- Story Summary:
- When you've spent six years fighting evil, all you really want is a quiet time. But when your name is Harry Potter the chances of that are very slim. A series of vignettes chronicling Harry's final six months at Hogwarts. Exams, friends, lovers, Quidditch, the war and Draco all conspire to make the year end seem a very long way away. Slash (Harry/Draco)
- Chapter Summary:
- res·o·lu·tion, noun -- solving of doubts, problems, questions etc.
- Author's Note:
- This chapter is dedicated to
Chapter 2: Boys just want to have fun...
If there were no barriers, what would you want?
Draco Malfoy had never needed much sleep. He never stopped to consider whether or not this was due to the fact he didn't need it, or had become used to not getting it. He had trained himself from an early age to exist on the minimum in order to keep up with the punishing work schedules his father and tutors gave him.
Even during holidays the workload didn't let up. He would spend hours in the library at Malfoy Manor researching projects given to him by his father, or undertaking extramural studies that he knew it would not be wise to discuss with anyone at Hogwarts. Sometimes it was difficult to remember what he should and should not have knowledge of during his lessons at Hogwarts.
Nowadays, he was able to get by on just a few hours sleep a night if necessary. Leading up to his Lower Sixth exams, he had often gone without sleep for several days at a time. And it had worked. Draco had finally managed to come top in his year, beating Hermione Granger for the first time.
Draco's features hardened slightly at the memory and he realised he was twisting his hands in the tatty grey blanket around his shoulders. It was supposed to have been one of the best days of his life, but even that small joy had been taken away from him. He had expected her to be devastated, or at least a little upset, but Granger had actually had the nerve to come across to the Slytherin table and congratulate him. And what had he done in response? Only said 'Thank you'. The two words had come out before he had had a chance to think about them, or to whom he was talking. He remembered hearing Vincent snigger and silencing the other's mirth with a hard stare. When he had turned back the Gryffindor had gone, returning to her own group of friends, and he had been left feeling somehow cheated.
It still hurt now and he was determined to show it had not been some sort of fluke. He would finish his schooling at Hogwarts top of his year and with perfect grades. Dumbledore might manage to fix things so that Slytherin didn't win the House Cup, but the Headmaster would not falsify the exam results and Draco knew he could win those on his own merit.
If he could just concentrate and keep his act together for the next six months.
Draco closed his eyes, head dropping back against the pillows. Despite all his assertions to the contrary, he was tired, and in more than just the physical sense. Sometimes he felt he was wound up so tightly that one day he might just explode. It was all very well keeping the cool, calm exterior, but just this once he would like to shout and scream at people like everyone else did.
The sigh, when it came, was from a place very deep inside him. Why couldn't life be simple? He remembered the brief conversation between himself and Professor Dumbledore after the change in the Malfoy's Christmas plans. Dumbledore had actually asked him if he was all right. Of course Draco had responded that he was fine, but there had been something in the old man's eyes -- the way he had looked at him -- that had gotten under Draco's skin. He had felt as if the professor were able to read his thoughts and know how upset he really was. And what great advice had he given Draco? "Don't worry, my boy, it will all come out in the wash".
What the hell was that supposed to mean? If Dumbledore had to give advice, couldn't he at least make it clear what he meant?
Draco wondered briefly what the Professor thought about him being here with 'precious' Harry. Wasn't he concerned that the notorious son of Lucius Malfoy was on his own with The Boy Who Lived? For that matter, why had Dumbledore let him remain at Hogwarts at all? All during the summer after the Triwizard Tournament and the supposed return of Voldemort, Draco had expected to receive an Owl telling him not to return to the school. Of course it had never arrived and he was left speculating just what went on in Dumbledore's head.
As he had pointed out to Harry the previous day, Dumbledore had his own motives and agenda just as everyone else did.
He pinched the bridge of his nose and finally opened his eyes again, blinking away the sleepiness. Not sleeping had become almost an obsession; as he strived for more knowledge he would strive for less sleep.
So to have spent most of the previous 24 hours doing nothing seemed a great waste of time and he was now feeling ... twitchy. He smiled ruefully -- twitchy like a ferret. Would he ever lose that as a nickname after what Moody did to him? It still hurt -- the humiliation had bitten deeply and he wondered now whether that was why he had been so bitter during his Fourth Year; seeing Harry once again win all the accolades while he had nothing. Oh, how he had hated Potter back then, and the fact he'd been cursed by all of those little Gryffindors on the train did nothing to change his views. His mother had been forced to come onto the platform to collect him from the Hogwarts Express after what they did. She had spent the entire journey home telling him what an embarrassment he was to the family.
How things changed.
He shifted slightly against the headboard of the bed as the person next to him turned over and settled on his left side, facing the Slytherin. Draco looked down at the black head and resisted the impulse to touch the hair and brush it back from the sleeping boy's face. The flickering light of the candle on the bedside table cast Harry Potter's features into shadow, but Draco noticed the way the light caught his cheekbone and the edge of his ear.
He had never in his wildest fantasies (and some were extremely wild) expected to spend the night watching Harry Potter sleep. The fantasies normally ended with Harry throwing him out of the room way before anyone managed to fall asleep! Not, of course, that he was prone to fantasies or that he only fantasised about Harry.
Where exactly was that hate for Harry now? When had it all shifted and become something else? Something... different?
"Stupid question, Malfoy," he whispered to himself. He knew exactly the moment it had changed.
Draco moved away a little and pulled the covers back over Harry's shoulder, fingers lingering on the white sheet for a fraction longer than necessary.
Quidditch. Gryffindor vs. Slytherin. Saturday 25th April 1996. As for an exact time, it had been between 3.45 and 4.15 in the afternoon.
Harry had, as normal, managed to get the Snitch before Draco. In fact, he had all but snatched it out of Draco's hand in a most audacious move, which Draco protested as illegal. The match had been the season decider and the victors would win the Quidditch Cup. No one had listened and he remembered sitting in the Great Hall that evening watching Harry and wanting to ram the Snitch right down the Gryffindor's throat.
The following evening the houses were already eating when Harry and the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team arrived dressed in their scarlet and gold robes. A spontaneous burst of applause had arisen from three quarters of the students.
Then Harry had taken off his robes.
Draco remembered the moment as though it was engraved on his mind. Those green eyes had stared across the room at him as Harry had disrobed to reveal a Slytherin T-shirt. Emblazoned across the front it said:
My team lost to Gryffindor and all I got was this lousy t-shirt
Harry had then turned round and across the back it had read:
Draco Malfoy, Slytherin Seeker
Of course everyone had laughed -- even some of the Slytherins had laughed, until they had seen Draco's face. The audacity of the Gryffindor had shocked him. Harry had never done anything so calculating to him in all the years they had traded insults and angry fights. And to do it in front of the whole school as well -- it had almost been worthy of a Slytherin.
Deep down, if he had cared to admit it, he'd felt just a little admiration.
And that was when the fantasies had started. They alternated between the image of ramming the Snitch down Harry's throat and a new one that involved ripping that T-shirt off and strangling Harry with it.
He couldn't actually remember when the Snitch and the strangulation parts had disappeared, leaving him with just the ripped shirt and Harry's sweet mouth. At first he had been surprised and more than a little perturbed that Harry's impudence should provoke such... imagery. Other scenarios joined the originals and after a while they became surprisingly comfortable and comforting. In fact, the numerous fantasies of what he might do to Harry had livened many a dark, dismal night.
What did disturb him, however, was that sometimes they would unexpectedly tumble into his mind during a shared class, or when they were both sitting in the Great Hall. Once there'd been one involving Quidditch protection gear and nothing else. He didn't think he'd been staring at Harry, but the Gryffindor's head had snapped up and Harry had glared menacingly across the Hall at him.
Draco smiled at the thought of those fiery eyes, and he looked back down at the sleeping figure now wrapped in the white sheets. Draco was actually on top of the bedclothes, still dressed in the clothes Harry had given him.
Fantasies aside, the one thing his vigil had convinced him of was that any change in his relationship with Harry was out of the question. They were destined to remain on opposite sides of a conflict that looked ready to explode into real violence before very long. If he hadn't been convinced of this fact before, then Harry's questions the previous evening showed how unlikely it was that they would ever be able to reach a peace or find any common ground.
Harry had asked, "Are you going to join him?" And Draco knew full well what he had been alluding to. No couching in riddles when Potter asked the questions.
Was he prepared to pledge his allegiance to Voldemort when the time came? He had seen that Mark on his father's arm and knew he was expected to follow where his father lead.
Duty, obligation, obedience. Add to that family honour.
These things were as much a part of him as breathing. His whole belief structure was bound up in them. How could he throw it all away? Erase everything he believed to be right? Betray the trust his father had placed in him? "You are important to our cause, never forget that," Lucius had told him just a few weeks ago.
But could he really take part in a fight against Harry? Face him in a conflict he didn't really feel a part of? Could he kill the boy asleep next to him? He might as well suffocate Harry now -- it would be better than looking into those eyes should he ever point his wand at Harry and utter the Killing curse.
Besides, hadn't he already disobeyed his father? He should have told him Harry was here, unprotected, so that the Death Eaters could come and get him. How could he do it now after what they had shared the previous day?
Draco swore under his breath. They had shared nothing! Okay, so he'd gotten caught in that bloody snowstorm and been forced to shelter here and they had talked. That didn't mean suddenly they were the best of friends, did it? He hadn't asked Potter (call him Potter -- it makes things easier -- Potter) to open up, to become all-vulnerable....
He heard Harry move again, a rustle of fabric in the stillness of the early morning, as he turned onto his back. A hand fought free of the covers, pushing them away. Draco tried not to look down at the form beside him, tried not to notice how trusting that so-familiar face had become in sleep. How honest. How...
How different this... closeness he felt for Harry was to anything else he had ever experienced. There had been others he had cared for -- other relationships in his short life. His first sexual experience had been with a tutor two summers before. Stacey Cooper had been rather older than he, it had to be said, but she certainly had known her way around a body. He remembered with fondness her chocolaty-brown skin and curly black hair. Not unlike Harry's hair, he mused. Not only had Stacey introduced him to the pleasures of the flesh, but also to Muggle literature. Unfortunately his father had found out about the latter and had fired her on the spot. Most of the books had been destroyed, but Draco had managed to hide a few away.
Then last summer it had been his rather attractive male Quidditch coach and the memory of that still elicited a flush of pleasure. Alex Palmer had left Hogwarts the year before Draco had started there and still played Seeker for the Montrose Magpies. Draco had wondered why someone in Alex's position would be willing to coach a 17-year old, but the Seeker had just shrugged off the question. With his short dark hair and amazing brown eyes, Alex had certainly taught him some tricks on a broomstick. Then Draco had fallen from his broom and torn the ligament in his knee, and their relationship had changed.
It had, of course, been different from what he had shared with Stacey, but equally as pleasant, and Draco remembered both occasions affectionately. In between those two relationships, he had done some fumbling with fellow students at Hogwarts, but none were as successful or as fulfilling. During the Lower Sixth, he had been involved with a Slytherin in the year above, but that had ended rather acrimoniously with the girl screaming at him in the middle of the Slytherin common room because she had caught him kissing someone else.
They had all seemed so easy to deal with compared to this. Draco had the sudden urge to hit Harry, as if in violence he could expel the demons creeping through his mind, filling him with thoughts and ideas which were not possible.
He wouldn't... couldn't have any sort of relationship with Potter other than what they already had: that of adversaries both fighting for different sets of ideals, so far apart they might as well be from different planets.
And yet he knew there was a knot of emotion deep inside, hiding feelings he didn't really want to think about -- hadn't thought about consciously until now: a feeling that he would give almost anything to have a friend such as Harry. For the first time since he had met Ron Weasley, Draco was envious of the relationship the two boys shared.
