Author's Notes: Thank-you to my BETA readers, Koorime, Chibibecca and Schlicky youve all been a big help in setting my head straight while writing this ^^

For informative purposes, I wrote Blaise as a girl long before we found out, from JKR herself, that Blaise is, in fact, a boy. Please live with it.

I apologize for my absolutely terrible attempt at a Sorting Hat Song, and I thank ParanoidQ for helping me to realize it needed a little work to get it to the standard it is now at.

Obviously all recognizable characters are copyright J.K.Rowling, I do not wish to infringe on anything, Im just writing what got stuck in my head. All other characters and the original story are copyright to myself.


Conquer

Chapter One

By Whisper Elmwood

       

"DRACO!"

Harry slammed upright, nearly falling from his bed. The duvet was tangled round his body and he fought for a moment to release himself as Ron yawned and sat up to look at him.

"Whassup H'rry?" The bleary eyed red-head mumbled, running a hand through his hair, blinking slowly.

Harry finally released himself and threw the duvet back on the bed and shoved his glasses on roughly, scraping the bridge of his nose as he did so. "It's Draco! Voldemort's torturing him again!" He cursed, trying vainly to find his trousers and giving up, "I knew this would happen!"

Ron looked a little more alert, "Should we wake mum and dad?" The other boy began getting out of bed, "We should tell Dumbledore. I'll get Pig."

Harry looked at him incredulously for a second, "Fuck that! I'm going now; YOU send an owl to Dumbledore!"

He grabbed his wand, barely taking the time to register Ron's look of surprise and disapparated.

He remembered what the entrance hall of Malfoy mansion looked like, knew the layout from Voldemort's own memories of the place; the knowledge was inside him. He didn't think, just used what he knew and apparated to the top of the left-hand staircase, behind a large potted plant.

Almost instantly the pain hit him. His scar burned, searing pain washed over him, behind his eyes, reverberating through his skull, trailing fire through his veins. He fell to one knee, clutching at his head, clenching his teeth together so tightly his jaw ached. Slowly he managed to get the pain under control. He had almost forgotten how bad it could be this close to Voldemort, especially when the Dark Lord was in a particularly venomous mood.

He blinked a few times, brushing away the wetness gathering in his eyes from the pain and climbed laboriously back to his feet, using the wall and the plant-pot to steady himself. Swearing silently, he peered through the large bush-like plant, down the stairways, across the hall, at Draco Malfoy on his knees and Voldemort standing over him.

His eyes narrowed in anger. Draco was clutching at his stomach, tears of fear, pain and humiliation streaming down his face, Voldemort simply standing, watching, laughing in his high-pitched voice, snake like features twisted in violent mirth.

Harry moved. He had learned not to rush into things since Sirius' death, had learned to pay attention, assess the situation, and he did this now almost without thinking. He knew the Dark Lord would not be alone, he remembered the Death Eaters from the vision; it was simply a case of finding them before they found him.

"Crucio."

His heart leapt into his throat as Draco screamed, falling to the floor and curling in on himself. There! He saw two Death Eaters, fully robed, wearing their masks now, standing behind Voldemort in the doorway to the conservatory. They looked like they were enjoying the torture show, as if Draco wasn't a Malfoy, a 'pure blood,' and the son of the woman sitting in the conservatory behind them. As if Draco were nothing more than a worm wriggling on the end of a hook.

Voldemort stepped back and motioned the two men forward with a small smirk on his thin, snake-like mouth. "I give him to you," his voice was quiet, but carried across the hall to Harry, whose eyes widened in shock and realization, anticipatory fear washing over his senses.

One of the Death Eaters grabbed Draco by the arms and pulled him to his feet, slamming him against the wall face first. Voldemort stepped back and turned, moving into the conservatory, where Harry knew Narcissa Malfoy was waiting. "Have fun...." The red eyes flicked over the two Death Eaters before the conservatory doors were closed. Harry simply couldn't believe this was happening.

Draco gasped in pain and Harry's attention was once again on the three figures below him. The two men were laughing deeply, harshly and the one pinning Draco to the wall was pulling his arm up his back, his masked face mere inches from Draco's ear.

With an audible snap that set Harry's teeth on edge, Draco's arm broke. The blonde cried out, the scream of pain echoing around the hallway, sending Harry instantly to his feet. Almost in the same instant, Voldemort's presence vanished from the building and Harry's mind went mercifully clear. He straightened, as if some weight was dropping from him, pointing his wand directly at the man pinning Draco.

"Crucio!" With all the anger bubbling inside of him, Harry truly wanted to hurt the man and that was all it needed for the spell to work properly for the first time in his life. The man holding Draco fell to the floor with a scream of pain, his eyes rolling back and showing the whites through the mask’s eyeholes. A second later the Slytherin collapsed, clutching his arm and looking up in surprise, gray eyes wide.

The remaining Death Eater let out a cry of surprised outrage and the conservatory doors opened again. There were more of them than he had previously thought. It looked like Malfoy Mansion was currently holding the entire inner circle. Nobody moved, too shocked to see Harry Potter standing at the top of the staircase in nothing but his t-shirt and boxers, a look of pure fury on his face that none of them had seen before.

Moving nothing other than his eyes and arm, Harry turned his wand on the second Death Eater a second before the man thought to pull out his own and whispered, "Crucio." Again, sending the man twitching and writhing to the ground in unparalleled pain.

After that, things got a little crowded. Everyone started moving at once. In the rush of bodies and spells, Harry caught a glimpse of Narcissa sneering and apparating, her blonde hair and pale blue robes shining in the light of the killing curse sent his way. She didn't even glance at her only son, lying prone on the ground, clutching his broken and bloody arm.

He ducked the curse and set the nearest Death Eater aflame, calmly watching the man screaming and blunder into three or four of his fellows, spreading the flames before another Death Eater put them out. The anger growing inside of him, throwing Death Eaters aside as if they were mere toys with the Prosterno curse he had used to kill only a matter of days before, he calmly made his way forward. He looked around as the sound of people apparating in, drifted up from the entrance hall's floor.

Aurors! There was a sudden renewed vigor to the spells and curses thrown by the Death Eaters. They were trying to kill, while the Aurors wanted live prisoners. The clear, gravely voice of Mad-Eye Moody could be heard resounding through the noisy clashes and screams of pain and rage, and he was sure he saw the dark face of Shaklebolt in the press of bodies below him.

Harry ducked a spell, attempting to make his way down the stairs and was then pressed against the wall by another. He struggled for a moment and spied the Death Eater that had caught him; he recognized the intent look on the half revealed face behind her smashed mask. This spell needed concentration. "Petrificus Totalus!" He almost screamed the spell, sending the Death Eater crashing to the bottom of the stairway, her mask slipping completely. He didn't recognize her. With a small jolt of shock, he realised he wouldn't have cared if he had.

Nearly a third of the Death Eaters had disapparated when the Aurors arrived, the two he had hit with the pain curse were still lying unconscious near the blood drenched Slytherin. He threw off the spell pinning him to the wall as it weakened and raced down the staircase to Draco's side.

       

Oh god, he was going to die, and he knew it. Why hadn't he heeded Harry? Why had he allowed his own stupid pride to take over and force him to return to the mansion? What the hell had he been thinking? He stopped questioning himself, knowing it was futile, hindsight was all very well, but it would certainly do him no good against Voldemort.

A fresh wave of pain enveloped him and he fell to the floor, not even noticing his own screams of agony, the tears running down his face in pain and humiliation at being treated in such a way in his own home. He saw Voldemort take a step backwards; his voluminous robes disappearing from his field of vision as he curled in on himself, heard through the throbbing in his head the words that Voldemort spoke.

Rough hands grabbed him; pulling him to his feet and slamming him face first against the wall. The breath was knocked out of him as his chest connected with the ancient stone wall and he choked as the Crucio began to fade and his senses began to return. A body pressed against his back, pushing him into the wall with a little more force than was necessary. He blinked, biting back another cry of fear as the Death Eater’s masked face pressed close to his own, felt a hand grab his hip with enough force to bruise.

