Drama Angst
Multiple Eras
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Order of the Phoenix
Published: 01/29/2002
Updated: 04/28/2007
Words: 322,203
Chapters: 11
Hits: 100,487


Frances Potter

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 03

Author's Note:
Dedication: This chapter is dedicated to Tine, Ina and Debbie, who I have forced to read and reread endless scenes from this chapter. They have always found a kind word, helped me through the dark times and given me faith in what I am writing. Thanks, girls.

Title: Resolution. Chapter 3: Valentine's Day (3/?)


Prologue: Words and Letters

Saturday 31st January 1998: Late afternoon, about 6pm-ish ... Hagrid's cottage ... on the floor ... in the lounge....

"It's dark outside."

"Mmmm." Draco teased at a lock of hair, pulling it from behind Harry's ear. He had lost track of how long they had been sitting on the floor with Harry against him, the Gryffindor leaning his head on Draco's shoulder. Now it was too dark to check his watch.

"We should go. I'm supposed to meet Hermione and the others at The Three Broomsticks."

"Oh?" Harry's dark hair was soft under his chin and he didn't really want to move, not just yet anyway. "Or we could stay here. They won't miss you."

The answer came with a soft chuckle. "I expect they will. They might send out a search party."

"Really? Do they know of your little hideaway and should I be worried?" Draco shifted slightly, realising for the first time that the floor he had been sitting on for over an hour was, in fact, quite hard. The body cradled against his side seemed to sense the movement and Harry's arm, which had been slung lazily around Draco, moved away.

"Of course they know, and possibly."

"Hmm?" Draco rested his head against the wall and watched the strange shadows made by the fire. "I take it Granger and Weasley would disapprove of your actually talking to me, let alone anything else."

"They can be very protective." Harry turned his head and Draco found Harry was looking at him. "Are things going to be different now?

"In what way?"

"Between us. Between you and me. The arguments and the fights. They always seemed so real."

"They were. They still are. I told you earlier that this doesn't change what happens away from here. It isn't safe for you to have me as a friend."


"Because it just isn't. There are too many people who think they have a claim on you, Harry. Too many people who want to use you for their own purposes. If those people know that I'm involved with you, it might make things worse."

"Worse for who?"

"For you, of course. Maybe... oh, I don't know. Maybe they might decide it would be a good idea to.... You know people are after you." Draco took a deep breath. "I can only protect you so much. If it looks like we've suddenly become friends, people might get suspicious."

"Is that what this is all about? You think I need protecting?"

Draco was surprised to feel that Harry was laughing softly to himself. He had expected his remark to be met with either denial or annoyance. He started to speak, but Harry was suddenly still against him.

"I was under the impression," the Gryffindor's voice rumbled through him, "that only person I had to fear was right here."

Just able to make out the face so close to his own, Draco realised he had taken a single shuddering breath. He looked away, desperate to be drawn into those green eyes, but for once, too scared to look. It was all too much to take in. His confession to knowledge of the Dark Arts. His desire for Harry. The sensation of the dark hair against his skin and the pressure of another's body against his own. The fear of what would happen when he told his father what had happened to the Portkey.

This new, almost irrational, need to protect the person he had so wanted to pour scorn on and hurt for nearly seven years.

"Look, I told you about the Portkey."

"I didn't know you could do that."

"Do what?"

"Tune a Portkey to a specific person."

"Mmm. You need something ... something ... that ... belongs...." Draco's eyes suddenly widened in realisation. "You need something that belongs to the person." Of course it would be easy to get hold of an item of clothing from Harry -- to steal a sock when he was at Quidditch practice, for example. He felt Harry stiffen.

"To me? Did you...?"

"No! No, I didn't. I wouldn't...." An arm moved protectively around Harry, pulling him closer again.

"Hey, not so tight. I can't breathe."


"You don't have to let go completely."

"I thought you wanted to go." The hand moved back to Harry's shoulder, hardly touching this time. Draco waited, hoping that the conversation would move on from the Portkey. He didn't want to discuss this with Harry, at least not until he had considered the consequences. It had to be the person his father had working at Hogwarts who had taken something belonging to Harry, but who?

"Well. Yes, I guess so." Reluctantly, Harry moved away and came to his feet. "Come on." He held out a hand.

Draco took the offered hand and allowed Harry to pull him up. "I was going to suggest that I leave first, but I'm not sure I like the idea of you walking back to the village on your own."

"I don't need protection, Draco." The words were soft but firm. "But we can walk back together."


"It's dark, we've both got black cloaks. If you put your hood up to hide all that blond hair no one will notice us. Half the senior school will be wandering around the village. We can go our separate ways when we get there." Harry pulled his cloak around his shoulders, struggling with the clasp.

"Okay. Here, let me help you." Without thinking, as if he had every right to touch Harry, Draco reached for the fastening.

"The catch is stiff. I keep meaning to get it fixed." He raised his chin slightly raised to allow the Slytherin access; Draco could feel Harry watching him as his fingers worked on the clasp. Draco moved a hand inside the folds of the cloak, his knuckles grazing against Harry's chest for a moment before it finally clicked into position.

Draco stepped away, his hand subconsciously smoothing Harry's cloak back into place. "You should get that replaced." The clasp was a simple school design in silver. He had six or seven of them in a drawer back in his room, taken from his school robes and replaced with more individual exotic designs of his own.

"Thank you."

"It's just a broken clasp."

"No, I mean for being so honest earlier. I... didn't expect it. No, don't turn away. Look at me." A hand reached out, fingertips touching Draco's cheek.

"I expect you'll go and tell your Gryffindor friends."

"What?" The frown was clearly visible on Harry's face, now illuminated by the firelight. "Of course I won't! Do you really think I would share this with them?" He looked horrified at the prospect. "Draco, please...."

"Come on, we need to go."

"You do believe me, don't you?"

"Does it matter if I don't?"

"Yes, it does. I told you, this is between you and me. They aren't involved in this. No one else is."

"Hmmm." Draco realised he was clenching his teeth. That is where you are wrong, Harry, there are more people involved in this than you can ever imagine.

"Will you hold me again for a moment?" Draco looked at Harry, clearly surprised at the request. Finally, he placed a hand on Harry's shoulder. "No. Like before." Harry suddenly moved forward, his arms around Draco's waist as he pulled him closer.

"We were on the floor then." The Slytherin held back for a second then allowed his arms to wrap around the shoulders, tucking the dark head beneath his chin. They remained in an unmoving tableau for several minutes before Harry finally pulled away.

"I hadn't realised you'd gotten taller." For the first time Harry acknowledged that he had to look up to meet the other's eyes.

"Yes, now I can ruffle your hair as if you were a Third Year." Draco's long fingers tousled the dark curls.

"Don't! It will be a mess."

"It's always a mess, Harry. Come on, put out the fire, we need to go."


Wednesday 4th February 1998 -- Malfoy Manor


I am sorry to have to tell you that the Portkey you sent was destroyed. I have been trying to gain Harry Potter's trust and believed I had succeeded. However, when I tried to give him the coin, he refused to accept it, saying that he would not take a gift from me. He then destroyed it. I don't think he realised what its true purpose was. I am sorry to have let you down again.

The Slytherin House Quidditch team won against Ravenclaw during the week, 210 points to 50. The last game of the year will be against Gryffindor, just before we break up for the Easter holiday. I have been practising the strategy moves Mr Palmer taught me, and I am very confident we will win the House cup this year.

I am sorry to question you on this matter, but is there someone at the school watching me? I ask because I think I am being followed, and I need to know whether it is one of our people or one of our enemies. If it is someone from our side, please tell me who, so I can work with them. -- Draco.

Lucius Malfoy read the short note for a third time, the frown on his face deepening with each read-through. His mouth set into a hard line as he carefully folded the parchment in half before adding it to the growing collection of notes from his son.


Saturday 7th February 1998 -- Draco's room


First, you will NEVER send me a message such as your last one without the appropriate security features. You may have used your own owl and it may have been coming back to the Manor, but it could have been intercepted by anyone. In future you are only to send me messages of a general nature. Anything of greater importance is to be discussed only in person using Fire Talk. Is that understood? I will be arranging for you to receive the appropriate spells so that you can set up a private link to me here at the Manor.

Second, you let him destroy it? Have I taught you nothing? What foolish magic did you let him perform to enable him to do that? There is a further Portkey with this note. Do not make the same mistake again. I know you are working with Potter in Potions. You are to keep your contact with him until you are in a position to use the Portkey. We do have loyal followers within Hogwarts but it is better that you do not know who they are. They are there for your safety as well, and one of their tasks is to protect you.

Congratulations on your win over Ravenclaw. I knew you would be a great captain. Now carry this through and beat Gryffindor. We will then have something else to celebrate when you come home for your birthday. Your mother sends her love.

Draco looked down at the emerald, which sat in the palm of his hand. It was the colour of Harry's eyes when he was angry -- deep green, shot though with flashes of light. About an inch across, it would have been worth a fortune if it were real. His eyes narrowed. Maybe it was a real gem; he wouldn't put it past his father to do that, to try to capture one priceless object with another.

Another Portkey tuned to a specific person. So many people had access to Harry's personal possessions, and any of them could have stolen something for his father to use to produce this object. How could he protect Harry from these people? More importantly, how could Harry be protected from doing stupid things? The Gryffindor was his own worst enemy, always wandering off when he should be at Hogwarts where it was safe.

But was Hogwarts safe anymore?


Chapter 3: Valentine's Day

Harry's Journal -- Saturday 14th February 1998 -- Just after midnight!

If I never see Dragon's Blood again, it will be too soon.

That stuff is almost impossible to remove, and it smells awful once it starts to dry. The smell reminds me of milk that's gone off after soaking into a carpet no one had bothered to clean properly. Oh, there is another smell to it as well. Dudley left a banana under the seat in Uncle Vernon's car once and there was this strange sickly sweet smell in the car no one could locate. In the end the car was taken to the garage to be checked out and they found this terrible black object hiding under the seat.

Guess who got the blame?

I've scrubbed my hands so much trying to get the blood off my fingers and out from under the nails they are raw. I will kill him if I get the chance to do so. It's all his fault, and I would like to hit him with a very heavy book. Okay, I might have knocked the bottle over in the first place, but he could have stopped it spilling all over the desk. He could have grabbed the bottle before it hit Snape, messing up his precious robes. It didn't need to end up all over the floor either.

So, I ended up with a detention, 25 lost points, a dressing-down from our beloved Potions Master AND I had to go back after dinner to clean the mess up! And what does he get? I'm still not sure he actually got a detention. Oh, he was told to help clear up the mess, but the word 'detention' was not mentioned.

Still, it was nice to spend time with him even if he spent it being a git. In fact, it was almost worth getting the detention -- I hadn't realised how difficult it is to find anywhere at Hogwarts where you can be alone with someone, especially when that person isn't in your own House. I still can't work out where he's coming from or what he really wants. How can he be so wonderful and caring one moment and so obnoxious the next? During that afternoon at Hagrid's cottage, he was so open. So receptive. We sat together on the floor for ages. Most of the time we didn't even speak. It was like....

It felt like I'd come home. Not to a place or anything like that. It's like I'd been waiting my whole life for that moment. Did we hold each other? Yes. Did we do anything else? No. Was I disappointed? Well, not at the time. At the time it seemed so right, so natural to feel his arms round me and for nothing else to happen.

But how do I feel now, a fortnight later? I still don't know. He said something during the detention that stunned me. I guess it was the last thing I'd expected him to say.

"So, do you fancy a quick shag?"

I could've died on the spot, and it still makes me go red just thinking about it. I know he turns me on in the most physical way possible, but that is between you and me. I'm not sure I want him to know that. Over the past six weeks, we've gone from 'I detest you' to 'well, perhaps you're not such a git after all' onto 'I was going to turn you over to Voldemort but now I've changed my mind' and have now reached 'fancy a quick shag?'. Whatever happened to nice friendships that are given time to grow and mature into other things? Still, I suppose we've had six and a half years to get to this point. Wherever this point really is.

And, of course, it all comes down to how much I really fancy him. And what direction that fancy takes me.

This journal is now full of comments like this. I'm going to have to get a new book soon if I carry on like this. Do I want him? What would I do if I could get my hands on him? How would we cope if we were friends? Does he want to be friends? Could we keep it a secret? Would we want to keep it a secret? Would Ron and Hermione understand? What do I really think about the boy-boy stuff? Could I DO the boy-boy stuff? Am I gay?

And the answers are:

Yes. I'd strip him naked. We would learn to. I hope so, or I've really read the signals wrong! Probably not. At first, yes. No and hopefully. It scares me to death. See previous answer. How the hell do I know?

I hope no one ever gets past the spells I've put on this journal. My whole life is in here now, and I'm not sure I want anyone else to know what I'm thinking. But what if he could read selected entries and tell me what he thought about them? Wouldn't that be a good idea? Maybe I could invent some sort of shared journal system where people could have pennames and say what they wanted in it and other people could reply. It could be a sheet of parchment that you can use different spells to show the entries and you could then add your own comments.

I wonder what his penname would be?



He woke up with a start; the movement made it feel like all the blood had rushed to his head, throbbing in time to his heartbeat. With a gasp of pain, he fumbled for his glasses, which had slipped off. His other hand grabbed automatically as something slithered from his lap; the object evaded capture and ended up on the floor where one of his wayward feet kicked his inkbottle, sending an arch of violet ink across the ancient rug. He watched as the upturned bottle spun around, the ink forming patterns on his clothes as well as the sofa and rug. Finally, he managed to focus on the owner of the voice. "Hermione." The word was almost a whimper as he struggled to push sleep away.

She was wrapped in a powder blue dressing gown, feet shod in matching slippers. "What on earth are you doing down here?" Quickly she crossed from the staircase to the sofa, her face wrinkling in disgust at the mess on the carpet. "Harry!" She picked up the book before the growing puddle of ink could reach it. "Yuck!"

A hand itched at his scar, and he managed to shake his head. "I fell asleep." He shifted slightly; blinking up at Hermione and realised she was now holding his journal.

Hermione waggled the book at Harry. "Do you realise what the time is?"

"Later than I thought," Harry groaned, looking at his watch. Nearly 2am. He tried not to pay too much attention to the journal. "It took hours to clear that mess up."

"Well, you're lucky I'm not going to make you clear this new mess up without magic as well." Waving her wand at the ink on the carpet and furniture, she intoned a cleaning spell, and Harry watched in fascination as the ink somehow leapt from the fabric back into the bottle. Satisfied with her work, she turned to the fire and pointed the wand at it. The embers sprang back into life, and she quickly added a new log before looking at the crumpled body on the sofa. Harry was slouched at such an awkward angle; she wondered whether he was a contortionist. Reaching for his hand, she pulled him into a more comfortable position. "You look awful." A hand brushed the fringe from his eyes.

"So would you be after an evening like I've had," he mumbled. Hermione sat beside him, legs curled under her, and Harry allowed her to draw him into an embrace. He didn't stop her fussing over him; her ministering hands were always soothing. "And it's been a long day. I wanted to write a couple of things before I went to bed, and I guess I just fell asleep down here."

She picked up the journal, which had been left out of the reach of Harry's desperate hands on the far side of the sofa. "Ah, yes, the famous journal." Hefting it for a moment, Hermione studied the worried look that had slowly crept across Harry's face. "So, what is it you spent hours writing in here this time?"

"Just ... things." He wanted to grab for it, but instead sat still, hoping she wouldn't open it, especially as he hadn't put any of the locking spells on it.