The flash of comprehension, as he realised what that statement meant, hit him so hard for a moment he didn't think he would ever breathe again. It hadn't mattered what he and Harry had talked about the previous day, the fact of the matter was that they had 'talked' and that was the important thing. He had acquaintances in the Slytherin house, but not friends -- at least none whom he termed friends. They would easily betray him, as he would them.
But to have a friend, someone like Harry, to talk with, to discuss things, to spend time, to play chess -- all the things he knew the Weasel did. He wanted someone he could go to when he'd found out something interesting and wonderful, and know that person would be interested in it because of him and not for what they could get out it for themselves. Whatever his views were of Harry, he had never been in any doubt that the boy was sincere in his beliefs and actions. He wanted someone he could sit quietly with in front of that big fire out in the lounge, someone he would know so well they wouldn't need to talk. Could he ever feel that with Harry? Experience that peace and belonging?
Unconsciously he chewed on his lower lip as an image came unbidden to his thoughts. Nothing sexual this time, but a quiet serene moment of peace. Of Draco curled up in one of those big armchairs with a book and Harry resting his head against Draco's knee. Quiet, tranquil. No war, no Voldemort, no obligations except to each other.
Draco swallowed, realising that the thought actually scared him. To have feelings for someone in a fantasy was fine; after all, what harm could it do? But to bring those emotions into the cold clear light of day was almost unthinkable.
"My father hates him," Draco whispered out aloud. But do I? his inner self asked. Just what did he want?
What do you want, Draco? It asked. If there were no barriers, what would you want?
He wanted to touch the tanned skin, a shade darker than his own pale colouring; wanted to taste it against his tongue. Wanted to feel that dark hair, which he now knew was as soft as his own, spread across his chest. Harry let out a gentle sigh, and somewhere in the depths of Draco's mind he wanted to believe Harry could read his thoughts, and that the sound was acquiescence to them; that he could bend down now and taste the moist flesh at Harry's bared throat. Then taste those slightly parted lips... Touch the curve of his neck where the outline of his collarbone was visible.
Harry wouldn't know, those thoughts intoned; he was so deeply asleep he wouldn't realise. But what, Draco mused, was the point of that? He would want Harry to know, to be part of it, to join in and touch him in return.
A sob suddenly escaped from somewhere deep inside Draco. A single soft cry of anguish, which hurt because he didn't have an excuse for it or an answer for what had caused it. In the end he could do nothing but reach out and brush the hair from Harry's face, soft strands tangling momentarily with his fingers.
The whole issue was moot anyway. This would end now, before it even had a chance to begin; before he found himself embroiled in something out of his control. Harry was the hated enemy of his family. If his father found out he was even considering the possibility of friendship with Potter, Draco dreaded to think of the consequences. He was supposed to be finding ways to hand Harry over to the Death Eaters, for fuck's sake!
What was it Harry had asked him the previous evening? "Do you think we could spend our last six months here not fighting?" Draco could do that. And Harry's other request? "You can just ignore me." That would be harder, but he could even ignore Harry if that would help. Maybe ignoring was the best thing he could do.
Besides, he had no idea what Harry's reaction might be to any overtures of friendship. One drunken evening was not a basis for anything, especially not an intimate friendship. Plus, Harry had rejected him once before and Draco knew he couldn't take such rejection a second time.
He climbed from the bed, wrapping the blanket around his thin shoulders and watched the slight rise and fall of Harry's chest.
Harry didn't remember going to bed, so when he finally woke up it came as a surprise to find himself actually IN bed.
He knew it was morning because it was daylight outside. The curtains had been drawn back and sunshine was streaming into the room. What the actual time was Harry had absolutely no idea.
Not moving, he spent a long time just staring at the ceiling. It was out of focus and it took him several minutes to realise why. He disentangled a hand from beneath the cotton sheets and slowly reached for his face. No, he definitely did not have on his glasses. Too heavy to hold up any longer, the hand dropped to the floral patterned bedspread. He debated for a moment whether to look for his glasses, but decided in the end it would take too much effort just at that moment.
Instead, he studied the rather large cobweb around the light fitting. A suitably impressive spider was doing whatever spiders do when there's nothing for them to catch. Somewhere deep in the back of his mind, Harry remembered thinking that it was a good thing Ron wasn't there. Ron hated spiders. The spider set off on a journey across the ceiling and headed for another web in the corner of the room. No doubt, Harry mused, looking for fresh pickings. He wondered whether it would have any better luck there.
Stretching lazily, Harry let out a long contented sigh and thought about getting up. But the bed was so warm and soft and inviting. "Five more minutes," he murmured as he turned away from the window. Pulling the covers back over his shoulder, he wiggled down into the warm depths. It was only at that point that he realised he still wearing the shirt from the previous day. He threw back the bed covers and his blurred gaze took in the fact that he was also wearing his jeans. He grimaced at having slept in his clothes and tried to remember what had happened.
Slowly at first, then gathering momentum, the memories of the previous day began to surface. The snow ... Draco arriving almost frozen to death ... Harry undressing the Slytherin (a hot flush crept through him at the memory) ... Draco helping with his homework ...
Getting drunk ...
Talking -- Oh God. A hand went to Harry's forehead. What on earth did I say to him?
Draco picking him up -- Had he really let Draco pick him up?
Draco putting him on the bed -- Oh God. A second hand joined the first.
Where the hell was Draco?
Harry froze before tentatively flexing a leg out under the dishevelled blankets, searching for another body. His toes touched nothing in their search of the huge bed and eventually he turned over, checking visually what he had already ascertained by touch. Yes, he was alone. Maybe the whole Draco thing was a dream -- well, not the whole thing, but the getting drunk bit and the putting to bed bit.
He sighed deeply and was surprised to feel a little shock of cold from the strange concoction Hagrid had brewed. Okay, so the drunken bit wasn't a dream. His experience of alcohol was actually non-existent, but this drink was, indeed, an experience. Considering how much he'd drunk, Harry was feeling surprisingly well. Hagrid might not be very good at cooking, but his brewing skills were excellent. A triumph in fact.
Harry finally pushed himself up onto his elbow and scrabbled on the bedside table, hoping to find his glasses there. It was empty, and he rolled over to check the table on the other side. Fingers closed around the familiar frames, and he put them on, blinking a couple of times to clear his vision before hauling himself up against the pillows. He yawned again, fingers clasping behind his neck as he stretched his head backwards, releasing a small knot of tension. Then, equally as slowly, both hands pushed through the untidy sleep-tussled hair before he hugged himself, content to sit very still for a moment in that pre-awakened state which could so easily revert to sleep again. Eyes closed for a moment, his head dropped lazily onto one shoulder and he contemplated remaining exactly where he was for the rest of the day.
He drifted happily in that state for several minutes until the knot of tension in his neck crept back. Eyelids fluttered open and green eyes stared across the room, focusing on the enormous overstuffed chair near the window. Harry froze. He was not, after all, alone.
Draco was awake and watching him with those grey eyes and an unreadable expression on his face. Harry noticed the Slytherin was still wearing the Dudley cast-offs he had given him the previous day, and he looked surprisingly small in the giant-size chair, legs curled up, leaning against a couple of pillows.
For a moment Harry did not move.
Draco was watching him.
It took a moment for the concept to seep into his sleep-addled brain, but when he finally acknowledged the fact, he was surprised by his immediate thoughts and reactions. What gave Draco the right to sit there and watch him sleep? Sleep was personal. Sleep was something he did on his own, not with people watching. He'd slept on his own all his life. First in the cupboard, then in Dudley's second bedroom. Even here at Hogwarts where he shared a room, he still shut himself away behind the hangings of his four-poster bed.
He felt surprisingly vulnerable under the unwavering gaze and realised that unconsciously he had pulled the sheets back up over himself. Why the bloody hell didn't Draco do the decent thing and look away?
Harry held the grey gaze for a moment longer, before swallowing nervously and looking elsewhere -- anywhere would do, as long at it wasn't at Draco. He tried to find the spider again. Nervous? Was Draco making him nervous? Harry peeked down at his hands holding the sheet up near his neck and realised he was. And it got worse the longer he thought about things. Had Draco been sitting in that chair all night? Had he been awake watching him? What was he thinking behind that steel stare?
Finally, unable to take any more, Harry threw back the covers and came to his feet on the opposite side of the bed from where Draco sat. He tugged unconsciously at his shirt and again met the other's gaze. Clearing his throat, he spoke with a voice that was just a little croaky. "Malfoy."
There was no immediate response. Instead the grey eyes continued watching him for a moment. Then the long legs unfolded and Draco came to his feet. Harry waited for him to speak, but instead Draco turned on his heel and left. Blinking in surprise, Harry just stood there, staring at the now closed door.
The kitchen was warm and the smell of fresh baked bread wafted from the oven. The pine table had been set for breakfast and steam spiralled from both tea and coffee pots. Eyes hard, Draco folded his arms across his chest as he looked at the delightful domestic scene spread out before him. There were even two place settings at the table. His fingers began tapping an angry beat. Bloody house-elves got everywhere. And seemed to know everything.
He lifted the cover from one of the serving dishes. Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. His favourite, but rather decadent for Hogwarts. There were also croissants, and he realised that the coffee pot contained his own personal blend. If he didn't know better, he would have assumed Harry had organised the whole thing. Not that Harry would have had any idea what his personal blend of coffee was.
No, it had to be that wretched Dobby, who used to be one of the Malfoy house-elves and whom everybody knew had a soft spot for Harry.
Picking up the coffee pot, Draco filled a cup and added more sugar than was good for him. It tasted like heaven on his tongue and his eyelids fluttered closed for a moment in appreciation. Then he turned to the line of washing still strung across the room. His clothes, carefully hung up to dry the previous day by Harry. Draco pursed his lips, and set them in a hard line. If the situation had been reversed, it wouldn't even have occurred to him to put the clothes out to dry.
Was this a typical 'Harry' gesture? The Gryffindor did always look after waifs and strays, which was probably something to do with being one himself. He didn't really want to think about this. Didn't want to analyse why Harry would make 'gestures'.
He began collecting the items off the line. He needed to get out of the cottage and away from here before Harry surfaced and started asking questions. Discussing the previous day was not something he was prepared to do.
When Harry surfaced, he found Draco dressed in his ski gear digging in the snow by the front door. He watched him for a moment, shivering in the icy blast from the open door. "Malfoy."
Draco didn't look up, but carried on with his work, finally digging the first ski out from under several inches of snow. "Potter."
"Um. Do you need any help?"
"No." He straightened and looked off into the distance. A brief pause ensued before Draco continued. "Thank you."
Harry's eyebrows disappeared into his heavy fringe. Draco had said 'thank you'. Why? Harry found himself so used to questioning the Slytherin's motives, that these two simple words, so out of place when coming from Draco, set Harry to wondering and worrying. "Are you going to ski back?" As soon as he asked it the question sounded not only banal to Harry, but also rather stupid. How else was Draco going to get back?
"How else do you expect me to get back?" Draco raised a hand to shield his eyes, squinting into the distance. Had he seen something move out in the white world?
Harry shrugged even though Draco couldn't see the movement. He watched the red and yellow-clad back for a moment, eyes boring into it in an effort to uncover what Draco was thinking. A question kept running round and round in his head -- Did you spend all night watching me? What he actually asked was much simpler: "Do you know the way?"
Draco didn't look up from his task. The second ski was harder to extract from the snow. It had frozen to the ground and he had to tug at it. "I'll probably go back the way I came." He didn't want to admit he had no idea where they were. The idea of spending hours retracing his steps was doing nothing for his growing mood of frustration, which wasn't helped by having Harry hovering so close to his shoulder. He pulled the second ski free.
