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 07

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 Seven: Faithful Scars

Then shall you know the wounds invisible
That love's keen arrows make.

There were no classes on Saturday morning, and as lunchtime approached, Harry found himself curled up in a corner by the fireplace. His brow was furrowed with what some might call an intelligent frown as he tried to concentrate on the words of the book spread open in front of him, which blathered on in shameless run-on sentences with no sign of a full-stop anywhere on the horizon.

Ron had insisted on going down to the Quidditch pitch to spy on the Slytherin strategy, since they were booked for practice that morning. Ever since last night when he'd returned to the dormitory, and this morning all the way through breakfast, Harry had listened to Ron seethe about finding Malfoy lurking around the pitch 'spying'. Harry didn't try to dissuade him from his little excursion, since he wanted to talk to Hermione in private about the events that had transpired in the storage room.

Hermione was sitting next to him, absorbed in reading; at this point, when Harry had given up actually reading text and was just scanning for the phrase 'love potion', she looked up and asked, "So that's all the book said? The Latin phrase Traicit et fati litora magnus amor?"

"And that two-line verse," Harry nodded at the piece of paper lying between them, where he had written out as much as he could remember of what was legible in the spellbook (Draco had taken it back with him). "That's all there was — anything else had been ripped away."

"Hmm," said Hermione, chewing daintily on the tip of her quill, "well, I can't seem to find even one reference to this Latin phrase in any of the magical books. I've spent the last hour checking indexes, concordances, everything — it appears nowhere else."

"How about the short poem?" Harry prompted.

Hermione shook her head. "That's way too vague to be cross-referenced anywhere — A chemical emotion, falsely real; the power to hurt, and the power to heal. I figure even if I could check, it'd come up empty as well — that spellbook seems to be only place that anything specific relating to the love potion appears." She gave Harry a look. "Anything legal and orthodox that we're privy to, at least. Raid Malfoy's library and I'm sure they even offer recipes for preparing love potions in different flavours."

Harry cracked a smile. "So did you verify that what the vial contained was love potion?"

Hermione gave a half-shrug. "As far as I can tell, it certainly looks like it. If I wanted to be completely sure I'd have to test it in a Potions lab, then there's the Snape factor to consider... and it's not like I can taste the potion to see if it's the real stuff."

"No, no," Harry said quickly, vaguely wondering how he would cope if Hermione got roped in under the spell of the potion, too. "That won't be necessary — the lab testing, that is. I mean, I think I'm fairly convinced that Malfoy's telling the truth."

Hermione had been thoroughly fascinated by the account of Malfoy's knife-wound, and had made Harry tell it three times over so she could analyse exactly how the miraculous healing came about. She still couldn't explain it, and Harry had started to look rather queasy from the multiple vivid recollections of what happened.

She nodded slowly, pondering deeply. "The healing effect you had on Malfoy — it's almost unbelievable, that you have such power over him. I mean, isn't it scary? To have so much control over someone else?"

"According to Malfoy, all the love potion actually does is recreate the effect of real love — that you'd do anything for the person you're in love with, and in a way, that's how he or she has a complete hold over you." Harry paused thoughtfully. "Makes sense, really. But you're right, it's scary. I almost had an aneurysm when Malfoy stabbed himself with the knife I was holding." He shuddered.

Hermione smiled, and shook her head. "Ron would've given anything to be in your position — and Malfoy probably wouldn't even have to guide his hand, considering how very hacked off Ron is with him at the moment."

A thought abruptly occurred to Harry, accompanied with a wild, sinking dread. "Hermione — you haven't told Ron about this, have you?"

Hermione gave him a pointed look. "Have you seen Ron charging toward you wielding a pickaxe recently?"

"No." Harry's lips twitched with a small smile of relief. "Don't tell him, all right?"

Hermione's expression sobered. "But you aren't going to keep this from him forever, are you?"

Harry looked alarmed. "Forever? Hell, no, this damn thing isn't supposed to last that long. Recall, we're actually trying to find a way to get rid of it?"

"I know," Hermione sounded mildly aggrieved. "But still — it feels wrong, keeping Ron in the dark about what we're doing."

Harry looked genuinely troubled; he sighed and set his book down, pushing his glasses up his nose. "You think I don't feel awful about it too? I hate the idea of hiding things from Ron as much as you do — I mean, he's always been there for me when I needed him. It feels horrible to not tell him, but, really—" Harry moved his hands in a helpless gesture, "what can I do? Ron'll chop me into little bits if he finds out about this, and he'll make talcum powder out of Malfoy."

"And you're willing to compromise your friendship with Ron, in the not-so-unlikely event that he does find out?" Hermione shot Harry a doubtful look. "All this at stake, just for Malfoy?"

Harry looked distressed. "What do you expect me to do, Hermione?" He raked a hand through his tousled hair in despairing frustration. "Malfoy made me slice his chest open last night, and I walked back to my dorm with my hands still stained with his blood. And god knows what will happen if I don't at least try to help him — he may implode, or something messier than that. And then on the other hand there's Ron, and I really hate to go behind his back, but..." he trailed off, unable to reconcile his conflicting thoughts even in words.

"Do you think there's even the remotest chance that Ron would understand?" Hermione asked, though she knew the compelling odds were that it was more likely for a basilisk to have a picnic with you without having you for its picnic, than for Ron Weasley to ever be all right with helping Draco Malfoy in any way at all, be it tying a shoelace or reversing a love potion.

Harry hesitated, and seemed to be casting about for the right words. "Let's put it this way: Malfoy's been a real bastard to Ron all the while, no doubt about that. And if Ron ever learned about this, imagine what a perfect opportunity for revenge it'd be. He could really hurt Malfoy back for all the grudges between them — and I really don't think Malfoy is in any condition right now for that kind of thing. It just wouldn't be fair." He sighed and offered a useless shrug. "It isn't Ron's fault either. It's just human nature — it'd take a saint not to react that way."

