mr. Lupin murmured an incantation.

“Mr. Lupin’s better than Pomfrey, isn’t he? No nagging, no grumbling, no threats of death by infection,” Draco babbled next to him, clearly happy with himself for having made acquaintance with such a useful adult.

Mr. Lupin smiled wanly. It complemented the whole worn-and-torn look he had going on, with his ashen blond hair in disarray and light scars and wrinkles marking his face.

“I’m glad you think so, Draco,” he said, placing his hand heavily on Draco’s shoulder. “I’ll be seeing you children at Hogwarts.” He winked, and somehow made it seem tired as well. “Take care.” Lupin rose and walked away, but not before staring at Harry unnervingly for a few moments.

When Harry looked away from Lupin’s disappearing form, wondering what he meant about seeing them again at Hogwarts, Draco was wearing a thoughtful expression.

“Mr. Lupin kind of looks like Adrian Wolf, doesn’t he?” Draco said out of the blue.

“Adrian Wolf?” Harry repeated.

Draco nodded. “His eyes. And that slight slant to his smile. I bet Adrian Wolf would look just like that when he’s older.”

Harry stared at Draco.

“He said he’ll be teaching us Defence Against the Dark Arts this year. I still think Snape would have been best for us, but I’m not averse to seeing Mr. Lupin again,” Draco said.

Lupin didn’t look anything like that toned Quidditch player Adrian Wolf. He didn’t have the wild brown curls or the sharp blue eyes. Draco had to be blind.

Shaking his head, Harry straightened out his robe and dusted his bottom. When Harry looked up again, Draco was watching him with a curious expression on his face.

“What?” Harry said, hands shooting up to his hair. Draco laughed.

“Not that, dimwit. Although I admit, your ability to reproduce the hedgehog look astounds me. Such skill. Impressive.” Draco waggled his brows. Harry rolled his eyes.

“No need to get violent,” Draco said, grinning. “I was just thinking that you could have helped all along that time Ronnie the Weasel jumped on me after Potions.”

“Draco, you had Greg and Vince,” Harry said, letting out an incredulous laugh. “Why would you have needed me?

“It’s the principle of the matter.” Draco sniffed.

“Besides, I did help. Why d’you think Weasley yelped and shoved his hands in his pants?”

“Oh,” Draco said, screwing up his face. “I didn’t give it much thought.” He shrugged. “Just guessed that the Weasel got off on fighting. Or something.”

Harry shook his head, grinning. “You really should stop hanging around so much with Blaise.”

Draco dismissed the comment with a disdainful wave of his hand.

“Y’know, pummeling those Weasels today wasn’t such a good move to win Ginevra’s heart,” Draco said, looking at Harry challengingly. Probably his version of getting back at Harry after Harry’s comment about Blaise. Too bad Harry didn’t really want to win Ginny’s heart.

“But don’t worry. We’ll overcome any obstacles standing between you two.”

Than Draco was patting Harry’s just-healed cheek in a show of sympathy, and Harry decided that he could pretend to be devastated by the whole Ginevra mess-up a little longer. It wasn’t hurting anyone.

Harry’s cheek was still a little tender, and Harry felt a tingle where Draco’s finger touched him.

Turning Harry around by his shoulders to march him out onto the street, Draco started an idle chatter about the new Golden Snitch on the market and its new speed and faster wing beat, and Harry didn’t feel the need to ask where Pansy had gone.

 

*

 

Lupin sitting at the High Table didn’t surprise Harry much, but Hagrid rising to introduce himself as the new Care of Magical Creatures professor came as a complete shock. Hagrid hadn’t told Harry anything about this. Probably wanted to surprise Harry. But surely Hagrid wouldn’t impose the Runespoor on Hogwarts students? Despite Harry's and Draco’s help he hadn’t quite managed to pass the interview after four piteous attempts.

On Draco’s face was a mask of horror as his eyes followed the new Care of Magical Creatures professor’s every move. It was quite amusing to see the look morph into one of nonchalance and disdain (feigned, of course) when their Housemates started commenting on the newest addition to Hogwarts faculty. After Draco had received a letter from his father confirming that yes, he had to take the subject, no, he wouldn’t receive a pardon from his parents about a special condition relating to facing magical creatures, Harry had the pleasure of witnessing the particular change of expression every time they started on a new creature in Care of Magical Creatures,.

Lupin’s Defence Against the Dark Arts lessons, however, were completely different. Harry hadn’t seen Draco show so much enthusiasm except in Potions. But for Potions, it was because Draco actually liked the subject; the subtleties of the brewing process and the input of ingredients that usually lulled Harry to sleep were often the subject of Draco and Theo’s animated discussions.

Harry blamed Draco’s blindness. How could he think Lupin was anything remotely resembling Adrian Wolf?

And Draco didn’t even like Defence. Mostly because he was bad at defence spells. His Shield Charm still resulted in a feeble half-globe that wouldn’t block anything, while Harry’s spell produced a good solid barrier. Draco’s one relatively successful Disarming spell barely managed to pluck a quill from Millie’s robe. When it was supposed to blast away Greg’s wand.

And then there was the fact that Draco hated magical creatures (his pet porcupine was the only one he tolerated, and the only magic Leo was capable of was re-growing quills) and Lupin wanted them to fight Boggarts. Draco had to face a dragon. What would Professor Lupin think of me now, Draco’d lamented later on in the dungeons; What would he think of a bloody coward who’s afraid of his own namesake? Harry’d clumsily tried to tell him that he had every reason to fear dragons because that was the sensible thing, because what idiots but Gryffindorks and the like would charge into dragon lairs? Draco had nodded vigorously and told Harry in a low voice about the nightmares he had as a child, featuring hungry Hungarian Horntails roaring and spitting fireballs, Draco helpless against the hot flame and savage swipes of their claws.

When Harry’s turn came for Boggarts next Defence class, his Boggart had turned into a dragon as well. The only good thing that came out of it was that Draco had cheered in a burst of fellowship.

Then there was that dueling club Draco absolutely despised. It was an inter-House club scheduled to meet every Wednesday evening in the empty DADA classroom. Harry wasn’t too crazy about it himself, but it was okay, he guessed. It was interesting to duel against kids from other Houses. Harry’s dueling partner was Zacharias Smith, a stocky boy with lots of blond hair, not white-blond like Draco’s or honey-colored like Daphne’s but more of a sandy nest with shiny strands in between. He was an okay bloke, Harry noted, though he did belong to Hufflepuff. But it didn’t really matter. Three-fourths of the Hogwarts' population was not Slytherin, and it was sort of ridiculous to pretend all of them were inferior beings. Draco seemed determined to maintain that belief, but that was just Draco. Stubborn as a mule.

Zacharias Smith seemed uncomfortable with Harry at first; he’d kept calling Harry by his full name, like, Hello, Harry Potter, are you ready, Harry Potter? or I think I need to practice Expelliarmus more, don’t you think so, Harry Potter?. To Harry’s relief, he’d started calling Harry by his first name by the end of the month. Draco wanted Harry to befriend Zach so that they could sneak out Hufflepuff’s Quidditch tactics, but Harry wasn’t really good at being sneaky without his invisibility cloak, so that was that.

Draco’s dueling partner was also a Hufflepuff. His name was kind of hard; he was called Justin Finchflechy or something. Since Draco still held on to the belief that non-Slytherin meant non-worthy of his attention, he treated his partner with disdain—when Lupin wasn’t looking, that is. Harry pitied Justin. He was this starved-looking guy with straggly brown hair and a slight tic beneath his left eye, and he seemed to stammer as well. Draco probably could eat him alive. It was very lucky for Justin that Lupin supervised the dueling club meetings every Wednesday. Well, there were times he was absent because Lupin went on sick leave every month (Blaise was sure that Lupin was a half-successful transsexual who went through excruciating pain during his menstrual periods). Justin’s tick seemed more prominent on those days.

But after a few weeks, Justin had sort of grown on him, Draco had told Harry. Draco sort of tolerated Justin, bossing him around, making him do one spell after another, because, after all, Draco wanted to be good at the subject. Any less than top marks wouldn’t befit a Malfoy. It seemed fine for Justin as well. Harry thought it comical every time he saw the tall, gaunt boy cowering in front of Draco, who always bossed him around like he was born to it.

Draco wanted Harry as his partner, and Harry agreed; Zach was okay, but Draco would have made the duels more exhilarating. And Harry could do a much better job of helping him with those spells than the Finchflechy guy. Harry really couldn’t understand why Draco would pretend to enjoy those duels when he clearly didn’t. Harry suspected that Draco had another sort of fan-ish thing going on with Lupin, what with the way he would almost rival Granger in clambering to answer Lupin’s questions (though not with the same “undignified beg to be picked,” as Draco portrayed Granger’s efforts) and the way he would stay behind every class to ask Lupin advanced questions on defence theory and then bask in Lupin’s impressed compliment about how Draco was ahead of other third-years. In theory, that is.

The only good thing that came out of Draco’s unreasonable fondness for Lupin was that he didn’t really seem to be paying much attention to Pansy. The bad thing was that Draco kept shooting Harry icy glares each time Lupin gave Harry a pat on the back. And Lupin did that a lot. In fact, there was something unnerving about the manner he always looked away when Harry caught him staring, or the way he kept complimenting Harry for his excellent Shield Charms and forceful Stunners, when Granger was right next to Harry performing blast after blast of perfect Body-Bind Curses.

But there was enough action during Defence lessons for Harry to almost forget about Draco’s Lupin-love. Most of it stemmed from Pansy’s unfortunate partnership with none other than Ron Weasley. On their very first duel, Weasley had declared that he wouldn’t fight a girl. Pansy had shot him a Stunner, and he had crumpled into a heap at her feet mid-speech. He had the misfortune to hit his head on the chair nearby, earning him a bleeding head injury that had him shipped to the Hospital Wing.

Their duels became the most fierce of all, and usually landed one or the other with injuries by the end of each meeting. Lupin seemed to approve.

Lupin certainly was an improvement from Brinley, Harry had to admit. It was only mid November and they had already covered all the first- and second-year material Brinley had missed. Which pretty meant all.

 

*

 

A demonstration of the Patronus Charm was scheduled today. They were learning the theories behind it, and during the meeting tonight, they would learn the basics of casting the charm as well. Lupin had told them it was an extremely tricky spell that even fully qualified wizards had trouble with. If there was anyone who could produce a decent Patronus by the end of the meeting, Lupin would grant him or her private lessons on advanced defence spells until the end of the semester.

Draco had been poring over texts on Patronus Charms, and had tried out a few times. And by association, Harry’d practiced as well. Draco’s happy memory was about his first experience on a broom, and that produced a silvery mist of some sort that disappeared too soon for them to observe any closer. Harry’s happy memory was of his eleventh birthday, Hagrid gifting Dudley a curly pig tail. It didn’t fare any better.

And now Draco was preening. Harry had been waiting for half an hour for him to get ready, and he was still styling his hair just so. Draco had abandoned the helmet-head long ago—Pansy deserved credit for this—and he was currently into that wind-swept look, which, apparently, demanded much effort and time.

It would have been logical for Harry to feel annoyed at all the time Draco was eating up, but he was just feeling glad that Pansy was a girl; if she had been a boy, she’d have access to the boys’ dorm, and she’d have been fawning over Draco’s hair for much more than half an hour. Pansy was obsessed with Draco’s hair. Her hand would automatically cling onto Draco’s head every time they gathered in the common room. If she had been allowed in the boys’ dorm, Harry would have had to sit and watch the two of them stuck together for hours. He preferred just sitting and watching Draco primp himself.

“Harry, what d’you think? Do I look irresistible?” Draco said, locking eyes with Harry through the mirror.

“Who’d resist you after seeing that immaculate blondness wind-swept to perfection?” Harry said, cracking a grin. “But try to remember that beauty is only skin-deep,” he added, so as not to appear too supportive of the extensive primping process.

Draco sniffed. “That’s deep enough for me.” He gave Harry an accusatory glance. “What d’you want? A handsome bladder?”

Harry shrugged. “I wouldn’t say no to an adorable liver,” he said.

“Too bad yours is ugly, then,” Draco said with a shrug of his own, his hands still making delicate corrections on the angle of a single blond tuft on his forehead.

“How d’you know whether my liver is adorable or not?” Harry said, indignant. “For all I know, my organs are pink and healthy and perfectly gorgeous.”

Draco shook his head slowly, as if he were telling a disbelieving student that his teacher just gave him a failing grade.

“I just do, Harry. I just do.” Draco checked himself one last time in the mirror and turned around to face Harry with a satisfied smile. “No pretty organs for you,” Draco informed him.

 

*

 

They weren’t paired up for the demonstration, and of course Pansy was all over Draco’s hair as usual, but Harry didn’t feel as annoyed by her presence as usual because Draco kept batting her hand away; he’d spent too much time styling himself to risk her hand mussing it all up.

Not long after, Lupin showed up in his usual shabby robes (which Draco had enthused added to his cool vagabond air) and shot his usual unnerving look at Harry before telling the third years to form a half circle in front of him so that they could see properly.

Then he performed the Patronus Charm.

It was nothing like the silvery mists Harry and Draco had produced with their feeble attempts. Out of Lupin’s wand poured a thick, almost tangible silver-blue substance that floated and morphed into the shape of a dog. A very big, shaggy dog that almost resembled a bear. It crouched and leapt, bounding impossible heights with lightness only possible for such an incorporeal being.

Soon Lupin was quieting the excited chatters and giving out proper instructions, but of course Harry and Draco knew how to cast the charm.

“That was amazing,” Draco said, eyes alight.

“Yeah,” Harry agreed. He wished that Draco could get it right now. He had wanted the private lessons so much. He had practiced so hard. Harry wanted to know what form Draco’s Patronus would take. And whether it would mingle and play with Harry’s own Patronus, as the book said would happen if two casters’ souls were drawn to each other. Whatever that meant.

“Let’s see each of you perform, then,” Lupin said, and Harry jumped a little because he hadn’t noticed that Lupin was right behind him. “Go on, children. Practice, and raise your hand if you’re having any trouble.”

Next to Harry, he saw Draco bracing himself and squeezing his eyes shut.

Expecto Patronum!” he said, and a slightly more visible silvery ray streamed out from the tip of Draco’s wand.

“Very good, Draco,” Lupin said, seeming impressed. “Very good.”

When Draco smiled, his whole face lit up.

Harry was smiling, too, seeing Draco’s eyes fold into half-moons, and when Lupin asked to see Harry’s Patronus, he wasn’t thinking of his eleventh birthday; he was thinking of that summer day in Diagon Alley last September, when Dobby had Apparated him right behind Madam Malkin’s. Draco had seen him, and letting out an undignified squeal he’d deny instantly if Harry told him so, he’d hugged Harry and squeezed him so tight it almost hurt. Harry had felt so warm and safe. Happy.

A blast of silver light almost forced Harry back a step as it shot out from the end of his wand. It swirled around him once, twice, before taking the shape of a stag, galloping around them, then through them, over them, all around the classroom.

“Prongs…” Lupin whispered next to Harry, and clutched Harry’s shoulder, hard. Harry winced.

Harry turned to share a knowing look with Draco. It was as if someone had poured a bucket of ice on top of his head when Harry realised that Draco’s smile was gone and in its place was the withdrawn, betrayed expression, his eyes narrow and lips a thin line.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: The characters and the situation belong to J. K. Rowling. This story wasn't created for profit. Just for fun.

 

 

Chpater Thirteen: How to Mend a Rift

 

 

“You had a row with Draco again,” Theo said over Binns’s droning lecture.

“It’s that apparent?” Harry grumbled and didn’t look up, focusing on scribbling down a note. I don’t know what I did and I want to talk to you, he wrote and folded the piece of parchment.

“It’s always the same,” Theo said, his voice low and factual. “You brood and become restless, and then Draco’s all icy.”

“Hmm,” Harry said as he levitated the note towards Draco’s desk, where he and Pansy seemed to be having a jolly good time. Harry held his breath as his note nudged Draco’s arm, only to let out a frustrated sigh when Draco casually flicked the folded parchment to the floor without a second glance.

“Hey,” Theo said, waving his hand in front of Harry’s eyes. Harry looked up. “Don’t get me wrong, I think Draco’s a fun bloke and he’s really smart an’ all, but I think you should say something, y’know?”

“What?” Harry said, confused.

Theo scratched his head. “You… I mean, about the way Draco treats you.”

“What d’you mean,” Harry said defensively. “Just that we have a few rows doesn’t mean—”

“Whoa. Don’t get all huffy on me,” Theo said, eyeing Harry. “Having rows is jus’ fine. What I meant was. And I’m telling you because I think you deserve to know. It’s just, Draco treats you like a… like a pet.”

“A pet?” Harry repeated, gobsmacked.

Theo shrugged. “Yeah. I was thinking that ever since he saw you with me playing chess, and, uh, he kind of overreacted, didn’t he?” Theo shrugged again. “Sorta like he’s expecting you to be a loyal mutt or something.”

“Oh,” Harry said, barely above a whisper. “But. But we’re friends. Friends are supposed to be loyal,” he said to Theo in a small voice, not knowing what to think.

“Just sayin’. I don’t think that’s proper for friends to act like that.” Theo gestured with his chin to Harry’s note lying forgotten on the floor by Draco’s desk.

“Oh,” Harry said again, thinking about the way Draco was avoiding him again, pretending that Harry was something unimportant and invisible, unworthy of his attention. He thought of the way Draco’d strode past him that morning, unhearing, when he called out Draco’s name during his way to breakfast. And how, in Charms, Draco’d flaunted his newfound solidarity with Pansy while Harry tried to grab his attention over and over again.

Harry’s tongue felt heavy and rubbery in his mouth. He swallowed, and it felt as if a lump was stuck somewhere in his throat.

“So,” Harry started, feeling dazed. Theo gave him a look. “So,” Harry said again. “What d’you think I should. I could do?”

“Jus’ get it out of your mouth. My da says whatever’s troubling you will fester if you keep it in for too long.”

“Oh,” Harry replied, still lost as to what he should do. He was Draco’s best friend, wasn’t he? He wasn’t Draco’s pet for Christ’s sake. They were friends. Real friends. That was what he was told he’d meet in Slytherin.

Then a memory he’d long forgotten hit him. Or whipped through him, to be exact—it was that forceful. Harry recalled the bustle and hustle of King’s Cross and the three blond heads as they regarded him warily. There was the feeling of Draco’s outstretched hand, then Draco’s voice insisting that he didn’t want to know Harry’s name. He’d called Harry Leo. He’d called Harry by his pet porcupine’s name.

It was as if a dam had burst open in Harry’s head. He was suddenly flooded with memories of Draco turning away from him, miffed, silent as a clam, every time he thought he wasn’t Harry’s top priority. Harry tried to shake them off. He called forth how Draco had been furious about his mistreatment at the Dursleys and how he’d sent Dobby to take care of him. Then up bobbed the memory of Draco’s letter saying that he didn’t inform the adults of the situation because he wanted Harry to rely on him, and him only. Harry tried to remind himself of how Draco had accepted Hagrid despite his fear of him, only to find himself thinking back to the glimpses of malice he had seen when Draco had badmouthed Hagrid after a Care of Magical Creatures lesson.