There was harsh laughter from behind as the Death Eater whispered, "Always wanted a taste of the pretty little Malfoy boy." The voice was harsh, grating and full of a heat he understood only too well. "Pity Lucius isn't here to see this." It was a voice he recognized, had known for more than five years. The man's face seared his memory. Dark brown eyes watching him, watching him always, whenever he and his father met. He struggled, trying to break the hold on his arms, but the Cruciatus curse had left him weak, he could barely move, though he tried, using will alone. "Get off me!"

His voice cracked and came out as barely more than a whisper, but the man heard him and in response began to pull his right arm up his back, joining in the laughter from the watching Death Eater. Draco gasped in pain as his arm was pulled further up his back. Again he struggled, but in vain, a moment later the pain in his arm intensified, coalescing on a single point. With an audible snap and faint crunching sound, his arm broke and the bone tore through muscle and skin, ripping the sleeve of his top.

He thought he would faint from the pain. There was a roaring in his ears and the world seemed to spin as his stomach contracted, bile and precious oxygen catching in his throat and he couldn't bite off the scream that tore through him. Heard it echoing around the hall.

"Crucio!"

Harry? The body pressed against him disappeared with a cry of pain. He turned slightly, seeing the Death Eater curled up on the floor, out cold, the whites of his eyes showing clearly through the mask and then looked up to where he had heard Harry's voice.

He was there, standing at the top of the left hand staircase, wand raised, green eyes blazing with a fury he had never before witnessed outside of his father, dressed in what appeared to be his underwear. "Harry..." He slipped down the wall to the floor, clutching at his bloody arm, feeling the warm liquid pulsing over him, black spots flashing before his eyes. The other Death Eater cried out in surprise and suddenly the hall was full of them, none registering his presence in their furious attempts to capture The Boy Who Lived.

Slowly, the fighting still going on around him, he slipped to the floor, his vision blurring slightly. He glanced up and saw his mother. At first he thought the vision in pale blue would help him, his fuzzy thoughts scattering and then lighting up with the memory of her tender caresses when he was much younger, when he was scared after a bad dream or a fall.

He lifted himself from the floor slightly, turning toward her, but she moved away, away from the dozen or so masked Death Eaters, away from him, her only child and he slumped back again. There was a glint of silvery yellow in her hand, a colour that seemed familiar, but it was gone as she turned, her robes flying about her.

She didn't even look at him and the memories faded as she apparated, his thoughts scattering once more. He closed his eyes, tears and blood smearing on his face as his head touched the ground. He barely noticed the sounds of people apparating and disapparating around him, but then gentle hands touched him, clasped his shoulders and turned him onto his back.

He opened his eyes and focused on the face above him. "Potter," he croaked and the raven-haired Gryffindor smiled. "God, Draco, I thought you were dead. You're covered in blood!" Draco blinked up at him, then attempting the most serious face he could under the circumstances, murmured, "Red's my new favorite colour." He coughed slightly, "You appear to have forgotten your trousers, by the way."

Harry burst into surprised laughter and wrapped his arms round him, Draco winced in pain but relaxed into the embrace, seeking and finding the comfort he needed. He raised his eyebrow at one of the Aurors when they stared, pausing after body-binding a Death Eater.

He closed his eyes again and rested his head on Harry's shoulder, the relief in the raven-haired boy's voice had stirred something within him and he fought the blackness that was threatening to overwhelm him. He didn't want to sleep, he wanted to feel the pain and Harry's strong shoulder under his cheek, feel the strong arms wrapped tenderly about him and know he was alive, that he was safe.

That Harry had come for him.

       

After the Aurors had arrived, most of the Death Eaters vanished, apparated, leaving behind those few who couldn't escape. In all, the Aurors now had four Death Eaters in their hands, two of which were still unconscious after Harry's powerful first and second Cruciatus curses. The third had been captured by the Aurors; the last was the woman Harry had bound. Two others had been killed in the ensuing battle as Harry had tended to Draco.

When it was over, Medi-Wizards had apparated in and healed the blonde Slytherin as well as the injured Auror’s, telling him he had to stay in bed for a few days to recover his strength, they had also made him drink a blood replenishing potion that apparently tasted disgusting. Moody had informed them both that Dumbledore wanted Draco to stay with the Weasleys for the rest of the summer and had handed them a Portkey.

It had taken them both straight to the living room where Mr and Mrs Weasley, as well as Ron, Hermione and Ginny, had been waiting anxiously for them. Almost instantly both boys had been wrapped in blankets, though Molly went pale and both Hermione's and Ginny's eyes widened, at the sight of Draco's blood coating them both.

Draco had been taken straight to Ron's old room and given a change of clothes and helped into bed by Arthur. Harry was bundled up into his bed in Ron's new room. Both boys were fast asleep within minutes, leaving the Weasleys and Hermione to talk over the events in hushed tones.

       

Harry awoke with the sun in his face.

He groaned and rolled over, digging himself deeper into the blankets, screwing his eyes tightly shut, relishing the feel of the soft duvet encompassing him entirely, making his limbs feel heavy and contented. For a few moments he lay there in complete ignorance, not remembering what had taken place the night before. He was so comfortable he nearly fell asleep again.

"Harry?"

That was Ron. Nothing new there, he was sharing the room with him after all. He mumbled something incoherent and burrowed deeper. "Harry? Are you alright?"

He opened his eyes, the wall a few inches from his nose slowly coming into focus as he remembered. "Shit!" He sat up, scattering the various blankets that had been draped over him, "Where's Draco? Is he alright?"

Ron was sitting on his own bed across the room, looking at him with penetrating blue eyes. For a moment they just looked at each other and then Ron spoke. "He's sitting in my old bed, acting very strangely."

Harry grabbed his glasses and slipped them on, "Strangely?" He wrinkled his nose as the supports rubbed over the scrape from the last time he had shoved his glasses on too quickly. Now he could see Ron roll his eyes, "He's not swearing at anyone. In fact, he isn't even speaking at all. He's just sitting there drinking the soup mum gave him."

Harry grinned and stood up, rubbing absently at the raw patch on the bridge of his nose, "Sounds like him." He rooted around in the small dresser trying to find his trousers and a clean t-shirt. He pulled on one of the new ones and a pair of jeans, aware of Ron's eyes on him the entire time.

"What's for breakfast?" he asked when he was done.

Ron just looked at him blankly. "You missed breakfast, mate. It's three in the afternoon; you slept most of the day."

Harry paused, "Really?" Ron nodded, getting to his feet. Harry pursed his lips in surprise and then stuffed his feet into a tatty pair of slippers loaned to him by Arthur Weasley. The two boys trailed down to the kitchen, and as far as Harry could tell, Ron deliberately avoided his old room and the injured boy inside.

He ate a quick lunch, listening to Molly telling him how worried she had been last night when Ron had woken the house up, yelling something about visions and Death Eaters and the Dark Lord. He smiled reassuringly and ate what she gave him (a large plateful of bacon and sausages with fried toast on the side) listening attentively when she told him about Dumbledore's letter and Moody apparating in, holding Pig in one callused hand and Ron's hastily scrawled letter in the other.

Ginny smiled at him, relief evident in her eyes, when she came in from the garden, but she carried on through and up the stairs to her room, pilfering a slice of toast as she went past. Hermione came in a few moments later carrying Crookshanks, whose tail was twitching slightly. "He's been chasing the Gnomes again," she offered in explanation, sitting down next to him and giving him a critical look as the ginger cat padded across the table to sniff daintily at the plate of bacon, reminding him greatly of Draco and the cookies.

He cleared his plate as quickly as possible, but was given second helpings before he could get up. He ate his way through the meal, noticing he actually was quite hungry, smiling to himself as Hermione chided Crookshanks for attempting to eat the Gnomes. She sounded almost as she had in their fourth year when complaining about people's treatment of House Elves. She didn't mention last night's events, for which he was grateful, and he soon finished the second meal. He fended off Mrs Weasley’s attempts at feeding him again and excused himself.

