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 10

Author's Note:
Once again, thanks go out to everyone on the

Irresistible Poison

Chapter Ten: Hanging By A Moment

Love means never having to say you're sorry.

Hermione slid into the seat beside Harry during breakfast the next morning, looking tired, yet jubilant.

"I think the Anti-toxin potion is the best bet we've got," she muttered quietly, loud enough for only Harry to hear, as she helped herself to a generous serving of baked beans. "Well, actually it's the only plan we have, but it's pretty promising, so that's something we can be pleased about."

"What's something we can be pleased about?" Ron interrupted, as he leaned over and caught the last part of Hermione's sentence.

"Uh..." Hermione bit her lip, thinking quickly; Harry swiftly covered for her.

"That I'm feeling well enough to join tomorrow's Quidditch training," Harry answered with a small, casual shrug. "My ankle's already had a couple of days to rest up — and I need to practice harder for the re-match, whenever that may be."

Ron brightened, then suddenly frowned and groaned. "Oh no, I have detention with Snape tomorrow evening! Damn, I won't be able to sit in for practice."

"Well, you wouldn't have gotten detention if you hadn't insinuated that Snape was colour blind," Hermione pointed out, rolling her eyes.

Ron looked unrepentant. "I only suggested that he get his eyes checked. I mean, as I told Snape, mauve isn't exactly a very subjective colour, you know. And my Toadstool Tonic was clearly mauve, but he kept insisting that it was a 'sickly shade of violet'."

Harry cracked a grin. "I'm sure Snape was really touched by your concern for his health." He mimicked Snape's low, venomous voice, his tone dripping with sarcasm: "'Yes, Weasley, mauve isn't a very subjective colour. But it's only my opinion that counts.'"

"That really wasn't worth the detention, you know," Hermione told Ron, with a shake of her head. "Honestly, it looked a bit more on the lilac side to me."

"Hey, thanks for the support, Herm," Ron said huffily. He turned to Harry. "But I was talking to the rest of the team while you were in the hospital wing — they're comfortable with the formation we're currently playing, so I guess it's fine if we just stick to that for the next match."

Hermione bowed out of the conversation as Harry and Ron started discussing Quidditch matters — she waited somewhat impatiently, since she urgently needed to talk to Harry about the Anti-toxin potion. And she vaguely wondered how Harry's meeting with Malfoy last night had gone; she'd been in the library until it closed, and Harry still hadn't returned by the time she went back to the Gryffindor common room.

The Quidditch talk finally ended with Harry asking Ron to see if Seamus could cajole Madam Hooch to schedule the Slytherin-Gryffindor match after their upcoming game with Hufflepuff, which was their next opponent on the original list of fixtures. Seamus was sitting at the other end of the table, so Ron took his toast and went off to talk to him.

"All right," Hermione said in a low voice, immediately after Ron departed. "So how'd it go last night? What did Malfoy think of the Anti-toxin idea? Does he reckon it's worth a shot?"

Harry furrowed his brow, racking his mind to recall what Draco had said in response to the Anti-toxin idea; then he realised that he hadn't actually gotten round to telling Draco anything about it in the first place. They had been distracted by... a lot of things.

"Uh," Harry looked sheepish, "I actually... haven't exactly told him about it, just yet."

"What?" Hermione looked at him in disbelief. "What do you mean, you haven't exactly told him? But you were with him for ages last night! What were you doing all that time?" A certain realisation dawned on her face, and she stared incredulously at Harry. "Don't tell me he started kissing you again!"

"No," Harry answered quickly, then considered. "Well, yes. Sort of. I don't know."

"And I was wondering if you were going to be vague about it," Hermione said dryly.

Harry tried to explain. "I mean, well, we were shut in a trunk together, and..."

"You were what?!" Hermione eyed him in amazement, then gave a resigned sigh "Wait… don't tell me. The trunk lid couldn't open, and you were stuck inside the trunk with Malfoy."

"No! The trunk lid opened perfectly fine." Harry's cheeks coloured slightly.

"Never mind, I'm not sure I want to hear about it." Hermione punctuated her words with a pointed look. "You know, both of you meeting up alone like that is starting to be a bad idea. It's really not very productive." She paused. "Counter-productive, even."

"Nothing happened!" Harry insisted earnestly. "Filch came up to the storage room unexpectedly — but Malfoy had this neat Surveillance Spell that warned us beforehand, and we had to hide inside a stuffy trunk so we wouldn't get caught."

Hermione gave Harry a searching sidelong look— Filch's unforeseen intrusion didn't exactly explain how Malfoy might have ended up kissing Harry, but she reckoned the convenient, enclosed trunk had something to do with it. At any rate, she wasn't sure she wanted all the intimate details.

"I'll have a word with him later today," Harry offered, trying to make amends for his apparent forgetfulness. "Tonight, maybe. After Quidditch practice."

Hermione shook her head. "Tonight might have to be when he actually takes the Anti-toxin potion."

"Tonight?" Harry blinked, looking surprised. "So soon? You mean you've already found out how to concoct it?"

Hermione's voice was underscored with urgency. "Here's the thing. I found this reference book, which had instructions on how to make the Anti-toxin potion. It turns out that it's really quite simple — only six different ingredients are needed, and they're all easily attainable from Snape."

Harry was listening intently. "That's good news."

"Yes," she continued, "I think I can even get them all this evening — I'm supposed to look for Snape after Care of Magical Creatures, to get a sample of a whole list of other ingredients that I need in the practical Potions assignment I'm doing for extra credit..." Hermione caught Harry's suppressed grin, and shot him a narrowed look. "Oh shut up, Harry, you're lucky I'm doing that project or you won't get the ingredients needed for the potion."

"Malfoy's lucky, not me," Harry interrupted. "He owes you big time, Herm — maybe you can get him to name a pavilion in Malfoy Mansion after you."

"Very funny, ha ha. I'll actually settle for him promising not to make fun of Ron anymore, but I even doubt that'll happen. Anyway — as I was saying, I could easily slip the ingredients for the Anti-toxin potion into the list I'm getting from Snape — those ingredients are commonly used in other potions, anyway, so he won't get suspicious." She paused. "But there's just one thing..."

Harry groaned. "I knew that was coming. But, what?"

"One of the ingredients, the sap of Veronia plant, is highly perishable once it's out of its special container," Hermione explained. "Its quality deteriorates swiftly after a few hours — and if used after the 'expiry time', so to speak, anything it's added to will promptly explode. So that means once I get the ingredients from Snape this evening, you have to make the potion as soon as possible — by tonight, not any later."

