Second Place- Alternate Universe
Third Place - Romance

Underwater Light


Chapter Eleven

When It Darkens

I looked into your eyes

They told me plenty I already knew

I never let myself believe that you might stray

I thought, I'll be with you until my dying day

It was Friday morning, four days after the end of the Tournament, and Harry had just woken up with his scar burning.

It burned often these days, as Voldemort's power rose. He had learned to accept it.

He hadn't learned not to hate it.

With the worry of the Tournament over, if he looked away from Seamus' bed he could almost pretend Quidditch was all he had to worry about. Why did this pain have to come now?


He turned to the sound of Ron's voice, and felt a sudden, stupid flash of fear, as if Ron would see the scar and think it was the mark of a murderer.

Ron smiled, faintly, in a concerned way. Harry smiled back to show he was all right, and the smile became more genuine when he saw Ron's pyjamas.

Ron was tall enough now to wear the pyjamas Bill had worn at his age, and there was a picture of red, pouting lips on the pocket over his heart Harry always teased him about. And by some Ron law of physics, the pyjama trousers were too short - though Harry was pretty sure he and Bill were the same size.

"You okay?" Ron asked, sitting on the bed.

Harry pulled his legs up to his chest to make room for Ron, glad for the distraction.

"I - yeah. It happens often enough."

And every time makes me think we have to crush him more and more. Makes me more determined to kill the bastard.

"Is it worse, knowing when You-Know-Who's angry?" Ron spoke suddenly, as if he was almost afraid to say it. "I sometimes think it's - not knowing that's the worst thing. I hate mysteries. I hate everything that's-" he made a face. "Creepy."

"I don't know," Harry said wearily. "I've always had this, remember?" He paused. "I expect they're both bad."

"Yeah." Ron hauled himself further up onto the bed, knocking against the bedstead and wincing. "D'you want to know something? It'll sound a bit mental."

Harry nodded.

"You know the awful way Neville snores? Sometimes I listen really hard for it, because it lets me know that someone's still there. Sometimes I can't sleep without it."

They both paused for a minute, and listened to the drone of Neville's snore. It was a dreadful sound, and they exchanged a small grin.

"I don't think it sounds mental," Harry said. "This is all so bad... you take comfort where you can get it."

"Yeah..." Ron squared his jaw. "I've been meaning to talk to you about that. That's why, you know."

"Why what?" Harry asked.

"Why I haven't strangled Malfoy and buried him in a shallow grave to stop you fraternising with the enemy."

"He's not the enemy," Harry said sharply.

"Obviously you don't think so, Harry. But I still hate the git. He's always been the enemy-" Ron scowled. "The smarmy, evil-minded little ponce only stops running off at the mouth to fuss over his hair. But - okay, I know for some reason you like him now."

Ron grimaced as he said that, as if he wanted to wash out his mouth.

"He's not like you think," Harry said. "Well. I mean, he does fuss over his hair."

See? Ron's expression said. Evil.

"And sometimes he's a bit poncy. And all right, yes, he doesn't know when to stop talking. But..." Harry stopped. "I care about him," he said quietly. "I care about him a lot."

"Um. Yeah, I can see that," Ron said. "I'm not completely thick, you know. I saw you two running like escaped jailbirds from the Tournament." He shook his head. "Honestly, Harry, what did you think you were doing?"

"It almost worked," he protested.

"Harry, they caught you at the foot of the hill, and then that prat tried to tell them you were having an affair with Professor Trelawney."

"It could have worked," Harry said defensively.

"Prat," Ron repeated. "And for the record, I think you'd at least rate Professor Sinistra."

"Ron," Harry said, suppressing a grin. "I think I'm going to be sick."

Ron looked uncomfortable. "Yeah, well... the point is... things are bad, like you said. And we all need things to make it better. If he's helping you - if you trust him - I don't want to take that away from you."

Harry stared at Ron's open face.

Ron scowled. "I still hate it, though. And him," he added, just to make things clear. "You might trust him, but I don't think you should. If things were just a little better, I'd scalp him and hang his stupid hair outside the Gryffindor entrance. And if he's not as good a friend as is possible in his slimy Slytherin way, I'll still scalp him."

Harry bit back a smile. "Ron." Ron looked at him. "I... You're my best friend. You know that."

"I should hope so," Ron said. "Otherwise I really would have to kill Malfoy."

"Is this a private slumber party, or can anyone join in?"

Dean's dark eyes were grave and smiling at once, and Harry would never have turned him away. But he would never even have dreamed of it now, when Dean's best friend was not there.

"Anyone can't join in," he said. "But you're welcome."

Dean climbed onto the bed, nudging Ron to get more space. "So, what're we talking about?"

"The Tournament," Harry answered.

"Ah." Dean grinned. "That's one thing off your back now, at any rate. Though I must say that when you disappeared it gave us all a scare."

"It wasn't great for me either," Harry replied.

He didn't want to think about it, hadn't wanted to talk about it. The little he had said had made Sirius go white with fury and rush to bite Dumbledore's head off. Dumbledore had said that it was necessary and Harry would understand later.

Harry wished he understood now.

"Ginny was in tears," Dean continued softly.

"Hermione was going spare too," added Ron.

"I think everyone was terrified," Dean said. "You know how it is these days. Not even Hogwarts is safe. We've got this spy."

The word, spy, pressed the curtains in heavily around them all. Harry couldn't remember anybody ever saying it in the Gryffindor dormitories before. He saw the faces around him grow grim. They huddled in together.

"It'll be all right," Harry told them, because someone had to say it.

"We have to find out who it is," Dean replied quietly. "We have to have at least one place where we can be safe. Then things might start to be all right."


It was day now, and lunchtime.

"Come on, Harry."

"Why should I?"

"I really want you to."

"Maybe if you beg."

"I'm considering it."

Harry smiled. "On your knees, Malfoy."

Draco tilted his head and gave him a winning smile back. "Does that mean you will?"

"I... have to be looking at a picture of a snake," Harry temporised.

Draco rolled his eyes at him. "Pathetic excuse, Potter. I have a snake on my prefect badge. Look at it, and say something in Parseltongue this minute. I only heard it once, and I want to hear it again!"

