Author's Notes: I have been terrified that this chapter would be an enormous letdown after the previous one. The boys are separated for the entire chapter, and there's a lot of thinking going on ... as the title suggests. More happens in Ch 7 -- really. I hope you're not disappointed.
DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. The spell Tempus is borrowed from Aidan Lynch's Unthinkable Thoughts. Draco's Leader was inspired, in part, by the Bubble device in Lori's PoU universe. Both are used with permission. The password is credited to Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky". The mention of chicken-and-ham pie is a loving tribute to my 'little brother'.
Draco In Darkness
Chapter 6 - Thoughts
The thoughts of the day become the dreams of the night.
-- Chinese proverb
Harry watched Draco follow his little guiding orb down the stairwell to the dungeons, then climbed his own stairs up to Gryffindor Tower. Fortunately for him, the stairs decided to stay in their normal position; he was too busy thinking about what he had witnessed to pay any attention to where he was going. Instead, he let his feet carry him up automatically until he reached the familiar portrait of the Fat Lady.
The portrait swung open, and he was nearly knocked over by the wall of noise and light which greeted him. The party. He'd completely forgotten. Harry looked down and was somewhat surprised to realise he was still in his Quidditch uniform; the game had seemed so long ago....
"Harry, where've you been?" Ron ran up to him as he climbed through the portrait hole. "The party's been going on for ages!"
"Wha--? Oh, I ... um ... I had an emergency to take care of."
Red eyebrows furrowed with concern. "An emergency? Are you okay?"
Harry unbuckled his armguards. "Yes, yes, I'm fine. I just had to do something, and it took longer than I thought. I'm sorry." He smiled brightly. "But I'm here now. Just give me a minute to get out of this gear, all right?"
"Oh, right." Ron scanned him up and down, frowning slightly. "Yeah, you'd best go change. Are you sure you're all right? You seem preoccupied."
Harry waved him off. "I'm fine. Back in a minute." He climbed the dormitory stairs to his room, with Ron's shouts of "Hey everyone - Harry's finally here!" and the answering cheers echoing back down in the common room. He dropped off his broom and changed as quickly as he could, then went to the bathroom to splash some water on his face. But at the sight of his reflection in the mirror, he paused, studying his features closely. What did Draco see when he touched Harry? Eyes closed, he ran wet hands over his face, remembering the touch of the other boy. The water on his hands reminded him of how he had brushed a few leftover tears off Draco's cheeks, and subsequently of the complete breakdown he had witnessed.
A loud roar of laughter boiled up from the common room, interrupting his reverie. Right. The party. Shaking himself out of his thoughts, Harry dried his hands and face, ran a hurried comb through his hair, and sped back downstairs.
The minute he reappeared in the common room, he was surrounded. "Great game, Harry!" "Harry, we saved you some of Mum's sweets!" "Harry, we were just going over the highlights; tell us about when you did that corkscrew twist there at the end." Someone tossed him a contraband bottle of Butterbeer, and someone else pressed more food into his hands. Although the party had already been going on for some time, having their missing player back seemed to re-energise the Gryffindors; he found himself dragged from one group to another, discussing the game, dodging Filibuster Fireworks, and enduring rather giggly admiration from a group of third-year girls.
His mind wasn't on the festivities at all, however, and he was finding it nearly impossible to engage in any sort of coherent conversation, with all the thoughts tumbling through his mind. After shaking off the girls, he slipped off to a chair and sat down, taking a long drink from his Butterbeer. He watched his housemates talk and laugh, the very picture of merriment, and thought instead about a boy who had cried in despair.
He had suspected Draco had been suppressing his emotions, but he had not anticipated just how vehement the other boy would be when he finally cracked. It had been a moment of complete vulnerability, a side of Draco he doubted anyone had ever seen - or would likely see again. Although he supposed he had inadvertently caused the dam to break by taking him flying, Harry was still stunned that he'd been there to witness it; and if he was honest with himself, he was also rather pleased that the Slytherin had talked to him about his feelings, even a little.