"And yet you don't." Hermione mused quietly, almost to herself.

Harry blinked. "What do you mean?"

Hermione raised her eyes, looking directly at Harry. "You don't think that way," she said simply. "Malfoy hasn't treated you much better than he has Ron. He's tried to get you into hot soup countless times before, and often in the worst, most spiteful manner possible. And now, you're in the perfect position to make him pay dearly for everything he's done to you, a situation that admittedly, Ron would've milked for what it's worth — but that's not what you're doing at all."

Harry heaved another sigh. "I don't quite know why I'm doing this, either," he confessed wryly, his green eyes clouding with a pensive haze, misty with remembrance. "It's just that this love potion business — it's deadly serious, from what I've seen of it. It isn't just about settling scores or getting back at someone you don't like — this involves real emotions that have been twisted out of shape, and along with it blood and pain and, for all you know, life or death."

Hermione crinkled her nose slightly. "And the fact that we're actually caring about Malfoy's welfare doesn't bother you in the least." Her tone was one of distaste.

Harry shook his head. "I don't care about Malfoy — I'm only helping him because he needs it. It's more out of obligation than actual willingness — there's a difference."

"A really sketchy one." Hermione muttered softly. "But Harry, are you sure you want to do this? You have no idea what the consequences of the love potion are. These are serious Dark Arts, Harry. Think carefully about what you're actually getting into here, and whether or not you're prepared to go all the way with it. Because I think it's better you stay out of it from the start rather than bail on Malfoy halfway through."

Harry absently drew out the ring Draco had given him, which he wore on a thin silver chain necklace around his neck, kept concealed inside the front of his robes. He drew the necklace over his head and held the ring in his hand, slowly running his finger over the smooth, cool metal band, feeling the defined edges on the surface of each crystal. Harry was struck anew by its simplistic beauty, elegant without needing to be elaborate, green and violet alternating in a pastel, crystalline sort of blend and contrast.

When he had shown the ring to Hermione earlier on, she had promptly taken it away from him and proceeded to subject it to a string of Sensing Spells and curse detecting charms. However, it came up completely clean, and she had finally gave it back to Harry, albeit suspiciously. "Malfoy doesn't strike me as the generous sort," she had said. "He's not even going to be lending jewellery for nothing."

As Harry tilted the ring to a different angle, the amethyst and jade glinted as they successively caught the rays of sunlight filtering in from outside, drawing out two slivers of pure colour from the spectrum of the rainbow and reflecting them in a bright dazzle that seemed to shine with its own white-platinum glow.

And faintly and softly in his mind, like an autumn drizzle, Harry heard Draco saying,

Amethyst is supposed to heal, bringing protection and clarity of mind.

Harry felt confused, uneasy and very unsure, as he stared unhappily at the tongues of fire dancing in the fireplace, kept lit even during the day to repel the winter chill. It was always this way — everything seemed so straightforward and simple when all he saw was Malfoy, his eyes shining with a silent plea and his smile edged with electric pain, quiet but not hidden.

Emerald repels evil, and... it brings out the colour of your eyes.

And whenever he saw Malfoy that way, fervently desperate and broken in spirit, his innate sense of what was right told him affirmatively that he had to help him, no matter what. Not for anything else, but because it was the right and therefore only thing to do.

But when he was away from Malfoy — things felt different. Reality sank its fangs down on the sympathetic side of his mind, injecting the venom of apprehension and doubt, and the right thing to do no longer seemed as crystal clear as before. Even though he'd convinced himself that Malfoy wasn't fabricating the whole love potion idea, he still had a bad feeling about all this.

"You don't have the motivation to actually want to go through with it," Hermione spoke up thoughtfully, voicing the sentiments that Harry couldn't quite pin down. "But you know that you need to do something, one way or the other, so you can tell yourself that you did try to make it better."

Harry gave up trying to articulate his restless thoughts into something that would even begin to make sense — they were actually just a confusing blend of contrasting emotions, about as miscible as kerosene and water, and as volatile as touching a flame to that mixture.

"I just want for this to be fixed as soon as possible, so that we can both get on with our lives," Harry said slowly, attempting to wrap his mind around the words he was speaking, as if trying to determine if they matched his true feelings. "I just want things to go back to normal, when they made a hell of a lot more sense than they do now."

"And that's what you really want." Hermione said deliberately, her tone measured.

It wasn't quite a question, nor did it offer the reassurance of being a statement. Harry was glad it didn't demand an answer, because he wasn't sure he could give a definite reply to that. Decisions were hard, especially when someone else's life was threaded into the equation, and the fact that the person was Draco Malfoy completely threw everything out of balance and out of the window. There was no use trying to rationalise, when the very idea of it was insane to start off.

"I don't know." Harry decided to leave the issue altogether unanswered. Reasons would come later, as regrets always did. "But what I do know is, I can't walk away, not now. So that's a pretty strategic roadblock where the path diverges."

Before Hermione could respond to that, the portrait hole swung open and in crawled Ron, hot and flushed either from excitement or from having been chased all the way back to the common room by Slytherins who had caught him on his merry little reconnaissance mission.

"Ha!" Ron crowed jubilantly, bounding over to where Harry and Hermione were sitting nestled by the fireplace. He flopped down next to them, the rose tinge on both his cheeks matching the flaming red of his hair perfectly, making his freckles stand out. "I managed to watch most of the Slytherins' practice session and I figured out their strategy — it's perfect."

"Oh really," Hermione remarked dryly; she had been disapproving of Ron going to spy in the very first place. "I thought that's what you said about our game plan."