"Don't be a brat," Harry said absently. "What would I even say?"

Draco considered. "You could say 'Draco is the supreme ruler of everything, and has perfect cheekbones.'"

Harry focused on the badge pinned to Draco's chest. The snake was just a flat green outline against a silver background, but he could see the flickering forked tongue.

"Draco is a complete idiot some days, and I think he may be in love with his mirror."

The heavy hiss hung on the air.

"Hey!" Draco said.

Harry raised an eyebrow. "You don't even know what I said."

"No. But I know you, twit." Draco indulged himself in a smirk before he continued. "And that was great," he told Harry appreciatively. "You should do it more often. I bet Morag would be impressed."

"Draco Malfoy, if you don't shut up about this Morag girl-"

Draco's cool glance swept around the courtyard where they were walking and keeping to the covered walkways because of the chill in the open air.

"Well. If you're not into the Slytherin action, you might like to know that your cutest stalker is still very much in evidence."

Harry looked around and saw a glimpse of bright hair.

"Do you mean Ginny?"

Draco's lip curled. "I certainly didn't mean Creevey, did I? There she is, large as life and twice as infatuated. Lucky you're not the cheating type; six vengeful older brothers would be a worrying prospect. And it's fun to be adored."

"Draco. Do you remember us talking about you not being able to look after me? That includes not being allowed to fix me up."

He was certain Ginny was just out for a walk. Yes, she'd had a bit of a crush on him ever since they were all kids, and the crush had clearly lingered enough for her to have kissed him back that time - and yes, all right, maybe she would like to go out with him, but he wasn't interested and she couldn't be that serious.

Draco looked injured.

"I'm just trying to help you on the road to happiness."

"I am happy just now, thanks very much."

"You could be happier," Draco persisted. "There's this tongue thing I taught Morag to do - it's a long story about a nightclub and lemons-"


Draco's head snapped up. Harry had noticed he could always tell when Harry was serious.

"Just stop it, all right? I don't like to hear about that kind of thing. You're better than that."

Draco raised his eyebrows.

"You're idiotic some days, Harry. You do know that, don't you?"

"Yes, I know. But you have to put up with me for the next hour. You promised to leave your damned project alone if I told you the full story about the Chamber of Secrets. You're mine."

Draco smiled. "Far be it from me to go back on a bargain. Though I'm still not sure about this Chamber affair."

Harry nudged him for a brief mock-indignant exchange of glances.

"Would I lie to you?"

"Would I accuse you? It's just the whole pulling a sword from a hat business. You pull rabbits from hats."

"I don't think I'd have fancied trying to kill a basilisk with a rabbit."

"Oh, but I would love to see you try it. Imagine it. Imagine the photos." Draco went into a quick but energetic roleplay. "The brave hero brandishes his fluffy and whimpering pet of doom. 'Back, back, foul serpent!' Thwack! Distressed squeak. Th-"

Harry reached out and grabbed him, pulling him back into step with Harry by his sleeve.

"You're such a drama queen sometimes, Malfoy."

"How dare you! Nobody understands my artistic temperament."

Harry just shook his head, amused. Draco sulked for a moment, then appeared to cheer up and began to sing under his breath, probably to prove his artistic temperament. Or possibly to annoy Harry.

He was always singing this song. It was an old Weird Sisters One, and Harry recalled that Draco had always seemed fond of it.

The one time in sixth year that his dormitory mates (especially Seamus, but don't think about that) had dragged Harry down to the club in Hogsmeade, Harry had spent the night staring into his Butterbeer as every Weird Sister song played. He had loathed every one of them as he sat there, trying not to watch Ron and Hermione, or Seamus and Lavender who had been together at the time...

And he'd loathed this one most of all, because when it started the Slytherins had all spilled in from the bar in a huge rush of barely covered bodies, and really the Slytherins had never needed their own monthly club night to get drunk and be shocking en masse.

Harry recalled being distinctly taken aback that not only were the girls' robes very low cut, but Zabini and - Malfoy, then - were both wearing too little. Zabini's robes seemed to be made of dragonhide and were slit down his chest, and Malfoy's had no sleeves. Harry'd thought Typical and scowled into his Butterbeer as half the Slytherins began enthusiastically shouting the words.

The inside of Malfoy's mouth had been painted black and shocking pink by neon light and shadows.

Harry had thought it was a terrible song.

"Nobody to dance with, Potter? How extremely unsurprising."

He'd recognised the slow, delightedly malicious voice before he looked up. Malfoy, suddenly at his elbow as if placed there by an evil fate.

Clearly drunk and sweaty from the crush, and Harry could smell the sharp mingled scents as Malfoy leaned in to look at Harry's drink and give a yelp of scornful laughter.

"Butterbeer? I see we're competing with Longbottom for the coveted title of Most Pathetic Student this year. Go on, Potter, you can do it. I believe in you!"

Harry had shoved him viciously back. "Get away from me, Malfoy."

He'd tried very hard to think of what terrible thing he could have done to be punished for it with Malfoy.

Harry had been saved by Zabini, of all people, walking up behind Malfoy and touching Malfoy's hip for an instant. Even back then, he'd seen that Zabini was unwarrantedly grabby.

"Aren't you dancing, Draco? This is your song."

Malfoy's alcohol-bright eyes had glittered as they left Harry's. "Of course I'm dancing," he'd replied.

Harry had left. He had no desire to be mocked any further, or to see perverted Slytherins writhing all together on the dance floor.

Oh, he'd hated the song then.

He didn't mind it so much now.

He realised he'd been humming along when Draco arched his eyebrow at him.

"You could sing too," Draco proposed.

"No thanks," Harry returned. "I don't sing, any more than I dance."

"Doesn't sing. Doesn't dance. All he can do, ladies and gentlemen, is kill monsters with bunnies."

"I don't-" Harry paused and laughed. "I can do a lot more than that."

"And speak very cool snake language," Draco added. "I'll give you that."

Harry paused and shivered. He could remember Tom Riddle, speaking the same tongue, and the thrill of disgust when Dumbledore told him: he transferred some of his own powers to you... He wouldn't have spoken Parseltongue again, if it had been anybody but Draco asking, and if he hadn't felt - guilty.

