The room was silent. Completely and utterly silent. Which was quite an accomplishment for a room full of 800 students. No one dared to make a noise, no one dared to move. All eyes were transfixed on the multiple copies of The Dailey Prophet that were scattered amongst students in the great hall.
All eyes focused on the print before them, including Harry's own horrified ones. Green ink in Papyrus font stretched over the front page, each letter stabbing Harry in the gut like a dull blade. Harry couldn't breathe. He couldn't think. He couldn't focus on anything other than the complete disaster that sat in front of him. The headlines flashed in showy font,
"The Boy Who Lived? More Like The Boy Who Loved: Harry Potter Caught Locking-Lips with the Enemy."
Below the horrid headline a black and white photograph enveloped the front page. Harry's stomach churned when he saw the picture. He of course remembered the events that had taken place during the scene a few days before. They were in an empty charms classroom- the door had been locked- he was sure of it. Their robes were on the floor, their ties were undone. Harry was pinned against a wall, passionately snogging the person he was with.
The person he was with.
The so called "enemy".
Just looking at the photograph made him blush. It hardly seemed appropriate to be adorning the cover page of such a popular newspaper. It seemed more like something Witch Weekly would air, but not the Daily Prophet. Everyone got the Daily Prophet. Harry felt his face grow pale- every one would know. While looking at the high definition photo the realization of what was happening hit Harry like a wall. He'd just been outed. They'd just been outed. The whole world knew of the heated scandalous affair of Draco Malfoy, death eater extraordinaire, and the Boy Who Lived.
Harry thought he was going to be sick. He could feel every eye in the room gradually look up from the paper and stare at him. They burned holes in his back with their glances. Harry risked a look up. Faces ranged from horrified, to disgusted, to disbelief. Harry himself felt a mix of all three adorn his own expression.
It wasn't exactly that he was ashamed of loving Draco, it's just that he wasn't ready for any one else to know. It was... complicated. They still needed to figure everything out. It was all so new and confusing, and Harry couldn't really explain why he felt this way.
Harry had been following Draco around the entire start of their sixth year, and one day Malfoy got fed up with it, and in his anger kissed Harry. The rest, was history- snogging in broom cupboards, thousand-yard stares at mealtimes, and meeting in abandoned corridors at night. This year had been properly educational for Harry. He'd hated Malfoy at first, yes, but as he'd gotten to know him, Draco had told him about the pressures his family put on him to join the Death Eater ranks even though he didn't want to, and Harry in return explained his own worries about defeating Voldemort.
They'd always joked they would run away together. Leave Voldemort and the death eaters and all the pressures of the wizarding world behind. But Harry knew they would never actually do it. Draco cared too much about his family, and Harry cared too much about magic. About the wizarding world. Harry knew he would never leave, could never leave, until Voldemort was dead.
He was starting to second guess that though as he looked around at all the eyes starring at him in the Great Hall.
Evidently, Draco had too. He was the first to disturb the statue-stillness of the morning. Draco gracefully got up with an almost irritatingly perfect elegance, folded the heavy clothed napkin that was on his lap, and then walked out of the hall in his calm and arrogant fashion.
As soon as the great wooden door closed behind Malfoy, the room came alive again, whispers overpowering the previous silence.
"Is this really true?"
"They do stare at each other an awful lot..."
"Does this mean I don't stand a chance anymore?"
"This has to be fake..."
"But how can this be? They hate each other!"
Harry desperately looked around at his friends for some sort of reassurance. Hermione who was sat across from Harry didn't look that unperturbed. When Harry made eye contact with her she just hummed curiously. Ron, who was sat next to Harry, however looked very upset at the recent news. His skin was a very frightening shade of green, and his blue eyes flashed alternatively between disgust and disbelief.
"It's not true- is it?" Ron sputtered out dazed. "I mean it was written by Rita Skeeter- s-she always lies. Right?"
Harry ignored the desperate questions Ron had asked him.
"Damn Rita Skeeter." Harry mumbled under his breath in answer, then promptly stood up and ran out of the great hall, after Draco Malfoy.
Rooms flew by Harry in bits and pieces as he ran. Corridors flashing as if they were as intangible as the passing scenes in a movie. Harry didn't need his map. He knew exactly where to go. Exactly where Draco would be.
He practically flew up the old creaking staircases, taking the steps two at a time. He raced by angry portraits, shouting at Harry to slow down. But Harry didn't listen. He only had one thing on his mind.
Those two words danced around his mind as he ran, pounding into his skull over and over and over again.
When finally, Harry stood before the door he was looking for. He doubled over, hands on his knees and panted, catching his breath for a moment before standing up and attempting to calm his composure. He smoothed his hair, straightened his tie, and tried to make the expression on his face as blank as possible. Harry deeply inhaled once, trying to think of what he would say to Malfoy. Harry normally did better when he improvised though, and so with some hesitance, he pushed open the door to the Room Of Requirement. A place they'd been meeting frequently, rather recently.
The room today was simple. It appeared to look like a small classroom in the dungeons. The walls were grey cold stone bricks covered in moss. The floors were hard and cement and the air was damp. Harry tried to mask his distaste for the form the room took. Near the back of the room an elegant fireplace was carved into the wall, delicate snakes patterned the mantle, and emeralds encrusted the base, a roaring fire was already lit. Facing the fire was a plush couch that looked like it belonged in an antique shop. It was deep maroon, with plush seats and a high carved back, imperfect popped golden embroidery laced along the velvet fabric.
Sitting on the sofa was Draco Malfoy.
