It had not been an easy week for Draco. Things had sped rapidly downhill since his triumphant Quidditch match, and more than ever he was looking forward to the holidays – even if it did mean long, boring hours practising spells with Lucius, and having to put up with Narcissa's insistent babying.
He'd been on edge ever since Harry's misinformed attempt to kiss him, and he found himself unable to concentrate on his classes. What was worse, however, (and there –were- things worse than being manhandled by the biggest do-gooder at Hogwarts) was the fact that the entire school seemed to think he had cheated during the match – including his own team.
The Slytherins who'd previously worshiped the ground he walked on had begun to whisper amongst themselves when he passed them by, and did their best to avoid him. Even Crabbe and Goyle, the most loyal members of the Malfoy fanclub, kept their distance. Draco couldn't work it out. Even if he –had- cheated, he'd have expected them to be jubilant. Malfoy cunningly beats the system, and the Slytherin crowd goes wild.. well, they were meant to be dirty and underhand, weren't they? It was all part of the Slytherin job description.
But he hadn't cheated, and no one had discovered any evidence that he might have, even when Dumbledore, following pressure from McGonagall, had checked the field for any magical interferance. Nothing – but it didn't stop speculations from all sides.
And now the teachers had started to pick on him. McGonagall had thrown him out of transfiguration class for daring to forget his books, and he'd been threatened with a detention with Filch after three minutes in Defence Against the Dark Arts, just because he happened to drop a pen. There was a conspiracy afoot, Draco was sure.
The icing on the cake was Snape. Draco had always been the Potion teacher's favourite student, but today Snape actually subtracted points from Slytherin – his own team! – when Draco's concoction turned out the wrong colour. "Green isn't so different from aquamarine," Draco had protested, but to no avail. Snape made him stay behind after class to clean the floor after another of Neville's potions had spontaneously erupted, cutting a nasty chunk out of Draco's dinner time.
And after he'd cleaned the room up adequately, (the first time he'd asked to leave, the room had been spotless, but Snape's jaundiced eye discovered a tiny smudge on the underside of one bench), Draco discovered his progress to the dinner tables was hampered once again. To be precise – his left arm had been ensnared in the grip of a dark haired and utterly pathetic annoyance by the name of Harry Potter, though Draco had now taken up the habit of refering to the Boy That Lived as Hairy Slotter.
The impetuous whine twitched Draco's already fast-fraying nerves.
"Unhand me, you four-eyed git."
Draco pried away Harry's hand with difficulty. The boy's fingers bit into his skin of his arm, clawed in like a cat on a flyscreen. Harry's expression was hopeless, despair curling the edge of his lips into a lopsided smile.
"My god, Potter," Draco hissed. "What is wrong with you? First it's kissing me in the changerooms, and now it's dragging me away from dinner. Didn't I tell you not to touch me again? Have you gone completely off the rails, or is this another stunt to see how much you can get away with?"
"I just wanted to talk," Harry said, petulantly, scuffing his boot against the ground.
"Well, Potter – I want to eat. I'm very sorry, but our little tete-a-tete will have to wait until a more suitable time. How about we make a date some day, oh, I don't know – a hundred years from now?"
"I'm serious, Draco. I really need –"
Draco? What was this Draco business? It was all far too familiar for Draco's liking. He gritted his teeth.
"Need, Potter? What do you really need? Aside from a good kick in the ass and several thousand galleons of cosmetic surgery? Listen – I have not had the best day today. No, that's an understatement. Infact, I would count today as one of the least best days I've had in a long time. It rates right up there with being turned into a ferret and the time my mother forced me to wear a dress just so she could pretend that.. and why on earth am I telling you this?" He pressed a hand to his forehead – he could feel a migraine coming on. "Your insanity must be catching."
"I'm not mad, Draco. Except about you."
"Oh, shut up, Potter!" cried Draco, exasperated, leaning against the wall. His control, his contrived austerity had vanished. "You're about five seconds away from becoming two nuts short of an functioning reproductive system, which in my opinion would be no bad thing. A world without Potters – now there's a pretty fiction."
"Draco. Calm down.. we'll have Filch down on us."
"Filch? Bring him on! That's all I need to complete this perfect day!"