Ron and Hermione both gave him forced casual glances as he left the kitchen, but he just smiled again and made his way up to Ron's old room and Draco, anxious to see how the blonde Slytherin was.

He paused at the door but couldn't hear anything so he knocked. A moment later Draco's voice drawled, "Come in, Harry." He opened the door and stuck his head through, smiling slightly. Draco was indeed sitting in the bed. He was propped up with a couple of pillows and reading what appeared to be a muggle book. He looked a little paler than usual; there were dark circles under his eyes.

He didn't look up, but slowly turned a page as Harry stepped in, pushing the door too.

"How'd you know it was me?"

The gray eyes finally looked up at him, they were dulled to an almost stormy gray, not as bright or clear as usual and he frowned slightly, it almost seemed the fight had gone from Draco after last night’s events. "You're the only person in this entire house, other than Hermione, and I don't think she'd be visiting me anyway, who knocks. Why is that?"

Harry shrugged and poked Draco's feet through the duvet, the blonde tucked them up under himself and he sat down, "Always thought it was politer." He didn't mention the fact that the Dursleys had drilled it into him as a child, Draco had probably figured it out for himself.

"How are you?" He asked quietly instead. Draco closed the book and ran a hand over his face, through his hair, then looked at him, "I'm better. Better than I was, anyway." Harry leaned back against the wall, letting the shorter boy talk. "I just can't figure out why the hell I went home. I know I wanted to, but your warning, my better judgment-" The blonde shook his head and sighed. "Anyway."

After a long pause Harry cleared his throat slightly and changed the subject, "Where did you get the book?"

Draco picked it up again and looked at it, "The Aurors visited this morning with a few of my things. It was in my Hogwarts trunk," he waved vaguely at the large, rather ornate trunk sitting in the corner of the room, "I've always had muggle books, my parents never knew about them."

"'Pride and Prejudice'?" Harry raised an eyebrow at the choice in literature. Draco smiled offhandedly, "It's a good book. I prefer 'Emma' though." Harry shook his head with a smile, "There's a lot more to you than I ever imagined."

"I'll take that as a compliment," Draco replied with a stronger smile, his eyes losing the dullness a little.

       

A couple of days later, Draco was beginning to get fed up with being stuck in bed. He was still tired, and his arm was a little stiff, but he wanted to get out into the fresh air and see where the hell he was, to find out a sketchbook and pencils for Merlin's sake. It was almost intolerable, this itch in his hand to get the images out of his head. He hadn't gone so long without drawing in his life.

He glared over at Harry, who had taken it upon himself to look after him until he was better and said, "I'm not a bloody invalid, you know."

He was grumpy and had also had to suffer Molly Weasleys 'coddling', as he put it, so to all appearances, or at least when Ron or Hermione were around, he was far from enjoying Harry's attentions. He was currently sitting up in bed in the tiny room he had been informed used to be Ron's, wearing Fred's, or possibly George's old pyjamas, propped up on a few hundred pillows and wrapped in the duvet.

The pillows were actually Harry's doing and he found himself very comfortable, despite his occasional indignant outbursts. He heard a faint hissing in reply to his latest statement and gave Harry a penetrating stare. "Was that Parseltongue?" He had only ever heard it once before, during their duel in second year.

Harry gave him a sheepish kind of grin, "Yeah, sorry, just slipped out."

Draco narrowed his eyes at the Gryffindor as he pottered around the small room, tidying in an absentminded fashion that he could only attribute to the years of servitude at number four, Privet Drive. He sipped at the coffee the taller boy had given him, his eyes never leaving the lithe form.

"So - what did you say?"

Harry paused in the rearranging of the few possessions they had been able to procure from Malfoy Mansion since Sunday morning, he turned back and repeated the strange uttered language that marked him as a rare Parselmouth. Then he grinned. Draco frowned into his mug, eyebrows almost meeting, glancing up again as Harry laughed lightly, briefly meeting those emerald eyes now shining with mirth.

"A literal translation would probably be, 'Yes, Lord Dragon, whatever you say.'"

Draco wrinkled his nose as the other boy turned back to tidying, still laughing quietly to himself. That certainly hadn't been what it had sounded like, but then, Parseltongue apparently always sounded slightly sinister, whatever the speaker was actually saying. And why the hell was it so funny, anyway?

"What's so funny about it?"

Harry glanced back at him again, the mirth still gleaming in his eyes, "Just a silly little Parselmouth thing. It's your name really, dragons are to snakes what Merlin, or even Dumbledore is to us. It just made me laugh a little."

Harry turned back to his self imposed task and Draco raised an eyebrow at his back. Eventually he said, quietly, "You were scary, you know, the other night. I was delirious with pain, but I could still see it." He watched as Harry's back tightened under the clinging material of his fitted t-shirt, but the taller boy didn't stop what he was doing, nor did he reply. Draco realised he'd touched a nerve and let it pass without comment. There was undisturbed silence for a while.

"You know, we're going to have to tell them to get more of your things. You can't live off this for an entire year." Harry actually sounded a little exasperated as he waved a hand vaguely at the very little Draco currently called his own.

"No less than what you've obviously had to live on for the past six years." Draco paused, "Sorry, the past sixteen. Have to count all those years with those revolting relatives of yours." He rolled his eyes when Harry's face fell slightly, "Oh, really, Harry. I'm perfectly happy with what I've got. At least I've still got the money my parents put in Gringotts. Not even Mother could get at that now."

Harry dropped onto the bed and sat looking at him in silence. Eventually he said, "You are taking all of this way too well, Draco."

He shrugged. "I'm just looking at it objectively."

Harry leaned forward, taking the empty mug from his hands, their fingers brushed lightly against each other for a moment. "I don't mean that, and you know it." He put the mug on the bedside table and Draco found himself the target of a probing gaze, the emerald eyes dark and questioning.

He leaned back slightly; narrowing his eyes again, "No, I don't know what you mean." He really didn't want to be having this conversation. Not now, not ever, and certainly not with Harry. There were certain things he never talked about, and what the Death Eaters, two of his father's closer compatriots, had tried to do to him this weekend was just another thing to add to the list.

Harry sighed and sat back against the wall, breaking the eye contact, looking a little hurt. Draco refused to feel guilty, if he didn't want to talk about it, he didn't have to. It was his choice, and he had worked things out plenty of times before now on his own. In fact, he'd done pretty much everything on his own for the past year or so. He wasn't about to break the record now. He pulled his knees up to his chin and watched Harry; the Gryffindor was frowning slightly now. After a moment Harry turned and looked at him.

"Tell me what happened last summer," he asked quietly, "I know it wasn't just Voldemort's... attack. What happened before he took you into the Mansion? What made you change so much?"

Draco blinked and put one arm behind his head. He had known this was coming, ever since that night almost two weeks ago. He'd thought he'd be able to defer the conversation until they were at Hogwarts, but fate had conspired against him, it appeared. He sighed and collected his thoughts, thinking about what he would say before he answered.

He sighed, not looking at Harry directly as he admitted, "I'm not going to deny that I enjoyed being a little shit. Before last summer, before Voldemort, I loved the superior feeling I garnered from bullying younger and smaller kids." He paused, unable to fathom quite what he was trying to say, so he changed tactics and turned back to the Gryffindor again.

"But Voldemort...." He swallowed and looked straight into Harry's eyes, gathering his thoughts again. "It was a mixture of things, really. My father being removed from my life was the biggest factor, I suppose. You know he influenced almost everything I did and said, right?"

Harry nodded.

"Well, I’m not defending the way I was, but once he was gone I had my first taste of real freedom and it scared the shit out of me. I didn't really know what to do with myself and I still acted as if he was there, looking over my shoulder, watching everything I did. I spent a lot of the first few weeks of summer just thinking, trying to figure out what was going on inside me. I slowly came to realise that I'd been under my father's thumb all those years, that I'd been nothing more than his bloody puppet."

He glared at the ceiling, "Then mother left on one of her bloody sabbaticals and Snape turned up."