Harry was helpless to block images of how Draco had held Harry at arm’s length, pulling on an invisible leash every time he thought Harry hadn’t paid enough attention to him—but ignoring Harry completely whenever he himself found something else to concentrate on, such as Pansy’s flirty chats or her new clingy persona.

The rest of History of Magic passed in a clotty sort of haze. Feeling as if his head was filled with cotton, Harry rose to wait by the doorway, to speak to Draco about all this, to make sure that they were all right. They were friends. This was just one of Draco’s stupid tantrums.

“I need to talk to you,” Harry managed to say, blocking Draco and Pansy.

“…as I was saying, Pans, imagine how horrible it would be if—”

Harry snatched Draco’s wrist and yanked. “I said, I need to talk to you,” he said, trying not to growl.

Draco tried to pull back, but Harry didn’t let go.

“Um, I’ll be seeing you later,” Pansy said, hovering a little with an uncertain look on her face before disappearing down the corridor with one last glance over her shoulder.

Fine,” Draco said, glaring. “Talk, then.”

Harry felt awkward with Draco’s warm wrist in his hand. He could feel Draco’s pulse, fast and rhythmic. Draco was tense.

“You were ignoring me all day,” Harry blurted. “You… you do that all the time, when I have absolutely no idea what I’ve done for you to treat me that way. It’s not fair, Draco.” Harry drew a quick breath. “It’s not fair,” he said more defiantly.

Draco glowered, not answering Harry. “Let go of me,” he snarled, trying to shake off Harry’s fingers wrapped around his wrist. And just like that, the frustration that had been building inside Harry climbed past boiling point. A wave of fury, heated and quick, surged over Harry.

“No, you listen to me,” he growled, crushing Draco’s wrist. “You stop treating me like a fucking puppy, one that you can feed and pet then kick when you feel like it. Did you have fun ignoring me all morning? Did it feel good to see me squirm to have you talk to me, Draco? Did you enjoy flicking away my notes and seeing me clamour for your, your attention?”

Harry had leaned in while he was talking, gaining momentum with every word, and he was almost nose to nose with Draco now, Draco’s rapid puffs of breath warm on his chin. Looking at the stricken look in the wide silver pools of Draco’s eyes, Harry half expected him to gasp, awed, “Harry, you said fucking”—like that time so long ago when Draco had been peeved that Harry’d left with Theo, not him.

Instead, Draco slowly narrowed his eyes until they were no more than wary slits. “Funny you should say that,” he said coldly. “I was thinking you played me to get those private lessons.”

Harry barked out an incredulous laughter. It was so like Draco to come up with such a ridiculous reason to spite Harry. “You’re so full of yourself, you know that? Do you ever listen to yourself?”

Draco just glared at him. It amused Harry in a perverse sort of way, because Draco always had something to say.

“You’ve known me for more than two years. You should know that I’d never do such a thing,” Harry said more calmly. “You know that I didn’t play you. You’re just so selfish that you want to believe that’s what happened, you don’t want to admit that your little PET, who should be, MUST be, struggling into your good graces excelled you FAIR AND SQUARE.” Harry was shouting by now, despite his effort not to, and Draco was worrying his lip and looking as if he wanted to get out of here. Harry was having none of that.

“Why’re you quiet?” Harry snarled. “You’re never quiet, always chattering on and on about stupid stuff.” Harry’s eyes widened as a thought struck him. “You’re admitting it all, aren’t you?” He swallowed audibly around the lump he felt lodge itself in his throat.

“You’re actually agreeing with me,” he choked out. “You really want me to… to depend on you. You, you actually want to see me squirm for a… a pat on my head from you.”

Harry realised as he said it that it was the truth. Draco didn’t see Harry as an equal. To Draco, Harry was the compensation for the pet he had left at home. All along.

Draco shoved Harry with his free hand, hard, and caught unawares, Harry stumbled backwards.

You’re the one full of shit!” Draco snarled, and made to shove Harry once more. Harry grabbed both Draco’s wrists and attempted to slam him against the wall. Draco tried to grab Harry’s collar, then they scrambled for a bit, clawing and punching and trying to knee each other. They managed to topple into an alcove, hidden, the one they had discovered in their first year when they’d been looking for a place to hide from Filch.

Gerroff!” Draco yelped. He attempted to knee Harry and missed by a mile.

It was amazing what a slight difference in height and weight could amount to in strength, Harry thought dazedly as he pressed Draco up the wall, both his wrists secure. It was like déjà vu, but only in a sort of reverse way, because instead of defending Draco, Harry was trying to overpower him. Draco squirmed and twisted and kicked but he wasn’t anywhere near freeing himself, because Harry had the advantage of gravity, weighing Draco down and pressing onto him.

Draco’s eyes were welling with tears and his chin was wobbling, and Harry hated that his first instinct was to put his arms around and comfort Draco, tell him that it was okay, he didn’t mean anything, that they were okay.

“You’re such a pampered baby,” Harry said instead, hoping he sounded malicious. “I’m really nothing more than, than a piece of candy to you. Candy you don’t want for yourself but don’t want others to take. Is… is that it?” Harry bit his lips, which were beginning to wobble a little, too, but he wouldn’t show it in front of Draco. “All you want is for me to lower myself so that you’d step on top of me and shine. You want me like a you want an accessory, to adorn your prowess at… Quidditch, or, or Potions or—”

“That’s not true!” Draco cried, eyes wide as saucers in an instant. “I… I’d never… It’s not true!

“Yes, it is,” Harry said, voice cracking, feeling sorry for himself, feeling sick and wanting to cry. “You don’t even think of me as your friend.”

 

*

 

Harry couldn’t blame Lupin. Lupin was just… a catalyst. If Draco had been thinking of Harry as less than a friend for who knows how long, it deserved to be brought out. Even if it’d resulted in this. It was all for the best.

The worst thing was, it was all Harry could do not to climb into Draco’s four-poster at night, saying that he didn’t mean any of it, that they could go on as they did before and it would be all right.

It was fortunate that Lupin didn’t make Harry perform another Patronus on their first private session because Harry wasn’t sure he could do the Patronus Charm now—he was that far from happy.

What Lupin told Harry instead was that he’d been friends with Harry’s father at school.

“Okay,” Harry said, internally confirming his theory that Lupin was a celebrity hound.

Lupin stared at him for a moment. “We were best friends,” he said.

“Oh,” Harry said, not comprehending.

“We called ourselves the Marauders,” Lupin explained, his eyes soft.

When Harry walked out of the Defence classroom later that day, his head was wheeling with images of boys transforming into animals and sneaking around the castle. He walked to the Slytherin dungeon in a sort of haze. Draco was sitting on a black leather couch with a thick book in his lap, and Harry’s footsteps led him to Draco without hesitation. He was brimming with excitement, wanting to tell Draco all about that afternoon. He steered himself away just in time, remembering how he wasn’t allowed, not anymore.

It was mostly that way with everything. Harry would turn around, without thinking, to roll his eyes at Draco when Blaise got overexcited about having Parvati along on his date with Padma. Or to share a look over Greg’s bent head as he crushed all his Every Flavour Beans together to cull the champions. Harry wondered from time to time whether Draco experienced the same awkward point-to-north sensation toward Harry, as if he was powerless not to drag his eyes away. Because that was what Harry felt like sometimes.

But if Draco wasn’t going to take Harry as a friend, he could just sod it. Harry was all right without Draco. If Draco needed a pet, he could find one someplace else. Harry would show Draco that he could be independent. That he was worth more than a tail-wagging puppy. It was almost worse than Dudley’s mindless bullying, because at least with Dudley, Harry could hate him and not care. With Draco, Harry cared. He just wanted to be something more than a loyal mutt in Draco’s eyes.

So Harry didn’t think of Draco. He didn’t think of Draco on Christmas, when they were the only third-year Slytherins at Hogwarts and he had to shove the present he had bought for Draco deep inside his trunk. On the Quidditch pitch, flying with Zach, he didn’t think of how Draco had taught him all the basic maneuvers on the broom, of how Draco had looked doing it, streaking through the air, graceful and carefree. Not thinking of Draco on a broom was somehow harder, what with being on the same Quidditch team and all. He couldn’t even properly have fun at the after-party when Slytherin won the Quidditch quarterfinals—he was too busy not looking at Draco, who was laughing with the upper years, with Marc, and not Harry.

“I’m sorry,” Theo said. “I didn’t mean to… to bring this on.” Harry told him not to be, because it was all for the best.

Theo was good company, he was fun in his own way, if not dramatic and funny just on this side of manic. Zach was alright, too. He did seem too conscious of Harry’s status as the Boy Who Lived, but he was okay to fly with. Except for that one time Zach told Harry how he’d always hated Malfoy and Harry’d not spoken to Zach for the rest of the day.

Harry still sat next to Draco during Potions, though. They were still partners. Snape put them together and wouldn’t allow them to part. Snape looked like he wanted to say something to them, eyeing Harry and Draco with a grim expression one too many times to conclude that it had something to do with their bubbling cauldron—but Snape was too busy nowadays to put aside time for them. Out of class, Snape usually boarded himself up in his lab, brewing some complex, foul-smelling potion that had to be tiptoed around. Harry knew this because he’d followed Snape after class to request a partner change. To no avail, apparently. Sitting so near and working together with Draco without sharing jokes or smiles was more difficult than Harry imagined, but he managed. He kept having to remind himself why he needed the distance again, though. Thinking of Draco ignoring him in favour of Pansy always did the trick. He wouldn’t stand such treatment.

There was no one to force them to work together during Care of Magical Creatures—though Hagrid was dumbfounded by Draco’s sudden blast of icy aloofness, no doubt wondering what’d happened to their promise to help Hagrid with his professorship.

“Er, Buckbeak here’s no menace, I swear yeh.” Hagrid was sweating, trying to convince his students to come out and acquaint themselves with the dangerous looking bird. “He’s tame, yeh jus’ have ter say a proper hullo,” he added beseechingly. Buckbeak flexed his muscular wings and stomped, leaving forceful indentations in the firm ground.

“Millicent?” Hagrid called, his tone hopeful.

“No way, Professor.” Millicent shook her head, backing away hurriedly.

Hagrid swiveled his head around and met Harry’s eyes. “H-Harry?” he said. Buckbeak let out a weirdly menacing strangle. It was out of pure habit that Harry turned his head to lock eyes with Draco, to share an expression of horror-filled reluctance.

Draco was looking Harry straight in the eye, defiant, challenging him.

“I’ll do it,” Harry burst out without thinking.

Hagrid was beaming. “Well, jus’ bow an’ don’t blink and let Buckbeak make his choice. There yeh go, Harry.”

Harry wanted to ask, panicked, What choice, but Hagrid was giving Harry a push and he was suddenly and alarmingly close to the Hippogriff. Harry hastily bowed to the creature. He didn’t know for how long he should not blink, and his eyes watered.

Buckbeak made another strangled sound.

“See? Buckbeak likes yeh, Harry,” Hagrid said proudly.

“Er… Okay,” Harry said, letting the bird-beast nuzzle his outstretched fingers.

“Out of my way!” Harry heard before he saw Draco storming towards him, eyes ablaze, school robe whipping behind him in a way that’d surely do Snape proud. Then Harry snapped awake from the slow-motion image of Draco he was playing in his mind and recognized it for what it really was—a phenomenally stupid git charging blindly at a Hippogriff.

It happened in an instant. Sensing a threat, Buckbeak jerked his head from Harry’s hand and reared on its hind legs—a rumbling roar escaping its throat—then it was thrusting its legs down on Draco, lashing out its claws and stomping at the ground furiously. Harry’s blood turned to ice in his veins as he heard Draco’s wail of surprise. Harry watched, horror-struck, as Draco curled in on himself on the ground, cradling his arm.

“Draco! Draco!” Pansy was screaming, and Greg and Vince thumped forward past Harry, and Harry stood, frozen—he didn’t understand what’d just happened.

“He’s alright, jus’ a cut, mind yeh,” Hagrid said as Pansy shrieked and demanded to see Draco.

Draco whimpered.

When Harry was at last able to unglue his feet from the ground to stumble forward several steps in the direction Hagrid had gone, they had already disappeared into the castle.

“Hey.”

Harry looked around, feeling surreal, as if he wasn’t the one turning his head but was experiencing the sensation from somewhere out of his body.

“Theo,” Harry said.

“S’not your fault,” Theo said. “Draco was an idiot.”

Harry’s chest felt tight. Draco’s pained moans kept ringing in his ears, though they’d been no louder than a baby bird’s cry.

 

*

 

“One visitor at a time, Mister Potter,” Madam Pomfrey deadpanned.

“But—”

“No buts.”

Harry returned to the Hospital Wing a moment later with his invisibility cloak. He waited, back-to-wall right next to the door, until Madam Pomfrey rushed out. Harry hastily stepped inside before the wooden door creaked close on him.

There was only one bed occupied, and it was Draco’s. He was talking to Pansy, who was perched on a stool next to the bed, nodding enthusiastically and making annoying cooing sounds. Harry could make out Draco’s stressed tone but no more.

Harry leant in. He’d planned to check that Draco was alright and maybe wait until Pansy left to say… well, something. An apology, perhaps.

Harry caught a glimpse of Draco’s watery eyes glimmering in the firelight and staggered forward a few steps, almost clambering into a steel-rimmed bed before catching himself just in time. Guilt swept over him, smothering, suffocating—his chest area was constricting painfully. Draco had got hurt. As much as he wanted Draco to be punished for mocking Harry, he never wished Draco to be hurt. Ever.

Pansy’s hushed voice drifted into Harry’s ears—he was close enough to hear their conversation.

“…hope it won’t scar like Pomfrey said. It’ll be such a shame. You’d never be able to wear the sleeveless Muggle shirts I’ve picked out for you. And stop crying like a baby, Draco. It’s not manly.”

“I’m not crying. I’m… I’m mourning the failure of my would’ve-been-spectacular plan,” Draco said, his voice thick.

“It’s the same thing, sweet,” Pansy said, tucking a lock of blond hair behind Draco’s ear.

“Harry h-hates”—Draco’s breath caught in a hiccup—“he hates me now.”

Harry was hearing the rapid thumping of his heart in his ears. What was Draco on about? And he’d got it all wrong. Harry didn’t hate Draco. Draco’d got it all wrong.

“He doesn’t, Draco,” Pansy said soothingly. “Hush. But you have to admit—I didn’t want to be the one to tell you this, you’re always so indignant when people bring this up—you’re, um, a bit bossy, pet. Ah, ah! No denying it. You are.”

Draco let out a short laugh that turned into another hiccup. “You should know. Bossy my arse.”

Harry wanted to step out of the shadows and take Pansy’s place. He wanted to talk it over with Draco. He wanted to mend this—this icy rift between them, because Draco was worrying about Harry hating him and possibly Draco didn’t despise Harry for that Hippogriff attack, and Harry had to talk to him. Pansy could go now.

“I don’t understand why you just don’t walk up to Harry and just… tell him.”

Maybe Pansy could stay a bit longer. She seemed to be doing a good job helping Draco.

“What. What would I say?”

“Tell him what you told me. That you were just overly jealous because he’s your bestest.”

Harry felt his chest constrict once more. He felt relieved—and terrible. He realised that he was bunching up the bed sheet next to him and quickly unclenched his fingers. Pansy and Draco didn’t seem to notice anything.

“I can’t just walk up to him and tell him that!” Draco said in a shouted whisper, looking like a deer in headlights. “I’m no Gryffindork, Pansy! I don’t charge into things, I—”

“Plan like a true Slytherin,” Pansy finished for him, exasperated. “But look where it’s got you, pet,” she added softly, fingering Draco’s heavily bandaged arm.

Draco opened his mouth, probably to speak, but what came out was a strangled sob. Harry felt terrible. Harry felt like banging his head on the wall or ironing his hands like Dobby did when he’d done something wrong.

“I’m fucked. If Harry doesn’t care about a bloody beast slashing me open, I’m f-fucked,” Draco went on, regardless of the crisis Harry was having.

Abruptly, as Harry was clenching and unclenching his fist in an attempt to will away his tension, something clicked in Harry’s head. It was as if all that had happened had organized themselves into neat logical steps somewhere in Harry’s mind: Draco’s terror of magical creatures—then his out-of-place blind charging at the Hippogriff—right in front of Harry, no less—Draco’s talk of plan and failure—

“Shhh… Everything will be better, Draco. I promise,” Pansy said, hugging Draco’s head.

Harry almost choked in his haste to get rid of his cloak. His head was reeling as he put it all together. He needed to assure Draco right now that he’d got it all backwards. Harry let out a frustrated groan as the cloak caught on his button and refused to come off.

“No it won’t,” Draco was saying in a watery voice that made Harry want to hug him tight and not let go. “Harry hated me when he first saw me, too, did I tell you that, Pansy? I’m totally—”

Harry froze. He couldn’t breathe as he watched Draco’s eyes, impossibly wide and round from astonishment, reflect the shimmering firelight from the hearth. Draco wavered, visibly, but then it was gone as he slowly fluttered his eyes shut.

Harry couldn’t see Pansy’s face. Only the back of her glossy black head and the small white of her hand cradling Draco’s cheek as she kissed him.

 

*

 

“I’m sorry,” Draco said the next day, when he woke to Harry sitting next to him. Harry reached out and tucked a wayward strand of blond hair behind Draco’s ear, just as he’d seen Pansy do.

Harry felt drained. Pansy had kissed Draco. It shouldn’t have felt that way, Harry thought, like he wanted to rip them apart and protect Draco from her. It was ridiculous, because Draco didn’t need protecting. He’d kissed her back. They’d kissed. But Harry knew him better than Pansy, didn’t he? He knew Draco’s lips better than Pansy. He knew how they curved when Draco was feeling content, how they pouted when he didn’t get his way, how he always worried that lower lip, how that lip became flushed and puffed—and Harry was allowed to know such things.

It was just that knowing wasn’t enough.

“I’m sorry,” Draco said again, uncertain, searching Harry’s eyes.

Harry looked back at him, a myriad of questions crowding his mind. He smiled his best smile. “I’m sorry, too.”

 

 

A/N: Sorry for the late update!! School started several weeks ago and I'm just crazy busy lol. Thanks for all the comments! Please forgive me for not being able to catch up with the replies. I hope you enjoyed this chapter ;-)

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: The characters and the situation belong to J. K. Rowling. This story was not written for profit. Just for fun.

 

 

14. Moony’s Mystery

 

Snape brewed his potions in a stone chamber even deeper underground than the Slytherin dungeon. To reach there, students had to pass a long corridor down the Potions classroom, climb a flight of stairs, walk through the creaking door hidden behind the tapestry of a gloomy castle, then amble through a downwards-slanting corridor that winded left and right until it ended in a long staircase, which, in turn, led them to a narrow wooden gateway with peeling grey paint. Except for Slytherins, of course. They just had to walk through the painting of a feast not far from the entrance to the Slytherin common room. It was the upper years’ duty to inform the first years of this fact so that no Slytherin would get lost in the winding corridors, as some Ravenclaws did in their quest to ask Snape follow-up questions.

The stone chamber was by no means inviting, but Harry was rapidly adapting to the cold stone walls and the dusty wooden shelves that adorned them, growing used to the quiet gurgling noise of potions bubbling and spouting noxious fumes in cauldrons large and small, deep and shallow, black and off-white, located atop magical and non-magical fires that flared here and there in a seemingly random fashion. Harry was even adjusting to the olfactory riot that was the chaos of age-old exhalations from leaking ingredient bottles and the dozen or so draughts sighing into the room simultaneously.