Ron shot her a withering look. "Perfect for us, I mean. Look," he turned to Harry, and proceeded to gesture animatedly with his hands, pointing at invisible spots in mid-air as he explained the workings of the Top-Secret Slytherin Quidditch Strategy, speaking very fast. Harry found it increasingly hard to imagine where the non-existent dots were moving, and in the end fell back on just listening to Ron's commentary. Apparently Slytherin was playing a wing-intensive forward formation, which meant that centre-field would be most open and vulnerable, which favoured Gryffindor because their Chasers were more proficient playing down the middle of the pitch.

"And the best piece of news is that Malfoy seems really out of it during the practice, which totally made my day to watch him," Ron grinned triumphantly. "If he keeps up the poor form, you'll have a fun time running circles around him on Wednesday."

Hermione glanced quickly at Harry, and saw that his eyes were suddenly bright with attentiveness, as he asked in a forcedly casual tone, "What do you mean, out of it?"

"He flew terribly," Ron explained gleefully, still looking thoroughly pleased with himself. "He looked like he wasn't concentrating very well on what he was doing — twice he almost got knocked off his broom by a Bludger. Hilarious, that was. If he flies like that in the match, the only thing you'll have to worry about, Harry, is that you don't end up laughing so hard you forget to catch the Snitch."

"Awfully complacent, aren't we, Ron?" Hermione asked sharply. "Malfoy isn't as good as Harry, but he certainly isn't all that lousy a flyer, or he wouldn't have been made captain."

Ron's eyes hardened with a dark tension. "Do you really believe that, Hermione? With Lucius Malfoy back on the board of governors, he doesn't need to pull many strings to get his son as team captain." Lucius Malfoy's generous contributions to St Mungo's and other welfare institutions had canvassed enough support within Ministry circles to get him reinstated as a governor of Hogwarts.

Ron looked at both of them with a fierce sort of pride, which reminded Harry strongly of Oliver Wood. "And in all the past games they've played against us, have you ever seen Malfoy catch the Snitch? Not once."

Hermione seemed too absorbed in furtively watching Harry's reaction to respond; Ron now turned to Harry, his blue eyes blazing with a deep truculent intensity. "You have to beat him, Harry," he said earnestly, "Show him that money can never buy talent, or a true victory. Show him that having an influential father means nothing when he needs to cheat to have a shot at winning , and yet still lose." Ron drew a deep, fiery breath, and continued, "Because I need to see him fail once more, for everything he's ever done to us."

Even though Ron had said 'us', both Hermione and Harry knew that he actually meant 'me'. Hermione could see the raw thirst for revenge so plainly evident in Ron's eyes, and for a moment it scared her, how long-held grudges from ingrained family rivalry could precipitate such anger and hatred. She looked over at Harry, and saw the look of torn confusion contorting Harry's face, troubled lines etched into a small frown, even as he gave a constricted nod and said a soft "Of course", avoiding Ron's gaze and her own.

Oh no, Hermione lamented inwardly, a sinking dread starting up in the pit of her stomach, a harbinger of things unpleasant. This is a disaster just waiting to happen.

* * * * * * *

Draco emerged fresh from a shower, his blond hair slick as wet silk, fine and threaded with beads of silver water at the tips. He shook his head lightly, then tossed back the stray fringe that hung wetly in front of his eyes as he walked back to his dorm to deposit his Quidditch things.

Of course, Draco had seen Ron Weasley sneaking around behind the hedges lining the pitch during Slytherin's practice session. The redheaded twit had been trying to appear as inconspicuous as possible, to no avail — he looked like a walking bushfire amidst the branches stripped of leaves. It was certainly not the best method of camouflage, and Draco sniggered to himself at how ridiculous Ron had actually looked, creeping around like that.

But at the same time he also remembered Ron's words to him the day before, lanced with spite and bitter malice: On the day you finally fall with a mighty crash, know that it is exactly what you deserve.

Draco closed his eyes and sat down heavily at the foot of his bed, briefly contemplating the horror of what would happen if Weasley found out about his situation with the love potion. The mere thought of the humiliation was enough to make Draco shudder. The rivalry he used to share with Harry was one thing; the hatred that ran between him and Weasley, like a black river extending generations in time, was entirely another. And it had been hard enough to swallow his pride and ask Harry to help him; but if he had to contend with Ron Weasley knowing about this, Draco strongly suspected he would just spontaneously combust.

Harry hadn't told Weasley about the love potion, Draco finally decided with no small measure of unease He couldn't have. Draco knew that if Weasley did find out, he certainly wouldn't have the decency to keep it to himself, and the next moment the whole of Hogwarts would know about it, and his father— Draco broke off in mid-thought, not even wanting to think further about that. No, Harry wouldn't tell Weasley. Or would he?

Draco thought of the first time he'd challenged Harry to a wizard's duel in their first year, yet secretly tipped Filch off that the Gryffindors would be out of bed in the trophy room. He still remembered why he'd done such a cowardly thing, because the truth was that he'd been intimidated by Harry, the slight, scrawny black-haired boy who had so coolly refused his hand of friendship. And when Harry had unexpectedly agreed to face off with him in a wizard's duel, Draco had privately panicked — and because he hadn't been assured that he would win, all he had wanted was to make sure they would lose. He'd wanted to watch Harry get into trouble, to be stripped of the glory that seemed to come to him so effortlessly.

Know that it is exactly what you deserve. Ron's words again, ringing on the fringes of his consciousness, echoing an ominous acceptance deep within him. For all the things he'd ever done to Harry, for all the malicious words he'd hurled in Harry's direction... maybe Weasley was right, for once. Maybe this was what he deserved. Or maybe it was just the love potion talking.

