Warning! This story does contain slash. If you are unaware of what slash is or if it's just not something you have a care for, you probably clicked on the wrong link. Sorry. Life sucks, get a helmet. Anyway! Feedback and reviews are always appreciated and flames are mocked and the source of my endless amusement. All standard disclaimers apply. (What's mine is mine and what isn't, well, isn't.) This story contains spoilers for all four books. You have been warned.
Quick Note Regarding Formatting: There are many POV switches in this chapter so three stars (***) marks the beginning of a new character's perspective within a scene, otherwise, it's a new scene.
The Losing Side
A Harry Potter Fan Fiction
Chapter 11 - Things Best Kept Secret
Part II: Reasons Behind the Madness
"You've picked the losing side, Potter! I warned you! I told you you ought to choose your company more carefully, remember? When we met on the train, first day of Hogwarts? I told you not to hang around with riffraff like this." He jerked his head at Ron and Hermione. "Too late now, Potter! They'll be the first to go, now the Dark Lord's back! Mudbloods and Muggle-lovers first! Well- second- Diggory was the f--" Draco Malfoy (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Blaise Zabini walked down the corridor alone. He was often alone, the way he liked it. It was difficult to keep up the act and he cherished these small breaks where he could drag his fingers along the stone walls and let his chaotic thoughts crash down around him, tinkling like shattered glass. Images of the nightmares of his past. Images of the nightmares which would be his future.
In his dreams, there was almost always blood.
Blood, Draco's screams, and his mother's pretty face frozen in the final horror of death.
Sometimes the blood was pure, blue or red and cold as glacier water.
Sometimes the blood was mud, thick and brown. Warmth oozing over granite stones.
He knew they were granite because he'd once had an interest in geology.
Geology and books and playing games with friends.
Hogwarts and potions and charms and Slytherin.
HE had been Slytherin. Was Slytherin. Is Slytherin.
So had he. Had been. Was. Is.
So had Draco.
Always he dreamt of Draco's face contorted in pain. The crack of the lash as it licked across pale skin. He couldn't see it rend and tear the flesh, but he could see the blood which dripped and puddled beneath him when the lash bit too deep. Drip, drip, drip. Like water from a leaky faucet. Water tainted with rust the color of blood. It helped sometimes if he pretended it was only tainted water. He'd been warned to keep his silence. They'd both been warned. If Draco didn't cry, neither would he. He could be strong too.
Strong like bull.
Blaise smirked at the thought, pushing his fingers into the stone until they bent too far and pain screamed through him in a black wave. The pain helped him focus sometimes.
He'd heard about the running of the bulls in Spain when he was young. His mother had always wanted to go there some day. To Spain. His aunt lived there with his cousins, his mother had said. She would have liked to have seen them. She'd never seen the youngest one. His youngest cousin... Harry.
Dark hair, tangled and untamable. Green eyes so much more alive and vivid then anything he'd ever seen.
Draco hated Harry.
Or did he love Harry?
"Hard to tell. Hard to tell," Blaise murmured, turning away from the wall and continuing on his way down the corridor.
Everything was so muddled. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn't. No point asking. No point telling.
Like his mind.
Like his heart.
His head hurt sometimes and when it did it was usually because they were fighting. Hating. Loving. Whatever. Hard to tell.
Christmas break would be a dangerous time.
Things would break.
Things would mend.
Things would fall apart.
He laughed at that and a sixth year Ravenclaw girl gave him a funny look as she walked towards him. She was a prefect. She had a shiny badge and long dark hair. Hadn't they been friends before? Maybe. He wasn't sure.
Maybe they'd been enemies.
Maybe they'd never spoken at all.
Hard to tell. Everything was so muddled.
She looked wary, guarded. Not all that surprising, Ravenclaws were known for their intelligence, weren't they? He was pretty sure they were. "Blaise? Aren't you playing in the game today? It'll be starting soon."
Yes, he was going to the game, but he wasn't just going to play.
He had things to do.
Orders to obey.
Still, there was time yet to think about other things and focus. He was always trying to teach him how to focus.
Focus. Focus. Focus.
"Yes. I'm just going now," he murmured, turning back in the direction of the Quidditch pitch.
There was always time. Time for thinking. Time to focus. But just now it was time to go bear witness and follow orders like a good little soldier.
He'd had a bucket of little tin soldiers when he'd been young.
It seemed a very long time ago.
"I don't like this. I've never heard of there bein' any night games," Seamus grumbled, flopping down on the bed next to Dean, heedless of the fact that he was still dripping wet from the shower and quite naked.
"Well, we've never seen it, but it's not as if we grew up in the middle of the wizarding world. It might just not have happened lately or something," Dean shrugged, leaning back on his elbows and raising his eyebrows at the naked boy sprawled at the foot of his bed. "Don't you have any sense of modesty whatsoever?"
"Nah, what've I got to be modest for? I'm dead sexy," Seamus replied, grinning. "Or didn't you realize that?"
"I won't be stroking your ego today, Seamus, so you might as well stop fishing," Dean replied, wrinkling his nose as Seamus continued to pose.
"Might I get you to stroke something else then?" Seamus inquired, waggling his eyebrows in Dean's direction with a grin wide enough to split his face.
"Tempting, but... no," Dean grinned, shoving Seamus off the bed with his foot and sending the laughing blond sprawling on the floor. Not an altogether bad view, Dean mused. It was almost too bad Seamus wasn't serious. Then again... no sense in ruining a good friendship for a little rough and tumble. "If you don't hurry up and get dressed, you'll be late, love."
"Well, you're no fun," Seamus replied, grinning as he stood and strutted across the room, disappearing into the bathroom. "Where's Harry at, anyway? Shouldn't he be getting ready?"
"I'm sure he's already dressed and out at the field waiting for you. You're the only who waits until the last minute to get dressed for a game."
"Details, details." Seamus commented, raising his voice to be heard over the rustling of cloth that indicated that he was getting dressed. "So, you think he's fucking Malfoy?"
"Seamus!" Dean sputtered, unable to think of a more coherent response to Seamus' sudden question.
"What?" Seamus poked his head out of the bathroom. "Haven't you seen the way Malfoy's been looking at him lately at dinner and such? Like he wants to crawl right up inside him and stay there. Wish someone would look at me like that. I think they'd make a bloody brilliant match. Malfoy and Potter. That's the kind of sex I'd videotape and show at parties. Don't you think so?"
"Ugh. I can't say I've thought about it," Dean replied, his mind already running through the last few days, trying to find a hint of what Seamus was talking about. "Don't they hate each other?"
"Well, yeah, but that's what makes it so interesting. If they could just get past all that hatred, they'd fuck like bunnies."
"What, you don't like the bunnies reference? I'm sure I can think up another."
"No, I don't like the idea of Harry fucking Malfoy. It's... disturbing. Like if they had sex the world would just go spinning off its axis and crash into the sun or something."
"Oh c'mon, Dean. They'd look cute together."
"I'm not saying they wouldn't look cute together, I'm just saying it'd be like we'd fallen into an alternate universe. The one where Harry fucks Malfoy and the world goes straight to hell. Plus, Ron would freak out."
"Ron would freak out if Harry fucked Hermione. Ron would blow up the bloody building if Harry fucked Malfoy," Seamus commented as he emerged from the bathroom fully-clothed. Which, though not necessarily a change for the better, certainly made it easier for Dean to talk to him rather then just gawk at him like an idiot.
"Besides, what makes you think Harry's even got it in for guys? And shouldn't you dry your hair?"
"I like to air dry. And are you kidding me? You could parade Fleur Delacour around here topless and he wouldn't even blink," Seamus scoffed, giving his robes a quick pat. "You ready to go?"
"Me? I've been ready for an hour."
"Fine, fine. You're fast, I'm slow. Whatever, let's go," Seamus replied, yanking Dean to his feet and pulling him out the door.
It was dark when the game started; magically amplified lanterns were hung all about the field, flooding it with light. It created an effect which was both eerie and unsettling despite its brilliance. Harry hovered above the field, his eyes searching frantically for the Snitch. He'd been fine when the game had started up again, perfectly fine, and now here they were almost an hour in. It was freezing, the wind was picking up, and he hadn't seen so much as a flicker of gold since the game had begun.
He was also beginning to panic. Really panic. So often Quidditch had been his escape, his freedom. When he'd been in the air playing against Slytherin or Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff, he'd been able to forget who he was, if only for a few short hours. Now even that small joy had been taken from him. All he could think of was Voldemort and mysterious attacks, and Draco Malfoy hovering nearby. He could almost feel the impending danger looming, and it was raising the hairs on the back of his neck, causing his hands to tremble, and sweat to bead on his brow despite the cold. All he wanted was to catch the damn Snitch and get the hell back in the castle before anything happened.
But, the question was, where was the Snitch?
To say that Draco wasn't happy was something of an understatement. The fact of the matter was that he was furious. He didn't like being used in the first place, and he sure as hell didn't like being used any better when it was done by those hypocritical bastards who ran this bloody school. To make matters worse, he was actually beginning to feel guilty about his own plans. Guilty! All because of that little goody-two-shoes flying about beside him. He told himself again that he didn't have anything to feel guilty about; after all, wasn't this what he'd told him would happen from the start? Didn't he make it perfectly clear?
Damn it all to hell.
"Starting to believe they stuck us up here as bait yet, Potter?" Draco called, his pale figure huddled low on his broom, as if he could somehow hide from the chill which swept across the playing field. Not that Harry had been watching him, because he hadn't.
"No! Where's the fucking Snitch?!"
"Search me! I haven't seen a damn thing and I'm freezing my balls off up here!"
"Good!" Harry spat venomously, his fingers curling tighter around the broom as he forced his attention away from Draco and back to the game. Someone on the Slytherin team had just scored another goal, he wasn't quite sure who, and he couldn't hear a damn word Colin was shouting over the wind and the assorted cheers and jeers from the stands.
"Oh, fucking ha ha! Glad to see the cold hasn't taken away your sense of humor!" Draco spat, glaring at the Gryffindor Seeker as the wind seemed to turn colder around him. Did that fool Dumbledore really think that a Deatheater would just pop right into such an obvious trap? Ridiculous.
"I wasn't joking," Harry hissed, deigning to finally look at him.
"Very nice. I should think the way you act around me that you'd be thrilled to have my person intact and warm," Draco replied irritably, purposely steering his broom closer to where Harry hovered so that the arrogant prat would have to put some effort into avoiding him. Which was precisely what he did a moment later, veering sharply to the left. Only when he was a good distance from where Draco hovered did he turn about to fix him with a nasty glare.
"What was all that shit about not being able to stand being touched, Malfoy?! You sure don't seem to mind Pansy groping you all the bloody time!"
"You don't actually think I actually enjoyed that, do you?!"
"How the fuck should I know?"
He's hurt. That's why he's so angry. Well... damn.
Draco felt his anger melting away as his mind began to work around what Harry had just said. No, he couldn't do this now. Best to make a joke of it. When he was alone, after this long night was finally over, he would have time for regret, but he couldn't now. He couldn't feel anything for this handsome dark-haired boy now, or everything would fall into ruins. Draco had to swallow twice before he was able to pull his mask firmly back into place and formulate anything even vaguely resembling a proper response.
For a moment, Harry had been sure he'd seen something in Draco's face. Something that had made his entire body go tense. As if he'd suddenly seen something terribly important. A truth beneath the lie- but then it was gone and Draco was laughing.
"You're jealous!" Draco accused, howling with laughter as Harry grimaced.
"I am not, and what's so funny?"
"Pansy's my cousin, remember? We put on a lovely show for those that don't know, is all it is."
"And I'm supposed to buy that story?"
"It just happens to be the truth, Potter."
"You wouldn't know the truth if it fell out of the sky and did a lovely little dance on that pointy nose of yours, Malfoy."
"Why do you think we used to date? So people would leave us the hell alone. Besides, games aren't any fun if you go tossing the rules out the window before the game has even begun, Potter. I wouldn't dream of spoiling the best game I've ever played."
Harry felt something twist inside him at Draco's words and for a long moment he couldn't breath anymore than he could explain why Draco's words had caused such a reaction. But he had to admit to himself that that made sense. Draco was as dishonest as they came, but he did seem to have a rather odd sense of fair play. He might stack the odds against you, but he wouldn't dream of breaking the rules in order to win. At least not when he was convinced you were going to lose anyway. "That I'll believe, Malfoy!"
"Good, I was getting bloody tired of defending myself to you of all people!" Draco shivered, bundling his Quidditch robes more closely around him as he surveyed the pitch.
"Well, whoopee for you," Harry grumbled, throwing his broom into a dive. Draco was on his heels instantly, and stayed there as he came out of the dive and headed back into the air once more. There was still no sign of the Snitch, but at least moving kept him warm. Plus, Draco was more likely to shut the hell up when they were whizzing about the field dodging Bludgers.
What had Professor Dumbledore been thinking of, forcing them to play a night game? Why were they even playing at all? Why hadn't he just called it a draw and scheduled a true rematch at a normal time? That would have been the logical thing. The doubts were adding up almost faster then he could sort through them all.
Could it be possible that Draco was right? That they'd been put out here as bait to capture the person who'd cast the protection spell on them? It would be one thing if they'd asked him to act as bait, but instead they'd just shoved them out here without so much as a by-your-leave. Look and observe the worm. How he darts about at the end of our hook.
No doubt they would have their reasons for it. No doubt those reasons would be perfectly logical. They would make sense and he would believe them, because he didn't want to think that Draco could be right. That the good guys could use people too.
As his thoughts came with whirlwind force, Harry dodged a Bludger almost instinctively, his eyes widening as he side-swiped Draco in his attempts to get out of the line of fire. He wondered vaguely what Draco was doing so close to him, but the thought was swept away in the wake of Draco's anger.
"Fuck! Did you leave your brain in your dorm, Potter?!"
"Shove off, Malfoy. You're not doing much better!" Harry replied irritably, glaring at the blond, who was currently circling him much like a vulture.
"Hell, I'm not."
"Hell, you are. Can't even keep your broom out of my bloody way."
"Maybe I'm getting in your way on purpose, Potter. Ever think of that?"
"And maybe Snape's gonna be the next one to share my bed, you pretentious bastard. And what are you doing?"
"Well, if I could answer that I'd be more than happy to," Draco grumbled, his arms wrapped in a death grip around his broom's handle as he continued to circle Harry. "My broom doesn't seem too intent on listening to me at the moment. I think it's jinxed or something."
