Draco Malfoy Harry Potter
Slash Drama
Multiple Eras
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban
Published: 07/16/2001
Updated: 02/26/2003
Words: 123,712
Chapters: 16
Hits: 275,826

Irresistible Poison


Story Summary:
A Harry/Draco SLASH romance. Under the influence of a love potion, Draco learns that poison doesn't always bring death -- there are other ways to suffer and live. Chemical emotion runs feverish as Harry and Draco discover the intoxication of love. Written by a remorseless slash girl *g*, this story explores the intricate relationship between Harry and Draco.

Chapter 03

Author's Note:
Thanks to Minx, Heidi and Celeste for beta reading. For Si, a dear friend who's always there for me; for Cassie Claire, who loves Harry/Draco as much as I do; and for Megan, for being the wonderful person she is.

Irresistible Poison

Chapter Three: No Regrets

Love lives in sealed bottles of regret.

Much to his annoyance, Draco found that getting some solitude in the Slytherin common room or even his own dormitory was about as possible as finding a way not to think of Harry as the evening drearily wore by. It was getting increasingly hard to keep his shackled wrist concealed from the others, so Draco finally decided to go to the library for some peace and quiet.

It was almost eight in the evening when Draco stepped into the library; a sense of unfamiliarity washed over him as he glanced up at the four walls that closed in around him, his innate claustrophobia rising to the fore. He realised that he was about as at home in the library as a live flower crab sitting on a barbeque grill while tendrils of heat rose around it. That was his instinctive feeling — trapped.

The Hogwarts library, however quaint and impeccably furnished, still reminded him too starkly of his father's library, back home; the entire drawing room, filled with nothing but book cases stacked to the ceiling with shelves upon shelves of books, all of them related, in one way or another, to the Dark Arts. So much a part of their life, the life of a Malfoy. So much a part of him.

Draco remembered with no small shudder the explicit warnings his father had constantly issued to him, of the many different ways to languish in disgrace and of course, the sinister admonition never, as long as he drew a living breath with Malfoy blood running through his veins, to bring even the slightest reproach upon the family name. Or else.

Or else. It wasn't even a discreet implication, or something to be left to merciful imagination. It was definite, predetermined, a verdict passed in advance of transgression. No room for negotiation, for clemency, much less for forgiveness.

But this. Draco privately thought even his father would find it difficult to grade this level of sheer degradation he'd wreaked on the precious family name. If Lucius ever found out about this matter before he could find a way to reverse it, Draco fervently hoped the shock would finish his father off, because in the likely chance it didn't, he would probably have to implement Plan B, which was, very simply, the path of noble suicide.

This very sobering and maniacally depressing thought spurred him to action, and Draco resolutely strode toward the shelves on the far right, where to his knowledge the more advanced magic books were housed. But anything remotely useful to his problem would probably be found only in the Restricted Section, and even as Draco neared it, an irate Madam Pince came bustling up to him, demanding to see a signed note permitting him access to the books. Of course, Draco didn't have a signed note, although at that moment he would have very gladly given Madam Pince a note of his own variety, which would be brief, to-the-point, and very vulgar.

Giving up, Draco stalked out of the library. Books wouldn't help — he would just have to find his own way of explaining to Harry what happened, and an even more ingenious way to get out of this whole mess altogether.

Why was he even bothering to explain this to Harry anyway? Draco wondered. He wouldn't understand. Harry couldn't possibly, not even him, the Boy Who Made A Habit Of Frustrating Voldemort's Plans. This was a completely different struggle altogether, in many ways more sinister than facing the Dark Lord, because it was a conflict of the mind with the heart, a self-destructive fight against himself that was doomed whichever side won the battle.

No. He didn't want, didn't need Harry's help. All he asked of Harry was to stay away from him, far away from any more lip-locking skirmishes, so that Draco could figure out how to fix this, reverse the spell, and reclaim himself again.