"So, you won't mind if I looked then." Harry's whole demeanour changed, and he grabbed for the book. Hermione let go of it almost immediately. "Don't worry, sweetheart, your secrets are safe from me."

Harry quickly tucked the book away, feeling stupid because he knew full well that she wouldn't read it. Well, at least not in front of him. He suddenly frowned. "The famous journal?"

"Of course. Everyone knows about Harry Potter's famous journal. We've all speculated as to what you spend so much time writing about in it."

"Oh." His embarrassment sent little patches of colour along his cheekbones. He decided this was not a discussion he wanted to be dragged into and quickly set about changing the subject. "What are you still doing up anyway?"

She shrugged against him. "I left a book down here and wanted to check up on something."

"You don't need to revise. You know more than the rest of us put together." He knew he should move, but he felt safe in her arms. Safe like he had felt with Draco. What would she think if he told her? But what was there to tell? It wasn't as if anything had happened. It wasn't as if he was 'seeing' Draco -- having a relationship with him. It wasn't even as if he was sure he preferred boys to girls. He'd never even considered the option six weeks before.

Maybe that was why his relationships with females had always seemed doomed to failure. But, he reminded himself for what seemed like the millionth time, he was hardly an expert when it came to relationships, so how could he be so sure about anything? It was only Draco he felt this strange attraction for. Or was it? How many times had his eyes followed a fellow student from the room? Or intently watched a Quidditch match, following the players rather than the actual game? But he'd never wanted to sleep with any of them ... never wanted to undress them and do the things he'd written about in his journal.

Finally, not looking up at her face, he spoke. "Hermione..."


He realised that she was absently playing with his hair. "Hermione, what would you say if I said I thought I might be gay?"


The dressing on his hand was a little bloody and he pulled it off carefully. Holding his right hand up to the light, Draco studied the inch-long vertical cut across the ball of his hand just below the thumb. It didn't look deep, but there was clear liquid oozing from it. He prodded at the wound, wrinkling his nose as the action caused fresh blood to flow. The hand was quickly put under the water running into the small washbasin in his room, and he watched as the blood washed away, spirals of red disappearing down the drain.

He'd cut his hand on broken glass earlier while serving detention with Harry. Rather, Harry was serving detention, Draco reminded himself; he had just been ordered to help, so at least his father wouldn't receive another message informing him of yet another misdemeanour.

Of course, he could heal a wound like this without any trouble but he was loath to do so. Someone, Dumbledore for example, would pick up the magic he had used, and it was safer to wait until the morning when Madam Pomfrey could deal with it.

Carefully drying his hand, Draco put on a clean dressing. Satisfied with his work, he pulled on a soft fine cotton robe and padded across the room in his bare feet to the small fireplace. The robe matched the black pyjama bottoms he wore and he loved the feel of both garments against his skin. The fire had burned down to just embers now, but he chose not to add any more wood to the glowing grate. Instead, he dropped down into a chair and stretched his legs out in front of him.

He was lucky to have a room of his own. When he had found this unused room the previous June, he had gone to Snape to ask for permission to use it. At first the Potions Master had refused, going on about setting precedents for future years. But Draco had been quite forceful about how his fellow dorm mates prevented him from studying. Then, of course, his father had joined in the discourse, and in the end, Draco became the first non-prefect in several hundred years to be given his own room.

Of course, it wasn't much of a room, but it was large enough for him to secretly conduct his Dark Arts study and give him the peace and quiet he craved. It was also one of the few dungeon rooms to have a window. Set up high in the wall, he had to stand on a chair to look out, but it did allow him to have natural light in the room and helped with the slight claustrophobia the Slytherin dungeons had given him.

Draco let out a long slow sigh as he watched the embers. It was gone midnight now, but he wasn't tired. He didn't feel like studying either, which in itself was strange, because his mind was drifting back to the three hours he had just spent with Harry in the Potions classroom.

Leaning back against the chair, he closed his eyes and the image that played against his eyelids was that of Harry, the expression on the Gryffindor's face of startled shock in response to Draco's question of, "So, do you fancy a quick shag?" They had been sitting on the floor in the Potions classroom, with Harry in the 'V' of Draco's out-stretched legs. He remembered how the weight of Harry's legs had felt as they crossed his own, draping around his body. Harry had been holding his hand, cleaning the wound when Draco had asked the question, and the response had been exactly what he had expected. The green eyes became wide behind the glasses, the mouth opened slightly and a flush of colour rapidly spread across those exquisite cheekbones.

A smile slowly spread across the otherwise serene face of the Slytherin at the memory. He wondered what he would have done if Harry had responded with "Okay, let's do it." But he knew that wouldn't happen. Harry needed to be seduced, cajoled and shown it was safe for him to let go. The sense of innocence that surrounded the Gryffindor was one of the things that endeared him to Draco. He loved how Harry would blush at his comments and how he would become almost coy despite the fact it was clear he was turned on by what had been said.

Draco's hands lowered into his lap and with a sigh, he slid down in the chair, legs parting slightly.

What would Harry think if Draco was to turn up in his room right now? It wouldn't be hard to add the Gryffindor Common Room to the little private Floo network he had created over the last few years. Carefully hidden beneath layers of spells, he had used it on a few occasions, but its real value was as an emergency means of getting around the school rather than for day-to-day use. He still enjoyed sneaking around the corridors on his nocturnal strolls, attempting to stay out of sight of Filch, his wretched cat and any teachers on their rounds. And, of course, he reminded himself, Harry Potter.

Not for the first time, Draco wondered if he was reading the situation correctly. He wanted Harry. Needed to possess him in a physical way that sometimes made him hard just thinking about it. He had known that two weeks ago. Hell, he reminded himself, he was sure he had realised it back at New Year. But the fear of being rejected was so strong in him. What if he made a pass, and Harry just laughed in his face? What if all this coyness was nothing but a game for the Gryffindor?

Even if Harry did want the same thing as Draco did, what about the consequences? What if his father found out? What about his Slytherin friends? And Harry's fellow Gryffindors for that matter. The new Portkey glinted from its position on the mantelpiece, a constant reminder of just how close his father was to the situation. Of how others expected Draco to act and react to the situation.

That was why he had stayed as far as possible from Harry since their meeting at Hagrid's cottage. He had reasoned that if he kept his contact to a minimum, then the feelings might just go away. Which, as he had found out earlier, they clearly hadn't. As for Harry's reaction, Draco was sure if he had pushed the situation further, Harry would not have objected. But Draco knew he didn't want to have sex with Harry on the cold floor of the Potions classroom -- a quick fumbling grope on the flagstones with the fear that someone might just come into the room.

For Harry, it had to be special.

And that was why he had spent an hour sending owls off to the appropriate places and why there was a self-satisfied smirk on his face.

A hand slipped past the waistband of his pyjamas into the warmth inside, and he groaned. Sod the consequences; he would worry about his father and everyone else after he'd shagged Harry.


Hermione sat for a moment just looking down at the dark head against her shoulder. She had decided a long time ago that nothing Harry said to her would shock her and for some reason his question didn't shock her either. It wasn't that she had expected such a statement from him, more that it didn't surprise her that his sexuality might be called into question at some point. And it was at moments like these she was grateful for the fact that a) she was almost a year older than Harry and b) her parents had given her an egalitarian and open-minded upbringing. If Harry had posed the same question to some of his other classmates, she cringed to think of what their responses might be.

She continued to stroke his hair lazily. "I would ask you what makes you think that."

"Umm..." He tensed a little, eyes fixed at some point in the distance.

"I mean do you have any --" She pursed her lips thoughtfully, trying to think of the right words. When she spoke again, her voice was a calming whisper. "Harry, are you having a relationship?"

"Well, not exactly."

"But I take it there is someone."

"Sort of."

"Do you want to tell me who?"

"Not at the moment." He shifted against her again, like a child curling up against his or her mother. "I'm not sure how this happened. Well, actually I know how it happened, I'm just not sure why it did."

"Lots of people do experiment at our age, especially in this sort of environment -- you know, closed off from the outside world. There's nothing wrong in that."

"So you think this might just be ... well ... a fling? And that once I'm over it, everything will be back the way it should be?"

"Heavens, no! I'm just saying it happens. Good god, Harry, I had a 'fling' at the beginning of last year and I bet if people were honest, most would say something similar."

Harry suddenly sat up and met her face for the first time in ages. "You had a... a relationship with...." His hand gesticulated towards the stairs leading to the girls' dormitories.

"Well, sort of." Hermione was sure she was blushing. "And, no, I'm not going to tell you who it was with or even if it was a Gryffindor. I'm just trying to say experimentation isn't a bad thing." Harry's eyes were still wide in disbelief. "And it's not like you've had the most diverse sex life up to now."

"I have!"

"Name them." He opened his mouth to speak, but Hermione was already ticking off names. "There was Cho, of course, who you hankered after from afar but never did anything about except to ask her for a dance at her leaving ball. Then there was me, which turned out to be a mistake...."

"Probably because you were experimenting with girls at the time...."


because we make better friends then lovers."

It had, she remembered, been a disaster. Their short, but unmitigated attempt at being an 'item' at the beginning of their Lower Sixth year had been the subject of great mirth between them ever since. They had spent several days walking around hand-in-hand, which had been nice, then had come 'the kiss'. It was at that moment they both realised that they were destined to forever be platonic with each other. The relief they had both felt had been almost tangible and it had left them closer than ever before.

"Then there was a short fling with that Ravenclaw which made the front page of the Daily Prophet."

"Hmmm, I didn't know she would tell everybody, did I?" He stared into the fire for a moment. "It did wonders for my reputation though. All those things she said we did...."

"And did you?"

"No way! But don't tell anyone. Ron still thinks I'm some kind of stud."

Harry the Stud. Hermione shook her head slightly in disbelief at the notion. "Did you actually..." she gesticulated with her hand. "...you know, with her?" Harry's only response was a shrug. "Oh, okay. Have I missed anyone out?"

Harry looked back at her, his lips a thin line of concentration. "No," he finally whispered. "Apart from a couple of crushes not worth mentioning."

"And is that why you think you might be gay? Because of your lack of success with girls? If that's the only evidence you have, then you might be very mistaken. Being straight doesn't mean you automatically have a wonderful sex life. Look at our beloved Ron."

They looked at each other for a moment, and then both dissolved into laughter.

Wiping a tear of mirth from his eye, Harry finally calmed down enough to continue. "I've just never felt like this about anyone." He frowned. Had he just said that? He knew he'd written similar things in his journal, but to hear himself actually say the words sent a tiny shiver up his spine and made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. Was it true? Did expressing it to someone else validate his feelings in a way writing them down could never do? "He ... I ... I want to be with him, to sit with him like we're doing now. He...."

"Harry, you don't have to tell me this, I understand."

But it's Draco Malfoy,

a very small and exceptionally rational part of his brain kept repeating.

An image condensed into his mind of the Slytherin. It was not one of the more salacious ones, however; this time it was Draco's face and the look of rapt concentration on it as he had helped Harry with his cloak after events two weeks ago. The way his hair had fallen about his face, casting most of his features into shadow. The way the firelight had sent rivers of gold within the silver of his hair. The way Draco chewed at his lower lip whenever he concentrated.

For the first time he realised it was true. He had never felt like this and he wanted to do something about it. A sigh escaped him as he cleared that hurdle only to face another which seemed even bigger. "But I'm not sure I know what to do next."

"Does he know how you feel?" Mentally Hermione was working her way through all the boys in her year. The list of possibilities was growing steadily smaller.

"I..." He fidgeted slightly, a little uncomfortable at having to assess Draco's feelings for anyone, let alone himself. "I think so, but maybe I'm reading all the signals wrong. Hermione, I don't even know how to tell if a girl fancies me, so how the hell am I supposed to know if a boy does?"

She gave a little laugh, a silvery giggle, and hugged him again, feeling him relax against her. "Harry, you'll know. Just be yourself, because that is who we all care for."

"But what if he's..." Harry paused. What if he's a Slytherin? What if his father wants me dead? What do I do then? "Okay." He suddenly pulled away, sat up straight, and looked at her. "Twice we've spent some time together, and after each time he's ignored me. He's ignoring me now." Except, Harry reminded himself, for the quip in the Potions classroom earlier. Did that count as 'not being ignored'? Or was Malfoy just trying to unsettle him as he'd done since they had first met?

Her eyebrow slowly rose, and a look which might have been disbelief crept across her face as the list narrowed down to just one person. There weren't after all, that many unattached boys in the Upper and Lower Sixth. And it had to be someone she wouldn't approve of or Harry would have told her. But the very idea seemed so preposterous that she quickly pushed it away. No, it couldn't be.... Hermione couldn't even bring herself to voice the idea in her mind. Finally, she managed to muster her best 'Head Girl' expression. "Harry, you've faced down Voldemort on more than one occasion. You have almost single-handedly turned around the fortunes of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Are you telling me you can't go and talk to a boy who you've already spent quality time with? At least I hope it was quality time."

"Some of it was."

"Then go for it, my sweet. If it turns out you are attracted to boys rather than girls, then fine. If, on the other hand, this is just a nice little experiment with your own sexuality, then accept it as such." She reached out and took hold of his hand. "But just be careful, Harry, and make sure you can trust him. Not everyone here at the school and out in the big wide Wizarding world would be happy with you having this sort of relationship. There are bigots everywhere, and I am sure that some of them would like nothing better than to find a way of bringing you down. If he decides to kiss-and-tell, the backlash could be horrifying."

A second image flickered into his mind. This time, it was of the front page of the Daily Prophet, complete with a rather frivolous image to complement the warning Hermione had just given him. The headline read I was Harry Potter's sex slave, and next to it was a photo of Draco Malfoy wearing just his yellow and red ski jacket rather provocatively off his shoulders. The image looked at him with sultry hooded eyes, lips curled in a hint of a smile.

Harry blinked the image away, amazed at how quickly he had managed to produce it and how alluring his mind had made Draco. He decided that likeness would probably come back to haunt him at the most inopportune moments.



There had never been any set seating arrangements in the Great Hall, but normally students stuck to the same places. As the years passed, Harry had moved further down the Gryffindor table with each Sorting Ceremony. First Year students traditionally took their places closest to the high table where the teachers sat, while Harry and his Upper Sixth friends (and enemies) were almost at the door now, as if they were about to be pushed out into the Big Wide World.

Which, of course, they would be in a little over four months.

But for the moment, everyone was happy to keep to his or her usual place. Which was good, especially on Valentine's morning when the Hall was full of the smell of roses and other flowers laid carefully on individual place settings.

Harry paused beside the huge wooden doors and studied the scene before him. Thousands of red hearts and red roses twisted and spun around the ceiling, twinkling like little stars in the candlelight. Above them, the enchanted sky was a clear blue with a sprinkling of suitably fluffy white clouds.

"Come on, Harry. Your public awaits." Seamus Finnegan grabbed Harry's arm and dragged him toward the Gryffindor table, where a stack of cards already marked the place of The Boy Who Lived. Harry groaned. He had hated Valentine ever since his second year when Gilderoy Lockhart had caused him so much embarrassment. As for Ginny's Singing Valentine, it seemed to have become part of Hogwarts tradition to torment him with the words at some point during the day. "His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad...." The words were now ingrained in his memory, and even though he wasn't a vain person, he liked to think his eyes were green like grass or leaves or anything but a toad! Thank goodness it was a Saturday and he wouldn't have to endure the spectacle of it being sung in classes.

As always, his eyes strayed to the Slytherin table as he entered. Draco was already there, sitting as usual between Crabbe and Goyle. He was busily opening a large pile of cards and making obviously hilarious comments about each one, if the responding laughter was anything to go by. Harry and his group of Gryffindors had made a particularly noisy entrance, but Draco did not look up.