"Which would be why it's just sort of circling me in a rather uninteresting fashion?"
"Oh, shut up."
"I mean really, Malfoy, if you're going to do the jinxed broom bit you should at least do it right."
As if taking a note from Harry's words, the broom jerked from its path, diving suddenly and then changing direction so quickly that Draco's head smacked against the handle as the broom returned to hover near Harry.
"Ouch, that hurt." Draco managed a nervous smile as he continued to cling to his broomstick, looking a bit dazed.
"You need some help there, Malfoy?"
"No, I'm doing just fine, Potter."
"And you look it."
"Why don't you worry about the bloody Snitch instead of me? I can handle my own broomstick, thank you very mu...ah!" Almost as if it wished to prove him wrong, Draco's broom suddenly leapt into action, speeding across the Quidditch pitch. Draco's frightened yelp was almost lost as the broom dodged around a Bludger and took a dive towards the ground. It pulled up moments later, Draco clinging to it upside down as the broom sped away from the Quidditch pitch, heading towards the Forbidden Forest.
Harry cursed under his breath and sped after the Slytherin. They were low over the forest by the time Harry managed to catch up with Draco and his renegade broomstick. The Slytherin was as white as paste, wrapped around his broomstick with arms and legs that had to be getting tired by now. "Are you sure you don't need any help?" Harry inquired, maneuvering his broom over Draco's broomstick so that he could look down into the pale boy's face.
"Stop making jokes and get me the hell off this thing, Potter!" Draco spat, looking a bit green around the edges as Harry closed the distance between them until they were only inches apart.
"Let go of the broomstick and I'll grab you."
"Are you fucking kidding me? We're a hundred feet off the ground!"
"We are not!"
"Who the fuck cares?! You grab me and then I'll let go of the broomstick!"
"Fine, give me your hand then!"
"That would mean I would have to let go of the broomstick, Potter," Draco growled, glaring up at Harry irritably.
"Malfoy..." Harry began, wondering how exactly to explain to him that he couldn't very well grab him when he was wrapped around the broomstick like a monkey round a branch. Fortunately, Draco seemed to realize his predicament at the moment and winced.
"Fine, you win! Here!" Draco thrust a hand in Harry's direction and Harry took hold of it. He had just enough time to register the feel of Draco's fingers clutching his own when pain exploded in his brain, white-hot and electric. It happened almost too fast, and then he was falling, and he wasn't alone. He could feel Draco's fingers, warm and sweaty against his own, before darkness took them both.
Harry awoke slowly, in stages. He could feel the forest, its power thumping all around him, hot and dark like the smell of rich soil. Then he could feel Draco's warm body curled around him, Draco's hair tinkling his nose when he breathed, Draco's lips pressed against his collarbone. Their Quidditch robes were almost stiflingly hot, and he could feel the sweat against his brow and Draco's, and he shivered as a cold breeze blew around them.
"Hm? Potter? Are you awake?" Draco asked, his breath whispering against Harry's skin.
"Yeah. You okay?"
"Yeah. What the hell happened up there?"
"I would know?"
"I was hoping you might."
"Well, I don't. I remember your broomstick and flying over the Forbidden Forest and touching your hand and then... Did we fall all that way?"
"Must have. Brooms are gone."
"How long have you been awake?"
"Not long. If they let us keep our wands during Quidditch matches, this wouldn't be a big deal."
"If they let us keep our wands during Quidditch matches we'd end up fighting duels in midair, Malfoy."
"Definitely. You're always at your most annoying when you're on a broomstick."
"If I wasn't too sore to move, Potter, I'd pound you into the dirt for that."
"You and what army? You left your fists of fury back in the stands."
"I don't need an army to beat the hell out of you, Potter."
"Then why do you let the brute squad do all your work for you, Malfoy?"
"Because it would put me at an advantage if I ever did have to get in a real fight. They'd assume, like you do, that I can't fight just because they've never seen me do so."
"Clever of you."
"Any idea what was wrong with your broom?"
"Haven't a clue. Must have been jinxed," Draco replied smoothly.
"No, no, Potter. I'm not telling you a thing, so you might as well just drop it, because my story isn't going to change."
"All right, how about this one, then? Why do I always wake up feeling my worst with you lying beside me?"
"I could ask you the same question."
"Good point. I got another note this afternoon."
"Let me guess. Did it warn you that we were going to fall a hundred feet and land ourselves smack in the middle of the Forbidden Forest?"
"Something like that."
"Funny how those notes are always so spectacularly clear in hindsight, isn't it?"
"Not really funny, per se, but yeah. You feeling well enough to get off me so we can get out of here?"
Draco nodded, rolling off Harry and pushing himself into a sitting position. "How do you propose we get out?"
Harry shrugged, pushing himself gingerly to his feet, wincing as his muscles voiced their protest to the sudden movement. "Well, I'm going to see about finding our brooms, and then I suppose we'll go out the same way we came in. Flying."
"What do you mean, 'no way'?"
"My broom, even if I could find it, has a nasty jinx on it so I can't possibly ride it, and I'm certainly not going to be riding bitch on the back of yours."
"Oh, give me a break, Malfoy. My shoulders hurt, hell, everything hurts. I am not feeling up to fighting with you just now."
"Well, that's just fine, Potter, because there's nothing to fight about."
"NO. What I meant is there's nothing to fight about because there is no way I'm getting on the back of your bloody broomstick. Period."
"Fine. Then I'll just fly out and get a teacher to come back and fetch you. How's that?"
"You'd leave me here by myself?!"
"In a second," Harry replied irritably, giving Draco a nasty smile before stalking off in the direction of the nearest clump of bushes.
"That's very nice, Potter," Draco grumbled, folding his arms across his slender chest and glaring at Harry's back as the dark-haired boy began forging through the bushes. "You'd just leave me defenseless and alone in the middle of the forbidden fucking forest. Some hero you are."
"Don't bother trying guilt, Malfoy. I know you far too well for that."
"You don't know me at all, Potter."
"You keep saying that, and yet you seem convinced you know me inside and out."
"I do. You're not exactly the most complicated sort, not to mention that every thought that runs through that pretty little head of yours shows on your face."
"So you think my head's pretty?"
"Cute. Find that broom yet, Potter?"
"You could get off your lazy ass and help, you know."
"I could, but I already stated my opinions on the situation."
"You don't want to ride with me, and you don't want me to leave you behind. Besides flying, I don't see that we have all that many options left to us, so may I ask what the hell your plan is?"
"I was thinking we should just stay put and let them find us."
"Oh, now, there's a grand idea. Do you know how long that could take?"
"I never said the plan was perfect. We could try walking out of here if it makes you feel better."
"Your ideas just keep getting better and better, Malfoy," Harry grumbled, as he burst forth from the bushes. Leaves clung to his hair. It made him look wild and almost beautiful in Draco's eyes. As he stared at Harry, standing there looking annoyed, he began to have second thoughts about the Plan. Not that he hadn't been having second thoughts practically since he first awoke on the forest floor with Harry at his side, but...
"Why don't you come over here and help me up? I'm sure we can find our way out."
"Right," Harry replied, striding towards Draco and offering a hand to the blond. Draco used the hand to draw Harry down to him, only vaguely surprised when Harry offered no resistance. "What are you doing, Malfoy?"
"I'm going to kiss you, Potter. I thought that much would be perfectly obvious."
"Nothing with you is obvious. We haven't spoken all week and now you just want to kiss me?"
"Almost right. I've wanted to kiss you all week. Just shut up and come here already," Draco grumbled. His lips were inches from Harry's, when Harry started and drew back. "What?" Though Draco managed to keep the annoyance out of his voice, it was a very close call.
"What's going on, Malfoy?"
"What are you talking about?"
"What are you afraid of?"
"I'm not afraid of anything, Potter. I just don't... damn it. Why in the hell did you even say that?"
"Well, for one, you hate this place, I know you do, and yet you're doing your damnedest to delay leaving it. And for two, you're trembling like a leaf. Are you still scared of this place even after all this time? Or is there something else that's frightening you?"
"No, I... told you, I'm not scared," Draco grumbled, wrapping his arms across his chest and shooting a glare in Harry's direction. "I'm just cold, that's all. In case you haven't noticed, we're not exactly stranded in the desert here, Potter."
"Who're you trying to convince, Malfoy?"
"Shut up. I'm not scared of this place. It's just..."
"Death, okay? This place reeks of death, Potter. There are things in this forest that would make the bravest man run screaming into the night. Evil spirits, cunning monsters. My father used to tell me stories about this place. There are reasons that this place is forbidden. Why students are not usually permitted to roam these pathways alone. This place has a dark history, Potter. Things have happened here that you won't find written in any book. Things which are never spoken of except during the clear light of day," Draco whispered hurriedly, stepping forward until he was pressed against Harry. "I hate this place."
"Then why aren't we on our way out of here yet?"
"Because it's bloody dark and I'm not too hot on the idea of wandering about in the dark or being alone in it for that matter."
"I thought you liked the dark, Malfoy."
"I fear the dark, Potter," Draco whispered, his arms slipping beneath Harry's cloak and pulling the dark-haired boy into a tight embrace. "I've always feared it."
"I'll protect you," Harry murmured, returning Draco's embrace and silently relishing the feel of Draco's warm body pressed against his own. "I'm not afraid."
"Then you're a fool, Potter. You can't fight the dark and win, because it isn't something that can be destroyed. It will always be one step ahead of you, because it has time. That's how wars in this world are truly waged, Potter. Not through weapons or curses, those are the stuff of battles; the true war is fought through time. Do you understand?"
"No. Why do I feel like we're not talking about the forest anymore?"
"Because we're not. Why did he want to kill you, Potter? Why did he go to all the trouble to track down your family in particular? You in particular. Why were you so special?"
"You know, don't you?" It wasn't really a question.
"Pawns, Potter. You and I are the same, yet completely opposite. Black and white, night and day, Potter."
"What are you trying to tell me?"
"Win the game, Potter. Win the game and I'll tell you everything, but you have to win the game."
"No, back off, Potter. That's all I have to say on the subject," Draco replied quickly, shaking his head and stepping away from Harry's embrace.
"Right then, let's get going, Malfoy."
"Hey, where are you...?"
"I'm tired and I'm in pain. All I want is to take a trip to the infirmary and then go to bed. Tomorrow I'll deal with you and Professor Dumbledore."
"You were right, okay? He put us up there as bait. I don't like being used."
"Hm, I'd think you'd be used to it by now."
"I usually have a choice, Malfoy."
A branch snapped nearby and Draco let out a yell, leaping away from Harry and taking off at a run into the forest before Harry had a chance to grab him.
"Malfoy! What the...! Shite..." Harry grumbled, breaking into a run as he pursued Draco through the trees. "You don't even know if that's right direction. Stupid git."
Draco Malfoy's hair shone silver in the moonlight that crept through the towering trees. He was standing stock still, almost as if he were frozen in the middle of the clearing. ...As if he were listening to something that Harry could not hear.
"Malfoy?" Harry asked cautiously, setting a hand against Draco's shoulder when the blond didn't answer. "Are you all right?"
The Slytherin turned and stared at him for a long moment. His eyes were wide, his skin paler than usual, but when he spoke his voice was deceptively calm. "No. I am not all right. I am terrified. There's nothing here. No creatures, no life. This place is just... dead. Can we go now?"
"Yeah. I think I tripped over my broom chasing after you."
"Oh? Well, you sure don't sound very excited about it."
"I... Would you just shut up so I can kiss you, Potter? I really have been wanting to kiss you again."
"Yeah, me too," Harry replied, leaning forward on his hands and pressing his lips against Draco's for a brief, bittersweet moment before backing away. "C'mon, let's get out of here."
Draco was silent as they backtracked to where Harry's broom lay, half-hidden beneath bushes near the clearing in which they'd awoken. Harry hesitated, turning back to face the usually talkative blond. "You okay?"
The Slytherin shrugged vaguely. "Let's just get this over with."
Draco frowned, his gaze narrowing. "Don't call me that."
Harry smiled. "That's better. I was beginning to worry for a minute there."
The Slytherin was stared at him with something that resembled shock for a long moment and Harry's smile widened. He was still smiling as he bent to retrieve his broom. Harry's fingers were the barest of inches away from the handle when Draco's had closed around his wrist, pulling him back, and then Draco's lips were on his own.
He couldn't tell anymore.
Funny how Draco could kiss him and all the rest of the world just dropped away.
Harry pulled back after a small eternity, grinning. "What was that for?"
"I don't know. I just... shite. I don't know. I must be losing my mind," Draco murmured, pressing his forehead against Harry's shoulder. "The broom's cursed, Potter."
"I'm sorry. I could sworn you just said..."
"I got a note early this week. Your broom's been cursed."
"And when exactly were you planning on mentioning this to me?" Harry asked slowly, his voice deadly soft.
"Well, I wasn't, actually, but that's hardly the point, Potter."
Harry took a step away from Draco, staring at him with disbelieving eyes. "Hardly the point? Then what the fuck, may I ask, is the bloody point?"
"Well, I didn't let you touch it, did I?!"
"If you weren't going to let me touch it, why didn't you just tell me about the curse in the first place?!"
"I never said I wasn't going to let you touch it, the point is that I didn't."
"No, that is not the point, Malfoy. That is most definitely not the bloody point. You tried to..."
"I didn't try to do anything, Potter. If I'd really tried I would have gotten the job done."
"Then what were you planning to do exactly? Let me touch it? And when the hell was it cursed exactly?"
"Before the game, and it was set to go into effect after certain events had taken place. It wouldn't have hurt you, Potter. You would have just taken a bit of a nap, is all."
"And what purpose would that serve exactly?"
"None of your business," Draco spat.
Harry glared at him for a long moment as a million different thoughts slipped through his head. He'd forgotten somehow in the last week how much he hated Draco Malfoy. Certainly he'd been pissed off, but it hadn't been hate that had driven him to jealousy. It hadn't been hate that had made his eyes find Draco every single time he walked in a room. It hadn't been hate that had made him stay up nights trying to figure out how to win a game where victory was beginning to seem more and more like an impossible dream. He could, perhaps, focus on the fact that in the end Draco hadn't allowed him to touch the broom. He could just conveniently forget that Draco seemed to be running him in constant circles. After all, who was he to cast stones? They used each other. Just as Dumbledore had used them. But...
