“Can you remember when he died?”
Harry looks up from where he’s sprawled on the grass, propped up on his elbows. He squints against the low-hanging late afternoon sun and twists around to regard his study partner, who’s sitting cross-legged under the nearest tree.
“When who died? And no, probably not,” Harry admits.
“Silas the Sadistic,” sighs Theodore Nott, with as much impatience as anyone sitting outside on a warm Saturday afternoon in May can possibly muster. “Was it before or after the Great Bloodletting?”
“Buggered if I know, Nott.” Harry shrugs easily and throws his dusty book down, effectively flattening a large patch of grass under its weight. “The Great Bloodletting... you know, stuff like that could almost fool a person that History of Magic was interesting.”
“A particularly stupid person,” Theo suggests.
Harry smiles and drags himself back under the cool shade of the tree, brushing stubborn grass from his clothes as he goes. He sits down beside Theo and stares at the shimmering surface of the lake, broken occasionally by a flailing tentacle or two. The heady scent of approaching summer is thick in the air, the grass warm and spiky under his fingers and Nott a surprisingly comfortable presence at his side.
Funny how things turn out, sometimes.
The end of the war had come about most unexpectedly during the previous summer, and at first, no one had been quite sure how the fall of Voldemort would affect life at Hogwarts, not least for Harry and his friends as they had returned for their seventh year, finally free from the threat of impending death.
As it had turned out, things were and are very much the same. House rivalries have remained firmly in place, because even if everyone now knows that the Slytherins aren’t evil, they are still Slytherins.
Which is why Harry’s almost-friendship with one of the aforementioned has not been entirely well received. Ostensibly, he and Theo are researching a project for History of Magic, after being assigned as partners by an uncharacteristically involved Professor Binns. This is also what Harry protests when Hermione, and more vociferously, Ron, asks him why he’s spending his Saturday afternoons with ‘that... that Slytherin.’
If he’s honest, though, Nott is pretty good company. Harry finds his world-weary humour, economical conversation and complete lack of anything approaching hero-worship utterly refreshing. He also suspects that Ron and Hermione have plenty of activities planned that definitely do not involve him, despite their protests.
And that is something he’d rather not think about. His light shudder draws Theo’s sharp dark eyes.
“Cold?” he inquires solicitously. “Or thinking about something disgusting?”
“Something disgusting.” Noting Theo’s curious expression, he shakes his head. “You don’t want to know.”
“Oh, but I do.” Theo sets his quill and parchment on the grass and folds his arms. “Go on, Potter. You can’t shock me.”
Harry smiles slowly and draws his knees up, resting his chin against rough denim. “Well, you asked for it. I’m wondering what Ron and Hermione are doing while they have the dorm to themselves this afternoon.”
His smile turns to a smirk as he slides his eyes to Nott’s and watches his features scrunch up in disgust as the implication sinks in. Harry sincerely hopes that Theo is enjoying the same disturbing mental images as he is. A problem shared is a problem halved and all that.
“Granger and Weasley doing the wild thing. You’re right, I don’t want to know.”
“I did warn you,” Harry says mildly. “Be grateful you don’t have to sit in Gryffindor Tower every night. They’re all at it. All coupled up.”
Harry cringes, realising that the bitterness in his tone is a little more audible than he intended. Theo raises an eyebrow but makes no comment, and Harry is grateful once again for his reticence.
It’s true, he thinks. Ron and Hermione, Dean and Seamus, Neville and Ginny. Couples everywhere.
But he’s not going there. It’s not as though he’s miserable about it, just a bit frustrated. OK, a lot frustrated. He can’t help wondering sometimes if he’s the only seventh-year not getting any.
Fortunately, Harry’s saved from his descent into moroseness by the swooping approach of a familiar eagle owl. He watches as it lands gracefully beside Theo, who only just snatches his hand away from an attempted bite.
“Fucker,” he mumbles, taking the letter and unrolling it. An unholy smirk spreads across his face as he reads, and Harry would be lying if he said he wasn’t curious. “Oh, dear. Poor Draco,” he murmurs, not sounding in the slightest bit sympathetic.
On hearing the name, Harry’s interest is well and truly piqued and he has to resist the temptation to lean over Theo’s shoulder and read the message. His obsession with all things Draco Malfoy is no news to anyone at Hogwarts, although the nature of that obsession these days certainly would be.
Harry sighs and steers his thoughts in a more productive direction. Or, at least, he attempts to. After a moment or two, he ends up plucking up fistfuls of grass and waiting for Theo to finish his letter.
At the soft scratch of quill on parchment, he looks up to find Theo scribbling a very brief note on the back of the parchment and reattaching it to the leg of the owl, who does bite him this time. Theo scowls and sucks his finger.
“Dare I ask?” Harry ventures, pausing in his terrorization of the grass.
Theo smiles serenely, leaning back against the tree trunk. “Draco seems to think that a nicely worded begging letter will convince me to come and save him from a Haunting.”
“A what now?”
“A Haunting, Potter.” Catching Harry’s blank expression, Theo looks momentarily scandalized. “You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”
“Not a clue. Why don’t you tell me, I think I’m all researched out for the day.”
“Oh, fantastic. Let me educate you, Potter.” Theo twists his quill in fingers that are long and elegant but at least as bitten-nailed as Harry’s. “You’re going to love this. This is History of Magic – the interesting version. The Slytherin version. Sitting comfortably?”
Harry nods, amused and intrigued. He’s never seen Nott quite so animated before; his hard dark eyes are practically gleaming.
“As I’m sure you know, the three most important accompaniments to a magical education are pride, punishment and sex. Obviously,” Theo begins, not even looking to Harry for confirmation.
“Obviously,” Harry says faintly, though it’s anything but.
“The Haunting tradition embodies all of these. It’s just for sixth and seventh years, of course,” he adds quickly. “You can’t go around using sex punishment on the others. That would be weird.”
“Weird, yes,” Harry mumbles, staring at the side of Theo’s head. Sex punishment??
“Exactly. It’s called a Haunting because that’s how it originated. We’re talking over a hundred years ago, now... two ghosts haunted the dungeons. They used a very specific brand of humiliation to punish older students who committed certain slurs against the House of Slytherin.”
Theo’s low, aristocratic tones are compelling, and Harry is drawn in, despite the little voice in his head that’s screaming ‘You don’t want to know.’ “What kind of humiliation?” he finds himself asking.
“Sex humiliation, of course.” Theo shoots him a scornful look, which softens into an eye-roll when he registers Harry’s horrified expression. “Not like that, for fuck’s sake. The punishment involved listening to sexual activity one found disturbing. Screams and moans heard late into the night, apparently,” Theo adds with obvious relish.
Bewildered, Harry resumes plucking at the grass and attempts to form a coherent question. “OK. Let me get this straight. If you shame Slytherin, you’re punished by having to listen to two kinky ghosts having it off?”