"Hogsmeade is about half a mile that way." Harry's finger pointed in the opposite direction to Draco's intended route. He thought he was being helpful, but the response when it came was not what he had expected.
"What?" Draco turned to face him, a look of cold annoyance playing across the pale features. Eyes narrowed slightly as the posture shifted to arrogant anger.
Harry just stared, shocked into silence by the look. Underneath the anger he could see the same eyes that had been watching him in the bedroom, but the fury had brought out the dusky blue he had seen the previous day. The same colour that had reminded him of frost covered rivers. This time he thought of icebergs and the one-third that was above the water and two-thirds below. What was in the two-thirds of Draco he kept hidden behind that cool, calculated gaze Harry found himself wondering?
Harry mentally shook himself. Enough of the metaphors. What would he be thinking of next? How cute Draco looked in that ski jacket maybe? That was not, he reminded himself a metaphor for anything. "Hogsmeade is just up the road," he finally repeated. "We're about 15 minutes from the school by broom."
"You have your broom here?"
"Of course. How else do you think I got here?" Harry folded his arms defiantly.
Draco glared at him; the look covering up the fact that he was actually entranced by the fact the cold had made the hairs on Harry's bare arms stand on end. And he realised for the first time that Harry had washed and changed. His hair was damp, clearly just towel-dried, and he was now in a dark green t-shirt. He wanted to tell him to go and put something warm on, that he shouldn't be standing in the cold with wet hair, but instead it came out as: "Are you telling me I could have left any time I wanted? That I didn't have to spend the night here with you?"
Harry tried hard not to gasp at the stinging tone. "You didn't ask," he shot back. "And besides, I wouldn't lend you my broom if your life depended on it."
"Good, because I'd hate to upset you by refusing." Draco clicked his boots into the toe grips with more force than necessary. Things were not going according to plan. He hated himself for the reactions Harry was eliciting from him, hated feeling so vulnerable as he did standing here in front of the Gryffindor. And the only thing he could do at that moment was to be a real bastard. "Why don't you go and enjoy breakfast before it gets cold."
Harry blinked, his arms dropping to his side. "You made breakfast?"
"I don't cook." Sarcasm dripped. "I leave that to the house-elves. They laid on quite a spread for you today. And I thought you cooked last night."
"I did and I don't have any house-elves here."
"You do today. Maybe Dumbledore sent them." He reached for the ski poles and pushed off.
"Can we talk... later?"
"I'd like to talk about yesterday."
"No you wouldn't, Harry. Just forget this and go back to your safe little Gryffindor world."
"What?" Harry stepped out into the snow, four strides bringing him in front of Draco. "Why do you have to be such a git all the time?"
"Get out of my way." And get back inside before you freeze to death, Draco wanted to add.
"My safe world? I'm not the one running away, Malfoy. If you had any guts you'd come right back inside now and talk to me!" Harry clasped his arms tightly to his body, shivering with the cold. "You have no right to just walk out now."
"Why? You think one drink and a quick snog gives you some hold over me?"
"I..." Harry looked shocked and stepped back. What had Draco just said? "I..."
Draco gave a hard smile as he pushed past Harry, his path now clear. "Don't worry Potter, I haven't sullied your reputation yet. I wouldn't kiss you if you were the last person in the world." He pushed off again, not looking back at those green eyes although he could feel them boring into the back of his head.
Harry watched until Draco had disappeared from view. He stood there for some time, shivering both from the cold and from the harshness of Draco's words.
Some distance away, he watched through Omnioculars, noting the exchange between the two boys, taking in the body language from pleasant to angry. He had known that Potter was here, but it was a surprise to see Lucius Malfoy's son as well. What would Lucius think if he knew?
He lowered the Omnioculars and took out his wand, carefully pointing it at the cottage. Magic shimmered like a heat haze from the building and his expression became thoughtful. Only the simplest protection spells. The expression slowly changed into a hard smile. Someone, he thought, should tell Mr Potter to be much more careful where he spent his time and who he spent it with.
The letter arrived a week later. Draco recognised the family owl as it swooped into the Great Hall even though several other birds surrounded it. It paused in its journey for a moment, settling on one of the wooden rafters as though it were waiting for something.
Draco frowned and then realised the owl wanted him to leave the room. He got to his feet and headed for the door. As he did, the owl took off again and flew back the way it had come.
He arrived in the main courtyard just as the owl swooped over the castle rooftops and alighted on the shoulder of a statue. Rubbing his already cold hands, Draco reached for the note attached to the owl's leg. It took off almost immediately, circling once before disappearing from sight behind the walls.
Shivering in the bitter wind, Draco turned the square of parchment over and over in his hands. The Malfoy family seal stared back at him and he subconsciously ran a hand back through his hair. It was clearly from his father, but why was he not allowed to receive it in front of everyone else? He ran a finger across the seal and watched as it changed, showing a subtly different design. Incorporated within the image was a Death Mark
Draco stood very still for a moment. Not even the cold could make him shiver at that moment. He contemplated not opening the message at all, turning it to ash instead. But he knew the fact it was never opened would register at home, and how would he explain that?
Glancing furtively about him, he slipped a nail under the seal and allowed the letter to open. The cream paper was blank as he unfolded it, but almost instantly, as though written by an invisible hand, his father's handwriting began to cover the sheet. It disappeared almost as soon as the following word was completed and Draco had to read fast to keep up with the short message.
Draco: Word has reached me that Harry Potter is spending time away from the protection of the school. I have also been told that you knew about this and where he is staying. I am very disappointed that you have chosen to keep this information to yourself. This Portkey is to be used when Potter is away from the school. You will make sure he uses it. Do not let me down again.
As he read the word 'Portkey', a small coin dropped to the ground, embedding itself in the slushy remains of the snow. The parchment suddenly seemed to crumple in on itself, as though burning with an invisible flame. It disintegrated, the tiny fragments blown off in the cold wind.
He stared down at the coin for several minutes. His father was 'very disappointed' in him. 'Disappointed' for Lucius meant he was actually furious. How had he found out about Harry? And more importantly, how did he find out that Draco knew? As far as Draco was aware, the only people who knew about the New Year tryst apart from himself and Harry were Dumbledore and the nurse. Of course, Harry could have told all manner of people, but no one had mentioned it -- not even Harry himself.
The mere idea of upsetting his father made Draco flinch with trepidation. The whole incident before Christmas was bad enough, but this? The fact that his father had been prepared to send such a letter proved how incensed he must be. If a ministry agent had intercepted it, the consequences didn't bear thinking about for anyone in the Malfoy family.
But how had his father found out? He remembered that moment at the cottage when he had been trying to get his skis out of the snow. That movement and a flash of light off of glass -- he had been so sure he had seen something in the distance. Someone had been watching.
Watching Harry. And if they had been watching Harry, then they would have seen him as well.
Draco finally bent down and picked up the coin. Then as he rose back up, he deliberately turned in a slow circle, eyes taking in all the dark empty windows surrounding him. Was he being watched now? Did his father have spies here at Hogwarts? Did Voldemort have his followers here within these walls? Suddenly the once friendly castle seemed a very dangerous place, not only for Harry but for himself as well. What had once seemed like a game suddenly became very, very real.
He flipped the coin between his fingers, studying it. His father must know he had spent time with Harry and that was why he had sent the Portkey. It would not work here, within the confines of the school, or in the village of Hogsmeade itself. But if the cottage was unprotected then Harry could easily be taken from it. It would be so easy to meet Harry there and hand him this innocent looking coin. And that was exactly what his father expected him to do.
Do not let me down again.
His beloved father's words echoed through Draco's mind. He could hear the familiar voice speaking them. Hear the disappointed intonation in the word 'again'. How could he not do as his father asked?
And yet how could he send Harry to his death?
Draco realised it was snowing again. Cold, wet dismal flakes that soaked quickly into his robes. He had never considered what the consequences of allying himself with someone such as Voldemort would really mean. How many times had his father's view of life been pounded into him over the years? Draco knew the rhetoric by heart and had never had cause to doubt its validity. In fact even as he stood here now, getting progressively wetter by the minute, he still believed that as a Pureblood he had been born into the elite of the Wizarding world. That he was superior to the Halfbloods and Mudbloods who infested his world. That he would take his rightful place as a member of the ruling class.
But could he kill people to do that? He looked towards the door that would take him back into the school and realised instead of just seeing his fellow students as Halfbloods and Mudbloods, they had become people. Real flesh and blood people.
Finnegan the Halfblood laughed and talked and played Quidditch just as he did.
Granger the Mudblood studied and learned and talked just as he did.
What if his father... if Voldemort... told him to kill these people? Could he destroy them without a single thought? Brush them aside like the vermin his father had taught him to believe they were?
Two weeks ago he would never had questioned his father's instructions, but now things didn't seem quite so clear. Quite so ordered. Quite so easy.
He couldn't bring himself to go back into the school. To face those people he despised. Those living, breathing people who he might one day have to destroy. Instead he pocketed the coin and strode out into the school grounds with no idea of where he was going any more.
Harry's Journal -- Saturday 10th January 1998
Got up. Showered. Had breakfast. Am now sitting in my dorm writing this rubbish. Weather: Sunny!
Isn't that what journals are all about? Writing all the stupid little things you do each day? At least that's what I've always thought they were for. Anyway, aren't diaries for girls? Manly boys don't pour out their angst onto paper. That would make it all a bit too real, wouldn't it?
I know Ginny keeps a diary, even after what happened in her first year with the whole Tom Riddle and Heir of Slytherin thing. I've bought her a diary every year since -- at least that way I know she'll be safe writing in it.
Rumour has it that Hermione has a diary too, but no one has ever seen her writing in it. Neville thinks she's storing up things to blackmail us with. Dean thinks she's going to sell it to Witch Weekly -- "I was a Gryffindor sex slave: The truth behind the closed doors of Hogwarts"! Seamus doesn't have much to say since he started dating Hermione. He used to be her worst critic as well. As for Ron, I think he's a bit peeved that Seamus beat him to asking Hermione for a date. Still, that's his fault; he's had plenty of time to ask her out.
So why am I wasting a perfectly good Saturday morning scribbling in this journal? Professor Dumbledore gave me the book -- it must have very expensive, the parchment is very nice, I might even try some drawing later. He thought it might help if I wrote down my feelings about what happened at The Burrow, something about therapy and getting it out of my system.
Well, it will take more than a few words on this paper to deal with what happened there.
I started writing last summer at Privet Drive, but never got very far with it. Then I've tried again over the last few months and I know it doesn't help, not really. I just keep writing the same thing over and over again.
Voldemort. The Burrow being destroyed. Voldemort. Ron injured falling 50 feet from a broom. Voldemort. Me killing a Death Eater before he killed Ron.
And let's not forget Voldemort!
Writing doesn't help. I need to TALK to someone.
Not Ron, of course, he's made it clear he doesn't want to talk about it and who can blame him. The fall shattered his leg so badly he was lucky not to lose it. If he'd been a Muggle he probably would have. The injury was bad enough to keep him out of school for several months and he still has a pronounced limp.
Hermione? She always listens and maybe that's my problem with her. I unload on to her so much already and I'm just not sure how much more I can really expect her to take.
Ginny? I don't think I could ever talk to her about anything so personal. Besides, it was her house that got destroyed and her family nearly killed. I should be there for her, not the other way round.
My dorm mates? Seamus, Dean and Neville. These boys are the best, but I am not going to pour out this to them.
Professor Dumbledore? Well, I've spoken to him already and he always ends up saying the same thing -- "How do you feel, Harry?"
Him? Am I really adding him to the growing list of Harry Potter Counsellors? Would I really want to pour out all my manly angst to him? Two weeks ago I hated the guy and would have happily thrown him off the Astronomy Tower given half the chance. But now? As Professor Dumbledore would say, "How do you feel, Harry?"