It was all thanks to Draco, who’d jumped at the first opportunity for extra credit. Which turned out to be concocting and bottling samples for Snape’s first- and second-year Potions students. Snape had more important potions to brew, he’d told them. But as far as Harry could see, Snape always seemed to be brewing a single potion. The potion’s ingredients involved sliced caterpillar heads, which Harry had to prepare. Snape wouldn’t trust Harry with any other ingredients, but Harry did notice that he used salamander blood and some gooey grey sludge that seemed to be alive. And a handful of purple flowers, which soon disintegrated into carefully segmented and separated bits and pieces, later to be chopped and mashed and ground according to the particular part. The plant was called aconite, Draco’d told him, a deadly poisonous substance that could kill people in a matter of minutes. It was so like Snape to by toying with the lethal plant day by day.

Strictly speaking, Harry’s presence in Snape’s potions lab was unnecessary, because it was Draco who’d been chosen to assist Snape, not Harry. It was just that when Draco wasn’t beside Snape or in the dorm, Pansy was there as well. Even when Harry flew with Draco, Pansy would watch from the stands and snatch Draco away as soon as he set foot on the ground. Harry felt sick every time he saw them together. Now they were officially going out. Pansy had made it clear when she’d leapt on top of Draco to plant a kiss on his mouth after he gave her a table full of heart-shaped chocolates for Valentine’s Day. The Slytherins had cheered, and Harry’d skulked off to the Quidditch pitch to fly alone, trying to get rid of that painful knot that seemed to have taken permanent residence inside Harry’s chest. Ginny had faithfully found him, a shy smile on her freckled face and a large pink box of white chocolates in her arms. Harry’d told her thanks, he appreciated it, but his head had been busy recreating the scene, replacing the frizzy ginger with tousled white blond, the blotchy face with Quidditch-flushed, sun-warmed cheeks, the tentative curl of the lips with a dazzling, radiant smile Harry knew so well.

Pansy didn’t follow Draco when he left to brew potions for Snape. Harry would’ve been happier if the reason was that Draco had ordered her not to, but he knew that it was because Snape intimidated her. Snape was a great teacher.

Snape was currently intimating none to subtly that Harry should go mind his own business, namely, his Potions essay assignment on the properties of different black beetle parts, handed on to Harry as an opportunity to salvage his suffering Potions grade.

“Mister Potter,” he drawled, not looking up from his painstaking measurement of a pinch of crushed aconite petals. “Tell me. Do you enjoy the whoosh,” he paused, “as deadlines go… flying past you?”

“Er,” Harry said, accidentally mashing a caterpillar’s middle. He quickly adjusted his grip on the scalpel and chopped off the squirming head. Snape didn’t like it if he damaged the ingredient before preparing it.

“It isn’t homework for Harry unless it’s due the next day, sir,” Draco said, smirking down at the steaming cauldron he was stirring. Harry elbowed him. Draco pointedly cleared his throat. Harry hastily refocused on beheading caterpillars, remembering Snape’s warning not to disturb Draco while he was occupied, and ended up chopping with more force than necessary. A caterpillar head whipped through the air. Harry retrieved it and hoped Snape hadn’t noticed.

“You might want to exert more force, Harry,” Snape said dryly. “One would never gain the satisfaction of smashing the table apart with such meager strength.”

“I thought teachers were supposed to like their students,” Harry mumbled.

Snape shot him a cool glance. Harry winced—he hadn’t meant for Snape to hear that. “School teachers,” Snape continued in an irritated tone, “are disillusioned academics who used to carry the misconception that they liked children.”

“You admit that you used to like children, sir?” Harry asked, curious despite himself.

“Don’t be greedy,” Draco said snappishly. “Professor Lupin likes you enough. Don’t try to worm your way into Professor Snape’s good graces.” He raised his head to look at Snape across the room, his eyes taking on a confident gleam. “I’m Professor Snape’s favourite student. Right, sir? I’m your best, aren’t I?”

“Yes, you are, Draco,” Snape said absentmindedly, holding a split stem to his eye and scrutinizing it with a concentrated frown.

Draco beamed at him. Harry rolled his eyes and stifled a smile.

“Professor, I’ve been wondering… Er, did you go to school with Professor Lupin?” Harry asked. He’d been meaning to ask for days.

Draco inhaled sharply, clearly excited by the possibility.

Snape slowly put down his aconite parts and fixed Harry with a disconcerting stare.

“If you went to school with Professor Lupin, sir, you’d have met Harry’s father as well. You should tell Harry all about him, sir. From a Slytherin’s perspective,” Draco went on blithely, busy adding meticulously segmented toadfish gills to his cauldron and not noticing Snape’s expression. “Lupin—I mean, Professor Lupin—will tend to heroify Harry’s father, I just know, because Professor Lupin seems like the sort of person to only remember the good traits, but I believe Harry deserves to know his father as a human being, faults and all, Father always said so, don’t you agree, sir?”

Harry fidgeted under Snape’s eyes, suddenly developing a keen interest in the leftover parts of beheaded caterpillars.

“I agree, Draco,” Snape drawled. “I am afraid, however, that mine was not a favourable position to have… observed James Potter.” He paused. Harry looked up to see if Snape had returned his attention to his work, but had to look back quickly down after meeting Snape’s still-unnerving gaze and his unreadable expression.

“I knew his… marauders, shall we say,” Snape continued, his voice taking on a tone of contempt, and Harry’s head shot up sharply. When Snape met Harry’s eyes, his expression softened, just a little bit. “James Potter was the force that drove them. As for Lupin, I can tell you that he could be the most,” Snape hesitated, searching for the right word, “menacing… of them all. Though only during certain phases…”

Draco sprinkled dried nettles over his now simmering cauldron. Pale blue fumes puffed upwards. “Lupin,” he said, peering at the fumes, an amazed expression on his face. “Menacing.”

“He doesn’t seem capable, does he,” Snape said wryly, his attention back to preparing his aconite stems. “I assure you, however, that he is proficient in displaying bursts of ferocity.”

Harry had a sudden vivid image of Lupin jumping and growling at a young Snape.

“Ferocity,” Draco repeated, blinking. “That’s hot.”

Harry gaped at him. Harry sensed that Snape was gaping, too. Realising what he’d said, Draco bit his lips and tried to explain; “Well, you have to admit that Lupin has that vagabond air about him that can… can be quite—”

“Hot?” Harry suggested.

Bright pink spots appeared on Draco’s cheeks. “Well, you have to agree—”

“As a matter of fact, I don’t,” Snape said, shaking his head in disbelief. “I find myself appalled at your taste, Mister Malfoy.”

Several minutes went by in silence. An embarrassed silence on Draco’s part, ducking his head and trying to hide his flushed cheeks behind potion fumes, and a concentration-induced silence on Snape’s, bottling individual stems and stoppering petal distillates. As for Harry, he was mulling over Draco’s distracted comment about Lupin. Because it really did seem like a crush, the sort of crush where you sent secret-admirer-signed presents and held your breath when the admired passed you. Which didn’t make sense. Draco was with Pansy.

A pang shot through Harry at the reminder. He was used to it.

Draco broke the silence. “Professor Snape,” he called. “What do you do on Hogsmeade weekends? I don’t believe I’ve seen you at Hogsmeade.”

“There are better things I’m capable of doing than watching teenagers mill over inane shops and affairs all day, Mister Malfoy.”

“It’s Hogsmeade day tomorrow,” Harry announced, realising just now.

“Your ability to point out the obvious never fails to astound me,” Snape said dryly. After a moment, he added, “No need to thank me, Mister Potter, it was my pleasure to grant you permission for the excursion.”

“Thank you, Professor,” Harry said hastily.

 

*

 

Draco was a cruel person. Very, very cruel.

As soon as they’d reached Hogsmeade, he had abandoned Harry in favour of scampering off with Pansy to check out the new clothes store that supposedly sold Muggle wear Pansy was so into. Harry was burdened with a heart-broken Blaise, who was currently lamenting his lover-less state over a mug of Butterbeer.

“She used to have this very cute habit of sucking on ice cubes,” Blaise said, his eyes unseeing.

Harry sighed into his mug. “So. Why did you end it, then?”

“Padma chucked me,” Blaise said morosely. He gulped down his beer. “It was only a simple suggestion that did it. I told her she should put her talented mouth to other uses. A blowjob, for starters.”

Harry sputtered.

“That’s disgusting, Harry. You’ll want to stop doing that in front of people if you want a girlfriend,” Blaise said imperiously.

“Er, Blaise,” Harry said, wiping spilt Butterbeer. “Isn’t it, er, a bit too much? I mean, are we old enough for… blowjobs?”

Blaise laughed out loud. “You’re hilarious. There isn’t an age limit for blowjobs or shagging, for fuck’s sake. The only place that marriage comes before sex nowadays is the dictionary,” he said wisely.

Harry hadn’t thought closely about the mechanics of shagging, really, or anything specific as blowjobs and things like that. Harry tossed off regularly, sure, but only to vague images of disembodied limbs and lips, imagining warm but abstract touches and brushes of heated skin against heated skin. There was that one time he’d wanked off recalling the pictures of writhing Quidditch players in that strange book he’d found at the library at Malfoy Manor, but that didn’t count because Harry took care not to think of it afterwards. Mostly.

Draco’d told Harry what it was like to kiss, though. He’d told Harry that it wasn’t all that mind-reeling or blissful—but pleasant and good nonetheless.

Harry’d dreamt of Draco that night. In that dream, Draco had been chewing on his lip as he pored over his Ancient Runes textbook. Harry’d walked right up to him and it was the most natural thing in the world to lift Draco’s chin and taste him, running his tongue over Draco’s swollen lower lip over and over and over, soothing, caressing. When Draco’s lips parted, his mouth had been warm and wet and so good. It had all made sense then, in the way dreams are wont to do. It was lucky Harry woke up at dawn, because his sheets had needed washing.

Thinking about Draco like that upset Harry. It seemed so wrong.

“I know you can be, no offense, slow, especially on these kinds of things,” Blaise went on. “Maybe Muggles still hold on to the belief that you have to save yourself for your wifey, but let me tell you, that’s not the case for us. Mum always says I shouldn’t wait to savour what life has to offer. Especially carnal pleasures.”

“Okay,” Harry said, doubtful. Draco’d told him that Blaise’s mum was a famously beautiful witch that had married seven times. She was clearly enjoying all that life had to offer.

“But don’t worry, I’ll teach you all about it. You just follow in my footsteps, and there’ll be nothing at all to pull you back.”

“I’m touched,” Harry said flatly.

“Love doesn’t really matter at first, you see, because the act of love eventually induces the feeling,” Blaise declared, clearly having decided to educate Harry on the subject of love.

“Is that what you told Padma? Because if you did, it’s no surprise she dumped you,” Harry said, rolling his eyes.

“You have a lot to learn, Harry,” Blaise said, shaking his head. “That’s why I’m telling you these things. You also have to know that there are certain conditions to be met for love to exist. The conditions differ among people, and Mum says that it is crucial to know your own standards for love.”

Harry gave him a look of skepticism. “What conditions?”

“For example, I need my witches to be pretty. That’s my first condition. Love wouldn’t blossom between us if she weren’t pretty.”

Draco’s pretty, Harry thought, and wanted to smack himself for thinking it because, God, could he be any more pitiful? Regardless of his wish to stop thinking about Draco that way, his mind had other agendas. Harry was momentarily reliving that night a week ago when they had been heading towards the dungeons after Quidditch practice. Draco’d forgotten to bring his tropical fruit essence hair set, shampoo, conditioner and all, and he’d smelled like cheap soap. His hair wasn’t behaving, either. Draco looked like a miniature blond hurricane, what with his static hair and blond strands pointing everywhere. He almost resembled an angel, with his cheeks sporting that just-scrubbed shine and his hair an ethereal nimbus around his head. You look like a pissed-off angel, Harry’d told him, because Draco was pouting about his misbehaving hair and Harry wanted to say something and end his staring spell. Draco’d laughed and said his mother did use to call him a cherub when he was young. But he’d prefer to be called something more fear-inducing, such as Lucifer, or Hades, or something like that.

“…and fifth of all, my girl should be—”

“Sorry to interrupt, Blaise,” Harry said, looking at the clock. “I think it’s time we meet up with Draco and Pansy.”

“Oh, is it?” Blaise said, startled. “I didn’t know.” He stretched languidly and grinned. “I feel so much better now. I feel much more capable of moving on.”

“Cheers,” Harry said.

Blaise clapped him on the back. “Thanks, Harry. I owe you one. If you need any help with Ginny Weasley”—Blaise winked at him—“you can depend on me, yeah?”

“Yeah, ‘course.”

It was twilight, and Harry could see Draco and Pansy under the dimly-lit street lamp at the end of the street long before he reached there. Just the outlines. Draco was twirling Pansy, and they were doing a little dance, and as Harry and Blaise neared them, Harry could make out Draco’s moving lips—he must be singing a tune.

Suddenly a man crashed into Harry. Harry let out a yelp, stumbling.

“Hey, watch it!” Blaise shouted, and helped steady Harry’s precarious balance.

When Harry felt concerted enough to look up, he saw that the stranger had dropped a thin book on the ground.

“You dropped something, sir!” Harry called at the hooded figure, who was walking hurriedly away from him. The man had a seriously hunched back, Harry noticed.

“Sir!” Harry called again, and this time, the stranger turned his head enough for Harry to draw in a sharp breath at the yellow gleam in his eyes.

“You dropped a book!” Blaise shouted, pointing to the book on the ground, but the stranger didn’t even spare a glance. He stared at Harry for several moments before resuming his hurried shuffles away from them.

“Strange fellow,” Blaise remarked, shrugging.

Harry shrugged in response and picked up the book. The cover was smooth, revealing nothing. Curiosity getting the better of him, he flipped it open and read the inner cover: Werewolves and Their Guises.

 

*

 

“I’m telling you, Draco, Lupin isn’t a transsexual.

“What gave you the idea I thought so in the first place?” Draco replied, a bizarre expression on his face.

“Because you wouldn’t believe me!” Harry said, exasperated.

Draco sighed. “Lupin can’t possibly be a werewolf, Harry. I know about werewolves. Mother told me all about Fenrir Greyback, you know? The Dark Lord’s dog?”

“But, but all his sick leaves, I think they always happened on the full moon. Er, and… and aconite, its other name is wolfsbane, yeah? The main ingredient in the Wolfsbane potion? Snape was probably brewing it for Lupin all this time.”

“A myriad of conditions are related to the lunar cycle, Harry. For instance, you could be allergic to Doxies, and if you’d been unfortunate enough to get a bite, you’d have uncontrollable itches until the venom washes off your system. And that could be months. Lycanthropy is the least popular of them, I swear, if not the most severe.” Draco was frowning hard, his hands gesturing wildly as if doing so would convince Harry of his point. “And werewolves are supposed to be savage and uncouth, and Lupin is nothing like that. Mother said Fenrir Greyback enjoyed hunting people even in his human form, that he salivated after children’s blood, wanting to turn them into monsters just like him, and Lupin’s a… just a professor,” he trailed off.

Harry shook his head and made an aborted attempt at pacing before he realised that the cramped space between Draco’s bed and his trunk wasn’t exactly made for walking to and fro. “But, Draco, it all fits. The Marauders all had names based on what animal they turned into, and Lupin said he was Moony. Though he told me he wasn’t an Animagus.

“That does seem… suspicious,” Draco admitted reluctantly.

Harry plopped down next to Draco on his bed. “Do you think I should ask him?”

No!” Draco said, whipping around to look at Harry with an alarmed expression.

“Okay,” Harry said, taken aback at Draco’s vehemence.

“I meant,” Draco explained, “that it’d be terribly rude. And very Gryffindor. We should—”

“Plan?” Harry suggested, smirking.

“Well, yes.

 

The night of the next full moon found Harry and Draco squished together atop Harry’s Nimbus. The twig part of the broom stuck out of the invisibility cloak, which hadn’t been large enough to cover them all. The logic went that because it was almost dark and they were headed towards the Forbidden Forest anyway, the twig would blend in with their surroundings. Besides, they were on a broom. They could always fly up and away from any danger the forest posed. Or so Harry assured himself.

They’d followed Lupin from the west wing of Hogwarts early on in the evening. He’d cloaked himself and strolled down the courtyard, looking not at all hurried. He seemed to be headed towards Hagrid’s hut before he veered right, his strides becoming urgent. Harry and Draco had tailed him at a respectable distance as he stumbled over low-riding hills and shuffled forward, his pace slowing at odd moments and speeding up past urgency in others.

When he reached the madly thrashing Whomping Willow, Lupin hissed out Immobulus several times, seemingly to freeze the tree’s lethal limbs, but the blue jets of light simply dissipated on the flailing branches. Harry and Draco watched, alarmed, because something was clearly wrong—Lupin was baring his teeth and pacing fiercely around the willow, his agitated growls loud enough to reach their ears. It was bizarre. And not a little frightening.

“Harry, d’you think we should go back? Maybe we should come back next full moon,” Draco said, anxious.

But they’d come this far; they couldn’t go back now.

“You said Wolfsbane Potion should clear Lupin’s head,” Harry whispered back. “If Snape brewed the potion, nothing could go wrong.”

So they hovered from a distance and continued to spy on Lupin, who’d gotten hold of a long pole of some sort while they hadn’t been looking.

“What’s he doing?” Draco murmured. Harry shrugged. He had no idea why Lupin was making jabs at the Whomping Willow. Was he trying to fight the thing? Because if he was, it clearly was a losing battle. Lupin tirelessly continued with his jabbing motions, regardless. A closer observation revealed that Lupin must be actually aiming to hit a spot on the trunk, however, and after more failed attempts, he did succeed in pressing the tip of the pole on that spot he’d been aiming for.

But nothing happened. Lupin let out another frustrated growl—Draco’s arms tightened around Harry’s waist—and stabbed the trunk again and again, in vain.

A rustle caught Harry’s attention. He whirled his head around, searching for the source of the noise, in case it was one of those dangerous creatures from the Forest they’d been warned about. One glance at Lupin told Harry that the preoccupied professor hadn’t seemed to notice, caught up in his own agitation at the Willow.

Another rustle. Harry squinted his eyes toward the Forbidden Forest, and stifled a gasp when he realised the Forest was staring back. Two yellow eyes gleamed at Harry before they disappeared, the low evening sunlight catching on a familiar hunched figure as it faded into the shadows. Harry was sure that it was that stranger from Hogsmeade, and he wanted to know who he was and what the fuck he was doing in the Forbidden Forest, at Hogwarts—and the book. What did the book have anything to do with all this?

But then Draco was tugging at Harry’s robes and breathing into his ear to look at Lupin. Harry tore his eyes away from the shadows to see Lupin wobbling toward the Forest like a drunken man, his balance seeming precarious at best. Harry steered the broom slowly after him. He heard Draco swallow audibly as they reached the edge of the Forest. It was already night in there. They had to shorten the distance between Lupin and them—they’d lose him among the overgrown vegetation and twisted branches. The Forest grew thicker and darker as they flew around moss-covered trunks and ducked low-hanging branches, at the same time concentrating on not losing their stumbling, growling, and (now almost for certain) lycanthropic Defence professor deep into the woods.