"Okay," Harry said slowly, trying to process all this new information in his mind. "So that means we'll just have to tell Malfoy to meet again tonight, then quickly fill him in on the Anti-toxin idea as we make the potion, since I won't be able to talk to him any earlier, at least not in private."

"Not we," Hermione corrected. "You. I have to do my Potions practical tonight— I'm not collecting all those other ingredients just for fun, you know." She gave Harry another appraising sidelong glance. "Anyway, I don't fancy the prospect of having to watch Malfoy stare at you all night. It's rather unnerving."

"He does not stare at me," Harry protested.

"Oh yes he does. All the time." Hermione rolled her eyes. "Even Ron didn't stare at Fleur the way Malfoy stares at you."

"So... how does he stare at me?" Harry asked tentatively, his voice softening imperceptibly.

Hermione thought for a moment. "Whenever he looks at you, he gets this intense, deep emotion in his eyes, and it's so... so exclusive. It's as if he stops noticing everything else, the moment he notices you. And sometimes he'd close his eyes tightly, as if it hurts him a lot to look at you like that— but then he'd just open his eyes again, and keep on gazing at you the same way." Hermione allowed an indulgent smile. "It's kind of romantic, actually — well of course, except for the fact that he's Malfoy."

Harry managed a wry grin. "Excellent point there, Herm."

"Oh, and there's something else," said Hermione, as she reverted back to her focused, methodical frame of mind again. "The reference book in which I found the Anti-toxin instructions, it's rather... ancient. It was first published in the early sixteenth century, and although the copy in the library is a reprint, it hasn't been revised since then. So it might be a good idea to get a signed note, so we can check if the Restricted Section has more updated information on the Anti-toxin potion, which might work better; if not, we'll just go with what we have."

"Whom should we get the signed note from?" Harry wondered, mentally running through the list of teachers and immediately crossing out Snape and Trelawney. "Can Hagrid give us authorisation?"

"No," Hermione said ruefully, "only professors can sign for Restricted Section access — Hagrid can't, even though technically, he's a teacher too. And I can't ask Snape since I'm already collecting enough chemical substances to get me arrested at every Portkey station across the globe." She mulled over the matter for a moment. "You know what, I think you should ask Malfoy to get the note. This whole idea is to help him, anyway, and he should at the very least contribute something towards it."

Before Harry could reply, Ron came bounding back after his little conference with Seamus.

"Okay, it's settled," Ron said brightly, flashing Harry and Hermione a broad grin. "Seamus thinks it'll work out well for us too, since Slytherin will watch us play Hufflepuff before our re-match, and when they see us fielding the same formation as we did against them on Wednesday, they'll be fooled into thinking that's the strategy we'll use for the re-match, too!"

Harry raised an eyebrow questioningly. "And it's not?"

"Hmm." Ron pondered for a few seconds. "Or, they'll think that we're deliberately trying to trick them into thinking that we'll be using the same strategy for all our games, so they'll expect us to use a different game plan for the re-match, when we're actually not. As in, not using the same formation. But we actually are." He paused. "Am I making any sense here?"

"Nope," said Hermione, stifling a grin. She dusted bits of crumbs off her skirt, and got up from the table. "I'll leave you two to confuse each other into oblivion — I need to return a library book." She gave Harry a quick meaningful glance. "Lots of work to do — see you later!"

Ron waved Hermione off, then turned back to Harry. "So, what do you think of Slytherin's performance in the game, at least for the fifteen minutes or so before it was halted?"

Harry noticed that Ron was careful not to attribute the abandonment of the game to him; it wasn't characteristic of Ron to be so sensitive to others' feelings. Harry knew that Ron was just trying his best to be supportive and empathetic, and he was grateful for that.

"Well," Harry tried to formulate a decent opinion on Slytherin's game; he'd have been able to give more prompt response to what he thought of Draco's game, since he'd spent most of the match keeping an eye on him. "I guess their Keeper fouled a lot, which was why we got so many penalties."

"What did you think of their defensive formation?" Ron pressed. "I noticed that whenever our Chasers had the Quaffle, the Slytherin Chasers would flank them and hem them in so that the Slytherin Beaters could have a better aim. Could be potentially damaging to our forward attack, don't you think?"

"Um," Harry said, looking distracted; he'd just noticed Draco walking into the Great Hall, extremely late for breakfast. Harry vaguely wondered if Draco had stayed long in the storage room after he'd left last night — or could Filch have reappeared and caught him there? Draco might have spent the night being interrogated about what the hell he was doing, lurking in a supposedly disused storage room at that late hour. Harry sincerely hoped not.

"Are you feeling all right, Harry?" came Ron's voice, snatching Harry out of his wonderings.

"Hmm?" Harry turned to Ron. "Oh, yes, Slytherin's defence."

Ron looked at him with concern. "Are you sure you're okay, Harry?" he repeated, sounding genuinely worried. "You seem... rather out of it today. Are you feeling unwell, or anything?"

"No, no," Harry rushed to reassure him. "I just got a tiny spell of vertigo for a moment there — I'm fine now, don't worry about me."

"Vertigo? You want to go and lie down for a bit?" said Ron, his brow knitted in anxiety. "If you aren't feeling too good, you should take a rest — are you sure you're up for Quidditch practice tomorrow?"

"I told you, Ron," Harry said firmly, "I'm perfectly all right." He gave a slightly forced laugh. "Perhaps it's the thought of all the homework piling up that's making me dizzy. What with all this running around, Quidditch and everything — I've chalked up a huge backlog of stuff to do."

"You can steal Hermione's homework," Ron joked. "You can ransack her bag while she's away, nick her parchments and copy them up." He paused, and frowned. "She's been spending tons of time in the library recently, doing research on her essays and extra credit assignments and goodness-knows-what else. If she's not careful they'll charge her a portion of the library's overheads, since she's such a permanent feature there."

"She's been very busy, yes," Harry answered, in a noncommittal way. "But then again, haven't we all? I mean, in between Quidditch and homework and class and all the other stuff—" he was deliberately vague, "I think I've worked out a time deficit."

Ron appeared thoughtful for a moment, then leaned forward with an earnest expression on his face. "Look, Harry, I don't want you to get all stressed out because of what happened in that match. I mean, I can see you've been pretty troubled ever since Wednesday — I know you wanted to win, and I understand that falling off your broom isn't the greatest way to end a match. But you really shouldn't blame yourself or feel like you've let anyone down, because it's not your fault. It's all Malfoy's fault."