And last night. It had taken every ounce of willpower to restrain himself from doing anything that might give Harry the impression that he was a sex-deprived maniac fishing for some kicks. Of course, for his part Harry didn't seem at all inclined to entertain any more snogs — but Draco realised that he no longer just wanted to kiss Harry for the mere physical contact. He wanted to feel Harry behind the kiss, to feel something other than unresponsive lips frozen by shock or repulsion; he didn't want to know which, although it was likely a combination of both.

The love potion no longer throbbed through him like a live current whenever Harry was around; instead, it had subsided to a dull aching pulse, like static electricity, alternately freezing streams of thought then jerking them into a tailspin. It was a matured sort of pain now, like a chronic condition that was starting to infiltrate his bones into the marrow — and this insidious tide of chemical poison scared him more than ever, because he was starting to forget how he used to hate Harry. Now all he could remember was the twistingly empty emotion that flamed like cold fire each time Harry came close to him; a hollow image of love, like the reflection of smoke in mirrors, but still, love nonetheless.

* * * * * * *

"What the hell?"

Harry stared at Draco, first surprise then realisation and finally indignation spreading over his face. Draco eyed him calmly, a tentative smile lifting the edges of his mouth, and he looked almost amused as Harry took one more angry glance at the rolled-up parchment Draco held in his own hand, then started yelling at him.

"What the hell are you trying to do, Malfoy?" Harry's voice flared with rage, and he snatched the scroll out of Draco's unresisting hand. "Do you want to get me into trouble again? Are we back to status quo, where I'm actually supposed to spend my time watching my back for your cheap dirty tricks, instead of helping you find out about love potions? Is that it?"

Draco looked mildly shaken by Harry's furious tirade. "No," he answered, his tone of voice quietly conciliatory. "I just wanted to talk to you, that's all. I can't seem to find any other time that you're alone."

"Oh," Harry said sarcastically. "I see. You steal my homework and get me sent out of class for it, but that's all okay because you know, my mid-term grade doesn't really matter that much, not to you at least." He glared venomously at Draco. "Honestly, Malfoy! Is everything just about you? Do you want to make me a genie while you're at it, so you can stuff me into a bottle and summon me whenever you just want to talk for a bit?"

Draco chewed on his lower lip, feeling mildly remorseful — Transfiguration class was in progress right now, and he'd furtively performed a Summoning Spell while McGonagall's back was turned and had taken Harry's homework assignment off her table without her noticing. As a result, she'd queried Harry about his failure to submit his homework, upon which Harry had protested that he did hand it up, and the Professor had told him to go back to his dormitory to look for it. Flustered and baffled by the mysterious disappearance of his homework scroll, Harry had left the classroom, upon which Draco had also excused himself to go to the bathroom and had chased after Harry, finally catching up with him here on the third-floor corridor, near the statue of the humpbacked one-eyed witch.

"I'm not stealing your homework," Draco protested weakly, carefully taking into account how mad Harry seemed— and likely was— with him. "I was going to put it back."

"You know, why don't you try that concept with other people's money next time, and let me know from Azkaban whether that's a good excuse or not." Harry said coldly.

Draco took a deep breath to calm himself, so that he wouldn't snap something nasty and get Harry even more hacked off at him. "Look," he said slowly, meaningfulness burning strongly in his eyes, "it's already Monday. The match is in two days' time, Potter, and I still haven't found anything that might work yet. I just wanted to ask if you had any ideas," Draco paused, and added, "any at all."

Harry's expression softened slightly; he understood Malfoy's desperation, because truthfully it mirrored some of his own urgency, which was why he'd been regularly checking if Hermione had made any progress with finding an antidote for the love potion. Headway was still slow as yet, although she said that she had a few possible leads.

Harry sighed, running a hand through his hair, pushing his fringe out of his eyes; standing across from him Draco blandly wondered how such a casual gesture of running fingers through hair could ever seem even remotely erotic — which it did, almost painfully so. Of course, only Harry could have such an effect on him. His every movement seethed with dark allure, that natural magnetism which drew out the mercurial potion rising in his blood, making him ache as if from an assault of a phantom blade.

"There doesn't seem to be any antidote to the love potion listed anywhere in the magical reference books, at least those that we could get our hands on," Harry was saying, and Draco jerked back to the present as a single word jarred him, bringing his drifting thoughts back into sharp focus.

"We?" Draco interrupted pointedly, his eyes cutting over to Harry's, his gaze piercing.

Harry hesitated for a moment; his cheeks coloured imperceptibly, as if embarrassed that he had divulged something he hadn't intended to, but when he spoke his voice was calm and composed. "I asked Hermione to help me with the research."

Draco felt his heart slam up against his ribcage with a sickening crack, and for a moment his pulse ground to a dead halt, before stilted blood flooded back through his veins with a rush of thunder. "You told her?"

Harry raised his chin almost defiantly. "If anyone can help with this, Hermione can. And she's trustworthy enough to keep a secret, which is more than I can say about you."

Draco vaguely wondered if Harry was alluding to the incident with Hagrid's dragon, in their first year. But right now he was too horrified by the revelation that he and Harry weren't the only two living souls who knew about what happened, that Harry, whom he trusted for some insane reason, had gone and told Granger, who probably had the heartiest laugh in her life over it.

Draco swore in frustration and kicked the flagstone wall next to them for good measure, his foot narrowly missing the corner of the one-eyed witch's pedestal. "I can't believe you told Granger! What the hell were you thinking, Potter? Didn't I tell you to keep this absolutely secret?"

"No you didn't, actually," Harry retorted, annoyance and irritation sparking in his clear green eyes, "I think most of the time, before you even got to that bit, you'd give up talking and start kissing me instead."

"Fuck you, Potter," Draco hissed, taking a step forward, black fire in his eyes.

Anger peaked like sharp spikes of seething hot metal, and Harry roughly shoved Draco backwards; his back hit the wall with a solid impact that must have hurt, although Draco showed none of the physical pain, only hints of another kind of suffering that smoked like a hidden fire in his eyes.