Because he had lured Draco out of his room under false pretences, of course. He had not told Draco the whole story of the Chamber of Secrets. He had left out the present day villain, the man who had slipped doom to an innocent girl.

He wanted to protect Draco, and it didn't matter anymore. So he left Lucius Malfoy's name out, and surely wanting to protect Draco was nothing to feel guilty about.

He still did, though, and he shivered again.

"For God's sake, Harry, you're freezing," Draco remarked. "Why didn't you find some gloves, you great lummox?"

He gave Harry a critical look, and then reached over and knotted Harry's scarf more securely around his neck. And yes, it must be cold, because Draco's breath was oddly warm against Harry's cheek.

"Honestly, the last cold snap of the year," Draco said grouchily. "What kind of sadist organises the last cold snap of the year to happen in May?"

"Draco," Harry told him, "I don't think anyone organises these things."

Draco stuck out his lower lip. "It could be retribution for past misdeeds by cruel fate."

"Then you're lucky it's not snowing."

Draco made a hideous face at him, crossing his eyes under the fringe his woollen hat flattened against his forehead.

"At least I am wearing an appropriate hat and gloves," he said in tones of deep satisfaction.

It was so like Draco to have a hat and gloves made to match his Slytherin scarf. It appalled him to see people compromising with any old gloves, and Harry'd noticed he took every opportunity to peacock around in them.

Harry suddenly recalled the last time it had snowed, just before Christmas. He'd been walking around with Ron and Hermione, trying to ignore them teasing each other about mistletoe, and he'd vaguely noticed Malfoy's hat and gloves in a you-vain-bastard way.

At that point Terry Boot had sidled behind Malfoy and wrestled a snowball down his neck. Malfoy had ended up sitting on the snow, looking comically outraged and trying not to laugh. Harry remembered being rather startled at his apparent lack of rancour.

He'd been glaring up at Terry Boot, and there had been snowflakes stuck in his eyelashes.

Then of course he'd leaped up to wreak snowy vengeance, and some Ravenclaws had jumped to their Head Boy's defence, and Harry had led the Gryffindors to supply the difference.

It had ended up being viciously Gryffindor/Slytherin as everything seemed to end up at Hogwarts, with Crabbe and Goyle throwing snow-covered rocks and Pansy using her knee in defence of Malfoy and in a most unladylike fashion, and leaving Ron fallen on the snow.

"Be grateful, Granger," Malfoy had panted. "If it'd been Millicent, you'd be going out with a eunuch about now." He'd smirked. "Which would be terribly amusing-"

Snape and McGonagall had eventually come striding down the snowy hill from the school to deal out detentions and pull the worst offenders apart.

"Potter, get up this instant! I am absolutely appalled by your behaviour - have you been rolling in the snow? Go upstairs and change immediately."

"Malfoy, when are you going to outgrow this puerile impulse to - what on earth happened to your mouth?"

"Potter tried to force-feed me ice!"

"Malfoy started the whole thing!" Harry snarled.

Snape prudently placed a restraining hand on Malfoy's shoulder. Malfoy was chastened enough by the presence of his favourite teacher to settle for sneering at Harry behind McGonagall's back.

Harry had glared at Malfoy, whose stupid hat was askew and whose mouth was red, and thought that he was the most hateful person in the entire world.

"Do I have something on my mouth?"

Harry blinked. "No. I was just thinking of Christmastime and, um-"

Draco threw his head back and laughed. "And you trying to stuff ice into my mouth, I remember. You vicious little bugger. I was going through a difficult emotional time around then, you know."

"Yes, well..." He remembered something Draco had said back in the lake. "We hardly did show-and-tell about our feelings, Malfoy."

Draco smiled brightly, and Harry knew he recognised the words.

Parvati and Lavender emerged from a door and, pausing only to exchange a few words with Ginny, waved and began to walk over to them.

Harry fervently wished they would go away. Between classes and homework and Young Order and Council meetings and all the new restrictions, he hardly got to see Draco these days and quite frankly, the intrusion was entirely unwelcome.

"Hi Harry," said Lavender, who was pink from the cold.

"Nice hat, Malfoy," remarked Parvati, putting a hand on her hip and lifting her eyebrow.

She was very poised, and had always been good company, and Harry wanted her to leave this instant.

"I know," Draco replied with great satisfaction. "That's why Ginny Weasley is lurking over there, of course. She is hoping that I will perform a daring striptease, leaving only my hat in place. Born to be porn, that's me."

Parvati and Lavender both laughed.

"So what were you two discussing so intently before we arrived?" Parvati inquired archly.

Draco frowned. "Mainly beating reptiles with small cuddly animals, I believe."

Lavender looked rather alarmed.

Draco smiled charmingly. "And dancing. Harry here can't sing or dance. Isn't it appalling?"

Parvati smiled back. "I do recall having to lead during our first Yule Ball..."

"I was fourteen!" Harry protested.

"Of course you were," Draco said, releasing his hands. "And we cannot all be born with the natural grace of-" he waved vaguely towards Parvati, then changed his mind and pointed to himself. "- yours truly."

"I've seen you out clubbing," Parvati commented. "I know what you think is dancing."

"So you're saying it's not natural grace so much as natural depravity," Harry suggested, automatically dodging before Draco aimed the blow.

"You have no faith in me," Draco observed disapprovingly. "Fine then. I'm picking up your gauntlet."

He pulled his right glove off with his teeth, and then pulled off the left, and tossed them over his shoulder.

"Come on then," he said, tossing his scarf over his shoulder too. "Put your money where your mouth is, Patil."

He seized her hand and pulled her out into the courtyard, ignoring her startled sound as he spun her off the walkway and into his arms. Then he bent her backwards over his arm.

He looked up at Harry and flashed him a smile.

"Who says I can't dance now?"

Harry never had time to respond, because Padma Patil came running out of another door and towards them.

Harry remembered for a long time the Patil twins' faces in that moment, those born mirrors reflecting such different things. Parvati was flushed and smiling, innocent and excited, and Padma's face was white and drawn, her eyes huge with horror.