* * * * * * *

His meeting with Malfoy lurked constantly on the fringes of his mind that night, and Harry subconsciously found himself glad as Quidditch practice drew to a close. Returning his broomstick to the shed (and noticing the patches of trampled grass lit by the bright moonlight, marking the spot of their confrontation earlier in the evening), Harry went back to Gryffindor Tower, showered and changed, then settled down to wait for midnight to arrive.

Harry wondered if Malfoy would stand him up — a confident smile curled the edges of his lips as he remembered the handy little cuff that Malfoy would very likely want him to remove before he saw the daylight of tomorrow. That raised the chances of Malfoy showing up by quite a margin; Harry decided it was safe enough to venture out without worrying if Filch would be waiting for him to show up instead of Draco.

At ten to midnight, Harry silently got to his feet and slipped on a set of robes, again feeling the painful absence of his Invisibility Cloak. As he trod noiselessly to the door, Harry hesitated; it hadn't occurred to him to ask Ron along on his midnight expedition, for the very simple reason that he would have to let Ron in on what happened between him and Malfoy the night before (the not-so-accidental collision of their lips, to be precise), and he wasn't exactly bursting with excitement to recount that incident, at least not out loud. Although, Harry had found himself replaying the episode over again in his mind a few times during the day — that in itself, he noted with agitation, was very unsettling.

His soundless footsteps made their way to the trophy room, and he hid in the protection of elongated shadows, under the darkened cover of the waves of black night streaming into the corridors. Harry found his pulse quicken with anticipation as he neared the door of the trophy room, as laid his hand on the doorknob — If Malfoy isn't there, Harry thought grimly, I'll make sure he—

Harry pushed the door open, and saw Draco sitting on the edge of the grand polished oak table positioned in the middle of the room, his hands resting on his lap, fingers steepled, his head slightly bowed. The room was suffused in a dim cerulean glow, radiating from a small conjured fire placed at a strategic angle such that it cast its blue light across the expanse of the enclosed room, from one corner almost reaching to the other. It was a mellow, soothing sort of illumination, and Harry's eyes quickly adjusted to the pale, almost surreal atmosphere.

Draco's head snapped up the moment Harry entered; his body seemed to tense, then consciously force itself to relax, although not successfully. He wore the expression of a trapped panther pacing its cage in the wild night, and his eyes betrayed a wary uncertainty as he watched Harry slip quietly into the room and close the door behind him.

Harry wasn't surprised to find Draco there; what did surprise him was the transient despair that flitted across Draco's features, as if he was— disappointed that Harry had come. The question of what was going on burned even stronger inside him.

Harry crossed the room in a few steps, drawing to a halt in front of Draco.

"So?" was Harry's short greeting, complemented by a hard, distrusting stare. "What's the big secret?"

"I didn't think you'd come." Draco said neutrally, although his usual unruffled manner rang slightly hollow.

"Wouldn't miss this for the world, Malfoy." Harry continued to watch Draco with cautious guardedness, and nodded curtly in the direction of Draco's left forearm. "Anyway, I didn't think you'd want to walk around school tomorrow with that handcuff, would you?"

"I didn't think you'd care." Draco's eyes were tinted almost cobalt from the conjured blue flame as they flickered up to meet Harry's. "I thought you'd not come for this precise reason, actually, so that I'd have to walk around school tomorrow with this ghastly thing on me."

Harry looked mildly outraged. "You think I'd intentionally leave that on you, just to— to shame you?" Harry seemed to have difficulty wrapping his mind around that insinuation. "Don't get me wrong, Malfoy, your ego's way too big for what you're really worth, and someone should pound that into you one day — but humility and humiliation are completely different things."

Draco rolled his eyes. "Don't patronize me, Potter."

Harry looked sharply at him. "You mean if it were the other way around, you'd leave the cuff on just to humiliate me?"

Draco didn't answer, just dropped his gaze.

