- 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 7: Come Undone. "This is nice." "What is?" "Being here. Waking up with you and everything else."
To Taradiane, for being such a kind and generous person, who has always been there for me. Happy birthday to you.
Author's note: Resolution was started before the publication of Order of the Phoenix and is based on the canon of PS/SS, CoS, PoA and GoF. While certain canon facts from OotP will be incorporated in the story (such as spells and locations), the events of Harry's 5th year in Resolution are NOT the same as those in OotP.
Amongst other things, Resolution makes the following assumptions: 1. Sirius Black is alive. 2. Voldemort's return at the end of GoF is not common knowledge to the Wizarding world and many people, including the Ministry of Magic still refuse to believe it. 3. Lucius Malfoy is still considered to be a pillar of the community and any connections he might have with the Dark Lord remain a secret. 4. Draco Malfoy was never picked as a prefect. 5. Wizards love to ski! 6. Wizards come of age at 18.
An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind. --Buddha
Chapter 7: Come Undone
The Past ... Saturday 7th October 1995 ... Moonrise ...
The creature cowered in the only dark corner of the room. Naked, filthy, it raked long dirty fingernails over the damp stone in a pathetic attempt at trying to dig its way into the wall. Sporadically it would whimper, whether in pain or in fear it wasn't clear, but it would look at its captors and plead with a voice rough from screaming.
Lucius Malfoy kept as far away from the creature as the room would allow. He looked at it with disdain and would occasionally hold a handkerchief in front of his nose as if to ward off the smell. As it howled again, a nervous tic in Lucius' cheek spasmed and he hissed under his breath, "Shut up!" If anyone found out what was going on in his house, there would be hell to pay. The idiots from the Ministry were on his back all the time now even though most people still refused to believe what Potter had told them about Voldemort's return. It didn't help that the foolish boy had recognised his voice when he'd spoken to The Dark Lord in the Little Hangleton Cemetery.
Why couldn't Potter just drop dead? It would certainly save them all a lot of trouble.
And he certainly wouldn't have to put up with this half-human thing in his keeping.
"Master! Please be careful." Lucius' voice was suddenly shrill with concern as the only other person in the room crouched down beside the creature, which whimpered again as it shrank away.
The young man glanced over his shoulder at Lucius and smiled. "Don't concern yourself, Lucius. Our friend here won't hurt me." Turning his attention back to the creature, Tom Riddle reached his long fingers towards its head, patting it fondly as though it were a treasured pet. "You know I can stop the pain, don't you?"
Brown eyes looked pleadingly at the young man, a hand reflexively reaching out to him. "Please...." The single word came out as a pitiful whine.
"Soon, little one ... very soon." Riddle came to his feet and turned his back on the creature. "Full moon is tomorrow?" The question was directed at Lucius, his features losing the kindness of a few moments before.
Lucius nodded. "Yes, and we've held it in this half-transformed state since the last one."
"And you kept him in his fully-transformed state for the previous moon cycle?"
"Yes. The potions worked exactly as you predicted, my Lord."
Arching an eyebrow, Riddle's eyes flashed red briefly before returning to sapphire blue. "Did you ever doubt me, Lucius?" He stepped closer, an ominous presence in the room despite the fact he was no taller than the man who looked old enough to be his father. In reality it was Riddle who was the elder, but when he had been reborn four months earlier he had chosen this image of his former self as that which he wished to show the world. One day ... soon ... it would no longer be an illusion but a reality.
"Of course not. But this -- thing -- is already non-human. To try and tame it seems to be a waste of time."
Riddle reached out a hand, resting it on Lucius' shoulder. "He is not an 'it', my friend. He is a Child of the Shadows and you will show him due respect." The fingers tightened, digging into flesh and Lucius flinched against the hold. "Do you understand?"
"Good." The relentless hold kept its tight grip. "This man is going to be my secret weapon, Lucius. He's part of Dumbledore's little secret circle and soon he will be my spy. We mustn't forget that his loyalty to me will become unwavering because of the potion." Blue eyes fixed on Lucius. "You have been giving it to him personally, I hope. I would be very, very angry if I found out that you'd delegated such a vital task to some underling."
The Present ... Sunday 15th March 1998 ... 6am ... Gryffindor Tower
It was the cramp in his left calf that finally woke Harry from his slumber.
Still half asleep, he scrambled from under the warm blankets and began hobbling around the room, cursing under his breath. In the darkness, his foot caught on the edge of the carpet and he stumbled back against one of the posts supporting the curtained canopy of his bed. The bed shook under the onslaught and he grabbed for the curtain. The loops fastening it to the rail popped loose and Harry dropped unceremoniously to the floor.
"Shit." The word was a hiss of pain as he struggled from the enveloping confines of the curtain and he shifted slightly to rub at his arse. Cramp rippled through his calf again and he gripped at it, trying to massage out the pain. "Shit!"
As the pain finally began to dissipate, Harry leaned back against the bed and stretched out his legs in front of him, toes flexing back and forth. Across the room, the square of the window was a lighter grey against the black night and he remained still, content for the moment to just watch the space where the first light of dawn would soon start colouring the sky. The window was one of the joys of this room and he would often wake just before dawn and watch the sky lighten, waves of colour streaking across its expanse, or sit at his desk in the late afternoon hours and gaze at the rain clouds in all their angry beauty when he should be studying.
He remembered with vivid clarity standing at that window many weeks ago watching as the snow covered the grounds and coated the trees. The pain of the months before ... what had happened to Ron and what Harry had done to the Death Eater who had attacked them ... had all closed in to the point where he knew he couldn't bear to stay at Hogwarts for the New Year celebrations. Gathering up his books, he had disappeared to the quiet seclusion of Hagrid's cottage.
Harry gave a little snort at the memory. Quiet seclusion. If he'd known how going to the cottage would change his life, would he have stayed here at school and danced away the night with everyone else? Would he change anything he'd done since?
Especially what he'd done with Draco?
After what had happened at the Burrow the previous summer, he'd wondered if he would feel anything again, wondered if he would want to feel again, but Draco had changed that. Despite everything, it had been his difficult relationship with Draco that had somehow made life seem worth living again.
That it should be a relationship with Draco, of all people, that made things more manageable never ceased to amaze Harry. After all, it wasn't as if he didn't have friends or admirers ... some of whom had made it quite clear just how friendly they'd like to get, but none of them had the same appeal as Draco. There was something about the relative happiness his relationship with Draco brought him that made it somehow easier to cope with many of the things he was having to keep secret. Such as what Dumbledore had told him about the prophecy and Earth Magic.
He shivered a little, and almost without thinking, pulled the edge of the curtain around him. The dawn was chilly and Harry was sure there was a frost. It took a moment for the fact he was naked to sink into his still sleepy brain and his arms moved reflexively around himself, rubbing absently at his goose pimpled skin. Memories of the cold from the previous night permeated him, coming back with resounding clarity and in the gloom Harry once again felt the same dark shadows that had forced their way into his dreams, wrapping around him. The shivers became stronger as the recollection of those dreams sped through his mind, each ending in a flash of green and a throaty laugh.
Harry clutched at his knees, huddling them close for comfort and warm. He had recognised the laugh even though it wasn't the high cackling sound that had plagued his dreams as a child. It belonged to Voldemort. The resurrected Voldemort who could look like Tom Riddle -- who pretended to be David Morrello -- who had been here, in Harry's room, gloating over the pain being inflicted on the boy who had survived every attack on him since that first one nearly eighteen years ago.
The darkness closed around him, a suffocating pressure forcing a sound like a wounded sob from deep inside. He hurt. Hurt deep inside in a place he couldn't describe or find, and the pain overflowed until it felt like he was clothed in it -- as if the long hand of the Dark Lord was clutching at his heart.
Desperate for light in the darkness, Harry raised his hand towards the bedside table, mouthing the words that would light the little sphere resting there. The glow within the little globe steadily increased until Harry's hand dropped back to his side, the soft light chasing back both the real shadows and those deep in his soul. He whispered another spell and the sphere drifted to his hand and he held it there, the glow reflecting off his skin and hair, forming a small bubble of safety within the room that didn't feel like his own anymore.
His hand dropped to the ground, fingers releasing the sphere, which rolled a few feet away, and Harry let his head fall back to rest on the bed. He felt as though Voldemort had thrown him over a cliff and he was falling into an abyss. No one wanted to save him. They kept telling him he was special, that he was gifted, that he'd destroyed Voldemort and survived. But there was no one reaching out to him ... no lifeline waiting to haul him to safety when it all went wrong.
He didn't know how long he'd been sitting there, wrapped untidily in the curtain, when he felt fingers pushing gently into his hair, rousing him from thoughts he'd rather not consider. Harry thought he recognised the touch, but knew it couldn't be him -- not here, not now -- and he contemplated whether he might have fallen asleep and was dreaming again.
The touch tightened, pulling gently, and Harry's instinctive reaction was to flinch away, the response deep-rooted after the long years he'd lived with the Dursleys. Harry's hair was always a target for all three of his relatives and they had made a habit of using it to hold him in place during whatever punishment they deemed appropriate. On several occasions, Dudley had pulled the black strands out in clumps, while Vernon would anchor Harry to the spot with his big podgy hands grasping at him, occasionally reinforcing his message by banging Harry's head against the nearest wall. As for Petunia, she would take hold of just a few hairs and yank, or if they were out in public together she would tug his hair in an attempt to keep his scar covered.
But it wasn't so much what she did to him that hurt Harry, but what she didn't do. He used to watch the way she would pet and preen Dudley, brushing a strand of hair from his face or maybe just tidying it, and would smirk because Dudley always wanted to get away from his mother's attentions. Harry would feel elated that he didn't have to put up with Petunia's ministrations or Dudley's hair cream. But afterwards, that elation would slowly fade and he would wish that just once Petunia might look at him with the expression she used on Dudley and push at his hair in affection. He used to wonder what it felt like to have a mother's hand push through his fringe or a father's fingers ruffle his hair, and he would pretend. Sitting in his dark cupboard he would pretend he could feel those hands in his hair and try to grab hold of a memory from before his parents died.
But this was Hogwarts, not Privet Drive, he reminded himself, and he knew it wasn't a dream. The fingers gently pushing though his hair were real, and he wasn't scared. He looked up ... up from the abyss ... and in the half-light reflected by the little sphere, he could make out the pale ghostly features of the person reaching down to him.
Draco. Here. In his bed.
The thought was like a balm and as the fingers moved, stroking through the tussled hair to the zigzag scar on Harry's forehead, he knew he was no longer afraid ... or alone. One finger slowly traced back and forth along the raised skin before moving to lingering lightly on Harry's neck. He leaned into the touch, his earlier fears drifting away at the intimate contact. "Draco?" Harry reached to touch the hand caressing his neck, his fingers closing around Draco's little finger.
"Are you going to stay down there?" The voice was husky with sleep.
"Draco." This time there was no question as Harry, his own voice croaky, repeated the name. "What..." a little cough as he let go of Draco's finger. He felt confused, as if the darkness of the room had filtered into his mind, stripping away his memory. "What are you doing here?" The pale features seemed to be a little clearer now, and Harry thought he saw something in the grey eyes. Was it hesitation or maybe just sleepiness?
"Sleeping. It's too cold to sit on the floor. Come back to bed." Draco tugged gently on Harry's hair and then smoothed it again before disappearing from view.
Hesitating briefly, Harry rose to his feet and stood for a moment, leaning on the bedpost, watching as Draco crawled back up the bed, all long legs and taut buttocks. He disappeared under the covers, blond hair spread untidily on Harry's pillows, and his grey gaze held Harry's as he flipped back the edge of the blankets on the other side of the bed. Then in a whisper, he repeated his previous words.
"Come back to bed."
Green eyes drifted from Draco's face, and what had happened the previous night leapt back into the clear focus. Draco had rescued him from Voldemort, easing away the pain in his head and the chill in his body. Draco had stayed with him and was now inviting Harry back into the warmth of the bed ... Harry's bed, in Harry's room, and he felt like Draco was claiming everything about him.
He felt nervous ... unsure. He was naked in his own room and Draco was in his bed. Not only that, but Harry knew he was beginning to flush under Draco's scrutiny and that look was leading to the warm feeling of arousal and need condensing deep inside. Eyes flickered to the curtain that separated his room from the little common room shared with his fellow seventh-year Gryffindors. The curtain had never seemed so flimsy before and he was sure his own hearing had become acutely hypersensitive. Could he really hear his friends sleeping?
The green gaze returned to the slightly hazy figure in his bed. He'd slept in Draco's bed and woken up beside him, but this felt different. They had fallen into that bed in the heat of passion and that had felt like he had no control over what happened, but here he was with all the choices in the world -- no passion, no need, just the warmth of someone else close to him. He could even tell Draco to leave if he wanted. In fact he could think of a million reasons why the Slytherin shouldn't be here. But there was just one reason why he should be, and Harry knew exactly what that was. Draco was there because he wanted to be and Harry knew that was the only thing that mattered.
He climbed back onto the narrow bed and pulled the covers over his body.
The two boys lay on their sides facing each other, but as far apart as the bed would allow. Harry still shivered a little from the chill of the room, and he huddled down under the blankets, grateful for the warmth. They watched each other in silence and it was Harry who finally broke it.
"You're right, it is cold." His voice was a murmur as he tugged the blankets up around his neck. He inched a little closer to the warmth radiating from Draco's body.
Harry could feel the puff of breath from Draco's words on his skin. "What happened when?"
"Just now ... when you jumped out of bed and ripped down the curtain."
It was hard not to scramble over those last few inches into the waiting arms. "I got a cramp.
"I didn't mean to wake you up." Harry was aware of Draco shifting slightly. Draco hadn't moved closer, but the sheets billowed around him, and his long slim fingers were now filling the space between them, the tips grazing Harry's stomach before flattening against the mattress.
"Umm, actually...." Harry shifted his head on the pillow. Draco's mouth was very close and even in the half-light without his glasses; he could see the pale features clearly. "I didn't realise you were here."
"Don't you remember what happened last night?"
Harry didn't respond for a moment; his whole world had suddenly narrowed to focus on the quiet words Draco had just whispered and the movement of his mouth. It wasn't what Draco had actually said but the tone he'd used. The softly spoken words seemed to vibrate in the space between them and he didn't realise that he'd raised a finger to those lips until he actually touched them. He pulled it away, letting his hand drop to the pillow, fingertips just touching Draco's cheek.
"Some of it." Harry frowned, the events of the previous night condensing in his mind. "I'd been in the library and had come back to the Tower. I felt so tired ... almost like I didn't have the energy to get up the stairs." He winced slightly at the memory of such deep-seated exhaustion. "I remember collapsing onto the bed and then the dreams starting."
"Um, I don't mean real dreams, I'm not even sure I was asleep. More like daydreams ... visions maybe. They were about my childhood and...." Yes, about being locked in the cupboard at Privet Drive and Voldemort coming for him.... "And Voldemort." He didn't notice the shadow of dark fear that flashed briefly in the grey eyes. "Sometimes when I dream about him or if he's close by, my scar hurts and I get blinding headaches."
"Yes." Draco's fingers disentangled themselves from the bedclothes and he brushed them over the lightning bolt mark. "You told me that."
Harry sighed at the touch, his eyes drifting closed as the caress to his scar infused his being with the same calming presence it had the previous night.
"I remember hearing someone in the next room and calling for help, but nobody came. Then it got really cold ... so cold I thought I might die...." He shivered at the memory and Draco's hand moved from his forehead, the fingers trailing down and curving protectively around Harry's hip.
Draco had come to him, found him here, in this room and looked after him. Draco had cuddled the warmth back into his trembling body and taken away the pain.
Swallowing, Harry shifted closer. "Then you came." He felt Draco's hand move to the small of his back, the fingers stroking over the sensitive spot at the base of his spine, and Harry reached out to press his own fingers delicately -- almost timidly -- on Draco's chest. "You came to help me." Hesitating for just a heartbeat, Harry closed the gap between them and allowed his lips to brush briefly across Draco's mouth. "Thank you," he whispered against the warm lips.
For a moment Draco wouldn't meet Harry's eyes, but then his hand touched the Gryffindor's cheek and he returned the kiss, taking Harry's bottom lip between his own. The pressure was gentle to start with as Draco teased and nipped, letting his tongue run back and forth. When Draco finally released him, Harry felt light-headed and he tried to focus on the face in front of him, but before he could, the touch returned and Draco was kissing him again. This time his fingers ... those long, slim, perfect fingers ... caught into his hair and pulled him closer.
It was a long, lazy kiss that seemed to go on forever, and Harry basked in the astonishing intimacy of it. When he'd kissed Draco before it had been in the throes of passion, but this was different. There was no urgency or demand, just a slow building of delight as they let their lips caress and tongues touch.
At first Harry had found that a little strange ... the idea that his tongue could be so sensitive. This wasn't the first time Draco's rough tongue had ventured into Harry's mouth or his into Draco's, oh no, but the deliberate ease of their shared exploration captivated Harry in ways he couldn't describe. It was like....
Having sex, he decided. Having someone else inside his body. Filling him. But this time he was inside Draco, the sensitive tip of his own tongue running across Draco's teeth and caressing the inside of his mouth. Harry liked to let the tip just touch Draco's tongue and flick away, knowing that Draco would follow and he would feel the invading presence of Draco in his own mouth again.
It was only when they finally pulled apart, both panting for breath, that Harry realised his hand was twisted in Draco's hair, mirroring the way Draco was holding him, and that they were now pressed nicely together from chest to hips. One of his ankles had caught around Draco's leg, which had slid upwards a little so that the Slytherin's thigh was now nicely trapped between Harry's legs.
And, it was pressing close against Harry's growing erection.
"Ummm." Harry swallowed, only too aware of how aroused he was beginning to feel. "Maybe we should ... you know ... stop...."
Draco's tongue flicked out, touching the little fast-beating pulse point at the base of Harry's throat. "Why?"
"Well, this isn't like your room."
"Well spotted. Mine is cool greens and silvers. Yours is reds and golds." Draco flexed his hips, the movement pressing him against Harry, the pressure making them both groan.
"Noooo, I ... I mean there aren't any doors. Someone might hear us." If someone heard them or came in (not such an unlikely scenario as he knew from experience), how the hell would he explain it?
Draco chuckled, the sound vibrating along Harry's collarbone as Draco licked and nipped from one end to the other. "Scared, Potter?"