He really had thought that something had changed between them in this past week. Between all those hot kisses and quiet confessions. Between the playful bickering and the full-blown fights. He'd thought things were different, but in the end, nothing had changed. Draco Malfoy was still Draco Malfoy and he was still Harry Potter, and the world was not so simple as it seemed when they were alone in darkened corridors. In the end it didn't matter that Draco Malfoy made his blood burn. In the end it didn't matter that Draco had saved him. In the end all that mattered was that nothing had changed, because they weren't friends or lovers or any other simple label. They just were. And sometimes, like now, he was of the opinion that this boy who was not his lover and not his friend could be an absolute and complete...
"Bastard," Harry murmured, turning away from Draco and stomping off into the woods. He didn't wait to see the expression on Draco's face. Didn't want to see it, because he didn't want anything to soften his heart just now. Things had to change.
Everything had to change.
He'd spent the last year and a half playing the passive observer, waiting for something to happen. Anything to happen-- and life had gone on around him without so much as a by-your-leave. He wasn't a tool to be used at will. He wasn't just the boy who fucking lived.
He'd begun to realize something a week ago when he'd been alone with Draco in the third floor corridor. He'd begun to realize that he wanted things. Not because it was what was right. Or because it was what was fair, but simply because he wanted them.
He wanted to kill Voldemort. Not because it was the right thing to do. But for his own reasons, no matter how selfish they might be.
There was something important in that.
That he finally wanted to do something for his own reasons rather than someone else's.
He'd also begun to realize that there were also things he didn't want.
He didn't want to be used by others, even if their intentions were good.
He didn't want to simply follow the direction in which others led him.
And he sure as hell didn't want to play by the rules, especially Draco's rules.
So what did that mean for him and Draco?
Was he still playing Draco's game?
He'd play to the bitter end, but not the for the reasons he'd had at first. Not even for the reasons he'd explained to Hermione or Ron. No, he would continue playing this game so that he could continue to be around this infuriating, lying, cheating, incredible boy. Because he never felt so alive as he did when he was arguing with Draco, talking with Draco, kissing Draco. But he wouldn't continue to play the game like this.
No, he'd come to a decision about that as well, if only in the last minute or so.
It was time to change the rules. Time to do more than react to Draco's mood swings and his faulty loyalties. It was time for a new game.
"Where are you going?" Draco called, and he sounded annoyed.
"Somewhere far away from you!" He called back, not bothering to turn and look. He didn't need to. He knew Draco was standing just where he had left him, staring after him in confusion.
"And what am I supposed to do then, huh?"
"Why don't you fly back to Hogwarts on my broom?" Harry suggested, almost laughing. He had to laugh. If he didn't laugh, he just might cry.
"Very funny, Potter! Would you get back here?! I have no intention of chasing you down!"
"Of course not, I'm usually the one doing the chasing in this relationship, aren't I?"
"Fuck you, Potter."
"No, Malfoy, fuck you," Harry replied cheerfully as he disappeared into the forest.
"Professor? May I have a word?"
Albus Dumbledore glanced up from the stack of correspondence on his desk to find Harry leaning against his doorframe. He wasn't surprised by Harry's presence. He'd been expecting him. He'd known all day that Harry Potter would eventually come knocking at his door after that Quidditch debacle. He'd even debated going to see Harry in that infirmary that morning, but it seemed more natural somehow to allow Harry to come to him. The only odd thing about this meeting was that he hadn't heard the boy enter, but, perhaps, he was simply getting old. "Yes, yes, Harry. Come in."
Harry nodded and slipped into the room. There was something new in the way he moved, a purpose to his step which had been missing this last year. Albus wondered at this miraculous change, knowing that the cause no doubt had something to do with the strange relationship between Harry and Draco Malfoy. Usually, Harry would have waited to be invited to sit, but today he perched himself on the edge of a chair almost immediately, and Harry's guarded gaze surveyed him with an intensity that Albus had never seen before. It was unsettling in a way, but also terribly intriguing. Just yesterday, Harry's gaze had been lackluster and vaguely purposeful at best, and now... Albus folded his arms across the desk and waited patiently for Harry to speak.
"Professor, I don't want to take up much of your time, so I'll get right to the point. You used us to try and draw out the wizard who attacked me last week, didn't you?" Harry asked, his brilliant gaze meeting Albus' with, surprisingly, no anger or recrimination.
"Yes," Albus answered simply, deciding that for the first time in many years a direct answer would likely be for the best.
"Don't do it again," Harry replied, his voice soft but firm. "I understand what you were trying to do. You've trusted me before, Professor. You give us hints and clues instead of telling us anything outright, always trusting us to find the answers on our own. And now this. Do you understand that he could have been killed? Malfoy could have been killed and yet another person would have died because of me. I may hate him to the depths of my soul, but he still deserves better then being speared on the end of a hook and cast into the depths. Trust me to take care of my own problems, Professor."
"As you wish, Harry. I only hope you know what it is you are asking of me."
"I do, Professor."
"Then I shall not interfere again."
"Thank you, sir."
"No, thank you, Harry."
Their gazes held for several long moments before Harry nodded and stood, leaving the office without another word. Albus watched him leave in silence, and even when the echoing sound of Harry's footsteps were nothing more than a memory, he continued to gaze at the place in which Harry Potter had stood, locking the moment away in his memory with so many others like it. Moments where something had changed irrevocably. It seemed only yesterday that Severus Snape had been standing in that very same spot declaring that he would spy for the side of light. Only yesterday that Lily and James had stood there announcing that they would soon be parents. Only yesterday that he had broken the news of Sirius' imprisonment and Lily, James, and Peter's deaths to Remus Lupin as he stood in that very spot.
Severus, a look of grim determination on his narrow face.
James with his arms wrapped around his new wife, his hand resting lightly on the gentle swell of her belly, both grinning like fools.
Remus, his head down and his shoulders stiff as he accepted the news of a tragedy beyond compare.
And now Harry.
Harry standing alone before him and demanding to be allowed to face his fate on his own terms.
Albus Dumbledore settled his head against his hands, suddenly feeling each and every one of his hundred and fifty-six years. For the first time in a long time, he mourned the loss of friends long dead. He was not a man to live much in the past, but he couldn't help wishing that Lily and James were here to see the great man their son was becoming.
"What the fuck was that? Do you enjoy walking the bloody razor's edge, Zabini?"
"Oh! You're upset! I was hoping you would be!" Blaise clapped his hands enthusiastically, looking for all the world like a child who had just been promised their favorite candy.
"Then you got your wish. I remember saying, specifically, to make it something simple. I certainly didn't tell you to drop me in the middle of the damn forest!"
"Oh, but I didn't drop you in the forest, Malfoy. I was only responsible for your broom going out of control."
"All right. I can't yell at you for that, but I sure as hell can yell at you for that little incident in Magical Creatures. What were you thinking mentioning that... that summer in front of them?"
"I don't know why you're upset about that. Your flunkies have already managed to puzzle out your part of what happened after fourth year. They're so much smarter then they look. Parkinson, too. They're terribly loyal to you. I haven't been able to get them to so much as whisper about you behind your back." Blaise stretched, then lay back against the table he'd been sitting on, staring up at the ceiling. "Hm. They really should do better maintenance on the lower levels. I've never seen so many cracks in stone."
"Hm? Oh, sorry. What were we talking about?" Blaise blinked and sat back up, his gaze obviously confused.
Draco sighed inwardly, rubbing at his temples with some annoyance. He'd had a headache since he'd left the infirmary that morning and talking with Zabini only made it worse. Having a conversation with Blaise was trying at the best of times. Ever since he'd ended up on the wrong end of Voldemort's wand, Blaise had been unfocused at the best of times and stark raving mad at the worst. Today seemed to be one of his better days. He wasn't hexing first-years or singing riddles, but that didn't make serious conversations any easier. "We've finished talking about what we were talking about. Let's just move on to Harry Potter."
Blaise smiled, his mad eyes locking with Draco's once more, "Ah, now that is something worth talking about. Is he as interesting as he looks?"
"Yes, but that's hardly the point. The point is, I don't want you talking to him."
"Does he see through our little charade? Or is it just you he sees through?"
"He's a Gryffindor; when I speak, he believes my words are truth."
A surprised laugh bubbled from Blaise's throat and his smile widened. "You wouldn't be asking me not to talk to him if you truly believed that. Besides, I've seen the way he looks at you. He has your number, Draco."
"What is it with you fucking half-bloods? Always with the Muggle slang."
Blaise giggled, pulling his knees against his chest. "If you don't like it, why don't you try learning a bit more about the culture you're so eager to snuff out?"
Draco's gaze narrowed. "You were spying on us. You nasty little voyeur."
"You didn't really think I'd buy that Bloody Baron bit, did you? He sounds nothing like the Baron. Though that phantom wind was rather impressive. His powers are growing stronger, just as he said they would. He'll want his pound of flesh before the year is out, Malfoy. Mark my words."
"Perhaps if you tried not to sound so much like the Mad Hatter all the time, I would."
"You actually read the book I gave you? I'm shocked. A Malfoy lowering himself to reading Muggle literature; the devil must be ice-skating in hell after that one. Did you read the Poe as well?"
"Yes, and I understood the symbolism behind your gifts as well, Zabini. Death and madness, the two things which bind our fate. Very nicely done, and my father didn't suspect a thing. Though he did wrinkle his nose a bit at the thought of my reading them. Did you like your birthday present?"
Blaise grinned, and for a moment the demons receded, and he was the boy he'd been before Voldemort had stolen away portions of both his soul and his sanity. "Lovely. Handmade gifts are always best. Especially gifts of protection. I adore the fact that you are willing to protect me, but you do not trust me. It's what makes you so interesting."
"Blaise, you're two steps from a lovely padded room at St. Mungo's. That does not inspire confidence."
"Yet you trust me enough to measure the loyalty of those around you. In your way you are as naive as you accuse him of being."
"Hardly. He thinks the world is good and just."
"Not anymore. He's a realist. I've been watching him, listening to him. He pulls himself from his friends, separates from those around him to assure their safety. To protect them, because he doesn't trust them to protect themselves. Just as you do not trust those around you."
"I don't trust those around me because one of them will end up putting a knife in my back."
"So true. I think Millicent would very much like to be the one who bears that knife. I think she would lick the blood from the blade as you lay dying at her feet."
"I'd never let Millicent close enough to touch me, much less put a knife in my back. So she came crying to you after all?"
"Indeed." Blaise's face twisted and his gentle tenor dropped in a fair impression of Millicent's gravelly voice. "'He thinks he's so much better then the rest of us. So much higher because he's a Pureblood and his father's within the Dark Lord's inner circle. So much better.'"
"Hm. She's bad-mouthing me, but she's being cautious. She doesn't trust you. She's smarter then I gave her credit for."
"She's also going to be dangerous. You weren't the only person she wanted to talk about. She knows Parkinson's been sneaking out. She even knows where she's been going. She doesn't buy the act the two of you have been putting on."
"She hasn't done anything yet, but I think I'll have to interfere soon if you don't want that particular secret passed about like biscuits at tea time."
"Do what you have to do. If you can't resolve this, use a memory charm to shut her up."
"As you wish. She's ideal for spreading rumors about you and your little honeybun as well, by the way."
"He's not my honeybun."
"Really? Could have fooled me. You can't control him, Draco. I think you're a fool to try."
"Everyone has to have a hobby."
Blaise smiled. "Too true. Why not simply brew yourself some poison to drink? It would be faster."
"But not nearly as fun. I know what I'm doing, Blaise."
"Do you really, Draco? I don't think you do. I don't think you have any idea. You didn't plan on getting involved with him."
"I make virtue of necessity, Blaise."
"No. You care for him. I know you care for him."
"Does he know yet, Draco? Does he know that you've brought death to the ball?"
"I'm tired of talking to you, Zabini. I'm going to go."
"Say hello to Potter for me."
"I won't be seeing him. I'm going to my bed. My own lovely, private bed."
"And you'll be missing the warmth of his body the whole time you're in it."
"Doesn't matter. You said it yourself: he's chasing death every time he touches me."
"Ain't that the truth."
"Good night, Blaise. Don't dream."
"You know I have no more dreams, Draco."
A month passed during which Draco found himself locked away in the Restricted Section, more often than not, perusing books in search of something that might help rid him of the marks on his back, or at least figure out what the spell had been which had left them behind. He didn't like surprises, and that one -- during the first Quidditch match of the season, no less! -- had certainly been a surprise. It was most unfair that he should be caught up in something that hadn't a damn thing to do with him.
His father's latest letters had been of little help in figuring out what had been going on except to make it clear that his father obviously knew about it. The most recent letter, which had arrived only two days after the Quidditch rematch, had read simply:
Matters are progressing quickly with or without your assistance, as you have no doubt realized. It is not my wish that you should be so involved in the proceedings, but since you have been most obstinate in your refusal to play your part in it, there was little choice. The world is a dangerous place, my son. I would recommend you consider your options carefully before proceeding further in your endeavors.
His father never signed his missives or addressed them. Caution was a hard lesson learned, and Lucius Malfoy had learned that lesson well after Voldemort's unfortunate meeting with an infant Harry Potter. It was almost funny how often the Potters ended up being the source of the Malfoys' problems. His father had actually mentioned once that the fates of their two families were hopelessly intertwined; Draco hadn't believed him until recently. Of course, he hadn't believed a lot of things his father had said until recently. So he was left to muddle through endless texts alone, searching for the spell which had left him and Harry with identical scars, and wondering when it was exactly that Harry had become 'Harry' rather than 'Potter' in his thoughts.
Though he was almost grateful for the distraction that this research offered. It kept him from dwelling too much on Harry.
Stupid, insufferable, sexy Harry and how much he missed him.
Missed fighting with him, arguing with him, and kissing him most of all.
They hadn't spoken since that last exchange in the forest, even though they'd spent the night in the infirmary together. A search party of teachers, including (surprise, surprise) Dumbledore and McGonagall had found them about five minutes after that last fight. He was still furious about that, actually.
He'd risked his father's anger to save that ungrateful prat and the bastard hadn't even had the good sense to thank him. He could admit that Harry did have some right to be angry with him. After all, he'd been a hair's-breadth from allowing Harry to take hold of the broom and finally fulfilling his duties. It had been Harry's attempt to make him smile that had tripped him up.
