After dinner, Harry and Draco both headed up towards the seventh floor, and into the Room of Requirement. Hermione was already waiting, sitting cross-legged on the floor, her hands in her lap. The room was outfitted with everything they could possibly need. There were no chairs, but instead, lots of large, silk cushions littered the floor. Towards the back of the room - which was rather large - was a set of shelves that carried different instruments used for Defense, such as Sneakoscopes, Secrecy Sensors, and others. Walking over to the bookshelves, he saw every possible book on Defensive Magic. The room was quite impressive, actually.
“There’s everything here we could possibly need,” Draco said, looking around as well while there was no one else in the room but them.
“I asked for a room that could only be seen by those on the list,” Hermione said. “We shouldn’t have any problem not being caught. I also asked for a room that was outfitted for just that - everything we could possibly need for Defensive training.” She hadn’t moved from her spot on the floor, and she looked very nervous.
“Don’t worry, Hermione,” Harry told her. “You’ll do fine.” At that, there was a knock on the door, and some of the Gryffindors walked in - Ginny, Dean, Seamus, Neville, Parvati, Lavender, and Salenia’s girlfriend, whose name he thought he remembered as being Alana. They all gave exclamations of surprise as they looked around the room, but before Hermione could say anything, other people started arriving. Harry and Draco found a couple of empty cushions near her, and slowly all the cushions were filled.
“Well, everyone, this is the place we’ve got for practice,” Hermione said. “It doesn’t need to be locked or anything, as no one else can get in but us.” People sounded impressed as they looked around. “It still goes without saying not to mention anything to anyone else, of course.”
“We hid from Filch once in here, didn’t we, George?” Fred exclaimed.
“What’s all this stuff?” Dean asked from the book of the room, indicating the instruments on the shelves.
Hermione explained what they were before getting back to business. “I think we need to formally elect a leader. Electing someone gives that person authority and makes it formal. We also need a name, I think.” Everyone quickly said that Hermione was the leader, which caused his bushy-haired friend to blush deeply. “Er, well, thank you. Now, what about a name? It’ll promote team spirit and unity, I think.”
Angelina suggested the Anti-Umbridge League and Fred suggested the Ministry of Magic are Morons Group, but the most promising was Cho’s - the Defense Association. Ginny agreed that the D.A. was a good idea, but instead, she suggested Dumbledore’s Army. That was the Ministry’s worst fear, after all. Harry assumed that Hermione must have told her what Sirius had told him. A lot of people seemed to like that idea, and when Hermione called for a vote, it was decided. She stood up, and walked over to a wall, nailing the list of names to it before writing DUMBLEDORE’S ARMY at the top.
Hermione turned back around and faced the crowd, all of whom were looking at her expectantly. “I’ve thought a lot about what we are going to start with, and I think we should start with Expelliarmus - the Disarming Spell,” she said. “I know that it’s basic, but it’s useful. After all, your opponent can’t attack you if they don’t have their wand. Also, Harry used it against You-Know-Who back in June.” There was some surprise at the remark. “Everyone should stand up and pair up into partners so we can practice.”
Everyone stood up and paired off. Without Hermione, there was an even number of people. Draco faced him, and Harry was not surprised that the blonde had chosen him as his partner. They had partnered up together in class, obviously, but this was the first time for Defense. Harry felt his stomach flip-flop a bit, but he took a deep breath. He reminded himself to hold back a little bit because he needed other people to get it first.
“Okay, so this is the basic wand movement,” Hermione said, showing everyone with her wand. “Can everyone see me?” There were a couple of no’s from where Dean was standing, and she raised her wand, showing them again. “It’s very simple; there’s no need to over-exaggerative your movements or put an over amount of force into it, either.”
“Yeah, if you do that, you might end up sending your opponent back into the wall,” Seamus said with a grin. There were a few other chuckles as people remembered Severus blasting Lockhart against the wall. Harry, of course, had to pretend like he had no idea what they were talking about and put his best “confused expression” on while Hermione got everyone’s attention again.
“Okay, so everyone raise your wands, and on the count of three, try to disarm your partner,” Hermione said. “Three… two… one!”