Upon seeing the back of the blondes head, Harry instantly felt his shoulders sag in relief. He approached Draco, gentle and quiet, slightly afraid of how the other boy would react.
As he walked closer he drew in a surprised breath. Salt-stained streaks ran down Draco's face. He was crying- soft gentle sobs.
"Draco..." Harry called out quietly.
Draco didn't say anything, he just turned his head the other way and scooted over, giving Harry room on the couch. Harry accepted the invitation, briefly admiring the softness of the cushions before turning back to Malfoy. He was sat rigid, refusing to look at Harry, his mouth drawn in a thin harsh line.
"Draco." Harry said again, louder this time. Trying to convey everything he was feeling in the one word.
Draco in response crossed his arms. Sighing, Harry reached over and draped his arm across Malfoy shoulders, pulling him into his chest. Malfoy obliged with a small "Humph".
"It's all going to be ok. We can get through this together." Harry tried his best to sound soothing and reassuring.
"It bloody well won't be ok!" Malfoy quipped back angrily, finally talking.
Harry had a sinking suspicion he knew what Draco was so upset by, after all it was one of the biggest reasons they had hid their relationship.
"Draco, babe, I know you're concerned about your family- but I can get the Order to protect them and you. They'll be safe, I promise." Harry pulled Draco closer to him, tucking his head onto Draco's shoulder.
Draco didn't pull away, but he also wasn't melting into the embrace like he normally would have.
"You don't understand. It's different now." Draco practically spat.
He blinked, confused. Harry had brought up this idea two weeks ago and Draco had seriously considered it then.
"W- what do you mean?" Harry inquired, utterly confused.
Draco bit his lip and looked down. He closed his eyes and scrunched his face tightly, as if he was motivating himself to do something. He pulled away from Harry, turning around to face him.
"Because-" Draco choked out, tears once again flowing freely down his cheeks, "because I have this now."
Draco stuck out his arm and slowly lifted the fabric of his jumper, never breaking his eye contact with Harry once.
Harry didn't have to look at Draco's arm to know what was there.
"You said- you promised you wouldn't get it." Harry whispered, feeling the stab of betrayal slice into his chest like a hot knife.
Draco closed his eyes again, a pained look on his face.
"I know. I didn't have a choice." Draco's voice cracked. He started to fold in on himself, shrinking his shoulders in shame.
"He-" Draco shuddered slightly, "He made me. If I didn't he was going to kill my family. I had to. I'm so sorry Harry. I'm so so sorry." Draco started to shake again, his thin frame wracked with violent sobs.
"I'm so so sorry, but it's different now. It's all different now. He's going to see the article and kill them." Draco's voice had faded to barely a whisper, "Why did we ever think this could work-"
"- because we love each other that's why!" Harry shouted, feeling a rage in his chest. He understood why Draco was upset, but that was crossing a line, implying that they shouldn't be together. Being with Draco was the one thing in the world that made Harry feel happy, made him feel safe, made him feel ok in the dark and cruel times of the war.
"I'm a Death Eater Harry." Draco pointed out bitterly.
"You're more than that..."
"No I'm not. I'm a Death Eater and you're The bloody Boy Who Lived. What we're doing, what we have been doing- we've just been kidding ourselves all along. It's impossible for us to be together. And all it took was Rita Skeeter to make that obvious enough." Draco looked down, tears dripped into his lap.
"You're right. I am the Boy Who Lived. And what we have might be impossible, but so is surviving the killing curse, and I bloody well did that didn't I? Doing the impossible is kind of what I'm famous for." Harry hated how desperate his voice sounded, how he was pleading with Draco to see that they could be together.
"Don't you care about the Dark Mark Harry?" Malfoy sounded tired.
Instead of responding with words, Harry gently picked up the boy's wrist and kissed it. He kissed down Draco's entire forearm, a soft trail of buttery lips over the ominous skull and snake.
Harry looked up to find Draco rubbing tears out of his eyes with his other hand.
"I love you." Draco choked out between sobs. And Harry could tell he meant it.
"I love you too."
"But what are we going to do?" Draco asked, still wiping away his tears.
Harry pulled Draco close again, snuggling up to him as they laid on the couch together, in each other's arms.
"We could run away, like we always talked about. Move to a small house in America, deep in the woods where no one could find us."
Draco closed his eyes and hummed in amusement.
"I'm serious." Harry said.
Opening his impossibly large eyes, Draco looked at Harry. His eyes were gorgeous. The color of the clouds after a storm, deep and grey, with thunder perpetually brewing in the irises. He bat his light eyelashes a few times in slow consideration, before his expression turned dark.
"Yeah," he scoffed, "We both know you could never do that Potter. You could never leave the wizarding world in such peril, you and your bloody Gryffindor self righteousness."
Harry kissed Draco's forehead.
"Well then what do you want to do?"
Draco took a deep breath and swallowed the lump in his throat.
"Were you serious about the Order helping my family?" Draco asked in an impossibly small voice.
"Anything for you. I'll send an owl right away."
Draco's body sagged in relief, melting into Harry's.
"Thank you." Draco said.
In response Harry kissed Draco's cheek.
"What do you want to do about the Daily Prophet?" Harry asked.
Then, Draco suddenly pulled out of Harry's embrace. Harry made a rather embarrassing noise of protest, and Draco rolled his eyes. He got off the couch and stood up, brushing off his robes and smoothing down his hair. He wiped his eyes one last time and stuck out a pale elegant hand towards Harry. He smiled his tauntingly crooked, cocky, irritatingly adorable smile.
"I believe my boyfriend is finally going to walk me to class."