How do I feel?
Bollocks, I'm going out to have a snowball fight -- that's how I feel!
Later that same day...
Now, that was fun -- 20 Upper Sixth students beating the crap out of each other with snowballs! We made a real spectacle of ourselves, considering the First and Second Years were out there as well. I think Snape wanted to give each of us a detention, but he couldn't prove we threw the snow off the roof onto him.
The afternoon was spent playing Exploding Snap in the Gryffindor Common Room! How old are we? I think the final score was one game to me and the rest to everyone else.
And now? Well, I'm down in the Great Hall. Supper will be in an hour, so it is quiet here at the moment. A house-elf arrived about ten minutes ago with a pot of tea and cakes. They must be mind readers because I didn't ask for it.
He was out there. Him. Of course, he wasn't throwing snowballs -- that would be a little beneath him, wouldn't it. You wouldn't catch him prancing around stuffing snow down people's necks like the rest of us. No, he was out there on his skis showing off to his little Slytherin audience. I didn't see him at first, then there was a flash of yellow and red off in the distance. He had on the ski gear I had removed back on New Year's Eve. At one point he was trying to teach Blaise Zabini the basic movements, all over her like a rash.
I must have been staring because the next thing I knew was the sound of Ron's voice right up close saying, "What a tosser."
Me? I was in the process of taking that jacket off again.
Ha! I can't believe I have just written that. If I could remember the charm I'd erase it. Do you really want to go there, Harry? Really want to put your thoughts about him down here in black and white -- well, violet and cream actually? I love Wizard inks.
Why the hell not? That is, after all, what this journal is supposed to be for isn't it? And, Harry, wasn't one of your New Year's Resolutions going to be to get yourself sorted out?
Pre-1998 resolutions were always the same. Just to get through the next 365 days. But I've got something else to think about this year. My mind and thoughts keep going back what happened at Hagrid's cottage.
The snowstorm. His cold wet skin. The way taking his clothes off made me feel. The way we talked. The FACT we were actually able to talk. If I hadn't lived through those hours, I probably wouldn't believe it possible. It was an ... experience.
It's ridiculous, but I've got on that shirt he was wearing -- one of Dudley's cast-offs, which I would never normally think of wearing outside of my room. It's covered with a jumper today, but there is a strange comfort zone associated with it now.
What am I saying -- it's a fucking shirt for God's sake. Him and this shirt a comfort zone do NOT make.
Pause for a cup of tea and a calm down.
I haven't spoken to him since he left on New Year's Day. In fact, most of the time all I get is an occasional long-distance view down a corridor. If he sees me, he changes direction and goes off somewhere else. When we are up close and personal, he doesn't speak, doesn't throw insults. In fact he hardly acknowledges my presence. It took me about a week to remember my New Years wish had been that he could 'Just ignore me'.
I didn't expect him to take it literally.
You only have yourself to blame, Harry!
The trouble is, I don't want to be ignored. I want to talk to him about what happened that evening -- about what we talked about. About the way he touched me and the way....
A shadow fell across the open journal and Harry glanced up. Grey eyes looked down at him from across the other side of the table.
Harry was not the panicking sort, but he dropped his quill, leaving a huge splash of violet ink across the page. He fumbled with the book, trying to close it before Draco could see any of the words. Once it was closed he subconsciously pulled the journal closer to him and leaned his arms on it, as if protecting his most intimate thoughts from the world.
"Potter." Draco's voice was a whisper, much quieter than normal.
"Draco." It came out without Harry thinking about it. "Umm."
"Don't call me that," Draco hissed. "Just listen for a moment." He folded his arms across his chest and strutted an arrogant pose. "You need to pretend that I am arguing with you."
"What?" Harry didn't need to pretend anything. He was confused enough to begin arguing at any moment. Draco's body language (and Harry was convinced that after nearly seven years he would have passed a Malfoy Body Language exam with no problem) was saying one thing, but the face was saying something else. Arrogant strut vs. concerned softness. Or maybe, Harry considered, he'd lost track with reality completely and even something as simple as 'Understanding Malfoy' was now a complete impossibility. To make matters worse, he was sure he was starting to blush under the gaze. He could feel the heat rising up his chest and into his neck, and he sensed burning patches on each cheek. Damn the bastard, why is he doing this to me?
"There are people around." The blond head tilted slightly, nodding behind him. Harry moved to look around the slim body. "Don't look for fuck's sake. You are bloody hopeless."
Crabbe and Goyle were sitting at the Slytherin table, watching the exchange with intense interest.
"Piss off, Malfoy." The words came out without Harry thinking about them and he cringed the moment they had left his mouth.
"That's better. Harry..." Harry's stomach gave a little flip at the way Draco said his name. "...You need to be careful. I think someone saw you at Hagrid's." He suddenly leaned forward, resting his hands on the table. "If you're going to keep going there you need to make sure the protection spells are better."
Harry suddenly pushed his chair away with a loud scrape on the flagstone floor. "I don't understand. What do you mean? Protection spells?" He balled his fists arrogantly on his hips.
"You just need to be more careful, especially when you are out there on your own. If any of Voldemort's followers..." Draco became silent. He was already risking enough by talking to Harry about this. To insinuate he knew what Voldemort's plans might be was pushing things a little too far. What if the person who had told his father was here in the room now? He glanced quickly around at the few students and two teachers sat up at the high table. Had they all been here at New Year? Had any of them made the same trip he had out to the cottage? Draco turned back and pointed a finger at Harry, gesturing with it as if to make a point. "Just watch your back. It's getting dangerous around here."
Harry suddenly reached across the table and grabbed at Draco's robes. He was pleasantly surprised on two counts. The first was how nice it was to grab those robes. The second was the lovely look of complete surprise on Draco's face. "I want to talk with you." He saw Crabbe come to his feet.
"I told you, things are not safe around here anymore."
He dragged the Slytherin forward, halfway across the table, faces inches apart. "Don't fob me off, Draco."
"Don't push your luck, Harry." Draco pulled himself theatrically from Harry's grasp and pushed him away, the strength in the gesture enough to cause Harry to stagger back a couple of places. Green eyes glared at him with a menace Draco wasn't sure was play-acting. "Look, school starts again Monday. It might be easier to arrange something when everyone is back. I'll see." He dramatically straightened his robes. "Just be careful."
With that Draco turned and gave an exaggerated look of pity to his two classmates as he hooked a finger in Harry's direction. The pair grinned maliciously at each other. He walked away.
"Malfoy." Harry's voice cut through the hall, and the dozen or so people dotted around all looked up. Draco stopped in mid-stride and slowly turned back, his face a blank canvas. "Just watch what you're doing. I'd hate for you to go out on those skis of yours and get lost. Who knows what might happen if you did." The expression did not change, but Harry liked to think there was a sparkle in the grey eyes.
He watched as Draco left the Hall, flanked by the bulk of the dynamic duo. Sitting back down, he opened the journal and looked at the mess from the dropped quill. The inkblot had, fortunately missed the writing, but little splatters covered the page. He picked up the quill and dipped it into the inkbottle. For a moment he looked at the blot and tried to decide what it looked like. It looked a little like Fawkes he decided.
Then, carefully under the inkblot phoenix, Harry wrote, 'He spoke to me.'
"I see that, unfortunately, you have all decided to return." Severus Snape stood in front of the class, arms folded across his chest as he cast his black eyes over the combined Gryffindor/Slytherin class. He couldn't decide what was worse; this group of people when they were 11-year-olds or the teenage hormonal angst-ridden 17-year-olds currently sitting in front of him now. At least at 11, the blossoming of the girls into womanhood didn't distract the boys. He decided to rephrase that in his mind; the boys in this class seemed to be distracted by almost anything -- even a bubbling cauldron was enough for some of them. "Mr Finnegan..."
Seamus looked up suddenly from the piece of parchment he was writing on to find Snape standing over him. He swallowed nervously. "Sir."
"A little early to be taking notes." Snape snatched the parchment from the tabletop and with a quiet authority read the words written on it in red ink. "And a little early for a Valentine as well, don't you think." He very carefully ripped the paper in half and then tore those pieces again. "Kindly refrain from courting Miss Granger in my class room." Turning away, he allowed himself the satisfaction of a small smile as he pictured Hermione blushing with embarrassment. "Ten points from Gryffindor for not being able to think of a more appropriate rhyme for 'potions'."
Seamus' face coloured as the Slytherins sniggered. He glared across at them, muttering a suitable curse, which fortunately for him didn't work without his wand.
Snape had moved to stand behind his large desk, which was covered by a collection of rolled scrolls. He appeared to be counting them. "I see you have all handed in your dissertations. Everyone will have his or her papers returned by the end of the month. If you fail you will have 48 hours to correct your errors and to resubmit the paper. If you still fail you will not be allowed to take the NEWTs."
There was a mumble of dissatisfaction at the strictness of his comment but it was quickly silenced by a look. "We will be concentrating on your practical exams for the rest of this term. You have 12 weeks in which to review everything you should have learned over the last six years. Your practical exam will consist of making four potions, which will be selected randomly from the 24 main potions you should all know by heart. You will not know until the morning of each session which potion you will be making. No textbooks of any sort will be allowed in the exam room." Snape mentally rubbed his hand with glee at the terrified faces before him. "Don't looked so scared, I am quite sure you will all cope." His eyes lingered for a moment on Draco, the only student who didn't look terrified, before moving on to Harry. "Even you, Mr. Potter, should be able to cope."
Once Harry might have looked down at his hands when picked on by the Potions Master, but today he just quietly met the teacher's eyes. "I will do my best, Professor. And if I pass it will be thanks to your teaching methods."
Snape's eyes narrowed at the backward insult, knowing full well it was a dig at him. He could hardly punish the boy when it looked like he was thanking him for the way he had been taught. "After today you will not bring text books with you. All potions will be prepared from memory. So I suggest you spend your time today familiarizing yourselves with the 24 potions that are on the lists I have already handed out. The format of all classes over the next 12 weeks will be as follows. Your remaining time will be broken into two and a half day sessions. At the beginning of each session I will give you the name of a potion, which must be produced in that time limit. Day One will consist of research and you will spend the day producing a written work on your given potion. This will include ingredients, instructions on how it is produced, what it is for and other details. You will then spend the remaining time preparing the potion. Of course I expect you will all run back to your little common rooms to check whether you have it right." Snape began to walk back and forth across the room. "Which is why you will prepare your potions from the notes you produced the previous day. You may have 10 minutes at the start of Day One to refer to the texts here," he gestured at the bookcases behind him, "but everyone who does so will lose one point for their house."
He stopped by the large blackboard, on which the names of all 24 potions had been written. "Oh and you will each have a study partner with whom you will work. Any questions?"
It was Lavender Brown who finally raised her hand. "Do we get to work with a partner in the exam?"
"Yes. Many of these potions require two people to brew them, remember." Her hand stayed up. "Another question, Miss Brown? We are certainly prolific today, aren't we?"
"Do we get to chose who we work with?"
Harry, who had been quietly chewing at the end of his quill, saw a look on Snape's face which was as close to a smile as he had ever seen. He was sure no one would enjoy what was being planned.
"Of course you get to chose." A ripple of relief ran through the whole class and everyone seemed to be turning expectantly to their friends. Harry meanwhile was more intent on Snape's demeanour. The professor clearly had not finished. "Silence. You will each work with a partner from the other house."
The entire class seemed to be shocked into silence. Then Lavender piped up. "But you just said..."
"I said you get to pick. That doesn't mean you can all remain in your cosy little groups." Finally regaining their power of speech, the complaints slowly becoming more and more audible the longer Snape remained silent. When he spoke again, his commanding voice rose above those of his students. "Be quiet. This is the sort of behaviour I would expect from First Years." He folded his arms and favoured Harry with a hard look. "Gryffindor students will each chose a study partner from Slytherin We will start at the top of the register and work down. Miss Brown, since you have been so vocal today, you get to go first."