He'd heard Potter say his name on three or four different occasions now, but it still affected him the same way. It still made his heart seize up in his chest. It still made him want impossible things. It still hurt and it only hurt more the closer they got to Christmas.
"Damn you, Potter. Damn you," Draco whispered into the silent room. "I can't afford to care about you."
It wasn't until a Saturday afternoon in early December that he found anything even remotely interesting, and if his father hadn't forced him to learn Latin when he was younger, he probably wouldn't have found it at all: a brief reference to a protection spell which was used to protect people from themselves. It was outlawed because it was too dangerous and often led to death, though it wasn't quite clear what about it led to death or why, but since it hadn't been used legally since the 1300s, the lack of details really wasn't all that surprising.
The following morning, Draco found a pair of healing spells which could, theoretically, be used to remove the scars left behind by Dark magic. He vaguely recognized them from experience, and wrinkled his nose a bit at the thought of using either; however, they were really all he had to go on at the moment. He copied the instructions for both spells onto a fresh sheet of parchment, before continuing his perusal of the last pile of books he'd found which looked in the least bit promising.
By early afternoon, he'd finished scanning the last book without finding anything else of use. It was then that he decided that he might as well go find Harry, and see if he couldn't persuade the Gryffindor to allow him to try out the healing spells on him.
As he was on his way out of the library, he noticed Harry's Mudblood sitting at one of the tables, nearly invisible behind a wall of books. "Granger."
Hermione glanced up, her eyes widening in shock, "Malfoy?"
"Where's Potter hiding at? I don't feel like chasing around here all afternoon looking for him."
"What do you want with Harry?"
"I want to fuck him up against a wall. What does it matter to you, Granger? Just tell me where he's at."
"Haven't you hurt him enough?"
"Granger. I am not having this discussion with you of all people. It's his choice, you know. I didn't force him to play this game with me."
"Maybe not, but you can put a stop to it."
"Now why would I want to do that?"
"Why would you warn me to protect him?"
"Sod off, Granger. I'll find him on my own," Draco growled. He was halfway to the exit when he heard Granger call his name. He hesitated and then turned about to find the dark-haired girl hovering above her chair.
"He's on the Quidditch pitch. He's been going out there in his spare time every day for the past month. Something about looking for clues as to who attacked the two of you during the first game. I don't know what he hopes to find."
"...Thanks," Draco murmured, meeting Hermione's dark gaze for a long moment before fleeing the room.
Harry was just coming back from yet another fruitless day of searching when he saw Draco striding over the lawn towards him. He sighed, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans, and glared at the blond boy. He looked nice: the bruises had faded from his face and he was left looking pale, somber and... well, rather handsome. He'd finally gotten around to cutting his hair so that it was neat and clipped once more, but he hadn't bothered to slick it back and so the chin-length strands framed his face, softening his sharp features. He was dressed in a tan turtleneck and black slacks, a far cry from the leather pants and black spiderweb combination from that fateful night they'd spent together in Harry's bed. Strange how such different looks both suited him so well.
Draco broke Harry's reflections as he came to a stop a few feet before him. "Potter."
"Malfoy," Harry replied cautiously. He hadn't seen Draco in nearly a month, not since the night they'd spent in the hospital wing studiously ignoring each other. Well, that wasn't entirely true. He'd seen him. Seen him. Longed for him. Dreamed of him. Lusted after him. He just hadn't spoken to him. "Do you want something? Can't imagine you'd risk being seen with me if you didn't want something."
"Well, that's about right. I've been doing a bit of reading and..."
"Yes, Potter, I can read, you know," Draco replied, gamely. "How do you think I learned all those interesting facts about the forest and all that other rot?"
"Who knows? I was thinking you just made all that up. Wouldn't put it past you," Harry replied conversationally, striding past the blond.
"Oh, well, that's uncalled for. I neglect to mention one little thing..."
"You don't think this is just about you forgetting to mention that nasty curse, do you?"
"What the hell else could it be about?"
"Let me know when you've figured it out."
Draco darted around to walk in front of Harry. It took a lot of coordination to walk uphill backwards without tripping over your own feet, but Draco managed remarkably well. "Oh. My. God. Could you please just act a bit more like a girl, Potter? Why don't you just tell me what's got your knickers in such a twist?"
"Maybe I'm just tired of you lying to me. Or maybe I'm just starting to get a bit annoyed by the fact that I've got this evil dark lord plotting new and exciting ways to roast me over a fire, while all I can think about is throwing you up against the wall."
Draco smirked, "That's hardly my fault, is it?"
"No, I suppose not. But I could point out that you were the one who kissed me first."
"That's hardly the point, Potter."
"I could also point out that you were the one who started this game."
"Are we still playing, Potter? It's been rather hard to tell these past couple weeks."
"Oh, we're still playing, Malfoy, and you damn well know it. Call it Round Two."
"Ah, and what is it that makes Round Two so different from Round One?"
"Hm. Have you really changed so much in a few weeks?"
"I'll let you be the judge, Malfoy."
"Well, you know how much I love judging you, Potter."
"I do. So, why was it exactly that you conveniently forgot to mention that someone had put a curse on my broomstick?" Draco's sunny expression clouded up so fast that it brought a laugh to Harry's lips. He was really beginning to get the hang of this. "Oh, don't worry, Malfoy. I'm not going to make you answer that just now. We'll just wait until you want to answer it."
"Which will be never, Potter."
"So you say, so you say. I'm still a bit pissed about that, you do realize that?"
"What have you got to be pissed about? I saved you in the end, didn't I?"
"Only because you want to play with me a bit more before killing me off."
"You know me so well." Draco stopped, forcing Harry to stop as well to keep from running into him. "C'mon, Potter, if I really wanted to hurt you, I'd have done it already."
"Fine," Harry replied, deliberately stepping closer to the blond. "I like your hair."
"Do you?" Draco murmured, his eyelids drooping a bit as Harry reached out and tucked a lock of blond hair back behind his ear, fingers lingering against Draco's cheek.
"Yes," Harry whispered, touching his lips briefly to the tip of Draco's nose before drawing back and smiling. "Now, why don't you just tell me what it is you want so that I can tell you no and we can both get on with our day?"
Draco's eyes widened suddenly and he glared at Harry irritably. "And you call me a bastard."
"Well, you know what they say about the pot and the kettle..." Harry trailed off, smiling as Draco's scowl deepened.
"No, I don't know what they say about the pot and the kettle, you Muggle-bred moron," Draco grumbled, folding his arms across his chest and shifting his weight uncomfortably from one foot to the other. "Look, I just came out here to tell you that I think I might have found a way to get rid of these marks on our backs. I think it's worth a shot."
"Sounds too good to be true. What's the catch?"
"Well, I'm not absolutely certain it'll work, but I think it's worth a try."
"You're not going to tell me any details until I agree, are you?"
"All right. What do I have to do?"
"I'll meet you up in your room tonight and show you."
"And how exactly are you going to manage that?"
"I still remember your password, Potter."
"Not hardly. I made sure they changed it after the match. No sense in taking any more stupid chances."
"So, what do you propose we do, Potter? Can't exactly be working spells like these out in the open."
"Oh thank you for that ominous little comment," Harry grumbled, rolling his eyes as Draco grinned. "How about I meet you in the Astronomy Tower at midnight. If it's good enough for a duel, it's good enough for this."
"No. Meet me outside the dungeons instead. It'll still be cold, but at least you'll have something to lie on other than the stone floor."
"Are we doing spells or having sex tonight, Malfoy?"
"Come to the dungeons tonight and you'll find out, Potter."
Harry tore his gaze from Draco's smirking face and strode off towards the castle once more.
It was a full five minutes before he realized that he'd just agreed to meet Draco alone in the dungeons, which couldn't possibly bode well. A full hour after that, while he was sitting in the Gryffindor common room, glowering at the fire, he decided there was no way in hell he was going near the dungeons tonight. However, ten minutes past midnight, he was fumbling about collecting his glasses, wand, and cloak before stumbling out to make his meeting with Draco.
When Harry reached the entrance to the dungeons, Draco was leaning against the wall, tapping one foot impatiently as he leafed through a slim stack of parchment. The Slytherin glanced up at his approach, his intelligent gaze finding Harry easily enough, even though he was still hidden within the folds of his cloak. "I was beginning to think you weren't coming."
Harry dropped his hood, raising an eyebrow at the blond. "Yet you still waited for me."
"Well, I didn't have anything else to do. My nights never seem to be as interesting when you're not around."
"Interesting? Well, that's one way of putting it. So what are we here to do?"
"Straight to business. Lovely. For a moment I was afraid we were going to have one of those sickening bonding moments during which we would accidentally set things right, and that would be a bloody tragedy. Now either pull up that hood or take off the cloak and follow me, Potter."
"You don't enjoy the floating head trick?"
"No, it's rather disturbing, as I'm sure you realize. Come along, Potter, I haven't got all night."
In the end, Harry removed his cloak, folding it over his arm as he followed Draco into the dungeons. They walked in silence through the maze of corridors until Harry began to realize that he wouldn't be able to find his way back out alone. He'd never realized the dungeons were so complicated. He certainly couldn't imagine living down here. He could hear small things scurrying about in the darkness, tiny nails clicking against the stone floors. It wasn't just cold either; the dungeons were also horribly damp, and he suspected that the feel of these twisted corridors would cling to his skin long after he'd left them behind.
They finally came to a stop before a wooden door, which Draco pushed open, ushering him inside and closing the door behind them. It was a small room that was completely bare of furnishings, except for a few random benches which looked decidedly the worse for wear, and a pile of rumpled blankets which sat in the center of the room. Candles floated in the air about the room, casting strange shadows across the grimy stone walls. "What is this place?" Harry asked, turning his gaze at last to the boy at his side.
"It's an old Potions classroom. Students who were planning to join Voldemort when they left Hogwarts used to meet here to discuss their plans in secret. My father told me about this place during my second year here. He talked like it held bad memories and after he.... Well, during fifth year, I started coming here when I wanted a bit of time alone. This was also the room in which the Bloody Baron met his demise. Did you know, Potter, that only wizards and witches killed by non-magical means become ghosts? No one is really sure why that is, but only those who were slain by Muggles have ever become ghosts."
"Why are you telling me all this?"
"I don't know," Draco replied, shrugging vaguely before drawing his wand and murmuring a few words beneath his breath. The walls of the room seemed to flash red for a moment as Draco finished speaking, indicating that some sort of wards had just been put into effect. Draco smiled at Harry's stunned expression as he set his wand aside on a nearby bench. "Silence spell. Wouldn't want anyone to hear you scream, and come running down here to save you. Now, take off your shirt."
"Malfoy... what exactly do you think you're doing?"
"Shh... you're spoiling the moment."
"I'm spoiling the moment? You're... oh... that's good... do that again..."
"Oh, you like that, do you?"
"Yes... do it again... oh... just like that..." Harry gasped, his eyes fluttering closed as a wave of pleasure swept over him. "Harder..."
"Masochist," Draco chuckled, digging his fingers into Harry's bare back.
"Shut up, Malfoy."
"That's hardly polite. If you aren't nicer, I might just stop."
"You wouldn't dare."
"Wouldn't I? Right then, deep breath, Potter. This is going to hurt like hell. "
As usual, Draco Malfoy's words were something of an understatement.
"Oh, fuck!" Harry screamed, burying his face against his arm, the pain which lanced through his back overwhelming the momentary pleasure. He repeated the expletive several more times because he just couldn't think clearly enough to say anything else as spikes of pain slipped through his bare skin. After an eternity the pain faded and he could feel Malfoy's hands against his back once more, kneading the tender flesh. "Malfoy..." Harry managed weakly, a few tears leaking from the corners of his tightly shut eyes. "It... it..."
"It hurts, I know," Draco whispered, a rare kindness sweeping over him as he pressed a gentle kiss against the top of the Gryffindor's black locks. "I know... The few healing spells which fall into the realm of the Dark Arts are extraordinarily painful. I've had this one cast on me more than once. I know how much it hurts. Try to concentrate on something else."
"Easy for you to say," Harry grumbled, his back still throbbing with pain.
"No, it's not," Draco replied, pressing his lips against the back of Harry's neck as his hands continued to work against the protesting muscles of Harry's back. "It's not easy for me. None of this is easy for me. Nothing that happens between us is ever easy. Can you feel my hands?"
"Good. No nerve damage then. There's always a chance of that," Draco murmured, drawing back and settling himself once more against Harry's jean-clad hips. He scrutinized Harry's back and frowned at the sight which greeted his narrowed gaze. "Oh, bloody hell..."
"That's sounds a bit like I just went through that nasty spell for nothing. No luck?" Harry murmured tiredly, turning to glance over his shoulder at the Slytherin.
"No. Bloody marks are still there. Clear as bloody day," Draco grumbled irritably. "This is beginning to piss me off. I suppose I could try..."
"No. No. Absolutely not. As interesting as it is being your little lab monkey, Malfoy, I'm going to have to decline another round."
"Well, you're no fun."
"Yes, well, next time you can be the lab monkey and we'll see how much fun you are. Now, get off," Harry muttered, sighing as Draco crawled off to sit on the floor beside him. They'd made a makeshift bed of the blankets Draco had brought to the room, but Harry had realized early on that blankets did little to prevent the cold of the dungeon floor from creeping into his skin.
"What's a lab monkey, anyway?" Draco wrinkled his nose in distaste. "Is it something like a familiar?"
"Something like that," Harry replied, carefully pushing himself into a sitting position so that he could see Draco clearly. "So, do you think it's safe to say that healing spells are not the way to go with this?"
"Seems that way, but I didn't find anything else in the Restricted Section which looked like it would be of any help," Draco grumbled. He drew his turtleneck over his head, folding it neatly before setting it on the corner of the makeshift bed. "There is one more I'd like to try, though. If you're up for it, that is."
"Not that I'm complaining, but what's with the striptease?" Harry inquired, his gaze roaming across the pale planes of Draco's bare chest.
"You get to perform the spell this time, Potter. Only fair."
"This is forbidden magic, isn't it?"
"Of course. Why else would it be in the Restricted Section?"
"Then why the hell do I have to do it?"
"Just covering my bases, Potter. Wouldn't be smart of me to perform outlawed magic unless I had some assurance you wouldn't turn me in."