Harry couldn't quite decide whether he actually cared or not. After all, he had put on the red silk shirt Draco had magicked because it looked suitably Valentine-ish, not for any other reason. And the reason he'd not bothered with robes was because it was a Saturday, not because he wanted to show off the shirt or bring attention to the fact that his hair was actually behaving itself, for once. He was not a person who normally 'stomped', but at that moment he decided his footfalls could be described as such.

Dragging out his chair, he sat down and looked at the pile of items that littered his place at the table. Most of the cards would be from First or Second Years, at least that was how it usually went. This year, however, there were two other items on the table.

The first was a small white box. The second was a bouquet of several dark green glossy lance shaped leaves, laid like a fan across his plate. Laid against the green were two creamy white lilies and several smaller yellow flowers, which reminded Harry of little daffodils. The whole arrangement was tied with a very slender piece of bright red ribbon.

"Harry's got flowers!" A hand reached out and grabbed at the bundle. "Is there a card?" Ron quickly began to inspect the flowers, and in the process spoilt the carefully arranged display.

"Ron!" Hermione's voice cut in before Harry had chance to remonstrate at his friend. She snatched the bouquet away and carefully repositioned the flowers. "By all means look, but don't damage the goods." Grinning, she handed them back, almost intact. "And there is a card." She held it up, safely out of the way of Harry's grasping hands. "Wait..."

"Hermione!" Harry's voice suddenly sounded like a whiny child. "Please!"

Seamus suddenly snatched the card out of Hermione's hand, and Dean proceeded to hum out a fanfare as he took the small card from the envelope. He cleared his throat dramatically and began to read, the Irish lilt inflecting each word. "His eyes are as green as emeralds. His hair is as dark as night. I wish he were mine. He's really divine. The hero who conquered...." He looked up at his audience, then back at the card, turning it over to check the back. "That's it. There's nothing else." With a shrug, he handed it back to Hermione.

She studied it for a moment, her frown thoughtful, then turned her attention to the flowers again. The expression she gave Harry was deep and questioning. "Now, who would send you lilies and narcissi?" She held out the card to Harry, who took it from her outstretched fingers.

He, of course, recognised the writing. It was the same carefully formed letters Draco had used in his note about Hogsmeade two weeks before. He tried to stop the smile that was spreading across his face. For five years Draco had taunted him with Ginny's poem and now here he was plagiarising it for Harry. He suddenly looked up at Hermione, who was still watching him closely. "What did you say the flowers were?"

"Lilies and narcissi." She leaned forward and touched one of the yellow flowers. "These little daffodil things are narcissi."

"So who's the secret admirer then, Harry?" Seamus, who had also been inundated with cards, was luckily distracted from questioning Harry too deeply.

"I have no idea," Harry finally answered, as he desperately tried not to look across at the Slytherin table, but did notice Hermione giving a surreptitious glance in that direction. Had she realised what he had? Green leaves, white and yellow flowers, red ribbon. Slytherin and Gryffindor colours. Lily and Narcissa -- their mothers. What the hell was Draco playing at?

"Well, I can tell you when her birthday is!" Ron's loud and triumphant voice sounded across the table, and Harry's eyes snapped up to meet the piercing blue of Ron's.

"Ron...." Harry's voice was low and menacing.

"April 8th. I caught Harry doing her star charts, and believe me..." Ron reached out a hand and actually ruffled Harry's hair, ruining hours of careful work. Harry pulled away and tried to flatten the now unruly locks. "If you believe in astrology they are destined to be together."

"I told you, I was just doing an exercise."

"Yeah, and my name's Draco Malfoy." Ron shot a look at the Slytherin table.

This time Harry had to look, and he saw that Draco was watching both Ron and himself with an expression of ... was it inquisitiveness? Or annoyance? Had Draco heard Ron proclaiming his birthday? Ron had certainly been talking loud enough.

Harry's head slowly sank to the table, and he wished that a very large hole would appear in the floor and swallow him up. Hell, he wished Voldemort would appear because he could deal with that. At least he could go off and fight the Dark Lord. But this? And he hadn't even started on the cards yet.

In the back of his mind a little voice kept repeating, Draco gave you flowers, what does that mean? The answer came back How the hell do I know, but you didn't get him anything. He finally looked across the room and met the blue/grey frost-covered rivers of Draco's eyes. Harry thought Draco winked, but the movement had been so very quick that he could have been mistaken. When Draco looked away, Harry thought he gasped out loud; the loss of that gaze left him momentarily stunned.

With a strangely unsteady hand, Harry reached for a slice of toast. Did Draco's gaze really mean that much to him? He ate automatically, eyes on the flowers as he tried to fathom what they and the previous night's 'do you want a shag' comment really meant.

"Aren't you going to open it?"

"What?" Harry looked up suddenly, shocked back into reality by Neville's voice.

"Your present." Neville's fingers nudged the small plain box towards him. Neville's eyes were actually fixed on Pansy, with whom something was clearly blossoming. Maybe there was hope for a Slytherin/Gryffindor romance after all.

"Okay." The lid was pulled off unceremoniously and half a dozen pairs of eyes glanced into the interior.

Two small iridescent mother-of-pearl eyes looked up from the face of a little silver dragon. They blinked in the light and Harry thought it seemed to be looking directly at him. Carefully, he reached into the box and as he took hold of the little creature, it made a noise that reminded Harry of the sound Norbert had made after it had hatched. Holding out his other hand, palm upwards, he placed the dragon on it and watched as it stretched its crumpled wings. It reminded him of the model dragon he had picked for the first Triwizard task, but there was something different about this one. It seemed almost alive. He recognised it as a Welsh Green -- the same dragon Fleur Delacour had faced during that first task. The silver scales shimmered in the light as it jumped onto the table and began strutting about. It paused again by Harry's hand and seemed to sniff at him for a moment. Then it turned to face the assembled Gryffindors and let out a loud cry (loud for a three-inch-tall dragon anyway!) and a very satisfactory puff of flame. Those closest to the spectacle jumped in unison, but laughed despite the burn mark left on the wooden tabletop,

"It's adorable!" Ginny, who had finally returned from her short assignation with Derek Edmonds, a rather pleasant Hufflepuff, reached out a finger towards the dragon. It appeared to sniff at the finger before delivering a vicious-looking though actually quite harmless nip. She quickly drew back. "If a little over-protective," she added with a slight smile.

Then the creature took off, circling the table on its little wings. By the time it landed on Harry's shoulder, the commotion from its audience had caught the attention of almost every student and teacher. Necks strained to see what was going on at the far end of the Gryffindor table and those close by left their places to see what all the fuss was about.

"Bloody hell, Harry." Even Ron managed to look impressed. "That must have cost a fortune."

Too shocked to moved, let alone speak, Harry was staring across the room at the other Dragon, the only person in the room who did not seem to be in the slightest bit interested in what was going on.

Hermione surreptitiously followed the look and pursed her lips. Her worst-case scenario looked like it was coming to fruition.


"This is a boys' dorm. You are not supposed to be in here."

"But I am Head Girl and I'm allowed to go anywhere."

Harry turned from his wardrobe toward the bed. On it Hermione and Ginny lay on their fronts, resting on their elbows. Ginny's legs were bent at the knees, her feet waving in the air. In between the two girls, the dragon snoozed quietly, the odd little puff of smoke billowing from its nostrils. It soon become clear that the dragon would be as docile as a sleeping kitten when Harry was around, but heaven help anyone who tried to get too close to Harry in the dragon's presence. It would start to growl quietly at first, the sound getting louder as the person got closer. Surprisingly, however, it did seem to like Hermione. He pointed at Ginny. "She isn't Head Girl."


is a prefect." Ginny quickly added. "And I am here because the Head Girl asked me. And we are here to save you from yourself. We are not going to let you turn up at the Valentine Ball wearing school robes."

"I do not need saving." He pulled a robe from the wardrobe, studied it with a critical eye before returning it to the interior. "I am quite capable of finding my own clothes." Hermione gave a snort of derision and he turned back, holding dark blue dress robes. "See, this will be fine."

"You have to be joking, Harry." Hermione sat up, twisting so that her legs hung over the end of Harry's bed. The dragon woke with a start and took off, landing on the top of the wardrobe door, where it studied Harry with the same critical gaze as the two humans. "That must be at least two years old." She watched as he pulled the robes over his jeans and shirt. The sleeves stopped several inches above his wrists. "I am not letting you go to your last Valentine Ball looking like a street urchin."

"I have others." The robe ended up on the floor, and he reached for a forest green set. "You've always liked this."

"But not enough to dance with you if you wear it. Harry, this is your last Valentine Ball, people will be looking at you. Please go to Hogsmeade and get some new dress robes."

He leaned back against the wardrobe. "That's the whole point. I don't want people to look at me. I don't even want to go." He watched as the two girls exchanged what were clearly conspiratorial glances.

"Of course you do," Ginny added. "And you can't go in those old rags."

"Have you any idea of how expensive the robe shop in Hogsmeade is?"

"And that is a problem because?" Hermione raised an eyebrow. "For goodness sake, Harry, you have the money, go and spend it."

"I don't have a pass."

Hermione held out a slip of parchment. "You do now. And besides, who is going to stop you? You have a permanent pass to that place of Hagrid's anyway."

"I don't have time."

"Rubbish. You have all day. The Feast doesn't start until six. Even you can go shopping in that time. Besides, we are coming with you."

The look of horror on Harry's face made both girls laugh. They expected nothing less from this person. Over the last six years, both had struggled to get him to take some pride in his appearance. It wasn't that he was untidy, or dirty or anything like that. He just had no idea how to dress himself fashionably; or rather he didn't really care. His argument was that because he wore school robes and uniform during classes, why did he need 'posh' clothes? When he wasn't in uniform, he wanted to relax, so again, why did he need 'posh' clothes?

"No. If you want me to get something new, I'm going on my own."

Hermione put on a shocked expression. "Do you think we can trust him?" A hand went to her mouth in mock horror. "He could return with something in fuchsia pink."

"Or," Ginny mirrored the look. "Even worse ... black!"

"Oh, for goodness sake, get out of here before I throw you out." Harry turned back to the wardrobe, returning the green robes to the rail.

"You'll go?"

"I will go and see what they have, but I don't promise to get anything." He turned to the bed and pulled Hermione to her feet. "Now, leave."

Hermione reached her hands around him and gave a friendly hug. "You know we're talking sense. Please go and get something nice -- for us. Please?"

Ginny scrambled to her feet and picked up the piece of parchment, which Hermione had dropped on the bed. "Don't lose this or you'll get into trouble."

Harry grabbed at the parchment with one hand and all but chased the two girls from the dorm. He stood for a moment in the middle of the room and let out a big sigh. He knew they were right; he hadn't bought any new dress robes for a couple of years, and all he currently owned were now too small. He'd never been a big person, but over the past year he'd grown a good three inches and now stood a stately 5ft 6in, which, he decided, was probably as tall as he would ever be. Ron, in the meantime, never seemed to stop -- at last count he was 6ft. Even Draco had shot past him over the last summer and was probably four inches taller than him now.

But why should he get a new set of robes just for the Valentine Ball? He didn't even have a partner for the Ball, so why bother with new robes?

He dropped down into a chair in front of the fire, stretching his long (yes, they were long in proportion to his height) legs out towards the flames. The dragon fluttered down onto his knee and made itself comfortable, silver wings spread out so they hung down over either side. "And what am I going to do with you?" Harry reached out a finger and touched the creature's back. It arched into the touch for a moment. The silver scales felt real and he wondered yet again whether this really was some sort of toy. It almost seemed real, except of course a real dragon wouldn't be resting on his knee now. How had Draco enchanted it? Had he used Dark magic? He ran a hand over the silk shirt he was currently wearing, another product of Draco's Dark Arts.

It was Draco's admission of Dark Arts training that really concerned Harry. If Draco did know so much about the subject, how could Harry know it wouldn't be used against him and his friends? If Draco was really telling the truth about what Dark magic did to a person, could Draco just stop using it? Could Draco pull himself back from the addictive nature he had spoken of?

Harry took a deep breath and felt another of those life-changing moments, which seemed to be part of his everyday life these days. He could help Draco. Even if Draco wouldn't actually ask, he could find a way to help the Slytherin move away from Dark magic and find a place of safety.

A what? A place of safety? How could Harry keep Draco safe when he couldn't even keep himself safe?

"This is ridiculous," Harry told the dragon. "Let's go and spend some money."


Romano's Robes for All Occasions was situated on Hogsmeade's High Street. The shop had once been called Gladrags, but Madam Alexandra Romano had taken over the shop the previous summer. It was thought the owner was in some way related to Madam Malkin who ran a similar establishment in Diagon Alley, but there was no proof. Some people even speculated that the two women were one and the same person because neither had ever been seen in the same place at the same time.

Harry stood outside the shop for several minutes, supposedly studying the window display. Nothing had a price tag, not even the display of socks. The small money pouch attached to his belt felt heavy, but he couldn't help wondering whether he had enough money with him.

Finally, he pushed open the door. Somewhere in the back of the shop a little bell rang, and Harry walked in. The shop was light and airy, but almost devoid of anything else. There were half a dozen mannequins dotted around the otherwise empty space, each carefully lit to show off the robes they displayed. Other items of clothing were hung artistically around the walls -- a shirt here, a pair of trousers there -- but this was not what Harry had expected. He had assumed he would be able to come into the shop and browse, but there was nothing to browse at.

It didn't help that he appeared to be the only customer.

He was just on the verge of leaving when a woman in periwinkle-coloured robes strode confidently from the back of the shop. Somehow she managed to get between Harry and the door even though all her movements were calm and stately. "Good morning." She clasped her hands in front of her and then excitedly brought a hand to her mouth. "Why, it's Mr Potter! I'm Madam Romano." She held out her hand to Harry. He looked at it for a moment, horrified that the woman should know who he was, before finally giving it a quick shake.

Harry found himself shifting from foot to foot and wishing he had taken up Hermione's offer to come with him. He hated being recognised. Trying what he hoped was a confident smile, he cleared his throat. "Um, I'm looking for a set of robes, something understated."

"For the ball tonight?" Harry nodded. "Leaving it a little late, aren't we? Still, I am sure we can find something suitable." She gave his arm a motherly pat. "Let me see..." Pulling him back into the centre of the room, she cast a practiced eye over Harry's trim frame. "Not very tall. Hmmm, something understated? Are you sure?"

Harry did his best to nod confidently. "Yes."

"Shame. I've just had the most adorable designs from Bertolli of Venice. He does wonderful things in yellow." She placed a finger under Harry's chin. "Or something to go with your eyes?"

"I was thinking of midnight blue. Plain. Understated." Harry repeated the word, more forcefully this time. "Silver fastenings, perhaps some silver stitching. Matching trousers and a plain white collarless shirt." His voice faded as he suddenly realised he was describing what Draco had worn to the Leaving Ball the previous summer. He was even more shocked to realise just how clear the image was in his mind, even down to the little silver stylised roses on the fastening clasp.

"Very well. Follow me." She turned with a swish of her robes, which she flicked nonchalantly so that they trailed elegantly behind her, and made her way to the rear of the shop. Harry could do nothing but follow.

A doorway led through to three dressing rooms. Two of the rooms had closed doors, and Harry could hear the faint sound of voices issuing from inside them. Madam Romano ushered Harry into a vacant, but rather imposing room. It was lined with wall-to-ceiling mirrors, and dotted about with several comfy chairs. In the middle of the room was a round podium about 12 inches high.