"I cannot believe I've ended up paired with Millicent Bulstrode of all people." Ron flopped down on the settee and looked like he just might start crying. "Millicent Bulstrode!"
"Well, there weren't many left by the time it got down to us, were there. Think yourself lucky," Dean joined him. "Did I really ask for Crabbe? It sort of came out without me thinking. Do you think I should start calling him Vincent?" He sniggered a bit. "Oh Vincent, can you chop my shrivel fig please!"
The five Gryffindors joined in the laughter as they sat around the fire in their own dorm. The dorm had magically grown in size each year to accommodate the needs of the five boys. All had been surprised and pleased by what had greeted them on their return for the final year. What was now known as The Upper Sixth Dormitory was much bigger and students had their own curtained-off area. In one corner there was even a fire, surrounded by several chairs -- their own little common room. Harry was eternally grateful that the five of them had hit it off from the beginning. The thought of sharing with someone he hated for the last six years didn't bear thinking about. He stretched his legs out toward the fire and wondered if he could persuade Dobby to get them some crumpets to toast over the flames. Crumpets with loads of melting butter.
Melting butter. An image slowly began to form in his mind of a mouth biting into the hot toasted cake and the butter running down that chin and throat. He could put out a finger and wipe it away and....
"What about Harry though? Fancy picking Malfoy." Seamus was sitting on the floor, a large potions textbook in front of him. "Harry?"
"What?" Harry jumped, coming out of the mental picture with a jolt. "Sorry, I was miles away." He swallowed, shifting in the chair.
"Malfoy. Fancy picking Malfoy."
"Well. No one had and I just thought I'd save anyone else the bother of having to deal with him." He looked at the faces surrounding him and decided they were not buying this line at all. Was he so transparent that they all knew he was beginning to fancy Malfoy? He froze. Had he really just thought that? Did he want to follow through on the thought right here, right now?
It wasn't that he actually fancied Malfoy. Well, not like he fancied Cho, or even Hermione at one time for that matter. This was Malfoy, for God's sake, and, besides, he didn't fancy boys. After all, he'd spent nearly seven years of his life living in very close proximity with the four people sitting with him now; surely if he had any feelings for members of his own sex he would have had some inkling in all that time.
But then, he'd never had fantasies about any of them, had he? He didn't daydream about undressing Ron, or covering Neville with butter, or... What, he considered, if that was why his relationships with girls never lasted? But this is Malfoy, he debated again, not just anyone.
This is the person you have spent six years fighting and arguing with. This is the person who makes you so mad you want to pin him to the ground and wring his rotten neck. This is the person who stood in front of you in the Great Hall a week ago and smiled and called you 'Harry'.
He felt a strange warm gooey feeling slip through his mind and he was back there again, grabbing at those robes and picturing that surprised expression on Draco's face.
"Harry? Harry, are you okay?"
"You keep drifting."
"Oh. Sorry. I'm just tired. Umm." He cleared his throat and managed to produce a coherent sentence. "At least I didn't pick Pansy." Harry managed to turn the conversation away from him. "Neville, maybe you should ask her to the Valentine Ball." Three sets of eyes turned from looking at him to Neville, and Harry was finally able to heave a quiet sigh of relief.
"She was quite nice today." Neville had a strange far-away look in his eyes.
"You fancy her!" Seamus almost screamed.
"No I don't!"
"Ha! I've seen that look in your eyes before. Last time it was over Hannah Abbott. Then there was Mandy Brocklehurst at the Yule Ball. I think you've been out with more people since September than Harry has in his whole illustrious Hogwarts career."
Harry glared at the Irishman. "At least I didn't pick Goyle. Mind you, I understand he's good at stirring potions -- those big muscular arms of his have to be good for something."
Seamus blanched but managed a shrug. "Call it my good deed for the year. Do you think he can actually write? Or does he sign his name with an 'X'?"
They all joined in the laughter and finally settled back into a companionable silence for a few minutes. Then Ron tapped his bottle of Butterbeer with his Prefects badge. It gave off a pleasant ringing sound. "So, let's bring tonight's meeting of the Gryffindor Dorm Debating Society to order. And tonight's topic is?" He looked around at the four familiar faces. "Well?"
"How about why my astrology charts never seem to match up with what the person is actually like in real life?"
The two boys nodded a curt greeting at each other as they settled down at the desk in the Potions classroom. They had actually argued a few days previous over where they should sit. Draco had wanted to keep the desk he had used since the first day in class. Harry wasn't so possessive about desks, or even chairs for that matter, but he didn't see why Draco should have his own way all the time. So he'd said something stupid about his 'lucky desk' and how he didn't see why he should move.
"Lucky desk, Potter," Draco had sneered. "If that is lucky I dread to think how bad you would be if it was unlucky."
Harry was still surprised at how quickly they had degenerated into shouting at each other. How could he have ever wanted to put melted butter and Malfoy in the same daydream?
Snape had arrived just as they had both risen to their feet and were standing almost nose-to-nose, vindictive comments spewing forth. The rest of the class had been so engrossed in the argument that no one noticed the Professor's entrance and it was only when Snape had forcefully pulled them apart that the foul language came to an abrupt halt.
And that was why they were sitting now at a desk directly in front of Snape's at the front of the class.
Harry busied himself with sorting out his potions equipment. Quills, ink, scales. He pointedly ignored Draco who was doing the same thing.
"So, do you still want to talk?"
The voice was so quiet that Harry almost missed it. His head snapped up and he turned to look at Draco who seemed to be looking pleasantly pleased with himself. Harry was feeling particularly vindictive at that point. He was finding the whole potions experience difficult, he wasn't sleeping well and already the workload from other subjects was beginning to irritate him. Oh, and being so close to this git, he reminded himself, was seriously affecting his concentration. "Sorry? Did you say something?" His own voice dropped to a whisper, but there was a definite edge to it.
"I didn't think we were talking."
"We can hardly go through the next 12 weeks in complete silence, and I have no intention of failing this exam because you can't cope. And besides, you were the one who kept demanding we talk, remember?" Draco suddenly reached across the desk and picked up Harry's set of scales. "Are these what you've been using?"
Harry snatched them back. Why couldn't Draco keep to one subject? "Yes, I want to discuss that. And yes, these are my scales and yes I am using them. They are fine, even if they aren't as pretentious as your set." He wiggled a finger in the general direction of Draco's scales, which looked gold-plated or something similar.
"At least mine are accurate. So this talk..."
"Stop changing the subject. And are you saying mine aren't?"
"Well, you know the saying, a bad workman always blames his tools. And it would explain why you are so piss-poor at potions wouldn't it. There's a Hogsmeade day on the 24th."
"What are you talking about?" Harry found his voice rise with each word. Fortunately he had started at a very quiet whisper, so by the time he had finished it wasn't exactly shouting. Unfortunately by he time he had finished Snape was standing in front of the desk. Harry sank back into his chair, his eyes fixed firmly on the scales before him. Around him the room fell silent.
Snape stared at the Gryffindor for several minutes before starting to hand out the notes they had produced the previous day. Comments ranged from "Reasonable" to "If you drink that you will probably turn green" and "I suggest you don't let any of this near your clothes, it will eat away anything not made of lead".
When he reached the front of the class, he again fixed Harry with a hard stare. "All your own work, Mr Potter?"
Harry looked up, hair falling away from his face as he did so. "Yes, sir."
Snape dropped the parchment and it sailed down to the desk's surface. "I suggest you tie your hair back before you start. We wouldn't want it getting in the way would we? Perhaps Miss Patil would lend you one of her ribbons. Or you could do something useful like getting it cut." He spun on his heel and crossed to his desk. No one moved. "Well, get on with it then."
During the exchange Draco watched Harry. It wasn't an unusual thing for him to do. In fact whenever Snape turned his vitriolic temper onto the Gryffindor he watched. The very first lesson, when Snape had called Harry a 'celebrity', he had watched him, and so it was no different now. Except, of course, he noticed other things. Such as just how long Harry's hair had become. Not that Draco minded; he liked it longer. But perhaps Harry could do with some lessons in style. And he should get himself a new school shirt as well; the collar on the one he had on today was a little frayed along the edge. Did he have a rash from shaving? Draco found himself peering closer, then sharply turning away as Snape shouted, "Well, get on with it then."
He jumped as something clattered noisily to the floor and suddenly realised that everyone had moved into action. Collecting ingredients. Putting cauldrons on to boil. Chopping and cutting. Occasionally a voice would be raised in disagreement, but on the whole the class was quiet.
Harry was acutely aware of two things. First, that Snape seemed to be watching him and second, that Draco was staring into space. He saw the boy jump at a sudden noise and look around, a startled expression on his face. "I'm going to the store room to get the other things." Harry stalked off to the back of the classroom.
Inside Harry looked at the impressive collection of bottles, bags and tins, each filled with items he had never heard of before coming to Hogwarts. Who would have thought, he pondered idly, that I would be standing here now, surrounded by eye of newt and blood of horned toad. He picked up a bag of dried rosemary and let some of the herb run through his fingers. The smell floated up and he breathed it in deeply, letting it clear his head.
Draco had asked him if he wanted to talk. Now, three weeks on from the events of New Year, Harry was no longer sure. His thoughts in the dorm had startled him a little, and to be honest, they scared him. He wished now he had chosen someone else for the potions assignments; working with Draco was not going to be easy even without this extra dimension to his feelings.
And then there was the strange conversation in the Great Hall. Why had Draco taken the time to warn him that he could be in danger? How would he know that was the case?
Then it struck Harry. Of course Draco would know. Lucius Malfoy was a Death Eater after all, and why wouldn't his son be aware of what Voldemort was planning? But why tell him, unless...
The touch of a hand on his shoulder made Harry physically jump, his heart suddenly racing. He spun round. "Ron!"
It wasn't Ron. Draco just looked at him for a long moment, and then finally spoke. "I can get him if you want."
Harry tried to slow both his breathing and his heartbeat. "You could have given me a heart attack," he hissed.
Draco shrugged. "I'll try harder next time." He rubbed the hand that had touched Harry's shoulder absently along his thigh. It felt as if it were burning from the touch, which he knew was stupid. He recognized the sensation; it was from the magical energy coming from Harry. It felt... so different from anything he had experienced. It was the complete opposite of his own energy, yet it was that very opposition that he felt a deep connection with. In that instant Draco realized he could not turn this person over to his father. At least not without a better reason than the one he currently had.
"Thanks." Harry responded sarcastically and spun away, searching through the bags of herbs. "What else do we need?"
"I've got the rosemary, but I can't find that other thing -- the myrrh."
"We need the resin. It's on the shelf over there." He pointed over into a corner.
"Why is it you have to be right about everything?" Harry could feel himself getting cross. What made it worse was that the reason for being cross was being here, in this room with Draco. Even with all the other smells from the potion ingredients, he was sure he could make out that cinnamon and clove scent that he now couldn't fail but associate with Draco.
"Sorry. I was just trying to help."
Sorry? Harry turned back. Did Draco actually apologise? "We should get back."
Draco reached out again and touched his arm. "I'm serious about talking if that's what you want. But I won't ask again. It's up to you now. Just remember the Hogsmeade day" He gently ran a hand down Harry's arm.
For a moment, Harry thought he could feel the heat of that hand through his robes, his jumper, his shirt, and his skin. He gasped and met the grey gaze, seeing again that hint of blue in the depths. "What is it you want, Draco?"
He let his fingers linger for a moment at Harry's elbow. "Isn't that obvious?" And he turned away, leaving the Gryffindor staring at the retreating back.