The whole thing had taken Harry utterly by surprise. Draco had been cross at him before, like the time they had argued by the lake, but he had still maintained his composure. This time he had broken down completely, and at first Harry hadn't known what to say or do. If it had been Hermione, he would have gathered her into a hug; with Ron, he would have immediately put a hand on his arm. But Draco was different; he still gave off a fierce aura of pride, a protective barrier which didn't invite touch even under emotional extremes. And given that he clearly had a lot to let out, it had seemed better to just let him go at first, and approach him afterward.
"Hey, Harry, look! I just finished developing my pictures from the game." Colin Creevey stood at Harry's elbow, a stack of photographs in his hand.
Harry, who had been staring into the fire, lost in thought, jumped at the sound of the younger boy's voice. "Hmmm? Oh, that's great, Colin," he said absently. With an effort, he focused his attention on the photos. "Let's see them, shall we?"
Beaming, Colin handed the pictures over. The camera enthusiast had finally mastered the complicated wizarding photo process in his third year, and had wormed his way into being the official team photographer the year after that. "I think this one is best," he bubbled, fishing one out of the stack and laying it on top. It was a close-up shot, courtesy of Colin's zoom lens, of Harry at the end of the game. He watched as his photographic self frowned in concentration, then opened up into a grin of triumph as he captured the Snitch.
"Very nice," he murmured, hastily flipping through the remaining pictures. He was less interested in close-ups of the zooming players than in the larger crowd shots; perhaps one might indicate at which point Draco had arrived at the game. Unfortunately, none of Colin's wide-angle shots were pointed in the right direction. Hiding his disappointment, Harry plastered a smile on his face and praised the younger boy, then watched him dart back through the crowds to share his treasures with other team members.
He thought about the close-up shot of himself after Colin had gone, particularly the different facial expressions displayed on the photograph. He remembered how Draco had first touched him to prove he could tell what expression Harry wore. It had been purely an academic exercise, but the effect on Harry had been arresting. The second time ... today ... that had been something else entirely. And even though Harry himself had initiated it, placing Draco's hand on his cheek, he'd still felt his breath catch at the touch.
But nothing had prepared him for the way it would feel to touch Draco himself. Eyes closed, tracing around the other boy's features, it had been an astonishingly intimate experience. He'd discovered things about a face he thought he'd known so well; a face he'd snarled into as a youngster, and studied up close over books and quills in the past few months. His eyes told him that Draco's skin was pale, that his mouth could be coaxed into something other than a sneer, and that the grey eyes were still striking, despite their emptiness. But his fingers told him about the slight bend in his nose, and how fine his eyelashes were, and how warm and alive he still was beneath the reserved exterior. The composite effect was intense, somehow more personal than the emotional breakdown Harry had witnessed. When Harry had laid his hand on Draco's cheek, he had fought a sudden urge to lean in and kiss the other boy; it had seemed like such a natural thing to do.
He shook his head, chastising himself. He'd had his eyes closed - he could have been touching anyone. Any girl, any boy. There was no reason to think there was anything in that sudden desire. Surely if his eyes had been open, if he'd seen who he was touching, he would not have thought any such thing.
Harry had thought about kissing and sex and related activities before; he was a normal teenage boy in that regard. But it had mostly been in the context of laughing, teasing moments with his (mostly male) friends, listening to their exploits, or ribbing them about future ones. He had kissed a few girls here and there, but had never felt a terribly strong urge to go much further himself. A late bloomer, he supposed, mentally shrugging. Somehow, the realities of life always seemed to take greater priority over any romantic relationships. He'd admired a few girls over the years, and once even a boy - a Ravenclaw Keeper named Benjamin who had finished school the previous year. Harry, however, had chalked that up to admiration for the way the other boy played, and had never thought much of it.
What he'd felt with Draco earlier had been something else entirely. But still, it didn't really mean he wanted to kiss Draco, did it? Perhaps his body was just confused by the way the Slytherin had pressed so closely against him during the flight....
"Harry, are you all right?"
"Hmmm?" He looked up into Hermione's concerned face, then glanced around. The party was finally fizzling out, and many students had re-emerged with their books, leaving only a few die-hards off in the corner to chatter about the team's win. He saw Ron heading their way as he unwrapped one of the last remaining Chocolate Frogs.