"Everyone come quickly," she said, all the emotion crushed out of her voice. "We need you all in the Young Order room. Now."


The Order around the table weren't chatting as they usually did at the beginning of a meeting. They were staring at Lupin in a kind of hushed terror. Neville had gone ashy pale, and Harry tried to send him a reassuring smile. He was already holding one of Hermione's and one of Ginny's hands - Ginny looked as if she was about to cry.

He didn't think the smile was very convincing. Professor Lupin, who had always had a warm glance for them, was looking grave.

Everyone was drawing together around the table, in four tight clusters.

The tightest cluster, and the furthest from the others, were the Slytherins. But it had always been that way.

Harry hadn't always cared that it was that way.

They waited, and finally Lupin spoke. His eyes were on the table, and his voice was low and formal.

"Miss Granger and Mr. Boot were assigned to the research division of our team," he said. "They were looking into the old magic that Professor Dumbledore invoked in several cases to protect places." Lupin's eyes flickered momentarily to Harry. "There was an idea that a secure room could be set up in Hogwarts where students could go at an alarm, and be safe. It was progressing - very satisfactorily. And this morning, it was discovered with all the preliminary wards broken down and the plans stolen."

Lupin lifted his eyes slightly.

Hermione's grip almost broke Harry's hand.

"The spy in Hogwarts has proceeded to outright sabotage. One of our best hopes has been taken from us, and a great deal of work and magic has been wasted. We have to find out who knew - and I have to admit I did. Miss Granger, during difficulties with her spellwork, consulted me and I consulted several members of the staff on the matter."

Lupin paused. Harry hated the war most at these moments, when the adults he relied on looked so old and worn.

"I am content to be under suspicion," he said. A murmur of protest rose, and he held up a hand. "But I must insist that Miss Granger and Mr. Boot inform us of any other possible leaks in security. We must have a complete list of suspects."

Harry looked over at Hermione as she spoke, her eyes too large for her suddenly pinched face.

"I told Ron," she said softly. "And I told - I told Ginny. She was scared and I thought I could reassure her."

"Mr. Boot?" asked Lupin, not commenting.

Terry Boot's eyes were hidden by his reading glasses, which might have been why he was wearing them.

"I told Padma and Mandy," he said. "We - worked in a group on all of our projects. We did research on them together."

"Is that everyone?"

Slowly, Hermione and Terry both nodded.

"No," said a cold crisp voice, and every head spun to the centre of the Slytherin cluster. "I knew," Draco continued, his face untouched by emotion. "Boot told me while we were guarding the front gate. I helped him with a tricky part of the spell."

There was just a single moment of stillness. Harry looked at Draco's calm eyes.

Pandemonium broke loose.

People were jumping up, yelling, turning their heads and holding frenzied conversations with their neighbours. And almost imperceptibly, so naturally, backs were turned on the Slytherins.

"I didn't say because I knew people would think it was him," Terry Boot snapped. "And it wasn't."

"I think that's highly unlikely," returned Padma Patil, her gaze cold and fixed on Draco.

"Unlikely?" Ron yelped, and he was on his feet. "It was him! You only have to look at him to know it was him! He should be sent to bloody Azkaban this minute-"

Crabbe and Goyle both cracked their knuckles, but it was Pansy Parkinson who tried to dive across the table.

"I'll kill you for that, Weasley!"

"Grab her, Goyle," Draco ordered.

Pansy twisted furiously in Goyle's grip.

"I'll kill you!"

"Obviously his girlfriend would say that-"

"Shut your stupid mouth!"

And Hermione let go of Harry's hand and was on her feet. Her eyes were flashing and there were two dark spots of colour on her cheeks.

"Don't you dare talk to Ron that way," she said icily. "How dare Malfoy come creeping in here pretending to be on our side, casting suspicion on people like Professor Lupin. We should never have believed you at all - any of you."

"Sit down, Hermione."

Hermione stared at him, and Harry realised through the cold, tightly coiled ball of panic and fury in his chest that he had spoken.

Hardly anybody noticed. People were too busy screaming, demanding, moving slightly to get further away from the Slytherins. Ron and Pansy were shouting obscenities at each other, and Pansy was trying to bite Goyle to get away from him. Blaise Zabini was speaking in chill tones to Padma. Crabbe was staring with heavy menace at some Hufflepuffs, who had gone dead quiet. Almost every Slytherin was vehemently attacking somebody.

But Draco was watching him thoughtfully, and Hermione's shocked eyes were fixed on his face.

"Harry, there can't be a doubt of it any more," she whispered. "Harry, this is crazy..."

"He didn't do it," Harry said.

Ginny was trembling violently. He didn't care.

"Silence, please," Lupin said, and Harry looked at him with a sort of desperate hope.

Fix it, tell them, Draco trusts you, tell them that - that...

The voices died reluctantly down.

"Aren't you going to state your innocence, Mr Malfoy?" Lupin asked quietly.

Draco surveyed the Young Order with a twist to his lip that was either bitter or mocking.

"I never waste my breath."


"Finders keepers."

Harry almost snarled the password Draco had given him at that blank, staring, infuriating stone wall, and he shoved the stone itself as he went in because it wouldn't open fast enough. The Slytherins in the common room didn't question or even sneer at him as he stormed past.

He banged open the door to Draco's room, and strode inside.

Draco was lying back against the pillows on his bed, studying a book. He laid it down and then looked over at Harry.

"Oh. It's you," he said.

Two sharp steps took him to the side of the bed.

"What did you think you were doing?" Harry demanded.

"What are you talking about?" Draco inquired, his cool drawl more maddening than it had ever been.

Harry grabbed a fistful of Draco's robes.

"Hey!" Draco shouted, outraged. "What are-"

"Tell me," Harry said, "what you thought you were doing when you wouldn't bloody well deny it!"

Draco tore himself out of Harry's grasp and off the bed, and stood glaring at him.

"And why do you ask?" he wanted to know.

His voice was still cool, and only the faint colour in his cheeks let Harry know he was angry.

"What?" Harry said. Why was Draco asking him that? Wasn't it obvious, that he had to protect Draco, even from himself? Wasn't it clear?