Harry's expression changed to one of disgust. "I can't believe it." He shook his head angrily. "That's just like you, Malfoy."

Draco didn't answer; he just lifted his hand, the single cuff sliding halfway down his wrist, and held it steadily in front of Harry. Shades of metallic blue reflected off the cuff in a sharp dazzle, and Draco raised his chin almost defiantly, his eyes asking a silent question, and waited.

Harry didn't move for a moment, and just looked down at Draco's proffered hand. Then he sighed crossly, took out his wand, and tapped it lightly against the cuff, muttering "Clavis Finge."

The cuff neatly detached itself at an invisible joint, and hung loosened on Draco's wrist, sliding a few inches down his forearm.

Draco looked at Harry, his eyes glinting like tarnished jewels; then without a word, he slid the cuff off his hand and slipped it into his pocket. He eased off the table onto his feet and turned, walking a few steps away and standing facing the wall.

Harry was increasingly convinced that Draco was going quite mad indeed; he actually hesitated briefly, before asking, his tone belying his suspicion, "So what is it you wanted to tell me?"

"I didn't want to tell you. You wanted to know."

Harry felt his patience start to fray — in fact, it was already in shreds. "Spit it out, Malfoy. I haven't got all night."

"All right." Draco still didn't turn around, and spoke toward the wall. "Do you want the epic version of it, or just the gist?"

"Whatever. I just want to hear it — now."

Draco took a deep breath; this was hard, harder than he thought it would be. Why? Why did he even feel as if he was obliged to tell Harry about the spell, just because he asked? Draco usually took much pleasure in denying Harry the exact thing he wanted most.

But he knew why. It was because he didn't think he could keep it within himself for much longer. Because it was tearing him up inside, knowing what happened, yet not knowing what to do. And he needed to tell someone.

"Well..." Draco started slowly, feeling at a rare loss for words, suddenly not knowing where to begin; he didn't want to turn around, to look into Harry's eyes as he talked. "Basically, I was trying to make something, but it messed up royally and turned out to be something else, and—"

"There seems to be much vagueness and ambiguity," Harry interrupted sharply. "Am I supposed to fill in the blanks?"

Draco whirled around, his eyes flashing anger and muted pain. "Just shut up and listen, Potter," he snarled, no humour in his voice.

Harry glared back. "Then get to the point."

"Fine." Draco snapped, his endurance wearing thin, and the words spilled from his lips like a long-suffered secret, raw and truthful and twisted with bitterness. "The point is that, I'm in love with you. That's essentially all you need to know."

Draco's words were met with a long silence, the shock and disbelief almost palpable in the tension between them. It was like time had been spun backwards, and the moment seemed to be suspended endlessly as the meaning of Draco's words sank in, flowing like iced water over impermeable rock. The hiss of the flickering flame was the only sound in the room, echoing like the crack of a whip in the taut silence.

When Harry finally spoke up, his voice was still faint with surprise.

"You're joking, right." It wasn't even a question, more of a statement; as if the idea was far too impossible to even be contemplated as truth.

Draco looked enraged and mildly pained at the same time. "Would I joke about something like this?"

Draco's voice bore an earnest seriousness that, in Harry's opinion, sounded as incongruous as the entire situation right now, and Harry was beginning to feel like he was grasping on the fringes of a waking dream, ethereal and utterly, utterly unbelievable.

Harry shrugged. "I don't know. You have a warped sense of humour."

"Well yes, I mean tormenting Longbottom and making his cauldron blow up is laugh-your-ass-off funny and all," Draco gritted his teeth, trying to keep calm, "but being— being in love with you isn't remotely amusing in the least. In fact, I think the whole idea of it is traumatising enough to grant me license to become a full-fledged psychopath in later life. If I even make it there, that is."

"You— you love me?" Harry echoed, his voice ringing hollow, his expression as if he'd just swallowed something distinctly unpleasant and vaguely nausea-inducing, like a whole jar of Cockroach Clusters.