"You keep rubbing your mouth - are your lips bothering you?" she asked. "I have a pot of that balm Madam Pomfrey gave me, if you've got windburn."
Harry hastily pulled his fingers away from his lips, where he had, evidently, been tracing them without realizing it. "No, I'm fine, Hermione. I was just thinking."
He laughed lightly. "You sound like Ron. Yes, I'm sure."
"Who sounds like Ron?" Ron asked.
"Apparently I do," Hermione responded. "Were you asking him if he was all right earlier?"
Ron shrugged. "He seemed a bit preoccupied, that's all." He glanced at Harry. "Something the matter, mate? You haven't talked much lately."
"I'm fine. Really. I just have a few things on my mind, nothing worth worrying about." Harry stretched. "But I'm also knackered. I think I might go to bed early."
Hermione raised an eyebrow. "What about dinner?"
"You know we almost never get down to dinner after a victory - too much food at the party," Ron replied. Hermione, eyeing the crushed Frog wrapper in his hand, grudgingly agreed.
"And anyway," Harry added, "if I wake up later and want something, I can always sneak downstairs and ask the house-elves."
"They need sleep, too," Hermione sniffed automatically; then she rolled her eyes. "Yes, I know. 'But they like serving us.'" Her tone mimicked what he and Ron had tried to point out so many times over the years. "Fine, go off, then. You do look a bit tired." She peered at him again with concern. "And you're sure you're all right?"
"Yes," he replied firmly. "It's just been a long day. I'll see you in the morning, okay?" And with a smile to reassure his friends, Harry hauled himself out of his chair and went upstairs to his room. It wasn't a lie - he really was tired. All the emotional ups and downs of the day - first the victory over Ravenclaw and flying tandem with Draco, then watching helplessly as the Slytherin fell apart and, finally, the reciprocal touching - had left him drained.
He went back upstairs and wearily pulled out his pyjamas, preparing for bed. But then, in the midst of untying his shoes, he paused. "You don't know what it's like," came the echo of Draco's voice in his mind. And it was true - he had no idea what it was like to be blind. Even though Harry couldn't function well without his glasses, he could at least still see fuzzy shapes and could generally tell what was going on around him. He pulled off his shoes and looked at them. How hard would it be, really, to do the simple task of getting undressed and into bed without sight?
On impulse, he decided to try it, squeezing his eyes shut. Ironically, the first order of business was to remove his glasses so they wouldn't get caught while he changed his clothes. Pulling them off was easy enough, but he had to fumble around to find his bedside table in order to set them down properly. Then ... where were his pyjamas? He had just had them a minute ago - he'd set them down on the bed, hadn't he? While fumbling around on the bedcovers in search of his pyjamas, he banged his shin on the bedframe. Ow!
Harry's eyes snapped open in reaction to the pain. And, blurred vision or not, he immediately spotted his pyjamas draped over the foot of the bed where he'd left them, a lighter blur against the crimson duvet - and only about a foot from where he'd been searching. With a sigh, he finished his bedtime routine as usual, eyes open. He was really too tired to try anything else, but even the brief lesson had ... well ... opened his eyes. His admiration for Draco increased even more.
That's all it was, right? Admiration.
Draco slept for most of that afternoon, exhausted after his emotional day. He woke around dinnertime, and first considered sending a message off to a house-elf to bring him some food. Warmth crept up his cheeks at the thought of what he'd said to Harry and how undignified he must have looked, and he just wasn't sure he could face the other boy again so soon. Even though they sat on opposite sides of the Great Hall, they would still be in the same room and, unless Harry had changed his habits in the past four months, the Gryffindor always sat facing him. Then he remembered the game, and knew that the winning team rarely showed up to that day's dinner, as they were too busy celebrating. Slytherin parties often ran far into the night, or at least until Snape came to glare at them.
Deciding to risk it, Draco wearily got to his feet and straightened his hair and clothing with coaching from his reflection, biting his lip as he remembered his outburst earlier. "I need help with everything!" But then, as his hands reassured him that every hair was neatly in place, he suddenly chuckled - a bit wearily - comparing the feel of his own fine hair to Harry's wild strands. At least he could make himself look presentable. With Harry's unruly mop, nothing his reflection could say would help.