"Now, if you will take off your cloak and shoes, I will arrange for someone to attend to you. Things are rather busy here with all your fellow students leaving things to the last minute. I've got everybody working full tilt altering robes. It's the same every time. Anybody would think these events were sprung on you...." Her voice faded as she left the room

Harry sighed and slowly crossed to a screen positioned on one side of the room. It was decorated with a painting that reminded Harry of the scene from My Fair Lady where Eliza Dolittle was selling flowers in Covent Garden. He smiled a little as it elicited a memory of the week he had spent with the Grangers the previous summer. The time away from the Dursleys, who knew nothing of events at The Burrow, had been like a balm to him and even being forced by Hermione to shop for clothes had been a welcome respite from his thoughts and emotions.

When they had returned to the Granger home after the shopping expedition, Hermione had coerced him into watching the film. He had actually enjoyed it and had quickly pointed out similarities between Hermione and Higgins. What were the lines he would forever equate with her mild obsession at trying to get him to buy clothes? "...Teaching Eliza, moulding Eliza, dressing Eliza..." He smiled -- yes, Professor Hermione Higgins!

Toeing off his trainers, Harry kicked the shoes under a chair and hung his black cloak on a hook behind the screen. "Just you wait 'enery 'iggins, Just you wait!" he quietly sang to himself. "You'll be sorry, but your tears'll be too late!" He fiddled momentarily with his jeans, trying to tuck the wayward shirt back into the waistband. The jeans were finally getting too small, he decided. "You'll be broke and..." He turned, a hand still tucked deeply in the waistband of his jeans. "...I'll have money..." The words died to nothing and Harry froze for several seconds, his suddenly numb mind thinking He's caught me singing ... he's caught me with my hand down my trousers.

As nonchalantly as possible, he slowly pulled his hand out, letting it drop to his side. "Malfoy."

Draco's face was a mask of propriety, but the gleam in his eyes was as bright as the sun. "Potter. Come to get something decent for tonight?"

"What are you doing here?" was the only thing Harry could think of saying.

"This is my Saturday job. I need the cash."

"You...?" Harry's voice was incredulous. "You're working here?"

"Of course not. Malfoys don't work in shops." He stepped further into the room, quietly closing the door behind him. "I was collecting my robes for tonight and Madam Romano told me you were here. She's quite excited about having The Boy Who Lived in her shop. First me, and then you -- isn't it nice to know we give people such pleasure?" A smug self-satisfied grin slowly spread across Draco's face

Harry folded his arms and struck an arrogant pose. Draco was dressed in a black shirt and matching trousers in stark contrast to his pale skin. "Well, I won't be here long."

"Really? Madam Romano can be quite the tyrant. She won't let you leave until she's happy. It's taken me all day just to buy a shirt." Draco crossed to the podium in the middle of the room. "And because she's busy, I've offered to help." He held up a clenched fist. As the fingers opened, a long thin object slithered from his palm. It fell away, dangling from thumb and forefinger. It was a tape measure.

The arrogant pose disintegrated into one of alarm. "I can wait for her," Harry finally said in a very small voice. Draco Malfoy measuring him? He would rather swim naked with the giant squid. "Besides, you don't know what you're doing." Harry was suddenly unsure what to do with his hands.

"I've been fitted so many times I could do this in my sleep." Draco gestured at the podium. "Well?" Harry didn't move. "Scared of a tape measure?"

No, Harry thought, scared of you. Suddenly he was aware that there was a little hole in one of his socks, and he was whisked back to the robe shop in Diagon Alley on his 11th birthday. Back to standing on a footstool next to Draco and feeling both out of place and scruffy in his over-sized Dudley clothes, while the other boy was dressed neat and prim.

Draco still looked neat and prim. In fact, Harry couldn't ever remember seeing him untidy. On the day Harry had thrown mud at the Slytherin out near the Shrieking Shack, Draco had managed to keep his poise. And, he reminded himself, Draco had even looked good in Dudley's cast-offs.

"No, I'm not scared of a tape measure," Harry finally said as he stepped up onto the podium.

"So, what are you going to wear?" Draco nudged at Harry's arm until it was held out from the boy's side. He slid one end of the tape measure into the armpit and then carefully drew the other end down to the wrist, managing to keep fingertip contact with the silk shirt all the way down.

"Umm," Harry cleared his throat as he felt the pressure of Draco's fingers through the silk, causing the hairs on his arm to stand on end. "I thought something -- something that might go with this shirt." Red? Suddenly he wanted to wear red!

"Really?" Draco pulled away and wrote something on the parchment pad he had brought in with him. He loved Harry in the shirt. When the Gryffindor had walked into the Great Hall earlier, Draco had found himself close to swooning, if that were possible. Maybe it was the link through the magic he had used to cast it, but Harry in that shirt....

It had taken Draco days to get over casting magic without a wand that day. Normally he would have prepared himself for its use with rituals and incantations; using it off-the-cuff, so to speak, always drained him. He had questioned his father once about where the power came from, and how it differed from the power used in casting magic with a wand. Lucius sighed and told his son not to concern himself with such thoughts. But Draco still wanted an answer. Did wandless magic sap his own strength and energies? Could it kill him without the correct preparation?

Pushing Harry's arm back to his side, Draco moved behind him and reached a hand up to the nape of Harry's neck. He pushed the dark strands away from the pale flesh and ran a fingertip over the ridges of the spine. The finger followed them up into the hairline and he felt Harry's head raise slightly, the boy holding himself more upright, almost pushing against his fingers.

Holding one end of the tape measure against the skin, Draco ran his other hand down the spine, past where it curved inwards, lost in the slight flare of Harry's hips, and on down past the cleft, finally cupping the jean-clad bottom just long enough to feel the tension under his touch. Letting go almost immediately, Draco's eyes closed as a smile flickered across his face. That felt good, and Harry's reaction was even better. Harry hadn't pulled away. Harry had accepted the touch.

Draco had awoken from a dream the night after he had sent his father the message lying about the Portkey. In the dream, Harry had again rejected him. He remembered clearly the intense feelings it had left him with, and on that day, he had viewed Harry in a new light. Draco had already committed almost everything he had to a relationship with Harry. He had all but opened his soul to the Gryffindor. If Harry rejected him again -- walked out of this room now -- where would it leave him? He took a breath, trying to dispel the thoughts. When he opened his eyes again, he saw the tension in the muscles underneath the clothes, the rigid back and the clenched fists.

"The flowers--" There was a catch in the Gryffindor's voice. "I... umm...."

Harry stared intently at a spot on the wall using it to try and focus away from what was happening. He wanted to walk out right now -- get out of the shop and run back to school. But he also wanted to stay and let Draco continue. There were several pages in his journal now devoted to trying to decide what Draco's motives and expectations might be. He had soon realised that his own views of Draco's motives and expectations could be broken down into two distinct areas: a) Did Draco want to be friends? And b) Did Draco want something more than just friendship? Harry suddenly realised he didn't want to leave at all. What he wanted was for Draco to be up here on the podium while Harry did the measuring.

"Umm. Thank you for the flowers. And for the dragon."

Once again in front, Draco had to look up to meet the green gaze. The podium put Harry several inches above him. That flush Draco found so delightful was creeping back up Harry's throat again, and he could almost taste Harry on his own flesh, could feel where his fingers had trailed down the silk, which had taken on that distinct Harry odour. He took a calming breath and shrugged. "I'm glad you liked them."

"The flowers...." Harry's voice was quiet. "I understood the significance." He watched as Draco silently raised an eyebrow, those eyes watching him intently. "The dragon was a hit as well, though it burnt a mark on the table that will still be there in years to come. It seems a bit too protective though. I think it wanted to come here with me."

The steady gaze didn't leave Harry's face for several seconds. Harry watched as Draco chewed his lower lip as if contemplating something before finally speaking. "His name is Draconis."

Harry tried to bite back a smile. "Draconis?" There was a chuckle in his voice as he spoke. Immediately he regretted it as Draco turned away sharply.

"It might not be very original, but I wasn't very old when I got him."

"I didn't mean...."

When Draco turned back, the previous look had vanished, replaced with the more familiar hard expression that silenced Harry. The moment was lost and Harry knew he would have to ask about the dragon's significance at another time and place.

Draco carried on as if nothing had happened. "What was Weasley on about? He mentioned my birthday." Reaching up to the hollow of Harry's throat, he brushed lightly on the bare skin, feeling Harry's attempts at swallowing, the Adam's apple moving almost spasmodically under his fingers. Again his other hand trailed downwards, this time brushing over the buttons, lightly pressing each one into the taut body beneath. Fingers paused in front of Harry's groin, the tape measure touching denim, but Draco made no move to touch. His hand lingered on the other side of the measure; the slight pressure from a finger pushing the tape home. He became aware of a change in Harry's breathing.

"Well, I -- I was making star charts. For practice. I thought..." Harry could feel the warmth of Draco's hand and it was difficult not to move towards it. His throat suddenly felt very dry. "I thought -- I thought I would try yours."

"You did my birth chart and showed it to Weasley?" Draco moved away, hands on hips. He was trying to work out what his emotions were at that moment. The fact that Harry had been bothered enough to produce his birth chart caused a small hitch in his breathing. The thought that Weasley had seen it produced a completely different set of emotions.

"Ron didn't know it was yours."

"Then why was he shouting about it down in the Great Hall?"

"I -- I put the date on the chart. But I didn't put a name," Harry added quickly as if it might absolve him of blame.

"Do you know how many people have a birthday on the 8th of April?"

"There must be loads."

"No, not at the moment. There's just one person in school at the moment, and that's me." Draco had stepped closer, mere inches separating them. "Was it accurate? Do I get to see your reading?"

"I didn't write anything." Harry gave a small embarrassed laugh. "I'm hopeless at it. Ron did the reading."

"He what?" Grey eyes bored into green and Draco thought he saw Harry flinch. He did not want the Weasel to psychoanalyse him, ever! Draco had seen his chart, read it himself and had it interpreted by some of the best astrologers in the Wizarding world. Of course, he didn't agree with all of it, but some things were just a little too close to home for him to want to share with anyone. Some things he wasn't even sure he wanted Harry to know.

"He came into the Common Room just as I finished and picked it up. He's good at reading charts."

"Is he?" Draco folded his arms and looked thoughtfully at Harry, seeing a hesitant worried look flicker across his face. "And?"

Harry didn't meet Draco's gaze. "Nothing."

"You know, Harry, Gryffindors are crap at lying. What else have you done?"

"Well," Harry realised he was squirming. "I did a partnership chart as well."

"You did what? A partnership chart for us? Why, for fuck's sake? What on earth possessed you to do something like that?" Draco paused and moved closer, grey eyes staring hard into Harry's eyes. "Please tell me Weasley didn't see it." Harry opened his mouth as if to argue, but it closed without uttering a word. "He did see it. Thanks, Potter."

Harry gave a shrug. "I don't see what the problem is," he defended. "They were both pretty good. It --" Words faded as he felt a hand on his inner thigh. Eyes wide, he realised Draco had disappeared from his field of vision. He looked down and met Draco's eyes; saw the hard smirking smile in them and had to look away. He felt the hand move up slightly, a finger holding the end of the tape measure against the inseam of his jeans, pressure pushing up. The other fingers wrapped around him, moulding to the flesh underneath. "Whaaatt...?" The touch lingered as he felt Draco's other hand run down the inside of his leg to the ankle. Then the pressure disappeared, and Harry tried hard not to groan. He was aware of a growing pressure in his body. Please not now, he quietly intoned, trying to control his body and fill his mind with suitable imagery guaranteed to stop any erection occurring. Not now...

Draco straightened, aware of the smirk on his face. His own body was taut like a bowstring under his clothes. He relished the sensation, enjoying the fact that he could control it. Relishing the fact he was also in control of Harry's reactions as well. A little voice in the back of his mind was chortling gleefully. Did I really just do that? it asked, did I really just manage to touch Harry like that?

Casually, Draco brushed a speck of lint from his shirt, the look on Harry's face glorious in its indignation. "I'll just go and see if Madam Romano has sorted out anything yet."

"But you haven't finished. There's still my waist and...."

The smirk changed into a real smile. "You can be so naive sometimes, Harry. Madam Romano had your measurements the moment you walked through the door. Oh, and you might want to undress."

"I'm not..." Harry was almost speechless at Draco's audacity. What on earth had he said to Madam Romano? Yet there was something else. Something he couldn't explain. To have someone, even Draco (especially Draco, a little inner voice chimed), pay so much attention to him was an almost unique experience. The only other person to have ever done so was Hermione. Oh, Ron was up there as well, but that was somehow different to this.

"I don't need to undress," Harry finally managed to answer. "I just want robes. Nothing else." His arms had folded protectively across his chest again, new trousers and shirt quickly forgotten.

"And you intend wearing what underneath? School greys and a white shirt?"

As if on cue, there was a knock at the door. It opened automatically and Madam Romano ushered in two rather harassed looking witches who hung several items on a rack. Amongst them, Harry could make out a distinct splash of yellow.

"Well, Harry. May I call you Harry? Thank you. Here are some things I think you might find interesting. There is a Bertolli couture robe that I do think would suit you. Anything else?" The question was directed at Draco, who replied with a shake of his head. "Then just call if you need anything." She swept from the room, her assistants trailing in her wake as her robes had earlier.

Crossing to the rack, Draco began working through the garments.

"What are you doing?" Harry finally came down from the pedestal and crossed to the rack. He was sure that his heart was beating just a little faster than normal as he watched Draco's hands running over the fabric.

"Trying to sort out something which will make you look halfway decent." Draco paused, studying a shirt, which he held out against Harry before returning it with a shake of his head.


"Why what?"

"Why do you care what I wear this evening?"

"Because I think you underestimate yourself. Look at the difference a nice shirt makes." He waved absently at the red shirt he had created.

"I don't need a personal dresser."

"Really?" Draco held out a pair of trousers. "Put these on."


"You haven't even looked at them."

"They are grey. I have grey school trousers. I don't need more grey."

"That's not grey, it's silver."

"And that's supposed to be better?" Harry was sure the Slytherin was pouting. Well, maybe it wouldn't hurt to play along for the moment. "Okay." He grabbed at the garment and headed for the screen.

"And take off that shirt." Draco's voice followed him.

Once behind the screen, Harry hung the garment on a hook and studied it with a critical eye. It definitely looked grey to him. Removing his glasses for a second, he squinted at the trousers, tying to see if that made any difference. No, still grey. Putting the glasses back on, he tested the fabric between finger and thumb, and decided that it must be suede or something similar. It felt soft and very pliable. And he noticed there was no trouser fly -- no buttons or zip. Instead, on either side, halfway between where a zip should be and the side seam, the trousers were fastened with a criss-cross of silver cord.

Realising he couldn't put off the inevitable any longer, he pulled down his jeans, grateful that the threatened erection hadn't actually come to pass. It took him a few moments to unthread the silver cord and he shook his head, hoping that he wouldn't ever need to get the wretched things off in a hurry. Then he pulled the new garment on. He had to be careful because they were a snug fit. The waistband sat on his hips and he struggled with the fastening, cursing the fact it took several tries to get it right. When it was done correctly, however, the panel made his abdomen look smooth and flat.

He stared at himself in the mirror for a moment, studying the way the fabric fell over the muscle and clung to his shape. His form was also reflected in a mirror behind him, and he was able to see the rear view as well. Watching that image, he thoughtfully ran his hands up his thighs and across his bottom, pulling the shirt out of the way to look at the figure shown there. In the end, he removed the shirt completely and looked at the way the suede fitted. It was a little rumpled from his boxers, but otherwise it did fit well.