He moved his arm, lowering both hands onto his lap as he spread his legs out a little. Harry shifted slightly to allow him more room. "We talked, and he made me think, for myself, about what I really wanted to do, not what my parents wanted of me. He presented me with an option I had never considered before. Defying my father, my mother. Renouncing Voldemort."

He looked at his hands, now lying open, palm up, on his thighs. "That was the night Voldemort decided he wanted the last Malfoy in his ranks."

He felt Harry's hand gently rest on one of his ankles and didn't move it. "He turned up with about fifty Death Eaters, some of them inner circle, most just followers. He stood there and promised me things. He'd break my father out of Azkaban, give me power on his level, make me one of his elite. He'd even allow me to 'play' with you, if I really wanted to, when Dumbledore was finally overthrown."

He clenched his fists. "I spent the better part of an hour convincing him that that was what I wanted, that I was a true servant, that I was just like my father. I also convinced him I should stay as a simple follower until my eighteenth, that the Dark Mark would surely be noticed in Hogwarts and that I couldn't risk it."

He looked up as Harry's hand tightened slightly on his ankle. "Eventually, he agreed. He decided his gift to me, when I officially became an adult, would be his blessing and the Dark Mark. So, in essence, I joined him, Harry." He shook his head, "I was scared out of my mind, but Snape was there. He was the only reason I was able to do it, if he hadn't been there, keeping watch, I probably would have fucked it all up."

He sighed, "Not that I didn't anyway," he paused, looking at his hands again, "and then he took me into the Mansion and you know the rest from there. His doing that to me just made me hate him and everything I had lived for until that point, even more. So I renounced everything and tried to atone for what I had done."

He didn't mention the other revelations from that night, the feelings he had denied for so long, the need within him for something he had never received from his father, he didn't think he needed too. He looked up as Harry moved and came to sit on the bed at his side, facing him.

"Thanks for telling me, Draco." And Harry leaned forward. Draco half closed his eyes as the other boy pressed his lips to his forehead, his cheeks gently cupped by Harry's long, slightly callused fingers.

       

Hermione put a hand to her mouth, stifling a gasp.

She had come searching for Harry, to inform him the twins would be returning on Wednesday. She knew he would be with Malfoy, as his years at the Dursleys had left him with a mother-hen attitude that had left him acting as nursemaid to the Slytherin since that night, but she certainly hadn't been expecting this.

The bushy haired Gryffindor had reached the slightly open doorway in time to hear Malfoy start his explanation, and she had thought it prudent to let him talk. When he had finished though, she had watched in silent shock as Harry moved closer and leaned in.

Seeing him kiss Malfoy had been enough of a shock to make her stifle a gasp. Of course, she had begun thinking Harry felt a little more than friendship towards the Slytherin. She was certainly intelligent enough to notice the signs in her best friend, but to actually have it confirmed, right in front of her, and to know it was a feeling reciprocated by the proud blonde, was a little too much to bear.

She watched in abject fascination for a moment as Malfoy turned his head and the two boys kissed, slowly and warmly, then she turned and slipped as quietly as she could to the bottom of the stairs. Turning again, she steadied herself, took a deep breath and climbed slowly back up them, this time making enough noise for them to hear her coming. "Harry?" She called his name for good measure.

       

"They kissed?"

Ron's voice nearly shook with surprise and he was suddenly very happy they had chosen to have this conversation at the other end of the field behind his house. He was sure his outburst would have been heard otherwise.

Hermione nodded and he leaned back on the ground, staring up at the sky. "It's worse than I thought." Ron moved his arm slightly as Hermione put her head on his shoulder, quietly saying, "It's not, really. Were you even paying attention?"

Ron wrinkled his long nose, Hermione had related the whole story to him, of how and why Malfoy had changed, but it was the kissing that took precedence and really rankled him. "I don't care whether he's 'changed' Hermione, he's still a rich git and Harry's too good for him."

"I seem to remember you saying much the same thing about Dean."

Ron looked down at the girl he had loved for so long, "Hermione, this is not the same thing, and you know it. This is Malfoy, for Merlin's sake!" He sighed into her hair, "Friendship I could live with, but this?"

Hermione lifted her head up to look at him, "I'm not sure I like it either, but it looks like they need each other, Ron. You didn't see them, they were so-" she shook her head slightly, "I don't know, tender? Loving? I don't think they even noticed it themselves, but there's something between them." She paused again, brow knotted slightly, as if she was trying to figure something out. Eventually she put her chin on his chest and looked up at him, "Anyway, I think Harry needs someone who knows what it's like to be- well, someone who understands the- the darkness inside him."

Ron started to protest but quieted when one of her fingers touched his lips, "You know as well as I that there is darkness deep inside him, a darkness that will one day be set free, and he needs someone beside him who understands it. Who better than Malfoy? I mean, he's been steeped in darkness since the day he was born."

Ron watched her closely as she removed the finger from his lips and sighed, "Doesn't mean I'm any happier about it than you, though." Ron settled back thoughtfully, staring up at the sky, mulling over what she had said. Maybe she was right. She normally was.

But Malfoy? Why the hell did Harry have to go and fall for him? For the miserable little git who had tormented all three of them since their first day at Hogwarts? He decided he was going to keep an eye on the blonde Slytherin, whether Hermione said they were good for each other or not, he was never going to like him, never going to trust him.

Though, for Harry's sake, he'd try and tolerate him.

       

He was finally allowed out of bed. He made his way down the stairs to the kitchen, looking at everything on the way with interest. This place was aptly named, and amazingly homey. There were things everywhere, trinkets and photographs, every one of them sporting red haired family members, smiling and waving, boxes of un-named content, paintings of rather beautiful, but slightly twee, country scenes. It all served to make him feel very at home, though a little out of place in his smart clothes.

He gaped when he stepped into the kitchen. He'd never really seen one before, to tell the truth. He'd always had his food delivered to him, or eaten in the dining room with his parents at home, and at Hogwarts, it was easier to send Crabbe and Goyle. This room was wonderful.

It was cluttered, warm, old and very much alive. Molly smiled at him as he sat at the table, looking around at the pans hanging from a rack on the ceiling, the enormous stove, the washing-up doing itself in the sink, the herbs drying on the wall, the - "Mrs Weasley, your home is amazing."

Molly turned a very bright and pleased smile on him and plunked a large plate of food on the table in front of him, just as Harry and Ron came in, both looking as if they had just woken up. If anything, Harry's hair was worse than usual and Ron kept rubbing his eyes. "What's for breakfast, mum?" The tall red-head asked as they both sat down, Harry directly across from him.

Harry gave him a searching, critical look, "How are you today, Draco?" Ron was watching them both with sleepy irritation. He shrugged, he didn't say much when Ron was around, he knew Harry had noticed this, but didn't let it bother him, there really wasn't any point; he and the tall Gryffindor were never going to get on. He watched as Harry stifled a sigh and then they, all three, tucked into breakfast.

Hermione came in from the garden a few minutes later, Ron looked up and, round a mouthful of bacon, asked, "Do you ever sleep?" She took the seat next to Draco and smiled sweetly, "Just because you boys are dead to the world until nine, doesn't mean I am." She took a sausage off Ron's plate and nibbled it, "Anyway, you waste the best part of the day getting up as late as you do. There's so much you can get done, and then you can spend the rest of the day relaxing."

She raised her eyebrows as the three boys stared at her, "Fred and George'll be here soon, anyway," she said rather primly and got up, sweeping from the room. Draco wrinkled his nose and uttered his first word in Ron's presence since last year, "Girls."

Harry laughed and Ron sputtered slightly as Mrs Weasley nodded, smiling in silent agreement and placing more food on their plates.

The twins turned up around lunch time, all smiles and jokes, right up until the point in which they spotted him. He had hidden himself away in the corner of the lounge, sitting in the arm-chair tucking his legs up under him, his nose in a book. Harry had sat on the sofa for a while, just a few feet from him, but had got up with everyone else when Fred and George arrived.

They both looked over at him in blank surprise, identical expressions on their perfectly identical faces. He raised an eyebrow at them, casually turning a page of 'Pride and Prejudice'. He didn't say a word, simply looked at them for a moment, then turned back to the book.