"You are coming dangerously close to pissing me off like no one has ever done before." Harry snarled, rage mixed with disgust burning like a smouldering flame behind his dark green eyes, like circles of charred grass. "Then again, you're already the current record-holder, so don't push your limits, Malfoy."

Draco's chest swelled with suppressed fury, and he glared daggers at Harry. "Have you ever wondered why I never even thought to approach any of the professors to ask for help, that I'd actually ask you instead of Snape, for instance, who'd know a hell of a lot more about love potions? Do you know how serious things will be if this gets out to the rest of Hogwarts? All it takes is for someone to report this to the school authorities, and guess whose father is on the board of governors?" Draco's voice was raised now, with an almost hysterical note to it. "Do you have any idea what's going to happen to me if my father finds out?"

"Hermione's not going to report this to any of the teachers!" Harry answered angrily, looking thoroughly infuriated. "She's my friend and I trust her, and I know that if she promises to keep it to herself, she will."

"I'm not so sure about that." Draco's voice was edged with bitter cynicism; he suddenly became almost painfully aware of the weight of Harry's palm pressing against his chest, which sent a shivering thrill through him like fiery adrenaline. "Can't you bloody see? She hates me, Potter, and you've just given her the perfect way to get back at me."

"Your past sins catching up with you, are they?" Harry's voice was icy, his tone smugly detached. "Maybe this'll make you think twice about calling Hermione a Mudblood, or sneering at Ron's family again."

Another thought suddenly occurred to Draco, so terrible and dreadful that it drained his anger like mist vanishing into a furnace, and he slumped back against the wall as despair and a cold, sinking horror overcame him, glacial tides that crystallised his fear and suspended it in a frozen eternity.

"Please say you didn't tell Weasley." Draco's voice sounded numbed and distant, and utterly defeated.

Harry blinked, mildly startled; this was the first time he had ever heard Draco say 'please'. Draco had never said it before, not even when he'd asked Harry for help — and Harry watched the spectrum of pain that danced across Draco's face, bleak realisation and crumbling pride and sheer hopelessness, a black dawn of darkness and misery. And after he'd seen Malfoy take everything so far in his stride with forced calm, Harry also knew the breaking point when he saw it, and he knew this would be the ultimate humiliation, more than Draco would be able to bear — if Ron knew about the love potion, Ron who was Draco's enemy in a far more entrenched way than Harry had ever been.

"No," Harry said, and surprised himself at the gentleness in his tone; he saw Draco look up, a flare of hope in his pale eyes. Harry felt his own anger ebb away, subsiding as quickly as it had risen, because it was incredibly hard to remain wrathful in the face of such desolation. "No, I didn't tell him. And neither did Hermione."

Contrary to what Harry had expected, a look of immense relief didn't wash across Draco's face, nor did the spark of hope ignite in Draco's eyes of frozen grey, which remained dull and misted like frosted glass. Harry couldn't quite read the emotion that shimmered behind them. Draco's expression remained downcast, even in the face of Harry's reassurance; it was as if that moment of horror had been so stark and desolate that it struck as deep as reality would have, and Draco was still reeling from the impact, like the lack of resilience in a spring that had been stretched too far past its elastic limit.

Harry's words served to substantially alleviate the hysteria that had spiralled through Draco at the mention of Ron — now he closed his eyes, and the leaden realisation of his own vulnerability brought on a new, frantic tide of panic. And Draco was scared, all of a sudden, of how much this situation had taken away his control over himself; how easily other people could now affect him, and make him feel things that he had never felt before, not to this intensity — feelings of fear and horror, as well as of longing and desire.

Draco realised that Harry's hand was still resting against his chest; the scar of the knife-wound stirred under Harry's touch, an intimate connection between them forged in a covenant of blood. The unconscious placement of Harry's hand against the scar brought a curious onslaught of sensation, which burned but wasn't hurtful, a numbed flame only stoking his confusion, and Draco shuddered involuntarily.

Harry saw Draco flinch slightly, as if from pain, and he suddenly remembered that his hand was pressing down on the place that the knife had sliced apart — quickly he withdrew his hand, and stared at Draco with renewed concern. "Did I hurt you?"

What an ironic question, Draco thought colourlessly, even as he felt Harry's fingers gingerly brush against his robes, at the place just covering the scar. Every single moment that we're together, you're hurting me, even though you don't know it.

Harry gently pushed the fabric of Draco's robes away, baring part of Draco's left shoulder in a decent fashion; in an almost clinical manner he carefully inspected the scar, which had now faded to a pale silvery streak barely visible against Draco's fair skin. Draco closed his eyes as he surrendered to the fluid touch of Harry's hands moving lightly over his skin in an accidental caress, and it felt like heaven, dreams of gold and…

Behind closed lids the familiar dreams came to life, the seductive companions of his nights, scorched into his mind like burning honey leaving a bitter aftertaste; Draco felt himself slip from reality's feeble grasp as he let himself drown in the living dreams, as —

Harry's hands were sliding up his arms, and Harry was leaning close to him, whispering words against his lips that tasted sweet and sour like wine, intoxicating him. Harry's fingers were trailing teasingly along the blade of his shoulder, pushing away his clothes, letting them drop carelessly away. The heat of Harry's palms against his bare skin was making him shiver; Harry's hands were stroking across his chest, and Harry was kissing his mouth with a tenderness that melted the coldness within him, filling him with such wonderful warmth. He was gasping softly in response, helpless with pleasure, and Harry's tongue was running slowly along his lower lip; his own hands were moving to link themselves around Harry's neck, drawing them closer together, and only then did he finally feel whole, complete...