Harry sighed. "It was an accident, Ron."

"Or not!" Ron said hotly. "You know, Malfoy has this uncanny ability to mess up things and make you feel responsible for it, even though you aren't. Remember what happened with Buckbeak? Malfoy kicked up that huge fuss about being mortally injured, and Hagrid actually felt guilty about what happened, when we all knew that Malfoy was just acting. See what I mean?"

"Well..." Harry began.

"And I'm not going to let you give Malfoy the satisfaction of seeing you upset," Ron said seriously. "I know that you're probably still rather shaken, what with the collision and your fall and everything. And I want you to take things easy for a bit, so you don't end up overworking yourself and burning out. Okay, Harry?"

Harry managed a small smile, and touched Ron lightly on his arm. "Thanks, Ron."

Ron saw the tension on Harry's features easing slightly; he smiled back, and patted Harry warmly on the shoulder. "Anytime, mate."

* * * * *

After lunch, with ten minutes to go before the start of Care of Magical Creatures, Harry found himself lingering outside the staff room, debating on whether or not to enter. He rehearsed his story once more in his head so that he would sound nothing less than convincing, then took a deep breath and was about to knock the door — but before he did, it swung open and out walked Professor Lupin.

Harry looked startled. "Uh, hello, Professor Lupin — I was just looking for you, actually."

Lupin shifted the stack of books he was holding in his hands, and gave Harry a smile. "Well, perfect timing on my part, then," he said pleasantly. "So, is there anything I can help you with?"

"Well…" Harry put on his best casual tone. "I'm interested in doing some extra research, and I was wondering if you could sign a note for me so I can get some books from the library."

"Research?" Lupin looked interested. "Which topics are you looking at, specifically?"

Harry had his answer ready. "I was thinking of reading more about advanced behavioural-control Dark Arts." He'd actually lifted that phrase off a blurb on the jacket of one of Hermione's books.

Lupin looked thoughtful. "Some additional research into that branch of Dark Arts would certainly be useful for our current syllabus. I'm pleased to see you taking an active interest to gain more knowledge, there's never such a thing as knowing too much as far as defence against the Dark Arts is concerned." He nodded approvingly, and Harry's hopes soared. Lupin continued, "Which titles do you have in mind?"

"Umm," Harry stalled; the book Hermione wanted was actually about Anti-toxin potions, but he couldn't possibly tell Lupin that, because it would fall under the field of Potions and Lupin would likely direct him to Snape for authorisation.

So he tried, "Do you think you could give me an open note, instead?" That would give him access to any and all of the books in the Restricted Section — it was a long shot, but Harry crossed his fingers and fervently hoped that he appeared trustworthy enough for Lupin to grant it.

"An open note?" Lupin frowned slightly. "Well, Harry, for reasons obvious, open notes are very strictly supervised, and we teachers often need to justify giving them out. Usually we are told only to issue open notes to students researching compulsory term projects, and not voluntary assignments… but why don't you tell me exactly what you'd like to read up on, and why it sparks your interest so much? Maybe I can make an exception for you."

Harry gave Lupin's question some serious thought.

"I guess I'm fascinated by the way that certain forms of Dark magic can actually have such a profound, life-altering effect on its victim," he said honestly. "How terribly incisive it can be, such that it manipulates a person's thoughts and feelings and beliefs. Memory charms and the Imperius Curse, which warp your mind, and… and love potions, of course, which turn your heart upside down and inside out."

"Ah." A certain understanding dawned on Lupin's face, and he nodded shrewdly. "Does this by any chance have to do with Draco Malfoy?"

Harry's heart froze in mid-beat — he felt as if the Hogwarts Express had just run him over, knocking him completely breathless. He stared at Lupin, too shocked to speak. How the hell does he know…?

"Excuse me, Professor?" Harry finally managed to croak weakly, trying to salvage his air of casual nonchalance, and failing miserably.

"Draco Malfoy's essay," Lupin repeated, giving Harry a strange look. "I recall he mentioned the relation of Memory charms and love potions to the branch of Imperius magic, which was very well spotted on his part." He paused, eyeing Harry with concern. "Is there something wrong?"

Oh, thank god. Harry's knees almost gave way in relief; blood flooded through his veins once again, and his heart struggled back to its normal activity of beating. For one horrible moment there, he'd thought that his feelings had been that transparent, and Lupin had seen right through him… but it was only that Lupin recognised the reference to Draco's essay. Thank god.

"No, no, there's nothing wrong," Harry said quickly, albeit shakily. "I just, uh, felt a sneeze coming... but it's gone now."

"I'm afraid I can't accede to your request, Harry," Lupin said regretfully, with a firm shake of his head, sending Harry's roller coaster ride of emotions in the past few minutes in a plummet once more. "There is actually little more to be learned about the Imperius than what has already been covered in the textbooks — and as for Memory charms, we'll be studying them later this year, so perhaps you can write a research essay at that time. And access to information on love potions is strictly monitored by the Ministry, simply because of how surprisingly simple they are to concoct, given their nature as one of the deadliest, most potent form of the Dark Arts."

"Oh." Harry looked crestfallen; but Lupin interpreted his disappointment as resulting from a genuine thirst for learning that had been denied.

"I'm impressed at your zeal for this subject, Harry," Lupin looked pleased, although it was of little comfort as far as Harry was concerned. "How about this, instead — in a couple of weeks, we'll be having a lesson on how to fight hexes and curses in wizard's duels."

"That sounds very interesting, Professor," Harry said, without much enthusiasm.

"Yes, it certainly promises to be an eventful lesson, at the very least." Lupin's eyes twinkled. "I think you have pretty good wand sense, Harry — not only in speed and accuracy, but also in using the appropriate spell for the situation. Perhaps you'd like to write an essay on that instead, and hand it in to me in two weeks' time?"

* * * * *

Harry was in a bad mood as he made his way down to Hagrid's hut with Ron, for Care of Magical Creatures. He felt that his disgruntlement was more than justified — not only had he failed to get a note from Lupin, but he'd somehow also managed to land himself with having to write an essay due in two weeks. Defence Against the Dark Arts was easily the class he enjoyed most, but right now he simply had neither the time nor the inclination to work on an extra assignment.

"Can't get the note," Harry grumbled to Hermione, as he detached himself from Ron's side to stand next to her. They were both leaning against the fence outside Hagrid's hut, together with the rest of the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws, who shared the class with them.

