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

Resolution

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 05

Chapter Summary:
res·o·lu·tion, noun -- solving of doubts, problems, questions etc. The Concise Oxford Dictionary
Posted:
12/16/2002
Hits:
8,364
Author's Note:
Chapter 5: Darkness Rising. Ron’s cross, Hermione’s curious, Snape is intent on giving everyone detentions, Dumbledore’s serious and Sirius is back.


Title: Resolution. Chapter 5: Darkness Rising (5/?)

Author name: Frances Potter

Author email: [email protected]

------------------------------

One may say that evil does not exist for subjective man at all, that there exist only different conceptions of good. Nobody ever does anything deliberately in the interests of evil, for the sake of evil. Everybody acts in the interests of good, as he understands it. But everybody understands it in a different way. Consequently men drown, slay and kill one another in the interests of good -- Gurdjieff (1873-1949)

------------------------------

Chapter 5: Darkness Rising

Diagon Alley ... Wednesday 26th July 1995 ... The Summer after the Triwizard Tournament ... Early afternoon

Ron Weasley wandered bsently up and down the rows of wooden shelves. There were so many books on the groaning shelves that he really didn't know where to look first. Occasionally the title on one of the spines would grab his attention and he would slide the tome out and flick through the yellowing pages before returning it. At 15 years of age, the last place Ron really wanted to be was in the reference section of the Armando Dippet Memorial Library.

He had finished his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry a few weeks ago and his mother had been determined that Ron would not leave his summer homework until the last minute as he had done in previous years. She was also determined that he wouldn't just sit around wasting his time. Ron didn't think reading his Quidditch books or messing around with Fred and George fell into that category, but things were a bit different this summer.

People were on edge. Both his parents were incredibly serious most of the time and spent hours talking quietly either to each other or to his elder brothers. He wasn't included in these discussions because, as his father made it quite clear, he was too young to understand what was going on. Which was a load of rubbish because Harry had told him exactly what had happened during the Triwizard Tournament.

He knew about Voldemort's return, Cedric Diggory's death and how Harry had gotten away from the Dark Lord once more. He also knew that this turn of events made loads of people very worried, while others were leaping around with joy. His father had told him that Ron just didn't understand how serious things were because he'd never lived in a time when nasty things happened. That he should consider himself lucky to have lived in peace for all of his life so far.

Live in Peace? Ron didn't really consider that he'd lived in peaceful oblivion during his four years at Hogwarts. He wondered if his parents had ever really listened when he was telling them about how he had been involved in Harry's battles with You-Know-Who. How he'd helped get the Philosopher's Stone. What about all those spiders and the Whomping Willow that had nearly killed them? And saving Ginny's life and what had happened at the Shrieking Shack when they had finally found out who Scabbers really was.

Sometimes he just didn't understand his parents at all.

Ron paused in his perusal of the shelves. If he had returned like Harry had at the end of the Tournament and tried to tell the same story, would people have believed him? It was, after all, only Harry's word about what had happened to Cedric. Only Harry's word that Voldemort and his Death Eater followers had been in the cemetery.

But Harry wouldn't lie ... would he?

Ron reached for a book, sliding it a little way out before pushing it back again. The assignment was to write about a famous witch or wizard, which should be easy if he could just decide whom to write about. He wondered how Harry was coping at the moment, locked away at his uncle and aunt's with no access to anything except his standard schoolbooks. Assuming they let him have those.

Was that true? Did they really lock Harry up and starve him? Ron had seen the bars on Harry's window when he and his twin brothers had rescued him; but could things really be that bad? Maybe Harry was just trying to get sympathy.

And maybe Harry had cheated and put his name into the Goblet.

Cross with himself for even thinking this, Ron grabbed a heavy book about Agrippa and turned back toward his table.

And straight into a tall, dark-haired young man.

The book fell from Ron's hands and landed on the floor with a loud thud. Several pairs of eyes snapped up and he found himself being glared at by the people sitting around the library.

Strong hands reached out, gripping at Ron's shoulders. "Hey, slow down," a deep voice whispered. "You don't want to go rushing around in here. You could end up knocking someone over." The man winked at Ron, his sapphire blue eyes gleaming. "And there are some really serious people here." He nodded in the direction of a particularly studious-looking wizard who was muttering something to himself. Ron couldn't help but smile.

The man crouched down and picked up the book. He remained crouched as he looked back up at Ron. "Agrippa? Don't tell me, you're a Hogwarts student and your summer assignment is an essay on a famous witch or wizard."

Ron nodded, both terrified by the stranger and intrigued at the same time. "Yes." The man looked to be about the same age as his brother Charlie and he wondered if the two had been at Hogwarts at the same time. He realised the man was holding out his hand towards him.

"David Tom Morrello." The smile on the stranger's face seemed genuine enough and Ron finally took hold of the hand, shaking it.

"Ron Weasley." Ron shifted slightly. "Did you go to Hogwarts?"

"Yes I did." The man straightened, pushing a shock of black curls from his face. "There was a Weasley in Gryffindor while I was there. I think his name was Charles."

"My brother -- Charlie," Ron responded. His agitated stance lessened under the man's quiet tones.

"Well, Ron, between you and me, I hated summer assignments. They were always so difficult to do, especially when I would rather be playing with my friends."

"I know." Ron took the book back from the stranger. "I should get on."

"Of course. Good luck."

"Thanks." Ron pushed past him and quickly returned to the desk where he'd left his things. Grabbing hold of his quill, he found a roll of parchment and wrote the title of his assignment on the top. The dark-haired man was now sitting at a desk close by, his long fingers slowly turning the pages of the book in front of him.

He looked up, catching the boy's furtive glances, and smiled.

********************

Slytherin House ... Sunday 15th February 1998 ... Early afternoon

Travelling by Floo powder was Draco's least favourite method of transport. It was dirty and uncomfortable, but it did serve its purpose. Thanks to his father, Draco's own private Floo network was untraceable and let him get from his room to Hagrid's little cottage without having to brave the elements or having to explain to people where he was going. As far as his fellow Slytherins were concerned he had been shut up in his room all day studying, which wasn't such an unusual occurrence.

And, of course, Harry knew nothing of his private transport system either -- the Gryffindor had been in the shower when he had arrived and had gone to the bathroom when Draco had decided it was time to leave.

He wondered what Harry's reaction had been to finding him gone. For some reason Draco couldn't bring himself to go through the rigmarole of 'leaving', especially not after the emotional aftermath of what Harry had done to him. It wasn't that he'd expected any sort of emotional blackmail from Harry as some of his fellow students had tried over the last couple of years -- demanding to know when they could meet again, wanting him to swear never-ending fidelity. Harry wouldn't do any of those things. But to stand in front of him and meet those green eyes wide with longing -- how could he walk away from that? For fuck's sake, he could feel his heart rate (and other things) rising just thinking about it.

So, when the dark-haired boy had disappeared into the bathroom, Draco had taken his chance to leave the way he'd arrived.

For several minutes he stared at the fire. It had burned out while he was away and the grate stared back at him -- empty and devoid of heat. A bit like the way he felt at that moment, empty and devoid of the heat that was Harry. You could go back, a voice whispered in his head. Potter might still be there ... waiting for you. But Draco knew he wouldn't ... mustn't ... go running back after the Gryffindor yet again.

"If Harry wants me, then let him come to me," Draco told the empty fireplace.

He spun away from the fire and stalked over to the laundry basket tossing away the bundle of stained garments he had brought back. Yet another reminder of Harry. Why did everything have to invoke memories of him? He could still smell Harry on his own skin and his mantra that it was "just sex" was beginning to sound old and stale to his mind.

Why the hell had he ever gone and put himself in this position? How the hell was he ever going to face Potter again after what they had done? He was a bloody stupid fool who'd let himself get caught up in the moment without thinking of the consequences.

With a bitter laugh, he pulled his cloak from his naked body. He was even lying to himself now. Hadn't he been considering the consequences for days ... weeks even? Hadn't he gone over and over what might happen if he allowed himself to fall into those arms?

All but throwing himself onto his bed, Draco buried his head beneath a pillow.

What a fucking mess he was making of everything.

********************

Gryffindor Tower ... Early evening

Harry was soaked by the time he arrived back at Hogwarts, rain dripping from his cloak as he strode through the quiet corridors to the Gryffindor Common Room. He had briefly considered using a drying spell on his clothes, but leaving them wet would give him an excuse to disappear straight to his dorm and, hopefully, avoid any questions. He didn't want to talk to anyone at the moment, least of all his nosy dorm mates who would interrogate him mercilessly over his whereabouts since the previous evening.

He wondered briefly how Draco would explain his absence for most of the day, and decided that the Slytherin wouldn't even bother explaining. He would simply raise an eyebrow and quell any further questions with a look.

The corridor outside the entrance to Gryffindor Tower was silent when he finally reached the portrait of the Fat Lady. She smoothed down her pink dress as Harry approached and favoured him with a smile. Harry didn't have a favourite aunt, but he had decided several years ago that if he had, then this was the way she would smile at him.

"Good evening, Master Harry. You should change out of those wet things or you'll catch your death."

Harry pushed damp hair from his face. "I intend to. Where is everybody?" He glanced up and down the corridor. Normally it would be busy at this time with people coming back from dinner or going off to meet their friends.

"Haven't you heard?"

"Heard what?"

"Ah, you will see. Now, come on dear, what's the password?"

"Heffalump." He muttered the current password; giving a silent prayer that next month's would be better. The passwords needed to gain access to Gryffindor Tower had always been a little strange, but they were getting more and more bizarre. It had started last September when Hermione had instigated a 'password suggestion box' where people could leave their inspired choices. Someone would then get the chance to choose one of the suggested words for use over the next month. At least 'Heffalump' was better than last month's travesty. Harry still couldn't say 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' without getting tongue-tied.

"Prepare yourself, my dear."

Harry frowned at the Fat Lady, puzzled by her comment. When the painting swung back, a cacophony of noise spilled through the portrait hole out into the corridor. He took a step backwards.

"I did warn you," she chuckled.

The Common Room was heaving with what looked to be every member of Gryffindor House. What the hell was going on? The room was normally busy after dinner, but this looked like a party. Had he forgotten someone's birthday?

"Thanks," Harry sighed. His plans for a quick getaway were beginning to look like coming to nothing.

********************

When he was eleven years and six months old Ron had gone with his family to King's Cross railway station. Of course he'd made the journey several times before, but this time it was different. It was 1st September 1991 and he was starting his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He had been looking forward to that day for ages. He looked forward to finding out what being a wizard was really like, to making new friends and to finally being more than just another 'Weasley' child. He had been sick that morning, the excitement of going away to school competing with the fear of leaving home for this new world. He'd never told anyone how scared he felt or how pleased he was to know that Percy, Fred and George would be there at Hogwarts as well.

He'd received a very open upbringing for a pure-blood wizard. His parents had taught him that while Muggles might not be as enlightened as Wizards, they were people anyway and should be treated as such. He knew that having Muggle blood in your family line wasn't the stigma some pure-blood Wizards thought it was, and he knew that Muggle-born Wizards could be just as good at magic as pure-blood. In fact, by the time he made that first journey to Hogwarts, his family had shaped all of Ron's views of right and wrong.

Back then he saw no reason to doubt any of their assertions.

Now, more than six years later, Ron looked back on that day as a catalyst. This was not because it was the beginning of learning to make up his own mind and of having his own views, however. It was because he had met one Harry James Potter, and Ron knew that meeting had changed everything.

Looking back now with the benefit of hindsight, Ron knew he had, indeed, managed to move out of the shadows of his five brothers. But instead of being in the sunlight, he had stepped into an even bigger shadow cast by Harry. In fact, he couldn't decide which was worse; being 'another Weasley,' or gaining his reputation as 'Harry's sidekick'. Of course, this hadn't really concerned him at first. He loved being with Harry and Hermione -- loved the cloak-and-dagger world of solving riddles and beating evil forces. They were best friends. They were 'The Dream Team'.

Then everything changed when they started their Fourth year and Harry somehow managed to be selected for the Triwizard Tournament.

It hadn't been Harry's fault he'd been picked, but somehow that didn't matter to Ron -- it was the fact that Harry was once again in the limelight while Ron played second fiddle. No, it was worse than that. This time Ron wasn't even Harry's sidekick ... Harry had done this alone and Ron had been on the sidelines like everyone else.

It still smarted years later, but Ron knew it had been another catalyst in his life. The summer after the Tournament had been the one when things had changed ... when he had ceased to see himself as an add-on to The Boy Who Lived. He'd learned new things and new ideas that summer from people who taught him he was as special and important as Harry or anyone else. That he was a person with his own needs and wants.

But despite this, it still smarted that, in spite of everything, it was Harry who received all the plaudits. Ron realised now that he had only been picked as a Prefect because Harry had turned it down. He knew he was an excellent Keeper, but he now wondered whether Harry had been responsible for his inclusion on the Quidditch team in his fifth year. As for being the team captain, had Harry refused that as well? Is that why he'd ended up in the post?

Second-hand and hand-me-downs. The Story of Ronald Weasley's Life. Clothes, books, wands, captaincies. Nothing ever new. Only his because someone else had either finished with it or never wanted it in the first place.

Deep down in his heart Ron knew that Harry had never wanted to be a Prefect, that he genuinely considered Ron to be a great Keeper and Captain, but somehow he couldn't help but see these positions as largesse handed down by the Prince of Gryffindor to one of his subjects. What made it worse was that others saw him as second choice. He remembered hearing people say that he'd only been made a Prefect because Harry had refused. And look who people praised to the roofs when Gryffindor won a Quidditch match. Was it the captain, whose strategy and daring had really won the match? No, it was the Seeker who had spent most of his time hovering above the action and doing bugger all with the exception of that one catch to end the game!

Not, of course, that he felt bitter or resentful. No, not at all!

After all, wasn't this party in the Gryffindor Common Room for him? Hadn't it been set up to celebrate the fact he was now Head Boy?

He looked around at the noisy gathering, his lips a thin line of annoyance. There were three reasons for his bad mood. The first being that the overriding discussion point was still why Justin Finch-Fletchley had suddenly left school. How many times had someone come up to him and said, "Well done, Ron, shame about Justin though" or "You were an ideal choice to replace him, Ron." No one ever said, "Justin was the wrong choice to start with, and it should have been you from the beginning."

The second was the fact that Harry still hadn't come back from wherever he'd spent the day and people kept asking where he was. They wanted to know why Ron's best friend wasn't here celebrating Ron's promotion. And as much as he tried to pretend that he wasn't concerned about Harry's absence, it really did grate on him. He placated himself with thoughts that Harry didn't know, but a little dark voice deep inside kept telling him that Malfoy would have told Harry about the fight and that Harry was currently consoling Malfoy over the loss of his broom and the stupid little cut on his neck.

Malfoy was a Slytherin for god's sake -- he should know better.

Which was the third thing -- the fact that instead of being with his friend of over six years, Harry was probably with the Slytherin right now. His confrontation with Malfoy kept replaying itself in Ron's mind as he tried to fathom out how he truly felt about Harry and what he had the most problems with -- that the Prince of Gryffindor might be gay or that he was shagging the Slytherin.

He didn't consider himself homophobic; it was more that he just didn't get it. He couldn't contemplate wanting to do anything physically with another man, so the idea that others might just seemed completely absurd to him. The idea that Harry might prefer having sex with a man rather than a woman made him shudder, but he could just about live with the notion as long as the subject of Harry's affection wasn't Draco Malfoy.

He hated Malfoy with a passion.

He'd hated him for six years five months and fifteen days.

Hated him since they had first met on the Hogwarts Express and Malfoy had made his snide remark about the Weasleys -- No need to ask who you are. My father told me all Weasleys have red hair, freckles and more children then they can afford.

Ron felt his jaw tightening at the memory, teeth grinding together. How he wished he'd managed an equally sarcastic retort back then -- something like MY father told me ALL about the Malfoys as well, you arrogant little prick! But he'd never been quick with off-the-cuff remarks like that. No, he was more likely to grab his wand and hex someone. Which was another reason for hating Malfoy -- the git always had a retort, always seemed to know just the right words to really hurt people.

Malfoy had even told Harry that some Wizarding families were better than others and although he hadn't actually said it, Ron knew what Malfoy was alluding to. He was telling Harry the Weasleys were somehow not worthy of The Boy Who Lived. Of course, he knew Harry didn't believe this. They had been friends -- best friends -- and Ron tried to remember that.

So it had continued throughout their school career -- Malfoy throwing insults at Ron about how poor his family was. He rubbed it into Ron's face that he could afford things Ron would have to save up for or would have to have second-, third- or even fifth-hand from his brothers.

Now it looked like Malfoy had finally managed to get what he had been after all these years. He'd wanted to take Harry away on that first day, but Harry had sensibly refused. What the hell had Malfoy done to finally turn Harry's head like this?

Ron shuddered at the thought of the two of them together. Of them....

No! He reached for his bottle of Butterbeer and took a gulp of the liquid. It was a shame it wasn't proper beer or whisky -- or anything alcoholic for that matter. He wanted something to take away the bad taste Harry's behaviour left in his mouth.

Just what was Malfoy's game? Did he really think he could turn Harry into a Death Eater or one of Voldemort's servants? Or was he just softening Harry so that he could hand him over?

Well, whatever the Slytherin was planning, it wouldn't work. Harry was his and he wasn't going to let Malfoy ruin everything. Not now. Not when he was so close.

********************

Harry climbed through the portrait hole and paused on the fringes of the gathering, his cloak dripping a pool of water onto the stone floor. A couple of people greeted him, and he watched as news of his arrival seemed to permeate through the gathering. As if on cue, he saw a distinctive red head bobbing through the crowd. Ron was quickly at his side, a smile lighting up his freckled face.

"Harry, were the hell have you been? People have been worried. You know you shouldn't just disappear like that." Ron reached out a hand towards his friend. It briefly brushed across the badge on Harry's cloak before pulling sharply back. "Yuck. You're soaking."

"It's chucking it down out there," Harry quickly replied, and as if to make the point, he dumped his bulging travel bag on the floor and shook his replacement Cleansweep, spraying water from the broom's twigs about him. "I've been at Hagrid's, trying to catch up on my homework." Which was actually true. When he realised Draco had gone, he had sat and sulked for about half an hour before turning to his schoolbooks with a vengeance. "What's going on?"

"Haven't you heard?"

"Not you as well. That's what the Fat Lady just said." Harry gave Ron a questioning look. "Heard what?" He wasn't sure, but he thought for a moment that the redhead had puffed out his chest and it suddenly struck him how alike Ron and his brother Percy were. He remembered the same stance when Percy was showing off his Prefect's badge.

Then Harry saw it. Glittering on Ron's chest was a discreet 'Head Boy' badge. His eyes widened in surprise as he met the equally glittering blue eyes of his friend. "Don't tell me -- you've finally managed to steal that from Justin."