When Lupin stopped, they’d reached some sort of clearing. They waited, suspended in mid-air behind a particularly winding tree trunk, as Lupin crouched down at the edge of the dim grassy area, drawing his knees up and burying his face in his arms.

It was twilight, and the sun had yet to set, but the air was chilling down rapidly. Technically, it was spring, but it hadn’t been long ago that they’d been hurling snow balls in the courtyard. As Harry and Draco waited, floating still, the air about them began to cool down. The only source of warmth was Draco, pressed against Harry from behind—and with Lupin just sitting there, with nothing else to concentrate on, Harry couldn’t help becoming conscious of Draco’s hot puffs of breath against the nape of his neck, Draco’s front flush against the whole of Harry’s backside, Draco’s arms around his middle and his warm hands resting on his stomach. Then Draco was shivering and resting his head on Harry’s shoulder—and Harry thanked Merlin that Draco couldn’t see his face now, it must have been bright red, Harry could tell from how good the chilly wind felt on his hot face.

As far as Harry was concerned, they could have been that way for hours before, all of a sudden, the full moon was in the sky.

Draco’s grip turned vice-like on his middle. “Harry,” he rasped. “I think it’s happening.”

Harry blinked. And blinked again. Where Lupin had been crouching down, there was a writhing mass of human flesh, alternating between whimpering and snarling. It didn’t look anything like Lupin anymore, with its skin bulging from strange places and a great spasm overtaking his torso, his mouth lengthening and his skin graying and fur spouting everywhere.

When the transformation ended, the wolf stilled at last after a final shudder that shot down its massive body. No one would mistake it for a normal wolf—it was colossal, its shaggy gray coat wild and its eyes two orange beads in the moonlight. It slowly raised itself on its haunches, and sniffed. Then it looked straight into Harry’s eyes.

Harry and Draco were frozen to the spot, transfixed. Harry reminded himself that although the wolf looked like, well, a wolf, the person inside was Lupin.

“P-professor?” Draco stammered tentatively. His grip around Harry was almost painful, but Harry needed that sensation to ground himself—watching the beast that was Lupin drop down and approach them, the muscles in its back flexing and un-flexing sinuously as it neared was too surreal.

A low growl sounded from the wolf’s throat. It lowered itself, as if it were about to pounce.

“P-professor Lupin?” Draco called again, his voice trembling, and they were already backing up. In a fraction of a second, Harry caught a glimpse of razor-sharp, yellow fangs dripping with saliva before his vision was swiftly blocked by a wall of gray fur, and he was wheeling the broom away—Draco was screaming—“Go, Harry, GO!”—but a violent lurch of the broom told Harry that the wolf had struck them, had hammered into the rear end of the broom, and oh God, Draco—“G-go, Harry, it’s down, just, GO!”—and Harry was off again, careening around massive black trunks and whipping through tumbles of vines, but the broom wasn’t speeding up, not with double the usual weight and its tail in tatters, and it just wouldn’t go up.

“Harry! It’s right behind us!” Draco wailed.

Harry could sense it, could hear the snarls and the twigs snapping like strikes of thunder as the wolf pounded the ground and bounded after them, hurdling over dead trunks and the low rumble of its ragged breathing loud, so loud—and then it was howling, a blood-chilling sound that reverberated in Harry’s ears and sent shivers down his spine.

One of Draco’s hands was unwinding from his waist. For a second, Harry thought Draco was dropping. He felt a sick lurch in his stomach and he wanted to shout, What do you think you are DOING?—but then Draco was screaming out incantations, from Stunners to Conjunctivitis curses, but it wasn’t affecting the wolf, Harry could tell—“Stop, Draco! IT’S NOT GOING TO WORK!”—and the next second, they were out of the Forest, the unexpected widening of the vision almost dizzying in its suddenness.

RELASHIO!

STUPEFY!

There was Dumbledore—and McGonagall and Snape and Flitwick and basically the entire Hogwarts staff pointing their wands at the werewolf, thick cords and red beams of light shooting towards it, and Draco gripped the broom handle over Harry’s hands and pulled them to a skidding stop mid-air.

“That—th-that was…” Harry tried to speak, but he was trembling too hard. He was drenched in sweat, and so was Draco. Harry could feel Draco’s heart pumping hard against his back, and his own heartbeat was rapid and erratic.

Draco slowly unhanded the handle and slid his arms over Harry’s stomach once more, the tremor of his fingers palpable as he held on and trembled against Harry. They stayed that way for several minutes, shouts of incantations and wolfish sounds fading to the background as they waited for their rushing blood to slow down. A low shiver ran up Harry's spine as the wind chilled the sweat. Harry’s broken broom spun lazily in one spot.

“We made it,” Draco mumbled a moment later, his voice muffled by Harry’s robe.

Harry realised that his invisibility cloak was gone—they’d probably lost it on a tree branch somewhere.

Quelling the tremble in his hands, Harry twisted around on his broom, tottering a bit, and embraced Draco back. Draco was warm and real in his wind-chilled arms.

They were safe. They’d made it.

 

 

A/N: Sorry it took so long to update! I had a terrible bike accident that had me shipped to the emergency room... then I had the swine flu.... then I had a gross stomach flu... all the while having to do assignments for classes and write research papers and do midterms! Bleh it was an awful month.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: The characters and the situation belong to J. K. Rowling. This story was not created for profit. Just for fun.

 

 

15. Dark Arts and Muggle Shops

 

Harry felt Draco stiffen next to him. Harry squeezed his hand in what he hoped was a reassuring manner. Draco hadn’t really gotten over that night, the night before last—God, had it been only two days since then?—and he kept tensing up with the slightest of surprises. Not that Harry was much better. But between fretting over Draco’s worrying silence and figuring out a way to successfully cast a Summoning Charm for his cloak (thank Merlin he’d been able to rack his brain for its location) there hadn’t been much time to channel the fear-stricken teenager inside him.

“Welcome, children,” Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling like they always did as he fixed his gaze upon Harry and Draco.

Fawks let out a cry. Harry gave him a tentative wave. He hadn’t been to Dumbledore’s office in quite a time, but Harry used to frequent the quaint office when he was in first year to have sessions with the headmaster; Dumbledore used to ask him about how he was getting along: the food, the classes, friends, and all those stuff parents were supposed to ask their children. Since Harry didn’t have any wizarding guardians, Dumbledore, as the headmaster, had the responsibility to take care of matters Harry’s Muggle family wouldn’t know how to cope with. In the case of other Muggle-born students, that included sign-ups for wizarding tests and legal papers. In Harry’s case, it included his entire life at Hogwarts.

Snape, who had led them to the office, greeted Dumbledore with a nod before making to stand beside the headmaster.

“Lemon drops, anyone?” Dumbledore asked, his voice too cheerful. “No? Well, one always has to make sure at all times, don’t we all? A lemon drop seems to be just the thing for the old man right this moment.” He popped a candy somewhere into his beard. His mouth, probably. Harry wondered if bits and pieces of candy and other food got stuck in his beard. It looked like the bushy sort of hair that held onto anything.

“Gentlemen,” Dumbledore said, holding up both hands in a placating gesture after Harry and Draco had took turns gingerly telling how they came to be chased through the Forbidden Forest by a werewolf on the full moon. “No one will be blamed for this unfortunate accident.” Dumbledore adjusted his half-moon spectacles so that they reflected the candlelight, giving him an intelligent air.

“Yes, it was an accident,” Dumbledore continued in a grave voice. “If it had been under normal circumstances, Professor Lupin would have gone through his transformation in the Shrieking Shack, without the possibility of being a danger to anybody but himself. Under normal circumstances, he would have been under the influence of Wolfsbane Potion, and would not have been any danger at all.”

“But,” Draco said, frowning, “but what wasn’t normal, professor? Didn’t Professor Lupin take the Wolfsbane Potion that day?”

“He did, Mister Malfoy,” Snape spoke up. “Lupin’s testimony on the subject revealed that he took the potion at the required time.”

Lupin had told Harry the same, when he’d visited the professor yesterday. When Harry’d arrived, Lupin’s office had been full of books and socks levitating themselves to the large trunk. Harry’d gone to offer his apologies, but Lupin had been the one to express how sorry he was, telling Harry again and again how he’d never forgive himself for putting his students in danger like that, especially Harry. After Harry had eventually got Lupin to calm down from his miserable apologies, Lupin had looked at Harry for a long time before telling Harry haltingly about how the whole Animagi thing was what Harry’s dad had suggested in the first place to keep Lupin company when he transformed on full moon. And how the Whomping Willow was a secret passage to the Shrieking Shack, where Lupin spent the worse part of his Wolfsbane-less full moons biting himself and scaring the poor Hogsmeade villagers to death. Harry remembered that wan smile Lupin had offered him before stepping out of his empty office.

“The potion itself,” Snape continued, jolting Harry out of his thoughts, “when I handed it to him, was not impotent. That leaves us with a single possibility; the potion had been tampered with before ingestion. For now, the… ‘stranger’ you mentioned, Mister Potter, seems to be the prime suspect.”

“Yes,” Dumbledore agreed. “Severus, will you please see to it that the teachers work on retrieving any magical signatures? The Whomping Willow would be a superb start, I say.”

Before they were dismissed, Harry remembered to ask a question.

“Er, Professor?”

“Yes, Harry?”

“How d’you know to look for us that night? Um, not that we’re not glad…”

“I regret that the faculty has failed you by exposing you to grave danger, Harry. I am glad to say, however, that we are not entirely incompetent.”

“Er, okay.”

Later, Draco scoffed at the old man’s needless mysteriousness. He told Harry that the professors had probably heard the werewolf’s howl. It’d been bloody ear-splitting after all.

 

*

 

The Quidditch Cup was a given, Draco assured Harry, even though Harry had to ride the school Cleansweep. And it kind of was, except that time Harry had plucked a handful of Cho Chang’s hair while he tried to grasp the Snitch, which had been hovering right above Chang’s head. Unfortunately, one of the Ravenclaw Beaters had been her boyfriend, and Harry had a jolly time swooping and ducking to avoid the Bludgers throughout the rest of the match. It was too bad for Chang that Derrick and Bole saw it as a game of bringing down the other team’s Seeker—they were way more vicious than the Ravenclaw Beaters.

But the rewarding of the Quidditch Cup went by in a blur—Harry was too ebullient at the prospect of finally, finally leaving the Dursleys, possibly for good. The Malfoys weren’t Harry’s actual legal guardians, Dumbledore had explained; the Dursleys still had the final word in everything if they chose to do so (which Harry doubted very much). Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy were simply the legal wizarding counterparts of the Dursleys now. But it didn’t matter. What mattered was that Harry was going to live at Malfoy Manor now, with Draco—all the holidays and, of course, the summer.

A summer without Pansy. A summer to spend with Draco, all to himself.

Well, not exactly all. There was Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy of course, though they were busy. Doing what, Harry didn’t know, just that it had to do with important political matters and social meetings and stuff Harry didn’t really understand nor care. But Harry and Draco still had to have lessons on Dark Arts and Defence from Snape.

“Gentlemen,” Snape drawled. “You have no doubt learned during your third year the Shield Charm, the Disarming Spell, the Stunning Spell, and various theories of defence against Dark creatures, am I correct?”

“Yes, Professor,” they chimed.

“I would hope that you have mastered each and every one.” Snape gave them a meaningful glance.

Seemingly satisfied at the expression on their faces, Snape continued; “However, these spells and charms are not specifically attuned to counter the Dark Arts. They are general precautions, general battlements, whose purpose is to defect any offensive magic or object in your way. Such as…” Snape flicked his wand, and suddenly a vase was hurling toward Harry’s face. Harry let out a panicked yelp and, using his Seeker reflexes, swerved and ducked. The vase nicked the top of Harry’s ear before crashing on the wall and blowing into smithereens.

Harry’s jaw dropped at the thought of the vase having smashed into his face. “What the f—”

“If you finish that sentence, Mister Potter, I will ensure that the purpose of your life is to serve as a warning to others,” Snape said coolly.

“You were supposed to Protego it, stupid,” Draco hissed, pointing at Harry’s wand clutched tightly in his fingers.

“B-but, Professor, I… the, er, underage magic, um, is that alright?” Harry stammered pathetically.

“Your power of observation is astounding as usual,” Snape said, looking down his nose at Harry. “Why, I ask you, do you think I asked you to prepare your wand?”

“It isn’t Harry’s fault that he was born with a chasm where his brain should be, sir,” Draco said in a grave tone. “You shouldn’t take it as an offense.”

Harry wanted to smack him. Or laugh heartily at the innocent expression on Draco’s face. Probably not a good idea with Snape right in front of him.

Harry offered Snape an ingratiating smile. It made Snape narrow his eyes. “Lay down your concerns of offending me, Mister Potter. I’m not offended in the least by what you say. I must inform you, I’m simply glad that you are stringing words into a sentence at all. Though, not much of a sentence, I dare say.”

Harry resisted his urge to roll his eyes at Snape. Verbally challenging jokes didn’t affect him anymore. Draco had probably dried its well. Harry was immune now.

“For your peace of mind, Mister Potter,” Snape drawled. “According to the Second Amendment for the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Under-Age Sorcery, Clause Fourteen, Paragraph D, under-age wizards and/or witches may perform magic under the supervision of a qualified instructor under the roof of their lawful residence.”

Harry wondered if Snape had made that up. Or had spent time memorizing it word for word. Snape rubbed his temple as if he was having a severe headache, and cast a Reparo at the smashed vase. And hurled it again at Harry.

After casing Protego and Expelliarmus for what seemed like the hundredth time, Harry and Draco were allowed to sit down. Snape seemed to be satisfied.

“What you will be learning this summer, gentlemen,” Snape started after a few minutes of silence, “is specific ways to counter the Dark Arts. I will assume that you have retained the basic nature of Dark Arts you learned last summer. Mister Malfoy?”

“Sir, Dark spells are controlled by the state of mind of the caster. Once cast, they are generally uncontrollable by untrained wizards, and they tend to be sentient, encroaching the victim’s soul.”

“Very good, Draco.”

Draco preened. Harry suppressed a grin.

“You will see, now, what a trained wizard may do to control Dark spells and Dark artifacts. The most general way to defend yourself is to fortify your mind, the most convenient route into your soul. For the next several months, you will be trained to become an Occlumens.”

Draco gasped. “D’you mean that you are a Legilimens, Professor?”

“Yes, Mister Malfoy.”

“Er, sorry to butt in, sir, but… um. What’s a Legilimens?”

Harry was rewarded with a piercing look from Snape.

Luckily, it was Draco’s awed voice, instead of Snape’s scathing one, that answered him. “It means Professor Snape can read people’s minds,” Draco breathed.

“Oh,” Harry said, trying to blank out his mind from guilty thoughts about how greasy Snape’s hair looked and how Snape really should wash it one day.

To Harry’s horror, Snape smirked at him.

“Idiot child,” Snape said. “It does not mean that I actually read people’s mind without discrimination.”

“Oh,” Harry said, relieved. Then tensed again when he realised that Snape couldn’t have known to say that if he hadn’t read Harry’s mind just then.

“Harry,” Draco said, smirking as well. “Mind your face. No one needs to be a Legilimens to read your mind. Heh.”

Harry felt his face heat up. “Oh,” he said.

“Interruptions will not be tolerated from now on,” Snape deadpanned.

“Yes, sir,” they said in unison, Draco’s voice practically chirpy, Harry’s barely a grumble.

“Occlumency, if mastered,” Snape went on, “can be useful in more than defending yourselves from the Dark Arts. An Occlumens may defend himself from any magic that attempts to tamper with his head. For example, consider the Memory Charm. Muggles are defenceless against it because they have no means by which to protect their minds. Wizards, however, can resist.

“For countering Dark Magic, Occlumency is a means of constructing a barrier so that the offender cannot reach your soul. Thus, for Dark Magic which seeks paths elsewhere into your soul, Occlumency would not take effect. An extreme but nonetheless practical instance would be the Dementor. It does not need access to your mind in order to ingest your soul. Or the Cruciatus. The curse is built to be absorbed by your sensory cells, back-flowing into your entire system, flooding your senses, and eventually your soul.

“Another possible way to fight Dark Magic is to build tolerance. In the old ages, this method used to be very popular among old families. Members would take turns casting the Cruciatus Curse unto each other. Eventually, they would grow immune. Unfortunately, many went mad from pain before the immunity came.”

Harry winced, just from imagining it.

“There are, of course, known counter spells for certain Dark Magic.” Snape conjured a smoky image of a wizard bowing to a dead pig, then digging his fingers into the pig’s flayed stomach and drawing things on the stone ground beneath him with dripping black blood.

Harry thought he heard Draco make a sound of disgust.

“Many Dark curses require certain rituals to counter their effects. The rituals, as you can see, are often long, messy, and undesirable. Sacrifice… is a must.” Snape dissolved the floating image with a wave of his hand. “You will not be learning the specifics of rituals,” he said flatly and conjured another smoky image, this time of skin-and-bones sort of creatures, resembling humans but with tattered skin and sunken eyes, and stick-like, graying arms and legs.

“One powerful branch of Dark Magic,” Snape drawled, frowning at the image he’d summoned, “is Necromancy.” Harry could hear Draco suck in a quick breath. The word was vaguely familiar. Harry fished his mind for the association, until he remembered Dudley’s gory video called Necromicon. Harry’d watched it last summer while the Dursleys were out. He’d almost retched on Dudley’s special couch. He blamed the name Lovecraft for his watching it in the first place. What a name to be writing horror stories.

Harry eyed the smoky image of the crawling creatures with renewed distaste.

“One way to fight Dark Magic is with Dark Magic,” Snape continued. “Destroying the contaminated soul. Mister Potter, what Dark spell has the ability to annihilate the soul?”

Harry straightened his back. “Er… I, uh, I think… Fiendfyre?”

Snape quirked an eyebrow. “Very good, Harry. Yes, Draco?”

“Sir, but isn’t Fiendfyre uncontrollable? How can a wizard make sure it is only the contaminated soul that is destroyed?”

“Excellent question. The truth is, gentlemen, over the centuries, certain wizards have developed methods of containing Fiendfyre, unbeknownst to general academics. Once you have mastered Occlumency, the containing spell to Fiendfyre will not come as a challenge, for the channels are most similar.”

Harry and Draco watched intently as the creatures in the smoky image were engulfed in wild flames, writhing and burning, and after a moment, disappearing into the fire. Then the fire itself dissipated into darkness.

 

Their assignment for the next lesson two days away was to look into the Pensieve memory Snape had provided them with and write down everything they observed on the workings of the human mind. When Harry came out of the memory for the fourth time, feeling dizzy and ungrounded, Draco was nowhere to be seen.

“Draco?” Harry called, looking around.

“Harry!” Draco answered, from the direction of the dressing room.

“What are you doing?” Harry said, doubting his eyes as he rounded the corner to enter the dressing room and was presented with the image of Draco clad in jeans. Muggle jeans.