Theo releases a crackle of dry laughter. “Not any more. The ghosts were banished years ago, when the Professors finally decided that they were utterly inappropriate.”
“You don’t say,” Harry mutters.
“So the story goes, anyway. Slytherins are sticklers for tradition, though, and they simply adapted the tradition, passing the responsibility for the Hauntings to the living members of the House.”
Theo pauses, inviting realization to hit Harry. When it does, Harry jerks his head up, eyes wide. Surely not, he thinks. Surely they don’t do that. He knows Slytherins are a strange breed; he knows that they have special love for their incomprehensible and archaic traditions and he knows that on the whole, they’re a bunch of bloody sadists, but still.
“Nott, please tell me you’re not saying what I think you’re saying.”
Theo tips his head back against the bark and smiles with one side of his mouth. “I think I’m saying exactly what you think I’m saying.”
“So, um, Malfoy, is up there right now, listening to...?”
“Pansy and Blaise, apparently,” Theo supplies helpfully.
Assaulted by even more unwanted images, Harry groans and shuts his eyes. “I didn’t need quite that much detail, believe me. My poor fucking ears.”
“Draco’s poor fucking ears,” Theo amends. “I didn’t know you were such a prude, Potter.”
“I’m not!” Harry insists hotly, eyes flying open. “It’s just, some things are... disturbing. You know.”
“Is it Slytherin sex that frightens you? Or, no... Granger and Weasley, too.” Theo narrows his eyes in thought. “Are you a homosexual, Potter?”
Harry splutters, dropping his eyes to his grass-stained jeans. Hoping he can attribute his heated face to the sun, he affects a long, weary sigh. “No, I’m not. God knows how you arrived at that conclusion. And anyway, we’re talking about your perversions, not mine,” he points out.
Theo snorts. “Whatever you say, but you should know that a combination of deflection and protesting too much isn’t the best way to keep the closet door wedged shut.”
“Fuck off, Nott.” Harry looks up, mildly surprised to see Theo’s arch, curious gaze cast out over the lake instead of fixed on him. “You were saying?”
“There’s not much more to it, really. They’ll choose a bed, close the curtains and get on with it. In the loudest, most dramatic fashion possible. The Haunters take their wands and brooms so they can’t escape or cast Silencing Spells... although apparently, someone forgot to take Draco’s owl.” Theo lifts an eyebrow and glances over his shoulder in the direction of the castle.
“You’re all completely obsessed with sex, do you know that?”
“You have a point there. But still.”
“So why’s he begging for help?” Harry wonders. “Isn’t he supposed to just... er, take it like a man?” The second the words are out, he groans inwardly and bites the inside of his mouth hard. Unfortunate phrase, unhelpful images.
Theo’s amused smirk more than makes up for his lack of comment. “Just because it’s tradition, doesn’t mean he has to like it.”
“Why did he write to you?”
“Process of elimination, I expect,” Theo says easily.
“Well, Millie won’t help him, she’s ruthless. Tracey and Daphne are too mad at him about the... the thing that he’s done. Vince and Greg are – ”
“Too stupid?” Harry cuts in automatically.
“No.” Theo glares. “Just because someone doesn’t say much doesn’t mean they’re stupid, you know. They’re not. They are, however, shit-scared of Pansy.”
Harry laughs. Once he’s actually given it some thought, though, he can understand why Malfoy’s bodyguards might be afraid of their bitchy, sharp-tongued housemate. Pansy Parkinson is a scary lady.
“So,” Harry summarises, wilting in the sun and flopping back onto his elbows. “Malfoy did something bad and now he has to listen to Pansy and Blaise shag each other.”
Harry shakes his head slowly, exhaling long and slow. “No offence Theo, but Slytherins are fucked in the head.”
Theo makes a small sound of incomprehension.
“Twisted,” Harry clarifies.
Theo’s face brightens. “Oh. Thank you.”
Amused and baffled, Harry shakes his head some more, dropping it back to regard the dappled pattern of the light through the oak leaves. It doesn’t matter how hard he tries not to think about it, the curiosity burns, spreading over his skin like a rash until the words spill out all in a rush.
“What did he do?”
“Don’t be dense, Nott, it doesn’t suit you.”
“You’re a fool if you think I’m going to tell you that,” Theo shoots back.
Harry makes a face at the leaves above his head. Briefly, he wonders what it would take to get Theo to give up the information. After all, it could prove useful.
“Tell me this, then,” he begins, in the interests of information-gathering. “It has to be done by two people that the, er... victim?”
“Hauntee,” Theo supplies.
“The Hauntee finds disturbing as a couple.” Harry pauses, flicking his eyes up to Theo. “What if those people don’t want to, er... you know? Take part?”
Theo tilts his head in contemplation. He looks genuinely surprised by the question. “You know... that doesn’t happen very often.”
“Really. Pansy and Blaise are always especially quick to volunteer.” Theo drops his voice. “Well, of course, Pans is a complete tart.”
Harry snorts. Delighted, he grins and pushes a hand back through slightly sweaty hair. Nott, it seems, is quite the gossip once he gets going. How hard can it be to drag Draco’s transgression out of him?
“And Blaise, well... Blaise will shag anything. Literally,” Theo adds darkly.
Harry lifts an eyebrow.
“Once...” Nott leans forward conspiratorially, resting his elbows on his knees. “Once, he and Goyle – ”
“Oh my god. Please don’t finish that sentence.”
“It’s supposed to be disturbing,” Theo points out witheringly. “And you are a prude.”
“Oh, shut up. And anyway, this whole thing is flawed. Surely, listening to sex... any sex... it might, you know...” Harry trails off, gesturing vaguely.
“Any unwanted arousal that occurs is considered part of the punishment,” Theo supplies with obvious satisfaction.
Harry blinks up at him. Shudders. “That’s depraved.”
“Yes.” Theo smiles. Stretching long arms up over his head, he eases the kinks from his back and picks up his quill, ink and History of Magic textbook. He stands, casting a tall, thin shadow over Harry as he looks down at him. “Move your arse, Potter, it’s almost time for dinner.”
By the time Harry has made it inside and hurriedly washed his grubby, sticky face and hands, dinner has already begun in the Great Hall. He slides into the place Ron has been saving for him, which just happens to be facing the Slytherin table. Furtively, he glances at Draco, which is nothing new; Harry sits this side of the table whenever he can because he enjoys watching Malfoy eat far too much to sit with his back to him.
What is new, however, is the defeated body language, the slightly messed-up hair and hollow eyes of the usually immaculate and haughty Slytherin. As the silver-grey eyes catch his across the room, there’s a novel flash of sympathy along with the usual curl of heat in the pit of Harry’s belly. Knowing what he does, it seems that Theo’s explanation is fitting – Draco Malfoy looks thoroughly haunted.