Draco stood there looking at him, that faint flush still cresting the tops of his cheekbones, his eyes glittering oddly.

"Do you think I did it?"

For a moment, Harry just stared. Draco looked back, unwavering.

"Well," he said. "Do you?"

"No!" Harry almost shouted. "Of course not!"

Draco smiled unpleasantly. "How sure are you?"

"I'm sure," Harry said, his voice forceful as he could make it. "I'm absolutely sure. I know you."

"I could be lying."

"Draco," Harry snapped, "you're not even any good at lying!"

Draco looked insulted. "I am! I-"

"You're useless at it," Harry continued relentlessly. "Everybody knows when you're doing it because you have this whole thing of not bothering to deceive the lowly masses, and acting as if you think everything you're doing is brilliant. You could never pretend for one second when you didn't like me, you were even bad at faking a hurt arm. You'd be the worst spy in the history of the world!"

Draco pursed his lips and looked distinctly taken aback. "Well."

Harry allowed himself a small smile at this concession. "You see?" he said, more gently. "I know you."

Draco looked at him again, his eyes intent. "And you don't think I did it."

"I know you didn't do it."



"No questions asked."


"Nothing anyone could say would change your mind."

"Yes!" Harry snarled, taking a step towards Draco with no idea clear in his head other than possibly thumping him until he began to make sense.

Draco blinked, took a step backwards and then laughed.

"And how many people do you think have the same faith in me?"

Harry blinked in his turn. "I - I'm sure if you'd denied it, plenty of people would have-"

"Believed a Slytherin's word?" Draco asked. "Believed my word? Let me put it this way. Let's say this had happened six months ago. No matter what I said, would you have believed for one second that it wasn't me?"

Harry wanted to say Yes, but he remembered thinking this same boy was the Heir of Slytherin, back when they were both twelve.

There was no way he wouldn't have believed it.

"You see," Draco said. "They're going to think it was me. I'd deny it if I thought it would do any good, but it won't. And I'm not going to crawl to a bunch of censorious Ravenclaws and spineless Hufflepuffs for less than nothing."

That was so stupid, but it was so like Draco, and there was a weird kind of logic to it. And Draco mentioning the Ravenclaws...

"Why did Terry Boot have to tell you about it?" Harry mused resentfully. "He ought to have known what people would think if it came out, and you knew. He had no business to do it."

Draco looked vaguely startled. "He didn't mean anything by it," he replied. "He's my friend."

Harry remembered the Order meeting when they had discussed mediwizardry and Muggles, and how at the beginning Terry had looked across at Draco and Harry had wondered if they were friends.

Now that was answered.

"Since when?"

Draco raised his eyebrows. "Since the start of the year. I was surprised when he was made Head Boy. I always thought it would be you or me. I was used to that idea, to victory and making the Gryffindors' lives miserable for a year, or to defeat and being the most mutinous prefect you could possibly imagine."

"You are such a twit."

Draco shrugged. "I thought it might be that he was the neutral choice. But I wasn't sure. I was interested, so I decided to get to know him better and manoeuvred him into doing an Astronomy project together."

"You and your cunning Slytherin plans. You couldn't just have talked to him."

Draco lifted his chin. "I like to keep life interesting. And he's interesting. He's clever, and he's observant. You'd like him."

"He doesn't think you did it, either."

"Well, he has his reasons. For one thing, he probably doesn't want to have been the one to have let the secrets out to the spy."

"You're not the spy," Harry said. "Don't even say that."

Draco looked at him again with that sharp, intent look, as if Draco was trying to translate a text and wasn't quite sure he understood it.

"Are you sure?" he asked. "I mean - are you really sure? I knew you'd say you were, but all your friends are going to think I am, and if you aren't sure you should tell me. I don't want any of your Gryffindor nobility, your sticking by me on principle, I want to know-"

"Draco, will you stop being stupid!"

Draco wasn't listening. His breathing was fast and the spots of colour on his cheekbones were darkening.

"I'll deny it if you want me to," he told him harshly. "I wouldn't do it for them, but I will. I didn't do it. Do you need to hear that?"

Harry saw Draco's fists were clenched. He grabbed Draco's shoulder.

"No," he said, and realised he was breathing just as fast as Draco. "No, I don't need to hear it."

And quite simply, Draco relaxed, and lapsed back into his easy drawl.

"Well then," he said, and smiled that bright slow smile. "You believe me. The Slytherins believe me. Who else matters?"

The door opened, and Zabini, Pansy, Crabbe and Goyle walked in.

"Oh my God, it's you," Zabini said in disgust. "Are you always around here? Do you have no house to go to?"

"We need to talk to Draco," Pansy informed Harry curtly.

"Hello," said Crabbe.

"You don't need to be rude to my guest," Draco said, but without rancour. Harry saw him looking at Pansy, and they could both see that she had been crying.

"I'll go," Harry said, going to the door.

Draco walked over to him, and spoke in a low voice.

"It's a Friday. We could go to Hogsmeade in a bit."

"Yeah?" Harry smiled. "I'd like that."

"I'll see you in two hours," Draco said. He turned to the others and spoke crisply. "Crabbe and Goyle, you go with him. None of us are supposed to be out alone, and Lupin will have seven kinds of fits if the endangered Harry Potter is allowed to stroll back and forth from the Slytherin dungeons."

Crabbe and Goyle moved towards the door without a murmur.

Harry looked back as he went out the door. Pansy was crying with a silent fury, and Draco had just put an arm around her shoulders. Zabini was biting his lips.

Crabbe and Goyle walked him back quietly, neither offering a word. But Harry paused at the portrait of the Fat Lady.

"I know he didn't do it," he said.

There was a pause. Then Crabbe grunted, "'Course he didn't do it."

They left, walking slowly. Harry watched them go.


Eventually, though, he had to go inside and face them all.

Hermione looked up as he came in, her eyes flashing and one hand clasped tightly around Ron's. Ron was pale and furious-looking, his freckles like pinpoints against fluorescent light. Parvati was curled up on the chair beside their couch, her face tear-stained, but with no certainty in her eyes to support him. And beside her chair was her sister, that blue Ravenclaw scarf still around her neck, a swathe of cold blue.