Hermione looked unhappy at the latest drawback, but appeared sympathetic. "Tried already, and couldn't get it?"

"Yeah," Harry said gloomily. "I thought that among the Professors, Lupin might've been the easiest to coax a note from, but even he wouldn't budge. Honestly, you'd think I was asking him to sign an authorisation to transfer a million Galleons into my Gringotts vault."

Hermione frowned. "Weren't you supposed to get Malfoy to ask for the note?"

Harry gave a little shrug. "I had some free time after lunch, so I thought I'd give it a shot asking Lupin."

Hermione made an exasperated noise. "You shouldn't have to do all the grunt work while Malfoy sits back and does nothing. I mean, if he's really so affected by the potion, you'll think he'd try and put a bit more effort into finding a way out of it."

"I don't think it's been easy for him, either," Harry said quietly, not looking at Hermione, and thus missing the slightly surprised glance that she cast in his direction. "It's not just the effect the potion is having on him — it's his own reaction to it that's most worrying. I've never seen anyone look so miserable as he did last night."

Harry stared out across the grassy meadow beyond the fence, where the glory of autumn had coaxed the red-gold leaves from their trees as the season began to wind down in its own unhurried time. The sky bore more than a slight threat of approaching rain, and Harry was glad that Gryffindor had booked the Quidditch pitch for tomorrow instead. It vaguely occurred to him that he hadn't seen the Slytherins out for practice in a while; to say that their captain was a bit off-form was the understatement of the year.

"Well, let's just forget about getting a signed note, for the time being," Hermione said practically, always the voice of reason. "It doesn't significantly alter the plan, anyway, so everything proceeds as we discussed earlier. I don't see a problem getting all the ingredients you need — so all you have to do tonight is mix them all together, mutter a few words and then dump everything down Malfoy's throat. And you're done."

Harry couldn't suppress a smile. Hermione was so endearingly methodical at times; although he personally had a strong feeling that what Draco wanted from him, in his mouth, really wasn't a gulp of Anti-toxin potion — as aptly demonstrated on occasions prior.

For Care of Magical Creatures today, they were once again looking at unicorns. Harry personally preferred these tame, exquisite creatures to the usual fare of vicious, often venom-spouting varieties that Hagrid liked to bring in. Presently most of the girls were gathered in loose clusters around each of the unicorns — five in all — while the boys stood back and watched from a distance. To Harry's surprise, he suddenly noticed Draco leading one of the smaller unicorns aside, a little distance away along the fence on the opposite side from where he and Hermione were.

Harry decided to take the opportunity to speak briefly with Draco; he nudged Hermione, and muttered out of the corner of his mouth, "Can you distract Ron for a bit? I need to tell Malfoy about meeting tonight — I'll only take a minute."

As Hermione moved over to where Ron was talking to Hagrid, Harry stealthily made his way across the field; he purposefully walked over to where Draco was, although he tried his best to look casual. No one paid him much attention, since everyone was preoccupied with the frolicking unicorns.

Draco glanced up as Harry came closer; there was an element of surprise in his eyes, although it was quickly overshadowed by a subdued resignation. He said nothing, but his gaze, calm like the stillness before a breaking storm, never left Harry.

Harry looked at the unicorn by Draco's side — although it was smaller than the rest, it commanded a certain quiet, matured dignity that made him look, and then look once more. It was a baby unicorn; it was cloaked with a coat of dark fur the colour of fresh charcoal, and streaked with hairs of lightning silver. On its forehead, beneath a shimmering, star-shaped mark, was a small horn — flawless like ivory, shimmering like a cone of twisted starlight.

The unicorn raised its head slightly and looked suspiciously at Harry, even as it nuzzled the side of its face against Draco's open palm. Harry was surprised how comfortable with Draco the unicorn seemed.

"I like your unicorn," Harry said, admiring the slender beast, with its silky silver mane; but he didn't touch it.

Draco tilted his head, a small smile curled the edges of his lips. "Is that a new pick-up line?"

Harry didn't know if he should laugh along, or get annoyed; this feeling of uncertainty within him was becoming ever more commonplace around Draco. The other boy simply gave him no reason to be sure about anything at all; these days, light seemed tainted, and darkness pure.

Harry decided to simply let it pass. "Something's come up — I need you to be at the storage room again, midnight."

"Tonight?" Draco quirked an eyebrow. "So, you enjoyed our little interlude more than you're letting on. A repeat performance, perhaps?" But there was no humour in his eyes, only a smothered flicker of pain.

Harry gave him a quelling look. "No. Hermione has a new idea, which might just about be the solution we're looking for."

"Solution?" Draco's voice sounded strange, as if taut with emotions twisted by a fine, delicate yet constant pressure. "Are we still looking for solutions now, or just escape?"

"Malfoy," Harry said clearly, with a firmness in his voice that he couldn't even quite believe in, himself. "Don't give up now."

Draco stepped away from the unicorn, and moved closer to Harry; the unicorn stamped its front hoof on the ground, and made a discontented noise. Draco ignored it; instead, he lifted his eyes to gaze evenly into Harry's.

"It's not about giving up," Draco said softly, his voice filled with a careful calmness that still failed to conceal the pain that ran deeper beneath it. "It's about giving in."

Harry closed his eyes, breaking the intensity that was mounting inexorably between them; but he could still see the troubled light in Draco's eyes, imprinted in silver behind his own closed lids. It had been almost heartbreaking to watch, and now even more so to feel — Harry suddenly felt alarmed, because this was what exactly what Hermione had warned him about, that he would be drawn into this whirlpool of tangled emotions as if they were his own. He couldn't let that happen.

He opened his eyes again, determined to hold to sanity and logic, for his own sake as well as Draco's.

"Trust me, will you?" Harry found himself saying; and random scenes flashed up in his mind, unbidden; white light glancing off the sharpened blade of dagger, coloured jewels set in a ring of polished silver, a glowing moment in a trunk filled with blackness.

The afternoon sunlight streamed through Draco's hair, turning it golden-white, and his pale features were bathed with a warm glow that almost touched a blush of colour to his pale cheeks; a crisp wind breezed past, but Draco didn't move to push the fringe out of his eyes. He just looked at Harry, his gaze questioning and understanding at once; then he finally spoke.

"Of course." Draco's words were perfectly measured. "I'll be there."

Harry nodded, and stepped back; he turned and walked away, making his way as inconspicuously as possible to the other fence where Ron and Hermione were.