Ron's face broke into a grin. "No. You have the privilege of meeting Hogwarts' new Head Boy."

"What? How?"

"Justin's left school."

"Left? But why?"

The taller boy gave a shrug. "Something to do with his father's work as far as we've been told. He got pulled out on Saturday. I can't believe you didn't know."

"How could I? I've been shut away on my own all day." Harry was sure he could feel a flush of colour creeping across his cheeks at the lie, and he quickly gripped Ron's shoulder with his free hand. "Bloody hell, Ron, this is brilliant. It's about time as well." He made to hug his friend, but was surprised to find himself pushed away. "What..."

"You're soaking wet, Harry." Ron reached out and tugged briefly on the clasp of Harry's cloak, the gesture one he had done several times in the past. "Go and get changed. Then you can join the celebrations."

"Okay. Save some Butterbeer for me." Harry took a couple of steps and then turned back. "Congratulations, Ron. You really do deserve this. It should have been you all along."

Ron watched as Harry disappeared into the throng of people. The dark-haired boy really seemed genuinely surprised at the news of him being made Head Boy and he appeared really pleased about it. Did that mean Malfoy hadn't told him? What about his fight with the Slytherin? Didn't Harry know about that either?

He folded his arms across his chest and began rhythmically tapping his foot on the stone floor. Could he be wrong about Harry and Malfoy? No, he reminded himself ... he'd seen proof that there was something going on between them. And hadn't Harry blushed when he said he'd been on his own all day? That could, he reminded himself, be because of the heat in the room and mean nothing at all.

What about the cloak? Ron thoughtfully rubbed the tips of his fingers, which had brushed against the heavy black material of Harry's cloak, against his own shirt. He'd touched both the badge and the clasp and there was no sign of residual magic left there. If Malfoy had been wearing that particular cloak and then used magic to repair it, there should be some sign of it. Of course, the Slytherin could have removed any traces of his work, but Ron knew there were ways and means to circumvent that. Malfoy wasn't as clever as he might like to think.

"Just you wait, Draco Malfoy," he murmured to himself. "Just you wait."

********************

After the noise of the Gryffindor Common Room, the Upper-Sixth dormitory was a haven of peace. Harry stood for a moment in the little area shared by the five boys and stared at the fireplace. A small fire crackled in the grate, filling the room with warmth and giving it a homely feel.

And it was home, certainly as far as Harry was concerned. Hogwarts was the closest thing to home that Harry had ever known and the people he had spent the last six and a half years with were his family. Ron, Hermione, Neville, Seamus, Dean, Ginny, Hagrid, Dumbledore...

How did Draco fit into this? Did he consider the Slytherin as part of his 'family'? Hadn't Draco had been there skulking in the background since his first day at Hogwarts? That had to make him as much a part of Harry's life as anyone else.

Did today change anything?

"Harry!"

He spun round at the sound of his name. "Hermione."

The Head Girl strode towards him and stopped. "Where on earth have you been?"

"I..."

"Do you know how worried I've been about you?"

"But..."

"I had visions of some dark wizard kidnapping you."

"Then why..."

"As for Malfoy..."

"Hermione!

She glared at him, but fell silent for a moment. "Are you going to tell me what happened?"

"No."

"Harry!"

He held out his arms, showing his soaked clothing. "I need to get changed and back down to Ron's party. Maybe later."

"I told you yesterday that we would talk." Hermione whipped out her wand and pointed it at him. "And I was serious." She muttered an incantation and almost immediately Harry began to steam as the spell dried the moisture from his clothes. He looked like some evil spirit rising from the smoking depths of hell as the white steam surrounded and hissed about him. When his clothes were finally dry Hermione looked at him smugly. "And why didn't you do that yourself?"

Harry shrugged. "It never occurred to me," he lied. Now dry, he removed his travel cloak and wrinkled his nose at the mud stains around the bottom. "I'll just go and clean this."

"Stop making excuses." Hermione grabbed the garment from his hands, gave it a practised shake and laid it over the back of a chair before pointing at the sofa. "Sit down."

"Here?" Harry looked aghast. "I'm not talking out here."

"Why not? It's perfect. We can hear people coming up the stairs and no one can lurk in corners listening to your smutty confessions. Let's face it, Harry, it might be nice that you all have your own little areas, but there's only a curtain dividing you from the rest of the room." She leaned towards him, her voice a conspiratorial whisper. "Anyone could stand on the other side and listen."

Harry finally nodded in agreement and dropped down on one end of the sofa. He waited for Hermione to settle herself at the other. "I don't have anything to tell you, Hermione."

She leaned forward a little. "Harry James Potter, it is now 6pm on Sunday evening. In the early hours of yesterday morning you asked me what I would think if you said you were gay. Twenty-four hours ago you sat about 30 feet from where we're currently sitting and said you were involved with Draco Malfoy, of all people."

"I did not!"

"Don't interrupt me. Then Malfoy asks me to send you on some wild goose chase last night. This morning you don't turn up for breakfast. Ron's had a fight with him..."

"What?" Harry suddenly sat up straight. "What do you mean? A fight? A fight with Draco?"

"Didn't Malfoy tell you?"

"No."

"Ah, then you have seen him today."

Harry opened his mouth to respond, saw a twinkle of success in her eyes, and instead just glared. "Possibly." She mirrored his expression. "Okay. I saw him. We talked. What fight?"

"Our beloved Ron caught Malfoy coming in late. They had an altercation on the stairs leading down to the Slytherin Dungeons and Ron decided it would be a good time to start acting as Head Boy. He took 25 points off him in about five minutes."

"Brilliant," Harry tutted. "That's all I need."

"And they ended up fighting. According to Malfoy, Ron grabbed his cloak and pulled so hard he broke the clasp and cut Malfoy's neck."

Harry's eyes widened. "I never saw a mark."

"Well, I did. He went to the nurse to get it seen to." She frowned. "So, you spent time looking at each other's necks."

"I..." Trying not to look flustered, Harry realised he was pulling threads of cotton out of a cushion which had somehow found its way into his arms. He quickly put it down. "Stop twisting things, Hermione."

"Then tell me if he's gay as well, Harry."

"What?" Harry did his best to look shocked. "I'm not answering that. Have I asked you who you 'experimented' with?"

"No. But I bet you're dying to know." Harry gave a shrug. "Okay. Let me phrase this another way. Did you have a nice day?"

For several minutes the pair sat in silence. Harry stared at the flames and she stared at him. She could see he was chewing at his lip and his fingers were fiddling absently with the bottom of his jumper. Finally he turned his head slightly, looking back at her over his shoulder, leaning close. There was a sparkle in his green eyes and a very mischievous smile on his face. "Yes," was all he said.

"And did he?"

"You'll have to ask him that. Hermione, it was..." He took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. "I feel..." He looked at her a little bashfully. "I think I understand what kissing is all about now."

"Oh?" She scooted a little closer to him; they both now had their arms draped along the back of the sofa, their limbs touching. "And did you ... enjoy it?"

"What do you think?"

"Well, considering you look like the cat who caught a big fat canary, I think the answer is probably 'yes'." Harry looked back at the fire, the bashfulness turning into a self-satisfied smirk on his face. "But Malfoy?"

"If I understood it, I'd tell you. I don't. It happened." He shrugged. "That's all I can say."

"Have you arranged to meet again?"

"No. Hermione, it was a one-off. We had fun, but that was it. He said as much and we both know the score." And he left without a word, Harry reminded himself. "His dad's a Death Eater, for god's sake. Talk about a relationship that's heading nowhere very fast."

She gently rubbed at her friend's arm, watching as he gazed at the fire. His expression was one she hadn't seen before, one of want and need and longing. Malfoy might not want this to continue, but Harry was a different kettle of fish. It was clear that whatever had happened had touched on something deep inside Harry, and, as always, he wasn't doing a very good job of hiding what he felt. She knew from experience that Harry had very complex needs. He had also been starved of affection and contact throughout his life. That it should be Malfoy who had triggered this emotional need was bad enough, but what would Harry do if Malfoy didn't want him? Harry was so strong in most things -- a tower of strength -- yet his need to belong ... to be wanted ... sometimes ran too close to the surface for his own good.

It was clear to her that Harry was really smitten by what had happened and if he wasn't careful he would end up badly hurt.

Their thoughts were rudely interrupted by the sound of voices on the stairs. They looked at each other and realised the quiet interlude was about to end. It did, with the door bursting open and three people spilling in. Seamus, Dean and Neville had arrived.

And it was Seamus, his voice full of satisfaction, who took obvious delight in telling Harry the fate of a certain Slytherin's Nimbus 2001.

********************

Slytherin House

There was no party in the Slytherin Common Room. It was crowded, but much more solemn than the current activities in Gryffindor Tower. As Draco threaded his way through, he fielded comments about how his day had been, his views on Weasley's appointment and what he was going to do about his broom, but with practiced ease he didn't get drawn into the conversations. As people seemed to accept Harry as head of Gryffindor, he was seen as Harry's counterpart in Slytherin. Despite this, Draco now thought very carefully before giving his opinion on many topics. It wasn't safe to be outspoken anymore, even in the relative safety of his own school House.

The one thing he did still enjoy, however, was making people think their opinions were their own when, in fact, they were thinking and saying exactly what Draco wanted them to.

He strode out of the dungeons and climbed the staircase to the Entrance Hall. After over six years he was used to the climb, but for the first time he began to speculate why the Slytherin halls were situated in the lower levels of the castle when the other three houses had much more loftier environs. He remembered looking up at Gryffindor Tower a few times and trying to imagine what the rooms were like way up in the clouds. Wondering what it was like to have the sunshine in the morning or to look out over the Forbidden Forest instead of four walls and artificial lighting all the time.

Quickly he made his way up to the second floor where Dumbledore's rooms were located. There had been a message waiting for him when he'd gotten back from Hagrid's asking him to meet the old man at 8pm and, as always, Draco was a little early. His father hated tardiness and had instilled it in his son to arrive at the stated time.

Pausing before the stone gargoyle that guarded the Headmaster's rooms, Draco briefly checked his clothes. He'd chosen not to wear school uniform, but the plain white shirt and black trousers beneath his robes were smart and showed how seriously he took the meeting. His clothes, however, were the least of his worries.

Draco sighed as he glanced at the wall behind the stone gargoyle. He had no idea what of the password, therefore, couldn't get in. What a stupid bloody idea. It was one thing having passwords to private quarters, but not to the Headmaster's office of all places. He was just contemplating whether to leave when there was a grating of stone on stone. A doorway appeared in the otherwise blank wall and he could make out the wooden spiral stairs beyond. He stepped onto the bottom stair and rode the moving staircase upwards.

At the top, a second door was already open, but he knocked before stepping into the circular room. It was as he remembered from previous visits, a mishmash of tables covered with strange silver instruments that he longed to fiddle with. There was a room like this at Malfoy Manor where his father kept magical devices, but Draco wasn't allowed to touch those either.

Professor Dumbledore sat behind his enormous claw-footed desk. He gave Draco a benevolent smile and beckoned him in. "In you come, my boy, we've been expecting you."

The 'we' came as a shock to Draco as he realised he wasn't alone with the Headmaster. Seated on the other side of the desk, a dainty teacup in his hands, sat the Head of Slytherin House.

Draco paused on the threshold for a moment, wondering why Snape was there, but in the end moved to the proffered seat and sat down. Neither adult spoke as Dumbledore poured a cup from the matching teapot and placed it in front of Draco.

"You didn't join us for dinner," Dumbledore finally said.

"No, sir. I wasn't hungry."

"You shouldn't miss meals." With a flick of his wand, Dumbledore conjured up a large plate of sandwiches. "Help yourself."

Aware that both adults were watching him, Draco finally picked up a sandwich. Clearly that wasn't enough as they both continued to scrutinise him. Finally he took a bite. It was obviously the right thing to do, because Dumbledore began talking again.

"Now, Mr Malfoy. We need to talk about a couple of things. Your broom, for instance."

Nearly choking on a second mouthful, Draco quickly put the half-eaten sandwich down. "My broom?"

"Oh yes, my boy. Professor Flitwick and Professor Snape has been studying what remains of it for most of the day, and Professor Snape is here both in that capacity and also as your Head of House." Dumbledore indicated Snape with a flourish of his hand. "Now, Professor, perhaps you could tell us what conclusions you have come to."

Draco could feel Snape's black eyes boring into him, as if he could drag some as yet unknown information out through his skin. The look made him feel uncomfortable and he just wished the two would get on with whatever it was they wanted and let him go.

"Have you noticed anything different about your broom recently?"

It wasn't the question he had expected. Somehow he thought they might ask him what he was doing out in the early hours of the morning. Maybe that would come later, he decided. "No, sir. I used it the previous day at team practice. It was fine."

"And did it feel any different when you returned to Hogwarts this morning? Different from when you left earlier?"

Had it? Draco wondered. He had been so angry with Harry that he didn't actually remember the trip back from Hogsmeade, let alone how the broom had flown. "I don't remember," he finally answered.

"Draco..." Had Snape called him by his first name? Draco tried to hide his surprise. "Your boom has been hexed. We found several very advanced spells attached to it, at least one of which was a tracking spell. The damage was also caused by a powerful curse, which used the broom's own magic to make it..." Snape frowned as if looking for the right words. "Self destruct."

His face a mask, Draco raised a single eyebrow. Underneath he was shaking. His father had told him he was being watched, but tracking charms? And someone had deliberately hexed his broom? It was lucky....

"You were lucky the broom didn't disintegrate while you were flying it." Snape seemed to read Draco's own thoughts and voiced his own fears.

"Draco..." This time it was Dumbledore using his name. Suddenly everything seemed to be very serious. "We believe your life may be in danger."

"Me? Why? It's not like I'm..." Draco paused. Like he was what? The son of one of Voldemort's followers? A Slytherin? A dabbler in the Dark Arts? A candidate for the Death Eaters? "Do you know how long the broom has been cursed?"

Snape picked up a twig from the desk, and Draco realised it had come from his Nimbus. "The tracking spells have been on it for some time." The professor passed the twig to his student. "It is impossible to tell how long the other hexes have been there. Has anyone threatened you?"

"No." Draco's response was clipped.

"My boy, this is very important." Dumbledore's eyes bore into the young man.

Finally Draco had to look away. He kept his attention on the twig in his hands, twisting it thoughtfully between his fingers. Finally he looked up again. "Unless you consider Weasley's actions a threat."

Dumbledore tapped his fingers on the desk. "Very well. If you remember anything or if you want to discuss this further, please talk to Professor Snape or myself. Now onto other matters, though I think they are all probably related. I will be making an announcement tomorrow and you may very well hear from your father on this matter before then." Grey eyes snapped up again, meeting Dumbledore's eyes. "Voldemort's forces attacked Parliament yesterday. They killed several Aurors and stole some important artefacts."

"Oh." Draco tried his best to look shocked. He knew they expected him to be. After all, Malfoy Manor was less than 20 miles from the Parliament. But he had absolutely no fears for the safety of his home or his family. Except, he quickly reminded himself, that his father might have been injured in the raid. There was no doubt in his mind that Lucius Malfoy would have taken part in it. "I ... I need to talk to someone. To check that everyone is all right." He started fidgeting in his chair.

"We've checked and your family is well. They were unaware of the attack at the time and your father has said not to concern yourself. I also took it upon myself to explain the situation with your broom. He is worried about you, of course, and will be in touch." Dumbledore sat back in his chair and linked his hands together over his abdomen. "Draco, is there anything you'd like to tell me?" The voice was soft, but his blue eyes cut into the teenager like glass. "Anything at all?"

Draco tried not to wince under the intensity of the look. He suddenly wanted to tell these two people everything. About the Portkeys, that he thought he was being watched and followed, how he was sure Weasley was lying about how badly his leg had been injured the previous summer, the threats made to him on the stairs, Harry.

Harry? Yes, even about Harry.

Instead he said nothing. "No, I can't think of anything."

The Headmaster gave him another of those penetrating gazes, and then relented. "Very well. Now, I want you to go back to your room and try not to worry about either the broom or the attack. Professor Snape and Professor Flitwick will find out who cast the spells. And the Ministry will deal with the attack. I understand they have offered additional protection to the Manor." With that, Dumbledore ushered Draco from the room.

As the door closed behind the boy, Snape glared at the Headmaster. "You were too soft on him. Someone tried to kill him and he's gone away thinking nothing of it. And he's lying. He knows more about this than he's telling us."

"My dear Severus, young Draco has gone away with enough things to occupy his mind. You can tell him he is in danger until you are blue in the face, but he won't believe you. As for his silence, he's been forced to bear secrets all his life. He's reached a very important crossroads and he needs to decide whom he can trust."

********************

Harry's Journal: Sunday 15th February 1998. Late

I'm here, back in my room, on my own, staring at the walls and wondering just what has happened to me.

Everything seems to be different -- changed -- since yesterday.

Ron's moved out to his own room -- one of the perks of being Head Boy, so that's changed the feel of the dorm. I went and looked at his bed earlier and it's like he was never there. He only found out yesterday and everything is gone.

I miss him already. He was my first real friend -- still my best friend.

Hermione wants a blow-by-blow account of my day (maybe I should tell her, it might shut her up).

And I've changed. I can't have done what I did today and not change just a bit. I've been trying to think of words that conjure up what I feel and they are all pretty pathetic. Scared. Excited. Brilliant. Worried. Lost. Complete. Concerned. Touched. Emotional. Filled. Terrified. Desperate. Amazed.

Pathetic. I bet he's not sitting there contemplating what happened.

There's something else up with Ron besides the Head Boy thing. I know Ron hates him but the story of what happened down in the Entrance Hall is really strange. Ron won't tell me why they ended up fighting, so I guess I will have to ask him that. Plus Ron's become really standoffish. Normally we'd hug or slap each other's shoulders or whatever all the time, but twice ... make that three times ... since I've got back Ron's almost pushed me away.

What about him? I can still taste him. Feel him. It's ridiculous.

Are you ready to actually name him yet, Harry? Or is he going to remain 'him' or '!' for ever? Face it, after what happened today it seems stupid to keep not mentioning him by name. Does writing his name down make it all too real?

Or is it because he just went and left without a word? He could have said "Goodbye" or something like that. And why didn't he tell me about the fight or his broom? Snape will never return my Firebolt for the Gryffindor/Slytherin match now. I bet Snape thinks Ron did it deliberately.

But his broom shouldn't have broken, not that easily.

Oh god, I've just realised something! Ron met him when he was on his way back to the school. He would have been wearing my cloak. What if Ron saw that? What if that's why Ron's angry with me? Maybe he thinks there's something going on between us.

Which, of course, there is ... was....