"No, Potter, I am in love with you." Draco's voice was sharp as a blade. "I did not fall in love with you, that being an even less attractive option than falling off a cliff, and I certainly don't love you. There's a vast and crucial difference there."

"Can't really see it, actually." The note of suspicion returned to Harry's voice. "Look, I don't believe this. Is this some kind of joke? What are you trying to say, exactly?"

"Have you even been listening to me?" Draco was exasperated. "Because I get the feeling that the echoes off the wall are giving me a more intelligent response."

"Of course I heard you." Harry sounded irritated. "But what you're saying is coming through as pure gibberish." He eyed Draco critically, as if he was a time bomb about to go off. "Are you sure you're not on drugs, Malfoy? Because you're hyperventilating and your eyes are dilated, kind of like Hedwig when she had a bad case of diarrhoea."

"Thanks for the descriptive imagery and the concern, and I wish this whole thing is just a horrible hangover, but no, I'm not on drugs." Draco paused. "Although I wouldn't say no to some now, if you've got any."

Harry looked dubious, and still sounded very sceptical. "But you— you hate me."

"Well spotted, Potter. I always thought I might have been too subtle before. Real sharp of you to notice, ten points to Gryffindor for a rare display of brain waves."

"Shut up, Malfoy. And just so you know, I can't stand you either."

"Glad we've got that straightened out." Draco tilted his head slightly; strangely enough, getting warmed up with his usual activity of insulting Harry had almost taken his mind off the fact that he was actually harbouring a dangerous, volatile lust for him. But the sensation was still there, like live undercurrents fed under his skin. "You know something interesting about you, Potter? You positively run screaming when I kiss you, but you're perfectly calm when I tell you that I'm possibly in love with you."

"I'm sort of saving up the full impact of shock so I can wake the whole of Hogwarts when the horror of it finally breaks — which will be any time now, actually, so you'd better hurry up talking."

"There's nothing else to talk about." Draco gave Harry a sidelong look, and just then a surge of the familiar electricity sizzled through him, like the intoxication of wine; he leaned back against the edge of the table for support, and said blandly, "I think you should leave."

"Nothing else?" Harry looked incredulous. "The hell there isn't! For starters, you haven't told me why you're in love with me in the first place." He pondered for a moment, then continued, "I'm guessing a love spell of some sort, because if it isn't, then a place for you at St Mungo's is pretty much guaranteed."

Draco wanted to shoot back a retort about how probably only the residents of St Mungo's Criminal Insanity wing would ever fall in love with Harry, but realised that would include him too; and all of a sudden, he felt so— tired, as if his energy was being drained by being with Harry. And from past experience, this weariness was always closely chased by an entirely different kind of energy — desire.

Draco's shoulders sagged, and he relented. "You're right," he said, his voice sounding defeated. "It's a love potion."

"Love potion?" Harry repeated, his voice a mix of shock and curiosity. "Aren't they illegal?"

"If you're going to give me a moralistic rant on abiding by the statutes of wizarding law, spare me, because I feel ill enough as it is."

Harry still didn't look convinced. "What happened, exactly?" He eyed Draco critically. "If you're making this up, just to let you know, it's very implausible. If you're not making it up, well, then you have a lot of explaining to do. And I'm warning you, Malfoy, if you're trying to pull a fast one on me—"

"Oh, just shut up and let me talk for a bit, will you?" Draco snapped, glaring at Harry.

To his surprise, Harry fell silent, and an expectant silence hung between them.

Draco sighed, but there was no turning back now, and the truth was, he actually wanted to tell Harry what happened — at this moment, anyone would have served as satisfactory audience, even Mrs Norris. It felt like holding a breathful of air for too long, and all he wanted to do was to be able to breathe properly again, without the agitated flutter of his heartbeat pounding in his chest.