He was aware of a hushed conversation and then one of them, he couldn't tell which, was standing in front of him.

"Malfoy." He looked up, carefully marking his page and closing the book. The twin looked down at him and then held out his hand. Draco gave it a blank look for a moment, then raised his eyebrow and clasped it in his own.

"I'm Fred, welcome to the family."

"Pardon?" He broke his long silence, staring up at the freckled twin, Fred, who grinned. "You helped save Harry, Dumbledore seems to like you, you're not a Death Eater." His hand was let go and Fred stuffed it into his pocket and shrugged, "Three very good reasons, and I'm sure there are more-," did he just wink? Draco thought incredulously, "for you to join the family."

Then he was gone. Draco blinked again and watched as everyone but Harry left the room, talking animatedly, laughing about something one of the twins said. Harry smiled at him as he caught the green eyes with his own.

"What, exactly, was that about?" He unfolded his legs and stood up as Harry shoved his hands in his pockets with a shy grin.

"Molly sent owls to the whole family about what happened in Bath, and the other night." Draco rolled his eyes, "That doesn't really answer the question. What was Fred on about?"

Harry looked at the floor, then back up at him, "They have this thing about me. They're the only family I have, and I've pretty much been adopted. To be invited into the family like that, and by Fred or George of all people, means the whole family, well, welcomes you." The Gryffindor fidgeted slightly, "Among other things."

Draco frowned, "Even Weasley?" he asked skeptically, "And what 'other things?'"

"Even Ron, he's my brother, we've talked, he's, well, he's trying his best." Harry appeared a little uncomfortable and shrugged, declining to answer Draco's second question. There was an uncomfortable silence.

       

"You want to play chess?"

Ron nodded.

"Against me?"

Ron rolled his eyes, "Of course against you, Malfoy. If you're as good at chess as you are at being a git, it should be a good game."

Well, how could he turn down an offer like that? He gave Ron a disarming grin and agreed.

He lost three times in a row. They were playing for two and a half hours, and he lost every game. He gave the red-head an exasperated look and then sat back, glaring at the chess board.

"I don't think staring at it will help, Malfoy. Though, Merlin knows, Harry's tried often enough."

Draco switched the glare over to Ron. The red-head wasn't giving him an inch, he'd been perfectly amiable throughout every game, not gloating once, not making remarks of any kind. Ron had simply kept any talk light and to the point. Harry had said the youngest Weasley boy was trying, it seemed he was right.

"I was simply trying to figure out how you, of all people, managed to beat me three times in a row," he drawled in his best 'I'm mildly approving' voice. The taller boy appeared to pick up on the tone.

"Simple," Ron sat back, casually folding his arms, "I'm the best chess player at Hogwarts." There was a second’s pause before he amended, "Out of the students, anyway."

Draco raised an eyebrow, "I see modesty doesn't play a very prominent part in your vocabulary. How fortunate we are."

The damn Gryffindor simply grinned at him, blue eyes sparkling, and then leaned forward, "Another game?" Draco pursed his lips, still glaring, then nodded, determined to beat the other boy this time around. It was highly annoying to have discovered Ron Weasley was such a good chess player, he himself happened to be the best player in Slytherin's entire house and he prided himself on his game play.

Once, during a particularly bad period of depression last year, he had beaten Severus Snape. It had been the only thing at that time to cheer him up. Snape had been 'miffed' to say the least and Draco had realised, and relished the knowledge, that Snape was rather a sore loser.

It took another hour's worth of play, but he finally managed to out play Ron. He looked down at the board for a moment and then glanced up, eyebrows slightly raised. The red-head was frowning slightly, chewing on a knuckle. "Check-mate," he muttered, then blue eyes lifted to meet gray and Ron grinned again.

"I hate to say it, Malfoy, but you play very well, you're much better than Harry."

Draco sat back again, frowning at the board, "Doesn't Granger play?" It would be a long time, still, before he felt at all comfortable to call Harry's two best friends by their given names, even to Harry himself.

"Yeah, but she's terrible. Honestly!" He must have seen the expression Draco had tried to hide, "She's bloody intelligent and I love her dearly, but she can't play chess to save her life."

For some reason, this warmed Draco inside. Finally there was something he could do that she could not. He didn't feel the perverse pleasure that he was sure he would have not two years ago, just simply a strange spark of pride in his ability.

"That's a first, I'm sure." He couldn't help himself, after years of conditioning; he just couldn't stop his brain from breaking contact with his vocal chords and saying something so bloody stupid. He briefly closed his eyes and bit down on his lower lip, hoping to high hell that Ron could laugh it off or something.

He opened his eyes in surprise when Ron said, "Harry's right."

He looked at the boy sitting across from him, his gray eyes widening slightly, "Pardon?" He asked the question in an unintentionally faint voice.

Ron began putting away the chess men, carefully and methodically wrapping each individual piece, "Harry said you'd changed, and he's right. I can see it now." Draco frowned slightly, what had he said, or done for that matter, that had led Ron to say that? He glanced over and found himself the object of a penetrating blue gaze. Holding the two Queens in his large square hands, Ron was watching him.

"You've changed so much it's almost easy to pretend you're someone else and have fun." The two Queens disappeared into their separate wrappings and were placed carefully in with the other pieces.

Draco blinked. "What's that supposed to mean?" he asked acerbically.

Ron stood, the box held almost lovingly in his strong looking arms. "It means I'm beginning to see what Harry can see. It means that, for his sake alone, I'll do my best to at least get on with you." The taller boy, almost looming over him, paused for a moment, looking thoughtful, "But, if you hurt him, in any way, you had better be prepared for my arrival. I will take you down without a second thought; one afternoon of chess does not serve to wipe your slate clean, not in my eyes."

There was a long silence then Ron grinned, "Thanks for the games, let's do it again sometime." Ron nodded almost amiably and Draco watched his back as he left the room, realizing, not for the first time, that Harry was extremely lucky in his choice of friends.

       

They received their Hogwarts letters the next day and all five students sat around the breakfast table reading them through. As Hermione and Harry unfolded theirs they both stopped in surprise. Draco cocked an eyebrow at Ron and Ginny when the two of them glanced at each other with shocked expressions. Then Hermione squealed and almost launched herself across the table throwing her arms around the surprised raven-haired Gryffindor.

"We're Head Boy and Girl!" She cried ecstatically, almost jumping up and down in her enthusiasm. Harry just looked a little incredulous. Draco pulled out his own, ordinary Prefect's badge and glanced at Ron, who did the same. He shrugged, it wasn't Head Boy, but it would do.

Eventually everyone calmed down enough for Mrs Weasley to begin feeding them, chattering on about how proud she was that Harry and Hermione had been chosen for such respected positions. Finally, when everyone was tucking in and reading through the letters, she left the kitchen. Draco took this opportunity to find out what Harry was studying besides the two lessons they shared.

"You're doing Advanced Defense against the Dark Arts?" he said, looking over Harry's shoulder. The two Weasley children and Hermione looked at him as Harry nodded, taking a bite of his toast. He was slightly surprised, though he supposed he shouldn't be; this was 'Harry Potter, Boy Who Lived', after all. He ignored the looks he was undoubtedly receiving from three of the four other students at the table and studied his books list.

He was taking Advanced Potions with Harry, Advanced Arithmancy with Hermione and Advanced Transfiguration with all three of them, though he wasn't entirely sure they knew. All last year he had hidden himself away at the back of all his classes, quietly getting on with his work, ignoring and being ignored in return.

The books list this year looked highly academic, even for Potions. He wondered for a moment what else Ron and Hermione were taking, then asked them. For some unexplainable reason, Hermione's eyes lit up, "Advanced Charms and Muggle studies," she informed him with a small smile, "I want to teach after Hogwarts and these courses help me on the way."

She nudged Ron who frowned slightly, going pink at the ears before mumbling, "Muggle Studies and Advanced Divination." Ginny giggled while Harry and Hermione laughed lightly, causing Ron to blush even more. Draco gave them all a puzzled look, "What?"