********************

Harry studied the cream parchment, and after a moment's hesitation he started to sketch in the half-page under the entry. It was the sofa at Hagrid's, complete with cushions and the green cloak from his Valentine's clothes, but there was no one sitting there. He didn't want people in it, not yet. Not when he had no idea what might happen next.

Then carefully, italicizing his letters, he inscribed underneath I can give you tonight.

********************

In a small room at the top of a deserted tower, Cloud looked at Shadow, and nodded at him. "I'm ready."

********************

Monday 16th February 1998

Morning. The view from Harry's window was obscured by yet more rain and he stood there watching it splatter forcefully on the leaded glass. He'd planned to go and fly before breakfast, but even his love of flying didn't transcend this sort of weather.

Besides, he was feeling just a little irritable. And tired.

"Are you coming?"

Harry spun from the window and found Neville standing a few feet from him.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to make you jump."

Pulling off his glasses, Harry rubbed briefly at his eyes before replacing them. "It's okay. I was miles away."

"Are you all right?" Neville peered closely at his friend. "You look really pale."

"I'm fine." He looked back at the window. "I wanted to fly, but look at the rain."

"Rather you than me. Luckily we don't have to go outside today. Potions all morning, Transfiguration most of the afternoon and finally History of Magic. What more can a boy want?" Neville frowned thoughtfully. "I think I might just go outside and maybe try to drown myself."

Harry managed a small smile and patted the larger boy on the shoulder. "You'll be okay." He leaned closer. "Just think -- three hours with Pansy. Did you manage to get off with her on Saturday?"

Neville's expression flipped between looking aghast to shyly embarrassed. "Well, um, Harry, she kisses like a suction pump!"

This time Harry laughed out loud. "You'll be okay, Neville. Come on, breakfast awaits."

Breakfast, of course, meant that Harry had to go to the Great Hall. It meant he would have to see 'people', and by 'people', he of course meant 'Draco'. This had been one of the things he had contemplated while watching the rain and his mood had swung between desperately wanting to see Draco again and never, ever setting eyes on the Slytherin for as long as he lived. It really did feel like the morning after the night before.

He could almost feel the blood rushing to his face as he approached the large doors leading into the Hall, and was grateful for the exuberant noise and laughter his friends were making.

The Great Hall's ceiling was covered in dark grey storm clouds, which seemed to permeate their gloom down into the actual room. If one looked upward, it appeared as if the clouds had darkened the top third of the room. Below the murkiness, more candles than usual struggled to compensate, the measure of their success being the fact that most people didn't seem to notice.

Harry did, but then he was trying to find something to look at other than the Slytherin table as he entered the Hall. In fact, he was so intent on NOT looking that he missed the punch line of Dean's story. His classmate thumped his arm and uttered, "Harry! You're not listening!" in a very loud voice. Harry's automatic reaction was to look at Dean who, unfortunately, was standing between him and the Slytherins. He tried to look at Dean's face, he really did! But his gaze was inexorably drawn past his friend and onto the upturned face of Draco Malfoy, who it had to be said, appeared to have no problems in looking at Harry. In fact, he poked Goyle in the ribs, nodded in the Gryffindor's direction and made some remark which those around him found excruciatingly amusing judging by their laughter.

Oh, god, he's told them! I was bloody hopeless and that's why he disappeared without saying anything. That's what he told them. It's what he's reminding them of right this very minute. Temporarily frozen to the spot, Harry was sure there was a neon sign over his head saying 'I gave Malfoy a blow job' in huge letters.

The two boys made eye contact and two things happened. Firstly, Harry could feel himself becoming strangely warm -- a hot flush which zinged through his body making him feel just a little light-headed. Secondly, he could feel a strange liquid sensation growing in his stomach. It spread like warm syrup down through his body before collecting in a huge pool situated at the same level as his hips.

He waited for what seemed like a lifetime but was, in fact, only a few seconds for Draco to look away, but he didn't. Instead the grey hooded eyes held the green gaze as Draco took a small bite from a piece of toast. The Slytherin's tongue dipped out, sweeping over his lips to remove the crumbs.

Harry swallowed.

"Sorry, Dean, what did you say?" Harry finally managed to mutter.

"The punch line was 'it certainly does', but you missed half the joke anyway." The sound of laughter rose from the Gryffindor table and Dean grabbed at Harry's arm. "Come on."

Harry allowed himself to be drawn to the Gryffindor table. Just as he turned, Draco slipped a butter-covered finger into his own mouth and began to lick it clean.

Dragging his imaginary neon sign with him, Harry dropped into his seat, wishing the floor would just open beneath him. Colin Creevey was currently the centre of attention (which suited Harry just fine), as he showed off the photographs he'd taken at the Valentine Ball. Colin had turned into an excellent photographer over the years but had the unfortunate knack of always being just where you didn't want him, with his trusty camera almost welded to his hand. He was currently basking in the glory of people praising him and asking for copies.

Unable to bring himself to eat toast, Harry poured cornflakes into his bowl and was just going to add milk when someone leant against his shoulders. "Look at you, done up like a dog's dinner." A photograph of him in his green and silver robes slithered to the tabletop, but Harry wasn't interested. It was the familiar voice that made him look round.

"Sirius?" Harry stared, green eyes wide, as he tried to take in the fact that his godfather was standing behind his chair. "Sirius!" The chair scraped back and Harry dived from it and into the older man's arms. "What are you doing here? Why didn't you tell me you were visiting? What...."

Sirius drew his godson away from the table. "I wish everyone was as pleased to see me." Both looked back at the crowded room. Several people were clearly expressing their disapproval at the one-time criminal being at the school. "I can just see him rushing off to write to his father."

Harry followed the look and found it locked on Draco's face. The Slytherin no longer looked enticing, but instead had a strange scowl on his features. Brilliant! They hate each other. He quickly dragged Sirius around so that Draco was no longer in his line of sight. "I can't believe you're here."

"Well, it was a last minute decision. Professor Dumbledore asked me to come and teach. How could I refuse?"

Harry laughed. Not a little laugh, but one that shone in his eyes and made his face crease in delight. If he had still been watching Draco, he would have seen the Slytherin frown and then soften at the sight. It had a similar effect on his godfather who knew from Dumbledore's letters that Harry was a troubled boy after the events of the previous summer at The Burrow. "You? A Marauder? You're going to be a teacher?"

Sirius did his best to look hurt. "What's so funny? Remus teaches, so why shouldn't I?"

"Professor Lupin is a serious man who has the temperament to be a teacher. You, on the other hand, will be teaching people how to make stink bombs and how to glue teachers to chairs." Harry wanted to fall against the elder man's broad chest and feel the safety of those arms around him. Sirius was the closest thing he had ever had to a father and still Voldemort had conspired to take this father figure away from him. When Peter Pettigrew had been captured a little over a year before, the truth had finally come out; Pettigrew was in Azkaban and Sirius finally free to come out of hiding. Despite this, many people still thought Sirius had been the one who had killed a street packed with Muggles.

"I've promised Professor Dumbledore I'll be on my best behaviour." Sirius squeezed Harry's shoulder. "I'm helping Professor McGonagall with Advanced Transfiguration. Apparently several people in your year have shown latent Animagi talent and I'm going to help with their training."

"In which case you'll see very little of me then. That's one skill I don't seem to have inherited from my father."

"Oh, I don't know. Minerva tells me you have good transfiguration skills. Maybe between the two of us, we can see what talents you do have." Sirius ruffled his godson's dark hair. "We're going to be seeing a lot of each other and I know you have lots to tell me." He paused and Harry realised the Headmaster was beckoning from the top table. "I have to go and be officially introduced. We'll talk later, Harry. I promise."

********************

It was a very subdued group of students who left the Great Hall and headed for their classes. The silence was not because of the arrival of Sirius Black, though there was clearly some dissension in the ranks regarding his appointment as a teacher. Dumbledore had told them about the attack on the Parliament Building. One of the dead Aurors was John Cauldwell, father of Fourth Year Hufflepuff Owen. Until that point people hadn't seemed very interested ... after all, Parliament was a very long way from Hogwarts. But realising that a fellow student had lost his father brought the matter much closer to home. It didn't help that the boy's mother wanted him to stay at Hogwarts rather than to come home. The story quickly spread that Mrs Cauldwell thought her son would be safer at school.

And it was this thought that was being bandied about as the Upper-Sixth Gryffindor students wandered into the Potions classroom. They were still discussing it when Professor Snape appeared from his little office and, for once, he chose not to chastise them for their noise.

The talking continued as the group split to join with their Slytherin study partners, though concerns for everyone's safety didn't seem to figure that highly with the Slytherins. Harry dropped down into his seat next to Draco Malfoy, their assignation the previous day temporarily forgotten in favour of his godfather's arrival and the news of Voldemort's latest attack.

He busied himself with unloading his school bag, his face a study of concentration. So preoccupied was he, that he jumped when Draco finally spoke.

"Potter." For a second Harry looked like a child caught stealing from a sweet jar and Draco's lip curled in a slight smirk.

The returning sensation of syrup flowing through his veins made Harry feel like sobbing, but he finally found a voice not tinged with the sensation that was rapidly turning his legs to jelly. This has to stop, he chastised himself. I can't go on like some lovesick teenager every time I see him.

"Malfoy." He opened a scroll of parchment and concentrated his attention on it.

"So, your godfather's finally managed to get a job. It's not surprising he should end up here; no one else would employ him. Dumbledore's always had a soft spot for charity cases."

Harry's eyes snapped up and blazed green lightning at Draco, but the Slytherin missed the look as he was pretending to make notes on a piece of parchment. Harry could see the slight upturn of Draco's mouth and he knew the Slytherin was smiling smugly. He knew that he was trying to get a rise out of Harry. "You just can't help yourself can you? Would it hurt just once to say something pleasant?" Draco didn't respond or even look at up. "Just remember the saying, Malfoy. If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all!" Harry grabbed at his parchment, the warm syrupy feeling completely gone. "Pillock."

"What's that? More words of wisdom from the Collective Wit of Harry Potter? And it's 'don't say anything at all'. Didn't they teach you basic grammar at your Muggle school?"

The two boys glared at each other, the look cold enough to form ice crystals between them. "For your information, it's a Muggle thing, but as you're too bigoted to try anything Muggle, you wouldn't understand." Harry frowned as remembered something else Draco had said. "And how did you know he's my godfather?"

Draco slowly leaned in until only inches separated them. "I know because, as you've told me countless times in the past, my father is one of the bad guys." He leaned even closer. "I know so much, I can even tell you what colour underpants you have on."

Harry opened his mouth to fire off a retort, couldn't think of one, and ended up doing exactly what he didn't want to. He tried to wipe any expression from his face, but knew he was looking bewildered.

It was one of the expressions Draco enjoyed seeing on the Gryffindor's face, probably second only to the look of bemusement which would rapidly turn into an embarrassing blush when Harry finally got the meaning of some snide Slytherin comment.

A shadow fell across them, and without moving, Draco slowly looked up. "Oh look, Potter, your big strong Head Boy has come to rescue you. Taken any more points, Weasel?"

Ron glared at the Slytherin and snarled his reply. "Is the Ferret bothering you, Harry?"

Harry opened his mouth to respond, but before he could, Draco had butted in.

"Yes, Harry. Is the Ferret bothering you?" Draco turned back to Harry. "Well, am I?" The Slytherin slowly opened his mouth slightly and poked the tip of his tongue between his lips, waggling it twice.

Harry nearly died on the spot as the look sent a wash of heat through him and it was all he could do to stop himself from licking his own lips. The wonderful snide comment he'd come up with was never spoken as he realised dark, beetle-black eyes were scrutinizing them. "Snape's watching," Harry hissed.

Ron glanced furtively around and met the Potions Master's stare. He turned back, scowled at Malfoy for a moment and mouthed, "Watch it" before moving off to the desk he was currently sharing with his study partner, Millicent Bulstrode.

"What the hell was that all in aid of?" Harry asked out of the corner of his mouth.

If Draco had intended making a response, his Head of House saved him from further comment.

"Silence!"

The sound of Severus Snape's voice echoed around the Potions classroom and immediately the entire class fell quiet, all eyes turned towards the teacher. "You will be pleased to know that you are halfway into your twelve-week revision period." There was a general murmur of relief throughout the class, but it was quickly quelled by the look of distaste Snape showed to the group. "You will also be pleased to know that judging from your current efforts, nearly every one of you will fail your NEWTs miserably." He glanced briefly at Draco Malfoy who appeared rather smug. "That includes you, Mr Malfoy. Every one of you failed at least one of last week's assignments."

Draco looked suitably stunned. 'Failed' was not a term ever used as far as his Potions work was concerned. There was a general snigger from the assembled Gryffindors. They might have failed, but so had Malfoy. There must be justice at Hogwarts after all. Harry looked pleased because it was time Draco suffered at the hands of Snape. Ron was positively glowing over the statement.

"You are all being sloppy. Potions making is a precise art and you seem to have forgotten what the term 'precise' means." The Potions Master came to his feet and began handing out the students' work parchments. "Each of you will get a detention for the potion you failed on. If you failed both, you will get two detentions. If your study partner failed, but you personally passed, you will get a detention for not working close enough with your partner. These are supposed to be joint projects, not a competition to see who can turn out the best version."

Snape had expected the sound of dissent from his students, but they all appeared to be shocked into silence. He folded his arm and sneered at the class. "Detention will take place next weekend. You will spend Saturday here making the failed potions and you will remain here until I am satisfied they are correct. Those who failed both potions will return on Sunday when you will make the second potion. And your study partners will accompany you throughout your ordeals."

This time there was a murmur of discord in the room. Detentions were one thing, but the loss of their weekends was abhorrent to them all. Snape's lip curled in a tiny smile at the reaction.

"And the same will apply next week and the week after until the end of term. Failure will lead to detentions and all detentions will take place over the following weekend. Also, from each and every one of you I want twenty inches of parchment on the meaning of precision in potions making. To be handed in tomorrow. Now, I don't want to hear another word from any of you while I am giving out your assignments for the coming week."

Snape began making his way around the classroom, handing each study pair a slip of paper on which the two potions they would be making that week were written. By the end of their 12-week revision period the students should have covered all of the 24 potions that might appear in their NEWTs practical exam. And as each study pair had different potions, in theory they would not be able to rely on their classmates for help in their preparation.

The Potions Master finally came to a halt in front of the desk shared by Draco and Harry. Both boys were still carefully scrutinizing their papers from the previous week, trying to find out where they had gone wrong. "Mr Potter and Mr Malfoy." They looked up as one, both with almost identical frowns on their faces. "The potions you will be making this week are the Febrifuge Elixir and Night Dew. As Mr Longbottom and Miss Parkinson managed to produce a reasonable version of Night Dew last week, I expect something better from you. What is Night Dew, Mr Malfoy?"

Draco sat back in his chair, the concern over his apparent failure gone as he answered the question in a confident voice. "It's a potion used to help protect a person who's under psychic attack."

"Very good. And what's special about this potion, Mr Potter?"

Harry didn't sit back. He fiddled nervously with his quill as he tried to remember the basis of the potion. If he had been answering the question in a written test, he'd know straight away, but with Snape staring down at him and Draco watching with equal intensity, his brain suddenly felt like it was stuffed with cotton wool. "It's ... um ..." Then he remembered. "It uses star reading to work out what proportions the ingredients need to be in."

The response was rewarded with a grunt. "I have checked with Professor Sinistra and this rain front will have passed by early evening. You will both go to the main Astronomy Tower tonight to take the necessary readings. Mr Potter, as you are currently taking Divination and should know your own star readings, the potion will be made for you." He ended by dropping two small squares of paper on the desk. "These are your passes. Don't lose them."

*******************

Once, when Harry had been in his Second Year, he had counted the stairs leading down from Gryffindor Tower and then those leading up to the top of the Astronomy Tower. He didn't remember how many there were, but it was in the region of 'a lot'. For some reason he'd started counting when he left the Common Room to meet Draco for their Potions assignment. Unfortunately, he had lost count at about 200 when the Bloody Baron shot out of a wall, closely followed by a ghost Harry didn't remember ever seeing before.

Going down was easy. It was the long haul back up the Astronomy Tower he hated. Even as fit as he was, he paused to take a breath before tackling the final flight of stairs. It amazed him that the Tower was used for so many secret assignations. How any students could feel the urge for anything after climbing all these stairs, he had no idea. There just had to be more accessible places to meet people.

Not, of course, that meeting people was on his mind.

Finally reaching the door to the Observation Room at the very top of the Tower, Harry paused to pull down the hem of his jumper. Then, cross with himself for doing so, he deliberately stretched to ruck the garment again. He reached for the door handle, but his hand closed around nothing as the door suddenly swung open.

Draco stood framed in the doorway, almost a black silhouette against the soft glow of light spilling from the room above them. The light did that strange thing with Draco's hair Harry had noticed before, turning the white-blond strands into a halo around his face. 'Angel', thought Harry.

"You're late," the angel sneered, before floating up the final dozen steps that curved upwards. The stairs exited in the centre of the circular room at the top of the tower. The hole in the floor was surrounded by a waist high circle of banister, with a small opening the width of the staircase. Draco didn't look back as he crossed the room to a large map table.

"Git," Harry reminded himself as he stomped up the stairs and dumped his bag on the floor. Then, resting a hand on the banister, he surveyed the room.

The Astronomy Tower was circular, similar to Gryffindor Tower, and there were an assortment of classrooms and storerooms located on the floors below where he now stood. The main Observation Room, however, took up the entire top floor of the tower. It reminded Harry of a ring donut, with the hole in the middle for the staircase. A central entrance allowed the outer wall to be used for making observations, and there were many windows, each with its own brass telescope. There was a small doorway in the wall, leading out to a balcony running around the tower, and a narrow metal spiral staircase opened onto the tower's flat roof where there was a much larger telescope.

The layout of the room didn't allow for a fire, and once the windows were opened the room soon turned into a freezer. It didn't take long for the students to learn just how to dress for their astronomy lessons, especially at this time of year, and Harry had put on a thick green jumper under his warmest travel cloak. He had thought about wearing his latest Weasley jumper (maroon with a large yellow 'H'), which was deliciously warm, but the thought of Draco's seeing him in it was just too much for him to bear thinking about.

He wondered how long the Slytherin had been there and cursed yet again the fact that Draco always managed to be in classes before him. Draco looked as unflustered as always and certainly not as if he'd climbed all those stairs.

Crossing over to the table, Harry stood on the opposite side from Draco and folded his arms. "How far have you got?"

"I've set up the telescope." Draco waved a quill in the general direction of one of the brass telescopes resting on its wooden tripod. "And set up some measuring equipment as well." He chewed thoughtfully on his lip for a moment as he checked something on the instruction sheet for the potion. "It's a good night for getting the readings -- the sky is crystal clear."

"Good, especially after all the rain." Harry retrieved a roll of parchment from his bag and spread on the table. "This is the information you asked me to get. Birth sign, ascendant, house positions, major aspects."