Marginally cheered by the image, Draco went down to dinner and took his normal place at the end of the table. Pansy directed him to the evening's beef stew, hot rolls and butter, and he ate in silence, as usual. The talk this evening was, unsurprisingly, about the game, and more particularly about the Ravenclaws, as Slytherin played them next. Draco's first inclination was to finish his stew and leave as quickly as possible; he was drained, and listening to Quidditch talk when he could no longer play was still very difficult. But then he heard Harry's name mentioned with typical Slytherin disdain, and suddenly found himself more willing to stay.
"We should be able to win easily. Even Potter could out-loop her."
Draco's ears perked up as his tablemates rehashed snippets of the game, somehow making it all much more vivid than Dean Thomas' announcements had been; perhaps it was because they now had the leisure to dissect all the action, rather than trying to capture the main points as they happened. Ignoring the persistent ache of loss, he listened as Harry's name cropped up several times, imagining the Gryffindor whizzing through the air as he had done with Draco later on. He remembered the feel of Harry under his hand, sweaty and caught up in the thrill of flight, remembered the warmth of his body, and the way they fitted together. It was as if they had been one person flying and, combined with the description of the game his housemates were providing, it was almost like he had been playing Quidditch after all.
"Is Potter here?" he asked suddenly, interrupting a scathing criticism of the Ravenclaw Chasers.
There was a pause at the table. Draco cursed himself for not thinking; he hadn't initiated more than ten words to anyone since his return, and now they were all probably looking at him, not only for speaking, but for asking such an odd question.
"Er ... no," someone said - Malcolm Baddock, by the sound of his voice. "There's hardly anyone at their table. Probably all off having a victory tea party or something." There were various snorts around the table. "Why?"
"Just curious," he shrugged, trying to sound dismissive. Why did he care, anyway? Only half an hour ago he'd been trying to avoid Harry. It wasn't like he was going to suddenly walk up to him and ... what? Touch him again? Fly tandem again? He obviously needed to go back to sleep so he could think straight.
"Wanting to remind Potter that you beat him last time?" Blaise spoke this time. "That'd keep him from getting too cocky." More laughter around the table.
"Something like that," Draco murmured, still feeling awkward at talking to people so casually after all this time. Well, he was remembering the last time he'd flown - only it had been with Harry, not against him.
The conversation resumed again without him after that, and he listened to their chatter awhile longer before going back to his room. Although it was still early, Draco was exhausted enough that he decided to skip any studying he might have done; instead, he got out his pyjamas, went through his nightly rituals without incident, and climbed back into bed. He thought he would fall asleep immediately, but in the stillness of his room, he found he had nothing to distract himself from the overwhelming emotions of the day. His bed suddenly felt very cold and empty, and for a moment his loneliness and misery threatened to engulf him once more. But then he swallowed and remembered the way Harry had let him 'see' him again. The way it had felt to have Harry touch him in return.
He was still embarrassed at breaking down in front of the other boy. He would have preferred to fall apart in private; he would have preferred not to fall apart at all. Yet, for all his protests that he hated depending on people, and despite his embarrassment, Draco had to admit ... he was glad Harry was in his life. There was a warmth to the Gryffindor, an intimacy that bled through his skin, as if he gave completely of himself all the time. Draco found himself responding to that warmth, wanting more, despite his fears.
Arm wrapped around his pillow, he dreamed of flying.
Sunday passed normally enough for Harry. He went to breakfast with Hermione and Ron, then settled down for some homework with them, at Hermione's insistence. Although he was still thinking of the extraordinary events of the preceding day, he managed to work with Ron on their Tarot assignment for Divination without too much trouble.
"Okay, the Six of Swords," Harry said, pointing to the card in Ron's reading, "indicates special knowledge." He consulted his book again. "'When unseen patterns become visible, you will realize with surprise that they were active all along. You have to first reorganize your mind in order to clearly see factors you usually take for granted.' Apparently if you look into yourself and study the situation, you'll know what to do, and you already have the means to do it."
Ron groaned. "This is supposed to help me figure out what to do after leaving school? 'Looking into yourself' is about as easy as 'relaxing your Inner Eye' and all that other crap Professor Trelawney feeds us." He sighed, watching as the figure on the card danced around with his weapon. "Well, if I supposedly already have the means to do whatever this is, I think we can safely rule out Divination as a career."