Harry shook his head and turned back to the mirror showing the front view. He studied the image, trying to work out what it was that people saw in him. He had never considered himself good looking -- there were plenty of other boys at Hogwarts who had cornered that market. He didn't even think he had a good physique. Maybe if he was as tall as Draco, it wouldn't be so bad, but even Hermione was taller than he was now. He pushed the hair back from his face and looked at the scar for a moment. Today it seemed to be a vivid red line. It often did that when he was stressed or unhappy. With a shake of his head, the hair fell back into place, hiding the mark and framing the oval face with its prominent cheekbones and a mouth that he had often thought might be just a little too big for the size of his face. His lips looked a little dry, he decided, and he would have to shave before the ball. He ran a hand over his chin and up the jaw line.

What would he look like with different coloured eyes, he wondered. Brown like his father's. Blue like Ron's. Or even grey like Draco's? Maybe people wouldn't stare so much if his eyes were a normal colour. And what if he could get rid of the glasses? He took them off again and looked at the slightly hazy reflection in the mirror. He often thought that his vision without glasses was like looking through a gauzy piece of fabric. It was hazy rather than out of focus or blurred.

He put the glasses back on and studied himself again. What would Draco think of him? Would Draco like the fact his chest was lightly muscled rather than well developed? Would he like the smooth chest and the way the hollow below his ribs curved down to his navel? Harry breathed in, running a hand over the now taut abdomen and wrinkled his nose in distaste at the way he looked. With a sigh, he released his breath and frowned. Would Draco like the tiny thread of hair that went from his navel and disappeared like some pointing arrow into his trousers? And what about his hips? He had overheard Hermione saying that Seamus had sensual hips. He wasn't sure what that meant, but his own flared slightly from his waist. Sometimes he wished the curve wasn't there, that the line from his ribs to his hips was smoother.

Harry realised that he was chewing at his lip. Quickly, he stopped and stepped out around the screen. "Draco, these trousers...."

Draco turned from the rack and just stared, mouth slightly open. He had never seen Harry shirtless. "Harry...."


Slowly, Draco shook his head, shocked at his own reaction, and tried to dispel the urge to touch the bare skin. Finally he dragged his eyes back to Harry's face. "Nothing."

"I can't wear these."

"Oh?" was all Draco could mutter.

"The colour, the style, everything. It just isn't me."

Draco appeared to shrug. It was exactly Harry, he decided. It couldn't be more perfect. "Come back over and I'll show you." He gestured Harry back onto the podium.

Once there, Harry waited, watching as Draco removed a shirt from a hanger. "That's white, Draco," Harry helpfully pointed out, his tone suitably sarcastic.

"There's white, Harry," Draco's voice spoke with a quiet authority. "And there's white." With that, he disappeared behind Harry.

For a moment Draco stood, looking at Harry's back. Seeing for the first time the line of his shoulder blade and the shape of the spine under the skin. He could make out the muscles around the rib cage and resisted the urge to run a finger over them. Instead he blew softly up the length of Harry's spine, a ghosting breath that made the muscles flex slightly, but otherwise Harry didn't move.

Harry felt the breath and let his eyelids drop as he followed its passage up his spine. It was all he could do not to turn around, but instead he remained quite still. Then a hand closed around his wrist, and he felt soft material flowing across his skin, first one arm, and then the other. The cloth rose over his back, settling with the equivalent of a sigh on his shoulders. A hand smoothed the material down his back and fingers trailed round his side. He opened his eyes and found Draco in front of him again.

He watched Draco's expression. The Slytherin's eyes were fixed on the shirt as he pulled it over Harry's chest, before straightening the bottom of the garment into place at the level of the waistband. The silver head suddenly bent slightly, and the face became hidden from view as Draco began fastening the tiny green and silver buttons.

For once, Harry stood above Draco, seeing the top of that head. Seeing where the fine hair flowed like a waterfall from the crown to curl around his ears and the nape of his neck. He followed Draco's hand as it paused in its actions to brush a strand from his face. The hair fell over the black shirt collar, and Harry watched the material move across the Slytherin's shoulders.

The impulse to touch was finally too much, and Harry raised his right hand and touched the top of Draco's head, fingers flat as though giving a benediction. Draco looked up, straightening again, and Harry's hand moved slightly, cupping the back of the head. The Slytherin's mouth was open slightly as though he was about to say something and Harry could feel the fingertips, which had been working on the buttons, press into his flesh. It would be so easy, Harry mused, to reach down and touch those lips.

Harry's left hand reached out and caressed along Draco's cheek, tracing the contours of his ear. He felt a slight pressure as Draco leaned into the touch, and he moved his other hand from where it rested in the hair to mirror his left. Holding the pale face between his fingers, he noticed the flush of colour across the cheekbones and how the colour pooled in the lips, parted just enough to show perfect white teeth and the very tip of Draco's tongue.

Slowly, entranced by that face, Harry moved closer, feeling the breath against his skin. He paused, unsure or unable to move any further, and it was Draco who closed the millimetres separating them. Harry felt the slight pressure as Draco's lips touched his own and he was sure that he whimpered.

The loud knocking on the door made the two boys spring apart. Draco ended up by the wall and Harry almost fell off the podium in his efforts to move. By the time the door opened, both were staring anywhere but at each other.

Madam Romano stood in the open doorway and smiled at her two customers. "So, have we made up our minds yet?


Harry's Dorm -- about 5.45pm

For several minutes, the only thing Harry could do was to stare at his reflection in the full-length mirror.

Surely no one, not even Draco, could expect him to turn up to the ball dressed like this?

After the abortive attempt at a kiss (which Harry refused to even think about), he had spent a further hour at the robe shop sorting out his clothes. Draco had sat in the corner the whole time offering words of advice while Madam Romano had finally given Harry exactly what he had originally asked for.

Midnight blue robes. Silver stitching and fastenings. Matching trousers. White collarless shirt.

So why had it been, when he had unpacked a scant 30 minutes ago, he had found none of these items in the robe bag? Oh, there were trousers and there was a shirt, but neither were quite what he had expected. As for robes? He stared at his reflection again. Draco must have switched the robe bags, swapping his very tasteful attire for ... this.

The image in the mirror frowned at him and tapped a thoughtful finger on its chin.

You could carry it off, you know,

his reflection mused.

"Don't be such an arse," Harry responded and flung open the wardrobe. He began rifling through the robes in the hope that something more suitable might suddenly appear.

"Harry, come on. Everyone's waiting."

Harry froze at the sound of Ron's voice, and then grabbed at the first thing that came to hand -- black school robes. "Just a minute."

The curtain, which separated Harry's bedroom area from the small Upper Sixth dorm Common Room, was pulled back with a flourish and the redhead strode in. Ron was dressed in very impressive black robes trimmed in a vivid red, which for some reason complimented his hair. Beneath the robes, Harry could see that his friend was completely attired in black. It was quite eerie, he decided.

"Um, could you get Hermione to come up here?" he finally asked.

Ron frowned at his best friend, who had wrapped himself in one of his school robes, holding it tightly about his body. Legs clad in grey suede poked from beneath. "You can't go in that."

"I know." Harry breathed worriedly, wondering how Ron could know what was underneath the robes.

"Come on, quit being an idiot and get ready." Ron turned on his heel, and then turned back. "And what on earth have you done with your hair?"

"I ... I had it cut." Harry squeaked, wanting to grab at the offending coif, but not daring to let go of the robes. Once he had finished in the robe shop, Draco had suggested that he get his hair cut. Despite Ron's comment, it actually did look better. Some of the volume had been removed, and it now curled nicely around his ears and neck. And for the first time he could remember, the fringe lay across his forehead, covering his scar in soft layers. "Please, go and get Hermione."

Ron harrumphed, but did leave this time and Harry sank onto a chair. Then, feeling the tightness of his trousers, he changed his mind and stood. This was turning into an unmitigated disaster. If his own best friend thought that, what would everyone else say? And Ron hadn't even seen the catastrophe under the black robes.


He spun at the sound of the soft voice. And nearly died. As he caught sight of Hermione, his mouth opened and he thought his chin must have touched the floor. "Hermi...." He tried to say her name, but it faded into nothing as he took in the vision standing before him.

She was dressed in cloth of gold, patterned with flowers picked out in red thread. The tight red boned bodice gave her a shape Harry would not have thought possible. The very full skirt flowed out over her hips, the hem just brushing the floor. He was so used to seeing her in the unisex school robes he had forgotten that underneath there now was a young woman. "You... you look stunning."

She gave a small curtsey. "Why thank you, kind sir." Then, straightening, she folded her arms across her now ample bosom. "Ron tells me you aren't ready. Which I can see is the case. Do you realise the whole of Gryffindor House is waiting in the Common Room?"

"I can't go."

"Why on earth not? You did buy something?" She gave him a look, which Harry knew meant he was in trouble.

"Well, sort of, but there's been a mix up." He carefully removed the school robe and let it drop to the floor. There was a long silence, and then Hermione shrieked. "I knew it. I just knew it," Harry mumbled as he reached for the clasps on his cloak.

"Harry, no...." Raising a hand at her mouth, Hermione held out the other towards him. "Did you... Did you buy this?"

"Well, not exactly."

"It's ... incredible." Hermione walked the short distance to Harry's side and began to slowly walk around him, her head shaking in disbelief.

Then, stopping in front of him again, she balled her hands on her hips. Well, she quickly decided, it wasn't what one would classify as traditional robes. In fact, Harry wasn't wearing robes at all. Her first thought was that he looked like something from a swashbuckling film. Someone had once called him 'Hero Harry', and she decided that this was the sort of outfit the Gryffindor Hero would wear.

The first thing that caught her eye was the sleeveless fitted tunic. It was made of heavy-looking brocaded green material, which was slashed through in silver. She tried to decide what shade the green was, and in the end decided it was the colour of emeralds and it also matched his eyes, which were very dark at that moment. The two front panels did not meet; instead the four-inch gap was criss-crossed with a silver cord that held the two sides together. The tunic reached from shoulder to a couple of inches below the waistband of his trouser. The lower hem had been dramatically cut at on the diagonal, which ran from the point the cord ended, just above Harry's navel, to his sides

Her eyes returned to the silver cord across Harry's front, beneath which his chest was visible through the opened neckline of the white shirt. The contrast between the green of the tunic, the white of the shirt and Harry's tanned skin was delightful, she decided. The ruffled neckline was shot through in a silver-green sparkle, matching the little lustrous buttons fastening the rest of the shirt.

The cut of the shirt looked fitted, she decided, but the sleeves billowed in soft folds from shoulder to wrist. With a frown, she reached out and touched a sleeve, wondering what the material was. It seemed to be too soft and flowing for silk or linen. Stepping back, she realised the shirt hem was cut to match that of the tunic. The small green buttons ended just above his navel and the material was cut to just reach the waistband of his trousers. As he shuffled from foot to foot, a small area of bare flesh became visible beneath the last button, where a narrow line of hair disappeared into the top of his trousers.

"Turn round," she whispered.


"Turn round." Hermione raised a finger and circled it before her.

Slowly, Harry complied. "Stop!" He froze again, and Hermione realised for the first time that Harry was actually wearing a dark green cloak. It was fixed on the front of his tunic by two small dragon-shaped clasps located at a point on the middle of his collarbones. It draped back over his shoulders, where it dropped in folds of almost sheer material down his back. The scoop of the top of the cloak was low enough to show intricate silver stitching around the shoulders of the tunic. The cloak fell in gathered folds down to his knees. She was reminded of some fairytale prince about to ride off to rescue some maiden from a dragon.

"Okay, turn back."

Harry turned, the cloak flowing as he moved and coming to a soft rustling stop as he faced her again. "Hermione..."

"Shh ... I'm thinking."

That little area of flesh called to her, and she noticed the trousers were silver/grey, complementing the silver in the tunic. The waistband hugged the line of his hips, flat across the front because there was no zip. She marvelled at the criss-cross of silver cord, wondering if was enough to keep the trousers up, but in the end decided they were probably too tight to actually fall down. Then....

"Harry! Have you any underwear on?" She sounded like a reproachful mother for a moment.

His face coloured, almost matching the red trim on her dress. "Well, I tried, but it all bunched up and... well...."

"Oh my." The mothering tone was lost, replaced by wistfulness. "Harry, it's.... Words fail me...."

"Do you think I could get away with the robes I wore at the Yule Ball?"


"I'll just get this off." He reached for the silver lacing.

"No!" She pulled his hands away. "Harry, it's perfect. It's lovely. I can't believe you managed to buy this in Hogsmeade. How did they get it to fit in time? When we sent you on your own, I expected you to turn up with something basic, not something that would turn you into the most shaggable boy at Hogwarts. Not, I should add, that you haven't always been that. "

"I..." He shrugged. He tried to lie. He wanted to lie, but he had never lied to Hermione in all the years he had known her. "I didn't buy it. You see, there was a mix-up. I had this midnight blue set and the bags got swapped."

"And the person this belongs to," she gestured at him, "just happened to be exactly the same size as you are?"

"Not exactly. I think someone deliberately swapped it."


Harry licked his lips, realising that he could completely blow everything, his friendship with Hermione, his own peace of mind, life in general by admitting where the clothes came from. "Draco Malfoy."

A strange realisation slowly spread through her as one and one finally made two. Hermione was, after all, a very intelligent person. She mulled over her own response to Harry's chat about relationships in the early hours, the strange Valentine gifts, and, of course, the way she had caught Harry staring at the Slytherin. Hermione stood in silence for a moment, not sure what shocked her more; the fact that she had been right or the fact that Harry actually fancied Malfoy. She crossed her arms and pursed her lips, and when she finally spoke, her voice was very quiet. "And Malfoy is who you were talking about earlier? He is the person you are seeing?"

"Seeing in what sense?"

"You know perfectly well what I mean. He's the person you have been seeing and who is currently ignoring you. Though for the life of me, I don't understand what your definition of 'ignoring' is, considering what has happened today. I wish Seamus would 'ignore' me like that."

"Hermione, this isn't the time or place to discuss this. What am I going to do?"

"About Ferret boy?"

"Don't call him that."

"Oh god, it's serious isn't it? How long has this been going on?"

The curtain was suddenly flung back. "Are you two...?" Ron's voice left him in a strange strangled gasp. "Bloody hell, Harry, what the fuck do you look like?"

"See." Harry pointed a pleading hand at Hermione. "See, if Ron thinks that..."

"Ron is a philistine. He has no idea of taste."

"He looks like a ponce. And what the hell is he doing in Slytherin colours?"

Hermione and Harry looked at each other in shocked silence for a moment as realisation dawned. It was Hermione who recovered first. She mouthed at Harry; "Malfoy's dressed you in Slytherin colours?" He gave an imperceptible shrug.

Gathering her composure, Hermione finally turned to Ron. "He looks sexy and we girls don't care that you boys have no taste. Now get out, we'll be five minutes." She ushered Ron from the room and turned back to Harry with her 'you are not getting away with this' look. "We haven't got time for this now, everybody's waiting. But we will discuss this further. Understand?" Harry nodded, looking like a child caught doing mischief. "Slytherin colours? Malfoy? What on earth are you thinking about?" He opened his mouth to answer. "No, don't, not now. I might be forced to do something we will both regret."

She walked around him again. "Shoes. You can't wear what you have on. Take them off." Harry obediently toed off the black lace-up shoes and stood in his socks, a hand fiddling with his hair. "And leave your hair alone. You'll spoil it." Hands dropped quickly to his sides. "Did he arrange for the hair as well?"