Back at the desk, Draco quickly sat and reached for a knife. It was then he realised that his hand was trembling. He clenched the hand into a fist and then slowly released it. By the time the hand was straight, the trembling had ceased. He berated himself yet again for his weakness. What he really wanted to do was bang his head on the desk, shouting 'stupid' with each knock. 'Isn't that obvious.' Did he really say that? Could he have said anything more asinine?
What had he said that New Year's morning? He had told himself any friendship with Harry was out of the question. It was too dangerous for one thing. What he had told Harry in the Great Hall was true. Harry was in danger, more so then he would probably realise.
The coin in his pocket suddenly seemed very heavy, as if its weight were the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. He had spent many hours since receiving his father's letter debating whether he could carry out his father's instructions. If only Lucius had sent it months ago; then it would have been so easy to trick Harry into accepting the coin. He had only just to remember how much they had hated each other's company to know that. He would have waved him off with a big cheery smile.
And yet, his inner demon argued, would it really have been that easy? Would you really be prepared to send someone to their death? Are you really the sort of person who could kill someone else?
His whole life had been mapped out for him. He had never doubted anything his father had told him, never expected his life to be anything but following a path that would lead him to taking his place as a Death Eater. It was what his father wanted, what Lord Voldemort wanted, what everyone seemed to expect.
What would happen to him if he went against those wishes? What would his father say if he refused to pledge himself to the Dark Lord? Refused to subject himself to being Dark Marked? The truth was he had never contemplated the idea of refusing before and it would be a lie to say the idea didn't scare him. But he now know he didn't want to be the sort of person who could kill someone on a whim, or just because it was expected of him. He knew he couldn't give Harry to Voldemort.
Yet if he refused to comply with his father's wishes, the consequences could be dire; anything from a severe physical punishment to death. He had seen what happened to Death Eaters who disobeyed their Master.
And knowing all this, he had still made a play for Harry.
Then it happened. Harry came striding out of the storeroom and all but pounced on him. "What the bloody hell do you mean by that?"
At least, Draco reasoned, Harry had the sense not to shout at the top of his lungs. He turned slowly to look at his study partner, ready to make a suitable retort. It died on his lips as he took in the image beside him. Green eyes danced dangerously and there was a flush to Harry face, which dipped down his neck and disappeared into his shirt collar. Draco blinked in surprise, his eyes travelling up and down the slim body beside him. Fuck me! Harry's turned on. The words echoed though his mind.
With a face placid in its calmness and a voice as sweet as honey, Draco finally answered. "You've forgotten the myrrh."
The Gryffindor common room was empty. Most people were already in bed, but Harry found he couldn't sleep. Rather than disturb his friends, he had left the dorm in favour of the quiet common room. He sat at a table by the window, which overlooked the lake and the forest beyond. Of course, he couldn't see either, but it was nice to visualise them spreading out in all directions.
Spread on the table before him were star charts and astrology texts. He'd never liked Divination, but for some reason he had never gotten round to giving it up in favour of another subject. There were three astrology star wheels drawn out before him. He was getting good at creating them now and it had only taken him a couple of hours to create the two new ones. The first was his chart, lovingly created two years ago. He had decorated it in gold lettering and even illustrated it as though it were some sort of medieval manuscript. He was a Leo, and a large lion stood guard at the corner of the chart. His Ascendant was in Libra, and he added a set of scales. Strange, but as he looked at the drawing now, he realised the scales weren't balanced. A bit like he felt, he decided. Unbalanced and unsure. Confused.
The two new charts Harry had drawn showed no finesse, but he realised that he did have a skill here. Well, if nothing else, he could get a job drawing charts for someone too lazy to create their own. He picked up the first one and looked at it. Across the top he had written Date of Birth 8th April 1980. There was no actual name on it however; he wasn't that stupid. This chart was for an Aries, Ascendant in Sagittarius.
This chart was Draco Malfoy's.
It hadn't been hard to find out Draco's date of birth for the chart, the Slytherin had never been shy about celebrating his birthday even though it often fell during the Easter school break. But to finish the chart, Harry had also needed both time and place of birth, and that had taken him the best part of a week to track down.
The third chart Harry felt a little embarrassed at even considering making. It was a partner profile, comparing the two charts and looking for similarities and differences. Of course, he told himself, this was really a case of 'know thine enemy' as Draco, himself, had said back at New Year. Nothing remotely romantic, nothing...
He looked up from the papers to the familiar voice. "You're finally back, then."
Ron Weasley strolled across the common room and dropped down in a chair opposite his friend. "Yeah, I'm back."
"How was it?"
"Great. Professor Lupin is brilliant. I've learned more in these last months than from nearly all the Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers we've ever had." Ron had missed several months of school after the injuries sustained during the attack on The Burrow and most teachers were happy to give him private tuition when he returned. The only lesson he was still taking extra studies in was DADA. Remus Lupin had returned to teach at the beginning of Harry's Lower Sixth Year and had remained -- the only DADA teacher to last more than one year since Harry had started at Hogwarts. "What are you doing?"
"Oh, nothing. Just practicing some astrology readings." Harry froze as Ron picked up Draco's chart, looking for a name on it.
"Who's this then?"
"No one. It's... one of the exercises in Unfogging the Future."
"Interesting chart." Ron placed it back on the table and began running a finger along the spider's web of lines running over it. Ron, Harry reminded himself, was very good at this. "What have you got so far?"
"Nothing, I've only just finished them."
"Them?" He saw the other chart in Harry's hand. "You've done a partnership one. This is you isn't it?"
"I'm just practicing." Why, Harry thought, had he decided this would be a good time to blush?
Ron chuckled. "You've got a secret girlfriend haven't you? And this is her chart." He gleefully waved the sheet of paper.
"No. I told you, I'm just practicing."
"Sure. Well, let's see what you have in store for you." Ron sat back and frowned, eyes flicking over the chart. "She's an Aries. Oh, sorry, didn't mean to embarrass you. 'He' is an Aries with the Moon in Capricorn. Now, that makes him extremely ambitious and he's got real reserves of energy, which is good because he's got loads of goals he wants to achieve. He wants to be a leader and have power over others. This means he's always thoroughly prepared." He looked across at Harry. "How am I doing so far?"
"Oh," Harry nodded, feeling strangely weak. "Just fine."
"He's a solitary person, even when surrounded by people. You need to watch it, Harry, because he can be a bit egotistical and obsessed with petty things. He can also be contradictory -- you know, flashes of impulse and disregard for convention, and then inflexible and cautious. This means people keep their distance so they won't offend him. Now, what else?" Ron ran his finger along another line. "You've made a good job of this."
"Sagittarius Ascendant with its ruler Jupiter in the ninth house. All signs of a dualistic nature -- you know, situations divided into two sides, either success or failure. He can be very philosophical and more intuitive than rational, but there are stubborn tendencies, which mean he's inclined to go for extremes. And here's the bit you will be interested in. He's going to have an intense and varied romantic life, but you'd better watch it because you are going to find him difficult to understand. Passionate and energetic, but also the opposite. This one will be hard work, Harry."
"Doesn't surprise me," Harry murmured quietly to himself.
"Sun in the Fourth House. Which is energy. It means parental name, family affairs and domestic matters are of the utmost importance in his life. The Sun influences things like honour, pride and fame. Here it's showing that he won't get the success he wants until he is older. And there is a very strong attachment to one of his parents. He wants to be the ruler of his house and has a great sense of privacy.
"Venus in the Seventh -- oh, the planet of 'loovve'." Ron deliberately lengthened the word, a wicked smile on his face, blue eyes twinkling. "Ohhh. You're in luck here. He's going to have a happy marriage with a very attractive, lovely and pleasing person. Does that sound like you? But he's after your money as well as the emotional stuff."
"Tell me you are making all this up?" Harry squeaked, sinking further down in his chair.
"No, it's all here," he gestured at the chart with a flourish. "You drew the chart, I'm just reading it. Venus Ascendant Opposition. He's drawn to refined and sophisticated people, so that's you out of the equation, isn't it. He is well mannered and most people have a good opinion of him. This bit is interesting. He might appear all self-confident and assured, but actually he finds it difficult to stand alone. He doesn't like people seeing his negative qualities or discovering how insecure he really is. Oh, and he's really devious -- docile, and charming on the outside, but conspiring and scheming underneath to make a better life for himself through the people he deals with." Ron threw the sheet of paper theatrically onto the table. "So, who is she then?"
"I know, an exercise. Let's look at the partnership one."
"Oh, come on." Ron grabbed at the sheet of paper and again studied it, this time taking much longer. Harry realised suddenly that he was biting a nail and quickly stopped, instead tapping out a quiet symphony on the tabletop. "Gets better and better, my friend. Sun in the Eighth House. Even if this isn't a long-term relationship, there is a feeling of fatedness about it that is going to play a very important role in your lives. Both your own and his inner nature..." He looked across at Harry. "Come on, give me a name. I can't keep calling 'her' 'him'."
"You don't have to carry on reading it."
"Yes I do. If you think I'm going to stop now, you are very much mistaken. Is this why you talked about charts at the debating society last week?"
"No, that was a general question. And besides, it was true. I still don't see how you can get all that from a few lines on a bit of paper."
"Well," Ron shrugged. "I have to be good at something. You go slay the dragons and I will do their birth charts."
Harry nearly choked and quickly reached for a glass of water. "Sorry about that," he croaked. "Where were you?"
"Inner natures. You'll both experience psychological changes through this relationship. Well, we all know you are psychologically unstable anyway. Now about the S-E-X bit. Is this a sexual relationship, Harry? Have you finally done the dirty deed?"
Harry knew he was colouring again. "Have you?" he finally managed to respond.
"Harry Potter -- The Boy Who Hasn't Shagged. Don't worry, we'll get you sorted out before you leave here."
"Shut up and get on with it." Harry slumped back in his chair, arms folded protectively over his chest.
"Okay. Physical sex is going to be unusually important here. You both will see it as an experience transcending ordinary reality. So, more than a quick shag behind the Quidditch broom shed then." Ron suddenly leaned forward, closer to Harry and clearly enjoying the other's discomfort. "You really are embarrassed now, aren't you? If this is an exercise I will go and eat Pigwidgeon."
"With chips probably."
"Sun Conjunct Venus. Another good sign here. This shows a really strong love relationship between you and him, her, it, even if you are only friends. This isn't just about sex, Harry -- whoever this person is, this chart shows love, pure and simple -- an attraction so powerful it could bring together people who are incompatible under normal circumstances." He looked up and grinned. "Maybe there's hope for you and Malfoy after all."
Thank god, Harry thought, I am sitting in shadow. At least Ron can't see me going bright red.
"But you do need to be cautious here. If there is a lot of conflict in the relationship, this strong sense of love between the two of you could easily turn to hatred. The Moon in the Third shows this is a relationship based on feelings. When you are together, what you think is really influenced by your emotions and you'll communicate primarily through feelings rather than intellect. So, it IS all about the quick shag behind the shed and then not bothering to talk about it afterwards."
"Do you really have to bring everything down to the lowest common denominator?"
"That is what I am here for. You shouldn't worry if it's difficult to discuss things rationally and objectively, that is not going to work here. But what you will want to talk about is your collective feelings. Now, is there anything else?" He cast a practiced eye over the chart. "Last thing -- Venus in the Eighth. There is a real emotional intensity about love here. It has a powerful quality, which can end up transforming you both in a fundamental way. This love isn't going to be light and fluffy."
Ron suddenly looked up with a very intense look in his blue eyes as if he had suddenly had some form of revelation. "This is real serious stuff, Harry. If you do get together with this person, it is not going to be a behind the broom shed fling. There is deep, deep connection here even if the relationship doesn't last and it is going to affect both of you at all levels of the mind, body, and spirit."