Draco caught Harry's impatient gaze, and took a deep breath. Something told him that he was going to need all the oxygen he could muster. "All right. Here's what happened."

Draco launched into his narrative of last night's events, albeit haltingly. He didn't say half the things he thought — the story was reduced to passing snatches of the monologue of words that rushed through his mind, and he voiced only the necessary bits to string together the chronology of events.

He talked briefly about the potion, glossing over the finer details to the part where he was just about to drink it. He related how it had turned out to be a love potion, and before he even learned that, how the first person he saw after he swallowed it was Harry.

To his credit, Harry was a good listener — he actually remained quiet while Draco talked in low, urgent tones, the words falling from his lips like a summer rain. Harry still wore a sceptical expression on his face, but at the same time he was listening very carefully to Draco's words, observing his body language, weighing the grain of truth on the scales of probability that, for once in his lifetime and probably all prior and subsequent ones, Draco Malfoy was telling him the truth.

When Draco stopped briefly to catch his breath, Harry finally interrupted.

"What potion were you originally trying to concoct?" he asked, not taking his eyes off Draco. "Don't tell me you actually intended the love potion from the start."

"What does the phrase 'spell gone wrong' sound like to you?" Draco retorted peevishly. "Of course I didn't intend to make the love potion — don't be daft, Potter, honestly." He let out a derisive snort.

"Well, then what were you trying to make?" Harry pressed, refusing to let it go.

"A Loss Of Substance potion." Draco muttered reluctantly, as if he'd just been forced to divulge a very embarrassing secret. "It makes you... well, disappear."

"What?" Harry stared at Draco incredulously, an appalled look filtering onto his face. "Loss of substance? Where, Malfoy, here?" He angrily tapped a finger to his temple. "What were you thinking!?"

"I don't know!" Draco burst out, jagged emotion gleaming through the cracks in his voice. "You don't think I haven't thought about that? What I was thinking? Hell, ever since last night I've been doing nothing but think, about how stupid I could've possibly been to mix the spell up, how bloody unlucky I am that the two spells are only a page apart, and how the fuck am I supposed to get myself out of this!!"

Harry blinked, taken aback by Draco's sudden outburst, almost feeling guilty for his provocation. He sobered considerably; something about the way Draco looked and sounded jarred him immensely, making him think twice about what Malfoy was actually saying, what he was trying to tell him.

Harry looked at Draco again, harder this time, noticing the veiled pain threaded in his delicate features, a certain wretchedness that silently accented the seriousness of the situation.

He wondered why he was even believing what Draco said. Since when did Malfoy ever speak truth to him? What if this was all some elaborate trap to... well, he couldn't quite tell what machinations this could possibly be a part of, but he was sure it wouldn't be at all pleasant. So why was he even inclined to believe Malfoy?

His eyes. Harry looked at Malfoy again, a long, calculated sort of gaze. In his eyes.

And Harry also noticed that Draco had very pretty eyes, intense and full of feeling, although too often glazed over with cold arrogance and scornful disdain. But at rare times like now, they were innocent and painfully truthful, and beautiful, jewels of deepening grey lined with silver in the ice-blue light.

Oh, stop it. This is Malfoy. Stop gazing into his eyes.

"Well..." Harry shook his head slightly to clear his thoughts, "Why are you telling me this?"

Draco's eyes narrowed, his lips parting in indignant amazement. "I distinctly recall that you asked. In fact, you didn't just ask, you badgered me tirelessly and put me in handcuffs just to force me to tell you. And now you say, 'Why are you telling me this?'"

Harry glared. "I mean, what do you expect me to do about this?"

"Nothing." Draco answered shortly, looking away, turning his eyes though not his attention to the pale blue flame that alternately wavered and glowed. His voice was dull. "There's nothing you can do."

"Well, is there a counterspell? A way to reverse it?"

"I don't know."

"Will it wear off, after a while? Or can you take an antidote or something, to neutralise the effect?"