Harry bristled a little. Of course he wasn't scared. Except this was Malfoy. He had a boy in his bed and they were both getting very nicely turned on, and the feeling was just so wonderful. The sensations building in him sent little shivers of desire to his nerve endings, each of which seemed to be sending jolts of anticipation through him. It made him feel light-headed and he wanted nothing more than to make love with Draco again.
"You wish, Malfoy," Harry finally whispered as his hand travelled down Draco's body to linger on the curve of his hip, increasing the pressure between them. "I just don't," he took a little breath, "want to sully your reputation by being found in a Gryffindor's bed."
"Well, if you're worried I could always put up a silencing charm." Draco returned once again to Harry's mouth, kissing and teasing until Harry was limp in his arms. When he pulled away, his grey eyes were almost black and a mischievous grin twisted his mouth. "Of course, we could just see how quiet we can be." He flexed his bent leg, pushing it further between Harry's until it pressed tightly against him. "Can you do that, Mouse? Make love to me in silence?"
Harry shuddered, and despite his efforts to keep his voice low and steady, he did squeak. "Can you?"
Draco smirked. "But I'm not the one who squeaks and then comes with a raucous cry am I?" He was rocking against Harry now, their erections pressing together in a way Harry had never felt before, a moan rippling from his throat. "You aren't doing very well so far."
"All's fair in love and war, Harry. Ready?" A nod. "Then follow my lead."
"What do you mean?"
"Simple, Potter. I do something and you have to do the same. Like this." Draco ran the tip of his index finger along Harry's collarbone. "And now you do the same."
"Like this?" Harry copied the movement, brushing his own finger along Draco's collarbone; aware suddenly that Draco had shifted back from him a little so that their bodies were no longer touching. He could still feel the heat from the other boy's body, and his skin tingled where they had been touching each other.
"Mmmm," Draco gave a little sigh and let his finger trail up the curve of Harry's neck. Almost immediately Harry mirrored the contact along the line of Draco's neck. "Now close your eyes; the first person to make a noise has to pay a forfeit."
"Such as?" Harry's eyes fluttered closed and his voice hitched as Draco's fingers ran over his lips before resting feather-light against them. His own hand reached for Draco's mouth, feeling those lips forming words as Draco answered.
"Well, that's up to the winner isn't it?"
"Yes," was all Harry could think to say as they both became silent, the only sound that of their breathing as their fingers moved over each other. They both became lost in the sensation, forgetting that there was a world outside of the room.
Harry continued to follow the other boy's lead, with only milliseconds between Draco's initial touch and Harry's response on the pale skin of his partner. With his eyes closed, Harry felt a weird sense of sensory deprivation. It wasn't unpleasant, in fact after the first few minutes, Harry found it strangely erotic and with each touch he became more and more aroused. He would trail his fingers over Draco at the same moment Draco's hands moved over him, and with his eyes closed it was almost, a small part of Harry decided, as if he was responsible for the touches on his own skin.
He wondered if Draco had his eyes closed, but he didn't want to break the spell by looking ... wanted to trust Draco to be true to his word ... needed to believe in him.
Fingers drifted over his body, their touch alternating between light caresses, heavier strokes and occasional little pinches and nips.
Shoulder ... nipple ... elbow ... ribs ... hip ... throat ... lips ... ear lobe ... navel ... thigh ... knee....
Mouth ... lips to lips....
Harry was lost ... lost in the sensations ... lost in Draco and the feel of his skin. The taste of Draco in his mouth, and the sound of the Slytherin's soft sighs. His arousal grew exponentially with each touch until he began to wonder if he'd ever felt anything but the way he did at this moment.
Then, just when he thought it couldn't be any better, he felt himself rolled in to the vee of Draco's thighs where he settled into the cradle of his open hips, the pressure of Draco's erection against his own. He groaned and forgot all about following Draco's movements as hands cupped his arse, pulling him even closer.
His whole world seemed to condense down to this one place, and suddenly all that was important was being here in his bed with Draco, and when he spoke, his mouth silently formed that person's name.
Harry's mouth opened in soundless pleasure as Draco's fingers -- slick, oiled fingers -- slipped between their bodies and closed around his him. He pushed into the open palm, flexing as Draco drew more and more pleasure from him, and Harry fell into the blond's mouth with a desire he didn't think possible.
"I need you," he mouthed.
Another nod, and Harry started to roll off, wanting to pull Draco on top of him, to experience that exquisite weight pressing down on his body ... longing to feel the sweetness of Draco completing him. But Draco didn't let him; as his legs spread wider, he moved his hands to cup Harry's arse again, before flexing his hips against Harry's, pressing them tightly together.
Harry choked out a groan and buried his head in the crook of Draco's neck. His body took up the same rhythm ... he was hard and aching and the growing need was flooding through his body.
Then, just when Harry thought he couldn't hold back any longer, Draco moved. He pulled up his legs, bending his knees, and let his hips rock forward. Harry felt himself slip into position as Draco's hand reached for him again. With a groan, Harry pushed himself up a little. He needed to see Draco's expression to know how he was feeling. As he met those grey eyes, Harry realised he was being guided to make love to Draco.
Eyes wide, Harry tried to speak. He'd never done this -- not with Draco, not with anyone -- but the words caught in his throat. All he could do was gasp for air as Draco's hands reached for his hips guiding him back and forth. He whimpered and panted and then, just when he thought he might explode, Draco's legs wrapped around him and he silenced Harry's cries by pulling him into a deep, searing kiss.
That same kiss captured their joint cries as they moved together to completion.
Draco lay still as the heady afterglow saturated his body. He felt like a limp rag, every muscle in his body seemed to have lost all strength, and it was only with great difficulty that he was able to keep his arms wrapped around Harry. It didn't help that Harry was a boneless quivering weight atop him either, or that Harry's fingers were still clutching so tightly at his upper arms that Draco momentarily feared the blood supply might be cut off. He could feel Harry's fast-beating heart pressing against his own, and the other boy's efforts at drawing air into his lungs was emphasized by the rapid puffs of breath on Draco's chest.
And underscoring everything was the feeling of Harry joined with him, leaving him sated and aroused at the same time.
It would be so easy to fall asleep like this, Draco decided. To sleep with Harry's lithe body on top of him and completing him. But he knew he couldn't do that. As he lay there in this post-coital bliss, Draco had become aware of the castle coming to life as its inhabitants woke. Harry had been right earlier when he'd commented about people's reactions on finding a Slytherin in his bed.
He moved his hands to Harry's hips and, spreading his still raised knees, he allowed Harry to leave him. The boy groaned at the movement, finally releasing his death-grip, and whimpered a little as Draco whispered a cleaning charm, before settling his sated lover back into the welcoming cradle of Draco's hips.
Gathered Harry into his arms, Draco shifted slightly and couldn't help but sigh at the skin-to-skin contact. He buried his face in Harry's messy black hair, revelling in the taste and scent and feel of the other boy. Everything about the moment seemed perfect and all he wanted right here, and right now, was to remain like this forever.
But he knew they couldn't, so he contented himself in remaining like this until Harry chose to move.
With a sigh, Draco let his eyelids drop. He'd needed Harry to take him ... almost as though in that moment of shared passion and possession, he'd been wiped clean from what had happened the previous night. He felt tainted by what Voldemort had said and done to him -- as though the man's words and actions were a defilement of both his mind and body. He could still feel where the Dark Lord's fingers had gripped his shoulder and knew that the marks would be visible beneath his concealment charm.
Arms tightened reflexively around the slim body pressing against him, and Draco tried to make sense of the conflicting emotions that still battled within him, leaving him in a shadowy place of his own making.
He knew that he was a Dark wizard and that he'd been trained in the Arts for as long as he could remember. He knew that people expected certain things of him and that he was expected to show the Wizarding community just how important being a pure-blood was. But couldn't he do those things without pledging himself to Voldemort?
It had never before occurred to him that he wouldn't one day accept the Dark Lord's Mark. His father had always talked about the event with an anticipatory gleam in his eye -- how he looked forward to one day seeing his only son swear eternal loyalty to the mightiest wizard there was. Draco remembered the only time he'd ever questioned his father about the Dark Lord. He'd been eight or nine years old and had been standing in front of his father, listening to him extol the virtues of the Dark Lord for what seemed liked the millionth time. Lucius had finally fallen silent and Draco had looked at him.
"If the Dark Lord is so powerful then how did a baby beat him?"
His father had never answered the question. Instead Lucius had punished him by leaving the room. Draco knew he wasn't allowed to leave, or even sit down, until either his father or mother gave him permission. He had lost track of time and had no idea how many hours he'd remained standing there before Narcissa had crept softly into the room and quietly told him to go to bed.
And now, here he was with the baby who had beaten Voldemort, not once but, if the stories were true, on several occasions. He had finally done what Lucius had wanted all those years ago when Harry had picked Ron Weasley over him. He had made friends with the Boy Who Lived. Wouldn't Lucius be proud of him! Draco scoffed at the thought.
He was probably exactly where his father wanted him to be, but he doubted Lucius would approve of his son's methods. Or his motivation, he admitted. All Lucius wanted was for Draco to give Harry the Portkey, not to sleep with him, and certainly not to have any sense of loyalty or commitment to him. No, Draco was expected to father a Malfoy heir and take Voldemort's Mark, and swear allegiance to someone who was supposed to be the most powerful wizard in the world.
But wasn't he with the most powerful person right now? Hadn't he seen a small sample of the type of magic Harry could control?
Draco knew it wasn't just Harry's power that had made him start looking beyond the life that had been planned for him by his father. Draco had feelings for Harry he'd never expected, and it was that which was making him question his own future. He knew with certainty that he didn't want to share Harry with anyone, least of all Voldemort or Lucius.
But to publicly refuse Voldemort, especially after what had happened during his rituals, would probably alienate him from his friends and family, and that would mean he'd have to be very careful how he voiced his opinions and plans to everyone. Would his father understand Draco's doubts and confusion? He was sure Lucius wouldn't be pleased if his son refused to follow the path laid out for him, but he was equally certain that his father would eventually accept Draco's right to make his own resolutions about his future.
Surely life wasn't an "either/or" situation. There had to be a middle way that meant he didn't have to pledge himself either to Voldemort's Death Eaters or Dumbledore's happy-clappy little band. Just because he refused to join the Dark Lord, it didn't automatically mean he was pledging himself to Voldemort's enemy. The fact was Draco didn't even agree with most of the things Harry and his Gryffindor friends believed in, and couldn't see himself ever sitting in front of the fire in the Gryffindor common room having jolly chats with the Weasel and Co while toasting crumpets!
But he did want Harry....
As for this relationship, Draco didn't know exactly where it was headed, or just how long he and Harry might stay together, but at the moment the need to protect and cherish the boy was overwhelmingly strong. Draco didn't really know where the feelings came from or how to deal with them, but he knew he'd have to face them soon.
How, he wondered, had Harry gotten under his skin so quickly and in such an all-consuming way? Six months ago Draco knew he would have never confessed to the things as he had downstairs in the school Archive. To have admitted those things to anyone, least of all Harry, went against everything he had been taught to believe was right.
But he did want Harry to want him....
When Harry finally woke again, the sky had turned blue/grey.
He stretched luxuriously against the taut planes of Draco's chest, and was released from the circle of the arms holding him. After a moment the dark head shifted a little and green eyes met grey, a lazy smile spilling over Harry's face. "Hello." The voice was full of sleep.
Draco stared at him for a moment before winding his fingers into the black silky hair. Then, tugging gently, he tilted Harry's head back a little and began to kiss the sleepy mouth again. Harry offered no resistance, content to let Draco have his own way as he nipped and teased at the oh-so-compliant mouth. When Draco finally pulled away, Harry let out a sound that was a cross between a moan of pleasure and a groan of annoyance that it was now over.
"Hello." Draco's voice was full of amusement and his smile reflected his obvious pleasure at Harry's reaction. "How are you feeling? Cramp all gone now?"
"Cramp?" Harry nibbled at the part of Draco nearest to him -- the edge of his jaw. "Oh yes, I remember now ... back before you made me do things."
"Mmm." A hand glided down Draco's body and slipped between his legs. "Things."
"Oh right -- those things." Fingers touched him, sending a jolt of pleasure through him. "Did you like it?"
"It was ... amazing. I never did that before." A shy blush had begun to suffuse Harry's face and he looked away, the reaction almost demure. "I mean, not that particular thing...."
"Not with a boy."
"Not with anyone," The fingers that had been playing with Draco pulled away, "of either sex."
Draco's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Really?" Harry nodded against him. "So I'm your first? In everything?" Another nod. "Well what do you know? That's something for me to brag about next time Teen Witch Weekly interviews me. Ouch!" Draco let out a sharp yelp as Harry pinched his arse. "That hurt!"
"It was supposed to." Harry nuzzled back down against Draco's shoulder. "This is nice."
"Being here. Waking up with you and everything else."
Draco's arms tightened around Harry again. It was nice to wake up here with Harry and it felt like the most natural thing in the world. He'd woken up with Alex Palmer several times during their relationship the previous summer, but that had been different. Draco would never deny that he'd enjoyed the experience, and from Alex's reactions, so had the older man. But it had all been very physical and he knew full well that Alex had no emotional attachment to him any more than he had for Alex. They'd talked before and after, and even during, but there had been no quiet companionship like this. No emotional afterglow.
He wondered what it would be like to have the freedom to enjoy the same physical relationship with Harry that he'd had with Alex. To be able to meet every day and spend time together instead of snatching chances like this. He knew he would have to leave soon and had no idea when he'd be alone with Harry again. And what made that even more difficult was the fact he had to see Harry every day and pretend there was nothing going on between them.
"I should go." Draco kissed Harry's temple. "Before too many people are around." The second kiss was on the corner of Harry's mouth.
Harry wiggled closer, moulding himself against the body beneath him for a moment before pulling back. "I suppose so. You'll have to borrow my cloak."
"Mmm, and you'll have to come and collect it later." Draco shifted slightly and licked quickly at Harry's right nipple. The groan elicited by the contact rumbled in Harry's chest and Draco imagined he could feel it trembling through his own body.
"If you keep doing things like that I might not let you go. I could keep you locked here in my room ... who would miss you?"
"Yeah, right, Potter. I'd like to see you try." Draco's finger ran up the length of Harry's chest, starting at his groin and continuing up to his throat. "Harry, before I go I need to ask you a question."
"This sounds serious, so okay." Harry pushed back a little, a questioning frown on his face.
"Why did you cut your hair?"
"What?" Harry started to laugh and dropped on to his back. "That's your serious question?"
"It's the start of my serious question. And it is connected." Draco turned on his side, resting on his elbow to look down at the other boy.
Harry shrugged. "I felt like it."
"So, it was just a whim?" Harry nodded, but didn't say anything. "It had nothing to do with what happened in my room when you passed out?"
"Ah, right. I take it that is the serious bit?"
Draco raised an eyebrow. "I need to know what happened, Harry."
"About my hair? That's easy." Harry pulled away from him, sitting up to rest against the headboard. "You see I was in Hermione's room and...."
"About why you passed out, Harry." The grey eyes glinted dangerously. "You do know what happened and why, don't you?" The look softened. "Don't you think I deserve that much? To at least know why?"
Harry stared ahead, aware of the weight of Draco's hand on his abdomen, the warmth from it suffusing into his skin. Beneath it, the intricate red and gold Celtic knot tattoo that Hermione had magicked onto him a month ago felt warm. She'd refused to rid him of it and Harry had refused to beg.
How the hell could he confess to Draco about the emerald and the fact his vision had taken him to what Harry believed was Malfoy Manor? To own up to either thing put him in the same position he'd been with Hermione ... he couldn't tell one thing without owning up and telling Draco everything. If he explained about the visions, he'd have to discuss the fact he was able to read Dream Stones and that he believed the emerald to be such a stone. That admission would lead to all sorts of things -- the Earth Magic, even the prophecy.
He felt the flickering of a wry smile twist his lips. Wouldn't Draco have fun with that one? Certainly the Draco from the previous year would have hounded him remorselessly, but what about this one? It was one thing to share Draco's bed, but to give him information that he could pass onto his father, who would have no compunction about passing it onto Voldemort, was something completely different.
Yet, there were things going on between Draco and himself that were more than just sex. Harry knew his feelings had been growing ever since New Year, and Draco's honesty during their quarrel in the school Archive had both surprised and pleased him.
But was the fact Draco had been honest enough reason to trust him? Even as Harry studied the person lying next to him, he knew it wasn't enough. But there was something else ... something more important than honesty.
Draco had come to Harry's aid the previous night. He had helped Harry. Had cared for him.
And that was enough.
"Okay," Harry finally responded. "But not here, not now." He let out a breath as the hand on his abdomen tightened reflexively, fingers digging slightly into his flesh. "We need to find somewhere safe. Maybe Hagrid's."
"I'm ... No, not there. I'll send you a message."
Draco wriggled across and nestled against the length of Harry's leg, one arm slung lazily over the firm thigh. "Okay, I've waited a week, so I guess I can wait a bit longer."
"Draco, it's important you realise...." The words died in his throat as a new voice cut into the room and the curtain across the door was ripped aside.
"Harry! Are you awake, mate?"
As Ron Weasley stepped into the room, Harry, with no idea where his speed or presence of mind came from, did three things simultaneously. He pulled up his knees, tenting the bedclothes, and pushed at Draco's head, trying desperately to get the Slytherin out of sight. With his other hand, he grabbed for a book on his bedside table, opening it to a random page.
When he looked up to greet his friend, the expression on his face was one of complete ... if rather messy ... innocence. He was uncomfortably aware of what had happened in his bed, and he surreptitiously pulled the sheets further up his body. "Ron." The single word disintegrated into a squeak as somewhere under the blankets a finger pressed against him. "Morning."
"It didn't work."
With deliberate care, Shadow placed his cup onto the table before meeting the boy's troubled gaze. "Why?" The single word was cold ... ominous.
"I don't know. I went to his room expecting to find him half-dead, but he was sat up in bed looking like nothing had happened."
"And all your wards -- the ones you assured me he would never be able to remove?"
Cloud shuffled nervously. "They were gone."
"I don't understand it. We both know how badly he was hurting. There was no way he could have done this by himself."
"Then I suggest you get out of here and make sure you find out who his saviour was. And you'd better get some rest; you look terrible and the last thing I need now is either Dumbledore or McGonagall asking what you were up to last night."
The sunshine didn't last.