Draco in jeans really should have looked like any other fourteen-year-old in jeans. By all means, Harry had spent the better part of his fourteen years living amongst jeans-wearing people. It wasn’t that the jeans themselves were special. They were just a pair of washed-out jeans. Washed-out Muggle jeans that hugged Draco’s form very well. His form, which had always been shapeless beneath those all-encompassing school and everyday robes, which were so whooshy and amorphous that they had helped Harry a time or two during Potions when he’d got completely inappropriate stiffies while watching Draco’s slender white fingers do disgusting things to Shrivelfigs and horned slugs.

The point was, there was no reason why Harry should not seem to be able to drag his eyes away from Draco.

Draco’s frustrated growl snapped Harry out of his wayward contemplation.

“Help me out, would you?”

“Er, okay,” Harry said, and stepped around Draco to face him. Draco was losing a valiant struggle with a two-way double zipper on his hooded grey cardigan. Hooded grey Muggle cardigan.

“I hate this zipper,” Draco spat out. “I hate it.” He stomped his feet for emphasis.

“I think the zipper hates you, too,” Harry said, eyeing the way the zip refused to budge despite Draco’s pitiful efforts.

“This zipper,” Draco declared, “is clearly evil. It’s doing this just to spite me for hating Muggles.” He growled and violently jerked the zip several times, biting his lips and wearing an intense expression as if he were working with a particularly headstrong Mandrake instead of a plain old zipper.

“Why’re you wearing Muggle clothes?” Harry blurted. “I thought you hated all things Muggle.”

When the zipper refused to comply, Draco let out a resigned sigh and shrugged at Harry. “I bought this at Hogsmeade. You know that clothing store I talked about? The one that sells Muggle wear? Well, Pansy dragged me there. I didn’t really want to go at first, but I think I like the jeans, don’t you?” The evil zipper momentarily forgotten, Draco looked over his shoulder to inspect the way the jeans fit over his arse. Harry’s eyes followed, before quickly looking away.

“Um. I think I can help you with the zipper,” Harry offered, afraid that Draco would ask him to comment on how snugly the jeans fit him. Harry would end up babbling something completely incriminating, such as “I don’t think you should wear those in front of Pansy,” or “You’d better only wear them at home.”

“Great.” Draco beamed, and Harry turned his eyes away from Draco’s face, too.

“You know, Harry, I think it is needless for us to carry on the traditional and very old-fashioned mindset of our predecessors.”

“Oh,” Harry remarked, trying not to notice how his fingers were brushing the pale strip of skin between Draco’s jeans and his cardigan.

“Definitely. Just look at the sort of clothes Muggles make, Harry. Robes are terribly old fashioned, don’t you think? Why bother covering up every line and curve of your body if you can flaunt them?”

Harry couldn’t really concentrate on getting the zip done, what with Draco’s warm belly moving up and down, teasing Harry with the most fleeting of touches as Draco went on talking animatedly about how Muggles were not that bad after all, sure, they were inferior beings, but they had different tastes that could be beneficial to the wizarding society in small doses, such as jeans, sleeveless shirts, or fancy belts, and they were definitely going to Muggle Wiltshire this summer to get new wardrobes.

Harry sighed in relief when he’d at last managed to tame the zip. It was only then that he caught up with the last bit of Draco’s babbling.

“What? Muggle Wiltshire?”

Draco was inspecting his zipped up cardigan with a sated grin. The grey perfectly matched Draco’s eyes, Harry noted.

“Yes, Muggle Wiltshire. I’m counting on you to guide me, Harry.”

 

*

 

“Draco, drop that dirty piece of garbage at once,” Mrs. Malfoy snapped, lightly slapping the back of Draco’s hand. A frown marred her soft features.

“Yes, Mother,” Draco said and gingerly dropped the empty Coca-Cola can he’d been scrutinizing carefully.

Draco’d developed a fascination for gross Muggle garbage. This was his fourth time grabbing some litter right off the ground as if it were some irresistible magnet that compelled his touch and careful observation.

“I can’t believe how filthy these Muggles are,” he complained for the twentieth time, scrunching up his nose in distaste.

“I know, darling. I would have guessed that developing a suitable way to banish their waste was a top priority. Apparently”—a tragic expression crossed Mrs. Malfoy’s face—“the poor souls have no other choice but to wallow in their own filth.”

Draco spotted a gooey glop of some sort by the gutter at the side of the street. Harry pulled at his arm to protect him from the strange magnetism that apparently radiated from yucky Muggle litter.

Luckily, Draco’s attention was taken by Mrs. Malfoy attempting to enter a lady’s clothing store.

“Mother, wouldn’t it be better for Harry and me to leave you here? We’d hate to be a bother.” Draco’s voice was awfully sweet. “Wouldn’t we, Harry?”

“Er, yes. Right,” Harry said, throwing Draco a nervous glance. He didn’t know if it would be a good idea to wander around a Muggle shopping center alone with Draco.

Mrs. Malfoy was shining her eyes at a cream-colored cocktail dress in the display window. “Do you think so, dear? Would you boys be all right on your own?”

“Of course, Mother. We’re not children anymore. We can take care of ourselves,” Draco said confidently. “And I’ve got Harry the Muggle expert,” he added, patting Harry’s head with pride.

“Hmmm… I guess you would be all right,” Mrs. Malfoy said, not taking her eyes off the dress.

That was how Harry found himself entering an electronics store with Draco, a Portkey necklace beneath his tee shirt.

“So Muggles apparently mastered a way around the Cooling Charm, did they?” Draco sniffed as he entered the air-conditioned store.

The store wasn’t exactly packed with people, but there were enough people to divert the clerk’s attention from them, Harry was relieved to note.

“Harry, now that we are in the mercy of Muggles, I think a cover story will be necessary,” Draco whispered conspiratorially, that glint in his eyes.

“What… cover story?” Harry asked, wary.

“What if a Muggle asks us questions and we can’t answer properly? We’ll be under suspicion. It is our duty as wizards under the Statute of Secrecy to keep our civilization hidden from the savage hands of Muggles, Harry,” Draco explained, determined. “We can’t tell them we go to Hogwarts, if they ask. And we don’t know what they’ll do if they find out.” Draco looked around with narrowed eyes. “Because,” he leaned in, “they’re Muggles.”

“Er. So… you’re suggesting we make up cover-up identities and stuff?”

“Exactly!” Draco beamed. Harry felt doubtful about the whole plan but Draco went on regardless. “I did a little research, you know, about Muggles and all. While you were snoring away last night—”

“Hey! I was tired,” Harry protested.

Draco scoffed. “That’s a good reason.” He narrowed his eyes and pointed his finger at Harry. “Now give me the real reason.”

“Draco…” Harry said, shaking his head at the completely incongruous response from Draco. “Have you been reading Dudley’s Sherlock Holmes collection from my trunk?”

Draco waved the suspicion away with an imperious gesture. “As I was saying, Harry, while you were snoring away last night, I stayed up creating a cover for us both. We are not wizards from Hogwarts anymore. At least for the time being, that is. No need to lower ourselves completely to the Muggle levels. At least for now, we are—wait for it—boarding school students!”

“Er,” Harry said. “Cheers.”

“Can you believe that a ‘boarding school’ means a school that provides you with lodging? Trust the Muggles to come up with a name that sounds as if they’re breeding carpenters in wooden containers. Ugh.”

Harry laughed. Draco gave him a sidelong glance. “You like it, don’t you? But that’s not all. We have to be prepared for extensive scrutiny. So we’re not Quidditch players at this ‘boarding school,’ yeah? Guess what we play, Harry. Guess.”

“Er… football?”

“I was going to say cricket, but I guess that’ll do,” Draco said, indicating with a sweep of his hand the extent of his limitless generosity. “So we’re both students from a boarding school in Scotland, we both play football, and your name will be Harold. You’ll call me”—Draco pondered for a bit—“Damien.”

“I like my name.” Harry frowned. “And I like your name, too.”

“Oh. You do?” Draco paused. “Most people laugh when they hear my first name.”

“Well, I like it.” Harry really did. He liked how the first syllable curled around his tongue, only to unroll with a lilt on the next. He’d said it aloud a few times when he was alone just to hear it glide off his tongue. He wouldn’t tell Draco that, of course.

Draco seemed pleased by Harry’s admission. He started humming a catchy tune as he picked up a remote control to the telly on sale.

“Little people in a box! I’ll have to give the Muggles some credit for originality. Though, I admit, it is very cruel.”

Harry smiled. “You have no idea how many humanitarians would rebel at the very idea,” he said, thinking back to the neighbors Aunt Petunia spied on. They were always holding campaigns for the proper treatment of prisoners and animals and mentally challenged children among other stuff. Once they’d even appeared on the morning news.

“That’s vile,” Draco said, shuddering. He shot a distrustful glance at a family of three operating the telly a few feet away. “Cannibalism? That’s beyond vile.” Still not taking his eyes off the oblivious family, Draco inched towards Harry.

“Cannibalism?” Harry repeated, wondering whether he’d blacked out sometime during their conversation.

“You said Muggles were humanitarian, didn’t you?” Draco asked, a puzzled frown crossing his face.

“Um. Yeah. Some of them,” Harry said, still not understanding.

“Well,” Draco continued, looking confused. “Isn’t that like, um. Vegetarianism? Vegetarians only eat vegetables, so it’s natural that humanitarians are people that—hey! Stop laughing. We have to be discrete, remember?”

Harry was doubled over, he was laughing so hard. When he could breathe, he found Draco sulking over a headphone. He was pouting hard, poking his fingers repeatedly into the squishy part of the earpiece. Harry grinned and reached up to tweak Draco’s nose. He let out a shocked squeak.

“Come on,” Harry said, grinning and pulling Draco’s arm. “Let’s get you some Muggle clothes.”

 

Apparently, Malfoys didn’t understand the concept of self-service. Draco stepped into the entrance of the store and stood with his chin held high, apparently waiting for someone to greet him and cater to his tastes. Before Harry could tell him that Muggle clothing stores didn’t do fittings, nobody was going to come up and bring him different fabrics and designs, a girl wearing flip flops and a half-erased name tag approached them with a pasted-on smile.

“May I help you?”

“Yes, I’m looking for a set of Mu—jeans and shirts. The normal kind,” Draco said in that commanding tone of his.

“Okay.” The clerk eyed Draco for a moment. “Come this way.”

When they reached the right part of the store, she attempted small talk. “So,” she said, leaning on the wall next to Draco. “Where are you from?”

“Wiltshire,” Draco said curtly, staring at the clerk as if she had grown horns or something.

“Oh, don’t get me wrong.” She let out a nervous laugh. “I usually recognize any accent, but I can’t seem to place yours.”

Harry, who’d been trying to avoid having to talk to the clerk if possible, realised with a jolt that she may be referring to the slight lilt in Draco’s tone. The slight lilt that characterised the Malfoys’ speech, as a matter of fact.

“I don’t have an accent,” Draco was saying, a crease appearing between his brows.

“Oh, I just thought.” The clerk fidgeted uncomfortably. “Never mind.” She offered Draco a nervous smile.

Placated, Draco offered her a smile of his own. “Well, we do attend a boarding school in Scotland for most of the year.”

Harry had a bad feeling about this.

“Oh, do you?” said the clerk, showing interest.

“Yes. We play football, too. You know, that sport Mugg—normal people play? On the grass, running with a checkered ball?”

“Uh,” the clerk said. She flicked her eyes to Harry, quirking an eyebrow questioningly.

Harry picked up random shirts and trousers and brandished them in front of Draco. “You should try these on, Draco. I saw these and thought of you. Definitely your taste. Go on.”

“Um,” Draco said, taking the shirt from Harry. “Okay.”

“Perfect!” Harry said.

“What’s wrong with him?” whispered the clerk, watching Draco disappear into the changing room.

“He goes to a special institute, actually,” Harry whispered back, shaking his head. “A genetic disorder that messed with his brain age. Tragic, really.”

“Oh,” the clerk said. “Poor lad. Looks fine on the outside.”

“He does, doesn’t he?” Harry agreed as he saw Draco emerge from the changing cubicle, looking like he owned the world in his white Muggle shirt with the palm tree print on the left chest and faded green jeans torn up in strategic places across his thighs and knees.

“Stop gaping like a fish, Harry,” Draco said, laughing, and shoved Harry into the cubicle. He started throwing clothes in for Harry to change into.

When Harry left the store an hour later, it was with a satisfied Draco swinging bulging shopping bags as he strolled down the road. It was half past noon and the sun was beating down on them. Harry, burdened with shopping bags of his own full of the clothes Draco had made him buy, felt too hungry to carry out this shopping spree. Or to stop Draco from picking up disgusting things off the ground.

“You know, Harry, Pansy said that freckles are cute,” Draco said, examining an empty plastic candy wrapper closely.

“I think you should put that down,” Harry suggested.

Draco shrugged and tossed it over his head. “Anyhow, d’you think she might be serious about the freckles? D’you think”—Draco leaned towards Harry—“she might fancy Weasel, just a little? I mean, they seemed to be getting along just fine, being dueling partners and all.”

“She’s your girlfriend, Draco. She fancies you,” Harry said, averting his eyes and quickening his steps.

“But she said freckles are cute. And I don’t even have freckles.” Draco scrunched up his nose in consternation.

Harry shrugged. “Maybe you’d get some if you stayed out in the sun long enough.”

What?!” Draco said, looking at Harry like he were crazy.

“Er,” Harry said.

“I can’t believe you said that.” Draco drew a deep breath, as if he were about to suggest something apoplectic. “Are you hinting that my blemish-free porcelain complexion is anything less than perfect?”

“Um. I guess it’s alright,” Harry said carefully.

“Alright? Alright?”

Apparently, it was the wrong thing to say. Draco was pointing an accusing finger at Harry.

“It isn’t alright. It’s perfection. It transcends perfection. Though, now that I think of it…” Draco looked over Harry in a speculative manner.

“What?” Harry said.

“I guess it’s fair for you to think freckles are cute. After all, you fancy Ginevra Weasley of the Freckled Clan.”

Harry groaned. “It has nothing to do with Ginny. It's—I don’t care about freckles.”

Draco narrowed his eyes. “I can see you’re hiding something, Harry Potter. You’ve…you’ve been snogging Ginevra without anyone knowing. Is that it?”

No,” Harry groaned.

“Not Ginevra? Maybe Cho Chang, then? You certainly looked cosy enough with her in the air,” Draco wondered out loud.

“Yeah, because plucking your hair means I’m hopelessly in love with you,” Harry said dryly.

“Chang was pretty generous, considering what you did to her. If someone had done that to my hair, I would’ve been out for blood.” Draco scowled. “Lots of blood,” he emphasised.

“Of course. Your hair is sacred,” Harry said, nodding.

“I’ve always known you would catch up some day,” Draco said triumphantly, patting Harry on the shoulder. “I hereby appoint you Chief Priest. You may worship my immaculate gossamer threads day and night.”

Harry shook his head left and right. “Blonds.”

The pat on his shoulder turned into a smack. “It’s not just blond. Take Smith, your dueling partner, for example. It’s more like a hay stack with sparse gold flecks here and there. Nothing worthy of serious worship, trust me.”

“Of course, your royal blondness,” Harry said, smiling despite himself.

“Much better,” Draco said in a contented voice. “You know,” he piped up a moment later, “I saw Smith snogging a bloke the other day.”

“Wha-what?” Harry stammered, not sure he heard right.

Draco went on as if he hadn’t heard Harry. “You know what I think? This whole Muggle experience has been an eye-opener for me. I feel”—he closed his eyes faced the sky—“as if I’ve become a new person.” He opened his eyes and looked straight at Harry. “You know what, Harry? Fuck sexuality. Smith is apparently a free man to himself.”

“Er,” Harry said, uncertain.

“I love everybody,” Draco said, stretching his shopping-bag-laden arms and swinging around.

“Okay,” Harry said.

“I even think, I have a little love for Muggles. They’re very neat. And they make great clothes. It’s too bad they’re so inferior, though.”

Harry couldn’t help grinning and shaking his head. Draco was ambling on the road full of Muggles stating what he loved—“…I love Weasel’s face when Vince punches him…I love the way Smith jumped a mile when I interrupted his snogging session…I love hot chocolate with marshmallow…”—and it was so embarrassing, this blond hurricane of absurd, self-righteous, mercurial, radiant liveliness, and Harry wanted to pull Draco to himself and not let go.

 

 

A/N: *hides* Sorry for being so late........

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: The characters and the situation belong to J. K. Rowling. This story was not created for profit. Just for fun.

 

16. Changes and Revelations

 

 

 

Draco noted two things remarkable about the start of fourth year, Harry was told.

The first of the two had Draco scowling even before they reached Hogwarts. Harry and Draco were walking down the length of the train, looking for Blaise and Theo and the rest of the Slytherins, when the door of the compartment they’d been walking by banged open and Pansy stepped out in front of them, only to stare blankly at their general direction.

“Hello there, nice to see you, Draco, dearest,” Draco prodded, grinning and stepping forward toward Pansy. “You look positively dazzling today. Clearly, your summer had been filled with physically demanding adventures that has rendered you practically edible.”

But Pansy wasn’t looking at Draco. She was looking beyond Draco.

“My, Weasley has grown,” she said.

Where’re you looking at, woman?” Draco snapped, his expression swiftly morphing into one of horror and disbelief. He wheeled around to spot Weasley ambling towards them along the hallway. It was apparent that he’d had quite a growth spurt during the summer—he looked like a fifth year, or even a sixth, at first glance at his towering frame.

As the three of them stood blocking the way, Weasley recognized them and opened his mouth with a scowl, probably to tell them to piss off, but stopped mid-motion when Draco snapped at Pansy again—“Quit ogling the Weasel, darling”—and instead his jaw went slack, his eyes wide as dinner plates as his ears went an unattractive scarlet.

“…wasn’t ogling by all means…just surprised, that’s all,” Pansy mumbled even as Draco shot Weasley a spiteful glare and shoved Pansy back into her compartment.

“I. She—” Weasley was saying, his face flooding scarlet as well.

“Er,” Harry said. He gave the shell-shocked Weasley an awkward shrug and followed Draco into the compartment.

Pansy was patting Draco on the head. “The Weasel doesn’t compare to you, Draco, you know that.” Draco gave her an incredulous stare. “You’re adorable. Like a cuddly stuffed dragon, you know, that looks all fierce and angry but is really just soft and lovable. I like that in a boyfriend.”

“I can’t believe you just compared me to a stuffed dragon,” Draco said, looking heavenwards as if the absurdity of what was being said was something God could sympathise with.

Harry half-listened to Theo’s account of the exotic man-eating insects of the African tropical forests from his travels as he watched out of the corner of his eye how Pansy’s continued efforts to appease Draco (playful pecking on the cheek, gentle carding of his hair, attempts to make him lay his head on her lap, and the like) remained fruitless throughout the train ride. Harry quelled a hopeful skip in his chest area, telling himself that he shouldn’t wish for things like that. After all, Draco was too mercurial for his immediate reactions to be considered serious.

The second remarkable change Draco noted about fourth year was their new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor.

As soon as he and Harry filed into the Great Hall, they scrambled for a glance at the High Table; they’d been debating on who’d replace Lupin as the Defence professor. Snape had told them that no, he would still be teaching Potions, and no, Brinley wasn’t coming back. Rumour was that Brinley and his crew had worked themselves so deep into the nest of vampires in Greenland that no owls or any other means of communication from them had been forthcoming for some time.