"I suppose so. He... suggested it."

"Hmm. Malfoy is going to be in so much trouble," she mused as she rummaged in the bottom of his wardrobe. "He's going to be spending every spare moment he has in detention."


"Harry, watch it, or you'll be in trouble as well. I bet you have thrown them out."


"Those boots you had last winter. The black suede ones. No, here they are." She pulled the black ankle boots out from the jumble of rubbish at the bottom of the wardrobe and quickly cleaned them with a spell.

"I'll look like something from Robin Hood in them, or some sort of elf considering what I'm wearing already."

"No you won't. Now sit down and put them on. You can sit down, I take it?"

Harry shot her a withering look and sat despite the tightness. He quickly pulled the comfortable boots on. They fitted like a glove and, he had to admit, were the most comfortable footwear he had ever owned. He stood up again and allowed Hermione to straighten the tunic.

She stared at him thoughtfully for a moment. "Slytherin colours indeed. One last thing, I think." He started to protest, but she silenced him with a look. Retrieving her wand from somewhere within her gown, she pointed it at Harry, who involuntarily took a step backwards. "It's okay, I'm not going to turn you into anything horrible." She muttered something under her breath and Harry felt a warm sensation around his navel.

He looked down, pulling the shirt and tunic back and stared down at his stomach. "What the..." Spinning on his heel, he turned back to the mirror and stared at his reflection. Around his navel there was now an intricate red and gold tattoo in a design that reminded him of a Celtic knot. He turned back, his eyes menacing. "Hermione!"

Smiling at him sweetly, she tossed her wand into the air and deftly caught it. "Now that will teach you, Harry Potter, to go playing with fire."


Harry didn't quite know how he ended up leading the entire Gryffindor House into the Great Hall, nor how someone had planned it that the rest of the school would already be in their seats when they entered. When he had followed Hermione down to the Common Room, he had expected to see his friends waiting. However everyone from the House had been there clearly waiting for him. It was only then he had learned of 'The Plan'. They wanted him to lead them into the Great Hall in a show of both Gryffindor pride and Hogwarts solidarity. At first he had refused, reminding Hermione he hadn't wanted to go to the Ball in the first place, let alone take part in this little show. But he had finally agreed out of loyalty to his own House. And if he was entirely truthful with himself, he did feel a certain buzz of excitement at the prospect of leading the House in. It was similar to the way he felt just before a Quidditch match, leaving a knot of anticipation in his stomach.

It was also on reaching the Common Room he found out that every Gryffindor girl was dressed in gold and red. Yet more of The Plan. He wondered how they had managed this without any of the boys knowing. Or, he quickly reminded himself, without him knowing -- he hadn't had a chance to check just how much everyone else knew. The senior girls (fifth years and upwards as far as he could tell) were in elegant ball gowns, while the juniors were dressed in more simple robes. The boys hadn't followed the dress code, but everyone had either gold or red as an accent colour on their robes.

Except Harry, of course.

Standing now outside of the Great Hall between Hermione, in her billowing cloth of gold, and Ginny, in an elegant pencil slim red gown, Harry felt just a little out of place. His own green and silver countered the richness of colour, but he was sure he stood out like the proverbial sore thumb amongst all the Gryffindors. If he'd known what they were planning....

"Ready, Harry?" Hermione's voice was soft by his ear as she slid her arm around him.

"Not really."

"Oh, you'll be fine." She kissed his cheek. "We're off to join our partners."

Harry took a breath and subconsciously pushed his glasses back up his nose. As he did, he was aware of both his shirt and the tunic riding up, and he quickly pulled them down again with an aggravated sigh. It wasn't that he was worried about leading his House in. No, he'd faced worse things than that. His problem at that moment was walking into the hall dressed, as Ron had so eloquently put it, like a ponce and knowing that Draco would be watching.

What if he was wrong, and the clothes had nothing to do with the Slytherin? He knew the chances of that were slight. After all, hadn't Draco made him try on the trousers and shirt in the shop? No doubt Madam Romano had been there with her special measuring devices working out any alterations.

He pulled the cloak around his shoulders, wanting to hide behind it as he normally did with his school robes, but someone pulled it back again. He glared at Hermione, who was ushering him forward. Facing the huge doors of the Hall again, he straightened his shoulders, took a deep breath and frantically pulled at the bottom of the tunic in an effort to hide the magical tattoo.

Inside the Great Hall, the subject of Harry's angst stood behind his chair.

Draco Malfoy had strolled into the noisy Hall about five minutes before, planning on being fashionably late and, thus arriving to a full Hall where all heads would turn to watch his entrance. He had envisaged how his cloak of deep burgundy Chinese silk would suitably billow about him as he walked, just showing off the exquisite gold lining and giving the merest hint of what he had underneath. Unfortunately, this didn't happen.

His fellow Slytherins had greeted him, but what held both his gaze and that of the other people in the hall, was the completely empty Gryffindor table. Eyes narrowed slightly as they glanced from the empty table to the three full ones and he wondered what was going on.

He didn't have long to wait.

As if cued by some strange silent signal, the hall fell quiet as Harry Potter strode into the room. Draco remained standing, hands lightly resting on the back of his chair, the cloak enfolding him completely from shoulder to ankle, as he watched the slim figure stop at the end of the Gryffindor table. A small smile of satisfaction flashed across his face as he took in the almost perfect "come shag me" clothes, and he silently applauded himself for the choice and Harry for actually wearing them. He had expected Harry to refuse.

The fact that they shouted 'Slytherin' to the whole assembled hall was probably why the silence continued unabated.

For the briefest moment, green eyes flickered in Draco's direction, and he tried to read what the look said. Then the moment was shattered as the rest of the Gryffindor House filed in behind the person they had clearly taken as their leader.

An elegant eyebrow rose as he took in the spectacle of the orchestrated entry into the Hall. As the Gryffindors entered, they broke from their paired partners, the boys moving down one side of the table and the girls the other. The twin rows moved to their places, the seniors at Harry's end of the table while the younger students walked in a stately (and clearly coached) way towards the opposite end. Then, as if on cue, each person sat quietly, the scrape of the chairs on the flagstone clearly silenced by some sort of charm.

Before Harry could sit, a ring of applause grew around the Hall. It started with the Ravenclaw and then the Hufflepuff tables before the Gryffindors joined in. There was even, Draco saw, a spluttering of applause from some of the Slytherins. He saw Harry nod, acknowledging something, and he turned in the direction of the look. Professor Dumbledore had come to his feet and had raised his goblet to Harry.

What, Draco wondered, would his father think if he could see the Hero of the Order of the Phoenix now, clearly crowned by not only his own housemates, but also by the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs? This was, indeed, the biggest display he had ever seen of Harry being acknowledged as some sort of future leader, and no one could have failed to notice that Dumbledore had saluted the Gryffindor as well.

He noted that Harry looked a little nervous and unsure of the display of adulation. It was something he was used to as Gryffindor Seeker, but clearly not as Just Harry. As Harry finally sat down, the applause died away, replaced by the hubbub of several hundred students all talking at once. Draco realised for the first time that a place had been set at what was clearly meant to represent the Head of the Gryffindor House. Not only that, but the chair was quite clearly not one of the normal chairs.

Draco stood still for a moment, waiting for Harry to look at him again. The emerald eyes met him across the hall and with a graceful movement Draco removed his cloak. He held the gaze, watching as it widened. Then those red lips parted as Harry took in the shimmering gold of Draco's waistcoat against the pale skin of his bare arms.


By 8pm, the feast was over and the younger students had been sent back to their respective common rooms to carry on with their own little parties, leaving the top four years in the Great Hall. The long tables had been cleared away, replaced by round tables around the edges of the room, and the lighting had been lowered to what Professor McGonagall decided was a 'suitable' level to enhance the party without allowing for any shenanigans.

On the raised platform where the teachers normally sat, a small stage had appeared and The Weird Sisters were now playing their strange blend of Celtic, African and Wizard music to an enthralled audience of 14 to 18 year olds.

Harry hadn't really appreciated the music when he had first heard the group three years before, but now he found the beat compelling. Even as he sat listening, his fingers were tapping along to the music, and the rhythm moved through his body. His dancing technique had improved since the almost disastrous Yule Ball during his fourth year when, as one of the Triwizard champions, he had attempted to dance with Parvati (who was, he had to admit, cutting quite a dash now with Ernie McMillan, an Upper Sixth Hufflepuff).

Even Ron, whose dancing skills had matched Harry's, had returned to school at the beginning of their fifth year with surprisingly nimble feet. Ginny had later told Harry that Molly Weasley had insisted that Ron take lessons from his brothers when she had heard from George and Fred about how badly her baby boy had danced. He was on the dance floor now, almost like a shadow in his black outfit, hands entwined with Mandy Brocklehurst's. Watching Ron now, it was easy to forget that he had sustained such a terrible injury at The Burrow the previous June. Harry wasn't sure how Ron managed some of the steps, but it was almost as if his friend found it easier to dance than walk. Maybe this was a good sign, Harry mused, that Ron was finally getting over the physical damage.

Almost without thinking, Harry's eyes searched the milling crowd for a flash of gold, which was not easy with all the gold-clad Gryffindor girls. But once he had found the silver-haired form of Draco Malfoy, it was not hard to keep track of him. Harry had been initially surprised at the ease of the way the Slytherin moved -- confident, assertive, and fluid, the girls he partnered almost a prop for him to display himself on. The slim hips moved in time to the beat, as though the top half of his body was the controlled Slytherin everyone know, while below was the sensual creature whose touch Harry seemed to have craved for weeks.

He was dancing now with Nancy Radcliff, a pretty Slytherin girl who was so quiet most people didn't know she even existed most of the time. But in Draco's hands, she was so caught up in the beat that people were actually stopping to watch them. What would it feel like, Harry wondered, to dance with him like that? To have those hands guide his steps? Of course he knew it could never happen, not here in the crowded Great Hall, but it didn't hurt to daydream occasionally.

Ron and Hermione had, as usual, been responsible for Harry's transformation from a klutz to a moderately good dancer. They had showed him how the balance and poise he had on a broom could be transferred to his movements on the ground. He could now waltz and tango reasonably well (and mostly without treading on his partner's toes). Plus, he could dance a pretty mean Wizard's Challenge. The dance was traditionally with a same-sex partner and was originally a contest between the two dancers. It was still danced like that occasionally, but normally the couple would follow set steps. It reminded Harry of American Line Dancing in some ways, but with fast energetic movements. The couples would form up in rows, but in reality the only person they were matching was their partner. Ron had begun teaching Harry the complicated steps before his accident, and it had fallen to Seamus to finish his education. Harry had to admit to being quite pleased with the way he could now dance the steps.

Of course, in competition it was different. One person, normally the challenger, would be the leader, and the partner would have to match him step for step. Although many were standard moves, the challenger could, in fact, dance anything he wanted. If the partner couldn't keep up, he lost, but if he managed to reach the end of the dance, then the challenger would lose.

Harry had danced it earlier with Christian Silihagen, a student who had transferred from Durmstrang the year after the Triwizard Tournament. He had been sorted into Ravenclaw along with two other students from the school, and now played Beater for the House Quidditch team. In fact, it was one of Christian's well-aimed Bludgers that had almost cost Gryffindor the match last year. It had caught Harry on his left thigh, almost causing him to lose his grip on the broom. The resulting bruise had taken weeks to heal despite the particularly nasty smelling compress Madam Pomfrey had applied to the area.

"Not dancing?" Hermione flopped down onto a chair next to Harry on which his legs had been resting. He quickly got them out of the way before they got tangled into her skirts.

"Sitting this one out. I think I've danced with more people tonight than in all my years at Hogwarts." He leaned closer so that she could hear him over the music. "Have I told you how stunning I think you look yet?"

She leaned back and planted a chaste kiss on his cheek. "On several occasions."

"Good, because I don't want you to think I hadn't noticed."

"What happened to your tunic?"

"Oh, to start with, the cloak kept getting in the way. Then Jennifer got her necklace caught in it. It was a hell of a struggle to get loose without ripping the material or breaking the necklace."

"Ah, so that's what you were doing with her in the corner. People were taking bets."


Hermione smiled. "On whether you would get off with her tonight."

Harry shot her a scornful look. "And it was just easier to take the tunic off as well."

She shifted closer. "Malfoy is dressed rather interestingly. Gold and red." Her eyes narrowed as she looked at Harry.

"It looks black to me."

"Oh no, it's definitely a very dark red. Lavender has been talking about it all evening. Isn't it strange how our Harry's got on green and silver and that Slytherin creep has got on gold and red?" Hermione managed a passable impersonation of Lavender. "Do you think they mixed up their clothes? Followed by one of her insufferable giggles of course."


"Oh indeed. Harry," she suddenly linked her arm around his. "You do know what you are doing, I hope."

"Hermione, I haven't done anything."

"No, of course not."

For a moment, they both watched the now seated Slytherin, who was holding court surrounded by his minions. He was laughing at something, his head tipped back for a moment, and the reflection of the gold coloured the skin of his throat. Then he looked directly at them as if he knew he was being discussed. Harry shifted slightly and then realised he was actually trying to hide in Hermione's shadow.

Why was there never a suitable corner to hide in, he wondered. Or even a handy cupboard under the stairs?

The eyes bored into him, and it was almost as if Draco could read his thoughts, could feel the hesitancy which was flooding through Harry at that moment. The blond head tilted slightly, and Harry felt like he was being drawn back out of the shadows. He moved a little, coming into the circle of light from the candles on the table and he was sure Draco gave a single nod.

The look was abruptly cut off as noisy Gryffindors joined them at the table, the music fading for a moment. Harry noticed that Hermione was looking thoughtfully at the band. As Ron, Dean and Seamus sat down (Neville had disappeared with Pansy several dances before), she came to her feet, and, lifting the full skirts up a little, she headed towards the stage.

"Was it something we said?" Ron picked up his bottle of Butterbeer and quickly finished it.

"I have absolutely no idea." Harry's response was suddenly overloud as the music changed to a low beat. "But I've seen that look before, and all I can say is, be afraid ... be very afraid!"

The friends snickered together and Harry realised he was actually enjoying the evening after all. If it weren't for the tight trousers, everything would be just fine. Oh, and if the shirt had been long enough to tuck into his trousers, then he would have had no complaints at all. He tugged it down again, trying to cover the tattoo, which had been the source of much hilarity among his friends.

"Now where's she going?" Seamus had turned in his seat and was watching his girlfriend stride confidently away from the band, her steps reflecting the music. But instead of returning to the Gryffindor tables, she was heading for the Slytherins where she came to a halt in front of Draco Malfoy. "What the fuck...." He started to get to his feet, but Dean's hand restrained him as a member of the band made an announcement, which cut through the general chatter.

"Now ladies, here's your chance to dance with whomever you want. Remember boys, it's Valentine's Day and if you refuse her, she can legitimately turn you into something nasty for the next two dances."

Seamus' eyes opened wide. "She bloody isn't!" He scrambled to try and see Malfoy's face.

"She bloody is." Ron was almost in hysterics at the thought of Hermione asking Malfoy to dance. "I hope he refuses, then we can all play 'bounce the ferret'."

The announcement caused a sudden flurry of movement in the Hall, except at the Slytherin table where Hermione stood in front of Draco. At first he continued talking and deliberately ignored her, but as the pace of the music changed, he finally looked up at her.