Harry raised his wand to Hermione’s counting, as did Draco and many others. When she said one, all at once, a lot of spells went around the room. Harry hesitated on purpose, and Draco said, “ Expelliarmus!” Harry’s wand flew out of his hand, and Draco caught it effortlessly. “Weren’t expecting that , were you?” Draco told him with a smirk.
“I would not underestimate you,” Harry said, smiling at him, wanting to kiss the smirk off the blonde’s face. Of course, he didn’t.
“Why did you hesitate?” Draco asked.
“I didn’t realize I had,” Harry lied. They agreed to go again, and Harry acted like he was about to speak but let Draco disarm him again.
“You’re doing it again,” Draco pointed out. “Try again.”
Harry knew that he couldn’t keep hesitating like this, or Draco might find it suspicious. So, this time, he didn’t hesitate, speaking only a split second before Draco. Both of their wands flew out of their hands. That gave them both a laugh as they switched wands. “See what happens when you don’t hesitate, Snape?”
Harry smirked back at him and was about to respond when there was a loud exclamation of shock from the other end of the room. Both of them turned to see Neville holding both his and Ron’s wand. Ron, who was standing across from him, looking shocked. “I DID IT! I’ve never done that before!” Neville cried out.
“Great job, Neville,” Hermione said, giving him arm a light pat. “I told you that you just need to focus your wand a bit more, that’s all.” She held up her wand, making a loud noise with it causing everyone else to stop. Harry thought that a good idea because just in the minute that he’d stopped dueling with Draco, he’d seen a lot of shoddy spellwork. Some people, like Ernie MacMillan, were over flourishing. Others didn’t seem to have the wand movement down at all. “Okay, that’s great work, everyone. You still need to focus your wands a bit more. Don’t over flourish, either.” She demonstrated again. “Now, try again.”
Harry and Draco took turns disarming each other, and slowly everyone else improved. Hermione stopped them after a bit. “It’s getting late; we should go before we all get caught,” Hermione said. “Let’s just leave a little at a time, okay? I wish there was a way to see who was coming.” After all, Harry didn’t have his Marauder’s Map with him anymore. However, at that moment, a small window appeared in the door. “Same time next week?”
“Quidditch season is starting soon,” Angelina pointed out.
“Does anyone have Quidditch practice next Sunday?” Angelina announced that the Gryffindor team did. “Next Wednesday, then?” When no one said anything, Hermione announced that was the next practice then. Dean said they should have it sooner, but Hermione ignored him. Soon, everyone started living little by little.
Harry and Draco stayed until one of the later groups. “You did great, Hermione,” he said, hugging her.
“Thank you, Jacob, I appreciate that,” she said, smiling at him before he and Draco slipped out and heading back towards the Slytherin Common Room.
The next two weeks went by rather quickly. Nothing happened between him and Draco. In fact, Harry felt that Draco was acting as if nothing had happened. On Saturday, Hermione gushed about the D.A., and how excited she was for the next meeting. Harry was glad that she was happy about it and looking forward to it. There was really no reason for her to be nervous. On Sunday, his father didn’t have another “practical Occlumency lesson” for which Harry was grateful. On Wednesday, it was their next D.A. meeting, and Hermione had them working on Stunning Spells. Harry always backed off a little bit at first, though it was rather annoying always letting Draco get the better of him first.
Before he knew it, it was Saturday again. As usual, he had his morning defense session with Hermione and Severus, and after lunch, he studied with Hermione and Draco. Afterward, Harry and Draco went back down to the common room. It was mostly deserted. There were a few scatterings of people around, but most people seemed to be out enjoying the rather nice day while it lasted.
“You wanted to hear me sing, right?” Draco asked.
It had come out of nowhere, but Harry nodded. “Yes, you play very well, so I would,” he responded. He wasn’t sure where this was coming from, but he had been interested in hearing the blonde singing for a while now. He figured now was as a good a time as any.
“Good, then let’s go,” Draco said, leading to a piano in the back corner of the Common Room.
“Has this always been here?” Harry couldn’t remember seeing it before today. He was sure that he would have remembered a piano.
Draco shook his head as they sat down next to each other. “No, it’s new,” he said. “Just came a few days ago, one for each house from an ‘anonymous donor.’ In truth, it’s Salenia’s mother. Apparently, she thinks that her daughter wasn’t practicing enough at school. At least that’s what Salenia told me the other day.” The blonde shrugged, and Harry was suddenly very aware of how close they were.