Draco leaned across the table, resting on his forearms, and read the sheet upside down. "Hmmm. Of course, we could have used my readings couldn't we?" He looked up, meeting Harry's eyes. "Considering how well you know them."

"Well..."

The Slytherin straightened, now resting on his outstretched arms, flingers splayed against the tabletop. "You know, Harry, I really would like to know what Weasley read in that chart you did."

"I..." Harry swallowed, not wanting to tell him, certainly not here in a cold tower this late at night. Then he had a thought -- a good one for changing the subject. "Why didn't you tell me about your fight with him?

"That would have looked good, wouldn't it? You turning up at Gryffindor Tower after supposedly being on your own at Hagrid's all day, and the first thing you ask Weasley is 'What's this I hear about you fighting with Malfoy?'. Brilliant, Harry."

"I wouldn't have done that."

"No? I've told you before. You're a pretty good actor, Potter, but you suck at keeping a poker face."

Piss off Malfoy. Harry wanted to say it out loud, but instead he just allowed the comment to play around his mind. It annoyed him that Draco was probably right; he'd never been good at lying to Ron and probably would have blurted out something about fights and brooms when he wasn't supposed to know. But he really wanted to know about the confrontation. "Did Ron realise you were wearing my cloak?"

"Why?" Draco questioned, his face completely neutral. Had Weasley confronted Harry about the cloak?

"He did break the clasp on it."

"And I fixed it."

"Yes, you did." Harry fingered the neck of his cloak as he crossed to the telescope and began checking the settings. "I just wondered if he noticed the Gryffindor badge on it and made any comment to you." He turned back and gave Draco an appraising look. "Can you imagine what Ron would think if he knew what had happened?"

Draco let out a soft breath and wondered for a moment whether to tell him. Weasley seemed to be acting perfectly normal with Harry in classes, and if he had confronted his friend with questions about his sexual orientation, Harry wouldn't be so calm about things now. So what was Weasley's game? Taunting Draco, but acting as if nothing had happened around Harry? "Let's get on with this, I don't intend spending the entire night in this freezing hellhole."

If Harry had something else to say, he kept it to himself. They worked in near silence for the best part of an hour. Draco spent most of the time watching Harry as he fiddled with the telescope and the other measuring devices; the intense look on the dark-haired boy's face enthralled him. Then, of course, there was the way his cloak moved about him as he walked, and that high-necked green jumper.

He was in the middle of a very nice daydream, which left him with a warm feeling in his groin, when Harry's voice pulled him from his reverie.

"Draco, why did you leave?"

"Hmmm?" Draco felt a fist grip at his insides.

"Yesterday. Why did you go without saying anything?" Harry had turned to look at him, but remained close to the wall, his hand resting lightly on the telescope.

"I thought you'd want me to."

"What?"

"I'd taken advantage of the situation. I thought you'd be telling me to go when you got back, so I went anyway." He cringed at the pathetic lie, and cringed even more at the reaction it provoked on Harry's face.

"You thought I didn't want that? That you were forcing me?"

Draco shrugged and returned to his paper work. He never thought he would actually hate making Harry hurt like this. Hadn't he spent years wanting to do just that? Anything to make The Boy Who Lived suffer. But now all he wanted was to hear it from him. Hear that Harry wanted him as much as he wanted Harry.

"Was it that bad?"

"What?" Now it was Draco's turn to look surprised.

"Was I that bad? Didn't you enjoy it?" The Gryffindor's hand had dropped away from the telescope and he stood wrapped in the black cloak, hands invisible within the cloth.

Draco could almost sense those hands, clasped into tight fists, knuckles white from the pressure. "Didn't I look like I'd enjoyed it?"

"I don't know. You disappeared."

"Did you?" Draco stepped around the table, but remained several feet away. It suddenly took all his self-control to stand still and not dive at Harry.

Finally after a moment or two, Harry responded in a very quiet voice. "Yes."

"Yes?"

"Yes."

"Enough to want to do it again?" Two strides brought Draco to the Gryffindor. He felt like he was a giant in front of the smaller boy, like he was towering over Harry.

"Yes."

It was such a small word, but it was enough. Draco took Harry's face in his hands much the same way he had on Valentine's night. But this time there was no gentleness in the kiss. He dove straight in, his lips and tongue forceful against those beneath him. He could feel Harry's groan as the Gryffindor's mouth opened, allowing him inside. His fingers gripped into the thick black hair, the hold desperate.

For a moment Harry let Draco hold him, feeling strong fingers cradle his face. With his eyes closed, he could feel Draco's hands on his face, the touch of the Slytherin's tongue against his own, and the press of the other's body against him. Then, tentatively, he pushed his arms into Draco's cloak, winding them around the narrow waist, drawing them closer together.

Draco growled against his mouth, and Harry found hands clawing at his throat, pulling his cloak away from his body. He felt it slither down his back, to land in a heap on the floor at his feet, and he shivered, both from the chill wind coming through the open window and the feel of those hands roving over his torso. Finally managing to free his mouth, Harry breathed, "Draco..."

Words were cut off as Draco's mouth crushed against his again, hands grasping at his hip, grinding him against the blond's body, digging into soft flesh. He could feel his own body responding to the stimulation, becoming hard as Draco pressed against him, the tips of the Slytherin's fingers pushing into the waistband of his trousers.

"Draco..."

"What?" The voice hissed against Harry's neck.

"Not here. Someone could come up." He felt Draco's chuckle against his cheek.

"Live dangerously, Potter."

Suddenly Harry felt himself spun round, his back pressed against Draco's chest. He leaned against the warm, into the embracing arms, which had snaked around him, holding him tightly. They stood still in the frigid night air, both enfolded within Draco's cloak, and Harry couldn't decide if he wanted to laugh or cry. He felt incredibly safe held in those deceptively strong arms, yet this was one of the few people in the world he should NOT feel safe with.

God, he wanted Draco so much.

He let his head drop back onto Draco's shoulder, turning slightly into the crook of the Slytherin's neck. The warmth of Draco's chin pressed against his forehead, followed by the caress of lips as they moved against his skin. Hot urgent kisses burned his skin, as Draco's hand roamed over Harry's chest, finally pushing under his jumper in their desperate need to touch skin.

Then Draco's free hand cupped Harry's groin, and the smaller boy jumped, squeaking against Draco's neck. He heard Draco chuckle, and felt his lips curve into a smile.

"Hello, Mouse."

"What?" Harry tried not to push into Draco's hand, but his attempts were futile.

"Mouse. Do you know you squeak?"

"I don't." Draco's fingers curled around Harry, holding him through the material of his trousers, and Harry did, indeed, squeak again.

"Of course not."

"I don't," Harry defended again as nimble fingers released the button on his waistband and tugged down the zip of his fly.

Harry didn't resist as they both dropped to the ground. Down onto their knees. He felt a stretch across his hips as he straddled Draco's legs. Felt the pressure of the Slytherin's knees between his own parted legs as he settled back onto the slope of Draco's thighs.

Sitting back on his haunches, Draco pulled Harry back against him. The smaller boy leaned against his chest, pushing back against the Slytherin, buttocks pressing into Draco's groin

Aware of his own growing need, Draco tugged urgently at Harry's shirt, pulling it free of the already open trousers, and he let his fingers trail over Harry's taut abdomen. The more he pressed, the tighter Harry's fingers clutched at Draco's clothes, using the hold to pull them closer. Draco's fingers slid further down, pushing in to Harry's clothing and along the thin line of hair running from navel to groin.

"Oh god..."

The words were Harry's, but Draco knew they could have been his own. He managed to tug at the neckline of green jumper, letting his teeth find the soft junction of Harry's neck and shoulder as his other hand moved deeper into the warmth below. He felt Harry buck as his fingers finally pushed against his hardness.

When Draco released him, Harry let out an incoherent sob, then moaned softly as Draco's fingers reached for his sides, curving around his waist.

"Sit up a bit."

Harry rose slightly, until he was no longer touching Draco. Fingers tugged at his trousers, pushing them down around his thighs, his underwear quickly following. Somewhere in the back of his mind Harry knew he should feel the icy cold draught against his naked flesh, but there was nothing but warmth and the glow of sexual need. He wondered if Draco had cast a spell, but any thought of asking was lost as he was pulled back against the Slytherin.

Back against Draco's nakedness. Against his hardness. Harry groaned, grinding back against it, the sensitive underside pressing into the crevice between his buttocks. He heard Draco let out a sob as he pulled Harry tighter against him, burying his face momentarily in the dark black curls of Harry's hair.

Then just when he thought he was in danger of free-falling into release, Harry felt fingers reach for his right hand, Draco's palm against the back of his hand as pale fingers were interlinked with his own He gasped as his hand was pushed down into his own groin, Draco's fingers making his own curl around his hardness, spiralling him into a whole new sphere of emotions.

Tossing his head back, Harry tried to breathe. His chest hurt as he attempted to pull air into his lungs and he felt like he had a cramp in his midriff, the dragging sensation of release building like a growing storm inside him. His free hand shot up, clutching into Draco's hair.

"Please, Draco, please..."

"I've got you. I've got ... you."

Harry felt a thumb brush across his lips and he opened his mouth, taking it in, sucking it, feeling the edges of the nail against his tongue, the ridges against his teeth.

"Make it wet, Harry." The whispered words caressed against his ear, as Draco nuzzled his flesh, sucking in his earlobe, nipping and licking. "Mmmm, oh yes. That's right." The thumb was pulled out. "Now, lean forward for me."

Draco's hand released him, leaving Harry holding his own erection.

So close.

He did as instructed, his free hand resting on the cold stone in front of him. He murmured something unintelligible as Draco pushed his jumper and shirt up, baring his lower back.

Almost there.

Sobbed as a hand run down his spine and into the gap between his buttocks, parting them.

Almost ... there.

Held his breath as Draco's thumb ran over his skin.

Almost...

Harry let out a shriek of shock as the room suddenly filled with flashing colours. "What the fuck....?"

Fingers and hands fled away from Harry's body as if his flesh suddenly burned. "Shit," Draco hissed as he pushed Harry away. "Shit. Someone's coming."

"I know..." Harry squeaked, still on his knees, his hand cupping himself. Desperate.

"No, you idiot. Someone really is." Scrambling to his feet, Draco grabbed at his trousers, pulling them over his own aching erection. "That's my proximity spell. Someone's coming up the stairs." He grabbed Harry under his armpits and hauled him to his feet. "Stop playing with yourself and get dressed."

Harry's confused face looked at him from beneath his messy black hair and Draco realised he was too late. "God, you're a mess." Draco couldn't help himself. He had to kiss the Gryffindor, wanting to pull that look into himself and never forget it. Then muttering a quick cleaning spell, his lips brushed against Harry's again as he tried to push the back of Harry's shirt into his trousers. "Come on, Harry, pull yourself together."

The kiss really didn't help, Harry decided as he struggled with the after-effects of his own completion. His fingers felt like huge lead weights as he fumbled with his zip. Finally succeeding, he looked at Draco, who was already beside the table, a quill in his hand, looking as calm as he always did.

"You have proximity spells?" Harry grabbed the window ledge for support.

"Of course, how else do you think I knew you were at the door?"

"Oh." Harry took a breath as he stepped away from the support, his legs quivering a little. He was just about to reach for his cloak when he heard the door slam and footsteps on the spiral staircase. Only too aware of how vacant his expression probably was, he turned away, fiddling with the telescope.

"Harry. Malfoy."

"Oh, joy."

Glancing over his shoulder, Harry saw Ron Weasley leaning against the banister surrounding the stairway. Brilliant! Of all the people to turn up unannounced it had to be his best friend -- the very last person he wanted to see in his current frustrated emotional state. "Ron." Harry swallowed. He still felt the glow of arousal flushing his skin. Hoped he didn't look as rumpled as he felt. "What are you doing here?"

"I was doing my rounds and thought I'd see how you were doing. Especially with him here." Ron glared at Malfoy.

"What's wrong, Weasley? Don't you think he can look after himself?"

"Piss off, Malfoy."

Draco smiled, but there was no humour in his eyes. "I'm allowed to be here. Why don't you piss off and let us get on with our work."

Ignoring Malfoy, Ron had pushed away from the banister and was walking towards Harry. "How much more have you got to do?" Ron asked.

"Oh, not much." Harry glanced back at Draco, the grey eyes of the Slytherin bored into him. There was a hint of pink across Draco's cheekbones, and Harry wondered if he was still hard beneath his cloak. Bad image, Harry. The urge to cross the room and touch Draco was almost overwhelming. Carefully Harry straightened his jumper. "About another half an hour."

"Okay." Ron turned back towards Malfoy and smiled. "Then I might as well wait. We can walk back together."

********************

Tuesday 18th February 1998

The deep depression that had hung over Hogwarts for two days finally lifted overnight and Tuesday dawned bright and cheerful. At least it was by the time the students arrived in the Great Hall for breakfast. When the Gryffindor Quidditch team filed down to the Entrance Hall, however, it was still dark with just the barest hint of sunrise peeking over the hills.

Harry yawned, almost tripping down the final step as he trailed behind the not very eager team. The Gryffindor team consisted of himself (Seeker), Ron (Captain and Keeper), Dennis Creevey and Fourth Year Bridget Felgate (Beaters), Neville Longbottom, fifth-year Debbie Gerstel and Third Year Nathalie McDonald (Chasers). Ron was already chatting moves with Dennis and Neville, whilst the three girls were in animated conversation about an exchange student who had arrived the previous day.

Harry was more interested in two things: His bed (he'd only managed about two hours of sleep), and the fact his tryst with Draco had been well and truly scuppered by Ron. If he were completely honest, he'd felt like telling Ron to piss off and leave him and Draco to their own devices, but he wasn't quite prepared to own up to his best friend that all he really wanted to do was shag his adversary.

So he'd had to finish all those pathetic readings, carefully positioning himself so Ron couldn't see how turned on Draco was making him feel. At least Draco had his cloak on. Harry had to keep up the pretence that he was warm and that was why he'd taken his own cloak off. It couldn't have been further from the truth -- it had taken him ages to get warm again when they returned to Gryffindor Tower.

"Harry."

So preoccupied with his thoughts, Harry almost crashed straight into Sirius. The tall man was waiting by the huge main entrance doors.

"Sirius! You nearly gave me a heart attack," Harry grinned. "Coming to watch practice?"

It was obvious the man wasn't. He was dressed in his indoor clothes. "No, not today. Actually Harry, Professor Dumbledore has asked me to collect you. He needs to talk to you."

"Come on Harry!" Ron's voice carried back through the open door.

"Okay," Harry shouted back. He took a step towards the door, glancing briefly at his godfather. "What time does he want to see me?"

"Now, Harry."

The young man frowned. "But..."

"Now!"

********************

Professor Dumbledore's office never seemed to change that much. It still looked the same as it had on Harry's first visit back in his second year. The Sorting Hat remained on its shelf and Fawkes the Phoenix crowed to him as he entered the room.

The Headmaster was seated in an area Harry hadn't noticed before. It had several comfy chairs surrounding a table, which was laid out with breakfast things. There were also three stones about the size of his fist on the table, one of which seemed to glow in the candlelight.

"Good morning, Harry. I'm sorry to have dragged you away from your Quidditch practice, but I have some things I need to discuss with you." Dumbledore gestured at him. "Why don't you take off all that protective paraphernalia? I don't think you're going to need it in here."

"Okay." Harry rested his broom against the back of the chair and began to unbuckle his arm guards. It wasn't easy with his gloves still on and in the end Sirius moved to help him.

Finally divested of all his gear, Harry sat and looked expectantly at the two adults. A clock on the Headmaster's desk chimed 7am. It was much too early for any deep meaningful discussion, he decided, especially with these two people.

Dumbledore began pouring tea, talking as he handed the cups to his guests. "Things happened over the weekend, Harry, which have forced me to make a decision I had hoped we could leave until after you had completed your education here. It has also made me realise I should have told you this some time ago so that you would be more prepared."

Harry blinked worriedly. When Dumbledore started a conversation with an apology, he knew things were not going to be good.

"You know of the attack on Parliament?" Harry nodded. "One of the artefacts stolen was something known as the Hallows Capstone." He pushed a book towards Harry. It showed a photograph of a large circular stone. Judging from the size of the people in the picture, the stone had to be about four feet across and a foot high. The top was covered with intricate carvings, some of which looked like lettering.

"You know from your history lessons how important this Stone is."

Harry nodded again, desperately trying to remember what Professor Binns had said about the Stone. "Isn't it supposed to tap into the natural Earth magic and act as a sort of shield, hiding the magical world from Muggles?"

"Yes, something like that. During the Muggle Persecutions 1000 years ago, the Families of Parliament looked for ways of protecting our kind. It was decided to create a protective network using the Earth's power points as conduits. The one at Stonehenge is a master point and it was chosen to be the hub. The Hallows Stone is the most important part in the network. It holds it together. That is why Parliament was located there."

Harry frowned. "But why was it taken? It was Voldemort who took it wasn't it?"

"Between the three of us, we know it was him, but according to official sources we have yet to find out who was responsible. All of the security wards around the Stone and the buildings were systematically removed by, I believe, someone working in the Parliament -- only someone in a position of authority would have the information necessary to remove them. I have asked one of my Auror friends to check out the site because no one in the Ministry is willing to tell people what actually happened. The magic signatures are quite clearly Voldemort's even if the Ministry refuse to admit it."

"And it's Voldemort's work as well," Sirius quickly added. "Or his Death Eaters at least."

"Yes, quite possibly. Harry, the removal of the Stone means that the magic, which hides us from the Muggles, will slowly dissolve until they will be able to see everything. Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, all the places currently protected by unplottable magic, the hidden places. Voldemort knows this and he knows that as the magic dissolves people will become more and more fearful. And it is fear that he thrives on. Can you imagine what it would be like if non-magical people were to find out about Hogsmeade or Gringotts? Their fear of magic could lead them to do terrible things."

"No, that's not the case." Harry was shaking his head. "Muggles would just think those claiming to be wizards and witches were stupid or lying. I've seen it before on television. They'd just laugh at people."

"Like your aunt and uncle laugh at you?" Sirius interjected. "They laugh because these people have no real power, because they aren't truly magical. But imagine what people like the Dursleys would do if they suddenly found that there were real magical people living amongst them? Imagine if the people living near the Dursleys knew what you could do with just a flick of your wand?"

"Oh."