Padma Patil faced Harry with eyes that were not hurt, but as coolly devastating as her voice.

"Hermione and I have been having a talk," she told him.

"How nice," Harry said coldly.

"Harry," Ron exclaimed suddenly, involuntarily, on a vibrato of sheer indignation.

"What is it, Ron?" Harry snapped. "What do you have to say? Is it going to be along the lines of not taking away someone I trust?"

"Harry, it's different now-" Ron began.

Harry cut him off savagely. "How?"

"It's different because now we have every reason to believe that he's the spy in our midst."

It wasn't an angry voice. Harry hated it because he knew it was a voice that would speak for the whole school, without personal feelings, without passion - but with a remorseless logic that would damn Draco utterly and completely.

It was Padma, of course.

"Why?" Harry asked, his voice tight. "Why should he be under any more suspicion than anyone else who knew?"

"Why-!" For a moment, Ron was speechless with rage, and then Hermione rested her hand on his arm, motioning to Padma to speak.

The girl who was the ideal Ravenclaw who had so naturally become a prefect and a Council member. Who was clever and pretty, and who hadn't bothered to hide the disdain in her eyes when Ron took her to the Ball in frayed dress robes.

Harry had never actually liked her.

"It stands to reason, Harry," she said, and oh, Hermione was clever to let Padma talk, because Hermione couldn't have managed this dispassion with him. "He's the only Slytherin who knew, and Slytherins produce the most Dark wizards. He's Lucius Malfoy's son, and he's well known to have anti-Muggle opinions. It was always a mystery why he chose to support our side. If he's a spy, then everything makes sense."

"He is the spy," Ron choked out.

"Harry," Hermione said softly, "he has to be."

Harry shut his eyes briefly against the black-red rush of rage, and saw Draco with that flush on his face saying I didn't do it. Do you need to hear that?

"No," he snarled, to all of them. "I know him."

"Do you?" Padma inquired. "You've never seemed to have much time for him before this year. Don't you think it's odd that he suddenly decided to be friendly with you - you, Harry Potter - the same year all our secrets start slipping out? He's using you."

Harry could see realisation forming behind Ron's eyes, a black whirl concentrated into a pinpoint of pressure behind his forehead. And the end result - fury.

"I'll kill him," Ron snarled.

And Harry thought, they're turning everything against him.

"You won't even think about touching him," he said, his voice frozen. "None of you. I've spent time with him. You haven't. I didn't think much of him before - no. I didn't know how much I thought of him before, but now I do."

"You've spent time with him," Padma repeated with chilly emphasis. "So what insight have you to offer? What do you think of him now?"

Harry thought of a faint, old echo of this outrage.

Softly, he said, "I think he's brilliant."

"He's manipulating you," Hermione broke in. "It's not your fault, Harry, I know you're loyal, I know it all, but you have to think - Harry, the last traitor was... He was your dad's friend. You can't afford to trust him this blindly."

Harry realised, to his mild, detached surprise, that he was shaking. They were comparing Draco to that... to that...

"The last traitor," he ground out between his teeth, "was someone everybody trusted."

He glared at Padma Patil, because he couldn't have stood saying that to Hermione or Ron. She looked back at him with the beginnings of personal outrage in her eyes.

"How dare you!" she exclaimed.

"How dare you," Harry returned. "Coming in here - to my home - and insulting my friend. How would you feel if it was yours? I don't want to hear another word against him."

He didn't care. He wasn't staying in here. He needed to be alone; he needed to think. If someone caught him out wandering the school, he didn't care about that either.

He threw a look back at them, Ron whose face was bright red, Hermione who looked furious and on the point of tears, all of the Gryffindors.

"And that goes for the rest of you, too," he added coldly, and slammed out.


Ginny was quite pleased with her plan.

Obviously, Harry wasn't going to come back to the Gryffindor rooms for hours. He was furious - and no wonder, with that Padma Patil standing around like she owned the place and accusing him.

He'd saved her from the basilisk. He could be trusted with anything. Maybe the spy was Malfoy, and Harry had a plan. Maybe he was being loyal to his friend, but he could be trusted to find out the truth. Maybe the spy was someone else, and he already knew and he was working on it.

He was the only one who could save them now. And he was the boy she'd always loved, and he was in pain because nobody believed in him.

Ginny could tell him that she did. He'd be glad to hear that, to know somebody understood him.

Of course, she had no idea where he could be. So she had come up with her plan.

Malfoy was under suspicion, and Harry - loyal Harry - was bound to be hurrying to his side. She just had to find Malfoy, and then she'd find Harry.

She only had to wait for a few minutes before her first objective was achieved. Malfoy and Blaise Zabini erupted from the Slytherin dungeons, obviously in the middle of a heated conversation.

She caught the name, Harry Potter, and lost all scruples about listening.

"It wasn't anything like that," Malfoy was saying, and Ginny was quietly terrified by the steel in his voice. "I wouldn't expect you to understand. You don't know much about innocent touches."

"About as much as you do, Draco," Blaise Zabini drawled. He was trying to sound amused, but his irritation was clear.

Ginny had never liked Malfoy, but at least with him you knew where you stood. Everyone knew Zabini was untrustworthy, with his black eyes wells of slippery shadows and his handsome face just a little too cunning to be pleasant.

"Surely I know a little more, simply by default," Malfoy said smoothly. "After all, Blaise, I'd like to think I'm slightly more fastidious than you tend to be. And I've been an extremely good boy lately."

"Yes, you have." Zabini's voice was tight. "Nothing's like it used to be."

Ginny was beginning to feel uneasy about hearing all this. She had thought Malfoy would lead her to Harry almost immediately.

You could have cut ice with Malfoy's voice.

"And what precisely do you mean by that?"

"Look, Malfoy. I'm just - concerned. Especially now." Zabini's tone was suddenly crisp. "All I'm asking is - if you have some sort of plan, if you know what you're doing?"

"Oh don't worry." Malfoy was speaking more softly now, silkily, as if he was suddenly bent on reassuring Zabini, or as if someone else could hear. "I do. Hi, Harry."