Pansy and Blaise, however, are disgustingly cheerful and wearing matching grins.
Not bloody surprising, Harry thinks. Sex and getting one over on Malfoy; it’s been a productive afternoon for them. At Draco’s side, Theo asks him a question, and Draco looks away from Harry quickly.
“Juice, Harry?” Hermione’s voice cuts into Harry’s musings and he blinks at his two friends, one of whom is holding up the jug of pumpkin juice and one of whom is attacking a potato and scowling lightly.
“How’s your pet Slytherin?” Ron inquires without looking up. His tone is derisory but not malicious, and Harry sighs, holding his glass out to Hermione.
“He’s alright, Ron. I know it’s hard to believe, but they’re actually not a completely different species to us,” Harry says wearily.
“Blaise Zabini thanked me when I held the door open yesterday,” Hermione ventures, torn between seven years of blood-related insults and her ever-present desire to stick up for the maligned. “He’s not so bad.”
“Blaise Zabini is a tart,” Harry puts in.
“Is he really?” Hermione glances over at the Slytherin table with a very odd look on her face. Alarmed, Ron’s head shoots up and then all three of them are gazing over at Blaise, who is doing nothing to help himself by practically fellating his fork in Malfoy’s direction.
“Hmph.” Ron turns back to his dinner. “Malfoy. You’ve got to give me Malfoy.”
Were he mine, Ron, there would be no chance, Harry thinks.
“Malfoy’s a prat. Malfoy’s a smug bastard,” Ron continues, warming to his theme. “Malfoy’s ugly as sin.”
Malfoy’s hot and smart and a challenge, Harry disagrees silently, hiding his dissent in a gulp of pumpkin juice. “Sure, Malfoy,” he says out loud.
It was never part of his plan to like Draco. OK, so he’s been a lot different since the war; he’s not exactly nice, but physical confrontations have become non-existent. They haven’t hurt each other in months. Granted, Draco still glares at him whenever he gets he chance, makes comments about Harry’s hair and his work and his fashion sense, but that’s par for the course.
No, Harry had never planned to fancy the idiot. But then again, when have seventeen-year-old hormones ever been ruled by plans?
Harry sighs and starts piling potato salad onto his empty plate.
“Hermione?” he asks casually. “Do you know what a Haunting is?”
She frowns. “Unwanted ghosts, unfinished business? That sort of thing?”
Something she doesn’t know. Even better. Ron looks up with interest.
“No, not quite,” Harry says, looking over at the Slytherin table with a secret smile. “Look it up. You might find it interesting reading.”
“Instructions are on the board. I want mixed pairs, beyond that I couldn’t care less.” Snape sits down behind his desk and surveys the Slytherin and Gryffindor students with baleful black eyes.
Harry, still copying down the ingredients, looks up as Hermione shuffles closer to Ron. Snape glares at her and heaves a long-suffering sigh. “Mixed House pairs, Miss Granger. Gender is irrelevant to me.”
Stung, Hermione stands and looks around. Harry gathers up his things.
“That’s true in more than one way, apparently,” Theo whispers, as Harry slides easily into the seat next to him and watches Hermione attempt a smile at Pansy Parkinson.
Harry looks up, startled, first at Theo’s smirk and then at the pale, forbidding figure of Snape. If he’s honest, he’s never even thought about sex and Snape in the same sentence before, and doing so now feels all kinds of weird. Not that it matters who Snape might like to have sex with, it’s the fact that he might like having sex at all.
“Where’d you hear that?” he whispers back.
“Common knowledge in Slytherin.”
“You’re a fucking gossip, Nott.”
Theo merely shrugs and takes Harry’s scrawled list of ingredients.
“What did he do?” Harry tries again, under his breath, ignoring the bleak looks Ron is shooting across the classroom in between staring daggers into the side of Zabini’s head.
“Are we still on that?”
“Looks like it. Just tell me, will you?”
“No. I’ll set up the cauldron and you go and get the ingredients,” Theo directs, and Harry slides out of his seat without a word and heads for the store cupboard. Compliance now will help later, he reckons.
Five minutes later, he hums to himself as he rifles through his Potions kit for a silver knife. Snape has vacated the room and the murmur of conversation mingles with the hiss and splash of cauldrons in the background. Most of the Slytherin-Gryffindor pairs appear to be working with the minimum of hostility, although Malfoy has somehow ended up sitting with Neville and looks entertainingly horrified.
“You know this thing that Draco did,” Harry begins conversationally. Theo sighs, and he presses on. “If it’s so shameful, how come everyone was still talking with him at dinner?”
“Because the Haunting is sufficient punishment for these types of infractions. They don’t require the person to be shunned as well,” Theo says, as though explaining something to a small child.
“What types of infractions are those?”
“Oh, there’s a list.” Theo glances up from the cauldron with eyes that glitter through the purple steam.
“Again, Theo. Twisted.” Harry slashes at the air with his knife. “Hand me that Shrivelfig.”
“Please,” he mocks, handing it over anyway.
“Please.” Harry sets to chopping. “Please would you tell me what Draco did?”
“You’re obsessed. Did anyone ever tell you that?”
Harry smiles inside. He may not be the calmest, or the most patient, or the best strategist, but persistence is something he knows he has a particular flair for.
“Obsessed? Yes, once or twice,” he admits, waiting for Theo to look away before he shoots a glance at Neville and Draco. His friend looks terrified, and Draco rests his chin in his palm, elbow up on the desk. He seems to have recovered from the weekend and is, as usual, a picture of upper-class boredom. A nice one, though. Harry sighs and turns away.
He hands the diced Shrivelfig over and watches with satisfaction as the potion bubbles furiously and turns pale lavender right on schedule.
“Hey, Theo?” he says after a moment’s silence.
“What did he do?”
Theo groans and covers his face with his hands. “No.”
The noise level in the classroom has risen again and Harry feels confident no one can hear him as he leans in slightly closer to the Slytherin and starts up a soft, relentless chant. “Tell me tell me tell me tell me tell me...”
Theo throws him a brief look of irritation and dumps the next set of ingredients on Harry’s workspace. Harry picks them up but doesn’t desist.
He chants while he dices the asphodel, every bang of knife on wood punctuated with a ‘tell me.’
He chants while he skins the membranes from the newt eyes, dropping each one in the cauldron with a splash.
“Tell me tell me tell me.” A particularly stubborn eye makes him pause. Then, splash. “Tell me.”
“Stop it!” Theo hisses, clearly wanting to yell but not wanting to draw attention to himself.
“You know, for a Slytherin, you don’t half get riled up easily,” Harry observes, cleaning his knife. “Where’s that famous self control?”
“Your tactics are ridiculous. And I’d love to know why you care so much.”
Harry looks up, gut clenching. Pauses. “Because you don’t want to tell me,” he lies. “And it’s a brute force method, you know, like safe-breaking.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Theo frowns, exasperated.