A shrug. "I don't know."

Harry looked irritated. "You seem awfully uninterested in getting yourself out of this mess, Malfoy. The ignorance really isn't helping. Do you think refusing to find out more about this love spell will make it go away?"

Draco's eyes slanted sharply back in Harry's direction; they burned with a fervent intensity, almost heartbreakingly desperate. "You don't know how much I want this thing to be off me, Potter." His voice seemed to quiver with faltering control. "So just shut up and get lost."

Harry's jaw dropped; he clearly wasn't expecting the abrupt hostility, and his emerald eyes darkened with dawning anger. "I'm just trying to help, you ungrateful git. This is your problem, incidentally."

Draco held his gaze evenly, his eyes masked with absent emotion. "You're right, Potter. This is my problem. And I don't need your help. It's none of your business."

"It is my business, Malfoy, because you so happen to have picked me to fall in love with." Harry took a step forward, a grim determination in his eyes.

"Picked you, Potter? Picked?" Draco looked disgusted. "Would I, in any frame of mind sound or otherwise, pick you to be in love with? Would I?" He closed his eyes, his shoulders hunching, and covered his face with his hands. "This is officially the worst disaster in the magical world. Years from now they'll be teaching this as a case study of 'Spells Gone Wrong Resulting In Fates Worse Than Death', and they'll have the powdered remains of my skull as authentic artefacts."

Harry bit his lip, stifling a smile. Even given the situation, Malfoy's distraught humour was rather funny—

"It's not funny, Potter," Draco snapped waspishly. "Wipe that smile off your face before I make it disappear forever — magically or otherwise."

Harry's smile vanished, and his mouth hardened into a line. "Don't blame me for this happening, Malfoy. This whole fix isn't even remotely my fault."

"Of course it's your fault. If you weren't around this would've never happened."

"Now I'm faulted for existing?" Harry blinked, annoyance flooding in. "You're just being unreasonable, Malfoy, and—"

"Of course I'm being unreasonable," Draco cut in sharply, his grey eyes glinting with vivid flashes of anger and frustration. "I'm in love with you, for starters. That pretty much goes against all laws of reason, completely blows the roof of irrationality, and catapults right out of the galaxy of insanity." Draco paused, and took a breath. "And it is entirely your fault."

Harry was about to snap back a retort, but then Draco did something that made the harsh words melt unspoken on his tongue.

With a half-glance at Harry, Draco quietly turned away and walked over to the opposite wall of the room. He braced one arm against the wall, and rested his forehead in the crook of his elbow; something about Draco's posture stripped him of his usual arrogance, painting a forlorn, defeated silhouette against the flickering blue illumination.

Harry was almost as surprised as if Draco had kissed him again. He stood for a moment, unsure of what to do; he realised how much he actually relied on Draco's provocations most of the time to keep him talking. And for all the times he fumed when Draco got the better of him, for the unfulfilled anger each time Draco managed to outwit him during their verbal sparring, this was the perfect opportunity to get back at him, right now when he was vulnerable, his defences down.

But Harry just couldn't do such a thing, not even to Malfoy. He couldn't do it when they duelled in their second year, when he held back from hexing Malfoy when he had fallen, though Malfoy had no qualms about breaching the ethics of good sportsmanship and striking him. And now he still couldn't bring himself to say something hurtful, or even just sarcastic.

Harry furrowed his brow and bit his lip, not knowing what to say or do, and just stood there, feeling awkward.

"You should go." Draco finally spoke, his voice drained with a weariness not entirely physical. "It's late."

Harry hesitated, and glanced at his bare wrist. "I can stay for a bit."

"I don't want you to stay." Draco's voice was chillingly quiet. "In fact, I want you to stay out of this, and stay away from me, which really won't be too hard for you will it? That's all I want."

"And do you think it's that easy?" Harry asked, though without rancour.