By the time Draco made it to breakfast, the blue sky had disappeared under a blanket of cloud. By lunchtime, a rainstorm of Biblical proportions had soaked the grounds to the point that even when the rain stopped it was pointless going out without either waders or swimming gear. So, instead of the Slytherin common room being a haven for the older students, it was currently full of first and second years rushing about getting in everyone's way and making life hell.
Draco had found a quiet corner and was pleased to find that none of the screaming children came anywhere near him. He'd been in his own room earlier, but the need for companionship ... to be with people even if he didn't join in ... had driven him back here even if he had to put up with the noise and confusion.
In his little sea of calm, Draco was sprawled on his favourite chair, an Arithmancy book open, but ignored, on his lap, with his legs outstretched. One arm was flung over the side of the chair, while the index finger of his other hand was in his mouth as he absently chewed yet again at his fingernail. He paused for a moment to study the nail. Once it had been nicely shaped and well cared for, but now it was like the others, bitten down to the quick. Draco blamed Harry in an abstract way for the damage. If he hadn't started the relationship with the other boy, Draco suspected his nails would still be perfect.
Still, he smirked; short nails did have their advantages.
He wondered what Harry was doing with his afternoon. A sweet daydream began to formulate in his mind of he and Harry together in some cosy room in front of a fire. Harry would be curled up in the corner of a sofa and Draco stretched out full length along it with his head on Harry's lap.
The image swiftly changed and Draco felt a spark of jealousy as he pictured Harry with Granger. Before he'd been in the Gryffindor common room, it had been easy to imagine it as some forbidding place ... somewhere Harry would be glad to get out of. But now he'd seen it, and while it wasn't to his taste at all, it was the perfect cosy Gryffindor setting. He'd noticed a little corner next to a window with a sofa, chair and table. He could imagine Harry on the old sofa pretending to study, with Granger in the saggy armchair next to him. And what about the Weasel? Draco shuddered as the redhead materialised into the image, leaning against Harry, the pair sniggering about something.
Ronald Bloody Weasley!
Oh, how Draco detested the boy. There had been many reasons for him to hate Weasley since they'd all started at Hogwarts and, if Draco was honest, most of them were connected in some way with Harry. He used to hate Weasley with the flaming passion of a thousand suns, as Pansy had once put it. That was back in his first and second years when he hated Weasley because Harry had chosen him over Draco. Every time Draco had looked at Harry, Weasley would be there as well, that stupid smug Weasel face smirking at him -- all red hair and freckles -- reminding Draco that, when given the choice, Harry had picked Ron Weasley over Draco Malfoy.
It was Weasley who had prevented Draco from fulfilling his father's wishes about making friends with The Boy Who Lived, and that had hurt everything from Draco's ego to his self-esteem. He remembered how it had felt when Weasley had given him a black eye in the first year during their fight at the Gryffindor/Hufflepuff Quidditch match. Madam Pomfrey had been too busy to fix it straight away and he'd had to go to dinner with it still there. Weasley had worn his injuries like much prized war wounds, but the Gryffindor had laughed and pointed at Draco and called him 'panda face' for days afterwards even when the bruise had been removed.
Draco had managed to get his own back on countless occasions, however. Weasley might be good with his fists, but he had no ability for quick-witted retorts at all. So it had always been easy to rouse that redheaded temper with just a few choice words, and Draco was happy to oblige whenever the opportunity had presented itself. And more often than not, he would be treated to Harry's green eyes glaring at him with such incredible Gryffindor self-righteous indignation that it was worth whatever punishment might be forthcoming. That look had always sent a wash of heady heat through Draco, but it wasn't until now he was older he realised what it was.
But the flaming, passionate hatred for Weasley had cooled over the fourth year into cold, hard, loathing. He'd watched as the Golden Boy and his Faithful Sidekick had fallen out with each other. He'd even written to his father about it. Lucius had told him to watch them and let him know if and when they made friends again. Weasley and Harry hadn't spoken for months, and Draco had been there on the sidelines watching Harry struggle with the Triwizard Tournament tasks, and Draco had struggled with how this had made him feel. He would smirk openly at Harry's plight (the exquisite 'Potter Stinks' badges for example), but wonder why his insides became so knotted when Harry had gone against the dragon or been underwater for so long.
And how could he forget finally seeing the clue for the Second Task: We've taken what you'll sorely miss. Harry had been required to rescue the person he would miss the most. And who had that been ... bloody Weasley no less! Now that rankled Draco and he still refused to admit even to himself that he'd wished it had been him in the water instead of the Weasel.
Today, there was an extra-special deep dark pit of loathing inside Draco that had been ignited by Weasley's homophobic rantings on Valentine's night when the redhead had confronted him on the staircase. Weasley was meant to be Harry's best friend yet he'd been prepared to slag him off to the very person who was supposed to be Harry's worst enemy. It was as if Weasley had suddenly turned schizophrenic -- one part prepared to dish the dirt on Harry, the other happy to be the faithful sidekick with his arm slung around Harry's shoulder all the time.
It was their friendly banter and casual touching that had irritated a sore niggling point in Draco. It actually hurt watching the two Gryffindors together doing their 'best buddy' act and the emotional pain twisted in his gut until he felt sick. They'd been acting like that this lunchtime, even after what Draco and Harry had shared earlier. How Draco now wished that he'd just sat up in Harry's bed and let Weasel see the pair of them naked and clearly enjoying themselves. He could just picture the expression on Weasley's face as the boy became apoplectic with rage and jealousy.
He might even have dropped dead from shock, Draco sighed regretfully.
Instead Draco had contented himself with curling around Harry under the blankets and gently teasing Harry back to full hardness with his probing fingers.
It had come as a revelation that Harry had managed to keep his voice relatively calm during the entire incident, especially with Draco doing things that should have dissolved Harry into a gibbering wreck. That, of course, had come later. The moment Weasley had left the room; Draco had pulled Harry beneath the covers and taken him in another sensual and extraordinary moment.
He wondered what Weasley would have done if he'd turned back to see all that movement beneath the sheets or if he'd heard Harry's uninhibited moans before they'd been captured by Draco's mouth.
Why had Weasley visited anyway? The visit clearly hadn't been to say a general "good morning" -- Weasley's first words had been, I heard a noise and I was worried you might be ill. You've taken a potion. Not the usual way to greet someone on a fine Sunday morning.
The whole speech hadn't rung true. Draco knew full well that he and Harry hadn't made a sound, at least not anything that could be heard outside the confines of the bed. Even though he'd made the wager with Harry about remaining silent, Draco had made sure they couldn't be heard. He'd quickly learned that Harry could be a very vocal person in bed and there was no way Draco was going to risk them being caught in flagrante delicto.
The silencing spell was one taught to him by an uncle when he was about seven years old. Draco had decided he wanted to learn how to play his mother's prized piano, but she had told him in no uncertain terms that if he touched it he would be punished. So Draco would creep down to the room in the middle of the night, set up the silencing bubble around the piano, and thump at the keys to his heart's content. It was only when his mother had suggested lessons that he realised the spell ... or rather his ability to cast it ... had not been very effective.
But Draco knew now that he could cast the spell very competently, and the bubble would absorb any sounds from within it, so Weasley couldn't have heard a thing.
Had Weasley come into the room expecting to find Harry sick? Maybe still in the state Draco had found Harry the previous night? Weasley had noticed the potion wrapper left from the mixture Draco had made up and knew that Harry took them. He didn't want to think what might be causing Harry's blinding headaches, but clearly they occurred often enough for Harry to had the medicine so close at hand. Who knew that Harry suffered so? Dumbledore of course, and Pomfrey ... Draco recognised her writing on the potion wrapper. Granger and Weasley had to know as well, and probably the little Happy Harry Gang of Thomas, Longbottom and Finnigan. Had they been told to make sure that either Weasley or Granger knew about the episodes whenever they happened?
But, if they knew, then they would come rushing to Harry's side right away. There would be no waiting for the next morning to check up on the Golden Boy.
Which, Draco's Slytherin mindset deliberated, meant only one thing. Weasley had known about the spells left on Harry's room and had expected to find a sick, cold and nearly dead Harry rather than a healthy, warm and freshly shagged Harry when he'd visited in the morning. And if that was the case, Draco mused thoughtfully, then Weasley also had to know who set the spells in the first place.
Draco's eyes widened as a preposterous and wildly improbably scenario began to formulate in his mind. What if everything was linked to Voldemort showing up in the middle of Draco's magic rituals? Was it a coincidence that the Dark Lord had been able to gain access not only through Draco's wards, but through the even stronger defences around the castle as well? Someone had clearly acted as a conduit for Voldemort and the Dark Lord had planned on taking Draco to Harry's room from the beginning. But why go to all that trouble and risk someone tracking what Voldemort had done? Draco frowned, absently turning an unread page of his book. Hadn't Voldemort said something about Harry that Draco had forgotten? Lost in the Dark Lord's assertion that Draco was, in reality, a squib?
If you want to fuck him, then go ahead. He has nothing else to offer anyone. But, dear Draco, if you dare to consider cheating on me, I will rip you to pieces.
Voldemort knew there was something going on between Harry and Draco. The whole point of his visit had been to warn Draco and scare him away from any allegiance he might have with Harry, and the Dark Lord had obviously decided that showing Draco a defenceless and powerless Harry was the best way to achieve that. He'd expected that this was all it would take to make Draco change his opinion of Harry.
Draco, who had always appreciated the beauty of power and control, of purity and lineage.
Draco, who believed in his rightful place in the world and in the greater scheme of things.
Voldemort had basically given his blessing for Draco to use Harry in any way he choose because the Gryffindor was no longer worthy of the Dark Lord's time and consideration. Even Voldemort had expected to be told of a sick, cold, nearly dead and powerless Harry in bed this morning.
He twisted the little silver ring on his right index finger round and round, eyes narrowing as his thoughts came into focus. If he accepted that, firstly, Weasley knew about the spells and Harry being ill, and, secondly, that Voldemort had orchestrated what had happened to Harry, then the only conclusion Draco could make was that Weasley must have known what Voldemort had done to Harry.
Which meant Weasley was working with the Dark Lord.
Draco gave a snort of derision. The whole train of thought was ridiculous and so far-fetched it didn't really warrant serious consideration. Weasley and Voldemort? Could there ever be a more unlikely pair than ... than ... well, himself and Harry possibly? Weasley was one of Dumbledore's little cronies ... a member of the Headmaster's Army of Light ... one of the most 'unpure-blood' pure-bloods Draco had ever known. His whole family were Muggle lovers -- they'd fought against the Dark Lord in the last war -- so how could Weasley have gotten mixed up with Voldemort?
He pulled the ring off and studied the twin emerald eyes of the silver snake he'd worn since the summer following his second year. Surely his father would have told him if one of the people watching him at school was Weasley. He would have heard something that suggested the Gryffindor was involved with the Dark Lord.
And Weasley was supposed to be Harry's friend, for fuck's sake!
"I'm so bloody bored!"
Draco looked up quickly, slipping the ring back on his finger as the voice dragged him from his increasingly sceptical thoughts. Greg Goyle had flopped into a chair opposite and was currently unwrapping a rather crushed-looking chocolate frog. "You've got loads of homework, Greg," Draco suggested helpfully.
Greg dropped the wrapper and started pulling the legs off the frog. "It's Sunday. I don't want to study."
"Then what do you want to do?"
Draco had known the boy for most of his life -- their parents were friends and Greg had often come to the Manor. In fact there had been a whole group of families and children who would shared the same tutors ... himself, Pansy, Greg, Vince, Millicent, Blaise, Tracey, Theodore, Daphne. All from good Slytherin families. All with parents whose names he'd heard in connection with the Dark Lord.
And the Weasleys? Draco remembered eavesdropping on conversations between his father and others that dripped with sarcastic and disparaging remarks about the Weasley family. They were poor. They acted like Muggles and half-bloods instead of the pure-bloods they really were.
He began to chew at his fingernail again. Was it just a coincidence that all those families had chosen to have children at the same time? And also that the Potters and Weasleys had as well? If he worked his way through the other children in his year, did the "two sides" even out? Dumbledore's Army of Light and Voldemort's Death Eaters? Or maybe the two sides were divided into "for" and "against" Muggle-borns.
It didn't really matter how he divided them; in the end it always seemed to come down to Them (Gryffindors, Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs) and Us (Slytherins). It seemed to have gotten into the psyche of the Wizarding world that because Voldemort was 'evil' and he'd been in Slytherin while at Hogwarts, all Slytherins were equally as 'evil'. Draco was proud not only of his Malfoy birthright but of his Slytherin heritage as well, and he wasn't planning on giving either up just because people continued to perpetuate some stupid myth.
Slytherin had always been a proud house, with eager-minded people -- great wizards and witches who had made the Wizarding world what it was. Without them, the Muggles would have destroyed the magical world centuries ago, and while his grandparents and great grandparents might have had an interest in the Dark Arts, they hadn't been followers of some Dark lord. Surely just being interested in the Dark Arts didn't automatically make a person a Dark wizard? And, equally, being a Dark wizard didn't mean you had to be a follower of Voldemort.
As for the myth that all evil witches and wizards came from Slytherin, Draco was sure he could name several nasty people who'd come from other houses, as well as noble people who had come from Slytherin. Sirius Black, for instance. Everyone seemed to have forgotten that once he'd been a convicted murderer who killed Muggles with Dark magic, yet now they were happy to let him teach their children. No, Voldemort and Slytherin weren't inextricably linked and just because he was having problems with one, didn't mean he had to deny the other.
His thoughts drifted back to the fact so many children had been born to so many prominent families on both sides the year before the Dark Lord's demise. What if something had been planned? What if this was all part of some sort of conspiracy and he, Harry and the others were pawns in the renewed power struggle between Dumbledore and Voldemort?
"You know, we'd be out practicing now if it hadn't been for the Gryffindors." Greg threw the Chocolate Frog wrapper at Draco. "Are you listening to me?"
Without thinking, Draco grabbed the wrapper out of the air and stared at it for a moment before throwing it back. "Quidditch." Somewhere off in the distance two of the hyperactive first years had managed to knock over a table and Purcell, the fifth-year prefect, was berating them.
"Yeah, do you know how long it's been since we last practiced? And it's going to be another five weeks before we get a chance."
A thought began to formulate in Draco's mind. "Is it still raining?"
"No, stopped about half an hour ago."
"Good." Draco, with a calculating expression, closed his Arithmancy book and placed it on a side table. "If we all go out to fly, everyone including the Quidditch team, we can have a game of tag. That way we can practice while the others mess around."
"All of us?" Greg sat forward, clearly interested in the possibility of flying.
"As many as want to join in. We can't use Bludgers or a Quaffle, so we'll use scarves. Five people -- we'll call them 'chasers'," Draco grinned, "have scarves and they have to tag one of the other players and pass the scarf over. Then that person becomes a chaser. That way our Beaters and Chasers get the chance to go through their moves, and no one can say we're actually practicing."
Greg grinned widely, clearly excited by the prospect. "Brilliant. Who gets to play?"
"Anyone who can get hold of a broom. Tell the seniors to be careful with the juniors, we don't want anyone hurt."
"And what about you? This isn't going to help you, is it?"
"Oh, don't worry about me. I'm going to get all the practice I need with the Snitch. Let's get everyone ready and no one is to wear any Quidditch gear. Remember, this is for fun, not practice."
Harry's Journal -- Sunday 15th March 1998
I'm in the Library. I'm meant to be making notes on snakes and snake-related spells for DADA. Professor Lupin clearly has a sense of humour. What next? An essay entitled "Voldemort and my part in his downfall"?
Sirius wants me to do some research as well -- about Earth Magic and where known energy centres are located. I found the one at Stonehenge, where the Parliament is and another one in London at Diagon Alley. Supposedly there's one in the Forbidden Forest and that's why the Founders built the castle here. It's meant to be why the unplottable magic works so well for both Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, but I guess it's unplottable as well because no one can agree where it is.
And there's one at Glastonbury. Professor Dumbledore has talked about Sirius taking me there over Easter for some 'field work', whatever that means. Sirius didn't say so, but I can tell he's worried about it being so close to Ottery St. Catchpole and what's left of the Burrow. I'm not sure if I want to ever go back there again, but I guess I will have to some day, so maybe going with Sirius would be a good idea. I think I trust him more than anyone else and he's still really the only person I think of as 'family'. My only connection with my parents.
I wonder what he'd say if I told him about ... Him. I've seen the way they look at each other and I can just imagine the look on Sirius' face if I said, "Guess who my boyfriend is."
What would shock Sirius the most? That I'm gay, or who I'm currently sleeping with?
See, He gets me side-tracked all the time.
Earth Magic and Glastonbury. Right. According to Professor Dumbledore, some people can tap into the energy from these centres and use it. The reason he wants Sirius to take me to Glastonbury is because the energy centre at the Tor -- that's a bloody big hill -- is so near the surface that even some Muggles can use the energy. He seems to think that I can use Earth Magic in ways that most people can't and he wants me to experience it for real. I've been training with Sirius for weeks now but haven't really noticed that I can do things others can't.
I mean I know I'm getting better at doing magic without my wand, but then he can do that as well?
There was something really satisfying in seeing his expression when I changed his shirt down in the Archive the other day. I think he was really shocked -- I know I was -- that I could actually do it, and wow ... the magic seemed to make every hair on my body stand on end. I didn't really think about it at the time, but now I have, it was really scary to think what I'd done and how it made me feel. It was a bit like sex I guess. There's this rush that goes through me when the energy first flows ... gushes. It comes up from the ground and feels like it's passing through every nerve in the body. Some of it seems to pool in my chest (if I concentrate on it now I can still feel it there), and then it reaches into my mind as if it's waiting for me to direct it. I know I put my hand out and point, but I don't think I really even need to do that. It's more like I just have to think where I want it to go.
Using a wand isn't like that at all. Wand magic sort of starts from somewhere in the pit of my stomach and just leaves a tingle when it's over. This magic whacks you over the head so hard that you see stars. Sometimes when I'm out walking on the grass I can almost feel it seeping into me ... a bit like when you walk on wet grass and it makes the bottoms of your trousers damp. The wetness seeps up the material and by the time you go back in your trousers are wet for several inches. And in charms last week it was hard to focus with my wand ... all that swishing and flicking ... I wanted to just reach out with my hand and draw the energy from inside.
That's scary. I wonder if he feels the same when he's doing wandless magic?
Back to him again. I guess I should just get on with this and stop trying not to write about him. Come on, Harry, you know you want to!