Draco's eyes flashed open, and he abruptly moved toward Harry, breaching the short distance between them. Harry blinked, letting his hands drop from resting on Draco's shoulder where he was examining the scar; all of a sudden they were so close that Draco's hands were brushing against his own, which were now held rigidly by his side.

Harry drew a deep calming breath, then started to ask, "Malfoy, what's—"

"I have these dreams," Draco said abruptly, cutting Harry short; Harry could feel the warmth of Draco's body aligned against his, and although Draco was speaking at no louder than a whisper, his voice was all that Harry could hear, so close were they standing. Draco's eyes seemed distant and unfocused, and he continued, "I dream of you, and in these dreams you're—"

"Malfoy," Harry said quietly, although he didn't move away, nor push Draco aside. "We have a class to attend."

Of course, Harry could never truly understand. Draco looked deep into Harry's eyes, pure green as emerald, emerald which was supposed to heal and protect, but instead exposed him to such vulnerability, over which he had no control. Where he stood Draco could breathe the gentle scent that was so uniquely Harry; blinded by impulse and desire he leaned in, and his mouth brushed against Harry's unresponsive lips for the whisper of a moment—

Every time I kiss you, it hurts.

Draco's manner had been insistent before, but not forceful like this; Harry was startled, almost alarmed as he felt Draco nudge him up against the wall. Draco's hands were moving swiftly up to hold his face, and Draco was leaning in, his lips closing over Harry's—

"Stop it, Draco." Harry said, more firmly this time, and he turned his face away from Draco, breaking the kiss; Draco seemed to snap out of his daze, and he looked stung as he stepped back, his eyes wide and bright as if with vivid fever.

Every time you push me away, all I feel is the pain.

Draco took an unsteady step backward, feeling his face flush with embarrassment and unfulfilled desire; not quite lust, but certainly a very intense desire, one which made him want to just throw Harry up against the wall and kiss him until the yearning went away, but Draco knew even that would not be enough to quell the urgings of the potion.

The mild shock of Draco's sudden aggressiveness wore off, and Harry felt a wave of sympathy as he saw the wretched look on Draco's face, the silent torture of dreams which just couldn't coalesce with reality — Harry knew how disturbing they could be, how the invisible threads of dreams could enmesh and complicate reality. Altered reality, in Draco's case.

"Look," Harry said, watching Draco carefully, "Hermione has been doing lots of research over the weekend, and she reckons she's got a few leads which might get us somewhere. I really think you should talk to her directly about this — and I will personally throttle you if you're horrid to her, because she's been working very hard just to help us. Without her, I don't think I'd have the time to sift through all those spellbooks, and neither would you, with all the Quidditch practice we're having. So you owe her big time, Malfoy."

Draco had a faraway look in his eyes as he shrugged, almost uncaringly. "Whatever you think is best."

To Draco, it didn't matter now even if Harry allowed him to kiss him again. The void of emptiness might be filled, but only for the fleeting moments when he held Harry, when he was awash with the sensation of being so close to him, tasting the dizzying sweetness of Harry's mouth, feeling the invigorating heat of his body. But when Harry would finally push him away once more, breaking the intimacy like a whisper shattering silence, everything would collapse and fade back to the shadows of desolation.

Everything would fall apart.

Harry cast a wary look around — thankfully, everyone was safely in class, so their present little interlude would probably go unnoticed by any student. But Filch was a different matter… and McGonagall might start to wonder what was taking him so long.

Harry glanced at his watch. "I'll be busy with classes and Quidditch practice for the rest of today, so how about tomorrow, after lunch? We've booked the pitch again in the afternoon but I can squeeze out some time to meet you, and Hermione can be there too." Harry privately noted that this way, Ron would probably be too occupied with Quidditch practice to notice his brief disappearance and Hermione's absence. "Hopefully by tomorrow Hermione'll have more ideas to share with us."

"What she doesn't?" Draco asked blandly, and his voice was hollow. "How if there just isn't any way to cure this?"

"Don't say that. It's really not helping." Harry gave Draco a severe look. "Can't you be a little more enthusiastic and positive about this?"

"Enthusiastic?" Draco echoed morosely. "I'm poisoned by a love potion, and every time I see you I just want to die. If enthusiasm was contagious, Potter, then I'm definitely immune."

"Just..." Harry trailed off, and then heaved a weary sigh. "Just have a little faith, will you? I'm also trying my best to find a way through this, you know."

"I know." Draco said softly, slanting a glance up at Harry, lowered lashes effectively obscuring the emotion in his eyes. Then he reached out and took the Transfiguration essay out of Harry's hand. "I'll go back first and replace this on her table so that when you come in, it's already there, and she'll just think she missed it while checking through earlier."

Harry watched Malfoy abruptly turn and walk away, his soft footsteps betraying his downcast soberness; yet, Draco still held himself with remarkable poise, each step measured and decisive, so contrary to the confusion in his mind which was all too evident to Harry. It was a marvel that Draco's pride was still intact, even though his control was in shreds; he still looked so composed, even though Harry knew he was slowly coming to pieces from within, a slow-motion shattering — and Harry also knew his own presence only catalysed the steady disintegration of Draco's resolve.

If we don't find a way out of this fast, Harry thought grimly, things might become too serious for us to handle, and someone might end up getting hurt. Badly.

* * * * * * *

"Well." Harry cleared his throat, wishing the tense, distrustful atmosphere would clear as well. He looked from Draco to Hermione, sitting opposite each other, both occupied with exchanging hostile, guarded looks.

They were in the empty Charms classroom after lunch on an overcast Tuesday, the eve of the Gryffindor-Slytherin clash. Harry had arranged for the private little meeting between the three of them, which from the looks of it, would not proceed very smoothly at all. Hermione had grumbled that she had to carry her books all the way to the Charms classroom, and Draco had been looking sullen ever since he stepped into the room ten minutes ago. Neither of them had said a word directly to each other, and Harry was starting to wonder if this had been such a good idea after all.