Ginny's heart leaped as she saw Harry coming towards them down the corridor, smiling his sweet crooked smile.

It faltered a little when he saw Zabini, and then Malfoy angled himself beside Harry, and his face softened again.

"Blaise was just leaving," Malfoy announced, his voice like syrup, and then that icy gaze was suddenly fixed on Ginny.

She looked back in mute terror, certain that he had known she was there all along.

"Someone has to escort the gorgeous Ginny to her common room, after all." Ginny found the look that accompanied this statement sinister, but Harry laughed. "I'm sure Blaise would be charmed."

Zabini looked sour. Malfoy's smile was bordering on the impish, and Ginny still did not find this in the least amusing.

"No need to bother," a voice said behind them. "I can take Ginny."

Ginny turned in alarm, and then rested gratefully against Dean. He stood there quietly behind her, supporting her, as Malfoy murmured:

"Well, we all know you'd like to..."

"Draco!" Harry nudged him reproachfully, and Malfoy subsided.

Zabini's malice, of course, was unchecked. Ginny saw it flashing in his eyes as he gave Dean a long, leisurely look.

"Oh, I don't mind going to the common room with him," he informed them all, glancing around with a kind of spiteful glee for the looks of shock on everyone's faces.

Harry was regarding him with dislike and faint bemusement. Malfoy was smiling a small, superior smile.

Dean looked back at Zabini, completely unruffled.

"Naturally you're welcome to come along with me and Ginny if you'd like."

Zabini looked discontent. "Malfoy, you're welcome to the lot of them," he sneered, and stormed off. As he pushed by Ginny and Dean, she heard him mutter, "And I hope you do have a plan."

Ginny didn't look after him as he went, or at Dean. She was too busy staring at Harry, whose brow was adorably furrowed. He reached out and touched Malfoy on the elbow.

"Should you be wandering around with just Zabini?" Harry asked him in a low voice. "I mean, he's-"

Malfoy arched an eyebrow in that particularly annoying way he had.

"I'm perfectly safe. Woe betide any Dark Lord who stole me and Blaise both. He'd be sending us back with a sympathy note within the week."

Harry grinned. "I think we'd only accept one back." He paused. "I suppose Zabini isn't so bad, considering the other choice."

Malfoy shot him a baleful look.

"You two doing okay?" inquired Dean, who had been indulging in some of that tactful deafness Ginny had always deeply appreciated when they were going out and she was chatting to one of her friends.

"I'm fine, Thomas," Malfoy replied, rolling his eyes dramatically. "It's just my idiot Gryffindor here being silly. Again."

"Well, I've got my Creative Magic project to finish," Dean said. "Be seeing you, Malfoy. Harry."

Ginny was startled to see Malfoy actually smile at something Dean had said. His smile made his whole face look brighter and younger.

From the closer attention Harry paid Malfoy then, Ginny could see he was surprised too.

She took Dean's arm, held it in a loose grip and looked yearningly at Harry, hoping that he would ask her to stay. He was still looking at Malfoy when Dean started leading her down the corridor.

"What did Zabini mean?" he asked her in soft, serious tones. "About a plan?"

Ginny thought for a moment. "He was asking Malfoy before - if Malfoy knew what he was doing, if he had a plan. And Malfoy said he did have one."

She glanced up into Dean's face, troubled, and saw worry in his kind brown eyes.

"Do you think we should tell Harry?" she queried anxiously.

"No..." Dean said slowly. "No. He wouldn't believe us."

"Oh, of course. He's so trusting." Ginny leaned against Dean, taking comfort in his simple presence. "But we'll take care of him, won't we?"

Dean tucked her hand more firmly around his arm, his face still very serious for a moment. Then it lightened just a little.

"And I'll take care of you."


"Come on," Draco said, once Ginny and Dean had made their much-appreciated departure. "Let's go."

They headed to the corridor with the statue of the one-eyed witch in silence. Harry was searching for a way to put all those distraught and incoherent thoughts he'd had wandering the school alone into words, and he kept being distracted from this task by glancing over at Draco. It was such a relief to have him back, his blond head gleaming pale in the dim light, here where nobody could accuse him or worry him or tell him things that would put him in danger.

"I expect the news will have travelled to Hogsmeade by now," Draco remarked as they went through the tunnel. "Let us all take a moment to curse the grapevine."

"We can go up near the Shrieking Shack," Harry offered. "There won't be anyone there."

Draco gave him a bright look as they emerged into Honeydukes' cellar.

"There could be ghosts," he pointed out. "D'you know, I still can't get Crabbe and Goyle up there?"

"Er," said Harry.

Draco stopped to buy some of his blood-flavoured lollipops, giving the sour-faced shopkeeper his most blithe and charming smile. Then they set off up the hill towards the Shrieking Shack.

Draco was still contemplating past wrongs.

"Attacking someone while in an Invisibility Cloak is not at all a noble thing to do," he mused. "Very sneaky. Very underhanded. Very Slytherin, actually, you bastard."

"Draco, you're a Slytherin."

"Exactly! I know what I'm talking about."

Harry couldn't repress a laugh at his sheer nerve.

"Anyway," he said, trying to sound as stern as he could, "you deserved it. You were absolutely rotten about Hagrid."

"I was, wasn't I?" Draco admitted without a shred of remorse. "But that was before I really got to know him."

Harry had been a bit alarmed by the unholy look Draco got in his eyes when he realised at one point over teatime that Hagrid would listen to the students he liked. And that Hagrid was completely insecure about his teaching prowess, and eager for suggestions.

"Before you really got to manipulate him, you mean."

Draco waved a hand dismissively. "Same thing. In any case, I deny your wild and ill-founded allegations. I'm helping. I'm being a teacher's aide."

The lessons had not become noticeably less life-threatening. They did focus on animals that could be put to actual - and usually fiendish - use, though, and Draco seemed to be in a supervisory position an awful lot. He had also developed a tendency to cackle in an unsettling manner during class.

Funny, that.

"You're being a teacher's pet with evil plans to take over the classroom."

"You're... You're trying to distract me from the main point," Draco said darkly. "The main point being the vile attack perpetrated on my person back when I was an innocent child."