Okay. This morning was bloody brilliant. Each time I'm with him I think it can't get any better, but it does ... every fucking time! I love the feel of him and the way he touches me and how he always seems to know what I want and need. And waking up with him ... I never thought something so simple could mean so much. I wonder if it would be the same with someone else, but at the moment he's all I want. I don't care about what he might be or who he might become if Voldemort gets him. I just want him so badly it hurts in places I didn't know it could hurt. It isn't just the sex either -- just being with him is enough.
And I don't understand why. I don't know why or how he makes me feel like this because I've never felt like it before. I thought I loved Hermione in that way once ... sexually, I mean ... but the way I love her is completely different, she's my best friend. Does she feel like this when she's with Seamus? Did my dad feel like this for my mum? Is it right for me to feel like this for another boy?
He wants to know what happened in his room with the emerald. It's difficult. I want to trust him more than anything. I need for him to be honest and truthful with me, but then I have to be the same with him. Otherwise what is the point of all this? Of being with him. I don't understand it all yet, but it's like he completes me ... maybe he's the Slytherin side of myself that the Sorting Hat saw.
Or maybe I just want him....
Don't think about it for now, Harry, just forget it and think about something else. Such as last night and the tiredness and the dreams and what happened and why.
I know my scar hurt like hell, but there was more than that. More pain -- like I was being attacked by something. Then there were the dreams. Except they weren't really dreams, they were more like the visions I've had with the Dream Stones. And I'd swear that Voldemort was actually there in my room along with someone else.
Plus I haven't dreamed about Privet Drive since my fifth year, especially about being locked in the cupboard. But this one was different because it wasn't a dream, it really did happen. They took away my glasses and locked me in the cupboard for the whole night. They even took away the light. Then when they were asleep (I could hear Uncle Vernon snoring) I just knew there was something in there with me.
I've gone all cold just thinking about it ... I've got goose pimples all up my arms and the hair on the back of my neck has stuck up. No one knows about that shadow who used to be there or the green light, not even Ron and Hermione. And I haven't told them what happened last night either.
Oh, and there was a weird magical signature lingering in my room. I didn't notice it until I went back there after breakfast. I'm pretty sure it wasn't His magic. I've felt that before and this wasn't the same. I wonder if Ron noticed it when he came in my room this morning.
Thinking about it, there was something about the signature that reminds me of Ron, but then he's always in my room, so why wouldn't his signature be all over the place?
"Harry! Ron! You'll never guess what's going on."
Harry slammed his journal shut, quickly pushing it under a textbook, and spun to face a clearly over-excited Seamus Finnigan. The Irish boy was panting hard, as if he'd been running, and his sandy hair was a mess. He leaned against a bookshelf trying to get his breath back as Madam Pince, the Hogwarts Librarian, appeared out of nowhere to tell them all to "Kindly be quiet or leave."
Seamus muttered an apology and turned to his friends, a mischievous sparkle in his eyes. Harry quickly moved from the corner he'd been working to join the others, and the three boys huddled together. "Have you looked out the window recently?"
"No." Harry strained to see without moving from the little group. "What's going on?"
"The Slytherins are all out on their brooms."
"What?" The colour drained from Ron's face. "Where are they?" he hissed.
"Out near the lake. You might be able to see them through that window over there." Seamus gestured towards a window at the rear of the library. "There's hundreds of them."
Harry was already at the window when he hissed back, "Hundreds?"
"Well, loads then."
"What are they doing?"
"Playing some sort of game ... like tag on brooms. The ones with the Gryffindor scarves are the chasers and they're trying to tag the other players."
Harry was sure Ron was grinding his teeth as he responded, "They're using Gryffindor scarves? The bastards! Where the hell did they get them from?"
"Magic probably." Harry was leaning on the sill watching carefully, and quickly realised that while the Slytherin Quidditch team members were flying with the others, they weren't actually involved in the game. They were playing with a Slytherin scarf.
The colour had returned to Ron's face and he was beginning to smile coldly and triumphantly. "This time we've got them!" Outside, Draco executed a very tight turn on his broom and rushed towards the building before coming to a dead stop. "And that bloody Malfoy."
Harry though for a moment that Draco had seen him in the window. He seemed to look directly at Harry for a few seconds before speeding away after what looked like a Snitch. Harry blinked in surprise as he realised it was, indeed the little silver and gold Snitch. His initial feelings of indignation quickly changed to appreciation, and his mouth flickered into a smile. So Draco had managed to finagle his way into being able to practice after all. Typical Slytherin. He glanced over at Ron, who was no doubt trying to kill Draco by merely glowering at him. "We could go and join them. You know, fly them into the ground."
Ron turned the same glare onto Harry. "You are joking."
"Well..." Harry shrugged. "We've all been wanting to fly; this would give us a chance. Once the teachers find out what they're doing, they'll probably put a stop to it completely."
Ron harrumphed, and turned from the window. "We are not going to play with them. I'd rather the team didn't practice at all. But I am going to put a stop to this right now." He strode from the room, hands clenched into fists.
Seamus and Harry watched him go. "Well, that's a shame. I was looking forward to whopping their arses."
Harry shrugged. "Same here. Come on, I think we better go and stop Ron from making a fool of himself."
Once out on the rather sodden slope leading down to the lake, it was clear that there were probably about fifty Slytherin students taking part in the game. They looped and spun around the sky, chasing each other in the late afternoon sunshine, their cries of pleasure echoing through the still air.
By the time Harry arrived outside, the Slytherins' activities had attracted quite an audience. He leaned back against a boulder, tracking Draco as he zigzagged across the sky.
A quiet voice whispered close to his ear. "He's quiet good."
Harry turned slightly and grinned at Hermione. "Mmmm. But not a patch on me."
"Oh, I don't know. Did you ever manage a turn like that one?" Above them, Draco had stopped his broom on the spot, zipped around a hundred eighty degrees and dashed back in the direction he'd just come from. "Although he is rather showy."
"Since when were you interested in either brooms or Quidditch moves, Hermione?"
The young witch grinned at Harry. "I'm a normal, healthy girl and there is just something about watching fit young men astride their brooms."
Harry looked at her with mock surprise and indignation. "I am shocked, Miss Granger. Are you admitting to finding that man sexy?"
"I don't think I mentioned sex at all, Mr Potter. Don't put words into my mouth." She tracked Draco across the sky. "Although he does have a rather nice arse -- for a Slytherin." Harry let out a snort and knocked against her shoulder with his own. "What's wrong, Harry? I thought you'd agree with me." She looked at him, her gaze suddenly searching. Harry was sure he could feel himself beginning to blush and he stammered for a moment. "You are watching him rather intently."
"I am not!"
Hermione sniggered as she put her arm round Harry's shoulder and gave a little squeeze. "No, Harry, of course not."
Harry pursed his lips, trying to watch Draco without actually looking directly at him. It was pointless, and with a sigh, he turned to Hermione. "I need to talk to you about..." His eyes flickered automatically towards Draco. "Well, about ... something."
"That's good, because I need to speak to you."
"Oh? What about?"
"I've been doing some research into your prophecy thing and...." She stopped with a squeal as Draco suddenly swooped down, skimming a few feet above their heads.
They both ducked, and unconsciously, Harry's hand shot out to one side, his fingers closing around the Snitch that Draco had been chasing. He spun round, following the retreating broom, and released the Snitch. The little gold and silver ball hovered for a moment before speeding off again.
It didn't get far. A larger hand, belonging to the one person Harry did not want to see, snapped it from the air. The hand held the little Snitch by one of its wings, the other fluttering helplessly, clearly as desperate to escape as Harry now was.
Severus Snape stared at the Snitch for a moment, then turned on Harry, a hard smile twisting at the corner of him mouth. "Well, well, well, Mr Potter. Playing with a Snitch when it has been expressly forbidden. Didn't I make it clear when I said that all Quidditch practice was banned?"
"I wasn't practicing ... I just caught it."
"Really? And who, might I, ask has been out here playing with it?"
Harry opened his mouth, his eyes flickering in the direction of Draco's now distant broom. "I..." He turned back to Snape. "The Slytherins."
"Professor," Hermione quickly interjected. "Harry has only just come out here, someone else released the Snitch. It wasn't him."
"Miss Granger, when I want your opinion, I will ask for it."
"But the Slytherins are out here practicing."
"Of course they aren't. They are playing a game and, as I have just informed Mr Weasley, they asked my permission before starting. As for you, Mr Potter, you really are just like your father. You can't stop yourself from showing off, can you? Clearly you still believe that instructions do not apply to you. You will report to my office tomorrow evening for detention."
Harry felt himself seethe at the mention of his father, but clenched his mouth closed to prevent the terse response that was on his lips, or, worse. He had been waiting for some sort of reprimand, so another detention from Snape didn't come as any surprise, but the dig at his dad was once again uncalled for. Snape was waiting for him to react, but Harry was determined not to give him the pleasure. At least he only had fifteen more weeks at school before he would be completely free of Snape for good!
He could put up with another detention.
Snape was looking at him with narrowed eyes, and Harry got the impression the Potions Master was trying to read something in his expression, as if gauging what Harry's response might be. Or maybe, Harry decided, Snape was just annoyed because Harry hadn't argued about the detention.
Finally the hard dark stare moved away from Harry as Snape turned his attention to Draco. He waved the Slytherin captain down and Draco landed gracefully in front of the Potions Master.
"Sir?" Draco's eyes shifted briefly to Harry before returning to the professor.
"The Headmaster wants to see you, Mr Malfoy. Leave your broom with Mr Potter, I'm sure he won't mind putting it away."
The Headmaster's office was exactly as it had been on Draco's last visit a month ago. The people in the portraits peered at the young man as he crossed the room and Draco could hear muttered conversations between them.
"Wonder what he's done this time?"
"Nothing good will come of this...."
"Leave the boy alone."
Draco's eyes were drawn to his one defender. He recognised the aged gentleman from a portrait at Malfoy Manor as Phineas Nigellus, one of the few Slytherin headmasters. Nigellus was also some sort of relative of his mother's from what Draco could remember. The image glowered at him and Draco's lip twitched in return as he hovered beside the Headmaster's desk.
He waited in silence, eyes drifting around the room as he took in the array of strange and wondrous devices littering the shelves and tables. A movement of gold and scarlet caught his attention and he turned towards it, mouth opening in surprise as he realised it was a phoenix. As he watched, the creature ruffled its feathers, fixed Draco with its black-eyed stare and let out a small crow.
Slowly, as if hypnotised by the creature's intense gaze, Draco stepped toward the golden perch. He stood before the bird, enthralled and awed by the creature in equal measure. He'd read about them of course, and had even heard that Dumbledore had one. There had even been a rumour about it helping Harry in his second year, but he'd never dreamed of ever seeing a live phoenix, let alone actually being this close to one.
The creature watched him with eyes like black bottomless wells. He remembered the rumours about Harry's Animagus form being a phoenix, and as he studied the bird with its Gryffindor plumage, like the flames of its rebirth fires, Draco knew it would be a perfect choice. The image of Harry on his broom, dressed in his scarlet and gold Quidditch robes streaking across the sky flashed through Draco's mind ... Harry the Phoenix.
Mesmerized, Draco slowly reached out his hand towards the creature. It looked at his fingers, head titled to one side before once again meeting Draco's eyes. Then without warning, it unfurled its wings and darted the few feet towards the boy. Its beak was open, the vicious tip arching towards Draco's face, but he held his ground, steeling himself for the phoenix's bite.
It never came.
Instead, it landed on Draco's outstretched arm, the bird's weight feather-light as the warm tail feathers wrapped over his hand. Bemused, Draco felt the touch of phoenix feathers on his cheek as the creature nipped gently at his ear ... his hair. He could hear the creature's lyrical chirrups, the sound making him gasp as it washed over him.
For a moment, Draco didn't move as he realised that a lump was forming in his throat, the sensation a prelude to tears. He took a deep breath, trying to bite back the feeling, wondering why it was happening. As the phoenix touched him, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from him -- a weight that had dragged him down for years -- and that if he allowed himself to cry, the tears would be of relief rather than sadness.
"I see Fawkes has taken a liking to you, Mr Malfoy."
Dumbledore. Draco recognised the voice without looking.
The phoenix lifted from his arm, fluttering away. But the feeling of peace stayed with him, leaving him feeling strangely content. The young wizard turned to meet the Headmaster's piercing stare, the wellspring of emotion now temporarily under control. "Fawkes?"
"Yes, my phoenix." The creature had settled on the desk, and Dumbledore's fingers scratched its head. "Please sit down. You too, Professor."
Draco had forgotten about his Head of House and when he finally met the normally guarded black eyes, he saw something in them that he didn't understand. Concern? Intrigue? Why couldn't he read Snape like he could everyone else? He sat in the same chair he had a month before and waited. Calm. Impassive.
Dumbledore picked up a scroll of parchment from his desk, reading it quickly before looking at Draco over the top of his half-moon glasses. "I have received a letter from your father."
"My father?" He tried to keep his features impassive but it was difficult to hide his delight at seeing the Malfoy crest on the small parchment seal.
"Yes. He's asked permission for you to go home for the Easter holidays." Draco couldn't keep a little smile from playing on his face. "Ah, I see you are pleased by the prospect. You will be celebrating your eighteenth birthday, won't you?"
Draco nodded. "Yes, sir." He'd been waiting for this, waiting for his father to ask permission, worried that Lucius would stick to his word about Draco's behaviour. That if he misbehaved, any birthday celebrations would be cancelled -- just like Christmas.
"Do you know what your parents have arranged for you?"
The tone of the word 'arranged' was almost sinister, and Draco's eyes narrowed a little as he tried to read the Headmaster's expression. "We've talked about a party."
"Mmm ... nothing like a good party to get things going, especially for an eighteen year old. You realise this means you become responsible for all your actions; you will no longer be expected to do as your parents want." Dumbledore leaned forward. "You can start making your own choices, Mr Malfoy."
"I know, sir."
"And are you ready to make your own choices, or are you going to do as your parents demand?"
"I..." Draco took a breath.
"You don't have to go home."
"Why wouldn't I want to go home to visit my parents?" Draco tried to keep his expression neutral, but it was difficult. He knew damn well what Dumbledore was alluding to and he was determined not to take the bait.
"You have my permission to go, Mr Malfoy, but I don't want you to find you have been given a present you may prefer not to have but can't return."
Draco realised he was clenching his teeth, and his grey eyes flashed in defiance at the elderly wizard. "My parents would never give me something I didn't want." He shot a look at Snape and saw that the man's right hand was resting on his left forearm, just below the bend of his elbow, covering the place where Draco knew both his father and Snape had been imprinted with Voldemort's Mark. He'd seen his father's Mark ... a vague outline, sometimes visible in just the right light, and he remembered, as a child, seeing that same Mark on Snape. Then, over the previous summer, his father's Mark had changed, showing up more clearly as though branded on his skin like a fresh wound. It wasn't until Lucius had made him kneel at the Dark Lord's feet that Draco had considered it might be Voldemort's presence that had made it visible.
He'd wanted to ask his father if it hurt, what it felt like. But the Mark was something he had always been in awe of since the first time he'd seen it. It was a sign of power, of belonging to a group of people who were superior to other wizards. He would study at his father's friends and colleagues and see how they looked up to Lucius, treating him as their natural leader while they all awaited the return of Voldemort. The next generation -- Draco's contemporaries -- treated him in much the same way, as though they saw him as the next leader, and it was a role Draco had always assumed would be his. Following in his father's footsteps, as Lucius had with his own father.
Over his childhood, Draco had longed for a Mark of his own. He remembered drawing it on his arm once and his grandmother hurriedly scrubbing it away, telling him in her firm but loving voice that he didn't need to mar his skin with something like that just to become a powerful wizard. After she died he would still draw it, watching as the ink faded over a few days until it was barely visible. The first time his mother had seen it, she'd been shocked and quickly washed it away, but his father had patted his head and told him that one day he would have a proper one ... that on the day he became an adult, he would be Marked and would join the elite of the Wizarding world. And with paternal pride Lucius had added, "And maybe, my boy, you will be one of the lucky ones to be Marked by the Master himself. Imagine, Draco, Lord Voldemort attending your ceremony and bestowing his Mark on you himself."
Draco absently raised a hand to his chin, fingers rubbing over the spot where Voldemort had touched him, once again convinced the touch had left a scar there.
He straightened, head high ... proud. "I will decide my own future."
"Of course you will, Draco. But sometimes our choices might seem to become limited by those around us. We know it should be our own choice, but we don't want to disappoint those we love by doing something they wouldn't approve of."
"I..." What did make him think he could choose? It had always been made clear that his future path was already mapped out and Draco had never bothered to consider whether he wanted it or not. If he went to his father and told him he didn't want to take the Mark yet, he was sure that Lucius would accept that and not force him ... Lucius never forced him to do anything he didn't want ... but what would his father do if he went home and said he didn't want to join the family business and instead wanted to be an Auror for instance, or study medicine or herbology? Would Lucius understand and let him?
"Just remember, my boy, that there are always two sides to every story and that there is always more than one choice."
"Really?" Draco hesitated for a moment, suddenly aware that he must guard his words. It would be all too easy under Dumbledore's benevolent gaze to say things he might regret later. To say anything that linked his family with Voldemort would be disastrous. "Why should I need to consider any choices, Professor? I'm going home for the holidays, that's all."
"Of course. But while you are away, I suggest you do consider all your options regarding your future." Before the young wizard could respond, Dumbledore held out two small pieces of parchment. "Your train tickets."
"Thank you." Draco studied the tickets -- one for his journey home on the 7th April, the other for the return on the 17th. He gave a half-hearted smile, surprised that the thought running through his head wasn't 'great, ten days away from school', but 'oh no, ten days without Harry'.
"And Draco, I'd like you to take this as well." The Headmaster held out a small leather pouch with a gold drawstring. "You may look inside, but don't touch what is in there."
Draco took the bag and pulled it open; surprise clearly on his face at what was inside -- a small scarlet feature clearly from Fawkes. "Sir?"
"It is a Portkey."
Dumbledore nodded sagely. "It will bring you back to Hogwarts if you should decide to return early."
"Why would I want to do that?"
"Oh, I doubt you will, but nevertheless, why don't you humour an old man and keep it with you at all times. Besides, it's much quicker than the train." He beamed appreciatively. "And remember, you never know when it might come in handy."
Draco raised a sardonic eyebrow. "Yes, sir."
With that the young man was waved from the room by the Head Master.