All of Harry’s feelings that he’d had lately came back in full force. He took a deep breath, trying to steady his nerves as Draco began to play. The blonde’s voice was as beautiful as his playing. The two fit together perfectly. Harry just let Draco’s voice drift over him. He was almost disappointed when the blonde stopped playing. His voice died off, and Draco turned towards him. “See, I sing as good as I play,” Draco told him.
“Yes, you do,” Harry responded. “You’re very talented.” He turned towards Draco, and green met gray.
Draco smiled at him. “Thank you,” and then leaned into him a little. Harry’s heart started to race. He remembered a couple of weeks ago when they nearly kissed while lying together in bed. Before he knew what he was doing, he was leaning towards Draco again. God, he wanted to kiss him. Just like the last time, it was overwhelming. They were close, and all it would be to lean forward just a little more, just ever so slightly...
Harry pulled away. “Er, I have some studying to do,” he said, scooting away from Draco and standing up. He did not miss the hurt look on the blonde’s face, but it was there for only a moment. A look of ice replaced it, and he knew. He’d hurt Draco. It felt like a knife was in Harry’s heart as he walked back up to the dorm room, but he was certain he was making the right decision. Until he could be honest with Draco, a relationship was not possible. No matter how much that hurt.
The next morning, Harry knew that things had changed, and not for the better. Draco didn’t wake up with him to exercise, as he had for a month now. “Draco,” he whispered near his friend’s bed, but the blonde didn’t stir. Harry exercised alone, and it felt weird. He had gotten so used to having Draco around. After he showered and dressed, Draco was gone. He had gotten ready in record time, and Harry felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. For the first time in a long time, he went down to breakfast alone.
When he got down there, his customary seat next to Draco was taken by Crabbe. Goyle sat on Draco’s other side. There was a spot open next to Crabbe, in between him and Salenia, so Harry was forced to sit there. Draco ignored him for the rest of the morning, and he had never felt so lonely as he walked down to his father’s rooms.
“You seem rather quiet today,” Severus said to him during one of their games of chess.
Harry shrugged. “Draco and I aren’t talking,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Severus nodded, obviously respecting that he didn’t want to talk, and Harry appreciated that. They played a few games before his father announced that it was time for their next practical Occlumency lesson. He was not in the mood right now, but he took a few deep breaths and steeled himself for the onslaught. Like last time, he only lasted a few moments before the visions started to come… he and Draco playing Quidditch at Malfoy Manor… he and Draco nearly kissing the day before… His father stopped the attack, and Harry’s knees went weak.
A moment later, Harry felt his father’s hands on his shoulders. “Are you alright?”
Harry nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine,” he said. “Dad, can we not talk about what you saw, please? It’s just… I don’t want to talk about it. I can’t be honest with Draco, and that means that we can’t…”
Severus nodded. “I understand,” he said. “I would not force you to talk about something that you do not want to unless I thought it was for your own good.” Harry nodded, and they played one more game of chess before parting ways. He appreciated that his father had not pushed, because this had been a horrible day for him. It had been nice just to play chess, aside from the failed Occlumency. His father told him that he was doing fine for a beginner and that he just needed to focus more. That was hard for him right now, but he told himself he was doing the right thing.
The next morning, Harry found he was no longer even sitting next to Draco. Draco had moved to the table behind him with Crabbe and Goyle. Theodore, it seemed, had been forced to move into Draco’s former seat. He sat in between Theodore and Hermione, who sent him a puzzled look, but he shook his head. He couldn’t talk about it, not with so many people around. The rest of the week wasn’t much better, and when Harry went to go meet Hermione and his father on Saturday, she nearly pounced on him for information.
“What is going on?” Hermione asked. “Everyone’s talking about it, how you and Draco were attached at the hip, and suddenly, you’re not? What happened?”
Harry didn’t want to talk about it, but he knew that Hermione wouldn’t let it go. So, he told her what happened, how Draco had played for him. Then, the two had nearly kissed for the second time before Harry and pulled away. “I hurt him; I know I did,” he said. “I don’t want to hurt him, but… I just can’t be honest with him, and we can’t be together while I’m living a lie. Besides, I have no idea how he would react if he knew. I need whoever I’m with to want to be with me, and Draco doesn’t know me, not really.”