Harry rolls his eyes. “Pureblood.”
“Is that supposed to be an insult?”
Harry shrugs and falls silent. Ron is once more looking across the room and he daren’t turn to look at Draco again, even when he hears his anguished cry of “Longbottom, you fucking imbecile!” Malfoy’s eyes turn wonderfully intense when he’s angry, Harry knows that from personal experience. He often wonders how intense they’d look if he was pinned up against a wall, or mid-orgasm.
It’s the idea of him being out of control that draws Harry tight with longing, mostly because it’s so rare that Malfoy lets go of it. He could be the one to do it, perhaps, especially if he could find a weakness. As such, he waits until Theo is counting anti-clockwise stirs.
Nott holds up a quelling hand as he continues to stir. After a moment, he turns to Harry, distracted, eyebrows raised.
“Tell me tell me tell me...”
Theo loosens his green and silver tie fitfully. Throws down his stirring rod on the desk.
“Fine! Draco likes someone he shouldn’t.”
The thrill of triumph warms Harry from the inside and he grins widely at Theo until his pointed cough alerts Harry to the fact the Snape has re-entered the room. Much as he wouldn’t mind giving Snape a heart attack by being seen smiling at one of his Slytherins, Harry doesn’t especially want to draw attention to himself, so he schools his face into a neutral expression and gazes into the cauldron.
“He shouldn’t? Why can’t he like whoever he wants?” Harry whispers when Snape has drifted to the other side of the classroom to berate Neville.
Theo smirks. Coughs. “Hufflepuff.”
“Why is that Hufflepuff? What about free will?” Harry demands. “Oh, god, is it some weird pureblood thing?”
“It is, isn’t it! Is it a Muggleborn? Oh, Merlin, that’s too good.” Harry chews his bottom lip as he processes the new information, this time unable to resist sneaking a glance in Malfoy’s direction.
To his surprise, when he turns, Draco is looking right back at him. He’s not smirking or sneering or glaring or... anything, really. Just looking. Harry’s face heats immediately and he has to catch his breath. The eye contact is only a fraction of a second but it’s enough, and Harry whips back around to face front before his stupid, duplicitous body betrays him any further.
All very well having a strategy when you can’t even look at the guy without losing the plot, he curses himself.
“Are you listening to me, Potter?”
“I am now,” Harry placates, picking up the vial to fill with a sample of their potion.
“I said, it’s nothing to do with blood. We’re not fixated on blood-status, you know. It’s something much more important than that.”
Harry lifts a dubious eyebrow but shrugs, filling and corking the glass vial.
“Who is it, then?”
Theo laughs. He takes the vial from Harry and gathers his things. “Yeah. Right.”
As Harry stares after him, wondering how inappropriate Draco’s interest must be to apparently bring shame on his House, the lesson ends and his friends are hurrying him out of the classroom.
Theo Nott, unfortunately for Harry, seems to be a master of evasion, and by Thursday evening, Harry still hasn’t managed to get anywhere near him. Consequently, there has been no opportunity for grilling or interrogation of any kind, and he’s losing patience. Not, as Hermione would say, that he had much to begin with.
The night is humid and sticky, the air like warm water. Harry soon decides that the slightly cooler air inside the castle is much more conducive to studying, scheming and daydreaming about grey-eyed Slytherins, and drags himself and his books up to the library.
Unfortunately, it seems that every other member of the Hogwarts student body has had the same idea. The cool air and studying part, at least; Harry suspects that grey-eyed Slytherins aren’t to everyone’s taste. With exams on the horizon, the place is packed, and a quick scan of the room reveals only one empty seat left.
Harry stands there for a good few seconds, an odd little twinge of nervousness in his stomach. Eventually, the two fifth-year Slytherins notice him and break into a frenzied, whispered conversation. The sound disturbs the other occupant of the table and he pauses in his writing, looking up slowly and straight into Harry’s eyes.
“Potter, you’re standing in my light.”
Harry nods slowly, eyes flicking over the lick of pale, sweat-sheened skin exposed by Malfoy’s undone top button. “Sorry,” he says at last, absently.
“What did you just say?”
Harry snaps his mind back to attention and his eyes back to Malfoy’s face. He looks stunned.
“You said sorry. I don’t think you’ve ever said sorry to me before. Are you feeling alright?”
One pale eyebrow arches and Harry knows better than to think the enquiry is made out of concern. Still feeling off-balance, he pulls a mocking face at Draco and drags the chair out from under the table, slumping into it without ceremony.
The two Slytherin girls are still whispering and every now and then, one of them darts a furtive glance to where Harry is sitting opposite Malfoy. Rolling his eyes, Harry pulls out his books and regards Draco carefully from under his eyelashes. He gazes down at his half-written essay, patrician features arranged in an expression of pure concentration. Harry wonders what it’s like to be the subject of that much focus.
Focus, yes. What he should be doing.
After ten minutes or so of shifting in his seat, fiddling with his cuffs and collar and hair and glasses, reading the same page of his Transfiguration text over and over again, Harry gives in and looks up at Malfoy before his neck snaps from the effort of not doing so.
With a jolt that starts in the pit of his stomach and shoots inconveniently southwards, he watches Draco frown and draw his iridescent blue quill feather over his lips, back and forth in a pensive, almost self-soothing motion.
In a flash of highly questionable logic, Harry finds himself wondering how hard it would be to actually have a civil conversation with Malfoy. It’s not like he’s ever tried before.
“That’s, er... a nice quill,” he says before he can stop himself.
What? Oh, that’s brilliant, draw attention to the thing he’s stroking his mouth with, Harry. Inspired.
Draco looks up, startled. Only pure panic keeps Harry from dropping his head to the desk and banging it hard.
The fifth-year girls start up their whispering again, and Harry’s tempted to hex their chair legs away.
Oh well, he’s committed to it now. “Your quill. It’s nice,” Harry repeats, forcing a nonchalant tone. “That was a compliment, Malfoy. The polite response is thank you.”
Draco’s narrowed eyes are suspicious, but he looks carefully at the quill and then at Harry as though trying to decide something. “Thank you,” he says stiffly. “Potter,” he adds. Blinks.
“You’re welcome.” Harry flashes a brief smile and bloody hell, it’s weird, but it’s so worth it to see the confusion written all over his rival’s face.
When he resumes writing, Harry leans back in his chair and watches, quickly becoming fascinated by the way Malfoy’s white-blond hair feathers against his sharp jaw. It seems to have kinked ever-so-slightly in the humid atmosphere and Harry is unexpectedly charmed by the fact, even more so by the thought that it would absolutely horrify Draco if he knew.
As he stares – er, observes – Harry muses on Draco’s secret. Part of him can’t help but feel insanely jealous of whoever it is, but then again, if it’s someone so shameful, it’s unlikely that Malfoy is going to take up with them any time soon. Catching himself midway through this train of thought, Harry closes his eyes and tips his head back over the back of his chair, groaning inwardly. Theo’s right. He’s obsessed.
