Five minutes later they were walking through the long corridors of the Malfoy manor – Draco careful to keep a broad distance between them. The snitch purred around Draco's head in a tight-woven circle, like a flitty and intermittent golden halo. At the door of his father's study, Draco instructed Harry to wait out of sight, before knocking and peering around the door.
"I'm going out with a friend for a few hours, father – I'll be back before morning," he called.
Submerged amidst piles of various ominous looking tomes, Lucius looked up sharply, as if he'd been stung; his features immediately resolving to that hopeless and forlorn cast they were forced to assume in Draco's presence. Am I really so pathetic? Draco thought, watching his father with a critical eye. Is that how much I want him to love me?
"Draco – you shouldn't go now – please," Lucius stuttered out, rising from his desk. "Maybe later – I just.." he broke off – he looked as if he was about to burst into tears again.
"We can spend quality time together later, father," Draco offered.
"No – I don't mean that. I mean," Lucius pressed his hand to his temples. "It's not wise, you going out at this time. I worry about you, Draco. I'm scared you might start dabbling in something – something that isn't right, if you understand me. Please, Draco? Stay a little longer, for me?"
An hour ago Draco would have jumped at the chance to spend time with his father, but now he saw only the results of that strange spell overpowering his father's reason. He sighed, moving closer – Harry peeking after him, worriedly.
"Father – something is going on," Draco said, softly. "I'm going back to school for a little bit, and once everything is settled, I promise I'll return here, right away."
"I know something's going on," Lucius persisted, hands held limply at his sides. "I – I want to help you, Draco –"
"There's nothing you can do at the moment," said Draco. "Just you go back to your books, okay? I promise I'll be back soon."
Lucius slumped, and Draco sighed.
"I'm sorry, father. I –" words escaped him, and Draco simply spread his arms, hapelessly. "Okay," he said, finally. "Just one last time."
Lucius reached down and hugged Draco to him. Watching from the outside, Harry felt a pang of pity for Draco – the boy was forced to seek paternal solace in the mirror of his own despair.
On the grounds, the boys climbed onto their respective broomsticks. Both of them felt desperate to say something, to make some comment on their situation, but ever since Harry had ventured from the bathroom, everything seemed fairly mundane – or else loaded with innuendo. Draco put a hand to his forehead, searching the dark sky for nothing at all.
"Snape's a wonderful guy, and everything about him is swell," he said, morosely.
"Do you really feel that?" said Harry. "It's not what you say, you know – it's more what you don't say."
"Maybe not wonderful, then," said Draco. "But I do think he's okay. Better than okay, really. I'm kind of embarrassed to know I really felt so strongly that he should be punished like that – I just never thought about him long enough, I guess, to formulate anything beyond a sort of passing resentment. He's done a lot for me, I do know that, and I'm thankful for it."
He flew upwards a few metres, and stared down at Harry, his dark robe flaring in the wind. "So have you, really. Except I think the thought of the stains on my cushions will probably counter any sudden desire to profess more benevolent feelings toward you."
"Trust me," grunted Harry, "I'm feeling the love, right here."
"Not again, Potter," said Draco, making a face.
"I'm joking, Draco. What do you think I am, some sort of sex crazed fiend?"
Draco just looked at him.
"Fine, fine," said Harry, flying up to join Draco.
The two hovered there for a moment, their broomsticks perfectly parallel.
"You know," said Harry, "this is a hell of a lot more embarrassing for me than it is for you."
"You think?" Draco was purposefully blase. "In my book, lust is a far smaller sin than love."
Harry blinked. "You – you do love me, then?" he whispered.
"I don't know, Potter, to be perfectly frank. Maybe I do. You certainly seem to think so – and you've a better perspective on that sort of thing right now than I do." Draco gazed off into the distance, at some point three inches shy of Harry's face. "Maybe I'm reading too much into whatever you've dregged up from the pits of my subconscious. Maybe I'm not. At any rate – I don't think we should be talking about this now. Especially with you in the state you're in. You're likely to fall off your broom."
"When you're back to normal, though, we're going to have to have a long and very serious talk. Seems there's an opening in my busy social schedule for that little tete-a-tete I promised you, after all."
Draco leant close to his broom, and shot off across the sky. Harry fumbled a moment, before following, completely confused. Draco was admitting..? Harry's mind could barely come to terms with the idea of Draco admitting to anything. As the wind whipped through Harry's hair, almost battering his glasses from his nose, Harry tried to force himself to think only of a solution to their current dilhemma. But he couldn't help wondering – Draco's breif monologue had conjured up all sorts of possibilities.
So Draco might love him, and Harry certainly lusted after the boy in return. Stranger things had happened – and opposites did attract, didn't they? Harry couldn't help wondering at the stares they'd receive, walking hand in hand through the corridors at Hogwarts. What would Hermione say? What would Ron say? He could already picture the front page spread in the Witches Weekly. "The Boy Who Lived An Alternative.." Harry groaned.
It was all too disturbing, and almost frightening, really. Harry pushed the thoughts away. What happened would happen. He'd deal with it then.
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