"I suppose not, but I don't know the first thing about..."
"I'll walk you through it. It's really not as awfully difficult as it sounds," Draco replied, settling himself face-down on the floor, not even bothering to lie on the blankets. He winced against the cold stones before settling his chin on top of the pile they'd made of their discarded robes. "Might want to perch over my hips, like I was doing with you; it makes things a touch easier."
"Okay," Harry murmured, moving to straddle Draco's hips before finally glancing down at Draco's bare back. The sight which greeted his gaze wrung a startled cry from his throat.
"Oh.... God," he whispered after a moment, gaping down at the dark scars which marred Draco's back in criss-cross patterns. Near the base of his spine, Harry found the marks of the protection spell, but they didn't begin to explain the other scars. Nothing he could think of explained the scars on Draco's back. "What happened to you?"
Draco tensed, muscles tightening, shoulders rigid. "Whatever do you mean?"
"These scars," Harry murmured touching tentative fingertips to the furrowed scars; they were rough beneath his touch. "What happened to you?"
"You shouldn't be able to see those scars, Potter." Draco responded, turning his head to glare back at Harry.
"Kind of hard to miss them, Malfoy."
"You don't understand."
"Then explain it to me."
"You know that there are charms, spells specifically used to alter a person's appearance. I've been using a few to keep those scars hidden for over a year. You shouldn't be able to see those scars. I'd never have let you see my back if I'd thought you would."
"Well, I can. Who... what did this to you?" Harry whispered, pressing his chest against Draco's back.
"I live in a house with its own custom-built dungeon. My father has a rather impressive collection of medieval torture devices, and I was a very naughty boy the summer before last. You do the math."
Draco shivered at the sound of his name on Harry's lips. He was getting used to that sound, learning to love how that voice framed his given name with magic. How it sunk into his skin, branding itself against his soul. He could swear that he had heard that voice whispering his name when he'd moaned into his pillow in the dead of night. And he had often found himself on the verge of gasping Harry's name during those desperate moments on the edge of the abyss. Compared to the dark joy of his given name on Harry's lips, Draco could think of little that thrilled him more. Or terrified him as much. "Don't call me that. Please don't ever call me that."
"Sorry," Harry murmured, pressing a kiss against Draco's upturned cheek. "I'm sorry your father hurt you like this."
"It wasn't my father that scarred my back, Potter," Draco growled. "I've hidden this from him as well."
"Never mind, Potter. Let's just try the spell so we can both get some sleep, okay?"
"Whatever you want," Harry replied, drawing back and pressing his palms against the scars nearest Draco's waist. "What do I do?"
"We're going to reopen the wounds and close them again. It's a tactic often used in torture. I'm going to tell you the entire process, because once you open the wounds I won't be in the best condition to hold your hand through the rest of it."
"Are you sure about this?"
"You're a powerful wizard, Potter, and this is a fairly simple spell as these things go."
"All right, what do I do?"
"Press your hands against the wounds like you're doing and picture the wounds splitting open. Picture the flesh tearing apart and then when you feel blood seeping up around your fingers, picture the skin closing up, melding back together. Picture the skin smooth and flawless to the touch."
"Don't I need my wand? Aren't there any words?"
"You won't need the wand or the words. Most torture spells have been adjusted to be performed without the use of a wand to avoid that nasty reversal spell. A wand acts as a focus for magic, it amplifies and restrains. You're powerful enough that you shouldn't require a wand to do this spell. Just focus, concentrate, and it'll be fine."
"I don't think I can do this."
"Look, Potter, if I didn't know you could do this, I wouldn't let you try it on me. Just take a deep breath and get to it."
"I don't want to hurt you."
"You won't hurt me, Potter. I'll never let you hurt me."
"Okay," Harry whispered, his voice shaky as he closed his eyes and set about picturing the delicately ridged skin beneath his fingertips tearing open, splitting apart beneath his touch and spilling blood. He pictured the flesh ripping and he could feel it as warm blood bubbled forth, covering his fingers, and he heard Draco's scream like a distant cry as he pictured that flesh mending itself once more, smooth and flawless perfection beneath his fingertips. Flesh cool and warm at once beneath the thick layer of spilled blood. He knew that if he wanted he could open that flesh once more; he could spill that warm blood until the body cooled and died. And it frightened him.
And thrilled him.
And that was perhaps the worst of it.
When he opened his eyes he found Draco kneeling in front of him, hands cupping his shoulders, shaking him. "Potter! Potter!"
Harry gazed at him for a long, dazed moment before glancing down at his hands to find them clean of blood. If there'd even been any blood on them to begin with.
Harry glanced back up to find Draco's face a bare inch from his own. Before he could think of what he was doing, Harry closed that last inch and caught Draco's lips blindly with his own.
There was no thought, no doubt, just the need to feel Draco's lips beneath his. To know that he had not given in to that momentary temptation and that this body was still warm and alive and whole. He needed to map the curves of this body with fingers, lips. Memorize the texture of skin and jutting bone. Explore the depths of this soul as best he could, using this body as his vessel. The need to open Draco's mouth and plunder those warm depths overwhelmed any possibility of thinking or stopping.
The next few moments passed in a blur of skin and touch, warmth and wetness.
A soft muffled cry escaping Draco's mouth as he pushed fingers through Harry's tousled hair.
Soft yanks and tugs as his fingers worked through the tangles.
Harry's arms wrapping around Draco's waist, pulling him closer.
The warmth of skin against skin and the thrill of thrusting hips.
Draco's teeth against his neck, bruising the skin.
His lips dusting kisses across Draco's cheekbones.
Draco's voice, a harsh, broken whisper. "Need you... so much..."
He felt Draco's fingers struggling with the fastenings on his trousers and reached down to help, allowing Draco to shove his trousers off as he bit at Draco's collarbone.
The thought splashed over him like cold water, and he snapped to himself to find that they were both still clothed, barely, in boxer shorts and the trousers that were still tangled about Draco's ankles. His legs were locked around Draco's waist, their hips grinding together almost painfully as Draco clung to him, mouth buried against his throat to muffle his moans. Harry swallowed, his fingers tangled in Draco's soft blond hair.
His body was too hot, almost feverish, and he heard someone groan, loud and low and deep, and realized that it was he.
"Draco?" he whispered, and he felt the blond jerk, as if awakening from a dream.
"Don't... call... me... that," Draco panted, drawing back enough to look at Harry with an unfocused gaze. "What are we... We shouldn't be doing this, Potter."
"I realize that," Harry replied, untangling his legs from Draco's waist and slipping out of the blond's embrace. His body screamed its protest at the move, and it took more self-control than he'd previously thought himself capable of to keep from throwing Draco to the floor and finishing what they'd started. He continued to scoot backwards until he was seated on the icy stone floor.
The cold helped a bit, bringing back sense and logic and distracting him from the very sexy, nearly naked Slytherin sitting across from him. When his body had calmed enough that he was sure he wasn't going to try and jump Draco again, Harry raised his gaze to find Draco staring at him. He couldn't read the emotions in that gaze, but he knew they were there, swimming just beneath the surface. For a long moment they just stared at each other, neither able or willing to say anything.
Finally Harry managed to turn his gaze away, swallowing hard, "Malfoy."
Draco chuckled softly, and it was a rough, brittle sound. "Do you realize, Potter, that I always thought I was the one with the iron will in this twisted little relationship of ours?"
"I can't say I'm surprised. You are rather snotty that way."
"Too right. But I'll tell you this: if you hadn't been the one to put some distance between us, it wouldn't have gotten done."
"You're the one who said we shouldn't, Malfoy."
"I know what I said, Potter," Draco snapped, pulling his legs up against his chest and resting his chin against them. "It would have been a fucking disaster, but I couldn't have pulled away from you. If you'd done anything but exactly what you did, the only sound in this room would have been me shouting the bloody roof down."
Harry's lips quirked into a smile at that. "You certainly have high expectations of me."
"I'm very vocal in everything I do, Potter," Draco grumbled irritably. "I'm perfectly aware of that fact, and it has very little to do with my expectations of you. Stop grinning like a bloody idiot already."
"Sorry, I can't help it. I'm suddenly wishing I'd had a chance to find out for myself."
"Shut up, Potter."
"All right, sorry. I'm sorry I jumped on you like that, too. I just... I don't know how to explain it."
"I think I do," Draco muttered. "That spell I had you perform has side effects, Potter. Increased passion is one of them. When it's used in a torture situation, it just increases the torturer's fervor. Makes him want to hurt the person he's torturing just that much more. It allows the torturer to go on for days without sleep or rest. Very efficient. I figured that it wouldn't have an effect on you because you weren't trying to torture me. Apparently, I was wrong. And... I suppose... I should have done more research before making you perform it. I'm.... sorry."
Harry couldn't help smiling at the grudging tone in Draco's voice. "You really hate admitting that you're wrong, don't you?"
"You're just figuring that out?" Draco grumbled, raising his gaze to Harry's once more. "I really am sorry, you know."
"I know. It's okay. We're both still in one piece, right?"
"I suppose. You know, even though it's a very, very bad idea, I..."
Draco laughed softly, shaking his head as he began the laborious process of wriggling back into his trousers, "I hate you, Harry Potter."
"I know. I hate you too, Malfoy."
"So where do we go from here?"
"I don't know."
"I thought you had all the answers, Potter."
"No, I don't even have most of them. Why did your broom go out of control last week?"
"Zabini jinxed it."
"Was that part of the plan?"
"What are you talking about?"
"You said that certain conditions had to be met before the curse on my broom went into effect. What were they?"
Draco smiled a bit as he picked up Harry's discarded trousers and tossed them at him, "Your neck is bleeding, Potter."
Harry blinked, touching his fingers to his neck and grimacing when they came away bloody. "Your fault," he grumbled, reaching out and wiping his fingers against Draco's blankets.
"I did that?" Draco inquired, the perfect picture of angelic innocence... if one didn't notice the horns holding up the halo.
"No, I bit my own throat," Harry muttered, stretching out stiff muscles as he stood and pulled on his trousers. He wasn't fooled by Draco's distractive tactics, but as annoying as his evasiveness was, he had no intention of pursuing the subject. After all, Draco wasn't the only one who knew the answers he sought.
"You're in too deep, Potter. I'm only going to betray you in the end. If you think that you're going to somehow pierce my defenses and discover that underneath all this hate and anger I'm really just a sad, lost boy in search of love and affection, you're going to be disappointed. I am exactly as I seem, Potter."
"There was never a doubt in my mind, Malfoy," Harry murmured, closing the distance between them. He held Draco's stormy gaze, "I trust you, Draco."
Draco made a soft sound, a half-moan as he buried his face against Harry's neck. "Please... don't... don't say it..."
"I love you," Harry whispered at last, bringing the other boy tight against him. He could feel Draco tense against him as the Slytherin began to laugh; it was a dark, half-crazed sound.
"Love him? You would love him, even after you've seen my mark burning against his skin?"
Harry gasped as pain shot through his forehead, and he stumbled back, releasing his hold on Draco. His vision cleared slowly and he found himself staring into the face of Tom Riddle as he bent over him, a sly smile curving his lips. "Ah, you must be a bit surprised, hm? This was an excellent plan, if only for the look on your pretty face."
"Where... where is Draco?" Harry managed, glaring up at his old adversary.
"Do you not realize yet? No, I suppose you wouldn't. You do truly trust him, don't you? He said as much, but I can't say I believed him until this moment. 'Potter trusts me, thinks he's in love with me. It won't be difficult to get him to say the words again.'" Tom grinned, and it was the congenial smile of the boy who'd fooled the world. "He told you that he would betray you. Rather too bad for you that you didn't believe him, isn't it?"
"Where is he?" Harry repeated, his voice strengthening as he slowly pushed himself to his feet.
"He is just here, Potter." Tom touched fingertips to his forehead and laughed, "This was his purpose. The reason he was born, to allow me access to Hogwarts at long last. To allow me access to you. Just as the child of Gryffindor and Slytherin would bring me to ruin, the child of the house of Malfoy would bring the child of Gryffindor and Slytherin to his knees... and to me."
"But he did, Harry Potter. It was his fate, to sit at my right hand, to bring you and I together once more. He is your love, your fate, your destruction. He was born to serve me, he can do no less." Tom smiled, meeting Harry's gaze directly as they stood facing each other, equals now in both height and power. "But you knew that, didn't you? It was his darkness that beckoned to you, after all..."
Harry found himself frozen to the spot as Tom's fingers slid across his cheek. He wanted to scream. Cry. Something. Anything. But instead he stood frozen as Tom leaned forward and brushed cool lips across his forehead. "It's high time you woke up... Harry."
Harry awoke with a start, his heart pounding loudly in his ears. Tom's laughter still echoed around him, through him, and when he felt a body shift beside him he almost screamed.
"Potter? What the--" Draco began, his voice heavy with sleep as he dragged himself up into a sitting position so that he could look at Harry properly. Whispering a curse at his inability to see in the dark, Draco drew his wand from beneath the robes he'd bundled up to serve as a pillow, "Lumos."
The wand's dim bluish light cast its haze across Harry's trembling lips, and Draco felt his expression softening in response. When he'd agreed that it was a good idea that they stay here and rest up a bit before undertaking the long trek back to their respective rooms, this wasn't what he thought he'd be waking up to. "Potter, what is it?"
"N-Nothing. Just... just a nightmare," Harry breathed, tucking his legs against his bare chest and wrapping his arms around them. "I have them sometimes."
Draco watched him closely for a long moment, his gaze narrowing. "Whatever was it about, Potter?"
"I... I don't remember."
"Fine. I do remember, but I don't want to talk about it. There are some things which weren't meant to be discussed in the dark."
Draco smirked, waving his glowing wand at Harry pointedly before shrugging. "That's true enough, I suppose. I read about a spell once which allowed you to send images to a person in the form of a dream, and if they spoke of the dream aloud under the cover of darkness, the dream would come true. Like there was this fellow who talked too much about the wrong sort of things, and he was sent a dream of his mouth being sewn shut with thick thread, and when he awoke he told his wife about the dream. Almost instantly, his lips were sealed by that same thick thread."
"Oh, isn't that lovely," Harry replied, managing a tentative smile. The dream seemed further away now, less threatening with the warmth of Draco's body beside him. Even now the memory of the dream seemed to be fading, the details becoming fuzzier with each passing moment.