Harry, an inch or two taller than Draco, caught a glimpse of a rather battered-looking, burly man sitting beside Hagrid. His stringy hair was a mess of flyaway strands emphasising his ominous air, what with all the raised white and red scars crisscrossing his leathery face. There was something wrong with his right eye—it kept rolling in rapid jerks in its metallic socket, completely regardless of the way his left eye, his normal eye, was fixed on the food. Harry was sure there was a chunk missing from his nose.

“Er, Draco,” Harry said, squinting to look better over the mass of students as they swarmed into their respective House tables. “I think we’re going to learn Defence from a war veteran.”

“Oh God,” Draco gasped when he’d had a glimpse of the bulky professor. “Oh God.” Draco’s face had drained of color.

“What is it?” Harry asked, alarmed.

“That. That’s Mad-Eye Moody,” Draco said, looking panicked. “Oh Merlin. Please let him be a guest speaker or something. Please.”

“That eye certainly looks mad,” Harry agreed, worriedly looking over Draco’s terror-stricken expression, feeling the way Draco’s fingers were digging into his shoulder.

“Father says he’s insane. Father says Mad-Eye Moody’s crazy and paranoid, and combined with his experience during the height of You Know Who’s power, he’s the most dangerous Auror alive. Dumbledore can’t be expecting him to teach children, can he?” There was a slightly hysterical edge to Draco’s voice.

Harry knew about Aurors. Snape had told them all about the legal system in the wizarding world when they were going over laws regarding Dark Arts. Aurors were the equivalent of Muggle police officers. Or prosecutors. Or detectives. Basically the wizarding law enforcement’s main enforcers.

“I bet he’ll treat us like soldiers or something,” Draco said. “I bet he’ll try Dark Curses on us just to see us squirm.” He shuddered.

Not one to let down expectations, Moody started off their year by introducing them to the three Unforgivables. Thankfully, of the three curses, he practiced only the Imperius on things other than spiders. Namely, his students. Harry was by no means an accomplished Occlumens, but he was competent enough to throw off the curse. Compared to other Dark spells, Snape had said, Imperius was a rather straightforward attack on the mind. It didn’t attempt to sneak into the subconscious or subject the victim to long-term brainwashing. It was a full-blown order, a demand so forthright and compelling that the victim was helpless to do anything but obey. Blocking was easy. No need to utilize the more complicated maneuvers such as thrusting false memories to the forefront of the mind or fogging up the subconscious so as to confuse the Dark curse as it snaked its way in. For Imperius, all Harry needed was to set up a mental brick wall, and not a vast one at that—just thick enough to wear out the insistent persuasions.

Unfortunately, building up a brick wall to guard the mind required that he be able to contain his mind behind the wall. If so much as a tendril of a thought or memory drifted past the barrier, all would be lost. Faced with Snape’s Legilimency, Draco had no problem erecting a fortress around his mind. Faced with Moody and his mad eye, his trepidation would leak through his mental barriers, Draco told Harry. So Harry was the only one in his class to throw off Moody’s Imperius. Moody approved and started calling Harry by his first name, sometimes going as far as to flash a horrible smile (which only involved the right side of his face—his left side was partially paralyzed) during lessons. Harry couldn’t decide if it was a good thing.

Thankfully, their dueling club never involved actual Dark Arts. Moody had decided to maintain the club, everything from its system of fixed partners to its once-a-week, two-hour-long meetings on Wednesdays.

To tell the truth, however, the Wednesday meetings were actually becoming a bit problematic for Harry. For one, there was the way Harry kept reading things into Zach’s words and gestures, now that he knew for sure that Zach was bent. Before, when he would bend down away from Zach to pick up his cloak off the floor, he would reason that he’d only imagined Zach’s glance lingering on his behind. Now, well, he felt awkward when he caught Zach staring a moment too long at him anywhere. Comments that Harry had ignored before seemed flirtatious all of a sudden. Like that time Harry’d tripped while trying to duck Zach’s Tickling Charm and got himself a scratch on his knee. Want me to kiss it better? Zach had asked, and Harry had stammered out that it wasn’t necessary.

It was all very confusing, because why was Zach making passes at Harry if he was going out with some upper year? Had he broken up? Or did the guy thing work differently from… from normal couples? Besides, Harry had only reluctantly concluded that he was into the guy thing after his attempt to conjure up images of girls when wanking wilted his hard-on. Then he’d tried imagining Oliver Wood, the admittedly gorgeous Gryffindor Captain (though no one mentioned that in front of Draco—it made him launch into one of those rants about House loyalty and how Marc’s buck teeth were attractive in a… a rodent-like sort of way.) and that had failed miserably as well. Harry didn’t understand. Weren’t blokes his age supposed to get off thinking about anything at all?

Harry considered talking over this matter with Snape, because he was Head of Slytherin after all and should be available for consulting confused teenagers—but the very idea of discussing anything remotely related to sex with Snape made him recoil with horror. Harry thought about Lupin and about sending him a letter, because Lupin was almost a parent figure to him, being best mates with his father and all—but Harry felt partially responsible for the encounter with Lupin in the Forest, and couldn’t just suddenly confess all his feelings onto Lupin through a measly letter. Harry even thought about broaching this topic with Mr. or Mrs. Malfoy. They were his partial legal guardians and the closest thing to parents he had right now. But then how would he explain all this? Um, Mr. Malfoy… I can’t get it up without thinking of your son. It would go so well.

And that was the crux of the problem. Harry wasn’t sure he was homosexual. He was something ridiculous and crazy, like Draco-sexual. Or something. It was driving him spare. Maybe Draco was right about one of his ramblings on how Harry’s troubled childhood had left imprints on Harry’s normal behavior—Harry hadn’t been hugged or coddled enough as a child and now he was unsure about touching and boundaries. More likely than not, this was one of those boundary issues. Because Draco was his best mate and he had a girlfriend. Harry was supposed to be able to repress any wayward thoughts about him.

Another possibly troubling fact about the Wednesday dueling club meetings was that Draco had taken to wearing Muggle clothing for the meetings. Compared to wizarding wear, which consisted of a fitting robe over shirt and trousers—which were not suffocating at all, the garment was a marvel, Harry was surprised and relieved to note after having worn the full set of school robes for the better part of his years at Hogwarts—Muggle clothing seemed strangely bare and incomplete. Draco had developed a habit of wearing Muggle slacks during Quidditch practice as well, but under all that Quidditch gear, it didn’t really make a difference. But during Wednesday evenings, Draco would show up in a tee shirt and fitted jeans, and it wasn’t really anything remarkable, it shouldn’t have been, but then dueling tended to get sweaty with all that ducking and dashing, and by the end of the meetings Harry could see vague hints of Draco’s lean form under the damp, clingy shirt.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if they weren’t spending time together alone in the Come and Go Room practicing Occlumency right after the meetings.

“Why am I not able to Occlude Moody’s Imperius?” Draco whinged. “I freeze over when he’s casting that curse, and it’s like he’s drilling holes through my brick wall. I always did fine with Snape’s straightforward Legilimency. But I have to admit, that wasn’t enough preparation for blocking a real Imperius. It’s so different.”

Harry, who’d been distracted by the way Draco’s shirt rode up to reveal his belly button as he waved his hands in the air, looked up at Draco’s frustrated growl. “Er,” Harry offered.

Thankfully, Draco’s frustration was all-consuming and he didn’t seem to have noticed Harry’s momentary lapse.

“How come you’re throwing it off and I’m not? What did the curse tell you to do last time, Harry?”

“Oh. It told me to… I think it wanted me to yodel,” Harry said, squinting his eyes as he tried to remember how the curse had tried to invade his mind. “Yeah. Yodel,” he confirmed.

“Heh. Yodel,” Draco said, his irritation cast aside for a brief moment while he cracked a grin. Probably at the mental image of Harry yodeling. But then his face scrunched up again. “It told me to do a jig.”

“Er, yeah. I saw that.”

Jig,” Draco sputtered, no doubt thinking back to the indignity. “I jigged in front of the whole sodding class, Harry. I did a jig.

“The class wasn’t paying attention to you anyway,” Harry said, shrugging. “Besides, it could have been worse.”

“How worse can it get?” Draco said challengingly. “You tell me.”

“I think Moody actually spared you some dignity.” Harry held up a hand to placate Draco’s outraged protest—“Dignity?!”—and grimaced, remembering. “Greg did an awful robot dance on the desk. He had his tie done in a bow in his hair and his socks over his ears.”

“Oh,” Draco said. “That really is dreadful. Moody must have some weird kink about humiliation.” He considered for a moment, then he pouted. “I wish I’d seen that. I was probably too busy shaking my legs off.”

“It gets worse,” Harry said. “Pansy… Moody made her roll all over the floor. And I mean all over. Didn’t you notice how clean the floor was after? I really felt sorry for her.” Actually, Harry’d felt an odd and very sick sense of vindication, but Draco didn’t need to know that.

“Merlin,” Draco was saying, eyes wide. “I’d wondered what she’d done to her hair. There was gum stuck in there! It was horrible.”

“Like I said, you got off easy,” Harry said breezily. “At least you performed your part reasonably well. Your jig was pretty good. Greg looked more epileptic than robotic.”

“But Moody said there was a next time,” Draco pointed out, pulling on his hair—a sign of grave distress, Harry noted. Draco groaned. “Next time, it could be me rolling on the ground, mopping up what filth there is on the floor.” A full shudder coursed through his body. “I can’t even think it. It’s too horrendous. I once saw Moody picking his nose and flicking something onto the floor. The floor’s probably infested with bogeys. Ugh.”

“We’ll practice,” Harry reassured him. “You’ll get better.”

“Yes, I will,” Draco said, straightening his back and recovering from his misery. “And you’ll help me, of course,” he demanded imperiously. “Now, cast me an Imperius.”

“Cast what?” Harry blinked.

“Imperius,” Draco repeated matter-of-factly.

“Sorry,” Harry said, incredulous, “but did you just ask me to cast an Unforgivable on you?”

“Harry, you have to understand that I can’t take the risk. Next time, Moody might be asking me to… I don’t know… pole dance or something. You wouldn’t want me to be humiliated like that, would you? You wouldn’t, if you’re a true friend.”

The image of Draco rubbing himself on a pole rose, unbidden. “No, we wouldn’t want that,” Harry agreed, willing down his blush.

Draco beamed. “I’m ready when you are.”

“No.” Harry shook his head, rubbing his eyes with the heel of his palm. “No,” he said again, louder. “I didn’t agree to cast an Unforgivable on you, Draco.”

“Don’t be like that,” Draco said, pouting again. It was ridiculous. He was fourteen years old. He should have done away with childish habits like pouting. Really. “It really isn’t an Unforgivable if you’re forgiven, isn’t it? I forgive you in advance. Problem solved,” Draco declared triumphantly.

“That—that doesn’t even make sense!”

Harry,” Draco said, biting his lip. “Please?”

It wasn’t fair. Harry knew that look on Draco’s face, that one when he bit down on his lower lip and looked up beseechingly through his lashes. Harry’d seen Draco use that on his parents when he’d wanted new brooms for them. Please, Father, Draco had said, Mother, please, dropping his gaze then looking back up at them—and Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy, coldly furious as they had been on hearing their only son’s near-fatal encounter with Lupin in the Forbidden Forest, had sighed and relented, and now Harry and Draco each owned a Firebolt, thanks to Draco’s sly, manipulative tactics. Harry’d thought Mr. Malfoy was a soft touch, falling for Draco’s obvious wheedling. Now, on the receiving end of that look, Harry could only think, Not fair.

Please, Harry,” Draco said again.

Harry took a moment to collect himself so that he could say no. He took a deep breath. And ended up saying, “Okay.” This was getting ridiculous.

“Great!” Draco said, beaming. “I knew I could count on you.” Then after seeing Harry’s troubled face, added more softly, “I really do trust you, Harry. Don’t worry.”

Nothing happened on Harry’s first try. For Dark spells, complicated wand motions were unnecessary. Instead, what mattered was that the caster must mean the curse. Which was the problem here. Harry didn’t really want to invade Draco’s mind.

“You have to mean it,” Draco said impatiently.

“But I don’t want to control you—or make you do things you don’t want,” Harry blurted, irritated and upset.

“Well, we could always agree beforehand what you’d make me do,” Draco said, gesturing magnanimously toward himself. “What do you want to do with me?”

“Um,” Harry said, slowly turning a dull red.

“How about you make me drink that pumpkin juice?” Draco suggested, not noticing.

Many attempts, several frustrated protests on Harry’s part, and many an impatient prompting on Draco’s later, Harry finally felt his spell touch Draco’s mind. The curse was oily against Draco’s conscious, slipping against the mental wall he’d built. Harry squeezed his eyes shut and gripped his wand tighter, lapping the blockage over and over again, insistently, looking for a flaw, an escaping tendril of a thought, anything.

Draco was holding up. The wall was solid, imperturbable. But then Harry sensed a skirt of emotion peeking above, around, and he swiftly reached for it. Just like that, the spell connected. It felt as if a thread of awareness had taken up a corner of Harry’s mind. Like those string-tied puppets, as if Harry could pull on a particular string in his mind and Draco would act accordingly. Only, the strings were too numerous to compare with a puppet, and it was strangely intimate—if Harry concentrated, he could feel Draco’s heartbeats and the serene rise and fall of his chest. Draco was fighting the curse. Harry could feel his mind tugging at the seams of the puppet-strings, feebly but noticeably.

Harry opened his eyes. Draco stood in front of him just as he had been before Harry’d shut his eyes. Harry swallowed. Uneasiness washed over him when he looked at Draco’s eyes and knew he was the cause of the blank abyss inside them.

“Er… you should drink the juice, Draco,” Harry said, and felt the tugging grow more forceful, the threads attached to Draco’s mind pulling tight. The pupils of Draco’s eyes dilated and contracted, dilated and contracted as his hand rose slowly towards the goblet. “Um. Yeah. Drink the juice,” Harry said again, and the tightly strung threads loosened. Draco drank the juice.

All of a sudden, Harry felt a vicious yank in his mind and with a silent snap, Draco broke away.

“I did it,” Draco said, blinking.

“You did it,” Harry said, offering him a congratulatory smile.

“But I drank the juice,” Draco said irritably, glowering at the half-empty goblet. “Would you mind terribly doing it again? I want to resist all of it. From the start.”

Harry frowned. “But it’s late. It’s already past curfew. Let’s just… put this off until next week or something. You threw off the Imperius, didn’t you?”

“But I brought your cloak,” Draco said, grinning impishly.

Harry should have known Draco would be tempted to use the cloak without his permission.

When Draco perfected his fortification against Imperius, he did a little victory dance in front of Harry, who was sprawled on the floor, feeling as if he’d become an expert on Imperius.

“Wait till I see all of them next class,” Draco said gleefully. “I’ll have so much blackmail material. Last time Vince snorted at my impression of Finch-Fletchley flinching fetchingly. He’ll be sorry.” He cackled evilly.

“You’re welcome, Draco. You don’t need to thank me so extravagantly,” Harry said flatly.

“You don’t know how thankful I am!” Draco said, grinning so wide Harry could see his eyeteeth.

Harry rolled his eyes.

Draco prostrated himself next to Harry and stared up at the ceiling, which the room had seen fit to enchant to reflect the night sky. “How I wish we had double Defence with Gryffindor,” Draco lamented. “I’d love to see the Weasel sweep the floor with his hair. I bet Pansy will have to rethink his manliness then.” He paused, seemingly turning the idea over in his head. “On the other hand, sweeping the floor might improve his looks. It’ll take away the ginger, at least.”

“I wonder if Moody will give you another one of those funny Auror things,” Harry said, thinking back to the “reward” Moody had given him for being the only one to successfully repel Imperius. The device was one of those Dark Detectors, and it looked like an amulet. According to Moody, it would heat up when it neared a Dark artifact.

“That was a nifty device,” Draco said, squinting up into the night sky and tracing the stars with a finger. “But I don’t like the way Moody treats you. He looks at you like you’re… I don’t know… a means to an end. Or something.”

“He’s sort of creepy, but I don’t think he means any harm,” Harry said, watching from the corner of his eye Draco’s finger drawing invisible shapes in the air.

“If you say so,” Draco said serenely. “D’you see that?” he said, pointing upwards. “That’s my constellation. It’s one of the Imperishables, the stars that never set. That’s why Father named me after it. He wants the Malfoy name to live on.”

“It’s very bright,” Harry said, looking up into the clear sky at Draco’s constellation, which was burning more brightly than others.

“It’s not normally that bright,” Draco said, turning over on his stomach and balancing his chin on his folded arms to look at Harry. “I think it’s the room’s doing. The room’s amazing, really.”

“Yeah. Wonder if other students used to come here before us.”

“I don’t think anyone knows about this room but us Slytherins right now,” Draco said. “Dead useful. D’you know, once it turned into a toilet for me when I really, really had to go.” A grin spread over Draco’s face. “The room is clearly fond of me. You see how it highlights my constellation now? Well, when I stepped into the loo, it was the most luxurious loo I’d ever seen. Bigger than the Prefects’ bath even. Also its toilet was very posh. I think the seat was entirely of ivory. Real ivory.”

“It’s comforting to know that my best mate’s an expert on toilet seats,” Harry said, amused.

Draco scoffed. “It’s only the tip of the iceberg. My expertise of the chic runs deeper than that.”

“Yes, you really are skilled at telling differences between the vast properties of the cerulean blue and sea-shade blue foams in the Prefects’ bath. Trust me, I know.”

“It takes a talented eye and nose to discern those,” Draco said petulantly.

“Deep. Very deep, Draco,” Harry said, nodding gravely.

Profound,” Draco emphasised, hitting the floor with his fist.

“Yes,” Harry agreed. “Profoundly weird.”

Draco punched Harry’s arm and burst into laughter.

Harry felt content, lying on the cool floor, drifting off, not caring about anything but the cool breeze and the warmth radiating from Draco so close by. After a few minutes of companionable silence, Draco spoke up. “I wonder what Tom used this room for. He mentioned turning it into a bed chamber of sorts. D’you think he was one of those students who slept with half the school? Kind of like what Blaise is hoping to do?” Draco tapped his fingers on his chin. “Tom M. Riddle. It’s all very mysterious, isn’t it? A student knowing so much about the castle. Even his name’s Riddle.”

“I think—” Harry pondered for a moment. “I think he was too adventurous for his own good. The teachers probably all hated him. I wonder if Filch used to work at Hogwarts when Tom was here. Would’ve eaten him alive, with all his snooping around.”

“Tom the blatant rule-breaker?”

“Yeah. Why not?”

“But he was Slytherin,” Draco said petulantly. “He seems like a smart bloke. He could’ve been more cunning.” He thought for a minute. “Maybe he was a teacher’s pet. Or better, Head Boy. Then he would’ve had all the excuse in the world to roam the castle on his own after curfew. When Filch caught him, he was probably like this.” Draco schooled his face to look all preppy and smooth. “Good night to you, Mr. Filch. I’ve been doing rounds for stray first years and rule breakers. No one appears to be on the seventh floor,” he said, his voice fluent. “Then, he goes to the seventh floor himself.” Draco nodded vehemently. “Perfectly Slytherin.” He seemed very impressed.

Harry felt the need to remind him that it was only a theory.

“But it makes so much sense,” Draco argued, frowning at Harry. “Tom the snakeliest snake in the dungeon.” He mulled over the title. “I like him,” Draco concluded with a smirk.