"Hey!" said Ron, as Harry neared; he had a small frown on his face, and Harry knew that Ron had seen the direction he had come from. "What were you doing with Malfoy's unicorn?"

Hermione made a tremendous effort not to giggle; Harry gave her a brief glare, before he turned innocently to Ron. "Oh, I was just telling him off for monopolising it — I mean, it's not fair that he has one unicorn all to himself now, is it?"

Ron squinted into the distance, looking at the unicorn. Harry turned as well — and saw that Draco was now feeding it a sugared apple as he stroked its silver mane, his manner surprisingly gentle.

"Well, it's quite a runt, anyway," Ron decided, naturally biased to conclude that any magical creature that had even a vague fondness for Malfoy couldn't be very smart or likeable. "It isn't pretty and colourful like the other unicorns, either."

"It had a nice horn," Harry said, without thinking. Hermione choked back another guffaw.

Ron didn't notice. "Did it?" he asked idly, with a shrug. "Well, anyway — guess what Hagrid just told us? Norbert won a Fire-Breathing Contest! Charlie just owled and told him."

Hermione leaned back against the fence as Ron enthusiastically recounted what Hagrid had just told them; that little Norbert had triumphed in the contest because he had set fire to the tail of his closest competitor, forcing the injured dragon to withdraw. She could see that Harry was barely listening — instead, he was staring off into the distance, toward the fence on the opposite end of the field.

And Hermione had a feeling that it wasn't the unicorn Harry was looking at.

* * * * *

As darkness streamed through the shadowed corridors that snaked into the blackness ahead, Harry made a mental note never to undertake carrying four bottles of potion whilst trying to sneak around the castle after bedtime — especially when he couldn't use magic to balance the bottles, because of the potential risk of damage to their magical essences.

First, he'd almost dropped the bottle carrying the sap of Veronia plant as he crawled through the portrait hole; then he'd bumped into pillars at least thrice along the way, because he didn't have a hand to hold up a lit wand to illuminate his path. While trying to simultaneously balance the bottles of potions, negotiate his way around ill-placed pillars, and keep a lookout for Filch on the prowl, the storage room seemed miles away.

When he finally burst into the unlocked storage room, Draco was already there, as usual. Harry wondered what time Draco usually arrived — mere punctuality could just be out of decency, but being consistently early... that was something else altogether.

Harry dumped everything he was carrying onto the table, and heaved a huge sigh — he quickly checked his watch. It was just on the stroke of midnight — the proverbial moment of magical allure, where things changed in the whisk of a breath of time.

And for Draco's sake, Harry hoped that something would change, for the better.

Midnight also meant that the sap of Veronia plant, which Hermione had procured from Snape earlier in the evening, had already been out of its special container for almost five hours. Its quality was on the decline, and if they didn't hurry up, the effectiveness of the Anti-toxin potion would be greatly diminished — or worse, blow up in the faces when they tried to mix everything together.

Draco watched Harry curiously. "Let me guess. We're going to start our very own Potions franchise to compete with Snape, so we can make enough money to flee the country before my father finds out about this love potion fix."

"Very funny." Harry shot Draco a withering look. "Firstly, considering your skill in concocting potions, I wouldn't invest a Sickle in any Potions franchise you're a part of. And secondly, I am not going to flee the country with you, not under any circumstances whatsoever."

Draco scowled, but continued to watch as Harry began checking the labels on the bottles, referring to a crumpled list in his hand as he went along.

"Okay, now take off your robes," Harry instructed briskly, not looking up from the bottles of potions and other powdered ingredients he had stacked on the table; and as a result, he missed Draco's quizzical look.

Draco hesitated, eyeing Harry with no small measure of surprise. "What?" He didn't move.

"Take off your robes," Harry repeated, jerking his head toward an empty space cleared on the floor in the middle of the small storage room. "Spread them on the floor, then come over here. I'll take mine off and lay them out too, and then we can get down to work."

Draco's eyebrows shot up. "This is Granger's brilliant idea?"

"What's that supposed to mean?" Harry glanced up, not latching on to Draco's meaning. "This is a perfectly good idea, Malfoy. We should've done it long ago — immediately after you first took the potion, for instance. It would've had a better effect if we'd done this earlier, and I wish we had."

"Well, I did think of doing it before, but..." Draco still looked wary. "Are you sure about this, Harry? Shouldn't we— uh, talk about it first?"

"No time to talk," Harry said, with an impatient shake of his head, as he shrugged out of his robes and cast them to the floor. "We need to do it right here, right now. If we don't get it together soon, I think something is going to explode."

Draco looked alarmed. "Well, okay, if you say so. I mean, if you really want to." He undid the front of his robes, easing the velvet off his shoulders to reveal a thin, white nightshirt; he started to undo the buttons, then paused and looked over at Harry. "Do you want me to turn off the lights?"

"What?" Harry glanced up at Draco, nonplussed; then realisation finally dawned on his face. "Oh. Oh!"

"What's wrong?" Draco caught Harry's stricken expression, and he bit his lip. "Wait a minute. You didn't...?"

"NO!" Harry's recognition of Draco's intention was quickly chased by annoyance and embarrassment; he stalked over to where Draco was standing and slapped him hard on the arm. "Malfoy! That's not what I meant!"

Draco's cheeks coloured a flattering shade of crimson. "But you said—"

"I said take your robes off and put them over there, so we can have a space to concoct the potion without having to worry about spilling it on the floor!" Harry cut in, looking agitated and flustered, and he glared at Draco. "Definitely not what you were thinking! My god, Malfoy! Would I ever suggest that?"

"Hey, how was I supposed to know what you meant?" Draco sounded indignant and mortified at the same time, as he huffily began to button up his nightshirt again. "You always come up with these strange ideas, so I was just being cooperative."

"Ugh." Harry closed his eyes and rubbed his temples with his fingers. He shook his head at Draco, still in disbelief; not so much by the fact that Draco had immediately leapt to that conclusion, but because he'd actually so readily agreed to it. "And you've actually thought of this before? Get your mind out of the gutter, Malfoy!"

"It's not my fault!" Draco actually looked hurt and chastised, as he smoothed out the front of his shirt. "You were unnecessarily ambiguous. I mean, we're alone together in here. You ask me to take off my robes. You start taking off yours."

And you get — that — from that?" Harry spluttered, turning red.

"Well, it could also be that you wanted to compare the size of—"


"Our robes, I was meaning to say." Draco smirked. "Inseams and sleeve length, Potter — what were you thinking?"