It was dark with the curtains drawn around the bed. Normally Harry didn't like the dark, but tonight he was pleased to hide in it. It saved him from having to see. Saved him from having to look at himself. He lay very quietly staring at a ceiling he couldn't see and listening to the sounds around him. There weren't so many sounds now that the five Gryffindors had their own areas, but occasionally he could hear a familiar snore or the odd noise of someone talking in their sleep. He could hear the sound of the wind rattling the loose window and the soft noises Hedwig sometimes made.
He'd done it again earlier. He'd been so hard after Ron had finished reading the star charts, he didn't know how he had managed to get to his bed without Ron noticing. But then Ron had been so full of his DADA studies he wouldn't have noticed if a gargoyle had fallen from the ceiling and smashed him on the head.
And now he felt guilty. Guilty that it should be images of Draco that caused the sensation.
Guilty for feeling like this about a boy.
He turned on his side and realised he was crying. "Fucking idiot," he muttered quietly, and reached for the edge of a sheet. It was all Ron's fault, all that compatibility stuff. Mind, body, and spirit connections. He didn't believe in astrology, he reminded himself. Wasn't even sure why he'd gone to the trouble of making the charts now.
Oh, it had seemed like a good idea at the time, but the truth was he had expected to find out just how incompatible he and Draco were. That there was no point in even thinking of Draco as a friend let alone anything else. Yet it had been completely the opposite. If Draco had been a girl he would probably be proposing marriage by now.
He wondered what Draco was doing. Would he be sound asleep and dreaming nice dreams? Or was he lying there thinking about Harry? Would he think the star charts were a good laugh? Did Draco even take Divination? Harry suddenly realised how little he knew about Draco even after all these years. What was his favourite colour? What did he like to eat, drink? Did he read anything besides dark arts books in his spare time?
Was his skin the same pale colour all over? Was he a natural blond? What would he look like naked stretched out over this very bed?
Harry gave another little sob as he realised he was getting hard again.
Across the castle, down the stairs in the Slytherin dungeons, Draco was still awake as well. He was lucky. He had his own room, so no one heard his soft cries as he pictured Harry lying under him.
Harry's Journal -- Friday 30th January 1998
And today's entry is 'sex'! Rather, it was the discussion topic for the Gryffindor Dorm Debating Society last night. Come to think of it, it's nearly always about sex. Even if we don't start with that subject, it eventually leads on to it. Take one of our discussions last week -- it started as a very serious debate on why the Riddikulus spell works on a Boggart.
Then someone (I think it was Neville) asked: "Why wouldn't a spell that turned them into something else work?"
"Such as?" Colin responded.
And things went rapidly downhill from there. The discussion quickly moved into: 'Which girl would you want the Boggart to turn into and why?' I think we went through nearly every female in Hogwarts and then branched out to other more nefarious individuals.
Last night was much the same. The GDDS consists of the male Upper Sixth Gryffindors plus those from the Lower Sixth, which on a full-house day totals nine. Our dorm is great for this sort of thing now it is so large -- much bigger than it was last year. I guess all the rooms change sizes depending on the number of students. There was a big first year intake last September with 12 Gryffindor boys. They could not have all fitted into the dorm my first year was spent in.
So sex. Last night it was just the five of us around the fire -- Ron, Dean, Neville, Seamus and me. The Lower Sixth were all busy with Transfiguration homework and I probably wouldn't have asked if they'd been there. After the serious stuff (what should we get Snape as our going-away gift?) talk turned to whom we'd like to take to the Valentine's Ball. Which led on to whom we'd snogged at the Yule Ball and... Well, I expect you get the picture. Of course, I was still thinking about a certain yellow and red ski suit and what it felt like taking it off. It doesn't help that I seemed to fantasise about him almost all the time now. So maybe I voiced a question that I was just asking myself mentally.
Had anyone, I asked, ever kissed another boy?
They looked at me as if I had sprouted horns or a tree or something equally as strange out of the top of my head. Ron actually sniggered, sounding like a six year old talking about 'willies' for the first time. I felt like I had gone bright red, but the lighting in the room was very low and I just hoped they couldn't see me.
"Boys? Why would you want to kiss a boy?" Ron was still sniggering.
That wasn't what I said, I reminded him. It was just a hypothetical question.
No one admitted to it of course, but it led onto a conversation entitled 'gay porn I have seen'. Ron has always considered himself an expert on all things sexual. He does have five brothers, which must count for something I suppose. And if the lurid images he painted had any basis in fact then I think he succeeded in scaring the rest of us out of any boy kissing for the rest of our lives.
I'd seen one porn movie two summers ago. Vernon and Petunia had gone out for the evening. I was in my room studying when Dudley came wandering in. We were both 16 and he was home from Smeltings.
"Busy?" he asked. I looked at him but didn't say anything. "I've got something to show you, Cousin."
I didn't go at first, but in the end I followed him into his bedroom and sat there watching the most ... incredible video I had ever seen. Women. Men. Men and women. Women and women. Men and men. On their own, twos, threes. You ask for it and it was probably there. I won't tell you what Dudley was doing during this sexfest, I'll just leave it to the imagination.
But I digress, back to the yellow and red ski suit.
He sent me a message today. After that conversation in the storeroom when he said he wouldn't ask again, I didn't really know how to approach him. He actually used Hedwig to send it -- I will have to have words with her. The message was simple.
Hogsmeade trip tomorrow. Will you meet me?
No name or anything like that. It didn't even look like his writing -- careful printing, none of the perfect script he uses in Potions.
There was no way I could say no. Fortunately I didn't have to worry about making excuses for not going with anyone else. Ron was busy again! And Hermione was going with Seamus. She asked if I wanted to join them. Obviously I turned down the invitation, but it would have been a laugh to say 'yes' and see what their reaction to having me tagging along would be.
So we are meeting at Hagrid's tomorrow afternoon. It should be interesting.
That reminds me. I better just check that Hagrid isn't going to be home.
They were standing on opposite sides of the room.
Harry was by the table, leaning back against it.
Draco was standing by the window, face in shadow, hair haloed by the light.
They had been in the cottage for ten minutes now and neither had spoken a word. At first it had been okay because they were occupied in hanging cloaks, but now the atmosphere could be cut with a knife. Harry had spent his time looking everywhere but at Draco. He felt acutely embarrassed and the 'sensible, adult' discussion he had been running over in his mind had evaporated into the ether.
"So, do you want a drink? Butterbeer, tea?" Harry cringed. What a pointless opening line.
"Umm. Any problems getting away? I saw you in the village with Crabbe and Goyle."
Draco shrugged. "They aren't the two easiest people to get rid of."
"I've never understood it, you know, why you've always hung about with those two. They've never struck me as your sort."
"And suddenly you're an expert on my friends?" Harry thought he saw anger flash through the shadows on Draco's face. "I've known Vince and Gregory all my life. They are friends of the family."
"I saw them all together once. Your father and Crabbe and Goyle's fathers." Harry shoved his hands in to the pockets of his jeans. "A few years ago."
"Is that what you wanted to talk about? My father?"
"Good, because I will not discuss my family with you." Draco suddenly turned to the window, his back now to Harry. He was very aware of the coin in his pocket and of how easy it would be to throw it at Harry now. The Seeker in Harry would grab it out of the air without thinking, and he would be transported away. To where, Draco wondered. Back to the Manor? To wherever Voldemort was? He wondered briefly what the Dark Lord had planned for the Gryffindor. But more importantly, he wondered whether he could be a part of this. He turned back. "You keep saying you want to talk. So go ahead and talk, Potter."
Harry fidgeted a little, studying his feet. "Okay. I'd like to know what happened at New Year."
"Well, yes." He kept his head down, but eyes darted up and studied Draco through the hair of his fringe.
"Simple. I got lost, you saved my life, we did your homework, you got drunk and I put you to bed." Draco gave an exaggerated shrug.
"And nothing else?"
"What? Do you think I had my wicked way with you? Give me some credit, Potter, I like my partners to at least be conscious and aware of what's going on."
"Well, that's not really..." Harry took a deep breath and finally looked up again. "Some of the things you said. You -- you seem to know so much about me."
Draco smiled slightly. "Everyone knows about you. You're famous, remember."
"No," Harry pushed himself off the table, planting his feet firmly on the ground. "I mean all the personal things. All the school things. It sounded like you had some sort of huge filing system about me."
Not so far from the truth, Draco thought. "I just have a very good memory."
"Why have you remembered all these things?"
"Because, Harry, the only way to truly defeat an adversary is to know all about them." Draco had matched Harry's stance. "I expect you know things about me as well."
Which, Harry realised, was not the case. Draco was dressed in a dark forest green jumper; a colour Harry had seen him in many times in the past. Was this Draco's favourite colour or was it just something to do with the whole Slytherin thing? And how true was Draco's star chart? As Draco stood there, he did seem so self-confident, so sure of himself, but what was going on behind that shell?
Was Draco lonely and insecure? Did Draco crave understanding and companionship? Or was he seeing things in the Slytherin that he wanted for himself? Belonging, security, empathy, friendship. All things Harry knew he had longed for all his life. But why look for them in this person? Why not find that in someone else -- someone who shared his views and his vision? Draco was an arrogant, self-obsessed bastard, Harry reminded himself. What could he possibly have that Harry wanted?
"And what did you mean in the Potions class when you said, 'Isn't that obvious'. Because it wasn't, believe me."
Draco folded his arms across his chest. He just knew that line would come back to haunt him. And what the hell was he supposed to say now? He did the only thing possible -- he threw it back at Harry. "What do you think it meant?" He took great delight in seeing how awkward Harry suddenly looked.
"I don't know. If I knew I wouldn't be asking, would I?" Harry pushed his hair back out of his eyes. "Stop pissing me about, Draco. If you want to be friends then say so. If you don't, then stop all the arm touching and making eyes at me."
"I beg your pardon?" Draco stepped a pace forward. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"You know what I mean. You touched my arm just before you said 'isn't it obvious', and you've been touching it on a regular basis ever since. Every time we're in Potions you do it."
"I do not. And I do not make eyes."
"You're doing it now."
Draco looked away. It was true; he was looking at Harry and at his loose-fitting shirt tucked into the tight jeans. At the way the dark hair twisted round Harry's neck. Maybe he should just say it. Just tell Harry what he was feeling. He started to turn back, ready to speak, but Harry got in first.
"And what was the warning about? All that about protection spells and being careful when I'm not at Hogwarts."
"I..." Things were getting worse, Draco quickly decided. How had this conversation suddenly turned into a discussion of his motives? "You should just be careful. You know there are people who don't like you."
"Do I include you in that list?"
"No." The word was spoken very quietly and Draco dropped onto the window seat. "No, Harry, that doesn't include me."
"Really?" Did Draco sense a note of optimism in Harry's voice? Like a child who had just been promised a favourite toy?
"That doesn't change anything happening when we're with other people. Do you understand that? I will not go explaining this to anyone else. I... I enjoyed talking with you that night. It was -- interesting. But if my father found out..."
"Your father? What if he found out?" Harry had taken several steps forward and had stopped by the fire. He prodded at it with a poker, sending a shower of sparks up the chimney. "I know he doesn't like me."
"An understatement." The words came out before Draco could stop them and he swore under his breath. What was it about Harry that made him just want to confess everything?
"Oh?" Harry looked up, the long metal poker still in his hand, its tip glowing red from the flames. "I know he's a Death Eater, Draco. I saw him with Crabbe and Goyle's fathers at the graveyard when Voldemort returned. But I expect you already know that, don't you."