“Must you, Potter?”
Harry rights himself, head spinning slightly. “Annoy you? Oh god, yes.”
“What have I done to deserve you this evening?” he snaps.
Harry rests his chin on folded arms and looks up. “Do you want a list?” An impatient snort. “Speaking of punishment,” he adds impulsively, and Draco stiffens. “I heard about what happened at the weekend.”
The Slytherin at Harry’s side splutters so violently he begins to suspect she’s choking. Harry slaps her sharply on the back, perhaps a bit harder than he needs to. She stops choking and glares at him. The other one smirks and raises her eyebrows at Harry.
“What do you mean about what happened at the weekend?” Draco demands, voice tight and small.
Intrigued by his obvious panic, Harry shrugs. “Well, I don’t know the ins and outs of it... so to speak... I don’t know what you’d done to deserve it, but I did get a thorough grounding in some of your more interesting House traditions.”
As he speaks, Harry notices the faintest pink flush tinting Malfoy’s pale skin and delights in it. He’s embarrassed, and it’s really quite fetching on him. His fingers grip the stem of the quill so tightly that Harry’s surprised it hasn’t snapped yet.
“Fuck you, Potter,” he grinds out between gritted teeth, eyes guarded.
The giggling and whispering starts again, but this time Draco turns and issues an entrail-freezing glare, and the girls fall silent immediately. Nicely done, Harry thinks.
“I’m not taking the piss, Malfoy.” He holds both hands up in a placating gesture. “It’s just... I wanted you to know that I think I’d throw up if I had to listen to Parkinson and Zabini shagging.”
Draco releases the quill and it skitters across the desk. Grey eyes widen and the tip of a pointed tongue drags across a dry bottom lip. “I didn’t throw up.” It’s almost a whisper. “I threw some things at the wall, though. A lot of things.”
Harry laughs. Softly, because it’s the library, and because his pleased astonishment feels soft.
Malfoy actually smiles, and oh, god, it’s fantastic. It’s a small, cautious smile, but a smile nonetheless. After a moment, he reaches for his quill and starts scratching away at his essay, that impressive focus melting the last of the smile away, but Harry can still see it behind his eyelids.
Harry pulls at his collar. It’s hot in the library.
On Friday afternoon, classes finish for the weekend at two o’clock. Harry’s last class of the day is Potions, and he’s finally able to persuade Theo out onto the lawn on the grounds that this is their last weekend to finish the History of Magic project.
“Can’t we do it tomorrow?” Theo grumbles, stripping out of his black robes and seeking out the darkest patch of shade under the usual tree.
“No, because there’s a Quidditch match tomorrow, remember?”
Theo curls his lip but starts flipping through his heavy History textbook anyway. “I don’t play Quidditch.”
“I know that.” Harry pulls off his robes and loosens his tie. It’s still oppressively hot and muggy outside, but there’s no way he’s having the conversation he’s planning to have in the library. “But it’s Gryffindor versus Slytherin. Where’s all that House pride stuff all of a sudden?”
“I should have known that conversation was going to come back and bite me in the backside,” Theo sighs. “Do you ever let anything go?”
Harry just smiles. He’s in a good mood. Not least because he sort-of smiled at Malfoy again in Potions and though what he received in return was more of a perplexed frown than a smile, it’s progress.
Flopping onto his stomach, he presses his nose into the grass, inhales the warm, earthy scent deeply and promptly sneezes three times in a row. Several rebellious blades tickle his nose as he looks up at the sound of Theo’s dry laughter.
“Hard to believe you defeated a Dark Lord, isn’t it?”
Harry attempts a glare and sneezes one more time for good measure. “Is this yours?” he enquires, holding up a middle finger. Theo smirks and returns to his book. Harry draws his roll of parchment closer and begins work on the final section.
The sun is burning the back of his neck after half an hour, and he scoots back under the tree. Chews on his quill. “Do you think I can say Wendelin the Weird was insane?”
“I don’t know, she was more eccentric than insane, wasn’t she?”
Harry squints and rests his chin in his hand. “Theo, the woman liked being burned in public.”
“Liking strange things doesn’t necessarily indicate insanity,” Theo points out.
And there’s a nice segue if ever he saw one. Ever the opportunist, Harry stretches out over the cool grass, kicks his shoes off, and says: “Speaking of which...”
And that’s all he needs to say, because Theo’s murderous expression is wonderfully illustrative. “Potter,” he snarls.
“You don’t even know what I’m going to say!”
“I do. And believe me when I say that your level of interest is unhealthy, but very interesting.”
Harry frowns. “Hmm?”
Theo’s smile turns dangerous, and Harry tenses. A lone drop of perspiration rolls down the curve of his back, making him shiver.
“Interesting,” he repeats. “Do you even know you’re doing it? Talking about him all the fucking time like that? And I’m not even going to start in on the staring.”
“There isn’t any staring,” Harry mumbles, scratching at his hair.
Theo coughs pointedly. “It’s alright. I’m not going to tell anyone that the Boy Wonder has a big gay crush on Draco Malfoy.”
Flushing horribly, Harry drops his face back into the grass and sneezes again. “I do not,” he mumbles against the ground, suddenly feeling twelve, not seventeen. At Theo’s small sound of scornful disbelief, he looks up. Wrinkles his nose. “Maybe a little one,” he sighs. “And I fucking hate you.”
“That’s alright, Potter. I’ll survive.” He shakes his head slowly. “That really is interesting.”
“Stop saying that,” Harry complains, completely thrown by the fact that Theodore sodding Nott is the first person who not only knows that he likes boys but that he likes Malfoy.
“Well, it is.” Theo chews a nail thoughtfully. It’s weird, Harry thinks. Where’s all the disgust and indignation and name-calling? Nott only looks interested and smug and vaguely amused. “What will your Housemates do to you when they find out?”
“Er, nothing. Probably,” Harry adds hopefully. Ron wouldn’t be best pleased, of course, but Harry’s fairly certain he wouldn’t lock him in the dorm and torment him with sex noises.
“God, how boring.”
“Yeah, Gryffindors aren’t so much with the sex torture,” Harry murmurs, looking back down at his parchment. He’s surprised to realise that he’s smiling... heart racing, palms sweating, but smiling.
He’s written a good twelve inches about Wendelin’s involvement in the Great Bloodletting before his wrist starts to ache. Shaking it out, Harry drops his quill and rolls onto his back, knees drawn up and arms folded behind his head. He squints to see the parchment Theo is dangling in front of his face, startled by the skilful pen and ink rendering of the death of Silas the Sadistic that swims into focus.
“I didn’t know you could draw,” he says, taking it and admiring the picture.