"Yes. They would start with small things. 'Go on, Harry, turn that bird into a teapot.' Then they would realise it isn't just an illusion or a trick -- that you really did turn the bird into a teapot. So they would try something else. 'Make this piece of paper into money' or 'Turn this button into gold' or 'Make the guy I hate at work sick.' Before you know it, everyone will want you to do something for them, and when you refuse they will brand you as demented or selfish -- that crazy Harry Potter." Sirius sat back in his chair, the dark blue of his eyes almost black, and Harry knew he was thinking of those long years in Azkaban. "After a while they will start to be scared of you, and then one night someone will think it's funny to throw a stone through your window, or paint graffiti on the side of your house. You don't retaliate because you hope they will get fed up with taunting you. But soon someone is blaming you because their car won't start in the morning, or because their prize flowers didn't bloom. And the persecutions will begin all over again. Assuming, that is, the military don't find you and spirit you away in the dead of night to some secret location, where they will try to find out if you really do have some sort of gift."

Harry opened his mouth to speak, but realised he had no idea what to say. In the end he whispered, "Why are you telling me this?" His hands were clenched tight, as if he already knew the answer.

"Because, my boy, Voldemort has left me a message in which he mentions you by name. In return for the Stone he wants you handed over to his 'care', as he puts it."

"No. You wouldn't..."

"Of course not." Dumbledore reacted out and patted Harry's hand. "You are safe under the protectorate of Hogwarts. I have made it quite clear to the Minister of Magic that you are not a bargaining chip. But as I said earlier, it does mean we will have to deal with certain matters." The older man reached into his robes and began searching for something.

For a moment, Harry watched him before his eyes moved furtively to meet Sirius' expressive face. He swallowed. "Sir, do we know if I went to him ... to Voldemort ... whether he would return the Stone ... if it meant everyone else would be safe..."

Dumbledore's sparking blue eyes met Harry's green gaze. "That is very brave of you and I would expect nothing less, but I am sure your sacrifice would not be rewarded by the return of the Stone. I believe Voldemort has other plans for the Stone and has no intention of returning it. He has only made this demand because he knows it will waste time and cause dissention. While people are arguing over you, Voldemort will be carrying on with his plans. Besides, he knows full well that another network can be created as soon as the right people have been gathered. Assuming that is, they are willing to perform the necessary rites. So there is no need to offer yourself."

Harry took a deep breath and studied the eyes that were watching him. For a moment he felt a shiver of concern run up his spine. "There's something else." It wasn't a question.

The Headmaster pursed his lips as he finally found what he was looking for in his pockets. He placed the roll of parchment on the table. "Harry, I want you to do something for me. Look at these three stones and tell me if you see anything unusual in them."

The boy frowned at the sudden change in conversation. He cast a wary glance at his godfather before looking at the stones. "No, nothing."

"Are you sure?"

"They're just stones." He reached forward and picked up the one that glowed. "This one must have some sort of quartz in it. It's picking up the light from the candles."

"Do you notice anything else about it?"

"No, it's..." His frown deepened and he held the stone between his hands, gently rubbing the surface. "It feels warm, and..."

The images crashed into his mind with such a force, it felt like he had flown into a brick wall.

Blood. Screaming. Curses. Broken bodies. Pain.

PAIN.

The stone slipped from nerveless fingers as he stared in wide-eyed horror about him. He was there amidst the carnage of what had begun as individual images but was now his reality. He could smell the blood ... feel the pain ... hear the cries for mercy.

And feel the darkness that was Voldemort stalking him down.

He thought he must have been hyperventilating because he didn't think he could breathe and it felt like he was about to pass out. Then he realised there was a hand on his shoulder and he tried to get away from it, to escape from the illusion that had become his entire world.

The grip tightened and Harry found himself falling. Falling from the pain and darkness back into the safety of the Headmaster's study at Hogwarts. He heard a familiar voice first that sounded like it was coming from a great distance. As it got closer, it drowned out the screams and finally he looked up into the eyes of his godfather.

"Sirius." He struggled to breathe and realised that he was curled up on the chair, grasping at his legs as though trying to get into a tight ball. "What..." Green eyes flicked to Dumbledore who was standing on the other side of his chair, then back to his godfather. "What happened?" His voice was a hoarse whisper, as though he had been shouting and screaming.

Sirius had crouched down at Harry side, a hand resting reassuringly on his godson's arm. "It's okay. Just take it easy for a moment."

Dumbledore reached out and touched Harry's hair, the gesture soothing. "Here, drink this. It will help with the shock." He handed a small glass vial to the boy.

Harry looked at it suspiciously, but finally swallowed the clear liquid. Dumbledore returned to his chair, but Sirius remained at Harry's side. The stone lay on the floor and for a moment Harry thought the markings on it looked like a face, smiling malevolently up at him. "What the hell was that?" he finally croaked.

"Can you tell us what you saw?"

"Saw?" Taking off his glasses, Harry pressed a hand against his closed eyes. It was as if the images were imprinted on the inside of his eyelids. "I saw a battle. There were Death Eaters and they were torturing people." He gave a small involuntary shudder and rubbed at his scar. "And Voldemort was there."

"Was there anything else? Think carefully, my boy."

Eyes still closed, Harry's head dropped against the back of the chair. "Can ... Can you give me the stone again?" He felt it pressed back into his hands and almost instinctively he gathered it closer to him. Eyelids sprang open and brilliant green eyes stared straight ahead. They moved as if he was watching something playing out before him. "There's blood. Blood all over the place. And they are being killed on the Stone ... the one in the picture. Voldemort used them ... used their blood ... to unbind the Stone." He let out a small choked sigh. "They've taken the Stone away -- northwards."

Harry finally fell silent and it was a few minutes before he was able to look at either the Headmaster or his godfather. When he finally did, he spoke with an unsteady voice. "They took the Stone northwards." The two adults looked at each other. "How did I know that?" He put the stone down as if it was made of delicate porcelain. "How did I know any of this?"

The Headmaster picked up the small stone and studied it for a moment before holding it up towards Sirius. "What do you see?"

"A stone. Exactly the same as the other two." Sirius came to his feet and returned to his chair. He saw Harry frown at his reply. "There's no glow or crystal in it. Just an ordinary stone."

"As I do. Three plain perfectly ordinary stones. Yet you picked this one out because you knew it was different. You said it glowed." Harry nodded. "We don't see that. In fact if you showed this stone to anyone in the school I doubt they would see anything unusual in it. Nor would they see visions."

"But I'm not psychic or anything like that. I've never seen anything in a crystal ball."

"You have shown some remarkable talents. You have precognitive dreams for instance. And you have an extraordinary flying ability."

"I'm no better than others ... Draco Malfoy for instance."

"Mr Malfoy did not climb onto a broom for the first time at 11 years of age and fly with the ease and competence of someone who has been using a broom since before they could walk. You did. Harry, you are able to tap into any broom's magic in a way I only seen a couple of times in my life. Others can do it if they receive the right training, but in you it is a natural inborn talent."

Harry shrugged. "I just love to fly."

"And to be outside?" Harry nodded. "You mentioned Earth magic earlier. We all know it exists. Have you ever gone into the castle grounds and felt like you could feel things growing around you? Or ever been aware of an approaching storm before it arrives? That is an ability we all have to be able to sense our connection to natural magic. Some people can do more than just sense it, Harry. They have the ability to be able to use it. To manipulate it, make it flow when darkness has blocked it. There are even stories of Earth magic practitioners in the past who could control the weather, direct thunder and lightning, and even raise a storm at sea. I have never met someone with those skills. In fact, some even say such practitioners only ever existed in legend. We only know of people who can direct passive Earth magic these days, who can use it as a healing energy, or connect with it.. One Earth magic skill is the ability to read the land."

Dumbledore hefted the stone. "This type of stone is known as a Dream Stone. The Earth is a living, breathing being who can be injured just as you or I. Sometimes she can carry an imprint of what has happened to her. These three stones came from Stonehenge and the one you were able to read has been imprinted with the events that happened there a few days ago. The other two are just stones, though I think you will sense innate magic in them which neither your godfather nor I would ever be aware of. I knew one of these was a Dream Stone, but not which one or what images were imprinted on it. The strongest images are those of violence because of the force of the emotion involved, but an experienced Reader can also find more pleasant memory imprints." He held the stone out towards Harry. "This ability is your gift."

Harry gave a small bitter laugh. "You call that a gift?" The images were still fresh in his mind as though he had just experienced them. They filled him with horror and pain.

"Yes, it is a gift. A very rare and powerful skill that many have tried to master, but few have had success with. You have been tapping into the Earth's power all your life, my boy, even before you picked up your first wand and learned how to focus your magical energy. Do you remember telling me about the Philosopher's Stone and Voldemort's final attack on you before he left?"

He nodded. After Professor Quirrell's death, Harry had thought he was safe, but then something had flown at him. He had felt it pierce though his heart as if it was trying to splinter him into a million pieces. It had been Voldemort's essence, strengthened just enough by the unicorn blood to escape, but not before one final attack. "Yes, I remember."

"You were holding the Stone at the time and without realising in your moment of need you tapped into its Earth magic and you survived. If you learned to tap into that energy at will, you would be able to use it for many things, including healing places Voldemort's armies have damaged and left in ruin."

"And that's why I'm here, Harry." Sirius leaned forward in his chair. "Animagus magic is drawn from a similar source. The user has to be able to control his magical powers without the focus of a wand. I'm going to help you learn to control the energies."

"But..." Harry tried to talk, the words sticking in his throat. But what if I don't want to? What if I want to just be an ordinary boy without anything else that's special? Instead his words came out as, "But why me? How do you know I can do this?"

"Harry, have you ever wondered why Voldemort tried to kill you as a baby?"

Harry could feel a headache growing, tension building at the back of his neck. "Yes, of course I have."

"Then I want to tell you about a prophecy." The old man reached for the scroll of parchment.

********************

Draco stood beside his cauldron, tapping his fingers on the desk. If he'd had a watch, he would be checking the time, but the one his father had given him for his fourteenth birthday was back in his room and currently not working. Harry had to be at least ten minutes late for the Potions class. The Gryffindor hadn't been at breakfast either, nor had he taken part in the quite ridiculous Quidditch practice, which Draco had gone to watch.

He hadn't slept after leaving the Astronomy Tower. Instead he had sat in his chair in front of the fire watching the flames and thinking about Harry and what had happened. Harry's answers to his questions -- yes, he had enjoyed Sunday and yes, he wanted to do it again -- and his obvious enthusiasm had been just about overwhelming, and Draco really did need to talk to him again. Watching Harry fly had seemed to be a good idea. Unfortunately Harry hadn't shown up, so Draco had spent the time convincing himself he was watching Gryffindor purely as research for their up and coming game.

A voice drifted across the classroom and Draco cast a look back at the owner. Weasley. The Gryffindor really was a pathetic Quidditch captain and the biggest pain in the neck Draco had ever had the misfortune to know. He had already hated Weasley before the incident in the Entrance Hall, but after his untimely interruption in the Astronomy Tower, Draco wanted nothing more than to kick the shit out of him. Or rather get Crabbe and Goyle to do it for him. Draco didn't do physical violence. He had gotten some of his own back earlier during the Gryffindor practice. Weasley had thought he'd fallen off his broom, but it had been Draco who was responsible for the accident. A carefully placed memory spell had made Weasley forget what he was doing for an instant, and he had slammed into the upright pole of one of the goal rings.

Draco smirked at the new Head Boy, waggling his eyebrows and indicating the graze across Weasley's face. Weasley glared back, blue eyes blazing. He watched as the redhead clenched his fist and mouthed a retort. Draco's response was a sweet smile, which clearly upset the Gryffindor even more. Weasley took a step forward, but any further confrontation was deflected as the classroom door swung open and slammed against the wall with a loud crash.

The entire class looked up and watched as a clearly anxious Harry Potter rushed in. They watched with interest as Harry stopped before Professor Snape's desk, the Slytherins rubbing their hands expectantly at the thought of The Boy Who Lived getting a detention for his tardiness.

Draco scrutinized Harry, eyes narrowed thoughtfully. The Gryffindor was a mess. He was breathing hard as if he'd been running and his hair was in more disarray than normal. It looked like he had dressed hurriedly, and the shirt he was wearing was the one with the frayed collar. The hushed but clearly animated conversation between student and professor carried on for several minutes, and when Harry finally turned round, there was a dark look on his flushed face.

Harry didn't look at Draco as he came to their shared desk. He put down his bag and turned to give Hermione a little smile. She looked at him, the question on her face clear -- Is everything okay? He nodded briefly before turning back to Draco. "Sorry I'm late."

"Problem?"

"Nothing to concern yourself with." Harry took the scroll they had completed in the Astronomy Tower and tossed it on the desk. "Let's get on with this."

Draco paused, taken aback by the change in Harry. It was like he was working with a different person. The normally expressive face was completely passive as he got on his work, eyes missing their normal sparkle. Harry allowed Draco to lead in everything, not arguing, not criticising, and just doing what he was told. In fact, he didn't make any decisions himself, seemingly content to follow instructions. Draco watched him, wondering what was wrong. Was this because of last night, or was it something else?

And why hadn't Snape punished Harry for being so late?

They continued in silence until Harry made a mistake. He was slicing the paeony root when the knife slipped, cutting his finger. "Dammit." With a hiss of pain, he shoved the finger in his mouth, sucking on the injury. He swept the now useless blood-splattered root to one side and looked for something to wrap around the injury.

"What have you done now?" Draco appeared in front of Harry, his words were suitably sarcastic but the hand that reached for Harry's wrist was gentle.

"It's only a cut. I'll get some more root from the storeroom." Harry pulled the hand away. "Just leave me alone."

Draco stepped back, surprised by the response. "Okay." He spun round to the cauldron.

For a moment Harry stared at Draco, vaguely aware of the stiffness of the boy's back. With a sigh of relief, he turned on his heel and fled to the storeroom. Once inside, Harry dived to the rear of the room, as far away from the entrance as possible. Now out of sight, he leaned against a shelf, resting his forehead on the wood. It smelled of oak and a mixture of herbs and spices that had been stored on it over the years, and he breathed it in. He tried to recognise the individual scents, wanting something ... anything ... to take his mind off of the conversation he'd had with Dumbledore.

The sheet of parchment Dumbledore had given him burned in his pocket. It felt heavy, as though it contained the weight of the world, and as he stood there, Harry wondered if that was the case. Dumbledore was convinced the prophecy was about Harry; that it had shaped the young man's life since before he was even born.

He pulled the sheet out and smoothed it between his fingers. In the gloom, the words seemed to burn out of the paper, almost shimmering.

When the Millennium is not dead, but dying

The Serpent will rise and cast the land into Darkness

And the People will walk in fear of Death's Flight.

The Lion will lose its voice

The Raven will lose its flight

The Badger will dwell in blindness.

When the Serpent's coils tighten their hold

And Darkness embraces the world

A new star will rise to light the land.

Born of the People

His father a Son of the People

His mother a Daughter of the Lowly

His sun will be in the sign of the Lion

His horizons balanced between Darkness and Light

He will walk among the Lowly

And know their ways.

Born of the People

To the People he will return

Reborn through Phoenix Fire

And Dragon's Tears

Restraining the Serpent within

He will be the Lion with a voice heard across the land

On the day he roars, the Raven will take flight

And the Badger will see again

The Lion will heal the land

In the places Darkness has touched

And the Serpent will be tamed.

"Potter?"

Spinning at the voice he recognised instantly as Draco's, Harry crumpled the parchment and shoved it into his pocket. He said nothing as the Slytherin threaded his way through the shelves to where he stood. The blond finally stopped just a few feet in front of him. "Malfoy." The single word was very quiet, lost amidst the bottles and bags of herbs and ingredients.

"The paeony root's over there." Draco pointed to a shelf closer to the door.

"I know. I'm just getting it."

"No you're not. You're skulking in the dark. What's wrong?"

"Nothing."

"Is this about last night?"

"No," Harry hissed, the dark shadows masking his face. "Not everything is about you." He started to push past the Slytherin, but Draco's hand shot out, fingers splaying across Harry's chest, blocking his path. "Just leave me alone."

"Why were you late? And why didn't Snape give you a detention?"

Harry stared at the hand on his chest for a moment before turning his emerald eyes onto Draco. "This has nothing to do with you. Please just let me get on with this bloody potion and get out of here."

Had Harry slumped a little? Draco tilted his head slightly and met the gaze. He thought Harry looked like he might cry or was pleading for help and understanding. "Harry."

"Don't. Just don't. Not now." Reaching for the hand that was still on his chest, Harry's fingers curled around the slender pale hand. "I can't tell you."

Draco's free hand reached for Harry's tie, using it to pull the Gryffindor towards him. "Then don't. It doesn't matter." The inches separating them were closed as Draco leaned forward and swept his lips across Harry's down-turned mouth. He heard Harry give a mmmph of protest.

The unexpected kiss made Harry stumble backwards, the hold on his tie pulling Draco with him. He fell back against a freestanding rack of shelves, felt it wobble against him, and grabbed for the Slytherin as he lost his footing. As his hands twisted in the material of Draco's robes, he was vaguely aware of the shelves tumbling away from him as their momentum propelled him backwards. The shelves crashed to the floor with an explosion of shattered glass. Harry let out a grunt of pain as the sack of herbs he had landed on split open, showering him with dried rose petals, and a louder cry as Draco slammed down on top of him.

For a moment both boys lay unmoving, staring at each other amid the carnage of broken bottles and split packages. As dried herbs settled about them, crowning both with greens and reds, Draco sat up.

And that was how Professor Snape found them.

Harry Potter sprawled on the floor, his glasses askew and his dark hair peppered with rose petals.

Draco Malfoy, his usually immaculate robes dragging off one shoulder, sitting astride the Gryffindor's hips, with the Harry's red and gold tie still twisted around his hand.

They watched the professor as he slowly folded his arms and surveyed the scene before him. "Get up, both of you."

Draco quickly released the tie and, giving Harry a quick look, he scrambled to his feet. Harry pulled himself onto his knees and scrabbled to straighten his glasses. When he finally got to his feet, he carefully stepped an arm's length away from Draco.

"Tell me, please," Snape began as he stepped towards the two boys, "why it is that everyone else manages to work in relative harmony while you two insist on disrupting almost every lesson?"

Draco opened his mouth to reply, but quickly realised the question was rhetorical.

"I will not tolerate fighting in my classroom. Do you both understand?" He stared at each boy in turn, waiting for a response. They nodded in unison. "You will both clear up this mess and I want an inventory of what you have ruined. Which, I might add, you will pay for. You will remain here until you have finished, even if it takes you the rest of the day. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir."

"And you will complete your potion during your own time in detention."

Draco's mouth opened in shock. Another detention? What the hell was his father going to say? "Professor Snape... Please..."

Harry, of course, didn't really care about yet another detention, but he did like the mortified look on Draco's face at that moment. And hearing him plead with his Head of House almost made it worth getting in trouble. A dark smile flickered across his face.

"Just be grateful, Mr Malfoy, that I am not taking any house points from either of you. I will be writing to your guardians with the bill for this damage. Now, clean it up." With that, the Potions Master swept from the room.