"Yeah, that's probably a safe bet," Harry laughed as he cleared Ron's cards away. "Hmm... you're good at facing off against bullies and such - remember when you were prepared to 'save' me from Sirius?" he mused. "And you seem to love hopeless causes - like the Chudley Cannons. And me." Ron's initial defence of the Cannons turned into a laugh at the self-deprecating remark. "Maybe you should go into DADA, like Lupin," Harry finished.
"I dunno," the red-haired boy shrugged, "isn't that more your thing?"
Harry made a face. "I seem to do enough of it whether I want to or not. I think I'd rather not have it as a daily career." Ron handed him the deck and he started shuffling.
"Don't forget to have your question in mind," Ron prompted.
"Erm ... right. Just thinking about the upcoming stuff..." he trailed off vaguely. He wasn't really sure how to put it, but the situation with Draco was on his mind; he supposed he just wanted a better sense of what was going on, and how to deal with it.
He cut the cards as Professor Trelawney had instructed; Ron dealt them out and began to help Harry translate his reading.
"...now, in the Situation position," he said, midway through, "you've got 'Death'."
"Trelawney will love that," Harry retorted, rolling his eyes. They both flipped through their books, It's In the Cards: Translating the Tarot, in search of that particular incarnation.
"Huh. You may actually get to disappoint the old bat after all," Ron told him after a moment. "It doesn't seem to have anything to do with death at all."
Harry ran his finger down the page, reading aloud. "'Let go and make the adjustments required for dealing with a new set of circumstances. The Death card in this position implies that a force of nature or a change in authority may be forcing you to change your accustomed way of doing things.'"
Ron grinned. "See? Unless 'change your way of doing things' means 'you can't do anything at all because you're dead', you don't have anything to worry about." The boys laughed again, then went on to attempt interpretations for the rest of the cards.
"So, uh ... change, patience and responsibility, and something which seems to mean both happiness and the need to keep working in pursuit of happiness," Harry said looking over the results. "God only knows how I'm going to put all this together into some sort of sensible report."
"Yeah. How about mine? Scapegoat, teamwork, and 'it's already inside you' and some other rubbish. Makes about as much sense as that tyromancy rubbish we had to learn last term. I couldn't look at a piece of cheese for weeks after that. Ugh." He was pulling out a pack of Exploding Snap cards as he spoke. "Fancy a quick game before we move on? We haven't had a chance in ages."
"Boys!" Hermione interjected, looking up from her mountain of work. "You're supposed to be working."
"We are working," Ron claimed, all innocence. "Just taking a bit of a break. You know - to clear our Inner Eye before we write up our reports." Hermione rolled her eyes. "And besides," he went on, "we can always tell Professor Trelawney that we worked with the cards all afternoon. We just won't say which cards."
"Oh, all right," she sighed. "But it had better be only one or two games. I'm still going to check your work tonight before you hand it in, so I hope you're planning on finishing by dinner. I want to go over some practice Herbology N.E.W.T. questions tonight as well."
Ron frowned. "But I was going to see Mandy after dinner!"
"Ron Weasley, your girlfriend may be a Ravenclaw, but I don't believe for one minute that you were planning on studying with her tonight," Hermione glared sternly. "And you know the N.E.W.T.s are coming up - we have to prepare!"
With a sigh, Ron gave in, dealing the Exploding Snap cards with a bit less enthusiasm than he'd expressed a few minutes earlier.
"Cheer up," Harry told his friend as they began to play. "At least you'll see her at dinner."
He was rather looking forward to dinner himself. His last glimpse of Draco at lunchtime suddenly seemed ages ago.
Draco spent his day in his usual library room, working on his Arithmancy homework, and doing some preliminary revision of his more difficult subjects. The room was lonely without Harry, and he found he still had half an ear out for the Gryffindor's footsteps, even though he knew the other boy would be in his own common room that day. He threw himself into his work as a distraction, finally surfacing when his stomach began to grumble.
"Tempus," he muttered, pointing his wand at his watch.