“Well, I think he was sort of creepy,” Harry suggested. “D’you remember all the research he wrote about what’s it—Hor-somethings?”

“Horcrux.” Draco made a face. “Come to think of it, it was disturbing. All that rot about tearing up your soul and becoming immortal and stuff.”

“Yeah. My point exactly,” Harry said. “Why would a decent bloke look into making those things? And he wrote that he actually made three of them. And planted two in his own school. It’s sick. He was no doubt some weedy kid who was too ambitious for his own good. Or mental. Either way, not a very likable bloke.”

“You have a point,” Draco agreed, pursing his lips. “I wish he’d written why he was so obsessed with becoming immortal. Maybe someone was after his throat?”

“More like he was paranoid.” Harry snorted, and wondered why he’d become so offensive to Tom all of a sudden. Well, it didn’t matter. Tom was helpful, but all evidence suggested that he must have been a weird guy. It was reasonable. “Prob’ly one of those guys who look hunted all the time. Like death warmed over.”

“Hey,” Draco said enthusiastically. “That’s a great idea!”

Harry blinked. “Er, I didn’t suggest anything.”

Draco’s eyes had gone all sparkly. “Yes you did,” he argued. “I bet we can get Pince to show us one of those Hogwarts graduation albums. We can see for ourselves if he’s death warmed over or not.”

“We can do that?” Harry asked, intrigued.

“Yes. I have a Plan,” Draco said, smirking. “And I bet Tom’s all sleek and composed with the Bad Boy smirk.”

 

*

 

Harry’d never imagined that looking sad would be so hard. Draco looked sad whenever he felt like looking sad. He’d been able to tear up at will ever since he could remember, he’d told Harry.

“See, he’s all melancholy now, and we would be infinitely grateful if you could please let us search the graduation albums for their pictures,” Draco entreated, looking up at Madam Pince with earnest eyes. Harry bowed his head and concentrated on looking like a kicked puppy.

“I’m sorry, but the section is not for student use,” Madam Pince said.

“Please, Madam Pince,” Draco implored. “Harry only has a single picture of his parents, and now it’s gone. He was doing okay for a while, but then one of our Housemates brought a family album from home, and… and look at him! He’s on the edge of despair.” Draco sniveled and his voice became thick with tears. “We’re counting on your g-good graces, Madam. Only a glimpse, we p-promise.”

Draco stepped on Harry’s toe. It was Harry’s cue to let out his own please in a cracked voice.

“Oh…” Madam Pince said, wavering. Harry stole a sideways glance at Draco. His nose was red and fat tears were slipping down his cheeks. Harry knew it was fake, but nevertheless the sight of Draco crying like that set a pang in Harry’s stomach. Draco was an incredible actor. Incredible.

“Oh… All right, boys. But you’d better keep to yourselves in the chamber.” Madam Pince sighed and fished out a brass key from a drawer.

When the records chamber’s door shut behind them (with hardly any noise, this part of the library must have been well-cared for) after a heartrending plead for Harry’s privacy to mourn the loss of his parents, Draco wiped his face with his sleeves at once. His cheeks were still shiny and his eyes were red-rimmed, but his smirk was pure mischief. The sight was oddly endearing. But then, Harry found him endearing when he was telling Harry off for sloshing Butterbeer all over his textbook, so it didn’t really mean anything.

“Let’s look at your parents, first,” Draco chirped. “Father graduated in year 1973, and Snape was five years below him… and Snape was in the same year with your parents… so what year are we looking for?”

“Er, ’78?” Harry said.

“Yup. And here it is!”

Harry knew how his parents looked—Hagrid had given him an album for his birthday after all—but seeing them in school robes was pretty new. They were so young.

“Wow. You really look like your father,” Draco said, peering down at a James Potter grinning out from his picture in the year book.

“Yeah, I’ve heard that a lot,” Harry murmured, tracing the line of his dad’s jaw with his finger.

“I think you look a bit better than him, though,” Draco said. “I like your eyes better. He looks sort of geeky. And he was in Gryffindor. Thank Merlin you didn’t take that after him.”

“Let’s see how good your dad looked like in seventh grade, then,” Harry said, peeved a little, because Mr. Malfoy would never have been a Gryffindor.

Draco smiled. “Yes, Let’s. D’you remember Snape telling us how Father didn’t wear his hair long in school?”

“Yeah, I remember,” Harry said, smiling back at him. “Your father made Snape shut up about it.”

“Father never shows me any pictures of himself before he married Mother, though I’ve seen plenty of pictures of Mother when she was young. I wonder what’s all the fuss. Maybe he wore glasses when he was in school? He could have modified his sight later on.”

“Maybe your father’s not a natural blond,” Harry suggested. Draco looked scandalized. “Just a thought,” Harry added hastily.

As it turned out, it wasn’t about the blondness.

“I can’t breathe!” Draco gasped, clutching his stomach, half sprawled on the floor, laughing and groaning in equal measures.

“It’s—” Harry sputtered with laughter. “It’s even better than spinach hair.”

“You know, it could have been a... trend those days.” Draco recovered a little, though it was clear that he had to bite down on his lip to stifle another laugh.

“Draco,” Harry said grinning madly, “no other bloke had a bowl cut in his year.”

“But you have to admit,” Draco said. He was most likely trying to salvage his dad’s ruined dignity. “You have to admit that it’s… kind of cute.” Or not. “Wait till I tell him about this,” Draco said darkly, gleefully. “Think I can get him to buy us a telly?” Draco quirked an eyebrow at Harry.

Harry rolled his eyes. “I don’t know what twisted morals you are harboring, Draco, but sons don’t blackmail their dads.”

“Father likes it when I act all Slytherin.” Draco shrugged. “It’s worth a try.” He winked at Harry. “Now”—he clapped once and sat upright—“I want to see that Tom Riddle.”

“Yeah, about time,” Harry agreed, getting off the carpet as well. “Pince might get suspicious. We’re spending too much time in here,” Harry said.

“Quickly, then. What year?”

“Er… I think it was ’45. Or ’46.”

Old. He’s in his sixties now. I wonder if he’s still alive,” Draco pondered out loud as he searched for the right book.

To Harry’s disappointment, and to Draco’s delight, Tom Riddle was a neat and put-together pretty boy.

“Tom Marvolo Riddle,” Draco read aloud. “Prefect, Head Boy, received Special Merit Award for services to the—”

What are you doing?!

Harry and Draco scrambled to stand up. Madam Pince was frozen to the spot, her gaze fixed on Tom’s picture. Her face was drained of all color.

“Madam Pince, I can explain,” Draco said, looking alarmed at her frightening reaction—her gaze was still rooted to the book, and she was trembling, visibly.

“Du-Dumbledore will hear about this,” she said, her staccato voice trembling badly.

Harry and Draco spoke up at once.

“Madam—”

“It was an accident—”

“We didn’t mean to—”

“The book fell on us! And we—”

“SILENCE!”

Pince snatched their wrists in each of her hand and dragged them out of the room. Harry winced—her bony fingers were digging into his wrist. He looked behind Pince’s back to see Draco stare back at him, eyes wide with anxiety.

Whatever it was, they’d done something terribly, terribly wrong. Harry’d never seen Pince act that way, even when she’d spotted Blaise snogging Mandy Brocklehurst behind the Self-Improvement section of the library. She’d turned a bright red and hauled them off by their shirt collars, furiously ranting on about kids these days—a far cry from her rigid, paper-white face right now as she strode briskly and purposefully down the corridors.

Stumbling to keep up, Harry looked at Draco with a helpless expression. Draco bit his lips then mouthed: We’re fucked.

Chapter Text

I recently went down a nostalgia rabbit hole and re-read what I'd written about Harry and Draco more than 10 years ago. Some parts were a little bit cringe (I was writing about things I wasn't familiar with! I was a teenager back then!) but overall it was a surprisingly enjoyable read, haha. I actually realized I had written a couple of unpublished chapters, so decided to publish them, for the record :)


17. Unexpected Turn

“Irma,” Dumbledore said gently, facing the trembling librarian. “Tom Riddle is long gone.”

At Dumbledore’s words, Pince released Harry and Draco. Harry quickly massaged his wrist—Pince had a nasty grab.

“I guess you’re right, Albus,” Pince said, voice uncertain. “But, how…?”

“There’s nothing to worry yourself. Harry has more than earned the right to know,” Dumbledore said. His eyes twinkled behind his half-moon spectacles as he smiled at Harry and Draco. “You may leave us, Irma.”

As soon as Pince left Dumbledore’s office in a flurry of robes, Dumbledore offered them a lemon drop, as usual, and ended up being the only one in the room popping one in his mouth, as usual.

“Um. Professor,” Harry started, because although usually Draco did most of the talking, Draco was not exactly fond of the headmaster; he firmly believed that Dumbledore favored Gryffindor, what with being the ex-Head of Gryffindor and all, and was wary of him.

Dumbledore peered at Harry over his spectacles. “Madam Pince was alarmed,” he started, talking slowly, “to have caught you boys looking at the childhood picture of the deceased . . . Lord Voldemort.”

Harry’s brain didn’t connect with Dumbledore’s words for a moment. Harry turned to look at Draco, to make sure that he had heard right. On Draco’s face was an expression of horrorstruck disbelief.

“But,” Harry blurted, “but Tom Riddle, he was—” Draco pinched his elbow, hard. Harry winced and shut his mouth.

“Was . . . ?” Dumbledore prompted.

“A Head Boy,” Draco finished for Harry, although that wasn’t what Harry was meaning to say. Frankly, Harry didn’t know what he’d been meaning to say, because it was bizarre—Voldemort? Tom Riddle? Voldemort? Tom Riddle, whose journal they’d been reading and making use of for the last couple of years? Voldemort had been the one writing about the passage to the Hogwarts kitchens, Hogsmeade, the Come and Go Room and all the other things Harry and Draco had studied and marveled over?

Harry didn’t know what to say. He looked at Dumbledore for some clue. Dumbledore’s gaze was still fixed on Harry, his eyes still harboring that ominous twinkle. Staring into the pale blue orbs of Dumbledore’s eyes, Harry felt a trickle of something probing the edge of his thoughts. It felt familiar and foreign at the same time . . . so similar to the way Harry’d felt when Snape was practicing . . . Legilimency.

Harry slammed a wall in front of his mind almost automatically.

“I take it Tom Riddle’s identity has escaped you until now?” Dumbledore said, looking so composed and completely unaware of what had just happened in Harry’s mind that Harry suddenly found himself doubting it had happened at all. Dumbledore’s eyes were no longer on him but skimming through an assortment of sweets on a circular table near by.

“Yes, professor,” Harry said.

“Indeed, Voldemort has been a student at Hogwarts himself,” Dumbledore continued. “He charmed most teachers with his brilliance, to tell the truth. It is no secret, Harry, Draco, but few know of this fact.” He gazed into the fireplace before turning toward Harry and Draco once again. “Be careful with this knowledge. Knowledge maimed the Kneazle, after all.”

Harry’s mind was reeling already without having Dumbledore sprinkle puzzles at him.

It was not until after Quidditch practice (after shouts from Flint to watch the Bludgers, mind the Quaffle, and why the hell wasn’t Harry grabbing the Snitch hovering right next to his ear?) that Harry stumbled over an alarming prospect concerning one specific area of interest in Dark Arts that Tom Riddle had obsessed about in his journal: Horcruxes.

“You killed him, Harry,” Draco said, flinging his Firebolt over his shoulder. “He’d dead. He’s not a danger anymore, short of endangering your tenuous relationship with your passing grade in Potions by making you waste time going after bits of his soul. Which isn’t even alive anymore.”

Harry made a frustrated sound and trotted forwards to overtake Draco. “Voldemort”—Draco frowned at the name—“killed my parents. He’s a murderer. And bits of his soul are left scattered over the school! Our school. Tell me, exactly how am I supposed to let it go?”

Draco bit his lip. “Harry, I know you must hate him—”

“You know that’s an understatement,” Harry said darkly.

“Yes, okay. But you already had the ultimate revenge when you obliterated him. As a one-year-old, to boot. Just let it go. He’s gone.”

“Horcruxes—” Harry took a breath. “Riddle, he wrote on the journal that they were supposed to make him immortal. He certainly wouldn’t have meant ‘immortal’ to indicate little parts of his soul rotting away trapped in objects now, would he? That means—it means that somehow, there must be a way to . . . to resurrect him or something from the bits left behind.”

Draco had gone completely still. “You mean,” he said slowly, “Vol—the Dark Lord might rise to power again?”

Harry swallowed. “He might. If we don’t destroy his soul.”

Draco sighed and shifted his weight. He was relenting, Harry could tell. Draco sighed again. “All right,” he said.

“Good. Right,” Harry said, stepping aside so that he could walk beside Draco instead of blocking his way. “So. We should, er, start looking for them.”

Draco threw him a baleful glance. “No, you dunderhead. What’d we do with them when we find them? We can’t just . . . They could be dangerous, you know. You remember how Snape told us certain Dark artifacts tend to entrance their holders if left in their clutches for too long?”

“Right,” Harry said sheepishly. “Then. Er . . .”

“We should get a hold of some way to destroy them first,” Draco said.

“Oh,” Harry said. He thought for a minute. “I guess . . . we could learn to cast Fiendfyre?”

Draco fixed him with a stare that said, I know you’d go mental some day.

“Well,” Harry said, determined to explain himself. “A Horcrux is a soul part, and Fiendfyre is the only spell that completely destroys the soul. So, er . . .”

“And where exactly, Harry, would we learn to cast such a Dark curse, pray tell me.”

“Snape?” Harry suggested, shrugging.

Draco slapped his hand onto Harry’s forehead rather forcefully.

“Ow!” Harry said, taking a step back and rubbing his forehead. “What was that for?”

“Testing for fever,” Draco explained. “Your temperature seems fine, so nothing wrong in the physical department. Apparently, you’re simply off your rocker,” he declared. “I’ve been suspecting this for a long time, Harry. There were signs, but I convinced myself that while you might sometimes act mental, you actually weren’t. Thanks for disabusing me of my—hey! This is absurd. I’m in an abusive friendship.”

Draco rubbed his shoulder where Harry had punched him lightly.

“You deserved that. I thought, I mean, Snape apparently knows how to cast Fiendfire, so . . .” Harry mumbled.

“What kind of questions would that lead to?” Draco huffed out an impatient breath. “You’re such a strong-headed, stubborn dimwit. I sometimes think you’d fit right in with the Gryffindors. No, we’re not going to Snape with this.”

The next evening found Harry and Draco standing awkwardly outside Moody’s office waiting for the Defence professor to finish telling off a Hufflepuff upper-year boy for not being able to Crucio a spider. Harry shivered a little. He hoped he’d never have to stick around to do that himself. Just watching the spider twist and jerk in unnatural angles screaming a silent plea under Moody’s wand was enough to make him want to retch.

After a particularly savage bark from Moody, the Hufflepuff boy ran past them into the corridor with his hands covering his face, sobbing all the way.

“What brings you here?” Moody said, his eyes—both—darting between Harry and Draco.

“Er, we—” Harry started, but Draco stepped on his foot. He took the cue and shut up.

“We’re sorry to cause an inconvenience, Professor Moody,” Draco said, his voice and face the epitome of politeness. “As you know, we’re the only students who’ve mastered how to repel your Imperius.” Draco paused, looking up at Moody for confirmation.

“Go on,” Moody grunted, his magical eye fixed on Draco.

“Since we’re ahead of other students, Professor,” Draco continued, “we were wondering if you could be convinced to teach us some more.”

“Teach you some more of what? Depends on what you want to know,” Moody said, an amused tone creeping into his voice. “Harry Potter”—he nodded at Harry, his magical eye briefly resting on Harry’s scar—“and Draco Malfoy, eh? Son of Lucius Malfoy.” Moody’s face darkened for a second.

“Do you know my father, sir?” Draco asked, his mask of politeness cracking a little with his anxious voice. “He—he used to tell me that you were a fine Auror in your time, sir.”

“Fine Auror indeed,” Moody said, his mad eye rolling backwards for a second, his face unreadable. “Enough of that, now. Come inside. I have a feeling you boys don’t want to be overheard, correct?” He leaned in towards them as if he were about to reveal a grave secret. He whispered, “Walls have ears.” Then he laughed to himself as if he’d just said a hilarious joke. Harry and Draco followed him in, a bit uneasy.

“So,” Moody said, grinning, after Draco poured out his practiced speech. “Fiendfyre.”

“Yes, sir,” Draco said, nodding his head. “I’ve read that the mechanics of the spells to control Fiendfyre are very similar to that of resisting the Imperius. And we are sure that . . . that we’d pick it up soon enough if we were to learn from you.”

Moody stopped grinning. His magical eye whizzed around in his socket. He leaned forward, looking back and forth between Harry and Draco. He stayed that way for an unending minute before he opened his mouth. “You ever think of becoming Aurors?” he snarled.

“Er, not exactly,” Harry mumbled.

“Um,” Draco said.

Moody let out a bark of a laugh. “Few Aurors know Dark Arts to the extent where they’d know how to cast and control Fiendfyre. Luckily for you, I’m one of those few.”

“Great,” Harry said, giving him an awkward smile.

Contrary to Harry’s plan—which never amounted to much because Draco always scoffed when Harry came up with one—to learn Fiendfyre, unearth Riddle’s Horcruxes and destroy them just like one, two, snap, lessons with Moody were tedious.

Moody locked his office when Harry and Draco slipped inside every week. Apparently, Moody knew his stuff. He could cast the curse with a flick of his wand. It seemed so easy—he didn’t even say the incantation out loud.

“CONCENTRATE!” Moody snarled at them when they failed to conjure even a lick of anything remotely resembling fire on their first, second, and third tries.

“He seems too committed to teaching us Dark Arts,” Draco complained after a particularly grueling lesson during which Harry’d managed to conjure a thin stream of black smoke inside Moody’s cauldron. Moody had laughed and said that it wasn’t the spell. It was simply Harry’s magic concentrating on one spot.

“Wonder if we should tell him about the Horcruxes and get it over with? We wouldn’t have to learn how to cast Fiendfyre ourselves, then,” Harry said, weary with the effort of it all.

Moody had said only a handful Aurors knew how to control Fiendfyre. The few fully-trained Aurors who’d fought many a Dark wizard in their prime. It would take forever for them to learn to cast the spell without posing any danger of burning down all of Hogwarts.

“But,” Draco said—Harry could hear the pout in his testy tone—“then we’d have to tell him all about the Riddle diary, about how it belongs to the Dark Lord. It’s too big. In the least, we’d get in trouble for having had something like that, because we read and followed the directions written in the journal for secret passages and rooms. We’d lose the Come and Go Room, and the passages to the kitchens and Hogsmeade might get blocked.”

Draco abruptly stopped walking and turned to Harry. He gasped. “What if,” he started, his eyes wide. “What if my family gets in trouble with the Ministry for having had something like that in our library? For all the Ministry knows, there might be countless other Dark objects hidden in the manor—the Aurors might search our home! And Father—his reputation, we have to think about that, he’s a politician, his reputation is his lifeline, and then what would happen?” Draco shook his head determinedly. “No. No way. We won’t tell a word of this to anyone.”