"It's true," Draco replied, pressing a kiss against Harry's forehead before stretching languorously and sitting up. "Any idea how long we've been asleep?"
"Hell if I know. We should probably get going though," Harry murmured, following Draco's lead and pushing himself into a sitting position.
"I'm sure you're right. I'll take you as far as the entrance to the Slytherin common room. Think you can find your way from there?"
They finished dressing in silence and, once they were bundled in their robes once more, Draco led the way through the dungeons. When they reached the entrance to the Slytherin common room, Draco paused, staring hard at the wall. "I enjoyed sleeping with you again. Even if it was only for a couple of hours."
"I missed you too, Malfoy."
"Right, then. Good night, Potter."
"Good night, Malfoy."
Blaise clutched the torn parchment in his trembling hands, rereading the carefully printed message for what seemed like the hundredth time.
Harry Potter wanted to meet with him.
Oh, he should say no. He really, really should. Draco would be furious if he said yes. He'd be absolutely livid, but....
Blaise chewed at his bottom lip as he read over the short message again.
Curiosity killed the cat.
He wasn't really a cat.
And he really, really wanted to talk to him.
The Dark Lord's most hated opponent...
The boy who lived....
The boy who could save them all....
Or destroy them....
Oh, Draco would be angry....
But it would be worth it.
"Hm. So you're Harry Potter. I was rather wondering when I would finally have the pleasure of meeting you formally. I've heard so much about you." Blaise smiled. It wasn't a kind sort of smile.
"Funny, I haven't heard a thing about you."
"Liar, liar. You're the one who called this little tête-à-tête, so I imagine you've heard a thing or two about me, or we would not be here like this. I thought you little Gryffindors were all about honesty."
"Is honesty what you want, Zabini?"
"Oh, certainly not. If given the choice I always prefer lies. I rather enjoy them. I find that lies are often so much more interesting then the truth. Though I think your truth would be most... interesting, Harry Potter."
"If you're going to lie to a liar you should really get better at it. I could teach you if you like, Potter. Now, do tell me why I'm here?"
"I want to make a deal with you, Zabini."
"Oh? A deal? The great Harry Potter wishes to deal with me?" Blaise leapt onto the table and pulled his legs up against his chest, resting his chin against his jean-clad knees. His eyes were practically glowing with excitement. Harry shook his head- at least one of them was having a good time. "This should be most intriguing. I never imagined that you were calling me out to play, Potter. I hardly ever get to play with anyone outside my own house. Now, tell me, what do you propose?"
"Are you an honorable person, Zabini?"
"No, I'm a Slytherin. Being dishonorable is actually in my job description."
"Good to know. I want to play a game with you. Since the truth comes most naturally to me and lies most naturally to you, then we will ask each other a series of questions. I will answer truthfully and you will answer with lies. Yes or No questions. Anything goes. Would you like to play?"
"Draco has had the most wonderful influence on you, Potter. Let us play. Though, I do wonder, how will you be able to tell if my lies are true lies and not merely truths in disguise?"
"Easy." Harry held up his hand, and then offered it to the smiling boy. Blaise blinked, too startled to hide his surprise, and his dark eyes narrowed, showing some semblance of sanity for the first time since Harry had entered the room.
"Why are you offering your hand to me, Potter?" he asked after a moment's pause, and his voice sounded hesitant, cautious. Almost as if he were afraid of the answer Harry would give. Not for the first time, Harry wondered what had happened to Blaise to make him whatever it was he was now. Blaise had been normal once, just like he and Draco had been. He wasn't now. Whatever he was now, it wasn't sane, and it sure as hell wasn't normal.
"Give me your word, shake my hand, and I'll trust you to play by the rules."
A surprised burst of laughter escaped Blaise's lips, and he dropped his legs, hopping off the table in one fluid motion. Harry managed not to back away as Blaise strode towards him, but it was an effort. He kept his gaze firmly locked with the Slytherin's as the boy advanced on him; he was so intent on those eyes that it almost came as a shock when he felt warm fingers wrap around his own. "I like you, Potter. You're absolutely... precious. I can see why Draco enjoys his games with you so very much. You have my word, Potter. For whatever you think it's worth. I shall answer your questions only with lies from this moment forward."
"Lovely. Let's get to it then."
Blaise's lips quirked into a sly smile. "I am yours to command, Potter."
Harry couldn't help the answering smile that slipped onto his lips. "The lies begin. We play."
Blaise's smile turned empty and he released Harry's hand, moving to sit on the table once more. He left his legs dangling over the table's edge, swinging back and forth at an almost frantic pace as Harry seated himself on the table opposite him. "Come, come then, I haven't got all night," Blaise commented, though the excitement in his eyes said differently. He would have stayed here playing games all night long. Not so different from Draco after all.
"All right. Are you truly Draco's enemy?"
"Clever boy. Yes, of course I am," Blaise replied, smiling gleefully. He was having far too good a time. Harry was almost afraid of what his question would be. "Are you truly Draco's lover?"
Yes, there was definitely every reason to be afraid. "No. Are you a friend of Draco's?"
Blaise paused, considering, "Yes. Are you questioning me out of concern for his safety?"
"That's part of it, yes. Are you challenging him because he told you to do it?"
Blaise's smile widened. "You're quick, I'll give you that. No. Do you enjoy playing Draco's games?"
"Yes." All right, this was going to get old real fast. "Do you know what happened to Draco during the summer after fourth year?"
Blaise's eyes narrowed, and Harry could see his shoulders tremble, "No. Did you enjoy watching Cedric Diggory die?"
"No," Harry murmured. He'd definitely hit a sore point with that last question, but it probably wouldn't be a good idea to push that line of questioning too fast. "Do you know what happened to Draco because he told you?"
"Yes. Are you trying to convert Draco to your side?"
"Yes. Do you know what happened to Draco because you were there?"
"Be careful, Potter. This game can be over just as quickly as it began."
"If you want to keep playing, answer the question, Zabini."
"No," Blaise murmured, his voice too soft suddenly. "Don't ask me, Potter. Please don't ask me."
"I won't ask you for the details, Blaise. I'm not that cruel."
Blaise smiled a bit at that. "I know. Draco can corrupt you, but he can't cut your soul away."
"Do you think he would if he could?"
Blaise nodded, pulling his legs to his chest and hugging them tightly. "Maybe, but not to hurt you. Did you know that with the proper discipline the Cruciatus curse can damage the mind, but leave it essentially intact? It takes a great amount of skill and training, it's easier to simply break the mind into pieces. Easier and safer. However, the best and most loyal servants can be constructed through careful application of the Cruciatus curse. A mind can be crafted and honed through pain and madness to create the most useful tool at a wizard's disposal."
"Is that what happened to you?" Harry asked softly, feeling suddenly like a man tiptoeing across a thin sheet of ice.
"I think I've played enough games for one day, Potter." Blaise lifted his gaze to Harry's and there was pain there. A kind of pain and sorrow that spoke of terrible things that Harry couldn't understand. He didn't even think he wanted to understand what had brought that pain to Blaise's eyes, though he knew now that it had something to do with that summer that had changed Draco so dramatically. The only thing he didn't know was what had happened.
"You're loyal to him, aren't you? You'd hop in front of the killing spell to save him," Harry murmured finally. It wasn't really a question.
Blaise smiled, and he seemed mad once more. Harry knew that smile would stay with him nearly as long as the words that went with it. "I'm not the only one, Harry. Those most loyal are those who see the truth behind the lies. You are both lies, but I can see your truth. His as well. Do not interfere with things you don't understand, Harry, and stay away from Draco. You are not someone the world could bear to lose."
"And you are?"
"This world lost me over a year ago. It will shed no tears for me."
"Quite. He's going to be furious with me for talking to you."
"You didn't really tell me much of anything."
"Can I ask you one more question?"
"Same rules apply. Are you the one who has been sending me those warning notes?"
A smile danced behind Blaise's eyes, "Yes."
"Do you know who has?"
"That's two questions, Potter, and you asked for one. Take my advice and stay away from us all, Potter. Slytherins are dangerous people to be around just now."
"Thanks for meeting me."
"Any time," Blaise called back from the doorway. The door was already closing behind him, when his head appeared around it once more. "Oh... Potter?"
"The answer to your last question is no."
"Can you tell me who it is?"
"You're a bright boy, Harry Potter. I'm sure you'll figure it out without any help from me, but I'll give you a hint. He knows all the answers to your questions."
"I know it wasn't you or Draco... was it?"
Blaise merely smiled, "Not either of us, but you'll know your answer soon enough."
'Pink man,' the adder hissed, laying its head against its tail.
'A pink man? That's strange,' Harry murmured.
The adder gave a quiet hiss which conveyed that it fully agreed with his assessment.
"Potter? What are you doing?"
Harry glanced up to find Draco standing over him with the strangest expression on his pale, pointed face. He offered the Slytherin a smile before turning his attention back to the adder coiled in the grass before him. The snake offered a derisive hiss in response to Draco's sudden appearance.
Harry winced, 'No, he's all right. That's just Draco. He's... well, he's not exactly a friend, per se, but he's all right. You don't have to worry about him.'
"Potter, that's really very creepy."
"Shut up, Malfoy," Harry snapped, shooting a glare up at the blond. "Can't you see that I'm busy?"
"You're putting me off for a snake? Good Lord, Potter."
"Shut up," Harry growled.
'Sssshould I bite him?'
Harry sighed, turning his attention back to the adder once more. 'Don't tempt me. He's usually much more well-behaved then this. Well, no, actually he's not, now that I think about it. Still, I wouldn't recommend biting him. He's probably got enough venom in those veins as it is. Now, what were you saying about the pink man?'
Draco sighed and settled down into the grass as Harry continued his little hissing match with the snake. He'd seen the Dark Lord speaking with that awful Basilisk more than once, and to see Harry doing much the same with this stupid little snake was just downright disturbing.
"I see... thank you. Thank you very much." Harry stretched, then collapsed back against the grass, lying down and settling his arms beneath his head as the snake slithered away. Harry was almost smiling when he finally turned his face in Draco's direction. "Hey."
"Don't 'hey' me. You were talking in Parseltongue, weren't you? I haven't seen you do that since second year."
Harry shrugged. "I don't usually do it. It reminds me too much of Voldemort and my similarities to him. It makes me feel... strange. But, being able to speak Parseltongue comes in handy now and again. I've been practicing with it since fifth year. Snakes see things we don't, sometimes."
"All right, I'll bite. What did this one see that you find so bloody interesting?"
"He saw the man who attacked us during the Quidditch game. A pink man with a metal hand all dressed in black. Sound like anyone we know?"
"That sniveling little rat," Draco grumbled, rubbing at the scars on his back.
"Right. I thought you might figure it out. You've seen him, haven't you?"
Draco smirked. "That was rather sneaky. You would have made an excellent Slytherin, Potter."
"I keep hearing that," Harry sighed, turning his gaze back to the grass.
"Something like that. Sorting Hat had rather a hard time deciding where to put me."
"I'll bet. You're just one big batch of contradictions, aren't you?"
"Did you come looking for me for a reason?"
"I just wanted to make sure we understood each other about Zabini."
"Hm? Is that supposed to be some sort of answer?"
"Did you ask me a question, Malfoy?"
"No, I suppose I didn't. Just stay away from him."
"Thanks for the update. Better take off before someone sees you talking to me and gets the right idea."
"Go away, Malfoy. I don't want to fight with you right now, okay?"
"We're not fighting."
"We will be. Give it five more minutes and then you'll freak out and we'll be at each other's throats again. Let's just skip that today, okay? I'm really tired."
"What did you dream about, Potter?"
"You. Betraying me to Voldemort."
"Ah... you're finally beginning to understand how dangerous this game is, aren't you?"
"Yeah, and I really wish I didn't."
"I know. I'll see you later, Potter."
"Blaise, I am going to have to kill you."
"I told you I was sorry."
"Yes, you did. While you were wearing that big fool grin, and that tends to take away some of the sincerity of your apology," Draco sighed, glaring at the smirking Slytherin sitting on the bed beside him. He'd woken up this particular morning to find Blaise sitting at the foot of his bed, staring at him with that goofy grin on his face. Draco had had just enough time to adjust to the horrifying idea of waking up with Blaise sitting on his bed when Blaise had confessed to having met with Harry Potter. And not only had he met with Harry Potter, but he'd met with Harry Potter almost two weeks ago.
Draco was still trying to get his mind around the idea that he'd managed to go two fucking weeks without being informed of this particular wrinkle.
Not only had Blaise not told him, but Harry...
Sweet, lovely, deceitful Harry had known for two long weeks that Blaise worked for him and he hadn't said a word.
Not that they'd spoken much in the last two weeks, but Draco had excused that away easily enough since they'd both been extraordinarily busy. Though he still wasn't completely certain what it was that kept Harry so busy. Then again, he hadn't actually thought to ask. Though, come to think of it, hadn't it been just last week that he'd spoken with Harry and told him, specifically, to stay away from Blaise? And Harry had somehow neglected to mention that he and Blaise had already had a little... talk.
"So what, exactly, was it that you told him, Blaise?"
"We just played a game, that's all. You've had such a lovely influence on him."
"Are you really angry?"
"Are you angry with me?"
"I'm... annoyed with you."
"Don't call him Harry. His name is Potter."
"I like Harry better."
"I don't care what you like! He belongs to me!"
"He belongs to you?" Blaise inquired, a sly smile curving his lips.
Draco sighed, dropping his head into his hands. "I did not just say that. I'm going to close my eyes and count to ten and you will have never been here and this will all be a horrible nightmare."
"I'm afraid not," Blaise replied, patting Draco's bowed head. "The only nightmares we have are about things true."
"You're not helping, Blaise. Can't you say something comforting for a change?"
Blaise blinked, his smile never fading as he slipped off the bed. "I'm sorry, but the rubber ducks are drowning in the bath and I must go rescue them now," Blaise replied as he headed off in the direction of the bathroom.
"I'll take that as a 'no'." Draco called, as the other boy disappeared into the bathroom. "Rubber ducks," he muttered, shaking his head irritably. "That's a new one. That crazy mind of yours must be having to really scrape the bottom of the barrel in order to find something new and bizarre that I haven't heard yet!"
"The sand is running out too fast, Draco. You haven't much time for dilly-dallying," Blaise replied as he reappeared from the bathroom, his sweater-clad arms soaked from wrist to elbow.