As the door closed behind him, Draco stood at the top of the moving spiral staircase, which was now spiralling downward, and studied the objects in his hands. Once again Dumbledore had left him feeling confused and uncomfortable. It wasn't what the elderly man had said, but what he hadn't that concerned Draco. Did Dumbledore know something he was refusing to actually tell Draco, or was this whole conversation a ruse to get Draco to admit things about his father?
Shoving the tickets and the leather pouch into his pockets, he stepped onto the staircase. He would have to be careful ... careful of everyone.
Back in the Headmaster's study, Snape turned on the older man, his eyes flashing dangerously. "You should have told him."
"Told him what, Severus? That his father might be planning to let Voldemort Mark him? Do you really think he would have refused to go home if I had told him that?"
"At least he could then decide for himself. You know Lucius won't give him any choice in the matter."
Dumbledore leaned back in his chair, piercing blue eyes holding Snape's gaze until he was forced to look away. "Twenty-four years ago I seem to remember telling you in no uncertain terms what Voldemort was planning for you. Did you take any notice?"
Snape took a deep breath, the conversation from all those years ago playing through his mind once again. He often thought of that moment as the crossroads in his life, when he had with typical teenage arrogance ignored Dumbledore's warning and proudly taken Voldemort's Mark. Three years later he had learned to regret that decision with a fervour that still burned brightly even after all these years. He had remained part of Voldemort's army, spying for Dumbledore, feeling the need to do something to pay for all the terrible things he'd done in those years. Seventeen years ago he'd gone to James, warning him that his family wasn't as safe as James believed it to be. James, with classic Gryffindor self-important stupidity had laughed him off and within a month the idiot was dead.
"No, Albus. But we can't just let him go. Will you take him back into school if Lucius gets his way?"
"Anyone who asks for help will always be welcome here, Severus, you know that. But if Draco takes the Mark willingly and dedicates his life to Voldemort, then you know I will not allow him to risk the lives of the other children in our care."
"If we were discussing Potter, would you be so circumspect. You'd have no compunction about telling him of the dangers." Snape had folded his arms, hugging them to his body. The room suddenly seemed cold and he felt sure every portrait was watching him.
"Harry is a different matter."
"Potter has been mollycoddled since he came to Hogwarts. It's bad enough that we have to count on that idiot Black teaching him. Saints and angels preserve us." The Potions Master got to his feet. "I have homework to mark. Good day, Albus." He turned towards the door.
"If you feel you can do any better, Severus, then perhaps you should offer your services."
Snape paused mid-stride and slowly turned back. "Excuse me?"
"You have more insights into Earth Magic than either Sirius or myself. You gave significant assistance to the only other living person who is an Earth Mage, Severus. Granted, he isn't a very good one, but he does have the gift nevertheless."
Snape's jaw tightened and, hidden in the folds of his sleeves, he clenched his fists so tightly that the nails cut into his palms. "Thank you for reminding me of that, Albus."
"I don't mention this to make you feel uncomfortable. The fact is you do have that knowledge, Severus. Knowledge I am unable to give Harry and which is completely outside of Sirius' experience. If you shared it with Harry you know it would make an appreciable difference."
"You expect me to bother with the boy after the problems he's given me in the past?"
"I expect you to do what you feel is right. Of course, if you feel you can't cope with him, I understand." Snape felt himself becoming indignant at the inference. "But Harry might be your answer to the Draco problem."
Dumbledore came to his feet. "I'll let you to work that one out. But feel free to assist in young Harry's education if you wish." The old man smiled. "I'll mention it to Sirius."
"What's this?" Harry scanned the sheet of parchment in his hand. Hermione had dragged him to up to her room after dinner, pushed him down onto the armchair and heaped a pile of papers onto his lap. He was currently trying to make sense of the top sheet.
Clearing a space on the small coffee table, Hermione sat down and leaned forward a little. "That is Elvish script."
"I can see that." He leaned back, glancing from the sheet to the animated features of his friend.
"You've got it upside down." Hermione grabbed at the parchment and turned it.
"As if that makes any difference," he tutted, before waving the paper absently. "Hermione, I have absolutely no idea what this says."
"It's your prophecy. Well, at least part of it anyway."
"Really?" Frowning, he stared at the sheet, suddenly interested in what it might say. "I didn't know you could read things like that."
"I've been studying in my spare time."
"Yeah, right," Harry snorted as he watched her sort though the books on the table. "In the five minutes you have to spare between Potions and Arithmancy. Why?"
"Why what?" She picked up a rather battered book and placed it on her lap.
"Why study Elvish?"
"Because of this." She tapped the book before opening it to show that the pages were all covered in the fine script. "I found it tucked away in the library and was so intrigued by it I decided I'd try to translate it." Her eyes darted over to her desk and Harry saw a neatly stacked pile of parchments, probably the translated texts. "Of course, I had to learn the language first."
"Was it good?"
"The book ... was it a gripping tale of derring-do?"
She glared at him. "If you must know, Harry James Potter, it's about elementals and their magic."
"Fairy folk. Earth spirits. Sprites."
"I know ... I've done History of Magic as well."
"Believe me this isn't some old dry history lesson or even a fairy story for that matter. When I started translating it, I didn't know my best friend was going to be some sort of elemental magic practitioner or that later in the book I'd come across his prophecy."
Now it was Harry's turn to glare. "I don't do -- what did you call it? Elemental magic."
"It's the same thing, Harry ... Elemental, Earth, call it what you like. It's being able to control the natural forces that are around us."
"And I don't do that either." Hermione raised a cynical eyebrow at him. "Well, I don't!"
"Did anyone ever tell you that in the past, elemental practitioners were able to influence the weather? They could divert the flow of rivers or...."
"Next you'll be telling me I can bring down a hail of brimstone and fire." Harry knew his tone was getting more and more defensive, but he couldn't help it. He didn't want to know this ... didn't want yet another 'gift' foisted on him. When Hermione didn't answer, he let his head drop onto the chair back. "It's nothing like that anyway. Sirius is just teaching me a few spells. I bet you could do them if you wanted."
"I doubt that very much, love." She squeezed his knee. "One day, Harry, you will learn to just accept that you're a special person with some extra-ordinary gifts."
For several minutes Harry remained silent, staring at the ceiling. When he finally spoke there was an air of dejected acceptance. "I just want to be an ordinary person and have an ordinary life and write reports on the thickness of cauldron bottoms."
"So says the boy who's spent his entire time at Hogwarts fighting evil and loving every minute. You'd hate being ordinary, Harry." She reached out and touched his cheek. "You'd be bored out of your mind in no time at all."
"Don't be so sure," he retorted dryly.
"What's it like doing magic without a wand?"
She was holding his wand hand now, rubbing her thumb over the back, and he watched its path for a moment before shrugging. "It's like doing it with a wand but ... more so. It sort of builds up really quickly and sometimes I think it's going to work without an incantation." He looked up at her and saw something in her eyes. Was there just a little fear there? Fear of him? He knew that being able to do magic without a wand was supposed to be a very rare gift, but the last thing he wanted was for Hermione to be scared of him. "Can I show you?"
"Please," Hermione nodded and started to release his hand.
"No." He gripped her hand between his and instead just held her gaze.
Hermione gasped as warmth radiated from Harry's hands, suffusing into her own palm. When he finally let go, she stared down at her hand. There, on centre of her left palm, was a miniature replica of the tattoo she'd magicked onto Harry a month ago. She stared at it for a moment, rubbing absently at it with her right hand. "Wow. That's pretty impressive."
"Wait until you see where the other one is." Harry's green eyes glinted mischievously.
"Harry!" Some of the fear left her at his light tone. She held up her hand, letting the gold and scarlet glint in the candlelight, and thoughtfully studied the fine lines criss-crossing her palm. "Are you scared of it? Of the power?"
"All the time. It would be so easy to do something without meaning to." He flexed his hand and was sure he could feel the energy crackling around him like a static charge. "He can do it, too."
"Draco. He can do wandless magic."
"Malfoy can?" The look on her face was one of disbelief. "Are you sure?"
Harry nodded. "I've seen him use it. You know that red shirt you've been trying to steal?"
"The silk one?"
"Yeah, that one. It started life as denim. He changed it ... just held up his hand and changed it."
"Isn't that typical," she tutted, and Harry recognised her attempt at lightening her own mood. "Using a gift like that for something so trivial."
"He had his reasons." Harry took hold of her hand again, tracing over the lines with his thumb, and told her what Draco had said about wandless magic -- how Draco believed that wands really acted as dampeners, preventing people from tapping into their own innate magic, and how Draco claimed to have trained for many years. "He even said I should learn it because if I didn't I wouldn't stand a chance against Voldemort." He sighed a little. "And that was all before I found out about the prophecy and stuff. Do you think he's right? That I need this ... elemental magic if I'm going to defeat Voldemort once and for all?"
"Harry, how much do you trust him?" She put the book back onto the table and leaned a little closer.
"Draco?" She nodded. "Now, that's a question." Harry swallowed and took a deep breath. "Hermione, I know you're going to think I'm mad or under some kind of spell or something, but he's probably as important to me as you and Ron. Don't ask me to explain it because I can't, I just know."
"That wasn't what I asked, Harry love, what I asked was about 'trust'. It's completely clear to me that you are in love..." Harry gave a quick snort of derision at the comment, which she ignored. "But being besotted and trusting are two different things."
"Okay, I understand, but I'm not 'in love' or 'besotted'..." Now it was Hermione's turn to scoff. "He's told me things ... he's been really honest with me ... and I want to trust him. I need to trust him."
"Why? Especially after all the things he's done to us -- to you."
"Just ... I just..." Harry looked at her, green eyes beseeching. "Hermione...."
"Goodness, Harry, you really are smitten. I've never seen you like this before about anything or anyone."
Harry was only too aware that a light flush was beginning to colour his cheeks. The truth was he didn't know just how he felt about Draco. Did he 'love' him? Did he care that much? Was it possible to go from 'hate' to 'love' so quickly? Did he know what 'being in love' felt like? He wanted to argue the point with Hermione, but he knew that didn't have a suitable response. The only thing he could do was shrug. "I hate this, Hermione. All the secrets I'm having to keep ... the magic, the prophecy and now Draco."
"I'm worried he really could hurt you, Harry. We both know what his father is."
"People can change. Just because Lucius is a Death Eater, it doesn't mean that Draco is or that he will be." There was a growing desperation in Harry's voice and he wondered whom he was trying to convince -- himself or Hermione. "I think he saved my life last night." At the look of disbelief on her face, Harry quickly explained what had happened. "That's what the silver dragon is ... some sort of protection charm."
Hermione's expression left no doubt as to what she felt about the story. There was anger, concern and fear there, and the grip on Harry's hand tightened. "Harry, for goodness sake, why on earth didn't you tell me about this earlier?"
"I've been trying to. That's what I wanted to talk to you about earlier. You know, when Snape gave me that detention. And I don't want what happened to be public. You know what the others are like when I tell them I've taken one of my potions. They don't leave me alone for days. Plus, I was okay when I woke up."
"Have you told anyone else besides me and Malfoy? Ron? Sirius? Or Professor Dumbledore for that matter."
"No, not yet," he sighed.
"What about what happened in Malfoy's room? Have you told anyone about that?" Hermione's voice had taken on a tone that her friends called 'The McGonagall', all it needed was a Scottish accent and it would match the professor's tone perfectly. "You collapsed down there and now you're telling me that you've had visions of Voldemort in your room? Has it ever occurred to you that it might all be Malfoy's doing? That this is all some sort of plot to get you to trust him?"
For a long moment, Harry could do nothing but look at her. He wanted to be mad at her for trying to twist what had happened, but he knew that deep down inside he'd considered the possibility that Draco might have been involved. "He came to me, Hermione, and looked after me. I know it's hard to believe things can change, but I do truly trust him. And at the moment, I also need him."
"If he hurts you, I swear I will rip his balls off and feed them to him in a nice white wine sauce."
Harry opened his mouth, and then closed it as he shook his head at both the girl's comments and the look of fierce protection on her face. "You know, it would almost be worth it just to see you do that."
"We could sell tickets."
"And Colin could take pictures." They both collapsed in a fit of giggles. "Okay..." Harry finally pulled off his glasses and scrubbed at one of his eyes. "Okay, so let's just say that I might, possibly, be smitten."
"And that if you don't tell either Professor Dumbledore or Sirius what happened, then I am going to."
"I'll tell them. Just give me a couple of days to sort this out."
"Harry, just how much have you told Malfoy?"
"Nothing yet. He knows I can do wandless magic, but not why or how. He wants to know, though."
"I bet he does...."
"And I want to tell him." Harry's words were firm. Definitive.
"Don't you think that's rather silly?" Hermione was beginning to fidget nervously. "At least wait until you are sure where his allegiance really lies. If Voldemort finds out about your elemental magic what do you think would happen?"
"What makes you think he doesn't already know?" Harry frowned thoughtfully. "So many weird things have happened since the New Year, maybe Voldemort knows and he's trying to stop me from learning more."
"Even more reason to doubt Malfoy's sincerity. He comes into your life and everything starts going wrong. What if it was planned that he would turn up at Hagrid's? People know you go there and what better way to get at you than to play on your kind-hearted nature?"
"Sure, Harry Potter wouldn't leave someone to freeze, even if it was Malfoy."
"That's ridiculous. Lucius wouldn't risk his own son's life."
"But he knew he wasn't, Harry. He knew you'd make sure Malfoy was okay."
"I...." Harry pushed his hand into his hair and rested his elbow on the chair arm. He knew Hermione was making valid points, and the idea he was being taken for a ride hurt more deeply than he thought possible.
"And Lucius is a Death Eater. We don't know what he would be prepared to risk to get at you, including his own son."
"What if it's someone else who's responsible? Crabbe and Goyle's fathers are both Death Eaters ... maybe they're doing this."
"Are you sleeping with them as well?"
Harry choked and glowered at her. "Please! At least give me credit for having good taste."
"Of course you do." Hermione ruffled his hair. "And that is my point. I don't see any of the other Slytherins throwing you out of kilter like this. It's Malfoy that is making you question everything. I just want you to be careful."
"Okay. I promise I will be." He gave a tired smile. Then his eyes opened wide as another idea suddenly stuck home. He sat up straight, the papers on his lap threatening to slide off as he grabbed for them. "Hermione, what if it isn't a Slytherin? What if it's someone from Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw ... even Gryffindor? I know we always say that Voldemort's followers are Slytherins, but who's to say that there aren't people from other houses on his side?"
Hermione took a deep breath. "That's what I wanted to talk to you about."
"It is?" The girl nodded. "You want to talk about Voldemort's followers coming from other houses?"
"Well, sort of. It's connected with your prophecy."
"As in 'When the Millennium is not dead, but dying'?"
"Yes that one. Read this." She reached for the book again, opening the fragile-looking pages at a bookmarked place. Harry could see now that that the pages were handwritten with painstaking care. "Like I said, the book is about elementals. I think some of it is just stories, but there are other bits that I'm sure are like real history. There're still a few words I can't find a translation for, but this bit is so similar to your own prophecy that it has to be the same thing. I've copied it out for you." She waggled a finger towards the sheet on Harry's lap. "And there's a translation as well."
Harry picked up the second sheet and glanced over it, pursing his lips as he read over the wording. "It looks the same, maybe a bit more wordy, but the gist is similar. How old is the book?"
"I have no idea, possibly two or three hundred years. But I'm not sure the age is what's important here. It's the fact it's written in an elemental language that is important. It means the prophecy has crossed into another species and that gives it more credence as having some truth to it."
"Thanks, but I'm looking for things that say it isn't true." Harry had picked up a third sheet, scanning Hermione's meticulous writing as he read it out aloud.
The Lion will choose his Protector
Who will be the Morning Star's Child
With his Protector at his side
The Lion will heal the land
In the places Darkness has touched
And together they will tame the Serpent.
But be warned that the Lion will be deceived by his own kind.
The Lion's Counsellor will turn to the Serpent and his words will be false.
"What is this?" His tone had suddenly become serious.
"Ah? That's all you have to say?"
"There seems to be a bit more to the prophecy. A part that Professor Dumbledore hasn't told you."
"You mean he's lied to me?"
"Not necessarily. Things get mistranslated or partly translated. Sometimes they are passed down verbally so bits get added or taken away. Sometimes a new seer will have a vision that adds new bits or clarifies others." Hermione tapped the page in the book with her finger. "It's possible the seer who came up with this was an elf rather than a wizard and that's why it's in this book and not elsewhere."
"He has to have known about it, Hermione. The book came from the Hogwarts library. Why wouldn't he tell me?"
"Maybe he forgot about this book ... I took it out of the library ages before you told me about the prophecy."
"The one thing Dumbledore doesn't do is forget."
"No, he doesn't. Anyway, read the second stanza again -- the bit about the Counsellor."
Harry raised an eyebrow before reading through the indicated passage. "Okay. But be warned that the Lion will be deceived by his own kind. The Lion's Counsellor will turn to the Serpent and his words will be false."
Hermione was nervously playing with a strand of her hair by now. "I think it might be someone who was a Gryffindor." Green eyes widened as Harry stared at her. "The line Deceived by his own kind, makes me think it could be someone from our House."
The sigh Harry let out seemed to go on forever. He dropped the sheet, watching as it slipped from his lap onto the floor. "Brilliant ... just what I need. You know, Hermione, you're right, I do have to tell someone about Draco and the emerald and collapsing and what happened yesterday, but all the people I trust ... the people I go to for help ... are Gryffindors. Sirius, Professor Dumbledore, Remus ... hell, even you and Ron. Fuck it, I not only have to fight Voldemort, but everyone else as well."
"And there's my reason to trust Draco. I bloody-well can't trust anyone else." He suddenly swept at the papers on his lap and stood abruptly as they scattered around him. Neither spoke as they fluttered silently to the floor.
Hermione watched him for a moment before slowly rising to her feet. When she finally spoke, her voice was uncharacteristically hesitant. "Harry, I hope you know that you can trust me ... I couldn't stand it if you didn't."
Harry's face showed exactly what he thought of her comment. "Of course I trust you. I've always trusted you." He leaned forward, winding his arms around her waist. "I don't know what I'd do without you."
Hermione gathered him into her arms, holding the dark-haired boy close. "We'll get through this, Harry. I promise."
Just after moonrise ... The grounds of Malfoy Manor
It was strange, Lucius considered, that a simple carved stone could change the feel of the very air surrounding it. He had already walked several times around the large circular object, daring himself to actually reach out and touch it, to feel the energy he knew pulsated through it. Moonlight picked out the carvings covering the top of the four-foot wide stone, bringing them alive, and Lucius imagined he could actually see them glowing in the darkness.