Harry was already beginning the thankless task when Draco came out of stunned shock. "He's writing to my parents," the Slytherin muttered to himself.

"He can write to my uncle and aunt, but they won't send a Sickle." Harry watched as Draco slumped down to the floor, his normal grace completely absent in his current dejected state. "Come on, the quicker we do this, the quicker we can get out of here."

"And he's given me another detention."

"You'll survive." Harry leaned forward and plucked a couple of rose petals from Draco's hair. "At least you haven't just been told you're expected to save the Wizarding world yet again."

"What?"

"Nothing. It doesn't matter." Suddenly his conversation with Dumbledore didn't seem quite so urgent. He would deal with it later. At the moment he was seated in a cupboard with Draco and all he really wanted to do was hold him, to fall into that safe embrace. His hand closed around the back of Draco's neck and he stared into the grey eyes. "I guess this isn't a good time to ask you to kiss me again is it?"

********************

It took the best part of two hours to clear up the mess in the storeroom, and the list of ruined ingredients and broken bottles grew and grew. It looked like that little kiss was going to be very expensive. Harry had noticed the twitch of a smile on Snape's face as they had handed over the parchment listing the damages. The Potions Master knew that Harry would be paying for his share because there was no way the Dursleys would foot the bill.

He had managed to get through lunch, DADA and Divination before returning to the dungeons to start on the Night Dew Potion all over again. Draco had responded to his comment about a kiss, letting Harry gently touch his mouth, but that had been it. After a couple of seconds, the Slytherin had almost pointedly pulled away, making it very clear he was not happy with Harry in the slightest. Things had all gone downhill from that point and their conversation both during the clean up and preparing the potion had been limited to potion-related comments.

Dinner had been over by the time he and Draco had finished, but fortunately he'd lost his appetite by then. All he wanted to do now was to disappear and find somewhere to hide and contemplate what Dumbledore and Sirius had told him.

His hideaway turned out to be a small room at the top of Gryffindor Tower, which no one else ever seemed to visit. It had been some weeks since he had last been there, and a thin layer of dust carpeted the floor of the empty room. He crossed to the small window seat and sat down, his knees hugged to his chest, and stared out into the darkness.

In front of him was the dream stone. It still glowed with that strange inner light as though taunting him about how he would always be "The Boy Who Lived" and never be just another wizard. He wanted to throw it out of the window, to let it be lost in the darkness, but he couldn't. It was like it somehow owned him now. Just like everything and everyone else.

Harry Potter -- a commodity to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. To be used and abused by anyone who felt like it.

He took off his glasses and kicked at the stone. It skidded off the window seat and landed on the floor some distance away. Even without his glasses, he could see the dusty floor illuminated by the stone. Dumbledore had said the stone would glow until all its images had been removed. Only then would it return to being just an ordinary stone again.

How many images would Harry have to read before he could be an ordinary boy again?

He let his forehead drop to his knees and took a shuddering breath. What wouldn't he give to feel Draco's arms around him now, that safe sure hold. Why was it that of all the people he could feel something for, it had to be Draco Malfoy? How could he ask Draco to choose?

Death Eater, Dark Arts, The Malfoy Family, The Malfoy Fortune?

Phoenix Fire, The Light, Earth Magic, An Orphan Boy?

"Harry."

He jumped at the sudden voice, wondering how he hadn't heard the door open. Red hair glowed in the candlelight and he realised it was Ron. "Oh, hello, Ron."

"Are you okay? People have been worried." Ron shrugged a little. "Well, by people I mean Hermione."

"I needed to think." Ron was by his side now, and Harry moved his feet so that his friend could sit down.

"About what Professor Dumbledore wanted to see you for?" Harry nodded. "Can I help?"

With a shrug Harry put his glasses back on. "I'm not supposed to tell anyone."

"Okay."

They sat in silence for a few minutes, both staring out into the darkness. Harry mused over what the Headmaster had said to him about secrecy. Could it really hurt if he confided in his best friend? He'd always told Ron everything in the past -- well, almost everything. Finally Harry held out the creased sheet of parchment. "Dumbledore thinks this is about me."

Ron took the parchment, trying to keep his face completely neutral. It couldn't be what he thought it was, could it? Did Harry finally know about the very thing Ron had been studying for the last year? Angling it so he could read it in the dim lighting, Ron licked his lips. He knew the words by heart, or at least the version of the prophecy he had access to. When the Millennium is not dead, but dying... Yes, it was the same one.

"A prophecy?" He finally responded, hoping his voice conveyed sufficient surprise. Harry nodded. "And it's supposed to be about you?" Another nod. "How old is it?"

"Dumbledore said the first recorded version was about 750 years ago."

"Did he give you an interpretation?"

"Oh yes."

"Okay. So, why don't you tell me what he said? When the Millennium is not dead, but dying. The Serpent will rise and cast the land into Darkness. And the People will walk in fear of Death's Flight."

Harry straightened. "The end of the Millennium -- the last hundred years of the 20th century. The Serpent is Voldemort. He rose to power in the 70s and I don't think there are many who would say people weren't afraid of him. Death's Flight is one of the meanings of Voldemort's name."

"The next bit is pretty obvious," Ron shrugged. "The Lion will lose its voice. The Raven will lose its flight. The Badger will dwell in blindness. It's basically saying that anyone not on Voldemort's -- the Serpent's -- side, will be defeated."

"And, the next bit: When the Serpent's coils tighten their hold, and Darkness embraces the world, a new star will rise to light the land. The saviour of the Wizarding world will be born when Voldemort is at the height of his powers. Guess who Dumbledore thinks that is?"

"A certain green-eyed wizard?" Harry nodded. "Born of the People." Ron shrugged. "The People is an old name for Wizards. His father a Son of The People. Pretty obvious. His mother a Daughter of the Lowly. The Lowly are Muggles."

"And my mum was Muggle-born."

Ron tapped his finger on the sheet. "This next bit is to do with astrology. His sun will be in the sign of the Lion. His horizons balanced between Darkness and Light. Your sun sign is Leo and your Ascendant is Libra, the scales. The Ascendant is like a horizon in a chart and this one is about balance -- light and dark."

"Thanks, friend. I don't really need someone else to verify what Dumbledore has already said."

"It's what I'm here for, remember? He will walk among the Lowly, and know their ways. This is you living with your uncle and aunt?"

"Skip on down, I'll come back to that in a minute."

"Okay. Born of the People, To the People he will return, Reborn through Phoenix Fire and Dragon's Tears. Well, the People references -- that would be you coming back to the Wizarding world when you started here at Hogwarts. That could be like a Phoenix being reborn - you starting a new life here. Dragon's Tears? I don't get that bit, but there was something in Divination I think that mentioned Tears of the Dragon." He frowned thoughtfully. "I will have to check my notes. Restraining the Serpent within." Ron shrugged. "That could be to do with being a Parselmouth I suppose."

Harry shrugged as well, not wanting to voice something he had never told Ron. That he had nearly been sorted into Slytherin. That within him were qualities Ron despised. Yet were they? He couldn't change what he was, and maybe it was time to stop denying that other part of himself which helped give him to strength and determination to overcome the odds. Plus, he reminded himself, that little bit of recklessness that made him jump in were others feared to tread. "It could be."

"The rest of this stanza is about people overcoming the Serpent."

"Then it goes on about how I'm supposed to save everybody."

"And what's so unusual about that? You seem to have been trying to save everyone for years. But why do you think you are going to kill Voldemort? It says here: And the Serpent will be tamed. It doesn't actually say you'll be doing the taming. It does say: The Lion will heal the land in the places Darkness has touched. That is different from you destroying You-Know-Who. Did Professor Dumbledore make any reference to this bit about healing the land?"

Harry shook his head, deliberately not replying to the question. He had the sudden need not to tell Ron about the Earth magic and the implications of it.

Ron pursed his lips thoughtfully at Harry's mute response, smoothing the sheet of parchment between his fingers. "Do you want me to look into this a bit more?"

"Would you? Thanks. Apparently this is why Voldemort tried to kill me."

"What?"

"While he was off studying his Dark Arts stuff, he kept finding references to a prophecy that foreshadowed his destruction. He's supposed to have spent ages trying to find out who it referred to and in the end he decided it was me."

"Harry..."

"He killed my parents because of some fucking 750 year old bit of text and that is why he wanted to kill me as well. Kill me before I could carry out the prophecy. At least that's what Dumbledore thinks. And guess what, the bloody thing nearly came true. I did nearly kill him." The bitterness in Harry's voice was suddenly biting as he stared blindly out of the window. "And do you know what the worst thing is, Ron? Dumbledore decided that Voldemort probably wasn't dead, so in order to fulfil the prophecy he arranged for me to be raised by The Lowly. That's why he sent me to live with my aunt and uncle." He turned back to face his friend, the hurt in his eyes almost palpable. "There were Wizarding families who would have taken me in ... who wanted to take me in after Voldemort's attack, but Dumbledore still sent me to live with people who hated me almost as much as the Dark Lord did."

Ron started to reach out a hand towards his friend, but in the end draw it back.

"Ron, I don't want this. I've never wanted this."

"Harry, there are ways to deal with this, you know. People who would help you. Dumbledore isn't the only person with answers.

"Sure, like who?" Ron opened his mouth to respond but fell silent as Harry continued. "I have a dream sometimes where I've always known I was a wizard and never had this bloody scar. I live with my parents in a house like the Burrow and have brothers and sisters. My dad works for the Ministry and my mum invents charms. I have friends who are from Wizarding families and I play with toy brooms and love to degnome the garden. Dad would take me to Quidditch matches and I'd know all about Hogwarts and Diagon Alley. People wouldn't know who I was and no one would keep saying I was special."

"But you are special, Harry. Even if things had been different, you still would be. It's in your star chart."

Harry swallowed, his throat working as he tried not to cry. "All I ever wanted was to just be an ordinary kid."

********************

Cloud stormed into the room, his face animated with a cross between excitement and fear. He all but stumbled to the desk and flung a crumpled sheet of parchment onto the cluttered surface.

"Dumbledore's told him. He knows about the prophecy."

Shadow looked at the scruffy sheet of parchment and eventually picked it up. "Don't you ever think?" He didn't look at his young charge. "There could have been someone in here with me. You know the procedure for contacting me."

"I know, I'm sorry but this is important. Not only does he know about it; but also this version is different. Look at the ending. The one I have says he will destroy the Serpent. This one doesn't even mention him killing the Dark Lord. It says someone will tame him, but not that it's the Lion."

Shadow glanced down to the relevant lines, pushing Cloud's pointing finger out of the way. "It's an interesting change of wording. What did he say about healing the land?"

"Nothing. He said Dumbledore didn't talk about it."

"We have to know. Make sure he tells you everything." Cloud nodded. "Now, sit down and make me a copy of this." He gave the younger man a paternal pat on the arm. "And well done. You have done very well."

********************

Thursday 26th February 1998

It had been another freezing night in a succession of late winter frosts. In fact, Harry decided, February 1998 had probably contained almost every weather type known to man. Torrents of rain, gales that had sent trees in the Forbidden Forest crashing to the ground, delightful sunshine, warm enough to sit outside in, and now bone-chilling cold.

The sky was just beginning to lighten in the east as Harry walked along the edge of the Forest. Everything around him was painted with frost so thick it almost looked like snow. The frozen grass crunched underfoot and his breath formed clouds of white about him. He could feel the cold colouring his cheeks red and he tugged both his scarf and hood closer about him.

Some distance ahead a large black dog frolicked across the landscape. It would rush back and forth between the fringes of the Forest and the grassy surrounds. Occasionally it would rush towards him, leaping around his feet before lolloping off again. Harry smiled at the sight, loving the fact that this particular dog was finally able to run free.

It rushed back past him again and Harry was tempted to find a stick to throw. He paused, studying the ground and finally found something suitable.

"Don't even think about it. I do not fetch sticks."

Harry grinned up at his godfather, now transformed from his Animagus form into the tall longhaired human. "I was looking for something to throw into the lake."

"I bet. Your dad always threw sticks. He used to think it was funny. Of course I never ever went to fetch them." Sirius put his arm around Harry's shoulder, steering him onto a little pathway that lead into the Forest. "Well, there were a few I guess. There was this particularly nice stick I remember. It landed in the lake just as Severus was walking by. I couldn't resist it. I bowled him over on the way down and then when I came out of the water I almost drowned him." Harry laughed at the image. "Of course Severus didn't know we'd learned Animagus transformation so he reported that there was a dangerous dog on the grounds. James spread the rumour that Severus had fallen into the lake while trying to catch the giant squid and was just using the dog sighting as an excuse."

"Did you ever like him?"

"Severus?" Harry nodded. "Mr Potter, you should know better than to ask one professor personal questions about another professor." Sirius' voice was full of mock severity. "I've never 'liked' him. He's a conceited bastard who always thought he was better than everybody else. He still thinks he is." The older man came to a halt in a small glade. It was dark amid the trees, but the circle of sky visible above the clearing was already tinted with the rising sun. "Here we are."

Harry stayed still in his godfather's embrace, leaning against his side. Why, he wondered, did Sirius' description of Snape sound so much like Draco? He suddenly wanted to tell Sirius everything, but knew this wasn't the moment to come out to anyone, least of all his godfather. Instead he looked up at the taller man. "So, what have you got planned for today and why are we standing in the Forbidden Forest at such a god-awful hour in the freezing cold?"

"I have to admit it seemed like a good idea yesterday, but then I was in a room with a nice fire at the time." He guided Harry towards the centre of the glade. "I have a scenario for you to consider."

"Okay."

"You and someone else are being chased down by Voldemort's Death Eaters while you are out working on something. It's a morning like this and you are both exhausted. Finally you lose them in the woods and manage to find this place. You are both frozen. What will you do?"

"A warming spell?"

"True. We could do that. But someone else could just end it with a simple Finite Incantatum, or they could block it with a spell you couldn't deal with."

"We could light a fire."

"And alert all the bad guys for miles around. Come on, Harry, what will you do? Both your lives depend on this." Sirius stepped away, leaving Harry in the centre of the glade. He folded his arms, studying the boy.

"First, I'd make sure we had some sort of protection." Harry drew out his wand.

"No, no wands. Remember, magic from wands can be traced. It leaves your magical signature screaming all over the countryside. Voldemort would track you down in a minute." Sirius began walking in a slow circle around his godson. He'd taught Harry a lot over the last week -- the boy was a very willing student -- but even Sirius was on new ground now. He spent his free time reading old texts with yellowing pages peppered with mildew, trying to understand concepts different from the magic he understood. There had been several occasions over the last week when he'd gone to Dumbledore trying to get the older man to understand he wasn't capable of teaching this to Harry. Most of all, Sirius was scared of letting his godson down yet again. As a guardian, Sirius had already decided he'd failed spectacularly years ago. Dumbledore, on the other hand, kept insisting that Sirius was the ideal person for this task.

So Sirius kept on with his mildewed books, trying to lead Harry to find the answers himself. And that was why they were currently stood in a frozen glade before sunrise.

He watched as Harry put away his wand. Clearly the boy had no idea what to do next. "I need you to remember the things we've done in the classroom, Harry. Just imagine your companion has been injured and that you need to protect him."

"I wish I was just learning how to be an Animagus. It's a bloody sight easier than this."

"Of course, but you would think that because you haven't actually done it yet." He came up behind Harry and rested his hands on his shoulders. "You are a phoenix, Harry, even if you never turn into one. Now, close your eyes and concentrate." He knew the boy had done as instructed without even seeing. "Find that connection with the Earth, visualise it if you have to, imagine it stretching from you into the ground. Don't think of this as a game. Make it real. Lives are depending on you. Who are you trying to protect?"

Sirius watched as Harry shifted slightly before bringing a clenched fist over his heart. "Myself." The voice sounded different, a little deeper than normal as he lapsed into an almost trance-like state, drifting deeper as he connected with the ancient magic.

"And?"

"The other one, The Dragon."

"Okay," Sirius allowed his voice to drop, a whisper in the crisp morning air, mingling with the breeze that ruffled the branches. "Remember that Earth magic is alive, you always ask, you never demand." He felt Harry lean back against him as slowly the glade pulsed with an ethereal glow. It could have been the sunrise finally filling it, but he was left with an impression of the grass rapidly growing, weaving itself into a canopy that stretched right over their heads, sealing them from the outside world.

Harry finally spoke. "Protection and ... warmth."

The whole structure suddenly disintegrated, causing them both to jump. They were back in the frost filled glade with the sun casting long shadows about them. For a moment neither spoke, then Harry turned a little so he could see his godfather's face. "Well, I guess you can have either protection or warmth, not both together."

"Good try." Sirius squeezed Harry's shoulder. "It was actually pretty impressive."

Harry shrugged. "What do you expect, I'm being taught magic by a Marauder. Now if you'd asked for protection and breaking into Professor Snape's prohibited potions ingredients store, I probably could have managed it." He grinned.

"Hmmm, I seem to remember there was some interesting stuff kept in there in my days. I wonder what Severus has in there now?"

"Should I try again?"

"What, you want to try to get into his ingredients store?" Sirius looked suitably shocked, but there was a sparkle in his dark blue, almost black eyes.

"No, of course not. I mean this whole protection and warmth thing."

"No, that's enough for now. Let's go and get breakfast. My feet are like lumps of ice."

"Well, as we aren't hiding from Death Eaters and I'm with a teacher taking a lesson, I guess I can do magic." With a flourish, Harry pulled out his wand and quickly used a heating charm on their clothes. "There, much easier."

Sirius grinned and gestured towards the glade opening. "Your mother knew some good warming charms and I remember one involved a bottle of brandy." He matched the boy's shorter stride as they walked. "So, Harry, who's The Dragon?"

********************

Friday 6th March 1998

"So, Harry, are you happy with the assignment?" Professor Lupin placed a hand on Harry's shoulder and gave it a parental squeeze. "The use of transfiguration when dealing with this is extremely important."

His own hands holding the roll of parchment, Harry scanned over the information for what seemed like the hundredth time. He knew he shouldn't have any problems with Advanced Defence Against The Dark Arts, but everything seemed to be running together these days.

Potions -- DADA -- Care of Magical Creatures -- Divination -- Charms -- Transfiguration -- Special lessons with Sirius

Draco.

Closing his eyes briefly, he tried to dispel the image that kept claiming his thoughts even when he should be studying. Especially when he was studying. Damn Malfoy for not speaking to him for over two weeks! Damn him for virtually ignoring him since that disastrous kiss in the Potions storeroom.

Of course, if he was entirely honest, it wasn't Draco's fault. Harry hadn't exactly gone out of his way to contact the Slytherin. He was sinking under the burden of work, especially now he had to find time spent each day for lessons with Sirius. The only real respite had been Ron's 18th birthday celebrations the previous Sunday. The party had lasted all day and it had been excellent. A hand absently rose to his face, pushing his hair from his eyes.