"Well," Harry said again, shooting Hermione an imploring glance; she still refused to look straight at Malfoy, and instead grabbed a book from the top of the stack and began flipping through it.

"Well what, Potter?" Draco prompted crossly; he had his arms crossed over his chest and was looking bored and impatient. "Are we here for a yoga meditation session, or is actual talking on the agenda anytime soon?"

Hermione put her book down, and glared venomously at Draco, her dislike plainly apparent. "You know, if you've got nothing decent to say, it takes less effort not to say it."

"Ah, our fair maiden speaks." Draco offered a smirk, "I was beginning to wonder if you'd actually fallen asleep sitting up."

"Enough!" Harry interjected, shooting Draco a quelling look. "Malfoy, get back in line and stop irritating Hermione. She's trying to figure something out."

"'Trying' being the operative word here." Draco sniped back contemptuously, the familiar malice glinting in his eyes.

Hermione's eyes sparked with anger and she looked on the verge of saying something in retort before Harry swiftly cut in. He muttered a few words to Hermione to ask her to calm down, then he proceeded to grab Draco by the arm, yank him roughly to his feet and propel him out of the classroom.

When they were outside, Harry spun Draco around and slammed him up against the corridor wall with such force and abruptness that Draco let out a soft gasp of surprise. Harry gripped a handful of Draco's shirt collar, and shook him, though not viciously; Harry's eyes shone with a mix of fury and exasperation, and Draco could feel the intensity of his emotion running like live current through the point where Harry's fist was nudged up against his chest.

"What the hell was that for, Malfoy?" Harry snarled, jerking his head back at the classroom by way of gesture. "She's actually trying to help you, do you know that? Hermione's got a lot better things to do than dig through stacks and stacks of books just to find out more about love potions and whether there's any conceivable way out of this mess — she's got no reason to do this for you, given how horrid you've been to her, and still are!"

"I don't trust her, that's why!" Draco shot back, giving voice to his truthful feelings. "Just because she's brainy and conversant with books, does that mean I'm supposed to entrust my life into her hands? I don't even know her, for god's sake!"

"That's right," Harry retorted, fiercely defensive. "You don't know Hermione. Because if you did, you'd know that she's about the kindest, most self-sacrificing friend you can ever find. You'd know that she'll stand by your side no matter what you do, even if she strongly disapproves of it, but just because you're her friend, she'll be willing to weather the storm with you, regardless of what it takes." Harry paused to draw a deep breath, and his voice quivered with suppressed rage. "You don't know her, Malfoy, and you owe her a lot more than you think, starting with an apology. So the least you can do now is show her the respect she deserves."

Draco actually had the grace to look slightly subdued as Harry escorted him back into the classroom; Hermione glowered at him as he took his seat, but he avoided her eyes and suddenly became avidly interested in a tiny beetle crawling on the edge of a desk, which he began prodding with the tip of his wand, muttering a spell under his breath. The beetle's wings hummed, and it seemed to want to take flight but under the influence of Draco's wand, didn't seem to be able to do so. It twitched and buzzed on the spot.

"Stop that!" Hermione said shrilly, staring at the beetle with horror in her eyes; memories of the spider she had witnessed being tortured by the fake Mad-Eye Moody were still all too vivid. "Quit it, Malfoy!"

Draco raised his wand, and whatever spell he had uttered was broken; the beetle whirred its wings feebly, in an injured way, before crawling away to safety as fast as it could. Draco listlessly watched it escape, aware of Harry and Hermione's horrified looks fixated on him. He returned their startled gazes with a bland expression, and shrugged nonchalantly, as if to say What the hell are you staring at?

Hermione looked mildly shaken; Harry leaned over and whispered something to her, comforting words to calm her somewhat. Draco found himself strangely unsettled, almost angered by seeing that tender, intimate sort of gesture of Harry leaning over to whisper in Hermione's ear, even though it was purely platonic between them — it re-awakened a volatile yearning within him, thrilling through his veins with each heartbeat, bearing the poison that ran through his blood, into his soul.

Giving Malfoy another appalled, scandalised look, Hermione turned her attention back to a scrap piece of parchment tucked neatly into one of the books. "Well, I've got some news to report on what I've found so far," she announced.

"Good news or bad?" Draco asked in a dull tone.

Hermione cut him a sharp, unyielding glance, and without missing a beat said, "I suppose it has to be good, since the fact that this has everything to do with you more than fulfils the bad news quotient."

"What did you find?" Harry quickly chipped in, before Draco could verbalise a retort; he was regretting ever imagining that Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy could spend even five minutes together in the same room without one of them getting inflated and stuck on the ceiling. Right now, Harry was the one keeping the ungainly peace.

Hermione picked up another book and flipped it open to a page that she'd dog-eared. "I managed to find the source of that Latin quote inscribed in Malfoy's spellbook. The reason that there weren't any references to it in any of the magical spell concordances, is because its origin is actually from an epic Muggle poem, which dates all the way back to the first century BC."

"Muggle?" Draco interrupted, looking disgusted. "But it's an ancient pure-magic potion, isn't it? Why does it even have anything Muggle-related?"

Hermione looked distinctly ticked off by Malfoy's tactlessness. "I think it's deliberate," she answered, giving Draco a very pointed look, "it just goes to show that the reach of the love potion is ubiquitous — whether you're wizard or Muggle, you aren't immune to the effects of induced love. Which does make perfect sense, in my opinion."

To Hermione's surprise, Draco didn't contest her statement, just remained silent. She also noticed that his gaze lingered on Harry, who didn't see Draco staring at him, being too absorbed in what she was explaining. Hermione made a bemused mental note of the way Draco was looking at Harry, then continued, "Anyway, there's some pretty interesting mythology woven around that quote."