Hermione looked quite spectacular, he decided. She had done something to her hair, and it was swept back from her face to fall in ringlets. And her eyes looked bigger than normal, huge dark brown pools in a face made pretty by the heightened colour across her cheekbones. There was something clean and wholesome about the face, and he realised that the Gryffindor, unlike the Slytherin girls, wore no makeup.

Typical bloody Gryffindor, he mused, sweet and wholesome.

"Granger." He finally spoke.

With a slight smile she asked him to dance.

Both eyebrows rose on the pale face and he gave a small bitter laugh. "I think I'd rather be something nasty for a couple of dances, thanks very much."

"Scared, Malfoy?" The voice was very quiet as she leaned close to his ear, and he felt the tip of her wand press into the hollow of his throat. He wondered briefly where she had managed to hide the wand in the tight-fitting dress and how it had appeared quite so quickly.

"You wouldn't dare."

"Have you learned nothing over the last six years?" She pulled back a little, twiddling the wand expertly about her fingers. "And I never joke, particularly when it concerns a certain person."

"Draco, dear, is she bothering you?" Blaise Zabini's soft voice sounded from behind him and he felt her hands slide round his shoulders, fingers pushing under the fabric of his waistcoat. "Come and dance with me instead."

The look of distaste that flicked across Malfoy's face brought an astute smile to Hermione's face. He pulled away from the cloying hands and came to his feet. "No, she --" the word was drawled in a voice which left no one in any doubt about his view of the Gryffindor. "-- asked first. It would be churlish of me to refuse." With that, he stepped out onto the dance floor as the slow beat of the music changed, the tempo picking up slightly.

Hermione held out a hand, but instead of taking it, Draco's right arm slid around her waist, pulling her hips tightly against his own, which were already moving in time to the sound. She let him lead, her feet matching the rhythm set by the Slytherin.

For a minute or so, she let him twist her around the dance floor, surprised at the strength in his arms and the swiftness of his movements. He would coil around her, always keeping one of his arms around her waist, and for a moment she wondered whom he was dancing for. Himself, Hermione or Harry?

Harry was watching them now as he danced with Ashleigh Zaroda, a lower sixth Ravenclaw. Hermione could see the worried expression on his face and the questioning look in his eyes. Well, let him worry what she was talking to Draco about -- he deserved to be worried.

"So, are you just enamoured by the idea of dancing with me, or is there some other reason for this desire to be close to me?" Draco was behind her, both hands on her hips, close to her ear as Seamus spun past, giving them both a sneer.

"I'm intrigued to know what your little game is this time."

"Game? I don't play games, Granger."

"Oh?" He was back in front of her now, the single arm pulling her close enough to hear his whispers.

"And are the clothes part of your little campaign?" she continued

"This?" Draco's hand ran over the front of his waistcoat. "It's just something I had lying around."

"And you decided it would be more appropriate than green and silver?"

"It's Valentine's, Granger. What better colours than red and gold on the day for lovers everywhere? Of course ,I didn't expect your obvious show of Gryffindor solidarity." The back of his hand ran over Hermione's bodice. "As for green and silver, there are other people those colours suit better." His eyes moved deliberately to Harry. "But at least I didn't parade him into the Hall like some little puppet."

Hermione looked shocked. "Is that what you think we did?

The Slytherin gave the slightest shrug. "I'm not Potter's keeper. I leave that to his little friends."

"And dressing him in green and silver isn't parading him, I suppose?"

"He wasn't forced to do anything he didn't want to." Draco twisted her around, ending up behind her again. "Or do you think I have some sort of spell on him?"

She felt him holding her close, pressed against her back. "No."

"Are you so sure?"

"Oh, yes, Malfoy. I'm quite sure."

"Then what's this little tête-à-tête all about?" Draco spun her back round, aware that the music would be coming to an end soon.

"Harry is my friend. In fact, he's my best friend and I am not going to see get him hurt by anyone, least of all you."

"And you think I care about what you think? This has nothing to do with you." Grey eyes glared into brown. "Or maybe being Head Girl has gone to your head. Since when does Harry, or anyone else need your permission to do anything?"

"He doesn't. He's perfectly capable of making a complete hash of his life without my interfering at all. But I will not stand by and let him do that." They had come to a complete halt in the middle of the dance floor even though the music was still playing. Hermione leaned closer to the Slytherin as she spoke. "I know what you're doing because he's told me, and I am not going to let you suck him into whatever little mind games you're playing."

A smile, which started as a smirk but rapidly changed into something else, spread across Draco's face. "Oh, believe me, Granger, I intend to suck him right in." The music faded with the pair still standing in the middle of the dance floor. "And if you're a good friend of his, then I guess you won't mind covering for him later."

"I am only going to warn you this once, Malfoy. Don't you dare hurt him."

"If you're his friend, then meet him outside the Hall after this next dance. He'll need his broom and a warm cloak."

"What?" Hermione hissed. Something suddenly changed in Draco's expression. He almost seemed to look pleading. "I'm not going to be party to your little games."

"Don't spoil this, Hermione."

This time she looked shocked. "Don't think you can get around me by called me something other than Granger or Mudblood, Draco." She stepped back and dropped into a delicate curtsey, suddenly aware that Harry was just a few feet from her, his own dance partner still in his arms.

Draco watched her for a second before executing a bow, which showed just the correct amount of deference. He glanced surreptitiously to his right at Harry.

As Hermione walked from the dance floor, Harry favoured his partner with a smile. "Thank you," he took her hand and lightly kissed the outstretched fingers, causing Ashleigh to give a coy giggle. Then he looked at Draco.

They were standing in the middle of the dance floor and for a moment Harry had the impression that they were alone. He felt completely cut off from the several hundred people either making their way back to their respective tables or waiting for the next dance to start.

The candlelight was glinting off the burnished gold of Draco's waistcoat, reflecting up onto his face and hair, and turning the platinum to liquid fire. Harry had the sudden desperate urge to touch it and he swallowed, briefly closing his eyes. When he opened them again, Draco was gone. Harry felt bereft and was sure his stomach flipped. Almost involuntarily he spun round, looking for the Slytherin.

And almost crashed into him. Draco was now at his right side, facing the front of the hall, eyes facing forward rather than looking at Harry. "Up to a Wizard's Challenge?"

"What?" Harry cringed. Why was he always saying that to Draco? What are you doing? What was that for? What? Harry realised that the familiar line-up of people had taken place in the few seconds he had closed his eyes.


The voice came from his left, and Harry turned, meeting Ron's blue eyes. He nodded "Ron."

"Ready to show me how much you've learned?"

Harry looked surprised as Ron settled into place at his side. Then recalling an earlier discussion of dancing The Challenge, "Ron, I..."

"Piss off, Weasel." Draco's voice hissed.

"Up yours, Ferret." Ron voice was equally as venomous.

"You'll get your turn later. In the meantime, I'm going to pound Potter into the ground, so get lost."

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Harry heard the music start. A slow regular beat that was almost felt rather than heard. Around him, people had started to move, meeting the beat with measured strides.

Left foot down, raise on the toes of the foot and a quarter turn to the left. Step onto the right, rock back and then forward onto the left. Another quarter turn...

"Get lost yourself, Malfoy."

Harry finally turned on his friend. "Ron, please...."

Another quarter turn and back to the start. Rock back and step onto the right foot....

Draco led, his movements joining seamlessly with those around him. He rose lightly onto the toes of his right foot and turned, his back now to Harry.

"What? You want to dance with that?" Ron turned, anger on his face, and glared at Harry.

"He asked first. Just give it a rest."

"Well, fuck you too." Ron turned and stormed away.

Harry watched his retreating back, red hair gleaming in the candlelight as he disappeared into the distance. When Harry looked back at Draco, the boy was facing him, rising up delicately on his toes, meeting Harry's green eyes with his own gold-flecked grey, a questioning eyebrow raised slightly. Draco turned again, facing the front as Harry stepped into place.

It took Harry several moves to get back into the beat of the music, but by the time the opening steps had been repeated, he had fallen into line, his mind concentrating on the steps rather than on the person beside him. He counted out the timing in his head, using it to help him keep the beat, and his eyes followed the people around him so that he could remember the steps. Occasionally, he would catch the nimble feet of the Slytherin as he turned with the music, finding his eyes following the slim ankle and calf.

Then the music changed, shifting up in tempo and beat. This time Harry was ready and he slid gracefully into the new steps.

Step, ball-change, kick right....

"Ready, Potter?"

The voice seemed so close that Harry almost thought Draco had to be next to him, whispering in his ear, but he was still three feet away. He missed a step and struggled quickly to catch up.

"Let's make this a proper Challenge. See if you can keep up."

With that Draco's whole demeanour changed. He looked as if he were going into battle. He did a sudden kick and gestured for Harry to follow him into a clear space on the dance floor.

Harry didn't move. In fact he had stopped moving completely, knowing full well he didn't have the ability to match dance steps with Draco. But what would be worse? To try and fail, or to walk off the dance floor now?

Then Draco was moving around him, in perfect time with the music, in a circle with Harry at its centre. Harry watched, following the moving figure as he dipped and rose to the beat of the music. Always those eyes on him and a hand held out towards him. Long fingers gestured toward him, beckoning Harry to follow.

For a moment, Harry hesitated as he had done two weeks before when Draco had reached out to him. But this time, he took a deep breath and fell in step with Draco. There was a moment of exquisite pleasure as, in front of several hundred people, their fingers brushed lightly together.

And Harry moved forward and followed Draco into the dance.


They danced as if there was no one else in the Hall, both only intent on each other's movements. Harry followed as best he could, but knew he was completely outmatched. The grace he had seen in Draco's flying extended to how he moved his body on the ground. It was fluid and graceful, mean and hard, soft and sweet. But the dance went beyond the physical, and it was as if they shared the same experience.

Then Harry realised he wasn't following anymore. Realised something had changed and shifted. Realised that Draco was carrying him. Realised this gold-clad boy was so aware of Harry that he was there, lifting Harry through the steps and carrying him through the music. Draco could have out-danced him, left him floundering on the rapidly emptying dance floor and making him look a fool. Instead he carried Harry through the music, creating steps that made them look good and which suited Harry's heavier stride.

Harry found his eyes on Draco all the time, watching and following every movement the boy made. Completely entranced, he was lost to the world and when the movements changed, becoming more and more sensual, he followed without hesitation, the gap between them closing. Neither touched the other, but Harry was aware of the heat from the other's body. Saw how the golden waistcoat gaped when Draco moved his arm, revealing the taut, lightly muscled abdomen. Followed the bead of perspiration, which ran down his skin to disappear into his waistband. Watched the slim legs moving in time to the music.

And he was aware all the time of the frost-covered rivers of Draco's eyes watching him.

As the music rose to its climax, Draco finally carried out a jump Harry knew he stood no chance of copying. Instead he reached out as if catching the Snitch, and grabbed Draco's hand. Harry pulled him out of the jump and down to his side, spinning the Slytherin around him once before ending in the traditional final pose. Side-by-side, one facing forward, the other in the opposite direction. They touched lightly; shoulder to shoulder, arm to arm, hip to hip. But neither turned to face each other as, breathless, they stared straight ahead.

The room erupted into applause.

Part of Harry's mind took in the fact that they were the only people on the dance floor, and that everyone else was watching them. But the main part was fixated on himself and the person beside him. Harry was gasping for breath, his chest frantically trying to suck in huge amounts of air. He wanted to fall into Draco's arms right at that moment. Wanted to keep the feelings he had experienced during the dance. That sense of Draco carrying him and leading him. Wanted Draco to know he understood what the Slytherin had done, and that he didn't mind.

Wanted Draco to know just how seriously he was turned on.

Harry suddenly became aware of his own erection, and realised that, given the nature of what he was wearing, the whole room would soon be aware of it too. He blenched at the prospect and, without a word, turned from the dance floor and fled. He paused just long enough at the table to collect his discarded clothes and, holding them in front of him, he dived from the room.

From his place on the dance floor, Draco watched with a knowing smile and slowly made his way back to his seat. He too picked up his own cloak, but made a much more dignified exit.


Hermione had been waiting for him in the entrance hall when he had bolted from the Great Hall. She was sitting on a large sofa, which, clearly, the upholsterer hadn't been able to decide what colours to cover it in. All the house colours were represented, clashing quite badly with the gold of Hermione's skirt.

She gave him a hard stare, one Harry well remembered from other occasions when he had done something she didn't approve of. "Enjoy your dance?"

"Did you watch?"

"I saw most of it."

"Well...." The tunic was scrunched in front of him. "It wasn't my idea. He started it."

"Of course. And Harry Potter hasn't done anything to encourage him." She came to her feet and snatched at the tunic, giving it a quick shake. "I can't believe I'm doing this." The words were muttered to herself as she held up the tunic, waiting for Harry to slip it back on.

He didn't move. "Doing what?"

"Malfoy asked me to get your Firebolt and a warm cloak. I got the impression he expected you to know where to go." She pulled the tunic over his shoulders and began to fasten the silver lacing. "Where are you going?"

Harry took a breath and swallowed. Of course he knew where to meet the Slytherin. The place they had shared at New Year and then two weeks ago. "Hagrid's cottage," he finally whispered.

She gathered up the black travel cloak and pulled it around his shoulders, hiding the clothes beneath from view. "Do you trust him?"


Hagrid's cottage -- about 11pm

The cottage was in darkness as Harry had expected. He paused outside for a moment, his breath condensing into a white mist in front of him, as he checked the security spells around the door. Nothing had been tampered with and he quickly let himself in. Once inside, he held up his wand and softly intoned "Lumos." A soft glow appeared from the wand tip, casting enough light for him to see by. The cottage was chilly, and he wondered whether Hagrid had been there since the last time Harry had been there with Draco. The half-giant had been quite happy with the added security Harry had placed around the cottage and had virtually handed the building over to his young friend.

"I don't ever get time to go there myself," Hagrid had commented, his huge hand on Harry's shoulder. "You can use it whenever you want."

Harry crossed to the fireplace, which was as he had left it; the logs ready to be lit. He looked at his wand for a moment. What was it Draco had said? That wands were dampeners rather than enhancers of magic? If that really were the case, why would Dumbledore and everyone else lie about it? He passed the wand from hand to hand, and then held out his right hand towards the fireplace. Could it hurt just to try? To see if he felt any energy? Of course, he could end up setting fire to the entire building. A smile played on his lips as he said in a clear voice "Incendio."


Not even a spark or a splutter of smoke. The smile grew, and Harry realised he was actually chuckling. "So much for the great Harry Potter's magical abilities," he mused. This time he used the wand, and as he intoned the charm, the fire roared into life. He stepped back instinctively, surprised by the initial ferocity of the flames. The inferno settled down, almost immediately removing the chill from the room as the same spell brought the under floor heating to life.

He stood there for a moment, basking in the warmth after the chilly journey from Hogwarts over the frost-covered landscape. The sky was awash with stars. He loved nights like that -- nights when you could look into the darkness and see infinity spread before you. Eyes glanced briefly at the curtained window, he wondered whether to sit outside so that he could watch the night while he waited.

Waited for him.

"What are you doing, Harry?" he mused to himself.

The question was, of course, rhetorical and really quite pointless. There wasn't an answer, at least not one he cared to voice at that moment. Do you trust him? Hermione had asked 15 minutes ago. At the time he hadn't been able to answer her. Hadn't known how to express in a few words what he had been feeling now for weeks.

She had leaned in and kissed him lightly on the cheek, whispering, "Be careful" before disappearing back into the Great Hall.

A hand reached up, resting on the wood of the mantelpiece as he stared into the flames.

Do you trust him?