Draco was surprised by the tone in Harry's voice. There was no anger or recrimination, just a quiet measured voice. But even from across the room he could see the intense look in Harry's eyes. And just how was he supposed to answer that one? He'd spent years denying it to everyone, but here was the one person who really knew the truth. Harry had been there and seen things and Draco knew the whole story. "Are you expecting me to deny it?"
"Is that what you want to do?"
"Okay. My father isn't a Death Eater and he never has been."
"Have you met him?"
Draco licked his lips. What was it with Harry today? Just as Draco thought they had settled on a topic, Harry seemed to want to change it. "Who? Have I met who?"
"Of course not." It was an out and out lie. The Dark Lord had been at the estate during the summer break and being introduced to him was one of the most frightening things that had ever happened to him.
"What is it now, Potter? Have you added mind-reading to all your other talents?" Draco was back on his feet and had stepped away from the window. He was again opposite Harry with the big sofa between them.
"When you lie you don't look at me. You never have. Were you scared of him? I know I was. I still am."
"He wants you dead." It was a simple statement, but Draco knew it would damn him in so many people's eyes. It proved he knew about Voldemort, as good as admitted his father was a Death Eater.
"I know. Later I will have to face him."
His words came out in a tumble as if those four words he wants you dead had opened a floodgate. "No, not later. He wants you dead now. He is waiting for you to be unprotected. That's why you aren't safe here. The spells on this building are useless and you are being watched by at least one of his followers. They knew you were here at New Year." His eyes suddenly became wide. "Fuck, they probably know you are here now, I didn't think." He suddenly crossed to the coat rack and reached for their cloaks. "You need to get back to the school. It is not safe here."
"I've had the protection checked. It's fine -- almost the same as at Hogwarts itself."
Draco was shocked at his own reaction to Harry being in danger. He had come close to panic at that point and was truly amazed at the depth of feeling it had elicited. Keeping his back to the Gryffindor, Draco let his arms drop to his side. "What do you want from me, Harry?"
"You expect me to spill my thoughts out to you just like that?" Draco turned back. "Why should I trust you? How do I know you aren't going to go straight to the Ministry and tell them everything?"
"Because I told them things before and no one believed me. Why should that change?" Harry finally put down the poker and rubbed his hands together thoughtfully. "Because this is between you and me just as it always has been. Draco, tell me the truth. If there were no barriers between us, what would you want?"
Draco thought he was going to pass out. Hadn't he asked himself that same question a month ago in almost those self same words? He swallowed and realised he was leaning against the wall for support. A part of him tried to find the Draco Malfoy of old, the one who he had been before New Year, but that person seemed to have gone, replaced by someone else.
He realised he was scared. For the first time in his life he was on his own. There was no one mapping his life out for him, making choices for him, telling him what to do and say. It was as if he was stood on the edge of a precipice. Behind him was the old world with his father demanding he stepped back from the edge. In front, just floating there like an angel was Harry. If he stepped out and left the past behind, would Harry catch him? Or would he plunge into the abyss?
Suddenly Draco realised he couldn't step back, even if Harry refused to catch him; he had to step off the edge.
The beat of his heart was pounding in his chest with the sudden fear of what he was about to do and say. "I want you." His gaze was on the floor on a knot in the wood about a foot in front of him.
"Shut up and let me finish." He looked back up, eyes heavy with emotion as they burned into Harry's face. "I want to be with you, but I'm supposed to betray you." He reached into his pocket and took out the coin. "I have been looking for ways to turn you over to him for years. This is a Portkey and I'm supposed to make sure you use it."
"What?" The other's voice was a hiss of anger.
"What did you expect? For me to say I was going to arrange a picnic?"
"Is that why you asked me to come here?"
"Do you really think I would be telling you this if I planned to transport you from this place?" He tossed the coin in the air and watched it sail across the room to land at Harry's feet.
"It's true then, you have trained in the dark arts."
"Trained? I'm a bloody expert, Harry Potter." Draco was well aware of the sudden bitterness in his voice. "It's what I spend my spare time learning. While you and your friends are playing Snap and worrying about Potions homework I am checking out incantations my father has supplied." He realised he was sliding down the wall to the floor. Aware that Harry was starting towards him. "Don't..." he held up a hand. "Just stay there."
What was he doing? Draco's head went to his knees. He was spilling his soul to the one person who could make sure he ended up in Azkaban. He was betraying his beloved father. He was unloading all the pain left in the wake of his dark arts training. "I have nothing else left to lose, Harry. If you don't pick up that coin, I'm fucked, and if you do I am as well."
"But dark magic?"
"Oh, please. What's wrong with it? It's not the magic that's dark, Harry; it's the intent of the person using it. If I were to lock that door for my own protection would that be dark? No, of course not. But if I locked it to prevent you from leaving then my intent makes it dark."
"Really? Then what was your intent when you and all your friends cursed me on the train at the end of our fourth year?" He watched as Harry opened his mouth to answer, but said nothing. "Your intent was dark, it was to hurt, and that makes what you did dark."
"That's just so simplistic. You can't believe that some curses cast by children can be equated to what Voldemort has done."
"No, but it's a start, isn't it? You begin with the simple things, then realise 'hey, that wasn't too bad, maybe next time I'll try something a bit stronger'. Then the next time it's stronger again, and the next time a little more. Before long you've progressed from the simple stuff and are using incantations that call on real darkness, and you see that the thing behind it all is Power. Power to control, to use to get what you want. And that is when it has you tightly in its grip, because then anything becomes possible. Fame, fortunate, immortality, control.
"At that point even the side effects don't bother you any more. You put up with the pain from using it, scar your body to let the blood for the incantations, justify hurting others to get what you want, because it's like a drug and each fix is better than the last. When you have that, who needs bloody herbology and star charts and defence against the dark arts? You don't want to defend against it because it's giving you what you crave the most in the whole world. Before long you would trade anything to get your fix -- money, your friends, your family, yourself, your soul. And as the darkness eats further and further and further into your very being you forget what it feels like to be human and what it is to feel because all there is, is the Power.
"Do you know what it's like to do wandless magic, Harry? Do you know why they say we shouldn't? Well, let me tell you that their reasons are plain bollocks. They stop us because it lets you use raw unadulterated power."
Draco suddenly held out his hand and the coin spun from the floor. It hung lazily in the air for a moment before shattering into dust. Harry jumped back physically.
"Wands are dampeners, Harry. They stop us from letting our magic get out of control. They stop us from doing things like this." Draco pointed his hand at Harry, who was already moving backward, his face a mask of fear.
The wall prevented Harry getting any further. Suddenly he felt a strange sensation on his skin and he looked down to find that the cotton denim shirt he had been wearing had been replaced with a deep red silk shirt.
Draco watched as Harry touched it in wonder. "Of course, you have to be trained to use it. But people like Dumbledore stopped training people at Hogwarts years ago. In fact, outside of a few select organisations the use has almost been forgotten."
"Why are you telling me this?" Harry had slowly begun to walk forward again.
"Because you have a right to know what's being kept from you."
"You think I want to know this?"
"No, but one day you will because you can't kill him without it. He will swat you like a fly. Like he'll do with me now I've destroyed that Portkey." Draco gave a bitter laugh. "My father won't be very pleased either."
Harry rounded the sofa and squatted down, his back resting against it for support. Draco was only a few feet away. "Would you have given me the coin?"
"Before New Year? Possibly. Now? Do you really need to ask?"
"No, I suppose not. When you said you wanted me, what did you mean?"
"Do I have to spell it out? I have spilled my life out to you here. I have told you enough to get myself Kissed by a Dementor, and you ask what I mean." Draco suddenly held out a hand, palm upwards. "If you don't understand I can't make it any clearer."
Harry looked from the hand to the sadness in the grey eyes. They shone from the liquid coating their surface, tears welling from the depths, but not yet spilling down his face. He gasped in shock as it hit him like a brick. This was Draco offering something. This was Draco baring his soul in a way Harry had never thought possible. What was it Draco had said last time they had been here? "I don't know what you want, Harry, and unless you tell me I don't know if I have it to give you." Harry watched Draco's hand and realised it was reaching out to him.
The hand of friendship, refused so long again, but held out to him now. Held out for Harry to take. One last gesture in the battle that had followed them through their school years. What if he took it? What would it mean to take hold those fingers? He felt almost faint at the idea. It would change everything to take that hand, he realised. It would mean admitting his feelings and finally allowing them to surface. It would mean trusting a person whom two months ago he thought he had hated. It would mean finding a new direction in his life.
It would mean having someone who cared for him.
But was he willing to trust this person? It was all about trust when it came down to it. Could he trust Draco after all that had happened?
Harry took a deep breath, but his own hands remained at his side. He knew. Really knew this was the most important point in his life.
And he knew what he wanted more than anything.
He reached out and brushed the fingers extended towards him. There was nothing more. No hand clasp, nothing but the electric thrill of the skin-to-skin sensation so brief he wondered whether he had actually felt it. He looked into Draco's face and saw that the mask had slipped from his eyes, and for the first time he saw into the real person.
Gone was the sarcastic, arrogant pretence. In its place he saw fear and longing and need. It was like looking into a mirror and seeing himself, complete with all the angst and doubt that plagued him.
It felt like he had been exhaling since his parents had died and that finally he could start to breathe in again.
It felt like even if he did stop breathing, it wouldn't matter because this person would breathe for him.
Draco let out a sigh which caught in his throat. It sounded like a sob. It sounded like a plea.
And Harry fell forward into the waiting arms.
********************I wish I could share
All the love that's in my heart
Remove all the bars that keep us apart
And I wish you could know how it is to be me
Then you'd see and agree that every man should be free
(I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be) Free/One -- Lighthouse Family
Author notes: Replicas of Harry's Slytherin T-shirt are available from all good Quidditch supply shops.
This shirt was responsible for the slogan discussion thread on Draco_101
Chapter 3: The Dance. Exactly what it says in the title!
I have been quite taken aback by the response to Chapter 1 of Resolution. I have received so many lovely reviews at FictionAlley, FanFiction.net, Draco_101 and via email. I have tried to respond to as many of them as possible, but not everyone left an email address. Please accept this note as a personal thank you to everyone. Your comments as just so welcome and I have enjoyed reading them all. Thanks.
Astrology and Draco's birthday: When I started writing Resolution, I knew that at some point I would need to decide on a date of birth for Draco. The date had to be at the same time as the Easter school holiday (Easter Day in 1998 was 12th April). In the end I decided to use my goddaughter's birthday of 8th April. I also wanted to put some astrology into the story and had intended making it all up. Then I checked out a site (www.astro.com) that did free birth charts and reports. The information used here for both Draco's chart and the partner chart are taken from those reports. They are real and needless to say I was more than a little surprised at how these matched the two boys almost perfectly. For anyone who is interested both the reports and the charts are available at Draco_101. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Draco...tion_Astrology/
• To my Betas: Lynn, Ginzai and Ashleigh and Thursday.
• To Alex and Aja for beta-ing so quickly.
• To Plu for checking my spelling.
• To everyone on the Guns+Handcuffs forum at FictionAlley Park and at Draco_101 for their support and inspiration.
Artwork: I am very lucky to have had some artwork drawn for Resolution Chapter 1. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Draco...lution_Artwork/ Please take a moment to check them out:
• Adi's wonder drawing from the sofa scene from the end of Chapter 1
• Plu's drawing of Draco running his fingers through Harry's hair and her second drawing is of Harry on his own.
• Ash's drawing of Draco.
A line from Aja's story "Valentine" inspired Ron's comment of "You go slay the dragons and I will do their birth charts" -- "Every hero needs a dragon. And like you said--I'm yours." And Harry proceeded to slay him. Thanks for the inspiration, Aja.
Any reviews are more than welcome, either here on the Fiction Alley Board (click on review), to me at [email protected] or feel free to post your comments at the following Yahoo group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Draco_101/ (home of Resolution).