"What's the myth about?" Harry queried, looking interested.

"Well," Hermione consulted a brief summary she'd written out, "legend has it that a Greek maiden, Laodamia, married Protesilaus, the king of Phylace. However, Protesilaus had to leave Laodamia behind shortly after their wedding to go and fight in Troy, where he was a battle commander. But an oracle had also prophesied that the first Greek man to touch Trojan soil would also be the first to die."

"Let me guess." Draco rolled his eyes. "This Protesilaus guy leaps onto the shore the minute they arrive, all gung-ho about it. Or better still, he misunderstands the oracle, so jumps off the boat and swims all the way to shore, thinking he'll win a prize for landing first. Is that how it goes?"

"Well," Hermione conceded reluctantly, in a very dignified sort of way, "that's actually pretty much what happened, though not as ludicrous as Malfoy's description of events. Some stories state that the Greeks learned of the prophecy and, upon arrival at Troy, were hesitant to land. Protesilaus, however, heroically leapt ashore and cut down several Trojans. Other stories said that the Greeks were unaware of the prophecy and Protesilaus was the first ashore merely out of eagerness."

Draco snorted in triumph, and made a noise that sounded like "Ha! That silly git."

"Whatever the case," Hermione continued, "the prophecy still held true, and Protesilaus was soon the first Greek to die on Trojan soil." She actually almost sounded sorrowful at this. "After learning of his death, Laodamia mourned her lost husband to such an extent that Hermes himself consented to bring Protesilaus back to the land of the living for three hours, so that they could be together for one last time."

Harry frowned slightly. "And where does the Latin quote figure into all of this?"

"A poet named Propertius describes the undying, enduring love that exists between Protesilaus and Laodamia in a poem in the first book of his Elegies, and that's where the Latin quote appears." Hermione consulted the notes she had penned. "Traicit et fati litora magnus amor — when translated, it reads along the lines of 'A great love passes through the shores of fate.'"

"Something like that," Draco muttered to himself. He looked up at Hermione, a veiled expression of bored defiance in his eyes. "Then what happens? They are reunited and live happily ever after with the blissful knowledge that the story of their romance will be repeated, ad nauseum, in all generations to come?"

"No," Hermione replied, giving Draco a simmering glance. "After the three hours were up, Protesilaus was to die again, and so Laodamia threw herself onto his funeral pyre, and died with him."

There was a brief stunned silence at the violent, abrupt denouement to the tragic tale.

"That sure is a cheerful story," Draco finally remarked in a sarcastic drawl, "It really uplifts our spirits, because it's not like we've been all that lively of late."

"Malfoy," Harry snapped warningly, and Draco shifted in his seat and tried his best to ignore the sharp look Harry was giving him. Harry turned back to Hermione. "What do you think is the significance of the myth?"

"Maybe we're supposed to go toast ourselves for a bit," Draco suggested unhelpfully, "you know, like a baptism of fire. Really meaningful and all that."

"Oh, please, be my guest," Hermione snapped, her voice thinly controlled. "We'd get a whole lot more work done if you just went away and boiled your head. Maybe the rest of yourself too, while you're at it."

Before Draco could find something to say to that, Harry took one glance at his watch and groaned. "I'm late for Quidditch practice — I really have to leave now." He paused, then caught Hermione's horrified expression. "What? What's wrong?"

"You're leaving? You're leaving for Quidditch practice now?" Hermione seemed positively aghast. "You're not actually going off and abandoning us here, are you?"

"Um," said Harry uneasily, "that was pretty much what I meant when I said 'leaving', although 'abandoning' does sound rather harsh."

"Harry," Hermione said firmly, shooting a sharp, meaningful look at Harry. "Can I talk to you for a moment — outside?"

"Attack of the conscience, Granger?" Draco commented caustically, as both Harry and Hermione got to their feet. "Don't recall you ever having any qualms about criticising me to my face."

Hermione ignored him, and took Harry by the arm and tugged him out of the classroom, shutting the door noisily after them. She turned to look at him, disbelief and exasperation in her eyes. "I can't believe this — you're going off and leaving me alone with Malfoy?"

"I can't help it," Harry said apologetically, a pleading look in his eyes, so earnest that it softened Hermione's annoyed expression. "I have to go for Quidditch practice now, or Ron and the others will start to wonder where I am and come looking for me." He paused. "Just don't let Malfoy get to you, Herm — I've talked to him already, and I don't think he's in a real position to be incisively nasty."

"This certainly is an exciting prospect for the afternoon." Hermione crossed her arms over her chest, and looked fractiously at Harry. "I disclaim all responsibility for any bodily injuries Malfoy may receive for being the horrid, insufferable git that he is. He already holds the dubious honour of being the only person I've ever slapped before in my life."

"Don't worry, you'll manage." Harry cracked a wry, tired grin; and as he turned to leave, he added softly, "Thanks a lot, Hermione."

"Hmmph," was all Hermione huffed in response; with another quick smile, Harry hurried off along the corridor and disappeared down the stairwell at the far end.

Hermione stood where she was for a few long moments, watching Harry leave.

How did I get myself into this? she asked herself, with no small measure of chagrin. I'm now going to be stuck with Malfoy for the better part of this afternoon. Or should I say, the worst part. If not for Harry... her mental voice trailed off, and she closed her eyes, strengthening her resolve. I'm doing this for Harry, not Malfoy. She reckoned that she would do well to constantly remind herself of this. For Harry.

Hermione sighed as she turned and walked ruefully back to the Charms classroom. She drew to a halt in front of the closed door, and took a few deep breaths to regain her composure; she had a strong feeling that she was going to need every ounce she could muster.