"You were a horrible child."

"In an innocent way," Draco insisted, stepping with great care along the path to the Shack. It was so like him to even be fussy about getting mud on his boots, Harry thought, and rolled his eyes. "I almost had a heart attack, did you know that? I was a sensitive boy."

"You were a fiend sent directly from hell to torment me."

"Everybody needs a hobby," Draco sniffed. "Not to mention a matter far more important than affairs of the heart - to wit, affairs of the hair. My beautiful, beautiful hair."

"Blond hair makes people look washed out," Harry said casually. "Anyway, it's much too pale to be natural. I bet you dye it."

Draco made a strangled noise of horror. Harry bit his lip on a mad grin.

"Harry," Draco said in a dreadful voice, "that is the worst thing you've ever said to me. That's the worst thing anyone's ever said to me."

Draco turned his back on Harry to gesture wildly at the sky, as if to point out to it the wrongs he was suffering. Once he did, Harry bent down.

"He dares to say this to me," Draco raged dramatically at the clouds. "After he ruined my hair. Ruined it! It was encrusted with mud, it was filthy, for a while there it looked brown, I had to spend four hours in the shower frantically shampooing it, and he says-"

"Draco," Harry said easily, straightening up and hurling a handful of mud with absolute accuracy, "stop living in the past."

There was a moment of stillness, while the mud seeped through Draco's hair and onto his cloak. Then Draco turned slowly around, vibrating with some suppressed emotion, and fixed Harry with an icy glare.

"Potter," he declared with conviction, "you will die for this."

He bent down and seized a handful of mud as fast as a snake, but Harry had Seeker reflexes too. He dodged, and it only got him on the shoulder, and by then he was crouching on the ground.

Draco turned his face away, and the mud only caught him on the cheek. He rubbed it for a second, looking incredulous, and then side-stepped lightly to avoid another volley. He was still being careful about his boots.

He took a handful of mud and dodged again, this time closer to Harry rather than further from him, and then firmly shoved it down the back of Harry's shirt.

Harry shouted, wriggled away from him and promptly tripped over a rock and landed on his back in the mud.

Draco burst out laughing. Harry reached out, grabbed his ankle and pulled it out from under him.

Draco's yell of outrage was cut off by a combined thump and squelch.

Harry raised his head fractionally to see the fixed, appalled look on Draco's face. His hair was in a pool of mud.

Harry let his own head fall back on the mud and laughed and laughed. He closed his eyes briefly and just thought, I trust you, no matter what.

"Doom," Draco intoned in the background. "Anguish. Despair. Oh, my hair. I hate you, Harry Potter."

"Yeah yeah," Harry said, flicking some mud at him.

Draco sounded sulky. "I'm in a delicate condition today, you know."

Harry propped himself up on one elbow and stared over at Draco, whose eyes were shut - presumably so he could immerse himself completely in despair. His lashes were faint silvery gleams against his skin.

"Draco," he said softly, "They're saying that you're only my friend to get information out of me."

Draco didn't open his eyes.

"Do you believe them?" he asked evenly.

"No!" How many times did he have to say it? "I just... I meant to say that if it's too difficult for you - if it puts you under more suspicion-"

"Forget it." His eyes did open then, little slices of grey. "You're not getting rid of me that easily."

The relief was so great he didn't even try not to smile down at him.

"Aren't I? Damn."

"So close and yet so far," Draco agreed. "I don't plan to lie around here in the mud all night. Help me up."

He stuck out an imperious hand, and then spoiled the effect by waggling it around.

Harry climbed to his feet and crossed his arms over his chest, regarding Draco with tolerant amusement until Draco climbed to his feet under his own steam. He gave Harry a reproachful look.

"I'd like to make it clear that I bags the prefects' bathroom," he informed him.

"I don't think so," Harry said blandly. "I believe it belongs to whoever gets there first."

Draco looked at him for a moment, absently scrubbing at the streak of mud on his neck. Then he hurled himself precipitously down the hill.

Harry followed in hot pursuit. They only paused once, to sneak into Honeydukes' cellar and through the trap door.

Then they were back to hurtling through the tunnel, and through the corridors, Draco thumping him judiciously whenever he drew close.

"Get lost, Potter," he panted. "This is my bathroom. I require my ice-white foam! I require-"

He stopped in his tracks, mid-thump.

Their friends were standing in the corridor, in the middle of a heated argument.

"We're searching this corridor," Pansy was saying viciously. "Go find your own."

"We were here first," Ron said belligerently.

"Oh yeah? Oh yeah? Sod off, Weasley."

"We are simply concerned-" Hermione began in a thin voice.

Blaise Zabini coughed. "Everyone? Look over there."

Every head spun around to face them. Harry stood there and tried valiantly to project an air of cleanliness.

"Draco!" Pansy said in horrified dismay. "My God, what happened to you?" She strode forward, pulling a handkerchief out of her robes and shooting Harry a venomous look. "What did he do?" she demanded, rubbing at Draco's cheek.

"Don't spit in that," Draco instructed her, eyeing the handkerchief with suspicion.

Hermione's voice was tight. "Harry," she said, "please come back with us, we were worried-"

Harry met her eyes defiantly.

"There was no need to be worried," he said. "I was with Draco."

"And now you can come back with us," Ron told him with determination.

"And you should go to the prefects' bathroom, Draco," Pansy said, dropping the handkerchief with the air of one who knows when she is defeated.

Draco smirked. "Offering to accompany me, wench?"

"After that," Zabini informed him, "we all have to talk to you."

Draco's mouth went thin. "Fine," he snapped, and leaned in to Harry. "I'll see you tomorrow," he said, deliberately pitching his voice low enough to be discreet and clear enough so they could all hear. Then he beamed with a sudden thought. "Which is Saturday."

Harry raised his eyebrows. Draco had been more or less insufferable all week about this present. He'd become accustomed to hearing 'Harry, what is my present?' instead of the obviously too-common hello.

He looked at Draco standing there, unable to keep one hand from rubbing mud out of his hair, and thought again, I trust you.

"Yeah, I'll see you tomorrow."

Draco smiled. "Looking forward to it."

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