"Fine." Harry backed off a few steps, both hands upraised in defeat. "Enjoy your hysteria. I'm going back to dinner."
"Good bloody bye! Watch out for the door, mind you. Those things have this nasty habit of smacking people unexpectedly in the ass."
Draco's voice had hit a decidedly soprano pitch, and his pale, pointed features were stained an uncomely shade of purple. He'd never seemed so flustered before, or at least he'd never let anyone see him in such a fit. Harry sighed, pausing at the corner of the corridor, and looked back over his shoulder.
"All I wanted to say, Draco, was that I believed you," he said. "I went over the match last night in my head. You won the game fair and square. I thought you might like to know."
"I know what you said. What brought on this change of heart, mm? Last time I heard, you and that Weasley creature were whimpering about me doing a deal with the Dark Lord – who, I might add, is quite unlikely to risk his banished booty on fixing a bloody school Quidditch match."
"I never did."
"Go blow yourself, Potter." Draco rubbed his temples distractedly, muttering to himself, sotto voce, "and there's a mental picture I –really- didn't need."
"Leave me alone!"
Harry left. Draco groaned, and struggled down the corridor in the opposite direction. His appetite had vanished, and all he wanted to do now was to go to bed and get a little shut-eye. Climbing the stairs to the Slytherin common room, he huffed under his breath – the words Potter and schmuck becoming interchangeable in his ranting.
"Pus," he told the stone wall, gruffly, and when it slid open he stamped up to his dormitory, and slung himself under his blankets without bothering to change. Sympathy from Potter, now, was it? Were there any slings and arrows his outrageous misfortune hadn't thrown yet?
He rolled onto his stomach and burrowed a hand down the side of his matress. The familiar shape of the golden ball fluttered into his palm, as if drawn to it like a yo-yo on a string. After Dumbledore had inspected the snitch for magical influence, he'd absentmindedly handed it back to Draco – and so Draco decided to hold onto it a little longer. It was the only thing these days which made him feel any good – the reminder of his faultless victory.
He could remember it perfectly. Harry had suddenly veered away from him to the other side of the pitch, for some unfathomable reason – perhaps chasing that magical ‘mystery-snitch’ he'd kept talking about in the changerooms. Draco was on the verge of following when he'd seen something glittering near the bottom of the pitch, at the opposite end to Harry. Draco zoomed down, squinting against the wind, and then suddenly the ball was in his outstretched hand, its tiny wings beating against his fingers. He could scarcely believe it, not even when Lee Jordan let out an annoyed holler which echoed across the grounds.
"The snitch! Malfoy has caught the snitch!"
The game ended almost as soon as it began – fifteen minutes into the match, with a 160-10 spread in Slytherin's favour. Draco flew a lap of the pitch, his heart beating double-time in his chest, barely able to breathe when he noticed his father's face in the stands. Finally – a reason for Lucius to be proud of his son, who'd failed him before in so many unspeakable and unremarkable ways.
But Lucius hadn't come to see him in the changerooms. Draco had waited hours after the match, hoping against hope that his father would make the effort to congratulate him. It was only when the moon began to rise that Draco gave up, and headed off to bed.
Draco sighed, and squeezed the snitch tighter. He was about to stuff it back down behind his matress – he'd done enough gloating today, for all the pithy good it did him – when he heard a noise on the very edge of his aural peripheral. A scuffle, maybe, of footsteps on the wooden floor.
"Who's there?" Draco called, tentatively.
There was no reply. Draco reached for his wand with his free hand, and waved it menacingly at nothing.
"I said, who's there. Come out now, or I swear–"
A patch of nothing in the middle of the room shivered slightly, co-centric ripples like those on a lake, the aftermath a tossed pebble, and Harry's round face came into view, followed by the rest of him. Without making any apology for his intrusion, he cocked his head toward the snitch Draco grasped.
"They let you keep it?" he asked, wrinkling his nose curiously.
Draco let out a string of quite voluble curses.
"I sort of sneaked after you when you left, and followed you in here before the wall shut," Harry explained, at the next interval in Draco's swearing. "I figured you seemed out of sorts, and might like some company."