Ron stared restlessly at his breakfast plate as Harry explained. Apparently after years of going on about how crap Divination was, Ron had discovered he actually had a talent for it, discovered that he was in fact a natural Seer. The very idea of all those wasted years kept grating on the young red-head's nerves apparently. Ron had decided, though, that he didn't want to follow his talent up in a professional career, which was why he was also taking Muggle studies, he wanted to work at the Ministry, hopefully in Muggle Relations.

Draco smiled in slight bewilderment. Ron Weasley, a Seer? Wonders truly never ceased.

"What about you?" he asked, turning to Harry allowing Ron the respite of a change of subject.

The raven-haired Gryffindor gave a small shrug, "I'm not sure really. At the Fifth year interviews I said something about wanting to be an Auror, so I'm taking the right courses for it, but I'm not so sure anymore."

Draco got the distinct impression that there was a lot more on the subject that Harry wanted to tell him, but couldn't because of the presence of the others. At that moment Ginny piped in, her gentle voice interrupting the searching look Draco was giving Harry. Their eyes locked for a moment, then he turned to the only Weasley daughter.

She had grown into a rather pretty young woman over the years, her slight figure matching her gentle voice perfectly. The red colour of her hair had deepened slightly to a fiery red and she now looked as if she could take on anything. Draco noted it all in a slightly objective manner. He looked back at his plate, "Advanced Potions, Transfiguration and Arithmancy."

Harry was the only one who didn't look shocked. So he was right in his assumptions, Harry was the only person who had noticed his presence in their shared lessons. Hermione appeared to recover first, "Why those lessons? What do you intend to do with them?"

She sounded truly interested, her voice and eyes proved this, but he shrugged, a little embarrassed by what he was about to admit. "My, uh, father chose the courses for me." The crestfallen expression on Hermione's face stung a little and he noticed Harry's brow had risen slightly. Ron and Ginny simply looked appalled.

He clearly remembered the letter he had received from his parents, sometime near the end of Fifth year, before his father had been apprehended and sent to Azkaban. It had informed him, in no uncertain terms, that both his father and his mother wished for him to take these courses. It hadn't explained why, and he had never thought to ask. He had been more than a little disappointed as he had wanted to take Advanced DADA rather than Arithmancy, but he had complied with their thinly veiled order and signed up with a heavy heart.

He blinked slowly at the various expressions round the table and was thankfully interrupted by Mrs Weasley before he had to explain all this. Molly came bustling in, talking animatedly about preparing for their trip to Diagon Alley to replenish their dwindling stores and buy their new things.

He sighed inwardly but caught Harry's eyes and noticed the emerald orbs never once left his face for the rest of the morning.

       

Diagon Alley.

A week before they returned to Hogwarts and they were finally at Diagon Alley. He'd been looking forward to this, even if they did have to have three Aurors wearing invisibility cloaks following them around. Harry wrinkled his nose at the thought. He often traveled in his own invisibility cloak, so knew what it was like to see but not be seen. Being on the receiving end though, was a little different, especially considering he knew they were there, just not where they were.

He followed Ron and Hermione into Gringotts, Draco trailing behind him and stood to one side as they both went to get out some money. He glanced at Draco, "Not getting anything?" Draco blinked at him before shrugging.

"I have open accounts with all the shops here."

Harry held back a snort of mirth and smiled instead, he should have known really. The Malfoys were one of the richest wizarding families around; it was almost to be expected. He frowned when he thought of something though, "Won’t your mother have...?"

Draco shook his head, "I've got my own account, only I can close it, in person, for each shop."

Harry noticed the slightly shorter blonde looked a little embarrassed about the whole thing. But then, so would he. He knew what it was like having more money than those around you; for years he'd been at odds with himself over buying things for Ron, lending him money, that kind of thing. It was only recently, now that the twins had money to go around, that he had been entirely comfortable on the subject of money with the tall red-head, though he still didn't mention it.

They both leaned against the wall under the watchful eye of several goblins, waiting for Ron and Hermione to finish in comfortable silence. They did that a lot these days, shared comfortable silences. He watched as Ron eyed the muggle money Hermione was exchanging before they both went to get some of his own out of the Weasley account.

They were gone for a while, but when the couple returned the four of them trooped into Madam Malkin's Robes for all Occasions. Ron needed new robes, he had grown rather substantially over the last year, and all his clothes were too small for him. Harry thought it wouldn't hurt for him to buy himself something new either. Maybe a dress robe, for the Graduation Ball?

He gave Draco a sheepish kind of smile, noting a similar expression on the blonde's face as they entered the shop. Obviously the same thought was going through Draco's mind. The last time they had been in this shop together had been the very first time they had met, just over seven years ago. Harry glanced at the back of the shop. It looked almost exactly as it had back then, even down to the two footstools.

'.... I know I'll be in Slytherin, all our family have been ....'

He glanced at Draco again as Ron stood in the back with Hermione watching as the squat Madam Malkin, who was now rather gray, attempted to reach the obscenely tall boy's neckline. She was actually standing on one of the footstools herself, instead of the red-head.

He wondered, not for the first time, what it must have been like living as a Malfoy, having your every thought, move, decision predetermined simply by your family name and a father like Lucius. He looked through a rack of smart dress robes, contemplating, slowly coming to the conclusion that Draco had coped because he hadn't known any different. It had probably helped that, back then, he really had been a little git who enjoyed the life he was living.

He wrinkled his nose at the thought. From the very day he was born, Draco had lived as Lucius and Narcissa wished, not knowing how different life could be. Just as he, Harry, had lived under the Dursley's thumb, never knowing a kind word, never understanding, just as Draco hadn't, that life could have been different.

Everything had changed, for the both of them, when they had gone to Hogwarts. Harry had made friends and seen families that were happy and loving; Draco's eyes had been opened to the world, his opinions challenged.

He pulled out a very smart, old style, deep purple robe that had small silver buttons trailing from the waist right up under the chin. He held it up against himself and looked in the floor length mirror critically.

"It's not really your colour," Draco said from his right. He looked over and smiled, "No?" He placed it back on the rack and continued his search.

"Try this one," Draco handed him an emerald, loose fit robe, the kind that you had to slip on over your head, with a matching pair of black trousers that had emerald detailing down the sides. He held it up to himself and looked in the mirror again.

Draco was right, this colour did look kind of good, it matched his eyes almost perfectly, and the loose fit looked comfortable. But he wasn't sure the style would suit him. He glanced at the other boy's reflection, seeing the gray eyes watching him intently. At that moment one of the shop assistants bustled over, talking animatedly about the colour and making as if to measure him.

"Oh! This would certainly look good on you Mister Potter!" the scrawny witch enthused, almost dragging him to the fitting area. He threw Draco a pleading look but received only a slight grin in response. The woman ushered him into one of the cubicles at the back and closed the curtains, cutting his view of Draco who had turned back to the racks of robes.

He pulled his day robe off and stepped out of his shoes and jeans, pulling the black trousers on first. They were pretty comfortable and fit him well. Then he pulled on the dress robe and was surprised. The sleeves, that had looked loose before, were actually fitted and clung to his arms from the elbow to the wrist, ending in a point that lay across the back of his hand. From the elbow to shoulder, the sleeves flowed, almost airily, draping from his shoulders.

He ran his hands down his chest, smoothing the soft material and looking at himself in the floor length mirror. He didn't look half as bad as he thought he would. Apparently the style did suit him.

When he stepped out he was grabbed by the woman again and found himself standing next to Ron. His two best friends gave him an appraising look as the witch started pinning the hem. He smiled shyly at them and then turned when they both looked to his left with mildly surprised expressions.

Draco had stepped out of the end cubicle wearing the deep purple robe he had first picked out. Harry blinked. The blonde Slytherin looked, well, gorgeous; there was no other word for it. The old style of the robe suited him perfectly and the colour made his pale hair and skin almost glow, matching the sparkling silver buttons.

Harry swallowed and looked down at the witch playing with the hem of his robe, mumbling to herself. Suddenly, and rather inexplicably, his palms were sweaty. He wished, almost fervently, that he and Draco were alone and wondered what the smooth material of the robe felt like warmed by the heat of the Slytherin's body.