"Harry?" The pressure on his shoulder grew and Harry turned to meet the calm face of Remus Lupin. The gentle voice spoke again. "Is something wrong?"

"No, Professor. I'm sorry." Removing his glasses, Harry rubbed absently at his right eye. "Yes, I understand."

"Good." Lupin patted the shoulder before finally releasing it. "You'll be fine. You know all the answers already and are more than capable of dealing with this." He looked briefly at his pocket watch. "Goodness, is that the time, it's almost 10pm. No wonder you're tired. Now, off you go." With that he gestured at the two students in the otherwise deserted classroom. "Ron, you as well."

Clearing up his books, Harry looked across at his friend, seeing the same relieved expression on Ron's face. The extra DADA tutorials Professor Lupin ran were great, but on top of a full day's studying, it had left both boys feeling tired and drawn. "Thanks, Professor," Harry finally managed to say as he slung his book bag over his shoulder and stepped out from behind the desk to join Ron who was already half way to the door.

He nearly walked into Ron as the other boy came to an abrupt halt.

"Oh, there was something else, Professor." Ron turned back to face the tall thin-framed teacher. "Do you have another moment?"

"Of course."

"Thanks. I'll see you in the common room, Harry."

A tired smile played on Harry's face. "I think I'll head off to bed."

"Okay. Don't forget Quidditch practice in the morning."

The smile turned into a scowl. "Ron, it's Saturday," Harry's voice was almost a whine. Since Ron had been made team captain the previous year, he had run the team ragged with his intense training schedule. He was, Harry decided, even more fanatical than Oliver Wood had been.

"Slytherin in a week, Harry, in case you've forgotten."

"Of course not." Harry looked skyward. "See you at breakfast." With that, he turned and left the classroom.

The darkened corridors were deserted and Harry was grateful not to be surrounded by hundreds of fellow students. In fact he was grateful not to be surrounded by his friends. Since he had told Ron about the prophecy, his friend seemed to have become his constant companion. Whenever he looked around he would see those blue eyes watching him and that familiar voice asking, "All right, Harry?"

And that was another reason why he hadn't been able to talk to Draco. On the few occasions he'd been on his own, the Slytherin always seemed to be surrounded by people. He could send a note, of course, but somehow that seemed too needy ... almost desperate.

So there had just been the clich├ęd eyes meeting across crowded rooms. Looks which Harry found almost impossible to read.

Then there was the lying to his friends. He wanted to tell Hermione of the prophecy, but Ron had been adamant about keeping it secret. Hadn't that been what Dumbledore had told him to do? the Head Boy reminded Harry each time he wanted to tell their best friend. So Harry had kept the secret from Hermione and hadn't told Ron the real reason for his extra lessons with Sirius.

Lying to Hermione was the hardest thing. She was his rock at the moment, keeping him from sinking into depression as he tried to cope. It wasn't fair that he should treat her so badly and he would tell her everything, even about the Earth magic. Especially about the Earth magic.

His godfather was actually teaching four other Upper-Sixth students the intricacies of Animagus transformation. These lessons were one-to-one and it meant that Harry's extra-curricular studies went almost unnoticed. People had wanted to know what his animal form was, of course, but so far he'd managed to fob them off. He'd decided to put an end to the speculation by telling Dennis Creevey in jest that he was a phoenix. The young boy had listened intently when Harry had made him promise not to tell anyone else -- and then promptly gone and informed the whole of Gryffindor House. Of course it meant that people had stopped asking him. Instead he was occasionally greeting in one of two ways: "Wow, you're a phoenix, Harry", said with a voice full of awe and a sunny disposition; or "You're a phoenix, Harry, bloody typical", said with sarcasm and annoyance.

Finding himself in the Entrance Hall, Harry paused for a moment. The stairs leading up to the Gryffindor Tower were off to his right, but across the hall were the steps leading down to the Slytherin Dungeons. In his whole time at Hogwarts, he had only been down there once during the Polyjuice incident in his second year when he and Ron had pretended to be Crabbe and Goyle. They had used the potion to question Draco about the Chamber of Secrets and to find out if he was the Heir of Slytherin. It made Harry smile to remember it now and he wondered if Draco had ever known the truth. Maybe one day he would ask him.

Harry's smile turned thoughtful, as he had crossed to the top of the stairs leading to the Dungeons. What would Draco do if he turned up at the Slytherin Common Room? If he just turned up at the door and said, "Hi, I need to talk to Malfoy about our Potions homework"? That would probably take too much explaining. After all, what would a Gryffindor be doing skulking around the Slytherin domains at this time of night?

But he did have his wand, a perfectly usable invisibility cloak in his room, and a talented ability for summoning spells. Of course magic wasn't allowed in the corridors, but he remembered a certain get-out clause Fred had told him. If you read the rule a certain way it could be argued that the rule only applied during class time.

Pulling his wand from his bag, Harry pointed it in the general direction of the Gryffindor Tower. "Accio Invisibility Cloak."

********************

Draco was holding court. He was lounging on one of the more comfortable leather couches in the Slytherin Common Room with the Upper- and Lower-Sixth gathered around him, hanging onto his every word. He was in the middle of a story his grandmother had told him about a Malfoy ghost, and with most of the lights in the room out, he milked his audience for all it was worth.

Of course the story had been embellished over the version she had told him. After all, he had only been five at the time, but he knew enough other frightening tales to add to the mix, especially as there were a couple of Second Years at the edge of the gathering. It would serve them right if they had nightmares.

He paused in the tale as Dominic Purcell, a Fifth Year Prefect, sauntered into the room and dropped down in a free chair. He grinned at the crowd. "Guess who I caught in the Charms classroom?"

Draco glared at the newcomer for daring to interrupt his story and was just about to say something when he felt a strange sensation against his neck. It felt like a breath, but it couldn't be. Then, just as he was about to turn to see what it was, the breath condensed into words. "Squeak, squeak," the whispered voice muttered. Draco hadn't spent years learning how to hide his true feelings for nothing. It had to be Harry. Who else would have the gall to sneak into the Slytherin Common Room with a Prefect? And the invisibility spell was pretty impressive as well, especially for someone who'd never learned any form of Dark Arts. He continued listening to Purcell's tale of snogging Hufflepuffs, while a warm breath played across the back of his neck. The sensation caused a smile to turn up the corner of his mouth very slightly. As it continued, he found he had to cross his legs and adjust his clothing a little, the cool calm Malfoy exterior betrayed by his hot interior.

Finally, as Purcell finished, Draco stretched and sat up. There was a suitable mild commotion as he left because of the unfinished tale, and he was actually pleased for the interruption. 'Leave them wanting more' had been his motto for many years, and once again it was proving correct.

He set off towards his room, assuming 'Mouse' was following and hoping the idiot wouldn't end the invisibility spell until they were safely in his room. Nodding 'goodnight' to several people, he finally reached the heavy wooden door. He removed the wards and pushed the door open. A waft of air brushed passed him and he closed the door, shutting both himself and his secret visitor inside his own little world.

The cloak fluttered away from the Gryffindor and Harry dropped both it and his bag onto a chair. Draco watched as Harry turned slowly, taking in the room. "Wow, this is impressive. How did you manage to get your own room?"

"Connections," Draco responded. He folded his arms as Harry began wandering around, studying things but, thankfully, not touching. He'd heard that Harry had an invisibility cloak, but had never been sure if the rumour was true. "It was a bit stupid coming down here, even with your cloak." He frowned. "Where did you get it from?"

Harry was now standing in front of the wooden panel, which was still embedded with shards of crystal. The shards formed the rough outline of a human figure. "Interesting, if a little violent. Is that real blood?" He peered closer. "The Cloak belonged to my dad." Harry turned back, finally facing the Slytherin properly. "He left it for me. I had to wait outside your Common Room until someone came along who knew the password." There was a high colour along the Gryffindor's cheeks and he was breathing just a little too fast, as though he had been running. "I had a DADA tutorial and I was going back to my room when I thought that maybe we could ... well ... talk." He subconsciously licked his lips.

"Talk?" Why was it, Draco pondered, that whenever they 'talked', they always seemed to be on opposite sides of the room, with neither of them being willing to actually cross that great divide?

"Yes. Talk. About things."

Harry's hands were in his trouser pockets and Draco tried hard not to follow the limbs down from shoulder to fingertips. Did the dark-haired boy do it deliberately, or did he really have no idea of how alluring he could be just standing there doing nothing?

"Such as?" Draco crossed to his small desk and put down the book he was carrying. The move brought him closer to Harry. He noticed the way Harry was standing, his weight on his right leg so that the hip jutted forward just a little. A hand sneaked out of a pocket and fiddled with his glasses before pushing back in again, the jumper rucking up a little in the process.

"Just things. Like the detention. And ... things." Harry gesticulated, pulling his trousers tight across the front. He shifted his weight to his left leg.

"Yes, thanks for that. Another detention was just what I needed." He leaned back on the desk, resting against the tabletop.

"Well, I didn't know you were going to grab hold of me."

"And I didn't know you were going to knock over a shelf." He wondered for a moment whether to tell Harry how angry his father had been. Lucius had arranged a fire talk session and had admonished his son well and truly. He had refused to let Draco have a replacement broom and at the moment his birthday celebration looked in doubt as well. Draco still smarted from the session and it was one of the reasons he had done his utmost to keep away from Harry over the past 18 days.

And now here he was, in Draco's room.

"I'm sorry about your broom."

"Are you? I wasn't when Snape confiscated yours."

Harry smiled at him. "That's why I'm in Gryffindor and you aren't."

"I hear you're some sort of phoenix Animagus."

The smile broadened. "Where did you get that from?"

"Just around. That's why I'm in Slytherin."

"I guess that's true." Harry pulled his hands out of his pockets and rubbed them together thoughtfully.

"So if you aren't a phoenix, then what is your godfather teaching you to be?"

"We're working on it." Harry took a step closer. "You know, Draco, I was wondering something."

"What?"

"If we're going to stand here all night or whether you'd just like me to leave."

Draco realised his arms were wrapped tightly about him, almost squeezing the air out of his body. He swallowed. "That depends."

"On what?" Another step.

"Whether you want to stay or not."

"I'm here. I have used my Gryffindor boldness and cunning to get the Slytherin password. I think that deserves at least some sort of reward."

"Gryffindors aren't cunning. I think you're getting confused."

"No, I don't think so. The Sorting Hat always said I would have done well in Slytherin."

Draco looked momentarily surprised at the information and then he laughed, as if assuming Harry was lying. "You're joking. You? In Slytherin? You wouldn't have survived your first year."

Harry stopped right in front of him, his smile enigmatic. "I'm sure someone would have helped me out." He pushed his hands back into his pockets and tilted his head to one side, dark hair spilling messily about his face. "Well, I guess I should go. As Ron said, we've got Quidditch practice in the morning." He took another step and turned, his back now to Draco.

Who reached out and grabbed him around the waist.

Harry fell back against him, turning in his arms. Lips parted expectantly.

The kiss felt like an extension of the one from the Astronomy Tower. Hot, hard, desperate. Eighteen days, Draco murmured in his head before letting the two words drift from him into Harry.

"What?" Harry breathed against his mouth.

"Nothing." Draco pushed his hands into Harry's jumper, dragging it upwards. When Harry all but refused to pull away from his mouth, he roughly pushed him back. The Gryffindor became still, letting Draco free him from the confines of the garment. When he finally emerged from it, Harry's glasses had disappeared, caught in the jumper, and his hair stuck up messily, framing a face that was flushed with both excitement and desire.

Draco was very aware of the way he was breathing, the way it seemed to synchronize with the raise and fall of Harry's chest beneath his shirt. Harry stepped towards him again, but the Slytherin held him back, wanting to capture the image of how Harry looked at that moment. To commit it to memory and never, ever forget.

Naked eyes, bare emotions. Pupils large black pits dragging him in. Dark hair spilling like night, accentuating the sharp, flushed lines of his cheekbones. Mouth red, slightly open, lips wet from his tongue, which flicked subconsciously over them. The small framed body, adult yet still childlike. Shirttails dragged out on one side, still tucked neatly into his waistband on the other. Trousers just begging to be peeled away from the bulge that pressed into the material.

He reached out, taking hold of the shirt, and slipped a single button clear of its fastening.

Then the two fell onto each other, grabbing and pulling at clothes in an uncoordinated battle, which left Draco naked, and Harry on his knees. The desk crashed noisily against the wall as Draco fell back against the edge again, letting it take his weight. He grabbed for support as fingers closed around him and Harry's hot, wet mouth covered him.

Eighteen days.

********************

He awoke in semi-darkness, and for some time lay unmoving against soft warm skin.

It was a strange sensation, having another body pressed against him.

New. Different. Exciting. Comforting.

As his eyes grew accustomed to the shadows, Harry allowed his own skin to sense the touch of Draco's naked body against him. Both on their sides, chest-to-chest, legs entwined, arms wrapped haphazardly about each other. He could feel a warm breath ghosting across the hollow of his throat and he moved slightly so that his cheek rested against Draco's head. Soft pale hair mingling with his own.

He wondered how long they'd been asleep. Draco had picked him up after Harry had made him come, and laid him on the narrow bed. Bedding had ended up strewn on the floor as Draco had touched him, making him writhe and squirm under his hands, fingers touching and holding in just the right places. Knowing how to make him beg and plead and come.

Afterwards they lay side-by-side in silence as Harry tried to still his fast-beating heart. When Draco had suddenly sat up, Harry had clutched at him, not wanting to lose the warm touch of the other's body. Draco had just smiled at him before opening the drawer of his bedside table and taking out a small glass bottle.

He then whispered to Harry to turn onto his stomach and had slowly rubbed and massaged the oil into Harry's back, long slender fingers removing the tension from his muscles, and leaving him with a warm satisfied glow. It had been one of the most sensual things he could ever remember happening to him.

He didn't remember drifting into sleep, but he was left with the feeling that Draco had carried on long after he was no longer aware of the touch.

There was just enough light from the low-burning fire to highlight the naked form next to him. Unable to resist any longer, Harry ran the tips of his fingers along Draco's hip, his hand dipping into the curve of Draco's waist, before retracing its journey back to the thigh.

The skin was smooth, and Harry swallowed apprehensively as his hand cupped Draco's arse, his arm curving against the warm skin. The Slytherin sighed lightly and settled closer. It still made him nervous to touch Draco despite what they had now shared. Touching someone so intimately was ... was almost like giving part of himself away.

Harry became very still for a moment, not wanting to rouse the boy in his arms. Wanting to keep this moment sacred, locked inside him so that he could remember it in the dark days ahead. Locked together with the memory of Draco in his hands ... in his mouth; and the taste of Draco as he ran his tongue over the soft creamy skin. The sight of Draco's eyes watching him; grey ice mixed with the palest dusky blue, like a frost-covered mountain stream.

And the sounds Draco made -- soft mewling noises that Harry was sure he could feel reverberating through flesh. Quiet cursing and swear words. How Harry longed to make Draco scream out loud. To shout and moan and writhe and squirm -- all because of his touch.

Harry's hand on Draco's arse moved feather-light, fingertips occasionally dipping down into the gap. He wanted to feel the sensation of touching Draco's skin again. And to brush against that fine dusting of blond hair.

He chuckled to himself, realising that a question he had asked himself in his journal had been answered. Draco was, indeed, a natural blond.

"Care to share the joke?"

Harry whipped his hand from Draco's behind as if stung, and pulled away. "Nothing." His hand went instinctively to straighten his glasses, only to realise he had no idea where they were. The hand continued into his hair, trying to make the gesture of pushing it back from his face seem as natural as possible. "It was nothing."

"You don't have to stop either." Draco's voice purred deeply. "I was enjoying that." He ran his fingers down Harry's chest from throat to groin, pausing briefly to press lightly on his navel. Harry could feel the heat of their closeness before the fingers moved out across the Gryffindor's hip and onto his arse.

"How long have you been awake?" There was a hitch in Harry's voice as he spoke.

"A little while." The fingers moved between Harry's buttocks, pulling them slightly apart. Then suddenly Draco drew away, rolling over to sit on the edge of the bed before getting to his feet. He looked back over his shoulder. "You should go soon. Someone might notice your bed hasn't been slept in."

Harry was dazed by the sudden loss of contact, but he quickly pulled himself together. He propped himself up on his elbow and watched as the almost ghostly pale figure glistened in the firelight, gold upon silver as he crossed the room; skin stretching over muscle in taut synchronicity with each footfall.

God, he's beautiful.

Harry was shocked at the thought even as it echoed in his mind. Draco beautiful? He tried to push the idea away, but it remained tantalizingly at the forefront of his conscious thought, trickling back unexpected when he was least expecting it. A tiny thread of sanity reminded him he didn't have his glasses on, and that any illusion of beauty was therefore moot.

Look for beauty you can see properly, Harry.

But did he really need glasses to see that?

When Draco walked back to the bed, his eyes glinted, grey fire beneath the silver hair. He paused and still standing, reached for Harry's face, taking the waiting mouth with his own. Almost without thinking, Harry found himself on his knees, his own hands covering Draco's. The Slytherin didn't let go as he sat back on the bed and Harry climbed onto his lap, legs curling around the pale torso. The hands left his face, gathering him closer, pulling him against the warmth of Draco's body.

Touching from groin to lips, they held each other, the slow mutual caresses and kisses becoming more and more intimate as heat spiralled through their bodies. Mouths and fingers slowly explored, touching and caressing in mutual desire.

Harry basked in the sensation of Draco's touch. He loved how it made his body feel and his mind react and he just wanted to drown in the warmth it spread though him. Did Draco feel the same he wondered? Harry pulled back just enough to see the other's eyes and he thought he saw something in the icy depths. Was Draco as nervous as he felt? He always seemed so experienced, so knowledgeable. It was difficult to tell in the half-light. Harry held the gaze for a moment longer before pushing his hand through the tendrils of blond hair falling haphazardly around Draco's face.

Draco caught Harry's hand and pressed it against his lips. Harry gasped at the touch of tongue against his palm ... the feel of teeth along his fingers. And as Draco slipped the Gryffindor's index finger into his mouth, Harry's other hand dropped into his lap, fingers grazing over Draco's groin. He felt the mouth tighten around his finger as Draco sucked harder, the fingernails of the Slytherin's other hand digging into his back as he was pulled closer. In return, he nipped at Draco's shoulder and, when his finger finally slipped free of the hot mouth, Harry let his forehead drop against the warm curve of his neck.

Then Draco pushed his hand into Harry's hair and tugged gently. He looked up and met the grey eyes. "Do you still want me to go?"

He felt the hitch in Draco's breathing. "Did I say that?"

Lips brushed against each other, each touch deeper, harder, longer. Like the slow build of a storm or the moment a wave crests, just before it breaks onto the shore.