He stopped on the far side of the powerful object, which had until recently graced the halls of the Parliament at Stonehenge, and looked across it towards the graceful facades of Malfoy Manor. The building shimmered as if in a heat haze, and he was sure he could feel the Hallows Stone connecting with the circle of standing stones surrounding the building.
The manor house was just the latest in a long line of buildings that had been constructed here. The family records dated back more than a thousand years and there were even tales that the Hogwarts Founders were guests while they were planning the school. The catacombs beneath the current structure dated back to the Tudor dynasties, and the Manor, in its most recent incarnation, had been constructed some two hundred years after that following a devastating fire believed to have been started by an idiot Horse Master -- one Edmond Weasley. The families had fought with each other ever since.
The sheer beauty of the current Manor never failed to impress Lucius and sometimes he even gave silent thanks to Edmond for destroying the monstrosity that had stood there before.
It had been rebuilt just off centre of the ring of standing stones at Avebury in Wiltshire. He could see the stones now, some nestling in the trees and bushes, some out in the open, as powerful now as they had been when the circle was first constructed. Of course, these weren't the stones the Muggles came to see ... no, that circle was a few miles up the road. It was a fake, of course, crafted by his great, great grandfather to trick the locals and keep them away from the real circle and the energy it filled the surrounding landscape with.
His stones -- the true stones -- were hidden by complex spells and unplottable magic. To Muggles, the area was rolling Wiltshire countryside. They would stand and admire the glorious landscape, but for some reason never think to walk over it. Yet another cleverly crafted spell.
It was these stones that currently seemed to be linking with the Hallows. Lucius imagined he could see fine glowing threads linking everything together -- the stone the hub of the huge energy wheel -- and he marvelled at the beauty of that power. The Hallows now stood at the very centre of the circle, where the Earth's own energies flowed close to the surface. He had always known that it was possible to tap into this power, but had never known what key was needed to open the floodgates.
Until now, of course. Until Voldemort had explained that the Hallows was the lock and that his son was the key. He crouched down, his hand drawn almost inexplicably towards the stone.
"Don't touch it, Lucius. It's taken several of my best people to align it just right."
Lucius came to his feet, turning in one fluid movement to watch as Tom Riddle strolled towards him. The man was smiling, but that smile didn't reach the piercing sapphire eyes.
Lucius nodded subserviently. "Master, I...." His words died as a figure stepped out from behind the Dark Lord. He looked like Voldemort's shadow in the moonlight and Lucius felt himself shiver inwardly. Shadow by name ... Shadow by nature. The look Lucius gave Shadow was one of sneering ice. "I see we have a guest. Shouldn't you be looking after your young charges at Hogwarts?"
"Hello, Lucius." The voice was quiet, but strangely commanding. "They won't miss me for a few hours. I've come to check the alignment. We can't have anything go wrong now, can we?"
Lucius felt the nervous tic in his cheek spasm. He hated having this ... person ... creature ... in his home. Hated the cold, almost psychotic monster he and Voldemort had created two years ago. Whenever Shadow visited the Manor, Lucius always felt the need to have everywhere he touched cleansed.
"I've checked both it and the star charts, and the Hallows is locked in perfectly." And five loyal followers had died in the efforts to ensure that it was so he wanted to add. They had been moving the stone when a rogue burst of energy had escaped, incinerating them all.
Shadow smiled and, for a moment, Lucius thought he saw canine incisors. "I'm sure you have. But we both want things to go according to plan, don't we?"
"Of course. Be my guest." Lucius gestured towards the stone. "But you will find it perfect."
"I do hope so, Lucius." Riddle had crossed to the stone and had now crouched down beside it. He touched a finger to the hard surface, which seemed to ripple as though turned to liquid. "Once Shadow has checked things, he'll be putting some security wards on the Hallows. We don't want someone finding it by mistake, do we? Or maybe touching it without realising what might happen." Blue eyes glinted in the moonlight as he turned his gaze on Lucius. "And I expect you to keep this a secret from Draco. He mustn't know his role in our little plan until the appropriate time."
"He doesn't know, Master." Lucius watched as the Dark Lord rose and stepped onto the stone. The strange liquefied rippling flowed around his feet and the air filled with a static charge.
Lucius knew all about Earth Magic. He'd spent years studying the subject and knew that while every wizard could tap into its power by using their wands, only one or two could actually control it ... Earth Mages. He knew that those so gifted didn't need to use wands to focus magical energies and were able to exert that control over the most powerful magical force in the world.
And he knew that Voldemort was one such wizard.
But for all his knowledge, Lucius wasn't one of those gifted wizards. He had tried to teach Draco how to access it, and while the boy had managed to learn wandless magic, his son's skills had proved to be a disappointment. Instead of tapping into Earth Magic, Draco could only work with his own innate magic when he didn't use his wand. It drained the boy, but Lucius insisted Draco keep practicing in the vain hope that one day he might just learn how to do it properly.
But the one thing Lucius had never been lucky enough to experience was the pure, unadulterated power of Earth Magic even though he had lived over an energy point all his life. At least not until this moment anyway.
As Voldemort had stepped onto the stone. Lucius finally experienced what he'd craved all his life. He could feel it rolling off the stone and washing over both him and the ground.
It almost took his breath away.
And this was what he was going to let Voldemort tap into -- this incredible source of magical energy.
"I know you can feel it, Lucius." The voice was at his ear and he shuddered inwardly as Shadow's fingers rested on his shoulder. "Imagine, all this magical energy under your home and even if you wanted to, you couldn't use it."
The nervous tic twitched again and Lucius tried to pull away, but Shadow's grip kept hold of his shoulder. It rankled that Shadow was right. His grandfather had told Lucius about the energy points and leylines that crisscrossed the British countryside. He remembered spending hours with the man while his own father was busy, learning about the standing stones in the garden to the point Lucius felt he knew each one individually.
He had always sensed the power under and around the land of the Malfoy estate, but it made him angry to not be able to use the Earth Magic that protected his Malfoy inheritance. It had been many generations since the Malfoys had produced an Earth Mage, and Lucius had had high hopes that a child of his and Narcissa's would have that ability. In fact Voldemort had told him before Draco had been born that the boy would be special, and that he would have a connection with the magic flowing beneath the Manor. But the boy was nothing more than an ordinary wizard, destined to be nothing more than a conduit -- the key that would open this power for Voldemort.
"How does it feel, Lucius, to be part of the future of the Wizarding world? Both you and Draco will be hailed amongst the greats of our kind." Riddle stood on the centre of the stone, flashes of energy crackling around him. "Imagine walking out here with your son, and the look of pride on his face as he realises that he will be welcomed into our ranks by me personally, and that all my loyal followers have come to watch his ceremony. Then with my Mark on his arm, he will step up here beside me and unlock the link to the Earth Magic for me to use against our enemies. I'm an Earth Mage, Lucius, and that old fool Dumbledore has locked my connection with the power for far too long. When Draco unlocks it again, nothing will stop us, not Dumbledore or that brat of a boy Harry Potter. We will finally be victorious."
Monday 16th March 1998 ... Morning ... The Great Hall
Breakfast at Hogwarts was always noisy, and Monday mornings more so. It was as though everyone suddenly felt the need to catch up after the weekend; the fact that each person already knew what their friends had been up to didn't seem to matter. Harry's weekend wasn't one he actually cared to discuss with anyone, least of all the public forum of the Great Hall. Instead, he got on with his breakfast and occasionally cast furtive glances across the Hall in Draco's direction. The returned looks left him with a warm glow.
Which was, he considered, a little strange given that he'd woken an hour before feeling like he'd gotten very, very drunk the previous night. He also felt very tired and a little weak, probably because the same dreams he'd suffered on Saturday night had plagued him against last night.
This time things had been clearer and he had remembered both of them in great detail. The first dream had taken place in a darkened room -- there had been a kneeling figure in dark robes and a standing figure behind him. Harry knew he'd dreamt about them before but he couldn't remember when, but this time he knew who they were. It had been Draco kneeling and the figure beside him was the man from the photograph ... David Morrello ... Tom Riddle ... before he had turned into the monster Voldemort.
A third figure had joined them, pale hair just visible under his hooded cloak, and reached for Draco's left sleeve, pulling it up to bare the boy's arm. Riddle had taken a branding iron from the fire, lighting the room. He had brought it down on Draco's forearm, and Harry had woken to the sound of Draco's scream.
Harry had lain awake for what felt like hours, sweat cooling on his flesh as the familiar pain had itched at his scar. It hadn't been as bad as the normal pain, but he could feel the shape throbbing into his brain and ended up taking one of Pomfrey's mixtures before trying to return to sleep.
The second dream had been different, shifting to his cupboard under the stairs. He was the little nine-year-old being punished ... locked in with no light except for a green glow that had solidified and condensed into Voldemort. The Dark Lord had towered over him and hauled him from the little bed before pulling up the sleeve of his oversized shirt.
Harry remembered struggling, but the grip had been so tight and he was such a little boy. He'd stopped struggling as a new light had filled his cupboard -- a bright glowing light like a fire -- and he saw it was coming from the tip of a white-hot iron. The heat from it had grown as it moved toward his arm, and as it had finally connected with his skin, Harry had seen the face of the person holding the iron.
It had been Draco ... but Draco with red hair and brilliant blue eyes.
Harry had woken again and spent the rest of the night wrapped in a blanket in front of the fire in the common room. He didn't understand the dreams and they both scared him. As he'd watched the flames, he'd tried to think of anything but the dreams, but they had both remained crystal clear.
Now, here in the Great Hall in the wonderful light of day, some of the feelings of darkness had left him, but there was still a sensation of cold clinging to him and, despite what the Dream-Draco had done, Harry wanted nothing more than to climb into the safety of his lover's arms.
Harry glanced up from his bowl of cereal and found grey eyes resting on him. Grey eyes ... not the strange eyes of the dream, but the boy's real ones with depths Harry had not considered possible. But what about the dream? What about Draco being branded with Voldemort's Mark and then him branding Harry?
And why had Draco had red hair? Hair like....
Harry frowned as he glanced across at his friend, whose red hair was glinting like fire in the morning sun spilling through the windows. Ron was currently arguing playfully with Dean. As if suddenly conscious of Harry watching him, Ron turned and grinned across the table.
"All right, Harry?"
"Yeah, sure. I was just wondering what Snape's got in store for us, you know, with his message about meeting up here rather than down in the Potions classroom, and not bringing any books."
Ron shrugged, blue eyes sparkling. "Who knows with him?"
Blue eyes. Harry had to look away. So many people around him had blue eyes. Why hadn't he noticed it before? Sirius, Dumbledore, Ron ... all with blue eyes. Even Draco had that underlying trace of blue in the grey.
"When's your detention, Harry?" Ron's voice carried across the noisy room and several people from the adjoining tables looked up, ears pricking.
"Thanks Ron. Why not post an announcement if you wanted everyone to know?" Ron shrugged as he crammed a bit of toast into his mouth. "It's tonight, after dinner."
"You know it's Malfoy's fault." This time the voice was louder, loud enough to carry to the Slytherin table where some of the students, including Draco, looked back.
"Ron!" Harry was exasperated. He didn't feel like having a confrontation at the moment, especially not one between his best friend and the person he was currently sleeping with.
"Well, if they hadn't been out practising in the guise of mucking about on brooms, you wouldn't have ended up catching that Snitch. Malfoy was playing with it, so he should have been the one with the detention, not you. But I guess we all know why he didn't get one, don't we?"
"And why is that, Weasley?"
As Ron had ranted on, Harry had watched with growing anguish as Draco had crossed the room. He was now standing behind Ron and Harry could feel the tension rising around the table. Even Hermione, sitting next to him, had her hand on Harry's elbow as if warning him not to get involved.
"Because, Malfoy, we all know you kowtow to Snape all the time. You and your little simpering friends. That's why he lets you get away with everything and Harry ends up getting punished." Ron had risen to his feet and was now looking down on Draco. "Or maybe it's because you give him something nobody else does, you obnoxious little creep."
Draco sneered. "My, my, Weasley. Aren't we coming up in the world of insults these days? Not one but two adjectives, and one of them with three syllables. Been studying with Granger?"
"Fuck off, Ferret, and crawl back with your own kind."
"That's enough!" Hermione was now on her feet, and Harry could see that up on the teacher's table, both Sirius and Remus were watching the unfolding argument. Sirius was already pushing back his chair.
"Why Granger, always coming to the rescue. How nice for our Sainted Head Boy." Draco grinned mischievously and, as Harry watched, it almost seemed as if Draco had grown several inches and now appeared as tall as Ron.
But Ron held his ground and leaned in, nose-to-nose, and smiled coldly. "You'll get what's coming to you, Malfoy. Mark my words; you're going to be so sorry, believe me."
Sirius was now purposefully walking down the Hall, and Harry quickly came to his feet and leaned across the table. "Pack it in," he hissed. "You'll both be in for it."
Draco turned slowly as if seeing Harry for the first time. "Oh look, Weasley, the Trio is complete." He grinned at Harry, and Harry thought he saw Draco wink at him. "Tell me, how does it feel to be the number three in the organisation?"
"You are so dead, Malfoy. I'm going to see to it that you die slowly and painfully." Ron's voice was almost a whisper, hissed into Draco's face.
"Everything alright, boys?" Sirius had reached the group and was now standing behind Harry, his hand on his godson's shoulder.
Both the teenagers turned as one and stared at the teacher. It was Draco who spoke first. "Yes, sir, we were just discussing today's Potions lesson, weren't we, Weasley?" He looked back at Ron, eyebrow rising elegantly.
Ron opened his mouth, clearly meaning to make some snide remark, but he bit it back and instead just nodded. "Yes, the Potions lesson."
"Well, I'm pleased to hear it's nothing serious." He turned his attention back to Harry and smiled at him. "Can I have a word?" Harry glanced quickly first at Ron and then Draco before stepping away from the table and following Sirius from the Hall.
He was aware of Draco a few steps behind him ... aware of the heat from his body and then the coldness as Draco stopped following him. Once outside and alone, Sirius stopped and turned to face him.
"I got your message about Hermione's prophecy."
"Good." Harry let out a sigh of relief. "I'm sorry I did it like that, sending it to you with Hedwig."
"You could have brought it down to me."
Harry shifted his feet. "I did come down last night, but you had Remus there. I saw him come to your room and, well, I wasn't sure..."
"About talking to him about this?" Harry nodded. "He might be able to help."
"But Professor Dumbledore said not to tell anyone else."
Sirius raised an eyebrow. "So, how did Hermione find out? And I'll bet Ron knows too."
"Well, not about everything or...." Harry fell silent as Snape appeared at the top of the stairs on the opposite side of the entrance hall. "Can I come and talk to you about this?"
Snape glowered as he passed them. "Don't be late, Potter, I would hate to give you yet another detention." He didn't wait for an answer.
Harry nodded and quickly told him about the Slytherins' game of broom tag and how he'd caught the Snitch. "So I've got detention after dinner tonight. Sirius, please don't tell anyone about this new prophecy piece until after we've talked."
"Okay, but why?"
The young wizard shrugged. "I don't know really, but I wonder if I wasn't supposed to find out about this bit, and that it was being kept from me for a reason and...." He shrugged again. "To be honest, I'm not sure who I can trust at the moment."
Snape's greeting caused a low muttering from the assembled students. Never in the six and a half years he'd been teaching the group had he ever said 'good' anything. The Potions Master cast his steely black eyes over the group and folded his arms, hands enveloped in the sleeves of his robes.
The students had gathered in the Great Hall as per Snape's instructions, which had told them to bring only 'yourself and your writing implements'. Harry was fiddling with his quill, while Draco was quietly tapping the feathered tip of his against his chin.
"Today you will be taking a mock practical exam." The words were met first by groans and then muttered exclamations about it not being fair to have this suddenly thrust upon them. Snape gave a hard smile, but didn't respond to the chorus of disapproval. "I will give each pair one potion from the selection you have so miserably been concocting since the start of the year."
Hermione's arm had shot up and she was bouncing on the balls of her feet. "Sir, nearly all of those potions will take longer than our lesson time and...."
"If you will allow me to finish, Miss Granger." He glared at her, the look making Hermione blush. "You will have the whole day to complete the exam, just as you will with real N.E.W.Ts."
"What about our other lessons?" The flush on Hermione's face deepened, but she stood her ground.
"Don't concern yourself...."
"Miss Granger, do you wish to join Mr Potter in detention tonight?" The girl shook her head. "Then keep quiet. As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, your teachers are aware of this and will be staging their own mock exams, some of which, you will be happy to learn, will take place during your potions lessons."
Harry looked around the group, which had been rendered speechless by the thought of exams they hadn't expected or prepared for. Even Hermione, with her carefully structured revision timetable looked mortified and Harry knew exactly the thought going through her mind: I'm not ready for this.
"You will have one hour to write up the ingredients list and preparation details, which I will check before you begin. I will then give you a corrected ingredients list." Snape smirked. "I don't want you to kill yourselves. Then you will have the rest of the day to complete your potions." He pulled a scroll of parchment from his sleeve. "Get into your pairs and form a line."
The last time Harry remembered lining up two-by-two, he had been about six years old and at school. He would line up with everyone else while waiting to go into the classroom, and have to put up with Dudley and his friends pushing, shoving and kicking him as he tried to get past them.
He dropped in beside Draco, close enough to feel the Slytherin's hand brush against his own. Draco's middle finger slipped around Harry's fingers and tugged gently before letting go, the back of his hand resting against the back of Harry's.
They remained just touching, not looking at each other as they stepped in front of the professor. Snape glowered down at them, not even bothering to consult his scroll. "Hmmm, the dream team. You will produce the Night Dew potion using Potter's astrological details from your previous attempt. You will find an astrological text on your desk from which you will be able project that information to today's date."
Draco watched as Harry picked up the gemstone he'd just placed on the desk. He slid into his seat, on Harry's right, and fiddled briefly with his robes to get comfortable. "It's the carnelian stone we need for the potion. It wards off evil thoughts and psychic attacks, remember?"
"Yeah -- infuse in Star Water for six hours then add to the remaining ingredients." Harry fiddled with it for a moment before raising it into a shaft of sunlight. "Are you sure it's a carnelian? It doesn't look like the one we used before. That one was brown ... like a muddy puddle, but this one is beautiful."