"Since when is the word company synonymous with voyeurism? And since when could you become invisible?"
"It's a cloak – it belonged to my father." Harry held the garment over his arm, the material translucent – it hurt Draco's eyes to look at it for too long. "Look, Draco–"
"No, look, Harry," Draco spat. "This obsession of yours has gone on long enough. I have absolutely no interest in you and to be completely honest I do feel slightly nauseous at the idea you'd crawl into my bedroom just to watch me get changed – that –was- what you were planning to do, wasn't it?"
"No," said Harry. "Maybe," he added. "Yes," he concluded, and had the decency to look ashamed of himself.
"You disgust me. I'd spit on you if I didn't think that doing so would be a clensing influence. A fortnight ago you were still trying to trip me with your broom – then again, a fortnight ago I was the toast of the Slytherins.. Has everyone gone completely nutty, or is it just me?"
"Lavender used to try and trip me with her broom," said Harry, solemnly. "I found out later it was because she liked me."
Draco's migraine had returned in full force, and he covered his face with his blankets.
"I just think you're kind of cute," said Harry, shamelessly. He felt it was needless now to pretend, and getting this off his chest was a relief, to say the least. All the fantasies he'd had over the past year, and kept bottled up inside him to the point where he'd been ready to scream with frustration, were finally being aired. If he'd fancied someone like Hermione, he would have kept it to himself, not wanting to ruin the friendship – but Draco hated him anyway, and Draco certainly wasn't about to spread any rumours: he was as embarrassed about the whole affair as Harry was.
"So we're gay now, are we, Harry?" said Draco, his grey eyes flinty and narrowed over the edge of his blanket. "Now, there's a front page story for the Witches Weekly. The Boy Who Lived becomes the Boy Who Lived An Alternative Lifestyle."
"Draco, please. This is hard for me."
"I don't want to know –what- you're hard for, Harry. Get back into your broom closet and leave me alone."
"Shut up, Malfoy!"
Harry wasn't quite sure where that outburst came from, but it seemed to do the trick nicely. Draco opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He blinked, wide-eyed at Harry.
"Draco. I have a crush on you, it's that simple. I guess I'm obsessing, and I'm sorry about it. I'm sorry to have.. inconvenienced you in any way." Harry hated himself for the repentant tone in his voice, but persevered: "I think kissing you in the changerooms only made it worse – but I figure, if you're not interested, I'll do my best to get over it. I mean, it's only teenage lust – just hormones, really. I could have fallen for anyone."
"I just happen to be the best looking person in the entire school," said Draco, slightly mollified, and completely devoid of modesty. "I suppose it's understandable, when you put it like that." He sighed, setting his wand aside, and cupping the snitch in both hands.
Harry took a deep breath. Now he'd spoken his piece, he couldn't for the life of him come up with any plausible excuse to remain. Searching for inspiration, his eyes set again on the snitch – a viable opportunity for small talk, and a way to spend a few minutes longer in Draco's presence before he was forced to give up his dream for good.
"So they let you keep it, did they?" he said.
"Sort of but not really," Draco admitted, cradling the glittering golden ball.
"You stole it, then?"
"That's a fine tone to take, coming from Mister Moral Vacuumn, whose passtimes include spying and forcing people to kiss them. No, I didn't steal it. I just didn't give it back. There's a clear distinction."
"Like borrowing for keeps, right?"
"Yes, like borrowing for keeps," Draco shot back. "And I happen to think I deserve it. A souvenir of the one time I ever beat Harry Potter at anything."
Harry was about to reply when there came a noise from the stairwell behind him. He jerked his head toward the sound, nearly dropping his cloak. Draco, in bed, was sitting bolt upright, squeezing the snitch so hard it let out a faint squeaking sound.
"Quick! I can't let people see I've been talking to you!" Draco spluttered. "Get under my bed!"
"Say what?" said Harry, fumbling with his cloak.
"They'll run into you if you stay around here – they may not be able to see you, but they'll certainly feel you. Get under the damned bed, now, Potter."
Realising the truth in Draco's words, Harry numbly donned the cloak and slithered into the darkness beneath the bed. He was only just in time – for the second his legs curled underneath the wooden slats, the door burst open.
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