"That's good, because I don't want to go." He was so close to the Slytherin, all he could see were his eyes. All he could feel was his breath on his skin.

"Okay, but don't expect me to be responsible for you getting out of the Slytherin dungeons." The hand on Harry's back raked down his spine and pressed hard against the hollow of his back.

Harry tried to suppress a grin. "I got in on my own, so I think I can get out without any problem." He shifted a little and brushed his hand against Draco's erection. "Draco, I want..." Harry's voice faded as grey eyes held his gaze.

Draco remained very still, struggling not to respond. "What do you want?"

Swallowing, Harry tried to remain in control. He wanted Draco so much it hurt. If he didn't say this now he would lose his nerve. "I want you inside me."

"What?" The surprise in Draco's whispered voice was clear. "You don't have to do that."

"I know," his voice dropped, matching the level of his companion.

The breath seemed to catch in Draco's throat as he gathered Harry's slight form in his arms. "Oh, Harry." They were so close he could feel the beat of Harry's heart against his own chest. Could he walk away and never have this again? Never hold Harry close to him or feel those red lips press against his own skin?

It's just about sex, he reminded himself of his previous assertions.

But, what if it is about something else as well?

"Okay, if you're sure. But we'll do it my way." Draco drew back and raised a hand, pointing at the candles on a small side table and intoned quietly, "Lumos." They spluttered into life, filling the room with a soft glow.

Harry blinked in the sudden brightness after the near dark. "Do you really need more light?" He felt self-conscious.

"Of course." Draco's hands slipped down Harry's body. "I want to see you."

"Oh." The simple word was suddenly turned into a breathless sigh as Draco traced the tip of his tongue along Harry's jaw. He was lost again -- lost in the world of sensitised skin and warm caresses as Draco lips followed the line of his throat downward, soft fine hair brushing over his skin. He leaned back a little to give Draco more room as he kissed the pulse point at his throat, before sucking hard and marking him.

"Do it again," Harry finally managed to respond, his voice a whisper.

"Do what, Harry?"

"Mark me, but somewhere no one will be able to see it."

"Are you afraid of people asking where you got a lovebite from? Or are you expecting me to remove the others as well?"

"I just..." Harry could feel the blood rush to his face and he knew he must have been blushing. "Others?"

"Sure," Draco laughed lightly. "This one for example." He suddenly picked up Harry's arm, sucking hard just below the inner bend of the elbow. "Or here." A red mark bloomed at the base of Harry' neck.

"I don't want it removed." Harry's expression became coy and his voice husky. "I want it to stay there and for you to know it's there."

Draco looked at him and leaned close to his ear. "Lay down."

Gathering Harry in arms, Draco pushed him backwards and knelt over him.

Harry's arms dropped away from Draco's neck, and he smiled up, green eyes almost black.

Draco shifted down the bed; trailing a hand up Harry's inner thigh. Harry seemed to shiver beneath his touch, and when he finally stopped with the hand nestling high up on the right inner thigh, he heard an audible whimper. "Okay?"

"Yes."

"Good."

Draco's hand pushed at Harry's knee, bending his leg, and he leaned in to the soft pale skin on the inside of Harry's leg. He took time to run his hands and mouth over the skin, aware of the way the muscles tensed beneath his mouth. Then finally, almost overwhelmed by the taste and closeness he left three marks each about an inch apart high up on Harry's inner thigh. "There. Marked."

"Yes." The word was almost inaudible.

"Yes," Draco breathed back as rested his cheek on the marked skin. He crawled up Harry's body and leaned close to his ear. "Turn over."

"Like this?" Harry turned on to his stomach, head resting on his arms, legs slightly spread.

"Mmm," murmured Draco as he leaned down and bushed Harry's hair away from his neck. He kissed the pale flesh, letting his hands slowly rove over Harry's back as he followed the line of the boy's spine downward, tongue learning each tiny ridge. He had found out earlier where Harry liked to be touched, where he was ticklish, and what made him moan. This time, instead of his fingers, he used his lips and tongue and teeth to make the boy writhe and gasp. Draco had made him scream earlier and he wondered what noise he could extract from that wonderful mouth now.

Finally, he reached the small of Harry's back and lowered his head to the warm flesh.

"Harry."

At first there was no reply, then Harry let out one of the little squeaks that Draco found so endearing. It was not the noise one would expect from Harry the Hero under any condition. It was followed by a muffled "Yes?"

"Did you like that?"

"Mmmph," Harry managed to respond.

"Shall I carry on?" His question was rewarded by another squeak.

Sitting up, Draco reached for the bottle of oil he had used earlier and poured a small amount onto his palm before carefully rubbing both hands together. The sandalwood scented oil was one he used in his ritual magic and he wondered if he would ever be able to smell it again without thinking of Harry.

The oil quickly warmed and he slowly ran one hand down Harry's back, fingers tracing along the edge of each vertebrae. Moving the hand to the small of Harry's back, he placed his other hand next to it, holding them both still. He could feel the movement of muscles beneath the oiled skin; steady breathing interspersed by an occasional hitched gasp. Then slowly he finally moved, pushing both hands up towards Harry's neck and then down his sides. They became still again.

A groan of pleasure escaped Harry's lips, and Draco could feel it in his hands as the boy relaxed into his touch. He could see the tension flooding out of Harry's back, as he seemed to become boneless under his touch. In fact, Draco realised with a modicum of satisfaction, Harry didn't even seem to react when he slid his oiled fingers into the cleft between Harry's buttocks. This was, he decided, going to be very interesting.

Harry followed the rhythmic movements of Draco's hands over his body, basking in the sensation of being touched, the physical contact something he had long craved. He let out a long sigh of contentment, allowing his body to sink further into the soft mattress.

Coating his hand with a little more oil, Draco leaned down and ran the tip of his tongue along the shell of his ear. "Turn on your side, facing me," he whispered, his own hand pushing Harry's hip backwards.

"Mmmm, okay." The smaller boy settled on his left side, facing Draco who took the opportunity to kiss him.

"Closer." Harry wiggled a little nearer and Draco placed a hand onto his right hip, running it along the curve of his buttock. "Now, put your right leg over mine." As Harry shifted his leg, Draco ran his fingers down the back of his thigh, the pressure enough to bend the leg over his.

He kissed Harry, hand sliding into the cleft, his finger lingering for a moment before taking that final step.

Harry's gasp of surprise was lost in the shared kiss. He pulled back, a sob on his lips as he thought he might die or maybe fracture into a million pieces. For a heart stopping moment he tied to pull away.

Draco pulled him closer, kissing his temple, his eyes, his cheek. "It's okay," the silky, soft voice reassured tenderly. "Just relax."

"Draco," Harry gasps, fingers gripping into Draco's arms.

"I can stop." Draco kissed the corner of his mouth.

Harry's grip tightened even as he tried to settle down "No..." He whispered. "No, that's fine." He let out a gasp as Draco flexed the finger a little. He almost sobbed. The feeling of warm syrup he had experienced before was pouring warmth into his body, turning him into a quivering wreak. The warmth gathered in his groin, making him hard again. "If you keep doing that, I'll ruin your sheets."

"Then I'd better stop," the liquid voice vibrated against the curve of his neck.

Draco pulled his hand away slowly. For a moment they remained unmoving, nestled together. He could feel Draco's breath, a counterpoint to the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed in an out. The warmth in his groin solidified into a fist and he warred within himself -- to let go and feel the crescendo of climax or to try and hold it off. All he needed to do was to reach down and touch himself.

"Are you still sure?" Draco asked again, fingers curling around Harry's hips.

Harry nodded and started to disentangle himself from Draco's arms.

"No, stay there." Harry gazed at him questioningly. "Just sit up." Draco rolled onto his back, pulling Harry with him so that the smaller boy ended on his knees, straddling his body. Harry shifted a little as Draco's erection pressed against him, the pressure making him feel a little light-headed.

"I want you to be in charge," Draco shifted just a little so that Harry nestled against him, "instead of me. You sit down on me. Anytime it's too much, you can just stop."

"Oh. I thought..." Harry frowned, looking bewildered -- uncertain. "I thought you would..." He shrugged. "You know..."

"Pound you into the ground?" Both boys smiled at the reference Draco had made to Ron during the Valentine Ball. "Is that what you want?"

"I don't know. I've never..."

Draco rested a hand on Harry's thigh. "Can you get the oil?"

"This?" Harry reached for the bottle, the movement pushing him against Draco's groin as he moved. The pressure elicited a moan from both, and Harry pushed against him a second time. When he sat back, bottle in hand, he could see Draco's throat working and the fast-beating movement of his heart in his chest, like a butterfly trapped beneath his skin.

Leaning forward, he kissed the heartbeat, letting it pulse against his mouth for a moment.

When he sat back up, Harry had left a small red mark on the centre of Draco's chest. It showed up starkly against the otherwise pale flesh, almost heart-shaped. His fingers brushed across the mark before he turned his attention to the little oil bottle. The lid twisted off easily, and Harry tipped some of the oil into his palm before returning the bottle to the bedside table. He rubbed his hands together, spreading the oil over both hands. It made a satisfying squidgy sound between his fingers and the soft woody aroma was soothing and sensual. He paused for a moment, breathing in the scent and then lowered both hands onto Draco.

Grey eyes widened at the touch, before the lids dropped closed as Draco sucked in a lungful of air. He held his breath as Harry slowly stroked him, oiled fingers curling around the thickness, palm lingering as it cupped the end, before letting go and repeating the movement with his other hand.

Finally releasing him, Harry trailed his fingers across Draco's abdomen, the skin trembling under his touch. He let the fingers graze slowly upwards, passed the navel, over the hardness of the breast bone and into the soft hollow at the base of Draco's throat. Harry swallowed as he watched the still face.

Eyes closed, hair spread on the pillow, barely breathing.

Letting the back of his hand stroke Draco's flushed cheek, Harry's fingers finally pushed into the silver strands of hair and he leaned forward to kiss the boy,

As if woken from a dream, Draco's eyes opened and he finally remembered to breathe. Harry's soft, gentle tongue parted his lips, the touch so light it was almost as if it hadn't existed at all. As the dark-haired boy straightened, Draco found his voice again. "Are you sure you haven't done this before?" The question elicited one of Harry's most enigmatic smiles, and he pushed down, flexing his hips against those beneath him.

Eyes looked on each other, green and grey both bright with emotion.

Ready? the Grey asked.

Yes, Green answered.

Briefly Draco's fingers intertwined with Harry's, giving them a brief squeeze. Then the long-fingered hands pulled free and once again reached for Harry's hips, raising him up slightly, away from the body beneath him.

As he knelt there, Harry stretched out a hand and allowed the magic he had recently learned to flow freely from his fingers. It extinguished the candles, plunging the room into the red/gold glow of the fire. The same magic flowed down through him, cocooning them both in an ethereal light of emotional colour, texture and protection. He thought he heard Draco hiss and Harry knew he was lost.

Lost in a world of need and want. Of tactile fingers and silky, soft skin. Draco's eyes never wavered from his own as they came together. Became part of each other.

"Oh... Draco."

"Please, Harry." Fingers danced over Harry's body, caressing skin, grazing over his erection as he sank lower, finally resting his weight back on Draco's lap. "Please."

Sitting quite still, Harry marvelled at the way he felt. How the sensation sent sparks through his body, setting his nerve endings alight. He wanted to move, but knew that if he did it would break the spell and it would be over. Knew that if he didn't he might just die.

He looked at Draco. At the way his skin was flushed, gleaming slightly in the firelight. At his almost black eyes, pupils fully dilated so that the grey was invisible. At the slightly open mouth and red, bitten, trembling lips. And he leaned forward to kiss them.

Draco bucked beneath him, the sensation as new to him as it was to Harry. Alex had never let him do this ... never. It was always the older man in him. He came instantly, with a curse on his lips and cry ripped from deep inside him. Hands grabbed at Harry's hips and he bent his knees, pushing Harry back against them with one hand, while the other wrapped about the dark-haired boy. But Harry had already reached his plateau and was crashing down the other side; the sensation of Draco's climax triggering his own orgasm.

They clung together like drowning men as the aftershocks slowly subsided. Desperate hands clutching as if scared the other might disappear, or that the whole thing might just be a dream. In the darkness nothing else existed but their sweat-soaked bodies and the feel and taste of each other.

Finally, Harry pulled free and sank down onto the body beneath him, feeling arms surround him, holding him close.

"I'm sorry," a voice whispered.

"Why?" Harry reached up, tucking blond hair behind Draco's ear.

"That it was over so quickly."

"It doesn't matter." His hand lingered on Draco's cheek.

"I've never..."

"Oh?"

"It was always him fucking me. I didn't realise it could feel like this." Draco let out a little sigh, settling closer.

"This wasn't 'fucking', Draco. Don't cheapen it." If Harry wondered who the 'him' was, he didn't question.

"No. What was that magic?" Fingers gently brushed over skin.

"For protection. So we would be safe."

"Oh. You make me feel safe, Mouse."

"Don't call me that, or I will turn you into a ferret."

"Okay, what about big brave Lion then?"

"No. I'm 'Harry', Draco. Just Harry."

As the two drifted into sleep, Harry's magic settled over them like a blanket, keeping them protected from the Darkness, which lingered around the boundary of the room. Creeping ever closer, it began to slowly unravel the edges of their blanket.

********************

There was a small clock on Draco's bedside table. Harry had noticed it earlier. It had a silver case and face with black numbers and Harry thought it looked as unwizard-like as a clock could be. He turned towards it now, speaking softly. "Tempus."

Nothing. The clock just sat there, ticking quickly to itself. Of course, just because it didn't respond to that spell, didn't mean anything. He carefully wriggled free of Draco's embrace and sat up on the bed, legs hanging over the side, and squinted at the clock. It was nearly 4am.

With a sigh, he realised he had to get back to Gryffindor Tower and -- he wrinkled his nose -- take a shower. The smell of sandalwood and sex on his skin was still strong and he hoped he'd meet no one on his journey back. His cloak would only make him invisible after all. His mouth curved in a small smile at the thought of someone like Filch or Snape smelling sandalwood as he wafted by and wondering what the hell was going on. As for Mrs Norris, he didn't stand a chance of avoiding her at the moment.

Coming to his feet, Harry stretched lazily. His body felt strange and he was aware of places he'd never even considered before. There was a tenderness as well, and as he stretched out some of the ache, he realised he would rather not have to spend hours on a broom doing Quidditch practice in a little over six hours. Maybe he could persuade Ron to concentrate on strategy and keep the flying to a minimum.

Squinting into the darkness of the room, Harry wondered what had happened to his glasses. He remembered having them when he came to the room, but not what became of them. Whispering a new location spell Sirius had taught him a few days ago, a little ball of light appeared on his palm. It reminded him of Tinkerbell as it sat there, waiting for his command. He told it what he was looking for and watched as it flitted about the room; finally coming to rest on the floor.

He padded across the floor and crouched down. The light was just enough to illuminate his jumper and he found what he was looking for caught up in the stitches. "Ha!" he mumbled softly to himself. "I told you I could make it work, Sirius." Thanking the light (Earth magic was all alive, his godfather kept reminding him), he put on his glasses and flicked a hand at the candles. "Lumos." This time nothing happened and he glared at the offending candles. What was it Sirius had told him about not getting smug? He retrieved his wand from his bag and, using it to focus the energy, tried again. The candles sparked to life and Harry quickly brought their light down to a soft glow, just enough to see by.

Clothing was strewn across the floor. How could two people make such a mess? He reached for his boxers and pulled them on before picking up a dark blue shirt that belonged to Draco. It was made out of something soft and it reminded him of the one Draco had magicked at Hagrid's. He loved the red silk and wondered for a moment if this was the same.

Harry pulled it on, smoothing it down over his torso. It was a little too long in the sleeves, and he decided it had probably been tailored just for Draco. It also felt very nice and he considered for a moment asking where it had come from. Maybe he could get something like it for himself. Casting a quick glance at the bed, he pulled at the front, bringing the material to his face, and sniffed at it. With the overwhelming smell of sandalwood on his skin, it was difficult to find any other smell, but finally he traced what he was looking for. The cloves and cinnamon scent that was Draco. He breathed it deeply in before letting go of the fabric. Would Draco miss the shirt if he tried to sneak it out in his bag?

Harry began picking up the other items, eventually piling Draco's clothes on a chair next to the bed. The oil bottle was still there, on the bedside table, and he picked it up to put the lid back on. Its surface was slippery with the oil and it slid from his fingers. He tried to catch it, the oil spilling both over his hands and into the open drawer of the table.

"Bollocks!" The word was an annoyed, urgent hiss as he tried to limit the damage caused. He grabbed at a handful of items in the drawer, trying to get them out before the oil spread over them. In his haste, it never occurred to him that his hands were covered in the stuff.

He reached for a large faceted emerald.

"No! DON'T touch that!"

The voice screamed from a great distance, and Harry felt a sudden emptiness in his stomach as if his world had just disintegrated. It momentarily tugged at him and as he was flung from his feet, his world went black.

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You've done it all; you've broken every code

And pulled the rebel to the floor

You spoilt the game, no matter what you say

For only metal -- what a bore!

Blue eyes, blue eyes, how come you tell so many lies?

Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) -- Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel


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Chapter 6: Emeralds and Diamonds: Harry wakes up...

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Author's Note: The Hallows Capstone isn't one of the stones in the monument at Stonehenge. The purpose of the Parliament, who the Families of Parliament are and more about the Stone and its location will be explained over the next few chapters. For anyone who might wonder where the places mentioned in this chapter are located, please check out the following maps: http://www.christiaan.com/stonehenge/info/tourists/tourist_map/

Special thanks

To my Betas (in alphabetical order): Alex, Ina, Milena, Penguin, Plumeria, Tine and Zed. These people have been patient, supportive and without them the chapter would never have gotten finished. Special mention must go to Zed (my sex guru) and Milena who have both read this at least three times. Their stamina amazes me.

To Plumeria for helping me with the rating of this chapter and making sure I hadn't included anything I shouldn't.

To Olivia_Lupin and Milena for their anagram skills and managing to come up with a usable name for David Tom Morello.

To everyone at LiveJournal who have answered my stupid questions over the last few months

To everyone on at Worlds_Colliding for their continued support and inspiration.

Artwork: I am very lucky to have several new pieces of artwork drawn for this chapter. They are linked in the appropriate places throughout the chapter.

Bhanesidhe's artwork: Ron in the Armando Dippet Memorial Library, Harry and Sirius, Harry's vision,

Milena's artwork: The Sofa, Blush, The Potions Storeroom, The Kiss.

Plumeria's artwork: "I can give you tonight"

There are two Yahoo groups associated with my stories:

The adult group for Resolution can be found at: Worlds_Colliding: The Restricted Section

The general group can be found at Worlds_Collinding . The R-rated version of Resolution and my non-slash story Coming of Age can be found here.

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.