"If you're trying to tell me that time is running out, Blaise, I am well aware of that. I know all too well that I only have two days until vacation starts."
"Blood's so important. Important to life. Important to plans. Important, important."
"Blaise, calm down and focus before you send your fragile little brain into prophetic overload. I know my own orders, thank you very much, and I won't allow any stupid notions I have regarding my relationship with Harry Potter to interfere."
"Okay," Blaise replied simply, flopping down on the floor beside Draco's bed and gazing up at the blond with a sad expression. "You should be happy, Draco."
"That's just not in the cards for some of us, Blaise."
Harry glanced up from the pile of books before him to find Pansy Parkinson hovering nervously at his shoulder. "Parkinson?"
"I need to speak with you. Can we..."
"Yeah. Head back into the stacks, I'll follow you in a few minutes," Harry replied, turning his attention back to the parchment in front of him. He was starting to get used to these cloak and dagger games, which was rather unsettling, but true nonetheless.
"Okay," Pansy responded, walking away from him quickly and disappearing behind the nearest bookshelf.
A few minutes later, Harry stood and stretched before heading off in the direction Pansy had disappeared. If the librarian or the two or three students studying in the room remarked on what he was doing, they gave no sign. He wandered aimlessly through the bookshelves until he felt a hand tap his shoulder and turned to find Pansy standing there, still looking as nervous had she had been when she'd first come into the library.
She was a handsome girl, not in the conventional sense, but she had a sort of dignity about her that he hadn't noticed until that very moment. Perhaps because she, like most Slytherins, had been on his 'despicable people' list for years. Yet she was Draco's cousin; the least he could do was give her the benefit of the doubt. "What can I do for you?"
"Are you aware that Draco's going home for Christmas break tomorrow?" she asked, her voice so soft that Harry had to strain to hear her words.
"I figured that."
"I... I want you to stop him."
Harry's gaze widened. "O-kay, I wasn't expecting that. Do you mind if I ask why?"
"I think something big is supposed to happen over break. I'm worried about him."
"So, why don't you tell him that?"
"Are you kidding?! I can't!" Pansy exclaimed, apparently forgetting that she was trying to be quiet.
"Because I can't!"
"O-kay. I've given up trying to understand how things work with you lot. Though I am curious why you think Draco would listen to me."
"You mean something to him. I'm sure of it. I don't like it, mind you, and I hardly approve. You're a very dangerous sort of person to be friends with and I don't think Draco needs to be inviting that kind of trouble, but it's hardly my affair, I suppose," Pansy muttered, setting her hands against her hips. "If you care for him at all, you'll try and stop him."
Harry found himself smiling. "Can I call you Pansy?"
Pansy stared at him for a moment in stunned silence before speaking again. "I don't see why not."
"All right, Pansy. I promise that I'll try, okay? That's the best I can do."
"Thank you... Harry. That's all I can ask."
The Prefects' Lounge again.
It seemed only yesterday that he'd traversed the dark passage to the Prefects' Lounge with Draco.
Hermione was seated at the desk in the far corner of the room, just as she'd been that day, bent over a pile of books and scribbling notes on a long roll of parchment. Ron was sprawled in a nearby chair playing wizard chess with...
"Viktor Krum?!" Harry exclaimed, his eyes widening at the sight of the Bulgarian. The man looked up from the chessboard and offered Harry a somewhat lopsided smile.
"Harry," he greeted, his dark hair falling into his even darker eyes. His appearance had changed a bit as well: he didn't seem to slump quite so much. He seemed prouder somehow, much more self-assured, and the fact that he was actually smiling was something of a shock in and of itself. "It is good to see you after all this time." Harry noticed immediately that Viktor's once-overwhelming accent had improved dramatically since the last time they had seen each other at the end of fourth year.
'Kill the spare.'
Harry shivered, forcing away the memory of that hissing voice before turning his attention to Viktor once more. "How have you been?" He managed finally, a tentative smile coming to his lips.
"I have been well. I am guessing since I am here that you are not so well."
"I have seen better days," Harry replied quietly, smiling.
"Herm-ow-ninny sent me an owl, requesting my assistance." Some things never changed. He may have lost the worst of his accent, but he still couldn't pronounce Hermione's name correctly. Harry found this little tidbit of information strangely comforting in the light of all the changes in his life of late. "She said that something happening here was strange. She wanted to wait for you to get here before discussing."
"Sit anywhere you like, Harry. Checkmate, Vicky," Ron commented, moving his queen into position and earning a surprised glare from Viktor.
"Do not call me 'Vicky'."
"Hey, you said I could call you Vicky if I could beat you, and since I have..." Ron's grin widened hugely as the Bulgarian Seeker grimaced.
Harry turned his gaze to Hermione as she closed the book she was making notes from. Her expression was as serious as Harry had ever seen it, and he wondered what she had discovered that had put her in such a state. Whatever it was, he was certain that it wasn't good. She watched him with narrowed eyes as he flopped down in a chair near the desk. "I can't stay long, Herm. Pansy caught me when I was down in the library and... um... she..." Harry hesitated, casting a wary glance towards Viktor. They would probably need to tell him about Draco's part in the spell anyway, so he decided that his having to talk to Draco wouldn't look too suspicious. "Well... she told me Draco's planning on going home for break. I need to... um... talk to him before he goes."
"Why is that a surprise? You've known that for months, and why would Parkinson tell you something like that? And, while we're on the subject, when did you start calling her 'Pansy'?" Hermione snapped. Harry winced. He'd forgotten how much Hermione disliked Pansy Parkinson. It was really one of the only grudges that he'd seen Hermione hold, and it had been going strong since fourth year.
"Well, actually, she wants me to stop him," Harry replied, deciding to focus on the most important question Hermione had asked.
"Why doesn't she stop him if she's so concerned?"
"That is Draco Malfoy that you are referring?" Viktor cut in suddenly, and Harry silently thanked him for the timely interruption. He had no desire to try and explain to Hermione something he didn't even understand. "I heard many stories of the Malfoy family during my time at Durmstrang. That family is very strange."
"Strange...?" Harry repeated, intrigued.
"There was a boy at Durmstrang who was living near the Malfoy family during his childhood. Very bitter. He spoke often of the Malfoy boy and seemed to hate him never much, but he never spoke much ill of him. He was..." Viktor hesitated, and murmured something that Harry didn't understand before reverting to English once more. "I... do not know how to say in your language. I think frightened is close, but that is not strong enough a word for it. Even though we were a hidden school far from Hogwarts, he was still.... He said they were very powerful. When I was here for the tournament, Karkaroff was not wanting me to go anywhere near Draco Malfoy. He did not even like me talking with him."
"What did you think of him, Viktor? Draco, I mean."
"He... he was strange. We discussed the Dark Arts several times during my stay here. His father educated him well and he knew much more than he should have. He would have fit well in Durmstrang, but..." He hesitated for a moment, as if unsure whether to say anything more on the subject; but then he glanced towards Hermione and whatever he saw in her face must have encouraged him to speak his mind. "He was too excited about it. As if it were some wonderful game. I do not think he understood the seriousness of the curses. I have always wondered how he could have learned so much without learning to fear."
"He's not that way anymore," Harry commented quietly, lowering his gaze to study the rug beneath his chair intensively. It was green with a pattern of Snitches and looked really very ridiculous.
"Then he has finally seen the true face of the darkness." Viktor replied softly, his words startling Harry from his study of the rug. He glanced up to find Viktor studying him new interest, as if Harry had finally done something truly interesting. A shiver crept its way up Harry's spine and he shifted uncomfortably under the weight of that scrutinizing gaze. When Viktor spoke again it was almost a relief, "I am surprised you know so much of him. He hated you very much. I had thought that that hatred was mutual."
"A lot has happened," Hermione interjected softly, frowning in Viktor's direction and drawing the Bulgarian Seeker nodded softly as if in answer to some unspoken question, and slowly pushed himself to his feet.
"I could see the marks on your back, Harry?"
"Um... yeah. I... um... yeah." Harry murmured, reddening as he stood and turned his back to Viktor. He pulled his robes and the sweater beneath up across his chest to reveal the scars on his back. "Malfoy said they looked as if they were made by some sort of Dark Arts spell. We... uh... tried a couple healing spells to get rid of them, but they didn't work." He'd told Ron and Hermione an edited version of that night down in the depths of the dungeons, leaving out the almost-sex and the nature of the spells. There was some things that Hermione and Ron just didn't need to know.
"He was right. It is an old spell that I studied in my history classes. I have never seen it used before, but I recognize the marks. No other spell leaves such marks," Viktor murmured, prodding gently at the skin surrounding the scars. "Malfoy has similar marks?"
"He does," Harry confirmed softly. "How did you know?"
"I am not stupid. You mentioned he was helping you. He would only do so to save his own skin, I think."
"That's true enough."
"So, it is safe to assume there is a reason why he was in the line of fire, so to speak?"
"He was trying to save me," Harry whispered, closing his eyes for a moment. "I don't know why."
"Someone does," Viktor stated simply, stepping back and giving Harry's robes a tug so he would know it was okay to lower them.
"What do you mean?" Hermione inquired, her eyes narrowing as she stood, her palms flat against the desk.
"This spell is a protection spell which is dependent on two very different components to work. That is why it is never used. The first is hatred, which is easy. The second is a desire to protect the person you hate. Someone knew that Draco would try to protect you. Though using this spell, it makes bad sense. This spell makes you virtually invulnerable to attack except by the person who also bears these marks, in this case, Draco."
"That makes sense enough. If Malfoy hates Harry, then..." Ron began, only to be cut off by Viktor.
"No, you do not understand. I am explaining badly. I..." He rumbled off a few words in rapid, drawling Bulgarian before switching back to English and giving Hermione a pleading look. "I do not have the words, Her-my-ninny."
Hermione frowned. "All right, um... Ron? Harry? Why don't you two go to class? I'll stay here and work with Viktor. We'll try and figure something out and I'll tell you both about it later."
Draco wasn't sure when he'd fallen asleep, though he was sure it had been some time after Potions and before dinner. He just hadn't felt up to going to dinner. He hadn't had much of an appetite. Betrayal tended to kill one's appetite. Or at least this particular betrayal had killed his. He didn't want to sneak into Harry's room tonight. He didn't want to...
He nearly jumped out of his skin as his curtain was pulled aside by an invisible hand, interrupting his thoughts. A moment later, he felt the bed sink beneath him under the weight of his invisible visitor's body. The curtain was closed a moment later, leaving him in darkness. He watched in silence as Harry discarded his robe, tossing it towards the foot of the bed. "Malfoy?" Harry whispered, still kneeling at the far edge of the bed as he spoke.
"Potter... what are you doing here?" He asked finally, sighing heavily.
"I couldn't let you leave without saying goodbye," Harry replied softly, crawling across the bed to lie down beside Draco, nestling his head against his arm.
"I should be very angry with you, you know," Draco murmured, turning his head to the side to glare at Harry properly.
"Just as I should be furious with you, I suppose."
"So we both lied."
"No, we just neglected to mention certain facts."
"True enough," Draco replied, managing a weak smile. "You know I have to go home tomorrow."
"I know. Pansy wanted me talk you into staying."
"Why am I not surprised that yet another of my people has been talking to you?"
"I don't know."
"How is it that you got in here exactly? Tell me she didn't give you the password."
"No, of course not. There's a whole slew of secret passageways leading into your common room."
"So, are you going to try?"
"Talking you into staying? I wouldn't dream of it. You'll only do what you want anyway, regardless of what I say."
Draco winced, draping an arm across Harry's waist and pulling him closer. He closed his eyes as he tucked his chin against Harry's shoulder, "Potter.... Why do you always make things so fucking difficult?"
"You don't understand."
"Try explaining it to me," Harry whispered, slipping a hand up beneath Draco's shirt to trace the scars there.
"I can't," Draco whispered, pressing a kiss to Harry's neck. "Look, I... I'll give you a choice. Which would you rather I do? Betray you and live? Or stay with you and die? Which would you like me to do?"
Harry's fingers stilled against his back, lingering over the newest scars. The scars which had bound them together as surely as the game they played, "I wouldn't let you die, Malfoy."
"Really? You really think you could protect me?"
Harry swallowed hard, shoving an arm beneath the Slytherin's body so that he could hug him fully. "You asked me once why I cared about you. Do you want to know the real answer?"
"Yes," Draco whispered.
"Because I know you'll always do whatever it takes to protect yourself. You'll never die to protect me, and that's the reason I'm playing this game with you. Because it's okay to kiss you and hold you, because you'll be able to take care of yourself. If you betrayed me, then we'd both survive it. It would hurt, but at least you'd be alive."
"If I betrayed you, Potter, you probably wouldn't live through it."
"That's where you're wrong, Malfoy. You think I trust you unconditionally because I'm a Gryffindor. Because my name is Harry Potter and you've spent your entire life listening to tales of the righteous greatness that is me. You think I'd just let you lead me blindly into a trap. Only love makes you that blind, Malfoy. I don't love you yet."
Draco drew back enough that he could meet Harry's gaze through the darkness. "Don't ever love me, Potter. Promise me."
"I may like you more than I ought to and I may want to fuck you senseless, but you're still a bastard. I can't love someone who'd just as soon kill my friends as talk to them."
"Good enough," Draco replied, sealing the bargain with a kiss.
Draco awoke with a start and it was a long moment before memory of the previous night returned to him.
Harry coming to his room.
Harry's soft words and his own.
Warm, achingly slow kisses.
Damn them both.
Draco ran an unsteady hand through his sleep-tousled hair as he rolled onto his back to cast a glance towards the peacefully sleeping boy beside him. How he hated him. Hated him for being so easy to fool and hated himself for feeling guilty about having taken advantage of that weakness. It had been so simple to take the small cup of sleeping draught from his bedside and take a sip, slipping just a few drops to Harry during a kiss. Harry hadn't suspected a thing even when the draught had begun to take effect.
Or had he...?
Harry had been the one to draw away from him, stifling a yawn with the back of his hand. "Sorry," he'd murmured, apologetically. "I didn't realize I was so tired. I'd better go."
"You don't have to," Draco had replied softly.
"I wouldn't want to spoil your reputation," Harry managed, making no move to leave the bed.
"It's not important," Draco replied hurriedly, wincing when he realized how obviously untrue that statement was.