Harry forced himself to take a deep breath to regain his composure. The ensuing conversation about shedding robes, comparing sizes and the general dose of misunderstood words had altogether succeeded in distracting him from the Anti-toxin potion.

"Okay, let's try this again," Harry said slowly, enunciating every word and giving Draco a stern look. "And please take everything I say from now on strictly at face value, and keep your mental gutter excursions to yourself."

Draco pouted again, but still went over to help Harry transport the ingredients from the table to the cleared space on the floor, where they'd laid out their robes. Draco felt inclined to tell Harry what two people usually did when they crawled onto a makeshift coverlet of robes spread on the floor... but then, he decided against it, given that Harry hadn't taken their little misunderstanding earlier very well at all.

"Are you going to tell me what potion you're making?" he asked, instead.

Harry glanced up. "It's an Anti-toxin potion," he explained. "Hermione thinks that since the potion is like poison in your blood, this might be able to neutralise its effect."

"So the love potion will just... disappear?" Draco asked, with a small frown. "The spell would be off, just like that?"

Harry shrugged. "I think so, that's the essential idea. All right," he said, sitting down cross-legged on the side laid with Draco's robes. "We have everything we need, and all we have to do is mix them together."

"Then what?" Draco asked blandly. "Am I supposed to drink it? Because that might be a bit of a problem, since I now have certain well-founded misgivings about drinking potions that are self-concocted."

"Well, it's different this time," Harry said, waving the sheet of paper in front of Draco. "Because we have a list of instructions, which are complete. Not missing entire chunks of would-be important instructions, like yours was."

"But mine worked, didn't it?" Draco said through clenched teeth.

Harry opened his mouth, but found that he had nothing to reply. He sighed, and wearily raised his eyes to Draco's. "Look, do you want to do this or not?"

Draco looked at him, the dim light of desperation reflecting in the silver of his eyes. Draco let his own gaze flicker from Harry's eyes, which were emerald glazed; down to Harry's lips, slightly parted as if asking a silent question; finally settling on Harry's neck, slender and collared by the plain neckline of his white tee-shirt.

With fluid grace Draco leaned over, supporting himself on the knuckles of one hand, the other reaching over to touch Harry's shoulder, gently; Harry looked startled by Draco's sudden closeness, and tensed slightly, although he didn't pull back. Draco let his hand slide along the blade of Harry's shoulder, coming to rest on his neck; deftly, his fingers dove briefly under the thin fabric of Harry's tee-shirt, and drew out the silver necklace that looped around Harry's throat.

At the end of it, hung Draco's silver ring.

Harry didn't move as Draco shifted even closer, and leaned in to undo the clasp of the necklace behind his neck. Now they were so close that their noses were almost touching; it was an intense revival of their intimate moment in the trunk, only last night.

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

Draco's eyes never broke contact with Harry's, even as the necklace came undone, and Draco slipped the ring off the silver chain; he gripped the ring tightly in his hand for a moment, feeling its cool denseness, and the familiar grooves all along its outer surface, where the gemstones were studded in the band of silver.

Emerald repels evil, and—

"Wear this," Draco whispered softly, his lips inches away from Harry's ear.

He reached forward, and took Harry's right hand; for the second time he slid the ring onto Harry's fourth finger. The jewels sparkled crystal violet and clear green; the silver seemed to glow with a light that was entirely its own.

Harry nodded once, mutely; the air was charged with a unique energy, which sharpened the intensity of the moment to a fine point. Draco's hand still held on to his own, even after he'd slipped the ring in place; Harry could almost feel the delicate pulse under Draco's skin, and the contrary warmth of Draco's palm against his fingers. The moment halted in time, then rushed by on the wings of an exhaled breath, disappearing like spires of mist; Draco finally released Harry's hand, and moved back.

"Let's do it, then," he said quietly, and in his eyes Harry saw shining a light of new emotion — hopeful trust, mingled with the faint shadows of helpless defeat.

With an inexplicable surge of newfound determination, Harry picked up the list of instructions that Hermione had given him — from the looks of it, the Anti-toxin potion was among the simplest things they'd ever had to concoct. Hermione had already measured out the correct proportions of each of the ingredients, so all they had to do was mix everything together and... it would be ready.

Harry had brought along with him an empty glass; he carefully poured the entire contents in each of the bottles into the glass, making sure he didn't spill any of it. Draco simply sat opposite him and watched him work, his eyes not so much fixed on the potion as they were on Harry's movements. Harry hesitated a little as he tipped the sap of Veronia plant into the mixture; but there was no explosion.

Finally, all the liquids had been blended without any incident; holding up the glass, the potion was opaque and slightly effervescent, a pretty shade of cerulean blue. Draco eyed it with no small amount of cautiousness, but refrained from any comment.

Harry picked up a small container filled with what looked like shredded petals. "This is the last bit of the potion," he said, taking a deep breath; he looked at the list again, and read off the name. "Flowers from Sansevieria trifasciata — the snake plant. I'm supposed to sprinkle them into the potion as I say the spell, Discede toxicum. Then you have to toss back the whole glassful in one gulp. Okay?"

Draco seemed to draw himself together, steeling his resolve. "Ready when you are."

Harry nodded gravely, and with slightly trembling hands, unscrewed the lid of the container and emptied the shredded petals into the mixture.

"Discede toxicum," Harry said, enunciating every syllable, his voice quivering.

The potion immediately flamed bright crimson, like an inward burst of fire, before turning completely clear, shimmering like liquid crystal.

"All right," Harry sounded nervous and urgent, as he thrust the glass toward Draco. "Drink it, now."

If Draco had any fears, or misgivings, he didn't show it — he resolutely took the glass from Harry's hand, raised it in a brief, wordless toast, then drank the potion in one quick silent gulp.

Harry watched him anxiously, his brow knitted in anticipation; he took the empty glass from Draco's hand, and waited with bated breath. "How does it feel?"

Draco blinked a few times, trying to breathe evenly and gauge the effect the Anti-toxin potion was having on him — but it was impossible to distinguish this present flaming sensation from the dull grating ache he was almost starting to get used to. The fiery burning ebbed and flowed, rising and subsiding like the restless tide — and deep inside Draco feared it was still the same ocean bed that lay beneath it.

"So?" Harry's voice interrupted his thoughts. "Is it working?"