"Carnelians are like that." Draco watched the child-like wonder on Harry's face as he studied the deep red, almost transparent stone. "Mother says the colour depends on how much iron there is in it. This one has a really high content and it's just perfect for Night Dew." He took it back and tossed it in the air, deftly catching it again and gave a sly smile. "So let's get infusing or we'll be here all day and into the night as well."
"Shall I get the Star Water?"
"I've got that as well." He put a small flask on the desk, pulled out the stopper and dropped the gemstone inside. It sank to the bottom and Draco sealed the flask before pushing it toward Harry. "Do you remember the incantation for it? It's your potion after all."
Harry's fingers closed around the bottle, over the top of Draco's, and he reached for his wand.
"No, not like that," Draco's voice was a whisper. "You don't need a wand." He winked, as Harry's eyes grew wide before flicking around the classroom. Everyone had split into their pairs and were spread about the room, all engrossed in their own tasks. No one seemed to be paying them any attention.
Licking his lips nervously, Harry stared at the bottle. "I'm not sure if I should...."
"Just give it a go." Draco pulled his hand out from under Harry's and placed it over the Gryffindor's wrist as he spoke the brief incantation to remind Harry of the words.
"If it doesn't work, I'll ruin the stone."
"Then we'll get another one and start over again."
With that, Harry nodded and took a deep breath. Draco's thigh was pressed against the other boy's, and he felt Harry's leg brace against his own. As Harry whispered the words, Draco became aware of the energy flowing through his hand. It was the same power he'd experienced in the Archive, and feeling Harry's magic again sent warmth flooding through him. It gathered in the pit of his stomach and made his fingertips tingle.
As the words faded away, Harry gave a shuddering sigh and pulled his hand away. Briefly he entwined his fingers with Draco's. "Did it work?"
The warmth flowed like warm honey through Draco's body and finally settled in his hips, the power of Harry's magic intensely sensual. "I think so." He couldn't help but sigh as the sensation in his groin turned into arousal and he struggled to will away the feeling. "It's working."
Both boys looked at the flask; the water had taken on a luminescence, which the stone had picked up. Harry grinned at Draco, the smile bright and spontaneous. It was a smile Draco wasn't used to seeing directed at him and it made a lump form in his throat.
"How about that." Harry's voice was a cross between surprise, awe and pleasure at his success. "I did it!"
"You certainly did." Draco basked for a moment in The Smile of the Boy Who Lived before reaching for the book Snape had left them. "We better get on with this or we won't get finished in time."
Still grinning, Harry nodded. "Okay, I've written out the original astrological details. If I sort them out you can do the instructions."
Draco shrugged his acquiescence, for once happy to let someone else take charge. The potion's instructions didn't bother him -- he could almost remember them word-perfect from Snape's original lecture and, besides, it gave him the chance to watch Harry work. The dark haired boy was busily flicking through the book, a frown of concentration on his face as he searched for what he was looking for.
He'd never really 'looked' at Harry like this before. Oh, he'd spent hours studying Harry over the years, but that was with the Gryffindor as his nemesis, working out ways to beat him at Quidditch or in their lessons. But this time it was different. He noticed other things, like the way the black untidy hair tumbled around Harry's neck and how a particular lock curled gently around the base of his ear.
Then there were his glasses. It always used to annoy Draco every time he saw Harry push those wretched glasses up his nose. Why the hell didn't he get them to fit better? But now Draco saw that the glasses didn't actually slip and the constant touching was a nervous habit. He remembered the original glasses Harry had worn when they'd both started at Hogwarts, with their taped up frames. Had they always been too big for Harry and the touching become a habit?
Now he found himself just watching Harry's hands ... Harry's fingers ... as they fiddled with his quill, or turned a page or pushed hair from his face. But especially that single index finger as it pushed up the bridge of his nose to settle those glasses in place.
Draco came out of his contemplation and raised an eyebrow. "Sorry?"
"You're watching me."
"I'm not. I'm checking."
"That you've got it right."
Harry raised an eyebrow and pushed his glasses up his nose. "Would you like to look this up?"
"No." Draco's left hand rested on his own thigh, the warm honey-like sensation spreading out through his loins. "But let's face it, Potter, Potions isn't your speciality."
"No, but I'm good at Astronomy."
"Really. The moon was full last Friday, so we know how much rowan wood bark to use." Harry's head had raised, his chin jutting slightly, and his green eyes glinting. "Would you like to know about Pluto?"
"Sure." Under the desk, Draco's hand moved from his own thigh and he trailed his nails lightly over Harry's leg. "Tell me about Pluto."
Harry started slightly at the touch, his own fingers tightening around his quill. "Pluto's in retrograde, so you'll need to increase the amount of black cohosh."
"And Scorpio?" He flattened his hand, cupping Harry's inner thigh, and squeezed lightly. Harry's breath caught briefly, before he exhaled slowly. They were sitting close enough together that their robes covered Draco's movements and he slid his hand further up Harry's thigh until it rested at the top. There he let his fingers curl around Harry's growing arousal, waiting for the other boy to pull away. But Harry didn't; the only outward reaction to Draco's touch was the working of his throat as he swallowed hard, and a faint flush colouring his cheeks.
"Scorpio..." Harry cleared his throat and then continued, his voice determined. "Scorpio is exactly the same as it was before. And...." He dropped his quill and, shifting slightly against Draco's hand, started flicking through the pages of the book. "Jupiter ... don't do that." His voice dropped.
Draco had taken hold of Harry through the thin fabric of his trousers, his thumb rubbing back and forth. "Do what?" His free hand was carefully writing as if nothing was happening.
"Don't. Not here. Someone might see," Harry moved to pull away, but all that did was give Draco better access. "You bastard."
"What about Jupiter?"
Draco could feel Harry hardening in his grasp, and the delightful blush on the dark-haired boy's face became a shade darker as he cupped him. Harry let out a faint moan as Draco's fingers deftly played him, green eyes becoming unfocused as he stared ahead. They both became lost in the moment.
"And what about Jupiter, Mr Malfoy?"
The new, but very familiar, voice broke through the spell and two sets of eyes rose as one to meet the dark cold stare of Professor Snape. Draco was suddenly aware of his own arousal and of the light flush that he knew was on his own face.
"Is Jupiter in retrograde as well, sir?" Draco gave a last lingering squeeze and carefully removed his hand.
"Is it, Mr Potter?"
Harry's eyes were now downcast, looking but not seeing the writing on the page. "I ... I was just checking it."
"Well, Mr Potter." Snape suddenly leaned in close, making Harry look up. "If you paid as much attention to your lessons as you do to Mr Malfoy, you would be an exemplary student. And you, Mr Malfoy..." The older wizard snatched up the sheet of parchment Draco had been writing on and glanced over it. "I suggest you use your hands to go and collect your ingredients while Mr Potter concentrates on his planetary conjunctions."
Both boys muttered "Yes sir" and Draco pushed himself away from the desk.
Draco looked over his shoulder. "Sir?"
"Thank you, sir."
Snape picked up the glass flask, studying the content. "And an exceptionally well cast incantation, Mr Potter."
Draco had always found the Potions storeroom fascinating. He was a tactile person given the chance, and he loved to touch and feel and smell the different ingredients kept there. He liked to run his fingers over the stones and shells and barks, feeling their textures. Or to bury his hands into a bag of rosemary and hold the pungent herb to his nose, breathing in the heady aroma. Even the tiny seeds and non-descript grains held a fascination for him, that from innocuous beginnings such wondrous things could be produced.
The room was windowless, but was lit by special magical lamps. They were only alight when someone walked past, and would then fade as the person moved away. The potions store at Malfoy Manor had the same lighting and Draco knew it helped keep the expensive ingredients at their best by storing them in darkness as much as possible. There were, of course, some ingredients that thrived out in the daylight, and those were stored in another room.
The stacked shelves and cupboards formed lots of nooks and crannies, and he loved just wandering around the room, finding new ingredients he'd never come across before, or familiarising himself anew with ones he'd forgotten. The storeroom at Hogwarts seemed to grow over his years at the school, as if to take into account the new items they were allowed to use each year, and he wondered just how extensive it actually was.
Draco trailed round the loaded shelves, moving deeper into the storeroom as he looked for the right ingredients ... rowan wood to protect against negative energies ... jasmine to heal the aura and to protect a person having prophetic dreams ... vervain to ward off psychic attacks. He toyed with a piece of amethyst for a moment, wondering if it would work with the carnelian. The dark purple crystallized quartz was a powerful protector in its own right, but the carnelian was powerful too. Maybe using them both together would be too much, overpowering the other ingredients to the point that they no longer worked. Still ... he slipped the stone into his pocket.
He found the last of his ingredients tucked away in a cabinet at the rear of the storeroom (expensive flutterby bush root used to help ground the potion's imbiber) and, his arms full, he headed back towards the door. He paused at the doorway, which was blocked by Ron Weasley, who watched him for a moment, blue eyes smouldering with undisguised antipathy. Draco held his ground, not moving out of the way, and finally the redhead stepped to one side, giving him just enough room to pass by.
As he reached the work desk he was sharing with Harry, Draco put down his armful of ingredients and turned back towards the storeroom just in time to see Ron coming out. Something seemed to pass between them -- he wasn't sure what, but he could feel the hatred rolling off the Head Boy in waves.
Harry's voice cut through his thoughts and Draco turned towards him. "No -- nothing. Let's get on with this. Do you want to grate the flutterby root?"
"I trust you all enjoyed your lunch." Snape's voice rang out around the classroom and from the work desks dotted around, faces turned towards him. The Potions Master seemed to shimmer in the haze of steam rising from the cauldrons as they bubbled and spluttered. "You now have three hours to finish. Any questions?" The room remained silent. "Good. Then get on with it."
From his little corner, Harry watched Snape move to his desk and turn to survey his domain. The beetle-black eyes suddenly turned in Harry's direction and the young wizard ducked down behind his cauldron. The last thing he wanted at that moment was to have Snape breathing down his neck again.
It had been bad enough earlier when he and Draco had been preparing their ingredients. Snape had appeared at his side the moment Harry had picked up his knife, watching intently as Harry had worked.
Having Snape watch him had unnerved Harry to the point he'd almost made a sarcastic retort to the professor along the lines of that he'd had better things to do -- such as dealing with Voldemort -- the past several years than learn how to chop bat livers and skin shrivelfigs. It wasn't that his skills at preparation were bad, but rather that Draco's were so good. It made Harry's normally acceptable work seem mediocre in comparison.
Snape had then spent a good fifteen minutes teaching Harry how to prepare the rowan bark as if he were a first year. Surprisingly there had been no rancour in the man's actions and he had worked through the procedure with quiet efficiency. When he moved on to Dean and Crabbe, Harry had found himself watching the professor, wondering what had happened to the caustic vitriol Snape normally heaped on him.
He was also sure that Snape had spent more time than normal watching him, which was why he had determined to keep out of Snape's line of sight for the rest of the morning. Now, back from lunch, he remained shielded by the cauldron as much as possible. He and Draco were currently standing on either side of the work desk, idly passing the time with occasional comments about potions and Quidditch. The atmosphere between them had drifted into a strangely quiet but very companionable silence; it was different from any of the other times they'd worked together. There had been quite a lot of overt touching as well. Not like Draco's bold teasing under the desk earlier, but deliberate touching of fingers like they had in the Great Hall while waiting for their potion assignment, or walking past each other close enough for an arm to brush against a shoulder.
In fact, the whole lesson seemed to have evolved into some sort of extended erotic foreplay and Harry wondered if Draco was as aroused by the whole experience as he was. It wasn't the fast hard arousal of sex, but a pleasant warmth in the pit of his stomach like he'd just finished a warm Butterbeer or a mug of hot chocolate after a cold Quidditch practice. Now, with nothing to do but keep an eye on the gently simmering potion, he was sketching idly on a piece of parchment, occasionally glancing up whenever Draco moved to make some correction to the fire under the cauldron or to stir the mixture. He watched the way Draco's fingers curled around the spoon handle, remembering the feel of them on his skin and the way they had coiled around him earlier.
What was it Hermione had said to him the previous day? That he was smitten? He didn't like to consider that she might be right, but then....
"You're allowed to stir it, Potter."
Harry looked up with a start. They hadn't spoken for some time and the voice came as a surprise. He saw humour in the grey eyes watching him and gave a cocky half smile in return. "You do it so well, Malfoy, and I'd hate to spoil it after all your hard work."
"I doubt even you could do that -- at least not by stirring." Draco held out the large spoon he'd been using. "If it's going to be ruined, it'll be because of the way you chopped the vervain."
Harry took the spoon, brushing close to Draco as he moved past him. He began to stir, carefully mimicking the actions of his partner. "My vervain was beautifully chopped."
Draco snorted and, leaning briefly against Harry, he fished a piece of greenery from the mixture. "Small even pieces." His free hand ran up Harry's back and paused briefly on his shoulder before he moved away.
Harry sighed and continued stirring. "I blame the stuff you got from the storeroom. It was almost impossible to cut evenly."
"Enough stirring." Draco touched his wrist. "Check the heat."
With a nod, Harry adjusted the flame with the flick of his wand before leaning on the work desk. He picked up his quill again and added some flames to the cauldron in his sketch. "It's going to be a shame after the Easter break when it's all over."
Draco looked up, eyes narrowing at Harry's words. "When what's over?"
"This?" Harry gestured lazily, taking in the whole room with the wave of his hand. "The potions stuff. We'll be finishing the revision and it will be back the way it is. You know ... no more pairs."
"Oh, yes." Draco's gaze turned thoughtful and he rested both elbows on the table, leaning closer to Harry. "Will you miss it?"
Harry's brow furrowed momentarily as he tapped the tip of his quill against his nose. When his eyes rose to meet Draco's, there was lightness in them that was mirrored by the slight twitch of his lip as he smiled. "Yeah, I think I will."
"Good." Grey eyes rested on the sheets of parchment on the table between them before rising back to meet green again. "I'll miss it as well. You know, this...." he gestured between them. "And everyone else working together." As he spoke Goyle's voice echoed around the room followed quickly be a retort from Finnigan. "Well, almost working together."
The two boys sniggered.
"I've been thinking," Harry leaned in closer. Their voices had been quiet all day, and they continued that way now. Not conspiratorial whispers, but soft, just loud enough for each other to hear.
"Is this supposed to be me?" Draco waved the sheet of parchment Harry had been drawing on. "Thinking about what?"
"This potion." He snatched the parchment away. "And no it isn't. It's just a person making potions. It's really wasteful and hard work."
"The potion or the drawing? It looks like me." Draco finger tapped on the paper, which Harry had now turned face down.
"It's not you -- just someone who's blond stirring at a cauldron. This potion, we've spent all day making it and how long will it last? Three days. Then the ingredient quantities change and a whole new batch needs to be made."
"True. But that's the nature of the potion." Draco sorted though the parchments on the desk and found the one with his instructions on it. "Do you like drawing me?"
"I've only ever done it that once."
"Twice, Harry. On the train ... and again here."
"There has to be a way to alter it though -- change something so that it last longer." Harry leaned closer again, turning the parchment so he could read through the ingredients. "It's all the astrology stuff that's the problem, isn't it? If the ingredients could be in set amounts instead of depending on where the person's stars are then it would last a lot longer. Why is that so important to the potion?" He raised his eyes slightly, looking at Draco through his untidy fringe. "And yes, I do like drawing you."
Draco frowned, chewing thoughtfully on a fingernail. "Well, we've used different ingredients this time than before. Plus, the version everyone else has made will be different from this one. The person who invented it must have had a reason for that."
"A reason for making it so personal?"
"Ummm. Yes. I guess there could be another way." Draco reached into his pocket and pulled out the piece of amethyst he'd collected from the store earlier. It glinted in the light of the flames beneath the cauldron as he handed it to Harry. "We'd need to do some research. You know, find out why the person who invented it went down the astrology route. Would you like to draw me again?"
Harry held the piece of crystal between his hands aware of the warmth as the energy flowed through it. "This would work instead of the carnelian." He placed it back on the table. "Yes I would -- you know properly."
Draco moistened his lips with the tip of his tongue, watching as Harry subconsciously mirrored the action. "Okay, you name the time and place, and bring your sketch pad." He reached for the spoon and began stirring the potion again. "We could use revising the potion for our final project if Snape lets us work together. Background, possible alterations to make the mixture longer lasting, that sort of thing." Grey eyes glinted playfully. "Would you like that, Potter?"
"Yeah, I guess I could put up with you for a bit longer, Malfoy."
"Care to illustrate the project?" Draco put down the spoon and turned to lean on the desk.
"I could. What do you want? Pictures of the plants?"
The grey eyes met Harry's directly. "I want lots of things, Harry."
"You have one hour left."
Draco glanced briefly in Snape's direction before turning back to the mess that their potion seemed to be turning into. "It shouldn't look like that."
Harry stared into the earthenware container. "It doesn't look like the last lot we made. Maybe it needs to be strained again."
Draco sighed. Harry was right; it looked nothing like the previous batch. "The instructions say twice."
"But it's still cloudy -- isn't it supposed to become clear?" Harry reached a finger towards the lukewarm mixture and dipped it in. The finger found its way into Harry's mouth and he licked it clean of the liquid. "And it's not as sweet than the last time we made it. Try it."
The urge to grab hold of Harry's finger, dip it back into the pot and, indeed, 'try it' warred inside Draco with his own more sensible sense of self-preservation. It didn't help that Harry had sucked the finger back into his mouth a second time and was looking at him with a mischievous grin. In fact Draco was close enough to Harry to take hold of the finger without anyone noticing, but instead he used his own finger and watched in delight as a flush spread across Harry's cheeks and the green eyes flickered away.
The fact Harry could go from mischievous flirt to demure innocent in seconds was one of the things that Draco found such a turn on and he could feel the warmth right now even as he checked the potion. He'd love to reach down and find out just how Harry was coping, or maybe drag him into a dark corner of the storeroom and 'try it'.
"Maybe it's supposed to be like this."
"The potion?" Draco dragged his mind back from images of Harry spread delectably on his bed, open to Draco's touch and letting Draco do exactly what he wanted.
"Mmmm. You know, the different quantities would alter how it looks. When I made it with Ron back at the beginning of the year it was a sludgy mess. We could ask Snape."
"No, not yet. It's still warm, maybe it'll change as it cools."
Harry shrugged and dipped his finger back into the pot. "Okay. You know, it really isn't that bad ... sort of peppery." Draco noticed that Harry had moved and his back was now to the class, shielding both of them from prying eyes. "Have another taste." The stout index finger wiggled in front of Draco's mouth. All he had to do was lean forward a couple of inches.