"Eighteen-fifty." He had charmed his timepieces to use the twenty-four hour clock, as he could not use the presence or absence of daylight to separate nine a.m. from nine p.m.
Time for dinner - and a chance to finally take a break. With a yawn, he pushed back his chair and stretched, wincing at his sore muscles. Yesterday's flight had awoken aches in his back, legs, and abdomen -- muscles he hadn't used since the accident. It actually felt rather good. Maybe he would ask Harry to take him up again sometime. Maybe.
On his way down to the Great Hall, he thought about dinner the previous night. Although he hadn't intended to speak up, his remarks had been met with neither scorn nor pity; rather, except for the initial pause, his nearest tablemates had responded fairly normally. Maybe Harry had been right; perhaps he had isolated himself unnecessarily. He might not be sought out as a powerful leader anymore, but even the lesser Slytherins had some companions. He had not been comfortable enough to talk at either breakfast or lunch that day but, spurred by his increased loneliness at being without Harry, he thought perhaps he might try again today.
He sat at his customary spot on the end, eating his chicken and ham pie, and listened. This time, however, he listened with an ear for participation, rather than as an outsider, the way he had all those months when he had shut himself away entirely.
"Hogsmeade visit next weekend," piped a boy a few seats down. "Who's going?" Draco couldn't immediately place the voice; one of the younger students, probably. But it was news to him; unable to see the Hogsmeade notice and without someone to tell him there was a notice, this was the first he'd known about it.
There was a chorus of voices, indicating their plans for the weekend getaway.
"Not me," grumbled Blaise beside Draco. "Bloody N.E.W.T.s. Have to start revising."
"Oh, come on, Blaise," Pansy coaxed from across the table. "Surely you can spare one day?"
Draco supposed Blaise must have shaken his head, because he went on without a verbal denial. "Blew off too many weekends this term already. Father says he can get me in at a good job if I prove myself with my grades - a place where I can earn a pile of Galleons and move up quickly, he says. So," Blaise sighed, "I have to study. There's quite a bit of material I haven't really understood this term."
"How about you boys?" Pansy asked.
Which 'boys' she was speaking to became immediately clear. "Dunno," came Crabbe's slow drawl. "Might need more Acid Pops. You, Goyle?"
"Yeah. Ran outta Cockroach Clusters ages ago. An' there'll be girls down at the pub too." Draco could practically hear him leer. He pitied whatever girls might be on the receiving end of Goyle's clumsy hands. As tarty as they were, they didn't deserve that.
"What about you, Pansy?" Draco ventured, tentatively. "Are you going?"
"Oh, I don't know," she replied. "Maybe I'll go for a bit, but we've been there so many times over the past four years, it's getting rather boring, don't you think?"
Draco shrugged in what he hoped was a noncommittal way. Yes, perhaps he'd seen everything already, but he also couldn't really anticipate finding much to do now that he couldn't see at all. "I'll probably just study too," he said, wondering if Harry would stay behind or go off with his other friends.
"Hmmm..." Pansy replied. "I wasn't planning on doing much revising yet. Hey Blaise," she joked. "Does your father have any other good jobs to offer? I want a position like that too, so I can show up my big sister."
"Sorry, Pans, you're on your own. As if I'd let you compete for my job anyway," Blaise snorted. "We'd probably kill each other."
"God, what a bunch of losers we've all become," interrupted Millicent in her distinctive nasal whine. "Time was, we'd all show that town who ruled the school, shake 'em up a bit. And now look. Bookworms and sweet-eaters."
"And girls," rumbled Goyle.
"Whatever," Millicent retorted, dismissively. "Look over there. I bet even those goody-goody Gryffindors have more fun than we do now. See, even Perfect Potter and his little cronies are laughing, while we're just talking about school and work. Pathetic."
Draco bit his lip in his sudden urge to defend Harry. Not the best way to ease his way back into the Slytherin social atmosphere. Still, Millicent's remark did warm him inside; he knew for sure that Harry was there, in the room with him. And even though they weren't at the same table, he suspected Harry was facing him, given his prior habits and the fact that Millicent could readily tell what he was doing.
While his housemates began to squabble over house pride versus post-school ambitions, Draco went back to his meal, and smiled.
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