Draco closed his eyes and concentrated on inhaling deep, regular breaths. The heat choked up inside him, and then seemed to simmer and fade slightly, igniting a faint ray of hope; he waited expectantly, focusing his entire consciousness within, almost grasping desperately for a tangible feeling that the love potion was releasing its hold on him...

The burning feeling grew less and less, like the smouldering embers in a charred furnace, and his heart leapt in tentative exultation; he suddenly felt more normal, even marginally so, but that was enough to cling to, for the moment. Another spell of dizziness overcame him, and he swayed slightly, his hand reflexively darting out to catch himself, and he was vaguely aware of Harry reaching out to steady him as well. When his mental world stopped spinning, Draco opened his eyes as the blur around him slowly came into focus.

Harry was standing a foot away, his hand holding on to Draco's arm for support, a concerned expression on his face.

"Are you all right?" he inquired, sounding uneasy and hopeful at the same time. "Did it— did it work?"

"Yeah, it did." Draco answered shortly; he tilted his head slightly to see Harry's reaction.

Harry looked... relieved. The lines of tension smoothed from his face, and he seemed to relax considerably, breathing easier. He actually smiled when he saw Draco turn to look at him; not quite a warm or happy smile, but not a forced one either.

"That's good," was all Harry said, although the ease in his posture showed how nervous he had been before. "Do you feel... well, normal again?"

Draco still felt randomly whipped by glimmers of vertigo. "Define normal."

"Well," Harry considered for a moment. "I don't know — how did you usually feel, before the love potion?"

"I can't remember." Draco's tone was flat, his words brutally truthful.

"Normal, umm..." Harry tried again. "For one, you would be able to think straight, I guess, and you wouldn't like me anymore. Definitely not want to kiss me."

"In that case," Draco whispered, his voice sounding caught in breathless anguish, "No, it didn't."

He seized Harry, pulled him forward and kissed him hard.

Once more Draco caught Harry completely off-guard; nothing more than a startled 'oomph' escaped Harry's lips before Draco's mouth sealed over them. Harry took a step back, and promptly tripped over, falling onto the floor with Draco on top of him.

Draco's lips were soft, but his manner was hard; Draco held Harry down on the floor and kissed him thoroughly, his fingers raking through Harry's dark hair, holding the back of his head firmly. His grip on Harry's arms was tight enough to bruise, betraying the sheer pain he held inside of him, which bled to the surface as his fingernails dug deep into flesh. His nails would have drawn blood, if not for Harry's sleeves, which covered over the bare skin.

Harry turned his own face away from Draco, breaking their lip contact; Draco's body felt hot, almost feverish, lying on top of his own.

Draco pulled back, dazed, vaguely aware of Harry pushing him off, more distinctly grasping the reality of having just kissed Harry again, wrapping his thoughts around the sinking feeling that was starting up again in the pit of his stomach.

"I thought you said it worked." Harry's voice was even, his tone careful and measured.

"Well, evidently it didn't." Draco couldn't look straight at Harry; and he rolled off and sat up.

Harry gave Draco a pointed look. "Why'd you say it did, then?"

Draco's voice was dead, toneless, and utterly defeated. "Well, it certainly was a nice delusion while it lasted."

Harry sat up as well, pushing his glasses back into place and raking a hand through his unruly hair in utter frustration. "Dammit, this really sucks."

"Yeah," Draco said hollowly, "imagine how I feel."

Harry looked at Draco, and felt a pang of guilt. "Maybe it needs a while to take effect. I read in a research book that it can take up to twenty-four hours to show results — give it some time and I'm sure it'll work out fine."

"That's what they all say on their wedding night," Draco muttered crankily.

"You know, Malfoy, being negative really helps spruce up the gloom in this place." Harry sounded exasperated. "Can't you think of anything constructive to say?"

"Constructive?" Draco sounded sceptical, as if this was an entirely new concept. He paused, and thought for a moment; then he got to his feet, and turned back to Harry. "Okay. Let's dance, then."

Harry quirked a wry smile, in spite of himself. "Dance. You want to dance."

Draco shrugged. "It'll take our minds off things, for a while."

Harry hesitated. "I'm not sure this is such a good idea, Malfoy. I mean..."

"Do you have any better suggestions?" Draco cut in blandly. "We could play hide-and-seek, I suppose. There's our little trunk over there, which would come in rather handy — again."

"No, no, I don't want to do anything inside that trunk," Harry said hastily; he looked doubtfully at Draco again. "Are you serious? You actually want to dance here, right now?"

"No, I was thinking tomorrow during breakfast, in the Great Hall." Draco rolled his eyes. "Come on, unless you want to make a fool of yourself all over again at the Leaving Ball next year."

Draco extended his hand, his eyes looking down into Harry's with an unflinching look.

Harry dithered for another moment; then he finally sighed, and took Draco's proffered hand, allowing Draco to pull him to his feet.

"I cannot believe I'm doing this," Harry muttered. "I feel like I'm in a musical or something — when the going gets tough, they burst into song and start dancing themselves into an exhausted heap."

"That's rich, coming from you." Draco said archly. "Considering you're a hopeless dancer."

"I am not," Harry protested crossly.

"Yes, you are. I was there, I saw you dancing. And so did everyone else, since you had the brilliant misfortune of opening the Yule Ball." Draco looked smug, and held up one finger. "First lesson: the girl doesn't lead the dance. The boy does."

"Oh, shut up." Harry's cheeks coloured slightly. "It's not my fault that Parvati was much more enthusiastic about dancing than I was."

"Well, forgive her for wanting to dance at a ball," Draco said.

"Hey, easy for you to talk," Harry retorted. "You didn't have to dance in front of the entire school, all you had to do was strut around in your nice black velvet dress robes and look aloof."

Draco paused, and cocked his head to look at Harry. "You actually remember the colour of the robes I wore at the Yule Ball?"

Harry looked abashed. "Yes. But I mean, with you it's always black and silver, isn't it?"

Draco smiled. "Black and silver is the perfect combination — they blend on an elemental realm, but still manage to strike a vivid contrast."

Harry cracked a grin. "Did you get that off a fashion brochure for designer wizarding wear, or did you come up with that all by yourself?"

"No." Draco gave him a strange look. "It's what I really think. Black and silver belong together."

They bundled up the empty potion bottles and ingredient containers in the robes that they'd laid out, and pushed them aside, leaving a cleared space for them to dance. With the wave of his wand Draco dimmed the lights, so that the torches that he'd placed at the far ends of the room now glowed with a mellow, golden hue.