Grey eyes flicked around the class. Snape had his back to them, admonishing Neville Longbottom about something and most of the other students seemed to be more interested in that rather than what was happening in the corner. Draco leaned forward, taking the finger into his mouth and sucked at the digit, his tongue moving to remove the last traces of the mixture as Harry's eyes briefly closed. They opened again as the finger slipped wetly from between Draco's lips and he watched in something close to despair as Harry sucked on the digit again. He let out a hiss of breath as he felt himself harden.
"What do you think?" Harry's voice was a whisper,
"I think that you should put that cloak of yours to good use and come and see me later."
"Really? I've got a detention with your Head of House."
"Then you'll be down here anyway."
"Draco..." Harry paused briefly and gave a nervous little laugh as he picked up his quill, needing something to fiddle with. "You know, I can't believe we're standing in the potions classroom having this conversation."
"Let's face it, Harry, there isn't anywhere much safer. You said that yourself yesterday morning, remember."
Harry nodded, the conversation playing in his mind once again. "But what if..." he glanced briefly in Ron's direction, reluctant to actually mention his friend by name. "What if someone overhears?"
A single eyebrow rose elegantly on Draco's face, lost momentarily in the soft hair falling across his forehead. "He'd ... they'd have to have excellent hearing." Draco paused before continuing. "Harry, would it really matter?"
"Would it matter if people found out?" He watched as Draco nodded slowly just once. "Well...." He straightened, the nib of his quill splattering black ink over a sheet of parchment. "I ... I don't know. I mean you've said before that it would be dangerous if they knew."
"Could you face it? For people to know that you were having sex with Draco Malfoy?"
"Is that all it is?" Harry looked down at the mess he'd made on their potion instructions before slowly raising his gaze back to Draco's. "Just sex?"
Harry was acutely aware of the silence that lingered between them, the type of silence where time seemed to slow almost to a stop. He watched as Draco's fingers roamed over the desktop, fiddling briefly with the desk edge and somewhere in the back of his mind, Harry wondered if Draco might want to touch him.
Then quietly, almost imperceptibly, Draco shook his head and whispered, "No."
Harry finally remembered to breath. "I don't think I'd mind, but," he gave a anxious laugh, "my friends don't even know I'm gay yet."
"Would you want them to know?"
"Finished." Draco held up the flask in which the blood-red mixture glowed and effervesced slightly.
Harry took the flask and grinned. "Thanks to my excellent Star Water."
"That, plus just leaving it to cool and settle."
"And remembering what the extra black cohosh would do to it."
Grey eyes meet green and Draco nodded. "We make a pretty good team, Harry."
"A good team?" Harry put the flask down and tapped a finger on the tabletop. "Draco, is that how you really see us? Together, as a team?"
Draco frowned; Harry's question was one that he'd debated long and hard over the last few days -- in fact since that fateful night in Hagrid's hovel. The truth was he'd realised he was getting very proprietary about Harry. If the Gryffindor had told him the truth (and Draco had no reason to doubt him), then he had been Harry's first, and only, lover. His first everything. There had been an emotional attachment between them even before that -- granted it had been hatred and distrust, yet there was no denying that those emotions were as strong, if not stronger, than the friendship Harry shared with Weasley and Granger. Or for that matter what Draco shared with his own friends -- Vince, Greg, Pansy amongst others. But none of them had ever gotten to him the way Harry did even from that first short meeting back at Madam Malkin's all those years ago.
A team? Is that what he wanted? To have some sort of commitment to Harry? To be with him as what? Friend? Partner? Lover?
He thought about his family and the prospective wife his father had lined up for him. Of the Malfoy name and business he was expected to uphold and be part of. Of Harry's friends who would, no doubt, be horror-struck at the idea of the Boy Who Lived associating with a Slytherin. Of Tom Riddle's warning that he shouldn't side with Harry and to remember to whom he owed his loyalty.
He looked at Harry now; at the way Harry was watching him, the slight tilt of that dark messy head and the depth of feeling in those green eyes. Draco could still remember how fiercely protective he'd felt when he'd found Harry near death ... how scared he'd felt at the thought of losing him.
And the truth was he wanted Harry. Wanted them to be a team. No ... not a team ... a partnership. With the two of them as equals ... equals in everything from magic to sex.
Did Harry feel the same?
He took a breath, ready to respond, but his words were cut short by Snape's appearance at their desk. Draco felt his jaw tighten in frustration and annoyance at the intrusion. Why was it that whenever he felt ready to make a decision, something always managed to get in his way?
The Professor studied their potion carefully, testing both the texture and the look before mixing a small sample with a powder Draco recognised as a testing substance. The liquid hissed for a moment before becoming completely clear.
"You appear to have succeeded, despite seeming to spend most of the day doing nothing but talking." Snape watched as both boys looked briefly at each other before looking away. His lip twitched slightly. Clearly there was more to the boys' relationship than that of adversaries. Maybe it was the same as his own had been with....
Quickly Snape pushed the thoughts to the back of his mind. Now was not the time to dwell on the past. What was important was keeping Draco safe and protecting Harry. He poured some of the mixture into a small glass, measuring off an amount against the scale on its side. "How satisfied are you with your work, Mr Potter? Would you care to try it?"
Harry's eyes rose from studying the floor to fix on the glass. "It's supposed to protect against psychic attack. Why should I take it, sir?"
"A good potions maker will always be confident enough in his work to take his own preparations. Isn't that so, Mr Malfoy?" The professor raised an eyebrow as he stared at Harry, the glass still held out towards the boy.
"What else does Night Dew protect against, Mr Malfoy?"
Draco suddenly looked up. "Bad dreams."
Cautiously, Harry finally took the glass from the professor's hand and raised it to his lips. He coughed and pulled a face. "It's turned bitter."
"That is because of the Star Water infusion. You should bear in mind that things which are good for you often aren't pleasant. I suggest you bottle the remainder and take three doses a day for the next two days." Snape looked across at Draco. "Well done. You have both passed. Remember to read up on protection magic and associated potions for the theory exams. You may clear away your things and leave." The Potions Master stepped towards the next desk, but suddenly turned back. "Mr Potter, a moment of your time. There is something I want you to bring to your detention tonight."
Draco watched the pair move to Snape's desk where the professor seemed to be talking quickly while writing something on a sheet of paper. Around the room other people were started to clear up and Draco quickly gathered up the unused ingredients before heading to the storeroom to return them. He would talk to Snape about working with Harry on a joint project tomorrow. The idea of being able to associate with Harry in public made him smile and he thought that just maybe this was a way to get others used to the two of them together. One of the many daydreams he had of Harry lingered happily in his mind -- of he and Harry walking back from the Quidditch pitch, brooms over their shoulders, chatting away happily about the match they'd just taken part in.
That was what he wanted. No more hiding -- not from anyone.
He wandered through the storeroom, returning items and had just put the flutterby root back in the cabinet at the rear when he thought he heard someone behind him. He glanced over his shoulder, but the room was empty and with a shrug, he turned back to the cabinet.
The light above his head disappeared, plunging the room into near darkness as the low voice sounded suddenly in his ear. Before he could move, Draco felt a hand tug in the back of his robes. It twisted in the material, pulling him off balance, the last of the ingredients spilling to the ground.
The grip pulled him back until he felt the clasp cut into his throat and a warm body press against him. He tried to turn -- to see who held him -- and thought he glimpsed red hair. "Weasley, you idiot, let me...." He started to speak, but the brusque sarcastic comment never made it to his lips, as the words of a silencing spell, hissed in his ear, effectively rendering him voiceless.
"That's better, isn't it? You silent for once in your life. Maybe I should make it permanent and silence your big mouth for good. Does he like that ... your big mouth?"
A hand tugged in Draco's hair as his assailant whispered a second curse, the cruel fingers yanking at the blond strands in time with each word, each tug hard and painful, bringing tears to Draco's eyes. He opened his mouth to cry out, but there was no sound, not even a hiss of pain. As the new curse was completed, he found himself robbed of any strength and realised that the only thing keeping him on his feet was the arm holding him around his midsection. The hand in his hair moved to cup his chin, tugging his head sharply back.
This wasn't like Petrificus, however, this was complete helplessness and Draco realised he was scared -- really scared.
"Tell me, Draco, are you deliberately disobedient or just stupid? Do you do this to annoy me? To make me punish you?" There was a chuckle, deep throated and powerful. "Because I will punish you if you try to either deceive me or play me for a fool." The grip on Draco's chin tightened. "What, no reply? But of course you can't can you? Such a shame. But perhaps now I have your full attention, because clearly you didn't listen to me the other night did you?"
The arm holding him upright squeezed tighter, long fingers clasping his side tightly, and Draco tried to struggle against the hold. It was pointless and all he could do was wait for his assailant to do whatever he planned. He could feel the warm breath on his neck and knew the person had to be taller than he was, and the body he was pulled against didn't feel overly muscular or fat.
It had to be Weasley, but the voice sounded different ... deeper ... more powerful ... more like Tom Riddle. But that wasn't possible.
"So I want you to listen to me one last time, dear Draco. I warned you about being friendly with a certain person. I told you that while you could use him, anything else was out of the question. Yet you went back to him, didn't you?" The fingers tightened around Draco's ribs so tightly he thought they might break, the pain showing clearly on his face. "You went to him and helped him -- helped my nemesis -- you saved his worthless, sorry skin. He should be powerless by now, but because of your meddling, he is still able to wave that wretched wand of his and make it work.
"You. Are. Mine. Draco. Never, ever forget that. Your life is mine to give as I did when I saved you as a baby. It's also mine to take as well -- as and when I see fit." His attacker chuckled. "I don't think you want to know what happens to turncoats. What I do to those who betray me."
"Of course, I could be wrong and you are really just using him. Is that it, Draco? Are you using him and planning on ridding the world of him for me? If that is the case, then you can bring me a gift. Bring me his wand and we will be able to celebrate your birthday in exquisite style."
Then, just as suddenly as he had been attacked, Draco found himself released and he dropped like a dead weight to the floor. For many minutes he didn't move ... couldn't move ... the spell still immobilising him. All he could do was lay sprawled on the floor, his cheek pressed against the cold stone while in other parts of the room little pools of light showed that other people were entering and leaving with no idea of his plight. Each time a little light appeared he was torn between wanting to call out for help and the fear of being found like this ... helpless.
Draco Malfoy ... always in charge ... always in control ... helpless on the floor, cowering in the dust ... trembling with fear. They'd never let him forget it if they found him like this.
Slowly the spells began to dissolve, releasing him from their hold, but they left his body aching and his neck sore from where his head had been pulled painfully back, and any efforts at standing failed miserably. It was the most he could do to pull himself into a sitting position and brace his back against the cabinet. Sitting there, he gulped for breath and realised his shivering had nothing to do with the cold.
He was shivering with fear.
What the hell had happened? How could he have let his guard down to the point that someone could not only sneak up on him, but cast spells without him being able to defend himself? He recognised the spells. They weren't ordinary and the person casting them hadn't learned them at Hogwarts. The caster had been a sadistic bastard as well, augmenting both spells with lingering after-effects that left residual shards of pain lancing through his muscles and Draco painfully pulled up his knees, dropping his head onto them.
He didn't want to even think who it was that had attacked him. There may have been a glimpse of red hair and school robes, but the voice had, without doubt, been the honeyed tones of Tom Riddle. That voice was engraved on Draco's mind after the nocturnal visit of the Dark Lord to his room.
Riddle ... Voldemort ... Morrello. He finally had to admit that the three were one and the same. The person who had watched him play Quidditch with Alex was the Dark Lord. And if he admitted that, then he also had to admit his father was a Death Eater and expected that at some point Draco would follow him into the order.
And he knew exactly what his father's response would be to the Dark Lord's command to get Harry's wand. Lucius would expect him to do so without question, and once upon a time Draco wouldn't have given a moment's thought as to whether or not he would obey.
What the fuck was happening to his life?
He looked up with a start as a circle of light illuminated a figure striding into the storeroom.
Draco tried to pull himself to his feet before the other boy could reach him. But his trembling legs had no strength, and he remained sitting on the cold stone floor.
"Malfoy, do you need some help with putting stuff away?"
Harry stepped round the shelving and the area was filled with a soft glow from the light above. "Draco?" The Gryffindor's face reflected first surprise and then concern as he found Draco on the floor. "What happened? Are you okay? Should I get Snape?" He was down on his knees, reaching out, before Draco could respond.
For a moment, Draco leaned into the warmth, his forehead resting on Harry's chest. He could feel the other's hands on his shoulders, moving to surround him. This was the person who'd been part of his life for so long now, he couldn't remember ... didn't want to remember ... life without him.
When they had hated each other, he'd never doubted his beliefs or his father's plans for his future. Yet here he was now rapidly falling in ... was he falling in love? And doubting everything his father had ever told him. Hadn't he tried to convince himself the morning after that fateful New Year's Eve that any relationship with Harry was out of the question? That they would both end up suffering if they tried to be friends ... lovers? That he couldn't protect himself, let alone Harry.
His fingers twisted into Harry's shirt. This was the person the Dark Lord wanted him to betray and Draco knew he couldn't. He cared what happened to Harry, and the need to keep him safe was beginning to take on a life of its own. Voldemort had warned him in no uncertain terms what he would do to Draco if he remained friends with Harry. But worse, the Dark Lord had left Harry for dead just three days before and who knew what he might do if Draco continued to disobey. He needed to keep Harry safe from Voldemort and at the moment he could see only one way to do that.
He had to let Harry go.
No, even worse, he had to send him away.
"I slipped," Draco managed to answer, his voice sounding hoarse, "and fell." He disentangled himself from Harry and looked up into green eyes, shining with concern. The hands returned to his shoulders and Draco pushed them away. "I said I was fine." The tone of his voice was suddenly brusque.
"Oh." Harry's expressive features betrayed his concern and confusion over the sudden change in Draco's temperament. "Are you.... Are you sure?"
"Yes." Draco hauled himself to his feet, straightened his robes and managed to cultivate a look of scorn on his face. "Did you see anyone else come in here?"
"After you?" Harry's brow furrowed. "Snape called me over, so I wasn't looking. But most people are clearing away, so I guess they've all been in. Why?"
Draco shrugged. "Nothing."
"Well, like I said, I wasn't watching all the time." Harry reached out again, but his hand was pushed away. "Draco, what happened?"
"Well, you look terrible. All pale...."
"Harry...." Draco leaned back against the cabinet again, took a deep breath and stepped sideways to get past. "Just forget it, okay?" With that he strode purposefully out of the room with Harry's voice sounding behind him. First "Draco?" then a little louder "Malfoy!"
Ignoring everyone about him, Draco quickly collected his quills and spare parchment. He could almost feel Harry striding across the classroom after him, an aura of emotional confusion spilling out from the Gryffindor, and Draco knew he had to put distance between them quickly or he might just cave in. Without looking back, he headed for the door.
A few heads turned as he left the room, but it was only Harry who followed him out into the corridor.
"Draco, stop a minute." A hand grabbed at his shoulder. "Damn it, Draco! Wait!
He flinched at the contact, but did stop, steeling himself to meet those green eyes. It was exactly the expression he most dreaded -- distress and bewilderment flowed in equal measure. Quickly Draco wiped any emotion from his own face, instead gazing at Harry with what he hoped was cold distain. "What?"
"Come on, this is ridiculous. What did I do?"
"Nothing. This just isn't going to work."
"You and me. Us." Draco took a breath and continued, repeating his earlier words. "This isn't going to work."
"You're...." Harry's mouth dropped open and for a second he tried to form a coherent sentence. When it finally came, his voice betrayed exactly how he felt. "You don't want me?"
"Don't call me that! Not after everything that's happened today ... everything you said and did ... the things I said...."
The tone made Draco shiver and it almost destroyed his resolve. He didn't want Harry to hurt like this, but he could still feel the residual magic lingering about him and Riddle's words resounding in his mind. His claim on Draco, and his threats against Harry.
You. Are. Mine. Draco. Never, ever forget that.
Are you using him and planning on ridding the world of him for me?
Bring me his wand....
When he finally formulated a response it was accompanied by his best sneering smirk. "Stop taking life so seriously, Potter. We weren't having a relationship anyway."
"Oh, right." Harry's green eyes flashed with barely contained anger. "Then what do you call it?"
"It was just a bit of fun. But it won't work. I'm a Slytherin and you're a Gryffindor for a start. We both want different things and in the end we're just going to end up hurting each other." Draco suddenly leaned in close, inches separating them. "My life has been planned out and if you think I'm going to change it for you, then you are very much mistaken." Desperate to get away, Draco turned, ducking as Harry reached for him again.
"Draco, I know something happened in the storeroom. Please, talk to me."
"Just leave me alone, Potter." He strode off, his words echoing back down the corridor. "Get the hell out of my life!"
If I ever hurt you,
Your revenge will be so sweet...
Robbie Williams -- Come Undone
Chapter 8: The Art of Protection: Snape makes demands. Harry gets artistic. Draco submits.
To my Betas (in alphabetical order): Milena, Olivia, Nancy, Plumeria, Stacey, Shezan and Tara. I don't know where I would be without these people. Special mention must go to Olivia for her help with plotting, for listening to me wibble and for her endless patience, and to Plumeria for her help with the perennial ratings problems.
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.
I have several new pieces of artwork drawn for this chapter. I am so pleased with all of them and consider myself very lucky to have such talented people willing to draw for me. If anyone should feel like illustrating a scene from a previous chapter I would love to see it.
The new artwork is linked in the appropriate places throughout the chapter. If these links don't work, please check out the following:
The art by Lisa Rourke and Duckpuppy wasn't actually drawn for Resolution, but both artists have been kind enough to let me link to it. Milena's artwork for Little Harry was drawn for Chapter 6, but I forgot to put the link into the chapter. It fits in with this chapter as well, so I have included a link.
I also have had two new pieces of artwork for chapter 1. Milena has drawn Draco on the sofa playing with Harry's hair and Alice has drawn Harry hanging out Draco's wet clothes. Both are lovely and I'm looking forward to adding them to the relevant chapter.
Bhanesidhe's artwork: Harry's light, Ron and Draco
Milena's artwork: Little Harry, Potions Storeroom, Harry's sketch.
S_Star's artwork: Draco.
Lisa Rourke's artwork: Best Friends (Harry, Hermione and Ron), Ron, The Potions Master
Duckpuppy's artwork: Draco touching Harry's scar.
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_Colliding. 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.