“Yes, because I’m the one that’s full of surprises today,” Theo says archly, reclaiming his parchment. “But thanks.”
“I was thinking,” Harry says after a moment, tucking his hands back behind his head. “You know this thing you won’t tell me... and now we’ve thoroughly embarrassed me by establishing why I want to know... how about we trade?”
“I’ll trade you something you want for that name.” Harry twists his head to regard the Slytherin.
“So you can go and kill... them?” Theo hedges. “Likely. And anyway, you’re assuming you have something I want.”
“I wasn’t planning on violence. I’m sure there’s something you want.” Harry closes his eyes and chews his lip in contemplation. “I’ll finish the project on my own.”
“The one we’ve nearly finished? No.”
“I’ll... pay you for it. Name your price.”
Harry sighs. “I’ll do something humiliating in public?” he offers desperately.
Theo sighs, sounding sorely tempted, but: “No.”
“Fine, forget trading.” Harry pauses, grinning slowly. “I’ll just start guessing.”
“Potter, give it up.”
“I can’t, I need to know. What could possibly be that shameful? It is a human being, isn’t it?”
He can’t be sure with his eyes closed, but the soft thunk sounds very much like Theo’s head hitting the tree trunk. “I’m not even going to answer that.”
“OK. Shame... shame... ooh, is it a Hufflepuff?”
“Is it a guy?” If Harry sounds hopeful, he doesn’t care. Theo shifts in the grass and Harry grins even more.
“Potter, stop it.”
“It is. Oh, is it a teacher?” Harry’s eyes fly open in horror. “Oh, fuck, is it SNAPE?”
Harry regards him mournfully. “If you tell me, I won’t need to guess. Is it Dumbledore? Is it Hagrid? Is it Filch?”
“Fucking... Potter,” Theo hisses, face in his hands, peering through the gaps in his fingers.
“Your invisibility cloak. One day. No questions asked.”
Astonished, Harry’s mouth drops open and his eyebrows shoot up. “How did you...?”
Theo stares at him pointedly and he registers that he’s being offered a deal.
“You tell no one. You damage it, your balls in a jar,” Harry says quickly, before the reality of lending his cloak to a Slytherin actually kicks in and stops him. Theo nods.
Theo smirks. “It’s you.”
Leaning forward to rest his chin on folded forearms on drawn-up knees, Theo pins him with intense dark eyes and repeats very slowly: “It’s... you... Potter.”
Harry stares. Oh. Oh.
He can’t be sure, but he thinks the sound that comes out of his throat is something like: “Hmfl?”
Stomach churning and mouth dry, he scrambles back until he’s sitting on his heels, hands pressing into the grass. Crazy as it seems now, he had never considered it might be him, so focused was he on finding out which lucky individual Draco liked and couldn’t have. Him. Harry Potter.
Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. “Fuck,” he exhales, staring wildly at Theo, daring him to take it back, to say he was just messing around.
“Indeed,” Theo says calmly, eyes alight with amusement. In the back of his mind, he supposes that watching Harry Potter gape like a fish is probably pretty high on the list of Things a Slytherin Finds Entertaining.
“He... because of me?” Harry groans, closing hot palms over his face and rubbing grass stains into his skin. The library thing is making a lot more sense now; those girls must have been having a field day. “Oh, god.”
“You don’t seem very pleased for someone who’s just been told their big gay crush is... reciprocated,” Theo observes, so calmly he might as well be asking Harry for the time.
“Must you call it a big gay crush?” Harry asks. Theo shrugs carelessly. “Pleased? I... oh.” Harry drops his hands to rest on his thighs, the initial wave of pure shock abating. Pleased. Yes. As the grin creeps across his face, a corresponding warmth threads through his body, pulling it taut with something very much like anticipation. “Pleased, mmm.”
“You’re mad.” Theo tilts his head and examines Harry as if he’s some sort of bizarre specimen. Perhaps he is. “Both of you,” he adds.
“Won’t you get in trouble for telling me?”
Leaning back against the tree trunk, Theo twists his mouth, thinking. “Meh. I’m getting something I want, plus I’m tired of both of you talking to me about each other all the live long day. Cut out the middle man, for everyone’s sakes.” He heaves an exasperated sigh. Harry immediately wonders what Draco has been saying about him, but he knows better than to push his luck.
“But... what about the whole massive shame-on-Slytherin fiasco? Don’t you care?”
Harry had thought he was done being surprised for the day, but Theo’s answer makes him think again.
“We graduate in a few weeks, what does it matter? I’m not going to stand in the way of tradition, but...” He lifts a shoulder carelessly. “That being said, I’ll be in for a Blaise and Greg special if they ever find out I’m friends with you.”
Having never expected to hear those words from him, Harry’s eyes widen. “We’re friends?”
“Aren’t we?” And there’s just the tiniest flare of bitterness in the dark eyes, but Harry doesn’t miss it.
He smiles. “Yeah, I suppose we are. Cheers, Theo.” Harry slaps the Slytherin on the shoulder and jumps to his feet, shaking the grass from his trousers in jerky movements.
“Where are you going?” Theo indicates the not-quite-finished project.
Walking backwards, Harry grabs his bag. “To... er... strategise... plan an offensive, think outside the box... and so forth,” he improvises. “Finish up on Sunday?”
Theo rolls his eyes and Harry swings around to walk the right way around.
“Potter!” comes the yell when he’s about a hundred yards away across the grass.
Harry turns. “What?!”
A pause. “Don’t fuck it up!”
Harry laughs, giving Theo an ostentatious thumbs-up. He doesn’t plan to.
“Ten points from Slytherin for language, Mr Nott,” calls a voice out of a high window, the unmistakeable burr of Professor McGonagall. And then: “Take five back for good advice.”
The window slams shut. Harry walks across the grass and towards the castle, grinning to himself. The heat does very strange things to people.
Harry climbs through the portrait hole, notes the tangle of limbs on the biggest sofa, rolls his eyes and heads for the stairs. When he’s halfway across the floor, Ron and Hermione extricate themselves from each other with a thud and a wet slurping sound, and call out to him.
“Harry? Where’ve you been?”
He turns just in time to see Hermione flushing and smoothing down the front of her shirt. She’s perched on the edge of the sofa, and a crumpled-looking Ron is resting a possessive hand on her knee.
“Outside, working on my History of Magic assignment,” Harry says pleasantly, too buzzed to care about his friends’ display.
“With Nott?” Ron presses, scrunching up his nose.
“Yes.” Harry shifts his bag to the other shoulder and quirks an eyebrow. “What have you been doing?”
“Nothing weird,” Ron says quickly. Harry nods slowly, unsure he wants to know.
Suddenly, Hermione’s gaze turns speculative. “You’re covered in grass and all hot and bothered... what are you grinning for?”
Harry immediately tries to temper the grin but it just stretches wider. “No reason.”