He blinked in surprise, catching his breath silently.

Ok. So he obviously found Draco bloody attractive, and there was this, well, 'thing' going on between them that tended to break all his barriers and make him kiss the shorter boy at every opportunity, but he hadn't had a reaction like that since -

Since the night in Draco's hotel room, when he had comforted him after the vision.

And he had stopped that as soon as he could, because he wasn't into casual relationships, certainly not casual, well, what they had been about to do.

He glanced at Draco. Another shop assistant, a man this time, was measuring him up and pinning various bits of the robe. The blonde looked perfectly at home, as if being fawned over in such a way was perfectly normal. He swallowed and turned to look at Ron and Hermione, neither of whom looked particularly comfortable. Ron was now trying on a midnight blue dress robe that suited him and Hermione was eyeing him with an unmistakable expression that could only be described as 'need.'

He went back to concentrating on his own thoughts. His reservations about casual relationships was not a new thing. He was a very tactile person, he knew and he certainly enjoyed the touch of a lover, but despite this he abstained unless in a serious, monogamous relationship. This 'thing' between Draco and himself though, it annoyed him that he had broken his own ground rules, especially considering that he didn't give one jot for them at the time. Just so long as he could feel those lips against his once more.

He sighed, not noticing the looks this received and wandered just exactly what it was Draco wanted. They had already decided their friendship was worth the hassle. Draco himself had said he didn't care what the other Slytherins, let alone the rest of the student body, thought. But this 'thing?'

More than once, last year, Harry had seen Draco leaving deserted classrooms with other boys. He had only ever seen one of them more than twice. Terry Boot. It was this attitude towards relationships that stayed Harry's hand on the subject. If Draco was completely comfortable with all that casual, um, lovemaking (god, he couldn't even think the bloody word) how seriously would he take Harry's advances? Would he want to keep it casual, as with all his other conquests, or would he really....?

He glanced at Draco again as the scrawny witch stood and patted him on the shoulder, letting him know that she was done. He moved quickly to the changing cubicle and pulled the newly sized robe over his head. For a moment he stood there, holding the soft material in slightly trembling hands then leaned against the back wall. Passing a hand over his eyes, he sighed again. He didn't truly know how he felt for Draco, only that he wanted him rather badly and that every moment in his mere presence made him unbelievably happy, but also tortured because of the suppressed urges and remembered pain. Argh.

He folded the robe and stepped out of the trousers and into his own jeans. He pulled his day robe over his head, not bothering to take off his glasses, which ended up wonky, and slipped his trainers on. He smoothed his hands over his robe, looking at himself critically in the mirror again, passing his eyes over his broad shoulders and Quidditch toned torso, then shook his head and stepped out of the cubicle.

It appeared he'd been in there longer than he thought; everyone had already paid for everything and stood waiting for him, talking casually about nothing. He apologized and hurriedly bought the robe and trousers before joining them at the doorway.

They separated a moment later and Harry found himself alone with Draco as they headed next door to Flourish and Blotts to get their new books. Draco pulled out his list and glanced at it, "Oh good, only one each this year. You?"

Harry looked at his own list, "Yeah, but I've got to get a couple for Occlumency." Draco wrinkled his nose, rather fetchingly, and pushed the door open. Ever since his second year, Harry had felt more than a little awkward in this shop, despite the homey atmosphere and old book smell that reminded him of Hermione. He supposed it was only natural; he had been given some rather nasty negative associations with the place.

They moved down the aisles, the books on the list this year were not new and most of the classes sufficiently small enough that what was already on the shelves sufficed for the entire year. As Draco pulled out a book, Harry noticed he was frowning slightly. "What's wrong?"

Draco started and nearly dropped the rather large Arithmency text he was holding. He shrugged, almost pulling off the nonchalant gesture. "Just, remembering."

Harry involuntarily caught his breath. Oh. It appeared that same afternoon was passing through Draco's mind. They continued further into the shop, through the winding aisles and stacks, in silence, for a while. Then Draco said, quietly, "I was telling the truth you know. I didn't know anything about that damned diary until Father came home complaining about it," he paused, "And Dobby, of course."

Harry found the shelf he was looking for and knelt down, letting Draco's voice flow through his senses as he read through the various titles, looking for the DADA text he needed. When he found it, it was rather larger than he had been prepared for. He pulled it off the shelf and stood, catching Draco's eyes with his own. The blonde looked at him steadily for a moment, "Thank-you for releasing Dobby, by the way."

Harry blinked, shifting the weight of the book, "Why?"

It was rather close down here, gloomy, a little dusty. They were quite far back in the store at the moment and as he had asked the hidden Aurors to wait at the shop entrances whenever they went inside, he knew they were alone. Draco smiled almost sadly. "Dobby never really got on with the other House Elves; they didn't know what to make of him."

Harry smiled warmly, "Yeah, the House Elves at Hogwarts are a little weirded out by him."

Draco nodded, slowly, his eyes drooping closed for a moment. They were drawing slowly closer and their eyes had locked, green on gray. Studying them, Harry noticed that they still had that dull look about them and found that he wished he could make them sparkle once more, as brightly as they had not three weeks ago.

Shifting the book’s weight again he said, almost whispering the words, "It was the least I could do for him." He turned his head slightly, studying the other boy's expression then lifted his now free hand, gently tracing suddenly sensitized fingertips over Draco's pale cheek.

The blonde’s eyes fell closed at the touch and Harry leaned closer, closing the almost non-existent distance between them. "Look at me," he whispered and the gray eyes opened. He smiled, the dullness was receding slightly. All it had taken was a touch. Would they sparkle again if he....? Trailing his fingers down Draco's neck and resting them on his lightly trembling shoulder, he leaned in and brushed his lips over the other boy's.

After a moment they were standing in a strange one armed embrace, the two books held almost forgotten between them, Draco's head resting on his shoulder. Tightening his arm around Draco's shoulders, he quietly asked the question that had been troubling him almost from their first meeting in Bath.

"What do you want, Draco?"

There was a moment's silence in which he began to think the other boy hadn't heard him and then there came the equally quiet answer.

"You."

       

The rest of their trip to Diagon Alley passed relatively quickly. In each shop they visited they couldn't help catching each other’s eye and smiling, if a little hesitantly.

After Draco had answered him, they had taken a few minutes to talk, though they didn't really get much further than mutual confessions before their lips had met again. He had no idea what to call this new development between them, but he silently decided 'thing' would do until he found a better word than 'relationship.' The word just sounded to girly, and the phrase 'going out,' though describing the situation well, just seemed entirely too childish.

Well, whatever they called it, it was now official. At least between the two of them; and that was where it mattered, right? He idly wandered, while they were replenishing their Potions supplies, how Draco would react to his wanting to tell Ron and Hermione later.

His boyfriend (partner?) simply shrugged, a small smile playing on his perfect lips and said he could tell them what he wanted, so long as he did it when he wasn't in the same room, as he rather liked his face the way it was, thank you very much. At that Harry had laughed lightly and told him not to worry so much. He had noticed, though, that the sparkle was returning to the blonde's beautiful, icy gray eyes.

Laden down with what would hopefully get them through their final year at Hogwarts, they headed for The Leaky Cauldron to meet up with Ron and Hermione for a quick drink before returning to the Burrow.

They were already there, sitting right at the back of the room, four mugs of butterbeer arranged before them. Harry threw his bags under the table and collapsed into the seat across from Ron, next to the wall. He placed his forehead on his forearms with a contented 'I'm-not-going-to-move-for-the-next-half-an-hour' sigh. He kicked his bags to one side as Draco slid in next to him, dumping his own bags in the newly vacated space under the table.

"Have fun?" Hermione's voice, sounding amused and accompanied by the sound of two mugs being pushed across the old wooden surface of the table.

"You don't know the half of it," Draco's voice answered rather ambiguously, accompanied by the sound of one of the mugs being picked up.

After a short pause, Ron's voice said, rather jovially, "You gunna drink that, mate? Coz' if you don't, I will."