"Staying away from me? You seem to have cultivated an admirable dislike for me over the years, Potter, I'm sure you can draw on that." Draco was still leaning face-forward against the wall, and his voice was slightly muffled.

"No, I mean this. Do you think just walking away is the solution?"

"It's the solution for you." Draco finally lifted his head off his arm, and very slowly turned around, leaning his back against the wall, as if every part of his body was aching with exhaustion. "And that's all you should be concerned with."

Harry took a deep breath. "There must be a way to reverse it."

"And how if there isn't?" Draco exploded, the suppressed aggravation and pain bursting to the surface, spitting angry sparks in his eyes now warmed with anguish. "Not everything has a counterspell! And this is— this is different from other spells, because it's not external, it's inside me, in my blood. I haven't read up much yet, but I know about these kind of curses, and most of them are incurable except by death."

The last word hung significantly in the air, ominous, the possible eventuality suddenly bringing home the gravity of the situation. They both remained quiet for a while, the immense pain twisted up in Draco's words bleeding into the atmosphere, making the air dense with a sinking sort of feeling.

Finally, Harry spoke quietly. "This is a curse?"

Draco gave him a pointed look. "What else would you call it?"

Harry actually gave this thought. "I don't know. I just didn't think it'd be classified as a curse. I mean, love and curses aren't usually related."

"It isn't love, Potter, it's a love spell. It thrives on unrequited love, and drives you absolutely crazy because you find yourself longing for something you know you don't want, and can never get. People routinely go insane under the effect of love spells. If this isn't a curse, then Avada Kedavra's a nursery rhyme."

Harry wanted to tell Draco not to be so melodramatic, but something in him feared it wasn't such an exaggeration of the truth after all.

Harry sighed. "So what you suggest we do about it?"

"I told you. We're not going to do anything. I'm going fix it, and you will do absolutely nothing." A pained look flitted across Draco's features, cast in pale shades of fatigue and exasperation. "How many times do I have to tell you, Potter? I don't want your help. This isn't your problem, and as much as I know you enjoy sticking your nose in trouble and sniffing a high on it, the situation is messed up enough without you meddling any further."

"And you think you can handle this on your own?" Harry answered angrily. "Just look at what you've done about it so far! A grand total of nothing! You don't even know for sure there's no counterspell" He glared crossly at Draco. "You may not think I care, Malfoy, and frankly maybe I don't, but this is serious and I'm not going to let you get yourself in more trouble than you're already in."

Draco's eyes betrayed nothing except for an unnamed emotion that shimmered through liquid grey. When he spoke again, his voice was level, toneless. "You really want to help, Potter?"

Harry drew a controlled breath, not answering, his silence speaking his consent, although he couldn't bring himself to say it. Malfoy was getting on his nerves, and Harry had to strive to remain calm, reminding himself over and over again that Draco was excusably in a rather unstable state of mind.

In response, Harry bowed his head slightly, then looked squarely up at Draco again; a silent nod.

Draco stood staring at him for a moment, his head slightly tilted to one side, his expression almost contemplating, as if considering Harry's offer; a still silence once again reigned between them.

A faint smile finally found its way to Draco's lips; bitter, yet extremely sad. Gracefully nudging himself away from the wall, Draco resolutely strode over to the door and opened it, gesturing the way out with a facile wave of his hand.

"Then start helping." Defiance flashed in his eyes, streaked with unmistakable pain.

Harry stared at him for a moment, shocked; then rage flooded in and swept away tentative sympathy.

"Fine!" Harry's anger finally peaked, and he couldn't take anymore: he had his own dignity, dammit! He stalked right past Draco, out through the open door into the darkened corridors outside, then turned and looked back at Malfoy. "You're on your own now, Malfoy. Figure this out by yourself — I don't give a damn anymore."

Without another glance, Harry walked away, and left Draco standing in the shrouded night, which mirrored perfectly the darkness within his soul.