“You’re not shagging Nott, are you?” Ron jokes, and then goes pale. “Are you?!”
Harry waits a good few seconds before putting Ron out of his misery. “No, Ron. I’m definitely not shagging Nott.” He thinks he hears Ron start breathing again. “I’m going upstairs.”
The night is unbearably sticky and Harry sleeps fitfully. Every single window in the dorm is wide open, but there’s no hint of a breeze and it makes no difference at all. He rises as the sky is turning from pink to orange and showers in silence, thoughts of the upcoming game and playing it against Malfoy chasing each other around his head as he rests his forehead against the cool tiles and opts for the easiest, basest method of tension relief he knows.
Heat and frustration have apparently wound him tighter than he had realised, because in no time at all he’s shuddering and releasing himself with a harsh gasp that makes him very grateful his dorm-mates are all still sleeping. Feeling slightly better, Harry turns under the water and allows it to sluice all the sweat and stickiness from his skin.
By the time he makes it down for breakfast, he might as well not have bothered; his clothes and hair are sticking to him again in all kinds of uncomfortable places.
His Quidditch gear is heavy and restrictive, the hair on the back of his neck super-heated in the midday sun as he strides out onto the pitch and looks up into the stands. Everyone there, too, seems to be sagging in the cloudy, soup-like air. Malfoy looks thoroughly miserable, pushing his hair back from his face over and over as he mounts his broom.
The weather breaks fifteen minutes into the match. As the first drops of rain splatter onto Harry’s skin, he looks up, startled, and then turns his face up into it, circling slowly high above the pitch. Within seconds, the rain intensifies into a downpour, bouncing against the stands and sinking into the parched grass, sending up an electrified, earthy smell that catches Harry’s nostrils just right.
It’s a proper summer storm, warm, fat raindrops splashing and clinging to everything, the air thick with relief as the game below Harry steps up, efforts seemingly renewed by the deluge. Malfoy has kept himself well away from Harry up until now, but when the snitch appears and Harry shoots forward, hands sliding on his slippery broom, he appears. A blur of green and blond at Harry’s side, wet hair whipping around his face, not quite long enough to tie back.
Harry’s breath comes fast and shallow as he presses forward, perspiration and sweet rain sharp against his tongue, bitten as he reaches forward at the exact same moment as Malfoy.
For a second, he’s not sure what exactly has happened, only that his hand is closed, and Malfoy’s cool, damp fingers are wrapped tightly around his. They both stop suddenly in mid-air, staring at each other through the sheeting rain. The grey eyes are alive and intense and confused; he doesn’t move his hand and Harry doesn’t want him to. He’s ludicrously turned on, dripping and shivering from the touch and the soft flutter of wings against his palm.
“Harry!” bellows a voice from somewhere to his left. Ron. “Who’s got it? You or Malfoy?”
Blinking water from his eyelashes, Harry looks down at the tangle of fingers. Malfoy pulls his hand away hurriedly and Harry unfurls his fingers to reveal the snitch in his palm.
Ron grins and punches the air; Harry grins back, hearing the eruption of cheers from the Gryffindor stands. When he looks back to where Malfoy was, there’s only empty air and raindrops.
On the ground, Harry slips away from the celebrating Gryffindor team and sprints over to where Malfoy is heading for the showers, broom slung over his shoulder. Pushing the wet hair from his eyes, Harry calls out to him.
“Malfoy, you... er, flew well today,” he finishes uncertainly, stopping just a few paces away.
Draco turns, slightly out of breath, windswept and perspiring gently. He smells of leather and exertion and the breeze, droplets of water dripping from the end of his straight nose. He looks puzzled and then smiles. Shrugs with affected nonchalance.
“Of course I did,” he says, and stalks into the showers.
You like me, Harry says silently, staring after him. Apparently.
Harry thinks he deserves a medal for the self control it takes not to follow him in there and press him up against the cold tiles under the hot water and... cold shower. Yep.
Spelling the water away from his glasses, he trudges across the waterlogged ground and heads inside. Tempting as that thought is, he’ll likely get hexed something horrific if he doesn’t at least speak to Malfoy before throwing himself at him.
He lies awake for a long time that night, staring up at his canopy and resolving to do something about this as soon as possible. Tomorrow? he wonders. Tomorrow’s good.
When he hears Hermione sneak into the room at around two a.m., he pulls the pillow down over his head and strengthens his resolve. Tomorrow it is.
Sunday dawns fresh, cool and damp with a gentle breeze drifting in through the open window.
By the time Harry has showered, dressed and attempted rather pointlessly to do something with his hair, his dorm-mates have gone down to breakfast without him. As he approaches the Great Hall, Theo steps out of the shadows in a suitably dramatic fashion.
“Are you trying to frighten me?” Harry enquires, handing over the cloak wrapped loosely in brown paper.
Theo shakes his head and takes it, shrinking it down and tucking the package into his pocket. “Thanks, Potter. So, what’s the plan?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Harry says airily, but he’s smiling as he pushes open the doors and glances at Theo over his shoulder. “Enjoy your breakfast.”
Sunday breakfasts are spectacular, and as usual, the house elves have outdone themselves. The smell of bacon and toast and fried potatoes is mouth-watering, but Harry can’t concentrate on it. Distractedly, he pushes his food around on his plate and sneaks glances at the Slytherin table where Draco is dissecting a fried tomato with singular precision. He’s wearing a rich forest green and looks up enquiringly when Theo slips in late.
To Harry’s surprise and slight irritation, Pansy and Blaise are still getting at Draco. He can’t tell what they’re saying but their expressions and hand gestures are enough.
Bloody hell, Harry thinks, shredding a rasher of bacon to bits. Wasn’t the sex torture enough?
“Malfoy looks miserable, doesn’t he?” Ron observes, following Harry’s eyes. He sounds pleased.
Harry bites his lip. There hadn’t been a plan, not really, but whatever this is just isn’t working. Taking a deep breath, he sets his knife and fork down and gets to his feet.
“What are you doing?” Ron sounds alarmed.
“Nothing, nothing, it’s fine.” Harry steps over the bench and heads toward the Slytherin table.
He stops at the end of the table and within seconds, the whole table has fallen deathly silent.
“Malfoy... do you have a minute?”
The panic that crosses Malfoy’s face is admirably short-lived. “I have many minutes, Potter, thank you for asking,” he says, sounding bored.
Heart pounding, torn between wanting to strangle him and wanting to kiss him senseless, Harry tries again. “OK, but could I speak to you?”
“Go ahead. It’s a free country, by all accounts.”
Harry sighs, eyes scanning the occupants of the table. Every single one of them has stopped eating and swivelled their eyes to fix upon him. Pansy and Blaise look intrigued and horrified, and beside them, Theo has half his face covered in his hand and is shaking his head slowly.