“Oh,” Harry said, suddenly very aware of the seriousness of the situation. They were dealing with Voldemort, the Dark wizard, murderer of his parents and countless others. They were dealing with Dark spells and Dark artifacts and a dangerous and slightly mad ex-Auror who was willing to teach his students how to cast Fiendfyre, who could cast the curse himself, easy peasy.

“Right. Then we should . . . just go on with what we were doing, I guess,” Harry offered.

“Wait,” Draco said, squinting his eyes. “I think,” he said slowly, “I have a plan.”

“Er,” Harry said.

“We don’t have to learn the curse ourselves, Harry. Moody will do that for us once we have that Horcrux. We’ll just tell him that we want a demonstration and give him the Horcrux to cast the Fiendfyre on.” Draco sighed. “Where would you be without me?”

*

It was strange to flip through Tom Riddle’s journal, now that Harry knew the same hands that had murdered his parents when he was a year old had touched the pages and wrote the entries. The same hand had wrote secrets that had somehow found way into the hands of two fourteen-year-olds, secrets about how he’d torn off three pieces of his soul and bottled them into objects. Two of which he’d hidden at Hogwarts—one in the Come and Go Room, one in the Chamber of Secrets.

“Why don’t we try the Come and Go Room for the first . . . er, thing?” Harry said, avoiding saying “Horcrux” out loud. Draco was making a face at the Weasley twins. They were retiring from the Quidditch pitch, and the Gryffindor team was booked right after. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Flint exchanging slurs with Oliver Wood.

The twins shouldered them roughly as they went past. “Brutes,” Draco hissed, shooting daggers with his glare at their retreating backs. “Wouldn’t expect otherwise,” he muttered through his teeth. “Raised in a hovel of Weasels. Savages.

Draco adjusted his Slytherin scarf around his neck in a vicious gesture, no doubt conveying his hate for the Weasley twins. Draco wearing a scarf was something new—Draco had told him that wearing anything around his neck made him uncomfortable. Maybe he tolerated it because of the chilly weather. It was only a few weeks to Christmas and the wind was freezing, especially when you had to race against it up in the sky. Maybe that was also the reason why Draco’d decided to wear full Quidditch robes to practice today. Harry was rather grateful, really. He didn’t want to get distracted after his disastrous practice the other day.

Catching himself staring at Draco’s scarf, Harry shook his head and coughed, “Horcrux.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “I heard you. No need to be so impatient, Harry. He”—Draco looked left and right to check they were alone—“the Dark Lord’s gone for now. Sure, he’s left pieces of himself here and there like the sloppy prick he was—considering that he’d left his valuable journal in the Malfoy library to be found by us—but still, he’s gone for now. No need to hurry. A day or two won’t make a difference.”

“Why not get it over with? We have time right now. I brought my cloak.”

You have time,” Draco said. “I don’t.”

Harry frowned. “If you’re talking about that Transfiguration practical tomorrow . . . ”

“Not that. You know I can transfigure objects easily now. I’ll breeze through the practicals. I’ll show that McGonagall woman, just you wait.”

“Er, so what is it?” Harry asked, bemused.

“You want to know?” Draco said smirking.

“Sure,” Harry replied.

“I’m going to ask Pansy to the Yule Ball tonight.” Draco beamed.

Harry felt his stomach lurch uncomfortably. Draco and Pansy had had a spectacular row in the middle of the Great Hall during supper last evening, one of those rows that started out with trivial matters like a snappish attitude or an inconsiderate remark and ended up with both people screaming out each and every fault they hated about each other. And after the row, Harry had hoped . . .

“It’s not a given?” Harry asked, swallowing around the lump in his throat. “I mean, you two are . . . She’s your girlfriend. Why’d she go to the ball with anyone else?”

“Harry, Harry, Harry,” Draco said, shaking his head and sounding a lot like Blaise. “With girls, you have to constantly make them believe they’re wanted. Pansy hates it when I ignore her or take her for granted. Pansy’s my first girlfriend, but that doesn’t mean I’m totally ignorant about these things. Besides, the reason we had a row at all was that Daphne got asked to the ball by Michael Corner and Pansy was in a testy mood.”

“So you . . . you made up with her after the row?”

Draco grinned like a wolf. “Yes we did. We made up spectacularly.” He unwrapped the scarf, revealing a trail of bruises running down the side of his neck to disappear under his collar.

For a moment, Harry thought Draco had been beaten, and incredulous anger surged through him, because how dare Pansy hurt Draco that way, she didn’t know how lucky she was to have him, Harry wouldn’t ever even dream of hurting him if—if he belonged to Harry.

But then Harry caught up with his thoughts and realised how ludicrous they were. Pansy wouldn’t hit Draco. Those weren’t bruises.

“You have . . . ” Harry swallowed—it hurt to swallow, his throat was too dry. “You have,” he started again. “Love bites,” he spat out.

“Yes I do,” Draco said in an awed voice, fingering the trail of angry purple and blue along his throat. Then he grinned. “Guess what? Pansy’s a minx. She wanked me last night, and it was amazing. I’d never imagined having another person wank me could feel so good. It doesn’t really make sense, does it? I mean, a hand is a hand. Why would it feel so different from my hand?”

“Oh,” Harry said faintly. It felt as if his stomach had twisted itself into a knot. He felt sick.

“Pansy even let me touch her chest,” Draco continued, the excitement showing in his eyes. “To tell you the truth, I didn’t know what I was doing. But Pansy liked it anyways. So I guess I did alright, you know?”

“That’s enough,” Harry snapped.

Draco frowned. “What?”

“Just . . . enough,” Harry growled.

Draco cocked his head. “You’re jealous, aren’t you?”

Harry glared at his feet, clenching his fingers into tight fists at his sides. Draco had no idea.

“It’s really all your fault, Harry,” Draco went on blithely. “You have your beloved Ginny, but would you make a move like we suggested? No. What’s there to be shy about? We all know you fancy Ginny Weasley, and she obviously fancies you like mad—all it would take is a . . . I don’t know. Simple kiss? Just hold her hand and tell her you’d fancied her all along, and that you’d like nothing better than to cradle her in your arms at the Yule Ball. She’d swoon right into your arms. I have no doubt that her making Gryffindor Seeker this year was motivated by an irrepressible desire to press herself into you during a Quidditch match, under the pretense that she’s competing you for the Snitch. High up in the air, just the two of you, unfettered, blissful . . . ”

Draco had no idea. Harry knew he shouldn’t feel this way at all; Draco had been going out with Pansy for almost a year now, but . . . but Draco was just so clueless. Didn’t he know that Harry’d never felt anything more than reluctant tolerance for Ginny? Did he never notice the way he’d tear her letters after Draco had gotten a good tease out of them? For that matter, how could Draco miss which way Harry’s glance always tended to linger? How Harry treasured the nights Draco would slip into Harry’s bed, how he was always awake early on those mornings after because he loved to watch Draco sleeping, his face peaceful and his mouth slack, his cheeks sleep-warm? Did he never notice how Harry always took the shower furthest from Draco after Quidditch matches? Because once, when he’d made the mistake of taking the booth opposite Draco, Harry’d not been able to tear his eyes away from the way water streamed on the blond locks, darkening their color to honey-dipped corn silk, raining rivulets down the contours of Draco’s smooth back, sliding down the supple line of his spine, pooling at the base, around the curve of his arse, slipping into the cleft between his arse cheeks, racing down his sleek thighs to cascade onto the tiles.

And it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that Draco didn’t have a clue while Harry was trying so hard not to say or do something stupid, something completely idiotic that would drive him away from Harry. Scare him. Ruin their friendship.

“I’m going with Zach,” Harry growled. It didn’t sound like his voice—it was too low and raspy.

“. . . you’d be—pardon?”

“I’m—” Harry glared at Draco, because it was all his fault, Harry wouldn’t be this way, Harry would have been happy with Ginny bloody Weasley if it hadn’t been for Draco. “I’m going with Zacharias Smith to the Ball,” Harry said, low and clear.

Draco looked dumbstruck. “But. But he’s a—”

“Bloke,” Harry finished. “You have a problem with that?”

“No! I was just . . . ” Draco stared at Harry, eyes wide. “It’s just . . . unexpected.” He stared at Harry with a blank expression.

At that, Harry felt the tenseness leaving his shoulders, only to be replaced by a sense of resignation so bitter he felt it burn on his tongue. “I’m sorry,” he said, deflated. It really wasn’t Draco’s fault. He’d done nothing wrong. He’d always just . . . been there. Smile at Harry. Laugh. Trust him with secrets. Take care of him. Press little touches that made Harry’s heart flutter—but he didn’t know that, did he?

“I’m sorry,” Harry said again, feeling wretched and miserable. “I didn’t mean to snap at you.”

At Harry’s apology, Draco looked a bit lost. “Um. It’s all right. I’m . . . sorry for not noticing.” He bit his lips, uncertain, for a few seconds before looking up and down at Harry appraisingly. “Now that I think of it,” he said slowly, “I should have known, the way you were blushing at Smith and stammering at him last week at the meeting. I can’t say that I entirely approve of your choice of partner—I mean, hello, Hufflepuff—but hey, if you’re happy, then I guess it’s all right.” Draco dropped his glance and played with his fingers, seemingly uncomfortable.

Uncomfortable. Harry was suddenly struck by the significance of what he’d just admitted.

“Draco,” he choked out. “Draco, we’re . . . we’re all right, yeah?” He felt a hint of desperation clinging to his tone. “It won’t change anything because . . . because I’m—”

“Of course not!” Draco said, stepping forward and grabbing Harry’s hand. “What do you take me for! Slytherins are loyal to the grave.” His lips curved upwards. “Besides, who would I have to boss around if I lost you?”

A rush of relief flooded Harry. Draco was Harry’s friend no matter what. He would be stupid to assume otherwise. Or to jeopardize this with some stupid inappropriate attraction he felt for Draco. Harry wouldn’t lose this, ever. He would do anything in his power to keep it this way.

“Right,” Harry said, smiling wanly.

*

Fetching the Horcrux in the Come and Go Room was surprisingly easy, Harry thought as he followed the hum of the Dark Detector amulet along the clutter of abandoned objects and hidden goods. Draco was probably asking Pansy to the Ball with a bouquet of roses in the common room while Harry fished out the crown of sorts that Riddle had called Ravenclaw’s Diadem from the pile of junk.

Asking Zach to be his partner for the Yule Ball was even less of a challenge. Sick of having to watch Pansy croon at Draco with renewed affection during breakfast, Harry strode up to the Hufflepuff table, squared his shoulders, and confronted Zach. “Want to go to the Ball with me?” Harry gritted out, and after a very unattractive sputtering of his pumpkin juice, Zach nodded a yes, bewildered yet apparently pleased that the Boy Who Lived fancied him enough to ask him for a date on his first Yule Ball.

Harry’s proclamation ignited a fiery debate among his Housemates about why and how they’d not known Harry was queer. Blaise clapped him on the back and told him that he was proud of how Harry had taken the initiative with Smith, and to come for him for relationship advice. Which was ridiculous, because it wasn’t anything remotely like a relationship, contrary to all the rumours Zach seemed to be spreading. Pansy scowled and suggested that Harry check out Terry Boot instead—she’d heard he was gay as well. Harry said nothing, biting down and not snapping at her how just because he was gay it didn’t mean that he’d go for anyone.

His partnership with Zach, however, was quickly considered old news (except for the Hogwarts gay population, of course; people Harry barely knew kept accosting him to verify that yes, Harry was going to the Ball with Smith, no, they weren’t an item, yes, it still meant that Harry was gay) as the Yule Ball neared with a flurry of propositions among students. Blaise flaunted his newest romantic entanglement with a Glamorous Older Woman, a Ravenclaw upper year called Marietta Edgecombe. Theo had come up with a truce with Millicent to partner up for the Ball. The Weasley twins had thought it was a great idea to Sonorus themselves and sing a duet love song during breakfast in the Great Hall to the Patil twins—until Draco shot one of them with a stinging hex that made him slip and fall face-forward onto a bowl of pudding.

Love was in the air, and Harry was perpetually miserable. He slouched on the leather sofa in the common room with a copy of Quidditch Through the Ages in his lap, staring gloomily into the hearth, contemplating his discontent with the world. He must have been a serial killer or something equally hideously immoral in his former life to have a madman kill his parents when he was a year old, then to be entrusted for a whole decade to the care of the Dursleys, who treated him like shit. Then the heavens saw to it that he discovered the madman’s soul bits scattered around school, as if falling for his best friend, a bloke who had a girlfriend that just happened to be the most grabby, coo-y, babying, irritating exhibitionist out there wasn’t enough of a karma. Saddling him with the unexpectedly loudmouthed Yule Ball partner was just a bonus.

Everyone, even the upper years, had retreated into their dorms. But Pansy, who’d been at a detention for the better part of the evening, wanted to “catch up” with Draco for the missed time (some would think they’d been apart for more than three hours). Harry wasn’t about to leave them alone in the common room. The hickeys on Draco’s throat were now mostly gone, and Harry wanted it to stay that way. That was why Harry was pretending to be unable to sleep while Pansy fussed over Draco’s hair next to him. Harry hated his life.

“. . . so the other night,” Draco was saying, “I was lying in my bed, gazing at the stars, wondering—”

“Whatever happened to your ceiling, pet?” Pansy interrupted, a teasing smile on her lips. For a moment Harry felt triumphant. Harry had given Draco a charm that would bring the night sky into the dungeons for Draco’s birthday last year. Pansy, nosey as she was, wasn’t in on that particular secret.

Draco opened his mouth to say something but was interrupted by the sound of the stone entrance sliding open. A fifth-year Prefect walked inside, carrying a small box.

“Malfoy? Um. I was asked to give this to you,” she said, looking at Draco with apprehension. “I can’t tell you who it was . . . ” With that, she turned and disappeared down the fifth-year girls’ dormitory, leaving in her wake a bemused Draco.

“What is it?” Harry asked, curious. He put down the book and leaned towards Draco.

Draco frowned at the unadorned box and flipped open the card attached to it. “Hey,” he said, brightening. “It’s from my secret admirer!”

“Good for you, sweet,” Pansy said. “Too bad you’re already mine.”

Draco smiled winningly up at her and opened the box to reveal chocolates. He made a delighted sound. Harry picked up the card Draco had abandoned in favour of the heart-shaped chocolates. It was one of those cards that said “I love you only” and were available in multipacks in Flourish and Blotts. It read:

I wrote this to let you know

My heart goes wild

Every time your lips

Curl into a smile

Your Secret Admirer

(Whose name will be revealed when you’ve devoured my hearts)

The poem didn’t even rhyme. Harry made a face and tucked it away. He wanted to see who it was when the name was revealed.

Draco was already reaching for his third chocolate.

“You don’t know who it’s from,” Harry warned. “You shouldn’t just eat it like that.”

“Say ah,” Draco said, and shoved a piece of chocolate into Harry’s mouth.

Pansy reached for a chocolate herself—only to be batted away. “Just a bit of etiquette, Pans,” Draco drawled. “Can’t let my girlfriend eat my secret admirer’s chocolates. Don’t you think so, Harry?” He turned his head and beamed at Harry. Which was a bit odd, but it’s not like Harry minded.

“Mm,” Harry said, swallowing. He noticed Pansy’s miffed expression out of the corner of his eye.

Draco popped the last of the chocolates in his mouth. He was completely ignoring Pansy, who’d left the sofa with major pout and a sulky expression. She looked over her shoulder once, looking coy, but on discovering that Harry was the only one interested in her whereabouts, stormed away without so much as a good night. Harry couldn’t understand how Draco put up with her—she was so demanding and moody. She’d sulk for the slightest things. She wasn’t even that pretty.

Draco fluttered his eyelids shut, letting out a moan of appreciation. “These are really good,” he murmured, licking his fingers one by one. He didn’t seem aware that his girlfriend had just walked out on him. Harry didn’t feel the need to bring it up.

When Draco opened his eyes, Harry noticed that his eyes were almost entirely dark—his pupils were blown, all black with only a thin silver rim.

“Are you all right? I think there’s something wrong with your eyes,” Harry said, suddenly worried.

Draco didn’t say anything—he was looking at Harry as though he had never seen anything so amazing in his whole life.

“Um,” Harry said, definitely concerned now. “I think, er, there might’ve been something wrong with the chocolates.”

Draco’s lips parted in a small O, but otherwise, his intent gaze was still fixed on Harry. Despite the situation, Harry felt his face heating up.

“Come on,” Harry said, averting his eyes. He clasped Draco’s wrist to pull him up, but the next second, he found his wrists confined in Draco’s tight grasp.

“Harry,” Draco breathed, leaning towards him.

“Er,” Harry said, scooting backwards deeper into the couch. “The hospital wing . . . we should really . . . the chocolate, I think it was—”

“Harry,” Draco said again, bringing up his other hand to pet Harry’s cheek. Harry inhaled sharply. The warmth of Draco’s palm was shockingly pleasant, and Harry found himself pushing into the contact involuntarily.

“Your eyes,” Draco whispered, mesmerised. “They’re beautiful.”

“Um,” Harry managed say.

“Like . . . ”—Draco’s eyelids fluttered again—“like spring leaves and dewy grass and . . . ”

Harry let out a strangled sound when he realised he’d reached the end of the sofa—and, oh God, Draco was climbing into his lap. Harry’s heart leapt into his throat. He felt his pulse quicken, his blood rushing in his ears. Something was obviously wrong, Draco wasn’t in his right mind, Harry should do something, but—

“Your hair is so soft,” Draco was saying breathlessly. “So downy, like soft feathers…” He was running his fingers through Harry’s hair, over and over and over, his fingers so tender and soothing, and it was as if Draco were using wandless magic, because a touch simply couldn’t feel this good.

“Stop,” Harry gasped, helplessly, feebly trying to push Draco off him.

“You’re so warm, Harry,” Draco said, his voice soft and low, as if Harry were something that would blow away, as if he were somehow experiencing a wondrous feeling that would melt away if he weren’t careful. He slowly leaned to rest his head on Harry’s chest, running his fingers over Harry’s face and neck and arms and leaving a trail of tingles that spread into other parts of Harry’s body, setting his nerves alight. “I can hear your heart beating,” Draco whispered, and Harry could hear the smile in his voice. At every inhale Harry thought, I should push him away, he’s drugged, it’s not right; at every exhale, but this feels so good, so right.

And it was right. The most right feeling Harry had ever experienced: Draco’s hands petting Harry’s nape and collarbone, his breath hot against the thin cloth of Harry’s shirt, his warm, snug weight on top of Harry’s thighs—and Harry’s blood thrumming and heart pounding wildly against his ribcage, the rush of blood in his ears almost deafening.

Harry squeezed his eyes shut and willed himself to pry open his death-grip on the leather of the sofa and force Draco off. He repeated the order like a mantra, but his hands didn’t budge—Draco was nuzzling into the spot underneath Harry’s ear, and Harry wanted to sob, because how cruel was it that he’d be at the receiving end of something he so wanted, but only as a result of some enchanted chocolate hearts, something so obviously false. Harry felt Draco’s head lifting off his chest and let out a shaky sigh, feeling relieved—and bereft.

The next moment, something impossibly soft and warm pressed into Harry’s lips. Harry snapped his eyes open, wide in shock.

Filling his vision were Draco’s eyes, his blond lashes quivering against his flushed cheek.

Chapter Text

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.