He frowned. Weeks? No, not weeks, he decided, this had been going on for years, marked by the bitter fights and snide comments.

He turned away swiftly from the warmth of the fire. It was all about trust, wasn't it? Did he trust this person? Did he want to trust him? Or was this some sort of new game between them made more exciting because of the element of danger? Sleeping with the enemy, Harry reflected as he leaned against the wall where Draco had stood two weeks ago. The same spot they had sat that Saturday afternoon in each other's arms.

So close, and yet so far apart from each other.

Back pressed to the wood panelled wall, Harry's hands touched the surface as if it still held their shared heat.

Do you trust him?

"Yes." The single word was spoken aloud, shattering the silence of the room. He sank down to the floor, the wand dropping from his hand. It clattered noisily on the ground. Even as he uttered that single word, the doubt crept back in, insidiously eating at him

What if this is all some sort of game to the Slytherin? What if Draco is just playing an elaborate hoax in our continued battle? What if today was just some big joke to him?

Huddled in the warmth of his cloak, he waited.


He didn't know how long he had been there. It could have only been minutes. It felt like hours. Deep inside his mind, the niggling Nasty Voice intoned its terrible monologue; He isn't coming. He's back in the Slytherin Common Room right now laughing at what he got the Great Harry Potter to do.

The Voice had been there for as long as Harry could remember, uttering things that might one day befall him, and for the first time Harry realised it belonged to Uncle Vernon. It was the voice that had chastised him all his life, which had shouted punishments through the door of his cupboard when he was shut in the dark, which had accompanied threats and punishments. And it followed him here to this place where he had once felt safe, but now where the demon of his childhood stalked again.

There was a rising fear in the pit of his stomach now. A fear that said he wasn't good enough. That he had never been good enough. Why would anyone, especially Draco, be interested in you? He probably knows more than a virgin like you. Imagine how he'll laugh when you come too soon and if you couldn't satisfy him. The voice continued. He's just sporting with you, playing on your needy emotions.

But, he told me about the Portkey. He said all those things. And look what he's done today.

Just what has he done? The Portkey? How do you know he's telling the truth about that? His sweet honeyed words? Draco was always good with words, remember? As for today? Where is the famous Harry Potter control now? He throws you a few gifts and you let him take complete control. Idiot. And if he does decide to turn up now, don't you realise he's going to want payment for all those nice little presents?

He has to care. Look at the way he touched me in the robe shop.

Care? Two months ago he would have handed you over to Voldemort. Didn't he tell you that? And look what he's done to you today. At those clothes you're wearing. He's as good as branded you with his Slytherin colours. What does that make you? His little whore?

No! It's not like that at all.

He's going to want payment, Harry. People like Draco don't give things away -- they always expect payment.

"Damn you, Draco Malfoy." Harry's head dropped to his knees.

He jumped physically at a noise from outside the front door and, fumbling for his wand, he scrambled to his feet. A hand dragged across his face, wiping away tears he hadn't realised he'd cried. The door catch rattled, but didn't open and there was a soft knocking sound. He stood there for a moment, adrenaline flooding his blood stream.

What if it wasn't Draco?

What if it WAS Draco?

The knocking sound came again, more insistent. This time Harry crossed to the door and opened it.

"It's cold out there." Draco pushed past, leaning his broom against the wall next to Harry's.

"Yes," was all Harry could think of saying as the Slytherin crossed to the fire, holding his hands out to the flames. The internal monologue was still running through his mind, chattering insidiously at him in some strange attempt at undermining what remaining confidence he currently had. "I thought maybe you'd changed your mind, or that I'd gotten the wrong place?"

"No." Draco turned, illuminated by the flames. "It took a while to get rid of the dynamic duo. They probably think I'm off shagging someone in the Astronomy Tower."

Harry didn't move from his place by the now closed door. "Oh."

"And you?"

"Hermione is making my excuses."

A smile played on Draco's face. "Ah yes, the inimitable Miss Granger. You've told her." It was a statement, not a question.

"I...." Harry was still in the shadows by the door, but Draco could see the discomfort in his body language. "I... well. It was difficult. She wanted to know where the clothes came from." He folded his arms across his chest. "I take it you were responsible."

Draco shrugged. "She made it perfectly clear what she thought of me, and gave me notice that if I did anything to hurt you, she would come after me with a very sharp pointed stick." He removed his black travel cloak, folding it carefully before placing it over the back of a chair.

Watching the movement, Harry marvelled at the way the firelight reflected off the burgundy silk. It turned Draco into a column of flame. "How did you manage everything this evening? I don't think it was a coincidence that you managed to end up dancing with me."

"I was impressed myself, both with my organisational skills and your dancing." Draco stepped away from the fire, a rustle of silk in the otherwise silent room. "You were crap last time I watched."

"Thanks, I can always rely on your praise."

"I consider it to be my raison d'être."

"Everyone noticed."

"You dancing? I think you gave them ample reason to notice."

"I mean the clothes. The Slytherin colours."

"Harry, it might have escaped your notice, but you often wear green. It suits you. I wanted you...." The voice faded a little. There was a movement under the floor-length silk cloak and Harry decided Draco had folded his arms. "I didn't force you to wear it."

"That wasn't what I meant. It's ... it's everything. The flowers. The dragon. What ... happened in the robe shop."

"Did you like that? The robe shop?"

Harry felt a familiar flush creeping across his face. "Yes." The single word was a whisper.

"Then are you going to stand over there all night?"

"I might."

"Don't you ever get fed up standing in the shadows, Harry?"

"What?" The folded arms tightened, holding him like a security blanket.

"You're always in the shadows."

"I am not," Harry quickly protested.

"Hmmm. Oh, Harry the Brave Gryffindor doesn't stand in the shadows. Isn't that what the Sorting Hat said of Gryffindors when we were Sorted? Brave at heart? Full of daring, nerve and chivalry?"

"And what did it say about Slytherins? Cunning folk who use any means to achieve their ends."

"I don't have problems with that. But it was Harry the Brave who was paraded earlier for all to see." Harry started to protest, but Draco continued. "I'm not talking about brave, chivalrous Harry." A finger pointed at him. "I'm talking about you. The quiet one. The person who hid behind Granger earlier. Who's in the shadows now."

Hesitating for a moment longer, Harry finally stepped into the firelight. He crossed the room, stopping a few feet from Draco. If he looked as bad as he felt at that moment, Draco didn't react to it. "I've never hidden in the shadows."

Draco raised a finger to Harry's cheek and wiped away a tear track. "No, of course not." The hand dropped away.

"And I'm not scared of you."

"Of course you aren't." The voice held no contempt and there was something in Draco's face Harry saw on very few occasions. A softness that was only ever there when Draco knew no one was looking at him.

Realising he couldn't hold the gaze, Harry reached for the clasp of his own travel cloak.

"No, don't." The voice whispered.

Harry's hand stopped, fingers touching the silver clasp. "Sorry?"

"Would you mind if...?" A second step brought Draco directly in front of Harry, their toes almost touching.


"Oh, just..." Draco pushed Harry's hand down. "Let me do that."

Taking hold of Harry's hands, Draco pulled him forward until the dark-haired boy was standing on the sheepskin rug. He let go of the arms, which fell back to Harry's side, hidden again in the folds of his cloak.

For a moment, both were still. Then Draco's fingers reached for the clasp of the cloak. He carefully opened it and, moving behind Harry, pulled the cloak from his shoulders. With the same care he had folded his own cloak, Draco placed it over the chair.

In front of Harry again, he looked thoughtfully at the figure before him as if sizing him up. "Do you know how good you look?" Harry's mouth opened a little as though he was going to answer, but he could think of nothing to say. "But then you look good even in that oversized tat of your cousin's. Why do you let them do that to you?"

"Do what?" The breath caught in Harry's throat as Draco's hand reached up to gently cradle his cheek.

"Let those Muggles treat you so badly. You're a bloody wizard."

Harry realised he was leaning into the caress. "I'm not allowed to use magic. And they are my family." He inwardly flinched, unable to believe that he was defending the Dursleys.

A second hand rose to his face and Harry found himself trapped within the embrace. Palms touching his cheeks, fingers splayed around his ears and in his hair. "Would you like me to deal with them?" The two thumbs brushed gently over his lips.

"No." A thumb pushed between his parted lips as he spoke. He felt it brush against his teeth, and without thinking, the tip of his tongue rose to touch the invader.

"If you ever change your mind...." Draco removed his thumb, sweeping its moistened surface across the still parted lips as he did so. Then he leaned in and touched his own mouth to Harry's.

Harry might have bested the Dark Lord on more than one occasion. He might have won the Triwizard Tournament. He might already have received three invitations to play Quidditch professionally. But the Golden Boy had never really kissed anyone. There had been Hermione, but kissing her was like kissing Ginny -- like one's favourite sister. There had been his goodbye kiss to Cho, which was, he remembered, quite nice. Then there had been the Ravenclaw, something he would rather forget. It had been wet and sloppy with her trying to stick her tongue down his throat and him trying to stop her.

This was, his suddenly numb mind decided, nothing like anything he had experienced in the past.

The first touch on his mouth was like a breath of air blowing across them. It took him a moment to realise it felt like that because that was exactly what it was. Draco's soft breath brushed back and forth across his lips like a physical touch. Harry's tongue moved unbidden to moisten his lips as the breath dried them, and as his mouth opened he felt the breath within, gently moving across his tongue.

Then the breath was replaced by a real physical touch. Draco's mouth swept across his own in slow, leisurely movements, capturing his lower lip briefly before changing to the upper and then taking in both. The hands, which still rested on either side of his face, held him and Harry made no move to pull away, unable and unwilling to stop Draco from doing whatever he wanted. In fact, a still functioning part of Harry decided, it was all he could do to remain on his feet as the slow but sure suck and lick of Draco's mouth on his own continued.

Harry was just about coping with the invading sensations. He wanted to respond, but couldn't. To respond would mean losing the amazing feelings Draco's touch was creating in his body. The feeling started in the pit of his stomach and spread rapidly downward. It turned his knees to jelly and he was sure the only reason he was still on his feet was because of the grip Draco had on his face.

Then Draco swept his tongue over Harry's lips.

His groan was a whimper and his mind exploded into overload. An arm suddenly caught hold of his upper body, holding him against the silk of Draco's cloak while the other hand gripped into his hair. He wanted to breathe, but as he did, the invading tongue swept over his teeth, and this time his legs did give way.

With Harry's dead weight in his arms, Draco allowed his own knees to bend. They ended up on the floor, Harry's back against the sofa, Draco against him, their legs a jumble as Draco finally pulled back.

The eyes that looked at him were vivid green in the firelight, bright with emotion and the face was oh so beautifully flushed. And the red lips. Draco had always admired that full mouth, but now with blood and passion pooled within the much-kissed skin, Harry's lips were parted, ready for him to ravish again. Draco leaned forward, his tongue grazed over Harry's mouth before capturing his lower lip and sucking a little harder than before.

Harry wanted to do something ... anything ... but his arms felt like they no longer belonged to him. They hung limply at his side as his head fell back a little, allowing Draco better access, and for that seeking tongue to touch his own as it moved in deeper. Then, as his tongue moved against Draco's, Harry found a new sensation to add to those that had been overloading his being since he first felt Draco's breath on his lips. The taste of someone else in his own mouth.

There was a hint of Butterbeer mixed within the taste of myrrh and mint of what must be toothpaste. The rational Harry panicked. I never cleaned my teeth. But he still tried to pull the taste into his own mouth, wanting to remember it ... to own it.

Then the hot mouth was gone, leaving him with a tingling aftertaste which caused his tongue to sweep over his own lips and the inside of his mouth in an effort to sense Draco within him again.

When the hand touched his bare midriff, Harry almost bit his own tongue. He started at the touch, hissed at the trail of fingertips against his skin. He shivered at the touch even though the trail left by the fingers was warm, and for a few seconds he became lost in the movement that traced the tattoo lines on his flesh.

It was when the hand pushed under his shirt that Harry came back to reality with a start. Life returned to the deadweight of his limbs, and he struggled upright again, grabbing frantically at the hand to halt its progress.

"Wait... Wait a minute...."

"What?" Draco's question was a hiss of annoyance as he pushed against Harry's grip.

For the first time in what seemed a lifetime, Harry met Draco's eyes. The pupils were huge, almost obscuring the grey, and they glinted with something Harry didn't understand. Was that passion, he wondered? Can I make him look like that? Cause his skin to flush and his breath to gasp?

"Draco, I need to know." He grabbed the Slytherin's hands and held them both tightly, pushing Draco away.

"I need to know if you're serious, or whether this is just another of your games?"


Would you dance if I asked you to dance?
Would you run and never look back?
Would you cry if you saw me cry?
And would you save my soul, tonight?
Would you tremble if I touched your lips?
Would you laugh?
Oh please tell me this.
Now would you die for the one you loved?
Hold me in your arms, tonight.

Hero -- Enrique Iglesias


Author notes: Chapter 4: Darkness Rising

An extract from Harry's Journal:
Sunday 15th February 1998: Now that went well, didn't it!

Is Draco playing games? Why is Hermione mad at him? Why is she mad at Harry? What photos does Colin have that might upset people? Will people notice Draco has a Gryffindor badge on his cloak? Will Draco notice he has a Gryffindor badge on his cloak? Who are Shadow and Cloud? Who is the new teacher and what is he going to teach? Preparations for the Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Slytherin (who else would it be between?). The Astronomy Tower (what H/D would be complete without at least one visit here).

The Music:

Just You Wait is from the film My Fair Lady. Words and music: Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe

The Valentine Ball music:

Draco dances with Hermione to: Free and News from Nowhere (Afro Celt Sound System Volume 1 Sound Magic)

Harry's Wizard's Challenge dance with Christian is danced to: Release It (Afro Celt Sound System Volume 2 Release)

Harry's Wizard's Challenge dance with Draco is danced to: Dark Moon, High Tide (the end of the track) and Whirl-Y-Reel 2 Nowhere (Afro Celt Sound System Volume 1 Sound Magic)

Special thanks to Alex for introducing me to Afro Celt -- this music is what I now use to write to. I love it!

Author's note: Once again I was taken aback by the response to Chapter 2 of Resolution. Thank you to EVERYONE who reviewed at FictionAlley, FanFiction.net, Draco_101 and via email. I have tried to respond to as many of you as possible, but not everyone left an email address. I have also tried to compile a proper 'thank you list', but in the end it became impossible Please accept this note as a personal thank you to everyone. Your comments are alway welcome and I enjoyed reading them all. Thanks.

Special thanks

To my Betas:
Alex, Aja, Debbie, Ina, Lynn, Stacey and Tine.

To Debbie for checking my spelling.

To everyone on the Guns+Handcuffs forum at FictionAlley Park and at Worlds_Colliding for their support and inspiration.


I am very lucky to have had some artwork drawn for all three chapters of Resolution. Debbie, bhanesidhe and Milena's artwork for Chapter 3 is highlighted throughout the chapter.

Please do take a moment to check out these other wonderful pieces as well:

Adi's wonder drawing of Harry in his Quidditch t-shirt and Draco sitting on the floor of Hagrid's cottage (both scenes from Chapter 2)
Milena's drawing of Harry writing his journal and Ron and Harry looking at star charts (both from Chapter 2).
Bhanesidhe's drawing of Harry taking off Draco's ski jacket from Chapter 1.

The Yahoo group for Resolution has changed recently, it can now be found on HP_Worlds_Colliding , the new joint home of both Resolution and my non-slash story Coming of Age.

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 Worlds Colliding.