“Can we please talk in, er, private?” Harry feels himself colour, resists the urge to tug at his hair and wishes he’d thought this through. Someone once told him that impulsiveness would be the death of him, he’d just never imagined it would be death by embarrassment.
Pansy squeaks. Draco drops his fork. Harry suddenly has the very distinct impression that everyone else in the Great Hall has stopped their conversations, too.
Eyes flashing fury, Draco gets up and storms out of the Hall without a backward glance. Confused and disoriented, Harry stares after him for a moment. Gives in and rakes his hand through his mop, turning back to the Slytherins for want of a better idea. Most of their faces are reflecting his shock back to him, but some are recovering their usual cold stares.
“Potter,” Pansy says, a strange expression on her pug-like face. “I don’t know how you found out, but... public humiliation – that’s impressive,” she finishes, mouth twisting as though the baffling compliment tastes bad in her mouth.
“Public... no, I didn’t...” Harry looks wildly at Theo, who shrugs and glances pointedly at the door.
The door. Right.
Without a word, Harry takes off and exits the Great Hall, looking up and down the corridors. A flash of blond snags his vision and he runs after it, footsteps echoing on the stone floor. Malfoy stops and turns, halfway down some side hallway, so abruptly that Harry almost runs straight into him.
Holding up a hand, Harry shakes his head, slightly out of breath, still not quite sure what he’s done.
“What did you run off for? I just – ”
“You just what? Just wanted to humiliate me a little bit more? I appreciate the sentiment, Potter, but I’d appreciate it even more if you’d just fuck off and leave me alone,” Draco spits, arms folded like a barrier, full scowl in place.
Stung, Harry takes a step backwards. “No, I don’t – I mean, I wanted to tell you that I – ”
He’s interrupted a second time. “Do you not think it’s enough that my Housemates read out sections of my private journal to the entire Slytherin common room? Do you not think it’s bad enough that I had to stand there while everyone got to hear about how I’m in love with Harry fucking Potter and all my thoughts about what it might be like to shag him?”
Draco’s eyes are bright with humiliation and he looks dangerous. Harry stares, unable to believe what he’s hearing.
“No? Of course not, because it’s YOU and you have to go one further by finding out about it and telling all your friends and then having the audacity to pretend to act like a human being towards me so you could really fucking rub it in.”
It’s fortunate everyone else is at breakfast, because Malfoy is making no effort whatsoever to modulate his voice and it practically bounces off the corridor walls as he berates Harry.
When he finally falls silent, arms dropping to his sides, his eyes glint with steel and pin Harry to the spot. Harry’s brain seems to have ground to a standstill.
“You’re in love with me?” he repeats dumbly, realising his mistake a split-second too late.
Draco’s nostrils flare. “Merlin, you’re a piece of work, Potter. I fucking hate you. I hate you!”
He turns on his heel and walks away.
Harry stands there for a moment, stunned. Processing frantically. Nobody had said ‘in love’. No one had said anything about a journal. Fuck.
A heavy door slams and Harry rounds the corner, suddenly realising where he is: right outside the Slytherin common room. Hot, stinging desperation surges through him, turning his impulsiveness into something new and powerful.
He bangs on the door and yells through it.
“Malfoy! Draco! Open the door, for god’s sake! I don’t know anything about a journal, I promise, or the... other thing.” He pauses, wrapping his sleeve around his fist and resuming the frenzied knocking. Suddenly, nothing could possibly be as important as getting Draco to open that door. “I didn’t lie before, in the library... not really... all I knew was that you liked someone you shouldn’t and then I couldn’t believe it was me, and...” Harry catches his breath, pressing his forehead against the cold door. “Please open the door, Draco... I like you too, OK? I really – ”
The door is flung open and Harry bites his tongue.
Draco stares at him with all of the previous intensity, though the anger has evaporated and he looks ferocious, hopeful, beautiful.
“Excuse me?” he demands.
“I mean it. Please, I’m not messing with you. I saw the way Pansy and Blaise were at breakfast and I just, er, didn’t really think... as usual,” he says all in one breath, earning him a raised eyebrow from Malfoy.” In hindsight, maybe I should’ve...” Harry shrugs helplessly. “I haven’t told anyone, I swear.”
“Have you quite finished?” Draco says, folding his arms again and making the most of his half-inch height advantage over Harry.
Harry nods and attempts a smile. Draco’s pale eyes flicker, and then he turns away and walks back into the common room. Just as Harry opens his mouth to call after him, he turns. Looks over his shoulder, lips curving into an exasperated smile.
“Are you coming or not?”
Harry does not need to be asked twice. He pulls the heavy door closed behind him and steps into the Slytherin common room for only the second time ever, following Malfoy along a long, low-ceilinged corridor and into what he assumes is the seventh-year boys’ dormitory.
Adrenaline-shaky, the door clicks, sealing them in a space that’s eerily silent and smells of mothballs and cologne. Draco turns to him and his split-second hesitation spurs Harry into action. He reaches out and grabs Draco’s wrist, drawing him close and turning, pushing him up against the closed door.
He’s warm and vital, pale eyes huge at such close range, his sharp intake of breath deafening in the silent room.
“So, who have you, er, Haunted?” Harry asks, pressing close, palms against the door, one either side of the blond head.
Draco smirks, exhaling hot breath against his lips. “No one. Apparently no one finds me, er, disturbing.”
“Good,” Harry says vehemently, and kisses him. Draco kisses back urgently, fisting strong hands into his shirt and stealing his breath with the swipe of a hot tongue that tastes like breakfast and feels like freefalling. He eagerly opens his mouth to the slick, heated exploration and leans his full weight against Draco.
Malfoy kisses with the energy and skill of someone who not only wants desperately but is eager to prove a point, and Harry lets him, pushing into the hand that slips down to curve around his arse.
Pulling back until they are nose to nose, Harry blinks slowly at the face in front of him and decides that being the focus of that intensity is indeed completely intoxicating.
“I’m going to be in so much trouble for this,” Draco sighs, sounding completely unconcerned.
“Yeah,” Harry mumbles. “You Slytherins are twisted.”
“Thank you.” Draco licks along his bottom lip. “Although Pansy and Blaise are beyond help.”
“We could wait until they come back and Haunt their arses off.” Harry grins and steals a kiss. “In fact, screw tradition, let’s just do it on their beds.”
The warm laughter that escapes as Draco tips his head back against the door is a sound Harry has never heard before. He’s already wondering what he’ll have to do to hear it again.
Harry grins. “Whose first?”
“Well, Blaise’s is right there.” Draco points over Harry’s shoulder. “Closer.”
“That is a good – ” Harry doesn’t get to the end of his sentence before he’s being shoved backwards with a firm palm against his chest. “ – point,” he concludes, as a sharp push makes him flop back onto the unfamiliar bed.
“Of course it is,” agrees Draco, kneeling over him and smiling like a true Slytherin.