“Oh, Harry, I’m sorry,” Hermione said, hugging him. “For the record, I think you made the right decision. You need to be honest with him before you can be together, and until you can do that, maybe it’s for the best. I am sorry that he’s not even speaking to you anymore. I’d hoped you two could remain friends. I suppose it’s just you and I studying together from now on, huh?” Yeah, Harry’s work had already suffered without Draco there to help him.
On the other hand, he was able to do a lot more studying when he wasn’t playing Quidditch. Their first match of the season against Gryffindor was coming up sooner than anticipated, and Montague was being a taskmaster. He told them that they would win by any means necessary if it came to that. Harry was so frustrated with what had been going on between him and Draco that he blurted out that he wouldn’t cheat, that it would only cost them points. He proceeded to then show Montague up in practice.
A few days before their first game was scheduled, he came down for dinner to see Warrington talking to Draco, sitting on the other side of Crabbe, the seat that Harry had been sitting in for the past couple weeks. He looked around, but Warrington looked up at him and then got up, saying goodbye to Draco before walking off. He wondered what that was about, but no one here would ask him. They had all been Draco’s friends, and while Marcus and Salenia were pleasant enough, Theodore still spoke to him, no one else did.
During practice, suddenly, he started to… well, honestly, his playing was rubbish. He couldn’t catch the Quaffle to save his life, and even when he did, he couldn’t do anything with it. When he tried to pass, he would end up overshooting. If he tried to score, he would do the same thing. It was the strangest thing, and it left the entire team frustrated.
“Snape!” Montague hollered at him as they landed on the ground. “What in the bloody hell is wrong with you tonight?”
Harry shook his head, knowing that he was the best player on the team, though he hadn’t acted like it. “I don’t know. This has never happened to me before.”
“Well, figure it out,” he said. “We have one more practice before our game with Gryffindor on Saturday. It’s the most important game of the season and will set us up for either success or failure. I will replace you if necessary. Tell me now.”
“I’ll be fine, I swear,” he said, and they all changed and started walking back.
Draco walked just a little bit in front of him, and he nearly ran into Theodore and Astoria, who were coming back from the library. “Sorry,” he said, but neither seemed to mind.
“Is something wrong?” Astoria asked.
“Yes, you seem a bit off,” Theodore said as they began to walk back to the Common Room.
Harry shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said. “Just tonight, I couldn’t catch the Quaffle at all, and I guess it threw me off.”
Theodore frowned. “That doesn’t usually happen to you, I’m assuming?” Harry shook his head, assuring them that he usually played much better. “This just happened all of a sudden?” Harry nodded, and Theodore groaned. “Warrington, I thought his hand was a bit too close to your goblet tonight. He was sitting in your seat, remember? I didn’t think anything of it, but it did almost look like he may have had something in his hand. I thought I was imaging things, though, because I wasn’t really paying attention.”
“Like a potion?” Draco said, suddenly appearing in front of them as they reached the Common Room. He turned towards Harry. “That would explain your disastrous performance tonight. You were playing liked you’d never seen a Quaffle before, instead of being one of our best players. Go see your father.” The blonde then turned and went into the common room without another word. Theodore and Astoria followed, leaving Harry alone.
Harry turned, making his way down to his father’s office. He couldn’t even knock on the door properly, as it seemed farther away to him. Luckily, his father was still there. “Is something wrong?” Harry explained what had happened during practice and what Theodore had said. Draco had spoken to him, but things were not changed. His father took him inside and sat him down. A few minutes later, he came back with a potion. “Take this, and it should fix your depth perception issues. Unfortunately, it’s too late to do anything about Warrington. The dishes are washed, and no one actually saw the potion. If there was a way, you know -”
“Yes, Dad, I know, thank you,” he said, taking the potion. He felt better after that already. He said his goodbyes and then headed back to his dorm. Sure enough, he had no problems after that. He almost wanted to talk to Draco, tell him it was okay, that he was better. Draco’s cold shoulder over the past couple of weeks showed that he wasn’t. He would find out during Quidditch practice in a couple of days. I’m doing the right thing, aren’t I? He thought to himself as he drifted off to sleep that night. He had been certain before, but now… he wasn’t so sure.