Draco turned and looked at Harry, his inscrutable gaze softened by the pale shadows and soft, flickering light. He stepped closer to Harry; in response, Harry didn't move back, just watched him with wide eyes, filled with innocence and anticipation.

Draco took Harry's left hand in his, and placed Harry's right hand on his own waist, never once breaking eye contact; then he took a small step forward, and they were so close, their faces barely inches apart. A shiver of tense excitement flowed between them like electric ice.

"I'll let you lead," Draco said softly, gazing calmly into Harry's eyes.

They were almost exactly the same height; Draco rested his left palm on Harry's shoulder, drawing them even closer together. He could feel the cool metal of his ring on Harry's finger, pressed against his other hand; Draco reflexively tightened his hold on Harry's hand, as if he could somehow capture the intangible moment that they now shared.

Harry was watching Draco carefully, and he saw the raw spectrum of feelings flash across Draco's face; frank pain and deep sorrow and desolate anger and helpless defeat, merging in a kaleidoscope of emotions, before disappearing like vapour and shadows.

"There's no music," Harry finally said, very softly.

"It doesn't matter." Draco whispered. He closed his eyes, savouring the incredible, unparalleled sensation of being pressed up against Harry; and it didn't matter if there was music or only silence, or if they were dancing on the dusty storage room floor or on a bed of nails and roses. Nothing else truly mattered, except that he was dancing with Harry.

Harry's arm tentatively tightened around Draco's waist, his hand resting lightly against the small of his back. Draco's eyes gazed into Harry's, untainted emeralds glowing with a perfect emotion; not apprehension, not awkwardness, not anything that could even be described except in the heart, and that was what made it so perfect.

And so, they danced.

Harry led the dance admirably well; after the initial few faltering, tentative steps, Harry found himself relaxing into a rhythm that fell in perfect step with Draco's, and then everything went smoothly from there. Draco swiftly adapted to his cadence, and their bodies moved in sync, close together as they swept in narrow circles, marking their tracks on the dusty floorboards.

Harry had never imagined, in his life, that he'd be dancing with Draco Malfoy, alone in a storage room on the fifth floor of the Astronomy Tower, at a quarter to one in the morning. And more than that, he'd never imagined it would feel so right.

As they danced, Draco admitted to himself that Harry wasn't a bad dancer at all — either his showing during the Yule Ball hadn't done justice to his talent, or he had greatly improved since then. Or, Draco wondered, was it because Harry was dancing with him?

Draco forced himself to separate his feelings from his thoughts, both of which were entangled in a shrouded daze that screamed out, You're dancing with Harry. And even more disturbingly, Just kiss him, just one more time. Draco bit his lip; if the Anti-toxin potion was taking effect, it sure was taking its time at it.

"Are you feeling any different?" Harry asked. "Is the potion working?"

Kiss him.

"I think so," Draco answered in a noncommittal way. "I can feel it churning around in my stomach — it could just be that it's dissolving my intestines, of course."

"Eurgh," Harry pulled a face. "I don't think so. Right now, do you feel better — less dizzy, perhaps?"

Kiss him.

"A little," Draco said, subconsciously pressing himself closer against Harry's body.

"More... in control?" Harry inquired.

Kiss him.

"Sort of," Draco said, wishing that he felt more convinced than he sounded.

"Anything else?" Harry asked.

Kiss him.

"Yes," Draco said, and he did just that.

Draco leaned forward and kissed Harry, not with the fierceness that characterised their earlier kiss, but this time, much more tenderly. He let go of Harry's hand, and both his arms slipped and linked around Harry's neck, drawing them both immeasurably closer, and Draco could even feel the quickened beats of Harry's heart, against his own chest. Vaguely he felt the heavy touch of Harry's hands resting on his waist; accidental or not, he didn't know, nor did he want to know. It didn't matter.

Draco's lips parted against Harry's mouth, which was warm and impassive at once; Harry was either too weary to move back, or not inclined to do so, although he didn't respond to Draco kissing him. The blinding desire rose in the back of Draco's mind like a roiling tide, and he let his tongue flicker out against Harry's lips, arching closer, yearning for more...

This seemed to spur Harry to action; he started slightly, and pulled back abruptly, breaking their deep contact — Draco bit his lip, and he raised his gaze to look at Harry, almost not wanting to see what lay in those eyes of green — quiet rejection, once more.

"Right," Harry finally said slowly, blinking twice. "Maybe we should sit it out a while longer."

Draco nodded, flushed. "Good idea."

Harry went to sit down by the wall, but instead of joining him Draco went over to a cabinet near the far end of the storage room; he opened it, and to Harry's amazement, took out two bottles of Butterbeer. From what Harry could see, there was at least half a carton of Butterbeer still stocked inside.

"Are you crazy?" Harry said, eyeing the Butterbeer as Draco walked back with one in each hand. "Filch finds your little Butterbeer stash, and you'll be in big trouble."

"Relax," Draco said nonchalantly. "I've put a Squib-Blind Charm on that cabinet — it's something like those Muggle Repellent Charms, only that it repels Squibs, instead. Filch looks in there, and he sees nothing at all... and no one else but him comes up here, anyway."

"Do I really want to know where you learnt all these spells?" Harry said, although he accepted the bottle of Butterbeer that Draco handed him.

"Summer camp," Draco said with a straight face, "for Evil Overlords In Training."

Harry couldn't help laughing, and the tingle of his laughter helped ease the sombreness in the air. He noticed the silvery cursive Alcoholic! spiral across the usual Butterbeer logo as he opened the bottle, and took a swig — it burned a tract of fiery sensation down his throat, but the alcohol soothed his nerves. Draco watched him, and gave a sad smile.

Harry quickly sobered; he noticed the expression on Draco's face, that of one torn between hope harboured and hope lost, caught in the margin where desire and reality hung precariously in the balance.

"I'm sorry," Harry said quietly, looking directly at Draco.

The retort 'Damn right you should be' was already on the tip of Draco's tongue before he bit it back at the last moment; he looked at Harry and saw the forlorn sincerity in his eyes, and the bitter words melted away, leaving only wistful sadness.

Draco swallowed hard, and turned his face away from Harry. "So am I."

Author notes: So, hope this chapter was quite a treat for you loyal Just Snog Already Campers. :)
In the next chapter, find out what happens in the crucial 24 hours to follow: does the Anti-toxin work? Doesn't it? Can Hermione keep the secret? Will Ron stay oblivious forever? And most importantly, do Harry and Draco snog again? *g*