Harry glared at him, obviously fighting to keep his eyes open. "Since when?"
"Since now. Just go to sleep, Potter." Draco growled, rolling over and putting his back to Harry so he wouldn't see the pain that was no doubt locked into Harry's expression.
To his surprise, Harry just chuckled softly as he draped an arm across Draco's waist and pulled him close. "I hate you, Malfoy."
Draco closed his eyes tight, his voice little more than a whisper. "I hate you, too."
He hadn't opened his eyes again until a few moments ago and he knew it was only the sleeping draught that had allowed him to sleep at all.
The gray light of dawn was just beginning to creep through the curtains which surrounded his bed, informing him that he should really begin preparing to leave. He and the others had received instructions to take the Knight Bus from Hogsmeade rather than waiting for the train to avoid any chance of being caught with the items they were to be taking back with them. He wasn't quite sure what his father had said to Dumbledore to convince the old fool to allow such a thing, but he'd received a note yesterday that the coaches would be arriving to transport them to Hogsmeade at seven. Still... he had a few moments yet, while the others continued to sleep away their last precious moments at Hogwarts.
Draco rolled onto his side once more and snuggled back against Harry, relishing the comforting weight of Harry's arm draped across his waist, holding him close. Savoring the feel of that chest he knew so well pressed solidly against his back, warming his cool skin. It felt terribly good, almost too good. Part of him wanted to simply stay here, wrapped in the warmth and safety of Harry's embrace. But another, larger part knew better. Knew that all these things he felt were merely illusion, a beautiful illusion, but an illusion nonetheless. There was no safety for either of them, not here in this bed and certainly not in the world beyond.
With a sigh of soft regret, Draco turned slowly to face his lover. He'd always liked the way Harry looked while sleeping. His face peaceful and free of the troubles that plagued him when he was awake. The scar which had thrust him into the role of reluctant hero obscured by his untameable black hair. With the scar hidden, Draco found that he could almost pretend that Harry was just a normal boy. Yet, if Harry had been anyone but Harry, he'd never have known him at all. Of course, they'd probably both have been better off.
Draco laid a gentle kiss against the scar, memorizing the feel of the roughened skin with his lips and a quick dart of his tongue. "I'm sorry I kissed you that day, Potter. You'll never know how sorry."
Harry murmured something incoherent in response to Draco's words, pulling Draco tight against him once more. Draco smiled at that, his body heating at the intimate press of Harry's slim form. He leaned in close, threading his own arms around Harry and pulling the boy tight against him for one last brief moment before releasing him.
What he wouldn't give to be able to run tongue and teeth over every part of this boy, to hear him moan and see him writhe under his touch. His body ached, left hard and wanting by their closeness. It was almost breaking to know that he would never be able to fulfill that need, because that would be too much. Too much of a betrayal, even for him.
Draco slithered out of Harry's embrace at last, crawling slowly backwards away from his sleeping lover. The silver dagger and the black-stoppered vial his father had given him at the beginning of the year lay beside the bed where he'd left them hours earlier. The sleeping draught would assure that not even the prick of the knife would wake Harry for at least another hour, and by then the small wound would have healed enough to go unnoticed.
His hand was shaking as he drew the dagger across Harry's forearm, making the cut jagged, more like a rip then the clean cut he'd been trying for.
Too much blood flowed, slipping across to drip on to the dark sheets before he could bring the vial up to catch it. The vial filled too quickly and the blood was still flowing steadily when he removed it. His hands were shaking so badly that it took three tries before he was able to stopper the blood-coated vial and set it aside. He pulled his blanket up to cover Harry's bleeding arm, putting pressure against the wound.
"It's the way it has always been. Call it fate if that makes you feel better. We can't change what we are. You can't save me. Just like you couldn't save Cedric. Just like you can't save yourself. None of your stories will ever have a happily ever after. This is the end. The duel is over and I..."
"You'll never die to protect me and that's the reason I'm playing this game with you. Because it was okay to kiss you and hold you, because you would be able to take care of yourself."
The whispered words, memories, surrounded him and slipped through him as stared down at the bloody sheets. Blood didn't show up well against black, but he could almost feel the blood there, like an accusation. Another small betrayal in a sea of tragedy. "It shouldn't have gone this far," Draco murmured, pressing trembling lips against Harry's cheek.
Blaise's voice was soft in the darkness, and Draco lifted his face to see those wide, mad eyes upon him.
"What?" Draco replied roughly, pulling away from Harry's slumbering body.
"It's time to go," Blaise replied. He was wrapped in a dark coat which covered his thin form. Even through the thick coat, Draco could see that the boy was shaking as badly as he had been moments before, though if it was from the knowledge of what Draco had just done or from some private nightmare, Draco could only guess.
"Could you clean this up for me?" Draco responded finally, offering the bloody vial towards Blaise, who nodded silently and took the vial in hand before disappearing, the bed-curtains sliding back into place with a soft swoosh.
Blood still coated his hands as he pulled the blanket away from Harry's arm enough to confirm that cut had finally stopped bleeding. "It'll heal," he told the sleeping boy. "The blade is enchanted so that by the time you wake up, that wound should have almost completely faded. Just another scar for the collection."
Blaise had left clothes for him at the foot of the bed and Draco changed slowly, reluctant to finish because finishing meant he would have to leave. Yet finally, as was inevitable, he was dressed and as ready as he would ever be. He reached beneath his pillow and drew out his wand and a crumpled envelope. He tucked the envelope into Harry's curled fingers, not caring that his blood-coated fingers had left their imprint against the parchment. All the better to convey his message. "It's all I can do for you."
A soft moan from Harry as the boy curled into himself, pulling his arms around his chest and shivering slightly. Draco frowned, his fingers lingering over where Harry's fingers had been a moment before. "Sorry," he finally whispered to the sleeping boy, turning quickly and fleeing the bed and the room before he could change his mind.
Harry opened his eyes slowly, a hint of a smile dancing across his lips at the memory of the night he'd just spent in Draco Malfoy's arms. He was alone and logically he knew that meant that Draco had already left for break. But, for the moment, the knowledge that Draco was gone seemed a faraway dream. He stretched slowly, languidly, his fingers curling tighter around a piece of parchment he hadn't realized was clutched in his fingers. He brought the parchment down to eye level, staring at the blood-stained, beige envelope dumbly for a long moment. His name was printed neatly across the front in Draco's spidery hand. He broke the seal and opened the envelope carefully, drawing out the single torn of piece of parchment within.
He believes you are the only thing which can destroy him, but he won't kill you. Something about the bond between you two, I don't really know. He wants you out of the game, but I don't know how he plans to go about it.
He didn't sign the note, but Harry didn't need such a confirmation. The letter was pure Draco, and he knew him well enough to know the things Draco had left unsaid. That he wouldn't or couldn't do any more than this. That he cared in his way.
The only question in Harry's mind, as he studied the parchment, was whether or not it would be enough.
Okay, first off, many thanks to everyone who has reviewed. I'm not going to try and list everyone here, since my thanks section was beginning to take up a ridiculously huge amount of space here. Just let it be said that I loff you all and if you asked questions that I can answer, you'll find the answers down there at towards the end of this section. *snoogles* ^_^
Special Thanks to Demeter (for being with me on the Blaise as a boy issue and for always writing me reviews which make me grin), The Avatar Lady-Mage (for hitching a ride ^_^), Reena (because you just write the best commentary ever-ever and because you like Blaise ^-^), Maya (just because you're fabulous and I'm glad I'm not the only one who's read the Forbidden Game... *grin* Ah... Julian... the beginning of my odd obsession with sexy blond boys in literature...), AshFarley (For reading this gigantic thing in one night. ^_^), Tionne (Yet another successful Pansy convert. Hoorah! And after this chapter, I'm curious to know if you still severely dislike Blaise. ^_-) and Evil Temptress (for making me grin :p).
A very special thanks, as always, to my wonderful betas, Aja and slightlights, for being just plain fabulous in each and every way. :)
Random Chapter Notes:
The first big event of this chapter, the true introduction of Blaise. I wanted to make him a very different character than any other in this fic and I think I've succeeded. He's a whole lot of fun to write though I was at a loss on how to describe him simply so he is, in Aja's words: "Blaise has got, like, the Oscar-winning supporting role of the creepy-ass intriguing half-way sexy lunatic, like Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys or my beloved Kevin Spacey in the Usual Suspects." I like writing Blaise. ^_^
"Does he know you've brought death to the ball?"- A reference to Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe. Bitchin', bitchin' story.
In case you are wondering, I chose the format for the game between Blaise and Harry on purpose to make things difficult. I think it also shows the contrast between the two relationships (Draco/Harry and Harry&Blaise) off more dramatically.
Since this story was originally written I have made several changes to it, the most notable of which are the changes in house for Peter, Lily, and Sirius. Lily has been switched to Gryffindor house to reflect JKR's confirmation that Lily is indeed Gryffindor in canon. Peter has been switched to Slytherin, because he simply does not display any qualities which would lend to him being in Gryffindor house. The only reason I did not put him in Slytherin house in the first place was that if he was the only one of the four (James, Peter, Sirius, and Remus) in Slytherin, there would be nothing to connect him to the other three and there would be no reason why they would have become friends. However, when I decided to change Sirius to Slytherin house, this changed and allowed Peter a plausible reason for being part of the gang and being in Slytherin.
Now as to the reason I decided to move Sirius to Slytherin house. This was mainly triggered by a canon discussion I was having with a friend while writing Chapter 12. The conversation got my wheels turning because of a mention of Hagrid's comment in HPatPS, which was that no wizard had turned bad who was not in Slytherin. The more I thought about this, the more it bugged me. Sirius Black was quite the notorious criminal, so much so that he didn't even get a trial as he was so 'obviously' guilty. He was also thought to be the man responsible for betraying Lily and James and causing their deaths. As such, if he were not Slytherin this would be one big, glaring error in the logic of Hagrid's statement as I doubt he would have 'overlooked' Sirius when making said statement. The change was further enforced in my mind upon a re-read of HPatPoA which raised other questions in my mind.
Towards the end of PoA when Remus is explaining his ties with Sirius to Harry, he mentions the prank Sirius pulled on Snape which almost got Snape killed and led to James saving Snape's life. Remus says basically that Snape saw him being led towards the Whomping Willow and Sirius told Snape that if he wished to follow Remus, all he had to do was poke the secret knot. This raises the question of why Snape would trust anything Sirius says when he must be aware that Remus and Sirius are friends. Snape is not a stupid man, even if he is occasionally blinded by his hatred, and I found it hard to credit that he would trust anything Sirius said unless there was another reason, such as that they were in the same house. As Slytherins are inherently ambitious, it might make sense to Snape that Sirius would betray Remus to further his own ends. Also, Sirius whole attitude about the prank is such a Slytherin sort of 'oh, well, he had it coming' attitude. So, I decided to make him Slytherin. End of report. :)
Questions and Answers:
Are you planning to explain the notes in Chapter 12? (Moonchild) Yes, I most certainly am. Many things will be revealed in Chapter 12, the notes being one of them. :)
Is there some significance to the fact that we don't see the messenger (who brings the letters)? (innostrantsa) Yes, to an extent. It's more for my own personal amusement than anything else, really, though there is a practical reason for it as well, which I'll explain in Chapter 12. The 'my own personal amusement' reason is simply this: The prologue, when the letters begin showing up, is called 'Letters from the Unknown' which is mostly a reference to the 'Letters from No One' in HPatPoS, but also a reference to the fact that letters just keep appearing out of thin air for all intensive purposes. ^_^
Is Chapter 12 going to be the last chapter? (Moonchild) No. As I said above, many things will be revealed in Chapter 12, but that chapter will not be the last. Chapter 14 will be the last chapter of TLS, besides the epilogue, that is. ^_-
How long is this fic going to be? (TD) Approximately 15 chapters long, not counting the prologue. ^_^
So there is a little sadist living in the depths of Harry's heart, hmm? (Moonchild) Actually, I think there's a big sadist living in the depths of Harry's heart, personally. ^_^
How the hell do you manage to write three absolutely wonderful stories simultaneously? (Moonchild) I smoke too much, drink copious amounts of vanilla coke, and sleep very little. :)
Surely it's obvious that 'Lily Evans' muggle born of no wizarding family simply could not have been Slytherin... (Samsura) *sigh* Yes, I have, as seen above, changed Lily's house association in accordance to JKR's assurance that Lily was Gryffindor. However, I did originally have a solid (semi-canon-based) explanation worked out for how she could have been Slytherin which would have tied into several major points in the story much further on down the line. (Moot point though it may be now. -_- But that's the way things go. *shrug*)
Does he mean, that there is hope that Harry might win the game? Might understand him? (Arwena) You'll have to draw your own conclusions on that one. :)
What's up with the corridor also, why did that room change and now have flying keys and no floor? Why have keys and not have a lock somewhere around? (Jinsei) Who ever said there wasn't a lock somewhere around? The corridor, the room, the keys, and the absence of floor will all come up again in a later chapter. ^_^
... I want to see that cheerleader Draco. Will you upload it somewhere so I can see it? (Avada Kedavra) As soon as I figure out how to work my roommate's scanner, I will definitely do so. (But don't expect much. My drawing skills kind of suck. -_-)
What, exactly, is Blaise up to? Why is Draco so (appearingly) scared of him? (ShinigamiStar) See above chapter for answers. :)
What exactly are those runes warning against? Was that abyss there before they put the Philosopher's Stone there, or were they warning against something else? Something that possibly cause the abyss? (ShinigamiStar) Just wait and see. You'll find answers for these questions in Chapter 13, tentatively. ^_^
Will Harry and Draco's passion for each other just add to this (memory-rewriting) problem? (ShinigamiStar) Yes.
So the summer incident that that made Draco more reticent instead made Blaise more dark? evil? power-hungry? (bwaybaby79) I hope the above chapter answered some of these questions for you. ^_^
Do Crabbe & Goyle really have an opinion on Light vs. Dark? Could they join the Light side and fight their fathers? (bwaybaby79) You'll see more about C & G and their loyalties and opinions in Chapter 12, and then you'll be able to draw your own conclusions. ^_^
You're going to tell us what the demony things did to Draco when he was caught spying, right? What are the things that... hurt him? (Explosion Array) Chapter 12, my dear, Chapter 12. (Though I will say that there were no demony things. It was a person(s) who hurt him. ^_^)
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