Harry finally lifted his head, giving his best friend a mock glare as he picked up the mug and took a swig before returning his head to his arms. There was laughter from all three watching him as he did this. He felt Draco's knee move and press against his own and smiled into the darkness under his arms.

"Hey! Harry, guys!"

He groaned, recognizing the voice instantly and looked up. Colin Creevey was heading towards them, his ever-present camera in his hands. They boy hadn't grown much over the years; he was still as slight as ever, though a little taller, still mousy and still embarrassingly enthusiastic in Harry's presence.

"Oh, not now," Harry mumbled so only Draco could hear him, earning a raised eyebrow in response. Only a few feet from the table Colin stopped, seeming to register just who it was that was sitting with the Gryffindor trio. Harry took in Draco's arrogant expression and refrained from rolling his eyes.

"Hey, Colin. Grab a seat?"

Colin appeared to recover himself and nodded, pulling up a chair from a neighboring table. He seated himself between Draco and Hermione at the end of the table and fiddled with his camera somewhat. For the first time since any of them had known him, the boy seemed at a loss for words. His eyes kept darting in the Slytherin's direction and he was flushing slightly. Harry and Ron exchanged glances.

Draco sighed, making them all jump, "I'm not going to bite, you know."

"Draco...." Harry started, but Colin, now blushing furiously, interrupted him, eyeing the blonde skeptically.

"Yeah, well, anyway...." He paused and turned to Harry, "How was your summer? I spent a couple of weeks in Spain and got loads of pictures, I'm going to use Professor Snape's new dark rooms again to process the films. Did you take my advice and use a camera over your holiday?"

Hermione looked as if she was trying to stifle giggles at Colin's behavior and Draco looked rather affronted, his lips pinched together into a thin enough line to rival McGonagall's best. Harry tried an indulgent smile, pressing his knee against Draco's without looking at him.

"I'm glad your summer went so well, and yes, I did actually take some photos in Bath - maybe you could develop them for me?" He deftly took Colin off the subject of his own summer and stole a glance at Draco. The blonde now had his arms folded rather tightly and appeared to be studying the ceiling.

"That's great! I'd love to! Mind if I take a few photos now?" With that the younger boy jumped to his feet, the camera already in his hands. Before any of them could respond he had taken photographs of each of them - including Draco, rather surprisingly - and was lining up for a group shot.

"I'll see you at Hogwarts, Harry!" A moment later, he was gone.

Ron snorted and Hermione finally allowed herself to giggle, "He never changes, does he?" she said, trying to catch her breath.

       

Draco flipped the page of his book and sighed silently, running his fingers through Harry's dark hair. He was sitting on the sofa in the Weasley's living room, the Gryffindor's head on his knees, Ron and Hermione were sitting with their backs against the sofa, legs stretched out towards the fire, reading through their Muggle Studies text.

Earlier that evening, after returning to the Burrow, Harry had told his two closest friends about their, well, relationship for want of a better word. Much to his continued surprise, Ron had not attempted to throttle him, only given him a rather tense glare before wishing the two of them every happiness together.

He wasn't entirely comfortable around Ron and Hermione just yet, but he was trying. 'Blergh' he thought, finishing a chapter and turning the page. He was nearly finished 'Watership Down', having finished 'Pride and Prejudice' after only a couple of days. He'd raided the, admittedly spartan, Weasley library for anything by muggle authors. He'd found a few, but he'd read them all before so decided to stick with an old favorite.

He felt Harry stir, "I wonder how else people will react?" he mumbled, making Draco's knees vibrate slightly. Draco wrinkled his nose; obviously Harry was on about that camera-toting creep from earlier and his rather embarrassing reaction to seeing the two of them sitting together.

Hermione looked up from the book she and Ron were perusing, giving the two of them a sympathetic look. "You two are really going to have to think about what's going to happen next week." Draco nodded slightly at her, actually allowing them to hear him sigh this time.

Ron looked up and over Hermione's head, frowning a little, "She's right, Harry. You two might have to keep it quiet." He looked up and blue eyes locked on gray for a moment, "Just to make sure you don't become more of a target than you already are." He looked like he was saying something against his nature and Draco supposed he may very well be, considering their history.

Harry rolled over and looked up at him with a concerned frown. He looked down at him and thought about what they were saying. After a year of harboring deep emotion for the raven-haired Gryffindor, he finally had him, finally knew the feelings were reciprocated. He could hold him, kiss him, without having to feel guilty, as if he had stolen the acts from him somehow. Did he want to risk all this so soon after gaining it?

He completely understood what they were telling him. Simply being one of Harry's friends was a danger in itself, but being his partner? His lover? There was a whole new level of danger added when that new level of closeness, attachment, was taken into consideration. Harry was too noble a person, he, Draco, could be used against him in any number of ways that just didn't bare thinking about.

He shifted slightly, the fingers he had been trailing through Harry's hair moving to one strong shoulder and grasping lightly. Their eyes met and Harry mouthed the words ‘keep it secret?’

Draco barely hesitated, he’d already thought it through. He inclined his head, mouthing, ‘secret’ and with a nod, they agreed, they would go on as they had, keeping the feelings only the four of them knew about, between them.

At least, for the time being.

       

Hermione was enlisted to order the taxis needed to take them all to the station when September first arrived. Draco found it almost amusing the way Arthur Weasley hung on Hermione's every word while using the telephone in the village down the road.

When the morning arrived, Draco finally learned something most people know instinctively. Even the most loving of families can break out into heated argument over the smallest and most trivial of things. Especially on a moving day.

He had never known such utter turmoil. He had actually packed the night before, using basic summoning charms to find all his things as quickly as possible. He had even placed his trunk by the front door in preparation. It appeared that no one else, not even Hermione, had though of doing anything similar.

Calmly eating a slice of toast, he sat on his trunk wearing the smartly tailored shirt and trousers he always wore under his school robes, watching the tableau unfold about him with a people-watcher's keen interest.

He watched as Ron stumbled past and into the kitchen, pulling a maroon coloured jumper over his head that clashed horribly with his hair. A moment later, Ron stumbled past again, slightly quicker, with a slice of toast hanging from his mouth and his arms full of folded robes. Draco stifled a burst of laughter as Mr Weasley rushed down the stairs and into the kitchen, attempting to drink a handful of socks and put on a mug of coffee, almost falling over as he hoped on one foot.

Ginny and Hermione both rushed past at one point, the latter's hair more bushy than ever, both looking rather harassed and as if they hadn't had a chance to get in front of a mirror yet. About half an hour before the taxis arrived, Harry came down the stairs, his trunk trailing after him. The raven-haired Gryffindor deposited the trunk outside the front door and then joined Draco, mutely pilfering one of the slices of toast and yawning as he nibbled. They sat together, silently watching those less prepared running around the house, colliding on the stairs and yelling at each other over various lost items.

When the taxis turned up, the two of them helped everyone else to pack everything in. As there were five trunks to accommodate, they had ordered two taxis, Draco found himself sharing one of them with Harry and Arthur Weasley, whom he was surprised to see Harry constantly calming down every time he tried to start conversation with the driver.

Eventually they arrived at the station and took it in turns to go through the barrier onto platform nine and three quarters with fifteen minutes to spare. When Draco stepped through, Harry at his side, there was a sudden hush amongst the many students and their families already there.

He glanced at Harry briefly and saw the determined set of the taller boy's jaw. After a moment, the hush faded to be replaced by the usual chattering of the crowds and they made their way to the end carriage, Ron, Hermione and Ginny appearing just a minute or so later, Mr and Mrs Weasley in tow. They all looked a little worried, but said nothing as the two boys helped them with the trunks.

Ginny ran off to join her fellow sixth years further along the train after saying goodbye to her parents and, with only a few more moments to go, the four remaining teenagers said their farewells. Hermione leaned out the window and waved as the train began to move and Draco dropped onto one of the seats, releasing a breath he hadn't realised he was holding.

Harry caught his eye and smiled, they had a lot more to expect from their fellow students in the not too-distant-future.


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